Tuesday, August 20, 2013

the hollowing out of society

The other day I came across another one of those alarmist posts where someone was claiming the sky was falling because OMGZ WE HAVE TEH INTERNETS AND PHONES and we don't connect in deep ways anymore and we have lost the art of conversation and at the DMV everyone just stares at their phones instead of sitting there waiting bored out of their mind talking to strangers and wishing to die.

Whenever I read or watch these posts I feel like the speaker is yearning for some non-existant past when people used to stand around in line at the grocery store and have meaningful discussions about life, liberty, and happiness instead of having the old people in front of you verbally judge you for the large quantities of Cap'n Crunch you were buying.

Do you know what people used to talk about before we had phones to avoid each other? The weather. Yeah. That's right. The weather. 0.1% of our national GDP was frittered away by people talking about how hot it was outside, because there's basically nothing else you want to talk to pure strangers about unless you are a crazy person. Back in those days, people would write articles about how you were wasting your life with lost moments during the day, and how you should carry a book to read.

Now that we carry books/blogs/podcasts/the sum total of human knowledge everywhere, people are freaking out that we're wasting our life not connecting with people around us. Well, which is it? Should we spend our time learning, or chatting about the weather? There's a grown man standing behind me in socks staring over my shoulder on the train right this very moment, and let me assure you I have no desire to connect with him, nor anybody else currently around me.

I love technology. Back in the olden days men would accost you during your day demanding money. Now you can have some modicum of peace with your headphones and a nice four hour podcast about the end of the Roman empire. Back then, you'd bump into your friend, and they'd tell you about how they just got back from France, and you'd sit there wondering what France is like, or hoping they would invite you over for an interminably long slide show and food poisoning. Now you follow them on Instagram and when you bump into them you can have a meaningful discussion about their trip because they shared a part of it with you in a way that was not previously possible.

Our world is amazing! We live amazing lives! My great grand-aunt refused to get on a boat in Copenhagen to emigrate to the states, and she never saw her family again! I'm going to Copenhagen next week, and I'm going to take a nice little picture of my wife and me in freaking Nyhavn, and everyone who remotely cares about me will see it in hours and save me the trouble of going around to all of my friends one by one, telling them how cool I am because I take trips to countries with pastries named after them, all while they're stuck at work being productive members of society delaying our national downfall like suckers.

STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT THE HOLLOWING OUT OF SOCIETY. Our lives are fuller and richer because of technologies that tie us together, and if you hate it so much, go on one of those internet fasts that people who want attention like to go on.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

self-driving cars

Self-driving cars have long been the dream of commuters and trial lawyers looking for sueable entities with more assets than the average accident-prone citizen. Experts are predicting that, much like Cold Fusion and Artificial Intelligence, they're only a few years away from clearing the last technical hurdles.

One great aspect about self-driving cars, declares their backers, is that they will pave the way for congestion-free cities, as our new overlords massive coordinating computerized intelligences will organize and optimize traffic flow. This will pave the way for a grand utopia wherein we use less gasoline and have blissful lives, living out our lives in the America of our dreams, where there are no cats, and the streets are paved with cheese.

One reason these predictions are sure to succeed is that there already exists a segment of society who somehow feels it worth it to spend an hour or more propelling themselves in a car, each way, to their place of employment, either because they have chosen to live in a city full of hobos and despair and they work in a pleasant sunny paradise in view of the mountains, or they work in those miserable cities, and are priced out of a reasonable home, where reasonable is defined by the number of boxes of stuff they can fit in their garage, or the size of the lawn they can maintain on weekends when they have time to view it.

Imagine what these people will do when the last shred of constraint is suddenly removed from their insatiable appetite for misery. If you're willing to spend two hours in a car driving, how long are you willing to spend in a car that drives itself? Never bet against seasoned commuters. These are the people spend their lives battling traffic in a horrible aluminum darwinian den of despair. I dare you to drive 101 NB at 9:00 AM on any day of the week. Just try it. How can they stand it? Are they having nervous breakdowns right now? Why are they not all screaming in despair?

Giving them the option of being ferried to and from their work like the lords of Axiom isn't going to do a thing for traffic. If you want to drive anywhere from the hours of 7-10 and 3-8, you're going to have to move to Idaho.

Monday, August 5, 2013

half marathons

Back in 490 BC, after the Greeks beat the Persians at the battle of Marathon, the Greek general sent two runners back to Athens to inform the citizens of their victory. The first runner, Pheidippides, made the 26.2 mile run back to Athens and collapsed in the city streets yelling "we won!". The second runner, Christoffipes, either collapsed or gave up after 13.1 miles, either due to exhaustion or claims of long-distance running being bad for your heart health.1

In honor of this noble Greek, I ran the Summer Breeze half marathon on Saturday to celebrate his great accomplishment. The opposite of most races in my life, this one began in the bathroom, as I arrived late, along with the entire city of San Leandro who all needed to use the same port-a-potty IMMEDIATELY before the race. I sprinted to the start, and spent the next mile running through crowds of the unwashed masses,2 attempting to overexert myself to the extreme at the beginning of an endurance race.

After catching up to my friend, Will, who is an actual runner and not a fake like me, I, like Dumbo, realized there was no ground under me and my magic feather, and I slowly dropped back and began heaving the breaths of a wounded rhinoceros. The course ran along the east bay shoreline to the San Mateo bridge. Some horrible, horrible person designed a long series of zig-zags in the miles leading up to the bridge, causing me to think I was close...then another sharp turn in the wrong direction.

By some miracle of science, or possibly just the miracle of wearing what my wife calls "fairy shoes",3 I completed the race, though immediately after being passed by what, under any other circumstance, I would refer to as a short, stocky 41-year-old woman.

I am now one of those people real runners refer to as "not a runner", having not completed a full marathon, and not planning on one either, mainly because of my sissy nature, but also because my underwear CUT AN ACTUAL GASH IN MY ABDOMEN. It's made of polyester people. POLYESTER WHAT HAVE YOU COME TO IN LIFE THAT YOU SHIV ME. Don't even get me started on the chafing under my arms and the severe pain you get when you mix a shower plus salty sweat being poured into open wounds.

Also, I apologize to any short and stocky 41-year-old women I have offended in my life. You are obviously much more athletic than myself and you should be respected more.

1. There is some dispute among the historical sources.
2. To give credit where credit is due, my friend Andrew used this phrase the other day and I've been looking for a way to incorporate it into my life.
3. Carrying the last name of Perry and having attended Elementary School, I am intimately familiar with the use of fairy as a descriptor. My wife would also like to point out that this is not a homophobic slur, she means they make me run like an actual fairy with wings. Her words. Not mine.