Saturday, October 27, 2018

In Which I Grouse About Everything

Yesterday was a very physical day at work. I boxed up the last of our discarded DVDs, hoisted those boxes and re-shelved a ton of books. I've said it before, but I'm always surprised at how much lifting and bending and crouching and kneeling and moving around my job requires -- so much so that I discovered yesterday I'd worn a hole in the knee of my pants! Oh may not be good for my pants, but it's probably good for me.

Still, I'm not as agile as Alain Robert, the 56-year-old Frenchman who this week climbed the exterior of a skyscraper in London -- with no harnesses or safety ropes or anything. I'm amazed he's still at it. Ten years ago he climbed The New York Times building, back when I worked there -- in fact I blogged about it. I'll never forget how surreal that was. That guy is a lunatic.

Oh, and did you see some bozo tried to steal the Magna Carta from Salisbury Cathedral -- the same one Dave and I just viewed on our recent visit? What was he going to do? Sell it on eBay?


I'm reading an interesting but completely bewildering article about cryptocurrency in The New Yorker. At the risk of sounding like Andy Rooney, I do not understand this stuff at all. How can money untethered from government or nationality, money that doesn't even exist in the physical world, be worth anything? How is it possible that we're burning up incredible amounts of real energy to "mine" Bitcoin, which is essentially a big computer game? "This year, it is said, the Bitcoin network will use as much energy as the nation of Austria, and produce as much carbon dioxide as a million transatlantic flights," according to the article. And apparently this translates into real wealth somehow. I guess I'm an idiot, or maybe I'm just too old to get it, but it all sounds very improbable and unwise. Shouldn't we use our energy to, oh, save the rhinos? Or conserve it, or funnel it into the grid in a way that will lower everyone's bills, rather than burning it up on Bitcoin mining?

Sometimes I think humanity is losing touch with the real world. We're all on our devices, our children live in a land of video games, and we're inhabiting digital alternate universes. We're tied up in our own heads. It makes me want to walk Olga and dig in the garden.

So there. I do sound like Andy Rooney. Except not as funny.

(Photo: Near the Museum of London, earlier this month.)


  1. Walking Olga and a dig in the garden, yes, that’s the perfect answer, I don’t think our world is heading in a healthy direction, we all seem obsessed with finding the best answers to live our best lives but maybe we should spend less time searching and just let life unfold, naturally, I was totally fascinated by the untethered climber, how does one come to a place in their mind to yearn for such dangerous practises, thrill seeking to the max!

  2. Who the hell is Andy Rooney? I had to go to Wikipedia to find out. I guess other non-Americans will have the same issue so here's the Wikipedia link:-

  3. I read something a while back that said we are devolving, that our brains are getting smaller because we no longer do anything. we have machines that do all the work now, all those labor saving devices and as a parallel result we are less healthy and physically fit. The movie Thinner was on the other night about the fat guy and I had to laugh because these days that guy would not necessarily be called fat. most people are that size now. at least in this country.

  4. I enjoyed reading your blog post from 2008. Daredevils are an inexplicable bunch.

  5. We take a walk every morning and pass by students on their way to middle school and high school. Every one of them is looking at their phones. The sky may be blazing with a sunrise that would take their breaths away; the full moon is setting in the pink tinged Belt of Venus sky; the ravens are cawing cawing above their bent heads, and we are smiling at them. The earth we want to save for them hardly exists now in their consciousness. When it is gone, will they notice?

  6. Like you. I cannot get my head around bitcoin. The use of tremendous energy is another mystery. Yes, I know they run a large number of computers at one time.

  7. Don't know. Don't want to know.
    About Bitcoin.
    Here's a different situation- a friend of ours who is about our age HAS NEVER GOTTEN ON A COMPUTER IN HIS LIFE! And up until this week, had never had a cell phone. He got one and he has NO clue. "I have google!" he announced proudly. However he has no idea what internet or data or cell reception are. It's like he's totally missed the boat. Even those classes for people to learn to use cell phones will be too mysterious for him- he has no concept of any of it. Hopefully Glen is going to help him some.
    So there is that. It's almost impossible to navigate our lives in some ways without technology.
    Strangely, since he is a very, very curious person I think that he would benefit hugely from having the ability to use the internet. And he lives by himself.
    Well, we shall see what happens.

  8. Don't feel alone, as I see you won't after glancing at the above comments. But just to add to them, I have no idea how this bitcoin stuff works either. And I don't care. As someone once said about television, the good Lord never meant for pictures to fly through the air!

  9. Some news program had an article about bitcoin mining in a small town. Two people built a huge facility of processors and coolant to keep them from overheating because there were so many in a small space. They're supposed to be solving very complex equations, for which they receive bitcoin. Unfortunately, the surrounding small town is suffering brown outs because there is just not enough power to do it all. It's just incredibly selfish. I don't get it either, I also don't get blockchain. Ultimately I think I don't care.

  10. THANK YOU! I don't understand bitcoin either. How can something that only exists out there in the ether have value? My mail for the month of October is sitting in our post office in Massachusetts so I can't wait to get home and dig into my New Yorker. Maybe, just maybe, it will help me understand it all.
    Although if you find it indecipherable, there's little hope for me.

  11. I don't get the bitcoin thing either. For a while at work there were two people who were constantly checking the price of bitcoin. It sounded a lot like gambling to me. The guy trying to steal the Magna Carta must be crazy. I can't imagine what would possess someone to do that. What on earth would they gain? I love the photo today. I have one (two actually) similar to it so I know right where that was taken. I took a shot of it in 2013 when I was there and another in 2016, so those lights have been there for quite a long time.

  12. Laurie: I suppose that untethered climber is at least also untethered from his computer! No one can say he's not actually experiencing life.

    YP: Funny, when I wrote this, I wondered if you'd know him. He was huge in the states back in the day.

    Ellen: Interesting! That does sound like a plausible theory. I know I can't do a lot of things that my parents could do -- mathematical calculations, for example.

    Colette: That was such a crazy day.

    Robin: I don't know! I do worry that young people aren't connecting with the natural environment enough. Will they even value wilderness the way we do?

    Red: It seems like a grown-up's computer game to me.

    Ms Moon: WOW! That is amazing! I can't imagine someone has been so "off the grid" for so long. In a way it's heartening! I didn't get my first cell phone until about 2006, and I thought I was one of the last ones.

    Catalyst: I had a good laugh at that remark!

    Allison: Yeah, that seems manifestly unfair. This is why we need some degree of business regulation. Businesses -- especially businesses of dubious value that employ few people -- shouldn't be permitted to move in and disrupt lives that way!

    Marty: I'm almost done with that article and I still don't understand it, so don't hold your breath!

    Sharon: YES! It IS like gambling. Maybe that's the secret to the attraction. Maybe men (and it is mostly men) who are drawn to gambling are also drawn to this for the same reasons. Bitcoin mining, from what I understand, does seem to contain an element of chance -- who can get to the blockchain first and record the transaction. (I may not understand it at all but I think that's what's happening in mining.)