Monday, March 13, 2017

Million Dollar Ideas, Part 2

I guess in my triumphant return to this long-dormant blog, a continuation of my long-dormant series on million-dollar ideas is as apt an entry as any.

*Click here for Million Dollar Ideas, Part 1.

I should clarify here that I have no idea to whom I am directing these ideas -- I like to imagine that there's someone out there whose main job it is just to fix things and/or make them better -- and that I only half-expect (no less than half!) to make any money. But you know, if anyone is offering me the proverbial penny for my thoughts, well then...I'd only need a hundred million of these posts before I can go retire on an island somewhere. 😎

Anyway, onward!

Idea #4: Revamp the Summer Olympics so the track-and-field events mirror the swimming events. That is, have as many track races as there are swim races. Think about it: the object of these sports is to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible (and more often than not, in a straight line!). There isn't really any reason to distinguish between whether that race is taking place on land or in water. So as ridiculous as it is to have someone race backward toward a target...

Who would ever do this? Oh, right. All swimmers.

...if you're going to do it, you need to have a corresponding backward race on land:

That this photo came from a New York Times story discussing the health virtues of running backward doesn't help, for some reason.

This would start to even the playing field in terms of sheer medal count (is it any coincidence that Michael Phelps and the previous record-holder for most medals in an Olympics, Mark Spitz, were both swimmers?), and it would also restore some luster to footracing, the most elementary of all sports. Literally. Who among us hasn't raced a fellow elementary school classmate across the playground? And who among us wasn't devastated when he was consistently smoked by other, faster boys in his class? Especially some dude named Jeff? Who was also better than you at baseball and drawing and everything else that made you cool as a grade schooler? No one?? Yeah, me neither...

Idea #5: Remove the handles from the side of doors that require pushing. Seriously, just take them off.

THIS...


 ...is about as nonsensical as THIS:


One does not need to have a Jobs-ian grasp of design to know that often, the physical structures in front of us communicate certain behavioral cues. Coffee mugs are to be grasped by the handles, light switches are meant to be flicked up or down, Wii remotes are meant to be hurled into televisions in disgust after your best friend beats you in boxing yet again, etc.

In this case, door handles communicate to the pedestrian that doors should be pulled. EVEN WHEN THEY CAN'T BE.

It's a lot like how this well-designed panic button communicates to the panic-having people of the world that when one is panicked, this should be PUSHED.

Imagine if this were actually a pull tab. What would happen in this world?

May we not end up like this guy:



Idea #6: Make (removable) raincoats for feet.

Okay so. When it's raining, puddles form on the ground. We walk on the ground. So when puddles form on the ground, what gets wet first is often our shoes. Got that? It goes:

Rain = puddles = wet shoes.

Now, we have raincoats that are easily removable, umbrellas that fold up easily, packable jackets and zip-up hoodies, even earmuffs that collapse into something a fraction of their original size. This is all because we understand that (1) not all articles of clothing / accessories are appropriate in all settings, and (2) not all articles of clothing / accessories are needed in all settings.

So why are we still so barbaric as to lock our poor feet into non-removable rain boots that are doomed to be inappropriate footwear as soon as we step out of the rain? Especially for guys. Especially for guys who have to wear suits to work. Especially for guys who wear suits and walk to work.

Okay fine, you got me -- this is all just me whining about how hard my life is. Wahh.

But take a look at this dog's face and tell me that doesn't say, "Lady, this poncho is great and all, but what about my paws? And if you're going to outfit my paws with boots, can you make them removable, so I don't look like a fool once we're inside, and all the other dogs don't make fun of me?"


Dogs. They just get me.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Misplaced Team Nicknames

I love to play, watch, follow, and analyze just about any sport – even ones that many people find slow and/or boring (golf! More interesting than I thought it would be, and also a great nap delivery vehicle on Sunday afternoons). For whatever reason, sometime during my elementary school years, I started to find the idea of hitting, catching, throwing, shooting, passing, skating, and running very entertaining, and so not only did I begin to hit, catch, throw, shoot, pass, skate, and run, but i spent hours watching grown men do the same thing.

I was reading SI way, way before this ever happened.
/end excuse for a gratuitous Kate Upton photo.

One thing perplexes me, however: the selection of teams' nicknames. As an LA native, I'm used to having team names that make no sense unless you trace the team's history. Lakers? They were originally from Minnesota, or the "Land of 10,000 Lakes." Dodgers? The team used to navigate its way through a bunch of trolleys back in Brooklyn, and earned the nickname "Trolley Dodgers" as a result. Clippers? Years of paltry spending led to the team being associated with the coupon-clipping ways of middle-class moms.*

(*This is not true.)

So I understand that teams can move cities while keeping their nickname. But at the moment, THIS is a thing:



It's like they're not even trying. Utah, land of 84-88 percent White/European people, adopting the music of...not White/European people? And not even indicating on the logo that jazz is a type of music at all?

I mean, I get it. The Jazz franchise was founded in New Orleans, and the logo used to look like this:


New Orleans Jazz. Great name. Cool – and sensible – logo. The current Jazz logo clearly only references the mountain range and outdoors spirit of the region, and that's fine, but it also kind of looks like this:


And this team is called the Rockies! A mountain logo for a team called the Rockies makes perfect sense. A mountain logo for a team called the Jazz does not make perfect sense. Does no one else find this bizarre?

This is probably one of the more rant-y posts I've written, so I'll end it very simply: two lists. Five great team names and five that desperately need changing. No political correctness arguments (let's give the Redskins thing a bit of a breather).

Great team names:
5. New York Yankees
4. Seattle Seahawks
3. New England Patriots
2. Dallas Cowboys
1. Houston Rockets

Crappy team names:
5. Houston Texans
4. Washington Wizards
3. Nashville Predators
2. Oakland A's
1. Utah Jazz

Monday, July 8, 2013

The Little Things in Life

Long weekends usually bring into the foreground the things we enjoy most: rest, fun, good food, family and friends, quiet Blackberries. The inevitable conclusion of long weekends then pushes those things into the...well, background, I suppose. Not really sure why I was looking for a different word there.

But really, life comes down to little things, doesn't it? There are, of course, times when legendariness and epicness and stupendousness are needed, but mostly, I find that small things can add up to make what would be an ordinary day a good one (conversely, small things can also add up to make what would be a great day a crappy one, but that'll be another entry).

For instance:


Properly spiced Doritos

Anyone who's ever eaten a bag of Doritos knows that they are a decidedly un-American snack; they are not all created equal. Many don't have nearly enough flavor; some have way too much. But every so often – sometimes only a handful of times per bag – you get the chip that's perfectly spiced. Not too salty, not too bland...golden.

Observe!


These two chips may as well be different foods, as far as I'm concerned.


Pens that work on first contact

Even as someone whose very livelihood depends on writing, I find that actually writing by hand is something I don't do a whole lot. Most lawyering – like most other jobs now – is done at the computer. Which makes scenes like this all the more amusingly inaccurate:


What's most inaccurate isn't the fact that a guy who didn't go to law school somehow faked a Harvard degree and landed a job as a lawyer at a prestigious firm, or that the firm's paralegal just happens to look like a model from Deal or No Deal, or even that the two of them appear to be, umm, telling secrets into each other's mouths in their firm's library.

No, what's most inaccurate is that they were in the library at all. To do research on a case. From my experience, this is what doing research on a case looks like:


Except without all the smiling.

Anyway, the fact that pen usage has dropped so much ironically places even more importance on the quality of the pen. I feel like the biggest difference between a good and bad pen is how much time is needed to warm up the ink, that is, how much time you need to spend doing this before you can actually start writing:


Bad pens always make you do that even if you've just been using it. So when you finally find a pen that works without first making you turn your desk calendar into a sad Jackson Pollock imitation, you hold on to that pen and never let it go.


Subways that come on time

I suppose this one doesn't much apply to me anymore, what with me being a full-time Angeleno once again. But walking down the steps to the subway platform and seeing this:


Instead of this:


Always made me want to do this:



Two-ply toilet paper


Yes indeed.

--
*For a more substantive look at this issue of happiness and our pursuit of it, check out Time Magazine's recent cover story – an excellent read and well worth the newsstand price, for any non-subscribers out there.

**If you require more legendariness/epicness/stupendousness to smile, click here, here, here, here, and/or here. You're welcome.

Monday, October 22, 2012

(Slightly Strange) Sights from Europe

I recently spent three weeks trekking around Europe. Emphasis on trekking – one of my knees is still screaming at me for all the stairclimbing/hiking/wandering/kimchi-squatting-while-waiting-for-trains I did. And emphasis on Europe. Before I left, I imagined that this trip would be kinda like going to an ethnic area of LA or NYC except for a much longer time and with different money.

(Okay not quite, but still, it's a land of white people! Many of whom speak English! Baguettes and pastries and pasta and wine! That sounds almost American.)

But of course, Europe ended up being pretty...European. By which I just mean that it was more foreign than I'd expected. I consistently ran across things that made me look twice and consider whether I would ever see that in America, whether it was unusually clever, whether it was surprising due to cultural differences, or whether it made any damn sense at all.

Ever the astute traveler, I took photos of some of these things and now present them to you, in six easily digestible categories:

I: The Kate Middleton Category, aka Europe is Classier than Everyone

I'm not sure if it's the accents, the history, the architecture, or me just buying into Europeans' own haughtiness, but every once in a while I just get this sense that Europe (at least the western portion of it) is classier than the rest of the world.

Sometimes this can be seen in their tableware:

Handmade olive dishes with separate compartments for the pits and toothpicks. Brilliant!

And sometimes this can be seen in their McDonald's:

McCafé is actually a café?

Complete with the classiest cookie of them all – the macaron.

II: The Ozzy Osbourne Category, aka Europe is Definitely NOT Classier than Everyone

Then again, that classy European aura could just be an illusion.

Yikes. "Euro Disney" actually just appears to be a hodgepodge of characters that definitely do not look officially licensed.

Wouldn't you base your Titanic attraction on the James Cameron movie?

French people think they're so classy.

Who exactly is the target audience for these shirts?

British propaganda during WWII. The next time a girl mentions how sexy a British accent is, I'll reply, "Yeah, but they were just as sexist as everyone else back in the 1940s!" Score.

III: The Story of My Life Category, aka I Just Don't Get It

Sometimes, the Euro-confusion rises above the level of cultural or language barriers.


That bright blue ice cream is SCHTROUMPH flavor, or French for "Smurf." I mean, I understand that it's a pretty accurate recreation of the color of a Smurf's face:


But that provides zero indication of what it tastes like! Who would do this?! That's like naming vanilla ice cream "Beige Khakis" or Neapolitan "3/5 of the Power Rangers." I suppose if I were to ever catch a Smurf and make an ice cream based on its natural flavorings I'd get a pretty good idea, but I'm not good at Smurf-catching or ice cream-making, so that's out of the question.

Then there's this:

This was outside of a restroom – pardon me, a W.C. Aren't these symbols generally used to depict whether men or women are to use a particular room? What does this mean?

These next two are pieces of art, apparently:



The top one is a Picasso sketch. The bottom one appears to be a photocopy of a weather report from a USA Today. I don't understand how either of them ended up in an art museum.

Moving on:

Ahh just your typical PSA. Apparently Monaco wishes you to have safe sex. Or love the whole world...by having safe sex? Or wrap the globe in a condom. 

If you saw this mural in a restaurant, you might think, "Oh that's so nice. It really gives this place a quaint, rustic feel. Nicely done!"

But what if the restaurant was right next to this? And there was veal on the menu? At the very least it makes you think twice, no?

Prince Charles' portrait in the National Portrait Gallery, London. I imagine this is similar to official White House photos of presidents. If so, why the heck does he look so...wimpy? There's more gate than prince here. You can almost hear me thinking, "C'mon man, you can do better than this" in my reflection.

IV: The This Needs to Happen More Often Category, aka I DO Get It

Sometimes, things are easy to understand because they're accompanied by a picture that's universally understood:

Snails = slow! I get what they're saying! It also helps that this sign is in English. But wait...does this mean the food comes out slowly or that the food was slow back when it was in living animal form? Hmm...maybe this belongs in Category III. Let's think through this: if the sign had said "Fast Food" and had a picture of a cheetah, I'd assume that meant that the service was fast, not that I would be eating a cheetah or some other fast animal. Or maybe it would mean that I'd be eating Cheetohs.... Ohh I don't know.

Other times, foreign countries use English in huge letters and make life easier for us American tourists:

Alright this one I get for sure. Game! For a game store! As to why it isn't plural, when there is clearly more than one game in the store...

Maybe it's an imperative. Like this place.

Step-by-step illustrated instructions help too:


V: The Last Decent M. Night Shymalan Movie Category, aka Signs

How do you make a mundane street sign less mundane? By making it art:



Or maybe by just making it less mundane:

This is a real sign in the Vatican; you see it on the way to the Sistine Chapel. This is at once redundant, overly animated, confusing, and hilarious.

Or maybe by making it very ambiguous:

We were looking for a restaurant. We came across this. Maybe it would be an outdoor restaurant, which would've been sweet. Maybe it would be a lawn chair exhibit, which would've been SUPER sweet.

It didn't surprise me that I couldn't always understand signs in Spain, France, or Italy – my Spanish is limited and rusty and I don't speak French or Italian (much to the chagrin of French and Italian people). But it did surprise me that I was sometimes stumped by signs in England. Sometimes, British English ≠ American English.

Weather report in the underground headquarters from which Winston Churchill and his team directed Britain's efforts during WWII. I feel like there's a lot of room for interpretation here. Top hat or no?

Maybe British people are just super concise (and polite) when it comes to their signs. Like this one. Wouldn't the switch always be turned off if this sign always remained up? Maybe more details are necessary here.

And maybe LESS details are necessary here. WHY are there so many words for this contraption that everyone knows how to use? Push the button and wait for the green man – works the same way in every country.

VI: The Kumbaya Category, aka We're all the Same

Still, at the end of the day, there were more similarities than differences no matter what country I found myself in and what language I found myself struggling to understand.

Like randomly themed bars in unlikely places:

Barcelona.

Like internet memes on t-shirts:

Barcelona.
Like signs that allude to Jason Mraz album covers:

Carcassonne.

Like rich people blowing their money on expensive sports cars:

Monaco.

'Twas fun. But the real world beckons. Ciao!