The Editor's Mess

I’m definitely not in love with Valentine’s Day.  I don’t think I’m alone in this.  I don’t have a special someone to bring me breakfast in bed, I don’t get a card, I’m not going out anywhere for any kind of romantic meal nor am I bringing any roses to it.  Just the way it goes. 

There are a couple of ways to take that: either I’m a damaged aberration, or this is more common than we’re led to believe.   I have my own theory.

In any case, it’s interesting to me that we celebrate Valentine’s Day and yet nobody really knows why we have such a holiday.  (Not a real holiday, mind you: everyone still has work.)  Catholics have different saints that could be the eponymous “Valentine,” and, ironically, all were horribly murdered.   The Roman Emperor Claudius Gothicus killed at least two of them by cutting off their heads.

Red roses indeed.

How Hallmark and Hollywood turned this disgusting bloodbath into anything so tepid and formulaic is another story.

Time for boozy nog and fireplace rituals.It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the YearTM, according to many experts in the field, including greeting card companies and ye olde crooners like Andy Williams.  It’s time to gather the family around the fireplace and drink all sorts of nog – egg-nog, cinnamon-toast-nog, pumpkin-spice-nog, all generously laced with rum and brandy – so the adults get X-mas happy while the kids carefully rehearse how many toys they want, including every major A-list game title, nextgen console upgrade, and which $4,000+ new gaming rig they can’t live without.

It is, therefore, also a time for great indebtedness for parents, which makes it the perfect time for re-gifting!  That is, taking all the unwanted crap people have gifted to you, and gifting them (ideally) to someone else, so you don’t have to squander your hard-earned, inflation ravaged moola. It just makes solid financial sense.

This can be a sensitive matter, giving someone your gift.  You run the risk of embarrassment or retaliation unless you don’t particularly care.  If this describes you, read on, chumply, read on.

And swing that dead cat hard.Not sure when chefs became more than budding alcoholics sitting around in suffocating kitchens spitting in the horrible food I sent back for being inedible, but these days you can’t throw a dead cat without it ending up in a 30 minute stew on someone’s cooking show. 

Let’s make more!  And I’ll watch them because I’m bored.  In fact, I’ve been watching Ramsey’s latest shameless money grab “Next Level Chef,” where he tortures more aspiring alcoholics in a three level kitchen thing designed to be on T.V.: the top level is the best one, with all the fancy cooking crap and everything you can dream of, and the bottom is like your great-grandma’s basement dungeon where hope and ancient cooking pots go to die.  The middle one is just ok. 

So then the bozos are randomly assigned to one of the kitchens and have to make due with whatever stuff is there.  Eventually a big bunch of food comes down on an elevator in the middle of the kitchens, the top guys get first pick, and they take everything good so by the time the crappy basement dwellers get it they’re cooking pickled sea urchin sticks with maple syrup and hoping the judges have a brain aneurysm and think this garbage is delicious.  Then the judges endlessly criticize their crap and kick people out until the poor bastard still left wins, and then he or she or they get to go on the “hidden cooking show circuit” and end up in a cable cooking competition deathmarch for the next 10 years.

One of the judges on Gordon’s show is Richard Blais, who I remember from Top Chef.  The guy’s funny and it’s a paycheck, really don’t have any beef with him.  Gordon is predictably intense and furthering his agenda of never being home because he’s either filming a FOX reality show or yelling at his underlings in one of his bazillion restaurants.  Anyway, I’m sure his wife doesn’t mind so long as her debit card works. 

The other judge is a renowned restauranteur from someplace and seems ok.   Genuinely seems to care about the contestants she picked out from the pack.   Anyway, the show’s format isn’t her fault.  It’s a Gordon money-grab and he’s making the bulk of the cash from this shameless exploitation of amateur chefs looking for exposure and enough money to open a restaurant that’ll fail in a year after the buzz wears off and “Next Level Chef” is endlessly repeating on late night Dabl TV, and idiots like me are googling “what happened to XXX” where XXX is whoever won the show we’re now watching at 2AM on a Wednesday.

I watched the whole season and can’t remember who won and I’m too lazy to google it now.  That’s how big an impression it made on me, I guess.  Of course, like millions of others I wasn’t paying that close of attention.

It’s not that I’m a Ramsey hater, I’m not.  I’ve watched like all his shows and for the most part I get his frustration dealing with boneheads who can’t figure out that serving raw chicken can kill someone.  Or that would-be restauranteurs should pay attention to what their kitchens are doing and clean the walk-in every now and then because it’s disgusting when you don’t.  For the most part he’s yelling common-sense into blockheads who either forgot or just wanted to own a restaurant for tax-deductible booze, and I get that.

But would it really be so bad to have a Ramsey show out there which transforms idiots without the shock-and-awe?  Probably wouldn’t air on FOX but I can dream.  Producers: here’s your next challenge.

So you think I'm a boomer, huh?Back when truth or accuracy still mattered, I was not a “boomer.” I was part of the greatest generation ever conceived: Gen-X. We told this to ourselves all the time. And everyone else listened too because we were in that “magic quadrant” of consumerism: that 18-24 year old sweet spot where every advertiser tries to sell you everything, so they listen to everything you say, like a guy at a bar trying to get into your pants. All the attention makes you feel special, not that we needed any help in that department.

Meanwhile, the real jerks were the hippie “boomers,” the generation before us, which screwed up everything and had love-ins throughout college, unlike us who were stuck in computer lab. They were the reason we were never going to see a dime of social security. They were the reason we had global warming. They were the reason why the job market sucked so bad, the “worst in a generation.” In short, they sucked.

If you had any doubts then, just ask us, we’d tell you: boomers sucked.


I’ve lived through a technological boon the likes of which the world has never seen before.  We’ve gone from Atari 2600 to Playstation 5, leaded gas guzzlers to EVs, TVs that had to “warm up” before you could see anything to smart TVs that can spy on you when switched off, all in a single generation.

We’ve reaped the rewards.  Efficiency, productivity, and the sheer quality of data gathering, and analysis has been nothing short of miraculous for businesses and governments worldwide.   We can spy on our neighbors from space, detect changes in an atmosphere hundreds of light years away, and stage increasingly weird “get me a napkin” videos where millennials tear the shirts off their buddies.

Yet, as we sit right now, the products of this revolution surrounding us, none of us – not the most skilled high-tech worker or the everyday user – can go a single day without a baffling software update, a completely inexplicable software crash of a key application that you’re depending upon to work, or something that no matter how hard you try you just can’t get to work like it used to.  Whether you’re analyzing financials, ordering a pizza, or playing a game on your console or PC, at some point during this day it will fail, and you won’t know why.

The reasons for the failures are many but they’re mostly due to bugs: code that was written to consider every possible situation a user would think of except for whatever it is you happen to be doing right now, which caused it to crash.   The software wasn’t designed by people with tons of user experience or excessive amounts of imagination.   It was designed by companies that got a bunch of venture capital based on a cool idea – an idea that was incomplete, un-designed, and in most cases didn’t work – which then led to a series of speedy code sprints to a product that just barely works, so they could get more money and “fix the problems later.”   Unfortunately, “later” never happened.

That company went on to grow and grow, all atop that stuff from the very beginning – the stuff that was designed to just barely work – until by now it’s gotten so complex, huge, and unwieldy, that every now and then it just crashes for no obvious reason.   Slap goes a code band-aid.

Modern software development lifecycle.Rinse and repeat this same process over every piece of software you interact with daily, and you’re left with the inescapable conclusion that technology is garbage.  We live in a world full of half-assed solutions to complex problems that don’t work like they should.  And when they inevitably fail, we are either left with a (at best) cryptic message that makes us feel stupid until we Google whatever nonsense phrase they’re showing us – which results in a long, meandering distraction down the always unhelpful rabbit hole of angry internet racism – or nothing at all except maybe a “error message” which doesn’t say anything helpful and delivers blanks on Google.

The kicker is that we’ve all gotten so used to this garbage, not only don’t we care anymore, it’s baked in to the entire experience of our lives.  How many times have you been using something that just suddenly crashes, breaks, or malfunctions, and your instant, passive reaction was to “reboot” instead of scream in anger or stop using whatever it is altogether? 

Whoops.We have come to expect SO LITTLE from our half-baked technological wonders that the billionaire moguls who foist off all this crap on us take it to the bank.   They know we’re gonna buy whatever gadget they’re selling because it’s cool, looks helpful, or whatever, regardless of whether it works reliably or not.  They’re banking on the training they’ve instilled in the world’s population to accept substandard garbage and pay a premium for the privilege.  They could make a smartphone that didn’t just “freeze,” suddenly stop using the same WiFi connection you’ve had for years, or crash right in the middle of a killer poker hand you’ve been waiting weeks to get just before you won.  They could do that.  They don’t because garbage is quicker and working that hard is hard.  Why bother if you’re a billionaire either way?

We should expect MORE from our technology, not LESS.  Like it or not, we’ve pinned a substantial portion of humanity’s future on our technological inventiveness, and the stakes are getting higher.  Do we really want to hand over more and more responsibility to AI systems that suddenly decide, for no apparent reason, that maybe that popular German dictator from World War II had some good ideas after all?  Or maybe that a movie called “Airplane!” is some sort of instructional film, and a solid model to mimic when used in the fancy new autopilot system?  Or how about when that fancy new pacemaker decides it’s time to constantly reboot after a failed firmware update?


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