Idea For A Bumper Sticker

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:59 am

Every once in a while I come up with a great idea for a bumper sticker.

The first of these was a white-block-letters-on-black-background sticker that read, “KISS YOUR TELEVISION”.

The one I came up with this morning is, “DEATH BEFORE DIALUP”.

I really have to start trademarking these things. 😉


Big Uncle Is Watching You

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:14 pm

I’ve just about had it.

In 2001, our house was burglarized, so we put in an alarm system.

Last month our mailbox was rifled. We’re working on convincing our block to get a bank of locking mailboxes.

Last week, in the wee hours of the morning, our roommate’s car was broken into while parked in our driveway.

Our neighbor Diane had an interesting explanation for the recent rise in property crime. She told me that everyone she knows who lived in Des Moines (the quasi-swanky coastal community just south of us) who could afford to do so has moved out in the last five years, because residents of Federal Way (the not-so-swanky community south of Des Moines) were coming up into Des Moines to burglarize houses, cars and mailboxes. Now that Des Moines has been thoroughly picked-over, the criminals have simply moved up the highway one stop, to sunny, naïve Normandy Park.

So….here come the cameras.

Four years ago, I was all bent out of shape about having to become one of those “alarm guys”, and now I’m going to put up security cameras. I feel like a complete ass. I am now officially an Embattled Suburban White Guy, defending my castle from the barbarian hordes. (Could Republicanism be far behind? 8-O)

But I can’t handle it any more. I hate, I mean really hate, the feeling of being under siege. Every time I leave my house I picture an army of meth tweakers circling it like buzzards, waiting to see if it twitches or if it’s safe to land and join the feast. A guy came to the door last week selling “magazine subscriptions” and I wanted to jab him in the solar plexus with a nightstick just for showing up at my door unannounced.

Anyway, neurotic self-examination aside, I’ve decided to hang small wireless network cameras in each of our three most vulnerable points-of-entry: the windows in the garage and basement, and the sliding glass door in the back. We know for a fact that the last bunch that burglarized our house checked out every door and window at ground level before choosing the garage window; at that sort of range, I think I’m quite likely to get an excellent mug shot. I’m probably going to go for a set of D-Link DCS-900W Wireless Network Cameras.

Since I’m already hosting a Web server in-house (you’re soaking in it), I’m going to coordinate the cameras using a nifty program for OS X called SecuritySpy, which will allow me to sort images by motion detection, store them locally and also upload them to the parcel of Web space provided by my ISP, in case someone runs off with my Web server. I can also have SecuritySpy email me when a motion-triggered image is captured. Perhaps I’ll get a chance to reenact the drama of the thief who got nailed by a Web cam in February of this year.

So, just a word of warning to friends, family members, door-to-door vacuum-cleaner salesmen, and the human garbage that prey on suburban homeowners: Big Uncle is watching you.

And He feels terrible about it.


A Walking Tour Of Urinals Of The Puget Sound

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:05 pm

In reality, this report focuses on only a single urinal in the Puget Sound area, but I thought the above title had more, you should pardon the term, pizzazz. This may become its very own category, if I get together enough entries of this sort. Let’s all hope that never happens.

I was in my local CompUSA this morning, picking up a copy of Norton Ghost, when I felt the little twinge that lets you know that you are in need of a restroom—when Nature calls, you gotta accept the charges. I knew they kept their WCs in the back of the store near the Mac section, so I made my way back there.

The first indication that things would not go completely as planned came when I noticed that the restrooms were located in the “training” section, and that the only access to them was guarded by a young woman behind a desk, there to sign me up for lessons on how to master that wiliest of foes, the personal computer. She looked up expectantly as I neared her desk, and it was with only a slight sense of mortification that I pointed toward the john and said, “just here to use the restroom.” She gave me one of those “too much information” looks (look, Lady, I would have been perfectly happy to slink by without uttering a word or glancing in your direction, but that seemed rude to me; Lord knows, I had no urge to announce my eliminatory proceedings to some stranger behind a desk) and waved me through.

Once I got there, I found the men’s bathroom to be clean and well-maintained, which is about what you’d expect in a corporate powerhouse retail chain like this. Upon locating the urinal, however, I was frankly struck dumb. I wish I’d had a camera on me. The thing looked like a dollhouse appliance. It was perhaps half to two-thirds the height of a regulation urinal, and stood only about shin-high to me. I glanced about. thinking perhaps that I had stumbled across the children’s urinal by mistake; but no, this and a single toilet stall were the only facilities in the facility. I began to wonder if I were looking at the first wheelchair-accessible urinal I have ever encountered.

Once I had determined that this was indeed the only fixture of its type in the room, I shrugged and proceeded with my business. In addition to being pygmish in stature and placement, the thing turned out to be poorly engineered. A properly constructed urinal has two prominent design elements: a preponderance of gently sloping vertical surfaces that catch and guide the stream of ejecta to the target (the drain), and a lack of sharply-angled corners and crevices, to ease cleaning and prevent splashback. This particular pissoir was effectively the antithesis of these qualities: shallow, diagonal walls and acute angles. About the only thing that would have made it worse would be if the receptacle were actually convex.

To top it off, the acceleration from point of exit to the lower-than-ideal target zone was enough to result in a dangerous rate of speed at impact, wholly unsuitable for successful containment of a liquid projectile. I stood there, a victim of my biological needs, trying to ignore the micrscopic patter of millions of tiny aerosolized droplets striking my bare legs. I don’t think it’s too much to ask of a urinal that it not place you in a sort of Nietzchian vignette, where when you piss into the urinal, the urinal also pisses onto you.

In conclusion: CompUSA may be a great place to empty your wallet, but unless under duress, I would not recommend it as a place to empty your bladder.


Neologism For Fun & Profit

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:05 pm

I came up with this one yesterday, as the result of a conversation with a friend of mine during a car trip.

Madmiration: a feeling of commingled respect and resentment.

Here’s the situation that prompted the word’s genesis: my friend was telling me about his ex-father-in-law (sort of—long story). The guy is apprently a real asshole. However, one day he did something on the road for which my friend—and I—had to give him real, albeit grudging, props.

The three of them (my friend, his girlfriend, and her dad) were out on an errand, with the father driving. He was coming up to a red light, in the left of two lanes. There were two cars stopped in his lane and none in the other. He pulled up behind the second car and noticed that the driver was not paying attention to the road, the traffic, or the rest of the world. You know the type: talking on his cell phone while reading stuff off a stack of stapled laser prints while eating a bagel. Probably while adjusting the rigging on a tiny ship-in-a-bottle-model on the passenger seat, too.

Dad says, “Watch this.” He pulls into the next lane, astride the distracted motorist, leaving a car-length space between himself and the front of the line. He waits a few seconds, then begins moving forward, as if the light had changed.

Not paying any attention to the real conditions of the road, the guy on the left takes his cue from Dad’s forward motion. Without looking up from his sheaf of papers, he moves his foot from brake to gas, surging forward and smashing into the car in front of him.

Moments later, the light changes, and Dad drives off, leaving the scene of the accident he had caused.

Such behavior is dangerous, rude and really unacceptable in a civillized society. Which is why I feel so bad about admiring it so much.



Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:54 pm

I was lying face-down in one of those special Medieval torture couches at my chiropractor’s office today when I overheard him conversing with one of his other clients in an adjoining room. They were talking about the big California earthquake-cum-non-tsunami.

He remarked that he’d never before seen an event so well-covered by the media that hadn’t actually happened.

I was immediately struck with the urge to pipe up with, “Oh yeah? How about the 2001 Inaugural?” but changed my mind at the last moment. He’s a Republican, and he manipulates my spine. Best to play it safe.


I’m Still Seeing Breen

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:44 pm

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now, ever since my friend Gary showed it to me at a party.

You’ve heard me mention before my deep and abiding love for the game Half-Life 2. As much as the game truly rocks, the experience of playing it was greatly enhanced by my contact with Gary, who is Executive Engineer In Charge Of Shiny Stuff (or something like that) at Valve Software and was integral to the development of HL2. He has allowed me a glimpse of what goes into producing a monumental piece of software like this….I even got to play-test the game!

One of the cooler aspects of the HL2 game engine is the ability to turn any speech—in any language—into facial movements on a character model. Say it into a microphone, and your character can say it on screen. This makes game development appreciably easier.

A few months back, machinima.org member Paul Marino got hold of Valve’s FacePoser software (with their permission) and used it, along with some standard developer cheat codes for the game, to make a music video for the song “So Cold” by Breaking Benjamin, “filmed” entirely within the HL2 game. The video features the lyrical stylings of “The G-Man”, a central non-player character in the Half-Life series.

The music fits quite well with the overall feel of the game, which takes place in a totalitarian society run by a select group of humans doing the bidding of their alien overlords, generically referred to as “our Benefactors”. The brief speech given at the beginning of the video by Dr. Breen (hence the title of the video, and this post) is taken straight from the game. It is part of a longer sequence played and replayed on giant monitors throughout City 17—where much of the game action unfolds—and seems to tie in strangely to the theme of the music as well. The overall effect of the music—earnest, dark with an undercurrent of violence—matches the atmosphere of Half-Life 2 to a T.

I’m not actually trying to read more into this video than is really there, no matter what it sounds like; it’s basically a neat idea, well executed, and it plays more or less exactly like a conventionally-directed thematic music video. I have no idea what the members of Breaking Benjamin think of it.

Click here to view the movie. Requires a DivX-compatible video player. QuickTime for the Mac does not seem to like the audio codec, so I’d rcommend VLC Media Player for OSX instead.


A Call To Legs

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:35 pm
The 3-Day

Many thanks to those of you who have already donated to help sponsor Margaret in the Seattle 3 Day Breast Cancer Walk this July. We’d love to hear from the rest of you. Margaret still needs about seven hundred dollars to reach her goal. A wonderful donation from my employer, Fungi Perfecti, was a great shot in the arm today, but more is needed. If any of you can help, please do so.

You can pledge online here. If you would like to read her journal from the last 3 Day in which she participated, it can be found on this very site.

Mahalo Nui Loa to all of you for your kokua!

Uncle Andrew

Well, That Was Surreal….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:28 am

Just now the phone rang. I picked it up and said, “Hello?” and a woman, her voice speakerphone-distant, replied, “Yes, is this Alaska?”

Before I could recover and say anything at all, she said, “Sorry, I must have the wrong number.” and hung up.

“Is this Alaska”; the airline? The state? The dessert? The mind reels.

What I wouldn’t give to have another shot at that conversation. I’d tell her, “Sorry, no, this is the Republic of Samoa. Care for a coconut?”


Thought For The Evening

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:53 pm

If there’s any justice in this world, doctors will one day determine that an exercise in futility is highly aerobic.

Separated At Birth 2

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:18 pm

I truly doubt that this observation hasn’t been made before now, but I just noticed the amazing physiognomic similarities between comedian-cum-radio-personality Al Franken and sugar-cereal spokesmonster Frankenberry.

Franken vs Franken

These two have got to be related, don’t you think? Even their names are practically identical.

You hardly ever hear either of them talk about the other; I wonder what drove them apart?


A Public Service Announcement

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:59 am

Walked out to pick up our mail this morning to discover that the entire block’s boxes had been emptied, in broad daylight.

According to our local Police Department, most of the checks that are stolen from mailboxes in the Puget Sound area are washed, forged and cashed—or at least attempted—within a couple of hours of their theft. Thank Crom all we lost were a couple of NetFlix DVDs.

I was going to spend the afternoon recuperating from a terrible cold. Instead I’m off to my friendly neighborhood hardware store to purchase a locking mailbox.

Consider this your wakeup call, people: buy yourselves a locking mailbox, and take all your outgoing mail to the post office or other highly secure and public mail receptacle. Don’t be as stupid as we were. No one should ever be as stupid as we were. Not even us.


Yet More TV Ruminations

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:16 am

Take a look at this picture. It’s a screen-capture from a television ad for Tic Tacs, the ubiquitous one-and-a-half-calorie breath mint in a severely rattly dispenser. (Sorry about the picture quality.)

Tic Tac Girl

Take a look at her eyes. That’s not some sort of video artifact; the ad’s creators used CG to give her square pupils.

Now, I’m sure that they had their reasons. Perhaps square pupils tested higher than round in targeted demographic groups. Personally, a waif-like blonde cookie with Futurama-style robot pupils doesn’t ripen my persimmons, but then again, I prefer Altoids.

In fact, the only thing that rhomboid pupils really remind me of is….a goat.

Maybe that was the point; not only do the wierd eyes make you look twice, but their caprine appearance ties into the breath mint theme quite nicely. Perhaps the viewer is supposed to think, “Wow, she’s cute, but she probably has goat breath. Thank goodness for Tic Tacs!”

In other news, I watch too much television.

All portions of this site are © Andrew Lenzer, all rights reserved, unless otherwise noted.