Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Let's watch "Bowling for Dullards"!

I stopped in at the local Big Red Bullseye See Spot Save store a few days ago, and to my surprise they were still offering Magnetix toys. Drive it off the lot today! The only change was that there's a sign on the front of the display from some consumer protection group -- not the CPSC, some other one -- warning of the swallowing and aspiration hazards pre-suggested age range kids and stupid bigger kids have encountered, with Rose Arts' phone number for returns. I imagine this sign is for people who have already bought the toy in the last year, but can see people buying one right then and returning it to Rose Arts instead of not buying one at all. {shrug}

Speaking of dizzy signs, someone posted one to a "that's bizarre" group on Flikr the other day from a bank in England that says something like "you must be inside the bank to park here." This is just poorly phrased because it defies some laws of physics, or maybe it's for the driver to sit and wait while the passenger goes into the bank... but what if you came alone? I did not however have my camera onhand to contribute what I saw in person the same day: at a local hardware store's entrance area there is a display of patio furniture, and some wise employee has put a sign up saying "please do not eat or sit on the furniture." I'd imagine people eating the wicker and redwood furniture might cut into the store's profits, unless they adopted a firm "You bite it, You buy it!" policy. Mating in the 1950's At right we have a couple bits of text obtained from ancient sources to amuse you. This is filler because I can't publish the four pictures I took the other day of a nearby house's icicle liiiights (covering the front, back, sides, and fence... in mid-April!) until next month. It'll be worth the wait. ps - hippos are carnivores, and rather dangerous ones at that.

A few years ago I was working through a day-labor place, which placed me with a caterer that was serving three meals a day at a pulp mill during their biannual equipment cleanup, which would take up to 14 days to complete. The two women who owned the place (and lived together, so there was no escape from one another!) cut corners as best as they could, and during the entire time I was there I was eating the same batch of mushroom gravy and tri-tips in one form or another. On day 10 of the epic, I was instructed to prepare some chocolate chip cookies:
+ All I had to do was put globs of frozen dough onto parchments on cookie sheets in the warmer.
- We did not have any fresh parchments... and they knew this.
+ The sheets already had parchments on them, so why not recycle? They have two sides.
- The item prepared on those parchments was garlic breadsticks.
The next morning I get a call from the rent-a-wretch place, saying my duties were complete. I'm fairly certain they used the garlic cookies as an excuse not to have me back (they'd already balked at paying me for working more than 40 hours in a week, after scheduling me for 56), since they didn't specifically tell me to use those sheets but didn't offer any alternatives (knowing there were none, and not making cookies wasn't an option in their eyes), and I'm dead-positive they served the cookies without flinching.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Fill your life with croutons!

More random thoughts...

Yesterday there was a headline on one of the Seattle newspapers in the paperbox I walked by in front of a restaurant: Are we being gouged on gasoline prices? The back of 'The VW Bug From Hell' First reaction: Gee, ya think? While driving through the backwoods yesterday I stumbled across a gas station offering $2.69 when all the normally-cheap places were at least $2.73... downside, it was an Exxon, which I'd pledged years ago never to do after I'd worked in one of their minimarts and (later) Valdez, AK got smeared. But with today's absurd and no-excuses-offered gas prices, yeah, I put a damned tiger in my tank. I'm ashamed but I'll live.

I heard a radio ad for the new movie American Dreamz (wow, Hugh Grant as Simon Cowell?) and I could swear the explanation at the end for its PG-13 rating was "adult language and popular references." I thought "that's a reason? jokes you won't get if you aren't paying attention to society?" Okay, maybe I heard it wrong because the movie's vanity site says "brief strong language and some sexual references." Still, I like it my way, it makes more sense. Whatever encourages you not to take that out-of-the-loop friend or senseless sister-in-law to the flick, lest you and everyone around you be inundated with questions like, "is there really such a show?" and "why did he say that? what does that mean?"

I was cruising down the street giggling at icicle lights the other day and encountered the scene at right. Is this love or modern art? This house has had a toilet in the front yard as a decorative and tasteful flowerpot for awhile, but this time I noticed there was a new entry in the yard décor... not a flamingo sitting on the bowl taking a dump or a gnome in the tank pretending to be the Ty-D-Bol Man, noooo. Next to the crapper is now television. I heard a comment about this photo saying that the squirrels can now watch Oprah while going potty, but personally I think this a statement about current television programming. Or guerilla art regarding the yard décor, in which case the blue yardwaste bin should be closer. Or, possibly, about one's fellow man sneaking into the yard at night to drop off some big heavy garbage without any artistic merit intended.

When we moved into our lovely home six years ago, one of the minor quibbles we had about the place was the mailbox, which resides across the street from the house. It is one of those with strips of wood pasted across it, "chalet style" as the display at the home improvement warehouses calls the mailbox design, and painted off-pink to match the house. (The previous owners were tweakers; there are plenty of other paint-related issues to speak of.) The name of the person who had moved out was written in black on the side but happily that was fading fast, and we put those metal tile letters with sticky backs across the side. Within a couple years, letters started falling off because they couldn't adhere to the paint, and the paint also couldn't adhere to the wood. The nails or wires or whatever hold those wood strips onto the metal box recently have been giving way, so part of the lattice has been hanging off funny. A few months ago I came home from work and some bozo had plowed the mailbox over with their car -- in the opposite direction of traffic flow! The mailbox is 20-30 feet from a driveway, so this was probably one of the stoned neighbors across the street or their hophead friends coming in for a landing. I spent an hour or two in the dark nailing pieces of 2x4 onto the post to put it back up, and this is where I realized that the cedar 4x4 was rotting out anyway. A year or two ago, when we were bothered enough by the losing-tile-letters issue, we bought a larger mailbox and the intention was to stencil and decorate it before we found a new mount for it. That time has come. We got home from running around yesterday around dinner time, and with an hour of daylight left I planted a new black metal pole and installed the stencilled white mailbox on it. Just in time, since right about the time it was complete and I began putting red and white reflective stickers on the pole to hopefully keep the swervedrivers from plowing it the ambient light was low enough to demonstrate the reflectors were working and appropriately placed. My Y-chromosome is happy. Now if only those two books I ordered from dealers on Amazon Marketplace would arrive in it soon; I got a third book I ordered at the exact same time a week ago... yo, whazzup folks?

[edit 4/24 10:30pm -- The other two arrived, and it's a good thing I put up the bigger box when I did or I'd have two "come to the post office and pick something up" slips jammed in my door; why don't they ever put them in the box with the mail, where they can be found, yet take the effort to put the slips in the doorcrack, where they can get lost, when they could just put the packages on the doorstep instead? So now I have completed the set of B.Kliban books, only one of which involves striped cats.]

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Goodbye, Earl

I'm getting into a strange mood. I've talked to too many people that do not listen, do not think, have not learned anything about the toys that they own, do not do what they promised to do, or do not act as instructed when they seek my help. Since I'm not a malevalent person and in today's society people get paranoid if you use empty stock phrases like "I'm gonna kill you", Foamy owes Bruno some moneyI'm trying to come up with new ways to express that someone really needs to be horsewhipped that won't get you summarily fired or picked up by the secret police for terroristic threats. The one I keep using is, This person needs to be maimed by bears. If it's particularly egregious an offense, I specify what species of bear should be involved and whether they should be fully devoured, partially consumed, or merely mauled beyond recognision. [Disclaimer: I don't actually have tight connections with any ursine creatures bearing Frequent Flyer Miles, so this one just sounds good. Bruno here is just a friend of a friend.] I've come up with one I'm going to use when it seems appropriate, This person needs to invest in rural real estate. It's cryptic, and I like that. (Ariel: "buying the farm" is a fun term for dying suddenly.) I think punt the pail for kicking the bucket is cute and concise, and could be used on mute -- "dammit, dude, just punt the pail!" People I know speak of wanting to throw chlorine into the gene pool, and that's pretty cool; though I refuse to watch Survivor I have been known to stop, point with my whole right arm, and exclaim, "You, off my island!" (Does anyone still quote The Weakest Link... "You are the weakest link; goodbye!"?) I'm not sure when I'll need off the cliff, NOW! and if I could think of a comical way to go such as sic 'em, ice weasels! I'd be using that. (Is that too close to the old "faster, pussycat! kill! kill!" yet less direct?) It's not often I feel that strongly, so for the most part I wind up quoting the contest entries from the undersides of soda caps and candy wrappers: Sorry, you are NOT a winner, please play again. Hey! Thay! There was a cartoon I loved years ago which summed it up this way, after the carnivorous monster ate rocks as an appetizer and broke its teeth: So sorry to hear; please go starve elsewhere.

I make no claim that this is a good entry, but it is cathartic. Share your favorite homegrown euphemism for "I wish you torment equal to or greater than what you have given me" if you've got one.

Trivial thought/picture I felt like sharing: A few months ago I was walking through the local antique store and came across an intact book of paper dolls, featuring George Herbert Walker Bush [US president, 1988-1992, "Pappy"], his wife Barbara, their dog Millie, and their grandchildren. Their six kids are mysteriously absent. Submitted here are the three children of Jeb Bush [Florida governor, 1999-present, "The Enabler"]: John 'Jebby' [fun guy], Noelle [rehabbed crackhead], and low-profile George Prescot [not the US president George Walker Bush, 2000-2008, "Huge Mistake"]. When I first saw this, I wasn't aware that the Bush clan all named their kids the same things so I thought the Jeb and George here were the sons of Pappy, not the grandsons by Gov. Jeb. (BTW, Curious George's twin daughters, Jenna and Barbara [partygirl heirs to the Paris Hilton and Nicole Ritchie legacy if they lose half their body weight and the other half their minds], are portrayed as babies in white frilly frocks.) I wonder if there are paper dolls about the current First Family available.
Bush kids paper dolls

Saturday, April 15, 2006

My cult of magnetic personality

Greetings, blog addicts and casual cybernauts. I can tell it might be good day: I got to work a little early due to low highway traffic (it's Easter, for Christ's sake! [literally]) and I was just getting my computer set up when one of the supervisors came by to say "Mush, take an hour and a half off the phones." This company has a goofy policy where if the number of techs outnumbers the number of calls, they take some techs off the phone to sit 'n twiddle, or until the other techs who then get swamped by the calls we do have threaten to mutiny. So here I sit, working on my blog. Everyone's favorite red-themed department store chain with the bullseye logo advertised that they have Magnetix sets on sale this weekend, so my bride and I had to rush over there to see if this was true. Magnetix 150pc set Indeed, foresooth, yea verily, whoa... And nary a CPSC recall notice to be seen at that moment. (I give it, oh, until 9am today, three hours ago, for those to surface.) So I did what any person who knew that something was going out of style (I've never understood that statement, why would you stock up on something that has fallen out of favor?) would do and bought a 150 piece set for $26. I promise I won't eat them. They also make these itty bitty Magnetix Micros in 30 and 60 piece sets, which would be gym-dandy as desk toys... and ones I could hang from the underside of my metal shelf, thus taking up no extra space. I didn't invest in those but if it's still an option when I can get back to See Spot Save, maybe... maybe... Also, bonus happy befell me when I first arrived at my desk because my brother-in-arms Illiterate had brought in a string of Christmas lights and strung it around the perimeter of my cube (making sure that the plug end was hanging far away from a wall socket so the folks who have commanded we must leave our computers on over the weekend won't think I'm using 0.3 watts of their juice, rendering the power grid unstable). It's a matches-everything-don'it? white string with alternating red-tip/clear-base and clear-tip/blue-base bulbs, 40 of them. Thank you, big guy, and I'll ask my cat if he can cough up a new mouse for you.

Stupidity of the moment: One of my interest is taking photos of advertising art on the sides of old buildings – the ghosts of forgotten deities – a few examples (taken 3 years ago with a 1.3mpx camera) can be found on my old page, and I'll have to update that sometime. Man can't win a joust with the windmill of the elements, and I can't criticize the change of human fortune (buildings change hands, businesses change, names come and names go thus there are new layers of paint) too harshly. But I do have one beef. In the section of the county I live in, which was homesteaded in the late 1800's, along with all the usual developments of the time there was a general store built on the main dirt road; photos from the turn of the century show it there just like it sits there now, while most of what had been nearby is gone. Like most 'downtown' building of the pioneer period (see your average Western movie or ghost town) it had a square façade in front of the average 2.5 story sloped-roof building. Over the years it has been many things, and at last look it was a real estate office downstairs and a private residence upstairs. When Bill Ding Attacks The gripe comes in here: While the industrial buildings downtown have had a historical committee to protect it and seek National Historic Register status, in the ruralities this hasn't been the case (they're just not that organized out here) and while I can forgive the white paint that was put over the façade many years ago to make it look less like a Wild West saloon (what century-old building hasn't had that happen?) the layer of dingy blue-grey paint put over the front and the side where the general store's name had been visible up until a year or five ago aggrivates me. Why didn't someone step up and say "that's part of the area's history, you can't obliviate it"? We have a lack of an active historical committee, apparently. Grrr. You'd think a real estate company would be hyping the history (both when they used it and when they put it up for sale, as it is now with a handmade sign), not destroying it. The picture seen at right isn't that building, but of where some old decaying business or private buildings near the downtown had been removed to make way for a 126-apartment complex. They got some help on the project, as you can see, even if it wasn't helpful help.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

L'argent ne peux pas acheter des pellicules

The bull goes on foreverOne of my coworkers told this great story at the smoke pit the other day... When he and his sister were in school, they would call each other "renob". Finally his mother asked him what that meant. He replied that it was "boner" backwards. She then asked, "So what is a boner?" Without thinking he shot back, "You should know, you had seven kids." :) And no, I'm not a slave to the nicotine, but all the fun people are out there with their coffin nails getting a little fresh air (and a lot of bad air) while the more sensible people are inside going nearsighted at their computers breathing everyone else's stale germy damp air. It's sad that I have to resort to inhaling second-hand smoke to be social, but that's the way it is. And for the record, my sister and I didn't call each other names that often but her favorite term for people she didn't like was "penis wrinkle".

The weekly batch of advertising arrived in the mailbox today, and among the usual supermarket, Money can't buy dandruffrestaurant, and oil change place recyclables was a 9"x11" glossy ad by a place called "Rent-n-Roll", which specializes in rent-to-own rims for your ride. Just what the world needs: first we have RTO places that rent amenities like refrigerators and useful comforts like televisions for a total payment of five times what the item is worth... now we get RTO for outright luxury items? For only $60 a week for an unstated amount of time -- or buy them outright for $1970 -- you can have a set of four pimpin' rims that are prolly worth more than the piece of shit you're putting them on, or are the first thing to get swiped by other people who are attracted to pointlessly shiny things. It's no surprise that the top of the flyer announces this 'sale' under the title "Spring into Bling". Is it racist for me to speculate what demographic this shop targets?

A special tip of the hat to the person who posted a photo on Flickr of a woman whipping out her pierced right boobie (no link or pic here, sorry) because I do believe I went to school with her a generation ago. She was the first crush I had when I moved to the small town; I played baseball with her brother that summer and she'd tag along to practices sort of like a mascot, and it wasn't until autumn when school started that I found out she was my age & grade. Last time I saw her was at our ten year reunion, whereupon she was wearing a short skirt and, uh, nothing under. We were sitting at this table and I leaned down to tie my shoe and looked up... and tried to figure out whether I was getting a bad view of a good thing or a good view of nylon drawers, my eyes were watering that night. A classmate told me afterwards that after we graduated she put herself through college by 'exotic dancing' so I likely saw what I thought I saw. (Tweety voice: "I tawt I taw a puddy-tat!") It ought to be amusing seeing her again in a couple months, with those images in my mind, if she shows up since she did move to the other side of the country. Will say that if that was her in the photo, she has aged very well. I have too but she looks better at it.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Do not take internally or use externally

'shroom from my backyard, April 7 2006Okay, so there was a recall on those hella-fun Magentix as of March 31. Here is the Consumer Product Safety Commission bulletin. Out of mourning, I have put a yummy Kinder Surprise egg from Canada on my desk to amuse myself... it's an older one so the toy inside is probably a helicopter. [Update: Nah, it's a 15 piece jigsaw puzzle; for the collectors, it's K 02 Nº 110] My wife and I joke all the time about how American kids (and parents) are too stupid not to eat the toy, and wonder how M&M's have stayed on the market so long since they are a delicious choking hazard. Correction, there are Americans who know not to eat the toys in their food; they grew up in Louisiana or Mexican households, eating King Cake with dolls or trinkets inside.

An update in the icicle light situation -- and don't think that just because I'm not going to post any pictures soon doesn't mean I'm not going to talk about them: The house with the icicles and flakes finally took down the decorations, I noticed today. No, they didn't mow the lawn, so this must be in anticipation of that. (I mowed mine today. It'd been over six months, the yard needed it badlike.) And on that note...

I'd like to give you a little insight on my thought process regarding icicle lights as a general topic. I don't hate them if they're on businesses like coffee shacks, they're a customer attractant. I don't hate them if they're on buildings in Leavenworth, Washington [The Bavarian Village], but those are hung professionally by trained experts. Heck, there are even rare houses that make me ooh and ahh which have them when I take the tour of lighted homes. What it comes down to is a matter of taste, and a lot of people who put them up haven't much. Follow me on this... When icicle lights first came onto the market in the early 1990's, few people had access to them and most of those who did typically did a good job of hanging them (or maybe it seemed that way since there wasn't anything to compare to at the time). What are these boys doing? They looked pretty awesome in 1993 because they were unique. Then the price dropped, the suppliers increased, and they became as common as yellow ribbon magnets and just as meaningful: "if I put this up, people will consider my house as decorated and believe me to be in the Christmas spirit". Most people do a foul job of putting up the lights (huge gap where two strings connect, anyone? sagging like swag?) or their choice of lights is attrocious... seriously, the only place you should hang the kind that come in rainbow colors is around the perimeter of the counter inside a bar, or if you must hang them outdoors put them around the top edge of a gazebo for year-round use, and blue icicles are like blue eyeshadow and should be avoided by 99% of people because they look tack-kay except in rare cases [hint: hang them right and put a tight string of ice-blue or purple or ultraviolet C-7's parallel to them around the eaves, and you will blow the whole damn neighborhood's mind]. Red icicle lights, no matter how much you think red is a Christmas color, are an indoor-only decoration. So be kind to your neighbors and passers-by: like high heels, if you don't know how to wear icicle lights (on your house) then don't put them on or you'll stumble in public. And like I said earlier in regard to any Christmas lights, put 'em up as early as November 1, sure, but take 'em down by February 1 or you deserve to be egged.

Okay, today's stupidity... Weeks ago at my work, we were told that the company we outsource for is noticing that we have a lot of time in "idle work" (also known as "aftercall"), the state of not being available to take a call which is usually used for finishing notes or taking a dash to the can between scheduled breaks, and they asked us to try to cut that unavailable time down. The other day, we received an email telling us that "in order to reduce the number of misdirected calls, and to reduce handle time" we are to schedule a callback, or if the customer doesn't want that we now to give customer service's number instead of tech support's number. I think our corporate overlord needs to lay off the hard drugs (like the chick in the image below); let's look at this objectively:
a) Outbound calls are tracked as "idle work", not as their own category, and when we were told we needed to cut down on the unavailable time the suggestion was given not to offer callbacks, we offer our number so when and if they need us they can call and it won't hurt our statistics.
b) The initial call will take the exact same amount of time if the issue can't be resolved. Don't let this happen to your dick Us calling them or them calling us doesn't factor into call length, duh.
c) The phone system through customer service is pretty damn confusing as well as unreliable, which is why there are misdirected calls in the first place. Why wouldn't you give tech support's number when the customer needs to call back for technical support?
I figure that as soon as the parent company notices that "idle work" has skyrocketed and the number of misdirected calls goes up instead of down -- and the beancounters notice that the phone bill for outbound calls has doubled (as it is, the phone system has trouble finding open lines with which to dial out on those occasional times you do need to call a manufacturer) -- then a few grains of sense will come back. This could take a little time, knowing them, but I'm patient and since this one does involve stuff they care about like $$$ and unavailable time I'm sure they'll figure it out sooner rather than later... unlike why a month after call center management asked the company why one option we do not handle in tech support is still on tech support's phone menu.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

You're There With A Crosley

Greetings, cybernauts. I've said it a few times in several places how when we had the "gas crisis" in the 1970's (which turned out to be a "shortglut" - announced as a [artificial] shortage to jack up prices, but when people were being a little more frugal there wasn't enough gasoline being sold so the price went back down) Detroit worked to create more fuel-efficient automobilies, so we had some cars in the 1980's that could get like 45 miles per gallon, Proof we CAN get good gas mileagebut in the period since then Hummers and SUVs came into vogue so average gas mileage in today's autos has gone back down. Here we see proof that SIXTY YEARS AGO we knew how to build engines that could get better than 30 miles to the gallon, up to 50 according to one consumer, and that's in a vehicle that had a metal auto body rather than today's lighter plastic. Granted, it was about the size of a VW Beetle or a Cooper Mini, and even the station wagons were small. See the Crosley Auto Club page for more info on the cars.

Funny, what ever happened to Crosley auto manufacturing if they were so good? Not the same story as Tucker or DeLorean, which also were independant waves of the future, but their founders had personal issues that interfered with the businesses. Crosley came to a close because they were ahead of their time. According to the founder's Wikipedia entry, "during the pre-war period, Crosley produced 5,757 cars. However, the onset of war ended all automobile production in the United States in 1942", then after WWII the car "sold for $850 and got between 30 and 45 miles per US gallon. Unfortunately for Crosley, good gas mileage ceased to be an inducement after gas rationing ended. Plus, Americans were infatuated with big cars. Crosley sold about 75,000 cars before closing down the operation in 1952." History repeats itself, again we're infatuated with the modern version of the Packard, substituting truck size for chrome and steel, but keeping the high weight and low gas mileage. And now I want one of these old cars... someday, maybe, after driving a gasoline-powered vehicle becomes a luxury in my life rather than a necessity without viable alternatives, such as hydrogen cell or full electric. (Do not call a gas-electric hybrid a 'viable alternative' until it takes no gasoline at all at freeway speeds, 'k? My commute is 50 miles each way.)

I swear this will be the last picture of icicle liiiiiights! I post, or during the month of April (it'll be hard for me...) anyway, because as said I could start a Flickr group about the subject but won't. I prefer ghost images of business names and advertising on the sides of old buildings, for the record. This lazy light perpetrator is 2 miles from my house, just off a major thoroughfare. As always, click and ye shall see big.
Icicle Liiiights!

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