Cougars beware!

Filed under: @ 4:50 pm

People knowing the mascot of my DVM alma mater may assume that I’m actually writing something about one of their sports teams. Or perhaps a threat against WSU alumni who commonly refer to themselves as “Cougars” or “Cougs”.

What I’m really writing about is politics.

Washington Senator Cheryl Pflug (R. Maple Valley) wants to make it legal in Washington to hunt cougars with dogs. This moderately barbaric process involves chasing said wild cat through the bush with, ironically (you’ll see why in a minute) one to several dogs, cornering it in a tree and shooting it.

Why do you do this? Strictly for the trophy. The skin, the head, what have you can be displayed on the proud hunter’s wall as a testament to his testosterone.
Now for the record I am an unashamed carnivore. I support careful hunting of wildlife for the purposes of providing food. I wish I could be so honest about my meat habit.
Cougar hunting is just done for “sport”. No one eats cougar meat. The dogs might get some, I don’t know, but more likely the corpse is skinned, beheaded and left to rot. “Sport”.

Why does Senator Pflug want to make cougar hunting legal in Washington? Well, because she lives in a rural location and her own dog was killed by a wild cat.
I know the DVM to whom she took the dog’s corpse for an opinion of what killed him. Said DVM is a 20+ year veteran in the field and has worked several years in urban emergency medicine which can get pretty dang ugly at times. She said that she wasn’t sure what killed the Senator’s dog, a cougar or a bear were her guesses. Regardless of what killed the dog she said it was one of the more gruesome things she’s ever seen. Fish and Wildlife officials say it is more likely that the dog was killed by a bobcat.

Senator Pflug’s crusade gets my knickers in a twist for a number of reasons.
First and foremost, her dog was killed by a bobcat, not a cougar, and HE WAS IN THE BOBCAT’S TERRITORY. Domestic mammals living in an area where wild carnivores do (or have been known to) live ARE LIVING WALKING TARGETS. If Senator Pflug managed to overlook or ignore the possibility that she’d have wildlife around her when she moved out into the sticks, shame on her. If the Senator isn’t willing to put up with the risks of losing pets (she should be grateful it wasn’t a child) to predators when she CHOSE to live in a rural location, she shouldn’t be living there. Move to a condo in Belltown, Senator.

Secondly, Senator Pflug is using her position as a Washington State Senator to push legislation in response to a personal vendetta. If you don’t think that she is misusing her position in doing this, I’d like to know why.

And third, Senator Pflug wants Washington state residents to be able to hunt cougars with dogs, thus putting the dogs at risk of coming in contact with a seriously pissed off, large, wild cat. Senator Pflug wants people to be able to put their dogs in danger of being killed and eaten because her dog was killed and eaten. Ironic? Circular logic? Perhaps just plain stupid. You tell me.

Do me a favor. If any of you happen to live in Senator Pflug’s district, when she’s up for re-election next time vote for someone else!
And if you happen to see anyone out with a petition regarding cougar hunting, please refuse to sign it.

Customer as Criminal

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:34 am

Look, I’m not one of those Microsoft-is-the-Devil mad tinfoil hatters, okay? In our three-person household, I was personally responsible for the procurement and distribution of eight computers (fully operational computers, that is; there are also the husks and guts of possibly four to six more lying around here). Of those eight, four are PCs and four are Macs. I personally run five of the eight: three PCs/two Macs. So I’m hardly an exclusionist in my taste of platforms. (Though the curious lack of an Ubuntu box or even an IPCop router seems strange, I admit. I’ve got a copy each of Knoppix STD and BackTrack in my CD wallet, does that count?)

I appreciate completely what a work of art any operating system is, much less one that manages to work with a majority of hardware and software being crafted by heaping thousands of different individuals and organizations, each with just a slightly different idea of what constitutes the ideal implementation of this shim or that subroutine. Much much less one that has become the dominant operating system on its platform, indeed in the world. Christ knows I couldn’t do it. So kudos to Microsoft for their good work in providing the world with the juggernaut that is Windows XP. Vista; eh, not so much.

That having been said, it never fails to irk me how Microsoft manages to treat me, the paying customer, like I’m some sort of lowlife pirate criminal, through the magic of Microsoft Product Activation.

Lots of companies use some form of product activation to help to secure their intellectual property, and I have no real complaint with activation as a concept. I’d be happier if I didn’t have to do it, but I accept it as part of the price of doing business in the Information Age. It seems to me as though companies like Adobe and Apple have gotten product activation as good as it can get, allowing you to “commission” and “decommission” a computer at will so as to allow the software (or in the case of Apple, music) to be moved from one computer to another with relative ease and a minimum of migraine.

The majority of PC users come across Microsoft Product Activation once in their computer-using experience, if at all: the day they first turn on their new PC. If their new computer did not come pre-activated (as many do), they are prompted to activate their copy of XP, Vista or Microsoft Office, either over the Internet (fast and easy) or via the telephone (slow and painful). Either way, once they have successfully communicated with Microsoft, the activation is complete, and they need never think about it again.

Those of us who are constantly messing with our hardware–the geeks, the gamers, the gadgeteers, the consummate tinkerers–will face the specter of Product Activation entirely too many times during our relationship with a single computer, much less a cluster of them.

Microsoft’s contemporary operating systems are a little, well, paranoid. They feel very strongly about protecting the intellectual property rights of their parent company. Who can blame them? Windows was a mammoth undertaking, representing untold millions in development costs. Trying to imagine the countless hours it took to pry this software Titan out of Bill Gates’ bulging forehead is like trying to count the stars. So Windows XP is quite protective. It understands that the end user has the right to own and use a single copy of Windows for each license (s)he purchases, no more. This individual license is tied to the machine on which it resides, not the user. In the case of a license that was purchased as part of an OEM (Original Equipment Manufacturer) system–in other words, a pre-built PC purchased from a vendor as opposed to a standalone copy of Windows XP bought without a computer–probably the most common form of Windows XP license out there, the license is even less portable, perfunctorily tied to a single, individual computer over the lifetime of the license. That is to say, the purchaser of the license may not move this copy of Windows XP from one computer to another, even if (s)he removes it completely from the original computer. Even if, say, the original computer has been rendered nonfunctional through hardware failure, fire, earthquake, blood, frogs, boils, cattle disease, whatever. In practice, Microsoft is far less draconian in the enforcement of these rules, but the policy is there.

To enforce this policy, the Windows OS looks for changes in the basic hardware structure of your computer every time you log on. If a “significant” proportion of your computer’s hardware changes, Windows is likely to interpret the revised system as being a “new” computer, and ask you to reactivate your license. The algorithm by which the OS determines what constitutes a significant change is a bit wonky, at times even anal. Nonetheless, if all that was required to accomplish the reactivation was for Windows to do a quick shout out to the mother ship, this would be naught but a minor inconvenience for me. However, there’s a wild card thrown in just to make things more exciting: a maximum number of reactivations over a given period of time.

I’ve read a number of different and often conflicting accounts of the factors involved in determining both the need for product reactivation and whether a user has exceeded the maximum number of reactivations. I’m sure some of my more savvy friends will be able to chime in on this subject, and I welcome them to do so. The actual numbers involved, while an interesting question, are largely immaterial in this case. The only factor I feel is truly germane to this diatribe is as follows:

The act of adding a TV tuner card to my computer should not require me to reactivate my copy of Windows. Barring that, being forced to reactivate my copy of Windows because I added a TV tuner card to my computer should not result in my being told that I have exceeded the maximum number of reactivations.

One. Lousy. TV Tuner. Not a processor, not a hard drive, not even a new video card. This is like being told you have to reapply for your car insurance policy because you hung some fuzzy dice from the rearview mirror. This was annoying, but if I had just been able to do the activation over the Net like a normal tool-using hominid it would not have been a big deal. But no, I also managed to exceed the number of reactivations I could do online, so I had to contact Microsoft’s Activation Center by phone. Hmm, funny how it was XP’s own extra-paranoid reaction to a minor upgrade to my system that tipped my maximum number of reactivations over the edge. Why, the only thing funnier would be if, after I called the toll-free number and entered the forty-two digit transaction number into Microsoft’s automated system, said system had hung up on me. But Fate wouldn’t be that cruel to me, now would it?

Uh, yup.

Fifteen minutes and forty two more digits later I managed to get hold of an actual person–an actual Indian person, but a polite and attentive Indian person–at the Product Activation call center, and after making me promise that I had not installed this copy of Windows on any other computers, she gave me a new forty-two digit installation ID to enter into the Product Activation screen and be on my way.

That’s the thing I find particularly amusing and irritating in this process; the part about making me pwomise that I’m not running this same license of XP on hundreds of computers in some vast bunker of illicit technology somewhere. They know I’m not running multiple copies; at least, someone at Microsoft knows. If I were running multiple computers on this license key, Microsoft would know about it because the license key for your installation of Windows XP is transmitted during the activation process. That’s how the company has identified certain commonly-abused license keys for their software, and prevented them from being able to access Windows Update.

So if I were using a pirated key, they’d know. And if I had used my license key on multiple computers, they’d know. Unless of course I had availed myself of one of the myriad cracks and workarounds to keep my copy of Windows from being activated, or to spoof the activation process. In which case, why the hell would I be trying to activate this one copy on this one machine, either over the Internet or via the phone? Wouldn’t I just go and clone off one of the other machines in my gold farm or my offshore online casino or whatever it is they seem to suspect me of doing?

It’s almost seems that the activation process is designed, not to thwart actual pirates in the pursuit of their aims, but to instill the fear of the consequences of piracy in honest consumers. To make these potential pirates aware that, should they choose to violate the terms of their End User License Agreement, they will end up having to come in contact a real live person and lie to their face–okay, to their voice–about what they are doing. It’s an interesting exercise in social engineering, one that, I am certain, a bunch of talented specialists were paid handsomely to devise and vet. I am also certain that this process ultimately yields whatever results Microsoft is hoping to achieve; otherwise they probably wouldn’t be doing it. All it manages to do for me–the technically semi-savvy, typically law-abiding, high-volume computer consumer–is make me think twice about either a) upgrading my computer,  b) purchasing more than the bare minimum of Microsoft-dependent hardware and/or c) maintaining my law-abiding status as regards my current Microsoft software. A customer who is treated like a criminal is more likely to become a future criminal than a repeat customer.

As a postscript to all this, allow me a moment to acknowledge something. I am fully aware that the experiences described herein are, at best, mewling protestations from a fat, overprivileged First World White Guy who has never suffered a single instance of true hardship or privation in his life. The Universe’s puniest tempest in the world’s most diminutive teapot. The worst moments of my life, my most agonizing pains, my most severe tribulations, so tiny in comparison to the least of the challenges facing the majority of the world’s population. I should be positively effusive in my gratitude to simply be sitting in a comfortable chair in a fully insulated and electrified house with an intact roof and a well-stocked larder, talking into a modern telecommunications device to someone halfway around the world, even if the topic of conversation is as banal as a series of numbers in six-digit clusters. Not to worry, I don’t have a hideously disproportionate sense of my own self-worth or the weight of my suffering in comparison to others. It’s just that this is the material I have to work with. If I spent too much time thinking about the overall condition of the world and my tacit participation in same, I would have long ago had my body ground into fertilizer, or perhaps butchered into its choicer cuts, and shipped to a struggling, infinitely more deserving family in some hardscrabble part of the world. And then someone else would have to sit here, thinking up shit to complain about. 😉


Oh, All Right….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:49 pm

Since everybody else is doing it:


Your Score: Lawful-Good

74% Good, 38% Chaotic

Plane of Existence: Mount Celestia, “The Seven Heavens“. Description: Countless paladins and saints have ascended here. Notable Inhabitants: Angels and Devas.

Examples of Lawful-Goods (Ethically Lawful, Morally Good)

Aeris “Aerith” Gainsborough (FFVII)
The Tick (“Lawful Stupid”)
Abraham Lincoln
Sherlock Holmes
Phileas Fogg
Captain Picard

A person with a lawful good attitude believes in the use of authority and rule of law to bring good to the greatest number of people. Her/His actions support the status quo and s/he uses systems and organizations to achieve good goals.

S/He will keep his/her word and value truth.
S/He will avoid the use of poison and use violence only when authorized to do so or in self defense.
S/He may or may not be disciplined, organized, emotionally restrained, caring, compassionate, and peaceful, but s/he believes that these are admirable qualities.
Respects law and order and is willing to suffer limitations on individual freedom for the benefit of the group.
Puts moral principles before material considerations.
The lawful good person will be a very faithful member of a group, but if the laws of the group clash with the ethics dictated by his or her moral alignment, the lawful good person will probably leave that group and look for a group more closely aligned with his or her ethics.
The lawful good person is an active advocate of his or her beliefs.

Lawful Good “Saintly”


A lawful good [person] upholds society and its laws, believing that these laws are created to work for the good and prosperity of all. He is both honest and benevolent. He will work within the established system to change it for the better, and strives to bring order to goodness that other good-aligned [people] might pool their resources to better the world. A lawful good [person] combines a commitment to oppose evil with discipline. Most lawful good [people] live by a strict code of honor, or by the rules of conduct set down by their deity. They will generally selflessly act by these codes even at the cost of their own life.

Lawful good combines honor and compassion for the innocent.

A knight/paladin who always follows the orders of his superiors is an example of a lawful good [person].

Other Alignments and Tendencies (Tendenices are what you would more often sway towards; esp. for Neutrals):

0-39% Good, 0-39% Chaotic: Lawful-Evil

0-39% Good, 40-60% Chaotic: Neutral-Evil

0-39% Good, 61-100% Chaotic: Chaotic-Evil

40-60% Good, 0-39% Chaotic: Lawful-Neutral

40-60% Good, 40-60% Chaotic: True Neutral

40-60% Good, 61-100% Chaotic: Chaotic-Neutral

61-100% Good, 40-60% Chaotic: Neutral-Good

61-100% Good, 61-100% Chaotic: Chaotic-Good

Link: The Alignment Test written by xan81 on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the The Dating Persona Test

This doesn’t sound like me at all, really.



Carry Your Towel With Pride

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:57 am

It’s a bit late in the day, but I thought I’d mention that this has been designated “Towel Day” by some anonymous person out there on teh Intarwebs. I’ll drink to that. I’m carrying mine.

Towel Day

Oh, and while I’m at it, a reprise of a picture I took of a real estate office we passed on our way to the London Zoo:

Hotblack Desiato

*Sigh* I miss Douglas.



Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:55 pm

It’s been an exciting week.

First off, the developer that bought the property behind us has finally brought a crew in to start putting in the three single-family residences that will eventually go there, for which I say, “Hallelujah”. I mean, I’m not thrilled that we lose our huge multi-acre buffer between us and our nearest neighbor on our south property line, but Powell Homes is a good company as developers go (we’ve been in constant contact with Todd Powell since they purchased the land, and he seems like a good egg; always gets back to us promptly, encourages us to call him if we have any questions/concerns, etc.). Lots of worse things could have happened with that land. Polygon Homes could have bought it to put up some of their trademarked Crackerjack boxes. A squatter could have started up a meth lab. Some asshat could have bought it to start his unlicensed attack-dog training academy. Having a reputable company put three nice-looking homes on the property was the best alternative to buying it ourselves and seeding it with native plants, something that wasn’t going to happen unless my investment in Lotto futures suddenly matured. Additionally, since they have to put in sewage hookups and their incoming line abuts our property, city ordinance dictates that they provide us with a sewer stub. So we’re going to go seriously into hock and wean ourselves off our septic tank, yee haw! Only savages poop in buckets, even 500 gallon ones. 😉

Then there’s the whole back thing. I went to see a spine specialist who was recommended to me by one of Margaret’s colleagues. He sent me out for an MRI and some other alphabet-soup imaging test whose name I cannot remember; I’ll let y’all know how that goes. The exam itself was, well, it was interesting. I’ve spent the last nine years with reduced mobility and nerve function in my legs due to the laminotomy I had in ’98 to relieve the pain I was suffering from a ruptured lumbar disc. The surgeon who performed the procedure told me that such aftereffects were totally normal and that I would probably have some degree of disability for the rest of my life. This new guy I went to see seemed a bit shocked at the amount of damage I appear to have suffered. This is not encouraging. It has left me nursing an exotic cocktail of maudlin self-pity and burning resentment. The former I plan to smother with a lot of Top Pot donuts. There does not seem to be much I can do about the latter. Perhaps the donuts will leave me too logy to track the bastard down and damage his spine. Or at least key his Lexus. Meanwhile, I’ll have to see what the doc has to say after he takes a look at the MRI and the whatever-o-gram.

Last—and in the cosmic scheme of things, least—I have been wading through the worst, the most problematic, the most annoying computer build of my life. I sold the guts of my old P4 to my father-in-law to help subsidize my new Core 2 Duo gaming rig. Putting that together was relatively easy, once I got over the fact that Ghost would not recognize the NVidia RAID controller on my new ASUS PN532-E SLI motherboard. After I shed my tears, I broke my RAID 1 mirror and the migration went with nary a hitch. This is a seriously cool mobo, if you’re in the market. I’m not an overclocker, but the potential is there in spades, and it has been rock-solid at factory specs. I loaded the thing up with a 2.13 GHz Core 2 Duo E6400 processor, 2 gigs of Mushkin RAM and a 320MB GeForce 8800GTS PCI Express card. This thing is a quantum leap over my old 3.6 GHz P4 with a GeForce 6800GT; so far I am delighted.

Putting Ron’s new computer together did not go nearly as smoothly. This should have been a simple matter of building the new computer (I made him get a new case while we were at it: nothing worse than stuffing all new guts into a geriatric case and having the power switch or something fail three months later), Ghosting the contents of the old drive over to the new one (never, ever just stuff the drive from an old system into a new one; if something goes horribly wrong during the install, you risk being left with no useable system disk) and running a “Repair” install of Windows XP. But for the first time in nearly ten years and maybe eight or ten builds of this type, Ghost punked out on me. Every drive I tried to restore ended up unrecognizable by the Windows installer CD. No matter how I tried to configure it—new or old computer, internal or external disk, ATA, SATA, USB—the fucking disk would not boot or even appear as an installable partition.

After about six different combinations, I gave up and ran out to buy a copy of Acronis TrueImage 10, which has become my new bestest backup buddy. Firstly because it worked, where Ghost would only create chaos out of order. But secondly because, unlike Ghost, the CD that you get when you buy TrueImage contains a fully functional backup/restore program. The Ghost boot CD does not include the ability to actually back up files, folders or disks; only restore them. I figure this is Symantec’s way of keeping people from using a single CD on multiple computers, in flagrant violation of their End User License Agreement. Acronis is apparently not too concerned about this issue: their boot CD is capable of performing a full suite of backup and restore tasks. I also like the fact that TrueImage allows you to build a custom boot CD for use with your system, including all of the drivers you need for special drive controllers, etc. Like any other utility, a good computer nerd should always have more than one backup tool in his utility belt, and I’ll be glad to clip TrueImage on there somewhere.

Anyway, after finally getting a useable boot drive, the rest of the build went pretty smoothly. I think I’m about ready to sit back and let computers do a little somethin’ for me for a bit. I’ve been meaning to look a little more closely at a game called S.T.A.L.K.E.R., now that I have the horsepower to handle it. A weekend of donuts, painkillers and mutants sounds like a good time right now. Oh, and staying the fuck off the highways. Happy Memorial Day, everybody! 😛



Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:07 pm

Mahalo Nui Loa to my friend SurfBum for sending this snapshot from the Frankfurt Airport:

Get a Mac

He sent it as an attachment to an email entitled, “Frankfurt Airport Should Switch To Mac”. Indeed. Hope their Air Traffic Control system ain’t running on XP as well. 😆


Earworm Alert!

Filed under: @ 8:47 pm

A bit of humor with which to celebrate Mt. St. Helens day.

Oh, and I meant the part about the earworms. Click at your own risk. I got these off of the humor board on my online veterinary site. I wish I had as much time on my hands as those people who put these things together..




OR (this last is especially for Gavin)



Good News for Criminals Everywhere

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:52 pm

Fresh from the sober, even-keeled minds at the World Bank:

Over the last three days we have considered carefully the report of the ad hoc group, the associated documents, and the submissions and presentations of Mr. Wolfowitz. Our deliberations were greatly assisted by our discussion with Mr Wolfowitz. He assured us that he acted ethically and in good faith in what he believed were the best interests of the institution, and we accept that.

Outstanding! Wolfowitz has lowered the bar for everyone. All someone accused of unethical and/or criminal behavior has to do is to assure those investigating that (s)he acted ethically and in good faith, and they’ll accept that.

Man, I can’t wait to try that out for myself. I think I’ll start with some shoplifting. 😛


Bad Time for Blogging

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:59 am

In addition to my back problems, I for reasons unclear to all present have also decided to upgrade my PC so that I can play bigger and better games. That turned into a bit of a nightmare for a while, lemmetellyou. So blogging has taken a back seat. But I did want to get one thought down.

We were watching Iron Chef again last night (yeah yeah, I know; two Iron Chef posts in a week. But this is pretty good). The challenger was the first chef in Japan to prepare authentic Mexican cuisine. He lost to—ironically enough, given my last Iron Chef post—Iron Chef Italian, aka The Beaver. the theme ingredient was mangoes. How the premier Mexican chef in Japan lost to an Italian chef with a Mexican fruit as the theme ingredient I will never understand.

But here’s the amusing bit. The challenger’s name was Yosei Watanabe. “Yosei”. José. Five minutes into the program we were referring to him as “José Wannabe”. You gotta wonder: was this guy just destined to be a Mexican chef, or did he change his name after he found his vocation?


Entirely Too Plausible

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:58 am

Watching Mitt Romney on 60 Minutes last night gave me something of a chill. In a field of Repu candidates populated chiefly by mummies, lizards and patent-medicine peddlers, this man seems eminently electable. The thought of which just makes me want to scream.

The Mormon thing doesn’t bother me in the slightest. Anyone who regards the Mormon Church as some sort of wacky cult hasn’t stopped to think too carefully about the Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation. Bread turning into God’s flesh? And we let these people into high office? Basically my philosophy on the subject comes down to this: the majority of Americans still believe in one or another of these fairy tales, and they seem to manage to get through their day without sacrificing their firstborn to Graag or burning down a neighbor’s house because they think he caused an eclipse. Not only that, but many of them are nice people to boot. Mormon, Catholic, Wiccan–so long as they are centered enough to render unto Caesar when appropriate, what they do behind closed church doors is none of my concern.

No, the thing that really scroggs my noggin about Romney is the fact that he seems to have taken the mantle of True Conservative only recently, in a patent attempt to make his politics as palatable to the voting public as his silvering-at-the-temples hairdo. This is the only place where Romney’s religion comes into it, in my view. Mormons believe that they have a continuous and enduring communication with God, primarily, IIRC, through the Holy Ghost. Presumably then, as a devout Mormon, Romney came by his decisions regarding abortion, taxes, the morning after pill, gays in the Boy Scouts, etc., via or during these conversations. He’s already gone 180 degrees on two of these, and odds are good that there are more flip-flops in his future. Which begs the question: did Mitt mishear the Almighty the first time, or did God change His mind somewhere down the line?

Are conservative Christian voters so incredibly desperate to get someone who at least pretends to think like them that they will back a candidate whose most deeply held beliefs only started to come in line with theirs in the last election cycle or so?

Whoops, sorry, that’s right; they already did, didn’t they? GW’s Christian patina is a thin–and as transparent–as they come. Shit, Romney may be even more electable than I had previously worried. Oh well; at least this pious hypocrite doesn’t get that stunned-bunny look when a reporter asks him a question about foreign policy. Or long division.


Leave It To Bivuru

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:23 am

We’ve been DVRing a lot of Iron Chef lately. Not just the new American version hosted by notable knowitall of noshables Alton Brown (and “chaired” by martial arts prodigy and all-round moke Mark Dacascos–listen to the way he slushes certain fricatives in words like “history” and “strategy” if you doubt his blala status), which we watch religiously, but the classic Fuji Television import being graciously rerun on Food Network. So luxurious! 😀

For no particular reason, I seem to have a soft spot for Iron Chef Italian Masahiko Kobe. I find myself defending him in absentia against the disses of our housemate. Shawn thinks of him as a total loser (he does have the worst win-to-loss ratio on the program), a vestigial organ of the show. Kind of like Jai Rodriguez on Queer Eye. (I also think this is kind of mean….but true.)

Masahiko Kobe

My feeling is that Kobe, being the youngest and least experienced Iron Chef, is of course going to lose more often than his colleagues. But that’s not the whole of it. I think I feel sort of protective of him. He always looks so fresh-faced and earnest, rising solo on his little hydraulic dais to the pantomimed bowing of a quartet of violins. Fresh-faced, earnest, and yes, in all likelihood doomed. But game nonetheless.

Something about the whole package struck me a few weeks ago, and I began adding my own voiceover to that of the actor playing announcer Kenji Fukui during the show’s intro:

“Iron Chef Japanese is Masaharu Morimoto.
Iron Chef French is Hiroyuki Sakai.
Iron Chef Chinese is Chen Kenichi.
And Masahiko Kobe, as The Beaver!”

Say it along with Fukui just once, in that jocular “Leave It To Beaver” announcer tone, chances are good that you’ll never get it out of your head. 😉


Now This Is Inspired

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:09 pm

Ebay Phish

I found this in my Inbox Monday morning. You can click on the image for a larger view, if you’re so inclined.

It’s a phishing scam, of course, but a really well-designed one. This is the first time I have seen a scam email that actually looked like it came from the organization it purports to represent. On top of that, the angle is—well, it’s quite effective. As an experiment in social engineering, it’s a compelling wrinkle. Lots and lots of people have eBay accounts, and while I don’t use mine very often, I think people are predisposed to treat it as the online community it pretty much is, even if this particular example is not. If I got a–legitimate–message from someone wanting to buy an item I was not in fact selling, I’d be tempted to sign on and let that person know that they were mistaken….or at least to check if someone else’s auction had somehow gotten added to my account.

As usual, the thing that most obviously twigged me to the spurious nature of the communique–beyond the blatantly un-Ebay-like URLs that populated it from stem to stern–was the horrible English. Why is a person who is skilled enough to fabricate such a truly convincing-looking official corporate communication not also savvy enough to find a fluent English speaker to write his email copy for him? I don’t think these people spend enough time dealing with this sort of thing themselves to realize just how dopey their efforts appear to the victim. How the perpetrators of these schemes continually manage to miss that crucial little detail is beyond me. On the other hand, the concept of blindly clicking on a hyperlink in an unsolicited email and doing whatever the little voices on the other side of the series of tubes tell me to do is also beyond me. Perhaps I am setting the bar too high. After all, it costs just about the same to send this sort of thinig to a million potential victims as it does to send it to one; you don’t need a high rate of response to make your ROI.

Anyways, I thought this was a notably clever scam, so I figured I’d mention it here, both as a warning to the uninitiated and as a tip O’ the hat to inventive bottom-feeding pond-scum Information Superhighwaymen everywhere. Kudos, and get bent! The scammers, that is; not you. 😛


Hmmmm, LemmethinkaboutitNo.

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:45 pm

Army Flier

This postcard came in the mail for Margaret, and I made her promise not to roundfile the thing before I got a chance to scan it.

During the wind-down of her veterinary education, Margaret spoke to one of the recruiters for the armed services. Actually, what they were offering was a pretty good deal: instant promotion to Captain, a salary that was on the low side but came with good bennies, plus a signing bonus and a mixture of student loan deferment/payback. Margaret gave the idea some consideration. Ultimately she decided against it, having resolved that she neither felt optimistic about her chances of adapting to the Army lifestyle nor comfortable supporting the military-industrial complex. She was also less than thrilled about the fact that her chances of practicing any actual medicine during her term of service were pretty slim: the most likely vocation for a DVM in the Army is inspecting meat-packing facilities. Only a precious few end up caretaking police dogs or wash-and-waxing the General’s horse.

Ultimately, despite the unfortunate circumstances of her first job out of school (boss was an ossified old fart who cared more about sucking up to the clients who most needed a severe ass-kicking than he did about practicing good medicine), I am extremely grateful that she chose not to “jine up”. And not simply because I have trouble imaging myself chatting over the backyard fence with the other military wives. Given the current, deadly idiocy in which our Commander-In-Chief has our military embroiled, the mere thought of Margaret having a more elevated—and legally binding—presence in the collective consciousness of the Army is enough to make me shit my pants and/or revoke my citizenship. Does New Zealand take deserters?

But the thing that makes this note from our friendly neighborhood recruitment office such a head-scratcher is why they chose to send her a little “howdy!” at this particular point in her veterinary career. Margaret has been out of school for thirteen years. The ad copy on the other side of the card started with the headline: “Get Unique Veterinary Experience and up to $80,000 For your Student Loans.” I know that the price of higher education (particularly anything that results in the use of the title “Doctor”) is oppressively high and getting higher every year, but thirteen years? If Margaret were thirteen years out of school and still 80 grand in debt for her student loans, would she really be the kind of person the Army wants joining their ranks? Of course, while general recruitment targets for all of the armed services seem to have been effectively met for the last couple of years, the targets for specialists like veterinarians may be a tougher row to hoe. At this point in American history, the kind of vet the military can hope to recruit under a best-case scenario might possibly be “a patriotic go-getter”. On the other hand, such a person might instead very well be identified as, “competent but desperate”. Or maybe, “a skilled practitioner with a gambling problem”.

The picture on the front of the card says it all. The soldier depicted here can’t be more than twenty-four. Just the way she’s beaming lovingly up at her horsey makes me think she’s still pretty wet behind the ears. I don’t think a lot of large animal vets still look that starry-eyed after a few semesters with their hands up the other ends of these critters. This is definitely a person with a few years left under the oh-so-benevolent thumb of Sallie Mae. For someone under these circumstances, a turn in the Army might not be such a bad idea, same as it might have been for Margaret as a new grad. At this stage in her career, though—completely ignoring the state of the world—it seems like a non-starter.

The very fact that the Army would take the time to bulk-mail these things out to 38-year-old vets well-established in private practice would seem to imply something unfortunate about their recruitment/retention rate for medical specialists. I wish them the best of luck….with someone else’s wife.


*Mmmph* *Snort*

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:54 am

Okay, this is pretty amusing:

Mac vs. PC, South Park Style (YouTube)

Despite the fact that it’s “South Park Style”, it’s totally safe for work. Very cute. 🙂


Oh, Goody.

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 1:36 pm

So Margaret’s guts are weaselificated, my cat just died of renal failure (okay, he died of a drug overdose, but if we didn’t do it the renal failure was not far behind), and now I appear to have turned up with more back problems. Oh, joy. These have not been the best few months for biological entities around the Hammond/Lenzer household. Y’all might want to avoid dropping by until we figure out what the hell’s going on around here. ❗

My back started hurting the morning that we decided to euthanize Scamper. I started my morning by stepping in a big, chilly puddle of cat pee (Scamp’s hind legs weren’t working well by that time, and he couldn’t make it into the cat box), then spending an hour or so doing cleanup work. I think that’s where the initial injury happened. So far my record on back injuries is, well, ignominious. I once strained by back lifting a two-by-four. (Actually the two-by-four was just the last straw; I had been lifting huge loads of boards all day in my capacity as lumber monkey for True Value Hardware. But my supervisor insisted on writing it up as, “injured back lifting two-by-four onto customer’s roof rack”. Good ol’ William; I wonder whatever happened to him? Hopefully he died pinned under a load of CDX siding.) Then I was out of work for a few days in Pullman after I blew out my back tying my shoe. Then there was the first “unofficial” disk injury which I sustained during the move from Pullman to Olympia. I think that was probably a bulging or ruptured disk, but we were too poor to get it properly diagnosed. I just waited it out, and eventually, the disc got bored of tormenting me and went home. Then there was the Official Ruptured Disc—for which I ended up having surgery—that occurred after I set down in a movie theater (Chow Yun Fat’s “The Replacement Killers”; pretty good flick, but not what I’d call back-breakingly good). I don’t remember the events surrounding my next back injury, but I took care of that one by undergoing cortisone shots to my spine and losing some weight. Which brings us to Friday morning, the day my back went out while cleaning up cat urine.

For a big strapping lad, I have a really wussy spine.

There is the possibility that I am misinterpreting what I’m feeling. A muscle spasm that clamps down on one’s sciatica will probably exert much the same kind of painful influence on the nerve as would a bulging synovial sac. Hard to tell from out here which is the culprit. But everything I’m feeling seems really familiar. I can sit just fine, but standing up straight causes nasty little pains to zing down my right leg. My stride is affected because bringing my right leg as far forward as I can normally causes pain as well. My sleep is affected because, weirdly enough, lying down is one of the more painful long-term positions. Last time we went through this I spent more than a few nights sleeping in a recliner. Damn….maybe we shouldn’t have given that away….

For any of my eight or so readers who may be experiencing disc problems of their own—and for anyone who might happen upon these words by chance whilst trawling the search engines for information on the subject—let me offer something from my own experience that literally saved my career as a desk jockey: the Herman Miller Aeron Chair. During my previous disc injury I found myself unable to sit at my desk for more than about twenty minutes at a time, and I was so distracted by my pain that my concentration suffered greatly. I had a pretty good office chair at the time that allowed me to change the height and forward/back angle of the seat and the height and angle of the seat back, but no position was comfortable for longer than a few minutes. I bought my Aeron chair from an online reseller called Sit For Less, whom I recommend because they gave me good service and they support NPR. These things ain’t cheap, but purchasing mine was the difference between being able to sit for ten minutes in relative discomfort and sitting for eight to ten hours with almost no pain. Of course I won’t say that your results will be the same, but this product was a life (and job) saver for me. The same is turning out to be true this time around.

I have often said both here and in the fleshworld that big white guys like myself are the Chevy K Blazers of the human race: we’re too big, consume too many resources, and have shitty repair records. I enjoyed my bulky-dude status for many years in my youth, but at this point in my life I’d be more than happy to trade my current body in for one of the more efficient, space-saving models. Hell, much more of this and I’ll be glad to beta-test the first generation of brain-in-a-jar rigs, provided it comes with an Ethernet port. 😛

Anywho, in the interim between now and the day I get fitted for my sleek, powerful-yet-efficient Yamaha-manufactured robot body, I figure I can live with the hand I’ve been dealt. As things are right now, I am in less pain than I was after my last round of cortisone shots, at which time I had made the decision that I would rather live with my condition than risk another surgery and the potential complications thereof. I don’t regret having had the surgery; at the time I was in constant, serious pain and more or less bedridden. The loss of some innervation in one leg was worth the immediate relief. But barring a similar situation, a second surgery is out of the question.

More on this story as it develops.

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