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Perfectly Rational Fridge-a-phobia

(This week's Secondhand SCIENCE saga is all about radioisotopes. It sounds like some itchy disease you'd get from listening to NPR. But no. It's another thing entirely. Go see.)

I've never been drugged in my sleep, kidnapped and whisked off to another location that's a near-exact replica of my home.

Well. Not so far as I know, anyway. Though I have wondered who keeps getting crumbs all over my couch, which I usually notice soon after I've eaten dinner on it.

I'll keep an eye on that.

In the meantime, I assume my kidnap-slash-disorient scenario hasn't ever happened. To me. Probably.

But I did buy a new refrigerator recently. And it's pretty much the same thing. Everything seems normal, but something's a little... off.

It wasn't that way right away with the new fridge. No, at first, it was waaaaay the hell off, because it sat, half-dismantled, in my living room for three weeks. Because math. Or hinges. Or narrower-than-regulation Victorian era doorways or some shit like that. I don't know. And I don't really care.

What I do know is that one day some large men from the appliance store came back and, for all I know, opened a goddamned wormhole in my living room and shoved the fridge through it into the kitchen. Or maybe they miniaturized it with a shrink ray and recombobulated it in the next room.

Or they learned how to measure a doorway.

Something. But when they left, the new refrigerator was sitting nice and neat in a cozy corner of the kitchen. And no rifts in the fabric of spacetime near my crumb-covered sofa have opened up in the meantime, so it counts as a "win".

So now there's a fridge back in place, and restocked with milk and beer and sandwich pickles and a three year old nearly-full jar of capers that no one remembers using or buying, but don't throw those out because as soon as you do, you'll need a bunch of capers for something.

"It's an odd feeling, like accidentally using someone else's phone or discovering your underpants are on backward."

Like, I don't know, inducing vomiting, maybe. Or playing a game of tiny soft marbles. How should I know what you do in your kitchen?

The point is, everything is back where it should be, and things are back to almost-normal. But they're also... different. It's an odd feeling, like accidentally using someone else's phone or discovering your underpants are on backward. All the regular stuff is in the fridge, and the fridge is more or less where a fridge used to be. But nothing is exactly right.

Take the sodas, for instance. Two liter bottles go on the door. They've always been on the door. I've lived in this condo for six years, and it's been exclusively a sodas-on-the-fridge-door experience. But no. The sodas don't fit in this fridge door. Now sodas are middle shelf. You reach for a fridge-door bottle of soda in this fridge, and you get a handful of Newman's Own Italian dressing. You don't want a glass of that with your pizza. Or with your anything else.

For that matter, the whole orientation is different. The old fridge, a built-in that came with the place -- because there was no good way to get it out, I'm guessing -- was a righty-fridge, lefty-freezer model. All the coldest stuff was in the left hand door. Ice cream. Microwave burritos. Vodka. Penguins. Anything you wanted to keep extra-cold.

But no more. New fridge isn't lefty-righty; it's uppy-downy. The freezer is a big-ass drawer on the bottom you pull out, like from some kind of bedroom dresser. Only instead of old sweaters and backup swimsuits, you pull frozen peas and Otter Pops out of it.

Maybe that's not odd to you. Maybe you've gone uppy-downy with your fridge for years. Or maybe you keep your bathing suits in the freezer. Again, your kitchen. How am I to know?

For me, it's weird. And oddly, weirder than when I'm somewhere completely different. When I'm in someone else's house, rummaging through their fridge -- as one does -- I just assume things are going to be in odd places. That's half the fun of it. You put your butter there? Why is the jelly on the condiment shelf? What kind of monster are you, anyway?

But in my kitchen, I should know what to expect. And let's face it, I need to know what to expect. Most of the time I open the thing, I'm half-asleep because it's:

a. three in the morning, because I've stayed up doing something stupid like complaining about refrigerators for fourteen hundred words, and I need a glass of water before bed -- or milk, or Hidden Valley Ranch Low-Fat Thousand Island, thank you very much; or

2. seven in the morning, because I'm up for some godforsaken early meeting at work, and I need a dozen eggs or a wheel of cheese or one of those delicious frozen penguins in me to make it through the nightmare.

If I can't autopilot my way through these scenarios, then I'm in big trouble. And I'm in big trouble over here. I went for ice cubes yesterday, and wound up with three squirts of mustard in my glass. What I thought was jelly for my toast was actually sriracha for my sinuses -- and don't even ask me what I just sucked on that was in no way an Otter Pop. I threw it in the trash before I could make a positive I.D.

Eventually, I'll get used to the new fridge layout -- the wacky spot where the tall bottles go, the basement chest of frozen drawers and the weirdo cubbyhole just big enough for a bottle of Worcestershire sauce, like that's a thing you'd bother to designate a special place for. Honestly, this fridge. I don't even.

So yeah, I'll adapt. If I make it that long. In the meantime, there's a fair chance I'll chug something gnarly that was in an unexpected spot, or chew through a glass jar because it's sitting where we used to keep the leftover pizza. What I'm saying is, if I die in the next few weeks, I'm sure I know who the murderer is, and I can give you a clue up front:

It was the refrigerator. In the kitchen. And probably with that stupid-ass jar of capers.

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Soon, I'll Say the Darnedest Things

(Hope over to Secondhand SCIENCE for this week's nonsense, and learn about the zinc finger. I promise it's the least frightening finger I'll ever describe to you.

Unless you have a phobia about metal-binding proteins. Or frogs. Or formalwear made from garbage. Then you're on your own.)

I can be socially awkward. This should come as no surprise to anyone who's ever been within thirty-five feet of me in public. It can be a burden, and embarrassing -- but I've finally figured out my problem. And better, how to solve it.

You see, I've discovered my particular brand of awkwardness doesn't stem from having nothing to say. Some people have that; a loss for words -- blanking out in conversation, or shying away entirely -- but that's not exactly my pathology.

Because I have things to say. Oh, I've got plenty of things to say.

They're just not socially appropriate things to say.

And that's the crux of it. I'm a smartass, I don't like small talk and I take most things people say at face value. And the problem with that -- insofar as there's a "problem" with being totally efficient and awesome in conversation -- is that nobody wants to hear the reactions that come most naturally to me.

Okay, I suppose that is a "problem". Assuming I ever want to interview for a job or meet new friends or order a cone at the local ice cream shop. Which I do.

(Wellll. Two out of three. In the summer. At best.)

"Statements like these are the conversational equivalent of rice cakes."

Anyway, where I falter is when some friendly socially-forward goober wanders over for a conversation and says something like:

"Sure is cold today."


"Thank god it's Friday, amirite?"

Or my favorite:

"You got a haircut."

I have responses for all of these statements. Not that they require responses, semantically, because two of them aren't questions and the middle one is really rhetorical, but I've tried not responding to these sorts of things, and the speakers tend to look at me expectantly, with raised brows and drooly chins, until one of us breaks the impasse and walks away.

(It's always me. They never walk away. Why do they never walk away?)

(Don't answer that; it's rhetorical. Which I'll tell you up front, because that's what people ought to do; what the hell is wrong with society?)

Ahem. Sorry. I got a little caught up in my pathology. Please forgive.

The point is this: Statements like these are the conversational equivalent of rice cakes. If you want to have them in private, that's your self-hating prerogative -- but don't drag other people into your nightmare. Munch your semantically null sentiments off in a corner somewhere, and come back when there's something substantial to say.

That's the dream. It's never going to happen. And I'm the dick for dreaming it. Fine.

It turns out, I'm also the dick for responding in the way that comes naturally. Like to the "cold today" quip, what I'd like to reply is:

"Actually, it's much colder on the surface of Neptune, where your flapping lips would freeze together and shatter and we wouldn't have to have this inane conversation. So no. It's actually not quite cold enough."

Or to "TGIF":

"According to most religious texts, the various gods seem to favor either Saturday or Sunday as holy days, so you'd get the most out of thanking your deity of choice for one of those. Also, since Friday is not the weekend, I'm stuck here at work listening to you regurgitate slogans you read off a coffee mug, so whatever deity you worship, I hope he, she, it or they cast you into the abyss, snake pit or lake of fire that's used by your magic sky person, animal totem or transcendent pot-bellied vagrant to eternally torment the souls of unbelievers, heretics, baby slappers and people who turn left from an optional turn lane without using their signals."

Those sorts of responses, I've come to learn, are "not appropriate".

I disagree, of course. The responses are completely appropriate to the statements; they're just not conducive to remaining an employed, married, non-incarcerated, (marginally) respected member of society. Which is also kind of important.

So I can't say the things I want to say, a lot of the time. I also can't say the things that I'm supposed to say -- "it's dang chilly, brutha!" or "all them hairs got cut!" or "only thing better'n Friday is Huuuuuump Day, baby!" -- because I just can't.

For one thing, it kills me a little bit on the inside. And also the outside, where I'm sure my look of abject horror shines through like an endoscopy scope peeking up out the throat of Edvard Munch's Scream.

But mostly, replying in the usual way never seems to end the conversation. It just encourages more of the same -- "was it hot enough fer ya yesterday?" -- and nobody wants that, particularly if there are any sharp pointy objects in the vicinity.

Hence my awkwardness for four-plus decades. My instincts are wrong. Social convention is way wrong. So I've always been stuck.

Until now.

Now I've figured it out. I don't have to be a jerk (other peoples' label; not mine), nor do I have to be a soulless slave to societal convention lacking creative gumption enough to try to share genuine personal thoughts and feelings (okay, that label's mine). I can choose a third way:

Word of the day.

That's my new plan. Every day, I'll pick a word. A fun word. Nothing mean or meaningful or relevant; just something fun to say. Like "persimmon". Or "Sasquatch". Or "mumbletypeg". And when I'm in one of those stuck moments, caught between expectation and excoriation, I'll say the word.

Nothing else. Just "peccadilloes". Or "alabaster". Or "lollygag".

And then I'll nod, as though I've said something perfectly reasonable, and see what happens next. Probably a "what?" Or a frown. Or more small talk, since that seems to be the "go-to" for a lot of people. And that's okay. Any of those will simply get a smile and a repeat of the day's word. Whether it's "applejack". Or "dirigible". Or "onomatopoeia".

And that'll keep me sane. (-Er.) Also married, non-incarcerated, and slightly-but-maybe-not-completely-less respected.

Employed, I'm not so sure about. Maybe it's best I don't unveil my new plan on a Friday. Because TGIF, baby. T. G. I. F. Apparently.

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Oh, the Wearing Outside is Frightful

(This week in Secondhand SCIENCE silliness: ionizing radiation. It's the most fun you can have without an electron.*

* Don't go having fun without an electron, kids. What would your grandmother think? Lord.)

With a winter like ours in New England -- relentless blizzards, subzero wind chills, snowdrifts the size of albino brontosauruses -- you eventually start asking yourself some important questions. Questions like:

Will the yard ever thaw again, or should I start charging neighborhood kids two bucks a pop to ice skate on it?

Can I claim snow blindness on workers' comp, to get out of trudging through waist-high Siberian slop to the office every day?

If I trip face-first into a snowbank and play it off as though I'm making a snow angel, will anyone actually believe me? And will the bus I'm waiting for leave without me in disgust?

Important questions, all. But the most pressing one I've found is not one I expected. It's more of a wardrobe query, and it's this:

When does a thing stop being "clean", exactly?

Let me preface my thoughts on this by saying it's not a question that usually comes up. A worn garment is a dirty garment -- a filthy, unclean, shameful lump of cloth to be hidden away from polite society until such time as it's been laundered, fluffed and, depending on your fabric softener brand, made to smell like a thousand old ladies buried in a rose garden.

"The rule is clear. I might bend it occasionally, when push comes to salsa stain, but I've never questioned the rule."

In other words, worn equals dirty -- with a few exceptions. Weekend sweatpants, for instance. A hoodie slipped on just to make a beer run. Gently lived-in jeans on a desperate Friday morning, when the only clean options are tuxedo pants and a neon pair of Speedos.

The rule is clear. I might bend it occasionally, when push comes to salsa stain, but I've never questioned the rule. It's the rule.

That was before the four snowmen of the Blizzapocalypse blew through, shitting sleet on our heads like New England had collectively signed up for some sort of climatological ice bucket challenge. Now the rule isn't so clear. For instance:

All week, I wore four shirts. The average forecast was fourteen degrees below absolute zero, or something equally ridiculous, with a seventy percent chance of slipping on icy sidewalks and falling ass-backwards into a snow bank. So I layered. I started with a T-shirt, then a long-sleeved T, then a heavier long-sleever and then a sweatshirt or rugby or whatever I thought I could get away with wearing to the office that wasn't lined with fur or the cozy warming blubber of baby seals.

These shirts were all different, every day. But by mid-week, I started asking: are some of these things still "clean", by some reasonable definition?

Like, clearly, not the T-shirt. That thing is rubbing up against pits and hair and tucked into pants and became dirty -- really, truly dirty -- roughly three seconds after I put it on. The T is not clean. Nobody's saying that.

Ditto the outer shirt. While its experience is perhaps less... suffocated, it's out there in the elements, sleeves flapping, touching people and walls and probably rogue globs of salsa, so it's definitely not clean, either. It's seen things, man. And it's probably filthy.

But what about the shirt under that? Existentially speaking, is it clean? It's not exposed to the world. It's not touching me. It's got a two-shirt buffer from me, to soak up any scents or liquids or anything else a disgusting human might ooze throughout the day. So, what's its status? Clean? Dirty? Can I wear it again without washing it? If I do, can I tell anyone? Is this even a sane question? And if it is, should I write about it in a public place, exposing my madness to the world at large?

Clearly, the answer to at least one of those questions is "yes". Sadly for us all. But that doesn't answer my original question, which is whether some of those "sandwich" shirts in the in-between layers are clean. Or "clean", which would be close enough, because I lived in a dorm room for four years and heaven knows we didn't come anywhere close to "clean" -- or even ""clean"" -- the entire time.

It's not just the shirts, though. Oh, no. We're not in "layer your torso and be done with it" territory here. This is time to gird all the body parts, which means extra insulation all over -- which means further conundrums vis a vis personal hygiene and doing fourteen loads of laundry every week.

Seriously. Sandwich shirts are easy, by the time you start asking yourself whether you can recycle the middle pair of three socks into your wardrobe. Or whether any of four pairs of boxers were safe enough from your junk to make it back into rotation.

So yeah, this winter is tough. The shoveling we can handle, and the driving and the freezing and the roofs collapsing under two tons of white stuff. But the wardrobe planning?

Shit. Make it spring already, would ya?

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Juuuuust a Fridge Outside

(Steal yourself some time to check out this week's Secondhand SCIENCE screed on kleptoplasty. It's got chlorophyll. And corn.

Also cannibals, chipmunk nuts and some chick in a bologna suit. As all good science should. Check it out.)

I was never all that good at math. I mean, I can add, and multiply smallish numbers together and convert inches to millimeters, if you give me a few minutes. And a quiet room to think about it. Also, a calculator.

Basically, I'm cool with any sort of math you might need to do to calculate baseball statistics -- because honestly, what other point is there of learning math at all? Sure, astronauts should know a little trig, and math teachers should maybe watch Good Will Hunting at some point, but otherwise it's just piling on. The final college math exam should just be figuring out the batting averages and ERAs for every schmo on the Minnesota Twins, and congratulations, you're ready for an office job.

(This has the added benefit of getting someone, anyone, to pay attention to the Twins for a couple of hours. Those guys are like the Cleveland Indians, without the Major League love.)

I say all of this to admit that I'm no Benoit Mandelbrot when it comes to mathematicals, but I've recently learned that I'm also not the worst when it comes to numbers, either. Because that trophy belongs to home appliance installers.

"We scoped out brands and features and which in-door ice makers would make cubes in naughty shapes for parties."

My wife and I recently bought a new refrigerator. We scoped out brands and features and which in-door ice makers would make cubes in naughty shapes for parties.

(Answer: none of them. You're missing an market here, fridge peddlers.)

Once we had our favorite models in mind, we moved on to the very most important spec of all: width. Because you can pick out the most spectacular refrigerator of all -- it can deep-freeze your Ben and Jerry's, email when you're low on milk and squeeze boob cubes into your Tom Collinses all day. But if it won't fit in the kitchen, you're shit outta luck. And also outta milk, and that appears to be Cherry Garcia dripping all over your linoleum. Aw.

We didn't make that mistake. There are a couple of ways into our kitchen -- the condo layout is sort of a Mobius strip -- but the biggest available doorway is thirty inches wide. That's thirty. Three. Oh.

Like I said, I'm not much with the maths. But I got out an abacus and a few sheets of paper, and I figured out that to get through a thirty-inch doorway, we'd need to buy a fridge that had a maximum width of less than thirty inches.

(I know, I know -- nobody came here expecting word problems. This isn't the SAT. But bear with me. There's only one more bit of math. Promise.)

So we did just that. We picked out a model that claimed to be, minus the removable door and brackets, less than thirty inches wide. Not by a lot. Let's face it -- a six-inch wide fridge isn't helping much of anyone. You could store uncooked spaghetti in there -- standing up, not longways, obviously -- and that's about it. Maybe pencils. Or a single row of hot dogs.

Clearly, we wanted something wider. So the fridge we selected was on the higher end of what's feasible: twenty-nine and one-half inches. A tight fit, to be sure. But physically possible. Shoved through on a dolly, there'd be a whole gaping quarter-inch chasm on each side as buffer. Easy. Like tossing those hot dogs down a hallway. Or something.

So we ordered the refrigerator, set up a delivery and on the date a couple of guys came and wheeled it into our living room, next to that thirty-inch doorway. They removed the door and some other fiddly equipment, dollied it over and said...

"Uh oh."

Turns out, there are flanges -- or flangey-type metalish things; my applied engineering is about as good as my math -- sticking out of the fridge cavity, by about an inch. Which, added to the twenty-nine and one-half inches advertised in width, is apparently too big to fit through the door. Or so the guys told me. And then showed me on a calculator. And Texas Instruments don't lie.

We then dipped into a fascinating discussion on semantics, and whether the "bracketless" designation in the spec sheet also implied "flangeless" -- or "flangey-type metalish thingless". Also, we debated the nature of the phrase "less than thirty inches", and found our philosophies on the matter to be, shall we say, less than compatible.

Which is odd, because that's pretty basic math. I know it's math, because there are numbers involved. And I'm sure it's basic, because it's something I've actually learned. If it were rocket science, it would involve Greek letters and derivatives of things, and I'd get a headache thinking about it. But I don't. Until I talked to the installers.

So. Now we have a second appointment with the home appliance people, who maybe this time will send a mathematician on the crew. Or at least, someone armed with a goddamned flange remover. In the meantime, we have a perfectly lovely, full-featured, doorless and flange-protruding refrigerator disassembled next to our living room couch. It's not keeping our Chunky Monkey frozen, and my hot dogs and spaghetti are scandalously room temperature.

All I know is, when this thing gets in there, it had better make the naughtiest ice cubes the world has ever seen. Somebody owes me.

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Snowpocalypse Forever

(Blind yourself with Secondhand SCIENCE. This week, we're adding maths to the mix with some words on statistical significance.

Does compute, baby. Does compute.)

There's a trick to spending the winter in Boston. It's the same trick I imagine would be needed to spend a winter in Minneapolis, or Vancouver, or, say, the ice planet Hoth:

Park your car in a garage.

It took me several winters in Boston to learn this lesson, because I'm not all that bright. Also, I was busy shoveling snow during most of those winters, so I didn't have a lot of free time for reflection. But eventually, slowly, I learned.

That's half the battle.

The rest of the battle, presumably, is actually owning or renting a garage spot in which to park, and I haven't exactly figured that part out yet.

(I suppose the other alternative would be to ditch the car. But that's not exactly practical for people in my situation.

Like, honestly, what if you had to bring groceries home from the store on Hoth without a car? It's not like they make hatchback tuantuans.)

That puts me in a bit of a pickle, automotively. I do have a parking spot -- but it's not in a garage; it's in the great outdoors. By which I mean, it's at the end of an overcrowded behind-a-brownstone parking lot accessed via a narrow snaking eighty-foot driveway across the street.

"I just want to park, and to not wind up like Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining when I need to drive somewhere."

So not "great outdoors" in the "Grand Canyon" or "Swiss Alps" sort of way. But it sure as hell ain't a garage.

In the best of conditions, it's not even much of a parking lot, what with all the vehicles crammed in together and the angled-parking angles jutting all willy nilly. What it is, after a blizzard, is a fantastic snow receptacle. You can store tons of the stuff in there. On top of cars. Between cars. All down the driveway. It's fantastic, if you're in the snow hoarding business.

And best of all, even if someone comes in to rob you, they can't get any of that snow out without an industrial bulldozer. You could be the Scrooge McDuck of snow.

That's not really my thing. I just want to park, and to not wind up like Jack Nicholson at the end of the Shining when I need to drive somewhere. Like South America. Where it's warm.

This year, I've finally made progress. That parking spot of mine has had two feet of snow dumped on it in the last two weeks -- and another foot coming this weekend, it's rumored -- but there's one key difference between this season and the winters of back-breaking shoveling past: my car's not in it.

You see, I've failed in fifteen Boston years to find a garage spot near where I live. But I have managed to weasel into a job that gives me a parking spot beneath a shopping mall three blocks from where I work.

I'm not saying that's ideal, either. This is the life I'm working with, is all.

So whenever a new storm's on the way -- like yesterday -- I leave my car at work, in the mall garage. Sometimes I walk three miles home, for the privilege. Sometimes, it's a white-knuckle cab ride through the hordes of people desperately stocking up on bread and milk and non-edible sidewalk salt. But the best way through this Arcticifaction of New England -- perhaps the only way, judging by the thousands of street-parked cars that haven't been dug out in three weeks -- is this remote-parking, garage-borrowing nonsense I've adopted.

Now. If I can just swap my sidewalk for some nice clean warehouse hallway. That would be sweet.

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Automation Resignation

(Another week, another science. Secondhand SCIENCE, that is.

This time, we're talking tumor suppressors -- the genes that do important and necessary things, but are only really appreciated after they're gone. Like Vincent Van Gogh, or orthodontic braces. Or a veggie burrito. You get the idea.)

I'm thinking about looking into home automation, or the "internet of things" or "casa Futurama" or whatever the hell people are calling it these days. I haven't taken a serious look yet. I just know that it sounds terribly cool, and that if you don't have the gross national product of a small second-world nation to throw at it, it's going to be disappointing.

Still. It does sound cool.

Take "smart appliances", for instance. We were in the market for a new refrigerator recently, and one of the models that caught my eye was a "smart" model from Samsung.

(Which begged the obvious question: are all of their other models somehow "stupid"? Calling only one "smart" out of a product line of six or whatever doesn't speak very highly of those other fridges. Do they get distracted and unplug themselves when nobody's supervising? Will they boil the gallon of milk I put inside? If none of them can spell "freon", how can I expect them to use it properly?)

(Maybe that's just me. I've always argued that when companies put out a product that's "new and improved", they should have to relabel the remaining stock of original product "old-ass and craptastic".

It's possible I'm a little over-sensitive to modern marketing strategies.)

Anyway, the idea of a smart refrigerator sounded amazing. And I've read in tech articles before where the technology is heading. Barcode readers installed on the doors. Automated sensors to tell you when your milk is expired, or you're nearly out of Cheetos.

(For the record, I don't routinely store my Cheetos in the refrigerator.

But if I had a smart fridge that would sound an alert when I'm almost out, then maybe I would. I'm just saying.)

"This is not the glimpse into the "home of tomorrow" I was hoping for."

Now, I haven't shopped for a refrigerator in several years. So I was eager to see what fantastic time- and effort-saving features had made it to the marketplace. And I went over that Samsung fridge's specs, top to bottom. Here's what I found:

1. It works like all of their other refrigerators, which is to say like pretty much every refrigerator made in the last five years.

2. In the front, instead of a little screen to show temperature or which kind of cube will come out the ice maker, there's a slightly bigger screen about the size of a cheap tablet. A cheap Samsung tablet.

3. The screen is basically a cheap Samsung tablet glued to the door, with several crucial differences. First, the only apps appear to be Pandora, a recipe viewer and a picture display. Second, you can't install any more apps on it. And third, when you compare features with the "stupid" fridges, the cheap tablet glued to the fridge door costs about three times as much as one that isn't glued to the door of a refrigerator.

(Presumably, Samsung sells a whole tier of these Frankenstein beasts, with the price escalating if the tablet is glued to, say, a toaster. Or a French coffee press.)

This is not the glimpse into the "home of tomorrow" I was hoping for. The "home of that day I taped my recipes to the fridge and bought a shitty Bluetooth speaker for the kitchen", maybe. But not "tomorrow", by a long shot.

I'm starting to get the feeling all these other home automation gizmos are in basically the same boat. They're not really "smart"; in fact, they're barely "savant" . Sure, I could get a front door lock that would open when my keychain comes within ten feet of it. But would it stay locked if it was a Sasquatch carrying my keys, and trying to get in to raid my delicious, possibly-past-the-date and maybe-refrigerator-boiled milk?

I don't think so.

Or how about lights that turn on when I enter the bedroom -- unless I'm sneaking in at three in the morning, and trying not to wake the missus? Also, some of those lights can change color. Will they turn green to remind me to take out the recycling? Or red, when I'm getting chewed out for waking up my wife at three in the morning? Or most important, orange when there's a sudden emergency because we're almost out of Cheetos?

Again, it's doubtful.

So I'll keep looking into this "smart-if-you-say-so" technology, but I'm not getting my hopes up. If all the rest of it is only as "smart" as the fridge, it's going to be a long, long time before my kitchen knows more about my kitchen than I do.

I'd better stock up on Cheetos. Just to be safe.

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It Just Goes (Amaz)On and On and On...

(This week's Secondhand SCIENCE is lost... in... spaaaaa-aaaace.

Well, almost. It's actually all about trans-Neptunian objects, which aren't quite "lost". But they are really, really far away. And there might be more of them than you think. Have a looksee.)

I'm not much for New Years' resolutions.

"New Years' resolutions are like assholes: everyone's got one, and nobody wants their face rubbed in someone else's."

Partly because they're a little too common. I tend to stay away from the conventions that everyone follows, because how interesting are those? To paraphrase a popular saying about opinions:

New Years' resolutions are like assholes: everyone's got one, and nobody wants their face rubbed in someone else's.

Wait. Maybe that was birthdays. Anyway, you get the point.

Also, I don't like New Years' resolutions because the tradition is completely arbitrary. A large fraction of the eastern hemisphere doesn't even recognize January first as the start of the new year. A few hundred years ago, various Europeans celebrated in spring, or September or December 25th. And between all the adjustments and gaps and tinkering with the Gregorian and Julian and other calendars over the centuries, who knows whether modern "January 1" is still the same "January 1" people were talking about through history, anyway?

What I'm saying is, if you simply must make an annual resolution, pick whatever day you like. It's fairly likely it was "New Years' Day" to someone, sometime, somewhere in history.

Mostly, of course, I'm just lazy. So I don't make New Years' resolutions. But this year, I am making a "Second-to-Last Week of January resolution".

Which is perfectly as good. See above, if you don't believe me.

What I'm resolving is to finally finish reformatting and re-releasing the Amazon prank review articles I wrote for a while back.

(A recap of the situation, for those of you -- okay, all of you, who can't be bothered to link through and catch up: was a Boston-based humor site for around 15 years, featuring pranks, articles, message boards and some of the least uncomfortable talk about "pee tubes" you can imagine.

Also, some of the most uncomfortable talk about pretty much everything else. And yes, it was glorious.

I wrote two series of around fifty articles each there -- one involving Facebook post pranks on companies, and the other silly Amazon reviews. When ZuG closed up shop on April Fools Day 2013, I was able to grab the materials [and permission] to repost those articles here.

I got the Facebook posts cleaned up and reposted by April 2014. The Amazon articles, not so much. Like I said, I'm lazy.)

So, I'm making a late-January resolution to get these silly things live by April 1st, the second anniversary of ZuG riding the old flaming Viking funeral ship out to sea.

(Or choking on a cocktail wiener while sitting on the toilet. None of us has actually seen the medical examiner's report.)

To be honest, I'd nearly forgotten about those old Amazon reviews, but my memory was jogged when I found out two of them were hand-selected (by Amazon automated delivery drones, possibly) to appear in Did You Read That Review? It's a book chock full of odd and hilarious reviews of Amazon products, and I'm proud to be a part of it.

Also, now I want to get those articles up so I can read what the hell I was thinking when I wrote that nonsense.

So if you want a sneak peek of the Amazon-pranking goodness to come... again, by April... probably, unless it's really hard... then check out the book. Or just sit back and wait (like I've basically done for nearly two years), and perhaps the articles will magically reappear.

Either way, this is the best non-New Years' New Years' resolution I've ever heard of. Anybody can lose weight or quit smoking or get elected to Congress in the space of a year. But I'm taking laughs from the internet tomb in which they lie (and also, a book), and bringing them back to life -- the better to be ridiculed, mocked and vilified for creating them in the first place.

If that doesn't say "brave new year", I don't know what the hell else does.

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