Saturday, October 24, 2015

Panic At The Benefits Site

Bit of a panic moment, this morning. Got an email from my former employer's benefits plan administrator telling me "because your ESOP plan had less than the required minimum balance to be retained under the current program, your plan will be cashed out, taxes assessed and a check sent". This struck me as odd, because the only plan I was aware of that was managed by the brokerage was my 401(k), which, if it was below the minimum balance, would have meant that a not-inconsiderable chunk of money had somehow managed to go "poof".

The initial panic wasn't helped by the fact that, the link that the plan-administrator sent to me to view my plan info was erroring out in a way that could have been interpreted as my account having been deactivated.

Decided, "calm down. Go run your morning errands. Try the site again in a couple hours and see if it was just a transient problem and not something more serious."

Get home and try the link again. Same damned error. Opt to try logging in using a different method. The different method worked. Found all my funds still present an ESOP that I hadn't specifically known about.

And, no, the email wasn't bogus, just broken. I'd checked the headers before clicking the links ...and the fact that it was sent to an address set up specifically for use by the plan-administrator meant that, if it was a phish, they'd have had to have already compromised the administrator's site to get my address. Lastly, the site's URL and SSL certificate were all good. All those details in place, were it an exploit, they likely would have had a better effort-ROI by just extracting data directly from the site-owner than trying to phish me.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cloud, The Vogon Way

Me: "I'd like to be able to send account-validation emails to people who register to my bug-tracking system".
AWS Dox: "Sure... but if you mail direct, most sites will treat your email as spam"
Me: "Ok... How do I get around that"

AWS Dox: "Well, you can relay through SES"

Me: "Cool. Lemme go set that up."

AWS-SES: "Rejected!"

Me: "Your SMTP message is a bit vague - are you rejecting the relay because of the sender or the recipient?"


AWS Dox: "To relay with SES you have to validate senders - or sender-domains - and recipients"

Me: "Ok... The SES console says my domain is validated and that any sender in the domain should be good."


Me: "Guess that means the rejection message applied to the recipients. Lemme verify a recipient ...even though that makes SES crap as a smart-relay"


Me: "Fuck... I only validated the recipient in one region and the rejecting relay is in another. Lemme verify my recipient in _multiple_ regions, then ...You do realize this makes SES a real horror-show for smart-relay services, right?"


Me: "What the actual fuck??" (dig through shitty AWS dox some more) "Srsly? I gotta validate my domain in each region I want to relay through SES??"

I swear: Vogons had to have consulted on the design of some of AWS's service-components.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

There Are No Easy Answers

So, the latest "easy answer" (to the U.S.'s gun promlem) that seems to be washing across the various social sites I visit is the idea of "require insurance for gun ownership and you'll make guns too expensive to carry!". On the face, it sounds good. I mean, car insurance isn't cheap for most people and medical insurance is stupidly expensive. So, why wouldn't gun insurance be expensive, too?

Problem is, the cost of insurance isn't high just as a matter of course. Insurance costs for many things can actually be extremely low. What drives insurance prices is generally how much it costs for an insurer to provide coverage to a risk-pool. This includes things like administrative costs, but the real drivers of costs are the annual payouts to be covered. Those payouts are driven by two main things: the costs of claims and the likelihoods of having to pay out those claims.

Car and medical insurance are both expensive - particularly medical - because the likelihood of having to pay a claim and the size of the claims are both high.

If you've ever been in even a fender bender and looked at just the cost of body-work, even trivial incidents can be stupid expensive. Throw in personal injury claims and then take the number of claimable incidents that happen over a given amount of time, and you come up with fairly high risk-exposure for an insurer.

Similarly, if you've ever been the customer of an ER for something minor and then looked at your EoB, you've noticed that even "small" emergencies are stupidly-expensive.

With both automobile and medical insurance, insurance rates are highly variable. Some peoples rates are punishingly-high while others' may border on trivial. Why? Actuarial tables and claim-history. Insurers look at your age, your health, your personal habits, where you live and other indicators of risk (likelihood of payouts and likely sizes of payouts). Those factors are evaluated and you're put into risk-pools of people with similar evaluations. The insurer then has to determine, "give a pool of size X with a likely annual payout of Y for that pool, how much do I need to charge each of that pool's members to be able to turn a profit". Insurers can further decide "do I make my profit by providing coverage to a small number of subscribers that I get fat margins on or do I make my profit by providing coverage for a larger number of subscribers but where each subscriber earns me a lower margin". In non-competitive markets, insurers tend towards the former. In competitive markets, the temptation to do the latter is higher (gain customers by undercutting your competition).

Thus, even if one were to pass legislation saying "gun owners must be insured" (and courts don't ultimately see such legislation as infringing on exercise of a constitutional right), it's entirely reasonable to assume that not all insurance will be prohibitively expensive. Indeed, if such mandated insurance were to prove prohibitively expensive, it would increase the likelihood of courts deeming an insurance mandate an infringement on exercise of a constitutional right. You  have to figure that, unless there's artificial restraint of competition, there'll be at least one or two insurers that would do the math and figure out that they can make serious bank by providing low-margin/high-volume insurance policies.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fix-em' Up

Good article:

Fix-em' Up

The reason I bought an HP Zbook instead of the HP Omen was that the ZBook is user-serviceable.

I'd made my previous EliteBook last for five and a half years because I could get replacement keyboards, wifi cards and upgrade-parts either from the vendor, Amazon or eBay.

The Omen was _not_ user serviceable. I couldn't even do something as simple as swapping out the damned hard drive without an HP repair kit, since the only way to open it was to sever some glued-on parts, first.

And what were factors in recent phone purchases? The ability to swap out batteries and SD cards.

Planned obsolescence is semi-fine for a toaster or a hairdryer. But the further north of $100 you go, the less acceptable it is to not be user-serviceable.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Regal Really Cares

Today, I received a reply to a message that I sent through Regal Cinema's web-based contact form. This is a form that asks you for contact information - including asking for your name. I wrote to them to complain about their plans to implement bag-checking:

Dear Ms. Patron:

Thank you for contacting our office regarding Regal's policy to inspect backpacks and bags of any kind prior to entry into our auditoriums. We certainly appreciate the opportunity to respond.

Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America. Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety

Again, thank you. We appreciate you taking the time to contact us over this matter. We value your patronage and hope to see you in a Regal Entertainment Group theatre soon.

Customer Relations Department
Operational Services
Regal Entertainment Group
My first reactions were: "Ms"?? "Patron". That's like "wow". Talk about making a customer feel like you're taking the time to give them special attention. The above was sent with a From/Reply-To address of "". So, at least I know the robot's name, eh?

I sent a reply to "Jamie". I did not make the assumpiont that "Jamie" is a Mr. or a Ms - more likely an "it" is it appears Regal bothered to pick a gender neutral name for their bot. I'm assuming it will never be read by a human, but it felt good to write it:
Thank you for your form letter. Its utter lack of personal response speaks volumes about your business practices and is a testament of your concern for your customers. I'm reasonably certain that nothing in my initial contact email provided indication that you should address me as "Ms.". Addressing me as "Patron" - when your web form asks for a name - means you can't even be bothered to do a simple mail merge. Your missive gave me the same kind of warm-fuzzies that receiving a letter addressed to "occupant" does. Way to really set a high bar on customer relations.

Having seen your bag inspection in practice, this weekend, I'd be embarrassed if I were associated with Regal Cinemas. If you're going to engage in this kind of farcical security-theatre, you should probably train your staff to at least not half-ass it. Asking my wife to open her purse and then just sorta glancing inside it is really pointless. While I'm not asking you to have your staff pawing through our bags, at least do something that indicates you're committed to the farce. If you're going to inconvenience me, don't make it such an obvious waste of my time. Frankly, your current bag-check execution makes the TSA - and their +80% failure-rate look like paragons of security. Your security efforts make feel more secure going to a nightclub in a bad part of town.


Should be interesting to see if I get any kind of response. I'm guessing either no response or yet another, completely impersonal form letter.

Oh well, fuck Regal. Their theatres are always filthy and poorly run, any way. Somehow, they even manage to fuck up the execution of theatres with luxury seating (seriously: no table service??).

I really wish Alamo would take a stab at closer-to-the-city locations.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Rising Medication Costs

So, NBC news decided to do a click-bait style piece on the rising cost of prescription medications, tonight. They talked about the end-user effects but none of the underlying causes, so I decided to see why prices for existing medications were generally trending upwards in price rather than the downward that would be expected as mature products reached the point of "economies of scale". I found a ConsumerReports article on the subject. Interesting read.

Point #1 is kind of maddening. If you weren't covered by a large, powerful lobbying group and did the same thing, you'd end up jailed for price-gouging.

#3 is kind of a difficult nut to crack, if you're on multiple drugs and the lowest prices aren't found all at the same source. Who has the time to shuttle from store-to-store to score the lowest price (especially if you receive no co-pay difference for having saved your insurer money)

#4 I haven't found any of my doctors to be anything other than neutral on cost-concerns. Frankly, it's not my doctor's job to factor in price when prescribing to me. If price is a concern, he should be willing to work with me - and, when I've raised the concern, no doctor has been anything but happy to ensure that I am able to most-affordably acquire my medications (they'd rather you take something affordable than not fill scripts due to price problems)

#5 One of the medications I'm on is over $5,000/dose. My annual out of pocket maximums go up, year by year. The maker of the medication has an assistance program that, thus far, has made it so my annual out-of-pocket maximums are bridged.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Still Haven't Seen It All

I suppose it's nice to know that, even on the wrong half of my 40s and after two decades in IT, it's still possible for a vendor's "technical" presentation to be the worst one I've ever had the displeasure to sit through.

Seriously, vendors: if I'm asking you a question, it's an opportunity for you. You can either use that opportunity to impress me - to sell to me - or, like today, you can use it to completely turn me off of you and your products.

If I ask you a question, "I don't know" is actually an acceptable answer. If I ask you a question you don't fully understand, it's also ok for you to tell me you don't understand the question as asked and ask me to elaborate on or restate my question. Bulling ahead and trying to give an answer to a question I didn't ask - especially if it demonstrates you didn't understand my question - is not ok. Giving me an answer that can't possibly be correct and that you can't defend if I challenge the response is also not ok. Giving me an answer that contradicts something that the later slides in your PowerPoint say is so is also not ok. Framing your answer as an opinion rather than fact - particularly if your slides are making a contrary assertion - is decidedly not ok.

It's been a good, long while since I've left a vendor presentation completely furious.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Godzilla's Refuse-Haulers

Getting our cube-area ready for renovations, so we all have to move out. As part of that, there's a lot of trash cleanup involved. They asked for volunteers to help take rollaway carts down to the dumpsters. Got to the dock and was told "you need to take it to the end of that ramp and empty it into the big dumpter". Pushed my cart to the end of the ramp and leveraged the cart over the lip of the dumpster so I could empty it wholesale.

Get back to the bottom of the ramp and the dockmaster's shaking his head. He says to me, "was really expecting that you'd scoot it to the end and then dig the stuff out manually to empty it."

"Yeah, well: my way seemed faster".

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cut Loose

One of the realities of working on geographically-disbursed teams is you need a group calendar to help keep track of where everyone is (and who's out on vacation, training, etc.). The one weird thing I've noticed is that many of my co-workers, when posting their PTO days, indicate _where_ they're taking their PTO.

When I see the "where" notation, all I can think is, "that's nice, but why did you feel the need to post that detail?" Are you trying to demonstrate "I'm someplace that I can't really help you even if you do try to call me?"

I mean, you're on vacation. It shouldn't be the business of anyone on the team where you are. Set your Out of Office on your mail account and hit the road. Don't check your mail. Don't answer your phone (the latter is easy if, like me, the only number you give people is GV - since GV's really good at enforcing contact-hours and you can always set a group-level "I'm on vacation" voicemail greeting). BE on vacation.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Traffic, Here, Is Ass

Illustrative of how dicked-up traffic is in the NoVA suburbs of DC:

Today is the last day at this job for a frequent co-worker of mine. Originally, they were going to have a going-away lunch for him. They rescheduled to a 15:00-17:00 after-work event. I got into work ass-early, today, expecting to leave for the day in time for the original lunch-window. Instead, I ended up coming home - figuring that, since the event-site is four miles from my house, I'd just drive back.

Unfortunately, that four miles is constrained by a bridge from NoVA to MD. Waze was showing red all over the damned place, already, with a projected drive time of forty minutes. I got to my route decision-point - the ramp onto the highway that crosses the river - and opted to turn-back. Traffic from the highway was backed up past the ramp and through the next-closest traffic light. No go.

Called my friend up to convey my regrets.

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Hit Or Miss

Went to this week's Lana Del Rey concert in Bristow, VA. It was supposed to be a friend and his wife plus me and my wife. Unfortunately, circumstances conspired to prevent his wife from coming ...and she was the primary reason for going to the show.

Still, Lana Del Rey has a pretty damned good voice. That said, she's not someone worth going to see in person. For being the headlining act, her set was much more like an opening act's. It was both unusually short for the main act and included no encore sets.

Look: I get that a lot of the people that go to your show might normally have worry about going to school the next day, but that's no reason to give me a $50 performance when I've paid $130 for each of my seats (not including the various "convenience" and other fees I'm forced to pay). And, while it's great that you decided to "interact" with the audience by walking down into the buffer zone between the stage and the pit area, that you failed to even give the token hello or acknowledgement that you knew where you were playing was kind of weak. I'd really hoped that the two times the camera had closed in on your face, what looked like an eye-roll was something else. But, given the other things, it just really seemed like you didn't want to be there.

Oh well. Maybe you're just more comfortable in small night clubs. I can't think that that many people showed up and keened if this is what you're like all the time. Then again, given the age of your primary demographic, it'd be unsurprising if this was a lot of those people's first concert-going experience. At least, for them, things can really only go up from here?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Not Diminishable

Amusing kerfuffle over this picture:

To those uptight about seeming misapplication of the term? Get over yourself.

Here's the thing about being "brave" or exhibiting "bravery": to reduce it to its most basic meaning, all that bravery is, is taking an action when you fear the consequences that action might bring to you or those you care about. It doesn't really matter the scale of the consequences. Nor does it even really matter the likelihood of those consequences. The degree to which those consequences are likely and/or the scale of those consequences don't impact whether or not the action undertaken was brave.

While there are degrees of bravery, any given brave act isn't diminishable. Least of all is one act of bravery diminishable by another act of bravery. At the very worst, two acts of bravery establish a relative scale. At the best, bravery being common improves the world as a whole.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Shady as Fuck

Much like car-repair shops, there are certain car dealerships that foster the stereotype of sleaziness in the car sales and service industry. It's even worse when both the dealership and its service departments are sleazy.

DC seems to have several bad actors in this regard. It's probably because there's a few, large ownership groups that have conspired to own big, non-overlapping areas of the car-buying regions. Because of these ownership patterns, it's easy for the ownership groups to take a view that any one buyer is insignificant. And, even if not insignificant, that most people aren't going to go out of territory just to avoid dealing with certain ownership-groups.

Since moving to the DC area in the early 90s, I've learned not to do business with some ownership-groups. The first group on my "won't buy from" list was the Rosenthal group ...a group so shady that they ended up being investigated by the FBI in the late 90s.

Early in my ownership-history of BMWs, I had to add BMW of Fairfax to that group. At the time, I'd been really surprised that I'd had to do so: the dealership that I'd bought my Z3 from, in Pennsylvania, had given me the impression that BMW was a reputable marque that policed their dealerships for quality. It had been reinforced by the service department I'd gotten from another BMW dealership that was located near my place of work at the time. However, I'd eventually left that job and it no longer made sense to go there for service when BMW of Fairfax was just a couple minutes from my house. It only took two shoddy service-encounters to blacklist them.

Ultimately, when it came time to trade in my Z3 and get my first e46 convertible, it was the service-experience to drive a half hour out of my way to buy my second BMW ...and to get it serviced. I even returned there, six months later, to buy my second e46 convertible after my first was stolen. I took it there for all of my warranty maintenance work.

I've had my e46 since 2002. After the warranty expired in 2005, it was no longer economically sound to get service work done at a dealership. As a rule in this area, the labor rates at dealerships are about 30% higher than marque specialty-shops. So, I'd consulted my local "Bimmer" club to get recommendations for alternatives. The recommendation I got was excellent and I've been getting my car serviced at that same place for the past decade with no reasons for complaints.

My e46 was one of the first eleven million cars effected by the Takata airbag-recall. The only place to get the recall-service is at the dealership. So, I had to find a local dealership to get the work done. With one BMW dealership already on my black-list, and now living in Alexandria, it made sense to have the work done at the dealership six miles from my house. That dealership was BMW of Alexandria. Sadly, they are now on my blacklist, too - and, at this point, I have to question whether BMW is asleep at the wheel when it comes to ensuring a consistently-good ownership experience.

How did BMW of Alexandria end up on my blacklist? Other than the whole taking nearly six months to get the work done - after they canceled four appointments due to a supposed lack of parts - it was what they did during that warranty work. I'd taken my car in to get the airbag done. The service department opted to take it upon themselves to look for other service opportunities on my car. They found that I needed significant suspension work. Now, I already knew that I'd bunged my suspension on a horrendously bad pothole the month prior to the service. In fact, I'd been specifically not driving my car because I knew it needed work, but didn't want to get it done until the local road repair crews had started fixing the roads. But, whatever. A touch creepy but not altogether out of the ordinary for dealerships around here.

Now, what was out of the ordinary was that, during the time my car was with them for warranty work, My car's daytime running-lights and highbeams stopped functioning. Flash-to-pass still worked, but anything that required the highbeams to stay on was no longer functional.

Since the "malfunction' had coincided with my car's time at BMW of Alexandria's service department, I took it back to them to return to functionality. Naturally, they assured me that there was nothing they could or would have done that would have caused the issue. Further, if I wanted them to investigate the issue, it would cost me a minimum of one hour's worth of labor ($180). I asked how something that should be a software issue would require any "investigation" that would warrant a $180 minimum charge. The assured  me that, on my model of car, it had to be a hardware issue, not a software issue.

I took my car to the shop I've been taking my car to for the past decade. They verified that the problem was as I described and took it into the shop for a quick look. They quickly returned my vehicle with the lights fully functional. When I asked what had been wrong, they indicated that "somehow", the highbeams had gotten disabled in software. All they did was reset the switch.

So, now I need to figure out if it's worth contacting BMW of America to file a complaint against the dealership and/or whether it's worth contacting my local Better Business Bureau about it. I guess, at the very least, I'll be posting reviews on any Yelp-like sites.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Forced Migration

So, my bank has been pretty damned good, over the years, about adoption of technologies to make doing business with them easy. They were way early to the web-based banking game, in general. They made it free from the get-go, to boot. The rolled out the ability to do deposits at home with your scanner years before any of the banks that advertise on TV did. Similarly, they pushed out phone-based depositing years ahead of their bigger competitors.

That said, I never really cared for the phone-based deposit capability. To me, it was always more reliable to slap a check on a scanner than to try to line it up and hold it steady in my phone's camera and get adequate lighting.

To be honest, it's a feature I only use once or twice a year ...because, at this point, most  people and businesses have sorted out ways to send me money electronically. Unfortunately, tonight I had to actually deposit a check. I fired up the browser-based utility, and it popped up alerts about out of date Java versions (I'm running the latest version) and out of date browser (I tried Chrome - which is always up to date because it auto-updates itself, Firefox - also up to date - and, finally, IE - up to date at least as of last week). Further, I'd adjusted my various security settings to whitelist my bank.

Still I get the alerts and no joy on being able to deposit. So, much like one RTFMs as a last resort, I finally hit the troubleshooter button. A window pops up informing me I need to meet the following compatibility requirements:

PC users must have:
  • Windows XP®, Windows VistaTM or Windows 7 operating system.
  • Internet Explorer® 7 or 8, Firefox® 3.6 or Chrome® 10 web browser.
  • A TWAIN or WIA and Windows XP® (or later) compatible scanner.
  • The latest version of Java® for Windows.

Seriously??? My shit's out of date???

At that point, I figured, "fuck: the web UI's reached abandonware state". So, I grab my phone, download my bank's app, login and use the app to deposit my check.

Afterwards, I sent hatemail to my bank. To be honest, I'd rather they simply turn the web deposit tool off if they're not going to maintain it and it's not gonna work any more.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Dude: Do You Even Merge?

Ok. So, it seems like, when the sun comes out and it's a beautiful day, people lose all concept of what lane goes where. Saturday was a clear, dry, beautiful day and so was today when I left work. Both days, people act like they have no idea how to merge - even when plenty of signage is present.

Leaving my one office to head to my neighborhood, you turn out onto southbound-road that's three-lanes wide. About a 3/4 of a mile from where you turn onto it, it splits into two, two-lane roads. The left lane has signage indicating that it's to be used for both left and right traffic-split; the far left lane is left only and the far right lane is right-only. A few hundred feet after that split, the far right lane becomes a single-lane ramp to another two-lane street. The left lane becomes a ramp onto an interstate highway.

All pretty straight forward. All very well marked by signs and lane-markings.

I'm in the middle lane heading to the highway on-ramp (meaning my split goes immediately to the ramp to the highway giving me the through-lane to the highway). The toolbag in the rightmost lane decides "oh, I don't want to go straight through, I want to merge onto the highway ...oops there's someone there, already". Dood slams his brakes to avoid hitting me as he tries to merge onto the highway ramp from the wrong lane.

Dood also gets all road-ragey. I see him flashing his headlights, honking his horn and gesturing as he runs up on my bumper. As we reach the top of the ramp, he decides to "show me" by going through the stripe-painted apron between the ramp's actual marked lane and the highway so he can try to cut me off.

I figure, "whatever, dude: enjoy driving your BMW through the gravel and construction debris (glass, nails, screws, etc.). With luck, you picked something up."

Funny part? For as much of a hurry as he was in to get by me, he runs up on the bumper of cars in the right lane of the interstate ...and just stays there, tailgating the other car. I'm accelerating to highway speed and, as the traffic in the left lane clears, I merge left. Eventually, I catch up to the ragey tailgater and give him the politest "wave" I can manage.

Guys like the one who nearly clipped me today are why I used to be against the idea of ever owning a BMW. Oh well.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Huh... It's Not Completely Sucktacular

So, I'm not a complete curmudgeon, when it comes to tech. Doing time-math is a lot easier with PowerShell than bash:
$DaysBack = 14
$DateHorizon =  ([DateTime]::Now).AddDays(-$DaysBack)
$SnapId = $SnapStruct.SnapshotId
$SnapStart = $SnapStruct.StartTime
Write-Host -NoNewline "Found snapshot: $SnapId (started @ ${SnapStart})"

if ([DateTime]::Compare($DateHorizon, $SnapStart) -gt 0) {
    Write-Host " - $SnapId is older than defined horizon"
} else {
No having to ass about with having to convert from LOCALE-time to epoch-time to do the math or having to convert the result from epoch-time back to LOCALE-time.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Are You Experienced

Eating "new" foods is a great way to create and "fix" memories. When we go out to a place and have a particular dish I've only had infrequently, it always reminds me of the first time I had it or the different times I've had memorable (good or bad) variants.

One of the reason spending on good food is a good practice is that it's experiential ...yet still cheaper than many other kinds of experiences.

For me, things just don't compare to experiences.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Arms Race (No, You May Not Spam Me)

Here's the deal:

My phones each ring under two numbers: their "real" number and GV. I've got default ringtones that tell me whether its the end-point's "real" number or the GV number that's being rung.

If I hear the "real" number ring, it gets ignored (and then blacklisted and/or reported, since I've registered all my numbers, real or GV, with the do not call registry). If it goes through GV, then it's subject to the layers of rules I have there (screened unless explicitly excepted).
Robo Call
Robo-Call (from Ars)

Technology can be used to harass you, but it can also be used to shield you.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

No Diving

Couple of notes to anyone on the highway that's nearly missed their exit:

GPSes are a boon for helping you know where your exit is so that you can be ready for it, well in advance of needing to exit. If you don't have a GPS and don't have a smart phone, get a GPS. If you don't have a GPS and you have a smart phone, download something like Waze. If you have a GPS and its maps are a year or more out of date, update them: devices without updated maps are more dangerous than not having a GPS.

If you're in any lane other than the one immediately adjacent the exit ramp and you've just discover, "crap: that's my exit right there", drive on to the next exit, then loop back. Slamming your brakes and sutting across multiple lanes of traffic in a vain attempt to make an exit is dangerous. You put your life in danger. You put the lives of the occupants of your vehicle in danger and you put in danger *many* other lanes as you make your dive for an exit.

If I have to stomp on my brakes to avoid you taking off my car's front end as you slide across six-lanes of traffic, I should get one free punch to your head should every person whose properties and lives you've jeopardized.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

To all Mail Administrators: It's 2015 (DNS Ain't That Hard)

Wow... This is just an IT-learnin' day:

Wife comes upstairs to complain that she's not been getting email notifications from the public library, the past few weeks, and it's resulted in missed "due" notices and missed "reserved title is ready" notices. I investigate the problem and find that Postfix is rejecting her library's emails because it can't match the mail server's advertised name to an IP address.

About a month ago, to cut down on SPAM, I'd changed Postfix's config to reject traffic from MTAs that didn't have properly-setup DNS. I figured "it's 2015: mail administrators have been at it a sufficiently long enough time (or have outsourced to services like Gmail) that legit senders should have their DNS sorted". Besides, it's a great way to cut down on SPAM.

Apparently, my wife's library's mail administrators either don't have an A record or the A record they have has a typo in it. Either way, PTR lookups work, but A record lookups fail. So, now I have to be less fascist with my Postfix configuration.

I guess it's a good thing I'm not insisting on TLS for MTA-to-MTA transit or even SPF or DomainKeys records.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Ok, So Maybe She's Got Some Boxer In Her

When we got Lady, the rescue organization had claimed she was part boxer. Given her appearance - Lady pretty much looks like she's 100% pitbull -  that the rescue is based in Maryland and the rescue had her fostered in Maryland, we'd sort of assumed that the "boxer-mix" description was to avoid any problems with Maryland's anti-pitbull laws (that were on the books in 2011). I mean, does this dog look boxer-y to you?

Yes, she's a fairly vocal dog.

Yes. she's very "handsy".

Yes, she's got (ever so much of) an underbite.

Yes, she breaths like she has a bit of brachycephalic syndrome.

All of these are things that are common in boxers. They were things exhibited by our prior (very boxer-y) boxer-mix ...but she just doesn't look terribly boxery...

A little before Thanksgiving, I noticed a growth on her right ear. Having lost her predecessor to skin-cancer, and that she is a white dog, I was, to say the least, "concerned". I decided to watch it and see if it grew or went away.

It didn't go away, by Christmas, so we opted to take her in the weekend immediately-following Christmas day (was planning on the following Monday, but our vet has no-additional-cost Saturday hours and offered us an earlier appointment). The vet took samples of the growth and said she'd call as soon as she got the results. She cautioned that, with the time of year, it could be a little longer than usual.

Tonight she called back. The good news is, it's not cancer. The bad news is that she apparently has canine leproid granuloma - something for which there's not really good treatment options other than "management". That said, they're primarily cosmetic in their impact.

Oh... And they're fairly rare (most vets only see a couple occurrences in their careers) and predominantly found in (in order of prevalence), boxers, mastiffs and other bull-breeds. So, maybe this is just another indication that Lady may actually have some Boxer in her.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Why Baseball Stadiums??

I really think the NHL needs to rethink the Winter Classic.

For starters, I hate, hate, hate when it's hosted in baseball stadiums. I get that the baseball fields are unused, this time of year, and that NFL football stadiums aren't predictably-free because of playoffs. That said, there's a crap-ton of college football stadiums available. What's more, it's not even an argument to say "baseball stadiums are big": the largest baseball stadium doesn't even make the top 100 of the largest football stadiums in just the US (Anaheim's is like #122?). Worse, baseball stadiums' geometries pretty much ensure that there are zero seats that could be called meaningfully close to the play surface.

Supposedly, part of why the NHL puts these games on, in the first place, is they're big revenue-generators. Couldn't the NHL generate more revenue by having more seats available to sell? Wouldn't people be even more likely to buy seats if those seats were actually somewhat close to the ice? And don't talk to me about travel-distance to games: people travel stupid distances to go to bowl games year in and year out, even when those games are meaningless.

It's also kinds sucktastic that, before every team has had even one chance to play in a Winter Classic, that you've got some teams that have now played two or even three times. Switch to a format where you're hosting at a fixed-selection/rotation of college football fields - rather than cities that have both a hockey team and another large, outdoor venue - and you can allocate team appearances less clumpily (not going even going to argue "fairness").

Using "neutral" fields means you also get rid of the season ticket holders' potential complaints about losing a home game from their plan. Have the NHL scheduling-gods treat the game as an away game for both teams.

Further, as a mutual away-game, you can either have the NHL sell all the tickets and split the proceeds to all the teams, or you could have something like give each of the playing teams 50% of the tickets to sell. This could give you a college game like atmosphere where fans of each team tend to be clumped together. If there's a concern that the smaller market teams might undersell tickets, make the 50/50 allocation-split time-limited. Give each team a few weeks to a month to sell out their allotment, then take back any remainders. Take-backs then get sold by the NHL, the proceeds of which get profit-shared.

Yes. I know that many of the college stadiums are in the middle of freaking nowhere, relatively speaking. But that doesn't stop them from being able to oversell seating, week in and week out, year-after year, at stadiums that have tens of thousands more seats than the largest stadiums. Plus, all of those stadiums offer ample opportunities for tailgating (I looked at NBC's blimp view of today's game and it looked like Nationals' stadium has almost no parking???) Tailgating is an awesome part of going to sporting events ...and is yet another avenue that the NHL could cash in on.

Dunno. Something needs to change.