July 2009 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

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Today’s fast fact: Nearly 77% of all paper towels bought in the US last year were used to clean up cat vomit.  At least 77% of the ones bought around here were.  Speaking of cat vomit, I’ve noticed that the Garage Cat Boys (Boots, Marley and Yo-Yo) all start making a weird howling sound about ten seconds before they puke.  It’s really quite handy, as it gives you time to lift the afflicted creature gently off your desk and toss it out the window into the hall.  Kiki and her crew (Gus, Phoebe and Harry), on the other hand, are more than willing to puke in your lap with no warning.

Onward.  If the real Steve Jobs were this funny, I might buy a Mac, but he’s not, so I won’t.  Speaking of the real Steve Jobs, disgraced stock tout Henry Blodget (as Fake Steve Jobs calls him) has apparently developed a major obsession with the (real) Jobs, especially his former hair. Check it out. (Yes, that’s not his byline, but he runs the site.) The Life And Awesomeness Of Steve Jobs? Weird.  I wonder how much Apple stock Henry holds.

Elsewhere in the cyberverse, some of us don’t care for Google and its plans to sell your soul to the highest bidder, but it seems to be Amazon that is getting most of the flak at the moment.  Apparently some malcontents (who doubtless bear watching in any case) bought hinky books for their Kindles and were subsequently shocked to discover that Amazon had the power to wirelessly vaporize said books in the dead of night.  The fact that the books in question were Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984 does win our annual This Is All A Dream, Right? award, but for the benefit of the slow learners out there still scratching their heads over how such a thing could happen, it’s worth pointing out that those weirdos had not actually bought those books in the sense that one buys a slice of pizza (or real book).  They had bought a license to view the books, a license that came with legal restrictions dictating what device they could read them on (Kindle, duh), whether they could transfer them to another device (nope), and whether they could sell them when they were finished reading them (nope again).  The fact that those restrictions did not specifically say that Amazon could, at a publisher’s behest, zap “your” Kindle with its death ray may make for an interesting court case. But the same sort of you-don’t-really-own-this “license” applies to nearly all proprietary software for Windows or Mac computers. Of course, Amazon has since promised to never, never, ever vaporize any Kindle owner’s books ever again.  Right.

Anyway, I find this all fascinating because, in a moment of madness last month, I decided to publish The Word Detective as a monthly subscription on Kindle (Amazon actually sent me an invitation, believe it or not).  I don’t own a Kindle, and I have no plans to buy one (and I don’t even want one).  Thus I have no idea of what TWD looks like on the Kindle.  But a bunch of people have actually subscribed to TWD on the Kindle, which leaves me faintly amazed and, given the brouhaha over the Orwell “books-but-not-books,” with a sense of diabolical empowerment.  Here I sit, in the middle of nowhere in a tumbledown manse infested with cats, poor as a churchmouse, and yet I have the ability, if I so choose, to reach out and zap somebody’s sleek, expensive Kindle.  Bwaahaahaa. Now I know how Dick Cheney felt, minus the robot heart, of course.

I would never, ever do that, honest. But the best way to ensure that I can’t do that is to subscribe to TWD-by-Email, which would not only deliver TWD to your emailbox in a firmly irrevocable form, but actually enable me and my kittycat pals to eat.  And, of course, to buy lots of paper towels.

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