Kate's Queen City Notes

Blundering through Cincinnati, laughing all the way


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Ramdoms

I saw the new Star Wars movie. I am overwhelmed with conflicted feelings. I suspect that if the nostalgia was stripped away, my opinion would be quite clear not at all mixed. It was a bad movie. It jam-packed a whole load of stuff in there, and none if it without the nostalgia was very good. And really, my expectations should have been tempered by the fact that my 8 year-old taste and my 43 year-old taste is quite different. That’s all I have to say about that.

I think I have finally found a technique for sharpening my knives on water stones that works. I am not going to bore you with details, but just know I have been fumbling in the dark with these damn stones for two years getting mixed results. I finally tried a different approach by putting the blade to the stones at a 45 degree angle, and that seems to unlock slice-off-a-finger sharpness. It makes my heart sing when my chef’s knife sails through a whole pineapple as though it’s an overripe pear.

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I just finished this book. If you want to feel really dark about Google, Facebook, and Amazon taking over the world, this book will deliver. I was already sympathetic to the ideas the author puts forward in this book when I picked it up. The book has left me even more sure Elizabeth Warren is right to start enforcing antitrust laws, although personally I wouldn’t stop with big tech. I would look at media companies and internet service providers too.

When technology comes to into an industry it promises efficiency and low prices. And on those fronts it usually delivers. But there are costs that are often not obvious at the outset. When tech came to the food industry we got time saving tv dinners, fast food, sugar-filled breakfast cereal, and enriched white bread. There’s no question these things saved time, but looking back on it 40 years out, it seems quite clear that the hidden costs for these items were our health and fitness, the extreme suffering of farmed animals, and the tons and tons of chemicals that make farming monocultures possible. The thing big food figured out is that we don’t have enough self-control to pick the broccoli over the Cheeto.

When the internet came for newspapers it promised increased access to information and to liberate information to the masses. It promised to democratize the voices that could be heard. And it did both of those things. But I would argue that second promise, democratizing who can have a voice, was always a doubtful of that “benefit.” I know a lot of people who think crazy shit. And. After years of being a bartender and working in the service industry, I never had some romantic notion that all Americans are geniuses just waiting for a platform. Lots of Americans are idiots, but almost all of us believe we are geniuses just waiting for a platform. Some days I think I am in the idiot camp, some days not.

It’s now pretty clear the internet swallowed advertising funding, and left only crumbs for journalism. The cost has been the closure of newspapers. We went from having about 1200 newspapers in the 1940’s to having 400 in 2014. It turns out giving away your stuff for free only works if you have a ton of venture capitalists propping you up. Side eye to Silicon Valley.

Adding in the social media companies just hung boatloads of data around the basic fact that we lack the self-control to pick broccoli over Cheetos. Mark Zuckerberg is more than happy to wash his hands of the matter and say that’s it’s our own fault if we cannot pick the broccoli. See. There’s whole charts to display why Mark Zuckerberg can abdicate the morality of what he chooses to elevate in people’s news feeds. We’re clicking it like little rats in a cage, so therefore his hands are clean.

Tech has played the same game through history. It “disrupts” an industry by substituting a lower value product for a higher value one with a side of more efficiency and then pockets the difference. In food, we traded home-baked bread for frankenfood wonder bread. In music, we traded making music with others, a social and creative act, for sitting passively around a radio. In media we traded a proliferation of local news sources for a handful of national ones. And in social media we traded face to face interaction, rich with information and connection, for banging out insults at someone else online who might be a bot. And still we are stuffing our faces full of Mark Zuckerberg’s Cheetos.

I am on a Facebook break. It’s given me more time to read and do Spanish lessons. That’s not a surprise. What’s a surprise is how it’s also given me space in my mind. I didn’t realize how much of my headspace was consumed with looking at my life as an outside observer generating content for my facebook posts. I’ve come to a conclusion that whatever I was projecting in those posts was more an avatar of myself than not. And to what purpose am I performing my life? I don’t connect with people so I can play a role. I connect with people hoping to reveal my degrees my authentic self. So what exactly am I doing on facebook?

I don’t know that I will delete my account. I do know that my interaction with it will be diminished significantly at the very least. I have until to January 1st to think on it.

A few final things. I am almost finished with book 3 of the Game Of Thrones books. Catelyn Stark did not deserve all the shit she got. Even so, I am really enjoying the books. The bathroom is coming along. Subflooring has been put in. All the electrical and plumbing has been moved and set. We’re getting close to tile time.