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Saturday, February 9, 2013

The Solipsist Reads the Paper (So You Don't Have To)

Buried in a report about the Nemocalypse battering the Northeast was this little tidbit: "Maine declared a partial emergency, allowing it to suspend federal transportation rules, extend worker hours and bring in extra crews from Canada to assist with storm damage repair."

Dear Maine, I know you're digging out from snowfalls of biblical proportions, but don't be snowblind to the dangers posed by "well-meaning" Canadians!  Once these subversive maple-suckers gain a toehold in American soil, there's no telling where they'll stop!  This time next year, we could all be sucking on Molsons and acting politely to each other!  I urge all my Maine readers to resist the Canadian surge.  And in case I have no Maine readers, I encourage my followers around the Northeast to form a human microphone (a la Occupy Wall Street) to scream this warning to our for-the-moment compatriots in the Lobster State (or whatever).

Of course, if the Canadians DO manage to infiltrate America, we may just be able to sic a few drones on 'em.  During confirmation hearings for John Brennan as CIA director, the nominee revealed that the Obama administration has discussed the feasibility of creating a special court (along the lines of the FISA court, which currently rules on the admissibility of wiretapping) that would hear arguments about whether an individual--particularly an American citizen--could be targeted for drone-strikes.

Personally, if I were a judge, you could not PAY me to sit on such a court! I would TOTALLY do it for free!  I mean, come on!  "How was your day, Dear?"  "Oh, not bad.  Had a few meetings.  Lunch with Roger.  Authorized death from above."  How cool would that be?

I probably wouldn't last long in the job, though.  I think the administration would grow tired of my compulsion to include on all my orders lines from the movie "300" or pseudo-Schwarzeneggerian sign-offs: "Hasta la vista, terrorists!  You have not a REMOTE chance of avoiding being DRONED und CRATERED!"

Another article profiles the teenager who unwittingly helped ignite the Syrian revolts that have so far left thousands dead and hundreds pf thousands displaced.  The teenager (whom the paper does not name, for obvious reasons) inspired rebellion when he was arrested and tortured for participating in the relatively innocuous "crime" of anti-regime graffiti: "He watched his cousin spray-paint the wall of a school in the city of Dara’a with a short, impish challenge to President Bashar al-Assad, a trained ophthalmologist, about the spreading national revolts.

“'It’s your turn, doctor,' the cousin wrote."

All I can say is, an opthalmologist AND a sadistic dictator?  SOMEBODY had quite the "Tiger Mom."

An increasingly popular app called Snapchat combines the availability of instantaneous chatting provided by Facebook and Twitter with the ephemerality of those dissolving cassettes at the beginning of every episode of "Mission: Impossible."  It seems that people--especially younger folks--are growing weary of having every youthful indiscretion stored indefinitely on the world's servers.  Snapchat messages and pictures automatically self-delete after a set period of time, encouraging people to express themselves more revealingly than they might do on a less transitory platform.  I think this is a great idea, and I am already developing the app that I think will be the logical successor to Snapchat: I call it, "Talking to People."

In New York, the Department of Homeless Services is paying landlords thousands of dollars to rent rooms that would normally go for a few hundred.  I would hereby like to officially offer up my spare bedroom (formerly known as SOS's room) for use by New York's Department of Homeless Services.

Finally, John Karlin, formerly of Bell Labs, has died.  Actually, he died on January 28.  I guess the Times delayed the announcement of Karlin's death to spare his family the crush of paparazzi that would otherwise have surely disrupted his funeral.

Who was John E. Karlin, you ask?  (Don't pretend you know!)  He was a pioneer in the field of industrial psychology, the study of the way that human beings interact on a psychological and emotional level with technology.  The study of the way people interact physically with technology is known as ergonomics--or Japanese pornography.

Anyway, we largely have Karlin to thank for the layout of the touch-tone phone and its many descendants.  Much time was spent deciding, for example, the appropriate size of the buttons, as well as their layout: lower numbers on top vs. lower numbers on bottom, that kind of thing.  All I can say is, I'm glad Karlin's team rejected the proposed "QWERTY" keypad (or, more accurately, "KWERTY"), which would have had the top row go 5-9-3 and placed the "star" key (which even then nobody had a use for) where the seven is today.  Rest in Peace, Mr. Karlin.  To hear a eulogy, please press the pound key or remain on the line.

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