April 2005


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Archive for April, 2005


Posted in Geekery on April 28th, 2005

Here’s a fun one-

Went to a customer’s house out by Reed College today. It took me almost a full half-hour just to find the place, despite having turn-by-turn instructions from Google Maps. Whoever designed the roads out there did so by following a drunken squirrel with no idea where he was going.

ME: knock knock
ME: “Hi, I’m here to fix your computer. I understand you’re having trouble with the mouse and the audio.”
CUSTOMER:”Yes yes, come in. Here it is.”
ME: “Hmm…wireless.” wiggle wiggle wiggle. Pop open battery compartment. “When was the last time you replaced these batteries?”
CUSTOMER: “Uhm…never?”
ME: Swaps batteries. Wiggle wiggle. “That seems to have fixed that. Now for the audio.” Clickity-click click. “There we are, it was just muted – that multimedia button right there next to the minus key on the numpad must have gotten pressed.”
ME: “Can I do anything else for you while I’m here?”
CUSTOMER: “No, I suppose that covers it.”
ME: “That’ll be $52.50”
CUSTOMER: Writes check
ME: Smiles and leaves.

Nokia to launch phone that stores 3,000 songs | CNET News.com

Posted in Life on April 27th, 2005

CNET News.com reports that Nokia has finally decided to build the perfect phone for my girlfriend. As excerpted:

The N91 has an integrated 4GB hard disk and supports digital music formats including MP3, M4A, AAC and WMA, Nokia said.

Additionally, the handset comes with a stereo headset with remote control. The N91, expected to ship by the end of the year, will also feature a 2-megapixel camera, e-mail support, a Web-browser and video-sharing capabilities, the device maker said.

Now I know what to get her for Xmas :)


Posted in Politics on April 26th, 2005

George had this to say in response to Graumagus’ posting on Immigration:

I agree with most of what Grau says, but “moonbat” that I am, who IS gonna pick your veggies, mow your lawn, reroof your house, etc. if we block the illegals? Like it or not, these folks are here to WORK, not sign up for welfare, unlike WAY too damn many native-born Americans. Frankly, I’d rather have a illegal alien Mexican touch my food than a former welfare queen-crack addict. Tennessee Bud, do you really think ending welfare would result in a lot of new roofers and crop workers? They’d just stay unemployed and steal. And get ready for prices on everything to double when you start paying real wages, rather than what we pay the illegals. The illegals are willing to take slave wages for fear of being deported. You can’t deport native Americans who refuse to take shitty jobs at low pay.

Also, our newspaper ran a story saying illegals’ employers pay into Social Security, and the illegals have no hope of ever collecting. So apparently Social Security would be much worse off without them. And maybe that can begin to make up for what they collect in other social services. (Has anyone seen an unbiased cost-benefits study on this? How much do they take vs. what they contribute?)

My biggest bitch with illegals is the fairness issue and language. Folks who obey the laws and follow the system may have to wait years to enter this country. But anyone who can pay a smuggler with a boat gets in free. And like Grau, I think they should speak my language when they decide to move to my country. I live in South Florida, where immigrants (illegal or not) who’ve been here for generations still don’t speak English. Native Americans can’t get jobs unless they speak Spanish. That’s obscene.

It’s a very simple matter: you must obey the laws. It isn’t all that hard to go through channels and become a citizen legally.

As for the burden, you also have to factor in that the money they earn doesn’t stay here – they ship it back to the rest of their family in Mexico. ‘Vegas is awash with illegals, and I’ve seen the way they operate first-hand: 8-10 guys living in a three-bedroom apt., living minimally and sending cash over the border.

Here in Oregon, you see them in places where you used to see teenagers – it’s damn hard for an American kid to get hired at McD’s nowdays. Then there’s the mobs of them that just hang out at certain intersections waiting for the contractors to come pick them up for unskilled labor. I know the contractors are paying them under the table, so that bit about the SS in-payments is hogwash. The contractors use them to keep labor costs down and make the lowest bid. (My dad is currently building a new house in Florida and told me how the whole thing works. Trying to impress me with how much money he’s saving, he didn’t realize how much it would piss me off.)

Don’t even get me started on the language issue. When I went through the System last year due to unemployment, I was usually the only native-born English speaking person in the room – and that includes the social workers. It galls me to think how much money the government could save on printing alone by only publishing documents in English instead of 7 or more languages.

To answer the “who would do the work” bit, I’d say teenage kids. My son and I live in an apartment in the city with no yard, so I have very few things to assign to him in the way of chores to earn spending money. (Garbage and dishes hardly qualify in my book, that’s just pitching in.) His mom, however, lives farther out in the country, and he often spends weekends out there doing yardwork, feeding horses, hauling hay, chopping firewood, etc. When he does, he comes home with a feeling of accomplishment and a boost to his self-confidence that he can’t get around here.

He’s also been trying to get an after-school job, and is having no luck because the ones where you would normally find kids his age are all taken up by immigrants (status unknown but guessable) of hispanic descent. I couldn’t tell you the lst time I went through a drive-through and heard an American accent on the speaker anywhere other than Popeye’s Chicken. (That one is located in a black neighborhood.)

Harvey asked:

Seriously, why don’t we have an open border with Mexico? I’m sure there are good reasons, but I can’t think of them off the top of my head.

Here’s why we have a (mostly) open border with Canada: Canucks are law-abidin’ folk for the most part, coming from a modern and industrialized society. Canadians coming over the border are trained and educated, and willingly pay the taxes on their wages. Northern Mexico is a third-world nation, and the people coming in illegally are uneducated, have no training, and are desperate for something better. Since they have come in illegally, they don’t pay taxes anywhere, and the children they have here almost immediately go into public assistance. The Gov’t KNOWS this, and has set up laws to keep them from flooding the unskilled labor market, but has failed to adequately fund those laws’ enforcers.

Dictionary entries

Posted in Geekery, Humor on April 23rd, 2005

From the Techie’s Dictionary, or People I Have To Deal With At Work:

The ID10T: A person with so little computer knowledge and skill that no matter what they do, they will somehow manage to break something. They also tend to fill your day up with inane tasks that they could conceivably manage, were they actually to stop and think for more than 10 seconds. See also “Starfish” and “Luser”.

The Power User: Someone who knows just enough about computers to get themselves in serious trouble. Signs a Power User has been ‘customizing’ a computer include error messages on startup, virus/spyware infections and a sheepish look on their face as they explain that “the problem came out of nowhere” instead of admitting that they were fucking with the registry.

The haxorz, 1337 and script kiddies: Quite often your teenage neighbors, who have spent enough time on the ‘net to learn how to download illegal software and spend most of their time flexing their ‘muscles’ by kicking people offline in IRC and utilizing cheat codes to camp on your respawn point. Indicator signs include ‘modder’ cases slapped together with poor technique bearing tell-tale traces of Mountain Dew and keyboards with the “Z” rubbed off.

Read the rest of this entry »

On the road again

Posted in Life on April 20th, 2005

So here I am, siting in a motel room somewhere north of the Sound, watching TV and pretty much bored outta me skull. I hate overnight work trips.

If you’re out for a week or more, you have time to settle into things and get a routine going. Short trips, everything’s up in the air. Bah.

And not a damn thing interesting going on.

Just to irritate Grau…

Posted in Life on April 17th, 2005

Grau made a mistake earlier tonight, and I’m in just the sort of mood to pounce on it :)

Here are my cats:

Zoe The Monster, a fine lady, even though she is the primary fur-monger in the house…

…and Trouble Underfoot, the cat Ratboy claimed when I got him home. Turned out to be a good fit.

Trouble is in feline teenager-dom currently, and often tears around the house at speeds approaching Warp 2 just because he can. Or maybe he’s trying to run away from his tail, I haven’t quite figured that out yet. (His tail does seem a bit long for him.) “Underfoot” was simply too appropriate a surname to pass up, since that’s where he tends to be. Especially when I’m cooking. His truly favorite thing to do though, is push his nose into your face at 5am to wake you up.

Zoe, on the other hand, has been with us for almost ten years now, and is quite the laid-back kitty. She definitiely did not appreciate being stuck in a carrier for two days while we drove up from ‘Vegas – kitty qualudes didn’t seem to help much. She has developed a splendid “long suffering” look she brings out whenever Trouble is on a rampage and does her best to hide on a windowsill. If she were a bit smarter, she’d realize that she’s the EXACT same color as the couch, and could hide there indefinitely by just curling up and closing her eyes.

Zoe’s surname came about because as a kitten, she often looked like something Henson would have put together – way too much fur for a kitten to deal with. Once she entered adolescence herself, she lived up to the name by ravaging all the cat toys in the house mercilessly and chasing a laser-pointer-dot so far up walls she would almost do a backflip.

If you haven’t noticed, I have recently upgraded myself to a camera phone, and these are some of the first pictures I have taken with it. The resolution isn’t horrible, and it has a decent zoom feature but no flash. It also takes videos which more resemble screwed-up stop-motion animation – there’s a hiccup every second or so in the playback. For adding photos to the caller-ID display it works just fine. For my privacy-minded friends, fear not: the phone makes a “shutter” sound every time it snaps, so you’ll know when I’ve tried to steal your soul :)


Posted in Life on April 17th, 2005

Here’s an unexpected bit of news: my little brother went and got himself hitched early this month. This comes as a bit of a shock, none of us saw this coming at all. (And no, the new Missus isn’t preggers.)

Well, good luck to ’em! To quote a favorite movie: “May the best days of your past be the worst days of your future.”

Review: Mindscan

Posted in Reviews on April 15th, 2005

Review of Mindscan by Robert J. sawyer

My girlfriend complains about not knowing what I’m thinking most of the time, but still has the ability to find me damn good stuff to read.

Mindscan is built on a classic Sci-Fi premise: what happens when the machines decide they want citizenship? In this case, he puts a slight spin on it – the brains of willing individuals have been copied into these androids, and the human counterparts have gone to the moon to live out the rest of their (mostly short) lifespans, removing themselves from public life so their android selves can continue on with their lives.

The problem arises when one android’s son sues his mother for his inheritance after he learns of the biological bodies’ death. Which is the real person – the android copy, whom the biological willingly signed power of attorney to, or the biological who went off to the moon to die? They both have the exact same memories up to the point of upload, the same mannerisms, the same feelings and ideals. Where exactly does personhood begin and end?

The book is set in a mix of Canada and the States in 2045. The USA has slid to the far right of the political scale, and Pat Buchanan is a recently deceased President. (Shudder!) Canada becomes the land of the free, which works out ok, since global warming has left the Southern U.S. mostly unlivable. (Detroit actually has a decent climate now.) The law having slid so far to the right is the cause of the major problems the characters encounter.

The author’s style strikes me as a mix of many old favorites – Asimov and Heinlein come mostly to mind, with maybe a touch of Spider Robinson. The book moves along at a steady pace throughout, and I never managed to completely guess where he was headed next.

The main character is a bit hard to truly bond with. He’s got inherited money, and is constantly asking people to explain historical references to him because he spent his youth screwing off. On the for side of that, though, he has a very good understanding of physics because of the time he spent in college with nothing better to do than take classes. A very strange mix.

In conclusion, you have a very entertaining read, with some insights and good social comentary. Highly recommended!

No content day!

Posted in Life on April 14th, 2005

Your Linguistic Profile:

55% General American English
20% Upper Midwestern
15% Yankee
10% Dixie
0% Midwestern
What Kind of American English Do You Speak?

Ok, so there really hasn’t been any content at all here for a while now. Maybe I should put some of those English skills to use and get scribblin’.

Work has, of course, been the major drain on my time lately. We’re either swamped, or treading water and trying to drum up business. Monday, as a matter of fact, was one of those days where I had almost nothing to do, so I picked up the phone and started calling customers in our database I hadn’t talked to before. I figured, if I hadn’t talked to them, they haven’t done business with us for at least three months, and therefore they were bound to have something needing checking-up on.

Four hours on the phone netted me two appointments for my boss to go out and try to push our managed services on the unwary. The cool thing here, is that if he sells ’em, I get 10% of the first month’s proceeds from the contract. Of course, if I sell them myself, I get 60%, so I need to learn more about what we can and cannot do. Or better yet, how to convince a customer that the intangible is not only genuinely cool stuff, but that they need it desperately.

One of those two appointments should be an easy sale – the vic…err, _customer_ made the mistake of worrying about his network security to me. “It just so happens…” ;)

The Ratboy has once again turned the tables on me. He’s getting some cool stuff for his birthday this year, and I can’t wait to see the look on his face when he opens the gifts. I got everything wrapped up and displayed nicely in the living room for him to drool over, and the punk is being almost bah-humbug about the whole thing. I’m tempted to sneak in, empty out the packages and stuff them with rocks if he doesn’t let me catch him at least shaking one soon. Punk-ass.

For those who may be looking for a cool new apartment, there is a unit available in my building: 3 bedrooms, 2 1/2 bath with a big kitchen and a two-car (if you have Minis) garage with a cable outlet (a previous tenant turned the garage into a rumpus room). It’s and end unit, so there are neighbors only on one side, and they’re quiet folks for the most part. It also has the Northern facing, so it will be cooler in the summer than mine.

The house is located in the Near-East, just a few blocks North of Broadway. It’s in Elliot, which is trying desperately to ride Irvington’s coattails into prosperity and doing a so-so job of it. This building was constructed 4 years ago with that in mind, but everybody else is content to just re-paint instead of demolishing and building new. Rent is $1025, with a whole bunch up-front. Email me for contact info.

Should you like the place, there are some interesting folks here in the neighborhood. In the house to the East of us, I get the sneaking suspiscion that one of the tenants has recently returned home from an extended stay in the hospital. When she left, she was one of those gals who could have been a lipstick lesbian if she were just a tad more feminine. Now, she’s got sideburns and wears boy’s clothing.

Across the street and down a bit is a household of guys who like to sit on the porch until all hours, and they talk just loud enough so that most of their conversations can be heard clearly. Some days, it’s like listenning to a radio soap opera. A dull one, but just the same…

On a good note, there is only one house on the block that has any criminal activity (or at least, it had some in the past.) Unfortunately, it’s right across the street. It’s also the only house on the block with bars in the windows. Go figure.

Okay, I’ve rambled enough. Time for bed.


Posted in Life on April 5th, 2005

Well, two long workdays in a row. Monday Started out waaaay out in Sandy, then back at the shop until 10 or so catching up on shop work and futzing with a dead fax machine so I can fax in my timecard and get paid. Then today was up in Lakewood WA, undoing some idiot’s idea of a good LAN and putting things together as close to the right way as we could. Need more parts. And yet more busy, as the phones lit up all day, and I am apparently scheduled for the rest of the week. Always good.

The trick comes in not getting so busy that you get backed up.

Oh – and having a home life would be nice.