Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: A Slight Reflection

In general, I avoid saying things like "it can't possibly be worse" or "what could possible go wrong". Each (and their derivatives) is pretty much an invitation to the Universe to answer what you'd though were rhetorical questions.

2009 had been a pretty shitty year. The company I'd been working for, since they started operations in 2004, decided that the division I worked for was no longer worth the effort to maintain. Donna ended up in the hospital, for ten days, because of her digestive issues. I had my first seizure in nearly 20 years (and had it at work, no less!). My dad died just before Thanksgiving (apparently joining my Grandfather Ott in some kind of bizarre holiday tradition). So, the bar for 2010 to be better had been set pretty freaking low.

As we headed into the new year - 2010 - I felt glad to soon be shut of 2009. Unfortunately, I vocalized my feelings about the ending year and the coming year in what, in retrospect, may have been a carelessly challenging way to the Universe. While I didn't utter the words "it can't possibly be worse" or "it has to be better," I did say "2010 would have to try pretty hard to be worse than 2009 had been." Apparently the Universe heard me and said "close enough: I'll take that challenge".

In fairness 2010 wasn't awful, it was mostly vexing. On balance, it was probably better than 2009 had been. I mean, 2010 had death: specifically, the loss of our dog, Lana, at the beginning of December; and, tangentially-related, the death of my Dad's dog to a brain tumor. While I didn't have to change jobs, this year, I did have to put up with a lot of work-related stress. All the weight that I'd shed the prior two years (under different epilepsy medications) came back (under the medication I started in 2010). I still don't have my clearance sorted out - I've been in some kind of bureaucratic purgatory - but I have at least been able to do a couple things of worth (at least to those who pay me). And, Donna and I were able to end the year with a wonderful Caribbean Cruise.

Still, the death of our dog cast a pall over things. I'm a little less than a month shy of my 41st birthday. Her death was a reminder of my own mortality. The reminder wasn't so much in a "you're getting old, boy," kind of way, or the classic "death is stalking you" way, but more in a "how many more pets can you have before you need to start worrying that they'll outlive you" kind of way. In the end, I'm not currently afraid of dying as much as I am of leaving behind responsibilities unfulfilled.

The economy, while supposedly on the mend, has been hard on more and more people. While, to date, we've been fortunate to weather that storm, we've at least felt the peripheral effects. Several friends have been either directly effected or at least sufficiently indirectly effected to bring awareness of things closer to home than I'd like. Still, I feel fortunate and hope that we can remain so.

I'm not going to make any predictions about 2011. I hope that it's better:

  • I hope that the addition of NewDawg and ending the year with the cruise are indicators that we might be coming out of the shadow that started to settle in the summer of 2007.
  • I hope that Lana's is the last time that death visits us for a few years.
  • I hope that my clearance issues sort themselves out. While I've been able to make myself productive, I still feel trapped by the nebulous state my working papers are in. It's not that I want to walk, but having the paperwork in place means I have a lot more flexibility and bargaining power if the tides of work-fortune start to shift. It also means that I have to be less reliant on others to "be my hands" at work. I chafe at my inability to be directly productive.
  • I hope that my mom continues to adjust well to her new life. Hopefully, she'll enjoy her Alaska cruise, this coming year.
  • I hope that I have no more reason to step foot inside a hospital - for myself, my family or my friends  - beyond "well visits".
Basically, I'd like for the year to not be "interesting" in the Chinese curse way. The last three years have been far to "interesting".

Theme Music for Road Rage

They say that music calms the savage heart (well, there's a lot of variations on that theme, so, those may not be the words you're used to "they" saying). I can't help but think that such a sentiment is always accurate, however. I mean, there's definitely music that seems to calm me down. There's also music that amps me up. More often than not, a given piece or type of music simply intensifies what I'm feeling.

Right now, what I'm feeling is an upwelling of bile at my fellow man. Traffic does that to me.

Perhaps a little bit of aggrotech will help me dissipate my road-rage?

Inverse Effort

Is it just me, or do dogs chew small pieces of food much more than they do larger ones? I mean, If I toss one of our dogs a big, honking piece of meat, it's gone in one gulp. If I toss them the corner of a cracker, it's "chew-chew-chew-chew-chew..." and eventually swallowed. Size aside, you'd think if they were going to linger over a piece of food, it would be the tasty meat rather than the relatively bland cracker-fragment.

I don't get dogs. =)

One More Reason to Hate WalMart

Not too long ago, they decided that they needed to open a new WalMart within walking distance of  my house. I dunno whether they closed the one three miles further down Route 1, or not. If they haven't then I'm one of those people fortunate enough to have two, convenient WalMarts.

I have to assume they've closed the other one. Otherwise, the traffic for the new one makes almost no sense. I just can't see that there was such a pent-up demand for an additional WalMart that it would explain the influx of cars onto the roads immediately surrounding my neighborhood.

Speaking of which: why is it that, when allowing a big, new store to move in, they don't rework the roads to accommodate the new traffic patterns. It's 1PM on a Friday afternoon and the area is positively gridlocked. It took 15 minutes to navigate the last mile of Route 1 to get onto Kings Highway. Then it took a further five minutes to travel the 1/5 of a mile on King's Highway to get to the entrance to my neighborhood. Finally, I had to wait two minutes for the jack asses lined up on Kings Highway to let me into my neighborhood. Apparently, these (mostly Maryland-plated) people never quite got the concept of "don't block intersections". Yeah, I get that it's only a two-way intersection. However, you're still not allowed to block the intersection just because the traffic on the other side of your direction of travel has stopped. Being 30ft. closer to that stopped traffic doesn't get you there any sooner. All it does is makes the people that need to use that intersection (and could use that intersection, but for you) want to hop out of their cars and beat you bloody with something heavy and blunt.

So, yeah, I still find no redeeming value to WalMart, especially when it attracts yet more idiots to my neck of the woods.

Unwanted Recollections

So, this morning, NewDawg woke Donna up with her morning whines. Donna hasn't quite figured out what are "normal" sounds and what are "distress" sounds from NewDawg. Unfortunately, trying to relate to her how to tell the difference woke up the (admittedly recent) memories of Lana's "distress" sounds and all the memories that went with them.

Fortunately, there weren't a lot of such memories. Lana had been fairly distress-free during her time with us. It was only those last few days where she started to vocalize - especially as we made ready for the final trip to the vet.

She knew that something was "not right" about the whole thing. But, she also knew, "oh my gawd: car ride." And, you could hear the conflict in her voice. You could hear the fear of that conflict. Hell, Puckett could hear the conflict and the fear in her voice. That's why he started howling like he did, as we leashed her up that final car ride.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Customer Database Fail

Today, I got a call from a Verizon High Speed Internet salesperson. Apparently, the representative was calling to "get me back as customer". Now, this is interesting on several fronts:

  • The guy was calling to sell me DSL as a High-speed Internet solution. I've had DSL in the past (in fact, I was Bell Atlantic's first DSL customer, back in 1996/1997), but most of the time I had DSL, it was through carriers other than Verizon (first, it was CAIS, then it was SpeakEasy). So, there wasn't really a basis for "getting me back"
  • I am currently a Verizon FiOS customer and have been for nearly a year now. So, I'm already a Verizon customer, so, no need to "get me back" as one.
  • Before I had FiOS, I was a Cox HSI customer for several years. Why this is relevant is that the Verizon rep had called me on my GV number. I've really only been using the GV number since fall of 2009. So, the number they had for me to try to "get me back" isn't the number I had when last I had DSL (and, as previously mentioned, when I had DSL, I was never a VZ customer - the closest I came to it was when I was a Bell Atlantic employee and was helping beta test their offering [Bell Atlantic later became Verizon])
So, it was a complete "out there" call. Nothing about my history nor the number they contacted at was relevant to a prior business relationship. Clearly, they'd gotten my updated contact info from somewhere. Thus, you'd assume that with such updated info, they could have figured out that I was also already a customer of their internet services.

I hate "fixing" something when I can neither fully explain why it was broken nor why the "fix" works.

On my technical blog, I recently went through how I worked around what seemed to be brokenness in Linux's routing. I'd done a fair amount of digging around to try to solve my problem. I even asked questions on some forum sites (to no avail). Eventually, with enough persistence, I cobbled together a solution.

Unfortunately, that wasn't quite enough for me. I mean, I had an observed behavior I was trying to surmount, but, hadn't had the tools to really tear it apart. So, I was treating symptoms rather than finding a cure. I hate that approach to problem solving.

So, today, since I had some time, I broke down and tried to see what was really going on under the covers. I wanted to sort out the root-cause of the symptoms I'd addressed. So, I downloaded tcpdump and tried to watch my packet flows both with and without the "fix" in place.

Even with what should be the right analysis tools in place to see the problem, it wasn't any more enlightening. The error I expected to see wasn't there. Worse, there wasn't really any alternate error in its place. Fucking. Maddening.

I still have the urge to track it down further (yeah, OCD!), even though I know that it's mostly wasted effort. I mean, the issue I ran into shouldn't happen in production situations, and, even if it did, I've documented the "fix" for it. I just don't like not knowing why it was broken or why my "fix" works.

Gah... I'd be ill-suited for work in medicine or other theoretical scientific endeavors.

Hooray for (Voice) Technology

Today, I received my first phonecall to my laptop. Someone called my GV number which I'd configured to ring through to my laptop's Skype application. I only just today activated the Skype inbound call functionality as I'd just received my Jabra 620 Duo in the post, today.

I've had a Google Voice number for quite some time, now. It seemed the best way to give people phone contact info but control how and when they could actually reach me. And, given the fact that, at any given time, I may be best reachable by either my cell, my home line, or any of four phone lines at work (depending where I am, that day), it was also the most efficient way to have people contact me. I hate having to give people a list of contact info and try to tell them what fallback order to try them in.

Unfortunately, GV's call routing isn't as fine-grained as I'd like. Really, I'd like to be able to set GV to have phones in the call rotation on a day-by-day and hour-by-hour basis. Unfortunately, GV's really designed around the traditional worker rather than the telecommuter. So, you can set your call groups to ring all or some subset of your phone numbers. Then, you can set each of those numbers to have calling windows. My work extensions, I typically set up to "never ring on weekends" and to not ring between 18:00 and 07:00.

Were I scheduled to be at my office desk/extension four the typical five-day workweek, that would be fine. For better or worse, I telecommute 2-3 days a week. Given the level of control GV offers me, my desk extension is frequently ringing when I have no possibility of answering it. This, by itself, wouldn't be bad except that, on the days I'm not in the office, people make use of the empty space. Often times, they also tell people "call me at (my desk phone's number), today". So, when the phone rings, they assume it's for them and pick it up.

What GV really needs is the ability to designate an extension as a "log in" extension.Then, restrict the hours when the phone can be logged in. That way, on the days I'm at my desk, I could call my GV number, log in that extension and then have the "login" auto-expire at the end of the work day.

Oh well. For now, I'll just have GV no longer ring my desk but, instead, ring me on Skype. I'll pretty much always have my laptop when I'm on the clock.

Your Pet-gate Means Nothing to Me

Humorous event of the day:

Cat (Bella) goes charging headlong from her cat tree, in the living room, towards the kitchen. She often does this. I can only guess that her kitty-PDA pops up an appointment notification letting her know she's late to an appointment or something.

Unfortunately, when we got NewDaig, we installed a pet gate in the doorway between the livingroom and the dining room. The dining room is between the kitchen and living room. Most of the time, the main door in the gate is open. When it's not, the cat passthrough typically is. Today, the main door apparently got bumped close. Cat passthrough was also closed...

CRASH! 9lbs of rushing cat can, apparently, dismount a traction-mounted pet-gate .

Dear ITA Policy Makers:

I get that you're trying to make our systems more secure and more resistant to hacking attempts. But, really, who the fuck sets /etc/profile to 640??? I see things like that (and some other stuff you've demanded) and I have to really wonder, "do you have a real concept of how a UNIX system should be secured? Do you really understand the impact of the things you request? Do you really understand which of your requests actually increase security and which ones do nothing but force me to do things other, potentially more dangerous ways (which you've not protected against)? I know you guys all have nice, shiny certificates indicating you completed some kind of nifty, expensive, "I'm a systems security guy" training and all, but, still...

The Christians Have Appropriated Chaos??

Today, a friend of mine hit the "like" button on a FaceBook page dedicated to "Mayhem". Now, I like mayhem, too. I don't know whether to consider myself more a hobbyist or professional at it, but that's beside the point. Either way, I decided, "I'm gonna click the like button on that, too." And, so, I clicked it. 

Now, what goes hand-in-hand with mayhem? If you answered "chaos", then you think more like me than you probably ought (for the sake of the world at large). So, I tried to find a FaceBook dedicated to "chaos" that I could also press the like button for. 

I put "chaos" into the FaceBook search bar. The results of the search are returned and all I can think is, "WTF? All of the "Chaos" pages on FaceBook are some kind of Christian youth thing???" Apparently, to young Christians, "chaos" is now an acronym (C.H.A.O.S.) that stands for "Christ Has All Our Solutions". Again, "WTF?" Oh well, glad I read the info pages before clicking the like button on any of those pages!

Hateful TV Programming

No, it most definitely is not time for the Wendy Williams show. I don't get why she even has a show.

I mean, ok, she's got big (ginormous, actually) tits - and, as a guy, I should like that - but I'm not going to watch a show just to see some loudmouth with big tits (there's far too much good internet porn out there for me to base my TV watching on covered-up, big, saggy tits). Even if I were to watch based just on tits, I'd do it with the sound muted (due to the aforementioned "loudmouth" problem). I don't think your sponsors are going to have any chance of getting their money's worth if I'm watching on mute.

I get that she kinda sounds like Oprah and Oprah's mad popular with the lobotomy crowd. But, I've not got a lobotomy and, even if I did, I'd probably want the real deal rather than some counterfeit.

Speaking of counterfeit: if you're going to offer up a "Wendy Williams", I'm thinking, even in her decomposing state, "Wendy O. Williams" would be a better choice.

Damn: what a waste of air-time.

Dear Fox5:

You need to DQ anyone sporting a duckface picture from consideration for your FaceBook fan of the day.

I dunno: maybe you're trying to make people look stupid by picking one of their duckface pictures from their photo albums. I'd like to think that's the case, but I have my doubts.

At any rate, it makes it look like you have to be some kind of Jersey Shore wannabee tool to like Fox 5. If that's your goal, then, "mission accomplished."

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Philsophical Food Conundrum

If "bacon goes with everything" and "there's always room for jello", would bacon-jello be a perfect food?

I think I just threw up, a little, in my mouth.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not a great night to be a Philly sports fan...

Flyer played another uninspired, lackluster game and got blown out 6-2. To Vancouver. Yuck.

The Eagles also apparently decided that Tuesday night is not a good night to play a Sunday football game. So, playoff slot already in hand, they didn't bother to try to clinch a bye-round. They lost to the freaking Vikings. Awesome.

Please Let the Hyundai Christmas Commercials End!

Corpses have more life and vitality than the singer in the Hyundai Christmas commercials. Freaking creepy. Do these commercials actually make anyone want to buy a Hyundai? All they make me want to do is organize a hipster-hunt (I've got lots of bare walls, perhaps a hipster-hide would be nice?).

You Will Never Convince Me That Furries Aren't Creepy

I get the whole "different strokes for different folks" thing. I mean, there's probabably (quite a few) things I do that people would lump under that heading. I just don't get furries. 

First off, those suits have to be hot and sweaty. The furries I've run into over the years all have kind of a nasty, sour-sweat "funk" to them. I can't see engaging in intimate acts in those rigs. I mean, I find the DC heat to be "wilting" enough. I can't imagine trying to function inside a heat-intensifier like a furry's suit. Plus, the aforementioned smell: how could you stand your own stink or how could you want to get busy with someone that smelled like sweat-rotted faux fur??

/me shudders

PayPal and Bad Links

It's not till you receive the "overdraft protection" notice that you remember PayPal's pulling against the wrong account.

Of course, if I had my druthers, PayPal wouldn't be linked against any checking or savings account. They'd only be linked against my credit card(s). What makes it even more hateful is that, PayPal doesn't let you set your default funding source to any of your linked credit cards. This, among other (mostly philosophical/hate) reasons is why I prefer Google Checkout to PayPal. Just wish more people would move away from the ripoff that is PayPal.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Gin-n-Coke, Anyone?

Judging by Donna's face, there's probably a very good reason that you'll not likely hear someone order a gin-and-coke.

But, that's what happens when someone asks you to make them a drink when you really aren't in the mood to do so. I mean, in my defense, the bottle of gin, the bottle of diet coke and the empty drinking glass were all sitting right next to each other on the counter next to the fridge. I was on autopilot and just grabbed and mixed.

Oh well.

I Hate the Mall

Ok, so, had to go to the Mall, tonight. Apparently, with several rooms full of clothes, nothing was adequate for this coming NYE. The mysteries of living with a woman, I guess.

At any rate, malls are interesting places (for observing people, that is). Some malls are more interesting than others. Tonight, we went to the Pentagon City Mall.

Now, it's been a number of months since I've been to this mall. I dunno whether it's just the whole "holiday week" thing; the economy's recovering; there' a pent up demand to spend (regardless of the means to do so); or what. But, the Pentagon City Mall was much busier than it was the last few times I was there. However, it also seems that, in addition to the mall being busier, the demographics of this mall has shifted. There were a crapton of gay (I'm assuming, but, itseemed pretty freaking obvious) black teens and men. Maybe it's a new cruising ground?

/me shrugs

Malls are great places to observe crowd dynamics. Like, how do people react when a couple of self important teenage girls decide to stop in the middle of a main access route to just jack their jaws? Well, people get cranky about it and eventually brusquely brush their ways through. Interestingly, said self-important teenage girls take exception to people not seeing how important they are and get all put out, "you could say excuse me, you know." All I could respond was, "I could, but, then again, you could find better place to flap your fucking lips at each other."

Malls are also places that offer the weirdest services at carts and kiosks. I mean, I dunno about you, but I'm not going to be able to relax all that much if I'm being massaged in a chair in the middle of the freaking concourse. I'm also pretty sure that, were I so hairy I needed to get my lip or eyebrows waxed (ok, I am hairy enough, but, fortunately, I'm not of a gender or disposition to do it), I wouldn't do it in a chair on an open concourse with hundreds of people walking by and gawking.

Every time I'm at the mall, I also notice that there seems to be a fundamental disconnect between the wares on offer and the people patronizing the mall. Every store and trendy boutique seems to carry the bulk of their inventory in sizes much smaller than the mall's average patrons. I also notice that "age-appropriate" doesn't seem to be a factor in the purchasing decisions of many people. I'm sorry, but if you're fifty years old - and look every year of it - you probably shouldn't be trying on that seethrough blouse and hoochie-skirt at Forever 21.

Malls are also places where people like to introduce their kids to various parts of adult life. One of these is, apparently, dealing with automated parking kiosks. Look, I get that kids are curious. I get that kids need to learn. However, what I don't get is why parents would think that, when the line for the kiosk is a dozen people deep, it's a good time to let a toddler struggle with the kiosk?

Speaking of parking... When the space is wide enough to double-park a Hummer (the original one, not those faux-hummers, the H2 or, worse, the H3), how do you have trouble parking your Tercel in between the goddamned lines?? Or, exactly HOW difficult is it to put your goddamned ticket into the EZ·Park automated parking turnstile and let yourself out of the lot? I mean, I might have bought the thought that the one you were at was broken. But, when I watch you switch lanes TWICE (cutting across several lanes in your ginormous SUV, each time) to struggle with another EZ·Park automated parking turnstile, I gotta start wondering whether they should have included a hockey helmet with your SUV purchase. And, lastly, why is it like some kind of bizarre rule that the person leaving through the leftmost turnstile is invariably wanting to exit out to the right (or vice versa)? I mean go around the fucking block. It's not like you can't get there from here (wherever "there" is) just because you exited the opposite direction you wanted to leave by.

Oh... Malls are also great places to bring one's inner snark right to the surface. 

Work Mis-Direction

It seems like most people (other than me) see the lunch at desk thing as the person implying "I'm eating my lunch here so I can be available" rather than "I'm eating lunch here because I'm so busy I couldn't afford the time to eat someplace else" or "I'm eating lunch here because I didn't want to be disturbed in the cafeteria". Whatever. I've simply come to the conclusion that I'll never understand "normal" people.

That said, I've noticed that most "normal" people don't like to interrupt if they think you're listening to something. Whether that something is a phone call, your MP3 player, or whatever. Even if listening to nothing, ear-buds are great at the office for keeping people from bugging you. It's even more effective if you're using a phone head-set as your listening device because they tend to assume you're using it for the phone call purpose rather than just listening to music.

Yeah: I hate people.

Need Better Outlets

Posting to Linuxquestions.Org seems like a waste of time if you have other than "home user" level questions. I mean, it's awesome that so many people find it to be a useful site, and, they do have an "enterprise" section. It just seems like there's not a lot in the way of good, in-depth/technical resources out there for people who really want to use Linux. Oh well. I'll keep posting there, even though I never get answers (unless you count the "your question has no replies after 'X' days" emails).

Sunday, December 26, 2010

ümi: I Just Don't Get It

So, I'm watching The Mentalist on CBS (don't you judge me!) and a commercial for Cisco's new ümi product came on. Curious, I went to Cisco's site to see what it was about. I clicked on the "what you need page". On the page was the following graphic:

I mean, we've already got a number of free video chat options out there. If I want to use my laptop - be it Windows, Macintosh or Linux - I can use Skype or Google video chat options. Apple joined the game with their FaceTime option on the newest generation of iPhones (and presumably all future hardware offerings). All I need is an iDevice and a cellular subscription. MicroSoft has a video chat offering via their new Kinnect device - all I need is the Kinnect and, presumably, XBox Live gold.
What I don't get is how ümi fits in? I mean, that they're advertising it on TV during regular programming. So, presumably it's aimed at "regular people". And, judging by the price shown in the above graphic, it's meant to be within financial reach of "regular people". But, there's the matter of all those other video offerings. All of those other offerings are an easy sell. I mean, how can you beat the "free" of Skype or Google (and presumably other stuff for your PC)? And, even if you want something that doesn't require your PC, you have offerings from Apple and Microsoft that leverage other multi-use products that have a decent (and rapidly growing) installed base.
So, what's the compelling case for ümi? I mean, it's not free - in fact, it costs me more than my Vonage subscription. Presumably, since the commercial (and the web site) don't mention that they work with any of the previously named incumbent competitors, what's the value proposition. I've got to buy a dedicated-purpose device. I've got to spend $25/mo. on top of my other monthly bills (in my case XBox Live Gold and Vonage) for products I already own and that already allow me to run competing video-chat products. You don't seem to be offering interoperability in an already splintered market - you're just trying to splinter it further. So, "what's up Cisco? Why would I possibly want the ümi?"

Unexpected Tech-Lust

So, my mom's decided that she's wanting to get a bit more techy. At our Thanksgiving visit, she was trying to sort out which of any number of ways to go: actually getting a cell phone (and a smartphone, at that), getting a device to do streaming videos to her TV, getting an E-reader (she really likes the Kindle), updating her laptop, getting a new WiFi router, getting an MP3-player and learning how to rip music from her CD selection.

While we were up for the Thanksgiving trip, I took my mom to here local BestBuy. I had no intentions of her buying anything there, I just wanted to give her some hands-on time and "interview" her to find out what it was she really wanted. We'd discussed converged devices versus purpose-specific devices. Gave her some hands-on time with various examples of purpose-specific and converged devices.

Ultimately, she decided that she was probably going to join the cellphone age with Sprint's HTC EVO and eventually get the Kindle.

She's still trying to decide whether she wants to try video streaming. She apparently got screwed by BestBuy who'd told her that the install service she got was good for a year's worth of free reconfiguration assistance. However, when she went to buy a network-enabled BluRay player that included NetFlix capabilities, GeekSquad (or whatever) told here "that will be (some ungodly fee)" to install it. It turns out, the prior GeekSquad sales guy had told her that she had a year's worth of reconfig, but she'd never got it in writing  (so, she learned the "get it in writing" lesson). Said sales guy no longer worked at the store (gee, I wonder why). So, rather than pay a new install fee, she told them to jam it and got her money back. So, that's a low-order-priority purchase, now. When she gets around to updating her laptop, I'll make sure she gets one with an HDMI jack so she can try NetFlix that way.

At any rate, prior to my Christmas visit, she'd stopped by the Sprint store and got herself a new HTC EVO phone. To Sprint's credit, they tried to convince her that it was too much phone for what she needed (she's not yet into the things the phone's really geared for, but I suspect that she will become so). But, she said, "thanks for not trying to oversell me, but this is what I want" and they sold it to her. Unfortunately, mom didn't know any of the info that they could set the phone up with, so the sales-trainee went ahead and set up her phone to do Google-syncing, but didn't write down any of the info related to the Google account she'd created for my mom (either the password or the password-recovery info). I was able to transfer the synced calendar info to her real Google (Apps) account, but, the contact info was lost.

Unfortunately, going through the setup of the EVO made it glaringly clear just how much I hate my BlackBerry Storm. I now has the serious wanty for a new phone, but, I want to wait till VZW's LTE phones come out before I decide whether to continue with Verizon or to switch to Sprint. Basically, I want a new Android phone, but, need to know I'm not gonna hit data caps.

Things Misheard

To start with, I am most definitely not hard of hearing. I have very good hearing - not just for my age (soon to be 41) but compared to people considerably younger than me. That said, I have a bit of a mischievous mental state. So, I often hear things both the way they were stated and the way I want to hear them.

Today was a case in point. Donna was talking about making New Years dinner. In her family, a traditional accompaniment to said meal is black-eyed peas. Of course, my bent-brain decided to first process it as "black-guy peas".

In my defense (actually, probably less a defense than further indictment), I give Donna shit any time she says she wants "five guys". Five Guys is a burger outlet that she really likes and that has a location walking distance from our house. Naturally, unless she's very careful how she asks for it, I always have a laugh at her expense. It's actually become a bit of a running joke, at this point.

And, yes, I'm one of those "that's what she said" kind of guys.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Packaging Wonders

What the hell's the point of making sodas this small? Guess I shoulda had a "fun-size" snickers with it?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Milestones

This past week was the 9th anniversary of my ownership of Grimace (it's a 2002 BMW 330Ci that I picked up on December 21st, 2001. It's got less than 80,000mi on it.


Ok, so, the above is a picture from 2003, but, with the exception of some dings and scratches (and needing a bath), she looks the same.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Great Gazongas!

Recently, someone was complaining that she had a hard time finding lingerie that fit because she's a large cup/small band size (34DD). So, I pinged my wife to find out how she finds stuff to fit. Donna's got a similar problem (worse, actually). Donna quickly rattled off the names of several online sites she's had success with finding stuff (figleaves.com, herroom.com and barenecessities.com)

Being a guy, I had to go see what kinds of things these sites have. Each site has one of those "find your size" search tools. They had some fairly amazing search sizes. I was a tad astounded to see that they had some bras that came as 32Ks (they had some even smaller band sizes, but, fortunately, not as large of cups). I can't even imagine what a woman with 32Ks (esp. if natural) would look like. That's gotta be hard on the spine!

Tis the Season to Be Obligated

It's not quite accurate of me to say "I hate Christmas", but it is short and to the point. What would be more accurate to say is, "I hate how Christmas is practiced in the consumer-driven world.". And, really, "I hate Christmas," for many of the same reasons I hate other consumer-driven holidays: I hate the sense of obligation and expectation.

 

I hate that, as adults, so many of us still act like five year old children. Rather than having a holiday that's about families, friends and enjoying each others company, it's frequently dwarfed by the gift-giving.

 

Now, don't get me wrong: I like to give gifts and, sometimes, I even like to receive them. However, I don't like to be dictated to about when I should give or receive gifts. If I love someone or am friends with someone, I think I should feel free to gift them with things any time I like. At the same time, I don't feel that I should have to give them things just because of some arbitrary date on the damned calendar.

 

I particularly don't like having to play the "what do you want for Christmas" game - least of all as the person being asked. There's damned few things that I want at any time of year, let alone Christmas. In general, if I genuinely want something, I want it when I want it and get it when I want it. I don't like to have to wait to get something just so other people can check something off on their holiday list. I also don't like to have to come up with a BS list of things I don't actually want, just so other people can check something off on their holiday lists.

 

And, by "BS list", I mean a list of things constrained by such factors as price, ease of getting, or practicality. Petty as it may be, I don't generally consider most "practical" or "easy to get" things as being terribly "gifty". If it's something I simply need rather than want, I can run to the grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store, etc. and pick it up, myself. I don't really consider candy and similar things to be gifts - unless they're hard to get stuff or otherwise require a certain level of thought and consideration. Yeah, I'm a spoiled brat that way.

 

At the same time, I'm not generally a fan of giving gifts of that nature, either. If I give something, I'd much prefer it be something harder to get or otherwise requiring some level of genuine effort or thought. And, I'm a big fan - giving or receiving - of the "I saw this and it called your name" type of random gift-giving.

 

Oh well. "Bah humbug," I guess.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Cats and New Dog

The cats aren't quite sure how to react to the new dog. Well, one's sure, but she's never liked dogs. Right now, one cat's being a touch clingy; the other - the one that doesn't like dogs - is being a tad hidey.

Clingy Cat
Typing with a cat on your chest and in your line of sight to your computer is ..."challenging".

Can haz new pup!

We were actually kind of surprised that finding a compatible pup to fill the hole left by Lana was turning into such a chore. Turns out that Puckett has social skills that tick off a lot of dogs. Worse, Puckett's not real good at backing down from other dogs expressing their displeasure. 

After interviewing a number of dogs, attending several adoption events, visiting several shelters and rescue organizations, we finally found another dog that seems to be as chill about Puckett as Lana was (interestingly enough, got her from the same rescue group we'd gotten Lana from). After a home visit/checkout, she also seemed to be cat-compatible with our little hellions. So, we pulled the trigger and made the arrangements to bring her home. First, was a trip out to Chantilly to sign adoption papers and then a trip to Arlington to get a pup. Then, it was back to our house by way of the local PetCo to pick up leads, collars and harnesses, toys and dog-pillows. 


Our puppy is now home. Her name is (currently) "Cira". She was born September 20th, 2008 (so, we know when to do birthday things for her - a real treat when you're used to adopting rescues).

Expressive Habits

One of the other reasons I prefer telecommuting: I feel much more comfortable audibly cursing at the systems I'm working with.

When I'm working with computers and they're being "difficult", I tend to become "expressive." I curse. I make rude gestures. I smack my terminal. I'm sure it's all very comical. perhaps it's a touch disturbing to some. Dunno. All I know is that, it's probably best, for all concerned, if I'm alone to when being "expressive" towards technology.

Yup...

I still hate working with Windows.

Finally Figured It Out

I'd always wondered why MD-plated drivers immediately dive into the express lanes when merging onto highways. There've been too many occasions to count where, while speeding down the highway in one of the leftern lanes, I'll see a MD-plated driver enter the highway and immediately make a bee-line for the leftern lanes, even when going considerably slower than the people in those lanes. My usual reaction, aside from the cursing and having to take myself out of cruise control (and dump speed), has been to think, "what the fuck are you doing."

This morning, as I was getting on I95 to go to work, I finally figured it out. After 17 years of driving in the DC area, I finally had that "aha!" moment. As I (and an entire line of cars) was getting ready to merge onto I95 from the Telegraph Road interchange, the oncoming traffic in the lane I needed to get into vacated for one of the leftern lanes. That is, all but one car. This car was a MD-plated car that had been in one of the leftern lanes. This jackhole saw that a lane to his right was opening up, so, he tromped his accelerator (well, as much as someone in a Ford Focus can) and went for it.

It was then that I realized, "ah, they dive left to avoid the asshole that's going to run into them if they don't"

Not a Monday, But It Feels Like One

Ugh... Gotta love a day that starts with a laptop's video drivers deciding to crap out.

Each morning when I get up - particularly work mornings - I make a beeline for my computer to see what email has come in while I slept.

This morning was no exception. This morning, when I clicked over into Thunderbird, I noticed that I was getting "cannot connect to mail server" errors as I read each of the locally cached message copies.

As this oddity oozed its way through my sleep-fuzzed brain, I noticed, "hmm... the networking tooltray icon doesn't look right". So, I started troubleshooting. Eventually, it became evident that there was something wrong with the NIC driver, so, I rebooted in hopes of it sorting itself out.

Unfortunately, after the reboot, my computer was being very herky-jerky. Eventually, it started popping errors complaining about the NVIDIA display service crashing and being restarted. Fuck. So, I go Googling around (between lockups and display restarts) to see what might be going on. Eventually, it became apparent that a recent Windows automatic update had pissed off already flakey NVIDIA display software. I went to my laptop vendor's website and downloaded the driver (while contending with the freezes and restarts of the display). After about an hour of all this, I was able to get my computer working as it had been the night before.

Suboptimal way to start the day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Yo, "Homeboy"

Today, we drove out to Chantilly to attend a dog rescue organization's adoption event at the Greenbriar PetCo. We were visiting an event held by the same group that we'd adopted Lana from back in early 2003.

As I was driving down US-50, just after the exit from I-66, I noticed an odd sight. Is was one I had to point out to my wife, Donna. There's just something incongruous about a hipster doing the gangsta-lean while driving a Volvo. It's even more incongruous when the leaner is a suburban hipster wearing an "ironic" knit winter cap - a tyrolian-style one, no less.

Advertising WTFs

One of the joys of telecommuting is that you can have your TV on to act as background noise. The downside, is that, sometimes, that background noise intrudes on your conscious thoughts. This seems to be particularly so when something stupid is aired.

Today, the intrusion came from a commercial by the makers of Chia Pets. They were flogging chia-heads of the famous presidents (all the ones on Rushmore plus Obama). They were saying how big an honor such a display would be for those who were rendered in chia and how patriotic such a display would be. All I could think was, "yeah, I'm sure that George Washington did what he did so he could be 'honored' in chia;" and "oh well, at least this isn't an Obama vibrator" thing.

I want to know what kind of shit the marketing guys were smoking when they thought to write down that such abominations would be seen by anyone as honorific.

/facepalm

Gotta Repay the Sandman

I'm thinking last night's stayup for the blood-moon may mean an early bedtime, tonight. It was a nifty view, and all, and it was cool that it we were able to see an astronomical confluence not seen since Gallileo's time. But, there was the price of sleep to be paid. I borrowed, last night. I'm probably going to have to repay that debt, tonight.

Charting

If they did a word chart for things said while driving, my #1 would likely be "Seriously??" Well, it would be if you disqualified all the various words that wouldn't be allowed on broadcast TV and expressions that defy classification as language.

On the plus side, driving in the DC Metro area gives me plenty of things to write about and vent my spleen over.

A First

I've been "butt-dialed" many times. Today was the first time I got cat-dialed ...by my own cat.

I use a Google Voice number as the primary number I hand out to people. I've got it configured to dial me at my desk, my cell and my house (dependent on time of day and day of week). I also have it configured to act as the voicemail system for my various "real" phone numbers.

Frequently, when I get home from work, I pull my cell phone out and set it on the couch next to me (only other place it goes is on the charger across the room). I find that it keeps it nice and handy should I need it.

Unfortunately, when he can't lay on me, Grumbles's favorite place to lay is right next to me. Tonight, "next to me" also happened to be where my phone was sitting. Apparently, while shifting around to become more comfortable while laying on the phone, he managed to unlock my phone, select my GV number and dial it. I suppose this is the downside of software-based keyboards on a cell phone.

He also happened to do this during the time window where my GV number only rings my cell phone (in use) and my work's desk phone (I'd left it 45 minutes previous) and not my home phoneline. And, because he was laying on the phone, it muffled any of the sounds of the transaction. My notice of this activity was when I received an email from GV indicating "could not transcribe this session." I looked at the message and saw that it came from my cell phone. I listened to the recording of the message, and it was (basically) silent.

My "WTF" thoughts were quickly followed up by the, "dammit, I know what," line of thought. I noticed where Grumbles was laying and remembered that I'd previously laid my phone there. I dislodged the cat and found my (now very warm) phone under him.

Oh well, at least he hadn't managed to make an overseas call.

Some People Need an Anal Application of a 40-Grit Clue-Stick

What is it about gasoline stations that make people lose their common sense or common courtesy? Well, I know what the real problem is, it's my premise: most people simply don't have any idea of common sense or common courtesy. Most people have the manners and consideration consistent with having been raised by wolves (though, wolves probably have better socialization).

Yesterday, the local Amerigo had a broken pump. This left the double-sided pump on the main island and the double-sided pump on the auxiliary island. Of course, the remaining pump on the main island was in use. Now, I was trying to gas up my wife's Saturn VUE. I generally avoid going to the auxiliary pump because it's not in a great place to try to squeeze a vehicle into. It's even worse with an SUV. Unfortunately, I didn't have many options. Complicating matters was the fact that some dumb bitch with a (surprise, surprise: Maryland-plated) Toyota Echo decided she needed to PARK her car in front of the back pump. This meant I had to maneuver around the gasoline station. Now, when I'd started for the back pump, the only vehicles were the two using the remaining working pumps on the main island, the bitch who parked at the near-side of the back pump, and me. However, right as I was getting my nose to the back pump, some fucker blasted into the station from the wrong way and jammed into the pump in front of me.

To say the least, I was a little pissed. Unfortunately, getting arrested for beating the pulp out of someone would likely cost my my job, my job sector and all of the other things that depend on jobs in that sector. So, I tamped back the rage and extricated myself from the back pump area. Fortunately, in the time it took to extricate myself, one of the main pump slots had come free. So, I backed into the slot, and set about pumping gas.

Now, understand, while I've quelled my rage enough to not go beat the snot out of the fucker in the red Caddy (guess what: it was Maryland plated, too), I glared at him the entire time I was at my pump. The weasely little fuck would occasionally glance over with a guilty look on his face, then quickly look away when he saw that I was still glaring in his direction. I was really hoping he'd say something or even just look at me funny so that I had the excuse to curse him out. For better or worse, he seemed most interested in hurriedly pumping his gas and getting the hell away from there - he squealed his wheels getting out of the station. I finish filling the tank of Donna's car, and begin to leave the station. I notice that the bitch that had parked in front of the one pump is strolling her fat ass back out to her car. As she's disarming her car alarm, I flip her the bird. The look on her face was priceless: it looked like she wanted to say something, but then decided not to. Maybe she realized what she'd done. Either that, or I was (still) looking like I was waiting for an excuse to murder someone.

Today, on the way back from getting the coolant-level checked in my car, I decided to stop in at a gas station near my mechanic's garage. I pull into the station and find myself behind a minivan. He's waiting for one of the pumps to come free. Some cooze in a big, white Chrysler station wagon pulls into the lot from the wrong direction. But, it looks like she's wanting to get into a parking spot, so, the minivan backs up to let her cross in front to get to the parking spot. Instead, this whore decides she's going to cut in line and take the pump slot that I was waiting for.

It turns out the minivan, while blocking the pump I could have used, was actually  waiting in line for the pump on the other side of the island. He'd blocked my slot so that there'd be room for the person in the slot he wanted to be able to pull past him. Ok, whatever. I get that.

What I don't get is the cooze in the Chrysler sees the line, but decides to cut in. Worse, she cut in to go to a pump that required her to back into the pump. Even more fun, as she's starting to back into the pump, the guy at the other end of her side of the island pulls out. So, she backs up to the newly vacated slot. But, since she's driving a full-sized station wagon and is backing in - but only just far enough to get her gas cap exactly next to the pump handle - she's now facing the wrong way, making TWO pump slots unavailable. Did I mention she was driving a Maryland-plated car? Did I mention that this was further into northern VA than the previously mentioned station by my house?

Fortunately, a pump at one of the other islands was just coming free up. In fact, both slots were opening up. So, I start to pull over to that island. Just as I'm getting to my slot, some dickhead in an extended-cab RAM 1500 pulls into the station from the "exit only" outlet to the street. So, he's facing the wrong direction and in a LONG vehicle and is about to pull the same "block two pumps" thing the idiot in the Chrysler had just done (though, at least it was a pull-forward rather than a backing maneuver). I start to lose my shit. His (presumably) wife notices my reaction and makes him reconsider his maneuver. He reverses as far as he can and still reach his tank from the pump at the far end of the side of the island we're at. But, again, he's driving a fucking extended-cab RAM 1500, so he's still well into my slot. So, even after pulling to within 3" of his bumper, I'm still having to stretch the hose to reach my tank (with the gas handle at 90° from the normal resting orientation).

Did I mention that RAM-guy is Maryland-plated, too? I'm catching a real trend, here. It seems like people with Maryland plates have a similar approach to gas stations that they do choosing lanes to drive or pass in on the highways (which is to say, choosing the wrong ones).

At any rate, I figure, "pump my gas, get my receipt and get out" (yeah, I'm one of those people that keeps a log of my fuel purchases and mileage). Unfortunately, even though I'm putting slightly less than half a tank in, I end up not being able to just pump-and-go. Turns out, this station is one of those ones where, if you want the damned receipt, you have to go into the mini-mart and ask for it to be printed out. Fortunately, by the time I get my receipt and get back to my car, the ass-bag in the RAM 1500 has finished up and is backing out so he can exit the right way from the station's exit. So, at least I'm able to pull out in the proper direction and exit through the marked exit.

As I'm driving home, some tool in a blue Chevy goes blazing by me. Admittedly, "blazing by" is a relative term. We were in a 35MPH, mixed-residential/retail zone. I was going 42MPH. Apparently, he needed to get somewhere at 60MPH-plus. As he's blasting by, a sheet of snow/ice separates from the roof of his car and comes flying back at me like the Phatom-zone thing from the Superman movies. Fortunately, it shatters on the ground a few feet in front of my car, rather than actually hitting my car, directly. But, still... What the fuck is it about people in the DC area and not cleaning the goddamned snow off their vehicles before heading out on the road. And, by the way, the last snow to fall in the area was a week prior. Did this toolbag somehow now have the time (over that week) to either clean off his car or at least park it some place where the sun would melt it off??

Oh, yeah: he was driving a Maryland-plated car, too.

Rare Events

Crystal-clear sky: can I stay up to see the big event (and will I be able to wake up, tomorrow, if I do)?

Immersive Experience

Went and saw Tron: Legacy, tonight? Paid the $17/person to have a date night with my wife (her idea!) and see it in "IMAX 3D". Now, bear in mind, this is the faux-IMAX that seems to be the norm for Northern Virginia "IMAX" presentations. So, it wasn't the type of IMAX experience you get at a museum's IMAX presentation. No, this is the smaller, IMAX-branded "IMAX experience". Granted 3D movies tend to look better in faux-IMAX than in regular digital 3D - mostly because the images are brighter. But, the screen size/design lacks the immersiveness of "real" IMAX. It seems the theatre near my house tries to restore some of the immersiveness by absolutely blasting the sound (so, you feel the movie as much as see it). Thus, tonight's Tron in IMAX 3D was very LOUD!

Monday, December 20, 2010

Situational Preferences

It strikes me that if you believe in ghosts you probably have a different idea of a perfect death than someone who believes in no afterlife. Now follow me on this...

To me, one of the best ways to die would be one where you have no awareness of having died. One presumes that in such a scenario, there's no pain or fear for the brain to feel in it's last seconds or minutes of life. There's no possibility of your last thought being, "oh, shit: I'm dying".

Now, if you buy the stories of those who profess to believe in ghosts, one of the ways that people end up as ghosts is if they die in such a way that they don't realized they've died. Their spirits stick around because they don't know any better. If ghosts are real and such is a way for ending up a ghost, it would seem that you'd want to know "oh, I'm dying" or "oh, I've died".

I Don't Miss the Reminders

Downside of online Xmas shopping: you don't have sufficient trauma to remember "oh, I already did my shopping"

Mom-Tech

Schnikies: Mom went and got herself a spiffy, new Android phone from Sprint. Hopefully, I don't get roped in on tech support. But, hopefully, she finds it money well spent.

Hmm... Can it be long before my mom starts to either FaceBook or Twitter? Can blogging be far behind?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Dark Day, Indeed

Never thought I'd actually be happy to see that the Cowpats won. Fuck you, Shanahan.

That's Entertainment?

I know I've never seen any of the various "Airport" (or other movies featuring air-disasters) on any flights during all my years of flying. And, on commuter rail (metroliners, regionals or Acela-type), I've never noticed a video option available (though, on an Acela trip back from NYC, I watched Midnight Meat Train on my laptop). Do they ever show "Poseidon Adventure" or "Titanic" on cruise ships' in-room movies?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Letter-Writing Campaign

It took us a while to find our first dog, Lana. First, we tried with the local SPCA shelters, but, they'd not had any pups that didn't cause migraines for Donna. Then, we tried some breed-specific rescue organizations. Unfortunately, at least back in 2002/2003 timeframe, those organizations seemed a little over-protective: they were more focussed on finding a perfect home than one that was merely "suitable".

I'll never claim that we have a perfect home. Any pets we get will be well loved and taken care of to the extent that current finances allow (we've been fortunate enough to not have to skimp, thus far). We don't have an expansive yard or a huge house, but what we've got is enough for most pups to be comfortable. And, in the end, we have more than enough love to give.

At any rate, with the recent loss of Lana, we've been on the lookout for new dogs. The number of available dogs that are both cat and dog friendly seems to not be large - particularly factoring in Puckett and the types of dogs we've been looking at (bullies and bully-mixes). While we want to go the rescue route, we've been hoping for dogs in the 9-24mo range, so we can maximize our time with any we bring home (the size of dogs we're looking at tend to only live to the 10-12 year old range),

Thus far, we've visited two organizations and called a few others. We've also been scouring PetFinder.Com. We've got two more to visit, today. Between visits, I've been writing to rescue organizations and hoping someone can help us. There's a big empty spot in our house, right now.

Snake-eyes

Two different rescue organizations and found no daigz what are compatible with Puckett. Turns out that Puckett's a bit more alpha-ish than I'd originally thought.

We found several pups that we liked, but... Much as not every person gets my sense of humor, not every dog gets the way Puckett likes to play.

This could take a while. :(

Friday, December 17, 2010

No Such Domain?

I'm kind of surprised there's no "FapBook" out there. Given the popularity of "Fap" for porn and the number of sites that seem to want to put "Book" in their titles, it seemed natural that there'd be a FabBook.Com out there. Alas, no such critter.

Not The Droid I'm Looking For

Why does Verizon think I'd want a phone that looks like R2D2??

New Beginnings

If the weather and everything else cooperates, tomorrow, we'll be looking to move on to our post-Lana lives. She's left a big hole and we need someone to help us fill it. I'm really looking forward to doing daig-tryouts, tomorrow.

Dear Redskins

I used to think you didn't deserve the last 11yrs ...until today. Your treatment of McNabb, this year, has been nothing short of disgraceful. You've scapegoated a consummate professional the failings of an inflexible and under-talented coaching staff. And, because he's a professional, he's going to (at least publicly) take it like a professional.

Never thought I'd say these words, but I hope the fucking Cowboys run roughshod, this weekend.

Fuck Snyder. Fuck the Shannahans - who almost make Snyder look like a reasonable man. Fuck the `Skins. And, for you "fans" that continue to enrich these fuckers: fuck you, too.

Some Cats Need Skinned

Why do cats HAVE to lay right up against the heat registers?? They block them, leaving the entire house colder. Fuckers.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Brains?

Would the best way to survive a zombie apocalypse be to bleach oneself blonde?

Other than Nickleback, Themselves...

Is there anything more hateful than a Nickleback cover band?

What Are You Doing, DC Voters?

Every time I see Vincent Gray on the news, I think "my God, they've elected Mr Herbert as mayor". And, yes, I know I've posted in this vein, before, but still...

That's *One* Way to Warm the House

Cold weather/house means Donna's in a baking mood. Tonight: apple pie!

Surprising Reminders

That was surprisingly depressing. Took compost out only to notice how different the snow-tracks look with just one dog.

More Security Theatre

Guess the new Metro bag checks programs is going to be how they justify the next round of fare increases. And, hey: it will create new jobs! 

The security movements of the last few years: do they really accomplish anything or are they just the modern version of the WPA?

Do They Ever Get It Right

Ok, last night, weren't they saying just a dusting of snow and that it wouldn't start till later in the afternoon? Today, the snow started in the morning and ended up dropping more than an inch of snow and dreck. Yeah, 1" isn't much more than a dusting (except in an area like DC where people lose their fucking minds even if it's just flurries), but, it's still yet another instance of the forecasters being wrong.

Fmeh. How can a class of "professionals" be so frequently wrong and either have jobs or be taken even marginally seriously. I swear, the old lady at the nearby "fortune teller" shack is more accurate and more frequently right.

Tough Love

Curries and hot peppers are excellent ways to fight sinus congestion (and numb a sore throat).

Be Careful of Your TV Choices

Being too knowledgeable isn't a good thing when watching shows like "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire". Some of the answers are simply annoying. Many are inaccurate. Some are just down-right wrong.  It's clear that, instead of looking for correct/accurate answers, they're looking for the answers most likely to be given by the class of contestants their show draws.

Ugh. Makes me want to smack a bitch.

Mystery Solved?

Is the reason DC residents keep Barry in office because he makes everyone feel smart every time he's in the news?

Dear Whole Foods

Gumdrops should *NEVER* taste like marshmallows. Ugh. Very disconcerting.

LegitSsofotwareDeallOfTheCentturyyAavaiiIalbaIeAtAVerfiied_anddCertfifiedOniIne_store

So, I get an email (SPAM, obviously) with the above subject line. I see something like that and all I can think is "yeah, lemme open that right the hell up." Seriously: does anyone actually respond to such mailings??

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Pat Collins: What Annoying Hack

NBC 4's Pat Collins has to be one of the most annoying "personalities" on local TV. I mean, watching his news reports feels like the guy who voiced the old Winnie-the-Pooh went to the William Shatner acting school. And, yes, it's exactly as annoying as you'd think such a combination would be.

Pat Collins needs to get out of the news business. What a freaking hack.

w00t! Gonna go look at daigz on Saturday!

A couple days after we put Lana down, we decide, "yeah, it would be a good idea to try to look for something to fill the hole that Lana left". So, we went on PetFinder and started looking. Obviously, with the Caribbean vacation we were just about to embark on, we had to put the actual plans for visits on hold. But, now back from our trip, I could start contacting rescue organizations. We're gonna go out to Friends of Homeless Animals (the organization we got Puckett from) this weekend to see if there's any dogs we might be able to bring home. We're bringing Puckett along so he can give us an initial "OK" (or veto). Then, we gotta get a home visit to see how compatible any new pups are with the cats.

Still, hopefully have a new guy/girl before the end of January.

GV Audio Transcripts

Let me start by saying, "I love Google Voice." If they ever turn it into a commercial product, I'd have no problem paying for it (especially if they added some other features). I mean, the ability to set up screenable call-groups and availability windows and forwarding options is just freaking awesome. The voice-to-text transcription service for voicemails is a nifty idea, too (I say "idea" because, in its current form, it's just "not quite there").

I love GV transcriptions of voicemails - for entertainment more than functional utility. Even the best of translations usually need work. And, when you get a message from someone with an accent, speech impediment or just "mush-mouth", the transcriptions should just say "you're on your own with this one!"

Don't get me wrong, the service makes a game attempt at translations. And, well...

Yesterday, I got a call from someone who I had a hard time understanding. Unfortunately, she was trying to give me directions to a destination, but I didn't have anything to write with, so, she offered to call back and leave a voicemail. It was just as funny a transcript as I was expecting. About the only way it could have been funnier is if GV woulda just done the same thing as in the Minnie the Moocher subtitles in the original Blues Brothers movie.

NOT THAT BUTTON

I really think there should be mandatory training on correct use of the "Reply" and "Reply-all" buttons before giving people email access. Just because a message was sent to a group doesn't mean you need to reply to the entire group. We really don't need to see it, and, what's more we don't want to see it.

Gah.

I hate people.

The whole "Reply All" thing  was why, when I was last administering a corporate mail system, I put ACLs on distribution lists.

And, as you probably guessed, I hate chain letters and the like, too.

Wrinkles in Plans

It occurred to me that, if we get a new dog, soon, I'll need someone to go with me to weekend home Flyers games. Hopefully, it won't be a full-season thing. Hopefully, the new daig will adjust quickly enough that we can feel comfortable making weekend day-trips. But, still.

Dunno what's gonna happen with Christmas, if we can get a dog sorted before then, either. I don't think it will be an issue, given that we won't even be starting to see dogs until the 18th and most rescues want to do home-visits before placing a dog. Given that Christmas is inside a week, I don't see it getting knocked out before then. But, we may be pleasantly surprised. If we are, then, may need to change Christmas travel plans.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Runny nose + mustache = bad combo

When growing a beard, mustache, etc., you just don't really think about "what happens when I get a cold". I gotta think that similar is the case for people getting nose-rings.

Incorrect Impressions

Hmm... I think AmEx might be assuming too much from all the recent spending. I really don't need a credit increase.

Yes, I get that I spent a crap-ton this month. There was the $2000 in veterinary bills (veterinary ER visit, followed up, a few days later, by euthanasia and cremation costs). There was the nearly $2000 in supplemental fees paid to the cruise line (alcohol and shore excursions, etc.). And, of course, there was the $1300 for Donna's new sparkly (the place had had it priced at $5900, but, let it go for $1300 ...yet, I still felt skinned). Plus, my normal monthly expenditures (we do all our utilities, etc., grocery bills and the like through the card). And, of course, it's the Christmas shopping season.

So, it was a big month. But, at this point, they should have enough of a shopping history on me to know that it was rather an atypical month. Upping my credit limit by 50% isn't going to make me spend more. In fact, other than the utilities, groceries, etc., I don't have any expenses planned requiring its use for the next several months (ideally, not till Christmas 2011).

Whatevs: not like they charge me a carrying fee or anything.

Wonder if Roto-Rooter does sinuses?

Seriously.

I really hate colds. At least I waited to catch this one until the end of my Caribbean cruise rather than the beginning. Even better, it waited to really nail me until after my flight got back. I've been on airplanes with really bad sinuses and it's miserably painful: the low air-pressure, at altitude, makes your ears feel like they're going to burst. Or, even more fun, if your head seals up at altitude, landing and being on the ground is excruciating.

Ugh.

Dear Rescue Organisations:

Look: I know that you mean well; I know that you want every dog you place to be placed in a "forever home"; I know that you want each of your charges to have a perfect home.

Unfortunately, I think that what some of you forget is that, at the end of the day, you want to place a dog in a home. The home doesn't have to be perfect. It especially doesn't have to be so perfect that it, somehow, magically makes up for all of the abuses and injustices that caused those dogs to be in your charge. There is such a thing as "good enough". And, while "good enough" does encompass perfect, magical, etc., less than those are also valid. Basically, so long as the place your charges are placed into are loving homes that do their best for those dogs (even if their best isn't perfect), you've discharged your duties

I went through this nonsense before we got Lana. Our house wasn't good enough for a breed-specific rescue (even though our house was far better then the house that the would-be pet was being fostered in).. Yet, somehow, our pets have managed to be well-cared for and very much loved. I don't like adoption forms that make me feel like I'm being judged simply for wanting a pet. Congratulations: a dog that would have been happy here now has to wait longer to find a forever home.

Call-tree and On-Hold Lies

If my call is so important, why is it so hard to get through the call-tree and why am I on hold for so freaking long?

Big Ten Shits the Bed

Yegads. Go away for a vacation and come back to find the Big Ten shit the bed on the new logos and division names. WTF is this atrocity:
I mean, if the designers' goal was to create a united sentiment in a conference where all the members hate each other and agree on nothing, well, then, "bravo". They succeeded in creating something so sucktastic that everyone who's a fan of a Big Ten school can, at least, agree on how awful the logo is. And, if they can't agree on that, they can agree on how mind-bendingly stupid the new division names are.

Lastly, I don't get the whole Paterno trophy for the conference championship. I get that JoePa's an institution and the winningest living coach in BCS football. So, yeah, definitely worthy of having a trophy named after him ...except that he's: A) still alive; and B) still coaching. It feels like a not so subtle move by the league to get JoePa to step down. I'm a PSU alum and would be duly-bound to adore him (even if I didn't already like him for what he was, stands for and does), but the thought of JoePa winning a Stagg-Paterno trophy is rather weird.

Greh.

Fuck you, winter. Fuck you straight in your frigid ass.

So, we spent the week, cruising the tropics. Going from where it was in the upper 30s/lower 40s to someplace where it was in the 70s all day seemed awesome. Unfortunately, we came back home and the 30s/40s had been replaced by days peaking in the lower/mid 20s. Argh.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Makes You Hungry

When the pool's next to the kitchen and your balcony overlooks the pool, your balcony smells of bacon in the morning.

Odd Labeling

Something odd about bi-lingual product labelings being in English and French ...in Puerto Rico. I mean, I get that Aveda (the maker of the hotel toiletries) has standard labeling of its products. It just seemed "odd".

Sunday, December 12, 2010

I'm Pretty Sure US Air's Theme Song Should Be "Let's Get Retarded"

Ok, so, the trip down to Puerto Rico wasn't horrible. One of the legs of the trip down we were upgraded to first class (granted, it was the 20 minute flight to Philly, but, at least there was free alcohol). The PHL-to-SJU leg was what you'd expect from coach-class.

A couple days before our return, we got email notifications that we'd been upgraded on both the longer SJU-to-CLT leg and the shorter CLT-to-DCA leg. Coolness: free alcohol and extra space (we'll ignore the free hospital-quality food). Twenty-four hours before flight-time, got the notification to do web check-in.

It was at this point that it all went sorta sideways. I hit the "Check-in" button and then the "select seats" option. Everything was cool on the SJU-to-CLT leg - other than that our seats weren't together (no biggie, we figured we'd just ask people to trade so we could be together). However, the CLT-to-DCA leg was fuxored. Though both of us had been upgraded and our coach seats de-assigned, there was only one seat selectable for us in First Class. It also wouldn't even let me re-select a coach seat for either of us. Fuck.

So, I clicked on the "contact us" link. I called the number, navigated the call-tree and then was placed on hold for a CSR. Eventually, the CSR came on the line and quickly informed me, "oh, that's an international itinerary: you'll need to talk to the international ticketing desk. I'll transfer you, but here's the number in case you get disconnected..."

I'd never really considered Puerto Rico to be "international" given their legal relationship to the US. However, in retrospect, Puerto Rico does have it's on TLD (pulling up Google redirects you to google.com.pr) and has Spanish as its primary language. So...

At any rate, the CSR transfers me ...to the "international" call-tree (i.e., not a "warm hand-off"). Grr... I navigate the new call-tree and eventually get a new CSR. She finds that the CLT-to-DCA situation requires supervisor override (apparently, there were seats available in first class, but reserved and the supervisor was the only one that could force-allocate me a seat). She puts me on hold while they sort things out. Eventually, she comes back on the line and tells me I've got both my seats but that they're not next to each other. I figure "cool/whatever: we'll sort it out later". She also tells me I'm checked in and all I need to do is go back to the web site and click on the "print boarding passes" button. We say our goodbyes and I go back to my laptop to print out my tix.

The retardation that is US Airway's online reservations system isn't done with me, yet, however. While the website shows that I've now got two seats on each leg of the trip, it only lets me print the tickets for the seats that were allocated prior to my chat with the international reservations CSR. This is problematic, as I really didn't feel like having to ass-around in Charlotte due to not having a printed pass. So, I call US Airways, again. This time, I call their web tech support number, as this seems to be more a web-portal issue than a true ticketing issue. I navigate the call-tree and then wait on hold for a CSR. Eventually the CSR comes on the line. I identify myself and explain my issue. She asks me to hold while she tries to resolve it. Unfortunately, she has about as much success as I had and tells me to just have one of the gate agents print me all four passes when I check my bags. Great. This doesn't exactly give me the warm-fuzzies, but, "what can you do". On the marginal plus side, at least the CSR had the same problems I did. So, it wasn't a PEBKAC error on my part.

The next day, we get to the airport. We get a porter to lug our bags (they don't do the rental carts and Donna always packs heavy). We go through the APHIS/FDA screening, then go to the agent desk. Fortunately, being on a First Class itinerary, there were no lines to wait in. Donna discovers our desk agent is a kindred spirit: her ID-lanyard is printed with skulls and crossbones all over. The agent starts checking in our bags - tagging them and getting our bag-receipts all stapled up. However, she also appears to have issues getting all the tix to print. A supervisor is called over and eventually everything is all sorted out. As a bonus, our SJU-to-CLT leg is re-ticketed so that our seats are next to each other.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Strange Bedfellows

You can tell the cats think the house is cold when they curl up next to the dog on the dog-pillow.

The critical word here is "cats" (i.e., the plural of "cat"). Grumbles never had problems chilling out with either of the dogs. Bella, on the other hand, always hated the dogs. But, when she gets cold enough, she tries to lay down with them (typically Puckett because Lana would always growl at her - prolly had something to do with not liking  the fact that Bella frequently ambushed her).

Moving On

When you've a new hole in your life from a recently-departed pet, perusing PetFinder.Com is an great way to push some of the darkness back.

Some people wonder how I can start looking "so soon", but, for me, the best way to move forward is to start moving forward.

Besides, to me, it says something about the recently departed that they've left enough of a hole that you feel compelled to fill it. I miss Lana. A lot. I miss her dancing. I miss her singing. I miss her grumbling. I miss her company. I miss that extra warmth and life. I know I can't replace her, but I can do something to help fill the hole her departure has left.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

All Things End

Today, we saw to the ending of our dog, Lana. Lana was a rescue. She was conveyed into our care by A Forever-Home Rescue Foundation in the spring of 2003 at one of their frequent adoption events at the Chantilly Petco.

 

The Lana Bear

 

I'm not sure what led her to us, but the marks in her coat and her reactions to certain people and actions always told us it wasn't an easy path..

 

After we'd gotten married in January, we felt the need to start our "family". We tried finding a dog from a number of places. First, we tried the local Animal Welfare League shelter. Alas, none of the critters we found there really "spoke" to us. Of the ones that did, they weren't compatible with the animal allergies that Donna had.

 

Along the way, we'd discovered that we liked bully-breeds. They're awesome dogs with a really undeserved bad reputation. First, we tried the local boxer and bulldog rescues. We even got so far as bringing home one lovely candidate, but she just didn't like our cats. So, we had to send her back.

 

During this process, we discovered that some of the breed-specific rescue organizations set unrealistic expectations for those seeking to adopt the dogs in their charge. I get that these are people who are genuinely concerned about the dogs in their charge, but it left kind of a bad taste in our mouth. We were essentially told that our small (1400sq.ft.) duplex and fenced in yard weren't a suitable environment for the types of dogs we were hoping to adopt. Ironically, this came from people that were fostering dogs in smaller houses with even smaller (or no!) yards.

 

Lesson learned, we moved on in our searches.

 

Being an IT guy, Google had frequently proven to be a great tool for finding the things I wanted and needed. Indeed, in this pursuit, Google was our friend. Google led us to PetFinder.Com. PetFinder, in turn, led us to the A Forever-Home Rescue Foundation.

 

On their web site, we found this lovely, sweet-looking American Bulldog/Boxer mix. So, we contacted them to find out more. They'd indicated they were going to be having an adoption event at the PetCo in Chantilly, VA. In our conversations with them, it sounded like Lana might be an ideal match and that our environment might be well suited to her. At the time, we were still looking to have human children and already had a pair of cats. Lana was being fostered in a house with toddlers and infants and did well with them. Further, she'd shown no indications of problems getting along with cats. We marked the date on our calendar and drove out to Chantilly to meet Lana.

 

She was just as sweet as we thought she would be. She greeted us by offering first one paw to shake, then the other. She seemed to genuinely enjoy the attention she was getting from us, so we arranged to have her brought to our house to meet our cats.

 

The staffer from Forever-Home brought her out a few nights later. She was adequately pleased with the potential accommodations and Lana seemed to not be bothered by the cats (indeed, it was the cats - well, just one cat - who were harder to please). So, we did up the paperwork and she was ours.

 

The first years were hard. She showed some of the signs of the abuse she'd received before coming to us. She was getting over a bad heartworm infestation, and was somewhat slowed by that damage and the medications being used to treat it (the heartworms left her with a lifelong heart-murmur). So, she was always going to be a low energy dog. She was also extremely foot-shy, afraid of explosions (didn't find this out till the week of fourth of July) and afraid of black men. She'd also, at some point prior to coming to us, given birth to at least one litter of puppies. We surmised that, because of her looks and some of her "twitches" (things she was scared of), she'd probably been used as a breeder dog for a dog-fighting operation.

 

While she enjoyed shaking hands and doing what we came to refer to as "the boxer walk", she was otherwise not terribly interactive. She didn't care for chew toys - probably because her teeth were utterly busted (presumably part of her prior abuse). She had no tail to speak of. She was very much not a barking dog. However, she was quite vocal: she liked to trill and "rowl" and "roo" and grumble (which led to several of her nicknames: Lana bear; Moo-cow; Rooly-roo; Rowly-dog; etc.). It was all a part of her underlying sweetness and contributed to the simple joy of her presence.

 

Much as some parents of only-children discover that the first baby required siblings, Lana showed us that we needed another dog. That's when we got Puckett.

 

Puckett was exactly what she needed to be brought the rest of the way out of her shell. The dog we previously though had no tail, we discovered did have a tail. ...Well, she had a bump under the skin where a tail should have sprouted out. What we discovered is that, when she was really happy, she'd wiggle hat bump back and forth. She'd also sorta just wiggle all over. She also came to sing and dance when she was rally happy. And, always, there was her boxer-walk.

 

Fortunately, we had nearly 8 years to enjoy her. But, like all good things, that time had to end. Today was that day.

 

After getting back from Thanksgiving, she'd been exhibiting unexplained pain - she'd always been amazingly pain-tolerant, that, to hear her yelp was very concerning. We'd also noticed that the lymphnodes in her neck were visibly swollen and felt angry to the touch. So, it was with dread that we took her to the vet. The vet asked us to leave her there so they could run some tests. The initial cytology looked suspect and her pain turned out to be coming from her back. Xrays indicated she had an advanced case of spondylosis. The initial lymph aspiration smears looked troubling, but it would be a couple days till they had definitive lab results. So, the sent her home with muscle relaxers, mild-narcotics and anti-biotics.

 

We waited two days for the lab results. During that time, Lana mostly slept. She didn't really drink and was pooping infrequently. So, we weren't expecting the results to be good. And, when they called, Tuesday evening, they weren't Turns out the swollen lympnodes were because of a lyphosarcoma.

 

The vet offered the possibility of chemo to treat the cancer. However, Lana was 10 years old, apparently had chronic and deteriorating back pain and the history of heart problems. Given her size-range, she really only had an expected average lifespan of about two more years.

 

The vet couldn't promise us that the chemotherapy would either put her into remission or not make her sick in the process. Even if she could have, there was the matter of the bad and deteriorating back. She was noticeably weak around the hind quaters - somewhat tottery when standing and fragile when laying. It only made sense that we let her go.

 

We made an appointment to see her on her way at noon, today. We lavished her with attention all night and gave her one last big meal of all her favorite foods: gobs of peanutbutter, rice, cheese, chicken, tongue and topped it with a splash of bourbon (we'd have given her Guinness - her real favorite - but there was none in the house, so we gave her what she'd previously demonstrated was a runner-up favorite). We continued to lavish attention on her, throughout the morning. We took last pictures and waited for the death-clock to count down.

 

We arrived at the Alexandria Animal Hospital about 20 minutes ahead of her appointment. I'd left early in anticipation of being delayed by the construction plaguing the 1½-mile stretch between our house and the vet's office. I'd not wanted to be late for fear we'd have to reschedule. As heart-rending as waiting for the original appointment had been, it would have been soul-killing to have to reschedule. Somehow, there was no delay today. So, we waited out the appointment time by taking her on one last mini-walk through the grassy areas outside the vet's office.

 

Three minutes ahead of the appointed time, we went in. The staff was very caring and discreet, quickly escorting us back to the room where they do the procedure. We didn't have to sit and wait in a waiting room, trying not to cry in front of strangers. We were able to go to a private room where the vets and techs were able to walk us through things, giving us all the time we needed to get ready for the procedure.

 

Eventually, they took her to the back to put a catheter in and give her an anti-anxiety medicine. They then brought her back to the room for the administration of the euthanising chemicals. They also brought her a whole, big bowl of a meat-hash to enjoy before the administration of the chemicals. Meal done, they gave us a few minutes alone with her, then the vet came back in to finish the process. Donna held onto Lana and I held onto them both.

 

First, the anesthetic was injected into the catheter. She fairly quickly showed its effects moving from standing to sitting to laying. Once she was sure Lana was fully sedated, the vet then adminstered the killing cocktail. I watched the awareness and life drain from her eyes and listened as her breathing slowed to a stop. The vet offered us time alone with her.

 

During that window, there was the death-rattle, and then, I watched the last visible twitches of life cease.

 

The veterinary nurse then came in to take Lana's corpse for cleanup. While back there, they took a paw-cast. Cleaned up, they brought her back to us. Donna wrapped her in a blue sheet she'd soaked with rose and lavendar scent. I then carried her out to the SUV and we drove home.

 

Once home, I took her to the back porch so that Donna could say her goodbyes. Donna wrapped her in a second shroud and sewed up up with blue stitching. She then wrote all the various nicknames, we'd come to know her by over the years, on the shroud. Her rites done, Donna picked up Lana's shrouded corpse and carried her back through the house and back out to the car.

 

I then made the slow drive, Donna and Dog in the back seat, to Sunset Pet Services. They're a local pet funeral and cremation facility. We were taking her there for cremation as they offer individual cremation services.

 

We'll be picking up her ashes, tomorrow. Her ashes will be spread over our roses so that we can see a little bit of her each time the flowers begin to bloom in the spring.

 

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Am I Too Skeptical

I am a StumbleUpon user. It's an unbelievably efficient time-suck. Any time you press that Stumble! button, you get taken to some random page that, four times out of five, appeals to you. Granted there's a crapton of junk. And, sometimes the things you get, you're not really sure "what interest did I click that I got this page??"

I think, somewhere, I must have clicked some mislabled "conspiracy theory" interest button. Frequently, I get Stumbles that are purportedly factual, but, if you question the content, there's little corroborating content available. And, no, I don't consider other unknown/fringe sources to be either reliable or corroborating.

Yesterday, I stumbled a Mashable article about DHS/ICE supposedly seizing a bunch of piracy-oriented web sites. The content of the article struck me as odd, because, the last I'd heard from sources like EFF (and similar sites), COICA had not been passed by the last Congress or Senate, nor had it made it to Obama's desk for signing. It was my understanding that COICA was being formulated because the federal government currently couldn't act as the various IP-holders' (RIAA, MPAA, etc.) proxy as they'd never been delegated the power.

The Mashable article did reference a NY Times article, but that was the closest to a "known" news site I could find. The rest were various left-field sites whose coverage consisted mostly of quoting the Mashable and NY Times articles (and with miles-long "comments" sections). I've yet to see anything from EFF - at their website, via their FaceBook group or even their Twitter feed - on the subject. I've not even seen anything posted, yet, by Declan McCullagh. Both sources tend to be pretty on top of and vocal about news stories in this vein.

Absent the other usual suspects' mention, I became suspicious. I mean, while the TSA and other organizations frequently trample on the 4th Amendment, they at least try to make it look like they aren't. And, when they do, EFF, ACLU and other organizations are generally pretty vocal and public with their opposition. Secondly, governmental seizures are usually the domain of the DoJ and FBI, not DHS and certainly not ICE. DHS is usually "terrorism" oriented and ICE is generally immigration oriented. Piracy-enabling websites wouldn't really seem to logically fall under either of those domains.So, I started digging.

First of all, the sites that were supposedly taken down by ICE are all redirected to seizedservers.com. This seems odd, to me. I mean, if these were truly the result of governmental actions, wouldn't they have redirected to seizedservers.GOV, instead. So, I poked about a bit more.

I did an IP lookup on the seizedservers.com web site. Using `nslookup`, I found that the IP associated with that site was "74.81.170.109". Next, I queried the ARIN to see who owned that IP address. The results indicated that the IP address was owned by a Carolina-based ISP.

Curiouser and curiouser: why would the IP be owned by a Charlotte-area ISP rather than some government agency. I mean, it's not like the Federal government's short on IP addresses they could delegate to DHS or ICE. After all, both Senate.Gov and House.Gov are run off of Federal IP ranges. And, yes, I get that many of the Federal government's public webhosting is done through external providers (I used to work for a site that hosted USPS's stuff). However, most of the sites I've done lookups against that are externally hosted, seem to be hosted by Akamai, these days. For example, both the White House and the main DHS web site seemed to be hosted by them. ICE, as a sub-department of DHS would, logically, have similar hosting arrangements. 

Lastly, seizedservers.com was only registered on November 24th of this year and just days prior to the supposed domain seizures. I've done a lot of work with governmental groups over the years. None of them go from "just registered" to actively working in less than a week (usually, you're talking months, quarters or even years).

I realize I could easily be wrong, but none of it seems to "add up". To me, it looks more like it's either a hoax to get the file-sharing community up in arms or that the sites got their domains stolen (by "hackers", not the US government). Can anyone provide definitive proof that this is "for real". It seems like a pretty big story for the mainstream news outlets and the various rights and privacy groups to be asleep at the wheel on.