Thursday, January 28, 2010


Arrg...Spoilers May Be Below Mateys.

By now you have surely heard at least a little bit about the claims that the movie Avatar is racist (you can read a little bit about that here). 

One claim is that it is an allegory for colonialism and therefore has some incorporates some race issues.  I have no problems with this claim, I don't really even see it as a racially based criticism.  It is more just an observation or social commentary on our past.

The other major claim is that is that it is a story where "the colored savages must be saved by a white savior."  This argument just annoys me.  Sure the main character happened to be white and he helped save the colored people but never once did I think that was the point.  It was more about accepting people and cultures that are different than yours.  Would it really be that much different if the main character was black?  Not to me.  The whole story is about coming to appreciate something that is different than yourself.  If the blue aliens were instead white humans who seemed just like us humans - where would be the "leap of faith" required to connect with and care about their civilization?  There would be none, it would then just be a war movie.  It is the overcoming differences that creates the power of the story - it doesn't really matter who is white, who is black, who is blue - but somebody has to be different in SOME way or it doesn't work...and movies are a visual medium, skin tone is one quick and easy way to distinguish different peoples.

When this argument is used, they never point out that this basically makes us (as humans in general but more specifically caucasians) the "White Devil" who does nothing but destroys and steals.  Isn't that racist too?*

Seriously people, just enjoy the movie.  I've seen it a couple times.  I don't think it is the greatest movie ever like some people.  I thought it was OK.  It is pretty and has good effects.  Personally, I thought the story was a little generic...not necessarily bad but not great or innovative.  I found several things that annoyed me more than the whole racist angle (but of course that is coming from a White Devil point of view) - the biggest of which was that they were mining for "Unobtanium."  Really?  It's almost unpossible to come up with a worse name.  Might as well be looking for Magic Fairy Dust or Stupidium.

*Wait, I guess the Latina girl, and the Indian looking guy (pretty much the only dark skinned humans) did join the fight for the blue team...maybe it is racist!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Two Minutes Hate

Excel Idiots

As I have said in a previous hate, I use Microsoft Office quite a bit in my daily work schedule. I use Excel the most. How much do I use Excel? I've just opened my 18th new workbook of the day and it is only 2pm. That is higher than normal...but it is pretty common for me to reach number 10 before the end of the day. My computer desktop is littered with Excel files long and short that I am in the process of dealing with in one way or another.

I'm not an expert, but I am must admit that I am better than many at creating usable and pretty spreadsheets. I create all my formulas by hand (which I find much faster than the wizard) and I can read and understand multi-level nested IF statements pretty easily. If someone has an Excel question in my office, my desk is usually one of their first stops. I don't mind helping and sharing my knowledge - that is what I am there to do.

Problems arise however, once my beautiful creations are set free in the wild for other people to use. The best example is that every year I create a 3000 line x 40ish column file for our salesmen to use as a price code template. This contains all of our current part number, categories, descriptions, long and short web descriptions, various price levels, popularity codes, dimensions, weights, fitment, model years, exceptions, NAFTA codes, UPC, etc...basically as much information that I can come up with that someone may need. It is a massive undertaking that takes me months of work to create, double check, and track down info, and get everything in a usable form. I don't often feel a lot of pride at my job (I take pride...I just don't feel it most times), but every year when this file is complete it is a little bit like my baby as I have put so much effort into it.
The purpose of this file is for our customers to have all the information they need but before it can be sent to the customer it needs some intervention by our salesmen. The salesmen only need to go in throw in that particular customer's price quote formula in the appropriate column and maybe delete any items that do not pertain to that particular customer. This is where it can all go to hell.

To me this would seem like an easy job. And it is. I have done it myself...many times, but it is not my job and I am not supposed to be the quoting prices. So every year the salesmen are given this template, and every year I will get several messages says "[Customer X]'s file is screwed up" or even better "You made mistakes in the file for [X]." So I have them send me the file and invariably they have sorted the spreadsheet but they only sorted the column or two that they were looking at. I have no idea how they keep doing this as Excel warns you that you probably don't want to do this when you try. The idiots usually also end up deleting the original 'Read Only' template file (again Excel warns you) and then saved their messed up file in it's place...trying to cover their tracks or something. But somehow, it is my fault that the file is screwed up. I quickly learned to always keep my own password protected copy of this file that I can always fall back to.

Idiots...please learn how to properly sort an Excel worksheet. It is really not that hard.
I wish this would help...but I doubt it.

End Hate

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Is It Live...or Internet Archive

Say you are a person that likes music. No, I mean it...Say it! Good. As person that likes music you probably find yourself in the mood for live music every once in a while. So you head down to you favorite music establishment to enjoy a show. But what if there is no one good playing or maybe you are stuck at work?

Fear not, you can still enjoy some good live recordings courtesy Internet Archive.

If you don't know what Internet Archive - it is basically an on-line repository for as much Public Domain digital information that they can get their hands on. Music, Videos, Books, Software...they have a little bit of everything. Unfortunately, I think they really need to work on their interface and make the information easier to find. They are making improvements. I've been playing with their live music archive for a couple years now and the embedded player (on many recordings), the ability to review quality, etc...are all great improvements.

The improvement...or at least the tip that I found the most useful was using this link to browse live music...instead of a huge 80,000+ item list, you can just browse through all artists. This alone has save me hours of time looking through the archive and helped me find many things that I might not have come across before.

So what do you find on Internet Archive? A little bit of everything...but mostly smaller bands. Since they try to get the permission from the bands before music can be uploaded for public consumption you are mostly going to encounter "Recording Friendly" artists. Unfortunately, this knocks out many big name artists by default. Can you imagine Metallica giving the OK to post their live shows? Yeah, me neither. You are probably also not going to find some long lost Beatles live know those get turned into cash. So mostly it is mid to small-size popularity bands. Note, this doesn't mean bad (although yes there is plenty on their that I don't care for either), it just means that they didn't achieve mass market commercial success.

There are exceptions if a mainstream artist has a Pro-recording stance - Smashing Pumpkins there are 369 live show recordings and The Grateful Dead has 7,273 shows on Internet Archive at the moment. These are extreme examples most bands with only have a few shows: Harvey Danger = 7 shows, Blind Melon = 14, Tenacious D = 33. Your mileage may vary on your musical tastes. I have found hours and hours of music to occupy my time...some has been high quality recordings taken directly from the soundboard to handheld recorders in someone's pocket.

The Internet Archive does have issues - the interface issues mentioned above and some standardization of the items posted - formats can vary all over the map, sometimes whole shows are one file, sometimes they are broken into songs(although they have gone a long way over the past year to fix a lot of this.). The thing that drives me the craziest is the naming and alphabitization of artists...Some artists have "The" at the beginning of their The Beatles (as stated earlier you will not find The Beatles..."The" or otherwise). You would never go into a store and look for the The Beatles under T for would obviously look under B. Many artists in IA (Internet Archive not Iowa) are alphabetized by T for The...The only band that should be categorized this way would be The The. Also alphabetization happens by first name instead of last. John Mayer is under John instead of Mayer. Its not a huge issue but one that I think needs to be addressed at some point. The faults do not overshadow the good that these people do.

I urge everyone to to go Internet Archive and look up some live shows from their favorite artists or try something new. There really is a little bit for everyone. Remember it is all free and legal!

Today I enjoyed this Harvey Danger show....sorry, I told you I was on an HD kick.

(removed embedded player since it was very slow to load, you can find the show here - Gubby 02/02/2010)

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Two Minutes Hate

Your Mother Doesn't Work Here...

Your Mother Doesn't Work Here, You Must Clean Up After Yourself (or something similar)

I have hated this saying ever since I first heard it on the first day of Fifth Grade Physical Education and good ol' Mr Baltzly assigned us our lockers told us that "Your Mother doesn't work here, you have to pick up your own things." I understand what point they are trying to get across and it was probably appropriate for fifth graders. The problem is that now 20 years later, I still hear people using it...and they seem to think it is witty. It is not. We are all adults now. Seriously, if an asshole is leaving a mess be a dick to them and tell them to clean their shit up. Don't put up a cutesy passive aggressive sign...chances are the type of person that is going to make and mess and leave it is not the type of person that is going to be influenced by a sign.

We have one of these signs in the office break room where I work. I hate is so much...there was supposed to be a picture here but thanks to the Blackberry servers not wanting to cooperate it is not to be. And it is really too much effort on my part to track down a digital camera to take another picture. I know you can imagine though. It makes me angry every time I am in there.

If we have to have a sign, can't we just say "Please Clean Up After Yourself"? It looks and sounds so much more professional and just less stupid generally.

End Hate

Monday, January 18, 2010

More Than a Little Late to the Party

I've always considered myself to have a little bit of an ear for music...not playing it, but being able to recognize and find GOOD music. Record stores, concerts, and bar shows were my main haunts for many years. I know many people who would listen to music an hour a day when they were driving to and from work...much of my life I have averaged a good 6+ hours of listening to music - old favorites, new stuff, anything I could get my hands on. I have spent an embarrassing amount of money on records, cassettes, and CDs throughout my life. However, there did come a point where I did get a little tired of it all and let much of it fall off. I rarely buy random CDs or records any more...I save my money for the artists that I truly love and think need my support (no more "I love this cover, I have to have this CD!"). I don't go to many concerts any more...I think I went to around 10 concerts/shows in 2009. That is probably an all time low, before I probably averaged around 75+ concerts and shows per year). I still listened to music, although maybe not nearly as much.

I do think it is true that as you age you don't quite connect with music the way that you had when you were younger...and I think that did have a little bit to do with it. I think I was also just exhausted from working at the college radio station and having to listen to music for a "job." I probably also had been going through a little bit of depression for several years. This all lead me to judge many musicians far too quickly than I should have - preferring to stay with "safe" favorites and not giving a lot of artists the chance they deserved. I don't think that my original habits of music obsession were healthy but I think I also cut out more than needed and miss many of the things that I held dear. I have been trying to find a good balance of musical life vs non-musical life over the past few years.

This leads me to Harvey Danger - everyone knows Harvey Danger from Flagpole Sitta. I liked Flagpole Sitta...but the failure in me was to see that I would enjoy other songs of theirs. Too me they seemed like someone that had one catchy song and then the rest of the album would suck. I figured on all schlocky, upbeat, funny songs (like an poor imitation Barenaked Ladies). I know I heard all the rest of the album at one point (probably several times) but I wasn't really listening with an open mind and HD was dismissed from my mind.

A few years ago in 2006 (actually I think it was 2005 but I didn't really find out until 2006), Harvey Danger had their latest album Little by Little as a free download from their website. I downloaded it and threw it in my music folder but never listened to it and soon it was forgotten. I came across the album last November and gave it a listen. I liked it but it was a time when work was really stressful and I needed something more familiar and heavier to keep me focused and motivated. HD was pushed aside (once again) for Dethklok and a very stressful month of work.

They were not forgotten this time. I pulled the album back out a couple weeks ago and I love it. Not only is it a wonderful, soothing contrast to what I had been listening to in the past month but Harvey Danger has proved to be much better writers than I had ever given them credit for. I find the Little by Little to be an overall mellow and melancholy album...but it works very well together. There are a couple uptempo songs but even those seem to have pessimistic slant. I know this probably all seems negative, but really it is not. I find this album to be wonderful and soothing for the soul.

I really connect with a lot of the songs, but by far my favorite is Little Round that was totally me for 15+ years of my life. Music was more important than everything else - people, experiences, relationships all seemed so trivial to my relationship with music. Diminishing Returns is probably my second favorite...just the perfect way to cap off the album.

You can still download the entire album for free from the Harvey Danger Website. I would suggest you do that...and maybe throw a buck or two their way if you like it.

Unfortunately, Harvey Danger called it quits in May my chance of enjoying any "new" HD is gone, but at least I can now look forward to going back and re-experiencing all the old Harvey Danger that I didn't give a chance the first time around. I wish all the HD guys luck in their new endeavors...sorry it took so long for me to realize how awesome you were. I'll meet you at the point of diminishing returns.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Beware the Glottal Horror

Last week, was my niece's seventh birthday and we did what many families do - went to Chuck E Cheese.

My niece enjoyed herself, which was the whole point, but I must admit that I am always just a little disappointed when I have gone in the past few years (for the record, I go about once a year). Some of it has to do with the fact that in that year, only one game (maybe two at the most) had changed from my previous visit. I've worked at an arcade and I know how important rotation is to a business. CEC might not be affected in quite the same way since they deal with younger children and depend on birthday parties instead of walk-in game playing traffic. However, a little rotation would be nice for the older people accompaning the children. I don't want CEC becoming a place full of shooting games, they don't need Big Buck Hunter or Silent Scope...I actually like that they have keep a family friendly environment. Maybe some classics like Pacman or Tetris and a couple pinball machines (they do have one, I'll give them that) would be nice.

I thought the animatronic show was really short and half of it was video. When I was a kid the robots did sets and played more 5-6 songs a row before taking a break. Comedy skits were thrown in between songs...the show was THE reason to go there as a kid. One of my favorite memories as a kid is watching the robots play 867-5309/Jenny by Tommy TuTone and their Oldies Medley. I remember sitting there being enthralled even with all the video games calling my name. Now the band plays one song, then 15-20 minutes of video (pretty boring video - even for kids). The animatronic show hardly seemed more than a minor sideshow...definitely not an attraction to go see. The upkeep of the animatronic creatures was mediocre at best. Helen Henny looked like she had a coke-stroke with little movement on one side and Pasqually could barely lift his drumsticks. Munch, the leader of the band had serious issues. His eyes rolled to the back of his head most the time like he was stoned out of his fuzzy purple head (I guess he is a rock star!). But the worst part was that his jaw was nearly ripped off...and the glottal horror that purveyed when he tried to sing made it for the best that kids were not interested in the show. That could be serious nightmare material...the pictures don't even do it justice. The sad thing is that the jaw problem could have been fixed with about 10 minutes, a screw and maybe some wire.

A lot of my disappoint has to do with the switch from ShowBiz Pizza Place to Chuck E Cheese. Don't get me wrong, I think it is great that CEC is keeping these kind of place open...I think it does still have some entertainment to offer kids and families. My problem is that it seems so bland compared to Billy Bob and the Rock-Afire Explosion that populated ShowBiz. All the characters seem completely generic with no personality. I don't know how true it is, but one time I was told that Chuck E Cheese (partially) decided to replace the Rock-Afire explosion band because it could be seen as racist. I don't get that at all. I mean Fats Geronimo was a gorilla and gorillas are black, so I guess some people (idiots) might think that is racist in some way. I grew up with it and I thought it was a funny play on the Fats' Domino's name...I didn't think the gorilla was supposed to be Fats Domino.

I guess Chuck E Cheese is good because it is the best we can get...but I long for the Rock-Afire Explosion and ShowBiz Pizza. I think I may go order the Rock-Afire DVD to sooth my soul.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Bad Email Subjects

In 2008 the company that services my mortgage was purchased by another (supposedly) better off company. That is all fine and good, business as normal. My original company had all my info of course and I had my email address as an emergency contact location in case there was ever any problems...after almost 10 years, never once did my original servicer use my email to contact me.

My new servicer likes contacting me and telling me all kinds of things about my account through my email address, which again is all fine and good. However, I take exception to some of their subject lines. Their favorite which tends to give me a heart attack almost every time is:

"**Mortgage ALERT!** Your monthly payment has been posted to your account"

Really you need to put ALERT and asterisk? Every time I see that I think something has gone dreadfully wrong and my automatic payment was received or was in some way screwed up. Can you just say "Thank you for your mortgage payment?" Alert means bad to please stop sending your messages with that unless something is actually wrong, it is annoying.
End Hate

Friday, January 8, 2010

Humans Are Doomed

A few days ago, I found myself explaining to an accountant why when you increase a number by a certain percent, you can't just take 90% of that to get back to the original number.

An Accountant! Shouldn't he know this? He is after all PAID to work with numbers. Thankfully, I don't work at the same company or I would be scared shitless for my job as I can't even imagine the accounting errors happening.

After tyring to explain it for a few minutes, I just had to lay it out like I was talking to a kid in fourth grade.

Me: OK, say you have something that is $100, and you want to increase the
price by 10%. How would you do that?

Him: Multiply it by 1.1.

Me: Right, you want to multiply the number by 1 plus an additional 10%.
So your $100 now equals $110.

Him: I increased it by 10%, so I should just be able to take 90% of that right?

Me: No, because you are now working with a higher starting number. 10% of
$100 = $10, so that is your increase, but 10% of $110 = $11. So if you decreased by that amount you will not get the original number, you would actually get a lower number $99.

Him: Oh, I get it! So how do you go from the higher number back to the original.

Me: It is a little more complicated and since it took you so long to understand the first part (about 15 minutes by this time), there is no way that I am going to go into that with you.

The whole conversation reminded me that the human race is probably doomed and reminded me of this great math quiz answer (even though it doesn't have an elephant).

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Two Minutes Hate

I live! After what seems like forever (in these days of Tweets and constant Facebook updates, it must seem like an eternity to some)…finally a new post of substance1, after long hiatus due to insane work deadlines (sure I can do what normal would take a few months and hammer it out in a couple of weeks), a bout with a deadly illness2, a massive home construction project3, and a luxurious rock star-like two week vacation4, Gubbyblog is making a comeback.

On to the HATE:
Dramatizations in Commercials
I understand labeling reenactments and dramatizations on news and pseudo-news type programs where they reenact crimes or events. It is just a simple way of saying that it happened “something like this and these are actors and not the actual individuals…please don’t call the 1-800 crime line on our actors” (although I have heard that type of thing actually happens quite a bit. I also understand labeling something as a dramatization when something is reenacted very realistically just as part of journalistic responsibility. I don’t understand however all the scenes listed as dramatizations in commercials. Isn’t a commercial almost a dramatization by definition? But what really drives me insane is the rip-off products that list the most ridiculous content as a dramatization. Take Lipozene, for an example (I refuse to embed any of their videos because they piss me off and I am sure it is a total rip-off). I was actually a big fan of their “It’s not your fault that you’re fat” commercial from a few years ago because it made me crack up every time. However, I totally hate all their computer animations of fat on the body and then the giant pill opening and spraying the fat with molecules (it is at about the 55 second mark in the video in the upper right corner of their homepage). It is obviously a computer animated cartoon. Would anyone, anywhere actually confuse that with what the pill actually does? Was someone really mad that they didn’t get a two foot long pill that magically sprayed them with yellow dots? It always reminds me how over-cautious and litigious to the point of stupidity that our country can be at times.

Note – I do like the Windows 7 Was My Idea commercial where Steve says everything should work together. I’m sure it is done very tongue in cheek with Steve flashing back to a reenactment of his idea where he is much younger, much more muscular, and better looking. Makes me smile. That is the way to do a reenactment in a commercial.

End Hate

1 Substance being a relative term here as I don't really think any of my posts have all that much substance because I am just not an interesting person. But at least it is closer to regular posting than I have had in a month.
2 The ever deadly common cold.
3 OK, I just installed baseboards…about a year after I finished installing my hardwood floors (I never claimed to be much more than a lazy, worthless human being.
4 Said rock star vacation being my companies normal holiday shutdown which consisted of the above two points of being sick, installing baseboards, and more than a little shoveling of snow…Rock on!