In praise of "crap" technology

I visited my little brother, a dedicated minimalist, last month. In general, I think of myself as not particularly consumerist-y. But hanging out with somebody who is sooo much better at not consuming pointlessly has left me with a lot to think about.

Gadgets are one of the biggest things I've been pondering. This is not, especially, my area of weakness when it comes to consumerism. (That would be landscaping plants, furniture, and kitchenware.) But I did recently get my first smart phone. I have been, lately, complaining about the weight of my old MacBook. And I have been contemplating a new MP3 player. In other words, I'm at a potential buying stage in my slow-moving gadget cycle. Do I need to be, though? And if there is a reason to buy some new stuff, how should I make those choices?

That's probably why Thomas Hayden's essay In Praise of Crap Technology struck a chord with me. In it, Hayden waxes poetic about his $19.99 Coby MP3 player. It's a product that's supposed to suck. It's something you buy reluctantly, when you can't afford an iPod. But, apparently, nobody bothered to let the Coby know about that. It's boring. It's ugly. It doesn't have the latest features. But, as Hayden points out, it's also durable, inexpensive, inherently theft-deterrent, and reliable. It also does exactly what he needs it to do. No less. And no more.

My portable audio technology needs are simple. A few hundred well-chosen—by me, dammit—songs and a half-dozen episodes of the WTF podcast and I’m good to go.

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Crap Thermometers

Verdict: The generic thermometers at Lowes are crap. Read the rest

Dusting for dog-crap in a fancy condo

The condo association at Scarlett Place, a posh Baltimore building, have proposed to DNA-test all the dogs on the premises, and use DNA from errant dog-turds to identify feckless owners and fine them $500 per dog-pie.
Using all the dog swabs, BioPet would create a doggie database of sorts for the complex. It would compare all those samples to the mysterious doggie-doo. When BioPet identifies the guilty pooch, the owner would pay a $500 fine.

"We pay all this money, and we're walking around stepping in dog poop," resident Steven Frans told The Sun. "We bring guests over and this is what they're greeted by."

Frans is the board member who proposed the plan, calling it a reasonable and objective way to find the culprit.

DNA Could Solve Doggie-Doo Caper (via Freakonomics Blog)

(Image: A New Way to Complain About Dog Poop, a Creative Commons Attribution (2.0) image from aoifecitywomanchile's photostream) How to make a minpin poop compost bin: an illustrated guide ... Woman fined for picking up the wrong dog's poop Barbie doll set comes with plastic dog crap Al Jaffee's dog crap epoxy invention Designer dog poo bags Gadgets Taiwan city launches new cash-for-poop initiative Dogs and cats, living together ... mass hysteria! Read the rest

Luxury watch made from dinosaur crap

Yvan Arpa's coprolite watch is a US$11,290 timepiece with a face made from fossil dinosaur turds and a band made from black cane-toad skin (normally poisonous, rendered inert through processing).

The thing is, coprolites just aren't that valuable. Dinosaurs left behind a lot of crap. This site sells coprolite at $8 per pound (it makes a wicked gift!).

Swiss luxury watch made of fossilized dinosaur feces, toad skin costs $11,290 (Photo) (Thanks, Jonathan!) Previously:Discovering the first Americans' bathroom Common outdoor climbing phobias and how to combat them Read the rest