The Quest For The Birdy Grail

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:35 pm

Man, I love bird season. The breathy chew-toy calls of bush tits as they swarm over the suet feeder. The robust “GLE-ert!” of flickers perched in the crowns of Douglas firs. Even the ungodly mess the starlings leave as they tear through their meal like it was their last.

Anyone who has been checking in on Birdie Cam might have noticed some changes there. We’ve made two new purchases in our eternal quest for the perfect bird feeder.

Standard-issue tube-style seed feeders are useless past about the second feeding station from the top; chaff from the first two stations gathers in the subsequent wells. It mixes with the rain—and maybe with birdie spit—to make a poultice that caulks shut the opening through which the seed passes. This means you’re constantly emptying out the bottom third of the feeder, cleaning the holes of their accumulated gunk, and refilling it.

We tried another style, a globular feeder called a “Cling-A-Wing”, and it worked pretty well. It holds a hell of a lot of seed, that’s for sure. But the birds didn’t simply cling to the edges of the entryways as described in the literature; they climbed inside, eating the seed and discarding the shells, thereby jamming up the feeder. Furthermore, the more aggressive birds seemed to perceive the thing as a territory to be defended, and chased all newcomers away. Additionally, the top opening was not completely moisture-proof (a bad trait for a Northwest bird feeder). The result is seeds sprouting or mildewing after heavy rains. Overall, the globe feeders turned out to be more of a hassle than the tube feeders.

I think we’ve finally found a winner. Recently we picked up a couple of new feeders from Wild Birds Unlimited. Shaped basically like a tube feeder, the sides are made from steel mesh, sized to hold in black oil sunflower seeds, but just barely. Birds can cling to the entire surface of the feeder wall, which means you can stick a lot of the little buggers to each feeder. They’re forced to reach through the mesh wall of the feeder and pull the seeds out, so crumbs don’t end up accumulating in the cylinder and jamming it up. And the large domed roof works both as a rain shield and a squirrel baffle; a nice touch.

It took our birds about two weeks to fully grasp the particulars of using the things, but not thhat they’re gotten the hang of it, they’re all over them. It’s kind of fun to watch four or five birds perched on the feeder all at once…and at all different angles. I know I was a little skeptical whether our local avian population would figure the things out, so when they did, I called the store where we bought them and gave them the URL of the Birdie Cam, so they could direct other concerned potential buyers our way.

So if you are in the market for a durable, well, designed, high volume bird feeder, check out Wild Birds Unlimited. And don’t forget to mention my name; it’s good for a puzzled look and a complete lack of recognition.


Partial Victory In The Battle Of The Bugs

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:30 am

In case you missed it, an eleven-year-old boy has used the prestigious Interweb to force Warner Brothers into a holding action over their upcoming thirteen-toed bastard child of the wonderful Looney Tunes cartoons, called Loonatics. You may recall my earlier post on the subject.

Thomas Adam’s goal was to convince Warner Brothers to create new characters for their series, rather than polluting the well-known personas of long-standing cartoon icons such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and the Tasmanian Devil. The online petition caused the media giant to rethink the edgy, Anime-derived design of the new characters, who are positioned as battlers of evil in the year 2772. They still intend to air the show, but getting them to rein in the extreme makeover is at least a start. Perhaps the extra attention will influence the viewing habits of their target demographic, and the show will wither and die on the vine.

You can sign Thomas’ petition here.


New Nye!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:08 am

In case y’all missed the news, Bill Nye The Science Guy has a new show on PBS called The Eyes of Nye, and it rocks. Same fascinating content, bumped up just a little to fit an older audience. Check out the link for showtimes.


Someone Paid MONEY For This?

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:42 am

If you’re a hopeless mediapath like myself, you may have seen the latest spot in Universal Studios Orlando’s “A Vacation From The Ordinary” television ad campaign. It intersperses scenes of hard-toiling office drudges with over-the-top vignettes of people enjoying their brains out amongst the many attractions available at said resort. Flickering through these various scenes are the phrases:

“Attention Workaholics:

“It’s Time To Fall Off The Wagon.”

For those of you non-native English speakers who may be unfamiliar with this phrase, a brief primer: the term “On The Wagon” is used to describe an alcoholic who has stopped drinking. Conversely, if this same person begins to drink again, (s)he is said to have “fallen off the wagon”. This term has in later years come to refer to any sort of addictive behavior, though it is primarily used in reference to substance abuse, rather than process addictions such as eating disorders.

Hmm. Okay, so, let me see if I have this right. A “workaholic” would be, one can only assume, someone who is addicted to work. And “falling off the wagon” means, essentially, reverting to one’s addictive behavior.

Therefore, the phrase, “Workaholics: It’s Time To Fall Off The Wagon” means, “Workaholics: It’s Time To Return To Your Pattern Of Self-Abusive Overworking.”

From this, one can infer one of two things. The first is that Universal Studios wants you to stay away, to fail to interrupt your unhealthy toil with a nice vacation (perhaps someone in the upper strata of their management was once assaulted by a workaholic). The alternate inference would be that Universal Studios is a terrible place to relax, suitable only to those with a pathological desire for stress.

Actually, there’s a third thing one might glean from this television spot: that the advertising agency in charge of the Universal Studios contract doesn’t pay much attention to detail. Whatever the true answer, I think I’ll hedge my bets by staying away from Universal Studios Orlando. If I traveled all the way to Florida it wouldn’t be to have Frankenstein give me a pedicure (see commercial) anyway; it would be to see a shuttle launch. 😉


Food Fright, Part 5

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:15 pm
Food Fright Part 5

This may be the best candidate for the title of Food Fright I have encountered to date. After all, there’s so very much to be frightened of here; the nausea that comes from witnessing yet another spurious Star Wars product tie-in; the spectre of individual oat molecules doped with a thousand times their weight in sugar; and the horrible yet all-too-real possibility that the only thing that will suck worse than the cereal itself is the movie from whence it gets its name.

What disturbed me most when I first spotted the box on the shelf at my local grocery store, however, was the expression on Yoda’s face. I think the designers were trying for a look of steely resolve. To me, though, the wise old gnome appears to be in a state of high piss-off. He looks like they took the shot just before he vaulted over the cereal bowl and pummelled the photographer. “Keep you away from my cereal, or kick your ass I will, mm, yes!”

I think I’ll stick to oatmeal. Not only is it healthier, the Quaker Oats guy seems a tad more even-keeled.


Cool Names For Restaurants

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:11 pm

I’m going to a house-warming party tomorrow (Margaret is working), so I went to Trader Joe’s to get some stuff to make hummus. (I make a rockin’ hummus. I’m going to ad bits of sauteed Shiitake and carmelized onion to this batch.) It has long been my contention that you can grab any three things off the shelves at TJ’s, throw them in a food processor, and concoct something wonderful to serve on toast points at your next party. Er, perhaps avoiding the soap and pet food aisles.

Anywho, I decided to use naan for the hummus delivery device. Naan is a flat bread from India; sort of a tandoori tortilla. I threw three packages into my basket.

Later while we were winding down for the evening, I happened to glance at the three bags of naan nestled together like sleeping puppies on the counter, and it occurred to me that I had a great name for a restaurant. I come up with these sometimes, probably when the tumor in my head grows a little.

I thought it would be great to start an Indian restaurant called….drumroll please….Naan Sequitur.

I could put it up kitty corner to my vegetarian establishment, Soy Disant. And just down the block from my American cuisine eatery, Sans Sushi.

Of course, competition would be pretty stiff, given the proximity of our friend Gary’s noodle shop, The Phở King.


Born To Be Mild

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:24 pm

I swear, I get some of my best stuff from NPR’s Marketplace.

The stock price for all-American motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson dropped 17 percent today, on news that their projected earnings for this year will be less than expected. Most analysts blame a sluggish economy, combined with higher energy costs.

H-D is in a bit of a bind, because the Baby Boom Generation—which helped saved Harley from bankruptcy by pouring their not-inconsiderable wealth into the company throughout the 90s—are starting to move past their motorcycle-buying years. The company is working hard to develop a following among current twentysomethings in order to fill a serious projected sales gap in the coming years.

The answer to this problem seems obvious to me: Harley-Davidson needs to retain their current loyal customers by branching out. If your average Boomer was hot to purchase the cherished hog of his fiery youth in the previous decade, imagine the money this venerable symbol of American pride and vigor could rake in in the next decade with the rollout of their brand-new line of Harley Davidson Signature Senior Scooters.


The Son of Blood (Boils) On The Highway

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:59 am

Have you heard about Florida’s new ordinance regarding driving slow in the passing lane? The Road Rage Reduction Act would make it a non-criminal offense to drive in the left hand lane except when attempting to pass other vehicles.

This is nothing new, really; Washington State has had its own law of this type on the books for a couple of years now. Our police force and State Patrol has so far failed to enforce the law in any recorded instance that I could find. Perhaps this might be due to the fact that our law enforcement officers have far better things to do with their time than busting people for doing the speed limit, regardless of the lane in which they are doing it.

Look, let me be the first to agree: people ought to tailor their driving to the conditions around them. That means—among other things—that you should drive in the lane that is most closely matching your own preferred speed, and that lanes should be populated left to right, fastest to slowest.

Are we all clear on this? Great. Glad to hear it.

Now, would someone please show me a roadway in this state that actually enjoys this kind of hierarchical organization?

Having driven extensively in only two states (Washington and Hawaii), I can’t speak for most other communities. But here in the Puget Sound region, it’s anything goes: not only are those lousy slow drivers snailing along in the passing lane, the fast drivers are passing in the middle lane, and the semis are passing in every lane (until they get to a hill, anyway, at which point they’re slowing down and jamming up traffic in every lane). Meanwhile, the insane drivers are passing in the far-right lane, the middle lane, the breakdown lane, the on-ramp lane, and the 10-Items-Or-Less lane at the Safeway. No one drives where they’re “supposed” to; just because you take the high road and pull over to the right to let others pass doesn’t mean that you won’t have some other asshole pull up on your rear bumper, flashing his brights at you until you either pull yet another lane to the right or he loses patience and blazes by on either side, offering you an upraised finger by way of comment on your driving skills. Trying to maintain the legal stopping distance between yourself and the car in front of you is an exercise in futility, as motorists cut in to occupy the safety buffer you have created in front of you. The only way to insure sufficient space in front of you is to come to a dead stop—preferably in the breakdown lane—and even then someone would probably exit the flow of traffic to stop directly in front of you, just to show you they still have the upper hand. You just can’t win.

Is it any wonder then that certain people get fed up, and opt to exercise their right to travel at the posted speed limit?

There’s a term that is bandied about a lot when conversation turns to Puget Sound drivers: “passive-aggressive”. People who get out their antisocial tendencies in ways that are tailored to operate just under the threshold that would initiate open conflict. There’s even a sort of mental picture that comes with it: an undernourished little guy or frumpy, mousy-haired woman in a tatty wool sweater, putt-putting their aging Volvo 240 DL (with the license plate frame reading, “THE CLOSER YOU GET, THE SLOWER I GO”) up Interstate 5 in the passing lane at a stately 53 miles per hour. Whenever another motorist pulls up behind them and patiently waits for them to reach the speed limit, the passive-aggressive driver’s mouth curls into a rodent-like sneer, and (s)he begins to slow the vehicle, almost imperceptibly, from 53 to 48 mph, savoring the look of frustration on the other driver’s face visible in the rearview mirror.

The passive-aggressive motorist is the bane of Washington roadways, according to some. Local talk-radio host Dori Monson derided the slow drivers for making their self-righteous stand on the highway, smugly forcing those around them to obey the speed limit. He laid responsibility for a good portion of our traffic problems on them, claiming that their failure to yield their lane was forcing the faster drivers to change lanes too often, resulting in more collisions that jam up our public thoroughfares.

Darn those speed-limit-obeying pansies! If it weren’t for them, the rest of us could break the law in peace and relative safety. One wonders whether such standards should also be applied to those who try to prevent others from littering in public parks or breaking into houses. After all, who are they to try to force others to conform to their own social model, just because it also happens to be the law?

Much is made here about the detrimental effect of passive-aggressive drivers on the condition of our traffic. No one seems to be concerned about the detrimental effect of aggressive-aggressive drivers.

I really get a guffaw out of the name of the Florida law for just this reason. “The Road Rage Reduction Act”. Puh-leeze. Hyper-aggressive people do not suddenly become non-aggressive because the targets of their focus give in to their ire. Like dogs with fear, assholes can smell passivity, a desire to avoid conflict, and tend to push their agenda upon others as far as circumstances will allow.

And perhaps someone can tell me: since when did passive submission become the only legitimate response to aggression? I can only assume that the Florida Legislature will follow this up with the Bullying Reduction Act, wherein it will be made a punishable offense for kids to fail to surrender their lunch money in the schoolyard.

Imagine the benefit to the rest of the drivers out there if the resources were given to state and local law enforcement to punish those who speed, who weave in and out of traffic, who cut people off and dynamite their brakes, who ignore the line of folks waiting their turn at exit ramps and cut in at the front of the line, who run red lights, who drive while intoxicated, who let unsecured trash fly out of the beds of their pickup trucks, who can’t control their vehicle and change their radio station at the same time, who eat a sandwich while putting on makeup while reading the newspaper while driving?

Can anyone really support the assertion that the primary cause of problems on the road today is people who obey the speed limit? At least, anyone who doesn’t also receive encoded messages in their Cream of Wheat?

I can only hope that the Florida PD will follow Seattle’s lead in largely ignoring this new law.


Living Will

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:55 am

This was sent to me by my friend Mike. Thanks Mike!

While I do not ususally glean much enjoyment from forwarded ‘Net humor, this one gave me a giggle, so I thought I’d share it with you. Feel free to ignore it if you’ve seen it before.

New Living Will

I, _________________________ (fill in the blank), being of sound mind and body, do not wish to be kept alive indefinitely by artificial means.

Under no circumstances should my fate be put in the hands of peckerwood politicians who couldn’t pass ninth-grade biology if their lives depended on it.

If a reasonable amount of time passes and I fail to sit up and ask for a cold beer, it should be presumed that I won’t ever get better. When such a determination is reached, I hereby instruct my spouse, children and attending physicians to pull the plug, reel in the tubes and call it a day.

Under no circumstances shall the members of the Legislature enact a special law to keep me on life-support machinery. It is my wish that these boneheads mind their own damn business, and pay attention instead to the health, education and future of the millions of Americans who aren’t in a permanent coma.

Under no circumstances shall any politicians butt into this case. I don’t care how many fundamentalist votes they’re trying to scrounge for their run for the presidency in 2008, it is my wish that they play politics with someone else’s life and leave me alone to die in peace.

I couldn’t care less if a hundred religious zealots send e-mails to legislators in which they pretend to care about me. I don’t know these people, and I certainly haven’t authorized them to preach and crusade on my behalf. They should mind their own business too.

If any of my family goes against my wishes and turns my case into a political cause, I hereby promise to come back from the grave and make his or her existence a living hell.




Irony Supplement, Part 5

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:58 pm
Irony Supplement, Part 5

I was toodling up northbound Highway 509 when I passed this car on the side of the road. I wasn’t 100% sure I had really seen what I thought I had seen, so I took the next exit, got back on 509 going south, took another exit, got back on northbound, and coasted in behind the car to take this picture.

Ain’t she a beaut? Reminds me of the age-old question of who cuts the barber’s hair.


Better Living Through Chemistry

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:05 pm

Margaret and I had a fantastic idea for a product while wandering through the labyrinthine wasteland of our local Costco parking lot this weekend: The PoliteCart™ Combusta 5000.

Here’s how it works: the cart senses when it is bearing a larger load than its own tare weight. As you leave the Costco, transmitters in the fabric of the exit door send a signal to a radio frequency (RF) antenna embedded in the cart’s handle. At this point, the cart enters Stage One.

The cart’s onboard computer then monitors the weight of the load in the basket and on the secondary load rails under the basket. At the point where the total weight on these two surfaces come to within ten percent of their tare weight, the cart enters Stage Two and becomes armed.

At this point, the cart politely informs the shopper that they must return the empty cart to any designated return station for disarming. If at any point after this warning, but prior to disarming, the shopper fails to remain within three feet of the cart, powerful explosives married to the steel frame of the cart detonate, turning it into an expanding ball of subsonic shrapnel, killing or at least severely wounding the inconsiderate fucker.

Later this week I hope to expound on my other great Costco-oriented money maker, the Cart-Mounted Fat Ass Sample Mooching Cow Catcher.


Birdie Madness

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:11 pm

In case anyone cares, the goldfinches appear to have returned to Washington for the Spring. There’s a good chance that you can catch a glimpse of these beautiful little lemon-yellow critters on Birdie Cam if you spend a few minutes there.


No Fools For You

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:50 am

Sorry Folks, but in case you were waiting in breathless anticipation, let me cool your fevered brow; I’m not planning on posting some high-larious April Fool’s jest on my blog.

Truth is, I hate April Fool’s Day. I consider cheap pranks designed to “gotcha” someone by targeting their vulnerabilities to be the lowest form of humor, slithering around in the effluent alongside racial jokes. And the fact is, I tend to be extremely naïve and trusting, so I’m usually the butt of these things. Which probably goes a long way toward explaining why I so dislike them.

So I’m afraid you’ll have to look elsewhere for your April First jollies. And if you have any of your own planned, please leave me out of them. (I’m talking to you, Steve!)

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