Onward

(aka Short Attention Span Theater 18)

True story.

I was coming home from work the other day–along Richmond Parkway, as it happens–when I witnessed what was, if not the stupidest driving maneuver ever, certainly one of the top ten.

Picture this: I was waiting at a red light, fourth car in line in the right lane. Two cars in the left lane. Nobody in the left turn lane. There’s a small bunch of trees on the corner to the right, which means you can’t see into the cross street until you’re actually in the intersection.

And coming up from behind me is a Mini of some sort*, zipping along at the speed limit, which happens to be 50 along there.

* I think it was a Countryman, but I’m often clueless when it comes to vehicular makes and models.

The driver wasn’t showing any sign of slowing down, and I was starting to get nervous. One doesn’t think of a Mini as “looming”, but this one was unquestionably looming in my rear-view mirror.

And then it veered to the left.

Without slowing down, it slewed across the width of the street into the left turn lane and stormed straight through the intersection, back across the full width of the street to the right lane.

About fifteen seconds later, the light changed to green–which means it had to still be green for the cross street when the idiot went through the red–but nobody moved for a good ten seconds, too stunned by the sight we’d just seen.

My immediate reaction was that the driver must be the same kind of idiot who gets his first vaccination and immediately stops wearing a mask.

On reflection, I think that’s too gentle an assessment. More likely, he hasn’t gotten vaccinated, won’t get vaccinated, and threatens to sue businesses that require customers to be masked because he thinks makes spread disease.

Moving on.

In the interest of keeping you informed of the doings of Xathanael Todd*, I bring you this excerpt from a letter I received from his father on Monday.

* Previous mentions are here and here.

“April 23rd, 24th, and 25th will be Xathanael’s final theatrical performances before graduating High School.

On The Fringe Children’s Theater in Vallejo is presenting an online production of Elephant and Piggy: We Are In A Play. Xathanael has been working there as Assistant Choreographer and Music Director. He is also starring as Gerald.”

Unlike the earlier performance noted above, this production will, in the spirit of the times, be streamed online. Tickets–a mere $5 each, though you can pay more if you wish–are available through Showtix4U, so even those of you who don’t habitually frequent Fairfield, California can attend.

I’m trying to figure out whether I can get some time off one of those days. Working evenings does have a down side.

As you may have gathered, yes, I’m back.

Late March or early April is generally when I post my “State of the Fourth Estate” summary. Last year, I was hoping to send out Demirep to my beta readers in June. I actually beat that estimate. The draft went out in mid-May.

Since then, I’ve written a grand total of zero words of fiction.

What I’ve found is that I need a certain minimum amount of structure in my life in order to write. And even after I returned to work after the lockdown, I had no routine. Schedules changed frequently, responsibilities shifted on a weekly–sometimes daily–basis. And then there were all of those one-off disasters falling into life, both political and personal.

Finally, however, life and work are settling down. I’ve made plans to carve out regular writing times. First for the blog, then for the novels. It’s going to happen. I’m going to make it happen.

Moving on again: see you Friday.

No. Just, No.

My apologies for starting the new year on a negative note, but there are dark clouds on the horizon*, and it’s best to buy umbrellas before the rain arrives. Bear with me while I point out a few things that need to be stopped before they become problems.

* That’s figuratively speaking. Literally, the clouds are here and so is the rain. California still needs water, but it’s nice to see the fill line moving up instead of down.

BBC America is about to start rerunning the latest season’s episodes of Doctor Who. I’ve got no problem with that at all. What I do take exception to is the plan to overlay the show with fan art, Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook posts (I presume the latter two will be heavily edited for length), and BBC-provided nuggets of information (or, my cynical side suggests, “blocks of text superficially resembling information”).

There’s a place for tweets and blog posts. That place is on their original services. If I need to find out which random people I’ve never heard of want a new sonic screwdriver–and yes, that is one of the examples in the promotional announcement–I’ll go to Twitter myself. Ditto for pen and ink drawings of the guest stars–another example.

Before you dismiss my concern by telling me to just not watch the reruns, consider (a) the desperate need for network executives to continually come up with new ways to “engage” viewers, and (b) the popularity of live tweeting TV shows. If BBC America’s little experiment is anything but an abject failure, how long will it be before every new episode has one or more designated live tweeters’ output overlaid on the broadcast? Hint: the new season won’t start for several months (anywhere from three to seven if recent history is any guide). That’s plenty of time for the BBC to choose their torturerstweeters.

Please, don’t watch these so-called “Doctor’s Notes” and urge your friends not to watch them as well. Only a ratings disaster can save us from this potential scourge.

Moving on.

It’s probably too late to prevent this one. The Rocky Horror Picture Show is being remade for TV. And, lest you think this isn’t as stupid an idea as ever was thought, yes, it’s a remake of the movie, not a televised production of the stage musical. That latter might actually make some sense, in the spirit of the recent live TV productions of other musicals.

As I said, this one’s probably unstoppable. It’s been in the works long enough that the stars’ identities are being released. In fact, the first release was back in October. (Damned if I know how I missed that announcement.)

Let’s get real, here. Much of the appeal of Rocky Horror is its interactive nature. Even if the script is rewritten and updated (a repellent concept in itself), how is Fox going to encourage viewers to interact with the production? Are they taking notes on BBC America’s little experiment? Wouldn’t surprise me a bit.

If you think I’m being alarmist, consider how many people use pay-per-call 900 telephone numbers to vote on talent-based shows. Think Fox wouldn’t consider a “Text your joke to see it in a banner at the bottom of the screen” approach if they could charge 99 cents a message? Anyone think they haven’t already considered it?

End of civilization–to the extent that television is civilization–approaches.

Moving on again.

News out of CES is that Harman and Microsoft are collaborating to put Microsoft Office-based information in automobile information/entertainment systems.

Apparently we’re not talking spreadsheets and word processors here, fortunately. But the last thing the any driver needs is more distractions. I long ago gave up counting the days in which I wasn’t nearly killed by another driver doing something stupid: there just weren’t enough of them for me to keep track. Now I count how many times I’m nearly killed every day*. Give those drivers the opportunity to listen to e-mail, dictate replies, schedule meetings, and participate in Skype meetings and nobody will ever be safe on the road again.

* The current average is a smidge under one near-accident for every two miles driven.

I’m probably killing my chances of ever again finding gainful employment by saying this, but there is not a single job in which distracting drivers by sending them meeting reminders and requiring them to participate in the meeting while they’re on the road could possibly be important enough that they should be allowed to risk my life. Regardless of what passengers might do, for the person behind the wheel, the job has to stop until the car is parked with the engine off!

Let’s end this on a cheerier note.

Gizmodo–home of the reasoned response–is up in arms over an announcement by Fisher-Price that they’ll soon be selling a toy to teach preschoolers how to code.

Sounds horrid, doesn’t it?

The reality is rather less dreadful. The “Think & Learn Code-A-Pillar” is a motorized toy that can be programmed to travel different paths by rearranging its segments, i.e. a forward arrow segment will send it forward for a set distance, then control will pass to the next segment; if that’s a “turn left” piece, the critter will–surprise!–turn left.

According to Fisher-Price, this will teach kids “thinking skills, problem solving and sequencing”. Apparently, it will also teach them to omit commas, but I digress.

I’ve got news for Gizmodo: toys like this have been around since my long-vanished teen years. I haven’t seen any evidence that they’ve taught anyone “thinking skills”. My nephew is too old for the Code-A-Pillar (and not quite old enough to be interested in hacking one), but if he were several years younger, I wouldn’t hesitate to get him one–and see how long it took him to deliberately program it to fall down the stairs.

Frankly, from a “won’t somebody think of the children” perspective, I’m more concerned about Magis’ Me Too My First Office. Do we really need to turn pre-teens into cubicle dwellers?