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Hey, You! Get Off My Cloud.

29 Apr

by Roger White


Our eldest offspring graduates high school this spring, and as we help her gear up for her college adventure, we find ourselves dealing with periodic outbreaks of sanguine eagerness and heartrending nostalgia. Not from Lindsey, mind you; steady girl she, this one can’t wait to hit the road. Nooy, these schizophrenic episodes of brilliant, optimistic sunshine followed by immense black clouds of wistful despair emanate from her mother and me. One minute we see our dazzling world-changer bound for an abundant horizon, and the next we cover our heads with ash lamenting lost childhood. Oh, where is that little girl we carried? If I were a rich man, yadda deeba deeba...


But that’s for another episode.


Hang with me here, however. The point I’m meandering to involves clouds and horizons and atmospheric disturbances. Kinda sorta. You see, one of the many things on the higher ed checklist for daughter numero uno is the purchase of a new laptop for our bright, shiny grad. For middle-aged, big-pink-eraser-loving boomers such as ourselves, attempting to pinpoint the optimal laptop computer amid the chrome and plastic jungle of touchpads and notebooks and ultrabooks and RAM capacity is a daunting task.


For example, one such high-tech, high-priced gizmatron we’ve been considering is something called the Chromebook. Have you seen this thing? From my limited understanding, a Chromebook is a laptop computer—and it isn’t. Apparently, the Chromebook doesn’t have any actual real things in its innards, such as word-processing programs and photo-editing da cloudfunctions and the like. Nope, the Chromebook points its user to the web for all that stuff. If you want to create a document, you have to access the internet to find the appropriate program, and if you want to save said document, you have to store it on the internet, too—in some nebulous realm called the Cloud.


I have several issues with this concept, not the least of which is understanding just what the hell it is. So I’m buying a slick, sleek, razor-thin, state-of-the-art laptop that has nothing in it? Whenever I hit any function key, do I simply get shuffled off to the interwebs?


Me: “Let’s see. Let’s try the calculator.” Click, clack, clack.

Chromebook: “See Cloud.”


Me: “Hmm. Create Word file.” Clack click.

Chromebook: “See Cloud.”


Me: “Well, f*#@! Chromebook, see wall.” Throw.

Chromebook: “See8 Cloj j4j. Sorry, Dave. Don’t, Dave. 601.”


Now, you should note that Chromebook didn’t invent this odd paradigm; it’s just the most visible example. This setup is known in the geek world as a thin client. Thin clients, to use the vernacular, “only provide a web browser and rely on web applications to provide general-purpose computing functionality and storage facilitation.” So if I crack open this here thin client, I imagine I’ll find nothing but a tiny modem and a sticker that reads, “For repair or maintenance assistance, you guessed it, pal: See Cloud.”


So what is this Cloud? Is it the interwebs its own self? Does it hover above the interwebs? And who runs the Cloud? God? Bill Gates? Is there one great big Cloud or 650 million tiny little head cloud guyClouds? How do I know that you’re not poking around in my Cloud? Hey, you, get off my Cloud.


And why the Cloud? Clouds are so ephemeral. Clouds tend to disappear or drift away. Or turn into messy storms. The idea of storing my vital documents, such as my personal collection of cats-playing-the-piano videos, on something called the Cloud doesn’t fill me with confidence. How about calling it the Vault? Or the Core? Even the Big Weenie, for crying out loud. But the Cloud?


Aha. I looked into this a bit more, and in my research I found this unsettling piece of info. And I quote: “Network-based services, which appear to be provided by real server hardware but are in fact served up by virtual hardware simulated by software, are often called cloud computing. Such virtual servers do not physically exist and can therefore be moved around and scaled up or down, somewhat like a cloud becoming larger or smaller without being a physical object.”


Hence, the Cloud. So the Cloud doesn’t physically exist? Is this like the tree falling in the forest? If a writer’s soon-to-be-blockbuster novel was stored in the Cloud, and the Cloud drifted away, did the writer actually write a novel at all? Where the hell is my dark and stormy night? And what if a college student’s term paper is due tomorrow and a dark and stormy night knocks out internet access? Is she up the creek, in the forest, with the trees falling, in the night, under the Cloud, with no paddle, in the thing, with the deal?


Upshot of all these lamentations: The whole idea feels like a hoodwink. A scam. A fiddle faddle. state of artThe reality may be that we just aren’t tech-savvy enough to get it, but we’re taking no chances. In the meantime, dear daughter o’ ours, here’s a spit-shined, reconditioned Smith-Corona with new ribbon. The “n” sticks, but you’ll get the hang of it.


Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit


Lenticular Haiku, by Sir Archie Ferndoodle

9 Jan

by Roger White

Fellow time/space voyagers and other occasional devotees of “This Old Blouse,” I am more tickled than a duffel bag full of marsupials to announce the return of my dear friend, front porch sartorial mentor, and fellow breakfast-nook philologist, Sir Archie Ferndoodle (applause, applause, applause).

Yes, the former poet laureate of the Greater Southwestern Scribes Society, which meets every third Thursday in the back of Sue’s Salon in Cement, Texas, has been gently coaxed out of quasi-retirement to once again bless us with phrasings, words, syllables, parts of syllables, and renderings of nocturnal animal sounds from the Ulan Bator region as only Sir Archie can. (And remember, if you mention this column at Sue’s Salon, you get 10 percent off a five-ounce jar of Sue’s Coconut Heel Scrub with the purchase of at least $20, not including her patented Tomato-Lye Jamboree Hair Tonic.)     

As I’m sure you remember, the esteemed Fernie holds an associate’s degree in postmodern comparative limerick studies from the University of Southern Panama’s Correspondence College and has been featured five times in the American Anthology of Poetry. Just a few of his classics include “Oh, Staff Sergeant, My Staff Sergeant!,” “Why Is the Man Always from Nantucket?,” “The Squirrels Stopped Talking to Me Today,” and his latest, “A Stitch, a Horse, and a Can of Pearl,” which was the inside-cover poem in the most recent edition of the Cement Area Greensheet.

The more astute of you may have seen Fernie’s hand in the Christmas edition of “This Old Mouse.” Raise your hand if you had the notion that Sir Archie was the ghostpen behind“The Nitrous Before Christmas.” Well, you’re dead wrong; I wrote that while flying low in my dentist’s office, but I did have ol’ Fernie in mind. In fact, he may have actually inhabited my body during that whole experience, but we digress again.

So anyway, without further magoo, I give you Sir Archie Ferndoodle, who has just returned from a five-month sojourn at the Tao Sendaha Haiku Sweat Lodge, just north of Pittsburgh.


Lenticular Haiku

by Archie Ferndoodle


Hand old, withered

Extended to young happy boy who

Smiles and

Coughs up a small border town near



Deposit slip with no meaning flutters

In brown surge of empty day. I find Julia at

Home making love to the Buick


Better judgment whispered

Toyota, Toyota.

Toyota. Smash hindsight with

Bitter hammer of stoli rocks. Ah.


Three grateful invertebrates argue

On who passed

Wind while each ascends

The assistant professor’s





Trees and earth know much more

Than they sing

To man accused of listening of listening

Of listening to Alex

Trebek and his minions. Only refuse

And then hear again, the daily

Double. Oh! Bodies of

Water for Four



Heat. No heat. Heat. No heat.

Damn toaster. Fling the

Shiny monster down the hillock to

CRASH waves of filament element

Parchment and wire. No heat toast is mere

bread and


Dear Julia. I’m trading it



Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat dachshund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit

I Am Not a Bear

4 Mar

by Roger White

But I play one on TV.

I must warn you from the start that this column is being written while six women sit not 20 feet from me talking about elective surgery and some sort of body treatments that involve the words exfoliation and rehydrating emollients. Be very quiet.

From the over-the-cubie talk I can’t help but pick up, it’s a wonder that my big paws can navigate this keyboard with any dexterity at all. Cause I be a may-un. Two syllables. May-un.

…asfkjjjjjjjjjjjjai67e. Oops. Sorry. Big paws on wrong keys. Burp. Ha ha.

As the token male in an area full of . . . well, you know, females, I have some observations I can no longer keep from spewing forth. So here I spew. When . . . well, you know, females, get together, the conversation inevitably meanders to grousing about males. Either the lack thereof, or the preponderance thereof, or the despicable traits inherent to the species. There are either too many men or not enough men or not the right kind of men or why can’t men be women with outdoor plumbing, etc.

From my keen eavesdropping talent, I have compiled the following list of Top 10 Female Gripes About Men. Highly unscientific, I know, but hey, I’m not writing for the Journal of the American Medical Association here. Drumroll, please:

Gripe No. 10: Men don’t understand the aesthetic importance of socks. Even if the male has slowly and painfully learned how to quasi-coordinate clothing and keep such personal hygiene items as fingernails and nostril hair under control, we still don’t get it when it comes to socks. We can be as natty as all get out: blue pinstripes, dashing red tie, crisp white shirt, cuff links, stick pin (cue ZZ), BUT: lavender polka-dot hosiery.

Reason: They’re socks, for crying out loud. Nothing more than underwear for the feet. In fact, did you know that in the alternate universe of Cygnus Y-5, socks are called feetpanties? Should we really care this much about socks? I don’t think so.

Gripe No. 9: If a man had to choose between (A) an evening filled with a free candlelight dinner for two at Fogo de Chao, a moonlit carriage ride through downtown, and unbridled passion by the fireplace at the Presidential Suite of the Driskill Hotel, or (B) catching the fifth game of the Texas Rangers-New York Yankees ALCS, the decision would be a nailbiter.

Reason: What can I say? That competition gene, ya know, handed down through the ages, from having to hunt for food, decipher curveball velocity, and all that. Grunt. This is how our species has stayed alive, ya know. Please remember this when you see us watching sports. It’s all about survival.

Gripe No. 8: Men never ask directions. Aah, cliche, but true. I once lapped the entire Texas Panhandle several times before giving up and inquiring at a Texaco as to how to gain entrance to Palo Duro Canyon.

Reason: We didn’t know we were lost. You think Ponce de Leon asked directions? He was an adventurer, damn it. Where’s the pioneer spirit? Ooh, look at the gauge, we need gas. And some jerky.

Gripe No. 7: Men never really listen when women are talking. Yeah, I attended a good seminar about this. The lady was a top-notch speaker, good-looking, too. Legs! Yow. She had three major points. They were . . . uh.

Reason: I’m sorry, what?

Gripe No. 6: Men just don’t get it.

Reason: I’m not sure I understand the complaint. Don’t get what? Define it.

Gripe No. 5: Men are simply bears with clothing. I’ve heard this often, and since I’ve never seen a bear with pants on, I can’t comment intelligently. So what’s wrong with using one’s sleeve as a hankie? It’s right there, and it’s my sleeve.

Reason: We are simply more casual. Informal. Women can be informal, too, if you work at it. Like washing your hands after going number one. That’s actually optional. Crumbs on the couch? Duh. That’s why they make the cushions removable. Into the couch cave with ye!

Gripe No. 4: Men tend to hog the conversation. I wasn’t aware of this problem, were you? Never mind, this guy gave me a great tip about rewiring the DVD player to get free cable, check it out…

Reason: This is a business gripe only. If you were a fly on the wall when these men get home, boy oh…

Gripe No. 3: Men are lazy. I had a great backup statement here, but I couldn’t download it off the computer. And you should see how much there was to key in. Sheesh.

Reason: How many times do we have to tell you? We’re pacing ourselves. There’s a difference. It’s a long road, you know.

Gripe No. 2: Men do half the work for twice the pay.

Reason: Uh, anybody want to field this one? Anyone? Bueller?

And the No. 1 Gripe About Men according to my highly unscientific over-the-cubie observations of women I know: Men emit sounds loud enough to frighten away livestock.

Reason: Men, men, men, men…It’s good to be on a ship with men, men,

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit

I Want My Underwood Back

12 Jan

by Roger White

It has now happened with the computer, and I sit agog. I would stand agog, but I am old, ya know. Can one recline agog? Anyway, the once humble computer, originated as a simple means to an end, has mutated into an end unto itself. It has sprouted its own support system and rooted itself into our world as another new necessity of life as we know it.

Think about it. The first computers, understood and operated only by NASA brain surgeons (yes, they had to be rocket scientists and brain surgeons to be able to run these behemoths), were approximately the size of the Rose Bowl and could do things like add, subtract, and blink. That was about it. Nowadays, well, I can’t say because I’m being watched… (….)

And this is not without precedence. Take the automobile. It was created as a means to an end. Horses were slow, they got old and cranky, and you couldn’t make out in the back seat of a horse. So, man built the car. Faster transport, no flies in the street, dependable shelter for an attempt at second base.

The car’s purpose was merely more efficient, modern travel. Well . . . and sex.

Today much of the nation’s GNP is tied directly or indirectly to that one invention (the automobile, not sex; sex is high on the GNP list, too, but that’s a different column). I defy you to stroll two blocks in any city periphery without coming across an auto parts store, a car dealership, a gas station, a quickie-lube shop, or a car insurance billboard.

Got six DWIs? No problem. Call Happy Hank’s House of High-Risk!

We’ve nosed our way into wars over the stuff that keeps our cars going. Remember when Bob Seger’s “Like A Rock” was actually a ballad commemorating youth? I counted the commercials, by the way, while watching a TV movie last week. If I were driven (sorry) to purchase one vehicle per auto ad in that two-hour segment, I would now be the proud owner of a fleet of 21 Texas-tough cars and trucks. It’s Truck Month again! Woo hoo! (Wasn’t it Truck Month last month?)

But I digress. You get the point.

Lo, it is now thus with the computer. That benign wonder born around the mid-20th century, while we were all placidly watching “Leave it to Beaver,” that curious gadget that eventually allowed us to stop sniffing white-out, has evolved into a daily necessity. Who goes one day without logging in?

When I wrote for my college newspaper (early Mesozoic, I believe it was), the computer was a word processor—not much more than typing without paper. Brand new on the scene. How quaint, and, yes, somewhat helpful. You could take it or leave it. The deep and wide box of a machine I used emitted a ghostly green glow that melted flesh after an hour or so.

Some folks, even as late as the ’80s, saw the computer as the domain of those who wear pocket protectors. “Hey, honey, Filbert down the street bought one of those home computers. What a nerd.”

Nowadays, these sleek machines are crammed so full of megabytes and RAMs and WiFi pixellators and modems and gizmatrons that practically every human function can be accomplished with a keystroke. “To floss, press Shift-Option-FL.”

And they’re getting smaller by the day. You can practically wear one now. Soon, they’ll be implanted under the skin. Computers are no longer merely aids to more efficient work; they’re an appendage. In fact, take a closer look at that growth under your left arm. That may not be a mole—could be a modem port.

And, oh, the children. Eaten alive, you know. The ratio of footballs to kids these days is something like 0.3 to 1. Some group did a study on that. I believe it was the American Football Artisans & Retailers of Texas (AFART). AFART is busy trying to figure out how to build a third of a football. It’s frightening. Our young’uns aren’t playing in the street, dodging cars and visiting emergency rooms like we did. Nay, they’re turning into fish-belly-colored, atrophied cyberscouts with heads like those guys who captured the original captain in the old “Star Trek” series. You remember? Those know-it-all silent aliens with the giant veins in their heads and with brains the size of medicine balls. The captain (Christopher Pike, mind you, not James T. Kirk) could hear what they were thinking because they were telepathic, and those damn aliens always had that superior, sour-cream-cheese look on their faces, like they were tolerating this puny human’s very existence. Oh, how I hated those guys. Only when Captain Pike (played by Jeffrey Hunter, mind you, not William Shatner) was angry could he stop these melon-headed misanthropes from probing his mind.

That was a killer episode, no? Except Spock didn’t quite look right with that goofy haircut and terrycloth uniform.

Um, anyway. It’s an irreversible reality. You gotta have a computer now, or you’re simply not with it. “Hey, honey, did you hear? Marvin up the street doesn’t have a computer! What a nerd.”

I will concede that the possibilities are staggering. You can now connect with anyone in the world. You can tweet, you can google, you can bing, you can skype, you can surf, blog, browse, download, uplink, network, tag, text, byte, poke, ping, plug in, and do any and all manner of painful-sounding things to anybody this side of New Guinea. You can forge e-relationships that span the globe. You can transmit naughty photos to Ottawa. Likewise, ogres pretending to be Faceplant buddies can transmit naughty photos to you—or your kids.

Holy sh–

OK, concession withdrawn. I say pashaw. I want my old Underwood back. I guess this computer thing is even more like the automobile than I thought. Its purpose? More efficient, modern cybertravel. Well . . . and sex.

Roger White is a freelance writer living in Austin, Texas, with his lovely wife, two precocious daughters, a very fat daschund, and a self-absorbed cat. For further adventures, visit