Tipping Point

Friday, August 7, 2009
Is tipping really necessary?

I can't be bothered to do the research, so I'm sure there are plenty of blog posts about this, but it occurs to me that there's no legitimate reason to continue the practice of tipping servers at restaurants.

Some places allow servers to be paid less than minimum wage on the assumption that they'll make above the poverty line via tipping, which is ignorant and unfortunately false sometimes. It's much easier to wrap your head around the idea that servers should be paid the wage they are now, except via their paycheck, and the cost transferred to the customer at a reasonable 15-20%.

Why should this bother anyone? I typically tip 20%, both because I used to work as a bus boy, and recognize the need, but also because it's easier to do the math. As long as what I end up paying is the same, why do I care that the money goes through the check instead of a few disgusting dollar bills on the table? Servers are then guaranteed a certain amount per check, which leads to dependable and predictable income, increasing job satisfaction and reducing turnover.

Ok, you might say it gives them incentive to do a worse job. But honestly, how often have you had terrible service that was a direct result of the server? More often than not, they're as upset as you are if your food is late, or incorrect. And it's not just because of the potential for their tip to be reduced; the whole server-diner relationship becomes somewhat tinged with guilt, the server for the lackluster performance, and the diner for having to tip. And if you feel that you regularly overtip those plundering servers, perhaps you also feel we should extend tipping to other service industries as well, such as paying %20 less at Radio Shack (no, I'm not calling it that), when the service is awful, uneducated and ambivalent, which is always. That's a fair point, but only if it's fairly applied. The way it is now gives the tippER the burden of rating service via cash and the tippEE the burden of relying on the good-heartedness of his or her clientele. I can't tell you how many times someone I've been with has over-emphasized how bad their service was to get out of paying a tip.

Just get rid of the idea already. The only damage it'll do is cause the makers of the 20,000 Tip Calculator iPhone Apps to go belly up.

Live Poultry Fresh Killed

Thursday, July 16, 2009

So a while back I was wandering around Boston, and saw this little gem of a sign. I couldn't help but snap a phone-cam shot of it. I thought I'd have a wacky photo to share with the world.

Little did I know that I was hardly the first person to snicker at this particular sign. How unoriginal.

The shop, Mayflower Poultry, apparently does sell chickens that are slaughtered on-site daily. They also sell a variety of merchandise emblazoned with the (ostensibly) famous graphic.

Call me old-fashioned, but I can't help but find the live poultry, fresh killed thong underwear more than a little disturbing.

In Meat-Related News...

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Holy crap! There's a catastrophic Slim Jim shortage forecast for the rest of the summer. Now what the hell am I going to snap into?

In not-quite-related news, Oscar Mayer died. Now, I'm a fan of bologna-related humor as much as the next guy, but did the Los Angeles Times' obituary really have to start with "His bologna had a first name. His bologna had a last name. So did he." and end with "No word on whether the funeral procession will be led by the Wienermobile" ?

Something I've wondered

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Do homeschooled kids get yearbooks?

Fo' Wiizzle

Monday, July 6, 2009
Adding to yesterday's collection:


Too soon, Nintendo!

Sunday, July 5, 2009
So I was playing my import copy of Wii Sports Resort, and started to notice that the other occupants of the island on which the game takes place were caricatures of famous people and characters which the developers added in:

Jack Black:

Chuck Norris:
The Scream dude:
Harry Potter:
Gotta be Weird Al:
Cleveland from Family Guy (there was also Chris Griffin and Quagmire, but didn't get a snap):

I'll be interested to see if they take this one out of the US release:

Update: Here's some more.

How to Tell That Your Novelty Meme is Dead

Friday, June 26, 2009

When the local Hallmark begins selling your hilariously-reviewed
Amazon item
, it's probably best to move on. And yeah, the little
card in front of the shirt is a printout of the review.

Wondering what the heck this is all about? let me google that for you.

Send to Pseudonym, c/o Weaselsnake, π weaselsnake towers

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

This entire page is dedicated to answering the question I have re: the following video:

Prototype trials December 2008 from Chariot Skates on Vimeo.

If you want me to answer that question definitively, I'd be willing to accept reviewer's copies.

Arm Wrestling

Saturday, June 20, 2009
So let's say you had an open-source operating system that was being systematically destroyed at every opportunity by a monopolistic commercial competitor. Your OS is terrific, not just for you and your users, but potentially for a lot of other people who don't know it exists. (No OS is "better" than any other for everyone, so it's important to remember that the commercial competitor is a choice like any other)

With programs like the infamous "Better on Windows" (link withheld) initiative at Asus, coupled with the genuine desire of the manufacturers of small, low-power netbooks to prove an alternative TO Windows, as they're almost entirely focused on providing cheap but good products, what are you to do with the 500-lb Gorilla on your back? If you're Dell, then you have enough clout and power to offer some - SOME - machines that run Linux, but what about Acer, MSI, and Pixel?

Well... how about getting those manufacturers to install CPUs in their machines on which Windows won't run?

The only defense Microsoft has to something like this is to make Windows run on an ARM processor, rather than an x86 processor. This isn't very likely, since Windows doesn't do a great job of supporting even the variances in computer hardware WITH x86 standardization, not to mention the fact that even if Windows itself ran on ARM processors, it wouldn't be much good to anyone using, say, Office or Photoshop. Any software that runs on an ARM Windows would need to be ported to ARM code. Not impossible, but expensive and as companies like Adobe have shown, not fruitful enough to bother.

The other defense is the typical Microsoft offense, which is to lean on these companies financially until they relent and offer Windows, ideally exclusively, which'd mean a return to more expensive x86 CPUs. These companies might not have anything at all to lose from an angry Microsoft so it'd be interesting to see how that shakes out.

With Linux (and specifically Android), you already have an OS that'll run on ARM hardware, and the vast majority of software that people use (though it may suck compared to its commercial counterparts, yes) is open-source and so therefore much more likely to be recompiled to run on a new processor.

I think this is brilliant, and I for one will buy a netbook with a sunlight-viewable screen, ARM processor and Android as soon as my Acer Aspire One goes the way of my DS.

"Fax this to Hannibal at once!"

Monday, June 8, 2009
I've always been fascinated by how things work. One of my favorite books as a little boy was A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, not because it was written by one of the great American writers, but because it was interested in the same questions I was: what could we do with today's technology if we had access to it several hundred years ago? I've always maintained that a single modern machine gun could have changed the balance of the American Revolutionary War, and very well would have been a Kingmaker back in the days of the Roman Empire. In the book, modern knowledge itself is used by the main character to masquerade as a sorcerer; eclipses seem to come at his command, his knowledge of physics and metallurgy is enough to convince King Arthur and others that he truly possesses arcane rather than "better" knowledge. As they say, any advanced technology is proved in the book to be indistinguishable from magic. With a well-armed or even mediocre knowledge of how things work, you could do very well for yourself in the twelfth century.

But how would you do?

If you've received your high school diploma, you may have a fundamental knowledge of physics, mathematics, biology and the like, but how practical is any of that? Sure, you know that electricity exists and how it exists; you may have been tops in your class at grasping the concept of heliotropism or valence electrons; when it comes right down to it, what good is that going to be?

Let's say you wanted to make a clock. I'm not talking about Big Ben or the NIST Atomic Clock, or even anything as accurate as the Tony the Tiger watch you're wearing right now, proudly displaying your ability to send in 3 UPCs and $5.99 S&H. Let's say you wanted to make a rudimentary timepiece that lost less than - let's say - 30 minutes a day. Could you do it?

I couldn't.

I know how the first clocks work, I understand the mechanics and concepts well enough to potentially design one that, with testing, could be as accurate as my challenge. But I'm missing several crucial skills. The first is an ability to metalwork. The second is the technology to produce the specific metals themselves. It seems to me that a lot of this fancy is built on a premise that you'd have the tools to make what you'd like, and the tools to make them, etc. etc.

It's like a game of Civilization. Even if you had the schematics for the Space Shuttle in 1509, you couldn't build one, even after a lifetime's work. Churches and castles took dozens of men several decades to finish, and let's face it, beautiful as they are, they're not particularly sophisticated technology-wise. I was building fortresses with Lego when I was 8.

I'm not bragging here. I happen to know how clocks and many other pieces of technology work. And there's quite a few I don't understand, even on a fundamental level. The computer you're reading this on now, for example. You know that it houses a CPU and RAM. Once this post has entered your computer, what happens to it? How exactly does a CPU work? Many of us have never even seen one. When confronted with a modern microprocessor with millions of transistors (how do THEY work?), clocks are child's play.


My introduction to mechanical engineering and the understanding of how machines and other pieces of technology work came in the form of a Channel 4 television series called The Secret Life of Machines by Tim Hunkin and Rex Garrod. These two eccentric engineers (and though I love both, awful television hosts) went through the inner workings of all sorts of common machines, such as the television and elevator. They used unsophisticated animated drawings and large-scale demonstrations of each individual piece of the main device to show you how the things basically worked. In a half hour, one could learn about the electron gun that powers your TV (though obviously leaving off the superfluous bits like the aerial tuner and audio amplifier) well enough to explain to someone else.

I loved these shows and would watch them constantly, as often as they were on, despite there being a grand total of 18 of them. Tim and in particular Rex were hilarious in their enthusiasm for the experiments they were conducting, often prompting surprised smiles and suppressed giggles from either of them when the experiment worked (or didn't). Tim was the main presenter, but Rex was the one who let you connect to it all. Every other episode or so would have a brief monologue from the bearded northerner, explaining how the concept of whatever this week's machine had helped him in a project or installation of some crazy contraption in the past. These non sequiturs could often be the highlight of the show, with the awkward man trying to explain how washing machine motor and linkage fit into his animatronic suit of armor or whatnot.

Tim is also a prolific cartoonist, writing a comic strip called "The Rudiments of Wisdom", which had the same basic premise as the show, except it was obviously much more condensed and unavailable to a growing boy in the USA. His cartoons make appearances in the show both for instructory reasons and also for humor value. They are very very funny at times, especially for fans of very subdued British humo(u)r, but one would be excused for thinking that they are... a bit amateurish.

But you don't have to take my word for it: The entire series is available on the internet, courtesy of The Exploratorium. Do yourself a favor and watch. Who knows? Knowing how a telephone works might save your life, or the one about copy machines might land you a job some day. If nothing else, the reggae version of "Take Five" that opens the show is worthy of a listen.