Categories
Music Stupidity in action

Black Keys, Black Cojones

My friend Brad drove up from Houston on Friday and while the rest of you suckers were watching the debate, the two of us went to see the Black Keys. They played at the Granada Theater, and it was freaking PACKED. Not quite Robert Randolph at Trees packed, but still possibly beyond fire code. The people on the floor were squeezed in tight. Brad and I stood at the back of the balcony under the ginormous fans, and we were happy. (And could see.)

The opening act, Jessica Mayfield, was a horrible match for this show. Maybe if I were in a different mood I would have enjoyed it, but she was like an Emo Emmy Lou Harris and Gramm Parsons minus Gramm Parsons and plus a gram of heroin. It was twangy slow ethereal music and it made me want to just lie down in the back and take a nap until Dan and Pat hit the stage or until I died, whichever came first.

Thank goodness they eventually did hit the stage. The Keys were EXCELLENT. It was probably their 2nd best show since ACL a couple years ago when my friend Sophie (thankfully) made us camp out in front of the stage. They sounded fantastic (good sound man, for sure) and they played almost the entire Rubber Factory and Thickfreakness albums. It was so, so, so damn good.

The only bummer of the whole thing was that I was pretty sore, and standing that long kinda hurt, so I would occasionally squat down or lean on the railing in front of me and watch more over my shoulder than straight ahead.

But wait…

Why was I sore you ask? Did I leave out an essential part of the story?

Yes. Yes I did.

Friday afternoon I cleaned up the guest room where Brad was going to sleep. I’ve got a queen sized bed in there on which I had been piling all sorts of stuff the last couple of weeks, because it was a convenient place to pile things that was out of the way. I’m sure you all have similarly convenient piling places and can sympathize. Anyway, I got the bed cleaned off, and put on fresh sheets.

Then I called Brad to see how close he was so I could determine if I had enough time to take a shower before he got here or if I was gonna have to put a “come on in” note on the door.

He was in Hillsboro, so I had like 45-60-minutes before he showed. COOL. So I figured, hey, I’ve got a little extra time, I’ll use this opportunity to put a couple of mousetraps up in the attic. (I don’t think I have mice in my attic, but I just wanted to be extra sure. I’ve heard scratching up above my bed a couple mornings in a row, but I think it’s actually a squirrel in the rain gutter … But just to be sure…) SO ANYWAY, I get my couple of traps and a flashlight and I climb up in the attic and very cautiously begin tiptoeing my way from beam to beam towards my bedroom in the back corner of the house.

Then, I bumped my head on a roof joist and lost my balance. My right foot slipped off the beam and onto the sheetrock.

The world.
                 went.
                                  into.
                                                                    slow.
                                                                                                      motion.

It was like in the old Road Runner cartoons when Wile E. Coyote runs out across the canyon and there’s a delay of a couple of seconds before he looks down and THEN falls.

In this like 5 seconds (which was in reality like .005 seconds) my brain calculated that this sheetrock could not support my weight. It also then calculated that I was essentially screwed anyway, because there was no way I’d be able to LIFT that foot without “pushing off” to lift it.

So the ceiling DID in fact give way, and in a grand and dramatic fashion my right leg led the rest of the right half of my body in a mad dash for the floor 10 feet below.

Unfortunately, the right half of my body was (and still is) attached to the LEFT half of my body. And the left half of my body was trying to compensate for the sudden balance shift that had just occurred and my left leg slipped to the LEFT side of the beam I had been (partially) standing on. The left leg immediately punched through the sheetrock and essentially decided that this must be a race for the floor.

The middle half (yes, I wouldn’t have thought I had three halves before this moment either) sadly did not get the memo. It decided it was not having anything to do with this race and SUDDENLY STOPPED on the beam on which I had been standing.

The Three Stooges made crotch injuries seem so glamorously funny.

I probably hung there for five minutes wondering if I was going to die from internal bleeding and this was how my body would be found.

Once the blinding pain subsided to a mere severely throbbing death wish and my vision began to return, I pulled myself up, looked down into the gaping maw which had tried to swallow me, and screamed what very well may have been the loudest obscenities in the history of mankind. It’s quite possible you heard them.

I climbed back down out of the attic, still cussing like a sailor (who also happened to have searing pain in his crotchular area) and slammed every damned ladder and door in my path. I walked into the house to survey the damage.

This is what I saw:

hole in the ceiling

Yes. That’s the newly cleaned guest bed.

Yes, the one with the freshly washed and changed sheets.

Yes, that’s about 50 gallons of fiberglass insulation.

Yes, Brad laughed non-stop for about 15 minutes when he got here.

So.

The good news is, my testicles are fine.

But before Friday if I had heard anyone utter the phrase “Bruised Taint” I would have assumed it was the name of a crappy punk band.

Categories
About the blog Links Stupidity in action

Public Service Announcement

My redneck father has retired. Now that he has more time than he can figure out how to spend, he has started blogging.

RetiredRedneck.com

God help us all.

Of course, I helped him set it up, so I guess I’m partially to blame.

Please find it in your hearts to forgive me.

Categories
From the hip Stupidity in action

Is pink OK?

There's a party in my glass

If you’ve wondered why you haven’t heard from me in the last few days, it’s because I’m in Topeka, Kansas. I’m up here with my mom and sister helping sort out a few things with my grandmother. So far that’s mostly meant carting her around to a few doctors’ appointments and trying to sort out the sordid details of an 83-year-old’s pill-popping habits. (Who knew Granny was such an oxy fiend?)

Anyway, This afternoon for lunch my uncle took me to Annie’s Place for some local flavor. I highly recommend it. Especially the butterscotch pie. Sweet Jeebus, that’s a tasty slice!

But the reason for this post is an observation my uncle made.

When we were ordering our drinks I asked for lemonade. I generally don’t do caffeine except when I’m specifically trying to stay awake for something. At most restaurants that quickly cuts down your options to water, Sprite and lemonade. Any of those are usually fine with me, but I find I end up drinking a lot more unneeded sugar when I get Sprite. It has something to do with the carbonation, I think. As for water, I sometimes I feel bad for the waiter’s measly tip when you’re at a table full of 10 people and everybody’s ordering water and a half a sandwich. Of course, I also just really like lemonade. Especially if it’s “real” lemonade and not that “contains no actual juice” lemonade that comes out of a fountain. But with that said, I don’t mind the fake stuff, either.

Anyway, long story short (I know … too late), I ordered lemonade.

The waitress asked, “Is pink OK?”

I said, “Yeah, that’s cool,” and she was off.

Then my uncle says, “Have you ever noticed that if you’re a guy they’ll always ask if pink lemonade is OK?”

And he’s right. In fact, tonight at dinner the exact same thing happened again. We just looked at each other and grinned.

I think back, and though I’ve never even given the question an ounce of thought before, now I figure I must’ve been asked that question hundreds of times before. But two things stand out now:

  1. I’ve been asked nearly every time I can remember ordering lemonade and the pink stuff was “on tap.” And I don’t think I’ve ever heard that question asked of a female in my dining party.
  2. I’ve never heard anyone say, “Hell no, it’s not OK! Get that vile stuff away from me!”

So now I wonder, “Are my friends and family just more “pink friendly” than the average American diner?” Are there guys out there who won’t drink pink drinks for fear of someone questioning their masculinity? And is it any more manly to order a drink named Sprite?

To my friends out there who have waited tables before, I ask “Is this really such a big deal?”

To my other friends, I ask, “Have you ever turned away non-yellow lemonade?” If so, why?

Categories
Internet Music Stupidity in action

Because sometimes you just have one of those “Lebowski Moments”

One of my top 5 favorite movies of all time is The Big Lebowski.

I’m sure that my loyal readers, both of you, are shocked to hear this.

I absolutely love the scene which generates the following dialogue, resulting in the dude indeed getting kicked out of the cab he had hired:

The Dude: Jesus, man, could you change the channel?
Cab Driver: Fuck you man. If you don’t like my fuckin’ music get your own fuckin’ cab!
The Dude: I had a rough…
Cab Driver: I pull over and kick your ass out!
The Dude: Come on, man. I had a rough night and I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man!

Personally, I love the Eagles. But I can totally relate to the way The Dude is feeling here.

You see, deep within every music lover resides a deep hatred for one or two acts that everyone else might seem to believe are the quintessential examples of rock and roll perfection. Usually you tolerate them on the radio, or in social settings. You may even know all the words to their songs, after all, as well-loved as they are you may have heard them with enough frequency to commit them to memory.

Then, one day, when you’ve had a particularly rough go of things, you’ll find yourself in a mood where you’re just NOT GOING TO PUT UP WITH IT TODAY.

Today Merlin Mann posted something on Twitter that unleashed my inner Dudeness.

This.

Seriously. Click through on that link. I promise it’s not a Rickroll. I’ll be here when you get back.

OK, did we all make it back? Good.

SWEET JUMPING JEHOSEPHUCK, WHO THE HELL GETS A BOB FUCKING SEGER TATTOO?!?!

Did they know this was Bob Seger and not Bob Saget?

Bob Seger
Bob Seger is at the top of my list of “get kicked out of the cab” artists. I’m not sure exactly what it is about his music that particularly irritates me. It’s OK. I just don’t find it particularly good. And maybe that’s it — that he has squandered his fame with dizzying volumes of mediocrity.

(I’ve always found that song title to be a bit ironic, since you could probably name any song on any of his albums “Still the Same” … every one of them feels like it’s the same as the one before to me.)

I’m sure there are plenty of people out there who think that not liking Bob Seger probably makes me a communist or something. Just to reassure those people, let me state for the record that I prefer Coke over Pepsi (and will take RC if you’ve got it), I pull for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and I drive a bigass American pick’em up truck.

Are we cool? Good.

So who else is on my list? Who else might you be wise to avoid putting on the iPod if I’m carpooling with you? I’ll give you two:

1 – Eddie Money
To be perfectly honest, I find Eddie Money more objectionable than Bob Seger. He may be the nicest guy in the music business for all I know, but I just find every song I’ve ever heard of his to be absolutely dreadful. I think it’s no coincidence that “Two Tickets to Paradise” is the theme song for the most retarded show in the reality TV genre: Paradise Hotel.

2 – Jackson Browne
I know I’m supposed to like Jackson Browne. I just don’t. And he’s a good songwriter. I can objectively admit this. In fact, I love “Take It Easy,” which he co-wrote with Glenn Frey for The Eagles. And I understand he had a hand in making America’s “Sister Golden Hair,” which is a total hit with me as well. Both of those songs get very high marks from me.

I don’t know what it is, but there’s just something about Jackson Browne that seems to irritate me personally. It’s like he’s that guy everybody knew in high school who was overly friendly with everybody. So much so that it was kinda creepy. Then you find out at your high school reunion that the guy grew up to be an anesthesiologist and lost his license for taking pictures of his patients’ naughty parts after he’d knocked them out. I dunno. There’s just this vibe about him that weirds me out.

Categories
Brilliance in Marketing Geeky stuff Stupidity in action The Junkmail Project

The Junkmail Project: The long, long overdue summary

(Or how nerdiness got the better of me and started my quixotic quest to vanquish the windmills of spam)

If junk mail were worth its weight in gold, I would be well on my way to retirement.

I received 993.2009 troy ounces of junk mail last year, and it’s awfully nice to imagine that it would have been worth $840,992.80 as of January 2, 2008. (And nearly $900,000 as I write this!)

Unfortunately, it’s not even worth the paper it’s written on, so I suppose I should keep making my microscopic monthly contribution to my measly little IRA. In fact, it costs me money, and that’s what got me in this mess to begin with.

You see, sometime towards the end of 2006 I was dutifully doing my part to prevent identity theft by shredding credit card offers and old bills (but mostly credit card offers) when my poor, decrepit, old shredder chewed its way through its last scrap of paper. I could have thought some grateful thoughts about the couple of years worth of obedient service my faithful little appliance gave me, but instead I got angry….

And you wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

Actually, you probably would. You might laugh. I simultaneously get wickedly sarcastic and diabolically nerdy.

Why was I so angry? Well, I got thinking about how much junk mail costs me. I’m not just talking about the fact that I was out sixty to eighty bucks for another good shredder. I also thought about:

  • How much cumulative time I’ve wasted shredding things
  • Cost of trash bags for the shreddings
  • Environmental cost and landfill space for all that wasted paper and plastic
  • The fact the senders of that junk got a bulk rate discount to send it. (Meaning we all paid for it with our more expensive non-bulk mail … and taxes.)

So yeah, I started counting it up, and I got mad.

I must’ve been pretty angry, because my reaction was the nerdiest thing I’ve ever done. And believe me, that’s supremely nerdy. I played Dungeons and Dragons in middle school, for chrissake. I got so mad, that….

For the entire course of 2007 I weighed every single piece of mail that I received and logged it in five categories:

  1. Account Mail – This is mail that is directly related to accounts I already have. This includes things like the water bill, increasingly thick credit card bills, paychecks, alumni association mailings, and other such things I either asked for or fully expected to receive.
  2. Non-Account Mail – I certainly could have come up with a better name for this category. But I didn’t. This category is essentially for junk mail sent to me by companies with which I already do business. Mostly, these are up-sell offers. Or those damned “access checks” that Bank of America is so fond of sending me on a weekly basis despite the fact that I haven’t used one in six years. Either way, this category is full of junk, but at the time I started breaking these down I figured I’d differentiate between junk I “opted into” as opposed to “pure spam.”
  3. Spam – This category is for mail from companies with whom I do not have accounts — companies who just “spammed” me hoping I’d think their offer was the right one for me. This includes mortgage refinance solicitations, credit card offers, grocery circulars, invitations to join the AARP, and damn near everything addressed to “Current Resident.”
  4. Magazines – Over the course of the year I had subscriptions to just a couple magazines, but the heft of the periodicals quickly outpaced actual correspondences. The dead tree edition of WIRED apparently does kill a lot of trees. Other magazines I received this year included AutoWeek and JPG.
  5. Personal – This category was strictly for correspondences from friends, family and acquaintances. Birthday cards from grandma. That sort of thing.

There’s one thing I didn’t include: Packages. I thought it didn’t make any sense to include books I ordered from Amazon or cheap electronics from Woot in my total. Those items could really skew what we’re trying to measure here, and half the time they wouldn’t be arriving via the postal service anyway. So I thought it best to leave them out.

So each day, starting January 3 (because the mail didn’t run on the first two days of the year) I would slap my mail across a postal scale before I opened it. I’d total the weight of each category and enter it into an excel spreadsheet. Then I’d throw all the junk in an enormous box, and the rest of the “legit” mail would be handled appropriately.

About two months into it I realized that this idea was a wee bit obsessive and insane. But by that point it was too late to turn back. I had already blogged about it, and several of my more “encouraging” friends weren’t going to let me back out now.

Quickly, my box runneth over. By May I was chugging along into my second box and I started to worry that storage space was going to be a serious issue. If anything, though, this certainly illustrated my point about how much waste this enterprise produces. I couldn’t wait to have a big shredding party at the end of the year and photograph myself standing on an enormous pile of shredding-filled trash bags.

As you’ve no doubt noticed by now, this was a one year project that started last January, yet I’m posting this summary the first week of April. Here’s the deal. Shredding that much junk was a more onerous task than I had anticipated. It was a chore. In fact, to be perfectly honest, I haven’t finished yet. I had other, more important things to do. So far this year I’ve spent nearly a month traveling. I had a lot of work to do. I have a yard that would get me kicked out of most homeowner’s associations. (Thank Jeebus my neighborhood doesn’t have one.) So I let it slide.

I also destroyed ANOTHER shredder about a third of the way through this stuff. So I’m taking my time, lest I come up with another stupid project like this one.

By now you’re aching for me to just get to the point and tell you how much mail I got, aren’t you?

Yeah, I thought so.

So what did I end up with?

Just over 68 pounds of crap.

Out of 104.5 pounds of total mail, over 68 of it was pure crap. Stuff I never wanted. Stuff that I would have tossed to the spam filter, if that were possible with snail mail.

More precisely put, I received 30,892 grams of junk mail, out of 47,409 grams of total mail. That’s 65.2 percent.

It’s absolutely overwhelming when you look at it as an aggregate.

If we want to put that into some “real world” perspective, a single dollar bill weighs pretty darned close to one gram. Now, if these people had sent me $30,892 in crisp new Washingtons, I wouldn’t be complaining. (Although my bank might think I’ve taken up a new career if I walk in with a gigantic bag of singles.)

But what they sent me was a little more like this:

Honestly, I’d rather have the gigantic, slimy carp than what I got.

As a whole, damn near two-thirds of my mail was junk, as my patented “Pac-Man Puking a Rainbow” graph clearly shows:

If I had it to do all over again, I would’ve measured differently. I counted things like my bills by the entire piece. Everything within the envelope counted as “account” mail. About halfway through the project I realized that half of the weight of my mobile phone bill was more advertising material. Next time (and believe me there will not be a next time) I would throw those flyers in the “non-account” pile, because I think that would be more reflective of the true nature of this stuff. Advertising materials could very easily be more than 70% of what I received.

I should also mention that this could have been even worse. I received my 68 pounds of crap despite being opted out of “prescreened” credit offers with the major credit bureaus.

What have I learned?

I’ve learned that I get even more junk mail than I had imagined.

I’ve learned that you can’t send a year’s worth of junk through a shredder in one afternoon.

I’ve learned that some companies will send you just about anything, as long as the ROI is positive. (Hey CapitalOne … Bubble wrap? Really?)

I’ve learned that it can be a royal pain in the ass to try to prove a point.

With all of that said, there are a few things you (and I) can do about this, and I’ll devote an entire post to those in the semi-near future.

Until then, watch out for paper cuts and keep your shredders set on “stun.”

Categories
From the hip Stupidity in action

Throwing money at your problems

Thurber Brick

There are certain people who think the solution to any problem is to simply throw a lot of money at it. Other people will say that’s the surest way to make a problem worse. I think the key to this conundrum is that people just aren’t breaking down the issue simply enough. You see, money is intended to be exchanged for goods and/or services, and with certain goods it is simply unwise to start an exchange based on a delivery method that involves throwing. Bricks, for example.

Categories
Geeky stuff Internet Stupidity in action

Violent, Tangled and Deeply Weird

Yesterday there was an interesting post on Boing Boing about the bizarrely icky mating practices of giant squids, and as one would expect, the URL was promptly forwarded to a few of my friends. Inspired by the post’s title, Den wrote back, “‘Violent, Tangled and Deeply Weird’ – I think that’s a great t-shirt slogan.”

And so it was.

So what else could I do but whip up a design and throw it on CafePress?

squid t-shirt

The print-on-demand stuff makes this pretty easy, so I went ahead and tossed together a whole store with a plethora of “Violent and Tangled” products on there. I think the boxers and thongs are especially funny.

I set the markup on everything at a buck, and any dough CafePress sends my way from these things will be donated to Creative Commons, so I hope other people find it as funny as I did.

Categories
About the blog From the hip Stupidity in action

Hitting the road

Howdy, y’all!

My buddy Dave and I are hitting the road this morning to head to California for a friend’s wedding. Because we’re crazy nerds we’ll be blogging the whole trip. You can follow along at http://sidehike.net/roadtrip if you’re so inclined. And I’m betting if you follow this blog, you probably are. (And you probably could stand to be a little busier at work, too.)

See ya there!

Categories
Photography Politics Sports Stupidity in action

I just flew in from Chicago and boy are my arms tired



I just got in from Chicago. I took some pictures while I was there. (See them here.) Worked. Hung out with Sophie and Chris. Met a person with Alton Brown’s phone number in their cell phone. All in all a great trip. I’m freaking exhausted.

I rode the L a bunch while in Chicago and it made me think about how sad it is that I live in the largest city in the United States without any form of public transit. How can Arlington have a major league baseball stadium and soon be home to the most popular franchise in the NFL, yet still not have a convenient way for people to get to the games?

While in San Francisco last weekend I rode the Muni to the Giants game. It was ridiculously convenient, and if I lived in that city I’d go to games all the time. I used to have season tickets to the Rangers, but not only has the product on the field not really been worth watching lately, but when you also factor in that you have no choice but to drive to the game and pay ten bucks to park on top of the ticket, it hardly seems worth it. (Especially in the summer heat.)

If I could ride a bus from the “park and ride” down the street from my house for a couple of bucks, that would make the ball game a much more enticing night out.

And that’s just a selfish and frivolous reason it would be nice to have public transit. I won’t even get into the economic and environmental reasons why it’s such an important thing to do.

It’s pretty rare that I’m embarrassed for this city. But this is one of those times.

Categories
Politics Stupidity in action

Why we should demand voting machines with auditable paper trails



I’m not one of those guys who thinks that someone could get away with maliciously swinging an election by monkeying with electronic voting results. This isn’t because I believe it can’t happen. It’s because I believe that it would be really hard for someone to keep it a secret.

Nope. I’m not worried about the conspiracy theory kind of crap. I’m worried about something far, far simpler.

Here’s why I believe we need paper trails on our voting machines:

People screw up.

Check out THIS STORY (from CNN) about a computer technician in Alaska who accidentally deleted nine months worth of data concerning the Alaska Permanent Fund. The APF is a fund that distributes oil revenues to the citizens of the state. For the rest of us, this would be like the IRS accidentally deleting all of the records for every person’s tax refund in your state.

Nine months worth of information concerning the yearly payout from the Alaska Permanent Fund was gone: some 800,000 electronic images that had been painstakingly scanned into the system months earlier, the 2006 paper applications that people had either mailed in or filed over the counter, and supporting documentation such as birth certificates and proof of residence.

And the only backup was the paperwork itself — stored in more than 300 cardboard boxes.

According to this article, it cost over $220,000 in overtime and contractor fees to recreate the data from the paper record. Imagine what the cost would have been if the paper didn’t exist at all. What would your options even be?

Think … What would it cost to have a “do over” election?