Digital Slob
Curt Brandao

Sunday, July 17, 2005

If you eat it, USB
cookware will come

Like many people, when it comes to the finer points of dining etiquette, Digital Slobs often need expert help. For example, should the salad fork go on the command-control-shift side of the keyboard, or on the arrows-up-arrows-down-number-pad side?

Slobs eat almost exclusively while staring at a computer --after most Dunkin Donuts became Wi-Fi hotspots, it jumped to 99 percent of the time.

All this typing, clicking, gnashing and gnawing has its pros and cons. On the upside, being able to crunch both popcorn and numbers simultaneously can free up a lunch hour for a half-dozen or so more rounds of Tetris.

On the downside, a 2002 study by University of Arizona researcher Charles Gerba found that the typical office desk is infested with 10 million germs, 400 times dirtier than a toilet seat. Suddenly, all those sick days Slobs took last year are beginning to make sense.

And it might shock Windows users to learn that there could be as many bugs on their actual desktops as there are swimming around inside their virtual ones.

But eating at work can be a secondhand nuisance to others as well, especially if you share a workspace, sit directly under a vent and are obsessed with Indian food. Some Respectable People are bent on forcing public mastication out of the office, but meanwhile they're being undermined by twice as many Slobs who are looking for a fondue pot that can plug into a computer's USB port.

Their search is now over thanks to Fundue, a $30 cheese-and-chocolate-melting USB fondue set available through ThinkGeek.com (you thought I was kidding? So did I). And, as the site points out, once USB 3.0 arrives, cubicle chefs will be able to siphon off enough computing power for oil dipping and desktop frying, assuming they also have enough petty cash lying around to bribe the county health inspector.

Asia.cnet.com also showcases the $120 USB Noodle Strainer. That seems a bit pricey just to tepidly bathe strips of dried dough, though it might serve well as a room humidifier, arguably better than the $45 USB Humidifier also on sale at ThinkGeek.com .

For seafood lovers, there's nothing specifically USB compatible per se, though some simple modifications could theoretically get the ball rolling. First, the $22 USB Cafe Pad is a hot plate that heat drinks to 176 degrees. Second, the $20 USB Mini Desktop Aquarium is designed to mimic the real thing with vibrating fake fish in real water.

Now, since it's less than 4 inches wide, there's no way a lobster is ever getting in there. But, I'm sure a creative thinker could get two or three crawfish in, wading around happily until your fickle appetite seals their fate forever in an oversized coffee mug sizzling at near the boiling point.

The setup sounds like work, but as we all know, after staring at spreadsheets all day, you don't have to be a cog at Corporate Red Lobster to get a little peckish for shellfish.

Limitations aside, such a mod should get you over the hump until a true USB lobster tank hits the market -- and that should be soon. After all, a world where all we can do in our cubicles is warm noodles, humidify the air and dip beef in melted cheese is not one any of us can live in for long.

See the Columnists section for some past articles.
Also see www.digitalslob.com

Curt Brandao is the Star-Bulletin's production editor. Reach him at: cbrandao@starbulletin.com

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