Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thinking Energy

With all the hoopla surrounding the energy crisis, with all of us trying to be Al Gore - the thinner, beardless version, not the bloated, sequin-suited Las Vegas version - there is one area that we've overlooked ... an area that promises to reduce global warming, our dependence on fossil fuels and our penchant for watching things like "Are You Smarter than America's Top Model?"


It's time we targeted thought energy.

It used to be that calling someone "bright" was a compliment. But, as anyone who stoically reads Mother Earth News by the faint light of a CFL bulb knows, bright = bad.

On the other hand, it used to be that calling someone a "dim bulb" was not a compliment. But, as anyone who has a personal wind farm knows, dim = good.

(Speaking of wind farms, remember when "breaking wind" was a bad thing? Now that we have the technology to harness it, it has become instantly PC - if a little inconvenient, especially in elevators.)

It used to be that taking a dim view of something or someone was indicative of disapproval. But now we know that keeping all your views dim saves precious energy.

The phrase "on second thought" used to precede well-reasoned reconsideration, but nowadays it's as bad as flushing the toilet more than once a week.

What about all those bright people who just can't help themselves? We could introduce "thinking offset credits" so energy-profligate brainiacs can buy their way out of the green doghouse. (The credits from Silicon Valley alone could run a major city for a millennium.)

In fact, anything we can do to reduce thinking in general is good for the environment. (Which makes George W. Bush the most energy-saving president ever. Who knew?)

On second thought, maybe more of us should watch things like "Are You Smarter than America's Top Model?" I can't think of a better way to eliminate thinking altogether.

Author's Postscript: The energy footprint of this article is zero. Absolutely no thought went into it.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Does Not Compute

The other day I was in the dentist's office passing time with the receptionist (who is also Mrs. Dr.) while waiting for my quarterly encounter with the King of Pain ... which is like having tea with Marie Antoinette while awaiting - well, you get the idea.

Anyway, Mrs. Dr. - let's call her "Susan" - was telling me that she is completely computer-free and always has been. She keeps all of Dr. Jekyll's appointments in a thing called a "book" using a thing called a "pencil" - which she says is better than a "pen" because (I'm translating here) the delete function works better.

"With my Day-Timer, I never have to worry about a computer losing my appointments," Susan declared proudly.


At the time, paralyzed as I was by a well-placed sense of impending doom, a snappy comeback eluded me. But later - isn't that always the way? - I got to thinking about what she said. "Yes, but have you ever lost your Day-Timer?" I would have said. (I would have sneered, but the Dr. might have heard it and attacked my plaque all the more vigorously.)

I would have continued, "Furthermore" - I never use "furthermore" when I'm talking, unless it's an imaginary conversation, of which I seem to have a lot these days - "I have two backups for my appointment software - my Treo and another hard drive - so I'm totally covered." (I would have said this with great smugness, but I think the good Dr. has a pneumatic chainsaw which he reserves for especially difficult, er, extractions.)

To test my hypothesis, I dug out my old Day-Timer. (I don't know for sure how old it is, but one of the entries is, "Watch 'Dance Fever' tonight - that Denny Terio is cool city.") I abandoned Outlook (that would be my computer calendar, Susan) and kept my appointments in the Day-Timer.

Since the Day-Timer does not have an automatic backup function (that I know of), at the end of the day I copied all the entries onto a yellow pad, representing my hard-drive backup. And then I made a third copy into one of those little spiral notebooks, which is approximately the same size as my Treo (not to mention that it handles phone calls about as well).

That little exercise took about an hour, which really cut into my drinking. (As MADD would say, "Don't drink and back up your Day-Timer appointments." They'd say that, if only they could find a bumper sticker big enough.)

Then, to approximate a computer crash, I set my Day-Timer on fire. And then I put the yellow pad in the trash compactor. (Actually, the most fun of this entire project was making a list of ways to destroy the appointments. Cool city, indeed.)

With my original and first-backup appointment books well and truly trashed, I turned to the spiral notebook. It turns out that the third backup didn't cut into my drinking quite enough. Most of the entries were in an illegible scrawl; the readable ones were cryptic at best: "Lunch with youknowwho" and "Pick up the whatsits" were especially disturbing.

The next time I see Susan - too soon, alas - I can triumphantly announce the results of my little experiment and declare the winner of the paper-vs.-computer competition.

I'll have to call Susan to find out when that is, though. Last night my laptop crashed, my backup drive got corrupted and I dropped my Treo in the toilet.