Thursday, February 7, 2019

News flash: Virginia is an "Old South" state.

It's nickname is "Old Dominion" for a reason. Several of its most famous historical figures owned slaves and led Confederate forces. Hell, it was the seat of the Confederacy for a while.

I've lived here for a quarter century, now. "Northern Virginia" was a near pejorative for "real" Virginians when I first moved here.

I still remember how stark the difference between the 703 area code was from the rest of the state. It defined not just your dialing rates/locality but a noticable mind-set difference. Just beyond the 703, where you now find tech companies and  huge tractsA-friendly neighborhoods McMansions, you used to see farms and rustic stores Hawking souvenirs from "the War of Northern Aggression".

My point is, discovering that a politician that was born, raised and attended college in "Old South" Virginia before the 90s ever participated in black-face is utterly unsurprising. Not excusing it. Just pointing out some unfortunate reality. There's likely a lot of skeletons in the closets of a significant chunk of the Virginia state government's office-holders. It's likely to be another 15-20 years before that's no longer the case.

It's not just a Virginia thing, either. Hell, it's not even just a "South" problem. I grew up in what, as an adult, I refer to as Pennsyltucky. The vast majority of the state is/was rural ...and its main cities were never (on average) something you'd have confused for "cosmopolitan", "sophisticated" or particularly "progressive". I knew plenty of people my age that, even 20 years ago, would say things that might leave you gawping or scratching your head and wondering, "did you really just say that?" And if you were talking people a generation or two older than me? Fuuuuuck. I loved my grandmother dearly, but I don't have enough fingers to count the number of times she would use "the coloreds" or similar terminology in her speech. It wasn't meant in a particularly-racist way - it was normal for her generation and class - but would still leave me sometimes speechless.

I used to travel extensively, for work. I can tell you that Pennsylvania is not alone in this respect among Northern states.

So, yeah, the current news cycle about what's going on in Richmond is pretty fucking gross. However, as alluded to above, given the current composition of the elected body, summarily cashiering people who've had skeletons might not be the smartest thing. The replacements could easily be worse people. It's even likely that the people that dug those skeletons up have the same damned skeletons (that they think are burried a bit better than those of the recently-exposed) but also have something to gain by digging others' up.

I dunno. It sucks. Doesn't feel like there's a lot of good options inside the next decade or so. That said, I'd still probably prefer someone that claims repentance over someone still wearing a MAGA hat.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Going Nowhere

It's funny, I've spent a decent chunk of my working-life traveling:
  • 22 straight months for SGI
  • 6 straight months for NetApp
  • sporadically for Digex/WorldComm/MCI
  • 5 straight years for Wells Landers (on behalf of Veritas, Sun and VMware)
Given that the above accounts for all but the most-recent nine years of my career, that I have managed to completely duck traveling for both my current company or my prior company is kind of an aberration. That said, that desire to avoid traveling isn't without reason...

Having had to deal with the expensing systems for small items like tolls and similar costs for attending local event, certification exam costs and the like, I've felt compelled to avoid incurring any work-related expenses that I couldn't afford to not get reimbursed for. Worse, because said expenses are employee-fronted and their systems are/were such fucking disasters, there is/was the likelihood of incurring interest charges while waiting for the expense-processes to get worked out. I can cover a few $100s to pay off a credit card and avoid interest when the expensing-process is horribly broken and slow. Paying off airfare, hotel and meals for a week-long conference or training course (and the fees for attending the conference or course)? Not so much ...and I for damned sure ain't paying interest on that waiting for an expense check to get cut (or try to recover interest accrued due to said waiting).

So, over the last nine years, my travel has been limited to pleasure trips. Which is to say, travel that doesn't force me to have to deal with an expensing-nightmare. The only travel nightmares have been the horror-show that is the fucking TSA. With "TSA" accounting for why most of our vacations are "mini" vacations that are done either by car or train. Because of the TSA, a pleasure trip has to be really worth the hassle.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Thanks For Nothing, Fuckers

Was kind of annoyed when I went to use my Hue app. Opened the app to control my lights, and the app announced to me, "you need to use the Bridge v1 application, now".

So, yeah, confirmation of why I'll never spend a huge amount on any given IoT device: deprecation. LED lightbulbs typically advertise lifetimes in excess of two decades. So, notionally, once you've paid the premium for Hue bulbs, you're done paying for bulbs for twenty or so years. EXCEPT! ...if you wish to continue being able to actually control those long-lived devices, Philips apparently wants you spend $100+, every few years, to buy a new damned bridge?




And, the thing is, you know that Philips won't be alone in that nonsense. So, sorry Samsung (et. al.): while I could maybe see my way to laying out $10K for a "smart" refrigerator that will last me a couple decades, I'm certainly not dropping that much, every few years, just so I can keep using all of those "smart" features.

Somehow, it feels like "IoT" is destined to become a further driver of burgeoning landfills.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

We're Going to Vegas, Baby!

Why it's sometimes worth making a polite call to an airline:

This past year, we went to the Las Vegas edition of the Electric Daisy Carnival. We had a fucking blast and wanted to do it again this coming year. However, for any such event, there's the problem of airfare expenses from the East Coast. This past year, we'd flown free by using a goodly chunk of the frequent flyer miles I'd banked from my days as a traveling professional services consultant. That chunk, however, left me a fair amount short for being able to do the same for 2019's EDC.

So, I signed up for an American Airlines rewards card so that I could pocket 60,000 frequent flyer miles. The cost of getting that bonus was spending across three months less than what I normally push through one of my cards in a few weeks' time. At any rate, those points finally posted a few weeks ago. So, I went to book the free trip for my wife and myself using those points. Unfortunately, by the time the points had posted to my account, the itinerary's cost in points had gone up (naturally) such that I was short, again.

One of my other credit cards is a hotel card. The chain has a transfer agreement with American that let me convert points. When I'd looked to see how many points I'd need to convert, I found a page that said "transfer before December 21st and get a 30% bonus." Score. That would let me book the trip with points to spare. So, I went to my hotel's site to initiate the conversion. The points showed up today. However, there was no 30% bonus present and I was still 500 points shy of the free itinerary. So, I called American.

The CSR was very helpful. She pulled up the page showing the bonus-offer and contacted her help desk. Since I was very close to my points needed and the help desk was potentially going to take a while, she comped me the necessary points to get me to my free trip. In the mean time, her help desk informed her that the bonus-offer web page we were both viewing was a 2017 offer that their web maintainers hadn't taken offline. However, since I'd acted in good faith (and have done a few hundred thousand miles of travel on the airlines that became the current incarnation of American), they comped me the bonus. Presumably, they'll be trying to figure out how to offline that stale page (since the page's terms only mentioned a month/day and not a year).

Now, to sort out hotel...

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Rich Man; Poor Man

Direct-deposit on the pay-period where I make mortgage payments is particularly brutal from the "I'm rich! I'm poor!" standpoint.

With DD, your money-sender "notifies" the receiving bank anywhere from a few hours to an entire business-day before the money is actually going to post to the account. My bank notifies me of my DD as soon as they receive the intent-notice from my employer's payroll processor. That means that I "see" the incoming money even before it's technically available.

That said, my bank treats that money as though it actually has been deposited. That means that I can start writing debits against that credit even before it's technically been credited ...which I generally do.

When it's mortgage-paying time, I log into my loan-servicer's portal and arrange for the payment. Even if I tell them "pay the bill, today," the debit generally doesn't show up in my paying account (the one I receive the pending-DD notification from) till the next day. Still, sometimes the mortgage debit hits before the actual DD credit posts. Thus, some months, there's truly times where there's zero time between the rich/poor events (vice the more-normal "at least I was rich for a few hours!" scenario).

Saturday, September 1, 2018

"Travel" and Perception

It is kind of interesting how two people can see the same artist put on a set at a club or festival and come away with completely different impressions of the show. It's almost like, "were we both at the same show??"

It seems to be kind of like life in a microcosm, though. If you don't "travel" (in the case of a show or festival, either move around the room or, when at the edge of the room while going to from the bar or restroom, observing the entire room rather than just the one pocket you and your group are in, that night), you don't really take in that there's a difference between the broader-scope and your particular part of it.

Last night's Alison Wonderland show was a good case in point. I'd say that her set left me cold, but anger-inducing disappointment doesn't feel "cold" to me. SongKick sent me a "how was last night's show" link to leave a review. I left my honest opinion of the show. Afterwards, I looked at others' review of the show. To say that differences of opinion were "stark" is an understatement.

By the reviews, there were clearly a lot of people that enjoyed themselves. And, on my trips to the bar and bathroom, it was clear to my eyes that there were, indeed, pockets of people that clearly liked the show.

...Just as there were clearly pockets of people that were pretty much completely disengaged. To the people that were in those "happy with it" pockets that never really left those pockets (when you're rolling, I guess you don't really need to worry about hitting the bar) or never bothered to look beyond their pocket, it would be easy to think that, like at better shows, "the entire room" was into it. Basically, lack of perspective from lack of "travel" or desire to observe other than what's immediately in around them (or the act on stage). ...Or, other impairment effectively creates tunnel-vision (see prior aside about "rolling").

Life — on any given scale — is probably a lot easier that way. It means that only your little cocoon really matters.


Thursday, August 30, 2018

GREAT Customer Service

Work/tech-related, so, almost worth putting in my tech-oriented blog. However, while I'm frequently cranky in that blog, I do try to reserve it for posts about how I solved a given problem.

Any way...

So, a couple weeks ago, I open a ticket for some software that purports to be "Red Hat 7 compatible" pointing out "you guys don't ship systemd unit files with your stuff; the manner in which your legacy-init files are installed makes them incompatible for use with a partitioned disk or a system with data-specific drives; and your legacy-init files invocation is so convoluted and dicked up that trying to create proper unit files is basically a non-starter". The CSR that responded to the ticket replies back, "you should open a feature request asking for unit files: use this URL".

Of course, I'm pissed that, what should just be a fucking given — shipping of unit files for an application that claims to be "Red Hat 7 compatible" — is apparently something that I need to request as a feature/extension. Take that already pissed-off state and then refer me to a URL that doesn't fucking work and you take that rage-state and dial it up.

I reply back to the ticket, "I can't get to that URL". The CSR eventually replies back, saying, "I'll have to look into the problem" ...then fucking ghosts, but not before marking the case as solved/pending-close.

Having marked it pending-close, their system kicks out a satisfaction survey. Of course, I give the CSR all zeros and fill out the "why'd you give these scores" box with polite-bile and asking, "do you really think you ought to be closing this ticket given the open-ended manner in which your CSR left it". Somehow, none of this results in an escalation or even a different CSR picking up the ticket.

Today, I get an auto-generate email saying "you haven't replied to the case in 10 days, so we're closing it."

So, if any of y'all are curious who this oh so helpful software's vendor is (hopefully you so you can steer-the-fuck-clear), it's Collibra. When you see their name on a product, run. Screaming. Far, far away.