Thursday, November 30, 2006

Internet Killed the Telegraph Star

There was once a song about video killing the radio star. Up 'til now, I'm still wondering whether I should take the literal meaning, where the "radio star" probably died, being sensitive to the glaring flashes of light anime series are known for, or the deeper one, where the radio star's career was ended by the proliferation of music videos.

There's no denying it, however; the world is swiftly changing and the rate of change is probably accelerating. Where before, it would take about ten or so generations before a technology is declared obsolete, nowadays, numerous gadgets grow old in a matter of months. In some progressive Southeast Asian countries, it seems as though people replace their mobile phones on a weekly basis.

I, too, have a mobile phone: a measly Nokia 3310 bought back in late 2003. Everywhere around me, I see a lot of phones much "better" than mine, which is no great feat since almost any phone out there is, apparently, "better" than mine. Those units have sleek black cases, colored LCD's, multimedia capabilities and candy-colored interfaces. Meanwhile, mine only had a pleasantly scratched surface, binary LCD with a sick green backlight, ringtones composed of monotone beeps grating to the human ear, B&W pictures and logos, primitive menus and equally primitive owner. I have a tendency to dispute the last one, ever and anon.

Still, however, I do not remotely yearn for a new phone. I don't need to listen to music all the time, I find it muddling my thoughts and I could "hear" myself think. I also don't need video and polytones, all I ever use my phone for are calling, sending and receiving text messages. I don't even want a smooth and shiny cover; my unsophisticated handling of phones will probably scratch those anyway at one point or another. All in all, I'm pretty satisfied with my ancient phone and, as I have observed, so are a few other people.

Not all technology has been as lucky as my phone, though. Back when I was a kid, I was fascinated by the mere fact that people could write to each other! I had always thought that if people wanted to communicate, they have to haul their @$$ over to the person they wish to talk to, paying a visit, pleasant or otherwise. When I finally got to the idea that the postman (or postperson, for the more genteel of you) is being paid to deliver letters, my astonishment was switched to telegrams.

Of course, back then, I thought postpersons always walked on foot, paid their own fare and, generally, walked hither and thither, back and forth from all islands in the archipelago; I believed postmen were little different from medieval couriers; if you wanted to send a message anywhere around the world, they'd have to book a ticket themselves.

I now know better, though and, unless there is a hidden conspiracy I am not aware of, my ideas concerning snail mail and telegrams are pretty much the same as everyone else. Or is it?

It is quite possible that just a mere 5 years from now, snail mail and telegrams will be something relatively unknown for future generations. At the present, snail mail is only being used to contact persons in areas unreachable by Internet or as a formality, where SMS and email messages may seem too dubious a medium for communication. Postmen still walk around, albeit with reduced physical burden, as a lot of people now resort to other electronic means of communication.

Telegraph operators, on the other hand, may not be so lucky. With more and more cell sites being planned, built and operated everyday, it does seem that anyone who has a working cellphone can never be totally isolated from humanity. Who needs the telegraph's speedy few hours when all it takes is a few seconds for a message to be sent from one mobile phone to another, almost anywhere?

It might be a dark thought but it does seem that computer programmers are the Grim Reapers of people like telegraph operators.

Hear me, call me, get in touch!
We need to talk, please hurry! Rush!

-Witch's Salt Spell, Dorothy Morisson

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

He's Murdering Time! Off With His Head!

The Mad Hatter once admonished the young Alice, "If you knew Time as well as I do, you wouldn't talk about wasting him." The poor fellow must have been under a curse quite terrible; it is always time for tea.

Every one of us has most probably suffered such a curse, at one point or another. I'm sure there'd be those of you who might be complaining that for them, it is always "time to hurry" because there is "not much time," which is probably why greetings have evolved from "Hello," or "Good day," into, "Bah! It's about Time!" Surely, more than one person wishes that Time would turn back its hands, reverse its sands or, at the very least, stop in its tracks.

We are all victims of time, that much we can be sure of, and, until we figure out a way to slow down the progress of time without involving near-light speeds, we just pretty much have to surrender ourselves to our fate. The only thing we can do to alleviate our sufferings is figure out a way to speed things up, while we still can't slow down time.

All in all, our efforts were not all that bad. After all, our microwaves can zap meals in an alarming fraction of the time it took our ancestors to boil water in a log fire. Our SMS messages, IM's and emails reach their destination in a matter of seconds, or minutes, at most, when the fastest our predecessors had took hours using the Pony Express or even days, by carrier pigeons. Maglev trains, light rail and jets have rendered wagon trains a thing of the past, if not completely obsolete.

Not all of humanity, however, had been able to benefit from this evolution of technology. While I am also tempted to share my opinions concerning the more traditional methods of cooking employed by our unfortunate brethren in impoverished areas, allow me to be selfish enough to rant about dialup connections.

In my world, before there was WiFi, there was DSL and before there was DSL, there was dialup. Sad to say, I am still on dialup, which probably means I live in an uncomfortably small world after all. True, broadband Internet connections have been available to a wide range of users but, for us who live in the periphery known as the suburban, we often suffer the lack of these tempting services.

A local mobile phone carrier once advertised on TV that its WiFi has the "nationwidest" coverage. I am not inclined to agree or disagree, however, I would like to point out that they have failed to add the "unfeasible in certain areas" clause. We attempted to avail of this service, unfortunately, we had too much taller structures nearby so we'd only get the same connection speed as dialup, if not slower. The technician had kindly explained that their antenna needed a line of sight with their "cell sites" in order to provide us the speed promised by their advert. Up 'til now, though, I was wondering why they placed our nearest cell site on lower ground.

We would have gladly welcomed a DSL connection but it was not offered in our area. Augh! The price we had to pay for a relatively quiet, peaceful and serene environment: longer and more tiring travel time, frequent disruption in phone services and now, lack of access to certain "luxuries".

Nonetheless, I am more than content with my dialup connection. They say you only know how much something is worth when it is taken away from you. Considering the fact that unscrupulous individuals pilfer great lengths of phone cable ever and anon, suffice to say that I am constantly reminded that a slow connection is better than no connection at all. Besides, it is also probably a wiser choice. See, my parents did not subscribe for cable TV, in order to limit the shows available to us. In effect, it also limits the amount of time we spend in front of the TV: a decision I am thankful to my parents for. Analogously, dialup also restricts my access to sites whose content I don't really need.

The angst, however, kicks in when the sites whose contents I do need, consume high bandwidth. It appears that ever since Web 2.0, almost all the sites people go to cater only to users with broadband access. It does irk me when a close acquaintance asks me to visit a page, which, more of than not, is a large page in YouTube. I have nothing against YouTube, except for the fact that it caters to broadband users. I often find myself rolling my eyes at sites that are flashy enough to be attractive yet also large enough that I'd have to wait more than 30 seconds for the page to load. Most of the time, I find myself clicking the Stop button.

Really, it's as though the whole world is comprised only of broadband users. We, dialup users, have been forgotten as a minority. Large file sizes, tons of graphics and fancy animation do not necessarily make good sites.

Here in the Philippines, we have a saying, "Ang di lumingon sa pinanggalingan, di rin makararating sa paroroonan." (He/she who fails to look back from whence he/she came shall also fail to reach wherever he/she would go) I would be sure to remember that saying when developing web pages. I would never forget that there once was a time in my life, when I had a slow Internet connection.

Might I add, that time is now.

The young hare zooms to the buffet
and returns more than thrice a day.
The aged turtle takes steps so slow,
and so do I, that much I know.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Phoenix Reborn; Be My Shooting Star

Our eyes had met, fleetingly, once more,
And my gaze travelled to your lips again.
I don't know you but I wondered, as before,
if you could smile as you did back then?

Your little baby boy Mavi has changed and with him, changed his blog, his website and his personal outlook in life and love. As a saying goes, "Nothing in this world is permanent but change," which is kinda stupid because it also means the veracity of that statement is not so immutable either. Nonetheless, the point is that I have changed, not with the thunderclap that heralds a butterfly's metamorphosis but rather with the silent growth of a crab that had just shed its old exoskeleton. Frankly speaking, I like my new shell better.

This "new" me may not be too different from my former self; it does retain certain recognizable features difficult to erase. However, there are others that are so different, long-lost relatives would often say, "There's something different about you... but I could quite put my finger on it," and long-lost friends, meanwhile, would ask, "What the hell is wrong with you?"

Lessee, first there were the philosophies in life. Where before, I would simply have enjoyed the thought of chucking children into the basement incinerator, de-bumming the world with lvl-2 bolt spells and eradicating poverty by eliminating all the "indications of poverty", I now find myself thinking, "I wonder what he ate for lunch today," "What does this guy do for a living?" or even "Does this bum have the means to visit my website?" True, a friend of mine once said life would be simpler if we didn't think of such complications but I do find it rather unsatisfying to spend the rest of my life rolling a katamari of guiltless genocide, although I still would enjoy chucking children into a furnace.

I also found myself stepping outside my selfish confines (for I have not the audacity to claim I am entirely free of it) into the harsh selfish reality of the outside world. It does rock my boat, having to think of matters that don't concern me at all, like war, politics, poverty, higher dimensions and cosmological theories but it's also what rocks my world.

Once a nocturnal creature, I am now, well, honestly speaking, still a creature of the night. However, I do not have the same unhealthy obsession with darkness as before. The sun came into my life and even now, though the reign of the sun is over, I still feel the warmth that was imparted to me. Like a vine, I probed with my tendrils, seeking the light.

All around me, I saw that the universe was not as dark as I had thought. Maybe, if we all took the time to let the tears flow, we'd see much clearer with all the dirt washed away. If we cared enough to weather the storm, we'd find the air much cleaner and less opaque, when all the smoke and smog has been blown away. I suppose if we even just opened our eyes, we'd see that the night is not as dark, hollow and scary as we thought, that even in the absence of the sun, there'd still be the moon and stars and that even on overcast nights, there'd still be streaks of lightning to illuminate our world.

I guess some of my old acquaintances would scorn me for becoming "weak", "human" and a creature of my emotions. The Vulcans would shake their heads and declare me hopeless. Still, however, I, like the renegade Vulcans, am not controlled by my emotions, rather, I am empowered by them. Where before, I would wield the pen (or keyboard, to be more accurate) only in moments of great passion, I now find the word flowing more freely, now that I embraced my "humanity" and the "weakness" they call emotions. (It is, however, not evident in the lengthy time it took me to write another post, I concede. Your little baby boy Mavi has been busy, indeed.)

The Kaleido Star, Layla Hamilton, once realized that to be reborn as a phoenix, one does not always need to step forward. Sometimes, when we reach a dead end, the only way to move forward is to take a step back into the fork in our roads. Our progress does not always lie in eradicating our weaknesses; sometimes, it is in acknowledging these shortcomings that we come to learn how to deal with life even more.

The sorcerer looked up to the night skies and wondered if he'll ever have all the answers. Maybe the fool was not such a bad companion after all. The sun had long set, but oh! there is so much more beauty behind the glaring radiance. To the east, a comet lit the sky, heralding a new era.