Monday, December 30, 2013

End of the Year Lists

I’m sure you’ve seen all the Top Whatevers of 2013 lists on various Web sites, in newspapers and magazines and on TV. The problem, of course, is that they start this a week or two before the year is actually over.

If I were a terrorist, I would strike on December 31, too late to make it into any of the end-of-the-year top something lists that the media are so fond of. That way, in addition to whatever havoc I had wreaked, I would have the added satisfaction of knowing that I had proven all the news media wrong.

That said, these lists do serve another important function … that of wasting that generally unproductive time between Christmas and New Year’s.

Top things I totally don’t want to hear about in 2014 (in no particular order [well, alphabetical, but let’s face it … the alphabet is in pretty much random order]):
  • Alec Baldwin
  • Benghazi
  • Billion dollar buy-outs of some kid’s middle school science project
  • Boston Strong
  • Breaking Bad
  • Candy Crush Saga
  • Miley Cyrus
  • Fiscal cliffs, sequesters and government shutdowns
  • Nuclear weapons made entirely on 3D printers
  • Edward Snowden
  • Twerking
  • Anthony Weiner

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Monday, December 23, 2013

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

News in Review

Mandela’s Funeral

Senator Ted Cruz, in a remarkable display of fortitude, walked out of Nelson Mandela’s memorial service to protest a speech by Cuba’s Raoul Castro. Cruz also signaled his disapproval by placing gum on the Cuban leader’s chair, and drawing a mustache and glasses on his picture.

The Budget

The Senate, anxious to begin recess so the members can shop for their wives, lovers and other partners on their lists, is moving forward on a compromise budget amid arguments over who is most unhappy with it. Meanwhile, House Speaker John Boehner, in a remarkable display of fortitude, vowed not to cave to the same extreme groups he has always caved to in the past.


Facing congressional investigation, the NSA has said in its defense: “Hey! We’re not snooping on everyone. We didn’t know what Snowden was up to!”

Health care

Americans can rest assured that the beleaguered Obamacare Web site is now safely in the hands of the former head of Microsoft Office. Users can expect the same reliability and user-friendliness that has characterized that product.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Measuring Fame

Famometer? Fame-o-Meter?1 Fameter?2

Fame and fortune are the most important measures of human worth. But how do we quantify these things? Fortune is easy, as it can be measured by the number of houses or garage elevators you own. But what about fame?

In Human Accomplishment, Charles Murray uses comparative space in reference works as a way of measuring relative significance of historical figures and events. The more ink you get, the more notable your contribution. Eric Schulman relies on search engine hits as a measure of fame, and Leslie Lamport takes a variation on this to measure celebrity.

Of course, measurements based on search engine results are going to be biased in favor of geekier celebrities. How else could Steve Wozniak have been picked as a contestant on Dancing With the Stars?3

So what measurements are we to use? I’m afraid I don’t have a conclusive answer to report at this time. However, the following metrics might be useful.
  • Journalistic attention, measured in centimeters4
  • Auction price of creative detritus (scribblings/doodles/outtakes) (A mediocre Jane Austin watercolor portrait just sold for $270,000; Christopher Tolkien seems to have published every scrap of paper his dad ever wrote on.)
  • Number of days of news dominance after death (Nelson Mandela is going on his second week, not counting spin-off stories about Barack Obama’s selfie, Ted Cruz’s walk-out and some unknown sign language imposter.)
  • Frequency of copyright infringement
  • Likes or Followers on Facebook? Twitter?
  • Appearances on The Tonight Show or Saturday Night Live
  • Paternity suits (or, in this egalitarian age, maternity suits)
  • Short list for Dancing With the Stars
  • Pictures with wrongly attributed quotes on Facebook

Research is ongoing, and results will be posted here as available.

1 “Fame-o-Meter” sounds like an amusement park attraction.
2 “Fameter” sounds like a measure of how hungry you are.
3 If you know who Steve Wozniak is, you know what I mean. If not … well, see what I mean?
4 To be scientific, we use centimeters instead of inches.5
5To be really scientific, use centimetres.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Monday, December 9, 2013

How to Win Any Argument

Continuing our series on how to survive the holiday season, it's time to address an issue likely to arise at any family gathering. Here are our tips on how to win any argument. If cornered, feel free to use any or all of these.

Correlation equals causation“I drink coffee all the time because I get my best ideas when drinking coffee.”
Godwin’s Law“That’s like something Hitler would say!”1
The Outlandish Analogy“Allowing bikes on the highway would be like surfing the Web with a Swiss Army knife.”
The Slippery Slope“If we allow any regulation of guns, next thing you know we'll have jack-booted government agents to searching our homes at random.”
Made-up Statistics“Actually, 97% of people don’t want to watch Amazing Race.”2
Ad Hominem“What do you know? You watch Amazing Race!”
Overgeneralization“Suppose everyone did that? We’d have a nation of people wearing mismatched socks.”

Don’t argue with anyone who has read this list.

1 Except he’d say it in German, and it would pertain to the Third Reich, and … well, he’s dead.
2 Actually, 73.1% of statistics are just made up.

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Theory of General Relativity

With the holiday season at our throats once again, we thought it would be a good time to explain how family relationships work. This simple guide will help you through any seasonal gathering.

Basically, first, second, ..., nth cousins have common ancestors n+1 generations ago. First cousins have common grandparents ... two generations back. Second cousins have common great grandparents, three generations back. This is illustrated in the following diagram.

As you can see from this, siblings (common parents) are really 0th cousins. Grandparents, then, would be -1st cousins, and so forth back through the generations.

Once removed means one level of generation skew. Twice removed means two levels, and so forth.

If Grandchild D and Grandchild E are cousins, then Grandchild D and Great Grandchild K are first cousins once removed. Your first cousin's children are your first cousins once removed. (But they're your children's second cousins.) Your first cousins' grandchildren are your first cousins twice removed (and your children's second cousins once removed, and your children's children's third cousins.) Of course, this means that Child A and Grandchild E are 0th cousins once removed, or siblings once removed. We'll leave that as an exercise for the reader.

See? It's easy? In a future post, we'll talk about special relativity.

Special thanks to Ken Davis, my 0th cousin.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Agony of the Klutz

Recent studies suggest that one in five Americans suffer from klutziness … double the number previously believed. Yet most people have no idea what it’s like to endure this painful condition … to live in a world where inanimate objects suddenly become willful and fly around of their own accord. Where the entire landscape shifts just for the purpose of interposing a wall or a tree in your path. A world where the laws of physics are suspended so that moving bodies fall at a rate proportional to how valuable they are, and inversely proportional to how much time you have.

Yet klutz sufferers must face these hardships every day. I myself have endured klutziness for years, but recently, the disorder seems to have progressed. I’ve had to adapt my lifestyle in various ways, and may have to do more.

Here are some of the measures I’ve taken.
  • I always wear a red shirt when eating Italian cuisine. (I may have to get red pants also.)
  • I wear big puffy winter clothes and a bike helmet all year round, indoors and out.
  • I double-, triple-, and quadruple-check email messages for typos before hitting Sned. (Also, I’m campaigning to have words like “teh” and “hardward” added to the dictionary.)
  • When hammering a nail in something, I hold the nail with a long pair of pliers instead of my fingers. Then I wind up gluing it instead.
  • I keep plenty of glue remover around.
Remember, be kind to your klutzy friends. There is no cure.

Friday, November 29, 2013

The Ballad of Black Friday

Thanksgiving feast was over
And our belts were all uncinched.
We tried to watch the football game
Squeezed down to 60 inch.

“This screen’s too small,” the crowd complained.
“It's not even 3D.
How can you live so primitively
With this small TV.”

My wife threw down the trash bag
As I shoved her out the door.
“Come on!” I cried. “We’ve got to go
And hurry to the store.”

The parking lot was crazy.
You could barely see the store.
But the crowd kept surging forward
Chanting “More! More! More!”

The crush of people at the doors
Exceeded expectation.
Yet somehow we avoided turkey
Dinner regurgitation.

Inside, the crowd had filled the aisles
With boxes everywhere.
The smell of greed was thick indeed
And wafted through the air.

I found the set I wanted,
80 inches and 3D,
Ultra high-def and surround sound
And a 3 month warranty!

I tried to lift the box. It was
The last one of its kind.
But another pair of hands pulled back
And a voice said “Do you mind?”

My nostrils flared, my eyes narrowed.
I was almost blind with rage.
I’d come too far, endured too much
To lose out at this stage.

I tugged the box. The stranger tugged
It back with equal force.
So silently we pulled it back
And forth for hours, of course.

Exhausted, out of breath and faint,
I held on for dear life.
But the stranger was so tough I knew
She had to be my wife.

We hauled the set up to the front.
The check-out lines were long.
At last we paid and then we made
Our way out through the throng.

We got the set all loaded up
And raced home in our Prius,
Then parked out front and made some noise
So neighbors all would see us.

And once inside, I drew a breath
Relieved to be alive.
The sun was nowhere to be seen
At just 3:45.

But just as I was satisfied
We’d fulfilled all our wishes,
She turned to me, seductively
And said, “I saw some dishes …”

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Ten Time-Saving Tips

In this holiday season, many people are stressed due to the myriad of things they have to do. The ever-helpful Tech Curmudgeon offers these time-saving tips.

10.Buy already shelled pistachio nuts.
9.Read spoilers on the Internet instead of watching TV and movies.
8.Choose foods that can be enjoyed cold. (Preferably right from containers in the fridge!)
6.Wrap your cats in plastic wrap.
5.Throw away your mouse and learn a command language.
4.Drink iced coffee.
3.Get a nano- or picowave oven.
2.Eat dessert first.
1.Subscribe to this blog at

Looking for the perfect holiday gift?
Give your friends subscriptions to
The Tech Curmudgeon!
It costs nothing, and it will really mess with their heads.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Autumn in New England

Note the harmonious color scheme of black,
brown, blue, yellow, gray and whatever

It’s Autumn in New England. We’re enjoying the kind of weather that separates the people who bike in this kind of weather from the sane ones, and I’m proud to say I’m neither. That is to say, I bike, but I do it ironically.

It was a brisk 23 degrees when I left my house this morning. That’s Fahrenheit. Of course, 23 degrees Centigrade is quite warm, which is why biking is so much more popular in Europe.

I was wearing long underwear, corduroy pants, a flannel shirt, a down parka, one of those ridiculous head condoms that I’m convinced were designed only so that others could take pictures of you, a knit neck warmer, a knit hat, a bike helmet, and ski gloves. I had to take most of it off to get on the bike.

All down the bike path, this sleek, high-tech winter gear allowed me to pedal fast enough to keep up with the people walking.

Arriving at the subway station, I began the ritual of peeling off the layers. The trick here is knowing when to stop. On one hand, I tend to get overheated from the bike ride, regardless of the weather. On the other hand, there are surveillance cameras and security guards.

At least my commute home will be in the dark.

Friday, November 22, 2013

The Age of Aquarius

You've probably heard by now that President Kennedy has been shot. The official verdict is that Lee Harvey Oswald, acting alone, did the deed. But we now know that a secret cabal of newspapers and television networks arranged it, knowing they could milk the story for at least the next 50 years. (What they didn't count on, of course, was that newspapers and TV would be obsolete in 50 years.)

So by now you’re sick of hearing about how today is the 50th anniversary of Kennedy’s assassination, and about how his term in office was Camelot, especially when compared with politics today. It was a kind of coming of age for that population bulge affectionately known as the baby boom.

It was the start of an inflection point for the anti-war movement, the civil rights movement, the rock movement, the sexual revolution, the space program, the environmental movement and, most importantly, the comedy movement that brought us the Smothers Brothers and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. (Remember how funny it was to say “Sock it to me” or “Here come da judge?”)

The decade known as The Sixties started on that fateful November day in 1963, and ended with Nixon’s resignation on August 9, 1974. In his inauguration speech, Kennedy noted that “the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans.” Man, did he get that right. This was the generation that was going to change the world, bring universal peace and love, and still get stoned out of its mind. All the great innovations … tie-dyed shirts, smiley faces, dogs in bandanas, Ultimate Frisbee, blacklight posters and nipples … are part of the legacy of this era.

(Ok, technically nipples predate the sixties, but that’s when they really came into their own.)

So here we are, fifty years later. No more wars. The earth is pristine. Lady Ga-Ga and Miley Cyrus are cultural icons. The Voting Rights Act has become unnecessary because freedom and equality reign everywhere in America. Sexting and selfies have replaced that antiquated notion of intimacy. And the Internet has ended divisiveness and brought us all together in harmony. This is truly the Age of Aquarius.

What’s not to like?

Monday, November 18, 2013

Social Networking

As the bus jostles me along, a loudspeaker overhead declares “Lake Street. Stop requested.”

On the train, the softer, more nuanced speaker exclaims “Entering Kendall/MIT,” as we pull into Davis Square. Underway again, I hear “Next stop, Kendall/MIT.” A few minutes later, the train again proudly pronounces “Entering Kendall/MIT,” as we approach Porter Square. Likewise at Harvard Square and at Central. Finally, the announcement changes to “Entering Charles/MGH,” as we pull into Kendall.

After a short walk to my building, I enter through the garage. The parking machine greets me warmly: “Please pay here before returning to your vehicle.”

The elevator also has a few choice words. “Second floor … third floor … fourth floor.”

After a few phone calls (“Your call is important. Please wait for the next available operator.”) … I finally reach the goal. “We’re sorry. No one is available to take your call right now. Please leave your name and number and we’ll get back to you as soon as possible.”

Time for coffee. The espresso machine mutely demands decalcifying, so I resort to the single cup brewer which, after a series of snorting and burping noises, produces a hot black liquid.

I return to my station to attend to the 47 new emails, 23 chat messages and 5 appeals for me to download and install software updates and restart my system.

A co-worker stops by and mutters something about my weekend.


Friday, November 15, 2013

Why Ride?

I've biked on and off all my life. Sometimes I biked daily for a few months, other times I neglected the poor beast for long stretches of time. I started seriously bike commuting and doing frequent recreational rides after a bout with intense back pain (sciatica) about 7 years ago.

At about the same time, I also became interested in other forms of human-powered vehicles. Perhaps it was some unfulfilled desire to stand out from the crowd ... to be weird. Perhaps it was is fascination with the various mechanical solutions to the problem of turning human movement into forward motion. More likely it was just mental "doodling" ... keeping my mind from more useful activities.

Anyway, there are certain rewards common to all the human-powered vehicles I've tried or looked at. Chief among these are:

1) Health

Pretty much any kind of human-powered vehicle is powered by a human ... you. And that means exercise. Depending on the type of vehicle, you may be using different muscle groups, but you're pretty much guaranteed to be doing some work to get around, especially climbing hills, etc.

You may be using other muscles just to maintain balance, may be fighting wind resistance, and may be using more or less agility, coordination, etc. to keep going safely. It's all good. In addition, you're getting fresh (presumably) air, sunshine, and all that other good stuff.

Finally, this kind of exercise is a great way to reduce stress, and that may have the biggest health benefit of all.

2) Environment

As a rider, you're part of the "green" revolution. You're not burning fossil fuels. You're not adding noise to the environment, and you're reducing the demand for automobile facilities like roads, parking garages, etc.

3) Cost

It's possible to spend $10,000 on a bike, but you're going to get a really outstanding bike for that price. More common among cyclists are bikes in the $500 to $1500 range. That still gets you an excellent piece of equipment, and one that requires no gasoline.

Repairs and maintenance are also substantially cheaper than for cars. In fact, you can easily learn to do much of the routine work yourself, which both saves you money and gives you the satisfaction of knowing you can keep yourself mobile.

There are other, more expensive options. You can get a fully enclosed velomobile for $5,000 or more. But these are luxuries.

4) Speed

It's not true for everyone, but for me at least, I can bike to my office about as quickly as I can drive there. If I bike to the subway station and take the train, it's much faster than driving or taking the bus to that same station and taking that same train.

If your commute is largely urban, there's a good chance you can save yourself time by going under your own steam.

5) Serenity

It's hard to describe the feeling you get moving along on your own power, enjoying the scenery, hailing other cyclists, and controlling the situation. Of course, it's not all candy. You may have to contend with traffic, tight schedules, hills, bad roadways, reckless joggers and just plain terrible weather. It takes a while to find the right route, the right equipment and accessories and, above all, the right state of mind.

But once you do, you can overcome all these difficulties, and still feel a harmonious sense of well being. There's nothing like it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Time Travel Safety Tips

  1. Be careful to ensure that your wormhole is geo-stationary. Otherwise, you may find yourself embedded in other objects, or in deep space.
  2. If traveling back in time, you may encounter yourself or others you know at an earlier time. Do not reveal anything about events subsequent to/prior to this meeting.
  3. Do not injure or impair your earlier self, or any ancestors. This is particularly true of grandfathers.
  4. You may encounter causal reflexivity, also known as causal circularity. (A causes B, which in turn causes A.) Deal.
  5. Bring plenty of spare batteries.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Research Results


Once again, Halloween has given us the opportunity to pursue our research into the best sugar and fat loaded candy/cookie/confection (SFLC3). In order to maintain objectivity, our research staff carefully disregarded any and all nutrition information accompanying these products.

We exposed our subject to an assortment of brands and varieties of SFLC3s with all identification removed except the taste and the wrappers. Subject was then asked to complete Likert scale surveys on preferences.

Similar studies (Reese, 1984; Mars et al., 1993; Henry, 2005) have not found sufficient differentiation among varieties. We overcame this by performing statistical analysis and filtering out the most common preference. (“All of them.”)

The results were inconclusive but, as sometimes happens, our analysis yielded new questions requiring further study.

One of the new directions to pursue is the question of whether or not Nutty Bars are actually the best SFLC3 ever and, if so, if it is possible to improve on them. Note that due to budget constraints, we are not considering deep fried bacon-wrapped Nutty Bars at this time. However, this will not skew our results, as deep frying and adding bacon have been shown to improve all foods linearly. (Heide et al., 1997)

Sadly, funding for this important research has become scarce, and once philanthropic neighbors now close their doors. Look for us on Kickstarter.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Kiss of the Cider Donut

(Apologies to Kander and Ebb.)

Sooner or later you’re going to eat
But you’re just craving something deliciously sweet.
It’s the one thing you need
In the middle of night …
A bite!

Sooner or later you’re bound to give in
To the granular sugar, and freshly ground cin-
namon on the top
Glist’ning in the light…
A bite!

And your mouth grows wider
As you start to drool,
For the taste of cider
When it’s served piping hot
And the weather is cool.

For the cider donut
Really hits the spot …
It’s so warm.
It’s so crisp.
It’s so sweet.
Get it while it’s hot.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Facebook vs. Everything Else

Facebook is trying to become the Internet itself, enticing users to send messages, post statuses, create photo albums, etc. These are all capabilities that are available freely or very cheaply elsewhere, and have been for years.

But now, thanks to Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg and company can check out everything you post. You can allow them to use your name and picture in their sponsors’ ads. And they can decide what your friends and followers will see according to their own secret rules.

So just in case you don't want to give Facebook the keys to your home, here are some other options.

Facebook Feature Alternative
like phone call
messages and inbox email
groups Yahoo! groups, Google groups, mailing lists
status post blog
photo album web page, Picasa, Flickr and many others
news feed RSS
wall email, text message, sticky note
timeline blog
notifications email, RSS
games Oh, please!
pages web page
friends um … real life?

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Monday, October 21, 2013

My Inner Old Guy

I know lots of people work at getting in touch with their inner children … their long-denied younger selves whose unsatisfied needs unconsciously shape adult behavior. People believe that discovering those unfulfilled longings can help free them from the traumas and anxieties that result from childhood frustrations.

But I’m doing the opposite. Since my prostate surgery, and 3 weeks of having an indwelling (meaning just what it sounds like) urinary catheter, followed by who knows how long of having trouble peeing (or, more accurately, not peeing) have put me in touch with my inner old guy. Wearing hospital gowns at home, being unable to bike and, sometimes, to walk, have taken their toll.

Luckily, that inner old guy makes his unfulfilled needs pretty plain. It’s too hot. It’s too cold. The music’s too loud. The TV’s too soft. The vegetables are undercooked. The meat is overcooked. I don’t need any help. I can’t do this. After a while, it sounds like the opening of a Dickens novel.

The worst part about the inner old guy is that he’s inner. There’s no getting away from him. I’d be happy to make up the guest bed in the basement, but this guy won’t quit. Everywhere I go, there’s that not-so-little voice in my ear … “Are you going to finish that?”

Of course, I could try to take advantage of this, like Ebenezer Scrooge glimpsing his own future. I could turn over a new leaf. Shave off my gray whiskers. Take my anti-crotchety medication. Spend more time on Facebook and Tumblr. Buy that turkey for Tiny Tim’s family. That’s it. I’ll be the coolest, most uncomplaining old man ever.

But hey, you kids! Get off my lawn!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Close Call

Well, that was a close one. There were some tense moments as our nation was brought to the brink of disaster this week. Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed. When all the yelling and screaming were done, when the jeering and name calling had subsided, the outcome was apparent to both sides.

Unfortunately, such crises tend to afflict already hard-hit places like Detroit. Yet despite this, they managed to come back and win game 4 (and lose game 5.)

Of course, the Sox haven’t clinched the ALCS yet. There are still one or two games to go. But in this series, the Sox have always been ahead or tied. So far.

Oh yeah, there was also that government shutdown/debt ceiling thingie. We’ve staved off disaster there too, but, as baseball fans know well, there’s always next year.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Ending the Shutdown

The Republican rhetoric about the government shutdown has been so emphatic that it would be impossible for them to back down now without losing face. They cannot allow the government to re-open or the debt ceiling to be raised without appearing to have completely caved, giving Obama and the Democrats a total victory.

So, to help resolve this impasse, Obama might consider certain accommodations which, while not in any way capitulating to Republican demands, would still give Republicans trophies they can brandish to claim victory. Let’s make sure each member of Congress gets something. Some ideas:

  1. A weekend in the Lincoln Bedroom. 
  2. A free month of Netflix. 
  3. Starbucks gift cards. 
  4. Free trial memberships in Capitol Bikeshare. 
  5. Autographed copies of Atlas Shrugged. … Just kidding. It’s The Audacity of Hope. (Ha-ha. It’s Hunger Games.) 
  6. Zero percent financing and a 5 year/60,000 mile warranty on any new 2013 Ford. 
  7. A free month’s supply of Cialis. (Bad idea.) 
  8. iTunes or Google Play gift cards. 
  9. A three day, two night stay at the Walt Disney World Resort. 
  10. Obamacare will not … repeat NOT be repealed, delayed, unfunded, or in any other way constrained, but it will be renamed from The Affordable Care Act to Yet Another Democratic Entitlement We Told You So Neener Neener.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Badly Broken

When I wrote about ''Breaking Bad'', I had not properly reflected on the show’s similarities to my own life. The show’s main character, Walter White, was a high school chemistry teacher, and I had a high school chemistry teacher. Walt was diagnosed with inoperable lung cancer, and I with eminently operable prostate cancer. And most of all, he looks great in a van Dyke, and I … have such a beard.

So I’ve been thinking that I, too, should turn to a life of crime. After all, how else can you make over $10 million in only five seasons? Ok, investment banking, but doesn’t that sound boring?

Of course, I don’t have the know-how to make and sell meth the way Walt did. I looked for one of those For Dummies books, but Amazon had nothing.

Piracy seems promising. I could get my feet wet with software piracy. I do know something about software. Of course, that's nothing compared to the excitement that FBI warning at the beginning of DVDs always evokes. Unfortunately, I just can’t see how you can make tons of money giving stuff away free.

Armed robbery? I think that would be really bad for my blood pressure.

I’ve been over this and over it, and I can come up with just one practical path to the rewards and sense of accomplishment that only outright criminality can bring ... just one way to taste the thrill of aggressive, anti-social behavior that drove Walt White.

I’ll have to run for Congress.

Friday, October 4, 2013

Diseases of the Young

The main objection to the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, seems to be the requirement that everyone … EVERYONE buy insurance. That way, insurance companies can collect premium payments from healthy people who aren’t likely to need lots of expensive healthcare. That’s how insurance companies make money. In theory, that allows insurance companies to offer lower rates to people more likely to need health care because, as you know, companies just love to pass savings on to their customers so they don’t have to keep accumulating profits.

Whether you support the law or not, you can probably see how forcing Americans to buy insurance goes against the grain in a country where the only thing people are required to buy is guns. So maybe there’s a better way to persuade young, healthy people to buy insurance.

One possibility is to encourage teen pregnancy. Pregnancy is always good for getting people to seek medical care. They need lots of tests, including expensive processes to get pre-birth pictures of the baby at the stage when it’s still indistinguishable from a spider in the equipment.

“Ah,” you say. “But pregnant teens actually need medical care, so their premiums don’t benefit the insurance companies.” True enough. We want people on the insurance rolls who will make no claims.

HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases don’t seem to be doing it. Again, these are conditions that would require actual medical treatment. Besides, people who won’t even spring for condoms are not likely to go for monthly insurance premiums.

So is there something that, like pregnancy or STDs, will scare young, healthy people into buying insurance, but won’t actually result in medical bills? This seems like a fertile area for medical research. If the National Institutes of Health ever re-open, maybe they could take this on.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

I Won't Grow Old

I won’t grow old.
I won’t grow old.
I don’t want to get all gray
I don’t want to get all gray
And to have to use the bathroom
And to have to use the bathroom
Roughly fifty times a day.
Roughly fifty times a day.
If growing old means there would be
A chance I’d need a prostatectomy
I’ll never grow old, never grow old, never grow o-old!
Not me.
Say what?
Not me!

I won’t grow old.
I won’t grow old.
I don’t want to wear a truss.
I don’t want to wear a truss.
Or to wear enormous glasses
Or to wear enormous glasses
Just to recognize my bus.
Just to recognize my bus.
And if it means I must prepare
A will to leave all to my worried heir
I’ll never grow old, never grow old, never grow o-old!
Not me!
Say what?
Not me!
Hot tea?

Never gonna be a fart,
I won’t!
Like to see somebody try
And make me.
Anyone who wants to try
And make me turn into a fart,
Um … give me a head start?

I won’t grow old.
I won’t grow old.
I won’t take a million pills
I won’t take a million pills
Or go fleeing to Miami
Or go fleeing to Miami
Every time I get the chills.
Every time I get the chills.
‘Cause being old’s no way to live
(Except compared to the alternative.)
I’ll never grow old, never grow old, never grow o-old!
Not me!
Scot free?
Not me!
Got pee?
Not me!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Breaking Badly

All my friends have been telling me I have to watch Breaking Bad, so I finally decided to give it a try last night. The whole thing seemed pretty nonsensical to me.

I understand this guy, Walt, was a high school teacher who learns he has inoperable lung cancer. I think the usual response to a cancer diagnosis is that patients try to improve their lifestyles to minimize the risks. Some people go so far as to change careers to something with less stress and more flexibility to pursue treatments, etc. This guy, on the other hand, decides to take up one of the most stressful careers there is … dealing methamphetamine. Perhaps he should have consulted one of the school’s guidance counselors first, or gotten an informational booklet on the profession. Then he might not have had to do so much on-the-job training.

So last night, Walt breaks into the home of a really wealthy couple that he seemed to know. They must have been other high school teachers who had gotten tenure. Their home is full of fancy furniture, art, etc. So what does he do? He gives them like nine million dollars. WTF?

Then he goes to visit some blonde who I’m guessing is his wife. She says she won’t take his money, and he says he doesn’t have any. (Duh! He gave it all to the rich couple!) So what does he do? He gives her a lottery ticket. Yeah, that’ll help.

Then he goes to the headquarters of some bad meth dealers. (Remember … he’s a good meth dealer) and tries to get them to give him some money. (Again, he gave nine million bucks to the rich couple!) They decide to shoot him instead, but they stop when he calls the boss a liar. Whoa! This guy may be a drug dealer, a thief and a cold-blooded killer. But a liar? That’s an insult.

Anyway, Walt has this whole other thing planned, so a lot of stuff happens right at the end. It was kind of confusing, especially since I can’t tell the good drug dealers from the bad ones.

I don’t know. I might give it another try, just to see what happens next.

Friday, September 27, 2013


Starting in 2008 ...
We’re going to create a Medicare For All plan.

You can’t do that. It’ll hurt the insurance industry

Ok, we’ll keep private insurance, but offer a public option alongside.

No public option. Private insurers can’t compete with that.

Ok, but we’re not going to mandate that people buy insurance.

You have to have a mandate. That keeps costs down.

Ok, we’ll do that.

You can’t. It’s unconstitutional.
Several years and one re-election later …
We’re going to shut down the government and destroy the country’s credit rating unless you dismantle your health care bill.

I can’t do that.

What?!?! Why can’t you compromise?

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Statute of Limitations on Spoilers

If you’ve spent any time on the Internet, you’ve undoubtedly come across the “spoiler alert,” a way to notify readers/viewers/listeners that what follows may reveal something about the ending of a story, novel, movie, etc. that was supposed to be a surprise. A lot of people get very upset when they learn the surprise ending of a book or movie they haven’t experienced yet.

At some point, though, these surprise endings become widely known, even passing into common knowledge. Few people would be irked if you mentioned that Sydney Carton sacrificed his life to save Charles Darnay, even though generations of school kids have yet to be forced to read A Tale of Two Cities.

So what is the statute of limitations on spoilers? And, more importantly, does the limit get extended as new media emerge? If a new movie or, more likely, a Broadway musical of A Tale of Two Cities comes out, do we have to keep Sydney Carton’s secret again until everyone has seen it? What about the DVD? And Netflix? Does every new medium start a new clock ticking on how long we have to keep mum about the endings of stories?

Well, I’m not going to stand for it anymore.

Oedipus blinds himself! Hamlet dies! Macbeth dies! King Lear dies. Romeo and Juliet? Both croak. Frodo wins! Rosebud was his sled. Harry Potter wins! Everyone did it on the Orient Express! The Second Foundation is on Trantor. The planet of the apes is Earth. Piscine is the tiger. The Fight Club is basically Who Is Harry Kellerman and Why Is He Saying Those Terrible Things About Me? In Sixth Sense, … nah, I can’t do it.

Oh, by the way ... spoiler alert!

Monday, September 23, 2013

Catheter Ergo Sum

The following contains graphic descriptions of truly icky medical stuff. Reader discretion is advised. Elderly, pregnant women and passengers traveling with small children take note. 

The human body is a marvelous machine, an incredible number of complex systems and materials contained in one compact (usually), attractive (hopefully) package. But it has a couple of flaws. One is that we eat and breathe through the same opening, which leads to the risk of choking. On the other hand, this also creates the possibility of burping, so we shouldn’t be too quick to judge.

Another flaw is that we use the some of the same organs for waste elimination and for sex. While this does allow us to economize on underpants, it has some serious drawbacks. In particular, men have an organ called the prostate which is employed by the sex department, but whose office is over in the waste elimination area.

Once in a while, the prostate develops cancer and has to be removed. When this happens, it’s necessary to re-attach the bladder (Latin: uesicam) to the urethra (Latin: urethra), and this takes time to heal. (Healing is another one of those amazing human body things. Imagine the contractor putting an addition on your house saying: “Ok, the work’s all done. Don’t worry about the siding. It’ll grow back.”)

While this healing is going on, to facilitate the function known in medical circles as peeing, a plastic tube called a catheter is inserted through the urethra to drain the bladder. This is every bit as much fun as it sounds.

Via the catheter, the bladder just empties itself whenever it damn pleases into a bag. There are day bags that can conveniently strap to your leg, but which need emptying every couple of hours. There are also night bags, which let you sleep through the night while being as comfortable and convenient as a ball and chain.

To change bags, simply undo the leg anchor, hold the current bag upright, pinch the catheter closed and disconnect the bag. While continuing to hold this bag upright, and still pinching the catheter shut, clean both the new bag connector and the catheter with alcohol wipes, attach the new bag to the leg anchor, and insert the connector into the end of the catheter. Then detach the old bag, still holding it upright, and empty. Then attach the new bag.

Careful calculation shows the entire process requires no more than 7.43 hands to complete.

While the catheter is a serious medical device, intended to address severe urinary problems, it does allow you to watch the entire Star Wars saga without a break.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Competing Cancers

The age old battle of the sexes is playing itself out on a new front … the publicity campaigns for breast cancer and prostate cancer. And men, we’re losing!

That’s right. Breast cancer has all the media and the public’s attention. There are races marked by giant arches of pink balloons. There are pink ribbons and lapel pins, pink t-shirts, posters and banners. But most importantly, they have a body part everyone can relate to. Everyone knows breasts! There are whole magazines devoted to the subject. When was the last time you saw a prostate magazine?

Men, the time to act is now. I propose a media counter-offensive to get prostate cancer in the spotlight. We should pick a color to represent us. I suggest yellow, the color of … well, it’s a good color.

Next we need to organize sporting events. I’m tempted to suggest bike races, but prostates and bike seats? Not so good. Maybe a nice slow walk? Or a couch potato contest?

But above all, we need to get prostates into the hearts and minds of ordinary people. We need to make prostates as well known and loved as breasts. Maybe something like this will do the trick.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

An Open Letter To CBS

Dear CBS:

You suck!

Sincerely yours,
The Tech Curmudgeon

P.S. - This seemingly harsh critique is not being dispensed lightly. I will, for example, give you credit for coming up with a few reasonably entertaining shows, some of which have actual comic (e.g., Big Bang Theory), dramatic (e.g., The Good Wife) or intellectual (e.g., Jeopardy) appeal. (You do, however, owe humanity an abject apology for Two Broke Girls.)

But you persist in pre-empting or, worse, randomly re-scheduling the quality shows in order to accommodate any programming that might remotely be considered a sport, including tiddly-winks, paper football and coin tossing. In fact, you’ve given the reigning best show on television, Jeopardy, the boot for some idiotic football pre-season talk show! It’s not even football season. What is the pre-season? The whole rest of the year?

Worse, when Sunday night programming is delayed by some late afternoon game, your programming execs (That has to be an oxymoron … or some kind of moron anyway.) move the entire evening line up. Instead of simply dropping the utterly useless and civilization-eroding Amazing Race so the other programs could stay on schedule, which would irritate only those who want to watch a group of desperate idiots perform humiliating and degrading stunts, you insist on pissing off your entire audience.

Technology has given viewers more and more control. People expect to be able to watch whatever they want whenever they want. At the very least, they should be able to watch what they want when it’s supposed to be on. Your approach of blithely ignoring your own schedules is like saying to viewers: “We decide what your going to watch and when.” Yeah. Good luck with that.

P.P.S. - And please stop showing those stupid ads for yogurt that makes you poop.

Monday, September 16, 2013

While I Was Out

Apparently while I’ve been recovering from surgery, the world has continued its business as usual. I thought this would be a good time to recap some recent developments.

In the latest debt ceiling battle, Congress has decided to play Good GOP/Bad GOP. Speaker Boehner, taking the role of “good GOP,” at least by comparison, is asking President Obama to help him rein in the more unruly elements in his party by giving him a bone to throw them. Obama, with his characteristic steadfastness and fearless leadership, responded “Um … ok.”

In Syria, the U.S. concluded that Bashar al-Assad had indeed used chemical weapons against Syrian rebels. Obama was in the midst of seeking Congressional and world support for tactical strikes against Syria, when Secretary of State Kerry impishly suggested that Assad could get off the hook by handing over all his chemical weapons (impishness being, of course, one of the traits for which Kerry is known.) Assad jumped on the opportunity to start making demands. Obama, with his characteristic steadfastness and fearless leadership, responded “Um … ok.”

In its ongoing efforts to restore peace and democracy, the Egyptian army has slaughtered hundreds of protesters.

Former Harvard president, Treasury Secretary and White House advisor Lawrence Summers withdrew his name from consideration for chairmanship of the Federal Reserve, saying “There are plenty of other sexist plutocrats to consider, even among Democrats.” President Obama, with his characteristic steadfastness and fearless leadership, responded “Um … ok.”

Friday, September 13, 2013

Virtual Cat Cartoon

I had a trenchant and witty cartoon planned for today. Unfortunately, I’m still not well enough to sit at my drawing table, so I’ll have to just share the kernel of the idea with you:

Cats are funny and cute.

Try to picture it.

Seriously, one of the few benefits of my recent prostate surgery is the opportunity to spend some quality time with my cats. (The other is not dying of cancer. I said few, not insignificant.)

I’ve become a sort of Jane Goodall of the cat world, living among them and observing them in their native habitats, the top of the refrigerator and an old popcorn box. One of the most interesting things I’ve learned is how surprisingly regimented their lives are. They are really creatures of habit and follow quite a regular schedule. It runs something like this:

6:30 AM - Get the server’s attention by knocking books from the shelf
6:45 AM - Place breakfast order, usually “meow”
6:46 AM - Place breakfast order
6:47 AM - Place breakfast order
Repeat until …
7:00 AM - Breakfast
7:00.01 AM - Cindy finishes breakfast; Buttons tours the house
7:00.02 AM - Cindy tries to eat Buttons’ food; Buttons continues tour
7:15 AM - Buttons again orders, and receives, breakfast; House tour resumes
7:30 AM - Buttons finishes as much breakfast as she’s ever going to; Buttons and Cindy take short nap
3:20 PM - Buttons and Cindy circle my chair, uncannily knowing that it is dinner time
5:00 PM - Dinnertime
6:00 PM - Second dinnertime
7:00 PM - Second short nap time
10:00 PM - Bedtime

Further observations to follow.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Prostatus Quo

With the prostate surgery now behind me, so to speak, I can report on a few things. It’s too soon to tell how it all will play out, but there are a few immediate effects I can describe.

First, I don’t know if there’s actually such a thing as phantom prostate pain, but I’ve got it.

Second, the human body is amazing. Never take things for granted. Even the simplest bodily functions can become … well, not so simple.

Third, food is wonderful. There’s such an incredible variety of delightful flavors and textures advertised everywhere. I’m really looking forward to being able to have some.

Finally, one completely unanticipated side effect is a penchant for watching old rom-coms on TV. Luckily, doctors assure me this will pass. (The Pick-up Artist is an underrated gem … lots of future stars in smaller roles.)

Friday, September 6, 2013

Charity Ends At Home

Philanthropy is a wonderful thing. People donate money, time, even parts of their own bodies. After all, as Spock said, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” That was Mr. Spock, by the way. Dr. Spock said, “You know more than you think you do.” (I could think of a number of exceptions to this, but that’s for another time.)

So I’ve decided to become an organ donor. Specifically, I’m donating my slightly used prostate to science. I couldn’t find anyone who would pay for it, but perhaps I can take a tax deduction. In fact, if I estimate the value of the prostate by what the hospital’s charging to remove it, I could do alright.

And as it turns out, I work for a company that sells software to hospitals, so maybe I can close a deal or two while I’m on the table. I mean, I’m going to be there anyway, right?

I tell you all this by way of explanation. There may be a brief interruption in the activity of this blog. In that event, should you become desperate, we invite you to peruse the best (and worst) of The Tech Curmudgeon at ... something to offend everyone.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Monday, September 2, 2013

Friday, August 30, 2013

Waiting for the Physician (or Someone Like Him)

The title character in Hermann Hesse’s novel Siddartha lists among his credentials, “I can wait.” (His other talents are thinking and fasting, which always makes me think of the irony of calling certain restaurant chains “fast food.” Wouldn’t fast food be nothing?)

Despite his rather thin resumé, Siddartha makes a good point. Waiting is indeed a lost art in this age of right turns (or anything else) on red lights, texting or emailing anyplace in the world in seconds, and nearly instant answers to any question that can be accompanied by clickable ads. Waiting is simply not something we do much of, and we don’t know how to do it properly.

Fortunately, there’s a treatment program at a certain prominent hospital in Boston that shall remain nameless. (Oh, all right … it’s Massachusetts General.) The program is called Having an Appointment. The way it works is simple. Just show up on time for your appointment. Within hours, you will be on your way to mastering the art of waiting.

Not to be outdone, nearby Lahey Hospital recently added a parking garage that allows only a single lane of traffic going in or out. If one person actually pulls into or out of a spot, the whole garage comes to a standstill.

Not to boast, but I have worked my way up to a very advanced stage. Today I was at the hospital for 6 hours, at least 4 of which were spent in waiting rooms and empty offices. You don’t have to be a mathematician to know that’s more than 50% and less than 100%. But any one of you could attain this advanced level.

Just wait.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Posting of today's The Tech Curmudgeon has been delayed due to cyber-attacks by our enemies. The usual crap will resume shortly.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Quotes of Note

Since I’m now at the point where I’ll become famous late in life, if at all, I thought it would be a good idea to have a lot of quotes prepared. This way, my legacy can include all kinds of wit and wisdom with the appearance of having been dispensed over decades.

Here's what I've got so far:
  • "Nondescript" -- the one word oxymoron.
  • It's nice to be important, but it's more important to be rich!
  • I've tried ice sculpture, but I could only do cubism.
  • If time travel were possible, we'd already know about it.
  • To conserve energy, the speed of fluorescent light is only 185,000 miles/sec.
  • Standardization is the opposite of innovation.
  • A beard makes up for a multitude of chins.
  • The purpose of life is to find the purpose of life.
  • When you can't think out of the box, try eating out of the box.
  • You shouldn't joke at other people's expense. They never pay up.
  • If pigs could fly, imagine how great barbecued wings would be!
  • 99.7% of all statistics are made up.
  • Satire - Criticism dressed as witticism.
  • Dental floss: A string-like tool used to dislodge food from between the teeth and fling it onto the bathroom mirror.
  • Necessity is the mother of invention. We don't know who the father is.
  • Remember nostalgia?
  • Consciousness is the feeling that consciousness is more than just a feeling.
  • A picture is worth a thousand words, but writing a thousand words is a lot faster than drawing a picture.
  • Laughter is the best medicine, but my health insurance won't pay for my comic books.
  • Health insurance and life insurance should come from the same company. Then you'd get good health care!
  • Shakespeare was five feet long.
  • They say if you hang around Times Square long enough, you'll see every show you ever saw.
  • My doctor won't let me take anything with a grain of salt.
  • It's too late to be a child prodigy. Maybe I still have a shot at middle-aged man prodigy.
  • The two most popular comedy forms are stand up and sit com.
  • The good news: I'll get to it in a minute. The bad news: It has to be the last minute.
  • If I only ate what's good for me I'd starve to death.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Urban Legends

A detailed analysis of our site statistics has revealed that many of this blog's readers are also Internet users and, as such, are routinely exposed to various myths, legends and bugaboos that circulate with alarming frequency. As a public service, we here address some of the most prevalent of those so that readers won't be misled by any bugaboos. (I just love saying that.)

Anything on the Internet is copyright free. 

TRUE. Just help yourself to anything you find. There's absolutely no reason to honor the wishes of the photographers, artists, writers and other creators who put this stuff out there. It's not like you're making money on it, so why should they? Anyway, the exposure will probably bring them more business, right?

Macs are better than PCs.

UNCONFIRMED. Our rigorous testing and analysis suggest that Macs are like skinny young guys in jeans, and PCs are like portly guys in stuffy suits. Anyway, who still uses Macs and PCs?

The current millennium began on Jan. 1 2001, not Jan. 1 2000. 

TRUE, but really, any group of 1000 years is a millennium. It doesn't have to start on a round number. For that matter, any group of 365.25 days is a year, so you could say the current millennium just started now. Or now.

Or now.

Facebook will use my personal information unless I post a privacy notice telling them I own it.

FALSE. Facebook has no interest in your personal information. They rely on highly sophisticated algorithms to determine what ads to present to you, with no need to stalk you. It's all advanced computer stuff. You wouldn't understand.

The part about the privacy notice? Yeah, good luck with that.

Obama was born in Kenya.

TRUE. When he was born in 1961 in Kenya, his parents decided that he could be President of the United States if only he had been born in the U.S. So they smuggled the newborn into Hawaii and arranged to have a birth announcement run in the Honolulu Advertiser and the Star Bulletin, and to have a birth certificate put on file.

Cats are cute, especially when they speak ungrammatically.

FALSE. Cats always speak with perfect grammar, but the people who transcribe their sayings are ... well, it's the Internet.

Sharks have been found all over New York and/or some other major cities. 

TRUE. Loan sharks? Absolutely.

Or now?


Monday, August 19, 2013

Schedule Notice

Due to circumstances beyond our control1, the publication of today’s The Tech Curmudgeon post will be delayed until Wednesday. Consequently, Wednesday’s post will appear on Friday, Friday’s on Monday, and so on until the end of time (unless future unforeseen circumstances force further delays.)

We regret any inconvenience this may cause.

1Some would argue that the circumstances in question, namely our sheer laziness, are in fact under our control. We refer these skeptics to recent research on genetics, cognitive psychology and behavioral economics indicating that much of our behavior is determined by a confluence of genetic, pre-natal and early post-natal factors. A broader discussion of the topic of free will is deferred to a later post.

Friday, August 16, 2013


The game of MONOPOLY, beloved of millions and part of our cultural heritage, has grown somewhat dated over the years. It recalls an Atlantic City of the days before gambling, Donald Trump and Hurricane Sandy. While this quaint pastime appeals to our sense of nostalgia, its primitive rules are too simplistic for today’s sophisticated gamer. We therefore propose these few modifications.


The object of the game is to become the wealthiest player in the game, through whatever means necessary.


The equipment consists of a board, 2 dice, tokens, 32 houses and 12 Hotels. There are 16 Chance and 16 Community Chest cards, 28 Title Deed card (one for each property), and play money.


Place the board on a table and put the Chance and Community Chest cards face down on their allotted spaces on the board. Each player chooses one token to represent them while traveling around the board. Players take turns rolling the dice and receiving a starting amount of $1000.00 times the amount shown, in any denominations they choose.


Select as Banker a player who will also make a good Auctioneer. A Banker who plays in the game should feel free to commingle bank funds and their personal funds at any time.


Besides the Bank’s money, the Bank holds the Title Deeds, and the houses and hotels prior to purchase by the players. The Bank pays salaries and bonuses. It sells and auctions properties and hands out the proper Title Deed cards when purchased by a player, it also sells houses and hotels to the players and loans money when required on mortgages. The Bank also sells collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps.

The Bank collects all taxes, fines, loans and interest, and the price of all properties which it sells and auctions. The Bank is “too big to fail.” If the Bank runs out of money, the Banker may confiscate money from other players at the Banker's sole discretion.


Players take turns throwing the dice and moving their tokens the number of spaces indicated by the dice. Depending on the space your token reaches, you may be obliged to pay rent, pay taxes, draw a Chance or Community Chest card, Go To Jail, or etc…


Each time a player’s token lands on or passes over GO, whether by throwing the dice or drawing a card, the Banker pays that player a salary determined by the player’s token as follows:

TokenSalary paid when token passes go
Top Hat$1000.00
Race Car$500.00
Iron, Wheelbarrow, Thimble$50.00


When you land on a property pay the amount shown on the deed, split equally between the banker and the player with the Top Hat token. (If the Top Hat player is also the banker, that player receives the full amount.)


If your token is the Top Hat, do nothing.

Otherwise, if you land here you have two options: You may estimate your tax at $200 and pay the Bank, or you may pay 10% of your total worth to the Bank. Your total worth is all your cash on hand, printed prices of mortgaged and unmortgaged properties and cost price of all buildings you own.

A player may choose to have another player determine his or her income tax liability, for a consideration of 10% of the total liability.

You must decide which option you will take before you add up your total worth.




You land in Jail when…
  1. Your token lands on the space marked “Go to Jail”,
  2. Your token is the Shoe, and you land within 4 spaces of the “Go to Jail” space,
  3. During income tax computation, another player discovers your cash hidden beneath the board,
  4. You draw a card marked “Go to Jail” or
  5. You have the Shoe token, and the player with the Top Hat token declares you should go to jail.
A player gets out of Jail by…
  1. Being the player with the Top Hat token,
  2. Using the “Get Out of Jail Free Card”
  3. Purchasing the “Get Out of Jail Free Card” from another player and playing it.
  4. Donating $50 to Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election campaign before you roll the dice on either of your next two turns. If you do not throw doubles by your third turn, you must pay the $50 fine. You then get out of Jail and immediately move forward the number of spaces shown by your throw.
Even though you are in Jail, you may buy and sell property, buy and sell houses and hotels and collect rents, arrange to have other players eliminated or collect “protection” fees from other players.


Money can be loaned to a player only by the Bank and then only by mortgaging property or in exchange for real items in the borrower’s possession ... watches, jewelry, etc. No player except the Top Hat may borrow from or lend money to another player.

If the player with the Shoe token’s net worth comes within 15% of the net worth of the player with the Top Hat token, the Top Hat player may borrow the gun from the game Clue and shoot the Shoe player.

NOTE: The player with the Top Hat token and the Banker may at any time amend these rules in whatsoever fashion they choose. If the Top Hat player is also the banker, that player may alter the rules unilaterally at any time.

RULES for a SHORT GAME (60 to 90 seconds)

Take everyone else’s money and declare yourself the winner.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

Job Seekers' Guide

The overall job picture in the U.S. is still grim, but in high technology industries, there are plenty of jobs going begging. Job descriptions are written by master wordsmiths whose goal is to make the most mundane chore sound like ... well, to make it sound pleasurable. So, as a public service, we offer these explanations of some of the terms commonly used these solicitations.
dynamic environment
The company's nowhere.

You'll work your ass off.

You'll work your ass off, and then back on, and then off again. Twice.

There's a foosball table (that you can sleep on, since you'll never get to go home.)

generous benefits
Free candy.

start-up atmosphere
A dozen people, all of whom biked to work without showering (because there are no showers), sitting around a table with laptops.

team player
You'll have no say over what happens.

well funded
You won't get any stock, because the investors have snatched it all up.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Bike Cargo

We’ve talked briefly about this before (See Schlepping), but I’m sure you’re all burning to read more detail, even though you're too polite to say so.

Quickly, there are three types of stuff:
  1. Stuff to lock up the bike with ... commonly called locks
  2. Biking stuff (helmet, water bottle, tools, etc. PLUS foul weather gear!!) 
  3. Stuff to go where you’re going (papers, books, computer, etc.) 
If you have a multi-modal commute, you have to lock your bike somewhere and carry stuff on a train, bus or whatever. (But you get to say “multi-modal.”) That complicates matters even more. There's no good way to leave the biking stuff (tools, winter gear, etc.) on the bike without risking theft. There are two big questions:
  1. What do you do with stuff on the bike? 
  2. What do you do with stuff off the bike? 
Some of the more common solutions include:
This works, but is not especially comfortable to wear while riding. Also, backpacks tend to make you sweat, so you'll arrive at your destination looking like the Creature From the Back Lagoon.

Pronounced pan-yers or pan-yay or pan-ears, depending on who you ask. To simplify, we'll just call it bike badonkadonk, as seen here:

Note also that in a wind, panniers are about as aerodynamic as a refrigerator.

Milk Crates
The classic milk crate is very convenient, since you can put just about anything inside. The drawback is that they can make your bike top-heavy. You may feel the bike has a mind of its own. On the plus side, the milk crate makes a statement. It says “I'm a free spirit ... a rebel ... a maverick who steals from the local dairy.”

Yeah, if you want to look like a paper boy from the 1950’s. Seriously, a single basket in back is not a bad way to go, and you can carry a backpack or other gear in it. But be careful. Remember what happened to Toto!

People use bike trailers for work stuff, groceries, vacation gear and even kids. Of course, it is possible to go overboard.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Amazon Prime

(To the tune of Amazing Grace)

Amazon Prime, how sweet the deals
That saved some bread for me.
How precious now were all those steals
On stuff that shipped for free!

My Kindle now, thanks to you, Prime,
Has all the books I need.
And if I ever find the time,
I may just start to read.

When we’ve seen all ten thousand flicks
I have downloaded free
There’ll still be more in Kindle’s store
Plus reruns from TV.

Though school is hard, I’ve got the books
I need for every class.
My VISA card’s e-statement looks
Like debt up to my ass.

Through many discounts, deals and sales
We’ve come, time after time.
So you should know how much I owe
VISA, Amazon Prime.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Tragedie of MacBook

In news that has stunned the literary world, scholars have discovered what appear to be fragments of a long-lost manuscript by William Shakespeare. If authentic, this work would demonstrate almost unbelievable prescience on Shakespeare's part. Unfortunately, only portions of the first and last scenes have survived, and, while these resemble one of Shakespeare's better known plays, it’s difficult to know what may have gone between.

Act I, scene 1
(A dessert place)

First CEO: 
When shall we three finally merge,
As investors always urge?

Second CEO: 
When our stocks have stopped their slide,
When we come back, like the tide.

Third CEO: 
When consumers cease to care
For MacBook Pro or MacBook Air.

First CEO: 
I come, Zuckerberg.

Second CEO: 
(Chirping sound)
                        Ballmer calls.

Third CEO: 
                                                Next, Page.

Act V, scene 8
(Another part of the field)

Turn, CPU-bound, turn!

I bear a charmed life, which must not yield
To one with Intel inside.

                        Despair they charm.
Know then iPad contains from Apple’s labs
Another chip.

                        Lay on, iPad,
And damned be he that first cries, ‘Battery’s dead!’

Friday, July 26, 2013

Death Rays or Knife-Wielding Robots

We are truly living in the world of science fiction. Sure we don’t have flying cars or nutritionally sound meal-in-a-pill capsules yet, but in many ways, we’re the Jetsons. (Remember, when that show was created in the 1960’s, “jet” still sounded like pretty advanced technology.)

One way I know this is by the choices I have for treatment of my prostate cancer: knife-wielding robots or death rays. Of course, health care professionals refer to these choices as surgery and radiation, but let’s not mince words.

The surgery is often done robotically. The doctor sits at a console and basically plays a 3D video game version of the old board game Operation. The doctor’s movements control mechanical arms with little clamps, scalpels, etc. on the ends, to pull the little plastic prostate piece out of its little plastic well, hopefully without triggering the buzzer and making the patient's nose light up.

The radiation, on the other hand, can be controlled by computer models of the prostate, or by 3D imaging, to completely fry the prostate while barely putting the surrounding tissue on defrost.

Note that the computers haven’t completely taken over yet. All of these procedures are overseen and controlled by highly qualified medical personnel who, hopefully unlike the cast of Gray’s Anatomy, spent their medical school and internship years learning and acquiring skills instead of rutting like rabbits.

So now it’s up to me to choose … robots or rays.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013


As always, our tireless correspondents are scouring the globe, looking for things of funniness to bring you. These things may be informative or inspirational or historically significant, but their main distinctive quality is funniness. And, as always, if we can’t find events worthy of sophisticated, high class humor, we just make something up.

But once in a while, as today, we come up empty. There’s simply nothing funny going on. Or at least, not funny by our excessively strict standards. Of course, we set the bar pretty high. We don’t stoop to mere poop jokes unless they’re anatomically and scatalogically accurate. We don’t simply mock public figures (with the possible exception of that utter dork-wad, Anthony Weiner!) unless we can hoist them by their own petards, whatever those are. And we never violate our own strict pun control laws.

So with sincere regrets, we apologize for this meager content.

Hey! At least we didn’t leak your identity to some hackers!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Prostate of the Art

Long-time readers are aware that I’ve tried a number of approaches to enlarging the audience of this blog. I’ve tried using trendy hash tags like #colo-rectal and #precambrian. I’ve tried using whimsical illustrations, ‘shopped photos and even cats. I’ve tried the direct appeal … shamelessly asking readers to refer their friends. (Of course, the usual recommendation is to post engaging content consistently, but hey, that’s not going to happen.)

After mulling this over, it has occurred to me that the best way to increase readership, gain attention, and generally make an impression is cancer. That’s right! Cancer. Just look at what it did for Frank Zappa and Steve Jobs, not to mention Angelina Jolie. Cancer is what makes doctors drop their usual peremptory tone and instead engage in serious, sympathetic conversations. It’s what sends thousands out to walk, run and bike endurance courses each year. And it’s what motivates the Make-A-Wish Foundation to fulfill people’s dreams.

So you can imagine how I felt when the prostate biopsy came back positive. But I don't want to paint too rosy a picture. Certainly there are downsides to being diagnosed with cancer. It does mean spending a lot of time with hospitals, doctors and nurses and copies of Newsweek from the Nixon era. It also means making difficult decisions, like how much quality of life would I sacrifice for the sake of more aggressive treatment? (Bear in mind that one of the qualities of life I’ve always valued is having lots of it.) And both the disease and the treatments have potential unpleasant side effects, such as death or difficulty peeing.

But the promotional opportunities are undeniable. Of course, I found out too late that cantankerous whiners are not really the Make-A-Wish Foundation’s target demographic. But what the heck? I’ll start my own charity, The Tech Curmudgeon Foundation for Cancerous Cranks, Misanthropes and Anti-Social Misfits. (Okay, so TCFCCMASM doesn’t really sing, but hey, MAWF?)

Maybe there could be an annual Tech Curmudgeon Ride, in which everyone has to use some unusual human-powered vehicle. Trikkes, ElliptiGOs, unicycles, etc. would be the norm. Of course, if this event ever became too popular, then the unusual would become commonplace. But at least it would get the name Tech Curmudgeon out there.

Of course, the odds are pretty good that this is completely treatable. Then I’ll just have to go back to trying to think of something clever.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Fire + Meat = Food

This is the time of year when ordinarily ordinary people are seduced by the pyromania of the backyard grill. Many have been known to rummage frantically through refrigerators full of unidentifiable leftovers in search of some new item to incinerate. To help you participate in this pastime, we offer a few tips and some proven “sure fire” recipes.

There are many types of grills, but the basic categories are charcoal and gas. The choice is a matter of personal preference, but bear in mind that charcoal is more apt to flare up, producing out-of-control flames that can scorch your food and create a fire hazard. A little charcoal lighter fluid will enhance this effect.

The first thing you need to know is that properly lit grills are hot. (See manufacturer’s instructions.) Use caution.

Despite the heat, it takes time to properly cook the food. To avoid the temptation of repeatedly poking and prodding the items on the grill, it’s helpful to have something entertaining to do during the cooking process. I recommend Cheez-Its.

Sure Fire Recipes

Sure Fire Fire
  1. Light grill. (See manufacturer's instructions.)

Sure Fire Grilled Steak 
  1. Light grill. 
  2. Place steak on grill. 
  3. When steak is done, remove (Important!) and eat. 

Sure Fire Grilled Chicken 
  1. Light grill. 
  2. Place chicken on grill. 
  3. When chicken is done, remove (See note above!) and eat. 

Sure Fire Escalopes de veau sautées a l’estragon 
  1. Light grill. 
  2. Place escalopes de veau on grill. 
  3. When escalopes de veau are done, remove and eat with sautées a l’estragon.

We hope you enjoy these recipes, and your new found talent at grilling. Be sure to read our upcoming posts on treating burns and extinguishing house fires.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Missing Personhood

by The Tech Curmudgeon
(not a.k.a J. K. Rowling)

I suppose most people who think about it believe in some concept of fairness … that people should get what they deserve. People who are creative, industrious, virtuous or whatever else we consider good should prosper and do well in life. People who are less worthy … serial killers, maybe … not so much.

The big political differences, of course, lie in how we define worthiness. If we consider the recent Farm Bill passed by House Republicans, for example, big agri-businesses are worthy of government largess, while people who can’t afford food are obviously undeserving.

Now I can appreciate that people who have the temerity to lose their jobs, and the incredible self-indulgence to live at the poverty level, should not be rewarded for their anti-social behavior. But what about the kids?

There are kids who go to bed hungry every night. There are kids whose parents are drug addicts, or dealers. There are kids who are neglected, victimized or abused. How could they possibly deserve that?

This troubled me for a long time, until the answer finally dawned on me. It’s right there in the Republican platform. The inescapable logic of this can be summed up in a single word: personhood.

For those in the cheap seats, personhood is the idea that a fertilized egg … called a zygote … is a person, with all the associated rights and privileges. From the moment a human egg and sperm hook up, they become a full blown dude or dudette. That gives them a full nine months to be virtuous or villainous right there in utero, before they're even born!

So clearly the kids who have cancer and can’t afford treatment, the kids who inherit AIDS or drug addiction from mom and dad, the kids who are confused, misused and abused … did something naughty in the womb. Maybe they wrote on the walls, or bullied their twins. Maybe they kicked too hard, or tried to go breech. Whatever it was, it earned them their fates.

Once you accept the idea that everyone gets what he or she deserves, that’s the only possible explanation.