Friday, February 26, 2010

Garden Hoe!

At my age, I’m not allowed to shovel snow. I cheat just a little, and I avoid any heavy lifting. I have a fine bunch of tools for my petty battles with snow. First, a snow shovel with an unusual shape that balances the weight of the snow beautifully. Second a snow-chopper. Shovels are terrible for breaking up ice and icy snow. Third, a broom, which pushes light snow and slush away, effortlessly.

Today, with nothing else at hand, I tackled a thin layer of icy snow with a garden hoe. You know, that last bit of snow that won’t let go of the ground or the cement walk, that’s trying to morph into dangerous ice. My garden hoe is a five foot wood handle attached at right angles to a thin metal blade. It’s made to scrape weeds, and it’s wondrous at scraping snow! If you have a hoe, try it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

When Will AI Surpass Human Intelligence?

Slashdot raises this question and points to an article in which various experts make their predictions. Here’s mine:

When humans get a lot dumber.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Okay: A Picture of a device

'Anonymous' posted a comment on my Superbowl revelation, saying that my blog is cool, but it lacks pictures of devices. I'm stung by this criticism, of course. Anon, is this good enough for you? (I borrowed this image of a beer-filled USB memory without permission from The Walyou Blog. ) Walyou, thanks, and I hope you're not annoyed.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

All Superbowl, All Day:

You may have noticed that TV coverage of the Super Bowl, especially the pre-coverage, is approaching an extreme. Well, it's going to get worse. I'm sworn to silence about which network is involved, but I can tell you the gruesome details about what's planned for next year.

It will start next November, when the network invites football fans to vote online for the ten best superbowls ever. Now I know many of them were absolute turkeys, but there will plenty of controversy about this, and lots of excitement over the voting, which will remain secret.

Saturday noon before the Superbowl, the countdown will begin, with each of the chosen games replayed in its entirety. There will be new commentary replacing some of the original announcing, and of course, new ads. But by eliminating the half-time and the hoopla, each game will be kept within a three-hour time slot. And then, as the very best previous superbowl comes to its end, next year's real Superbowl will start.

Fans who can skip a night of sleep will get about 35 consecutive hours of Superbowl Football. For the rest of us ... well, this is one network we'll just have to do without for a while. I think this is an awful idea. If you agree with me, please complain to your Network Presidents.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


When PCs were first designed, little thought was given to the likelihood that their owners would need to open them up, to change boards or jumper wires. The first PCs were hard to open, sometimes requiring uncommon screwdrivers. But as PC sales increased, vendors got smart about case design. Within a few years, there were cases that could be opened with nothing more unusual than a quarter, or with clever fingers alone.

Right now, I'm working with a PC that requires me to unscrew fourteen screws to remove its cover. Fourteen! I wish I could talk to the person who designed this case. The way I see it, surely thirteen screws would have been enough. Don't you agree?

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Hello, You've Reached our Happy Family at ...

The title of this blog item is the way our answering machine's announcement begins. We used to have a more vanilla announcement: “Hello, you've reached {our number}; please leave a detailed message.”
The trouble with our old outgoing message was that people called and left messages for “Dr. Smith,” whose number differs from ours by one easy to misremember digit. The last message we got for Doctor Smith was pitiable, something like this: “I'm in great pain and I desperately need a pain reliever fast! Please call me right away.” I decided to change our message to discourage such mistakes.
I really wanted our outgoing message to say: “Hello, if you're calling Doctor Smith, please hang and dial {xxx-xxxx}. Otherwise, please leave us a detailed message.” But that seemed too extreme. So far, the “happy family” thing has done the trick. People pay little attention to OGMs, but maybe they notice we don't sound like a doctor's office.

All Mozart All Day:

January 27 was Mozart's birthday. I have easy radio access to three radio stations that play classical music, morning to evening, and they chose to play nothing but Mozart that day. (They were fund-raising, too.) I have a radio program on the fourth station that plays some classical music, WPRB (103.3 FM in central Jersey and Philadelphia). It's quite common for radio stations to “feature” some composer on his birthday. I generally do not do this. I figure that there are always some fans out there who would rather not hear “wall-to-wall composer X,” so I'm the one who is going to offer an alternative choice.

But Mozart! All day, I had the pleasure of choosing which of two or three of his fine compositions to listen to. What pleasure!