Below are Atlantic notes, from James Fallows and others, on the expected and unexpected effects of the computer revolution on our habits of thought, work, and life. The thread’s title is in honor of the seminal article largely prefiguring the modern Internet, “As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush, which the Atlantic published in 1945.
Yesterday I mentioned the astonishing (to me) news that, by cramming a wad of Post-it notes underneath the cover of my ailing Android Nexus 5 phone, I could save myself the significant cost and hassle of buying a new one.
Three followups. First from Jason Virga, creator of the Post-in note video that saved me so much time and dough:
When my Nexus 5 microphone first started malfunctioning, my first thought was "oh well, time to get a new phone”!
Thankfully my curiosity drew me towards tinkering around a little bit before making that new purchase. Within an hour, I figured out the problem and posted the video.
The phone is actually great, and nothing else was wrong with it. So I thought a few minutes checking under the hood couldn't hurt. Thankfully, it turned out this way, and has saved many people as you said "hundreds of dollars".
And for me helping people brings me utter joy.
And to me too!
Second, from a reader who operates a charter-boat company. First he talks about a similar self-help story; then, reflections on What This All Means:
Last Spring, making flank speed to get a boat ready for the upcoming season my random orbit sanders seized. One, then the other 30 minutes later. From a remote port, the nearest replacements (on a sunday) were a 3 hour round trip away.
But the Internet to the rescue. Don't remember what I googled, but in short order I was watching a bearing repacking for my sanders on Youtube. (Fine particles from sanding enter the sealed bearings, mix with the bearing grease and turn it to non-lubricating goo) I took a chance and sprayed PB Blaster (WD-40 on steroids) into the bearings,and Voila! I was back in business and the boat launched on time.
I think the internet has been disastrous for professional communications, both the profession and the communication. I really do think books, magazines, tv, movies are worse for the internet.
But it is a true golden era for amateur communication, most especially peer to peer communications like your and my day-savers.
We’re fighting off the professional-world effect here at the Atlantic, but overall the reader has a point. His emphasis on the professional/amateur difference is a useful clarification.
Another bit of testimony:
The internet has also saved "early adopters" like me (more than once) from our impulses to upgrade things at the earliest opportunity.
My latest impulse (and fiasco) was to upgrade my Macs (both desktop and laptop) to Yosemite right when it came out (instead of rationally waiting until bugs had been fixed and, more importantly, vendors caught up developing drivers for it). [JF note: burned long ago, I never load an operating-system update until the first “maintenance release.”]
Later that day, when I went to print something out from my laptop, nothing happened (expect a notification on the icon bar telling me an error had occurred). So I looked at the error message and, of course, it was essentially gibberish to me: Stopped - ntdcmsmac open fail:dlopen(/usr/lib/dlthm1zcl.dylib…
Of course, I immediately knew it had something to do with the upgrade, and I got the sinking feeling I would need to wait for Dell (the maker of my printer) to get around to upgrading the drivers (I went to their web site, and they hadn't yet).
Instead, I decided to poke around the internet, googling the above error and the word Yosemite, to see what I could find out. Sure enough, someone had posted a "workaround" to deal with the issue.
(Essentially, Apple beefed up the security features of the OS; in doing so, they prevented programs, etc, from copying files into certain directories. One of those directories was the one the printer driver, dlthm1zcl.dylib, was located in. On top of that, I guess it also erased the driver. And, since the drivers could no longer access the directory, you couldn't simply reinstall the drivers.
The solution was to reboot the machine into recovery mode, disable the security feature, reboot into regular mode, install the current version of the printer driver, which could now access the directory, reboot back into recovery mode, re-enable the security feature, and then reboot back into regular mode).
Worked like a charm.
And, as you said, thanks to all those willing to share their expertise with those of us who often need it!
Disaster (or challenge) for professionals, golden age for amateurs: such are our times.
As a business matter, the Atlantic has placed tremendous emphasis through the past two decades on integrating all the different ways we try to get our message out. This means via the classic in-print magazine, the ever-expanding and -refining range of our web sites, live events, videos and podcasts, and so on. I say “through the past two decades” because we were one of the very first publications to have a serious online site, starting with Atlantic Unbound back in 1994.
As an intellectual and cultural matter, the whole undertaking is more connected than you might think, with most people working in the same physical space in Washington and talking about the interactions among the various things we do. Here is a reader note about the way it comes across on the other end. I offer it as a little document on the state of modern cultural / intellectual/ technological life.
A reader in Texas writes:
My hardcopy version of The Atlantic arrived today. It made me think about how my interaction with the world is influenced by the magazine and all of your various websites.
I use Feedly to collect all of the various Atlantic feeds and (yes!) blogs. I check these daily, indeed several times a day.
When the magazine is about to be released, I notice that all at once there are many long form article on my feed. I secretly rejoice, as I know that the hardcopy is on its way. I don’t read them on my computer or my phone, but do mark some that I know I will want to send to friends later.
Then, a day or so after that, I am able to access the issue on my Kindle. Yes, I pay for the Kindle subscription even though I can get all that content for free online, and I will be getting it a day or so later in the mail.
I use the Kindle version (Years ago, when you had reviewed the Kindle favorably, I sent you a note asking about the “reading experience.” You replied that just because you have a Kindle that doesn’t mean you need to give up books) to read most of the short articles. I will be waiting for a meeting, or just killing a little bit of time and say, “I can read a short article” and I will look for stories with a short word count. (I love the word count for this reason). I don’t like it for the articles with images (especially infographics) or the long form.
Then I wait and wait until I get the magazine. This is where I read the long form articles, review the pieces I have already read, and leave it around the house so when people come by they will think I am smarter than I really am.
I especially love the last sentence.
Two placeholder notes for later discussion, picking up on points I’ve mentioned before:
First, even though I find it much more convenient to read almost anything in a Kindle / nook / iPad version, I have begun consciously willing myself to spend more of my reading time (when possible) on the physical, paper versions of books, magazines, and newspapers.
The advantages of reading-on-paper vary among these media: the subconscious but surprisingly important flash-memory visual impression of where things are on a page with a book (and where the page is within the book), which does affect my recall of them; the attractive page layout of a nice magazine; the ability to scan things quickly and see their relative importance on a physical newspaper page. But beyond those differences is the common factor: my reluctant admission that reading from a physical page undeniably makes me retain and remember them better. I am sorry that this is so, because it’s less convenient. (And I still spend a ton of time reading electronic versions.) And maybe the difference is mainly the distraction factor: you can’t click a link on a page, which sounds like a minus but is a plus. One way or another, for me the difference in retention is real.
Second, let’s get back to that stellar last sentence. I’m wondering about the unintended long-term effects of electronic media reducing the amount of printed material that is just part of the visual landscape in homes and offices.
As early as I can remember, and long before I could actually read, I was conscious of my childhood homes being full of printed material, on practically every surface. Charts, maps, book covers, book cases, posters, stacks of kids’ books, stacks of adults’ books, magazine collections, things with words that were clues to interests my parents had had in the past or were reading / doing / planning on now. Or things they wanted their children to be aware of and comfortable with. The shift to e-reading leaves many fewer of these cues just lying around in constant passive view. There’s also a social effect. My wife Deb could always tell what book or magazine article I was reading, just by seeing it in my hands. Now she has no idea what is on the iPad, and I don’t know what she’s in the middle of reading.
We’ll see where this all leads. For now, thanks to the reader for describing his practices.
Or: how 50 cents’ worth of Post-it notes, and a brief bout of searching, saved me hundreds of dollars just now.
I am a fan of my Nexus 5 Android phone, made by LG and branded by Google. Its neon-orangey-red color makes it harder to lose than some dignified black phone. Also it conforms to my platform philosophy: Apple for laptop and tablet, Android for phone.
This Nexus 5 has always worked great, until yesterday when it just stopped working as a phone. If people called, I could hear them, but they couldn’t hear anything back from my end. Trying to use the voice-command function made it clear: the Nexus’s built-in microphone had completely conked out.
After 30 seconds of searching (in Evernote) to see how long ago I bought the phone, I find that it’s beyond its one-year warranty. In the next minute of searching online, I see that LG’s “repair” policy involves weeks of turnaround time and high enough costs that you might as well just get a new phone. Which in the world of unrepairable modern tech may of course be the intended point.
But then, thank you Internet! The next 60 seconds of searching, and less than five total minutes of work, allowed me to get the phone back to working order. The answer is all here:
Executive summary: you open the phone, you cram in a wad of little Post-it notes, then you close the phone back up. The pressure from the notes tightens up a connection that has come loose. The phone now has a small midriff bulge but works fine again.
Apparently this is a prevalent enough design/structural problem for the Nexus 5 that the this video is part of a large selection dealing with the loose-microphone-connector issue. But it’s the one I’m highlighting, because it required no tools, had total material costs of about 50 cents, and was so quick from start to end.
No larger point, beyond offering a small positive note about the often-maddening online world. Specific thanks to “JBug1979,” creator of this phone-saving YouTube video.
She beat George W. Bush on Social Security privatization, and she’ll beat Trump on the wall.
Democrats sometimes portray themselves as high-minded and naive—unwilling to play as rough as the GOP. Speaker Nancy Pelosi is, once again, proving that self-image wrong. She’s not only refusing Donald Trump’s demand for a border wall. She’s trying to cripple his presidency. And she may well succeed.
Pelosi’s strategy resembles the one she employed to debilitate another Republican president: George W. Bush. Bush returned to Washington after his 2004 reelection victory determined to partially privatize Social Security. “I earned capital in the campaign, political capital,” he told the press, “and I intend to spend it.” Bush’s plan contained two main elements. The first was convincing the public that there was a crisis. Social Security, he declared in his 2005 State of the Union address, “is headed toward bankruptcy.” The second was persuading Democrats to offer their own proposals for changing it.
Once again, Trump tried and failed to strike a deal on Saturday.
President Donald Trump is trapped. He shut the government to impose his will on the incoming Democratic majority in the House of Representatives. That plan has miserably failed. Instead, Trump has found himself caught in the trap he supposed he had set for his opponents.
Now he is desperately seeking an exit.
Trump attempted Exit One on January 8.He spoke that evening to the nation from the Oval Office, hoping to mobilize public opinion behind him, pressing the Democratic leadership of the House to yield to him. That hope was miserably disappointed. Surveys post-speech found that Trump had swayed only 2 percent of TV viewers. In the 10 days since the speech, Trump’s approval ratings have dipped to about the lowest point in his presidency. The supposedly solid Trump base has measurably softened.
Starting the process will rein in a president who is undermining American ideals—and bring the debate about his fitness for office into Congress, where it belongs.
On January 20, 2017,Donald Trump stood on the steps of the Capitol, raised his right hand, and solemnly swore to faithfully execute the office of president of the United States and, to the best of his ability, to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. He has not kept that promise.
Instead, he has mounted a concerted challenge to the separation of powers, to the rule of law, and to the civil liberties enshrined in our founding documents. He has purposefully inflamed America’s divisions. He has set himself against the American idea, the principle that all of us—of every race, gender, and creed—are created equal.
Insights into the little-studied realm of last words
Mort Felix liked to say that his name, when read as two Latin words, meant “happy death.” When he was sick with the flu, he used to jokingly remind his wife, Susan, that he wanted Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy” played at his deathbed. But when his life’s end arrived at the age of 77, he lay in his study in his Berkeley, California, home, his body besieged by cancer and his consciousness cradled in morphine, uninterested in music and refusing food as he dwindled away over three weeks in 2012. “Enough,” he told Susan. “Thank you, and I love you, and enough.” When she came downstairs the next morning, she found Felix dead.
During those three weeks, Felix had talked. He was a clinical psychologist who had also spent a lifetime writing poetry, and though his end-of-life speech often didn’t make sense, it seemed to draw from his attention to language. “There’s so much so in sorrow,” he said at one point. “Let me down from here,” he said at another. “I’ve lost my modality.” To the surprise of his family members, the lifelong atheist also began hallucinating angels and complaining about the crowded room—even though no one was there.
The senator from Massachusetts announced she was running for president on New Year’s Eve—and then had the field largely to herself.
CLAREMONT, N.H.—Elizabeth Warren wants the look on her face to be funny. It’s somewhere between stern and confused and disappointed, complete with fists briefly on her hips, like she’s playing a mom in a commercial who just found an adorable kid making a mess on the floor.
That’s how the senator from Massachusetts responds late Friday when I ask her what she thinks will happen if the rest of the Democratic primary field doesn’t follow her lead and put talking about the economy at the center of their campaigns.
“I don’t know how anyone could not talk about the economy—and corruption!—and diagnose what’s wrong in America today. I just don’t know how they could do it,” she said, then added with a little snark creeping in to her voice, “Good luck …”
[Please see Updates at the end of this post.] I don’t know who the young man in the MAGA hat in this photo is. And I don’t care to know.
His name, which the internet will inevitably turn up, really doesn’t matter. It matters to his parents, of course—and to his teachers. I hope they will be reflective, and I know they should be ashamed: of this smirking young man and the scores of other (nearly all white) students from a Catholic school in Kentucky. Today, on the National Mall in Washington, they apparently mocked, harassed, and menaced a Native American man who had fought for the United States in Vietnam and who today represented both the U.S. and his Omaha nation with poise, courage, and dignity.
Strategists considered sacrificing older pilots to patrol the skies in flying reactors. An Object Lesson.
The U.S. Navy recently asked Congress for $139 billion to update its fleet of nuclear-powered submarines. Unlike “conventional” submarines, which need to surface frequently, nuclear submarines can cruise below the sea at high speeds for decades without ever needing to refuel. Defense planners expect that the new submarines will run on one fueling for the entirety of deployment—up to a half century.
The advantages of nuclear submarines over their conventional cousins raise a question about another component of the military arsenal: Why don’t airplanes run on nuclear power?
The reasons are many. Making a nuclear reactor flightworthy is difficult. Shielding it from spewing dangerous radiation into the bodies of its crew might be impossible. During the Cold War, when the threat of nuclear apocalypse led to surprisingly pragmatic plans, engineers proposed to solve the problem by hiring elderly Air Force crews to pilot the hypothetical nuclear planes, because they would die before radiation exposure gave them fatal cancers.
A delightful “Weekend Update” appearance from John Mulaney and Pete Davidson gave a jolt of energy to an otherwise uninspired episode.
Pete Davidson has been largely absent from Saturday Night Live for the past couple of months. The 25-year-old comedian has had a tabloid spotlight trained on him since June 2018, when his engagement to the pop star Ariana Grande became the story of the summer. Davidson, whose comedic approach is raw and personal, would often stop by SNL’s “Weekend Update” segment to joke about the volatility of his relationship, which eventually collapsed. In November, he apologized to then-incoming Republican Representative Dan Crenshaw for mocking the veteran’s combat injury on the air. Less than a month later, Davidson posted on Instagram about feeling suicidal, alarming people enough that a police officer was sent to the SNL studios to check on him.
Dr. Sherman Hershfield woke up one morning and was surprised to find himself behind the wheel of his car. Somewhere between his Beverly Hills apartment and his practice in the San Fernando Valley, the silver-haired physician had blacked out. Somehow he’d avoided a crash, but this wasn’t the first time. “I didn’t know what was going on,” he admitted.
Apart from his frequent blackouts, Hershfield was in fine health for a man in his 50s. He was tall and lean, ran six miles a day, and was a strict vegetarian. “I believe a physician should provide exemplary motivation to patients,” he once wrote. “I don’t smoke and have cut out all alcohol.” Hershfield specialized in physical medicine and rehabilitation, and for decades had helped patients with brain injuries learn to walk again and rebuild their lives. Even with his experience, Hershfield didn’t know what was wrong inside his own head.
The highest net worth on Capitol Hill is nearly $360 million—and that's before you even get to the Rockefeller heir.
Congress is rich. How rich? On Monday, Roll Call released its annual analysis of financial-disclosure forms, identifying the 50 richest members of Congress, and this isn’t an easy club to get into—it takes a minimum net worth of $7.4 million to crack this year’s list. So who has the most Benjamins? Darrell, Nancy, or Mitch? Here's what the list tells us about our legislators.
Members of Congress are way wealthier than average Americans.
For the second year in a row, Representative Darrell Issa tops the lot with a net worth of $357.25 million, largely the result of his spectacular success at manufacturing car alarms. Issa’s wealth is triple that of second-placed Michael McCaul ($117.54 million). House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi placed third ($74.11 million), while Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, with net assets totaling $11.97 million, slots in at number 32.