Afternoon Inquisition

Afternoon Inquisition, 2.6

Not much time for a prelude or niceties today; Atlanta Skepticamp starts in a few short hours and there is much to do! I’m looking forward to meeting some of you there! So let’s get on with today’s Inquisition:

What ‘small comfort’ do you consider one of the greatest inventions of the century?

I’m not talking about the Internet or the motor car. I mean things like the Q-tip and, my personal favorite, the tissue-with-lotion-in.  I am prone to colds that last several weeks sometimes and I am not sure what I would do without those skin-softening, snot-soaking treasures.

So that’s mine. What’s yours?

Masala Skeptic

Maria Walters (a.k.a. Masala Skeptic) has spent a lot of time in ‘furrin parts,’ including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Pittsburgh. Although her passport is from India, she’s spent most of her adult life in the United States. She currently lives in Atlanta and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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75 Comments

  1. I’m not sure if it counts as small, but the first thing to came to mind (disturbingly enough) was the widespread availability of relatively clean public toilets.

    If you’ve ever traveled in a third world country, you’ll appreciate what I mean.

  2. I’d have to say it’s a tie.

    On the one hand: portable music players. It’s amazing that I can easily listen to music (or a nice podcast) whenever I have a moment, at a decent level of fidelity. I don’t know how I would survive a train commute full of obnoxious bastards without one.

    On the other hand, the mobile phone. Knowing that my friends and loved ones can just about always reach me if they are in need (and vice-versa) is, to me, the epitome of small comfort.

    Fortunately, I don’t have to decide between them, because I have an iPhone.

    That carries with it the added small comfort that I can be a know-it-all bastard with the internet to back me up at all times. ;-)

  3. I’d have to say ear buds. They fit under my hearing protection while I’m in the shop, they soothe me back to sleep with the BCC, they screen out the pablum that spews forth from store sound systems, and I’ve even been known to fire up Dan Savage during a boring work meeting which led to me making some comments later that surely would have resulted in immediate termination had anyone above my pay grade understood them. I think I might have referred to “pink socks” as a preferable alternative to the proposed cost-cutting plan.

    @Masala Skeptic: I find cotton rags way easier on my nose than anything made of paper with or without lotion.

  4. @skepticalhippie: the skepchick thong

    I honestly thought that was a slingshot. Thong makes way more sense. Good thing I didn’t try to buy one.

    (Arg. Accidentally pressed delete and return simultaneously. Can we pretty please have a undo, redo, or delete?)

  5. The remote control.
    “Back in the day” my parents brought in cable to the house but couldn’t afford the deluxe cable box with the remote control. Sixty-two channels but you had to walk over to the TV and flip through each one. When we finally got the remote control, my sibs and I would just sit and click, click, click. It was the beginning of the end for our attention spans.
    Second on my list – freakin’ air conditioning.

  6. Soft contact lenses. I have truly terrible eyesight and my glasses even with high density plastic lenses (another great invention) are still extremely thick and my contacts not only make me look better but I see better with them too.

  7. I bless the person who figured out combining a backpack with a purse. I hate and would never carry a “handbag” or regular purse. All my purses are actually small backpacks.

    Second would be child car seats. I don’t know how our parents drove with kids climbing all over the car all the time. Locking them down has made us all safer.

  8. @JamesK: I don’t think I want to know about your nasal spay. I wasn’t aware there was a nasal reproduction crisis… Does one go to a veterinarian or an E.N.T. for that? :-D

    OTOH, I have to agree that the Rx nasal spray I use twice daily has made a big difference in my quality of life.

  9. I like the little drain cover that keeps jewelry and hair and the end of the soap from going down the drains.
    I like Bagelfuls. I don’t care how gross they are.
    Oh, and vaccines. Those are neat. Not new, but neat.
    And cassette tapes. I heart cassette tapes.
    Also, duct tape. And Swiss army knives. And Jeeps with no doors -oh wait, I’m off topic.

  10. I think the mouse is the most underrated invention ever. Think about, all you have to do is point and click, like there’s really a wall with a picture on it. However, if you really stop and think about it, its just a bunch of ones and zeros, but it still works. If you stop and think about it, it will boggle your mind. Its like pondering infinity, the size of the universe, time, or what Channing Tatum looks like nekkid.

  11. Condiments that sit on the table upside down, with the squirt hole on the bottom. This actually saved my life once. Long story.

    Also, when they started making condoms out of rubber and not animal intestines. I’m squeamish enough about sex without that!

  12. I don’t know how much it’s improved my quality of life, but I like all the extra gizmos on a mouse. The scroll wheel, an extra button or two. And the optical mouse! They’re so much nicer in so many ways, not having to clean the fiddly little ball and rollers is one of the prime ones.

  13. I hearty ‘yes’ to fem hygiene products and birth control.

    On the things that help make me pretty, I’d like to add mascara (and other non-lead based beauty products), the electric hair dryer and whatever we ladies are using to keep the bikini line and other apparently unsightly hair in check.

    Skype – so I can not just talk to but see all my friends and family back home in Aus. Now my mum can tell me that I’m not eating enough and need to lose weight (yes, both!) from the other side of the world. Which kinda defeats some of the purpose for moving here in the first place.

    Last of all, Amazon.com (or in my case.co.uk) – for feeding my book addiction and giving me somewhere to keep my wishlist of over 400 books.

  14. I second the q-tips. Can lolcats count as a comfort?

    As much as I adore 2″ tape for recording (oh yeah…if this is a last 100 years thing, I guess all types of recording tapes) I have to say that pro-tools/computer recording programs really help a musician out. Especially when the musician has a bandmate who likes to come up with parts IN studio. He might waste our time, but at least he’s not wasting precious tape.

    /thinly veiled rant against bandmates who like to come up with parts on paid studio time. sorry.

    Oh! and odorless mineral spirits. And lead free white oil paint. And…I could go on and on. The last hundred years have presented myriad innovations in the art/music world.

    One last thing: electric sewing machines.

    That is all.

  15. @James and Question, the Absolute best part about a track ball is when a co-worker comes over to your computer and starts sliding it around the desk (even better when it’s the boss).

    For me, and even more fun, it’s the Dvorak keyboard layout.

  16. Towel warmers. Hats off to the British (for popularizing them – I have no idea who invented them.)
    I have a portable towel warmer in my bathroom – fits the criteria of “small comfort” perfectly.

  17. I live in Quebec and the winters here can get quite “nipply”.I recently purchased a seat warmer at Canadian Tire (you Canadians know this store) for my car,the cheap kind that plugs in what used to be the lighter outlet.It is the best 14 bucks I have invested in a long time…It’s like my ass is out at the spa…It also eliminates a certain painful condition in those nether regions that arises from sitting on a icy cold seat every day on the ride to work…..my ass is a happy ass…

  18. My appreciation goes to whoever figured out how to create cloth from a fuzzy little white plant part. Imagine life in our modern world without cotton cloth. No jeans, no tee shirts, yuk. It would be all scratchy wool and critter skins.

  19. @FinnMcR:
    Many leave it alone because they can’t figure it out…sad to say, but effective.
    Anyone that grabs the mouse on my desk will draw back a mutilated stump. That’s one of my pet peeves, not to mention incredibly rude.

    Also: satellite radio (Sirius/XM): I have those MF commercials on broadcast radio. It’s gotten so bad in my area (DC Metro) that the music is a short break between the commercials. I’ll pay not to have to listen to that.

  20. Hmmm, bit torrent?

    Oh oh oh, how about this one guys:

    The phenomenon of internet blogging/internet forums. Where would we be without them?

    I might go with google/wikipedia or youtube too, though. I pretty much cannot live without them at this point.

  21. I feel the bottle stopper that also takes the air out of a bottle of wine has both improved my life by saving me from finishing bottles promptly, and caused deep resentment by taking away my excuse for polishing off bottles promptly. In these harsh economic times though, I will say it’s been a lifesaver.

  22. Frozen and/or instant dinners. Nothing like a 5-minute roast beef dinner and instant potatoes when your favorite child just happens to come home right at dinnertime for a change.

    twitter meetups. Proof I’m not alone in the world.

  23. The flushable toilet! Toilet paper!(instead of corn cobs and outhouses!)
    Super sized tampons(don’t ask). And in a time when I understand there are countries where people use the street for urination and the like…the whole bathroom itself is a great comfort!

  24. Ceiling fans in every room. If the power goes out, I can read by torch or candle light, I have water (warm martinis are not the end of the world btw), I can eat etc.

    But try being in a fanless room in the humid tropics. It is unbearable.

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