and all the BS fit to read!

Wasting Time: The Solitaire Project by Larry Blumen

Wasting Time: The Solitaire Project  by Larry Blumen

May 28, 2012

My father liked to play solitaire. He didn’t play it on some device. This was before devices were invented. He used real cards. In his street-tough youth, he’d been a blackjack dealer in road houses. He liked the feel of a deck of cards in his hands. Just watching him shuffle between games was a mesmerizing experience. He started out holding the deck in the fingers of both hands in front of him, as you might hold a harmonica. Then, in a couple of quick, but graceful, movements, he split the deck exactly in half, to the card, positioning the half-packs in front of him so that their corresponding diagonal corners opposed each other. Then, with both his thumbs against the packs, he riffled them together soundlessly, except for a low fluttering. In so doing, the corners of each pack became perfectly interleaved, card by card. At that point, he pressed both hands together, compressing the two deck-halves back together into a single pack again, like magic. The fingers of both his hands came to rest in exact position to do another shuffle. In this way, my father would execute three or four shuffles together, one right after the other. I never got tired of watching him do that. I had no concept of all the hours he must have wasted in his youth, acquiring such a high level of manual dexterity. A shuffle, the way my father did it, was not just a shuffle—it was a perfect shuffle. Eight perfect shuffles and the cards in the deck would be returned to the same order they were in at the start. My father’s skill at cards was not limited to shuffling. He was a master of all the secret card manipulations and sleights-of-hand known to adepts, but he never showed these moves to me, the way a magician would. They were not meant to be seen. They were moves by which the unsuspecting could be fleeced. My father said that he never used his ability to cheat anybody, except knaves and fools—in his manner of speech, bums. I often heard him say, “I never made a dollar off an honest man.” When my parents...

Angry Birds…Pigs in Space!-Larry Blumen

Angry Birds…Pigs in Space!-Larry Blumen

Mar 27, 2012

Pigs in Space! by Larry Blumen On March 22, those clever bird brains at Rovio released a new version of Angry Birds that marks a departure (literally!) from their previous earthbound versions. Everything up to now in this physics-based game could have been played by Galileo—when you flung a bird, it traced a parabolic arc through the sky before coming down on the hapless pigs. Now the pigs are in space, hiding on asteroids and other planetary bodies, and you have to know something about orbital mechanics to play the game—it’s rocket science. But Angry Birds fans should not worry. The scientists at Rovio have made the first level of games absurdly easy to suck you in before upping the difficulty to a level that will leave you stranded in the asteroid belt without a retro rocket. If, like me, you had reached a point where you could play this game in your sleep blindfolded, you’ll have to wake up and start thinking again—it’s a new frontier! Larry Blumen is an innovative author with a dryer-than-dry sense of humor.  His debut book VD Man takes place in 1965, Miami, Florida, a city that has more cases of infectious syphilis than any city in America—a fact the Chamber of Commerce and the Miami Health Department conspire to cover up. Into this sticky wicket stumbles Allen Kravass, who gives up a cushy job in his father’s bank to pursue a career in syphilis eradication with the federal government. Kravass aspires to be a VD man—a sleuth for syphilis. Purchase your copy of VD MAN on Amazon TODAY! Twitter Facebook...

My Dylan Yodel #374 – Larry Blumen

My Dylan Yodel #374 – Larry Blumen

Feb 28, 2012

If you’re not afflicted with Bob Dylan, click here. I just got through listening to Dylan’s Christmas album, all the way through, for the seventh time since Christmas. Up to about the fifth time, I was thinking—Bob Dylan. Doing Christmas songs. Uh, yeah. Then, somewhere during the fifth go-round, it got to me—this is vintage Dylan. It’s good! He has done the whole Christmas catalog with a Christmas blues and a Christmas polka thrown in for grins. Competent arrangements, orchestrated without irony, and Dylan’s voice, weaving in and out miraculously. Sure, the voice is ruined, but he plays it the same way he plays his wild harmonica. He hits every note right, unexpectedly. If you’re truly Dylan afflicted—get it, hear it, like it. Even if it’s not Christmas. httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcXW0Se4HMs     Extra credit: on which cut does Dylan sing: “Ho, Ho, Ho!”?   Larry Blumen is an innovative author with a dryer-than-dry sense of humor.  His debut book VD Man takes place in 1965, Miami, Florida, a city that has more cases of infectious syphilis than any city in America—a fact the Chamber of Commerce and the Miami Health Department conspire to cover up. Into this sticky wicket stumbles Allen Kravass, who gives up a cushy job in his father’s bank to pursue a career in syphilis eradication with the federal government. Kravass aspires to be a VD man—a sleuth for syphilis. Purchase your copy of VD MAN on Amazon TODAY! Twitter Facebook...

Occupy UI! – Larry Blumen

Occupy UI! – Larry Blumen

Jan 4, 2012

My wife and I each have our own Droid X smartphones and Galaxy Tab tablets, plus a laptop that we share.  I’m fairly computer literate, but not more than that—ignorance reigns supreme with so many devices and apps to deal with, each having it’s own learning curve to be shinnied up. My wife’s position on all these learning curves has gone from zero to 30 in a very short period of time, which is not bad for one who freely admits her hatred of things that blink and chime, and talk back.  We both get really angry at our devices, but my wife, even when she knows what to do, will often play ombudsman for the severely device-challenged, pleading  the logic of their case eloquently and passionately as she did to me this morning: “All these apps work differently, with things disguised as buttons and buttons disguised as things—different apps with different ways of doing the same things in different places.  Why can’t they all do the same things in the same ways in the same places?” My wife was having a Steve Jobs moment.  In an Android world, that can be a little awkward.  It didn’t take me long to come up with examples of her complaint within Google’s own applications: The display of pictures and albums is handled differently, and lousily, in PC Picasa, Picasa Web Albums and Google+, with the same set of controls arrayed in wildly different ways. A single application, like Gmail, has a very different UI on mobile than on the PC and they’re both different from the tablet (where the interface is actually pretty neat). In independent apps, browser-based or Android based, developers are still living in the Wild West where anything goes. Keyboards are all different. The cure for this is UI standardization, which equates to a presumption of non-competitiveness, not to mention sameness and boredom.  Developers and their masters don’t want this—they want to be crazy different in order to get your attention.  They have data showing that crazy different works. They’re not going to change their minds.  But maybe they don’t have to.  It would be enough if the gods of Android just enforcedly...

My Hot Dog Holy Grail – Larry Blumen

My Hot Dog Holy Grail – Larry Blumen

Dec 5, 2011

Many years ago, on my way to a Braves game, I stopped at a sports bar in Midtown for something to eat. The barwoman asked me what I wanted and I told her, a hot dog. She asked me what I wanted on it, and I said, mustard. She gave me a look, but didn’t say anything. When she came back with my order, I checked it out:  a bun, a squiggle of mustard and, underneath, what appeared to be a weenie—just what I’d asked for. But when I took my first bite, I realized that this was no mere weenie. It was the best damn hot dog I’d ever tasted!  I didn’t know what to call it—I’d been raised in the South to be ignorant of anything except “hot dog” and “weenie”, and neither of these words described what I had in my mouth. When I got back home from the game, I praised this taste sensation to my wife, but the only way I could describe it was, “a hot dog on steroids”. She said, “That was a bratwurst.” I said, “Great—get me some at the store!” She said, “There’s no way I’m getting that at the store—It’ll clog up your arteries and give you a heart attack.” So I discovered my hot dog holy grail, and, in the same instant, learned that I was forbidden to ever eat one again.  Well, there was no way that was going to happen.  The next time I went to a Braves game, I stopped by the same sports bar, in search of guilty pleasure. But the place was closed, in the sense of gone and out of business. I was confounded—how could such an excellent establishment go out of business?  The only thing I could figure was, they weren’t charging enough for the hot dogs. Since then I have walked the Earth, with a jar of French’s mustard in my hand, searching for my holy grail. I’ve been in every gin joint in the country, looking for the perfect dog—big, with a lot of heft, and that unique hot dog taste, that delirious blend of animal parts, with just a hint of rat hair....

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