Recognize this!

Didn’t I warn you? A few posts ago, I got to griping about how intrusive and annoying technology has become, and predicted cars would join the parade and start acting like people.

Well, I hate to say I told you so (no, I don’t), but according to a recent article, our SUVs and vans and sedans will soon be able to read our facial expressions! The recognition software has been around for a while, but the geniuses who gave us lemons like the Edsel and the Corvair are taking it to a new level.

(Warning: This computer has detected signs of an imminent attack of geezerhood on the writer’s face. This incident may include a long-winded, probably unfunny rant about the modern world. Read at your own risk.)

The article says once the system recognizes you, it’ll adjust your seat for maximum comfort, choose a driving mode, and suggest a destination based on past behavior.  Sounds good, but what if man and wife get in the car together and somebody’s “behavior” yields a destination like a strip joint or a Motel 6? Or if my bad back requires me to sit in a certain position, and before I can stop it, the seat adjustment squashes my spine? This thing has LAWSUIT written all over it.

This is the scary part: “Watching a driver’s face can also give a car important clues about the person’s state of mind.” If the thing spots road rage on my visage, it could “potentially quell annoying bells and chimes in the car and play some mellow jazz to soothe you.”

If “mellow jazz” means “Fine and Mellow” by Billie Holiday, it might work. If it means Kenny G, look out, ‘cause I’m ragin’ like a Cajun and am liable to switch off the system with an ax.  More to the point, if the folks who invented this mess ever had a relationship with another human being, they would NOT try to build human features into a car. Do you really want to ride around with something watching your face every second and obsessing about your feelings? Especially if the system can vocalize, like Siri.

Car: A penny for your thoughts.
Me: I’m not thinking anything.
Car: We never talk anymore. Don’t you care about me? Can’t you at least tell me what I’m doing wrong? And watch out for that red light!

This lunacy reminds me of “My Mother the Car,” a famously bad TV sitcom from the 1960s in which the main character’s late mother is reborn as a talking antique car, which takes over the poor schmuck’s life. I don’t need Big Mama reading my mug while I drive.

(Warning update: Your writer’s face suggests he’s run out of things to say. The danger has passed, at least until he gets another one of his so-called ideas. He ought to know by now that he has no talent and WAIT DON’T PUSH THAT POWER BUTTON!!!!!!)

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Scammer grammar hammer

I’ve found my calling. Since I retired a couple of years back, I’ve been floundering in the shallows of unfulfillment, trying to find purpose in geezerhood. And the market for over-60 male porn stars is a lot smaller than I hoped.

But now I’ve found a gig I can do brilliantly. It’ll never dry up and will leave me rollin’ in simoleons. The job? Teaching English to scammers! These hardworking capitalists have been around since the days of dial-up, but sadly, their grasp of the lingo is still a tad sketchy. Here, verbatim, is the email that plotzed into my inbox this very morning:

Subject: Due our security concern We need verified your payment activity

Dear (email address),
We need to lock your apple account for the following reason(s):

05 April 2017: We want to check your account surely not log-in with other device.
06 April 2017: Your account has been make a payment $116 using apple pay with a Payment Code: APP-X42-C22-P0.
10 April 2017: Due our security concern we need to block your account access until this issued has been resolved , we will waiting for 1 week or your account has been disabled permanently.

  1. LOGIN TO YOUR ACCOUNT
  2. Confirm Your identity and our system will replace with your new information.
  3. Your will be redirected and your account ready to use

It’s pretty clear why this message won’t work. First rule: send it to somebody who actually HAS an “apple” account. Besides, “We want to check your account surely not log-in with other device” is a dead giveaway. Haven’t they ever seen “Airplane?” Don’t call me Shirley! Here’s the same message with a few edits from your faithful protector of Good English:

Subject: Who the hell are you?

Dear gluten-brain:

We sure hope it wasn’t you who rented “Naughty Nymphos of North Korea” and “Pammy Does Pyongyang” the other day. We’re freezing your account colder than a Siberian squirrel’s nuts until you can verify yourself. Send us a photo of yourself (FULLY CLOTHED) and answer this security question: What’s the maiden name of your mother’s Uncle Sorghum’s fourth ex-wife? (You can also send a voice recording of yourself singing, “I Went Back with My Fourth Wife for the Third Time and Gave Her a Second Chance to Make a First-Class Fool Out of Me.”)

And from now on, be more careful about what you say online. You might get elected governor of Alabama.

The winter of our dissed content

I’ve got to stop reading. My only other choice is to march into the Florida swamps and find the fountain of youth that eluded Ponce de Leon, so I can shave a few decades off my antediluvian* life and make sense of this world again.

The reason for my latest blast of consternation (sorry, “facepalm”) is a quote in this article about what some young people want in a vacation rental home these days: “You want to stay [in] places that are Instagram-worthy because you are living your life as content.”

No, I’m not! “Content” has multiple definitions, including, “Something that is to be expressed through some medium, as speech, writing, or any of various arts.” But it’s also, “Something that is contained.” Which is precisely what you are if you turn Instagram or any medium into a god and appease it with a sacrifice of your money. Why let somebody else’s platform, app, rules, and standards dictate your life?

I’m reminded of my junior high and high school years, when I was nowhere close to being one of the cool kids and probably would’ve been known as a geek if the word had been invented yet.** That was when I learned not to define myself by what other people see. Of course, in those times a portable phone that doubled as a camera was something out of a James Bond movie or “The Jetsons.” But some people would look at a man like John Lennon and see only a threat, simply because he had long hair.

Content is produced by one party for the use and benefit of another. If you live like that, you’re forfeiting the game before the kickoff. You’re letting the card shark deal from the bottom of the deck. You’re paying for undercoating and pinstripes on your new car (when you probably don’t even need the car in the first place). You’re asking the mean girls and guys to write nice things in your yearbook.

It’s one thing to create and manage your own profile, persona, or brand. It’s quite different to become a brand. Be yourself.

*I advised y’all (my readers) a while ago about the value of a thesaurus. Did you listen?
**An odd duck, a socially awkward sort, or a serious intellectual. I didn’t fit the older definition: a carny performer who bites the head off a live chicken.

Hello, it’s me. Seriously.

Hi, this is Dave. It’s really me.

No kidding. Honestly, I’m Dave. I’m the real deal, the true article, born smack in the middle of the Boom and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan (where the city motto is, “Nobody Knows What the Heck It Means Anymore, But Yeah, There’s Still a Kalamazoo”).

I’m Dave, the guy with the deflating bed, aka Uncle Grumpy the grammar grouch, chronicler of old-age indignities, frog attacks, and sex advice for other geezers. Yes, that Dave! Check my photos and fingerprints if you’re not convinced.

Why am I trying to convince you that I’m myself? The other day, I got an emailed receipt and survey from a hotel where I never stayed. A few frantic phone calls revealed that somebody checked in using my name and my old Atlanta address, which were exposed in the big hack of federal employee data a couple of years ago. In other words, my identity has been stolen.

We’re not on the hook for any money, and so far haven’t uncovered any other scams. But it’s disturbing to know there’s a fake me out there. I also have to wonder what kind of putz would heist a normal, boring identity like mine. Why couldn’t he steal from somebody interesting, like Ted Cruz?

Until now, I hadn’t been affected by the breach and was hoping, apparently naively, to remain unscathed. But I can’t sit around worrying either.

If you’re a victim of identity theft or are afraid you might be, the federal government’s resource page is a good place to start. Meanwhile, if you run into somebody claiming to be David Swan, here’s how to tell the Dave from the doppelganger.

  1. If he has hair, it ain’t me, babe.
  2. He should know all kinds of obscure 60s and 70s music references (like the one in item #1). Ask him to name the duo that inflicted “In The Year 2525” on us, or the title of Norman Greenbaum’s follow-up to “Spirit In The Sky.” (Hint: It involves food.*)
  3. Sing the praises of Ohio State and/or Michigan State football. If you don’t hear “Go Blue!” within about 15 seconds, call the gendarmes!
  4. If he uses “barbecue” as a verb, he’s counterfeit. This is something I learned from my Southern transplantation. You might also ask him about his favorite meat and three.
  5. Get him to reminisce about being a cabdriver or an all-night DJ on an elevator-music radio station.
  6. If you’re riding in his car and he has no sense of direction, is the total antithesis of GPS and generally couldn’t find a giraffe in a broom closet, that’s me!

*The tune was “Canned Ham.” This has nothing to do with Canned Heat, a great blues band of the same era. See what I mean about those music references?

A bad spell of whether

It’s official. We’re in a national crisis. You don’t have to take my word for it. Plenty of more authoritative authorities than your Uncle Grumpy have exposed the shocking truth: the White House can’t spell.

In Washington, you know you’re in trouble when two big stories about your problem surface like enemy submarines on the same day. Now, both the Washington Post and the Associated Press have articles listing the spelling and grammar gaffes the new administration has inflicted on the public.

The list isn’t short. Some of these mistake are mildly humorous, like the news that “Teresa May,” a British porn star, would visit the White House instead of Theresa May, the prime minister. (Irrelevant parenthetical question: Since the PM is of the female persuasion, shouldn’t she be called the prime mistress? A lot more people would listen to her speeches!)

But yuks aside, this is an official White House document mucking up the name of a foreign head of state, and not just any old state but bleedin’ Britain, FFS! In the name of equal-opportunity diplomatic insults, another release referred to Colombia as “Columbia.”

Then there was the presidential quote on the official inauguration poster that read in part, “No dream is too big, no challenge is to great.” They blamed a third-party vendor for that one, which is sheep flop.* Having been both vendor and vendee,** I can testify that the client must always, ALWAYS, review and approve the product before it goes to press. Other gems include “unpresidented,” “lose cannon,” and “attaker” for “attacker” (27 times in a single document).

Of course, we all make mistakes, including the very media that reported these. Before I’d even had my coffee this morning, the Post smacked me with, “Capitol Hill Republicans have tread carefully….” It’s trod, folks.

Some of the administration’s fumbles probably stem from plain carelessness, compounded by internet-induced ADD. However, I suspect they’re also caused by what the AP headline suggests as a solution: “Hey, Mr. President: It’s time to make spellcheck great again.” Sorry, but spellcheck wouldn’t have caught Teresa, Columbia, no challenge is to great, or the misuse of “historical” for “historic” in another tweet.

As I told my students in the writing workshops I used to teach, spellcheck can’t save you from yourself. It’s no substitute for thorough reviewing and proofreading by people who know and care about the English language.

This requires time and effort. But correcting and apologizing for mistakes eats up a lot more resources! You can’t even measure the damage that typos, malapropisms, and BAD writing can do to your credibility. I shudder to imagine what people thought of my old newsroom when we quoted a pope as saying, “Life begins at the moment of contraception.”

So block out some proofreading time, get yourself some reading glasses, and be your own spellchecker. Remember, even if you’re as ancient as Uncle G, it’s never two late too lern to right good English!

 

*A euphemism. Use your imagination.
**An actual word! It means, “the person to whom a thing is sold” (Dictionary.com). I could’ve just said “customer,” but this way I get to demonstrate that I know how to use a dictionary.

Alternative Dave

“A top aide to President Trump said the new White House is using new metrics to assess the size of Trump’s inauguration:’ alternative facts‘” – USA TODAY, January 22, 2017.

In the spirit of bipartisanship and cooperation with our new president, I humbly offer these alternative facts about myself:

I possess a full head of striking blonde hair with nary a trace of grey. I also have the physique of a young god and a set of dazzling blue eyes that are often compared to those of the late Paul Newman.

I am a Pro Bowl tight end for the Super Bowl-bound Atlanta Falcons.

My short story “The Fourteenth Pelican,” shattered sales records and led Carl Hiaasen to quit writing fiction about Florida. “This guy’s too good. I’m done,” said he.

I’m the first man in history to climb Mount Everest naked. (Got to use that physique for something!)

I graduated from college in two years flat with an unprecedented quadruple major: nuclear physics, philosophy, sports writing, and music performance, with the focus on being the world’s first punk-rock oboist. I still have Johnny Rotten’s phone number.

No matter what you heard about Bob somebody winning the Nobel Prize for literature, I am the actual winner! I delivered my acceptance speech by streaming video from the driver’s seat of my BMW M3 GT2 while competing in the 24 hours of Le Mans, which of course I won, while setting a new course record of 21 hours.

I don’t like to brag. I’m a humble, reticent Midwesterner, reflecting my roots on the great prairie of Kalamazoo, Michigan, where I lived with my parents and eleven brothers and sisters.

As a boy, I could plow 100 acres in a single afternoon. With just my fingernails!

I usually know when to stop writing.

Smart machines, raging writer

My refrigerator is a noodge. I stand there with an armload of groceries, trying to make everything fit and not bruise the asparagus, and the thing puts out this rapid, high-pitched little beep beep beep. The cheese drawer’s full, the pie crust is melting, the too-long-leftover Hollandaise sauce is sending out biohazard warnings, and still it’s beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep beep.

The purpose, of course, is to remind me the refrigerator door is open. I KNOW it’s open, you nit! (I’m addressing the machine, not you the reader.) It’s open for a REASON and I PLAN ON CLOSING IT. OKAY??? Beep beep beep.

In all my 60+ years of life I’ve never wandered off and left an open fridge standing there like a jilted bride. But The Powers That Be have decided we’ve got the brains of a kiwi fruit and need a reminder for the simplest of tasks (and they’re afraid we’ll blast them into bankruptcy with bad reviews if our organic Mongolian goat’s milk sours).

I wouldn’t be so crabby if I’d gotten any sleep last night. I didn’t sleep worth beans because of another hyper-intrusive gadget: an outdoor light with a very, VERY sensitive motion detector.

Q: How sensitive is it? And try not to exaggerate this time.

A: So help me, this gizmo is so sensitive it could open for Art Garfunkel. It could pick out the flowers for an Amish wedding. It could lead a group therapy session on “How to Respect Your Partner’s Needs Even When You Know He’s a Total Dimwit.”

The last owner of our house thoughtfully stuck this contraption way too high to reach without a tall ladder, which we don’t have, and fixed it so the light shines right into the bedroom window. If a biker gang rolls up the driveway, it’ll go off and wake me (assuming I slept through the sound of Harleys). Meanwhile, if a leaf drifts past the sensor, as a gazillion leaves do at this time of year, it goes off. If a sparrow hiccups three blocks away, it goes off.

I can’t even avoid these know-it-all gadgets in my car. In case you body-conscious types need a little fresh paranoia, your vehicle knows how much you weigh. This is part of the airbag / safety system and is there for a good reason: the weight sensor keeps the bag from inflating with too much force or inflating at all if the passenger is a child. But it won’t be long before it goes from passive to aggressive.

Me, pulled up at the drive-through: “I’d like the number 3 combo. Large.”

Car: “Dave, I’ve been trying to find the right time to say this, and I do hope it doesn’t hurt our relationship, but you need to be careful about your weight. You take up more of the seat than you used to, and my gas mileage is down. And what about your cholesterol? Who’s going to drive me and take care of me if you have a heart attack? After all our time together, it’d be nice if you’d think about someone other than yourself just once. But noooooo…..”