The Daily Parker

Politics, Weather, Photography, and the Dog

Didn't like your gifts? Amazon has a patent for that

I'm not entirely sure what I think of this:

Amazon is working on a solution that could revolutionize digital gift buying. The online retailer has quietly patented a way for people to return gifts before they receive them, and the patent documents even mention poor Aunt Mildred. Amazon's innovation, not ready for this Christmas season, includes an option to "Convert all gifts from Aunt Mildred," the patent says. "For example, the user may specify such a rule because the user believes that this potential sender has different tastes than the user." In other words, the consumer could keep an online list of lousy gift-givers whose choices would be vetted before anything ships.

The proposal has also brought into focus a very costly part of the e-retailing business model: Up to 30 percent of purchases are returned, and the cost of getting rejected gifts back across the country and onto shelves has online retailers scrambling for ways to reduce these expenses.

Amazon's patent is 12 pages long, with numerous diagrams, including a "Gift Conversion Rules Wizard" that shows how a user could select rules such as, "No clothes with wool." The document makes for curious reading, reducing the art of gift giving to the dry language of patentry.

So, someone buys you a gift through Amazon, who in turn send you an email warning you about the gift, so you can take the money the other person paid and apply it to something you would prefer. That seems kind of...rude, don't you think?

On the other hand, it might cut economic deadweight loss around the holidays....

The patent is number 7,831,439.

Found in the archives

From 1995, various historical figures answer the age-old question, "Why did the chicken cross the road?"

For the greater good.
Karl Marx
It was an historical inevitability.
So that its subjects will view it with admiration, as a chicken which has the daring and courage to boldly cross the road, but also with fear, for whom among them has the strength to contend with such a paragon of avian virtue? In such a manner is the princely chicken’s dominion maintained.
Because of an excess of light pink gooey stuff in its pancreas.
Jacques Derrida
Any number of contending discourses may be discovered within the act of the chicken crossing the road, and each interpretation is equally valid as the authorial intent can never be discerned, because structuralism is DEAD, DAMMIT, DEAD!
Give me ten minutes with the chicken and I’ll find out.
Timothy Leary
Because that’s the only kind of trip the Establishment would let it take.
Douglas Adams
Forty two.
Because if you gaze too long across the Road, the Road gazes also across you.
Oliver North
National security was at stake.
B.F. Skinner
Because the external influences which had pervaded its sensorium from birth had caused it to develop in such a fashion that it would tend to cross roads, even while believing these actions to be of its own free will.
Carl Jung
The confluence of events in the cultural gestalt necessitated that individual chickens cross roads at this historical juncture, and therefore synchronicitously brought such occurrences into being.
Jean–Paul Sartre
In order to act in good faith and be true to itself, the chicken found it necessary to cross the road.
Ludwig Wittgenstein
The possibility of “crossing” was encoded into the objects “chicken” and “road,” and circumstances came into being which caused the actualization of this potential occurrence.
Albert Einstein
Whether the chicken crossed the road or the road crossed the chicken depends upon your frame of reference.
To actualize its potential.
If you ask this question, you deny your own chicken-nature.
Howard Cosell
It may very well have been one of the most astonishing events to grace the annals of history. An historic, unprecedented avian biped with the temerity to attempt such an herculean achievement formerly relegated to homo sapien pedestrians is truly a remarkable occurence.
Salvador Dali
The Fish.
It was the logical next step after coming down from the trees.
Emily Dickinson
Because it could not stop for death.
For fun.
It didn’t cross the road; it transcended it.
The eternal hen–principle made it do it.
To die. In the rain.
We are not sure which side of the road the chicken was on, but it was moving very fast.
David Hume
Out of custom and habit.
Saddam Hussein
This was an unprovoked act of rebellion and we were quite justified in dropping 50 tons of nerve gas on it.
Jack Nicholson
’Cause it (censored) wanted to. That’s the (censored) reason.
Pyrrho the Skeptic
What road?
Ronald Reagan
I forget.
John Sununu
The Air Force was only too happy to provide the transportation, so quite understandably the chicken availed himself of the opportunity.
The Sphinx
You tell me.
St. Peter
I tell you, I don’t know any chicken.
To live deliberately...and suck all the marrow out of life.
Mark Twain
The news of its crossing has been greatly exaggerated.
Herbert Marcuse
It was beguiled by false needs. Evidently, it was under the impression that the other side of the road was even better than the side it was already on.
Emile Durkheim
The chicken may have been an individual seeking to express its moral imperative in doing the right thing.
George H.W. Bush
Chicken. Road. Crossed it. Just because.
Rush Limbaugh
Get back here, I’m still hungry! The darn thing just up and took off! And that was not the right thing to do.
Bill Clinton
Well, it could have crossed the road, for some reason, which we will determine after a period of study.
Sinead O’Connor
“Flee chicken! Flee and be free!” The chicken wanted freedom from the chicken–eating big people.
Captain Kirk
Perhaps/probably/it seems/to which direction did the chicken go? Bones? Scotty? Spock?
Dammit Jim, I’m a doctor, not a Colonel!
She’s criss–crossed like a Christmas tree! I’ll need more time!
Logic suggests the chicken required itself to be on the other side of the road. For which purpose cannot be determined at this time.
Is it moral to interfere with the chicken’s choices?
I sense something from the chicken, sir. It’s definitely across the road.
Karl Marx
In order for the chicken to have increased meat mass, the capitalists required the chicken to cross the road several times.
Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate
Can we talk about this? I mean, I’m not so happy right now and I’d rather not answer the question.
F. Lee Bailey
Objection, your Honor. My opponent is leading the chicken.
Spike Lee
It’s a chicken thing. You wouldn’t understand.
Billy Crystal in When Harry Met Sally...
You know, chickens and ducks can never really be friends.

The United States of Autocomplete

Strange Maps finds our state mottoes through Google:

Google any word, and the search engine will suggest a longer phrase, based on the popularity of current searches starting with the same word.

This so-called autocomplete function (1) is, like any good advice, in equal parts helpful and annoying. Also, being a clever piece of statistics, it offers a fascinating insight into the mind(s) of the Great Online Public.

The same principle of random revelation can be applied to geographic terms, which is exactly what this map does. These United States of Autocomplete have been collated simply by typing in the name of each US state, then plotting the autocompleted results on an actual map of the US.

Montana's, and Washington's are, for different reasons, the most surprising.

My remote office, noticed

Sullivan included my note to him about The Duke of Perth in his thread on America's corner pubs. The whole thread is worth reading, as most Americans don't seem to know that such thing as a corner pub exists—except those of us who live in actual cities:

I'm sitting in a great pub in Chicago right now: the Duke of Perth. It's walking distance from my apartment, has wonderful Shepherd's Pie (though they assure me it contains no shepherds), Theakston's Twisted Thistle IPA on draught, and 90 varieties of single-malt Scotch. It also has no TVs, free WiFi, and two active fireplaces. Bonus: it's owned by a guy who immigrated from Scotland.

Sullivan's blog has hundreds of thousands of page views per day.

Breakups, the infographic way

Via Sullivan, a collection of data and infographics about "the battlefield of love:"

There are many opportunities for failure with 3 million first dates every day worldwide.

It turns out that sex is pretty important as 56% of adults claim to be unhappy with their sex life and 22% of married people worldwide have had an extramarital affair. Turkey has the highest rate of affairs with 58% of married people, and Israel the lowest with 7%. Cheating is one of the most popular reasons for breaking up with 25% of women and 18% of men reporting it as the reason for their last relationship's end.

Many find success as 2.5 million per year vow "Till death do we part," albeit nearly half will break that vow. 5.4% of adults, for better or worse die having never married.

Really wish they'd finished in October

Guys are installing new windows at IDTWHQ, completing the project begun in March 2009. (I split it into two phases to spread the cost over two years.) I ordered this set mid-August. We thought they'd be done in October, but no such luck.

Here's the effect, according to the Inner Drive Technology International Data Center Monitor:

The bottom axis shows local time, the vertical shows degrees Celsius. Also keep in mind that servers produce heat, so the server rack usually runs about 2°C warmer than the rest of the apar—World Headquarters. And for those keeping score at home, right now it's -1°C outside.

I'll have more art later in the day.

Now on the reading list

My reading list occupies two and a quarter shelves in my living room. No matter. I have another 60 or 70 years left, and I'm on airplanes a lot. I'll admit to a little twinge when I buy a Kindle edition of a print book I already own, but, hey, I'm supporting the arts.

Just added today: from a piece on this morning's Weekend Edition Saturday, Hint Fiction, edited by Robert Swartwood. Start with the Ernest Hemingway original ("For sale: baby shoes. Never worn.") and continue to infra-compact modern stories:

Will Panzo's "The Man Of Tomorrow Or Maybe You've Heard This One Before, But You've Never Heard It Like This"
Dying planet. A boy, a rocket, a last hope. Kansas cornfield crash landing. Ma finds it sleeping in the crater. Pa fetches the shotgun.

J. Matthew Zoss' "Houston, We Have a Problem"
I'm sorry, but there's not enough air in here for everyone. I'll tell them you were a hero.

I've also added Buzz: The Science and Lore of Alcohol by Stephen Braun and The Soul of a New Machine by Tracy Kidder.

My strategy professor excerpted part of the latter for an assignment last week, and I got hooked. The tragedy really hooked me: the book chronicles Data General's push to develop a 32-bit 1979, three years before IBM released the PC.