1/29/2009

I Told You That Story To Tell You This One

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 7:12 pm

Some years ago at the annual family Thanksgiving extravaganza at the ‘rents house we all got deeply involved in a thoroughly silly conversation regarding fruit flies.
Off the top of my head I can’t remember what it was that started the conversation, but it degenerated into speculation regarding whether or not the human body had enough surface area to accommodate the number of fruit flies it would take to allow said human body to become airborne. We made several concessions regarding the abilities of fruit flies (i.e. that the ones that would be attached to inconvenient places like the bottoms of the feet and in between the toes would be able to produce the same amount of vertical lift as the ones attached to places that would make vertical lift easier such as the top of the head) and several concessions regarding the human body (the biggest being that one could have a surface that was adhesive enough to allow the attachment of fruit flies and yet not adhesive enough to suffocate the fruit files).
I used the term “degenerated” above. Picture six or eight (I can’t remember how many of us were there) highly educated people with references ranging from a nursing manual to obscure engineering books with details regarding how much lift would be required to heave a certain amount of mass into the air at a certain height. There were scientific calculators, pencils, scraps of paper, and arms flying. By the end we were all quite hysterical and as I recall we never did really answer the question.

In fear of this, as it were, conversation degrading to the same level as the previous one, I would like to pose the following question.
Do you suppose it would be possible to drill holes in PVC pipes that would allow said pipes to act as musical instruments when they were strapped to the tops of trucks driving down the interstate?
Stay with me here, let me explain.
I was driving to Olympia this morning and spent a good deal of time driving next to a semi-truck that was stacked high with various sizes of PVC pipes. The pipes were strapped in bales lengthways along the bed of the truck and they were stacked higher than the cab. I kept thinking how cool it would be if one were able to carve holes along the length of the pipe so that the wind generated by the motion of the truck would blow across them as one does with a flute.
Really, how cool would that be? Certainly one would only put holes in the pipes along the tops of the bales, but by changing the size and placement of the holes and by changing the size and position of the pipes couldn’t you turn a semi-truck into a gigantic mobile pipe organ?
I have neither sufficient knowledge regarding how most wind instruments work, nor regarding how the air flows over a semi-truck in motion (although I am an avid Mythbusters fan) to be able to answer the question.
And if someone can answer me in the positive, let me know because I’d be all over strapping holey PVC pipes to the luggage rack on my Subaru.

1/27/2009

Now This Is Just Inspired….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 7:53 am

Got this off of Gizmodo about a week ago. Someone decided to hammer home the point about fascistic overuse of Photoshop in advertising by slapping blown-up prints of Photoshop tool palettes on a big poster advertisement in a Berlin subway. Priceless.

For those who amongst my readership who may not get the joke (hi Dad!), Adobe Photoshop is a powerful piece of software for creating and editing digital images. And while it is a robust tool for content creation, its single most common use is in the manipulation of photographic imagery. With a massive array of functions for adjusting every aspect of both black-and-white and color images, it is the preeminent tool for devout amateurs and industry professionals alike, and is the standard to which all other products are compared. So much so that the verb “Photoshop”—to alter a digital image using software—has become part of the lexicon, and is included in both the Oxford English and the Merriam-Webster Dictionaries.

While there are a host of other programs out these that also serve this function—and every few years someone tries to entice consumers with the next “Photoshop Killer”—Adobe Photoshop remains the king of this particular realm, and the standard to which all other products are compared.

As such, the message inherent in affixing Photoshop tool palettes to a poster slathered with flawless beauty queens—that is to say, with people who are, in their current iteration, the very product of the software—is a great inside joke to the passers-by who have the skill set to recognize it. Probably only about fifteen or twenty percent of the population, ‘strooth, but isn’t that the whole point of an inside joke? If everyone understood and reacted to it appropriately it would be….well, it’d probably be just another advertisement.

This also gives me an excuse to trot out one of my favorite videos, created by the Dove company as part of their “Campaign For Real Beauty“. This movie also showcases the power of Photoshop to do evil as well as good. Requires QuickTime to view.

http://www.uncle-andrew.net/blog/movies/evolutions.mov

1/20/2009

Slainte

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 5:24 pm

It’s been said millions of times in millions of places all over the world and all over the internet, but since I, a born cynic, burst into tears at an inauguration for goshsakes, I have to say it again.

Ladies and Gentlemen let us raise our glasses to PRESIDENT Barak Obama.
Sir, good health, long life, and a successful and prosperous presidency.

1/18/2009

Take out Da’ FUNK

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 5:20 pm

At some point last spring when I was dealing with some sort of major funk, I believe I mentioned that being flat out in bed is easier when one has a cat to share the experience.

Might I revise that opinion?

I’ve been down with a remarkably fast acting, but long lasting, FUNK since Friday morning. I’m to the point now where I can eat, and even to the point where I can watch advertisements for food without getting nauseated. I have, however, spent all but about two hours today asleep and since I’ve been awake for all of an hour now, it’s getting to the point where I need to go and take a nap for another hour or two before I’ll have the strength to sit up and eat noodles for dinner.

Over the last two and a half days I’ve been remarkably confusing to the cats. They, especially Pogo who is a heat suck, have been quite pleased to have me wrapped up in a blanket on the couch, but they’re not used to having me ignore them. And the feverish, and or drugged, stupor in which I have been conducting myself qualifies, in their mind as “being ignored”. Which isn’t to say they’ve not been helpful or sympathetic… in their own way.
Pogo has been trilling at me, convinced that all he needs do is to be cute enough and I’ll snap out of it. Also I keep turning over and finding fish in my bedding.

Okay, I said that to be dramatic, I couldn’t help it. Pogo and Flit have this bizarre passion for a pair of stuffed red and green plaid fish that someone gave us. They don’t jingle, they don’t crinkle, they don’t roll, but the fish are BIG FUN. And Pogo seems to think that I’ll feel better if he keeps bringing me fish.
Flit has, as in everything, been a little more laid back in her role as comforter. And she makes a great comforter, by the way, Flit RADIATES heat. Until this morning Flit had been satisfying her position as official sick room addition by sitting on my feet and purring, lying on my ribs and purring, and chewing on my hair and purring. Oh, I can’t forget the bit about wrestling with her brother over my knees and purring, that was a good one.
Until this morning.
This morning Flit decided that I’d laid around long enough and so I was woken from my mid-to-late morning mid-morning nap by Flit leaping up onto the end of the sofa and dropping her jingle ball on my head.
I probably created a bad precedent by throwing it for her.

I must be feeling better.

1/16/2009

Stop The Presses!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:08 pm

I had another post I was working on, but something happened that forced that particular train of thought right the fuck off the rails. We interrupt our (highly ir)regular broadcast to bring you this:

I got a call from my sister this evening. She is a teacher at a school in Hawaii. (For the sake of liability protection, I will not disclose which of my two sisters who are teachers in Hawaii happened to call.) She had had a, well, unusual experience at school that day and wanted to get my take on it.

My sister—I’ll give her the pseudonym Hortence, so I can stop saying “my sister” and also because I’m a generally unpleasant person—had recently sent one of her students’ papers home with a note attached. This particular student is….well, an overachiever. Pathologically so, by her description. The kid needs to get the maximum possible score for every test, every paper, every project. He is constantly asking her if there is any extra-credit work he can do to further bump up his grade. Just to clarify without providing enough clarity to identify any of the affected parties, this student is not trying to get his senior GPA up in order to be accepted to Harvard next year; he’s  a long way off from that sort of concern.

Hortence sent his paper (he got an A, naturlich) home with a note suggesting—in very diplomatic terms—that he should maybe learn to lighten up a bit, that it was not necessary for him to get the maximum possible score on every assignment and that such behavior might cause him some trouble further down the road if he did not learn to relax.

This afternoon, Hortence was visited at school by this student’s parents. They were very concerned about the note she had sent home, implying that, in fact, it pretty much was a matter of life and death that their son be the very best in everything he did. They sought for some way to make their position, their philosophy clear to her. The mom turned to Hortence and said, by way of explanation, “We’re Jedi parents!”

“Wuh-hut?” I replied, cranking my left ear in a counterclockwise direction to reel in my jaw.

Hortence went on. “And then the dad started to say something I didn’t quite get and Mom joined in with him, and they finished the sentence together. It was really wierd.”

“What did they say?”

“I can’t really remember, I was hoping you might know it. Something about victory, or going all the way, to do or….”

Many of you can practically smell it coming.

I steeled myself. “It wasn’t by any chance, ‘Try not. Do, or do not. There is no try,’ was it?”

“YES!” she exclaimed. “That’s it! I’ve got to write that down. So what is that, anyway? Who said it?

“It’s a quote from Yoda,” I groaned.

“Who?”

“Oh, come on, Hortence, don’t tell me you didn’t see the original Star Wars movies.”

“Well, sure I saw them, that doesn’t mean I have them memorized.”

“He’s one of the key characters in the series!” I replied.

“Oh—wait, the little green guy?”

“That’s him, the one that sounds like Grover.”

Upon having the parents of one of her students tell her that they were Jedi parents and wrap it all up by quoting a Muppet to her—in unison—all Hortence could do was to smile and nod. Much the way one would respond to a person at a bus stop with feces smeared in his hair, warning you to avoid drinking Mr. Pibb because the Zorlons inject each can with mind-control nanobots before they leave the factory.

Since our conversation I did a bit of Googling, and there does not seem to be any organized philosophy or school of thought dedicated to the subject of “Jedi parenting”. There is the Temple of the Jedi Order, and some of their discussion forums (fora?) do bring up the subject of parenting, but there seems to be no established methodology to it.

No, these folks appear to have come up with this idea all by themselves. What a lucky child! I imagine he’s going to be in for quite an adventure once he gets out from underneath the constant weight of his parents’ expectations. If his college of choice has as many recreational substances flowing through its hallowed halls as mine did, I can imagine he’ll be on a pretty much constant mushroom trip for the duration of his freshman year. Hopefully he’ll meet a nice girl (or boy) after that and get his head together before he burns out completely.

As for my sister, she was kind of flummoxed. “I mean, what do I say to these people if they come in for another meeting?”

At the time, I suggested she have the parents of one of the other, more athletically gifted kids accost them in the hall and take their lunch money. It was only just now that I stumbled upon the perfect solution.

“Hortence”, if you happen to read this, here’s what you do. If Mr. and Mrs. Kenobi come in for another meeting about little Anakin’s grades, just waggle the fingers of your left hand at them and say, “These aren’t the grades you’re looking for.” They’ll either totally plotz, or else they’ll repeat it back to you in dazed tones as though hypnotized. Either way, you should be able to get past them and out of your office before they come to. Call security.

1/10/2009

January Update

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 5:27 pm

As somewhat of an antidote to my previous post which was, I’ll admit, a bit of a bummer –however necessary–, I present the following.

It’sspringit’sspringit’sspringit’sspringit’sspring!

I’ve done it before, I’ll do it again. It’s January, half the state is flooded and the other half is still frozen, and I’m out doing pastoral dances (okay gleeful five mile walks) and planning my garden.
How do I know it’s spring?

My bulbs are up.

After Sheri and I finished with the front garden last fall I went a little bulb happy. I purchased, in three or four different batches, about 300 assorted crocus, daffodil, and hyacinth bulbs then wandered around the garden strewing them at random. Oh, and I can’t forget the gladiola bulbs that the nice woman at Herr Garden Center gave me. She thought I was nuts walking into the place in October wearing shorts, but I was walking from doing some errand up in Burien and just happened to stop in because they were advertising a fall bulb sale. I was wearing shorts because the weather was bright and wonderful. I’d walked about four miles from home to do my errand (expensive gasoline after all) and had another two to go to get back home. It was chilly, and I was perfectly comfortable in shorts, a long sleeved t-shirt and a wind breaker, but that’s beyond the point.
I was standing there gleefully buying my bulbs and planning a massive bulb flinging for the next day. {Interlude: “bulb flinging”. When one is graced by a large number of bulbs and plenty of space in which to plant them, one stands in some central location, tosses the bulbs into the air, and plants them where they land. It provides a wonderful natural look to the planting if you’re not interested in tidy, arranged beds of bulbs.}
Anyway the nice lady, in between chiding me for being a nutter, asked me if I liked gladiolas. I don’t have anything against gladiolas in particular. I wouldn’t go out of my way to purchase them, but they’re attractive enough. Besides I have a fond memory of sneaking several packages of gladiola bulbs under the covers of the hideaway bed that I slept on when I visited my grandparents alone when I was fourteen as a farewell and thank you gift for my grandmother.
So yes, I said, I like gladiolas well enough.
And she handed me about four packages of gladiola bulbs and told me to take them home and plant them. They were 2007 bulbs and had been in storage since the previous winter when, unsold, they’d been taken off the shelf and shoved into a storage bin. They’d started to leaf out at the growth ends, and neither the nice lady nor I had any idea whether or not they’d survive to bloom next spring, but I would at least be getting them out of her hair.
So I walked two miles home with a large bag of bulbs and thoroughly enjoyed flinging them the next day.
The gladiolas did stick up little noses of leaves around the middle of November and while those leaf ends are looking a bit weather worn, they’re still there and they may, in fact, bloom this spring.

So yeah, it’s January, but it’s spring. Everything out back is tidied away and waiting for the first rototilling. I’ve got a fair number of fronds from Baird’s rose
baird's rose
that I need to weave back into the main body of the bush so they don’t go crawling up the roof and growing in between the shakes, but the back garden is pretty well controlled at this point.
The front garden is looking a little shaggy. The active (i.e. above ground) bits of the agastache and the cat mint froze in the snow, but there’s new growth at the ground so I’ll just need to come by and prune off the dead bits at some point. I’m not certain that any of the four Australian bush mints (two in front and two in back) survived the cold, but we’ll see what happens when the weather warms up. One of my juvenile President Roosevelt rhododendrons
President Roosevelt Rhododendron
broke off at its main stem and may be seriously dead, and my hardy jasmine really didn’t like the cold but will probably be just fine.
Come over and see my garden. In a couple of weeks it’ll be spectacular.

1/7/2009

Some People Shouldn’t Have Unsupervised Access To Medication

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 11:16 pm

I’m smack-dab in the middle of an emergency server build at the moment—our main server had some sort of conniption that we simply could not track down, so I’m trying to put together a new one using a clone of the system drive—but I thought taking a few minutes to relay the following might help to lower my blood pressure. I’m not kidding: I just happened to have an appointment with my GP after four hours of sweating over the remains of our server, and my blood pressure was about 15 points higher than my last appointment two months ago. ❗

So anyway, Margaret and I were watching TV the other night and were treated to the following ad for Excedrin Express Gels, one of the newest offerings in chemical giant Novartis’ ever-expanding line of “aspirin, only pricier” analgesics:

Very exciting. But might I direct your attention, in case you’re not willing to sit through the whole thing, to the bit that really got our attention:

excedrin_express_gels_rocket

In case your eyes aren’t what they used to be, that word down there in the bottom-left corner of the frame is “Dramatization”. As in, “This animation is a dramatization.” As in, “This product does not actually burst out of the bottle under its own power and soar around on a contrail of scintillating ejecta, farting out bright-white halos of headache-fighting energy throughout your body—or perhaps the Universe—as it goes.”

Which is probably for the best, really; that sure would shoot down any claims of “gentle on your stomach”.

In this, the greatish country on Earth, which is at least perceived to be unduly litigious (people love to talk about the newest crazy-ass lawsuit dreamed up by some greedy wackmobile and his/her overpriced barracuda; you never hear about how many of these lawsuits get laughed out of court by the first judge to hear them), I understand the need for this sort of disclaimer in advertising. “Professional driver on closed course”; “Individual results may vary”; “Do not attempt“; et cetera, et cetera. Companies have to cover their asses, and many of these get-out-of-court-free cards can be quite amusing as well as patronizingly silly.

But for the love of God, come on. Anyone so out of touch with reality that they confuse this advertisement with cinema verité is too bereft of common sense to be let loose around a bottle of aspirin….or a shallow pan of water, for that matter.

Oh Man, I hope I get this server put together sometime before the sun rises….

And What Now?

MargaretMargaret
Filed under: @ 10:14 pm

e-mail from a friend today. Actually got an e-mail from her SO last week, but haven’t had the time or the words, or the heart, to reply.

Long time friend and colleague. Her brother, with his four kids (ranging from 18 months to 11 years) and his wife, were planning on moving from the DC area back “home” to Chicago on 12/20. Jobs quit, new ones arranged. Older two kids enrolled in school in Chicago already.
Then he’s on his way home from the grocery store on foot and gets clobbered by at least two cars four days before they were set to move. I’m not sure of the details of the accident, but I am certain that he wasn’t ice skating naked on the highway. He wasn’t doing anything reckless, he was walking home from the grocery store for chrissakes. How, HOW can two cars hit an adult pedestrian on the sidewalk carrying bags of groceries in broad daylight?

Fractured ribs, pulmonary trauma, fractured sternum, fractured face and, what’s worst, serious brain trauma. He’s at least responsive to pain now, and he is breathing on his own, but he’s been in a coma since the accident.

I’m not even family and I’m heartbroken. I’ve never met the man and I am at a loss to describe the rush of emotions that I feel for him and his family. As much help as we can offer his sister has been offered.

Be CAREFUL out there. If you’re driving, if you’re walking…. be careful. And never neglect to tell the people in your life that you love them.

1/4/2009

And A Happy 2009 To You

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 2:13 pm

Hope everybody had themselves a buoyant and salutary New Year’s celebration. We hosted a moderate dig of shins here at the Homestead, with about ten friends and family members, pizza, a truly frightening quantity of alcohol, and fire….an award-winning combo if ever there was one.

Margaret and I appropriated the stump of a long-dead apple tree from the back yard of her parents’ house, with the intention of burning it during the celebration as a sort of totem of good fortune for the coming year. To aid in the conflagration, and having no appreciable amount of firewood ourselves, we went to our local hardware store and purchased 40 Presto Logs, an amalgam of finely-chipped scrap lumber and paraffin. We figured that these ought to provide a significant and burny leg up to the stump which, while bone-dry, was so unbelievably dense that stray photons kept getting sucked into it when they ventured too close. Margaret prepared a superstructure of CMU blocks and braced the two largest pieces of the stump on top of it, with a rick of Presto Logs underneath it. Problem was, these things did not come with instructions, and it turns out that you are supposed to “penny” them, hacking them into shorter lengths of loglet, before attempting to set them ablaze. No matter what sort of accelerant we contributed to the endeavor—lamp oil, gasoline, road flares—the damn Presto Logs would simply not catch fire, let alone the giant depleted-uranium-dense slabs of fruitwood resting upon them.

It was then that I got the idea of busting out our shop vac and, setting it to “Blow”, using it to pump a steady torrent of air into the base of the fire. This did the trick nicely:

and soon we had a roaring blaze that kept going well into 2009. The video doesn’t really do it justice: those flames are easily seven feet tall. ‘Round three o’clock the next morning I finally gave up and put it out with a hose; it took fifteen minutes of continuous soaking and combing out of the ashes to extinguish it completely. The column of steam that rose up from our yard must have been visible from space.

This was by far the booziest event we have ever held at our place, and there was much slurring of speech and professions of love for one’s fellow attendees….along with an appreciable quantity of tossing of cookies. I mention this only so I can make the following observation: the difference between a party full of twenty-something-year-old boozehounds and thirty-something-year-old boozehounds is that the latter do a far better job of cleaning up after themselves than the former. And really, how much more could one ask for under the circumstances? All in all, given the swath of destruction left behind by the revelers—late at night, our living room carpet can still be heard sobbing quietly to itself—I came within a nose hair’s width of wishing we hadn’t hosted the thing. But in the end it was well worth it. Good food, fellowship, and flame. Doesn’t get much better than that. I’d do it again in a heartbeat.

I hope all of our readers had a similarly spectacular New Year’s Eve. Here’s to more of the same for the rest of ’09….though for the sake of your livers, perhaps a bit lighter on the booze. 😉


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