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1/20/00 the TV

There's a strange style incongruity today concerning TVs (and stereo equipment, for that matter). Televisions are manufactured with futuristic, minimalistic styled black plastic cases. If you are lucky, there may be some chrome detailing, small twinkling lights, or a knob or two. However, when you get the television home, the poorer people squeeze it into a faux-woodgrained entertainment center made by Sauder, and the richer people fit it into an ornately detailed oak cabinet, complete with tooled edges resembling roman columns or colonial furniture, and paneled or leaded glass doors which obscure the TV when it is not being viewed. The black & white minimalistic style of the 80s wasn't livable then, either, and few people consider the color or shape the TV comes in when they go to Best Buy to pick one out. A coworker of mine has beautiful leather couches, matching endtables with carved wood legs and leather inserts, expensive framed prints of horses on the walls -- and then a stark, black TV stand topped by a 27" obsidian monstrosity of a television. The bits of wraught iron in his decor do offset the opaqueness of the TV, but do not obscure it.

A run through the thrift shops will give you an approximate timeframe as to the last time woodgrain was used in electronic equipment. The mid-80s, probably with yuppiedom and Don Johnson, swept the organic, "old looking" style of wood enclosures, in exchange for brushed aluminum, black plastic, and smoked-plastic covers over LEDs to completely obscure their presence when the appliance was off. Speakers as well, even when enclosed in wood, were pained solid black and dark screens covered the cones. Greys, silvers, unending gradients of black, and any of 3 colors of LEDs were mixed in multiple combinations and shapes to produce the most vacuous electronic equipment ever. Continue reading…

1/16/00 User interfacing

As I sit here, typing this, I'm on my bed, in nothing but my boxers, with my laptop & power supply across my lap (I forgot to recharge it). Typing is a bit ungainly; reasonably, the keyboard should be a little bit higher than lap-level, and I can't hold my knees up high enough to put it at a proper angle to acommodate the way I hold my hands. When it comes to interfaces, though, it's acommodating me quite well. I'm using a DOS word processor, typing in normal language, using the keyboard.

Computers may be able to think fast, but they sure aren't designed to interact with the real world. In a way, if computers worked seamlessly with the real world, their usefullness would be diminished. I've said it before, I'll say it again, the computer's greatest asset is that the things created within it operate outside of our normal laws of space, time, and relativity (within mathematical guidelines, however). That's where the benefit comes from -- a scientist can come up with velocities and accelleration and direction for an object without having to physically measure the object. All they need are the numbers and a computer, and the high-powered calculator can spit out all the numbers in a fraction of a second. That's also how "theoretical" particles like quarks, leptons, mesons, etc., are 'discovered'. You can't detect them, but someone, somewhere, used computers to calcuate their existence, without even knowing what they are or how they work. The insides of a computer operate outside of the bounds of reality as we know it. The programmer and the user work with the computer to create something entirely new. Continue reading…

1/8/00 Reliance on technology sucks.

Last night, while on the way to a party with co-workers, my car died. I tried to pull off the road, but the lack of a berm meant that my car slid down the snowy ditch embankment, ending up quite off the road. With some help from my grandpa, we managed to determine that the problem was an electrical short, because the self-resetting breaker would make the car appear to "come back to life" after sitting a few minutes. I think that the most expensive part of getting the car repaired will be the towing itself, since they had to winch the car out of the icy and snowy ditch.

I had hoped that the car would get me at least another 6 weeks. By that time, I'd have my tax return and a few large paychecks to put towards the purchase of a new vehicle. The Volare is on its last legs; coolant in the oil, a failing master brake cylinder, a rusted-out muffler, and a carborateur that needs rebuiding or replacement all make for a vehicle which would be more expensive to repair than to just trash it and buy a newer one. I paid $500 for the Volare 7 months ago, and it's been worth every penny. It may be different in other places, but Fargo is a car-town. If you don't have a car, you're stuck. If you can afford to take a cab everywhere, then you can afford a car. The mass-transit system is horribly inadequate and slow, so either you have your own car or you have someone with a car drive you around. That's how I made it 2 months without a car, and is how my ex-wife lives her entire life without a driver's license. Continue reading…

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