Sunday, May 30, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Thursday, May 20, 2010
I rely on—and generally love—technology. I can’t imagine life without the internet, I already depend heavily on my new iPod touch, and most of the jobs I’ve done (writing, video editing, etc.) have a significant tech component.
However, there are also some really pointless uses of technology. Despite promising to save time, make life more convenient, or whatever, they actually just cause problems. Yet, somehow, they prevail. I’m not taking about those silly things that people invent, put on late night commercials, and then fail to actually sell. I’m also not talking about great ideas by major companies that just didn’t catch on (Apple, for example, has created a lot of things that didn’t catch on, but it’s also managed to produce paradigm-changing products at the same time. I’m also not talking about the iPad, because the jury is still out on that and though I don’t have one, I like them.) Instead, I’m talking about things that lots of people use, but which aren’t actually saving time, or even benefiting people much.
So here are a few examples:
Weed wackers: When I was a teenager I always had to mow and edge our yard. I really hated it. Now that I’ve moved back into my parents house, that has apparently become my job once again. However, while the lawnmower works well enough, I was surprised this week to see just how aggravating the weed wacker still is. It’s a gas-powered machine, and it uses those green plastic cords to cut the grass. To use it, you wrap the cord around a spool, and then to feed more cord out you bump the spool on the ground. (The ones I've used are similar to the one pictured below, but are also not that exact model.)
Whether that makes sense or not, the point is that it doesn’t even remotely work like it's supposed to. As you can imagine, a thin plastic cord constantly hitting rocks, cement, etc. wears down quickly. However, the machine that my parents have hardly ever feeds more cord out properly. That means that literally every five minutes you have take the thing apart and manually pull out more cord.
The result is that a job that should take 20 minutes ends up taking hours. There are many solutions to this problem, but the easiest would just be for some one to invent a weed wacker/edger that actually works.
Dishwashers: Dishwashers might be my most hated appliance ever invented. They seem so promising: no one likes washing dishes and a machine that would do it for you would be great.
The problem is that no dishwasher I’ve ever seen actually works. First, you basically have to wash all the dishes hand before putting them in the dishwasher. Then, somehow, there is still food stuck all over the supposedly cleaned dishes. I’ve lived in lots of houses and apartments, and without fail that’s the outcome I’ve experienced. And while I have no doubt that there are probably some super powered (and super expensive) dishwashers that actually work, I’m yet to see them in action.
The funny thing is that it’s also pretty easy to wash dishes hand. Most people are already doing it, but without soap, so that their dishwashers will work. For some reason, however, there seems to be a mistaken impression that machines are getting dishes more sanitary or clean, simply because they’re machines.
Rice cookers: This may be a controversial choice for this list, because most rice cookers I’ve seen do work, and many people love them. However, what are they really doing? To cook rice, you literally just have to boil it in a pot with water. That means that a rice cooker is just a pot with a timer on it. They may save some time by going marginally faster, but they also sacrifice some freedom: you can’t test and season rice as easily when it’s locked in a machine.
Bread machines: Bread machines are like a cruel joke. They make something that looks and deliciously smells like bread, but that typically is a monumental disappointment. The vast majority of bread machine bread that I’ve had have a bland flavor, overcooked crumbly crust, and a far too airy interior. Maybe those things are the result of bad recipes, but time and again I’ve had disappointing bread machine bread from different people and in different settings. It’s usually on par with the cheapest store bought stuff, but coupled with the smell of home cooked bread, it's infinitely more disappointing.
This list could go on and on, but the point here is that everything doesn’t need to be mechanized, and that some modern machines are just producing awful simulacra of good things.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
So, are hostels really the best budget option? Can a hotel really beat their prices?
Monday, May 17, 2010
Monday, May 10, 2010
For example, yesterday Laura and I made dinner at my family's house, so that my step-mom wouldn't have to. From talking to other people this seems to be a relatively common practice. Yet, the ironic thing about it is that it implies that on all the other days of the year my step-mom has to make dinner. And, in practice, she sort of does. After all, in many families—mine in included—making the food is often the mother's job, whether she likes it or not. On the other hand, is that good? Shouldn't (typically gendered) tasks be more equally shared throughout the year?
The problem here, as I see it, is that some women probably would prefer to assume different roles in their families, but our cultural modes of celebrating mother's day tell them that they shouldn't (or even can't). (And, of course, this works similarly for men on Father's Day, though it seems to me, to a lesser extent.) In other words having the men in a household make dinner on Mother's Day suggests that that action is an aberration. It's a "favor" or gift that they're giving, not something that they're typically responsible for. Implicitly, this also suggests that a mother should cook, and I'd she doesn't she somehow a less adequate person.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Our cell phones aren't internationally enabled (and it would have cost a lot to get new ones that are), and we didn't want to take a computer that would easily get lost, broken, or even stolen, so we decided to get a portable device that would be relatively cheap, but still allow us to stay connected when needed.
So, we settled on and iPod Touch. I really like the iPhone, but we're on Verizon and I didn't want to switch (plus I wasn't ready to commit to some expensive two year contract). I also considered the uPas, but decided that it had most of the same vulnerabilities as a laptop.
Thus, and iPod Touch seemed like it was the best option. It has wireless, which most of our hotels provide (as does, I discovered, the entire beach front in Rio de Janeiro), is small and easy to conceal, and is less expensive (on the long run, at least) than most other, similarly capable devices. Obviously, it's not going to be good for writing a novel on, but I think it will allow us to keep in touch with what's going on back home.
In the spirit of preparation, I've actually written this entire blog post on the iPod touch. And actually, I've been surprised by the experience. There are some really annoying aspects to it (like having to switch keyboard screens everytime I need a non-letter character like a dash or parenthesis) but the software that automatically fills in words and fixes typos far exceeds my expectations. Obviously, I can't say how well this is going to work on our trip, where we'll have more intermittent Internet access and probably be more tired a lot of the time (and so less excited about writing blogs on a tiny keyboard), but at least for now it looks like well able to stay in touch and document our trip.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Topaz is an Alfred Hitchcock classic, albeit a lesser known one compared to some of the director's other work. Still, almost everything of Hitchcock's is fantastic (though I didn't really enjoy The Trouble With Harry), and Topaz stands out for being especially vibrant and colorful. It's also much more expansive in it's setting than some of Hitchcock's more spatially restrained work. (Rope and Lifeboat being two extreme examples of Hitchcock restricting the action of a film to a singular location, but there are others.)
I first saw this movie one summer when I checked out literally dozens of Hitchcock films from the Provo Library. And though it's not as well-known as some, it's actually one of my personal Hitchcock favorites.
The plot involves Russian missiles in Cuba, a French diplomat traveling to and from Cuba, trying to get information—and some extramarital lovin on the side—and a spy ring called "topaz." In general, however, the plot is basically all about the intrigues of the cold war and how different people and governments tried to manipulate them to their own ends. (Read wikipedia if you actually want a real summary of the plot. Or, watch the movie).