Monday, April 30, 2012

Suggestions for Further Evolution

Those who believe in evolution understand it to be an on-going process. We have not reached the culmination. We are not the ultimate organisms we can ever hope to be. So on the assumption that evolution will continue to refine our species, I’d like to make some suggestions.

First, don’t have us breathe and eat through the same openings. No good can come of that. I realize the present design is very space efficient, like a toaster-oven, but seriously, what would be wrong with adding a second set of ducts? Of course, we’d have to make do without burping, but somehow, I think the species will survive.

Similarly, let’s have separate equipment for sex and for waste elimination. Enough said?

Additional arms and hands would definitely come in handy be useful. Maybe an extra pair of each. Then we could hold a cup of coffee and a cell phone while typing. Of course some genius would probably come up with a four-handed keyboard, but that should be optional. And think of the benefits for musicians, massage therapists (“Oh yeah, right there, there, there and there.”) and boxers. (“Ooo, he got him with a lower left uppercut followed by a top right cross!”)

Toes are useful only for wearing flip-flops or for getting stubbed. I’d gladly trade those in for webbed feet, especially during beach season.

Speaking of beach season, how about the ability to eat bacon cheeseburgers and donuts without putting on weight? This business of storing energy as fat is downright atavistic. For that matter, disease in general seems pretty useless, other than for thinning the herd. Does it make sense that we’ve evolved to be able to invent the KFC Double Down sandwich, but unable to eat it?

I think that’s about it. Oh, yeah … maybe we could be a little smarter and less violent. That wouldn’t hurt.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Monday, April 23, 2012

Java

Friday, April 20, 2012

Deadline Headlines

Can Obama dominate nominee Romney?
Who'll Romney nominate to be his veep?
Will SCotUS validate the candidates' health mandates?
These are the headlines. Read 'em and weep.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Mortality

I saw my doctor a week ago, and was stunned to learn that I only have 40 years to live, give or take a decade or two. A lot depends on controversial medical advances, like the individual mandate.

Of course, I went through the usual stages of denial, anger, bargaining, binge eating and acceptance. Actually, I guess I'm stuck in that binge eating phase. That's kind of working for me.

But it’s a sobering thing, looking death in the face like this. It makes you re-examine your priorities. You want to make every second count. You don’t want to spend your final half-century lost in some pointless routines like Facebook. You want to break old habits, and see what else life has to offer, like Twitter and Pinterest. You question how much time you want to spend languishing in front of a computer, instead of breaking down and getting a freaking iPad already.

But there’s so much I want to do! I want to have dinner at the most romantic restaurant in Paris, followed by a leisurely walk along the Seine, but wake up to bagels in New York. I want to find a group of scholars with whom I can discuss all the works of Shakespeare, O’Neill and Dave Barry. I want to bicycle through the English countryside, stopping at all the quaint little towns to sneer at the food.

Most importantly, I want to convey to my loved ones how important they are. I want to send them deep, heartfelt messages like “I ♥ U” and “My PIN is ...”.

Don’t let a minute go by.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Patriot's Day

In 1775, Lieutenant Colonel Francis Smith, who commanded the British forces around Boston, said "Hey, it's the third Monday in April! Let's all ride out to Concord and fire the shot heard round the world!!" The importance of this event can be seen from his use of exclamation marks, a rarity in British speech.

Unbeknownst to them, however, Paul Revere and William Dawes had warned the New England Patriots, who formed a defensive line. Then, in compliance with local Stand Your Ground laws, the two sides stood blasting away at each other. Luckily muskets were not especially effective weapons.

So every year on the anniversary, Massachusetts marks this holiday with various festivities, despite the fact that in 1775, the third Monday in April fell on a Wednesday.

The festivities fall into two main categories. At the crack of dawn, people dressed as British and Colonial soldiers go out and fire muskets at each other. They use blanks, which renders their guns slightly less deadly.

This is followed by the ritual of thousands of people running halfway across the state to beat the traffic into Boston for the Red Sox game.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Why the Wealthy Deserve It

They are innovators.
They are job creators.
They have higher morals.
They don’t rest on their laurels.
They are never sinners
Or lottery winners.
They have net worth
(Not always by birth.)
They don’t depend on luck
And they don’t give a cluck.
They work harder than you
(But you can be wealthy too!)

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Announcing Visagecodex

Certainly social networking sites like Facebook offer an opportunity for human connection that's otherwise lacking in our dreary existences. Without Facebook, how would we know whose birthdays are coming up? Or what our friends had for lunch or which inspirational cliches need repeating? And how could we keep up with the dietary trends of cats?

Yet there is a downside to Facebook. They'll let anybody in.

Really, it's not selective in the least. It was originally intended for college students, but it has become the online equivalent of Grand Central Station, open to any slob with Internet access. Advertisers, opportunists, homeless people and evangelists for every fly-by-night cult are lurking there, waiting to exploit your personal information.

We here at The Tech Curmudgeon think that if you're going to reveal deeply personal information ... information like what you had for lunch or how cute your cats are ... you should be in a safe environment, surrounded by others like yourself. That's why we've created visagecodex, the social network exclusively for pretentious snobs.

Just think! No more Likes from random strangers half a world away. No more comments that try to top your dumb joke with an even dumber one. Just good, reliable arrogant egotists you can depend on.

So check out visagecodex today!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

Not Without Its Floss

Evidently some natural disaster, perhaps the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, has struck dental floss weaving facilities, making it impossible to find the Johnson & Johnson Reach woven floss. Other flosses are available, but the woven one is nowhere to be found. This is a deep setback for dental health, and for overall productivity. I don't usually spend a lot of time thinking about floss, but this scarcity has diverted my attention from other, more pressing matters, such as the location of my nail clippers.

Floss, for those unfamiliar with the concept, is a fibrous substance designed to dislodge matter from between the teeth and fling it onto the bathroom mirror. I like the fact that floss can be both a noun and a verb. You can floss with floss. You can also brush with a brush, and rinse with rinse. Oral hygiene seems to be spearheading the movement towards multipurpose words. Of course, you can also paint with paint or phone with a phone or google with Google, but these don't capture a whole enterprise like dental care.

The other side effect of this floss crisis is the necessity of spending more than the usual amount of time searching in drug stores, and seeking alternatives. Matchbook covers used to serve as impromptu toothpicks, but where can you even find matchbooks anymore?

So come November, I'll be looking for the candidate who can keep floss plentiful and cheap.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bibliophilia, Part 2

Since I got all gushy about books, I may as well share with you what makes up my personal library. Well, not the really personal stuff. You understand.

Probably the largest category is computer books ... Programming in This or That, or The Whatsis Cookbook. These are the ones most in jeopardy when layoffs come. The information they hold is easier to locate via Google, and they're all obsolete by the time they get into print anyway. Still, they have a certain charm.

There's a gradual transition from the technical books through design (interface and graphic), art, illustration and cartooning. The illustrated ones are the most fun.  I mean, fiction is good for one, maybe two readings. But art books can be visited again and again, with new discoveries each time. Anyway, who's got time for fiction?

I have a long-standing, if occasionally dormant interest in what might best be called the "history of ideas," and consequently bought nearly every book with the word "idea" in the title. I was trying to capture various significant ideas in verse form for another blog, Ideas Great and Dumb, the latter part of which may be self-descriptive.

I also have a large concentration of what are best described as "humor" books.  These range from classics by Mark Twain or P. G. Wodehouse to more recent stuff.  I have an autographed set of (nearly) complete works of Dave Barry.  Unfortunately, they were only autographed by previous owners.

Apart from a smattering of books on photography and stereo-photography, and some outliers on music, theater, etc., the largest remaining constituent is made up of books of, by and for graphic novels, or comics. Since I can't write well enough to be a writer, nor draw well enough to be an artist, I always thought graphic novels might be an ideal medium of expression for me. Unfortunately, however, it turns out you need to be both a great writer and a great artist to carry that off.

Oh, well. I guess I'm a reader.

Actually, not even that, or I would have gotten through more of these. I'll have to settle for being a great book buyer.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Bibliophilia

I sometimes think that if humankind has a purpose at all, it must have something to do with the general accumulation of knowledge and wisdom. After all, what else have we accomplished? What can we really pass along? Wealth, of course. That’s nice too, but a literary classic can outlast a family fortune by thousands of years.

And what better way to convey that knowledge and wisdom than books? Books have been around a long time, they’re reasonably easy to carry and store, and they’re very efficient in terms of keeping lots of information in a small space. Certainly recent digital innovations provide some advantages over traditional printed books, but they have their drawbacks as well. Apart from the garish displays, the mutability of digital storage formats, and the fragility of electronics, they completely lack the sensory experience of reading a book. There’s a great satisfaction in handling and absorbing an actual printed book.

More importantly, ebooks threaten the distinctiveness of reading as an activity. Reading an ebook is blended with watching videos and animation, playing games and checking email. Psychological experiments have shown that readers undergo the same physiological states as the characters they read about. Reading about running raises the heart rate, just as more contemplative literature can lower it. Reading works because we are able to translate the symbols on a page into a kind of experience very directly. Surely that effect is diminished when the “book” starts beeping and displaying someone’s tweets.

And after the final devastation, when all the Kindles and iPads are rendered useless by the lack of electricity, I'll still be able to read by the glow of the radioactive trees.

So books are still highly durable and effective vessels for the collected knowledge of humankind. At least that’s how I rationalize the two bookcases I just bought, bringing the total in my home office to nine, and the fact that they’re almost full already.