Why I Hate Evite

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:19 pm

So picture me sitting around my house one afternoon, when suddenly I think to myself, “Hey, maybe I’ll call up a few friends, invite them over for dinner or a board game or something.”

Then the phone rings.

ME: Hello?

CALLER: Hey, don’t make that call just yet!

ME: Huh? Who is this?

CALLER: This is PhoneVite, the world’s most popular, 100% free phone-based invitation service!

ME: Who? PhoneWhat? How’d you get this number? Why are you calling me?

CALLER: We just wanted to offer you the chance to invite your friends over for dinner or a game tonight!

ME: Um, thanks, but that’s exactly what I was about to do when you interrupted me. I don’t need your help.

CALLER: Yeah, but you were just going to call them up. We’re offering to do it for you, the new, exciting PhoneVite way, for free!

ME: Meaning what, exactly?

CALLER: Well, instead of having to call all of your friends and invite them over, you just give all of their phone numbers to us. Then we call them all up for you and tell them to call a special PhoneVite number. Then when they call the number, they can listen to a special message from you telling them about the get-together! Then they can leave a message telling you whether they plan on coming, how many people they plan to bring, and anything else they think you ought to know. Then you call the number, and you can listen to all of the messages they left! It’s a snap!

ME: Hmm. Pardon my ignorance, but why in Christ’s name would I want to go through all that rigmarole instead of just picking up the damn phone and calling my friends?

CALLER: ‘Cuz then you wouldn’t be doing it the fast, fun PhoneVite way!

ME: Meaning….?

CALLER: Well, in addition to making all of the phone calls for you, we make the invitation fun!

ME: Through the process of….?

CALLER: We add cool music and sound effects and stuff to the phone call!

ME: Uh huh.

CALLER: PhoneVite takes all of the drudgery out of invitations!

ME: “Drudgery”?

CALLER: Sure! In the old days, if you called someone up to invite them over and they wanted to know who else was coming, they’d have to ask! With PhoneVite, all they have to do is call the special number, and we tell them who else is going to be there for you! Isn’t that great?

ME: Yeah, keen.

CALLER: And all for free!

ME: Actually, that’s another question I have. You don’t charge for any of this?

CALLER: Absolutely not! All 100% free!

ME: Why?

CALLER: Beg pardon?

ME: All of this stuff—the phone banks, the recording equipment, the music and sound effects—must cost a lot of money. Why are you doing this for free? What could possibly be your motivation?

CALLER: Oh—uh—because we love you!

ME: No, really.

CALLER: Welllll….we might just make a teensy bit of money on advertising.

ME: Advertising? Where does advertising come into this?

CALLER: Well, when your friends call back to hear about the invitation, they also get to hear about all the great products and services our partners have to offer!

ME: “Partners”??

CALLER: Oh, sure! Restaurants, mail-order catalogs, pharmaceutical companies, software vendors, consumer electronics manufacturers, sportswear suppliers, magazines, television networks, other phone-based service providers….y’know, cool stuff that hip, sophisticated people like you and your friends are just dying to hear more about!

ME: Uh huh. Look, who the hell are you people, anyway? Who owns PhoneVite?

CALLER: Oh, that’s a great story. PhoneVite was founded in 1998 by a couple of guys who just wanted to help folks keep in touch with each other!

ME: Yeah, great story. Who owns it now?

CALLER: Uh, well, it was acquired shortly thereafter by another highly respected conglomerate.

ME: Really? What else do they own?

CALLER: Oh, all sorts of stuff….hotel price finders….dating services….dial-a-joke numbers….er….TicketMaster….

ME: TicketMaster? The company that charges hundreds of percentages worth of markup for concert and other event tickets? The company well-known for its abusive privacy policy?

CALLER: Well, yeah….but some of those dial-a-jokes are really funny!

ME: So let me get this straight. You want me to hand the phone numbers of all of my friends over to some anonymous person on the phone, to do with as you please—

CALLER: Oh, no, we have a very strict privacy policy regarding the contact information we harvest—er, are given stewardship over by our customers. If you like, I can spend the next twenty minutes explaining it to you in exhaustive and bewildering detail, with lots of legal jargon!

ME: No thank you—to do with according to your current privacy policy, which might change at any moment—

CALLER: *Ahem* Well, yeah, sure….

ME: —in order to save me and my friends the horrible inconvenience of having to talk directly to each other about when and where we want to get together and who will be attending—

CALLER: Isn’t that great?

ME: —in exchange for which we will all be treated to a bunch of unsolicited advertising—

CALLER: And cool sound effects!

ME: —and cool sound effects. Have I got that all?

CALLER: You bet! So, who would you like us to call for you?

ME: I dunno, my lawyer? The cops? The Electronic Frontier Foundation?

CALLER: I don’t quite follow you.

ME: Allow me to elaborate. When I decide I want to give up valuable demographic information about all of my friends to a huge company with questionable practices in order to save myself the trouble of making a few phone calls, you’ll be the first people I contact. Until then, piss off.

CALLER: But—but we’re so easy and fun! And free!

ME: Buh-bye now.



Stay On Target….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:42 am

I’m finding it hard to think of witty or pithy things to say while people are cutting through the garage floor directly beneath me with jackhammers and concrete saws, so y’all will have to just entertain yourselves for a few days while the elves put in our new water and sewer lines. After which I plan to take a long hot shower while flushing several toilets, just because I can.

We know you have your choice of blogs, and we thank you for choosing Uncle Andrew dot Net.


Neologism Ripped From The Headlines

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:54 pm

In light of the announcement today, might I offer a timely addition to the Neologism section of Uncle Andrew dot Net.

From this date henceforth, a person who manages to envelop the dualistic traits of diminutiveness and grandiosity, ineffectuality and megalomania, shall henceforth be known as a Nader.

Here’s to hoping that everyone’s favorite squeaky wheel will forswear his share of the grease, come to his senses and simply fall off rather than upset the applecart for everyone.


A Multitudinous Melange of Margaret

Filed under: @ 10:06 am

Couldn’t resist finishing this off today. I was so tired last night that I couldn’t keep my eyes from crossing, but I can’t stand keeping this around for much longer.

Amongst the pile of dreck that came in the mail yesterday I was oh so overjoyed to find the following:

Mal*Wart Credit Card envelope

Oh Frabdjous Day! I’ve been pre-qualified for a Wal-Mart Credit Card? What an honor! I’ll open immediately and see inside for details………

Mal*Wart Credit Card application

Now it is unlikely that you, dear readers, will be able to read the text. Allow me to elaborate “all the privileges that come with The Card!”

*3 cents off per gallon gas discount

Ooo! a whole 3 cents! Thanks, but I’d prefer to pay more per gallon for my gas and have some sort of assurance that the majority of the employees of the company from which I purchase my fuel are covered by health insurance that ISN’T Medicaid.

*Get up to $60 quick cash at time of purchase.

So long as I don’t mind only getting $60 once per day and so long as I don’t mind paying…..

***22 PERCENT INTEREST on purchases and cash advances.
Actually the interest rate is even better than that. It’s not just a straight 22% interest (okay, in the interests of complete fairness, they didn’t say 22%, they said 21.6%), it’s a variable rate. So I could be paying 22% interest, or I could be paying more! YIPEEE!

I am torn between shredding this sucker and putting it in the worm bin, which is the eventual home of much of the product of my shredder, and using their postage paid envelope to send it back to them accompanied by a note detailing exactly where and exactly how far they can stuff it.


A Melange of Margaret

Filed under: @ 8:00 pm

Comment the first, or….

Why I Love Being Able To Listen to The BBC
By the time I leave work in the evenings it’s usually too late to be able to catch any NPR programming so I spend my trip home most evenings listening to the BBC World Service on KUOW. I enjoy getting the world news, I enjoy getting the perspective of news of the world from a country other than my own. GOD knows, I find the BBC news infinitely preferable than getting my news reports from the local network affiliates who seem much more interested in Brittney Spears than in whether or not Africa and the Middle East are in critical meltdown. Besides, I love British accents.

So anyway, on my way home from work last Wednesday evening. And since 2/3 of my commute is in a completely straight line, I usually hit shutoff and just keep going the way my nose is pointing until a light turns red in front of me or until (as eventually happens) my straight line runs out and I have to actually make a left turn. Which is why, when this particular segment came up on the news, I was able to give it my complete attention and rant joyously until I got home.


For those who aren’t able to follow the link, it’s a news story about how a group of university based scientists in Tokyo are in the testing phase of a special paper airplane.
Which they are going to send with the next Japanese astronaut that goes up to the space station.
So said Japanese astronaut can launch the paper airplanes during a space walk.
Back to Earth. 😯
Yes, they expect that these paper airplanes (perhaps paper isn’t quite the correct term. These are, in fact, paper based airplanes, but their base paper is mixed and coated with a substance that will allow them to withstand temperatures of greater than 300 celsius.) to survive atmospheric re-entry and to be retrieved from their landing sites.
The underlying idea is that the paper airplanes are prototypes for shape and design of a new reusable space vehicle.

And the whole thing is so cool I can hardly stand it.

Comment the second, or…

So toodling around Olympia a week or so ago, as I frequently do, I found myself in need of lunch. I stopped in at the Olympia Food Coop because they’ve got good sammiches, I can purchase a bottle of organic milk to go with said sammiches, and I like supporting local businesses. I grabbed my milk, I grabbed my banana and then went to the sammich cooler to peruse same.
I took my choice, a turkey and provolone (remarkably good provolone by the way, best I think I’ve ever had) on lovely seedy whole grain bread, and hit the checkout. It wasn’t until I unwrapped and started nomming on said sammich that I noticed the amusing bit.
The label on the wrapper listed the ingredients starting with the turkey, moving on to the provolone, the mustard, and the bread, then noting that the lubricating spread on said bread was Veganaise.
Now why, in the deli of a GROCERY STORE that carries other less expensive types of mayonnaise would one bother to put vegan mayonnaise on a sandwich with MEAT?! Let alone cheese. I was much amused.

Comment the third, or….

Finally, finally, FINALLY all of the pieces have fallen into place. The permit is ready, the funding is available and the contractor has given us a date. Yesterday I wrote a check for eighteen th…th…THOUSAND plus dollars to the local sewer district and as of Monday we’ll have a dude with a front end loader digging a bigass trench through our front yard. The better part of this is that, after they’re done digging a bigass trench through our front yard, they’re going to have to dig a bigass trench (this is so exciting) through our GARAGE FLOOR ❗ I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself.
I’m also lying through my teeth.
The next 6-8 weeks are going to be an unremitting pain in the ass as we have the sewer contractor hook us up to the sewer line that is now just off of our west property line. He will also be laying us a new water line from the main to the house so that hopefully we’ll be able to flush more than one toilet at a time and still have some expectation that they’ll both refill within less than half an hour apiece. Actually the sewer contractor is only going to take about 2-3 weeks, but when the sewer and water lines are done we’re going to do some new landscaping in the front yard, since it wasn’t too attractive to begin with and having a bigass trench dug through it isn’t going to improve the situation.
THEN when the landscaping is done (or as done as it will get as I’m going continue to be busy in the yard for what is likely to be years on end) we’re going to do some interior stuffs. We figured that since we were going to have to borrow the money to pay for the sewer and the water line, and since the bank seemed overjoyed to lend us money, we might as well go whole hog and get some inside projects done.
Coincidentally around the same time that the bank started falling over themselves to loan us money, Shawn announced that he’s going to be moving to a friend’s house in Seattle where he and Anastasia can each have a room. A better situation for him since he’ll be able to take the bus to work and certainly a better situation for Anastasia who is coming up on nine and needs her own space when she’s with her dad.
So when the sewer and the landscaping are done, we’re going to have a contractor come in and drywall and paint the basement. Andrew will move his office downstairs and I will move my office into his office temporarily. The contractor will then proceed to (snicker, giggle, guffaw, SHRIEK!) rip the bejesus out of our upstairs bathroom putting in a new toilet, sink, and shower. Oh, and new (not pink and white checked)Ugly Bathroom Floor flooring, new (not with dangling cut glass balls)Ugly Bathroom Light Fixture light fixtures, and (will the excitement never end!) PAINT (thus removing these eyesores)Ugly Bathroom WallpaperUgly Bathroom Tile. Now this part I am genuinely excited about.
While my office is in what is now Andrew’s office, I’ll be peeling the hideous wallpaperHideous Wallpaper My Study 1 Hideous Wallpaper My Study 2off of the walls in my study and painting at which point I’ll be moving my office back into my office and deciding whether or not I really want to go so far as to peel the (not so hideous) wallpaper off of the walls in Andrew’s study and painting that room too.
But since we’re also going to have new insulation installed in the attic and a shelf unit installed in the living room, I may decide at that point that the interior remodeling is done and just go crazy for a while.
We’ve often joked that we purchased the house from Mr. and Mrs. Holly Hobby based on the decor of the place when we moved in. Mister and Missus Holly Hobby and their, um, interesting decor Ugly Bathroom Striker Platewill finally be moving OUT of my house.
Or at least most of it. We’re not brave enough, or perhaps annoyed enough yet, to deal with the wallpaper in the dining room. It’s day will come.

Comment the fourth…

In General
I’ve just come back from my first foray at the 2008 Northwest Flower and Garden Show. This has always been a major addiction for me although I have scaled back over the last several years, only attending for 2 days instead of the whole 5. If you’ve never been I would certainly recommend it. I can smell the flowers in the gardens from half a block away and walking into the show itself you’re hit with an overlying scent (mostly of hyacinth, or at least that’s what I recognize most strongly) that is enough to give you hope in the middle of February, that spring will actually come. It’s glorious. And you can walk around for hours having random conversations with random people who are just as garden mad as yourself and will gleefully discuss everything from fertilizer to garden gnomes.
This year was extra exciting for me since I can look at the show gardens and I can look at the plants and other garden products and think…”AHA! This is something that will fit into my new front yard!”
And too, for me it’s a great opportunity to shut off all the other parts of my brain and just spend time thinking about growing things.

But that’s probably enough for me at this point. The next time I’ll tell you about my pre-approved Wal*Mart credit card!


Some Posts Just Write Themselves

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:23 am

I was listening to Morning Edition this morning (the late evening edition of Morning Edition is hard to come by) when I heard an article about the Supreme Court’s decision to hear a case regarding so-called “retaliation” lawsuits directed against companies who fire employees for complaining about racial discrimination. The major case cited in this hearing revolves around the former assistant manager of a restaurant who is suing under Section 1981 of the 1866 Civil Rights Act.

This is actually a sort of in-spirit revisiting of a previous ruling by the Supremes, which had already determined in past hearings that teachers and coaches could file suit for damages if fired for pointing out inequities in facilities provided for male and female students. The tone of the initial ruling would seem to apply in this situation as well, but that case was pursued under Title IX, which deals specifically with male-female inequities in education. The restaurant is protesting the legality of such a lawsuit, claiming that provisions for retaliatory damages are not explicitly written into the relevant statutes.

The complainant in the restaurant case was fired on what he alleges to be false charges that he left a safe open. He attests that in fact he was discharged for complaining to upper management about a manager making blatantly racist remarks in reference to both staff and customers, ultimately culminating in the firing of a long-time African American server with a stellar employment record.

This promises to be an interesting legal battle. Can an individual seek retaliatory damages against an employer because (s)he was fired for reporting racial discrimination? Is reporting Civil Rights violations afforded similar protection under current Civil Rights law as experiencing said violations? If not, should it be? And if it should, must the law be explicitly rewritten to accommodate the concept of suing for damages, or does the law as written offer sufficient precedent to allow for same?

But of course, I probably wouldn’t be writing about this if there weren’t a smart-ass punch line to be had, and here it is:

All in all, shouldn’t the plaintiff known what he was in for when he started working for—ahem—Cracker Barrel?

I am so sorry….I just couldn’t resist.


Required Eating

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:51 am

If you haven’t seen this, then you simply must:

Cookie Monster Visits NPR


Ghost Humpers

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:22 pm

True Confession Time here: I’ve long been a closet fan of the pseudoscientific “Mysteries of the Unknown”-type programs that have come and gone over the years. I cut my teeth in this particular genre at a young age. At a time when my wife was devouring The Lord of The Rings, my friend Mike Pearson’s mom decided, for whatever reason, to treat us to a dramatic reading of The Amityville Horror. My first personal sojourn into the literature was a Scholastic Books title called Monsters, Giants and Little Men From Mars. There was also a panoply of motion pictures in the oeuvre released around that time. Bigfoot, The Mysterious Monster; Chariots of The Gods; The Amazing World of Psychic Phenomena. All of it extra-chewy mind taffy for the over-nourished imagination. With similar sticky and corrosive results.

Now, as an adult, I get my fix with the cream of the newest crop of these things, The Sci Fi Channel’s Ghost Hunters.

Ghost Hunters is a great program that attempts to debunk claims of hauntings or paranormal phenomena in the places the team (The Atlantic Paranormal Society, or TAPS) visits. They use a combination of modern sensing and recording technology and accumulated lore regarding the circumstances of hauntings. The whole thing certainly might be a contrivance, like the “Alien Autopsy” video of the 90’s, but I don’t think so. For one thing, the “actual” paranormal events that TAPS does manage to capture in some form or another are never the kind of barn-burner that a TV producer would dream up. Many episodes end with TAPS founders Jason Hawes and Grant Wilson concluding that they could find no evidence of paranormal activity, much less a bona-fide haunting; no one actually in charge of selling this program to advertisers would dare do such a thing if left to their own devices. But the evidence they do collect is often amazing: the silhouette of a figure in period clothing seeming to stand in an empty doorway of a Civil-War-era morgue, visible only via the infra-red camera; a camp chair moving a foot or more across the floor of a supposedly haunted lighthouse; the Digital Audio Tape deck slung across the torso of a of a sound man being propelled upward into his face by no visible means, knocking him over. When things do happen, they can be quite compelling. And when they don’t—which is much of the time—no one tries to make more of it than it really is.

By contrast, if you haven’t yet done so, you simply must take in at least a single episode of Arts and Entertainment Network’s new blockbuster, Paranormal State. Try not to do it during dinner, though, or you’re likely to asphyxiate on a piece or broccoli while overcome with a fit of the giggles.

The contrast between TAPS and the team from the Penn State Paranormal Research Society (totally unaffiliated with Penn State University so far as I can tell; I can’t fathom why they let these bozos even mention their school), the focus of the A&E program Paranormal State, could not be more glaring, nor more amusing. Where TAPS appears to be founded and staffed largely by level-headed adults attempting to use technology and Occam’s Razor to uncover the true nature of the cases they investigate, PPRS would seem by all appearances to be a gaggle of peri-hysterical post-teenagers using technology to tart up a most un-hidden agenda of faith-based witch hunting and the sowing of low-grade panic. And probably some other hyphenated stuff I couldn’t come up with on the spur of the moment.

The Penn State Paranormal Research Society is run by a guy named Ryan Buell. According to the lead-in for Paranormal State, he was terrified by paranormal phenomena that happened to/around him as a child, and has been searching for “the truth” ever since. This may be presumptuous and inappropriate, but it is the consensus around our household that the paranormal phenomena that so tormented young Ryan was probably Satan telling him to touch another boy’s wiener. Mr. Buell has that pent-up, overly zealous, hyperreligious and semidissociated affect that would probably best be cured with a long sensual massage by a sleek male Penn State Swim Team member. We could be wrong, of course, but ’round these parts Paranormal State is known as Latent Homosexual Ghost Hunters.

This conviction on our part lends so well to the overall theme of the program, which seems to be, “human and nonhuman spirits lurk around every corner, just waiting for our crack team of nineteen-year-olds to come in, sit round the house asking questions to the air, shoot some low-light video, then banish them forever with a blessing, some holy water on the door frames and some religious medals buried in the yard.” No shit, this is how every episode ends; PPRS and household members holding hands in prayer circles, telling the spirits to move on. Nothin’ to haunt here, Buddy, getcher ass movin’. Oh, and a “Director’s Log” entry overdub by Mr. Buell, recorded with that hoary old staticy “over intercom” voice effect that was super-popular on Nine Inch Nails albums in the 90s, talking about how satisfied he is with the results of his team’s efforts.

The single finest example of the hooey that this show—and similar endeavors of this particular stripe—promulgates is “Dead Time”. The PPRS team conducts the bulk of its “investigation” at 3:00am, the “Anti Hour”. This is the hour at the opposite end of the clock from 3:00pm, the hour at which Christ was supposedly crucified, and is supposed to be the time of highest spiritual activity and therefore the best time to try to contact the spirit world. Gotta wonder: why do you suppose Elementals, Residuals, Shadow People, and the myriad animal spirits from the Native American pantheon might possibly give a teeny-tiny tin shit when Christ was killed? But supposing they all do, that every scintilla of discorporated spiritual energy in the Universe, intelligent or otherwise, is tied directly like a celestial EEG to the moment of Christ’s death: 3:00pm. And that, therefore, they all reach their own pinnacle of terrestrial activity at the “opposite” hour, 3:00am. Would that be 3:00am Pacific, Mountain or Eastern? Or is it Jerusalem Local? Greenwich Mean? Do you take Daylight Savings into effect? Believing that the time of the Crucifixion warps itself temporally around your particular point on the globe is exactly the kind of noodle-brained thinking that gives real spirituality a bad name. Like believing that praying for your football team will actually help them to make the playoffs, such a philosophy is wanking at best, sacrilege at worst. And it would seem to have little to do with your chances of capturing some usable EVPs.

The technology aspect is one of the most amusing. TAPS uses an array of devices—infrared and night-vision video, electromagnetic field (EMF) detectors, laser spot thermometers, digital audio devices—to try to capture phenomena for later analysis. PPRS brings all of the same sort of equipment along on their jaunts as well; they just don’t seem to use it to capture evidence. Instead, their equipment seems to be mostly used to capture footage of each other as they sit in prayer circles, exhorting the purported spirits to come forth and reveal themselves. There is little to no empiricism in their endeavors; rather, the whole thing reads like a slumber-party Ouiji Board session. A group of kids is sitting in a circle in a haunted house. One says, “I just got a chill.” Another one then says, “Yeah, me too!” Minutes pass, then a third student will say, “did anyone else just hear breathing?” and a fourth will exclaim, “Yeah, yeah, I did.” Then their leader rolls his eyes toward the ceiling and says in sepulchral tones, “are you the spirit who is plaguing this family?”

When the members of PPRS do manage to use their equipment in the actual pursuit of ghosts, they are just as likely to misuse it. I watched an episode recently where the team was sitting in a house reported by its owners as haunted (here’s another wonderful little bit of tid: while all of these types of shows use creepy music and sound effects to add “atmosphere” to the program, Paranormal State goes all-out, off the plank and right the fuck overboard with it. Watching the show is like listening to Disney’s old “Chilling Thrilling Sounds of the Haunted House” album) and one of the team was flailing a FLIR camera around, trying to get an infrared image of the source of some spooky sound they heard. Over the infrared-enhanced video of an upper corner of the room, the student is heard to say, “the temperature’s dropping!” (In case you aren’t up-to-date on ghost lore, it is theorized that some spirits may draw thermal energy out of the surrounding air when trying to manifest themselves, which may be the source of the “cold spots” often reported at the scene of hauntings.) Problem is, a FLIR camera is not a thermometer: it can give you the temperature of a specific surface, but it does not read the ambient temperature of the air. The girl wielding the FLIR was waving it around, pointing the thermal sensor at various points on the wall. Those points just happened to be progressively cooler, which is why the temperature readout dropped from a high of about 73 to a low of about 66. Spooooooky. 🙄

They never, ever seem to capture even the most remotely categorizable evidence on all of their high-tech toys. A motion detector will go off upstairs, but they either won’t have a camera trained on the area or it won’t capture anything (which leads one to the obvious question: why would a spirit which had sufficiently physically manifested itself to set off a motion detector not also be visible to a camera? Is it the ghost of a dead Predator?). Someone will distinctly hear a voice saying the name “Katie” over their headphones, but the audio clip will never be replayed for the benefit of the TV audience. In one episode, an infrared imaging device reveals a strangely hand-like outline on a wall just before the music swells and they cut to commercial; after the break, the outline is never mentioned again, leading one to deduce that it was probably exactly that: a thermal handprint left by one of the team or the A&E crew. Ha ha, made you stay through the ads!

The PPRS also relies heavily on the use of mediums—that most evocative and ultimately unverifiable of spook detectors—which is another major contrast between themselves and TAPS, who at most will avail themselves of high-strung and laughably melodramatic local “expert” Barry Fitzgerald on their spin-off show Ghost Hunters International. PPRS’s stable of prevaricating cold-readers is headed up by (the also not [totally {gay}]) Chip Coffey. Coffey is a master of the sacred and ancient art of walking into a house, squeezing his eyes shut and telling Buell, “Something here doesn’t want you here. It’s going to try to break up your team, to put you off your stride. It knows you’re here, and it doesn’t like it.” You know it’s going to be a good time when Chip arrives on the scene. Someone really needs to throw together a drinking game around his most popular phrases.

I’ve kvetched long enough. Personally, I tend to believe in the existence of ghosts and other paranormal-kind stuffs, based on some personal and shared experiences. But what the dedicated airheads of Paranormal State do isn’t investigation; it’s the scientific equivalent of standing in a darkened bathroom and chanting “Bloody Mary!” ten times. With twenty thousand dollars’ worth of A/V equipment and a camera crew in there with you. But this is no reason to not watch the show, oh Heavens to Besty, no! I record every episode. They’re hysterical, in every sense of the word.

The theory around our house is that funniness can neither be created nor destroyed. This has helped us to develop the bare bones of a Unified Funny Theory for TV shows, which states in part that not all TV comedies can be equally funny all of the time in a single broadcast time period. If a given weekly episode of South Park is funny, then The Boondocks for that week is likely to suck, and vice versa. If both Boondocks and South Park are dry holes that week, then The Simpsons is likely to be an absolute gasser.

At odds with this theoretical model is the presence of shows that are supposed to be serious, but in fact are so bad they’re hilarious. This form of zero-point hilarity seems not to require the drawing off of essential funniness from adjacent comedic programs, but instead grows in inverse proportion to the desire of the producers to generate serious dramatic programming, seemingly in violation of the laws of entertainment physics.

Hence, Paranormal is not only a knee-slapping good time, it’s bleeding-edge Science—although perhaps not the type its progenitors intended–in the making. Come along for the ride, won’t you? I promise—really promise—it won’t be a bit scary. 😛


Life: It Just Gets Better and Better….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 5:02 pm

Until you just wish you could strangle on your own tongue. Or at least sit around doing nothing but smoking opium and playing video games.

I have said, often and publicly, that the Macintosh is not the greatest computer of all time; merely the easy equal of its biggest competitor and by far the best choice for the neophyte computer user. I say this now because I don’t want some wag giving me a hard time when I subsequently announce that, at approximately three o’clock yesterday afternoon, the most recent update to the Mac OS X operating system nommed down on my hard drive and shook it like a terrier with a tube sock.

After the update finished installing and my system rebooted, the problems began cascading down upon me. My .Trashes files disappeared, so I could no longer drag files to the Trash; I lost the ability to repair permissions on the system volume, whether live from the drive, from the OS X install CD, or from another Mac via FireWire Target Disk Mode; and I lost the ability to apply further software updates. Any attempt to do so resulted in an error: “The installer could not install some files in ‘/’. Contact the software manager for assistance.” Hours of testing with diagnostic programs yielded no improvements, hours of scouring the Web yielded few answers. There seem to be a few people out there who are experiencing the same problem, but none of us seem to know what to about it, at least not yet. I have no doubt that some genius with a mind like a steel trap and an encyclopaedic knowledge of the underpinnings of BSD and OS X will come up with a solution….but I’m hedging my bets. I just bunged a new 500-gig hard drive into my Mac and am busily slurping everything off of my old system volume.

One of the many wonderful things about the Mac OS is the Migration Assistant. If you have any kind of backup of your drive (and if you don’t, no offense or nothing, but you’re an idiot. Either that, or you really don’t think the information on your computer is worth the two hundred bucks it would take for get an external hard drive and some sort of backup software), you can use Migration Assistant to pull all of your files—not just settings and data, but user accounts, applications, the works—from your backup into a fresh copy of the operating system. This is a huge improvement over Windows’ “Files and Settings Transfer Wizard”, which can only copy data and settings files; you have to reinstall all of your programs one by one, unless you have a complete clone of your Windows hard drive available to restore to a new drive. With Migration Assistant, you can restore your computer from the old system drive, from a backup, from a disk image….you can even import all the information from a completely different kind of Mac; the Migration Assistant will pull over the compatible stuff and ignore the data that’s machine-specific (specialized drivers or system files, for instance). I’ve really found no better system out there for restoring a computer to the full bloom of health—or, barring that, turning a new computer into a faithful reproduction of the old one.

I’m irrationally exuberantly optimistic that I can get my G5 back up to full fighting trim by the end of this evening (this evening technically ending at 11:59:59pm). If not, you might be reading about it here. Also, cock your ear out the window: you may just hear the strings of profanity emanating from the direction of Normandy Park.


Brief Roomination

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:13 am

I’ve been really busy lately, but I have a quick existential question for y’all before I take off for work:

If you are on the phone with your mail-order pharmacy, and you are waiting on hold to place an order, and the song they have chosen to play as their hold music is Jim Croce’s “Time in a Bottle“….are you still alive? Or have you instead died while waiting on hold, and this is your eternal punishment in the underworld?


Won’t You Help Save Poor Blowjo?

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:53 pm

Many will find this less than funny. For no particular reason. I found it hysterical.

If your sense of humor tends towards the demented, go check out this entry on The Sneeze.

Too bad this occurred months after Greenpeace concluded their contest to name that baleen whale; I think Blowjo B. Hobo might have given Mister Splashy Pants a real run for his money. 😆


The Nerdliness….It Calls To Me….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:03 pm

In case you don’t wander the halls of Fark, Endgadget or Kotaku (and, if not, what the hell is wrong with you, got a life or something?), you may have missed this. A gentleman in Linden, Virginia has constructed a full-sized 80’s-style video game arcade on his property, filled to the rafters with classic coin-op video games. This guy has really done it up right: from the vintage posters on the walls down to the fluorescent space-themed carpet design glowing beneath the banks of black lights hanging from the ceiling, this setup is the coin-op enthusiast’s wet dream. Unfortunately, the arcade is only for the delectation of owner Peter Hirschberg’s family and close friends; it’d probably be worth a trip to the East Coast to visit the thing. Particularly seeing as how he has a vintage Atari Battle Zone game in his collection. I was a fiend on that particular machine: spent many an hour quaffing Coke Slurpees and playing on a single quarter down at the Kailua 7-Eleven. I bet if I got through that door, I’d still walk out only one quarter lighter. It’s all in the way you handle the missiles.

There’s an excellent little article about the arcade at washingtonpost.com.


Style? Substance? Stability? Bueller?

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:14 am

Brownsox over at Daily Kos had a great piece today about why he cast his vote for Hillary Clinton, and I found myself agreeing with him almost completely. I’m really torn about the question of who to vote for, and will probably not make up my mind until the #2 graphite touches down on the mail-in ballot.

It’s hard to argue with the main thrust of Obama’s campaign; the idea of change. Numbed by war, steeped in debt, reviled yet feared by much of the world, how can the American public be expected to do anything but stomp their feet at shout “Yee-HAW!” at the idea of a tidal shift in the vector of our nation? And yet, this may be as good a time as any to remind oneself that change can be good or bad. It depends on the change.

Sometimes it’s really hard to remember that, once you’ve stripped away all the window-dressing, Clinton’s and Obama’s goals for the nation are not terribly, cosmically different. Obama may have been against the (stupid, stupid) war in Iraq from the beginning, but that doesn’t mean that he would unilaterally and instantaneously evacuate our military from operations there upon taking the oath of office, any more than President Hillary would use her inauguration to exuberantly pledge our troops to another ten years in the desert. On health care, both candidates want a form of quasi-nationalized health insurance, with coverage portability, incentives for businesses to contribute to the health care of their employees, and stronger government oversight of health care quality, access and affordability. Both Obama and Clinton have similar—and frankly, similarly vague—plans to rework the quagmire that is our current immigration law. They both support similar policies regarding the environment and energy independence, with cap-and-trade systems for reducing pollution and greenhouse gas emissions (boo), combined with mandatory increases in fuel efficiency and heavy subsidies for development of clean alternative energy sources (yay). Given their similarities, I think either would make a good President.

(Then again, as brownsox put it so eloquently, I would vote for, work for and donate to a can of Seagram’s ginger ale if it were on the Democratic ticket this fall.)

But for all of their similarities, Obama is the one who commands my attention. He brings across the message of inclusion and, dare I say it, hope, with flair and a sense of dedication to his cause. His skills as an orator are unrivaled in this race. He manages to make everything he says in his speeches sound extemporaneous, as though the words occurred to him only just then. (I still can’t get over how many people seem to think of our current Prez as a “straight shooter” chiefly because he has a mouth full of marbles. I’d like to think that the average conservative in this country is capable of less binary intellectual transactions than, “Bill Clinton is a great public speaker and I hate Bill Clinton; George W Bush talks like a Golden Retriever with ADD, therefore I love George W Bush.” But the anti-intellectual sentiment in this country seems fairly thick at the moment.)

By contrast, everything Hillary says seems to have been read off a TelePrompTer; it’s intelligent, it’s eloquent, but it has no real heart to it. Obama has Presence. And, by extension, Presidence.

But dammit, I don’t want to be swept off my feet by some smooth talker. Even if he is by all accounts fantastically intelligent. Even if he does seem to represent the diametric opposite of the same old ossified Repu shit we’ve been clawing our way through for the last seven years. Even if it would be almost excruciatingly fun to watch the conservative infosphere implode as it tried to discover the magic turn of phrase that would allow its warlocks to cast their evil spells without revealing themselves as racist. Even if there’s something just so fucking cool about the idea of driving a stake into the—well, maybe not the heart, but at least the spleen, maybe—of institutionalized white privilege by electing a black man to the highest office of the land, and what that might say to the rest of the world about just how far we’ve come.

Oh dear: I’ve gone and ranted about it until it sounds like a good idea again.

But while all that sounds almost irresistibly yummy, I have to remind myself again that this may be the time for some more basic, reliable fare; a nice healthy bowl of soup instead of the surf and turf. I think Clinton is highly intelligent, quick-witted, and dedicated. She seems to share my views on many topics vital to the health of the nation. To be honest, I think that I would probably like the overall tone of her presidency better than that of her husband’s.

With Hillary, I’m pretty sure of what I’m going to get, and at a time when just about everything else seems in flux, that kind of assurance isn’t to be taken lightly. Even if it’s sure to come with a heaping side order of some of the nastiest partisan rancor in the history of modern American politics.

And it’d still be a helluva milestone. The first female President of the United States is no small achievement. You go girl, indeed. 😀

My ballot is sitting on the desk in front of me, gazing up expectantly. I wish I knew what I’m going to tell it.


Good Kitties

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:17 am

Look, it’s not really my intention to drive all of our friends and family away from our blog by constantly recounting the pain we endured with the recent loss of our last cat. After all, something along the lines of 55 million human-type people died last year of natural causes alone, and I’m sure at least a few of them were great folks, nearly as nice as our cats. 😉

We’re not sitting around poaching in our own bitter tears, honestly we’re not. And I truly hope that this isn’t getting just horrendously old to y’all. But something happened today that was so amusing and yet so heartbreaking that I just had to jot it down.

It all started at dinner. We decided to have tuna melts: you know, tuna salad on toasted bread with cheese melted over it. We haven’t had tuna melts in—Christ, six months, maybe as long as a year?—so it seemed high time to have them again.

Only as Margaret was preparing the tuna salad, dumping the briny water from the last can into the sink, it suddenly struck us: no one came to investigate. We weren’t treated to the deafening thunder of tiny hooves on the linoleum. No one stropped our ankles, hitting us up for a shot of that good stuff. For the first time in over fifteen years there were no cats to interrupt our dinner preparations with demands that we share our piscean bounty. This made us both suddenly and terribly sad.

Then a wonderful idea struck me. I trundled downstairs and returned with a fresh can of tuna. I opened it up, but kept the lid on and the liquid inside. I then led Margaret out back to the rose arbor she had erected on the site where we had buried Scamper last year, planting a rose bush to mark his grave. There, giggling and crying and holding each other, we squeezed the tuna water out of the can and onto the ground underneath the rose arbor, tipping a six, as it were, to our family members who could not be with us that day.

Good kitties.

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