12/31/2007

Tree Frog Break!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 1:54 pm

I thought I’d take a second to let you hear the sound from my sister’s back deck, overlooking the cloud forest of Kona:

[audio src="http://www.uncle-andrew.net/blog/pics/kona-tree-frogs.mp3" /]

Kona Cloud Forest

12/30/2007

Two-lohas

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 10:53 pm

So now we’re in Kona and it’s almost the last day of the year.

Very peaceful (and somewhat surreal considering that Joan was the primary gift purchaser) Christmas. Big, gigantic, insanely wonderful chunks of prime rib for dinner courtesy of Vinny (Libby’s husband) and two of his professional chef buddies.

David, who got here on the 20th was only able to stay until the 26th so Andrew and I had an exciting morning shipping him to the airport with prophylactic stops at Lion Coffee and the only decent bagel bakery we have yet managed to find in Honolulu. The bagel place was considerably amusing since it was in a little industrial park on Sand Island Access Road (one of the major industrial areas outside of Honolulu), it was right next door to a strip joint, and (and) this wonderful bakery of a traditional Jewish bread was run by a little Korean couple.

We went back to Joan and Tony’s after leaving David at the airport. Since Joan is still feeling under the weather we turned around the bed in Tony’s computer room so Meg and Rad could stay there, ate dinner, and then went right back out again to the airport to pick up Meg and Rad.

We actually forgot to mention about Caitlin and the ala-alas. Caitlin, Andrew, David, and I were sitting in the living room yakking along about something when Caitlin started talking about having a bag of ala-alas. Now there is considerable debate about what she actually meant; whether she was trying to come up with the Hawaiian pidgin for money (dallahs, or kala), or whether she was trying to indicate that she had no money which would be something along the lines of “Got money?” “Nah, alahs!”.

What she was actually saying was that she had a bag full of testicles. 😯

Needless to say, neither David, Andrew, nor I have managed to let Caitlin live this down. Caitlin, who is 11, may never, EVER, live this one down.

Anyway, Andrew and I were at the Honolulu airport picking up Meg and Rad. Got home, sitting in the living room talking and all of a sudden Lucy (the younger niece) came walking in with two signs one marked “MOMMY” and the other marked “AUNTIE MEG” and handed them to the appropriate people. Meg and Libby do look a good deal alike, but Lucy was either truly confused about how to tell them apart or she was playing a huge joke on all of us. Regardless of the underlying reason it was dang funny (I’ll see if Andrew will post the photos). Meg’s side of the story involves she and Libby walking from the main house into the attached apartment (where Libby and her family live) to greet the family and see the new construction. Meg came up on Lucy from behind, gave her a hug and a kiss and said “Hi Lucy!” Lucy’s jaw dropped, her eyes bugged out, and she said: “How am I going to tell you apart?!” I guess she figured out a way.

We took our traditional trip out to the North Shore of Oahu on the 27th. Andrew and I always drive out to the North Shore because it’s a gorgeous drive and you can stop in Haleiwa and get a burger at Kua’aina which has the best burgers on the island. But since the nieces couldn’t stand to be separated from Uncle Mushroom and Auntie Meg, and since Rad wanted to go since Meg was going and Libby wanted to go with Meg, and since if Libby and the girls were going to go Vinny wanted to go too……. Suffice it to say that we took two cars. Which was convenient actually. It was going to be quite a squish to have seven of us in Joan’s mini-van and since Vinny was coming along we got a chance to stop at the house where he has been working doing remodeling and restoration for the last 4 years or so.

It is a flat out stunning gorgeous house. Belongs to someone who has money falling out their asshole. Roofed in cobalt blue tile, polished wood everything, sweeping view out the back. Absolutely stunning. Vinny has been doing jobs for these people for about 4 years. He finishes one job and then they decide that they absolutely must have…..a gas fireplace in the master bathroom, an enormous flat panel plasma TV in its own little enclosure hidden behind a retractable painting by a local artist. Like I said, money falling out their asshole.

We celebrated Meg’s 50th birthday on the 28th. Joan and Libby had outdone themselves in garage sale-ing gifts for Meg. We lost count while we were wrapping them, but there darn close to 50 of them. Granted, not all of them were, um, thoroughly appreciated, nor will they be, um, cherished forever. They were fun to wrap, and we had a lot of fun watching Meg unwrapping them. Another obnoxiously protein oriented feast that evening. Meg had put in a special request for crab and steak. Vinny and his chef connections were able to score a huge box of King crab and although I don’t eat crab, it was a stunning bean feed. You absolutely never go hungry staying with the Lenzers.

Once again, no super exotic gorgeous tropical vacation news to report. The weather has been in the mid 70’s to early 80’s and humid. It’s been raining, there’s been a lot of wind and we still go out to the beach. Water is still warm enough to walk barefoot through the surf, not exactly warm enough for me to want to swim and not bright enough to go snorkeling. Also far too choppy to go snorkeling. We’ve had a lot of fun watching the lunatics going kite surfing and Meg and I spent some of our walk yesterday staring in horror at the nutjobs who were out on sea kayaks. Nausea central.

And now we’re on the Big Island at Sara and Danny’s waiting the New Year. It’s still raining like crazy, but up here on top of the mountain it’s actually somewhat cool. Go down off the mountain, like we did when we went for fireworks this afternoon, and the temperature increases by 20-25 degrees. Kona was stinkin’ hot and wringing humid this afternoon. Rumor hath it (actually the weather report hath it) that we may get a clear patch for New Year’s Day. Which would be nice since Sara, Danny, and Rad are planning on parking in front of the TV watching football (the U.H. football team is playing in the Sugar Bowl), while Andrew, Meg, and I are planning on snorkeling.

Tomorrow night there’s fireworks, split pea soup, a bingo party, and the fireworks. I’m up to quilt block number 23 and I’m going to cast on number 24 when I’m done here. We’re having a lovely vacation thanks.

12/28/2007

Another Lazy Vacation Morning….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:31 pm

Okay, so I haven’t been posting a lot recently; so sue me. I’ve been too lazy lately to do much in the way of thinking, much less writing. Hawaii has a way of doing that to you. You want to do little more than lie around, talk story, scratch mosquito bites, and stuff your face with plate lunch and manapua. Practically my whole family has been here, and we have been enjoying the hell out of each other’s company. So I haven’t had a lot of time to dedicate to entertaining you, my adoring public. Firm feces for you. 😛

But I thought I’d take a second to offer up a few pictures from our time here so far, along with a couple of observations.

Nuuanu

As always, I am constantly struck by the fecundity of life here. In Hawaii, life doesn’t just exist: it thrives, it explodes, it bursts forth and roots itself in every direction as far as it can reach. Case in point: my parents’ front yard is currently beset by a plague of wild tomato plants. For some reason, my father hates these things, while my mother adores them. They don’t produce large tomatoes—more like tiny tomato caviar—but they’re apparently quite tasty, according to my Mom. They’re not in season right now. Anyway, they grow all over the yard, wherever the birds, ahem, “deposit” the seeds. Including in the gutters of the carport.

Tomatoes in the Gutter

Something that has really taken off since we were here last is Kitesurfing. You strap a small surfboard to your feet, grab onto the reins of a big-mutha nylon kite, and let the thing pull you along the surface of the ocean. At least, that’s what you end up doing after about fifty hours of practice. If what we were seeing from the beach was any indication, as a novice mostly what you do is get up on your board for about three seconds before doing a face plant into the water again, lather, rinse repeat. Anywho, the kitsurfers were being shepherded about by the same group of people who were managing the sea kayakers, so they were all launching from the same stretch of Kailua Bay.

Kiteboarders and Kayakers

I was struck by the familiarity of this tableau. The kites appear to be predating on the slow, uncoordinated kayaks as they make their way out to sea. It looked for all the world like one of those National Geographic photos of newly-hatched baby sea turtles making for safety of the water, while overhead the opportunistic skua wheel and dart, looking for their opportunity to swoop down for an easy meal.

Anyway, that’s about all I have the energy for right now. Margaret and I have to saddle up and head out for DonkiDonki to pick up some omiyage. Don’t wait up! 😀

12/21/2007

Aloha

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 8:32 pm

Okay, so it’s not really from poolside, and I’m certainly not Andrew, but here we go. First post from our most current vacation.

We got up at some weird dark hour Tuesday morning so we could get to the airport at 0630 (better keyboard than the Dell, but I still find punctuation to be a challenge). Since we had our seat assignments and boarding passes already we weren’t in too much of a rush, but it is a holiday trip and the airport was likely to be hysterical.

Once I’d stopped crying over the cat (he is doing okay so far, but I have, of course, been convinced that he’ll die while we’re out of town) and bullied Andrew into not lifting our suitcases since he’s still not allowed to lift anything greater than 30 pounds, we were off. Sometimes living right next door to the airport has its advantages. Got to the airport, got our luggage checked, got through security and still didn’t have a terrible long wait at the gait. Remarkable timing thus far. Got boarded, got seated and discovered that we were right in back exactly where they’d seated every child in the universe. Errrrr……

Except that we happened to be on the one flight this holiday season where none of the children had colic, none of them seemed to be having any problems with their ears, and none of them (okay, neither of the two that were sitting behind us) were kicking the seats. We were, in fact, seated in front of a little boy of about 9 or 10 and his 5-6 year old sister who were the older children in a family that seemed to be coming to Hawaii on a short vacation and house hunting expedition prior to moving to the islands. Older brother, and I very much apologize for the generalization, was absolutely the Poindexter type who was telling his sister all sorts of very serious and academic things about how the flight was organized, how planes actually manage to fly, interesting facts about the Hawaiian islands and so forth. It was absolutely hysterical when, once we were on approach to Oahu, he started pointing out to his sister bits of things on the island….. “See, Sam, that’s where the runway is, this is where we’re going to be landing, the Captain has to go past and turn around so we’re aimed the right way.” Little sister, who, in her first glimpse of Oahu got the back end of Honolulu and the early part of Pearl City and the military base that’s out that way (not anyone’s idea of a tropical paradise), cried out “That’s not what Hawaii is supposed to look like!”. Poindexter was very reassuring, emphasizing to Sam that ALL of Hawaii didn’t look like that and what did she expect an airport to look like anyway? Which did, of course, reassure her greatly. I hope this boy always continues to use his powers for good, because if he ever wanted to he could really feed his sister a line.

Not a bad flight all things considered and, as a Boeing baby I feel that this is traitorous in some way, but the Airbus A330 that we were flying on was remarkably comfortable.

Easy out of the airport, and all of a sudden I feel my brain shut off as the bright sun, blue sky, and palm trees did their work. I’m sorry to be rubbing it in and all, but when it was 36 degrees and dark until almost 0830 in Seattle and almost 80 degrees with little white poofy clouds when we hit the ground in Honolulu, the difference was so marked that I can’t NOT be just a little bit smug. And Andrew will disagree with me quite volubly, but the humidity was heavenly. Some irritating little prat at work gave me a cold late last week and I’ve started wearing motion sickness patches on any flight so the combination of the Sudafed drying out my sinuses and the scopolamine patch drying out my nose and eyes made me feel like a prune coming off the plane. The humidity was FANTASTIC!

We were both pretty wiped so really all we did Tuesday afternoon was hang at the house. I’ve been knitting quilt blocks for my mother so I napped and then knit until I ran out of yarn (I’d packed more in the box that we’d shipped but that didn’t show up until Wednesday). Quiet afternoon, that is, quiet until the nieces got home.

Caitlin and Lucy LOVE their Uncle Mushroom and things tend to be a good deal less placid around here when they’re home. Although we’ve finally managed to convince Lucy that Andrew can’t pick her up because she weighs more than 30 pounds.

I apologize, this isn’t likely to be an exotic, exciting tropical travelogue. Joan came down with a vicious pneumonia about 2 weeks ago and the great majority of what we’ve done so far has been to do a lot of helping around the house so Joan can rest, cough, drink lots of fluids, and take her antibiotics. Although it does feel good to be able to help her out like this especially since within the next 2 weeks all 5 kids and four in-laws are going to be rotating through her house.

Wrapped presents, bullied Joan into sitting down and directing where Christmas decorations were supposed to go, knit, napped, walked on the beach……Andrew has replaced the pump for Joan’s pond so she’s got her waterfall again. We’re really exciting vacationers.

Our one big night out so far was Wednesday. The evening started at the McCoy Pavilion in Ala Moana beach park which was the venue for the Voyager School Winterfest Pageant (Libby teaches, Caitlin and Lucy attend). I will restrict commentary on the evening’s entertainment. Those of you with children will be familiar with the type of entertainment to which we were….um……subjected. Those of you without children could have dental surgery without anesthesia and retain much the same memories. 😯

We ended the evening at Buca di Beppo Honolulu where I had a BIG drink featuring Bacardi, lemon, mint, and basil which was absolutely delicious and helped to resolve a lot of the remaining discomfort.

David showed up yesterday and we wandered out to the airport to get him. I really enjoy Andrew’s siblings, but there’s something about the interaction between the two brothers that is particularly entertaining. Add Tony into the mix and, well, it’s a lot of fun. This morning I got up at some dark hour to pee and was treated to three different Lenzer men snoring in three different keys. Some hours later when we were all bumping around the house doing our various things, the three of them were each singing their own individual little basso song about what it was that they were currently doing.

It’s also nice to have David around since when there’s two nieces and only Uncle Mushroom I don’t get a lot of contact time with my husband. When you add Uncle Cheeseburger into the mix I’ve got a little better chance.

Today has been another futz around the house, run errands, get things ready for Christmas, enjoy the sand, the sun, and the warm sort of day. Andrew and I saw a green sea turtle out in the surf while we were walking along Kailua beach (a very rare occurrence!) and I managed to leave the house, walk out to the retail center of Kailua, do the errands that I was needing to do, and return without getting lost. Definitely a red letter day.

Since tomorrow is Joan and Tony’s 56th wedding anniversary, we may be more exciting tomorrow, but I wouldn’t bet on it. We’ll be posting photos eventually. 🙂

12/16/2007

Posts Are Kinda Thin On The Ground Right Now….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:19 pm

I do apologize about that. I’m trying to wrap up all the loose ends before we go on vacation for three weeks, and Man, are there a bunch of loose ends. In the words of Pee Wee Herman: “It’s like trying to unravel a big cableknit sweater that someone just keeps knitting….and knitting….and knitting….

The pièce de résistance so far was finally—hopefully—getting a WiFi problem up at my boss’ house solved. The problem has been twofold: one, the idjits that wired the house put in perhaps a tenth as many Ethernet jacks as I asked them to, so we have been sorely limited as to where we could place WiFi access points. Two, the house is so incredibly well-built, with 18 inch thick walls, dense foam insulation, aluminum studs and probably some sort of metallic lath in the wall that trying to get packet radio through them is an exercise in futility. With the help of David our network Ronin, I was able to get an Ethernet jack wired into the spare pairs on the phone in the main living area. I then hung up a Senao ECB-8610S, a six hundred milliwatt access point (if you need raw WiFi power and don’t want to splice HAM Radio amplifiers into your system, these babies are definitely the way to go) and hid it behind a Mardi Gras mask on the wall. For the first time since the house went online, laptops get 90–100% signal strength pretty much anywhere on the first floor of the house, which is where the party usually is. Thank God. You simply cannot know how mush of a burr under my saddle—or a pineapple up my ass—this problem has been.

Anyway, I don’t have much to write about at the moment, but I thought I would pass along something sent to me by my Mom-in-Law. ZipSkinny is a Web site that aggregates US Census Bureau data to give you an advanced demographic picture of any zip code you enter into it. The author apparently jsut did it as a sort ot PHP/MySQL experiment, but it is truly an amazing tool/toy. Check it out.

Next time you hear from me, I’ll likely be posting from next to the pool in my parents’ back yard. 😛

12/12/2007

Full Circle Jerk

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:08 pm

This just about flattened me with the giggles.

I was getting some chow last night whilst chatting with Margaret and Shawn in the kitchen. Shawn had just gotten off the phone with his mom. While a brilliant—psychologist? Psychiatrist? Sociologist? Sump’n, at any rate—and accomplished author, like many people of her generation, she is somewhat deficient in the area of native aptitude for modern technology. This is hardly a novel observation to many of you out there. Those who were not steeped in the brew of contemporary technological paradigms from a relatively young age are less likely to adopt and master said paradigms. (Actually, I just like saying “paradigms”. Paradigms, paradigms, paradigms!) The gap between those of us who can program a VCR, set up an email account or master the more arcane functions of our mobile phones and those who cannot is by no means insurmountable, but the inherent ability to feel one’s way through the un- or poorly marked buttons, submenus and other rites of passage with the speed and confidence of a native speaker might be. Those who do not already possess this trait are far less likely to acquire it; those who plow headlong into these dangerous and uncharted waters without this facility do so at their own peril.

Case in point: this summer I witnessed a bizarre tableau of technological auto-cannibalism as I watched my father carefully and deliberately pressing the keys on his mobile phone. After about three or four minutes he concluded his activities, looked up and announced, “I think I just deleted every number in my address book.” Another case study: after weeks of fruitless attempts to get my boss to send his laptop in for warranty repair work to address a serious video issue, he called me one afternoon to crow about the quick and easy solution he had come up with all on his own. Namely, to slam his 2,500 dollar laptop against a desk or other hard surface until the problem went away.

And I’m sure that, one day soon, I will be grumbling to myself about how I can’t get my neurocomp to properly sync my address book to the phone embedded in my zygomatic arch over the dendritic induction port. And my niece or Shawn’s daughter or some other young upstart will roll his/her eyes and patiently try to explain it to me just one more time. This is just the way of things; in an odd twist on the normal pattern of human society, the elders of the technocracy are destined to be coached by the younglings.

Anywhoopty, back to Shawn’s Mom. She was was grousing to him about how her emails rarely seem to make it to their assigned destinations. “I know I’ve got your address right,” she said, “but when I hit ‘Send’, the message disappears into the Interweb!”

I had to stop Shawn there. “Wait a second. ‘Interweb’. Did she actually use that word, or did you just add it for effect?”

“No, that’s the word she used,” Shawn replied.

I was overcome with a kind of nasty and wholly uncharitable glee.

Interweb” is a term used by those who are (or at least think they are) knowledgeable in matters of an Internetly nature to ape the n00bs—those neophytes who are inexperienced with the ways of the Internet and whose ignorance shows in their behavior, including their use of terminology. As in, “hey, is the Interweb running slow today? I can’t sign on to my AOL account!”

I first ran across the term in an amusing ad for Verizon DSL service a few years back. In it, a senior citizen is being shown the ropes of the online experience by his grandson. At one point he asks, “Am I on the Interweb yet?” I thought at the time that this was the first widespread use of the term; I was wrong. The term apparently dates back at least as far as 1994, though the current ironic use of same probably goes back only about a decade.

Shawn’s Mom, having heard the word “Interweb” someplace—probably more than a few someplaces—mistook it to be the actual accepted term for the Internet, or for the World Wide Web, or as is so often the misunderstanding with newbies, both.

So apparently, this word, that is used by the snarky technocratic elite, has been used with sufficient frequency that it has been misinterpreted and subsequently appropriated by the very people it was originally intended to denigrate. Classic.

Really, I can’t decide whether this is just another joke at the expense of the Eloi, allowing them to blithely and continually identify themselves to those in the know around them, or whether the last laugh will be on us (if I may be so presumptuous to include myself amongst them), the digital cognoscenti. I find it entirely too plausible that this word will with time and repeated (mis)use edge out the “proper”—this is to say, traditional—term, to become the standard. That would be the ultimate joke on me and the rest of of my smarmy, Interweb-savvy brethren. 😉

12/9/2007

Dear Thermos….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:30 pm

I thought I would take a moment out of my nonproductive Sunday afternoon to offer up my thoughts about one of your products, the Element 5 Vacuum Insulated Travel Tumbler.

Element 5 Travel Tumbler

Like an appreciable number of First-World denizens with little better to do with their lives, I have devoted considerable time and money in the pursuit of the ultimate coffee mug for travelers. My list of criteria is fairly straightforward. The vessel must hold as much coffee as is practical to consume while on the go (16 to 20 fluid ounces seems to be the sweet spot). It must be insulated using materials with real insulative properties (vacuum, for instance). It must be durable (stainless steel, preferably, with no glass vacuum bottle). It must be easy to drink from while driving (the spout must be accessible without having to use both hands to open it). Lastly, it must fit comfortably in the standard beverage holder on the average car….or at least, in the standard beverage holder in my car.

By these standards, the Element 5 is very nearly the perfect commuter’s coffee mug, but it misses the mark in a couple of significant ways.

First, the good stuff: The Element 5 keeps coffee hot for several hours even without an initial “priming” of hot water, easily as long as any other vacuum bottle I have ever owned, including my half-gallon Stanley. Additionally, this thing has the most ingenious spout design I have ever seen on a travel mug. The seal on the lid is, as far as I can tell, completely leakproof: I regularly clip this thing to my backback and throw it in my car for long journeys without a single thought about my car upholstery.

Element 5 Lid

The 360° drink lid is, hands-down, a stroke of genius. The mug goes from absolutely leakproof to easily drinkable in the space of a quarter-turn of the lid. Even when the lid is set for drinking, an overturned mug will dribble coffee much more slowly than many other designs. If that system was designed in-house, I hope the person who came up with the idea was given a bonus large enough to allow him/her to purchase their own small Tahitian island.

Overall the look and feel of the mug is great; I imagine that you were trying for a precision-machined, ready-for-anything look, sort of like a high-tech snowshoe or something. Mission accomplished! With a capacity of 16 fluid ounces it is within my limits for acceptable capacity as well. The overall circumference of the mug might be a little large for those with smaller hands, in which case they can avail themselves of the model with the handle.

Now for the bad: firstly, despite your obvious need to give the mug a “sturdy” look, I wish with all of my heart that you had elected to make it taller and narrower. The large, clunky hard rubber base will simply not fit into a (read: my) car’s cup holder. That base is one of the mug’s more foolish affectations. Your description of a “Rubberized shock absorbing base with wide stance for stable footing” is, to be charitable, a bit of poetic license. I can’t speak for others, but personally, even if I believed your claims of shock absorbency (which I don’t), I don’t particularly need a “shock absorbing base” for my coffee mug. I may be worried about spilling my coffee, but I’m rarely concerned with the possibility of bruising it. As for its “extra-wide stance”: I think you may have misinterpreted the primary functions which this unit will fulfill with your customer base. I think it is safe to say that very few of your customers will be sipping lattes from their new travel mug while plowing through the chop of the Pacific ocean on a Zodiac, on a mission to harass Russian whaling vessels. If they are carrying the mug during periods of instability at all, they no doubt will be leaving it sealed. Most if not all of your potential customers will be using this product in their cars (where the stability would be greatly enhanced by the ability to fit in a car’s cup holder) or in the home or at the office (where people have survived the imbibing of hot beverages without the intervention of an extra-wide rubberized shock-absorbing base since time immemorial).

Element 5 Travel Tumbler

The second and most important problem with the Element 5 is the size of the internal opening. Ideally, the diameter of the inner opening should be as close to the diameter of the rest of the vessel as is possible to allow the unobstructed flow of the contents. The comparatively tiny diameter of the Element 5’s opening makes it almost impossible to retrieve the last three or four ounces of liquid from the mug without upending the thing over your head. In a stationary environment like a home or office setting this is an annoying inconvenience; in a moving vehicle this could conceivably be quite dangerous. This design oversight keeps me from using the Element 5 during my regular commute, which is a shame, given all of the unit’s other redeeming qualities.

All in all, the Element 5 is an excellent product with a couple of serious design oversights that keep it from being the ultimate insulated travel mug it was destined to be. As it is, it is merely penultimate, suitable for a number of special-purpose situations but less than ideal for everyday use. It is my fervent hope that you will attend to these design problems and re-engineer the product to overcome them. If you do, I hereby promise that I will buy the new and improved Element 5 for everyone on my gift list. And possibly a few extra for complete strangers.

12/5/2007

Good Week For Bad Referrers

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:05 am

Hot on the heels of masturbating dachshunds (yow, there’s an image I’d just as soon have scraped out of my brain; sorry about that), I pulled this one from my referrer log last night.

At 11:30 yesterday morning, someone from the Tukwila, Washington pool of Qwest DSL addresses hit my blog from a Google search for the following phrase:

haikus on truth in lending act

Strangely enough, my site came in #1, despite a complete lack of haiku on the topic of the truth In Lending Act. Sorry, Sir or Madam, if you feel you have reached my humble space on the Infobahn in error. Perhaps this tone poem I composed on the subject of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission will help ease your pain….?

No, not really. 🙂

On the subject of the Truth In Lending Act though; I don’t know if these bozos advertise in other states (though I imagine that they do), but there is a mortgage broker making the rounds on the AM airwaves called TILA Mortgage (horrible Web site design! I wouldn’t buy an aquarium pump from someone with a site this crappy-looking, much less a 30-year financial commitment). They offer all of the usual stuff these types of outfit typically do—no closing fees, low interest rates, free under-the-table handjob at signing—but the truly bizarre thing about this company is their ad pitch.

At some point in every radio spot, the announcer says, “TILA, spelled ‘T-I-L-A’, stands for the Truth In Lending Act!”

Um, why yes, you’re right, it does! Not that the Truth in Lending Act has anything whatsoever to do with you or your company, outside of the fact that you’re supposed to follow it, which by attempting to falsely connect yourself to same in the eyes of the consumer you are probably not. But thanks anyway for pointing that out!

I’m fascinated: does this actually work on some people? If so, I’m tempted to bankroll the creation of a new mortgage broker service and call it Jesus Christ Mortgage Services. “Jesus, spelled ‘J-E-S-U-S’, stands for our Lord and Savior!” Then I’ll just sit back and let the mortgages roll in.

12/4/2007

Still A Few Bugs In The System

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:39 am

Every once in a while, a really juicy hit to my referrer log sips by me the first time, and I only find it at the beginning of the following month, when my automated traffic analysis software parses the previous months’ W3SVC logs. Just dug this one out of my November’s detailed access report.

Okay, so no search engine is perfect. I think we’re all aware of that, we’ve all seen it in action. And God knows I’ve waxed poetic/polemic/pathetic about it before. But given the near-ubiquity of the venerable Google in this highly contested arena, it’s interesting that you can still stumble across search results that can give one pause. Or, at other times, give one a petit mal seizure.

An example? Why yes, certainly, thanks so much for asking!

How about the surfer from North Dakota who made it to my site in early November via a Google search of the phrase, “our dachsund masturbates with herself”?

Excuse me; my grammar was a bit off. I really should have composed that last sentence thusly:

How about the surfer from North Dakota who made it to my site in early November via a Google search of the phrase, “our dachsund masturbates with herself” ? ! ? ? ? ! ! ! ! ? ! ! ? ? ? ? ! ? ! ! ! ! ! ! ? ? ! ! ! ? ! ? ? ? ? ? ? ?

Yes, that’s better.

Of course, I just had to scout around and try to follow the search back to the source. Not the source of the query itself (though I did find it quite amusing that the IP address of my visitor came from a block of addys owned by—ahem—Dickey Rural Networks), but rather back to and through the pages (and pages, and pages) of results returned by said query. I was just dying to know where my site fit into the overall scheme of dachshund-self-gratification-related search results. (And oh my God, I can’t wait to see what kind of searches wash up on the shores of Uncle Andrew dot Net after this entry gets spidered a few dozen times. Maybe it’ll even knock “Erin Esurance Nude” out of the #1 spot in my referrer log.)

Funny thing was, after trawling about twenty pages of search results, I had yet to see any traces of my site listed among the retuns (and boy, would I like to expunge those fifteen or so minutes from my memory, lemmetellyou). I can’t imagine this person digging down further than two hundred results to try to find the answer to his or her—question? problem? proud proclamation?—so I gave up.

This leaves me with a bit of a conundrum, though. I can only think of two likely explanations for the sudden appearance and subsequent disappearance of a link to my blog from a Google search such as this.

The first explanation is that, in the intervening time between the date of the search and the date I discovered it, dozens or even hundreds of more relevant sites on the topic of dachshund masturbation rose to ascendancy in the informational firmament, and my site with its humble offerings was knocked many, many rungs down the ladder. I can only pray that this is the true reason for the sudden change in my ranking.

Because the only other way I can see this scenario playing out involves the searcher in question typing, “our dachsund masturbates with herself” into the Google search window….

and hitting “I’m Feeling Lucky“. 😯

12/2/2007

Horrifying Revelation In Bellevue

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 3:02 pm

Not my first, certainly, but quite possibly the most intense.

Okay, so Margaret and I had to head up to Kirkland for my post-surgical followup with my back surgeon on Friday. (All is well, by the way; my surgeon, my wife and my self are all delighted with the results, and hope to see even more progress when I start physical therapy in a couple of months.) Amazingly, the entire appointment, including the commute to the East Side, took only an hour and a half. By comparison, I have never been able to get out of an appointment at my doctor’s Seattle office in less than two hours, and have at times been there for more than three and, in one memorable case, was not able to see him at all because the mollusk manning the phone carefully and deliberately set me up for an appointment in Seattle on a day when my doctor was seeing patients in Kirkland. Doctor Roh is an excellent surgeon and I would recommend him unreservedly, but his Seattle office staff needs some serious retooling. I may continue to set up my appointments at his Kirkland office, if this trend continues.

(Off topic: as usual, Interstate 405 was looking like steaming crap during the morning commute, so we elected to take Interstate 5 to Interstate 90. A prudent plan. However, while taking our morning soak in the tub, I got the phrase “5 to 90” stuck in my head, and five minutes later I had the entire chorus for a terrible cover of Chamillionaire’s Ridin’:

We need to roll in
to Kirkland
but 405 sucks so let’s take 5 to 90

Better just take 5 to 90
Really oughta take 5 to 90
Let’s just take 5 to 90
Why don’t we take 5 to 90

You know I can’t stand
the traffic
So if it’s alright let’s just take 5 to 90

Better just take 5 to 90
Really oughta take 5 to 90
Let’s just take 5 to 90
Why don’t we take 5 to 90

Thank God I have absolutely no skills as a rapper; else I might have been tempted to take a shot at the first stanza and we might never have gotten to my appointment on time.)

Anyway, after the appointment we decided to run a couple of errands and then go to lunch at the outstanding Dixie’s Barbecue in Bellevue. We went to the bank and then dropped by Crossroads Appliance to pick up some cleaning gunk for our glass-topped stove. We walked into the massive labyrinth of stoves, fridges, range hoods and washer/dryer sets and navigated our way to the back where the cleaning supplies were.

We trundled our purchases over to the sales counter—there are approximately ten different counters in this particular store, each with a computer terminal and a place in front of which to stand; someone had to point out to us which one was actually for buying stuff at—and Margaret busted our her checkbook to pay for the stuff.

And here, our nightmare begins.

I won’t bore you with the details (“but you would bore us with your horrible rap cover?” Yeah, well….), but all in all it took twenty minutes and three employees to process the check and finalize our purchase. Counter Monkey 1 couldn’t figure out how to enter a check into the computer system; she needed the help of Counter Monkey 2 to puzzle out the arcana of payment method, check number, amount, etc. But Counter Monkey 2 didn’t understand the verification process, and after some minutes of ablutions before the computer had to enlist the help of the accountant, who turned out to be out to lunch. Finally they managed to track down Middle Management Monkey, who understood the verification system and got our check processed. And off we went. At a dead run, lest they call us back to request a stool sample or some other form of identification they may have forgotten.

Now to be perfectly honest, everyone was very apologetic about the whole incident. They were appropriately aghast at their inability to handle the transaction with more speed.

But just today it hit me with the force of a pillowcase full of Brach’s Caramels to the back of the head: we had experienced the very scenario depicted in those horrible Visa commercials, against which I had railed in the past:

When I realized what had happened, my vision blurred, my head was filled with the song Brazil and my outraged brain began to savage itself, then threatened to implode, taking my skull with it.

We’re almost there, people: the consumer-credit utopia so long dreamt of by the financial institutions is nearly upon us. Best dust off your Equifax rating, gird your Gold Card and prepare for the future, lest you be rated Sub Prime and be forced to labor in the data mines of Amexopolis. This has been a public service announcement. 😯

12/1/2007

Now I Know I Can’t Be Somehow Getting It Right….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:07 am

….but given the number of folks I see getting it totally wrong, that’s the only conclusion I can come to.

Case in point: I made some yummy roast pork the other day. Pork loins rubbed in garlic, seared, then baked in a dutch oven with some beer, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, fresh rosemary, some potatoes from Margaret’s garden and some carrots (not from Margaret’s garden). Heavenly, if extremely simple. Being of the Costco tribe, there was plenty left over, so I jokingly told her, “take some for lunch tomorrow; make all your coworkers jealous.”

She did, and they were. One of the front desk folks walked by her as she was nuking her lunch and made some sort of appreciative comment. But her true amazement came when my sweetie informed her offhandedly that (gasp!) her husband had cooked it! Exclamations to the effect of, “I can’t ever get my husband to cook; either I do it, or we order out” followed.

This is hardly the first time I have heard this sort of thing from Margaret. Every place she has worked, she has brought home tales of her female coworker’s ceaseless wonder at my willingness to cook, to clean, to basically divide the household chores down the middle and consistently complete my half. It’s not universal, certainly, but the scenario presents itself often enough that I would be willing to guess that the majority of the female staff in her various places of work have considered our egalitarian domestic relationship to be the exception rather than the rule.

Every time I hear one of these tales, I have approximately the same reaction: do these women somehow manage to miss the fact that they are making these observations….at work? You know, pretty much the exact same circumstances that their darling hubbies/boyfriends/domestic partners are experiencing day to day?

Another example: every once in a while I send Margaret flowers at work. No particular reason; I just happened to have thirty or forty bucks burning a hole in my pocket and decided against all of my usual impulses to not spend it on myself. When the flowers arrive, the response from Margaret’s female colleagues is invariably along the lines of, “oh, Man, Andrew must have really messed up!”

What? Whatwhatwhat?

My initial impulse to take offense is almost immediately suffused in an overwhelming sense of pity for these women. I can’t help but feel sorry for anyone who only receives tokens of affection from their significant other when said other (“said other”?) has first done something to really piss them off. That’s nothing but sad.

And just so we’re all on the same page here, I don’t consider myself to be some kind of award-winning life partner. I’m a good husband: I make sure my wife knows how much I love her, I do my chores, I have the common sense to turn our household finances over to her so that we have a house and a retirement fund instead of a shitload of cool electronics and tens of thousands of dollars of credit card debt. But I’m not one of those husbands in the Kay Jewelers commercials. I don’t shower my sweetie with gifts, compose her love poems, take her out dancing (hate dancing, have ever since some girls made fun of me at a dance in sixth grade….yes, I’m still working out shit that happened to me a quarter-century ago, you got a problem with that?), I don’t fill the bedroom with candles and rose petals. And yes, I occasionally make a selfish, immature ass of myself and have to rethink my game plan and maybe make amends. I’m not fairy tale good. I’m not even FTD-ad good. But I’m good.

But my God, how low, how selfish, how unfathomably crummy do all these other boyfriends, husbands, life partners and fuck-buddies out there in the world have to be to make me feel—much less look—like Husband of the Year? We’re not even talking about the abusers, the embezzlers, the cowards who refuse to tarp their load and then run like rabbits when they find themselves on the threshold of Daddydom. This is a higher order of domestic life form than these despicable human skidmarks. But, in one sense, these middle-of-the-road types are even harder to justify to my way of thinking than the true predators out there. A woman—I’m restricting these observations primarily to the heterosexual relationship, though of course every possible human interrelational dynamic must apply to both hetero- or homosexual couples, but my personal observations tend to be geared more towards my own orientation—who gets into a relationship with a pure abuser is likely to do so because of some pathology of her own, over which she may not have much control at this stage in her life. But the woman who finds herself “trapped” in a relationship with an irresponsible foot-dragging recliner carbuncle would seem to have far less to explain her choice….or at least her continued refusal to choose an alternative. Oh, sure, she’s probably still acting out the roles she experienced at home as a child, as is the guy in this scenario. But we’re all Adult Survivors of Childhood to one degree or another; at some point you have to start acting on your own initiative and in your own best interest. A pathological tendency towards shacking up with bums would seem to be on the lower end of the scale in terms of behaviors to overcome.

Amongst our circle of friends there is almost none of this sort of dynamic between partners. There are a lot of factors involved in this, I am sure; level of education, level of income, family upbringing, to name a few. But the fact that these relationships are populated almost to a one by strong-willed women who simply do not tolerate this sort of bullshit factors heavily into it. While I am certain that all of my male counterparts in these couples are, like me, conscientious and attentive partners within the limits of our capabilities, were we to suddenly decide to comport ourselves otherwise, we’d have one or perhaps two chances to clean up our act before we were out on our asses.

And this is the way things should be. This is hardly an original observation, but men are like dogs; we’re opportunistic and aggressive, but with a little effort we can be domesticated. A bit of common sense in the initial selection is recommended, but the effort can really pay off.

And if for some reason the training doesn’t take hold, there are millions of us out there just waiting to be adopted into a good home. Just remember, ladies; the mutts and mongrels often make better pet—um, partners than the purebreds, no matter what we look like. 😉


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