Look, New…

You may’ve noticed a new look to my website.  That isn’t intentional.  I woke up Friday only to learn that Word Press (which used to be friendly to individual bloggers) decided to change at least one of the few templates they allow paying customers to use (if I upgrade even more to “business class” I have lots more options).  One of those templates happened to be the one I’d labored over, sacrificing an entire weekend about a year ago to get it just how I liked it.  Now, I’m a Neo-Luddite.  Behind the scenes my daughter and one of my nieces have helped me with technical aspects of this blog from the very beginning.  Several years ago I reached capacity for the free service, where, understandably, templates are limited.  Now I pay for both the domain name and the privilege of hosting it on Word Press.  But they like to limit privileges to try to force you to upgrade.  What would Amos say?

A few weeks back my iPhone began to lose its charge at an alarming rate.  I’d unplug it, and, doing nothing but occasionally checking for non-existent texts, it would be red-lining a couple hours later.  I feared I might need to get it serviced.  This went on for several weeks.  It occurred to me that Christmas was approaching and Apple has been known to slow down devices in order to encourage you to buy a new one.  Upgrade!  Everybody’s doing it!  Well, I don’t make enough money to constantly upgrade, so I kept my phone plugged in all the time when I was home (which, during a pandemic, is pretty much all the time).  Then, a few days after Christmas, when it was clear I wasn’t buying a new one, the battery began to hold its charge again.

The tech industry has us in a strangle-hold.  As soon as you purchase that first laptop, tablet, phone, or smart-watch, you’re an indentured servant to upgrades.  So I went to Word Press’s template library and tried to find something that didn’t look too bad with the images and “feel” I’m going for here.  Almost as if they’d chosen an algorithm that made available only a handful of templates that worked worst with what I’m trying to do on this website, I found their selection extremely limited.  If I upgrade to “business class” (which I will need to do when the capacity for my “service level” (not cheap) is full) I will have a plethora of choices.  Until they add a new service level above that, that is.  Then I’ll need to upgrade yet again to unlock all the neat features they “offer.”  Thanks, Word Press.  I’ve been with you over ten years now and I have to ask, is that the way you treat a longterm, paying friend?

Remember this?


Who Owns Whom?

Who’s ready to sue?  Now, I’m not a litigious person, but when someone (and corporations are people, according to the law) to whom I’ve been paying buckoodles  of money for many years tries to force me to do things as quid pro quo, it’s time to sue.  I started using Apple products during the Reagan Administration.  I can’t recall how many laptops, computers, iPods, iPads, iPhones, and iTunes cards that entails, but it’s been a year’s salary’s worth at least.  Okay, my phone—which is a classic—has been fine until… and this is the kicker… we bought a new phone for my wife.  Since then my iPhone has started having problems it never had before.  Our service provider knows we bought a new phone.  There’s got to be more money available there, “What’s he got in his pockets, my precious?”, right?  As soon as it was activated, mine began acting up.  Coincidence?

Look, tech gods.  I don’t need a whole universe in my pocket.  My phone is a camera, a GPS, and a text-sender.  That’s all I need it to be.  I can still read cursive.  I have LPs—not the modern retro ones either—in my living room.  I own pens and pencils.  You have no right to make me buy an upgrade I don’t even need!  I hate the capitalist game.  Come here into my closet with me.  (It’s okay, nothing weird, I promise.)  See this shirt?  I still wear it.  I bought it in 1981.  I know that’s 38 years ago.  That’s precisely my point.  The shirt’s still good, so why throw it out?  You guys in Silicon Valley need to get out more.  There’s more to life than upgrading people’s software while they’re asleep.  I don’t know how you sue gods, but I’m going to figure it out.

Some of us are minimally middle class.  Maybe in California you don’t have a lot of rain, but around here we do.  And that means roof replacements.  Maybe the tech gods pay you guys better, but I spent my youth earning a Ph.D. so I could earn less than a tree-trimmer in Iowa.  That is true, by the way.  So the last thing I need is some tech god extorting me to buy a new device.  Leave my phone alone!  And don’t tell me the tech doesn’t support it because I know people with cellphones over a decade old that still work.  Republicans and tech gods know how to ignore subpoenas, I guess.  But it’s time for the rest of us to file a lawsuit.  Who’s with me?


This Is a Test

For the next sixty seconds…  (If you were born after Civil Defense aired these commercials, it’s your loss.)  I’ve been reading about animal intelligence—there will be more on this anon.  Today’s lesson is on artificial intelligence.  For now let this be an illustration of how difficult it is to come down from an inspired weekend to the daily technology-enhanced drudgery we call day-to-day life.  One of the real joys of seeing art in person is that no tech intervenes in the experience.  It is naked exposure to another human being’s expression of her or himself.  Over the weekend we wandered through five venues of intense creativity and then, back home, it was once more into the web.  The ever-entangling internet of things.

I write, for better or for worse, on my laptop.  My writing’s actually better on paper, but you need everything in electronic form for publication, so who has the time to write and retype, especially when work is ten hours of your day?  Then a system update alert flashes in the upper right corner of my screen.  “Okay,” I say setting the laptop aside, “go ahead and update.”  But then the message that states I have to clear enough gigs for an update.  I have been a little too creative and I’ve used my disc space for stuff I’ve made rather than Apple.  This is a test.  Okay, so I plug in my trusty terabyte drive to back things up before deleting them.  But the laptop doesn’t recognize the drive.  Oh, so it needs a reboot!  (Don’t we all?)  I give the command to restart.  It can’t because some app refuses to quit beach-balling, as if it is the computer that’s doing the actual thinking.  Force quit.  “Are you sure?” the Mac cheekily asks.  “You might lose unsaved changes.”  I need a technological evangelist, I guess.

All of this takes time away from my precious few minutes of daily creativity.  Restart, login, start copying files.  Time for work!  Just a mere sixty hours ago or less I was wandering through showcases of genuine human creation.  Art pieces that make you stop and ponder, and not have to upgrade the software.  Artists can talk to you and shake your hand.  Explain what they’ve tried to express in human terms.  Meanwhile my phone had died and was pouting while I charged it.  I know Apple wants me to upgrade my hardware—their technological extortion is well known.  Anyone who uses a computer experiences it.  Buy a new one or I’ll waste your time.  The choice is yours.  This is a test.  For the next sixty years…