Bathroom Spoon

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 at 8:16 AM

The Taco Time in Mukilteo started requiring customers to request the bathroom key, which is attached to a huge metal spoon. It's kinda gross to think that some people have carried that spoon who don't wash their hands after using the bathroom. I actually thought about this, and after I washed my hands, I carried the big metal spoon back to the front counter by holding on to it with clean paper towels. But then there was nobody at the front counter, so I just left it there on the counter. Hmmm, I wonder if I should start going to a different Taco Time restaurant...

Zero-Minute Limit

Friday, October 29, 2010 at 8:49 PM | Filed under

A while ago, I wrote about the Mukilteo Walgreens' absurd thirty-minute parking limit. My local Lynnwood Walgreens has taken this parking time limit to a maddening extreme!

Great Pumpkin Book

Tuesday, October 19, 2010 at 7:24 PM | Filed under ,

Last night, I was a bit restless from doing homework, so I went to Fred Meyer with my cousin Kevin. While we were there, we looked at Halloween stuff. They had a bunch of Halloween books at 25% off, including this one.


It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is a hardback novelization of the popular Halloween special of the same name. It's not a very large book—it's about as large as my palm—but it has over a hundred pages, many of which are just text. However, there are cute illustrations from the cartoon sprinkled throughout the book. I haven't read through it yet, but it looks like they tried to include every event in the cartoon. Even at 25% off, $3.75 seemed like a bit much for this tiny little book, but it was what was on pages 108 and 109 that convinced me to buy the book:



These might be the two greatest pages in all of English literature. So, of course I bought the book. After seeing those pages, I couldn't resist. During the Halloween season every year, it'll probably exist on the coffee table, maybe picked up and skimmed through on occasion.

You Think You're Smarter than Me?

Thursday, June 3, 2010 at 6:30 PM | Filed under

When you're writing to compare two things, it can be a little confusing to decide whether to use a subject or object pronoun. For example, should it be, "He likes candy more than I," or, "He likes candy more than me"? Actually, each sentence means something different.

The trick is to flesh out the sentences. Be wordy and duplicate the verb. Looking at the first sentence, we can see that "He likes candy" is the first part. The second part involves "I," a subject pronoun, so when you flesh it out to match the first part, you get, "I like candy." Putting it together, you have "He likes candy more than I like candy." So I like candy, but he loves it.

Let's flesh out the second sentence. The first part is "He likes candy" again; the second part has "me," an object pronoun, so this part becomes "he likes me." So the whole sentence means, "He likes candy more than he likes me." So I guess he'd rather eat candy than be with me. Oh well.

Regardless, if somebody gets upset with you for some reason and asks, "You think you're smarter than me?" it's probably not a good idea to correct him and say, " 'smarter than I.' "

No Parking Sign

Friday, May 21, 2010 at 6:16 PM

A recent wind storm has tipped this no parking sign over. We had the government install it because people were parking their cars in front of the mailboxes. They still do park in front of the mailboxes and in the cul-de-sac, despite the sign. It'd be really funny if the sign blew over and damaged a car.

Crazy Cuckoo Cpedia

Sunday, April 25, 2010 at 11:40 AM | Filed under , ,

Earlier this month, the search engine Cuil (which I've never heard of before) released Cpedia, the Internet's first "automated encyclopedia." When I told my friend about this, he asked, "I'm sorry, what's an automated encyclopedia?"

According to the website, you give it a search, and "For each query, Cpedia algorithmically summarizes and clusters the ideas on the web and uses this to generate a report." I summarized this to my friend: "It apparently finds information online about a topic, then mashes together questionably relevant content." Right now, the site is in its alpha phase, but perhaps they were a little hasty in releasing it to the public, because hardly anything on this site makes sense.

For example, check out Cpedia's article about mowing the lawn (archived). The first paragraph starts out reasonably encyclopedic, if not a bit too conversational, but quickly falls into criticism of lazy people who don't like mowing the lawn. Then, a later paragraph reads, "When outside, especially when doing yardwork (like mowing the lawn), use a dust mask and close-fitting goggles to keep allergens out of your nose and eyes. So I did things like mow other people's lawns, shoveled snow and even had a lemonade stand from time to time." I don't see how these two concepts even follow! It just seems like random sentences somewhat related to mowing the lawn are put together haphazardly.

What made me laugh the most was a quick read-through of the article's table of contents: Physical Activity, Cinderfella, Memphis in January 2008, Chore. The Cinderfella section says, in its entirety, "Cinderfella did not like living with his family because they made him do all of the work around the house like washing the car and mowing the lawn." The Memphis in January 2008 section is an apparently irrelevant diversion: "When the company relocated to Memphis in January 2008, Mr. Hudson, 52, decided not to move." What company? No context is given in the article, but at least the site provides a link to the article it pulled the sentence from.

The article about microwaves (archived) says absolutely nothing about electromagnetic waves, or how microwave ovens work. Actually, it reads more like a sales pitch for luxury hotel rooms and appliance shops.

You'd think that there would be an article for everything, since an automatic encyclopedia could theoretically create an article upon request. However, while there is an article for running red lights for fun (archived) (which contains information only about blondes being the life of the party), there exists no article for tickling porcupines.

Cpedia's about page says that the purpose of the site is so that users don't have to look through search result links; they can instead go to Cpedia and get "a summary of the topic." I feel that an automated encyclopedia is an interesting idea, but the articles it comes up with are often so confusing and meaningless that it just doesn't work.

Perfect Water

Sunday, April 18, 2010 at 7:01 PM | Filed under ,

My friend and her husband hosted a party this afternoon, and I was surprised to find that there weren't really many people there. This party was an opportunity for them to teach us about the new website they're starting. On the website, they'll be offering a variety of health and beauty products, and an old couple demonstrated a few of these Amway products to us.

One of the products was Perfect Water, which is a product with some pretty amazing claims. They purify water to zero parts per million, then they ionize it (to my knowledge, though, purified water can be broken down into ions, but it would quickly reverse to more stable neutral water molecules). Then, they add minerals back in, which makes me wonder what was wrong with the minerals they took out in the first place.

The man presenting the products singled me out, and poured me a small cup of bottled water he picked up at Starbucks. I said it tasted okay. (I've never fallen in love with water before, but the stuff that comes out of my kitchen tap is pretty great stuff.) Then, he asked if I would stand up, and cup my hand at my side. I was instantly reminded of this video, in which James Randi hosts an experiment to see if crystals have special healing-type powers:



I expected a very similar experiment would happen with me in the next minute. He pushed his fist down on my hand, and I didn't feel much like falling over, so I stood firmly.

Then, he gave me a cup of the Perfect Water. I drank some of it. It had a funky aftertaste. He wanted to perform the same test again. I wondered what I ought to do. I was expected to stand more rigidly—to be stronger, and have better balance. Of course, I didn't believe that this water would grant me this power. I wondered if it would be funnier to collapse on the floor in a heap, and perhaps vomit on his shoes.

It turns out that I tried to duplicate the results from the first test, by standing firmly. But at one moment, he pushed a little harder than he probably meant to, so I let myself slip a little and lean toward him. He commented that it doesn't always work, or that it can be hard to tell sometimes.

If he really wanted to impress me, he would have performed a blinded test, like in the video of the crystal testing. Actually, from the start, I was hoping he'd give me a blind taste test—but the Perfect Water would have lost.

I didn't buy anything at the party, but I had a great time playing Frisbee after the salespeople left.

Insane Deal on Amazon?

Monday, April 12, 2010 at 11:29 PM | Filed under



These Purex Laundry Sheets (forgive me for not typing out the full name listed) on Amazon.com appear to be an unbelievable deal: 90% off! This is pure madness! You would be stupid not to buy these at such a bargain!

But seriously, they're $6.99, marked down from the list price of $71.92. Come on... Really? I can't imagine anyone buying this product at that price. Are they just jacking up the list price to make this sound like an unbelievable deal? This doesn't make sense otherwise.

Stripes on Straws

Sunday, March 21, 2010 at 4:31 PM | Filed under

WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY?

Why do straws have stripes? I don't see how they are useful.

Woo Woo

Sunday, March 7, 2010 at 3:24 PM | Filed under ,



Somebody at the Lynnwood Goodwill must have a sense of humor. In the books section, unfortunately, the science books and the "science" books are shelved together (a book by Carl Sagan is five books away from one by Sylvia Browne), but at least the "woo woo" sign provides some warning. It appears to be pieced together from parts of other signs.

Bring Back Old Facebook

Thursday, February 25, 2010 at 6:54 PM | Filed under

Whenever Facebook makes a major update, usually to the layout, I notice many people joining "Bring Back the Old Facebook" groups on Facebook. I feel that these people's protests are usually a bit hasty, and that they haven't given the new layouts a good chance. Some of Facebook's changes over the years have been good. I'm a fan of the combination of the Wall and Mini-Feed on everybody's profiles, because everything is tied together more chronologically. (What you did and what people wrote to you used to be in separate lists on your profile.)

But I've been a user on Facebook for nearly four years, and I have had enough time to think about the various changes that have been made to the site. And in some ways, I want them to bring back the old Facebook.

Now, it seems much more difficult to find people on Facebook. There used to be a great feature where you could list your classes, and then see who else was also taking those classes. It was a great way to find classmates if you needed to discuss something for a class. Or if you didn't know your friend's name, you could just browse through your classmates. Facebook removed this feature when they introduced applications. They said that somebody would certainly create an app for it, but without a default standard, it's no good. Recently, I was trying to find one of my classmates on Facebook, but I wasn't sure how to spell his last name. I guessed a half dozen times before I finally got it right.

Facebook has also removed most of the advanced search options. You can search for somebody by name, and narrow it down by school or location, but that's about it. I'm pretty certain you used to be able to narrow search results down by age, religion, relationship status, etc. Now, you can't filter results like this. It makes it harder to find the sort of people you might be looking for. That's not a good thing for the most popular social networking site.

In your profile, you used to be able to click on something in your favorites lists—such as a movie title. Then, Facebook would take you to the search results for that movie, and it would show all your friends who also listed that movie. Then, it would show other people in your network, too. It was fun to see who liked the same shows, movies, and books as I did. (Now, instead, it's more likely to take you to search results listing fan pages for the movie or book, made by random users.) Facebook even had a sort of game on the site about favorites. It was called the Friend Game, and it would present you with somebody's favorite movie, song, quotation, or something else, and you had to guess whose favorite it was. That was a fun game; it's too bad it's gone now.

I'm sure I'm not the only one to complain about this last point: There is too much clutter on Facebook now. Ever since the introduction of applications and fan pages, it seems that some certain percentage of my friends seems determined to join every application, become a fan of every possible silly thing, and fill my News Feed with irrelevant stories. It's a neat idea that someone playing a zoo game could ask their friends to feed it while they're away from the computer for a few days, but I just don't care about some stupid digital baby tiger. There used to be the option in the News Feed to have certain types of stories appear less frequently—like I could have pictures of my friends appear less often—but there is no option like this anymore.

Over time, Facebook seems to have become a bit easier to use, and more people are on it than ever. It's just a shame that Facebook has removed such great social networking features.

Sewers

Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 2:29 PM | Filed under ,

Is one who sews called a "sewer"? This is on the display for the Polder Reversible Tabletop Ironing Board, at Costco. When "sewers" is accompanied by the places "dorm rooms" and "apartments," I have no choice but to assume that "sewers" must also be referring to a place.

Time Control Device

at 1:54 PM | Filed under ,

This sign is on the inside of the window at Starbucks. I think it sounds funny. It reads as though the safe is protected by some kind of time-travel machine, or something that can otherwise affect the flow of time.

Awful Shower Radio

Monday, January 4, 2010 at 4:47 PM | Filed under ,

This is probably the most frustrating electronic device I've ever tried to use: the Totes Shower Clock Radio.

I removed it from the package and couldn't even get the battery compartment open. I hurt my thumbs trying to turn the knob and pull on the door. I'm not sure if I wasn't turning the knob hard enough, or if I wasn't pulling on the door hard enough, because I had to ask my dad to open it for me. It's very easy to remove after the first time, but I have never had so much trouble just to get batteries into something. And the trouble didn't stop there.

Setting the clock was more difficult than opening the battery compartment. The clock's buttons didn't even seem to depress when I pushed them. Maybe this has something to do with waterproofing the device, but it didn't even feel like the buttons were designed to be pressed. I had to put all my body weight into pressing them. I physically exhausted myself and hurt my thumbs trying to press them. When I finally thought I had set the time, I was disappointed to realize that I had set the date instead.

The radio has nice volume, but it doesn't seem to tune anything in very well. The tuning dial is very touchy, but I haven't been able to get anything that wasn't very noisy and staticky. I couldn't get anything at all in the AM band except for a loud buzzing tone.

The mirror seems like a clumsy addition. The manufacturers intend for you to hang the device on the showerhead, but unless your showerhead is at eye-level, you won't be able to see anything in the mirror except for the ceiling's reflection. If you're able to hook the shower radio onto anything lower than the showerhead, then you could use the mirror.

I received this from my parents as a Christmas present. I've asked them to return it. I don't recommend that anyone try to put up with this shower radio. I've posted a similar review on Amazon.

Typing with Colemak

Sunday, January 3, 2010 at 10:50 AM | Filed under

There are some fundamental problems with the QWERTY keyboard, mostly because of how it was designed. The keys were arranged the way they are to prevent the typewriters' typebars from jamming together—commonly used letter pairs were arranged on the keyboard so that the typebars wouldn't collide and get stuck. That said, there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to the way the keys are arranged on the keyboard. Have you ever noticed where T, the most commonly used consonant, rests on the keyboard? You have to reach all the way up there!



There's QWERTY on top and Colemak on the bottom.

Colemak was released in early 2006; I've been using it for a year and a half. The keys are in a more comfortable arrangement: many of the most frequent letters—E, T, A, O, I, N, S, H, R, D—are all on the home row, so you don't have to move your fingers far. According to Wikipedia, "the 'top twelve' letters comprise about 80% of the total usage," so this is sort of a big deal. All of the symbols are in the same place, except that O is where the semi-colon is in QWERTY, but I never felt that I used the semi-colon that often anyway. Some of the letters are in the same place—in fact, except for N being switched with K, the entire bottom row is the same. This is very nice, because frequent keyboard shortcuts which benefit from muscle memory and proximity to the control key, like Ctrl+C (copy), Ctrl+V (paste), and Ctrl+Z (undo), are in the same place. The Caps Lock key becomes Backspace. Since this feature isn't available yet in Windows Vista or 7, I can't vouch for how much of a good thing this is, but it must be a relief from having to reach my right pinky to the awkwardly distant Backspace key.

One of my favorite things about the Colemak keyboard is that it can be used to type international characters by turning the right Alt into an AltGr key. This is especially useful for me because I'm a student of German, and it helps me type the foreign letters that aren't on my keyboard. To type an eszett (ß), you type AltGr+S. To type ä, ö, or ü, you type AltGr+D (for the umlaut) and then a, o, or u. AltGr+E is é; AltGr+N is ñ. If I want to type an em dash (—), I type AltGr+Shift+hyphen. I love em dashes. There are combinations for cent, yen, pound, and euro currency signs. There are also some special combinations using the backslash. AltGr+\ then D gives the degree symbol (°). AltGr+\ then T gives the trademark sign (™). It's very nice to be able to type these characters without having to resort to the Character Map, or even without having to move the position of my hands.

Learning Colemak didn't take as long as I thought it would, but it was of course a bit disorienting at first. I started without incremental lessons. I just printed out a layout of the keyboard, color-coding the keys which are typed with each finger, and referred to the chart when I wanted to type a letter. Typing was slow at first. I did this during the summer, when I didn't have a lot of important homework to type. I'd say I was up to pretty good speed after a few days or a week, but this was over a year ago, so I can't say for sure.

Now that I know Colemak, QWERTY seems awkward to type, especially the letters T and P. I am a little more prone to making mistakes while typing in QWERTY, especially when I try to type S or N. Looking at the keyboard helps me remember that I need to be typing in QWERTY; otherwise, I get a bit confused.

I suggest Colemak to anyone who is capable of touch-typing, looking for a more comfortable keyboard, and wanting to easily type international letters and special characters. If you want to try it out or read more information, go to colemak.com.