Differently Shaped Virtual Paper

The very first time I heard it I was immediately convinced by Killer Mike’s un-festschrift “Reagan”. It’s a lucid, orchestrated, and damning exposé of what Reagan’s legacy has meant for less privileged people in America  “[…] thanks to Reaganomics, prisons turned to profits
Cause free labor is the cornerstone of US economics”. However as much I appreciate what Killer Mike spits, and specifically how he’s spitting it, I never felt I could fully connect with the message having never been directly effected by Reagan’s policies – until now.

This week my National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program application was “rejected without review.” The reason given was my application was not conforming to the submission standards, I hadn’t left 1 inch margins. It was true, I’d left 2cm margins (0.79 inches). It wasn’t a conscious decision, it was just technology ruling my life. As I keep Ubuntu’s language set to British English to avoid too many red underline squiggles in my life – Libre Office had defaulted to A4 papersize when I went to write my document.

Now the A-series of paper sizes, is a rather clever invention if you’ve not learned about it’s geometry. Each A(n) size is derived by folding A(n-1) in half AND every A(n) has exactly the same ratio of height to width 1:√2. The math is elegant. Fold 1:√2 in half and get 1:(√2 / 2) . Simplify by multiplying both sides by √2, and get √2*1: √2*(√2 / 2) √2:(2/2) = √2:1. Ingenious.  8½” by 11″ on the other hand is about Ronald Reagans’s domination and monocultural hegemony.

The point is that there are  subtle ways that technology decides our lives. Sometimes they are about automatic defaults in open source software; other times its about how bureaucratic rule, leads to governments codifying their cruel procedural-focus into even worse websites. Learn from my mistakes say I to myself, and beware any future NSFGRFP applicants who operate outside the mainstream.