More.. Things Fall Apart

Maybe it’s just me, but it seems like every day - without fail - something either fails outright or doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do. Two days ago, my Apple watch mysteriously quit unlocking my MacBook. Not a big thing, but irritating and unfixable after an hour’s effort.

Today, I discovered that when I receive an email notice on my iPhone of a Scanalyst message, like a reply to a post from “bugapi via scanalyst”, the link to “visit topic” quit working correctly. Before today, when I clicked the link I was taken promptly to the post in question. It has always worked that way. This is an important function to me, as I do it more than a few times a day. As of today, the link takes me to my browser (Brave, which I have been using all along), but to the previous page which was open. It does this even if I leave open the Brave landing page in which the URL is blank; it takes me to that.

OK. I do several searches, trying to figure out: is this protonmai? is it Brave? BTW, Brave is my default browser as far as iPhone and Protonmail are concerned. My computer-savvy son was visiting. He couldn’t figure it out after checking all settings (which I haven’t changed) in iPhone, Protonmail and Brave. He was of the opinion the problem was with Brave browser. So, I decided to give them some feedback. The next round of “falling apart” thus began.

I tried to log into my Brave account to contact support. My credentials, stored in Mac Keychain, failed. It suggested I open a new account. I did so and entered new credentials using a different email account, in order to avoid the problem I have previously encountered - being told, “sorry an account with that username already exists”. So, I created the account and a new password. I was thanked for creating the account and was asked to log in. I tried to do so, but was told the just created and copied in (i.e., not hand-entered erroneously) credentials were incorrect.Then, it offered to send me an email link for login, instead of logging in with credentials. Three times I requested this but never received an email - to the account it said it would sent it to.

I wish I could say this were a rare series of events, but it is quite frequent. If you count the various failures and misfires of stuff around the house, it is literally just about a daily occurrence. I have developed a temper - never directed at any person - such that I have come close to throwing cell phones or smashing computers. I can imagine some great, albeit temporary, cathartic release from doing so.

In the big picture, this all feels (I know, emotions don’t count) so unfair. My entire work life, I had to be perfect all the time or would have left a trail of bodies. I was responsible and accountable. I was ever consciously aware of my duty and took it very seriously. Around me, nowadays, I see little evidence of any such interest in quality or service (or even basic competence or civility when it comes to the state’s minions who have power over me) anywhere. Electronic devices seem to commonly behave as I have described - erratic, marginally reliable and demanding of a great deal of fussing and maintenance.

I only wish there were feedback loops through which I might singe or incinerate the perpetrators. These people, I suspect (like the corporations who shove woke crap in the faces and down the throats of their potential customers), saunter off to the bank (may their websites crash, often!) with their ill-gotten filthy lucre, in the serene belief that we have no choice, that we have no alternative to using and paying exorbitantly, for their stuff. This circumstance is but price we, the deplorable unwashed, pay for the ‘new and improved’ fascism under which we live.

Effective feedback to our corporate oppressors seems hopeless, as they manipulate searches, “news” and blatantly censor and de-platform. Similarly, feedback to our state masters via voting; mere gestures without impact. Big tech controls the devices; we can see neither the transistors, gates, bits nor electrons in the devices. Big cities control the outcomes of virtually all statewide and surely all national elections. Do you really think the very same utter lawlessness publicly rampant in every large city - where the great majority of ‘voters’ live - does not extend to the 'voting process? - You know, to the Democrat party hacks in every city, who control electronic voting machines (whose electrons are invisible and inherently unverifiable), absentee ballots, their harvesting (paid for by Zuckerbucks) and counting? These are the powerful monopolies, private and public, whose oppression grows before our eyes, even as the quality of our lives deteriorates.

I think oppression in this climate can only continue to work provided the bread & circuses remain sufficiently distracting. That seems to be failing. The stuff that makes everyday life work now fails too often, circuses of entertainment are now wall-to-wall woke political propaganda; bread is too expensive and insect-infested (oh, I forgot, that’s a feature, not a bug any longer). If my own anger at these conditions are any indicator, this may not be a tolerable condition of society for much longer.


What you said about your professional life, being responsible for whatever went wrong: yes, this drives me crazy too, we had to anticipate circumstances nobody would ever have thought of. And now, nobody ever does anything right, and there’s no accountability.
The lights will wink out, one by one, because…nobody now knows how they worked in the first place. What’s left? Fire for warmth and light. But paper? Idk, mebbe pieces of bark….


I’m not so sure. I share your anger at almost everything, products and service alike, trending toward the shoddy, but I fear that may be, absent external competition, a state which represents a stable equilibrium which can persist for an extended, if not arbitrarily long time. Think of it as akin to living in a high-trust society. A high trust society is an objective benefit to everybody who lives in it (even to the criminals who exploit it, who find their “job” easier). And yet it is an inherently fragile equilibrium. It only takes a limited amount of corrosion to lower peoples’ expectations, cause them to mistrust those they encounter, and before long look to “get theirs” before they’re exploited by others. Once the phase transition occurs and the society becomes low trust, I don’t know how the high trust state can be recovered, unless by some kind of broad-based societal upset like a religious Great Awakening. I can’t think of an example of a society moving from low- to high-trust in my lifetime, but plenty going the other way.

Shoddiness in products and services are similar. Consider the equilibrium of junk the U.S. domestic automobile industry settled into from the 1950s through the 1970s. Everything was cost-optimised by whiz kids to reduce the cost of manufacturing regardless of the consequences on the product, which customers assumed would rust out in a couple of years and wear out mechanically in a few more. “Service”—namely repairing flaws and premature wear that shouldn’t have happened in the first place was a major profit centre for the manufacturers’ dealer networks and a host of independent garages. This situation remained stable until the entry of competition from Japan and Germany showed that not only were far more reliable products possible, they were often less expensive than the junk from Detroit.

At the time Microsoft began to roll out their products (well, it wasn’t so much rolling as the lump-a-thump of a corpse tumbling down a ramp), the comparable products in the minicomputer and mainframe computer market had reached such a state of stability that they would run for weeks or months without crashes, did not require frequent maintenance, and performed according to their documentation and were compliant with adopted standards. Microsoft products were none of these things, and it wasn’t a matter of constraints imposed by the small machines on which they ran but rather gross ignorance and incompetence on the part of those who designed and implemented them. One of the core technologies upon which Windows was based, “dynamic linked libraries”, resulting in countless hours of frustration, lost productivity, and lost customer work, had been used in the Multics operating system developed in the 1960s with exactly the same results, but that didn’t stop Microsoft from repeating this history.

There has been little or no customer push-back against these shoddy products. When better products have displaced them (for example, Japanese cars), the selling point was mostly price, not quality, at least initially. Billions of people just accept paying hundreds of dollars for mobile phones with non-replaceable batteries which inevitably fail in two or three years because “by then you’re going to want a new phone anyway.”

I have on my desk a Hewlett-Packard 48GX calculator, made in 1993, the final days of the Old H-P. In the thirty years I have been using it, I have done nothing other than change batteries every five years or so until, ten years ago, I started to use NiMH rechargeable batteries which are still in use. During that time I have gone through, as best I can count, six mobile phones.

I expect, over the next two years, much of the remaining human-to-human interaction in customer service to be replaced by AI chatbots. Given how much of customer service now amounts to offshore contract workers with no knowledge of the product reading from scripts, this may actually improve things.


Oh yes, indeed! I was completely non-technical, but DLL was a term I learned early and often (not that I understood it). The fact was that any time I added new software, it created either a corruption or conflict with a DLL and things fell apart. I concluded, when it came to Windows machines “Add software at your own risk”.


I dissent.

The most significant thing was fuel economy due to the oil shocks of the Arab oil embargo, Iranian Revolution, and Iran-Iraq war.

My parents had a '74 corolla, my aunt a '75 corolla, our next door neighbor had a ‘74 Datsun B210, my dad’s secretary had a 260z, one of my parents’ friends had a Fiat of that era, and my cousin had a BMW 2002. All were rust buckets worse than any American car not known as a rust bucket (Vega, Aspen/Volare). And arguably worse than the Vega and Aspen/Volare whose problems were mainly limited to front fenders due to lack of liners

The US could not afford to make small cars. And that was not all the fault of the UAW. If an American car company wanted to sell 200000 small cars in the US, it would have to spread the fixed costs across those 200k cars. if a Japanese or European company (with a protected market) wanted to do so, it could add in the 500k cars it sold in its protected home market.