Frank resumes

Some people argue that the era of Facebook and Google means the end of privacy.  Few of us have completely avoided these firms.  Most of us have trusted these sites (and similar) with extremely private details about our social, professional and romantic lives.  As Facebook and Google learn more and more about each of us, will there come a day where nothing is private?

In a future where privacy is no more, how will that affect job hunting?  What will the 22nd century resume look like?  If nothing can be kept secret, the resume of the future might have to be brutally honest.  Under “Personal Interests”, some people might put down “binge-watching Netflix shows” instead of “Hiking”.  Under “Employment”, others will admit “taking care of an ailing grandmother” in addition to formal work.

My interests are jogging, reading and mindlessly scrolling through Reddit for hours.

My interests are jogging, reading and mindlessly scrolling through Reddit for hours.

Assuming there are still resumes in the 22nd century, they might just be convenient one-paper summaries of a prospective job seeker’s true personality, background and interests.  That’s a good thing, right?

Do [book reviews] or do not, there is no try

My reading pace is sluggish, thanks to my Nintendo DS, Seinfeld DVDs (“I lie every second of the day. My whole life is a sham.”) and Knitting 101 (I can knit a very fancy looking string).  But there is progress nonetheless!

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Rating:  3/5

Huxley writes of a sanitized future where people are born in test tubes and raised in government labs.  War, poverty and illness have been eliminated by ridding humans of passions like malice, envy and hatred.  But at what cost?  According to Huxley, a world without vices is also a world without virtues.  There is no love, courage or compassion in a such a dull, mechanized society.  Overall, I thought Brave New World was okay.  The premise was interesting but the writing was hokey (“electromagnetic golf”, really?) and distracted from the story.

The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis

Rating:  4/5

This book consists of a series of letters sent from a senior devil (Screwtape) to a junior devil (Wormwood) sharing advice on how to successfully corrupt humans.  Though Lewis’ Christian apologism turns off many readers,  I found The Screwtape Letters to be relevant to all faiths (or lack thereof).   As I read it, the letters argue that the seemingly inconsequential decisions we make actually do matter.  Or, to use Wormwood’s actual words, “the safest road to Hell is the gradual one” (replace “Hell” with “corruption” or “moral decline” if you’d prefer).  Lewis makes this argument in an interesting form (letters) by an entertaining cast (devils).

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Rating:  1/5

It was about time that I read this classic about a young girl named Alice and her paranormal adventures in a fantasy world called Wonderland.  Briefly put, I didn’t like it.  I didn’t like it as an adult, because the symbolism about math and logic was wrapped up in too much nonsense.  And I wouldn’t have liked it as a child because quite simply, Wonderland is terrifying.  Every creature that Alice meets is grumpy, murderous or insane. The only redeeming quality was the occasional wordplay and pun.

Solar mirrors

Spring is in the air!  After a bitter winter in DC (mild by Canadian standards, but I’ve been spoiled), I’m looking forward to a healthy dose of Vitamin D.

The winter days are short and cold because the Earth’s axis is tilted so that the sun doesn’t hit the Northern Hemisphere directly some months. We’ve largely accepted this consequences of Earth’s tilted axis.  But what if there was a way to cheat the seasons?  We could learn a thing or two from how water shortages are managed.  For example, when one part of a country is suffering from drought, another part of that country might transport water (via pipes or bottles) to its parched neighbor.

Just as we can manipulate water and bring it to where it is needed, what if there was a way to manipulate the sun?  Maybe we could deflect the sun’s rays using mirrors.  We might set up an elaborate system of mirrors that reflect light from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere in the winter months.  The solar mirrors might also just reflect back light that would otherwise be lost in space.

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Solar mirrors have been discussed as a way to combat climate change, but what about as a way to control the seasons?

Space Olympics

With the end of the Sochi Winter Olympics, I’m reminded of the curious sports that I had never heard of before this year.  I’d never heard of “biathalon”, a winter event that combines cross-country skiing and rifle shooting.  You read that right – biathalon athletes ski and shoot in one event.  There’s also “skeleton”, which involves an athlete sliding head-first down a steep slope on a tiny sled.  Skeleton makes luge look wimpy.  With sports this extreme and strange, I wondered how we came up with these events to begin with.   What makes a sport worthy of the Olympics?

Some Olympic sports are events simply because they’re flashy and fun to watch.   For example, figure skating or ice dance, sports that weren’t around in ancient Greece and aren’t commonly practiced today.  They remain popular because you don’t have to skate professionally to appreciate a well-choreographed dance and frilly outfits.   Some Olympic sports are ones that are enjoyed by the average joe.  For example, lots of people ski or snowboard, and because these events are commonly enjoyed, it’s natural to want to find the *best* skiier or snowboarder in the world.  And some Olympic sports are no longer popular but are still events for largely historical reasons.  Think of discus throwing or javelin.  Though most people have never thrown a discus or javelin in their lives, as a nod to the ancient Greek Olympic festivities, we’ve adopted some of the old athletic traditions.

In the Olympics of 2100, what sort of sports will our descendants watch?  Perhaps in the future, there will just be high-tech versions of flashy sports that people like to watch, common sports that people like to play, and historical sports that were popular in ancient Olympics.

For flashy sports that are fun to watch, the Olympics of 2100 might have a high-tech version of figure skating or ice dance.  Maybe jetpack acrobatics, with catchy music and colorful fashions in an aerial dance.  Jetpack acrobatic athletes with fake smiles and quick reflexes would perform airshow-like stunts in the air.  Basically, ballet with a rocket.

jetpack

And the Gold medal for Jetpack Ballet goes to….

For common sports that people like to play, maybe one day when space travel is commonplace, many households will have zero-gravity chambers where children and adults will play sports  that in today’s age are played outside.  Think soccer.  The Olympics of 2100 could finesse what is commonly enjoyed at home, and award medals for zero-gravity soccer, for example.

Lastly, at the Olympics of 2100, there might be a competitive sport that is included as an homage to today’s Olympics.  I’m optimisic that the future will be non-violent, and that rough sports that are considered acceptable today – rugby and boxing —  will be abhorrent to our peaceful descendants.  Perhaps in the future, rugby and boxing will be Olympic events for historical reasons only.  They may even be played by robots instead of people.

Alas, it may be some time before we see jetpack ballet, zero-gravity soccer and robot rugby.  Until then, I’ll have to make do with men and women’s ice hockey (Canada FTW).

Hair stay

I’m overdue for a hair cut, but currently too lazy to schedule and go to the appointment. Perhaps the best part of a new hair cut is how good it looks when I leave the salon. Every strand is finally at an optimal length, the layers perfectly cut and styled. But it won’t take more than a few months before it’s back to frump. We need haircuts so often because hair grows, and hair grows at different speeds. So what was once a perfect bob becomes a sloppy mullet.

What if there was a way to freeze the *perfect* hair length? Some method of keeping your hair at exactly the length your stylist cut it. Instead of hair spray – which just keeps your hair from moving – how about hair stay – which would keep your hair from growing?

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Hair Stay: Dog approved.

Forcing your hair to hibernate would mean you don’t need to get a hair cut quite so often. Of course, because we lose hair daily, at some point, you wouldn’t be able to use ‘Hair Stay’ forever, or you’d just go bald.  But if you could keep the same length for a year or so, that would help keep those of us too lazy to book regular appointments from being mistaken for Chewbecca.

Spider bags

‘Tis the season to be merry.  For many, ’tis also the season to shop and show off our purchases in paper or plastic bags.  Unfortunately, plastic bags are bad for the environment.  They can’t be recycled and clutter landfills.  Paper bags are (more) eco-friendly, but weak.  If they get even a bit wet or soggy, they fall apart.

What if we had the best of both worlds, a strong and study shopping bag that was also good for the environment?  Maybe Nature already has it figured out. Think of spider sacks, those (gross) bags of spider silk that house spider eggs.  So what if we made shopping bags out of spider silk?  Spider silk is strong like steel and flexible.  It’s also biodegradable and recycable.  Using spider silk to make things or do stuff may not be so outlandish — or new.  Apparently, the ancient Greeks applied cobwebs to wounds to take advantage of its antiseptic properties.

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Spider silk bags don’t sound nearly as creepy when the spiders that make them are cute.

But how would we make a large grocery bag from a teeny tiny spider sac?  It may not be as impossible as it seems.  We could harvest the silk from large spider farms spinning thousands of webs and sacks (I’m pretty sure that growing up, my bedroom was a spider farm *shudder*).  After collecting silk, we could weave it into bags by scaling up technology that can already weave nanostructures.

We’ve harnessed cotton, wool and bamboo as natural fibers for clothing and accessories. Is spider silk next?

Rumors of my [animated short film reviews] are greatly exaggerated

As the new year inches forward, I realize that my resolution to blog biweekly may be a stretch. I haven’t ruled out building a time machine so that I can populate my blog at my current leisurely pace. But here’s something for September!

Balance – Won for Best Animated Short, 1989 Oscars
Rating: 2/5
Directed by Christoph and Wolfgang Lauenstein
Five men live on a platform that floats in space. Working together, they keep the platform perfectly balanced. One day, one of the men finds a strange box. The once-steady platform turns into a see-saw as the men fight over who gets to enjoy the spoils of the mysterious box. Two stars for the concept and message. A clean (albeit obvious) way to present how selfishness destroys and cooperation creates. No more than two stars because I wasn’t a fan of the eerie sound effects and ghostly figures. The creepy vibe didn’t fit. Also at times, even for a short film, it was slow.

Gopher Broke – Nominated for Best Animated Short, 2004 Oscars
Rating: 4/5
An ambitious gopher (prairie dog, more like) booby traps a country road so that he can steal some produce from farm trucks that drive by on the way to the market. All does not go according to plan, hence the word “broke” in the title. The animation and music was great, a very colorful and lively mix. It’s a cute story, too: There are no shortcuts, only hard work can achieve your goals (in this case, the goal being a belly full of carrots and corn). And just the right amount of slapstick humor made this my favorite of the bunch, though the silly ending kept me from giving this a full five stars.

Paperman – Won for Best Animated Short, 2013 Oscars
Rating: 3/5
An overworked man falls in love with a mysterious beauty after she plants a bright red kiss on a piece of paper. He spends the rest of his day tracking her down with a variety of creative antics. Love makes us do crazy (and creepy) things. I wasn’t too crazy about this short, maybe because it’s Disney, and there’s just something about The Disney Formula that irks me. Of course, there’s an oafish, idiot man, and a pure, beautiful women, and they fall in love, with him doing the chasing. And of course, there’s a happy ending. Overall, it’s a touching animation, but a bit too boring to be Oscar-calibre.