Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Yes, you've come to the right place

Been doing a little redecorating. Hope you like it.

Numbs, Numbers, Numbests

Which of these two statements makes you feel like you are throwing money away:

  1. Hey, buddy, can you spare a dime?
  2. Your airline miles are about to expire.
Follow-up question: when did airline miles become currency?!? And there's more! How do you react to this statement: Expiring Airline Miles Could Cost Consumers $28 Billion. What does that mean? Is this a figure akin to the national debt? Do we all share a portion of this amount? How exactly will future generations feel the impact of a lost $28 billion airline miles?

I thought I was pretty good at kicking around in a virtual landscape, but this has me perplexed. If my mother had misplaced her stack of S&H Green Stamps rather than spend an evening licking and sticking them into little books, would she have felt a loss over their value in merchandise or just regret at missing out on the experience of having the glue pumped from her stomach? (true story; it was quite a stack of stickers) I can function with the S&H function: you earn stickers by buying items A, B, and maybe C and when enough stickers accumulate, they can be redeemed for item D. If you lose the stickers, you can still buy item D and forever wonder if you would appreciate it more if it had cost you only postage and a little indigestion.

I cannot wrap my mind around losing airline miles, let alone get worked up about it. What frosts my chickens, however, is the fact that this virtual currency is taxed! Wow. That is quite a feat. There is nothing we can point to and say, "here is a pile of miles" yet somehow value is attached, calculated, and taxed. I am going to stop rating my dreams on a scale from 1 to 10 lest they be taxed.

Enough of that. I have another virtual number to share. How old are you? No, really. Well, there is more than one answer to that question—and I don't mean your actual age and what anniversary of your 29th birthday you happen to be celebrating. I happen to be 39 if you count only years. If you count other variables like smoking, drinking, stressing, commuting, and laughing, I am only 19 and can look forward to giggling for another 75 trips around the sun. I don't know the formula but I can point you to the Real Age calculator. Have fun and report back, kiddies.

And then they were billed. Last but not least for today, I would like to share with you a blurb regarding the presentation of numbers as brought to you by that bastion of incomprehensibility, the wireless phone industry. Also, mentioning this allows me to bring the iPhone into today's post and isn't that what it's all about anyway? I still do not have my very own but I have been getting enough pleasure vicariously through the stories of those who stood in line. David Pogue (should that be iPogue?) received his first bill and summed it up thusly:
This development illustrates yet another clash between Apple’s typical philosophy of elegance and simplicity—and the unprepared, cluelessness of its cellular partner.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Phun with Photos

So Mao, queen of the this castle's clouder, has recently been diagnosed with old kidneys. They haven't failed completely but they are tired. So Adventures with a Geriatric Cat now begins. The first thing that went through my mind when I found this out was that I have no really good pictures of this furball. I'm sure this will be rectified in the coming weeks and that she will dread seeing me stalking her with the clicking whirring flashing hand-held box. So to stick with the photo theme...

I'm having a hard time determining which is satire: Link - More fish movie posters

Living with The T, an individual who has never said no to trying out a pen and then buying as many of them as possible when it turns out to be perfect, I've grown numb to the plethora of ink-wielding devices in the house (this in no way means I can easily find one when I need one but that is a blog topic for another time). I realized how badly this pen obsession could go when I saw this Mercedes Pens.

Of course, the owner has a blog.

I've long been a fan of Worth1000.com, a site dedicated to keeping those creative juices flowing. A recent contest was entitled If Trekkies Ruled. My favorite photo-creation from the bunch:

Zeus save us! That face is perfect!

Here are a couple of other shots from a site I just found. From what I've seen so far, it seems to be more actual photos with results achieved in the darkroom rather than on the computer.

More fun with office products.

Too many chefs at the keyboard

A few days ago, I was repeating the ritual of restocking the dairy at home and inadvertently grabbed fat-free half-and-half. I think the cartons of this product should be neon in color and include a symbol warning consumers of impending doom. Something along the lines of Mr. Yuck would warn folks quite nicely. What is the point to fat-free half-and-half ?! Doesn't half-and-half exist in the first place so we can get our hands on the good part?

This morning, I was plodding through some newsprint, sipping contaminated coffee—what exactly is in fat-free half-and-half, anyway?—and reading that obesity is a social epidemic. I am paraphrasing here but the idea is that if your sibling is obese, your chance of becoming obese increases 40%. The conclusion was not that you share your sib's genes, rather that obesity spreads much in the same way fashion does. Fashion! Good grief. My morning angst slowly changed from "what poisons am I ingesting by using fat-free half-and-half" to "ohmigawd keeping up with the ever-spreading Joneses is not causality IT'S THE FOOD, STUPID!!" I love this comment:

" ... The study found a person's chances of becoming obese went up 57 percent if a friend did, 40 percent if a sibling did and 37 percent if a spouse did. In the closest friendships, the risk almost tripled. ...

Despite their findings, the researchers said people should not sever their relationships. ... "

Sheesh. I can just hear phone lines buzzing with the following: "I'm really sorry, Sally, I can't go for lunch with you at The Trough today because hanging out with you might make me fat."

To sum it up nicely, I point you to Inkling. She spent some time reading the comments to the story when it ran it the NY Times and describes the experience as the fascination of the abomination: much like a train wreck, you can't turn your eyes away from the gore. Rather than suffer through the comments myself, I find it easier to point you to her summary.

Aside: One of the studies Inkling links to studied multiple social factors on eating behaviors. As the number of people at a meal increases so do the size and duration of the meal. Meals eaten in large groups were over 75% larger than when eaten alone. Wow! My comment about eating at The Trough was done tongue in cheek. Good to know research backs me up.

I escaped the newsprint and went to the internet, coffee in hand. You may be wondering why I'm even using the abomination known as fat-free half-and-half. Well, I can only justify my actions by hating waste more than than taste (should I have written waist instead?). I'll drink the swill rather than just dump it and lose the $3, add the carton to the landfill and the contents to the water treatment plant without trying to learn from my mistake. Anyway, while reading RSS newsfeeds, I came across the following list of stories at The Consumerist, defender of those buy things. This is a non-doctored screenshot of the order in which the stories hit the wire:

I think Meg and Ben need to have a little inter-office convo as they're posting stories. I believe Meg's question about why people are fatter now than ever before, posted at 9:11 AM, was at least partially answered three minutes earlier when Ben posted the video of McD's rolling out a bigger bovine-on-a-bun menu item.
Links: obesity article, McBeef video

Once these words were out, I was gussing them up a bit and pulled down the following menu:
I propose a change to these menu options. How about instead they range from Smallest to OBESE ? Then we can justify the research into a link between typing and gaining weight.

Are you gonna eat that?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Questions I didn't know I had

How to Pour Ketchup - with diagrams and the physics behind the phenomenon. If you click to the homepage, you can also learn about the physics of a soccer ball.

I'm not complaining about the weather around here but I'm starting to prune. Oh, for a few days hot enough so that the words "iced coffee" sound refreshing rather than just the result of entropy. Here's an alternative method for making ice coffee without leaving the mug sitting out on the desk all day.

ǝǝɟɟoɔ ɥƃnouǝ pɐɥ ǝʌ,noʎ 'sıɥʇ pɐǝɹ uɐɔ noʎ ɟı

˙ʞɔıɹʇ ǝlʇʇıl ʇɐɥʇ pıp ı ʍoɥ s,ǝɹǝɥ

Another example of things I thought I knew and actually don't: all the presidents. I only scored 33 out of 43 on this quiz. On the other hand, how many names of dead white specifically-American guys should one be expected to recall? I knew all the assassinated ones because I recently listened to Assassination Vacation read by the author, Sarah Vowell (reviews and excerpt with audio option). I like when audio books are read by the authors. They can hit every inflection the way they meant it to be, uh, heard by the reader. Anyway, it was downright hilarious and educational. Why is it that I remember most the things I laugh at the hardest? Hmm. Note to self: ponder a new theory of education.

Here's something else to ponder: in 1984, AT&T was declared a monopoly and broken into 9 smaller entities. As of today, all but 4 of these original little bits are once again under at&t ownership. In fact, there are only 3 telecommunication companies today. Let's here it for choice! Cue the graphic.

Here's a timesaver: a list (requires registration) of 101 meals ready in 10 minutes of less. Hey, we all gotta eat right? But filling the gastric void takes away from all sorts of other summer activities, like blogging, so any quick eats are a good thing ... right? Pray tell, who is Mr. Bittman addressing when he suggests boiling a lobster for a quick meal (#12 on list)? I know the minimum wage just got bumped to a whopping $5.85 per hour but c'mon. Lobster prices are currently at or near an all time high of $15 per pound. Since these cuddly crustaceans average 1 1/2 to 2 pounds in size, one hour of toil gets you maybe a couple of legs and an antenna. Forget the claws where the real meat is found.

This talk about food has made me hungry. I'ma hankerin' for a hunk o' cheese.

Almost made coffee come out my nose

Today's giggle:

The video itself made me laugh but not as hard as the fact that some technician in the studio kept playing the clip over and over. As the first gent demonstrates, the job of the talking heads is to explain the obvious. When the giggles start to hit, somebody kept replaying the tape. That's the part I find especially hilarious.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Let's get organized (or at least talk about doing so)

Here's the trend of the day, kids: let's clean up the squalor! But first, an anecdote.

The Boy, genetically related to The T, has been staying with us. The question arises: what does The Boy eat? Well, any food starting with a 'P' is a good candidate for ingestion. This list includes pizza, pizza Hot Pockets, pasta, Pop-Tarts, and pgrapes. I experienced what might have been a rustic living versus appliance technology gap when The Boy took his mug from phot pchocolate into the kitchen and put it in the sink. You might be thinking to yourself, where is she going with this? Well, when I say "The Boy put the mug in the sink" what I mean to say is that he balanced it atop the pile of drying clean dishes rather than set it in the empty sink just inches to the right. I took the scene in and realized he is a child of his upbringing. His parents went without an ice cream scoop for a time rather than bring one into the house that was not dishwasher safe. Everything gets put in the dishwasher. The Boy may not have recognized the pile of dishes for what they were: clean and drying and waiting to be put away rather a pile of dirty dishes waiting to be put in our non-existent dishwasher.

Add this perspective to the list of Beloit College Mindset List.

Speaking of lists, here's a list of Ten Things to do in 10 minutes so you can feel like you accomplished something and possible rediscover a flat surface in your home. I particularly like the suggestion to clean up something virtual (TiVo season pass subscriptions) and the comparison of closet hangers to Tribbles.

If books are your own version of Tribbles and happen to cover every surface in your abode, flat or otherwise, here's a list of 20 ways to set them free and/or possibly acquire others. Remember, if they love you, they'll return.

If you recently heard yourself saying, "Where's my %^&# hair clip?" you should curse no more. The iPod Shuffle has become a hair accessory.

That's all for now. I'm off to move a pile of books so I can sit and read anything other than the latest way-too-long tome by JK Rowling.

À boire ou je tue le chien! (brought to you by French expressions you won't learn at school...)

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Good Clean Fun

In the spirit of keeping you amused, I offer the following selection of games.

The Wikipedia Game
Goal: Get from one Wikipedia page to another by only clicking on links in articles. Players start from the same page for one topic, say the female mathematician Hypatia of Alexandria. Another topic, say Jell-O, is chosen as the target. Players can only click on links to reach the target. No typing is allowed.

This takes the Six Degrees to Kevin Bacon game to a whole new level. In the interest of research, I did a solo run connecting Hypatia to Jell-O in 17 clicks. I believe the breakthrough click was "screaming jelly babies" which led me to "gelatin" which I called success so I could go back and read more about jelly babies, screaming or otherwise. Here's my path:

Hypatia --> Mathematics --> Scientific method --> scientific community --> popular culture --> commercial --> advertisement --> brand --> jingles --> snacks --> list of snack foods --> geplak --> sugar --> calorie --> food energy --> screaming jelly babies --> jelly baby --> gelatin

Thanks to Writing as Joe for bringing this to my attention. Should I have called this entry I'm Joe's Game to keep in the spirit of previous posts?

White Jigsaw Yeah OK, so Flash based jigsaws aren't really all that hard because the pieces will snap into place at some point ... right? Well, this was amusing when the pieces got small and the playing board seemed to get bigger.

Sheep Dash! How fast are your reflexes? Five sheep are going to bolt and your job is to stun 'em. I was remarkably consistent:

Too many games to count. Well, I haven't finished counting them, anyway. What a great use for Flash. Very creative, simple, amusing. Give 'em a go.

I'm going to see how many Wiki clicks it takes to get from Apple, Inc. to tooth decay. See you next time.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Math in the Wild

Yum. Unnecessary Dairy Overlap. Is it cheese or a pasteurized cheese-food product, ala Kraft slices?

Everything new is recycled old stuff, Take 2

Look what I just found! This was an ad in the inaugural issue of MacAddict magazine in 1996. It looks eerily like the Mac vs PC ads of today. Are there no more original ideas out there?

While I have your attention, here's a blow-up of the box under the PC dweeb:

Nothing has changed. Vista users of today don't have any hobbies either—for the same reason!!! Somebody wiser than moi once said the world will keep giving you the same lesson over and over until you learn it. Stay tuned for the next version of Windows for yet another learning opportunity.
Factoid alert: Melinda Gates (neé French) herself was the product manager for Microsoft Bob, rated the worst product of the decade by CNET.com. This illustrious history makes me think malaria is going to hang on for a while.

To give equal time to the Mac dude, here's a blow up of the description near his head:
I can honestly say I have no idea what this means.

Microsoft Bob is the father or grandfather of that other MS debacle, Clippit.

Questions, always questions

I've been putting this post off for a while because I have no idea how you follow "Nice web, Mr. Crack Spider" without lowering the bar.

Question of the day: does Seattle have a comic book analogue? Gotham City is architecturally designed in the style of New York City. There really is a Metropolis in Illinois, as well as comically both in Kansas and on the eastern seaboard.
You are not worthy to wear the bracelets if you don't know that Wonder Woman hails from Themyscira and originally landed in Boston. Central City, home of The Flash, is in Ohio, Florida, and in Missouri on the Kansas border, across from Keystone City, home of, uh, The Flash. Keystone City also has a history of being a blue-collared town so placing it in Pennsylvania, the Keystone State and home to many mines and mills, is also plausible. No worries about finding or not finding Coast City, home of the Green Lantern Hal Jordan, since its total destruction plummeted Hal into madness. It may have been in northern California, near Star City, home of Green Arrow, which has also been located near the Great Lakes and Massachusetts Bay.

Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, did live in the Pacific Northwest for a time, hence the donning of a protection-from rain hood rather than that oh-so-cute Robin Hood cap. Which brings us full circle back to my question: Does Seattle have a comic reference, some fictional city used as a stand-in for a city here in meatspace?

Since it is raining outside and we have plenty of time to ponder today, I'll leave you with another question: why does no one ever want to play the part of Luke?

Savage Chickens are copyrighted by Doug Savage.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

More educational movies: I'm Joe's ... Spider ?!?

I must have been sick the day they showed this educational movie about drugs.


The iPhone has been out for almost two weeks now and while I still don't have my own, I feel the need to contribute to the mayhem.

First up: my newest iPlacebo. The paper one wasn't cutting for me anymore, especially not after Three sat on it with her furry butt. I upgraded to this one which is a little more durable and has a feature even Mr. Jobs' gadget doesn't have:

Here are the directions, in case you want to make your own. I used licorice Altoids since the tin is already colored similar to the iPhone.

And while I was cutting and taping I was humming the tune to "I Want an iPhone". Way to go, Mr. Pogue.

So here I sit, phondling my iPlacebo while lots of other folks have been intentionally destroying iPhones. This is killing me. Every time one is lost, I feel a disturbance in the Phorce*.

I am so copyrighting the word Phorce right now!

Monday, July 09, 2007

Always funnier without the citation

The quality of the internet that I love the most is the aura of mystery surrounding what lies at the end of a link. Even though there may be some context clues available that can help define or categorize the general topic of a link, there is always that little bit of wonder lurking around the edges. It is this edginess that keeps us looking over our shoulders for nosy co-workers while we surf since we never know when links such as Mysteries of the Tax Code Revealed!!! are going to result in yet another link to really badly done porn.

The same is true for Wikipedia links. This factoid behemoth has cast more doubt on what I thought I knew than any other website besides the Microsoft Word Help pages. For instance, just this very morning, a mere few moments ago, I found at the site grow-a-brain a herd of links dealing with lists of items: a list of premature obituaries, a list of lost and found grocery lists (which has achieved what all lists hope to be some day: a book) and its accompanying newspaper article written in list format, and—the topic of my own post today—a list of fictional colors.

Before I get to why I called you here today, can we just for a moment revisit the fact that a newspaper in a major metropolitan area had nothing else to report other than a man collected lists found in grocery stores and then wrote a book about them?!? Is the war over? Has my universal health care card come in the mail and it's tucked under my latest Netflix dvd? The national food supply is safe? All the droughts have ended? Whew.

Back to my story about fictional colors. So there I was in graduate school, having successfully put off joining the real world for yet another year. This was my single semester attending graduate studies in anthropology. I look back on these 15 weeks fondly. I recall one class taught by a woman who made a career of studying blood in populations who don't mingle with the rest of us, aka: the Amish. One day, she was on a real roll and I was quite gripped. It was fascinating. One particular gem I remember is that it takes longer than you would think for inbreeding to result in a short bus candidate, although the actual number of generations has been lost to me. The other gem involves a lecture when, in the middle of her talk about characteristics of
Amish blood that differs from non-Amish blood, she realized there was something missing from her lecture notes. As she moved to the door, a student who sounded remarkably like Johnny Olson said, "I happen to have an Amish gent right out here in the hallway. Let's bring him on in."

But, you ask, what does this have to do with colors and lists of colors? Well, nothing.

Another class I was taking that quarter was a basic course in everything you need to know about anthropology. And in this class, the professor talked about the art and science of anthropology, specifically he talked about dropping yourself into an unknown culture and trying to make understanding of what was happening around you. The demonstration accompanying this was great. He had a box of cups, mugs and glasses and he brought them out one at a time and asked us eager young graduate students to identify each. It was easy for the first few, we had no problem agreeing as a group that exhibit A was a "mug" and that exhibit B was a "glass." But things got pretty sketchy pretty quickly. Was exhibit C a mug or a glass and why? We needed a new term: cup, and things went downhill from there. The presence of a handle was not enough to define it as a mug. Nor was the material it was made from, the color, the size, or the dimensions. He made his point that so much of culture is based on shared agreements about definitions and even those raised in the culture may not be able to agree totally. And let's not even get into what happens when nobody but white men start defining terms for the rest of us.

But, you ask again, what does this have to do with colors? Well, think about the color red. The perfect red. The ideal red that you think of when someone says "think about the color red." Got it? Well, the shade and vibrancy that you have in your mind is very likely the same as the image in my head as well as the images that Francois in Paris, Kaleem in Riyadh, Santiago in Brasilia, and Foster in Canberra all thought of. RED seems to be universally agreed upon, regardless of culture—and it is the only color for which this is true.

When archaeologists and anthropologists studying ancient Greek texts found no mention of separate colors for water and grass, the question was asked: could the ancient Greeks not see the difference and therefore there is a physiological reason or was the difference visible to the ancient Greeks and they just didn't care to differentiate by using two words? Even though we might not agree that blue is the correct term for that hue, shouldn't there at least be a term for blue? Rather than the blue of the water and the green of the vegetation, the Greeks talked about the deep grue of the sea and the rich grue of the fields. (I don't think grue (or even eta-rho-upsilon-epsilon) is the actual term the ancient Greeks used.)

As the professor droned on (at this point the fascination of the mug/cup/glass demo had worn out), a note began circulating around the table. The effect the note had on each individual was striking. Each person who was respectfully listening, taking notes, or lightly snoring before seeing the note began to giggle before sending the note on. On the note was one word: bleen.

To this day, more than 10 years after the grue-bleen lecture, I still giggle when I think of grue or bleen. And THIS is the point of today's post. The fact that the words grue and bleen can make me laugh out loud!!—and then I go and learn something by clicking on the link.

Aside: I want a pair of Crayola crayons, one labeled grue-bleen and the other bleen-grue.

It turns out I have been practicing some scientific philosophy by throwing the words grue and bleen around willy-nilly. According to The Wik (can I call you The Wik?), X is grue if it was green when it was checked before some specific time. X is blue if it was not checked before said time. Seems like time is once again the variable here, kids. Let's not leave out bleen. X is bleen if it is blue and was checked before time t or green and was not checked. From The Wik:

The problem is as follows. A standard example of induction is this: All emeralds examined thus far are green. This leads us to conclude ... that also in the future emeralds will be green, and every next green emerald discovered strengthens this belief. [A smart person] observed that (assuming t has yet to pass) it is equally true that every emerald that has been observed is grue. Why, then, do we not conclude that emeralds first observed after t will also be grue, and why is the next grue emerald that comes along not considered further evidence in support of that conclusion? The problem is to explain why.

OK, I need to go to the local java hut in my outfit of the day which has no color coordination whatsoever and mixes both a soothing plaid pattern and a shocking yellow and ponder the grue-ness of my beverage. Just because all cups of joe have been brown up until today, will they still be brown tomorrow? And how do I know this???

Sunday, July 08, 2007

I can't be alone with this

I have tried and tried to keep this stuff to myself. Alas, I can not hold back any longer. Brace yourself.

Two sisters mailed a hot dog to each for 54 years
The same hot dog? For over half a century? And the only thing you can think to ask me right now is if I want onions on mine?

Cadaver Calculator
My own body is worth almost $4000. Hmm, that's only eight iPhones.

This game should be called Blow Up You $%^&#%& Bubbles!!! Do NOT start playing this "addictive ... casual" game unless you have some time to kill or papers to avoid writing or a fresh nappy on the wee one. It's Flash crack. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Verify our position with one ping only, Vasily.

About Face
Flash is all the rage for internet games (see above) and animation. Flash, I would like you to make your ancestor: crayons on paper. This is very cool animation, the old school way.

Pizza Delivery, extra spicy
You want WHAT on your pizza? Canada is looking better and better every day.

Any ideas on what this sign might mean:

A pair of shoes to go with every outfit—even the bikini! I predict these will be in some future Bond 007 movie, unless my posting them here has caused them to jump the shark already.

Honey, where's the remote?

If this is what the ATM said, we'd all be saving more money.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

I'm Joe's Beer

Am I the only one who remembers those educational flicks shown in elementary school, like I'm Joe's Heart, produced by Disney or some Disney-clone? I know this particular film lasted for over an hour, but all I remember from Heart is that, if you must sit for a long period of time now that you've acquired a white-collar job since you've come home from the war, sitting with your feet up helps get the blood back where it belongs: your butt. I also have a somewhat random memory cell imprinted with Goofy telling Mickey he keeps his car tires' air pressure low because he thinks that gives him a softer ride. I believe future Ford and Firestone executives were also raised on this movie.

Anyhow, not to be outdone, the beer industry also has some educational movies out there. Well, OK, I don't know if there are plural movies but the one I found is a fantastic piece of propaganda! I believe it can be summarized thusly: Without beer, civilization would not have happened. Without beer taxes, the government couldn't meet the budget. Without honest folks to serve beer and police themselves, the prude side of the Force will bring another Prohibition. The main thing I learned is that there is a Beer Institute. This lobbying group exists, apparently, to inform the public that the 4th of July is the biggest beer day on the calendar as well as to collect other fascinating beer facts and statistics.

All this pondering about the benefits of beer has made me thirsty. I'm sure it's happy hour somewhere so I'm off to hoist one.

Nothing says "civilization" like a serving tray,
men in ties, and women in hats.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Car smarter than human, cat a distant third

June 30th was our 1-year anniversary of having joined the other gadget cult: Prius owners. 365 days and over 20,000 miles of unadulterated bliss.

The T and I are thrilled thrilled thrilled to own this car. At the risk of sounding like the marketing campaign for every single item available for purchase today, let me say that this car really is Fun to Drive. Hooked on Phonics—make learning to read FUN! Fruit Roll-Ups—make snack time FUN! Monistat—make yeast infections FUN! Well, the Fun part of driving the Prius is the LCD panel in the center of the dash reporting your overall mileage, as well as your mileage at this very moment, or at least the moment a moment ago. You can also see what is propelling the car, gas or electrons or both. For a data-head like me, this constant flow of info is car-topia.

Aside: My brother, Dr. Sarcastic, also has a Prius and is current holder of Best Snappy Comeback in the Mileage category. When asked about his mileage, he replied, "I have an appointment scheduled next week to learn how to put gas in it."

In addition to all its features and comforts, the car is also sporting a computer brain bordering on artificial intelligence. Yes, this car is smarter than me. For instance, in our ongoing attempts to fuse all of our gadgets together into one giant gadget, we upgraded the base package a few clicks and got the Bluetooth feature so our future phones could be integrated into the car's audio system. We could then have phone conversations through the 42-speaker JVC stereo system (just imagine what "pick up some milk on your way home" can sound like with that extra sub-woofer under the passenger seat). The smart part of this particular package is the smart-key system: I only have to have the key on my body in order to unlock the car and start it up. This means that I never have to know where the key is, I just have to wear the same clothes over and over. The day's attire: one less decision I have to make because I own this car.

One result of this smart-key system, besides having far less laundry, is that I have totally disassociated the act of shutting the car off from a physical action. Turning a car off is typically associated with physically turning a key counter-clockwise, pulling it from the steering column and dropping said key into a purse or pocket or other synthetic blackhole. Having a smart-key means I just press a button to turn the car off. Pressing a button is the same action I use to get cash out of an ATM, start Mr. Coffee, fire up the iPod, get a can of high fructose corn syrup out of the vending machine, etc., etc. The act of shutting off my car is no longer unique in the annals of mechanical devices and, therefore, it is now utterly forgettable.

And yes, I have forgotten to shut off my Prius a number of times. But the Prius is both wise and patient. When I try to walk away from the still running car, it will chirp a few times. I interpret these chirps as, "get back here you idiotic carbon-based lifeform and shut me off." These chirps sound similar to the chirps for "I am shutting off the passenger air-bag because the unit in the seat doesn't weigh enough to be an adult" and "You left the hatch unlatched—again" and "You can't initiate a phone call while the car is moving."

Well, the last time I failed to press the button and left the car running, I walked away without hearing the chirp. So the Prius kept running. And running. And running. Granted it was parked out back on it's landing strip in the alley behind my abode, but the engine was on and running efficiently. Twenty (two-oh, 20, XX) hours later, when I was leaving for work, the car did not start up because it was—all together now—still running from the previous morning.

I think the thing that saved me from having to learn how to jump the car without blowing it up was that the climate control was set to "comfy-68°". Overnight, the gas engine kept kicking on to maintain the cabin temperature and also, thankfully, send a little juice over to the batteries. To it's credit, the Prius did not chirp sarcastically when I got in. In fact, it's silence was more damning than any comment it could have blipped or beeped. The only indication it gave that an electron crises was just narrowly averted was the LCD image of a very, very purple battery-juice level indicator line very, very low on the gauge. Oy. I dropped my mileage for that tank of gas from a typical 50+ miles per gallon to a mere 40+ miles per gallon. Sitting still for 20 hours will do that, I guess.

Well, patient Prius, consider this lesson learned ... until the next time.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

iCall therefore iSheep?

I just noticed my previous iPhone post was mis-titled. Apparently I was so distraught about not obtaining an iPhone on iDay that I forgot how to count. It should have been titled iDay +1.

My iPlacebo is starting to lose its power of ... of ... placebo-ness. The Force is strong in this new Apple gadget. This is the phone I'm looking for (picture Obi Wan waving hand while doing Jedi mind trick).

... must ... resist ... urge ... to ... buy ... online ... willpower ... growing ... weaker ... want ... to ... click ... want ... to ... join ... mob ...

Have a seat

The next time a student turns in a homework assignment or quiz or test or anything completed in ink, I'm going to ask him or her to have a seat in the chair of Carbon Honor.

After 12 weeks of handing back inky math papers with 0 points earned out of n possible points, I had a student turn in a final exam done in ink! And—get this—his name was written in pencil!! wtf? Oh, if I only had this chair eight days ago.

More photos