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Opinion

The first TV remote control back in 1950 was named "Lazy Bones." That should have been a tip-off of things to come. Flipping between test patterns on a small black and white television, would eventually lead to easier access to all kinds of information.

Another invention that rivals the significance of “Lazy Bones” is the pocket or hand-held calculator that came onto the scene in the early 1970s. Prior to that, the portable device for computing was the slide rule, but that took too much brain power just to figure out how it worked. With a calculator, one doesn't need math skills. To figure out the sum of one times one, just mash some buttons.

Every age, in its own right could (at the time) be considered the “information age.” The difference today, is the quickness and ease information can be retrieved. Knowledge or the facsimile thereof, is both figuratively and literally at one's fingertips which opens the door for binge data consumption. It's not unlike overeating. Instead of peanut-covered M&Ms in a dish on a coffee table, it's a mobile device in your hand, or a computer on a desk with high-speed internet access. You can't just eat one piece of digital candy.

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No need to wonder. Just look around you. It’s happened already. Thanks to an insidious partnership between Google and the National Security Agency (NSA) that grows more invasive and more subtle with every passing day, “we the people” have become little more than data consumer commodities to be bought, sold and paid for over and over again.

With every smartphone we buy, every GPS device we install, every Twitter, Facebook, and Google account we open, every frequent buyer card we use for purchases, and every credit and debit card we use to pay for our transactions, we’re helping Corporate America build a dossier for its government counterparts on who we know, what we think, how we spend our money, and how we spend our time.

What’s worse, this for-profit surveillance scheme, far larger than anything the NSA could capture just by tapping into our phone calls, is made possible by our consumer dollars and our cooperation. All those disclaimers you scroll though without reading them, only to quickly click on the “Agree” button at the end so you can get to the next step— downloading software, opening up a social media account, adding a new app to your phone or computer: those signify your written consent to having your activities monitored, recorded and shared.

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I'm a big fan of top whatever lists. Usually grouped in multiples of five, the lists make for a quick read and a fast track to quasi authority on subjects ranging from the smartest dog breeds to the most fattening fast food entrees. I particularly enjoy reading about the worst cities in the U.S., because I know Detroit is going to be at the top, and for some perverse reason, I think that's funny.

With lists, it's usually read it/forget it, then move on to new minutiae. However, there's one list in particular that I find myself referencing on a regular basis. Titled “5 Top Regrets of Dying Patients,” it's a compilation of interviews with people during their final stage of life. If any group should have insight on missed opportunities, it's those who know they have run out of time. While the data is from the dying, the target audience is the rest of us who still think we will live forever.

 

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The State Department wants $400,000 to purchase a fiberglass sculpture of a camel looking at a needle for its new embassy in Pakistan. They’ve already spent their allotted $630,000 to increase the number of “likes” and fans on their Facebook and Twitter pages. The NATO ambassador for the U.S. needs $700,000 for landscaping and gardening, the National Science Foundation would like $700,000 to put on a theatrical production about climate change, and the Senate staffers need $1.9 million for lifestyle coaching. Also, Yale University researchers could really use $384,000 so they can study the odd cork-screw shape of a duck’s penis.

These are actual line items paid for by American taxpayers, whose tax dollars continue to be wasted on extravagant, unnecessary items that serve no greater purpose than to fatten the wallets of corporations and feed political graft.

 

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