blarg?

So, Microsoft has apparently decided to continue their long tradition of design-by-committee-made-of-people-who-all-think-they’re-smarter-than-everyone-else. I’m working with the Enterprise version of Vista right now, among the many available, and let me tell you: Oh. My. God.

It’s a disaster. It’s the glossiest sewer I’ve ever seen, true, but all the same old bullshit is still there, right under a thin coat of Aero paint. Don’t have a driver for that network card? Let me help you search online for that! *klonk*

Don’t worry, you can still see all of our Offers From Microsoft, all of which you can go online to find out about! *klonk*

It’s like that again and again. “Do you want to close this gadget? If you close a gadget, you will lose any changes you made to its options.” Why? Is saving my settings hard? Even if I haven’t changed them at all?

It has been an entirely unpleasant experience so far, and after three hours this the real winner is right here: all I want to do is make the font size on my screen larger, and this is what I get.

Look closely at that: “This change will take effect after a restart”. Turns out they’re actually serious about that.

That’s right, it’s 2007 and after six years of work, Microsoft’s flagship OS requires the user to reboot their computer to change the size of the font on the screen.

Let me say that again: I have to reboot my computer to change a font size. More dots per inch means a larger font? Seriously, what the hell?

What an embarrassment.

This is “adapted” from this, which is to say “I still thought that was too much effort”. You’ll need a medium-sized oven-friendly pot (ceramic, enameled or cast-iron).

Take three cups of flour, a quarter-teaspoon of instant yeast and one and a half teaspoons of salt. Put it all in a bowl and stir it up. Put a little more than one and a half cups of water in with it, and stir that up until it’s pretty much evenly goopy. Cover the bowl loosely, with a plastic bag, or something, and set it aside.

This takes about three minutes; it should be the last thing you do before you go to bed at night, so go to bed. In the morning, the very first thing you do when you wake up should be to ignore it completely and go about your day as usual.

I get home about an hour and a half before dinner so, if your day is anything like mine, when you get in the door walk straight to your oven, put the aforementioned pot into it and crank it up to 450 (f). We’re heating the pot up here, yes, not the dough yet. Wait twenty minutes or so for the pot to hit that 450 mark, too, then take it out and put it on the stove top.

Sprinkle a handful of flour around the bottom of the pot, and then pour the dough out of the bowl it’s in and into that pot. A spatula helps, and sprinkle a little flour on the top as well. Put it back in the oven with a lid on it for half an hour, then take the lid off and wait fifteen more minutes.

If it’s not quite nicely browned at that point you can wait a little longer, but not much longer, five minutes or so. Take it out and give it a shake; the bread should be loose in the pan, so turn the careful-it’s-super-hot pot upside down over a cutting board or cooling rack.

Let cool for ten to fifteen minutes, serve.

Total investment of your attention span, approximately eight minutes spread out over two days. Result: fresh homemade bread, which is really great stuff to have around.

Update: as requested, somewhat less narrative and more attachable-to-the-fridge-with-a-magnet printable instructions here.

A few days ago, I stumbled across an open share at the company that
makes the pay-per-call recordings from Mattel properties – you give them two bucks and they’ll call you with a prerecorded message from Dora The Explorer, or whoever, so your kid can hear Dora tell them to get better grades or do more housework or something.This particular open share included all the component .wav files of these prefabricated calls, which are totally weird and creepy to listen to, but the part that’s superweird is that there were also prerecorded names, to personalize the calls.

Almost seventeen thousand of them. Recited in perky
barbie-voice to a one.

Once you’ve got information like that, there’s clearly only one thing to do. So I’ve sorted the names in that huge batch of files and, separated by 0.4 seconds of silence each, have compiled them all in alphabetical order into one 45Mb, four hour & forty-five minute file.

I have a theory that if you listen to the entire thing you will be driven stark, raving mad.

So, for education purposes only, handle with tongs, exercise caution, etcetera, I give you: Barbiephonic: Say My Name.

It’s an .ogg file, because LAME’s mp3 compression wasn’t giving me a faithful reproduction of the .wavs. Rehost it if you’re going to pass it around, please.

Allow me to share a fetish with you.

Come on now, keep reading; don’t chicken out here, it’s largely harmless and I’ll wager that tucked away in some dimly-lit corner of your soul you’ll find that we are of one mind on this, a quiet realization stirring from long sleep. Also, it’s really awesome.

If you should find yourself in Toronto on a Saturday, you’d be remiss not to take a stroll down to the corner of Front and Jarvis, where you’ll find the St. Lawrence Market. I urge you to take a look inside, because The St. Lawrence Market is Toronto’s red-light district for food porn.

Does the though of freshly-cut prosciutto wrapped around a pungent wedge of north-Quebec cheddar prompt even the slightest twinge? Would back bacon on a freshly-baked bun, with a small dollop of homemade Dijon, cause your salivary glands to perk up even a little? Look into your heart, beating proud rhythms aside your stomach as it does, and ask it about french crepes with strawberries and cream, about dark, rich maple syrup, beautifully marbled cuts of beef, strange and wonderful cheeses, novel condiments, exotic spices and the finest produce available.

And then lie to me, if you feel you must, but I will not be deceived; I will see the wanting in you, and know that a man can only lie to himself for so long before he is not a man but a cold and shivering thing, driven to ground by his own denial. I will find you, in the midst of that long dark night of the soul, and offer you a bacon sandwich, because they’re really delicious.

Honestly, the merchants in there have no shame whatsoever. In food-porn terms the place is brazen, prurient. And it’s fantastic – the smells, the crowds, the unhinged, vibrant variety of the whole place is wonderful. Did you know that there’s about a million different kinds of honey, with their own regional distinctions and subtle fragrances? Uncountable dozen different kinds of rice? Thousands of novel, innovative cheeses, mustards, exotic vegetables? Not me. I’ve been shopping at your ANSI-Standard North-American Grocery Stores for way too long. Boy, is that going to change, though.

(That wasn’t so bad, was it?)

So, plan a day trip if you’re planning a trip at all – go for lunch and, I strongly recommend, plan to have a little bit here and there shared amongst, rather than everything from one place all at once. It’s a fantastic way to spend an afternoon.

So I’ve just bought a house, and during that process my bank has lost my business about five times. It seems like every time I speak to them, they go that extra mile to make absolutely sure that I’ll never want to give them any of my money ever again.

How do I hate you, Scotia, let me count the ways.

#1: We need to give various people voided cheques, for insurance and so forth. Can we just walk into a convenient Scotiabank and order some cheques? Hell no – you can only order cheques from your “home branch”; ours used to be in Ottawa. But we can change our home branch easily, right? Sure, but that takes 24 hours to “take effect”! So we need to come back, and talk to them again. But only between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. I’m sure that we didn’t have anywhere we needed to be during that time. Honestly, this sounds too stupid to be true, but this is straight from the Scotia rep’s mouth.

#2: On that note: “Banker’s Hours”. Must be nice.

#3: A recurring conversation:

“We just bought a house.”

“Oh, did you get your mortgage with us?”

“No, your rates really weren’t competitive.”

“Can I ask what rate you got?”

“Sure, we got x.xx%”

“And you didn’t bring that number back to us?”

No, we didn’t. Why should we have to? Your first offer wasn’t even close; is the fact that both my wife and I have done all our banking with you for our entire adult lives not a good enough reason for you to put your best offer forward, here? I guess not.

#4: Those people at the bank who tell you which sort of accounts you should put your money in for best results, that sort of thing? We’ve had to go over their choices and double-check their advice every single time we’ve spoken to any of them, because their advice has frequently been either misleading or wrong.

#5: Their posted mortgage and interest rates are crappy, but that’s OK, because those posted rates are all lies anyway. I’ll admit I should have noticed this a long time ago, but when I found out that my bank’s interest rates were a fraction of what the competition was offering, they offered to increase it. Substantially, and just like that. To almost, but not quite, what the competition is offering. Will they do that on their own, unprovoked, just because I’ve been a good customer? Of course not. ING Direct for the decisive, undisputed win here, seriously.

#6: Funny story: my wife emptied one account, and then had to change it’s “home branch” so that she could close it, forcing the one-day-hold on it and forcing her to come back the next day. And because the account had zero dollars in it for 24 hours, we were charged a two-dollar service fee that the account rep neglected to mention. An oversight, I’m sure; I’m also sure there are plenty of regulations to hide behind and use as excuses for the fact that dealing with them in any way at all is a totally onerous process, but I’m all out of caring, and that extra service fee was just icing. Especially considering this next bit.

#7: Today, when my wife told one of their desk monkeys that, again no, we weren’t going to get our mortgage with them because their rates are not competitive at all, they said we should get our mortgage from them anyway, because they’d give us some free patio furniture. Not a competitive rate, just some ugly, cheap-ass patio furniture.

Whoever thought of that last one should be fired. I’m moving my finances over to ING now, who not only offer wildly better interest rates but also because their representatives that I’ve spoken to seem to share my belief that my time is worth something. Goodbye, Scotia, and good riddance. Which is to say, screw you guys.

I’ve been reluctant to talk about this too much, considering the amount of tenuous back-and-forthing that’s needed to be done to actually lock down the expected results, but Arlene and I have bought a house. After a full five attempts at buying various nice houses, we’ve finally, finally managed to secure one for our very own bad selves.

I am so very, very relieved that this process is over with. I don’t think we settled for a second-rate house – the place does need a coat of paint, and it needs it judiciously selected and carefully applied by somebody whose optical apparatus can process the entire spectrum of available colors, not just the ones that looked OK-I-guess on some long-forgotten home show’s remaindered rack back in 1985, all these things are true. But it is structurally sound, correctly wired and (score!) appears to have wall-to-wall carpet covering pristine, untouched hardwood through most of the house.

So, it’s a very cute little house, is all I’m saying. Small, yes, but three bedrooms, a finished basement, a cold-storage room and a garage.

But let me tell you: buying a house, as a process, sucks. In the beginning you are full of optimism, resolved to find a place of your very own, to humbly adorn and walk around in without pants with impunity. At the end of it you end up with a house and, hey, that’s fantastic. But the intermediate stage is interminable weekends of dragging your ass around to dozens of crappy open houses, sporadically offering staggering sums of money for sparse gems that never seem quite compelling enough to offer staggering sums of money for and sitting at home on a Tuesday night wrapped in the awkward silence of anticipation and long odds, wondering if the place was really worth what you offered, until your agent calls to tell you that somebody else thought the places was worth eighty thousand dollars more than you did.

We put down, how many? Five offers? Six? Did I mention that I’m glad to see the back of that?

Let me make that point again, then.

We take possession May 15th, and that’ll be a good day; we’re moving on the 19th, and when that day comes we’ll be soliciting the usual many hands to make the light work and warm the house, all at the usual beer-and-barbecue exchange rates. More on that soon!

I’m sure I’m approximately the last person in the universe to extract the funny from this, but: you can buy coffins on Amazon.com.

Options include:

  • “Add to Wish List”

  • “Add To Wedding Registry”
  • “Add To Baby Registry”
  • “Get it for less! Order it used!”
  • “Have one to sell? Sell yours here!”
  • “Share your own customer images.”
  • “Tell a friend!”

Customers who bought this item were also interested in…

So, Rob brought the Alanis cover of “My Humps” to my attention, which I’m told is awesome, but I had to listen to her sing the national anthem daily for about half of high school, a wildly successful bit of aversion therapy that makes me bleed liberally from my eyes and ears at the sound of her voice.

I attempted retort with this slightly altered 300 trailer. Soon after that, Kev raised the bar with this fantastically retrowierd video of some Finnish dude teaching people how to dance the disco.

So that’s it, I thought, that’s the last word on the subject. I cannot top that.

But then Sean came through with this video, which is the kind of horrific, crawling awesome that there’s not even a single human word for yet, and if I don’t administer myself some emergency doses of thrash metal soon to counteract it, my brain is going to implode.

Every now and then, the idea of searching Google for open shares makes the rounds. Amid the usual internet background noise, some people ask if it can possibly be made any easier. Lots of places do that already, of course, but this one’s nice, simple and mine, so there you go.