Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Pizza deliver... and other bad service

I have little of real value to say, but I wanted to write that in the last month, both Pizza Hut and Domino's Pizza have done nothing but disappoint me. I know the pizza isn't the greatest, but I know what I should get. I also know delivered pizza is closer to warm than hot. But is it really too much to ask for them to deliver pizza to MY door and have change for a $20? Seriously! During the latest incident the delivery driver told me it wasn't her fault she didn't have change. Since she didn't have the change needed, and it wasn't my responsibility, I wonder who was in charge the operation?

The above was my whole message for the day, but then I had some more poor service. First, while talking to Kristi, Cingular Wireless decided to do some maintenance. Well, I'm calling it maintenance, but who knows what it really was? All I know is that I had full signal strength, and at 12 midnight, the connection was lost. I had full signal strength and I could not call out. I had full signal strength and Kristi could not call me. What's the deal?

After my 10 minute phone hiatus, when I could once again talk with my wife, I learned Comcast, another of the jerks monopolies in my life has just taken a couple of the channels we watch from basic cable package. Unfortunately, the Public Utility Commission of Texas does not regulate cable service. It's a shame, because between raising the rates annually, and regularly removing channels from the lineup, I'm getting completely screwed.

Don't get me wrong, I understand the economic desire behind the attempt to move me from basic (analog) to digital service. But I don't want the box and I reject their requirement of same just to watch TV. I'm gonna let them push me to buying a dish before I do what they want.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

My new next phone

I wanted to change the service plan for my cell phone a couple months ago because I wasn't using all my minutes on the old plan, so why waste the money? Unfortunately, Cingular Wireless is like every other cellular carrier, which is largely a pain in the @&%. To change my plan, I had to buy a new phone (!) and change to GSM, a service that provides a purely poor reception within our house. (I called to complain about it, but they had trouble hearing me and the connection was dropped before I could finish bitching).

To top it off, I do not like the phone I got, the Nokia 3120. I regularly have trouble hearing people when they are talking. A good part of the problem is how I hold the phone, and after three months, I still haven't had success retraining my muscle memory.

siemens_m65.jpgSo once again I want a new phone. The things I want in a new phone are a great screen, cool programs, and maybe a camera. But more than my wants, I could really just use a decent interface to MS Outlook and I've had a client where cameras was not allowed. So I was pretty happy to see Gizmodo's description of the new Siemens SP65 Business Phone. It features
Bluetooth, Outlook synchronization, a reduced size memory card slot, and a 260,000 TFT display... It purposely lacks a camera in order to meet emerging corporate security and procurement requirements... Available next month, the phone offers 5 hours of talk time and nearly two weeks of standby.
Who could ask for more?

Sunday, March 20, 2005

Yahoo! bought Flickr

In my continuing vein of bringing you news about Yahoo!, I am happy to report they have just purchased Flickr. A website that allows you to post and publish your pictures online. I use the site to show pictures on this blog, which is really only the tinyest bit of what it's meant to used for. If you've got some photos you want to share, I recommend trying it.

Proud to be a U.S. Sailor

I never talked about it much while I was doing it, but I served my country as in the Naval Reserves. I often dreaded going for my weekend duty, it was largely dull and uninspiring. I typically enjoyed my two-week duty away. Most of my fellow shipmates did not enjoy it because we were given work to perform during the day, but the truth is that the work was never hard or difficult. Also, it was a change from the regular job and you got to get away from whatever mundane things you did on a given day to try some new mundane things. To my mind, it was still a vacation I got paid to take.

But I have never been able to describe my experience or what life in the military was to someone who hasn't gone through the same. And there is no reason to explain to someone who has.

Today, someone else explained it for me! This American Life, possibly the greatest radio experiment on the air, is a teller of stories about a given theme. The themes vary wildly, and the chapters (stories) used to illustrate the current concept are very entertaining. Anyway, today's hour was about
Life aboard the USS John C. Stennis, an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea that supported bombing missions over Afghanistan as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. Only a few dozen people on board actually fly F-18s and F-14's. It takes the rest of the crew - over 5,000 people – to keep them in the air.
Listen to this hour-long broadcast online for free.

I beg you to listen. This is the real story about the enlisted sailors, chiefs, and officers defending you and your freedoms. Learn about young folks comprising the best equipped fighting force in the world. It was an enlightening program. (Rebroadcast, originally aired March 2002)

Friday, March 18, 2005

Tax Deductions

Wow, the government (IRS) allowed deduction for mileage is up to $0.405 per mile. And that was before we hit the new, record high for price of gas at the pump.

Something else I didn't know was that the mileage deduction for medical, moving, and charitable purposes is less than the standard mileage rate. Which just reminds me that I need to start tracking those.

Since we itemize deductions in our return, I should really start tracking this again. But it was such a pain to remember when to track mileage, I didn't keep it up.

Hey, does anyone know of a GPS system which tracks mileage of a vehicle and allows for a data dump? It would seem to me you could take a data dump, input some standard locations (doctor's office, work, charity, etc) and it could give an output of mileage for relevant trips. A few more details are floating in my head, but you probably get the jist of my latest brainstorm.

Editor's Note: This is not a new idea. There is both free software to download the data from your current GPS unit, and whole units dedicated to just this idea. So much for my "many years too late" brainstorm.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Yahoo! v Google

Y'all know I love Google, and the money I made from their stock, but I'm rooting for Yahoo!. A difficult thing, Y! being burdened with a history of content and G striving to maintain its sleek scrappiness.

Both of them make most their money from ads, Overture and AdSense, to be exact. The former is doing great with larger ads and selling to corporate clients, the latter with smaller, text only ads and zillions of small websites. So even though they are in a fight to the death, each trying to out-earn the other on ad revenue, they are largely in two different arenas. (Makes the deathmatch more interesting that way, don't you think?) So I was interested to read this morning. Y! has some personnel who are apparently testing the next shot across the bow.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Univ of Colorado: Taking the easy way out

On Monday I heard about the recent resignation at the University of Colorado while listening to NPR. I was a bit uneasy about the whole thing, but since I was on the way to see our accountant--and I knew how much we owe this year--I had a much bigger thing to be uneasy about and promptly forgot about the UColo problem.

But trust others to find the words I didn't even know I wanted to find. Vodkapundit summarizes my problem quite well.
Hoffman's administration was predated by Ward Churchill's tenure and the problems in the athletics department. What good does her resignation do? What message is it supposed to send? Why is she quitting, rather than doing a clean sweep of Athletics and giving Churchill the boot?
If the problem is the athletics dept (most of it is) and we've known that for the last couple scandals, the correct action is just that, *action*.

By resigning she takes the easy way out, hurts her career, the career of other female executives, and the concept of good management. It's time for leaders everywhere to stop whining about issues, reneging on commitments, and bilking others. Where has the willingness to act (responsibly) gone?

Wednesday, March 09, 2005

What I'm up to this week.

Today is hump-day, that day half-way through the work-week. This week has been pretty good. Bullish Bob Bagley introduced me to Mike Nurre of Treadstone Partners at Kalachandji's Restaurant and Palace. If you're in town for lunch, and want to fill up on some good vegetarian food, I recommend it. The price is great, the courtyard is wonderful, and you'd never guess it was in a Hari Krishna temple.

Remember the business deal I mentioned last month, when I had to fly out to California? Well, I've been working on that. It's taking forever, and a major hiccup was thrown into the works early yesterday, but I think we can see a way through. It all stems from my thinking we had a mutual understanding of the services offered, when the understanding was anything but mutual. A (frustrating) learning experience.

And I've gotten two offers for short-term consulting work in Austin. One will only take a few days, the other will require six-weeks of onsite work.

Bentley & I went marketing this afternoon. I've been getting free lawn service from our landscaper for awhile now and in return I wrote a letter and distributed it to some homes a couple sub-divisions away. I took Bentley with me and he loved being outside today.

By the way, despite storms in the NE, here in Dallas the weather is sunny with a moderate breeze, the high was about 68 deg. I know this from using ForecastFox the super-cool plug-in for Firefox.

And, in the general recommendations column, I wanted to add the newsletter from Ask The Headhunter. If you're looking for a job, this guy gives some pretty good advice.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Tech stuff

While rummaging through the web tonight I ran into Google's Cheat Sheet, offering a bit of help on refining your searches.

The provider of this tidbit was by Paul Begley's TechLog, a good resource for admin types.

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Supreme Court

Does anyone out there know a good online summary of US Supreme Court decisions and cases in their docket--for the layperson? I can find plenty of sites discussing the fine legal points and showing me the decision, but I'd like to get simple articles on what's being argued and decided. Then I can take the time to dig into more information if I really want.

In other news about the High Court, they recently decided to ban executions for minors. This article from the LA Times paints a picture of how the more liberal (and slim majority) stance is a good thing. In the heartland, we have this editorial declaring the Supreme Court is against democracy based upon the same decision.

Me, I'm just glad we are killing a few less people.

Consumption Tax

I was happy to hear that Alan Greenspan
the Federal Reserve chairman, cautiously endorsed a shift in the nation's tax system on Thursday from one that primarily taxes what people earn to one that taxes what they spend.
Not that I think Steve Forbes is right about everything, but I tend to agree with the concept of a tax on usage rather than earnings.

Author's note: A bit more research showed me Steve's proposal was primarily for a flat tax (17% on more than $13k), rather than a consumption tax, though the two plans are often tied together.

Help from on high

I have received word that Yahoo! Music, nee Launch, is going to start looking into the problems they have playing on Firefox. I cannot tell you how long it's going to take to fix the issues, but at least you can rest easy about it getting addressed.

Speaking of Firefox, has anyone seen good stats on it's market penetration? Does Google publish stuff like this, or Amazon? The stats from tech sites are not to be trusted; too many early adopters and too many Microsoft-haters skew the numbers.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

It's all about the choices you make

Today I was given directions to a bakery, but they were wrong. I was close and a quick call to Stein's Bakery let me know it was just a couple blocks over, but it got me to thinking...

Let's back up a few years; I've lost my wallet before. The last time I recall was during a cab ride to a job interview. I was running late because it was hard to find parking. I wasn't sure where the correct building was, and I really wanted to make a good impression. In my hustle and confusion I left the wallet in the cab, or it fell out of my pocket, or something.

I've also fallen and broken my arm. I was in the back of a pick-up truck, standing on a huge pile of pecan shells (used for garden mulch, it looks great) when I tried to jump off the tailgate. Now I had been warned the shells the were slippery, and I knew from standing up there, shoveling them into the waiting wheelbarrow that my footing wasn't great, but I tried to jump down anyway.

What's the point of these stories? It's to tell you I am not forgetful or a clutz. You see, while I have forgotten things, I refuse to define myself or be defined by others as careless and forgetful. Sure, I made a mistake and left or lost my wallet, but should that action define who I am? Similiarly, I have hurt myself, but that does not mean I have a severe lack of physical coordination. Rather, I made a foolish judgement and paid a price for it.

Who cares if you've been lost a couple times? Hasn't everyone? Maybe you do and maybe you don't have a bad sense of direction, but occassionally getting lost doesn't necessarily mean you need to be defined by it.

To me, we should be defined by our choices. More important to me than the lost wallet or broken arm was how I responded. I took responsibility for what I did, I didn't whine, I avoided blaming someone or something else. I tried to stay calm and I worked to replace or repair what went wrong. I tried not to make the same mistake in the future. If you're going to define me, use my actions after a mistake. See me when I'm working to fix a problem, optomistic of the future, and grateful because--despite all the mistakes I've ever made--I'm still blessed with more than most.

So, the person who gave me bad directions? She's not a bitch; she's not inconsiderate of my time and effort; she's not necessarily bad with directions. She's a human and sometimes she makes a mistake. Don't we all?

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

HOW-TO: Gmail

Today we have a couple tidbits for those of you who want or use Gmail, the cool little online email service that could.

First, if you want a Gmail account, Isnoop has a gmail invite server. It's also a good place to send your extra invites if you have them.

Second, Engadget has how-to instructions for turning your Gmail account into a
personal file server, allowing easy access to your files from work/home/your friends house/etc. I've tested it, and it seems to work well. Please note, files need to be under 10Megs in size.