From Shorpy




Phone rang, I checked the number, cursed: I knew it I knew it. The mayor was going to bail on my show because he was hanging out with the President.

Doesn’t that sound impressive? Of course, no; it just shows how far down the chain I am, but well heck it has the ring of something vital. All right, I’ll give the mayor a pass on account of the President, this time.

Just as well; we can do it later this week. And it meant I could devote all my attention to something else:

Software training.

We are having training at work for a new program that is very robust and extensible and comprehensive and will enable workflows. It can do many things for the user; so far it’s made me a jerk, because I cannot bear these sessions and want to scream.

If I were king of the forest, I’d let people sign for Advanced Speed Training, where the instructor has no patience for slackers, moves at a brisk clip, takes one question after every point, and begins the session by burning the manual. Because none of you will need this, right? It would work like this:

"Okay, launch the app. Oh, God, a question already? You in the back. What."

I’m looking at the DOS shell window and it’s sized at 20 lines of code; the old one defaulted at 40.

"If you bothered to look at the code you’d see it’s not resetting the buffer before launching the .jar containers. Get out of my class. Out! Anyone else? No? All right. You see the app. Go up to preferences. To keep you all from fiddle-farting around when you think you know it all, set your color scheme and font sizes now. You have 20 seconds to browse and commit. Don’t waste time resizing the window, because this thing is laggy as game of Halo on a Commodore 64, and dragging a window is like trying to pull a dead horse with a hand-cranked Segway. GO!"

Uh - sir, question? The option for MacOS is the Aqua scheme from years ago - is this a sarcastic swipe against an OS the programmers feel obligated to acknowledge, since many users will be emulating it through the browser, or an insufficient understanding of the advancements in Mac GUI?

"I don’t know. I will say I was surprised that they chose Pinstripe to indicate a Mac, but it reminded me of 2002, when I associated that GUI with the vigorous Linux undepinnings of the OS. ARE WE DONE? That was 20 seconds. Close the window. You will now live with that color scheme for the rest of your employment. Now, what are we here to do?"

(class, in muttered unison) Write news stories.

"NEIN! If we were here to write, would you not be looking at a word processor? This is an information management system. Listen carefully, for I will say this once. Creating a story simultaneously creates the item in the budget, generates a photo assignments, sidebars, data boxes and graphic elements if you so desire. Now click the plus button and create seven new stories, each with different requirements. One with photo but no data box, one with video and a sidebar, and so on. I will be outside walking up and down the hall wondering how I came to the point where I must explain things to such idiots. You have four minutes. NO TALKING."


Now, if this is what you want, all other computer training sessions feel like this:

"Okay, you’re going take the pointer of the mouse that’s attached to the keyboard by a cord made of plastic and plugged into the USB port, and push it up to the grey band at the top of the computer screen where it has many words, and find the word FILE, okay, and click on that and hold it down with your finger on the mouse that’s in your hand, and then using your hand to go down or the button on the mouse, if your mouse has a wheel, you’re going to go down the list of words and stop at the word that says NEW and you’re going to click on that, okay? And then you’ll see a window that has allll these options, including “article.” Now, you’ve already created a new article by clicking on the NEW button, so you don’t want to check the box that says article. Uh - question?"

Yes, why not?

"You don’t need to know that right now."

That’s not what it’s like, but that’s how it feels. So the first hour was spent getting acquainted with the thing. The second hour was spent watching someone create a file and enter all the things that needed to be entered. I had two immediate impressions: the program’s innumerable options and checkboxes and entry fields are daunting at first, but will soon become part of unconscious workflow, and really do wonders for integrating writers / graphics / copy desk into one seamless realm of Total Data Awareness, and B) it’s the most gawdawfully ugly thing you can possibly imagine. Not ugly in a way that interferes with its usefulness, but just aesthetically appalling. IT LOOKS LIKE WINDOWS 97. Beveled buttons, clunky scrollbars, jaggy fonts, shiesty little icons - a total UI nightmare.

What are the most important things we do? We write. So start with a screen that has two buttons: NEW and LIBRARY. Say there, I’m starting a new piece. I’ll click NEW and it’ll pitch me into a streamlined, distraction-free environment for new-file generation and composition. Then I’ll go to lunch. Afterwards I want to edit and send, so I hit LIBRARY, and up comes three panes: one for my stories (It has two tabs, NOT FILED and FILED), one pane for media integration, and one pane for sending the piece where it needs to go. When I click on the item in the NOT FILED list, I can finish it; when I want to send it, I drag it to the destination pane, where a progress bar and a ting! sound completes the process. The file will be moved from NOT FILED to FILED in my LIBRARY.

That would be my dream, but I’m silly like that.

It was interesting to watch others in the room grapple with some of the conceptual changes over current workflow. I developed workarounds for the previous system, and was keen to know if I could fool the new system as well. If you’re marinated in this program, it makes perfect sense to do everything in the new program instead of writing in the miserable old word processing program that you love, but has legacy quirks dating back to 1987 that insist on displaying line breaks as umlauts. If you know how good this new tool is,you are convinced it will be bellyfeel doubplus good for everyone eventually.

This is what system administrators and trainers have to fight: the recalcitrant guard that doesn’t care how many whiz-bang bells and whistles this thing has, they know how they do things now, and it works. That was me, at first, but it was apparent that the program has made allowances for these things; you sense intensely geeky nights spent worrying about the merits of importing copy as defined by the original source, or defined by the needs of the layout program. Lots of on-the-fly adaptation and formatting. It’s really impressive. Your inner Abe Simpson complains, but he usually shuts up and sulks in a chair after a while.

Anyway. After an hour of watching a file being created, we took a break, and then we repeated the steps we’d seen in the previous hour. This I did in five minutes. Not because I am a genius but because it was straight-forward and logical, if over-optioned. Alas, there was an hour set aside for this, and there’s an hour tomorrow for practice.

And another three hour session after that.

And another hour for practice.

And another three hour session after that.

And another hour for practice.

And another three hour session after that.

And another hour for practice.

Mind you, the end result is a pretty spiffy system, and readers will see some benefits that will make awesome and intensely local, with ultra-accurate search results whether you’re looking for something on the home page or just drifting in via google. The bones of this thing are strong and the skeleton is impressive.

I’m just complaining because everything I need to do on it I learned in an hour, and there are 12 hours to go. Also, I cannot sit still for more than 17 minutes. You will get a better newspaper out this. Think of my suffering now and then, that’s all I ask.

(Note: by “suffering” I mean “being paid to sit in a dark room sucking on free Jolly Ranchers” while entering dummy copy into a word processor. Oh. Boo. Hoo.)






After that, some cheer, perhaps. Some product!

The 1960 line-up for Ken-L:



Took me years to understand what they meant by “Ken-L.” The “Ration” part was intended to appeal to a culture that still had significant widespread experience with the military, and got the reference to the K-Ration. But here’s where things get fun. The ad, of course, was sung in taunting tones by children across the land:



One of those boys was the son of the man whose advertising agency produced the spots: Richard Marx, who is a TOTALLY GREAT GUY and NO WAY will I say anything disparaging about his career, heck, like I’ve sold one album, let alone millions.

Also: Ken-L Ration had a Pet Motel at Disneyland.

And lest you think it’s not high-quality dog food, well:




There’s something contradictory about this; can’t quite put my finger on it.



Texcel doesn’t come up on Google searches except for ads, and auctions for old tape dispensers - the styles of which suggests it preceded, and was eliminated by, Scotch Tape. But! This page yielded this . . .



Which gives us the name of the company that made it. Industrial Tape, New Brunswick NJ

Now things get shady. Wikipedia - in an article flagged for poor sources - says:

In the 1920s, a small Detroit druggist had uncovered and was selling Johnson & Johnson surgical tape to a car manufacturer who used the tape for masking two-tone paint jobs. By 1927, Johnson & Johnson recognized the market potential for tape products in the industrial market and a small department was formed to market "masking tape". Cellophane and paper tapes were soon developed for the industrial market. This new division of Johnson & Johnson was called the Revolite Corporation. In 1947, Revolite was renamed the Industrial Tape Corporation and in 1953 ITC became Permacel. The name came from the brand-name of the first product shipped from its plant, "Permacel", a masking tape.


This 1942book of prominent New Jerseyites says Industrial was indeed associated with Johnson and Johnson, and fixes the date of Revolite’s converstion to Industrial Tape as 1937. REALLY, wikipedia.




Trademark searches indicate they came up with Texcel in ’45 or so. The company was eventually sold and consumed whole by its new parent. When they stopped using the very un-Tex-like “Tex” as a mascot, I don’t know. Or care, really.

Let’s cap it off with a lovely roll of Life-Savers.



Chryst-O-Mint was probably a popular oath for people who wanted to swear without blaspheming.




Usual raft o' things today - Comic Sins right now, Strib blog between noon and one. Tumblr around the same time. Just keep clicking those buttons below!








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