Friday, July 31, 2009

What's the Plus for?

I'm sure some of you will think we're horrible people, but laughter sometimes is the best way to deal with a crisis. At least that's what I'm telling myself.

As we were driving to the vet's last week, we started talking about euthanasia in the car, and how a doctor friend of The Adorable Husband's had just had their vet out to the house to euthanize their dog. Being a doctor he was curious about things, and discovered that the drug combination used is called 'TotallyLethal' -- well, another is 'Bluethenasia', so let's not be too hard on the poor marketing people, shall we?

But that's not enough. It's not just 'TotallyLethal"'s TotallyLethal PLUS.

What on earth is the PLUS for? What possible effect of this drug is not covered by 'totally lethal'? Really? Marketing has gone a little overboard on this one, I think.

"I know!" I said, "It's the special Anti-Zombie Formula. That's the PLUS!"

We almost had to pull over, we were laughing so hard (and I still chuckle a little thinking about it). Yup. Totally Lethal, now with No More Zombies!

Very wrong, I know. Very inappropriate and I'm sure everyone thinks we're heartless and horrible. But we both loved Uulaq a lot, and laughter seemed a much better way to go, you know?

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Beat Poet?

If you haven't see this, sit down - finish your drink (swallow!) and watch. Whoever thought to get Shatner to read this was inspired.


I have a boatload of music and audiobooks and other media on my computer, and I've been using RealPlayer to manage things and load music and books on my various iPods.

Why, you might ask, do I not use iTunes? I find it completely non-intuitive in the way it organizes things, difficult to browse, too geared towards "buying stuff", and quite slow when dealing with thousands of files. Nothing against Apple, of course - just that this particular application doesn't fit what I need.

Realplayer hasn't been particularly friendly lately, either. It is slow, has developed a recent tendency to crash my machine and lock things up, and maintaining the tags and information about the files is difficult and time-consuming. Move something (like organizing files or renaming a directory) and it suddenly is not accessible in RealPlayer and needs to be re-fetched and re-organised. I'm not exactly UN-happy with it, but not really happya, either.

Based on a few recommendations from the Invisible People online, I downloaded a demo of MediaMonkey, which manages audio files and ipods and a bunch of other mp3 players. I bought a license for the software within an hour! It's fabulous - fast, intuitively organized, automatically monitors files for changes, and has scripting support that lets me batch-update the tags and files to keep things neat and organized. Scripting! Woo-hoo!

It automatically identifies files that aren't correctly labelled, manages lyrics and cover art, supports playlists and podcasts...I'm seriously impressed. There is a free versoin, of course (which does not support file monitoring and some of the other advanced options), but a license is 20 bucks, and well worth it, in my opinion.

I've spent the last few evenings going through all my mp3 files and downloaded Audible books (it doesn't actually support the Audible format without a plug in) and renaming, re-tagging, and reorganizing things. It's a compulsive organizer's dream!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

"Free" Stuff

A poster on the TT forum asked why fire trucks show up when you call an ambulance (because they are usually closer and can begin treatment before the paramedics show up in the ambulance, btw), which morphed into a discussion of the different types of fire and ambulance service - many people live in areas where fire protection and ambulance service are "fee-based" offerings. You pay a subscription fee each year to assure that you will get that ambulance when you need it.

A few people tried to assert that if you aren't a "member", you won't get the service and the fire truck won't show up when you have a fire. That's not true, of course, you just need to agree to pay the bills before they'll do anything.

Everyone bemoaned the the cost of joining the service and then someone came up with, "I live in a rural area, but my ambulance and fire are free. I don't subscribe to anything."

No. Your fire service and ambulance service are not "free". You are paying for them via taxes (usually a levy on property taxes). You just don't get a bill for the service. Government services are not "free" - roads and Medicare and the CIA and whatever else...we do pay for these things with taxes. Government money is not "free" money.

But there is apparently a contingent of people who do think that some things are "free" - and marketing has glommed on to the idea. Take for example, US Fidelity Auto Repair Insurance. Have you seen the ads? It's an insurance offering that pays for car repairs when your car is past its warranty period. Have an old car? Buy this in insurance an never pay for repairs again!

"Bob and Joe", intones the commercial, showing two men sitting in a repair shop, "own the same make, model and year of car." A make andmodel that apparently needs a new transmission or something. "Bob" paid almost three thousand dollars for a new repair...and "Joe", according ot the ad, "didn't pay a penny!"

Oh, yes, he did. In fact, he probably paid more than 3K for his repair since he's been paying a monthly premium for the insurance for umpty-years until he needed it. He just didn't see a bill for this particular incident. Do people forget that? I can't believe anyone falls for this sort of scam insurance. I suppose people figure they will "beat the system" nd be the ones who pay in a teeny amount and then have a huge claim -- but it's just like gambling....and the player rarely wins.

I just cringe every time I see the ad - because I know that someone, somewhere, will think this is the best thing ever and will save them thousands of dollars. Do the math, people! Do the math!

Thursday, July 23, 2009


I've said it a dozen times here on the blog, but dogs really do need to live as long as we do.

We euthanized Uulaq tonight. She was steadily declining, and it was time.

She was such a sweetie.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Quote mines and making shit up

Bus campaigns, billboard campaigns - atheist organizations put up "there might not be a god, don't worry about it" and similar sentiments, and theists respond with a campaign of their own with religious quotes. Fine - I doubt the issue is going to be decided based on what is on the bus in front of you in traffic, but hey, no complaints here.

Well, no, that's not true. I will complain -- because the theists are putting up quotes that are entirely made up, and attributing them to famous, recognizeable people (notably the founding fathers). The group admits to ust making them up out of whole cloth because apparently it's ok to lie for Jesus.

From Tampa Bay:
The billboards showcase quotes from early American leaders like John Adams, James Madison and Benjamin Franklin. Most of the quotes portray a national need for Christian governance.

Others carry the same message but with fictional attribution, as with one billboard citing George Washington for the quote, “It is impossible to rightly govern the world without God and the Bible.”

“I don’t believe there’s a document in Washington’s handwriting that has those words in that specific form,” Kemple said. “However, if you look at Washington’s quotes, including his farewell address, about the place of religion in the political sphere, there’s no question he could have said those exact words.”
I could even forgive the quote mining (taking short quotes entirely out of context to try to prove a point). Misuse of quotes is pretty common in apologetics. Of course, in this case, the founding fathers being "quoted" are being portrayed as Christian when all available historical fact points to them being, at best, deists. But that, too, is not something that is going to be resolved by billboard. The strong anti-separation sentiments by this group, though, cross the line.

I object to the blatant lying. If you want to put up quotes by theists that support your position, then do the legwork and go out and find some actual quotes. Don't lie and then blush charmingly and argue that "he could have said it", as if that excuses the made-up quotes. If you can't show that he DID say it, don't attribute your own personal belief to George Washington, mmmkay? Otherwise, just present the quotes as your own opinion. That would be, at least, honest.

Great way to sway people to your side, theists. Everyone likes to be lied to, don't they?

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Teaching to the Test

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- (AP) -- The Florida Department of Education says students at 12 school districts, including Miami-Dade and Broward, showed signs of ``template writing'' on the state's standardized writing test.

The department sent the districts letters identifying schools where students responded with similar phrasing in their essays on the 2009 Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. Examples include phrases like, ``I ran as fast as wildfire.''

The department says teaching to memorize and use such phrases distorts the writing process and makes the test more of a ``fill in the blanks'' type exercise.
Wait a second. Teachers, threatened with termination if they do not successfully get their students to pass a standardized test, are teaching standardized answers?

Oh, no one could have thought that could happen, could they? Color me surprised. Not.

Teaching 'to the test', anyone? Is this a foreign concept? Doh!

Don't get me wrong - given the situation, I don't think the teachers failed here, nor the students. The policy of punishing teachers and schools for failing to meet testing goals (while not necessarily giving them the tools and resources to meet them) is clearly at fault. If you make my job dependent on whether students got A's on their tests...well, you can be damned sure that is going to a primary curriculum task - and yet the PTB are surprised that it means students are simply regurgitating memorized phrases in a specific pattern?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Slow spiral down

Uulaq is old. Really old, for an Akita -- I think the chart at the vet logs her as somewhere around 100 in human years. She's been slowly failing over the last few months; horrible arthritis in her knees and hips, blindness, doesn't want to eat, sleeps all the time. We've got her on tons of pain-killers for her back and hips (an amount that would allow a ballerina to dance on broken feet, I think, and should render Uulaq a drooling heap in the corner) and despite it, she still has problems walking. Oh, she'll still wag to go on a walk, but she can barely make it to the end of the sidewalk behind our house, and spends half the next day recovering.

It's time. She's not having any fun at all. She is spending more and more time nervous and anxious because she can't see, unsure of where to walk in the house, avoiding the other dogs because they bump her, even slightly, and she falls down. The Adorable Husband called and we have an appointment at the vet on Thursday.

Dogs really should live as long as we do, dammit. Even neurotic, weird beasties.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Take That, Fiendish Device!

Less than 24 hours from the purchase and initial trial of the citronella-spray anti-bark collar...the weasels (I am strongly suspecting Berit, of course) pulled it down off the counter and chewed it up. Chewed the collar strap off the sprayer, chewed the brackets off the sprayer, left tooth-marks all over it.

Apparently, they didn't like it much, you think?

It still does work, though, so we used velcro and a creative rubber-band connector to attach it to the slightly-chewed strap. I can just imagine the beasties, though -"I've got it! Die, dastardly spraying thing! Ah-hah! You shall never work again, fiendish device! Bwaaahah!"

Too smart for their own good, the beastiea are.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Too Smart for Us

So, in an attempt to keep Berit from barking at everything, we finally succumbed and bought one of those citronella spray collars. It's sound-activated, and when she barks loudly, it spritzes a rather strong-smelling citronella mist up into her face. It's harmless, just startling, and it should hopefully (with much positive reinforcement) stop her from barking all the time at every single person that passes on the sidewalk behind the house.

We filled it up, tested it in the kitchen (blow into the microphone and it sprays) then called Berit over and fitted it on her and we all went out in the backyard to see if it would work.

First, we were out there half an hour and not one person went by the house. Usually, it's Grand Central Station back there between 7 and 9. Nada. Our neighbors out back (Greta and not-Greta) weren't outside, Willie didn't bark next door. No one. Hmph.

Then, two women walking by. Ah-hah! Someone to test this on. Berit always barks at walkers if they are talking. The dogs run to the fence...and do not bark. At all. Wha?

Moments later..a bicyclist! A worthy target for frenzied barking! One tiny, pathetic little woof, more of a mmmmrooo and nothing. They just ran along the fence and popped up to watch the cycle curiously. Something is quite wrong.

I'm beginning to think that she read the instruction manual when we weren't looking. She knows what will happen and she isn't going to bark at all!

It finally took a woman walking two dogs to get a real bark out of the beastie. She barked....ssssssst! and that just about set her back on her butt. Huh? What happened? Another bark, another spritz, and she's standing in the yard staring around suspiciously. We're all, "good girl! good quiet! good Berit!" and she is quite sure, I can tell, that we had something to do with it. We are eyeballed suspiciously, but she runs down to her normal barking position in the back corner...and doesn't bark.

This might work. We'll need to make sure she has it on every single time she's outside for a while (which might be hard, since as soon as Rowan sees the collar and weird box-thing on it, he is trying to chew it off -I imagine we'll go through at least one collar strap. We were a little nervous that she'd just figure, "oh. that's sort of annoying, but I shall bark anyway! Hah!", as some stubborn breeds are known to do.

Apparently she's a sensitive, delicate flower.

Doggie Denistry

Well, other than the smoking hole in my credit card, Rowan is just fine - he had root canal last week to repair a broken tooth and several other chipped teeth. Two plus hours of anesthesia and he's got one stubby, rounded off fang, but no problems at all.

I can't believe that they do root canals, crowns, and -- get this -- braces on dogs. Although to be fair, it was a much better option than pulling the tooth.

Now if we can just get Uulaq's meds balanced right so she feels better. We are starting to discuss what we should do -- she's just not having a good time anymore, we don't think. She's mostly blind, she's got terrible arthritis in her hips and back and has trouble keeping steady when she's walking, she is slowly losing weight and she's spending nearly all of her time sleeping. The Adorable Husband can still spark her interest by taking her for a (short) walk, but she's definitely on that slow, downhill slide.

Bah. Dogs should live as long as we do.

Meaningless or Meaningful

A group is lobbying to engrave a bunch of religious phrases on the US Capitol Visitor's Center, and their arguments are pretty flimsy. IN addition to suggestiong that it will cost more to fight the lawsuits than to just acquiesce and write religious slogans on public buildings, they dredge up the old "freedom of religion, not freedom from religion" argument, which they only seem to use when it's THEIR religion they want to display or give benefit to.

I find it extremely inappropriate to put religious phrases on secular buildings. Whiile I might not like religious decorations in public squares at holidays, they are transient and reflect the celebration of the season. But continuing to add christian imagery (and make no mistake, these groups are not lobbying to put "Hail, Baal!" on the building, or "Praise Allah" anywhere in Washington DC) to public buildings is attempting to give a specific religion primacy. 'In god we trust' is not referring to Quezlcoatl, I'm sure.

No one has ever suggested that people cannot practice whatever religion they want (as long as they break no other laws)- we only speak up when they want to force everyone else to give special recognition to their particular brand of religion. Criticism is not oppression, and suggesting that perhaps not everyone agrees with you is not persecution.

But here's where I get a bit confused:
"Put 'In God We Trust' on visitor's center, and be quiet already"

Let's start by pointing out the First Amendment doesn't grant freedom "from" religion, just freedom "of" religion. It doesn't ban religion, it provides freedom for all so that one denomination doesn't dominate or become the official state religion. Whether you practice a religion or not is up to people's preferences.

My irony meter just pinged. Yes, that's right. You can practice however you want, but you aren't allowed to coerce the rest of us into accepting, believing or following their dogma. And yet, anyone who disagrees with publicly funding and supporting expressions of specific faith is "the need-to-be-offended type" or an atheist or agnostic who obviously hates America and all it stands for.

But it's a meaninless social construct, they argue. It's a rote phrase stripped of its religious meaning. It's cultural. We should put it everywhere! Those people who are trying to prevent the project are just killjoys and are over-reacting!

No one is forced to worship because they saw the motto on a $20 bill. Or because they recited the Pledge of Allegiance. It's pretty innocuous.
You know what? You can't have it both ways. Either religious slogans on money, on buildings, are harmless, innocuous phrases wihtout meaning, and we shouldn't get all upset about it, or they are so important that if someone criticizes them they are hateful (atheists) and obviously want to destroy civilization.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

This can't be good

For all the fans of the Twilight novels ("Twi-fans", apparently)...there's going to be a graphic novel! Ooh! Swoon!

Really, I'm rather horrified (and overly amused) at the idea (the books are cover-to-cover Mary Sue drivel with a heavy helping of weird-stalker vibes and tween girl angst that is at once hilarious and creepy). The little illustrated article about the new offering had me giggling at the fan versions that have already surfaced..with some odd and sometimes bizarre fan-illustrations. Just scroll through the slide show without giggling, I dare you. I double-dog dare you.

But it was the comments that had me snorting out loud.
"I never thought Stephenie would allow this--I am so happy! My husband might actually let me frame some of these for the walls being a graphic novel nerd himself."

"I am THRILLED to see Twilight being brought to this form. I think the animation should be true to the book as that is the original story we have all fallen in love with."
Can't you just hear the sparkly squeals of joy?

Monday, July 13, 2009

New Client

Eek - I should have posted this earlier in the week (so I'm pre-dating it, sorry).

Started at a new client this week -- well, back to an old client, sort of. I'm doing some work for the other division of the client I rolled off of in March and leaving several months of testing behind on my internal project at work.

I'ts nice - I know the people, they specifically asked for me to return, and I will be working from home again until some time in November, at least. Woot!

I love my job!

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

PA Notes

I've been looking for any excuse to have a quick giggle lately, and I got such a kick out of -- we've all seen those oh-so-snarky notes and someone has gone to the trouble to collect them.

It's a hoot.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Mock me now

Yes, just mock me. I am taking Rowan in to a dentist to possibly have a root canal done this week.

Rowan, if you are new here, is a DOG. He cracked off part of one of his lower fangs, and our regular vet said that we can either have it pulled out or consult with a specialist to see if might need a root canal to ensure that he doesn't get an abcess in the tooth. They might simply pull the tooth, but if we can avoid that and save the tooth, well, we'll do a root canal. I think it depends on whether enough of the tooth remains that it can be smoothed out and sealed properly.

Yes, root canal for dogs. When I expressed surprise that they did such a thing, the receptionist assured me that they also do braces. On dogs.

OK, I might be on the far end of weird dog owners, but even I wouldn't consider braces for my dog. That's just weird.

Tiny CIties and Pirates!

I picked up a new computer game last week. I find most computer games to be sort of brainless, aimless relaxation time - a way to turn off the brain from thinking about work or other problems, and just drift for a couple of hours.

Yes, I know it makes me a huge geeky nerd. I'm certainly past the age where I should be considered "a gamer", I guess, but I enjoy them.

At any rate, the game is Anno 1404: Dawn of Discovery, which is a city-building strategy game with pirates! It's fascinating and I have lost a number of hours to this time-sucker over the weekend. Setting up cities, building roads, sending ships off to trade good and fighting off pirates - its

Fascinating. And geeky. But highly recommended!

Waiting for the other Shoe

If you've watched the news at any point in the last week, it's been filled with Michael Jackson retrospectives, heath-care debates, the governer of South Carolina digging himself into a deeper and deeper hole every time he holds a press conference, and, just for some comic relief, Sarah Palin quit.

Because she needs to focus on other things, she says. Because she doesn't want to be a lame duck and be ineffective in Alaska, and apparently she oesn't like not getting her way. It's pretty common, she says, and we're just being mean (and being threatened with lawsuits) in criticizing her rambling, incoherent and hastily-put-together speech.
And though it's honorable for countless others to leave their positions for a higher calling and without finishing a term, of course we know by now, for some reason a different standard applies for the decisions I make.
While I'd love for any media pundit to actually ask the question, "Sure, yeah, you betcha. Name a few." I know it won't happen. That would be just mean, you know.

So someone else did the research. Let's assume that she is referring to just Governers for the moment - so..."countless others" have resigned to follow a 'higher calling'. Well, let's see.
In the last 50 years only 33 governors have resigned:
  • 15 resigned in order to accept a presidential appointment
  • 11 resigned because they were elected or appointed to Congress or VP
  • 3 resigned due to scandal
  • 2 resigned after being tried and convicted of felonies
  • 1 due to illness
  • 1 resigned in order to prepare his fourth run at the presidency
Notice a pattern here? No one resigned because they were a lame duck or unpopular or not getting their way or even being investigated. Apparently, she's planning ahead for one of these reasons, right? Because I cannot see how quitting in the middle of her term is a positive act at this point. But I'm not a True Believer. Can someone explain this? I can't imagine a valid run for president (or any other national office) after conclusively proving that you simply can't handle the pressure or the job and have to quit.

Can anyone find numbers on congressional resignations? I can find yearly summaries, but nothing overall.

The TV is off at our house. If I see one more Michael Jackson piece or tribute concert or discussions about getting tickets (tickets?) to the funeral...ugh.

Saturday, July 04, 2009


Oh, the joys of having a pet who is terrified of fireworks, and a neighborhood full of teenage kids who set of bottle rockets and fireworks at all hours. Nothing like being woken up a half-dozen times by a frantically barking dog who can hear fireworks miles away.

We hid in the basement and watched WALL*E during the worst of it - the thunderstorms early seem to have lessened the number of fireworks displays.

I don't think we've actually SEEN fireworks in a couple of years. Sigh.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Signs of things to come

While Ruffles and Muffles were both sweet, gentle and docile puppies,
see more dog and puppy pictures
This made me giggle uncontrollably.

I haven't posted anything in weeks, I know. It's been busy!