Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Every so often something new and annoying happens in the business of the internet. The most recent trend to annoy me is the appearance of streaming video ad-lets that have no escape, mute, or user control embedded in various pages. Many of them have no way to prevent the contents from being streamed at the person viewing the page they are on. One clicks on to a page and there, off to the side, is a streaming video with no accessible controls and sound blaring, making it nearly impossible to read the article you originally intended to read.

Why are these ad-lets annoying and a dirty trick? There are several reasons:

  • No volume control to mute the obnoxious ad audio.
  • No pause control to stop wasting bandwidth for the video.
  • Capricious consumption of my bandwidth without asking permission.

Given that more and more ISPs are installing bandwidth consumption caps on consumer accounts, do you really want to see your bandwidth used without your permission to display an obnoxious streaming ad? I sure don't, and I don't even have a bandwidth cap on my service.
What can be done about the problem? Short of some technical slight of hand to prevent the domains serving the bogus video from connecting, there is very little the average user can do. But one thing we can all do as consumers is to refuse to do business with any company that uses such ads. Maybe they will get the hint that abusing their potential customers is not a way to increase sales.

What do you think?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Near and Dear

Near and dear to my heart is the dumbing down of the populace I see each day. Little things like simple math skills gone missing. A complete lack of knowledge of the world around us and how it works. Attention spans approximating that of a gnat.

All of these problems I believe are symptomatic of a change of attitude in society as a whole. A few generations ago, education was regarded as the way to a better life. Parents emphasized education as a way to a better life to their offspring. Somewhere along the way the whole process has been ditched in favor of  the many faces of the cult of idol-ism. So now we have a growing group of semi-literate and scientifically uneducated people who follow the dictates of the talking head of the moment without critically examining anything. It scares me for the future.

One of the oft overlooked consequences of the dumbing down of America is the increasingly strident opinions of the populace. One of my favorite quotes puts it succinctly:
People are getting dumber but more opinionated. -- Philip Roth
Can't be much clearer than that. Check out your favorite letters to the editor page for classic examples. (Or listen to a call in radio or TV program since many are no longer capable of writing a coherent letter.)

On the other hand, my rationalist mind demands that I also ponder if the dumbing down is real or just a a figment of my imagination. After all:
Each generation imagines itself to be more intelligent than the one that went before it, and wiser than the one that comes after it. -- George Orwell
So what do you think. Is the increasing stridency of modern opinion due to the dumbing down of the populace or ....?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

How To Tell ...

How to tell that you are still young.

First, the conversation between L and the Son on the morning after his 21st birthday party as reported to me:
Son: What time did I get back last night?
L: I don't know - I didn't hear you.
Son: Then do you know how I got home?
L: No.
Now the part that tells you that you are 21 years young. After a night like that, the Son was out and skiing black diamond runs by noon. Only when you are young do you recover that fast.

I was proud of the Son and his friends. He scheduled some days off around his birthday so he could enjoy time with his friends. They were smart and chose to walk/bus on the bar crawl so that they weren't driving. Let's hear it for responsible young adults!

In other signs of 21 year old stamina much closer to home, take a gander at what it is doing outside right now after days in the 80s last week:

Let's hear it for April snows that bring May flowers! (And for Old Man Winter who still believes he is a frisky 21 year old. {*grin*})

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Happy Birthday to You

Today is the Son's 21st birthday. It sure doesn't seem that long ago that he came into our lives. Seems like only yesterday he was a small helpless bundle that fit in the palm of my hand and the crook of my arm. Now he's well over 6 feet tall and a young man.

Last I heard, he and his buddies were off to do a bar trawl at midnight followed by a day of festivities today. It is amusing the changes brought on by changes in liquor laws. When L and I were younglings, the 21st birthday wasn't celebrated big time. Why? Well, the primary reason was that the Vietnam War had driven the drinking age down to 18. (The infamous "if you are old enough to die for your country, you are certainly old enough to drink in it" line of reasoning.) So it was the 18th birthday that was the big celebration. I suspect that celebrating the 21st leads to a bit more maturity and restraint than the old 18th birthday parties. I can only hope. {*grin*}

The last couple of years have seen the Son mature and becoming more responsible and adult. So rather than merely being of age to drink, he has truly become a young adult.

Happy Birthday - I'm proud of you.

In honor of the occasion, I think the Beatles' Birthday lyrics are fitting:
You say it's your birthday
It's my birthday too, yeah
They say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you.
Yes we're going to a party party
Yes we're going to a party party
Yes we're going to a party party
I would like you to dance (Birthday)
Take a cha-cha-cha-chance (Birthday)
I would like you to dance (Birthday)
I would like you to dance (Birthday)
Take a cha-cha-cha-chance (Birthday)
I would like you to dance (Birthday)
You say it's your birthday
Well it's my birthday too, yeah
You say it's your birthday
We're gonna have a good time
I'm glad it's your birthday
Happy birthday to you.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Right Words

Do you ever struggle to find the right words to convey what you mean without it sounding wrong? I do and it can be so frustrating. It is amazing how many phrases can be technically and linguistically correct but sound completely wrong when used in conversation. I find it especially hard to give someone directions to perform a set of tasks without sounding either pedantic or like a control freak.

I am the type of person that might utter a phrase like "'Preparation H' sounds like a tax form, but is really a medical ointment. Either way, it's a pain in the ass." I truly appreciate the word play and double meanings implicit in such a phrase. I am also prone to misinterpretation of intent - primarily because of my deep seated sarcastic nature. Thus if I tell L that I "love her legs," it is likely to be interpreted as a criticism rather that the loving compliment intended. So I have to work hard and curtail a lot of my normal volubility or else convince Molly to let me share her doggy space with her.

I often wonder if languages other than English suffer from this problem. Is the problem due to the polyglot nature of the English language, allowing shadings of meaning well beyond the strict intent? Do languages like German with a stricter organization and tighter constraints on structure have the same problem? Is sarcasm different or harder to misinterpret in other languages? Inquiring minds want to know.

Now with that out of the way, back to reality. Remember that it was in the 80s on Saturday and then snowed on Sunday? Well today it was warm and windy, so of course there were wild fires in the area being pushed along by the wind. I can't wait to see what the rest of the week brings. {*grin*}

Well, off to get some more real work done.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Maudlin Thoughts

It was 82 degrees in the shade Saturday. Sunday it snowed. Welcome to spring on the high plains. Molly spend much of Sunday cowering at my feet as the thunder accompanying the snow bothered her sensitive constitution. {*grin*}

While it was snowing, L went to visit her friend and former business partner who lives on a farm/ranch about 20 miles from here. L's friend was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease) a while ago. When L is down from the mountains she goes to visit (when her friend is able) and bring food to put in the freezer. Her friend has faced the invariably fatal disease with amazing heart and grace. It is hard to imagine just how hard it must be for her.

L's friend is now at the point where she has a feeding tube and is on a respirator and depends on an eye-tracking and blink computer to do much.  Yet she still keeps on. She wants so much to see her kids grow up (she has a boy aged ~15 and twin girls aged ~13), but knows that it is a wish that will not be fulfilled. For me it is even harder to see how it has impacted her husband as he tries to farm and run the ranch and spend as much time as possible with her and help the kids deal with it. He was always a happy go lucky guy, but now the smile and spirit slips when he thinks no one is looking. I sometimes see him at the grocery store and it looks like the weight of the world is on his shoulders. I am not sure that I could handle it anywhere near as well as he has.

Rather than think sad thoughts about the impending end, I prefer to remember the miracle that is their marriage. She was an international business lawyer who happened to be in the area on a shotgun hunting trip. The trip was on what was to become her future husband's land. They met, courted and fell in love in their late 30s/early 40s. She changed her practice to move out here and they had kids. The fairy tale they neither one thought they would have became their reality.

I remember one evening when we were out at their place for a dinner party. To say that L's friend was often a bit disorganized about social occasions would be an understatement. Thus I can remember treading my way in the dark to the grill to cook, all the while being rubbed and attacked by the herd of pygmy goats running wild in the yard, while the others were getting everything else in the house ready hours after the planned time. There is nothing quite like standing in the dark, lit only by the grill, and feeling the fur and tongues of little goats on your legs and wondering if they were really goats or were they skunks? Yet the food was superb, the conversation better and the evening memorable. What more could one ask for?
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