Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Spider For Your Thoughts

Almost every morning this summer I have been the witness and happenstance accomplice to the death of a spider.  I always promise myself that I will find some meaning in the daily event but before I reach my first stop, I have, without fail completely forgotten to give a damn about the spider.

In my time on earth I have killed untold numbers of spiders. To ease my own fears as well acting as an executioner for the request of others. If a respectful distance can be kept I do not go out of my way to slay the much maligned but very necessary arachnid but I would still make a very bad Hindu.

This summer of spider miseries is not my fault.  I just have a front row seat to two minutes of terror and then the eventual death but  I feel like I should at least learn something from it.

It happens like this. Every morning, I get into my car with workout bag and computer satchel slung over each shoulder, a cup of coffee gripped in one hand and the keys in the other. By the time all this stuff has been hurled into the vehicle, the coffee secured, and the Iphone synched, I have no brain capacity left to do anything but crank the damn thing and back out of the driveway.

It is not until I reach the first stop sign two hundred yards up the road that I notice a spider has made a web in-between my rear view mirror and the door.

My car coming to a stop and the silver spider web jiggling always draws my peripheral vision and I am again reminded of what is about to unfold.

The spider is usually smallish but sometimes bigger, either way it can find no refuge from the wind as I pull from the stop sign and start picking up speed.

They always make it to the stoplight before the main road. Visibly shaken, they have a chance to regain their wind scrambled wits if they are lucky and the light is red, if it is green. Their ride is almost at an end.

As I turn out onto the main road and the speedometer clips over 35 all they have built starts coming unraveled. There is the briefest second where the spider is blown right beside my window and as the car hits 40 they cling no more and are gone.

I assume they die,  but the little bastards probably just shake it off and go on being efficient bug catchers while also acting as the ultimate squatters.  Even if they don't die, it looks like a horrible way to start a morning.

I always spare a moments thought to ponder the recurring tragedy, but a moment is usually all I can manage. I also refuse to feel any level of guilt for just driving my car without malice or spider killing intent, but I also feel a bit bitter at the spiders for putting such power in my right foot.

The fact that this keeps happening over and over is what I should be learning from this.  Apparently, my driver side rear view mirror is prime spider real estate, and they must line up, draw numbers or battle each for the right to weave their delicate trap every balmy night in between my metal door and plastic mirror.

I know they are just spiders and probably never consider that the guy that was there the night before is never there for a second night but I would think us humans would be able to make such a connection. Somehow I get the feeling we can be just as shortsighted.

Like the spider, all we want is fertile soil to sow our ambitions. We are all looking for the prime spot to set up our wares or weave a web of interest that might ensnare someones attention long enough to glean some sustenance from them. How many of us are getting taken for rides we never saw coming and how many of us should have known better?

The thing that made this morning different was not once seeing the spider nestled in the rear view mirror because trust me, like clock work, a spider was there.

This morning was different because the sun caught the dew of a great web that stretched out in a tree above my car. The webs brilliance and beauty was only noticeable for a fading moment before the morning sun moved a breath and the silver strings vanished. In that moment I saw a master applying his trade as he sat in black and yellow majesty among the center of his shimmering kingdom.  The nights profits snugged away safe in woven silk and from the sheer size of this spider king it was easy to tell that he ate this well every night (HE might be a SHE I don't know).

The thought occurred to me that this spider had this web stretched out over the  tree for a long time. If spiders can laugh I am sure this fat bastard laughs every night as one of his brethren weaves their own coffin and he says not a word.

Overcome with the need to start this day off with something significant I walked into the garage. Picking up a broom with satisfaction on my face I strode out to the web and wrecked that fat son of a bitch's empire and brought him low. I mean literally low, like right in front of my face and then I was not smiling anymore.

Being the nimble man I am I skidded back into attack position with this monster dangling two feet in front of my face. I was prepared to end him but the fact that he just hung there without trying to shimmy up into the tree or jump onto my face soothed my righteous anger. That and the fact that I was not sure how long it would take kill this beast and I did not have all morning.

I decided verbal abuse would at least make me feel better so I called him an asshole and swatted him with the broom. He went gently hurtling into the trees where a sparrow caught him in mid flight without so much as a thank you. So much for nature and mercy.

Hopefully some other guy will get a shot to weave his web across the tree. Maybe that guy won't be so smug and might even be willing to help out the spider who fancies my alluring window of death this evening.

Its a nice thought, but my coffee is empty and I feel certain I will witness more ambitious spiders having bad mornings.  Perhaps there are some other lessons to glean from this observation, but perhaps spiders are just stupid and I should pay more attention to the road.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Google Glass. A future so bright you will have no place to hide.

Before reading any further I would encourage everyone to click THIS link and follow the instructions.

Everyone wearing the fashion essential for the twenty first century? Good, onward we go.

I should say first off that I love technology. I love living in a age where the impossible becomes the mundane every other month. I love the coolness of gadgets and all the great things they allow us to do. I also have been slightly terrified of machines since seeing Terminator.

My affair with technology is like dating a exotic girl that is always full of amazing surprises, yet you know she is perfectly capable of setting fire to the bed while you sleep in it.

I have been reading about Google Glass for a long while now and the buzz has died off a bit but the beta testing goes forward and we are less than a year or two away from seeing and using them on a regular basis.

My fascination with this technology is largely due to author Daniel Suarez's fantastically entertaining book's  DEAMON and FREEDOM. These books lay out an amazing display of new technology being used in ways I had never dreamed, but now seem all but reality.

The books being several years old are uncannily accurate at describing Google Glass, and while fiction, it turns out that there is very little fiction involved in the technology and its possibilities. If anyone has actually read these books you will understand why my heart froze in awe and terror when I first saw a blurb about Google Glass.

The recent outing of the NSA has proven that the privacy paranoids had more than a little merit and the relative weak outcry from the general public has proven that most of us really don't care all the much about privacy. I mean we kinda care, but we don't care so much that we are actually going to do anything to change the comfortable status quo.

I guess what I am saying is that the America of today does not care in the same way that the original founders of America cared. Can you imagine how the news of government spying on private citizen emails would have gone over with the same group of people who overthrew the worlds biggest power over some taxes on tea?

"So let me make sure I have this strait Mr Government Official. Every letter I send to anyone for any reason will be opened and read by the government we just got all bloody to create because we thought the last one we had was a bit too hands on."  Inquires the citizen.

"Yeah, but we just have to make sure no Natives are planning a scalping party and stuff." Says the Government Official.

"But what about all that stuff in that document that listed all these rights we are all supposed to have?" The citizen further inquires.

"Yeeaahh about that. I mean we wont use anything against you as long as you are not planning shenanigans." The government official says with an assuring smile.

"Yeeaahh,  I think we are going to have to get bloody again." The citizen replies stuffing powder into his blunderbuss.

As ridiculous as that bit of dialogue is I cannot fathom the reaction to such a government invasion of privacy going any other way in that day and time.

Regardless of how much we care, privacy is an illusion. At the moment it is a good enough illusion that we would all rather play along but it seems we are tiptoeing toward the line where even this most complacent of American generations will no longer see fit to play along.

The real question of the future is not whether or not your information is private but just how many people and what kind of people will have access to it.

Google Glass brings to the masses technology that will redefine privacy. The hardware combined with existing facial recognition software and access to islands of databases that we have all happily contributed too makes some amazing things possible.

In Daniel Suarez'es book Freedom groups have formed what he calls a darknet. Member privileges of being in the darknet include a stylish pair of sunglasses that sound just like Google Glass. The heads up display offering up amazing bits of information about the world. The people you see through the glasses offer up their medical charts, credit ratings, criminal records and bank account info among other things and the ability to make use of such sensitive information in real time has some disturbing possibilities.

We already live in a world where government hackers and black hat hackers have become the new priesthood, our secrets open to their curiosity and discretion. Now imagine a world where that on the spot information can be used in face to face scenarios and not just via the internet.

Then there is the fun possibilities of people basically recording every waking moment of their day and the places they go. They are also taking in the people and events that happen in those places and just consider the massive amounts of data that can be extracted from such a fully documented day from just one person in a single location.  Actually, oncoming reality gives way to another modern Sci Fi writer of note, Neal Stephenson. In his book Snowcrash he describes what he called gargoyles.

Gargoyles, as Stephenson described them were people whose job consisted of loitering about public spaces,  loaded down with cameras, microphones and other real time data collecting tools. This massive amount of seemingly random bits of sound and video would be uploaded to the network for sell to news outlets, governments or anyone else willing to pay. This form of news gathering has already become the standard, the only difference is that all the idiots on twitter are happy to just give them the information instead of being compensated for it.

If anyone is holding out on the notion that anything you do online is private then you have about the same notion of reality as the record executives who think they can actually stop people from downloading songs for free. That is not a topic even up for debate, what is unknown is how people gathering real time information on people outside of the digital world will further degrade the publics privacy.

When it comes to the internet it is easy for people to delude themselves that privacy actually exist, because those intrusion often go unseen. It is when people start to realize that their real world is being recorded not just by "authorized" government networks but by literally everyone and everything around them that the facade of privacy really drops away.  It will be at this point that change will come and hopefully it will be a sensible and measured change, but black powder and blunderbusses are always a possibility in America.