Friday, October 21, 2005

pencil factories erased

Dixon-Ticonderoga, venerable maker of yellow #2 pencils, announced it is closing its plants in the US and Quebec. It’s hard to imagine a world without pencils. Where would all the pencil-necked geeks be without a pencil to put behind their ear? How would we pencil-whip all that paper work without pencils? What would we do when it was time to get serious, sharpen our pencils, put our heads together, and solve that big problem? Imagine never having the singular satisfaction of taking a dull, worn, non-writing pencil, sticking it into a high-powered electric pencil sharpener, and pulling out a brand-new, razor tipped, writing *weapon*. A sharp pencil is a versatile thing of beauty. You can flip it up and stick it in ceiling tiles, stab your friend in the front row in the back of the neck, or Christmas-tree fifty bubbles on a standardized test. The humanistic pencil never made a mark that couldn’t be erased. In the world of pencils, #1 is no good…#2 is the best!

Saturday, October 08, 2005


The quality of light outside his window momentarily diverted his attention. He looked up from the computer screen to take in the tree-filtered spray of golden shafts flitting across the clipped grass. It was windy today, the trees bending at unusual angles that reminded him of the deformed trees that grew near the beach, permanantly stretched backwards by the constancy of sea breezes. But these trees outside his window fought the wind, fought to stay in the vertical plane as the wind swept over them in the horizontal plane. Rays of light played on the battlefield, dodging and weaving between swirling leaves and branches. The green canopy attempted to tint the beams as they glanced through, but the light was too swift and artful in its reflection, passing through pure spun as if straight off a solar flare. Building beyond the roiling trees were gray and white clouds, billowing towers of dark power balanced by white formations of undaunted purity, and beyond that, fragments of impossibly saturated blue autumn sky. As the storm approached, the light grew dimmer and more yellow, casting a fuzzy blanket of daffodil over the scene as if gently warning, “Move along, things are going to get violent here in a few more minutes.” He felt a shiver work its way from the bottom of his spine to the top, anticipating the oncoming thunderstorm. He remembered having the same premonition as a kid when he smelled the rain coming through the musty porch screen. He knew, from behind the thick panel of sterile glass, that the air outside was cool and damp but filling with electric charge that would build steadily until it wasn’t satisfied to stay near the ground, deciding in a split second to make an eight-legged spider run toward the heavens. At the same time, charge pooled at the top of the clouds, aching to return to home ground, poking and prodding below the cloud layer for a crevice that would suffice. The arc reaching upwards attracted the arc grasping downwards. The two met just under the black cloud belly with a violent explosion, momentarily stunned, an entertwined, tangled ball of plasmic energy, each tasting the opposite charge until they finally slid by, continuing on their chosen path. The rift of their meeting grew wider, fracturing the air, lowly rumbling at first, building and growing until the full sonic message of heaven and earth’s meeting had been transmitted to the vicinity’s eardrums and foundations and thick glass panels. Just as he turned back to his monitor the lights flickered once, twice, then darkness. “Thank you,” he said to no one in particular, and turned gratefully back to the window to watch the show.

Google grows too fast, crashes Earth

Google's mission in life is to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." This is a great mission and all-- it sounds really, well, useful. But it also really worries me. Isn’t what they’re really doing equivalent to a massive backup of the world’s data?

When do you need a backup plan? That's right, when you think something bad is going to happen. You wouldn’t go to all the trouble to backup your hard disk unless you thought it was pretty likely to crash. You wouldn’t buy home insurance if your house was indestructable, would you?

What’s going to happen once Google has the world’s information stored on a disk farm somewhere? I'll tell you what. A meteor is going to hit us. Or the earth is going to tilt on its axis and cause the next ice age. Some disaster is on its way soon-- that’s the only way to explain why Google is in such a rush to get the backup done. They’ve gone from 650 employees in 2003 to 4,500 employees today. Google recently issued 14.16 million new shares to raise $4.11 billion to buy some more zip drives.

I guess we should take solace in the fact that the information stored on the Internet will live on even if we don’t last much longer. Once the danger is past, Google will execute the ‘restore earth’s info’ command, and the survivors of Armaggedon can get back to accessing useful information about ‘giant squid’ and ‘anna nicole smith’.

Monday, October 03, 2005


You have to love this technological era we live can access email from anywhere, call anyone from anywhere, and reach out and touch anyone from anywhere, anytime. Everything, however, is not all spam and roses...there is discordance...ripples in the electronic fabric of the universe everywhere you look. Here are some disturbing examples:

  • An iPod Nano with 4 GB of memory costs as much as an iPod with 20 GB.
  • Cell phones work best in cars moving at high rates of speed on busy highways.
  • It takes a minimum of three remote controls to watch a movie on your TV.
  • The plane might crash if you accidentally leave your cell phone on.
  • Someone is still using fax machines.
  • My cell phone is smart enough to know what time zone it's in, but will still ring at dinner time.
  • Google is a silly name for a company. Microsoft is still a monopoly.
  • It's a crime to copy digital music, but not a crime to charge $17 for a CD full of crap.
  • You must dial a '1' for long distance from your 'land line' phone, but not from your cell phone.
  • Video games with violence are banned, while the Army publishes a video game.
  • Improvements in scanner technology mean you can now scan *and* bag your own groceries.
  • You can still get lost even with a GPS in your car.
  • The HDTV standard actually contains 18 different standards, some of which are 'HD' and some which are not. Nice 'standard'.
  • It's legal to patent 'one click'.
  • We can track the position of golf balls using ShotLink to +/- 1 cm, but we still need 2 guys with a chain to know if its a first down.
  • The toaster is still the smartest appliance in the house.

Hi Mom! Hope you feel better :)