Curmudgeonly Quotes

“We’ve heard that a million monkeys at a million keyboards could produce the complete works of Shakespeare; now, thanks to the Internet, we know that is not true.” — Robert Wilensky

If you love something set it free.  if it was truly yours, it will come back.  if it doesn’t, hunt it down and kill it. –(Unknown)

Everything has been said before, but since nobody listens we have to keep going back and beginning all over again. — Andre Gide

A commitee is a cul-de-sac down which ideas are lured and then quietly strangled. — Sir Barrett Cocks

I figure you have the same chance of winning the lottery whether you play or not.
Fran Lebowitz

In the Soviet Union, capitalism triumphed over communism. In this country, capitalism triumphed over democracy.     Fran Lebowitz

“Rules are just helpful guidelines for stupid people who can’t make up their own minds.”
— Seth Hoffman

A Boy Named Suh

The buzz from the world of pro football today is reaction to the antics of a defensive tackle for the Detroit Lions, Ndamukong Suh.  He lost his temper yesterday and tried to plant the helmet of one of the Green Bay Packers while his head was still in it.  And then in a typical show of good sportsmanship, kicked him.
This is apparently not unusual behavior for Ndamukong (say it with me once, En DAM uh kong).  Nor is it  especially compelling.  The behavior of spoiled, overpaid athletes can only hold my interest for a nanosecond or two.  It’s all over the sports news for two reasons; 1) there isn’t much else to talk about, and b) sportscasters and pundits like to pronounce his name.  And, in the recesses of their busy little minds they are making up rhymes:
Ndamukong Suh
Ndamukong Suh
Makes a quarterback black and blue
When the ball is snapped
He’ll run over you
And just for good measure
He’ll kick you too!
I’m just happy that Brett Favre isn’t retiring again, because nothing rhymes with Favre.

What I Love About Football

  I  like football.  It is a great game, full of drama, amazing feats of athletic skill and intriguing personalities.  But here’s what I REALLY love about it:

  1. That it almost completely takes over autumn weekends on most televisions, restaurants, bars and living rooms.  I think it is a sign that society is moving in a healthy and positive direction when so much focus is placed on large, young, overpaid men whose primary purpose is to crash into one another.  Music, art and literature, which used to pop up occasionally on Sunday, have been shoved to early morning, late evening and radio stations at the far end of the dial.  Which seems only right.  Why burden a semi-conscious viewing public with choices?  Why expose them to things that their friends won’t be texting about, posting about, talking about ad nauseum.  Why in the world even suggest that the current glut of mainstream entertainment options may be just a tad narrow?  This is America, where we are all free to think like everyone else, as long as we don’t over do it.

  2. The strong, almost intrinsic, connection between football, beer and high cholesterol foods.  If a fan in, say, Wyoming, sat down in front of the Bears vs. Packers game on a chilly afternoon in Cheyenne with a glass of Chablis and some hummus, by close of business on Monday he could be under discussion for entry in the FBI’s Ten Most Wanted List.  “Hummus, right?  That may be foreign.  Ever notice that nothing rhymes with hummus?  Not like beer, deer, fear, smear, leer, …. . And hummus doesn’t even have a strip on the label that tells you when its cold.”

  3. The irrepressible use of statistics to convince viewers of things they could not care less about.  It is a well-researched fact that 73.1 percent of all statistics are completely misunderstood by those that read them on a TV screen.  The other 26.9 percent flash by too quickly to be even read.

  4. The use of metaphors.  Every pre-game huddle uses a blitz of football terms to score a touchdown with its viewers. The object is to bring us into the locker room, especially considering that fans are the twelfth man.  And after the game we can listen to former players during the extra point, or even, the fifth quarter.  There is a movement among high school and college professors to introduce English into football, but so far there is not much interest from the commercial side of the ball.

I like football a lot, but not enough to plan my Saturday, Sunday, Monday night and Thursday night, not to mention my eating habits, around it.  For example, last Monday night I turned off the television and read a book.

Please don’t tell anyone.

The Long Term Dangers of Agriculture

Found a wallet today on a table at a library.  It was a woman’s wallet, sort of a brushed cotton blue with a strap and snap arrangement on it.  Men’s wallets don’t have those. I had a brief image of folded cash, pictures of children, license, social security card, maybe a shopping list. Paper distillations of the things that make her unique, that make her different from me, and from whoever is reading this.  I looked in fascination, and horror, at the closest thing I will ever come to a stranger’s essence. It was soft, like decaying fruit, and for some reason, I was intimidated by it.  I asked the woman sitting next to me if it war hers, and she looked at me like I just asked her to donate a kidney.  Perhaps she was intimidated by it too.

No one else was around.  I thought maybe I could just leave it there, and someone would come back for it.  But then the person, the woman, would wonder why I hadn’t turned it in.  Maybe, she would think, I was waiting for an opportunity to run off with it.  Because, she would reason, no adult would be dense enough not to see a wallet on a small table within of foot of where he was sitting.

Nor could I walk away from it.  It would be a blue tell-tale heart, thumping and pounding louder and louder until I couldn’t take anymore and would shout like Poe’s breathless narrator “”Villains!  Dissemble no more! I admit the deed!”

No, there was no escape.  I was responsible for the dreaded thing.

No one seemed to be watching, so I picked it up, thumb and forefinger only, to make a fingerprint or DNA match more difficult, and moved toward the librarians desk.  It seemed heavy, compact, stuffed with the detritus of this unknown person’s life.  Coins, credit cards, receipts.  The atoms that make up the elements that combine into the chemistry of a civilized life.

I hoped for a graying, stooped librarian, someone I could feel superior to, but fate was cruel.  She was young, blonde and doe-eyed.  I hesitated, but only for an instant.  “Here,” I almost shouted at the girl.  “Someone left this in the table over there.” She took it, and wrapped her whole hand around it, probably overlaying my prints and DNA.  Anyway, I certainly hope so.

“Oh,” she said.  And again, “Oh”.  Not a ‘thank you’ or, ‘oh really’ or, ‘sure, she did’.  She turned away without another word, like women in this upscale neighborhood library forget their wallets all the time, and it was gone.

I went back to my table, opened my newspaper and took a long, slow breath.  As I did, I saw a man on the other side of the room put a briefcase on the floor and walk away from it.

‘Tis Not The Season, Not Just Yet

Two local radio stations have changed their format to ‘All Christmas Music, All The Time’ as of November 1st.  November 1st being fifty-five days before the big event.  They will keep that format until just after New Years Day, when they will change to ‘All Martin Luther King Day Music, All The Time’, although it may be harder to fill several days with music for, by or about MLK.  Off hand, I can think of one stanza from “Abraham Martin and John” by Dion, and that’s pretty much it.

A few days after MLK Day, their format will shift again to ‘All Valentine’s Day Music, All The Time’, and then to ‘All Saint Patrick’s Day Music, All The Time’.   Memorial Day, Earth Day and Take Your Daughter To Work Day wait anxiously for their turn at musical excess.

The dictionary defines ‘crass’ as “without refinement, delicacy or sensitivity”.  Lyrics advising that “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” before I buy my Thanksgiving turkey qualify as lacking in refinement.  The prospect of “tiny tots with their eyes all aglow” finding it hard to sleep for the next fifty-five  nights is an anarchist’s dream, and every parent’s nightmare.

I know many people love Christmas music at any time of the year.  I know that I represent only two ears out of hundreds of thousands.  However, until mid-December, the musical format on my radio will be set to “Off, All The Time.”

 

Max’s Bladder

A canine bladder is a small thought-bubble-shaped sac safely embedded near the dog’s hind quarters.  Its only purpose is to store urine until the sac is full, and then alert the dog that he needs to empty it.  (It would be nice if there were a system wherein something else, say a garbage can, would alert a local teen-ager that he needs to empty it.  Although the chances of the teen-ager actually reacting to the alert are about as good as the Beatles making a comeback as Rap artists.  Or someone with the middle name of Hussein being elected president. Oh wait, that happened.)

The sacs can hold different volumes, depending on the size and personality of the dog.  My dog, a Bichon Frise, is a wonderful animal, a companion, a friend, a joy.  But small, and with a disproportionally small bladder.  He is an inside dog, generally content to sit at my picture window and enjoy the world vicariously.  So, going out to pee is a change in his routine, a little ginger to clear his mental palate, and one which he covets.  Left to his own devices, he can pee ten times in two minutes.  Unless it’s cold and I am waiting outside for him.  In that case he pees two times in ten minutes.  Temperatures below freezing seem to have an effect on his ability to hear me call him, as well.

And his bladder seems to have established some kind of psychic connection with my musculo-skeletal system.  The alert that I mentioned before, the one that tells him he needs to go out and empty, only works when I am sitting down.  If I happen to be standing, or walking, it is completely inactive.  But let me sit for a few minutes, and bladder central triggers that little doggie klaxon horn, and he shifts into stare mode.  This psychic connection seems be both unique to me, and also to stream in only one direction.  He pays no attention whatever to any of the other  occupants of my house, and, when I have to pee, it doesn’t seem to matter what his posture happens to be.

The “stare” mode, which also seems to be unique to our relationship, is his method of communication, probably developed over eons of dog-human relations.  Ice age canines would come close to the fire and stare at their human companion until he threw him some meat.  Or chased him away with a stick.  The going outside to pee thing was not an issue at the time, as caves generally did not have storm doors.  Over the millennia, “the stare” has come to mean ‘I need to pee’, ‘I need to eat’, ‘I’m bored’, and ‘why do we have a cat?’.  And he is capable of conveying each of these messages with enviable clarity.  Most conversation between humans is filled with “what?” and “I don’t understand what you mean”, and even “you’re full of it”, but not so with human-dog communication.  I get it.  I always get it.  I’m sitting, he stares, I need to get up and let him out.  I get it.

So, the question that many dog owners ask themselves, “exactly who trained who, here”, is not even worth discussing at this point.  Max, or Maxwell, or Maximum Dog as I call him, is clearly the one with a whip and a chair, and I am the toothless lion patiently waiting for instructions.

The only question that still remains is, why me?  In a house full of physically, intellectually and emotionally capable adults, why is there only one at whom he focuses all his powers of persuasion?

Learn the answer to that, and I can consider myself wise.

Windows vs. Mac

The contrasts are funny, and somehow accurate.  Uptight versus laid back, button down collar versus sweatshirt, swimming upstream versus floating lazily down.  In the beginning, the tech gods said ‘let there be LCD displays’.  Shortly after, Windows computers and Macs were developed and marketed by men wearing white shirts and narrow ties. Because we didn’t know better at the time, they were under the titles of PCs and Apples.  The Mac, an integrated machine designed with graphic arts, color and animation in mind, became the favorites of artists and educators.  The PC, even before the development of the first Windows operating system, Windows 3.1, had a weighty and authoritarian character to it.  Its ‘killer app’ evolution steered toward business applications; word processing, spread sheets, databases.  Many of the most popular programs had small boxes into which users found interesting and creative ways to insert numbers. In the intervening years there has been much overlap.  Most programs are available for either platform, and neither holds a monopoly on a software category.

The difference now is in the user’s experience, and as a Mac user, I am a tad bit prejudiced.  The difference between using a Mac and a Windows computer is the difference between vacationing in Hawaii and in North Korea; between sipping champagne in the back of your chauffeured limo and forcing yourself onto a crowded bus with a square wheel; between sunrise on a lake, and a single dim bulb hanging too high to reach the switch.

Even the names tell you something.  “Mac”, a complete definition in one syllable. “Windows”, incomplete.  “Windows computer”, closer, but not quite accurate.  “Computer Equipped With A Windows Operating System”.  A cadence you can march to, and only fifteen syllables.

Macs start up faster, and shut down faster.  Programs load much more quickly too.  This is usually a plus, but in some circumstances can be a drawback.  When I use a Windows computer at work, I can press the start button, then go make coffee.  Usually by the time the coffee is made, the milk and sugar added, and it has cooled to just the right temperature, the computer is almost ready to use.  Trim my nails, change a few light bulbs, write an operetta, and I’m ready to go. At night, I can shut it off, pop down to the gym for a workout, and be back in time for the screen to go blank.

Viruses, the techno equivalent of a terrorist bombing, are less of a threat. Sure, you can still get a virus with a Mac, but you have to work at it.  Like for example, spend a lot of time at wreckmycomputer.com, or use the screen name “Newby” in the Masters of Malware chat room.  With Windows, chances are when you have finished the ninety minute download of anti-virus software, you have a virus.

Okay, the real difference between the two platforms is in the interface.  Macs are easier, and more intuitive.  Using a Mac is cantering across a meadow on a thoroughbred.  Using Windows is bouncing through a forest on a camel with a toothache.

With the Mac OS X operating system, programs are easier to find, files are easier to find. They actually download to a folder called “Downloads” and they actually save in a folder called “Documents”.  Imagine.

Here is another scenario.  Lose a file in Windows.  Go to Start… Search… choose which kind of search you want to do,  and then fill in the name of what you want to find.  Windows will search every folder, every file on the hard drive, and within ten or fifteen minutes, come up with 3,527 matches.  It only takes you another ten minutes to scroll through them all to find that none of them is the one you want.

Okay, now a Mac.  There  is a small icon of a magnifying class in the top right corner of the menu bar.  Click once, type in your file name, and before the Return button springs back into position, you have the file, the definition of the word, a list of images with that word in it, and a list of songs with that word in the title.  It could also give you the date, time, temperature, latitude and longitude, distance from the sun, local high school sports scores, and recipe for sponge cake, but I have that feature turned off.

You also get fewer pointless questions with a Mac.  Here are a few from the world of Windows:

“Are you sure you want to quit?”

“Are you sure you want to shut down?”

“Are you sure you want to open a different program?  This one seems nice.”

“Are you sure you want to open a new file?  You’ll have to start from scratch, and Windows will probably lose it.”

“Are you sure you want to delete this file?  It’s not that good, but you may be able to salvage parts of it later.”

“Are you sure you want to use the adjective ‘orange’?  Windows feels you might be better off with something more evocative like ‘vibrant’.  ….. No, really, ‘vibrant’ works much better. …… Honestly, Windows feels that ‘vibrant’ is far superior to ‘orange’ in this sentence. … Windows has inserted the adjective ‘vibrant’ into this sentence and nothing you can do will ever change it.”

And then there are the peripherals; servers, printers, modems, etc.   When you buy a Mac, you plug it in to the wall outlet and press the ‘On’ button.  It hums and whirrs for about ninety seconds and then produces a message, in a reassuring and friendly script that informs you, “Your Macintosh has hunted, sniffed, rummaged and investigated every serviceable device within a twenty-five mile radius, and has connected to all of them.  You may now print, surf the internet, make free phone calls, play online war games, gamble, invest, upload, download, refinance your boat, and target incendiary explosives at your neighbors by pressing ‘Command-F7’.”

When you buy a Windows computer, no, a Computer Equipped With A Windows Operating System, you get a separate box with cables, manuals, software licences, adapters, a list of phone numbers for technical support experts for whom English is a foreign language, a list of phone numbers for technical support experts who speak English (however, all the numbers are written in Japanese), aspirin, bicarbonate of soda, and a cyanide capsule.  You know,  just in case.  The cyanide capsule does not have an instruction booklet.  It is assumed that experienced users of the Windows Operating System are familiar with cyanide capsules.