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 resum√©, 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