The Book of Knowledge: 1

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When I was growing up in the Fifties and Sixties, having an encyclopedia in your home was the bee’s knees, to use my grandmother’s phrase. It was a sign of sophistication and learning, of culture and wisdom. And being reasonably well-off, because encyclopedias were not inexpensive. I can still hear Jimminy Cricket singing the song (it’s how I learned to spell encyclopedia). Many school libraries had them, although usually only one set and not always the most current or the … click below for more!

Toying With Townscaper

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As a longtime gamer, I am always looking for new forms of computer and online entertainment for my PC. This week I discovered Townscaper and picked it up while it was on sale on Steam for about $6 (tax included, albeit a little more post-sale; also available for Android, Xbox, and iOS platforms). It’s money well spent, methinks, as a fan of city-builder and simulation games. You can try a somewhat limited online version of it to see how it … click below for more!

Musings on Computer Gaming, Storytelling, and Seniors

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Every day, for an hour or two, I kill demons. Or I build houses and shopping malls. Sometimes I command armies in battle. Or fly an airplane into a foreign airport. I might manage a hospital, build a settlement on Mars, lead a band of survivors after a nuclear holocaust, hunt Nazis as a sniper in WWII, drive a tank onto the sands at Omaha Beach, move Roman legions around the Mediterranean, build an empire, sail with a fleet of … click below for more!

Synecdoche, Universe

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In the delightfully quirky, postmodern film, Synecdoche, New York, the late Philip Seymour Hoffman plays a movie director obsessed with creating a set that realistically represents New York City for an upcoming movie. But as he tries to incorporate more and more people and bits that represent the city, the set grows and grows into a micro-city itself. As Wikipedia describes it: The plot follows an ailing theater director (Hoffman) as he works on an increasingly elaborate stage production whose … click below for more!

The Long Read Lost

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“What we read, how we read, and why we read change how we think, changes that are continuing now at a faster pace,” wrote Maryanne Wolf, a neuroscientist, in her book, Reader, Come Home: The Reading Brain in the Digital World (Harper Paperbacks, 2019). It’s the sequel to her previous book on reading and neuroscience, Proust and the Squid (Harper, 2007). In that latter book, Wolf famously wrote, We are not only what we read, we are how we read. … click below for more!

The day that reason died

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I’m not a believer in alien visitations and UFOs, but I’ll bet if an alien did swing by, after an hour or two observing us, checking out Facebook or Twitter, they’d lock their doors, hang a detour sign around our planet, and race off. They’d tell their friends not to visit us because we were all nuts. Scarily, dangerously crazy. Seriously. What sort of world can be called civilized when it has people touting — and believing — homeopathy? Reiki? … click below for more!

Johnson’s words

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I have recently been reading through the David Crystal anthology of words from Samuel Johnson’s dictionary (Penguin, 2006), attempting to cross-reference it with entries in the Jack Lynch anthology (Levenger Press, 2004), comparing how the two editors chose their selections, and to see how the book designers chose to present them. Yes, I know: reading dictionaries isn’t a common pastime, but if you love words, then you do it. In part, I’m doing so for the sheer delight of the … click below for more!

Goodbye, Information Age

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“Say goodbye to the information age: it’s all about reputation now,” is the headline of an article by Italian philosopher and professor Gloria Origgi, published recently on Aeon Magazine’s website. She writes: …the vastly increased access to information and knowledge we have today does not empower us or make us more cognitively autonomous. Rather, it renders us more dependent on other people’s judgments and evaluations of the information with which we are faced. I no longer need to open a … click below for more!

Dictionary vs Dictionary.com

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Did you know that doxastic is a philosophical adjective relating to an individual’s beliefs? Or that doxorubicin was an antibiotic used in treating leukemia? Or that doxy is a 16th century word for mistress and prostitute? That drack is Australian slang for unattractive or dreary? Drabble means to make wet and dirty in muddy water? A downwarp is a broad depression in the earth’s surface? Drail is a weighted fish hook? Dragonnade means quartering troops on a population while dragonet … click below for more!

Of mice and men, and trackballs, too

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Late last year, I purchased another laptop to separate my work and recreational uses. After a long search in stores, and a lot of online reading and comparing models, I decided to get an MSI gaming rig (an entry level in their pantheon, admittedly). That process got me thinking again about how we buy and sell computers.* Computers are, for the most part, sold like muscle cars: what’s under the hood gets the attention. The processor, ram, speed, drive capacity … click below for more!

Forty years of geekitude

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It was forty years ago this fall, in 1977, that I bought my first computer. I had little experience with computers prior to that – a few weeks working after hours on an APL system at the U of T, mostly to play games against the machine, reading a few magazine articles on the coming ‘personal’ computer wave. Nothing seriously hands-on, experience-wise, and no programming skills either. But as soon as I saw one, I had to have it. And … click below for more!

Microsoft killed solitaire for me

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Solitaire – also known as Klondike and Patience – is a very popular game on computers. So popular, in fact that a version of this 200-year-old card game has been included by Microsoft in every version of Windows since 3.0 (1990), aside from a brief hiatus with Win 8 (which gap was filled in by third-party versions). Microsoft has even launched a version for iOS, playable on the Mac, iPhone and iPad. And according to some reports, it is the … click below for more!

Back to black

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I had noticed of late that several websites are more difficult to read, that they opted to use a lighter grey text instead of a more robust black. But it didn’t dawn on me that it wasn’t my aging eyes: this was a trend. That is, until I read an article on Backchannel called “How the Web Became Unreadable.” It’s a good read for anyone interested in typography, design and layout – and not just the Web, but print as … click below for more!

The bucket list, kicked

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Nowadays the “bucket list” concept has become a wildly popular cultural meme, thanks to the movie of the same name. Subsequent marketing of the idea to millennials has proven a successful means to derive them of their income, with which they seem eager to part. I don’t like the concept. The list, I mean, not necessarily the plucking of the millennial chickens who willingly hand over their financial feathers. They get what they deserve. Bucketlist.org has, at the time of … click below for more!

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