Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Lucy in the Sky with Everybody Else

There is a fourth dimension but I’m not sure how to describe it. Let me just list the things I’ve noticed lately.

We spent two days doing service projects with the youth of the church. I like to take this little-appreciated week between Christmas and New Years to assemble the youth to do a couple of day’s worth of service projects around town. I love the chance to rub elbows with the kids when their electronics are still fresh.

We went to two different agencies and helped them organize donated goods. At the Stewpot in downtown Dallas we sorted through a mountain of small toiletries like Kleenex, toothbrushes, Chapstick and hand sanitizers.


The next day we went to the North Texas Food Bank and helped pack up bags containing two days worth of supplemental food for kids who don’t have enough food at home to carry them through the weekend. The teachers can hand these bags out on Friday to any kid they think might need it.


Both mornings we started the day with the easiest project I’ve ever done: we took coffee to the local Day Labor Center in the morning. This is the city-sponsored spot where they guys looking for work can assemble. Contractors can go pick out a few guys as they need them. But while the men are waiting, especially in the winter, a cup of coffee in the morning is really appreciated.


Then, to top off the week, the kids cleaned the Sanctuary.

You would think there would be at least one laugh or lesson in all that activity but I’m afraid I have nothing to report. It was a hugely rewarding and productive event but I’m afraid not very humorous or philosophic. Not a smidge of drama.

Maybe that’s the story there: the kids in our church are just so used to service that they do it without thinking. It’s a part of their vacation. But I know they enjoyed their time because my two granddaughters asked if we could do this kind of project again sometime as a family. We had another family at church who delivered Meals on Wheels Christmas morning.

However, while driving the kids around I kept my ears open for any tips on how to work my own electronics. The kids didn’t do much tweeting or facebooking but they did text every breath they took to every friend they have. Then they started taking pictures of what they were doing. Back home they put the photos together into a PowerPoint show. Then emailed it around and posted it to youtube. To a dinosaur like me who remembers rotary telephones and Black and White TV the 21st century is simply amazing.

Beaven understands it better than I do. I say “understands” because he knows how radio waves move around in the air, drift out to outer space and bounce off antennae. This doesn’t mean that he can work any of it. He’s just as impressed with himself as all the other grandfathers out there when he manages to use something simple like facebook.

But Beaven does understand electronics in a way that most of us do not. So this fourth dimension I’m talking about is open to only the few who have studied radio waves.

All of this brings this to my mind the laughable attempt to restrict Julian Assange by using an ankle monitor while allowing him access to the mansion his friend loaned him. It looks to me like the only thing he won’t be able to do is run by the store for cigarettes. Presumable this guy receives packages and I have to assume he’s got a laptop, several cell phones and more electronics than the average sixth grader. So, exactly how is he being restricted? The story has died down a bit. He has many supporters who delight in a touch of anarchy once in a while. The governments around the world have gotten real quiet about how much damage he did. But I remain fascinated by something else.

Many readers in America have now been introduced to the Steig Larsson books, whose ὕber-hacker heroine spent the second book locked in the ICU of a hospital with a guard outside the door. But she made merry, electronically, with total freedom using only a cell phone smuggled into her hospital room. There wasn’t an email or website she couldn’t read or have access to change. Physically restricting someone like this but granting them access to cyberspace doesn’t really restrict them, does it?

If I’m understanding things correctly, this the guys’ whole crime was enacted by his ability to occupy the radio waves of the world and upheave diplomacy using a media invisible to all and understood by only a few. For these perceived crimes I’m not sure being locked in a building offers much protection against him.

I’m afraid there’s no punch line today. Go back to work. Keep tabs on Assange. I have a feeling this story has not come to an end. Oh, if you haven’t read the books, start with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. It’s extremely graphic and intense but quite a story.

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