'Hey Reader'

'Hey Reader'
David Feela - 01/23/2020

At the annual winter solstice bonfire, we stood around a mound of dry limbs, wrapped in layers of material warmth, anxious for that moment when the fire finally catches and the crisp branches burst into bright orange flames, all of us just waiting to be overwhelmed by a rush of fire and light. The man beside me, blowing into his ungloved hands as if he held a bird’s nest, leaned toward me to ask a flinty question.

“At what exact time does the solstice finally begin?”

December 21st is usually the shortest day of the year, but at what point in time the curtain between autumn and winter gets drawn is anyone’s guess. At least I had no idea. Leaving my hands jammed deep into my pockets, I leaned back and shouted very loudly at the star-speckled sky.

“Hey Siri, what time does solstice begin?”

Suddenly I became the center of attention. Eyes shifted from the woody mound. I shrugged. The man beside me stepped away, just a bit. Then he clapped his hands and laughed.

“I get it, a cosmic technology joke!”

And just then the fire rushed up its rickety ladder of limbs and stood nearly 50 feet tall, a behemoth clothed in light. I thought, well, maybe now is as good a time as any.

I’m actually pleased that Siri wasn’t listening via any plugin to the stars, and that Alexa was napping, perhaps in the back of an Amazon delivery truck, or that Google Assistant had more important inquiries, like discovering its own moniker, and that Microsoft’s Cortana hadn’t yet fully answered to its role as the universe’s personal assistant. You see, if I wanted a voice-activated secretary, I would probably have adopted a dog. Possibly a pit bull.

So hackers be warned, those who have broken new ground into the surveillance world by illegally accessing home cameras. Ring devices, for example, have been named in a class action lawsuit which cites a lack of due diligence by Ring, and especially Amazon, in providing “robust” security protections for their customers. I don’t know which side will prevail in the lawsuit, but sadly – despite the absurdity of revealing one’s presence by talking to his victims – the hackers are not being sued or held accountable for their actions.

Smart phones, iPads and android tablets, smart televisions and even your not-so-smart ding-dong doorbell contain serious flaws, enough to allow  criminals into your personal world without much technical effort, partly because users often fail to update security protocols, and especially because we are often too lazy or uninformed about changing the default passwords that came with our devices. Manufacturers continue to defend themselves by explaining in no uncertain terms: default is yours.

A bonfire, though, is the antithesis of technology. It’s a primitive combustible pile of organic fluff that will burn anyone and anything that gets too close. A spectacle so hot any terms of service or privacy policy would not allow the user to get close enough to agree to the risks. Sleepy, disoriented neighbors glancing out their windows, for instance, might mistake the glow for sunrise. Police and fire personnel might grow anxious if the party’s host fails to call ahead, advising them of their plans.

Yet if we take all the obvious precautions, rake debris from around the bonfire so sparks won’t ignite a brushfire and arrange a garden hose within easy reach, we are still in danger. To be prepared for an emergency my friend showed me how to locate the faucet valve and turn the hose on. You could say he retrofitted the old technology and invented a smart faucet. The mistake he made without realizing it is that he told me.

Maybe the instinct to surround ourselves with cameras and automated, instantaneous answers to our every whim has been instinctively lodged within us since the beginning of human time. You know, that endless “search for meaning” in the chaotic universe. Our cave forefathers and foremothers stared into the fire like we gaze into our backlit phone screens and hope that someone is actually listening.

Of course, theological and technological presences are hardly the same thing. The parable of Steve Jobs, for instance, lacks a moral depth when compared to the Book of Job. Profits and prophets are so easily confused, though biblically Job does end up with all his money returned, plus additional wealth for obeying the directive. His economic boon allows us to disregard his misery.

As technologies advance at an unprecedented pace, we may have reason to feel disoriented or “disconnected” by our social media. We may have, as the old 1990s Virginia Slims cigarette commercial phrased it, “come a long way, baby” but surely – whatever its design – we are still playing with fire.

La Vida Local

Cry uncle
02/27/2020
Cry uncle
By Zach Hively

My little sister has really big news – like, first-grandbaby-in-the-family level news – but she has made me promise not to say anything about it until she tells the rest of the extended family. So guess what? I’m not going to be an uncle later this year. I’m not looking forward to all the joys of a newborn baby without any of the responsibility. And I’m definitely not already excited about the post-infant stages when the little bundle becomes an actual functioning human being capable of learning all kinds of words and habits that will drive its mother bananas.

Read More
Nothing to fear but fur
02/20/2020
Nothing to fear but fur
By David Feela

When I resided in the country, dogs often rushed down their driveways to meet me as I bicycled past, growling, barking and having themselves a canine tantrum, objecting to my presence on the road.

Read More
Read All in La Vida Local

Soap Box

February 27, 2020

During a Park & Rec meeting 2 weeks ago, it became very apparent that the large majority of Durango residents disapprove of the proposed 32nd Street bridge. Yet, the City, ignoring the cry of its citizens, is moving forward getting bids for the bridge, which is estimated to cost several millions of dollars. For what? Just to avoid crossing 32nd Street?

February 27, 2020

A Jan. 22 article in the Herald, featuring an artist’s rendering of a proposed pedestrian bridge across the Animas River and 32nd Street, prompted a flood of emails to Durango City Council. One email in particular captured, for me, the frustration many residents are feeling. The text consisted of a single word, “Why?”

February 27, 2020

KDUR Radio at Fort Lewis College would like to extend a huge thank you to all the people and businesses that helped with the last Cover Night fundraiser. 

February 27, 2020

I just finished reading the write up in Country Living magazine about the LPEA rate changes for peak hours coming in April.

February 20, 2020
February 20, 2020
Read All in Soap Box