Dumb Things I Have Done Lately

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

April Fools Day Is Halloween for Unfunny People

Or New Year's Eve for amateur partiers. St. Patrick's Day for amateur drunks. Whatever.

It's official sanction for unfunny people: "Come on, let's all be wacky in a non-threatening, completely artificial way!"

This goes double for companies.

And then throw in the people who think "mean" is "funny."

If a prank is worth doing, it's worth doing outside of the socially-designated time.

April Fools Day -- leave me out of it.


So at about 6:30pm tonight, an Emergency Alert System warning came on the TV -- "Turn to Channel 12 for more information" the voice said (even though the on-screen message read Channel 16).

Since the temperature was supposed to drop 32 degrees (from the beautiful 74 this afternoon), and since we'd been told of possible thunderstorms, I though it was a thunderstorm warning. Possibly a tornado.

Whatever it was, it had to be important -- it's gotta be a great big honkin' emergency if it's going to interrupt a rerun of 8 Simple Rules on ABC Family Channel (channel 12 on my system).

With each passing moment, I grew more uneasy. (The terrorists struck again. The missiles are flying. Hallelujah, Hallelujah! Get the guns and fill the bathtubs, we're heading on down The Road. )

As it turns out, it was an Amber Alert for two missing teens. Not to say that it isn't a personal tragedy, but there's got to be a better way to do these things.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

I Am Going to Get So Screwed Tomorrow

And it doesn't have anything to do with the March Washington Blogger Meetup (7:00pm at RFD, across from the Verizon Center).

A few days ago, I started smelling this really strong burning brake odor from the back of my car. I wasn't sure what to make of it until yesterday, when I was filling up at a gas station, smelled the smell, and touched my rear left wheel.

It was really hot. The other wheels were cool.

Even I, with my limited car knowledge, put two and two together and figured it was a stuck caliber (which might explain why my mileage last week was a little worse than usual).

I took it in to the local brand-name brake/tire/burrito place today -- after some initial confusion with the ticket (when they tried to sell me on a new timing belt -- I'd just gotten it inspected at the proper interval -- and all the usual unnecessary fluid replacements), they confirmed, yes, it was a stuck brake caliper.

This is apparently something of a known issue with the Mazda Protege5 (mine is just under 6 years and 70K miles old).

They told me I needed two new rear calipers, rotors and pads. They didn't have the right replacement calipers (they should get in tomorrow), so I'm driving only locally, and carefully. right now.

However, based on my reading, and seeing their ridiculous price quote, I'm going to get a second opinion at the Mazda dealership tomorrow, especially since I don't think the local shop is up to speed on my car's brakes (like, how to free up a stuck piston). I've got a couple of 16ths of an inch of brake pad safety margin left to spare, so I have a little time, and if I'm right, this would probably save me a few hundred bucks.

Of course, my initial thought was to either: 1). Ignore it and hope it goes away, or 2). Throw money at it, but neither of those is really an option right now. But I can't afford to procrastinate on this one, as it's hurting my meeting schedule.

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

Things That Should Not Be Made Out of Plastic

Snow Shovels: I have a cheap, metal-bladed snow shovel that's lasted almost 10 winters. The edge of the blade is a little chipped, but it still works fine. My parents have snow shovels that must be 20 or 30 years old. Can you tell me that any plastic-bladed snow shovel is going to be as cost-effective?

Home Mailboxes: My townhouse complex replaced its mailboxes not too long ago -- since my metal mailbox had just been recently replaced (bad hinge), mine was spared. But everybody else got plastic mailboxes. Guess whose mailboxes have doors that don't stay closed?

Now, I realize that, strictly speaking, snow shovels and mailboxes are not durable goods. But I fear for our disposable culture, where lower life-cycle costs are sacrificed at the altar of lower up-front costs.

Feel free to add your own examples. And you kids, stay off of my lawn.

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Friday, December 14, 2007

On Consuming TV Series on DVDs

I had a Chipotle burrito for dinner tonight. It pretty much put me out of commission for the rest of the evening (heartburn), which is why I'm staying in and watching a Firefly mini-marathon on Sci-Fi channel. Which is kind of dumb, since I already own the series on DVD.

I also received the Band of Brothers boxed set this week (Amazon, $25), even though it basically runs on the History Channel in a continuous loop. So I have new additions to the evergrowing-pile of unwatched DVDs -- the one that you might think I would have whittled down during my enforced downtime. But no.

(Incidentally, I'm now fully and officially unemployed -- Friday was my official separation date from AOL -- up to this point, I've been technically on the payroll, without actually having to go to work. It was pretty sweet. I will be talking more about it and my AOL career. Eventually.)

Anyway, unless you're one of those people who've ripped their entire DVD collection to a gigantic media center hard drive, you've probably encountered this little problem with TV series DVD boxed sets -- namely, how do you go about choosing which episode to watch?

(Actually, even if you're ripped your DVD collection, it just makes consumption a little more convenient -- it doesn't solve the whole choosing side of things. I'm sure someone [Corey] will tell me about this great Linux/Open Source/Media PC/Ginormous Hard Drive solution, though there's also the problem of bonus features and such. And do they even make DVD jukeboxes that actually, you know, use the actual physical media? I'm old-fashioned that way.)

For something like Firefly, it's relatively easy, since the series tops out at 14 episodes that mostly stand alone (despite having an underlying story arc). But what about something that was actually, you know, successful, like Friends, Star Trek, Seinfeld, whatever, that ran many seasons and had hundreds of episodes? Or something where episode order really matters, and you can't just snack on individual episodes (24 being the ultimate example of this)?

Unless you're going to do your own mini-marathon, or you're actually disciplined/OCD enough to keep track and watch the episodes in order, how do you keep from just cherry-picking the best-known episodes? Especially for a series that you, say, liked well enough to buy the boxed set when it was on sale for really cheap at Best Buy, but you don't have the episode list memorized?

I guess what I'm looking for is some sort of media management system -- something like a Netflix (with a little bit of iTunes) for your personal collection, to keep track of your personal viewing to show you how many times you've viewed an episode, and what's next in the queue. Which would pretty much mean ripping the DVD and forgetting the physical media -- wouldn't really be workable any other way.

My own DVD player is a now-ancient Apex player which doesn't have many features, save for one of the least intuitive remotes ever made. It also occasionally tries to die on me. However, its saving grace is that it's a 3-disc carousel, which I find helps with serendipity and flow -- I can pre-load it with 3 discs and get around to watching them (or not) when I feel like it.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Annotated Proof: Rhymes With Orange Is Horribly Drawn

Previously, I mentioned how I have an intense, almost irrational, dislike of the comic Rhymes With Orange due to its horrible art.

A commenter (sorry, Conor, throwing you under the bus on this one) pointed me to the November 15th comic as a classic example of its humor, though I'll use it as an example of why I think it sucks:

"It's not you -- it's a timing thing. I just really need to focus on my cats."

For starters, the joke is kinda "meh." But what gets me is the art. (Not how the people are drawn -- I'm not even going to get into that.)

Look, the action is taking place inside a bistro, right? See #1, where the "BISTRO" lettering in the window is reversed?

So if they're inside the bistro, why do we see the outside corner of the building (#2)? And then why are they on what appears to be a sidewalk?

I don't usually care about nitpicky mistakes like that. But combined with the lukewarm joke and the bad art -- it just bugs me.

There are plenty of comics that have, shall we say, nontraditional drawing styles. That is, they're not great art, but they get the job done. I'm thinking Agnes, for one. Even Dilbert.

And other comics have art conventions just are just weird. Like how people's eyeglasses in Doonesbury are always below their noses, or how the dad's nose in Baby Blues is bigger than his head.

But Rhymes With Orange just bugs me.

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Friday, November 30, 2007

Today Are Crazy Sex Day, Plus 35 Is NOT Middle-Aged and Racewalking From Samurai

* Grammar Nazis and Crazy Sex Day: From today's Sinfest comic:

Sinfest's Slick: "If I was president every day would be Crazy Sex Day."

While I am something of grammar and spelling purist, I don't consider myself a "Grammar Nazi" -- I'm more of a, um, "Grammar Youth." Possibly a Grammar Detective -- part of the Grammar Police, only undercover: observing, gathering evidence, building a case.

* 35 Is Not "Middle-Aged." (Dammit): A news item of no particular consequence about a 35-year-old guy who allegedly blackmailed a 20-year-old MySpace friend into having sex (after she revealed that she'd had a three-way -- well, it just says she engaged in sexual acts with them, so I will believe what I want to believe -- with two college hockey players that she thought might have been videotaped).

Okay, maybe there's some particular consequence here (*furiously taking notes*). But the Fark headline from which this story comes reads:
"If you're a middle-aged fat guy looking to pick up college chicks, this local paper has a step-by-step guide... if you don't mind the ensuing jailarity. (with mugshot goodness)"
Besides the usual snark, there's a sidebar discussion in the comments as to what constitutes "middle age," with a lot of vociferous protestations and denial from fellow mid-30s oldsters.

As I'm going to live forever (also, I'm going to learn how to fly -- high!), I must also add my note of protest.

* Know When to Walk Away, Know When to Run (Samurai Edition): Lastly, here's a video (via BoingBoing) that asks and answers the question: When chased by sword-wielding samurai, would a champion racewalker walk or run?

Bonus: Remember this video the next time you sit in a massage chair.

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Things *Were* Going Okay Today

I had a relatively productive morning -- went to the outplacement place today for an introductory session. We'll see how useful it is -- the resume, I know, could use some help. I think I last updated it in 1998, though my LinkedIn is a little more current.

I got there a little late -- if I'd had more time, I was going to try to take a photo of the tree out front. The leaves are all bright yellow now, and it was still pretty foggy this morning, so I thought it might be interesting. But by the time I got back, the fog had all burned off.

Then, I set up the new all-in-one printer -- printer/fax/scanner/copier. It's a Samsung SCX-4725FN -- got it yesterday after ordering it from Staples: $140 after rebate. Not too bad. Set it up, worked okay (tested everything but the fax).

Get through about 6 different test pages. Then, all of a sudden, it stops working. It's refusing to intake paper to the printing part, either from the cartridge or the manual feed. I can hear something going, but no wheels are turning and nothing's moving.

I'm going to give it one more try tomorrow (got to get to the meetups tonight), but if it still doesn't work, it's back to the store. I might consider an exchange, but if not, it's gone.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Politicians: Robocall Me Again, and I Will Vote for Your Opponent Out of Sheer Spite

Look, one of the reasons why I've never tried Netflix is that they were one of the earliest and most prolific users of pop-under ads. (Well, that and I already have enough unwatched DVDs).

And I just took WatchingAmerica.com out of my daily bookmarks because they keep serving up some stupid malware-ish javascript "performance warning" ad for FixThemNow.

Given that I did this to services from which I might derive some actual utility, what makes you think that I wouldn't do something as spiteful and petty as voting for your political opponent in Tuesday's election because you robocalled me too many times (and once is too many)?

Let's face it -- despite all the PSAs, any one individual person's vote really doesn't matter. (Also, FYI -- a purposeful voter boycott is indistinguishable from voter apathy.)

So robocall me at your peril.

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Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Managing to Annoy Me

My homeowner's association recently switched management companies (an embezzlement scandal will tend to do that). I didn't know about it, which was annoying -- I don't go to the HOA board meetings, but they could have at least told us about it before the first invoice came out.

The new company is a local joint -- Millenium Management. They've already managed to annoy me because:

* The name of the company features a prominent misspelling -- "Millennium" has two N's. (Though, curiously, their URL uses the correct spelling: http://www.millenniummgt.com -- which means they're basically typosquatting themselves.)

* According to their site:
"We provide the same management services offered by other HOA management companies. What sets us apart is the manner in which we provide those services."
This is actually true -- the fact that they don't give you a payment envelope in the bill certainly sets them apart.

The payment coupon also isn't perforated -- you have to cut it with scissors, knife, or maybe a piece of flint chipped to a cutting edge.

What are we, savages?

I expect that from the Federal government (I had to send them a check, for reasons I will get into some other time), but at least they give you a return envelope (even if the payment coupon didn't really fit right -- the address doesn't show without modification).

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

No More Human-Flavored Pez

With the Washington Post's Sunday Arts & Style realignment, I see that the "Life Is Short" human interest haikus (funny, they don't look haiku-ish) are no more.

This disappoints me -- they were inoffensive, quick and tasty bits of humanity, ranging in flavor from sweet to bittersweet (though always in a self-consciously-treacly kind of way).

Like little pieces of human-flavored Pez.

And yet the Sunday Source continues. Go figure.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Scary Occurances in DC Radio

I heard the "...from the Ledo Pizza Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center" tagline for the first time tonight on WTOP. It frightened me.

More scarily, I swear I also heard a promo/commercial for the "Carrier air-conditioned broadcast something or other" on 94.7 The Globe.

I guess that's one way to fight global warming (which is part of their eco-friendly positioning). It ranks right up there with Bush's Call for Development of National Air Conditioner.

I also scared myself this evening. I couldn't remember the tune to Avril Lavigne's Girlfriend (the hook of which may or may not be stolen from the Rubinoos' I Wanna Be Your Boyfriend), so I actually sought out the video so I could listen to the tune.

I guess I was more scurred of not being able to recall the tune than I was afraid it would get stuck in my head. Again.

Lastly, in a non-scary thing, it's too bad that Unzipped got the axe from 106.7's 7-10pm lineup.

However, it's bad-bad that they're exclusively doing reruns (as far as I can tell, which isn't very), and not labeling them as such.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Short People Got No Reason

It never fails:
  • In clothing stores, the "XS" and "S" sizes are invariably on the top rack. They do this on purpose.

  • My office snail mail slot will be start in the very topmost, just beyond tippytoe position. Gradually, through attrition or addition, it will move down to a comfortable eye level, at which point we will move again.
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