Tag Archives: Technology

“Dead Memory,” a prescient story

I must have acquired Dark Horse’s English translation of Marc-Antoine Mathieu’s 2000 graphic novel, Dead Memory, more than 15 years ago. I’ve pulled it off the shelf to read several times over the years, I’m sure. In general a somewhat quirky, interesting, slightly vague work of science fantasy very much in the European style.

Upon the most recent re-read, however, I was surprised by what feels very much like a graphic novel for our own time.

The early sequence in which a conversation is visually implied to be a traditional meeting, then after a page-turn revealed as basically a Zoom meeting, really got my attention. Videoconferencing was by no means a new idea even in 2000, but discovering its use by such humdrum pedestrian people as was the case here is—from the perspective of 2021—a little surprising.

Also, everyone in Dead Memory is inseparable from a smartphone every bit as creepy as our own have become. The “black box’s” UI differs a little in detail, but people’s relationship to it is functionally much like that of ourselves with the smartphone. The story even implies that going anywhere without your black box is literally against the law, and when a couple goons of the state stop the main character and demand ID, naturally his black box is what they mean.

All of this seems pretty impressive foresight for the year 2000, when smartphones didn’t even exist and even cellphones were still mostly a specialist item.

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History is what happens while you’re making plans

Yesterday on Twitter, someone posted in a thread that: “In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.” While attributed in this case and quite frequently to Franklin Roosevelt, I’m not surprised to find this morning that the attribution appears spurious. I have not spent all that many years personally engaged in politics, but bumbling seems much more typical than something happening as a result of planned activity.*

That seems to apply to… a lot, actually, as the past year has been demonstrating in big ways.

It isn’t just that no one seems to have a credible theory of the case. Republican elites probably come closest, with their states-and-courts strategy for hollowing out democracy—while abhorrent it’s a strategy and it’s working—but even they seem to have a tiger by the tail. This looks like a disciplined, functioning strategy in comparison with most other political activity, much of which is ritual people just repeat because humans are that way. Calls, postcards, zingers online, letters to the editor; dance the ghost dance, shake the magic gourds, chant the word “bipartisan” again and again and again and again.

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Hardware farewells Feb. 2019

A few long-serving tech items have gone into retirement, in the past week or so.

My trusty Canon PowerShot SD1200 IS finally bit the dust after nearly eight years. It might very well have matched or surpassed the service record of the Canon Pixma IP5000 inkjet printer, which lasted more than 10 years, except I dropped the camera fairly hard a while back. Function deteriorated thereafter, and finally it just stopped working.

I have replaced it with essentially a near-new modern version of the same thing, purchased for for about 2/3 the cost of the SD1200, because really a decent point-and-shoot digital camera is entirely adequate for my purposes.

Very possibly a smartphone camera would be adequate, except that many of them seem to take photos which are big but hopelessly smeary. Including the one which I now own because

I replaced my Samsung SCH-u340 fliphone after more than 11 years. This was my first and until now only mobile phone. Despite the fact that it was getting the same kind of looks as the Blackbird 520c Powerbook I once toted around, long after it had gone out of date, this phone is still in good working order and I would still be using it. Except I have decided to change mobile carriers and there is no wireless company which would support this phone, other than the one which inherited it years ago as a legacy. (SIM card? What SIM card?)

So now I have this black rectangle from Motorola, which is probably far more powerful than e.g. my first desktop Mac, but frankly seems pretty utilitarian and boring. (The main point of interest I can find in it is that Motorola has now sneaked back into my hardware line-up for the first time since Steve Jobs ditched them for Intel.)

Also, NASA officially gave up on the Opportunity Rover. Realistically, “Oppy” went offline several months ago. But mission control finally ended Opportunity operations last week, triggering many looks back at what was frankly an astounding working “life.”

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Generation gap

I ran across this on LinkedIn last week. It’s really fairly cheesy, and just plain lazy as well: what are most of those graphics? was there any logic informing the lists of “formative experiences?” does anyone believe that a single word of the “Generation Z” column is more than pure made-up babble?

Cheesy generations graphic

Not remotely the most stupid thing on LinkedIn, though. Even in the past week.

Still, I kept it because it feels kind of interesting, to me, if only as an illustration of how “Carter babies” like myself split the difference between Gen-X and Gen-Y. (In a way I suppose you could say that we almost validate this model, at the same time as we demonstrate how it imposes completely arbitrary boundaries upon a continuum.)

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That far shore

I have very possibly lived half my life, now.

I don’t know why birthday #37 has prompted so much reflection on the finite, but it has. In addition to realizing that “young adult” status is now firmly over, it has dawned on me recently that this is probably as close to the midpoint of my life as it’s ever going to be possible to determine, in advance.

Obviously one can’t know with precision, so there’s little point getting into arguments, but the suggestion that I have something like four decades remaining to me does not seem wildly unrealistic either way.

In some ways it’s a relief, too, honestly. When I suggest that the prospect of living through 10 more presidential campaign seasons is horrifying enough that I don’t even want to imagine another 15 or 20, any humor in the remark is incidental rather than fundamental. I’m tired, of many things.

The idea of significantly extended lifespans is usually more a dread than a dream, nowadays… which is why it seems just as well that I won’t see them.

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Let technology do that for you…

Continuing my long-term archiving project, I just stumbled upon this doodle from… I don’t know. Whenever the iPhone4S and those “I found four locksmiths near you” commercials started running.

It's meant to be funny (kind of).

Ha ha… ha… ha?