June 2012 Archives

reader mail: college football playoff

Several folks have asked what I think about the new playoff system in college football.


Is a playoff the surest way to empirically determine the best team? Sure. I'll grant you that. Yay, empiricism! Rah, empiricism! Empiricism is so much more fun than actual fun!

Now here's the cost.

A few years ago, Ohio State and Texas played a home and home. One September, I flew to Columbus and watched Texas win. The next, I flew to Austin and watched Ohio State prevail. I was vibrating with excitement in the months before. This matchup and its stakes were enormous. Whoever lost would likely be out of the national championship picture—at the beginning of their season!—and whoever won was an immediate favorite. Indeed, both winners went on to play in the championship game. Just as important, there was an epic atmosphere in September in two great college towns, and I thoroughly soaked up the revelry and gravity. It was special. Those were some of the best trips of my life. I didn't mind spending thousands, taking time off work, kenneling the dog, getting on a plane, renting a car, gagging on perfumey motels. I was eager to.

Now? Meh. Screw it.

I wouldn't go if you paid my way. It wouldn't be worth the inconvenience. In a season that ends with playoffs, those September games are piffle. They're weightless exhibitions. They mean little more than regular season games do in college basketball. Why bother? Why care?

I don't.

So congratulations to the media for getting their way and transforming my once-favorite sport into a duplicate of the NFL. Only, you know, with lesser quality players. It's god's work they're doing. We badly needed a Lesser NFL where once fun happened.

reader mail: microsoft surface

Nose: firmly against grindstone. Time to open up the Stank mailbag.

Poking me with a stick and running away, longtime Stank troll Marta asks me what I think of Microsoft's impending Surface tablet. I don't have many thoughts, beyond "I can't wait to read about how totally new and awesome tablets are on my Microsoft friends' Facebook streams!"

It's hard for me to imagine a use for the thing, but to be fair, I couldn't imagine a use for the iPad, either, and I'm on my third one. I use it constantly. It is my preferred means of consuming most media. But therein lies the rub: my iPad's primary use is not being a Windows machine. I've got six Windows boxes running in my home, plus two Macs. I hate them all. It seems all I do is scan for malware, update my OS, update Flash, update Flash again, resolve driver and service conflicts, scrub the registry, reboot, rinse, repeat. The iPad has none of that crap. I grab it, I play my game or read my article or watch my movie, and it just works. Thank christ something does. In summary, I need a Windows tablet like I need ninth asshole to wipe.

peninsular logic

Metamuville is, of course, a haven for the lazy. And when Dirt Glazowski (himself no slouch in the slouch department) moved to Minnesota this year, he left me at the mercy of the Metamuville workforce.

I had to hire a stoner to mow my lawn.

It's going about as well as you would expect. Three weeks ago, I needed a mow. Two weeks ago, I finally called him. He's visited three times, called four times. It's too rainy. It's too sunny. His blade broke. His kid's sick. He's sick of kids. You name it, I've heard it. Meanwhile, deer are nesting in my lawn.

He finally showed up yesterday and mowed about a third of my lawn when there was a knock at my door. His mower's spark plug had broken clean in two. I agreed I'd never seen such a thing. And as he took his leave of me—promising to finish the job...sometime...indeterminate....maybe—he made a request that could only happen in Metamuville:

He asked to be paid for the part he'd mowed.

I went to a new barbecue joint that opened nearby. Under deadline at work, I decided to get enough takeout to last me several meals. So I bypassed the meals designated as "for 2-3 people" and "for 4-5 people," and I got the 6-8 people portion of ribs, brisket, pulled pork and chicken.

And the clerk asked "Is this for here?"

Chinese news confuses fleshlight for exotic mushroom:

the longest day

Anyone with a boat knows that boat maintenance can make time stand still, if not run backwards. I had just such a day last week. A quick meeting with the mechanic at the slip exploded into 14 hours of hellish exhaustion. And it felt much longer.

This got me thinking about the longest days of my life.

#5 Spending my 30th birthday driving to Vancouver and back with Allie, who spoke with great granularity about What My Problem Is the e-n-t-i-r-e time. Including customs.

#4 Boat day. The trailer alone had a defective trailer hitch, faulty lights, a flat tire, and frozen wheels. Imagine the clusterfuck the boat was.

#3 Being tricked into accompanying my ex (who, post-me, slept around quite a bit) to a public STD clinic for her free AIDS test. I spent the entire day there among life's cruddiest dregs, listening to execrable white-people-rap on the closed-circuit TV, wishing I could dump her ass all over again. Did I mention I was on vacation? The lowlight came when I found myself flirting with a pretty girl sitting under the "STD TEST WAITING AREA" sign.

The day my dad died, the Jeep's clutch failed right next to a mechanic. I whipped into his parking lot and promptly fell for the old "it'll just be two hours" schtick. My judgement was doubtless impaired by the most debilitating flu I've ever had. So there I lied on the mechanic's office floor, misery personified, taking call after call from Columbus as siblings tried to guilt me into flying home for the funeral. For 10 hours.

#1 Chauffeuring the boorish Miss Ohio to Toledo and listening to how bad beautiful women have it in America. (Full post)

• • •

The STD rap was on infinite repeat, so I have it memorized. Imagine, oh, let's say Alan Alda turning his baseball cap sideways, folding his arms, and rapping.

We are he-re
To talk to you (yes you!)
'Bout the type of things that can happen to you if you
Be careful (be careful!)
And put a condom on
Be careful

It could happen to you! (who me?)
It could happen to you! (yes you)
It could happen to you, to you, to you!
It could happen to you!

I've always admired the way they rhymed "you" with "you."

strangers in omaha

The good part of owning your own business is employing your friends.

The bad part of owning your own business is that strangers in Omaha cold-call you.

Him: "Hello, is this the owner of Island of Misfit Toys, Inc.?"

Me, already contemplating suicide: "Yes."

"Hello sir my name is [I stopped listening] and I want to [not real sure] mwah mwah mwah mwah blah blah blah help you grow your business!"

Meh. Why on earth would I want to grow my business? The very thought makes me absent-mindedly scratch hives. What, is he going to invent an eighth day of the week so I can work that, too?

"I am so not interested in growing my business," I say.

This always confuses them, and I'm not sure why. I can feel them parsing their reply-matrix for the appropriate response, but none is there. Surely I'm not the only business owner who feels he works hard enough?

"Well, like, your website could do a lot better job of selling your services." No kidding. My public-facing website is a picture of a nut. No links, no content.

"That's because we do not advertise or solicit work."

Parse, parse, parse. Nothing.

"Oh. Um. Okay," said the last guy, giving up without much of a fight. And I went back to work.

Scratch, scratch, scratch.

Who would you kill?

"God doesn't close a door without opening a window" chick. You may think you're already depressed, but there's no despair that can't be exacerbated by some religious twit pouncing on every opportunity to assert that if you'd only validate their beliefs, your frown is a mere half-turn from being a smile!

The field. This would be the utterer of every other feel-good cliche. You have to get through the pain to get past it, one day at a time (although time heals all wounds); because it just wasn't meant to be and better days lie ahead, we must live life on life's terms because everything happens for a reason.

The Winner: "God never closes a door without opening a window" chick. The Field is merely stupid and lazy. The keeper of God's window, on the other hand, is stupid, lazy, and presumes to speak for God.

the entire gamut, from y to z

Today I was pitched on volunteering for a local crisis hotline. If you're feeling suicidal or threatened or whatnot, they're the trained (?), empathetic (??) professionals (?!) you call. I wasn't sure why I specifically (other than my volunteering at a dog park) was being pitched on this idea.

The crisis part, I'd be great at. The comforting people part? Not so much. "You can do better than me," I told them. Or god help us all.

"Hone your listening skills," says the flyer. "Contribute to your community. Experience the entire gamut of human emotion."

Listening skills and community, I'll grant you. But the entire gamut of human emotion, I call bullshit on. Unless people call the crisis hotline to say "Dude! I found 20 bucks!", I'm pretty sure the emotional range experienced is a pretty narrow band.

Anyone remember MSN Spaces? It was Microsoft's mid-Aughts attempt at social media. At one point, an enraged reader wrote me to complain that Microsoft had lent out her personal information and picture to Match.com, which used that information in an "This chick wants to meet you!" ad ultimately seen by her husband. Good stuff.

This isn't quite as bad, but it's pretty bad. On Facebook, I saw that the following had occurred:

  • A colleague had posted a link to our product's "Tell us how Ronco Klugeomatic has changed your life" contest.
  • Another colleague (and our mutual Facebook friend) had Liked it.
As is the custom, I commented on my buddy's Like. "Um, Ronco Klugeomatic has effectively made my weekends disappear."



"Hey John, are you aware that your Facebook comment was automatically published to the product's web page?"

No. No I was not.

"No. No I am not. What retard thought that was a good idea?"

"What do you mean?"

"I mean....have you ever seen Facebook? You don't port unmoderated comments to your product's web page. What if I said the product sucks ass and I posted a link to a competitor's product? Bam, there it is on klugeomatic.com"

"I don't, er, really see a problem..."

Ah. Clearly, I was dealing with the retard in question. But isn't it gratifying to know that what you think is a private Facebook comment to your friend is so easily republished, with direct attribution to you, without your knowledge, by the highest bidder?


kordell thrills one last time

Dearly departed (meaning we hold his departure quite dear) Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart showed up last week. He hasn't played for the Steelers for seven years, but he wanted to retire a Steeler, so they signed him to a one-day contract and he hung up his cleats.

"Kordell wasn't already retired?" millions asked, me among them. I would have thought that my last thought on the issue. But it wasn't.

The next day, I was listening to Stan Savran's talk show out of Pittsburgh, and he was discussing Kordell retiring a Steeler. He was surprised the ownership cooperated. "I know for a fact that Mike Tomczak asked to retire a Steeler, and the Rooneys said no."

God bless the Rooneys, and god bless Kordell for allowing that 4-hour grin to happen.

Every once in a while, I come across a woman I would marry without actually, you know, meeting her.

Here, take half of everything. You've earned it.


The LOST COW signs are not only still around, they have been updated ominously: DO NOT APPROACH. I think we all want to hear the story behind that edit. If not see the footage.

Of the Dorkass Conundrum, Dorkass wrote to see what gift was suggested. "Oh yeah, I have three of those," she said.


Here I am, unhappily working but happily listening to Prince via Rhapsody. "Peach" is on, and it makes me smile with nostalgia. Mind you, I have no happy memories whatsoever about this song, no happy associations of any kind. What I have: Sarah hated it. Despised it. That I like the song did not dissuade her in the least from shitting all over it at every opportunity. It was, of course, but one of countless such points of derision. But here I am, sans Sarah, enjoying "Peach" without someone ruining it. The confluence of its presence and her absence makes me smile.

I love that feeling. It's the underappreciated upside of breaking up.

For me, the upside reaches its peak almost immediately, even before the tears dry. "Well," I'll sniff, "At least I don't have to deal with fucking [insert name of her undermedicated parent or most loathesome friend] anymore."

"Yeah, but there's also the songs that you both liked that just bum you out," says Darcy. No doubt. But if you're hateful enough, there's substantial sweet with that bitter.

the dorkass conundrum

Another round of cruel gifts has gone out to my friends' kids. Somewhere in Maine, toy poo is splatting as I type.

Frequent victim Katrina often suggests annoying gifts for others' kids, which is a transparent attempt to shift my focus elsewhere but is appreciated nonetheless. She made just such a suggestion this morning, and as I often do, I thought "Oh! That's perfect for Dorkass's daughter!"

But there's a fatal flaw in buying said child annoying gifts: her parents will enjoy playing with them, too. WTF would the point of that? There's no satisfaction in trying to irritate immature parents with fart bombs; more likely, the child will seldom get a chance to play with them herself.

Perhaps a membership to a Book-of-the-Month club would annoy them.

bada bing

When I started at Microsoft in the early 90s, they were evil and unexciting, sure, but they were ruthlessly efficient. Somewhere down the line, they lost their way.

For me, it all changed in 1999, when we were forced to permanently hire all temp workers—regardless of their intellect, performance, or qualifications—or lose those positions entirely. As the years went by and the children of Workforce Planning (as the initiative was called) rose into management, the company slowly mutated into something gimpy.

(As will be evidenced by all the mail I'll soon get from a microsoft.com address, telling me that I just don't understand. Folks, kindly open the stock's performance chart and save me the trouble of sending it.)

For me, the crowning achievement was in 2007, when the iPhone shocked the world. Old Microsoft would have spun on a dime and released their free knockoff inside of nine months. New Microsoft, however, instead put flyers in all of our mail slots. The flyers provided bulleted arguments we could use in public to deflate iPhone owners' enthusiasm. As if that weren't sad enough, first among the arguments was "the iPhone doesn't have a QWERTY keyboard."

Except that it does.


I think maybe they meant it doesn't have physical buttons.

Three absurdly long years later, after I'd bailed in disgust but before Microsoft had resorted to paying independent app developers to create apps for their platform, Microsoft finally released a multitouch phone and App Store. Employees danced at a mock-funeral for the iPhone, complete with hearse. Behold, the descendents of Workforce Planning.


Meanwhile, it's 20 months later. I'm Old Microsoft, so I'm less interested in circle-jerking than in the actual data. And here it is: since Windows 7 Phone came out, Microsoft has actually managed to lose market share. They now rank below something called "Bada".

But I'm sure I just don't understand.

would you like a tissue, deputy aman?

I got a speeding ticket yesterday. I'm not complaining. I was speeding. If I cared, I would drive slower. Or at least offer an excuse to the cop. I do not. Here's my registration and license, officer. Thank you and have a nice day.

I look at the me/traffic-cop relationship as one between collegial professionals. We are Sam the Sheepdog and Wile E. Coyote, cheerfully saying good morning as we punch the clock. It is my role in the ecosystem to speed, and it is his role to cite me. It's nothing personal. There's no reason not to be polite.

Every once in a while, though, you get a masturbator with a badge.

In yesterday's spritzing, he was positioned at the bottom of a steep rural hill. Cops don't position themselves at the bottom of steep rural hills to issue warnings—no more than they position themselves there to discourage rapes or carseat violations or DUIs. It never occurred to me that I wasn't getting a ticket. I didn't even brake once I knew he was coming after me. What's the point?

"Hello," I said, handing him my proof of insurance.

"You were going 48 in a 30 back on that hill," he said.

Sounded about right. "Okay," I nodded.

There was a long pause. I sat in silence. It grew awkward. Was he waiting for me to beg for leniency? If so, I did not satisfy. I was already mentally business-expensing the ticket.

"Is there any particular reason you were driving so fast?" he finally said.

Um. He'd just said it himself. "Well yeah, the hill," I shrugged, catching a whiff of unfurling phallus porcus.

With the comically rising, staccato inflection of baby talk, he actually said the following: "And what are we supposed to do to slow down when we're go-wing down a hill?"

To summarize: first he positions himself at the bottom of a hill; then he forces me to utter the word "hill;" and now he's trying to give me a facial about it.

"You're going to condescend to me?!" I snarled. "Just give me my ticket. Jesus Christ."

And so he gave me my ticket and, for a fleeting moment, acted like a fucking professional. Pity it's not his default state.

moron taxonomy
stupid church signs
super bowl xl officiating
percy chronicles

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