Monthly Archives: November 2014

Does Watson Keep Getting Smarter?

Original illustration by Sidney Paget.  Dr. Watson (left) listens as Holmes explains what he has deduced from a pipe.

Original illustration by Sidney Paget. Dr. Watson (left) listens as Holmes explains what he has deduced from a pipe.

It seems like everybody is doing an update on Sherlock Holmes.

Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman are doing an excellent British version. Then there’s Robert Downey, Jr. switching back and forth between Iron Man and Sherlock, and, of course Johnny Lee Miller on Elementary whose Watson is female and now working as a peer, so he’s added a second sidekick—also female. Then there are the thinly disguised versions, including House, MD (House instead of Holmes; Dr. Wilson instead of Dr. Watson; both House and Holmes were opiate users and only took cases that intrigued them.)

Modern versions all seem to be intent on reinventing Watson. Of course, if you base your impression on the old Basil Rathbone movies in which Nigel Bruce portrayed Watson as generally befuddled with intermittent periods of amazement, you’d agree that Watson needed some improvement. (No reflection on Bruce–I blame the writers and the director.) However, in the original stories, Watson was a physician who had been wounded in Afghanistan and returned home (my, how history repeats itself). He was an intelligent, educated man who was outshone by Holmes’ genius.

I admit that the stories needed to be updated. I read them about fifty years after they were written, and I had to look up (in a book, not on the Internet) what a hansom cab was, and was fascinated that the mail was delivered several times each day. Even the media—well in those days, the press—was interesting in the books. The paper published more than one edition each day, and in the event of “Breaking News!!!” an Extra edition was run.

Besides, Holmes opium use and habit of firing his pistol at the wall in his flat might have been outrageous in his day, but would have dire consequences today.

So, I agree with updating the stories, but I stand by John Watson, MD (although after he marries, his wife refers to him as “James.” Mysterious.) Wounded in the shoulder by a Jezail bullet followed by enteric fever (typhoid) he was packed onto a ship and sent home with a modest pension for nine months. (“Thank you for your service to King and Country. All right. Now off with you!”) I mentioned that he was intelligent and educated, but he also had courage, accompanying Holmes and even being asked to bring his service revolver at times.

He was also just a touch Avant-garde, given the tattoo on his wrist. No Abby Sciuto, but not generally a mark of gentry.

Watson may not have been the one to deduce the solution, but Arthur Conan Doyle created his character as the one who observed, understood and explained the events.

Ladies and gentlemen, I say ye, Dr. John H. Watson. Hear, Hear!

Black Friday

bfYears ago Art Buchwald wrote a piece that parodied Thanksgiving. If memory serves, one of the Pilgrims, who was in sales and marketing, thought it was a great idea. Start with a big feast to begin “Thunderhead Month,” a month of mad shopping and spending leading up to Christmas.

If only Art could see things today. We’ve exceeded his wildest imagination – and Art Buchwald had a wonderful imaginations.

But beneath the advertisements, and the specials, there is some very real and special magic. The daylight is shorter, the temperatures colder. We stick closer to home and hearth—in other words family. We decorate the house inside and out. Neighbors and passers-by may see the outside, but only family and friends—those near and dear to us get to see the inside. The inside that needs just the right tree with just the right lights and decorations. Everything needs to be perfect for those who are oh so important to us.

You’d almost think that there was a higher power telling us to love one another the way He loves us.

So as you venture out during Thunderhead Month, keep that love in mind when you’ve stood in line just a little too long and the clerk is just a little inattentive and the sale price doesn’t go through. It makes all the difference in the world.

Exercise Your Right to a Free Press!

If there are issues in the news that elicit an emotional response from you, here is a handy template to assist you in writing a letter to your local newspaper.

To the editor:

I heard about the article that you printed concerning [FILL IN THE BLANK]. I don’t personally subscribe to or read the newspaper, but when I hear about things like [FILL IN THE BLANK], I feel it is my duty to make my voice heard.

I’ve never met [FILL IN THE BLANK], nor have I ever been to the city of [FILL IN THE BLANK], but it makes my blood boil when [FILL IN THE BLANK] treat [FILL IN THE BLANK] with such disrespect.

I am not interested in intellectual evaluations. Instead, you must accept that my feelings and the feelings of my fellow [FILL IN THE BLANK] is what is important. Thank goodness the media no longer clutters up these important issues with facts and figures. Facts are unimportant. What is important is how these things make us feel.

I demand action! I demand justice! I demand retribution!

Please contact me personally to inform me as to how this issue is resolved, because as I mentioned earlier, I do not subscribe to the newspaper.



If you don’t have a particular issue in mind, here are some suggestions: securing the border, immigration reform, taxes, tax evading big business, the one percent, the ninety-nine percent, Democrats, Republicans, gun rights, gun control, global warming, the Area 51 Conspiracy, or the use of semicolons.


Series 800 Terminator

Series 800 Terminator

I’m starting to get the computers back on track. It’s been a bloody battle, but I’ve made progress. I’ve even located my list of contacts, carefully built up over the past ten years and destroyed in one fell swoop by the computer uprising of 2014.

Now that I’m getting things back in order, I’m faced with serious questions about my priorities. My priorities as a person; as an adult; as a citizen.

Do I want to concentrate on learning to play “Why Can’t This Be Love?” on the guitar? Maybe I want to focus on drums, because some days it’s good to come home and hit something with a stick. Or, should I concentrate on converting the Walmart Halloween skull I bought (list price $9.95) into a Series 800 Terminator?

It’s a tough decision, but I’ve already spray painted the skull silver (with flat black low lights), I’ve got the Arduino microcontrollers, and it’s only the head of the Series 800 Terminator, so how dangerous could it be?

The Washington Redskins Dilemma Solved!



As you know, I’m not much of a sports fan. I also think that most sports teams have strange names.

“The Mighty Ducks?” It’s a good thing it’s not a theological college, or else it might have been “The Almighty Ducks!”

In college I had a nodding interest in football since I was in marching band at the University of Toledo. Toledo’s mascot was “The Rockets—not too bad, really. I thought Kent State University had the weirdest nickname – “The Golden Flashes”; the band cheer when playing Kent was, “What the hell’s a golden flash?”

But then I did my graduate studies at the University of Akron – the home of the “Zips.”

I understand the Washington football team’s problem. Imagine if they were the “Honkies?” – or “the Micks”, “the Wops”, or “the United States Congress!” However, if they are dead set on keeping the name “Redskins” all they have to do is

(Wait for it)

Change the graphics to redskin peanuts!

Imagine the sports commentators, being able to say such things as:

“Well, Washington’s offensive strategy is a typical nut job once again this week.”

“The quarterback is getting ready to pass! There goes the Peanut into the pocket!”

“The Peanuts sacked the Browns quarterback!”

“Washington is favored by at least 7 points against the Ravens, so it’s fair to say that the Ravens are suffering from a severe case of Peanuts envy.”

The Abject Failure of the Department of Redundancy Department

I’ve been playing and working with computers for a long time. I know the importance of backing up my computers. The laptops back up to dedicated hard drives on my main computer.

My main computer backs up to a dedicated backup system that comes complete with hardware, software, cables and a steady supply of advertisements. It is set to do continual backups; anytime the hard disk has a change, the backup is supposed to catch it.

I also have Norton 360 which is set to do weekly backups. I have Amazon’s cloud (by choice). I have Microsoft’s cloud (forced on me by Windows 8), and the iCloud because iWas trying to help my iWife get her iTunes back on her iPod. She has an ongoing problem in which iTunes duplicates everything. She has an ongoing problem in which iTunes duplicates everything.

Naturally, if my computer is turned off, it cannot back up data; but I leave the computer on because when I’m not using it, I donate the computer cycles to several good causes through BOINC at the University of California Berkeley. My computer has contributed toward climate prediction, clean water, a better strain of rice, fighting several diseases, and the grand-daddy of them all, SETI-the search for extra-terrestrial intelligence (Seriously). Want to contribute your extra computer time?

So when my computer died (bad power supply), I figured it was no big deal, all I needed to do was to restore the most recent backup. Unfortunately, out of all those systems, none had a useable, recent backup file.

“I’m sorry, Steve, I’m afraid I can’t do that.”

The HAL 9000 Computer 2001: A Space Oddessey

The HAL 9000 Computer
2001: A Space Odyssey

Fortunately, I was able to physically remove the hard drive and copy all the user files, so I think I’m okay. Unfortunately, it has not been painless.


You might want to double check your backup systems and see if they’re really, really backing up your data.

After all, you don’t want to open a file and jeif duw2 sjxnsj wi2ss, now do you?

Look at All My Trials and Tribulations

Cheech and Chong

Cheech and Chong

I use my computers for paying bills, writing, taking an online course, and even for ham radio.

My computers broke, as in all of them; as in all of them at pretty much the same time. All right, not exactly all of them – the ham radio/weather computer kept on working, but it’s not set up for anything else.

The desk top would shut down and refuse to respond to the on/off switch. The laptop, which was a hand-me-up informed me that I was trying to do more than its poor little CPU could tolerate, so, “bye-bye!”

So, here I am with a graded online class assignment hanging over my head, and did I mention that I pay my bills by computer? You know how cranky corporations get if you miss a payment by a nanosecond or a nanocent (as opposed to when they owe you a refund, which triggers an immediate megatrillion dollar government bailout since they’re “too big to do anything wrong.”)

I order a laptop to get me through; let’s just say that fiasco is an understatement. The bigbox company website says “order here and you can pick it up today at your local store.” Great! Perfect! Of course, once you place the order it changes and says that you will receive your order 5 days after that big assignment is due.

I also tried to order the parts to repair the desktop; I ordered them from the company I have worked with for years. However, after years of satisfaction, my last two or three transactions have been less than optimal—as in “an unmitigated failure.” I won’t name the company, but if you’re a comics fan, let’s just say that the company is not named after Calvin.

In any case, the pieces parts from “Large Striped Cat” don’t work.

So I start trying to do everything on the laptop—which is running Windows 8.blech. Windows 8.hurl and Windows 8.blech don’t allow you to do a files and settings transfer. In fact, as far as Microsoft (not a very manly name) is concerned, I can’t transfer anything because THEY have all my data in the cloud.

The cloud…yes the cloud…[Shift to 1968. Two guys in button fly, low-rise, bell-bottom jeans are sharing a funny looking cigarette. “I can see it, man, (cough, cough) a huge cloud (cough) with all your knowledge, and – wait – what was I saying? Hey, I’m really hungry; is there a White Castle nearby?”]

So I keep trying to access my Microsoft (not a very manly name) Cloud files and it asks me to prove my identity, which I do. Then the next time I turn the computer on, it goes through the same routine. To quote the music of my youth;

“Who are you? Who, who, who who?”

“I provided all the information and entered the code you sent me last time.”

“You did? Like wow, man! That’s like… Hey, how do I know who you are?

“Man if I were human I so could enjoy a big sack of sliders, ‘cause I’m really hungry!”

So, here I am with several twenty-first century computers reduced to the capability level of the Cosmac Elf RCA 1802 computer, circa 1978. What can I do?

I googled that question.

The answer was, “Oh, wow, man.”

Things I Try Not to Think About

With the mess the world is in, there are probably some things you would prefer to never think about. My list keeps changing. Here are two I added today:

  1. The color brown. As the proud owner of a Y chromosome, I look at things in a manly way through a man’s eyes. As such, I know there are eight colors. How do I know this? In kindergarten, the box of Crayolas had eight colors. There was no peach, because peach is a fruit, not a color. I did have a problem reconciling the fact that there was violet, but no purple. I attribute that to purple being in the witness protection program.


    There was, however, brown. Brown is one of the eight (and only eight) chosen ones. It should be treated as sacrosanct.


    Today, I noticed that UPS has copyrighted brown. How can they do that? It’s a color! It’s an earth tone, so it certainly existed as a color before the first amino acids combined to form basic organic molecules.


    But then, brown might be entering the witness protection program, and this is a cover story.


  2. There is a new focus on gay rodeo riders.

    I once lived in Cheyenne, Wyoming and was very involved in Frontier Days, THE rodeo.

However, when somebody gets on two thousand pounds of angry bull.

When he’s hanging onto a rope with one hand as the bull jumps and twists.

When a winner is someone who can stay on the bull for eight (count them – eight) seconds.

I really don’t care one way or another about the rider’s sexual orientation (or for that matter, the bull’s)

Okay, I’m done not thinking about them.

Zippy Tunes that Say You’re Worthless

I love music but when it comes to singing, I can’t carry a tune in a bucket, so I’ve always focused on the instruments—at times to the exclusion of the lyrics. I’d tell whoever was listening with me (usually in the car) to pay attention to a bass line, or to the drums; to how the lead guitar was only playing 3 notes every other measure; to key changes or tempo shifts.

I didn’t realize what I was missing.

When Weird Al Yankovic parodied “Blurred Lines” as “Word Crimes,” he explained that he liked the idea of taking a misogynistic song and making it into one that could be use constructively in elementary school.

Enlightened by Weird Al, and that’s not meant as sarcasm, I began to listen a bit more to the words.

What a load of rubbish:

Robin Thicke — “Blurred Lines” – “You’re a good girl; I know you want it, I know you want it.”

John Mellenkamp — “I Need a Lover” Great riff, but the words? – “I need a lover who won’t drive me crazy; Some girl who knows the meaning of, ‘Hey, hit the highway.'”

Queen – “Fat Bottomed Girls” I love Queen, but really, Freddie, was that necessary?

In the movie That Thing You Do, Tom Hanks tells the lead and songwriter of “The Wonders” to write “Something zippy; not some lover’s lament.”

I think that a lament is in order. However, I’d recommend bemoaning the demise of self-absorbed twits who think everyone else, particularly women, exist merely for their amusement.