I use Twitter at work. And by “use” I mean maybe a couple of times a month I transmit bits of news with a link to a longer version on our website. Believe it or not, we have nearly a thousand followers. And I can’t discern a single benefit of using it. A quick check of our web analytics shows that Twitter referred exactly two visitors to our website in the past year.

In fact, I concluded this afternoon that I simply do not understand Twitter. I do not understand how people use information on Twitter, or if they use it all. I do not understand how hashtags work or how to find anything on Twitter. I suspect it is nothing more than a cheap form of entertainment.

Away from work I use it hardly at all. I may be ambivalent about Facebook but I am positively disinterested in Twitter. The few friends I follow don’t use much either and the tweets of my unfamiliars hold no appeal for me.


I am going to try to use it a little more, for educational purposes, to see if this curmudgeonly screed is correct or if I’m just completely ignorant. I’ll report back in a month.

Styling tweaks

I was getting a little tired of the plain look for this website so I’ve added the banner photos back into the header. Now that my photos are better organized on my computer I realize that I had plenty of nice ones that were getting forgotten about. They are set to display randomly on most of the pages for now. I added a lot, like a couple of hundred. If any of them look really bad please let me know.

I’ve also changed the typefaces to Verdana and Georgia, not the most attractive fonts but very readable. Verdana may be overused as a main body typeface but it’s bold and sturdy for headers, labels and other short strings of text. We’ll try it out for a while.

I also rearranged the site title and navigation menu so that the banner photos would cooperate better with WordPress’s default parent theme. I did away with trying to display the excerpts of the “short form” posts in the sidebar of the home page. They will display the post titles again and you will have to follow the link for the rest of the post.

An alternate history of mobile devices

My new smart phone has a button I have to press if I want to use it as an actual telephone. Which reminds me that not so long ago I would have been very perplexed if someone made the absurd suggestion of taking a photograph with a telephone or anything else that was not a camera. I suppose it was inevitable that the telephone instead of another household device evolved into today’s digital Swiss Army knife, but that was a chance occurrence? Could we today be carrying iToasters around with us, taking photographs, and occasionally pressing a button when we wanted some toasted bread?

In 1987 Steve Jobs pulled over at a rest stop on the Interstate. He plugged his toaster into the car’s cigarette lighter. Because of his fondness for buttered toast, he had adapted the appliance to work in his car while he traveled. Suddenly, while he was waiting for two slices of enriched white Wonder bread to toast to a golden brown, an escaped elephant from a nearby zoo dashed across the Interstate. Cars swerved to avoid the rampaging beast. The elephant paused on the grassy median, raised its trunk and trumpeted. Three more elephants lumbered across the northbound lanes and joined the first. “If only I could take a photograph and send it to my friends at Apple,” Job cried. His toast popped up, each slice making a little somersault before returning softly to the toaster slots. Jobs looked down at his appliance. The delicious aroma of toast filled the inside of his Ford Escort. An idea was born.

If only Steve Jobs had really, really liked toast.

Hurrah for General Tso!

Speaking of General Tso’s chicken, I made up a story a while back about its origins.

During the Long March, the weary and hungry Red Chinese soldiers grew tired of eating spoiled rice. They were beginning to lose their determination. “Cheer up!” said their cheerful general, General Tso. “Soon we will achieve a glorious proletarian victory. We might even have a little bit of fresh chicken for dinner!”

“Hurrah for General Tso!” cheered his men.

Weeks went by and the soldiers grew hungrier and hungrier. Now all that was left to eat were lichens and mosses.

“Cheer up!” said General Tso. “Soon we will achieve a glorious proletarian victory and there will be two chickens in every pot!”

“Hurrah for General Tso!” cheered his men.

When the Red Chinese soldiers reached Yan’an, there weren’t even mosses and lichens left to eat.

“Cheer up!” said General Tso. “Soon we will achieve a glorious proletariat victory and there will be enough succulent fried chicken with a sweet, vinegary red sauce for all the workers!”

The next day, Chairman Mao found some of his Red Chinese soldiers eating steaming bowls of tasty morsels made with a sweet and vinegary red sauce.

“I’m looking for General Tso.” asked Chairman Mao. “Where is he?”

The soldiers each raised a chopstick with a piece of succulent meat. “Hurrah for General Tso!” they cheered before taking a bite.

“Hurrah, comrades!” said Chairman Mao. “But where is General Tso?”

The soldiers raised their bowls and cheered again, “Hurrah for General Tso!”

“Hurrah, comrades,” said Chairman Mao, becoming annoyed. He was tired from a long day of giving syphilis to teenaged girls. “Now where is that confounded General Tso?”

“You must be hungry, Comrade Mao,” said a captain, offering the chairman a bowl and a pair of chopsticks. “Have some of ‘General Tso’s Chicken.'”

“Oh, all right,” said Chairman Mao. He was quite hungry and took a bite. “My goodness,” he said, “This is delicious. I taste apricot, ginger, garlic, and vinegar. But where did you get chicken? We haven’t eaten fresh meat in months.”

“It’s ‘General Tso’s Chicken’, Comrade Mao,” the captain said with a wink. “The secret ingredient is… General Tso.”

“Hurrah for General Tso!” cheered the Red Chinese soldiers.