Wednesday, June 30

if open(floodgates) then recall(water)

It's amazing how much plagiarism exists on the Internet, and once something's posted, it's nearly impossible to correct something.

I searched for "Film at 11" hoping to find an explanation of its' usage in early television, when live remotes were still in the future. I didn't find it; instead there were many references to life outside MIT [Massachusetts Institute of Technology], each a ripoff of the others.

The same problem exists for the nonsense that the Texas flag should be flown at the same height as the US flag (debunked on yet I got yet another email this week in a list of Yee-Haa-Ain't-Texas-Great malarky. I corrected the sender, but no retraction was issued. Most people won't admit that they didn't check their facts.

I had to visit 3 different online mapping sites before finding one that would accept the Fry's Electronics location in Irving (none would take the address in Arlington). The nearest Fry's to me is 13 minutes (and 7 miles) away in Plano; the 2nd nearest is 15 minutes (and 8 miles) away, in Dallas-Garland. The one that seemed closest wasn't even - 20 minutes and 13 miles (in Irving). Not sure why I assumed Irving was closer; perhaps it's the picturesque drive en route DFW Airport? Either way, now I must wait until 8am when they open.

Tuesday, June 29

Silicon Valley peyote
(or, Tangent Heaven)

So, Sun plans to Get Rich Quick by selling (proprietary) Java Horn Tunes (vs Ring Tones) to teenagers for $5 a pop? Ring Tones are a fad; although they're a multibillion dollar business today, it will pass.

Yes, one of the first things I did when getting my new cellphone was download a ringtone, for $2. ONE ringtone, and not one a month; not only am I not that fickle, I'd soon forget which ringtone was mine. Ring tones have value because of the personalization; horn tunes have no such value (unless it's for the putz who pulls up front of Becky Bob's house and blows his horn, rather than ring her doorbell).

A lesson that soooo many people have not learned is that spreadsheets do not go forever .. eventually every fad will pinnacle.

What started me on this rant? Well, I spotted an article which exemplifies how out of touch the executives at Sun Microsystems are: Buy data service, get a free car?

Earth to Jonathan: people buy cars as reliable transportation, not as a platform to run Java (or whatever you're peddling at the moment). Forget the subscription model way of thinking; try offering stability to your customers instead.

I am convinced that every few years, Sun's execs gather in the desert to smoke some peyote, and emerge with a 1960's-era vision of how the world will come around to their way of thinking. Sun's "disruptive innovation" is simply Planned Obsolescence: lesson learned. Scott always had the desire to keep mixing things up, so the company doesn't get stale (like Wang or DEC or any of the Long Goners). While there's validity to that tactic, it sure would've been nice to go even one year without a major reorg, just to see whether that would have a positive impact on sales. Then again, selling computers isn't SimCity -- a laboratory experiment, where you have a quiescent/controlled environment. Even if sales had risen year-to-year, that doesn't mean it was because there was no reorg; it could've been related to hundreds of factors.

The Republican Party successfully peyote'd the population (during one of Reagan's terms); they convinced everyone that Democrat=Liberal=Bad .. and the Democrats are just now recovering from this Branding. I think this is partly a result of American Attention Deficit Disorder: we want everything in 30-second bursts and are annoyed when something can't be reduced to a Reagan-era sound quip [sic].

Note to Al-Qaida: beheadings are no longer shocking. We got over the first one, and the rest have (sadly) become "been there, done that" material.

Along another tangent: Branding [marketing] is so hard to achieve, and I was frequently baffled by Sun's Marketing (example: when they decided to jettison the Solstice brand .. Which was replaced by .. Nothing). I won't discuss the battle over Solaris branding .. no way.

I recall when CHMSLs (Center High Mounted Stop Lights - those red bulbs mounted at driver-height in a vehicle's rear window) first appeared. The thought was that they'd put an end to rear-end collisions. For awhile (until the novelty wore off) they probably did. I suspect that once we became accustomed to CHMSLs, their effectiveness wore off.

I never did believe in tailgating (repairing a damaged car takes too much time out of my day, so I don't get into accidents) but I watch a lot of drivers who tailgate, and dart from lane to lane, trying to get somewhere 30 seconds faster than the next guy. They are idiots, for the most part. Eventually, drivers will be graded and only allowed to be in the left lane if they have sufficient intelligence to be there (moving right when a faster car is behind, etc.). Alas, it's now time for my daily peyote smoking .. I will blog again tomorrow.

Monday, June 28

Behind the Green Brain

I took the "What Color is Your Brain?" quiz on and found it almost as useful as the daily horoscope (meaning: not at all). For posterity, here is the diagnosis:

Gene Bob has a GREEN brain:
At work or in school: I work best by myself. I like to focus on my ideas until my desire for understanding is satisfied. I am easily bored if the subject holds no interest to me. Sometimes, it is hard for me to set priorities because so many things are of interest.

With friends: I may seem reserved. Although my thoughts and feelings run deep, I am uneasy with frequent displays of emotion. I enjoy people who are interesting and of high integrity.

With family: I am probably seen as a loner because I like a lot of private time to think. Sometimes, I find family activities boring and have difficulty following family rules that don't make sense to me. I show love by spending time with my family and sharing ideas and interests.
Why don't I find horoscopes useful? Well (other than the obvious: what possible connection is there between when I was born .. in relation to an arbitrary set of stars .. to whether I'll meet Miss Perfect at Starbucks?) ... is that horoscopes are nonsensical general advice. The same people who believe these read The Star and the accounts of J Lo's abduction by aliens who look like Dick ("the F-man") Cheney.

I was amused when (earlier this week) the DMN Horoscopes began issuing a rating (10=perfect day) to accompany each horoscope. Amusing observation: none were below 5 (everyone on the planet will have an above-average day! Whoopee!!).

Sunday, June 27

one phish, two phish, red phish, blue phish *

Are the rest of you seeing traffic about phishing? I suspect a campaign is underway, trying to make us more savvy about what to expect from our financial institutions. I'm on a regular distribution from mine, and always pay attention when I MouseOver a link, to be sure it's really going back to their site. I've seen IP addresses during a MouseOver, and I never trust those (give me DNS lookup any day). I often err on the side of paranoia (!) and manually type in web addresses.

The top hit when Google'ing for [phishing] is: .. wonder if that's anything like anti-matter (from Star Trek)?

Here's other stuff I've seen about phishing:

Tangled in the Phishing Lines by Amey Stone (June 2004)

How to Avoid the 'Phish' Hook by Amey Stone (May 2004)

Phishing Tackle (June 2004)

and some good screen captures: Phishing email alerts
* with appropriate apologies to Dr. Seuss

Saturday, June 26

Beta rescued!

Someone knocked on my door at 10am and said "we have your dog!" Huh? Since Beta (the wonder dog) was in the backyard -- just a few minutes ago -- it couldn't be mine .. but, there she sat, in their back seat. The nice lady (sadly, I didn't catch her name) said that Beta had nearly been hit by several cars (ouch!), and was thirsty.

It's a good thing I have her name, address and phone number on her collar, along with a microchip (in case the collar is lost).

Since there's a large fence around my backyard, I quickly went outside to see how she got out. Turns out someone had opened the gate on the south side of the house and left it wide open. There haven't been any contractors here recently, and it was closed when I mowed the grass yesterday, so .. someone opened it between noon yesterday and now. Hmm .. will have to keep an eye on it. There's nothing obviously missing from my backyard, so .. not sure what to think.

After I got Beta inside (without a leash), I turned around to offer a reward to The Nice Lady, but she'd already driven away. So, if you're reading my blog, Nice Lady --- thank you thank you thank you!

Friday, June 25

Fried Egg? Fry Day? oh, Friday!

woke up;
got out of bed;
dragged a comb across my head;
let Beta (the Wonder Dog) outside;
fetch the paper;
check email;
check the RSS feeds;
notice that cellphone balance was ~$2.25 (it came with $10);
call Jill-Bob to see if lunch was still on (it was - i didn't get the email until 4:30p Friday);
GoMowGrass (front yard);
let Beta inside.

do lunch (Drew-Bob didn't come: I was somewhat bummed);
mosey to Target and bought a $20 Top-Up card for my cellphone; socks; and a compass that was on sale (for the next time I visit Underground Dallas);

... then I dodged the thunderbolts en route Plano (2 hours at the eye doctor) -- he said there wasn't much change, and suggested i dig out that set of +1 reading glasses when i find myself unable to read when i'm wearing my contacts! {sigh}

I asked for dilation of my pupil (wanted a full checkup); he put some drops in my eyes (after asking if i was allergic to Novocaine) which felt like Super-Glue. Then he took some photos, and pronounced my eyes healthy (except for needing a -10 diopter correction but that's old news). Had to pay for this with personal funds, since the VSP wasn't available until August (not sure if that's part of COBRA anyway). They tried to see if my United Healthcare (PPO) would cover it, but .. no such luck.

5 pm
then i came home and read the last 3 newspapers;
went online to Virgin Mobile's website and did the Top-Up thing (a few seconds later my phone lit up with the message "$20 has been added to your account!");

9 pm
noticed that today's snail mail contained 3 checks from Sun: regular paycheck; last paycheck; accrued vacation. interesting that the last paycheck arrived before my last official day (July 4th - Independence Day - how apropos!). on July 5th, I can sign and mail the paperwork for the 12 weeks severance, then start looking for work.

Thursday, June 24

Just another manic Thursday

Okay, I updated my Sundry on Thursday blog for the week. It's amazing how many tangents exist, not that I have Adult ADD or anything.

I was invited (by an Anarcho-Syndicalist, no less) to visit a Hazardous Chemical Collection site today. Most household chemicals degrade after a year, and I still had some goodies dating back to World War II, so .. they're all gone now.  Posted by Hello

This one was located in a slice of high-rent real estate next to the DART light rail line, and (like the one other time I've been to one of these), we were first (and last) in line. Although I brought along my Texas driver's license, and my Dallas water bill (to show that I am a resident and thus allowed to bring my Diazinon, flea killer, etc.) they didn't ask to inspect either one. I suppose they were just happy to get the business.

Wednesday, June 23

Klaatu Barata Vertu

Suddenly, my cellphone seems so .. inadequate. Had I discovered Vertu's website earlier, I could have had a white|yellow gold ... or even platinum phone for $3,800-30,000. They do not include silly digicams or Internet connections; rather, they take and make phone calls. Gotta wonder how much ringtones cost for one of these chic pieces of technology.

Government GWB-Speak

Monday night, the local school district "changed the Local Optional Percentage Homestead Exemption from 15% to 10%". Huh? - translation, please? This means that my taxes rose by $400/year. This is part of the Crisis in Texas Education Funding that's taking place. The state legislature met in (yet another) special session a few weeks ago, and couldn't come to a conclusion. So, this is what we get. Remind me to vote some of these twits out of office at the very next opportunity.

I spoke with Drew-Bob last night; we may rendezvous for lunch today, or tomorrow, or The Day After. I must go floss my teeth, just in case.

Tuesday, June 22

oligopolistic humor

I suspect there is a market for a Comic Strip Aggregator. Any VCs [Venture Capitalists] want to fund my idea? As best I can determine, the American humor market is controlled by four (4) companies, who have a stranglehold on the daily newspaper comics: uComics; King Features;; and I must muse whether this is a violation of the various laws against oligopolistic behavior (where an industry is controlled by a relative few). Hmmm. This requires Deep Thought.

A few weeks ago, the Dallas Managed News asked the readership to vote on which comics would continue To See The Light Of Day. As with all change, this terrifies me. What if Bubba Bob Buford's choices of stupid comics win the battle? What if Beetle Bailey beats Dilbert? What if Nancy trumps Bizarro? This is all so very unsettling.

Sunday, June 20

Cool Daddy-O

I'm guessing there were 100+ vehicles (including two motorcycles) at Addison's Big Daddy's Day Cool Car Show. I took over 100 pictures (many of which were in focus!) .. all cars appeared well-maintained; I was most impressed by a 1939 Ford, complete with the original occupants:

and then there was the standard-issue Texas dually: 

And in the "everybody's a comedian" category, the owner of a 1937 Chevy put a Bob's Big Boy figurine inside the engine compartment: 

1937 Chevy with Big Boy in the engine compartment Posted by Hello

I should have allowed more time to talk to the owners, many of whom were (rightfully) very proud of their cars. Note to self: showing up with one hour remaining doesn't allow for sufficient chat time.

Saturday, June 19

(near) instant gratification

Okay, either I've been caught in a rip of the space-time continuum (explained in various Star Trek episodes) or has become psychic. They shipped my recent order before I ordered it. Well, kinda.

On Monday I ordered 2 books from (who have warehouses of books ready throughout the country to fill my every literary whim). My order was over $25, allowing me to opt for FREE Super Saver Shipping (5-9 business days). The confirming email said:
Shipping estimate for these items:  June 18, 2004

Delivery estimate: June 22, 2004 - June 24, 2004
So, I was mildly amused to see Thursday's (one day early) email saying that it had shipped, with delivery estimated "via UPS (5-9 business days)". Imagine my surprise when The Nice UPS Man showed up on Friday afternoon (2:21pm) with my order! It was shipped from Coffeyville, Kansas at 12:39pm Thursday, and arrived on my doorstep less than 26 hours later. Undoubtedly, and UPS knew that I'd be blogging this, and they wanted to make a great impression.

But .. the story doesn't end! Lo and behold, another email went out at 3:34am today, saying that my order shipped (same tracking number, same order number. I can only assume a Computer Burp [technical term] caused the duplicate email.

Being in such a literary mood, at 9:24am I spotted yet another book on that I Simply Must Have, but I noticed a curious "Available for in-store pickup now" line. Huh? I plugged in my ZIP code, and it said "no stores in your area" to which I bleated "bah!" and plugged in my old ZIP code* and it found 2 Borders locations within a short drive. Ah, good. After all, I live in Dallas (a large city) and not in some outback like Lucas, Texas.

But, it advised I must wait for confirmation! (How long would that take? Hopefully less than the 26 hours it took to ship my last book?) Voila! .. at 9:47am (yes, 23 minutes later) I got an email advising that my book would be available for pickup when the store opened at 10am. I hopped in the car and made the rendezvous, allowing for near instant gratification. Ah, life is goooood.

* I've blogged about this before .. turns out most merchants don't upgrade their ZIP code software until theirs becomes hopelessly out of date.

By the way .. I used that (otherwise useless) $25 SBC Gift Card (aka Visa Debit) as partial payment, and forked over the other $4.23 from my Discover Card. Due to the way companies allow for tips, a $25 gift card gets rejected for a $25 purchase, in most cases. After getting about 3 or 4 rejections, I got around this annoyance by using the gift card to purchase an gift certificate, which I knew I'd use Real Soon Now.

Friday, June 18

SMS grows up .. to be a Pink Dot?

My shiny new Kyocera phone includes a GPS [Global Positioning System] feature; I wasn't aware that the phones themselves had to change, for things like E911 to work. Does this mean that older phones can't play in the E911 world? There's a setting where I can disable GPS from my provider's eyes, but not the nice folks at Emergency Services. Hmm. We could have used a GPS to get out of Deep Ellum last night (more on that later).

In the I Didn't Get The Memo category: I'm happy to see that Text Messaging (aka TM, aka SMS - Short Message Service) on cellphones has grown up. In the Old Days (2 years ago?) I had to know which carrier my friend was on, before I could send a TM, and it had to be formatted as ... now, I just enter [Send Text] and their cellphone number ... and Magic Happens to route the call to the right network. This may only be on my sophisticated phone; Your Mileage May Vary.

One downside to the Virgin Mobile service is that my two Yahoo! Alerts (weather forecast, and a stock quote) don't work. What's so hard about sending a TM to an email address that I provide? In my case, Virgin Mobile has a well known format: .. but Yahoo! Alerts work only under AT&T Wireless; Cingular; Nextel; Sprint; T-Mobile or Verizon. I temporarily disabled those alerts, while Yahoo! gets their act together. This could take years.

The Quest Continues
While at the grocery, I picked up a package of Sun-Maid Sliced Cantaloupe. This is part of my quest to Try Something New every time I grocery shop.

Cosmic Editing
Trish-Bob learned quickly how to instruct others in the use of her shiny new digicam, during our Night On The Town with Jill-Bob:
Jill-Bob and Trish-BobPosted by Hello
Savvy blog readers might note the similarity between this photo, and one on Trish-Bob's blog. It's as if Gene-Bob never existed! The photo was taken by one of the roving staffmembers at the Gypsy Tea Room, where the Legendary Pink Dots performed to a stoned out sold out diverse audience. We had a good time, and really enjoyed the ERET [Extended Real Estate Tour] after the concert. Thanks, TB!

Also, before I forget ... the (admittedly low-tech) flashlight built into my new cellphone came in handy last night, as I tried to find the keyslot for my front door. Guffaw if you must, but I predict that future that all future mobile phones will include GPS chips, flashlights and perhaps even (hold onto your hats) digital cameras. Yeah, I know .. I'm quite the futurist.

GoogL'ost: GenCorp

Thursday, June 17

THI promotes a Procedure change

I just pushed Sundry on Thurday - week 2. I may like this secondary blog. Hmmm.

My car was ready from the dealer at about 6:30p yesterday, and I came home satisfied with the service. My warranty expires at the end of the month, so I'll probably take it to an independent from now on; they're closer, and a sponsor of our Car Club.

Now, off to mow the grass. The THI [Temperature Humidity Idex] in Dallas is supposed to be 110F today, so best to do this early.

Wednesday, June 16

Procedures (and the AFDB)

If only I hadn't wanted to keep my old number. I activated my new cellphone via the web on June 2nd, and was finally able to use it yesterday -- when my old carrier finally threw in the towel.

The delay was related to The Procedures that my old and new carriers followed. I've always despised anything but lightweight procedures; they evoke memories of a factory job, or one of those Full Employment McDonalds (one person takes your order, another takes your money, and a third feeds you).

I'm sure The Procedures are there to "protect me, the consumer" but it's frustrating. What should have taken a few minutes (I understand the technical merits, trust me) stretched into 13 days of torture, because they are Just Following Procedures.

After another concall (realtime), we finally convinced AT&T that I really, really wanted to drop their service, and they agreed to release my old number. A few hours later, I got a Text Message on the new phone saying "Welcome to Virgin Mobile!" Yeah!!

Humor: I can still make outbound calls on my old phone (but it only rings on the new one). At some point, they'll fix that. I called the old carrier and asked to cancel the contract, but they said my new carrier would do that automagically. Indeed.

When I called my new carrier's tech support on Sunday, they said that they got a -1 error code when they tried to enable my service. Each time, I had to call them; there's no proactivity in the cellphone biz. Apparently my ESN [Electronic Serial Number] was Already In Use (obviously not purged when I initially activated the phone and was given a Shiny New Number, which I didn't want).

In case it's not obvious, precious little troubleshooting happens outside 9a-5p Monday-Friday. There are 168 hours (24x7) in a week, but a 40 hours US work week is less than 25% of that. In an environment where multiple companies must work together to solve a problem, it mostly happens in that 40-hour Window Of Opportunity.

The Hard Sell
Meanwhile, I took my car to the dealer for the last warranty service (Jack turns 3 this month) and proceeded to the car rental place for Today's Transportation. By the time I arrived, they only had 3 vehicles on the lot: a Mazda, a Taurus and a pickup. Before they plop the keys in your hand, they inspect the exterior for dings and scratches then try to sell you some completely unnecessary insurance for $16+ a day. The gent said "most people just buy the basic coverage" while not explicitly saying "your own insurance will cover this anyway". I smiled, then declined his offer.

Just to be safe, I'll just wear my Aluminum Foil Deflector Beanie [AFDB] today, while dodging the Coronary Mass Emissions (CME) which are blasting our satellites, Way Up There. I wonder if the staff at ABQ are advising passengers today? (note the quote: The Federal Aviation Administration earlier in the week issued an alert -- the first of its kind ever -- cautioning passengers about extra radiation they would receive during flights above 25,000 feet north of Albuquerque and similar latitudes.)

Tuesday, June 15

coming soon: a petabyte of email?

I spotted a 3-paragraph item in today's Dallas Managed News:
SBC expanding e-mail boxes to 2 gigabytes

SBC Communications Inc. plans to announce today that it will offer its broadband customers up to 2 gigabytes of online e-mail storage, twice as much as Google Inc.'s new Gmail service .... The move is meant to bolster the San Antonio-based phone company's broadband service against cable companies and other Internet service providers and is not targeted at Google, said SBC spokesman Larry Meyer
which may explain the peculiar email I got last night:
You are currently exceeding your Yahoo! Mail storage quota by a very large amount. You are only allowed -2048.0MB of storage but you are
currently using 0.0MB of storage. Your account has been temporarily
disabled from receiving new messages. The easiest way to continue receiving your important email is to expand your mailbox. Yahoo! Mail offers 10, 25, 50 and 100MB of storage space starting at just $9.99/year. Click here now to order Extra Storage.
I emailed Yahoo Tech Support last night, and they said this was probably spam - certainly not anything that Yahoo sent. Yeah, right. Last time I checked, 2048MB=2GB. Mystery solved?
3pm update: no, i was not alone. The Register reports: Yahoo! storage goes negative

Monday, June 14

bulk mail: the inside story

I learned a new abbreviation today: BMEU (Business Mail Entry Unit). Bulk Mailing isn't as easy as finding a mailbox and depositing your letters, but it can save a lot of money.

Four times a year, we mail ~1200 copies of our neighborhood newsletter; we use a Bulk Mail Permit which costs $150/year. For going through this exercise, your costs are less than First Class mail (ours is less than 25¢ each). After backing out the annual fee, our homeowners association saves about $430 a year. Today, I tagged along to the BMEU, to learn The Magic involved.

Very few post offices are BMEU locations; I only know of 2 in the Dallas area, although there must be more. We drove to the rear of the building and unloaded our newsletters. There was one guy in front of us, clucking at how their Enhanced Carrier Rate sort routine allowed the lowest possible price for their postcard: 12¢ each. He said that his company delivers them to the post office sorted in the way the carrier walks the route. This could explain those mystery fields (Carrier Route; County; Delivery Point; Check Digit) I see whenever I use the US Postal Service's 9-digit ZIP code lookup.

We use Standard Mail which is cheaper than First Class. Once onsite at the BMEU, we locate a "work table" and sort our newsletters (printed with the permit imprint) into 3 piles: one each for the 2 ZIP codes in our neighborhood, and a 3rd set of "others" (advertisers; other homeowner associations, local politicians and school principals, etc.). Each pile must be placed into a mailing tray, then slipped into a cardboard carrier (there are hundreds of these on the loading dock); the outside of the carrier has a slot for a special label -- identifying the destination ZIP code(s). That third pile must be listed [X] which means "other ZIP codes".

One that's done, you go inside the BMEU and work with the postal clerk, who takes your Form 3602-EZ (Postage Statement) and verifies the weight and quantity of items being mailed. If you don't have enough funds in your account to cover the mailing, you pay the difference.

Unrelated, mostly: at the BMEU, they were wheeling some computers off to be repaired, and they mentioned [MERLIN] which I later found to be an acronym for Mail Evaluation Readability Lookup INstrument. Woo hoo: 2 new acronyms in one day! My heart, be still.

Sunday, June 13

vegetarians: duck and cover

Tonight will be a good night in front of The Tube: HBO's Six Feet Under finally starts new episodes. Years ago, a boss (or was he a mere co-worker?) mentioned a group he'd joined .. something like Quality Television Programming. I think Dennis would approve of Six Feet Under. Truly good stuff. I haven't thought about Dennis in years .. hmm. His surname is too common to make tracking him down a trivial task.

I was trying to explain the usual demeanor of a more recent co-worker whom I called Don Quixote (for fighting imaginary foes) and was shocked to see that The Word Detective didn't have the definition for ham-handed. Well, hyperdictionary did:
ham-handed [adj] not skillful in physical movement especially with the hands; 'a bumbling mechanic'; 'a bungling performance'; 'ham-handed governmental interference'; 'could scarcely empty a scuttle of ashes, so handless was the poor creature' (Mary H. Vorse) Synonyms: bumbling, bungling, butterfingered, ham-fisted, handless, heavy-handed, left-handed, maladroit"
Speaking of ham .. each time I go the grocery, I make an attempt to buy one new item .. something I've never had before. This week, I was in the International Aisle and spotted Gamesa Pineapple Fruitbars Cookies [sic]. Indeed, these pineapple fruit bars weren't half bad. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, but at least it avoids boredom.

I went to CD World in Addison yesterday to buy tickets for a local event. Turns out their claim to fame is used (pre-owned) CDs and DVDs (they even had some vinyl records - remember those?). I'd never been inside before, but have passed there hundreds of times. I've often heard that, in retail, one of the hardest jobs is getting people in your door. Believe it.

I'm not sure how much of the interview is valid ( sometimes perplexes me) but it makes for entertaining reading: Reagan blasts Bush. There are some great one-liners from Ron Jr, including: "Dick Cheney is to the right of Genghis Khan".

Saturday, June 12

nonstop excitement

Deep Thought #36: While reading 18 Immutable Laws of Corporate Reputation I couldn't help but wonder why our government (much less the Fortune 500) doesn't follow these "laws". Hmmm.

Being in a surly mood, yesterday I ...

cut the front yard grass;
got a haircut;
saw the provocative movie about Al-Jazeera: Control Room @ The Magnolia (there are several reviews);
napped (and hence missed Jill-Bob's mega-bash at The Ginger Man);
got a car wash;
filled up the car ($2.09 for premium, minus 5% for using the AAA Visa from MBNA);
bought milk (2 half-gallons for $2.50 versus $3.19 for a gallon);
read lots stuff on the RSS Aggregator (Ronald Reagan died? really??);
ate a bowl of Life cereal;
went to sleep.

Today, I woke up to find that a speeding Dodge Viper damaged one of our (brick and concrete) neighborhood markers. This is the second time it's been hit. The first time, the rocket scientist left the scene of the crime, but his license plate number was marked in the sand. He was later tracked down and charged, and his insurance company footed the bill.

Next, I will weed the flower beds, in preparation for Monday's "bulky and brushy" trash pickup. Do I know how to party, or what?

Friday, June 11

the waiting continues ...

Last Thursday, I wrote about porting my cell number to another carrier. I continue to carry 2 cellphones, not knowing when The Change will happen. In wireline, this is called LNP - Local Number Portability. I'm guessing there's a different acronym when it concerns wireless.

The process of porting appears to be very labor intensive, which fascinates me. When a porting request is submitted, all the information must match exactly. If anything's amiss, a "supplemental request" must be submitted, and only one of those is allowed per 24 hours. So much for meeting the FCC's 2.5 hour window.

The last few days have been like playing The Cellphone Shell Game. I got my cellphone in June 1998; it was originally in my name. At some point I added Sun's name to the bill (to get the "5-digit office dialing" feature), which turned it into a corporate account. When porting from one carrier to another, you cannot switch from a corporate account to a personal account (and vice-versa). So, I had to ask AT&T to switch, before they will authorize the port.

Nokia 6360 and Kyocera K7 Posted by Hello

Chris (at Sun) advised me to call AT&T's "release of financial liability department". After being on hold for 15 minutes, I authorized changing from a corporate to a personal account. Now, AT&T will release the number to Virgin Mobile! Woo hoo.

Aside: a few days ago, I got my first-ever call from AT&T, who undoubtedly "got the memo" that i'm porting the number, and thus discontinuing their service. That call was automated, and offered some special deals if I'll stay. Indeed.

Unrelated: rather than pollute this blog (ha!) with my occasional seemingly-random collection of hyperlinks, i brought a new blog online which I will update every Thursday. It's named Sundry on Thursday; get it?

Thursday, June 10

Underground Dallas

There's something about rain that makes me go underground. When I explored Inner Space Cavern (a cave complex near Austin) last year, it was pouring. Yesterday wasn't as rainy, but I decided to keep my promise to myself, and explore Underground Dallas [UD] when it rained.

UD is the de facto community of office dwellers which developed as a result of tunnels below the city streets, connecting many downtown skyscrapers. Recently, Dallas Mayor Laura Miller suggested that the UD shops move to the street level, so as to make downtown more vibrant. Here, I have to agree with The Barking Dog : the mayor has become completely out of touch with reality. Instead of condemning Underground Dallas, she should embrace it as a unique differentiator.

UD is more than the "food court in the basement" and includes florists; banks; car rental; office supplies; art studios; jewelers; sunglass merchants and even a Cookie Bouquet! In the past 5 years, there have been two articles in the Dallas Managed News [DMN] about UD; as my guide, I used a map they provided a few weeks ago.

But first, I had to get there, and I decided to try the train light rail (part of DART). I drove to the station, found the one remaining parking space (this should have clued me into the fact that, even in midday, the train would be busy), took the elevator to the boarding level, and bought a day ticket for $2.50 using the automated ticket machine (getting a Sacagawea dollar coin in change).

The trains are quick (it felt like 55mph on some stretches) and on time (they run every 20 minutes, I think). My train contained 6 cars; I understand this varies depending on the time of day. Each car appeared to seat 25 people.

Heeding the "keep away from rail" signs, I only waited about 5 minutes before it arrived. I took a seat (facing backward) and relaxed to watch the trees and greenbelt along the route. At some stations, the doors on the left opened. At others, they opened on the right. There were many elevation changes, and I passed about 7 stations (one underground, at Cityplace) before arriving at my stop (on the Red Line), and then I walked a block to the nearest tall building, and took the escalator down .. to Underground Dallas .. and began exploring.

Most of the people appeared fit and healthy (this could be due to the lack of traditional fast food; I spotted a Blimpies and a Quiznos - both sub shops - but nary a KFC, McDonalds or Taco Bell). There were many non-chain places to eat. There were many people walking rapidly in pairs, taking in an aerobic workout in UD, where there were no diesel fumes to breathe, no traffic signals to obey, no homeless drunks begging for change, like there are Up Above.

Signs advise that the tunnels are open from 6a-6p daily. I never felt threatened. Most tunnels are wide and carpeted; others are narrow and tiled.

There was lots of activity: food courts, ATMs, shopping ... but I needed a compass underground! Getting lost in the labyrinth was easy, even with a map. I only resorted to asking directions once, and I sheepishly had to go aboveground once when I couldn't find the tunnel connecting 2 buildings. Once I found the other side, I figured out my mistake, and moved on. I explored the Renaissance Tower, Bank of America, the Elm Street Mall, the Metropolitan Mall (1310 Elm), Thanks Giving Square (aboveground) and others.

I concluded that, alongside the racks with free copies of Quick and The Observer, there should be maps of UD. The convenience stores could package a map and a compass!

After exploring, I was ready to return, but not before making some mistakes. The Blue Line train had left (en route Garland), and the jackhammers and car alarms were apparent, so rather than sit downwind of the outdoor smokers (ah, life in the city!) I grabbed a quick bite to eat. I'd noticed that the trains sit for 30-60 seconds to allow boarding, and figured I could mosey over and board when it arrived.

After finishing lunch at the Original Italian Cafe (a big slice of pizza and water was only $2.70), I walked between the north- and south-bound trains, in the middle of Bryan Street. That's not a good practice. Then, the "push to open" button didn't work, so I had to wait 20 minutes for the next train. The time wasn't wasted; I corrected the Graffiti for this blog!

Since I had a day pass to the train, I was tempted to exit at Mockingbird Station and take in a movie at The Angelika, but I hadn't done my homework and didn't know what was playing. I spotted Jack's Pub & Volleyball Club (there's a combo!), and an ad on the news marquee (sponsored by Baylor Health Care) for The message board also conveyed the news that GWB wants to increase the number of troops in Iraq to 145,000 troops because he now thinks giving up power will require more troops (there's gotta be logic there somewhere)

Random musings: yes, there is a human driver, who announces the stops. I couldn't understand the announcements for the inbound trip, but the outbound was much better. Beware of sleeping passengers; a woman next to me was soundly asleep when I left. She may still be riding the train, as far as I know. For a few moments, I watched a 14-year old air guitarist with a stud in his lip, MP3 player at his side. The only DART policeman took a seat amongst the rest of us, never challenging us to "show our tickets". I noticed that many of those exiting the train with me didn't go to the parking lot; rather, they went down to street level to connect with a DART bus. Hmm.

I returned home, where Beta the Wonder Dog was ready with her impression of Dino.

Wednesday, June 9

The Elbonians' debut!

William Bob has all the details on his SEC (Search Engine Challenged) website, so I won't duplicate things. Suffice it to say that we have a new name for our bowling team: The Elbonians.

The Elbonians are composed of current and former Sun Microsystems employees, with a 4th member To Be Named Real Soon. It should make for a fun 12 week league; I plan to revert to being a sub(stitute) and/or voyeur in the fall; that 36 week "fall" league (which ends in May) is just too demanding.

In week one, we somehow went 3-1 against the Legendary Crystal Ballers. Actually, the "somehow" is easy to figure out: it's a handicapped league (skill is optional, but upward deviation from Your Average means everything).


If you're not into Dilbert (the cartoon) you may need a definition of Elbonians.

Before agreeing on the new name, we tossed around other ideas:
Air Ball; Ancient Egyptian Bowl; Asok the Intern; Bowl Breakers; China Bowl; Dilbert Rules!; Doggies Rollin'; Field Goal!; Get a Clue Sherlock; Gravy Bowl; Life of Leazure; Nothing but Net; Onomatopoeia; Return This!; Roll Your Own; Rollback the Clock; Slapshots; Some Microbowlers; Team Name [sic]; Team Number 2; The Exfoliaters; Up Your Alley; Whatzit 2U; Wide Right
I think we made the right choice.

Tuesday, June 8

misdiagnosed hardware problem

My cordless phone allows up to 8 handsets - a primary, and 7 secondaries. The primary comes with a NiCad battery; the secondary handsets are thinner and come with a NiMH battery. You cannot switch batteries between primary and secondary handsets: one is AA and the other is AAA. I don't like the "memory effect" of NiCads (see Alzheimer's Battery for details), so Batteries Plus® made a special 3xAA NiMH for my handset; Panasonic doesn't sell one.

That worked great until last week; suddenly, the primary handset failed. I assumed it was damaged when it fell off the table a few days earlier (no physical damage). I tried and tried to make it work, but it refused to hold a charge. I had a decision to make - send the phone for warranty repair and wait (indefinite) .. or replace it, and repair the phone later. I decided to buy - a refurbished handset (thinking the refurb would be in about the same condition as my existing one - true).

I recharged the handset (15 hours) and "registered" it with the base (someone can't simply buy a handset, roam the neighborhood and use my signal - and my long distance). The "register" step is complete, but it says this is unit #3 .. not #1. Hmm. Well, I guess that's okay because the base station (#0) thinks #1 is still active. Time to update the directory on my new handset ...

I pressed the buttons on the base unit to send the directory to the new handset, but (here's the kicker:) it said the directory is full! How can that be? It's the same number of entries as the other units, right? Well, no. As I viewed the directory, I saw many numbers that weren't mine (they were those of the prior owner - apparently someone in Los Angeles - remember, this is refurbished). I purged the prior entries, updated the directory, and now it works perfectly.

It turns out that registration step uploads the directory, but that wasn't documented. Had I known that, I would have (wrongly) assumed that it matched the base station, and not found the prior owner's entries for a few days. Note to Panasonic: the registration step should purge any existing entries, or at least allow me to choose whether to keep them.

Great - everything's working - and now I have a new handset #3. Not sure why, but at this point I wanted it to be #1, like before. Handset #1 shows no sign of life, but (light bulb goes on) maybe I can use the battery from #3 to "unregister" #1! Yes, that worked - meaning that my problem all along was a bad NiMH battery! Argh!

Do NiMH batteries limit the number of times you can recharge them before they go poof (a technical term) - another differentiator from NiCad? Perhaps that's why Panasonic doesn't offer a 3xAA NiMH - only a 3xAAA NiMH? No, that's illogical.

Sure, I could return the refurbed handset, but I have an ethical problem with that. It's not the vendor's fault - I should've diagnosed a defective NiMH, right?

Bottom line? I have a spare handset, which will come to life with a [3xAA NiCad] battery.

Sunday, June 6

Elbert, Texas

I survived my day trip to Elbert, Texas today (in Throckmorton County, which is probably as close to the Texas Panhandle as I've been).

Instead of 3 people (I expected), there were 10 in our party (none of whom I'd met in person before). The owners of the wheat harvesting machines - thrashers? - were leaving Elbert, now that their work is done. Tonight, the population of this Town That Time Forgot dropped from more than 70 (including the harvesters), to its usual 56.

There hasn't been a post office in this town for about 25 years, if you can believe the last dates on the postal memos inside - it's now a drop-off location).Posted by Hello

Olney (the nearby "big town") is capable of sustaining several QSRs [Quick Service Restaurants] including Subway; Golden Chick and Dairy Queen (the latter is an institution in these parts, usually where small town government happens, de facto, every morning). I was told the nearest Wal-Mart (descended from the likes of Dollar General Store and Family Dollar) is 25 miles away. Another thing reminded me of my 1992 visit to the Navaho and Hopi reservations in Arizona: I saw many satellite dishes .. homes here may be outside the reach of cable (or maybe they're just smarter than those who subscribe to cable!).

In rural Texas, locating a restaurant to seat 8 people (2 of the 10 were local) at 1pm on a Sunday ("after church") is not easy. Most restaurants were either closed or full. Our first choice was Golden Chick (a chain which I enjoy) but they couldn't accommodate our huge party. We ended up at the Dairy Queen; I tried their Chocolate Dipped Strawberry Blizzard® along with a Chicken Fried Steak. The parking lot was filled (30 cars?) but we rearranged some tables and had no problem.

A nearby small town is named Jean; you could see the [Now Leaving] signs a few hundred yards from the [Now Entering] signs. There are many small Texas towns named after someone's first name; memorable ones include the twin cities of Clyde and Claude; Elbert and now Jean.

One of my newfound relatives-in-law is a truck driver, and he was very helpful in suggesting an alternate way home (indeed, it shaved almost an hour from the return trip and I got to pass through Boyd - home of the legendary Tater Junction (closed at 3pm Sunday) and the International Exotic Feline Sanctuary).

I travelled across 6 counties (Dallas; Tarrant; Wise; Jack; Young; Throckmorton); add them together for 5,496 square miles (nearly equal to the state of Connecticut @ 5,543 sq miles). source: Spotted en route: Texas Forts Trail signs.

Getting there took 3 hours at mostly 70mph limits; en route, I saw a dozen or more instances of roadkill - skunks, armadillos, raccoons .. several of which were being feasted upon by carrion (only one vulture cooperated for a photo). Also saw lots of black-eyed Susans and other wildflowers which I didn't recognize, along with a surprising amount of cactus. The weather cooperated nicely, excepting a few big raindrops on the way home.

I ended up driving about 375 miles, versus the predicted 300. Some of this was due to anticipated local diversions (where someone once lived, cemetery visits, etc.) but most of my unexpected mileage came from trying to get in/out of the DFW Metroplex properly. Lesson learned: pay close attention to that sign where 820 (the loop around Fort Worth) goes east/west (or is it north/south?).

I took 112 photos today, many from the car while en route. First glance shows that only 4 or 5 were bad shots - out of focus, excessive glare, etc. Now, I'm a wee bit tired from my adventure, and hear thunder in the distance. Another night of storms, I reckon.

Saturday, June 5

got gecko?

My auto insurance is coming up for renewal in a few days, and my insurer wanted a 10% increase, so I decided to shop it. First, I tried AIG which has sent a few direct mail pieces, enticing me with "about 85% of new Texas policyholders saw an average $384 savings". Well, not for me: AIG was 29% higher.

Next (throwing caution to the wind) I decided to Give The Lizard Gecko A Chance and went to Geico's website. They say "give us a call and we can save 15% or more ...". Well (in my case) .. not exactly. In a (near) apples-to-apples comparison, their savings was a whopping $6 for 6 months. BUT .. their liability limits were higher, and that's a good thing. And I could tweak the coverages online. (Turns out that AIG also has online quoting, but I didn't know that until I Google'd for their website (their direct mail piece never mentioned it). Kudos where due: AIG's human was very competent and professional.

So, I increased the collision deductible (since I don't believe in having auto accidents, anyway) and raised the limits on the Personal Injury Liability. Now, my premium is more than $100 less every 6 months. Assuming no more than one collision claim every 2.5 years, I'm better off.

Geico has an A++ financial rating. While there are horror stories with all insurance companies, my feeling is that if you stick with one of the majors, they're all pretty much the same.

Potential downside? I had my auto, homeowners and umbrella policies with one company, and got a discount. Now, we'll see if my other premiums rise. If so, I may be shopping those, too.

f u cn rd ths, u cn bcm a SE

Ever try to read something that's 90% correct (such as a bad OCR scan)? You'd quickly become disgusted, and toss it. When I entered this business in 1978, (Intel 8088, pre bloatware, when you couldn't count on a 50 GB disc, a 2 GHz processor and 16 petaquads of RAM) programmers "cheated" to make their product operate as fast as possible.

I worked for Texas Instruments (in California) then, and my job was to convince retailers that our product (the TI Professional) was better, and that software and hardware incompatibilities were unimportant. You needed to buy a TI-specific version of most everything: TI had 768KB of addressable memory, versus the IBM's 640KB limit. The problem was that IBM mapped video memory starting at 640KB, and everyone wrote directly to video memory (for speed). Oops. And then there was the IBM's 4.77 MHz bus (TI ran @ 5 MHz .. rendering almost all expansion cards incompatible). TI's "3-plane graphics" card was far superior to the IBM, but .. a better mousetrap doesn't win over customers, who want compatibility first, enhancements second.

Years ago, I read Marsha Sinetar's Do what you love, the money will follow which may be why I got into the computer business. Now, I'm mulling whether I want to keep doing high-tech, or change directions. Yes, I'm very good with computers, but their use has become ubiquitous. There's still a need for pre-sales technical types who can architect a proper solution, but few hiring managers seem to appreciate those skills.

I've heard stories about managers chiding employees for not being visible enough (meaning: in the office, versus at a customer site). It's like a Dilbert comic strip: "your absence hasn't gone unnoticed, you know". {sigh}, Lesson learned: spend your time in the office, practicing your putting, playing Fantasy Baseball, tracking your investments, or scheduling your soccer mom's minivan convoy. Being at the customer site makes you invisible, and that's bad.

Friday, June 4

the aftermath

I guess I was lucky. TXU Electric Delivery says our Tuesday and Wednesday evening storms (wind, rain, thunder) were the most damaging in their 100 year history. They say about 500,000 homes were without power. There were stories in the DMN about multi-hundred year old trees being uprooted in the parks throughout the area. Certainly, many homeowners also lost large trees, or portions thereof. Good thing (?) it wasn't a tornado, huh?

I noticed 2.5 inches of rain in the gauge, and some dead limbs (no green growth) littered across the yard, but no major damage here. Beta (the wonder dog) didn't want to venture into the storm, and thoughtfully made her deposit just outside the back door.

Thursday, June 3

oh, waiter ...

The Kyocera K-7 Rave (cellphone) doesn't have an external connector (other than power) so I had to manually enter the stuff from my Nokia 6360's address book: what a pain. The good news is that I could eliminate most of the numbers, since they were internal 5-digit extensions, which I won't be calling anymore. AT&T Wireless' "Office Dialing" feature was the only reason I kept them as a provider (and now they're being bought by Cingular Wireless).

The FCC apparently would like the porting of phone numbers to take 2.5 hours, but Virgin Mobile predicted 3-5 business days. When the switch happens, the old phone will stop working (except for 911 of course) and the new one will start, signalled by a "Welcome to Virgin Mobile" message. So now I wait, and carry both phones with me. At least now the carriers have some practice, unlike last November (see Porting your cell number).

and now, for something completely different

I was reading Pravda and Tass today, and found some entertaining articles, including Fidel Castro: Bush couldn't debate a Cuban ninth-grader. It's so nice to see opposing viewpoints. Also, I'd like to meet that 9th grader.

I mentioned it a few days ago, and now I'll mention it again: Ramsey Clark's Neighborhood Bully Interview (published a month before 9/11) is must-reading by anyone who has a functional brain. Yes, it's a longer-than-45-seconds read, and I don't agree with everything he says. Another entertaining read: Historians vs. George W. Bush.

Interesting comparison with today's headlines: No More Mister Nice Blog pointed me to Mark R. Levin's article A Familiar Place. Related item: Americans Are Losing the Victory in Europe (January 1946). Need a T-shirt guaranteed to get you killed? : Dump Bush 2004. I don't wear political T-shirts: fears of retaliation, like the art shop owner in San Francisco.

Deep thought #35: I wonder what Pat Robertson thinks of Jerry (spoof)

in case it's not obvious, the remainder of today's blog is random stuff that I found entertaining. do not be upset with the lack of coordinated thought. if uncoordinated thought upsets you, please Stop Reading Now.
GoogL'ost #43: Laid-Off: Late Bloomers

[Super Size Me] moved into the #9 spot in the movies, even though it's still playing at the independents. I enjoy reading Morgan Spurlock's blog as he travels around the world, promoting his movie, followed by the McSpindoctors.

Queer Eye Shopping Guide mentioned an art house here in Dallas: Coupralux Fine Art Giclee Gallery

What I consider (still) the killer application for the Palm: AvantGo

Was reading Geoff's blog and noticed the mention of the Legendary Pink Dots. Turns out they'll be in Dallas in a few weeks at the Gypsy Tea Room (in Deep Ellum). Calendar entry made, now just have to find some unsuspecting soul to escort me. I gleefully pointed Geoff to Ladysmith Black Mambazo

Big and Bad: "The benefits of being nimble--of being in an automobile that's capable of staying out of trouble--are in many cases greater than the benefits of being big."

Wednesday, June 2

cheap suddenly ain't so cheap?

Jill-Bob and I were comparing cellphone plans. I like Virgin Mobile's (based on my low usage). Their rate structure is simple: 25¢ per minute for the first 10 minutes each day, then 10¢ per minute thereafter. My usage is very bursty and that would work well (especially given free long distance and free roaming).

However, what if I used it 24x7 for a full month?

24x60x30 days (43,200 minutes a month): 300 minutes would be @ 25¢, the balance @ 10¢ .. so $4,365 a month! Egads!
Update: I bought a Kyocera K7 RAVE off Target's shelf; it comes with $10 of airtime, and I can auto-recharge the phone using a credit card, just like my Starbucks card. The phone itself doesn't feel as solid as my Nokia, but it'll do. Afterall, it's just a phone, right? It's charging now. Next step is an attempt at LNP: Local Number Portability. (i.e., can I keep my cell number?)

Tuesday, June 1

politics, nukes, military spending (i.e. nothing controversial)

While reading RSS feeds, I listened to AirAmerica (again), paying careful attention to the advertising. Lesson learned: AirAmerica's target market is health conscious; buys insurance; attends national parks and museums; recycles; dates; trains guide dogs; and shows other signs of being obvious social outcasts. Prediction: that audience will be too busy tie-dying their Earth® shoes to vote.

Politics: From Bush, Unprecedented Negativity (and we still have 5 months until the election). Makes me wonder if the Republicans will nominate J. Danforth Quayle as W's intellectual advisor? Randi Rhodes reminded me of the web site showing which of my (and your) neighbors are donating to the campaigns:

Nuclear weapons: Dimona, Israel has the "capacity to produce plutonium for five to ten nuclear warheads a year"; NucNews includes an item about depleted uranium (used in artillery as tank-killers in the Bush's Oil Wars).

Military spending: Cost of War (dynamically updated); Ramsey Clark's Neighborhood Bully Interview (August 2001)
Note the "our military spending is absolutely, certifiably insane" line
Miscellany: The Straight Dope: Where does the term "86" come from?; CD Baby ("a little CD store with the best new independent music")