Friday, June 03, 2005

Intelligent Design

I owe all of my readers an apology.

I was not, as I sarcastically claimed, taking a class on intelligent design for the last two weeks. That was supposed to be an oh-so-witty comment on the debate here in the south about removing evolution from science curricula in the public schools. But three of my four readers took my sarcastic claim seriously, which, as any teacher knows, means that the problem was not in the test-takers but in the test question.

So sorry for the lame joke and confusing post.

But I can tell that over the last two weeks I have been doing some thinking about design, intelligent and otherwise. Especially the otherwise, of which I have encountered numerous examples.

Here are my conclusions:

1. Having people waiting in a long line go through a series of stages to, say, oh, check in for a flight, is not a bad idea, but the stages should be designed such that the first checkpoint does not hold up the waiters so long that the checkers at the second checkpoint are waiting around for new waiters to approach their checkpoint.

2. There should be an application process for people who are going to use the machines that dispense tickets at, for instance, a museum. The process should be rigorous, so that when people get to the machine they do not stare at it blankly, then look around helplessly for someone to help them. Questions on the application might include:

* Did you get your money ready while you were waiting in the long-ass line, or are you planning to wait until you are right in front of the machine to fish around in your change purse?

* Are you capable of interpreting the little graphics that show which way to insert your credit card?

* When the sign reads "This machine accepts 1's, 5's, 10's and 20's" does this really mean:

a. The machine accepts 1's, 5's, 10's and 20's only.
b. Because I am special, I can expect to pay with a 50.

3. Digital cameras are the downfall of the museum experience. People seem to think that because they do not want actually to look at paintings, taking digital pictures of them is a good idea, so they can prove to all their friends that they saw them, even though really they did not. Digital cameras make this process easier because you need not hold the camera up to your eye, but can simply look at the little screen. Plus, since you do not have to buy film, why not take a picture of every painting you see? Never mind that photos of paintings from museums tend to look crappy, and even worse when you shoot with a flash and the picture is covered with glass. Plus, hasn't anyone told these people that repeated flashbursts dim the pigments in paintings?

4. I understand that it is necessary to have your bags before you clear customs, but in this modern world filled with brilliant thinkers, can we not come up with something more efficient that waiting to get off a plane, waiting to go through Immigration, waiting to get your bags, waiting to clear customs, waiting to re-check your bags, waiting for the dumb train to take you to the main terminal, waiting for your bags again?

5. While we're talking about clearing American customs, would it be so difficult to including some English signage to indicate which line you need to be in? I appreciate the goodwill that comes from telling speakers of Spanish, French, and Japanese which line they need to be in if they are bringing clams into the US of A, but would a little English break the Homeland Security budget?

OK, I am done complaining now, and, yes, I had a marvelous time in France, and, yes, I have the imperial waistline to prove it.

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