Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Happy New Year, 2015!

This is the time of year when lots of newspaper and magazine ink, TV airtime and Internet bits and pixels are spent on celebrating and mourning the best and worst of the year. These retrospectives are always full of international mischief, celebrity departures, political nonsense and, of course, technological breakthroughs like the explosion of devices to measure how much you walk and share it with the world. (Because we’ve become so data-centric, we naturally think more data is the answer to all life’s problems. Out of shape? No problem. Get a Fit-Wit!)

But you know what? Screw it! Personally, 2014 was one of the worst years of my life, in the same league as 2013 and 1978. It, frankly, sucked.

But, for another thing, years don’t exist. Not really. It’s just an approximation of how long it takes the earth to voyage around the sun, starting at a random point. In fact, the earth doesn’t even return to the same point, because the whole solar system is travelling through the galaxy. The frequency of energy cycles of the caesium-133 atom is much more reliable, and is the basis of atomic clocks. But somehow, saying “Happy New Caesium-133 Cycle!” just doesn’t sound as catchy. Besides, there are over 9 billion cycles per second, so you’d have to say it really fast.

So I’m wishing us all Happy New Caesium-133 Cycles, Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, Years and so on. Here’s hoping each new moment is better than the last, for some definition of “better.”

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Xmas 2014

At this tender time of year, when loved ones gather and say to each other “Whadja get me?”, it seems fitting to consider the traditions that underly this holiday. Christmas is, of course, a Christian holiday, but it follows the pattern of the Roman Saturnalia, and other early celebrations coinciding with the winter solstice. So almost everyone, regardless of beliefs, can find some excuse to celebrate.

In fact, even if you have no beliefs in any deities, religions or transcendent powers, you can marvel at the fact that humans were able to dream this stuff up. Seriously, the grandeur of many world religions, the magnificent music, the inspirational art and architecture … all of which were based on beliefs … is truly awesome.

The creation of the entire universe, and everyone and everything in it, was no more than a week’s work for an all-powerful supreme being, at least by some popular accounts. On the other hand, the slow development and refinement of human belief systems, over hundreds of generations and millenia, and the works inspired by these beliefs, are really exalted.

Of course, we don’t always act in accordance with those beliefs. We don't come close to our own or our creator's ideals of peace, mutual love or charity. But we’re capable of conceiving those ideals. Therein lies the hope.

Peace.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

WTF: Is there a Santa Claus?

Today’s question, quite fitting for the season, comes to us from Virginia of … uh, Virginia, who asks

Question: Is there a Santa Claus?

Answer: Gee, that’s a toughie. Without going into all the semantics of what you mean by Santa Claus, etc., let’s see if we can nail this.

All the red suited guys in malls and department stores? They’re there to get you out shopping, so you can fork over your money.

The Santa Clauses in movies? Sure, they want to sell tickets (or DVDs or downloads or whatever.)

The Santa in the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day Parade? Yup, you got it.

The ones on TV and in magazines? They’re trying to sell you Coca-Cola, so yup, money.

And the Santa of song and story? The one who knows if you’ve been bad or good? Well, that’s just creepy.

So yes, Virginia, there are lots of Santa Clauses. Better watch out!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Things That Suck

It’s the holiday season, so I’m sure you’re all busy being cheerful and stuff. However, we here at The Tech Curmudgeon feel it’s important to try to restore balance to the force. So we’ve decided to start a new tradition of publishing our Top N List of Things That Suck (TNLOTTS).

Unlike most end-of-the-year top ten lists, we don’t guarantee there will be ten items on the list. Also, they’re not in any particular order … not counting down to something or building up to something. It’s random. You might see “Spate of police and faux-police killings of young, unarmed black men with no consequences” as one item on the list, and the next item might be “Password savers that ask if they should remember the password before you even know if the password works.”

  1. The spate of police and faux-police killings of young, unarmed black men with no consequences.
  2. Password savers that ask if they should remember the password before you even know if the password works.
  3. Politicians (some of them literally)
  4. Internet email lists. (Whenever anyone asks about PCs, someone also chimes in with “You should get a Mac.” It’s like saying “What good shoes? Get a hat.”)
  5. PCs. (You really should get a Mac.)
I’m sorry. The news is just in that 145 schoolchildren and teachers were killed in a Taliban terror attack on a school in Peshawar, Pakistan. I must defer to reality for coming up with things that suck far more than anything I could imagine.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

Limerick of the Day #129

If you wish any turmoil to cease
You can count on your local police.
They can leave any rioter
Acting much quieter,
Sometimes even resting in peace.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Need for Speed

New York Times columnist Mark Bittman’s new book, How To Cook Everything Fast, is a runaway bestseller. Well, it’s a runaway pretty good seller. It will undoubtedly reach the bestseller lists once it … um, sells better.

In any case, it’s certainly attracting a lot of attention. So the most obvious response should be to cash in on the book’s success by immediately releasing a sequel. Since Bittman is probably busy with book tours and TED talks and stuff, we are prepared to offer our own tome, …

How to Eat Everything Fast

This book is filled with time-saving tips like:

  1. Eat greasy foods for faster digestion.
  2. Practice stretching the jaw and throat muscles to increase capacity.
  3. A food processor or juicer can turn almost any meal into a quick beverage.
  4. When traveling, carry implements that allow you to slice, dice and otherwise reduce your meals to kibble.
  5. Lobster, artichokes, pomegranate, and chestnuts are really not worth it.
and many more.

I should say this book will be filled with time-saving tips. There’s nothing actually written yet. Nonetheless, we will be happy to accept $25 deposits to reserve your copy. It’s sure to go fast!

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

WTF

Since we started the almost weekly WTF feature, in which we provide unhelpful answers to questions submitted by you, the letters have been pouring in. Some of them even form words and sentences.

But very few have been interrogatives. So this week’s question, from Peter in Massachusetts, is …

Question: Why aren’t more of you asking questions?

Answer: t.b.s.


Monday, December 1, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanks

For local police driving tanks,
We give thanks.
For partisanship that’s hateful,
We are grateful.
For states solid red and blue,
Merci beaucoup.
For every ringing mobile phön,
Danke schön.
For greenhouse gases,
Gracias.
For all the tweets we follow,
Mahalo.
For all the crap on the Internet,
We’re in debt.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Time Bums #40

“So why would Nostradamus be so interested in where humankind started,” Jackie wondered.

“Scientific curiosity?” Steve suggested.

One of the Lumbras spoke. “No, he wishes to prevent humankind from populating the planet. I believe he intends to kill the earliest humans.”

“Oh, my god!” cried Jackie. “Didn’t you try to stop him? Can he do that?”

Another Lumbra joined. “It might be possible, but obviously he did not succeed.”

“Not in this universe,” added a third.

“This universe … ?” Jackie was bewildered.

“I’ll explain it later,” said Steve. “Maybe we have to go stop him. Maybe that’s why he will not have succeeded.”

“Yes,” Jackie agreed. “We must definitely stop him from killing the first humans.”

“AMNOZ, are you ready? Can we load those coordinates?”

“I will set your coordinates.” AMNOZ spoke matter-of-factly. “But I will remain here. I have little to contribute to your encounter with Nostradamus, and there’s so much to learn here.”

“Really?” Jackie said. “We’ll miss you!”

Another Lumbra filled in. “You can return one yoctosecond from now.”

“That’s true!” Steve realized. “In fact, we can leave tomorrow. Or next week. Or in 10 years.”

Jackie was impatient. “Let’s get this over with.”

But Steve’s finger was already on the button. The next moment was two million years earlier.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The All-Weather Trike


After rhapsodizing about the joys of the recumbent trike last week, I thought I should at least show you the vehicle in question. Above is my current year-round commuter, complete with retractable fabric top (Veltop) and windshield for all-weather use. It may look hokey, but it does actually keep me dry. It's like driving a big umbrella around.

Beneath that top is a 2013 Catrike Villager with the 26" rear wheel upgrade from Utah Trikes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Top Ten Rationalizations for Copyright Infringement

10. Artists/creators are being ripped off by the middlemen (record companies, publishers) anyway.
So you’re Robin Hood, stealing from record companies and giving to …?
9. Downloading leads to purchasing. Studies show people who download a lot also buy a lot.
Hmm … maybe they just like having a lot of music?
8. Prices (for DVDs) are too high.
Seriously, how often are you going to watch the movie?
7. Copyrights and patents create artificial monopolies.
I have a monopoly on every object I own or make. Or is it just thinkers who have no value?
6. You can’t protect intellectual property in the digital age.
Well, not with people like you around, apparently.
5. The Millennium Copyright Act is overreaching (Disney is just trying to hold on to Mickey Mouse), so we’re justified in violating it.
Yeah, there’s no reason creators should have a say in how their work is used.
4. Information wants to be free.
The full quote, from Stewart Brand, also says “… information wants to be expensive,” not that information actually wants anything.
3. It’s just for personal use. I’m not going to make money on it.
Oh, then it’s ok. Why not help yourself to that Mercedes too … for personal use?
2. This will promote your business by giving you free exposure
and worth every penny!
1. Everyone does it.
Yeah, I’m not even going to bother with this one.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

Time Bums #39

Jackie started. “So what makes this particular site interesting?”

The second Lumbra from the left was quick to respond. “As we explained to Nostradamus, this is the first place where cave painting and certain other evidence has been found. It’s roughly a million and a half years before anything remotely like it.”

“What other evidence?”

“Footwear.” This time it was another Lumbra, who had not previously spoken.

This got Steve’s attention. “Huh?”

“There are the usual indications of foot shuffling and movement at this site, but no sign of toes. It’s as if these … I think we must call them people … these people had fashioned some kind of footwear. Sandals, perhaps.”

“I like them already,” Jackie said.

“So what does this mean?” Steve was either asking about the site or the cave painting.

“This site has the oldest signs of what could unmistakably be called human. This is where it started.”

Friday, November 14, 2014

Limerick of the Day #128

With the CU decision they wrote
SCotUS unleashed campaign finance bloat.
All the influence peddling
And big money meddling
Nearly tempted us to go and vote!


Thursday, November 13, 2014

Three Wheels Are Better Than Two

Don’t get me wrong. I’m still a committed cyclist. It’s just that now, the cycle is as likely to be a trike as a bike. Trikes, the 3-wheeled human powered cycles, are an exciting alternative to bikes for a variety of reasons. Note that trikes come in two main varieties: tadpole (one drive wheel in back, two steerable wheels in front) and delta (two wheels in back, one or both of which may be drive wheels, and one steerable wheel in the front.) There may be variations on these, because let’s face it, cyclists tend to be crazy hackers, but most trikes fall into one or the other of these categories.

Regardless, there are a number of distinct advantages that trikes have over bikes. For example,

1. They can’t tip over. (Well, if you’re cornering at high speed, you might be able to, but it’s pretty easy to avoid.)
2. They’re amazingly comfortable, especially on long trips. Imagine sitting on a lawn chair, but being able to zoom around.
3. They’re great for winter. (Did I mention they can’t tip over?) It’s also easier to manage a trike while wearing multiple layers of down, Thinsulate, Merino wool, etc.
4. There’s no weight on your arms, so your wrists and hands don’t get cramps on long trips.
5. Your eyes are at jogger butt level. (Ok, that may or may not be an advantage.)
6. You get to attach cool flags to your vehicle so you can be seen by drivers. (Trikes are typically closer to the ground than bikes.)
7. Climbing hills is easy (though not fast) if you just drop down to a low gear and crawl your way up.
8. You can go without a helmet, especially if you’re away from traffic. (Did I mention they can’t tip over?)
9. You won’t look like a complete idiot. (Well, you can, but it’s not required.)
10. You can stop anywhere, and just sit and rest. You don’t even have to take your feet off the pedals.

I should also mention that, because of the seating angle, you’re looking up at the scenery instead of down at the road.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

WTF: Do cats communicate with each other?

This week’s question comes from Donna C. of Massachusetts. Donna asks …

Question: Do cats communicate with each other?

Answer: There is some evidence that cats communicate based on the fact that they conspire together. Typically one cat creates a diversion by knocking something over, eating something inappropriate, being excessively cute or, when all else fails, vomiting. While the owners are distracted, another cat can get away with knocking something over, eating something inappropriate, being excessively cute or vomiting.

Beyond this, however, cats have been observed interacting with each other in various ways. The most common forms of intra-species communication are staring, hissing, playful wrestling and sniffing each other’s butts. The staring, hissing and wrestling behaviors are believed to be a kind of mock aggression as a rehearsal for actual combat. The butt sniffing is anyone’s guess.

Note that while cats exhibit a variety of behaviors for expressing themselves to humans and to each other, there is no evidence whatsoever that they understand any of the responses.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Time Bums #38

“So, this Frenchman …” Steve began.

“Nostradamus?” replied the nearest Lumbra.

“Yes, Nostradamus. Did he say where or when he was going next?”

“Not explicitly, but we inferred it from his great interest in the archaeological finds at Kenya and Tanzania.”

Another Lumbra spoke. “He did say he was coming from a big house where he landed on some furniture, fell over, and woke a man, who then died of fright on seeing him. He was pretty vague about the whole thing.”

“And you think he was going where?”

“Here,” replied the first Lumbra. “The site of the first humanoids … a woman and an overweight man. Look at the holoview. You can see the earliest cave painting.”

Steve gawked at the image. There, plainly on the wall, was simply a stack of horizontal lines, alternately long and short.

“The first abstract,” Jackie remarked.

“This reminds me of something,” muttered Steve.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Limerick of the Day #127

As the climate debacle just rages,
We’ll see more of diseases contagious.
While scarce food and water
Lead to rampant slaughter.
Welcome to the new global dark ages.

Post-Pre-Post Election Wrap-up 2014

It would be hard to retain my blogging license if I didn’t weigh in on the recent election in some fashion. But first, I’m going to ask you to cast your thoughts back … way back … to 2012. After Obama’s re-election, all the usual pundits took to the air waves (and Internet waves) to pass judgment on the defeated Republican party. The party was in shambles, they said, and was doomed to wander the desert for generations, since they clearly failed to embrace the new national demographics.

This week, the pundit-sphere is again hearkening to the sound of defeat, and near-permanent exile from political control. Only this time, it’s the Democrats who are condemned to wander in the wilderness.

The point is, neither party, and no 3rd party, is ever going to have a lock on power. Because really, there’s only ever one single question on the ballot: Am I satisfied?

That’s right. The only thing going through the mind of John Q. Voter or Jane Q. Voter when he or she enters that voting booth is “Can things be better?” It’s a simple yes-or-no question. There’s no nuance. No issues. No policies or ideologies.

All that comes during the campaign … the issues and policies and promises. And they’re really only intended to serve one purpose … to make you, the voter, feel happy or unhappy. Campaigns are built entirely on two kinds of messages (the insider term for commercials interrupting your favorite shows.) Message 1 is “So-and-so sucks! Just look at all the terrible things he/she/it has done!”

Message 2 is “So-and-so will bring you happiness!”

And they just keep bombarding you with these messages, relentlessly, until by election day, when John or Jane Q. walks into that booth, the only thoughts they’re capable of are “Things are bad. We need change,” or “Things are good. Let’s keep going.”

That said, I’ll be happy to accept huge consulting fees for campaign advice and guidance.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Pre-Post-Election Wrap-Up 2014

Some of you may remember the 2014 mid-term elections. We planned to use this space to report and comment on the results, but frankly, we’re too sleepy to wait even for the West coast polls to close, let alone for all the recounts and challenges.

So let’s look at what we know already. Congress, which has accomplished next to nothing for the last several years, will uphold that proud tradition, regardless of which party controls the Senate. Democrats, who have bemoaned the stifling power of the filibuster, may discover a new love for that tactic. Or not.

Scott Brown, the only person to lose Senate races to two different women, Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-New Hampshire), will find a new state to be from.

Venerable talking heads will be dusted off and put in front of cameras, to pontificate about the results in terms that can be redefined in the event that outcomes reverse themselves.

The biggest surprise is that, unlike a typical mid-term election in which half the voters are pissed off at the outcome, we predict that 100% [+/- 50%] of voters will be pissed off about at least some of the outcomes this year.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

WTF

This week’s WTF question was submitted by alert reader Ruth B. of Michigan. Ruth asks:

Question: Why does evil exist?

This was later refined to:

Question: Why do I like stripes?

Answer: Stripes and other cyclic patterns are a sort of graphic equivalent of rhythm. They reassure us by repeating the same sequence over and over again. Predictability gives us a sense of stability and safety. Interestingly, that also relates to evil, which is typically some completely shocking and disorienting behavior.

Or, maybe the stripes remind us of what the U.S. flag traditionally stood for … freedom from fear, freedom from want and all that Norman Rockwell stuff.

Or maybe the stripes suggest prison outfits … or bars … the desired comeuppance for evil-doers. (Actually, I think the experts in criminal justice fashion have settled on perp walk orange as the preferred look for convicts.)

Or … I don’t know. Sometimes a stripe is just a stripe. Geez, Ruth, couldn’t you have asked me something simple, like “How can we overcome political partisanship?” (To be answered in a future WTF post.)

Remember to submit questions to wtf@techcurmudgeon.info.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Limerick of the Day #126

I’ve gone out as a big gorgonzola,
And an anti-US ayatollah.
But my costume this year
Really fills hearts with fear
For I’m dressed as the virus Ebola.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NaBloWriMo

As many of you know, November is NaNoWriMo, an abbreviation for Nasal Nose Wringing Month, though some people observe this occasion by trying to write a complete novel in a month.

We’d like to hijack this idea and use it for NaBloWriMo, which will be National Blog Writing Month, though the idea of abbreviating “blog” borders on the ridiculous. Still, we think the idea of dedicating a month to blog writing has merit. To make the most of this, we vow to write quality blog posts as frequently and as mercilessly as we possibly feel like it.

And speaking of blog posts, we were completely serious about the new WTF feature we’re starting. Please send any and all questions to wtf@techcurmudgeon.info. We promise to review each submission carefully and give it the attention it deserves. Please limit your questions to subjects of which the human mind can conceive. Aside from that, go wild.

Chain Slips

I climb hills, but not without fear
Of downshifting into first gear,
For if the chain missed it
And got itself twisted
I’d probably land on my ear.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Introducing WTF

For a while now, the XKCD Web comic has had a regular feature called “What If …” Each week, the cartoonist selects one or more questions submitted by readers, and answers them with scientific accuracy (or at least, wild speculation), humor and elan.

Here at The Tech Curmudgeon, we’re not smart enough to do a feature like that, but we like the idea enough to steal it, with one important variation. If we can’t answer the submitted question, we’ll try to distract you so you won’t notice. In any case, we’ll focus on the humor, at the expense of scientific accuracy or elan. So, to get our new feature rolling, please submit your questions to

(Please note that the address ends in “.info” instead of “.com”, ‘cause we’re too lazy to figure that out.)

Since no one’s asked anything yet, let’s consider this hypothetical question.

Question: Will Republicans retake the Senate in the 2014 election?

Answer: We have no idea. But we do know that a ton of Republicans weighs the same as a ton of Democrats.

And what they weigh is what the policy on Ebola should be. On one hand, the best immunological evidence we have indicates that Ebola can only be transmitted by direct physical contact with bodily fluids of an infected, symptomatic patient. There is some possibility that these fluids, and hence infection, can be projected through the air via coughs and sneezes. (Ewwww!) Therefore, if you see someone with serious diarrhea or vomiting, try to avoid letting them cough or sneeze on you.

But on the other hand, it’s an election year, so politicians can’t afford to appear thoughtful and intelligent on the subject of something that’s scaring the crap out of people.

So get out and vote. But wear protective clothing.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Time Bums #37

As Steve and Jackie first stepped from the dark corridor into the light of what Lumbra called “the lab,” they had the sense of entering a cathedral. Tall columns rose from the floor and blurred together in the distance above. Rows and rows of workbenches were arrayed before them, each occupied by some collection of parts and assemblies. The din of many voices echoed and blended into the sound of a choir.

AMNOZ was already there, but scarcely looked up when they entered. He was with two humans, both very similar in appearance to Lumbra, bent over a particularly large pile of debris on one of the benches. It occurred to Steve that they were studying AMNOZ for ideas for building their own automated amigo. As Steve approached the bench, one of the Lumbra replicas looked up. “Steve, your robot is so quaint. We’re enjoying its retro design.”

“Uh, thanks,” muttered Steve. “Do I know you?”

“Of course, replied the replica. “I’m called Lumbra, as I’ve told you.”

Jackie interrupted. “I thought he was Lumbra.”

“Yes,” spoke the other Lumbra-like one. “We are Lumbra.”

“Oh, that’s … a family name?”

“You could think of it that way,” Lumbra 2 explained.

“So somebody can fix our time machine?” Jackie asked.

“We can,” the Lumbras answered.

Steve handed the control to the nearest Lumbra, who examined it while they all said “Hmmmm.”

“Was this device originally built for another purpose?” asked the nearest Lumbra.

“Yes,” said Steve. “It was a portable music player.”

“This is exactly like the Frenchman’s device. It appears to have a configuration called shuffle mode, and it is stuck in that mode.”

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Things Suck

I’ve been a bit lax in posting wryly humorous comments on current events, largely because … well, frankly, things suck.

Here we are a few weeks before election day, and nobody seems excited about any of the prospects. Republicans running against the Obama mentality are facing challenges from Democrats running against the Obama mentality. In fact, the elections are so boring that some of the candidates aren’t even showing up for their own campaign events.

Meanwhile, the looming specters of ISIS and Ebola continue to haunt the media, despite the fact that the number of Americans who have contracted Ebola in this country is about equal to the number of sentences in this paragraph. Including this one.

ISIS displayed its resiliance by withstanding half-baked attempts to rename them ISIL in order to protect the trademarks of a bunch of businesses which are, in turn, named after an ancient Egyptian goddess. Officials declined to comment on rumors of further attempts to degrade ISIS’s capabilities by giving them candy-ass names.

In technology news, Apple has once again rocked the world by announcing ground breaking imitations of Samsung phones. And some major bank or financial institution was hacked, probably by Chinese or Russians or both, resulting in the theft of millions of customers’ personal information, including names, account numbers and preferences for English or Español at the ATM.

And some celebrity did something stupid. Or died. Or both.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Time Bums #36 T.B.S.

At some point, Time Bums #36 will have appeared in this space, on this date.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Bucket List

At the risk of bringing up an uncomfortable topic, it’s a good time to talk about mortality. Given my own personal health issues, the spread of Ebola, and terror threats from misogynist video gamers, it’s hard to avoid contemplating the endgame, the meaning of life. I don’t mean the big meaning … What is the purpose? Is there a creator? Is there an afterlife and does it have Wi-Fi? … I’m talking about the more practical questions, like how to spend whatever time remains, and what to try to accomplish.

Obviously the top of my priority list is my family. I would always choose spending time with them over anything else (apart from a few bathroom breaks.) But beyond that, though I never explicitly wrote it down, I’ve had certain ideas about what I hoped to do in life. The vogue term for this is bucket list.

So maybe it’s time to rethink that bucket list. Let go of the pipe dreams that will never actually happen, and focus on the most important things. So, it’s looking like this:

  1. Give up on learning emacs inside and out. I seriously wanted to customize gnus and org-mode, but what the hell.
  2. Forget writing that open source social network to obliterate Facebook. It needs to be done, but hey, I reserved opensocial.net. Someone else do the rest.
  3. Digitizing all my old photos, irreplaceable albums, etc.? Not going to happen.
  4. Bag learning to cook English cuisine. I mean steak and kidney pie? Really?
  5. Forget about reading Will and Ariel Durant’s Story of Civilization. I’ll probably settle for Larry Gonick’s Cartoon History of the Universe.
  6. Drop biking across England (What can I say? I’m an Anglophile.)
  7. Let go of cleaning up my home office/studio. Likewise the garage, I guess. My survivors will know about 1-800-GOT-JUNK.
  8. Skip watching all the episodes of Doctor Who in chronological order. Just watch the good ones.
  9. Setting the clock on the @#$%&*! VCR? Forget it! (Yes, I still have a VCR.)
  10. And shedding those last few unsightly pounds? What’s the point?
Luckily, that still leaves all the important stuff, like finding a cure for ice cream brain freeze, hitting Mute on the State Farm commercials before they get to the “Like a good neighbor …” song, and discovering KFC’s secret recipe.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Time Bums #35

“The Frenchman said he kept skipping around in time with no control over where or when he’d land,” Lumbra continued. “It turned out the fool who built his device had hardwired it into shuffle mode. That was an easy fix.”

Jackie glared at Steve, who muttered “Yeah, what an idiot.”

“Ours has the same problem,” Jackie announced to Lumbra. “Can you fix it?”

“Of course. How strange that two such poorly made devices should arrive here? It seems a very unlikely coincidence.” Lumbra mused. “Come. We’ll take it to the lab.”

“What about AMNOZ?” Jackie asked. “We can’t leave him out there!”

“We will rejoin him at the lab,” Lumbra answered, somewhat impatiently.

“What is this place anyway?” asked Jackie as they headed for the doorway.

Lumbra replied, “This structure is but the shadow of what was once called GeoSphere. It was a foolish project centuries ago to build an artificial planet enclosing the original one.”

“It seemed so perfect!” Steve remarked. “What happened to it?”

“What always happens.” Lumbra sighed with an air of resignation. “Humans create and then neglect.”

Friday, October 10, 2014

Limerick of the Day #125

In politics, fear plays a role
As with ISIS and now with Ebol-
A. Republican fear
Mong’ring this mid-term year
Could just gain them a romp at the poll.


Thursday, October 9, 2014

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Cancer Opens Doors

There has never been a better time to have cancer. In an article titled Why Everyone Seems to Have Cancer, The New York Times reports, “cancer is on the verge of overtaking [heart disease] as the No. 1 cause of death.” We’re number one! We’re number one!

It makes me want to run out and get one of those giant foam fingers.

And while cancer is becoming ever more popular, it still commands enough awe and respect to afford special privileges for cancer patients. Waiting rooms in radiation therapy offices are filled with baked goods, clothing and other items donated for the benefit of the cancer patients. (Well, not mine, but others I know of.) An organization called To Show We Care offers cancer patients free tickets to theater and musical events. Hospitals provide yoga, acupuncture and other stress reduction services.

And that’s not even counting child-oriented facilities like the Make a Wish Foundation or the Ronald McDonald House, where seriously ill kids can enjoy a respite with their families in the shadow of a junk food mascot.

So if you’ve ever considered cancer, now’s the time to jump on board. Don’t wait until it becomes last year’s thing.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Time Bums #34

“Who are you?” Jackie and Steve blurted. “How did you know we were there?”

“Call me Lumbra,” the man replied. “There are not many humans left in this zone. You were easy to detect.”

“Um … thank you?” Steve said.

“So why are you here and why are you speaking early 21st century American English?” Lumbra challenged.

“Well, for one thing, we’re from early 21st century America,” Jackie explained.

“Ah. You are time travellers.” Lumbra’s curiosity perked up. “Interesting. Is the box outside your vehicle?”

“The box outside is AMNOZ,” Steve answered, somewhat indignantly. “He’s a member of our party.”

“I should have known from the way you stepped on it to climb up here. So what device creates your openings?”

Lumbra seemed stunned as Steve drew the remote control from his vest pocket. “Astounding! That’s the second one of these I’ve seen recently.”

Now it was Jackie’s turn to be stunned. “The second?”

“Yes. The other was in the hands of a 16th century Frenchman.”

Friday, October 3, 2014

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Office Kitchen

Before you accept a job offer, try to hang around the office kitchen for a few hours, ideally including lunch. That will really give you a sense of the company’s culture. You should know, for example, that companies that provide free food are really saying “Don’t ever go home.” Likewise, the free coffee that most companies provide serves a corporate purpose. My current employer provides two or three different types of coffee makers in each kitchen on each of seven floors, allowing rapid, high octane caffeine uptake.

Most companies have given up on coffee pots, instead going for single serving makers. They recognize that if they depended on civic minded employees to make fresh pots of coffee, the entire staff would disappear to the nearest Starbuck’s every hour or so. Of course, the single serving coffee makers just create more opportunities for employees to scent mark their territories with a sugary, milky puddle to get on the bottom of the next person’s cup.

Many office kitchens have a sign that reads “Your mother doesn’t work here. Don’t leave dirty dishes in the sink,” usually posted directly above a sink full of dirty dishes. One company I know actually has the cleaning staff wash and put away all the dishes. They also provide freshly baked cookies for all the employees, so I guess they’re going for the whole mom experience.

But the best occasions, of course, are when there are leftover lunches or desserts from meetings with customers. With some kind of extra-sensory perception, employees feel the approach of these leftovers and form a procession toward them. Hot dishes, sandwiches, salads and desserts are quickly dispatched, in spite of the unwritten Xeno’s paradox of etiquette: everyone takes half of whatever’s left, until the brownies or sheet cake are reduced to scattered crumbs.

Be very careful, though, of leftovers brought in from home. Sample them discretely, or you may end up having to compliment a fellow employee on the red velvet chipotle mock apple pie.

So be sure to examine that kitchen before accepting any job offers.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Time Bums #33

Steve, Jackie and AMNOZ had no idea what “shvoot” meant, but the approaching pack of wild dogs gave it a sense of urgency. That and the gestures from the man who had appeared in the hatch of the structure convinced them to climb up there. Unfortunately, the only way to get up was by climbing on top of AMNOZ. He was pretty complacent about it, though, of course, he could not climb on top of himself to reach the opening.

As the yelping and howling grew louder, Jackie bounded on top of AMNOZ and then into the access hatch on the underside of the structure. Steve was hesitant, but the arrival of the wild dog pack seemed to provide the motivational message he needed. Somewhat less gracefully, he clambered on top of AMNOZ and kicked and flailed as Jackie and the strange man struggled to haul him up just as AMNOZ was engulfed in teeth, fur, noses and … well, mainly teeth. Fortunately, even these near starving animals had little interest in the old office furniture and electronics that made up AMNOZ.

Inside the structure, Jackie and Steve regained their composure enough to regard the strange mix of sterile looking technology and jury-rigged gadgetry that surrounded them and their host. “Holy crap!” whispered Steve.

The strange man cocked his head slightly and drummed his fingers on his temple. “Sprechen sie deutsch?” he asked.

“Spre-what?” Jackie asked. “Who are you?”

The strange man poked his temple again. “Early 21st century? U.S. English?”



Friday, September 26, 2014

Limerick of the Day #124

Poor Obama can not be as nice as
He wanted to be before ISIS.
He’ll pummel them well.
The Committee Nobel
Never makes winners give back their prizes.


Thursday, September 25, 2014

No Apologies

I’ve been reluctant to post this, because I realize that fully half of all blog posts are apologies for not posting more regularly. But timelily enough (So what is the adverb form of “timely?”), the New York Times this week talked about the situation of bloggers who are feeling oppressed by the onerous task of trying to keep their blogs up-to-date. The fact is that bloggers can easily be overwhelmed by the responsibility of having to provide high quality content day in and day out. (Luckily, my readers know I’m under no such burden.)

But I do want to offer at least a few lame words of contrition.

In brief, I’ve been busy. In addition to my full time day job, I’m undergoing daily radiation therapy for prostate cancer. I was also taking an evening class at a nearby university, but I had to drop that. And as if that weren’t enough, the radiation therapy has side effects, including digestive disorders, fatigue, and a peculiar attraction to women in scrubs.

Seriously, on the the subway, I look right past the fashionistas and the hipsters, and find my attention drawn to those women with hospital IDs dangling from the drawstrings of their baggy blue pants. I find myself leering at them, my mind reeling with dark thoughts like “I wonder if she would be good at positioning the treatment table.” My pulse races at the thought of having them take my pulse. I just want to throw myself at their little paper bootie clad feet and be taken care of.

The point is, things have been weird.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Monday, September 22, 2014

Time Bums #32

Jackie and Steve blinked at the black and white panorama before them … blinding sunlight alternating with impenetrably dark shadows. The massive crumbling structure overhead offered no middle ground between complete exposure and complete obscurity. The structure itself revealed only white or black surfaces, depending on their angle towards the sun.

The structure, supported by regularly spaced columns, seemed to stretch toward the horizon in every direction, but with jagged irregular gaps, peirced by daylight, throughout. Large and small chunks of what appeared to be the same material as the rest of this ediface lay on the ground, also limited to black and white faces.

As Jackie and Steve began to comprehend this high contrast landscape, they also became aware of the faint sound of distant creatures. It gradually became clearer, resolving into a set of overlapping barks and howls. “What is that?” Jackie asked.

AMNOZ replied. “It resembles the howls of pack dogs, and based on the Doppler samples, they are approaching at roughly 50 miles per hour.”

“What’s their ETA?” Steve asked.

“Did you mean ‘what do they E, A, T?’” queried AMNOZ.

“No, when will they get here? But for that matter, what do they eat?”

“In 47 seconds. 46. 45.”

“Shvoot” came an unfamiliar voice.

“Huh?” said Steve and Jackie, almost simultaneously. They looked up towards the the part of the shadowy black underside of the structure where the voice seemed to come from.

“Nasticle kron! Shvoot!”


Friday, September 19, 2014

Bonnie Banks an' All

Wi’ haer own bonnie banks an’ haer own bonnie markets
We could see an independen’ Scotlan’.
Whaur Cameron an’ Salmond may ne’er meet agin
In the bonnie, bonnie banks of aul’ Scotlan’.

Fir ye’ll cast a Aye vote and I’ll cast a Nay vote
An’ hope Scotlan’s results aern’t too messy.
Fir Englan’s auld bulldog may ne’er meet agin
Wi’ aur own bonnie mascot, Loch Nessie.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Monday, September 15, 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Limerick of the Day #123

For Pistorius and for Ray Rice
Their misogyny has had some price
But they’re getting off easy
Considering how sleazy
They’ve been (if you want my advice.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Vast Wasteland*


Iay awsay Ibyllsay anginghay arounday atchingway erunsray, anday enwhay eway askeday erhay:
ωατ δο Υου ωαητ? ; eshay answereday: ρερρεΓοηι, ηο αηψονιεΣ.


SEPTEMBER is the cruellest month, feeding
Nothing better than dead air, mixing
Reality and reruns, stirring
Eagerness for Fall programs.
Winter kept us busy, covering
Us with new shows, feeding
Our meager lives with the tube.
Summer amused us, coming over the Rizzolian Isles
With the show The Strain; we watched Crossbones,
And went on in Satisfaction, Under the Dome,
We Halted and Caught Fire, watched Power.
Wir verwenden keine RCN, wir verwenden Verizon, nicht Comcast.
And when we were children, staying up on weekends,
My cousin took me out on a sled,
And I was bored. He said, TV,
TV, what’s on tonight? And in we went.
In those days, television was free.
I watch, much of the night, and go to bed.

*Apologies to T. S. Eliot and Newton N. Minow


Monday, September 8, 2014

Fall Special

Episode 31 of “Time Bums,” normally seen in this slot, will not appear today, so that we can bring you the following special presentation.

Not all that special, really. Actually, more of the same old crap I always post. You know … blah blah blah Facebook sucks, blah blah blah technology is overrated, blah blah blah blah.

I just didn’t feel like drawing a comic strip. I felt like going out and biking. This is the best time of year, at least in New England. The air is fresh and a little bit chilly. Trees are just thinking about turning colors. Kids don’t hate school too much yet. It’s wonderful.

You really should get out there and enjoy it. Close the laptop. Put down the phone. Get on your bike. Or just walk. Or sit. Feel the wind against your face. Seriously, do it now!

Ok, I knew you weren’t going to go out. But you really should.

Of course, this is from a guy whose about to have his innards whacked with radiation every week day for the next 7 or 8 weeks, so my priorities may be a little weird.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

That Which We Call an Apple

For a while, Apple was naming their operating system releases after wild cats … Panther, Tiger, Leopard, Snow Leopard, Lion, Mountain Lion, etc.

But, in what was indoubtedly a typographical error, they went from cats to cattle with the name Mavericks. So theoretically, the next operating system should have been some adjective with Mavericks … Lazy Mavericks, Cool Mavericks, etc.

Instead, they went off in another direction altogether, calling their upcoming release Yosemite, which is either a national park or a boisterous Warner Bros. cartoon character. We’ll have to wait to see if the following version is called Yellowstone or Elmer.

Or perhaps it will be something else entirely, like Mozzarella.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Limerick of the Day #122

While the whole Middle East is in Crisis
Just between al Qaeda and ISIS,
The really big flap
‘S over Facebook’s new app
Just for messaging mobile devices.


Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Hacked

There’s no if about it. The only question is when. When will you get hacked? When will your accounts be violated, your identity stolen, and your most intimate nude selfies plundered and made public? You know it’s going to happen.

That’s why I’ve decided to release everything. I’d rather my personal information be revealed under my control, rather than at the whim of some hacker.

First, I’m a card-carrying member of the Barney & Friends Fan Club (though I can’t seem to find my card at the moment.)

For another thing, all my on line accounts use the same password: pjYbt6BTOYIHnyYNPnypnyINNNNnbvCUCCIBYRyGInouIhuutfrdresFTGH$&^%(YIUTFCUYTRITOIGN(itvuye45IRB&OypuibCEYWXCUTYVI^TBY&OHUBbboBOTVriTIIvt&EX$TRYCUUIYBVITIT

Finally, since this is going to wind up on some Web site anyway, …



Monday, September 1, 2014

Friday, August 29, 2014

Limerick of the Day #121

Says the NRA’s Wayne LaPierre
“We’d be safer with guns everywhere.”
There’s no need to be choosy.
Give each young child an Uzi.
Or perhaps Wayne’s a horse’s derrière.


Thursday, August 28, 2014

The ALS Challenge

An awful lot of Internet bandwidth lately has gone to video clips of people attempting, with varying degrees of success, to dump buckets of ice on their own or their friends’ heads. This is done, no doubt, in the earnest belief that such actions will help to cure amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, better known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” even though no one knows who Lou Gehrig was anymore.

I’m not opposed to curing debilitating and life-threatening diseases, though I have my doubts about how effective the ice dousing is, especially on people who don’t actually have ALS. My other reservation, though, is that I already have my own favorite illnesses, whose cures seem to be linked to walks, bike rides, concerts and telethons and even black tie dinners. My hit list of diseases includes such popular ones as Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and the ever-popular genitourinary cancer. (I think the first thing I’ll donate is a hyphen, since “genito-urinary” doesn’t look quite so much like a travel planning Web site.)

If the point of the ALS challenge is to discomfort and humiliate those who refuse to donate, wouldn’t it be more effective to prolong the drama? Done my way, the challenge can last for days. Or, to paraphrase a slogan from Alcoholics Anonymous (itself a venerable disease treatment organization), one cube at a time.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Monday, August 25, 2014

Selling Out

The New York Times is reporting that the first issue of Action Comics, in which Superman debuted, was sold at auction for $3.2 million. And that's not even original artwork ... just a printed comic book.

I want to point out that I'll sell any of the original artwork that went into any post on this blog, signed, for half that much!!!

A bargain!

Time Bums #29


Friday, August 22, 2014

Limerick of the Day #120

“What is wrong with the world?” you may ask. It’s
An uptick in the sales of caskets.
When our tank-driving cops
Make routine traffic stops
Then it’s time to buy stock in handbaskets.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Media Morons

Oxymorons are expressions which contradict themselves, like “Facebook privacy.” The term “oxymoron” is itself an oxymoron, coming from Greek words meaning “sharp” and “stupid.”

We’ve noticed that the news media, and TV in particular, have created a number of phrases that have been repeated so often they’ve become clichés, to the point that changing the phrase creates a jarringly different meaning.

We’ll call such modified phrases media morons. Here are some examples.

  • barren knoll
  • seasonable weather
  • gruntled employee
  • sensible tragedy
  • gentle murder
  • actual perpetrator

Note that “media morons,” despite the appealing alliteration, is not an oxymoron. It may, in fact, be redundant.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Friday, August 15, 2014

Nanu Nanu

It’s hard to try to write something funny while the world is still reeling from the suicide of Robin Williams, for several reasons:
  1. It seems too soon.
  2. Robin Williams was the consummate funny man. Anything funny written about him just invites comparison.
  3. If you try to be funny, a slew of armchair therapists will conclude that your humor is a cover for your basic self-loathing and suicidal depression.
Ignoring the fact that psychotherapy is basically an armchair sport anyway, let’s consider the man’s work. A few months ago, the annual Tony Award presentation show included a clip from the Broadway incarnation of Disney’s Aladdin. Unfortunately, that excerpt really only emphasized why some movies should not be adapted for the stage. Apart from missing the magical quality of Disney’s animation, the performance of the song “Friend Like Me” really suffered without the frenzied craziness of Williams’ rendition. Genie was, in some ways, the perfect Robin Williams role. The fact that he improvised much of it demonstrates this.

A few years ago, we saw Williams in the title role of A Bengal Tiger in a Baghdad Zoo on Broadway. Williams had certainly played non-comedic roles before, but this one, on stage, seemed like a major shift. And in my experience, actors who take on roles way outside their usual spheres are trying to prove something.

Consider Marilyn Monroe in The Prince and the Showgirl or The Misfits. Or Tom Hanks in … well, almost anything since Bosom Buddies. Or Mickey Mouse in Mickey’s Christmas Carol. These actors were all trying to demonstrate their versatility ... to show that they had more than sex appeal or silliness or whatever Mickey Mouse has.

Well, here I am, trying to be an armchair therapist. And it’s too soon. This is not funny. Bad Tech Curmudgeon! Bad!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Monday, August 11, 2014

Friday, August 8, 2014

Drawing the Line

I draw the line at whole wheat bread.
I know it’s healthy but I’d rather be dead.
Regardless of brand
It is grainy and bland.
Just give me a good pumpernickel instead.

I hate inedible edamame.
Give me a slab of kosher salami.
Those beans of soy
Bring me no joy.
I’d much rather have a hot pastrami.

I’ve tried the mesclun and arugula habits,
But they just seem like food for rabbits.
I’ve been tempeh-ed. I’ve been tofu-d.
Trust me on this: That is no food.

So keep your sorbet and frozen yogurt.
No pain, no gain, and these have no hurt.
Weight loss is still loss.
Give me hot fudge sauce.
Otherwise it’s just not a dessert.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Something Wild

I don’t think I have much in common with Western folk hero “Wild Bill” Hickok, but one trait we share is never sitting with our backs to the door. At least, that’s how he’s portrayed in Little Big Man, by the late Thomas Berger. In Berger’s book, Hickok was worried about getting shot in the back, so he always wanted to sit with his back to the wall. I’m not so worried about getting shot, but I don’t like the sensation of people standing behind me, carrying things, walking around, etc.

I’m telling you this for two reasons. First, you can appreciate what a charmingly quirky and idiosyncratic guy I am.

But the second reason is that I want to sing the praises of Berger’s 1964 novel. It recounts the story of Jack Crabb, who was abducted/adopted by Cheyenne as a child, and spent most of his 111 years wandering the “wild” West, living among both native and non-native Americans, and encountering notables like “Wild Bill” Hickock, Wyatt Earp and Buffalo Bill. He was at the Battle of Little Bighorn, but it’s not clear whose side he was on.

It’s also very funny.

I have to admit that I read Little Big Man a good many years ago, and I’m a somewhat fuzzy on the details. There’s also a movie adaptation from 1970, starring a heavily made-up Dustin Hoffman as Crabb, but it’s not as good. (Not bad as a movie though!)

But the main point I remember is the sense that the warring between the Cheyenne and the “white” men is an unavoidable clash of civilizations. In fact, this book and the movie roughly coincide with the founding of the American Indian Movement, the publication of Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and other milestones in recent Native American history. Berger is clearly more sympathetic with the Cheyenne, depicting the non-natives as boorish, brutal and stupid. Yet he doesn’t blame them. Boorishness, brutality and stupidity are just part of their culture.

Come to think of it, that stuff may not have been Berger’s intention at all. Maybe that’s just what I took away from it. I’ll have to read it again. Or rent the movie.

Anyway, there’s probably something in here that’s applicable to the current Israel/Gaza fighting, but I’m damned if I know what. I’m not saying that, for example, one side’s constantly trying to kill all members of the other side and obliterate their nation doesn’t qualify them as the aggressors, but there are clearly bigger issues here that are not ever going to be settled by warfare.

Not that I’m qualified to comment. Just another of my endearing quirks.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Meditation on Meditation

Years ago, I read an article in Scientific American about the benefits of transcendental meditation. The main one, as I recall, is that you could get away with less sleep. Twenty minutes of TM would make up for a few hours of lost sleep. Perfect for the young party animal I imagined myself to be.

The other main benefit of TM was that the Beatles were doing it. Of course, I had to try this, with the predictable results I later described in this poem …

I am clearing my mind.
I am breathing in and out.
Just breathing in and out.
I am letting go of thoughts, feelings.
I am letting go of judgements.
Like whether this poem should rhyme.
Shit. Again.
I am clearing my mind.
I am breathing in and out.
Just breathing in and out.
In and out.
No feelings.
I am aware of the air coming through my nose.
Moving through my trachea.
My diaphragm swells.
The air comes into my lungs
And into those things … what are they called?
Alveoli?
Shit.
I am clearing my mind.
I am … shit.
I am clearing my mind.
No thoughts.
Just …

Now I find yet another article, this time on mindfulness meditation, in a Scientific American blog post. This time, the benefits are health, brain elasticity, improved attention and concentration, ability to sit through PBS fund raisers, etc. And, in fact, this one seems so easy I have to try it. Basically, mindfulness meditation just means … duh, paying attention to stuff. Instead of always thinking about things, just stop and notice things instead. That sounds easy enough, right?

So here I am, noticing stuff. My fingertips feel the smooth plastic of the keys. I blink repeatedly to try to focus on this high resolution screen. Then suddenly, it hits me. I can feel my amygdala shrinking, as my pre-frontal cortex expands. Tendrils of consciousness reach out beyond the room … beyond the house. I can sense the neighbors moving about, even the subtle vibrations of their lawn mowers.

Beyond them the cars on the highway … aircraft overhead … all reveal themselves to me. Other beings go about their lives. Travellers bustling from place to place, consumed by anxieties about what they must accomplish. A huge swirling vortex of Whitman-esque humanity, oblivious to the futility of its actions.

And then it’s, like, over. You know? It was kinda cool, but, hey, what the heck? Maybe I can do that again, but it’s almost time for “Jeopardy.”

Monday, July 28, 2014

Friday, July 25, 2014

Limerick of the Day #119

In case you’ve been missing the news,
Hamas thinks that they cannot lose.
They could fire their rockets
At their own densest pockets
And still blame it all on the Jews.


Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Recap

Billions of years ago, the universe was formed when an infinitesimally small particle exploded in what has become known as The Big Bang. This popular theory completely evades the question of where this infinitesimally small particle came from.

After The Big Bang, the universe just kept expanding, forming all kinds of crap: stars, galaxies, nebula and all that stuff that Neil deGrasse Tyson doesn’t describe nearly as entertainingly as Carl Sagan did.

Many of these stars were surrounded by swirling clouds of stuff, which eventually (we’re talking billions of years here) hardened into little pellets called planets. And at least one of these planets had enough hydrogen and oxygen and carbon to form organisms like algae and plankton and the Tea Party.

More billions of years went by, and these primitive life forms gradually evolved into beings complex enough to log into Facebook. These beings had developed the technology to send typos and grammatical errors around the world at lightening speed, but they chose to spend their time arguing about whether to let a handful of beings own all the money in the world or just most of it, or whether to let children stand on one side or another of an imaginary line.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Friday, July 18, 2014

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Excuses! Excuses!

I know my posting has been somewhat erratic lately. I don't mean to whine, but I've been kind of preoccupied. Since the beginning of last year, I've lost both my parents, my father-in-law and my prostate.

Unfortunately, the prostate did not go quietly. It seems to have left a little something behind … some prostate-less terror cells running around somewhere.

So the next step is carpet bombing the area with radiation. I'm not sure exactly how this works, but it basically involves a radiation beam aimed at my most intimate portions. I keep picturing that scene from Goldfinger where James Bond is strapped to a gold table while Mr. Goldfinger plans to unseam him from the nave to the chops and beyond!

Along with the radiation goes hormone therapy or, quite literally, temporary emasculation. Since prostate cancer thrives on guy hormones, suppressing those hormones is the best way to slow it down. Warning: Side effects may include hot flashes, softening of muscle definition and frequent bouts of uncontrollable shoe shopping.

Does this blog post make me look fat?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday, July 7, 2014

Friday, July 4, 2014

Yankee Doodling

I’m a Yankee Doodle Dandy,
A Yankee Doodle kind of guy.
You’re free to worship if your deity
And mine can see eye to eye.

I’ve got a Yankee Doodle sweetheart.
She is not the least bit gay.
Yankee Doodle built this land
For straight white males and their mates.
So Happy Independence Day!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Friday, June 27, 2014

Limerick of the Day #118

Now your cell phone is sacrosanct.
Aereo must give up what they’ve banked.
The Supreme Court rejected
Abortions protected,
And, of course, Obama got spanked.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Please Stop Biking

If you’ve been paying attention, you know how often I extoll the virtues of biking and bike commuting … fresh air, exercise, stress relief, freedom from gas, and a smug sense of superiority. Well, that’s ok, but enough is enough.

PLEASE STOP BIKING

The Minuteman Bikeway, my main commuting route, is starting to look like I-95 during rush hour. We even have delays due to disabled bikes and strollers. And the bike parking area at the transit station is full by 8 in the morning. (Well, not completely full, but the good spots are taken, and only the weird impossible-to-use double-decker bike racks are available.)

Moreover, some of my fellow bikers occasionally flout (not flaunt) various local ordinances (not ordnance). This sometimes creates ill will among motorists who, if nothing else, have momentum on their side. I prefer not to antagonize such people, but they don’t always grasp the subtle nuance between “some cyclists are scofflaws” and “all bicyclists are lawless marauders.” A driver threatening you with a large, heavy automobile is not unlike someone flaunting ordnance.

So, I ask again …

PLEASE STOP BIKING!



Monday, June 23, 2014

Time Bums: Our Story So Far

Jackie is on her way to class at Mass. College of Art when she is accosted on Huntington Ave. in Boston by a strange bearded man with a French accent. He demands that she take him to see Steve at MIT, but she doesn’t know any Steve. Reluctantly she agrees to help him and they go to MIT where, by a stroke of luck, they locate “Crazy Steve” and a robot, AMNOZ, he built from discarded office supplies.

The bearded man brandishes a device that looks like a TV remote control, and complains that it doesn’t work. Steve is puzzled, but Jackie suggests that perhaps it just needs new batteries. Steve replaces the batteries in the remote, and the bearded man presses a button and disappears without a trace.

Steve tells Jackie that the device looked like a duplicate of his time machine which, after some rummaging, he finds on his workbench. Steve offers to take Jackie back to the time when she was stopped by the bearded man to pick up the portfolio she dropped in the street. However, due to a sticky Rewind button on the device, Steve, Jackie and AMNOZ wind up in the in the late Cretaceous period.

After narrowly escaping a tyrannosaurus rex, the trio find themselves in the forum of ancient Rome with another click of a time machine button. However, they are recognized as Steve, Jackie and the “talking box,” by a Roman citizen, who has them arrested by orders of Our Lady.

In captivity, they meet Our Lady, who turns out to be the same bearded man who first accosted Jackie in Boston. He plans to detain them to prevent any interference with his plans to unmake everything, but, again, they escape by jumping through time.

They briefly visit the GeoSphere, a structure which encloses the entire planet, and contains the wherewithal to provide food, water, air and other necessities artificially. (The Forward button also sticks.) The GeoSphere is too depressing, so they again leap, this time landing in mid-16th century France.

Here, to their amazement, Jackie, Steve and AMNOZ again run into the bearded man, Our Lady. This time, however, he introduces himself as Michel de Nostredame.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Limerick of the Day #117

So Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld and Cheney,
And a president not very brainy,
Used a terror attack
From nowhere near Iraq
As a pretext for going all zany.

And now in the wake of war’s drama
and disorder and stress of post-trauma,
Cheney and all his cronies
Still have the cojones
To blame the whole mess on Obama.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Keys WIthout Boarders

Up until recently I had a phone with a physical sideways keyboard. I can't touch toe on a screen so I thought the slide out keyboard would help. Then I discovered swype which let's me enter words faster than typing. The only problem is that swype keeps trying to correct what I wrote. Usually this works OK but sometimes it's a complete fail. And it doesn't have an until key. I could turn off spa altogether but sometimes it's useful. However I have discovered a secret. Swype only tries to correct the last word you entered. If you forge ahead and then go back and correct any mistakes you noticed you can slip them pay the correction. I feel gully but what can you do? So if someone asks me if I'm smarter than a smartphone I can confidently say us!

Monday, June 16, 2014

Friday, June 13, 2014

Gun Stuff


Despite the opinions of an overwhelming majority of Americans who are not members of Congress, this country has failed to enact any form of regulation that would even mildly inconvenience a deranged psychopath who wants to buy a gun. There are many subtle and nuanced reasons for this, but they all pretty much boil down to one thing …

Bullshit.

Specifically, the NRA is spewing bullshit intended to make people think that guns are equivalent to freedom. They want you to believe that any restrictions on gun buying, ownership or use amounts to tyranny and the return of King George III.

And it’s working. Despite the fact that tens of thousands of Americans are wounded or killed by gunfire every year, we seem to think that waiting periods and background checks would be an insufferable atrocity.

Contrary to the slogan, guns DO kill people. To prove it, try this simple experiment:
  • Point your finger at someone’s head or chest and say “Bang!”
  • Observe the results.
  • Now repeat the experiment, but fire a loaded gun instead of pointing your finger.

See the difference?

(NOTE: The Tech Curmudgeon is not responsible for any damage resulting from this experiment.)

The NRA also wants you to believe that having more guns around makes people safer, despite the fact that every single death by gunfire occurs within close proximity to a gun. Regardless of how reassuring you might find the thought that everyone else on the subway, or on the highway, is armed to the teeth, the fact remains that when the guns come out, there’s almost never a good outcome. In the recent Las Vegas shooting, two cops and a licensed gun owner who tried to intervene were killed. In fact, the track record of good guys with guns successfully stopping bad guys with guns is damn near zero.

And as for the Constitution, ok, it protects gun rights, just as it protects slavery and unlimited terms for presidents. But check out the wording. The First Amendment makes no bones about protecting freedom of religion, speech, the press, etc. “Congress shall make no law …” But the Second Amendment, the one about guns, begins with a qualifier, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary …” and then continues in a passive voice: “the right … shall not be infringed.” Pretty mealy-mouthed. Maybe they were pressured by the NMA … the National Musket Association.

Anyway, the framers had probably never seen breach-loading guns, let alone automatic or semi-automatic weapons. So what exactly does the Second Amendment protect? Should people be allowed to plant landmines around their houses? Or carry tactical nuclear weapons?

Is a weapon that fires a round per second really any safer than these?

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Political Games


Politics is a game. As much as we might like to think we’re electing Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, all we ever really get is a pack of deal-makers. Because that’s the game. The only way politicians get what they’re after is by giving some other politicians what they’re after.

So you might think voters would want the best players on their teams … the politicians who are really good at this game. You might think, for example, that someone like Mississippi’s Senator Thad Cochran, who has brought billions of federal dollars to his home state, would be a shoe-in. Plus he goes by the name Thad! How many Thads do you know? But he’s facing a run-off against primary challenger Chris McDaniel.

You might also think Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader and strong contender for Speaker of the House, would be valued for his obvious skill at playing the game. But you’d be wrong.

This is like voters in Red Sox nation saying, “Gee, David Ortiz is too much of a Fenway insider. Let’s replace him … maybe one of those Jordan’s Furniture guys.”

NOTE: This post was written weeks in advance of publication. If for some reason Eric Cantor was not defeated in Virginia's 7th district primary on June 10, please disregard.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Limerick of the Day #116

It’s been 70 years since the day
When, with much of the world in the fray,
Allies launched an invasion
To change the equation
Of power, with Europe in play.

But now, since D-Day’s stunning success,
The world has seen new kinds of stress.
Handling prisoners of war
Is nuanced all the more,
And not only aggressors aggress.


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Inequality


There’s a lot of hoopla now about the book Capital in the 21st Century, by Thomas Piketty. Basically, Piketty claims that wealth inequality is about as bad as it’s been since the time of Solon, and that we’d better fix it or there’ll be hell to pay. (Or something like that. The back cover was kind of short on specifics.)

Naturally, there’s political uproar over these claims. The Financial Times excoriated Piketty, saying his methods were wrong, while Piketty rebutted the charge with “Nuh-uh. You are!”

Obviously, Piketty’s a smart guy. He’s an economist, which means he was able to stay awake in economics class, which is more than I could do and I think I’m pretty smart. But he misses one major point.

We LOVE inequality.

Seriously, it’s all we dream about. Look at popular entertainment. Harry Potter was a trust fund baby. The so-called reality shows are all about people willing to utterly humiliate themselves for a shot at wealth and fame … and we watch them! (Well, somebody does.) We don’t even have to mention professional sports. All the Disney movies and merchandise are about princes and princesses. And who would tune in to HBO for Game of Desk Chairs?

We make folk heroes out of jackasses like Cliven Bundy, and spend countless hours following the exploits of the Kardashians. The media hound the British royal family as if … well, as if they actually mattered anymore.

So the next time you hear someone complaining about wealth distribution, you can snap back with “Hey, if it weren’t for inequality, we’d all be stuck watching C-SPAN!”


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Vicious Cycling

There’s no shortage of reasons to take up bicycling, and even bike commuting. The usual ones are:
  1. It’s good for the environment. After all, instead of burning fossil fuels in a car, you’re out there being all natural and stuff, making your own organic, free-range CO2.
  2. It saves you money. It would be really hard to buy a bike so expensive that, used daily, it wouldn’t save you money on gas, repairs, parking fees and Sirius/XM. (If you had such a bike, you wouldn’t take it out of the garage.)
  3. It’s healthy. Sure, biking is good exercise, stimulating your heart rate, getting your muscles working. (Just try not to hit or get hit by anything.)
But the most important reason, the one usually overlooked, is bragging rights. Biking to work gives you plenty to boast about in the break room. The more miles you commute, the more hazards you dodge, and the worse the weather, the more sneerily condescending you can be at the office. Here in Boston, they even give prizes for that at the local bike organization’s annual bash.

So the goal, of course, is to have the most impressively difficult commute, but still be able to do it under your own power. This means choosing 4-lane highways over quiet country roads. (Change jobs if you have to.) It means living far enough away that you basically bike home at night, shower, and head back to work. It means riding on a hard leather seat that looks like an instrument from a proctologist’s office. And, of course, it means biking year-round, in snow, sleet, freezing rain, hail and whatever else Mother Nature decides to throw at you.

Fortunately, here in New England, we’re blessed with plenty of that. In fact, New England was first settled by masochists seeking a harder life. They set up farms where the earth is just dust covered rock, and the growing season is 23 1/2 days long. They denied themselves strong drink on Sundays. They fought with native Americans over casino locations. And they picked the Red Sox as their team.

And this proud tradition carries on today. So get out there and bike!

Just don’t tell me about it.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Politician Aptitude Test

Have things changed at all since the Revolution?
Should every gun lover be permitted to carry?
Do you believe in the theory of evolution?
Do you think gays have a right to marry?

Do you think more guns make this a safer place?
Does a 2-cell zygote have more soul than a cow?
Should colleges look at an applicant’s race?
Is the climate changing with effects right now?

Do you believe in public education
Or any assistance for struggling poor
Like access to healthcare and medication?
Should we drill for oil both on- and off-shore?

Can you quote the party line each time you pander,
And not have to fallback on insight or candor?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Friday, May 16, 2014

Limerick of the Day #115

If you care about wealth inequality,
How the 1% hogs the frivolity,
You might like a solution
Like re-distribution,
That conflicts with capitalist polity.

Have you read this new book by Tom Piketty
About wealth distribution’s iniquity?
The solution he backs
Is a global wealth tax,
But the odds of that happening are about as good as the odds of my finding another near rhyme here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Passion

High tech companies keep advertising to hire people who have a passion for whatever business the company is in. “Do you have a passion for medical record-keeping?” “We’re looking for people who are passionate about real estate inventory systems.” “Do e-commerce web analytics get your juices flowing?”

I’ve worked in technology for a quite a few years. I’ve done a number of interesting projects I’m proud of. But passion? To me, passion is the pulse-racing, palms-sweaty, pupils-dilated kind of thing. It’s an intense, almost overpowering emotional state. It’s the kind of thing you can really only feel for another person. Or a pet. Or dessert.

But can someone be passionate about dinking around with HTML elements? Is there such a thing as a JavaScript boner? Are we creating the next evolutionary step in intelligent beings by getting some weird kind of gratification from twiddling code?

More importantly, would you want to work with such a person?

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Net Neutrality (again)


We know you haven’t given much thought to the FCC since that whole kerfuffle with Janet Jackson’s nipple, but here they are in the news again.

The FCC, in its efforts to maintain the prized principle of net neutrality, suffered a blow at the hands of a U.S. appeals court earlier this year. The court said, in effect, that the FCC has decided that broadband providers are not common carriers, so the FCC itself can’t regulate them as such.

You might think the obvious response from the FCC would be to reclassify these broadband companies, so the FCC itself could regulate them, right?

Wrong. The FCC, instead, devised a much more cunning plan: They’re going to cave completely.
Their latest proposal is to allow broadband companies to give some content providers faster access than others, exactly what the big Internet companies want.

Writer A. J. Leibling famously said “Freedom of the press is guaranteed to those who own one.” For a while, it looked like the Internet could change all that. Anyone could publish articles, blogs, Web sites, even music and videos. There were no gatekeepers like publishers, TV networks, etc. to decide what you could or couldn’t see. For better or worse, Internet stardom was driven by likes, sharing and going viral. This is exactly what campaign finance laws have been trying to accomplish … limit the ability of big money to control the media.

But that’s all over now. Basically, the FCC’s proposed new rules are going to put control of culture back in the hands of big money. Amazon, Google and other big players can cut deals with Comcast, Verizon and other broadband providers that would, in effect, shut out any smaller players.

So speech is still free, but if you want anyone to listen, you better have plenty of simoleons.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Apologies

“Time Bums” will not be seen today. A new episode will appear next Monday, May 12.

We regret any global disasters that may arise as a consequence of this.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Limericks of the Day #114

For thousands of years humankind
Has found larger groups with which to bind.
Tribe, city, state, nation,
Increased globalization
Built communities of the mind.

But now increased individuation
And the segmenting of population
Means we no longer find
Vast groups likewise inclined.
We’re increasingly in isolation.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Televentuality

Troubled technology company Yahoo, whose previous claim to fame was that it’s named after the stupid, brutish people in Gulliver’s Travels, is now getting into the television business. They announced this week that they’re commissioning two comedy series, and that they’re going to start streaming live concerts every day.

With this move, Yahoo joins the ranks of Netflix, Amazon, Google and every idiot with a phone and a YouTube account. Can it be that these companies have realized that, far from clamoring for new gadgets and Web sites, people really just want to watch TV? (Actually, most of the new gadgets and Web sites are designed for TV watching.) Humankind’s destiny is to evolve into recumbent blobs capable of absorbing massive amounts of televised entertainment, as depicted in Disney’s WALL-E.

Just look around. There are TV screens everywhere. In elevators. In every restaurant or bar. On airplane seats. On grocery shopping carts. In kitchens and bathrooms. I know a lot of parents who treat the TV as a pacifier for their kids, but who’s pacifying us?

Of course, not just anyone can create such crowning cultural achievements as “2 Broke Girls,” “Wipe Out” or “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” This kind of talent will be increasingly in demand. And while I’m glad to see new opportunities for creative people, the current milieu of thousands of channels, Web sites and download sources, all brimming with utter crap1, does not fill me with optimism.

1With a few notable exceptions.