writegeek

write with a W, geek like a G


No Ovaltine please — we’re cool.

As a kid, I didn’t know any­thing about Oval­tine aside from their com­mer­cials, so I hadn’t seen it as a spon­sor of clas­sic radio and tele­vi­sion, as a joke on Sein­feld, or as a big fat liar in A Christ­mas Story. I can’t remem­ber any of my friends hav­ing any­thing to say about it, either.

I was totally unbiased.

But from the company’s mar­ket­ing alone, I could tell that rich choco­late Oval­tine was uncool. I had never drunk any — and decades later, I still haven’t — but if I ever had, I cer­tainly wouldn’t have told any­one about it.

I’m not exactly sure why the stuff made my lame-sense tin­gle as a kid. Maybe because Oval­tine was named after a shape (and shapes are for lit­tle kids), or that its mar­ket­ing proudly pro­claimed that it was full of vit­a­mins (like every­thing par­ents love, and kids don’t), but what I sus­pect it was… was a lit­tle more basic than that.

Watched the ad above? Note the end­ing. “More Oval­tine, please!” closed all Oval­tine ads of my child­hood. My present-day cyn­i­cal, works-in-marketing self can imag­ine some agency sell­ing this con­cept to the Oval­tine com­pany with “Look, these kids not only love this vitamin-filled drink, but they love it so much they’ll develop man­ners and ask for it politely! Par­ents will eat this up!”

But my kid self saw things a lit­tle dif­fer­ently. “Wow, these kids are super-polite. That’s totally uncool.1 I don’t want this. Where’s the Nestlé Quik? That rab­bit is cool.”

There’s a mar­ket­ing mes­sage here, and it prob­a­bly goes a lit­tle some­thing like this:

If you have dif­fer­ent tar­gets, your mes­sag­ing needs to speak dif­fer­ently (use “code-switching”) when speak­ing to dif­fer­ent tar­gets — there’s peril to face when one tar­get receives a mes­sage tai­lored to another. It may fall on deaf ears, or maybe turn them off, entirely. Tell my mom about the vit­a­mins — tell me about the chocolate.

And so on. But there’s also a human mes­sage here:

Look, as you grow you’re encour­aged to “act your age” and as part of that, cast aside things and behav­iors asso­ci­ated with peo­ple younger than you, and instead do things that are more becom­ing for some­one as grown as you are. Soci­ety beats the kid out of you.

To be able to act your age is won­der­ful and arguably nec­es­sary… as long as you can still, as they say, “walk a mile” in smaller shoes when the sit­u­a­tion calls for it. And, of course, rec­og­nize why a kid — this kid, kind of grown up now — may not be inter­ested in your vit­a­min drink, how­ever how rich and choco­latey it might be.

 

  1. Full dis­clo­sure: I was kind of a polite kid, and I def­i­nitely thought I was uncool. Shoe fits.

Written by Everett Guerny

November 5th, 2013 at 1:31 am

Yes, that’s a new laptop. Yes, I know what year it is.

lenovo-thinkpad-x230-frontI know it’s 2013 and as far as “mobile com­put­ing” goes, I’m sup­posed to be pinch-zooming and app-buying and poorly-typing on a tablet like the cool kids. And I do — my  O.G. Nexus 7 (the 2012 model) some­times makes a nice com­pan­ion1 to my Galaxy Nexus Android phone, by being slightly faster and hav­ing a slightly bet­ter screen. How­ever, over the 15 months I’ve owned the Nexus 7, it never quite became the sec­ond mobile device that I wanted. Use­ful, yes… tran­scen­dent, no.

I knew some­thing was still miss­ing, so I recently went and bought a small lap­top com­puter, a Lenovo ThinkPad X230, to carry around. It runs Debian Linux. It does the things I want. It’s a won­der­ful thing to have.

I needed this because…

The lap­top that the ThinkPad replaced was from 2007, and while a decent com­puter from back then would likely still be good today, my old lap­top was not a decent com­puter, even when new. Back then, I didn’t know just how painfully slow an ultra-low-voltage, low clock-speed CPU could be… I guess I thought it being dual-core would some­how make up for it. Also, the cool­ing fan was a bit of a whiner, and would con­stantly and very vocally dis­agree with Linux’s style of power man­age­ment. The darned thing would con­stantly sound like a mini-jet-engine — too obnox­ious to use around peo­ple I actu­ally like.

Low on power, high on noise — not a good combo.

But these days…

In the last half-decade or so, main­stream humans seem to have accepted the smart­phone, and seem to be doing the same for the idiot cam­era (“tablets”). It’s the “Post-PC era,” or some­thing. Plenty of peo­ple seem to be doing okay with­out spend­ing much time on their general-purpose per­sonal com­put­ers, but over time I real­ized that as I tried to go along with this trend, I was miss­ing out. For me, a com­put­ing life cen­tered around mobile “smart” devices was one of unac­cept­able com­pro­mise. Com­pos­ing more than a cou­ple of sen­tences with­out a key­board makes me want to just not bother to write, devices with­out expand­able stor­age make one depen­dent on rent-seeking “cloud” ser­vices, and the mobile app ecosys­tem has hand­fuls of well-known prob­lems (pri­vacy, lock-in, and so on).

There’s a place for these devices, even in my life, but they just don’t replace a general-purpose com­puter. Ever.

So I did this…

I made sure not to make last time’s mis­takes when buy­ing this com­puter. The i5 CPU is more than ade­quate, and I have a ton of RAM. ThinkPads are known to play nicely with Linux, because they’re used by that awe­some kind of geek who fig­ures that shit out (and wouldn’t put up with a jet engine lap­top). It runs Debian Jessie (“test­ing”) with only minor annoy­ances — not per­fect, but noth­ing I can’t han­dle.2

Hard­ware build-quality and dura­bil­ity are major plusses for an every­day carry machine, and that’s what ThinkPads are known for. And of course, Track­Point is truly the best way to mouse. A lot has been said about the new ThinkPad key­boards, and while this one suf­fers from the bull­shit key lay­out (com­pare it to the awe­some, ugly 1337-geek clas­sic style), the key­board actu­ally feel pretty nice to type on, even if the bizarrely-placed PrintScreen key occa­sion­ally enrages me.

And finally…

In the spirit of bury­ing the lede, here are some things I intend to enjoy while tot­ing around this rock-solid, large-screen-and-real-keyboard device:

  • Full desk­top OS that does all the things
  • Bet­ter web brows­ing; approx­i­mately 1,000 open tabs
  • Actu­ally writ­ing things, blog­ging silly ideas and such
  • Tons of local stor­age (SSD + HDD = yay!)
  • Semi-modern PC games, includ­ing lots of Hum­ble Bun­dle goodness
  • Codea­cad­emy
  • Inter­ac­tive fic­tion, per­haps (now, where did I mis­place my patience?)
  1. My most com­mon tablet uses are as fol­lows: gam­ing, view­ing TV episodes and movies, and web brows­ing. I’m putting this in a foot­note so as not to side­track myself, but it’s an impor­tant point. One of the best things about hav­ing the tablet was that it gave me another 16 GB of stor­age, on top of the 16 GB avail­able on my phone. A lot of peo­ple seem to think that Google inten­tion­ally lim­its the stor­age avail­able in their flag­ship devices to push peo­ple into using their mon­e­ti­z­able “cloud” media offer­ings instead of local stor­age. I wouldn’t be sur­prised if this were true, but hon­estly, the #1 rea­son I’d like more local stor­age in my devices is not to carry around more media, but more and larger apps — some­thing you can’t put in the cloud.
  2. I imag­ine Debian Sta­ble or Ubuntu would be bet­ter.

Written by Everett Guerny

October 24th, 2013 at 8:39 pm

Can we just drop this?

If you’re not a rap­per pro­mot­ing your new album — and espe­cially if you’re a non-rapper who works in mar­ket­ing — can you do us a favor and not use “drop” to mean “the date on which [my thing] is set to be released”?

I’m sorry you’ve cho­sen e-mail spam or what­ever the fuck you do for a liv­ing, but talk­ing about the day your new cam­paign or what­ever “drops” doesn’t make you sound hip or hard or whatever.

There is one accept­able use out­side the rap game: are you a preg­nant woman dis­cussing the date your kid is due to be born? Then that’s… actu­ally totally cool.

“Lil’ shorty drops Novem­ber 7th. Yeah.“
–Expec­tant mother

Written by Everett Guerny

October 1st, 2013 at 7:09 pm

Toolbogged

Oh, hey guys — I just invented a new word.

tool­bogged /ˈtulˌbɒgged/
(v. intr; past par­tici­ple of toolbog)

To become so con­sumed by the process of research­ing and select­ing gear (often soft­ware) for a given task that one never actu­ally com­pletes the task itself

I’ve been com­pletely tool­bogged try­ing to auto­mate fix­ing the date and time on hun­dreds of RAW files from vaca­tion last fall… that I never even sorted the pics them­selves!1

  1. Based on a true story, sadly.

Written by Everett Guerny

September 22nd, 2013 at 3:16 am

Cooties: they’re back

Ages ago, we thought we had a cure for cooties in the youth pop­u­la­tion: the cootie shot.

The dis­ease itself could usu­ally go untreated with­out ill effect; the real prob­lem was the sec­ondary social stigma that came with being a car­rier. Once the other kids found out that you had cooties, your social life would be roasted, toasted… burnt to a crisp. Play dates? Can­celed. Sleep­overs? In your dreams. And, hon­estly, who would want to go to your birth­day party?

Yes, it was that bad.

From this cul­ture the cootie shot was born, and fear of cooties could make even the biggest wimp for­get he was afraid of shots — this was a seri­ous prob­lem for which there was no other treat­ment. Even the chil­dren whose par­ents’ ques­tion­able sci­en­tific beliefs kept them far away from vac­ci­na­tions could be found seek­ing treat­ment in the dark alleys of the school­yard, because cooties — not chicken pox or what­ever — was the one ill­ness that could keep you up at night, wor­ry­ing well past your bedtime.

The cootie shot was sup­posed to be a bul­let­proof defense against every known strain. It was sup­posed to offer a sec­ond chance at childhood.

Get­ting vac­ci­nated worked like this: a typ­i­cally unli­censed prac­ti­tioner with ques­tion­able med­ical train­ing would admin­is­ter the shot by speak­ing the fol­low­ing incan­ta­tion in a singsong voice, while using their fin­ger to trace the noted shapes on your body.

Cir­cle cir­cle, dot dot
Now you’ve got the cootie shot

But that’s just the first stage of the vac­cine cock­tail. Per­haps your fore­arm would be pro­tected, but what about every other part? If you didn’t con­tinue the full course of treat­ment, cooties would likely gain a foothold and basi­cally ruin your entire life.

Cir­cle cir­cle, square square
Now you’ve got it everywhere

At this point, you’d be safe until the shot wore off… which by the way, it would do almost instantly. Kids were still get­ting infected left and right, so the great­est med­ical minds on the play­ground came up with what seemed like a sil­ver bul­let for this pub­lic health crisis.

Cir­cle cir­cle, knife knife
Now you’ve got it for your life

Only now could you breathe easy — you were finally immune. Not even the yuck­i­est girl1  could cause you harm.

At least that’s how it used to work. Once a panacea, a hope for a bet­ter tomor­row, cootie shots have become scarce. This easily-preventable ail­ment joins measles, polio and whoop­ing cough as again some­thing we must once again worry about.

What hap­pened? Make-believe med­ical pro­fes­sion­als today — with their hands tied by a well-known enemy of healthy and happy pop­u­la­tion — can be heard all too often singing a very dif­fer­ent song:

Cir­cle cir­cle, shame shame
Your HMO denied your claim

  1. Every­one knows that females are the main car­ri­ers of cooties, and those bitches are every­where.

Written by Everett Guerny

August 2nd, 2013 at 4:04 am

This is cool. Slash get off my lawn.

Slash: Not Just a Punc­tu­a­tion Mark Anymore

Two weeks ago, one stu­dent brought up the word slash as an exam­ple of new slang, and it quickly became clear to me that many stu­dents are using slash in ways unfa­mil­iar to me.

(…)

6. I need to go home and write my essay slash take a nap.

(…)

12. JUST SAW ALEX! Slash I just chubbed on oat­meal raisin cook­ies at north quad and i miss you

via Boing­Bo­ing

Written by Everett Guerny

May 8th, 2013 at 9:20 pm

Movie Mom Advice from Netflix

Net­flix has me trained pretty well — I know never to read the red envelopes that show up at my place. These days, the flip side is always a promo for some exclu­sive orig­i­nal series I don’t care about. House of Cards is amaz­ing? That’s won­der­ful; let me know when I can actu­ally stream some god­damn movies, okay?

That’s why I was sur­prised when tonight’s Net­flix envelopes actu­ally man­aged to catch my eye. On my way back from the mail­box I found both clev­erly embla­zoned with dif­fer­ent life tips from movie moms. Tonight’s haul came wrapped in choice bits of For­rest Gump and Brave — timely for Mother’s Day and all that.

 

I won­der how many designs there actu­ally are in the series — I’m guess­ing far fewer than the hun­dreds the num­ber­ing sys­tem seems to sug­gest. I’ll be look­ing for more in a few days.

That’s actu­ally pretty sweet of them. I’ll… be sure to let mom know.

Written by Everett Guerny

May 3rd, 2013 at 2:13 am