Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Book of Jobs

After years of sitting on my hands and resisting the high cost of smart phones, I finally succumbed and bought an iPhone this summer. I have a bumpy history with Apple. I was obsessed with all things Apple during college, but I couldn't afford one and ended up getting deep into PC's because of all the video games available on the PC. In the early nineties, I started at Microsoft with a Macintosh on my desk (gasp!?! what!?!). Yes, it's true people... Microsoft had many Mac users in the early days. Among other products, I helped market MacOffice to the masses. It sold more than our Windows version in the early days. About a year in, all of our machines were replaced with PC's so that we could test Microsoft's newest version of Windows and email.

I digress... After years of making fun of the "Cult of Steve", I'm eating crow in a big way. Earlier this summer I met a designer at a conference who said, "If it's not on a phone, it's useless." I was really offended until I started using my iPhone more than my laptop. The touch screen and the app store make this device endlessly useful. Yea, the keyboard interface sucks and iTunes is still a horrible piece of software - but I'm hopelessly sold on it. After years of making fun of texters, I'm now texting like a teenage girl, "ZOMG, WTF, ROFL Copter!!!"

Let the derision begin!

Neal Stephenson's Anathem: Thinking Man's Sci-Fi

This summer I read Stephenson's Anathem on my iPhone using Amazon's Kindle App (side note, the Kindle is going to die now that this exists on phones). It's around a thousand pages - so consider the crazy 4000 finger swipes required to get through it. My wife was so annoyed with my time on the iPhone that she started calling it my, "robot girlfriend". I would be offended if she was not dating her phone on such a regular basis. I'm sure her phone does a better job of cleaning the house and paying the bills.

I've been a huge fan of Neal Stephenson since I read Snow Crash in the early nineties. I'm not sure if that book stands the test of time, but it was an awesome read back in the day. The book stirred many of the fears and wonders of the early Internet, and the oncoming doom represented by VIRTUAL REALITY - remember that storyline!?! Stephenson's other big hits, The Diamond Age and Cryptonomicon are also classics. The former represents for me the birth of steam punk and the latter is an awesome adventure romp replete with WWII gold-hoarding fanaticism. Bobby Shaftoe is the bomb! Stephenson then went on to write a trilogy called the "Baroque Cycle", and I had a hard time following. They were brilliantly complex books, but I think they were difficult reads for even the most hardcore of readers - which I'm not.

Anathem is set in a oddly possible parallel universe. I lack the skills to summarize it, so here's a quote from Amazon - "Stephenson (Cryptonomicon) conjures a far-future Earth-like planet, Arbre, where scientists, philosophers and mathematicians—a religious order unto themselves—have been cloistered behind concent (convent) walls. Their role is to nurture all knowledge while safeguarding it from the vagaries of the irrational saecular outside world. Among the monastic scholars is 19-year-old Raz, collected into the concent at age eight and now a decenarian, or tenner (someone allowed contact with the world beyond the stronghold walls only once a decade). But millennia-old rules are cataclysmically shattered when extraterrestrial catastrophe looms, and Raz and his teenage companions—engaging in intense intellectual debate one moment, wrestling like rambunctious adolescents the next—are summoned to save the world."

It's a rigorous read, but well worth the time. I highly recommend it.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

You may ask yourself... Where does my waste go?

Alreet. I attended a Sustainability Institute last July (btw, I found out my carbon footprint is a massive black hole - being a technophile and driving the dotcom mobile is definitely a problem). The focus of the conference was to raise awareness on lowering our impact on the earth, and how we can teach students in high schools to be better stewards. For my fellow teachers and I, it was an opportunity for us to act like 14 year-olds and gawk at gross things that come out of the sewer (Lucky, T-Bone, and Rhino - you know who you are). If you're on the fence about ecology... simply visit a waste water treatment plant and everything will be crystal clear!

I've always hated the word, "sewage". It's the perfect auditory representation of the physical product. Treating sewage is actually pretty amazing. It's incredible how efficient the process has become, and that relatively clean water can come from such unholy spew. But there is one dumpster in the plant that cannot be saved by our techno-wizardry. This pile represents things that cannot be reclaimed or decomposed. If ye dare to click on this tiny picture, then hide your children and grab a vomitous receptacle!!! You have been warned...

My God, what hell hath we wrought!?!