Generation X. (I Resist Adding a More Zeitgeisty Header.)

Yes, this is really about Douglas Coupland’s landmark book.

Generation X comprises people born between early 1960s and early 1980s. Thus I am perfectly average Gen X, and I re-read this book once in a while.

As for the content I cannot do better than the blurb:

Andy, Dag and Claire have been handed a society priced beyond their means. Twentysomethings, brought up with divorce, Watergate and Three Mile Island, and scarred by the 80s fall-out of yuppies, recession, crack and Ronald Reagan, they represent the new generation – Generation X.
Fiercely suspicious of being lumped together as an advertiser’s target market, they have quit dreary careers and cut themselves adrift in the California desert. Unsure of their futures, they immerse themselves in a regime of heavy drinking and working at no-future McJobs in the service industry.
Underemployed, overeducated, intensely private and unpredictable, they have nowhere to direct their anger, no one to assuage their fears, and no culture to replace their anomie. So they tell stories; disturbingly funny tales that reveal their barricaded inner world. A world populated with dead TV shows, ‘Elvis moments’ and semi-disposable Swedish furniture.

Not much is happening – summarizing the few milestone of the main storyline of that framed novel would constitute a spoiler. Please note that I really do like the book although I am not at all into pseudo-intellectual non-storyline fictional movies that win prices at obscure European movie events.

Palm Springs Amtrak Station

In order to demonstrate what the stories told by the protagonists are like, this snippet might be instructive:

The first chink of sun rises over the lavender mountain of Joshua, but the three of us are just a bit too cool for our own good; we can’t just let the moment happen. Dag must greet this flare with a question for us, a gloomy aubade: “What do you think when you see the sun? Quick. Before you think about it too much and kill your response. Claire, you go first.”
Claire understands the drift: “Well, Dag. I see a farmer in Russia, and he’s driving a tractor in a wheat field, but the sunlight’s gone bad on him – like the fadedness of a black-and-white picture in an old Life magazine. And another strange phenomenon has happened, too: rather than sunbeams, the sun has begun to project the odor of old Life magazines instead, and the odor is killing his crops. The wheat is thinning as we speak. He’s slumped over the wheel of his tractor and he’s crying. His wheat is dying of history poisoning.”

I can’t hardly resist adding disclaimers about what the book is not. In my opinion it is not or not primarily: a sociological analysis – not even a disguised one, clever pop-culture references loosely strung together, or some new age late hippie inspired story of young people trying to “find themselves”. It is not just a critique of consumerism and related unnerving jobs in marketing.

Probably the whole book is about things that are not. Not what they seem. Not what they have been intended to be. It is about Gen X’s denial or envy of their boomer parents’ values and social security, and their denial of their considerably younger siblings who are cooler and more career-oriented. Using today’s clichés they dislike Gordon-Gekko-style yuppies as well as over-motivated Gen Y who overtake them.

I believe it is about a generation stuck in a cultural void – quite literally and somewhat voluntarily. The three protagonists move to a community that is pictured as barren and eerie – an artificial setup, like Seahaven in The Truman Show, but more gloomy. It hosts mainly retired baby boomers whom the three of them serve in their McJobs. I apologize to the residents of Palm Springs – but this is literature, not journalism.

Trinity atmospheric nuclear test - July 1945 - Flickr - The Official CTBTO Photostream

The location allows Dag for taking a trip to the Nevada desert and returning with a jar of Trinitite as a present for Claire – who freaks out, considers it Plutonium, and has her apartment sanitized in the most paranoid way after the jar breaks accidentally and little green beads of Trinite are scattered across the floor. I remember the cold war just vaguely. I was maybe like the protagonists – stuck in my petty but yet existential problems, not appreciating world politics. Probably because of that I feel that  hilarious Trinite episode covers the feeling of a generation about nuclear war better than political analysis.

Coupland has often attributed great talent in capturing the zeitgeist. Ironically, chapters called I do not want to become a target market, did probably allow for even better dissection of Gen X by marketing experts.

He captures the zeitgeist by tracking it down to the most mundane commodities. To bumper stickers, ads, and to all kinds of junk that nonetheless triggers that grand feeling of an era. We are the generation tuned in to one or two TV stations only – our brains had been synchronized by washing powder ads featuring chirpy housewives or by crude animated cartoons sans Pixar-style 3D and texture. I remember clipping bumper stickers denoting the car-free day in the aftermath of the oil price shock.

Or it is just me and my treasure trove of precious memories of dreadful 1970s architecture: Green linoleum floors, orange 1970s wall coverings, and not exactly energy-efficient buildings. I had grown-up in a 1960s apartment building, went to a badly insulated 1960s school (we protested when the curtains moved in spite of closed windows, at 15°C room temperature), and I from graduated from a university built in the 1960s. We did not protest as the generation before us nor did we indulge in the cap-and-gown pseudo-tradition-as-an-event that Gen Y has rediscovered.

(I suppose this does not make a lot of sense to non-middle-European readers. For German speaking readers I’d like to recommend the German variant(s) of Generation X – Generation Golf – named after the car).

G70Woman 1960s

Douglas’ pseudo-scientific definitions are legend. He did not coin Generation X, but for example McJobs – and many other terms that entered the urban dictionary, such as:

Historical Slumming: the act of visiting locations such as diners, smokestack industrial sites, rural villages — locations where time appears to have been frozen many years back — so as to experience relief when one returns back to “the present”.

Clique Maintenance: the need of one generation to see the generation following it as deficient so as to bolster its own collective ego: “Kids today do nothing. They’re so apathetic. We used to go out and protest. All they do is shop and complain.”

Overboarding: overcompensating for fears about the future by plunging headlong into a job or life-style seemingly unrelated to one’s previous life interests; i.e., Amway sales, aerobics, the Republican party, a career in law, cults, McJobs,…

Now Denial: to tell oneself that the only time worth living in is the past and that the only time that may ever be interesting again is the future.

Mental Ground Zero: the location where one visualizes oneself during the dropping of the atomic bomb; frequently, a shopping mall.

101-ism: The tendency to pick apart, often in minute detail, all aspects of life using half-understood pop psychology as a tool.

Occupational Slumming: Taking a job that is beneath a person’s education or skill level as a means of retreat from adult responsibilities and/or avoiding possible failure in one’s true occupation.

Option Paralysis: The tendency, when given unlimited choices, to make none.

Obscurism: The practice of peppering daily life with obscure references (forgotten films, dead TV stars, unpopular books, defunct countries, etc.) as a subliminal means of showcasing both one’s education and one’s wish to disassociate from the world of mass culture”

Having typed all these, I found that there is a Wikipedia article on all Gen X neologisms already.

Doesn’t these lend themselves to be turned into status messages and memes on social networks? This is probably self-irony at a new level as Coupland’s characters, detached and intellectual as they may seem, just long for turning their lives into more than a series of unconnected cool events. That’s the whole point of their exercise in story-telling.

On Time Travelling: Rigorous Categorization of Science Fiction Movies

Do you remember the scary moment when Ashton Cutcher alias Evan recognizes suddenly that his arms are crippled – and that they have been crippled since many years?

This is a scene from The Butterfly Effect: Evan discovers that he is capable of time-travelling to his troubled childhood. He tries to fix the present by changing the course of tragic events in this past – and most of the times the outcome in the present is somewhat unexpected.

I am finally living up to my promise on Dr. Dan’s(*) blog [Voice from the future(!) – link broken. to come up with my musings on the logic of time travelling in movies. Insert your favorite disclaimer about spoilers here.
(*) As the future of this post is going to unfold below the reason for this formal address will become clear. Mind the Douglas Adams quote!

Based on thorough and extensive research I came to the conclusion that there are three distinct kinds of time travelling (in movies):

The Butterfly Effect is an example of what I denote as [1] The Immediately Changing Past as Remembered or Not by Conscious Beings, and so is Back to the Future:

Our heroes travel to the past, fuss about the timeline, and travel back to the present: And the present is different from what it had been before starting the round trip. Even more, the present indicates that all the events prior to this moment must have been changed as well. In The Butterfly Effect the reactions of his friends indicate that handicapped Evan has got along well, probably until he ‘suddenly’ re-discovers that he is crippled.

Marty McFly – stuck in 1955 – needs to make sure that his mother and father become a couple ‘again’ despite the mess he had added to the old timeline; otherwise Marty would cease to exist. When he is finally back to the future his family has ‘suddenly’ changed from cliché lower class losers to smart cheery middle class high-flyers.

How and if the main characters’ memories have been (will be) aligned with the new timeline is typically not explained in a satisfactory way. Do they remember the other timeline forever (in the future of the future)? Did the old timeline cease to exist or is it preserved merely as a representation in the main character’s mind? Does the representation in mind count as a version of a multiverse?

We need to distinguish this theory about time travel from [2] Twisted and Warped but Yet Fully Causal Timelines which denotes the infamous branching of times while indicating that the previous timeline is still preserved in history.

It can be illustrated by the first Star Trek movie released 2009, featuring the new old crew which is simply called Star Trek:

At the end of the movie we can start the history of the old enterprise crew all over which is a clever move of the movie producers from a commercial perspective. The new timeline can and will never be in line with the ‘original’ plots of the episodes and movies. The Romulan villain as well as Spock had travelled to the past  and created an alternate timeline. Young James T. Kirk asks Spock, the elder, if his (Kirk’s) father was alive in the original timeline (which he was).

As with [1] there are two (or more) distinct timelines but the important distinction is: At any point of time any human being (or alien for that matter) experiences a smooth unfolding of his / her / its personal story. Neither the elder nor the young Spock’s mind is subject to a sudden disruption.

I believe the underlying reason is that the physical and mental identities of all persons involved in [2] remain intact. Time travellers travel as physical beings, but you do not jump right back or forth into your younger self’s body which requires your minds to merge. Evan jumps mentally only – both forward and backwards. Marty jumps to the past physically, but on fast-forwading to the future he sort of merges with the self he left back (in the future) when travelling to the past.

I tag Minority Report as class [2] Fully Causal: John Anderton shows up as a future criminal in the precogs’ crystal ball – yet finally he decides not to commit a crime. But there was no mind-disrupting time travelling. Note that my categorizations does not care about the direction of time-travelling, and I do not distinguish between viewing the alternate timeline (only) in contrast to actively being part of it – as viewing it may be sufficient to introduce a change in the other timeline you are part of.

As you have noted, it is incredibly difficult to speak about time ordering in time travelling scenarios. (By the way Time Ordering is a scientifically rigorously term used in quantum field theory, applied to the quantum mechanical operators that dictate the time evolution of systems.)

Of course it was Douglas Adams who noted wisely in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Vol.2 – The Restaurant at the End of the Universe:

One of the major problems encountered in time travel is not that of accidentally becoming your father or mother … There is also no problem about changing the course of history … All the important changes have happened before the things they were supposed to change and it all sorts itself out at the end.
The major problem is quite simply one of grammar, and the main work to consult in this is Dr. Dan Streetmentioner’s Time Traveller’s Handbook of 1001 Tense Formations. It will tell you for instance how to describe something that was about to happen to you in the past before you avoided it by time-jumping forward two days in order to avoid it.

So Douglas Adams adheres to the [3] Predetermined and Eternal Timeline Theory: Even if or exactly because the characters know something about their futures and try to avoid the outcomes at any cost everything turns out exactly as it has been foreseen. This has been demonstrated in the TV series FlashForward. 

This post is about movies, not about physics. In physics, special relativity demands that theories are causal which means that events in the future can only be influenced by events in the past (More precisely only events in the past lightcone can signal to events in the future lightcone in 4-dimensional space-time). However, a [3] Predetermined Timeline might imply that nothing causes anything else really – events just are and have always been ingrained into the fabric of space-time. It would not matter if we could signal from the future to the past as this is futile anyway.

But only an excessively warped space-time – not a very friendly environment for living beings are we know them, probably close to blackholes – might give a chance of influencing the timeline.

A direct link to the past via such a warped channel is proposed in Deja Vu starring Denzel Washington. We are able to watch the past unfolding real-time in parallel to the present time elapsing. A piece of paper with a note is sent backwards in time and past and present are constantly influencing each other. But I would still argue these are [2] Twisted But Yet Fully Causal Timelines.

Things get messy when Doug travels to the past himself, changes the timeline, rescues the future victim Claire, and dies heroically. But there is still another instance of Doug’s in the ‘present’ in the final scene that now is not aware his is alternative time traveller’s self’s history.

Believe it or not, but there is already an infographic on Wikimedia to explain this by proposing four different timelines – you need to enlarge the full-sized image at the Wikimedia page:

Deja Vu Timeline

This is very similar to the Star Trek movie analyzed above – complication arises due to multiple interactions between the timelines:

Describing the unfolding of event in causal terms, Timeline 1 was the first, and the interaction with the past at the ‘end’ (in the ‘present’) of Timeline 1 triggered Timeline 2 – and onward to Timeline 3 and 4 in the same way. So the whole universe is walking through these four timelines – or the observer is made aware of four parallel universes, each of them equipped with an eternal timeline that cannot be modified. If the latter is true, you should really not meet yourself in an alternate timeline or space-time will collapse. So the causal consistency of [2] in contrast to [1] comes with its risks.

In a similar way to the twisted plot of Deja Vu, the old enterprise crew has boldly gone where no man has gone before – as we witnessed in the 1970s on black and white TV sets. Then the Romulan Nero and the elder Spock travelled from to past (from the perspective of bold old episodes and the 2009 movie this was / is the future) They meet / met / will meet the elder Kirk and the younger Kirk, and both time travellers have interacted with the past at different times – in a way similar to the Deja Vu approach.

Every timeline-crossing event kicks off  a new timeline. In the most ‘causally recent’ Timeline 3 both entities of Spock do coexist – as did two versions of Doug in Deja Vu. Thus I tag Deja Vu as a class [2] movie, but the categorization should maybe be enriched with tags for complexity.

I owe to the members of the IMDB discussion board who started to discuss this movie – released in 2006 – a few days ago(**)  What a coincidence. Even scarier than the spacefolding surveillance technology is the fact that members discuss the applicability of this tool to current investigations in Boston and that they watch the movie again right now because of the terrorist attack.
((**) In the future of this post, this like is broken. And at the time I review this post in 2019, gives me a 503 error. How eerie.).

Most likely we need to do more research and setup a global project in order to come up with better categories and standards for time travel movies: This collection of the Top 10 Time Travel Movies is a starting point.

And I did not even mention the movie that has the closest resemblance to our daily lives. Groundhog Day does probably not qualify as an SF / time travel movie because looped structure of space-time is too realistic and too familiar.

Edit: I have just stumbled upon this  – the definitive chart including many popular time travel movies:
All Time Travel Movies Explained in One Awesome Infographic and here is an update by the creator of that said chart.

In the future, these links are broken, as usual, and right now (at some point in the past when you read this), gave me a 504.

My Zen-ny Search Terms: Where Engineering Meets Art Meets Physics Meets Geekdom. (And Rodents, Sometimes.)

I am overwhelmed with spam comments such as “You should take part in a contest for one of the greatest blogs on the web!”, and I really appreciate thoughtful quote spam as:

Perfectly composed articles, appreciate it for entropy.
“He who establishes his argument by noise and command shows that his reason is weak.”
by Michel de Montaigne.

My search terms include basically a single burning question that comes up several times a month – these are the rodent-related questions submitted in February:

does a microwave attract rats?
are mice attracted to microwaves

I can reply with a straight Yes, and I have given proof of that in my post Microwave Ovens Are Not Rodent-Ready (The images in that post are not for the faint of heart.)

I still do not know what is on my searchers’ minds, but I will try my best to poem-i-size their search terms again. All lines are verbatim search terms from February, not used in any other poem yet. So are the sub-titles. I am adding a Search Term Poet’s Beginner’s Guide below the poem.

El(k)ementary Search Term Poem, February 2013 Edition
(This is not a search term yet – the main title does not need to be)

trees in the wind
meandering paths
blank sheet of paper

spam poems
poem using word spam
poems standing on the shoulders of others
accidentally on purpose google search poems
want more poetic search terms for laughing – how?

use of physics in day to day life of everything
use of physics in our daily life-chairs,tables
in what sense are we all newtonians?
intuitive meaning of temperature
intuition differential equations
intuition training and physics

Geek collection list
physics daily life trivia
trivia about parts of computer
academics obsessed with metrics
what is the same mass as 6/100(math)
english “scientists people with big brains”

my heat comes on when it wants to at home
engineering terms used in poems
perpetuum mobile patent
steam pump technology
real rankine(**)

nostalgia theory

the next level, 01
steampunk machinery
my theory on support metrics
theories of special day celebrations
the table sitting i’ve created to my sons graduation

According to a comment on my previous post, our solar collector has “aesthetic appeal”. I consider it very Zen – it captures the essence of the above poem and illustrates an artistic entanglement of nature, engineering and geeky stuff.

(*) I added this one – breaking my rules, but hopefully Zen becomes a future search term.
(**) This is genuine. Non-engineers: See e.g. for further information.
(***) My February search terms are lacking something like “weird”, but I did not want to break the sub-title rules twice. This section is very avant-garde.

This is the end of the search term poem. The rest of the my post is my own writing. Just saying… in case it is not evident.

How to Create Search Term Poems

  • Copy the list of search terms from your WordPress Stats to some text editor. I prefer Notepad in order not to screw up formatting. For the corporate time management ninjas: Create a series of appointments in Outlook with a reminder to make sure that you cover only search terms submitted within a certain period of time and avoid to re-use terms. The latter is forbidden by the yet-to-be-written rules of The Cult of Search Term Poetry.
  • Delete all boring search terms, that is: Terms that could have been anticipated based on your blog’s comment (or write a blog that is so weird that there is no content that readers might anticipate – I am still trying hard). Thus I delete things like: “why does a spinning top not fall over” or all kinds of Einstein or Feynman related searches. But it really depends on context – sometimes a dull search term starts to shine when it is presented as a question or an answer to another unworldly search term.
  • Browse the search terms and try to find a way of grouping  them based on content, create temporary sub-titles and move terms to the groups accordingly. This is where your creativity is added to your searchers’ ingenuity.
  • Copy the stuff over to your blog’s editor. (This is just a suggestion – you could do that later as well. the rules are not that strict on this one.)
  • Re-arrange the search terms within groups to turn a list of meaningless phrases into, well, a poem. For advanced search term poets: Pick one of lines and promote it to this section’s sub-title and delete the temporary title.
  • As usability experts tell us, we bloggers need to include images – otherwise our content will not be read from top to bottom. So browse some sites offering royalty-free images or your personally photo repository and pick the most-unrelated images(s) you can find to pepper your poem.
  • For skilled search term poets: Try to find hidden symmetries and arrange the terms once more based on aesthetic criteria. I have done so by ordering based on the number of characters per phrase this time. Actually some of the sub-poems turned out as nearly ordered in this way naturally. “Feel your poem!”
  • Click Publish and wait for offers by publishing houses, poetry journals or the Nobel Prize for Literature committee.

Note that I will be travelling through a worm-hole and trapped in a parallel corporate universe when you read this:

Replies to comments might be delayed by a few days as the subspace communication in the Delta (Dilbert) Quadrant is usually halted by corporate policy enforcers and NSA-style compliance filters. This is not a joke (only 95% of it is): Working from a corporate network I once noticed that some parts of the WordPress-i-verse had been considered “non-compliant” by the content filter.

May the force be with you (not a search term quote – yet – but not very creative either)!

Turning Flattering Chatty Spam into Postmodern Art

As a spam poet you need to avoid the Ground Hog Day Effect: Spam messages are repeating themselves, so how you do your keep your  level of originality as an artist?

And spam on blogs is (too) polite these days. You could create tons of flattering poems similar to the following:

your website is like an encyclopaedia for me
you inspire me
you’ve already made a difference.

Sometimes there is subtle poetry in typos:

not all bloggers have the gift to explain in some worlds something so perplexing.
(“worlds”, not “words” – think many worlds in quantum theory)

But very often spam is too chatty to qualify for modern poetry. I want these cool, aphoristic, enigmatic sentences. Thus I have selected shorter spam messages this time and I have tweaked them a bit – I have removed phrases like a bit, maybe, really, and your typical because your blog is so awesome clauses.

I think there is still room for improvement, but this is what remains after having boiled down spams received over the last three weeks (about 200 spams). The title is from a spam message, too. This poems proves that spammers are modest, too. They use “i” instead of the big ego “I”.

 i can solve some of my problems

in some point i disagree with you,
but still your words seen very coherent to me

if you explain it better i would thank you so much
adding more relevant content might be helpful
i thought so too.

ever thought about writing a book someday?
make sure there are no hidden phrases

I’m getting sick and tired of WordPress
with this i disagree

i was just curious if you get a lot of spam responses?
Be sure to go through what you’re putting your signature on



The Enigma encryption machine used by the Germans in World War II (Wikimedia) as I have such a penchant for the word “enigmatic”.

The Art of Error Messages

I believe I need a new blog post category – called  for example art created from collections of words and phrases spit out by computers. Or is Pop Culture just fine?

So far we had spam poetry and search term poetry – but these might not be the only art forms eligible for the new meta-category!

A quick primer for those new to this:

The following is a hybrid search term + spam poem (spam in italics), all collected from my WordPress stats and spam queue. You are allowed to add titles (in bold). Search terms and spams must not be reused in different poems.

On Contradiction

oxymoron poems
narrating events
i wasn’t aware of the many ripples and depth to this story
there is a special day
why do particles radiate from the sun
can a mouse get into a microwave
irony practice
this site is ruthless to others

Now I have just stumbled upon the following WordPress error message, actually triggered by my (careless) attempt to empty my spam queue – filled with more than 100 spams that will not morph into poetry any more.

This is poetry in its own right – no more tuning required:


 Something has gone wrong with our servers.
It’s probably Matt’s fault.
We’ve just been notified of the problem.
Hopefully this should be fixed ASAP,
so kindly reload in a minute
 and things should be back to normal.

Generally, error message art might rather be presented ‘as is’ and does not require that much creativity.

I do remember the best out-of-office reply I have ever received. Though this is not strictly an error message I believe it falls under the same category.

This is not 100% verbatim, but the last sentence is – burnt into my neurons for later re-use. The time is now:

<some business-y explanation, see corporate art below>
I might not be able to respond to e-mails as quickly as normally.
But what is normal?

Geeky art can be quite rude as well, comments in source code used to contain strong language. And error messages used to be close to source code comments in the old times when there were no usability analysts yet.

On the other hand there is corporate error message art which is funny accidentally.

Typical corporate error message art comprises OOF replies similar to the following (real-life example):

Normally, we respond to all email messages within one business day.
Unfortunately, we have been unable to meet this goal with your message,
because of the large number of questions and requests recently received for our support staff.
We have sent you this note to confirm that your message is in our system
and to let you know that we will respond
with a personal response as quickly as possible.

This is very close to Mike Daisey’s take on this – in 21 Dog Years – Doing Time @ He explains how his friend Warren, the Jonny Cash of customer service finally explained customers he would sacrifice his first-born son on an altar of his own making – to compensate for the late delivery of the Harry Potter book.

There is also a sub-sub-category called corporate policies art. This is more similar to Samuel-Beckett-style dialogues.

I can recall my attempt to create a Google+ account:

The true art part in bold, the rest is just explanatory comments – much like this version of Worstward Ho with comments.)

I tried to use Subversive Element as a name.
Your name does not meet our Name Policies

Tried to upload the picture of my iconic virus.

Are you sure people will recognize you in this photo? It does not seem to have a face in it?

I finally succumbed to The Guidelines and uploaded a ‘normal’ image.
This image seems to be rather small. Do you have a better one?

Finally accepted though. The next step suggested by Google is
Be awesome!

Crowdsourcing of Art: Poetry from Search Terms

Since I had access to the log files of my first hosted web server (in the past millennium) I had been addicted to analyzing my log files – browsing text files with a simple text editor.  In particular, search terms submitted to search engines had intrigued me. I know I am not the only one.

People (… I guess … it might have been animals or artificial life forms as well …) sent full sentences and questions in natural language to the omniscient oracle Google. Such as:

Should I take decisions from heart or mind?

What is going on in the mind (or heart) of somebody asking such a question on Google? I am not a psychologist and cannot solve that mystery. I can just make use of this phenomenon, applying a pragmatic approach:

Nowadays everything is crowd sourced, crowd funded, crowd & cloud whatever. So why not crowd source poetry from these search terms?

Technical note to potential fellow search term poets: I strongly recommend to use the WordPress Webmaster Tools and verify ownership of your blog on Bing or Google tools – this gives you access to even more great search terms.

Italics: Titles added by myself. But soon these titles will become part of the global consciousness of the internet, eternal quotes in pop culture, and they might appear in somebody else’s log files.

Bold: Search terms, unchanged. These will also be amplified in the subconsciousness of the web by this posting.

Bing poetry (1): On Web 3.0 – Animals Communicate via Household Appliances (I might re-consider this prosaic title)

anything new in microwave ovens?
just rodents
posts in dark
comment via microwave
the dark side is strong in this one

Bing poetry (2): On Theory and Practice

the word cliche address
theory of trying
i am trying to not get attached to a psychologist
i am interested in combining theory and practice

These are re-arrangements of the search term poems published on Facebook initially,  but I split my original poems into two. The messages of these search terms are so intricate and aphoristic – you should not cram too many into a single poem.

WordPress stats poem (1): On Corporate Clichés

just received a blank piece of paper in the mail
original idea already cliche 

theory about stupid questions
reconcile corporate goals
universe life combine
burn org chart

WordPress stats poem (2): On Science, Engineering and a Bit of Biology

silly questions on microwave engineering 
heat pump outer space
 stiff wire instead of helium
sniffing of path
dead mouse smell around microwave

I needed to backup the poems somewhere before Facebook decides again not to show some arbitrary subset of messages on my timeline. But this is another story. It is interesting though that strange Facebook issues started the day before yesterday when I published my Bing poem, and yesterday Facebook was offline for half an hour. I digress – this is just to add a disclaimer: I do not know how dangerous and subversive these poems really are.

Editors, magazines and committees that fund alternative internet art (or whatever this may be called (*)): Please refrain from contacting me – I need to contact my lawyers first to clarify issues with intellectual property. Who owns the search strings? The anonymous users? Google, Bing or WordPress?


Acknowledgement: The great aphorist Kelly Hartland might have inspired this experiment. Please visit her blog if you want exposure to genuine art!

(*) Asking Google myself I learn that there is really something as ‘croud-sourced art’. And again I have considered myself to be so original – again in vain.

Retro-Geek: On the Fascination of Machinery

I have no clue about art or design. I learned recently from The Time Traveler that stuff like the following has its own genre and sub-culture: It is called Steampunk.


Steampunk Computer (Wikimedia)

I am intrigued – as I was by the illustrations in Stephen Hawking’s book Illustrated Brief History of Time long before I knew this was Steampunk at its best. Why does Steampunk ‘work’ so well?

I believe it does for the same reasons as: The Flintstones, Max Raabe, even Star Wars, and the British Sherlock Holmes TV show. Though the latter should maybe be tagged Steampunk anyway. It is the 1 one 1 correspondence of modern gadgets and their ancient counter-parts that have never existed – done meticulously at a ridiculous, nearly microscopic level.

I am sure there are tons of articles by artists, designers or psychologists (which I did not research) that explain the phenomenon. Is it about our nostalgic feeling about an ancient era? Plus the spirit of innovation and the probably naive believe in technological progress (at ‘that time’)? Is it our subconscious longing for really understanding how stuff works – locating the tooth wheels and levers, instead of being put off by the enigmatic – but dull – integrated circuit boards in our iPhones and notebooks?

Or is it just the combination of metal and wood? Of silver, gold, black and a bit of rust & dust?

Steampunk transformer helmet

Steampunk transformer helmet (Wikimedia,

Every scientist or engineer starts out as a tinkerer in his parents’ garage or the like (the cliché says, but this is backed by bios of famous physicists, such as Richard Feynman or Isaac Newton). So as for geeks in particular, Steampunk seems to allude to a part of our common DNA. We remember the clocks and cameras we had dismantled.

But probably you should not or cannot dissect a cultural phenomenon by writing about it. You can rather tell a story or create artwork that follows the unwritten rules of the sub-culture, and like-minded people will get it – or not.

It seems I have established the tradition of The Light Geeky Friday Post since last week. So I add a new category to my blog:
Geek Collection (and I might re-categorize old stuff, very retro).

Discovering Your Life Being Cliché

You are browsing the internet in order to test – by anecdotal evidence – if your original ideas are that original or your most creative writing that creative.

Within milliseconds you detect that everything has already been told, shared, pictured, thought, sketched.

For every clever business idea I had, I found zillions of companies that already had implemented version 3.0 of this idea. Every super fancy domain I ever wanted to register was taken. Every utmost obscure and bizarre topic I wanted to write about was covered in 1000s posts, tweets, and doctoral theses. I believe that right now millions of people write about the true phenomenon or the illusion of (there is for sure a scientific term for it) all their ideas being published already by somebody else.

I once thought it singular to be

a physicist working in IT security

Then I discovered, in passing, not even searching for it, that there are discussion groups called physicists in IT security.

Then I thought it would be worth mentioning to be

a physicist working in IT security interested in the history of science.
a physicist working in IT security interested in the history of science and being a fan of Star Trek.
a physicist working in IT security interested in the history of science and being a fan of Star Trek, Douglas Adams.
a physicist working in IT security interested in the history of science and being a fan of Star Trek, Douglas Adams and Douglas Coupland.


You might discover that there are other intelligent lifeforms on this planet who indulge in enigmatic messages teleported via the search strings that make users hit their website just like you.

Probably it is worse than that. Maybe we are determined by clichés before we know it (sort of Minority Report style). I watched The Net with Sandra Bullock many years ago and this scene was the essential part of the movie!

I was not yet the only woman who calls herself a nerd (reference: a colleague) and I was not yet tracking down security issues in my hacker’s cave, fuelled by pizza and caffeine (source: self-assessment).

But I morphed into my favorite cliché wholeheartedly. I delved into it, and I accepted my destiny. I adore writers who make cliché the hidden recurring topic of their work; who are able to explain the zeitgeist of an era by describing trashy everyday stuff meticulously. As Douglas Coupland.

I have another theory that says this only works with clichés that have emerged after the ~ 1960s, because then it was possible to beam those most trivial everyday clichés down to people’s hearts and brains via TV.

Do I have to offer a solution apart from pseudo-postmodern analysis? Yes, but I will not tell you. Otherwise somebody who has come up with the same solution will google it and end up disappointed.