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My Computer The Snitch
by Mad Dog


The scariest thought is that the computer might turn out to be a tattletale and it wanted to tell the PDA about the Web sites I visit. Not that I have anything to be embarrassed about. 
A strange thing happened last night. I was working at my computer while using my PDA when suddenly a cartoon bubble appeared by the computerís system tray. It read, ďAnother computer is nearby.Ē I looked at the PDA and there was a message on the small screen: ďWaiting for Send.Ē Yes, they had discovered each other by infrared beam and were trying to communicate. Without my prompting, without my telling them to, and without my permission. Bad computer! Bad PDA!

   Iím not sure what they would have said to each other had I not quickly cancelled the message on the PDA and shut it off. Hey, I saw Bride of Chucky, War Games, and Terminator, I know what inanimate objects can do when they have a mind to. Or at least when screenwriters want them to have a mind to. But Iím not taking any chances. After all, I sleep in the same room they do. And now Iím starting to wonder if they really sleep when I turn them off or if they fake it until Iím snoring, then stay up all night whispering to each other over an infrared beam, plotting new ways to crash right when Iím in the middle of the most important thing Iíve worked on in years and havenít gotten around to saving it.

   Putting my paranoia aside ó which is easier written than done ó itís possible that they connected because they were lonely and wanted to chat. After all, when I talk to them Iím usually not saying the nicest things. Of course if they behaved better I wouldnít have to use that language. Interestingly, thatís the same thing my mother used to say to me. I hate it when I find myself spouting the things my parents used to say, especially since theyíre always the things I hated hearing. Trust me, itís not pretty turning into your parents.


If you want something more useful around the house, you can buy a robot lawn mower, a robot vacuum cleaner, and in Japan, a robot named Wakamaru that will keep an eye on your parents.
    Itís possible the computer and PDA just wanted to commiserate about how hard I pound the keys when I type and how obnoxious it is that I tap, tap, tap at the PDAís screen all the time. Maybe they wanted to laugh at the stupid things I do or how I canít remember where on my hard drive I left a file. Or maybe they were flirting and I squelched what could have been a world-class romance, right up there with Scarlett and Rhett, Romeo and Juliet, and Turner and Hootch.

   The scariest thought is that the computer might turn out to be a tattletale and it wanted to tell the PDA about the Web sites I visit. Not that I have anything to be embarrassed about. Well, as long as I remember to clear the cache and delete the history so thereís no proof. If it does turn out that my computerís a snitch, Iíll have to be very careful. After all, it has access to a telephone line, the Internet, and email, so it could report me if it wanted to.

   This isnít as farfetched as you might think. In Finland you can report crimes by going to a Web site and filling out a form. Itís www.click-n-snitch.com. Just kidding. Actually itís run by the Interior Ministry and, being a government agency, they donít have that much marketing flair or creativity. Last year 23,000 reports were filed online, most of them for stolen property, property damage, and electronic equipment talking all night. Thereís no record of whether any computer filed a report on its own, but Iím not taking any chances with mine, he could do anything if provoked.


Always clear your Web browser, donít put a rating next to your datesí names in your PDA, and above all, put all electronic items in another room and lock your bedroom door at night.
   Yes, I said ďhe.Ē I know I shouldnít anthropomorphize a plastic case full of electronic circuits, but if itís alright to do it with cars, boats, and hurricanes, why not a computer? After all, theyíre only a couple of steps away from robots and weíre only a couple of steps away from having them tooling around the house. You can already buy Aibo, Tama, and Poo-chi, which are robotic pets for those who donít have the time or inclination to mess with smelly food, early morning walks, and kitty litter. Of course you do need to remember to charge their batteries, which only goes to show that theyíre not really so smart or theyíd motor over to a wall socket and stick their tail in it when they needed a recharge.

   If you want something more useful around the house, you can buy a robot lawn mower, a robot vacuum cleaner, and in Japan, a robot named Wakamaru that will keep an eye on your parents. Thatís right. According to itís creators, Wakamaru makes a great companion, housesitter, and caretaker for the elderly. It has two cameras, a cell phone, and is able to discuss the dayís news using either a male or female voice. Trust me, nothing will make your parents happier than being taken care of by a hermaphrodite robot. Wakamaru sells for about $9,000, which is about the cost of three days in a nursing home, so it really is a good deal.

   From what I can tell, Wakamaru doesnít have an infrared port so it may not be able to strike up a conversation with your computer or PDA. But these critters are tricky, so Iíd be very careful. Always clear your Web browser, donít put a rating next to your datesí names in your PDA, and above all, put all electronic items in another room and lock your bedroom door at night. Then at least if they do chatter until dawn youíll still get a good nightís sleep.

©2004 Mad Dog Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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