That's What I Call Spiced Ham: Volume One

The webcomic that uses the proleptic Gregorian calendar.

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Darths & Droids #206 original art for sale

16 January, 2009 | Posted in News by David Morgan-Mar

We are auctioning the original hand-written “artwork” for Darths & Droids strip #206 on eBay. The item includes the page scanned and used for the strip, plus the unused first hand-written draft of the same page.

We are not doing this to make money. We are listing this item at our own expense, and will post worldwide at our expense. The entire purchase price will be on-donated to the Jane Goodall Institute. If you win the item, you can ask us to sign it before posting (or not, whatever you prefer).

The auction ends at 23-Jan-2009 06:19:00 UTC. Here’s the eBay item listing:

Lift Enhancement

14 January, 2009 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David Morgan-Mar

The lifts at our work can be annoyingly slow to get you where you want to go. One specific example behaviour seems particularly suboptimal:

When you are coming down from one of the upper floors to go out to the street to get lunch, there are usually several other people going out for lunch at the same time. So the lift can be full when it leaves the top floor, on its way down. People on every other floor in the building are also going to lunch at the same time, and of course pressing the lift call buttons. So as your full lift goes down, it stops at the next floor below, where the people waiting look inside, realise the lift is too full to take any more passengers, and decide to wait for the next one. Annoyingly often, this happens on every single floor until you reach the ground level. The result is that your trip down has taken significantly longer than it could have – for no purpose, because nobody else actually got on.

An obvious solution to this is to have the lifts automatically detect when they are full. When full, they only stop at floors desired by people inside the lift – they don’t stop at floors simply because someone on that floor is waiting for a lift. In the extreme case cited above, the lift would fill up at the top floor, and travel express to the ground floor without stopping. What’s more, because the lift reaches its destination faster, it empties out and can return to pick up more people at those intermediate floors faster too. Everyone wins!

So, the question is, why don’t lifts do this? One obvious answer is that it adds expense to the lift. Detecting the number of people, or load in the lift would presumably add a significant cost to the manufacture and maintenance. And it might not be all that reliable, skipping floors when there is still room for someone to squeeze in, or not skipping floors when it’s too full to fit anyone in. That could potentially be even more annoying.

This could be improved by putting some intelligence behind the decision to skip floors. But that adds even more expense. Then we realised that a lift full of people already has some intelligence in it.

What if there was a button in lifts labelled “Skip floors”? When you hold down this button, the lift doesn’t stop for call signals; it only stops at floors where people want to get off.

The immediate problem is that people would be jerks and abuse the button, using it to get to lunch 30 seconds faster even when nobody else is in the lift with them. Or would they? Some people would, no doubt, but maybe enough people would be socially responsible that the overall benefits and time saving outweigh the inefficiencies caused by jerks. You just need enough social pressure to make sure that people treat the button with respect and use it only when it makes sense.

How could you provide that social pressure? What about putting a camera in the lift, which shows the occupants on a monitor at each floor that is skipped when using the button? Some jerk can still use the button when alone in the lift, but everyone else waiting for a lift on the way will see who it is. That might just do the trick. Would you abuse the button knowing everyone could see you doing it?

Finally, we realised that this would work brilliantly in glass lifts – where you can see who is in the lift even without a camera.

So, to all lift manufacturers out there: Please put a “skip floors” button in your lifts, so we can try this out.

Draft Noughts and Crosses

8 January, 2009 | Posted in Ideas by David McLeish

In keeping with the principle that “any game can be improved by drafting,” we present a game that we’ve been sitting on for a while: Draft Noughts and Crosses, or Draft Tic-Tac-Toe, or DraftOX for short (and for people who like nonstandard arrangements of uppercase letters).

The board consists of a 4×4 grid. (We made it bigger than the standard 3×3 so that it’s an even number.) Randomly separate the squares into two equal groups. One way to do this is to write the coordinates of the squares on sixteen cards, then shuffle and deal them into two piles of eight.

Each player looks at one of the piles, chooses a card, and puts it face down. Both players reveal their card simultaneously, mark the square they chose with an O or X, and put the chosen card aside. Then they swap piles and repeat.

The winner is the first to get 4 in a row. If both players win at the same time, it’s a draw.

You can play against The Hyperstig online. He’s pretty good, but he tends to get annoyed and make mistakes if he thinks he’s losing. (The online version doesn’t use cards; it just shows a blurred O where O can move, and a blurred X where… you get the idea.)

(“Ryan North’s Jokes Explained Explained” Explained) Explained

7 January, 2009 | Posted in News by David Morgan-Mar

It seems we’ve confused a few readers with our explanation of Ryan North’s Jokes Explained Explained. Thankfully another reader, xyzzy, has kindly written an explanation for the benefit of any such confused people:

(“Ryan North’s Jokes Explained Explained” Explained) Explained

“Ryan North’s Jokes Explained Explained” Explained

5 January, 2009 | Posted in News by David Morgan-Mar

It seems some readers didn’t quite understand what we were trying to do with Ryan North’s Jokes Explained Explained. So we’ve now provided an explanation:

“Ryan North’s Jokes Explained Explained” Explained

Lightning made of an owl

22 December, 2008 | Posted in Lightning Made of Owls by Andrew Coker

Or, an owl made of lightning. Or something.

A few of us were drafting the new Magic: The Gathering set, Shards of Alara – and were astonished to see the motif employed in the artwork of this card: Gather Specimens.

One can only assume that it’s Ambrose we see wearing the blue wizard garb in the background.

Infinite conga-space of monkeys

18 December, 2008 | Posted in Raw Ideas by David McLeish

We offer the following without commentary, except to say that the photo was taken on 20th October 2006.

Owls coming out of the walls

15 December, 2008 | Posted in Lightning Made of Owls by David Morgan-Mar

We’ve had so many submissions for Lightning Made of Owls that we’re increasing the update frequency again, from 3 to 5 times a week! The comic will now update every weekday. Yay!

Comments on a Postcard

8 December, 2008 | Posted in Comments on a Postcard by David Morgan-Mar

We’ve just launched yet another brand new webcomic: Comments on a Postcard. Check it out!

Sample dish from mezzacotta Café

7 December, 2008 | Posted in Cafe, Links by David Morgan-Mar

One of our mezzacotta Café patrons took a photo of one of the delicious dishes being served there: liverwurst schnitzel!

If you take a photo of a dish being served in the café, please let us know about it.