27 September 2012

Terrible Idea III

Lozenge Shaped Shampoo Bottle

Not lozenge-sized, mind you, although that would be a terrible idea as well.

Why is it Terrible?

Because it's round on both ends. You couldn't stand it up in the shower and the shampoo would be forever settling on one side of the bottle. Extra terrible points awarded if each end of the bottle was different (shampoo conditioner combo, for example). You couldn't use one without having the other one run to the back of the bottle.


If you had a weebil-style bottle that was weighted on the bottom by product and could never be knocked over then that could be cool. But it wouldn't work when it was full; it would just topple. So it would be full-on weebil action for like... 10% of the bottle's lifespan and the rest would be in-shower frustration hour.

25 September 2012

Cooking For One (Cooking for fun!)

I do a pretty good job of cooking for two. I do it one to five times a week and I usually manage an average of only one hot dog or frozen pizza based meal every 15 days. I know like, two ways to cook a chicken breast and they're both great.

But sometimes I'm not cooking for two or even 2+. Sometimes I cook for one. Like right now! And there are a lot of important considerations when cooking for one. I'm going to exhaustively list all of them. 

The Rule of Knives (?)

You can't use a knife 'cause you'll be sitting in front of the computer watching music videos on YouTube (or similar). If you're going to cut it, it needs to happen at the prep stage and not at the eating stage. So the Rule of Knives is that you can't need a knife to eat it.

I guess if you're using a knife as a fork by spearing stuff with it you're okay but that also means you're probably cooking for one in Alaska after having killed a bear and are not reading this.

Can You Put It In Eggs?

You'd be surprised at how many things fit inside of a sufficient quantity of eggs. Call it a "scramble" so you feel better about yourself.

Here's a few things you can put in eggs:
  • Capers
  • Mustard
  • Pepperoni
  • Diced x where x is equal to some vegetable
  • Any cheese
  • Milk
  • Water
  • Sour Cream
  • -Cloves (Careful with this one; note the negative sign)
  • Any leftover meat; diced
  • Hot sauce
  • Leftover eggs (Recursive Property. Watch your exponents and be sure to check your answer!)
Don't put these things in eggs:
  • Uncooked Rice
  • Cloves
  • Metal filings
  • Moldy hot dog buns
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Crisco
In all honesty, the set of things you can put in eggs is much larger than the set of things you cannot put in eggs. 

If you can eat it by itself, you can eat it in eggs.

Will It Fit On Bread?

If you were thinking "A Kentucky Brown fits on bread, douche!" then I assure you that you are the douche because you're ignoring (or willfully forgetting!) the Rule of Knives. Open faced sandwiches don't even really fit on bread - they're only sandwiches nominally - and they often require the use of a knife. So unless you're going to make a Kentucky Brown scramble by preparing the sandwich-meal and then dicing it up and putting it in a skillet with a dozen eggs you can fuck right off. 

I've lost my train of thought. 

If it fits on bread, it can be a meal for one. Did you grill some righteous steaks last night? Do you want to eat on the couch? Put that steak on some bread, friendo. Now you have a steak sandwich - no knives required. 

Other things that can be put on bread:
  • Hot dogs
  • Hamburgers
  • Brisket
  • All meats
  • Lunch meats
  • Eggs (but now you're just showing off)
  • Mushrooms
  • Cheese
  • Cheese
  • Cheese
As long as it's on bread, you can take it with you, sans knife and not have to fuck about with remembering which side of the plate the dessert spoon goes on. 

Protip: It goes on the top side!

Borne of Desperation

This is perhaps most importantly of all. If you really had your shit together you would have made a real meal or you'd go out and buy a six pack of High Life for dinner. Or like, pick up fast food.

So to truly be a meal made for one, someone listening to the contents must be cringing on the inside (or on the outside, if you're doing it right). 


"OMG all I had for dinner last night was [tuned out]."

"That sounds great! I had a mustard and Velveeta omelette with diced onions and diced ham and diced american cheese slices and diced leftover mac n' cheese."


Takeaways (Leftovers! Ha!)

No knives. Eggs, bread and desperation. That's all you need. That's it. Now you're cooking with fire (for one).

Hey speaking of leftovers, that's obviously a dinner for one option but that demonstrates a certain amount of foresight that isn't really in the spirit of a real meal for one. 

Unless you're making a Lo Mein sandwich. 

20 September 2012

Haunted Dog House

Or Rather, Dog Haunted House.

If you're like me, you're frustrated at not being able to bring your dog with you into haunted houses every year. And even if you did, would your dog get it? Do they know that butchers with fake human parts hanging up are scary? Do they know that fake blood is supposed to be blood? Are they scared of clowns in any different way than they're scared of service people?

I think probably not.

I think the only thing a dog would respond to in a haunted house would be [STARTLING NOISE!] and [STRANGERS STRANGERS STRANGERS!]. Dogs aren't inherently afraid of the things we have learned to fear. But we can use that to our advantage!

With a little bit of ingenuity and like... ten dollars in materials, you can have a dog haunted house of your very own. Good haunted houses take you on a narrative adventure; each scene is designed so you see as much or as little as the designer intends and the scenes are linked together by spooky dark hallways where nothing ever actually happens.

Dogs don't understand narrative structures or spooky vignettes so I'll just leave it up to you as to how you combine the following dog-haunting experiences. You may try sprinkling them throughout the year.

The Box

Put a cardboard box over the top of your dog. Make sure it's dark.

Bang on the box until your dog starts barking. Your dog is now scared.

The Sack

Put your dog in a sack. If your dog is too big to fit in a sack you might need a tarp or a sheet. Find a vacuum small enough to fit in the sack with your dog.

Turn the vacuum on. Your dog is now scared. You can also poke at them while they're in the sack for extra spooky dog-pants-shitting terror.


Cut eyes and a mouth out of a bag. Put the bag on your head. You are now a stranger.

Approach your dog menacingly. Your dog is now scared.

Abandoned Forever

Leave your dog at home while you go run errands. Make sure to speak loudly before you leave about your intentions of going away forever and never returning from the dry cleaners.

Your dog will think they have been abandoned and will now be scared, although the fear will be more of an existential anxiety. Don't forget to actually come home.


Go outside. Ring the doorbell. Ring it again. Dogs hate that shit but it might scare them also.


Schedule a plumber over the phone loudly, within earshot of your dog. Make sure to repeat the time and day of the appointment so your dog can hear you. Later that evening, call the plumber back from your car and have them come one day earlier than you previously discussed.

Your dog will be shocked that this stranger, who is now in your house, is there a full day earlier than they're supposed to be. This will undoubtedly scare your dog - but part of them may marvel at the prompt service your plumber provides.


This is more of a Halloween in July type of event, and it requires access to a swimming pool. Get in the swimming pool. Make sure your dog can see you. Splash around, even a little.

If your dog won't shut the fuck up and stop barking for even a second, it is now terrified that you're drowning. If your dog doesn't care then make a mental note that you are not loved by your dog, and some Man's Best Friend he's turned out to be.

Pack It Up

Leave some suitcases laying around near your dog's favorite hangouts (try area dog-friendly bars, or the floor). Slowly fill them with clothes over the following days. Your dog will become increasingly worried that you might be leaving them for good this time - especially if you tell them that this time you're leaving them for good. Your dog will become scared - and also sad and will poop somewhere noticeable.


Alter your schedule. Tell your dog that you're going to start taking night classes, but also you're going to be getting up one hour later three out of seven days a week. Change the days and occasionally come home early from night classes (you need to actually attend or your dog will think you're faking). All of this change will distress your dog, and probably they'll be scared.

The Triple Crown

This requires some exquisite timing, a good deal of money and a total commitment to dog-xiety.

Buy a new house, sell your old one and move.

Moving houses will combine aspects of Re-Scheduled, Pack It Up, Strangers!, Abandoned Forever and The Box. Rest assured that if you can complete The Triple Crown successfully you will have terrified your dog - possibly to the point of permanent mental scarring. Enjoy nursing them back to wellness for the remainder of their days.

Happy Haunting!

18 September 2012

Terrible Idea II

Retractable Corded Mouse


You know those phone cords with a spool on 'em so they're constantly under tension and retract completely when you let go? One of those for a mouse.

Why It's Awful

Every time you took your hand off the mouse it would fly clattering across your desk and end up hanging from a USB port behind your tower. Expect it to knock your coffee over at least twice before you go back to wireless.

Redeeming Value?

People are really into cord management so... there's that. But really not even the most orderly of people wants their mouse dangling from a USB port every time they let go of it. Every. Single. Time. Adding a locking toggle to it would add usability but that's not the point here.

13 September 2012

On Gifting

Picking out a good present for someone is difficult.

It should be something that's relatable, useful and enjoyable. If you only hit on two of the three categories you've got a near-miss and if you only satisfy one category, it's going to look like you didn't put any effort into it. I think a Venn Diagram is in order. As always, I'll be shopping for your mom - a big fan of cats:

3D effects make for bad infographics.
A relatable gift is important, but it's not enough on its own. Your mom loves cats so a cat anything is both expected and dull. But it's your safety gift. At the very least she'll be nonplussed.

Enjoyable gifts are great but they may not make any sense. You like grain neutral spirits and, from what I've gathered, your mother is more of the wine cooler type.

Gifts that have a +2 useful modifier are great, but if all they are is "useful" then you've just given someone something boring. Go buy $50 worth of Bounty paper towels or something - you know they'll use it!

Moving on to the intersections of the circles; these can possibly yield some valid gifts. Probably not the butterfly knife but damn if they aren't awesome and useful. A cat lover loves cats (by definition) so your mom may like a new cat, but it's probably going to be the opposite of useful. Buying a new cat tower or a set of cat toilet seats or a potted catnip plant or whatever isn't going to be enjoyable. But it will be useful and it will be personally relatable. To your mom. Who loves cats and adult contemporary jazz.

The best gift you can give is the one that satisfies all three criteria; the one that lurks at the center of the Venn diagram. I spent too much time trying to figure out the best gift for your fictional mom so I just filled in it with question marks. I don't recommend buying your mom punctuation unless she's a huge fan of typography.

I've also included a Venn Diagram for purchasing gag gifts.

There's more art here, but you definitely have to touch on some of these to successfully execute a gag gift. Note that "Personal" does not figure into the equation. This is about you, not them.

On the surface, something like a Shake Weight might look good here.

But you would be wrong.

It's more sad than absurd, and it's probably not fun to buy. And it's just useful enough for someone to question whether you're suggesting they need to tone up. And it may turn out to be deeply personal.

Something like Kentucky Deluxe "Bourbon" would fit nicely in the center of this gag gift diagram. Why? Moving clockwise from the top: it's a cartoonish caricature of "whiskey" (absurd), liquor stores are a blast (fun to buy), it's undrinkable (useless), no one actually likes it (unrelatable), and it takes up space in a liquor cabinet (burdensome).

And nothing says "I wasn't thinking about you" like cheap whiskey. I call it a win. In fact, you may want to keep a caseof cheap whiskey on hand in case someone unexpectedly gag gifts you. That way, when they pull out a 20 lb. sledgehammer from their trunk adorned with a satin bow, you can turn right back around and gift them a bottle of Old Granddad with a silk ribbon tied around it.

No one's feelings get hurt, and everyone leaves feel encumbered.

Also, you set yourself up for the bonus situation of explaining to the police why you now have a sledgehammer, a case of whiskey and 100 yards of silk ribbon in your trunk.

11 September 2012

Patriot Day



Go do something good. Give blood! Volunteer at a food bank.

Go get some perspective, man.

10 September 2012

Relative Pricing of Durable Goods

I had to buy a plunger. Once. Twice, maybe.

The only time I'm aware of having done it is in college. Something needed plunging and my rental house did not come with a plunger.

In almost all other circumstances you think,

"Oh no. No... I need a plunger."

And then there it is! It was under the sink, thank God. Or behind the toilet or it just appeared and you swear there wasn't one there before.

Now you don't need to draw attention to your host (via yelling from the bathroom) that you absolutely overwhelmed their low-flow toilet with your evacuative efforts. Or that you blew your nose and flushed a single tissue and now there's blue toilet water 2 centimeters away from running over the lid and down the stairs to the guests waiting below.

The guests who are wondering.

Wondering what it is that you're doing upstairs in the guest bathroom and why exactly it's taking so long. Are you okay?  Have you never seen so many Reader's Digests in one place before and you've lost track of time?

Are you "okay"? Which means that someone assumes you're expressing your internal organs into the toilet bowl and whoever draws the short straw has to go knock on the door and make sure you haven't died.

Now for the rest of the dinner party, even though everyone has probably forgotten the Pooping Incident you know that they're really struggling to make it through their meals without running through the entire four minute event in their heads. Over and over again. What could they have done differently? Could they have engaged in more small talk to distract themselves and each other from your absence? Would loudly singing hymns have masked the true nature of your excusing yourself?

Thank God you found that plunger.

But what if you had to buy one? Where would you start? How much would you expect to pay?

On the one hand, this is a very simple tool. Really just a rubber cup and a wooden handle.

On the other hand, this tool saves you the unpleasant task of reaching your arm into the toilet up to your shoulder and manually fixing the situation by hand. I know manually means by hand.

I repeated it for emphasis.

If you asked me how much money I would give you to not do what I've just described above, I think i would say "between $50 and $100, depending on the nature of the crime." And I wouldn't be lying. I saw this X-Files one time where Mulder and Scully were in a sewer with some kind of bullshit FBI monster and one of them fell in. Fell in! I was twelve-ish at the time and I thought "just fucking kill me".

So what I'm saying is that a plunger should cost a little and a lot of money. If you're feeling fancy you can get one of those accordion style plungers:

The advantage is that it won't flip inside out, like an umbrella in a windstorm in a toilet. The disadvantage is that the nature of the task may leave you wanting for a tool with less crevices.

Something simpler?

Bam. The fair market price for a plunger is $7.88. This one has a white handle and a black "shame hiding" cup so I think it's at the higher end of the basic plunger spectrum.

While I would gladly pay $30 - $300 for a plunger, I am happy that the market does not take advantage of my ignorance and fear of toiletastrophes (Toilet ass trophies? No.). The money I save by not overspending on plungers allows me to continue paying for expensive therapy to address my crippling fear of restroom-related social anxiety.

06 September 2012

Everything is Moneys

What do you do for fun?

Do you drive a motorcycle? Do you draw? Are you crafty? Play piano? You like knitting sweaters? Weird sex stuff?

That's great. Good for you. Everyone needs a hobby.

Let's travel back in time. Try to picture the world of 30 years ago. Forty years ago. Used to was, a man would get home from a long day at the quarry, slide down the tail of a brontosaurus and pedal himself home on a penny farthing bicycle. He's excited. Today is Friday and that means tomorrow is the Week-End. After several hours of reciting Bible verses and listening to dramedies on his gigantic wooden radio, he's got some leisure time. Time to himself. Time enough to pursue his interests!

He's received a mail-order build-your-own-airplane kit from the back of Popular Mechanics which, in this time period, is a relevant publication that does not suck. He's excited to build his aeroplane, as manned flight has only recently been proven possible by the Wright Brothers, and so he goes about his business with an anachronistic assortment of corded power tools and a whole mess of chisels and mallets.

For whom does he build the plane?

Is it for his wife, who spends her time practicing watercolor in the parlor?

Is it for his children, who do not speak unless spoken to? And also work in a coal mine factory?

Perhaps he does it for the rest of the world, fantastically connected via expensive international operator-assisted telephone calls by a snaking network of undersea cables.

No. He builds the plane for himself, because he enjoys it. It provides a diversion from the worries of his day: Cubans and Prussians and The Bomb and so forth. He builds the plane to forget about whiling the day away on a stone slide-rule and dictating memos to his secretary. Who, while a lady, is also a bird that takes notes.

After several moon-phases come and go he completes his kit plane. It's tremendous! It has all the hallmarks of a pet project from a purposefully vague era: goodness, effort, heart, passion and enjoyment. The man is satisfied; his family is satisfied. The neighbors, who secretly hate him, are not satisfied but tell him that they are.

And that's it. When the air isn't thick with dirigibles and Pan-Am jetliners, he takes his airplane out for a spin. He feels pride.

Now let's take off our time-travel derbys and do it again, today.

The man order the kit plane from the back of Popular Mechanics which sucks now. Also the kit plane order form is under an ad for penile enlargement and above an ad for a free-energy device.

The man bought the kit plane because he though it would be fun. But is fun is the end -- does it justify the means? Does fun justify the money spent on shipping and the time spent building?

A tiny doubt begins to gnaw at his brain.

He thinks that it would be a shame to keep this kit plane build to himself so he starts a blog. And the first thing he does after naming the blog and picking his color scheme is attaching AdSense to it.

'Cause hell, if you can make some money off that blog then why not?

And then he starts following people on Twitter like mad, hoping that they'll follow him back. He blasts build updates out to his followers or even more frequently, no one at all. He's just yelling at strangers.
His twitter cross posts to Facebook where he announces new blog posts because even though the plane is kind of fun, the idea of making money is even more fun.

He films weekly build summaries and posts them to the YouTube channel he just started. He wants eyes on those ads and the only way to get them there is to drive people to his blog.

He know about cultivating an online presence and building his personal brand. These are things he's sure he's read about, and they were important things.

He start an Instructable on building kit-planes and posts it with detailed information linked to his build blog. Which now includes podcasts, because those are things that people have.

The money starts to roll in. Ten dollars. Then ten more.

He joins kit-plane enthusiast sites to let them know what he's doing. He sends tips to blogs in an effort to get featured. His twitter timeline is filled with inane updates.

The build is complete. His kit-plane sits unused in his steel storage shed as he desperately tries to cultivate his tiny online empire. The checks won't be cut until his AdSense revenue hits $100 and he's not quite there yet.

He opens a cafepress shop with "I HEART KIT PLANES!" t-shirts, coffee mugs, Frisbees and panties. They are overpriced and do not bring him any revenue.

He grows to resent the kit-plane. To him it symbolizes failure and he can't stand to look at it. He covers it with a tarp to protect it from the elements but also to protect himself from it.

The kit plane has done nothing for him. He has not recouped the cost of the materials. He was not compensated for his time. He did not gain even fifteen minutes of fame for all of his efforts. He wasted his evenings trying to promote and sell something that no one wanted to buy. Not even a little. He's not proud of what he's done because he feels no joy.

He has sucked all of the fun out of it and created a second, shittier job for himself. Shittier than the shitty one he was trying to escape in the first place.

(Metaphors, dog.)

The kit-plane could have been a guitar. Or a new camera. Or a set of oil paint. The plane could have been anything. 

There's nothing inherently wrong with maintaining a journal of events - video, audio or otherwise. And if you choose to share that journal with others then that demonstrates a certain confidence in what you've chronicled. 

It's so easy to take something we love and see other people making money (fame) off of that very same pursuit. This guy's doing it too and he's on the front page! This asshole can barely sing and they're on TV.

So we fail to do the things we love for fun and instead try to monetize them. We find a hobby and right after we figure out how it works we try to figure out how to make money off of it.

It's bullshit, so stop. Learn how to love things that people will never see, that will never earn you a dime.


04 September 2012

The Merits of Good Design

I make it a habit to attend school every so often. In doing so, I learn things. Sometimes.

Lately I've been noticing a lot of overlap. Most of it can be summed up in cliches like "Content is King" or "Form Follows Function" or probably some other pleasantly alliterative phrases.

I find that it often works the opposite way in real life.

People like flash. Not Flash like Adobe's slowing dying online-gaming (and other things?) platform, and not flash like the stuff on the walls at tattoo parlors. Some people like that kind of flash but I mean more flashy things. They want to be wowed. People like to see zip and vim and punch and je ne c'est pas and they can't quite put their finger on it. But it needs to look good. That's what counts.

That's short-sighted. A multimediastravaganza speech given without any thought to what it's about is empty. It's a tech demo. Design without content is meaningless. It's just something to look at. Music without form is jazz (zing!). Except, I think you could tell the difference between jazz built on a solid conceptual foundation (soul) and jazz built on technical improvisational exercises.

Whether you're building a bitchin' powerpoint presentation or writing a report or building a shelf, getting wrapped up in the flash of the finished product before you even have a foundation is going to fuck you up. It would literally be like building a house without a foundation, in that it would lack a foundation. Metaphorically.

Everything should have a reason to exist. Everything should serve a purpose.

But with that in mind we start wading out into deeper waters. You start hearing "designed by engineers!" thrown around as an indictment of an ugly product. The implication is that someone who is so focused on the function of an item that the form - the way it looks - is ignored.

The speech is a recitation of facts and figures given without regard to the audience; the magazine layout is line after line of information. And ugly. These things lack "art". They're inelegant.

I think that form really should always follow function. It's just a question of defining the function better.

Let's build a toaster. It needs to toast bread.

My first draft of a toaster, based on that design prompt, is a sheet of metal that gets hot when you plug it in. You put the bread down on top of it and then when you think it's done you pull it off. It toasts bread well enough but it doesn't do much else other than burn your fingertips.

Change the design prompt. The toaster needs to toast bread safely. You need to use it without burning your fingers. People need to want it on their counters.

Now the "function" of the toaster has been expanded to include utility and aesthetics. The execution of that function is the difference between an OK toaster and an awesome toaster, but they can both represent good design.

You have to shoot for where the utility line and the aesthetic line intersect.

Unlabeled graphs are bad design, no matter how many colors you use.

It's the same shit from economics. It doesn't even matter which line is which; one is utility and one is beauty. As the perceived beauty of an object increases, it's utility tends to decrease. It's pure art.

If an object possess 100% utility then there may be some kind of inherent elegance in that - but it's probably not going to look very nice.

Good designers will push that orange line all the way out; the beauty and utility will intersect at 100% and you'll have another Eames Desk or Nike swoosh or something.

Everyone else needs to shoot for that middle ground there. Everything well-designed should be as flashy as it is useful - and no more. This is the genesis of elegance and "understated cool" and all of those other difficult to pin down things that people want so desperately but can't quite figure out. They're borne organically from the essence of a thing instead of tacked on at the end.

So says I.