The Awakening

You didn’t beat me. Do you hear that, Internet?! I’ve won. I have seen “The Force Awakens” without you spoiling anything about it that wasn’t in the very first teaser trailer.

Yes, I’m gloating. I’m entitled, don’t you think? You are an immense global machine with far more funding and manpower than I. You marshaled hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of your little minions to seek out information about the movie and put it out there, releasing it into the atmosphere and the water supply so that it was simply impossible for anybody to not already know that Bobo Barabas dies at the hands of Jif Orino and that the Gonologues were a faction of the Grey Flight all along.

All of which are things I totally made up just now, because I truly have no idea what happens in this movie. I don’t know the names of any of the new characters, or even which side they’re on!

Yes, you once tricked me into seeing photos of Kim Kardashian’s bare ass, the ones that were just a ripoff of a much more famous photo series, despite my active desire to know as little about this person as possible. But that was a costly victory, my friend, because I learned from the experience. I learned that long before “Star Wars” spoilers would be in play, I needed to go into Tweetdeck’s settings and disable all images.

Are Han and Leia still a couple? I don’t know. Are the Stormtroopers good or bad? Are they still clones? Couldn’t tell you. Are Artoo and Threepio in it? I can’t even remember if they were in the teaser, because that thing was released so long ago and I haven’t watched it since.

I’m not saying it didn’t require discipline and effort. I’ve been building thicker and thicker walls around myself over the past several months. As the media machine slowly creaked to life, I created a new bookmarks folder just for “Star Wars”-related interviews, articles, and videos that I would only read after I’d seen “The Force Awakens.” A couple of weeks ago, I added a dozen new hotwords to my Twitter client’s “mute” list. Every day or two, another new one would occur to me. Ultimately, that list grew to twenty.

I stopped visiting pop culture fansites of all kinds. Then, I stopped visiting Reddit and Fark and other news aggregators. When I raised the threat level to Defcon 1, I even stopped looking at news sites of any kind.

And why?

Because it’s Star Wars. I argue that the Holy Trilogy episodes are, objectively, all great movies and beyond that, I acknowledge that they have a power to enchant and delight me to which that no other movies can even come close. Anything that you adored as a kid — a book, movie, TV show, comic book, even a computer and OS — whose gravity well affected your trajectory through childhood and, indeed, through life, will always have a special place in your heart.

I want to reproduce the conditions under which I saw it when I was in grammar school. I want to be a blank slate. I want to let the whole thing wash over me like cleansing waters. I don’t want to be anticipating anything that happens. Not even anything I saw in an official trailer or commercial.

I’m not saying you won’t have other victories, Internet. But, dammit, I won this battle. You’ve been beaten.

Why am I laughing, you ask?

Oh, nothing. Keep  on doing what you’re doing right now.

Now I’m just being cruel. Don’t waste your energy, Internet. I hear you, bringing new reactors and generators online in a last-ditch effort to spoil something, anything for me before I see the movie. Like, induce some no-goodnik to send me an email that reveals the whole ending, under an innocuous subject line that I’m sure to click on. Perhaps you’re even arranging for a New York Times poilitical op-ed piece about the Democratic debates to begins “Hilary Clinton proved that she’s clearly willing to win the White House for the Democratic Party even if she inspires as little excitement as Grig Hortu did when she ordered Jor Horizo to accompany Leia to the Du system to negotiate the great compromise in ‘The Force Awakens’…”

Just stop.

Do you seriously think I’d explain my master stroke if there remained the slightest chance of you affecting its outcome? I did it thirty five minutes ago.

I wrote all of this last night, and set it to auto-post after I was inside the theater, with my phone turned off. I even listened to loud music through my over-the-ear headphones while waiting in line to get in, to guarantee that I wouldn’t overhear anything.

Forget it, Internet. It’s Star Wars.

“Good work!”

One of the nice benefits of my Constitutionals is that over time, I’ve acquired a lot more stories about, and involving, the Humans. So far, all of them have been positive and none included hearing, through the veil of twilight consciousness, a police officer asking “Did anybody get a good look at the car before it took off?”

For someone whose social software is perennially in beta, it presents many opportunities for QA testing. Last night was a good example. I crossed a busy street and just before I put my earbud back in, I heard someone in a pickup (who was still stopped at the light) call out “Good work!”

He was definitely speaking to me. I waved and said “Thanks!”

And then I realized I didn’t know what he meant, precisely.

I rock-tumbled a few theories all during the rest of my walk home:

  • “I see that you’re out taking a Constitutional, despite the fact that it’s cold and dark outside! I salute your commitment to taking regular exercise!” Which was very kind, and will encourage me to brave bad weather again.
  • “I see that you’re out taking a Constitutional, despite the fact that you’re clearly about fifty pounds overweight! This is surprising, and I want to encourage you to keep it up!” Which would also have been very kind, but maybe just a tad condescending.
  • “I see that you are wearing a headlamp and a reflective belt, waited for the “Walk” signal, took one of your earbuds out before crossing, and even so, kept looking out for traffic in both directions until you were safely on the other sidewalk! I salute your prudence and wish all pedestrians were so cautious!” Which seemed slightly unlikely, but I pass by many other walkers and runners at nighttime who don’t look quite so…Ned Flanders-esque.
  • “I see by the bag in your hand that you did a little shopping at the nearby market! Thank you for walking instead of driving, and thus offsetting some of the damage I’m doing to the environment by driving a vehicle that’s less fuel-efficient than others! As you can see by the truck’s good, honest wear, it’s a sensible necessity of my work and/or lifestyle, and not just something I bought because of the ads during football!” Also unlikely, but I still had a ways to go and I had time to ponder.
  • “Dork!” I’ve hard-coded my human interaction primary processor to always consider the possibility that the interactant has done a fair-minded appraisal of me and put me in the “Dork/Nerd/Poindexter” category. These algorithms are also reliably-informed that a nonzero percentage of the general population are jerks. So if someone’s intentions aren’t immediately obvious, it’s just more efficient to assume that they might be pursuing an anti-dork agenda.
  • And, finally, “Because you pushed the ‘Walk’ button and tripped the stop light, I’m going to be forty seconds late for work! Why couldn’t you have just crossed when it looked safe?” I imagine that this is a common, and wholly valid, complaint from flies. For us, someone dawdling over a coffee order is mildly annoying. For the common drosophila, that’s like making someone miss their child’s high school graduation. Plus the previous four years of school. Still, how attached could a fly get to any of its seven hundred kids? You’re probably doing the fly a favor. Think about how annoying and demanding a middle child can be…then imagine a parent stuck with about two hundred Jan Bradys.

I concluded that the pickup truck driver was being nice, and encouraging, but he was faced with the daunting challenge of putting across a somewhat complicated sentiment to a total stranger in just a few seconds.

It’s a nagging problem, isn’t it? I’ve sometimes thought about what I’d do if I saw someone in immediate danger, but it was the sort of danger that was hard to clearly explain except over a leisurely coffee and danish, after a formal introduction by a mutual friend. The natural thing for me to do would be to shout “RUN!!!” But when a stranger yells that at you, the natural reaction is to should back “WHY?” or, at best, “IN WHICH DIRECTION? IS IT SO BAD THAT I SHOULD EVEN RISK RUNNING INTO THE STREET?”

At which point the kindest thing to shout back is “NEVER MIND.” Because by the time you would have explained the whole situation, the enormous pane of window glass that you spotted panicky workmen struggling with above the sidewalk will definitely, as you suspected, have snapped its safety line. And if you were in this person’s shoes, would you want your last seconds on earth to be filled with bewildered panic and the knowledge that there’s absolutely no chance of avoiding a messy and painful end?

Perhaps we should come up with a word that means “I am saying something cheerful and positive in approval of what you are now doing, and I’ve chosen this specific word because we, as a society, all agreed that we would never use it sarcastically.”

In the past, I have fallen back on the simple “You rock.” I feel like I need to be wearing a luxurious wig of platinum blonde heavy metal hair while saying it, though.

As I said…my social software is stuck in beta.

Ihnatko Almanac episode #00165: “One Good Knife”

iA #00165: “One Good Knife”

 

I’m really pleased with this week’s show. Dan bought an Anova sous vide cooker based on my tales of how well it cooked my Thanksgiving dinner, and I thought it’d be fun to do an all-cooking show.

We spent most of the show talking about sous vide cooking but I’d called out on Twitter for cooking-related ideas and questions, so we went a little broad, too. Some highlights, that I recall:

  • You can eat pink chicken and not become violently ill;
  • How to make green beans that taste great and don’t have to be eaten out of a sense of obligation;
  • Vacuum sealers, and why I don’t have to eat lots of cheese very fast any more;
  • Cooking Gear Acquisition Syndrome, and why One Good Knife is probably better than Several Weird Ones.

I keep coming back to the idea of writing more about cooking, or maybe even starting a food podcast. I’m not an expert on food. My particular set of culinary skills involve methods of cheating your way through a nice, cooked meal. I have little to offer by way of insights on the difference between shaved and ground truffles. I’m the guy who was excited to discover that chopsticks have a million uses, you can buy a million of them for like ten bucks, and if you use ‘em instead of the usual cooking and eating utensils, you wind up with one or three fewer things to wash and dry after dinner.

I shall ponder.

My Tweets about this particular show attracted the attention of the folks at Nomiku. They’re the other big name in consumer sous vide cookers, and they’ll be sending me their next-gen device when it ships next month.

Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace—Stephen Wolfram Blog

Untangling the Tale of Ada Lovelace—Stephen Wolfram Blog:

In other words, she basically proposed to take on the role of CEO, with Babbage becoming CTO. It wasn’t an easy pitch to make, especially given Babbage’s personality. But she was skillful in making her case, and as part of it, she discussed their different motivation structures. She wrote, ‘My own uncompromising principle is to endeavour to love truth & God before fame & glory …’, while ‘Yours is to love truth & God … but to love fame, glory, honours, yet more.’ Still, she explained, ‘Far be it from me, to disclaim the influence of ambition & fame. No living soul ever was more imbued with it than myself … but I certainly would not deceive myself or others by pretending it is other than a very important motive & ingredient in my character & nature.’

She ended the letter, ‘I wonder if you will choose to retain the lady-fairy in your service or not.’

(Via JWZ.)

Stephen Wolfram tries to unravel the mystery of Ada Lovelace, pioneering mathematician and computer scientist. Most of what’s popularly known about her accomplishments could fit on the back of a very nerdy (and highly desirable) trading card, and even that’s become sort of muddled.

Wolfram dives in to her research and writings by examining primary documents, including original letters between Lovelace and Babbage. It’s a lonnnng read (and to tell the truth, I’ve only gotten through half of it so far) but engrossing.

It helps to show the limitations of Google. It can only find things that are easy to keyword, and even there, it can only find things that have been made digital. Furthermore, the abstraction of the data into ASCII letters poured the content area of a webpage adds distance between the researcher and the person they’re researching.

I myself had had the profoundly satisfying experience of depositing all of my possessions except for an iPad into a locker and then being shown to a table in a research library, where bundles of 19th-century documents have been laid out for me. Even when I was looking at a letter whose contents I’d already read, nicely-formatted, in an academic journal, I lingered over it for a good while. Here was the actual letter, hand-written by the subject of my research, that marked a pivotal event.

From his hand, to my hands; it made history “real” in a way that clean, simple facts couldn’t.

MacBreak Weekly show 485: “Oi To The World!”

MacBreak Weekly 485

Another great show with Jim Dalrymple. We’re lucky that he’s been available for the show so frequently.

Let’s see. We talked about that rumor of Apple buying GoPro. Rene talked some more about Apple’s Smart Battery Case (the shape isn’t a bulge, it’s a feature). Apple Music is now compatible with Sonos, which as you might imagine led to some Cheerful Discussion about Apple Music. MacKeeper proved not to be a good custodian of its users’ personal data, so we wound up talking about cleanup utilities in general.

We also got to talking about Christmas music. The show title came from my eager recommendation: “Oi To The World”, a frisky little punk/ska tune I first heard as a cover by No Doubt on a holiday compilation, years ago:

My Pick of the Week deserves a little mention. I picked the Ring video doorbell, which I got in the office a week ago and have been playing with for a future review. It’s good stuff.

I didn’t believe it was a controversial pick. After the show, I saw that a live viewer had Tweeted his displeasure:


Apparently, Ring is sponsoring some of TWiT’s other shows, and this person thought my choosing it as a pick was a problem.

Well, I quickly assured him that I’d no idea that the company was sponsoring anything, and I’d picked it for the same reasons I pick anything: I liked it and it was at hand on Monday, when I start thinking about what I’m going to recommend on Tuesday. TWiT has never applied even the most homeopathic amount of influence on our picks. They typically don’t even know about it until we’re deep into the recording of the show, which is when we often remember to, oh right, paste in the relevant links so that MacBreak’s producers can have the website or videos ready to roll when we start talking about ‘em.

I still keep advertiser relationships at long arm’s length. I never participate in ad reads on any of the three shows I host because I don’t know what happens when I use that same editorial voice to read sponsored ad copy.

I underscore “I don’t know.” If anything, the fact that other hosts I respect do it makes me wonder if I’m just overthinking it.

It’s not a big problem with podcasts, but it could be an issue if I ever decide to flip certain switches and try to generate some revenue from my blog. Again, people I respect insert sponsored text in their RSS feeds and blogs. It’s not, objectively, an ethical problem. If I’m ever presented with an opportunity to make X dollars a month via (clearly labeled) sponsorship items, I’m going to have to spend a few days sitting in the lotus position underneath a waterfall, meditating.

Got wet; didn’t die

It is with profound regret that I announce that my regular Constitutionals have been moved from the “something I do a few times a week because I enjoy them” list to “something I do a few times a week because I’ve decided it might be kind of cool to keep my “no major health issues” streak going for another couple of decades.”

This is why I walked about four and a half miles today in the rain.

I should clarify: this was rain rain. As in “Rain, rain go away” rain. As in “No way I’m going out for a walk in this” rain. If a friend or an Uber driver had failed to pick me up somewhere as promised, and I had to walk four and a half miles to my hotel in this sort of weather, I’d be grumbling promises of dark retribution the whole way and well into the rest of the evening.

So it sickens me that I did this voluntarily. But I felt it was important.

I had some business to conduct several miles away this afternoon. It’s at one of those nexusplexes of coffeeshops and cafes and other places with free WiFi and many open tables, and thus a fab place to camp out for a day of writing. Whenever I feel like I’m truly stuck with what I’m working on, or if the store manager figures out that it was me who dumped the whole tray of Cinnamon Twirl samples into a napkin, I can move on for a change of both venue and beverage. It’s a long but non-devastating walking distance from my house; right at the border between a long walk and a short bike ride, and recently deemed “too close to drive.”

Welp, this morning’s podcast recording went on a little longer than I thought and I didn’t want to risk arriving late for my meeting. So I took an Uber out there and planned to walk back.

But! By the time I needed to go home, the atmospheric mist that had been so pleasant to look at from the dry and warm side of a Starbucks window had devolved into the aforementioned rain rain.

If my Constitutionals were still something I merely enjoyed, I would have stuck around, had dinner, and then Ubered back.

Alas, it’s now something I have to do. I walked more than three miles on Sunday and about five miles on Monday. Tuesday: nothing. Wednesday: goose egg. There are times when I need to partition my personality and use the Dad part to give the Dumb Kid part a firm, but loving, dressing down.

“Yup. It sucks that we have to walk home in the rain.”

Thank you. So: a grilled sandwich at Panera, followed by a car ride home, then?”

“Nope. We’re walking home. And it’s going to suck.”

“But…we have the phone. And the app. And we have access to well over the necessary five or six dollars necessary for the fare. I don’t understand.”

“It’s not complicated. Sure, on Tuesday, we were quite busy with podcasts and office stuff, but we could have squeezed in a couple of miles. Wednesday, we had nothing scheduled whatsoever. We even checked the weather for the rest of the week, and saw that there was rain forecast for Thursday. And yet, the only walking we did on that day was between the bedroom and the kitchen and the office.”

“So?”

“So we have to walk today. If we’d walked either of those two days? Then we’d have the option of taking a pass on today due to the weather. But we didn’t, so: we’re going to walk home, after dark, in pouring rain. And we are going to do this while fully aware that it’s going to suck, because we have nobody else to blame, and even if we did, it wouldn’t change the fact that ‘I don’t wanna do this because it’ll be unpleasant’ is hardly the declaration of someone who fancies himself a mature adult and a worthy example for the youth of today.”

“But…”

“I packed the folding umbrella, the headlamp, and the reflective vest. I also made sure we left the house in out waterproof hiking boots. Choose your next objection very carefully.”

And so I walked home in the rain.

He/I was right. It was important that I walk home, both to make sure I meet my Constitutionals goals for the week, and also as behavior reinforcement.

There was another dimension to the choice. Sometimes, your better nature fails you and you have to remind yourself that you shouldn’t shy away from things that are merely Deeply Unpleasant. I have now voluntarily walked four miles in the rain. It didn’t kill me. It was unpleasant…but that experience is now in the database. In the future, if I balk at taking a Constitutional in the rain, at least I can base that choice on an actual experience instead of blindly ticking the box on the cancellation form marked “it’s going to suck.” But it’s more likely that I’ll shrug and think “Well, it won’t be so bad, I guess.”

I reflect on the fact that even in dry, sunny weather, walking this distance and this route was once, in my mind, too silly to contemplate. I was always in good enough shape for a four-mile walk! But, y’see, on my way out the door I have to pass by the car in my driveway and wouldn’t that be faster and more comfortable and, generally, suck less than walking there and back?

But I sighed and forced myself to do “the thing that was going to suck” at least once. I didn’t die. If I had been killed by a truck partway along the way, I feel as though I would have been justified in not walking that route again.

With this observation in hand, I was then free to start focusing on what I liked about this Thing That Sucks: more time listening to podcasts; making all of the fitness apps on my phone happy; the free pass to not go for a walk tomorrow…and feeling slightly less guilty about having an iced scone at the bakery with the good WiFi.

Lest you think that I’m terribly committed to good health with every decision, and doing the right thing simply because I’m an adult with self-discipline: the final convincer to walk home in the rain was when Dad Self told Dumb Kid Self that we could take the seven dollars or so that we would have given to Uber and spend it instead on one of those individual fresh chicken pot pies at the market nearish my house that we really like.

It was delicious.

What’s Apple, these days?

The big Apple news today (masquerading as not-big-news) was a game of Musical Job Titles. A Senior Vice-President of Operations is now Apple’s Chief Operations Officer. Phil Schiller, SVP of Worldwide Marketing, used to be “as good as” in charge of the whole App Store. Now, he’s officially so, because that particularly parcel of the empire no longer overlaps with Eddy Cue’s (President of Internet Software and Services).

There were a couple of other moves. Check out what Rene Ritchie has to say about it for the full scoop.

The news has the familiar perfume of a “week before Christmas” news dump. The kind of thing where an organization has to make an announcement, but the news isn’t sufficiently good or sufficiently bad that they should particularly care how much or how little attention it gets.

Of course, we’re all provoked to speculate about what all of this means and what might have motivated any of it.

Phil’s move would seem to address two problems at once. Nobody who uses Apple Music is hearing this news and thinking “Oh, no…the executive in charge of it no longer has split his time between Apple Music and running the App Store.”

Meanwhile, verymuchmany developers are verymanymuch irked with the App Store these days. This displeasure has the sort of mainstream, populist appeal that would make even Jimmy Fallon envious. Developers’ gripes about specific shortcomings have, over the past couple of years, metastasized into dissatisfaction with the App Store in general. None of this malaise has (as far as I’ve ever been aware) been related to Eddy Cue’s involvement, but I’ve already heard from devs who see this move as a sign that Apple’s thinking about big fixes, as opposed to minor tweaks. It might be wishful thinking on their part…but there it is.

Someone far more knowledgeable about the business end of the business than I am is leaning back in his or her chair and examining these executive moves with the same grave intensity with which the fortune tellers of Ancient Rome used to prod at the liver of a sacrificial lamb. I suppose both of these kinds of people know/knew what they’re doing. It’s all a little baffling to me. To say nothing of “messy.” At least when the haruspex wraps up his or her report and collects their fee, they still have all that fresh mutton left over. Ever try to roast an Excel spreadsheet? It isn’t even half as easy as it looks on “Iron Chef America” and no amount of cumin can cover up the stink of electrons that have dripped onto the floor of the oven and burned into a leathery resin.

But, yes: a big restructuring provokes one to think about what Apple’s restructuring itself for. For instance: the company’s obviously serious about making cars. Which executive would “own” that product? And if we conclude that it can only be [name], does his or her title mean that Apple’s clearly designing a self-driving car to be sold as a part of city or corporate infrastructure, instead of something more consumer-oriented, like the current Tesla or Nissan Leaf?

Again, that’s above my pay grade. I’ll eat the lamb roast if you’ve got an empty seat at the table, though.

These days, I find myself dialing my ego back down to a new level of humility, where Apple’s future is concerned. Until fairly recently, their schedule of hardware and OS releases was steady and predictable, and their past behavior was a reliable indicator of what moves and markets they seemed likely — or unlikely — to make. Sure, the Beats acquisition came as a surprise. But after brief contemplation, it seemed like something Apple would have done: buy out a company to quickly acquire talent and technology that would have taken them far longer to develop themselves.

I still have no idea why Apple wants to get in the car game. But clearly, they do and they are. They’ve shown their cards to some top-level executives in the automotive industry, and those people have been so impressed with what they’ve seen that they’ve abandoned important careers with established carmakers to work on a project at a fruit company whose last foray into transportation was a windsurfer with an Apple logo on the sail. And yes, that was an actual product from their merch catalogue.

(The Eighties was a very strange time, kids; it was an era when Annie Lennox and Cyndi Lauper reached international prominence, but there was a dark side to the era as well. Never forget.)

(Sorry for bumming you out. Here, watch an Annie Lennox video and a Cyndi Lauper 80s video. That’ll put things right. These two talented ladies helped Young Andy to get through what Doonesbury aptly termed “a kidney stone of a decade.”)

Anyway. Apple cars.

I’ve had to stop even trying to figure it out. Fortunately, I don’t work the entrails-sniffing side of this line of work and I can keep myself quite busy just thinking and writing about stuff that’s actually shipping.

I have, however, taken away an important lesson. We’re clearly entering a new phase of Apple’s development and a change to the company’s identity. In 2010, we would have laughed off the idea Apple making a $16,000 solid gold gadget watch because the idea was completely ridiculous. Apple Watch Edition is still a ridiculous idea, but (dear God) in 2015, it exists.

We need to throw away all of our old expectations and understandings. Two or three years ago, I delivered a conference keynote in which I noted that Apple traditionally organizes their product lines into “Good/Better/Best,” and laid out my theory that Apple was changing how they market their biggest iOS device: the iPad Air is no longer the “Best iPad,” but the “Good MacBook/mobile productivity computer.”

There’s still some sense to that. But if that thought had come to me today, I’d ask myself if “Good/Better/Best” was even still part of Apple’s vocabulary. The presence of both an iPad Pro and a MacBook Nothing in the product line would have seemed like proof-positive that one, or even more, existing productivity devices would soon get axed. Now, I don’t believe that a “many products with broad, overlapping audiences” is the third rail at One Infinite Loop that it once was.

During this week’s MacBreak, Leo, Rene, me, and special guest Jim Dalrymple talked about the rumor that Apple is thinking about buying GoPro. That move doesn’t make much sense to me. GoPro cameras are a great fit for the retail Apple Stores, but why would Apple want to own a company like that? They already design, manufacture, and sell one of the most popular and successful cameras on the market, and they give away a free cellphone with each one. It seems pretty clear to me this is either analyst speculation that got out of hand, or maybe even someone’s attempt to kite up the value of GoPro stock.

But something stopped me from dismissing the rumor out of hand. I don’t think Apple would buy the company. Still…I don’t know that they wouldn’t.

There’s something about Google that isn’t part of the usual conversation about the company: they’re huge investors in other companies. Google Ventures has put $2 billion into play since it was founded in 2009, and their goal isn’t to grow tech companies into future Google (now “Alphabet”) subsidiaries. They’re actual investors. They own pieces of Uber, Slack, Medium…supposedly, they were the fourth most active venture capital firm in the world last year.

So there I was, thinking that no way does GoPro sound like the sort of company that Apple would acquire. My hand was hovering over the “this is such bullspit” button.

Then I thought, well, what if Apple believes they can make a pile of money by buying the company, maintaining it as a separate brand and company, and just adding some of their own operational and marketing expertise?

Or, what if a compact, super-rugged 4K video camera is a perfect component for the Apple Car, or an As-Yet Not Even Rumored product, and the valuation of GoPro is low enough that it makes sense just to buy ‘em and acquire of their intellectual property?

I’m not suggesting that either one of those is the actual truth. The rumor really does sound like speculation (either of the Rumor or the Stock Manipulation variety). I base this conclusion not on my flimsy knowledge of business maneuvers, but on my familiarity with the tone and velocity of these kinds of rumors.

Still, it points out how much the terrain has changed around our feet. Maybe I was foolish to ever think I could predict what Apple would or wouldn’t do under certain circumstances. Maybe not. I do know that I’m too smart to think I can predict what they’ll do today.

From my Instagram

The tragedy, of course, is that I unlike my father have no heirs to pass this tradition down to.
Like the 20,000-voice chorus that assembled in a specially constructed pavilion in Copley Square in 1869 to celebrate the arrival of post-Civil War peace, perhaps this tradition is destined to be looked back upon, 100 years later, with a mixture of disbelief and profound admiration for the ambitious genius of a long-gone era. Via Instagram: http://ift.tt/1Mfapfr

Just a coffeeshop post

Greetings, fellow sensation-seekers!

I’m at a coffeeshop, armed with my favorite tactical field language composition and deployment vector (iPad Pro, Logitech K811 keyboard, 1st-gen TwelveSouth Compass stand) and with a Diet Coke serving as my phosphoric acid delivery system. I’m navigating that sensitive inflection point between “ready to start writing” and “ready to start writing something that will make me some money.” This translates to “How about a blog post?”

Congratulations to the #BringBackMST3K campaign, which raised so much money that the group had to keep adding on bonus incentive episodes just to ensure that the taps stayed open until time ran out. I’m pretty damned pleased that my pledge will help to bring digital downloads of 14 new shows, including a Holiday episode.

As promised, I will unbox the Cask Of Ancient Fandom. I wanna do it when people might be home to watch it on Periscope; given my schedule this week, that’ll probably be Tuesday night. I’ll record it for posting on YouTube. And just a reminder: I’m as keen to see the inside of that thing as you are. As you might be. Okay, I’m probably more keen, as I have a personal emotional investment.

Meanwhile, WordPress has released their annual update to their default blogging template. This one is a conventional one-column layout. I’ve played with it a little bit and it looks…nice. I might switch to it after making some tweaks to it. Ever since the Univision offer to buy this site fell through, I’ve remained convinced that the best solution for this blog is to let the good women and men of Automattic be my WordPress developers because I think they’re looking out for the best interests of the Web.

(Whereas all I’m looking out for are cheap and effortless ways to rip off Sixcolors and other tech blogs whose professionalism and value to readers consistently inspire and annoy me.)

You might have noticed a few recent blog posts that started off with Getty Images photos. I’ve decided to stop using them, despite how much I like that service. Their news and stock photo library is chockablock with great content. It’s easy to search, and embedding an image in a non commercial site like this one is free. Aha, but the free photo comes with a couple of ad trackers. Believe me, Gentle Reader, I will happily sell you up the river if it’ll put a Tesla in my driveway and I look forward to proving it in the fullness of time. But loading up the site with ad trackers just for a free photo or two seems like a bad deal for both of us.

I guess I’ll just have to make these posts more attractive by increasing the quality of the writing. Thus, I’m calling back the folks at Univision and seeing if they’re interested in making another bid to buy me out.

I’ve cooled off considerably since T* farted out his racist screed on Monday.

Jeez. I had had a wonderful day in the city. The weather was beautiful, I had a good meeting with interesting people, I got to go places in Boston I’ve somehow never been before and I took some great photos.

It was such a wonderful day that I chose to extend it a little. My meeting happened late in the afternoon and the location was just a block away from the second stop on the MBTA’s outbound commuter rail line. On top of that, I hit the streets at the perfect time to make the next train home. And yet, I decided to catch a later train departing from South Station, a mile or two away, and enjoy a nice walk through the Public Garden and the Common while the sun was setting and the holiday lights were coming on.

The last thing I did before boarding my train was to buy a bottle of soda from a woman who wore an eggshell-blue hijab. I sat down, snapped open the news app on my iPad, and read T*’s declaration that all Muslims at home and abroad were worthy of suspicion, based solely on their religion.

I really wanted to post something then and there. The words came quickly. I deleted them one more time than I typed them. I realized that I was speaking in anger, which would have been mighty hypocritical of me given what I’ve written and said in the past about the worthlessness of anger, and doing things just because it’ll make you feel better.

So. It is now a calm Andy who says that T* isn’t funny any more. He’s actively dangerous. Whether he actually believes this stuff or not is immaterial. I remain convinced that there’s zero chance of his ever being elected. What makes him dangerous is the Andrew “Dice” Clay effect he has on a certain segment of America: the kind who never find the courage to say what’s in their hearts unless they’re at a rally of some kind. The ones who won’t spray paint something threatening on a house of worship until they’ve seen that special act of craziness validated before, on the news.

That is, T* is a bozo. He’s done. He traded away a marketable B-list celebrity status for a year of cheers and the veneer of actual respect. I hope he’s enjoying his time at Disneyworld because we’ve seen this play out before. T* will go the way of all political celebrities who lack the skills, and the will, to become actual public servants. It’s a path to oblivion that winds its way through many stops at increasingly shabbier convention halls and political dinners, to diminishing crowds of increasingly crazy people, for diminishing paychecks.

(Oh, T*? The bill feeder in the oblivion breakroom soda machine almost never works. Stop by Rudy’s or Sarah’s desk…one or the other usually has a jar of quarters.)

But he’s energizing the types of yahoos who organize to prevent a mosque from being built in their county (mostly by showing up at public meetings and yelling). He’s emboldening politicians who will endorse any damn-fool idea if they think it’ll play.

I’m not even afraid of the people who genuinely hold opinions that I see as abhorrent. I worry about that category of folks who seem to exist as a flailing ball of anger with a Social Security number. The rage has to go somewhere other than inward, and it’ll latch on to whatever’s handy. They don’t believe in limiting access to immigration as a policy to preserve resources for existing citizens, or any reason that (right or wrong) at least sounds rational. They’re looking for something to be mad at or, better yet, someone to blame. And here’s this guy in a nice suit that everyone seems to be listening to. He seems to have done well for himself. And if he’s pointing the finger at a group of people, then the target must be a good one, right?

I can only hope that T* is having a different kind of influence on a different kind of people, in the same way that a terrible parent screeching at and belittling their kid in public inspires other overstressed parents in that same situation to dig deeper and find hitherto untapped reserves of patience. I hope that other candidates will see T*’s rhetoric for what it is, and recognize that this is not the person they want to be. And those aren’t the sort of voters they want to appeal to.

Okay. The clerks at the coffeehouse are bringing out brooms and dustpans. This is the first stage of communicating “You don’t have to work at home, but you can’t work here.” Time to pack up Lil and prepare for the remaining leg of my daily Constitutional.

I’ll only say this: I’m never writing the name of T* ever again. After all this time, I think I know that the only thing that can piss off a man like that is to not help put his name out there.

I’m also afraid that there might be a “Candyman” sort of thing where if I write his name a certain number of times in a row, he’ll manifest here. I don’t think I can stand the smell of that much cologne.

BRING BACK MST3K and I will unseal an ancient secret from the 1990s!

The “Bring Back MST3K” Kickstarter campaign is very close to reaching its ultimate goal: raising enough money to produce not just a few new episodes of the show, but a whole season’s worth of 12.

The campaign ends on Saturday, December 12, at 1 AM Eastern time. And now, I will roll up my sleeves and hit you with the hard sell.

Click this link to pledge!

(No, that wasn’t it. But why not just click the link and pledge anyway? Then, you can just relax and read the rest of this knowing that there’s nothing else expected of you.)

The success of this project is very much in alignment with my personal interests, fellow sensation-seekers. I’ve been a fan of Mystery Science Theater since the day in 1992 or thereabouts something when I opened a padded envelope that came in the mail from an unfamiliar address, and excised a VHS cassette containing three episodes from season three and four.

My cable system didn’t offer Comedy Central. Not many did. Thus, a huge online community on Usenet and Compuserve and every other improbable lashup of twigs and dried animal skins that passed for the Internet during the Clinton administration organized itself to “keep circulating the tapes.” Total strangers would copy episodes and mail them off to other strangers who were eager to actually see the show that our online brothers and sisters couldn’t stop talking about.

I won’t explain what Mystery Science Theater 3000 is. You either know and love it already, or you will, once you watch pretty much any good example from the show. Like this one:

I want you to reflect on a simple, impressive fact. Even though the final episode aired sixteen years ago, the fans’ love for MST3K was indelible. Joel Hodgson, the show’s creator, was able to raise a couple of million dollars almost immediately after he launched the campaign and announced his plan to revive the show. Everyone involved in MST3K should be immensely proud: it’s quite special to create something that finds a place in someone’s heart forever.

“Revive the show” isn’t the right phrase, though. I admire the fact that Joel isn’t trying to reunite the original cast and writers and pick up where Episode 1013 (“Diabolik”) left off.

This isn’t a mere nostalgia riff for the selfish, short-term amusement of the show’s original fanbase. It’s much bigger: it’s an attempt to continue the work of the show, just as the recent revival of “Doctor Who” renewed it for a whole new era. I’m backing this Kickstarter partly out of a selfish desire to see new episodes, of course! But I’m really hoping that it’ll bring in a brand-new generation of MSTies. People who weren’t even born yet when I was in the throes of my first, full, gran-mal MST3K fandom.

Joel’s lined up an amazing roster of talent, in front of and behind the camera. For god’s sake: he’s landed Patton Oswalt as TV’s Son Of TV’s Frank!!! Look at the artists and designers who are going to be working on it! And the writers! The team is a combination of people you’ve definitely heard of, people you haven’t heard of but you’ve certainly heard of their work…and people whom Joel simply thinks will deliver the goods. This all bodes supremely well for the project.

They’re very close to raising enough dosh to produce a full dozen episodes. I’ve already increased my pledge to the level where I’ll get digital copies of however many they make. So if I can browbeat more of you people to either join the campaign, or increase your pledges…yesss! I get three more digital episodes!!!

No, no…I swear this is for the kids. Those innocent little kids, who never had an MST3K to call their own. Gosh! Why don’t you want to help these kids, people?

Yes, yes: I know that they have the annoying habit of annihilating you during any sort of game enabled for online play. Their trousers are often alarming. Their YouTube channels get way more views than yours. They often neglect their studies by playing those damn bebop records all through the night. 

But is this any reason to deny them a shot at a future?

Dear God! Won’t you click this link to pledge?!

No, not you, God. On second thought…why not? If the Book of Job is any indication, you’re as big fan of comedy as anybody else. Yes, you too, o Lord: click this link to pledge! The Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit…all three of you ought to get in on this.

I’ve decided that I want to put some skin in the game. I don’t know how big an effect my little stunt will have, but hey: if it gets them fourteen bucks closer, that’s another two burritos for the writers’ room.

Let me set this up by telling you all about

THE GREAT BOSTON BOT BASH OF 1994

The primary method of grassroots MSTie evangelism was copying episodes and mailing out tapes to people who posted requests on fan message boards. But the even cooler vectors were Bot Bashes.

They were like Tupperware parties. Except with more robots and fewer yellow plastic melon ballers. I can’t speak for the other Bot Bashes that MSTies organized all over the world. I and some friends put together a Bot Bash in Boston. We didn’t have melon ballers. Maybe we should have.

(Damn. Did we screw people out of yellow plastic melon ballers?)

Well. If we failed on that score, it was probably the only detail we didn’t attend to. We rented a VFW hall, arranged a video projector, put the word out, turned the hall into a theater with seats and a stage…we had about sixty or seventy people.

It took weeks of planning and it was a lot of work, but I think we’re all super-proud of putting on a great time for everyone. We had some MST3K episodes and a whole pile of videos that nobody would be likely to have seen before (local commercials featuring the Mads, Joel Hodgson’s standup bits, outtakes). We had live riffing. A “guess the punchline” contest using clips from the show, with a Tom Servo head as one of the prizes. A bunch of people presented their own Invention Exchanges.

(Mine was a takeoff on SIMM memory: “The Nasal Inline Memory Module.” I think I gave half of my presentation with a card from my old Mac Plus up my nose.)

I myself had never seen one of the episodes we showed: “The Slime People,” from the legendary first season of MST3Ks that were never aired outside of the show’s local UHF station’s broadcast area.

It was all pretty great and I have terrific memories of that night, and that community. Our nucleus was formed on the Compuserve Showbiz Forum, but I made lots of realspace friends from that interaction.

It took us a while to take down all of the movie posters and fold all the chairs and get the VFW hall back in shape for its next child beauty pageant or doggie wedding reception. But when we piled into our cars long after midnight, we were all tremendously proud of having put together a terrific evening for the broader MSTie community.

Click this link to pledge!

THE 1994 CASK OF ANCIENT EVILS

(Assuredly not evil. I’m trying to zazz up this pitch.)

Another thing I did for the Bot Bash: I designed and prepared party favors. Everybody was handed one of these at the entrance:

IMG 20151210 165304

I bought tons of things from the Archie McPhee catalogue, and American Science & Surplus, and Building #19, and I think I even filled some of them with odds and ends I’d picked up at the MIT Flea Market.

American Science & Surplus sold me a pack of a hundred or so airline dessert trays. I lined all of them up on the floor, and tried to divide the good stuff evenly among them. The idea being that the party guest could use this stuff as special effects and props if they ever had four days and a budget of $700 to make a big sci-fi/fantasy slab of cheesy drive-in malificence. I wrapped each one in aluminum foil and put on a sticker.

I made more than enough to make sure nobody would get left out. We had a few left over. For some reason, this one here just went into a drawer or on a shelf and I forgot about it for a good while. I rediscovered it when I was cleaning up the office (which I did religiously, once a year, whether I was in danger of  being pinned to the floor by a collapsing pile of BYTE magazines (again) or not).

When I came across this, I had…some…recollection of the stuff I’d put in there. But it was vague. My first impulse was to rip it open and take a look.

But then!

I realized that at some point, this would be like a surprise gift, from 1994 Andy to some form of Far-Flung Future Andy. I liked the idea of preserving this package and then opening it up in the yes-very-much-distant-future. Here was a wrapped gift containing items that I, myself, had hand-selected and personally placed in that little tub…and yet, every item would be a total surprise to me.

I kept good care of it and always put it in a safe place. When I moved into my current house, the party favor went on the mantlepiece, among family photos, my grandmother’s coin bank, and my 1977 California Originals Chewbacca ceramic stein.

The time has come to breach the seal and unleash to the world the contents of this unholy casket. My pledge to you:

If the Bring Back MST3K Kickstarter reaches its ultimate $5.5 million goal, I will shoot and release an unboxing video of this very object.

Who knows what’s in there? The actual stone tablets that Moses received from God on Mount Sinai? The raw ingredients of a SAMPO? A note from some long-forgotten friend from the 90s, reading “I couldn’t stand not knowing what was in here, so I opened it up, dumped everything into my bag, and then sealed it all up again”?

Your guess is as good as mine, fellow sensation-seekers!

I like this idea because I originally put this party favor together as a little gift for true fans of Mystery Science Theater 3000. Back in 1994, we also didn’t know that in 2015, (a) we wouldn’t necessarily be free from the iron or furry or furry iron boot of robotic/simian/robotic simian fascism, and (b) we’d have a chance to make another 12 episodes of our favorite show happen…this time, in movie-quality high-definition.

This is a chance for us MSTies to give a surprise gift to ourselves.

Click this link to pledge!

GIVE THEM SOME MONEY

So please: pledge to BRING BACK MST3K. If you’ve already pledged, kick in some more dough.

Otherwise, the Secrets Of Andy Ihnatko’s Brain (circa 1994) will remain unknown to the eyes of humanity for at least another whatsit.

Push the button, Frank. Whatever your name is. The one on your mouse or trackpad, after lining the pointer up over one of these links to the Kickstarter page. Just go.