Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day was never such an orgy

Hello, friends and strangers. You will be relieved to know that I had a pretty nice little Christmas. I spent Christmas Day at home with my wife, and we woke up around 1 p.m. (we don't have any kids beside Cheddar Meatloaf to demand we get up any earlier) to open our gifts sloooowly one by one taking turns. discover the meaning of Christmas Then we spent the day on the couch watching a lot of HGTV, played Scrabble™ [I got a 7-letter word on the first round, she never caught up] and Boggle™ [she wiped the floors with me, as always], and occasionally answering the phone when her family would call to say hello. We both got the one item we asked for, and this year we were either frugal or just hadn't thought about what we wanted: she wanted an emerald 'journey' necklace, I wanted a polarizing filter for my camera. (Unfortunately when the note said "linear, not circular" and she showed it to the guy at the camera shop so he could read for himself that it said "linear, nor circular", the douchebag still handed her a circular filter. It's being exchanged tomorrow.) We surprised each other as well: I gave her a photo album of pictures I've taken over the years and have mostly lived in digital format; she gave me a ticket to the Blue Man Group show on January 24. Beyond that, it was how things usually looked (all is calm, all is mild, and my mother gave me a sweater and my wife some dishtowels As Usual) and that's something I'm thankful about. We already have a theme picked out for next year's tree.

I think I expended all the tip-top stupid things last time, thought there's no actual shortage of them. I suppose now we should be thinking about the New Year, and all the standard auld lang syne nonsense associated with resolutions. I don't make resolutions, as you know, but I do intend to become more fit because desk jobs are starting to show on my physique. I don't want to do the fourty year sprawl which I seem to be actively engaged in, it's avoidable! (the sprawl part, not the fourty year part... sigh) 2007 hasn't been that bad to me; both of the jobs I've had have paid pretty well and been tolerable, without a bothersome gap other than the two months of silence at the beginning of the year, I think I've accomplished a few things and gotten to know myself better, and I accepted turning a round number divisible by ten with some grace (to my surprise). People from the past that I've longed to reconnect with for a decade or two have reappeared (some more briefly than others) and I think I've said what I've needed to say to them. There's plenty to be thankful for. And there'll be more once that kitchen renovation ever gets completed.

I hope everyone else had a decent Christmas, or whatever you celebrate...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

if kisses were snowflakes, I'd give you a blizzard

where I keep my mindIf "ifs" and "buts"
were candy and nuts
we'd all have a very merry Christmas.

Hello, readership! It must be the holidays because I've got a Santa bag full of stupidities! Leading the pack is that I didn't realize how much I liked a certain F Minus cartoon from a month or so ago until later, now I can't freaking find it online ( only goes back 2 weeks, Google Images-fu is failing me, etcetera)! The cartoon in question shows two adult humans talking to a collie, the caption is something about "If Lassie had a speech impediment", and the people are saying "You say Timmy fell in a whale? Quick, get a marine biologist!" That one tickled my funny bone more than I knew at the time so I didn't clip it...

Here's something that's the opposite of the standard nonsense about the religious snoots demanding to put the Christ in Christmas and the non-Christian snoots demanding to take Christmas out of the classrooms: The local Christian station, Spirit 105 FM, has a billboard on 56th & Pacific Avenue with a big picture of Santa Claus, with a caption something like "Even Santa listens to Spirit!" Hmm, uh, okay... Good to see some effort to get along, I admit that.

There's this amazing, jaw-dropping TV ad for a firm that specializes in divorces. (And broadcast just a week before Christmas!) Woman is sitting at one end of the couch, frumpy. Man walks in and rips the remote out of her hand and plunks down at the other end of the couch. She sneers "whatever!" On their TV comes a talking head who gives the expected "get your share in a divorce by calling us" speech. The two estranged people look at each other for a second then dive at the phone. The clawing for the phone after that is a little unsettling. They must be the firm's intended demographic...

Roadwork is an inevitable. Choosing the right time to work on a road is crucial. Choosing which roadwork projects should go on concurrently is important. So... I hope the bright person or people responsible for having work on the right lane of 405 outside Renton, which affects traffic coming onto it from Valley Highway and 167, take place at the same time as work at the Renton end of 167 has a merry friggin' Christmas. Double kudos to the folks at 167 who are doing stuff on BOTH sides of the road at night.

There's good-ish "green" news: President Bush has just signed some legislation saying that by the year 2020 all new vehicles must get 35 miles per gallon. Now why it's in the stupidities column: First, this legislation has been on the table for TWENTY YEARS. The first Bush could have approved it. Clinton could have approved it. Shit's sake, Reagan could have signed it. Why'd it take the guy who doesn't accept the Kyoto Accord regarding greenhouse gasses to get this into gear? Second, this legislation should have been standard already as of TWENTY YEARS AGO... back when new cars were getting 30+ miles per gallon because of fuel prices in the late 70's and early 80's, a state we somehow lost in the last decade as sub-20 mile per gallon SUVs and Hummers gained popularity. What this all boils down to is... For all intents and purposes, this dictum should have taken effect and the vehicles in question produced somewhere between 2000 and 2010. Now. Not giving the oil industry a license to gouge for another 13 years and the auto industry more time to sit on their thumbs when they know how to do it right. The future came and went.

It finally happened: I got a cell phone. A purple one. This had some truly stupid moments leading up to The Big Purchase, namely: Baiting advertising. There was this flyer in the paper showing purple and green phones. This intregued my wife and I. I went four places in search of these colored phones before work. Each of them had nonfunctioning demo models to caress and ogle in green. But did any of them have these phones? Nope, not a one. I've been told by a coworker who is about to start working for the cellular provider in question that the mall kiosks and other dealers don't get the same full stock line as the company stores, so I'm willing to accept that they would have to order the product, but still.... the advertisements show the colored phones prominently and that's the lure they're using, so you would think they'd carry them since that is what people are coming in for. I wound up getting the phones on my lunch break at the company store at the base of the hill in the town where I work ("it's the one between the Starbucks and, uh, the Starbucks" -- not kidding, there are two Starbucks in that strip mall), which, as you recall, is 40 miles away from my home. Why the pressing need to pick up the phones when I could have ordered them online? Because my wife is crossing the state to spend the pre-Christmas weekend with her family, and an order would arrive on Boxing Day or so.

Which leads to a superb stupidity that reader Illiterate can comprehend: how cellular carriers (and phone makers) try to make money off every aspect of a phone. My analogy is how printer makers sell the machines cheap then make the money off of ink. The cellular industry gives away phones cheap (mine was $25 with a $50 mail-in rebate) then charges you a couple bucks to add ringtones and wallpapers and has plenty of charges for putting music on your phone plus charges $30 for the cable so you can back stuff up, get your photos off, or add your own pix/images/music. This little grey mushroom however has beaten that system: first, I'm not going to use my phone to play MP3s, I have a player with way more capacity and great headphones and better sound quality; second, the USB cable from one of my portable hard drives works with this phone (so much for the company and various websites claiming the transfer cable is "proprietary") and the phone's USB drivers are available for download on the maker's site and I've found free 3rd party software online which allows adding and removing content from the phone; third, the special "ringtone making" software out there does the exact same thing as any program that can save a music file as an MP3 and there's plenty of free stuff out there that can do that. So without paying anything extra, I've created a couple ringtones -- a keyboard loop from Depeche Mode's "A Question Of Time" (I dreamed for years about using that) and a sped-up sample of the "ooga chucka ooga ooga chucka" from the beginning of Blue Swede's "Hooked On A Feeling" -- and put some photos I've taken with a real camera as the wallpaper and phonebook entry images, plus can get any pictures I take with that cheesy 1.3mpx cell cam onto my computer. Booyeah!

Finally, just a quick grin. Know how people always snark on Britney Spears for being white trash because she's, uh, got some character flaws? Her 16 year old sister is knocked up, something you wouldn't really picture someone in her spot in the limelight [and a tweener-appeal show on Nickelodeon!] doing. (Yeah, we said similar about Brit a half-dozen times.) Jamie Lynn, dear, you could have asked your big sister to go buy some rubbers for you while she's in Rite-Aid getting Tampax...

Monday, December 10, 2007

saying something for the purpose of saying something

unnatural actI'm still missing the final stupid thought of last week. However, I do have a couple new ones. Stupidity is everywhere, you know, especially in the Christmas season, though these two have nothing to do with the holiday.
 •  I saw this advertisement last night for Presto Logs or a similar product. Rather weary woman wanders over to the wood bin at the supermarket and has the choice between real split logs and pressed sawdust logs. A squirrel puppet shows up on the scene and tells the woman why the synthetic log is better than good ol' fashioned hunks of tree: the Presto Log now contains no petroleum products. Seems they used to be held together with parafin. Woman is convinced and grabs the synthetic log. And I said back to the television: "The real log doesn't have any petroleum products in it either. Never had it, never will, ah ah ah." Reminds me of the ad campaign for some chewing gum Wrigley put out years ago: Moistens your mouth. The woman I married ten years later saw that and responded, "So does sucking on a pebble."
 •  This is mostly directed at some unknown male coworker(s) who need the memo: You are a grownup. You work for a leading corporation. No one is impressed with such things. So for those reasons, stop wiping your boogers on the walls of the restroom stalls. We don't care how big of flakes of nasal crust you have extracted from your nose, this isn't a museum for you to display them. There's two rolls of paper at your right; kindly make use of a couple squares and deposit them in the bowl. 'snot what we wanna see at work. Okay?

To make your spirits bright, here's our Christmas tree. Enjoy the spirit of whatever holidays you celebrate!
blue christmas

Friday, December 07, 2007

and there were leftovers for the rest of the week

Okay, the second-to-last lost thought from the original set of five days ago:

First and foremost: when the hell did "My Favorite Things" become a Christmas song? It's a great song from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music and I've heard it covered by several people though my preference is still the 1965 movie's singer, Dame Julie Andrews (who has done a few different renditions over the years). kosher ham! Despite the wintery images it was sung, in the movie, during a summer thunderstorm! This one has been on my mind for a couple years. I have heard a couple not-actually-Christmas-songs get played on the radio or included in CD compilations this year, most recently Robson & Jerome's cover of the 1953 Frankie Laine hit "I Believe", which at the time was essentially the Korean War's version of Bette Midler's cover of "From A Distance". (Curious parallel in a second way: she re-recorded that song for her Christmas album. Off-topic comment: It always cracks me up when Jewish artists like her or Barry Manilow make Christmas albums... A great album it is despite that track, for the record.) I'm not one of those people who criticizes whether Christmas music or celebrations should be about the birth of Christ or about being visited by Santa Claus; I believe they can coexist, and most of the singers record music from both camps -- some even putting the two together, like the unsanitized version of "Here Comes Santa Claus" (such as Gene Autry's rendition) or Max Headroom's "Merry Christmas Santa Claus (You're A Lovely Guy)" having the Baby Jesus saying the song's title. [Okay, hmm, maybe that was a little off...] I don't get technical if the song is just about winter without a holiday involved, like Rosemary Clooney's "Here Comes Suzy Snowflake" or the Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye ode to "Snow". I even try not to get weirded out by the logistics of David Hasselhoff singing "Feliz Navidad", which he did. But regardless of what one's interpretation of the season or holiday, c'mon, make sure your seasonal or holiday music IS about the season or holiday!!

The last one is better... and slipped my mind again!

Monday, December 03, 2007

and a dollop of stupid for dessert!

goody goody gumdropsIf you haven't read yesterday's entry yet, do that and then come back up here. Thanks!

   Okay, I remembered one stupid thing I was going to kvetch about yesterday: Bing Crosby Christmas albums. Or more accurately, how I haven't found a complete and comprehensive collection yet. Okay, everyone is familiar with White Christmas (a.k.a. "Merry Christmas"), which is the biggest-selling Christmas album in history. The legacy only begins there. I have a Bing album of more well-known Christmas songs called Songs of Christmas (which I refer to as "Sofa King Bing" because it was put out by La-Z-Boy)... see it. It doesn't end there. Yesterday I was in Costco and came across a Bing boxed set which was $4 off, containing three CDs and a bonus DVD of a 1935 production of "Scrooge" (which I've seen several times in the dollars stores... 1935 plus the 72 year copyright life equals "just came into the public domain this year, woo!"). Disk One is a very obscure Bing album, where every song is original and new -- ergo no one has heard any of those songs since then (with exception of "Christmas Is..." which Johnny Mathis has covered, and for the record "'Round and 'Round The Christmas Tree" is not the same song as Gene Autry's "'Round 'Round The Christmas Tree"). That's different and welcome. Disk two is mostly popular Christmas songs sung by Bing on TV and radio specials, and songwise half of them don't have a studio version so this is a treat. Disk three is what pisses me off: They could have put in Songs Of Christmas since it's uncommon, or at the least made a compilation of fun well-known Bing Christmas songs which weren't on White Christmas such as "The Holly And The Ivy" and "I Wish You A Merry Christmas" plus added offbeat numbers like "Christmas Dinner Country Style" and lost B-sides like "That Christmas Feeling" (which I have the single of as well as his short duet with Frank Sinatra used as a radio show's closer). But what did they do? They put together a random collection of Christmas music, added one Bing song -- his duet of "Jingle Bells" with Frank Sinatra from a 1940's radio special (available on several inexpensive holiday collections) -- and titled it Bing And Friends. Bzzt, wrong! I'm seeking an actual compendium of Christmas music by Bing Crosby, everything he's ever recorded for the holidays, and I have yet to see anything that even comes half-way. And to prove it, I did a search in a P2P and found another CD's worth of obscure Christmas music!

Okay, so I realize this rant is about as obscure in nature as Bing's "Is Christmas Only A Tree?" but it matters to me.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

stupidity enough for us all, in bite-sized servings

To make up for how I've been talking more about myself (which is understandable in the holiday season) and last post was not very structured, this time it'll all be things I consider stupid, daft, senseless, or anticlimactic about my new printer. Leading the pack is how while I am writing this I've got a print job spooled to my new printer which is taking about 10 minutes to even arrive there. You'd think computers could do everything all at the same time without massive pauses during typing... which apparently isn't the case here. I'm just happy that everything's working.

   So speaking of this new printer, an HP Deskjet D4260 that was on sale at Office Depot, I've had plenty of issues. Not with the printer's function on its own -- the machine itself is working nicely -- but with the software. Let's start from the beginning. I followed the instructions on how to get it physically hooked up and the disk that came with it installed, and printed something using my favorite image editor, IrfanView, just fine but I have to do a bunch of twaddling of options to get it to print 4"x6" photo size in high quality. remember pulltabs? There's this button on the front of the printer with an icon of a stick figure holding a frame (it is an HP afterall) and I wondered what it was for. The instruction sheet alluded to PhotoSmart software and reading the manual. Hmm, pushing the button does nothing. There is no PhotoSmart software listed in the Programs group (or any other HP software). And I can't find the manual, as either a book in the box or a file on the computer. Further research, I can't find the manual or the software on the installation CD either. Surely this can't be right. I go to HP's website and download the manual as PDF. Good reading, and it too alludes to the function of that button as being to invoke the PhotoSmart software. For kicks I uninstall the driver software, which is the only thing listed, and remove the registry entries and any driver files I can find in the Windows folder so that when I plug the cable in again it's going to demand the disk (rather than use what it finds on the hard drive), just like the instructions say it will. Run through that, and once again on the road of life there are drivers and there are... uh, nothing else. Read manual again. The troubleshooting section says that if the PhotoSmart software isn't there, stick the disk in again and click on Add Software. I insert the disk, and there is no Add Software option. Hmm. How can it not be on the disk?
   Search on HP's site for the software, it's not making itself apparent. Use Google, it points to the correct download page on HP's site (yeesh!), so I download it. Computer crash 75% of the way through, reboot, Windows says the file is corrupt at boot, so delete that and start over. Okay, I have it now. The button still doesn't do anything, which is not how it's supposed to be but that's fine. This software is capable of many things, and with a little tweaking (a little less than with IrfanView) I can get photos sent to the printer... uh, but it keeps wasting my photo paper. For instance, the first photo will come out okay, and everything after that is acting like I'm trying to print something twice the size of a piece of photo paper. I printed a picture of both of my eyes, and only one appeared, with a really wide left and bottom border. So I thought "okay, how about I use a regular piece of paper instead to test this?" I put one in, and not only did the printer eat the paper, but it was still trying to print that one-eyed half-the-image with rediculous-border across the full sheet! I'm thinking the manufacturer's software isn't going to do it for me... there's just something inherently wrong with the maker's software being worse than third-party software.
   My ace in the hole for awhile has been PhotoELF, so I figure it's worth a try to see if that produces better results. Download the newest version, confirm I've removed the older version so it doesn't mess with the 30 day trial period. And it did print well, with no tweaking of the printer options like the other two programs required; I was so impressed I even shelled out the thirty bucks and bought it tonight. It even represents the paper boundaries correctly, rather than showing the full image in the print preview but cropping 1/8th of an inch off all sides. And now the only really stupid thing I'm seeing is that the print preview keeps coming up blank, as does the paper if I click on the Print button in it. I think that just means the computer needs to reboot, I broke them drivers with all my printing earlier, but still that shouldn't happen. [rebooted] The print manager is saying "cartridge empty"... wait, I've only printed 30 4"x6" photos, how the flying Fig Newtons can it be empty?! Stuuupid! (But it's printing fine anyway... again with a 10 minute delay where the computer gathers its wits.)

I know I had a couple other stupid things to report, but it's 1 a.m. and I've misplaced them. If printer stupidities is not your thing, I apologise, maybe next time I'll remember what else I was going to kvetch about. It wasn't work and it wasn't politics, though both are rich in dumbness some days. Hope you're working your way into ready for whatever holiday you celebrate!

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