when the status quo frustrates.

Don’t put away your #amazonfail tags just yet

Thursday, April 16th, 2009

Amazon wowed and amazed us this week with their stunning ability to shoot themselves right in the feet, and while I haven’t seen what the formal resolution to that problem was yet, the general consensus was that they seemed to be trying to do something only moderately shady and fucked up hardcore. On Sunday the interwebs were furious, and by Tuesday they were begging Amazon to just fix the problem and give us a plausible mea culpa so that we could go back to loving them once again.

Unfortunately, they didn’t love us enough to give us even a plausible lie, and now people like my roommate, who care not for GLTB literature but do care about getting fucked on the internet, are seeking out – and finding – new reasons to never trust any Internet business that isn’t NewEgg.com.

A careful review of your account indicates that you have required refunds on a large majority of your orders for a variety of reasons.

In the normal course of business, the occasional problem is inevitable. The rate at which such problems have occurred on your account is extraordinary, however, and cannot continue. Effective immediately, your Amazon.com account is closed and you are no longer able to shop in our store.

There are so many things wrong with this, I feel sure there must be an error:

…3) I am now unable to access archived copies of the Kindle books I’ve purchased legally, and have no other way to legally purchase DRM’ed books on the device.

4) I also have no access to videos I have purchased from Amazon.

5) Since I can’t contact customer service, I cannot get any warranty service for my current Kindle, and the email explicitly states I can’t return anything (not that I’d want to!)

I’ve never had to return anything to Amazon, because I rarely return books and so far I’ve had good luck with non-book purchases, but this would make me pause before purchasing more from them. Returning too many products makes your Kindle not work? That seems a tad harsh. After all, not all Amazon retailers are selling top-quality merchandise (it’s easy to buy crappy electronics when searching for the best deals) and Kindles are not cheap. At any rate, heavy Amazon users might be well advised to look carefully at the terms of service before deciding to stick with what they know. I know I don’t often return things, but I’ve also stopped shopping at box stores if I heard too many scare stories about excessive banning of so-called expensive customers, and I don’t see myself making an exception for the internet stores.

Pittsburgh man fears Obama will take his guns, gives Pittsburgh police all the reason they could ever need to do it for him.

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

Because this is a tragedy that can and should be avoided in the future:

Three police officers have been killed by a gunman in Pittsburgh – the second mass shooting in the US in 24 hours…

Police said he was waiting, armed with rifles and a bulletproof vest. He shot two officers as they entered the house, and a third who tried to help them…

His friends said he had recently lost his job, and was worried that US President Barack Obama was about to ban guns.

…I’m going to resort to the use of ALL CAPS for this.

HEY, PARANOID NUTBAGS!

OBAMA IS NOT GOING TO BAN GUNS. NO ONE IS GOING TO BAN GUNS. WE PROBABLY DON’T EVEN HAVE ENOUGH NATIONAL GUARD RESOURCES LEFT IN THE COUNTRY TO RAID YOU AND TAKE YOUR GUNS EVEN IF WE WANTED TO. WHICH WE DON’T. SO PLEASE RELAX.

And to the people who are not hoarding guns but are sending RightWingDad forwards and listening to too much Rush and finding yourself saying things like “Obama is going to force us all to volunteer in lieu of mandatory military service” (seriously, I heard that), please fucking stop. Your less stable cohorts already have enough to fear, they don’t need you adding fuel to their paranoid fires. The last thing this country needs is a bunch of ignorant, fearful, paranoid, unemployed, hopeless, bored, and possibly suicidal people who are armed to the teeth and convinced that their government is out to get them. It is, apparently, a recipe for dead cops that doesn’t take too long to cook before it’s well done.

Ruffles are “in” this year

Saturday, March 14th, 2009

Which means it took me like six fucking hours to shop for a proper* “going to a conference, gonna be on stage” outfit. Even the military-inspired shit had ruffles all over the damn chest. Come on, department stores, just because something is trendy doesn’t mean it has to be all you stock!

*And by proper, I mean just slightly inappropriate. Gotta be me.

More complaining about Watchmen!

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

I went and saw Watchmen the night before last. It was OK. I will give them credit for this much up front: it did not feel like a near-three-hour movie. It was not physically painful in the way, say, Titanic was. So, kudos on that, at least.

And I won’t get more into the Antigone/Marcotte topics, other than to give my two cents here rather then have my shining wisdom buried in long threads, which I have not read to their completion so if I ignore something you commented on, you know, forgive me.

And I will spoil the living fuck out of this thing, because my main gripe is with the ending. For your convenience, after my list of non-spoiling complaints, I provide a cut.

1) Dear Zack Snyder: Could you put more schlong in your movies? There’s really no such thing as too gratuitous.

I don’t know how to feel about the films of Snyder’s that I have seen. On the one hand, it’s nice to see male bodies treated like we’re used to seeing female bodies treated. I saw Watchmen with two guys, one who had seen 300 and one who hadn’t, and the one who had said “Well, you kind of feel bad about yourself after watching all those perfect-looking men run around basically naked the whole movie.” “Welcome to the world of women,” I said. Because it’s true. And I generally like his sex scenes, because he directs some of the only sex scenes I’ve seen in a movie theatre that even come close to looking like people actually having sex. Good sex, not romantic comedy sex, but actual sex where both parties get to enjoy themselves. Sure, the people having sex are generally far more attractive than people are in real life, but I’m ok with that because if I ever want to see normal people having sex, well, I have the internet. For movie ticket prices, give me sexy. But not too sexy, because I have to believe it, ya’ know.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s ok for sexy things to hit the cutting room floor. Watching a Zack Snyder movies always leaves me with a creepy feeling that I know too much about Zack Snyder’s fantasy life. And Dr Manhattan’s giant blue god-dick was creepy in its inert ginormousness, like a stuffed blue gym sock taped to his nether regions. I mean, if you’re going to put cock out there where everyone can see it, make it move a little so it doesn’t seem like it’s just kind of floating in the air in front of Dr Manhattan, untroubled and unconnected to the motion of his body.

2) A little updating might not have killed the story line. When the movie first ended, I was quite critical, until my roommate, who had read the comic, explained to me that it was written in 1985, and exactly how closely they had kept to the source material. Knowing that made it a little better. But what seemed gut-wrenchingly scary to people in 1985 (namely, the concept of Mutual Assured Destruction and the fact that there was now enough firepower on the planet to vaporize everyone and everything multiple times) is background noise to people my age and younger, and I am way closer to 30 than I’d like to admit. For us, it’s always been that way, and so the sense of urgency and fright the beginning of the movie was trying to convey seems almost as quaint as those 1950′s videos of children being trained to hide under their desks in the event of nuclear explosion. Oh! For those innocent times when only two superpowers had access to nukes, which were large and obvious and prohibitively expensive! Before the internet, there were no instructions to make your own nuclear bomb on the internet.

I’m old enough to remember the falling of the Berlin wall and the end of the cold war, and while I knew it was a big deal, I remember not being quite clear as to why. The fear of the Soviets and the complexities of the cold war did not make it down to elementary school children in a clear and convincing matter, which is probably part of the reason people who would never joke about the Nazis find Soviet kitsch to be hilarious. By the time we were old enough to understand, it was over, and it was recent enough in history to always be cut short by the end of the year – it was never treated with the same depth or repetition as say, the Civil War or WWII.

The result was I found a lot of that movie to be hokey until I really sat and thought about it. And I’m a thinking, reading person who loves Russian novels and has read quite a bit about Soviet history in the last year or two. Hell, I just returned a library book about fucking chess’ role in the Cold War, OK? I’m saying, I’ve done my independent study on this topic. If the point was lost on me until I had some context for when and why the story was written, imagine how little of it is getting to your average 18-35 year old movie goer? Yeah, that’s right. Your point just got lost in well-choreographed gore and gratuitous blue wang.

3) Could you have made Silk Spectre II look less like Xena? The whole time she was kicking ass I kept on thinking of that Simpson’s episode: “I didn’t know Xena could fly!” “I keep telling you, I’m Lucy Lawless!” She can keep the cute little wiggle dresses though. Those were awesome.

And finally, spoiler, and probably the only place Antigone might agree with me.
(more…)

An eye for an eye.

Thursday, February 19th, 2009

An Iranian woman who was blinded in an acid attack is choosing to exercise her right to demand her assailant suffer the same way she has, and the courts agree. In what is called an “eye for an eye” punishment (totally cool under Islamic law, says CNN) her attacker, Majid Movahedi, will be blinded in both eyes using sulphuric acid.

Late last year, an Iranian court gave Bahrami what she asked for. It sentenced Movahedi to be blinded with drops of acid in each eye. This month, the courts rejected Movahedi’s appeal.

Bahrami’s lawyer, Sarrafi, said the sentencing might be carried out in a matter of weeks. He said he doesn’t think Bahrami will change her mind. Neither does Bahrami.

“If I don’t do this and there is another acid attack, I will never forgive myself for as long as I live,” she said.

My first thought, when I saw this on CNN this afternoon, was “holy fuck!” It was also my second, third and fourth thoughts. Bahrami came off as a very sympathetic character in the news segment, which I can imagine is hard to do when you’re demanding a man be blinded by acid. Of course, it’s easy to feel bad for a woman whose face looks like it’s still melting off. Movahedi fucked her up, and doesn’t appear to know that maybe he crossed a line:

He told the court he still loved Ms. Bahrami, but if she asked for his eyes to be taken out, he would seek the same punishment for her.

“They must also completely empty out her eyes, since I’m not sure that she cannot secretly see,” he said, according to a report in The Washington Post.

“The newspapers have made this a huge case, but I haven’t done anything bad.”

I’m not sure what part of Islamic law lets a criminal who was blinded by sulphuric acid for throwing a whole hell of a lot more acid in a woman’s face allows him to go back and take the rest of her eyes, so let’s assume Movahedi is fucking psycho. (Seriously, because of him we live in a world where a woman can ask for acid to be dripped in a guy’s face and still be taking the high road: “Asked by the judge if she wanted Mohavedi’s face to be splashed with acid, she replied, ‘That is impossible and horrific. Just drip 20 drops of acid in his eyes so he can realize what pain I am undergoing.’ “)

So on the one hand, the part of me that is against cruel and unusual punishment has an automatic gag reflex about this particular punishment. On the other hand, I live in a place where even the creepiest stalkers rarely resort to acid attacks when you decline to marry them, and unfortunately there are many women in other parts of the world who can’t say the same. And the same book that’s used to justify the laws and culture that allow honor killings and acid attacks explicitly gives Bahrami this option, so another part of me wants to say these guys made their bed and can fucking sleep in it. I guess I can’t decide what wins here – the revulsion against an exotic punishment meted out in an area of the world famous for harsh punishments versus the feeling that nothing short of making a few dramatic examples out of men like Movahedi would convince men to think twice before disfiguring women for pissing them off. I don’t like that idea one bit, but I just can’t bring myself to condemn Bahrami. I really don’t know.

The market for half-assed theories is always strong

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

In times of economic uncertainty, whose advice should you heed? If you said an “instigator of several nationally televised PR stunts” you fail, and deserve what you get:

With a brutal wave of U.S. layoffs, and the single greatest number of job losses since 1974, one controversial media expert is encouraging more people to quit their jobs preemptively.

David Seaman, author of Dirty Little Secrets of Buzz and instigator of several nationally televised PR stunts, says that quitting today is the answer for millions of workers caught in limbo.

Seaman’s plan is that you preemptively quit your job on the basis that “I quit before I was fired” has magic properties that will make you seem like a god among men at the temp agency. This is a great plan, hampered only by its immense stupidity. For example, complete the following fantasy:

Picture this, you are waiting in line with thirty other candidates in an employment office for an interview. When you get to talk to the HR guy he asks, “So you lost your job like the other hundred people I have seen today?” You can honestly say, “No, I had a good job and I was promoted but I quit because I can do better and I am highly sought after”.

In my mind, the interview ends like this:

“So you quit before you even had any interviews for a new job? Were they not giving even token severance packages? Seriously, did you think that through at all? Have you even glanced at the news lately?”
“Ummm, errr….”

The other problem is that if enough people did this, your interview would actually go like this:
“So did you lose your job like the other hundred people I saw today, or are you one of those dumbasses who quit without a plan before they could be laid off?”

But hey, it’s not David Seaman’s problem. With more than 11,000 views on CNN’s iReport and the consequent television facetime he can milk those views for, he’s prolly doing all right. But there’s no reason to just sit there hating him when you can let him inspire you: in tough times, the unscrupulous can always prey upon the desperate or the stupid, and with a 24 hour news day that has to be filled with something cheap and new every day the opportunity has never been better! So just don’t quit your dayjob until you know what your schtick for FOX news is.

Exploding glass tears.

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

Today was Fun Physics Day at work, as often happens the afternoon after a whole morning is killed by meetings. I have no idea how we got on the subject, but today’s project ended up being Prince Rupert Drops. Prince Rupert Drops are tear-drop shaped glass balls with long, trailing tails. The base of the bulb is shockingly strong, but the tail can be snapped fairly easily. When this happens, the entire drop explodes into a fine dust. The short explanation:

When molten glass hits cold water, its outer surface cools rapidly and shrinks as it solidifies. Since the center is still fluid, it can flow to adjust to the outer shell’s smaller size. As that center eventually cools and solidifies, it also shrinks, but now the outer shell is already solid and can’t change its shape to accommodate the smaller core.

The result is a great deal of internal stress, as the center pulls the outside in from all sides. Like a tightly wound spring, the glass is set to release a lot of energy. If you break the thin glass at the tail, a chain reaction travels like a shock wave through the drop. As each section breaks, it releases enough energy to break the next section, and so on, shattering the whole drop in less than a millisecond.

Paradoxically, the same tension also makes the Prince Rupert’s drop stronger. Glass breaks when tiny scratches pull apart and spread into fractures. Since the surface is compressed by internal stress, scratches can’t grow, and the glass is very difficult to break.

A professor at Purdue University clocked the fractures at over 4,000mph. Unfortunately my university doesn’t carry the journal he published in, so I don’t have anything more than that abstract to share.

My coworkers made about 5 of these things using glass stirring rods, pipettes, and an ordinary propane torch, although it was a massive pain in the ass. It took forever, and not every tear-shaped glass drop is a Prince Rupert Drop. But when it works, it’s fantastic. My coworker said it felt like a bomb going off in his hand when our drop became a rough silt. It’s also possible to make the tail too fine, so that you have to snap off more than one section to get the explosion. The explanation I read, that I can’t seem to find right now, suggested that the diameter of the glass has to be sufficiently large to allow the cracks to propagate, i.e. if you snap too thin a piece off, the rest of the structure can just shrug it off. If you’ve got a nice traily tail, this means you can flirt with danger by flicking at the flexible bit at the end and dramatically snapping off several pieces before the whole thing disintegrates. Of course, you’d have to play with a lot of them before you got a feel for where that point is.

You can also make your own glass fibers by heating the middle of a glass rod until it softens and glows red, then removing it from the flame and pulling really fast. If your rod was solid, you’ve just made a fiber optic cable. If your rod was a tube, you now have a very small capillary tube.

Welcome, Angry Internet Citizens, to Punkassblog

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

We are pleased to welcome the new friends who have joined our close-knit internet community since the election of our lord and savior, Barack Obama. We realize that the President’s Abortions for All plan, which exists only in your head but is nonetheless real and scary to you, angers you greatly, and we’re always pleased to provide a space on any and all posts for you to vent your frustration at the expense of any other topic we might wish to address. Really, we love it. This blog is all about you.

That said, we have a few rules here to keep the peace. The official PAB banning policy is as follows: banning is done at the discretion of the blogger whose post you are shitting on. The good news is, like most liberals and progressives, we’re a bunch of pussies and rarely do anything so confrontational as banning a complete stranger from our text-kingdom. Banning is also usually preceded by lots and lots and lots of warnings, de-vowelings, pleas for less jackassery, and the like. You will almost never be banned without plenty of notice and justification before hand.

UNLESS you do something like the following:
- Threaten to kill, rape, stalk, or harm people
- Publish personal identifying information about yourself or others
- Be a racist and/or sexist and/or homophobic jerk for the pure glee of being an anti-pc sexist, racist, homophobic jerk
and new for 2009:
- hijack the screennames of regular commenters to be a douche

We are much smaller than Pandagon, and hope to avoid the mandatory registration policy that name-hijackers have driven them to. Please assist us in this and we will continue to allow you to vomit all over our comment threads to the very limit of human endurance.

Thank you.

Starting the New Year’s off right with vodka-fueled hope.

Thursday, January 1st, 2009

So I had my normal uneventful new year’s which generally ends with me reflecting that, although the evening did not end how I wanted it to, at least tomorrow my sheets will still be freshly washed and my bedroom still clean. Part of the reason I haven’t been more aggressive about closing in on my target is that he’s just so gosh-darned more attractive than I am, so of course I feel that he is way out of my league. I am, as far as I can tell, hideous. And I’ve been meaning to blog more anyway. Unrelated statements? Not so much, thanks to Penny Arcade:

I’m sure it was meant to be grim, but for some reason that story about videogame characters giving men self-esteem issues as well had us in stitches. Part of it may be that we delight in terrible realities, our receptors for joy and despair being reversed…

“That story” refers to this article about how men and women rate their own bodies as less attractive after playing video games featuring, quoteunquote, extreme body types.

Richard Harris, (author of the research) said that his research shows that simply viewing the attractive game character for 15 minutes can negatively impact the player’s image of their own looks and body.

Judging from most of the gamers I hang out with, this is not yet a crises of our time: even the one who uses pro-anorexia sites as porn has yet to feel bad enough about his own appearance as to start caring about it. But it is interesting to see how quickly viewing completely fucked-up standards of sexy will start to fuck with your worldview, even if only in the short term. It’s also interesting – and probably more than a little telling – that given a situation with equally ridiculous standards (which aren’t even supposed to be standards) for both genders, each will respond with the self-doubt that is so necessary to selling both deodorant tampons and Axe products. Maybe it’s the 6 hours worth of chocolate martinis running through my system, but I actually find this heartening. It’s well known throughout the feminist blogosphere and beyond that no social problem actually matters until men care about it; that’s why the statement “if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament” is witty. Now that we finally have a venue where men and women both are made to feel poorly over the same stupid shit, maybe 2009 is the year everyone realizes that sticking a set of airbrushed boobs on every advertisement is kind of silly, we admit that we were foolish for letting it go on for so long as to saturate our collective ideals about what is attractive, ordinary non-feminist type people begin to understand what is meant by the ‘second sex’, and we move away from that shit. Everyone would begin to relax and we could have reasonable public discussions about the so-called women’s issues tha.

On the other hand, it’s probably the six hours worth of chocolate martinis.

Nice Guys (TM), summed up.

Friday, December 12th, 2008

From the always-brilliant XKCD

I wasn’t angry with you before I knew you existed

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

I admit, I’ve been a lazy Democrat this season. After the primaries, I felt free to join the national crush on Obama and focus on other things. Prolly 90% of my coworkers who are eligible to vote are voting for Obama. Sure, I share an office with a McCain voter, but I’ve avoided trying to win him over: he also believes that when Obama wins and we have a Democrat-majority Congress, the laws against holding more than two presidential terms will be repealed so that Obama can be the next FDR, or the first American King, depends on how bitter he is that day. I had an interesting discussion with a Chinese classmate in a Home Depot that ended with her exclaiming loudly in the insulation aisle “If I were American! I’d vote for Obama! But I am Chinese! So if I voted this election, I would vote for McCain! Republicans are always good for China!” I can only hope that did some good, because that was the extent of my getting out the vote activities.

But I’ve been getting some interesting things in my mail, promos for Biblical films and such, and today I got an interesting text message:

PLEASE DON’T vote democrat, you must vote pro-life, Our countries future IS AT STAKE WWW.TRUTHDADDY.COM SAYS IT ALL, PLEASE I BEG U 2 VOTE MCCAIN! THANK YOU FOR YOURTIME AND ATTENTION

What the hell list did my name and number get on? A quick look at TRUTHDADDY.COM shows a multimedia site of douchebags for the Lord, whose content I declined to enjoy. Now I’m just wondering who at T-Mobile I should be calling to bitch about this.

Happy Halloween! P.S. No Fatties.

Sunday, October 5th, 2008

It’s the Halloween season again, and I for one am thrilled. Corn mazes, haunted houses, Halloween parties and guys who think they’re funny giving me an easy intro back into blogging. That’s right, it’s the return of perennial Slut-O-Ween opinion pieces.

Over the past week or so, I’ve done a lot of Halloween shopping. Bob, you gigantic nerd, you’re thinking. What are you doing shopping for Halloween stuff in September? You truly are a titan of thunderous stupidity.

Yes, “titan of thunderous stupidity.” That’s where we start. Get ready for a heartbreaking work of staggeringly hilarious slut-shaming genius. Oh, and subtlety. I don’t want to spoil it for you, but Bob’s impressive vocabulary and concern for his precocious step-daughter don’t do a great job of masking his real All-Saint’s-Day-Eve bitch. Can you guess what he’s really saying by the end of this post? Try it!

But we also noticed something else that we found a little annoying. Halloween costumes, it seems, have fallen into two general buckets. First, there are the costumes for men and boys. Second – and this is the far larger of the two buckets, from what I’ve seen – there are the costumes for hookers.

Don’t worry about it too much, Bob. For last year on my campus, boys were stripping down and slutting up for Halloween in record numbers. The end of October in Ohio isn’t great for slutty costumes, so it was a bit nipply in the streets for all genders, if you get my drift.

Shopping for Halloween costumes these days is a lot like hanging out at Dr. John’s, but with less personal lubricant. Everywhere you look, there’s a Naughty Nurse or a Slinky Vampire or a Just Trying To Pay For College Police Officer. It’s crazy.

Can I ask you something? What is the deal with Halloween costumes? /Seinfeld, -10 points for your shitty segues.

Still, though, we were surprised at the fact that this was even an issue we had to deal with at all. Since when did Halloween turn into Dracula-Meets-Caligula? Listen, don’t get me wrong. I’m a guy. As a guy, I’m a huge fan of 22-year-old girls showing up at Halloween parties dressed like they’re going to spend the evening giving lap dances. I’m a little bit upset that this trend arrived on college campuses well after I graduated, but you know, I just need to let that go.

Dracula-meets-Caligula? I’m going to assume that Dracula represents traditional Halloween and Caligula represents slutdom. There are several reasons why this is not a great analogy. First off, it’s well known to any vampire fan that the vampires represent forbidden lust, and that a proper vampire novel should be indistinguishable from erotica. Caligula is not a great example of wanton slutness, despite his sexual perversity, because he was better known for being a tyrant, and his sexual antics were way freakier than just showing too much leg once a year, you know, because he was insane. Also, Cali was a guy and we’re slut shaming women here. But, not all women. Just the fat ones.

The thing about this whole trend toward Hookerween is that, well, this isn’t a college town. There are plenty of women in this town who can pull off a I’m Sorry Did I Drop My Pencil Pirate costume and really rock it. God love ‘em; they make the world go round. But, I’ve been to the mall. I’ve been to Six Flags. I’ve eaten at Old Country Buffet. This town needs somewhat more modest Halloween costumes, and it needs lots of them. Heck, not just this town. Most towns.

Bwaa haa haa! Get it? Fat women in tight clothes make his penis limp! Oh, god, it’s hilarious. This guy is such a great writer, and it’s easy to see why his blurb at the end of the column namechecks both Amazon and Facebook.

The end of the column is only noteable for the shout-out about how attractive his wife is (“Don’t get mad, honey, when I said fat old women can’t hold a candle to hot ass 22 year olds, of course I make an exception for you”), and of course craven groveling to the spouse at the end of a lame column where you use her daughter as an excuse to tell women which ones you think should be skanking it up is the hallmark of a ballsy, excellent humor writer who will certainly be very successful someday.