Category: technology

you think a little head jiggle is going to make me happy?

by Andrea Elizabeth

Looking on the bright side is a game of relativism. Hey, paraplegic, aren’t you glad you’re not a quadriplegic? Thanks, says the quadriplegic. Well, aren’t you glad you can breathe on your own? Thanks, says Christopher Reeves, whose dreams were always able bodied. Well at least you have a lot of money to have the best equipment and to research a cure. But some things don’t get better till heaven.

Transcendence is a thought-provoking movie. How far should technology go towards making Utopia? Luddites don’t fare well in it. Their world seems impoverished, to use William Dembski’s word. Maybe the producers, including Christopher Nolan, were confused about nano’s vs. God’s Spirit, who is everywhere present and fills all things. And the takeover of people to be more suited to the hive may be an Absolute Diving Simplicity fault.

Steam punk without the steam

by Andrea Elizabeth

I think Roy Underhill from The Woodwright’s Shop is my closest person to a kindred spirit as far as technology goes. I like engineering that makes work easier so that you can do harder things, but without fuel driven engines. Wind up clocks, levers, and bicycle chains are genius to me. But can a blacksmith make these machines using only a fire? Apparently not. (Addendum: What about the ancient Antikythera mechanism?

“The gear teeth were in the form of equilateral triangles with an average circular pitch of 1.6 mm, an average wheel thickness of 1.4 mm and an average air gap between gears of 1.2 mm. The teeth probably were created from a blank bronze round using hand tools; this is evident because not all of them are even.[6] Due to advances in imaging and X-ray technology it is now possible to know the precise number of teeth and size of the gears within the located fragments. Thus the basic operation of the device is no longer a mystery and has been replicated accurately. The major unknown remains, the question of the presence and nature of any planet indicators.[31]:8″)

Water and wind mills are ok, but big, loud, polluting engines and machines are not. I suppose if I go back to before the industrial revolution I’d have to develop more muscles to be able to canoe the Brazos the 20 mile stretch Rachel and I kayaked with high tech, fast propelling human-power pedals in one day Tuesday. It’s a trip I researched for a couple of months before conditions were perfect to actually do it. I wrote about our epic adventures yesterday in installments on my I’d Rather Be Hiking blog. Here’s the first post, second, third, fourth, and fifth.

Our trip was also dependent on gps navigation, speed tracking, texting in the two spots with coverage, and machine made waterproof cellphone, beverage and food containers.

It’s one thing to have designated locations to pollutedly produce tools that don’t themselves pollute, but another to produce things like gas engines that each individual will use in all locations.

Since I do like my cell phone and Mirage Drives, I suppose I want them produced in more environmentally friendly ways with more efficient ways of producing power like ugly solar panels and bird and fish killing wind and tide driven propellers. But if people used high tech human powered tools then there would be less need for these power sources which would be smaller and there would be less of them. Such as if my pedal power could generate my phone. Exercise bike driven household appliances is a bit boring for me, but if you could generate a battery by biking on a trail that would then be charged enough to power your home, then nature trails would be seen less as a luxury for the leisure class and more like productive work so that restoring and making land available for nature trails would be seen as valuable to conservatives as well as liberals, the poor and the rich. We would all become more power-conscious too and not use it so extravagantly, and everyone would be healthier so there would be less medical bills for obese people with clogged arteries and thus cheaper insurance for everyone.

I suppose that I’m a techno evolutionist who believes we can progress out of the awkward, ugly stage of technology.

I’m going to give primitivity another shot though by reading John Grave’s book that’s been on my shelf all of my life called, Goodbye to a River. Here’s the Amazon review:

“In the 1950s, a series of dams was proposed along the Brazos River in north-central Texas. For John Graves, this project meant that if the stream’s regimen was thus changed, the beautiful and sometimes brutal surrounding countryside would also change, as would the lives of the people whose rugged ancestors had eked out an existence there. Graves therefore decided to visit that stretch of the river, which he had known intimately as a youth.

Goodbye to a River is his account of that farewell canoe voyage. As he braves rapids and fatigue and the fickle autumn weather, he muses upon old blood feuds of the region and violent skirmishes with native tribes, and retells wild stories of courage and cowardice and deceit that shaped both the river’s people and the land during frontier times and later. Nearly half a century after its initial publication, Goodbye to a River is a true American classic, a vivid narrative about an exciting journey and a powerful tribute to a vanishing way of life and its ever-changing natural environment.”

Wikipedia adds, “The book is acclaimed as a work of both conservationism and history and has been compared to Walden by Henry David Thoreau.”

“I like sunset at 4:30, said no one ever”

by Andrea Elizabeth

Cept me, I spose. I saw that on a Facebook meme.

1. Some people look forward to the end of the day. The end of the day is the end of the traditional work period. It is a time to rest from labors.

2. Daylight Savings Time is about conserving artificial light. Two wrongs don’t make a right. Yes, I use light bulbs, and a backlit computer screen. But as Ayn Rand says to charges of hypocrisy in taking social security, ‘you created this ubiquitous, all-encompassing mess, making my lifestyle impossible or at least activisty, so I must use your fix.’ But I think she liked artificial light.

2. Starting an hour earlier also makes the workday get over-with quicker.

3. Maybe a lot of American anxiety and stress comes from working too late. Extra toys and work-saving devices don’t seem to make it any better.

4. Work-saving devices make it worse because you’ve artificially prolonged the work day so there’s nothing to do but feel like you should be doing more.

5. Nighttime, candles, and fireplaces make people feel less stressed.

Health care part 1

by Andrea Elizabeth

Hearing a Catholic on the Facebook Orthodox and NonOrthodox Discussion Group say that Orthodox could learn from Catholic social engagement made me think of the west’s reliance on technology and science to cure problems while people in traditional Orthodox countries have relied more on prayer. Then I started thinking about how much of western technological advancement has been in response to war. Clara Barton in the Civil War and Florence Nightingale in the Crimean War pioneered advances in nursing care for overwhelming casualties. Since then health care has been more and more institutionalized. But I know there were hospitals before the 19th century great wars. The Wikipedia article on hospitals has some interesting information after explaining that the first hospitals were in Egypt and India:

“The declaration of Christianity as accepted religion in the Roman Empire drove an expansion of the provision of care. Following the First Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D. construction of a hospital in every cathedral town was begun. Among the earliest were those built by the physician Saint Sampson in Constantinople and by Basil, bishop of Caesarea in modern-day Turkey. Called the “Basilias”, the latter resembled a city and included housing for doctors and nurses and separate buildings for various classes of patients.[18] There was a separate section for lepers.[19] Some hospitals maintained libraries and training programmes, and doctors compiled their medical and pharmacological studies in manuscripts. Thus in-patient medical care in the sense of what we today consider a hospital, was an invention driven by Christian mercy andByzantine innovation.[20] Byzantine hospital staff included the Chief Physician(archiatroi), professional nurses (hypourgoi) and the orderlies (hyperetai). By the twelfth century, Constantinople had two well-organised hospitals, staffed by doctors who were both male and female. Facilities included systematic treatment procedures and specialised wards for various diseases.[21]

A hospital and medical training centre also existed at Gundeshapur. The city ofGundeshapur was founded in 271 CE by the Sasanian king Shapur I. It was one of the major cities in Khuzestan province of the Persian empire in what is today Iran. A large percentage of the population wereSyriacs, most of whom were Christians. Under the rule of Khusraw I, refuge was granted to Greek Nestorian Christianphilosophers including the scholars of the Persian School of Edessa (Urfa)(also called the Academy of Athens), a Christiantheological and medical university. These scholars made their way to Gundeshapur in 529 following the closing of the academy by Emperor Justinian. They were engaged in medical sciences and initiated the first translation projects of medical texts.[22] The arrival of these medical practitioners from Edessa marks the beginning of the hospital and medical centre at Gundeshapur.[23] It included a medical school and hospital (bimaristan), a pharmacology laboratory, a translation house, a library and an observatory.[24] Indian doctors also contributed to the school at Gundeshapur, most notably the medical researcher Mankah. Later after Islamic invasion, the writings of Mankah and of the Indian doctor Sustura were translated into Arabic at Baghdad.[25]


I wonder if traditional Orthodox, most notably Greek, Russian and Eastern European countries went Emperor Justinian’s direction when he closed the academies. Perhaps this is why the Byzantines eventually fell to the Turks as well. I’ll have to read more on that. I’ll also add for future reference that just because one is not good at wars or other institutionalized things, does not make one’s Christianity less valid, nor technological Christians who win devastating wars and care for the sufferers of the aftermath should be emulated.

I also looked up the Crimean War. It is interesting how that war seems to be repeating itself now in Ukraine and in the Middle East. And it has the same involvement with the Holy Land. And it was a repetition of the Crusades, but since then Russia, which suffered under not being as technologically advanced, has become the new Byzantium.

Another idea for further thought is how the French and Indian War was won by adopting more primitive methods, which the Muslim extremists are using now.

Another Ring to rule them all

by Andrea Elizabeth

The reviews for the Metropolitan Opera’s production of Wagner’s The Ring Cycle were largely negative because of the “gargantuan” distraction of the set, dubbed, “The Machine”. If you missed the PBS broadcast of all 15 hours plus ‘the making of’ this week, here is a clip of The Machine in action. (or for pc, here)

The distraction was due to its slippery steepness which opera singers, unlike Cirque du Soleil performers, whom the set designer previously designed for, aren’t used to navigating. Everyone becomes nervous for them, including the director.

But I find the high tech projections upon the LCD screen type surface and it’s piano hammer movements pretty mesmerizing. I’m not that familiar with The Ring Cycle, except for the famous icon of the fat lady with Viking horns and breastplate, and the clips on the Excalibur soundtrack, and I probably wouldn’t have sat through the 3 or 4 hours I had occasion to make it through if it weren’t for the set. It was enough to make me want to study the plot more and perhaps listen to the whole thing some time. Since I haven’t yet, I won’t pursue what to make of the incestuous relationship in it.

I’ll instead mention our expectations of safety. It is ok to display controlled danger in entertainment. We can stand it as long as we know the actors and Atlanta aren’t really getting burned. We can also accept a margin of error concerning the safety of stuntmen, as long as no more than a few per 5 years or so don’t get killed or seriously injured. Stuntmen and gymnasts accept that risk. It’s in their contract. Unexpected accidents among the artists who are supposed to be protected is what makes us uncomfortable. But in this day and age where opera houses struggle to make it, can the artists afford to keep their prima donna safety net? Maybe they need to accept that in the modern techno, translate-to-the-small-screen world, they now have to be able to compete with indestructible computer generated images, or else start dubbing for them.

I doubt Ayn Rand would agree

by Andrea Elizabeth

from the Golden Age in Book 1 of Ovid’s Metamorphoses:

The mountain-trees in distant prospect please,
E’re yet the pine descended to the seas:
E’re sails were spread, new oceans to explore:
And happy mortals, unconcern’d for more,
Confin’d their wishes to their native shore.

Then past the Silver and Brazen Ages, the Iron:

Then sails were spread, to every wind that blew.
Raw were the sailors, and the depths were new:
Trees, rudely hollow’d, did the waves sustain;
E’re ships in triumph plough’d the watry plain.

Then land-marks limited to each his right:
For all before was common as the light.
Nor was the ground alone requir’d to bear
Her annual income to the crooked share,
But greedy mortals, rummaging her store,
Digg’d from her entrails first the precious oar;
Which next to Hell, the prudent Gods had laid;
And that alluring ill, to sight display’d.
Thus cursed steel, and more accursed gold,
Gave mischief birth, and made that mischief bold:
And double death did wretched Man invade,
By steel assaulted, and by gold betray’d,
Now (brandish’d weapons glittering in their hands)
Mankind is broken loose from moral bands;
No rights of hospitality remain:

But if God placed it there, albeit next to hell, is He tempting man, or just accommodating his free will?

What’s in the closet?

by Andrea Elizabeth

While driving my daughter to community college, I listened to part of the Diane Rehm show where pannelists were discussing what is being done with all the information that is being gathered about us nowadays from our smartphones and debit cards. While giving us new access to each other, information, goods and services, these things give sellers and other information aggregators access to our habits and activities. It is a two edged sword. The people who called in worried about privacy issues were kindly dismissed as conspiracy theorists, and told that this information gathering is also used to save the lives of soldiers and lost children. This reminds me of the story of St Kilda island where medical care for dying children made the inhabitants give up their ancient way of life. I hear that even the Amish use modern medicine’s technologies. With x-rays, MRI’s and DNA interpretation, there isn’t much privacy left. Yet somehow with all this, we still can’t peek into God or the true nature of ourselves. This takes grace.