Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Bad Guest? Nein

2 weekends ago, I went to Bad Gastein, near Salzburg, for a couple days of hiking. Austria continues to impress me as a hiking paradise, with ample well marked trails through gorgeous mountains. Their delight in peppering hikes with little restaurants initially freaked me out, but it grows on you. It is still weird to huff up a steep hill, totally alone, then turn a corner and see 30 Austrians and 10 dogs sitting on a patio, eating and drinking. But these waystations are quite practical. Does cold cranberry juice and water sound good now? Me neither. After ascnending 1 kilometer, it's delicious, and quite envigorating.

My goal here is not to glorify the hiking, but the exploding bathrobes. Yes, they amused me so much over the last 2 weeks that I couldn't focus on writing Tiger Leaping Gorge II or anything else. Had to devote a whole blog post to them. Cuz they are just that cool.

The notion of an exploding collar or other device to corral prisoners or slaves is prevalent in sci fi. If the prisoner leaves a security perimeter, he gets splattered. As only one example, here is a prisoner in the Schwarzegger classic "The Running Man" involuntarily modeling the exploding collar:

"The Running Man" includes this real footage of the death penalty in California. The Govenator's decision to execute this California prisoner, named Tookie Williams, alienated everyone in Graz and a small percentage of Californians who wouldn't have voted for him anyway:

Side note to all of my Austrian readers: Gerv and Clemens, you should watch the movie. It shows that Arnie was actually trying to free the prisoners, and was framed for their death. And, Arnie was punished horribly by being forced to participate in Hollywood game shows with Richard Dawson and Maria Conchita Alonzo. Isn't that punishment enough? Give him his stadium back!

I thought that exploding collars were sci fi. But leave it to the Austrians, who I always praised as clever engineers, to actually implement it. Bonus points for the triviality of the offense. You might think such a punishment would be reserved for escaping murderers, people who lock their kids in basements for 25 years, or who ask for kangaroos in Austria. Nein. Just people who try to steal bathrobes from the Hotel GrĂ¼ner Baum in Bad Gastein:

Warning notice in my hotel room. Click on the picture to enlarge. Key phrase: "Our bathrobes are equipped with an anti-theft device and will explode when leaving the hotel unallowed."

Fucking Awesome!

One assumes the exploding bathrobes resulted from escalation, after prior unsuccessful efforts to reduce bathrobe theft. First, they asked nicely. Please don't steal our bathrobes. Sterner warnings may have followed. Maybe they upgraded to dye packs that would mar the bathrobes with a red badge of shame, a scarlet vetter. Still didn't work. They may have upgraded to bathrobes that play really bad music, or shock you, or fart. No luck. Then they got really pissed. Old Man Blumschein was out for blood.

They're really efficient, too. I walked all around the hotel - careful to bring no bathrobe - but couldn't find any craters or blood spatters or corpses. They must clean them up immediately! Well done! And the explosions must echo quite loudly off the many mountains around Salzburg, yet the locals never mentioned that the hills are alive with the sound of new sick. I asked several locals where I could find the splattered bathrobe-thieves, and they just looked at me funny. Maybe they were paid off, or live in terror. Could be my German.

Also, I played with the bathrobe for a while - careful to remain in my room - and found the bulge that must include the sensor and the payload. Not very big, at all. Yet it must pack enough punch to completely splatter someone, because the only other possibilities are that the device would only damage the bathrobe, or they're bluffing completely. These are much more likely explanations than Austrian punitive suicide vests, but less fun and hence disregarded. I hereby invent Brendan's Razor, which is that any scientific explanation that leads to the most entertaining sci fi silliness must be true.

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