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Words


A collection of my assorted writings

|  AJC Articles  |  "The Furby"  |  Top 10 Signs You're an Obsessive 'Dead Like Me' Fan  |  Remnants of the Information Age  |  


AJC Articles (Gwinnett Section)

  • *NEW* "No Army of Ants can Take This Hill" (06/05)
  • "The Balloon and the Airport" (02/05)
  • "Things Could Get Goofy for UGA" (06/04)
  • "'Pott-heads' of All Ages Spellbound by Magic"(07/04)


    “The Furby” by Chris Kern  (with apologies to Edgar Allan Poe)

    Once upon a midnight dreary, While I pondered, weak and weary
    Over many a strange and curious Bond film starring one Roger Moore --
    In the house, the phone unringing, suddenly there came a pinging,
    As if something gently singing, singing at my apartment door.
    "Darn cats," I muttered, "crying at the bedroom door--
    Only this, and nothing more."

    But the clumsy cats persistence, never showed the least resistance,
    "They sound upset and listless, like they've ne’er been fed before."
    By now, my doubt was coming over, was it the cats, or something other?
    The sound was not feline, nor was it that Roger Moore.
    "Mayhap a stray delivery boy, chanting at my Apartment door.
    This it is, and nothing more."


    Presently, I became suspicious, of someone delivering foods delicious
    "I ordered not a thing," said I, "You must have the wrong floor.
    Sorry I didn't answer quicker, but, sir, I've been getting sicker,
    It’s sure bad for your ticker, this drink of fruit liqueur.
    I thought it was my felines..."--here I opened up the door;--
    Darkness there and nothing more.


    Back into my dwelling walking, all within me set to gawking,
    Soon I heard the timid talking, inside the room, it was for sure.
    "Surely, that's my cat, that is, sitting in the window lattice,
    Let me see then, what cat that is, and shove it to the floor.
    The cats should not be up there, that’s a thing they know for sure.<
    ‘Tis my cat, and nothing more."


    I opened up the window dressing, my shorts and trousers almost messing,
    For there sat a fuzzy creature like I'd never seen before.
    Bulging eyes it had, with lashes, and hair as gray as funeral ashes,
    And little blackened patches on the coat of fur it wore.
    A chest and tail of pink, as well the mane that lifted o'er--
    And a beak that hungered more.


    Then this obtuse beast, beguiling, my sad fancy into smiling,
    By the sheer absurdity of all the colors that it bore.
    "Though, your voice is surely scathing, thou art no mere children's plaything,
    Of the e-toys solely aiding capitalism at it's very core.
    Tell me what thy odious name is, that in your chips you store."
    Quoth the Furby, "Me May-May!"


    Startled by the silence broken by reply so strangely spoken,
    "No doubt," said I, "What it spoke was all it has in store.
    You were made somewhere in Asia, or Japan, or e'en Malaysia,
    Until auctions had appraised ya, for $200 or more!"
    I then picked up the creature, for I'd never seen before.
    Quoth the Furby, "Ah-may ko-ko!"


    Then, methought, darkness grew thicker, as if a basket made of wicker
    Or the collar of a vicar, strangled the lamplight flowing o'er.
    "Toy!" said I, "Tiger has sent thee--by these manuals you hath lent me,
    You surely are the envy of any toy that came before.
    But what dark purpose hath you, to come knocking at my door?
    Quoth the Furby, "Wee-tee kah way-loh!"


    "Gremlin!" said I, "Demonic An'mal! Creature strange, if bird or mammal,
    I'll undo your bottom panel, to spill thy batt'ries on the floor!
    Then you will not have the ability, to converse with such agility,
    Return my calm tranquility! I will hear your words no more!"
    But I had no head of Phillips, to undo his batt’ry door.
    Quoth the Furby, "May-may toh-loo tickle!"


    Remark the Furby, on it chatters, singing, snoring, without manners,
    To the point of burps and blatters, Till it gets to be a bore.
    When my wife, from far returning, smells a fire of something burning,
    She will know I've quenched a yearning, something at my very core.
    And once the Furby ceases twitching, I will surely stop my bitching,
    For I'll have scratched an evil itching, as I'd never known before.
    And it will speak--ah, nevermore!


    ======

    (Inspired by an evening of Furby-sitting for Melissa.)


    Top 10 Signs You're an Obsessive "Dead Like Me" Fan
    --------------------

    10. You've actually booked a flight to the white cliffs of Dover in an attempt to find Betty.

    9. Local Meter Maids often comment on how unusually polite you are to them.

    8. Co-workers are starting to wonder why you send meeting invitations on yellow post-it notes bearing their first initial, last name, and the location.

    7. Your spouse and/or kids are becoming worried about your new habit of taking Polaroids of people and sorting them into plastic bags.

    6. A spray-painted "Der" has been mysteriously added to the Waffle House restaurant signs in your area.

    5. Your boss is a little concerned when you say "I was told there would be cookies..." during your annual review.

    4. You've made your very own "Toilet Tree" shrine to George.

    3. The Press is a bit perplexed when your report to the US Energy Commission cites "Gravelings" as the cause of the New York Blackout.

    2. Every time you read a headline about the SOBIG virus, you think about how cool it would be to release the "HERBIG" virus on the unsuspecting world.

    1. The neighborhood basketball court has a new rule: If you want to play, you have to put down the scythe first.


    Remnants of The Information Age  by Chris Kern

      As I consider the technological wonders of the Information Age, I am truly amazed at how our lives have been changed so dramatically. Think about how much has been accomplished in terms of computers, software and the Internet in the past decade. But for all this accomplishment, think about how much of it will remain after a few hundred years. Archeologists require solid mediums and tangible objects to learn about civilizations. Since most of our communications occur either electronically (e-mail, web pages) or in a broadcast medium (television, telephone), there is amazingly little permanent evidence that will remain of our daily culture in the Information Age. The ubiquitous materials of today, namely silicon, magnetic media and plastic, all degrade into uselessness in a matter of decades. Tragically, most of our electronic culture will probably be lost due to volatile media and the computer-specific nature of the age.

      For years, we’ve been sold on the idea that “Digital is better than Analog.” As a result, traditionally analog mediums are gradually being replaced by digital ones. Compact Discs have replaced records and cassette tapes in music stores, digital cable and satellite television are slowly taking over, and digital cameras are nearing the quality and ease of use of their analog counterparts. However, analog is far superior in terms of longevity and accessibility. We can see the cave paintings in Lascaux, France, read the Dead Sea Scrolls and hear Beethoven's music because all these mediums are tangible, observable and analog. Today’s digital media are saved in computer files (MP3, DOC,etc.) encoded specifically for a specific computer, a specific program, even a specific VERSION of that program. What this means for future civilizations is that all of our digital media, from music to art to the written word, could be lost because the hardware required to read it would be gone.

      Go back even 20 years, take a ROM card form a "Space Invaders" game, and look at it from an archeological perspective. Without knowing what to do with this bit of silicon, it's worthless. Even if we knew it's general purpose, nothing further could be done without knowing very specific details about what other hardware, power, inputs (buttons and a joystick) and outputs (speakers and monitor) that this card expects to be attached to. If this ROM were found today, 99% of us wouldn't be able to tell if it was from a weather satellite or a Speak 'N Spell. If found in 300 years, it would most likely be discarded as junk, and future generations would never know the immense impact that this game had on our culture.

      Our society uses silicon like earlier civilizations used stone and wood; it's found in just about everything you can imagine. So just as a splinter of wood from a catapult looks exactly like a splinter of wood from a horse cart, it's nearly impossible to determine the function of a silicon chip, if found by itself. Products in the information age are built on thousands of assumptions, from which commands a user may select to the internal names and hex addresses of each bit of hardware inside it. Meanwhile, the only expectation of your average device from 1200 A.D. was probably "Turn the thynge what looks lyke a wheele." Given the complexity of modern electronic devices, it would be almost impossible to understand an object, much less re-create it, from just one component. While we might be able to build some of DaVinci’s creations based on his drawings, imagine the complexity of building a PC from schematic drawings. Computers are built from components on an assembly line, but each component of the final product can be itself a final product of a PREVIOUS assembly line. So while they might figure out how to install the Video Card, they would also have to figure out how the Video Card itself was built. Figure in that almost every component in a computer comes from a different manufacturer, and you can imagine how hard it would be to find sufficient technical documentation.

      Software programs would be even less likely to be readable by future generations. First off, the mediums that we write software on, namely CD-ROMs and Hard Drives, have a fairly short shelf-life. But for argument’s sake, let's say a Hard drive is found in working condition, and the contents are looked at. Even if ASCII format for text is still known in the future, that would only unlock the "ReadMe" files, and to a lesser degree, the tag-filled raw-text of Microsoft Word and HTML documents. Applications and app-specific file types would be nearly impossible to interpret. What if a copy of the game “Myst”, was found 200 years from now? Future archeologists would have the impossible task of rebuilding a working computer from this era, complete with the specific operating system that it would run on. Since this would be nearly impossible, they'd try to read the code itself. Not bloody likely. While there are structured computer languages like Java or Visual Basic that can be read and understood, all of the programs on your computer are "compiled." Essentially, compiling your code means translating the readable code into a binary format that only a specific computer type with a specific processor, which a specific operating system can read. And every program file, like a JPEG image or a Photoshop document, requires a computer application to read them. So while "The Complete Works of Edgar Allan Poe" saved in PDF format might outlast the version on paper, the disk or file format would probably not be readable and it would tragically be lost to future Literature majors.

      So what remnants of the Information Age would survive to be studied by future generations? Regrettably, the tangible, embarrassingly ANALOG items that have always been found, like books, sheet music and works of art, will be most likely to remain. Books convey our modern era appropriately, but what of digital artists and electronic music composers? The brilliant new world of digital art will go tragically unrecorded, because most of the originals are only stored digitally on hard drives and Zip disks. Even if these pictures were printed out, today’s very best toner would only last a couple of decades. And most music CD’s that you buy today are at least equal parts music and production, so modern songs are much more than what notes on paper can convey. Even if they could re-create it from the sheet music, I doubt that future generations would ever “get” modern music.

      In conclusion, very little will be known of the early 21st century citizen. Strange bits of silicon and plastic will be found nearly everywhere but archaeologists will not be able to determine what the devices did. Upon finding a Palm Pilot in a skeleton’s hand, they may observe it like the Liliputians of Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travels” observed a pocket watch: It must be some sort of God, because “he seldom did anything without consulting it” This would be a surprisingly accurate observation of the place that technology has taken in our lives today.

  • ©2004 SiriusGraphics/Chris Kern