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Wednesday, April 20th, 2005

Time Event
Vending machines
It's a normal-sized vending machine, probably taller than you are, unless you're fairly tall. The front of it is opaque and shows an image of the machine itself -- palette swapped (instead of the edges of the machine being black, they're blue) and rotated thirty-degrees counter-clockwise. Overlaid at a jaunty angle in an engaging font and all capital letters is the word "VENDING". Of course, the image of a vending machine has its own palette swapped (lavender), rotated, text-overlaid vending machine image on its front panel, and so forth and so on, spiraling inward until they become too blurry to make out clearly.

There are six buttons aligned vertically to the right of the image (each of the rendered images of vending machines has six buttons as well, although close inspection will show they're labeled differently). The real six buttons each display a word and an iconic image representing that word: soda (a colorful aluminum can), coffee (a steaming mug), music (a violin), snacks (a bag of potato chips), candy (a half-unwrapped chocolate bar), and money (a wad of green bills). The buttons in the picture of a vending machine show cigarettes (a cigarette), fruit (a banana), cereal (a bowl of cereal with spoon), photographs (a camera), love (a heart) and ice cream (a cone with two scoops). The legends of the buttons in the vending machine images within the image are too difficult to make out clearly.

Above the buttons there is a slot for coins and, above that, another for bills (it accepts anything up to a twenty). A small sign indicates the price of the machine's contents to be "$40.00". Below the buttons is a space for change to be returned. There is a much larger opening lower down and centered in the front of the machine -- larger, in fact, than the opening where a typical vending machine's contents are disgorged. If you insert the requisite currency and press any of the first five buttons, you will be graced (after a moment's grinding and rumbling) with a box, about eighteen inches by ten inches by six. This is, in fact, a vending machine: fully stocked and conveniently sized for table-top installation.

The exact design and controls of the smaller vending machine depend on what selection you have made. The coffee machine, for instance, has buttons for regular coffee, decaf, hot chocolate and mocha, and (once you have plugged it in, deposited forty cents, and made a selection) will dispense the beverage of your choice into a small paper cup. The soda machine will provide, for forty cents (all of the smaller machines are marked "$0.40") a half-sized can of any of several different off-brand soft drinks (cola, lemon-lime or root beer).

The music vending machine is actually a juke box, driven by a cheap electronic synthesizer and stocked with a dozen public domain tunes. The snack machine offers tiny packets of potato chips (mostly broken, unfortunately), peanuts, and individual peanut butter crackers. The candy machine dispenses snack-sized candy bars -- as well as an additional option for "jellybeans". If the jellybean button is pressed, you'll be given a small, yellow, plastic box that fits in your hand. There's a narrow slit near the top, a hole near the bottom, and a red lever on one side. If you put a penny in the slot and pull the lever, a jellybean drops out of the hole.

If you press the button on the vending machine marked "money", your payment is refunded via the change return. All of it, in quarters.

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