Friday, September 14, 2012

Mom Makes Mittens

(For anyone unfamiliar with the saga of the Texas Perimeter Hike Mittens, please refer to my blog post about right here.)

A while back, my mom made me some mittens while I was freezing my butt off walking east to west along the Red River in North Texas.  The mittens, truth be told, were very warm, but there was one unfortunate, aesthetic problem: the thumb was about as long as a donkey's dong.  My thumb, poor thing, couldn't even reach the hole that was made especially for it.  Anyway, I figured out a way to make the mittens work but retired them after that winter.

Well, there's good news for those who loved them the first time around: They're baaAAaack!!

As you can see from the above picture, she has remedied the obvious problem of the elongated thumb by a procedure that those in the industry would refer to as "slice and dice."  Unwittingly, she has made a curious new aesthetic mitten with which one must pause to fully appreciate.  Turning it sidewise, you might see what I'm talking about.

It looks like Moby-Dick!!!!  I swear, I didn't think it could get any better than the Pac-Man ghost (as seen on the TPH blog), but my mom's got some tricks up her sewing and knitting sleeves.  

Up close, you can really see that the sewing and cutting that she had to do to "fix" the thumb was necessary to create this unusual effect.  There aren't any teeth, but the shape lends itself to the idea of teeth.  And this got me thinking about it once more: What else do the mittens remind you of?

Yes, my oh-so-innocent mother has given me a pair of Alien mittens.  I know they're not familiar with that movie or that super famous cinematic scene, so I'm throwing down a link for it.  Frankly, I prefer this version.

So you might be wondering why I've included this post on The Idea Train.  It's pretty simple, actually.  I don't think my mom should stop making mittens.  The best way to get better at something is through trial and error.  But these mittens, the former Pac-Man/Moby-Dick/Alien mittens cannot be saved.  I will use them and keep them, maybe even mount them on the wall next to pictures of me spearing them in the Corpus Christi Bay.  But altering them further will not bring them back from the brink.  I think they should stay the way they are.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

HuffPo Needs a Better Algorithm

There's a lot of complex math going on behind the webpages we all visit.  If you receive an email with the words book or novel in it, you're instantly targeted with ads ranging from book publishing to's latest bestseller.  That's pretty insane when you think about it.  How in the world does Google's software pick "book" from an email in which the writer might have also included other important nouns like "mother," "homework," "baseball," or "car"?  I couldn't tell you.  The fact is that we've got a lot of really smart people writing really smart programs that essentially govern the media we're exposed to.

So it begs the question: if these people are so freaking smart, how is it possible to stumble upon something as blatantly STUPID as the above shot, taken from today's Huffington Post website.  The Huffington Post, or HuffPo as it's sometimes referred to, is an internet-only news source.  It's liberal, so if you've been plugged into FoxNews your whole life, you might not have heard of it.

So back to the shot.  Take a really close look.  The title of it reads "HuffPost's Big News Pages."  That's a good start.  It gets you wondering what is going on in the world.  There are some obvious ones, of course -- "Energy," "Election 2012," "September 11 Anniversary," "Hurrican Isaac 2012," "Libya," and "Taxes."  But wedged in there are some real losers: "fish" and "Bacon."  If you've got a puzzled look on your face, that makes you a normal human being.

What the hell is bacon doing up there with September 11 and Taxes?  Seriously.  This is evidence of an algorithm, some fancy piece of mathematical software, gone very very wrong.  Obviously, the HuffPo's software has grabbed all the websites that have gotten the most hits.  That's fine.  But they can't forget that there are actual HUMANS reading their website.  It's more than a little offensive to see BACON up there with a NATIONAL and WORLD TRAGEDY.

In chess software, you can't just tell the computer that the King is the most important piece on the board.  You have to assign it a value.  From what I've been told, you give the King such a high value (like a million versus the Queen's value of 9 or the Pawn's value of 1) that the chess program understands as a byproduct that the King is to be guarded at all costs.

It seems to me that if it's that easy to do that in chess software, it should be equally easy to do that with this.  Just assign Bacon a negative value in relation to Big News.  It's that easy.  Take it off the list.  People who are into bacon won't be offended, just like people who like comic strips aren't offended that they aren't on the front page of the newspaper.  Seriously, this one is a no-brainer.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Remote Control Ball?

Who knows why dogs love fetch, but they do.  A lot.  My dog goes after the ball like she's going to save the world.  And then she'll do it again.  And again. And again.  As long as you're willing to throw it, she'll go after it with all she's got.

Fetch is a great game, but it's not particularly satisfying on the human side of the equation.  If you don't have a ball gripper, it's even worse, what with saliva and dirt and whatnot.

What I propose is a new form of fetch in which we humans have some form of control over the trajectory of the ball.  It doesn't have to be hi-tech like a remote control ball, but I admit that would be pretty awesome.  I have no idea if this is even possible.  Would you have to use magnets or wind or electricity in some weird never before thought of manner?  You figure it out, brainster.  I'm just telling you what I'd buy as a dog-owner.  Woof.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Clips I'd Like to See

When I'm walking around town, I sometimes amuse myself by singing new song lyrics to old songs, matching normal people's faces to actors, politicians, or other famous folks, or by playing the "what if" game.  Most recently, I've had a couple of funny "what if"s, so I decided to share.

The second was about The Matrix Reloaded.  The famous fight scene between Neo and an increasing number of Agent Smiths was really fun to watch, but I started wondering if I could fend off a whole group of little kids.  This made me chuckle, reimagining the entire scene with little kids instead of grown men.  It's akin to the humor in Billy Madison in which Adam Sandler plays dodgeball with a whole bunch of little kids.  Anyway, if you want to make an internet meme, make this clip!

The first was about Aerosmith's Crazy video that came out while I was in high school.  For those not in the know, that's a younger Alicia Silverstone slipping out one of the windows of her prep school.  It's memorable for just about every dude my age because, at least in those years, she was the epitome of hot.

So, oddly, I found recreating this fun, sexy video into a hilarious one featuring a couple of nerds.  Imagine instead of Silverstone a guy slipping out the window and getting his shirt or underwear caught on the latch as a fun beginning.  It only gets better when he meets up with his other dorky friend, and they take off for a day in the town.  If you're a RTF major, this would make an awesome final project.

So that's it.  No ideas today about solving world hunger or the energy crisis.  I'm just excited to see a couple of potential memes that have floated around in my mind and made me laugh.