Holiday Blues, Half-Off

December 4? Already? Commander Trombone apologizes for not updating this space more frequently. Please stand by for more. While you’re waiting for that precious content to arrive, please use the Amazon link on the main page or below for all your Christmas, Hanukah, and Kwanzaa purchases. No, the true meaning of none of these holidays is embodied in material things, and yes, we should probably recycle some of the older things first … But what can I tell you? Christmas is coming, the economy is in trouble, and the goose is getting as lean as a runway model. Importantly, though, you can do your part.

Meet the Animatronic Eisenhower

Today, the President of the United States will address children who attend secondary schools. Or, the POTUS will address children who attend public school if the local school bureaucrats allow him to. You see, the school bureaucrats are under a lot of pressure from “king-hell-crazy parents” who believe that President Obama is a socialist who has a secret plan to indoctrinate children. Don’t believe it? Just look at this copy from the president’s speech:

…But at the end of the day, the circumstances of your life – what you look like, where you come from, how much money you have, what you’ve got going on at home – that’s no excuse for neglecting your homework or having a bad attitude. That’s no excuse for talking back to your teacher, or cutting class, or dropping out of school. That’s no excuse for not trying.

Yes, motivated kids are a threat to democracy and the cleanliness of the school’s restrooms. There is a solution to this problem, one that should assuage the concerns of “crazy parents” and school bureaucrats alike.

real Eisenhower

The real guy. Pay no attention.

Meet animatronic Eisenhower, or A-IKE. He’s a president from a simpler time, when you knew what to count on. The communists were pure evil. Cars had fins. Eisenhower fought in the Great War, and no one questioned his military record. Even better, he looks reassuringly like someone’s granddad, if your granddad happens to be balding and caucasian.

The best thing is this: the Animatronic Eisenhower can be programmed to say whatever you want him to say. So, if you want A-IKE to tell everybody when the audio-visual club meeting is, he’s at your service. Over the closed-circuit TV at your school, A-IKE looks surprisingly lifelike.**

** A-IKE, owing to his original design, may start talking about the National Interstate Highway System. This is clearly socialism. Shut A-IKE down if this occurs. Worse, A-IKE may, without prompting from you, begin to go on at length about something called the “Military Industrial Complex.” Again, shut down A-IKE down if this occurs. A-IKE is proudly made in the Peoples Republic of China.

Save the Public Option in Health Care Reform

My message to Senators Franken and Klobuchar:


Please don’t give up on the Public Option! Until the health insurance industry gets true competition from a Public Option, that industry will continue to take unfair advantage of those who must use its services.

A well-designed Public Option will cover many who do not have health insurance today. Senator, you and I know why so many americans are not covered: it’s because the health insurance companies are not run as vehicles for keeping people well or healing the sick. Simply put, these companies are vehicles for profit.

The business of America is business, but not at any cost, and certainly not at the expense of any basic human need.

Best Regards,

Chris Wiley

Commander Trombone Classic: WWW Veterans

Wally Kerber and an associate

Wally Kerber and an associate

Today, there are lots of things we take for granted on the internet, but what’s hard for most people to imagine is that back “in the day” things were much different. Below, Wally Kerber remembers the early “fly by the seat of your pants” days of the early World Wide Web.

“Before the powerhouse website we know today as Commander Trombone existed, the internet itself was like an infant left on our collective front porches by the defense department. The defense department knocked and ran away. What did we do with that baby? We cooed at it. We tickled its nose. Fortunately for all of us, a little gentle patting on the back by Tim Berners Lee made that baby burp up the World Wide Web.

an early podcasting device

Promo for an early internet
broadcasting device

Those of us on the “early web,” as we like to call it, were horribly naive, but that naivete led to great creativity. If we needed sound effects, for example, we’d tell our sound man Jack to run a line down to the bathroom. There, he’d use the acoustics of the toilet. Slowly unscrewing the lid from a mason jar inside the bowl would simulate the sound of an alien spacecraft door opening. It frightened people, many of whom lived in New Jersey. We soon realized that the power of the web was truly awesome and we needed to treat that power with a great deal of respect. We treated the web as a public trust. We worked long hours. My lovely wife made us lots of frozen ginger ale salad to keep us going. We smoked lots of cigarettes; we didn’t know they were harmful!

How to view or “browse” the web was an ongoing concern. Several methods involved high voltages. An early “information helmet” or “thinking cap,” that beamed sounds and images directly into the brain proved unfeasible. To make matters worse, squirrels would find their way onto our makeshift power grid and electrocute themselves, blowing the whole system out. When we finally saw NTSA Mosaic, an early web browser, we were stunned by its simplicity, but nonplussed by its 256 nodes of color output.

It’s difficult to say exactly when everything on the web went south, but whatever it was, it was not the “web bubble.” Our team engineered the “web bubble.” It was good work. It cannot burst. It was our bubble, and we worked on it happily even though we never received a dime of royalties for it.

Perhaps trouble arrived in the form of a corporation called Microsoft. Bill Gates tried to convert the web to his own use in the dead of night when no one was looking. Even prior to that, Apple Computer tried to make things user friendly that shouldn’t be made user friendly. You don’t make a fighter jet user friendly, after all. We admired Apple though. We registered and it still points to Apple Computer to this day. By the way, the iPod and podcasting are nothing new, we invented at least seven different internet broadcasting devices, one of which could broadcast on the 19 meter shortwave band in synchronicity with the internet.

Certainly the CSS fanboys, who came later, did not help in the progress of our innovations on the web. There was an army of them: Eric Myers, Jefferey Zeldman, Cameron Moll, Dan Cedarholm and we regarded them as drippy-nosed, self-congratulatory young upstarts who were trying to make a free wheeling web into a fascist mini state. Their ilk just wanted to make the Ruby On Rails run on time. Others, who also claimed to know it all, eventually made the web “scene,” but they could barely converse on a subject other than Chuck Norris.

As time went on, however, we who created the early web realized that change was inevitable and were forced to “get over it,” to use the parlance of our times. For those of us who were present at the creation, it’s certainly sufficient to look back on a solid record of accomplishment. The upstarts may not acknowledge—or even be aware of—how things were back in the summer of 1991 when we first rolled up our sleeves and pinned our hopes on the early web, but nevertheless, it is on the “shoulders” of our accomplishments that the web users of today now stand.”