Planned Obsolescence

They argued with a sense of smug superiority. How could they not? Their eight millimeter slabs of plastic seemed to promise a limitless future of perfection and iteration; boldly leading the way would be their fingerprint scanners, NFC radios, and absurdly-crisp HD displays.

I was fixated on an entity of irrelevance, they said. I was resisting the inevitable, they said. I was paying the price, they said, with Android distributions hopelessly outdated before I could even leave the Verizon store. Were they right? Not just right. It had been preordained.

Economists say that we dispose of things for two different reasons. Perceived obsolescence is what happens when you ditch your CRT monitors for top-of-the-line LED models: you see that something better exists. Planned obsolescence refers to the collective fate of paper bags, water bottles, and the veritably frustrating plastic clam-shell. What happens when it finishes serving its purpose? You throw it. You toss it. You recycle it. It’s doomed from the start.

So I channel my inner Nietzschean voice: the QWERTY slider is doomed. Maybe I’m disappointed and you couldn’t care less. But any number of forums will prove that I’m not alone. We were like a religion, weren’t we? The keyboards fed our attachment; we made them gods. And our worship ended as soon as it had begun. Why? Profitability. Continue reading

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Scatological Avian

The Snowpocalypse is upon us! Well, maybe not. But the images sure are iconic. It appears that snow is to be the bane of lesson plans all across North Carolina, and one thing’s certain: I don’t have nearly enough work to do. So I spent a snow day doing what I do best: kludge.

Everyone’s playing Flappy Bird these days, notwithstanding the fact that the app’s developer very responsibly removed the highly addicting and unfairly criticized game—it’s a game, after all. But I couldn’t help having some immature fun at its expense. One afternoon and several cups of Trader Joe’s green juice later, I’d produce Crappy Bird. Now I know what you’re thinking. Contact me directly if you’re interested in purchasing the merchandising and movie rights.

Fine. Maybe this sparse HTML5 game isn’t worth a cool four billion, but it was definitely fun to make. I attempted to use a decent canvas API before deciding to proceed in beast mode; to my discredit, however, I didn’t really make an effort to, as they say, Read The Manual.

Fortunately, the default methods were rather intuitive and straightforward—or, at the very least, Google-able. I also discovered a pragmatic, lightweight alternative to the ubiquitously applicable SoundManager library: Howler. I’m sure you will agree that the sound effects are nothing less than delightful. And if you’re in the Snowpocalypse, stay safe—and thirsty.

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Snow Day

So apparently I have too much free time. School’s closed today. And as it turns out, some local school districts are quite sassy on Twitter. I’m looking at you, @WCPSS. So in the name of good fun—and quite possibly boredom—I coded an inspired application which tells you exactly one thing: are Wake County, North Carolina schools closed today? YES. Most certainly.

On a related note, Dot.TK provides excellent free domain names. Admittedly, the ugly string of two consonants formed by TK is not particularly conducive to domain hacks, but it’s free! Anyway, you might be wondering how this shenanigan works. At first I was going to update it manually, but that isn’t the way of a second-semester senior. Instead, I’m crudely scraping the HTML from WRAL-TV’s website—best OTA news in the Triangle—and doing the programming equivalent of Ctrl + F on their “Closings” page. Again, too much free time.

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Human Force Theory

What if you could know how much someone trusted you? What if you could tell how much a girl liked you? How could you tell a friend from an enemy—or a confidante from a traitor? Wouldn’t we all like to know? Information, naturally, doesn’t come cheap. So we revel in the totality of private knowledge, a species bred to gossip.

We are swarmed by data on a daily basis: for every bit collected by the NSA, there are hundreds of public bytes which lay dormant, simply waiting to be harvested. Troubling, perhaps. But the human psyche is ruled by the unconscious—and so is much of our data. To seek its truth is to discover an amazing potential, buried deep in our latent neurons, sentient yet unaware.

That’s a lot of words to say something pretty simple. Each and every day, without fail, I log into Facebook, a slew of notifications hopefully waiting for my undivided attention. “Who liked my comment?” I wonder. Person X? Oh, never mind. They like everything anyone posts. Person Y? But I haven’t talked to her since middle school! Person Z? Do they even use Facebook?

Users of social media can probably sympathize with my armchair sociology. Some likes are irrelevant—a formality at best. Others, certainly, mean a lot. These fleeting clicks of a button might really say something about the depth and the character of a relationship, at least in an aggregate form. Psychologists might attempt to analyze such group dynamics on the basis of sentiments themselves, but I see empirical relationships which underlay the metadata.

Suppose that particular communities tends to like their own posts—demonstrating some degree of in-postage, if you will. We might observe that members of multiple communities display anomalous rates of in-postage, and conclude that their emotional attachment varies significantly between the digital societies. So what? Continue reading

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Vergangenheitsbewältigung

This is a beautifully concise term used by the Germans to express a profound concept: coming to terms with the past. My ramblings can’t even begin to convey the gravity which this term carries, but in a sense this post is an accounting of six, adventure-filled, post-free months. And I think that posting regularly is Vergangenheitsbewältigung in some form: reflecting on a multitude of experiences, condensing ephemeral time into everlasting prose.

It’s been fun. Probably not as epic as that paragraph would have you believe. But interesting nonetheless. I completed a research project—click on that link for an exciting self-portrait. I attended two hackathons. I lost a lot of sleep. I got my “after-nine” driver’s license! And I should mention that if you ever happen to live in Wake County, North Carolina, go to the DMV office in Fuquay-Varina: the people are friendly and the queue is literally non-existent.

And of course, I applied to college. Applications are always just amorphous, imaginary entities in your mind—until it’s December 31 at 11:59 PM, when you click the button to submit your application into the great unknown. Everyone claims that the subsequent period of anticipation is the worst, but it’s sort of like Schrödinger’s Cat: do you really want to discover that it’s dead? As an äside, I reälly wish there wäs a cönsistent, cröss-platförm way to type umläuts.

Anyway, I’m not entirely sure what I want to do for a career, but I’m thinking that it’ll involve start-ups. Much cliche—wow! I’ve also been interested in technical pedagogy for some inexplicable reason. My future children Hi Kids! should be able to learn computer science in public school as a core subject—starting from elementary school onwards—even if it’s not the field they end up deciding to pursue. Computer science is where logic meets practicality; it’s the closest thing in academia to acquiring street-smart, generally applicable life skills.

Chase Felker makes an interesting argument in a Slate piece: maybe everybody shouldn’t learn to code. As a programmer, I sympathize with a lot of his points—to begin with, the sort of code that a beginner might write with a week’s worth of tutorials isn’t about to make Edsger Dijkstra roll around in his grave. No one’s going to earn six figures or become a qualified teacher with Codecademy, excellent guides notwithstanding. Continue reading

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