SEB Safety Tip: Don’t use gasoline to rid your child of head lice.

People like this mother are the reason why signs like this exist.

People like this mother are the reason why signs like this exist.

And if you do decide that gasoline is the only appropriate way to get rid of head lice, don’t do it next to a space heater. Because bad things may happen:

According to an affidavit filed in the case, the incident happened in January. The affidavit says a space heater ignited the gasoline and burned the 5-year-old girl and Suggs.

Haileyville Police said the child suffered second- and third-degree burns over 60 percent of her body.

The mind boggles at what possible thought process could have concluded this was a good idea. The article doesn’t say if the mother was drunk or high as a kite, but it’s the only thing I can think of that would explain such abject stupidity. In fact there’s a part of me that hopes either alcohol or drugs played a role in this because the thought that anyone could be that stupid without being impaired is too frightening to consider. 

I know times are tough and all and I could maybe, sorta see the logic behind trying to use gasoline to kill head lice if you can’t afford a proper licecide treatment because (amazingly enough) the idea actually shows up in medical journals as far back as 1917. That said, you can find decent over-the-counter treatments at your local CVS for under $20, but perhaps they didn’t have $20 and did have a container of gasoline in the garage. Assuming for the moment that is the case that still doesn’t explain why you would use the gasoline anywhere near a running space heater. Granted it was January so maybe they couldn’t afford their heating bill and the space heater was the only thing keeping them from freezing, but you’d still think that common sense would dictate that gas near a heat source is a bad idea.

I’m not the world’s greatest parent and I’ve made my fair share of mistakes over the years, but this sort of thing isn’t rocket science. Just a little time spent thinking your cunning plan through would avoid an awful lot of pain for both you and your kids.

Google is killing Reader and I’m hating all the possible replacements.

googlereadertombstoneGoogle announced recently that they’re going to close down their RSS aggregator called Reader due to declining usage and their desire to concentrate development resources in other areas. I’ve used Google Reader for years now, pretty much since it was launched in 2005. It’s how I keep up with the couple hundred different blogs and websites without having to visit each and every one of them in turn. Needless to say this announcement was very distressing, but all good things come to an end and it’s not like they’re the only RSS aggregator out there so I started looking into alternatives.

In the past few weeks it became clear that what Google considers a “small” group of users is still huge compared to anyone else as just about every other RSS aggregator I tried was swamped with people checking it out after the announcement. The three most recommended ones I tried were Feedly, Newsblur, and The Old Reader.

Newsblur was almost completely useless at the start because its servers were so overwhelmed by all the folks jumping ship. Things have settled down since then and I’ve had a chance to try it out a bit and it certainly seems to have the most features, but it’s also limited to 64 feeds with 10 stories max unless you subscribe to their service. It’s only $24 a year and it might be worth it, but I’ve not used it enough to make that determination yet. It’s one I’ll definitely be playing with more, but my initial impression is that it’s trying too hard to be everything to everyone and the fact that it requires a subscription to really be useful is a negative. It also doesn’t appear to be able to share items with anyone who isn’t a Newsblur user. I’ve gotten used to sharing items on my Google+ page and Newsblur doesn’t support that.

Feedly also was near useless in the immediate aftermath, but it has since become more stable. It wants to present your feeds in a magazine format that’s quite different from Reader’s layout. Ultimately it suffers from what I call “Apple Computer Syndrome” in that it’s very pretty but it wants you to do things its way instead of the way you’d want to do them.

I have a particular way that I go through my RSS feeds in Reader and getting Feedly to allow me to do the same thing has been a real pain in the ass. Some things can be set as default through the preferences option (full articles as opposed to excerpts with a pic next to it), but other things have to be configured on a per-feed basis (showing only unread vs all articles). Considering that I have 200+ feeds having to tell each and every one of them that I want to see both read and unread articles is damned annoying. How you sort feeds in Feedly is also a mystery to me. I want mine sorted alphabetically, but by default it sorts them by who has the newest content. I seem to have somehow gotten it to sort alphabetically, but I have no idea how I did that.

It’s also slow compared to Reader and it becomes even slower if you have a crappy network (like I do at work). Lastly it seems to have a habit of skipping over some articles in a feed. I’ll get to the end of new articles, but it’ll still show 5 or 6 as still unread and if I click on the feed again it’ll suddenly show new items between the items I’ve already seen as if it had them in its pockets and just forgot to show them the first time around. But it is very pretty and it will let me share items to my Google+ page as well as Twitter and Facebook and a couple of others I don’t recognize so it has that going for it.

The Old Reader is an attempt to clone Google Reader from back when it was more of a self-contained system. When you shared items back then it wasn’t posted to your Google+ steam because Google+ didn’t exist back then. Instead it was only shared with other GReader users that had marked you as a friend or subscribed to your shares. TOR also suffered from the sudden influx of new users, but it didn’t seem to impact the functioning of the application so much as it did it’s ability to import your Google Reader subscription lists. You can export your subscriptions as an OPML file that you can use to import them into another RSS aggregator. I did with this TOR and it was nearly two weeks before it got around to actually processing it because so many other people were trying to do the same thing.

That said, TOR is the closest so far to Reader in terms of how it does things and it’s relatively speedy once it gets your subscriptions imported. The ability to rearrange subfolders has a couple of annoying quirks, but you can work around them. It’s definitely a work in progress and its performance will vary as a result, but the biggest negative against it is the same one Newsblur has. That it will only share with other users of TOR.

So, for the moment, I’m still trying to use GReader until they yank the plug or I find an aggregator that does everything I want. Alas, Google appears to have broken GReader’s ability to share items with Google+. When I try to do so these days it’ll pop up the box and I’ll get halfway through typing in a comment only to have the box suddenly disappear and all my key-presses interpreted as keyboard shortcuts screwing up where I am and losing the share in the process. It’s damned annoying. So I keep hopping back and forth between Feedly and GReader and finding I’m not happy with either one.

Granted, in the grand scheme of things RSS aggregators are pretty low on the list of most import things ever and it’s definitely a First World Problem I’m bitching about, but that won’t stop me from pouting over it.

Oxford American Dictionary decides 25 years late to make “GIF” the word of the year.

So this happened. The folks who produce the Oxford American Dictionary have declared their word of the year to be “GIF”, which is actually an acronym for “Graphics Interchange Format” and was introduced all the way back in 1987.

Personally, I’m confused by the choice and the reasons listed in the news article do nothing to clear said confusion up:

 ‘GIF’ named word of the year by Oxford American Dictionary | The Sideshow – Yahoo! News.

“GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun,” said Katherine Martin, head of the U.S. dictionaries program at Oxford.

“The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.”

It’s gained traction as a verb? What the hell? How the hell do you use it as a verb? I’ve been on this Interweb thing since right around 1987, long before the mainstream caught onto it, and I have never, ever, ever heard anyone use GIF as a verb.

Guess I better check in with the people who put out the dictionary to see if they have any examples of this usage. Turns out they have a blog on which they announced this choice:

GIFverb to create a GIF file of (an image or video sequence, especially relating to an event): he GIFed the highlights of the debate

Seriously? Not only would I laugh my ass off at anyone trying to use that as a sentence, but why the fuck would anyone “GIF” the highlights of a debate in an age of ubiquitous streaming video?

Don’t get me wrong. There are plenty of video clips that make excellent GIF animations. There’s hours of amusement to be found at sites like Señor Gif which provide you with crucial snippets like the following:

This one has revolutionized how I get around the office at work.

But if someone were to come up to me and ask if I’d seen that video they had “GIFed”, I’d have no choice but to slap some sense into them.

That said, their blog entry goes on to say:

The GIF, a compressed file format for images that can be used to create simple, looping animations, turned 25 this year, but like so many other relics of the 80s, it has never been trendier. GIF celebrated a lexical milestone in 2012, gaining traction as a verb, not just a noun. The GIF has evolved from a medium for pop-cultural memes into a tool with serious applications including research and journalism, and its lexical identity is transforming to keep pace.

That highlighted part captured my attention so I continued reading to see if they provided any examples of this supposedly new use for GIF files. Here’s one they came up with in a section called “Highlights of the year in GIFing:”

January 2012: The New York Public Library launches the stereogranimator, a tool enabling users to make GIFs of vintage stereographs in the library’s collection to create an illusion of the 3D experience of viewing through a stereoscope.

That particular service may be new, but people have been converting stereographs into animated GIFs for years. Some of the earliest postings I’ve seen date back to the late 90’s.

August 2012: The GIF vaults to prominence as a tool in covering Olympic events, marshaled into use both for serious analysis and humorous effect. Blogging for the New York Times, Jenna Wortham called GIFs “the perfect medium for the Olympics.”

Again, this isn’t particularly new. You can find plenty of animated GIFs from previous Olympics created both by ordinary people and a few news agencies.

Then there’s this:

February 7, 2012: First post on the GIFtastic tumblr whatshouldwecallme 

Um. OK? Not sure why we should give a shit that it was used as the first post on some random tumblr no one’s ever heard of. But what do I know? I can’t even manage to figure out how to use the word as a verb.

Granted, in the great scheme of things, what the folks at the Oxford American Dictionary deem to be the word of the year isn’t particularly important. It just feels like a wasted opportunity given how many other significant not-25-year-old-acronyms are out there that would’ve been a better choice. Then again, when you consider that their second choice was YOLO, hoping for something better than “GIF as a verb” is probably being overly optimistic.

Skype introduces ads during calls, tries to play it off as something you’d want.

An example of the new Skype ads in action. Click to embiggen.

The folks at Skype announced on their blog yesterday that they were rolling out a new advertisement system for users who are not paying subscribers. A good percentage of Skype’s user base are, let’s face it, freeloaders who are content to use only those features that are offered for free. I’m one of those freeloaders and one of the things you put up with for free stuff is being subjected to ads. Skype has promised that these ads will not affect call quality nor will they make any sound whatsoever.

I don’t have a problem with that. What I do have a problem with is their attempt, in a post on their blog, to make it sound like the introduction of these ads is something we freeloaders will appreciate:

Skype – The Big Blog – Skype Advertising Update

While on a 1:1 audio call, users will see content that could spark additional topics of conversation that are relevant to Skype users and highlight unique and local brand experiences. So, you should think of Conversation Ads as a way for Skype to generate fun interactivity between your circle of friends and family and the brands you care about. Ultimately, we believe this will help make Skype a more engaging and useful place to have your conversations each and every day.

Seriously? The only way they will spark conversation between me and whomever I’m Skyping with will be if they’re in any way annoying enough for me to mention how fucking annoying they are. Otherwise, like most ads on the Internet, we’ll probably ignore them altogether. In fact, if we’re not using the video option then chances are the Skype client will be minimized and I’ll be looking at something else entirely. The last thing I do on audio-only calls is stare at the Skype client.

Again, I don’t have a problem with Skype putting ads on the screen per se. I get that they’re a for-profit company and they have to come up with a way to make some bucks off of those of us who don’t subscribe to their service. I just wish they’d be honest about why they’re doing it and not try to sell it as something beneficial to me like I’m an idiot.

Had they said something like this:

Hey folks. Today we’re putting advertising on the screen during 1-to-1 audio only calls to try and offset the cost of providing you with the service for free. We promise to keep the ads as unobtrusive as possible and they will not affect the call quality. We do offer a subscription service that not only offers lots of additional features, but also eliminates the ads for those who don’t wish to see them if you’d like to consider that option. We hope that this will not be a source of inconvenience for you and we welcome your feedback.

I’d be damned impressed with their honesty. Running a service like Skype is expensive and they have to make money somehow if they want to keep offering some of their features for free. These ads aren’t unreasonable even if I think most folks, like myself, will ignore them.

But who knows? Maybe I’m wrong and there will be a lot of people who end up finding them a useful topic to discuss with their friends. Maybe such people really do exist and I’m just being an old curmudgeon. I’d like to think that’s not the case, but I’ve been wrong before. Even so I think Skype would do well to count those as a happy side-benefit of the ads instead of trying to promote that as a feature folks will appreciate. But maybe that’s just me.

How this for irony: PETA kills a majority of the pets they take in.

PETA has always bugged the shit out of me and now I have one more reason to be annoyed. For all the talk of protecting animals that they do it turns out that the vast majority of animals they take into custody end up being euthanized:

“The facility does not contain sufficient animal enclosures to routinely house the number of animals annually reported as taken into custody,” Kovich concluded in his report.

Kovich also determined that PETA employees kill 84 percent of the animals in their custody within 24 hours of receiving them.

“[PETA’s] primary purpose,” Kovich wrote, “is not to find permanent adoptive homes for animals.”

Surely this has to be some sort of mistake, right? Surely an organization so devoted to the well being of animals would never consider killing most of the ones they are taking in, right? Surely they have a good explanation:

PETA media liaison Jane Dollinger told The Daily Caller in an email that “most of the animals we take in are society’s rejects; aggressive, on death’s door, or somehow unadoptable.”

Dollinger did not dispute her organization’s sky-high euthanasia rate, but insisted PETA only kills dogs and cats because of “injury, illness, age, aggression, or because no good homes exist for them.”

Well that last reason seems a little odd, but perhaps it’s true that the vast majority of them are unadoptable for some reason or another.

PETA’s own history, however, shows that this has not always been the case.

In 2005, two PETA employees described as “adorable” and “perfect” some of the dogs and cats they killed in the back of a PETA-owned van. The two were arrested after police witnessed them tossing the animals’ dead bodies into a North Carolina dumpster.

PETA had no comment when the Daily Caller asked what sort of effort it routinely makes to find adoptive homes for animals in its care.

Or perhaps they’re just full of shit. One suspects that they devote the vast majority of the funds they raise on advertising and harassment initiatives as opposed to, say, proper facilities and outreach for the animals they take in. The Humane Society routinely euthanize animals as well, but they at least make an attempt to determine if an animal is adoptable and find them a home if they are prior to killing them if at all possible. Somehow it’s not at all surprising to me that PETA is as hypocritical as it is obnoxious.

Lowe’s can kiss my big fat ass.

I used to be a pretty big fan of Lowe’s despite not being the sort of person who spends a lot of time in hardware stores. A good percentage of my Christmas lights and decorations have been purchased from Lowe’s over the years and on those rare occasions when I did need something hardware related they were often the first thought that popped into my head.

Then they started doing stupid shit that simply pisses me off. It started with their decision to cave into Right Wing Nutcase pressure to pull their ads from the reality TV show All-American Muslim back in December. Not that I don’t think companies have a right to advertise on whatever shows they want, but the reasoning behind the decision. That annoyed the shit out of me and gave me pause to consider whether I wanted to support such a cowardly company.

Then I read over at ArsTechnica.com about how they have a Linking Policy with forms you’re supposed to fill out, sign and send to them prior to linking to their website or using their logos. Apparently because they think they have any control over such things:

Please fax completed link agreement applications to:
(302) 995-6906

You see that Lowe’s logo over there to the right? I haven’t asked permission to use it in this post. Same goes for the link I put in that very first paragraph. That’s OK, though, because both fall under the Fair Use clause in part because I am engaging in criticism of the company in question. Specifically the criticism that the company can go fuck itself.

The folks at Ars were equally confused by this policy and contacted the company in regards to it:

It all seemed so odd that I contacted Lowe’s public relations department and asked if it was the company’s position that people need to obtain such a license in order to link to Lowes.com. And if so, what legal basis stood behind this position?

“Managing link agreements is part of protecting our brand,” is the polite reply I received. “The process we have in place to handle links to lowes.com is a business decision.”

Obviously they have no legal leg to stand on and are just hoping people are stupid enough to think they have to have permission before linking to their site. While technically harmless, this sort of bullshit just gets my dander up in a major way. You can take brand protection to ridiculous extremes and in the process end up alienating otherwise loyal customers. Customers like me that will avoid Lowe’s from now on. Not because either thing they did is wrong per se, just stupid and cowardly. Sometimes that’s enough.

A collection of post-Christmas tweets that will leave you despairing for the human race.

There are some folks in this would that you just can’t make happy no matter what you do for them or what you give them. Take, for example, this bunch of numbnuts bitching about not getting an iPhone, iPad, or car for Christmas:

Click to embiggen if you can handle whiny, entitled morons.

I know there are a lot of folks out there who have an over-inflated sense of entitlement, but it’s still somewhat stunning to have it collected all in one place as effectively as Twitter manages to do it. Of course it’s difficult to tell how many of these tweets are serious and how many of them were done as a poor attempt at humor, but even if it’s only a couple that are real there’s still some serious sense enhancing slappage to be handed out.

I mean I was a kid once and I know what it’s like to not get something on Christmas you were really hoping to get. Or, worse, getting something you were really hoping not to (read: new socks), but as far as I can recall I was never so upset that I threw a tantrum about it. At least not past the age of five. I still tended to get plenty of cool things that I was appreciative of, but more importantly I appreciated the fact that people took the time and effort, not to mention the money, to go out and get me something they thought I’d love to have. Even more so when times are tough and money is tight. Even new socks can be worthwhile when the ones you have are full of holes. Hell, I feel grateful that my family considers me worth the aggravation and cost of shopping for during what is one of the most stressful times of the year.

Granted, these days it’s a lot easier than it was in the past. Between online shopping and Amazon.com wish lists I’m a pretty easy guy to shop for. I try to make sure my wish list has plenty of lesser expensive items that I’d love to get on it so folks don’t have to spend an arm and a leg to make my dreams come true, but I keep a couple of more expensive items for anyone who’s feeling particularly generous. Sometimes I get a big ticket item and sometimes I don’t, but I make it pretty easy to ensure that I’ll love whatever it is you get me and I try not to get my heart set on any one thing.

But perhaps I’m being unfair. As an adult I know that anything I really, desperately want that I don’t get at Christmas/Birthdays/Whatever I can eventually just buy for myself sooner or later. Maybe these kids just don’t realize that yet. Or maybe they don’t have the means outside of the generosity of their families and friends.

Or, more likely, maybe what they really need is a good smack or two upside their greedy little heads…

 

SEB Mailbag: Be happy I don’t tell everyone what a fake you are edition.

Got the following epistle this evening:

From: Ben Z <lbwbap@yahoo.com>

Subject: Horos vc. Jesus

You Sir are an Idiot:

Be happy that I do not  send this answer into your blog:

You made a 100% copy of

http://creativecounterpart.wordpress.com/2008/01/10/ending-the-myths-of-horus-jesus/

you are a fake!

Be

I love the fact that this guy is so smart he can’t even be bothered to write his name out completely at the end of the email. He’s referring to a very old entry by a former SEB regular, Consigliere, called Ending the Myth of Horus which the folks at the Creative Counterpart, a Christian blog, lifted from SEB in its entirety. (They did, at least, link back to us.) Its arguably one of the most popular entries on this site with Google ranking it as the number 2 most visited page here. But we couldn’t fool old Ben.

Here’s the reply I sent back:

Ben,

Wow. You caught us. We totally copied that entry from the Creative Counterpart blog. Except, if you’ll look closely, you’ll note that the CC blog entry is dated January 10, 2008 whereas the entry on Stupid Evil Bastard is dated January 10th, 2005. Some three years before the folks at CC posted it on their site. You’ll also note that they link directly to our content in their repost of the material. See the following quote taken from that entry at CC:

Here is the link, although I am not recommending this blog to everyone. The name of the blog is not very nice, let alone some of the other language there. Though, if you are an adult, i’m sure you can handle it.

Is that a link to SEB’s original entry? Why yes, yes it is!

But don’t worry about “sending this answer” into my blog. I’ll do it for you by reprinting your email verbatim. I wouldn’t want to let brilliance such as yours be limited to only enlightening me.

Thanks!

Les

It’s a good thing we have people like Ben policing the Internet looking for people stealing content from good, upstanding, Christian blogs.

I am in a bit of a blogging malaise right now.

Which is why I’ve been posting things in spurts with several days between activity. It’s not that there aren’t things to write about happening in the world, it’s largely that I’ve not had the energy to rant about them because I feel like I’ve ranted about them all before. So days pass as I search for something I feel like I can write something different about or I find something that makes a quick and easy post.

This is especially true of politics. Between the Republicans not giving a shit about anyone other than themselves and their rich buddies, the Tea Party trying to force a dogmatic political ideology even at the expense of the country they claim to love, or the Democrats acting like a bunch of spineless pussies who give away half their bargaining chips before they even try to negotiate with the Republicans, I’ve become totally disenchanted with the whole process. Obama, in particular, has been very disillusioning to the extent that I am seriously considering — for the first time since I’ve been able to do so — not voting in the next election.

Maybe it’s because I’ve been blogging for too long and I’m just getting cynical about so many things. I started blogging because I had something to say and a need to say it and I wanted to contribute my voice to the national discussion on a number of topics in the, perhaps naive, belief that speaking up made a difference. I used to write to my representatives a lot more than I do lately as well for much the same reasons. But these days it seems the inmates are running the asylum and no amount of discussion will make a difference because they’re not listening, have no intention of listening, and you can completely forget about compromise. On top of that, the people who are ostensibly on our side either don’t have the political willpower to fight for our principles or just really aren’t on our side. Again, I’m talking about Obama who kinda portrayed himself as a progressive, but has in many ways been to the right of Reagan in many of the policies he’s pursued. Yes, he’s still probably a hundred-fold better than what a McCain/Palin administration would’ve been, but that’s little comfort when so many things he promised he’d fight for are the very things he caved on without so much as throwing a pillow at the opposition. Pointing this out again and again just seems so futile anymore.

That same is also true of the topic of religion. Even the amusement I used to get from rambling on about the latest bit of pareidolia has lost its luster. Credulous people are credulous and there doesn’t seem to be any shortage of them these days. It often feels like I’m repeating myself on too many of the topics in this category.

It doesn’t help that there are so many other bloggers out there dedicated to specific topics who are covering all of the stuff I used to rant about so much more thoroughly and better than I ever did. More often than not these days I find myself writing about a topic more to point out an angle or thought that wasn’t touched on by everyone else who wrote about it, but that’s an increasingly rare thing.

So my output has slowed and every now and then I wonder if I shouldn’t just hang up my hat and call it a good run. Nearly ten years is an incredibly long time to dedicate to one activity. Then I come across something that sparks my creative juices and I put out a few entries and I feel like I’m contributing once again and I think to myself, maybe I’ve got a little more I can do. And then four or five days pass without my writing so much as a sentence and I’m right back into that rut. I feel bad when I go more than a day or two without posting something because so many folks seem to drop by daily to see what small bit of insanity I’ve decided to share with them.

So that’s the state I find myself in right now. Less output because I’m trying to be somewhat novel in what I’m writing about. Even trying to get another bit of fiction finished so I can post that as a nice change of pace. Trying to be more than just that nutbag who’s always bitching about Republicans and True Believers™ on his blog. Trying to figure out how I can share more of myself in a way that’s interesting.

 

It’s a special kind of asshole who takes up two handicapped parking spaces…

Constable and noted asshat, Joseph Mora.

… when he’s not handicapped himself and then when he’s confronted by an actual handicapped person he flashes a fake badge and assaults the poor guy. The cherry on top of this pile of shit? When said asshole is a constable and a member of the local planning board.

Meet just such an asshole: Jospeh Mora of Fairhaven, Massachusetts.

According to police, the man tried to park his car in one of the handicapped spaces at the Seaport Inn and Marina on Friday night and noticed that Morra’s car was taking up two handicapped parking spaces.

Police said Morra’s car didn’t have a handicapped license plate or a visible placard.

Police said the man began taking pictures of Morra’s car with his cell phone.

According to police, the man said Morra displayed a badge to him and ordered him off the property while uttering expletives.

The man told police that Morra poked him in the chest and sternum several times and then shoved him, nearly knocking him to the ground.

Mora’s been charged with assault and battery on a disabled person, intimidation of a witness, impersonating a police officer and malicious destruction of property valued at over $250 for breaking the disabled man’s cellphone. Also, of being a humongous prick.

I could kind of understand if he was just going to be parked for a couple of minutes and he took up one handicapped spot to do it, but this is going beyond inconsiderate to the land of complete asshattery. Seriously, walk the extra 20 feet or so and stop being such a dickhead.