First, I shave. My face. I mean, that’s what THIS post is about, at least. I have been using a Gillette Fusion, a disposable razor that, as far as I can tell, is basically the winner of The Blade Wars (where the companies went back and forth daring each other to add more blades). There are probably razors with new blades now, but the Fusion won because not only did they cram extra blades onto it, they added BATTERIES.
To a disposable razor.
That’s not even the wackiest part of this story. That comes later, but let’s talk about the batteries for a moment because that’s semi relevant.
“What?” I imagine you asking in your head. “Why? How?” you might continue, gradually working your way towards defining the components of a successful newspaper article. Basically, you might be wondering what role a battery has in a disposable razor, and I’ll tell you: It makes it buzz.
It’s like there’s an angry wasp inside that’s trying to escape some sort of plastic cage but it can’t. Also, it only buzzes when you press the button. You may have made the mental connection to other devices that do what this disposable razor does, devices that traditionally do not have sharp edges but unlike the razor, it’s kinda a core function. That’s not true for the Fusion as far as I can tell.
So why does my disposable razor buzz and vibrate? I have no idea. If you’re looking for meaning in this marketing decision, I have none. I have dutifully replaced the AAA battery four or five times so I’ve actually made a financial investment in this feature but I don’t know why it exists. I think the box suggested that it would somehow help the blades get, I don’t know, some kind of closer shave or something through the magic of “razor waves” or something, but any time I try to imagine how that would work I just see the sharp steel of my razor filleting my skin even more effectively than before, leaving a trail of cytoplasm from ruptured cell walls as blood streams down the handle but for some reason, that’s not what happens. BZZZZZ…. BZZZ…. BZZZ? I have no idea.
But as I mentioned earlier, the Mystery Of The Batteries is not even the strangest part of this story. No, the strange part is the thing that I mentioned in passing to some friends and then realized from their reactions that my actions over the past six plus years were not those of a normal person.
Here’s the deal, the reason I’m writing this… I last replaced my disposable razor blade in August of 2008. All of those inexplicable battery replacements? They were while using the same razor blades.
That’s right, I’ve been using the same disposable cartridge for six and a half years and that’s with shaving almost every day.
“?!*#&#@” you’re thinking now, Q-bert style. That’s a sweet 80s reference, I like it. Anyways, the answer to your semi-coherent garbled mental exclamation is also symbolic: “$$$”. A few weeks after getting the Fusion (with a name like that, how can I NOT buy it? That’s what runs star trek reactors! That’s what happens in the Sun! It’s even a type of cuisine!) It’s got everything going for it, so of course I’ll buy the Gillette Fusion. So I went to buy a replacement cartridge a few weeks later and found it was like crazy expensive.
“No way am I giving up my money to these crooks” I said to myself, unconsciously stroking my perfectly shaved neck in contemplation. “I bet I can get a few more days out of it, no problem.” Days became weeks, weeks became months. I don’t remember ever actually deciding “I’m going for some sort of dumb record”, it just… happened.
Months became 6 years. Visualize this, the razor came with a little ‘Aloe strip’. I assumed it was some kind of marketing thing because it promised soft skin and the power of moisturizing aloe bullshit or something. Within the first week, the green ‘Aloe’ part was gone, obviously. It took a few months for the next real change, but once that had passed, the last remnants of the paper the Aloe had been applied to were gone as well. I think there was a day or two where little bits of exposed adhesive were sticking to my face, but I powered on through and now it’s nice and smooth. My face was basically a giant sheet of organic sandpaper, so this isn’t even surprising, but it worked.
But the blades…. I have no idea WHY they keep working, but I hardly bleed at all. I don’t have some giant misshapen neckbeard so the blades (however many there are) are still sharp enough to do SOMETHING, right? I mean, it’s not like it’s turned into some sort of unpowered Epilady because I hardly cry at all when I shave, so it must be still cutting.
Here’s how I maintain the razor cartridge:
1. About once or twice a month, I use our Waterpik dental water blaster thing (can be used to both stimulate healthy gums or cut plate steel depending on what setting you use) to blast the accumulated bristles out. I’ll turn it on (the pik) then direct the water laser at the back of the razor and get an instant shotgun blast of mini hairs at the wall behind. Because I’m a good husband, I then:
2. redirect the water long enough to rinse this off the wall. YOU’RE WELCOME, WIFE.
And… that’s about it. Oh, I guess I rinse and shake it dry after shaving (again, the razor) but other than that, nothing heroic. I figure I’ve gotten about 2,200 shaves out of it so far, assuming I shave 6.5 times a week (which is reasonable, I take vacations sometimes) and usually once a day.
Back in 2009 or 2010, my lovely wife actually bought me replacement razor carts because she knows how incredibly cheap I was and maybe was a little concerned about blood clogging the shower drains but I heroically set them aside. “No”, I seethed, “I won’t give them the satisfaction.” She gamely backed away and I set the gift aside before facing my next shaving experience.
This gets tricky. There are several possible, but personally I think the most important one is this: The razor cartridge is TOO GOOD for their business model so they’re using a gimmick to trick people into buying new ones.
Yes, I’ll repeat that. No, wait, I won’t, you can just read the previous paragraph again, that’s more efficient. Anyhow, I think the quality of the steel they’re using is just too high for a business that relies on people throwing these things away after a few uses and buying another one. If I know this, then obviously they know it too, so how do they push people to replace the cartridges if they’re still shaving just fine?
It’s obvious: THAT’S the true purpose of the Aloe strip. It’s not there to just be a line item on the box about how goddamn smooth your skin will be, it’s there to be something that visibly wears off so the customer will look at it and say “der, I guess I’d better replace this!”.
So what does this mean? It means that as long as you stay up to date on your tetanus shots and take some basic steps to clean your so-called disposable razor, you too can be a cheap bastard. Remember how I mentioned receiving the gift of replacement blades? A few months ago I actually found them beneath the bathroom sink. I dusted the package off, set it carefully aside and am ready for the day when the blades FINALLY need to be replaced. It’s nice to know I can pull the trigger any time, and I have my wonderful wife to thank for that, but I think I can hold out a little longer.
I’ll wrap this up because I need to go sand my neck callouses, but here’s a suggestion: next time you get ready to replace your blades, take a long hard look at it and ask yourself: Are you REALLY willing to trade your hard-earned cash for a measly pain-free shaving experience? If you ask me, THAT’S the REAL crazy.
You can’t confuse me with facts, my chakra straight up GLOWS with indignation at the thought of allowing doctors (frauds who probably don’t even know the basics of homeopathic phrenology) to use something as cold and heartless as science and training when the real answer is clearly gluten free hand washing.
You want to know the REAL reason they went under? Because they stopped selling the delicious Frosty Cone.
What kind of monster DECIDES to stop selling the Frosty Cone? It was like the perfect hybrid between forbidden ice cream cones and the sensible Frosty. It was…. you remember the 1980s Mini Series V:The Final Battle? Of course you do, you probably don’t got more than a few hours at a time between thoughts about how awesome it was.
If you recall, in the award-winning prime time series one of the alien invaders seduced an earth woman. She ends up giving birth to two things: a small, misshapen baby dinosaur creature full of hatred and a perfect looking little human-looking child with some kind of space magic bullshit.
I don’t remember the science behind it, but she was like a deus ex machina kid who turned off the big space bomb at the end of the film and made everyone happy and able to visualize a future where fewer humans were being eaten by the lizard people. With me so far?
Basically, the Frosty Cone was like that kid. The perfect combination of delicious sugary bullshit and low-calorie Frosty goodness.
The corporate decision to stop selling them? Pretty much dinosaur space Hitler baby.
Were these eight the only ones affected, or will there be more? You know what to do, Wendy’s. Bring back the Frosty Cone or Earth gets it.
80s Music, describe Hypercolor shirts , try to make them jealous of our sweet Garbage Pail Kid cards collections… We’ve got a plan. They’ll like the 80s. No, they’ll LOVE them because that’s when WE were kids. The main way we’ll indoctrinate them into the magic of The Greatest Decade, though, is to show them all the movies WE watched. Maybe if we really want to turn them into little clones of ourselves, it’s not 100% effective, but it’s a start, right? It’s a plan, and it’s a plan that involves watching movies instead of having to go out and really effort, and it’s working kinda! They cheer and clap at Back to the Future, we watch The Goonies then go to Astoria,OR to find landmarks, maybe we watch Die Hard then sit down as a family and discuss mistakes hero Hans Gruber made and how he took his eye off the prize. Basic 80s family stuff, and our best bet at getting shared experiences.
But then… there’s the one film they saw VERY differently than we did. It’s a film that had me terrified and thrilled in equal measure because of the mystery and casual brutality of a hidden foe. I’m talking, of course, about Predator. If you haven’t seen this, it’s a heart-warming story of some buddies out on a ‘camping trip gone wrong’ that’s a metaphor for the struggles of reaching middle-age and our sense of mortali-no, I’m just kidding. It’s an awesome gun-gore-fest where all the real action movie heroes of the 80s curse their way through a jungle in a knock-down drag-out fight against a super duper alien hunter. The creature variously stabs, disembowels, and decapitates the cast but you don’t actually SEE it until near the very end because it’s wearing a ‘cloaking suit’. It’s kinda like those Harry Potter books where Harry does mischief with the Cloak of Invisibility, except instead of sneaking his wand past Argus Filch to get a good Hufflepuffing, the Predator uses HIS invisibility to sneak his SPACEKNIFE into a bunch of PEOPLE.
So here’s where my kids start to see a very different movie; while you don’t SEE the Predator until the last few minutes of the movie, you HEAR it. It makes this terrifying clicking noise that echoes through the jungle. It’s inhuman, it’s menacing, and you hear it every time something terrifying happens to anyone. It sounds like this:
We’re watching it and each time the monster clicks, I peek out from my blanket to see how the kids are doing and they seem… ok with it. In fact, you might say they’re sanguine about it. This is a little joke because while mainly meaning ‘optimistic in a bad situation’, it can also mean ‘blood red’. (For the record, I DID say this was a ‘little joke’, so you have nobody to be disappointed in but yourself if you feel a little let down. Yes, you.)
So anyway, this is really confusing me because I remember being pretty scared of this critter. Actually, I’m a little scared of it right now and I’m just sitting here in front of a computer typing. ‘What does it look like?!’ I remember thinking. You can only see a rough outline through the ‘cloak distortion’ and I remember my imagination going wild. Does it have huge teeth? Does it have some kind of crazy biting mouth? I didn’t know! But my kids seem pretty comfortable with the Predator, like he’s some old friend of theirs. WHY AREN’T THEY SCARED?!
It’s a complete mystery to me until I hear one murmured comment about halfway through the movie that answers everything. I can’t make out the whole sentence, but I heard one word clearly: “Perry”. There’s only one ‘Perry’ that my kids know, and that’s…
Perry the Platypus.
If you’re not a parent or if you’re over 15, you might not know Phineas and Ferb. It’s a Disney cartoon with some wise-cracking kids who go on mysteries and adventures and blah blah blah blah, but relevant to this post: they have a pet duckbill platypus named ‘Perry’ who is also secretly a crime-fighting super agent who never talks. He doesn’t talk, but… he clicks. A lot.
And he sounds, I realize, exactly like the Predator.
Listen for yourself:
(it really starts getting good around hour 4)
So when the big reveal of the Predator happens and you see his weird mouth and beady little pig eyes and space dreadlocks, the kids are startled and make appreciative noises, but it seems like it’s kinda a letdown for them because they’ve been imagining a large duckbill platypus the entire time. Let me repeat this:
For them, Predator was a movie about a platypus that was tearing out spines and knifing people.
These have to be one of the most ridiculous animals out there (is it a bird? Is it a mammal? What’s the deal?) that nobody can really take seriously, so for my kids, the clicking horror that had young me at the edge of a heart-attack was just a big, goofy looking platypus with basically magic Harry Potter pants.
So I have to ask myself, could they know something about Perry I don’t? Could… could THIS be the big match-up we should REALLY be considering after the AvP franchise died out….?
No, that’s ridiculous, but I entertained the thought, and that’s what makes me a good parent according to this one book I think I saw once but please don’t ask for the name because it was a while ago but I’m pretty sure it’s legit advice.
So here we are. On one hand, I’m a little sad that I couldn’t clone my exact experience onto their malleable little brains and make them more ‘Me’-like, on the other hand, people keep saying they’re going to be their own people and grow into unique individuals. WHATEVER, but that’s what they say.
But by the gripping hand… why’d they have to think this ultimate 80s bad-ass was THIS?!
Curse you, Perry the Platypus!
This error message is not an accident. This is not someone being dumb. This is… an artifact of the A20 line hack and it’s glorious and stupid but not for the reasons you think.
When the first IBM PC hits the market almost 35 years ago, a bunch of programmers end up relying on a memory seeking method that involves just cycling through RAM until it bounces off the end register and restarts from the beginning until they get to their target. They do this because it’s easy and saves some processor ticks and, well, it works. This is happening out in the field in thousands of businesses and all the software is pretty much custom written so there’s no central ‘update’ depot.
When the AT chipset comes out and the range of available memory expands, this seek method will now cause an overrun condition and crash a computer but they don’t figure this out until very late in the ship process. IBM realizes that if they ship their new flagship systems, thousands and thousands of businesses will experience huge problems and they’ll probably blame it on the machines. This will be a disaster.
“OH SHIT”, they say, “WE NEED TO FIX THIS”. They also needed to turn off Caps Lock but that’s a different story. They decide they’ll fix it by having a watchdog circuit keep an eye on the memory and look for a process using this traversal method to bounce back to the beginning then manually DO that. But… there’s a shortage of processing. Anything that’s doing this WON’T be doing its real job, and that’ll slow something down.
“We need to find a processor that can take on this job without hurting performance!” they now cry. They look all over. Disk controller? No, it’s busy. They need every bit of power for I/O. Graphics? GOOD LUCK, this is a game of inches and picos with pixels sprinkled everywhere and they can’t spare it there either. Even if they use the CPU, they’ll take a performance hit and MIPS is everything.
Eventually some engineer (maybe the whole CAPS LOCK thing is still fresh on his or her mind) points at the keyboard and drunkenly rasps “What about that?” It turns out there’s a little processor in the keyboard that’s not performance bound. Nobody is running benchmarks on keyboards, at least not that this will affect. They write a hack… IT WORKS!
Post fix, the keyboard then sits there between keypresses watching for 1980-era business code running wildly through the memory and delicately flicks it back to the beginning when it approaches the previous limit.
Eventually, this memory management was moved onto the motherboard and the keyboard was no longer required. Modern computers account for little hacks like by the hundreds in their BIOS and the little processors in keyboards are once again free to go back to waiting for you to type the next letter in your Great American Novel instead of performing a vital chunk of memory management.
And that’s why it was so important to have a keyboard plugged in way back when. It wasn’t a dumb error, this was a leftover chunk of computer history that stuck around for a few years after the original bug it addressed had been fixed. But… the original fix for the bug was far from stupid like anyone who’s seen that message has suspected, far from it. It was a kinda crazy smart hack if you think about it. Maybe it’s not stupid if it works.
“But this movie is basically a documentary of how we’d fight off an alien invasion!” I can hear you saying. I totally get that, but- “How DARE you suggest otherwise!?” As this imagine conversation progresses and you interrupt, your voice gets increasingly strident. Really, I understand, it’s not my intention to disrespect the sacrifices of all the people in the film who fou- “YOU’RE A MONSTER!” you scream in this now very alarming hypothetical conversation, lunging over the desk at me. Let me speak! Wait! Let me describe the one tiny atom of implausibility in this otherwise great ode to our national ‘Never say die, never moderate our defense spending’ spirit!
It’s the magic TV wall.
Next time you watch the film, pay attention to Jeff Goldblum in the TV network operations room with the wall of TVs. This is roughly 27:04:43.21 into the film. The aliens have invaded (spoilers!) and the TV network he works at has the ubiquitous ‘WALL OF ALL TELEVISION CHANNELS’ seen at every TV network in every film.
Each monitor has some static but you’re clearly seeing a hundred different feeds from around the world. He’s basically alone with the wall (Harvey Fierstein is crooning into a phone with those sweet dulcet tones he’s famous for) and the rest of the staff is in the bomb shelter. Suddenly: over the period of like 1-2 seconds, all of the TV channels switch to be one big display like some kind of CRT Voltron.
How does this WORK?! Is everyone around the world looking at a different part of the White House logo and then the president’s face? Who gets the chin, who gets the giant eye? Or does Jeff Goldblum’s TV system automatically recognize that some sort of significant ‘same signal everywhere’ event is happening and combine them even though it’s only 1996 or something? My god, they don’t even have the technology to put twitter feeds at the bottom of their display but we’re expected to believe this wall of televisions can just MAGICALLY figure out that it needs to look like one big TV?
Too far, Dean Devlin & Roland Emmerich. You went too far.
To me, this was the least believable part. …of a film that LITERALLY features an alien invasion that falls prey to Mac OS 7.
So I went back to drinking the coffee-flavored coffee while at work and only getting the good tasting stuff when I went out to Dutch Bros (the Oregon-centered chain I prefer).
…but I knew it wasn’t right. It wasn’t right to just give in. I’m an American, damnit, and part of being an American means not settling for drinks that taste like themselves. No, we FIX those problems!
Got a potato chip that tastes like boring potatoes? AMERICA HAPPENS and now it can taste like some sort of cool ranch.
Got a cookie that tastes like a boring cookie? AMERICA HAPPENS and now we have ‘Cookies & Cream Oreos’, a cookie that taste like an ice cream that’s designed to taste like a cookie!
Got a coffee that tastes like (ew) coffee when you’re at work and don’t have easy access to the drive-thru flavor laboratories of Dutch Bros? AMERICA NEEDS TO HAPPEN so I can figure out their secret, and I think I’m on the right path.
Their secret? Oh-ho, ho, yes, I think I’ve seen what they do differently. I don’t think they use those clear coffee liquids at all, oh no. You see, I’ve WATCHED them. I’ve sat in my car and WATCHED them pour some sort of thick, opaque syrup into measuring cups! That’s right, I’ve been putting lies into my coffee at home. Torani and DaVinci glass bottles with fancy little pictures of caramel? LIES. That’s not the flavor I really want, that’s the stuff that’ll make my drink taste like some airport coffee stand. I need… the better stuff.
Now, I’m not socially adept enough to perform advanced level interaction like ‘asking the coffee person at Dutch Bros’, so I had to come at this from another angle. I cruised every coffee aisle I could, browsed for answers online, but every syrup was basically the same as the stuff that didn’t work until…. yesterday. Leaving my local restaurant supply store, I now had a half gallon jug of ‘Sugar Free Caramel Flavored SAUCE’ and a pump dispenser. The answer was SAUCE. I had been searching for syrup, but now I realize Dutch Bros must use a caramel SAUCE. Of course!
At 6:15 this morning, I decided to get ready for my 6:30 meeting by enjoying a nice, flavorful caramel coffee-that-doesn’t-taste-like-coffee. Challenge: I tried to install the pump thing and couldn’t get it to close. I pulled it out, checked for an adjustment, then tried again. Time is passing, and for some reason I just can’t get this dispenser to lock into place. Each time I pull it out of the jug, caramel syrup is leaving and dripping places and the sink at work is looking… pretty strange.
I push and shove and still can’t get it to thread! I’m an adult, I’ve got a keychain, credit rating, opinions on capital gains, a vacuum cleaner, everything. The indicators of adult-hood are there, but I STILL can’t get the damn syrup dispenser to lock on. It’s defeating me, and as I close in on 6:30 I realize that I’m in trouble. Running back to my desk, I get some scissors and finally figure out that the dispenser tube is wrong (like actually wrong, not ‘I can’t figure it out so it’s wrong-wrong’) and snip an inch off it. Now, the pump locks into place perfectly. 6:28! Quickly, I rinse the sink. I scrub at the bottle, pump some caramel into the coffee cup and fill it, then dart back to my desk and join my call right on time.
Well, even though I may be an adult, I’m not as competent at ‘last second cleaning’ as I thought so as I start to mouse-around and pull up spreadsheets while talking to folks around the country and in Europe, my every movement makes a tiny ‘Tscchk’ noise as the trace particles of caramel stick to things. I’m able to fix about 80% of this with frantic licking while muted (at least, I think I muted my phone…) but essentially most of this meeting is administered in a fog of caramel-smell while I stick to everything.
That said… it wasn’t all bad. You know why? Because my coffee didn’t taste like coffee. Why? Because AMERICA HAPPENED.
I think it’s interesting to note that it’s not the ‘non-interference directive’ or something else descriptive, it’s the PRIME directive.
As in: This is law #1. Not ‘don’t genocide’, not ‘don’t start wars’, not ‘don’t murder alien babies’, but instead don’t interfere.
I think there’s a question that’s been staring us in the face for almost fifty years: Why is it the PRIME directive?
This is my in-universe theory (If you’re thinking ‘Geesh, it’s just a TV show’ then please understand that I know that, but that’s boring): I think something terrible happened at the result of do-gooders trying to help out primitive aliens. I believe it’s evidence that something happened between Enterprise and The Original Series that shook the Federation to its core and drove the creation and implementation of this, the highest law of pace.
In my imagination, something just horrible happened, and I bet this would be an interesting basis for the next TV show. Basically, chronicle the years or event(s) that lead to this. I envision a society that’s coming together and reaching out into the big universe with good intentions. “We’re going to make things better”, parts of them say. “We will be missionaries of freedom and culture and will help other worlds avoid the pitfalls that Earth, Andoria, and Ancient Vulcan went through.” In the series, they’d try to help defuse religious conflicts, provide industry to improve the lives of primitives, and so on.
Of course, there are so many ways things could (and often would)go wrong. Let’s say they stumble across religious conflict so Federation social workers come in and demonstrate scientific method so the primitives can “properly” take stock in the role of nature versus relying on gods. Boom, both sides unite to form a militant theocracy to push the Feds off their planet and something horrible comes into being as a result.
Or, primitive workers are given industrial techniques to improve their lives, but within months they realize that this frees huge numbers of people to engage in warfare against their neighbors. “We could never organize these armies before because we needed everyone in the fields” or something. “Thanks Federation!” (war were declared)
Medical advances are shared, and massive overpopulation or fear of it causes bloodshed. Technology is shared and backfires in some exciting way.
Perhaps the series would culminate in a multi-planet empire of conquest coming together because of the ‘helpful’ meddlings of the Federation and then dying off in some terrible genocide or warfare. Multiple species are killed (maybe even species from Enterprise that weirdly don’t show up later because they didn’t exist yet. Really? No Xindi or Denobulans in TNG?). It becomes obvious that none of it would have ever happened if the well-meaning Federation citizens/Starfleet hadn’t meddled.
New rules are drafted.
Federation society is struck by massive amounts of guilt over what has happened in the name of their civilization. Whole species made extinct because the arrogant Federation citizens ‘knew better’ leads to the drafting of what will be known as the Rule Of Space for this civilization:
The Prime Directive
No ifs, ands, or tribble butts. This is now THE LAW because when we didn’t know better, we fucked things up.