WIDLM: Hygiene Technology

I recently watched an episode of Star Trek: Voyager in which the artificially intelligent, self aware, solid holographic doctor gave himself a holographic disease to help him better empathize with his patience. One of the symptoms of the disease was a runny nose which he alleviated with holographic tissues. Everything else in Star Trek is phasers and anti-protons and they’re still using tissues for runny noses?

This is how I feel most times I have to use a tissue. I’m basically doing the same thing every human has done when mucus leaks from his nostrils for the past hundred years. The only major advance has been to make it disposable, which is good, but that is like 90 or something years old1. Why are we using the same old technologies for these basic functions that everyone needs to use so frequently? Why isn’t there a better way to wash my hands, or wipe my bum, or clean the goop out of my eyes?

I want real innovation on these fronts, and I want the general public to be more open to change in these intimate areas of their persona lives. Together we can avoid the dystopian 24th century where our holographic doctors still have to use holographic tissues.

[1]: History of Kleenex Tissue: http://inventors.about.com/od/kstartinventions/a/Kleenex.htm

WIDLM: Cords

I have a lot of cords in my life, and I wish I didn’t. In like 5 years everything will be cordless, and people will take it for granted most of the time, but every once in a while something will make them think of the days before everything was cordless and they will look at nothing and bask in the knowledge that those days are behind us, and that life can never again be as bad as it was then.

I can’t wait for those times. Cords ruin the simplest things I want to do and irritate me so constantly that it’s hard to describe. I think many of you probably think I’m blowing things out of proportion or over reacting, but I think deep down you all feel my pain. You are repressing you’re hatred for the cord because you don’t deal with it so consistently as me, perhaps, or because you think it is the way it must be. But it is not the way it must be. Cords will be gone soon and should be gone now.

Never again will there be tangling, knocking, disconnecting, twisting, fraying, tugging, too long, too short, lost, hidden, hard to reach, ugly cords everywhere. Just imagine that world, and you will hate cords as I do.

The WIDLM year (partial) in review

I missed a few weeks of WIDLM over the holiday season because everything was so perfect I didn’t even understand the concept of not liking things. The thought of blogging about something I couldn’t comprehend didn’t cross my mind. But, now that’s over and I’m sure you’re feeling ripped off so to try to make it up to you I’m going to take a look back at all those things I didn’t like between July and December of 2011.

I started off with Security Lines. I haven’t had to fly since the trip that inspired the initial WIDLM, but I imagine I still don’t like them. I know I don’t like them in concept. Those guys are trying to get the right to arrest people now… /rolls eyes.

Next was WordPress… but my issue with them they fixed… so never mind that. 🙂 Then the anti-rangers, which is people who are inconsiderate of nature, especially at national parks. They are forever a problem, but at least now I don’t have to watch them in action.

After that I complained about commercials. I think there was a specific one that was bugging me from Arby’s or something, but man I hate commercials. Every time I see them I hate them more. I hated them when I was young, and I hate them 10x as much now. Commercials are strange in that the less I see them, the more I hate them. I guess I can’t maintain that level of hate, so I get numb to it in cases of constant exposure. Anyway, die commericals, die.

Then I waxed philosophically about the unnecessary letter Q, and the unnecessary mammals dogs. Then how being sick while unemployed has no silver lining. After that I wrote about the dual monitor cursor glitch I was experiencing, which I since resolved. Another off the list.

After that I wrote about reality TV. That was after Pat’s bachelor party. Man I hate reality TV. Basically anything I said about commercials can be said for reality TV, except at least commercials occasionally fund worthwhile entertainment. Way to ruin that reality TV.

Then I moaned about Miro, which I have since uninstalled, so that problem is sorta gone. 😛 Cleaning, in it utter futility, I cried about after that. Then dancing… it it’s utter uselessness.

The next was corner cutting, which was a bit self reflective… a bit self critical. A rarity. I haven’t noticed much corner cutting in my life recently, but perhaps I’ve just not had many opportunities. Maybe the post helped me better myself.

I got a jump on complaining about the holidays and ranted about people who diminish the importance of Thanksgiving by moving on to Christmas too quickly. I poke you guys in the eye. Then I complained about the rich… oh, I remember now. Really I was not liking when people are too wealthy to feel societal penalties… like parking tickets or fraud charges.

The next one was fad diets, which I don’t like because they prey on the desperate and confuse the public for the purpose of making money. This rant went a little of script and turned into my own diet advice piece, so that’s noteworthy.

I took on the education system next and tackled grades. Then the post office and snail mail. Down with ancient government institutions!

After that I mentioned that I don’t like aging. I hope we cure that soon. My next complaint was a little simpler, my computer chair. Mother made me a cushion for Christmas, so that’s another problem from the list that has been solved.

My most recent two were lag and lines. Two of the most troublesome problems of the modern first world. Roughly 90% of all sadness can be traced to those two things. I suspect they will plague us for years to come, but I haven’t felt their sting lately, so that’s good.

Well, there you have it. 6 months (almost) of what I don’t like. Keep them in mind and try to make my life better. Looking over the list I can tell it is far from definitive, so I will try to keep you updated in this, the year 2012.

WIDLM: Lines

I don’t like lines. Big deal. Nobody like’s lines… queue’s in the UK. Just one of life’s minor problems.

Well, I have to say, I certainly prefer lines to the system we had before lines, the mob. Where the strong and violent went first and some people might never get a chance. The line is certainly more fair and civilized, and all around less destructive. But it’s been like, I dunno, many hundreds of years since the advent of the line and little has improved upon it.

There was the “take a number” innovation sometime in the past, so you didn’t have to physically save your spot. And a more modern version of that is seen at some restaurants, where you get an electronic devise that starts beeping at you when it’s your turn. Those are both great, but we can do better.

This is the 21st century. I want that devise to constantly be updating with an estimated time and error bars. It knows how many people are in front of me, and it could have access to a massive database to extrapolate the time each person is likely to take. That data would also be useful to providing a margin of error, so I could err on the side of caution in I wanted to. The devise should alert you if there is a dramatic change in it’s estimations for some reason. It should also be possible to use the devise to make slight adjustments. Like… say, if I’m in line for something, and it says that it’ll take 45 minutes. So I go off shopping (this is clearly hypothetical) and time passes and then all of sudden my estimated time goes from like 20 minutes to 10, and I’m not going to make it back in time. I should be able to use the device to say, I can’t get back until 15 minutes, so try and arrange it so that I don’t hold up the line, but that I don’t loose my place entirely. That way maybe 1 or 2 people could cut in front of me, maximizing efficiency, but I’d still have the freedom to use my time. This power should have limits, though, or else people would abuse it and then the estimated wait times would be constantly inaccurate.

There are other possible tweaks to the classic “line” we could make. Maybe they could start auctioning spots in line. Or making it a game. People try and answer trivia questions or something for chances to move ahead in line. I look forward to the glorious future queue.


This is just a generic one. Everyone hates lag, so it’s not very insightful, and I don’t really have anything to add to the subject, but I just really hate lag. In a few minutes I’m going to try and play Modern Warfare 3 with my friends, but it will only be like half as fun as it should be because of lag. And tomorrow, hopefully, I’ll get into Star Wars: The Old Republic and I’ll probably die a few times when I shouldn’t have because of lag.

The world would be better without lag. I wish it would stop existing.

WIDLM: my chair

We’re going small time this week. I’ve been sitting here trying to figure out what I don’t like and it’s been right under my… nose.

I got this chair about 8 years ago. It is a Costco computer chair. Probably like $90. And I have sat in it quite a bit. I have sat in it so much at this point that pretty much all the padding has been smooshed the sides where I don’t sit. It makes the chair difficult to use for the marathons I would put it to. It is not so uncomfortable that I move around very much more than I would otherwise, though, I don’t think. Once it gets to that point it will probably actually sorta be a good thing, and I’ll probably switch chairs.

In the mean time, if any of you have any techniques or fixes for this particular problem, let me know.

WIDLM: Aging

It’s my birthday tomorrow. I’ll be 27. Not exactly old, but I can still remember times in the past when I could remember easier or run longer. That running thing could probably be overcome with exercise. Regardless, it puts into mind the notion that aging is pretty lame.

I’m sure it serves some useful purposes. Like, uh… I dunno. No, can’t really think of any. We should do away with it.

Aging isn’t necessary. I know because some animals don’t really do it, like tortoises. Aging is a problem not recognized by biology, (at least in our case) and therefore one that hasn’t been solved. Any issues you see with it are only issues because we’ve built our notions of reality and society around the idea that people age and die. Aging should be classified as a disease, a cure funded by government money, walks should be walked and a ribbon color should be worn.

A world without aging would be a different place, but it would be way better. Pretty much all other disease is really just being old, so if we cured old, we’d wipe out a lot of other diseases with it. I could wax hypothetical about other possible ways curing aging would be nice, but I’m getting too old for this. I’m gonna go lie down for a while.

Side note: I watched Star Trek: Insurrection yesterday. That’s the one *minor spoiler alert* with the planet bathed in magical radiation that magically rebuilds DNA making you young forever and magically has no negative side effects or magic. In like 2 days on the planet Worf unaged from mid 40’s to puberty. If such a place existed, I see no reason to destroy the planet or move the local population. Just get everyone to take a weekend holiday there once every 20 years or so and you’re golden. Maybe the effect goes away once one leaves the radiation or something, although, from the magical mechanism they give for eternal youth, I don’t see why it would.

WIDLM: Snail Mail

Mostly I’m just writing this one because I don’t have Modern Warfare 3 yet. I preordered it, and they shipped it to me starting the day after it came out from New Jersey, even though there are like 1,000 copies within 10 miles of me. What kind of a stupid system is this? I’m pretty sure I’ll get it later today, but man, the inefficiency is bothersome, almost as bothersome as missing out on the beginning of the games life cycle. QQ

Just in general I don’t much see the need for snail mail anymore. Obviously it is still necessary to some extent, since some old people don’t have internet and of course physical objects need to mailed. But games are digital, no reason I couldn’t have just downloaded MW3. And post cards are tweets from 100 years ago. Time to update people.

I don’t really have a point this week. I just don’t like sending, receiving, or in any way interacting with the mail service. I’m glad it exists when I need it, but that’s pretty rare. So when they talk on TV about how the USPS is gonna go under, I sorta think it’s time. We can’t bail out everything forever.

WIDLM: Grades

I don’t like grades. I haven’t liked them for a while, and not for the usual kid reasons of having bad ones. I’ve had a lot of grades in my life, more than most, and a lot of A’s too. More than most. And I still don’t like grades. I will ramble about why… now.

By grades I mean the big A or C or whatever you get at the end of class that sums up the whole year or semester. I am not against the concept of assessing ones learning, like, on a paper or test, but the report card grades put an unnecessary barrier between education and the goal of education, which is learning things. Since people only look at the grades, it becomes more important to get good grades than to actually know anything. I guess the purpose of grades must be as a way to communicate to the world how well you learned a subject, so let me go over all the ways grades are really bad at this. I’m sure you know them, but still.

As an indicator of whether someone knows anything the grade is only as good as the tests it is built on, and those mostly suck. Grades are temporally locked, so I can get an A one day, and forget it the next, but the A will never be changed. Grades are limited in scope. There’s no way to distinguish between the prodigy A and the just scraping by with cheating A, and there’s no way to distinguish between the got a C despite raising two kids C and the got a C because I was drunk during the final C. This limitation pigeon holes people, causing a self fulfilling prophecy. People are not motivated to do more than is necessary to get an A, so most don’t, and a similar situation exists for people on the cusp of the other letters. Teachers have complete control over grades and are pressured to have high scoring students, so that further skews grading, reducing its value. Grades are often given for group activities, but are only ever viewed on an individual basis, causing an unaccounted for delusion of credit. There are no universal standards between schools, disciplines, or teachers, so an A from one place is not the same as an A from somewhere else. I’m sure there are other’s but I grow bored with this.

Grades are bad at what they’re designed for, but they’re bad for a bunch of other reasons as well. Grading on a curve encourages competition instead of collaboration. They encourage teaching to, and learning to, the test. They stifle the great, since there’s nothing better than an A, and they discourage the struggling, since they get labeled permanently. They’re forced onto fields that they really don’t make sense for, any course where objective measures are not possible or desired. Grades are also stifling teaching creativity, since if they can’t grade it then they aren’t allowed to teach it.

Grades are not serving their intended purpose, or any other I can think of, and they’re making life a lot harder for pretty much everyone involved. I’m not sure I really have a solution to this problem, though. If I was asked to come up with something to try I’d say that we start with a system somewhat similar to what we have now. Several small tasks during a course, punctuated by a few bigger ones, each with grading similar to what is used now, although it could be tweaked to the teachers preference since it will no longer need to add up to a big letter at the end. Each course will end with a final project, and possibly a presentation of some sort. This final project must demonstrate the students understanding of all of the core principles of the course, the learning objectives. That project itself will be the grade. So, when you apply to college or whatever they can ask you for your Calculus project and your Junior and Senior English projects, or whatever they want. Physical projects will be a bit of a challenge, but photographs/videos should serve for most purposes. Some projects will likely require the presentation be included as well, as the students explanation of the project will be as important as the project itself.

In thinking about this project idea a little more, I come to like it better in that it’s not temporally locked. There’s nothing to say you couldn’t improve on your project. In fact, it seems it would be quite common in some fields to use a previous project as a starting point for your new project. After the course is over one could continue to work on the project and/or presentation to better reflect one’s current understanding. If a college or interviewer wanted a current snapshot of your abilities they’d simply demand a live presentation on the subject of whatever project they were most interested in.

The projects would be open ended, so they would be more interesting to the students and more informative to an interviewer. They’d function somewhat like a portfolio, but of your entire life. The artists have always had less use for grades, it makes sense that they would have figured out a good alternative.

Plus, added bonus, some of these projects would probably actually be useful. Like… leading to inventions and new companies. Unlike our current system which has us cranking out 1 million nearly identical papers on Romeo and Juliet every year.

As for cheating, I think it could be easily rooted out by just having a question and answer section in the presentations. Any student who had their project done by someone else would have to be intimately familiar with it anyway to answer any potential question, so the effect would be nearly identical, regardless. In fact, it would be nice if there would be some way to encourage mixing of projects when appropriate. For example, in computer programming classes, each student could code pieces of one greater program. Or students could work together to design and conduct a more complicated or extensive experiment than they could do alone, but would each still have to be responsible for a presentation and a QA session.

*shrug* seems pretty good to me.

WIDLM: Fad Diets

This WIDLM was sparked by this post on BoingBoing. If you didn’t click the link, it is basically an ad for a book some guy wrote that can be summed up as, “Wheat is killing you!” It caught my attention partly because I’m the son of a wheat farmer, so wheat is always more interesting to me than most people, and because it’s not exactly the typical affair on BoingBoing. I went to the post soon after it showed up in my RSS feed and found 20 comments, 19 of which were negative toward the book, or the advertising nature of the post, so they really beat me to everything I had to say. So I’ll say it here.

I’ll broaden the focus here to include all the fad diets. Paleo diet, Atkin’s Diet, Low Carb diet, No Carb diet, No Fat diet, probably a bajillion I’ve never heard. They all fall into this category of not entirely crap, but mostly crap, that makes me uncomfortable. I can’t just say, “Crap!” and leave it at that. I have to qualify everything. So here it goes.

So, everyone knows these diets I’ve listed. Why? Because they were popular? Why? Well, it’s not because they work, or we wouldn’t have needed the 5th one. I think it’s because they each work well enough to create enough compelling anecdotes. You can’t have a diet book without a lot of anecdotes. That’s a must. So, for every popular fad diet out  there are probably dozens of others out there that didn’t even work well enough to break the threshold of minimum anecdotes.

“Well,” you say, “these ones worked better than the others, so there must be something to them”. “Yes,” I respond with numerous qualifications. If you think about this a little bit, the diets I’ve listed are not very different from each other. They all have you remove a huge portion of foods from your diet, most recently this has usually be carbs, before it was fat. My contention is that the people that lose weight on these diets do so because when they cut out those huge pieces of their diet out, they don’t replace it with as much other stuff. I mean, say you can’t eat carbs. That means whenever you want to eat you have to eat a salad, or a steak, or something harder to get a hold of than a cookie or toast. You’re just not as likely to over eat if you have the discipline to not eat carbs.

“Great,” you say, “you just proved that fad diets work.” No, I didn’t. I “proved” that eating less calories and burning the same amount causes you to lose weight. These diets don’t work because carbs/wheat/processed food/food combinations are bad for you, they work because they make it more difficult for you to over indulge in food in general.

I’ve got a new diet. It turns out that low altitude is the problem. Storing food at the same altitude as you live is bad for acid balance and your chi. Humans evolved from monkeys, who have to climb trees to reach their food, that is the natural order. What you need to do in this modern age is store your refrigerator, and all your other food, in a shed at least half a mile vertically above your house. You can eat whatever you want! If you get a craving for some pie, that’s fine, just put on your boots and hike to the food shed. The only rule is that you cannot eat in the food shed, cause that’s bad karma. You have to bring the food back down to your dining room table to enjoy it slowly like nature intended. And you can only bring back one meals worth, since if you have leftovers then you’d be storing it at your own altitude, and that would ruin all your hard work. I guarantee if you follow my system you will watch the pounds fall away. And here’s some anecdotes to tickle your emotion centers…

If you’re following along with me you might be thinking, “Well, fine, so the diets don’t really work because of the way people think they work, but so what? You’re still basically saying they work.” No, I’m not. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Defeating the animalistic desire to pack on as much weight as possible is a harder problem than that, and we’re not going to be able to beat it without understanding what we’re doing. Not eating carbs, is not something most people can do, and it’s not something most people want to do. As a result, people don’t keep up with these diets. That’s why they invent a new one every 6 months, it’s to catch all the people that started gaining weight since they quit the last one. People are kicking themselves over every crumb of bread they eat because they are convinced that those carbs are going to make them fat forever. It’s not that crumb that makes you fat, it’s the 10,000th crumb right after dinner. Avoiding the 10,000th crumb is a lot easier than all the crumbs.

What people really need to do is just eat less and/or exercise more over a long period of time. The fad diets are a way to trick yourself into eating less for a little while, but they rarely work over the long term, because they’re extreme. People like extreme in a book. It sounds new, it sounds convincing, it sounds like it’s worth a shot. But extreme is not what people want when it comes to diets. At least not the majority of people. If most people wanted it, it wouldn’t be extreme.

All these diets do is trick you into eating less and convince you that whatever machinations they made you use to eat less were the key. I say, even though it’s not easy, we should at least keep in mind that eating less is what we’re actually trying to achieve, and not pretend and obscure it.

I don’t normally do this, but I’m going to give some suggestions of what would actually be better than these fad diets. Here are some ideas if you are trying to eat healthier and lose weight.

First, factor a food’s healthfulness into your equation of whether to eat it. I know, sounds simple, but I think a lot of people just eat whatever’s handy when they’re hungry, so long as it tastes good. I’m not saying never eat dessert, I’m saying that you have to really like that dessert, or be really really hungry in order to eat it. If you like pie more than cake, then maybe don’t eat cake. Or if you kinda like Doritos, but you know they’re really bad for you, maybe it’s not worth it. The worse a food is for you, the more you have to like it in order to eat it.

Second, substitute for the healthiest option you can stand. White or wheat? Wheat. 2% or skim? Skim. butter or margarine. Margarine. Always try the thing with the fewest calories. Maybe it’ll be terrible and you won’t eat it, then go back, but just try less. Maybe you’ve been slathering butter on your toast for so many years you don’t even know why you do it any more. Could be that if you had less you wouldn’t even be able to tell the difference. Constantly choose the smallest end of what you think will be acceptable. And keep decreasing these amounts. You know you don’t really need more than you’re using now. Slowly you’ll get used to the new norms, and many small changes will add up over time. This follows the formula from my first tip. Maybe you like whipped cream. Do you need whipped cream on all the things you put whipped cream on? If you had less would it taste worse? Do those sprinkles actually make the cookies taste better?

Third, exercise in your normal life. Park far away and walk. Take the stairs. When you’re carrying things, do curls. Stand on one leg in line. Anything you can think of to add a little bit of exercise into your day. Additionally, you’ll have to do actual exercise, but every little bit helps, and stuff like those examples are basically free. You should also try to go on walks and figure out a basic fitness routine. I recommend slowly building it up so you find an amount of exercise that fits into your schedule and won’t drive you crazy. As you get stronger you can up the amount of effort expended, but keep the time constant. This way you don’t end up skipping exercise entirely because you “don’t have time”.

Fourth, and I know there’s a theme here, but if you find that these smaller things aren’t working for you, and you are thinking of trying harder, more strict controls on yourself, do some slowly. Don’t all of a sudden eat half as much as you normally do, or go jogging for an hour a day. If you aren’t happy with your health as it is do some small things and maintain them for a while. You won’t know how big an impact they have right away, and you also won’t know if you can sustain that level of discipline and effort. Take things slowly, determine what sacrifices are worth the benefits, and soon you’ll have a life not tortured by constant pain from deprivation, or discontent from ill health.

I know some people do not believe this calories in calories out argument I ascribe to. Partly this is because of the fad diets are doing such a wonderful job arguing against it. Partly it’s because people don’t want to believe it. Partly it’s because it seems somewhat old style. Partly it seems too simple. I admit that it is an over simplification, and I don’t contend that there are not other factors to consider. I’m sure that if you exercise more, you will get hungrier and maybe eat more as well. I’m sure if you eat less you body reacts by more efficiently extracting calories from what you do eat. These complications, and many more, are why you have to take things slow and give all the complex systems involved in human nutrition time to stabilize and the effects to accumulate before you make an assessment of its value. Ultimately calories in calories out wins for one simple reason… physics. We, in the end, are subject to the same fundamental laws that govern everything else in the universe. Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, only moved and transformed. The first law of thermodynamics says if you eat less energy than you expend, eventually, you will lose weight, and I’ll trust it over any nutritionist peddling a book every time.


Diets that say one thing is making you fat/unhealthy are wrong, unless that one thing is eating too much and moving too little. If you want to make changes in your life, do them incrementally, and slowly, instead of all at once.