July 2010 Archives

training camp

Steelers training camp starts today, and as the players drove from Pittsburgh to remote Latrobe, PA, they were greeted with this roadside sign:

WELCOME BACK ALMOST ALL STEELERS
(Only it was phrased "almost all yunz Steelers," but I didn't want non-Pittsburghers to stumble over what the locals use as a second-person plural pronoun.)

And nope, I haven't chosen a new team to follow. I have 4-6 games of following the Steelers, and I'm gonna savor that even if they lose. After that, I have no idea. Maybe Dirt's Vikings. I'm sure they're gonna be on every week at my house anyway. It would save time.

you don't know me?

The idea was for me to take a month or two, get my technical skills more up to date, and then enter the non-Microsoft workforce.

"So how's Java programming coming?" Allie asked.

"Great. Fantastic. I've gotten so, so much done around the house because of it. Painted the foundation and bathroom, hung a flowerbox, stained the teak furniture, put up two fences. But now I've done all the work on the house there is to do. I'm officially out of distractions."

"And thus do we enter the era of John Sleeping 22 Hours Per Day."

and a couple hours later...

To distinguished Stank troll Marita, who thought in misspelling "grammer" I had gone too far into hyperbole, I offer this fresh comment on this Dex Bryant story.

twinswin94 (7/27/2010 at 2:24 PM)
when the biggest story in the NFL is Dez Bryant not carrying pads we have more to worry about then his bad grammer
Point, Stank.

why your web comments matter

I know better, but sometimes I can't help myself. I'll point out when someone, in calling someone else stupid, butchers the insult to the point of illiteracy. I find this hilariously ironic.

"Hey, John McCain need to drop dead.when he chose that idiot Sara Palin as is running mate we could have file charges on his old butt.so John zip it."
— Norman Cador, in a comment on this article
I did not call out Mr. Cador, but if I had, I assure you that his equally literate fans would have derided me as the Grammar Police and proclaimed something like "its just the web. grammer doesnt matter.'

I disrespectfully disagree.

In another irony, I'd originally read the comments to see if anyone else was amused by an atrocious dangling modifier in McCain's own ad:

"But Arizona has a senator with the courage and character to stand up to a president who is wrong: John McCain."

At least McCain wasn't claiming the President's grammar was wrong. That would have sent bolts of pain coursing through my left arm.

I do not mean to pick on Misters McCain and Cador. I mean to quote them, which is, truth be told, much more damning.

• • •

A funny thing happens after you critically read thousands upon thousands of student writing samples. You get good at it. After sampling cause and effect, cause and effect, over and over, you get pretty damned skilled at guessing causes from looking at their effects. Like the old country doctor who amazes you by rendering a swift and accurate diagnosis from your seemingly random combination of symptoms, I've gotten very good at "reading" writers. In every sense of the term.

From examining the mechanics in a small amount of your writing, I can tell if you're a reader. I can generally tell if you're educated, about how far you got, and how good a student you were. From the types of errors you make, I can tell what country you're from and in what country you studied English. I can spot learning disabilities from 100 words. I can spot the difference between uneducated and careless and informal and just plain stupid. From the risks you don't take, I can tell if you're careful but insecure about your writing. (I adore you people, by the way.) And from your syntactic complexity, I can certainly tell if you love wordsmithing.

And I cannot turn this off.

Is this superpower as useful as the off-duty doctor noticing your gum color and telling you to get your liver checked out? No. I would rather have that power. But it is useful, and however modest, it is the kingdom over which I rule. But I do not rule alone. There are scads of me out there.

And each of us thinks that Mr. Cador needs to zip it and read more before criticizing anyone's intelligence. Much more. Any reading would suffice, really.

As for the team who approved the splendid phrasing "a president who is wrong: John McCain," what more can be said? If the man could recognize and hire competent, qualified professionals, we wouldn't be having this conversation, would we?

percy, we hardly knew ye

As I alluded last week, Percy's house is on the market. I haven't celebrated here because, well, I've been down this road before. As recently as May, they told me they were selling, then at the 11th hour didn't list it.

But finally, after years of teasing me, they put a sign in their yard. Rumor has it that they're close to selling. This has me thinking about who I want living 15 feet away. In order of preference:

  1. Hot single woman. (But we're talking Beyoncé hot. Surely she yearns for a yellow double-wide on a postage stamp of land in a community laden with bitchy white old farts.)
  2. Childless young gay couple (Preferably with a minor conviction in one of their histories that would preclude future adoptions)
  3. Infertile young straight couple
  4. More bitchy old farts. Sigh. (The devil I know)
  5. Single person of any age, gender, attractiveness, orientation, or race. No religiousness a turn-on. Must not talk about soccer.
  6. Hell's Angels
  7. Fertile young couple
  8. Family with kids, or
    bipolar meth dealer (tie)

a brief history: addendum

I didn't mean to alarm people. This shabby little Web 1.0 outpost is not going to be incorporating comments and social media. I hereby promise that Stank will never:

  • Allow reader comments.
  • Integrate with Facebook (for your privacy and mine).
  • Distribute content on Twitter (ditto).

a brief history of stank

When I started writing in this space in 1999, there were only 12,000 active blogs in the world. Now there are 11,750 times that number.

141 million.

When I started this page, the word "blog" didn't yet exist. I called it "my web site." I still do. "Blogs" exploded a few years later, and they were woefully uninteresting, self-indulgent, I-burned-my-toast-this-morning chronicles of uninteresting people's stupefyingly boring lives. They were atrociously written and of no conceivable interest to anyone but the writer—and probably not even him, given the number of abandoned blogs out there. Worse, they became vehicles through which people passive-aggressively communicated that they were crushing on you, or that they're thinking about something that reads a lot like suicide, so you better not break up with them.

Long-time readers are no doubt preparing a list of links to posts where I'm guilty of one or all of these indulgences. You can stop. I know.

And then every traditional media outlet decided that blogs are the future, so by damn, they better have one too. So they labeled reporters' columns "blogs."

To summarize, first I didn't call Stank a blog because the word didn't exist. Then I didn't because blogs were a fad among very stupid people. And now I don't because the term has become passe.

I've resisted all sorts of conventions. Comments, most noticeably. I could turn them on with the flick of a switch, and surely many readers would enjoy it. But the entire web has become a urinal for hateful, vile people, and I just flat-out don't want them whizzing on my little corner of it.

I caved to pressure in 2005 and implemented RSS, and at the same time I made a conscious choice to make the content more character-driven when I could. If you feel like you've gotten to know Percy, Dorkass, Allie, et. al., then that shift succeeded.

But that's it. That's as much as the site has evolved. I have resisted social networking integration as much as I've resisted comments and the word "blog." There are no mechanisms for Digging a post or Liking it on Facebook, and you do not see updates about my bowel movements in a Twitter feed on the sidebar. Why? After all, one well-Dugg post would probably increase my daily readership tenfold. Do I care?

Do you see a "Digg This" logo anywhere?

And so Stank stubbornly remains what the industry refers to as "Web 1.0." My question to you is a quite sincere do you care? Do you want to be able to Digg articles or to see that Twitter feed?

I'm implementing a retrofit. Speak now. What do you want?

≠

I found looking at a gay buddy's "domestic partnership" license to be jarring. I mean, I knew this silliness existed, but actually seeing the official certificate...

Impossible not to think of Jim Crow.

37501_1341809909930_1371678840_30864798_512726_n.jpg

greatreads.jpgIntuitively, we know that the more we challenge people's beliefs, the more they dig their heels into whatever bullshit they believe.

Well, these guys proved it. A fascinating study that indicts people all over the political spectrum. And my, does it support my core belief: that the human need for validation trumps everything else. Even iron-clad facts.

A great read.

yet

Remember when you bought your lock-picking kit and you couldn't wait to tell your ex-girlfriend just so you could hear the horrified facepalm? No? God, it seems like yesterday for me.

lsprobox2.jpg

For the record, I lost my keys. Sorry, no drama.

the week in racism

I invited the real world to my house, always a mistake. Come to think of it, I accepted the real world's request to come visit. Seriously, what was I smoking?

It happened again.

I sat with a complete stranger, the parent of a friend, as he smoked my cigars and drank my liquor and ate the food I had so carefully slaved over. He looked at Percy's house, which by the way is for sale, and asked what the school districts are like here. I shrugged. Not the best. He seemed surprised.

"Huh. You don't have many African-Americans out here, so I'd think they'd be pretty good."

Again? The fuck. On what planet is it okay to say this crap to a complete stranger? At least this time I knew what to say. After his curious word choice, it was the only thing on my mind.

"Is using the PC term 'African American' supposed to somehow mitigate the racist remark?"

"Huh?" said the product of a school system no doubt blessed with an abundance of people just like himself.

• • •

Whenever I have some sort of hired-hand here while I'm working, I always let them choose the music to which we listen. Everything from crunk to baroque has passed through my stereo speakers in this way.

"Channel 867!" squealed Tomás just now, referring to a station called "¡Bailamos!" The description reads "Spicy hot Latin rhythms to fuel an endless tropical party." The music sounds exactly like the overthrow of Batista, if the overthrow were set to bongos duct-taped to a megaphone that was tumbling down a flight of stairs.

"Dude. Hell no."

"You said anything."

"I'm reaching for the show tunes channel..."

"OK! OK! Anything but that!"

And thus did we achieve the multicultural accord of listening to NPR.

webtards

Yesterday's post spawned several conversations about the eight webtards found online. There are pretty much you, me, and these eight guys. And yes, I'm just being polite about you.

The "First!" Guy—Posts "First!" in any comment forum. Centuries from now, his motivation will baffle anthropologists instead of just us. He is the second lowest form of life on the web.

The Second "First!" Guy—Tries to post "First!" first. Fails.

The Hijacker—This guy has one topic he likes to beat to death, and he prides himself on turning every thread, no matter how irrelevant, into a vehicle for his views on that topic. True story: on 9/11, I went to a Steelers board to see how my online friends were faring. A guy took a thread called "World Trade Center attack" as his opportunity to bitch about Steelers coach Bill Cowher. No subsequent link between Cowher and 9/11 has been found, but I'm sure one person is still looking.

Navel_lint_ball.jpgThe Navel Gazer—A cousin of the Hijacker, this guy turns every thread into a referendum on himself. He is not satisfied until everyone's posts are about him. Two approaches that I've seen work: drama-queening ("Zoey360XXX insulted for the last time and I'm not coming here anymore!") and incessant badgering ("Speaking of the World Trade Center attacks, Cowher is a moron."). Directions for aspiring navel-gazers: indulge yourself liberally until everyone goes insane, and then indulge some more.

The Word Macro—This is the guy without an original thought in his bubble-headed little fingers. His posts are composed only of phrases you see every day on the web. "Stole two elections," "it's just a big iTouch," "socialist agenda," etc.

firestarter.jpgThe Ratholer—This might be me. This is the guy who doesn't so much derail a thread as drill-down on some point so deeply, everyone else loses interest. What, you don't care that Edward James Olmos turned down a role in Firestarter? Well, fine. I suggest that you leave this barbecuing forum, then. Twit.

The "Who Cares?" Guy—Pick a topic, any topic. Smartphones. The Sacramento Kings. Twilight. Now find a forum created by people who care about that topic. He will already be there, calling them stupid for caring. Every once in a while, someone will ask why, if he cares so little about the HR-20 DVR, he took the time to locate a forum devoted to the HR-20 just to say he doesn't care. I have never seen him respond.

morons20copy.jpgThe Huddled Masses—Look at a forum where you're allowed to "like" comments (CNN.com is one). Now look for the most asinine, unconvincing, self-indulgent, irrelevant, misspelled comment. Find it? I guarantee you it has the most "likes." Ladies and gentlemen, I give you your lowest form of life on the web.

yearning for a smarter stupid

In the mid-90s, I taught college courses in critical thinking. That's a fancy-pants term for "recognizing shit arguments." Since then, of course, the web has exploded, and so has the shit. I look at my textbook from 15 years ago and the examples of poor argumentation make me absolutely nostalgic for the smarter stupidity of yesteryear. Witness, for example, the difference between fact and opinion:

FACT - Spinach contains iron
OPINION - Americans should eat more spinach.
How quaint is that example? How civil? In an age when any article about Carrie Underwood's engagement yields comments about the inauthenticity of Obama's birth certificate, how convincing is that "poor" example? Makes me want to go scarf my weight in spinach right now.

I can't even imagine modern 20 year-olds being able to wrap their heads around the subtle spinach thing. Not in the world in which they grew up. I'd have to dumb down all the examples in their textbook.

Ad hominem

Attacking the person and not addressing their argument

Then: "His arguments might impress us more if he didn't have false teeth."

Now: "Baaa! Your such a stupid sheap. Baaaaaa! "

Bandwagon

Saying that everyone's thinking this, so you should too

Then: "Everyone else is cheating, so why shouldn't I?"

Now: "EVERYONE knows Bush was behind the 9/11 attacks so that he could invade the Iraq and take it's gas. EVERYONE!"

Slippery slope

If one thing is allowed, it will only be the first step in a downward spiral

Then: "Handgun control will lead to a police state."

Now:

Begging the question

An assertion that restates the point just made

Then: "He is lazy because he doesn't like to work."

Now: (Not applicable. The phrase "this begs the question" has come to mean "I'm going to interject a question that isn't relevant to anything said here, but it's what I want to talk about instead.")

Red herring

Dodging the real issue by drawing attention to something irrelevant

Then: Why worry about a few terrorists when we ought to be doing something about acid rain?

Now: "Your all afraid of the TRUTH so all you do is repeat the LAMESTREAM MEDIA and there LIES."

False analogy

Saying that because two things are alike in some ways, they're alike in others

Then: "Since the books are about the same length, one is just as good as the other"

Now: "It's Obama's Katrina!"

False dilemma

Saying that there are only two choices

Then: "We must either build more nuclear power plants or be completely dependent on foreign oil."

Now: (Sorry, I started wishing we'd built those nuke plants after all. What were we talking about?)

Non sequiter

Statement that doesn't follow from what was just said

Then: "Billy is honest, therefore, he will get a good job."

Now: "FIRST!"

brownie tray

I've left Microsoft, hopefully forever. If it's not forever, I will have failed utterly. Write it down.

assorted brownie tray_medium.jpgThe reasons are myriad, but the most Stank-worthy was a realization I had about two years ago. I was in a meeting where one talentless middle-manager was publicly masturbating another. Their leadership was a demonstrable disaster, yet here they were, congratulating one another for utterly wrecking something that had worked before their arrival, in front of a room full of people who knew it. We smiled tersely as the vacuous platitudes went a-flying, although in the managers' defense, they were intellectually incapable of recognizing their statements as platitudes. In fact, their gleeful obtuseness in the face of all evidence was oddly familiar. I couldn't put my finger on it. And then in my head, I substituted one line of dialogue for each of theirs:

"Heckuva job, Brownie."
From that point forward, I would hear little else in meetings.
"Heckuva job, Brownie."
Suddenly, something that had been gnawing at me for years made sense. Gone is the results-oriented company of my youth, which I didn't much care for but which at least shipped products, some of them even good. In its stead is an oozing behemoth where talk is the only deliverable that matters. Stupid, stupid doubletalk.

Where Wall Street sees a hopelessly flat stock, I see something more deeply personal. That stock price is a monument to Brownie's efforts. He's everywhere at Microsoft now, parroting mindless slogans about big bets, visibility, delighting the customer, and innovation. Brownie runs budgets, teams, products. Brownie is in charge. One cannot subsist on a steady diet of brownies alone, and it shows. Microsoft is malnourished. Scurvy and rickets are laying roots.

stock.jpg

Meanwhile, I have eight years left on my mortgage, and I don't see the Brownie-era Microsoft being able to sustain the current level of employment for nearly that long. So I have avoided the mad rush to the Superdome and left town on my own timetable. But after a steady diet of brownies, am I too fat and weak to survive?

ui survey

On an exceptional survey, 50% of you respond. On a typical survey, 5% of readers respond. On the Worst Survey of All Time, .0015 of you responded. I shall now abandon that material with all haste.

from the "mccain taps palin" dept.

While I wait for more survey results to come in, I thought I'd share this unfortunate headline from Reuters, which is generally not a yuk-a-minute site.

the dumbest ui

Have you ever used a product and known in the first five seconds that it was never tested? You non-Microsoft types are no doubt making Windows jokes right about now, but believe me, if you ever saw a pre-release version of Windows, you would thank your Almighty for its testers who, I assure you, missed very little.

No, I'm talking even dumber. Some of the most ill conceived user-interfaces ever designed.

An honorable mention goes to every guy who ever thought we need another kind of screwdriver. Phillip, you asshole, I hope the gates of hell require a hex key to unlock.

For sheer, audacious "they did this on purpose!" stupidity, I give you my runner-up: the Logitech diNovo keyboard. Note the missing button where Backspace would ordinarily go. It was ripped off in anger. Logitech saw fit to put a disc eject button here. Every time I made a typo, I would hear a clunk, followed by the gears of my DVD drawer straining against the inside of the desk. Asinine enough, but then they allow you to disable several keys except this one. For their next trick, the space bar will be replaced by "missile launch."

logitech dinovi.JPG

But still champion is the Chevy Cavalier, which I rented once in Los Angeles. There's nothing quite as exciting as flipping down the sun visor during rush-hour on the Santa Monica freeway and having it not only hit the dash, obstructing your view, but wedge into the dash. Violent removal again ensued.

Surely someone can top this. Lay it on me.

outage

I awoke this morning to email from East Coast Stank trolls telling me I needed to pay my domain registrar. Oops. For a few hours this morning, this site was down for the first time in 12 years.

Paying for 20 more years of checkraise.com costs barely more than paying for 5, but I just couldn't do it. "Christ, I hope I'm dead by then," I told the poor saleswoman on the phone.

To alleviate distinguished troll John's sense of loss during the outage, I summarized this week's planned posts for him:

"Everybody is stupid except me"
"Roethlisberger deserves to die, and slowly"
"Christ, I hate people"
"Especially women who reject me"
"No one is smart except me"


I'm one of those folks who, when you're gingerly cupping the shattered remnants of your heart for his inspection, manages to glance at them and be reminded of himself.

"I know exactly how you feel," I'll say before launching into a story about myself that may or may not have anything to do with how you feel.

I know this about myself, yet I can't stop myself.

Mike was holding forth about his troubles, and while you would hope that his being gay would somehow mitigate my tendency to see myself in his stories, you would be stunningly wrong. I tried to keep the first-person pronoun out of my comments. But they were all about me anyway.

"So he was accustomed to things being exactly how he wanted them and the moment you disturbed his bliss by asking for some consideration, he exploded?"

"THIS ISN'T ABOUT YOU AND HER. JESUS FUCKING CHRIST, JOHN. In his case, he has the luxury of youth to explain a lot of his lack of empathy. He's just young, has had a rough adulthood so far, being on his own since 18, with all the emotional baggage of growing up gay in a rural town to a Catholic family who disapproves, etc. But his potential is enormous."

The more he talked, the more I recognized myself. I especially recognized the rationalization that this person isn't really the way they're repeatedly acting.

The next day, I consulted with a friend who's had to endure a lot of that talk over the years.

"You wanted to smack him, didn't ya?" she asked. "And hard, right? Let me translate for you. It'll save time. I'm really infatuated with this hot person so I hope they turn into someone I can have a real and meaningful relationship with. Plus, they're hot!"

I wasn't there, but somehow I know her keyboard took a beating when she typed that.

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