Briefly noted

Cluttered items from an empty mind

Seen elsewhere: “Republicans are making age an issue in the presidential race. They point out that Joe Biden can barely stay incoherent for 15 minutes at a time, while Donald Trump can talk incoherently for hours.”

Seen on Facebook: “Aaron Rodgers made it to four plays. That’s three more than Lincoln.”

Gino Vanelli is coming to the Carnegie Library music hall in Homestead. The commercial says he’s known for such “hits as ‘I Just Wanna Stop.'”

OK, no offense, but now name another one.

(At least in the U.S. He was bigger in Canada.)

Continue reading “Briefly noted”

CQ cartoon for Aug. 2023

It looks like I forgot to post the August 2023 cartoon from CQ Amateur Radio Magazine. This is another one of those “it happened in real life” moments from the recent trip a friend and I made to the Dayton Amateur Radio Association’s clubhouse in Huber Heights, Ohio.

As always, a reminder that these cartoons are posted after they’ve appeared in CQ. If you want to see them when they’re new, and catch up on the amateur electronics hobby, why not subscribe today?

Wasting away again

I’m never up before sunrise, but I was on Saturday. For whatever reason, I woke up at 4:30 a.m., couldn’t fall back to sleep, and decided to give up and get out of bed. I was making my first pot of coffee when a friend messaged me that Jimmy Buffett had died.

I’m by no means a parrothead, but I have a lot of fondness for Buffett, in part because he was the soundtrack to the first vacation my wife and I took together. I have a lot of great memories of driving along the Lake Erie shore with her, listening to Jimmy Buffett on the car stereo.

Rather than play Buffett’s hits on Saturday, I decided to do a deep-dive into his catalog and play cuts from his first three albums, including “Down to Earth,” which reportedly only sold a few hundred copies during its first release in 1970.

It’s hard to overstate how much easier pulling together such a show is today than it would have been 10 or 20 years ago. By 7 a.m., I was looking at newspaper stories about Buffett written in 1970 and 1971, from local newspapers in Florida, which mentioned what some of his most popular songs were at the time in local coffeehouses and college unions, where he was performing at the time.

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Not so funny any more

2007 cartoon that I posted for a small audience on a Usenet group

(Today’s trivia question: I’ll award one solid brass figlagee with bronze oak leaf palm to the first person who can tell me the significance of the names on the tombstone. Answer at the end of this post.)

We moved recently and I’ve been cleaning out some old files. I found this cartoon that I did in 2007 and thought I’d share it.

I used to spend a lot of time on Usenet, the pre-social media all-text message board service. Before there was Facebook, Twitter or Reddit, before even LiveJournal, Usenet was an international network of message boards. In the 1990s, it was mostly open only to corporations, colleges and universities. Somewhere in the late 1990s, America OnLine, Delphi and other Internet service providers enabled their users to access Usenet — the so-called “endless September” or “eternal September” — and the volume of traffic soon increased. So did spam, trolls, abusive conversations and everything else that has come to define our current social-media climate.

That’s right, kiddos, every time someone says “there was no way to predict that lack of moderation on social media would lead to an increase in Nazis and white supremacists,” I’m here to say that everyone on Usenet saw in, like, 2000 that unfettered Internet access to public opinion led directly to an increase in abuse, including a rise in hate groups and con artists, and eventually made Usenet almost unusable. (“Marge, my friend, I haven’t learned a thing.”)

Usenet, in other words, was an early victim of what Cory Doctorow calls “enshittification.”

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Don’t call us, we’ll call you

“We don’t have to care. We’re the phone company.”

I ordered a new cell phone this month. I have one of those pay-as-you-go cell phone plans, which I’ve had for more than 10 years, and I’ve been pretty happy with it.

I haven’t been so happy with the phones themselves.

Oh, I used to be. My first one was a non-smart phone — a Motorola “Renew.” It was advertised as rugged and was supposedly made from recycled materials, and it was praised for its excellent call quality. I liked it a lot and kept it for seven years. It couldn’t play games (I think it may have had “Tetris” on it), the web browser was strictly 1990s quality, and sending a text message was slow and painful. But as a phone, it was great.

Unfortunately, after seven years, the battery would no longer hold a charge. So I upgraded to an Android phone.

It lasted about four years before it started dropping calls, crashing and running out of memory. I tried several patches, resets and upgrades until I became frustrated and traded it in on another Android phone.

That one lasted about two years before the same pattern occurred — dropped calls, software crashes, memory errors. One of its neat tricks recently was that the screen would freak out and start randomly opening and closing applications and sending gibberish messages until I did a hard reboot. (One day it sent a “hugs and kisses” emoji to the police chief. I said “sorry, my phone is going nuts.” He replied, “I was wondering. You’re a nice guy but I don’t like you in that way.”)

Continue reading “Don’t call us, we’ll call you”

Try this one weird old tip

We’ve all seen the viral Facebook post that guides you to copy and paste a paragraph to trick Facebook’s algorithm to see more of your Facebook friends and remove Facebook ads. There is a similar Facebook post going viral now that is not a hoax, and it does work. By copying, pasting, and posting this update, you’ll bypass Facebook’s algorithm that shows updates from only 25 friends if you leave a comment.

Here’s how to bypass the system Facebook now has in place that limits posts on your news feed. You take the San Diego Freeway to the Ventura Freeway, you drive to the Slauson Cutoff, get out of your car, cut off your Slauson, get back in your car, then you drive six miles till you see the Giant Neon Vice-Squad Cop. And now, back to our feature film, Mark Zuckerberg, Steven Spielberg, Whoopi Goldberg, Gertrude Berg and Tippy the Talking Moose in “Smokey & The Bandit Meet The Mummy.”

Facebook is a failed mall

I’m no social media expert, but when all of your advertisers are weirdos and wackos who can’t complete a sentence, your service is circling the drain

It’s no secret that Facebook has more or less become a social-media garbage barge. While not as openly full of Nazis and white supremacists as Twitter — sorry, I mean, “X” — bigots definitely run rampant.

Don’t believe me? Visit your local “neighborhood” or “community” page on Facebook and read some of the comments. It’s not subtle. And it’s a cesspool of conspiracy theories about literally everything.

If you maintain a corporate web presence on Facebook — I maintain several for my professional life — you have access to Facebook’s “insights,” which tell you generally who’s seeing your pages and posts. The demographics on Facebook, across the board, are bad. The average age of the users is going up, the number of users is going down, and the amount of engagement is dreadfully small.

Basically, Facebook is Century III Mall in 2007. It still has a couple of large anchor stores open, but the places in-between are being replaced by dollar stores, nail salons, clearance outlets and other low-rent businesses. Facebook is on a fast slide to becoming a permanent flea market.

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CQ cartoon, July 2023

Sorry! I realized I forgot to post my July 2023 cartoon for CQ Amateur Radio Magazine.

This month’s cartoon was a tribute to the late Al Jaffee, who contributed to Mad Magazine for an incredible 65 years before his death in April at age 102.

Jaffee was the originator of a number of long-running features in the magazine, including the “Fold-In” cartoon on the back page, and “Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.”

As always, a reminder that these cartoons are posted after they’ve appeared in CQ. If you want to see them when they’re new, and catch up on the amateur electronics hobby, why not subscribe today?

Plagiarism is the Sincerest Form of Flattery Dep’t.

And now for something completely different (and stupid)

(All of Mr. Musk’s dialogue is more or less verbatim from his Twitter … er, X … account)

(Interior, pet shop, San Francisco)

Customer: Hello, I wish to make a complaint.

Elon (chuckling): Lil X just asked if there are police cats, since there are police dogs.

Customer: Never mind that, my lad! I wish to complain about this Twitter I installed not a half-hour ago from the app store.

Elon: Soon we shall bid adieu to the Twitter brand and, gradually, all the birds.

Customer: You’re bidding adieu to all your bleedin’ advertisers and users, is what you’re doing.

Elon: If X is closest in style to anything, it should, of course, be Art Deco.

Customer: Art … Deco? It’s not art anything! It’s bleedin’ dead?

Elon: Frankly, I love the negative feedback on this platform. Vastly preferable to some sniffy censorship bureau!

Customer: Oh, you do, do you? Well, you’re going to bleedin’ love this. (Yelling and hitting the cage.) HELLO, TWITTER! HELLO, TWITTER! TESTING, TESTING, TESTING. (Takes Twitter out of cage and thumps it on the counter.) Now that’s what I call a dead platform.

Elon (holds up picture of poop emoji): Concerning.

Customer: Now look, mate. I’ve definitely had enough of this. This app is definitely deceased. When I logged in not a half an hour ago, you assured me that all of the problems were a result of bots that were scraping your content. I took the liberty of examining it when I got home and found out that the only reason it’s upright are Nazis and the Saudi royal family.

Elon: Sorry our pixels are so imperfect. Hopefully less so over time. Should we change the default platform color to black?

Customer: It has nothing to do with the bleedin’ platform color! This app is bleeding demised! It is an X-Twitter! X is a stiff! Bereft of life, X rests in peace! X’s metabolic processes are now history! X’s off the twig! X has kicked the bucket, shuffled off this mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined Friendster and MySpace in the bleedin’ choir invisible!

Elon: Would you like to do a Spaces discussion with me next week?

Customer: Well it’s hardly a bleedin’ replacement, is it?

Elon: Many accounts on this platform can earn thousands of dollars per month in advertising revenue sharing if they become verified subscribers! Takes two minutes to become a verified subscriber for $7 a month.

Customer: Well. (Pause.) Yeah, all right, sure.

(Dead cow falls on shop. Fade to black.)

Good advice

Photographer, filmmaker, writer, journalist and bon-vivant, Duane Michals, 91 years young, was in his hometown of McKeesport last Friday, where he read to a standing-room-only crowd his latest poem.

Michals said he was submitting it to “the Times” — presumably the one in New York, not in Beaver County — but since he emailed it out today, I’m guessing they didn’t publish it.

So, since no one has told me not to, I’ll republish it here:

© Duane Michals Inc.


A young woman must decide
whether or not to bring her fetus to term.
That’s her business, that’s not my business.

Two gay men who love each other
kiss in the privacy of their room.
That’s their business, that’s not your business.

If someone believes in
burning bushes that talk and virgin births,
that’s their business.
Why should they find my business their business?


—© Duane Michals