Thursday, November 24, 2016

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you are reading this, then you probably have a computer or smartphone, electricity, shelter, food, and all kinds of things that make living in the 21st century a lot nicer than most of the other centuries.*

There'd be a lot more to be thankful for, though, if you had your computer or smartphone just twenty years ago when the whole world would have completely dumbfounded by it. In fact, the government probably would have had your computer or smartphone confiscated in the name of national security so I guess you'd be less thankful for that.

In 1996, people still had dialup internet and a power user 0.2GHz Windows machine set you back $5,000 (almost $8,000 in 2016 dollars).

At the time, this got my heart racing

Flipping through the August 1996 issue of Boot magazine shows how far we've come but also a bit of what we've lost. It might have been part of an unsustainable tech bubble brought down by the prosaic realities of the Business Cycle, but at least we got these fevered dreams of the future. Cyberpunk, virtual reality, Skynet. There's little to be thankful about our current asset bubble. I suppose we've traded away some future prosperity to prop up the deteriorating grandeur of McMansion America. 

Even then, I think about my great uncle who was a top flight lawyer back in the Philippines. He had a car and a refrigerator back in the 1930s. That was high living even by American standards so you can imagine how impressive it was in the Philippines.** No one brags about owning a refrigerator today.

Even the first generation iPhone obliterates 1996's Dream Machine once you add in speakers, monitor, and input devices. This is why buying high quality peripherals makes more sense than buying faster hardware. Now if only someone would make a good mouse.***

Apart from IT advances, life in 1996 was largely the same and I'd still be thankful for many of the same reasons so it gets old. You're never really thankful until you no longer have those things. And in an age of increasing abundance, the potential of losing it all becomes rarer. 

Less than a century ago, around 30% of Americans were farmers. Being thankful for a good harvest was near universal and that sense of privation and bounty were a natural incentive to the formation of good people. Voluntary privation, whether it's fasting or cutting back or even going camping are ways to bring that sort of character building back. There's some sense of that in Survivor or disaster themed shows which, at least personally, is part of their appeal; though, I would never wish disaster on civilization just to make people feel thankful later on – let alone for the economically dubious reason of increasing demand to help the economy. 😆😆😆****

I really, really, really, like the face with tears of joy emoji but Microsoft's version is poorly done (😂??) so here's a superior version I found online.

* Or maybe you don't have any of those things and are a homeless guy reading this at a library but if I were homeless I would be loading up on turkey at the local shelter since Thanksgiving is one of the few days when society shifts focus somewhat toward the less fortunate.

** He bought into the fast life and lost it all.

*** Low input lag, firmware configured settings, durable finish, easy to clean, custom ergonomics, no sensor issues like angle snapping or acceleration, repairability, quiet clicks. As a lefty, my choices are sharply curtailed and I'm using the Logitech G900 after having gone through two faulty Logitech mice and the infuriating Razer software. The G900 hits most marks but: isn't easy to clean, its finish is starting to wear, probably difficult to repair, and sounds like a nail clipper with every click.

**** Yeah, couldn't help taking a swipe at Krugman and his Keynesian buddies but I can't help feeling perversely thankful for the Establishment getting taken down several notches this election year. They haven't given up (and why would they? The odds favor the house at the end) but if the corporate tax rate is reduced to 15%, that will provide favorable conditions for entrepreneurship – the key reason we have all these things to be thankful for in the first place.

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