Helen of Marlowe's Blog

The World Has Become Too Complicated for Me

Posted in "North Carolina" by helenofmarlowe on February 24, 2013

I do not like my new cell phone. I plan to either take it back to Target or put it under the wheel of the car before I back out.

I can remember when no one had to learn how to use a telephone. You’d pick up the receiver and dial a number, pulling the dial to the right and letting it go. You’re four when you see your big brother do that, and you instantly catch on. Later, when dials were replaced by buttons with numbers on them, the learning curve wasn’t too steep for me. I caught on to that right away.

Now, the whole world is changing faster than it took that rotary dial to fall back into place. And the smarter my phone gets, the more my brain cells deteriorate. There is a direct correlation between the birth of new electronic devices and the death of synapse connections in my central nervous system.

I liked the cell phone that I laundered last night. It had buttons that push.  I could press left and right and up and down and feel the tactile response. I could text with my thumbs almost a quarter as fast as my granddaughter, and I never type u for you.  This new one  has no tactile feedback. It wants me to slide my fingers across a screen.

I also liked the cell phone that I laundered before I laundered this one, but that was months ago and I am no longer mourning it. See, I can move on, when practicality requires it.

The second time I left a cell phone in my pocket and ran it through the laundry (no, not this time, this is the third) I bought a tiny sd card, put all my contact info on it, and thought I was ensuring that I would not have this aggravation again. I put the sd card safely away, and I even remembered where I put it. It turns out the sd card is not something that I can slide into the new cell phone and lo and behold, there are all my people. No, the contact info is on the sd card, but either my new phone does not know how to sort it back into usable data or I don’t.

So if you, gentle reader, are one of the people inadvertently washed away, you might send me a text with your name included, and I will start to rebuild my data.

If the world continues to change at this pace, I won’t even know how to get up on the right side of the bed by next winter. Because there will actually be a wrong side. Or maybe there already is.

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Coursera — free online university courses

Posted in Government, Politics by helenofmarlowe on April 19, 2012

I heard about Coursera on NPR. Apparently it’s so new that it’s not yet in Wikipedia – at least, I didn’t find an entry.     Hosted by Princeton, Stanford, University of California, Berkeley, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, and University of Pennsylvania,  Coursera offers free on-line classes in several dozen subjects. The courses are free, carry no credit or grade and don’t lead toward any degree.

You can find Coursera, look at the course offerings, sign up if you like, at https://www.coursera.org/courses

I’m tempted by several of their offerings, such as History of the World Since 1300, Modern and Contemporary American Poetry, Listening to World Music, Health Policy and the Affordable Care Act.  All these tempt me, but I think I’ll start with Securing Digital Democracy.

I’ve been interested in electronic voting since Dr. Avi Rubin’s analysis of the 2004 election (and many other analyses and reports) convinced me that the 2004 election was stolen electronically. I’ve looked for Dr. Rubin’s statistical analysis, which concluded that the reported results could not be accurate, but I’ve changed computers several times since 2004, and my bookmarks didn’t move with me.  I have the printed copy of that report somewhere, but life is too short for me to start looking for it.  I do find some summary comments here


But back to Coursera and their on-line course offerings. I followed a link from the Coursera web page, a link found on the  Digital Democracy description page introducing the assistant professor who will teach the course, and read “He recently led a team from the University of Michigan that hacked into Washington DC’s internet voting system. In his spare time, he reprogrammed a touch-screen voting machine to play Pac-Man.”  Why Pac-Man?  

He says, “We could have reprogrammed it to steal votes, but that’s been done before   and Pac-Man is more fun!”

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googling duckduckgo

Posted in Uncategorized by helenofmarlowe on January 16, 2012

Happy MLK day.
Today is fourteen minutes longer than January 1, and I am using my extra fourteen minutes to read Billy Collins poetry.  Of course we don't really have fourteen minutes during which the clock stands still, but even so, I consider these minutes to be welcome progress toward the long hot days of summer.

After reading a poem that I especially like, The Real Geniuses, I decided to share this poem with a local poet who is close to my heart (he's  here  ) just to enjoy the reading of it.

I’d recently seen a TED talk about google, about the search engine’s tailoring search results to our particular interests. I don’t want to see only what I’m already biased toward. I want a search engine that doesn’t care who I am or what I like, one that will give me the same results it would give my conservative friends. (Conservative seems the wrong word for those who want to destroy most of the progress of the 20th c, but that’s another post.) I'd read of a new (to me) search engine, duckduckgo, so I thought I'd give it a go. I typed in Billy Collins The Real Geniuses. No luck. So I thought I'd give it punctuation clues, and typed “The Real Geniuses” by “Billy Collins”. The first thing it returned to me was Woman Set to Become 1st Spacecract Pilot. The second on the list was Lutheran Surrealism.

So I typed the same (original, no quote marks) into google, and the first result was a text of Billy Collins's poem. On WordPress, even.

According to wikipedia, the search engine duckduckgo philosophy (found with a google search) emphasizes privacy and does not record user information. Nice. Very nice. I think. But on the other hand, if I search for a Billy Collins poem I want that Billy Collins poem, not Lutheran Surrealism. So how does that comport with wanting a search engine that doesn't care who I am or what my politics? It's hard to find a correlation between knowing who I am, and returning a reasonable response to a not-especially-esoteric search.

A friend suggests I clean mozilla’s memory of who I am. mv ~/.mozilla and then go through a few more simple steps to re-create ~/.mozilla. Worth a try. But I wonder how long it will take the new mozilla to figure out that I’m a progressive liberal pro-life (the already living) Unitarian Universalist vegetarian environmentalist linux user. My guess is less than a minute.

Must we choose between privacy and efficiency? Is that the question? I suspect privacy is a thing of the past, and I may as well go with efficiency.

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A yearning for older technology

Posted in Uncategorized by helenofmarlowe on July 10, 2010

For some years I’ve had in my office a radio/cd player that I like.

I like the remote control. I can sit at my desk and turn the radio on or off, or change the stations (I have only two presets) w/o even looking at what I’m doing. Just pick up the remote, feel the top right button for on/off, press it w/o even looking up. It’s an actual button — sticks up off the surface of the remote.

But for some months, maybe a year,  this radio  has picked up a habit of suddenly crackling and then going mute.  I have to turn it off and back on, sometimes more than once, to get it going again.

So fast forward to today– I have in here a new radio with ipod dock.
And a remote control.
And I yearn for the older technology. This little remote control has no substance to it. It’s tiny and lightweight, and the “buttons” are just places on the surface that you press. Can’t do that without looking. Have to pick it up, hold it up close to read the tiny blue writing on a black background.

As I removed my old radio, I noticed one of the speakers had a wire that had come loose, almost off, just hanging. I think if I had re-attached that wire, I would have solved the problem.

So I’m wondering — do I keep the new radio that’s smaller (which is good) but not as easy to use? Do I fix the old one and bring it back in?

Do I take the old one to Goodwill and get used to the new one? Maybe I can stick pebbles onto the virtual buttons to achieve the tactile feature that the engineers of today don’t seem to value.

A chilled glass of Australian Chardonney (Little Penguin is my favorite, with Black Opal running close) solves many problems, but so far it has done little if anything for this one.

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