Pet Peeves

 

 

A List sOMEWHAT Mother Teresa-like in its Brevity

Updated for 2002!

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Big Trucks!  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?

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Huge 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.

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H1-B Visa Workers   What a 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 in shame.

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Pilots 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 else.

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Indian Casinos   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.

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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!

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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. 

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Greedy Sports Franchise Owners  Here's two to start with: Art Modell and Bud Adams.  See you in hell, boys.

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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.

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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 thy 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.

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Getting searched at the 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.

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Noisy Motorcycles   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 cancernow that would be cool.

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People who park on my street to work or attend school downtown all day.  You know who you are!

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Virus Writers   These cowardly little pricks piss me off.  Try doing something that advances the species for a change.

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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 Casey. That call can wait.

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Shirts 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...

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Line Cutters, anywhere, but especially in trafficpeople who cheat ahead, knowing that their lane is about to go away and then sneaking back in.

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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 than before?)

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Taxes   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 sensetaxes 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 meaningful way. 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 do.

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Job Interviews   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 *Homer 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 teasers here

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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.

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The pretentious little plural that could only come from the scary world at the intersection of law and politics,  "Attorneys General." Give me a break.

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Midwest 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.

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Software Pirates   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.

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Round Shoelaces  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 tied!  Duh.

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California Cuisine   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.

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Overly Creative Bathtub Fixtures   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.

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Contestants on the Price is Right who are so dead-set on winning a camping trailer that they'll make a bid $1 over a fellow competitor. 

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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.

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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.

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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 photon torpedoes? 

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Bugs  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.

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Bathrooms with so many damn mirrors I end up seeing my bald spot when I'm brushing my teeth or performing other necessary activities.

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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.

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Male Pattern Baldness   Why give us hair if you're just going to take it away? 

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FuckedCompany.com   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.

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Former Pitchers 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."

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Playboy Magazine   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.

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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!

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NuTone, the 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.

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Hairballs, Furniture Scratching, and the Litter Box.  Otherwise, cats are just about perfect pets.

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Telephone 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.

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I'm no 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"?

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The City of Santa Cruz Garbage Collectors    The 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.

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PCMCIA Cards   (Also known as PC cardsThanks 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.

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CD Packaging   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.

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Ticketmaster   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.

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Cell 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." 

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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.

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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.

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Spammers—potholes 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 bushey@campuscu.gdl.uag.mx , "The Hottest P---- On The Internet Today CUM See!!!!!!"

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Shopping for Clothes   The typical department store has hundreds, maybe thousands 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.

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Woody Harrelson—the 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>.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 often!

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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.

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Laura Schlessinger, 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.

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Companies with 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.

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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, Hispanics, etc.  Movie guys: please take better care of my FSOD (see below).

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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. 

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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, don't show phone numbers in your movie.  Pan the camera to the cutest girl in the scene for two seconds instead.

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Event 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.

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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:

bulletPain
bulletDeath
bulletA Painful Death 
bulletPolitics
bulletPoliticians
bulletLawyers
bullet Politicians Who Are Lawyers
bullet The O.J. Verdict
bulletMicrosoft Windows

 

(Looking at this list, you can imagine how peeved I would be if Johnny Cochran was elected President and had me tortured to death.)

 

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All Content © 1998-2002 Charles R. Anderson  •  This page was last modified on 11/13/2003