Category Archives: Rant

More Patriot Act Fuckupery

The Patriot ActWhile everyone was giving each other high-fives and because of "how cool it was that President Obama called Kanye West a Jackass", the president was talking about extending provisions of the US Constitution's natural enemy: The Patriot Act. We're fucking arresting people then sending them to Afghanistan.  What.  The.  Fuck?  When did we become the country that does shit like THAT? Anyone who doesn't realize that the intent of the government is to make the Patriot Act a permanent part of the law is an idiot.  Congress put in the "expiring clauses" to sooth the public, and like sheep, the vast majority of the public bought into it.  There is no emoticon strong enough to convey the level of disgust this inspires in me. If you haven't figured out that both of the major parties are essentially identical, and that neither has your constitutional interests at heart (where it's inconvenient for the government, that is), then you're a moron.  The primary job of someone in power is to perpetuate and/or extend their influence.  Tie this in with the Peter Principle and look at our current political environment, and it gets pretty goddamn scary. The Patriot Act is essentially an attempt to vaccinate us against freedom.  That's the kind of flu I don't mind having, but I guess the rest of my fellow citizens are ok with trading liberty for convenience. Fuck 'em.

Worst alarm clock made

For a few years, I had an Oregon Scientific projection clock that rocked my night world.  It put the time up on the ceiling in red, the alarm went off when it was supposed to, and it just  worked. So of course, I bought a replacement. I was at Bed, Bath & Beyond shopping for, fuck, I don't know.  It's one of those stores where you go in for a shower curtain and come out with $150 in gadgets, then have to go back to get the shower curtain you forgot to find.  Anyways, I see this clock sitting there on this stand looking all blue and shit, and I immediately notice the following awesome things about it:

  1. It looks like a UFO.
  2. It's a projection clock.
  3. It also has a wireless outdoor temperature sensor and will TELL ME exactly how goddamn cold it is outside while I'm snuggled up all nice and warm under the Thundercat! blanket I tell people I bought ironically.
I added the ears, but it's not a stretch.
I added the ears, but it's not a stretch.
Holy crap, this thing is awesome.  Best of all, it's RIGHT THERE.  No eBay, no online purchase, no waiting two damn days to get it (while I click the refresh button on the UPS web page, c'mon damnit, get here already!), it's RIGHT THERE. And so I buy it. I buy the FUCK out of it. It's the Homedic S5-5000 At home, I tear open the box and pull it out.  A few minutes later, I've got the timezone set, the temperature probe is powered up and mounted outside, the clock is set for wake up time, and OH NEAT THE CLOCK IS SETTING ITSELF.  This is the best clock ever!  I dismissively toss my old Oregon Scientific clock to the side.  "Sorry, old chum, but that was the future on the phone, and it says it's here". I tell this Awesome Machine to wake me up with soothing jungle noises, and that night, I shut off my bedside lamp and get ready to go to slee-  wait...  what's that?  The entire room is bathed in a blue light.  I look up and see, projected onto the ceiling that is is 10:36 - 56°. The blue light is so bright, the entire room is illuminated.  I can see the bookshelves, the walls, the paintings on the walls...  Hang on...  I grab a book, open it, and discover that I can read the text.  This is not great. "No problem", I tell myself, "a fine company like Homedics must have a brightness control on their quality products".  I hunt around for a minute, then give up.  I'll fix this tomorrow, I decide to turn off the projector.   As it turns out, this requires I turn the light on and fumble around for a tiny switch on the back of the clock, but no bother, this is fine.  Projector disabled, the light goes off, and I settle down to slee-  uh...  I can still see illumination through my eyelids.  I look over at the clock and realize that the backlighting for the face is actually WHITE. So, this clock is basically cornering the market in retarded color choices for night vision.  Blue to burn out your retinas, and white to kill off any Rhodopsin left after the first attack. I figure out how to shut that off and shuffle off to sleep.  Well, I'm actually getting less performance now than I had before because at least my Oregon Scientific clock could show me the time, but....  no problem, I'll get this taken care of tomorrow. Slowly, I shuffle off to sleep... (time passes) I gradually come awake.  I'm rested!  I feel great!  I stretch out, this is fantastic.  I glance over at the clock, but, oh right, I had to turn off the backlighting.  No problem, I must have beaten the alarm.  I frown.  I have beaten the alarm, right?  I grab my phone and check the time...  oh monkey trumpets, I'm an hour late.  The alarm didn't go off!
A Homedic being used against the terrorists of Alderaan
A Homedic S5-5000 being used against the terrorists sympathizers on Alderaan
I rush off to work, promising to debug the issue when I get home.  Later, I return and sit down with the clock and the manual.  I've never had to use a manual with a clock before, but ok, it's a brave new world.  Paging through it, I discover some disturbing things.  Obviously, I had assumed there would be a dimmer or brightness control.  This, as it turns out, is wildly incorrect.  As best as I can tell, there is a 'hypermatter singularity' at the core of this clock that's used specifically to provide the light for this projector. Additionally, the backlighting on the face of the clock is equally non-adjustable.  Awesome.  Now, let's figure out what happened with the alarm...  this is when my wife contributes to the discussion.  As it turns out, the alarm went off after I had left for work.  The clock had spontaneously decided it was in a different time zone and had set itself for a later time.  A fluke, I'm sure. Sighing, I decide to give it another try.  The projection clock is still really what I'm wanting out of this, so it's time to use a little cleverness.  I have some sunglass lenses handy, so I tape a couple together and balance them atop the projector aperature.  This works, sort of, but there's still blue leaking out around the edges and the numbers can now only be pointed straight upwards, but ok, it's a slight improvement.  I reset the time on the clock, and write off the backlighting.  WHITE!  C'mon.... LATER... I snap awake, the alarm is sounding.  This is good!  It's going off, and it's obviously not late because it's still dark out.  Blearily, I hit a button, and it shuts off.  Boy, I am tired.  Exhausted, even.  I yawn, try to stretch, but geez, I am beat.  Blearily, I sit up in bed and stretch again.  I grab my phone to use as a flashlight and wander to the bathroom.  I'm checking email while waiting for the shower to heat up when I notice the clock on the phone.  It reports that it's 2:03 AM.  wut. Somehow, the clock has now shifted in the other direction and three hours early.  Oh sweet zombie Jesus.  I end up setting my phone as an alarm and finally make it back to sleep, but this is a rough day at work, and I'm tired. That night, I read through the manual more and figure that somehow, it must have lost the timezone setting, so I reset that again.  As I noted earlier, the clock uses an atomic clock broadcast to set itself, but unlike most appliances, it seems to get bored.  This time, I turn off the atomic clock sync and just set it.  "No", I shake my finger at it, "you do not set yourself". Since then, it's semi-randomly changed what time it is despite me turning off that feature. Also, consider not using the 'Rain shower' sound as your alarm if it has been/is currently raining.  It's less effective than you might imagine. The weather sensor can't reliably reach it with updates even though it's less than 10 feet away. In short, this is the clock from hell.   My friends and co-workers have noted that my iPhone would function quite adequately as an alarm.  "Never!" I rejoin, "I'm not giving up yet.  If I use my phone as my alarm, then this Homedics clock will have won". "Dude", one of them responded sympathetically, "it's already won". Considering how many times I've been clockblocked by this abomination, I cannot recommend this alarm to anybody but my enemies, but for them I wholeheartedly endorse it.

Cash for Clunkers was an abortion

Do you know what happened when you turned in a car as part of this process?  The dealers put two quarts of sodium silicate into the engine and ran it until it destroyed itself. If you're not disgusted with this program and all the money it cost you, then you're a fucking retard. This entire program was based on the broken window fallacy of economics.  It took money out of your pocket and made you think you got cash, but everyone who pays taxes was robbed.  The only people who liked this are the auto companies.  Why wouldn't they like it? It was another bailout, and you paid for it, suckers.

Facebook & Health Care

Like all the good lemmings, I've got a Facebook account too.  God forbid I not know how proud my ex-neighbor from 10 years ago is about how his brat did on a test.  Buddy, just because you shit out a kid who's smarter than you doesn't make you King Of The Retards, it just means you're an attention whore. Oh, don't get me wrong, I pump out the same neverending stream of self-serving Public Relations because I've figured it out: Facebook is a contest, and the only way to win is to try and sound more interesting than everybody else. You grab as many acquaintances as you can then spend the remainder of your days proving that they're fools for not following you around all day in person. One of the most annoying memes in support of this ridiculous competition lately has been the "I'm morally superior unless you do what I tell you" one.  You've probably have seen an example sometime in the last few days:

9/3 on Facebook
9/3 on Facebook
On the face of it it seems like a nice idea...  "It'd be nice, aww, yeah, let's all kumbaya and have a great big endorphin sandwich and hug and take X together". ...except there's one problem: the implication is that if you DON'T post this text as your status, you DO think people should die and go broke.  In fact, you're a goddamn MONSTER if you don't post this!  Holy crap, better get to the batcave Bruce Wayne and get your fucking Facebook updated right away!
Even more butt-hurt about it
Even more butt-hurt about it
So it's an implicit threat.  "Do X or Y is true". That's awesome. Second, let's look at the basic failure behind this message: "By doing X, you will help Z."  The text suggests essentially that if you post this as your status, you will, in some way, make medical-insurance-magic happen.  I can only guess that the people participating in this believe at some level that somewhere, there's a master control screen for Facebook surrounded by Insurance Industry executives. noradbookIn this control room, the insurance dudes are watching the screen up front with growing terror as hundreds and hundreds of status messages switch over to this. "My god", one of them breathlessly intones to another (in the fantasy), "they're in open revolt!  What do we do?"  And the tie-wearing guy he's talking to sets down his big cigar and responds, "We pray, Mister HMO.  We pray." In truth, though, this is just a lazy form of slacktivism.  This is one of the most dangerous types of self delusion for the burgeoning protester/true believer/self-righteous espouser of The Truth.  The delusion that he/she/it is doing something to make the world better without having to actually do anything. "By jove", the original author thinks while stroking his neck beard, "this status message shall storm the gates of the world and light a fire of indignation that shall burn these streets clean!"  Confusing metaphoric imagery aside, this has the same erstwhile goal as any revolutionary.  But instead of having to actually go out and take down whitey, all that happens is that the chickens cluck loudly for a few minutes, then forget about it. What's the actual result of the status message going to be?  Really?  Well, probably nothing.  A lot of heads around the world nodded, a bunch of furious copy/pasting took place, but in the end, everything goes back to status quo.  But the situation is actually WORSE than it was before, because a bunch of people feel like they did something and can now move on to the next item in their inbox.  In the word of one internet philosopher, "FFFFFUUUUUUUUU-" Finally, and perhaps most damning at all: It's sanctimonious.  I won't waste a lot on this, but seriously, fuck you guys.  Yeah, I get it.  You feel strongly about this.  But just shuuuuuuut up already.  There's got to be a way you can jerk yourself off about how awesome you are without implying a severe lack of moral fortitude in everyone else who failed to think of doing this first. So let's recap:
  1. It's a threat.
  2. It's actually worse than useless.
  3. The people who do it think it proves they're a better person.
Yeah, Facebook is a curious game, and it can be fun.  But if this is the way the contest is shaping, it seems as if the only way to win is not to play.

Do not coddle the mentally ill

Walking into Safeway yesterday, I encountered an increasingly common sight.  A woman, dressed bizarely in a shiny purple outfit and pushing a grocery cart was haranguing people walking down the sidewalk.  I can only assume her behavior was at least in part modified by the tall beer can she was drinking from, further evidenced by the shopping cart she was pushing ahead of her that contained, in addition to her belongings, the empty remnants of more beer. Toothlessly leering in the fashion of a methamphetamine connoisseur, she staggered up to people and swore at them, occasionally grabbing her breasts and pumping them.  With the maniacal precision of someone who has decided she is exempt from any possible implied social contract, she stalked up to cars and shouted into their cabins at the startled faces of newcomers, then lurched back towards the sidewalk to scatter pedestrians with her raving. Intrigued, I activated the camera function of my phone and was prepared as I walked past. "Say, would you mind smiling?  I've never taken a picture of a crazy person before", I called out brightly and with a smile.

The suddenly shy woman ducks behind a pillar
The suddenly shy woman ducks behind a pillar
In a flash, her chemically affected exuberance at causing discomfort snapped inwards and she spun about, hiding her face as I took a picture.  Assuming this to be an accident, I followed her around a pillar to get a followup picture, but she hid her face and kept evading. I glanced up as a pedestrian passed and smiled.  "Shucks," I said, putting away my camera, "she seems to be a bit camera shy."  To my surprise, I received a withering look that suggested that _I_ was somehow in the wrong in this situation, that my refusal to substitute pity for amusement was somehow indicative of a deep seated personality flaw on my part.  I suspect that she hadn't considered the alternative, that I'm simply an asshole, and that part of being an asshole is being unwilling to treat adults as children. Folks, at what point do we stop giving a free pass to the mentally ill or addicts who veer through our neighborhoods, menacing our kids and yellow profanities at the top of their lungs?  At what point do we call them on their bullshit? Do not coddle them.  If people do stupid things or behave badly, say something.  You may be providing a vital service to someone who believes their actions are acceptable because society never tells them otherwise.

Formal license to be an asshole

The founding fathers of the United States of America were pretty bad-ass.  These guys gave King George the finger, made Boston harbor smell like an old lady's parlor for the lulz, then invented new type of dominoes that involves knocking over British Redcoats with musket fire.  When we think of their accomplishments, though, the one thing that stands out is the US Constitution.  And the part of the Constitution that resonates with us as a nation the most is more than just flowery prose espousing freedom: The Bill of Rights is a License To Be An Asshole in 10 different, specific ways.

  1. The government can't stop you from writing or believing what you want, even if it hurts people's feelings and ESPECIALLY if it offends. (original wording)
  2. The government can't stop you from keeping guns, even if it scares people.  It'd be polite if everyone defanged themselves, but liberty is often rude.  (original wording)
  3. The government can't force you to house soldiers in time of war, even if it would be an awfully nice thing to do.  Starting to see a theme yet? (original wording)
  4. The government can't search you 'just because', even if it'd help them stop some super duper crime maybe.  Hell, imagine the field day the cops could have if they could just set up random checkpoints and search everyone coming through for possible law breakiness.  They'd fucking LOVE to do that, btw, but you're theoretically protected from it. (original wording)
  5. The government can't force you to give yourself up or give up your freedoms or property, even if it would make everyone else happy.   (original wording)
  6. The government can't just hold you in limbo without being charged or tried justly, even if it's OBVIOUS that you're a no good son of a bitch.  "He's probably guilty of SOMETHING!"  They still try, though, so it also says you can have a professional asshole to represent you.  (original wording)
  7. The government can't just run you through a kangaroo court, EVEN if, like in #6, it's OBVIOUS that you're a right mean bastard.  If you want, then you're entitled to make 'em convince 12 other jerkoffs that you're actually a criminal. (original wording)
  8. The government can't just cram you into a hole and leave you to rot, even if like in 6 and 7, you're the damndest big ol' motherfucking bastard anyone ever did see. (original wording)
  9. The government can't paper whip you into giving up your rights, even if doing so would make everyone else's life so much easier and more pleasant. (original wording)
  10. The government can't just make up new laws for anything this doesn't cover, the states are the onl-  oh, never mind, this was effectively repealed in 1865.  This Right Left Intentionally Blank. (original wording)
Nobody needs protection when they're doing something popular.  The guy writing pamphlets saying "Let's all be nice!" needs approximately 10,000 times less protection than the raging asshole with the Klan hood on because that fucker will get some serious rage pointed his way. Lots of country produce real assholes.  What makes the USA different is that we've formally recognized the RIGHT to be an asshole, and we're proud of it.

Checking receipts at the door

It's an increasingly common scenario:  You've just completed a purchase at a store and, while exiting the premises with your goods (remember, they have your money, ownership has just transferred) you're stopped at the door and told that you must show your receipt.  Most people blithely accept this command at face value, but it's not necessary.  In point of fact, doing this is actually bad because it works to create a precedent going forward that it's acceptable to treat paying customers like criminals and remain in business. They have no legal right to stop you for your receipt. If they want to see mine, they'll have to accuse me of shoplifting first, and they'll be looking at false imprisonment charges if they bar my way out of the store. The reason The only purpose of the receipt check is to intimidate people, and since I'm not stealing, I won't let them do it. I'm very polite, but not apologetic. "Your receipt?" they say, usually not bothering to ask anymore because of the sense of power their position has given them.  This is the result of past compliance, the employee now believes that this is now The Way Things Are Done. "No thanks," I answer. This usually throws them for a loop. I continue walking.  There's no need to be rude, and 80% of the time, this is all it takes. "I need to see your receipt!" Sometimes, they jump in front of me, sometimes it's not until I've passed them that they realize I'm not falling into the expected groove. "No you don't, have a nice day" I respond pleasantly as I continue walking.  If they've put themselves in my way, however, it's time to take steps to protect myself.  At this point, I may pull out my cell phone and dial a couple numbers, then hover my finger over Send. "With respect, you can't stop me and check my receipt unless I give you permission, and I don't." "Yes we can. Show me your receipt or I'll call the police." This is usually the point of maximum bluster. You can almost physically smell the adrenaline pouring into the bloodstream of the door guard at this point, so I don't make any sudden movements. Calmly and confidently, I speak. "According to the law, you can only stop me if you have cause to believe I've shoplifted. I haven't, and I'm not going to show you my receipt for the purchases I made. If you don't let me past, I'll complete this call to 911 and report you to the police for false imprisonment. If you don't believe me about the law, call the manager over right now." At this point, they usually back off, but on occasion, they play it to the hilt and call management or security. At one point at a Best Buy in Los Angeles (off Pico, over by the 405) I had two security guards holding me at the door while the door guy called a manager over. The receipt checker was confidently telling me how I was in a bunch of trouble and they could do whatever they wanted. When the manager got there, the door checker stuck his chest out proudly and told her how he had gotten me and how I wouldn't show my receipt, and scornfully relayed my obviously ridiculous assertion that they could not legally hold me if I didn't want to show the receipt. With infinite sadness in her eyes that the bluff had been called, she pulled him aside and told him I was right, and that he could NOT actually hold me. She apologized to me and I walked out.  The door checker was shocked silent. I don't blame the door guys, they're in the classic situation of having all the responsibility without any of the authority. Management tells them to do something without letting them know what the law is so that they'll be confident, and 99% of the sheep let them get away with it.  This is why I'm polite, if firm, when asserting myself. Rights that you give away are meaningless. Rights exercised are rights kept. Don't let fear of 'being difficult' keep you from doing it.