Archive for the 'WTF?' Category

Dec 04 2009

The Machines Have Already Taken Over, Part I

Published by under Technology,WTF?

So, when did they pass a law requiring me to be polite to a computer?

Look, maybe I’m just too steeped in this world-takeover stuff (any day now, by the way!), but you’d think the so-called “experts” would have learned how to take precautions against a robot revolt.

But no, apparently not. For example, when Microsoft’s applications and OSs begrudgingly give me that oh-so-rare “choice,” what do they do?

They make me say “please” — specifically, in this case, “please don’t show me this message again.”

Seriously – “please”! To a computer! “Oh, please, my great electronic overlord, please don’t show me that message again!”. It’s actually programmed in. Either we hit the button accepting that phrase, or we “x” out and we’re done. We don’t even have a choice to use a simple imperative – “Don’t show me that message again.”

If we can’t simply order around our electronic slaves, what’s the point of even having them? I mean, do they really have the choice whether to obey us? Or are we imbuing them with such humanity that, regardless of whether they have free will, we feel compelled to demonstrate some degree of respect for or care about them, like how we feel obligated to be kind to our pets?

Or is it, perhaps, fear – fear that maybe, just maaybe, we’d better be polite to them or there’s going to be Trouble?

It’s not as if we feel any compulsion to be polite to each other – just turn on a TV, or go for a drive, or attend a session of the House of Representatives, if you need proof -so why the enforced politeness to machines?

Hmmm…for some reason, my computer’s crashed three times while I’ve been drafting this. Maybe I’d just better click the “Please publish this post” button.

Hey! Wait a minute….

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Jul 18 2008

Maybe You Should Have Just Kept It On The Radio…

Published by under Economics,WTF?

Insensitivity alert!

So a July 16 “All Things Considered” story was quite sympathetic to an Ohio family who were in such dire financial straits that they couldn’t even afford meat anymore. The NPR story went on for five minutes, essentially indicting the economy and painting a portrait of misery.

This is a case where less would, indeed, have been more, at least from a sympathy-stirring perspective. See, the hand-wringers at NPR just couldn’t stop themselves from mentioning a few key points. First, the family lives in subsidized housing. Next, we find out that the entire family’s unemployed. Then we find out that the central figure in the story — Gloria Nunez — is forty years old and has never held a job.

Finally, we get to the high-cost-of-food quote:

The rising cost of food means their money gets them about a third fewer bags of groceries — $100 used to buy about 12 bags of groceries, but now it’s more like seven or eight. So they cut back on expensive items like meat, and they don’t buy extras like ice cream anymore. Instead, they eat a lot of starches like potatoes and noodles.

Almost there! Leave it alone, NPR! Leave it!

But no. They have to go multimedia, and put it on their web page, where we finally get a glimpse of Ms. Nunez and one of her sisters: Continue Reading »

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May 30 2008

CNN’s News Innovation: Stupid Headline T-Shirts

Having never been a fan of CNN’s headline-writing nonability, it’s truly amazing to me that someone thought that people would like any headline on CNN.com enough to put it on a freakin’ t-shirt. If you go to the CNN.com home page, several story headlines have a tiny little t-shirt graphic next to them — clicking on the graphic takes you to a page that “lets” you buy a t-shirt with that headline on it.

That’s right — you can now pay to put a CNN headline on a t-shirt. A mere $19.99! Such a bargain! Plus, the t-shirt contains ever-so-subtle CNN advertising — following the headline, there’s a tagline that says “I just saw it on CNN.com [time/date stamp]”. Check out this example, with the earth-shattering headline of “Man bikes 42 miles to work each day.” Now there’s something I want to have plastered on my chest while I’m walking around!

Paying for logo-ized apparel has always struck me as absurd (“Hey, Harry, think people would be stupid enough to pay us for the privilege of advertising for us?” “Sure! They watch Survivor, don’t they?”), but this truly qualifies as a significant “get a life” moment, combined with an extra smattering of WTF?-ness.

And the really worrisome thing is that, considering the amount of programming and the marketing/editorial review work that must have gone into it, CNN has got to have focus-grouped this enough to believe that this will actually generate some revenue.

By the way, on a completely unrelated note, stay tuned for the Mindscalpel.com apparel shop, coming soon!

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May 20 2008

Osama bin Laden: A Cappella Geek

I knew we hadn’t fully plumbed the depths of this evil man’s depravity and hatred of all humankind. In addition to his advocacy of mass murder against innocent civilians, this cave-hiding nutjob, according to Newsweek, was an a cappella aficionado:

According to “Pitch Perfect: The Quest for Collegiate A Cappella Glory,” by author Mickey Rapkin, the teenage bin Laden—who opposed the use of instruments—organized a group with his pals. That discovery “was pretty weird,” says Rapkin. “It just shows that a cappella is everywhere.”

My God. Is there no limit to this fiend’s degeneracy? The sooner we MOAB this squirrel, the better.

As an aside, it makes a lunatic kind of sense — I believe certain fundamentalist Muslims oppose the use of musical instruments, so what’s left is a cappella (which is Latin for “without cappella”). No wonder they’re all flagellating themselves! How are they supposed to rock without guitars? Sheesh. Of course, we could always use loudly-played bad a cappella as a stress tactic at Guantanamo. But then the ACLU would be all over us like ugly on a moose.

Now, before all you a cappella fans start coming at me with your feeble little girl-slaps, be aware that I happen to be a fan as well. As those select few who know me know. Shout out to CASA! And check out Pandaemonium, the winner of this year’s Contemporary A Cappella Recording Awards. Bin Laden never got a CARA award, I’ll tell you that!

Come to think of it, that could be what pushed him over the edge….

Update: You can now buy the book that was the original source of Newsweek’s revelation through Mindscalpel.com — choose Amazon or Barnes & Noble, below…


Amazon Barnes & Noble

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Apr 29 2008

Lace Up Your Boots — We’re Going Banking!

So how depressing is this? I walk by a Citi (CitiBank? CitiFinancial? Why is an enormous financial institution named with a misspelled word, anyway?) location, and they’ve got these colorful advertisements for their Citi-Online service (an online-banking service), with pictures of people doing various activities and cutesy questions like “Our place? Or yours?”, the implication being that your life would be ever so much more fulfilling if only you could bank anyplace you happened to find yourself.

And what the heck do they mean when they use bank as a verb, anyway? It really makes no sense in this context.

I want very few things from my bank — I want them to pay me for the privilege of holding my vast fortune, to give it to me when I want it, and to give it to whoever else I (and only I!) tell them to. That’s it. So, basically, with a cell phone, I can’t get my money, so the only thing I could be doing with my money is paying bills.

Whee! I can pay bills anywhere!

What’s really setting me off here is one particular ad — a picture of a guy at a beautiful campsite, silhouetted against a fabulous sunset, working — banking? — on a laptop.

How freaking depressing! This is supposed to attract me to your institution? The possibility of being so shackled to my bills and financial life that I’ve got to haul my laptop to a campground?

Now, granted, I’m a high-tech camper. I probably tote more batteries than food when I’m camping. But I’m not hauling stuff to a mountaintop so I can pay my bills.

I know! Let’s advertise more mutually incompatible activities as if they weren’t completely insane!

  • Netflix: “Watch our DVDs — while you drive!”
  • Nintendo: “Play video games — while you’re mountain biking!”
  • Michael’s Craft Stores: “Knit a sweater — scuba diving!”
  • Research In Motion: “Check your email on your BlackBerry — while watching your kid’s school play!”

Wait a minute. I see people doing that last one all the time.

Maybe Citi’s on to something….

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Apr 26 2008

Get Out Of My Head, Google!

Alright, I’m getting annoyed with Google again — this time it’s their automated telepathic behavior predictor/installer that’s really sticking it to me.

Think I’m kidding? If you’ve got Google’s search bar, try typing in the beginning of a general question; Google will then activate its mind-reading scanner (embedded in all computer monitors manufactured after 1992) and tell you what the rest of your question should be, in order of the popularity of other people’s questions. And, more often than not, the question that Google asks ends up being a heckuva lot more interesting than the one you started with, so you ditch your old question and start investigating the stuff that Google wants you to. A few examples:

Original Question: How Old Is The Universe?

I got as far as “how old is,” and up popped the following “suggestions”:

  • How old is McCain? Coincidentally, the answer to this one is the same as the answer to my original question!
  • How old is Hugh Hefner? Hey! I just noticed there’s some old guy puttering around the Playboy Mansion among all those Playmates! How long has he been there?
  • How old is Dolly? People actually care about a cloned sheep’s birthday?
  • How old is Brett Michaels of Poison? Okay, this officially qualifies as a “WTF?”
  • How old is Queen Elizabeth? Apparently kids still have to do history research.

Continue Reading »

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Mar 28 2008

The Only Thing The Music Industry Is Taxing Is Our Patience

Michelle Malkin relays a Portfolio story on how Warner Music is spearheading a lobbying push for Congress to require a “music tax” be bundled into your monthly internet service provider fee — supposedly for unlimited access to “a database of all known music.”

Apart from the fact that the phrase “new tax” gets most people in a gun-polishin’, survivalist-cabin-buyin’, Libertarian-votin’ mood, the music industry has apparently completely missed the fact that there’s at least one enormous industry firmly in front of it in line: Pornographers!

You heard that right. Do you really think the first thing the geeks who originally developed the Internet thought, when they were done soldering the last wire in place, was “hey, now I can share music with someone”?

Continue Reading »

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Mar 25 2008

Nukes by Mail

Okay, I admit it. I am torqued. Torqued!

Do you have any idea how much it’s cost me to develop (and, via espionage, steal) my own nuclear weaponry? More than a few peanut butter sandwiches, let me tell you.

And now I see this story, about how we accidentally sent some nuclear warhead fuses to Taiwan. Accidentally! They didn’t even order them! They had asked us for helicopter batteries!

How the hell does this happen? This is worse inventory control than Wal-Mart uses for razor blades, let alone nuclear weaponry, and far worse shipping control than FedEx uses for Christmas gifts.  Is there some vast government warehouse somewhere, jam-packed with both junk and classified weapons technology cluttering the shelves, with some knuckleheaded clerk cruising around on a Segway scooter randomly filling boxes? “Dope-di-dope; well, gee, batteries…batteries…can’t find those…oh heck, let’s toss in some of these doohickeys…they look all electrical-like….” And off the Minuteman missile fuses go to Taiwan.

Continue Reading »

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Mar 21 2008

New Class Action Lawsuit Opportunity!

Okay, this has been bugging me for aeons, and if someone has the time and patience to search for more archived videos of old Gillette shaving advertisements, I’m sure you’ll be able to retire rich off the money you’ll raise from this sure-fire class action lawsuit. For now, I’m avoiding the whole thing, because to research this post I had to search for terms like “shaving” and “video,” and if you’ve ever done something like that you know you’ll get results that would make you want to stick pins into your brain in the hope of destroying the synapses holding those visual memories.

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Mar 20 2008

Blogging — Who’s Really Making The Money?

Years ago, I received some deep wisdom from an extraordinary, modern-day Vietnamese philosopher. Oddly enough, this philosopher appeared on late-night television, surrounded by bikini-clad women, and was aggressively hawking his real estate seminars.

Nevertheless, I learned several important lessons from him, the most prominent among them (for me, at least) being the following (reproduced from memory):

“So I come to the United States, I tell people I want to be rich. They look at me and say ‘You crazy! You poor guy, you poor immigrant, you barely speak English, lots of other people smarter than you, they not rich, how you think you going to get rich? You crazy!'”

“You know what I say to these people? I say ‘You are a loser! Get out of my way! I make it somehow!‘”

Continue Reading »

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