There’s no two ways about this: If you buy one of these, you are a goddamn idiot

I’m all for classic and throwback style, but this is fucking ridiculous.

Some hipster company is selling a canvas, center-pole tent. You know, the kind that needs a dozen or more stakes and probably external support to stay up (or stay what passes for up), and that will fall down at the slightest insult. It’s the kind of tent that has a HOLE IN THE ROOF for its support pole, and therefore allows an inappropriately intimate relationship with any rain.

It’s the kind of tent that lurked in the very back of our troop gear closet when I was a Scout, that the only the doubly unlucky kids got stuck with because (a) they didn’t have their own tent and (b) they didn’t get to the campout quickly enough to snag one of the modern ones. BECAUSE EVEN IN 1981 YOU COULD BY A NYLON TENT FOR ALMOST NOTHING, so there was no need to deal with overtly shitty leftovers from the Boer War.

These godless fashion-victim goatfuckers are charging one thousand dollars for this abomination.

I remind you all that we live in the year of our Lord two thousand and goddamn FOURTEEN, and that you can get a completely awesome tent at REI for about a hundred bucks. You could probably go cheaper at Academy or CampMor or Sierra. These modern tents will keep you dry and out of the elements, and will withstand clumsy campmates, wind, rain, and will not require you to carry a fucking hammer to nail it down. Oh, and they’ll weigh substantially less, and can be pitched all by yourself.

Jesus, Mary, and Batman, these people are absurd.

Darwin At Work

Snake handling pastor bitten by snake during service. He then refused medical attention, and was thereby promoted to the choir invisible.

All good Heathen, of course, know this Robert Heinlein quote, from Time Enough for Love.

Stupidity is the only universal capital crime; the sentence is death, there is no appeal, and execution is carried out automatically and without pity.

RAH was wrong about many, many things, but this is not one of those times.

Today’s Winner in the Stupid Service Provider Category

ShareFile.

Think of them as sort of a corporate Dropbox, kinda; we use it for all the kinds of file exchange we need to do with customers, including distribution of software as well as the exchange of log files or databases for troubleshooting. It’s secure, and has features that allow us to set up folders with limited permissions to segregate clients & etc.

What’s bone stupid is their support, and especially their reporting.

First, there is no way to get a total of your disk usage in real time. This is vexing, because they charge for storage overages. Cleanup operations are necessarily multi-day affairs, because the report showing disk space is only updated overnight.

Yeah, I know. It gets more impressive, though.

Second, what reporting they provide astonishingly bad. Every one — storage, bandwidth, charges, etc. — lacks a total. I’m serious. Who runs a report without wanting a total? Even the “summary” reports lack totals — thereby calling into question just exactly what they’re summarizing.

“But Chief Heathen,” you ask, “can’t you just download the data and get the totals yourself?” Well, yeah, sort of. But you don’t escape the halfwittery that way; turns out, the “Excel” format bandwidth report (for example) has the bandwidth column explicitly formatted as text, so you can’t get a total without manually recasting the column first.

That’s an extra step on top of additional extra steps that shouldn’t be required. This service isn’t cheap. I should be able to log into the administrative back end and quickly see bandwidth usage by month, charges applied by type, etc., but ShareFile doesn’t seem to think that’s important. Since their self-service plan sucks so badly, their phone reps ought to be able to give me this data — but they can’t do that, either.

Heathen Central recommends you shop elsewhere.

I was just thinking it had been a while since Mississippi did something embarrassing

MS State House Rep. Steve Holland has filed HB150, which would, in summary, rename the Gulf of Mexico to the “Gulf of America” for all “official purposes” in Mississippi.

Folks, I left as soon as I was able.

Update: Turns out it was a joke/stunt. From FFF’s new comment:

Turns out it is a joke. Steve is generally a smarter guy than that. I was saddened to learn of this legislation without more. The problem is, he needs serious messaging help to get his point across. This is what he told the Mississippi Business Journal about why he filed the bill, according to its staff writer, Clay Chandler:
“It’s right in line with all the other bullsh** going on now in the Legislature,” Holland said. “And you can quote me on that in capital letters if you want to. Cutting education, cutting healthcare, going after immigrants, all the things the Rebublican majority seems interested in, that don’t do anything to enhance the quality of life and the economic foundation of the average Mississippian. It’s a spamelot bill. I thought it made about as much sense as some of the other stuff coming through here. We’ll see what happens.”

Dept. of YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME

A friend just sent me the mail the Red Cross’s Charley Shimanski is circulating to drum up donations in light of the East Coast’s hurricane panic. Here’s the lede:

Hurricane Irene, potentially the worst U.S. storm in 70 years, is now heading toward the East Coast, and thousands of Americans in its path are preparing for the worst.

Dear Red Cross: Give me a fucking break. Heathen HQ is on the Gulf Coast, buddy boy, we know a little about hurricanes, and your little embellishment is ridiculous. Don’t believe me? Let me introduce you, Charley Shimanski, to a few folks who’ve come to visit me and mine:

and a bitch called Katrina that erased the Mississippi Gulf Coast and damn near killed New Orleans.

Maybe you’ve heard about one or two of these, Charley. Maybe if you’d been thinking, you wouldn’t have resorted to this kind of hyperbole. Sure, the good folks of the East Coast need to take appropriate precautions. People in flood-prone or low-lying areas in danger of the surge should evacuate. Further inland, people in permanent buildings just need to hunker down and wait it out.

Irene is a category TWO, people. Jesus.

Dept. of Pointless People In Pointless Jobs

I’ve joked for years about how the early-90s color names in J. Crew were almost hilariously devoid of any information about the position of the shade in question on the visible spectrum, but it appears now that house paint companies are embracing the whole idea of obscure, meaning-free names:

“For a long time we had to connect the color name with the general color reference,” said Sue Kim, the color trend and forecast specialist for the Valspar paint company. “But now,” Ms. Kim added, “we’re exploring color names that are a representation of your lifestyle.”

Someone please smack this person in the mouth.

The Stupid! It Burns!

The vaccination rate is low enough in some place to produce whooping cough epidemics.

A statewide whooping cough epidemic has not changed how Danielle Lawson of San Anselmo feels about vaccinating her 5-1/2-month-old daughter.

Lawson has declined almost all of the standard vaccines recommended for infants, including DTaP, which protects against whooping cough.

“I haven’t categorically ruled them out,” she said. “But I just think at this point she’s too young, and her immune system is still developing. Nothing goes into my baby right now, except for breast milk, so I don’t feel comfortable injecting her with strange chemicals.”

[...]

Unfortunately, public health advocates say, the consequences of rejecting vaccination are not strictly personal. Widespread vaccinations not only make disease outbreaks less likely, but they also help protect vulnerable populations like newborns who are too young to get shots.

“Anything that leaves people unimmunized and unprotected, thereby reducing the overall rate of protection in the community, would be a contributing factor when you have an outbreak,” said Dr. Fred Schwartz, Marin County’s public health officer.

Parents who do have their children vaccinated are troubled by others opting out, fearing outbreaks of disease.

“This is the first one to hit us, but how long until we have a chicken pox outbreak, or mumps or polio?” said Sara Sonnet of San Rafael, a mother of two young girls who are both fully immunized. “We take it for granted.”

The article concludes with this winner: “Others remain unconvinced. Lawson now avoids taking her daughter to the pediatrician, taking her to see a chiropractor instead.”

Oh, Microsoft. Do you EVER stop failing?

I had a little free time tonight, so I thought I’d (finally) download the expansion to Fallout 3 (which, by the way, isn’t available any other way). Turns out, I don’t have enough Microsoft magic script to do so, I I tried to buy more, both on the XBox itself and on the XBox Live web site.

Cryptic error messages ensued, followed by a frustrating call with idiot tech support people with a tenuous at best grasp of English. The links are true. It’s some goofball, poorly implemented halfwit “fraud prevention” thing. What’s absurd, btw, is that you can only get this information from Google; the web site gave no error message at all (“try again later”), and the XBox itself gave only a bit more data: “Can’t retrieve information from Xbox LIVE. Please try again later. Status code: 80169d94.”

That opaque message is the money shot. Apparently, my account is locked now because the info on my XBox live account itself — entered long ago on a free trial — did not match the information provided on my credit card (which was accurate and complete). That’s all well and good (though, I note, they had no difficulty automatically renewing my membership back in October); calling them ought to make this right.

Oh no. No, no, no.

As the Google search told me, they’re not actually able to fix this on the phone. They have a “process” and require “escalation.” Someone will call me within 72 hours, and after that it’ll take 5 to 10 business days to process the unlock.

Whatever, boneheads. I think I’ll watch something on my AppleTV instead. 100% FAIL.

Just so we’re clear, ok?

If you’re not vaccinating your kids, you’re a fucking idiot — and, worse, you’re not just endangering an innocent for whom you are completely responsible (i.e., your own kid), you’re also creating a public health problem and potentially endangering other people’s kids through your wrongheaded, goofball, crystal-gazing, Jenny-McCarthy-listening crackpot beliefs.

Period. Full stop.

It’s crap like this that points out two things really damning about America today:

  1. Journalism is dead. If there were any still real journalists working, we’d see widespread coverage of just how fundamentally stupid the idea of eschewing vaccinations is, and just how monumentally wrong claims of an autism link are.

  2. People would rather believe some kind of muzzy-headed bullshit than actual science. This isn’t surprising — there’s an astrology column in every major newspaper — but it’s tremendously disappointing.

There’s a real undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in this country that leads people to rely on their own imperfect impressions of complex ideas and concepts that require years of study to actually grasp. Doctors know more than you do. Physicists know more than you do. Your gut feeling that homeopathy probably works is worth precisely squat compared to more than a century of actual science-based, double-blind-tested medicine. From the article:

The rejection of hard-won knowledge is by no means a new phenomenon. In 1905, French mathematician and scientist Henri Poincare said that the willingness to embrace pseudo-science flourished because people “know how cruel the truth often is, and we wonder whether illusion is not more consoling.” [...]

Looking back over human history, rationality has been the anomaly. Being rational takes work, education, and a sober determination to avoid making hasty inferences, even when they appear to make perfect sense. Much like infectious diseases themselves — beaten back by decades of effort to vaccinate the populace — the irrational lingers just below the surface, waiting for us to let down our guard.

Before smallpox was eradicated with a vaccine, it killed an estimated 500 million people. And just 60 years ago, polio paralyzed 16,000 Americans every year, while rubella caused birth defects and mental retardation in as many as 20,000 newborns. Measles infected 4 million children, killing 3,000 annually, and a bacterium called Haemophilus influenzae type b caused Hib meningitis in more than 15,000 children, leaving many with permanent brain damage. Infant mortality and abbreviated life spans — now regarded as a third world problem — were a first world reality.

How’d we fix that? VACCINATION.

How to tell if you’re an Idiot, part 3,205

You think the LCROSS experiment, wherein scientists will propel a spacecraft into the moon to provoke an explosion which they can examine for evidence of water, is a bad idea because of astrology.

Seriously. Screenwriter Amy Ephron — Nora’s sister — had this to say in the HuffPo:

It’s a big explosion. Suffice it to say that any amateur astronomer west of the Mississippi with a home telescope will be able to view it from their backyard.

I could say something scientifically lame and ask, “What if it gets thrown off its axis?” or something funny and suggest something (that I actually sort of believe), like, “What if it somehow throws off the astrology?” Or that we’re not risking — as we have the earth with continued experiments of this kind — sending the solar system out of balance.

Did you not even GO to a science class, Amy? Apparently not, if you “sort of” believe in astrology. 1.5 tons of TNT isn’t all that much in the scope of explosions, and certainly isn’t enough to alter the moon’s orbit. (The moon’s mass is on the order of 7.35 x 10^22 kilograms Dear Luna has enjoyed countless impacts larger and smaller than this in her current orbit.

Sadly, Amy’s little fit here (and resultant Twitter group, I shit you not) is decidedly scientific compared to this reaction to a similar experiment back in June:

In many traditions, including astrology, the moon represents the feminine. It is the yin, the intuitive, the emotions. Women are connected to the moon by their menstrual cycles while they are fertile, and all beings, including the earth herself, are affected by the pull of the tides.

Purposefully crashing something into the moon just to watch what happens is akin to a schoolboy cutting up a live frog to see what makes it jump. It is an example of the domination of the left-brained rational scientific approach over the intuitive.

Did these scientists talk to the moon? Tell her what they were doing? Ask her permission? Show her respect?

American education: FAIL.

Things we can’t figure out, shipping division

Last week, I ordered a book from Amazon with my One-click settings. It arrived three times this week, since UPS refused to leave the slim, obviously-printed-matter package on our doorstep without a signature despite having done exactly that literally hundreds of time previously. UPS could not explain the sudden change in behavior, but the bonehead CSR did try several ideas on for size in an attempt, sadly unsuccessful, to explain the sudden change in behavior.

Two weeks ago, I ordered $5,000 worth of fancy laptops for two of my co-workers, which had to be delivered to my house for anti-fraud reasons (i.e., the billing address of the card in question; I’ll have to ship them myself to the employees in question). This time, UPS helpfully left both very portable boxes on our doorstep without a signature at 1:30 this afternoon, where they sat for more than 2 hours before I discovered delivery had been made and arranged for a neighbor to rescue them.

Sigh.

Ben Stein Hates Science

Check it out:

Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch: That’s right.

Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

Even the National Review is slamming him over this.

Ah, Alabama

It shouldn’t really surprise me that letters to the editor in (in particular red state, small town) newspapers are filled with the stupid, since really they’re just a manual version of modern comment-on-story features at newspaper web sites — and the only thing dumber than those chuckleheads are YouTube commenters.

Still, when you run across something like this, it does sort of make you think we’re all fucking doomed.

Attack of the Road Stupids

I’m traveling this week. Stupid abounds.

  • Starwood seems to be in a race to the bottom of customer service with, well, itself. The Westin Peachtree is charging for in-room internet, which is par for the course with so-called “full service” hotels (despite the fact that, in general, one’s customer service experience is far better at a business-focused hotel like a Homewood Suites). However, they’re doing it with real fuck-you aplomb here: it’s part of a $15 per day “unlimited phone and Internet” plan. The kicker? The “unlimited” phone refers only to local and toll-free calls; long-distance calls are charged at an exorbitant rate, of course, and never mind what someone might think “unlimited” means. The gotcha is only apparent if you’re cynical enough to ask (like me), or lawyerly enough to read the fine print. It’s tricks like this that make it clear what Starwood really thinks of their guests.

  • Starwood gets a twofer here: the Omni at CNN center is utterly devoid of service as well, but in new and interesting ways. They’re now charging $7 every 15 minutes to use their business center, and it doesn’t matter if you’re a guest or not. Once again, the biz-class chains are all over the so-called full-service joints on these points, leading me to once again declare the big lodges utter ripoffs hell-bent on nickel-and-dime policies that are completely customer hostile.

  • The security checkpoints in the building housing the Client this week are inconsistent with themselves. In the morning, at the front door, I was told not to worry about x-raying my wallet; after lunch, at the back door, much was made of the requirement to do exactly that. “Why?” your intrepid correspondent asked. “Well, because someone might have a razorblade or a handcuff key in there!” Fair enough. They x-rayed my wallet. They didn’t find the spare razorblade I keep in there. Nice job, guys.

  • WAIT THERE’S MORE: the Westin room-service menu is, by default, delivered on the TV only like some bizarre 70s-era vision of what the 21st century might be like. Ordering, however, must still be handled with the telephone. Fortunately, a print menu is available by request. I did, and I didn’t tip the bellman, and I’m not sorry, because this whole thing is just stupid.

How To Tell If You’re An Idiot

You set educational policy in Louisiana, where matters of personal conscience, not scientific consensus, determine whether or not creationism is taught in the classroom — under the guise of “academic freedom.”

The term “academic freedom” has historically been used to refer to the ability of tenured research faculty to work on whatever it is that interested them within their field (and that can be supported on its merits with publication). It ought not be used as a smokescreen for a bunch of non-publishing, non-researching halfwit redneck “educators” hell-bent on keeping wicked Darwin at bay.

How To Tell If You’re An Idiot

You set USB cable prices for OfficeMaxDepot. Actually, this may be an “asshole” and not an “idiot,” but either way they’re worthy of contempt.

I went over at lunch to get an extension cable to facilitate more comfortable Rock Band play in the Steel Heathen Lounge, and discovered all they had was a Belkin six-foot for twenty clams.

“Gee, that seems a little high, and plus I’d like a longer cable. What does Amazon have?” Enter the glorious iPhone, and I discovered they stock the same Belkin cable for less than six bucks. The local price is 333% of the Amazon price (and we have Prime, so there’s no shipping cost).

I expect a local premium in pricing to account for brick-and-mortar convenience, but I expect it to be ten or twenty percent. 233% more is “we see you coming, and we’re gonna fuck you” territory, and that’s the sort of thing people don’t like.

Information is easy to get. People don’t like being taken advantage of. Do the math.

Today’s Mistargeted Spam

From: (forged)
Subject: Get your watch now
Date: June 26, 2008 5:54:24 PM CDT
To: Chief Heathen

Did you watch the last 007 flick, Casino Royale? If you did, you probably noticed that all throughout the movie, James Bond wears an spectacularly beautiful Omega watch… and he even brags about it! How would you like to be wearing that same exact model watch?

What, you mean like this?

Marriott Redux

The designers are clearly on crack, but the staff isn’t.

The bad news, then, is that I have to put pants on. But the good news is that my pants-wearing is so the hotel staff can bring me another TV, and a piece of furniture to put it on, so that the hotel room works like every other hotel room in America.

Wacky.

How To Tell If You’re An Idiot

You work for Marriott, and you design a hotel room layout where the television isn’t clearly viewable from the bed.

Front Desk: “It’s designed to be viewed from the couch.”

Heathen: “Do the people who design your hotels ever stay in hotels?”

Front Desk: “I don’t know, sir, but I’m getting this a lot, so I’m starting to think no.”

Time to cross the Courtyards off the list, methinks.

Er, Wow.

In the bad idea department: Agitator sends us over to Penny Arcade, where Gabe calls our attention to a truly terrible idea for a child’s snack product: Lego Fun Snacks. That’s right; fruity candies for children shaped like Legos.

I would love to know what sick bastard at Kellogs came up with this genius idea. I just spent the first three years of my sons life trying to get him not to eat blocks, and now you’re telling him they taste like fucking strawberries. Thanks a lot assholes. Seriously, how in the hell did this ever get past their legal department. You can’t tell me that this isn’t a lawsuit just waiting to happen. I can only assume that their next product is fruit flavored thumbtacks.

How To Tell If You’re An Idiot

You work for the AP, and are trying to convince the world that Fair Use doesn’t exist.

Some geniuses at the Associated Press has started promulgating the policy that bloggers and web sites must pay them to link to and quote AP stories — just like we just did, below, with the story on Big Bird. The AP thinks that Heathen should PAY them because we quoted an excerpt of the story, and never mind that people interested will click through and read the whole thing, thereby adding value to the AP’s content and the AP’s paid distribution channels (like Yahoo News, to whom we link below). Usage such as this is typically seen as Fair Use, and requires no license or permission. That’s how references work. It’s how research works. And it’s how the web works — and, as noted, how the web drives traffic to interesting sites and stories, a dynamic that you’d think the AP would be embracing.

This move is a stupendously bad idea, and impossible to defend legally besides, and the AP deserves to be heartily embarrassed as a consequence. And it gets worse: read the link above (to the analysts at Techdirt) to learn more about how the AP seems to think they can prohibit you from quoting them if you say bad things about the AP, for example. This isn’t idle policy; they’re actually acting on it.

LOLZ

Remember the Denon cable? There’s a satirical Amazon review:

A caution to people buying these: if you do not follow the “directional markings” on the cables, your music will play backwards. Please check that before mentioning it in your reviews.

I was disappointed. I consider myself an audiophile – I regularly spend over $1000 on cables to get the ultimate sound. I keep my music-listening room in a Faraday cage to prevent any interference that could alter my music-listening experience. Sending any signal down ordinary copper can degrade the signal considerably. While ordinary listeners might not notice, to somebody with even a rudimentary knowledge of sound, the artifacts are glaring. Denon should have used silver wiring (hermetically sealed inside the rubber sheath to prevent any tarnishing, of course), which has a significantly higher conductivity than copper. Furthermore, Denon needs to treat the wires they use in the cable with a polarity inductor to ensure minimal phase variance.

Needless to say, I returned the cable and wrote an angry letter to the so-called engineers at Denon.

Wonder how long that’ll last?

How To Tell If You’re An Idiot

You buy or sell books explicitly as home decor without regard to what’s inside.

Our Danish printed, European imported books are sold specifically with interior design in mind.

Many people feel that it’s silly to purchase books for pure decorative value. While we certainly understand this, we also savor the opportunity to change the mind of such individuals! Our books are so beautiful on the outside that their interior ceases to be important.

Jesus wept.