Monday, December 26, 2016

The Basics

Look, it's simple really. We've got this planet with a few billion people and assorted plants and animals living on it. So the most obvious rules are:
  1. Don't screw up the planet, because that's where everything comes from. Got that? EVERYTHING!
  2. Every human being, every single one including the ones born just now .... and now ... and now ... deserves a share of what that planet has to offer. 
Sure some people are smarter, or more adventurous, or sexier or better at hitting a ball with a stick, but we're all human and we all deserve to live comfortably. Maybe some people deserve to be wealthier because of their talents and abilities, or even because they had the good sense to be born to families that were wealthier, but that should be the icing on the cake.

The basics for survival and comfortable living should be for all.

It's just that simple.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Monday, December 5, 2016

SCIENCE: More Things Suck Than Not

Scientists at the joint NASA/NSA/NAS/SNA/ANS research project revealed that in November, we crossed a tipping point at which more things suck than not. Their findings, to be published this month in the JOURNAL OF VICISSITUDINAL OUTCOMES, reflect the convergence of several independent indicators, including voter turnout, consumer confidence, cultural climate, opioid use, plate tectonics, maximum absorbancy, recommended daily allowance, mortgage interest rates, average life expectancy and chocolate consumption. These factors, which are generally regarded as notoriously difficult to correlate, provide a disturbing picture of the general suckiness of things, the scientists said.

The scientists applied a variety of sophisticated information visualization algorithms derived from work done for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Using these techniques, the research team were able to produce computer graphics, many in 3D, showing sharply declining trends and downward spirals. The scatter plot, in particular, shows a widespread range of data samples with no compensating pattern or arrangement.

Scientists were unable to comment on whether this trend was likely to continue or to reverse itself, but expressed confidence that they would continue to mine the data as thoroughly as possible.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Tenth Anniversary

Ten years and nearly a thousand posts in, this blog has drifted a little from what I originally envisioned, but not a lot. I expected to be ranting mostly about our blind acceptance of any new technology, regardless of how safe or beneficial. I particularly wanted to mock the cavalier attitudes about developing and releasing new technologies that could pose serious threats, such as those described in this article: Biggest Spike in Traffic Deaths in 50 Years? Blame Apps. That would have made me a Tech(nology) Curmudgeon.

However, our unquestioning embrace of technology turned out to be a useful metaphor for everything I like to rail against, making me a Tech(nologically-equipped) Curmudgeon. Either way, it’s been a fun an interesting decade.

Lately, I’ve cut down on posting, due to competing attention demands, self-directed cynicism, personal health issues, and some vague limitations that could collectively be called writer’s block. Luckily, the election of the most ill-suited person ever to be President of the United States seems to have at least partially rekindled the original fire. So if I manage to keep this thing going, you can thank Donald Trump.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Hamilton: 1, Pence: 0

Said the “Hamilton” cast to Mike Pence,
“We’re a diverse group in every sense,”
Exercising free speech
To appeal, not to preach.
But that criminal president, Trump, took offense.

You see, Trump’s little scheme was not flawed.
As if free speech had just been outlawed,
He acts vengeful and bitter,
Takes attention with Twitter
Off of Trump University’s fraud.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Public Service Announcement

We interrupt this blog to bring you the following public service announcement:

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We'll walk hand in hand,
We'll walk hand in hand,
We'll walk hand in hand, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace,
We shall live in peace, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We shall all be free,
We shall all be free,
We shall all be free, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We are not afraid,
We are not afraid,
We are not afraid, TODAY

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.

We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome, some day.

Oh, deep in my heart,
I do believe
We shall overcome, some day.


Songwriters: Laurel Aitken
We Shall Overcome lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

Friday, November 18, 2016

The Cause

My adolescence and early adulthood were marked by a series of movements … the peace movement, the free love movement, the earth movement, the civil rights movement, the feminism movement … all expressions of liberating ideas and the power of large numbers. And because these occurred during my formative years, these ideas took root.

Of course, activism had its day. People moved on to disco and leisure suits. But I had internalized these movements, and have carried with me the ideals and values of peace, love and all-around coolness of being. And I have found my own way to express these values … cynicism.

That’s right. Mockery, snide remarks and a smug sense of superiority have sustained me and the movement ideas I carry. They’ve allowed me to sneer contemptuously at the money-grubbing Capitalists that all the Beatle-loving hippie, yuppie, bubble-gummy, preppie, disco, punk, metal freaks have become.

I have not changed. I still cling to those ideals of my youth.Those, and the belief that humankind was somehow getting more enlightened. More rational and fact-based. More open and accepting of new and different ideas.

But all that was defeated on November 8, 2016.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ballad Box

A guy on Facebook tried to tell me Hillary is crooked.
I told him that the FBI and Congress  had both looked
And neither could find evidence on which she could be tried.
Says he, "That only goes to prove how thoroughly she lied."

I said, "She had an email server at her residence,
The FBI examined it and found no evidence
That any of the emails there would constitute a crime."
The guy said, quite disdainfully, "Wait. Just give them time."

"Through multiple investigations of Benghazi's raid,
The embassy's security could well have used more aid
But that was cut," I protested, "by your own GOP.
"Nevertheless," the man said, "the blame lies with Hillary."

I soon grew tired of going 'round in this political waltz.
The guy's answer to everything was "Hillary is false.
Don't you see the string of crimes she casually denies?
The proof of guilt is in the way she spews out all those lies!"

"So in your view, she must be guilty if she won't confess?
But if there's been no crime, maybe it's really truthfulness."
The guy replied "Well, can it be you're really such a chump?
The only one who tells the truth ... he said so ... 's Donald Trump."

Monday, October 31, 2016

Boo!


Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Ok, Trump Supporters ...

We get it! You’re angry with “the system.” Government is completely corrupt and needs to be taken down and replaced. But please take a moment to think about a couple of things.


First, you know that Hillary Clinton is evil. You know she lied about her emails, and failed to stop the terrorists in Benghazi. Above all, you know the mainstream media have a liberal bias and are all just lying to benefit her and to blame Trump. So most people are not getting the truth.


But how do you know all this? If the mainstream media are all liars, where are you getting your information? Web sites? Facebook posts? Trump speeches? Isn’t it possible … bear with me here … isn’t it just possible that your information sources, the ones that really know how evil Hillary is, are biased too? Isn’t there at least a tiny chance that whatever information sources you’re using are not perfect angels? That they may be trying to make Hillary look bad?


Also, while Trump says he’s the champion of the little guy … the one who’s going to help the middle classes … isn’t it possible that he is lying? After all, he’s a rich (maybe billionaire-rich) guy from New York. We have no experience with him in any kind of public life, so we really don’t know what he’s going to do.


And if you’re a Bernie supporter who’s just voting for Trump to spite Hillary and the Democratic party? Well, that’s just fucking stupid.


Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Plea

If you’re a Hillary supporter, I’ve got nothing to say to you.

If you’re a Trump supporter, I have even less for you.

I want to talk to the others … the undecideds, the disaffected Bernie-philes, even the Gary Johnson-ites and the Jill Stein-likers. I’m not just going to say the usual crap about how your vote matters. It matters more than most.

I don’t need to tell you this is a very weird election year. It’s the Reality TV election. We don’t just want our candidate to win. We want the opponent to be voted off the island. To be fired.

Because, let’s face it, this country has become more polarized than it’s been at any time since the last Presidential election. We don’t simply favor one set of policies over another. Ha! How laughably quaint.

No, we’re convinced that only our candidate is even fit for office. We steadfastly cling to the belief that anyone but our candidate would destroy the country and plunge the world into war. Of course, that’s only true of one of the candidates.

Voters rarely base their decisions on the issues. Ordinary Americans can not be expected to weigh the kinds of complex trade-offs between helping families and children versus expelling 11 million immigrants and building a wall to keep them from coming back.

Instead, we like to vote on personality. Each candidate is really a character we’ve come to know, and we love them or hate them based on their roles.

Jill Stein, for example, is the self-righteous better-than-thou environmentalist. “What? You threw out that coffee cup?”

Gary Johnson is the happy-go-lucky doofus. Barney Fife on drugs.

Hillary is the Energizer Bunny. Or maybe Lucy, trying to keep up with the conveyor belt of lies and fabrications about her.

And Trump, of course, is Ralph Kramden. Fred Flintstone. All the bellowing and tantrums, but none of the charm.

So vote for the cartoon character of your choice, but vote!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016

Mythologies

None of us lives in reality. We all inhabit mythologies of our own devising. We build up these mythologies slowly, inexorably over the course of our lives. We start by piecing together the bits of information from our own experience, and what we see and hear from others.

After a while, though, these mythologies become self-sustaining. We begin to understand new information in terms of the beliefs we already hold, and even reject any information that contradicts them. You can see this in people’s most fervently held, unshakeable beliefs.

For example, many conservatives believe Democrats are out to take their guns away. This persists despite the fact that no one has ever taken any legally owned guns away, or even suggested doing this. Gun control advocates only propose making it harder for dangerous people to buy guns, but the “take away our guns” myth lives on.

Likewise, many liberals believe that government regulations and agencies can completely solve many problems. They advocate environmental regulations and treaties, while at the same time driving SUVs, consuming food and beverages from plastic packages, and dumping last year’s electronics in landfills.

On the other hand, conservatives believe government can’t solve anything, and that we’re much better served by private industry and the free market. This ignores the revelations that the sugar industry conspired to spread false information about the health risks of sugar, or that Volkwagen actually engineered a way to cheat on emissions tests. And then there are the banks!

A lot of educated people think that science is infallible. Maybe in theory, but like anything else done by people, it’s subject to mistakes and dishonesty. And of course, new information is constantly blowing away old theories. The “everything goes around the earth” idea worked pretty well for thousands of years. It was only after we started making more observations of the stars and planets, making the calculations much more complicated, that Copernicus said “Hey, you know what?
Everything is much simpler if we think of everything going around the sun.”

On the other hand, while not infallible, science is pretty damn good! In terms of predicting what’s going to happen, or designing things that work, nothing beats it. And in fact, science is about the only way to punch holes in these mythologies we inhabit and to get a glimpse of real reality. So just ignoring science, as with evolution or climate change, is about is ignorant and closed-minded as you can get.

I’m sorry. I tried many ways to make this funny, but it’s just not happening.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

WTF Tuesday: How did a one time Theater Major wind up as a code monkey?

We haven’t done anything for WTF Tuesday for a while, but today, we have an actual living, breathing question to respond to. Following my Close Encounters post last month, B.C. of New Hampshire asks:

How did a one time Theater Major wind up as a code monkey?

Although several of my theater colleagues went on to enormously successful careers on stage, TV and movies (and even more to modestly successful careers, and some to pretty paltry careers), the odds of making any money as an actor, let alone making a living, are still slim.

Being an aspiring actor in New York typically means:
  1. waiting on tables,
  2. getting your hair cut just right,
  3. getting head shots taken and
  4. trying to swap shifts with someone so you can rush to an audition, where you’ll find dozens (hundreds?) of other actors, just like you, waiting for hours for their moment.
In fact, restaurant-goers should check Backstage to figure out when their favorite dining spots will be short-staffed.

Away from New York, an actor’s life consists of:
  1. trying to get to New York.1
But as usual, the truth is more complicated. I started college as a Physics major, but quickly proved that theatrical cast parties are more fun than Physics labs. I drifted through Computer Science and Psychology on the way to being a full-fledged Theater major.

In Theater, unlike perhaps any other field, your whole self, body and soul, is your instrument. You must learn to master all its complexities and subtleties. You spend a lot of time on introspection … on understanding just what kind of person you are, what your capabilities and sensitivities are. You do exercises to access your inner emotional life, and to try to adapt your personality to various characters you might be called on to play.

Naturally all this self examination and soul searching leads you to understand certain things about yourself like, for example, the fact that you’re not a very good actor.

That and the making a living thing.

1 West of the Mississippi, trying to get to L.A.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Technical Writer

Technical writer.
Technical writer.
Engineering, please review my doc.
I need all revisions done by 6 o’clock.
It’s a user manual for a mobile phone
And this chapter covers setting the ringtone.
Technical writer.
Technical writer.

There are thirty ringtones with the basic plan
But our V-one users didn’t understand.
You can click this button just to check your mail.
It is all explained ‘cause I want to be a
Technical writer.
Technical writer.

Technical writer … writer … writer.
Technical writer.

It’s a thousand pages, give or take a few.
I’ve got more to write, and it’s overdue.
I can change the fonts or I can tweak the style,
Even make it readable. (That takes a while.)
Technical writer.
Technical writer.

If you really like it we can ship the phone.
It gets great reception (if you’re in the zone.)
You can order copies of the printed doc
But the phone itself is always out of stock.
Technical writer.
Technical writer.

(Apologies to Lennon-McCartney)

Friday, July 29, 2016

Popcorn Not Included

It was like watching a long double-feature: back-to-back summer blockbusters, each with an all-star cast.

First up was the action movie, all flames and explosions, all dialog delivered in a holler. The one true superhero, the only one who could save us from certain doom, rallying the crowd to rise up and overthrow the evil empress who sought to topple civilization by being lax with her emails.

The second feature was a romantic comedy … a chick flick. The always-a-bridesmaid heroine finally gets her moment in the sun, when all the guys in her life get up and sing her praises. All the adorable awkwardness of the past is now forgotten. Hugs and kisses. We know that this was meant to be.

It was Suicide Squad vs Maggie’s Plan. Jason Bourne vs Me Before You. Or perhaps Angry Birds vs Finding Dory. In any case, we know Donald Trump is not The BFG.

So what’s next? Maybe an action/adventure chick flick? Ghost Busters anyone?

Monday, July 25, 2016

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The Case Against Hillary Clinton

We know from this week’s Republican Convention that Hillary Clinton is the most nefarious criminal of all time. She has only avoided indictment, prosecution, conviction and incarceration because all of the agencies that might bring her to justice, including Congress, the FBI, the Justice Department and the Court of Public Opinion are all so swooney in love with her.

Hillary, who continually flouts the laws of fashion by dressing like a Weeble (“Weebles wobble, but they don’t fall down!”), could very well be the first president to be impeached before being elected.

In fact, in just the past few years, Hillary Clinton personally led the 2012 attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya, and knowingly sent highly confidential state secrets to everyone at Starbucks using their public Wi-Fi. Of course, she’s never had to answer for any of this … never had to testify before a congressional committee or endure an FBI investigation … because she’s so wildly liked by everyone, despite the incredible amount of unquestionable evidence these interrogators might have found.

Hillary poses as someone who cares about people, but in fact, she only cares about average or disadvantaged people. She has completely failed to accommodate the unfortunate wealthy. Even now, these upper class job creators are facing unsurmountable challenges in having to pay taxes, and having to bend over backwards to avoid destroying the environment or produce safe products.

And she has completely failed to utter the words “radical Islamic terrorism”, which, like a magic spell, would make the threat immediately disappear.

Fortunately, we have a strong contingent of Trump supporters now mustering in Cleveland. These defenders of American greatness have inspired each other with such unassailable logic as “You deserve better because America deserves better” and “U.S.A.! … U.S.A.! … U.S.A.! … U.S.A.! …”

These staunch defenders of freedom are our best hope against Darth Clinton.

Monday, July 18, 2016

A software life

Imagine you are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike. In each chamber, you discover clues that help you to piece together the secret code of that chamber, allowing you pass from it to the next chamber.

In this way, you progress through a large complex, one chamber at a time, having revelations and setbacks along the way.

But this never ends! There are small triumphs and defeats, but ultimately, you just keep navigating this or that set of passages forever. Frequently, you have to repeat almost exactly what you’ve done before, with minor but critical differences.

Such is a career in software engineering. It goes a little something like this:



Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Monday, July 4, 2016

When in the course ...

Two hundred and forty years ago, some guys signed a piece of paper in Philadelphia saying that they were declaring themselves no longer colonies of England, but an independent nation. Thirteen years later, they figured out what the legal foundation of that nation should be, which occasion was marked, of course, by signing another piece of paper.

So every year, Americans celebrate July 4th as the country's birthday. That's all fine and cool. These guys were lucky enough to have started this country during the so-called “Age of Enlightenment.” There was a growing acceptance of the idea that power should not just be in the hands of families that had been selected by God, but that any white male of European ancestry was born with certain rights.

And as it turned out, the U.S.A. is a pretty good country. Of course, over the centuries, a few other countries have caught on to the whole “of the people, by the people and for the people” thing, but that's all good. That means enlightened democracy is spreading as a concept.

There's a lot more we can do. A glance at any newspaper or news broadcast today reveals lingering problems of racism, wealth and income inequality, cultural factionalism, international insecurity, economic instability and so on and so on. But still, we're pretty good.

So happy birthday, America. Many happy returns.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sunday, June 19, 2016

'PUBLICAN


BERN:
How does a snot-nosed red head, son of a Fred and a
Scotswoman, dropped in the middle of a
Not rotten spot in Jamaica, Queens, a family of means
Privilege and class
Grow up to be a narcissistic dumbass?

ROMNEY
Fred, son of German immigrants, collecting rents
From the Jews, thought the news
Of his German ancestry
Might not agree with their views
So he claimed to be from Sweden
And the tenants acceded.

PRIEBUS
And each day, the kid broke rules, was a real trouble maker.
Went to military school to be a mover and a shaker.
Studied real estate at Wharton, became a consummate faker.
Missed the Vietnam War, though he’s certainly no Quaker.

HILLARY
Put some dough in a show ‘cause he thought it’d be fun.
It flopped so he dropped it. Joined Liz Trump and Son.
Plenty of real estate that he had to run.
Learned the art of the deal, when all’s said and done.

BERN
Well, the word got around, they said “This guy is insane, man”
No one believed he had a serious campaign plan
Flying around in an unregistered plane, man.
Giving himself a bad name. What’s your name, man?

’PUBLICAN
Donald Trump, Republican
My name is Donald Trump, Republican
And there’s a million things I haven’t done
But just you wait, it’ll be great…

Friday, June 17, 2016

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Things That Take Longer Than Buying a Gun

Buying a gun takes less time than:
  • Buying a lottery ticket
  • Boarding an airplane
  • Toast
  • Jogging
  • Getting a Latte Macchiato
  • Downloading email to your phone
  • Waiting for a Domino’s pizza
  • Waiting for the bus
  • Frying an egg
  • Taking a selfie

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love ...

I’m too old and much, much too cynical to be anyone’s fanboy. I’m a curmudgeon, not a groupie. Especially for a 30-something hip-hop theater artist in New York.

And yet …

And yet everything I see, hear or learn about Lin-Manuel Miranda makes me admire the guy more. For those of you returning from off-planet, Miranda is the author, lyricist, composer and star of the Broadway hit, “Hamilton”, which just won a slew of Tony Awards, including Best Musical. In his first acceptance speech, he had to convey his gratitude toward his wife and son, his fellowship with his company, his appreciation of the whole theater world, and his horror and reaction to the mass shooting that took place hours earlier in Florida.

Of course, anyone in this situation would compose a sonnet, but Miranda’s was so powerful, so moving, that it will leave a lasting mark in acceptance speech history. (I’m not completely sure there is any acceptance speech history, but this could start it.)

In this sonnet, the most memorable line is

And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love …

(More succinctly, and + (love is)*7 + love)

After x years on this planet, I’ve settled on two definitions of love. One is “the state of being part of something larger than yourself.” The other is “the feeling that you’re part of something larger than yourself.” I’m not sure which is correct, but I don’t think it matters.

We all crave that sense of belonging … of being a part of something, instead of just a lonely individual eating Chinese take-out in front of the TV watching re-runs of F*R*I*E*N*D*S and wishing we had some. Romantic love is being part of a relationship of two or more consenting adults. Patriotic love is being part of a nation … a bunch a people who share a common
set of beliefscultureheritagevaluescurrency. Familial love is … well, you get the idea.

The point is, that feeling of belonging … of being part of something bigger, whether it’s family or community or a romantic relationship or whatever … is what makes us what we are. It’s that elusive, fragile, precious bond that elevates us from humans to humanity. To borrow from the 1960’s Beatles’ lyric, all you need is love.

Now back to our regularly scheduled curmudgeon.

Monday, June 6, 2016

A Fake's Progress

If you’re a fan of “Star Wars,” you’ve probably noticed that every planet in the galaxy, whether desert, lush or frozen (the only options in the Lucas universe), seems to have at least one place where travelers of all species can hang out and drink. Whether it’s the Cantina on Tatooine or Maz Kanata’s tavern on Takodana, anyone with something resembling a butt and something resembling a mouth is able to sit and imbibe with other special effects in relative peace.

This indicates a very advanced civilization, because in actual human history, every time members of one race, group or tribe encounter members of another, the result is always hostility, violence and subjugation. Every time.

But historically, we keep expanding the scope of us in our us vs them struggles. First it was families or klans. Then tribes and villages. City states. Nation states. All leading up to the world wars, pitting alliances against each other. There’s a clear trend toward taking an increasingly broader view of our cultural identity.

Likewise, we’ve gone from believing the universe revolves around us, literally, to seeing ourselves as part of an ecosystem, one of many, in which many organisms and natural forces help to keep the balance that sustains our … and other … lives.

So there is such a thing as human progress. There is a right side of history.

And Trump isn’t on it.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

People Who Are People

A lot of conservatives have the idea that corporations are people … that they have the same rights as individuals. The whole Supreme Court Citizen’s United decision rests on the idea that corporations have the same rights to free speech as citizens, and that huge corporations spending millions on political campaigns are the same as you standing on a street corner with a sign.

Of course, most people find it pretty easy to tell corporations and people apart. Corporations are buildings full of paper and machines and cubicles with coffee mugs and sweaty running clothes. And people are … well, people, with flesh and blood, piercings and tattoos and sweaty running clothes.

On the other hand, if corporations were people, they might have a different opinion of what people are, so that’s a circular argument.

Corporations do not have the same interests and motivations as individual people. Corporations exist for one purpose only … to make as much money as they possibly can. People, in contrast, exist to eat junk food, have sex, watch TV AND make money. In many cases, those interests are in direct conflict.

But if corporations are people, aren’t countries also people? Surely countries and governments are made up of people, and countries’ interests align much more closely with those of their citizens, at least in theory. When countries interests are at odds with those of their citizens, we consider those failed states.

And if people have basic rights … the so-called “inalienable rights” … then so do countries. Countries, too, are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

So what does “happy country” mean?

Monday, May 2, 2016

Hamiltony




If you go to Ticketron.com, find the link and click it
You can shell out several thousand for a Hamilton ticket.
Otherwise it’s no surprise there’s a years-long waiting list.
The show’s no flop, but our synopsis here will give the gist.

You see, Hamilton (known as Alexander to his friends),
An economist whose means didn’t justify his end,
Was an out-of-wedlock kid from a Carribean stork,
So he got some education, relocated to New York.

There he met Lafayette and he met Aaron Burr
And he met Eliza Schuyler and wound up bound to her.
He wanted to help in the creation of our nation
But to grow we had to throw off English colonization.

So he joined the Revolution, hoping for his own command
But what sucked was he got stuck being Washington’s right hand.
After France joined the war, he got his chance to do more
And American forces finally settled the score.

After the war, a lot of other stuff happened,
Non-critical … political … a load of boring crap, and
Hamilton backed Jefferson against Burr in a tie
So Burr duelled him, cruelly shooting him, and that’s how he died.

Well, this was really fun, but I’m thinking that next time
I’ll pick someone else whose name is easier to rhyme.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

WTF Tuesday: What is BOGO?

In keeping with our increasingly lame tradition of answering questions on Tuesdays, today’s topic is …

What is BOGO?

BOGO is an acronym used in advertising to mean “Buy one, get one …”.

As is, the concept of “Buy one, get one” is almost tautological. We take it for granted that if you buy something, you get it. What advertisers want us to think when we see BOGO is “Buy one, get another one at some reduced price,” though of course BOGAOASRP is difficult to pronounce.

We therefore suggest some alternatives:

BOGOF Buy one, get one free
BOGOHO Buy one, get one half off
BORISE Buy one, return it, shop elsewhere
BOJANGLE Buy one just as “new” gets less expensive
BOPDOOWOP Buy one, please donate one or worthy organizations perish
SOGIF Steal one, get it free. (Pronounced like “so-gif”.)
AWOPBOMALOOMOPALOMPBOMBOM Ask where one … aw, hell! You figure it out.
Remember to send your questions to wtf@techcurmudgeon.info, so they can receive equally ridiculous answers.

Monday, April 11, 2016

It's You!

This year’s Presidential race is certainly one of the most dramatic in recent memory. On one side, we have a wealthy real estate developer trying to prove he’s as just as narrow-minded, bigoted and out of touch as his closest rival. On the other side, two career politicians are each trying to show, in a completely non-judgmental, egalitarian way how awful the other is. And enormously weighty issues are on the table, from national security to immigration to tax policy to the size of a candidate’s … uh, hands.

And who do we have to thank for this spectacle? You!

That’s right. You, the voter, make all of this happen.

Not only are you the audience for whom these fools perform, but by decades of uninformed and irrational voting, you’ve helped to create this clown show we call the government.

Seriously, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone. Extreme Right Wing Republicans have been getting trounced by even more extreme Right Wing Repubilcans for a decade. And the increasingly politically correct Democrats are tripping over themselves to see whether the first woman president or the first Jewish/agnostic president should have the honor of following the first black president.

And, of course, anyone winning a race by even the narrowest of margins still thinks it’s a mandate of almost divine proportions to begin hacking up our current laws and values. “Ok, folks, time to get rid of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration and the IRS. The environment’s overrated. Food and drugs should be up to the individual. And the IRS? Ha! Who needs ‘em? Anyone worth taxing doesn’t pay anyway!”

There was a time when students took civics in school, and learned what the point of all this government was. Believe it or not, the government is not there to block nominations or sequester the budget or to shut itself down. It’s not there to keep picking fights with foreign governments, or to ignore the crumbling roads and bridges.

No, the government is there for a much higher purpose.

To keep us entertained between elections.

Monday, April 4, 2016

When Donald Comes Marching Home

We’ll make America great again.
Hurrah! Hurrah!
With good, old-fashioned hate again.
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The men will cheer and the boys will shout,
And the Muslims we will all keep out,
And we won’t feel gay
When we make America great.

While Wall Street parades with ticker tape,
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The other wall keeps out drugs and rape.
Hurrah! Hurrah!
When protesters of every race
Get equally punched in the face.
And we won’t feel gay
When we make America great.

The terrorists will lose their powers
Hurrah! Hurrah!
When all their hideouts are in Trump Towers.
Hurrah! Hurrah!
The ISIS leaders will all squeal
When forced to make a very tough deal.
And we wont feel gay
When we make America great.

Of course, some will lose their civil rights
Aha! Aha!
But not if they’re male and Christian whites.
Hurrah! Hurrah!
Those losers who might disagree
We’ll lock up and throw away the key.
And we won’t feel gay
When we make America great.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Friday, March 18, 2016

State of the Prostate (Update)

I’ve always been aware of cancer. I thought the definition was:
cancer
(‘kansər) n. An often fatal disease that other people may get in one body part or another.
The keyword is other. This is supposed to happen to people on TV or in the news. Sure, I’m sorry to lose a David Bowie or an Alan Rickman, but hey, they’re not me.

And body parts? If you follow the social media, breast cancer is the trending one … the meme. You see pictures of joggers with their pink ribbons running through big arches of pink balloons. But you don’t see anyone racing for prostate cancer, past tall columns of blue balloons.

Prostate cancer is supposed to be like cut, cut … ok, you’re all set. Have a nice life.

Not cut, cut … hmmm … ok, zap, zap … hmmm … ok, take 20 of these every day for the rest of your life. And by the way, don’t worry. You won’t need a refill.

When you first get a cancer diagnosis, it’s like being hit by a meteorite. It’s random … unpredictable.

Of course, you immediately (well, after you get past the denial) start rationalizing. What did I do wrong? How could I have prevented this? Too many carbs? Not enough exercise? The answer is: Probably all of the above, and then again, no. This is not like heart disease or diabetes or one of those other conditions the medical establishment loves to blame on the patient. Cancer gets you some slack. Doctors blame it on your genes, so you’re off the hook. You can’t help your genes, right?

In fact, if you’re male, your odds of getting cancer somewhere at some point in your life are 1 in 2. If you’re female, 1 in 3. So other guy, you owe me!

But it’s not completely random. Cancer does have a purpose. It’s purpose is to make you stop and think “What am I doing with my life?” If you don’t have cancer, it wouldn’t hurt to think about this anyway.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Sublative

In this season of ratcheted rhetoric, when candidates and commentators are flinging superlatives about like candy, it’s important to try to restore balance to the language. Toward that end, we want to document and popularize a little known linguistic showpiece … the sublative.

Thinking back to high school, you may remember learning about the superlative … that form of adjective that indicates the most extreme condition of something. A movie may be good, but not as good as one that’s better. Nothing, however, is as good as the best movie. That’s why the MPA gives awards for Best Picture and Best Performance By an Actress in a Leading Role and Best Guy Who Sweeps the Film Clippings Up From the Cutting Room Floor. (Actually, there are no film clippings with digital movies, but try telling that to the Guys Who Sweep union!)

So with awards and competitions all around us, we naturally give a lot of attention to bests and other superlatives. But there’s also a linguistic converse of this. And no, it’s not worst, which is really just the best at being bad.

No, the linguistic converse of the the superlative is the sublative. To recognize it, note that superlative adjectives frequently end with -est: best, smartest, hairiest, etc. Similarly, sublative adjectives often end with -ish: good-ish, smart-ish, hairy-ish, and so on. And just as superlatives mean “to an extreme degree,” sublatives suggest a more bland reaction, a kind of verbal meh.

  • “That book was fantastic!”
  • “It was fantastic-ish.”
or

  • “Wasn’t that dinner delicious?”
  • “It was delicious-ish.”
NOTE: Be careful not to mistake “delicious-ish” for “delish.” The latter is just a presumptuous little abbreviation.

So next time you feel overwhelmed by the intense-ish language that spews from the mouths of brash-ish politicians and know-it-all-ish commentators, think careful-ish-ly about this.

Monday, February 29, 2016

The Ruffians Are Coming

At their lively debates GOP candidates
Try attacking each other while grinning.
“Choker,” “Il Douche,” “False-staff” … they’d be making us laugh
Were it not for the chance of one winning.

Acting presidential’s not inconsequential.
You don’t just come out and start swinging.
In a discussion forum you need some decorum
To be worthy at all of West Wing-ing.


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Mea Culpa (again)

A few months ago, I predicted that Donald Trump's popularity would be fleeting. I now must admit my own failure of prognostication. I should have remembered the immortal words of H. L. Mencken:

No one in this world, so far as I know — and I have searched the records for years, and employed agents to help me — has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

Monday, February 22, 2016

Things I Learned From TV

  1. When you come home from a long day at work, and you walk into your suburban New Rochelle home, watch out for the ottoman.
  2. The most state-of-the-art computer animation techniques are used to depict roadkill, walking intestines and boogers.
  3. Use as directed.
  4. The best crime solvers are novelists, psychotics, drug addicts and people on the autism spectrum.
  5. Anything on HBO has to include the word @#&* every 17 minutes.
  6. There’s always next year.
  7. Every family has a sarcastic, wise-cracking member who seems to be the “smart one,” and thus is always the outcast.
  8. Public television doesn’t show commercials; just long, self-promotional messages from sponsors.
  9. We are farmers. Dum-de-dum-dum Dum-dum-dum.
  10. Political candidates are all frustrated fiction writers.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Monday, February 15, 2016

The List of the Things

Three packs of frozen snacks, just wing and thigh,
Seven microwave pizzas, four with pepperon’,
Nine 2-liter bottles of Canada Dry,
One pack of bathroom rolls for the lord on his throne
In the upstairs bathroom. (Must be 3-ply.)
One list of everything, one list to remind,
One list I need to bring but which I cannot find
As I stand in the store door … what the hell to buy.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

La viande rose

Fans of the TV show How I Met Your Mother will remember that Ted’s first experience of Tracy (better known as “The Mother”) was hearing her sing a charming little ditty, accompanying herself on a ukelele. What you may not know is that this was a well known French song by the great chanteuse, Edith Piaf. I don’t remember the actual French lyrics, but they’re something like this.1

Grande croissant, l’enfant d’hiver,
De Maupassant, éclair,
Je pense de quelque chose.

Mais le jour de gloire passée.
J'adore la crème glacée.
Coupez la viande rose.

Aujourd’hui, nous disons ‘oui!’
Demain je vous en prie.
Trop tôt je vous propose.

Honi soit qui mal y pense.
Moi, je préférai la danse.

Je volé un cor Francais
Et il est bleu, c’est vrai.
Je t’aime, ma viande rose!


1All words guaranteed genuine French or something close to it.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Limerick of the Day #135

Were all fretting about Donald Trump
Who is really a pain in the rump
Not just for the sane
But the other inane
G.O.P. candidates on the stump.


Wednesday, January 20, 2016

EXCLUSIVE: Interview with the Founder

This November will mark the 10th anniversary of this blog. While I normally prefer to mock pointless anniversary celebrations, I will gladly seize on any excuse to write a self-aggrandizing post. I have therefore decided to start off our 10th anniversary year with an exclusive interview with none other than The Tech Curmudgeon himself.

(Please note that you are always welcome to submit questions for our long-neglected Tuesday feature, WTF, in which we bravely attempt to scrape together some kind of humorous response to whatever questions you pose. Send your questions to wtf@techcurmudgeon.info.)

So, without further ado, here are our questions and The Tech Curmudgeon’s responses.


Us
So why did you start The Tech Curmudgeon blog?
TTC
No idea. Next.

Us
You started this blog ten years ago. What’s changed?
TTC
With the blog? Well, it was originally all text, but we added a graphite feed early on, so there are pictures now. Beside that, I guess we’ve gotten so desparate for ideas we’ve broadened the scope to include … well, anything.

Us
So do you have any particular goals for your writing?
TTC
Writing? I don’t think of this as writing. I just think about stuff, and jot down anything that strikes me as interesting or funny.

Us
We noticed you use ellipses alot. Why is that?
TTC
I … don’t … know.

Us
Why Tech Curmudgeon?
TTC
Although the technology industry keeps coming up with exciting breakthroughs, I’m very judgemental about some of the practices I see. I think companies race to get gadgets and software out the door without adequately testing. And consumers jump on the bandwagon for any trendy product, regardless of what it does to their lives. I see families in restaurants where everyone, adults and kits, is riveted by some glowing screen. Nobody talks.

Besides, I sometimes think of myself as a curmudgeon. You know, like the old guy yelling out his front window, “Hey, you kids! Get off of my Wi-Fi!!”

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Nerd Words

When computers first came into use, we spoke of computer functions by referring to the real life tools or functions they seemed to mimic, often prefaced with “e-”. Thus we had chats and chatrooms, bulletin boards, e-mail, e-commerce, e-tc. Even such common terms as window, desktop, file and folder and cloud were appropriated from natural language.

Later, we reversed that trend by dragging computer terminology out to refer to real life things: interface, overload, stack dump, off line.

And, of course, some words have made the complete round-trip … spam.

Recently, Apple has bucked its own “i” trend, giving its products names that simply put “Apple” in front of some traditional object name: Apple Watch, Apple Pencil. It’s as if they were saying “This is Apple’s ultimate take on the very ideas of watch-ness and pencil-ness.”

So at what point does computer become a generic term, so that Mac is replaced by Apple Computer?

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Wednesday, January 6, 2016