Previous “Features” posts

Chance to Success

Friday, May 20th, 2022

In the 13+ years One Foot Tsunami has been around, I’ve written about a plethora of different topics. I’ve also been fortune to be receive links from some larger websites, resulting in traffic from all over the world. As a result of these two facts, I get a lot of spammy emails from folks hoping I’ll publish their spammy content or link to their spammy sites (no, I won’t). They’ll usually provide the URL of a not-very-relevant post from years back, where I could “help my readers” by including a new link to their barely related nonsense.

For instance, last month, I received this:

Faheem here from █████ E Scooters, a site designed to demystify the future of transportation and make it easy for everyone to understand.

I’m emailing you because I saw an article of yours here https://onefoottsunami.com/2018/08/30/an-explanation-of-electric-scooters/ and wanted to see if you’d be interested in a small collaboration.

I recently put together a piece on how much are electric scooters packed full of info and thought it would make an excellent addition to your piece and wanted to see if you’d be interested in linking to it.

I’ll let you be the judge though, check it out! URL: ██████████

What do you think?

Mostly, Faheem, I think you should stop emailing me. And I especially think you, and everyone else, should stop emailing me three times, once with your initial spammy request, a second time to “check in”, and finally a third time to give me one last chance to, I dunno, curse your name? But at least I understand the nature of the scam here.

What’s rarer is something like the confusion that resulted from an email I recently received with the subject line “Quick question about elk hunting”. I have never hunted elk, nor anything else for that matter, so this was odd to say the least. It got weirder!

Hi Paul,

I’m putting together an expert roundup post on “elk hunting tips”. And I naturally wanted to invite you to contribute.

Ah, yes, naturally!

The question is: “For first time elk hunter, what should we prepare to increase chance to success?”

Hmm, you seem to have slipped into some really mangled English-as-a-second-language there. Are you OK?

I know you’re busy so a lengthy response isn’t necessary (50-100 words is totally fine).

Thanks!
Robert █████
Co-founder of █████

As you can surely guess, these emails have all been censored by me to avoid providing any help whatsoever to spammers. Even polite ones.

PS: We’ve already received responses from Eric Whiting (Iron Will Outfitters) and Carl Sauerwein (Boulder Basin Outfitters). I’d love for you to be involved.

Well gosh, to have my response printed alongside such illustrious company would truly be an honor. Eric Whiting and Carl Sauerwein? Wow!

I really didn’t know what to make of this email, so I set it aside. A few days later, however, Robert was back.

Hi Paul,

I know you’re busy, but did you get the chance to look into my first email? 🙂

Thanks and best regards,
Robert

It’s clear that despite the fact that I have no idea who he is, Robert knows me well. You see, unlike most people, I am indeed busy. So busy, in fact, that I never did respond to either of these emails.

Perhaps I should have. I’d certainly like to understand just what’s going on here. I imagine it’s some sort of link farming still, but how we got to elk hunting, I simply can’t fathom.

First Draft Candies

Monday, May 16th, 2022

My grandfather was a candy maker1, and I recently uncovered some fascinating papers while going through his things.2 One particularly interesting document focused on the value of persistence. It included a list showing an assortment of very bad name ideas for various confections. While none of these first drafts ever saw the light of day, with time and iteration, the creators of these candies eventually found success.

Initially Rejected Ideas For World-Famous Candies

  • Drudgery Dip

  • Neverlasting Gobstoppers

  • Minor League Chew

  • Buttfinger

  • Oh Henry! It’s Time to Admit I Never Loved You at All.


Footnotes:

  1. This is true! ↩︎

  2. This is not. ↩︎

Spahks Afta Dahk

Thursday, April 28th, 2022

Recently, I received an invitation to an event to be held at Boston’s Museum of Science. It was billed as an “electrifying experience”, due to the presence of the world’s largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator.

Email invitation to the “Sparks After Dark” event, with the following text: Calling all party animals! Sparks After Dark - the official after-party of the Museum of Science's  Stars of STEM  annual fundraising event is back! Hosted by the Innovators, the Museum’s young professional society, Sparks After Dark is Boston’s only late night party in a room producing over a million volts of lightning—the Museum's Theater of Electricity. Shocking, we know.

Sparks After Dark will feature cocktails, late night bites, science-themed entertainment, live animals, music, and dancing featuring the Museum's favorite drag queen and DJ, Coleslaw.

With a name like “Sparks After Dark”, it was only natural that I would repeatedly read the invitation out loud in an over-the-top and utterly ridiculous townie accent. As one does. While practicing that tomfoolery, I then realized that the second paragraph’s bizarrely long list reads like a Stefon sketch.

And so, I present you with this nonsense:

You can listen for this ad on Boston-area radio stations for the next week. You won’t actually hear it, but nothing can stop you from listening for it.

The Ever Loving Hell

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

You may recall that last March, a container ship named the “Ever Given” blocked the Suez Canal for almost a week. Recently, a sister ship from the same Evergreen Marine shipping company joined it in infamy. The hilariously named “Ever Forward” ran aground in the Chesapeake, and it stopped moving forward, or indeed anywhere at all. This time around, the transport was outside the shipping channel, and thus didn’t interfere with any other vessels. As a result, it was much less of a major news story. Still, I’ve been following it, and after more than a month of work, the ship is finally free.

This will surely not be the last giant boat to get stuck somewhere, and the odds are decent that the next one will be an Evergreen vessel too. The company operates a fleet of approximately 200 ships, and many of them follow that same rather strange “Ever ______” naming convention. Some are bland, like the “Ever United” or the “Ever Leader”. But many others are quite amusing. Let’s take a look at the names of a few of the Evergreen crafts we might see stuck in the not-too-distant future.

A Look at an Assortment of Names Given to Evergreen Vessels

  • Ever Ample, Ever Burly, Ever Mighty, Ever Strong
    Many of the names are like these, positive adjectives that are fitting when given to a massive ship.

  • Ever Dainty
    This particular ship is 294 meters long, and that is not any dainty.

  • Ever Clever
    It’s a container ship, so I doubt it’s very clever at all. Still, I appreciate the stupid rhyme.

  • Ever Forever
    Now that’s just redundant.

  • Ever Full, Ever Loading
    I hope not, as these names would imply container ships that are not very good at being container ships.

  • Ever Lasting
    Willy Wonka would like a word.

  • Ever Cozy
    My gosh but that sounds cozy!

  • Ever Chaste
    That sounds very boring. I think I’d rather go with the Ever Vulgar.

  • Ever After
    This is surely the happiest of ships.

  • Ever Unicorn
    As far as I can see, this ship doesn’t have a horn on the front of it. That’s a real missed opportunity.

  • Ever Clear
    If this one has a mishap in the future, odds are it will be because the captain was drinking.

  • Ever Alot
    “A lot” is a phrase. “Allot” is a word. “Alot” is not a word.

  • Ever Lucky
    “Ever Forward” might be the worst name for a ship that runs aground, but “Ever Lucky” is right up there too.

The above list is all real, save for one name, which I invented. Can you guess which one?

Click to reveal the answer

At present, the “Ever After” is not a ship in Evergreen’s fleet. I’m surprised!

If you’d like to explore the world of goofily-named “Ever ______” ships, you can head on over to VesselFinder.com just as I did.

Verizon Gets Meat-Axed

Tuesday, April 12th, 2022

I continue to urge you, dear reader, to meat-ax your notifications. It’s a very good bet that you simply don’t need your phone to bother you as often as it does, and that you’ll be happier with most notifications turned off.

That said, notifications can occasionally provide a good laugh. Recently, I noticed a badge on the icon for the “My Verizon” app. I was curious what this could be about. I logged in to the app, and navigated to the messages area:

An in-app notification that says “Attention is needed”

Well gosh, that sounds important! Is there some problem with my account? Perhaps my auto-payment method expired or is otherwise invalid? Don’t keep me in suspense, Verizon. What is the urgent message you have for me?

A message that says “You can now change My Verizon app settings to
Spanish. Tap MORE in the menu & choose Cambiar el idioma a español.”

¡Ay, dios mio! And that, my friends, is how Verizon lost the ability to ever badge its app icon again.

Ketanji Brown Jackson Kicks Ass

Friday, April 8th, 2022

Right now, the US Supreme Court is a mess. Though public opinion in America has steadily shifted left in recent decades, the Supreme Court tilted rightward under Donald Trump. Following recent rulings, the court has hit record lows in public approval polls, and respect for it has dropped substantially. We’re suffering under an outdated system of lifetime appointments, coupled with the blatant hypocrisy of Republicans who refused to allow President Obama to seat a new justice after the passing of Antonin Scalia nine months before the 2016 election, then rammed through a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg just weeks before the 2020 election. The system is badly in need of reform, but it doesn’t seem likely to happen any time soon.1

Nevertheless, there are bright spots, and yesterday marked one of those. That’s because the Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson as the first Black women to ever sit on the US Supreme Court. I know we’re not really saying “You go, girl!” anymore, but we should be, because Ketanji Brown Jackson? You go, girl!


[Photo credit: Sarahbeth Maney]

Also, if you missed the story behind this remarkable photo feature Brown Jackson, her husband, and her proudly beaming daughter Leila, it’s worth a read.


Footnotes:

  1. Replacing lifetime appointments with 18 year terms for each justice would be a very sound method of reducing the political nature of the court. ↩︎

Maybe Tack on Some Rose-Colored Glasses Too

Wednesday, April 6th, 2022

My pal Rich W. has long had a gripe with appliance maker Dyson, namely that they spend massive amounts of time and energy solving relatively inconsequential problems. Perhaps most famously, they perfected the vacuum cleaner, a device whose previous incarnations already did the job pretty well. They’ve also made an assortment of over-engineered hair care products, hand dryers, and other products.

Now, they’re introducing the “Dyson Zone”. It’s a “wearable purifier” that captures air pollution. It’s a set of headphones, too, one that cancels noise. It’s filtering so much! Oh, also, it looks absolutely ridiculous:

Headphones coupled with a mask-looking air purifier

So, what problems is Dyson trying to solve with this? From their announcement:

…the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 9 in 10 people globally breathe air that exceeds WHO guideline pollutant limits. Where NO2 pollution in cities decreased during the Covid-19 pandemic , levels have quickly returned to normal, or exceeded pre-pandemic levels across many global cities. It is estimated that more than 100 million people, around 20% of the European population, are exposed to long-term noise exposure above WHO guidance.

The world is afflicted with dirty air and too much noise. Those do seem like problems worth tackling. Perhaps we might curb pollution and work on cleaning the air at large. We might also invent quieter machinery and devices. Making the entire world a better place, that’s a noble goal.

On the other hand, that sounds like quite a lot of effort. Why not just have the wealthy go through the world wearing noise-cancelling headphones that also clean their air, but no one else’s. Hey, these weird-looking jerks had the hundreds of dollars1 necessary to buy this product. They deserve it!

Of course, they are still going to get sick from COVID-19. That’s because despite the fact that it looks like a mask, and hides your mouth like a mask, the Dyson Zone doesn’t actually function as a mask. That might seem a bit strange in the era of our global pandemic, but it’s the result of this project taking six years.

Rich might have a point.


Footnotes:

  1. The actual retail price is unannounced, but it will surely be $200 or (much) more. ↩︎

Happy Holiday!

Friday, April 1st, 2022

Earlier this week, I mailed out a card to a few dozen friends. But you, dear reader? You deserve a card too.

An envelope addressed to “One Foot Tsunami Reader”
Why look, it’s a card for you! With a lovely matching stamp, affixed at a jaunty angle!

A card featuring a jester and the words “Joyful vibes, from Paul”
It’s so festive!

A card which says “Happy Holiday!
Hopefully, this card finds you healthy
and contented. A great deal of time has
passed in the haze of COVID. That's a
pity. Still, I trust life is going well for
you.

A holiday like today is truly the
perfect time to take stock of what
really matters. On this joyous day,
it's my wish for you to find time to
live, to laugh, and to love.

For me, this day serves as a perfect
occasion to make it crystal clear to
others how much I cherish them. I'm
looking forward to the day when I can
see you again in person
Well, that’s very nice. But wait, what the hell holiday are we celebrating?

There is a definitive answer to that question, and you can find it in the third image. When you come across it, you’ll know.

A Hope for Permanent Daylight Saving Time

Wednesday, March 16th, 2022

One of my least favorite things about living in Boston are the winter sunsets, which occur as early as 4:13 PM. That’s simply too damned early for the sun to be setting. Meanwhile, at the far west end of the Eastern time zone, Detroit gets summer sunsets as late as 9:15 PM. That is excessively late! Now, the truth of the matter is that Boston should be in the Atlantic time zone, and Detroit should be in the Central time zone. However, the sway of the east coast is strong, and it’s unlikely anyone’s going to make a switch.

In the past, I’ve proposed various schemes to improve things, from reversing the rotation of the Earth (so Boston would be at the end of the time zone, not the beginning) to cutting the middle of the US out and floating it to the Pacific, then jamming the coasts together (beneficial for oh so many reasons). Alas, science has yet to come through for me on these fronts. So, more realistically, fiddling with timekeeping will have to do for now.

That’s why I’m glad to finally see progress on a bill I’ve been tracking for several years now: the Sunshine Protection Act. This bill would put the United States on permanent Daylight Saving Time, providing more daylight in the evening. Now, obviously we’re not magically creating more daylight, so that would also mean later sunrises. To me, and many others, that seems like a good trade-off. On Sunday, after setting my analog clocks ahead, I took time to contact my representatives to urge them to move this bill forward. Though this timely action felt like a good thing to do, I certainly didn’t expect much to come of it.

You can thus imagine my surprise when yesterday, the Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act by unanimous consent. Progress! The bill still needs to pass the House, and be signed into law by President Biden, but it’s delightful to see it moving forward.

Of course, there will be winners and losers if this change occurs. In the depths of winter, the aforementioned Detroit wouldn’t see the sun rise until 9 AM, which would be rough. Still, on balance, it certainly seems like it would be a net win. I’m hopeful that in the future, I’ll be spared the scourge of pitch darkness before it’s even quitting time.

Phone Number Brain Storage

Tuesday, March 15th, 2022

When a friend’s parents ended service on the home phone number they’d had for decades, an interesting question came up in conversation. How many phone numbers do you have memorized?

A (Possibly Complete) List of Phone Numbers I Have Memorized:

  • My own cell phone
    It’s been the same for over two decades.

  • My mother’s landline
    It’s been the same for coming up on four decades.

  • My mother’s cell phone
    This number, previously my father’s, has been in the family for at least a decade. Still, it might be the newest number I’ve managed to commit to memory.

  • The old, no-longer-functional number for the library where my mother works
    This will not come in handy at all.

  • My middle school girlfriend landline
    This will presumably will not reach Kerry 25+ years later, but it ended in -0749, and 7 squared is 49, so that one’s never going to leave my brain.

  • My current partner’s cell phone
    So now you know I’ve had at least two girlfriends. Humblebrag!

  • Mattress retailer (1-800-MATTRES)
    Leave off the last “S” for “Savings”.

  • Car donation organization (1-877-KARS-4-KIDS)
    That is not how you spell “cars”. Why use a misspelled mneomnic? Everything about this is awful.

  • The former number to get tickets to Yakov Smirnoff’s Branson Missouri show (1-800-WHA-TACO)
    The full number was “1-800-WHAT-A-COUNTRY”, but that’s an absurd five extra digits, and it’s fun to say “Whaaaaa Taco”.

It would seem my count is nine. I have nine phone numbers memorized, at least one-third of which are non-functional or out-of-date. Keep up the work, brain.