Friday, October 21, 2011

On Blogging and Modern Communication

I enjoy blogging so much more than Facebook or other forms of modern communication. I know I don't update my own blog nearly enough, but I enjoy checking up on the blogs I follow--my friends, family, and even some strangers whom I have come to regard as friends. Blogs are like a secret window into someone's life, and a well crafted blog is thought-provoking and engaging, like a good novel. I'll admit, there is a degree of voyeurism and hyper-reality to the culture--many people write about this or that outfit, makeup, interior decorating, crafting, or party planning--but behind all of that is a narrative arc that to me is completely sincere. I don't think I'm the only one who feels this way, but explaining it to someone who is not familiar with the culture is very difficult.

My book club just read the book The Most Human Human by Brian Christian. I highly recommend it! It is all about the author's endeavor to win the most "Human Human" award in the Turing Test: A test where a judge will chat for five minutes with a human "confederate" and an AI chatbot and afterwards guess which is which. The most "Human Human" award goes to the confederate who was able to convince the most judges that he was a human. The book got all of us thinking about what it means to be human when computers and AI are becoming increasingly complex.

I brought up my blogging "hobby" and one of my friends jokingly (but a little not) asked how I know the people who write these blogs are who they say they are. "I know a Nigerian prince who could use some money..." she teased. She has a point, and I was horrified and enthralled by the documentary Catfish (Watch it! I won't give away anything here). It would be very difficult for a chatbot to maintain a sophisticated blog... but a very bored human could exaggerate the details of his or her life or fabricate something entirely. But I've never mistrusted the blogging least not the ones that I read.

What do you think? Do you have a similar relationship to the blogs you read? Have you ever doubted an author's sincerity? Do I live in a gullible la la land?

Monday, October 10, 2011

New Year and More

We've recently passed several milestones of the Jewish Calendar. For Rosh HaShana (Jewish New Year) my husband and I visited our old stomping grounds: Vienna, Austria. We took advantage of the direct flight and the fact that we had two days off work. Vienna is my favorite city in Europe. Forget Paris or Berlin...Vienna is the place to be. My husband and I studied abroad there and lived there after graduating college. This time when we visited, it felt like we had never left--and we almost didn't want to! Below you will see (1) the "exotischer salat" at the Nashmarkt, complete with the new wine called Sturm, (2) the Hapsburg Palace Shoenbrunn, and (3) the Vienna woods.

For Yom Kippur (the Jewish Day of Atonement) all the streets were closed to traffic and we rode our bikes on the highway to a neighboring town. It was a good workout and an eerie experience. The next day we just relaxed in our apartment because everything is closed.

Celebrating two New Years gives me two chances to renew my resolutions. This year I still would like to learn how to make bread (so far I have made banana bread, honey bread, naan, biscuits, scones, and pizza dough) and I would like to start waking up earlier, reading the newspaper, and walking to work while listening to a podcast or book on tape. We'll see how long that lasts.

Last, but certainly not least, a blogger friend of mine, Kate Miss, recently found out some bad news about her boyfriend. You can read about it here and/or support them by purchasing some of her rad prints as a fundraiser. I have been very shaken by the fact that they are so young, but I also know that young people are resourceful and generous. Please consider buying a print for a good cause.

Thanks everyone and Shana Tova vMetuka (have a good and sweet new year)!