better living through excessive complexity

If my parents had been given a pamphlet called say ... "Geekiness and your child: recognize the signs and know the risks", they might have caught an early warning of the impending telephone dismantling, book-worming, and eventual all night hacking that would take up the bulk of my youth.

"Does your child show any of the following warning markers?
  • An insatiable desire to know how things work.
  • An appreciation for British comedy.
  • An affinity for puzzles, codes, or ciphers.
  • The ability to mock the stupidity of others at a multisyllabic level.
  • A tendency to over complicate everything.
If you answered yes to more than two of these signs you may want to have another kid if you're hoping for grandchildren ..."

Among the many geek attributes that I've harbored since I was young is that last one, a tendency to favor the complicated solution simply because I find it more interesting. You'll see this one a lot amongst the geek enabled out there, usually manifest in some explanation of why said geek is building/doing/learning something they could easily have avoided with the reasoning that going the complicated route is just "more fun". With that in mind, here's an update on last weeks I'm-a-whiner-and-I-really-hate-adverts motif that fairly reeks of geek and unnecessary complexity.

I realize I'm not the first to dream this up, but with mobile tech being what it is I don't think I'm out of line to suggest that it ought to be available by now. What I want are pop-up blockers for real life. A head mounted display (those things that used to be called "VR goggles") with a camera and some modern mobile computing essentials like internet connectivity (even though it is pretty much crap here), an accelerometer, and GPS along with some basic software could take care of this quite handily.

I want to be able to see an ad I don't like and tag it as crap, have that image added to an online database of similar junk that can be updated live to other users, and then have it replaced by something pleasant like a nature scene or some famous art.

Or y'know ... porn. Whatever.

If this seems far fetched have a look at what people are already doing with this tech they call augmented reality. There are already open source libraries available to do this kind of real time image processing. At this point none of what I'm suggesting is science fiction.

Of course it could be annoying if someone tagged say the logo of my corporate masters, I could have a hard time logging on to my desktop at work. Or even worse if someone hacked their way into your "replacement art" collection and dropped a link to youtube in there associated with the tag for say, the image of a taxi cab. Next thing you know you're getting rickroll'd as you try to make your next meeting.


urine and acetic acid

Let's play a game.

Let's say that you, an average, modern Canadian are laying on your deathbed in a clean hospital room with that sanitized smell. You're surrounded by your tearful loved ones who squeeze your hands and pour out their hearts to you with the look in their eyes, while a doctor is explaining to your spouse just outside how sorry she is that she can do no more than ease your pain in these final hours.

Let's say that a stranger intrudes on this most intimate of moments with an offer so fantastic you can't even begin to imagine how it might be true. The stranger tells you that you can have another sixteen months of healthy life, but it comes at a price.

Let's say this fantasy offer truly could be made real if only you loosen your purse strings. How much would you pay? How much would your family pay? How much would you borrow, or beg for, or steal to cover this cost? What number would be too high?

Of course, no stranger that I've ever heard of could make such an offer. However if you are an average and modern Canadian, then statistically by the time you reach the end of your days you will have spent at least (I'm rounding down quite a bit) sixteen months of your life watching commercials on TV.

Now having played our little game, how much more than you currently pay would be willing to part with for one hundred percent commercial free television? Fifty percent more? Double?

It doesn't matter. Since no cable provider anywhere offers such a service, this question will have to remain part of our little game. But it does compel me to share a story my mother told me about how excited she was as a girl when she heard about "pay TV".

In the days of rabbit ears when no one payed for TV, broadcasters had no choice but to make their profits from advertisers. But when pay TV came along it brought with it the promise of commercial free programming. I have no idea if that ever actually happened, but you certainly don't need me to tell you it's not around today. We pay for the privilege of being advertised at all over the place.

Brand name articles of clothing with large logos will cost you top dollar. Commercial DVDs are almost exclusively shipped with not only trailers for other movies and TV shows but also spots for cars and prestige perfume lines that cannot be skipped or bypassed easily. Most perversely if you pay to see a film at the theatre not only are you subjected to threats about piracy, you'll sit through upwards of thirty minutes of ads before the show even starts. If you'd stayed home and pirated it you'd have those thirty minutes of your life back, plus an extra twelve bucks!

Why do we tolerate these intrusions into our leisure time from some industries and not others? What would you do if you bought a CD and when you played the first track discovered that it had a thirty second radio spot advertising car insurance? What if every time you went through a checkout at your local department store the clerk first told you about how many months of jail time you'll do if you try to shoplift something and then went on to describe every item in their weekly flyer before ringing up your purchases?

I wrote last week that I haven't owned a TV in years, not because I dislike TV but due to my deep loathing for commercials. I will never pay to watch a commercial again. I'm that asshole who rolls into the theater twenty minutes late every time and makes you get out of my way so I can get to the only available seat beside you. I'm the guy who keeps the folks manning kiosks laden with bootleg copies of next weeks blockbuster movies in business. I'm the guy who refuses to buy anything with more than a three centimeter logo on it.

Want me to wear your swag? Fine, pay me like you pay the billboard industry. You can't shovel shit into your customer base like they're nothing but mouths with wallets and then cry foul when they find a way to make you obsolete. Find a way to sell me what I want or file for chapter eleven.

Game over.


a confused girl with a clipboard

So I'm sitting at home after a screwing things up magnificently at the cubicle, beer in hand, pants off, shirt unbuttoned.  Full relaxation mode in effect.  When suddenly there comes a  rapping at my chamber door.  Now I've recently moved, and since my new apartment is pretty much awful, exactly three friends of mine have been here since I moved in and two of them live on the other side of the country.  I'm pretty sure the other one wouldn't just show up without letting me know first.  Confusion sets in.

I toss on a pair of pants, fasten a paltry number of shirt buttons and squeeze the door open cautiously to find a girl roughly my age with a clipboard and a name tag with a bold Rogers logo emblazoned across it.

I sigh heavily.

Examining her clipboard she declares, "You must be Montserrat, I'm here to ensure all your Rogers services are satisfying your needs".  "No that's not me", I reply, "I just moved in, I'm subletting from her".

Her eyes shine briefly as she switches into new customer mode.  "Oh!", she says.  "Well are you a Rogers customer?"

"I don't own a TV", I tell her honestly.  "Internet?", she says, grinning.

When I moved in I was a DSL customer.  Not Bell, but a smaller DSL reseller here in Southern Ontario.  However my crappy apartment doesn't have a phone connection.  Oh there's a phone jack, but the wire goes nowhere.  I cancelled the account after paying for two months of useless service.  The building has yet to respond to my now two month old request to have the connection repaired.  So no, I have no internet service.  But my neighbours do, and no one has showed them how to configure wifi security yet.  I think I'll send them a nice bundt cake for Christmas.

"No.  No internet", I tell her.

"Cell phone?", she asks.  Truth be told I was a Rogers cellular customer until I took a trip out of the country earlier this year.  I called before departing to find out what my roaming chargers were like and was assured that they were quite reasonable.  I came home from my expensive vacation to a five-hundred dollar Rogers bill that I refused to pay.  They charged interest for several months while I argued with them until it hit about eight hundred.  They hired a lawyer.  I payed the bill and cancelled my account.  I figure they spent a few bucks per hour on their own collections people, another few on the collection agency, and prolly a bit more on the lawyer.  I feel like I got my money's worth.

"No", I tell her.  "I don't have a cell phone".

"Well you must have a home phone", she declared.

"Must I?"

"Oh" ... "Well, what do you do when you're at home?", she asks with a look of genuine confusion.

"Read.  Drink.  Sleep.  But not always in that order."

"Oh", she says glancing back at the clipboard for reassurance before adding, "Well have a good night then".

Thanks clipboard girl.  I'm sure I will.


more truth in the city

Some crazy business went on the other night at the movies.  Fortunately my man Ogcin spells it out better than I woulda.  Read on for the chuckle.


overheard at the bar

A naive young brunette is drinking imported beer and jotting down a few words in a journal at my local dive the other night when a greasy guy ten years her senior sits down next to her and they begin to talk.  I catch snips of wide eyed liberal, second-year-of-college type chatter when the conversation turns to vegans.

her: Oh yes I am a vegan!  How did you guess?

him: Just a hunch I suppose.  I heard a funny story about a vegan PETA lobbyist who was trying to get Ben & Jerry's to stop using cow milk in their ice cream.  He said to them, "would you subject human mothers to the kind of treatment the cows who provide your milk receive"?

her: *giggles*

him: Well the Ben & Jerry's people said, "But breast milk is for baby's, it's an unfair comparison."  So the lobbyist simply replied, "you're right, and cow milk should be for baby cows."

her (completely serious): Wow, so what happened?  Did they start using breast milk instead?

me: Bartender, another double over here.