Thinking Out Loud

March 15, 2019

I Want to Fly the Plane

Filed under: Christianity, technology — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:23 am

The plane which took us to Cuba last month. WestJest was one of the airlines affected by the Boeing Max 8 grounding this week.

Last night I received an email which had been flagged by Gmail (a division of Google) as being suspicious because the person who sent it to me appeared to be sending it from an email address which he had not used before. Actually, I know this guy, and he has about four different email addresses.

I carried my phone downstairs where my wife was working and I said that frankly, I thought this was none of their business. I am intelligent enough to look at the content and decide if there’s anything malicious in it.

Earlier in the day I had shared with her a discussion I heard on talk radio suggesting that the problem in the Ethiopian Air crash as well as the one in Indonesia might possibly have been caused by systems related to the autopilot function. Their pilots lack the training of their North American equivalents, probably due to the rise in affluence in countries allowing more people to fly, resulting in the need for many more skilled personnel. For such instances the autopilot is usually a blessing…

More and more it seems that the machines are taking over, not only in terms of function, but also in terms of doing our thinking for us. The on-air reporter was suggesting that the pilots and the countries concerned, simply need to get the plane up in the air and then let the computer take over. When something goes wrong, they lack the necessary skills to know how to fix the problem correctly and so they jerk the nose of the plane back up, resulting in a stall. As far as the investigation goes, these are early days, so it’s hard to know how the accuracy of that analysis.

Needless to say this causes me concern when it comes to self driving cars.

One thing that the airline story accomplishes is that it gives me the language necessary to say what irritates me most about my computer and my phone:

I want to fly the plane.

I want to be the one in charge. I want to decide for myself. I don’t want everything to do with my email and my social media and the business use of my computer to be run for me are to be on autopilot. Your paragraph

On Monday, I sent out a newsletter using the MailChimp program. I had to override the from address because the one it has stored as default is actually incorrect and the service won’t let me change it. Each time I type the address I got a large red warning sign telling me that my address lacks an at sign and that furthermore when I get to the point where I type it in it then gets upset but I am lacking the .com portion of the address.

There’s no way of telling the machine that I have a brain, but if it just gives me another two seconds I will type a completely usable address.

I want to fly the plane.

But more importantly I want to know why in a generation that is increasingly being taught computer coding we have to let these autopilot systems do everything for us. Eventually the machines will reach a complexity where are the humans will simply not be able to do the necessary overriding when necessary.

This is what many believe happened in the recent air crashes and it’s unfortunate if that is the case.

September 7, 2018

Social Media: What It’s Doing to Us

Some of you may have seen this on Facebook.

That’s rather ironic; since it does not paint the social media platform favorably.

The timing on this is interesting, since I was planning to write about this topic anyway. I’m not opposed to technology, nor do I resent the application of social networking. Rather, I was going to write something like, “I just want to go back in time and use the internet as it was in 2003.” That’s right; 15 years ought to do it.

Anyway, see what you think. Someone put some thought into this, but it hasn’t had many views and no public comments as of yesterday. (Perhaps this isn’t the original post.)

February 3, 2015

We Need a New Search Engine

Filed under: blogging, technology — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:05 am

I don’t usually write about the tech side of my work, but I am increasingly convinced that we need someone out there to generate an entirely new search algorithm. I’m tired of being directed to news stories from 2002, sites that have been shut down or superseded, or an endless litany of sponsored sites trying to sell me things it thinks are related (so the search engine can report back that their ad had X number of views.)

But I’ve also done some additional thinking and have decided part of the problem is us. We want our search results now and we pay more and more for increased internet speed so we won’t be kept waiting.

Ask yourself, is it better to get 166,000 results in .03 seconds that are wrong or is it better to wait 30 seconds and get 8 results that are exactly what you’re looking for.

The bigger they are, the harder they fall.  I think it’s ironic that a company like Google has totally mastered the art of spying on us and knowing our every online move and all of our consumer preferences, but continues, day-after-day, to be a giant failure at the thing they set out to be in the first place: A search engine.

The future of the internet is indeed search. The company that builds a better mousetrap — and there most certainly will be one someday — will be heralded as the most significant enterprise to come along since the invention of computers and the internet themselves.

December 29, 2014

Thinking Out Loud About the Internet

Filed under: technology — Tags: , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:21 am


When I first started doing this back in 2008, I found it frustrating how supposedly faith focused writers would regularly report on the technology itself that allowed them to blog. Every new device, personal organizer or photo processing program was fair game.

Here, I tended to proudly avoid reference to tech. We were all about the Bible, Church and Jesus. Yeah, us! We’re so spiritual. But today I want to give space to what is always an underlying thesis of mine, namely that for all it has done to revolutionize the culture, we are still living in the infancy days of the technology; what we are experiencing is similar to turning a crank to start a car. While increasingly regulation is taking over, these are still the wild-wild-west days of the internet in terms of sophistication, our time-saving devices and programs still cause us more frustration than performing according to expectations.

In particular,

Search – While a massive empire has been built by one company which rhymes with poogle and other companies of its ilk, search results are still not at all intuitive. Refining within searches is difficult, and many links go to dormant or outdated sites. I believe we’re on the cusp of someone coming up with an entirely new search algorithm. The status quo simply won’t do.

Hardware – In an era where we trash printers rather than fix them, it’s hard for anyone to take the hardware industry seriously. Actually, a book about the printer industry would make a far more interesting read than the computer industry in general, since printer obsolescence is a microcosm of the industry as a whole.

Compatibility – We live at a time which makes the VHS/Beta situation look like a minor tension by comparison. While we were promised all manner of backward and forward compatibility, we usually end up wringing our hands over programs that simply don’t work with other programs.

Security – If nothing else, the events of the last year have left people feeling that their personal data, financial information, and even family pictures are simply not safe.

Intelligence – When computers think for themselves, it is often counter-productive. Users spend more hours trying to turn off features that some programmer thought were helpful. Anyone who has tried to format a document where a line begins with a lower case letter, or anyone who suffered through auto-correct knows that computers are more often hindering than helping.

So in broad terms, what frustrates you about the state of the technology we find ourselves using?

March 24, 2013

Faith Based 404 Explanations

Filed under: blogging, Humor — Tags: , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 10:10 am

Why the webpage you want isn’t loading:

404 Faith Explanations

November 29, 2010

Social Media Overload: Sabbatical or Sabbath?


/səˈbætɪkəl/ [suh-bat-i-kuhl] –adjective

5. ( lowercase ) any extended period of leave from one’s customary work, esp. for rest, to acquire new skills or training, etc.


/ˈsæbəθ/ [sab-uhth] –noun

2. – the first day of the week, Sunday, similarly observed by most Christians in commemoration of the Resurrection of Christ.

I think you know where I’m going with this.   There would be a lot fewer people burning out on social media (blogs, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) if they practiced the concept of Sabbath.   Then they wouldn’t need a sabbatical.

I grew up around people who had all kinds of arbitrary Sunday rules:  No television, no sports, no swimming, etc.   I always swore I wouldn’t be that kind of parent.   But early on we sensed the need for a Sunday computer Sabbath.     Now that the kids are in their late teens, we don’t have full compliance every week, but as for myself, the computer doesn’t get switched on until around 4:30 PM.

You really do need to take a break now and then.

Here’s a post about the actual words used to mandate a day of rest

Related post from last month about working at home on Sunday

January 18, 2010

King James English Leaves Computer In A Snit

December 9, 2008

Kids Know All The Computer Shortcuts

Filed under: Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 2:39 pm

Randy Bohlender tries to keep up with just watching his eleven-year old do an assignment on computer.   Here’s the entire post; link here if you prefer or to click on “home” and read more of Randy, who describes himself as an “intercessory missionary” working with the International House of Prayer.

I was helping Grayson (11) with some schoolwork the other day. He was writing a report of some sort. OK, I wasn’t helping as much as I was standing guard so he wouldn’t get distracted by his brothers, his sisters, the neighbor’s dog, the legos on the floor, the refrigerator, a house plant, or oxygen. He was at that point in his schoolwork where oxygen itself is quite the distraction.

As I watched him, all hunched over my Mac Book, I noticed a few things. First, he seems to type instinctively. I took a typing class in high school and can type pretty well, but at 11 years old, he’s probably typing at 80% of the speed I do, and using all ten fingers to do so.

Another thing that caught my eye was how many keyboard shortcuts he uses. My hand drops back to the track pad a lot. I’m not sure he used it at all. Without looking at the keyboard, he flitted between programs and open windows as if he could see each of them laying open in his head. I’m forever wondering how many blasted windows I have open and where the one is that I’m looking for.

dsc06930The piece de resistance for me was when he realized he needed to insert a verse from scripture into his project. I reached for his Bible there on the counter. Grayson, however, showing some mad Option-Apple Key-CTRL backhand tab and return skills, he pulled up the verse online, copied it and pasted it into the document. Before I had the Book open, he was on to the next thing.

Some days, 41 is the new 30. Other times it’s the new 65.

November 7, 2008

Tough Love Gone Wrong: Video Game Addiction

Filed under: addiction, parenting — Tags: , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:25 pm

brandon-crispWhen 15-year old Brandon Crisp’s father, Steve, took away Brandon’s XBox, on the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend in October,  it was simply the frustration of a parent exasperated with his son’s video game addiction.   Now, the family prepares to bury Brandon’s body.   Read the Toronto Star story here.

In other media, John Oakley responds to those who will criticize the parent’s use of what is sometimes called “tough love” writing an opinion article in The Globe and Mail:

Anyone in a position to criticize a parent for resorting to this form of suasion must be leading a charmed existence, or not have kids of their own.

Elsewhere, a technology magazine provides more details about the game Brandon was playing, noting:

The Center for Online Addiction estimates that between 5% and 10% of the population suffers from some form of Internet addiction. It defines the condition as “any online-related, compulsive behavior which interferes with normal living and causes severe stress on family, friends, loved ones, and one’s work environment.”

And the largest consumer electronics chain in Canada, Future Shop, has curtailed the promotion of a new video game releasing this week out of respect for the family.

Update: Saturday November 8th:  Listen to a 22 minute interview with Brandon’s father recorded LAST Saturday, while Brandon was still hoped to be alive; recorded from The Drew Marshall Show.

If you took the time to read the Toronto Star article, what is your reaction?  The question goes beyond, “Did the parents do the right or wrong thing?”  The issue is the larger issue of video game addiction among youth.

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