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