December 29, 2008

Questionable Marketing Material of the Day

In the pile of mail that came through my building's communal mail slot today:
[Picture of disrobing woman]

[NEIGHBOUR'S NAME HERE IN BLOCK CAPITALS],

You've been selected to enjoy PLAYBOY for under $1 an issue, our absolute lowest price! And get a FREE DVD!
Oh boy! I bet my neighbour is just tickled pink that the rest of the building knows he likes to tickle his pink! I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that publicly announcing someone's penchant for pornography is probably the best way to guarantee that he or she won't send you any further money.

The skeeziest thing is that all you need to do to start the subscription is check a box and return a detachable second postcard (which already has his full name and address printed on it), and they'll bill you later. So anybody could just take this thing and get the guy his free Nude Celebrities DVD sent out without his ever knowing why. Doesn't that strike anybody else as, I don't know, slightly irresponsible?

That's not to say I won't do it though. Heh.

December 28, 2008

Border Troll

Drove back from Toronto today, and had the following, slightly bewildering conversation with the nice man at the U.S. border:
HIM: Why are you driving a rental car? Where's your vehicle?

ME: Um... I don't have one.

HIM: [raises eyebrows] You don't own a vehicle?

ME: I mean, I have a desk chair with wheels, does that count?

HIM: It's because of people like you that the American auto industry is in such trouble.
Those last two lines may not have actually happened. I think this is closer to the truth:
HIM: [raises eyebrows] You don't own a vehicle?

ME: No.

HIM: Do you have a driver's license?

ME: [reaching for wallet] Uh, yes, right here.

HIM: [dismissive wave] Oh, I don't need to see it.

ME: Um... Okay.

HIM: How old are you?

ME: Twenty-five.

HIM: Just made it in time — they won't let you rent a vehicle if you're under twenty-five, right?

ME: I — Well... No, they won't.

HIM: Okay, you're free to go.

ME: Thanks... I think.
Welcome to America — where not owning a car is terrifying and confusing.

December 26, 2008

December 24, 2008

New Features

For a while now Blogger has been adding some useful features that I've wanted to include here, but they're mainly supported only through the Layout system rather than the Template system that I've long been using. The differences are mainly under-the-hood — but I've resisted switching to Layouts because I don't understand the coding as well, and so can't really control the way the page looks as competently.

Anyway, it got to the point where the benefits of the features I wanted to add outweighed the design problems they were going to cause me, so I decided to make the move. That's the reason things look a little different now (I've had to doctor an existing Blogger Layout rather than use my own), but on the bright side there are now a few extra bells and whistles for readers:

1. Inline feeds. The "Me, Elsewhere" section of the sidebar now links directly into the RSS feeds for the other blogs where I write. That means that instead of a simple link, the sidebar now displays a snippet of the most recent post I've written for each site.

2. Post labels. The new "Preoccupations" section of the sidebar provides links to thematic pages of posts. So, for instance, if you want to see all the posts I make that prominently feature puns, you can just hit the "Puns" link and it will display only those. This part is still a little buggy as I've had to retroactively tag posts, and I don't have much patience for the process — but moving forward this will provide a nice way to let readers follow only what they want to.

3. Blogroll. The blogroll now displays only the five most recently updated sites by default, along with the title of the most recent post and how long ago it was published (you can still see the entire list by clicking "Show All"). This reduces some of the clutter on the page and keeps only the most relevant information upfront. It also stops me from having to tinker with the blogroll manually — if someone stops writing, they'll just drop off the front page automatically.

4. Archives. Archives are now sub-divided into year/month drop-down menus, rather than the unwieldy list of twenty or thirty links it once was.

5. Feeds. There are now more options for syndicating the blog. Most importantly, the default feed address has changed, so please update your RSS readers!

As usual, if you notice any problems with the redesign, let me know. And please feel free to suggest Preoccupation categories for future inclusion.

And of course: Merry Christmas!

December 23, 2008

Off-Colour Thought For The Day

This must be a great time of year for teenage masturbators. Every other month, frantic yells of "DON'T COME IN!" from behind closed bedroom doors are a cause for suspicion. But in December, whenever a parent enters their pimply-faced darling's room and is met with a retreat from having just hidden something under the bed, they'll just think: "Aw, Billy must have been wrapping my Christmas present. How sweet!"

Of course, the cat'll be kind of out of the bag when this happens four times in one week and then all there is under the tree is a greetings card with a gift voucher to Marks & Spencer inside. But still.

December 20, 2008

For The Record

Dedicated readers will know that I have a long-standing annual tradition of whining on my blog about how crappy my birthday has been. For instance, in December 20, 2005:
Fuck it all to hell, it's my birthday, and it's been pretty shitty so far, and I will bitch and moan if I damn well want.
Then, December 2006, I didn't even have a birthday, really, because I was in transit to Australia – so I left London on December 19 and arrived in Sydney on December 21. And last year:
As usual I spent almost the entire day in transit — left the house in Boston at 5am, arrived at destination in London at 10:30pm. I then proceeded more or less immediately to the pub to ensure that at least one birthday drink (other than the cup of British Airways coffee) would be forthcoming. Now, twelve hours later, I'm back at Heathrow to fly to Edinburgh.
This year, though, I am happy to say that I have had one of the most enjoyable birthdays in recent memory. Dinner and drinks with friends last night, and today a combination of coffeecake, lounging around, shopping, and well-wishes. Huzzah!

Be sure to tune in next December 20 for a rousing return to "I Hate My Life And Everything In It."

December 19, 2008

December 17, 2008

Don't Tread On Me

In the past week I've been hit by two bikes.

Now, obviously, if I had to chose one form of transportation to be hit by twice in one week, I'd probably pick bicycle over pretty much anything else (though hot air balloon is a surreal enough image that I might be swayed that way, too). But really, I'd rather not be hit by any form of transportation, ever, so let me say this to all Boston cyclists:

Why don't you learn how to ride a fucking bike, already, huh?

Specifically, why don't you get it through your thick, rarely-helmet-clad skulls that when you are on a bicycle you CEASE TO BE A PEDESTRIAN! It is therefore highly inappropriate for you ride on sidewalks, particularly if you're in the habit of taking corners at twenty kilometres an hour without looking around for potential collisions or using a bell.

And, once you're on the street, where you belong, you actually have to (this'll be tough to grasp, I'm sure) OBEY THE RULES OF THE ROAD! That means you have to STOP at pedestrian crossings, ESPECIALLY when there are witty and attractive creative writing grad students using them as you pass.

And finally, take off those stupid lycra shorts. You look ridiculous.

Hmph.

December 14, 2008

The Mighty Ducks

From BBC News: Shoes thrown at Bush on Iraq trip
A surprise visit by US President George Bush to Iraq has been overshadowed by an incident in which two shoes were thrown at him during a news conference. . . .

In the middle of the news conference with Mr Maliki, [an Iraqi television journalist] stood up and shouted "this is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog," before hurling a shoe at Mr Bush which narrowly missed him.
"This is a goodbye kiss from the Iraqi people, dog"? Since when was Randy Jackson an Iraqi television journalist?

Rather than comment extensively on this story, which I'm sure several million other bloggers will be taking care of, I will now provide you with a series of shoe-related puns — because I know stupid wordplay is the only reason most of my readers keep coming back:

What a shocker — he even told the security guy he was planning to attack Bush, and they STILETTO him in!

I guess Iraq is just ready to give Bush the BOOT!

Bush told reporters he was disappointed at the Iraqi journalist's display of haTREAD!

Maybe the guy was trying to perSUEDE Bush that the Iraq invasion was a mistake!

This sort of behaviour is completely unacceptable — the Iraqi press corps really need to TOE the line!

After ducking the shoe, Bush just shook his head at the journalist and said, "MULE regret this!"

It's weird that Bush got a shoe thrown at him; I thought Kerry was the FLIP-FLOPper!

And...

After the attack, Bush said he was appalled at the journalist's INSOLEnce!

Wah-wah.

December 12, 2008

December 11, 2008

Unfortunate Headline of the Day



No comment necessary.

December 10, 2008

Babelfish Poetry, Part II

A continuing series of poems written by me, A. Ladd, and the Babelfish translation engine.
"To Other Tables"

It was born:in Peter.
Formation: high philological
Creation: stories, article.
Which was on the table: boiled potato, fried chanterelles, fresh-salted cucumbers,lettuce, black bread.
Thank you.

December 07, 2008

Plus Ça Change...

When I first started blogging (a little over five years ago now!), my seventh ever post was about an experience I had at a breakfast place in Beacon Hill called The Paramount. They have an odd system there, where you go in, immediately get in line, give your order directly to a short-order cook, and then wait while he cooks it right there in front of you. Only once you have your food, fresh off the griddle, do you pay and find a table.

Anyway, they've had the same cooks there ever since I found it six years ago, and every time I go in I'm in constant awe of what they do. Without ever writing anything down, they manage to juggle up to ten or fifteen orders at a time and always end up getting the right thing to the right person within four or five minutes. They also manage to do this without ever flinging hot egg in their irritating customers' faces, which may be the more impressive feat.

See, being in Beacon Hill, their clientele is made up largely of insufferable upper-class douchebags who have more money than manners, and because, day to day, they manage to insulate themselves almost entirely from the working class, they have no idea how to act appropriately when they are forced to interact with them. This means that, because these particular short-order cooks are Hispanic, anybody who ever took a bit of high school Spanish (or watched Univision once "for the cultural experience") attempts to converse with them in Spanish. Here's what I had to say in 2003:
Hey! I have news for you, Mr Linguistic Genius! Not only will a short order cook be perfectly aware of the words 'two' and 'please', but a native speaker of Spanish is not going to be impressed by your knowledge of the words 'dos' and 'por favor'. Maybe if you knew the Spanish word for omelette, or, you know, any Spanish word that you couldn't pick up from watching Sesame Street, he would have been a little impressed, but frankly I doubt it. If a Spanish person came up to you and said 'Two omelettes please', I don't think you'd be too astounded (probably just a little confused).
I'd like to reiterate that sentiment now. Because yesterday when I went to the Paramount, the guy in front of me said:

"¿Cómo estás, amigo?"

And then continued to pepper his order with such masterful linguistic flourishes as "grazias", "bien," and, when three minutes had elapsed without food being placed in front of him, "¿Dónde está los huevos, hombre?" (n.b. *I* realise that it should be "¿Dónde están los huevos?", but Dingbat McRicherson apparently did not. And "hombre"? Don't even get me started.)

So, listen up, would-be Friends Of The Worker: I know you live in Beacon Hill, which means you probably voted Democrat and think that this makes you a socialist (and also, this year, that you are entirely un-racist). But whatever the hell it is you think you're doing by speaking your mangled, inaccurate Spanish to the guy cooking your omelette for minimum wage, it's not impressing anyone. In fact, it's about the most irritating fucking thing that anyone can do during a social interaction as seemingly innocuous as ordering breakfast. So do us all a favour and save it for your maid.

December 05, 2008

December 03, 2008

It's Behind You!

No new writing here today, I'm afraid. But I do have a new post over at Vernacular, and, even more exciting...

My first (allegedly) printworthy rant! Head on over to the Weekly Dig and check out my piece about how the internet is ruining our lives.

(Side note: an unexpected pleasure of being published elsewhere is that I can now blame any questionable word choice or punctuation on the copyeditors, no matter how patently unreasonable that is.)