It’s All Relative

Filed under: @ 6:12 pm

Last night while channel surfing, trying to find something that wasn’t Oscar related while on commercial break from Discovery’s Dirty Jobs with Mike Rowe, a show to which we are moderately addicted, we ended up stopping on Channel 2. Northwest Cable News does a pretty good job of collecting local news from the regional NBC affiliates and broadcasting it back in a semi-well knit together fashion. They’re always good for filling a commercial break.
Recently, as with every other 24 hour news channel, they’ve started running a news ticker along the bottom of the screen. I find news tickers to be moderatly annoying. If you’re trying to focus on the newscast they’re always there in the bottom of the screen trying to attract your attention, and if you’re trying to focus on the news ticker, there’s the sound and/or (if you’ve got the mute on) the motion of the main newscast distracting you from what you’re trying to read.

Regardless, last night while watching NWCN my attention was attracted by the following statement scrolling across the weather report: “Al Sharpton descendent of slaves owned by relatives of Strom Thurmond”.

This is, at this point, old news, but I was struck by the language that was used. Try reading it with the following emphasis.

Al Sharpton descendent of slaves owned by relatives of Strom Thurmond.

I find it interesting that the word “descendent” is used in relation to the person whose family was wronged. To me, the use of the word “descendent” indicates, in this case, that Al Sharpton is pretty dang far removed from those people who were slaves.
More interesting is the word “relatives” being used in relationship to the family of the slave owner. To me, a “relative” is a member of one’s close, recent, or immediate family. If they had used the word “ancestor” instead of “relative” it might have been somewhat more accurate under the circumstances. The fact that they used the word “relative” makes a statement. Granted, Strom Thurmond was older than dirt, but I sincerely doubt that he was that closely related to these slave owners.

I’m not really sure what sort of statement was being made and to whom it was insulting. I just found the wording to be quite interesting.
I realize that my analysis of these words likely does not fit with their strict Oxford definitions or derivations. I am merely commenting on the situation from the perspective of an amateur who likes to play with words. Gimme a break, I was a biochemistry major, not an English major. 🙂


All Better Now

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:44 pm

Some of you might have had trouble accessing my blog after I posted the article “Bad, BAAAD Ad, No Biscuit!” about a week ago. Still more of you probably were never able to view the actual video. This *should* be all fixed now; I had mixed some codecs up that had caused the post to make some browser/OS combinations (Firefox on Windows mostly) to run in circles and shriek. Note to self: even though it’s possible to use Windows audio and video compression schemes within a QuickTime movie, it’s not advised.

Those of you on Macs probably did not notice anything going wrong; a lesson to us all, I’m sure. 😉


My Review of Idiocracy

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:57 pm

After having been recommended this film by more than a few people whose opinions I hold in high regard, I managed to watch it one night recently with Margaret and Shawn. All’s I have to say is, go out and rent this movie at your earliest convenience. It’s an absolute hoot. And that’s the troot.

Written and directed by Mike Judge (of Beavis and Butt-Head and King of the Hill fame), this is a speculative look at America 500 years in the future. The current trend of smarter, more successful Americans having fewer children than poorer, less intelligent citizens has played out to its predictable and all-too-scarily-possible conclusion, and we have transformed into a nation of (even bigger) idiots.

Imagine taking a quirky person like Judge, sitting him and a few friends down with some pizza and beer (or maybe a few cases of Jolt Cola) and letting them spend a few days just riffing on the concept. What would our cities look like? What would we look like? What forms of entertainment would we pursue? How would our government be different? How might it be disturbingly similar? What would we eat, wear, watch, drive?

While this film does have an actual plot, it’s fairly thin and mostly just acts as a delivery device for a seemingly endless cornucopia of hilarious observations and gems of situational humor. I found myself busting out laughing every three to four minutes as a new gag was paraded before me. Cigarettes the size of Sharpie markers; dead-eyed Emergency Room nurses operating a giant keyboard covered in brightly-colored icons for every medical and psychological condition; Jet Skis churning up the water of the Reflecting Pool before a run down, slightly off-kilter Washington Monument. It’s endless, and it’s hilarious.

And yet, all three of us watching that night shared a compelling subterranean unease. Even as we guffawed at a US President who attained his office through victory at some sort of professional wrestling smackdown, we all felt the underlying message clearly: this isn’t as outlandish as it seems. We didn’t make this stuff up out of whole cloth; we distilled it from the essence of that which we see all around us.

As you watch the film, you feel this undercurrent of warning like some kind of subsonic rumble. You feel it as an icy finger sliding up your spine. You feel it as a tightness in your jaw even as you collapse in a paroxysm of giggles.

And you feel it when you look at your partner and are suffused with an irrational urge to drag her/him into the bedroom and start making babies. Quickly! Before all the whaoos up the street or on the 6 o’clock news or in the Wal-Marts beat you to it and out-progenize us all! Don’t just stand there, get busy!

Never before have I felt the urge to procreate to any degree like I did after watching Idiocracy. Fortunately, my limited attention span and media-impaired short-term memory allowed the impulse to quickly subside into the background noise of my standard, more selfish, less costly urges. So it’s back to coffee and geek toys for me. Whew! That was close. 😛

Go rent the movie; you’ll be glad you did, and that there may yet be time left to put a stop to the inevitable.


Hoo Ha!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:30 am

No, not that kind of hooha. 😛

I saw this somewheres online (there are millions of ’em out there), but in case anyone who reads my humble wares has not come across this, you ust gotta see it:


Nice to know that Tron Guy’s fifteen minutes aren’t over yet.


Bad, BAAAD Ad, No Biscuit!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:40 am

Here’s another case of an advertiser being paid what must have been untold thousands of dollars to try to evoke a particular feeling and just getting it horribly, horribly backwards (QuickTime format).

This is, in my opinion, a terribly depressing, ultimately self-defeating piece of video. It’s pretty obvious what the ad agency was trying for: a little nostalgia, just a tiny hint of bittersweet memory, evocative of home and hearth, family and friends, allathatgoodshit. Problem is that, in the pursuit of this particular flavor of ambiance, they misguidedly jacked up the contrast between the sepia-tinted memories of better times and the bleak reality of the actor’s present circumstances way, waaay too much, practically vaulting the gap separating misty-eyed remembrance and crushing, suicidal malaise.

Before the lonely single man consuming his solitary meal in his desolate apartment has even finished that first intoxicating bite of Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing, the distant echoes of the past that sustain him have already bled away, leaving him once again alone, miles from home and bereft of human contact and comfort. It’s just him, his crushed spirits, and his bowl of salad.

You fully expect him to conclude his meal and the commercial by collapsing into wretched, anguished sobs, pulling out his recently deceased father’s antique over-under (the only legacy left his son after a protracted battle with colon cancer or something similarly depressing, I imagine) and going all Kurt Cobain on himself.

No amount of schmaltzy six-string accompaniment will save this ad. Hidden Valley, you might want to consider hiring another agency for your next TV campaign. Try for someone a little more upbeat next time….I wonder what Trent Reznor’s doing with himself these days?


Kinda Busy Right Now

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:39 am

What with working the Flower and Garden Show, some advertising deadlines, building a new security server and configuring a new laptop for our extract lab manager, I haven’t had a ton of time to dedicate to entertaining you people. So I’ll do what I usually do in these circumstances: steal content from other people.

My brother sent me this the other day, and I think it’s hilarious:

Karaoke For The Deaf

Requires a Windows Media-compatible player such as—um—Windows Media for the PC, or QuickTime with the free Flip4Mac WMV Plugin for OS X.


Remember, Kids: Mind-Altering Drugs And A Career In Advertising Don’t Mix

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:51 am


I found this little gem whilst pulling apart an old issue of the Seattle Times for use as snake cage liner, and was driven to my knees—nay, nearly through the floorboards—with hysterical laughter.

I can only hope and pray that the good folks at Pegasus decide to take their fabulously popular print campaign onto the airwaves, using (I beg of you) the same ad copy writer:

“Say Marge, I just love your past gas! Wherever did you come by it?”

“Why, at Pegasus, Vicky! I go there for all my past gas. It’s the only place I’d consider for past gas!”

“Sounds great, Marge, let’s go to Pegasus and enjoy some past gas today!”

“That’s right, Folks: for all your past gas needs, think Pegasus! And while you there, be sure to ask for one of their delicious hot dogs. For every five hot dogs, you get free past gas! Just perfect for when you need a quick (*cough*) break!”

For the sake of the poor schlub who put this ad together, I hope by all that is holy that the client insisted on the wording. Elsewise, I imagine this person is now wearing the proud uniform of Hot Dog On A Stick. To whomever the culprit may be, as a person who writes copy for part of my living, may I offer a suggestion? Before you commit it to a press run of a few hundred thousand, say it out loud a few times. It could end up saving your job, your business or your dignity. 😛


What a FABULOUS gift!

Filed under: @ 5:32 pm

While waiting in our local pharmacy for my moronic insurance company to decline coverage for yet another medication that my physician has prescribed for me (I’ll not rant further on that at this point), I spent some time in idle wandering about the store.

Now I like Manhattan Pharmacy. It’s an old fashioned pharmacy and variety store, the kind where you expect the kindly grey-haired pharmacist behind the counter to be helping kids take the wrappers off of their ice pops while at the same time discussing Gramma Jones’ medication with her.
And in truth, that’s pretty much what it is. It’s a family run neighborhood operation and John, the pharmacist, is kindly and grey haired (okay, well steel grey). I like John a lot. And the variety store aspect of the place, even to the smell (mix an equal part of scented gift bric-a-brac with floor cleaner, and various types of dish, laundry, and body soaps), reminds me a lot of the Ben Franklin in Eureka Illinois where my sibs and I spent a lot of time and nickels while visiting our grandparents. Need a truss? A tub stopper? Glass cleaner? Diabetic safe cough syrup? A set of double twelve dominoes? Manhattan has it.

So for the sake of maintaining my relationship with the kindly neighborhood pharmacy and pharmacist, I restrained myself from laughing out loud when, in my aimless wander, I actually took a good look at a sign and display that I must have walked past at least a grillion times before.
I wish I could get the photo off of my phone, but my phone isn’t anywhere near as technologically capable as Andrew’s and my technical skills will NEVER be as good as his. There’s got to be some way to retrieve this photo, but I don’t know what it is. You’ll have to rely on my description.

A rotating wire rack with four sides full of packaged bathroom scales. Okay, it’s a little weird to display them like that, but that’s the sort of display you should expect at Manhattan. Look up. The sign on top is trapazoidal, cream colored with green lettering. A swan on top drops your attention to the word below “COUNSELOR” then in smaller print below that “BATH SCALES” and in somewhat smaller script yet below that “for all gift occasions!”

I would like to suggest that there is NO gift occasion for which a bathroom scale would be appropriate.

But then I’ve always maintained that not having a bathroom scale in the house is a sign of a healthy mind.



Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:47 pm

At 4:30 this afternoon, someone from a pool of British Telecom IP addy’s in London got to the home page of my blog via the following search on MSN UK:

“Display sandwich in fright”

Yet another one of those phrases entered into a search engine that leaves me wondering which one of us doesn’t comprehend the basic structure of the English language. Is this some sort of defensive strategy I have not heard of? Is this a garlic sandwich, to be brandished against vampires? Or is this some sort of involuntary fear response, like voiding one’s bowel or bladder? Could this, in fact, be some sort of euphemism for one or both of these phenomena? “Man, don’t scare me like that; I nearly displayed my sandwich!”

I’m not at all sure what this person was really searching for, but my guess is (s)he didn’t find it here. Nor anywhere else in the immediate vicinity, judging from the other search results. Better luck next time, Mate.  😉

I Don’t Think I Like Vista

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:57 am

Got my first laptop with Microsoft Windows Vista loaded on it the other day. Our extract lab manager needed a work laptop, and I was looking forward to loading up a new Dell Inspiron 6400 for her, when I got to the part of my order where I choose the operating system. Despite XP Pro being at least a year away from being taken off the shelves, Windows Vista Business was the only available choice.

I am not an early adopter. I did not move from Mac OS 9 to X until they had reached version 10.2. I don’t believe in “Wow”; I believe in “works”. However, I really had my heart set on that Inspiron, so I figured I could work around Vista’s anticipated weirdnesses while they worked them out.

Wrong. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

This is not an in-depth review of the new OS. I’m not an IT professional, I just play one in a small office. I’m not qualified to perform a hardcore analysis of the ins and outs of an operating system. I’m just a more-than-typically-skilled end user. So please don’t misinterpret the following as anything but an initial user’s impression of the product.

After booting up the laptop and building an administrator account for myself, I took Vista for my first test spin. The new interface is….well, it’s creepy. It’s over-the-top 3D sci-fi creepy. Like looking at one of those plasma TVs playing an HD movie of an aquarium, the color scheme, clarity and “poppiness” of the graphics are, to my mind, kinda disturbing. It seems to me that, once again, Microsoft has created the look of their flagship OS simply to try to outdo Apple. “Oh, so Apple has translucency and drop shadows and animated window minimize and restore, huh? Well, fine! We’re gonna have translucency and drop shadows and embossing and specular lighting effects and 3D window zooms! And when you open a window in front of another window or the desktop or anything else, the stuff underneath the translucent parts of the window in front will look all blurry and bubbly and wierd, like you’re looking at the thing behind through some kind of antique window glass, just ’cause we could! How about them apples, Apple?”

Much of the style seems to have been derived from the school of, “first-time Photoshop user goes apeshit with the Drop Shadow and Bevel and Emboss tools, and maybe the Glass buttons in the Styles palette”. It’s actually strenuous to work with in my opinion, and I imagine that the hardware in your average new PC is going to find itself in total agreement. When Dell’s middle-of-the-road business machine comes standard with two gigabytes of RAM, you know they’re expecting the OS to suck up a lot of horsepower. It must be noted, however, that in Vista you can turn all of this horrid, florid eye candy (more like eye glycerin; too sweet to even be enjoyable) off and revert to the old-fashioned Windows-style desktop. Frankly, I wish Apple had chosen to include such functionality in OS X. Apple’s OS does some of this kind of thing on the fly, turning off visual effects on systems that it knows can’t handle ’em, but in my opinion they don’t go far enough.

Okay, so eye candy aside, how does it perform? Well, the very first thing that happened after I created my user and arrived at the Welcome Center was….nothing. The Welcome Center had frozen. After I got that sorted out by rebooting (accidentally hibernated the thing instead of shutting it down because the little “Power Button” icon under the “Pearl” does not actually mean “Shut Down”, it means “Go To Sleep”. To make the laptop actually shut down requires selecting from the extended menu that bleeds off to the right of the little power button icon) I was greeted at the desktop by a notice saying that one or more of the drivers from “Sonic DLA” (they make CD/DVD software of various types) was not stable under Vista and had been disabled. The little “Click Here For More Information” yielded no usable information, and the OS politely suggested that I contact Sonic for more information. There was little reason to do so in my estimation, as Vista had provided not one scintilla of data about the unstable drivers in question, save that detailed above. No file name, no path, no indication as to what piece of hardware these drivers were attempting to drive. A cursory examination of the Inspiron 6400 Support section of Dell’s Web site yielded no information regarding the Sonic driver(s) in question.

So my brand-new laptop with its brand-new OS was shipped from the factory with drivers that render it unstable, so those drivers have been disabled. Disabling as well, it must be assumed, whatever device or function those drivers were meant to handle. So far, not so good.

Overall responsiveness seems fine. There are times when there will be a brief pause between the pressing of a key/radio button/whatever and the appearance of a new application/window/dialog box, but my guess is that eliminating these lags is all but impossible. Certainly my dual 2.5GHz Power Mac G5 is no better in this department, much less my PowerBook G4.

And then there’s the much-vaunted Security with a capital “S” that has been receiving so much attention. It really is just about as annoying as this recent Apple ad would suggest; it seemed as though every single time I opened a Control Panel, accessed an Options screen, changed a default–in short, every single time I did anything remotely like the things one would do to set up or manage a computer–the OS would bring my progress to a screeching halt, charcoal-graying out the entire screen save for a dialog box confirming that I really wanted to do what I was attempting to do. I really have to feel sorry for the folks at Microsoft: so many baddies are out there trying to reduce their products (and their dreams) to so much ash that, in order to protect the user, they have to hinder our free access to just about everything on our own computers. It’s sad, really. 🙁

I was willing….barely….to let this stuff slide. After all, this is a brand-new operating system, and you can’t expect everything to go right the first time, no matter what the ad campaigns say. As long as the basic programs worked–no matter how weird they’re looking these days–the bells and whistles would fall in line over time. About the only thing that absolutely needed to work besides the Office suite was VPN.

Would I have even brought it up if it had worked?

Our SSL VPN appliance uses ActiveX to create a secure VPN tunnel between a PC running Internet Explorer and the office network (on the Mac platform it uses a Java applet). Something about Vista’s implementation of ActiveX does not work and play well with our VPN. Tww-eeet! Okay, everyone out of the pool.

To be perfectly honest, I think a neophyte home user would probably find Vista to be perfectly adequate for their needs. And the hardcore PC gamer is going to pretty much be forced to adopt this OS because it is the only way they will ever see the pants-wetting new 3D features of DirectX 10. I think it is the business customer who is going to have the hardest time adapting to the change. In my all-too-brief experience, the interface gets in the way more than it helps, the security layer is oppressive, and the functionality to the business user positively screams, “Service Pack 1, please!”

And that, my friends, is about where my mini-review of Windows Vista Business comes to an end. I mentioned near the top of this that this posting would consist of initial impressions. Very initial, I’m afraid; I’ve secured an RMA and am returning the unit to Dell for a refund. Kudos to Dell for having a fast, responsive, helpful and domestic returns department. Meanwhile, I’ve contacted my favorite local hole-in-the-wall computer joint about picking up a nice ASUS A8JS for our extract lab manager. A hair more expensive but a serious workhorse, with lots of great features….and Windows XP Pro. 😉


I R Teh D0rx0r

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:03 pm

Here’s a good litmus test to determine whether you are a total geek.

I picked up the phone this morning to call David, the network guru that works on site at FP. Instead of dialing the office telephone number (1-800-780-9126), I started dialing his LAN IP address, 192.168, etc. I only stopped when I hit the first dot in the quad. Sheesh. 🙄


Their Ingeniousnessness Is Matched Only By Their Assholinessness

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:49 pm

Okay, so more than a few of you in my faithful and tiny readership will already be aware of the phenomenon of “splogs“; blogs made up entirely of links to spam-related sites (gray-market online pharmacies, Web-based games of chance, “pump and dump” stock swindles, etc.). Splogs typically seed themselves with huge numbers of buzzwords relevant to the interests of their potential victims (“Herbal Viagra”, “Online Casino”, whatever) to increase their rank in various search engines. They often use domain names or page titles that further reinforce the seemingly legitimate nature of their content, like blahblah.com/medical_research_and_studies/ .

The clever ones even use RSS to vamp content automatically from other Web sites, so that a splog entry regarding, say, Cialis, might contain a bunch of text drawn from some medical blog’s RSS feed about some study or another regarding the drug. The text is meaningless in relation to either the title of the splog post or the content of the hyperlink, but it serves to fill the space below the search-engine-attention-getting headline with words that seem relevant, which helps the splog to avoid being filtered out by the various search engines’ systems for identifying and removing bogus data.

But lately this most lowly form of online entity has found an ingenious new way of reproducing. Recently I’ve been prompted via email by Spam Karma (the single most awesome piece of anti-comment-spam software ever devised, may its creator be thrice blessed) to moderate a few comments left on my recent post, “Give Me Health Care Or Give Me (Premature) Death“. There were a number of comments left by a few “individuals”, that seemed simultaneously relevant and yet slightly off-kilter. Comments like,

“The government should organize easy access to Medline and Health topics, medical dictionaries, directories and publications.”

Googling the “author” produced a list of numerous other blogs containing the same or similar comments, each including a link (that I will not reproduce here) to one of a passel of cleverly named, medically-themed splogs. Spam Karma was sufficiently foozled by all of this subterfuge that it asked me for my opinion on the comment, something it almost never has to do.

Apparently this is a newish form of scripted comment spam attack, and a very clever one at that. The software robot must trawl the blogopolis for posts with key words (in this case, “health care”, among others), then inject these seemingly relevant comments. Between the content of the comment and the apparent relevance of the link, I imagine that these comments must get by many anti-comment-spam filters with ease. As demonstrated above. Some of these poor blogs are absolutely saturated with bogus comments, each one a valuable tool used to boost the spammer’s rank in search engine results and draw more attention–and traffic–to themselves.

I l-o-a-t-h-e spam. I hate it for many reasons, not the least of which is the unflattering things the very existence of such transparent ploys for people’s attention and money have to say about the native wit of the average Netizen. That being said, comment spam is, in my opinion, actually one of the more effective forms of spam out there, since it uses the structural nature of blogs and search engines to the benefit of the spammer in a very clever and ever-evolving way. this does not mean that I would not gladly use caustic lye to chemically sear off the genitals of the person(s) attempting to infest my blog with all this crap; just that I understand the ingenuity needed to come up with these tactics in the first place. And this most recent tactic really takes the cake.

Anonymous comment spammer, scum of the earth and scourge of the infobahn, I doff my hat to your ingenuity and your skill. Better watch out, though; I have a nanoprojectile weapon loaded with tiny poison-tipped bullets screwed into the top of my skull. Really. The elf that lives in my flatbed scanner told me so.


Muchas Gatos

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:57 am

As I was going to Saint Ives,
I met a man with seven wives,
And every wife had seven sacks,
Every sack had seven cats,
Every cat had seven kittens,
Kittens, cats, sacks, wives,
How many were going to Saint Ives?

I was singing this to myself in bed last night when Margaret popped up with, “I always resented the answer to that riddle. I mean, just because this guy met the man with seven wives on the way to Saint Ives doesn’t necessarily mean that he met them as they were leaving Saint Ives. They could all have been going to Saint Ives, and he just managed to catch up with them on the road going in.”

I thought about that for a moment, and had to concede that, had both sets of travelers been on foot, it would have been entirely possible—even highly likely—for the guy traveling alone to manage to catch up with the dude who had seven wives, 343 cats and 2,401 kittens in tow.

This is the kind of stuff you come up with when you are overly satiated—or possibly “saturated”—with too much Brazilian meat on a sword. Thanks again to Shawn’s Dad Jeff for the awesome dinner.  🙂

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