Posts from May 2006.

Just Entertainment Weekly For Me, Thanks

Two young ladies at the bookstore:

Young Lady One: Have you ever read anything by Greg Bear?

Young lady Two: Nuh-uh, who’s he?

YL1: He writes hard science-fiction.

YL2: I don’t read anything hard.

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Hooked Up

After years of living as veritable savages, The Queen and I finally got high-speed Internet access. Yes, this is a stark break from my usual neoluddist tendencies, such as preferring board to computer games, my steadfast refusal to acquire a cell phone, and my frequent visits to ASCII porn sites. (Warning: Last link is NSFW if your monitor’s resolution is set to 1680×12550 and your manager is standing exactly seven feet behind you.)

Frankly, I was quite happy with dial-up (except when I was actually using it, when I was typically ENRAGED). But if video killed the radio star, Web 2.0 killed the 56K modem. When Gmail launched I quickly adopted it as my primary email account, but since then they have larded the joint up with so much AJAX that I was urging friends to print hard copies of messages they had written me and send them via the postal service, as that would often reach me quicker. Ditto for Flickr. Nothing like having a repository of 100 photos that you can view at a rate of four per hour.

Anyhow, long story short, we got ourselves cable. We asked around and finally settled on Comcast as our Internet provider, which was akin to asking around about which gas we should use to respirate and then settling upon oxygen. Comcast, you see, holds a local monopoly on the Seattle high-speed Internet market. Oh sure, we could have opted for DSL, but, as near as I can tell, DSL compares to cable in being just as obscenely expensive and half as good. Perhaps is recognition of this, Qwest (the biggest local DSL provider) is trying to entice new customers by offering bundle deals. They have, for instance, teamed up with America Online to offer substandard broadband and AOL in one package. Maybe the two companies realized that they were both essentially targeting the same set of victims and decided to join forces, Legion Of Doom style.

Not that I’m Comcast’s biggest fan either. I just cannot trust the business acumen of a company that uses a flash-intensive website to sell a service to folks on dial-up. Dude, I wouldn’t need cable if it took less than a fortnight for your home page to load. It’s like a billboard campaign for the blind.

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The Most Loneliest Jack of My Life

You know who the most boring people in the world are? People who describe television commercials to those who haven’t seen them.

And yet …

So there

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Blue Moon Rising

I hate it when people talk about mundane, everyday matters on their blogs. What’s why I long ago decided that defective yeti would only be used to record the truly extraordinary events of my life.

Today, for instance, I voluntarily ate a salad for lunch.

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In Which Predictions Are Made And Fulfilled

Me: Look, gmail now has built-in chat functionality. After years of avoiding the siren song of Instant Messaging it has now been unwillingly foisted upon me, and I therefore have no choice but to use my newly acquired powers to pester you at work. I shall do so every half an hour from this day forward.

L: You’re bluffing.

M: Is that a challenge? OH IT’S ON!

M: I’m going to invent a light switch that shouts “OH, IT’S ON!” whenever you flip it up.

M: You know, for the blind.

M: Then I’ll create a knockoff for kids that says “OH, IT’S ON … BIATCH!”

L: I don’t think kids have been saying “biatch” since 1998.

M: No way. If I’m still saying a catchphrase it is hip by definition.

L: And I’m pretty sure it’s spelled “biotch.” It’s so played that it’s probably in the MS Word spellchecker by now. I’ll verify.

M: You’ll start typing it and clippy will pop up and say: “It looks like you are trying to ‘give mad props’ to your ‘peeps’ …”

L: Word actually says that it’s “biotech.”

L: (Feel free to make something funny out of that for your blog)

M: Um, thanks

L: It could be funny!

M: Yeah, but if I have to work to make it funny, it’s not much of a gift. That’s all I’m saying.

L: It’s the seed of inspiration.

M: You people. You’re always, like, “Hey, I ate a tuna sandwich yesterday. Feel free to couch that in the context of a some wacky and completely fictitious events, invent a bunch of humorous dialog to accompany it, and use it on your blog!!”

L: Whatever. Someday you’ll be hard up for material and just cut and paste this conversation into a post, I’m sure.

M: Is that a challenge? OH IT’S ON … BIOTECH!

L: And curtain.

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The Bad Review Revue

American Dreamz: “The jokes don’t just fizzle into insignificance; they flop about with gaudy ineffectualness, gasping for air like newly landed trout.” Manohla Dargis, NEW YORK TIMES

Date Movie: “Rated PG-13 because 13 is the maximum age of those who might find it funny.” — Kyle Smith, NEW YORK POST

Failure To Launch: “Apocalyptically awful romantic comedy.” — Stephen Rea, PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER

RV: “The downwardly spiraling career trajectories of Robin Williams and director Barry Sonnenfeld intertwine like the ropes of a tangled parachute, and all the helpless viewer can do is look on aghast as the whole abortive fiasco plummets toward Earth.” — John Patterson, LA WEEKLY

Scary Movie 4: “Worse than Scary Movies 1 through 3. And they were terrible.” — Kim Newman, EMPIRE

The Da Vinci Code: “Ron Howard’s adaptation of Dan Brown’s best-selling primer on how not to write an English sentence … is one of the few screen versions of a book that may take longer to watch than to read.” — A.O. Scott, NEW YORK TIMES Anil is right — you should read the whole thing.

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Research Day: Portable Signs and Dem Bones, Dem Bones

What’s the deal with all the people standing on street corners holding “24 Fitness” signs? I don’t know how things are in your hometown but, in the not-to-distant past, the corners of every major intersection of Seattle were populated by people holding cardboard signs signs readings “STUCK IN SEATTLE AND AS IMPROBABLE AS IT SOUNDS I ONLY NEED $1.47 MORE TO BUY A BUS TICKET!!” Apparently all those folks managed to get back to Gerbil Junction, Iowa, though, because many of them are now gone, replace by crowds of people dancing around and waving at cars while wearing both a Walkman and a Sandwich Board reading “CIRCUIT CITY NEXT RIGHT ->” Where did all these people come from? Did someone figure out a loophole in signage laws or something, and now everyone is rushing to exploit it?

Actually, “portable signs” are legal not because of a loophole in the law, but because of the law itself — it’s just that the law wasn’t settled until a a few years ago. Dennis Ballen, the owner of a store called Blazing Bagels in Redmond (a Seattle suburb and home to Microsoft) had been using these “portable signs” for years, while the city had long been trying to ban them. But Redmond was selective in its sign laws, allowing for political and real estate signs while trying to 86 the rest. So Ballen joined forces with the The Institute for Justice and took the city to court.

In January of 2004, the Seattle federal court ruled in favor of Ballen, stating that Redmond’s law “creates content-based exceptions for certain commercial speech that has no material relationship to the safety and aesthetic goals” and declaring it unconstitutional [pdf of ruling]. The finding was upheld later that same year.

With their legality established, guys wearing “Mattress Depot” signs and waving madly at passing cars have begun to appear all over our state. And maybe your state, too. If so, you have us to thank.

What’s the origin of the phrase “no bones about it?” Is it related to the phrase “to pick a bone?”: A couple of Internet sites take a stab at deducing the history of the phrase “make no bones about it,” and they all seem to be in agreement on two points: (a) the term is so ancient that determining its etymology is well nigh impossible, but (b) the best guess is that it comes from Ye Olde Olden Dayes, when soups would occasionally contain tiny bones and the more casual connoisseur would either swallow them down or set them aside without making a fuss. The other hypothesis often mentioned is that the phrase might allude to gambling, where some players make a big deal out of “throwing the bones” while others just quietly go about their business of losing money. (Curiously, every site I encountered while researching his phrase [this one, this one, and this one] all list the same theories in the same order, which means that they are probably all copying one another — just as I am doing now.)

As for “pick a bone” (and the related phrase, “bone of contention”), the consensus is that this too comes from meal bones, and the quarrel that breaks out amongst dogs when one is thrown to them.

From the comments: “I’d like to know what the origin of using ’86′ as a verb is.” According to Merriam-Webster, the term was first used by restaurant workers as a code phrase meaning “we’re out of something,” and was chosen because it rhymed with the word “nix.” A full account of the phrase is available here.

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There’s A Hole In Your Business Plan

Every day during my morning commute I pass a store called “Westernco Donut” and marvel that it is still open.

You’d think they’d have sold that donut by now.

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Because It’s Easier To Write Short, Pithy Truisms Than Actual Blog Posts

Laugh and the world laughs with you;
Weep and the world laughs at you.

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Friday Afternoon Scratchpad

Tap Dance

This Domestic Surveillance story is the gift that keeps on giving. First they assured us that they weren’t tapping any phones without a warrant; then we discover that, well, okay, they were recording some conversations without a warrant, but only a few; now come to find out that the phone records of millions of Americans were requisitioned.

It’s like of those horror stories that just gets progressively more ludicrous as it goes along. I can only imagine what’s going to come next.

<diaper>poop</diaper>

As both a geek and father to a toddler, I’ve noticed that I tend to use the phrase “well-formed” a lot at work in reference to XML and lot at home in reference to poop.

Dishturbed

Last night I dreamed that I was putting dirty bowls and glasses into a half-full dishwasher, only to suddenly realize that the dishes that had been in there before I started were already clean!!.

Seriously, my subconscious: Is that the best anxiety dream you could come up with? It’s like you’re not even trying anymore.

Eye Where

Yesterday I saw a young women in the library wearing a pushup bra under a t-shirt that was at least a size too small. The shirt had an arrow pointing up and the text “MY EYES ARE UP HERE!”

Come on. That’s practically entrapment.

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