When In Michigan, Beware the MichigMAN

I myself have not spent a whole lot of time in Michigan, but for the few brief hours I was there, I had a blast (drove from Chicago to Detroit for a concert, then left immediately afterward to go to Cleveland for another concert by the same artist the next night [whom I had also seen the previous night whilst in Chicago]). However, there are plenty of people in MI who have had experiences that were far less rad.

Traffic laws in the Great Lakes State are some of the most severe in the United States. This puts plenty of folks in danger of being brought down by The Man at the drop of a hat (or the press of a gas pedal). In particular, Michigan’s traffic laws pertaining to “impaired driving” are exceptionally harsh. One arrest on an impaired driving charge in the state results in a lifetime revocation of driving privileges. Of course, drinking (or doing other things to render yourself “impaired”) and driving is a terrible idea and no one should ever do it, so maybe they’re on to something. “One strike and you’re out” seems to be a pretty good way to discourage trouble.

How do I know all this wonderful, funderful information about Michigan’s driving laws? Because there are a group of attorneys in Kalamazoo, MI, with a website that will tell you all about it. Now, it seems to me that if you’re in need of these cats’ services, you probably already know how harsh the penalties can be—they’re preaching to the choir, if you will. But, their website does provide a look at these laws that is far easier to understand than the laws themselves as they’re written? Ever tried to read even the (seemingly) simplest of laws in its true “legalese” form? Might as well be written in Sanskrit.

Climb Aboard the Modbus

A great man once asked, “What is Modbus?” Okay, that’s not true. It wasn’t a great man, it was just me, after stumbling upon a site schucking Modbus-compatible products.

My first thought: Perhaps “Modbus” is a bus built for, driven by, and filled with mods. You know, like the over-dressed, scooter-riding British subculture kids from the 1960s—kind of the hipsters of their time, but with far better fashion sense. The Who were mods back in the day, for example.

Second thought: Maybe it’s was an average, everyday bus that has now been modified to high heaven, making it a one-of-a-kind, customized “Mod(ded) Bus.” Sort of like one of the cars from that Music Television program Pimp My Ride, except a huge flippin’ bus. Imagine the kind of stuff you could put in a pimped out bus: hot tub, pool table, triple bunk beds…

Then I actually took the time to read the information on the site (how I got a crazy idea like that, I’ll never know), and it turns out Modbus is an “application layer messaging protocol” that, in a nutshell, makes it possible for dozens of electronic or electronics-driven devices that were made by different manufacturers and/or run on different operating systems to all be controlled from a single interface.

It sounds ridiculously complicated, and when you get into the technical hoopla it probably is, but what a brilliant invention. The inventor of Modbus, who I will just assume was named Frank J. Modbus, should get some sort of “Patron Saint of Convenience” award. Well done, Frankie!

Brains vs. Technology

I’m not old by any standards (except maybe a second-grader’s), and this isn’t meant to sound like a “Get the H-E-double-stuff-Oreos off my lawn” rant, but some things just automatically take one’s brain down the “I remember when…” road.

It wasn’t really all that long ago when people didn’t rely on computers and the internet for everything, back when Zack Morris’s huge brick of an early ‘90s cellular telephone could only send and receive phone calls. So when I came across a web page shucking “data collection software,” I considered just how the heck we all got along before we regularly carried pocket-sized bundles of rather advanced technology around with us. Without specialized software, how would one have collected data back in those halcyon days of yore?

Oh yeah, with that old zombie-brunch favorite: our brains. Remember when we had to remember stuff? How many telephone numbers do you have memorized now? Probably a handful at most, because everyone’s cell phone remembers numbers for them now. Remember maps? And having to learn and/or remember how to get somewhere? No longer an issue thanks to built-in GPS in cars and on phones.

I am by no means lamenting this technological shift—I’m as reliant on modern technology as the next guy. More than anything, I’m amazed at how far our mastery of technology has come in the last twenty years or so. I’d be willing to bet that things have advanced more in the past two decades than they have at any time since the dawn of the Industrial Revolution. And given the 20th Century’s propensity for growing by leaps and bounds in this regard, that’s really saying something.

But we can’t slow down now. We’ve got just a little over two years to make the flying cars and hoverboards foretold by Back to the Future Part II a part of everyday life. We wouldn’t want to make liars out of Robert Zemeckis and Steven Spielberg, would we?

Evil Sorcerer, or Advanced Plastic Polymer?

The valiant elven knight Carlos, heir to the realm of Mirkwood, stalked through his forest, tracking his prey while doing his best not to be tracked himself by that very same prey. Both were hunted and hunter.

Then, in the clearing ahead, barely visible in the ghostly moonlight, stood he who Carlos sought: Torlon the Silver Sorcerer. In the flat, thin shadows cast by the sliver of moon cascading over the brim of the villainous wizard’s great round hat, Carlos could not tell if Torlon was facing toward or away from him.

He could wait no longer to find out. Soundlessly sliding an arrow from the quiver on his back, Carlos fit nock to string and drew back on his bow. After a long, slow, silent exhale, he let fly his arrow.

The arrow struck Torlon square in the chest, for he was, in fact, looking directly at Carlos as he fired. The projectile deflected off of Torlon and flew end over end into the trees behind him. The Silver Sorcerer was entirely unharmed, for he was not just named Torlon, his entire magical being was made of Torlon, which is apparently one of the most advanced plastic polymers in the world. From what I can gather, Torlon is lighter and stronger than metal, and it has a wizardy-sounding name.

And Carlos lived out the rest of his days in the enchanted forest of Mirkwood in peace. He later became a cheesemaker, and also king.