Saturday, July 17, 2010

How About Them Apples?

Before I scare you off, this post is NOT about fruit. I promise. If it was, I certainly wouldn’t put that in the title because it would probably discourage you from reading it. But I promise, should I one day blog about fruit, it will be just as crazily hysterical as all my other posts! I know, not much to get excited about…sorry.

Anyways, I digress. You had your disclaimer. Instead of fruit, this post is about a certain very wealthy company that recently surpassed Microsoft in some big-important-rich-technology-company way as the new biggest-most important-richest-most technological company. More specifically, it is about this company’s newest product. “This changes everything. Again.”

Enter Apple with the iPhone 4. Or perhaps the iNotPhone. It’s interesting, because the name “iPhone” would seem to suggest certain capabilities in the telecommunications area. Like, oh, I don’t know… maybe the chance that it would function as a phone? For those of you who have been living under a rock, log, or other assorted outdoorsy, isolated objects for the past week, Apple released the much anticipated sequel to the iPhone 3GS, which was the much anticipated follow-up to the iPhone 3G, which was the much anticipated epilogue to the iPhone. Got all that? Great. They promised that the iPhone 4 would “change everything. Again.”

It certainly looked that way- a new operating system that permitted multitasking (which virtually every other smartphone already had, but we’ll let that slide…), a new “Retina” display, which gave HD images and razor sharp (assuming you’re not talking about a dull razor here) images, super-cool HD video recording and editing, a 5 MegaPixel camera with LED flash, and, best of all, FaceTime, which provides for video calling!!! How cool is that?!?! Unfortunately, Apple was disappointed to discover that some people still wanted to use it to make phone calls… it being a phone and all. Which wouldn’t be a problem… except for the fact that they tried a revolutionary new antennae design which essentially had the antenna run around the rim of the phone. Again, cool, right? Right… unless you DO want to make a phone call. Then it turns out that if your hand or finger touches certain spots on the side of the phone, it would dramatically weaken the signal, even leading to dropped calls.

Now Apple’s response to this slight issue had 3 stages. First: Steve Jobs, the mighty titan of Apple, assured everyone that, don’t worry, there is no reception problem!!!

Um… okay…? Maybe he can explain why customers are… well… experiencing a reception problem…

Ah, well, even though there was no reception problem, it could be because they’re just holding it wrong!!! After all, the iPhone is no ordinary phone (it’s changing everything. Again.) and cannot be held like an ordinary phone! Rather, you need to train for about a week in the proper finger gymnastics necessary to avoid touching the rim of the phone. Then you’re all set! You’re non-existent problem should then be fixed!

When Stage One of Apple’s response failed, they moved onto Stage Two: Turns out that those little blue bars aren’t accurate! Due to errors in the algorithm, two extra bars would show up when they shouldn’t, leading customers to expect a stronger signal than they actually have! “More bars, more places”--- this explains everything!!! More bars is right!!! AT&T is scamming all of us! While this is indeed a problem, I was not sure how it explains the sudden loss of signal when touching a certain spot on the left rim of the phone… must just be those pesky blue bars!!! Er… somehow…

When people were not quite convinced that extra bars were responsible for a lost signal, Apple turned to Stage Three, which is doing what it does best: calling a mysterious press conference. Apple loves calling mysterious press conferences and, I’m sure, revels in the media coverage they get from these, second only to LeBron James’s Week Long Saga. Seriously, we’re gonna start getting lunch updates from that guy and ESPN will set aside 3 of its channels for 24 hours to cover it. What an egocentric jerk.

Back to Apple. The technology company, not the fruit. Hence the capital “A.”

I was expecting them to say “Well, we’ve changed everything (again) just like we promised! We have introduced a smartphone without the phone! Tired of pesky calls from people you don’t want to talk to? No problem! Just tap the side rim and it will promptly go away! Assuming, of course, you’ve mastered the finger gymnastics necessary to stay on the phone long enough to say, ‘Hello.’”

Instead, they announced that they would be sending out free bumpers to everyone that would solve the problem that, a week early, did not officially exist. Or was caused by blue bars. And that was the exciting resolution to iPhoneGate.

Personally, I don’t even think any of this is a big deal. So there were a few reception issues. Oh no. It’s not like any phone has ever experienced those before… The iPhone 4 is indeed revolutionary. The new software, the new ad system, the ability to make video calls, the ability to capture and edit video right there… amazing. I own an iPod Touch and maintain that it was some of the best money I’ve ever spent. I don’t go anywhere without it, and it is without a doubt the most convienent, useful, productive few ounces of metal that I’ve got. If it wasn’t for the ridiculous amount of money you’re expected to pay monthly for the iPhone’s plan, I probably would buy an iPhone 4. There’s one thing that they didn’t change when they “changed everything (again)”- and that, sadly, was the price of the monthly plan. Until they revolutionize change that (for the first time) I’ll stick with a standard cell phone. You know, the kind that can make and receive calls.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Why Cleaning One’s Room Goes Against Nature and Promotes Energy Inefficiency

     Today is one of those great days that teachers love, where we get to apply abstract principles learned in science class to real-life situations. It’s also one of those days that kids will love, where I provide them with a valid scientific argument against cleaning one’s room. Sorry parents. So let’s begin!

     So in science there’s this thing called entropy. Entropy is the loss of energy and order from a system and, unfortunately, all systems tend towards entropy and disorder. It’s why we can’t build a perpetual motion machine, contrary to the claims of a few people every year who manage to piece together some contraption that they think are convinced will move forever. Even though… well… it won’t. Especially since most of these people, being… er… rather confused anyways, I doubt many of these contraptions would move for more than 5 minutes.

     More importantly, entropy is the reason why my room, and everyone else’s rooms, tend to get messy after a while. Some people, whose names will remain unspoken *cough* *cough* Mom *cough* *cough* have the uncanny ability to combat entropy. In fact, I consider them to be Warriors Against Entropy. They wage a nonstop battle against entropy and, therefore, against nature itself. They somehow manage to, immediately after being finished with using something, put it away again. They also periodically go through their closets and belongings and get rid of anything they don’t use anymore.

     Sure, entropy is an unfortunate process, and perhaps their battle against it could be portrayed as admirable, even noble. I, however, disagree with this assessment. My counterargument lies in considering the system of the room and the person doing the cleaning. I will use myself as an example. My past year living in a single has been an ideal experiment in considering entropy and energy inefficiency. If you took a snapshot of my room every day, you would see a slow process of deterioration of order and organization. Yet in no way did this inhibit my ability to perform in any way. As time progressed, I did not have increased difficulty finding things, I did not trip over anything, and it was in no way excessively inconvenient. There was even a nice little path from my door to my bed, passing by my desk, to allow access to all the important locations in my room. This is where the key argument comes in: if I had cleaned my room, fixing a situation that was not broken, I would have expended large sums of energy, pushing my own body towards entropy, for nothing. After cleaning, I would in no way be more convenienced. In fact, it may have been MORE difficult for me to find things in their new “proper” locations rather than conveniently placed a foot away from me on my floor. I think that making one’s bed is the epitome of this: there is no point to it! Why bother expending energy, promoting entropy in the system of your body, to make your bed look nicer when you’re just going to undo everything you just did that day? Why bother doing x when you’re just going to subtract x later on? Okay, so maybe it does have some rather useful applications in a few obscure math problems, but this is by no means obscure! The average person expends huge amounts of energy over their lifetime making their bed when it serves no purpose whatsoever! And so many other procedures are similarly pointless! I would encourage everyone to not let the expectations of society push you towards the inefficient expenditure of energy; be your own person. Be an energy-efficient occupant of a messy room. And be proud of it.



Friday, July 2, 2010

On the Subject of People who Make me Laugh—At Them, Not With Them

     There are a plethora of types of people in the world today. There are people, for example, who love using the word “plethora.” There are those who hate people who use the word “plethora.” And there are those who have never even heard of the word “plethora.” But that’s slightly off-topic. But only slightly, for today I will be considering the category of people who make me laugh. As implied in the title of this post, there are those who I find delightfully funny and those I find delightfully fun to laugh at.

     Those who know me, and even those who don’t and just read my posts (whom I could probably count on one hand), know that I am not a meanniehead. Nor am I spiteful or hateful, regularly laughing at people. In fact, it is with exceeding rarity that I laugh at people. But today, as I logged onto the App Store on my iPod Touch, I found something that summoned from me a good chortle. (Don’t laugh at me for using chortle; it conjures up precisely the image that I want to create in your mind. You could say that, with my choice of words, I am controlling your mind. Frightening, isn’t it? All I have to do is figure out how to convince you to get me a candy bar…) Then came shock. Shortly following was a pity and disbelief.

     Wondering what fads were gripping the youth these days, I was scrolling through the Top 25 Apps. A game called “Angry Birds” held the top spot for paid apps. In the “ratings” section, one person advised against purchasing the $0.99 game because it was “like crack, you can’t stop.” Nothing like advice from a crack addict. I moved further down and also flipped through the different categories. In one, I saw an app, “Mirror in your pocket",” that purported to turn your iPod/iPhone into a mirror. Yes, that’s right. An app that would somehow, through nothing other than computer code, magically transform the iPod’s screen into a reflective surface. That’s right, folks! For a measly $0.99, you could have what was claiming to perform something that went against all the laws of science (and common sense) in the palm of your hand! Who wouldn’t jump at this opportunity?!?!

     Obviously I am being sarcastic. One thing, however, confused me; the app was in the Top 25 for whatever category it was in. This seemed to imply that people actually purchased this! Not only that, but they purchased this technological card trick more frequently than the vast majority of other apps available to them! I was now intrigued. I clicked on the app to check what the reviews said. And that’s where my laughter kicked in.

     One person wrote disappointedly, “Does not work. The lights around the mirror work but the mirror is black and you see nothing.” Another ranted that “All there is are a bunch of pictrue frames!!! No reflection!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Still others wrote, “IS A RIPOFF! DON’T BUY, THERE IS NO MIRROR!! I WANT MY DOLLAR BACK!” and “Doesn’t work on iTouch.”


(This is the part where I laugh.)

(This is the part where I feel shocked at the fact that so many people actually purchased this.)

(Aaaaand this is the part where I feel sorry for them, wondering how they overcome the great obstacles of life, such as tying one’s shoes, eating meals, and bathing.)


     Apparenty, on the iPhone 4, the app simply turns on the camera pointing at the controller so that it displays their face. This, of course, is still nothing close to a mirror.

     I think that this makes an important statement about our society. People have no clue how technology works anymore. If there was a catastrophe that wiped out most of the human race, leaving small groups of average individuals, they wouldn’t have a clue how to keep technology, and therefore society, functioning. It appears that enough people to propel “Mirror in your pocket” into the Top 25 legitimately believed that a piece of software, nothing but some 0’s and 1’s, was capable of transforming their iPods into reflective surfaces. Forget the software, how about mirrors??? Do people even comprehend how mirrors function??? Reflectivity is an intrinsic property that an object either has or doesn’t have; the ability to reflect light can’t be “bestowed” by a piece of software!

     When I wake up tomorrow morning, I think that I will have a new appreciation for the simple things. Perhaps I will pause and admire the way that the bristles of my toothbrush bend, the way that friction keeps my shoes tied, and the way that I can see a distorted reflection of my grinning face in my spoon. And then, after that, in an inspired get-rich-quick scheme, I will design an app that turns your iTouch/iPhone into a toothbrush. No, really; it does! And it’s only $0.99!

Monday, March 8, 2010

ProdigyMedia Presents: Pants on the Ground

My rendition, in an American Idol-style competition, of Pants on the Ground by Larry Platt.


Friday, January 29, 2010

Enter the Tundra. Oops, That’s Actually Just Boston in the Winter…

A New Blog, Dirty Snow, and Tangents, Both Conversational and Mathematical

Hey guys! I just want to let everyone know that from now on, this blog site will be dedicated (for the most part) to non-political topics. I say “for the most part” because, since I run this blog, I can do anything I want with it. I do not claim to have psychic powers. A lack of psychic powers or tachyon receptors in my head means I am unable to predict which future is most likely to occur, which means I may change my mind and post a political post, especially if I think it is amusing or comical. However, for the most part, any political statements I may want to make or any articles that I write will be posted on my new blog, Be sure to check it out so you can vote Normandin in a few years.

In the meantime, here’s something that someone said that you’re all invited to think about. “Why is the snow so pretty when it’s falling, but so dirty once it hits the ground?” I don’t want you to think about it in terms of snow. After all, it’s dirty when it hits the ground because the ground’s dirty. I do realize that, I’m not a complete moron. But when I read that, I was like, wow… that seems like it should have some deep philosophical meaning. And I pondered it for a total of about 13 seconds while I was eating a turkey sub before deciding to turn my attention to more pressing issues. Like the fact that I was thirsty. Did you know, by the way, that in some countries, like Italy, 13 is a lucky number and 17 is unlucky? Either that or 7 is unlucky… or maybe it’s 3… I don’t remember, but the point is that 13 is considered lucky. How odd. However, this is pretty good scientific evidence that luck doesn’t exist. After all, just as a particle cannot have a spin of both +1/2 and –1/2 at the same time, just as you cannot know the momentum and position of a particle at the same time, just as the Jonas Brothers can’t actually play guitar and sing at the same time (or at separate times, for that matter), just as I cannot fit an entire apple and an entire banana in my mouth at the same time, 13 cannot be lucky and unlucky at the same time. I hope my creative and vivid metaphors helped your understanding of something that probably did not merit 2 lines of explanation.

It seems that I’ve wandered slightly off-topic. I tend to do that. It’s commonly referred to as “going on a tangent.” The reason I believe this phrase is used is because a tangent line touches a circle at a single point, and when one goes on a tangent, it is a completely unrelated topic that actually was related, but only slightly at a single point. How interesting. And look, I’ve done it again. This is actually intentional. I think it makes this more interesting to read. After all, if I just went directly to the point, there would be very little entertainment value in reading this. Which is what I’m aiming for.

So to return to the point on the circle that the tangent line touches, you should all figure out the philosophical meaning behind that phrase. Don’t bother googling it, the statement was an observation, not some wise quote. Although these, of course, are not mutually exclusive. But its being a wise quote is contingent on there actually being a deep philosophical meaning behind it, which I’m not sure there is. But my instincts are telling me that there is, and my instincts also tell me to duck if a knife is thrown at me, not to attempt breathing underwater, and to always, always eat lots of chocolate. So clearly, my instincts are usually correct. So, if they are correct, that means that there is a deep philosophical meaning behind the phrase in Paragraph 2. The question that I ask, just as you would ask if you saw a pink lemur hovering approximately 3 feet and 4 inches off the ground, covered in cheese, with a radiant rainbow xylophone, is: what is it? Then again, maybe you wouldn’t ask that because I just told you exactly what it was. Regardless, ponder the quote. Pondering is good for the mind. Just like water is good for people dying of dehydration.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Illegal Immigration: It’s Illegal

My newest article in The Tech.


Opinion: Illegal Immigration: It’s Illegal

By Ryan Normandin

January 13, 2010

Blue hats are blue. Big trees are big. Do you agree with these statements? How about this one: Illegal immigration is illegal. For some reason, this point has been a contentious issue in the United States over the past few years.

Some argue that allowing illegal immigrants into our country helps our economy. Others contend that illegal immigration takes place because legal immigration is simply too inconvenient. Many point out that all people deserve to have a great life in America; everyone should enjoy our liberties and freedoms, especially when illegals often flee to America from oppressive regimes. Illegals are humans, and we need to be compassionate toward their needs. But the fact remains: Illegal immigration is illegal. And by “illegal,” I mean “against the law.”

Of course, all laws are not right or just. If a law is wrong, it should not be followed and people should fight to repeal it. But our immigration laws exist for very good reasons. They prevent criminals, carriers of infectious disease, and other dangerous individuals from crossing our borders.

The Northern Virginia Regional Gang Task Force concedes that “immigration has … played a major role in the rise and proliferation of Hispanic gangs in the region.” Many of their members are likely illegal immigrants, and while I don’t pretend that every one of these individuals would have been rooted out had they gone through the legal immigration processes, there is no denying that many would have been.

Moving beyond the crime statistics, allow me to address those who argue that illegal immigrants help our economy by taking jobs that no other Americans would want. In a recent study by the Pew Hispanic Center, there were approximately 8.3 million illegals in the U.S. labor force in 2008. Also in 2008, the number of unemployed Americans jumped past 10 million. There is no doubt that many of those 10 million would be only too willing to take jobs they would have avoided under normal economic circumstances.

Unfortunately, many of those jobs were taken by people who should not even be in the country. In fact, a 1997 study by the American Academy of Sciences found that between 1980 and 1994, the cheap labor of illegal immigrants caused up to a 44 percent decrease in wages among the poorest legal citizens. Since then, the economy has only gotten worse and the unemployment rate has soared. How many of those ten million unemployed would be working if illegal immigrants had not taken the jobs? How many of millions or billions of dollars would American citizens be saved in unemployment benefits?

It makes no sense for taxpayers to pay for unemployment benefits because immigrants who are here illegally are taking jobs, leaving legal citizens unemployed. Not every job filled by an illegal immigrant would be taken if that person was not here, but a very large, very significant portion would be. And if even one more legal citizen is able to provide for his or her family because one less illegal immigrant came here, then it is absolutely worth it.

Some people argue that our immigration system is simply too cumbersome to expect people to follow it. But then murderers, robbers, and other criminals might have a similar attitude towards the law, and that’s no excuse. The vast majority of Americans came to the country through immigration long ago, and many did so risking their lives traveling across the Atlantic Ocean in boats that were crawling with disease. They did so through the long waits and difficult experience of Ellis Island.

They earned their places in American society. Any illegal immigrant who does otherwise is spitting on the graves of those who came here legally and those who perished in the effort. If people come to America to achieve the “American Dream,” the first step is to obey the law. I apologize if the immigration system is “cumbersome,” but Americans have every right to ensure that anyone entering this country is not a terrorist, criminal, or otherwise a threat to American society.

Many people say that we need to be compassionate towards illegal immigrants. I agree. We should be compassionate in our dealings with all types of criminals, but being compassionate and ignoring the law are two different things. Where is our compassion for all those legal citizens who are out of work because of illegal immigrants? How about all the families that have been torn apart by a death at the hand of an illegal immigrant? The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that in 2004, there were 6,181,000 traffic accidents that killed 42,636 and injured 2,788,000. If illegal immigrants are responsible for only 5 percent (and by some estimates even more), that is 309,050 accidents, 2,132 deaths, and 139,400 injuries.

In addition, illegal immigrants would be responsible for $11.5 billion of taxpayer money in associated costs. Advocates ask for compassion. How about compassion for the thousands that have lost their lives as a result of illegal immigrants? The fact that Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick wants to allow illegals to get drivers licenses and attend college at an in-state tuition rate makes me sick. They should be deported, not rewarded, for their criminal acts.

One final argument is that the fee associated with immigration is too high and the test they have to take expects too much. But if coming to America is really worth it, then that money can be saved and the information necessary studied and learned. Therefore, there is no logical basis for arguing that illegal immigrants in this country should be treated as anything other than criminals. They are a risk to our national security, a risk to the welfare of our people, and an expensive cost to the taxpayers. I have a strong admiration for all those immigrants who had the strength of will to come to America seeking greater liberties and prosperity, and who did it legally to allow their new home to remain safe. Those who come to our country but are not willing to follow our laws are not worthy of admiration, only a ticket back to where they came from.