Went off! So what was it last time?
E-Mail Doug at firstname.lastname@example.org
El Nino has impacted our lives in many ways.
Some, one is too many, unfortunate people have suffered greatly due to mother nature's uncontrollable forces. Most people have only been moderately inconvenienced and some fortunate and enlightened people have actually enjoyed the gray skies, winds, rain, big surf, thunder, and lightning.
This rant is about societal denial and our need to reassess our existence...whoa, heavy enough for you?
People still think they can build on the sides of hills that historically have mud slides...humm, it will never happen to me...
People still think they can build in a river valley that historically floods...humm, it will never happen to me...
People still think they can work on a computer without backing up their files, even though disks go bad and files get corrupted...humm, it will never happen to me...
People still think they can frequently upgrade their hardware and software without archiving both even though at some point files won't be accessible...humm, it will never happen to me...
People still think that we, the conquering heroes of the universe (I can't wait until our first contact), will use our genius, hard work, and wonderful technology to triumph over mother nature, and even more ridiculous, that we will control technology to be our nonsentient slaves...HAL, I hope you're not reading this piece.
There is no question that pushing the technological envelope has led to incredible strides in improving the quality of life.
There is also no question that as we become more and more dependent upon technology that we are giving up on many essential basic human skills.
I was talking to a student who said that she couldn't do basic math computations without a calculator. Educator's have long debated this question. Do we really need to do the math in our head when we can just push a couple of buttons and see the answer much quicker and more efficiently?
When I was in art school, we had what we affectionately referred to as the 3 am drill. It's 3 o'clock in the morning, your presentation is due at 9 am, and you just ran out of a key ingredient to your presentation. Basically, if you aren't a critical thinker, problem solver, you're dead.
So, as it pertains to basic human skills, does the computer aid our critical thinking skills or does the computer (technology in general) hinder our critical thinking skills? I would like to think that technology aides all of our skills.
As the momentum toward technological reliance increases we are abandoning previous technologies...do you still own and use an eight-track tape? We have a beautifully preserved copy of the Guttenburg bible, yet we can't access a file that was created five years ago. God help us if it's true that mainframes are going to take a giant data dump in the year 2000.
I guess my point, after spending two months in technohell (my modem access died and then I proceeded to completely mess up my computer until just last weekend, when everything came together...cable modem...yes...before you get one talk with me...I get a $20 kickback...I know...get to the point) we need to balance our dependence on technology and our need to be human beings.
Simple, use technology where it needs to be used, smell the roses when ever possible, and don't take life for granted, because we can't control mother nature nor the mother board.
This was sent to me by
my mother who received it via
My mother is 85 and still learning and teaching and living every moment.
Unfortunately, I don't know who should receive authorship credit. The issue of using intellectual property on the web is certainly a topic I could go off on and someday will, but today's rant will take a different direction.
The Obstacle in Our Path:
In ancient times, a king had a boulder placed on a roadway. Then he hid himself and watched to see if anyone would remove the huge rock. Some of the king's wealthiest merchants and courtiers came by and simply walked around it. Many loudly blamed the king for not keeping the roads clear, but none did anything about getting the big stone out of the way.
Then a peasant came along carrying a load of vegetables. On approaching the boulder, the peasant laid down his burden and tried to move the stone to the side of the road. After much pushing and straining, he finally succeeded.
As the peasant picked up his load of vegetables, he noticed a purse lying in the road where the boulder had been. The purse contained many gold coins and a note from the king indicating that the gold was for the person who removed the boulder from the roadway. The peasant learned what many others never understand. Every obstacle presents an opportunity to improve one's condition.
OK, according to Cyndi Lauper,
"We all just want to have fun
now," but when is our having fun hurting
I have refrained from mentioning President Clinton and his current, or better stated, on-going crisis. He has only done what millions of people have done throughout history, shown a serious case of poor judgment in a quest for immediate personal gratification. What's the harm? That remains to be seen. If the media had shown some restraint it would have only affected those concerned. Serious, but only to those within a small circle of family and friends.
Why is it that someone always has to blow things out of proportion? Are they showing the same poor judgment? Are they in search of the same immediate personal gratification? Perhaps righteousness is just as inappropriate as using "poor judgment." Is there really a difference? Does it solve or just exacerbate the problem?
In a class discussion this last Friday we talked about "cheering" for our high school team in a CIF waterpolo tournament. Some people stated that they were just having fun when they displayed tasteless signs. "It was no big deal." Evidently, it was a big deal to a number of the parents at the game. Are they just being too sensitive. After all there was no physical harm. Interestingly, a member of the team we were playing pushed one of our students into the pool at a previous game. Hmm, I wonder how many of the people upset at our use of tasteless signs were equally appalled by their student's behavior?
In another event, one person who had yelled at an opposing player while at the free-throw line, said that it was funny. Several other people who were there agreed. The player missed three shots. I asked a student who was playing in the game, "How would you have felt if you won the game based on one of those missed shots?"
No, I am not a bleeding heart liberal who wants to destroy the notion of having fun.
As a competitor, I have done my share of "psyching out" the other side. That is part of the game. If you can't handle it, you shouldn't be playing. Well, I am not sure about that. If you're a pro, you had better be able to handle the pressure. That's what you are OVER PAID to do (over-paid athletes is topic for another time).
But, having taught for ten years, I have found that most people in high school, hell, most people including me, are vulnerable. Do we play on the vulnerability of others in order to win or in order to find gratification?
As I get older I find myself wanting to win because I played better, stronger, and smarter. Not because someone else choked due to cheap tricks or overzealous loudmouths in the stands. I would rather do without immediate gratification in order to receive more long term gratification from having done the right thing. When I say that, I wonder if I'm not just turning into some sort of stodgy conservative. I don't think so.
As one of my students said, "Sometimes there is a very fuzzy line between right and wrong." Sometimes, and...
sometimes doing the right thing is rather obvious!
This rant combines my continuing problems with my computer, karma, and "The Outer Limits." I am still having problems with my computer. Five !*#%ing weeks and I am still having problems! I've never gone more than two weeks. Everyone says that everything is fine, but I still can't use my modem...El Niño? Actually, that is where karma enters the picture.
When I first heard about El Niño, I thought, OK, more media hype.
Leave it to the media to scare the hell out of us every chance they get, even if they have to fabricate the story.
If there were clouds in the sky, news at 4, 5,... and 12, with periodic news flashes during the day and night appeared saying, "El Niño, Up to the Minute News." Being somewhat leary of the media's veracity, what else was I suppose to think...this is just another bogus cash-cow opportunity...let's not let reality get in the way of a good news story.
When there was an emergency summit on how to prepare for El Niño, I thought of "The Boy Who Cried Wolf." Just in case El Niño was real, I would rather we be prepared.
Well, this is where karma comes in. Five weeks ago my computer problems started. Five weeks ago El Niño started. The phone company and other tech people said that my modem problems could be related to El Niño. Yeh right! Well, I at this point I think I am being paid back for not believing the El Niño hype.
OK. I'm sorry I doubted the media...not really, but I am almost ready to do anything to change my karma. Well, almost anything!
Enter the "The Outer Limits." This last Saturday's program illustrated our obsession with speed and information. Everyone had an implant that allowed them to directly link into the "stream," a collective information source. If you wanting information, all you had to do was think about what you wanted and the stream provided the information within a nanosecond. Stream...Net...any way...in the end the stream started demanding more and more information and ultimately ended up killing people. The people were so "into" the convenience of instant access and the feeling of superiority that they stopped thinking.
So, have we become so "into" the convenience of instant access and the feeling of superiority that we have stopped thinking.
Drastic? Of course! I know. Because of all the access to information we have developed immeasurably. BUT...has the true quality of living improved. Not the quality of living related to longevity, new hair growth, microwave food, VR games, etc., but the quality of living based on the spirit, on humanity, based on watching and appreciating the sunset?
Sure, I am addicted to computers and what I can do with them. In a conversation about "The Outer Limits" program, Fred Saba, professor at San Diego State University, said, "The west has access to great technology and information, but doesn't know how to use either wisely. The east has wisdom, but no technology or information.
So, how do we balance technology, information, and wisdom?
Please Note: I absolutely love and respect what we are able to do with computers, BUT...
*&^ #%_! Computers!
Can't live with them and can't live without them.
In the article "Productivity Paradox," by David Pescovitz, in February's WIRED Magazine, page 118, the author addresses the issue of computer effectiveness and productivity. Pescovitz quotes 1987 Nobel laureate economist Robert Solow,
"We see computers everywhere except in the productivity statistics."
Several years ago I read an article (the reference escapes me) that suggested that by the time you add up all of the costs involved in using a computer (purchase price of hardware and software, infrastructure, setup time, training time, down time, down time, down time, maintenance, repair*, and related expenses) that there is no appreciable difference in productivity between using the computer or traditional methods.
*After spending approximately 40 hours troubleshooting my modem over that last two weeks I am starting to consider these two concepts as viable.
If I am frustrated and mad, what happens to the person who doesn't know anything about troubleshooting? Where do they go? How much does the repair cost? Does the problem actually get fixed?
Well, I must say, even though I am still...yes still...after the smug tech support person thought they fixed the problem, trouble shooting my modem.
At this point I am intrigued by the inanity of the whole situation. It has given my an opportunity to stay home with my cat, think, obsess, think, obsess, think, obsess, and obsess.
Think about where WE are going.
What is the course and destination of the supercyberhighway determined by OUR technoJones.
Would I give up my computer? Not as long as computers exist.
Would WE be better off if all of the computers disappeared? Tough question, because when they work, WE can do so much.
But what is the cost? Does humanity exist in cyberspace? Or are we just in a big holographic twitch game with no other purpose than to stay alive as long as possible and score the most points, regardless of the cost?
Don't get me wrong, I'm just asking questions. I too have a technoJones. I'm just wondering where it is taking me and the rest of us.
Why would anyone run a marathon?
Why would anyone run a marathon more than once?
Why would anyone participate in the Furnace Creek 508 mile relay bike race that takes about 26 hours and covers roads less traveled, stark hot desert scenery, epic mountain vistas (35,000 vertical feet of climbing), the lowest point in the lower 48, and some of the world's finest, not to mention, the most painful cycling.
Why would anyone ride the Furnace Creek 508 more than once?
Why would anyone become a teacher?
Is being a teacher in the same league as a marathon runner or an ultra-marathon cyclists?
Why would anyone train and prepare to push themselves to their personal and painful limits at little or no pay?
Are they, we, nuts?
What do you think?
This rant comes courtesy of my friend Mike. We
together and while we are warming up we usually talk about all kinds
Often, about obsessions.
Cooking, art, education, and business seem to be among the major themes.
As it turns out, Mike retired from the Navy SEAL teams and decided he was too "sick" to become an assassin, mercenary, or...he'd have to kill me* if he mentioned his other options, so he went to chef school in New York City. While there, he worked (for free) for a chef, Monsieur Daniel Boulud, who many think ran one of the finest French kitchens in America, Le Cirque.
Recently, Mike shared an article by Chris Heath, "The exquisite torture of making perfect food," or "If you can't stand the HEAT, get out of the KITCHEN." The article paints a pretty bizarre picture of life in the kitchen. After reading exerpts to my classes I started to find some very real relationships between being a world class chef and other endeavors that demand true passionate obsessive behavior.
The article provides a number of wonderful quotes, but I think the following give some sense of life in the obsessive lane.
Enjoy, but be warned!
If you read the whole article you may find your view of chefs, artists, and others, even teachers, to be altered. I must admit that there are moments where I would like to treat people the way Monsieur Boulud treats his workers, but alas, I'm just too nice.
"The kitchen is a world of beauty and terror, squalor and perfection, where men in white carrying knives go through strange agonies and inspired frenzies in pursuit of the culinary sublime."
"...to Monsieur Boulud: art is not science; cooking is not some algebra where you can plug in the Xs and Ys and produce a perfect plate. Like an artist, a chef must trust his instincts. He lives by his wits, not by a rule book written by some stuffy academic with clean hands who couldn't make the grade on the Line. He works on the run."
"THERE ARE NO PROCEDURES in the kitchen, ONLY RITUALS. For instance, the food must sit as a glorious, pristine offering on a pristine, spotless frame of pure china...This obsession with detail is total."
"Flesh-and-blood customers are often held in some contempt. As in so many creative worlds, the customer is best when the customer is a myth, an ideal. When your customer is perfect, then you can fuss and care terribly about everything-just as he does-because you know that every last touch will be noticed and appreciated. But it's not always like that."
"...he holds up his hand as if to say, 'Bear with me a moment,' and reaches into a fridge for a plum tomato. He carefully cuts off a long, spiral peel. He takes the peel and manipulates it with both hands. Then, his eyes full of wonder as though this were the first time he'd ever seen such a thing, as though it were the first time he'd ever realized such glorious magic were possible, he holds the result proudly in the palm of his hand.
'Look,' the young chef says quietly.' Just taking a regular tomato and making...a rose!'"
What can I say? Better yet, what do you have to say?
*If you are a true cynic, see "Wag the Dog."
Cynics Choice for best movie. In the same league as "Hospital."
In an article by Jaron Lanier, "Taking Stock - so,
what's changed in the last five years?" (WIRED. Jan 98) Lanier
writes, "This is the first period of the century without a
distinctive new pop musical style, without a characteristic style of
furniture, hair, or clothing. What's new about the last five years of
style is not what it looks like, but how it's made. Artist of all
kinds now work in digital tools. They cut and paste from the whole of
human creation...Style used to be an interaction between the human
soul and tools that were limiting. In the digital era, it will have
to come from the soul alone."
In a TCAP invitational institute two summers ago we were faced with an artistic challenge. My challenge was to replicate an image in as many different media as possible. I wanted to get back to using "traditional" tools as well as my familiar digital tools.
To my dismay I found that I generated 15 complete iterations within an hour using the computer and only two iterations using pen and ink.
Perhaps Lanier addresses my disappointment by
saying that art will come from the soul and that the medium is
So, the question that I have discussed with many people before and since, which goes beyond that of fine art versus commerical art (I'll go there another time):
Is the computer an art medium?
Let me know what you think.
E-Mail Doug at email@example.com