We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Posts tagged technology

A Change Is Coming

Lughnasa                                             Waning Harvest Moon

An edible Docent luncheon.  Whoa.  Sat with Emily, Grace, Allison, Linda, Cheryl, Amanda, Katherine, then Sheila.   The actual program contained as many boring bits as usual but the table companions more than made up for the dullness of the rest.

Afterward we all trundled over to the Pillsbury auditorium for Katherine’s speech outlining her vision for a new and improved volunteer experience at the MIA.  Many of her ideas and initiatives sound useful and needed.  The already changed rule that now allows volunteers in free to any museum lecture jumps the level of continuing education up a notch right away.  A needed notch.

As a self-professed techno-geek, many of Katherine’s plans have some link or another to various technological ideas.  The Docent lounge has been gutted and will undergo extensive remodeling to serve as a lounge and research area as well as, if I understood correctly, a center for Docents who want to moderate web discussions, write weblogs or blogs (I don’t understand the difference) and participate in digitalizing the collection in many different forms.

The intention is, too, to digitize all the object files and to first create streaming video of older continuing ed, then stream them live while creating video for later review.

Much of this comes under the guise of an NEH grant called the Extended Collection Project.

She had various other announcements, some related to the new structure of her department, Learning and Innovation, others to staff changes.  Staff got shuffled around, some, like Sheila and Amanda, to totally new positions, others, like Debbie and Ann, to newly named positions within the same programs.

I did notice a while back that one thing Katherine has done is to flatten the entire organization.  She took out the position that Sheila previously held, a middle level manager over all the guide programs and did not replace it, so all guide programs report directly to her.

A group of docents with which I spend time sent a list of suggestions to her and I’m not clear how many of them were addressed in this lecture.  I thought there would be some obvious sign.

Perhaps I’m a bit starry eyed here, but I believe Katherine’s work heads in the same direction many of us have wanted, i.e. better access to better resources.  I also believe she will work with us as we see the need.

There are elements still untouched and we’ll have to work on those some more.

Critiquing Salvation

Imbolc                                     Waning Cold Moon

OK.  To finish up the thought that got strangled as Morpheus took over my body last night.

Salvation through technology has infected our thinking, a direct consequence of the relentless application of reason to larger and larger spheres of knowledge.  Astronomy, physics and chemistry, geology, later biology all have had their mystery peeled away to reveal orderly, predictable processes.  As mystery drained away from the natural world–though note that mystery is not gone.  It lurks still behind quantum mechanics, life, consciousness, unified field theory–a slow build of an irrational hubris grew in inverse relation.  Because we knew some, we believed we knew enough.

Salvation through economics has infected our thinking, a direct consequence of the relentless application of reason to the idea of value and its diverse manifestations.  The ancien regime has been replaced by capitalism in many flavors, Marxism, socialism and even state socialism.  Again, as mystery drained away from the field of economics–though note that mystery is not gone.  It lurks still behind market crashes, the failure of planned states and the strange amalgam called socialism with Chinese elements–an irrational hubris grew in inverse relation.  Because we knew some, we believe we knew enough.

Salvation through religious dogma has infected our thinking, a direct consequence of an aversion to the application of reason to matters of faith.  The axial age faiths continue and have split, many claiming exclusive paths to human redemption.  They have not been replaced and  the mystery is why?  The strong brew of metaphysics, gods and goddesses and an answer to the perennial question of death keeps reason at bay when it comes to matters of faith and belief.  Because we believe we know enough, we believe.

The only way to examine these outsized claims lies in the disciplines that fall under the broad rubric of the humanities.  Only by going deep into the ways humans have lived their lives and responded to it through the arts and through historical reflection can we critique those splinters of our humanness that clamor for our attention.  Technology, economics and religion seem to offer hope for the future if only we can subjugate ourselves to their demands.  The unexamined aspect(s) of our lives poses the greatest threat to control us.

It is to this project that I have donated my life, the project of never taking anything for granted, of trying to see as many sides as possible of a claim, of using unexpected tools.  Poetry as a defense against the outsized claims of economics.  Music as a foil to the reach of technology.  History as a way to place religious systems within their proper context.

In that sense, then, yes, knowledge is the fuel and I do know where I’m going.  I also know I will never find the end of this ancientrail.  Its end lies beyond all of us, perhaps beyond the gates of death itself.

Sweet, Honest, Funny, Heartbreaking

65  bar steady 29.75  2mph NW dew-point 62  Summer night

First Quarter of the Thunder Moon

Peanut butter.  Never thought of it as a problem food, but it seems to have entered that category for me.  Makes my tummy hurt.  Darn it.

The slippery slope of cell phone life.  Tonight I entered the phone numbers of all the Woolly Mammoths into my cell phone.  They are the first non-family numbers.  Each day I draw closer and closer to becoming a cell phone user.  Since it has not yet become the electronic leash I did not want, I don’t mind, but I have this sneaking suspicion that as it becomes more of a common place in my life, it will move in that direction.

Watched Stranger Than Fiction over the last two days.  This is a trippy movie.  It is meta-fiction, a story about fiction intruding on reality and fiction in turn altering reality.  If you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean.  Like Existenz, which I mentioned a couple of days ago, it plays with epistemology and, in a strange (trippy) way with ontology.  The Truman Show, even the Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Vanilla sky dance on the same floor.  Will Ferrel was brilliant, I thought he gave an Oscar worthy performance, sweet, honest, funny, heartbreaking.

The Printing Press Today

83  bar steady 29.68 1mph SE  dew-point 67  Summer, hot and clear

Waxing Crescent of the Thunder Moon

“What is life but the angle of vision? A man is measured by the angle at which he looks at objects. What is life but what a man is thinking of all day? This is his fate and his employer. Knowing is the measure of the man. By how much we know, so much we are.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Another late milestone here.  Kate has lunch tomorrow with an old friend she hasn’t seen in a while.  She asked me to print some grandchild pictures.  In the process I selected several photos, including some of her.  The milestone is this.  They came out printed on our Canon Pixma.  The first color work I’ve ever done.  We’ve had many computers over the last 18 years, but only one printer, the HP Laserjet 4.  It has served me very well and still does.  Like the red car I can’t imagine daily life without it.

We bought the Canon as a copier and fax machine, but it also has the capacity to print photographs and other color images.  I got out the manual, the paper and cracked open the usb cord I bought for it January before last when I purchased it.  Worked like a charm.  Technology amazes me and delights me.

Off to feed the dogs and read through the Sierra Club material.

Back In Its Own Stall

79  bar falls 29.84 1mph ENE dew-point 61   Summer, hot, moving toward muggy

Waxing Crescent of the Thunder Moon

The cracks in the red car’s head were tiny.  I saw them.  They ran, in one instance, down the threads that hold the spark plug in place.  While threading in a spark plug or under pressure, these cracks could have broken loose and allowed oil and exhaust gases to invade the spark plug and generally foul things up.  Carlson was thoughtful in showing them to me.

We’ve sunk almost $5,000 in this car this year.   That’s almost a year’s car payments.  Even so, we could put in the same amount next year and still be ahead of the game.  It runs quite well now, though there is that piece that fell off on the way home.  No kidding.  A big chunk of something fell off.  I’m going to take it back and ask them about it, but not today.  It looks like a shield or rock barrier, not metal, rather some kind of composite, tarpaper like material.

It’s 31-32 miles per gallon on the highway alone justifies keeping it in our two vehicle collection.  The pick-up we’ll park for the most part in the not too distant future.  $90 a tank to fill it up.  Ouch.  And it sucks the gas down, too, with its v-8.  What were we thinking?  It is, though, a useful vehicle for errands and landscape chores.  Another advantage is its four-wheel drive.  (Oh, come to think of it, that’s what we were thinking.  In 1999, when we bought it, Kate still had call and  hospital duty.  She had to be able to get to where she was needed.) That makes it potentially important in a severe winter situation.  Besides, pick-ups and SUV’s have lost significant value.  We could get nowhere the value it is to us.  So, it will stay, too.

Our neighbor went to bed apparently healthy, then woke up the next day with MS.  A striking and sudden life change.  It has occasioned a major alteration in their lives.  They went from the salary of a 58 year old career civil servant at the peak of  his career to a fixed income household.  This was six months ago.

How it will affect their family dynamics over the long haul is an open question.  The prednisone  makes  him cranky.  He’s gone from an active guy who built his own observatory and sailed Lake Superior to a wobbly man who can no longer read.  His mental acumen seems fine, but for now he wanders, lost in the bewilderment of this rapid change, as well he might be.

Today is an inside day.  I’m going to write on Superior Wolf, get ready for my research on Unitarian Universalism in the Twin Cities and, maybe, crack the case and clean off my cooling fan.

Will I Build A Computer?

76  bar rises 29.76 6mph NW dew-point 51  Summer, pleasant and warm

New Moon (Thunder Moon)

A new head has been found for the red car.  Hopefully it will get placed on its automotive neck tomorrow and we will go back to two vehicles.  This is important with the rise of gas prices since our Tundra has a V-8 (may be an antique walking) whereas the Celica averaged 30-31 mph on the Alabama trip.  Co-ordination is not such a big deal for us, though that can matter.

The computer has shut down on its own, without warning, twice already today. I bought the tools to crack the case, get inside and clean out the cooling fan, but I’ve hesitated due to a hyperactive June.  Now available time and increased urgency have moved closer to taking the step.  In the back of my mind, the fantasy part, I see myself building a computer from parts.  The tools I bought would serve that purpose as well.

Ate lunch with Stefan at the Modern Cafe.  I had a lamburger and Stefan had a smorbord, pickled herring and beets.  Both were tasty.  We discussed his poetry and he feels I’m helping, so I’ll keep at it.

He wants to start a support group for children of successful parents.   My hunch is it would be big hit.

On the way home from the Modern (it’s in NE Minneapolis) I drove north of Anoka (really, west) to Anoka Feed and Seed where I picked up four bales of bedding straw.  I’ll use it to mulch the garden over the next few days.

Now, a nap.

240,000 Miles and Still Happy

58  bar falls 29.74  10mph E  dew-point 56  Beltane, cloudy and raining

                         First Quarter of the Flower Moon

Since this has been and will be a traveling month, I’ve been attentive to weather nation-wide.  It’s amazing to sit here looking outside at my garden where the vegetables are slow to mature because of cool weather while the east, south and southwest have had hot hot hot.  The red looked like a child had decided to color the U.S. by starting down the eastern seaboard and then moving along the bottom of the map, went up a state or two, then went on west.  Red all the way.

The automobile is my primary mode of transportation.  Train second.  Air a distant third and then only for speed or an impossible distance.  The former is the reason for air to Texas in July, the latter found me in a plane for Hawai’i. 

When I travel by car, I pay attention to the Weather Channel like a pilot watches the isobars.  It looks like my luck will be good.  The very hot weather system seems ready to break up into more seasonal summer temps.  I’m glad.

Took the little red car into the dealer today for an oil change (they like me, they really really like me) and discovered that the head gasket seep has become a full fledged leak.  That means a head gasket and head grinding when I return plus I have to check the oil every other gas stop.  Even though I repaired my air conditioning after 5 years without it (kept thinking I’d get rid of the Celica, but it kept working.), the heat still makes travel uncomfortable and it does reduce gas mileage. 

I  told Scott at Carlson Toyota I don’t begrudge the Celica few repairs at 240,000 miles.  Still a hell of a lot cheaper than a new car and I get 30-32 mpg on the road.

While we’re on the subject of mechanical devices, my computer now makes a reluctant noise when I boot up, as if it doesn’t want to get up yet.  At first it made me think:  Hard drive!  Bad.  Even though I back-up daily.  Then, on the web I found that it’s probably not the hard drive, but the cooling system.  Time for a little fresh air in the old computer case.  I like this machine.  It’s just right for my needs even though it is now 3 years old.  Like the Celica I feel I may have it a while.

Done Any Deep Thinking Of Late?

59  bar falls 29.79  6mph NNE  dew-point 53 Beltane, cloudy and cool

                    First Quarter of the Flower Moon

Ooops.  Finished the Atlantic article and turns out the author Nicholas Carr’s point is more subtle than I reported yesterday.  He does make those comments about shorter thinking and reading attention spans and I still stand by my comments on them, but his essential question with Google and the Net goes far beyond those observations.

He equates Google with Taylorism–Frederick Taylor of time management studies and manufacturing efficiency circa 1910’s.  He quotes Sergei Brin and Eric Schmidt, co-founders of Google, as being interested primarily in measurement of all they do (the Taylor component) and development of A.I., artificial intelligence.  In essence Carr sees the Google approach to knowledge as quantifiable information in possible conflict with the ambiguous, nuanced and intuitive method more typical of the human mind engaged in either deep-reading or deep-thinking.

His concern harkens back to Marshall McLuhan and his notion of the Medium is the Message.  Each major shift in the storage and retrieval of human information has affected human thought.  His first example is Plato’s concern as writing began to replace oral transmission of learning.  Plato imagined humans would not remember as well.  And we don’t.  A similar concern surfaced when Gutenberg made the printed book widely available.  Here’s an excerpt:

“Maybe I’m just a worrywart. Just as there’s a tendency to glorify technological progress, there’s a countertendency to expect the worst of every new tool or machine. In Plato’s Phaedrus, Socrates bemoaned the development of writing. He feared that, as people came to rely on the written word as a substitute for the knowledge they used to carry inside their heads, they would, in the words of one of the dialogue’s characters, “cease to exercise their memory and become forgetful.” And because they would be able to “receive a quantity of information without proper instruction,” they would “be thought very knowledgeable when they are for the most part quite ignorant.” They would be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.” Socrates wasn’t wrong—the new technology did often have the effects he feared—but he was shortsighted. He couldn’t foresee the many ways that writing and reading would serve to spread information, spur fresh ideas, and expand human knowledge (if not wisdom).The arrival of Gutenberg’s printing press, in the 15th century, set off another round of teeth gnashing. The Italian humanist Hieronimo Squarciafico worried that the easy availability of books would lead to intellectual laziness, making men “less studious” and weakening their minds. Others argued that cheaply printed books and broadsheets would undermine religious authority, demean the work of scholars and scribes, and spread sedition and debauchery. As New York University professor Clay Shirky notes, “Most of the arguments made against the printing press were correct, even prescient.” But, again, the doomsayers were unable to imagine the myriad blessings that the printed word would deliver.”

He goes on to describe what he fears might be lost:

“The kind of deep reading that a sequence of printed pages promotes is valuable not just for the knowledge we acquire from the author’s words but for the intellectual vibrations those words set off within our own minds. In the quiet spaces opened up by the sustained, undistracted reading of a book, or by any other act of contemplation, for that matter, we make our own associations, draw our own inferences and analogies, foster our own ideas. Deep reading, as Maryanne Wolf argues, is indistinguishable from deep thinking.

If we lose those quiet spaces, or fill them up with “content,” we will sacrifice something important not only in our selves but in our culture…”

I agree with Carr’s concern not so much because I see the internet as a bane on deep thinking, rather because I find our culture as a whole leans away from contemplation, meditation, deep reading and deep thinking.  The roots are not so much in the technology of information deliver and storage as in a culture besotted with the practical, the utilitarian and the quotidian.  We innovate, yes, but our innovation tends toward the entrepeneurial and the practical, at their most intellectual toward the scientific, not toward the philosophical and religious and literary.  More people know the names Thomas Edison and Alexander Graham Bell, for example, than know Herman Melville and Willa Cather, or even Joseph Smith and William James.  Who was the famous rocket scientist?  Werner Von Braun.  Who was the famous physicist? Albert Einstein.  Who was the great American transcendentalist?  Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Who was Thomas Cole?  Charles Ives?

Cultures differ in what they emphasize, just like people.  We have great benefits for the world, yes.  But deep thinking and deep reading have not traditionally been counted among them.

I may have overstated my case here, but you get the drift.  Don’t blame the technology, understand the culture.

Exaflops, Zettaflops, Yottaflops and the Xeraflop

72  bar steady 29.65 1mph SSW dew-point 53  Beltane, sunny and warm

             First Quarter of the Flower Moon

Sometimes the language surprises even those of who try to keep up with technological innovation.

“An American military supercomputer, assembled from components originally designed for video game machines, has reached a long-sought-after computing milestone by processing more than 1.026 quadrillion calculations per second.

The high-performance computing goal, known as a petaflop — one thousand trillion calculations per second — has long been viewed as a crucial milestone by military, technical and scientific organizations in the United States.

“The next thousandfold goal is the exaflop, which is a quintillion calculations per second, followed by the zettaflop, the yottaflop and the xeraflop…”

Rites of Spring

52  bar rises 29.94  2mph NW  dewpoint 20 Beltane, sunny

                Waxing Gibbous Hare Moon

Nope, this isn’t about naked pagans dancing under a full moon.  Sorry.

Rather, it’s about those things we do.  In spring. 

The Mickman’s guy just left.  “Charlie,” he said, “We came through the winter pretty good.  Just one dead sprinkler.”  He handed me a sandy, wet plastic sprinkler head, smiled and went on his way.

Kate bought her annual supply of, well, annuals.  Alyssum, impatiens and coleus.  She’ll go back for a few more.

We prepared and planted new beds, cleaned old ones.

The furnace last ran in April, but, unlike most years we have not turned on the air conditioning yet.

The dogs spend more and more time outside, just like we do.

The guy who cleans the gutters and does the outside windows will show up after the cottonwoods disperse their seeds.

We moved the snowblower to the back of the garage bay and the riding lawnmower to the front.  These are his and hers machines.  Snowblower–his.  Lawnmower–hers.

We have all of these mechanical/electronic servants.  Instead of a gardener, we have a sprinkler system and a riding mower.   Instead of servants working mechanical fans we have an air conditioner.  Instead of a summer kitchen we have Vent-a-Hoods.  Instead of the post office we have e-mail.  Instead of shopping in real world stores we have Internet retailers.

These are sophisticated technological devices and they replace human labor of the domestic variety with skilled human labor.  The skilled folks make more money because they work in several locations rather than just one.

I find though, that when I work in the garden, I prefer hand tools:  a spade, a spading fork, pruning saw, trowel, rake.  In general  I allow only one mechanical tool into my work on our grounds.  The chainsaw.  It replaces labor I’m not sure I could perform even if I had the time.  On occasion I’ll rent an industrial strength chipper, but only after many hours cutting down trees and brush, then delimbing.  I plan to rent a stump grinder sometime this spring, but that’s a very special purpose piece of equipment.  Otherwise it’s shovel and pick, adz and drawknife.  Small sledge hammer, wire cutters and bolt cutters, Japanese weeding knife, serrated sickle and unserrated sickle.  A tool in the hand is worth two in the bush.  Or something like that.

August 2017
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 123456
78910111213
14151617181920
21222324252627
28293031  

Breadcrumbs

Trails