Thursday, December 24, 2015

A Visit From the Sith

‘Twas a long time ago, in a galaxy far away, a
Pair of droids came to Tatooine with a message from Leia.
The droids were picked up by a young guy named Luke
Who then had to locate some old desert kook.

This kook, Ben Kenobi, had once known Luke’s father,
And knew this message meant a whole lot of bother.
For Luke finally saw the droid’s whole 3D flick.
‘Twas a plea for help from some outer space chick.

She had stolen the plans for the Empire’s Death Star
Which could wipe out whole planets in space from afar.
Ben, whose real name was Obi-wan, once was a Jedi,
But retired and flew down to Tatooine on the red eye.

So Obi and Luke went to hang at a bar
In search of a pilot who’d take them as far
As the rebel alliance’s secret location,
But along the way, they found a big honking station

Whose commander had such a noisy respirator,
They knew in a moment it must be Darth Vader.
So they rescued the princess, and escaped alive,
Bringing plans to the rebels on a thumb drive.

Then they handed the plans to the head rebel geek
So he could find where the Death Star might be weak.
The Death Star’s designers left an open back door,
With a duct that lead straight to the reactor core.

So a bunch of young pilots were quickly dispatched
To fire their missiles at the Death Star’s hatch.
But of course it was Luke who accomplished the goal
Of sending a missile down the Death Star’s hole.

Thus they knew Luke was a Jedi without equal
(At least till they saw the script for the first sequel.)
But his message came through as he flew out of sight:
May the force be with you, and to all a good night.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

The Fortune Amasses

Star Wars!
Everything’s Star Wars!
Not just in toy stores
But everywhere.

Star Wars!
Disney has its whores
Trying to sell scores
of Luke underwear.

At first, they made a mint off what’s now Episode IV
And even more from what came later.
Then they made a whole trilogy that went before
About how young Anakin became Darth Vader.

Star Wars!
Enough of the Star Wars!
My closets and drawers
Are full of this crap.

Star Wars!
Please no more Star Wars!
Take your John Williams scores
And call it a wrap.

(Bump-biddi-be-dump-dump whatever until you get sick of it.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Monday, December 7, 2015

NRA Tis Of Thee

My country tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty,
Don’t take our guns.
The second amendment
Trumps any president,
So every resident
Can get some guns.

All throughout history
Folks have used weaponry.
Don’t take our guns.
Our cause is justified
By all the folks that died
To serve our national pride.
Let’s keep our guns.

Some innocents get shot
But not an awful lot.
Don’t take our guns.
Gun fights can get intense.
Sometimes there’s accidents.
Nothing no law prevents.
We need our guns.

Let gunshots fill the air,
Bullets fly everywhere.
Don’t take our guns.
We need some self-defense,
Till there’s a border fence,
And terrorists get some sense.
We need more guns.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Waiting for Baudot

Remember when computers were fast? That was back in the day when we got computers in order to do things. Now, they mainly spend their time updating their own software and reporting your activities to MAGFA (Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and Amazon).

And if you do manage to wheedle your way to the computer’s attention, say to open a Web browser, you will be greeted by a spinning something-or-other which may suggest activity, but which is really just a lame way to entertain you while you wait for a barrage of crap unrelated to the page you wanted to visit. If you have the fortitude to wait for all the Web crap to download, the page will tease you with a momentary appearance, only to be supplanted by a dark background and a popup asking if you’d like to register for the site’s free newsletter so as not to miss a single exciting moment of their ceaseless self-aggrandizement.

And further, if you unwarily visited a site that sells something, you will be forever haunted by spectral images of that merchandise infiltrating every other Web site you visit henceforth until the crack of doom. Your most solemn presentations may be adorned with ads for Diaper Genie or an inflatable party doll.

Beyond that, these online purveyors will stalk you via email. You will receive messages urging you to come back and finish what your started, or trying to tempt you with other, similar merchandise.

But, thankfully, your computer will be so slow you’ll never notice.

Monday, November 16, 2015

We'll Always Have Paris

Of course we want to show support, sympathy and comradeship with the the Parisians after the harrowing Friday the 13th terror attacks. Personally, I have never used the term “Freedom Fries,” but beyond that I’ve always had great admiration for the French. Paris is where all the great artists and writers hung out a hundred years ago. While I wasn’t there at the time, it always seemed like it would be really cool.

France was the center of international diplomacy for much of the modern era. French was considered the lingua franca.

French kissing has become one of the rites of passage for young adults.

And, or course, there’s that great bread, toast and fries.

But moreover, the kind of attack that hit Paris could happen anywhere. We’re all vulnerable. It required coordination, but just conventional weapons: bombs, automatic rifles and cars. How can we possibly prevent or defend ourselves against that kind of terror?

We could rely on massive spying programs to keep tabs on everyone, but we certainly don’t want the government looking over our shoulders all the time … reading our emails, listening to our phone calls and tracking our Web surfing. We already have Google for that.

So how can we completely eliminate the threat of global terror without infringing on anyone’s rights? We’ll reveal this in a future post.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Friday, October 30, 2015

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Overthought

Sometimes I think I overthink things. Or maybe it’s just that I try to find cerebral approaches to everything, including problems that don’t lend themselves to that type of solution. Or, perhaps more accurately, I tend to rely instinctively on cognitive approaches to situations, although other approaches may be equally, or even more well suited.

Sure, I wish I could be more like that 97.7% of the population that reacts to context changes seemingly spontaneously, but that could have other ramifications. For example, I might develop an interest in watching sports on TV, or start wandering aimlessly around the subway platform staring at my cell phone. I might even find myself enjoying large group activities.

But without adopting any such radical behavior or personality changes, is there a way I can prevent myself from overthinking every situation? Well, not every situation, but at least many common situations that don’t offer obvious or intuitive approaches?

And just how much thinking is overthinking anyway? What is the right amount of thinking? Perhaps situations could be categorized in terms the appropriate amount of thought required. Experimental psychologists speak of cognitive load as a measurable, or comparitively measurable quantity of mental activity which impacts the brain’s ability to process additional sensory input and to perform multiple tasks apparently simultaneously.

So we could define overthinking as devoting too much cognitive load to the decision making process in some particular context, but then we need a way to calibrate various scenarios so that we can determine what the appropriate level of cognitive load is. In effect, all we’ve done is recast the original problem of what constitutes overthinking into different terms, without actually arriving at any metrics for answering the question.

Or maybe … ?

Monday, October 26, 2015

GOP Washerwoman

Well, come in. Take a seat, and be sure to say “Howdy.”
I’d like you to greet Representative Gowdy.
He’s got a committee to pillory Hillary
Though they may meet at the local distillery.
They questioned her for eleven hours
But she came off fresher than wild flowers.
If that mistake were all they’d make
We might not be at the Republicans’ Wake.

Well, we must take the country back from all the takers
On government hand-outs, the lot of them fakers.
There’s really no harm in a few little slanders
to Hillary and that guy … what’s his name? … Sanders.
Her entourage of paparazzi
Can’t shield her from blame for Benghazi.
It’s a piece of cake to make her quake,
Yet sure this looks like the Republicans’ Wake.

Well, sometimes it seems that there’s no use in tryin’.
We now face abuse from that liberal Ryan.
He said he would serve as the Speaker provided
We follow unswervingly and undivided.
If all else fails, blame Hillary’s email
Though the real problem’s that she is female.
But for heaven’s sake hush that headache
Or we’ll all end up at the Republicans’ Wake.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Income Disproportionality

It's unfortunate that income inequality has become a rallying cry of progressives because, as far as I know, nobody is advocating income equality. That would mean everyone gets the same amount, penny for penny. Wealth inequality is a similarly misleading term.

In fact, according to survey results I just made up, most Americans favor a merit-based system. That means people get rewards according to how good they are. This, of course, leaves open the tricky question of what we mean by good, but we can ignore that for now. As with art, I can't define good, but I know it when I see it. Or at least, I know bad when I see it. I'm sure we can all think of examples of bad behavior by people. If not, spend more time on Facebook.

There are two problems with our current system:
  1. In general, the people who get the most (i.e., make the most money) are not the people we would consider good, and
  2. The differences in income (or wealth) are way out of proportion to the supposed worth of the people who make/possess it.
Consider that the CNN Money list of of richest recording artists is topped by Madonna and Paul McCartney, at about $800 million and $660 million. And, again according to CNN Money on the American middle class, the average net worth for middle class Americans is about $300,000. In other words, Paul McCartney is worth more than two thousand times what you are! Two thousand!

And if that's not enough, according to Forbes, Laurene Powell Jobs, whose main accomplishment was marrying the guy who came up with tiny music players to listen to Madonna and Paul McCartney, is worth about $20 billion. In other words, she's worth 30 times what Paul McCartney is worth. Or about sixty thousand times what you're worth. Think about that. Steve Jobs' widow is worth an entire football stadium of you.

If you further scan down the Forbes list, you'll see a lot of familiar names. Apart from Forrest, Jacqueline and John Mars, whose fortunes all derive from candy, the bulk of these are business people … Wal-Mart, Microsoft, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Google, etc. Sure, these are all interesting businesses, but what's their real value to society? When disaster strikes, an earthquake or a hurricane or a mine collapse, do we say: “Hey, we'd better get Apple guys in there so the victims can listen to iTunes!” Or “Quick! Let's upgrade them to Windows 10!”

Maybe I'm just weird, but if I really separate the value that people bring to the world from the amount of money they make, it seems obvious that the most important people in society are teachers, who help shape what kinds of people our children will become. Emergency responders … police, firefighters and medical personnel, who help get disasters under control and save lives. Authors and artists and musicians, who enrich our lives and help us share our common human experience.

Oh, and hedge fund managers.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Monday, October 12, 2015

Wee Seven

Many people watched the recent PBS Walt Disney biography, and can appreciate how groundbreaking the first animated feature film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, really was. Disney’s dwarfs were completely different from Tolkien’s dwarves, sharing only diminutive stature and a penchant for mining and singing and other subterranean occupations.

But the real inside story of Disney’s film goes much deeper than that. In fact, although the final cast featured only seven dwarfs, hundreds auditioned. Many were distinctly inappropriate for cohabiting with a young woman: Sleazy, Creepy, Gropey, Horney and Anthony Wiener.

Still others, including Stretchy and Cloudy, were not height-challenged enough for the roles.

Ms. White, having far more movie industry experience than Disney himself, was able to negotiate final say over the dwarf roster. It is widely believed that she relied on the time-honored Hollywood tradition of the casting catafalque, though White never had the promiscuous reputation of Sleeping Beauty.

All this had to be covered up, of course, so the dwarfs could maintain their squeaky clean public image throughout the inevitable publicity tours and press conferences.

In fact, Snow White tried to upstage Sleeping Beauty by falling comatose in order to lure one of the wandering princes who were habitually kissing unconscious strangers in the woods back then. Of course, Prince Charming later dumped her for Cinderella, so her machinations were for naught.

Monday, October 5, 2015

The Spine King

Medulla ‘blongata.
What a wonderful phrase.
Medulla ‘blongata,
Right at your brain’s base.
It means keep breathing
For the rest of your days.
Your involunt’ry
Activity?
Medulla ‘blongata.

When I was a young vertebrate. (When you were a young vertebrate.)
I could breathe and swallow and cough and sneeze.
And do it all with the greatest of ease.
I could even boast that I had some measure
Of control over my blood pressure.
But although I was cautious (You were so cautious.)
Sometimes I’d get nauseous. (Everybody gets nauseous.)
Then I’d be rebuked(Sometimes you'd get spooked.)
Every time that I p… (Please! Not in front of the kids.)

Medulla ‘blongata.
What a wonderful phrase.
Medulla ‘blongata,
Right at your brain’s base.
It keeps you breathing
For the rest of your days.
Your involunt’ry
Activity?
Medulla ‘blongata.
Medulla ‘blongata. Medulla ‘blongata.
Medulla ‘blongata. Medulla ‘blongata.
Medulla ‘blongata. Medulla ‘blongata.
Medulla ‘blongata. …

Friday, September 25, 2015

Virtual Realism

I recently attended a game development conference and was dazzled by the technology and, more importantly, how easy it is. First time game developers can marshal whole armies of animated characters, space ships, superheroes or whatever. Of course, you still have to come up with a story and rules, but once you do, the tools are ready.

But the hottest trend in gaming is virtual reality. There are now goggles and complete helmets that let you move around in a computer-generated world, turning your head to see different parts of the scene as you walk through, oblivious to real world objects in your path.

That’s the virtual part. What’s missing is the reality. The games using this technology generally involve incredibly developed men and women, wearing the most revealing armor imaginable, pursuing each other, for lustful or vengeful purposes, through medieval landscapes, wielding maces, axes and swords. What’s real about that?

So I’ve decided to design a real virtual reality game. It’s still a work in progress, but I have a few levels roughed out.

Level 1

The player has to navigate a dimly lit, hazard-strewn landscape in order to dress in work clothes that aren’t too discordant, without stubbing his or her toes.

Level 2

Players travel from the the start to the center of competition, trying to dodge each others aggressive and erratic movements, and to avoid delays from jack-knifed trucks, road construction and drive-thru donut shops.

Level 3

Here all the players congregate to try to complete tasks, while the villain, known only as Management, launches more, increasingly onerous tasks for each player to accomplish.

Once a player earns 100000 points, he or she achieves Management status. Then the player must fire tasks at other non-Management players, while at the same time dodging those from the new villain, Upper Management.

Of course, there are still a few rough edges to work out, but I think you can expect this to rocket to the top of the charts, or whatever computer games do.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Monday, September 21, 2015

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

WTF Tuesday: Campaigns

Once again, it’s time for WTF Tuesday. As you know, readers can submit questions on any topic to wtf@techcurmudgeon.info, and we may eventually get around to offering some kind of response, probably not including an answer.

This week’s question is on the minds of many of our alert readers, and we’re sure one of them would have gotten around to asking us sooner or later.

Question

Trump? Really?

Answer

Now that Election 2016 is officially underway, news media are making room amidst the sports, celebrities and automobile ads for reporting about campaign escapades. It breaks up the monotony. And some of the cheapest filler available are poll results.

These polls aggregate the opinions of prospective voters who have given as much serious thought to the candidates as they have to, say, Spongebob Squarepants. In fact, polls show that if the election were held today, Spongebob would win by a wide margin. Unless, of course, he were an actual person and a candidate.

So into this media void rides Donald Trump. His appearance and his manner are wacky enough to provide entertainment. And he has enough money to keep his campaign going.

In the 1960’s, there was a computer program called ELIZA that could mimic some basic human language. One flavor of it spoofed a psychiatrist by picking words and phrases out of comments entered by the user, and turning them into probing questions about that user’s psyche. If the user entered My mother hates me, ELIZA might respond Who else in your family hates you? It was essentially a parlor trick, but effective enough to give the impression that there was some intelligence there.

In essence, this is what Trump does with Republican themes.
  • Interviewer: John McCain was a POW.
  • Trump: I like people who didn’t get caught.
  • Interviewer: I know some Mexican immigrants.
  • Trump: Mexican immigrants are drug dealers.
  • Interviewer: Here’s a picture of Carly Fiorina.
  • Trump: Look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?
  • Interviewer: Say ‘hello’ to Megyn Kelly.
  • Trump: You’re fired!
So, in short, no, not really. Enjoy the show while it lasts. President Squarepants will.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Apple News

It’s not too early to begin discussing the round of new products to be unveiled at Apple’s next media circus event. Apart from a new set of incrementally improved iPhones, iPads, iPods and Macs, the world’s attention is likely to focus on the revolutionary new Apple Thumbtack!1

The Apple Thumbtack, as you might imagine, is designed to join multiple documents. In keeping with the new 3D pressure sensitivity, a light press of the Apple Thumbtack creates a document collection. A heavier press creates a merged document containing the combined contents of all the individual documents. And the heaviest press creates a hole in your screen.

Apple may take some flack for this reversal of Steve Jobs’ well known view that “if you have to use a thumbtack, they blew it.” Still, it’s been acknowledged the thumbtack has been on Apple’s Chair, Art Levinson’s mind for a while.


1Our sources inform us that Apple Paperclip was rejected as being too similar to Microsoft’s Office Assistant, and Apple Staple just sounded stupid.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Monday, September 7, 2015

Compulsiveness

Once again, I’m in the position of having to explain the infrequency of postings to this blog. The fact is that we strive to maintain a high standard of editorial quality, and very few of our submissions meet these stringent guidelines. We regret that this may result in a paucity of postings, but we will not compromise.

Which brings us to another factor … compulsiveness. I’m not an obsessive compulsive. Just a common, garden-variety compulsive. But even so, this poses challenges. For example, the expression “in moderation,” (as in, for example, “it’s ok to drink red wine in moderation.”) is a complete enigma. How can something be ok in moderation? Either it’s not ok, in which case it is to be avoided completely, or it’s ok, in which case we should indulge like ants on a dropped ice cream sandwich that still has ice cream in it because it didn't all squish out between the two cookies the way it usually does.

Another problem with compulsiveness as a blogger is that you have a tendency to want to spell everything correctly, or at least readably, and to use something resembling correct grammar. It should be clear, for instance, that there are no compulsives on Facebook.

Finally, if you’re compulsive, you’re going to want to wrap up your blog post in a way that

Monday, August 17, 2015

How I Spent My Summer Vacation

I know many bloggers spend a lot of time apologizing and making excuses for not posting more frequently, but to be completely honest, I was abducted by aliens.

It was pretty much like you’d imagine. Bright lights outside. Toys moving by themselves. Cats meowing for no reason. (Well, ok, they do that anyway.)

Next thing I knew, I was inside some weird room that can only be described as nondescript. It seemed to extend endlessly in all directions, yet there was almost no furniture. And no dust bunnies.

The aliens had technology so far beyond ours it was almost incomprehensible. First, they all had iPhone 37s. That’s the one that fits in your pocket, but expands when you pull it out to the size of a Buick. (One of the old gas guzzling models!) And the maps worked!

They had those things like on “Star Trek” that you could just wave over someone and instantly diagnose and treat whatever medical conditions they had, and trim their nails.1

They had 3D holographic projectors that could instantly put you in the middle of lifelike scenes of singers, dancers, bachelors and iron chefs. The aliens had apparently been using such devices to observe earthly behavior for a while, as they kept asking us about grumpy cats.

And they had computers that could run for years and years without ever stopping, and without having to reboot to install software updates. They ran linux.

1Side effects may include dizziness, drowsiness, laziness, craziness, itchy eyes, runny nose, hair loss, weight gain, sudden, unexplained nihilism, sensitivity to cold, recurring appetite, partial differentiation, political non-alignment, skin irritation and death.2
2That last one is the biggie.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Technology and Magic

Arthur C. Clarke once said “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” Certainly technology can do things that would once have been considered magic.

One of the things I’ve waited a long time for is technology that lets me create drawings, cartoons and illustrations as expressively and intuitively as pencil, paper and other traditional media. Keep in mind that I’ve been studying and creating art technology for ... well, quite a few years. I’ve observed the technologies at Walt Disney Feature Animation and the New York Institute of Technology Computer Graphics Lab, most of whose talent later became Pixar. I’ve collaborated with researchers at the MIT Media Lab and the artists at Paws, Inc. (makers of Garfield) on tools for animation and cartooning. I’ve seen early uses of frame buffers and digitizing tablets back when these were highly specialized and expensive equipment.

And in all that time, I had not seen anything to replace paper and pencil.

Until now.

I just got a Wacom Cintiq Companion 2, a device that combines high end digitizing technology with a Windows tablet, so it can run Photoshop, Painter and other real graphics software, and lets you draw and paint right on the display screen. In just a few minutes, I did this rough blue pencil sketch.


And then inked it with a pen tool.



All while watching Jeopardy.

I was going to write something fiendishly clever about technology and the magic of Penn and Teller, but that can wait. I’m having too much fun with these tools.


Monday, July 20, 2015

People Are Stupid

(May be sung to the tune of “Beauty School Dropout” from Grease.)

Our story’s sad to tell,
Handbaskets bound for hell.
We squander all the gifts we should embrace.
Our future’s so unclear now.
The thing we have to fear now
Is what we’re doing to the human race.

People are stupid.
All evidence suggests I’m right.
People are stupid.
As a species, we’re none too bright.

Though for centuries quite violently we’ve lost daughters and sons
There are still those who believe the way to safety is more guns.

Every so often (Every so often)
Folks’ll go on a killing spree
But we can’t soften (But we can’t soften)
Gun rights ‘cause that’s what keeps us free.

There are guns for every woman, man and child alive today.
But we need more, according to the NRA.

People are stupid.
We think the earth is infinite.
People are stupid.
Where else would we dump all our shit?

And in spite of all the hurricanes and blizzarding and storming
We just can’t believe that seven billion folks might cause some warming.

Baby, don’t sweat it. (Baby, don’t sweat it.)
Why must the planet be ice-capped?
Better forget it. (Better forget it.)
Like other species, we’ll adapt.

So when the oceans boil we’ll still need oil
To drive the SUV
Up to the higher ground where someone found a tree.

Don’t let conditions
Cause you anxiety or fear.
Our politicians
Fix things in an election year.

So you see we’ve really got no one besides ourselves to blame,
But we’re so stupid we can say this with no shame.

People are stupid, (People are stupid,)
And we can say this with no shame.
People are stupid, (People are stupid,)
And we can say this with no shame.
People are stupid, (People are stupid,)
And we can say this with no shame.


Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Destiny



Created while watching Jeopardy.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Inside Outed

As the election season approaches, voters will be called upon to make important decisions, some of which may actually affect something. As a public service, we at The Tech Curmudgeon want to shed some light on how decision making itself works.

You see, we like to think of ourselves as rational. We like to think we make decisions by gathering facts, weighing them carefully, and choosing the course of action that’s likely to produce the most favorable outcome. But nothing could be further from the truth.

In reality, we’re just a collection of biases and preconceptions. We all live in a mythological world of our own making. We’re not even aware of the nagging bits of information that contradict our mythologies and threaten to shatter everything we believe. Researchers have documented a number of distinct cognitive biases that influence the way we judge. For example,
Selection Bias
The tendency to disregard information which contradicts our existing beliefs.
Confirmation Bias
The tendency to be more accepting of information that confirms our beliefs.
Enhanced Negation Effect
The tendency to be skeptical of information presented in a very emphatic or extreme way (unless you’re a Tea Party member.)
In addition to the above, we want to mention a few other, less well researched cognitive quirks.
The G Spot
The tendency to react to any mention of guns, gays or God with partisanship and insularity.
The Trump-It Sound
The tendency to emit large gusts of wind, despite the risk of mussing one’s hair.
In-Eagle-itarianism
The tendency to think that wealthy people are more American than others.
Santum Santorum
The tendency to abandon human reason in favor of divine authority.
Burning Bush Effect
The tendency to believe that one family was annointed to hold power in government.
Delusionocracy
The persistent belief, despite all evidence, that we have a say in determining our government and policies, when, in fact, at best we have some sway over which group of corporate power mongers hold sway for a few years.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Supreme Courtship

Last week was momentous for a number of reasons, many of them having to do with the U.S. Supreme Court, affectionately known as SCOTUS. Just a few of the Court’s stunning decisions were:
  1. The government is allowed to make it easier for poor people to buy health insurance.
  2. Housing practices can be discriminatory even if the landlords didn’t write a letter to The New York Times saying: “I’m gonna commit discrimination!”
  3. Two people can get married even if they have the same pee-pee parts.
In addition, conservatives discovered that giving up the Confederate flag is all it takes to appease gun control advocates for a while. Now they’ll have to devise more symbols to renounce.

Meanwhile, the Republican field grows ever wider and weirder. The GOP, that for years tried to recreate Reagan’s winning strategy of having an actor portray an intelligent, caring person, no longer seem to see the need for that.

Now if we can just get some action on climate change, we might survive long enough to enjoy all this grooviness.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday, June 19, 2015

Bikology

In this country, biking is not just about riding a bicycle. It’s a state of mind. And a fairly complex one at that.

First, biking is about independence. There’s a tremendous sense of empowerment that comes with the ability to jump on a bike and, with no gas or oil or electricity, or even roads, to go almost anywhere. Under your own power. And even a moderately competent person can maintain a bike. That’s liberation, with just a hint of self-righteous smugness.

There’s also an element of subversiveness to biking. Let’s face it. Unlike much of the rest of the world, in this country, biking is something of an act of defiance. It’s a way of thumbing your nose1 not only at the hordes of people bumbling around in cars and SUVs, but at the energy companies that are the very fabric of our country. It’s a way of just saying “no” to the industries and market forces that want you to knuckle under and behave like everyone else.

And still, in addition to all the health benefits and stress reduction and environmental benefits to biking, there’s also a strong sense of community. Bikers are a kind of tribe, perhaps because of that shared sense of independence and subversiveness. Boston has a lot of bike-oriented events, including bike breakfasts, commuter convoys, cycle celebrations and other alliterative activities. And at all of these, you see hundreds of strangers come together, talking about their latest traffic nightmare or the latest gear they’ve started using or the best route from A to B. That’s powerful. That shared sense of identity as bikers helps to form some very strong bonds.

Of course, there are still assholes. You always get those.

1Does anyone still do that?

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Good Job Hunting

Having just completed (successfully!) a fairly extensive job hunt, I feel obliged to report on the situation.

I set out to find a position with the title UI Designer. In today’s market, UI Designer really means UI Developer, which really means Web Developer, which, in turn, means Whatever We Have For You To Do Doer.1

To begin, I carefully considered all the factors that contribute to job satisfaction or dissatisfaction. They are, in order or priority:
  1. Good coffee
  2. Interesting work
  3. Compensation and benefits
  4. Reasonably quiet, comfortable work environment
  5. Laudable enterprise goals and ethics
  6. Did I mention coffee?
With this list in mind, I began my search. I determined that the best job search engine was LinkedIn.com, except for Glassdoor.com, which is actually the best except for careers.stackoverflow.com. One key feature of Glassdoor.com is that it allows current and former employees to write reviews of a company, so you can read the scathing opinions of disgruntled exes who either left or were laid off or fired. This may or may not help you assess the company, but it’s an entertaining distraction.

Once you’ve narrowed down the options, you can apply online to these companies, using one or another automatic resume blocking service. These sites allow you to upload your carefully formatted resume, and then completely re-type it into various form fields. Be careful with these forms. If the job requires, for example, 8 years of experience with JavaScript, and you’ve had 7 years and 10 months, your application will be electronically shredded.

The surprise ending, though, is that the whole list of job satisfaction points that I so carefully compiled means nothing. Well, ok, not the coffee. But really, job satisfaction has little or nothing to do with office space or even compensation and benefits.

It’s really about challenge and accomplishment. You’ve got to have both of these. And in the right proportions. Too much challenge and you just feel frustrated all the time. Too much accomplishment is boring. The perfect balance is given by:

where A is some number having something to do with accomplishment, and C is some number having to do with … well, you get the idea. The point is that you need both. And you have to make it happen. Any job can start out great, but over time, as your skills and interests evolve, you’ll find ways to get involved in different things and grow into new roles.

And if you get stuck in a situation where you can’t do that … well, that’s why I started searching.

1Note that anything that could be construed as vaguely critical in this post emphatically does not apply to my current employer. My current employer is perfect!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Who's Hotter?



... or ...
... or ...

Monday, June 1, 2015

How Things Stand

Those of you who have been following this blog for a while, either willingly or because you’ve been unable to discover the secret method of unsubscribing, may have noticed a sharp decline in the frequency of posts over the past few months. There are several reasons for this:
  1. There’s actually been a sharp decline in the frequency of posts over the past few months.
  2. Since roughly February 6 at 2:47 PM, I have been besieged by issues, both personal and professional1, that have sucked up my time as if it were green tea flavored bubble tea.2
  3. The world, in general, isn’t funny anymore.
Let me elaborate on this last point. Global funniness reached its peak in 1949, when post-war euphoria combined with technological breakthroughs to create the air age, precursor to the space age. By the mid- to late 1950’s, however, a lot of returning Korean War veterans donned suits, assumed aliases and became part of the commercio-industrial complex known as Madison Avenue (or Madison Ave., for short). These suito-businessmen ushered in an era of … um, business, which, as we all know, is not funny.

Funniness enjoyed a brief resurgence in the late 1960’s, when people were high enough to laugh at anything, but Nixon, Agnew, Ford and the rest of them quickly put an end to that.

However, the major issue is not one of humor desensitization. Rather, real life has become so absurd as to render humor superfluous. Consider, for example, Senator Ted Cruz’s pleas for federal aid for flood-stricken Texas, after condemning similar aid programs for hurricane ravaged areas in the Northeast. Or the fact that the gray lady herself, The New York Times, devoted half the front (Web) page to the arrests of a bunch of corrupt soccer executives. Or the fact that soccer has executives.

As Dr. Warren Edelman, fictitious Professor of Sociology at Columbia University, has said, “Many a joke is spoken in jest.” Truer words were never spoken.3

1Despite the millions of dollars that I earn from speaking engagements and the sales of TechCurmudgeon merchandise, I continue to hold a day job to maintain the appearance of normalcy.

2My time is, in fact, taro flavored bubble tea.

3In fact, these words may never have been spoken.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Same Old Story

var Porridge = function(temperature) {
    this.quality = temperature;
    this.name = "porridge";
    this.use = "eating";
};

var Chair = function(size) {
    this.quality = size;
    this.name = "chair";
    this.use = "sitting in";
};

var Bed = function(hardness) {
    this.quality = hardness;
    this.name = "bed";
    this.use = "sleeping in";
};

var Bear = function(home, temp, size, hardness) {
    this.home = home;
    this.utterance = "";
    this.possessions = [
        new Porridge(temp),
        new Chair(size),
        new Bed(hardness)
    ];
};
Bear.prototype.goOut = function () {
    this.home = false;
};
Bear.prototype.comeBack = function () {
    this.home = true;
};
Bear.prototype.speak = function (line) {
    this.utterance = line;
    console.log(this.utterance);
};

var Poppa = new Bear(true,"too hot","too big","too hard");
var Momma = new Bear(true,"too cold","too small","too soft");
var Baby = new Bear(true,"just right","just right","just right");

var Bears = [Poppa, Momma, Baby];
for (var b = 0; b < Bears.length; b++) {
    Bears[b].goOut();
}

var Person = function(iq) {
    this.iq = iq;
    this.utterance = "";
};
Person.prototype.test = function(obj) {
    this.utterance = obj.quality;
    console.log(this.utterance);
};
var Goldilocks = new Person(0);

for (p = 0; p < Bear.prototype.possessions.length; p++) {
    for (b = 0; b < Bears.length; b++) {
    Goldilocks.test(Bears[b].possessions[p]);
    }
}

for (b = 0; b < Bears.length; b++) {
    Bears[b].comeBack();
}

for (p = 0; p < Bear.prototype.possessions.length; p++) {
    for (b = 0; b < Bears.length; b++) {
    Bears[b].speak("Someone's been " + Bears[b].possessions[p].use +
     " my " + Bears[b].possessions[p].name + ".");
    }
}

throw new Error();

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Softwaring

The practice of creating software has changed. We used to call it programming, but now it’s software engineering.

When it was programming, it was mainly a bunch of geeky types who really got off on telling the masses about why they were formatting their email incorrectly. (Actually, in the really good old days, there were no masses using email … just the geeky types.) They worked obscenely long hours because they wanted to, and they socialized by talking about work.

Now it’s all software engineering. High tech. companies want to ease visa restrictions so they can hire cheap labor from overseas. It’s all about methodology … agile, complete with scrums and sprints, terms borrowed from the world of sports to suggest some kind of healthy teamwork. It’s all about code reviews and design patterns and best practices and quality assurance.

Basically, software has gone from being an inspired work of genius to a manufacturing process that any company can adopt to ensure that their code will be of the highest possible quality.

See how well that’s working?

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Ring Toss

I’d like to throw my hat in the ring officially. I am seeking the Republican nomination for President of the United States.

Say what you like about Hillary Clinton, but she has money, experience and name recognition. She has the Democratic nomination pretty well sewn up.

But the Republican field is wide open. And they’ll take anyone. They’ve got a former neurosurgeon, a former high tech CEO, a former Arkansas governor and fat person, a former anti-war Republican, and several other former-something-or-others. And there’s still a bunch of former Republican candidates getting ready to play again.

So, that’s settled. I’ll be a Republican. I’ll have to dress better, but I can deal with that. Now, what do I have to say to get the Republican nomination?

Oh, I know! Everything Obama tried to do? Not that!

Can I put blacklights in the Lincoln bedroom?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Wake-up Call

My Android phone had to beg and plead
To be upgraded to Lollipop.
This upgrade really has nothing I need
But it did make my Clock app just stop.

Tech entrepreneurs become billionaires
Selling products at which we all curse.
They go on making money ‘cause nobody dares
Point out these things could scarcely be worse.

Everyone hates Tim Cook and Bill Gates
Yet we keep buying stuff from these thugs,
In spite of the need for constant updates
Just to fix the last update’s bugs.

We care more about toasters than about toast,
Buying products that flew or just flopped.
I’d issue a wake up call right in this post,
But unfortunately, Clock app has stopped.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Blogma

A recent New York Times article warned that computers are rapidly taking over higher and higher level jobs as their software becomes capable of performing more tasks that used to require human intelligence and judgment. Computers are now comparable to humans at recognizing faces, emotions and attitudes, allowing them to screen passengers at airports, interview applicants for important jobs, or psychoanalyze pathological criminals.

In order to stay ahead of the curve, The Tech Curmudgeon has dismissed most of its writing staff, and will be running blog posts written by software, beginning with the following:

This is a blog post. The word blog is a contraction of web log, initially denoting a form of on-line journal. While many blogs exist to inform or facilitate information exchange, this blog has the purpose of entertaining. Therefore, each post will employ several forms of humor, including:

non sequitur
the abrupt diversion of a line of reasoning to pineapple.
hyperbole
the use of exaggeration to provoke uncontrollable paroxysms of gasp-inducing laughter.
incongruity
when stuff, like, doesn’t go together.
double entendre
the erection of a member potent in multiple openings.
non sequitur again
also known as repetition.
These figures shall be employed in roughly equal proportions, occasionally interspersed with other comedic devices, such as referring to important political figures as doody heads. The purpose of this is to induce a momentary sense of surprise or disorientation to which humans are apt to react by rapid expulsions of air accompanied by vocalizations.

We hope you like it.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Geek vs. Chic

In the good old days, visual designers and software developers used to be different people. The designers had some training and experience in creating printed materials, or TV ads, or even screen layouts for computer software. The developers were the ones who knew how to write terse, indecipherable code to make it happen.

Unfortunately, a lot of companies didn’t realize there was such a thing as a designer, and they simply entrusted the job of creating their software’s look and feel to the engineers who wrote it. Of course, using a software interface designed by an engineer is a bit like attending an emotional therapy session led by Mr. Spock.

More recently, designers have become respected, even compensated members of technology product development teams. In some ways, the innovations of Apple and a few other companies have awakened the high-tech world to the startling idea of making products that people can use. Designers are even expected to be able to write code now, blurring the distinction between them and their engineer counterparts.

To counteract this, we offer this field guide to the different roles.

Trait Developer Designer
Style Geek Chic
Appearance Dresses like a slob Dresses like a slob … ironically
Approach Analyzes problems into distinct components, like models, views and controllers Synthesizes parts into whole user experience
Lunch pizza and Coke Artisanal flatbread pizza and craft brew
Afternoon Meeting Heated debate over using Swagger or JSchema to define the REST API Meticulously rendered flow diagrams on whiteboard
End of day Will code it in 2 days Paper prototypes next week, prototype testing next month, usability testing next quarter, ship in 2018

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

LOST OUR LEASE!

We regret to announce that The Tech Curmudgeon will be closing its doors. Followers will have an opportunity to purchase anything from our remaining inventory at sharply discounted prices.

We are deeply grateful for the past 8 1/2 years of loyal patronizing. We hope that in time, some other suitable venue will emerge in which we can resume dispensing snark. In the meantime, please keep an eye on The Tech Curmudgeon for announcements.

The Curmudgeonment

Monday, March 30, 2015

Artist's Prostatement


There are many kinds of cancer from the head down to the toes.
They can cause disfigured organs or just pink spots on your nose.
But my favorite one, for reasons even I don’t understand,
Is the cancer that begins inside the humble prostate gland.

You can talk of brains and bones and breasts and lungs and nodes lymphatic,
And of course these cancers all have quite a flair for the dramatic,
But even the affliction of the skin that’s over-tanned
Just pales when it’s compared to cancer of the prostate gland.

Most normal prostates function well and people do not mind them.
And even an enlarged one, men will try to put behind them,
Especially when the doctor checks with latex-covered hand
For signs of abnormality within the prostate gland.

And if, alas, you have some symptom needing further study,
Such as difficulty peeing or ejaculate that’s bloody,
A prostate biopsy will almost certainly be planned
To see what’s going on inside that humble prostate gland.

You can whack this thing with several thousand rads of radiation
(And hope the treatment, of itself, does not cause some mutation)
You can have the whole thing excised with a cool robotic hand
But you still might have to deal with cancer of the prostate gland.

And if, when treatment’s over, luckily you’re cancer-free,
And your side effects no worse than having constantly to pee,
If all your other functions come back, that is simply grand,
You still should show respect for cancer of the prostate gland.

So stand up hand in hand across the land now and demand
Research be planned to understand the cancerous prostate gland.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Letting Go of Holding On

For serious hoarders, these are trying times. More and more, things that were once … um, things … are now just so much ethereal vapor … bits in the cloud. Music, books, movies … soon no intellectual property will be housed in physical objects, and even physical objects will be email-able to someone’s 3D printer. We will have attained the state of Plato’s ἰδέα theory … in which actual things are merely inferior facsimiles of the pure concepts that exist in the cloud.

Yet somehow the prospect of Library-of-Congress-sized vaults filled with thumb drives and SD cards, or Google’s round-the-clock, round-the-world servers, does not hold much appeal. Any experience that requires a glass slab between 5 and 50 inches diagonally to enjoy is pretty paltry. It’s a form of sensory deprivation.

And Spring cleaning takes on a whole new meaning.


Monday, March 16, 2015

Spring Cleaning

Now is the winter of our discontent made some weird kind of undefined season. As Boston emerges from its snowiest winter on record, we mark several important occasions.

First, today is the Ides of March, when we recall the soothsayer’s famous warning to Julius Caesar to beware the impending income tax season.

Second, tomorrow is St. Patrick’s Day, when Bostonians the world over celebrate the patron saint of Ireland by gorging on corned beef and cabbage and beer until they turn green.

Finally, Friday is the actual arrival of Spring, which will undoubtedly be met with a light snowfall.

Monday, March 9, 2015

The Changing

Once upon a midnight spree of watching late night comedy
I realized it would soon be three and shortly after, four.
As I thought about this strange phenomenon, the time was changed
And TV schedules rearranged themselves from what they’d been before.
“Daylight Savings Time,” I muttered, “changed the schedules from before–
Only this and nothing more.”

Soon my clock had reached that number when it wrenches me from slumber
Though I’d just watched Dumb and Dumber scarely several hours before.
Through the day I’ll struggle vainly to appear awake, but plainly
It’s an uphill battle mainly due to standard time of yore,
Of that sweet repose in standard time that I enjoyed before,
I could use an hour more.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Downton


If you like Brits, including upper class twits
Then you can always watch Downton.
Who'll Mary marry? And will Tom go or tarry?
Just be sure to watch Downton.
So Gillingham and Charles both want to be in Mary's love life.
They both seem sweet, but soon she'll meet that lawyer from "The Good Wife."
What can you do?
We know that she likes lawyers,
But really we count for nothing, we're helpless voyeurs
Around Downton.
It's what we all adore. Downton.
Like Daisy and Patmore. Downton.
Or Robert and Cora.

Late in the season everybody's got reasons
They might stay or leave Downton.
Julian Fellowes writes both farewells and hellos
In the plots he weaves. Downton.
Like one bloke who supposedly survived from the "Titanic."
Or Edith's beau whom now we know was offed by thugs Germanic.
Strange ways to go.
The lives are much shorter there.
Between the wars and disasters, there's death in the air.
Beware Downton.
All turns to crisis fast. Downton.
Even poor Isis passed. Downton.
Granny will have the last laugh.

(instrumental)
So Edith took her daughter from the family of that herder.
And one Bates or another surely will stand trial for murder.
What do you know?
There's much that's behind closed doors.
That's where the action is brewing on all of the floors.
Let's watch Downton.
Thomas may be alright. Downton.
Carson and Hughes are tight. Downton.
That's where your Sunday night goes.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Snow Business

Critics seem to have overlooked this unpretentious little snowstorm of Feb. 21-22, 2015, but the charm is undeniable. Compared with the blockbuster action storms released earlier this season, this quiet production offers engaging visuals and more character development than we’ve come to expect from these events. The progression from cold and dry to warm and moist takes place with meticulous precision, and yet we’re still surprised by the sunny ending. And unlike the earlier special effects extravaganzas, this sincere effort trades in human values at a human scale.

Two thumbs up.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

WTF: What is the best email program?

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about the sad state of email. In response, Ruth in Michigan asks:

Question: What IS the best email program?

The Detailed Answer:

There are many different email programs (call them clients if you want to sound like a knowledgeable geek), but they fall into two categories:
  1. Web-based.
  2. Not Web-based.
The Web-based ones include the very popular GMail, Google's free email service that works in any browser as long as it's Chrome. You can also read GMail with other email programs, but you have to be geeky enough to know words like client. Anyway, reading GMail in Chrome isn't so bad, as long as you don't mind:

  1. Google is reading your mail to see if it can show you any ads relating to what you’re emailing about.
  2. Google is showing you ads when you’re trying to read your email.
  3. Long messages get cut off.
  4. Some other stuff that I put in my other post. Go read it.
On the other hand, the not-Web-based programs have some issues of their own. Thunderbird is one of the more popular of these, especially because it pretended to replace a popular one called Eudora when the Eudora people got bored and stopped working on it. Thunderbird wasn’t really a Eudora replacement, but it did come in at the same price-point ... free.

Thunderbird can be set up to read email from a bunch of different email services, including GMail, and there’s plenty of information on the Web about how to do that. I won't repeat that, but just mention that Thunderbird works with something called POP3 (post office protocol) and with something else called IMAP (Internet Message something something), so whatever you chose, it will probably be wrong.

Of course, you may be stuck using a program called Outlook, from the good people at Microsoft. Outlook was designed to talk to a Microsoft mail server, called Exchange, using a Microsoft language, called MAPI (Microsoft’s All-Purpose something-that-starts-with-I-and-I-don’t-think-the-all-purpose-part-is-right-either.) If your employer or loved one or other important person is using Exchange, just use Outlook and deal.

The Short Answer: Thunderbird.



Remember to send your questions to wtf@techcurmudgeon.info, and we will promptly respond to, though not necessarily answer, them, usually with sarcasm, irrelevance and perhaps a smattering of humor.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The End of Things

When Thomas Jefferson first penned The Declaration of Independence, the inalienable rights in the catchphrase were life, liberty and property. He changed “property” to “pursuit of happiness,” probably because the idea of a right to property sounded too Socialist. Smart guy that he was, he was already anticipating a presidential run 13 years before the Constitution created that office.

But property has long been the defining measure of success. Citizenship and voting rights have often been tied to land ownership.

And this is why it’s so disruptive that things … objects, are now obsolete. It started a while ago with e-books and music downloads. We were weaned off disks and CDs for software, instead just downloading it (and the twice-daily updates) from the Internet. But even that rug was pulled out. Now the software just lives on the Web. And more and more, we don’t buy software or books or music outright. We subscribe.

Even cars and hotels are being virtualized by Uber and Airbnb. Clothing next?

The pattern is that we begin to think of things not as objects, but as experiences we can have. Books are not bound bunches of pages, but just texts that we can read in various forms. Photos and music are sets of samples of digital information. Cars become trips. Homes become stays.

And humans? We are but thinking machines.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Mail Effluence

I have long maintained that email is the ultimate killer Internet app. (It’s starting to be nudged out of the top spot by texting, which lets you answer the phone without actually having to talk to someone. However, texting is arguably not an Internet app.)

The beauty of email is that it’s not just for sending cat pictures to friends. You can use it for everything. You can send yourself reminders, notes, etc. If you use GMail or some other Web-based mail, you can send files to yourself as a way to keep backup copies. In fact you can send yourself anything … photos, videos, links to cool web sites, etc. … and call it whatever you want. It’s the world’s simplest filing system.

For example, whenever I get an idea for a post for this blog, I send myself a note about it, and I put “[TC]” in the subject line. Then GMail automatically (well, because I told it to) puts it in a separate folder with a blue label. When I’m done with that idea, I move it to a “Done” folder and mark it with a black label. Same for other blogs, to do lists, or whatever else I struggle vainly to organize.

Which leads us to the first problem … mail reading software sucks.

Believe me. I’ve tried damn near all of them, ranging from the extremely geeky ones named with all lowercase letters (e.g., mutt, gnus) all the way to the supposedly modern user friendly ones like GMail and Thunderbird.

The geeky ones are very reliable, but painfully difficult to set up (even if you’re a geeky type). Once you get it working, don’t ever change anything … email address, computer, etc. … for the rest of your life.

Also, because the geeks who remember when email was created are very old school, they refuse to put support for moderns things like formatted mail, pictures and attachments in these programs. The only email they read is what looks like it was typed on a 1960’s vintage Smith Corona.

Newer email programs, like GMail, are Web-based. You read them in a browser like Chrome, Safari, Firefox, etc. One problem is that sending or replying to a message means entering your message in a browser text box. That’s about as rewarding as … well, as typing on a 1960’s vintage Smith Corona.

But a worse problem is that GMail lumps all the messages on one topic into conversations, without regard to which message was a reply to which other message. If you had a conversation like:
  • Fred: You guys free for dinner tonight?
    • Your wife: (privately to you) I thought it was date night tonight …
      • You: (privately to your wife) I’m okay with that.
    • Fred: Sounds good to me.
GMail will display that like this:
  • You: I’m okay with that.
  • Fred: Sounds good to me.
  • Your wife: I thought it was date night tonight …
  • Fred: You guys free for dinner tonight?
And that’s not even including people who hijack an ongoing discussion to talk about something else entirely, which also gets lumped into the conversation.

Which brings us to the second problem … people are stupid. I don’t exclude myself from this, but my position as Curmudgeon Public requires me to be ruthlessly critical of human foibles, failings and other f words. And there’s no better display of human folly than email groups (called listservs after a 30 year old piece of software that most people never used.)

All of which goes to prove that when there’s a big snowstorm, I have way too much free time.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Limerick of the Day #134

If your dot com site gets any traction,
It’ll be due to great interaction.
From the Web interface
To the cloud database
Usability’s the main attraction.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Friday, February 6, 2015

Limerick of the Day #133

If you live in some kind of community
Then your kids should get vaccine immunity.
Your misguided defiance
Of medical science
Should not be allowed with impunity.


Monday, February 2, 2015

Pizza Geometry

First, let me say at the outset that despite strong temptation, I will refrain from using any pi/pie puns in this post. In fact, nobody says “pizza pie” anymore anyway.

For a long time, I've realized that a large (e.g., 16”) pizza is actually qualitatively better than a small (e.g., 12”) inch one. However, I had failed to demonstrate this with mathematical rigor. I shall now correct this oversight.

The important point is that regardless of the pizza diameter, the crust is always about an inch wide. That means that a 12” pizza really has a covered area that's 10” in diameter, while a 16” pizza has a 14” covered area.

Some simple geometry based on the old formula, A = πr2, shows us that a small pizza has a total area of 113 in2, but a covered area of only 79.5 in2. In other words, it's about 30% plain crust.

A large pizza, on the other hand, has a total area of 201 in2, but a covered area of 154 in2. That means the uncovered crust is only 23% of the total.

Quod erat demonstrandum1



1Unless you don't eat the crust, in which case none of this matters.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Rhapsody in Snow

Here in Boston, we’re in the aftermath of the latest nor’easter, the biggest snowstorm since the bigger one two years ago.


Monday, January 26, 2015

Selfies

There’s little doubt that the selfie is the runaway popular “art” form of the age. In 2013, the Oxford Dictionaries chose “selfie” as their Word of the Year. And like all successful fads, selfies have spun off accessory products like the selfie stick, and even a TV show.

I suppose compared to that other popular Internet-age art form … pirating other people’s images, music and video, the selfie qualifies as being remotely creative. Yet in the history of human creativity, it’s kind of on par with drawing feathers on a tracing of your hand and calling it a turkey. Self portraits do have a time-honored place in art, but that’s because they usually make a stronger statement than “Here I am!”

Of course, like any self-proclaimed creator, I’ve tried selfies. Because I wear progressive bifocals, I have to tilt my head back slightly to see the phone screen properly when held at arm’s length. As a result, in all my selfies I appear to have an enormous chin and a minuscule forehead. In reality, I have a little chin and enormous ears.


Wednesday, January 21, 2015

State of the Blogosphere

My fellow Americans (and others), we are now zero years into the century that runs from 2015 to 2115. We have just come through an extraordinary time period. We’ve come through a time of two foreign wars, multiple international terror attacks, and kale. We’ve struggled through grim economic times, when we faced the anxiety of uncertain employment, unavailable insurance and unreliable Wi-Fi. Even the middle class has been hard hit by stagnant wages, rising education costs and “Two Broke Girls.” And we’ve all just experienced a grim reminder that humor itself can be lethal.

And while climate change threatens our very existence, maybe it will at least keep the winter Olympics away from Boston.

In such times, it’s important to remember the positive accomplishments.

Um …

In such trying times, it’s important to state our fundamental principles … the preservation of our freedom and our values.

Everyone should be able to wear Google Glass in public. (Huh? Ok, no Google Glass.)

No American, rich or even richer, should be able to distort our democratic process with excessive campaign contributions, manipulation of electoral districts or voting.

No American should be required to actually be from America.

No American should be denied vital healthcare because of lack of insurance, long waits, limited parking or the age of waiting room magazines.

No hacker should be able to penetrate our security, rob us of confidential information, or hinder our ability to see Seth Rogen movies.

No terrorist should be able to shoot cartoonists. Even editors should not be shot. Most of them.

And above all, in response to the many challenges we face, we are determined to keep posting more crap in the hopes that some of you will read it.

Thank you, and blog dess America.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Oops!

Heh-heh. It’s Monday, isn’t it?

Well, in honor of Martin Luther King day, I’ll spare you the burden of reading another one of these posts.

We’ll be back soon.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Another Limerick of the Day ... #132

Mocking ideas is quite commonplace
But it’s wrong to mock somebody’s race.
If the difference is choice
Is it ok to voice
Mockery in the religious case?


Limerick of the Day #131

In France, there’s concern if you’re Jewish
About terror attacks. Much ado is
Made of Charlie Hebdo,
Which the French love, although
Not as much as they love Jerry Lewis.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

F-Bombs Away

There’s been a lot of talk about free speech in the wake of the attack on the French satirical newspaper, Charlie Hebdo. While it’s clear the attackers crossed a line by using violence to stifle ideas, it’s useful to consider just how free “free” speech is in our culture.

In particular, we must be careful not to confuse language and ideas with deeds. For example, the commonly used term f-bomb simply denotes the use of a vulgar word. But words are not bombs, and even suggesting the comparison seems hostile to free speech.

Of course, joking about bombs can get you in deep trouble, especially at airports. One Venezualan doctor was fined almost $90,000.00 for jokingly saying he was carrying C-4 explosives.

And somewhere along the line, we in the U.S. seem to have tacitly accepted the idea of free speech zones, designated areas where protesters can carry signs, wear clothing with slogans, etc. Demonstrators are corralled in fenced areas far away from the people for whom those protests are intended. According to the Constitution, the entire United States is a free speech zone, but we have allowed that freedom to be curtailed to avoid the risk that our leaders might be exposed to alternative ideas.

If we allow language to become weaponized, we harm everyone.

Monday, January 12, 2015

eBullshit

Thanks to the internet, we can now spread misinformation and lies faster and farther than has ever been humanly possible. This phenomenon is new enough and different enough to deserve its own moniker, so here’s our suggestion …

eBullshit

(Of course, the squeamish can say “eBS.”)

The amazing thing about eBullshit is that it can masquerade as perfectly valid information, even with the appearance of journalism. Anyone with some spare time can create a Web site with a look of complete legitimacy, including mastheads, logos and that ultimate of badge of veracity, advertisements.

eBullshit can serve many purposes, included boosting political campaigns, promoting products and just plain orneriness. Sometimes the eBullshit propagates widely enough to attain the status of meme, defined as “something that’s gone viral because someone else thought of it.” This has been the case for such beloved concepts as “death panels,” “Internet security” and “Facebook privacy.”

And just as Ebola is far more virulent than conventional Bola, so eBullshit commands more fear and loathing than it’s cousin.

NOTE: Apple’s version will be known as iSwear.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Editorial Policies

In the wake of the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo, the satirical newspaper in Paris, we at The Tech Curmudgeon believe it’s important to state our editorial policies. Most importantly, we will not bow to any XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXX, XXX-XXXXXX XXXXXXXXX or XXXX-XXXXXXXX XXXXXXX. (If, however, you have a history of violence, we may mock you somewhat less than you really deserve.)

Furthermore, we emphatically denounce any attempts to silence or persecute any individuals or groups based on religious beliefs, thus upholding a proud Western tradition. Well, except for a few minor kerfuffles like the Spanish Inquisition, the Salem Witch Trials or the Holocaust.

Finally, although we endeavor to be equally offensive to all, regardless of race, creed, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, employment status, political affiliations, place of origin or choice of operating system, we will try to stick it to the jerks.

Thank you.

The Tech Curmudgeon

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

WTF 2015

Here we are ... the first WTF Tuesday of the new year! Send your questions to


and watch this space for irrelevant, irreverent and quite probably irresponsible responses.

Monday, January 5, 2015

The Photoshop Diet

In order to start the new year off right, I prioritized those resolutions that relate to health and fitness. After watching videos of how models are retouched for magazine covers and ads, I realized that technology has finally given us the key to perfect health and beauty ... Photoshop. In fact, the more our lives are conducted on-line, the more perfect this solution becomes. As you can see, even a few short days can have dramatic effects ...

AMAZING RESULTS OVERNIGHT!!




So try the Photoshop Diet. After all, what's more important than your health?

Friday, January 2, 2015

Limerick of the Day #130

Welcome new year, and out with the old.
Let’s be forthright, resourceful and bold.
Where life needs solutions,
We’ve made resolutions
Which start once we’re over this cold.