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Badlibs

Perhaps I a simply expecting too much when I start picking apart promotional jingles for small businesses. But seriously, who recorded this thing?:

“Sardella’s pizza and wings,
Only Sardella’s has my favorite things,
Sardella’s!”

Really? I like your pizza, Sardella’s (can I call you Della?), but you’re going to claim to have a monopoly on my “favorites?” Either you think you have an incredibly narrow customer base, or else you’ve got a side room or something I’ve managed to overlook somehow for the last decade.

It has been brought to my attention by a clearer-thinking individual that in may have also been an unimaginative lyricist.

Now, this jingle is too short to parody but too awesome to pass by. So I’ll do the next best thing: take it literally.

*          *          *

I loitered just a moment in the menu-viewing area—that clearly marked section in which the staff understands the patron is contemplating his purchase, and therefore knows not to ask what you’ll be ordering. It’s brilliant for when there’s no line… like right now. After making a self-paced, no-pressure decision, I approached the friendly, black-dressed staff member, and placed my order. As she read-back my order, her words were well enunciated, and pace moderate, but she made no eye contact.

Pocketing my receipt, I read the promotional poster near the register:

Free energy drink with the
purchase of any bass-heavy progressive rock
album of your choice.

“Huh,” I thought to myself, “I didn’t know Della’s had gotten into the exclusive record business… oh well, works for Starbucks.” I grabbed the first disc that caught my eye, The Best of Bands Featuring Tony Levin. “Ring this up too,” I said.

“Oh, please sample it first. You can swipe it at our listening station first, at your table.”

As I sat at my table, I immediately noticed the cushioned bench and slightly reclined back rest. It seemed as if this table were designed with the comfort of the occupant in mind, rather than to quickly drive one out.

Examined the scanning and playback device on the table, which resembled a jukebox, I spied a small a small label stuck to the bottom corner: “Now supporting streaming through your smartphone, tablet or eReader. Not compatible with Apple devices.” Snickering, I pulled out my Droid and put on my headphones.

Somewhere between “Discipline” and “Acid Rain” my food arrived, along with a complementary pamphlet explaining the company’s decision to move their computer systems to Linux, with a breakdown f how they were passing that savings on to the customer. “You can change the channel, if you’d like,” the server mentioned. Tapping a button on the playback device, I switched from the space exploration documentary that had been playing to a special on various breeds of dogs.

The bell over the door rang announcing the arrival of a new patron. I couldn’t help but notice that the high-pitched electronic “ding’” I had grown accustomed to had been replaced with a warmer, fuller bell. My friend [name omitted] had arrived.

“Sup?!” he called in the general direction of the staff area. There were friendly nods but no verbal responses. He sat opposite me.

“Sup.”

“Sup.”

“Hey… where’s the crushed red?”

“Baked into the cheese. Where else would it be?”

*          *          *

And now the madlib, er, “badlib.” What would you find at a store, restaurant, or some establishment peddling all your favorite things, no matter how improbable? Feel free to comment.

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Like This Post

With the pleasantly-surprising exception of one Google hit, all of my traffic to this weblog comes by way of Facebook. Can’t complain… what with my disdain for non-sarcastic self-promotion and infrequent updates.

Additionally, I have used Facebook more than once to publish ideas that were too short, profane or random to blog about. Ever being a believer in balance, I believe it is high time to now use Word Press as a staging ground to talk about Facebook. Specifically: the like button, using it, and when not to. Let me open with a few examples:

I only made one of these up

I’m not quite sure what’s going on here. I’m a little frightened at the idea that we’re dealing with a form of social ineptitude that surpasses my own. I am slightly more comfortable with the possibility that people are associating the word “Like” with general feelings of positivity and good will, and thus clicking (or in the case of mobile devices… um… thumbing? Tapping?). Obviously, the Like button has its deficiencies. Now before you jump to the obvious…

I think the popularity of the idea of a “Dislike” button highlights the tendency of people to think in polar opposites. I myself am not a fan of a Dislike button… I believe the lack of it, combined with the presence of the Like button, promotes in some primitive way the Judeo-Christian ideal of being slow to anger and quick to listen. Doesn’t do much about “slow to speak,” but that would be expecting a little much from a website with an integrated chat feature.

There’s another obvious solution: if you’re moved enough to respond, and want the other party to know/think they’ll be impressed… write something.

Facebook: Now with comments!

Sure, maybe for those rumored Facebook power-users. But that’s not what drove people to computers in the first place. I think it ultimately comes down to a CLI vs. GUI thing (what?). Allow me to explain:

Early computer terminals had no graphics. They had a command-line interface: a blinking prompt that would sit there until you told it to do something. Not unlike many husbands. But, the catch was, in order to do something, one needed to learn an unintuitive, needlessly complex and tough-as-hell-to-remember series of commands and responses. Not unlike dealing with many wives (remember: a believer in balance).

An actual Linux command. It's not as dirty as it sounds.

The advantage of a CLI is that the user is unbounded: pretty much anything you want the machine (or network of machines) to do, you can… provided you know the command ahead of time. But that’s uninviting. That’s where graphics come in. Not quite as unbounded as the command-line, but it provides a working analogue to tools and situations with which people are familiar, and context. Don’t know what I mean? Click on something. I’ll wait.

You were just given a list of options. You may have even understood what some of them were. And nobody needed to teach you that. The Internet used to be like a CLI… full of precursors to forums and message boards, telnet games, and primitive text-based websites[link] that just offered some info and links to other equally-simple sites. Modern sites are a graphical answer to those same needs.

Facebook needs to realize this. Their target demographic is not about to master the most complex shell language ever… namely modern English… to do something so simple as respond to and identify with the observations, announcements and queries of friends, relatives, colleagues and phishers. They need to be guided. And I think I figured it out. May I modestly propose the following:

Goodnight folks. Remember to “exonerate” this blog on your respective walls.

Relent

For the first time in my life, I decided to brace for this year’s easter season by observing the tradition of Lent. I am not Catholic, but according to my understanding, Lent is the pre-Easter period during which adherents of the Christian faith remind themselves of the sacrifice of Christ by putting themselves in a situation that constantly requires spiritual intervention. I’m also sure there’s something in there about strength turning to weakness, etc.

Jokes aside, let it be known, and simply put, that I am a Christian… one who worships a God who appreciates a good laugh.

I ran into my first bit of difficulty before the season even commenced–I had to settle on something to give up. It couldn’t be an activity, because the hobbies I do have serve to discourage laziness. Not playing bass for 40 days would cause a regression in skill, etc. Food is typically the ideal, but that proved impractical as well because I’m really a moron when it comes to things like ingredients. I am not brave enough to do something as general as “meat.” And anything more specific that I may develop a genuine craving for is too easy to work around. No processed sugars? Switch to starch. No coffee? Chocolate. No pizza? Pasta! No Chipotle… huh, there’s a good Candidate for next year.

But really, I knew secretly all along that there was one particular vice of mine of which I could learn to let go. Nonessential to health, too specific to cheat, but too popular to merely work around. My sunshine in dark days, my push over the hill, and my Swiss-Army-duct-tape of productivity

Caffeine molecule

This guy

Now I could use this point to springboard into a lament of how terrible it was. But that would not be funny, nor particularly true. I quit consuming caffeine, and it was an interesting experience. And I did learn some things:

By the end of day three, I was certain that I did not, in fact, have an addiction. No headache, no undue irritability, no persistent longing. I did want energy drinks from time to time, especially on weekends, but it was more like having your car in the shop. I accepted that I just had to wait and tried to move on.

I was surprised to catch myself struggling to find workarounds. Did you know that Root Beer and Citrus-flavored soda’s contain no caffeine? I do now! I also know this–32 ounces of root beer moro than cancels out any health benefits you’d see by skipping a morning cup of coffee. This is about the closest I got to a spiritual experience… futile pursuit of something I wanted, but didn’t need, really reminded me of the direction-less uncertainty felt by not having a focus on the divine.

It is occurring to me now that the word “I” has been used far more times in this blog that I wanted, but that actually goes along well with the most important thing I learned: maybe it is a good focusing tool for some, but for me, Lent caused me to focus far too much on myself. Not surprising, as Lent is not biblical. I’m quite glad to have done it once, and it certainly did not hurt my faith or create a negative example for anyone else. But I don’t see what it did for the advancement of the Christian ideal.

To end on a humorous note, I’d like to point out that I totally did Lent wrong.

First off, I tried to start Lent on Fat Tuesday and not Ash Wednesday. That same day I got a legitimate headache, caffeine has helped me with those in the past. I only found out about my mistake after leaving work… after a day of unnecessary strain.

second, I didn’t find out until about three weeks in that most faiths do not observe Lent on Sundays. That frankly makes no sense to me… “Lenting” is several brief installments seems to encourage frantic overindulgence on days you can get away with it.

Finally, I wasn’t sure when to end it. Holy Thursday? Good Friday? Easter Sunday? Sundown before Easter, which is when days actually begin in the Jewish calendar? Either way I went well beyond the 40 days, and bungee jumped off the wagon on Good Friday. That was a seriously good Monster.

Hope you all had a Happy Easter.

Shedding Light on the Subject

If advertisements are to be believed, I will not need to update this post for three to five years.

Light bulbs… ya ever see one of those?
–Inside joke, circa 2005

Background

I have recently decided that a good many of my earthly problems can, as is so often the case, be attributed to bad lighting. Think about it—everybody blames beer goggles… but nobody points out that bars aren’t exactly renowned for their brightness. Many work and school headaches are likely formed along the same lines. And sadly, my home-office was no different. To remedy this, I could open the curtains bed sheet and try to do a little less work at night. Or I could bring in more lights. Guess which one I did?

Lamp pieces

Did I really have to ask?

Now some readers may point out that I have a documented history of overreacting to reasonable situations. In my own defense, expected behavior and level-headed thinking makes for bad blogging.

It was early on in my ownership of this new lighting apparatus (about 6 seconds after checkout) that I realized that I had failed to purchase light bulbs. This realization promptly gave way to dread, when I realized that I would need to select a light bulb type, purchase location, etc. I didn’t want to do that. But then, while thinking about light bulbs, the proverbial one turned on above my head.

The Inspiration

I am a fan of purchasing quality goods, but lately I have become more and more aware (and disturbed) of the premiums consumers are charged for largely imaginary benefits, or, in effect, nothing.

Two areas of which I have been made particularly aware: audio cables, and air filters.

Regarding the latter, I’ve had two independent A/C experts give the following suggestion: Use the cheapest air filters possible, and replace them often. No complaints so far.

As far as cables go… I’m a little reluctant to mention the brands here, but one company charges about $300 per foot (not a typo) for speaker cables… they claim go offer sound quality far above what (also over-priced) $60 cables can offer. Two personal experiences I can offer here… if you own and HD-TV or monitor, get ready to either spend some time searching, or else pay $40-$60 far an HDMI cable that is in no easily-verifiable way superior to a $4 one.

So for these new environmentally friendly light bulbs.. the ones that have mercury in them… I have noticed that their prices basically range from $3 each to however much you’re willing to pay. Then my wife pointed out that even the $3 ones are priced too high–you can get them at the dollar store. But surely those are crap, right? I intend to find out…

The Method

My new floor lamp takes 5 bulbs. Refer to the table below to see what was purchased. Note that this is not a truly scientific experiment. Strictly speaking, I’d need to get 5 differently-priced bulbs with the same advertised output and lifespan. That did not prove practical, and frankly, I wanted to get on with it.

Bulb Type Cost Watts Lumens Advertised Lifespan Qty. Purchased
Greenlite $1.00 13w 900 12,000 Hours 2
GE Energy Smart $2.88 13w 825 8000 Hours 2
GE Reveal $7.99 13w 800 8000 Hours 1

Not to say I didn’t have some fun playing with the scientific method.

Assembly of the lamp proved easy enough…

Lamp assembled

…after which came the light bulb installation. I wanted to free myself from bias as much as possible. The best way to do that was to be ignorant of which bulb was going where. To do this, I labeled 5 note cards, “Dollar Stare 1,” “Energy Smart 1,” etc. Then I flipped them over, shuffled them, and handed them to my colleague (a.k.a. uncle-in-law), Mike, to label A-E. I turned my back.

Notecards A - E

After labeling, Mike handed me light bulbs one at a time, starting with A. Once all 5 were installed and lit, the note cards were placed in an envelope, sealed, and put in a drawer… where I intend to keep them until the first burnout.

Envelope

any copyrighted likenesses appearing in this blog are purely coincidental

The Madness

I currently have no clue as to which bulb is where.

Starfe and lamp

Above: The face of ignorance

According to the packaging, the premium light bulb is worth the price because it produces “clean, beautiful light” (I think that means whiter?) There is an image below the printed claim, reporting to show the difference between the “beautiful” white light and the crude, harsh, inferior lighting produced by the bulbs sold immediately to the right and manufactured by the same company. The caption on this photo reads “Photos enhanced to dramatize difference in color.” So apparently, the company needs to doctor its own publicity shots, because a normal camera under reasonable conditions cannot clearly illustrate the improvement in quality that justifies charging almost three times as much.

Subjectively, I notice no difference. I understand that subjectivity is not scientific, but considering the fact that I should be living with this light for the next few years, I think what I see is important. I see 5 white-yellow bulbs.

Interestingly enough, the dollar store bulbs make the most grandiose claims… 12000 hours? At 4 hours a day that’s a little over eight years… AND they claim the greatest light output besides. Stay tuned for updates…

…well, not if you believe the packaging

.

2010 in review [Automated post]

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Fresher than ever.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

The Leaning Tower of Pisa has 296 steps to reach the top. This blog was viewed about 1,200 times in 2010. If those were steps, it would have climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa 4 times

In 2010, there were 20 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 35 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 2mb. That’s about 3 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was April 7th with 36 views. The most popular post that day was Idiot’s For Dummies: The Certified Imbecile’s Guide to Self-Improvement.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, myspace.com, home.myspace.com, mail.live.com, and en.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for airplane movie autopilot, otto airplane, auto pilot from airplane, airplane otto, and airplane autopilot.

Note from Strafe: Finally some Google traffic! Too bad they all came looking for pictures. More graph blogs then?

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Idiot’s For Dummies: The Certified Imbecile’s Guide to Self-Improvement April 2010
2 comments

2

7 Things the Harry Potter Movies Got Wrong (So Far) [Spoilers!] August 2010
1 comment

3

Top Ten Progressive Rock Bands April 2010
4 comments

4

Straw Faux Pas June 2010
4 comments

5

Strafe Reviews: The Apple iPad April 2010
4 comments

Keep Chi in Christmas

Hello folks. A short one, in the spirit of the season:

A few years ago I was flooded with chain emails, roasting nationwide retailers on an open fire for saying “happy holidays,” and the like. I generally try to avoid pettiness, although I did get a great-big-grinchy eye roll a few years back, when I was in a holiday parade. Portraying an unlicensed-likeness of Disney’s Prince Phillip, I finally worked up the courage to address members of the crowd with a hearty “Merry Christmas,” and I was instantly met with a reproachful’ harsh “Happy Holidays!” from a crowd member. It stuck with me… I have not portrayed a copyrighted character in a corporate-sponsored community event directed at children since.

I think the corporations got the message (i.e. got scared) because this year they really seem to be overdoing the “Merry Chistmas”‘s… perhaps they realized the number of potential Christmas shoppers willing to boycott was greater than the number of non-Christmas-celebrants likely to be offended (who, by definition, weren’t likely to be doing heavy December shopping anyway). The system works.

But at least the “Happy Holidays” controversy seems seems to have gone the way of the Segue. So why write about a dead issue? Because, in an optimistic…perhaps foolishly-so… hope for a Christmas miracle, I’d like to do my part to catalyze the extinction of the “keep Christ in Christmas” bumper stickers (and buttons, banners, etc). There is a single, simple reason why.

linus on podium

Lights Please...

I’d be all aboard a movement to, say, keep the season in the spirit of Christ by showing good will toward others, pursuing peace on Earth, valuing personal sacrifice over wealth, and serving as an example by leveraging one’s own wealth and material blessings to in-turn bless others. But that sounds like socialism. So instead, the movement is largely trying to discourage writing/saying “Xmas.” The “X” removes “Christ,” you see.

I was going to provide a few article links here, since none of what follows represents original research. But since there are so many, all saying exactly the same thing, I think it would be far more amusing to link to this instead.

In short, “Christ,” in Greek, starts with the letter “chi.” Capital letter Chi is identical in appearance to the Latin letter “X.” So this age-old abbreviation is the modern day equivalent of writing “Merry C’mas.” Why don’t we say that? Because it sounds kinda dirty.

The Seminar Entitled “Coping With Loss” Has Been Canceled

What is the longest it has ever taken you to get a joke? Well, while driving down the frontage road today, the full irony of an 8-year-old quip hit me. When I was a sophomore high school, I started a club… we attempted to call it “The Cynics’ Club.” Despite my clarification that it was to be based off the Greek philosophy of cynicism, the administration wouldn’t let it fly. Not at least with that name. Yeah, they were ok with the concept of a club forming around the ideal that humans are primarily motivated by greed and that pessimism equals realism… we just couldn’t name ourselves as such. That’s not the joke.

Here’s, the joke: A teacher of mine suggested we call ourselves “The Misanthropy Club.” I gave it a hearty chuckle at the time, but only today did I recognize the potentially hidden ridicule in that comment. Here it is:

Club: (n.) a formal association of people with similar interests; (v.) to unite with a common purpose.
Misanthropy: (n.) hatred of mankind; a disposition to dislike and mistrust other people.

I’m not sure if this instructor was trying to point out that it foolish to try to unite a group of people to celebrate how much people suck. It’s like trying to put together an agoraphobics’ camp out. A bake sale for diabetics. A Tye-dye party for Strafe’s birthday. Not only does it not make sense, but it also implies that the very person whose idea it was is also particularly unqualified to be a member.

Fans of Futurama may recognize this as essentially being a real-life version of Fry’s attempt to join the Apathy Party (the second-best political party featured on Futurama).

Above: The Best

One can only imagine how disheartened I was when our club meetings quickly decomposed into 90-minute sessions of pseudo-political arguing.

Now, if I’d been paying attention to my own supposed ideals, the behavior of our eager members should have served as a proof of concept for our ideals. Instead, I tried to recruit more members. The immediate effect of this effort was possibly the most-hilarious string of advertisements ever featured on our third hour student-anchored “news” (that didn’t involve a subsequent apology to the student body). But few joined the club.

Clearly, the club was smarter than me, right to the end. We never agreed on any real rules, never held elections of consequence, and technically never ended. We just sort of stopped meeting eventually. And no one asked why. And the whole time, it never occurred to me that anyone motivated to join a club was probably not a true cynic and therefore wouldn’t enjoy the club, any any true cynic wouldn’t have shown up in the first place.

It’s one thing to miss the point. It’s quite another to bleed to death because you can’t see the point because it poked your eye out. Jesus said something like that, right?

By the way, we settled on the name “Black Lantern.” The now-retired administrator who approved the name over “The Cynic’s Club” almost immediately tried to renege on it. That makes it worth it. I’d be willing to accept that our cheesy news program at one point ran a funnier ad. But no one will ever beat our logo:

Nobody!