Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Face It

Thursday, December 6th, 2012

I have technical issues that I want to fix with Facebook, so I tried to contact their tech support department. I cannot in any way manage that. It’s amazing to learn that Facebook–this immense engine for social media–can’t communicate.

I’d Like You to Meet My Old School Chum: Big Company, Inc.

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

The Supreme Court decided that corporations are people.

I disagree. Corporations are people when:

They can see a child born

They can see a man die

They can love

They can sniffle with a cold

They can take up arms to defend their country

They can be tried and executed for murder.


Saturday, October 27th, 2012

The optimist thinks the glass is half full.

The pessimist thinks the glass is half empty.

The conservative thinks the glass ought to make more out of its life.

The liberal thinks the glass is going through a midlife crisis.

Wipe that Smirk off Your Face

Tuesday, October 16th, 2012

The news channels are playing this game after every Presidential debate. A group of people sit around and try to pontificate about whether or not, at a particular time in the proceedings, the debaters were wearing a smirk of a smile on their faces. Apparently the quality of the expression on their features goes a way-long way toward determining whether or not the voting viewers will decide these candidates are Presidential.

The channel will set up a really long table, absolutely filled with a phalanx of the best political analysts you can find out there. Of course the channel will do its best to make sure that the “balance” of these people will be fair between conservative facial feature analysts and liberal facial feature analysts. These people will go into laborious detail about every lip twitch, brow furrow, sideways glance and raising of an eyebrow. (Of course, we all know what it means when they raise the left eyebrow.) From what I understand, the final determination of these panels can be best defined by the following two examples.

Candidate #1: “I have a really great plan for this economy.” (Smile.) This is a very well thought out plan that should have this country booming in a few months.

Candidate #2 “I have a really great plan for this economy.” (Smirk.) This plan obviously sucks.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but wouldn’t it be a good idea for these news channels to get together a panel of experts to discuss exactly what the plans are all about?

I Say – Yeah but to Who?

Saturday, October 6th, 2012

When writing a story that’s in the first person point of view, who’s the narrator talking to? I mean, when the character starts off the book (as in Visions of Sugar Plums) “My name is Stephanie Plum,” who’s being addressed?

There are instances where the author identifies the audience. Often there is a silent character to whom the narrator is talking. It can be a bartender, confessional priest, psychoanalyst, or police detective. Dr. Watson explains that he is writing a journal describing Sherlock Holmes’s adventures. There’s even a few times in Narnia where C.S. Lewis directly addresses his young audience, although in that case, he’s becoming that seldom-used thing of the first person omniscient.

However, the sticky point comes up in most first-person narratives: who’s being addressed, and how directly does the narrator address them?

You can start with Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum example above. It highlights one of the stickiest areas relative to audience: exposition. When the narrator is explaining how (s)he got to this point in life, how does the author go around addressing the audience?

In part it has something to do with the involvement of the reader. It’s like the fourth wall in theater. When a play takes place in an interior, three walls of the location are built as the set. The fourth wall is imagined to be along the foot of the stage, toward the audience. A play is said to be realistic when the actors play within the set as though the fourth wall actually exists. The audience is allowed to peek in through the invisible wall to observe the lives of the characters. Some plays are more presentational. An actor will turn to the audience to deliver an aside; Hamlet will soliloquize to the audience.

Is the reader of the book outside that fourth wall? Does (s)he observe the story on the page? Or is (s)he drawn into the book and involved with the characters who are swirling around hir?

And what happens when the narration includes such catch phrases as, “Would you believe?” or, “Can you imagine?” That second-person pronoun, you, is there. but does that mean that the narrator is directly addressing the reader? Or is that part of an internal monologue being addressed to oneself?

It’s a good question. One I haven’t seen entirely answered.

Things You Don’t Want to Put on Your Resume, Even if You’ve Actually Done Them – Part 2

Friday, July 27th, 2012

Full responsibility for design and execution of user interface for Office 2007.

Take Your Time

Wednesday, July 25th, 2012

I’m getting older. I know it. Of course all of us are doing that, but I’m getting Older.  That means I have Habits.

Now you can take two different viewpoints about that. One would be that I’m hidebound and irascible and can’t adapt to change.  The other might be that I have developed well-ordered systems. I have carefully experimented, as in a laboratory, until through a scientific process of elimination, I have come up with the best operating practices.  I’ve developed a studied and exact approach to the business of life.

On the other hand, a lot of people think I’m hidebound and irascible. Particularly my wife.

Be that as it may, I do find that there seems to be little (scientific) method to the madness I see around me.

Let’s take clocks. Back in the Good Old Days (hereinafter referred to as GOD), clocks were all analog; they had a circular face with numbers around it and hands that pointed to the numbers. They were either mechanical, electrical, or battery-operated.  If there was a power failure, the mechanical ones would continue to truck on, as would the battery-operated ones, and the electrical ones would stop. But–here’s an important point–they would remember the time when they stopped. If your power failure lasted for five minutes, the clock would be five minutes slow. It still had some general idea about what time it was. To reset these clocks, you would have to reach to the one controller on the clock, a single knob, that would sweep the hands around to the proper position.

Then the industry, led by bright, young, Millennial technicians (the newest and best that these times have to offer) came out with digital clocks. They did a numerical display of what the time was. No fuss or bother about where the big hand and the little hand were pointing. They gave you the time, straight from the shoulder, no messing around. These digital clocks came in electrical and battery-powered. (I suppose someone thought it would be really neat to come out with a mechanical one, but that’s what it was: one only, there were none others.) If there was a power failure, the battery-operated digital clock would truck along, happy as a clam. However the electrical one would have an extreme reaction: It would go into a swoon. Its display would go entirely black, and would stay that way until the power was restored, at which point it would assume that it was some sort of 12 o’clock, and either blink that number incessantly in a kind of fugue-like trance, or it would continue forward, assuming that the time of its re-awakening had actually been noon or midnight. It needed caring for.

So it would be time to reset the thing.

That’s where the trouble starts.

On the digital clocks one can find all sorts of buttons that may or may not have something to do with resetting the display. They will say things like Set, Reset, Adj, Mode, Clock, up and/or down arrows, an analog clock face, and all sorts of other mystical signs and sigils that were meant to either be tapped, held down for a certain number of seconds, held down while tapping another button, tapped while facing some sacred holy site, or do other cryptic contortions to get the time setting to sync with the world. Eventually one would have to hunt down the manual for the clock to find out what secret combination of manipulations were required to get the clock to reset itself. (I seem to have lost the manual for my analog clock. And don’t miss it.)

Once you actually got to the point where you were actually resetting the time, you find yourself holding down some button(s) while    the    dis    play    slow    ly    crept    a    long    coun    ting    through    the    num    bers    un    til    it    sud    den    ly   streaksaheadlikeabatoutofshit and shoots you past your target hour. With an analog clock (back in GOD), it would only be necessary to reverse the direction in which you were twisting the little knob, and the big hand (archaic expression) would reverse direction. With most digital clocks, you have to continue in the same direction and step all the way through the whole cycle again. When you finally have the hour set, you then have to continue with a whole string of other settings: the minutes, the month, the date, the year, the day of the week, the phase of the moon, the high and low tide times, the relative time on the Mayan calendar, and bunches of other things you have absolutely no interest in.

The real problem in this whole ritual is that there is no one way to go about resetting the clocks. They all have their own distinct group of operations for resetting. There’s no standardization between the different clocks.

And I’m ashamed about being some poor, stupid, 20th-century dude who can’t keep up with these modern times and adapt to the different settings between manufacturers. So I’ve decided to go with the flow and get really hip and up to date. I’m joining  with the new modern times. I’m creating my own product. I’m coming out with a brand new SUV called the Rugged Individual. It’s going to be distinct. The brake is the right-hand pedal on the floor. Gas flow gets regulated by raising and lowering the lever on the left-hand side of the steering wheel. You change gears by cranking the handle on the door. You push in the center of the steering wheel to control the windshield wipers. And climate control is handled by blowing into a special tube that sticks up out of the dashboard.

You’re going to love it.

You’ll just have to keep the operating manual sitting on the seat next to you.

Things You Don’t Want to Put on Your Resume, Even if You’ve Actually Done Them – Part 1

Thursday, July 12th, 2012

Designed, specced, tested, and installed public address systems for the New York City Subway.

The Peter Principle for the 21st Century

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

To begin with, I’ve discovered there’s a generation coming up that has never heard of the Peter Principle. It was something devised by a man named Lawrence Peter back in the 80s. He described a dysfunction in the running of major corporations. His model showed that when people were hired by corporations, they were put into entry-level positions. If they proved themselves capable in that job, they got promoted to a higher, more complex job. This practice would go on until such time as the employee was promoted to a job that was past his/her capabilities. They would not be demoted back down to the level where they were competent, but would be left in the job where they could not function. This process would repeat itself until such time as the corporation was entirely filled with people who were operating at their level of incompetence.

This was a bad enough mess, but now in the 21st century, corporations have devised a new spin on the Principle. They’ve come up with a brand new dysfunction called outsourcing. All of the people at the top of the organization, who were all operating at their level of incompetence, decided to ship overseas all of the manufacturing functions of the company, the lower levels where employees were still operating at their level of competence.  They figured out how to skim the cream off the bottom.

I can’t wait to see what new dysfunctions corporations can come up with.

Wait a minute! Don’t they do something like buying up companies so they can close them up and make money?

Somebody’s got to explain that one to me.

Things that Don’t Work – 1

Monday, May 14th, 2012

The title of this piece seems to be an all-embracing one. You can point out all sorts of things in our society that don’t work, most of them centered around our government. But I’m talking about a specific group of things that don’t function. They’re the things we whole-heartedly believe work, but under the lens of close scrutiny, we discover they really don’t work.

At all.

The one I’m concerned with today is something whose very title turns out to be an oxymoronic mis-direction play. I’m talking about stainless steel.

Boy, is that ever great stuff! You can put it in your kitchen and cover it with tomato sauce, boil things in it, subject it to the extremes of temperature, and it will stay shiny and it absolutely won’t…

Whoops! Wait a minute. I have a late-breaking message coming in.

We recently bought a brand-new set of stainless steel pans. I figured our kitchen troubles were over. We could plunge right on, making whatever dishes we wanted to, and not worry about taking any special precautions with our pots and pans. After all we had stainless steel.

Needless to say I had a rude awakening. It turns out one has to be quite careful of staining stainless steel. There’s a whole legion of things that stain it: scorching, oil, bleach, coffee, tea, etc.

So I give you nominee number one of the Things that Don’t Work: stainless steel.

I’ll just have to keep all those things that cause stains safely stashed on my Formica counter.