21st Challenge No. 37 results

New devices to measure bombast, pet stress, beauty and other imponderables.

By Charlie Varon - Jim Rosenau

Published October 20, 2000 6:56PM (EDT)

How do you measure up these days? Too much body fat? Sub-Mensa I.Q.? Mutual funds lagging the index? The affluent consumer is confronted with an ever-widening array of devices that measure the hitherto unmeasured. In this challenge we asked readers to invent new measuring devices and units of measure. Thanks to all who rose to the challenge.


Informal Conversion Calculator
How much is a metric shitload? How many blue moons to a dog year? The Informal Conversion Calculator puts fuzzy logic in the palm of your hand, allowing you to translate between indeterminate quantities with absolute accuracy. Special module available for calculating actual costs of urban light rail.
-- Tom Sackett


Detects the precise amount of baloney being emitted from the mouth of the owner of an Internet start-up and produces an approximation, give or take four business days, of when company paychecks will begin to bounce.
-- Debi Lewis

Payback 6000 by ColdSweat Labs
Are YOU the Hardest-Working Man in Show Business? Find out with the Payback 6000! Accurately measures the energy in every "Hep!" "Hey!" and "Wow!" Digital display shows both pW (picoWilsons) and nC (nanoCookes). Good God!
-- Herb Robinson

Prolixity Distillometer
A hand-held device that measures (in Orwells) the amount of semantic content in speech. "Currently," "located" and "to better serve you" have failed to register on the device at all in early tests. And an entire Las Vegas technology industry convention barely made the needle wiggle.
-- Keith Ammann

Canine Polygraph
Is your dog really happy to see you? How sorry is Rex about the carpet? The Canine Polygraph uses sophisticated audio analysis to measure the stress in your pet's barks and whimpers. (Not for use with cats. Not admissible for resolving issues in behavioral science in California, Oregon and Wyoming.)
-- Tom Sackett

Digital Helenometer
How beautiful are you? Stunningly, breathtakingly, conventionally -- or are you just handsome? Why spend hours in front of the mirror cataloging freckles when modern science can tell you the objective truth? The new Digital Helenometer© scans your appearance and gives you instant results. Readouts in millihelen units. (One millihelen equals enough beauty to launch one ship.)
-- Michael P. Walsh

Bad Tip Alert
Is the tip you leave a token of gratitude or an inadvertent insult? The Bad Tip Alert hides discreetly in a pocket and vibrates if your gratuity falls below a predefined threshold, determined by the snootiness of the establishment and the quality of service.
-- Jason Terada

Blink-per-Minute Counter
People blink more frequently when they're lying. A BPM counter might prove useful for presidential debates, for assessing auto repair estimates, for annual salary reviews, etc. A bar chart comparing current BPMs to a baseline for an individual might prove handy, too.
-- John Englert

Brownie Pointer
Want to know where you stand with your spouse, your co-workers, your boss? Now you can, with our patented combination remote skin-temperature, iris-dilation and voice stress-level tester. Stay up-to-date on exactly how much you can get away with! Vibrating warnings, diversionary cellphone call if you fall below -5.
-- Mark Janello

Level Tracker
Forgot whether you were taking your company to "the next level" or "the next, next level"? Compact, wristwatch-size unit automatically counts how many times your boss tells you to "take it to the next level," while integrated scrolling display shows the proper "next, next, next, next ..." sequence needed to refer to your target level.
-- Austin Appleby

Are you pretty sure Dante has no place in "Monday Night Football" but afraid you may be missing something? Don't waste money on CliffsNotes -- get the Millerometer. Attached to your television, the Millerometer displays how many other heads Dennis Miller's commentary is passing over so you can have the peace of mind to use the Inferno as a coaster again.
-- Caleb Shreve

This nifty, low-maintenance device watches everything: what you eat, when you eat it, what it contains, where you've been, what you've done, your pulse, your breathing, your thinking. Not getting enough sun? It'll book you a holiday!
-- Peter Blyth

Measures how disgusting drivers are while leaning right to cut the cheese in their cars. It combines a plastic school protractor and stopwatch. While following a leaning driver, hold up the Fartractor and hit the stopwatch. If the lean is more than 15 degrees off vertical and lasts more than five seconds, it's a Cherry Bomber. [One of many submissions on the theme. Sorry, but we had to cut the rest.]
-- Kim Garretson

Thanks for taking our challenge. Look for another one in two weeks.

Charlie Varon

Charlie Varon is a humorist and playwright. His works include "Ralph Nader Is Missing" and "Rush Limbaugh in Night School."

MORE FROM Charlie Varon

Jim Rosenau

Jim Rosenau is a writer, editor and software designer in Berkeley, Calif. Jim and Charlie are also co-founders of the citizens group Californians for Earthquake Prevention and partners in Mockingbird Media, which offers a full line of comic services.

MORE FROM Jim Rosenau

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