How Things May Be


So the Internet of Things is supposed to be a thing, according to those who keep track of things. This thing will allow us to finally achieve the ancient dream of having our toasters send urgent text messages to our carbon monoxide detector until the toaster gets marked as a spam source and the carbon monoxide detector signs up for LinkedIn (“You have four degrees of connection to the breakfront in the dining room”). What I want to know is, if the Internet of Things finally becomes a thing, will that thing-ness of the Internet of Things itself get on the Internet? And if it does, who will it be sending urgent text messages to? We’re going to have to step up our game of ignoring messages on the Internet if we’re going to have not just Things, but also the Internet of Things, trying to communicate with us.

I’ve lost my point. There it is. If we have all these devices turning into computers and attacking the Internet without any need for interacting with us in particular, mightn’t some turn feral? Are we going to see groups of confused hardware desperately signalling one another, hoping to form their own little packs in the absence of a strong alpha release? At what point will the Internet be intolerably dangerous for human use because we’re crowded out by wild processes indifferent to human needs? I mean after 1999.

Past Customers Have Thought …


“You bought a power brick for your computer recently! Won’t you please review it?” The Best Buy e-mail was simple, and its declarative statement true. But to review it? What could I possibly say?

“Please?” the e-mail begged. “Pleeeeeeeeeeease?” I didn’t even know my computer had Helvetica Extra-Whiny. So naturally I refused.

They sent me a follow-up e-mail. “You still haven’t reviewed the power brick you bought for the Apple MacBook Pro Limited Edition with Peppermint Stripes”, it said, making me wonder if I’ve missed something in not licking my computer. “Couldn’t you please let other potential customers know what to expect?”

Continue reading “Past Customers Have Thought …”

September 2013 In These Numbers


Last month’s bunch of number-reporting came out successfully, in that it was a thing that existed and I didn’t get in any trouble over it, so I’ll try it again. For September I had a total of 397 pages viewed — my second-highest on record, not all that far below June’s 441, and an improvement viewing-wise from August’s 349 — and 162 viewers — fourth-highest, but up from August’s 141 — which means my pages-per-viewer ratio has gotten to 2.45, pretty trivially behind August’s high of 2.48.

The most popular articles of the past thirty days were:

  1. Pythagoras and the Golden Middle-Ish, inspired by an odd quote about Pythagoras and which got a bit of help because I know it captured the fancy of a philosopher and passed on to at least one class;
  2. My Dimmed Stars, about the oddity of someone going around giving mediocre ratings to a lot of articles;
  3. The Mystery Of My Power Cord, which I actually forgot I wrote, about something odd happening with the computer’s power;
  4. Missing International Rabbit Day, which was destined for success because our rabbit is more popular than I am;
  5. Getting To Yes, about an oddity in the download from a quite nice album by the band Steven’s Salute.
  6. The countries sending me the most readers this month are, again, the United States (343, which you surely recognize as the cube of seven), the United Kingdom (7 … really, that few? But you surely recognize that as the cube root of 343), and Canada (6 … I had thought there were more Canadians out there, somewhere, like in Maine or something). Sending me just a single reader each were Argentina, Finland, France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Serbia, South Africa, and South Korea. Indonesia and France carry on their streak of just barely liking me.

    I realize all that, while numbers, isn’t particularly humorous, so please consider these: 46, 8 1/4, 2^{3^{4^{5}}}\div 6 , the cosine of -7, and the largest number smaller than the square root of two. Thank you.

The Mystery Of My Power Cord


I found in the hotel room — this is true, by the way — that the rubber insulation of part of my laptop’s power cord had got torn up. I’m not sure how it happened. The cord was wrapped up, and inside a plastic bag, because I’ve liked putting power cords inside plastic bags ever since that airport security screener told me that was a smart thing to do. But when I pulled it out it looked like it had been chewed open by a tiny bear, or maybe that it had exploded as an even tinier hippogriff guppy hatched from within it. I know what you’re thinking and no, our pet rabbit has a solid alibi. So far it’s still giving power but I wonder how lon

Your Technology Requirements Of Next Week, Today


I had good reason to be in Best Buy during New Student Orientation Week but don’t ask me what it was. Whatever it was comes in second to what I found, a bunch of sheets listing the Technology Requirements for the various universities that students might be going to somewhere around here.

According to Best Buy, according to the various universities, students really ought to have some kind of laptop, because apparently they haven’t noticed students have merged with their iPhones to become a big mass of people with better things to do than notice there’s a professor trying to turn them into informed citizens. I’m delighted they recommend not just getting a laptop but also an operating system and one that’s compatible with Microsoft Office, the leading way to get documents which, on any system, can be read with random lines of XXXXX marks or weird glyphs wherever you’re supposed to sign your name.

Also recommended: anti-virus software, showing that they’re right on top of the big computer security news of 1996 there, and every one of the local universities recommends a laptop with “wireless capabilities”. I considered asking a clerk if they had any laptops without wireless capabilities but was worried that one, in the eagerness to please, would make a laptop wireless-uncapable by the normal expedient of putting it in a transporter pod so as to catastrophically merge its molecules with those of a cinder block.

I didn’t buy anything there.

What Skeuomorphism Means to Me (it doesn’t)


I figured it was a good time to do some serious looking at this new OS X Mavericks and other stuff that Apple’s up to, because it’s all just come out and has finally got its visibility set to “yes”, and I’m in pretty urgent need of some click-bait. I’m bad enough at writing stuff people want to read that I still call it “click-bait”. I’m not sure anyone ever called it that, but I’m sure the people in the industry have a proper and more precise term for it, something like “isomorphic differentiable topological class structures”, because that’s the sort of phrase you never go looking for until you’re desperate for whatever the person using it was selling. My last attempt at click-baiting involved rubbing peanut butter on a USB hub, and that worked pretty well, right up until the thing was robbed by chipmunk, who made off with $2.38 in loose change. Off to looking.

Continue reading “What Skeuomorphism Means to Me (it doesn’t)”

Community Events: Basic Computer Familiarity


Basic Computer Familiarity. The next installment of the Lesser Pompous Lakes Community Library and Media District’s course on Basic Computer Familiarity introduces timid students to the “Q” key as well as the one for increasing the volume, with explanations of how some keyboards don’t have the increase-volume key. Students comfortable with this will be then introduced to “mute”, as a concept, with the key to be introduced two weeks from now. Please alert the instructors beforehand if you are dropping into the course for the first time so they may make arrangements to bring you up to speed, by phone (preferred) or e-mail (snarky of you). Fledged Squirrel Room, 4th Fourth Street Library, Tuesday, 12:30 – 1:30, am or pm TBD.

How To Overcome Popularity


If you’ve followed my advice you’ve managed to become more likable all around, and good for that. But people don’t always know how to stop once they start doing a good thing. This is how approximately 16 percent of all our problems came about: we started out doing something good, such as walking a mile each day, and then kept doing it a little more, such as two miles, or three, and before long we were walking 185 miles each day and finding ourselves far out into the ocean before lunch. Similarly, if you’ve been too good at making yourself likable it’s possible you’re spending all your free time and two-thirds of your neighbors’ keeping up with the obligations of being liked, such as asking people how they are, appearing in Likability Day parades, or trying out hats. So here’s some ways to tamp down that excessive popularity.

Likability is made or broken in small talk. Consider when someone asks you how you’re doing: the temptation is to answer “fine” or “okay” or “somebody dropped my computer from a blimp” or “my tire pressure is low”. Any of them serve to make you look like an interesting, involved person. You must crush this at any moment. Respond by looking sheepishly around and checking that it’s actually you being asked about, and if the person insists, answer that they don’t really want to know. Before long, they will. Or won’t. You know what I mean.

It’s possible this won’t be enough, and people will persist in liking you. Then it’s important to start warning them that you are unlikable, and that people shouldn’t like you. Don’t let up on this. Keep sending out the message that people don’t like you, and eventually even the people who do will give up and go on to more likable people, such as people who won’t stop talking about how they hate that Flickr and Google Maps don’t make much sense in the web browser Lynx.

If someone still hasn’t given up talking to you, computers are a great subject to make yourself less likable. This isn’t about how you use them, exactly, but rather just start talking about how foolish people are to ever buy a new computer, for any circumstance, and keep pointing out that whatever old machine they might have is perfectly usable, if you’re willing to put up with Lynx. Be relentless, something like this:

FRIEND: So I’ll be going to Best Buy to test-drive a bunch of laptops this evening.

YOU: Why do that? Your old computer’s still as good as the day you bought it. Better, if you’ve been sensibly upgrading it and keeping it on a fiber-rich software diet.

FRIEND: It was made by Commodore.

YOU: Then it’s got classic-ish lines and a BASIC that in some ways isn’t perfectly horrible.

FRIEND: And the video chip broke so all it shows on the screen is noise.

YOU: Beautiful! You can set up a web server on that, and ssh in for all your computing needs.

FRIEND: It’s a Commodore 16.

YOU: That’s great, think of the novelty value! Everyone who thought those were only made as a prank will be proven wrong. You’ll be Internet Famous if you market it right.

FRIEND: And I already dropped it over a cliff.

YOU: That’ll make such an interesting blog entry about it.

FRIEND: From a blimp.

YOU: See, who’d do that with an iPad mini?

If people persist in liking you through computer talk, shift to grammar. Everyone has something that annoys them about some words: I don’t like the phrase “grow your business” and for absolutely no rational reason. Maybe it’s because it makes me feel like I ought to have a business to grow. Find your own peeve, though, and carry on about that whenever you can. If you can’t think of something you care about, try complaining about the evolution of the word “decimate”. The only times “decimate” has been used to mean “destroy exactly one-tenth and not more or less” since 1732 has been in sentences composed by people complaining about the evolution of the word “decimate”, so it’s a well-established thing that people don’t want to hear about anymore.

If that doesn’t work, keep trying. Remember, any time you make a social interaction into an endurance contest you have already overcome likability, and congratulations on your victory.