Sunday, January 31, 2010

Out Deviced

Or am I deviced out? I hear that English and Chinese, the two languages which mediate the master narratives on the planet right now, are both prominently and distinctly "analytic" rather than "synthetic". I might have the terms backward, but the thing Chinese and English share in common is that meaning is largely a function of word order and not of syntax or inflections. Oh, I've probably got those words wrong too. I wonder if there is a language of commerce in India other from English?

The other day, while dealing with my second warranty replacement for my SmartPhone (not a trademark) whose Internet connection strangely stopped while sitting still, and then whose replacement had non-functioning buttons just like the first time when I had to get it replaced, even though that time I still think it was the software becoming fragmented because lots of people on the 'net had the very same strange combination of problems where the buttons would engage in one orientation and not the other which pretty much ruled out the hardware. Whatever.

Anyhow, the other day I tried a download of a new "shell" for my Microsofted (slanderous trademark) SmartPhone, and, you know it was really cool. It was a genuine improvement on the default Windows shell, and a distinct and satisfying move in the direction of the iPhone (tm).

I thought I might blow the $29 bucks they wanted, just to extend the life of the gadget I've got. Not only is the one you know always safer than the one you don't, but who knows what new thing I'll wish I'd gotten once I sign on for another new every two (tm). But I was rescued, finally, by the fact that this new shell just pushed the memory limit too hard. It seemed to make things work more smoothly, until they wouldn't work at all, and checking the "meter" the memory was all used up at that point.

You just can't get new software onto old hardware, we all should understand. But I do have a lot of gadgets for an unemployed old guy. It seems wrong somehow, and still I want that iPad (tm). Sort of. Well, I don't know. What I really want is something cheap which disappears when I'm using it for whatever purpose, like my Kindle does when reading text, but like the computer never does when I'm surfing the 'net (I have limits on my upload/download, by virtue of being mobile, and - seriously now, I'm not making this up - most of my "quota" is used up by the continual and automated updates required of the OS (!!!). And I use Linux (no tm), so you can't go complaining about Microsoft here.

And anyhow, there's no such thing as a transparent website. There's always all sorts of luring in, and adverts meant for somebody else (I am a child of post-Kennedy media cynicism, where the assumption is that the truth is always being spun) who would be stupid enough either to fall for them or to buy them. There's always something better just out of view, for a price, but some really really good stuff for free.

And sometimes after you plunk down your money, you've finally learned enough to get the free stuff. I mean, really, who would outright pay for Office (tm???) functionality anymore? Oh, sorry, I didn't mean to make fun of you, gentle reader. I love you, truly I do.

I keep my gadgets longer than you do, I can almost guarantee. I used the Palm (tm) OS on my phone until it simply wasn't possible anymore, and I still consider it the most user-friendly, by which I mean simply usable while driving. Which I would never do. But then my car has nearly 300K miles on it, which makes it more environmentally friendly than your Prius (TM). And my laptop is garbage pikked (tm) not literally, but you know.

So, here's how our economy is breaking out. I know this from being in the hospital recently, for instance. Each little subcategory of work is splintered out as an outsourcable specialty, on the assumption that the costs can therefore be optimized. So there's a phlebotomist, who's separate from the nurse, who also no longer takes your food order, nor is that one the one who changes your sheets, and each doctor bills a separate visit fee and sometimes the supplies might get billed separately, even though they're supposed to be part of some comprehensive fee.

In the end, there's almost no "reality" to the overall bill, meaning, yeah, right, like I could have afforded that on my own? I broke my leg once and had I (watch the word order!) no insurance, and some sense ahead of time, I surely would have gone to a horse doctor and paid him twice his hourly fee. Taking the risk on the possible complications which got ruled out by what I did pay. Or rather, what got paid on my behalf.

So anyhow, each of these little franchises has their arguments for being. What the French call raison d'etre, I think. And they must lobby and sometimes strike and sometimes trick you into paying what they're worth. And they're all worth more than they get paid, just like my daughter who takes home maybe $18 (less taxes) for tutoring which Kaplan (TM) gets paid $75 bucks for. It covers all their research, and materials, and, um, advertising. Right!

And I don't even want to get into the labor content of a Nike (tm) sneaker any more. I'm tired of that one. As if they have no choice but to send those jobs overseas, although, honestly, I'm happy that the Chinese economy is getting a chance to grow, so long as they're not exploiting children or prisoners or people's desperation, which is sometimes hard to know.

But what I do know is that the current economic arrangements aren't working for either you or me. We've been pretty much and pretty well trained to be very afraid of "Communism", never mind "Socialism" (these aren't trademarked, but they probably should be), so I'm not about to go advocating those things. I like free markets. So, apparently, do the Commies (sorry, but I'm trying to stay away from political correctness, and I'm shooting for good humor) in China.

I am pretty certain that size is what matters, and that there are structures which, by design (I'm trying to be punny here, but it's buried pretty deep, for which I apologize) create what I would call a vicious feedback loop in favor of the big guys. It might not literally be monopoly, but it sure has all the advantages as if it were. I'm really talking the ruggedness of the topology of market concentration. You need some really good climbing equipment if you're going to compete against the likes of the market giants.

Plus, you need customers who will still prefer the small, close, easy to navigate, easy to understand kinds of arrangements which, for instance, my local food co-op (tm?) has. And my local bookseller always puts really intersting stuff right in my view, without my having to navigate aisle after aisle. And I don't even want to talk about the literal mountains of kitchen gadgetry at Bed Bath and Beyond (tm) among which it is quite literally impossible to find the pot racks I've been looking for.

They have hundreds of them on Amazon, and, for crying out loud, there's even an entire website devoted to pot racks. But I don't like to shop on (in? with? by? via?) the Internet. It feels so much like an expedition through the aisles of Home Despot (slander), say, and never knowing if they don't have the thing, or you just can't find it. It's not fun for me. (I know it might be for you, so don't take this personally, K?)

I'd like to just build one, but I'm not set up for metalwork, although I'm pretty sure a local welder could whip me up something for less than what they want, if they were to have one, at Bed Bath and Overload. I'm pretty sure of that. If you think about it, you would be too.

So, you know rugged landscapes are nice to visit. Colorado, the Pacific Northwest, probably the Himalayas; these are all overpopulated with ex-Buffalonians. Renegades from too much legacy baggage. Some are in my very own family. But there are charms to the warn down Adirondacks. And sometimes it's nice not to have so very far to fall. Lots of people are moving back here from Phoenix, say, to stir the ever-present hopes that we will be one, a Phoenix (no, not the literal one, but you know what I mean, right? The back from the ashes thing, not the out of the desert thing).

Anyhow, I remain utterly positive, convinced, convicted, pollyannish certain, that the turnaround from too big to fail to nice and homey scaled local can and will be accomplished in an instant. I mean these politicians asses are hanging out all over the place now, and thank goodness they finally said out loud that corporations can act like people. Because once you smoke out a sociopath, they're pretty unmistakable by their behaviors. No matter how well they fooled you before you knew what they were keeping secret.

OK, sorry, I've got to go back to my writing.

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