Category Archives: technology

Facebook: Looking back, and now

I joined Facebook sometime in the summer following high school graduation to keep in touch with friends and to transition to college by friending random NYU upperclassmen to ask them about the school, both in anticipation over attending it in a few months and in worry over whether i made the right choice.  I also randomly friended other NYU freshmen if i liked their Interests.  Shameful, i know, judging people by their Facebook profiles, but i didn’t know better back then.  Both these types of friend requests, especially the latter, would be considered inappropriate by today’s Facebook etiquette, and some of these friends are still on my list, showing up in my News Feed from time to time.  Not including those upperclassmen who were very nice to me, providing helpful advice and still checking in on me from time to time, and those “interesting profile” people who, to this day, write witty status updates and share interesting links (which i’m always looking for), these people don’t matter to me and i wish i hadn’t been so thoughtless to friend them in the first place.  I know there’s the option of hiding specific people’s activity, preventing them from showing up in your News Feed, but even the thought of doing that makes me feel guilty (even though i know they’ll never know), because i was the one who friended them.

Today, i use Facebook for three things:  keeping up with my friends’ lives, communicating with Facebook-appointment-making-exclusive friends (to be explained later), and for keeping up with the online and offline world.

Since my social life is nearly non-existent, i rely on Facebook to find out what my friends are up to and remind myself that there is indeed life happening above the rock i sometimes live under.  As for the above-mentioned FAME friends, i have a select group of friends, mostly those i’ve made in college, with whom i make appointments to see each other almost exclusively on Facebook (as opposed to by e-mail or phone).  And these are mostly college friends because, as opposed to high school when i didn’t have Facebook and didn’t need it to make friends, almost all of my college friendships either took place entirely over Facebook or were largely undergirded by it, with the help of friendly messaging and wall posting and link sharing.  In other words, without Facebook, it would probably have been much harder for me to make friends in college, especially since i went to a school with over 20,000 undergrads.  I don’t know if that says more about me or Facebook or NYU.

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On creativity

Creativity_504x428

I do not believe that you’re either born creative or not–creativity is just as much a state as it is a trait–nor do i believe it is impossible to enhance creativity.  But a recent article in Scientific American discusses a research on “an easy way to increase creativity,” a research so preposterous that i couldn’t help but assume that its researchers are exactly the type to say something like the above.

The main argument put forth by the researchers is that psychological distance enhances creativity, and one can effect psychological distance by displacing an event into the future or a far-off place or imagining an event to be unlikely. This makes sense (as one commenter put it, “Ask an artist – these are no new ideas to us.   We do this naturally”), but the research seems over-simplified and i am highly skeptical of some its conclusions. For instance, the article ends with the suggestion that modern technology gives us ready access to faraway “people, sights, music, and food,” which might mean that we are getting more creative. I would think the exact opposite:  the web, whose communication transcends space and time, makes these faraway and exotic things seem near and familiar. Is anything even “faraway” anymore?

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A tribute to my toaster oven

I use my toaster oven so much that i feel like it deserves a tribute.  My aunt gave her old Toastmaster to my mom in 1997, and we’ve been using it since.  Actually, my mom uses a toaster because the toaster oven is “too complicated for her” and she still hasn’t figured out how to use it.  I hate toasters because they don’t let you control or even see the cooking process.  I use my Toastmaster for everything, and even though it’s probably 2 decades old, it’s still working beautifully and i would never replace it.  Here are some of the tasks i use it for:

– toasting bread
– reheating pizza
blind-baking 
– melting cheese
– reheating cookies
– keeping food warm

and many more.  I can even multitask with it:  sometimes i put a ramekin of cold condiment or sauce on top of the Toastmaster while baking something in it to heat both at the same time.  The possibilities with a toaster oven are endless.  Even Eric Ripert advocates its use, although i don’t need a fancy $185 Cuisinart “Brick Oven Toaster Oven.”  

If you don’t have one yet, get one now.  It is one of the best investments you can make; trust me.

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questions on the loo, issue #3: Visual culture

the-eye

(image via my professor’s powerpoint)

I was reading about the advent of electricity, when i came across an interesting idea:  that lighting is a “powerful symbolic medium”.  It never ceases to amaze me how powerful lighting is in the media and art.  Lighting is the lifeline of everything from store signs to the interior and exterior of any kind of venue.  The backbone of photography is the use of light, both natural and artificial.  Light pervades the media, art, technology.  Light allows us to see.  But why is sight so valued?  Why aren’t we equally preoccupied with sound or smell or anything else we can sense?  For some reason, we focus so much on visuals and not enough on everything else.  You say “art,” and the first thing that comes to most people’s minds is some kind of visual art, most likely a painting, but that’s certainly not the only type of art there is.  Although a lot of recent technology and art has been pushing the limits of our senses, especially sight, we’re still very much a visual culture.  The question is, why?  Here are some of my thoughts:

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Toys that try to be smart but end up failing miserably

courtesy of slashgear.com

the article

This toy that was designed to teach children environmentalism bothers me in so many ways.  It’s not a product yet, just a prototype (as of 09/12/07), but here are all the things that i think would be wrong with it, should it become a product:

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questions on the loo, issue #2: Push-button culture and thinking

In “Media in Ancient Empires,” Harold Innis says that the transition from tablet to papyrus writing, due to the mechanical differences between writing in stone and writing on paper, led to a “lightness” of thought⎯an increase in eloquence, observation, and reflection.  For the first time, writing was not only used to keep factual records, but also to philosophize.  Then what i’d like to know is, how is the current transition from handwriting to typing changing thought?  How do the mechanical differences between the two forms of writing translate into cognitive differences?  And how are those cognitive differences changing the way we communicate?

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There are four types of eyeglass frames: metal, plastic, plastic-metal, and ______.

I went to get lenses for my eyeglass frames today.  I thought it would be relatively simple; just give them the frames, the prescription, and walk out of there expecting newly fitted frames next week.  But the optician took one look at my frames (that i bought elsewhere, because i’m picky like that) and told me there might be a problem.  He said that when he sends the eyeglass lab the lens measurements for my frames, he might, in return, receive lenses that are too small to fit the frames.  The reason for this possibility, he said, is that my frames are entirely plastic, meaning there is no wire inside the plastic.  Now, as you may agree, that is completely nonsensical, because what does lens cutting and fitting have to do with what is or is not inside the plastic of plastic frames?  I should have retorted, but this lack of logic did not occur to me then, because i was too fascinated by something that he showed me.  He took me inside his office and showed me the machine that measures and creates the blueprint for eyeglass lenses.  He perched my frames atop a metal nose and chose “plastic” out of the four options on the screen: metal, plastic, plastic-metal, and ___________  (i can’t remember what the fourth option was).  A small, metallic cone positioned parallel to the plane of the eyes of my frames proceeded to rotate, tracing, with its tip, the groove inside the frame where the lens snaps in.  Its slow and graceful movement was hypnotizing.

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