Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Comic 560: Who the fuck cares about lithium batteries?

more like lithium SHATerries

Apparently lithium batteries have been used in such a way that as time went forward, they became more prevalent in prodcuts that are generally used by younger people. So we see the Great Progression of Batteries, like the great Progression of Mankind, from Old, to Middle Age, to Teenage, to Child.

Then Randall says that he wishes he could have aged in reverse - now I'm not sure why he wished this. I suppose he's saying that if he started old and got young, then he too could have followed the progression of lithium batteries.

What I don't get is why the FUCK HE CARES. Ok, woo, your portable electronics can have lithium batteries! whoop de damn do! take that, you fuckers who like alkaline batteries more! fuck you!

Look Randall. You are growing up in the 21st century (as you occasionally remember). You can age the normal way and still get to use lithium batteries all the time! You will be old, and you can use a pacemaker, with your beloved battery in it! Or maybe we will have invented something even newer and shinier for you to put in your heart. Then you'll be glad you were born like every other human, eh?

Honestly, your first attempt at living-backwards humor was funnier. Don't try again.

Ok i'm sorry to harp on it but seriously: Why not say "my life would be better if I were really rich" ? You could buy a businessman phone if you felt like it in the late 80s, it would just be expensive and a waste of money. You could have a pacemaker installed, too, but i don't know why you would. Why not "my life would have been better if lithium batteries had been used in different products at first, targeted at a younger demographic"

what still makes no sense is what the hell is so special about lithium batteries? Wikipedia tells me that they have "a liquid mixture of thionyl chloride (SOCl2) and lithium tetrachloroaluminate (LiAlCl4)" which "act as the cathodeand electrolyte respectively. A porous carbon material serves as a cathode current collector which receives electrons from the external circuit." Well hot damn.

Clearly, this comic is meant to express some important feelings Randy has been having recently, which is why I'm not sure why he didn't just come on out and say it:

randy hearts batteries


  1. um dude I love me some motherfucking lithium batteries what the FUCK is your problem man

  2. When I glanced at this after clicking on the link in the last comment thread, I thought it was just referencing the idea that it would be better to get the allegedly crappy old-person years out of the way first, and proceed on to the carefree baby days at the end. And the lithium battery chart was there because it was in that same order.

    But looking again, it appears that living backward is supposed to be better because of the lithium battery chart, and I have no idea why that'd be the case.

  3. @dolio

    Because Randall is bad at writing jokes.

  4. This was perhaps the least funny/interesting XKCD ever. It's like he ran out of ideas so he thought "Hmm, what's something nerdy that most people won't know about? I know, Lithium batteries!"

    At least people can sort of vicariously understand the jokes about unix, algorithms and maths, but fucking batteries?

  5. I think the idea here is that since lithium batteries couldn't have just appeared out of the blue, they had to be applied first in one narrow field and then gradually spread to other electronics. It so happens that, apparently -Randy would have us believe*- that first point of entry coincided with a product predominantly used by old people near the conclusion of their lives**, and then moved on to products associated with gradually younger demographics.

    Randy seems upset by this, because he would prefer the direction of his transition through the various stages of life to be codirectional with that of his beloved lithium batteries.

    I suppose there is a certain allure in the idea of "being there" for every milestone in the development of a fascinating technology, but there have been many innovations which Randy could have followed without ripping off various films. Weren't video games first targeted at children and then moved on to adult demographics? Aren't the more erudite consumers demanding (and sometimes getting) more artistically deep games?

    But I suppose he'd settle for nothing else but those batteries he is so enamored with, he craves to hold his favorite technology's hand at every step it takes, under his watchful eye, much like an obsessive and unstable soccer mom.

    What's odd is that he can... You know... Still use the batteries. It's not like first they were used in pacemakers, then we hit some sort of lithium battery pacemaker cap and couldn't put them in pacemakers anymore, so we had to put the batteries in other stuff. The only way I can make sense of this is that Randy found a useful thing he likes, but he isn't content to get to use it, no, he won't rest unless no one else gets to use it before he does.

    Which is kinda mean if you think about it.

    *: Was the first application really pacemakers?
    **: But really how many years does a pacemaker give you? If the first application was something like electric chairs or euthanasia devices that would make sense.

    By the way, looks like Randy gave Megan some payback in today's comic. And what's this forced meme of Dvorak obsession? It's just a layout that you can maybe type a bit faster in but the gain is insignificant compared to the effort needed to learn it well and the hassle of finding a Dvorak keyboard. Am I missing anything? I just don't get the whole Dvorak craze.

  6. Lithium batteries are awesome, but this comic makes no sense. He's 25 now. He didn't miss out on all the great lithium action. Even if he was 60 and the comic would be complaining about how he didn't have lithium batteries back in the day, it would make no sense. It still doesn't have anything to do with aging backwards. This is a typical observation without joke "hey guys, the target demographic for lithium batteries kept getting younger because lithium batteries kept getting cheaper and more available to the general public, isn't that hilarious?"

    It's an "interesting" (not really) observation, but it's not funny.

  7. I think the real point of the comic was "why didn't they have these awesome remote control airplanes and helicopters when I was a kid;" it was that kids these days have cooler toys than we did and he wishes he could be a kid to take advantage of that. Finding (or making up, I dunno if it's true) the correlation between the target demographics for lithium batteries and when those devices were first offered may not be the best way of getting that idea across, but I think that's what he was going for.

  8. ...which doesn't change the fact that Randall is bad a writing jokes. In fact, it provides more evidence to support that point.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Dear Kurt:


  11. hey carl, you should put a permalink to xkcd could be better on the left side.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. So two things:

    One, pacemakers back in the day were terrible. My father is a cardiologist and he once gave me a 7 year old pacemaker that he took out of a patient to replace (yes, he sterelized it first). The thing was about half the size of an iPhone. I can't imagine how uncomfortable that would be to have a giant lump of metal in your chest. The batteries in those also didn't last half as long as the ones do today. The new ones tiny. About the size of the 2nd gen iPod shuffle, and they last forever. I can't imagine why someone would want an older pacemaker in leu of a new one. I, for one, like to age forward and look forward to all the cool shit that's going to be out when I'm 80.

    Also, for the xkcd could be better page, I'm working on an xkcd font. I've gone through a lot of comics and taken samples of Randal's handwriting, but I'm still missing a few characters.

    If someone could point me in the direction of an example of the following characters, it'd be great:

    [ ] { } @ \ | + ~ ^ # % ` _

    There are a few other characters like the euro symbol which I don't think anyone's going to use, so I'm replacing them with other exciting symbols that randal uses. I might add the ` and ~ to that list too as they're rarely relevant.

    Thanks in advance!

  14. ...ch00f, you are truly a man for our times.

    This is the sort of thing people have been clamoring for for years. YEARS.

  15. Haha, thanks. I'm using fontifier, it's this online service. Here's a preview of the font. It looks kind of crappy when it's big, but if you scale it down to xkcd size, it should look the part:

    he writes in all caps, so the capital letters are just letters sampled from different places. If you write in CaMeL cApS, it should be harder to detect that it's a font because of the variable styles of lettering.

  16. Re the newest comic; "Dvorak keyboards suck" is in no way an uncomfortable truth: no one uses them. I would not even be uncomfortable learning that QWERTY keyboards are provably worse, since I still wouldn't make the switch.

  17. Rob, you are like an arrow in this post's comments! Fly swift and true!

  18. This is the lamest comic ... ever. If I had known this was coming, I wouldn't have bothered to regularly read xkcd. Luckily, I have you guys!

  19. I thought the newest comic was alright until I got to the fourth panel and was abruptly whiplashed from "moderate humor" to "the bitter experiences of life". Goddamnit, pick one or the other. Don't just...gah.

  20. I love all you guys. Seriously. Carl this is probably one of my favorite posts of yours in a while, and everyone who has commented (except for Kurt, I am going to assume that you smell like poo) so far has been awesome!

    Ch00f, you especially! Hearts, stars, and horseshoes for you!

    Schadenfreude! Someone asked me the other day if I knew what "schadenfreude" meant and thanks to you I was able to proudly say YES I did at one time and now I have forgotten.

    Regarding the comic, I really think this might be the worst xkcd aside from that stupid "laptops are weird" one. I was not even remotely amused, nor did I see ANY goddamn humor. DAMMIT RANDALL why you gotta make me hate?


  21. confession: I kind of liked the 'ZING' nature of the latest one even if it is also kind of creepy! Actually now I think about it it is mostly just kind of sad in a sad way not in a poignant way. It is all 'I was just stringing you along the whole time' and he is like 'but I loved you!' and she is like 'yeah that is still kind of creepy' and he's like 'yeah I know.'

    I think I have discovered the problem when Randy does his 'trying to be poignant' comics though! I never get the feeling he's being ironic or self-depreciating when it's creepy. It feels like that's not the intended reaction! Like you're supposed to sympathize with the guy--"Oh, man, I had a girlfriend who was totally stringing me along, too!" or "Oh man, that sucks that he was in a relationship like that!" Then it's like "wait, that's kind of creepy."

    Creepy in a White Knight sort of way, the way only White Knights can be. Creepy in the "I loved her despite the fact she couldn't love me," as if unrequited love is a noble virtue that's doing her a favor and not some burden she feels like she has to bear because you're a nice enough guy, she guesses. Creepy in the "yeah, and I still mean it and I will always love you" sense.


  22. Actually Rob I disagree, I think we are supposed to sympathize with the girl. YOU CHAUVENIST YOU but yeah it's supposed to be ouch look girls look what happens, the truth hurts don't it.

    Anyway does anyone else feel that he was trying for a double-ish meaning in the title? Like if you read it after the comic it means something different? Okay and if everyone got it already then my work is done!

  23. Oh I totally was looking at the comic wrong. The well is telling /them/ uncomfortable truths! I recant of my earlier post.

  24. it's ok, you can just move the speech lines from the well to the stick figures and you'll have another one of those improved xkcds

  25. For a comic about science, xkcd has become quite anti-sciencey lately. There were Bloody Marys flying out of mirrors, now sentient speaking wells. Oh, and the comic was so boring and unfunny, it couldn't even make it to the front page of Reddit. Bleh.

  26. I feel compelled to chime in on the subject of the Well comic... it's like everything that's crap about Xkcd distilled into one strip!

  27. Hey ch00f, still looking for your symbols? I found a couple:

    292, 327, 341, 342, 353 have lower case letters, but not all of them.
    292, 343 have two sided single quotes.
    292 has _
    55 has []{}, math stuff and also some lower case.
    345 has ~ and a long dash thing.
    323 has %
    292, 342 also have asterisks, you seem to be missing them.

    Couldn't find @\|+^# though. I think there's a \ in one of the linux/unix comics, and I believe I saw + somewhere too. I don't think I ever saw |@^#.

  28. Hey Ar-Pharazôn:

    Thanks for the help! I just finished up the font.I sent an email to Carl. He should be posting it soon.

    You can download it here:

  29. Ch00f and Ar-Pharazôn: you two have made the internet a better place.

  30. and here i thought i would have to settle for comic sans to imitate that "xkcd effect"

  31. Never settle for Comic Sans.


  32. totally agreed. the only good thing about comic sans was that is led to this

  33. The Comic Sans guy spoke at ROFLthing NYC. He was actually pretty funny.

  34. You guys am I the only one here who does not think comic sans is horrible?

    I mean my ninth grade English teacher's favorite font was comic sans and he was a cool dude so maybe I am somehow biased.

  35. Why the hatin' on Comic Sans? It's so [i]cool.[/i]


    Also, I was out of town so I missed this whole thread.


  37. I agree, this xkcd strip was bad. But your comments on lithium-ion batteries were pretty poor as well. You make it clear several times that you don't know what's so special about them, which makes painful reading for people who do know. Different battery chemistries, to let you in on the secret, produce different results. People use lithium-ion instead of alkaline, lead-acid, etc because lithium-ion batteries are lightweight, efficient and rechargable. Your peurile jeer "woo, your portable electronics can have lithium batteries!" made me cringe. More fair would be to say "woo, you can have portable electronics!"--and that really is something to celebrate.

    Keep up the good work critiquing xkcd, but next time, when you don't understand something, please hold off on writing until you do.

  38. I is sowwee Amanda. I was just having a bad day.

  39. It is okay Kurt, we all smell like poo sometimes.

    poore: i am in class now =( it is a sad day.

  40. JK - But there are lots of portable electronics that use other batteries, right? Like my digital camera, which I know almost certainly has a backup lithium battery (like to keep track of the time and date and stuff) but mostly runs on 2 AA batteries. And it's still cool.

    I agree that if the comic were about "portable electronics" it would be more interesting and I would care more, but it wasn't - it was clearly celebrating lithium batteries, not any other kind.

  41. Carl - have you ever put lithium AAs in your camera? Alk AAs have a shockingly poor lifespan in my camera so I pay a bit more to get lithium ones. You should try it sometime just to see the difference, although it seems like your camera may not have the same problem with alks. Also, my dad's camera runs one one of the square, rechargeable lithium batteries. I think digital cameras that run on AAs are a dying breed.

    Also, rechargeable lithium batteries, like the ones in iPods, cellphones, and DSes/PSPs, last longer and charge quicker than rechargeable alks.... rechargeable alks SUCK.

  42. don't talk to me about the batteries in ipods...mine kept dying, just another reason I don't like Apple.

    Anyway your point is fine, but still: Longer battery life? Is that really enough to be excited about? It's good, sure, but worthy enough for a comic? I mean, he can draw anything! He could draw people flying on dragons and wish for that instead. Who cares about longer battery life? it's such a small part of what most people care about.