Thursday, September 28, 2006

Impulse control

Some things one encounters in life are seductive, but dangerous to pursue. Consider the legal concept of the Attractive Nuisance, for instance. Oftentimes, the attractive object has actual benefits, whose siren call are liable to wear ones defenses down, despite all the rational arguments marshalled against the object.

In my experience, the most successful way to fight off the Attractive Nuisance does not rely on rationalization, but on fighting emotion with emotion. If you look hard enough, everything has a flaw of some sort — something unappealing, imperfect, or undesired about it somewhere, perhaps in the most minor of ways. Concentrate on this failing with all the attention you have, and the negative perception will eat away at the positive ones, and if you are lucky it will be enough to hold you back. The fancy new gadget has low battery life, the good-looking individual has hands which are too big or too small, the door to the new place to live is hard to shut. Sometimes, you have to work pretty hard to perceive or to imagine a blemish, and when comes to mind at last, it arrives as a relief.

This is not a strategy that is good to use for everything indiscriminately, because that is a recipe for sapping all enjoyment out of life. That is what Oscar Wilde meant when he defined a cynic as "someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing." That's no way to live, in my opinion. I prefer to bring out this gambit only in the face of great temptation which my left brain recognizes as being a quick path to great danger.

Now, I just have to come up with a short and catchy name for the technique. It's something like "sour grapes" but with intention behind it. Any suggestions?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Fashion decrepitude

The New York Times had an article about fashion hearing aids yesterday, which led me to remark about why it took so long for somebody to come up with this idea. Eyeglasses (and reading glasses) have received the jewelry treatment for a long time now, so why not the aural analogue? One explanation is that now is the time when we self-absorbed Baby Boomers are catching up with mortality finally, so as we go gently into that good night it now starts to collide with the desire to look good while doing so.

So, with this in mind, allow me to propose a few more products that might find an eager market out there:

  • Herman Miller streamlined Aeron walkers

  • Hummer H-0.2 wheelchairs

  • iPod white pill cases

  • Hugo Boss orthopedic oxfords

  • Motorola RAZR blood glucose monitors

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Flickr Tarot

Inspired by Joey's post on someone who made a Google Images Periodic Table, I did text searches on Flickr and came up with this version of the Tarot (Major Arcana and Ace cards of the suits only). Each card image is derived from the top "most relevant" match that I came up with.

The Fool The Magician
The High Priestess The Empress
The Emperor The High Priest
The Lovers The Chariot
Justice The Hermit
Wheel of Fortune Strength
The Hanged Man Death
Temperance The Devil
The Tower The Star
The Moon The Sun
Judgement The World
Ace of Swords Ace of Rods
Ace of Pentacles Ace of Cups

All the images are used under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Yes, the images for The World and The Star are the same. Also, I used the alternative designation of The High Priest instead of The Hierophant because, amazingly, there are no images matching the text Hierophant in Flickr at this time.

I could imagine a Flickr toy which would automate the process of image picking using the most up-to-date search results. Maybe for the King in each suit we could have it take the second search result for the suit name, third for the Queen, and so forth. It could put the cards into a tableau, and the pictures could be used in the reading itself.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Too late for Torino

Back in February I was thinking about how too many winter sports rely on the concept “snow is slippery” and that most of the rest on “ice is slippery.” This leads to a certain sameness in the Winter Olympics which I believe that we could alleviate by introducing some events which play up some of the other aspects of the cold season. Here are seven events which one could develop in time for Vancouver perhaps.

Snowball fighting — with special costumes which sense cold and moisture and change color and cover the contestant from head to mid-calf. Snow is prepared with consistent density and moisture content and the contestants switch halves of the circular playing area midway through.

Snow shoveling — individual trials with a recessed track filled with standardized snow, competitors use shovels made to standard specifications as to length and capacity, the track is heated after a set time, heaters switched on, and the volume of remaining water is measured to judge how well they did. In the head-to-head trials the competitors start at opposite ends of neighboring tracks and shovel snow onto the other person's track while clearing their own.

Ice sawinga competitive version of ice harvesting in the 19th/20th century industry, competitors have to saw through the surface of a frozen lake to make the resulting blocks using a set of tongs, which addresses the clear lack of a sheer strength-related event in the Winter Olympics comparable to the weightlifting events during the Summer.

Catching snowflakes — competitors will have a miniature video camera trained on their lower face while they attempt to catch as many snowflakes on their tongues as possible during a snowstorm.

To build a fire — basically the same event as featured in every season of Survivor, only in subzero temperatures in a howling gale, using a pack of soggy matches, or perhaps flint and steel.

Freeze tag — this really ought to be an international sport (with the non-freeze version conducted during summer "no tagbacks") each nation takes a turn as "it" chasing the others around a circular (snow-covered?) playing field and freezing any who are caught. A certain amount of diplomacy is required between nations to arrange for players to be unfrozen.

Writing your name in the snow — an even which can easily be moved from the Olympic village over to one of the venues, employing judging criteria of size, legibility, and artistic value, and which has the bonus of incorporating the illicit drug testing process in the actual event.

A mix of ideas from the unconscious

I woke up with this dream this morning.

The beginning of the dream is lost, but for some reason a group of us were in Montclair on some errand, visiting a thirtysomething guy I vaguely disliked because he reminded me of a difficult customer I had had. At the end of our business he asked where we were going next and we said Uigur Ave. He got excited and said that that was a great sledding hill and that he took his kids there all the time. This dream was set in summer, however.

We drove to Uigur Ave, which was a narrow street with a pronounced slope, and someone produced a small mechanics creeper about the size of a garden kneeler and rubber on the top. Somehow a number of us got on the creeper on our backs, luge-style. We went down the hill, across a small bridge over some water, and up the other side, at a somewhat sedate pace actually.

At the top there was a serious-looking young girl with dark straight hair who asked if she could ride as well. Even though we agreed, we went into the back door of her house where her immigrant parents were sitting in the kitchen, not very surprised by our arrival. We went through the house and took a wrong turn into the girl's bedroom, which was spotless like everything else in the place.

We left by way of the front door and a little way down the street was a huge church with a gigantic golden steeple the shape of the Empire State Building. The clock struck and a mechanism made one side of the steeple open, a panel the size of a billboard, and there were some flat icons of Christ and the Apostles animated moving to music. On the façade of another building was a large screen showing a menacing-looking man in black robes making some kind of speech. Beneath the steeple on the grass was a severe-looking boy glaring at us, making me think that we probably should not laugh and make fun at the farcical puppet play going on.

Sometime during this the dark cultish leader came out and handed out paper cups to drink, but I hesitated.

Well, it was more of a nightmare than a normal dream I would say, though I think the church steeple with drop-down animatronic display might be a workable idea.