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!