Friday, July 19, 2013

After Push Back To Pull

The constant chore: tracking the latest posts at a variety of blogs.  In the old days I bookmarked each blog and then went through the list, checking to see if a site had any new items.

Then came along "push" technology, i.e., a site would tell me when recent posts were added.  RSS: Really Simple Syndication.  With Google Reader this system worked well.  I would log on to Reader and there would be a listing of new posts, all in one convenient spot.  It worked great with my Android tablet.

Then Google hit the kill switch on Reader.

I looked for a replacement service: Bloglines, Feedly, AOL Reader.  These RSS reader programs have one thing in common: they suck.  Clumsy interfaces, glitches and hang-ups.

I needed something that worked efficiently, especially with my tablet.

And I finally found it.


Like in the old days I go through the list and directly access each site.  Not as convenient as Google Reader but less snags than the other RSS services I've tried.

I have one page with bookmark shortcuts on my tablet.  The downside: I have to go to a site to see if anything was added since my last visit, "pulling" on each one.  The upside: a lot less frustration.

Too bad.  RSS is a good system but only as good as the services using it.

I heard a rumor that Google plans to kill-switch Blogspot...

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Inkjet = Crap

No more inkjet printer.

I've tried three different brands and they all end up wasting my money.  Unless you use it once a week in a properly climate-controlled environment, the cartridges dry out to the point where they're unusable, even though there's plenty of ink left inside them.

I do have a laser printer that works great for my paperzine but not so great when addressing envelopes.  The heat causes the envelopes to seal so instead I was making do with an inkjet printer — but, once again, when I tried using it to mail out the latest edition of my zine, the cartridges were plugged up as if blocked with superglue.

I've tried cleaning the heads through the printer's program, using isopropyl alcohol on a cotton swab, even invoking the Eldritch Name of Cthulhu, and they refuse to work.  I don't have time to baby inkjet cartridges.

I hate addressing each envelope by hand.  I finally figured out a way to print envelopes with my laser printer.  A press-and-seal envelope works OK; the strip covering the adhesive stops it from sealing up unlike a standard envelope.  Each one does get wrinkled a bit going through but is still usable.

My laser printer is a basic b&w unit, nothing fancy.  The only time I need color is to print out photos.  I can use a photo kiosk at the mall or go through an online service.  Since I don't print that many images it's cheaper than feeding fresh cartridges to a POS inkjet home unit every couple of months.

So if you're thinking about buying an inkjet printer, visualize it as a small black hole sucking money out of your wallet.  The cartridges are way overpriced, especially when they don't last that long.  Inkjet printer companies are making obscene profits from this rip-off.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Light Or Sound?

In April 1925 Canadian inventor Ted Rogers introduced the first AC-powered radio to the world.  Before this innovation people had to make do with batteries.  Now someone could hook up a radio to the electrical system in their home and never worry about recharging again.

This was before the adaptation to the two prong wall plug.  In olden times things were a bit screwy with appliances: everything used the same socket type invented for light bulbs. 

Check out the accompanying illustration of a commemorative stamp recalling Roger's achievement.  To create the stamp part of an old ad was used, the image of a woman who has removed a light bulb and is connecting her Roger's Batteryless Radio.  But I wonder if there were at least a few homes with only one socket per room (maybe one socket in the whole house).  Someone had to decide whether to read or listen at night.  I wonder how many arguments that situation stirred up.

"I don't want to read by that damn kerosene lamp!  Anyway, radio is a lot of foolishness, not good for your mind.  Nothing more than a passing craze for stupid people."

Of course that prediction was a bit off.  There are plenty of radio stations still on the air, including 1010 AM in Toronto that started broadcasting in 1927.  Its call sign is CFRB, the last two letters designating Rogers Batteryless radio.  After all, as Ted Rogers figured out, if you make a radio, you have to make sure people have a reason to buy one.

-- Hat tip to Dale Speirs, editor of Opuntia zine, for clueing me in on the stamp and old ads.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Flying Saucers By Jung: Ineffective Sleep Aid

During the course of a day I take a handful of meds.  I don't want to add another pill to the list and so refuse to use any sleep-inducing pharmaceuticals.

One way to knock myself out is to read a boring book, usually something academic and turgid involving considerable concentration to figure out what the fug the author is talking about.  Someone like Noam Chomsky does the trick.

I have a copy of Flying Saucers: A Modern Myth of Things Seen in the Skies by the Swiss psychiatrist and psychotherapist Carl G. Jung, translated by R.F.C. Hull.  With all due respect to the memory of Jung (he died in 1961) his writing does get to be Dense.  In Flying Saucers — a collection of Jung's writings dealing with UFOs — the author delves deeply into the symbology and psychological underpinnings of the subject.  

Because he made his observations in the early days of Ufology, he usually referred to the mysterious skyborne objects as flying saucers, the popular term back then.  Jung didn't know what the objective reality was of saucers; he never believed nor disbelieved in all of the reported sightings.  He speculated such objects might be "psychic projections" but never made any outright claims or explanations.

I had glanced at his book before and decided it would be the perfect sleep aid.  And since with most such works the turgidity is the thickest towards the end, I decided to read the epilogue.

That was a mistake.  In this section Jung explained how a "little book" feel into his hands that he couldn't leave unmentioned after finishing his manuscript.  The work was The Secret of the Saucers by Orfeo M. Angelucci (1955).  

Referring to Mr. Angelucci Jung wrote: "The author is self-taught and describes himself as a nervous individual suffering from 'constitutional inadequacy.'" 

Angelucci was one of the first contactees, individuals who said they were receiving messages from benevolent aliens (Space Brothers).  Jung talked about Angelucci's career as a prophet who "makes his living by preaching the gospel revealed to him by the Saucers."

Jung did a bang-up job of highlighting Angelucci's unusual life.  He dropped into some dense symbology related to the matter but — damn! — he then went on with concise and interesting reviews of two SF novels: The Black Cloud (1957) by Fred Hoyle and The Midwich Cuckoos (1957) by John Wyndham.  I started thinking about the concepts presented in those novels.

Guess who's wide awake by this point?  Next time I'm taking a dose of Chomsky.