Category: science & technology

All thanks go to Coke Talk (now known as The Coquette) for introducing me to this song. If you follow that link, she’ll explain the song and idea behind it better than almost anyone else – save for Arcade Fire themselves – could do, but I’ll give it a shot too.

I did my research on supersymmetry while listening to the song, so I had to go back and listen again to fully understand it. Once I got there, though, I was awestruck by how perfectly some random indie rock band put words to one of the deepest, purest raw emotions I know of.

Supersymmetry is all about yearning for someone who’s gone beyond where you can reach them. As if it needs any more poetry, the song also seamlessly merges science and art by borrowing a few things from elementary particle physics. In the scientific sense, supersymmetry is the proposed bridge between two fundamentally different types of particles – fermions, which make up the material universe, and bosons, which are the intangible particles responsible for forces like gravity, light, etc. That’s not at all a scientific explanation, just as I understand it so far.

The Standard Model in particle physics says that these are the only two kinds of “things” in the universe, and in fact, all of Quantum Field Theory is built upon the idea that fermions interact by exchanging bosons. The theory of supersymmetry was proposed as an extension to the Standard Model and takes it one step further by linking them, partnering them up. I don’t really understand how that works, but the gist of it is that each physical fermion has an intangible boson superpartner, and each boson corresponds to one fermion. In the scientific world, that theory was recently disproved.

The beauty of supersymmetry as a general concept rather than a scientific theory is that it connects something that can be touched and seen with something else that exists only in theory. It’s like a photograph preserving the memory of a happy couple long after the breakup. Or, more profoundly, the broken connection one feels when someone they love leaves the physical world.

This song goes along with the second interpretation:

I know you’re living in my mind 

It’s not the same as being alive

That person is still living in your mind as long as the memories, hopes, dreams, and wishes you had with them are still in your head. But it’s not the same as listening to that person speak, seeing them move, touch things, and live their life as a part of your world the way they once did. You know that person is lost to you forever, and yet your connection to them is almost stronger for having been broken. But now you’re linked only theoretically, because that person exists only theoretically, no matter how much you want them to be real. You can never truly be linked again because you’re not the same “thing” of the universe that they are now.

Heard a voice, like an echo

But it came from you

That voice can’t really have been heard because it came from “you”, who can’t make an echo anymore.

This is the stuff that spawns entire belief systems, and this song captures it all in one word. It’s heartbreaking, but beyond beautiful.

“Like” if you’d find yourself doing the same thing if you were ever accused of murder. And please don’t ever be accused of murder.

Uh oh…looks like someone needs to go back to their community college science class. Don’t do this, folks.

As you may have heard, Apple now officially owns everything from the slightly rounded corners of your smartphone, to the pinch-to-shrink and tap-to-zoom functions, to the rounded corners of the app icons on your screen.

Oh look, another way to get money for doing absolutely nothing, while undercutting the competition by making them pay costs that will almost certainly get passed on to consumers. Google and Samsung have it right. This is about as much a legitimate victory for Apple as taking a poop in the toilet is for a 9-year-old. Regardless of which phone they prefer, the consumers are the real losers here, and I’m fucking irritated by Apple resorting to this rather than creating something new and exciting for their phones that customers would be only too happy to pay for.

Which they haven’t done in about 3 years, by the way. Don’t believe me? Take a look at all the generations of the iPhone in succession. Then compare it with the various Android phones that have been released over the same period of time. The differences are enormous in the latter and barely noticeable in the former unless you’ve bought into Apple’s overly aggressive marketing of even the slightest improvements.

Okay, okay…I haven’t bought an Apple product since high school (and even then, I bought it from a friend who was selling it at a discount, so I don’t actually remember the last time I bought something from Apple itself) so I’m hugely biased. I was never a huge fan, but I’ve always stopped short of actually writing them off as an option until now. So I’m just going to say it: you go ahead and do your level best to drive up prices and box in your competitors Thomas Edison-style, Apple. I’m still not buying your iWhatever.

Once upon a time, people said mobile payment was going to be the next big thing. Well, the time has come when it is THE big thing, and the battle is between Google and Ebay (PayPal).

Google is becoming like the glitter of all technology. It gets everywhere. It got into social networking with Orkut and then Google+, the mobile market with Android (whom they purchased in 2005), and I can’t even name everything else. All I know is, you could probably put together my life story since I turned 15 by looking at everything I’ve done that somehow goes through Google.

That’s why I’m not keen on giving them my financial information as well.

For a while, I didn’t want that particular information floating around on the internet at all. My parents even started using PayPal before I did. I finally ended up giving in just last year, because it’s been around for long enough without any major damage for me to finally start trusting it. In contrast, Google Wallet is, like, one year old.

I know, I know…Google itself has been around long enough that I can’t imagine my life without it, and their Wallet’s rate of expansion is a pretty convincing argument to get on that boat. And don’t get me wrong, I love Google. Google Maps > everything else ever. But dang, talk about too many eggs in one basket. The last time this much of my life was in one online place was when I started using Facebook, and look how well it turned out (don’t worry Zuck, you’ll have another post all to yourself later).

Another pro for PayPal is that it does what it says it will do and leaves it there. It’s clean, simple, and gets the job done in the most efficient way possible. No frills, none of the fancy-pants add-ons Google keeps insisting upon. Seriously, every time I log in to Google it seems like there’s some kind of update for something or other. Google Docs will soon be upgraded to Google Drive. Google Calendar now has some ostentatious new way to dress up your events and invitations. Their innovation is inspiring, I depend on it and I wouldn’t trade it for the world, but as far as my money’s concerned, I’d rather know exactly what I’m gonna get. Of course PayPal will have to become “new and improved” just as often in order to stay competitive and keep things exciting for the hackers, but I’m less scared of them making promises they can’t keep than Google.

The worst part, though, is you can’t use Google Wallet unless you have an NFC-enabled phone (whatever that means), which only Sprint seems to work with at the moment. I’m sure that’s going to change real fast – I’d imagine much of Silicon Valley is eager to jump on this opportunity, which basically guarantees that the technology will become available soon – but still, it just reinforces my earlier point of PayPal being more user-friendly. You don’t have to have a certain service provider or cell phone model to use PayPal. If you have any kind of phone that can download and use apps, chances are you’re good to go. That goes a long way in my book.

But all said and done, I still want Google Wallet to have a significant presence. I don’t want PayPal to become complacent, because I feel like they could get too big for their britches just as fast as Google. PayPal announced in May that it is now working with 15 new national retailers and they’re just warming up, but, well…it’s Google. I really want to see what they’ll do.

This is not just the downside of social media marketing. It’s ignorance to the max.

For those who haven’t heard already, some shitty online clothing retailer took advantage of the fact that Aurora was trending on Twitter because of the horrific shooting that occurred at a movie theater there, and used it to market their “Kim K inspired Aurora dress” in the most self-absorbed, atrociously insensitive tweet I’ve ever seen.

The tweet was up for over an hour before they realized their mistake and took it down. It may not seem like a long time, but in this day and age, it may as well have been a week. It spread like wildfire and the outrage it caused in the Twitterverse is still going strong. They issued an “apology” stating that their PR team is not US-based and they didn’t bother to check out why the topic was trending before they thoughtlessly assumed it’s about them, but that sounds more like a flimsy excuse than an actual apology to me. I’m not India-based but I still followed the 2008 terrorist attacks there obsessively for the 3 entire days that they went on. I don’t even have cable TV right now and I still know the latest public word on the investigation. Are you telling me that not one single member of the entire PR team had the common sense – or the desire to do their job well – to click on the Aurora hashtag and see what it was about? Did no one notice that “James Holmes”, “Colorado”, and “theater shooting” are also trending topics?

Yeah, no. I’m not buying it. And if that really was the case, then somebody needed to get fired hours ago. I’ve been in the social media marketing and public relations biz. I know how how much caution has to be taken and diligence has to be done before even the most seemingly inconsequential of posts becomes public. Clearly, Celeb Boutique’s foreign PR team didn’t observe even a fraction of that, not to mention that they also associated another celebrity with the company’s tweet.

I feel embarrassed and ashamed for the company. They can tweet an apology worthy of an Oscar if they want, but that’s no way to fix this. It is crucial for them to somehow make a human connection that will remind them that the things we see on Twitter and the Internet actually mean something. That means going beyond donating money by doing something that will directly help ease the suffering of those people.

I wish I could do that myself. Of course I send my sincerest condolences and prayers out to those who have been victims of this tragedy, but sitting around and thinking good thoughts has never been my way of showing I care. I’ve always thought that if people truly want to make a difference, they’ll go out there and do something. I guess I’ll just start by writing about it and showing my support. I urge all of you to do the same. Keep checking back here for more information as things develop.

If you were in middle school anytime between 2000 and 2007, then I bet you do. It’s been ages since I even thought about Xanga! And then somehow it just popped into my head the other day while I was in the shower. It’s true, all the best things do happen in there. Daniel Radcliffe was taking a bath when his family got the news that he’d been cast as Harry Potter. Did you know that?

Anyway, on to Xanga. After I had this wonderful revelation, I went back to look through my old site. I couldn’t find it. I think I deleted it a few years ago. That’s probably a good thing, because I don’t remember quite what I said/did on there, and knowing what I was like way back then, I’d rather nobody else did either. Though I don’t think I used it for anything other than reading the blog of whichever scrawny, awkward middle-school-aged dude I had a crush on at that point.

Oh, is this my cue to reminisce fondly and bring out the old “Ah, to be twelve years old again” line? Sorry. I’m going to miss it. I effing hated middle school.

I’m going back over to Xanga now to read stuff that my esteemed fellow classmates wrote 8 years ago and make fun of them in my head. Go ahead and break out the old yearbooks if I’ve put you in the mood, but only for a minute. Then come back to the present and start getting ready for Monday, because you’re fabulous and important now. Toodles, and good luck with whatever you’re up to this week!

Wow, talk about creepy.

So let me start by saying that I’m not over here discussing the ethical use of information or what greater ramifications there would be if this kind of thing is made illegal. Those are meaningful considerations, but not the heart of the issue.

The real question is why someone out there would create this painfully pathetic, exploitative excuse to meet women in the first place – and, even more importantly, why enough people tried to use it that it became such a big deal.

Come on, people. Really? Are we that socially inept outside of teh interwebz? Have we become so incredibly dependent on some sort of computer-mediated channel of communication that the prospect of talking to someone face-to-face is this scary?

To the extent that I understand how this app worked, it was also possible for girls to find men around them because the app combines data from Foursquare and Facebook. People check in to places on both these things all the time (or get checked in by others) and the majority of us aren’t even aware of how much of our info we make available by doing so. It’s no surprise, really; account and privacy issues are much more complicated than most social networking sites would have us believe, and the settings we see are basically meaningless to anyone who’s not paying real attention. As a result, there was a whole mess of untapped information floating around before Girls Around Me was even thought of (oh, how I love cloud computing) and all these app developers and users did was make use of it.

I can see where someone using this app might come from. Meeting people is hard, and it’s easier to decide where to go if you can see where the girls or guys you’re interested in hang out. Being able to view their Facebook profiles means that you know what each one really looks like and can browse their interests, likes, and everything else they may have put on their page without a second thought. And let’s face it, this helps take some of the pressure off starting a conversation, because you already know that she reads The Economist or he went to ABC University. The cherry on top? You don’t have to feel the slightest bit weird about it because you didn’t do anything except actually look at what he/she has already put on the internet for the world to see.

Yep, this app is pretty awesome…for stalkers, pedophiles, date rapists, and serial killers in particular. Seriously, who does that? Unless you actually are one of the above, there’s no reason to resort to this kind of fuckery. Besides, even things do work out with someone you found from this app, I can promise you that it won’t end well (and oh yes, it will end), because it was doomed from the beginning. That’s because once you know so much information about a person before they’ve even said hello to you, it becomes very, very tempting to turn yourself into someone he/she will like. We already give in to this impulse all the time, even in naturally-formed relationships with a certain degree of mutual disclosure. Even if all you’re trying to do is fake your way through a one-night stand, you’ll end up telling one lie after another until you lose track, slip up, and get rejected by someone who probably wasn’t worth the extensive research in the first place.

And now we’ve arrived at my take on why this app (and others like it that will unavoidably pop up in the future) are here, and why they work. It plays on the basic but deep fear of rejection and lack of self-confidence that so many of us carry around in the back of our minds. Well, tough luck. There are no shortcuts in that neck of the woods, and at best, shit like this only helps avoid addressing all that insecurity. At worst, it’ll cause someone you may care about to think far less of you than you deserve if they find out you fabricated the all-important first meeting with help from the wonderful folks at Girls Around Me. All the success these apps can reasonably be expected to bring is still not going to get you a single centimeter closer to actually fixing any of your issues.

You know what might, though? Walking into a coffee shop and commenting on the weather to someone next to you in line. Some people will refuse to carry on a conversation, and there are thousands of reasons why that could be, but who cares? All you missed out on is some fully pointless jabber about the weather. If you need more of a push, then go get a job in sales. Any employer who’s paying you a base salary will have a vested interest in getting all that fear, awkwardness and hesitation knocked out of your head during training itself. From there, the only difference is what you’re selling.

Of course, I’m willing to bet that there are lots of people out there who really would use this app just to find the most attractive and vulnerable girl/guy in the area and try to pick them up using some cheesy line from How I Met Your Mother. The world has a way of taking care of that type of jerk, so all I’ll say is keep doing what you’re doing, and for god’s sake don’t be dim enough to forget his/her name after you’ve taken the trouble to stalk every last one of their pages.

As for the rest of us, it’s just a matter of being around real people and finding something to talk about. I chose the weather example because chances are you have that in common. Take a class. Compliment someone. Carry a musical instrument. My best bet? If you have the time and are willing to make the commitment, get a dog and take it with you everywhere. It really is that simple, but naturally, app developers like those at Girls Around Me who stand to make a profit from your utter desperation wouldn’t want you to think so. Recognize that, and be smarter than to fall for it.