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.

Monday, July 15, 2013

If Restaurants Operated Like Software Companies

The other night, we tried a new restaurant that's been getting a lot of buzz. However, like so many businesses in the Boston/Cambridge area, this place modeled its practices on the software industry. For example, after the food arrived, but before we could tuck in, the waiter asked us to click ‘Ok’ on an iPad to accept the license agreement.

I offered my wife half of one of the egg rolls, but the waiter intervened. “I’m sorry, but your license covers a single user only. You can’t share this item without incurring a separate fee.”

“Fine,” I said. “Just put it on the bill.”

I was about to sample the Beef Teriyaki when the waiter snatched away the dish. “A new version is available,” he announced. “Please wait while we deliver it.”

Twenty minutes later I finally got the Beef Teriyaki upgrade. It was, indeed, delicious.

The Kung Pao Chicken was exquisitely spicy, but at one point, I must have swallowed a hot pepper. I broke out in a sweat. My eyes watered and my hairline receded. I downed what was left of my water, and asked, as best I could through the coughing and sputtering, for a refill. “I’m sorry,” the waiter said, unapologetically. “We’re not responsible for any consequential damage. It’s in the agreement you accepted.”

Unable to eat any more, we asked the waiter to package up the leftovers. “These products are licensed for use at a single site,” he explained. “You’d have to purchase an additional license to use the products at another site.”

“Fine! Just bring the check!!”

When check arrived, the total was $74,392.17. Near apoplexy, we demanded the waiter tell us how they could have the audacity to charge that much for some chicken, some beef and a few vegetables. He explained with exasperating calmness. “True there are only a few dollars worth of ingredients, but it took thousands of person-years to develop the recipes.”

Friday, July 12, 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Dark Ages

Batman: The Dark Knight (2008)
Darkness Surrounds Roberta (2008)
Dark Reel (2008)
Dark Spirits (2008)
Dark Streets (2008)
Dark World (2008)
From a Place of Darkness (2008)
Legend of Zelda: The Sage of Darkness (2008)
Passed the Door of Darkness (2008)
Sea of Darkness (2008)
Victory Over Darkness (2008)
Creature of Darkness (2009)
Dark Country (2009)
Dark Fields (2009)
Dark Frontier (2009)
Dark House (2009)
Dark Moon Rising (2009)
Darkness (2009)
Darkness Waits (2009)
The Darkness Within (2009)
Only Go There At Night: Darkness Rising (2009)
Star Wars: A Galaxy in Darkness (2009)
Vault of Darkness (2009)
And Soon the Darkness (2010)
Beneath the Dark (2010)
City of Darkness (2010)
Dark Metropolis (2010)
Dark Woods (2010)
Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010)
Edge of Darkness (2010)
Eyes in the Dark: Stay Close to the Light (2010)
7 Nights of Darkness (2011)
Beneath the Darkness (2011)
The City Dark (2011)
Dark Girls (2011)
The Darkness, the Rage and the Fury (2011)
River of Darkness (2011)
Sholem Aleichem: Laughing in the Darkness (2011)
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)
The Walk With Darkness (2011)
The Whisperer in Darkness (2011)
All Dark Places (2012)
Dark Blood (2012)
Dark Desire (2012)
Dark Hearts (2012)
The Dark Knight Rises (2012)
The Darkness and Tom Markos (2012)
Dark Shadows (2012)
Dark Tourist (2012)
A Dark Truth (2012)
I Will Follow You Into the Dark (2012)
Lord of Darkness (2012)
Out of the Darkness (2012)
Season of Darkness (2012)
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
Dark Circles (2013)
Dark Feed (2013)
Dark Power (2013)
Dark Skies (2013)
Dark Was the Night (2013)
Deep Dark Canyon (2013)
Dreams of Darkness (2013)
Kissing Darkness (2013)
Heroine Legends: Transition to Darkness (2013)
Into the Darkness (2013)
It's Dark Here (2013)
My Trip Back to the Dark Side (2013)
Redemption: The Darkness Descending (2013)
Rulers of Darkness (2013)
Spreading Darkness (2013)
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
Starship: The Coming Darkness (2013)
Thor: The Dark World (2013)

American feature length theatrical films, 2008-2013
Source: IMDb

Monday, July 8, 2013

Summer Vacation 2013

Once again, we returned to our favorite vacation spot, Interstate 95. We spent the first part of our trip on the Connecticut Turnpike, especially in the scenic and historic Exits 30 to 38 area. It was exciting to see the new billboards and, of course, the truck rear ends provide an ever-changing pageant of ironic commercialism. The hardy New England spirit burnishes all the attractions, even the sex toy and porn shops relocated here from Times Square.

From Connecticut, we travelled to the ever popular New Jersey Turnpike, Gateway to Delaware. Here the ebb and flow of traffic is punctuated by the succession of colorfully named service areas. How can you not feel pride at seeing such great Americans as Thomas Edison, Woodrow Wilson and Vince Lombardi honored with a Quiznos?

And of course what vacation would be complete without the thrilling displays of spontaneous stunt driving? We worry that this entertaining spectacle will be made obsolete by the technology of Google’s self-driving cars. Early reports give no indication that the autonomous cars will even be able to drink coffee or talk on the phone while driving. And will their robot drivers even have middle fingers?

Monday, July 1, 2013

Behind the Scenes

Since we started this Tech Curmudgeon blog more than 6 years ago, letters have been pouring in. Many of them actually formed words and sentences. And of those, one of the questions that seems to keep cropping up is “How do you do this?” So, to answer that, here’s a brief overview of what goes on here.

First, we scour the news, both traditional and new media, in the increasingly desperate hope of finding something funny. Often, a humorous incident or development is staring us in the face, but frequently it’s too ludicrous to be believed.

If that fails, we go through our files to see what topics arose in the past that have not been adequately treated. That sometimes works, as long as the files haven’t been collected at the curb yet.

Once the germ of an idea has been found, our editorial staff carefully reviews it for timeliness and relevance, point of view, accuracy and … well, ok, just kidding about the accuracy. And the other things. It just has to be funny. Sort of.

Following this careful review, we consider how best to present this item for maximum impact. It’s often said that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes we only need 500 words or less, and half a picture would look pretty lame. We also consider how much time is available between TV and bedtime.

Finally, when the whole team is satisfied, we …

Wait. I’ve just reread this. The question is not “How do you do this?” It’s “Why...?”