Archive for the ‘Technology’ Category

Computer annals: Reyes Korzybski and the avalanche of spam

February 24, 2018

The latest affliction in my technological life: an avalanche of comments spam on this blog, thousands a day, almost all of it from the same commercial site (which I will not, of course, reveal here). Each with a perky message or query, each labeled as from a named person — the names fairly obviously created by random choice from a giant database of personal names and surnames. I only notice the names that happen to be at the top of the spam file, but they’re often entertaining. This morning’s treasure is Reyes Korzybski, obviously an eccentric but regal Pole from the rocky shores of Marin County CA.


The power of the pen

December 25, 2017

Zippy continues his visit to North Carolina — yesterday Salisbury, today Charlotte — with Xmas pleasure and puzzlement about the antique technologies of pen and paper:


The public art work is The Writer’s Desk (2005, by Larry Kirkland) at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Library:  a bronze quill pen in an inkwell at the top of a stack of books, surrounded by typewriter keys, pencils, and hand stamps.


Show me the way to go home

November 4, 2017

Yesterday’s New Yorker daily cartoon, by Kaamran Hafeez:

(#1) “There is no home button. You just click your heels three times.”

Another cartoon in which two disparate worlds intersect in a surprising or absurd fashion: in this case, the worlds of The Wizard of Oz (the 1939 movie) and of technological devices (smartphones). Intersecting in the notion of home and going home, with a different sense in each world.

To understand the cartoon, you need to know a famous quotation from the movie:

Then close your eyes and tap your heels together three times. And think to yourself, ‘There’s no place like home’.

And you need to know about the home button on devices, taking you to a home screen or a home page.

In fact, fully appreciating the cartoon requires that you know something crucial about the recently released Apple iPhone X, namely that it has no home button.



September 28, 2017

From Bonnie and Ed Campbell, on the occasion of my cataract surgery yesterday, something for me to enjoy looking at: an animated greeting card from the Jacquie Lawson company, with kaleidoscopic autumnal images. A screen capture from it:

 (#1) Leaves, berries, and acorns (in 6-part symmetry)


Antique technology (and its songs)

September 6, 2017

For two days in the Zits strip, Jeremy’s mother worked at getting him to submit his application to renew his automobile registration via what some have come to call, retronymically, postal mail, using the antique technology and infrastructure of cards and letters, stamps, mailboxes, and a system for transporting and delivering physical pieces of mail. Today, Jeremy admits to his buddy Pierce that he capitulated to this exotic technology, and rather enjoyed the experience —


but Pierce treats the technology involved as not merely antique, but literally ancient.

Yesterday I refrained from playing the Swiss card: the music of the PostBus service. But now I’ll dive into the great ocean of mailmusic.


Obsolete technologies and middle verbs

September 5, 2017

A pair of Zits strips, from yesterday and today:


The theme is the looming obsolescence of technologies and their supporting infrastructures and social practices, in this case the system of mail delivery (cue Thomas Pynchon’s novella The Crying of Lot 49), with all its parts and accompaniments: postage stamps, envelopes and postcards, mail boxes, mail transport and delivery systems, posthorns and their tunes, delivery personnel in uniforms, mail slots, post offices, conventions for the form of letters, and more. If you’re young and well wired these days, this all could be as mysterious and exotic as analog clocks.

Jeremy is wary of the whole business.

And yes, Pynchon is relevant.


Fixing things

July 9, 2017

Yesterday’s Mother Goose and Grimm, featuring the computer dogs (the bull terrier Grimm at the keyboard, the Boston terrier Ralph advising him):


To understand this strip, you need to know about keyboard shortcuts on a Mac computer, in particular the combination

Command-Z: Undo the previous command. You can then press Command-Shift-Z to Redo, reversing the undo command.

⌘-Z undoes, or reverses, keyboard actions. In the cartoon, the dimwitted Ralph suggests using this computer key combination to reverse events in general — in this case, the falling of the lamp to the floor and the breaking that resulted from the fall. ⌘-Z will fix it!

If only.



May 21, 2017

Two recent cartoons, a One Big Happy in which the grandmother copes with black street speech with an app for her audience; and a Doonesbury in which marijuana companies tailor their products and their advertising for gay and black audiences.


The Z with the ‘za

May 10, 2017

Caught on the streets of Palo Alto yesterday, a food delivery truck from this company:


The one I saw had a snappier slogan, something along the lines of “World’s Only Cooked-On-The-Road Pizza”.  And then there was the name: as a Z-person, I’m keenly alert to words beginning with Z. In any case, our robot overlords are now making pizzas in trucks. Right here in Silicon Valley.


For want of an A, the world was saved

May 9, 2017

The latest xkcd cartoon, #1834 Lunch Order:

You say launch order, I say lunch order; let’s call the whole thing off