Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Things that should exist but probably don't, #2

If I ran the world, I am convinced that it would be a much more interesting place.

We have so many problems as it is! Political differences, religious differences, crime, traffic, overpopulation, disease... many, many organizations are fighting to try and resolve these problems in their own way.

Here's the rub. They're too myopic. The ACLU wants to protect our rights. Planned Parenthood wants to protect our rights too, but really only specific ones. The Beastie Boys want to protect our right to party. See how this is all too narrow? The ACLU at least takes up a variety of causes, but still. Then you have religious organizations that want to do all kinds of shit, from picketing the funerals of people they heard were gay, to lobbying to overturn Roe v. Wade, to taxing your income and calling it by a different word so they don't get in trouble for doing that thing that the government is only allowed to do.

It seems to me that the crazier and more convinced you are about whatever it is, that the more likely you are to be able to make a change, be it positive or negative. Religion is, therefore, in a confusingly strong position here, because their entire organization is based upon the assumption that something is correct that they basically pulled out of thin air and ran with. Politics is probably running a close second, but politicians are heavily influenced by religion.

And take politics alone -- Democrats (lately) have ideals but are willing to compromise on those to get a little bit of what they want. Republicans (lately) have ideals and are almost entirely unwilling to compromise on them to get anything. Remember when we just about shut down the federal government over what amounts to peanuts in the budget? Remember that? Who wins more often than not when the two parties butt heads? The Republicans, because they say something insane and then slowly scoot back towards normal until the Democrats say "oh fine, we can deal with that since you started off in CRAZY TOWN. At least we managed to avoid moving there with you."

So, in light of this, I have some suggestions for better operating things.

First of all, traffic. Where I live, the traffic isn't really as big of a problem as it is in larger cities, but it's still aggravating at times, especially when a car breaks down or wrecks and blocks a lane of traffic.

Proposal: Instate a lottery system for all licensed drivers. Selected drivers will receive one of the following required accessories for their vehicles:

  • A cow-catcher, or "Traffic Progress Assistance Device", or TPAD
  • Street sweeping equipment

The cow-catcher vehicles would be required, when a vehicle breaks down in a lane of traffic, to unceremoniously smash it aside into the nearest ditch or onto the nearest curb or what-have-you. The street sweeping vehicles would then ensure that any shattered glass, twisted metal, or other debris (such as parts of the vehicle's drivers, passengers, or traveling mechanics) were swept away so that other vehicles do not become disabled as a result of the traffic progress assistance vehicle.

Added side benefits of this would be widespread! Drivers would be encouraged to properly maintain their vehicles so as to avoid breaking down, helping local businesses as well as the manufacturers of various vehicle parts and fluids. Instead of getting furious and attacking other drivers, people prone to road rage who were equipped with this equipment could simply take their aggression out on broken down vehicles. (The lottery system is to reduce the potential for abuse of this system by people who actively want a TPAD installed on their vehicle.) Less time would be wasted stuck in traffic! Also, there would be more resources for anyone who survives! Last, but certainly not least, in the event of zombie apocalypse, a significant segment of the vehicles on the road would be well prepared to combat the relentless horde of monsters hungering for human flesh, and the contents of the ditches may well distract the zombies, making life safer for non-TPAD vehicles too!

See? I've fixed traffic and overpopulation with just one idea here. Now I just need some volunteers to canvas for signatures. If people just applied their creativity a little more, we'd have all these things wrong with the world solved in no time!*

*As long as you don't mind living in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, anyway. But who doesn't think that'd be awesome?

Friday, April 22, 2011

How to annoy your math/science/programming teacher

While sitting on the deck and spacing out, I determined the reason that many people screw up 'less' and 'fewer'.

In many non-English realms, there simply is no distinction between the two.

In math, science, and programming, to indicate there are less (or fewer) of one thing than another, we use shorthand: <. It's right there on your keyboard. We are taught to read < as 'less than.'

For instance, if you're writing something out in math-speak, say you have a basket of five apples, and a basket of nine apples. You can write this out as 5 < 9. "Five apples is less than nine apples." Or in scientific terms, maybe five molecules is less than nine molecules.

In programming speak, same thing:

int basket1, basket2;
basket1 = 5;
basket2 = 9;
if (basket1 < basket2)
     printf("Basket 1 has less apples than basket 2.");

These are all clearly grammatically incorrect (to anyone who is annoyed by "less versus fewer" mistakes).

"But Shad," you may claim, "that's just how it is! You can't go modifying entire languages!"

You would be completely right! I can't, and neither can you!

Therefore, annoying your teacher (or the keynote speaker at a very important convention) should be really, really easy! Important people hate it when you point out irrelevant mistakes while they're trying to show you something!

Important Person: "So, to indicate this, we write it like so..." *squeak squeak tap squeak*

You: "Excuse me. What you just wrote on the whiteboard is technically correct, but grammatically inaccurate. There are fewer apples in basket 1 than there are in basket 2. You wrote less apples."

Then, before they can respond, you stand up, march straight to the front, grab a red dry-erase marker from the tray, and proclaim, "In order to correct this, I propose that you use the following symbol instead to indicate 'fewer than' to avoid any confusion."

This will all but guarantee that you have plenty of time between that point in time and whenever your next class is to go play video games on your phone.

You're welcome!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Things that should exist but probably don't, #1

You know how a lot of churches go ahead and do easter egg hunts on their property for easter, even though technically the idea should probably offend them, being a church and all that?

I think this is how church easter egg hunt functions need to work:

  1. Children and parents gather in a common area indoors, where they can see someone dressed as the easter bunny running around "cleverly hiding" the brightly colored plastic eggs in the lawn. The eggs are hidden in a pretty obvious trail leading around the property, to keep everyone mostly following them in a line around the back side of the building.
  2. The kids are lined up, given some sugar so they have a taste for the stuff before they get going, and then somebody yells "GO!" at the top of their lungs. 
  3. The kids bolt for the plastic eggs, frantically scrambling for candy and whatever, working their way around the back of the building.
  4. The easter bunny leaps out from behind a shrub and starts angrily squealing at the kids when they round a corner, then tries to get the eggs back.
  5. When the kids have been chased halfway back to the starting point, a hobo dressed as Jesus climbs up from a hole in the yard, probably yelling something about "i have risen," and then gets in an epic battle with the bunny. Depending on budget, Jesus could unload a starter pistol at the bunny, whose chest is loaded with squibs. Bunny dies an overdramatic death. Jesus saves the day and the kids get to keep their candy! If a starter pistol and fake gunshot wounds are beyond the budget, they could just get in some kind of kung-fu fight instead. Same results. Maybe Jesus could snap the bunny's neck, Bruce Lee style.
I am confident that this is exactly the right way to make those easter egg hunt things not suck.

Now I need to start a church. Who's in?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Great Job Hunt (or, Request For Comments)

I realize that it's been a while since my last post, and as I haven't got anything queued up for funny right now, I thought I'd just post a topical sort of question related to my current situation.

As you're likely aware, I'm still looking for a job. (I'm also embarking on a possibly-lucrative-but-unprofitable-to-begin-with side project, but it won't make a dime for months, if ever.)

So, when one such as myself goes looking for work, one generally just looks online, reads job postings, emails a resume here, fills out a form there, and ends up with a tiny handful of calls, one or two recruiters who act like they'll find a job for you in no time flat (but never actually do it), and a moderate-sized handful of spam from getting suckered into sending contact information to Craigslist fake job posting ads that only want to gather the email addresses of people who are looking for jobs so they can sell it to spammers so they can promise to deliver emails from those ineffective recruiters straight to your inbox advertising their own services -- maybe with a liberal sprinkling of "go back to college! you'll make millions of dollars!" spam on top.

So much for the email address that doesn't (well..didn't) get any spam.

I don't know about any of you, but personally, I think that job interviews are one of the worst things in the entire universe. (In fact, I wrote a post about that a while back after having gotten back from one of them!) I think that they're tied for first place in "top 100 things that I dislike," up there with needles and being on fire.

So, readers: Have any of you interviewed people (particularly in a panel interview type setting)? What on earth do you look for? I don't seem to have whatever it is, so I'm curious why the people who get hired DO get hired.

Also, if you haven't interviewed anyone but you've had horrible job interviews, I'm also curious if any of you have bizarre job interview stories. They're all different, after all -- seems like some of them MUST be interesting. Also, loads of bonus points if you have any interview stories where you end up being stabbed with needles, or on fire.

Comments encouraged and appreciated!