USING the old computer while the new one's in the shop has presented an interesting possibility: In the last two years I became accustomed to new machine responding with almost instantaneous agreement to my requests, and this has spoiled me. What was acceptable three years ago is now maddening now. As I wait for windows to switch, programs to complete a task, file lists to display, I’m reminded why I dumped this computer in the first place: its pipes seemed choked with sluggish grot that confounded my demands. But surely at one point it was snappy. Surely when I plugged it in and started to work I was impressed with these new processors and greater memory and faster multi-interface intra-bus virtual swapping and all the other krep they insist will revolutionize your experience.

I probably was.

But somewhere, at some point, I got a taste of faster.

Faster is heroin.

I used to have a TiVo. It died, it died. They promised a free new one! They lied, they lied! (Sorry; ancient Simpsons reference.) When I switched to the DirecTV DVR I noticed that it had a problem scrolling around the list of shows - it jumped, stalled, stuttered, and generally behaved like someone in an isolated outpost in the Arctic suddenly dealing with a multiple reports of bears, fires, missiles, and UFOs. Compared to the silky scroll of a TiVo, this was bad. Because I had tasted the sweet bright flavor of FAST.

(Best design decision: scroll down to the bottom, delete a show, and it returns you to the top of the list. I wondered whether the software designers were proud of this thing, or just thought it was a job, whatever, or used it themselves and thought of all the nightmares they had to make it work this good.)

The old Apple TV / Netflix situation was a study in heel-cooling; you’d hit the button, and get the scrolling wheel of purgation, then wander away and hope it was up when you went back to the room. Now “Accessing Netflix” on the screen more than five seconds raises hackles of alarm; ten seconds makes me check the network; fifteen seconds and I unplug the unit and reboot. FIF. TEEN. SECONDS.

If the satellite in the heavens cannot deliver the desired Fringe episode in 15 seconds than something is amiss, right? Because that’s how it is, now, and that’s how it’s been for oh, months. Faster, but only compared to Old Slow. Fast is normal. Normal is normal. Faster will be faster until it’s normal, and I unplug the unit when it can’t deliver HD video instantaneously.

FASTER is good, though; when everyone is accustomed to it, when it’s the norm, the onus is on the companies to live up to their promises, and make our interactions as natural as reaching for a glass. No one reaches for a glass and assumes two seconds of arm-extension time, an expected pause while the glass is grasped, another pause while we calculate the trajectory to our head, then five seconds transit time as the brain works out the precise muscles required for proper glass placement. FASTER means that things just happen, and if that’s the expectation then that’s what we’ll get. But right now we have the expectation without the ubiquitous fulfillment. We’re Captain Picard at the replicator, shouting TEA, HOT, EARL GREY and feeling a slight tick of alarm when the cup doesn’t materialize right away. Took four seconds before it responded. Must ask Geordi to check the materialization subroutines.

For all that, a slow day. Worked at home; wrote the column. Listened to the radio - which has developed a hum. This was not hard to trace: there’s a new coffeepot sitting next to the radio, and it produces more interference than the old one. Why is there a new one? Because it makes coffee FASTER. Well, not exactly. My wife wanted the ability to make a quick cup in the morning - she gets up before I do - so I got a combination ordinary regular coffeemaker with a K-Cup option. You know, the nifty little plastic capsules that cost a ridiculous amount of money but make you feel modern and sophisticated because there are so many flavors and options. Ooh Fair Trade Shade Grown Donut Shop mocha with 10% beans extruded through civet intestines, in a sustainable box made with 40% post-consumer paper! Yum. Let me enhance the delicate flavor with a packet of Truvia and tablespoon of whole milk.

These are different than the Nespresso capsules. Three or four years ago I bought a Nespresso for those occasions when people wanted Espresso, and wouldn’t be bothered if there was an N involved. Well, the Nespresso is the Betamax / HD-DVD of capsule coffee makers. It is also the size of a Texaco tanker truck toy I had as a child, and consequently was used only for holidays. After one horribly embarrassing Thanksgiving where I did not have sufficient capsules to meet everyone’s espresso needs, I bought a proper espresso maker. Meanwhile, the every-day coffee maker developed an incontinence problem; you’d take the pot out to pour a cup, and it dribbled a stream on the burner. When the new one arrived it went in the basement, where it will sit in the dark until the new one breaks and I need coffee. It’s next to a twenty-dollar Mr. Coffee that ought to go too, except -

Well, again, the format wars. The old Mr. Coffee has a flat-bottomed basket, which make the lovin’ world go round. (Sorry; old Queen reference.) The other archived coffeemaker has a cone-filter basket. The new machine is flat-bottomed. I have on hand about 100 spare cone filters. If I throw them out, this guarantees that the new machine will die the day I run out of flat-bottomed filters, and the Mr. Coffee will say HAH SORRY GUESS YOU SHOULD HAVE LAID AWAY SOME FLAT ONES EH AM I RIGHT DUDE and then I drive to the store, cursing the dichotomy of filter paradigms.

Anyway, the new one makes the radio hum, so I unplug it. This blanks the clock. But since my wife makes coffee in the morning with the K-cup function, I can’t set the timer to make coffee in the carafe, which means I have to make it when I get up.

That’s the new normal, the standard regimen, the way things are, and that’s how it’ll be until something else comes along and it changes. And everything that went before is forgotten.

 

 


   

I think there's a general rule in serials that Chapter 10 is the nadir. So:

When last we saw Captain Video, an explosion in the lab had occured, killing everyone! No. Captain Vid gets right up and whips out the device that goes back and forth:

It's the Automatrontastic De-Fuser, or something. It defuses things. Why he needed to defuse something that had already blown up, I can't say, and why they just don't radiate De-Fuser Beams everywhere all the time, I can't say.

Now that they're really super-suspicious of Dr. Tobor, they take him back to their lab, where Tobor says he suspects Shelton Kraggs of being an Agent of the Planet Atoma. Kraggs flees! The Captain and Ranger are in hot pursuit! Seconds later:

Heh heh heh! Tobor used the secret code phrase "get us some coffee," which Kraggs knew meant "send the robotic car racing away from the compound."

This means another chase down the same road we saw in another episode, except they’re going in the other direction. Once they locate the wreckage of the robot-controlled car - a tire and a fender on the ground standing in for an old 1930s car they couldn’t afford to junk just for one shot - they find the robotic control:

Wonder what that really was. Looks cool. Anyway, the signal leads them back to the TRAP Tobor has laid for them: henchmen who hide by a truck, with guns, wait for Captain Video and the Ranger to approach, and then shoot them in the head and back. Just kidding! They walk right up to them and tell them to be still. Whereupon yet another fist-flight breaks out.

It's the kind of fight where one guy falls down, stunned, and the other combantant declines to kick him in the head a few times, but picks him up and stands him on his feet so he can hit him hard in the face, which really hurts.

So far we’ve had it all: cliff-hanger resolution, Tobor’s perfidy almost unmasked, a chase, a fight - there’s absolutely nothing new here. But we learn of a new Mystery Metal Vultura plans to use to defeat Eart. PLATINITE! How did they find out? Cap Vid listens to a broadcast in the van, where a big radio is set on the Plot-Point setting. The henchmen, freed from their bonds, shoot the antennae off the truck and then run away.

Leading to a foot pursuit down the dirt road. Well, at least the finally have the goods on Tobor.
Back to the lab to tell all local cities to evacuate in the face of imminent PLATINITE attack. What does it do? Captain Video explains:

“It’s a deadly metal.”

Oh God no anything but that. Well, alert the stock footage to assist with the evacuation, and go down and shoot some cars speed ingdown the dazzling, unimaginable landscape of the Future City of Tomorrow:

Meanwhile, CapVid and the Ranger have found, with absolutely no trouble whatsoever, the Lair where the Platinite is stored.

Why no one ever mentioned the lair with the Mysterious Deadly Metal before, or used it for that matter, I can't say, but here we are, so it's time for a fistfight.

Captain Video is knocked unconscious! Molten PLATINITE draws nigh!

Note: nothing will be answered, startling, or destroyed. And we'll be there to bring you every exciting detail.

No restaurants, for various reasons - apologies. Ignore the links below. Everything returns next week.

 

 

 

 

 

 

   
 

 
   
 
 
   
 
 
     
 
 
   
     
 
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