Thursday, June 19, 2008

Ten Questions

(The inspiration for this post came to me after talking to a couple who don't have cable and rarely watch TV.)

Here are ten questions (some with related sub-questions). If you thought these were good questions, send them to people you know and see how they answer them.

1. What if you no longer had cable television in your house? Could you do that?

2. What if instead of e-mailing certain family members or friends, you called them up on the phone or just wrote them letters? Could you do that? Do you think a person who completely stopped using e-mail could function in our society?

3. What if you wrote and mailed a physical letter to a dear friend you haven't talked to in a while, instead of e-mailing him or her? Could you do that?

4. Could you go two weeks without communicating by e-mail? (outside of work-related stuff)

5. What if, in response to a long period of time with high gas prices, families decided to live closer to each other? Or friends made a conscious effort to live within walking distance of each other? Could you see yourself doing that? Is that a good idea?

6. Could you stop buying new clothes -- except for those out of sheer necessity -- for a year? Six months?

7. Could you live without the Internet? Are there any websites you positively couldn't live without? What would be more meaningful to you -- a self-published newsletter sent to your house or the same information presented in digital format?

8. Would you enjoy your hamburger as much if you had to slaughter the cow yourself and prepare it? Would you keep buying certain brand name clothes and other high-ticket items if you had to meet the person who put the items together overseas? And see how they live, and how much money they make, and watch their fingers dance around that sneaker or pair of cargo pants and put it together? And spend a few hours in that factory, listening to the hum of a hundred machines?

9. Think back on the last subway ride you had or trip to the mall. Remember the crowd of people -- mostly people you don't know. What if suddenly you had to work with and depend on them in some capacity; these total strangers becoming your necessary friends. Would you see this as an opportunity to meet new people and as a challenge? Or would this horrify you?

10. How long would you work in a job you hated or that bored you? If they paid you very, very well? And gave you dental insurance? Would you take a pay cut to work at something that was dear to your heart? Would you stop eating out and buying as many new clothes and accessories, if it meant working reduced hours at a job and having more time to either work on creative pursuits or spend with your family? And do you think you will ever be able to achieve a living by doing things you love?

Bonus question: Do these questions a) intrigue you, b) annoy you, c) anger you, or d) give you anxiety?


  1. I am a tech sauce guy! I soak in it!

    1. I could do it, have done it. I prefer not to, though!

    2. I know people who suck at email. They basically need to be called. They are huge pains in my ass.

    3. Could I? Sure. Why, though? Heck, even half my stupid wedding thank you cards are going to get lost in the mail.

    4. Two weeks? Again, could. Have done. Would I? No.

    5. I like cities. I like my friends. Some people I know would try to live close to me, though. Go away, person. You are not in my tribe.

    6. Um, I already do this. Eek.

    7. Fuck newsletters. That said, I do like hard copy for things-- like (nerd) Dragon Magazine. Eff Gleemax. You have no idea what I'm talking about.

    8. Sure. It is kind of a cliche, but food that you kill yourself does taste better. When I used to hunt a lot it was a nice set up. As to handmade stuff, I do like etsy, what can I say. I also like outsourcing labor. Living in the First World is great. Hey, you should read "World Made by Hand." It just came out.

    9. FUCK STRANGERS. Man, no, fuck them. Assholes on the train? There might be one person on any given car worth talking to.

    10. I sort of DO slum it because I like it. Well-- no sort of about it. I'd go for the cash at this point. Not entirely, but I'd tilt the equation.

    Extra credit: mostly b. I don't necessarily agree with the underlying assumptions here. Like-- I don't "need" technology & entertainment, but you know what? I collaborative storytell (rpg) on my Sundays. I have a standing "tv night" with my friends. I am in touch with people I really like in Japan, Europe, South America. People I like but wouldn't know if it wasn't from the internet. People who came to my wedding! So eff the idea that InfoTech is "lessening" people. Luddites need to be schooled in how SUCKY life has been for most of human history.

  2. 1. Sure, I could live without the cable. I'd buy a lot of box sets and watch more on the Internet. Oh, wait. The idea was that television is a horrid beast. Yeah. I don't buy that. Then again, the Globe Theater was plague central and a scourge on the English in the day, right?

    2. So, it's "better" to send something through snailmail? The paper, ink, and shipping costs be damned? I call my parents because they don't do email. Otherwise, it's email. I think people can function just fine without email. They just don't function *with me*.

    3. I don't write physical letters unless absolutely forced to. They are time-consuming and wasteful of resources.

    4. Sure. That would be two weeks of not communicating because I was on a serious decompression vacation on an island. Otherwise, why the hell would I do that?

    5. I much prefer to have space from friends and a LOT of space from family.

    6. I could. I wouldn't.

    7. I could. I wouldn't. Again, I don't want people sending me things that waste resources that I must then stick in a landfill. Don't the Luddites care about the future of the planet?

    8. I would enjoy my meal just fine if I killed the animal. However, I'm in favor of labor specialization.

    9. I'm a misanthrope for the most part, so no. I wouldn't want to deal with the wretched masses.

    10. I'm a software engineer for a crappy company. I haven't had a job I enjoyed in...well, my whole life. I make a lot of money, and that lets me enjoy the *rest* of my life. There are very few careers that would make me happy, but should I be able to get one of those someday, I would be much more content. Those are *also* high-paying careers, however. But I would take a cut in pay to get one of those jobs if need be.

    Bonus: B.

  3. I can honestly answer "yes" to all of these.

    #7 may be tough, but I'm sure I'll survive. :-)

    And I'm currently living #10 by working at a non-profit, which by definition means the pay isn't great compared to identical positions in the commercial sector, but this job also happens to be by far the best job I've ever had. The piece of mind far outweighs the desire for a higher paycheck. Been there, done that (for about 5 years at a previous job), and the pain and stress just isn't worth it.

    As far as your follow up question: A combination of a and b. I'm always intrigued by these types of quizzes, in part to (re)examine myself, as well as seeing how everybody else responds. I admit that I get annoyed sometimes when I get these things via email, but I'm not a guy who forwards jokes and such to everybody in my address book), anyway.


  4. 1. Don't have cable television now, and haven't for about four years. I watch all of my television via DVD boxed sets. Consequently even minor plot-point reveals re: Lost, BSG, etc. in headlines of blogposts/nerd-news sites annoy me greatly.

    2. The only friends I have who do not use email are people who do over half their communication through texting. This annoys me to no end. If I could use any means of remote communication other than texting I'd be fine. Texting sucks.

    3. I occasionally do. Not that often, but occasionally just for the fun of it. I have special Spider-Man stationary for just this purpose.

    4. If I could ever get a vacation? Sure. I need to communicate with the outside world while I'm at work to keep myself sane though.

    5. EEP. I would never, ever, ever want to live within much proximity to my family. My friends and I talk about the walking distance to each-other thing ALL THE TIME though. I think it'll happen before too long.

    6. Um. Yeah. Already do this. If you don't count thrift-store/used purchases as 'new' I probably haven't bought any 'new' clothes in three or four years. (Not counting socks, underwear, etc. obviously)

    7. Dependence on the internet largely depends on how occupied I am with other stuff. I despise my job. The internet is my salvation while I'm at work. When not at work? I tend to look at the internet as a tool for specific uses and not really anything more.

    8. I started working as a meatcutter a few years ago and toured slaughterhouses and ranches in part to see how I could deal with it. Basically, it's made me reject poorly raised meat and appreciate and enjoy meat that is well raised and cut a great deal more.

    As far as the overseas factory - I try to buy responsibly, but I don't always. I know that when I am aware of poor labor conditions in the production of something I avoid spending money on it, I try to buy local as much as I can. This works pretty well with food, and buying almost entirely used clothes keeps me away from supporting those factories... It's mostly my entertainment consumption (comics, DVDs, etc.) that creates any major potential gray area for me.

    9. Don't take the train, but I do take the bus. If I were trapped with the people I ride the bus with I would try to kill and eat them before hunger was even a concern.

    10. I presently work a job that I loathe and that depresses me to no end. I do it entirely because I had medical stuff that I urgently needed to take care of and I was rapidly being crushed by debt because my previous job's insurance wouldn't cover my expenses. That has been stabilized and I am now working towards taking a big risk and a significant pay/benefits cut to do something that I love. If I'm doing something that I love and I can scrape by, that's good enough (never the preferred option - I'd rather be doing something I love and doing well, but it's better than doing something I hate for disposable income). Sadly, my medical situation meant that 'scraping by' was not possible while doing something I loved.

  5. 1. In the UK we need a TV licence to watch tv. I bought a licence for a yr as an experiement and still didn't watch TV. I no longer have a licence so don't watch TV. I had satellite for a year and we only ever watched Friedns and The Simpsons. I can easily go withot TV.
    2. My friends and family don't really use email. Instead I text or phone. As I hate using the phone I don't speak to people very often but when I see them I make the effort to spend a long time catching up.
    3. I hate hand writing. As above I'd rather communicate infrequently and make the physical meetings count.
    4) Probably. If I still had the internet to check websites - most of my emaisl are ebay or site notifications.
    5) If I lived closer to my family I'd go mad, I like the physical distance. My friends who live in the same county as me all live within walking distance in a city. My friends in different parts of the country, well I only see them twice a year anyway.
    7) I'd get really frustrated and feel very cut off w/o the internets. I really appreciate the forum for views that it is. I'd rather a hardcopy of something to be hoenst, if it's published monthly. Anything weekly or daily I want digitally - less waste of paper and more immediate.
    8) About the hamburger - I'd defintiely enjoy it more.
    Re the clothes - I'd quit buying them.
    9) This is less applicable when you live in a small city. I see the same faces around my city. It's friendly and feels like a community. When I visit London it's a jam packed commuter and tourist filled hell hole. But i'd be happy working with them - I like meeting new people and I'd love to know their stories.
    10) I couldn't work in a well apid job that bored me or that I hated. Where I work now, I'm underpaid, but I'm there because I believe in what we're doing. I do make a living doing something I love. I could move into the private sector and earn another 10 grand, but I don't want to. If spending time with my family was that important to me, then hell yeah I'd take a pay cut and not eat out or buy as much stuff. Hell it's only stuff.

  6. 1) I haven't had cable since 12/2001.

    2) I prefer to call people in general but I have one friend on the West Coast whose schedule rarely synchs well with mine so we mainly communicate with email. But I could give up personal communication through email.

    3) I could, but I'd rather just talk to them. Letter writing is legitimately passe. It only survived the introduction of the telephone because for the longest time long distance calls cost an arm and a leg.

    4) Absolutely.

    5) The realities of the real estate market in my area would never let all of my friends/family be within walking distance. And it would be impossible for everyone to live within walking distance of their friends and family.

    6) I haven't bought any new clothes in over a year.

    7) Live without it, of course. I would hate to give up the news sites I visit, though, since that's my only way of keeping up with the world.

    8) I would never excuse the conditions many overseas laborers have to work under, but I've always wondered what would happen if America turned a corner and started en masse not buying sweatshop-produced items. Would those workers start getting a better deal or would they just be out of a job?

    9) I've been in a situation where I've unexpectedly had to depend on a group of strangers for help (we all had to depend on each other, actually). And it's like every scene you've ever seen in a movie--the majority of the group tries to pull together to resolve the situation but there's always the incompetent ones or the assholes to undermine things. If you could factor out those persons I would see it as an opportunity.

    10) I've worked for awhile at a job that I don't like because of the salary and benefits. But I've simplified my wants to the point where I can look for a job that pays less and plan to start doing so in July.

    The questions intrigue me.

  7. "8. Would you enjoy your hamburger as much if you had to slaughter the cow yourself and prepare it?"

    Yes, I would. Partly for the satisfaction of actually working hard for a meal, but also for the visceral experience.

    Would I ennjoy my hamburger if I had to work in a beef packing plant, engaged in repetitious, mind numbing drudgery? No.

    Would I enjoy attacking the carcass (after it had be politely killed) with a chainsaw, or disecting it with knife and scalpel? Heck yeah! I would sample every part of the animal I had slaughtered, savoring each experience.

    Now excuse me... There's a line at the Shake Shack, and I am ravenous.

  8. 1.- yes internet, videogames, newspapers there`s no need for cable tv

    2.- I dont use e-mail with my friends I calll them by phone

    3.-physical letters sucks in my country , it took like 3 months my last letter to reach his destination.


    5.-all my friends live in a walking distance, and In my country gas is always expensive


    7.-no internet kinda of a bussiness
    thing for me and I need it

    8.-yes, my father own several ranchs so I kinda always eat meat with the cows I play all the time.

    9.- theres no subway in my city

    10.- it depends if the money help you to fullfill your dreams

    e)help me to pass my free time nothing else-

  9. 1. Don't have pay-TV now. Never been tempted.
    2.Yes, I suppose I could. I think I've just gotten addicted to the convenience.
    3. Of course I could.
    4.Yes. It'd be be as inconvenient as hell, and feel very limiting, but I could do it. if I chose to.
    5.God, no. I like seeing family and friends on my own terms.
    6. I already do this now. How many clothes do you really need?
    7. See Q4. I'd prefer the digital format- a hardcopy would just need to be recycled, or (more likely) held on to, and I've only got so much space.
    8. About the cow, I honestly have no idea. And yes, I would keep buying imports, but I might feel guilty about it for a while.
    9. Er, "horrify". Bold and underline.
    10. Five months. But the pay was crap. As to whether I'd take a pay cut, yes, I think I would. As for the last two questions, no and no.

    Bonus: (a).

  10. 1. Done.
    Seriously, I already did that ages ago. All TV is on the internet now.

    2. I don't e-mail people I know, unless they're far away on vacation or something.
    If I felt like it, yeah.
    Sure, so long as they could still text message.

    3. They'd . . . read it?
    Uh, yes. I know how to write and send a letter, thank you.

    4. Maybe.

    5. That would be horrible - we earned long-distances from our parents and other annoying family members a long time ago.
    We don't live in the 1800's, so my friends can live wherever theyhell they want.

    6. Yes, but I don't want to.
    Already done.

    7. Probably not. Internet addiction is an ugly disease.
    One or three.
    The newsletter would probably be spam/junk mail in either form.

    8. More, probably.
    Absolutely not - because it'd be a pain in the ass to travel overseas all the time.
    Also, I'd cry burning, angry tears at their plight and my eyes'd get all red and ugly-looking. Nobody likes red-eye.

    9. Horrify.
    People are, for the most part, self-involved asshats with the IQ of motor oil. See example: ME

    10. 3 and a half years.
    See first answer.
    See first answer.
    Sure, assuming it also meant that I never had to read another run-on sentence full of clauses ever again, because those are incredibly annoying and do you see where I'm coming from here?
    Probably not.

    Bonus Question: Hard choice, but I'm gonna have to go with . . . B.

  11. 1. I don't have cable; I don't watch much TV at all

    2. I talk with my relatives by phone more than by email already

    3. I generally do send letters since I don't have the email addresses of those old friends

    4. Probably not

    5. It's been suggested through research that one of the leading indicators of friendship is proximity. You're more likely to be friends with your neighbor than the guy at the end of the street, because you're closer to him. A more likely scenario is that people already living close to one another will stay put more frequently, and become better friends as a result.

    6. I don't think I've bought new clothes at all in the past year. I've been given a few shirts, but I think the last article of clothing I bought for myself was a pair of hiking boots a little over a year ago.

    7. Considering I do web development for a living: no, I couldn't live without the internet

    8. I might actually get some satisfaction of making the whole hamburger myself. But if I'm aware of manufacturers that are using what's effectively slave labor, I tend to eschew their wares. But most of the products I buy tend to be machine-made in the first place.

    9. Somewhere in between. Maybe leaning towards the opportunity end of things, but only just.

    10. Until I found new employment. Ditto. Ditto. Depends on how great a pay cut. Yes. I sure as hell hope so!

    Bonus: A

  12. 1. I doubt it. I'd keep it for sports. Online options for watching sports aren't as good as cable, yet.

    2. I'm not very sociable, and am much more comfortable emailing people than calling or writing them.

    3. It would be to weird for me to do something like that.

    4. No, as after two weeks, there'd be way too much stuff in my inbox and my suspect email folder.

    5. It's an interesting concept, and might be good for a lot of people. Not for me, though.

    6. Yes, as I only buy new shoes once a year, and only buy new shirts and shorts if there are holes in them. I fall into stereotypical guy behavior here. However, I do try to buy socks on about a six to eight month basis, as I like my socks soft and stretchy.

    7. I could live without the internet, but I'd be even less social than I am now. I really prefer to interact online than in person. There's also so much I do for fun online, that I really wouldn't want to give up the internet. As far as newsletters, I do subscribe to the Wrestling Observer Newsletter, which only last week added an option of reading it online. I'll still subscribe to the print version, so as to keep a hard copy for the future.

    8. Sure, as I already understand that most of the food I eat came from slaughtered animals.

    9. I prefer to be by myself, and work by myself, so I wouldn't like this situation one bit.

    10. I'm going to need health insurance(especially prescription drug coverage) from any job I take. I assume I'll have to work in jobs I don't like that much if it means my drugs and medical costs can be covered by my employer.

    Oh, and these questions intrigued me a little.

  13. Of course, you've got a painfully strong self-selection bias going on here. You're asking questions about technology and the Internet (amongst others) of people who are readers of your site on the Internet.

  14. Bonus question: the questions sort of annoy me. They just aren't that interesting. The past wasn't better. It was better in ways and it was worse in ways. Each era is different. Live in it.
    The question on here that I, as a vegetarian, should be jumping for joy about is the hamburger one, but, really, even that view is pretty old news.
    This Too Will Pass.

  15. 1. Of Course, I have gone without a tv at all for years.

    2. I hate the phone. While i acknowledge its worth, I try to ignore it as much as i can. That said I could do this. I would not be happy, and I would not get as many updates from people nor they from me.

    3. I go through phases of sending out real mail to people, though i find it hard to do, as they normally have heard the stuff i would be sending. but anytime i have a package of stuff to send out, i always add a real letter. I sort of think i depend on email too much.

    4. Sure, but i would be quite miserable.

    5. I would love that. only 3 or 4 of my friends live in my neighborhood, but it is where we tend to go out at night. it would make it far easier to get together more often if they were closer. But i love being able to jump the subway and visit most of my friends in 30 min or less. I do wish my college friends lived closer, as it is a real struggle to get to see them.

    6. Other than work clothes, undies and socks, I have not bought a new item of clothing since the mid 90s. I only buy used clothes. I see no reason to waste resources on new production if i can just reuse clothes of others. I also do not think I have bought a new used item in over a year. I still wear shirts from high school if they are still up to it.

    7. I am about to say that I could, but deep down it would really change how i would have to do everything. It basically is how I work, or rather get my work to others. And i have no time or place in my life for ephemera so newsletter would frankly be unwelcome, as i would want to keep every issue, but have not the space for it.

    8. I have been vegetarian since i was 10 or 11. I was unable to even continue eating meat just thinking about the slaughter house, let alone having to do the slaughter.
    As for the clothes, I could care less about a name brand. In fact other than tennis shoes (which i have not worn in 5+ years) i have not bought or worn anything that displays a logo on it since high school 15+ years ago. I look for clothes with life time guarantees (a'la lands end) or with great craftsmanship. I assume these are put together by people not making a million dollars, but certainly a wage that could support them where they live. if i found different I would stop buying them 1st hand, but would have no such issues buying them second hand.

    9. As I am not one who works well with others, this thought horrifies me. All I can think is that they would require me to work harder and faster to make up for what ever inability each of them brought to the process. Or we would get tasked on some mundane project that would make me want to drive a pile driver though my skull rather than spend any time doing it.

    10. I would say it depended on the level and category of boredom. If I could do something else when doing it, I might stay forever, but if it took all my attention and bored me silly, i could not see me lasting more than a few weeks. Eight years ago i gave up a great paying job to be a NYC teacher, took a 50% pay cut because I felt it was something that would be meaningful. Well I regret this decision on at least a weekly basis, but just from the idea that I ever thought i had the temperament to be a teacher, not the meaningful work angle. I would give up tons, to be able work less and have more time to cook and just enjoy my friends.

  16. 1. I don't have cable television, and haven't fox six months. I don't miss it.

    2. I usually talk to my friends and relatives on the phone or in person, not by e-mail. Sometimes, though, late at night, half a world away, or when someone is out of touch for a few hours, e-mail is nice.

    3. My best friend and I usually write each other letters (by hand) every few months, even if we're in the same town. She's quite wonderful.

    4. Yes. I often do.

    5. I'd rather take the train, or sail by wind-powered boat. We didn't always have cars. If it came to it, I'd choose to live close to my best friend. She'd be the hardest person in the world to do without.

    6. Actually, I buy my wardrobe once a year (though I do get some clothes as gifts during the holidays, and occasionally at other intervals; souvenirs don't count).

    7. I'm not really online all that much. Though I've been using the internet since I was 7 (in 1991), I don't feel all that attached to it. It's really nice (I love being able to access vast amounts of information nearly instantly), but I don't like my attention being taken by a digital world. I draw, write, read, watch movies, go outside, stay inside, and spend time with friends much more than stay near the computer screen. Maybe I'm too much a 20th Century boy.

    8. I'm a vegetarian, and I don't usually by brand name. The brands I do buy, though, are reported to have good working conditions overseas, or are made in a first world country.

    9. I like meeting new people. I hope we'd have the skills we'd need to succeed.

    10. I expect to spend my life at jobs I dislike. They are, unfortunately, in my stars if I wish to be moral.

    Bonus question: e) None of the above. I'm indifferent, unperturbed.

  17. Oh, and I would prefer an online self-published newsletter to a paper one. Junk mail has caused me to perceive mailed publications as cheap. I'd feel differently if it came in a box, even as a collection of issues over time.