My Thoughts... Exactly!

Hey, you wanna know what I think?

Category: Rants (page 2 of 2)

In Print

Anyone notice the Los Angeles Times’ front page goof yeaterday? There was a picture of the cast members from Everybody Loves Raymond accepting their Emmy for Best Comedy and listed their names including “Doris Roberts” and “Brad Roberts” who each won awards for Best Supporting Actors.

His name is Brad Garrett. [LINK]

Just another reason not to trust the LA Times. They don’t check their facts. 😉

The Information Age Takes a Left Turn

Additional Update: (December 26, 2005)
Since I last wrote in this blog entry explaining how a “Google Bomb” works, nearly enough Conservatives have counterbombed Michael Moore with the same tactics as had originally vexed George Bush…namely that now when you click on this link for the term miserable failure, you will be taken to Michael Moore’s site, but more fiendishly, we have participated in the “bombing” scheme that feeds part of the Google site ranking machine. Now when you click on this Google Search link for miserable failure, you find Michael Moore’s website listed 2nd only to George Bush’s.

I am proud to be part of the fair and balanced crowd.
Retraction:
Apparently I was wrong, but even though I would actually prefer to be wrong on the posting below this update, I simply do not have the means to prove that I am. So if I am wrong—and I believe I am—I apologize to the fine people at Google who have enriched my life.

That having been said, I must mention that a term “google bombing” was brought to my attention today, several days subsequent to the entry posted below.

Somebody apparently discovered a “flaw” in the Google ranking system and has exploited it. It appears that the flaw can be used against (or for) anyone, given a widespread, concerted effort. If you can get enough people to post on their websites a specific link to a particular site using a specific word or phrase, that phrase will rise in Google’s rankings.

For example, the phrase “greatest oil painter” does not appear as a phrase anywhere else on my entire site other than this blog entry, though the individual words are scattered thoughout. But if I could convince enough people out there with websites that are searched by Google to place this link

<a href=”http://www.DarrowArt.com”>Greatest Oil Painter</a>

on their sites, then theoretically, my site would eventually be listed at the top of a search where “greatest oil painter” is the search term or terms.

I encourage you to immediately paste that code anywhere in your own website.

Now, given that there are a substantial number of people who think that failure applies to the individual whose name comes to the top of the search, it would be difficult to prove that google bombing is indeed the reason, but it is suspicious that enough links to his biography are out there using the word failure as the link-word.

Anyway, in my book, Google is off the hook.

My original post, below:

Google, as it turns out, isn’t always right. In fact, it’s decidedly left.

For the time being, anyway, if you enter the single word failure as a search term, you get a faceful of opinion rather than search results. I don’t like that. If it’s someone’s idea of a joke, I don’t find it funny. In fact it sickens me that an insanely popular, presumably innocuous, neutral “search tool” would stoop to such a low level.

As my friend Brock at MSNBC.com said:

I no more want Google pointing me toward “liberal-minded” hits to my searches than I do want it slanting my searches in a more “conservative” manner.

At least one can almost defend the Google/ebay gaff I pointed out last year by explaining it away a search word rotation anomaly.

Whatever.

I wonder, if I looked up “bad taste” would it list Google.com at the top?

Stealing My TV

It didn’t used to be this way…

My daughter and I were watching Cirque du Soleil: Varekai on Bravo yesterday. I was recording it for keepers.

Now if you’ve ever watched anything Cirque du Soleil you know that in addition to the athletic and dance performances being nothing short of spectacular, the photography, lighting, costumes and color are otherworldly.

So I commented to my daughter when the show began, fading in from near-black, “Man, I hate that they do that… putting the Bravo logo on the lower-right of the screen. They didn’t used to do that!”

I don’t know which in-your-face network started it, but it bothered me then and it bothers me now. The fact that all the other networks joined in (I think Disney has the biggest encroachment with it’s two huge mouse ears in the corner) simply means we have accepted this rudeness… this stealing of our TV screens. Well, we tolerate it anyway. That’s what we’ve come to.

It gets worse. I have a 20″ TV screen. With the too-seldom TV watching schedule I have, there’s no point getting a bigger one. At least that’s what I think until I watch a movie in widescreen or wider, when a major portion of the screen is taken up by nothing. But then, I can accept that, since I choose widescreen DVDs most of the time.

Cirque du Soleil was presented in widescreen—so right away I lost the top and bottom of the screen. But then every now-and-then they would pop up these annoying, animated ads for the next show airing—and the ads would take up almost 1/3 of the lower screen. [Click to see image space break-down]

Not only did they ruin the mood of Cirque du Soleil but they actually prevented us from seeing the performance, which at the moment was largely centered around what was going on at the bottom of the frame.

As a photographer, I sometimes frame things so that attention is drawn to the lower portion of the viewable area. These pop-up promos never take that into consideration whether by size, color, activity or duration. They are as annoying to me as pop-up ads on my browser.

There should be a pop-up blocker invented for TV broadcasts. If I could, I would.

If you were in San Francisco watching a street-performing duo doing incredible strength moves, ballet, and acrobatics, with a huge crowd gathered and you were marveling at their almost inhuman strength and skill—and then suddenly a juggler walked across in front of them, juggling balls and pins and shouting to the audience that this show will be over in a few minutes and his juggling show will begin immediately following “so please don’t go anyhwere,” wouldn’t you consider that juggler to be rude?

But we tolerate it.

Stamps.com Gouging Customers

I signed up with Stamps.com two or three years ago. I was shipping prints of some of my artwork, and only occasionally needed unusual postage totals that would normally require me to go to the post office. They had, at that time, a monthly fee of $4.99 plus 10% of postage costs. So even a 37¢ “stamp” would cost 41¢ plus the monthly fee. But the bonus was, I could print the postage on my home printer. The way I figured it, paying 19¢ extra for mailing a print in a tube at $1.89 normal postage was worth it if it would help me 1). avoid the drive and 2). avoid the lines at the post office.

It has been convenient.

I signed on the other day to mail a Tribute DVD to one gentleman, and received an alert that my account had been converted to the Power Plan. When I wrote to Stamps.com to ask what that was about, I received a boilerplate e-mail back from them telling me that the Power Plan is the only one being offered at this time. Monthly fee $15.99.

Now, for some reason, having my fees raised 320% automatically, and moved into “the only plan available” comes as disturbing news to me.

I called them today [888.434.0055] and told them I didn’t like it, and the kind woman on the phone—after giving me a knowing, “Um-hmm…that’s the only plan we offer right now,” to which I complained that the over-300% increase in fees felt like gouging [Definition 4; slang] to me—said that she could switch me to their Basic Plan for $7.99 per month.

The Plan They Don’t tell You About

Lemme see if I get this right:

  1. The Power Plan is the only plan available now
  2. If that bothers me, I can switch to the Basic Plan which is also available.

I weighed it out and figured a 160% increase wasn’t all that bad. And she did waive my first month’s fees.

And I didn’t have to go postal.

Profit of Doom

I stopped by the gas station to put diesel in the `83 Benz yesterday.

I just dumped a quick $15 and change into the tank, and was stunned to see that that bought me 4.5 gallons. I paid $3.30 per gallon.

That is insane.

What bugs me the most is that the gas station—and I think this goes for any gas station around—has jacked up the price of the gasoline they already have in stock. They bought it at the price they did when they were going to sell it for $2.59 a gallon (and profit on the sale), but because of whatever’s in the news, they are instead selling the same gasoline for $3.30 for no other reason than that they can. If the gas costs them more, then I can see that they need to move the sale price up, but they are selling “old gas” at new prices.

That’s just not right.

After having lived through the odd or even gas lines of the 70s, and several other “shortages” and “crises” since, I just don’t believe anyone who explains to me why prices have to be so high. When they do, I believe I am listening to ignorant people or liars.

The former can’t help themselves. They’ll never change. Fortunately, some of them are good-looking so they will stay employed as talking heads on the news stations.

The latter are just greedy. They are no better than the people selling licensed T-shirts for $40 inside concert venues—they do it because they can get away with it.

John Van Doorn, in a column published yesterday in the North County Times, says:

California prices have been the highest in the land for years. The explanations by Big Oil are predictable and illusionary, as they have been for the same years.

It’s increased production costs.

It’s a shortage.

It’s OPEC.

It’s the war.

It’s regulation.

It’s Katrina.

It’s supply and demand.

But it’s none of the above, as Californians have come ruefully to understand. The gas that we use comes from oil siphoned out of wells here in the West, and from nowhere else: either the North Slope of Alaska or California itself. It is plentiful. There is no local shortage.

What it is is greed. It is profiteering. [ Full Article ]

And I don’t know what can be done. I hate that feeling.

I think I will complain to the elected officals in our government. Won’t you do the same? [Here’s where to go]

Hot Dog Consumption Speed Data

While cleaning up the part of our yard that is outside the white picket fence—that part of our yard that is closest to the street—I was able to determine, somewhat scientifically, that the distance from the local 7-Eleven that it takes the average uncaring litterbug slob to comsume a 7-Eleven hot dog is exactly the same distance as it is from 7-Eleven to my front yard.

Define Very Important

I am on hold with SIIG attemping to secure a conversation with tech support. After that I will attempt to actually get some technical support.

But I have heard five Jim Croce songs on the hold music, interrupted every 2 minutes or so with “Your call is very important to us. Please stay on the line… yadda, yadda, yadda…

I have now heard how important my call is 15 times.

Membership

Groucho Marx once said, “…I sent the club a wire stating, Please accept my resignation. I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member.”

So I wonder, when I see these bogus spam e-mails come in telling me I can get a new home loan, or that they have approved my 2nd mortgage—a little odd, since I rent—do they really want to loan money to someone stupid enough to reply to the e-mail? Do they have customers in a file drawer marked “Thick As Two Short Planks”?

Who really believes these trolls?

Okay, true: the same people that are still forwarding Penny Brown alerts.

Making A Switch from Blogger

Blogger.com served me well until this past Monday. It just happened to be the day and the moment I wanted to post my thoughts on my father passing away that morning.

As it turns out, they introduced some new feature that I don’t need, but it forced all my text below my substantially populated archives list and essentially messed with my layout. I wrote to them about it, and only heard back from them today, saying they are working on a bug.

Well, I don’t have time for bugs—so I switched to [the also free, but much more sophisticated] WordPress.

I will be modifying it over time, to make it more “me” — so don’t be surprised if you log in here and see a whole new blog… same old text, though.

Fried Rice

Or is that roasted?

Barbara Boxer is an example of exceedingly bad character, and what happens when sour meets power. The unnecessarily harsh grilling of Condoleeza Rice during her confirmation “hearings” stood out to me for two reasons.

One, she and Biden and Kerry and a few others took the opportunity to politik during this mockery of a hearing, but hers was especially vitriolic. And two, I knew at that moment—because I so loathe the predictability of American Media—that Boxer’s words would be the only clips we’d see on the news… and I was right on both counts.

And nearly as bad: they always introduce her as California Senator Barbara Boxer.

Hey! Keep it down, fellas. I’m from California, too!

I Like This Guy

An article in The Toronto Sun, by author Peter Worthington, to me, makes up for the European articles in early November asking how half of America could be idiots.

The article states, in part:

The supposed unpopularity of the U.S. is often propaganda and rhetoric, and not shared by the people of the world who, even after 9/11, Iraq, Afghanistan and the war against terror, seek to come to America to live in freedom and prosperity.

Those anxious to get in have no doubts about what America is — the most desirable country on Earth.

and later in the article

Canada views itself as compassionate, and we are. To a point.

But we don’t react with the speed and passion of Americans. Out vaunted Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) is supposed to react quickly, to “bridge the gap” until formal aid arrives at a disaster scene. The tsunami underlines that ours is a not-so-rapid response team, partly because it exists mostly in theory and partly because we have no way of getting it to a disaster zone—insufficient transport aircraft.

The announcement yesterday was that DART would begin leaving tomorrow — 13 days late. Better luck next disaster. A world without the U.S. would be a sorrier world indeed, especially when leadership in humanitarian causes is needed.

I am grateful to Peter Worthington for his article (found in its entirety here), and have thanked him. You can write to him by writing to editor@tor.sunpub.com.

Can’t Stop Shaking My Head

Disbelief makes my head wag.

“Los Angeles [from whence I originate] Officials” [whatever that means anymore] are asking that manufacturers of computer hard drives stop using the offensive labels “Master and Slave” on their products. I am not making this up.

The request—which has some suppliers furious and others busy re-labeling components—came after an unidentified worker spotted a videotape machine carrying devices labeled “master” and “slave” and filed a discrimination complaint with the county’s Office of Affirmative Action Compliance. ”

…We would request that each manufacturer, supplier and contractor review, identify and remove/change any identification or labeling of equipment components that could be interpreted as discriminatory or offensive in nature,” Sandoval said in the memo, which was distributed last week and made available to Reuters.

Meanwhile, Pacoima Dish Network Officials are requesting that the same manufacturers also eliminate the label Cable Select, as it implies “superiority of cable TV over Satellite.” Okay, I did make that up.

And this unrelated story gets filed in the “You really can get used to just about any annoyance” folder… A guy complains about a head ache he’s had for a long time. X-rays reveal the source of his discomfort. [My brother John sent me that one]

And finally—borrowing my brother’s caption “So, tell us again — we should keep you in our country because…”

There’s an interesting protest being staged by an asylum seeker. [Hattip to John again]

Boy Caught

If you want something from Old Navy, you don’t have a chance of getting it from me.

I am never buying anything from Old Navy because their ads actually change my mood. And it doesn’t matter how bad of a mood I am in—their ads can make it worse.

Dear God…

…we’ll call you if we need you. —America

A Cupertino, California teacher has had historical documents banned from use in his 5th grade class if they refer to God.

My advice to the teacher, Steve Williams: Whatever you do, don’t show that video tape of Congress singing together “God Bless America” the day after 9/11. That may be mistaken as the Federal Government Establishing a Religion.

They know not what they do. [NASB]

Engineered for Frustration

Monday, Teresa drove me to the Carlsbad Train Depot to catch “The Coaster” for the 37 miles trip to the airport in San Diego. Ordinarily I would have walked to the Depot which is about 8 blocks from home, but time was running out, so she dashed me over there. I picked up my ticket to the San Diego airport, and still had time to hang with my wife on the platform. We chatted about the day, the weather, the trip. The 11:05am train was late and still north of us, so she just waited with me.

Finally at about 11:15am the train pulled up, and people loaded on. I grabbed my bags, kissed my wife and said goodbye. I turned, kissed her again, and then she pointed at the train. The doors closed.

I was still not on the train.

I set down my bags and stuck my hands in through the rubber people-squeegee between the doors and tried triggering an emergency door-opening, but they didn’t budge. I jammed my thumb and middle finger in my mouth arched for a taxi-haling whistle, let out my loudest blast to date (my ears are still ringing) and waved at the engineer, who pretended not to hear as he pulled away. I stared in disbelief that a train which was not moving could not wait for 3 more seconds while they opened the door for a 47 year old man with two suitcases obviously in need of a ride.

I walked back to Teresa, shaking my head. “May I have a ride to the airport.”

Of course, all the way there, The Coaster mocked us pulling into and out of several depots en route to the right of us as we drove south on Interstate 5, always pulling in ahead of us but never waiting long enough to do us any good.

I’d like to meet the engineer beside the transit company Coke machine.

New Host

I apologize if you have had difficulty getting through to my site over the last week. I have been hosted by iXpres (you don’t want them) for the last year, and have had too many mail-related problems to count, and this last week, my site was loading at the speed of a 14k baud modem. I called them; they wrote up a ticket; problem wasn’t resolved for three days. I called back and was told the ticket had been closed (even though the problems had not been resolved).

No apology.

As Donald Trump would say: You’re fired!

My new host, Lunarpages, gives me 1000MB (1GB) storage space, and tons of other features (better than I had) and is already running smoothly. The transition was seamless.

$7.95 a month. They have very helpful people, an extensive Control Panel, and a LOT of other features that are amazing, and make the transition easy. If you’re not happy with your host, try LunarPages.

Wish me luck.

Seacrest Out

His famous sign-off / My wish.

This dubious host of American Idol suffers from a serious grace deficiency. (Maybe it’s the rest of us that suffer from his deficiency). I have never heard a Primetime show host with more inappropriate put-downs, biting comments or immature jokes.

Tonight, he hit an all-time low.

I am writing this on commercial break. He just finished with Fantasia Barrino’s “trip home” video, where she visited her old elementary school, her high school, her grandfather’s factory, and her church for a potluck dinner.

Seacrest’s question after the video ended: “Did you get some chitlins?”

That’s maybe one half-step more appropriate than “Did you get some watermelon?”

This guy has to go.

Seacrest out!

Proclaim Your Ignorance Day

Some brilliant person in cyberspace started another one of those e-mails with the purpose of really sticking it to the Big Oil Companies. This mass e-mail designated today, May 19th, as the day no one in America should buy gas. In this way, we will cause a huge ripple and our voices will be heard: We won’t tolerate high gas prices ever again—until tomorrow.

Hey, I have an idea: Let’s stick it to retailers! Don’t buy any Christmas Presents on December 2nd this year! Ha! Devious, yes, but it has to work! And while we’re at it, let’s vote for John Kerry for President so that gas prices go down.

Who’s with me?!

Seedy CD

I have backed up so much stuff onto the known Permanent Storage medium known as CD-R, that I now keep my archives on the last spindle I emptied, instead of in a flip book. Yes, I am talking about 100 CDs of data in a very inefficient stack on a plastic spindle.

Today, a friend in Italy e-mailed this link to me. It’s a site full of info about CDs and which ones last.

“They don’t last?!” you might ask incredulously, as did I.

It turns out this “permanent” storage medium — in some cases, from certain manufacturers — has a shelf life just a little longer than one urban legend attributed to a Hostess Twinkie.

Now I need to order 200 good CDs and back-up my back-ups.

How To Erase A CD
In a related tid-bit of minutiae, my son Drew showed me a great way to permanently erase a CD without cutting or scratching it. Place it data-side up in a microwave and cook it for 3 seconds on High. Nothing happens for the first two seconds, and then on the third second, you’ll see blue lightning (a la the evil Emperor Palpatine from the Dark Side of the Force zapping poor Luke Skywalker as his evil father Darth Vader looks on whilst caught in an emotional tug of war, clearly brought on by the paradox of harboring love for his own offspring and hate in which his cold, dead heart has simmered for decades under the decaying and putrifying influence of the Dark Side, into which he beckons the impressionable Luke to join him) cover the surface of the CD and it will make a great science fiction electrical sound*.

The resulting “erased” CDs look so cool, I made a clock out of one with a $5 battery-operated clock motor.

You can read the time, but never the data!

Disclaimer
*No one under 18 should try this without the supervision of a parent, guardian, or member of the armed services. I assume no responsibility for the safety of such an experiment. Some settling may occur. All data irretrievable through standard methods. Void where prohibited. Electrical fire odor can be detected upon opening microwave door. You must be this tall to ride this attraction. Caution, our coffee is very hot! Pregnant women or people with eating disorders should not cook CDs without first consulting a doctor, or nutrition specialist. Children under 12 must be accompanied by an adult. This process works on all CDs except those recorded by Brittany Spears or Clay Aiken. For some reason they come out of the microwave unharmed. You must be 21 to enter. You must be present to win. Not responsible for lost rebate requests.

Superbowl XXXVIII

Well, Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake can be credited with putting the XXX in Superbowl XXXVIII, but the news media can be credited with putting the Aye-aye-aye in the same [Superbowl XXXV-Aye-aye-aye!]

What would have been a possibly accidental publicity stu—I mean “wardrobe malfunction”—for, what, a half second? has now been burned into my memory forever, thanks to the media’s video loop: “Isn’t this disgusting, immoral and outrageous?” <roll tape> “Isn’t this disgusting, immoral and outrageous?” <roll tape> “Isn’t this disgusting, immoral and outrageous?” <roll tape> “Isn’t this disgusting, immoral and outrageous?” <roll tape>

Good grief, people! It was a half second of breast!

Go to KFC, buy a bucket, and knock yourself out.

Valï(u)m, Viagr@, X(a)n@x, Som@ Di3t M3ds

I get about 15 of these a day.

Do you know why they are spelled that way? So that I can’t possibly set up filters to catch them all.

There are very no real words in there.

Once, when I was about to delete a “Hi” I thought I’d take a chance at reading it.

It was a winning bidder on an eBay auction I had just run. He calls his message subject “Hi”

I felt like not sending him his goods just to make a point.

Tuck It In, Homes

At a nice restaurant last evening the servers prepared a table near me for a group, and not long after, three beautiful, college-age women arrived wearing elegant black, thin-strapped or strapless evening gowns, sparkling and sleek. Each had done masterful natural-looking make-up, with a touch of glamour. Their hair styled for an evening of celebration.

They chatted for a while waiting for others to show up.

Over the next ten minutes, as we finished our meal, four young men showed up.

Each was wearing baggy pants—jeans or cargo pants—their button-down, plaid shirts were un-tucked and completely un-buttoned exposing t-shirts with cheesy art, and a couple of them wore weathered baseball caps with curled brims.

I shook my head at the chasm between how the women viewed the evening versus how the “boys” did.

Who is helping boys grow up and learn to be men—MTV?

A New Twist in “English As a Second Language”

I called the State of California Smog Check Referee Scheduling Center today (why? read “Air Time” from Jan 6, 2004) and heard a chilling sign of the times: “To continue in English, Press 2.”

The default language on the computerized menu system is now Spanish.

English is truly the second language, now.

(ref: 800.622.7733)

Air Time

I don’t know who to blame for this one, but I am looking for candidates.

And I might just run them down.

The State of California wants me to stop driving my car. Not because I drive badly—I have no tickets on my record and enjoy very low insurance rates. Not because I’m getting old–I’m not even 50 (yet). No it’s because a machine that they made me hook it up to told them my car is a Gross Polluter.

My registration was due payable in September 2003. My reminder notice said that I had to take my ’91 LeBaron Convertible, with 157,000+ miles on it to a Test Only Facility. Not just a garage with a Smog Check symbol posted, but a Test Only garage. These are as plentiful as English-speaking, living dentists who will honor the Smilesaver 600 Plan (wink, wink).

The Test Only garages have no incentive to discount since they are spaced every four counties apart. I’m looking at sixty bucks out the door—if it passes. Being the punctual person am, I went to the nearest Test Only Facility—luckily only a mile from me—on August 31st. I’m figuring, one day to make an appointment, the next day to get it “smogged” as we call the testing procedure here in California (or ColliePhoneEya, as our Governor says it). Anyway, the “mechanic-slash-proprietor” of this establishment isn’t in the garage when I get there promptly 2 days before my registration is due. Another guy at the station sees me staring blankly into the dark garage—which incidentally smells heavily of excessive hydrocarbons, the parts per million at which I wouldn’t even want to begin to speculate—and empathetically (or was it just pathetically) calls out, ‘He’s in the trailer!” and points over my shoulder to the area beside this gas station here they usually stack bald tires and Pepsi crates. However, at this location, this was where the mechanic-slash-proprietor lived: in a detached trailer, roughly the size of a Rubbermade broom closet.

I hesitantly knocked on the door of this silver, over-inflated aluminum can, and was immediately greeted on the welcome mat as Jerry Lewis in Charles Nelson Reilly glasses steps all the way from the back room to the outside door mat in one step.

“You here for a smog?” he grumped, lifting his chin and then scrunching up his nose so he could see me through the lower half of his bifocals. Taking this and a few other sensory cues to indicate that I was standing too close, I stepped back and thrust forth my DMV paperwork.

“It says here, sir—”

“I’m booked for the next five days,” he said, turning his head away and showing me his stop-sign palm.

“But I need to get my car smogged by the day after tomorrow…”

“Go to the DMV and get an extension,” he counseled. My registration would be overdue by the time I got through the line at the DMV if I started yesterday, I thought.

But to the DMV I went. Directly from the Test Only Facility.

I got an extension to the end of September, and within two weeks I came back and got Jerry Lewis to test my car, which failed, so I applied for another extension, since I didn’t have any money to pay for the Test Only Facility Smog test, much less the repairs. Somehow it isn’t comforting to hear “You only failed by a little bit.”

“By the way,” he asks, “how old is your cat?”

I frowned, rotating my head slightly on an imaginary nose-axel.

“Your catalytic converter.”

“Oh… I dunno… five years?”

“Yeah, they’re good for about three. It’s about $300 to replace one, and there’s about a 70% chance that’ll fix your problem.”

“Oh,” I gurgled, feeling like I might well up right in front of a whiskery man who has a gray sweatshirt with the sleeves torn off at the shoulder, and no particular definition to his arms. “Is there any bad news?”

“No, it gets better. California’s Consumer Affairs wants to help you with your problem. Regardless of income, they will pay for your car to be fixed —all you have to pay is the first $100, and they cover the rest. Here’s an application.” That’s where the second extension came in handy. It took a while to get “approved.”

At the end of November, I squeezed in an appointment to the even more rare CAP Repair Service—which, as it turns out is licensed and authorized by the state to take my hundred dollars regardless of how gullible I might happen to look at the moment of my appointment. I had to drive 8 miles for this service. At the end of the day, I returned and this authorized CAP mugger told me my car was ineligible for the CAP program. “It’s burning oil, and the CAP program only covers emissions system repairs. I just got off the phone with the State a few minutes ago. They won’t do it.”

“What about my hundred dollars?”

“It’s not yours anymore. And I get an additional $32 from the state for the inspection.”

“Well, what do I do now?”

“Well, there’s an 80% chance that if you replace the cat, it’ll pass smog, but you’ll ruin the cat in a month, if it’s burning oil.”

Seeing this as the cheapest of my options, I got another extension through December and had the cat replaced at Warner’s Muffler Shop in Oceanside, where oddly, I was met by the nicest, friendliest, most patient and explaining people I have ever met at an auto repair facility. I wish I had more muffler work to do, just so I could go back there. This was a busy shop, but an incredibly nice young fellow named Brett had plenty of time for me, and got my old cat off and a new cat welded on in 20 minutes.

I took it back the next day to Jerry Lewis, and long story short, it almost passed closer this time.

So I came home and called the state to find out what to do.

I got a helpful $6/hour state worker practicing English as a Second Language to ‘splain to me that I could make an appointment with a—I am not making this up—Referee to see if I can get a waiver, if I qualify.

“What does it take to qualify?”

“You have to have failed smog, been declined by the CAP program, and spent up to $450 on emissions repairs by a Licensed Emissions Facility.”

“Well, then, I qualify!”

“How much have you spent?”

“Over $500…”

“Not including testing. Just in repairs.”

“Oh. $186.63 for the new cat,” I said smuggly, using my new jargon ever so knowingly. “And another $100 on the CAP progra—”

“Repairs only. You have to spend up to $450 in repairs from a Licensed Emissio—”

“Yeah, I get it. So what if I’m broke and can’t afford to have already spent the $525 that I already spent which has done nothing to improve my car or Air Quality, which therefore leaves me unable to comprehend spending up to $450 more on a Licensed Emissions Facility to take their stab at it and report to me that it burns oil? What do I do then? Huh? Huh?”

“Well, sir, I am not authorized to tell you what to do with your car, but you can’t legally drive it in the state of California.”

“But it runs fine! It looks good! It doesn’t smoke. It’s really quiet and the engine is clean. Jerry Lewis told me I missed by this much! What am I supposed to do, throw it away? I have underwear that’s in ten times worse shape and clearly worse for Air Quality, and I wouldn’t throw them away yet!”

“Well, sir, I am not authorized to tell you what to do with your car, but you can’t legal—”

“Yeah, yeah, I get it…”

So, I get to drive my beautiful, red Chrysler LeBaron Convertible with a 6 cylinder, 3.0 liter engine for less than two more months, thanks to another extension from the DMV, and then I have to set it out at the curb with the recyclables.

I hope it doesn’t get hit by the guy two doors down with the rusty ’67 Ford truck that takes 15 minutes to warm up every morning at 4:00am and sounds like the Space Shuttle until it finally puffs and spits its way down the street.

That would just be more than I can handle.

On Hackers and Taggers

My web hosting company had a hacker attack over the weekend, rendering my site (and many others) unavailable since mid-day Saturday. It is now back online.

Typically, every directory and subdirectory has a file called index.html in it that browsers look for first. The hacker (see also: weasel, snake, bad-boy, naughty-man, brains-traded-for-useless-maliciousness, lonesome, doesn’t bathe or wash hair) gained access to the otherwise secure server and was able to replace everyone’s “index.html” file with his own, which–though I never saw it–was likely a “Hey Mom, look at what I did” message in effect, redirecting pages to a counter somewhere so he could tally up the success of his “electronic tagging.”

Granted, I couldn’t do it myself, largely due to a serious lack of motivation to gain the knowledge to do so. The beach is one block away. Same reason I don’t hang down freeway overpasses and scrawl my name or AIM Screenname in mauve Krylon.

But in their world, they imagine this gains them “respect” — not true respect, rather the same kind of respect you can demand if you have a loaded gun pointed at someone’s gut. You and your homies can revel in the “obedience” you’ll extract from your innocent victim, and you can call it “respect,” but drop the gun, tell your homies to back off, and try demanding the same thing mano-y-mano.

See hackie run.

What’s left to say? “Cool, dude! Thanks for the 36 hours down-time, the half-hour on hold with the hosting company, and the two hours of my work-day replacing all the index.html files in my site.

“Oh, yeah, and Jesus loves you, anyway, but I’m still blowing off steam.”

Foster Freeze

I’m sure this news makes a chill run down Jodie’s spine: MSNBC – Hinckley can visit parents unsupervised.

Lessee, he’s insane, so he doesn’t get convicted, but he’s not that insane, and in fact he will be less insane if he can visit his parents unsupervised.

I think the insanity is highly contagious and has infected his psychiatrists and the judge.

How can they let out a guy who attempted to assassinate the President of the United States?! He’s unsupervised, while Brady needs constant attention.

This is severely backwards.

Just in Time for Christmas

My ship came in!

I have been walking around in a daze since the mail came four days ago.

I have received, and I am not making this up, a final payment on a critical and important Class Action Lawsuit, in which I was named along with a man with too much time on his hands, in the lawsuit known as Schwartz vs Citibank.

Now, who is benefiting from this besides the lawyers? My check is for $.26 — that’s 26 cents, for those of you still in the California K-12 School System. In my first attempt to find out who this knucklehead Schwartz is, I landed on a blog posted December 8, 2003, by a Patrick Keane who only received 13 cents.

Little did I know, I was twice as entitled.

The check came in a Carrier Pre-sort Mail emblazoned envelope, which costs, I think, 20.5 cents to mail. I’m thinking, “Geez, if they had just thought to deposit directly to my Paypal Account I could have received 46.5 cents instead,” but then I remember Paypal dings me 30 cents for the transaction, plus 2.9% of the transaction total (1.3 cents), which chips 31.3 cents off the deal, leaving me 15.2 cents.

I don’t know what to do.

The bank is a half mile away, which will cost me, according to the IRS, 16.5 cents (at $.33/mile allowance), so that’s no good. And if I don’t cash it, well, that’s just going to generate all sorts of paperwork each month until July 31, 2004 when the check becomes no good. Then again, as Patrick Combs discovered, even checks that appear to be no good, can be worth a lot.

Does anyone else see the idiocy in this? I wonder what Schwartz’s take was.

I hope it’s made a huge difference in his life.

At least half as much as it has mine.

Why the media is not testifying in court

We do indeed have a few idiot judges in this country, we’ve all heard of them.

But generally, we have judges who know when to tell a witness to be quiet, or that their testimony is irrelevant.

I wish the talking heads at MSNBC would stop gazing at their reflections in the glass of the TV cameras long enough to realize how irrelevant their opinions are. And their “news” coverage, at times.

This Michael Jackson Arrest Circus has me agitated.

I just got through listening to MSNBC’s latest smearjocky, [Name Withheld until I find out his real name] talking in ominous tones about this “secret room” off of Michael Jackson’s bedroom… then graphics [type] appear on the screen at the moment he says them [a sure sign that this is a production not “news”] with phrases like:

  • Windowless Bedroom (isn’t that a walk-in closet in most homes?)
  • Pictures of Underage Children (excuse me, but I cannot see this as anything other than a smear, meant to imply guilt — can someone please tell me what the definition of “Underage Child” is? What is the beginning age for “Child?” At what age are you too young [underage] to be a child? Everyone I know has pictures of Underage Children, with this loose interpretation. The term “underage” can only be used properly in a few cases, so clearly what MSNBC is attempting to do is connect Jackson’s picture collection with Child Pornography — something Jackson has not been charged with. That is simply foul!)
  • Bed with Peter Pan Sheets (Hey did you notice the big sign outside that says Neverland Ranch? Hello!? I think there is a theme, here. Throw him in jail if he has Little Mermaid sheets, but, really! Hey, MSNBC, does he have JIF peanut butter in his cupboard, or [I can’t even speak the name]?)

I can picture the heads of these news centers wringing their hands in greedy joy, “This story is beautiful! We’ll keep people glued to their sets with all kinds of juicy stuff.”

Who cares if the “facts” are aligned craftily to imply guilt before trial?

Who cares if they even have facts?

It’s just business.

Most of my friends are named Spam

I don’t know how it happens, in the technical sense, but if you own an e-mail address long enough, that address gets around, and unscrupulous people band together and do one very nice thing in their lives only for other unscrupulous people: they share.

Every morning when I wake up, I do the same thing: make coffee and check my e-mail.

I get the coffee going for my wife and I, and then start the e-mail downloading.

By the time the typically 50 to 75 e-mails are done downloading, my coffee is ready.

Most of the e-mails are viruses made to attack trusting people who own PCs. That’s 2 errors on the part of the senders. I have a Mac, and I’m not that trusting.

I use Outlook’s Rules feature to look at any incoming e-mail and if it has an attachment with .exe, .bat, .com, .scr, or a variety of other possible “executables” it gets redirected to my Outlook trash. There it sits with a hoard of other filtered e-mails awaiting a silent death upon quitting the application; e-mails that invariably suggest to me that my house needs to be refinanced, my wife is not satisfied, part of my anatomy is diminutive, or my aging, sagging man-breasts are not sufficently augmented.

Once, just to be on the safe and open minded side, I asked my wife if she thought any of the suggestions were valid. Her response after reading them all: “We rent.”

But I digress.

So, I return to the computer after grabbing a cup of coffee properly adjusted with half-and-half (Does anyone know what the other half is?) and look at the leftover e-mails.

My mom and dad write fairly faithfully.

And there are a few clever stragglers who’ve beaten my filtering scheme with such brilliant spellings as “v|agr@” and “b|ggeR bRe@sts.”

Then I think to myself, Maybe I should read some of the Spams… they’re the only ones who write to me every day.

I can hardly wait to see what I get tomorrow.

Time for more coffee.

Watching the Impending Arrest of Michael Jackson

Now the broadcaster has spent an hour on this “news” and all they got was a few seconds of the back of Jackson with his hands behind his back. “He could be in handcuffs!” chirped the talking head on MSNBC.

Geez.

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