Lost.
kitten   September 27, 2004

Dear Alexis,

Sometimes I wonder if you're really getting these letters. True, I put no return address on them, but I have a confession to make: I do that deliberately, as a sort of test, to see if you've figured out where I am, and whether or not you'll care enough about these letters to write back. By telling you that I suppose I've destroyed the whole point, but maybe my intentions and meanings aren't always as clear to other people as they are to me, and I need to explain exactly what I'm doing. What do you think?

There's an airport very close to me. When I first arrived, the near-constant roar of jet engines drove me insane, but I've sort of tuned it down into the background, something you barely notice unless you think about it, like the way your pants feel against your legs. I think that when I return, that noise is what I'll miss the most. When I was little, I'd keep a fan on at all times, while I slept, because without the humming of those fan blades I couldn't get to sleep at all. The room would just feel still and stagnant and I'd have trouble breathing, like the darkness was going to envelope me in that eerie silence, and I'd think this is what being in a casket must be like. The rise and fall of jets coming and going sort of serves the same purpose to me now, and without that I think I'd have to go out and buy a fan to keep in my room.

Some days, when I have the time, I go to this airport and pick out a spot and just watch people. Sometimes I'll sit in one of the gates, and other times I'll be in one of the lounges or bars lining the terminal. The nice thing about doing this at the airport is that nobody notices you, and there isn't much risk of being spotted by a repeat customer, or labelled a regular. They're all there for specific reasons, not to slouch about, so to them I'm just another lost face in the multitudes to be ignored, which is fine by me. Most people getting off these planes have a disoriented look on their face, like they need a few minutes to get adjusted to the fact that they're in a new city. The ones who are boarding always have this world-weary expression, the same way they probably look at five o'clock when they go home from work. When their time comes to board they either spring out of their muzak-induced stupor as though the plane might leave without them, or they might have to fight someone for their seat. That, or they drag themselves to a standing position with a lot of dramatic groaning and shuffling about, like the burden of travelling is too much for them to bear.

During the day this airport is teeming with people, wall-to-wall masses of them trying to navigate their way around each other, laden with rolling luggage carts and handbags. The flow never evens itself out, either, and there's too much cross-traffic for any patterns to assert themselves. Even if they did, the occasional carts that wheel by, carrying the elderly, fat, or lazy would completely decimate the pattern as people scramble out of the way, and it would have to start all over again. When I'm sitting off to the side in the lounge with a glass of Stoli and fruit juice none of this bothers me; it's just another emergent system to watch, albiet one that never quite emerges. But getting to that lounge is another story. I can't deal with slow-moving people who get in the way and seem to anticipate my every effort to get around them. So I much prefer to visit the airport at night, especially because if I'm sitting at a gate, I can look out the window and imagine that the blue landing lights spreading across the tarmac are stars, which you can't see from this city.

I know you can't see stars at home, either, especially from your building, lit up by streetlights and glaring into the sky. Do you ever miss the stars, Alexis? Do you ever think maybe you'd like to go somewhere far from industrial pollution and artificial lighting, so you could see them again? I have a friend who lives in Arizona, and every now and then he'll go out to Gila Bend, lean back in the bed of his truck, and he claims he can see the Milky Way from there. But I know you better. You'd like to see the stars, Alexis, but the thought of being so far from what we call civilization, of neon and steel and glass, isn't worth it to you. It's okay, because I feel the same way. After all, I'm the one looking at a mile of concrete with blue lights embedded in it, pretending it's the night sky, even when thousands of tons of metal are rolling across it. Taking a little bit from both worlds. Sort of an elegant solution, don't you think?

I wish you were here to see exactly what I mean, but I know you've got a lot of thinking to do yourself. Sometimes I think of calling you, so you can agonize to me at length about your situation, the way you used to when you were feeling low and needed to get something off your chest. But for now, I need to be where I am, and you need to be where you are, on your fire escape overlooking the highway, where I know you go to read these letters -- assuming you're really getting them, like I said. Does it surprise you that I know that's where you go, and how much time you spend there with your laptop perched on your knees? I'm not supposed to know, but don't worry; I won't tell anyone. You can trust me.

Do you remember the time last winter, when you asked if you could cut me? Just a small cut, you said, a few inches across between my shoulderblades, and the razor you held was shiny and perfect. When I let you, I didn't really understand why you said you needed this, but I think now I do. And in case you're wondering, the scar is mostly gone, but if you look closely you can still see it, and I don't think it will ever fade away completely -- which is just what you wanted. Back then, neither of us were in a place to take the exploration further, especially to the more delicious side of pain, but you should know, if you didn't already, that I wanted to. Late at night I can sometimes feel it across my back, if I'm laying in bed just the right way, and I wonder if it has anything to do with the way you're feeling at that moment. I can't say, but I do know that it keeps my thoughts with you, which is also what you wanted. I don't regret it and I'd let you do it all over, if you ever needed to test my trust in you again.

I'm going to go now, Alexis, and I hope that you're dealing with your own fears and desires in the right way. I know you are, because I have a lot of faith in you. Maybe it surprises you to see that word, faith, from the pen of someone like me, but I'm using the word anyway, for you. Think about it, and think too about the words of John Donne, from his 14th Holy Sonnet:

Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, shall never be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
If you give it enough thought, I think you can understand what that means. I'd like you to figure it out for yourself, but maybe I'll tell you more in my next letter.

Until then,

Always yours,

kitten

Utility.
kitten   September 25, 2004

Circadian rhythms don't stand a chance against her. Never did, and nature should have known better than to tangle with the irresistable force that she was. Eons of evolutionary pressure, coaxing, dictating, in tune with the rise and fall of the sun, and all of it washed away like footprints on the beach in the morning tide. For her I'd stay awake long into the night, even if it meant staggering into class each morning exhausted, just in case she needed me, wanted someone to talk to, had a bad day and needed to tell someone. Even if she had nothing particular on her mind, but simply wanted company -- that's what I'm here for.

She'd listened to me spin out my sad stories and rambling tales of conflict often enough, in long lonely nights through clouds of cigarette smoke and longing gazes, that I felt I owed it to her to be around when she needed the same favor. At least, that was the party line, the one I'd use to avoid incrimination, but the real reason was affection, sincere, even if I knew it would never be returned. She didn't have to know why I slept and woke at the same times she did, assuming she even noticed; it was enough for me that I was available, a resource at her disposal to be used when she saw fit. She didn't have to know and I didn't have to volunteer that information, nor did I have to tell her that my only discontent with this affair was that she didn't see fit to use me as an outlet very often anymore.

But when she slept, I knew it was okay for me to sleep as well. She'd not need me then, secure in her bed and off in the convuluted world of her dreams, making it okay for me to sleep as well, regardless of the time she chose to finally retire. I suppose it's possible her dreams could go awry, stranding her in a tundra of nightmare fear, but I hope during those times, she realizes that she's still in my thoughts, in my dreamworld, and somewhere, even in that detached reality, she's never far from me.

But never close enough to hold.

Confusion.
kitten   September 24, 2004

"I have way too much to do," she announced, leaning back in her chair and stretching, long arms high above her head and casting shadows across her face. Another late night for her, and I knew she was just getting started.

"I'll leave you to it, then," I said, gathering my things. Books, pens. A coffee mug from better times, given to me by the most recent one who stepped out of my seashell, now with hairline cracks running across the handle. I've held onto it for a long time now, and don't expect to let it go until it's fallen completely apart, sort of a keepsake to prove that when the planets align properly and I can share myself with someone, I do have sensitivity. "Guess I'll get going."

"Yeah," she said, "go."

"I'll try not to take that too personally," I remarked casually. Cigarettes, lighter, wallet. Keys, held together by a pink elastic hairband, frayed and beginning to tear.

"Well, when you're here, I get no work done," she explained. "More fun to talk to you, just cause you're here, see?"

"Alright, alright," I said. "I'm going."

"Not that I want you to leave," she continued by way of clarification, swivelling back and forth in her chair. Left, right, hypnotic. "Just that I have to get this done sometime."

"Yeah," I said, monotone voice to match my monotone mood. Nicely noncommittal, trying to hide the dejected feeling I got when saying goodbye to her. Then: "Talk to you tomorrow, I guess." And I made for the door, leaving her to finish her projects without my less-than-engaging attempts at conversation getting in her way.

It's not that I tried to get in her way, distracting and pestering her -- but there was a high-quality level of communication between us, and I took advantage. With other people, I felt the need to censor my words, even my thoughts. But with her I was free to speak on nonlinear terms, almost a direct route from thought to vocalization. She tolerated these odd chains of discourse from me, though I never knew why. Maybe I was wrong for it, wrong for wanting connection while she had better things to do.

"Wait," she called after me, and I turned, my eyes meeting hers, her face lit by the dull blue glow of her monitor.

"The work," she said, "can wait. Stay?"

Maybe it's time I get rid of that coffee cup.

Lagrimas que brotan porque ya no hay amor.
kitten   September 21, 2004

He dreams a monolithic skyscraper, white concrete lit by mercury vapor. In the city, there's a reversal of nature: a matte and empty sky looking down on a network of stars picked out in gas lamps and neon along rainy streets.

Stars are where you find them, he once wanted to tell her. There was much he once wanted to tell her, and still did. Hope kept him strong and fear kept him silent.

Dreamlogic carries that peculiar sense of reality -- less rational than the waking world. That he's brushing her hair, or holding her hand, in this tilted memory, does not surprise him. It's a natural progression of feeling, the heart taking over for the mind, in sleep. That which he cannot have, but feels is right, is what comes to him during these moments.

But like soap bubbles on water, sliding away and vanishing when you try to touch them, the simple perfection of desire causing truth dissipates when he awakens in fitful starts throughout the night; he'll see her visage, perfect and pixellated, and know that for all his wishing, the smile she wears is not for him.

The skyscraper towers above, silent and sturdy amid the rhythm of nocturnal traffic, and with her, he feels safe. The scars on his back ache in time with her need. Her arms around him, her beauty eternal.

He sleeps.

Hell below me, stars above.
kitten   September 17, 2004

I am kitten's inflamed sense of rejection.

See a perfect forest through so many splintered trees.
kitten   September 13, 2004

I'd like some coffee, some cheesecake, and an hour.

It's hard to say why, and harder still to say it to you, but an hour would be a step to reclaiming that which we've lost. The ease with which we wiled away long summer nights with flowing conversation, whispered secrets in the ether, and for my part, I never really got to tell you what I wanted to say.

I saw you in my dreams last night. I dream of things I can't have, and so it's fitting that you feature so heavily in my dreams now, dark hair falling about your body in waves and a gigawatt smile. Eyes like something that lurks in tall grass, visible only by the twitching of ears, until someone vulnerable happens by.

And vulnerable is what I am in your presence, and I think you know it, even though I try to hide it and you never acknowledge it. To you I'd commit myself if you asked, but you never have.

Missing the feeling of lips on skin and nails across backs; I'd like to find out if my head would fit the curves of your neck as well as it does in my dreams.

I put together a dreamgirl and the dreamgirl takes me apart. In my dreams you take me apart a piece at a time, just to see how far you can go, but you won't hear my protests. If that's what you need from me, it's what I'll have for you.

One hour. One more cigarette.

I speak your name in my sleep.

Way up in the west hills.
kitten   September 10, 2004

New car, new job. Hot water, first time since April.

But I still haven't found what I'm looking for.

A fish with a bicycle.
kitten   September 6, 2004

Bluetooth is a wireless technology that was developed in order to provide a short-range, two-way communication standard between devices that need to communicate in some way -- to exchange data, to send audio signals, and so forth. It was developed by Ericsson as a means to connect mobile phones and their "accessories" (a headset) without wires, and was leapt upon by drooling technofetishists the world over, despite its limited application set.

Bluetooth is essentially a solution looking for a problem -- a mildly interesting toy and a cool way to get things done, but a solution that fails to address any real-world situations. It is, in short, a technology developed just for the sake of developing something new. Far from being universally adopted and failing to live up to its expectations of providing vast numbers of interconnected devices with a standard, Bluetooth is the shiny chrome hubcap on the otherwise normal vehicle of the digital -- kind of cool and all, but really, what's the point?

At home.
Bluetooth has been shoehorned into a number of home consumer devices. Companies are able to use the protocol as something of a marketing gimmick; "Bluetooth enabled" sounds much more impressive to the gadget-oriented alpha male than "wireless", and so he rushes out to buy his Bluetooth keyboard and mouse, a Bluetooth digital camera, Bluetooth computer speakers, with dreams of living in a wireless world, seamlesssly integrated into a single standard of communication among his myraid devices.

But wireless technologies for these devices already exists. The keyboard and mouse on my desktop are both wireless, using a simple RF receiver which sits unobtrusively on my computer case and functions flawlessly. Wireless speakers have been around for ages, and as they dont' need to talk to anything else, having them "integrated" into a Bluetooth standard doesn't provide much benefit.

What the must-have man quickly realizes after purchasing Bluetooth devices is that, far from being a life-simplifying, easy-to-implement, and highly adaptable technology, it is an unimaginble hassle to set up and, when it is finally working properly, doesn't do much that wasn't already being done.

Take this man's example. With sparkles in his eyes, he rushed out to buy the latest and greatest Bluetooth products, eager to see what new and impressive things he could do with it.

So now I had my Bluetooth adapter. So what could I do with it? Well, supposedly I could synchronize my phone and my iPAQ with Outlook over it as well as edit phone settings and downloading SMSes. Furthermore I should've had the ability to send files to the phone. Do you think I could get anything to work?

Besides the fact that these are things most people will never do nor have any desire to do, he discovered that getting Bluetooth to actually do any of this was a difficult and time-consuming process. After fiddling with drivers, uninstalling and reinstalling software, making several calls to the company's tech support, and other such headaches, he was finally able to get everything up and running. Success at last -- he can now syncronize his truckload of mostly-silly gadgets, not that he really needs to.
So now I could synchronize stuff. Woopee do, I could do that already over infrared. How about some cool stuff? I mean, Bluetooth is meant to be a 1mbps connection right? I should be able to watch videos and listen to music over it right? Wrong.

As noted, Bluetooth fails to address any real-world problems that weren't already being handled by other means -- other means that are simpler, easier to implement, and more universal.

Our man then takes another full page to explain how to get network access going through Bluetooth, that miracle technology that was supposed to simplify communication.

Okay this is a really big problem. I mean, huge. I struggled with this for ages and ages. If it wasn't the software it was some stupid setup issue which you never would've thought of. I'll go through the exact steps I did. Otherwise, when you try and connect network access to your iPAQ, it is likely to display "authenticating" forever and not actually connect.

After dozens of steps involving playing with unhappy network mapping, incompatible file formats, conversions, low bitrates, power requirements, and other hassles, he was finally able to stream music from his desktop computer to his iPaq and back. Thank you, Bluetooth, for making this miracle possible. (Streaming video, by the way, proved to be an impossible task, no matter the grandiose claims of Bluetooth's 1mbit speed.)

Syncronization of data is oft-touted as the problem Bluetooth can help solve in the home, but when we examine the rationale behind this explanation, it seems little more than a flimsy pretext:

[Using a cable is] a technique that makes the PDA a valuable tool for many people, but synchronizing the PDA with the computer and making sure you have the correct cable or cradle to connect the two can be a real hassle.

A "hassle", I suppose, if you can't keep track of the included USB cable that comes with most such devices, or if you can't find another USB cable around. Plugging devices in may not be as cool as being able to do it wirelessly, but how much of a hassle are we really talking about, compared to the headache described above? Almost every computer has USB functionality -- no Bluetooth adapters needed, no drivers necessary, no screwing with network connectivity. Bluetooth fails once more to be anything more than an interesting diversion -- as a serious solution to an actual problem, it is worthless.

Security is another problem with Bluetooth. By default, most Bluetooth devices are configured to seek each other out and establish communication across a "piconet" -- a short-range wireless network. Technologically-adept consumers can of course secure their devices against random passerby with a Bluetooth connection, but most consumers are not technologically literate, and will never realize the ease with which a total stranger can lift data from their PDA, eavesdrop on their phonecalls, or otherwise find ways of taking advantage of an inherently insecure technology.

On the road.
Picture this: You're driving along and you get a phonecall on your mobile. Being a responsible driver who likes to keep both hands on the wheel, you don't want to hold the phone to your head -- safety first, and holding a phone while driving can get fairly annoying. What do you do?

If you're like most people these days, you have a handy earpiece -- one end plugs into your phone, the other into your ear, and now you can speak into the air like Lieutenant Uhura hailing the Romulans. It's an effective way to hold cellular conversations without impairing your driving.

Enter Bluetooth. Its original conception, remember, was to do away with that wire -- now you can hang a carefully-balanced Bluetooth "headset" on your ear, which will transmit the audio signal to and from the phone without the wire. In that respect, Bluetooth succeeded in doing exactly what it was originally designed to do.

And now the question must be asked -- where was the problem that Bluetooth was solving here? Is having a wire running from ear to phone really such a cumbersome burden? Most people seem to have no problem with it. Is it any more or less cumbersome than, say, hanging a headset from your ear and walking around like some sort of cyborg? While the headset isn't exactly an annoyance, neither is the wire, and so Bluetooth once again fails to address any sort of realistic problem that needed solving. All of this assumes, of course, that your phone is Bluetooth-enabled. A few are but most are not, due to Bluetooth not being nearly as universal a standard as was originally conceived. Most people simply use the wired piece and will continue to do so for quite some time to come.

In the office.
You're an engineer on location and you need your supervisor's approval to commence work on a client project, in the middle of a field (this happens to most people, doesn't it?). How are you going to email your boss and get his approval email back?

Previously there were any number of ways to handle this situation. Calling your boss is a good idea -- he can verbally approve you and deal with the paperwork locally. If necessary he could even fax the paperwork to the appopriate person at the client company, or you could do it yourself later. Or, if you have something like a Danger Sidekick, you'd have your PDA and cellphone all-in-one, and could email directly from that, using the cellular network. Or, if you weren't a total toolbag, you'd have gotten approval before you left to go stand in the field.

Along the way, someone decided that these solutions were simply unacceptable, and so implented Bluetooth connections across PDAs and cellphones. Now you can write your email on your PDA, Bluetooth a connection to your cellphone which will act as an ad-hoc modem, and your email whirls away into the electronic ether. This is an admittedly cool way to do things, but confers zero advantages over the more mundane solutions, particularly when we consider that, again, the number of PDAs and cellphones that are actually Bluetooth-enabled these days are low. Hopefully both your devices have Bluetooth -- if not, I guess you'll have to do it the old-fashioned way.

The speed of Bluetooth is meant to be the equalizer in this situation. A cellular modem connection, unless it is in the presence of a 3G network, will be slow -- comparable to a 9600 dialup modem. The Sidekick would therefore be a rather slow way of transferring the needed data back to headquarters, and Bluetooth offers us a 1 to 10mbit solution.

Of course, our talented engineer then realizes that the fast connection afforded by Bluetooth is only between his PDA and his cellphone -- the actual connection to the network is going to be determined strictly by the phone and ceullar network, and Bluetooth has nothing to do with it. This is a shame, but then, we're talking about transferring emails around, so I suppose a few seconds' delay isn't something that we should concern ourselves with. You'll be screaming along at 14.4 either way.

Now get out of that field and go back to the office. Aren't you supposed to be working? Let's see what you can do with Bluetooth when you're in a workplace environment.

First you'll have to buy the adapters (or "dongles"), since the odds of any workstations in your office having Bluetooth ability is low. They aren't expensive, but we've seen the hassle of trying to get them to work properly. Once you've done that, simply plug them in and be transported into a magical world of high-speed wireless access across all your office devices.

Or maybe not. First you'll want to futz about with your LAN settings and the TCP/IP stack, which will run absolutely counter to what you've already got. Make sure your devices are positioned in precise alignment, lest you lose the connection. Don't bother trying to use your elite Bluetooth connection between walls, or if someone closes a door, or if your coworker happens to walk between the devices -- it probably won't work. Bluetooth has failed to be the quick, easy, all-inclusive standard that it was proffered as; you'd be better off using the 802.11 standard which is implemented on nearly all modern laptops and many desktops, is simple to implement, highly affordable, and works through walls, doors, and coworkers.

The upshot.
Other than extremely specific circumstances and implausible situations, Bluetooth is a useless technology. It is neither standard nor simple, solves no problems that weren't already solved (usually in more than one way), and provides no benefits over the previous solutions. While it has a very small number of legitimate applications, it is largely nothing more than a toy to the general populace and not a very useful one at that. It is, in short, a solution looking for a problem, one that it is likely to never find.

Additional reading.

Bluetooth in XP. God help us.

Not quite living up to expectations. And I thought this was supposed to let me transfer data around with ease.

Yawncetera. "I have seen Bluetooth, and it works. The question is: Who cares?"

Data sync blues.

Much ado about nothing.

Bluetooth, we hardly loved ye.