Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Arbitrary justice and online commerce

I do the majority of my shopping online. Thinking it's time for board games for Speck? to refill an obscure spice? track down that novel I just heard about? It all ends up on my Amazon wish-list (or directly in my Cart, waiting for critical mass), fueling a steady trickle of packages to my home.

So I can only imagine my horror if I were to wake one day to find that my account had been completely wiped from existence! I think I would collapse on the floor -- not just because of the loss of the couple of Kindle books I have, but all that history and planning in my various lists, and where else would I even get half this stuff (one painful web search at a time)?? And to think that such an account termination could happen because of a foreseeable algorithmic misfire just adds to the chill in my bones.

This seems even worse when you consider the number of other accounts that you might have linked to your Amazon account, whether you use them to fund your Kickstarter contributions or record your audiobooks. A lifetime ban could be severely crippling.

I hope Amazon sorts out the kinks in their system and remembers that users (as reviewers and customers) are what has powered their success. We might be afraid to get too reliant on a resource that can so suddenly and pointlessly be pulled out from under us!

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Modern gladiators

I love football. I don't know if it's all the Thanksgiving afternoons with the family menfolk digesting turkey in front of the TV, or the effects of college football and its harmless rivalries, or the sense of a whole region rooting together for a common (pro) team, but somewhere I got the bug, really enjoy watching, and we have even gotten Speck interested in Sunday afternoon games.

But in recent years all the coverage of concussions has made me more and more uncomfortable with this pastime -- not just news of acute injuries, but recurrent patterns of low-level head trauma that add up to early Parkinson's, personality changes, and middle-age dementia (leaving their wives and girlfriends scrambling to hold things together). Many of these players are literally giving up the rest of their lives for these few years of glory (and some for pretty slim glory, as much of the damage accrues to unsung players like punt returners and linemen).

So I watch, and I cheer, but every time there's a really hard hit, or a man stays on the ground, or the replay shows that grim neck-snap, I feel my stomach turn a little, a pang of uncertainty about whether I should watch. The idea that any fans, however incensed, would actually cheer an injury leaves me totally floored. Am glad that this team-mate took his own fans (and the public) to task for that occasion, but honestly, are they meaningfully worse than those of us whose fanship supports the sport in general? I wish I felt more clean about it all.