Content n’ stuff

This will be a potpourri jambalaya gumbo kind of diary entry, because I have links I want to share but I also have diary type stuff to talk about.

Like, for instance…. yay, my ice cream maker is here! I had to get my roomie Joe to go pick it up for me, because Canada Post does not let you pick up a package without Photo ID, and I have none. So he went in to the postal outlet at the Shopper’s Drug Mart next door, then I carried it from there to home.

As I expected, it was not that heavy, but large and awkward to carry. Luckily, a nice person opening the door to the apartment building for me. That was going to be the most annoying step.

This is why I dislike getting my online purchases via Canada Post, though. They attempt delivery exactly once, then give up and leave it at the postal outlet.

UPS, on the other hand, will try like three or four times before giving up, because they do not have the option of just leaving it next door for me to come get.

And usually, it takes that many to get us at a point where someone is awake and within earshot of the door. We are a random lot.

And all they ask of me is a digital signature. For all they know, I could be a burglar. But seeing as the odds of that are pretty low, I think I prefer their system.

Laziness aside, there just something magic about ordering something and having it show up at the door. The transition from virtual to real, a few clicks turning into an actual physical thing in my hands, is just so cool.

Having to go fetch it myself is not nearly so magical.

Oh well, at least the unboxing has been a breeze so far. Not like with these people.

Look, I know that anecdote is not the singular of research and so the fact that like seven different people had a lot of trouble getting the damn thing out of its package does not necessarily mean that it is a piss poor package design, but I do notice that the troublesome middle stage that caused most of the problems had people grappling with a featureless black brick, like they were trying to open the fucking Monolith from 2001, and I cannot help but wonder if there is not a page in a packaging design book somewhere that says to very specifically never ever do that.

I mean, sure the black brick looks cool for maybe half a second, but, and I know this is hard for designers to grasp, but usability is more important than aesthetics. Nobody will care how cool the inner box of something looks if it is viciously thwarting their every attempt to actually use the thing they paid for and presumably are eager to see and touch and use.

All it will do is make them seethe with hatred for you, the company you work for, and black rectangular solids in general.

Back to ice cream. I have not actually made any yet, because you have to freeze the inner ring of the ice cream maker before you can make any ice cream.

This is presumably way more energy efficient and compact than any refrigeration solution, and a million times better than futzing around with ice cubes, water, salt, and a thermometer that people used to have to do to make hand-cranked ice cream.

(The salt was to regulate exactly what temperature made the ice turn to water and vice versa. It was not part of the ice cream. )

The amount of fiddling and fussing it must have taken to make ice cream in the old days must have been phenomenal. You can understand why the “ice cream social” became such an event. It took a lot of labour to produce ice cream, way too much to be worth it for just a few people.

Work like that could make a person crazy.

Just like the world’s quietest room can drive your crazy. [1]

The technical term is an “anechoic chamber” because it is designed to have absolutely no surfaces which reflect sound. In normal life, we are surrounded by sound reflecting surfaces, and that reflected sound is, actually, most of what we hear.

So while a normal “quiet” room has an ambient volume level of 30 dB, inside the anechoic chamber, the level is a highly counterintuitive -9 dB. [2]

As we human beings can only hear sounds above 0 dB, to us, the room is completely silent.

And at first, that sounds good to a quiet type like me. Might be a nice place for a nap.

But as it turns out, our bodies make a lot of noises that, under normal circumstances, you can’t hear over the background noise of life.

So suddenly, you can hear your spleen. Not good.

Add to that the fact that was discovered in sensory deprivation tanks : that the human nervous system, deprived of stimulation, creates its own in the form of hallucination.

It is no wonder, then, that most people cannot stand to be in the anechoic chamber for long at all, and the longest someone stayed in there was forty five minutes.

I imagine that before long, you would be “hearing voices”.

And I have to admit, the paranoia about this being used as a form of torture seems justified. It is not hard to imagine the Cigarette Smoking Man saying this at the end of an episode of X-files :

“After all, Agent Mulder, we didn’t even touch your talkative friend. ”

(REVERSE ANGLE CLOSEUP, BACKLIT)

“We just found him a nice… quiet… room. ”

Footnotes    (↵ returns to text)

  1. There’s a video that goes with the story, but I am not going to link to it, because it’s crap.
  2. The only way negative decibels makes sense to me is if the room actually makes noises that happen inside it quieter, which is, after all, what it is supposed to do.

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