Category Archives: Allure

Where is Tesla taking us?

We know they plan a network of charging stations. How far will that go?

I want to see full-service pit stations that can change batteries faster than they can charge them. Even faster than you can fill a 15-gallon tank.

Customer: Car says it needs a lube. I’m going inside for a rest.

She has already accepted the service with a tap while rolling into the service bay. Her instructions echo what the mechanic has already downloaded from the car.

Station: Did you want to freshen these tires? We have a new set just like yours on clean rims. Takes about 10 minutes. If not we’ll park it over there with fresh batteries and lube.

The verbal offer echoes what the driver can already read on her car’s screen. With another tap the deal is accepted. She thinks for a second, then taps “Wash” and places her car in “station valet” mode. She reads the estimated time of departure from the screen and walks inside.

A station or its agent is equipped with a device that allows the vehicle to be driven around the station. After the mechanical work is finished, the car is pulled forward into a wash bay, then dried and parked. The on-board computer and the station have independent alarms which are triggered if a car in station valet mode somehow leaves the premises.

The customer’s account profile contains her billing and communication preferences. She has opted to receive a text message describing the location of her car. Thoroughly refreshed, they reunite to continue their journey.

That’s a nice visit to a service station, manned or unmanned. But the one you’ll do most often is this: pull in, sit there for half a minute while your batteries are changed, pull out.

Neoteny is a scam; resist animalistic marketing!

The standard meanings of “neoteny” are

  • the retention of juvenile characteristics in an adult of the species
  • premature reproductive maturity.

I adopt the word because I know no other term for this concept: the appearance of youth, sexuality or novelty applied to a person or thing that lacks those characteristics. A few common examples are

  • face makeup
  • rapidly changing fashion trends
  • logo, label, and web site redesigns
  • irrelevant images of attractive people, children, animals or things.
Lovely but irrelevant photo of young girl smiling
Lovely but irrelevant

Due to the work of Sigmund Freud and his nephew, Edward Bernays, the field of marketing has specialized in controlling your attention by one simple and devious trick: manipulate the subconscious. This is as easy as placing an attractive object next to the product. You buy without knowing how far your decisions are influenced by the fallacies of association by proximity and animal attraction.

Be on the lookout and do not fall for deceptive neoteny in any form. It is a way of taking advantage of your animalism (instinctive behaviors and tendencies you have in common with animals). Do not consider yourself too advanced or enlightened to be so easily manipulated. Vestigial it may be, but you can’t unwire it. Anyone who says you’re above this instinct is getting ready to take advantage of you.

When you notice deceptive, artificial neoteny–you must train yourself and try hard to notice it–count it as a strike. It does not mean they have acted immorally. Still, you must even the score before you can make a fair evaluation. The only way to balance the indelible marks they have made on your subconscious scoreboard is to penalize them consciously.

Gratuitous imagery may be its most obvious incarnation but deceptive neoteny isn’t only about sex. Its other face is novelty. Just as thoughts of sex stimulate changes in your brain chemistry, any unfamiliar visual element can awaken and arouse you. Any novel color, shape, or arrangement has a chance to draw your attention. From neon-colored “Sale!” stickers to actual flashing neon signs to drastic web site redesigns, everything that was once new and exciting becomes old and boring after a while and must be refreshed.

When you see a box on the shelf touting its new label design, or a web site that brags about its new style, or a clever new commercial, first acknowledge their success in grabbing your attention and tally the penalty. Then ask whether the actual product has been improved, or has the quality or economy of the product actually suffered to accomodate the new design? Are you the type of consumer who would opt to pay extra for your usual brand of soap so the producer could redesign the logo every year?

Invariably, all novel designs in any profit-driven enterprise are aimed at benefiting the producer or publisher. Whether its function is to attract new customers or to affect the behavior of loyal users, its purpose is to increase profit. The question that should be foremost in your mind is whether it benefits you, the customer.

So beware of allegations of freshness. Learn to discriminate between the sexy and the allegedly sexy, the new and the allegedly new, the improved and the allegedly improved. Cultivate suspicion against those who pull the lever of neoteny for they have shown their willingness to lie to you.

None of this is meant to call you a fool, nor to say you should always be jaded. However, if you wish to wear wool over your eyes from time to time, at least you can know about it.

Disclosure: It should be plain that the message above in no way works to my personal advantage. However, you can choose to advantage me financially by shopping at Amazon after following this link to my favorite detergent. [sexy photo goes here]

Emacs on Mac OS X

During the weekend I spent a few hours setting up a new hacking environment for my latest curiosity, Lisp. Evidently all the cool kids use Emacs for hacking in Lisp so I invested the time to revisit my Emacs setup.

Previously I would SSH into each server on which I had files to edit and run Emacs in each shell. This forced me to maintain .emacs files everywhere and exposed me to network breaks. (I tried screen but OSX+screen+Emacs is the deadly triad of configuration hell.)

Now I use GNU Emacs for Mac OS X, a universal binary compiled just days ago from the GNU source. Instead of running Emacs on a remote server, I use TRAMP to connect and edit remote files. When I want to open a remote file, I prefix the path with /ssh:hostname: or /scp:hostname:. TRAMP can browse and autocomplete in remote directories just as well as in local directories.

I already keep my most used servers in my .ssh/ssh_config file and I use shell scripts to start master connections with logs tailing in terminal windows. Master connections cut down on TRAMP connection times. TRAMP reads ssh_config for hostname autocompletion, so I can open remote files in fewer keystrokes than ever before.

There so many benefits to using Cocoa Emacs instead of Terminal+SSH+Emacs. I don’t have to mess with Terminal’s key maps and then fix them in every remote .emacs file. I don’t even need to install Emacs on remote servers. The kill ring integrates with the clipboard and works across all remote hosts. The network can’t lag my keystrokes or kill my editing session. Frames. Menus. Scroll bars.

I must stop blogging and get back to work. But first I must thank David Caldwell for setting up emacsformacosx.com. Of all the major hacking environment shifts I’ve made, this was the easiest and most powerful.