Previous “Stories in Pictures” posts

It’s a Strange Mix of Names

Still, it’s always nice to get mail.

Yesterday, I received an envelope in the mail. It was addressed directly to me (with my full address, which has been edited out):

An envelope addressed to your humble author
Why, this looks like a nice little card. But it’s not my birthday, nor any holiday.

The back of the envelope”
The return address is listed as “Eden Prairie”. I don’t think I knew any Minnesotans, but I also wasn’t certain that this was actually listing Shutterfly as the sender.

A Christmas card from “The Singhs”
Look at that! It’s a wonderful…Christmas card…in mid-October. And it was sent by……The Singhs, a lovely family that I don’t know and who probably don’t actually exist. Let’s flip this over to get a bit more information.

Shutterfly’s holiday offer.
Ahhh, of course. Like so many things in life, it’s just an ad.

I suppose this trickery is fitting, after my own previous hijinks. Nevertheless, peace to you as well, Rahul, Maya, Anika, Shivani, and…Dillon?! Sure, fine, whatever.

Happy Holiday!

We're taking this thing back, dammit.

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

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.

Three Signs, Zero Agreement

Get it together, CVS.

This is a sign I recently saw in CVS, next to the pharmacy counter:

A sign reading “COVID-19 vaccine now available for eligible people. By appointment only. No walk-ins.”

It clearly states that COVID-19 vaccines are available, but only by appointment. OK.

On the counter of the pharmacy itself, I saw this:

Due to high demand for vaccines, appointments are recommended.

Things are getting less strict, with appointments now recommended but not required.

Finally, directly above the pharmacy, I saw this sign:

A sign indicating this area is for “Vaccine walk-ins”

Now I don’t know what to believe!

Silencio, Por Favor!

This story requires just two pictures.

Did I get some sweet new headphones? Am I some sort of YouTube gamer now?

No. However, there is jackhammering 50 feet from me.

So, this is how I live now.

Caution, Do Not Store Vertically

A 10% discount is not nearly enough.

This is a package of “Beyond Sausages”, made by Beyond Meat:

These faux-meat vegan sausages are absolutely delicious, and it would be easy to miss that they are plant-based. They cook up incredibly well, and are likely to be enjoyed by anyone and everyone.

Beyond Sausages can be found in or near the meat department of many grocery stores around the United States. As you can see in this press image provided by Beyond Meat, they should be displayed horizontally.

Unfortunately, my local supermarket has other ideas.

If I asked you “Can you make something look like both a flaccid male member and literal dog shit at the same time?”, you’d surely guess no. And yet, here we are!

Drumming Up Demand 

This is very, very dumb.

When several suspicious packages were left outside the New Rochelle train station near New York City, a commuter called in a tip to the police. It turned out the packages were not explosives, or anything else harmful. Ridiculously, they were instead soon-to-be-installed “Help Point” devices which will allow travelers to, among other things, report suspicious packages.

This tweet contains a gallery of four images, which tell this story perfectly.

A police officer examining a tall cardboard package

That package, being opened

The police officer fully revealing the package to be a security Help Point

Said police officer, with an amused grin

The amusement captured in that fourth image is great. I only wish we could see the dog’s face, which no doubt has an exasperated look.

Siri and the Kilomile

This post features math and flawed a virtual assistant.

When I first took up serious distance running in 2001, I also began a log of each of my runs. I first measured my routes ahead of time by driving them with a car, and later with tools like MilerMeter (formerly GMap-Pedometer). Much more recently, the Apple Watch’s GPS has made it especially easy to know how far I’ve run, with no manual measuring required. At some point in the past few years, I also created an ongoing tally of my lifetime distance run.1

Obviously, I’m a nerd for running data. So I was amused when I learned about the distinctly non-metric measurement called the “kilomile”. A kilomile is simply a thousand miles, and while I’ve run almost seven of those in my adult life, friend-of-the-site Kelan C. managed an entire kilomile in just the year of 2018 alone.

Reviewing my running logs, which of course include annual totals, I saw that I had just missed a kilomile in the year 2017. That year I ran 980.4 miles, and if I’d known how close I was, I’d certainly have gotten off my ass a few more times in December. In 2019, I decided I’d conquer this goofy goal.

Once I began this effort, I soon found myself repeatedly checking my progress. To do that, I just need to know what number day of the year it is, then multiple that by the ~2.74 miles2 I need to average each day. That tells me what my total distance so far should be. For example, if I’ve run at least 27.4 miles by January 10th, I’m on or ahead of pace. Simple.

But why keep things simple, when one can instead make an overly-involved spreadsheet? I wanted to see more exact numbers, and also avoid repeating the same calculations constantly. Here’s a quick look at what I came up with:

I’m slightly behind schedule, but I remain confident.

The biggest issue with this is that we don’t generally know what number day of the year it is. Thankfully, that’s where computers can help. Calendar math is the foundation of lots of computer code, and it’s simple for machines to do. A Google search will get you to a site like EpochConverter which tells you that May 10th is the 130th day of the year. And surely my helpful virtual assistant Siri can tell me as well, right?

Long-time readers likely already know the answer to the above question. Some of the most popular posts on this site have covered the failings of Apple’s virtual assistant. From callousness, to over-promising and under-delivering, to outright sexism, Siri has had its issues.3

And yet, for some reason, I continue to try to make Siri work for me. It has improved over time, and because it’s always being updated, hope springs eternal. Maybe it shouldn’t though. Please enjoy this a story of futility in three images.

A Story of Futility in Three Images

First I asked Siri “What day of the year is it?”:

Answer: It's Monday, May 6, 2019

OK, that’s accurate enough, even if it’s not what I was after.

Next, I tried to get what I was after by some basic math, by asking “How many days are left in this year?”:

Answer: It's three hundred sixty-four days

I…uh…what?! This answer could only make sense in very early January, yet it seems to be the standard response to this question, no matter when it’s asked. Try it yourself.

Finally, I tried asking a very specific question: “How many days until 2020?”:

Answer: It's three hundred sixty-four days

Can’t, or won’t, Siri?

Compared to some of the previous failings I’ve noted, this one is somewhat obscure. Still, that second answer really got to me. Siri ought to be able to do this basic calendar math, but if it can’t, it certainly shouldn’t provide that kind of nonsense.

Update (May 15th, 2019): Don’t miss the follow-up post, “More on Siri and Numerical Days of the Year”.


  1. 6,954.61 miles and counting! ↩︎

  2. That’s 1000 miles / 365 days, to get exactly 2.739726027 miles per day. I’m comfortable rounding up, because 0.000273973 miles is about a foot and a half.↩︎

  3. Early on I referred to Siri using feminine pronouns, as it had just one voice, which happened to be female. More recently, I’ve taken to calling Siri “it”, both because it has male and female voices, and because it of course doesn’t actually have a gender. ↩︎

A FedEx Story in Two Pictures

Yesterday, October 19th, I spotted the following note on a neighbor’s door:

Note reading: Dear FedEx - As I work, I am not home during the day. PLEASE do not deliver before 5 PM I have called & requested this. Thank you. Jennifer Apartment 5
Good luck with that…

I imagine most folks have known the pain and annoyance of a missed package. I can certainly identify. However, I can’t wrap my head around the idea of requesting that FedEx simply not attempt delivery until after 5 PM. Perhaps FedEx should consider an evening delivery service, but as it stands, they do their deliveries throughout the day. That’s just the way it works.

If you’re on the part of their route that gets hit during the day, and you won’t be home, perhaps you should consider alternatives. You might have the package shipped to you at work, or request that it be held at a pick-up point. Expecting FedEx to shift their delivery routes to suit one customer’s desires seems a bit unreasonable.

It would seem the package delivery service agreed, though not in so many words. Today, a day later, I found FedEx’s potentially passive-aggressive reply:

A FedEx Missed Deliver
An indirect response

Better luck next time, I guess, Jennifer.

A Tourist Story in Four Pictures

This is an ad for “Old Town Trolley Tours”, seen on garbage receptacles around town.

The ad features two children on the trolley, waving back at the camera.

They’re probably having fun, right? After all, it’s “Boston’s Best Sightseeing Tour”.

Wait, enhance that. Enhance!
Oh shit, send in the hostage and rescue team! Go Go GO!

Mini Car, Mega Oops

A few years back, a nearby shopping center was being renovated. Part of that renovation included improving the parking lot, with a small drainage ditch being dug near the edge. Before the drainage was completed, and before a fence was put around the ditch, there was a torrential downpour. Which leads me to the following pictures, taken as I walked through the aforementioned parking lot:

Car from a distance
You may not believe what you’re seeing. I surely didn’t.

Car closer
Look for the tail lights.

Car right and truly effed

Though I’ve little doubt that the poor Mini Cooper was totaled, and that this was a very, very bad day for someone, I don’t believe there were any serious injuries. As such, when I pass by the now-fenced-in drainage pit, I amuse myself with the thoughts of the driver of the car. Did they first think “This puddle is deeper than I expected!”? Did they then fear they’d driven into a sinkhole, or perhaps believe they were being swallowed to the depths of hell itself? And then, how did they feel after about three-quarters of a second, when the car stopped falling and they realized they were relatively fine?

No matter how lousy a day I’m having, I know it’s not as bad as that poor driver’s was. And so it is that I can always be uplifted by a little drainage pit and the memory of what transpired there.