chance, I suppose.

I couldn't sleep, so it's about 3:30am, and I have further victories with my iPod: I can use GNUpod to put files on it, which is much faster and more reliable (and for a geek like me, more intuitive) than the graphical gtkpod, which works fine with some coaxing, but loses speed in its graphicalness, and does a bunch of stuff with synchronization that I simply don't need. I'm pleased as punch to just copy or delete files to or from the iPod by hand, understanding exactly what's going on.

The way that I figured all this out has me thinking about my natural skill with machines. Some things definitely lie in the geek realm: for the iPod I noticed that the different tools I tried were creating one of several different directory structures (the iPod appears to the computer as a hard drive), but the iPod only understood one of them, at least at a time. The solution was to delete everything on the iPod and let it initialize itself with the directories it wanted to see, and fortunately the different tools seem to have followed its lead. So that's fairly esoteric, and goes with some educated guesses about how well-written software might behave, based on my skills and experience. But I've never understood why people seize up when trying to figure out how to play a video on a VCR that already correctly hooked up: it says "Play" right by the Play button, and I'm never sure what kind of large neon sign users would like from their VCR manufacturers. These aren't stupid people: math teachers, lawyers, social workers, all deal with far more complex situations in everyday life.

How much of "intelligence" is just, in a wider sense, noticing that the buttons are labeled?

Why do I notice the buttons are labeled? From my point of view, I want to understand how something works, and the object itself seems like a good starting point for information. What does it do? How do I turn it on? How does it do what it does? What could be preventing it from functioning? I'm 29, and I guess I'm still constantly asking an endless series of questions.

Just remember: there are no stupid questions, only stupid questioners. (I'm kidding. There are stupid questions, too.)

What's to be scared about with machines? They're just *things*, like carrots and bookshelves. They have less intelligence and free will than a rabbit, and we know better how they work.

(More in the "that's fucked up" department: another DHS official arrested for sex crimes. Even better, he was head of an anti-child-predator program. Awesome.)

later that day...

I stopped down on Broadway to grab a burrito for lunch after running some errands. Two empty storefronts have been filled: a Christian bookstore, and a few doors down, a headshop. This is a big improvement for the neighborhood: now I can buy devotional booklets and parts for my hookah in one trip.

I meandered into the headshop, wearing my unzipped blue hoodie, t-shirt and jeans, and looked everything over. I went into the back room, noted the hookahs, the bongs, the pipes; laughed at a pipe with six rotating bowls like a revolver pistol, and a copy of the ProtoPipe; and meandered out. I smiled and said, "Welcome to the neighborhood," because I meant it--it's nice to have new stores, especially non-yuppie stores--and he said, "Thanks. Hey, any time you're ready to buy something, just come on by. I'll fix you up." Normally, this is how people treat you when you are a potential valuable customer and source of connections for other valuable customers.

I thought about my outfit--basically the same clothes Chevy Chase wears in the beginning of Fletch to pass himself off as a junkie--and, in what must be a first, I'm pretty sure the headshop guy thought I was a dope dealer.