Wednesday, October 16, 2013

ways to induce rabid panic in an otherwise perfectly rational individual

Cause the bidet to malfunction and not respond to the Stop button.1

1. My life seriously flashed before my eyes. I had several nightmarish scenarios flashing through my head, and all of them resulted in me running crying out of that room with a fountain of toilet water sprayed up my backside. That would be bad enough, but since they have, according to my most conservative estimates, two hundred men on my floor, and if you assume all of them require five minutes apiece, the two bidets are in use for approximately eight hours twenty minutes of the day, which is also known as: the entire day, there's an almost certain chance this would have occurred in front of a couple queued up co-workers. We can all be thankful it eventually stopped, and I am only scarred for a few months, not life.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

How does LHR compare to the Berlin airlift?

My wife and I went on vacation in Europe this month, and at one point we stayed at a sweet hotel that just happened to be located under the Eastern approaches of London's Heathrow airport. As we watched plane over plane pass over us, I wondered how LHR's traffic compared to the Berlin Airlift.

For the uninformed, I direct you to the wikipedia article, or this equally random site on the internet. To sum it up briefly, post-WWII, both Germany and Berlin were parceled up among the four major Allied powers, each with their own zone. Berlin was deep within the Soviet sector of Germany, and thus needed to be supplied by rail/road from West Germany. Stalin decided he wanted to keep Berlin for himself, so he cut off the land supply route to pressure the West to get out. Instead of go to war or give up, the remaining Allied powers decided to supply Berlin entirely by air for what turned out to be 15 months of crisis.

Whenever I've read about the airlift, I'm always struck by magnitude of the numbers. We had to fly everything into Berlin: coal, food, medicine, machines, everything. In the middle of the airlift, we also apparently built a third airport in the French sector in order to handle more supplies. It was a triumph of logistics, and an amazing achievement.

But how does it compare to today? Some of the relevant figures quoted in the varying articles: at the height of the crisis, one plane was landing every 30 seconds. Over the entire crisis, a total of 2.3 million tons (I'm assuming this source uses US, or short tons) was delivered from a total of 277,569 flights.

Well, this is where the Heathrow facts page comes to our aid. Daily average air transport movements in 2012 was 1,288: I assume this means total cargo and passenger flights. LHR flies planes unrestricted from 7:00 - 23:00 (there are a number of restrictions outside that timeframe, so let's assume for argument that the grand majority of planes are arriving over that timeframe), which yields one plane taking off or landing every 45 seconds. I suppose that means one landing every 90 seconds.

Of course, the airlift had two, then three airports, so little LHR is probably outgunned (even with their two runways). Either way, point Berlin Airlift.

Next, if you look at average tonnage over the crisis, the airlift was landing 153,000 tons every month on average. Heathrow's fact page converts to a figure of 134,000 tons every month. So it looks as though LHR is losing on cargo, but...

Most of Heathrow's traffic is in passenger traffic. At least, the grand majority (99%) of flights have passengers by my calculations (incidentally, passenger jets must be ferrying cargo as well or you might be led to believe that LHR cargo flights come in pretty heavily loaded: 660 tons/flight).

The airlift comes out to 18,500 flights per month on average, whereas LHR does...39,075. So maybe it loses out on the cargo front, but, measured by flights, LHR beats the average combined efforts of the major Western powers during 1948-1949.

And LHR isn't even the busiest airport in the world! If you want a pure cargo viewpoint, that honor goes to Hong Kong International. HKG runs 373,156 tons every month. That's more than double the airlift's average! In fact, if you took the top ten busiest cargo airports in the world, you'd need less than a month to finish the Berlin Airlift. You could spend the next fourteen months building an underground Hyperloop to bypass the Soviets.

Granted, using averages isn't the best way to compare cargo, because there definitely was a build up and a draw down: it appears that during the height of the crisis, the Berlin Airlift was shuttling about 267,000 tons per month. So it's not getting destroyed quite as badly by HKG, and definitely a solid win with the technology of the time. Also, their highest projected monthly flight rate ends up at 41,490 flights, so they certainly could marginally beat LHR, at least on its average day.

I'll stop now so that my readership doesn't drop from six to five, but the Berlin Airlift and the modern air industry are miracles of logistics. I love the world we live in.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

the hollowing out of society

The other day I came across another one of those alarmist posts where someone was claiming the sky was falling because OMGZ WE HAVE TEH INTERNETS AND PHONES and we don't connect in deep ways anymore and we have lost the art of conversation and at the DMV everyone just stares at their phones instead of sitting there waiting bored out of their mind talking to strangers and wishing to die.

Whenever I read or watch these posts I feel like the speaker is yearning for some non-existant past when people used to stand around in line at the grocery store and have meaningful discussions about life, liberty, and happiness instead of having the old people in front of you verbally judge you for the large quantities of Cap'n Crunch you were buying.

Do you know what people used to talk about before we had phones to avoid each other? The weather. Yeah. That's right. The weather. 0.1% of our national GDP was frittered away by people talking about how hot it was outside, because there's basically nothing else you want to talk to pure strangers about unless you are a crazy person. Back in those days, people would write articles about how you were wasting your life with lost moments during the day, and how you should carry a book to read.

Now that we carry books/blogs/podcasts/the sum total of human knowledge everywhere, people are freaking out that we're wasting our life not connecting with people around us. Well, which is it? Should we spend our time learning, or chatting about the weather? There's a grown man standing behind me in socks staring over my shoulder on the train right this very moment, and let me assure you I have no desire to connect with him, nor anybody else currently around me.

I love technology. Back in the olden days men would accost you during your day demanding money. Now you can have some modicum of peace with your headphones and a nice four hour podcast about the end of the Roman empire. Back then, you'd bump into your friend, and they'd tell you about how they just got back from France, and you'd sit there wondering what France is like, or hoping they would invite you over for an interminably long slide show and food poisoning. Now you follow them on Instagram and when you bump into them you can have a meaningful discussion about their trip because they shared a part of it with you in a way that was not previously possible.

Our world is amazing! We live amazing lives! My great grand-aunt refused to get on a boat in Copenhagen to emigrate to the states, and she never saw her family again! I'm going to Copenhagen next week, and I'm going to take a nice little picture of my wife and me in freaking Nyhavn, and everyone who remotely cares about me will see it in hours and save me the trouble of going around to all of my friends one by one, telling them how cool I am because I take trips to countries with pastries named after them, all while they're stuck at work being productive members of society delaying our national downfall like suckers.

STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT THE HOLLOWING OUT OF SOCIETY. Our lives are fuller and richer because of technologies that tie us together, and if you hate it so much, go on one of those internet fasts that people who want attention like to go on.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

self-driving cars

Self-driving cars have long been the dream of commuters and trial lawyers looking for sueable entities with more assets than the average accident-prone citizen. Experts are predicting that, much like Cold Fusion and Artificial Intelligence, they're only a few years away from clearing the last technical hurdles.

One great aspect about self-driving cars, declares their backers, is that they will pave the way for congestion-free cities, as our new overlords massive coordinating computerized intelligences will organize and optimize traffic flow. This will pave the way for a grand utopia wherein we use less gasoline and have blissful lives, living out our lives in the America of our dreams, where there are no cats, and the streets are paved with cheese.

One reason these predictions are sure to succeed is that there already exists a segment of society who somehow feels it worth it to spend an hour or more propelling themselves in a car, each way, to their place of employment, either because they have chosen to live in a city full of hobos and despair and they work in a pleasant sunny paradise in view of the mountains, or they work in those miserable cities, and are priced out of a reasonable home, where reasonable is defined by the number of boxes of stuff they can fit in their garage, or the size of the lawn they can maintain on weekends when they have time to view it.

Imagine what these people will do when the last shred of constraint is suddenly removed from their insatiable appetite for misery. If you're willing to spend two hours in a car driving, how long are you willing to spend in a car that drives itself? Never bet against seasoned commuters. These are the people spend their lives battling traffic in a horrible aluminum darwinian den of despair. I dare you to drive 101 NB at 9:00 AM on any day of the week. Just try it. How can they stand it? Are they having nervous breakdowns right now? Why are they not all screaming in despair?

Giving them the option of being ferried to and from their work like the lords of Axiom isn't going to do a thing for traffic. If you want to drive anywhere from the hours of 7-10 and 3-8, you're going to have to move to Idaho.

Monday, August 5, 2013

half marathons

Back in 490 BC, after the Greeks beat the Persians at the battle of Marathon, the Greek general sent two runners back to Athens to inform the citizens of their victory. The first runner, Pheidippides, made the 26.2 mile run back to Athens and collapsed in the city streets yelling "we won!". The second runner, Christoffipes, either collapsed or gave up after 13.1 miles, either due to exhaustion or claims of long-distance running being bad for your heart health.1

In honor of this noble Greek, I ran the Summer Breeze half marathon on Saturday to celebrate his great accomplishment. The opposite of most races in my life, this one began in the bathroom, as I arrived late, along with the entire city of San Leandro who all needed to use the same port-a-potty IMMEDIATELY before the race. I sprinted to the start, and spent the next mile running through crowds of the unwashed masses,2 attempting to overexert myself to the extreme at the beginning of an endurance race.

After catching up to my friend, Will, who is an actual runner and not a fake like me, I, like Dumbo, realized there was no ground under me and my magic feather, and I slowly dropped back and began heaving the breaths of a wounded rhinoceros. The course ran along the east bay shoreline to the San Mateo bridge. Some horrible, horrible person designed a long series of zig-zags in the miles leading up to the bridge, causing me to think I was close...then another sharp turn in the wrong direction.

By some miracle of science, or possibly just the miracle of wearing what my wife calls "fairy shoes",3 I completed the race, though immediately after being passed by what, under any other circumstance, I would refer to as a short, stocky 41-year-old woman.

I am now one of those people real runners refer to as "not a runner", having not completed a full marathon, and not planning on one either, mainly because of my sissy nature, but also because my underwear CUT AN ACTUAL GASH IN MY ABDOMEN. It's made of polyester people. POLYESTER WHAT HAVE YOU COME TO IN LIFE THAT YOU SHIV ME. Don't even get me started on the chafing under my arms and the severe pain you get when you mix a shower plus salty sweat being poured into open wounds.

Also, I apologize to any short and stocky 41-year-old women I have offended in my life. You are obviously much more athletic than myself and you should be respected more.

1. There is some dispute among the historical sources.
2. To give credit where credit is due, my friend Andrew used this phrase the other day and I've been looking for a way to incorporate it into my life.
3. Carrying the last name of Perry and having attended Elementary School, I am intimately familiar with the use of fairy as a descriptor. My wife would also like to point out that this is not a homophobic slur, she means they make me run like an actual fairy with wings. Her words. Not mine.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

studios

One of the great things about living in a studio apartment is having all of your physical possessions on display to all of your visitors, so they can see what kind of books and boxes and sheets you like, and you can have nice conversations about how you very visibly live like the little ant hoarding food for winter, except in this case food is cardboard boxes full of old high school dance pictures.1

Another great thing about studio life are your neighbors. Since studios are too small for families, you don't have any of the problems associated with adorable children or adults with stable employment or rational emotions. You can spend your days and evenings confident that no crying child will wake you up at 2 AM, just the occasional drunk screaming woman outside your door, or possibly the angry fighting couple across the hall.

The only slight downside may be the angry couple catercorner2 to you, whose friend came by last week to shout directly outside your door something about beating women who talked back to him, and there was an animated discussion about the resemblance of your male neighbor to anatomical features of both genders, and the relative merits of him returning to prison.3 All while your wife is trying to study for the bar. This is good practice for the bar, because you'll need to be prepared to perform under pressure, just like how I've placed a baseball bat next to the door. Of course, baseball bats are prohibited in the bar exam,4 but you see what I mean.

Our apartment complex is especially good, because it has a "pool" roughly modeled after a plastic kiddie pool. I don't have to worry about drowning, or even being able to swim a stroke without banging my hands against the wall, which is good, because I can't actually swim a stroke. A fringe benefit of the pool is that, through some magic of the water gods, our entire apartment smells like chlorine. This includes the water we drink. It's comforting to know that while we may die of poison, we won't have any bacterial infections.

While all of this has been enjoyable, sadly, we are moving to a tiny little house.5 We will, of course, be doing this two days after the bar, and one hour after I finish running a half marathon, because when else would I schedule it?

1. In fairness, I only have one of those. Britt refuses to disclose where hers are. But I will find them, I promise you.
2. My mind was blown when I first discovered this to be a word, so I try to use it as much as possible to look sophisticated. Sort of how I'll throw in a whom here and there even when it's clearly not necessary.
3. This produced an elevated point-counterpoint discussion.
4. EVERYTHING is prohibited in the bar exam. There's a dude sitting in front of Britt yesterday and a proctor comes over and just walks off with the dude's glasses case. Just yanks it silently and walks off, I'm pretty sure just to show that they own him.
5. Which, I assure you, we will be renting, given the amount of money we owe the federal government, which, incidentally, can afford to hook up large banks with next-to-free money, but when it comes to a legal education, can't take anything less than seven percent on loans that can't be discharged through bankruptcy.

Monday, June 24, 2013

facetracting

Yesterday was a big day in the Mormon world, because instead of making us sit quietly and sneak glances at Twitter for three hours, they made us sit quietly and sneak glances at Twitter for four hours, because there was a big conference broadcast around the world discussing missionary work.

While 50% of my blog readership will be familiar with the details of this meeting already, and the other 50% don't care, I'll speak about it at length because I am dying to get the previous post off of the main page before my mom follows through with her perpetual threat to read my blog, and this subject has the nice side effect of featuring my religiosity prominently so she can be assured that I occasionally listen at church.

I kid. I'm not going to speak at length about it because I was not-so-stealthily checking Twitter for the extent of the meeting. However, this meeting was important because the higher-ups declared that Missionaries can now use Facebook. This is entirely inconsequential to the world at large, but because the Mormon religion1 is run by old men and there's nothing old men like more than to complain about how kids these days are soft, please, indulge me.

When I served a mission, Facebook didn't even exist. I'm pretty sure Mark Zuckerberg was still in diapers. Wikipedia hadn't been invented. Nobody I knew younger than 50 had a cell phone. Back then, you had to send letters, and you had to put stickers of the saints on the letters so that the mailmen would see that a higher power was watching them and they would actually deliver the letters. And even then there was something like an 80% success rate.

After getting to Argentina, you had to wait a month before any sort of communication would make it from the states. That's right, kids, a month. Do you even know how long that is? That's basically the amount of time it takes you to do a long division problem without a calculator. Or the approximate amount of time you will qualify for Social Security payments in the future. Either way.

And now you can use Facebook??! I can see how that's going to go. "Oh sure, President, I'm just here on Facebook doing...uhhhh...'Missionary Work'...riiiiight. Let me just close out these spiritual cat videos and I'm going to finish teaching the 'discussion' about how swimwear is of the devil."

I didn't even have a phone in most of my areas. In one city, we literally had a member across town who would take phone calls for us, hop on his moto, swing by and bang on our windows in the middle of the night if someone wanted to talk to us.2 That is basically how I found out about my grandmother's death. And you get Facebook?? HOW DO YOU EVEN THINK YOU ARE SERVING A MISSION?

So next time you stop by my house and forget my name and tell me that you're not going to tract, but are going to sit in the library clicking through cat memes waiting for me to show up with some interested investigators, well, let me just say: enjoy superpoke son.

1. They hate it when you call it that! Someone actually cringed and corrected the Sunday School teacher yesterday which was pretty awesome if you like awkwardness.
2. And believe me, he got really tired of doing that for every like on our FB statuses.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Cooking with Bear Grylls

Three recipes from the upcoming cookbook: Man vs. Ingredients: Cooking with Bear Grylls.1

Brownies

1/2 cup butter
1 c white sugar
2 eggs
1 t beetle extract
1/3 c unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 c all-purpose sheep dung
1/4 t salt
1/4 t baking powder
3 c of your own pee

Bread

3 c warm pee (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 packages active dry yeast
1/3 c honey
5 c bread flour
1 T salt

Tang

4 c water
1 c tang mix
2 c pee

1. After his contract was cancelled, he had to come up with another line of work.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

three world-changing ideas

The problem with being a genius and having zero ambition in life means you face constant annoyance in having amazing ideas that would change the world, but no capacity to enact them. In the spirit of giving on this fine Groundhog Boxing Day, I present to you three world-changing ideas which you are free to steal.

Crayons in Corporate Colors

Wouldn't you rush out and buy crayons whose colors were modeled off of corporate buzzwords? Step one is to create a set of crayons with colors such as:

  • Bland Corporate Beige
  • Low-hanging Fruit Red
  • Let's Take This Offline Orange
  • Core Competencies Cream
  • Paradigm Shift Peach
  • Gamification Green
  • Cross-functional Alignment Amber
  • Enterprise Ownership Deliverable Stakeholder Brown

Step two: ...

Step three: Profit

Presidential Idol

Everyone complains about our presidential election process as it is, and third parties are universally derided, so let's make a terrible frankencreation I'm calling Presidential Idol.

The deal is this: you figure out all of the hoops and legalities necessary to get someone listed on the presidential ballot in every state, then ruthlessly copy "American Idol", and "The X Factor", and "Talentless Yohoos have Talent", and whatever else on television, and get a bunch of people to try out to make it as the nominee for a political party that happens to be a television show.

It would make for some pretty AWESOME television. The last television show I can remember watching live aired sometime in 2007, but I would pretty much watch this every week and would bring popcorn and sit through commercials because HOLY COW HOW COOL WOULD IT BE TO MAKE PEOPLE IN SUITS JUMP MOTORCYCLES, SING SONGS, TELL JOKES, AND THEN DEBATE IMMIGRATION POLICIES SO THEY CAN GET A ROSE AND STAY ON ANOTHER WEEK.

The best news is you could then argue the eventual nominee has some sense of national legitimacy instead of having received a mandate from a bunch of corn farmers in Iowa.

Start a White House Petition to Get Apple to Refer to its Products Using Articles1

I ran out of world-changing ideas, so you get my personal pet peeve instead. Just this morning my phone informed me I can, "begin using iPhone". On Apple's website they currently display the banner, "The best thing to happen to iPhone since iPhone". Let me assist the Apple copywriters by suggesting some grammatical edits to that statement:

"The best thing to happen to the iPhone since the iPhone or since we fired every miserable copywriter in our organization for UNDENIABLE UNFORGIVABLE INCOMPETENCE."

Every time I read anything written by Apple I feel like I'm talking to a third grade monster. MORTIMER HUNGRY. MORTIMER GOING TO EAT YOU.

1. Back when White House petitions were cool, I was going to blog a list of them that I wanted to start. It was going to be funny and witty and in no way cheap and insulting like every other post I write. Unfortunately, the speed at which ideas make it to posts these days means I'm roughly six months behind the times.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

driver's license? how about a cell phone license?

Driving is such a complicated activity we require all who drive maintain a current valid driver's license. Using a cell phone is (apparently) such a complicated activity, we absolutely need to institute nation-wide laws requiring all cell phone operators have a license.

Classes to obtain a license would include:

  • How to not use annoying abbreviations such as U or R or UR or other atrocities when texting.
  • How to drive your automobile without feeling the need to bear your soul to another human via an electronic medium.
  • How to silence your phone for movies, weddings, church ceremonies, dental procedures,1 etc.

We then need to codify into law a number of societal norms which go violated on a daily basis. Most punishments are obvious: an immediate and permanent ban on your usage of a cell phone in any capacity forever.

Stare at your phone while driving? Sorry, you lose your license.

Jabber loudly into your phone in the middle of a crowded train?2 Sorry, you lose your license.

Cause me to veer into traffic to avoid you as you meander aimlessly on the sidewalk while you're texting? Sorry, you lose your license.

Hack up a lung while on public transit, spewing your disgusting diseased germs all over your fellow travelers? Sorry, just because that's straight up gross you lose your license.

Wait until you're at the front of the 10 minute line at Safeway at 11:30 PM to pull out your phone and thus slow down every single sleep-deprived person behind you? Not only do you lose your license, but you forfeit your right to not be thrown into a dry well with a rabid hedgehog.

Cell phones are dangerous tools. Join me in demanding a licensing scheme today!

1. Let us not speak of the time my former dentist answered a phone call from her son while she was filling a cavity of mine.
2. I heard an apocryphal story in London about a man who took a cell phone jammer on train rides to be able to ride in silence. Genius.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

fantastic mr. fox

I love movies. Movies are a great break from my day-to-day life of compulsively checking my phone.1

My wife and I recently rented Fantastic Mr. Fox from Amazon.2 This movie was very highly rated by movie critics with histories of head injuries. I learned this fact later at Wikipedia. Unfortunately the head injury part hadn't been included in their bios, so I was sure to add it.

One quote reads, "Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightfully funny feast for the eyes with multi-generational appeal – and it shows Wes Anderson has a knack for animation."

I'm pretty sure there were some bits switched from when that was written until its publication on the internet. It should read something like this:

"Fantastic Mr. Fox is a delightfully awkward walk through the mind of a crazy person - and it shows Wes Anderson should be committed for life."

If you haven't watched it yet, I invite you to purchase a large 2x4 and bang yourself in the head for 90 minutes to simulate the experience.

This is a good movie especially for my sworn enemies. Please watch it and enjoy having your brain dismembered. It's sort of like a nice drive through the countryside on a car made out of spikes that breaks down and abruptly stops without warning continually.

1. Protip: if you want to break a Facebook habit, unsubscribe from everyone you haven't spoken to in over a year. Voila: you have no more updates, thus nothing to see.
2. Motto: One major connection issue per movie or your money back.