A List sOMEWHAT Mother Teresa-like
in its Brevity
Updated for 2002!
They're ugly. They're noisy. They're dangerous.
They tear up the roads and shake the ground when they pass.
They've taken over the Interstate Highway System, and Main Street in your
town is next. Arrrrgghhh! We can land a man on the moon,
etch millions of transistors onto a chip the size of Barbie's business card,
even get a Windows machine to boot up most of the time—
so why can't we make quiet, reasonably-sized trucks?
Car Keys They've gotten so big that it's
uncomfortable to carry them in a
pants pocket. Between my
Honda's chubby key and separate
remote control fob, and Robbin's
massive VW key (the size
of a Swiss army knife), that's
some real pocket shrapnel.
fraud. There's no
shortage of high-tech workers in
this country. There is
a shortage of US companies
willing to pay US engineers a
fair salary. Cisco and
others should hang their heads
Who Drag It In For
some reason, some GA pilots feel
the need to approach a landing
like a United captain,
with a very late turn to base
and a final leg from a mile or
more out. This messes up
everyone in the pattern unlucky
enough to be behind them.
Hey, what would you do if the
engine quit and you were out
there over Pinto Lake, 200 feet
off the ground? Fly a
standard pattern like everyone
I'll admit that wrongs were done to America's indigenous people when our
great-great-great-grandfathers were moving into this country. But what a
bizarre way to make it up to their descendents! Tacky gambling
establishments are springing up everywhere, blemishing the countryside and
preying on the elderly.
Those Donate Your Car
for a Tax Write-off ads on the radio. Hey, I've got an even better
idea: Why don't you give me your
car? But seriously, these outfits will work with you. If you don't have a
spare car, they'll take boats or real estate!
The Golden State Warriors This depressingly hapless (not the fun, cute Chicago Cubs type of
hapless) NBA franchise sets a new futility standard every year. They can't
shoot, can't hit free throws, can't play defense, and of course, they whine continually.
Greedy Sports Franchise Owners Here's two to start with: Art Modell and Bud Adams. See you in hell, boys.
The Committee at IBM who
in the mid-eighties decided to move the PC's Ctrl key from its traditional
location to the pinky-straining boondocks it resides in to this
day. Thanks for a couple zillion botched keystrokes worldwide over the last
12 years, guys. Caps Lock indeed.
Flying PCDs (see
below) who insist on reclining their coach class seatbacks into
the tiny volume of air between my nose and the tray table latch. As the
Apostle Paul writes: "Blessed be the man who reclineth not, even when
neighbor hath reclineth." (1st Corinthians, 7:12) Except when covered by an exception—e.g., night flying—feel free to jostle
the PCD's seat any chance you get.
airport was almost fun, the
first couple of times. But
it's quickly getting old, taking
off shoes, undoing belt buckles,
and having your carry-on gutted.
A $500 Glock semiautomatic
pistol in the cockpit of each
airliner seems a more cost-effective way to deal with 9/11-style hijackers.
I get the message: you're
untouchably cool and tough on that heavy, traditional
American-made bike. But do you really need to make more racket than
drag racing 18
wheelers? When did noisy become cool? I must've
been on vacation that day. Cure cancer—now that would be cool.
People who park on my
street to work
or attend school downtown all day. You know who you are!
cowardly little pricks piss me
off. Try doing something
that advances the species for a
Cell phone addicts,
those individuals unable to go anywhere, even to a quick lunch with coworkers,
without their precious lifeline. "<X> might need to get me, and this
is the only number they know." It doesn't matter that a
conversation in the restaurant on said phone will most likely be short and
unsatisfying for the participants ("Can I call you later? I'm at lunch."),
not to mention uncomfortable for one's shushed tablemates. Hey, you're not Ben
That call can wait.
without a pocket
I ask for so little in an upper torso garment—a few buttons, a yard or so of a
humble fabric, a sleeve or two—and a pocket! The incremental cost to the
manufacturer is essentially zero, and can't be that
much of an impediment to fashion. A shirt pocket is just the right size for
pens, sunglasses, letters, golf scorecards, boarding passes, credit card
receipts, cash, notes to oneself, cigarettes, and a million other things that
don't go gracefully into a pants pocket. In a pinch, you can even put a
cell phone, wallet, or car keys in there. If I were smart, I'd always check
that the shirts I buy have a pocket. But since my closet is full of
shirts without pockets, uh, er, ah...
anywhere, but especially in traffic—people who cheat ahead, knowing that their lane is about to go away and then
sneaking back in.
Like all right thinking
men, I object to precious coffee drinkers
(PCDs). I love a good cup of coffee as much as the next guy, and I don't
need a half-caf soy latté
to enjoy it. If you have to dress coffee up this much to drink it,
you probably shouldn't bother in the first place. (And if you absolutely
must, could all you PCDs please come into the store 15 seconds after me rather
Enough's enough! Ask any 12 year old how he'd feel if his $10 allowance was cut
to $5.25 before it ever got into his hands. It's common sense—taxes
are too high in this country and especially in California. They're not raised
all that often—but they're never lowered, not in any
And a related peeve: the PCDs at the IRS and their ridiculously complicated tax
code. Take my money, sure, but at least let me understand why I owe what
I don't know what they're like in other fields, but when a programmer goes in
for an interview, there's a 50-50 chance that he's walking into a grueling
inquisition. Nerdy guys throw tricky questions at you for hours. Just in
case someone other than you wrote all that software on your resume. Sure, I
know it's important to gauge a candidate's technical ability, but there are
ways to do it conversationally. (There's a chubby geek weasel PCD at
General Magic that I would love to turn the tables on some day
Simpson-style dreamy-eyed drooling: mmmmmmmmm*.) Finally, guys,
when it lasts from 9:00 AM until 6:30 PM, that's simple abuse, no matter how
many free Diet Cokes you give me. Official Microsoft interview brain
Sprained Ankles I'd still be out there playing pickup basketball, and probably 15
pounds lighter, if it weren't for this nasty everyman sports injury. They
get no respect, but let me tell you, a sprained ankle is a bitch.
The pretentious little plural
that could only come from the scary world at the intersection of law and
"Attorneys General." Give me a break.
Bashers You run into a lot of PCDs out here who think the middle half of this country
is a big joke, or at best, wasted space. Typically they grew up and went
to school in Massachusetts or New York and now they're doing their Chardonnay
sipping in the Bay Area. Places like Iowa and Kansas are more exotic to
these bi-coastal Americans than Hawaii, for heaven's sake. Pressed to comment
on the heartland, they'll wrinkle their noses and say something like: "The
people there are a little backwards. There's no ocean." The fact is, people are pretty much the same all over this country,
except here they have better tans. For that matter, a summer thunderstorm isn't
a half-bad ocean substitute.
People who wouldn't think of pushing a new lawnmower out of Home Depot without
paying for it steal software all the time. Some of them, some of the time,
don't know they're doing wrong. But the vast majority of software thieves
do it because they know they won't get caught. See Napster, below.
A few years ago, the big sneaker companies started using round shoelaces. The
motivation for the change escapes me. Were flat shoelaces too expensive?
Old fashioned? Simply too flat? Anyway, there's nothing wrong with
the new round ones, except for one little thing: They don't stay
Any dish with two or more of the following ingredients:
Couscous. Pine nuts. Polenta. Goat cheese. Sun dried tomatoes.
Balsamic vinegar. Any pasta other than lasagna, spaghetti, or macaroni.
Arrugula. Radicchio. Polenta. Wacky, arbitrary fare such as:
"Crackling Sesame Encrusted Oyster Salad." "Eggplant-Calamata Olive
Tapenade." "Tomato-basil Coulis." "Puff Pastry Fleuron." "Napa
Cabbage-Bok Choy Slaw (in a wasabi vinaigrette)." "Chick Pea Polenta
Napoleon." You get the idea.
Overly Creative Bathtub
In my 20-odd years of traveling as an adult, I have observed that no two hotels
have shower fixtures that look or operate exactly the same. Sometimes you
actually have to study the thing to turn on the water. Is it just me, or
do plumbing companies work too hard at R&D? Come on, guys—it's just a
faucet. Let's settle on a standard and be done with it.
Contestants on the Price
who are so dead-set on winning a camping trailer that they'll make a bid $1
over a fellow competitor.
Napster, the startup
that made music piracy popular, but couldn't make it respectable. Their
expensive lawyers couldn't obfuscate the simple truth that the company was
nothing more than the online equivalent of a vandalized Tower Records. It's
midnight; the windows are broken; I can walk right in there and take a handful
of CDs and not get caught. Hey, everyone is doing it. I'm so
sad they're not doing well these days.
The Homeless This motley collection of hobos, runaway teens, and substance abusers has
many good-hearted Northern Californians bamboozled into thinking that helping
these folks should be Job One. The reality is
that with few exceptions, if
you're living on the street in this country, it's by choice. Add more
services for the homeless, and what do you get? More homeless. It's
like feeding stray cats.
The PCDs running the Star
Trek franchise post Gene Roddenberry. Trek used to be about science fiction, but for years we've had
to endure Deep Space 9 and Voyager. An episode of either show is one mind-numbing scene after another
featuring a handful of earnest people
(some with mildly odd foreheads) standing about
in small, carpeted rooms woodenly reciting
dialog that Andy Griffith would have
rejected as too mundane for his show. The science fiction
component has been
reduced to the occasional
tech-speak outburst, e.g.: "I need six hours to re-calibrate the subspace field
coils." Hey guys—how about a little less political correctness and a few more
If there really were a God, do you think He would have spent
His valuable time designing the
mosquito, deer fly, earwig, or common cockroach? I think not.
Bathrooms with so many
I end up seeing my bald spot when I'm brushing my teeth or performing other
Sample Code buried in the author's pet wrapper
classes. This is a programmer thing. Sample code should be as simple and
direct: It should not be excessively general or contain obfuscating
error handling, fancy packaging, or superfluous functionality.
Male Pattern Baldness Why give us hair if you're just going to take it away?
At least the people discussed on this gossipy bit of tripe TRIED to accomplish
something. The Germans have a word for FuckedCompany's appeal: Schadenfreude.
as baseball color men. They think every damn pitch is fascinating and
worthy of comment: "That was a good pitch,
a two-seamer in on the hands."
Is no one awake in the executive bedroom? The formula is so rigid an
issue could be put together by a expert system. Even the basics are screwed
up. Some PCD bean counter decided years ago to print the magazine on
paper so thin that turning a page in the conventional fashion is
impossible. You've got to surgically separate and smooth each and
every tissue-thin, statically-charged page. Stick a fork in them, they're done.
The Fox Network
The people who brought you so many coarse, unfunny years of Married with
Children, and who now feature such tasteful fare as World's Most
Dangerous Animal Attacks, Guinness World Records, and the
always enriching World's Wildest Police Videos. (How the occasional good show like
The Simpsons, X-Files,
or That 70's Show ever ends up
on Fox is beyond me.) It used to be easy to ignore Fox, but now that they
have an NFL contract you can be subjected to Fox crudeness without
warning. Yesterday, for example, I was watching a Niners preseason
game. And boom, suddenly there was a promo for a Fox show about a man
with a cancer-ravaged face. Before I could look away, the man pulled his
nose away from his face revealing a big black hole. Then he plugged his
nose assembly back in. What a precious image to carry around in my
mind! Thanks, Fox!
Ohio company that specializes in built-in plastic home appliances. You
know those radios (with peeling faux chrome trim) that many houses built in the
sixties have in the living room? These radios haven't worked for years,
but can't be taken out because there'd be a hole in the wall. That's
NuTone. They're also big in built-in vacuum systems, rattle-prone bathroom
fans, and doorbells. According to their website
, they have new cool products, including Built-In Ironing Centers and SenSonic
Speaker Systems! Why single out NuTone when so many companies make cheap
products? Because their stuff is designed to be built into your home, and
stuff like that should be enduring. If you don't live in a tent, stay
away from NuTone.
Scratching, and the Litter Box. Otherwise, cats are just about perfect pets.
Solicitors When the phone rings at 7:05 Monday evening, you
suspect. When there's a three-second delay in responding to your
hello, and then a voice haltingly asks for "Mr. Anderson," you know. I get a lot fewer of these calls since I switched back to AT&T
long distance. Those guys will beat you into submission.
William Safire by any means, but it bugs me when people
say "silicone" when they mean "silicon" and vice versa. Silicone is a
synthetic rubbery substance. Silicon is an element, the primary
ingredient in glass, sand, and computer chips. For example, it's Silicon
Valley, and silicone breast implants. The pain is fading now, but
it used to chafe when I'd hear people refer to NASA headquarters in Houston as Nassau. A final word
peeve: Why do amateur sign makers feel the need to apostrophize a routine
plural, as in, "Broom's for Sale"?
City of Santa Cruz Garbage
amazing din they create twice a week—once
for the trash and once for the recyclables—has to be experienced to be
believed. This wouldn't be that big a problem--if they didn't come at six
in the morning. Check the CharlieCam
some Wednesday morning if you don't believe me.
PCMCIA Cards (Also
known as PC cards)
Thanks to this inept standard, for many years notebook computers seldom came
with two features everyone wanted: built-in modem and Ethernet
capability. Thanks for years of configuration problems and millions of
broken, bent, and lost dongles.
First they're sealed in a tenacious space-age plastic that can't be penetrated
without surgical tools. Then there's a fingernail-dinging strip to
scratch and peel. Finally, the jewel case may fight you to within an inch
of its cheap plastic life.
Pearl Jam was right on. The service charges exacted by ticket middlemen
are ridiculously high. And buying tickets from them can be as much of a hassle
as physically driving to the hall's box office. In my experience, record
store clerks are generally busy selling records, and even when they're not,
they're never going to be experts on the dozens of venues and hundreds of
events they sell. I once waited 20 minutes while two women painstakingly
checked dates and seat locations and bought the absolute best three pairs of Cats
tickets available in the Bay Area. As three separate transactions.
No amount of dirty looks could shame these women into letting me make my
one-minute transaction and get out of there. Enough! Put tickets on
the Internet where I can get to them. Charge 10% or less in service
charges and I won't even complain.
Phone Billing Plans
Once your initial contract is up, you're never automatically moved to a newer,
less expensive plan (which inevitably is available). Nope, it's up to you
to remember to call and sign up for a new billing plan. Long distance
companies play this game too, in effect screwing their oldest customers.
"Oh, we assumed you were happy
with your plan."
Magazines that complicate
the simple task of finding an article promoted on the cover, by
first hiding the table of contents behind page after page of ads, and then
failing to number every page, or even a majority of pages. This
irritating fad started in style-over-content magazines like Vogue
and appears to be spreading. And while I'm railing at the magazine
industry, lose those loose reader response cards.
Slot-Mad Senior Citizens
What is the appeal of gambling in general and slot machines in particular for
older Americans? A slot gives less enjoyment in return for a $20 bill
than just about anything I can think of.
on the Information Superhighway. Just today, for example, Whee119757
has information requiring my immediate attention: "Happy Holidays! SEW &
SERGE SEWING MACHINES !!" (Spammers, educated Lovers of Knowledge that
they are, are fond of exclamation points.) LongDis11
says: "Get your long distance for FREE!!!" What a fool I've been to pay
for long distance all these years. Meanwhile, Mickey@via.at
has information concerning "TRUE FINANCIAL FREEDOM!" Gee, Mick—how do you
expect to get anyone's attention with only one exclamation point? And
there's always an uplifting message or two from someone like firstname.lastname@example.org
, "The Hottest P---- On The Internet Today CUM See!!!!!!"
Clothes The typical department store has hundreds,
of shirts to pick from. Ditto, pants. And oh so many pairs of
shoes. It's too much—it's freedom to the point of randomness. Let
me choose between eight shirts, and I'll do a good job. Picking the best
of 920—forget it. I'd rather be noodling on my web site.
featherweight actor, oxygen entrepreneur, and former Cheers bartender
who once held up traffic for an entire afternoon by dangling from the south
tower of the Golden Gate Bridge on genuine hemp ropes to protest <arbitrary
crackpot cause here>.
The Cutesy THX
Trailers Alright already, the little flying repair Mario
was cute the first time, but the 120th? Every second is painful. Bring back Low Note!
NBC Olympics Coverage--nothing
but Music, Slo-Mo, and Up Close And Personal (M/SM/UCAP). Does NBC have
something against the Olympics? Are they trying to ruin
it? What used to be a glorious tribute to sport has morphed into "Two
Weeks With the Adorable Pixies of the US Women's Gymnastics Team." And
nothing's live—why, live's unpredictable, live's potential dead air, live's bad
TV! Can't do slo-mo live! And what about music—how will people know to be moved
if there's no music? Can't show the pole vault! Why, a Norwegian will
probably win the pole vault!
If NBC deigns to "cover" a non-Women's Gymnastic event (airing a
tightly-edited, five-minute segment with plenty of M/SM/UCAP), it's because an
American either won or came close. There's hardly any track and field,
the traditional backbone of the Olympics. Those sweaty runners aren't
nearly telegenic enough.
Since Award Shows
are now such a TV mainstay, you'd think some clever fellow could fix the stoop
to the microphone problem. The podiums invariably have a low mike, and neither presenters nor
winners seem to know whether to stand tall and proud, or stoop like a fifth
grader at the water fountain. It's painful to watch.
Dishonest movie reviewers
No matter how bad the film, movie studios have no trouble finding
rave reviews to quote in their ads. I remember a huge advertisement for the
execrable movie Species, which in addition to borrowing its concept,
look, and opening title sequence from the classic space horror film Alien,
had the gall to print the following in a giant typeface: "Much better than Alien." Quoted out of context? An
honest matter of taste? I don't
think so. Whoever said you couldn't believe everything you read knew what
he was talking about.
PBS Radio The wimpiest radio on the FM dial. The creepy, eclectic music, the low-key
drive-time announcers...Christ, it's suicide radio! And if you're
listening in a fund-raising month, just forget it. The speed of light is
the fastest thing in the universe, but a close second is my right hand,
flicking out to change the station when KQED goes into fund-raising
mode. If only they didn't
have intelligent content so
Ocean Chevrolet-Honda's Service
Department They're oh-for-two. Incident #1: My new car's
CD player suddenly refused to play CDs, displaying a numeric code when I'd try.
I told the service guy all this on the phone and dutifully brought the car in
(having made nontrivial arrangements for being without a car for the
day). When I came back at 5:00 to pick it up, the guy behind the counter
told me that I needed a new CD player, and when could I bring my car in?
Incident #2: At around 15,000 miles,
squealing is heard from the left
rear wheel. I make another appointment and more no-car
arrangements. In the afternoon, they inform me that the problem is in the
brakes on the left rear wheel and that no, they haven't gotten to it yet, they
need a second day. And no, it's not under warranty. I took the car to a
tire shop near work the next
day. They fixed the squeak (and changed my oil) in
two hours for
$110. As to whether this should have been covered under warranty, the car
now has 61,000 miles and the brakes on the other three wheels are still fine.
the Los Angeles physiologist and leader of the radio talk show school in which
the host beats up the callers. The typical advice seeker on Dr. Laura's
show wants a morality judgment on something, and Schlessinger is ready,
willing, and able to dispense same. Invariably the caller is found
wanting on at least one point and verbally abused to within an inch of her life.
The Intent to Deceive
at the core of their marketing efforts tick me off. No one seems to go to
jail these days for consumer fraud, but the world would be a better place
if they did.
The Rainbow Coalition
that shows up when a Hollywood
production needs a gang of thugs.
Inevitably, the bad guys are a politically correct mix of black, white,
and Hispanic men. A large gang will include an Asian or two.
Movie criminals are the only fully integrated institution in
American society. I'm not in law enforcement, but it seems to me that
black criminals prefer working with black criminals, ditto whites,
etc. Movie guys: please take better care of my FSOD (see below).
Sport Utility Vehicles
The SUV fad rages unabated into the 21st century, and any politically
correct soul could give you a dozen reasons why they're bad for our
society. I only have
one issue with these Titans of
the Highway: They're opaque. That SUV
driver in front of you gets to see the traffic; you see
only his taillights, too-high bumper, and dark tinted rear window.
Contemporary films that stretch my
willing-yet-fragile suspension of disbelief for something as trivial as an on-screen
phone number. It doesn't make sense: They spend millions on a film to
have it look right and sound right and feel right--and then go and
squirt ice water in my face with a
bogus 555-xxx phone number, about as realistic as a
generic red and white beer can that isn't a Budweiser. If
some very strange law forces Hollywood to use
the 555 prefix, then by god,
phone numbers in your movie. Pan the camera to the cutest girl in
the scene for two seconds instead.
Inflation at the Winter Olympics
Short Track Skating?
What a joke. There's a
track clearing crash or a
disqualification or both in
every big race.
Skiing Aerials? This is
showing off, not sports.
And so on.
A/C Adapters For
years, designers of gizmos from laptop computers to answering machines to
guitar effects have chosen to punt their responsibilities on a key component:
the power supply. If I buy something that runs on electricity, especially
something with no battery option, I deserve a power cord that plugs directly
into the wall.
And last but not least:
(Looking at this list, you can imagine how peeved I would be if
Johnny Cochran was elected President and had me tortured to death.)