8/31/2006

I Know, I Know….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:01 pm

Look, I’m sorry I haven’t written anything in a while, but it’s been a bear at work lately. When you are the de facto IT department for a small company, your job is never, ever done. And when you also happen to have a real job for that same company—say, creating a Holiday catalog while maintaining the company Web site, creating promotional materials, instruction booklets and advertisements on the fly and handling all wholesaler/newspaper/magazine/third-party graphics requests—not only is your job never done, it never really even gets started.

This year is even more entertaining than usual in this regard, as we have decided to switch over to an entirely new format for this year’s holiday catalog. Our old digest-sized catalog has been usurped by a larger, schmancier design about the same height as but a good bit narrower than your typical magazine. The thought is that this will make us look more “professional”, though truth be told no one has in recent memory ever complained about the “amateur” look of our current-sized brochure. Whatever, I’m happy to do it, change is good, yadda yadda yadda. Only problem is, the thing is due at the printer the first week in October, and I only just really started hammering away at it. I’ve been too busy fixing printers, replacing routers, troubleshooting VPN tunnels, procuring a new laptop for the boss’s kid, and stalking wily wireless gremlins to even contemplate the question of the catalog. I figured I could either spend five months working thirteen hours a day and do everything at once, or lead a more or less normal work life as an IT guy for three months and then spend a month working sixteen hours a day as a desktop publishing guy. Only history will judge the quality of my decision. History and our customers, that is.

All’s I can say is, thank God for David Price. He’s this amazing guy who breezed into Fungi Perfecti a few years back. He founded a major Internet commerce system provider, cashed out and became this sort of digital Knight Errant, wandering the countryside saving damsels—or in our case, “dumsels”—in distress. In 1995 he convinced a major telecom to bring a T1 out to our ruraler-than-rural, Goat Fuck Egypt office site. Later on he helped set up our mail server, configured a killer firewall for us, and now he just generally helps out. He can build a computer, manage a network, maintain a freeze drier, build a still, trick out an old Vanagon with a brand new Subaru engine and a marine power system….I’m not positive there’s anything he can’t do. And he’s single, ladies…. 😉

Anyway, most of the time I’m not spending working on the brochure is spent watching TV or playing a game called FlatOut 2 (a cartoony but thoroughly diverting racing game. The graphics are just beautiful, and the surround sound is really well implemented. You haven’t had fun until you’ve smashed through a barn door and you can hear boards and stuff raining down all around you.) My creative energies are completely spent at work; by the time I’m off, I’m nothing but a sponge, soaking up other people’s creative content. It’s the flip side of having a creative job: you get all of your creative impulses out at work, leaving little for your off-hours. Little besides TV, video games, and friends and family. Poor me. 😛

So if my entries become a little sparse, I hope you’ll find it in your heart to forgive me. The brochure will be at the printers the first Friday in October. After that, there’s only a complete overhaul to our online store, a set of labels for our upcoming line of soup mixes, setting up the new workgroup printer/copier for the office, and the Christmas shopping season. Oh, and then a major revision to our Web site some time after the new year. Seeya in March!

8/24/2006

Food Fright, Part 15

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:31 pm

I was strolling through my local QFC when I spied this:

foodfright-15.jpg

I screeched (“scruch”?) to a halt in the aisle, unable to truly convince myself of what I had just seen.

I mean, sure, I’m aware that Starbucks makes a number of non-coffee drinks under the Frappuccino label; I myself am not above the occasional Venti Green Tea, no whip. But this, in my opinion, is a stroke of genius. The good folks at America’s—hell, probably the world’s—most widely-recognized gourmet coffee chain are charging Yuppies 6 bucks a 4-pack for Strawberry Quik. What a riot.

Naturally, the next thing that came to mind was a taste test.

I was fortunate in that I happen to live with two “uncontaminated” test subjects: neither Margaret nor Shawn had ever tasted either Strawberries & Créme Frappuccino (no surprise there) nor Strawberry Quik (huge surprise to me. I mean, Margaret maybe—hell, she’s never even set lips on a Twinkie—but Shawn? I would have thought his Mama had raised him poorer than that 😉 ).

foodfright-15-2.jpg

I set up each participant with two glasses, made from a special wavelength-adjusted optical blue glass to hide the minor color differences between the two samples (okay, so the four clean glasses in the cupboard happened to be blue). The Starbucks product has a slightly darker cast to it than the Quik, presumably to connote a more natural, fruit-based ancestry than the Hello-Kitty-backpack-pink Nestle stuff, and I didn’t want either of them to take their cues from the color. The blue glass masked the colors quite nicely.

I started our subjects off with Sample A, code named, for the purposes of this procedure, “Gossamer”. Results were unambiguous.

foodfright-15-3.jpg

Both Margaret and Shawn felt that Gossamer’s primary flavor signature was that of sweetener, most likely corn syrup, with other, slightly astringent artificial flavors lurking just beneath the surface. Any relationship to fruit was purely coincidental.

foodfright-15-4.jpg

Both agreed the flavor resembled that of milk left over from the consumption of some strawberry-flavored children’s cereal. They also agreed that it was completely nasty.

By comparison, Sample B—code named “Platycore”—was a real breath of fresh air. Though by no means a strawberry smoothie, Platycore lacked much of the overwhelming sweetness, gag-inducing artificial flavorings and chemical tang of its table mate. While neither test subject felt they would find themselves picking up a sixer of either beverage any time this side of the Apocalypse, the vote was unanimous: it was Platycore by a landslide.

Of course, we can all see it coming, can’t we? Sample A was the gourmet créme concoction from the internationally acknowledged gourmet coffee chain, Sample B was the radioactive sugar sludge fed to prediabetic children by their soap-opera-watching white-trash moms. And at 9.9 cents per fluid ounce compared to Starbuck’s 15.7, Strawberry Nesquik’s not only better-tasting, it’s a bargain to boot. It’s so deliciously funny, it’s—it’s Strawberry Nesquik deliciously funny!

After the reveal, Shawn had a great idea: drag his kid out of bed and have her taste test the stuff as well. After all, half of this stuff is being pimped directly to children in her age bracket; shouldn’t her demographic be represented in the study?

foodfright-15-5.jpg

Truth be told, Anastatia wasn’t hugely fond of either beverage (when asked what she thought she was drinking, she ventured that the stuff smelled like strawberry GoGurt). Upon further sampling and reflection, she proclaimed the Frappuccino to be the winner.

foodfright-15-6.jpg

It seems like the ultimate irony of this experiment that the adult test subjects picked the child-oriented drink as being the more natural, sophisticated—in other words, “adult”—beverage, while the only child participant in the experiment displayed a strong preference for the beverage intened for the adult market. Who knows? Certainly Anastatia is an extremely prodigious youngster, and none of the three of us adults can honestly lay claim to the description “mature”. Perhaps this wasn’t the ideal batch of test subjects for this experiment. Was pretty fun, though. 😉

8/23/2006

So why do it?

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 10:49 am

The Breast Cancer 3 Day is this upcoming weekend. Most of you will have figured out that I’m not walking this year.

While I’m sorry for it I still think it was a good decision considering three weeks in Great Britain in May and a week in Hawaii in July would have made a significant impact on my training schedule. And even my plans of remaining involved by being a crew member fell by the wayside because of my horrendous work responsibilities over the summer.

I have every intention of training hard over the fall and winter and walking again next summer. Sounds loony I know, especially considering that I hurt myself badly last year. I peeled most of the skin off the top of my left foot. I blistered the living crap, the dead crap, and the crap of the living dead out of both of my feet. I mildly sprained both knees and one ankle. So why do it?

Some people are dedicated to these three day walks because of personal or family involvement with breast cancer. My blood family are some of the lucky few to be free of that particular problem, although my immediate family is not. Andrew’s Gramma Kay is starting on 20+ years of being a breast cancer survivor which means that his mother, three sisters and two neices are at risk. So that’s one enticement.

Part of my reasons for walking are tied up in my own grandmother. I walked my first 3 Day in 2002. Gram (my father’s mother) was in failing health that spring and the family were on death watch (although I didn’t know it until later) for the few days before the three day. I rushed out of camp at the end of the second day that year and got some really weird looks from the ladies at the retirement home where Gram was living by coming in to sit my vigil at her bedside with my hair wet and unrestrained, in shorts, disreputable sandals, and my legs covered with various unguents designed to treat prickly heat. Gram died of complications of old age while I was at lunch on the third day trying to figure out if my toes would really fall off if I took my shoes off to change my socks.

I had spent the previous 15 or so years sharing my adventures and my life with Gram via photos and journals. I had one adventure in which she never got to share so that’s another enticement for me. I walk because it’s a memorial to a remarkable lady.

Maybe these are enough reasons. Maybe it still sounds nuts for me to put out a huge amount of effort, beg, plead, and borrow $2200, and face injury, blisters, sunburn, and chafing.

So why do it? I’ll try to explain.

On the first day you get up at a completely unreasonable hour (somewhere around 4 a.m.) because you have to be at the opening ceremonies at 6. You need to eat breakfast, about 1000 calories, at a disgusting hour of the morning. If you’re like me, your metabolism refuses to accept that it’s really daytime and so breakfast is shovelled in, tamped down, and then just sits.

But then you get to the opening ceremonies and the infectious enthusiasm hits. They feed the crew members some *special* gatorade so that by the time you drop your bags off you’re awake and jumpy just from the contact high.
You stand in a crowd, there were 3000 of us last year, waiting and waiting and waiting. People talk, announcments are made, the music starts and you push forward to go because if you were to wait any longer you’d explode.

The first check point is two miles out. You find it hard to believe that you’ve gone two miles already. No sweat! This is going to be a cake walk!

At five miles you’ve settled down and found your pace. Breakfast has ceased to be an immovable lump in your gut and you’re disturbed by the fact that you’re getting hungry again. Thankfully you have the opportunity to snack every two miles.
At ten miles you get to lunch. Your feet are tired and maybe a bit sore, but sitting down, letting your feet air out and your shoes cool off while you eat and change your socks makes all the difference in the world. You’re half done with the first day and ready to blast on with the next 50 miles!
By mile 20 you’re tired. You’re hot, sticky, and dying for a shower, a flush toilet, and some place to be horizontal. Two out of three ain’t bad. Camp is a nice place to be, even with the portapotties. The water in the showers is always hot and the dinner is relatively decent. The ground may be hard, but it is, without a doubt, horizontal. Collapse good. Sleep goooooooood!

On the morning of the second day you’re sore. Stiff, chilled, and creaky. You wake up and you do NOT want to put any pressure on your feet. But it’s morning and you’ve got a lot of ground to cover and they open the route at 0630 so you’ve got to get going. For the first few miles you feel like you’re running on square wheels then your blood gets circulating again and you’re good to go.

At 30 miles you’re definately pooped. It’s lunch time again and your blisters are starting to blister. Talk at the rest stops and especially at the lunch stop starts to revolve around body glide, baby powder vs. foot powder, Molefoam, Gel blister kits, dry socks, where to find the softest, shadiest spot to sit, and where people are finding cardboard on which to sit to pad their butts from the ground. You’re done with lunch and, oh god, have to go on.

Somewhere around mile 35 the endorphins and the innate silliness hits again and you’re bouncy (although not very because bouncing hurts). Talk turns to the relative softness of concrete vs. asphalt vs. painted asphalt (for the record painted asphalt is more padded and softer to walk on). Longing looks are directed towards nice soft things to walk on like grass and bark beds. The silliness lasts you through the next five miles but gets a little forced towards the 40 mile mark when it becomes obvious that your feet, knees, and ankles are seriously pissed.

At the beginning of the third day you wake feeling like you’ve been run over by a big, ugly bus. A big, dirty, ugly bus. Your feet are swollen and stiff, some people have to unlace their shoes to get them on, and your muscles are definately protesting. You think about a second (or third) shower before you start, but the route opens at 0630 and you’ve got to go. Ibuprofen, clean, dry clothes, and the intensely sweet breakfast they serve on the third day (blintzes with fruit or blintzes with chocolate chips and whipped cream) kicks you up and you go anyway.

At 45 miles you’re sore but you’re feeling good. People start laughing again. Silly things and silly people start getting considerably sillier and you start to realize that you’ve done 45 miles so another 15 is small potatoes.

Lunch at 50 miles is a hoot. You’re eager to gulp and go so you can get walking again and even the slam against the wall that hits when you sit down with your food isn’t enough to keep you resting when you’re done eating.

55 miles and you hurt. Walking uphill actually is less painful and takes less effort than walking downhill, and stepping on and off of curbs becomes a distinct chore. You start to have new appreciation for the wheelchair easements. But at 55 miles you can’t stop and you start to realize that you’re almost done. Another 5 miles is seriously nothing.

In 2002 the last 5 miles were through downtown Seattle towards Seattle Center. In 2005 the last 5 miles were through Freemont, Gasworks Park and on to Magnuson Park. In 2002 people in the bars that lined the streets we were walking were waving and clapping and offering beer. The last rest stop had the marching band from one of the high schools and Ben & Jerry’s free for anyone who had walker credentials. In 2005 there was the fact that the Waiting for the Interurban sculpture had been tricked out in 3 Day gear. There was the one of the safety crew who was acting as a crossing guard that, as we crossed from Ballard into Freemont shouted “WELCOME TO FREEMONT, HOME OF (and here she lifted her shirt and bra and flashed her boobs at us) NAKED PEOPLE!”. There were the trees along the UW campus that were festooned with pink balloons and ribbons. And there was the group of women with whom I was walking who started singing old disco songs and when they didn’t know the correct words to Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, were more than thrilled to take each line from me and shout it out as we were walking.

The last 5 miles is narcotic.

And then it ends. The closing ceremonies are accompanied by bouncy music, a lifted shoe tribute from the crew to the walkers and from the walkers to the crew, a lot of tears (especially from those who try to take off their shoes for the tributes), and the realization that you get to sleep in a bed and have a toilet that flushes that night. Also that you’re ready to sign up and do it all again next year.

So why do it? How can I not? Once you do it it becomes addictive. Blisters, prickly heat, portapotties, gatorade and all. So fair warning for next year. Team Eccentrica will walk again and anyone who wants to participate in some bad ass craziness is welcome.

Best wishes to all those that are walking this year. Be careful, keep stretching, and don’t forget to change your socks.

8/20/2006

Movie Review: Green Street Hooligans

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:41 pm

I submitted this review to Netflix, and since I’m struggling to find content to add to my blog (very, very busy), I thought I’d submit it here, too, despite Netflix’s insistence that any reviews I submit belong to them. Kiss my ass, Netflix!

I feel it noteworthy to mention that the majority of my movie reviews will be of films released on DVD. I rarely go to see anything in the theater any more; for some reason, I just don’t feel like getting into a fight with some rude asshole who insists on talking to his stock broker on his cell or providing detailed play-by-play to his wife or girlfriend. I have a 50 inch television (thanks again, Gary and Sara!) and a 5.1 surround system at home….why in God’s name would I want to brave the freeways, find and pay for parking and bear all the antisocials inside just to see a particular film a month or two sooner? (Why, for that matter, do I leave the house at all? )

Anywho, I’ll add new reviews to this section as they come up. Here’s my review of Green Street Hooligans.

They live on or around Green Street, and they’re hooligans. That pretty much says it all.

I didn’t care for this film, for a number of reasons. It seemed really formulaic and predictable to me, and I’m the kind of person who never, ever guesses the plot of a movie while it’s unfurling before me. But this one just made it too easy. (WARNING: Spoilers–if such a term properly applies to this film–below.)

Wow, so the rabid football fans of Green Street loathe journalists, huh? I wonder if Elijah Wood’s pursuit of a college degree in journalism, plus his famous journalist father, will somehow play a role in the plot? Do you think that might serve as his Achilles heel later in the film, perhaps after he has gained the respect of his fellow ruffians? What about Wood’s disgraceful ejection from school for taking the fall for his spoiled, snide, heavily connected college roommate (this character was so over-the-top, hypertrophically Preppie that his name should have been something like Tad Buffington) on charge of cocaine posession? Do you think Wood will find his inner strength while pulping the faces of rival football fans and come back to set things right?

*Sigh* I’m being too hard on this movie. The acting is convincing, the cinematography and sets set the mood and get the point across quite well. My biggest problem with the film doesn’t even have to do with the thing itself, but rather the internal philosophy and logic of it all. A stirring tale of working-class Brits fighting for honor and identity. Oh, no, wait, that’s right: they’re bashing in each other’s skulls over a GAME. I simply could not get past the utter futility and luncacy of this key underlying premise, and it spoiled any sense of enjoyment I might otherwise have gleaned from this movie. I simply could not identify with a single major character in the entire production.

If you’re the type of person who has seriously considered kicking in the teeth of someone because they root for a different sports team than yourself, you may want to rent this movie….just don’t expect to come over to my house to watch it.

8/17/2006

Garden Harvest, Gutter Humor

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:31 pm

tomatoes.jpg

Margaret picked a huge bowl of tomatoes from the garden this afternoon; reds, cherries, golds, and a lovely green-and-red variety called—no kidding—”Mister Stripey”. She was quite justifiably pleased.

Shawn spied the cornucopia on the kitchen counter and, depsite his aversion to raw ‘matoes, was duly impressed.

“Margaret, I just love your tomatoes!” he gushed.

Now how am I supposed to ignore an opening like that? “Hey now, you just back off, there,” I said hotly.

In vain the two of them tried to ignore me. “So are these an heirloom?” he asked, holding up a Mister Stripey.

I just couldn’t help myself. “Yeah, she got ’em from her mother.”

My, I amuse myself.

8/14/2006

Fuck Netgear!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:34 pm

Okay, so I should have known better. After all, of all the manufacturers of semi-civillian VPN routers out there, only one—D-Link—makes one that can serve out PPTP as well as IPSec tunnels. (To be purely fair about it Trendware makes a couple of models that do, but I work in a multiplatform envrironment, and Trendware’s implementation of VPN doesn’t seem to work with OS X’s PPTP client. Seems to be something about the tree of authentication protocols that causes the OS X pptp daemon to puke. Lesson learned the hard way, over about three hours one afternoon.) PPTP is so much easier to configure than IPSec (which is, of course, one of the reasons it’s so much easier to compromise, but what the hell, I’m not trying to set up an enterprise-class network here), particularly on the OS X platform. Just enter the server address, your user name and password and you’re off to the races. IPSec is available natively on OS X, but it uses a wierd L2TP over IPSec configuration I have yet to fully figure out. I’ve heard good things about a freeware program called IPSecuritas, but why fnork around with extra software if you don’t have to? If you go PPTP, nobody has any problem getting connected; Windows, Mac and *nix boxes are all happy.

That’s why I was so thrilled to find the Netgear FVS318. When I read the following in the Product Overview:

The VPN feature allows users to securely connect multiple PCs over the Internet via IPSec, PPTP or L2TP tunnels.

I damn near squealed with delight. Now, doesn’t that sound like the product works as a PPTP server? But just to make sure, I called their pre-sales hotline. Twice. I spoke to two nice Brahmin gentlemen (a complete fabrication on my part; I have no idea what if any caste these dudes are members of. I used that term to loosely describe their geographic location, not their social status) who both confirmed that, yes, this unit is capable of acting as a PPTP server. And what luck, the FVS318 was available at my local CompUSA. And awaaaaayyyy we gooooooo….

Of course, would I even be writing the article if this had turned out to be the case? I assure you I would not. An hour’s worth of configuring, manual-scouring and Goog–um, “Web searching” turned up nothing about configuring this box to serve PPTP. So I called Netgear’s Technical Support line. Spoke to a nice guy pseudonymed “Mike” who informed me that, in fact no, the Netgear FVS318 did not support PPTP. I let him know that I had received assurances from not one but two pre-sales phone reps that the unit did support this protocol. Had I thought it worth my while, I would have written down the “case numbers” that the two pre-sales guys had wanted to give me regarding my question, so I could prove to this skeptical support rep that I had been hornswaggled. As it was I didn’t think it necessary.

So here are a couple of tips for anyone who might care:

1) D-Link is the only hardware company I know makes VPN routers capable of creating fully cross-platform compatible PPTP tunnels. Others may claim to do so, but it’s a hoax. For maximum compatibility, go for D-Link. Their interface may look like it was made out of Tinker Toys, but their boxes get the job done.

2) When the overly Anglo-Saxonly-named gentleman on the other end of the phone line offers to give you a case number, write it down, no matter how insignificant you think the exchange may have been. It may come in handy later.

3) FUCK Netgear!

8/10/2006

A Little Botany, A Little Philosophy

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 9:03 pm

or: Why Gardening Is Cool 101

I said at the beginning of this that I’d make every effort to bore the pants off of everyone with tales of how my garden grows, so here we go.

Tomatoes are, of course, ridiculous. They have passed the lower sill of the bedroom window, they are past the upper border of the bathroom window and are now reaching for the gutters. Approximately 7 1/2 to 8 feet high. And it’s not just the cherry tomatoes that are so energetic. I’ve got a striped Roma tomato (I don’t know the subspecies name, the plant stake is at the bottom of the plant and I can’t find the bottom of the plant to grab the stake and find out) that is one of the enthusiasts that is reaching for the gutters.

For the record I purchased the plants from Territorial Seeds. I never start seeds myself, I’m not good at it and Territorial grows such nice sturdy plants. They’re living in self watering planters; either Garden Box or Gardener’s Supply Self Watering Planters which are covered with Territorial’s 30mil plastic red mulch which helps keep the water in and the weeds out. I fed them, once, with Organic Tomato Fertilizer from the Gardens Alive cataloge. I’m afraid to do it again.

I harvested our first ripe tomato, a Tiger Like (a small round red and green striped dude) , on July 26th. My father claims I could be convicted of witchcraft for my tomatoes this year.

Potatoes are just about finished. The vines have all pretty much died back and now what remains is to dig the potatoes (YAY, red white and blue potato salad!) and replant the patch with, I think, lettuce.

Black beans aren’t doing as well this year as they have in previous years. The plants are a little stunted and the bean yield isn’t as high. I’m not sure whether or not this has anything to do with the rows getting a little weed choked while we were in Europe.

Sunflowers are a joy as always. I don’t think I’m going to get many, if any, Russian Giant and I don’t see any of the cool new Peach Passion sunflowers that I bought from Territorial this spring, but I can always try again next year with a larger number of seeds. It looks as if I’m going to have a nice yield of seeds again this year which will help keep me from having to purchase sunflower seeds probably ever. That is, if I can keep them from the finches.

The pumpkins that Anastasia and I planted in early June are starting well. One has a vine that’s nearly 4 feet long at this point and since I planned the patch fairly carefully this year they should have enough room for once. If I can keep them and the loganberry canes from getting in each other’s hair.

I have finally managed to conquer the powdery mildew that has previously claimed all of my curcurbit plants. I’ve currently got two different types of cucumber (Lemon and an heirloom variety called Botheby’s Blond) and (whoopee!) a very vigorous and viable loofah vine. They were planted in fresh from the bag potting soil with a heavy dose of Vegetables Alive! fertilizer from Gardens Alive. They, too, are living in self watering planters and are covered with 30mil green mulch which helps keep the soil warm and reflects better spectrum light to improve (theoretically, I haven’t seen it in action yet) fruit production. I have great hopes for actual HTG pickles this summer.

My border plants; lavenders, a golden sage, several varieties of thyme, a couple of different oreganos, my Australian Bush Mint (of which I am very proud), and Doug the Fir who acts as our Christmas tree, are all in varying stages of health depending on how wilty they’ve seemed over the last few weeks and what sort of time I’ve been able to eke out to water my plants in the mornings before work.

What must have been the pride and joy of (probably) Mrs. Eacrett, the enormous dahlia patch which I inherited when we bought the house is, sadly, dead in its tracks. I think the tubers froze after I dug up and re-set them two falls ago. I keep finding little sprouts here and there that look like dahlias, but I’ve only got one or two plants (out of forty or more) that are actually identifiable and only one is producing flowers this year. Oh well. They’re pretty, but they did take up a lot of space. There are a few that I’ll probably purchase new from Swan Island Dahlias and start again, but honestly with my passion for pumpkins and other vining garden plants I could really use the garden space.

I am the penultimate in dilletante gardeners. I grow what pleases me and what I’m successful at with an unflagging enthusiasm. I grow things with, of course, the hope that we’ll be able to eat and enjoy the fruits (or tubers or whatever) of my labor, but without much hope that what I grow will provide a substantial part of our diet. Honestly I think that if we had to depend on my labors for our every day sustenance we’d probably get REAL hungry.

But I enjoy it. Gardening occupies my eyes and my hands and leaves my mind free to roam. Today was the first day in probably several weeks that I’ve had the chance to get out and actually spend, well not as much time as I’d have liked or I’d probably still be out there, but a good deal of time doing nothing but taking care of my garden. A big chore without a doubt, there’s still at least a solid week’s worth of basic maintenance that needs doing. Creating order out of chaos or, as it applies to the border of the garden itself, chaos out of order is good for the soul.
Too, I came to the realization earlier this evening that today is the first day that I’ve been actually tired in a long time. Not beat, not weary, not bagged, or lagged, or knackered, but really tired. My mind at rest, the kinks transferred from my brain to my muscles, and ready to fall into bed and sleep. Everyone needs something that will produce these same results.
I’ve got a vicious bite on my arm from one of my rosebushes and even after a shower I’m still finding bits of rhododendron bush in my hair and stuck to the bottoms of my feet.
Couldn’t be more content at the moment thanks. And you?

Food Fright, Part 14

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:22 pm

foodfright-14.jpg

Shot this while shopping at Costco with Margaret last week. There was a whole pallet of these 5-gallon buckets on an end cap between the deli stuff and the beer and wine. Gosh, where to begin….

Firstly there’s the idea that Costco has jumped on the “Disaster Preparedness” bandwagon. That’s just so….well, so incredibly American. I mean, it’s cute in a way, thinking of folks going about their Costco-y business, loading up their preposterous aircraft-carrier-landing-deck-sized commodity sleds with frozen chicken nuggets and cases of Kirkland Signature® Sports Drink (aka Gatoresque) stopping in front of the stack of Kegs-O-Human Chow and saying, “hey, yeah, what the hell, there’s still room in the garage next to the lawn edger.”

And yet, if you’re the type of person who regularly shops at Costco (as do we), you already by definition have at least a half an Apocalypse worth of food stored in your home; isn’t an additional 5-gallon tub of yummy foodlike substance just a redundancy?

Then there’s the fascinating array of foodish substanceoids present in the container. You can’t read it from here, but among the entrees proffered herein are: blueberry pancakes, mashed potatoes and something unnervingly called a “scramble”. A survival situation is by its very nature one of personified by the act of making do or doing without; tarting up your friendly neighborhood disaster with gourmet-style rations seems, well, unnecessary and slightly daffy. Personally, if I decide to stock up for the End Times, I think I’ll go with something simple, like a 55-gallon garbage can of beans and another one of rice, triple-sacked and stored with a few bricks of dry ice to keep the aerobes down. If you want something more exotic, dry dog kibble is almost perfectly nutritionally balanced for human consumption (and that’s before you count the extra protein from all the bugs); just a few vitamin supplements will round out your meal plan.

Unless you’ve packed some dehydrated maple syrup in your survival kit, them pancakes are gonna be mighty dry.

Lastly there’s the wierd vibe I get off these things. I’m reminded of nothing so much as the scene in Repo Man where punk wannabe Emilio Estevez pulls a can of “FOOD” (in black block letters on a plain white label) out of his parents’ fridge and starts digging into it with a spoon. During an interchange with his parents watching TV in the living room, he is seen to be masticating something chewy from the can one instant and crunching something quite hard and brittle the next. I don’t think I’m quite ready to be one of tens or hundreds of thousands of people who will be rooting through my bucket of “FOOD” when the Big One hits, desperately trying to find something that goes well with a side of anthrax, cesium or contaminated drinking water. For some reason I’d rather eat dog food. Or the cats, maybe. After all, we’ve been feeding them for years; only fair that we get something back on the investment.

8/7/2006

Stuff That Occurs To You When You’re Low On Sleep

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:32 pm

I was looking at the sunflowers in our garden yesterday:

sunflower-meerkats.jpg

when I noticed how much they looked like a family of meerkats:

meerkats.jpg

Luckily I got a lot of sleep last night, so today I’m feeling much better.

8/4/2006

Wierdest….Spam….Ever

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:52 pm

So I was checking my spam trap this morning (always check your spam trap; never know when you might find something you really wanted) when I found something that surprised me, an email entitled, “Your email requires verification verify#sG_CzLQj0OqhH5TkMmkV_tLKgE3yjAD0”.

Now this could very well have been a regular old spam dressed up in frickin’ strange clothing to fool me into opening it, but the title intrigued me, and since there was no attachment (and I answer my email on a Mac anyway so I’m immune to most if not all email-based security threats), I decided to take the plunge:

****************Your Attention is Needed***************
The message you sent requires that you verify that you
are a real live human being and not a spam source.

To complete this verification, reply to this message and leave
the subject line intact.

****************Than You***************

The headers of the message sent from your address are show below:

From andrew@uncle-andrew.net Fri Aug 04 10:26:35 2006
Received: from [24.216.179.108] (helo=tikistudios.com)
by vps1006.safesecureweb.com with smtp (Exim 4.52)
id 1G90dF-0008SM-Ui
for andrew@tikistudios.com; Fri, 04 Aug 2006 10:26:35 -0400
Received: from mail.zhonka.net
by 24-216-179-108.dhcp.stls.mo.charter.com (Exim 4.05) with ESMTP id GCJqh1VxgsQOV
for < andrew@tikistudios.com>; Fri, 4 Aug 2006 14:48:35 -0300
Received: from [218.101.31.223]
by mail.zhonka.net with ESMTP (8.12.11/8.12.11) id zcG1G7GKOnEnS
for <
andrew@tikistudios.com>; Fri, 4 Aug 2006 14:44:26 -0300
Reply-to: “
andrew@uncle-andrew.net” < andrew@uncle-andrew.net>
From: “andrew@uncle-andrew.net” < andrew@uncle-andrew.net>
Date: Fri, 4 Aug 2006 14:36:09 -0300
Message-ID: qCecwtzU7Kinl.m6cW2uOJzDtx5@uncle-andrew.net
To: andrew@tikistudios.com
Content-type: text/html;
Charset=Windows-1251
Subject: Need a University Degree to obtain the career you’ve always wanted?
MIME-Version: 1.0

So my mystery mail turned out to be neither a spam nor a virus, but a challenge-response challenge.

For the uninitiated and those who don’t like to follow hyperlinks, challenge-response is a system of authentication used by some email systems to weed out human-generated mail from that generated by software. The sender of the initial email will receive a challenge back from the system, and must respond in a particular manner (the methodology varies depending on the system) in order to verify that (s)he is a real, bona fide human being.

The funny thing about this is, I didn’t send the original email for which the challenge was issued. The originating IP address points to some computer in New Zealand that was doubtless hijacked by a virus or other malware for the purpose of generating spam. How my email addy got into some Kiwi’s computer is anyone’s guess. It could be cached from some forward of a forward of a forward of a forward of something I emailed to someone once; it could have been scoured from a bulletin board, or from this very site. It’s not particularly important.

What is important–okay, not important, but at least noteworthy–is the irony of this entire exchange. Some guy in Missouri gets a spam email from some computer in New Zealand, purporting to be from me here in Washington. His spam filter traps the mail and issues a challenge email back to me (not the actual sender in New Zealand)….where it promptly gets trapped in my spam filter.

Not the best use of bandwidth ever dreamed up. I swear to God, if I ever actually get a chance to meet a real live spammer, I’m gonna make risotto out of his testicles.

8/1/2006

Where Sports And Pet Care Collide

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:54 am

Margaret and I wandered down to Petsmart yesterday to pick up a couple of things; she wanted to get part of a gift for a colleague who is leaving to set up her own practice, and while we were there I was hankerin’ for a new scoop for the cat box (and you know, once you get the hankerin’ for a new cat box scoop, ain’t nothin’ what’s gonna satisfy that there hankerin’ but a cat box scoop).

Apropos of nothing, I think it’s worthwhile to note that we don’t usually frequent Petsmart. Our locally-owned small-time pet store carries pretty much everything we need, and there are aspects of Petsmart that ick both of us out. For me it’s the feeling that most of the people in there love their pets way more than they actually care about them. Lots of folks seem to think of a dog or a cat as a kind of love machine (no, not that kind of love, get yer mind out of the gutter); a device that, if sufficient fuel is provided, will exude affection and companionship for years and years until it wears out, at which point you get another one. This machine doesn’t require medical care, high-quality food, exercise, parasite control, or behavioral analysis and modification; it’s a pet, after all, not a child or anything. Just give it lots of hugs and leftovers and store-bought flea remedies containing lethal doses of pyrethin and it’ll be fine. And if it doesn’t, well, plenty more where that came from, right?

Margaret’s biggest complaint about Petsmart seems to be the petri-dish effect of encouraging pet owners (and often not the most conscientious pet owners, see my point above) to bring their animals into the store to congregate and frolic and otherwise mix fluids. She’s treated dogs that have gotten into fights at Petsmart, she’s treated puppies with parvo that just came back from taking a big ol’ dump in the middle of an aisle at Petsmart, she’s dealt with the aftermath of obedience classes full of sneezing, hacking, plague-laden animals at Petsmart. It’s like kindergarten, only with fewer controls and (slightly) more feces.

Anyway, the real reason I’m writing this is the poop scoop. I found this awesome, tricked-out crap trapper at Petsmart, one with all the right features:

poop-scoop.jpg

It’s made of sufficiently rigid material to handle the heaviest, um, load, it’s got a nice long handle to keep me as far away from the surface of the sand as possible, and the grip is all comfortable and ergonomic-like. This thing is probably one of the most sophisicated-looking pieces of hardware we own. It looks more like a piece of sports equipment. In fact, I’m tempted to go back and get another one and try out a game of cat turd Jai-Alai. Now, there’s a high-stakes sport for ya!

If you’re in the market for a new cat box scoop, I’d recomend this one unreservedly.


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