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A cautionary Roomba tale

[This originally appeared Aug. 30 of last year.]

Robotic vacuum cleaners are cute. The Internet is teeming with videos of my fellow cats riding them. To me, having help in keeping the floors clean seems to have no downside. That is what Jesse Newton of Little Rock thought until … he was up in the middle of the night trying to clean up something resembling “a Jackson Pollack poop painting.”

Dogs are behind all home disasters (my theory anyway), and this one started with the family puppy leaving an extensive late-night dump on a rug. The Roomba, as programmed, started its cleaning tour at 1:30 a.m. From Mr. Newton’s Facebook account, relayed by PJ Media, on how “it” happened:

“It will be on your floorboards. It will be on your furniture legs. It will be on your carpets. It will be on your rugs. It will be on your kids’ toy boxes. If it’s near the floor, it will have poop on it. Those awesome wheels, which have a checkered surface for better traction, left 25-foot poop trails all over the house. Our lovable Roomba, who gets a careful cleaning every night, looked like it had been mudding.”

But your nose would tell you otherwise, and Mr. Newton’s did, when his 4-year-old climbed into bed at 3:30 a.m. with a distinctive smell: “You’re not just using profanity — you’re inventing new types of profanity. You’re saying things that would make Satan shudder in revulsion. You hope your kid stayed in bed, because if he hears you talking like this, there’s no way he’s not ending up in prison.”

Wait, it gets worse: “Then you get out the carpet shampooer. When you push it up to the rug — the rug that started it all — the shampooer just laughs at you. Because that rug is going in the trash, folks. But you shampoo it anyway, because your wife loved that damn rug, and you know she’ll ask if you tried to clean it first. Then you get out the paper towel rolls, idly wondering if you should invest in paper towel stock, and you blow through three of four rolls wiping up poop. Then you get the spray bottle with bleach water and hose down the floorboards to let them soak, because the poop has already dried. Then out comes the steam mop, and you take care of those 25-foot poop trails. And then, because it’s 6 a.m., you go to bed. Let’s finish this tomorrow, right?”

The Roomba did not survive its trip to the bathtub, but there is a happy ending. Mr. Newton bought it from catalog merchant Hammacher Schlemmer, which graciously replaced it. Two other companies, Merry Maids and Clorox, reached out when they heard about the Facebook post. Kudos to all.

Turn at your own risk

[This originally ran May 25 of last year.]

Paraphrasing your mother, if your GPS told you to drive into a lake, would you? A woman in Bellevue, Washington, did when commanded to turn. Then there were the Japanese tourists in Australia who drove into the ocean trying to reach an island from the mainland. These wrong turns didn’t result in fatalities, but some do.

Author Greg Milner has a forthcoming book about GPS titled “Pinpoint.” An excerpt, courtesy of the Ars Technica website: “The park rangers at Death Valley National Park in California call it ‘death by GPS.’ It describes what happens when your GPS fails you, not by being wrong, exactly, but often by being too right. It does such a good job of computing the most direct route from Point A to Point B that it takes you down roads which barely exist, or were used at one time and abandoned, or are not suitable for your car, or which require all kinds of local knowledge that would make you aware that making that turn is bad news.”

Trying to determine what these hypnotized drivers might be thinking, Cornell University researchers found that “the process of interpreting the world, adding value to it, and turning space into place is reduced to a certain extent and drivers remain detached from the indifferent environments that surround them.” Bottom line: “GPS eliminated much of the need to pay attention.” As these devices become more ubiquitous, pray for other cars on the road.

Being a man, my personal assistant can read a map and has little use for GPS. But he still gets in trouble now and then. Like that time at Spring Training when he was correcting a wrong turn and wound up bickering with my other assistant like Tarzan and Jane in the GEICO commercial.

Sayonara, traditional media

[Since this appeared Jan. 12, an election has been held and Mr. Cernovich’s profile has been raised considerably by his courageous reporting.]

At his Danger & Play blog, author Mike Cernovich examined what scares mainstream media outlets more than a collapsing marketplace. They’ve lost control of the narrative on social media.

In this evolving world of news, every orange cat can be his own media outlet. Quoting Mr. Cernovich: “Readers became writers. Readers began setting the agenda.”

His prime examples are the rise of Donald Trump as a politician and the migrant crisis in Europe, two stories the media would like to go away. (I know Mr. Trump is the subject of almost every GOP political story, but 90% of mentions are negative.)

Again, Mr. Cernovich: “Journalists have long known migrants rove in rape gangs. They have had the power to keep this information from the public for years. Social media has taken away the media’s power.”

Of course, the media elites won’t take this lying down. Like cornered rats, they will fight back at every turn — up to, and including, outright censorship of ideas they consider bad. (Their definition of bad means every single thought that might be considered conservative, libertarian or questioning of establishment politicians.)

Think this can’t happen? It already has at Facebook, run by the loathsome Mark Zuckerberg. I see Twitter as more in play, but Mr. Cernovich apparently disagrees: “If [CEO] Jack Dorsey has his way, the mainstream media will regain its power as gatekeepers of information. … The brutal beatings of women will be swept under the rug. Presidential elections will involve two sides of the same globalist coin.”

Mr. Cernovich’s book “Gorilla Mindset: How to Control Your Thoughts and Emotions to Live Life on Your Terms” is available at Amazon.com. I don’t follow him on Twitter, an oversight that will be corrected today.

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