April 1, 2007

Parking lot next to Tiny's on SE 12th & Hawthorne: The discussion continues

My two articles about the parking lot next to Tiny's Coffee on the corner of SE 12th and Hawthorne have drawn nearly 50 comments between them, including some great information from the property manager. I've been responding to those and thus not posting fresh flame fodder. Please weigh in!

Update on parking lot on SE 12th & Hawthorne

Portland Hall of Shame: Parking lot on SE 12th & Hawthorne

Posted by Steve in Business, Coffee, Current Affairs, Economics, Environment, General, Society, Steve's Peeves | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 29, 2007

Bush cooks Tuskegee Airmen quickly in oil over high heat

Bush cooks Tuskegee airmen quickly in oil over high heat

Or at least that's what MSNBC would have us believe...

Posted by Steve in Language, Media, News | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 26, 2007

Update on parking lot on SE 12th & Hawthorne

I'm not going to be so arrogant as to think my article of last Thursday had anything to do with it, but I'm happy to report that the metal cable and ugly hot pink signs have disappeared from around the parking lot on SE 12th and Hawthorne. The yellow poles are still there, but they're not necessarily a problem as cars can pass between them.

Amy Jenniges over at the Portland Mercury's Blogtown picked up the story in an entry entitled Bad Parking Karma. That post, like mine, has attracted some informative comments from people who actually read my post—and of course comments from pocket option a bunch of the typical ignorant losers who simply lurk around posting inflammatory garbage without bothering to read what they're commenting on. Funny how they're always the only ones to leave bogus (if not outright insulting) e-mail addresses in the comment form... Who are these people? What sad little lives they must lead.

Okay, back to our regular programming...

Posted by Steve in Business, Coffee, Current Affairs, Economics, Steve's Peeves | Permalink | Comments (24)

March 22, 2007

Portland Hall of Shame: Parking lot on SE 12th & Hawthorne

Parking lot next to Tiny's Coffee on SE 12th & Hawthorne in Portland, OregonI'm afraid Jerry has some very bad parking karma coming his way.

The parking lot on the corner of SE 12th & Hawthorne next to Tiny's used to be open to the public. It seemed to be used primarily by Tiny's Coffee patrons and commuters using it as a park and ride. The only sign on the property was for Burgerville, which sits across the intersection, so I assume they either owned it or were paying to have the sign there. Well, there's a new parking profiteer in town and that's all changed—very much for the worse.

Towing warning sign on SE 12th & Hawthorne in Portland, OregonA few months back signs started going up warning that the lot would be closed soon. Then the sign warning that trespassers would be towed by A&B Towing. People continued to pull in there long enough to stop in to Tiny's for coffee to go. I couldn't imagine that would be a problem, but wanted to play it safe so I called the number on the sign, 503-235-3077, and a guy pocket option free demo account named Jerry answered:

Me: Hey Jerry. My name's Steve. I'm standing in your parking lot looking at the scary warning signs all over the place. I've always pulled in here to grab my coffee and just want to see if it's okay to continue doing that...

Jerry: Oh, of course! If you're just stopping in to grab coffee to go I have no problem with that at all. I really appreciate your calling. I don't want to end up with bad parking karma for life!

Me: Okay -- that's really cool of you, Jerry. Thanks!

Warning sign on chain around parking lot on SE 12th & Hawthorne in Portland, OregonThe very next day the yellow poles went up, followed immediately by the metal cable between them preventing cars from pulling in except on the far southeast corner of the lot, as far from Tiny's as possible. Apparently one or more people didn't see the cable and ran into it because it wasn't long before the horrifically tacky hot pink signs appeared on the cable with the smart-ass message warning people that the cable is there. The cable is nearly invisible when it's overcast or dark out so he should have had flags or something there to begin with. To put up obnoxious signs like this (that are now tearing and falling off) just shows the guy's true colors. And they're not pretty.

Ugly sign where Burgerville sign used to be on SE 12th & Hawthorne in Portland, OregonAs if that weren't all bad enough, a new sign has gone up in the past few days where the Burgerville sign used to be. It's advertising both the paid parking as well as Mobile Vendor / Concession Spaces for Rent. And just like that, there was one of those ubiquitous-in-suburbia rug vendors set up there this past weekend.

This guy has managed to take this lot from a great community resource to a trashy eyesore and insult in a matter of weeks. Where was the neighborhood association through all this?!?!

I hope you'll join me in boycotting both the parking lot and the vendors who set up there. I can already feel the flames coming from those who will wail that this guy no doubt paid good money for this lot and has every right to capitalize on it. And that it's not the rug vendor's fault that the guy is a jerk. But I think there are just as many or more, especially here in Portland pocket options broker where we actually give a damn about our neighbors and the larger community, that will agree that this kind of trashy lot run by a guy who obviously sees anyone who isn't handing him cash as a nuisance is not what we want or need.

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Posted by Steve in Business, Coffee, Current Affairs, Economics, Environment, General, Society, Steve's Peeves | Permalink | Comments (22)

March 21, 2007

Portland Hall of Shame: Rundown building on SE 39th and Belmont

Corner of SE 39th and Belmont in Portland, OregonThis building has just gotten worse and worse over the eight years I've lived in the neighborhood. I think it's just one of those old, ratty buildings that can't attract anyone willing to do anything with it.

The corner space seems to always have a new but just as ratty laundromat in it. The Mercury mentioned the last one (it's gone now, of course) in a recent review: the laundromat... whose initials spelled out KKK (Kwicky's Kleen Klothes, or something)...

The bottom line is this: The building is a rundown, nasty eyesore that needs to be either cleaned up or torn down.

[Click the photo for a larger picture. Still not convinced? Drive by and see for yourself.]

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Posted by Steve in Business, Economics, Environment, Society, Steve's Peeves | Permalink | Comments (5)

Mommy, what does that mean?

Mommy, what does that mean?

Have fun explaining this one to your kids while you're standing at one of the four busy bus stops on the corner of SE 39th and Hawthorne in Portland. ("Hooked on Phonics be damned!")

I'm a very outspoken advocate of free speech--but good taste has to weigh in somewhere...

[And yes, I'm aware of the irony of this post in light of my "public bathroom mischief" entry of yesterday...]

Posted by Steve in Business, Current Affairs, Entertainment, General, Language, Music, Society | Permalink | Comments (4)

March 20, 2007

Just plain wrong magazine layout and copy

Bad magazine copy, layout in Wine Press NorthwestI picked up Wine Press Northwest magazine for the first time the other day at New Seasons Market. It's a great magazine covering, as the title describes, all things having to do with wine in the Pacific Northwest.

I've always been a spelling and grammar queen, but I rarely pay much attention to page layout. This page in the Winter 2006/2007 issue of Wine Press Northwest is definitely the exception.

Wine Press Northwest magazineAt least two-thirds of the page is taken up by an advertisement with only a narrow column on the right, running into the center fold, occupied by copy. Guess what they chose to squeeze in there? The article title reads:

3 NW winemakers die

There wasn't enough room to at least spell out the number three; the correct way to spell a number that begins a sentence. Especially one announcing the passing of not one, but three human beings. Not only that, but the title also gives the impression that these three individuals died in a single indcident, but that isn't the case. They were just all lumped into one cramped, sliver of a blurb.

There is just so much wrong here. I realize that Wine Press Northwest is a small publication with no doubt a very small staff. To modify an oft-quoted parents' admonition: When talking about something as sensitive as people passing away, if you can't say something nicely, don't say it at all.

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Posted by Steve in Books, Current Affairs, Food and Drink, Language, Media, News, Steve's Peeves | Permalink | Comments (0)

I don't want to encourage public bathroom mischief, but...

Rubbermaid Sturdy Station diaper changing tableThis one is just too funny to pass up. How could Rubbermaid have not seen this coming?

Or maybe it's one of those situations where the designer did see it coming.

Maybe the name was coined by a bored marketing person who knew it would make it safely through the internal hoops at Rubbermaid—and then give people some great laughs when clever bathroom visitors inevitably discovered the hidden gem and took artistic license with it.

Or perhaps it was devised this way from the start. Think online viral marketing carried to the most mundane level: a diaper changing table in a public restroom. It's certainly not something I thought I'd ever be blogging about, and yet here I am giving Rubbermaid some publicity and product promotion on Ask-Steve.com.

Rubbermaid Sturdy Station diaper changing tableI do have to say that I wouldn't have written about this, though, if there weren't a very direct political tie in. That being the fact that the revised name of the Sturdy Station applies just as accurately to the current White House as it does to the diaper changing station.

[This photo was taken at the McMenamin's Bagdad Pub restroom on SE 37th & Hawthorne in Portland, Oregon]

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Posted by Steve in Art, Business, Humor, Language, Politics | Permalink | Comments (0)

March 16, 2007

Mind-controlled games, devices becoming a reality

Emotiv mind-reading headsetA few years ago I was fooled by an April Fools Day article in one of the dotcom magazines of the time. It detailed a new device that would allow people to dictate text into their computer by simply thinking what they wanted to say. During that time of explosive innovation, anything seemed possible. Well, it's not an April Fools joke anymore.

An article in the Economist today looks at the technologies of two California companies who are making it possible to interact with computers by simply thinking what you want to happen.

The Economist article requires a subscription, but there is a similar story in the San Jose Mercury News.

Mind Games | The Economist | Mar 15th 2007

The Brain as Joystick | San Jose Mercury News | March 7, 2007

Posted by Steve in Business, Current Affairs, Entertainment, News, Science, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (1)

March 11, 2007

Symantec (Norton) products are trash and their service sucks

Symantec and Norton products are garbage and their service sucksI bought a new Lenovo (formerly IBM) ThinkPad notebook computer and it arrived a couple days ago. I have yet to be able to use it because Lenovo made the mistake of installing Symantec software on it without my permission. Along with an obscene number of other applications that various companies paid them to include. Think of it as embedded software spam. The problem is that Symantec Client Firewall is preventing my computer from accessing the Internet. Not only that, the product will not allow me to change any settings or uninstall it. It doesn't show up in the Windows Add Remove Programs list. When I try to change the settings, it tells me that I don't have permission to do that -- despite the fact that I'm the only user and an administrator with full permissions!

At first I thought it was my Internet connection. I tried everything: went from wireless to ethernet. Swapped out ethernet cables. Took the wireless router out of the loop and plugged directly into the cable modem, etc. I then called Comcast. They said everything looked great. Next I called Lenovo support and was on hold for 20 minutes and then spent 20 minutes on the phone with a rep for a total of 40 minutes. All he told me was that it was definitely Symantec software locking me out of accessing the Internet -- and that I'd have to call Symantec technical support. I'm fairly pissed off that Lenovo sold me a computer that doesn't work because of a piece of software that I didn't ask for. And then is forcing me to deal with Symantec's dismal, abysmal customer abuse department to undo their mistake.

I finally gave in and called Symantec and was on hold for an hour and 10 minutes listening to screeching hold music and an annoying recording thanking me for my patience. I decided they weren't going to answer and, seeing as I was on my cell phone, hung up. I next went to the Symantec website on another computer and used their online support chat -- which forced me to download and install a 5MB proprietary chat client. So I have to install another Symantec application in order for them to tell me how to remove the ones that are trashing my system.

After making my way from 26th in the chat queue to chatting with a live rep in India I explained my problem. After about 15 minutes of chatting, he informed me that since my product has the Symantec name instead of Norton it is a corporate edition and that I would have to call a different phone number as this support department was for consumer products only. I told him that I have a Symantec product so went to the Symantec website and that I wanted help immediately even if he had to get a manager to make it happen. After another 10 or 15 minutes it became clear that this was like talking to a pet rock -- if the pet rock had the ability to type and annoy the hell out of you.

I closed out that chat session and went to the URL he'd given me for enterprise support -- even though none of the products I had installed said anything about being enterprise editions. I phoned support and, after holding for 10 minutes or so, explained everything all over again to the Indian woman that answered. She then informed me that they only do support for this particular product during business hours Monday through Friday. I'm not kidding. I just about lost it. I told her in as polite a voice as possible that she damn well better no hang up the telephone until their products were off my system and it was working. She pointed me to a page on their site that I had to log in to with a username and password she gave me. It contained 60 or so files a folders, one of which proved to be a magical little batch file that removed their products from my system.

I had told the first guy numerous times that all I wanted to do was remove their products from my system entirely. He didn't have to do any technical support. He didn't have to get the product working. Why didn't he direct me to this simple tool? If he doesn't know about it, Symantec / Norton are failing miserably at customer service.

In any case, I'll never touch another Symantec or Norton product again,

[See the entire chat transcript in a plain text file here: Symantec/Norton support chat transcript]

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Posted by Steve in Business, Steve's Peeves, Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink | Comments (2)

March 9, 2007

Sexist remark from an anti-sexism campaign

Blog Against Sexism Day 2007Did you know that yesterday was Blog Against Sexism Day? Neither did I. I learned of it from a post on Eric Stoller's blog.

I consider myself a strong advocate for social justice and decided to learn more about this event. I clicked from Eric's post over to the official Blog Against Sexism Day site, planning to learn a bit more and then grab a graphic that I could include in a post here. I was disappointed to find a completely sexist remark in the opening paragraph of the site! (See the screen grab with the highlighted text)

Sexist remark in first paragraph of Blog Against Sexism siteWhether this is a Freudian slip on the part of the author or simply an innocent mistake, it's a good reminder that even those with the best of intentions and convictions can screw up. In this case, they managed to insult men in the same sentence in which they were asking for their support. Why is it more of a challenge for men to write about this topic than women? I know a lot of men who are as passionate feminists as any women I know. And that's saying something.

I think Blog Against Sexism Day, which falls on International Women’s Day, is a great idea. It's also a good time to remember that it's not all black and white, and that none of us is perfect. We're all works in progress and need to remember that change happens in steps.

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Posted by Steve in Current Affairs, Humanity, Language, Politics, Society, Weblogs | Permalink | Comments (3)

March 6, 2007

Rampant gender discrimination in Portland

Sign on bathroom door at Muddy Waters Coffeehouse in Portland, OregonI love this sign on the bathroom door at Muddy Waters Coffeehouse on SE Belmont and 29th. It is the perfect middle finger in the face of the rampant gender discrimination in most other places.

I've been to a couple of new restaurants lately and both have the same configuration for their restrooms: one for women and one for both men and women. When I walked up to use the restroom at one of them there was a guy waiting. I assumed they were both occupied. A woman walked out of the unisex restroom and he went in. It turns out no one was in the women-only restroom! So I went in. And guess what? The world didn't come to an end!

I'm at a complete loss for why places with restrooms think it's necessary to designate them for one gender or the other. These are single rooms with locking doors! What do they think is going to happen? I could see old-fashioned or prudish types being squeamish about sitting in a stall next to someone of another gender (though there are many countries where that's the norm, and it's happening here in the US, too). But if it's a single room, why would you possibly need to keep someone standing outside doing the Pee Pee Dance when there's a perfectly good room with a fully functioning toilet sitting empty (I'm referring to the room, not the toilet). And then this trend of offering both rooms to women but only one to men... What is that? Chivalry gone terribly wrong?

My policy is this: If there are two restrooms marked Men and Women, I'll try the one marked Men first. If there are two restrooms marked Either/Both and Women, I'll use whichever one is closer and/or available. If there are two restrooms, both marked Gender Non-Specific Bathroom, I'll find the owner and shake his or her hand.

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Posted by Steve in General, Politics, Society, Steve's Peeves | Permalink | Comments (6)