b3ta.com user Timberwolf
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Zebra + Horse = Zorse

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» Crap Gadgets

This is a tale of two men and their vacuum cleaners.

I have a Henry. It has a cheery face, it needs emptying about once per general election, and cleans well despite my having once rolled it down the staircase of a Victorian two-up, two-down by accident.

In the time I have had my Henry, a friend of mine has owned exciting, exotic and expensive robotic vacuum cleaners, at least one of which has excitingly, exotically and expensively destroyed itself to pieces.

My typical cleaning session goes like this: Recover Henry from cupboard. Plug in. Hoover round the flat, pausing to move the occasional rug or chair. Put Henry back in cupboard. Make tea.

My mate's goes like this: Program robot to start a hoovering cycle. Try to find out why it hasn't moved. Wonder why it hasn't got any battery charge. Jiggle robot and base station around until former starts charging from the latter. Go out. Come back home to find the robot has managed to clean a 14 foot by 6 inch L-shaped section of carpet. Plug all the cables back in the television where the robot has attacked them. Unbeach the robot from the shoe it has tried to drive over. Supervise the robot while it trundles round the lounge, occasionally rescuing it when it gets trapped under furniture or stranded on a ledge. Tidy up any more cables the robot has tried to drag across the floor. Watch the robot suddenly stop trundling and zoom back to the base station, only to stop three inches short of it and make a sad beeping noise before shutting down. Note with disappointment that large swathes of carpet have been ignored. Go and get the backup hoover from the cupboard. Do all the bits the robot missed. Wish there was time to make tea.

I'm sure all these Roombas and Trilobites and the like are amazing triumphs of human ingenuity and mastery of artificial intelligence... however, I can't help but wonder that they'd be more honestly sold not as vacuum cleaners, but as devices capable of finding the nearest shoe and beaching themselves on it with improbable efficiency.
(Thu 29th Sep 2011, 20:16, More)

» School Naughtiness

We had an RE teacher. I don't know whether he'd really, seriously taken to heart the idea about turning the other cheek, but a class under his - well, I'd hesitate to call it control, more like gentle guidance and advice from the sidelines, really - could get away with anything.

So we locked him in his supply cupboard. Repeatedly. Stealing the keys, jamming a chair under the door, moving a bookshelf - it didn't matter what, gathering textbooks or important RE supplies was a voyage into peril for the hapless "sir".

For some reason he didn't seem to mind this. Maybe he just assumed being locked in the supply cupboard once or twice a lesson was an unavoidable consequence of being an RE teacher. Occasionally if we'd locked him in there for a particularly long time he might make us copy from a textbook for a bit rather than have a "fun" lesson, but I think of all the people I've known to be locked in cupboards his was the calmest acceptance of his plight.

Now, maybe there was some latent kind-heartedness in all of us evil pupils, because for our last lesson with him, knowing we'd most likely get a normal teacher next year, one who'd tell us off and that, one who might treat a session in the supply cupboard as instant class detention, we clubbed together to buy the shirt of his favourite football team; Brighton & Hove Albion.

To show his gratitude, he wanted to put it on. But it wouldn't really fit over his shirt and suit jacket. But that didn't matter, because his class offered the perfect solution.

"Why don't you go in the supply cupboard and get changed, sir?"
(Thu 8th Sep 2011, 22:43, More)

» Little Victories

You know those people who, when you're wandering along a pavement in town, seem to be doing their utmost to walk into you, so they can enjoy the satisfaction of having a little huff about how you were IN THE WAY, or whatever it is that happens to be the designated winning move in the bizarre game they're playing?

Well, a couple of weeks ago I was wandering through a covered walkway when a youngish bloke speared off from his original direction of travel at a 45 degree angle. Destination: square of pavement I was about to occupy.

Ever helpful, I stepped to one side and stopped. He altered his vector back to intercept. I stood where I was. The other guy approaches, making it as clear as it possibly can be that only one of us is going to be taking avoiding action, and that's going to be me.

At the last minute, I do so. Being forced to stand aside does not make me unhappy, though. In fact, my mood was measurably improved by the encounter, particularly the soft fleshy thump of someone faceplanting the brick pillar I'd been standing in front of.
(Fri 11th Feb 2011, 23:30, More)

» Crap Gadgets

I'd forgotten this one. I think I've tried to wipe its very existence from my memory and only attempting to use it this evening has reminded me.

I bought a PS3. This seemed like a sensible decision at the time - a humble PS1 had entertained and delighted through University years, my PS2 had been a thing of joy and wonderment, so when Sainsbury's had a cut-price deal on the latest incarnation I thought I couldn't go wrong with Sony's portly wunderkind.

It is the single most disappointing object I have ever owned. Turning it on is akin to opening a crushing vortex of disappointment, enough to envelope the entire lounge with a sense of despairing gloom.

I bought a game for it. It has a picture of a car on the box, but from the gameplay I've experienced so far it would be better titled "Downloading Update". Sometimes I get to the second level, where you have to download a "System Update" to "Sign In", and once I discovered a driving minigame where AI cars ram you off the track until you get bored and start again, but mostly it's a slightly more graphically enhanced copy of Microsoft Progress Bar Simulator.

So anyway, I cut my losses and stopped trying to play games on it, assuming it would at least need electricity to disappoint. At which point it rebelled and used some kind of magic disappointment force to give my personal details to Bad People From The Internet.

This wasn't so bad as I hadn't really given it much more than my name owing to being too disappointed by the awkward input scheme, and I did get some free games as an apology. One of them is the Neutral Entertainment Game. It entertains me to precisely the level of my natural decay towards boredom. I will finish playing it exactly as entertained as I was before I started. Some might question how this is disappointing but - aha! - it's the psychological long game of disappointment, disappointing through the medium of questioning the existential emptiness of everything.

The other game I haven't tried, but every so often it wakes the PS3 up at a random time and re-downloads all 7 or 8 GB of game files. I assume it's a version of "Downloading Update" that plays itself. If you weren't already in enough of an existential crisis from Neutral Entertainment Game then hah, how do you feel now you realise the console doesn't even need you, the player?

The worst thing about it, though, is it has somehow managed to infect an HDMI cable with its disappointingness, as if the plastic casing has failed to contain such a huge amount of disappointment. There's a MTBF of about 15 minutes before the screen will go blank and you'll need to wiggle the cable to get a picture back. So the one thing it could do well, playing DVD and Blu-Ray video, it has managed to render itself useless at. All it has left to give now is disappointment.

(At least until I buy a new cable for it to consume with its overpowering negativity.)
(Sun 2nd Oct 2011, 22:42, More)

» Twattery

Going underground.
The Tube. Oh gods, the Tube. I know it's a pretty easy target in this context, but I swear TfL must have a giant warehouse of twats that they dump at a station every morning and allow to percolate through the network just in time for everyone to be trying to use it. In fact, the only reason the Tube shuts overnight is so LUL employees can go round with monkey nets rounding up all the twats ready for the next day of inconsiderate twattery.

(They're pretty easy to track. You just follow the unmistakeable sound of the International Shit Music Podcast played too loud on the dire pair of headphones Apple bundle with all of their devices.)

It's got to be official. One of those old Victorian byelaws of the type that get wheeled out for man-in-pub-esque "Did You Know?" newspaper articles during silly season. A statute that every Jubilee line train must have one person who sits in their seat right up until the moment anyone else tries to get on, at which point they get up to test the limits of adherence to the "let people off the train first" rule. Mandates on the percentage of people determined to stand in the middle of the vestibule despite the empty corridor beyond (99%). A rule that no matter which way someone moves to let other people off at the station, there will always be just that *one* who has to shove past in the opposite direction. It's just too perfect, too regimented, too one per train carriage to be mere accidental, everyday twattery of the sort enjoyed above ground.

I can see this actually. A committee of 19th century mutton-chopped gentlemen gathered in the club puffing at pipes debating whether every station needs someone trudging endlessly up and down the stairs with a piece of wheeled luggage the approximate size of a VW camper van (as described in the popular science fiction of the time), or whether just the ones which are really, really busy will do.

So yes. For this question, I nominate those bastard secretive Victorian cabals who made the rules. Twats. Monocled, sophisticated twats, but twats nevertheless.
(Mon 16th Apr 2012, 23:00, More)
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