Monthly Archives: June 2008

Once Were Highwaymen

Margaret and I were sitting on a bench on Nantucket sipping tea and coffee (respectively), and Margaret wondered about the people who have in the past gotten knicker-twisted about others using their open wifi signals. “They called it ‘stealing bandwidth,’” she recalled, “but with iPhones and other handheld wireless-using devices around, is anyone making a fuss about it any more? Is everyone with an iPhone implicitly a bandwidth thief? Or did the world just get used to it, and password-protect signals that they didn’t want to share?”

Dis Integration

If integration of apps is so important to Apple, why is it that if I want to associate a photo with an Address Book entry, I have to use the file-hierarchy “Open” process, rather than just making a more direct process through iPhoto? Since iPhoto obscures the file paths, it’s a big headache to connect a photo to an Address Book identity.

But On This I Agree

One of the profound delights that digital technology affords me I number the opportunity to agree with Dave “Groundhog Day” Rogers, more often than his recent post would suggest. In fact, in a recent essay for a religion textbook, I cited some of the baneful effects of automotive technology that he catalogues.
I also agree that we’ll agree to disagree about how we assess the prospect of the digital-technology tidal wave. Which puts our agreement quotient awfully high, I think (though Dave might disagree). On the other other hand (“Zaphod, the extra arm suits you”), intense congratulations on getting the great tickets to the Springsteen concert.

Twofold Entertainment

Margaret and I had to fax some documents the other day, so we meandered over to a local office supply emporium. While Margaret filled out the requisite forms, I helpfully located unusual or intriguing items that she might fiddle with. Along with the LED-flashing rubber duckies, I noted these squeezy things:

Squeeze Me

The squeeze function impressed us by itself, but we were doubly delighted when we read the fine print warning us

Squeeze Me

“Caution: To avoid the sharp matter & point.” I think our bumper could have used that advice!


Speaking of which, Margaret and I were playing the “dream about a new car” game the other day, and in enriching my familiarity with current models, I saw some very favorable feedback about the Honda Fit. Apart from predictable jokes about “Having a Fit” or “getting Fit” or “Fit to drive,” does anyone out there have specific advice relative to these vehicles? (Our main interests are gas mileage, reliability, and luggage space — after “price,” of course.)

Nomadic Stromateis

Au Contraire

Google isn’t making us stupid; that’s a nostalgic, fear-mongering sales pitch. The notion that Google (or the Net or email or LOLcats) might be making us stupid reminds me of the ecclesiastical expressions of “replacement panic,” the dread of digital change.
Google, and the panoply of digital tools and media, catalyzes different, unfamiliar ways of thinking, such that we rely on electronic resources for some capacities that we had allotted to different technologies before (first memory, then writing, then print — imagine a headline of Plato’s Phaedrus, “Is Writing Making Us Stupid?”). That transition entails certain losses, some of them regrettable losses, some perhaps irremediable. That transition may involve malefactors or heedless vandals using digital technology for baleful purposes. Terrorists and mad scientists may find digital technology useful for their evil purposes.
Granted the losses and the possibility that some will deploy technology for maleficent ends, ought we identify the technology as the problem?
Serious thinkers can arrive at divergent answers to that question — but I no longer hesitate to assert that the best, most hopeful, most richly humane way forward embraces digital technology for what it does well, perpetuates the particular strengths and affordances of previous categories of technology within the bounds of their value as effective, appropriate means for enhancing life (and as possible unforeseen resources for subsequent generations), and always contributing our energies toward enhancing and supporting one another. Automobiles are terrific technology for small-group transportation, but their over-use may be contributing to catastrophic climate change. Mass production in industrial factories produces large quantities of cheap goods, but frequently at cost to laborers and the environment. Digital media affords tremendous possibilities, and also risks and costs.
Learning wisdom, sharing resources, exercising prudence in our common life — Google doesn’t threaten any of these. Indeed, Google can (not “intrinsically,” not “necessarily,” but very certainly “possibly”) help us learn, connect, and negotiate. That doesn’t seem stupid to me, not at all.

Still Here

We’re having a great time on Nantucket — Pippa and I spent a few hours bicycling yesterday, so that my back is quite stiff this morning, but the weather is terrific. We’re having Margaret-made dinners with my Mom, wandering around and pondering what has changed, glad some things haven’t. Whenever I glimpse an undeveloped patch of Nantucket’s scraggly woods or thick, matted undergrowth, I exhort Pippa to notice and remember.

Radio Silence

Limited connectivity on Nantucket; between fun, errands, and lack of a signal, I don’t have much time to comment on the world.

Horse Waiting For Ferry

No big story, just a horse waiting to board the ferry to Nantucket.

Back Safe, On To Next Voyage

We had a delightful evening in Baltimore with friends from the Loyola College theology faculty. The trip south was marred by brutal traffic congestion (crossed with our car’s decrepit air conditioning unit), but all turned out marvelously. During our preparations we encountered the following sidebar notice from the National Enquirer:

News Flash

No, we weren’t concerned about Kirstie Alley or Cher or Kenny Chesney; we were intrigued by the “World’s Only Church For Dogs.” You may discuss among yourselves the problems, implications, hypotheticals, and ecumenical conundrums that such a claim might inspire.
We were in Balto to celebrate Midsummer’s Eve with colleagues. Melinda even arranged for us to read from Midsummer Night’s Dream (she cast Margaret as Quince, and guess who as Bottom!) — but although the Fowls had laid a fire in the lawn, they did not expect us to jump over any flames.

Better Than Old Age

We just grabbed the above in honor of Chris “Mystic Bourgeoisie” Locke.
And speaking of Cluetrainers, we’ve been praying for Doc over the past week or so, as he’s endured a sequence of medical complications that got started from a relatively routine examination of his pancreas. It sounds as though Doc’s coming out of the hospital soon — got to make room for the people who are really sick, he says — and that’s very good news for a very good guy (and his family). Still, we won’t let up until he’s out and on the loose again. Take care, Doc, and get well soon!

Match Made. . . Somewhere Else

Bishop N. T. Wright appeared on the Colbert Report the other day, and I have to say that this match-up didn’t bring out the best in Tom. He’s a quick-witted guy, and his scholarship stands among the best in the field of New Testament studies, but he was making an argument that didn’t fit well into the Colbert format, and he persisted at trying to drive home his point when the few moments might have been better spent playing along with Colbert, I think. See for yourself:

I’m interested, in a student-of-comedy sort of way, in how this segment works. Tom interjects a few asides, but he tends to mutter them. That works well in his lecturing, as it gives an audience something to puzzle over for a few seconds, then catch with amusement, then rejoin the main stream of his narration — but it doesn’t work here. In essence, the whole of an interview segment on Colbert is “asides”; it’s almost all banter, without much room for making a point of substance. Tom kept pushing his book’s thesis, more than treating the segment as an opportunity to make a jovial public appearance, trading witticisms with Stephen Colbert. In the end, I thought he seemed stiffer and less funny, and more censoriously didactic than is characteristic of him. Not that my own (lower-profile) media appearances have gone any better — the New Testament Scholars Union may need to hold some media workshops.