“If you give half a damn about which multi-billion-dollar corporation “wins” a totally made-up contest, then you need to drop acid and spend some time in an ashram.”
– Andy Ihnatko, on why your phone choice should be what’s right for you and not what’s right for them
While doing work today, I stumbled across this rather odd artifact of copy protection in academic journal PDFs. Seems that “Plane 16” refers to protected unicode characters, used by journal PDFs to prevent copy-pasting. The document I’m working from has these scattered about the text: seem they removed copy protection, but not that well. Not debilitating, but yet another small reason why academic tech can get frustrating at times.
Also: I’m pretty sure our friend here is my Spirit Animal.
“I would meet you upon this honestly.
I that was near your heart was removed therefrom
To lose beauty in terror, terror in inquisition.
I have lost my passion: why should I need to keep it
Since what is kept must be adulterated?
I have lost my sight, smell, hearing, taste and touch:
How should I use it for your closer contact?”
– TS Eliot, Gerontion
This quote, and the story which surrounds it, are quickly becoming a joke. And they should. This was, without question, a ridiculous thing for anyone who expects to be taken seriously in public to say.
It’s hardly the first time, though, that a “big conversation” about technology has been a lot less about the user wants to do and a lot more about what the user is trying to project. Smartphones don’t do anything to you. They don’t emasculate you, or demonstrate your savvy, or show your willingness to care about what you use, or any of it. They’re pieces of aluminum and glass. They don’t have personality: you do.
Wait and Hurry Up
Even if you’re not one who keeps up with college football - and I’m certainly not - it’s been hard to miss the story of Manti Te’o, the all star Notre Dame linebacker who was either the victim of or a participant in an elaborate hoax involving a fake girlfriend, her supposed tragic death and his willingness to continue playing football rather than attending her funeral. That such a choice, such a “sacrifice” made such a poignant story, that we expect Te’o to “impress us” so soon after it all fell apart, says a great deal about the culture of the world in which he lives, and a great deal about its contrasts with mine.
To hitch one’s future to football, as Te’o has, is to make an impactful choice. There are, after all, only so many years, only so many games. It seems ridiculous to suggest that Te’o’s future would be sunk by missing a game to go to his girlfriend’s funeral … but not so ridiculous under the terms of that culture. 12 college games a season, for four seasons, are all you have to make it into the NFL. 12 NFL games a season with (somewhere between) 4 and 12 years to make a career, make enough money to last you and (likely) several struggling members of your family for the rest of their lives. It’s a culture that glorifies, by design, that drive, that purposiveness, from a young age.
It’s hard not to contrast those messages with the ones of my upbringing. I’m 24 and, for as long as I can remember, I’ve been told about all the time I’ll have left, all the opportunities I have now to explore and get to know the world, the luxuries of youth and the wastefulness of spending too much time right now sweating what I should be. If I had listened to those voices more than I actually did, of course, I wouldn’t be in graduate school. But even here, there’s a sense I shouldn’t be too hasty, shouldn’t be so certain, shouldn’t jump into life and permanence and commitment until I know all of who I am.
We come from very different places, Te’o and I. And, while I suspect he’ll make more money his first year in the NFL than I’ll make over the course of my career, I’ve had a lot more permission and ability up to this point to make mistakes. I certainly have a lot less people with vested personal and financial interest in manufacturing for me a hero’s story. There must be some happy medium between those two extremes, between the philosophy of my world that tells me that life begins at 30, and the philosophy of Te’o’s that has already suggested to him that his will end at 30. Neither one of us, at this stage, is allowed to live in a space where our feelings can be considered fully real. And, in that sense, neither one of us is really all that free.
UPDATE: Related, Why Developing Serious Relationships in Your 20s Matters by Elisabeth Spiers
“Once, I was so good at forming opinions that I could whore them for small cash rewards.”
– Robin Ince writes for the Observer on the death of evidence at the hands of opinion and punditry. Killer piece.
The Pain Point
Vardy and Schecter - the Mikes behind Mikes on Mics - have a great episode of their podcast up this week with Matt Alexander, recorded live at the nerdgasmic Woodstock that (I’ve heard) was The OmniFocus Setup 2013. Matt pushes back - and hard - on playing too much with your tools. The high points, from all three of them: don’t get so addicted to a tool that you’ll be helpless if it breaks, don’t spend more time making the tool than making your thing, and don’t feel the need to adopt something new and shiny unless it solves a problem that’s causing you actual pain.
These ideas perfectly capture why I do all my todos in Taskpaper instead of Omnifocus: the file is simple and portable, I’ve got no qualms about just typing into it and organizing it later, and I’ve never actually been pushed to adopt an app with more features. The best part: my backup solution if it breaks, if my Mac breaks, if the grid goes down due to zombie attack: pen and paper. It’s the same reason this post got typed right in nvALT: I didn’t need the organization that comes from anything else.
Still, while we’re adjusting our sense of what’s important: in the grand scheme of things, being addicted to productivity apps is, like, the least bad thing you can be addicted to. So don’t sweat it too much.
Polina Kroik on the disappearance of “deep thinking” from the academy:
I realize that different people enter the academy for different reasons: some love to teach; others might prefer collaborative projects to individual essays; another group welcomes the use of technology in the humanities. I respect all these modes of intellectual work and have enjoyed taking part in them. Yet as I explore alternatives to the mythical tenure-track job—where, so I’d been told, some of the time is dedicated to research and thinking—I find no true alternatives. Apart from (some) graduate programs, there is no institutional framework that supports sustained, independent thinking, thinking that is tied neither to economic nor political considerations.
This phenomenon is as bad, if not worse, in the social sciences. And it’s troubling.
If the bar was real how could you raise it?
If the envelope was there how could you stretch it?
If there was a limit, how did you push pass it?
Perhaps, the fact that you were able to raise, push, or stretch is proof that these things were not there in the first place?”
– Patrick Rhone