Bad Christians?

Wednesday

Someone complained to me recently about an erstwhile friend who was acting like a self-centered jackass.  In the course of the discussion, the friend was described as "not a very good Christian."  It seemed to me that she wouldn’t have been a very good Buddhist or Taoist, either!

Do Christians have the market on "goodness?"  What one group needs that kind of pressure, to be the world’s goodness guardians?  And, what of everyone else?   Not withstanding your religious beliefs, most of the world is not Christian, and so are they all bad?  To characterize someone as a less-than-perfect Christian is less descriptive than to say "not a very good/nice person," which is what you generally mean to say anyway.  I can only assume that, as a species, we’re more comfortable judging the quality of another’s Christianity, and not the quality of their humanity.

Of course, I could be wrong.  🙂

Near-TV Quality

Tuesday

Why is there a trend toward "convergence" for consumer goods that work just fine the way they are?  Some company (I forget who, ok!) recently announced a java-enabled web-browser/refrigerator!  Who needs the aggravation of rebooting the icemaker?  Is there some overwhelming need to run HTML on everything?   It seems these visionaries probably use Linux or Solaris, and so can’t fathom the problems they’ll encounter on their Windows CE-based information appliances.  BTW, does it seem just too perfect that Microsoft’s latest OS can be abbreviated as Wince?

Another example of convergence gone awry, that I found in my news today…

SNAP TO OFFER NEAR-TV-QUALITY AUDIO AND VIDEO OVER NET
Snap, the Internet service of NBC and C/Net, will make use of new phone and cable technologies to offer subscribers high-speed delivery of near-TV-quality audio and video over the Internet. The company’s chief executive says, "One reason the Web took off is because people made it easier to find print-based information. We’ll make it easier to find audio and video." Code-named "Cyclone," the new service will also be offered in customized versions by Bell Atlantic, SBC and GTE. (USA Today 19 Jan 99)

Now, can’t we already get ACTUAL-TV-Quality without any kind of download delays, on something I like to call the multimedia appliance of the last generation? I think we all have at least one. And, to archive this high-quality audio and video, we have several media, including a cheap tape-streaming device I’ll refer to as the VCR… I really don’t get it. Does somebody want to get crappy audio and video on a 17-inch or smaller screen, when they can watch on a couch their 30-inch screen with better quality etc.? If I haven’t made my point, check this out: http://www.theonion.com/onion3308/realtimetv.html

Holiday Introspection

Friday

Thanksgiving has come and gone, and with it the beginning of the "holiday season" in the States.  Of course, this means that it is also the traditional first day of excessive introspection and a review of the previous years of your life, pointing out to yourself what you’ve done wrong.

Why do we, as a general rule, get blotto before we feel comfortable expressing ourselves?  Is this a distinctly Western thing, or is it a universal human trait?   Ah, well…

So, if I had to do everything over again, I’d maybe have grabbed a little tighter to a few prizes that seemed too hard to handle then.  I perhaps may have changed a few things about interpersonal relationships, etc.  But, overall, I’m not starving or in pain, so I guess I’m ok.  How about you?

I Can’t Drive in Texas!

_Monday_

OK, so why is it, ever since I came back from Korea last year, I’ve noticed a disturbing lack of driver manners in this country?  I’ve driven in half the states from Ohio to California, and I’m getting really steamed at the dearth of CLUES in drivers’ minds in the States.  It seems that turn signals are completely optional today, and the drivers in L.A., once aggressively laid back, are now just as uptight as those psychos in Boston.

I realize that your destination is emminently important to you, but try to understand that we all have places to get to, and yours is no more crucial to the existence of the universe than anyone else’s.  If you really needed to get there earlier, you damn sure could have left your house earlier!

Basically, it seems the same rule has come into effect on American roads as the Koreans have been using for years: "I have the right of way."  No matter who you are, be it jaywalking pedestrian, suicidal bicyclist, or psychotic trucker, you have the right of way.  So, enjoy, and try not to kill too many other motorists.

What the Heck! It’s Free!

_Monday_

I’ve rarely found something online that actually lives up to its promises, but here’s one: NetZero.  These guys, who are apparently a subdivision of GTENet, allow you to connect to the Net for free.  Now, I know, nothing’s truly free, right?  So, they have to slap an ad on your screen.  But, with a 17-inch monitor or better, you can pretty easily ignore the little bugger.  If you spend your time like most people, actively doing stuff, then it’s perfect.   Unfortunately, I tend to start lengthy downloads and run off to another room.   So, when it times out on me, I’m stuck with 1/3 of a 5 meg file.  But, I’m not normal, and most folks would probably do great with it.

On the further riff of cool free stuff online, if you want a free email provider that actually let’s you check your mail with POP, instead of just the HTML interface, try out NetAddress.  You can use filters, and collect mail from other accounts, as well as check it on the web or via a normal email program like Eudora or Pegasus.  If you don’t understand anything in this paragraph, move on.   🙂

There’s a plethora of free web services around, and I (obviously) am liking Geocities quite a bit.  The little watermark is a small price to pay for 11 megs of free space.   But, if you need even more web space, and still are too cheap to pay for it, there’s a company offering 50 megs of space, plus an email account, for nada.  So, go check out EasySpace, and see if they fit your needs.  They’re British, so try not to get thrown by those Pound symbols, eh? Addendum:  Easyspace is a little too flaky for me, so I’m back with Geocities…

Well, if NetZero catches on, we could end up with an enormous shift in standards on the Net.  Whatever will we do with our extra money?  Hmmm, there’s that 8x CDRW drive…

Email Idiots

Sunday

Since I got off on a bit of a rant in my last missive, let me continue in a similar vein.

If you use email or ICQ, use common sense too!  If you don’t
understand how email gets from point-to-point, look it up.  As soon as you understand the current Internet system, you will know that the Bill Gates/Walt Disney emails, purporting to track your email and give you prizes, are completely impossible.   For an in-depth look at these and other common chain letters, go to this wonderful site, Diamond Back’s email Hoax Page.   If that is too much trouble, just take this piece of advice:  Don’t circulate anything that tells you to forward it to everybody you know.  If you really feel that the little boy with liver disease is so poignant you can’t help yourself, STOP.   Then, look up the information on your own, to make sure that the little boy exists, that he wants to be bombarded with postcards or whatever, etc.  I’m betting that nearly every one of these pleas for your compassion are hoaxes.

Now, what, praytell, could be the motivation behind all these email hoaxes?  A perverse sense of power, I suppose.  They are starting to clog up the Net’s mail routers, but not nearly so much as spam.  So, basically, the only thing the email forwardings do is to annoy people and fill their email boxes with junk mail.   If you are connecting on an hourly pay plan, this could begin to add up very quickly, especially since so few people seem to realize they can read their mail without actually being connected to the internet.  But, that’s something for you to figure out on your own.

Rude online Bastards

_Saturday_

I have been online for an amazingly long time, compared to most people I know.  A friend recently asked if I’d ever met someone in person that I’d originally met online, and I replied, "Not in about 12 years."  When I first started using a modem to contact strangers, it was a 300 baud modem (when baud still meant bps – techie joke).  That computer was a Commodore 64, and it was new, so that tells you the approximate longevity of my habit cum obsession.   Regardless of how long I’ve been online, I’ve always tended toward the "community" aspect of the BBS’s and later the Internet.  It seems that all too many people are more concerned with being jerks than being welcoming.

A prime example is on the alt.whatever series of newsgroups.  Certainly, those of us who may on occasion flirt with some questionable aspects of life do so out of a curiousity and an utter amazement at the things we can do on a computer.  When I entered the BBS world, lo these many years ago, if I were to make a faux pas in my postings, there would be fifteen people gently reminding me in a private message of the proprieties of that particular pseudo-community.  Of course, even then, you could always count on the 2 or 3 screaming fools that would attack the slightest breach in etiquette, or what they perceived as a breach, anyway.

The way this antisocial behavior was always discouraged on BBS’s was simple: banning.   Since BBS’s were run by an individual on his/her home computer, they were the masters of their domains and could easily control the riffs and the raffs that infest our daily world.  Alas, the same is not true today on Usenet.  Since there is nobody truly in charge of any particular non-moderated group in the Usenet hierarchy, the jerks and psychos have gained the upper hand.  I long for the days that we could assume everyone was at least halfway intelligent and sane, just to have been able to figure out the computer and online systems enough to communicate.  So, I guess, I blame this downfall of good manners online on Steve Case.  If AOL weren’t so damned easy to use, we would have much fewer idiots online.