99 Problems But a Fish Ain’t One

Yesterday I saw a turtle squashed in the middle of the road. It’s not something you see every day in downtown London, so I figure it was an omen that it would be one of those days when everything that could go wrong would go wrong.

My first of two thesis defenses was scheduled for 1:00. I gave myself an hour after I got to school to have lunch and go over my introductory presentation. I’d written it the night before, but hadn’t practiced it yet. Last minute I guess, but I work best under pressure and there was much procrasturbation to be had.

When I picked up some sushi and a drink, the server made fun of my “bucket of coffee.” It’s true though, a venti is approaching a litre of friggin coffee. On my way back to my office, my labmate told me that I looked really chill. Which I mostly was, because all my preparation plans were in place, and all I could do was my best.

I got to my office, then flipped on my computer.

I didn’t know Apple computers could have a blue screen of death, but there it was: a blank blue screen. It was perfectly fine just 30 minutes earlier when I left the house, and now, it’s giving me sass with this blue screen. I reset it, and the blue screen was fixed! Except now it was this grainy rainbow screen of death.

I frantically Googled on my phone. I safe-moded and start-up-item-altered and make-verbs-out-of-phrases-ized as fast as my fingers would allow, but nothing that the internet suggested would help.

I took a moment to bite into my sushi. I say “bite into” because the salmon sashimi was this stringy unchewable mess. But as I stared at the spit-out wad of rancid meat, in the light of what was now a grey nonfunctional screen, feeling less than chill, a supernatural clarity came over me. I found myself reaching for a video adapter thingy. I poked it into a hole in the side of my laptop, then removed it.

No more screen of death. Like many grumpy people, my computer just needed something hard shoved into a random orifice.

I quickly loaded up my presentation. Even though I hadn’t worn a tie in a year, I let my fingers figure out how to tie it while I practiced my presentation at quadruple speed.

I got to my defense with sushi breath (I was out of gum, naturally) and a screaming bladder full of venti ounces of caffè. Of course, one of the people who needed to be there didn’t show up, so we started late anyway. But the bottom line is that I got through the presentation and the rounds of difficult questioning, and passed like a boss. Revisions, one more defense, then I’ll be a doctor.

The lesson here is that even when things go horribly wrong (in a first-world-problems sense, anyway), let them go wrong, and it will probably turn out fine anyway. They might even give you a PhD.


The Emotional Ramifications of Bleeps and Bloops

The iPhone needs more options for the new text message sound. There are only six beeps, bongs, and honks available, with no ability to add new ones.

I say this not out of a vain need for customization, but for the emotional well-being of iPhone users.

This is modern life:

You meet someone you like, and she likes you enough to give you her phone number. You send her an innocuous text, then wait with breath abated for a reply. BONG, an innocuous text in return. You do this back-and-forth a few times and soon each message contains not just neutral words but embedded emotion.

Eventually it’s BEEP BEEP here are your plans for the evening; DING! here comes a compliment you’ll remember for the rest of your life. You precede those consequences with that sound enough times, and they become inextricably linked. A smile hits your lips and your heart leaps into your throat with every buzz of your pocket.

Maybe you go on a few adventures. Maybe you screw. Maybe you make plans for the future. But nothing lasts forever, and when things inevitably go sour, all the positive associations with that tone become ambivalent, then negative. Finally, DONG! we need 2 talk.

Those associations are embedded deep, and they never quite go away. Alerts for even the most frivolous texts now make your mouth go dry; they’re Pavlov’s bell in reverse.

It doesn’t take long to cycle through all six tones.

Technology is so embedded in our lives that we must increasingly consider not only its practical ramifications, but the full spectrum of human emotion as well.