Easier isn’t always better

Yesterday I was doing a bit of housecleaning in my bookmarks, and in addition to a million dead links I found a few old favorites that predate the advent of social media. Most of these have long since been abandoned (and in their pages too broken links are legion), but one thing that struck me was the care that went into putting them together, the depth of knowledge they contained… and the fact that they are ad free. Granted, many of these were/are maintained by universities, but the thing is that back when maintaining a site meant learning html, and an update was a major undertaking. It was something to be proud of, and it showed. That gave rise to sites such as:

Bibliotheca Augustana (world literature in the original language)

Visualizing Chaucer (one of a number of Robbins Library Digital Projects)

The Camden House (Sherlock Holmes)

The thing is that visiting those sites reminded me of what the web was like in the early days, and while there is no denying that social media has some advantages, the fact that pretty much anyone can post anything without giving it much thought hasn’t come cheaply. In fact my little trip down memory lane was a rather painful reminder of the web we lost as a result… and of the fact that easier isn’t always better.

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Sticky people

So December is upon us, and with it comes the specter of the impending family gatherings, so I have a question: how do you deal with sticky people? No, I don’t mean the ones that stick to you like glue (though tips on how to deal with those would also be appreciated), but rather those that annoy you to the point that you want desperately to say something, only you know opening your mouth is bound to backfire (besides, it’s not like they ever listen), so you are reduced to replaying an imaginary conversation in your head time and time again.

Any tips on how to evict them from your mind, preferably before they drive you absolutely crazy?

Barking mad ‘science’ (in defense of homeopathy)

This post has been buzzing inside my head for a while. I has to do with a video I came across a couple of weeks ago that really bothered me, but with the attacks in France, and everything else that’s been going on in the real world lately, it just felt too trivial to write about. Anyway, now that some time has gone by the time has come for me to try to get back in the rhythm of things, so here it goes.

This one has to do with homeopathy, or rather with the way in which its detractors go totally insane as soon as the h-word is mentioned (they basically react as if it were a particularly nasty, and an unusually long, four-letter word). Now, before we go any further, a bit of a disclaimer:

My relationship with homeopathy is a complicated one. My father’s a doctor, as are a number of other members of my family, so I grew up in a world in which the notion that ‘homeopathy is nonsense’ was a given, then two years ago something I had a problem a medical professional that caused me to reexamine some of my beliefs (okay, she was a vet, my thirteen-year-old dog was having a number of age-related issues, and I was not to sure about how she was approaching the whole thing). There was one aspect in particular that, while not terribly serious from a medical perspective, I found particularly annoying: my girl had become incontinent due to an estrogen deficiency. Seeing how she can usually be found curled up on the couch behind me as I write, it was beginning to look like my choices were to evict her from what had always been her spot (i.e. to punish her for being sick), or to resign myself to spend my days sitting in a pool of urine. As you can probably imagine, neither one of these options sounded particularly appealing. The vet suggested hormone replacement therapy, but I wasn’t quite ready to walk down that path, not without a second opinion anyway. The way I saw it, her incontinence was a condition that presented a number of characteristics that called for a different approach. In a nutshell, it was  a chronic problem that was likely to stay with my girl for the rest of her life, but at the same time it was not a degenerative condition where an aggressive intervention was a must. That gave me an unexpected bit of leeway, so I decided to try everything, beginning with the least aggressive option, and moving up from there… and even if it went against a lifetime of indoctrination, I decided to give homeopathy a fair shot (it was, after all, the least aggressive option). No, I didn’t go to Petco, and grab the first product off the shelves, what I did -knowing that I was dealing with something I knew absolutely nothing about- was to get in touch with a homeopathic vet, and set up an appointment. The outcome? Forty-eight hours later the problem was gone, and I was flabbergasted. So where do I stand? Well, my common sense is still telling me that homeopathy shouldn’t work, the evidence of my own eyes tells me that maybe I shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss it, and two years later I’m still trying to figure out how exactly does the placebo effect work on a dog. Continue reading Barking mad ‘science’ (in defense of homeopathy)

Sorry about the silence

Hi guys, just a quick note to let you know that I’m back. I took a couple of weeks off, and that was the reason behind the recent recent silence. Anyway I’m back to writing -or trying to- but one of the souvenirs I brought back with me is a rather nasty cold, and that one’s driving me nuts (in a nutshell, I’m not sick enough to stay in my hammock doing nothing, but I still feel too crummy to do much of anything. Yes, it’s better than being seriously ill, but colds have a tendency to get annoying after a while… after a very short while).

When a book has a mind of its own

I am currently dealing with a rather weird situation, and I still don’t know where this is going. What happened was that as I sat down to plan a sequel that sequel turned around and basically hijacked the first part, so at least for the time being it looks like the sequel will morph into a book that will incorporate as alternative version of the first part… of course, that can change. Oh well, it’s not like I expected my books to play by the rules anyway.

I’m scared

I know, I know,  I said I was going to keep my pets out of this blog, and for the most part I’m going to try to stick to that promise (I may love cats, but I’ve just about had it with their attempts at taking over the internet), but the truth is that right now I’m scared. The girl you see in the featured image is Shadow. She has been my constant companion for well over fourteen years, and seeing how she wasn’t exactly a puppy when we first met, she is at least fifteen years old. That makes her a grand old lady by dog standards, and right now she has an abscessed tooth that needs to come out. The surgery is scheduled for tomorrow. Now, I realize that a tooth extraction is a fairly straight forward proposition, and my vet tells me that she’s in about as good a shape as a fifteen-year-old dog can be, but the whole thing does call for general anesthesia, and I am almost painfully aware of the fact that at her age there’s no such thing as a minor surgery.

What can I say? I may know that no matter what I do, our time together is running out, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. Continue reading I’m scared

The bright side of tech (a dyslexic’s perspective)

Okay, so my last post was an anti-facebook rant. Now let’s turn to the brighter side of technology… at least from where I stand. To begin with let me get one personal detail out of the way: I am dyslexic, and that means that I basically owe my life to my computer… or at least my lifestyle, why?

Well, to begin there’s the fact that without a keyboard I can’t write, full stop, and yet I’ve been able to become a writer. That’s about  as big a shift as there can be, and the very notion of being unable to get the words out is one that fills me with a sense of dread. I realize that to an outsider that may sound like I’m exaggerating, but I’m not, and I am almost painfully aware of the fact that I was only a generation away from finding myself in exactly that position.

When it comes to reading I was lucky to overcome most of the challenges at a fairly early age (politically incorrect, and cringe worthy as it may sound, I have to give Enid Blyton a lot of credit for that one, as her books made reading fun) but even there I have to admit that I find reading on a screen, where I can actually modify the layout to suit my needs, so much easier. In fact my favorite device in that regard is an iPod touch. Yes, I realize that it’s an odd choice, and that most people cringe at the thought of reading on such a tiny screen, but from my perspective that’s by far its best feature (and I’m still grumbling about the fact that some moron saw it fit to increase the size of the display some three years ago)… and from a more general perspective there is the internet. We can’t forget about that one.

No, I’m not a digital native, and I suspect that that gives me both a better perspective to appreciate the benefits the internet has brought about, and a greater awareness of what the price we’ve had to pay has been, but that’s a subject for another post.