January 31, 2012

Beatrice Solves Economic Crisis, etc.

I have the solution to all of our economic problems.

See, rich people want these things:
1. Flying cars
Wait, I think that's just a plane.

There we go.

2. To live forever

3. To have a world where they can do all this living forever


The fastest way to meet these goals is for rich people to put some of their money into research and conservation.


Step 1: Build state of the art buildings.


Step 2: Hire Science PhDs. They are super smart, and they need a home.

Step 3: Pay them moneys to do research and solve all the problems ever.

Step 4: Hire a Beatrice to do your outreach and explain to everyone what research is happening and how it will solve all the problems ever.

Results: You discover a new source of renewable energy, so our planet is clean and sparkly. You live a long, healthy life (as do the rest of us) and thoroughly enjoy driving your hover car. Also, no more whaling.


Now let's fast-track this, people.

January 18, 2012

Megafauna I wish were still around

I've told you how I feel about extinction. I think it's poop. I've also mentioned an extinct, human-sized penguin called Anthropornis grandis. I wish I could have seen one of these super penguins. But they aren't the only bygone species I wish I could meet. Let me introduce you to my extinct, would-be friends, the Diprotodon and Megatherium.

Diprotodon
You may have heard of these "mega wombats." They were the largest marsupial that ever existed.


Last year in Australia, scientists found the most complete skeleton of one ever. These creatures were about 6' tall like the super penguins, but with their 10' length and 2,000-lb frame, they weren't human-sized, but rather car-sized. Wombats these days are 60-or-so lbs. They need to eat more.

Superwombies came on the scene around 1.6 million years ago and went extinct some time between 25,000 and 45,000 years ago. Their disappearance happens to coincide with the arrival of humans in Australia. These early humans totally squandered the opportunity to have biological cars


 and seem to have chosen to eat all of them instead. What a tragedy.

Megatherium
Oh, the giant sloth. So giant, so slothy, so extinct. How I wish I could see one alive. Their tiny modern day relatives are so cute and awkward, I can't even imagine what a hot mess the giant ones may have been.


They resemble an odd ancient bear: a bulky, hairy beast that walks on 4 legs, but can stand on hind legs for dramatic effect. But while a grizzly bear is 7' tall when he stands up, a giant sloth was 20' tall.


Don't' be afraid; these guys were herbivores. Although that doesn't necessarily mean they were harmless. They might sit on you.

Giant sloths lived in North America up until about 10,000 years ago. I bet you can guess what happened at that time. Yes, humans arrived. Sigh. Well, at least we haven't changed much.

January 12, 2012

My Thoughts on Automated Bathrooms

Rarely do I have the honor of using a fully automated public bathroom. Sure, a lot may have the auto sink or the auto toilet, but when toilet flush, sink, soap dispenser, and towel dispenser are all run by robots, it gets you noticing something: this is really dumb.


Are you surprised that my mysophobic face is not a fan of the fully automated bathroom experience? Look, I'm all for not touching things in bathrooms, but there is such a thing as too much technology when it comes to peeing. And let me also say that bathrooms that have all the robotics are usually kept really clean anyway, so the benefit is minimal. It's usually when I'm using a gas station bathroom at a rest stop off I-5 in podunk nowhere that I dream of faucets I don't have to touch.


So I sat down on a thin piece of paper that has no other purpose than making me feel better for not touching a toilet seat, as it surely offers no real hygienic benefit, and peed. The automatic flush was triggered as I stood up, causing me slight alarm (they never cease to startle me, those auto toilets). This was strike 1 for the auto bathroom. I'm sorry, but autoflushers are the least appealing automatic facility in bathrooms. They trigger when they shouldn't, or fail to trigger when they should. Once when it refused to flush, I failed in my quest to find the manual flusher (after trying to approximate the peeing and standing up experience again in the hopes of this time triggering it, to no avail) and I had to eventually leave the stall with pee and toilet paper still in the bowl. I can never go back.

Now to the sink. I placed my hand under that rare beast, the automatic soap dispenser. Even though I know it's soap, I feel dirty placing my hand under a phallic piece of metal, waiting for it to shoot a white sticky substance onto my hand. I massage the pre-measured splooge of soap into my hands and then attempt to trigger the autofaucet. Nothing. I move my hand around in a horizontal circle, hoping to find the mysterious laser. I appear to be doing some kind of tribal bathroom dance as I search for the trigger point when I trigger not the faucet, but the soap dispenser again. Why, thank you. It's even more lovely when I'm not expecting it. The faucet now comes alive. Rinsing, rinsing. It stops. I still have soap on my hands, thanks to your buddy over here. Faucet is running again, rinsing, rinsing. Soap dispenser dispels more soap, this time just into the sink. I notice there is actually a bog of soap in the basin, so clearly it's not just me the soap dispenser does this to.


Finally, hands clean and wet, I approach the automatic paper towel dispenser. I wave it at like it's an acquaintance I'm pretending to be happy to see. A paper towel emerges. I stand there, drying my hands, as a woman walks by to exit the bathroom. Her moving body triggers the other dispenser. It grumbles like an old desktop printer, dispensing a towel to absolutely no one. The auto towel dispensers are triggered by every person who walks past them, eventually generating long stretches of paper towel that reach the trash bin below them. I shake my head and leave too, triggering yet more paper to crawl out into the world.

So here's the issue. Automatic bathroom functionality could be awesome, with its promises of touch-free restrooms, but it's not. Besides, even with all this touch-free technology, you still touch the stall door and the main door. But don't misunderstand me: I don't want autodoors. I can handle it when the toilet flushes for no reason. I don't want the stall door opening unexpectedly.

So despite the possible benefits of bathroom robotics, I have to say I'm not a fan. It just seems like a great way to waste power and water. And towels. I'd rather have a sink operated by a foot pedal than an autosink. But apparently only doctors scrubbing into surgery get those.