Posted by: Harold Knight | 03/23/2010

The Sons of Noah, Mud, Computers (Geeks), Health Care Reform, and TLE.

This morning I was determined not to write. Anything, either in my private journal or to post here. I have student papers to grade, and they MUST be finished.

No such luck, of course. Yesterday I was going to write (and started to, but it trailed off into something incomprehensible) about the nonsense that several states have already decided they will sue the Congress to stop the health care reform from happening because it’s unconstitutional. The most they can probably hope for is an injunction from Justice Scalia preventing implementation of the reform while it works its way through the courts up to Scalia who will do his damnedest to scuttle it. See a summary of an article that might provide some hope that their mean-spirited Tea-Bagger mentality won’t be successful (1).

Sunday I had a moment of pure delight when I realized that my writing about J.S. Bach was the 100th posting I’ve done here. I don’t know why. Just seemed appropriate.

Before I could get started doing something useful rather than writing, along came computer woes. I won’t repeat the boring details here, but I’ve had it with computers. They are evil monsters that are bringing about some evolutionary process in homo sapiens that ought to be stopped before the species becomes itself monstrous. Which is not to say that we are not already monsters.

Computers parade as scientific and logical creations to hide the fact that they have minds of their own and have, most likely, evil intentions. Even if their minds are not of their own making, they are mostly invented by geeks. And what is a geek? (one of my favorite geekdoms) says a geek is:

1 . a computer expert or enthusiast (a term of pride as self-reference, but often considered offensive when used by outsiders.)
2 . a peculiar or otherwise dislikable person, esp. one who is perceived to be overly intellectual.
3 . a carnival performer who performs sensationally morbid or disgusting acts, as biting off the head of a live chicken.

Lets see, a geek is a computer expert who is peculiar or otherwise dislikeable person who bites of the heads of live chickens. Yes!

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m not anti-geekic. Some of my best friends are geeks. But we trust our personal lives (texting, Facebook, email) to people who bite of the heads of live chickens. We trust our professional lives (research, writing, teaching, record-keeping) to peculiar or otherwise dislikeable people. And we trust our “social contract” (politics, religion, sharing of recipes) to people whose self-reference is a term of pride.

None of that is especially startling. Those are the kinds of people the world has been trusting since Noah built the ark and his grandsons were able somehow to find wives after the flood killed everyone on earth except his family—talk about pride! They must have created their wives out of the mud left over from the flood. They were Gods!

And geeks create the lords of our lives out of, well, not mud, I don’t suppose. But what are computer chips made of, anyway? Silicon? From mud? Intel as grandson of Noah. What an image. – silicon, n. a nonmetallic element, having amorphous and crystalline forms, occurring in a combined state in minerals and rocks and constituting more than one fourth of the earth’s crust: Silicon chip first attested 1965; Silicon Valley for the Santa Clara Valley south of San Francisco first attested 1974, from the silicon chips used in computers, watches, etc. Symbol: Si; atomic weight: 28.086; atomic number: 14; specific gravity: 2.4 at 20°C.

So just as the grandsons of Noah apparently went out and created wives out of the mud from the flood (what a great rhyme: the mud from the flood) and peopled the earth (read Genesis 10 if you don’t believe me—either that’s what happened, or Genesis 7 is a tall tale: “He [God] blotted out every living thing that was upon the face of the ground, man and animals…only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark.”) The sons of Noah made wives out of mud, and geeks make “instruments to plague us” (King Lear) out of silicon (mud). I don’t mean actually to make an “either or here.” It could well be that the flood is what happened AND it’s a tall tale. I suppose the creations of geeks can help us and are, at the same time, instruments of torture.

My particular battle with this computer (and the one at my office, and my dead PC, and the iPhone my sister and my good friend Alan are determined I should get) is of no importance. What is important is that evolution marches along, and the children of the geeks and of people who understand the creations of geeks will in fact, through survival of the fittest and natural selection and all of that stuff take over the earth (as if they haven’t already). There will be two kinds of homo sapiens: The ones who have fast thumbs and know what “To display this page, Firefox must send information that will repeat any action (such as a search or order confirmation) that was performed earlier – Resend / Cancel” means, and the ones with plodding thumbs and whose minds have no clue what such messages mean and apparently can’t learn.

The scary thing, as anyone with a brain can see, is that the enormous sexual appetite of Noah’s grandsons led quickly to the Tower of Babel—it’s in the next chapter, Genesis 11—and “the Lord confused the language of all the earth; and from there the Lord scattered them abroad over the face of the earth.” So the Lord is apt to confuse the language of all the earth because of our pride in the creations our geeks have made from the mud (silicon).

I’ve been thinking about all of this because yesterday, in the midst of trying to grade papers using a computer program I cannot comprehend and that seems to me to be nothing more than an “[instrument] to plague [me],” I had a seizure. Not simply one of those little moments when, because of fluorescent or some other kind of light I wonder if what’s wrong with the world is that the national capitol and the White House, and the U.N. and the Kremlin are all lighted with those kinds of lights and no one think straight under their influence. Not one of those little moments.

No, the computer stress gave me one of my seizures or whatever they are (my diagnosis with TLE has, since 1983, seemed as unreal to me as the world does when I’m in the middle of a seizure or what ever they are) that makes the entire world—and myself at the center of it—seem like a bad dream. Reality, whatever that is, goes floating off into the sunset, and my mind feels as if it has left my body, and I want to (this is not a declaration of suicide ideation) die. Poor me!

So here’s all I’m saying. Computers are instruments to plague us. And you all should listen to us Cassandras before it’s too late and get back to the mud and out of the silicon. The tower of Babel is just around the corner (or perhaps Sarah Palin and the Tea Baggers are already there).

(1 .)  “The Constitution permits Congress to legislate a health insurance mandate. Congress can use its Commerce Clause powers or its taxing and spending powers to create such a mandate. Congress can impose a tax on those that do not purchase insurance, or provide tax benefits to those that do purchase insurance. If Congress would like the states to implement an insurance mandate, it can avoid conflicts with the anti-commandeering principle by either preempting state insurance laws or by conditioning federal funds on state compliance. A federal employer mandate for state and local government workers may be subject to a challenge; however, such a challenge is unlikely to be successful. Individual rights challenges under the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause or RFRA are unlikely to succeed, although a federal insurance mandate should include a statement that RFRA does not apply or provide for a religious exemption. Fifth Amendment Due Process and Takings Clause challenges are also unlikely to be successful. The legal analysis presented is likely to endure, as the Supreme Court’s current position and approach to interpreting relevant constitutional issues appear to be stable.”
Hall, Mark A. “The constitutionality of mandates to purchase health insurance.” Journal of Law, Medicine & Ethics. 37.3 (Fall 2009): S39.



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