Windows lock-screen settings, with arrow pointing to checkbox to disable lock-screen ads

Have you noticed advertisements popping up on your login screen lately? Has Microsoft been begging you to check out your news feed or try some wonderful new Windows feature that will be taken away in the next update?

If, like some users we know, you were appalled at this invasion, you can turn it off in the settings. Windows will probably turn it on again every time it updates itself, but at least you know now where to look.

If, like some other users we know, you have had it up to the imaginary line with Windows, you might recall that Linux runs more efficiently on your existing hardware.

It is useful to remind ourselves once in a while of what “news” has become, and this is a good opportunity. When a big tech company is trying to direct your attention to its news feed before you even log in to your computer, you can bet it is not motivated primarily by a selfless desire to make an informed citizen out of you.


City police responded to a report of a robbery in progress at Big Tony’s Muffler & Exhaust on Bland Street yesterday afternoon. Responding officers did not arrest Big Tony, explaining to the citizen who had dialed 911 that mufflers really do cost that much these days.

City police responded to reports of gunfire in the 3700 block of Guthrie Street. Arriving officers found Miss Elzevira Pockett popping the bubbles in a roll of bubble wrap. Officers asked her if it would kill her to take up knitting instead.

Bozar the Clown was arrested at his home last night. He was charged with being quiet and law-abiding in a suspicious manner for more than six months.

Artist Eli “Bonkers” Johnson was arrested in Stanton Heights and charged with being weird in a normal neighborhood. He was released without bail on the condition that he would go somewhere artsy like Lawrenceville if he wanted to be weird like that.

Police are asking witnesses with information about the theft by embezzlement of the Police Informant Reward Fund to keep their mouths shut if they know what’s good for them.


Dr. Boli will probably not be adding a Like button for posts and comments. This decision is partly because of and partly in spite of yesterday’s informal poll, and partly because of Dr. Boli’s own preference for, amounting almost to an obsession with, simplicity. The Like button would require a plugin, another whole piece of software to add a function to the already bloated software that sits on the server and serves up these articles.

Instead, our readers will have to use words: “I like this comment,” or something similar, would be a good formula.

But the question of the Like button brings up the larger question of why such things have become so ubiquitous in the first place. It is not just “like” buttons. Your email provider will helpfully suggest replies to email messages, thus sparing you the trouble of putting your thoughts in words. (“Thanks for the heads up.” “No problem, I understand.” “Ugh.” Those were the three suggested replies to the last email message in Dr. Boli’s inbox.) Ultimately, of course, the goal is to spare us the trouble of having thoughts in the first place: those will be provided to us along with the proper emojis to express them.

We use these helps because they are helpful. Most people interact with the vast world of the Internet from a tiny phone screen. It is not easy to type on that screen, though some people become fairly good at it; it is much easier just to tap the button (“Ugh”) that most closely matches what we would say if we said anything, or to choose the vomiting-face emoji, or to press the Like button. From the point of view of the providers of Internet services, the difficulty of using the keyboard to express original thoughts is, as they say at Apple, a feature, not a bug. It encourages us to push buttons, which encourages us to think the thoughts we are supposed to think and be the people we are supposed to be. The fact that the Like button increments the “Like” count works on the tribal foundations of human psychology, herding us into herds of like-minded likers.

After a while, these actions become automatic, the way an addict’s drinking becomes automatic. “And by now I’ve been on Twitter long enough,” said our frequent correspondent Martin the Mess, “that I break out in a cold sweat every time I see something clever or funny and I can’t find a Like button to click in appreciation.”

Twitter shows us the ideal future from the point of view of the social-media robber barons. Everyone who does not completely agree with Elon Musk’s politics (and a goodly number of those who do) believes that Musk has made Twitter worse. At least we can agree that the members of the leftward half of the political spectrum are almost unanimous in their condemnation of Musk’s X. But they are still there. They cannot think of an alternative. Nobody knows how to get on Mastodon; Truth Social is a liturgical site devoted to the rituals associated with the worship of the messiah Trump; and as for Facebook’s Twitter-killer, the best we can say is that it has not yet landed a good shot with its sling. If the people who condemn X left X, they would be finished as social communicators. They would no longer have any outlet through which to express their condemnation.

This is what the providers of our social media aspire to. They want us to be so completely dependent on them for distributing our thoughts, and ultimately for providing our thoughts, that they can do anything to us, and we still will not leave. Elon Musk taunts his left-wing users, often personally, like a fifth-grade bully, and they still use his service. He could walk into their houses and slap their faces, and the only response they could think of would be an angry tweet. The robber baron wins. We lose.

So what is the alternative? The alternative is not to care, which for a “creative” also implies being rich. If you can inherit enough money, or earn enough by honest or dishonest labor in your youth, that you do not depend for your bread on how many people your message reaches, then you can avoid social media altogether. Dr. Boli has taken this high road. He has never had an account on Twitter, much as people have urged him to join the twenty-first century. He does not rely on this Magazine for his income. The Publishing Empire funds the online media empire with very little left over, and even if it did not, Dr. Boli and his household staff would not starve.

For the “creative” types who have not yet found the magic formula to turn lead into gold, there is always manual labor. That may be the only kind of labor available to human beings a decade from now, as artificial intelligence gradually absorbs all our mental work and applies all the worst habits it has learned from us to making our perfect entertainment. We can help bring about that utopian future by accepting all its suggestions now.

But meanwhile, what about those sharing buttons at the bottoms of the articles in this Magazine? They work unpredictably in different browsers and operating systems, and Dr. Boli is thinking of getting rid of them. Does anyone need or use them?


Certain correspondents, and one in particular, have been suggesting for years that this Magazine should have a Like button, as a number of other such sites have these days. Dr. Boli is therefore experimenting with that feature, and at the same time attempting to make a more useful button than most other sites can provide. You, the readers, can help by testing the button and letting us know whether it meets your requirements.


On this day 75 years ago, Thomas E. Dewey was elected President of the United States. By an amusing historical irony, his victory is best remembered today for a newspaper photograph that captured the delight of defeated incumbent Harry Truman at being relieved of the burden of responsibility he had borne stoically since the death of Franklin Roosevelt.


Dear Dr. Boli: My creative-writing teacher says all fiction has a three-act structure, and she says she wants to see that three-act structure in the short story that’s due next Tuesday. She tried to explain what she meant, but she used a lot of technical terms like “exposition” and “catalyst” and “fiction,” and I was having trouble following her. I was wondering if you could explain this three-act thing in simple, everyday language. —Sincerely, Billy (last name withheld), Miss Pinprick’s Fourth-Period Creative-Writing Class.

Dear Sir: In order to make the notion of the three-act structure in fiction clearer, Dr. Boli has prepared this handy chart.

Chart of the three-act structure in fiction

Let your short story follow this formula, and your creative-writing teacher is bound to give you an A.


Sir: What is to become of future archaeologists? That is the vital question that no one is asking. It is all very well to talk about environmental responsibility and honoring Mother Earth and other such foofaraw, but a healthy environment will do us archaeologists no good if we are unable to function in it.

The archaeologists of the future will be simply delighted with the late twentieth century and the early twenty-first. Think how much they will have to learn! A consumer culture that wraps perishable items in printed plastic, and then throws the plastic away into giant repositories, is a culture that is practically devised with the needs of archaeologists in mind. Think of the treasures for future archaeologists to discover in the smallest municipal landfill! Why, the libraries of Nineveh or Nag Hammadi are nothing in comparison.

But now come these environmentalists and their parade of thou-shalt-nots, and city councils start banning plastic bags. How will future generations know what supermarkets their ancestors patronized? And worse yet, under the pervasive influence of these insidious ideas, or perhaps I should say the insidious influence of these pervasive ideas, major suppliers of consumer goods are beginning to advertise that their packaging is biodegradable. Biodegradable! Has it never occurred to them what a disservice they are rendering to the archaeologists of centuries to come? What if the Epic of Gilgamesh had been written on biodegradable tablets? But that is exactly what we are doing with the marketing copy on every biodegradable package. Think how future generations will lament the loss of “Brenneman’s Wheat Shards Are Your Best Fiber Friend”!

What can be done? The ordinary citizen can do much. Above all, I urge your readers to sign the pledge currently being shoved in their faces at busy corners in major retail business districts. It has been difficult for us to compete with Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many of us proudly bear the bruises and black eyes incident to such competition, but we have established a presence that cannot be ignored in every business district in the city. Sign the pledge to patronize only retailers who stock properly packaged goods, goods whose packaging will convey a wealth of information to archaeologists centuries or even millennia from now. One person may not accomplish much, but millions of us working together cannot possibly fail. We must all do our part to build a better tomorrow for archaeology.

Montague F. Pickenspade,
Archaeologists for a Better Tomorrow