3/31/2008

Just Too Cool….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:05 am

In case you missed it:

A retrospective of Al Jaffee’s MAD fold-Ins

3/30/2008

Remodel Week 5

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 12:29 pm

The Saga Of The Shower

Sadly continues. Last Saturday after much hair tearing and quite literally hours of net searches, telephone calls, measuring tapes, and so forth we FINALLY had the products that we wanted in sizes that would fit our requirements. I had called the manufacturer (this is the worst name in the history of prefab shower stalls), Mustee, and explained our size needs. I spoke with a very nice lady in Ohio who pointed me to exactly what we needed and told me where to find the installation instructions on their website. Good. WONderful.
I spoke with a very nice lady, Sue, at McLendon hardware in Renton to determine whether or not they carried the correct (snerk!) Mustee products. They did, Sue gave me the prices and the correct order numbers.
So we went to McLendon Hardware. Sue was not there. We got to talk with Jean.

Have you ever watched the movie Office Space? You remember the slightly dim, tubby, little nerdy guy with the red Swingline stapler who wandered around muttering to himself and always got the short end of EVERY stick? Give him long blond hair and boobs and you’ve got Jean.
We gave her the part number and the price for the shower door and told her we needed to order it. She proceeded to look up the part number and the price and wrote them down on a piece of paper for us. Then she took the measurements of our shower enclosure and told us that we couldn’t order the door until we had the shower stall in place.
We gave her the part numbers and the price for the Mustee shower walls and shower pan. She tried to convince us that another product they carried was the right one and only desisted after I told her that I’d spoken with the manufacturer directly. She looked up the part numbers and the price in her computer, wrote them down on a piece of paper for us, and then told us that we had to special order them.

“Why special order? I spoke with Sue and she said that these products were regularly carried by this particular McLendon store.”
“Oh, well we regularly carry them, we just don’t usually have them in stock.”

Unh-HUH. (parenthetical thought to myself….. “and the difference is?…….”)

Okay, so order the little fuckers.
Jean proceeded to her computer, muttering to herself all the time. Andrew and I were both pretty fried at that point so we were taking it in turns to stand at the counter while Jean muttered at her computer. At one point we decided that Andrew would go and look at shower hardware. He found a shower valve and head that we liked then asked Jean where he could find them. The shower hardware (faucets etc.) were displayed on a wall, each set identified by letter and number. The ones we wanted were 8D. Jean stopped her muttering to show Andrew how the wall cleverly opened up to reveal racks of boxed sets of shower hardware. The racks had corresponding letters and numbers so all Andrew had to to was to find 8D to find the valve and the shower head that we wanted. Except that they weren’t there. 8C was followed by 8F with no sign of 8D or 8E.
Yet another moment to disturb Jean and her muttering. She explained to Andrew how the numbers and letters on the racks corresponded to the numbers and letters on the displays and then went to the “8” rack. When she couldn’t find 8D she went and looked at all the other racks (all of which Andrew had just finished doing himself) and then told him that 8D wasn’t in the racks.

“Um…..Yeah, that was what I was just saying. Would this particular product be anywhere else in the store?”
“No. If they’re not on the racks they’re not in stock and you’d have to special order them and Moen only delivers once a week and if they’re not on the racks then we probably don’t carry them and……mutter mutter mutter mutter mutter…..red Swingline stapler, set the building on fire.” (okay, not literally. That was a shameless Office Space reference.)

At that point Andrew had just about had it and to keep him from doing what both of us desperately hoped that he would do, that is, rising up and giving Jean a hefty slosh on the back of the head, he wandered off into the depths of the store to find the other bits and pieces we were looking for. Leaving me to finish dealing with Jean and her muttering about people that don’t understand that if it’s not on the racks that it wouldn’t be in stock and how it would have to be special ordered and what a pain it was to have to deal with them (I’m not making that part up).

An HOUR and A HALF later (I’m not making that part up either) Jean had everything entered in the computer and had given me a purchase order. She also indicated that there might be a Mustee shower pan back in the store room. She went to go check and came back out with a big box on a hand truck. I left box and hand truck in place and went to go find Andrew.
Andrew, the cart, the long threaded pole that we were looking for (don’t ask) and I made our way back to the design center to fetch the box and the hand truck.
At which point we noticed that the box had been opened and the words “MISSING DRAIN AND FLANGE” were written along the top. ERGK!
I collared Jean again, showed her the box and insisted that she find me another Mustee shower pan. She said she didn’t have another in stock and that she’d have to add the pan to the special order for the shower walls.
Weirdly, this only took a few minutes and so both of us, feeling as if we’d been put through enough of a wringer for the day, took our varied gunk up to the checkout, paid, and left.

If you’ve ever remodeled something you’ll notice that there was a part missing here. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, I’ll point it out later.

We spent Easter Sunday knitting, reading, watching Monty Python, eating Easter candy and arguing with the dryer. Since part of our plan for the laundry room included moving the 240 volt dryer outlet to the opposite wall and purchasing a stackable washer and dryer set, AND since David The Contractor had needed to move the outlet as well as the dryer vent, so he could finish the drywall in the adjoining room, our washer was still in place but the dryer, unplugged from the wall and the vent, was sitting in the middle of the room. I needed to do at least one load of laundry so I would have clean work clothes for the week. Easy enough to bung them in the washer, but the outlet for the dryer would require that the dryer be placed with its back against the front of the washer with a flexible vent running out the window. So I got the load of washing done, we attached the flexible vent and pushed the dryer snugly up against the front of the washer.
But the dryer cord was too short to reach the outlet.
Bugger.
All sorts of *very important laundry words* were said and while Andrew argued with the dryer cord and the placement of the washer, I went upstairs to hang at least my work clothes to dry in the bathroom. Did I mention it was pouring rain? No chance of hanging things on the clothesline.
We tried shoving the washer over, we tried putting the dryer on sawhorses to make the distance the cord had to reach shorter. No go.
At that point I just gave up. My work clothes would dry hanging in the bathroom (the miracle of poly/cotton blend scrubs and lab coats), I was bushed and I didn’t want anything further to do with it. Andrew concurred, at least temporarily, and we went back upstairs to watch more Python.
Two hours later Andrew was at Fred Meyer getting a longer dryer cord which he brought back and installed so we could dry enough laundry to last us through the week. The new stackable unit was scheduled to be delivered (I’ll leave the Sears ranting until later) on the 29th at which point it wouldn’t matter anymore.

Monday morning I was at work when Andrew called and told me that he’d been speaking with Jean at McLendon. Turns out (this is the part that was missing before) she failed to let us know that when one orders a shower unit it needs to be paid for before the order can be processed. I shocked what of my staff was around by coming up with a stream of words they weren’t sure I knew, banged my head against my desk and called McLendon with my credit card number.
An hour later Andrew called to let me know that when we had given Bath Fitters our deposit on my credit card they hadn’t taken the security number which they would need to process THAT order.
With the paint on the walls only a little singed I found the correct numbers and Andrew took care of Bath Fitters. I settled into a regular work day.

I generally call Andrew just before I leave work so he’ll know when I’m getting home. Since he does the vast majority of the cooking, that allows him to time dinner. I called Andrew at the end of the day and he sounded a little down. I asked if everything was okay, he said he’d talk to me when I got home.
With that ominous statement ringing in my ears I drove home with visions of part of the roof rotting out (the insulation guys showed up on Monday and had spent most of the day meandering around in the attic) or something equally horrid.
When I got home I found that The Saga Of The Shower wasn’t over. David had pulled out the old shower stall and found the reason behind the spongy shower floor.
Turns out that the previous fiberglass shower pan had been carefully placed mostly on the concrete slab floor, but for some obscure reason the area of concrete around the drain had been chipped out and the rest of the shower pan was supported with (wait for it) A CHUNK OF WOOD!
Hole In The Shower Floor
The white thing at about 6:00 is a plastic bag covering the drain pipe. David took the chunk of wood out with the shower pan and walls, but otherwise the floor is as it was found.
The wood had, of course, rotted out which allowed the shower pan to pull away from the drain. Water from the shower then leaked around the drain and under the pan which rotted out the floor sill in the shower enclosure. As it stood on Monday, we weren’t sure whether or not the floor sill for that entire wall was bad and whether or not we’d have to take down the entire wall between the laundry room and the garage.
Oh my.
Honestly, though, having expected to hear that our roof was rotting out, this was somewhat of a relief. David could take the wall apart, replace the floor sill, and still stay about on schedule for what we needed him to do.
Besides, the insulation dudes, two of whom were Evergreen graduates (they noticed our diplomas on the wall) had replaced the bathroom fan AND the hideous light fixture so we were up for the day by a functional fan and a non-hideous light fixture.
New Bathroom Fan
New Bathroom Light Fixture

The rest of the week was actually fairly straightforward. The Insulation Monkeys banged around in the attic and in the garage, David banged around in the laundry room finding that only the floor sill in the shower enclosure was rotten, and Sheri showed up on Friday afternoon with a remarkably rocking garden plan (I’m so excited!).
There are still a few little glitches to sort out….. like installing the NEW washer and dryer that we ordered from Albert Lee Appliance (big, BIG shout out to Albert Lee and their sales associate Craig Mims for sorting things out for us and providing us with a superb experience) after Sears, pardon the language, FUCKED UP IN THE EXTREME. We still have to have the Insulation Monkeys do a final walk through (the attic) and figure out why the bathroom fans leak cold air and why, if left on for too long, the bathroom light fixtures cut out and start smelling like melting plastic (we’re spending a lot of our bathroom time in the dark until Tuesday). But things are ticking along.
Now I’m going to go and scrub wallpaper paste.

3/26/2008

Apropos of Nothing….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:48 am

You may recall my writing previously about the University of Hawaii Warriors and their plans to perform a traditional Maori haka at the Sugar Bowl this past New Years. It was quite impressive. Well, whilst trawling the YouTubes for the word “haka”, Margaret came up with a couple of doozys (“doozies”? “doozi”??), which I will share with you now, for no particular reason other than that I think they’re awesome. So nyeah. 😛

3/25/2008

The Insurance Advertisement Manga Pervert Demographic

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:47 am

As some of you might recall, I started recording the date, time, IP address and other stats of anyone reaching Uncle Andrew dot Net via a Web search for the word “Esurance” a while back (on September 27, 2006, to be more precise), as an intellectual exercise to see how many deviants I could catch crawling the Web looking for dirty pictures of a cartoon spokesperson for an insurance company.

Over that time period, I have managed—for no particular reason—to compile the following demographic information concerning these visitors:

Total Insurance Advertisement Manga Perverts as of 8:00am, Tuesday, March 25: 6,162

Pervs by Operating System

  • Windows NT, 2000, XP, Media Center and Vista: 5,155
  • Mac OS X: 618
  • Windows 98: 80
  • Playstation/Playstation Portable: 79
  • Linux: 76
  • Nintendo Wii: 24
  • Windows CE/Windows Mobile: 14
  • BlackBerry: 7
  • Windows 95: 3
  • PalmOS: 3
  • Other: 103

Pervs by Browser

  • Internet Explorer (including the AOL Browser): 3,414
  • Firefox: 2,037
  • Safari: 424
  • Opera: 90
  • Playstation Portable Browser: 77
  • Netscape: 60
  • Camino: 9
  • Konqueror: 7
  • BlackBerry: 7
  • SeaMonkey: 6
  • Blazer: 3
  • OmniWeb: 1
  • ACCESS NetFront: 1
  • Other: 26

Of all of these data points, I think the twenty-four Palm, Windows Mobile and BlackBerry hits disturb me the most. I’m used to seeing people using these ubiquitous communication tools to send and receive data in all manner of unlikely/inappropriate situations, from standing in front of a cashier at the local coffee shack to hurtling down the Interstate at 80 miles an hour. It had never occurred to me to imagine that these social ciphers might be cruising for manga pr0n under these circumstances….although in retrospect I don’t really know why not. I have to admit, though, that it would do naught but warm the cockles of my heart were it to be made public that some asshat who crashed his car while RIMing himself had been trawling the Web for naughty cartoon pictures at the time.

If this continues, I may decide to reformat my Erin Watch access log and start having FunnelWeb build real, honest-to-goodness access reports regarding this phenomenon, complete with graphs and stuff. Might be kind of fun, in a creepy, wash-my-server-with-antibacterial-soap sort of way. 😯

3/23/2008

Remodel Week 3 & 4

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 2:35 pm

**very deep inhale**

In an orgasmic release of obsessive compulsive passion I pulled all the wallpaper (except what’s behind the mirror) in the upstairs bathroom off the walls thus improving the look of the bathroom by VOLUMES. It’s also a ton brighter in there (go figure 🙄 Happily the paper came off the walls easily and the glue with what is left of the paper backing really doesn’t look that bad….which isn’t to say that I’m not now engaged in scrubbing and scraping the residue off the walls.Bathroom Wall Without Paper
I also started picking at the paper on the walls in my study, but that project is going to have to wait.

Shawn got completely moved out, Bill the Insulation Guy sent us our estimate and then we started The Saga Of The Shower
Seems if you want to rip out your bathtub, peel the tile off the walls, and then replace the whole mess with a walk in shower stall there are A MILLION BILLION JILLION options, but unless you’re an experienced contractor finding the right bits to go in the right places without going over your space requirements are A BITCH!
There have been so many curlicues to this whole saga that I can’t even remember them all.

We started with a pamphlet from a local bath store in Burien. American Reinforced Plastics had a display of a *really sweet* 60 X 36 inch walk in shower stall that was in a color we liked, and made of what appears to be a remarkably sturdy material. Fantastic. How do we order one?
Or, the more pertinent question, how does one get a 36 inch deep one piece shower stall into a bathroom whose door is only 27 inches wide?
Answer: You don’t. If you’re building a brand new bathroom you can put in a single piece shower stall. If, however, you’re not taking out walls, you put in a modular unit composed of a pan and separate walls.
Okay. American Reinforced Plastics….we like your materials, we like your colors. Sell me a modular walk in shower stall that will fit into a space that is 60 by 34 1/2 inches. 60 by 34 would be fine.
No go. The standard depth is 36 inches. Since our bathroom is constructed in a somewhat unique fashion, we simply can NOT go over 34 1/2 inches deep.

Many *special remodeling words* are said as Andrew and I both spend several hours searching for shower stalls online. Take my advice. Never try Googling “shower stalls, Seattle, Wa.”
I finally found a place in Lake City that custom fits shower surrounds. WON-derful. So I wandered out to Lake City, had a look at their product, which looks suspiciously like Formica, and scheduled a man to come out, look at our bathrooms (we had, at this point, decided to rip out and replace the shower stall in the downstairs bathroom as well), and give us an estimate on the project. I brought home a bunch of samples to choose colors and Andrew, who was spending that weekend commuting to Shelton to cook for one of FP’s mushroom seminars, came home, looked at them, and noted that they looked a lot like Formica.
Hm.

At the same time we got one of those stacks of advertising circulars in the mail including a coupon for a place called Bath Fitters. Maybe we should have a look there too….
Went down to the Bath Fitters office in Kent, had a look at their product, which is also customizable to weird shaped bath enclosures, and arranged to have Kristen come and give us an estimate.

Okay, so Dan the Shower Man and Bath Fitters Kristen are both engaged to come on the same day to measure and estimate. Dan shows up with a measuring tape, takes a few measurements, makes some remarkable mistakes with his addition and multiplication and then hands us an obscene estimate covered in scribbles and math mistakes. For a shower surround that was, in fact, made out of Formica.
Bath Fitters Kristen shows up with a suitcase, a laser level, and a whole hoard of measuring devices and spends half an hour measuring the bathtub enclosure. She then sat down and spent at least another half an hour talking colors, materials, bells and whistles, reeling, writhing, and fainting in coils. She really impressed us and we handed over a deposit so she could put our order in.
And 24 hours later we had to call to have her cancel the order because we’d looked up Bath Fitters online and had read volumes of bad stuff about them which put us back at square one in trying to find another company that had a tub to shower conversion product that would fit our somewhat obscure space requirements.

Lots and lots of *very special remodeling words*.
And hours upon sweating hours (Really. Andrew took two days off from work to search, and I spent the vast majority of my two off week days this week alternating sitting in front of my computer and wandering in and out of the bathroom with a measuring tape, waving my arms, and muttering.) looking for some other alternative. Oh, and at the same time trying to figure out how, in the name of God, the people from whom we purchased the house had fit a 36 X 36 inch shower stall into the downstairs bathroom when the enclosure is 34 1/2 inches by 37 1/2 inches.
We also spent a lot of time talking to Bath Fitters Kristen about our concerns, looking over their Big Book O’Feedback forms, and convincing ourselves that this was going to be our best option. Whatever our experience with Bath Fitters ends up being, we have nothing but good things to say about Kristen who works in their Kent office. She has, at all times, been professional, low key, laid back, and extremely knowledgeable about their product.

In between times we finalized our decision for the colors for the upstairs bathrooms and decided we were ready to make our order for a sink and toilet for same. So off we trotted to Ferguson Bath & Kitchen to talk to Melissa. We took one last look at the pieces we wanted, took one last look at the color chips and then sat down only to find out that the colors and pieces that we wanted would take upwards of THREE MONTHS 😯 to arrive.
Over the space of two and a half hours we debated colors, toilets, sinks, paint, flooring, reeling, writhing, and fainting in coils. Melissa, too, was superb and went above and beyond in finding us exactly what we wanted as a second choice and managing to push it through so that we will be able to put our bathroom in in a little over a month. We both really, really, REALLY wanted the navy blue toilet and sink (actually I wanted the cobalt blue but that color is only available for cast iron fixtures), but we also didn’t want this project to stretch into FREAKIN’ JUNE so we are content with what we’re going to be getting.

Just this last Monday David the Contractor showed up and settled in. While he, along with both of us and, at times, my father, have been utterly foozled by the downstairs shower debacle (is it 34 1/2″ X 37″ or is it 36″ X 36″ and if it is, HOW?) he has been progressing in a most satisfactory manner.
Here are the early pictures of Andrew’s new office
Andrew’s New Office #1
Andrew’s New Office #2

He’s even managed to get the new lights installed in the upstairs hallway well in advance of Randy the Insulation Man’s arrival next Tuesday. There’s more light now in that hallway than we’ve ever had and the first thing that happened when I turned the lights on is that I noticed the great honkin’ cobwebs hanging from the ceiling. Sometimes improved visibility is a mixed blessing.

Garden Sheri, as Susan has named her, came by with all the other nutjobs that showed up last Sunday for the Gygax memorial. In between a serious game geek session, she and Susan and I spent a lot of time discussing what to do with the mud pit that used to be the front yard
Front Yard and Rockery

Sheri will be back late next week with the final plan, the plant list, and the approximate start time. Next week will also see the arrival of Randy the Insulation Man, the return of David the Contractor to finish off Andrew’s office and start on the laundry room and, ideally, the delivery of the new washer and dryer as well as the first bits for the new downstairs shower stall. One of these days we’ll get around to running the vacuum cleaner, but since the insulation guys will be in and out of the attic for most of next week it ain’t gonna be today.
We’re both very excited to be getting this done, but we’ll be more excited to have it done with.

3/19/2008

Why Everyone Should Read Slashdot

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:05 am

Just picked this up off /. Even if you aren’t a geek, you can’t not want to see the following video of the Big Dog, a quadrupedal robot developed by Boston Dynamics with funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Lots of other cool ‘bots to look at at BD’s site as well. Get stuffed, Aibo, I want a Big Dog for Xmas!

Warning: robot makes annoying insectile buzzing sound. Turn your speakers down.

3/18/2008

Dear John Kovalic….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:04 am

Hey John,

I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for what turned out to be my very favorite online tribute to Gary Gygax. Your artwork played a key role in a (slightly tardy) memorial gaming brunch we held with a group of friends this weekend.

In the alcove of our chimney where there once sat an indoor barbecue grill (who thinks of these things? Mmmm, carbon monoxide….) we erected a small shrine to Mr. Gygax, including a selection of stuff he might need in the next life:

Shrine to Gary Gygax

As you can see, your drawing was pretty much the centerpiece. As the guests arrived, some brought their own D&D paraphernalia to add to the monument. We ate frozen pizza, Cheetos and Pop Tarts, quaffed coffee and Mountain Dew, played—coincidentally—Munchkin (most of us are too busy to do any serious D any more) and had a marvelous time. It was a beautiful sunny day outside, and we were all indoors playing fantasy games. Very authentic. 😉

At the end of the gathering, we poured out the Mountain Dew in tribute to the fallen. The curb seemed inappropriate, as it was outside, and as avid a fan as I am I was not prepared to dump it out on the family room carpet in the basement, which seemed the most fitting. So we elected for the kitchen sink.

A great time was had by all, and I think it was a fitting memorial.

Thanks again for your contributions to the genre and the culture.

Uncle Andrew

3/14/2008

Bwaaaa, Ha Ha Ha….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:28 am

Muchas Mahalos to Dylan for forwarding this to me.

In the spirit of The Geek Hierarchy, culled from the online pages of the New York Times:

D&D Flow Chart

Some of you will have no idea what is being discussed here; others will have no trouble finding themselves on the chart. I’ll let you all sort it out amongst yourselves and decide who needs to hand who their lunch money. 😀

3/13/2008

Something Else You Won’t Learn On Commercial Radio

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:15 pm

Marketplace, one of my favorite Public Radio shows, is broadcasting from Dubai all this week. With the myriad of other fresh perspectives on the subject of the economy that this week has brought came this one:

Margaret and I are avid consumers of Doctor Bronner’s cleaning products, and not just because the labels are fun to read (the information on your average Dr. B’s container reads like someone loaded a shotgun with double-ought scrivenings of a rapid-cycle schizophrenic and unloaded both barrels into the label). They make high-quality products from largely organic ingredients (we buy their Liquid Peppermint Soap by the gallon), they buy fair trade materials whenever possible, and they treat their employees like human beings. In short, they are an excellent corporate citizen and a model for the rest of the business world to follow….not that they will. 😡

But on top of all that, Doctor Bronner’s olive-oil-based soaps are made from two types of Fair Trade organic olive oil. From the Web site of Doctor Bronner’s Magic Soaps:

For the approximately 80 metric tons of olive oil we use annually, we are sourcing 90% from Palestinian Fair Trade producers near Jenin in the West Bank, where the Canaan Fair Trade organization is run by Palestinians who support peaceful coexistence with Israel. Up to 5% of the Fair Trade organic olive oil will come from Sindyanna, a Jewish and Arab women-run Fair Trade Israeli source supporting Arab-Israeli producers. The purchase of oil and contribution of a Fair Trade premium will help improve economic conditions and provide additional funds for public services such as healthcare and education in the olive producing region. And in light of the vision of peace that the olive branch symbolizes, for the maximum 5% non-Fair Trade organic olive oil we are allowed to use under Fair Trade rules, we are sourcing that from the Jewish Israeli Strauss family farm in Israel.

Upon such small stepping stones the path to peace may be laid.

3/12/2008

Couldn’t Have Said It Better Myself….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:53 am

This from today’s Dork Tower:

Horton Hears A Whore

Bra-vo, John, bravo.

3/10/2008

Please Do Not Tip The Domain Parking Attendants!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:03 am

We’ve all been there at least once or twice.

You’ve got yourself a hankerin’ to check out the selection and prices, oh, say, Eyebrow Tweezer Warehouse. You figure you can save yourself both a trip in the car and a Google search by simply typing “www.eyebrowtweezerwarehouse.com” into your Web browser’s address bar.

Only instead of the Web site for Eyebrow Tweezer Warehouse, you get something that looks like this:

Domain Parking

Not the site you were looking for, but a page of links to sites whose names or content seem peripherally related to your intended destination. Heck, the real Web page for Eyebrow Tweezer Warehouse might be listed among the links, along with the sites of half a dozen of their closest competitors.

For God’s sake, don’t click on any of the links. Close the window, open a new one, and start over, this time from your favorite search engine.

The page you have reached is an example of what is called “domain parking”, one of a group of related practices of varying helpfulness and legitimate function on the Web.

At its core, domain parking simply means setting up a basic, placeholder Web site at a given domain name. Many individuals and organizations park a domain to stake out a Web presence for future development. For instance: although I already have a lovely little piece of virtual real estate picked out for my blog, I might also choose to reserve the domain name andrewlenzer.com—I haven’t, but I could—and instead of going to the trouble of building another Web site or pointing andrewlenzer.com at my blog, I might just put up a single, rudimentary Web page to indicate that the domain is active and that it belongs to me. Lots of Internet Service Providers and domain hosting companies automatically put up domain-parking pages for their clients who do not wish to build a full Web site, at least for the moment.

The basic and largely innocuous practice of domain parking long ago spawned a number of varied, often less savory business endeavors, as soon as some enterprising souls figured out that they could make a farthing or two off of them. The primordial form of this new parasite of the information economy was cybersquatting, the act of reserving a domain name for the purpose of misrepresenting one’s relationship to the perceived person or organization represented. (The classic peta.org versus peta.com tussle is a prominent example of this sort of thing, though there are many who argue that, in that particular case, the squatter—an organization calling itself People Eating Tasty Animals—was doing so as a form of parody of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and should therefore have not been forced to relinquish the domain name.)

Many early cybersquatters attempted to use their parked domains as a tool of ransom or blackmail against the “proper” holder of a trademark or other distinctive word or phrase. Federal legislation regulating this sort of behavior has since discouraged the bulk of these attempts. Other forms of largely commercial domain parking include typosquatting (parking a domain with a common misspelling of a prominent domain name, such as oficemax.com instead of officemax.com). There’s even an amazing form of typosquatting that revolves solely around the accidental omission of the “o” from “.com”. A Canadian physician-turned-Net-mogul named Kevin Ham struck a deal with the country of Cameroon (legitimate holder of the “.cm” TLD, or top-level domain) to take control of it, and now owns a .cm equivalent to just about any prominent .com domain you can think of.

The most lucrative expression of cybersquatting is without a doubt the practice of using parked domains to capture “type-in traffic“—Web surfers entering domains blindly into their browser’s address bar. The owners then use the parked domain(s) to host Web pages stuffed with hyperlinks to other sites—as per my example above—and reap pay-per-click fees for every visitor who clicks on any of the links.

All of this is, by all accounts, extremely profitable. Kevin Ham’s interests alone are said to net about $70 million per year in ad revenue, though he doesn’t release those numbers to the public. Solid numbers are hard to pin down, but with even rinky-dink civilian domain parkers earning thousands of dollars click-through fees per year, the total worldwide yield from this sort of advertising has to be in the billions.

All for a totally unnecessary “service” that exists solely to save the average surfer from having to type additional characters in the address bar.

I am absolutely stymied by the behavior exhibited by a plurality of my fellow Netizens when presented with such a scenario. There’s a strange sort of credulity that seems to afflict many consumers of Internet culture when coming across stuff online, from emailed Net rumors to Web pages (Bonsai Kitten, anyone?), that they would never display out in the meat world. I’ve waxed pedantic about this before.

Imagine if you will walking into, say, your local Best Buy, only to discover once inside that the store you had entered was actually called “Bist Buy”. Their store facade is identical to a Best Buy’s, the interior layout is quite similar to a Best Buy, and the employees all wear similar blue-polo-shirt-and-tan-pants uniforms as the employees at a Best Buy. But it’s clearly not the store it had initially—and intentionally—misrepresented itself as.

At this point, would you say to yourself, “I know this store isn’t what it purports to be, and I’ve never heard of this outfit in my life. But heck, as long as I’m here I might as well look around, check out the merchandise, sign up for their monthly newsletter, maybe even plonk down a big ol’ wad of cash for a plasma TV”? Or would you instead backpedal out of that store as fast as your highly alarmed little legs would carry you?

Even if the prospect of bankrolling these spurious middlemen doesn’t bother you, the potential threat to your privacy ought to. Clicking on a link in one of these sites will usually place any number of tracking cookies on your computer, so that they can follow your movement through the infosphere and sell that data to marketers. Even worse, many parked sites are created and run by what amounts to criminal organizations, existing solely to disseminate trojans, adware and other poison to unsuspecting, unprotected computer users.

So if you happen to mistakenly blunder across one of these handy-dandy billboards whilst jaunting on the Infobahn, please do not tarry, and for the love of Deus ex Machina do not stop to sample their humble wares. These sites are erected by people who are at best avaricious and opportunistic, and at worst Information Superhighwaymen.

Instead, tip your hat, bid them good day, and hightail it out of there as if all the keystroke loggers in hell were after you.

3/9/2008

Remodel Week 2

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 5:21 pm

Nothing so spectacular as a sewer line this week (background noises of mad, hysterical flushing). Bruno the Concrete Guy came last Tuesday to patch the garage floor which he did with remarkable deftness. Also on Tuesday came Bill the Insulation Man to run through the house and give us a bid on insulating the attic.
In addition this helpful soul wandered around the house with some sort of little sniffer wand and told us that we were getting carbon monoxide levels at a little over half those required to cause physical illness. 😯 The reason behind this, he speculates, is because the garage ceiling, which isn’t sealed at all, communicates directly through the laundry room ceiling into the furnace room. The furnace sucks in the CO produced by our cars when we start them (with the garage doors OPEN I hasten to add) efficiently circulating it throughout the house. So in addition to insulating the attic Bill will be giving us an estimate to seal and insulate the ceiling in the garage thus improving the efficiency of the pipes and furnace ducts that go through same in addition to keeping car exhaust from getting sucked into the furnace. SIGH.

On Wednesday Bruno the Concrete Guy came back to patch the hole in the driveway and, WHOOPEE, the sewer project is done. Now for the godawful mess that used to be my front yard.

Sheri came by on Thursday to view the devastation, to take photos, and to plan. She and I spent about two hours stamping about in the dirt tugging at things, digging things, measuring and talking plants. Sheri went off with a notebook full of notes and I am almost hysterically eager to get going. In honor of same (or at least to get SOME of it out of my system) I spent this morning planting peas and much of this afternoon transplanting some lavender starts into their permanent homes out front. Then I started what is likely to be a 2-3 week job for at least two people and went around the front digging out weeds and bits of sod that the excavator left, pruning dead branches off of my rhododendron, trying to figure out how I am going to get what appears to be tar off of a fair chunk of the same rhododendron bush, and moving rocks. This area was in a glacial fill zone so there’s PLENTY lovely round river rocks just hanging about at the surface that will provide some lovely accents once I manage to figure out where they need to go and exactly how many of them I can move without rupturing myself. Perhaps I’ll send Joan a care package….. 😀 (Sorry. Inside joke. I fully expect the wrath of my father in law to befall me especially if I send Joan a box of rocks.)

I also went out yesterday and got the first in what I am beginning to think will be a large silo of wallpaper removing tools. The good news is that the wallpaper in both the upstairs bathroom and in my study seem to be moderately eager to release their grip. The bad news is that there is what I am going to have to describe as a cubic buttload of wallpaper. And I volunteered, eagerly, to remove it myself. I may have been an idiot.

Next week is a sort of in between week. Shawn isn’t quite completely moved out of the basement yet so we can’t have David The Contractor start until Shawn’s stuff is completely gone. We also haven’t yet gotten an estimate from Jim The Contractor, although since it’s taken him more than a week to put it together for us, and since David has been so Johnny-on-the-spot with his estimate and his information, we’re beginning to think that unless Jim The Contractor comes up with a REMARKABLE estimate, we’ll have David The Contractor here for most of the next month.
Next week we’ll also be visited by Dan the Shower Dude who will be coming in to look at both the upstairs and the downstairs shower enclosures and give us an estimate on putting together custom fitted shower stalls (we’ve got weirdly shaped spaces in both places) of what appears to be Formica.

It’ll be an interesting week.

3/6/2008

Simon’s Cat Is Back

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:00 am

Fresh from the pages of Cute Overload, the return of Simon Tofield’s hysterical line-art cartoon cat. Enjoy!

3/5/2008

I’m Getting Worried About Derek Wang

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:48 am

Derek Wang (pronounced “Wong”) is the weekday morning anchor for our favorite local Public Radio station, and in general seems like an ideal fit for the job. His voice is a pleasant, well-rounded tenor, quite easy to listen to; he is articulate, seems quite intelligent and makes few if any errors in pronunciation, grammar or sentence structure during his time at the microphone. And, he has the added and highly valuable quality of not being Deborah Brandt, the host whose blessed departure in early 2007 spared KUOW’s dues-paying members another agonizing moment of her ham-handed segues, stale or often incomprehensible humor, and towards the end there, her occasional galaxy-collpasingly inappropriate on-air gaffes.

All in all, Derek’s ascension to the throne of weekday mornings has been a breath of fresh air—or perhaps Morning Edition; Fresh Air‘s on in the evening—and hardly a day goes by when I’m not grateful.

But over the last six months or so, Derek’s normal, calmly-paced and eminently sanguine demeanor has thinned just a titch. The ham has begun to show through, and it makes me fear the possibility of rhetorical trichinosis to come.

Case in point: the other day, at the conclusion of a Morning Edition segment on the fictional character Harriet the Spy, Wang stepped in with the line, “Now, let’s ‘spy’ on the morning commute with Metro Traffic’s Harmon Shay.” Ugh.

This is by no means the kind of groaner that Brandt used to rub out on a regular basis, such as her excruciating, “Well, over in Europe right now they’re holding the Tour de France, but here on the highways of the Puget Sound we’re doing the Turtle Pants, right, Harmon?” (Really, no kidding; she actually said that. I thought I’d have to cauterize my ears shut with a soldering iron after that one.) But it does nonetheless exhibit an unsettling sort of proto-lameness to it. And interjections in a similar vein have been coming more and more often as of late. Like watching a complex life form magically and tragically devolve into something resembling one of its more rudimentary progenitors before your eyes, I fear that this seemingly innoxious bit of banter might be the first warning sign of far worse to come.

Please please please, Radio Gods, say it ain’t so.

I have neither the guts nor the requisite innate assholery to contact Mr. Wang directly with my concerns, but on the off chance he might come across this posting while trawling the search engines for mention of his name, allow me a moment to address him directly:

Derek, should you happen to visit Uncle Andrew dot Net and stumble upon these words, please understand; I mean you no ill will, my opinion of you as a radio personality remains high, and of course my or any other listener’s feelings regarding your on-air performance have nothing whatsoever to do with your elemental and multifaceted value as a human being. It’s just that, having been burned once with the banal flame of sophomoric and at times unfathomable humor at the hands of your predecessor, even the barest whiff of smoke imbues me with fear of the fire. I beg you, handle us your listening audience with care. I’m sure I speak for more than a few of us when I say that I’d like my Morning Edition over easy, with coffee. Hold the ham.

3/4/2008

Possibly The Prettiest Dish I’ve Ever Made

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 1:23 pm

And quite tasty, too. Ladies and gentlemen, may I present….The Mexican Frittata, or Los Frittato.

Los Frittato: The Mexican Frittata

The photo doesn’t really do it justice.

Had a bunch of blue corn tortilla chips left over from a party a couple-few weeks ago. They were getting a bit stale, and rather than make them into worm munchies I thought I’d see if I could use them to cobble together a frittata-style baked egg dish. Turned out very well, IMHO. Here’s the recipe:

  • Blue corn tortilla chips
  • 14 eggs
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cups black beans
  • 2 cups corn kernels
  • 1-2 cups chopped or diced tomatoes
  • 1-2 cups chopped roasted red peppers
  • 2-3 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup milk or cream
  • 1/8–1/4 cup red and/or green chili powder (I really like the flavor of green chili powder in this dish)
  • 2 tbsp parsley
  • 2 tbsp cilantro
  • salt to taste

Preheat oven to 375˚. Slice up the onion and saute it in a saucepan with lots of olive oil until lightly caramelized, then set aside.

In a large (the one above is a 12 incher) well-oiled skillet, lay down a layer of tortilla chips about 2 chips thick, then carefully lay additional chips around the circumference of the pan so that they climb the sides and stick up over the rim a bit. Layer the beans, onions, tomato and peppers over the chips, then sprinkle the cheese over the top.

Beat the eggs with the milk/cream, parsley, cilantro, chili powder and salt. Pour the egg mixture over everything (everything in the skillet, dimwit; otherwise the counter will get horribly sticky), making sure it is evenly distributed throughout. It probably won’t actually come up to the level of the top of the other ingredients, but it will expand while baking. If you are feeling cutesy you can garnish the top with jalapeño slices or something.

Bake for approximately one hour. Remove from oven and allow to cool for ten minutes, slice and serve. Serves 4–6 people.

The play of textures between the egg, beans and other ingredients is, to my palette, both festive and yummy, and egg-soaked blue corn tortillas are at least a match for bread crumbs as far as a rudimentary crust goes. This would make a great brunch as well as dinner dish.

So Sad….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:17 am

Gary Gygax has died. Please take a moment to doff your +2 Great Helms to his memory.

Thanks to Curt for sending the news.

3/2/2008

Remodel Week 1

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 7:15 pm

I realize it’s probably the height of hubris to assume that the outside world is as fascinated with our remodel process as we are, but this is our blog and if I want to write about the godawful mess that has been made in my garage and front yard, I shall!
Besides, Andrew and I are so wound up excited about this whole thing that we can barely talk of anything else at this point and since it’s going to be probably another two months or so before all the banging, crashing, and thumping is over with, y’all are pretty lucky that you get anything coherent at all.
Also since Andrew has finally managed to drill through my luddite tendencies and teach me how to post photos, I’m having way too much fun posting photos left right and sideways and boy howdy are there plenty of those. 😆

We were expecting the sewer contractor to show up last Monday at some point around 0700. I have to be at work at 0700 so I leave the house at 0630 or a few minutes earlier. We had arranged that I would rout Andrew out of bed before I left so he would have a little time to hit the hot tub before the contractor showed up. And so he did. All of about 15 minutes, as the contractor, the excavator, the jackhammer, the concrete saw and all the rest of the paraphernalia showed up at 0645 or so.

Now understand that you’re getting only my perspective on this. I spent the majority of the chaos, at least for this project, in my relatively peaceful and quiet (which is saying a lot considering the average ambient noise level at my job) veterinary hospital. Andrew will have a much different point of view of all of this, mainly since he was the one that had to sit and listen to them dig up the driveway and the garage floor. His ears may stop ringing some day.

Allow me to fill in a little background here. We had had the plumber in last week to see whether the water line that ran from the main to the house was copper or galvanized pipe. The plumber banged around in the basement and the garage for a while, looking in all the rational places that one would put the water shut off for the house, and finally came to the conclusion that the water shut off was behind the drywall underneath the shelves on the west wall of the garage. Didn’t make any difference at that point, because he was also convinced that the water pipe from the main was galvanized and so would need to be replaced. We didn’t need to find the water shut off, he said, because since the water line would have to be replaced they could put in a new shut off at the same time. It’s all very well and good, right?

Right.
Except at about 10 a.m. on Monday Andrew called me at work explaining that the big pipe along the south wall of the garage that we THOUGHT was the main feed into the septic tank was only the drain pipe for part of the upstairs. The rest of the upstairs drains and all of the downstairs drains fed into a second main line that was, in fact, behind the drywall underneath the shelves on the west wall of the garage. So just to keep me up to date, he wanted to let me know that they had to rip out part of the garage wall to get to the drains and, coincidentally, to the water shut off. **sigh**
Fine, whatever. We’re expecting this to be a hideous mess anyway, what’s half a wall in the big picture anyway.

A couple of hours later I get a second call. Everything was going well, Andrew said, they’d taken down the shelves and ripped out the wall to expose the main sewer stack and the water line and shut off which was, in fact, galvanized pipe. They’d also found a mummified rat.
Oh NEAT!
Rat Mummy in The Wall

So the reason he was calling wasn’t that he really needed to tell me about the rat, but rather that they were digging over the septic tank and they needed to have it pumped. The sewer contractor could provide us with the name of a septic service who could come out the same day and pump the tank. They’d also be able to decommission the tank for us which involved filling it with sand or gravel. Great. So let’s get the septic service out and get it done. Oh, he also wanted to let me know that, and I quote, “they’re doing a lot of digging out front, but they’ve missed your lavender bush”. Missed my lavender bush? I knew that they were going to dig a trench through the lithadora slope out front, but DANG that sounds like a BIG trench. It was a big trench. A BIG trench.
Big Trench In The Lithadora
For the purposes of orientation, the photo is taken from the northeast corner of the garage aimed northwest. The steps to the front door are along the left and you’re facing the excavator in the front yard.

I got home from work Monday evening and parked in the driveway. Both garage doors were open, Andrew was still shuffling things around and there was a trench and enormous pile of dirt and rocks in the garage. A ditch was dug through the asphalt of the driveway in front of the steps to the front, but it was shallow enough for me to be comfortable stepping over. I picked my way into the house, we ate leftovers for dinner since neither of us were in any shape to cook (Andrew was still vibrating from the noise of the jackhammers), went to bed and repeated the process backwards to get to my car and go to work on Tuesday morning.

The contractor gave Andrew a little bit of a break Tuesday morning, waiting until AFTER 0700 (0715, in fact) to show up. Andrew spent the day wearing earplugs.
I got a call while in between surgical procedures Tuesday, Andrew told me that the septic tank was pumped, had been almost completely full and we weren’t allowed to do any laundry until after the sewer was hooked up and the septic was decommissioned. The temporary water line had been hooked up, the plumber would finish with the permanent installation on Wednesday and the total for the plumber would be (ouch!) an additional $2500. If we wanted the plumber to put in new hose bibs (something we had discussed) they’d have to take further walls apart and it would cost around another $700.
Ah. Well maybe we’ll wait on the hose bibs, at least until the interior contractor is taking apart the upstairs bathroom and then have the hose bib on the south wall of the house done.

I got home from work Tuesday evening and parked in the driveway. I was planning on doing my tiptoe through the driveway to the front door, but when I walked around to the passenger side of my car I almost fell into the ditch in the driveway. I don’t know what the standard depth is for burying sewer lines, but DAMN! The ditch was something like three feet wide and at least 5 feet deep. A little deeper than I was comfortable trying to leap while carrying my backpack, my teacup, and a grungy scrub shirt. So I opened the garage door and picked my way around Andrew’s car and the stacked junk to find…….
Big Trench In The Garage
Which was a little challenging to work around while not dropping, tripping over, or trailing fifty pounds of dirt into the house.
Although I will say that it’s pretty cool to be able to see what is under the garage floor.
Andrew told me that they were going to be un-digging the trench and the great enormous hole over the septic tank where the lithadora bed and the bird bath used to be on Wednesday. I was instructed to produce a diagram detailing where I wanted all of the enormous whacking rocks that used to be hidden under the lithadora which I happily did. I also left a little note at the upper corner of the diagram indicating that if the excavator operator wanted to scrape away the rest of the sod in the front yard that it wouldn’t hurt my feelings. Little did I understand the enthusiasm that the dude that ran the excavator has about playing with his big toy.

I worked my way back through the maze to get to my car and go to work on Wednesday morning. Spent much of the morning pulling teeth (shudder). Andrew called mid-morning to let me know that they were putting in the finishing touches and KABOOM! We suddenly had a sewer connection. Septic tank was filled with sand, the lid was sealed shut, the hillside was back in place over the access, the permanent water line was laid, soldered, and insulated. The only thing that was left was a huge pile of dirt and rocks in the garage (it looks really odd to have a huge pile of dirt and rocks in the garage) and the two trenches that had been filled in, but are not yet covered in concrete and/or asphalt. Not only that, but the rockery that the excavator guy built me looks great and he not only took out all the sod from the front yard, he finished off taking out the juniper bushes that were along the north property line that I was going to have to hack out with a pickaxe before we can put in the retaining wall that we’ve been wanting.

Excavator guy came back on Thursday with a small crew of wheelbarrow monkeys and they emptied the garage and tamped down the gravel covering the trenches so we can actually, y’know, use the driveway and the garage for cars. It’s all very exciting….. and entirely covered in concrete dust.

Next week will see the appearance of Bruno the Concrete Guy (no kidding, the sub-contractor that has been retained to patch the driveway and the garage floor is named Bruno). The insulation dudes are coming on Tuesday to give us a bid on updating the insulation in the attic, and Sheri is coming over on Thursday to view the mud pit that is my front yard and give us a bid on putting that back together again (something I look forward to with great anticipation).
Mud Pit In The Front Yard
We also should be getting an estimate from Jim the Contractor so we have a comparison to the estimate that we already have from David the Contractor. As soon as we get all the bids in place phase 2 starts with the drywalling and painting of the basement and the imminent destruction of the upstairs bathroom.
I’m already picking at the wallpaper. 😀

3/1/2008

The Two Stage Birdfeeder

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 6:52 pm

So Thursday morning I was sitting quietly at my desk balancing the checkbook and listening to Beethoven’s 5th while waiting for the sewer contractor to show up (a different story all together, please stay tuned) when I heard a bunch of crows creating a ruckus then a feathery, but hefty, thump-fwumph.

For all the world it sounded like one of the dang crows had gotten a little too energetic, or a little too clumsy, and plowed into my study window. Not completely out of the question for all that it’s a second storey window up underneath the eaves. I do still have a series of somewhat muddy flicker tail feather prints along that window because the ditzy flicker was either drilling for insects in the siding or was sitting on the cable that attaches to the side of the house outside my study window, saw his reflection in the window and was whapping himself against the window in an effort to scare off his rival (bird brain indeed).

So I got up to look and what I saw, sadly the camera wasn’t close enough to grab and get a photo, was about half a dozen crows dive bombing the hawk that had knocked a pigeon off of the rooftree and was standing on him in the driveway getting ready to have lunch. Crows got too close to the hawk, hawk loosed his grip a little bit, pigeon, who wasn’t quite dead yet (“I think I’ll take a walk!”), decided that now was the time to beat a hasty retreat and, somewhat clumsily, flolloped off down the driveway, finally managing to take to the air with the hawk in fast pursuit.

Pigeon Feathers In The Driveway
Leaving this as a little reminder.

Now we’ve known for quite some time that we support a two stage birdfeeder.
We purchase the sunflower seed to feed the songbirds (and the pigeons, and the squirrels) and there is one, or a series of, Sharp Shinned Hawks that lives locally and snacks on the smaller birds. We don’t mind, particularly when the Sharp Shin takes out a pigeon or the occasional free living rodent (if you’ve got bird feeders you’ve got rats).

Wet Hawk On The Birdfeeder

And we’ve even seen the results of the hawk’s (hawks’?) occasional snacks.
Pigeon Feathers Under The Rhododendron

But save for the time that I was in the hot tub one morning and saw the hawk chasing a pigeon around the garden and then under the arbor and up onto the porch with me, this was the first time I’d seen one in action. I find it remarkable that such a light, slender predator can take on the beefy critters that are the well fed suburban pigeons around here and expect to win on a regular basis. It’s like seeing a chihuahua take on a labrador.

But a lot cooler.


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