Sep 30

Don’t say anything

I like computers and electronic gadgets, so I’m usually pretty receptive to innovative new high-tech products. But occasionally I run across one that just makes me scratch my head and ask, “Why?” For example, it’s not clear to me why I would want a talking first aid kit — especially if it costs $150.
I see that the same company sells “Intelligent First Aid Kits” that don’t talk (and are much cheaper). That makes sense, actually. Sometimes intelligence means knowing when to shut up.

Sep 30

Dead letters

Want to guarantee that you’ll get the last word on any subject? Then sign up for The Last Email, a service that enables you to compose e-mail messages that will be sent only when you die.
I worry that spammers will take advantage of this, and we won’t even be able to stop the unwanted e-mail by killing them. Hey, that’s a good idea for a horror movie: Spam From Beyond the Grave.

Sep 29

Laura’s ring

Bob posts a disturbing report about his daughter’s new ring. Her use of the phrase “my precious” is chilling enough, but he also describes how, when she’s not wearing it, Laura keeps the ring in “a little zippered pouch.” That sounded eerily familiar. After a short search, I found the relevant passage in The Hobbit:

But who knows how Gollum came by that present, ages ago in the old days when such rings were still at large in the world? Perhaps even the Master who ruled them could not have said. Gollum used to wear it at first, till it tired him; and then he kept it in a pouch next to his skin, till it galled him; and now usually he hid it in a hole in the rock on his island, and was always going back to look at it.

I notice that Mount St. Helens is becoming active again, after over two decades of dormancy. Seismic activity is increasing, and scientists say it may erupt at any moment. This seems to have started a few days ago . . . at about the same time Laura found the ring. Surely this is no coincidence. If the volcano does erupt, I don’t think there’s any doubt as to what should be done. Bob must go to Mordor Washington and cast the ring into the fire.

Sep 29

Need a light?

Does your computer have a cigarette lighter? No? Well, for heaven’s sake, get busy and install one. What do you mean, you don’t smoke? Use it to plug in the car charger for your cellphone. Do I have to spell everything out for you?

Sep 28

Robo Rally returns!

If you’ve ever played the boardgame Robo Rally, you know that there’s nothing else even remotely like it. If you haven’t played it and you are at all interested in games, you owe it to yourself to try it out. Unfortunately, this is increasingly hard to do. The publisher, Wizards of the Coast, stopped producing the game several years ago, and the basic game and expansion sets routinely sell on eBay for upwards of a hundred dollars. But now the game is poised to make a comeback next spring, according to

Sep 23

A bright idea

Energizer has just unveiled an omnivorous flashlight: one that can use multiple types of batteries. An AP article reports that “the Quick Switch takes two C, D or AA batteries and works by merely adjusting a switch to the proper cell size, automatically locking the batteries into place.” If you ask me, the ultimate flashlight is the NightStar, which requires no batteries at all — but the NightStar is expensive ($39.95). The Quick Switch sells for $9.99 to $12.99, so it’s much more affordable.
I think I will buy one just so that I can finally use up my C batteries, which are currently gathering dust. Almost nothing uses C batteries anymore. (I don’t recall what device I originally bought my Cs for — but it must have died shortly after that, leaving me with a stockpile of batteries that I can’t use.) But the biggest advantage of the Quick Switch may be that, in a pinch, you can raid almost any gadget in your house for batteries to power your flashlight. That ability could be a godsend during a power outage.

Sep 15

No surprise there

I know I’ve said that I don’t usually do quizzes, but I couldn’t resist this one: What High School Stereotype Are You? And it’s been so long since I posted anything here that I suppose even a lame post is better than none at all.

Take the What High School Stereotype Are You? quiz.

No one who knows me at all can be even mildly surprised by this result. But I found the quiz a bit more challenging that I expected, because I had to figure out how to respond to quiz items that would have been utterly meaningless back when I actually was a high school student (1974-77):
It’s finally Sunday. I’m . . . One of the listed responses is “role-playing.” Well, Dungeons & Dragons did exist back then, but it was brand new and only a few thousand hardcore wargamers knew about it.
The school requires everyone to take a computer course. I . . . Another quiz item refers to “computer games.” In 1977, there wasn’t a single computer or computer terminal anywhere in my high school. Computers were for universities, big corporations, and the military. And outside of those places, the only computer game you were likely to see was Pong.
Make a saving throw versus poison. That’s another D&D reference, and would been completely incomprehensible to me in my high school days. Since then, I’ve racked up 25 years of experience playing D&D, and could make saving throws in my sleep. I mean that literally — if you whispered “Make a saving throw versus poison!” in my ear at 3:00 a.m., I would probably sit up in bed and lunge for my dice without a moment’s hesitation. (Yes, I keep gaming dice in my bedroom. Doesn’t everyone?)
I considered taking the quiz as if it were still 1977, but most of my responses would have been “huh?” So in the end, I pretended that I was attending high school now, and picked the responses accordingly. I suspect that my actual high-school persona was probably closer to Outsider, but only because it wasn’t possible to be a Geek by today’s standards (the closest you could get was to be a Nerd). But if I were thirty years younger, I’m sure I’d be a Geek now.