The Funny Bone

by ChrisTuna

The house of the future...

Nov 28, 1995: Moved in to my new digitally-maxed out Hermosa Beach house at last. Finally, we live in the smartest house in the neighborhood. Everything's networked. The cable TV is connected to our phone, which is connected to my personal computer, which is connected to the power lines, all the appliances and the security system. Everything runs off a universal remote with the friendliest interface I've ever used. Programming is a snap. I'm like, totally wired.

Nov 30: Hot Stuff! Programmed my VCR from the office, turned up the thermostat and switched on the lights with the car phone, remotely tweaked the oven a few degrees for my pizza. Everything nice & cozy when I arrived. Maybe I should get the universal remote surgically attached.

Dec 1: Had to call the SmartHouse people today about bandwidth problems. The TV drops to about 2 frames/second when I'm talking on the phone. They insist it's a problem with the cable company's compression algorithms. How do they expect me to order things from the Home Shopping Channel?

Dec 8: Got my first SmartHouse invoice today and was unpleasantly surprised.

I suspect the cleaning woman of reading Usenet from the washing machine interface when I'm not here. She must be downloading one hell of a lot of GIFs from the binary groups, because packet charges were through the roof on the invoice.

Dec 3: Yesterday, the kitchen CRASHED. Freak event. As I opened the refrigerator door, the light bulb blew. Immediately, everything else electrical shut down -- lights, microwave, coffee maker -- everything. Carefully unplugged and replugged all the appliances. Nothing.

Call the cable company (but not from the kitchen phone). They refer me to the utility. The utility insists that the problem is in the software. So the software company runs some remote telediagnostics via my house processor. Their expert system claims it has to be the utility's fault. I don't care, I just want my kitchen back. More phone calls; more remote diag's.

Turns out the problem was "unanticipated failure mode": The network had never seen a refrigerator bulb failure while the door was open. So the fuzzy logic interpreted the burnout as a power surge and shut down the entire kitchen. But because sensor memory confirmed that there hadn't actually been a power surge, the kitchen logic sequence was confused and it couldn't do a standard restart. The utility guy swears this was the first time this has ever happened. Rebooting the kitchen took over an hour.

Dec 7: The police are not happy. Our house keeps calling them for help. We discover that whenever we play the TV or stereo above 25 decibels, it creates patterns of micro-vibrations that get amplified when they hit the window. When these vibrations mix with a gust of wind, the security sensors are actuated, and the police computer concludes that someone is trying to break in. Go figure.

Another glitch: Whenever the basement is in self-diagnostic mode, the universal remote won't let me change the channels on my TV. That means I actually have to get up off the couch and change the channels by hand. The software and the utility people say this flaw will be fixed in the next upgrade -- SmartHouse 2.1. But it's not ready yet.

Finally, I'm starting to suspect that the microwave is secretly tuning into the cable system to watch Bay Watch. The unit is completely inoperable during that same hour. I guess I can live with that. At least the blender is not tuning in to old I Love Lucy episodes.

Dec 9: I just bought the new Microsoft Home. Took 93 gigabytes of storage, but it will be worth it, I think. The house should be much easier to use and should really do everything. I had to sign a second mortgage over to Microsoft, but I don't mind: I don't really own my house now--it's really the bank. Let them deal with Microsoft.

Dec 10: I'm beginning to have doubts about Microsoft House. I keep getting an hour glass symbol showing up when I want to run the dishwasher.

Dec 12: This is a nightmare. There's a virus in the house. My personal computer caught it while browsing on the public access network. I come home and the living room is a sauna, the bedroom windows are covered with ice, the refrigerator has defrosted, the washing machine has flooded the basement, the garage door is cycling up and down and the TV is stuck on the home shopping channel. Throughout the house, lights flicker like stroboscopes until they explode from the strain. Broken glass is everywhere. Of course, the security sensors detect nothing. I look at a message slowly throbing on my personal computer screen:


(Be it ever so humble, there's no virus like the HomeWrecker...).

Dec 18: They think they've digitally disinfected the house, but the place is a shambles. Pipes have burst and we're not completely sure we've got the part of the virus that attacks toilets. Nevertheless, the Exorcists (as the anti-virus SWAT team members like to call themselves) are confident the worst is over. "HomeWrecker is pretty bad" he tells me, "but consider yourself lucky you didn't get PolterGeist. That one is really evil."

Dec 19: Apparently, our house isn't insured for viruses. "Fires and mudslides, yes," says the claims adjuster. "Viruses, no." My agreement with the SmartHouse people explicitly states that all claims and warranties are null and void if any appliance or computer in my house networks in any way, shape or form with a non-certified on-line service. Everybody's very, very, sorry, but they can't be expected to anticipate every virus that might be created.

We call our lawyer. He laughs. He's excited!

Dec 21: I get a call from a SmartHouse sales rep. As a special holiday offer, we get the free opportunity to become a beta site for the company's new SmartHouse 2.1 upgrade. He says I'll be able to meet the programmers personally. "Sure," I tell him.

"In the first place, God made idiots. That was for practice. Then he made school boards." -- Mark Twain

High Tech Computer Sales Jargon

NEW - Different color from previous design [SGI uses this one]
ALL NEW - Parts not interchangeable with previous design
EXCLUSIVE - Imported product
UNMATCHED - Almost as good as the competition
FOOLPROOF OPERATION - No provision for adjustments
ADVANCED DESIGN - The advertising agency doesn't understand it
IT'S HERE AT LAST! - Rush job; Nobody knew it was coming
FIELD-TESTED - Manufacturer lacks test equipment
HIGH ACCURACY - Unit on which all parts fit
DIRECT SALES ONLY - Factory had big argument with distributor
YEARS OF DEVELOPMENT - We finally got one that works
REVOLUTIONARY - It's different from our competitors
BREAKTHROUGH - We finally figured out a way to sell it
FUTURISTIC - No other reason why it looks the way it does
DISTINCTIVE - A different shape and color than the others
MAINTENANCE-FREE - Impossible to fix
RE-DESIGNED - Previous faults corrected, we hope...
HAND-CRAFTED - Assembly machines operated without gloves on
PERFORMANCE PROVEN - Will operate through the warranty period
MEETS ALL STANDARDS - Ours, not yours
ALL SOLID-STATE - Heavy as Hell!
BROADCAST QUALITY - Gives a picture and produces noise
HIGH RELIABILITY - We made it work long enough to ship it
SMPTE BUS COMPATIBLE - When completed, will be shipped by Greyhound
NEW GENERATION - Old design failed, maybe this one will work
MIL-SPEC COMPONENTS - We got a good deal at a government auction
CUSTOMER SERVICE ACROSS THE COUNTRY - You can return it from most airports
UNPRECEDENTED PERFORMANCE - Nothing we ever had before worked THIS way
BUILT TO PRECISION TOLERANCES - We finally got it to fit together
SATISFACTION GUARANTEED - Manufacturer's, upon cashing your check
MICROPROCESSOR CONTROLLED - Does things we can't explain
LATEST AEROSPACE TECHNOLOGY - One of our techs was laid off by Boeing
This REAL letter, written to illuminate the circumstances in an accident, also gives us a lesson in keeping the upper lip stiff.

Dear Sir;

I am writing in response to your request for additional information in Block #3 of the accident reporting form. I put "Poor Planning" as the cause of my accident. You asked for a fuller explanation and I trust the following details will be sufficient.

I am a bricklayer by trade. On the day of the accident, I was working alone on the roof of a new six-story building. When I completed my work, I found I had some bricks left over which when weighed later were found to weigh 240 lbs. Rather than carry the bricks down by hand, I decided to lower them in a barrel by using a pulley which was attached to the side of the building at the sixth floor. Securing the rope at ground level, I went up to the roof, swung the barrel out and loaded the bricks into it. Then I went down and untied the rope, holding it tightly to insure a slow descent of the 240 lbs of bricks.

You will note on the accident reporting form that my weight is 135 lbs. Due to my surprise at being jerked off the ground so suddenly, I lost my presence of mind and forgot to let go of the rope. Needless to say, I proceeded at a rapid rate up the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel which was now proceeding downward at an equally impressive speed. This explains the fractured skull, minor abrasions and the broken collarbone, as listed in Section 3, accident reporting form.

Slowed only slightly, I continued my rapid ascent, not stopping until the fingers of my right hand were two knuckles deep into the pulley which I mentioned in Paragraph 2 of this correspondence. Fortunately by this time I had regained my presence of mind and was able to hold tightly to the rope, in spite of the excruciating pain I was now beginning to experience.

At approximately the same time, however, the barrel of bricks hit the ground-and the bottom fell out of the barrel. Now devoid of the weight of the bricks, the barrel weighed approximately 50 lbs. I refer you again to my weight. As you might imagine, I began a rapid descent down the side of the building. In the vicinity of the third floor, I met the barrel coming up. This accounts for the two fractured ankles, broken tooth and severe lacerations of my legs and lower body.

Here my luck began to change slightly. The encounter with the barrel seemed to slow me enough to lessen my injuries when I fell into the pile of bricks and fortunately only three vertebrae were cracked. I am sorry to report, however, as I lay there on the pile of bricks, in pain, unable to move and watching the empty barrel six stories above me, I again lost my composure and presence of mind and let go of the rope.

"Reality is something you rise above." -- Liza Minnelli

What follows is a freshman history essay pieced together from papers handed in to Anders Henriksson and his colleagues at the University of Alberta.

Life Reeked With Joy

History is always bias, because human beings have to be studied by other human beings, not by independent observers of other species.

During the Middle Ages everybody was middle aged. Church and state were co-operatic. Middle Evil society was made up of monks, lords and surfs. It is unfortunate that we do not have a medievel European laid out on a table before us, ready for dissection. After a revival of infantile commerce slowly creeped into Europe, merchants appeared. Some were sitters and some were drifters. They roamed from town to town exposing themselves and organized big fairies in the countryside. Mideval people were violent. Murder during this period was nothing. Everybody killed someone. England fought numerously for land in France and ended up wining and losing. The Crusades were a series of military expaditions made by Christians seeking to free the holy land (the "Home Town" of Christ) from the Islams.

In the 1400 hundreds most Englishmen were perpendicular. A class of yeowls arose. Finally, Europe caught the Black Death. The bubonic plage is a social disease in the sense that it can be transmitted by intercourse and other etceteras. It was spread from port to port by inflected rats. Victims of the Black Death grew boobs on their necks. (note: bubonic=boob on neck.. sound it out.. :) ) The plague also helped the emergance of the English language as the national lanuage of England, France and Italy.

The Middle Ages slimpered to a halt. The renasence bolted in from the blue. Life reeked with joy. Italy became robust, and more individuals felt the value of their human being. Italy, of course, was much closer to the rest of the world, thanks to northern Europe. Man was determined to civilise himself and his brothers, even if heads had to roll! It became sheik to be educated. Art was on a more associated level. Europe was full of incredable churches with great art bulging out their doors. Renaissance merchants were beautiful and almost lifelike.

The Reformation happened when German nobles resented the idea that tithes were going to Papel France or the Pope thus enriching Catholic coiffures. Traditions had become oppressive so they too were crushed in the wake of man's quest for resurrection above the not-just-social beast he had become. An angry Martin Luther nailed 95 theocrats to a church door. Theologically, Luthar was into reorientation mutation. Calvinism was the most convenient religion since the days of the ancients. Anabaptist services tended to be migratory. The Popes, of course, were usually Catholic. Monks went right on seeing themselves as worms. The last Jesuit priest died in the 19th century.

After the refirmation were wars both foreign and infernal. If the Spanish could gain the Netherlands they would have a stronghold throughout northern Europe which would include their posetions in Italy, Burgangy, central Europe and India thus serrounding France. The German Emperor's lower passage was blocked by the French for years and years.

Louis XIV became King of the Sun. He gave the people food and artillery. If he didn't like someone, he sent them to the gallows to row for the rest of their lives. Vauban was the royal minister of flirtation. In Russia the 17th century was known as the time of the bounding of the serfs. Peter filled his government with accidental people and built a new capital near the European boarder. Orthodox priests became government antennae.

The enlightnement was a reasonable time. Voltare wrote a book called *Candy* that got him into trouble with Frederick the Great. Philosophers were unknown yet, and the fundamental stake was one of religious toleration slightly confused with defeatism. France was in a very serious state. Taxation was a great drain on the state budget. The French revolution was accomplished before it happened. The revolution evolved through monarchial, republican and tolarian phases until it catapulted into Napoleon. Napoleon was ill with bladder problems and was very tense and unrestrained.

History, a record of things left behind by past generations, started in 1815. Throughout the comparatively radical years 1815-1870 the weltern European continent was undergoing a Rampant period of economic modification. Industrialization was precipitating in England. Problems were so complexicated that in Paris, out of a city population of 1 million people, 2 million able bodies were on the loose.

Great Brittian, the USA and other European countrys had demicratic leanings. The middle class was tired and needed a rest. The old order could see the lid holding down new ideas beginning to shake. Among the goals of the chartists were universal suferage and an anal parliament. Voting was to be done by ballad.

A new time zone of national unification roared over the horizon. Founder of the new Italy was Cavour, an intelligent Sardine from the north. Nationalism aided Itally because nationalism is the growth of an Army. We can see that nationalism succeeded for Itally because of France's big army. napoleon III-IV mounted the French thrown. One thinks of Napoleon III as a live extension of the late, but great, Napoleon. Here too was the new German: loud, bold, vulgar and full of reality.

Culture fomented from Europe's tip to its top. Richard Strauss who was violent but methodical like his wife mad him, plunged into vicious and perverse plays. Dramatized were adventures in seduction and abortion. Music reeked with reality. Wagner was master of music, and people did not forget his contribution. When he died they labeled his seag "historical". Other countries had their own artists. France had Chekov.

World War I broke out around 1912-1914. Germany was on one side of France and Russia was on the other. At war people get killed, and then Versigh, which was attended by George Loid, Primal Minister of England. Presidnet Wilson arrived with 14 pointers. In 1937 Lenin revolted Russia. Communism raged among the peasants, and the civil war "team colours" were red and white.

Germany was displaced after WWI. This gave rise to Hitler. Germany was morbidly overexcited and unbalanced. Berlin became the decadent capital, were all forms of sexual deprivations were practiced. A huge anti-semantic movement arose. Hitler remilitarized the Rhineland over a squirmish between Germany and France. The appeasers were blinded by the great red of the Soviets. Roosealini rested his foundations on 8 million bayonets and invaded Hi Lee Salasy. Germany invaded Poland, France invaded Belgium, and Russia invaded everybody. War schreeched to an end when a nukuleer explosion was dropped on Heroshima. A whole generation had been wipe out in two world wars, and their forlorne families were left to pick up the peaces.

According to Fromm, individuation began historically in medieval times. This was a period of small childhood. There is increasing experience as adolesance experiences its life development. The las stage is us.

"Education is what survives when what has been learned has been forgotten" -- B.F. Skinner

Writing Guidelines for the Newsletter Staff

  1. Avoid alliteration. Always.
  2. Prepositions are not words to end sentences with.
  3. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)
  4. Employ the vernacular.
  5. Eschew ampersands & abbreviations, etc.
  6. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are unnecessary.
  7. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.
  8. Contractions aren't necessary.
  9. Foreign words and phrases are not apropos.
  10. One should never generalize.
  11. Eliminate quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: "I hate quotations. Tell me what you know."
  12. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.
  13. Don't be redundant; don't use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous.
  14. Profanity sucks.
  15. Be more or less specific.
  16. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.
  17. One-word sentences? Eliminate.
  18. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake.
  19. The passive voice is to be avoided.
  20. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.
  21. Even if a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.
  22. Who needs rhetorical questions?
  23. Verbs has to agree with their subjects.
  24. Just between you and I, case is important too.
  25. Don't write run-on sentences they are hard to read.
  26. About them sentence fragments..
  27. Join clauses good, like a conjunction should.
  28. Don't use commas, that aren't necessary
  29. When writing, be sure and proofread see words left out.
  30. When dangling, people may be confused by modifiers.
  31. Don't use no double negatives.
  32. Make each pronoun agree with their antecedent.
  33. Don't splice complete sentences together with commas, it's bad form to use a comma instead of a period.

In this age of computers, it's a good idea to look back on this quote..

"I think there is a world market for maybe five computers." -Thomas Watson, chairman of IBM, 1943

Back to the workshop.

Hypertext version by ChrisTuna.