Irony Supplement, Part 11

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:03 pm

Unfortunately I do not have a photo to go with this installment of Irony Supplement; I was not sufficiently swift with my cell phone camera when the opportunity presented itself this morning.

I was on the road just south of downtown Seattle when I spied a purple 2000-something Honda Civic with a bumper sticker that read,



This sort of smarmy slogan is just the kind of thing that gets under my skin. Like that other, more common deity-oriented bumper sticker, “CHRISTIANS AREN’T PERFECT….JUST FORGIVEN,” the text above positively drips with a particularly rank sort of irony. The irony that comes from someone choosing to use their bumper to broadcast a deep-seated sense of their own superiority, poorly masked as humility. Sort of a “Hey, I’m WAAAYYYY more modest than YOOOOU” kinda thing. Seems to me to be a particularly un-Christ-like sentiment, canyoudigit.

For some reason, I found the bumper sticker I spotted today to be even more ironic–and annoying–than its more popular cousin. There was something extra-super-mondo-king-size stupid about the concept behind this particular proclamation, considering that:

  1. The idea of attempting to draw attention to one’s vehicle as an object of opulence and source of envy is a highly materialistic and not very spiritual attitude to take, and
  2. As objects of opulence and sources of envy go, her car was neither.

Not helping to reduce the overall irony quotient was the fact that she drove like a total asshole. Made me wish I was sporting a bumper sticker reading, “JESUS HATES THE WAY YOU DRIVE.” 😉



Filed under: @ 4:26 pm

It’s spring, it’s spring, it’s spring!

Now I know what y’all are saying, “Margaret, it’s only January! It’s nowhere near spring yet!”

Well duh! I’m not lacking in any time sense. But I’m a gardener, I march to the beat of a different drummer.

And so on a day when I can spend much of the morning and early parts of the afternoon out playing in my garden, I can officially declare it spring.
The roses are now pruned. The memorial rose (a climber) we planted for Baird the summer after she died is now at least somewhat constrained so that it’s growing horizontally along the trellis instead of straight vertically and/or up on to the roof. The bulb bed is weeded and the winter’s leaf debris has been raked out. The bulbs are even coming up so within a few weeks I’ll have daffodils, tulips, crocuses, and (best of all) a large number of hyacinths. I even cleaned the weeds and grass starts out of the rock bed around my worm bin although it’s wasted effort. The grass will be back in a very short period of time unless we actually get it together this spring and put in the concrete pad we’ve been talking about (more on that as it develops, we’ve got some REALLY cool plans). I dug up half a bucketful of dandelions out of the yard which is, I have to say, a great deal easier in the spring after it has rained all winter than it is in the summer when the yard is composed of baked clay and freakin’ bedrock. I also managed to give haircuts to two of the six lavender bushes that live in the back yard. The muck bucket that I was using to pick up debris so that I can take it around front to the yard waste container took on a most marvelous fragrance with the lavender prunings, the lime balm prunings, and the mint prunings.

Soon I’m going to have to do a major job on my rosemary bush. I haven’t managed to get my pruning shears sharpened yet so I’m not going to be able to do anything with the rosemary or the rhododendrons until that happens.

Andrew even put up my Christmas lizards on the garden shed (thanks Matt & Shannon!)


The lettuces I planted last fall are still in the garden. A little frost blasted, but present nonetheless. We might actually have some real lettuce when it warms up again. The beets……. well, I’ve never really had any luck with beets.

So it’s officially spring.

Happy spring everybody, it’s been a long dark winter.

Now That’s Good Googling!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:27 pm

At 12:39 in the afternoon Pacific Time today, someone from a block of IPs in the Hawaiian islands hit that infamous post on my blog by searching Google for:

“esurance nude OR naked OR porn OR porno OR fuck OR fucked OR fucking”

Dude, you are aware, are you not, that there is a lot of porn available online? Like, with real people in it, some of them quite attractive, engaging in a wide variety of sexual escapades to satiate just about any appetite?

And if you for some reason prefer your assignations completely devoid of human contact or content, why not type something like “Anime Porn” into your friendly neighborhood search engine, which yields you over 3 million hits compared to the paltry 130,000(!?!) hits for the search you chose instead?

How desperate–and yet how dauntingly particular–this poor schlub must be have been to enter such an exhaustive list of wildcards. I can’t imagine why he hasn’t found a girlfriend yet.  😛


Not Sure I Want To Know….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:07 am

But I’m helpless to resist. Curiosity may have killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.

Can anyone with a decent background in Asian language and culture help me parse the meaning of the Yahoo! search that brought a visitor from Hong Kong to my site:

“uncle socks feets photos”

Is there any possible meaning behind the obvious, kind of icky one? Help me out here, folks.

Whatever this person’s motives for this particular search, it kind of freaks me out that my blog turns out to be the #1 return on this particular search. 😯


The Things My Friends Send Me….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:54 pm

Mahalo Nui Loa to Gavin for sending me a copy of this song by Jonathan Coulton:

Skullcrusher Mountain (MP3 format)

The song is a hoot. A couple of people have put together Machinima music videos to it using World of Warcraft and put ’em up on YouTube; they’re worth checking out as well. 😉


The Quest For Nerdvana Continues….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:47 pm

I’d recently begun to feel a void in my life; sort of a hollow sensation, as though something crucial was missing. Since I already have a wonderful wife, a comfortable home, good friends, job satisfaction, etc., I decided to turn my attention inward. It was at this point that I finally figured out what I had been missing all these years: a true and enduring relationship with God.

Hah! Gotcha, didn’t I? No, in fact, what I decided I needed was a GPS.

Why? Heck, I dunno. I’ve used Microsoft Streets & Trips to good effect more than a few times (and Autoroute was an essential part of our recent trip to the UK), but using it involves having my laptop sitting on the passenger seat of my car, which is ungainly. It’s also somewhat unsafe, considering that I have to take my eyes off the road to look at my laptop’s screen if circumstances dictate. A GPS could be mounted up near the windshield where viewing is much easier, and stashed in a pocket or in one of my many and varied “man purses” when I reach my destination.

After looking at a few of the dedicated handheld GPS devices, I decided I’d rather go with a PDA-based model, which are becoming more and more prevalent on the market. A number of manufacturers—from Garmin to Pharos to HP—offer a PDA-based GPS, and a PDA offers a lot of extra functionality. I could choose from a variety of mapping programs instead of being stuck with one. Plus, if I got one with WiFi, I could use the thing to wardrive while finding my way around town. I could even use the GPS to mark the latitude and longitude of each wireless access point. Oh, and I could use it to store my contacts, check my email and look at the traffic maps.

Additionally, I was frankly feeling somewhat out of the loop on the whole palmtop thing. I’ve never so much as held one in my life, and it seemed, well, unseemly that someone tangentially involved with the technology field should be completely ignorant of such a burgeoning segment of the tech gadget market.

With all this in mind, and after a bit of online research, I finally settled on the ASUS A636N.


This is a really cute PDA, with a built-in siRF Star III GPS and a nice swing-out antenna that folds into the back of the thing when not in use. The antenna was one of the things that really did it for me: lots of GPS PDAs use an antenna that’s embedded in the chassis of the unit, and most of them seem to have long satellite acquisition times, according to user reviews I read online. Outdoors or near a window, this thing locks onto five or more satellites in less than 20 seconds. There’s even a jack to add an external antenna if you wanna get all gung ho about it.

The A636N also includes full 802.11g WiFi. This was an essential feature for me; a fair number of GPS PDAs have 802.11b but not g, which means you’re restricted to older/unencrypted wireless access points when using the thing on a WiFi network. Other fun gewgaws include an Intel XScale processor running at 416MHz, 128 megabytes of flash ROM and 64 megs of SDRAM, a nice bright 3.5 inch QVGA screen, Bluetooth 2, an SDIO-compatible SD card slot, headphone jack, etc. It comes with a nice group of accessories, too: power adapter, sync cable, a gooseneck cradle for the car (it has one of those neato lever-action suction cups to stick it to the inside of the windshield), car power adapter and a 1 GB SD card.

It runs Windows Mobile 5. I’ve heard lots of things about this operating system over the years, some good, some bad. I suppose that if I were a true geek I would buy a Palm or maybe even a reanimated Psion. But I wanted something that would be relatively straightforward to use, and would presumably be easy to set up and use with my home and work networks. People who hate Microsoft tend to vent their anger on Windows Mobile, but honestly, I haven’t seen anything about this OS that I find objectionable. It hasn’t crashed, it doesn’t seem particularly slow or cumbersome, and having worked on and around the Windows OS for a few years now I can pretty much figure everything out without a lot of histrionics. Included, of course, is the standard suite of Microsoft’s Mini-Me Office software, Word, Excel, PowerPoint and an Outlook-type thingy. They work fine, but only a madman would spend any time at all trying to use the little pinhead on-screen keyboard. Also included are Windows Media Player, Internet Explorer….all the usual suspects.

The bundled SD card includes Destinator 6 for PDAs, a full-featured if somewhat clunky piece of mapping software. It comes with all the usual stuff, including optional voice prompts….and unlike some similar devices on the market, the A636N features a speaker that’s beefy enough to hear over normal car noise. It seems pretty accurate and the maps appear to be up-to-date, though I haven’t tried dropping myself in the middle of an anonymous wilderness to see if I can navigate my way back to civilization. Maybe later, after The Simpsons. 😉

And as I mentioned above, if I find Destinator not to my liking, I can always avail myself of one of the other four or five Windows-Mobile-compatible mapping packages on the market. My copy of Streets & Trips even came with a companion app called Pocket Streets that I haven’t tried out. I have no idea of Pocket Street’s feature set or ease of use; be interesting to see how it compares.

As for wardriving, I have yet to get either of the most popular wireless stumblers for Windows Mobile—WiFiFoFum and Ministumbler—to work with this thing. I suspect that the internal wireless card is the problem, though I’m not positive. I might end up buying an SDIO wireless card to see if this solves the problem. If I’m going to go all nerdcore on this, I ought to have a card with better range anyway, maybe one with a jack for an external antenna. Mmmmm….external antenna….

Overall and so far, I’m quite pleased with this thing. It rounds out my geek utility belt quite nicely. I’ll have to withhold my final judgment until after I get the wardriving thing sorted out. This is a mini-review, but it’s also a call for input from others. I’m quite new to the PDA thing. If anyone has any useful information—favorite WM5 utilities, caveats, recommended accessories, good sites to visit—feel free to chime in.


Happy Fucking Birthday

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:09 am

Oh, the volumes I could write on how not to have a birthday….

It started out just fine: I took the day off from work, got up late-ish, took a soak in the hot tub and then enjoyed my traditional birthday breakfast of several bowls of Cap’n Crunch Peanut Butter Cereal (I’m not even gonna link to the product site, because it’s nothing but a bunch of bandwidth-chomping cereal-promoting ersatz “games”. Fuck ’em). I can hear my Mom screaming even as I write this: “Oh, God, no, Andrew, your diabetes!” Oh, don’t have a chocolate cow, Mother; it’s only once a year. Anyway, that’s what the insulin is for. Shoot ’em up, shovel it in, rawhide! 😛

Things started downhill when I tried to leave the house to go run a few errands. The garage door refused to close. Upon further inspection, I discovered that one of the guide wheels for the left side of the door had popped out of its track. Upon even further inspection, I realized that the reason this had happened was because the spike-haired hominid who had installed the thing had put in the track, normally meant to operate at a 90 degree angle perpendicular to the plane of the garage ceiling to which it was mounted, at something closer to a 70 or 75 degree angle, and that the resulting shear had eventually done its damage and popped the wheel free from its track. I spent about an hour diagnosing and then repairing the schmuck’s quasi-installation, then went about my errands.

Upon my return, I decided to pop a new extra-quiet CPU cooler into my Web server. What a delightfully onomatopoeic turn of phrase that turned out to be! for no sooner had I put good old Uncle Andrew dot Net back together again and flipped the switch that I heard a *pop* and turned my head just in time to witness a curl of smoke rising lazily from somewhere inside the chassis. Rocketing forth on a contrail of excreted nectarine pits, I dove for the “Off” switch.

It was, of course, much too late for “Off”. In one fleeting moment, for reasons totally beyond me (it was not, in fact, due to the new CPU fan), my formerly hale and hearty Athlon64 workhorse had become a simple interruptive electrical device, capable of being turned on and off, but little else. No more would it ponder imponderables, wonder unwonderables, or serve out Web pages. It was now a 420-watt doorstop.

I would like to personally offer my most heartfelt kudos and thanks to the awesome folks at Computersonics in Tukwila, who did a gratis necropsy on my dear departed in order to figure out what was salvageable. (Turns out that everything but the motherboard and the processor survived the still-unresolvable electrical snafu.) I left there with a new mobo and processor and headed home to do my Easter trick on my server.

That was seven-thirty in the evening on the 19th. Check the time of this posting again. After troubleshooting and ultimately abandoning my RAID controller, repairing my XP installation to conform to the new motherboard, downloading and installing about three pfillion Windows updates and bug-hunting a truly hideous IIS permissions problem, it is now about four in the morning on the 20th. In twelve hours, people will be coming over for an informal multi-person birthday party. It goddamn well better be informal, because I’m likely to fall asleep in the middle of it.

If I pass out in my cake, would someone please turn my head to the side so I don’t asphyxiate on the frosting?

*Sigh* If there’s one silver lining to all this gray fog I’m swimming through right now, it’s that I’m too spun to even think about whining about turning 39.

“Haaappy Birrrthdaay Toooo Meeeeeee….”


Happy birthdays!

Filed under: @ 11:11 am

January is, for my calendar at least, much like October is. Lotsa birthdays for people I care about, not enough time to have contact with them all. And most of them happening within one week of the month (what IS it with you people and your clumped birthdays anyway?!)

So for those of you I’m not going to see this January, happy birthday! Best wishes for the upcoming year, and thanks for being a friend.

Somewhat more unique birthday greetings go out to those people with whom I will have contact this week. Kinda birthday greetings in reverse. I’ve always felt that the parents, the mother especially, deserves congratulations and acknowledgement on their child’s birthday.

Joan and Tony: Thank you for my husband, my soulmate. My life would be a lonely place without him.

Mom and Dad: Thanks for my brother. I’ve always loved him dearly and I always will.

Now who wants some cake? Come over on Saturday, there will be lots.


First Law Of Advertising:

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:04 pm

When you come across a good thing, always drive it straight into the ground.

Okay, so everyone in the known universe—including a whole bunch of Internet pervos—is aware that I’ve confessed to having a bit of a thing (insert your own bitingly witty comment here [and then insert another one about my use of the term “insert” here]) for Erin Esurance, virtual Booth Babe for Esurance.com.

Well, that’s all over now; these days, I can’t even look her in the (ahem) eye.

Obviously, Esurance is highly aware of the effect their slinky spokescartoon has had on the testosterone-poisoned segment of the viewing populace. They’ve even gone so far as to post all of the Erin-related Esurance TV commercials, desktop wallpaper and even canyoubelieveit fan art on “her” Web site. You can bet they’ve been burning the midnight oil trying to figure out how to further exploit this resource.

Their tactic du jour? Pedo-phize her.


What can we do to keep people obsessed with our corporate mascot? Ooo oo, let’s raise the pitch of her voice half an octave! Give her the thighs of a seven year old, widening her already cavernous straddle even further!


Flatten out her skull a little, eliminating her high, intelligent forehead! Widen the space between her eyes to give her that underdeveloped, fresh-from-the-birth-canal look!

Erin is no longer the lithe, urbane insurance operative that first caught my eye. Instead, the demands of the marketplace have transformed her into a gawky, adolescent bubblehead wearing too much makeup. Throw in a backpack, and she’d look fully at home in the halls of just about any junior high school in the country.

Those demented krods at Esurance just had to take it a step too far. I can no longer enjoy even the slight demented thrill I used to get from these commercials. Now it leaves me feeling slimy and self-conscious, as though I’ve caught myself inadvertantly sneaking a look at a friend’s kid sister.

Britney Spears may grow into adulthood (well, physically, anyway) gaining pounds and wrinkles along with rug monkeys; Lindsey Lohan might tip over the edge of teenage-girl slimness into full-blown eating-disorder bag-of-antlerism; Hillary Duff may well—um—heck, what is Hillary Duff up to these days anyway?

But Erin can forever remain young, younger, entirely-too-young, pandering to baser and baser human impulses, so long as she serves her corporate masters’ evil purposes.

Oh, Erin, Erin, what have they done to you?


Irony Supplement, Part 10

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:52 am

I caught this screen capture off of an episode of Iron Chef America that I had recently DVRed. (Not, I might add, TiVoed. TiVo is great, really, quite revolutionary and all that, but I truly hate the fact that it’s a push/pull device; while you’re happily programming your TiVo to record the newest reruns of Happy Days, TiVo is taking note of your programming choices, uploading that information to the mother ship, and next thing you know, ValPak is sending you a coupon for 10% off an authentic replica “Arthur Fonzarelli” motorcycle jacket. Personally, I prefer a DVR based on TV Guide On Screen, which is a passive system deployed over the incoming TV signal, with no way for information to travel back upstream. It’s not quite as feature-laden as TiVo and it sometimes goes out due to problems on the cable, but it does much everything I want and nothing I don’t. Like deciding that I’m a gay Nazi based on my viewing choices.)

Anyway, what the hell was I talking about again? Oh yeah, Iron Chef America.

Margaret and I are big fans of the show, and apparently this sentiment is widespread among the TV-viewing populace. The folks at Food Network seem to be aware that they’ve got a true hit on their hands, and they’ve undergone some changes in recent months that seem to reflect an urge to squeeze every drop of benefit from this vastly popular program that they can. Hence, the appearance of annoying little brand-badges such as the one visible in the top left corner of the screen capture above.

Once relegated to less, shall we say, prominent positions on the screen—both in relation to space and time—Food Network seems to have decided that any company with cash to burn can slap its moniker onto any old place on the screen. Even to the point of partially obscuring a prominent gourmet chef’s visage with the logo for a purveyor of plasticized lipid-sodium-and-high-fructose-corn-syrup delivery devices.

I have to wonder if Mario Batali was made aware that he would have a McDonald’s logo sticking out of his forehead, like Zeus giving birth to a garish, greasy Titan. My guess would be no. I would like to think that, had he been made aware of this development in advance, we would have had a spot of fun with it, perhaps waiting for the moment at which the offending badge appears to slap his hand protectively to his forehead and scream “oh, God, it burns!!!


It’s Happening Again

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:02 pm

It started just this week after a long hiatus. The phone rings, and I jump to answer it, but instead of a voice at the other end of the line, there’s only silence. Then a dial tone as the connection is severed.

This has happened at least five times in the last seven days, the same sequence of events, every time.

And every time it happens, my face creases into a huge shit-eating grin, and I thank my lucky stars that I own a TeleZapper.

If you don’t own one of these things, go out right now and get one. Now, dammit! I’ll wait….

You’re back? Okay, good.

This is one of the finest pieces of consumer electronics to come about in a decade. I’m seriously here; if you hate being interrupted by telemarketers (is there anyone who doesn’t?), the TeleZapper is the ultimate addition to your telephonic utility belt. It defeats computerized auto-dialers by sending out a short tone every time you pick up your phone (you can choose to send up to three different tones, but three gets pretty annoying). The tone is a telecom-industry-standard message to the auto-dialer that the number it has reached has been disconnected. The auto-dialer then hangs up, and if it’s a smart system, it makes a note in its internal database that your number is out of service, and it never calls you again.

Even better, eventually the company that tried to call you will sell their database of numbers to other companies, including the note that your number is out of service. The information thusly propagates throughout the greater network of telemarketers, and after about a month or so, the only calls you’re getting are from smaller organizations that do not use the more sophisticated auto-dialing systems, or from a very small number of larger companies whose systems seem unaffected (Comcast is the only large company I have come across whose system ignores my TeleZapper, and since I’m a customer of theirs, I don’t necessarily mind hearing from them).

Since we got our TeleZapper–what, four years ago?–the number of telemarketing calls we get dropped from about two a day to less than one per month. The only tiny annoyance comes every six months to a year, when these companies get updated lists of number from the telecom providers, and then they start trying to call us again. During that month or so, we will get ten to twenty hangup calls, where you pick up the phone and the line has already gone dead.

And even that isn’t an annoyance to me; every time I hear it, I know another goddamn motherfucking time-sucking son-of-a-vampire-leech telemarketer has lost its connection to my number, and that they will now go on to tell all their bottom-of-the-economic-food-chain buddies that we are, in effect, not to be disturbed.

In the words of Comic Book Guy, “There is no emoticon for what I am feeling!” So I’ll have to make do with :mrgreen:


“Dear Morning Edition….”

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:54 am

Dear Morning Edition,

I found myself frustrated by your article this morning about a South Dakota company producing genetically-engineered cattle that may be immune to Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE, also known as Mad Cow Disease. (That’s another minor quibble of mine: in the story, reporter Nell Boyce referred to the disease as, “Mad Cow disease, also known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE.” Shouldn’t the established, scientific name of the disease come first, and the common name be included as the “also known as”? But I digress.)

The article provided a quick but informative look at the research being done to genetically strip cows of the brain proteins susceptible to the BSE agent. What you failed to mention—and I feel this is a critical omission—is the method by which cows are typically exposed to the disease in the first place.

Commercial beef and dairy cattle are regularly fed a mixture that includes the remains of other cattle, and it is that material, specifically the nervous tissue, that can contain the prions that cause BSE. If you eliminate rendered animals from their feed, the likelihood of exposure to BSE drops effectively to zero.

Without this key information, the listener may mistakenly conclude that BSE is a ubiquitous factor in the environment of cattle, and that complex and drastic action is required to mitigate the danger. In fact, the solution is quite simple and relatively painless to implement.

Even being the hopeless technophile that I am, I sometimes feel that we strive for overly complex technical solutions to simple problems. The beef industry doesn’t need to irradiate its product to make sure the fecal matter present is free of harmful bacteria; it needs to slow down its production lines so that the mistakes that result in high levels of manure in our hamburgers don’t occur. Likewise, we don’t need to alter the genetic makeup of cattle to resist exposure to BSE; we just need to eliminate the only serious vector of that exposure, namely animal byproducts in their food.

The more widely this sort of information is disseminated, the better informed the public will be. Perhaps then, consumers can bring sufficient pressure to bear against the industry to enact the measures needed to insure the safety of our food supply.


Blood (Boils) On The Highway: SUV-ersize Me

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:48 pm

Happy New Year, everyone! I thought I’d start 2007 out in a very natural and familiar way for me: in a state of mild piss-off. 😛

I’ve been hearing a lot commercials for the Land Rover LR3 on the AM portion of the radio spectrum, where I tend to spend a lot of my work time. The ad that really struck home for me was the one that features a “letter” written to Land Rover by a voice actress purporting to be a mother and a Land Rover LR3 owner.

I know she’s supposed to be a mother because she mentions her children in the ad. I know she’s supposed to be the owner of a Land Rover LR3 because she mentions that in the ad….far more often than she mentions her kids, interestingly enough.

This “mother” has at least two children, about whom, ostensibly, she is writing the company (as you will see below). But she never once mentions their names. Only the name of her car. And always by the full make and model, as in, “Thank goodness I was driving my Land Rover LR3” or, “Later I came out to take a look at my Land Rover LR3.” Never, “My Rover” or even the mild truncation, “my Land Rover”; always the full, complete product title, as if she were reading it right out of the brochure. Or more to the point, off the script. Very real, very natural sounding, that. Nice work, anonymous ad-agency copy writer!

I wish, with all my heart, that I had been able to locate a transcript of the ad somewhere, or had my act sufficiently together to have recorded it myself before writing this post. I’ll just have to quote it from memory as best I can:

“The road over the mountain is tricky on the best of nights, and this was hardly the best of nights. The rain was coming down hard and I knew there was trouble ahead when I noticed so few other cars out on the road, but I had to get my kids home. Thanks goodness I was in my Land Rover LR3, with its Terrain Responseâ„¢ feature. I set my Land Rover LR3 Terrain Responseâ„¢ to ‘Mud’ and kept on going. We got home safely that night, thanks to my Land RoverLR3. Later, I went back out to the garage to check on my Land Rover LR3, and you know what? The mud came up all the way to the top of the tires. I just wanted to let you know how lucky I feel that I, and my children, have our Land Rover LR3.”

That’s it in a nutshell.

I think I have had my fill of watching automobile manufacturers encourage their customers to drive in unsafe ways under hazardous conditions. The Beemer rocketing blindly down the narrow, winding coastal highway. The four-wheel-drive pickup bashing its way through a snow bank. The ferchrissakes minivan passing a school bus while traveling around a bend, uphill, on a wet, narrow road, in the rain. (This is not hyperbole on my part: I saw this very commercial for a Nissan Quest back in the mid-90’s. It made me want to scream. In fact, if memory serves me, I’m pretty sure I did.)

That 5-point Helvetica type at the bottom of the screen reading, “Professional driver on closed course. Do not attempt” does nothing for me, either. If you are never supposed to do with the car the very thing the ad is showing someone do with the car, why are they allowed to show it at all? Or conversely, why not allow manufacturers of other products that are dangerous when misused to show people having lots of fun misusing the product in their ads? I’m sure the folks at, oh, say, Liquid Paper would like to have equal opportunity to showcase their product’s other exciting properties. (“Professional huffer on closed course. Do not attempt.”)

Add to this trend the rise to preeminence of the Sport Utility Vehicle, with its intimations of ruggedness and almost apocalyptic Darwinian superiority, and you end up with a disturbing new wrinkle in a time-honored advertising strategy. Many American motorists do not excel at the driving tactics required during adverse road conditions. Hell, a growing number of drivers don’t even have a decent grip on proper driving behavior for normal road conditions. Things like braking distance, use of signals and even stopping at a red light have become elective rather than compulsory components of the average driver’s repertoire. When you throw a land yacht like the Ford Expedition or a midlife-crisis mobile like the BMW X5 into the mix, road safety takes yet another hit (most likely sideswiped by a Nissan Armada spinning hopelessly out of control through an intersection because the driver did not realize that All-Mode 4-Wheel Driveâ„¢ will not stop a 5,500-pound vehicle traveling at 40 miles an hour from sliding on an icy road when you stand on the brakes).

Consumers are encouraged to purchase SUVs by the manufacturers not merely because they are supposedly safer to drive in inclement weather conditions. No, just as importantly, the consumer is made to feel that in the event of an accident, unless they have the biggest piece of rolling iron (or plastic, in the case of the Hummer H2 and H3) on the road, they will be naught but putty in the hands–or grills–of other, larger vehicles. Not only is the prospective customer encouraged to drive like a maniac under conditions that are completely unsafe; now (s)he does it in a jacked-up, three-ton Luxury Urban Assault Vehicle.

Okay, so drivers can be morons and oversized, overpowered vehicles pimped by their manufacturers don’t help. This is certainly nothing new. But this particular ad really caught my ear because it portrays an exciting new level of this bizarre Safety Mom behavior. If I may be allowed some poetic license:

“Dear Land Rover: I knew it was a bad idea to set out for home that night, even before I hit the mudslides. Most of the other motorists were smart enough to stay the hell off the road, but I was already a quarter of the way home, and Dancing With The Stars was set to start in less than an hour. I could have perhaps taken the kids to a hotel instead [Lord knows someone who can afford a $45,000.00 car should be able to come up with the scratch for a double at the Motel 6], and waited for news that the pass was safe to cross.

“But this is America, and here in America we don’t hole up in some fleabag in the low-rent district, cowering like Third World refugees, while our 9,500-square-foot mountaintop McMansion lies waiting for us only a lahar away. I mean, like, what did I buy this ridiculous car for, anyway? So I decided to set my Land Rover LR3 Terrain Responseâ„¢ to ‘Mud’, crank up the heated leather seats, throw in a DVD of Monster House for the kids and go for it. And by some miracle, we made it home alive.

“Later I went out to check on my car, and found an entire Hyundai Accent lodged in the front passenger-side wheel well.

“I just wanted to let you know how lucky I feel that I, and my children, have our Land Rover LR3. Without it, we would never have been able to even consider making the suicidal journey across those treacherous mountain roads. With it, we lived to try killing ourselves some other day.”

I’m being harsh, of course. Boorish, even. Naturally there are plenty of legitimate uses for four- and all-wheel drive vehicles of every shape, size and configuration. Heck, I drive a Subaru Forester and my wife an Impreza, both AWD. We both love the feeling of being Velcroed to the road on rainy days, and all-wheel does wonders on compact snow and ice (of course, we also keep a safe distance from other drivers, obey all traffic signals and adapt our driving to road conditions; three safety features that come free with every car, if you’ve got the sense to use them).

Others live or work in environments where the special properties of a four-wheel-drive Suburban or an F-350 are very helpful, even a necessity. Living in the mountains of Colorado or running a taro farm in Waipio Valley pretty much demands a vehicle with enhanced power, torque and clearance. However, my guess is that people living and working under those sorts of conditions are exactly the kind of sensible folks who would refuse to get into a car with you if you were insane enough to suggest driving through a fresh mudslide across a mountain road on a stormy night. They might even try to forcibly remove your children from the car before you made the attempt.

Perpetrating acts of insane recklessness upon–and in defense of–our precious precious children. Isn’t that what contemporary life in America, the Sport-Utility Vehicle of nations, is all about?

*cough* Iraq *cough*

You can really tell that the no-nonsense, utilitarian, British Land Rover was bought by the Ford Motor Company.

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