Friday Free-for-all #35: Prove I’m from the future, world’s worst burrito, and more!

What is the most boring super hero you can create?

This is really reminiscent of some improv set-ups, where the first player is given an improbable super-hero who has to solve a problem. Gradually, their other superhero friends come over, and the players endow each other in succession. That is, player one gives player two a superhero identity, and two to three, and so on.

That said, probably the most boring super hero I could create would be Phil Farnum, aka Captain CPA! His super powers involve being able to balance books, audit ledgers, do people’s taxes, and detect fraud. He can also talk villains to sleep by discussing the minutiae of the benefits and disadvantages to all the various ways of amortizing loans and whether accrual or cash basis is the best strategy.

What would be the worst ingredients to fill a burrito with?

In short, anything that doesn’t traditionally go into a burrito — you need at least refried beans, cheese, lettuce, and salsa. Meat optional, but you definitely want guac and sour cream on top.

For me personally, though, the worst things would be stuff I absolutely can’t stand to eat anyway: beets, pineapple, squash, cucumbers, pickles, string beans, gummi bears, licorice, yams, oysters, sardines, kippers, and smelts, with some lobster tossed in. Season it with pumpkin spice, then top this monstrosity with caviar.

Voilà! El Barfrito!

Are you more of an indoors or outdoors person?

I’m probably equally both, but nothing really recharges my batteries like hanging out outside, particularly in a woodsy or foresty setting, mountains optional, but they help with the view. If it can’t be completely in nature, then stick me next to a secluded swimming pool or, more preferably, in it.

If you were transported 400 years into the past with no clothes or anything else, how would you prove that you were from the future?

Anyone from our time would instantly appear strange to people in 1620 — and we’ll assume Europeans, which includes any colonists in the Americas. Why? For one thing, we aren’t covered in pock marks because most of us have never had small pox. We also probably have most of our teeth or dental work that makes it appear that we do (and likewise straight and white or nearly-so), and we are on average taller than people of that era — probably heavier, too, in general.

One of the best ways to show them that you’re from the future is to enlist the aid of the local craftspeople — blacksmith, brazier, cooper or carpenter, spinner, glassblower, and miller. If there’s a harpsichord maker around, they might be useful too, depending on what the strings were made of.

If you’re clever, you’ve probably seen what all those occupations could come together to make, with my instructions. The blacksmith would create an axle, and possibly forge magnets, if he had access to lodestone. The brazier would extrude copper wire, or we’d just get it direct from the harpsichord maker, if they happened to keep stock on hand.

The cooper or carpenter would build the frame to hold the windings one way and the axle the other. The glassblower would create a globe and the blacksmith would cap it — although a tinsmith or silversmith might be better for the job, depending on how delicate the glass is.

Of course that cap would already have wires and filaments threaded through it, the filament that joins them wrapped with cotton fluff and tallow, since tungsten hasn’t been discovered yet.

Is this beginning to sound familiar?

Wind the wire around the frame, mount the magnets perpendicular to that on the axle inside, attach the leads from the wires to the wires on the globe, and the only thing you need is a motive source, which is where the miller comes in.

Why? Because he’s got a big building that’s turning a shaft via either wind or water power, and through his largesse and some more work from the blacksmith or carpenter or both, you’re going to create a differential gear that is going to convert the rather moderate turning of his mill-shaft into some pretty insane RPMs for the magnets in your little generator.

Because that’s what you’ve just created, and if you do it at the right scale, you’re going to light that bulb up.

Oh — bonus points if you can figure out how to get the blacksmith to use his bellows to create at least a partial vacuum inside that bulb, because that’ll make the thing glow all the brighter while you pull your demonstration at sunset and announce to the people, “Behold, I bring you the gift of Prometheus!”

Side note: Just make sure that the people you’re doing this for are not religious puritans. Aim for the rich upper class dudes who were getting all sciencey at the time. Maybe look for a place with an observatory or a huge university.

Okay, maybe not look, since you’re running around the countryside butt naked, but at least explain your situation and ask to be taken there. And maybe for clothes, but FFS make sure they’re new. You really don’t want to be instantly infected with fleas, lice, and crabs — especially not in 1620.

Of course, the sneaky solution would be to smuggle a digital watch with built-in scientific calculator up your ass, but that would be cheating.

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