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Monday, January 4, 2010


Regular readers of this blog know that I strive always for the elevated tone appropriate to a seventy-six year old philosopher. Nevertheless, despite my best efforts, idle thoughts of a trivial nature do creep into the corners of my mind, and in the interest of full disclosure, I occasionally allow these ephemera to crop up in my blog posts. Think of my recipe for hazelnut encrusted rabbit loins, or the pictures of my grandchildren.

Herewith several such thoughts. I view this as a mental house-cleaning, preparatory to a deadly serious confrontation with 2010. [By the bye, the last time the first half of the year's number was twice the second half was 1809. Before that, 1608, then 1407, 1206, 1005, and so forth. The first such year, of course, was 21 A. D., a year we all recall with pride because it was in that year that a revolt broke out in Gaul against the Romans, led by Julius Florus. But enough of these strolls down memory lane.]

FIRST IDLE THOUGHT: What on earth is the attraction of FaceBook? One of my former students persuaded me to join, and I am now friends with [as they say] a considerable number of people. But the comments posted on FaceBook are almost universally jejune and banal. The phenomenon seems to be akin to the cellphone craze. All of us, I imagine, have had the experience of landing at some airport, only to see three quarters of the passengers whip out their phones and fire up while we are still taxiing to the gate. "I have just landed," says one. A few moments later, the same person places another call, apparently to the same person: "We are pulling up to the gate." As we walk up the ramp into the terminal, I hear him [or her -- it is a gender neutral phenomenon] saying, "I am coming into the terminal now." Does anyone actually want to know all of that? I have texting disabled on my cellphone [which I use principally to make sure that my wife is all right when she is out alone, since she has MS], and I do not tweet, so I cannot testify from my own experience to those newer obsessions. I think I would feel differently if I had ever overheard a cellphone conversation that interested me.

SECOND IDLE THOUGHT: When I use Google or, they seem to have no difficulty remembering who I am, identifying sites I might want to visit or products I might want to buy. Netflix knows what sorts of movies I would enjoy renting. And all of this is done with blinding speed, virtually in what is called real time. But the CIA, the TSA, the Department of Homeland Security, the NSA, and the State Department cannot "connect the dots," as the cant phrase has it, despite spending 40 billion dollars since 9/11. Why doesn't the President simply call Sergey Brin and Jeff Bezos into the oval office, offer each of them one dollar in salary [an echo of the WW II "dollar a year" men who worked for nothing to contribute to the war effort], and ask them to design and implement, in six months, a system that would allow the integration of every warning, every red flag raised in any embassy or consulate, any question at any airport security gate, all in real time, so that anyone in the entire system anywhere could access that integrated information from any laptop or computer terminal immediately? I mean, this falls under the heading of "solved technical problems."

THIRD IDLE THOUGHT: Fox flack Brit Hume has suggested that Tiger Woods convert to Christianity [from Buddhism, apparently] as a way of gaining forgiveness for his philandering. Should John Ensign and Mark Sanford convert from Christianity to Buddhism? Is it the conversion that matters, rather than what we philosophers call the terminus a quo?


Rodrigo said...

In Brazil Orkut is more famous than Facebook. Everyone has a profile. Two things I don't like are watches and cellphones.
I don't know nothing about computers and stuff like that, so I will say nothing.
(Are they still talking about Tiger Woods?!) I hate when preachers compare religions and think that they're always right.

NotHobbes said...

Totally unrelated trivia-then again, trivia shouldn`t be.

Last Friday--01-02-2010--was a palindrome. It reads the same forward and backward. According to Aziz S. Inan, a professor of engineering at the University of Portland, it's only the second such date in the lives of anyone living today.The first was 10-02-2001. there will be another next year, 11-02-2011. Living through three such dates in a lifetime is exceedingly rare. Aziz suggests that we enjoy this special day in its full extent, for it is the last palindromic Jan. 2 for the next 10,000 years --until 01-02-12010.

Source: Baltimore Sun, News, Saturday, January 2, 2010, page 2. story by Frank D. Roylance

And in response Professor, maybe the President should employ that young Scots lad who disabled the American defence networks while he went looking for evidence of extra-terrestials. The lads obviously a damn good hacker

Robert Paul Wolff said...

My God, I have created a monster!! Please don't tell me that this is yet another proof of the inerrancy of the King James translation of the Bible.

Eoin said...

We'll get 36 palindrome dates this millennium, the last of which will occur on Sept. 22, 2290.

But of course most of the rest of the world puts the day at the beginning of the date, so Friday, or 02-01-2010, wasn't a palindrome. But they'll get 60 palindrome days this millennium.

As for Facebook, I think that, like cellphones, it's here to stay. Facebook is quickly becoming part of the plumbing of the Internet. But as Rodrigo points out, not every country is on Facebook. Check out this January 2008 map from Le Monde that shows market share of social networking sites around the world. The map is somewhat outdated and very incomplete (no data for China!), but it shows that Facebook still has a lot of robust competition out there. But I think that nevertheless it has become part of the landscape the Web for those in the US.

NotHobbes said...

Speaking of cellphones(Or mobiles as we call them over here)

My Stepdaughter(15yr old) has just bemoaned the fact that her phone can only store 200 SMS messages at a time and as a result of that, she has to delete them all twice daily in order to receive new ones.
God I feel old today