Failed iPhone Designs

So, the big news in the tech world yesterday was the announcement of Apple’s new iPhone 5. After months of speculation, we finally bore witness to the best Cupertino has to offer. You’re probably wondering what amazing new technological marvels Apple has jammed into the Little Smartphone That Could, right? Does it have a translator for Siri? A live feed from the Mars Curiosity rover? How about something to benefit mankind in general, like a filter that stops politicians from tweeting career-ending pictures of their willies?

Sadly, no.

Okay, you say. Then how about a slightly bigger screen and a tiny new connector that will render all my peripherals obsolete? Can I at least get THAT much for my slavish devotion (and my several hundreds of dollars)?

Why, yes. Yes, you can.

Grab your tent and mortgage your house, friends, because the iPhone 5 will be available on September 21st. Maybe. (Scuttlebutt around the supply chain says manufacturing problems at Sharp could cause a display delay.) And as we all know, "display delay" is great fun to say. Also scuttlebutt. The next time I adopt a cat, I’m totally naming him Scuttlebutt. I will chase him around the house yelling, “Out of my way, Scuttlebutt!” Which has nothing to do with iPhones. So. Moving on.

Whether you love or hate Apple — and believe me, there’s no middle ground here — you just have to admire their marketing might. The blogosphere was littered with stories about the release, and there was no shortage of leaked photos or Golum-like hand wringing over possible features. Let’s face it: people just don’t get this excited about products from other companies. “I’m gonna camp out in front of Best Buy so I can get my hands on one of those sweet new Dell laptops,” said no one, ever.

In all the silicon-scented euphoria, it’s easy to overlook the fact that countless hours of R&D went into the new iPhone. So as a special treat for my loyal readers, I called up one of my old procurement buddies who now works at Apple. I asked him to share whatever he could about all the iPhone designs that didn’t quite make the cut, and this is what he sent me. You’re welcome.

Scrapped iPhone Designs:

The biPhone, version 5.wev

Same features as the iPhone 4S, but with one notable exception: the biPhone will happily pair with any provider. In fact, the biPhone frequently switches carriers based on signal strength, barometric pressure, or random whim.



The hiPhone, version 4.20

Designed for the cannabis crowd, the hiPhone featured a working butane lighter, a roach clip that fit into the headphone jack, and every episode of Scooby Doo ever made. To accommodate impaired vision function, all the icons on the home screen were oversized. Siri was upgraded with the Stoner 2.0 language interface, although designers were unable to create the “Insti-Nachos” feature requested by beta testers.



The piPhone, version 3.141592653589793238462643383ohforfuckssake

The piPhone* was every nerd’s dream, with a satellite uplink to CERN, a fully operational Geiger counter, and a super-charged processor for calculating Laurent expansion coefficients when determining hyperfunction solutions of invariant linear differential equations. Preloaded with their favorite MMORPGs and a ComicCon countdown clock, the piPhone also contained step-by-step instructions for building a freakishly accurate Lego death-star.

*Note: The piPhone did not include call capability. In beta testing, users exhibited an acute resistance to voice-to-voice interaction, so this feature was removed.



The broPhone, version 80085(.)(.)

Every guy needs a wingman, right? The broPhone’s got your back, and then some. Unlike your old roommate, the broPhone won’t put the moves on your date or convince you to prank-call your boss at 2 a.m. Siri was replaced with Biri, a bro’s best friend. Biri can tell you which ale goes best with your ranch-seasoned chicken wings, then amuse your friends with endless rounds of the “Biri, how do I hide a body?” game. Bonus for Seinfeld fans: Biri was voiced by Patrick (Puddy) Warburton.




The yoPhone, version 5.0 (but tells everyone it’s version 7.0)

Money can’t buy class—but it can buy hair plugs and a douchey convertible. Ready to party? Don’t waste your night at Club Butterface! Tap the screen, and the yoPhone scans the dance floor, alerting you to any unusually high levels of Spanx. Using the all new, low-light camera, the yoPhone provides a Relative Hottie Score (RHS) for any setting, based on median bust measurement, average BMI, and percentage of body waxed. With the yoPhone in your pocket, you’ll always know when to stay and when to blow.



The hoPhone, version 6.9

Available in the US only, the hoPhone was designed for the millions of women having non-stop orgies now that their slutty birth control is free. Everyone knows only prostitutes use contraception, so the hoPhone automatically records and uploads these trollops’ sexytimes videos for the rest of the world to watch and judge. Whores Women aren’t worthy of civil rights. Or dignity. That’s why the hoPhone comes standard with the Akinator, an app that easily determines whether her rape was legitimate or not (quick guess — it wasn’t).



Note to self: Blog entries written whilst concurrently reading Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Caitlin Moran’s “How To Be a Woman” (not to mention listening to clips of Rush Limbaugh) may take on a decidedly edgy tone.

Must. Not. Frighten. Readers.


(Special thanks to Deb Rebisz for the IM conversation (and typos, ha!) that inspired this blog post, and to Gizmodo for the frontal image of the phone.)


Desk, Meet Head

Hoping to prevent the inevitable brain drain of summer, I spent a small fortune on activity books and flash cards for my seven-year old daughter last June. And since school starts in just twelve days, I figured this might be a good time to start thinking about cracking those puppies open. Sure, it means I’ll lose a very efficient doorstop (that kid can prop open a door like nobody’s business!), but I’m willing to make the sacrifice. Also, I’m kidding. I’d never use my daughter as a doorstop. Not when she’s awake, at least.

Anyhoodles, I spent the morning reminding myself why I’d make a lousy teacher. We started out great, my child practically drooling from her all-consuming hunger for knowledge. Or maybe I forgot to feed her breakfast. Either way, the novelty of playing school with Mommy wore off faster than you can say, “I’m calling CPS.”

The hemming began halfway through the first worksheet, followed quickly by the inevitable hawing. And as everyone knows, hawing is the gateway drug of dithering about.

Thus we entered the five stages of W.O.R.K. (WTF, OMG, RAWR, KMN). For you web neophytes, that’s what-the-fudge, oh-my-gosh, rawr (it means “I love you” in dinosaur), and kill-me-now.

Stage One: Whining

For readers without children, try to imagine the sound of a thousand fingernails scraping across a chalkboard. Now imagine your last nerve as said chalkboard, and the scraping sounds as every word emitted from your child’s mouth, mixed with all the tears that no one hears you cry.

It usually goes something like this:

“But whyyyyyyyyyy do I have to write the alphabet?”

“You said this would be fuuuuuuuuun.”

“How much mooooooooooore?”

“I want to go play MySims Agents on the Wii. This is haaaaaaard.”

Okay, so that last one was actually me. Whining begets whining, apparently. Also, that game is super fun.



Stage Two: Denial

This stage is categorized by toddler-onset dementia with elements of willful ignorance. Common symptoms include the inability to hold a pencil correctly, not remembering how to write one’s name, and claiming you didn’t learn how to do that in first grade, despite the HUNDREDS OF TIMES I’VE SEEN YOU DO THIS VERY GODDAMNED THING SO STOP STALLING AND DO IT ALREADY.

Ahem. I mean, “Just keep trying, Sweetie. That’s all Mommy asks.”


Stage Three: Arguing

The Arguing Stage can occur independently, or concurrently with the Denial Stage. Note that logic is not a requirement for Stage Three. Neither is the use of critical thinking, reasoning, or concentration. For further discussion, refer to the following transcript from today’s session.

Me: “What’s eight plus seven?”
Child: “House.”
Me: (blinking) “Um …”
Child: “That’s a picture of a house.”
Me: “Yes. And above it is a box labeled “Instructions.” What do the instructions say?”
Child: (reads) “Add the numbers inside the house. Oh.” (writes answer)
Me: “Honey, that five is backward.”
Child: “No, it isn’t”
Me: “If you don’t believe me, just look at the gazillion examples on the same page as the backward five you just wrote.”
Child: “Well, that’s not how we write it in French.”
Me: (takes a deep breath) “Numbers are indeed pronounced differently in French, but they’re written the same as in English. The language doesn’t affect it.”
Child: “Not if they’re in Chinese.”
Me: (twitching) “Grrrbbllk.”
Child: “Mommy, why are stabbing yourself with that pencil?”
Me: “Just write the $%#& number already!”




Stage Four: Bargaining

Expect a drastic shift in tactics, should the subject fail to reach its goal through the use of whining, denial, and arguing. Ranging from subtle cajoling to outlandish suggestions, the Bargaining Phase can include such gems as:

“Can I get you another cup of coffee? Including distractions, I’ll only be in the kitchen for an hour.”

“Instead of math, how about I make your bed every morning for the next 82,000 mornings?”

“If you tell me the answers, I’ll write them down and pretend I did it myself.”

“I’ll give you a dollar if you just finish this @#*% worksheet!”

(Again, that last one was me.)


Stage Five: Acceptance

If we ever make it to this stage, I’ll let you know what it looks like.

And so ends Day One.

I’m exhausted, my head is screaming, and I owe that sly little child four dollars.

Honestly, I don’t know how teachers do this week in and week out. Even our recess breaks wore me out, although that might have had more to do with playing badminton in August, in Texas, when it’s over 100-degrees outside. But, still.

I have always respected teachers, and today was an excellent reminder of the love, patience, and effort they bring to the profession. I had ONE CHILD to manage over the course of ONE DAY — and I’m already Googling the rates for Kumon Learning Center. How the heck do real teachers haul themselves to school each year, knowing they’ll be imprisoned with a roomful of noisy, misbehaving miscreants? I wouldn’t trade places for the world. I’m just glad we show appreciation for our nation’s teachers with super high salaries and the collective bargaining rights of organized labor unions. Oh, wait …

Seriously, folks. Now more than ever, it’s important to rally around teachers. Our children are our future, our best hope for fixing the continual clusterfuck in which mankind always seems to find itself. Without our teachers, the lives of our children — indeed, our very future — is beyond bleak.

At back-to-school time especially, I offer the teachers of the world an enormous THANK YOU. Thank you for coming back, thank you for signing up for another year of torture, and thank you for the mountain of work under which you'll soon be crushed. This country holds legions of parents, from helicopter to absentee, who will do everything possible this year to make your job harder, blame you for their parental failings, and issue blood-pressure-popping statements like, “Teachers get off at three each day and don’t work over the summer … what an easy life!”

Forgive us, please, for we know not what we say.

Also, how much looooooonger until school starts? This is haaaaaaaarrrrd.





Getting My Laugh On

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like the 2012 election season has been going on F-O-R-E-V-E-R? Hard to believe there are still three months before we can rock the vote. I hope my bullshit-meter can hold out that long.

I know this sounds whiney, but it’s just not fun anymore. The loss of candidates like Herman “Uzbeki-beki-beki-stan-stan” Cain and Rick “What’s-the-Third-Thing” Perry has made the entire presidential election seem less like a circus stop in Crazytown and more, well … dire.

Whenever the rhetoric and mudslinging make me search for something stabby upon which to impale myself, I turn to my favorite web sites and find solace in humor.

For today’s Wild & Woolly Web Wednesday post, I present some gems from the best make-the-world-go-away sites out there.

1. The End-of-Sexual-Harassment celebration cake from Cake Wrecks, the site that brings the best (or worse, depending on your perspective) in professional cake disasters.

I’m guessing the cake is flavored with vanilla and unemployment. Be sure to check out ‘The Classics’ section for further chuckles from this awesome site. Naked mohawk-baby carrot jockeys for the win!

2. The Lost-in-Translation signs at are sure to find you "happy for abundant to make."


As long as you do it carefully, I guess …

Browse the ‘Most Popular’ section for the top-rated failed translations. For a real treat, check out Adult Engrish (If you’re over 18. And you have a strong stomach.).

3. The spell-checkingest failures around can be found at Damn You, Autocorrect.

In writing circles, this is what's known as metaphor FAIL. It’s further evidence that poets and texts don’t mix (as if we needed proof).

It was really difficult to pick my favorites from this site. So many are made of win.


I totally want to go drinking (and dwarfing) with these girls. I’ll Be Dopey. Who’s with me?


4. Finally, you don’t have to be in publishing to appreciate the beauty of SlushPile Hell, where an anonymous literary agent takes snippets from some truly awful query letters and responds with snarkalicious quips.


I urge you to visit any and all of these sites whenever you need a laugh. They're all enormous time sucks, but I like to consider it “research” into human nature. Or something.

What web sites tickle YOUR funny bone?



Thank You For the Music

You know it’s gonna be a good post when it starts with an Abba song, amiright? Kickin’ it old school today, homies. ‘Cause that’s how I roll. Hells to the yeah, I’m down with the hipness.

*clears throat*

*stops channeling Eugene Levy*



Aren’t his eyebrows the most glorious thing since the invention of hyperbole? Just looking at him makes me want to write a Groucho Marx biopic. Are you listening, Hollywood? Call me.

Speaking of cool cats, I came across this video yesterday:



I have so much misplaced love for this. I simply adore the way someone, somewhere had the comedic sense to insert the “Mississippi—1870” caption at the start of the video. It helps explain so much. I mean, everyone knows the post-Civil War south was littered with riverboat gamblers and well-to-do African Americans. But the heavily made-up, strangely dressed spectacle of Boy George would have been difficult to understand without the crucial information that this was Mississippi in 1870. Whew, I get it now. Also, wtf are those boys stuffing into that barrel at 00:40? Methinks someone has been steeping in their creepers tea a tad too long.


Lest you think I sit around all day YouTubing Culture Club (an awesome pastime, no?), the video actually appeared after I’d watched this gem:



This video was the shizzle when I was young. I was totally entranced by the rotoscoping, although in all fairness I was pretty easy to impress as a kid. Dust particles in sunbeams captivated me back then. Also Madonna. But I was right about this one, which won several categories at the 1986 MTV Video Music Awards. I recently played it for my seven-year old (who inherited my sunbeam fascination), and I’m happy to report that twenty-seven years after its debut, the effects are still wowing audiences (and simple children.)

Just to wax nostalgic for a moment … remember when MTV played videos all day? And The Weather Channel featured real-time weather, rather than bad reenactments from every Jolene and Bubba out there (“God listened to our prayers and saved us from that there tornader.” (Sorry, everyone else who died—I guess God totally hates you.)) Oh! And remember when ABC News actually verified facts before Brian Ross projectile vomited them into the airwaves? And speaking of the media, remember when CNN was just a struggling cable news organization? Oh, wait …

Anyhoo, back to the music. Rambly Girl is rambly today. But I swear there’s a point in here somewhere.

Whether videos enthrall or repel, the music always moves me. When I write, I continually add and subtract to the “soundtrack” of my novel. The playlist for THE GREAT WALL started with a dozen songs and ended with 132. Some of them contain lyrics that represent a character, some capture the mood of a particular scene, and a select few play to the underlying theme of the story.

My protagonist, Kate, could star in a video for “Good Intentions,” Toad the Wet Sprocket’s stirring tribute to malaise and inadequacy. Listening to that song not only transports me to Mill Ave in the 90’s (and to my broker-than-a-crack-smoker days), it also crams me inside the head of my character. Can’t everyone relate to lines like this?


It’s hard to rely on my good intentions
When my head’s full of things that I can’t mention
It seems I usually get things right
But I can’t understand what I did last night


Yep. Been there, done that. Got the misdemeanor important life lesson.

Songs help me “hear” my character, and they also allow me to craft a scene around them. Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi” and S.H.E.’s “Superstar” were on repeat when I wrote about the charity gig Kate attends at a glitzy Macau casino. Both songs evoked a powerful vibe, even though I couldn’t decipher the lyrics. (“Superstar” is in Mandarin, and Gaga’s native tongue is a combination of Gibberish and Cetacean, if I’m not mistaken.)

Understanding the lyrics became more important at the climax of my story, as Kate battles bad guys and seemingly insurmountable odds. That's when I called on Breaking Benjamin to deliver these rousing lyrics:


All is lost again
But I’m not giving in
I will not bow / I will not break
I will shut the world away
I will not fall / I will not fade
I will take your breath away


Of course, no novel about an American high-tech worker auditing a Chinese factory would be complete without a visit from Coldplay:


Come out upon my seas
Curse missed opportunities
Am I a part of the cure
Or am I part of the disease


Although if I’m honest, I played this final blast-from-the-past just as often.



SOLID GOLD, baby! Man, I miss the 80's.

Other than the “I sailed away to China” line (followed by a racist reference to laundry), this song has nothing whatsoever to do with my story. It stayed in the rotation nonetheless, inspiring me in a different way.

In fact, ALL music inspires me, which is the point of this post (and arguably of music itself). I may not like all genres, but they all have the ability to affect me. Rock moves me to write novels, while country music moves me to pierce my eardrums with ice picks. And without jazz, I’d never have learned how to tie a noose.

I’m not sure I would be a writer without a trove of songs to inspire me. Even if I were, I doubt I’d care for anything I produced. Which means I owe music a great debt of gratitude.

So I say thank you for the music, the songs [they’re] singing
Thanks for all the joy they’re bringing
Who can live without it? I ask in all honesty
What would life be?
Without a song or a [book] what are we?
So I say thank you for the music, for giving it to me




Every STEM Needs a Flower

My 7-year old daughter was so excited to start her week of Robotics Summer Camp today. She’s talked of little else but how much fun it will be to build her own robot and control it via remote.

“And I’ll get to make new friends,” she told me last night. As an only child, she loves to meet new kids.

Unfortunately, her extroverted nature all but vanished when we arrived this morning. The camp was being held in one of the training rooms at the massive Boy Scouts’ Center in town (it was slated for a hotel conference room when I signed up, although there was a disclaimer that the location could change).

“Are you sure girls are allowed inside?” my daughter asked when we pulled up.

I assured her they were, but her doubts seemed founded when we entered the training room. There sat twenty-five boys, ranging in age from seven to fourteen, in front of twenty-five robot kits. My daughter, dressed in pink from head to toe, didn’t exactly fit in. She was told to place her lunch in the corner with the others and find a seat in front of a robot kit.

I can’t explain how incongruous her hot-pink Barbie lunchbox looked in that sea of camo, superhero, alien-ninja bags.

She surveyed the room, her body pressed against my hip, and whispered, “I don’t want to do this.”

My heart broke.

It’s been several decades, but I can still remember that first-day-at-a-new-school feeling, the sweaty-palms panic of everyone looking at you, judging you. Rejecting you. I hate that she had to experience that.

I reminded her of how cool it would be to learn how to build a robot, and I helped her find a seat. She was unnaturally quiet, but she did seem interested in the circuitry inside her robot kit. I kissed her goodbye and left, and although I was a little anxious for her I have a feeling she’ll have made a new friend by the end of the day. At school, she plays with the boys as much as the girls. She’s just never been so vastly outnumbered before.

I should have anticipated this, of course. The number of women in STEM fields — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics — is disappointingly low. Even more troubling is the realization that there are no signs of improvement.

Citing a 2011 report by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Forbes reported last month that only 1 in 7 engineers is female. Worse, women have seen no job growth in the STEM fields since the year 2000. Despite awareness of the gender gap, women have had over a decade of stagnant employment in these deeply critical areas.

Here’s another staggering figure: although 60% of all bachelor’s degrees are held by female graduates, less than 20% of computer science bachelor's degrees go to women.

The problem begins as early as grade school, where girls are seldom encouraged to participate in science and math (and robotics camps, apparently), and are instead steered toward the arts and humanities. The idea of brains belonging to boys and beauty to girls is everywhere.

Remember when JC Penney was (rightly) pressured to stop selling this shirt to young girls last year? In case you can't make it out, the shirt reads, "I'm too pretty to do homework, so my brother has to do it for me." The shirt was sold online with this nauseating blurb: "Who has time for homework when there’s a new Justin Bieber album out?"



The shirt "controversy" occurred in 2011, a full EIGHTY-SEVEN years after this 1924 Palmolive ad, which states: Most men ask “Is she pretty?” not “Is she clever?”



You’ve come a long way baby? I don’t think so. And neither does Jean Kilbourne, who offers the fantastic “Killing Us Softly” series, which examines how advertising “traffics in distorted and destructive ideals.” I dare you to watch the trailer (it’s under five minutes) and not be moved.



I like to think I’m doing my part to change the trend by sending my daughter to robotics camp, but perhaps I’d be better off destroying her Barbie lunchbox instead. Is that the solution? Refusing to buy her disproportionate dolls and rescue-the-damsel Disney princess movies? Is it even realistic to imagine I could shield her from the 3,000 ads she’s subjected to each day? And wouldn’t a no-Barbie policy be akin to abstinence-only sex ed, making her all the more interested in that which is taboo?

I just don’t know. This parenting thing is hard. Almost as hard as math (wink, wink).

I do know I was awfully damned happy to see a family with twin fourteen-year old girls enter the facility before I left. I mentioned my daughter’s fear of being the only girl in the camp, and the twins immediately headed to her table, choosing seats on either side of her. I’m not sure if they’ll stay together, as the class will be separated by age group. Still, it was nice to see a few more X chromosomes in da house.

Does anyone have suggestions for fostering a love of all things STEM with my little girl? Know any affordable, at-home science projects we could do? I'd love to hear your STEM success stories!