Saturday, March 25, 2006

I didn't order that

New York Times
technology writer David Pogue blogs about software applications that start themselves unbidden when the Windows computer they're on is booted. This phenomenon bugs me no end, and I regularly use the msconfig utility to turn off these startup programs, which run invisibly and needlessly use up system resources. To do that, I click Start, then Run, type msconfig, and click OK. The startup applications are on, yes, the Startup tab.

Looking at my msconfig list, I see that my computer hosts startup applications for many mainstream programs, including Acrobat, AIM, TiVo Desktop, QuickTime, iTunes and the Microsoft programs Money and Works. There also are startup apps for various hardware devices I have installed, printers and external hard drives and network adapters and so forth. I turn 'em all off, and my computer runs faster.

There also are startup apps for many programs I don't recognize. I suspect various Web sites I visit have installed some of these without my knowledge, which is truly scary.

This is crazy. As I've noted before, what I know about designing operating systems I could fit in my little fingernail, but it seems to me fairly basic and urgent that OSes shouldn't let unknown programs install themselves willy nilly. And that consumers should be able to choose whether they'd like for memory-hogging programs they don't use to start themselves.

Friday, March 24, 2006

What's that device

Every Sunday the Wisconsin State Journal runs a puzzling column called Listen Up, in which lyrics to the popular hits of the day are printed. "Though some of the language might be objectionable to some readers," reads an introduction, "we hope it will provide parents with a better idea of what their children are hearing."

A recent installment ran the lyrics to Daniel Powter's "Bad Day," so parents could know their children were being exposed to potentially objectionable language like this:
Where is the moment we needed the most
You kick up the leaves and the magic is lost
They tell me your blue skies fade to grey
They tell me your passion's gone away
Inspired by Listen Up, I'm instituting a new feature on Back With Interest called What's That Device. In it, I will use lyrics from the popular hits of the day to show the usage of certain invaluable rhetorical devices. I'm inaugurating What's That Device with this line from Black Eyed Peas' infectious, zeitgeist-defining, cheerfully objectionable smash hit "My Humps":
Let's spend time, not money
This is an example of zeugma, which Richard Lanham's indispensable Handlist of Rhetorical Terms defines as "A kind of ellipsis in which one word, usually a verb, governs several congruent words or clauses." So the Black Eyed Peas' lyric uses the verb spend once, but in a double sense, so that it applies to both time and money.

Here's another example, from Alexander Pope's The Rape of the Lock (emphasis added):
Whether the Nymph shall break Diana's Law,
Or some frail China Jar receive a Flaw,
Or stain her Honour, or her new Brocade

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Proud day in the Badger State

Administrators at Viroqua High School, up near La Crosse, canceled today's Diversity Day curriculum after a law firm in Florida insisted the ex-gay viewpoint be aired.

I suppose diversity is one way to describe what the ex-gay viewpoint represents.
What comes of Googling oneself

Look, my writing has been called mediocre in an exquisitely rendered song parody of "I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General"! And the parodist even makes a pun of my name!

The lyrics are on the third page of the document I have linked to, the November 2005 newsletter of the Madison Savoyards. Last summer in Isthmus, I gave a mixed review to their production of The Pirates of Penzance, so fall was payback time. (For some reason the quality of my writing, mediocre or otherwise, was apparently not an issue when I gave the Savoyards' Ruddigore a rave review the summer before last.)

This is hot. I can't think of a better way to be slammed. And if there still was anyone who somehow did not know about my mediocrity, the word is now out.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Distant early warning

Mark your calendar for another Junker reunion show this spring. We'll be at the Crystal Corner Bar May 13 with the fabulous Cash Box Kings, who will have a new CD to lay on you.

Check out the Junkers' nascent MySpace page, which features tracks from our never-released live album How the Midwest Was Won.
Kollege krazy

I commend to you "Campus Ladies," the bawdy sitcom on the Oxygen cable network that has been renewed for a second season. The show stars Carrie Aizley and Christen Sussin as fortysomething college freshmen, and it is the funniest new sitcom I have seen in some time.

Although the episodes' setups are plotted -- the ladies pull an all-nighter and take Ecstasy; the ladies decide to become lesbians -- the dialogue is largely improvised. As you might expect, then, not every line is a winner. But the gags are hilarious when the performers successfully tap the weird force of nature that is improv comedy, which when it works relies on inspiration and little else.

Throwing the sitcom format into the mix helpfully modifies the formula, though: inspiration plus editing. Come to think of it, isn't that the formula for art?

Even the show's name, "Campus Ladies," is simultaneously ridiculous and ingenious. It sounds like a phrase shouted out in an improv sketch -- and then run with, and given a handsome logo. Sometimes the best ideas are the ones that come in a flash.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Good word

Okay, I'm setting aside the Good Word format on this one. But I just wanted to tell you that there is a lovely instrumental by Fats Waller called "Numb Fumbling," and I realized the other day that the title perfectly sums up how I feel a lot of the time. In a good way!

Numb fumbling.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Fact check

I just edited my first Wikipedia entry, on the video game Space Invaders. The entry said the Pretenders' debut release (which featured a track called "Space Invader") came out in 1983. But it actually came out in 1980.

I don't know whether to be exhilirated or depressed. Wonder what else is wrong on Wikipedia?

Today on "This Week With George Stephanopoulos," Christopher Hitchens of Vanity Fair began his comments by saying of the current unpleasantness, "It was a just and necessary war. It still is." He continued:
This is why my book is called A Long Short War. It didn't begin three years ago. It began at the very latest, I think, when Jimmy Carter allowed Saddam Hussein to invade Iran.
You see? The disaster in Iraq is Jimmy Carter's fault! But of course.

This reminds me of how at the Lyndon Johnson presidential museum in Austin, Texas, the Vietnam War is framed so that blame gets spread around freely. Look at this page of war milestones from the museum's Web site. What was the Vietnam War's very first milestone?
SEATO and Vietnam: The SEATO treaty, ratified eighty-two to one by the Senate in 1955, promised that, in case of aggression against its members as well as the "protocol states" (Laos, Cambodia, and South Vietnam), the U.S. would "act to meet the common danger in accordance with its constitutional processes." Signed by Dwight D. Eisenhower, later administrations cited it as justification for America's involvement in South Vietnam.
You see? The catastrophe in Indochina was Eisenhower's fault, too! And then there were those 82 senators!

But why stop at Carter? Iraq was made greatly unstable when the Byzantine emporer Heraclius invaded in 627. Really, nothing was the same after that.