Software, Hardware, Silverware

Entries tagged: Personal

These ones are personal to me, because sometimes things just need to be said.

Six Years a Mac

My older sister imprinted two important philosophies on me growing up: liberalism and Appleism. I grew up in a fiercely Republican, lower-middle class home and Apple products were few in far between. My wealthy grandfather favored the Windows world and so all of the hand-me-down laptops I received through grade school were shitty Compaq and Toshiba XP machines. Remember when external slide-in wireless cards were a thing? If you’ve been an Apple user all your life, you probably don’t, you lucky sons-of-bitches. Still I loved them and spent every afternoon on them, getting involved pretty seriously with some early 2000’s internet communities I’m too embarrassed now to call out by name.

In 2005 my sister asked for and received a white iPod video for Christmas. A very casual listener of music myself, I asked for some no-name multimedia viewer that vaguely resembled a PSP; it held about fifteen songs and could theoretically play video and games, though I never figured out either. I remember many car rides and plane rides to and from my dad’s over the next year or so listening to my sister’s iPod through rubber-necked Belkin headphone splitter, and when she would demo for me how the software worked I remember being impressed yet having no desire to own one.

Fast forward another Christmas and I was begging for an iPod. It came used off eBay, the exact model my sister got a year early: 30GB white. I loaded it with mostly my sister’s music collection and spent hours listening to it and playing Parachute and watching whatever free videos were available on iTunes. I even got in to podcasts for the first time, the venerable Mugglecast and Pottercast to stay up on all the movie five news.

The May after that Christmas my sister graduated high school and was given as a present a plastic white MacBook. I watched her unbox it and set it up, and listened to her tout the benefits of the Mac over Windows as my grandfather grumbled and suggested she load bootcamp and XP. An impressionable sixth grader, I accepted everything my sister said as absolute fact and if anyone asked which I preferred I would proudly say that Macs were better and I would have one if I could afford it.

The summer after she graduated my family moved to Massachusetts and my last Windows laptop stopped working. Its replacement came in a 6 year old Dual-USB G3 iBook from my grandma, running OS X Jaguar. Out of date in every regard, and yet it was the best computer I had ever owned. At the time, I did not think it very remarkable. I was often frustrated by the lack of software available for it and I could not store much of my music collection on its tiny 10 GB hard drive. Still, it worked just as it had when it was new, cranking away at 450 MHz and rendering the web just as well as any Windows PC I ever owned. Only after I moved on to a newer Windows 7 machine (out of necessity for something newer) did I appreciate just how good that machine was. It was the only computer I’ve ever owned that was not replaced because it broke. It still works fine, actually, now on Tiger and spending most of its days at the bottom of a trunk at my mom’s house, but it does boot and work perfectly. The iBook, more than the iPod I owned before it, truly introduced me to Apple and spurned my love for their products.

Thirty years ago Steve Jobs introduced the first Macintosh and completely changed the computer industry; six years ago I got my first Macintosh and I was started onto the journey toward total Apple immersion. I’ve now owned four iPods, two iPads, I’m on my second iPhone and my second and third Macs, and I run a blog dedicated heavily to coverage of Apple.

The Motion Picture Organization

My side project with Jesse DeWeerth relaunched a couple days ago with an awesome new name and an awesome new URL and an awesome new WordPress-powered backend. I present to thee, The Motion Picture Organization (née Bad Movie Reviewers).

“If ‘other people have experiences incorrectly’ is annoying to you, think how unbearable it must be to have a condescending stranger tell you they hate the way you’re experiencing your life at just the moment you’ve found something you want to remember.”

— Randall Munroe

The Meaning of Life, Part I

The Importance of Doubt

We believe certain things. We believe in knowledge. We believe in importance. We believe what we do in this world matters and we believe that other people are important and what they do matters, too. We accept these intangibles because if we do not there is nothing else.

Few of us ask questions beyond the superficial. Those who do we call “philosophers” and we revere them (though often not until long after they have parted us). While anyone can question, philosophers possess one special skill that enables them to think more critically: the acceptance of doubt. Most fear doubt; fear of doubt is ruin.

Most bloody wars in history have had at the root of their cause religion. Religion is bred from doubt; it is born out of fear of the unknown. Over the thousands of years of human intelligence, the fear of the unknown has forced the creation of myths to explain away what we cannot any other way. Those who fear the unknown fear death. It is impossible to know what if anything happens after death, so religions have manufactured promises of life surviving the destruction of the earthly body. No lasting culture on earth has ever accepted that when humans die, all the evidence says nothing happens. Heaven and hell are notions created and written down by living humans with the same knowledge you or I have of the after-life: none. Through repetition, they are concepts that most of the world accepts blindly.

The modern philosopher Thomas Nagel says in What Does It All Mean? that we cannot be absolutely sure of anything: “If you think about it, the inside of your mind is the only thing you can be absolutely sure of.” How can we be sure anything is real? What is “real”, anyway? How do we know that everything going on around us, the entire world and every one in it, isn’t all in our head? These questions have no answer. There is nothing we can be sure of; certainty does not exist; that’s terrifying. Perhaps nothing I have ever done, do, or will do matters.

Ultimately, the search for certainty is useless. You can idle for your entire life and make nothing of your perceived time on this planet and no one will be able to convince you that you are apart of anything worth wasting. Certainty is impossible, so to move on to more important matters we must accept doubt in the way of things and renounce this blind faith in unreferenced answers. There is only one thing worth convincing ourselves of: that what we do here on earth is the only thing we know; if anything matters, it is this.

Immortality in a Mortal World

As humans we are struck with this concept that life is somehow important. There is little evidence for that. The universe has existed for 14,000,000,000 years and humans have inhabited the Earth for fewer than 0.0002% of them. The idea that anything any one of us has ever done has had even the slightest impact on anything further away than our Moon is laughable. The dinosaur dynasty lasted for over 135,000,000 years but what have they left behind? Fossils? Birds? Virtually nothing. Their only legacy is the oil we use to power our cars that in turn pollutes the Earth’s atmosphere. Not much to aspire to. Even if we do manage another 134,800,000 years, are we destined to be but a casual mystery to whatever species usurps us? It is a disconcerting reality that as we learn more of the universe, our own existence feels increasingly insignificant. But that belief, that life is important… It does not fade.

We remember past figures for their accomplishments. King Narmer, Otto von Bismarck, Abraham Lincoln: we remember these people because they marked history. It is reasonable then to assume that if we do important things and change the world, we will be remembered also. Steve Jobs once said of death:

No one wants to die. Even people who want to go to heaven don’t want to die to get there. And yet death is the destination we all share. No one has ever escaped it. And that is as it should be, because Death is very likely the single best invention of Life.

Immortality through reverence and remembrance is a real, observable phenomenon and the only meaning we can assure ourselves we can achieve.

Sit idle if you want and I cannot say for sure you’re wasting anything. But I will narrow the scope of my universe; to a human being that will live about 80 years, 200,000 of them feels like a pretty long time. I will never possess the ability to affect the universe as a whole, but I can surely affect the other humans here with me. I will ignore reality; I will muddle the facts because if I do not, I am nothing. “There’s no point,” wrote Nagel. “It wouldn’t matter if I didn’t exist at all, or if I didn’t care about anything. But I do. That’s all there is to it.”

Enjoy the Little Things

“Is Fortune’s presence dear to thee if she cannot be trusted to stay, and though she will bring sorrow when she is gone?”
— Boethius, The Consolation of Philosophy

Fortune, good or bad, is transient. And that being the case, is there any point to finding Fortune’s good graces? The impression from Boethius is no. “True happiness” is fulfillment. It is found through wisdom and knowledge which cannot (at least, cannot easily) be taken away, as Fortune can. Fulfillment gives one importance and reverence in life, which can make one eternal. I am enrolled in the most prestigious and expensive university I was accepted to because I know a college education is an important step toward fulfillment. I come from a lower-middle-class family with little extra money to spend on college, and I did not impress enough in high school to get anything better than a partial scholarship. I cannot afford to be here. I am scheduled to pay off this semester with considerable interest by 2042. Yet here I am. I should be on the right track. But I am not happy.

Every week I have a “bad” day: a day when it gets to me the extent to which I am in-over-my-head. I have long imagined a Wall, a barrier to success brought on by my ability to meet the A-grade expectation in high school without putting forth any effort. I am not totally devoid of drive, but certainly I lack it in the worst way wherever I lack interest. At some point I think I will be put in a situation where I cannot meet expectations without putting forth the effort I have witnessed peers pour into schoolwork in the past. When I finally am, I worry that I will simply fail. The Wall is one of my greatest anxieties, third only to equity and loneliness.

Will I be able to feed myself next week? What about over the holidays when the dining halls are closed? As much as I would love to say that money is not important, and that we can be happy without it, in truth I know that there is a certain level of wealth that is paramount to being happy. No one is content in poverty. I do not long for riches, but I long for Enough. Until I can take a friend out for a nice lunch spur-of-the-moment and foot the bill without concern, I do not have Enough.

I have struggled with friendship since sophomore-level high school. While I have consistently had one or two best friends, I have struggled with finding groups of friends large enough that I can associate with people that I like on a daily basis. I have always been particular in choosing friends, which has helped me to achieve a small group that I can already assert as life-long. But my particularity has run to by greatest fear: that of being Alone. Whether I am in my dorm room with only my laptop or in a coffee shop with strangers, if I am not with people I can joke around with, I am Alone. My “bad” days consistently line up with those that I spend a majority of Alone.

These anxieties: hitting the Wall, having Enough, being Alone, they each eat at me every day despite my adherence to the path toward fulfillment. Because of this I stress the importance of Fortune. Life is a mix of good and bad; the good does not make up for the bad but likewise the bad does not spoil the good. Despite its transience, good Fortune is important to a happy life because fulfillment takes a very long time. Along the way there are many toils and without little, fleeting, happy moments I could not cope. This is why I treated my friends to a Broadway show I could not afford, it is why I joined the quidditch team, and it is why I spend so much of my money on first dates.

“Lather, rinse, repeat, but stop eventually.”

— Paul Kafasis

Set Theory of Relationship Design

It was a Saturday morning and I was seated on a bench in the park opposite a girl I’d been stealing glances at for fifteen minutes. I had no idea who she was, but she was reading and I was thinking.

You have a finite but vast set of potential life-mates. These people share your interests and your sense of humor; you get along well with them and they’re easy to talk to. Any one of them could be someone you fall in love with, but most of them aren’t. You’ll never meet most of them, but so far you’ve met many of them even if you haven’t realized it. For so many things in a row must go right for you to end up with one of them that when it finally happens it feels predestined. The truth is destiny is bullshit; there is no single person you’re waiting for.

In high school our set of potential mates was limited to the like-aged people we are in contact with. For most of us, this was only fellow high school students. Some others’ sets might have included people in extracurriculars, but for the most part we dated those within our high school. This presented an interesting conundrum, since the people we were interested in dating were also the people we saw almost every single day of our lives. To make peace between these facts, we spent energy and time getting acquainted with people before we went out with them. In high school, this strategy made sense. Time was of little concern. Few had anything truly pressing to get on with, and if you didn’t ask that cute girl out today well, she’d be there tomorrow. Leaving a trail of failed one- or two-date relationships would get messy quickly; awkward encounters with former suitors would be common and unavoidable. For a few lucky couples, the high school strategy worked. They found people within their sets and all the parts that had to go right went right; that’s well and that’s good.

Outside of high school, such a strategy is insane. Personally I have moved from a high school with 2,000 students to a university with 50,000 in a city with 70 colleges. If there were just 25 potential mates for me in high school, there should be over 600 just at NYU. That number ignores the millions of people who live in New York City and don’t attend NYU and it ignores that NYU students — intelligent and driven students, I would like to think — will have more aligned interests in general to mine than the people I was randomly thrown into high school with. And yet, 600 is still more people than any one person could date in a lifetime.

So we must adapt a new strategy. The game’s no longer about vetting every potential date, it’s about betting that that girl you can’t take your eyes off in the park is in your set. I got off the bench, sat next to her, and asked her out.

Todd Helton Retires

Todd Helton, first baseman for the past 17 years for the Colorado Rockies, will play his last major league baseball game this afternoon in Los Angeles. He has been a hero of mine ever since I was a kid, when my mom and I would go to a Rockies game every Wednesday night. It’s weird; he’s the first of my childhood heroes to stop doing what he does, and I’m happy for him. But it’s still an odd experience.

Congratulations, Todd. You’ve had a hell of a career.

Bad Movie Reviewers

There’s only one important question when your friend tell’s you she’s seen a movie you haven’t: is it worth seeing. Bad Movie Reviewers, a new blog from your host and his good friend, Jesse DeWeerth, answers that most important question.

It’s the simplest movie review site you’ll ever find, with each entry comprised of just the title, its year of release, and a rating of 0-5 stars. Good movies. Bad movies. Old movies. New movies. You’re sure to find a suggestion new to you whenever you check in.

(Be sure to check out the ratings explanations at the bottom of the page.)

I Don’t Need to Sleep

I’m belted into the window seat and the sun’s going down. My flight was delayed on the tarmac for two hours but that doesn’t upset me. What was already going to be a late bed time has been pushed back further. I have to be at work early tomorrow. But that doesn’t upset me. I am upset, though. I’m upset because my favorite place in the world is behind me and two months of longing is in front.

For years now I’ve had the idea that I’d live in Manhattan. When I was a high school sophomore the idea sounded nice, but distant. It was exciting but I wasn’t anxious about it. When I applied to colleges, I didn’t seek schools for English and Political Science. I saught schools in New York. I made the enormous mistake of visiting before I heard back, so when I returned home all I could think about was how upset I’d be if I didn’t get in. I did. The idea was becoming more real. Grades, AP exams, and graduation kept me distracted and the waiting didn’t hurt.

For the past year I’ve known this is where I want to spend the next four years of my life. Now, with sixty days until I move in, New York feels farther away than ever.

It was this latest trip that did me in. When Daddy Warbucks and Annie broke into “NYC” during my first Broadway show, I wanted to cry. In the observation room on the 102nd story of the Empire State Building last night, the idea that I’d call this magnificient city home hit hard. On the steps of Tiffany and Co. on Fifth Avenue, pastry in hand, immitating Audrey Hepburn… It was romantic. Sixty tedious days as an ITO intern at a car dealership contractor in west central Texas separate me from a life in my favorite city.

The Island of Manhattan from the Staten Island Ferry

I’m belted into the window seat and the sun has set. I’m begging the pilot to turn around.

Will the Last Person to Leave Please Turn Out the Lights

This morning I sat the AP Macroeconomics exam. A hundred and thirty minutes of bubbling, graphing, and writing. Then I went home. High school’s over for me now. Sure, there’s still graduation and such. But it’s over. Really really over.

Looking back, I’ve come a long way. Literally, I started school in Tennessee and continued through Colorado, Massachussetts, Georgia, and sunny Florida. Figuratively… well, I guess I’d say I’m more pretentious and opinionated than ever. Growth!

To be fair, school isn’t entirely over. There’s college. This fall I’m moving to Manhattan to attend New York University. I’m nervous. I’m anxious about moving out and taking on debt and such. But I’m excited, and I’ve never been excited for school before. Well, not since Kindergarten. Anxiously I awaited first grade. I couldn’t wait to have homework.