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 Amazon.com, 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?