Category: Technology

How Have These Ten Extensions Changed Us?

Toward the end of his life, Marshall McLuhan provided a list of the ten things that have changed us the most.

Perhaps the biggest difference between childhood and adulthood is time. The adult frantically looks for more time. The child looks for ways to fill time.

I filled a lot of my childhood time with reading all sorts of stuff: Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, baseball statistics, Mad Magazine.

And reference books. I loved reference books: atlases of the world,the statistical abstract of the United States, and encyclopedia entries.

After my mom died last year, I had to clean out my childhood home. In the process, I stumbled upon one of my favorite quirky reference books: The Book of Lists.

This 1970s sensation sold nearly ten million copies. It was, well, a book of lists. That’s it.

A lot of the lists were factual, but some of the lists were mere opinions by celebrities or experts in a particular field.

While reminiscing with it, I came across this opinion list by an expert in his field: Marshall McLuhan’s Ten Most Potent Extensions of Man.

The Catholic convert and weekday communicant Marshall McLuhan was a household name in the 1960s. He was interviewed by numerous outlets, including The Today Show and Playboy. He even made a cameo appearance as himself in a Woody Allen film.

His central theory is that human modes of thinking are altered by media. Media are “extensions” of ourselves, things that add themselves to what we already are. When we start to use a particular extension, it changes us in some way. It changes a person individually; it changes culture as a whole.

Some extensions have minor effects. Some have major effects.

And there are ten, according to that McLuhan list, that have … Read the rest


shorwave radioRide the Wave

I came into an easy $80 a few weeks ago, so I splurged on something that has long intrigued me: a shortwave radio. I bought a Grundig G4000A. The model was recommended by a “survivalist” blogger as a solid less-expensive radio, and the Amazon reviews were good. Shortwave radios are a rage with the Armageddon types, and that appealed to me, and Peter Schiff got his start on shortwave. I’m also intrigued by the possibility of enhanced AM reception and listening to off-beat radio broadcasts from around the world. There’s something about tuning in broadcasts from one’s backyard instead of listening through your computer speakers. It’s a tactile experience, as Polanyi or McLuhan might express it, or as Taleb captures it in this aphorism: “They read Gibbon’s Decline and Fall on an eReader but refuse to drink Chateau Lynch-Bages in a Styrofoam cup.” But the real reason I bought the radio: I’ve wanted one since I was a kid. A year ago, I mentioned that I really enjoyed late night radio as a kid. The lure of such radio broadcasts has lessened now that my available time has evaporated, but the enjoyment is still there. I’m hoping this shortwave radio will introduce me to a new entertainment world of off-beat stuff that would otherwise escape my notice. If you have any shortwave recommendations, please pass them along. I know virtually nothing about the medium. * * * * * * * Podcasts Still Going Strong. I’m not sure when I’ll have time to listen to shortwave broadcasts. My podcast universe is filling up with more and more quality shows, and my customary shows continue to plug along. This week, Econtalk is running a delightful interview with George Will. I’m only about 25 minutes … Read the rest


Email picReceived in an Email

My computer guy saw yesterday’s post and emailed further suggestions to me. I pass them along as a public service:

“Don’t click OK or CANCEL on pop-ups that are telling you that you are infected or that your hard drive has a problem or is full. These guys are social engineering you to basically give them permission to install their software which is actually malware. If it is not something you installed, don’t believe it. Kill it with TASK MANAGER and END TASK. Even though the wording may act like hitting OK will get you out or CANCEL will stop whatever is happening, they are the ones to put the code behind what that button does. It’s not a Windows (MS) function, it’s their code and they are trying to get permission to install whatever they want.

“Surf smart, watch your URLs (addresses). Like how you noticed that scottrade was going where it was supposed to…AND that even though it was a scottrade layout, it was a different URL.

“Might mentions COUPON sites are dangerous.

“Double up on Anti-virus/anti-spyware…Make sure Windows Updates are on. Update apps like Adobe,Flash, Quicktime, Java…These updates add functionality but also close holes.

“Update to Firefox/Chrome/IE 8…I have no direct proof but IE8 is supposedly more secure…Firefox used to be but I think as it has gotten more popular it has been exploited more.

“Update to Windows 7 – If you believe the hype…Older operating
systems like XP are more vulnerable because they have been around longer and the holes are more well known…In reality this is ridiculous that you have to update to the newest just to avoid holes but what options do you have?

“Switch to the Mac/iPad (no I’m not an Apple fanboy) but they are not as targeted … Read the rest


Crush-computerCyber Hell

Man, whatta rotten week of technology. My computer at the office got hacked. The following is a memorandum (redacted as appropriate) that I circulated to all attorneys and staff. You might want to read it carefully:

My work computer has been compromised. The virus is particularly insidious. The slimy $&*@&*! that compromised my computer was, literally, two seconds from obtaining my online investment account information and password. It was a very clever program, and we’re having troubles cleaning my computer. After two tries, it’s still compromised. I expressed extreme dissatisfaction to our computer consultant (a highly capable individual) and my concern that the Internet is not safe. He basically said, “Yup, it’s not safe, but you can undertake precautions to make it safer.” Here are his suggestions:

1. Don’t surf with Yahoo. Only use Google.
2. Only frequent sites that have no advertising.
3. Because you never know which sites have advertising and which don’t, you should limit your surfing to a handful of trusted sites. In other words, you shouldn’t undertake random surfing.
4. If you must undertake a search that could result in you accessing sites that are an “unknown commodity,” search with Google and only access sites passed along by Google. Its software is supposedly the best at filtering out harmful cyber substances. Once you access a site that a Google search reveals, don’t access other sites from that site (i.e., don’t surf). Go back into Google and try to access that site through a Google search.
5. If you know the site you want, don’t use a search engine at all. Just type the URL in the address bar (e.g., You don’t need to use “www.”
6. Avoid the “traffic whore” sites. These are sites that pretty much do anything to attract traffic,

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iPadiPad Review

I bought one ten days ago. It’s really cool, but I’m not convinced it’s worth the price. It doesn’t do one key thing that I was told it would do (see below), but it does a lot of neat stuff. Although I only got the 16 GB model (the cheapest), I also got the bluetooth keyboard, anti-glare screen, carrying case, and dock station. It’s basically a whole new laptop. Thing is, the total cost, out the door, was $775. For that, you can get a very good laptop. I want it primarily for reading, though, and it’s far better in that area (screen readability and other features), but I’m not sure it’s worth the extra cabbage. If the total cost were, say, $550, I’d definitely endorse it over a laptop (for my uses).

My biggest objection to the iPad: I wanted to be able to download and read ebooks on it, so I could cut-and-paste stuff from the books to place on my blog, forward to clients and friends via email, whatever. However, I’ve now found out (undisclosed by Apple on its site, and I searched hard before buying) that you can’t cut-and-paste from books whose copyrights haven’t expired (a/k/a the vast bulk of books people read). That’s a major drawback for my blogging.

Also: Based on a few quick price comparisons, it would appear that the ebooks for the iPad are a little more expensive than the Kindle versions. If a hardback goes for, say, $23.99, the Kindle might go for $10.99 and the iPad ebook for $12.99. That being said, the prices are ALL OVER the board. I found one ebook that was actually more expensive than the new hardbound version.

One thing I really like about the iPad: I have erected it in a corner … Read the rest


books.jpgRandom Tuesday

“President Barack Obama took aim at Republican lawmakers Monday, accusing them of holding the public hostage to Washington politics by blocking extended unemployment benefits for millions of out of work Americans.” I haven’t given it a lot of thought, but I think I agree with Comrade Obama on this one. I like the symbolic message of the measure (“no more handouts”), but this really cuts directly into people and the federal budget is huge and bloated. I would’ve started austerity measures someplace else. Where else? I don’t know. Give me twenty seconds of surfing time. I’m sure I can find hundreds of bloated federal department budgets and projects. (Later addendum: Link from TDE reader that corrects this post a bit.) * * * * * * * Okay, this intrigues me: Amazon said it reached a milestone, selling more e-books than hardbacks over the past three months. Anybody here use a Kindle? I’d love hear what you think of it. I’ve always wanted one, but figured I wouldn’t use it much. Plus, I make a lot of margin notations when I write, so I’m not sure that would work. * * * * * * * Speaking of Amazon: Please access Amazon through this site. The referral fees are greatly appreciated. * * * * * * I’m on board with this: Has endlessly skimming short texts on the internet made us stupider? An increasing number of experts think so – and say it’s time to slow down. Thing is, I think the Internet medium is built for speed. There’s something about it that pushes. The contrary is true with a book. On the computer, I’m surfing, bopping, jumping. With the book, I’m reading, stopping, wondering. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m inclined to … Read the rest

Free iPod Poor Man App

NotesI’ve been vacationing in Alpena, Michigan. I return today. Regular posting will hopefully resume tomorrow morning.

Ever since getting my iPhone, I’ve been looking for Catholic devotional applications. I haven’t had much luck, so I created my own.

If you own an iPhone, it’s simple to do: You cut-and-paste prayers and meditations into an email message to your iPhone email address. You then cut-and-paste the body of the email into the “Notes” application (one of the handful of applications that, I believe, automatically comes with every new iPhone). Hit “Done. Now the material is always at your fingertips. I keep Eucharistic prayers and various religious quotes there. It has worked out well.

If you want an assortment of prayers and meditations, let me know. I’ll send them to you. Email link on the left. Many of the meditations are simply taken from previous “Something for Sunday Morning” posts. … Read the rest


“Facebook has more followers than Buddha.” Evan Hessel, Forbes, 9/7/09, p 80.

Great line. It’s accurate (fb has 250m members, Buddhism something fewer). It’s clever, it’s tightly-written, and it either required the writer to research the number of Buddhists or know the rough figure off the top of his head.

— Experimental mobile post
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