I Call Bravo Sierra

Common sense isn't very common.

Archive for the ‘technology’ Category


Posted by Keen Observer on June 13, 2013

OK, so I’m confused: several of my posts say that the comments are disabled when viewing them, but in edit mode, the Allow Comments check-box is on. What the hell is up with that? I’ve done a quick search online, but I can’t seem to find anything that specifically addresses the issue. I’ve tried toggling the comments off and on again and updating the posts thusly each time, but there’s no change. How does this happen, and how do I fix it? Stupid WordPress.


Posted in general, stupidity, technology | 1 Comment »


Posted by Keen Observer on November 12, 2012

Memory:  personal memory, institutional memory, corporate memory, cultural memory, tribal memory.  These are the types of memories that living beings tend to be aware of, even if perhaps not all the time or in a consistent way.  But they are there.  I hope I don’t need to go into details on them, so I won’t.

Most of these—if not all—were consistently shared between individuals and generations in a largely oral tradition in times earlier than this.  Histories and fables, facts and survival/prosperity tips, and other such similar things were handed down to the general knowledge base or to specific, “worthy”, recipients.  Because of the way memory works, sometimes knowledge was lost, and sometimes less-valuable knowledge was discarded if favour of something better or more important.  This is evolution of a sort.

However, the advent of modern technology changed that somewhat.  It started gradually, but it eventually became the way that technology displaced the mostly-oral tradition, and it was thought to be progress or “better”.  One could argue that this change started with writing and tablets, before moving on to scrolls, but even in those cultures where these things arose, there would have been a significant majority of any population for whom this technology was out of reach, and thus would have had to rely on continuing the oral tradition.  These simple forms of technology were all there were for centuries, although as time went on, larger (though still very minor) percentages of the various populations would have acquired the use of these technologies.  It could even be argued that in some societies, the populace were deliberately kept ignorant to keep them under the control of their overlords.  I’m looking largely at feudal Europe, here, especially the iron control of the Church.  Countries like China and India and Japan had better literacy rates at the same time, I believe, even if there were entrenched class systems.

A seriously-significant piece of technology changed Europe (and the world) permanently in the middle of the last millennium:  movable type and the Gutenberg press.  In addition to aiding in the relatively rapid dissemination of knowledge to all and sundry, it had an additional effect on the human use of memory.  It started to become less necessary for people to remember things themselves, or similarly for the various groups of people outlined above to retain and pass along acquired or historical knowledge.

Jump ahead a couple hundred years to the present day, and that trend has almost reached its conclusion:  few  people or organisations remember any more than they absolutely have to to get by in life or business/whatever.  The word “memory” is not used as it was in the past, except in rare instances.  In fact, it is almost ubiquitous in its usage as a technological construct in the form of computer memory (RAM) or less correctly as storage (hard drives, thumb drives, optical media, and the like).  If you asked a random person on the street, “How’s your memory?”, you’re about as likely to get the answer in gigabytes as you are to hear that he’s been having a harder time remembering names lately.  We rely insanely heavily on other things to do our remembering for us:  books, journals, computers, disks, libraries, corporate manuals, legal codes, and so on.  And because other things do the heavy lifting for us, we no longer have to do it ourselves.  It’s almost become that a person with a good memory is considered freakish, it’s so bad.

Our memory “muscles” atrophy from disuse, and it becomes harder and harder to remember things.  When I  was younger, I prided myself on my memory.   It wasn’t eidetic (to my chagrin), but it was pretty good.  There were times when I felt I was just a hair’s breadth away from being able to visualise perfectly a page which I had read, to be able to pull out of that page the specific phrase I was attempting to recall.  Frustrating.  But since I started to rely on other things to remember that which I needed to remember, the less my memory itself was used, a gradual trend over the past couple of decades.  And on top of that, the older I get, the harder I have to work to remember things I should still know, and it becomes harder to retain new information that I am learning or need to know.   And this annoys the crap out of me at many levels.

I see this trend away from using one’s own memory as something occurring society-wide, on a fundamental basis, and I don’t think this is a good thing.  I also think I see that the pace of it is increasing, with increasing amounts of technology being used in the classroom as though it’s a good thing.  Children are being encouraged and taught to rely on machines to remember stuff for them.  Smartphones (e.g., with their memo and calendar functions) and thumb drives are ubiquitous.  Even diaries have a state of impermanence, being stored on media that can easily be destroyed in ways that written hardcopy cannot.  I think—and this is just my opinion—that continuing on this path is not only detrimental to people and society, but it is actively contributing to society’s downfall.  People that don’t remember things on their own will not be able to react to problems quickly; they will not be able to adapt and overcome, if they must continually stop to check something on their phones or look something up on the Internet.  This is a sort of recipe for disaster, if you’ll pardon the hyperbole, because we must as a society be smarter than those who would wish to destroy us, if we wish to survive.  It also has the effect of reducing the candidate pool for highly-technical (or other) jobs that require that sort of mental flexibility and awareness.  This does not leave me exactly hopeful for the continued survival of our society.

Just some thoughts about memory.  And right on a thousand words, too.

Posted in computers, general, life, opinion, science, stupidity, technology | Comments Off on Memory

How Did I Get Here?

Posted by Keen Observer on March 5, 2011

This would be my Facebook post.

I’m crotchety and “old”, but I’ve been involved with computers directly or indirectly since the early 80s, so it’s not like I’m a Luddite.  But the idea of joining Facebook always seemed to me akin to answering that poor Nigerian prince’s email.  Whenever I interact with anyone or anything online…unless I know them personally…I use the absolute minimum of information possible to successfully complete that interaction.  Where possible, I use fake phone numbers and addresses (I live at Parliament, for example, or a former place of work), and I have a Yahoo! address that I use as a spam drop.  I hide behind the firewall of my hardware router.  And so on.  Facebook seemed like a bad idea in that context.

However, I went to the wedding of one of my cousins back in October, and aside from getting so shit-faced drunk that I have a scar to remind me of it (I really needed to blow off some steam around family, thanks to my personal life having been destroyed), one of the main things that came away from that experience was learning exactly how many of my family was on FB.  Most of them, I actually wanted to keep in contact with, and with some of them I had kept in touch through email, but one or two had changed emails and forgotten to let me know…of course, some of that happened around the time I was invited to change jobs from the one I had.

As a side story, a former co-worker at my current job had previously invited me to look her up on FB when she left the company to pursue a better employment opportunity.  I had indicated that I wasn’t on it, nor was I likely to be.  How little did I know.  This little interaction was about three months previous to the wedding.  This becomes important later.

So, after I got home from the wedding (it was out of the city) and went to the doctor to get fixed up, I thought a bunch more about things and decided to join up.  And I was literally amazed at what I found.  I hadn’t realised how many of my family were actually there, despite what I had learned at the wedding.  So I set out certain details in my profile and started building my friend list.  I also sent a friend request to the aforementioned co-worker, with a brief note.  She accepted, and she also recommended me (or they saw on their own) to other people we worked with, and soon, I had quite a nice friend list building.  I have slightly more non-family than family on my list, but my second bit of amazement was seeing the invisible network among many of my co-workers that I hadn’t even realised was there.  And with that also came the lesson of learning to be careful what I post or comment.  Here, I mostly don’t care, but I’m still careful about names.

It’s been largely a good experience for me, but I do get frustrated with some of the technical aspects of FB, and the way they can get quite heavy-handed with their users.  (I hate the new profile view, by the way.)  I’ve been able to re-connect with old friends and some family with whom I’ve fallen out of touch.  It was by this method that I learned the marriage of a different one of my cousins had broken down.  But I’ve also found that it’s a new way to be ignored by people.  The irony in this post is that I started my blog (such as it is) long before I joined FB, despite hiding behind pseudonyms and whatnot, exposing myself (when I can be bothered) a lot more to the world at large.  So it would seem that I had a bit of an inconsistent set of messaging to myself. 🙂  I guess the trick (justification?) is in keeping the different sets of information separate, so that no one can make the connection that it’s all me.

But now I’m starting to ramble.  Off you go, then.

Posted in general, personal, technology | Comments Off on How Did I Get Here?