Friday, April 27, 2012

Buzzing Around Town

Driving out of the parking garage at my workplace this morning I happened to spy the nifty little warning light on my dashboard telling me that one of my brand new tires was suffering from low air pressure. Since my parking spot in the huge impersonal edifice dedicated to efficiently storing as many cars as possible is on a slight incline, I did not readily notice any sort of tilt in my car as I approached it minutes earlier. I would have liked to have pulled into another empty spot so I could have checked to see which tire was in trouble and just how low it had become but at that moment I was being swarmed by the nearly insane day shift personnel trying their best to all get parked at the same time. On a side note what is even more disturbing is the footrace that takes place after the oncoming shift gets out of their cars.

My very brief hesitation at studying my options so irritated a woman I knew to be a high-powered floor nurse with aspirations to becoming a war criminal she rolled down her window and screamed at me to move. Not wanting to draw anymore of her attention and possible ire, I decided discretion was the better part of valor and got the hell out of the way while saying a prayer she did not remember my name or ever came to night shift to work. The one piece of good news about the low tire pressure warning light was that it was glowing yellow, instead of red, which meant that I had a little time before the problem tire went completely flat.

It was then I decided not to fight the incoming mob, filled with similarly stressed out medical professional types and just drive straight to the nearest convenience store with a tire pump. Being on the west end of Columbia, South Carolina and near two Interstate roadways convenience stores are as abundant as stars in the sky and weeds in my yard so a few minutes later I was pulling up to a prime example of excessive capitalistic greed, the coin-operated tire pump.

 Few remember the now nearly extinct old-fashioned gas stations complete with service repair bays, staff mechanics, and attendants who pumped the gas for the customer as he or she stayed in their car. Not only were they businesses that for decades met the needs of the American car culture but in many ways they provided a degree of free services that while very small nonetheless have left a gaping hole in daily life.

Contrary to what women generally say about men, I remember my granddad pulling into a gas station plenty of times to ask for directions and not only receiving them but also walking out with a free map to boot. These days only people with little commonsense or a huge self-destructive streak would ask anyone in modern convenience stores directions to anything other than the filthy, and usually broken bathroom they offer the public. For me though, the one service I found myself missing this morning were the once free to everyone air pumps.

Now like any good former Boy Scout/United States Army NCO I prepared long ago for just such an occurrence and pulled out the three quarters I squirreled away inside my car for just such a predicament. Thinking I would soon be back on the road, I walked up to the oversized stainless steel cylinder and was surprised to find that inflation or greed had struck again with the tire pump now requiring $1.50 to be activated.

 “Son of a bitch!” I yelled loud enough to draw the attention of all the good commuters over at the gas pumps. Feeling tired from working all night and utterly disgusted over the fact that something once offered free as a courtesy now cost twice money as I had on hand I almost decided to put on the spare tire and be done with it until I remembered my new KIA Rio does not come with one.

Okay, for you folks who have not had the “pleasure” of buying a new car lately let me bring you up to speed on what is soon to be standard on both new imports and domestic cars. When my wife and I were going through the motions on our recent car purchase, we learned that to reduce the weight of cars to help increase gas mileage the entire industry was eliminating even the temporary spare tire for a small kit that essentially is a can of “Fix a Flat” on steroids.

I found the left, rear tire to be the problem child and since I did not want the hassle of using the new system, I felt around tread area hoping not to find a nail or some other piece of metals sticking from it. We learned from the helpful salesman that once you use the kit, for the wheel to be fixed it has to be cleaned out before it can be patched. With the tire appearing to be serviceable, my plan was to go inside the convenience store, purchase an item, and then explain to the cashier, who I knew in a limited fashion, how he could charge an extra seventy-five cents on my debit card so I could use the store’s air pump.

“Sugar, you want what?” The flamboyantly dressed dude said from behind the counter after I placed a bottle of orange juice next the cash register. At first I was rather puzzled, “Joe” the cashier is cool and I had seen him do the very same thing for others when they needed a couple of extra dollars after using their own credit or debit cards. It was only when he pulled down his certified Elton John Fan Club sunglasses and looked over towards the shiny new miniature ATM next the newspaper rack with a smiling Ricky Santorum clone in a suit standing beside it that I understood his reluctance.

“Never mind,” I said walking back to the freezer to put away the orange juice. I learned my lesson long ago about those small and inconspicuous, non-bank affiliated ATM’s which charge anywhere from five dollars or higher for their use. Santorum clone kept smiling like a pleasantly dressed but maniacal serial killer as I walked out leaving me with a slight concern for my safety but an overwhelming urge to wash my hands for some reason.

Back in the car, the low tire pressure light on the dashboard was still yellow as I drove away heading for the next convenience store a little ways down the road. After locating the air pump I was happily surprised to find it equipped with an actual debit or credit card reader, this would have bypassed my lack of sufficient coinage solving my problem in one neat swoop. Like the non-bank ATM at the previous store I was a little worried about what it might charge but the city traffic was getting exponentially worse as I was getting sleeper and figured it was worth the risk. Unfortunately, my luck remained the same and after sliding the card through, the little LCD screen did not change. Sliding the card a couple of more times only resulted in me verbalizing even more salty language to the point I was again drawing the attention of the nearby commuters at the gas pumps.

Because I was getting increasingly sleepy, a sort of obsessive desperation invaded my mind and I began driving around with no real plan on how I was going to fill up the tire going flat. If I had any idea at all, it was some thin hope of finding another air pump with a working card reader. Whatever the case I was simply not thinking coherently and over the next thirty minutes I stopped at three different convenience stores with no luck. After each stop, I somehow slipped further into the worsening flow of traffic going increasingly off course and deeper into the city. At some point the thought did pop into my idled mind that morning rush hour traffic in a big city had all the characteristics of a swarm of flies buzzing around a steamy pile of fresh cow shit.

Just when I began contemplating actually using one of those non-bank ATMs I pulled up to yet another coin-operated air pump the very same time as another guy. I jumped out and told this fellow I would be more than willing to go halves on the cost activating the damn thing as long as I could pump up my one low tire. The guy shrugged off my offer and paid for the whole thing himself and handed over the air hose after he was done.

With my problem solved, I began to feel slightly better but just to show how thin my marge of good luck was I had barely filled up my tire to the proper pressure when the pump shut down. Had I needed to reposition the hose to the other side of my car I would have probably not had enough time. Playing the good citizen I at least rolled up the hose and hung it on the hook when another person pulled up in a upper scale BMW. It was a lady with two kids in the backseat and she seriously looked about as befuddled as I felt a minute earlier.

Seeing that the pump had already deactivated after quickly stepping out her car she slapped one of her hands on top of the roof in frustration. “Damn.” she said, “I saw you from the road and hoped I could get here before it turned off. I don’t have enough change to start the pump but I have two tires going flat but I refuse to use those criminal ATMs in the stores.”

Feeling an unavoidable kinship at her situation, I laughed a little which did not sit well with her. “No problem ma’am, would seventy-five cents put you over the top?” I asked.

Another lesson I have long since learned is not to try and play the chivalry game in an urban setting filled with already mistrustful people. While the lady took my change, she clearly eyed me suspiciously as I had the Santorum-clone earlier. I drove away figuring I was fairly accurate with my idea of the true nature of a dense urban setting and the people driving around it.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Home Sweet Home

Life in suburbia is not supposed to be eventful; the very parameters justifying its existence revolve around it being a quiet and comfortable refuge from the stress and chaos of urban life. While I hate the very term “subdivision”, I nonetheless grew up in one but there were huge differences between the modest homes I was raised and the bizarre grouping of McMansions and the people that reside in them I now find myself living amongst. The biggest difference between the two is that the former was in every way a thriving neighborhood with the latter being a collection of miniature country estates filled with disgruntled individuals always spying on those that live next to them.

In the neighborhood I grew up there was a real sense of community with an elementary school and a few mom-and-pop stores within walking distance for nearly everyone. With a school inside the neighborhood on weekday mornings  kids rode their bikes or walked to it as their dogs followed along and then waited nearby until the bell rang in the afternoon and the process reversed itself. On free days roving bands of children would be regularly seen going up and down the streets playing in the various yards until they got bored and wanted a change in venue. Except for a few very rare exceptions, nothing was said as long as the kids behaved themselves and stayed safe.

These days’ developers spend a huge amount of money creating glossy pamphlets filled with pictures of how their subdivisions are little slices of pre-planned Shangri-la complete with community clubhouse, playground, and pool. The people in the pictures are always well dressed and smiling-and generally white with only a smattering of minorities-giving the impression of a vibrant community. For the most part it is propaganda meant to delude a banal and self-absorbed populations use to getting their own ways at everything.

The distance between the schools and subdivisions make it highly inadvisable to impossible for the children to walk there creating traffic jams in the morning and afternoon as parents and buses first rush in to get the kids in class then home. The mom-and-pop stores have long since been replaced with huge corporate abominations built on the outer edges of the suburban sprawl requiring a trip in the car for even the smallest items. Moreover and my favorite, the residents of these mutations of the American Dream believe their houses are their own fiefdoms always ready to make even the smallest perceived infraction a federal case, which brings me to what happened this week here in paradise.

Last Tuesday afternoon I went out to get the mail after dragging my sorry butt out of bed. It was the usual collection of bills, sale papers, and assorted junk mail but there was one exception. It was a small, obviously computer printed postcard addressed only to the resident of my house. It had no return address and on initial inspection I almost threw it away on sheer instinct, that is until I glanced at what was written on the back.

It was a “To whom it may concern” type of message that I assume went out to all the houses in the subdivision but the message was that at a particular address someone had constructed a chicken coop and now had chickens in his backyard. Even to me, the long established anti-social pariah of the subdivision, it was a violation of the homeowner’s association rules. When my wife and I signed the papers to buy the house, I vaguely remember the realtor stating the obvious the fact that we could not keep farm animals in our yard or have a “large” garden.  

Now what bothered me was that the person sending out the cards did not put his or her name on them, which I felt was more than a little cowardly. However, I am not surprised, I have had my own unhappy encounters with a particular neighbor who likes to hide behind anonymity or call the deputy sheriff on me over areas I would have happily rectified or explained if he had the cojones to come talk with me in person.

Since the person with the illegal chicken coop is one of those doomsday types with several screws loose and the likely anonymous snitch is my old friend I am staying the hell out of this conflict. While I would love to haul ass away from this surreal collection of surface dwelling Morlocks the housing market is still in the tank where I live so I am having to hunker down and make do. Plus, the community pool does come in handy this time of year for my son and daughter. This just reaffirms my ultimate goal to get the heck out of Dodge whenever the kids are grown because right now it would not take much to convince myself a suburb of Kabul or Mogadishu would have friendlier and more rational people.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

F3 Cycle 75 "Washing away my sins"

Flash Fiction Friday Genre: Fairy tale/mixed
Word Limit: 1200
Cue: Take your typical fairy tale villain or monster and make them the protagonist. Must use “something wicked this way comes” as a line in the story.

The day everything changed for me I was sitting on a comfortable park bench looking like a homeless person enjoying the dichotomy of the crisp breeze alternating with the warm sun of a spring afternoon. To most who walked past my sitting place I was the very definition of anonymity they strived to ignore not wanting to acknowledge the fact that all is not well in their comfortable society. Others looked at me scornfully thinking the fault for my apparent condition must lie with some character flaw, that if I only had a bath, got a job, and acted like them I would soon join the ranks of other productive people and enjoy all the benefits money can buy. In both cases, they are wrong because, as the cliché says, looks can be very deceiving.

It was lunchtime during a normal workweek and Centennial Park in the middle of Atlanta, Georgia was filled with professional types dressed in fine business attire rushing around grotesquely gulping down some sort of processed food product while talking on a cell phone. It was clear every one of them believed the universe revolved around their immediate concerns and were oblivious of all the other people around them, the beautiful park, and the fact that I was a demon whose only purpose was to see them all spend eternity in hell. 

While they are guilty of ignoring their fellow humans and the beauty of creation, I cannot fault them for not knowing my true nature. Human senses are very narrowly defined and those they do possess are extremely limited because their animal natures generally overwhelm their meager intellects. The best explanation I have heard for this failure came in the form of a funny song I heard once that suggests the cosmic baker took them out of the oven way too early.

There are a few exceptions, some have the ability to see into the souls of others and discern their true natures. Most do it subconsciously and given the immature and corrupted nature of humans very rarely use it for constructive purposes. The most common occurrence of these special people comes in the form of politicians who gleefully find enjoyment in exerting this influence over their fellow humans making the job of entities like me far easier. A much smaller group has the ability to discern humans from demons like me and actively hunt us down. While few these Hunters are fanatical and with the advancement of human technology they have created an alliance that crosses all political and religious divides.

So, the struggle that began eons ago when the Fallen One became aware of this insignificant little world has intensified with humans and demons battling to decide its fate. Where is God in all this? He and his minions seem to be sitting this one out leaving the humans to their own devices. With humans so weak the struggle seemed a near certain victory for our side but I had long heard rumors that something was changing but I never believed them until the incident in that park which altered everything I believed.

My mission was a simple one, a prominent Chinese dignitary was visiting the city and through my cohorts arrangements had been made for his wife and young son to attend a welcome ceremony here in the park given by local schoolchildren. Under my control, the homeless man I possessed at the right time would rush the entourage and kill the son with a knife hidden in the sleeve of his coat. With any luck, it would greatly damage relations between the two countries leading to more hatred and suspicion.

Eventually my waiting was rewarded with the sight of the Chinese visitors approaching my position near the Fountain of Rings. I directed my attention to the small boy at the center of the group obviously having a great time as he held hands with his adoring mother. I could sense the presence of my cohorts and felt them urging me to act when I felt a small hand touch my arm.

I found myself looking in to the eyes of a little girl who while very young nevertheless had totally reduced me to a powerless state and was in the process of scrutinizing my soul. My first thought as I felt all my rage drain away was that the other side had interceded to stop me from my task but I have felt the presence of those entities before and she was not part of that group. This little girl was completely human but of such an advanced form that I felt like a virus being looked at by a more advanced being.

“You do not have to follow the path others want you to take.” The little girl said before walking away to disappear into the crowd.

Somehow, I not only sensed the core of my existence changed but I felt connected to life itself. While many humans think hell is all fire and brimstone, in actuality it is a cold and dark place where the torture comes from feeling alone and utterly abandoned. For eons after my kith and I were cast out of God’s light we languished in that place soaking up all the rage of the one who challenged the basic order of all creation. In the space of a few seconds it was all washed away and I felt how each of the humans around me had their own cares, fears, and hopes.

Despite being overwhelmed by these sensations I knew the small boy was in grave danger. The other, unaffected demons would not let my new awareness stop the mission from being accomplished. Without thinking I begin running towards the group aiming for the demon that I sensed would kill the small boy since I failed to act.

I was correct in my assumption on the secondary assassin when a demon possessed young women turned, pulled a knife, and screamed, “Something wicked this way comes.” I jumped, knocking her to the ground and inadvertently stabbing her in the chest with her own knife.

Chaos erupts with the bodyguards hustling the Chinese boy and mother away as everyone else in the crowd scramble to protect themselves. I look at the young women and the knife sticking out of her chest and see her life ebb away. My only consolation is that the demon in her will die as well because it lives off human consciousness and cannot disentangle itself quickly enough.

“Why did you do this to me brother?” The demon inside her asks.

 I find myself unable to explain to my actions and both the women and the demon inside her die seconds later. There is no reward for my saving of the boy because immediately after they pass I feel the presence of Hunters. I look up and already they are in the park approaching the crowd that surrounds us. With them and the sound of sirens growing near survival become imperative and I break through the  mass of people and run. I have to survive long enough to figure out if my new empathy is ultimately a blessing or a curse.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Tomorrow has been canceled due to lack of interest

Unlike most people that regularly haunt and espouse a position on the strange computer-driven ether called the internet, I pray that the opinions I hold are very wrong.  In many ways I have the same attitude about my observations that the great Groucho Marx did about a club that would accept him as a member in that I frankly would not associate with a person who believes my often depressing notions. Now you good readers might be wondering what in the hell I am talking about and for the most part since I am without any beer at the moment to lubricate the rusty wheels that constitute the inner workings of my brain so do I, but I will attempt to sum it as neatly as possible.

In short, when I look at the current societal, cultural, and intellectual structure that makes up the United States of America today I see no evidence that our people or government have a clue about how we are to be successful in the twenty-first century. Now, as always, exceptions do exist in the form of isolated private citizens, businesses, and politicians who see the flaws in how we conduct ourselves but they can be compared to the mythological Cassandra who despite the gift of prophesy is condemned to be ignored by an oblivious majority.

In general, those of us who do not like the way the country is operating see the American mindset as a dulled and closed thing that is comfortably secure in its own mighty awesomeness and that no other nation or people cannot touch us. Any nation foolish enough to try will see a rain of death and destruction strong enough to kill off the leaders and cower the rest of the population into dark corners seeking to forever hide from our wrath.  It’s a neat delusion and at this moment largely correct but it has a lot in common with similar notions held by the ancient Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Spartans, and Romans, along with other empires who are now nothing but footnotes in some dusty history book.

Now this sense of American global entitlement and outright arrogance just did not pop out of nothingness. Much to the detriment of the Native American population, our section of the North American continent was taken and settled allowing the construction of a nation that honored science and innovation and was not scared to try new things even though they did not work very well at first. This brings me to the tipping point of what caused this seditious rant.

As always, I was minding my own business this morning listening to the radio as I drove home from work, surfing the airwaves when I happened upon the Mike Church conservative talk radio show. Feeling slightly masochistic for some reason I decided to listen to what the man had to say. While it has been an overwhelmingly futile endeavor for many years, I do search for reasonable people who promote a different political view than mine so I can try to understand where they are coming from.

This morning Church was making the case that American oil companies are abused entities only thinking of purely patriotic ways to serve the nation. Even worse, despite their altruistic intentions Church made the case that they are regularly assaulted by nasty communistic leaning liberals and radical environmentalists out to force everyone to abandon their SUV’s for unmanly itty-bitty cars designed by the envious French out to emasculate American manhood. Frankly, the case he was making was so insane I thought it was satire for several minutes. Of course, they traced the nefarious conspiracy back to President Obama, who with his Islamic/atheistic/socialistic minions are out to corrupt the Jesus believing folks of the United States turning them into NPR listening, rainbow worshipping, tofu eating vegans.

To Church and his less than technically advanced callers, all research into alternate forms of power are utterly stupid and doomed to failure since mighty oil will continue to be the primary energy source for all properly God fearing and capitalistic peoples. Their ridicule was aimed at the usual suspects of wind and solar power, electric cars, and the new favorite for those without any science education, fuels derived from algae. I find this last one outrageously funny since ExxonMobil recently invested 600 million dollars to develop bio-fuels. For the other sources of alternate energy, the Chinese are madly rushing to dominate the technology in a blatant attempt to control the industry.

It does not take a rocket scientist to see the that most conservative-based opposition to alternate energy comes from both an instinctive knee-jerk reaction to oppose anything the liberals support and the desire to protect the sugar daddy relationship they have with some corporations. I would be delinquent not to add that Taliban-like Christians who believe the Rapture is imminent and that all science is just something Satan created to confuse people makes the situation far more difficult. The one exception to this rule is when it comes to killing and blowing things up. A lot of good Christians change their minds and love science when it comes to things like advanced cruise missiles, faster jet fighters, and increased firing rates on assault rifles and machine guns. It surreal to hear a believer in the teachings of Jesus joke about “kill them all and let God sort them out” and “turn the other cheek so you can aim with your good eye.”

If the opposition to science and technology only came from folks who love to wallow in ignorance or those out to protect their pockets books at all costs things would not be so bad. Except that here in America there is a pervasive apathy about the future and our place in it that crosses all boundaries. Science education in this country lags so far behind other industrial countries that we have become a laughing stock to many of our commercial and military adversaries. The news media and late night comedians will occasionally conduct random surveys with people on the street in which very simple science questions are asked with answers that are at best nonsensical to outright embarrassing. Consistency is a minor talent but similar surveys, which ask questions of history and current events usually produces the same results. This coming from a country that prides itself on being the most advanced.

Culturally it is even worse, cable channels originally developed to provide an intelligent alternative to the broadcast networks have largely devolved into airing reality shows devoted to the lowest common dominator of human behavior. The bizarre spectrum of reality shows that examines such things as “Real Housewives”, desperate failed celebrities, paranormal activities, to talk shows featuring human scum make the national broadcast channels look like a bastions of intelligence and sophistication.

If reality shows were not bad enough, some of the fanatical video gamers I have had the misfortune to talk with seem to live in a far more delusional world than any nerdy Trekkie could ever hope to match. After attending a Star Trek convention several years ago I was stunned at how fanatically serious some of the people there took the show. It is one thing not to miss an episode of one of the Star Trek series which on occasion can be quite good. However, when you walk around in a 400-dollar Starfleet costume and introduce yourself as an admiral with years of experience exploring space it is time to reassess your grip on the real world. Hey, I know the very concept of reality can be an extreme bummer but there is such a thing as going too far.

Anyway, Trekkies are nothing to how some gamers live their lives through their gaming systems. When I learned some gamers actually spend significant amounts of real money to purchase items that exist only as part of the “World of Warcraft” online universe and others like it I felt a sudden urge to apologize to those silly high-ranking Trekkies I silently laughed at during that convention.

Overarching all these developments is a general worldview expressed by far too many Americans that say everything of significance has been created and that our way of life will go on forever. I am not just picking on addled conservatives who are perfectly happy as long as the 52-inch widescreen television in front of them is showing a NASCAR race and they have cold beer in the fridge. Hell, I like to sit back and watch one from time to time myself and drink a few.

But I have to include many liberals and independents who cannot think beyond immediate concerns inside their comfy suburban residences. In a weird counter to conservatives who love to play ostrich and ignore the world by sticking their heads in the sand, liberals do have an unsettling tendency to think utopia can not just be be achieved but done overnight. As for many middle and working class families struggling to keep their heads above financial waters in this current socio-economic era making ends meet from day to day is bad enough. So there isn't any time to worry about what tomorrow might bring, which only makes things that much worse in the long run.

Simply put our lack of contemplating any type of future is an amazingly narrow minded perspective that is corrosive and ultimately self-destructive. Because no matter how much Americans may want to sit back and believe we are the pinnacle of human civilization, much of the world in the twenty-first century has already matched our nation and surpassed it.

Unless we pull our heads out of asses and recognize the world is rapidly changing we will join the ancient Egyptians, Romans, and others who could not adapt to that fact. Once comfortably on top they did not think about tomorrow or plan for the changes the future brings and look what happened to them. Like I said at the beginning, I do not enjoy these sober thoughts and have a habit of discounting them, until someone with real credentials like Neil deGrasse Tyson comes along saying something very similar:

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's a bird, it's a plane, no its....WTF

Several years ago when my son regularly had sleepovers during the weekends he and his rugrat friends very often would surround me as I lay in my easy chair trying to relax and demand I make a Taco Bell run or suffer the consequences. Despite my pleas for them to leave me alone so I could watch the pretty pictures on the idiot box the idea of listening to five to seven kids upstairs destroying the family room to the wee hours of the morning was usually more than enough to motivate me to rush to my car and go buy twenty-dollars worth of crunchy goodness to appease the hungry mini-mob. Of course, I always got my cut of the tacos even though I paid the price by enduring late night heartburn.

Given the nature of using the late-night Taco Bell drive thru I always had to talk slowly and plainly at the speaker breaking down my words into single consonants so the person on the other end could understand me. Since my order was simple I would eventually make my intentions known but for the other late night participants of fast food capitalism they would often get caught in a nightmarish quagmire of trying to get far to elaborate with their demands. This usually resulted in loud yells at the speaker along with extended stays at the pick-up window as orders were corrected.

But thank God for modern American entrepreneurial spirit, while still just a concept, some bright boy or girl has decided to take unmanned drones into the business world of airborne food delivery. No longer would they be used just to fire Hellfire missiles at unarmed civilians making terrorists recruiting drives all the more easier. If everything eventually works out, one day the sky will be abuzz with unmanned insect looking helicopters delivery tacos at first but it will surely evolve into other areas like hamburgers and pizzas. We can't compete with the rest of the world in supplying health care, decent infrastructure, or civil rights but we sure can think of ways of getting our required fast food.

God Bless America!!!!!

TacoCopter Delivers tacos by quadrocopter: Is this for real?

 We at GeekTech love ourselves some quadrotors. We also love ourselves some delicious tacos, so when you can find a way to combine the two, well, you've got our attention. As its name suggests, TacoCopter is a new service that claims to let you order tacos online, and have them delivered to you by way of a quadrotor helicopter. An unmanned robotic quadrotor, that is.
If this is a real thing, holy carp.
According to the (very basic) TacoCopter website, you can order tacos using your smartphone, though it's unclear whether or not TacoCopter uses a native app or a smartphone-friendly website to accomplish this. TacoCopter is currently in private beta, and is currently only for those of us in the San Francisco Bay Area.
We don't know if this is for real, how long it takes an order to arrive, or--most importantly--whether the tacos are any good, but we're intrigued. It's hard to not be at least a little skeptical, though; I imagine there are all sorts of logistical issues that would have to be figured out for something like this to work. If it is real, though, and if we get a chance to try it out, we'll let you know how it goes.
Food delivery by flying robots: Good idea or bad idea? Leave a comment. And if you've done something ridiculously awesome with quadrotors or something similar, why not tell us about it?
Update, March 23: As we kind of suspected, TacoCopter isn't an actual service. Wired caught up with Star Simpson, the person who dreamed up the idea, who explained that it's just a concept. Still, don't let that stop you from picking up an AR.Drone, attaching a bag full of tacos to it, and flying it around your back yard!