Friday, April 23, 2010

Deadlines and Numbats

This week I got a request to explain the term deadlines. You may think this term really needs no explanation. It seems pretty obvious if you just look at the word. Dead means not alive and lines are places you stand if you have too much time on your hands and you need to waste some. So, deadlines are wastes of time that will take your life or make you want to take someone else’s life.

There, now that we have cleared that up…what, you still don’t understand? Okay, let me try again. Deadlines are arbitrary numbers derived from complicated equations, illegal substances (or large amounts of legal substances), Magic 8 Balls, and dice. The resulting numbers usually refer to dates that have already passed or will pass long before anyone remembers what the dates were for.

Speaking of deadlines, someone this week told me I should check out numbats, since they differ from wombats by only two letters. Who new there were so many ‘mbat animals out there. Anyway, they come from Australia too. They look like a mish-mash of a squirrel, a kangaroo, a mouse, an anteater, and a zebra and their tongues can stretch out to half the length of their bodies.

In any case, they are slow movers, probably because their bodies cannot figure out what they are actually supposed to be, which brings me back to deadlines. I bet they don’t actually have any. Maybe we should take some lessons from these little marsupials; slow down to eat the termites every now and again. Sure it’s gross, but it must be relaxing, because you don’t see numbats running helter skelter.

I would like to leave you with an important bit of information you may need if you enjoy the rigors of passive activities and get paid for them.

"Passive activity income does not include the following: Income for an activity that is not a passive activity."
--IRS form 8583, Passive Activity Loss Limitation

I am not sure exactly what passive activity is, but I bet it has something to do with the exercise pills that trick your body into thinking you are exercising while you are sitting on the couch watching Lost and wondering when in the world you are ever going to get any answers about what in the world is going on, and how many cans of Wild Cherry Pepsi you can drink before you actually have to get up and do something about it (the unbearable pressure in your bladder that feels much worse when you stand up and try to hobble to the bathroom without wetting yourself along the way). Such is the life of the passive activist.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Episode 53: Time Management Skills

Programming wonks at UC Berkeley recently had to figure out how to deal with “deformable objects.” These are apparently related somehow to welterweight boxing on the USA television network, at least that’s what came up when I clicked the hyperlinked phrase in the hopes of getting some sort of definition.

That brings me to an important point about the windowless basement-dwelling mushy-brained kooks responsible for the brain scrambling new Internet advertising technique where random words are hyperlinked to equally random advertisements for predictably random products. For instance, you may wonder what the phrase “deformable objects” means. Well, what good luck that the article you are reading makes that phrase a hyperlink, which presumably takes you to a definition, explanation, or some sort of words or pictures in some way related to “deformable objects.” At least, that is what you would think before you clicked that hyperlink and landed on some advertisement to watch a couple guys beat each other’s brains in, or out, on some TV network desperate for viewers since the Internet made it pretty much irrelevant. Anyway, the important point is this: should we really be wasting food, water, clothing and such on windowless basement-dwelling mushy-brained kooks who devote their lives to injecting every moment of our living lives with random useless brain-dissolving messages?

In any case, they needed to figure out how to deal with objects that lack a predictable shape so they could get a robot to pick up and fold towels piled at random. To the joy of towel-folding people everywhere, the robot was successful! The only minor glitch in the revolutionary accomplishment is that it takes 25 minutes per towel. At this rate, the robot is only fast enough to replace toddler workers, but we really don’t want to give them any extra time because they just use that time to destroy things.

That brings me to an important point about time management. If you decide it is a good idea to participate in the Marathon des Sables, you lack proper time management skills. No one with proper time management spends 6 days on a 150-mile race across the Sahara Desert when they have other options, like sitting in front of a computer for 6 minutes reading about people with no time management skills who trek across 150 miles of Moroccan desert on foot while carrying all necessary supplies in backpacks and front packs and any other sort of packs they can strap to their appendages. What do they carry in these packs? Well, looking at the gear required for the two activities referenced above may help illustrate which is the better use of one’s time.

Gear for Running Desert Foot Race
  • Backpack or equivalent (best suited to each participant)
  • Sleeping bag
  • Torch with spare batteries
  • 10 safety pins
  • Compass with 1 degree; or 2 degree; precision
  • Lighter
  • Whistle
  • Knife with metal blade
  • Tropical Disinfectant
  • Anti-Venom pump (insect poison remover)
  • Signaling mirror
  • One aluminum survival sheet
Gear for Reading About Desert Foot Race
  • Comfortable chair
  • Computer
  • Snacks and beverages
As you can see…ANTI-VENOM PUMP! ARE YOU KIDDING? WHY WOULD YOU RUN A RACE IN WHICH YOU HAVE TO CARRY AN ANTI-VENOM PUMP!?...your time is much better used doing anything other than running a foot race in the desert, but good time management doesn’t get you any good bragging rights.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Exercise in a Pill

For those of you not privy to the latest research techniques, let me enlighten you. Researchers have very boring jobs. They spend all day in labs putting drops of this into vials of that, looking at very small things through very large microscopes, drinking lots of coffee, eating lots of candy, and doing other boring researchy-type stuff. To pass the time, they like to run completely illogical and unnecessary tests and mix things that really have no business being mixed. Lots of very important and unimportant things have been discovered and invented this way.

One such thing is exercise in a pill. Yes, they have engineered a pill that fools your body into thinking it has just run a marathon, or at least walked up a flight of stairs. It changes your muscles into slow-twitch fat-burning machines without the headache of actual physical activity. Well, that is what it does on mice anyway. On people, it may be just as likely to make you lose your hair, start growing hair in your ears, or turn your eyeballs inside out.

I am hoping eventually I will be able to take pills that make me feel like I am doing all sorts of exciting and productive things, without leaving the comfort of my easy chair. In any case, I will leave you with a great recipe I like to use on occasion.

1 body aging faster than the mind to which it is attached
1 month or more of sedentary living
1 great idea
30 to 40 minutes of intense strength training (I really recommend lots of squats and such for best results)

Mix however you would like. Wait approximately two days. (This may vary depending on the body you use. You will know it is ready when you feel muscle pain, joint pain, skin pain, ligament pain, fingernail pain, hair follicle pain, inner ear pain, nose hair pain, and several other major and minor pains, not the least of which are statements along the lines of, “maybe you should start slower next time.” This should effectively reduce the body’s mobility to that of a 634-year-old. If it doesn’t work, just repeat in another couple of months. Enjoy!