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    Velcro and Microwave Ovens

    by Raka

    A microwave containing velcro.

    Velcro and microwave ovens:  two darn nifty things.  That's a fairly nonconfrontational statement.  Most of us can get behind it.  Nothing unequivocal; whether you're upset that microwave ovens cause sterility or upset that they don't cause sterility, you can still say they're nifty.  Velcro might be packaged with grease made from pork fat, but that would just make them blasphemous to some.  In no way does hypothetical potential blasphemy intrinsically eliminate niftiness.  Both products are often colloquially held to be NASA byproducts (In fact, microwave ovens were conceived during radar experiments at the Raytheon Corporation, and Velcro was a collaboration between a Swiss mountaineer and a French weaver.  Both predated NASA's inception by more than a decade). They don't have much else in common.  Granted, semi-focused EM radiation is used in the production of the nylon "hook" half of Velcro, and microwave ovens produce semi-focused (in the sense of "as non-focused as is economically feasible") EM radiation.  But Velcro manufacture employs the infrared portion of the spectrum-- not exactly abrading scapulae with the microwave portion.  I don't think the SAT Analogies section is going to include:

    47.  VELCRO is to MICROWAVE OVEN as: 
    a.)  Noam Chomsky is to Umberto Eco
    b.)  fruit is to radio transmitter
    c.)  stethoscope is to X-ray camera
    d.)  alpha waves are to beta particles
    e.)  Star Trek is to Babylon 5

    anytime soon.

    So.  Velcro and microwave ovens.  Not a lot of similarities.  As for their differences:  Velcro does not classically include a 10-key input pad.  So I'm not going to talk about it any more.  Microwave ovens do include a 10-key input pad (except for the horrific  "item-button" models that consist exclusively of "Defrost-1", "Defrost-2", "Popcorn", "Beverage", "You're Not Actually Going to Cook Meat in a Microwave, Are You?", "Vegetable", "Big Sticky Unidentifiable Mess", and so on.  These often include little pictograms on the buttons for that great segment of the population who can't handle numeric entry but are permitted near electric devices unsupervised regardless.  These microwave ovens are without question the work of The Enemy.)(There are also microwaves that use dials instead of buttons.  I will be conveniently ignoring the existence of these.).

    I can't use a 10-key numeric entry pad without wondering which of the keys is used most or least (I also can't drive a truck without hearing the theme song from "The Smurfs" playing backwards in my head, and wondering why the plural of "smurf" isn't "smurves"-- but I consider that to be more of a personal issue).  It troubles me to think that some numbers might languish in futile hope, never being pressed; while other numbers are lovingly thwacked almost every time the keypad is used.  For computer keyboards and even cash registers, I fear the uses are too varied for me to ever find resolution on this issue.  But microwave ovens have a certain universality to them, holding us together in one great brotherhood of flaccid heated food.  This shared experience might be just be enough to determine which of the keys receives the most finger traffic.  This valuable data could be used to make high-traffic keys more durable; or perhaps to create a circuit that administers random electric shocks to fingers pressing those keys, encouraging a more well-rounded number-selection pattern. Here are my completely unfounded suppositions, from highest to lowest in popularity:

    0 The gimme.  Used at least once pretty much every time the microwave is.  No question, the zero has the popularity level of an insecure high-school cheerleader.  I blame the decimal system for zero's undeserved success.  Do people really believe that the nine seconds before and after every arbitrary zero mean nothing?  That TV dinners and cups of tea couldn't be just that much better with a more delicate selection of cook-time?  Even worse is when the slovenly rounding works it's way into the minutes.  Know you no shame? Your dishes are already being prepared, steamy and soggy, in a fraction of the time our ancestors achieved cooking on gas ranges and hot asphalt!  Yet you can't be bothered to select any unit smaller than a minute!  It is behavior like this that keeps the microwave oven from being seen as a proper tool of fine cuisine.  That, and the fact that any action other than "make it a little warmer in an uneven fashion" results in all foodstuffs becoming hot, grayish, textureless protein goo.  I propose a solution:  replace the "0" with "naught". The uneducated will be unable to find it, and the more literate will avoid it, knowing that saying "three naught-naught" will make them sound like a bad impression of the Swedish Chef muppet.

    3Giving three second place may be a bit more controversial.  Three probably has a fair representation in the minutes place, though certainly not a majority. The true reason three edges out one is by dint of ":30", the perennial favorite of people who think that one unit between given minutes is adequate.  While only half as bad as minute-rounding, is this enough?  Would you settle for half as much industrial toxin in your Twinkie?  Only half of your car being smashed by rampaging soccer hooligans?  Half of your viscera being torn out by feral beavers?  Half of your mascara being worn off by fragile lemurs?  It's all or nothing!  Yes, these are perfect analogies.  No, I don't want my medication now. Go away.  Leave me alone.

    1An homage to the raw power of the microwave oven and the impatience of its users, the one earns third by the great number of things which get microwaved for one minute and possibly some number of seconds.  This is limited to single-serve refrigerated products, cups of beverages, and the ever-popular "make it a little warmer in an uneven fashion"; and excludes large meals, boiling more than two cups of water, and real cooking.  However, I hold that more "warming" than "cooking" occurs in the average microwave, and the thought of many people using a microwave oven as their primary cooking implement does nothing to reduce my need for therapy, so I will cling tenaciously to this belief.  One interesting side note to the "warming" concept is the number of instances where users will edge up to two minutes (or one, for smaller items) without quite reaching it.  1:45, 1:50, even 1:55... all the caution appropriate for approaching that asymptote of 2:00, where items will instantaneously flash-combust.  Or maybe it's just me who does that.

    5While one wins the minutes place, three rules the tens place, and zero is the undisputed God-Emperor of the ones place, five shows up often enough in the ones to earn a respectable fourth place (random use of numbers in cardinal, ordinal, and nominal senses within a single sentence is just one of many reasons why grammarians have a price on my head)(endless use of parentheses is another). Much of this is due to compromise between units of ten seconds (e.g., x:15 when neither x:10 nor x:20 is quite right), which is twelve times better than settling on :30 between all minutes and a definite step in the right direction.  An interesting observation is the inordinate representation of fractions that are powers of two.  Why break everything into halves and fourths? 1:00, :30, :15, :45... We're boiling water.  Why do we need to impress the microwave with our ability to divide?  If people had the option, I swear they'd go to :07.5 instead of a seconds value that's a non-power-of-two-based fraction of a minute. I also have to wonder how many people are instinctively going for one-fourth and enter :25.  Just a suspicion.

    2A decent showing in the minutes place and a large minority of genetic freaks who divide minutes into thirds rather than fourths give two fifth place and keep it from the loser-ghetto below.

    4It put up a good fight with :45, and presumably :40 by the same mutants who use :20, but the dearth of items cooked for four minutes keeps this number down in sixth place.

    6 Not much call for six.  Efficiency-minded people will spare themselves typing 1:00 by entering :60, but I don't imagine that particular blend of laziness and analysis occur often enough to keep the dust off the six.  I would be curious to know if anyone enters a minute in front-- 1:60, for example.

    9Even sadder.  Nine lives alone in its run-down apartment of eighth place, surrounded by moldering pizza boxes and only answering the rare telemarketing call addressed to a quicker version of 1:30.

    7Seven doesn't even have its own place.  It's shacking up in the trailer park with a distantly related married set of cousins, waiting for some pro-wrestling fan to remember that "75" has something to do with pocket change and use :75 to heat up bulk packages of Slim Jims.  If Slim Jims are warmed up.  I don't know.  This metaphor needs to be beaten.

    8Homeless syphilitic wino of the number pad.  No one uses eight.  Tragic. It's possible that someone who uses the :90 abbreviation cross-bred with a mate susceptible to the :20/:40 division in thirds, resulting in an offspring that uses :80 instead of the oh-so-common 1:20, but asking me to believe that such an unholy union is statistically significant is like showing up to a Christian Coalition Convention dressed as an elf in bondage gear singing an a capella hip-hop mix of Mozart's Kyrie while portly Dominican monks bump and grind to your rhythm.



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