Just got a call from the school: all after-school activities are cancelled. Anything that requires the late bus. No idea why. Shouldn’t the streets be better at 6 PM than 4? Well, my daughter has one after-school activity, but it’s a different sort than the type described on the phone, so I texted her to see what’s up. And then I realized what I had just done. If she took out her phone in the lunchroom, and a teacher saw it: confiscation.

There was an incident at my daughter’s school: someone used their phone to shoot video of another student for the purpose of humiliation. Perhaps because the phrase “shoot video” includes the word “shoot,” this has led to the usual over-reaction. Any kid whose phone is visible during the day will have the phone confiscated.

You might say that there’s no reason to have a phone in school anyway. Why in my day et cetera. I know, I know. Carrier pigeons and Morse lamps. But if your kid needs to send you a message during the day - say, after-school activities running late need ride can you take friend home too - there’s no reason they shouldn’t be able to do so.

But one size fits all, of course. It’s easier to make sure everyone feels responsible if guilt is collectivized and spread equally. It breeds nothing but sullen obedience and simmering resentment towards the promulgators of the rules, but as long as there’s compliance we’re all fine.

It could be worse. The school could be on lockdown because food was used to make an inappropriate gestures. Behold the famous Pastry Gun Incident in Brooklyn Park.

Don’t worry, It’s Brooklyn Park, Maryland. But it’s only a matter of time. The letter from the school:

Dear Parents and Guardians:

 I am writing to let you know about an incident that occurred this morning in one of our classrooms and encourage you to discuss this matter with your child in a manner you deem most appropriate.

 During breakfast this morning, one of our students used food to make inappropriate gestures that disrupted the class. While no physical threats were made and no one [was] harmed, the student had to be removed from the classroom.

Here’s the report. If you’re wondering how many kids were scarred for life by the sight of Pop-Tart that had been gnawed into the shape of a firearm, there’s no way to know. But the school is stepping up and pitching in. Counselors are standing by:

As you are aware, the ... Code of Student Conduct and appropriate consequences related to violations of the code are clearly spelled out in the Student Handbook . . . If your children express that they are troubled by today's incident, please talk with them and help them share their feelings. Our school counselor is available to meet with any students who have the need to do so next week. In general, please remind them of the importance of making good choices.

The chance that any kid was psychologically damaged by the existence of a frosted grain-based gun-shaped object is nil. The kids know this is stupid. They see the Authority Figures acting stupidly, and readjust their opinions accordingly.


MOVIES We have a new Iron Man 3 trailer. Vulture says it’s “Shadowy,” and wonders whether we’re ready for a solemn, depressed Tony Stark. YES. YES I AM.



I’m tired of the flip devil-may-care Tony Stark. A little gravtas would be great. The second movie was a wash; the third looks like they found the right tone.


Then there’s this.



That’s it. The obsessive search for clues has begun:

For starters, the zoom in on the first shot eliminates Roger — who is already struggling with feeling left out and past his prime. Second, Pete's hairline is still receding, though he is attempting to make up for it with sideburns. Bold move, Pete. Third, Ken and Harry look really happy, and the shot seems to zoom in on Harry's gleeful visage. Maybe we will get more Harry this season!

Harry will be the only man standing at the end. The only one who adjusted to life and isn’t looking down the road at crushing disappointment. Just like Ted Baxter was the only fellow who had a job at the end of the “Mary Tyler Moore” show.

SPRING After two months of a summer drought, this stuff would sell nicely over here.

In China's sprawling smog-blanketed cities, life can sometimes seem a little grey. But Chengdu's officials hit upon an easy solution to cheer up their city's appearance: specifically, a chemical solution called Top Green Turf Greening Agent.

Chinese reporters filmed workers from Chengdu's municipal landscaping department as they busily painted the grassy verges of the city's roads with a fluorescent green spray.

Photos here. Couldn’t we just do this to the snowbanks? Might help winter-weary moods.


TECH Writing about Apple makes otherwise sane people spout the oddest things. This article begins: “More details are emerging about Apple's forthcoming watch” - which assumes that it’s not only in the works, it’s a sure thing. The article links to Bloomberg, which says “Apple’s planned ‘iWatch’ could be more profitable than TV.” Yes, the TV they’re not making. I could be wrong, but I’ve never thought the TV was likely. Small margins, crowded market, low turnover - why would they build a TV instead of a better AppleTV box?

Since the watch now seems certain, wait for the next moment when they’re supposed to announce one, and don’t. Stock dives. Later they roll one out and sell gazillions. Fast-forward three years: industry observers will note that it’s been a while since Apple came out with something that created or redefined a market, and even though they control 73% of that market, competitors are gaining strength.

Oh, then there’s this: the next phone will have fingerprint-detection and there will also be a $99 model in many colors.

That last one seems possible, even though all the experts say Apple will keep the prices high to maintain its reputation as a premium item. That would make more sense if people actually paid the premium price all the time. They don’t. I’ve never paid the full price for a phone. I wait until my contract says “you can re-enlist now,” and then I pay the subsidized price. A $99 phone would appeal to people who wants something now without signing a new contract, or one for the kid.

So when it’s taken away and lost somehow, you’re not out that much.

GAMES An other SimCity review; this one is a rave. The game is getting a lot of attention, because it's WoW for people who would never go on quests or fight wizards, because they're interested in infrastructure and tax policy. The review  has some caveats:

For one thing, like in real life, your city’s resources are now finite. When you set up your city, you’re shown how much water, oil, coal, wind, and other natural resources are available. You’d be wise to pay attention—if you create a sprawling metropolis based on coal but then find you can’t buy any once your mine runs out, you’ll be hosed.

Sounds realistic. About that sprawling metropolis, though: a screenshot from the arstechnica review mentioned yesterday.








That is not sprawling. It looks like it’s about 15 blocks square. That’s it? THAT'S IT?


TV Here’s a map of American TV locations.








What, too small? Fine. Larger version here. Is it authoritative? The last word on obsessive devotion to the medium of network television? Well:








Obviously not. It only goes back to the 90s, which is why Chicago has “Kenan and Kel” and not “The Bob Newhart Show.”


Kenan and Kel? This.