Target Robot Machine

Here is a letter I wrote to the Target Robot Machine:

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The Target Robot Machine generated an automated response:

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Interesting that they give names to different sectors of their servers.  I’m glad the Robot Machine wasn’t able to crack the captcha code, which would indicate that had become self aware.  Score one for the humans!  This time…

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Regulate Explained

It was clear black night in East Los Angeles. Warren was on his evening stroll. “Tonight I’m going to find a new girlfriend,” he said hopefully. As he perused the dark alleys for the future Mrs. G, Warren chanced upon a dice game. Warren loved to play dice in back alleys and he asked the fellas if he could play too.

Meanwhile, Nathan was cruising around looking for his friend, Warren. This was in a time before cell phones so the only way to find Warren was to drive around aimlessly. They didn’t even have AOL or Nate would have been able to read Warren’s away message. But Nate knew Warren and his unfortunate gambling addiction so he made straight for a back alley gambling district.

Nate glanced over and noticed that a car full of girls were checking him out. Golly, they were pretty, but Nate Dogg was on a mission. The girls were trying to get his attention and lost control of their vehicle. They crashed into some cardboard boxes and the side of a building. “Bros before hoes,” he said to himself as he left the scene of the accident.

The dice gambling guys didn’t want to let Warren play dice since they already had enough players. Instead they put a gun to his head and took his gold watch and rings and used them as a part of the gambling. There, in his own town, Warren thought he was going to die as a direct result of his gambling problem in dramatic irony.

Out of nowhere Nate Dogg appeared.  Nate Dogg didn’t recognize anyone except for Warren so he shot all of them without asking questions.  He unloaded his firearm into the people that were holding up his friend.  Nate beat them 10 against 1.  It would be a story to tell his grandchildren.  Warren thanked Nate for saving his life and gold things.  They picked through the bodies until all of the jewelry was recovered.

Killing people really gets a man’s libido going so Nate and Warren went back to the car accident to see if the girls were still there. Sure enough the girls were standing there in the middle of the street assessing their injuries and damage to the car.  The car had hit the building so hard that the engine failed.  They didn’t have cell phones so they couldn’t’ text their dads or boyfriends to help.

Warren and Nate politely introduced themselves to the ladies.  Warren understood Nate’s glance that he shouldn’t mention the fact that he had ran them off the road earlier.  Should they recognize him, they might have trouble with the police.  Still, Warren thought they should probably call the police to report the accident and get an ambulance in case anyone had neck injuries.  But Nate took control of the situation and told the ladies to load into his car.  They could get their car out of the side of a building tomorrow.  Warren was upset there weren’t enough seat-belts in the car for everyone so Nate and Warren each took two ladies in their cars.  “Buckle up ladies.  Safety First!” Warren said.  On the drive over Warren wondered if one of these ladies could be he new girlfriend.

When they arrived at the motel Nate suspiciously went to the bathroom while Warren tried to entertain the ladies by himself.  Warren wanted to impress the ladies as the scholarly musician he was.  He began explaining his new found philosophy on life called G-Funk.  “The rhythm is the base and the base is the treble.” he said.  The girls started to glance at each other.  One raised her eyebrow and the other started looking at her watch.  Warren was monopolizing the conversation and the girls and were regretting accepting the ride from these strangers.

Just then, Nate Dogg bursts from the bathroom, carrying drug paraphernalia.  “Who wants weed, bitches!” he exclaimed.  The girls ran to Nate and for the third time he was the hero of the evening.

Warren reflected on the evening and he was glad to have Nate as a friend.  After a tough night of regulating he could finally relax and enjoy himself.

Choosing where to have Baby (sic)

There are a lot of choices to make when you want to have a baby.  You can have a baby in a bathtub.  You can have a baby in the desert.   You can have a baby on a bungee jump.  Some creepy people even have a baby at their house.

We have chosen the “traditional” route and have decided to have Baby (sic) at a Hospital.  Notice the lack of the possessive pronoun preceding “Baby”.  I learned that hospitals do not use articles or possessive pronouns when talking about babies.  It’s all “Baby will sleep here.  Baby will go home with you after a couple days.  Baby will sound an alarm if it gets up and tries to walk out the doors.”  Never “The Baby” or “Your Baby”.  It is either because hospital workers are so overworked that they must ignore certain grammatical constants to save speaking time or that political correctness does not allow hospital workers to assign possession or ownership of another human.

We decided to tour both of our local baby factories before settling on a location.  We toured the Small Hospital and the Mega Hospital.

At Small Hospital the lady was very friendly, but our personal one-on-one tour turned into an eight-on-one tour where a couple of other couples were invited to go along.  The first other couple was cool because they didn’t talk the entire time. The second couple consisted of a 50-year-old woman, due in May, her husband, Paul Bunyan, and their two children, a boy and a girl under 4.  Legends never die, and Paul Bunyan was no exception adding to his resume his ability to impregnate a 50-year-old woman.  However, today the statuesque legend was obviously preoccupied with the fact that they wouldn’t let him bring his axe into the hospital so he couldn’t focus on the fact that his kids were running and screaming all over the place while our tour guide patiently explained exactly what would happen to those of us who have never had a baby before. All of us were intent on listening, but Paul obviously didn’t want to be there.

Paul finally spoke up later on in the tour when Timmy was chasing Emily around the birthing table with a speculum.  The boy crashed face first into the pull-out couch and stood up with a bloody forehead when Paul asked, “So where is the free coffee again? For the husbands?”.  His 50-year-old wife looked at him, incredulous, and then back to the tour guide.  “Actually,” she said, “where do we go to get car seats checked?”  Blood gushed from Timmy’s wound.  After your 3rd kid its probably a good time to get your car seats.  At first I wanted to curse at them, but I then I realized that I am in no way more qualified to fit a car seat to a giant Blue Ox.

Despite the distractions we really liked the Small Hospital, but we headed across the street for our appointment at the Mega Hospital.

At Mega Hospital we experienced a whirlwind tour of the facilities.  Mega Hospital opened a couple weeks ago so we had to excuse some of their dust.  Our guide quickly pointed out the features like, “Here is triage, here is where Baby gets born, here is where Baby gets to sleep, here is your emergency alarm bracelet that plays music when close to Baby that ensures it’s (your?) Baby, here is the menu and they might start up celebration dinners again but you can order a hotdog or whatever when Baby comes.  Any questions?”

She was really excited to tell us all about the technology of the facility but all I noticed was a haggard staff were in search of a break and treated each patient as a burden to their iPhone time.  We even saw a nurse balled up on the floor crying between two double doors because of too much work.  She was not supposed to be a part of the tour.  We also saw some cool dudes walking into the baby center, hats cocked, carrying a 12 pack of Bud Light into one of the delivery rooms.  The alarm sounded and some blue strobes started going off.  The tour lady yelled in her phone that someone was stealing a baby again!

One piece of technology the tour lady at Mega Hospital was especially excited to show us was the Big Blue Button that the husband, and only the husband, gets to push when Baby is born.  It would play a song to alert the entire hospital that you are a new dad!  I imagined myself lurking around the hospital, after hours of labor, giving sideways glances at the other husbands, letting them know that I was going to be the next dad and the next to push that button.  But then the tour lady pressed the button!!!  For a few seconds of my life, That Button was one of the few unique pleasures afforded to the modern man.  But when she pressed it, the magic of the button immediately disappeared and was cheapened to a hokey gimmick. I also expected a great triumphant fanfare as my first official act of fatherhood, but was disappointed that it played a soft, barely audible, lullaby. Lame.

It was then I remembered that Small Hospital said we could bring anything to their hospital as long as it wasn’t fire.  No candles or campfires (I asked).  So I added a Staples Easy Button to our Baby Go Bag.  When the baby is born I get to push the button and declare myself as the father!  “That was Easy!” I will exclaim at the top of my lungs.  I will also yell about how great the staff is at Small Hospital and thank them for realizing that you can’t replace good people with technology.

I will also yell about how wonderful my wife is to the entire hospital and how excited we are about our baby.

Expect a lot of excited yelling this August.

Signature Pad Art

I have been signing my name with a smiley face on digital signature pads for at least 3 years.

It started as a test to see if anyone would notice.  When I first started signing with a smiley face, I would look up at the cashier for approval; waiting for them to harshly censure me or call security and throw me in retail jail.  But its been accepted every time.  The only time it wasn’t accepted was when I tried to sign with a smiley face when I refinanced my house.  Banks do not have a sense of humor and insist on you carefully crafting your full name (not a real signature either).

Cashiers are rarely aware of what customers are doing with the signature pads.  Most of the time they don’t even have a mechanism for checking a signature unless they crawl up on the desk and crawl to the end of the counter to see what you’re doing over there.  At some merchants my smiley face will show full screen on the monitor, flashing the words “COMPARE SIGNATURE WITH CARD”.  In this case, the cashier looks at the smiley face, makes a cashier grunting noise, fails to recognize the smile, and approves the transaction mumbling something about having a good day.  In my 3+ years of doing this, it was acknowledged once as one cashier said it was cute before approving the transaction.

My wife has started signing with a smile too.  She was actually stopped by one brazen cashier who didn’t want to approve the transaction or really hated smiles.  My wife told the cashier that she always uses the smiley face as a security measure because a card thief probably wouldn’t be aware of our unusual signature pattern.  The cashier relented when my wife showed her ID and reluctantly approved the transaction.

So we’ve had one near-rejection in hundreds of transactions.  Still, what’s the worst that can happen if you get “caught” not putting your proper signature on a signature pad?  Are they going to make you sign again?  Would a merchant really enforce a policy that sends you to the parking lot, leaving them the task of putting  $150 worth of melting groceries back on the shelves?

Digital signature pads are a completely worthless parts of a transaction. The only feasible use for them would be if your one and only true signature is on file in a master database and it’s digitally compared on a POS system.  It’s become such a routine that it doesn’t matter.  I feel bad for people when I see them carefully scribing their signatures on a pad.  Even if your card is used fraudulently, you can dispute it and will most likely win. Your signature never comes into play.

But there’s no reason to get mad about it or start a class action lawsuit.  If they’re going to make you do it, you might as well have fun with it.

Recently I’ve been crafting more elaborate signature pad art.  I usually don’t pre-plan my sketches so they are pretty terrible.  Here are some pictures I drew when I had my camera ready.

A dude riding a motorcycle

Two people about to make a baby

Signature pads time out in about 7 seconds, I found

The sun setting a house on fire and people running away and one guy is on fire

In all 3 of these cases no one looked at my “signature” or even asked why the hell I was taking a picture of it.

Your homework is to begin making your own Signature Pad Art and report back on the results.  Does a cashier challenge your signature or threaten to send you out on the street without your purchase? Sneak a snapshot of your art and send me the picture so I can post it.  Have your camera on and ready with the flash off to avoid making a scene.  I’m not responsible for the results of your transaction or your ability to handle the cashier police.  If you get sent to the Mall Jail, I will pay for your bail for the story value.

Also you cannot sign with a smiley face because I own it.  To do so would be forgery and you’ll go to jail for fraud.  Get your own fake signature.

The Dog Clicker

Feedback is an important but often overlooked aspect of any design.  Feedback manifests when a light turns on after the flick of a switch.  Feedback comes when you chirp your car lock. Feedback is also enjoyed when your airbags deploy informing you that the semi did run that red light and that your car did really do a 1080.

It’s when you don’t receive feedback that you irritably notice the uncertainty to if the machine understood the last command you issued.  When you click a button on a website there is a noticeable absence if the button doesn’t graphically “press in” or make a click sound.  Small things like this can send a reasonably calm person into a frenzy, mashing the button over and over again until finally the screen pops up informing you that you have ordered 13 iPads.

Dogs also need feedback to help prevent them from insane behavior as well.  If you don’t give a dog understandable feedback after he completes a command, there is a good chance that he will never be sure that he actual satisfied you by, say, sitting down.  He could think your hand gesture meant for him to shit all over the house.  The dog goes running and shitting all over the house and keeps looking back for affirmation.  Yelling may be a rally call to continue shitting and so he does, all over the kitchen.  When you chase him, he runs into the bathroom and pees on the linoleum and when you scramble after him in the bathroom you slip on the pee and the dog points at you and laughs.  This is a failure to feedback.

The dog clicker was designed to prevent dogs from getting a mind of their own when it comes to completing commands.  A click punctuates each command and the dog knows that sitting was the only command in mind.  The dog is happy to please you and you are happy the dog is not shitting all over the house.

After completing a session of dog training, I needed to buy some hardware.  I selected my hardware and went to the self-checkout.  Sometimes when you buy hardware they try to put bar code stickers on things that are too tiny to scan.  I kept trying to scan the screw.  I really wanted to buy the screw.  They haven’t invented 3D lasers to scan 360 degrees around a screw bar code yet.  It’s because a kid might put their head inside inside of the laser and look at the laser at 360 degrees and go blind and have to be stuck working at Lowe’s for the rest of their life. I was getting mad at the self checkout robot and started slamming the screw on the scanner.

The Lowe’s self checkout Guard came over to see what the big problem was.  He calmly showed me how to remove the sticker from the screw so it could be scanned.  He put it on his finger and scanned his finger.  For a second I was afraid that I was going to have to buy the checkout Guard and wasn’t sure how much a human being would cost and if I was going to have to raise the limit on my credit card and where he would fit inside of my house. It made me sweat so I put my hands in my pocket.  Then the machine beeped.  Feedback.  And the price showed on the screen for $0.19.  Double Feedback.

I noticed that the dog clicker was still in my pocket!  Since the checkout Guard had done such a good job, I clicked the dog clicker. *CLICK* Triple Feedback!  He looked up at me, so  I pet him on the head and told him that he did a good job.  He made a happy face and started panting. Another satisfying Lowe’s experience.

I got a text on my phone that told me I should meet some friends for some food and drinks. With my new screw in tow, I went to the bar.

At the bar the waitress brought us all of our drinks.  When I had confirmed that she had brought everything correctly, *CLICK* I let her know.  She looked around and made a confused face, but knew she did a good job.

After the second round she asked what the heck the *CLICK* noise was.  I told her that she was really smart and being such a good girl.  I pet her on the head and told her to fetch us some food.

Instead of food the manager of the store came over.  He told me that I had to leave the bar because I was touching the waitress without permission.  I told him that he had a really good waitress working for him and he should be proud of how smart she was and she had a really shiny coat and that he must be feeding her food other than bar food.  He asked if I was on drugs.  I didn’t click the clicker since the manager was wrong.  The manager started to get mad at me and said he was going to call the police if I did not leave.  I did not click the dog clicker because he was being a bad boy.

The policeman came and brought a big dog with him. The dog started smelling me when the manager pointed at me.  But the dog kept looking at the manager.

*CLICK* the dog looked at the manager.  *CLICK* the dog started smelling the manager.  *CLICK* the dog started smelling the manager’s pockets.  The manager tried to get away from the dog but it started following him.  I started clicking the dog clicker, rapid fire, and the dog got more and more aggressive with the manager.  *CLICK CLICK CLICK* the dog started barking really loud. *CLICK CLICK CLICK* the dog started biting the manager on the arms and neck.  *CLICK CLICK CLICK*.  The whole bar was watching.

Finally the policeman made the dog stop biting the manager. The dog sat down facing the manager and the cop found a bag of grass inside of the manager’s pocket.  The policeman put the bag in his pocket and told me that I did a good job.  With no audible click I didn’t know if there was some extenuating circumstances to his compliment, but he put his hand up and we did a high five (a form of feedback for cool people).

Then the policeman took the bag of grass out of his pocket and held it in the air.  “The next round of drinks is on the manager!” he said.  The manager wearily sat up with his hand to his head.  The policeman threw the bag of grass to the bartender and the whole bar cheered.  I clicked merrily in satisfaction.

QR Code Fun

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Try it

These QR codes (Quick Response Codes) are on everything now.  If you’ve scanned one with your smartphone camera once, you probably haven’t bothered to do it again because it took you to a website that you didn’t really care to see.  Oh look the code on my shampoo takes me to the full Johnson & Johnson site that I can’t read on my phone!  Hey when I scan this code on the cologne ad in the magazine my phone overheats and resets!  Cool!

Advertisers in business offices are constantly doing high-fives every time their Land-O-Lakes website gets a hit from a curious butter code scan.  I noticed that politicians are also trying them out on their giant coupon sized junk mailers. Every inquisitive “what’s this thing do” scan could lead to another voter that hates them for tricking them into going to their website.

qrcodeI’ve ignored these codes because I’ve been fooled more than twice and taken to a useless website.  But the codes are actually quite useful, when used by creative people who aren’t trying to sell things to you.  Anybody can make a QR code for free and have it point to a website, text, phone number, email, video, contact info, or even a location on a map.

Games

They’ve already done QR games at nerd-cons, where you have to run around and scan the codes and try not to stink too bad. Each code is a certain amount of points. Scan the most points and you’ll be going home with a giant stuffed animal and a fleeting sense of satisfaction.

Scavenger Hunt

Create a scavenger hunt using clues, location tags, phone numbers, etc…

Better yet, propose to your future wife with a QR Code scavenger hunt.  A quick Google search doesn’t show that anyone has gone on the Internet and bragged about doing this yet.  You could be the first person to do something original. (The first guy to do this gets a punch in the nuts)

Also possible and yet to be done: the extremely elaborate ransom where a kidnapper confirms the money has been dropped in the log when the code gets scanned. (Not recommended!)

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Battle Zone Leaflets

If the enemy is carrying their smartphone around and curiously scans the code on a leaflet dropped by the Air-force, they’ll receive detailed instructions on how not to get bombed by an F-18.

Also, now the military knows where you and your phone are at all times and when you go to play Farsi Words with Friends, you’ll share the virus with your allies, creating a distributed network of secret enemy locations.

Spread Viruses

Show off your new QR virus and ruin people’s phones. Drop them off at local businesses as a way to lower productivity.

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Public Restrooms

For a good time scan this code.  Make a sticker of your phone number QR code and put it in a bathroom stall.  If someone is looking for a good time, they’ll scan your code and you’ll be talking in no time!

It’s also good for leaving your phone number at a bar (ladies).  Nothing will guarantee a quicker call-back (or raised eyebrow) than slipping one of these in a guy’s pocket.  But if he’s playing hard-to-get or if he didn’t like you, it might get posted in the bathroom stall.

Artificially increase your web traffic (like a jerk advertiser)

Scan the code below and share it with your friends.  Print this page, cut it out, and tape it to things.  Glue this over a politicians’  dumb code, put it on gas pumps, or stick it on milk cartons at the grocery store.  Come back again and again.

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Please don’t post it in bathrooms…

Tips for Running a Half Marathon

For some, Spring means hanging out at the lake or watching baseball.  For others, Spring is Half Marathon Season!

After you’ve done a few long distance races, you think you’ve got it all figured out and can start educating and encouraging new runners.  Everyone’s always asking me, “Tell me everything you know about distance running in blog post form!”  So I just had to write it down.  These tips will save you time, money, and make your race a much more enjoyable adventure.

Tips for Running a Half Marathon

Buy a Quality Track Suit:
Having the right shoes and clothes can make or break your run.  Spend at least $1400 on shorts, underwear, socks, and a shirt.  Approximately every $100 you spend on running clothes equals ten minutes off of your time!  Look inside of the clothes for special Perks or Powerups.  Nike makes a sports bra with a button you can press to give you a quick speed boost.

Also, be sure to put those things under your kneecaps so your leg does not break apart.  I can’t tell you how many kneecaps I’ve seen skittering across the road after someone’s knees explode.

Carb-Load:
The night before the race, hunt down anything made from grains or sugar.  The best method for storing up this energy is through consuming as much beer as possible.  Think of each longneck as a cylinder in your car engine.  Tomorrow you’re legs will be pounding pavement away like a sewing machine. As the night goes on and it gets closer to race time you’ll know you’re belly’s ready.  That’s a feeling we runners call “the churning”.

Track Your Run:
Just as it’s important to check into a grocery store on Facebook Places or foursquare, you’ll want to be sure to track every single step you take running for the rest of your life.  When your half marathon begins, you’ll probably be back a little ways from the start gate.  DO NOT start your Nike+ or GPS until you reach the gate.

To ensure accuracy, STOP right before you get to the start gate and look at your tracker to make sure it is ready.  If you need a second, be polite and hold up a finger for those behind you.  They’ll know you need a second and politely wait until you have everything set up.  This is also a great time to set up your iPod playlists.

Touch as many People as Possible:
Comradery between long distance runners is as strong as soldiers who has endured the crucible of combat together.  Gently touch as many people as possible on the shoulder as you pass them.  For added points, lean in and whisper something in their ear.  “Keep going buddy!” “I hope you’re getting enough water!” or softly hiss “Meet you after the race for applesss.” These are good phrases to keep in mind but make some up on your own.  Keep track of how many people you’ve touched and let everyone know how many you touched. This is something everyone talks about!

Walk/Run With All of Your Friends:
Make it a girls weekend and walk with 3 of your friends. Have t-shirts made for each Sex and the City character. Walk 4 abreast down the track. This is a great time to talk about boys or exchange your favorite recipes. (Guys can talk about video games and war)  Just remember to consider all of your friends because one of the girls on the end is going to miss out on a lot of the conversation because she’s stuck next to the loud one and when she goes to spread the gossip to her other friends she’s going to screw it all up:

“So I guess Dorothy went to the costume party with Mark and she went as Dorothy and he went as some kind of x-men mutant and when they started doing it in the punch bowl his eyes started shooting lasers like the Cyclops but luckily Dorothy’s real ruby slippers were already off and on the table because it was getting hot so he just put the shoes over his eyes to stop the lasers so he didn’t kill anybody else but they had to leave and she got a DUI because Mark couldn’t see without shooting lasers out of his eyes. At least that’s what I heard when when we ran this half marathon thing last week.”

Be Cautious When Getting Water:
There will be numerous water stations scattered throughout your race.  You’ll want to stay plenty hydrated.  Don’t worry about pee because most of it comes out of your skin.

The proper way to grab a water is to scream and quickly dart across the track towards the water.  Sudden movements indicate thirst. Go for the first water person.  ONLY get water from the first person! As soon as you get your cup, STOP!  DO NOT spill any water on your expensive track suit!  Spread your legs, shoulder length apart, and lean forward and slowly drink your water or Gatorade.  This is a good time to check your kneecap holders to make sure they aren’t about to fly off. Give big smile and a thumbs-up to those around you if your kneecaps are OK!

If Of course you have your phone with you, so be sure to check in on Facebook Places at each water station.

When you’re done with the cup, throw it as far away as possible so a woodland creature or fish can make a house out of it.  Running is very rewarding in itself, but being able to help animals is great too.