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Commander In Thief

June 1, 2006 Comments off

I’ve spent some of my copious free time tonight reading the Rolling Stone article, Was the 2004 Election Stolen, an extensively footnoted and researched article by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. And given what he’s turned up, with voting irregularities and interference and flat-out threats… yeah. It looks like it was.

Thanks to the media for burying and/or ignoring this, so that I’m reading about it in ROLLING FUCKING STONE. Seriously? A rock & roll magazine is beating journalistic heavyweights to the punch on this? What’ve they been doing?

Oh. Right. CNN reports on American Idol results and contestants. Never mind.

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On The Road Again…

February 2, 2006 1 comment

I debated writing this entry for a while. I didn’t want to sound too whiny, I had minor paranoid quibbles about writing about work and possible risks to Liz and Penny by saying that I was out of town, but then, really, no one reads my blog except my friends and whatever Internet weirdos come in several months after I’ve posted who’ve done some Google search on a really odd set of keywords.

So.

I’m out of town.

What happened was, my boss came in and sat down in my office last week, and what he said summarizes as the office in Little Falls, New York needed a programmer. For a couple months. And we really needed the work. And I was being offered first crack at the work.

Different words were used. Opportunity being the big one. That this was an opportunity. Mm hmm.
I can read between the lines about as well as the next guy. I understand, "We really need the work." means, "Our utilization sucks. There’s talk of layoffs." Penny’s heath insurance comes through my job. Penny’s going to the doctor a lot lately. It’s winter, and she’s 2 (2 and a half). She might need to get tubes in her ears again. That’s surgery. Surgery ain’t cheap.

So, I said I’d go. I was told they were going to put me in an efficiency apartment for the duration. That’s nice, I suppose. Not being a common space, like a hotel. Get to make my own meals. Possibly have a chance to stick to this diet.

So, I had to drive up. About a 600 mile drive. It was raining when i left. Kinda sunny for the last part of Virginia, and the 20 minutes of West Virginia, and the 10 minutes of Maryland. Pennsylvania was kind of rainy. New York was snowy. I’ve told a story about the last part of my trip, where a big-eyed old lady at a gas station sends me off my planned route, down a narrow twisty road because she says it’s a shortcut. I’ll tell it some other time. This is the whining and bitching entry.

The fun when I got here was watching the local folks, who are certainly nice enough on a personal level, try to throw obstacles in my way.

When someone goes on travel for their company, they get what’s called per diem. It’s a daily allowance for meals and that sort of thing. The head of the office refused to pay per diem. I was just supposed to suck it up, and pay for that out of pocket. But my home office came through, and they’re going to take the hit, and pay my per diem. Yay, food.

Over half of the first day, I spent not being able to do much because they weren’t going to give me local administrator rights to the computer they had for me (meaning: Matt can’t install software), and were having a hard time figuring out how to cripple my account’s network access so I could only see the one folder on one share they wanted me to see, instead of all the work. Eventually, they caved and granted me local admin rights (sometimes, to make software, you must install software), and figured out how to make a properly crippled account.

On to the efficiency… the owner/landlady is an older woman who’s very energetic with a slightly disturbingly too-wide smile. Her sales pitch for the apartment was incredibly enthusiastic, if focused on the wrong things. Telling me how romantic the view is, or that I could use the back area to entertain aren’t really selling points, sorry. The apartment is basically a living area (open the door and BAM! There’s the bed! No curtain on that window in the door, nosirree!), with a small kitchen and bath room off it, with two closets and a little storage space. No TV. No phone service.

I don’t care about the TV. Okay, I’ll miss the Oscars (unless I come home early, for one reason or another), but I don’t watch that much. The phone is a different matter, as I wanted to get dial-up Internet access for the month or two I was going to be here. The head of the office blanched again at the thought of getting a phone set up. "Don’t you have a cell phone. I just don’t think it’s worth it, to get it set up for only two months."
Yeah, well, they’re my two months, asshole.

Today I called Verizon, and got a quote on how much it’d be to set the phone up. And since it was quite a bit less than the head thought it was going to be, he agreed to have the company cover it.

Now, here’s my screw-up. I forgot to bring my checkbook with me, so I have no way to pay for this apartment. So, tomorrow, Liz (who, by the way, has been as understanding and supportive and helpful as I could possibly ask for) gets to go to FedEx, to send me my checkbook, so I can shell out (and then be reimbursed for) this apartment.

So, right now, I’m tucked away in the "conference room" (which is actually a room filled with piles of old tables and chairs from rooms that are being redecorated), on the wireless network (not in my room. The hotel swears there’s a network jack in my room. Tomorrow, I get to have a manager come over so I can say that an RJ11 jack (phone) doesn’t take an RJ45 cable (network cable), so they got ripped off when someone told them they installed the network in that room.

I haven’t even gotten into the details of the office. The high points are these: 1) former convent, still has statuary over the door, 2) has no hot water. turn on the hot water tap, and you get a spit of air and then silence, 3) there’s a bat that flies around. They say they don’t like it, but aren’t calling anyone to take care of it.

Yesterday, I looked out in the hall and saw it just crawl/walking past my door.

I’m paying off some bad karma at an accelerated pace, yessirree bob.

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Two of a Kind!

January 5, 2006 Comments off

Doing my bit to pump up a bit of news that seemed to get lost during the Christmas season.

(HTML re-do of the ad from here)

Richard Nixon He lied to the American people and broke the law.
“On May 22, I stated in very specific terms—and I state again to every one of you listening tonight these facts—I had no prior knowledge of the Watergate break-in; I neither took part in nor knew about any of the subsequent coverup activities; I neither authorized nor encouraged subordinates to engage in illegal or improper campaign tactics. That was and that is the simple truth.” —Richard M. Nixon, August 15, 1973
 
George W. BushSo did he.
“Now, by the way, any time you hear the United States government talking about wiretap, it requires — a wiretap requires a court order. Nothing has changed, by the way. When we’re talking about chasing down terrorists, we’re talking about getting a court order before we do so. It’s important for our fellow citizens to understand, when you think Patriot Act, constitutional guarantees are in place when it comes to doing what is necessary to protect our homeland, because we value the Constitution.” —George W. Bush, April 20, 2004
 
What should we do when the U.S. President lies to us and breaks the law?
 
Congress must thoroughly investigate these lies and renew its bipartisan commitment to our Constitution’s system of checks and balances. A special counsel must be appointed to determine whether oaths of office were broken and federal laws violated through the Bush NSA spying program.
 
Because it’s not about promoting a political agenda. It’s about preserving American democracy.
 
ACLU LogoTo learn more, go to www.aclu.org

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WWADRD

November 16, 2004 1 comment

Seen on Boing Boing.
"WWADRD?
Dear Friends:
If the shoe was on the other foot, What Would a Dumbass Republican Do?

Read more…

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Fed-Up Experiment

August 9, 2004 8 comments

I’ve gotten 7 blog comment spams in the past 3 days from the same jerk-off. He’s using Trojaned PCs to post the spam, so blocking the individual IPs is fighting the tides. I think what I may do from now on is change the links in all the blog spam to point to random sites, instead of the spammed sites. Penis enlargement to Microsoft. Weight loss to Disney. Etc.

Got an idea for a redirect? Post it in the comments below.

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Retarculous

August 6, 2004 1 comment

Retarculous

Yeah, the weekend can’t get here fast enough.

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Processed

May 11, 2004 6 comments

I don’t know if you’ve seen the news lately…

Iraqi prisoner threatened with dogs

During a visit to Abu Ghraib in October, Red Cross delegates witnessed "the practice of keeping persons deprived of their liberty completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness."
"Upon witnessing such cases, the ICRC interrupted its visits and requested an explanation from the authorities. The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was ‘part of the process’."

Thumbs up from an American soldier

Iraqi prisoners piled into a pyramid

The CBS News program "60 Minutes II" on Wednesday broadcast photos taken at the Abu Ghraib prison late last year showing American troops abusing some Iraqis held at what was once a notorious center of torture and executions under toppled President Saddam Hussein.

The pictures showed U.S. troops smiling, posing, laughing or giving the thumbs-up sign as naked, male Iraqi prisoners were stacked in a pyramid or positioned to simulate sex acts with one another.
Iraqi Prisoner Wired Up

According to the U.S. Army, one Iraqi prisoner was told to stand on a box with his head covered, wires attached to his hands. He was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted.

I love my country, but I truly hate some of my countrymen.

This is what it means when they say that the enemy isn’t a proper army and classifies them as ‘enemy combatants’ instead of ‘prisoners of war’ so they aren’t protected by the Geneva Convention.

This is what you support if you vote Bush/Cheney in 2004.

I can’t get angry enough to make the glowing dots on the computer screen say what I want.

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Stop The Presses

September 11, 2003 7 comments

(there used to be a sound clip from Office Space linked up here. Ah, well.)

I consider myself to be reasonably adept with computers. I know too many people who are a lot more skilled than I am to say I’m very good with them. They’re network people. They know all sorts of things I don’t. I was happy to be able to put my new hard drive in without making my computer a stylish black plastic paperweight, they have home networks with proxy servers and dedicated firewalls and MP3 servers and… I dunno. The works. But still, I’m not too shabby, and I can figure most things out.

However.

I hate printers. I’ve never liked them. We have one out of necessity, and we never use it. I don’t know why Liz doesn’t print very many things, I don’t print many things because I hate the printer.

It’s nothing specific to this printer. It’s a perfectly normal, adequate representative of its profession. Which is to say it’s an erratic, cranky, noisy, shuddering collection of plastic, metal strips, and ink that sometimes prints out what I want it to.

I’m sure great advances have been made in printer technology that I am benefiting from. I’m sure that this printer has chips inside of it more powerful than those used to plot satellite orbits just ten years ago. Those advances are almost indectable, based on casual use.

Let’s start with the moving parts. Printers are about the only computer peripheral that has moving parts on such a wide scale. The next closest thing I can think of are CD/DVD drives, which just spin. Printers… printers are the Rube Goldberg contraption of computer peripherals. If you have any doubt, if you get a chance and the opportunity, watch the twitchery that goes on to load a piece of paper from the hopper into the printer. The whole thing reeks of people thinking, "Well… if this plastic bar is knocked against the base of the stack of paper hard enough, and the roller is tacky enough… yeah, it should grab a piece of paper. Or two. Or eight. Or maybe none."

And then there’s the dubious thought processes behind clearing a clogged ink nozzle. Induce the printer to spew ink out at as high a pressure and rate it can manage in the hopes that the gush of ink will dislodge any clog or lump. Gee, thanks. Ink cartridges are so cheap I don’t mind losing gobs of ink on that hacky attempt at repairing the problem it caused.

Why, yes, I have had to wrangle the home printer a bit lately. Why do you ask?

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Baseball Boobery

June 20, 2003 5 comments

The Cubs traded third baseman Mark Bellhorn (.209/.341/.317) and minor league pitcher Travis Anderson to the Colorado Rockies for shortstop Jose Hernandez (.237/.308/.362). Hernandez most likely becomes the Cubs everyday third baseman, replacing the mix-and-match platoon of Bellhorn, Lenny Harris, Ramon Martinez, and possibly Bobby Hill.

This trade, say it with me folks, suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucks.

To elucidate on the numbers provided above, the first number is batting average (number of base hits divided by number of official at-bats), the second is on base percentage (essentially, number of times reaching base divided by plate apperances), and the third is slugging percentage (sort of like batting average, but gives increasing weight to extra-base hits (doubles, triples, and home runs)). No, there’s no good reason why the first one is called an average, and the last two are percentages. This was all decided long before I was born.

To put the numbers in a handy little table for comparison:

PlayerBAOBPSLG
Mark Bellhorn.209.341.317
Jose Hernandez.237.308.362

There’s not a big difference between the two players. No offense to either of their families and loved ones, but players with stats like those are players you trade to get off your team. To give some measure to judge by, last years’s National League hitting averages were .259/.327/.410 So, overall, we’re looking at two guys having below-average years.

But wait! One of the players has one statistic above average! Mark Bellhorn’s OBP is above last year’s league average by 14 points. Last year, in his first season where he was given regular playing time, his OBP was .371, or 44 points above average!

Granted, Jose Hernandez has been having a bad year so far. Kind of. He’s way below the averages he put up in 2002, but looking at his overall career numbers (.255/.314/.429), and recognizing that at 33 years old (34 in July), he’s at the point of his career where most baseball players start to lose some of their skills… this might be as good as it gets.

So… two subpar players for the most part, what is there to get worked up about? In short: On Base Percentage. Lately, more and more people, and more and more smart people, have been realizing that on base percentage is much more valuable than it is usually given credit for. This is one of the precepts the Oakland A’s have picked their players using, and it’s worked out well for them (first or second place last four years running). The Cubs traded a player who was hitting pretty crappily, but still managing to get on base (by drawing walks), for a player who hits pretty crappily, and doesn’t get on base as well.

The icing on the cake part is this. The Colorado Rockies, Hernandez’s old team, play in Coors Field, in Denver, which is renowned as one of the best stadiums to be a hitter in. The ball carries farther in the thin air, and pitchers don’t get their pitches to break as well, either. So his numbers are actually inflated above their "true" value. To try to see how he’ll do for the rest of the season, we look to see how well he hit while at other stadiums this season and we get… .218/.287/.347

This is gonna suck.

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Columbia House: Idiots

May 30, 2003 3 comments

So, I tried to order some DVDs from Columbia House last month.

It was a fairly straightforward order. The Crow, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Pulp Fiction, and Reservoir Dogs.

Ha ha. HA HA HA.

You see, what I received was O Brother and… Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs were being held until I paid for the first two movies. I liked Chamber of Secrets. I wanted the DVD even. However, I already owned it. The neat thing was that all the recepts, online and paper, said that what I was sent was The Crow and OB,WAT? So, I began my valiant quest to get the right movie into my hand. What follows is the emails sent back and forth between me and the increasingly incompetent customer service slobs at Columbia House.

———-
I am writing regarding my most recent order, the first shipment of which arrived today. The online order summary states I was sent The Crow: Collectors Series and O Brother, Where Art Thou? The printed receipt says the same thing. What actually arrived was Harry Potter: Chamber of Secrets, and O Brother, Where Art Thou? I called the 812 customer support number, but was met with the standard byzantine automated network that is of no use at all. The online returns & exchanges page doesn’t have the ability for me to say I wish to return the Harry Potter DVD because it thinks I was sent The Crow.

Please tell me how I may return to you the erroneously sent DVD and send me a corrected bill for what I have received, as I’m not paying the amount listed on the statement that arrived with the incorrect shipment. Promptness would be appreciated, as my second shipment is being held until I pay this first bill.
———-

( received an auto response that said to let CH know if it wasn’t useful)

———–
THE AUTOMATED REPLY WAS AS USEFUL AS RONALD REAGAN WOULD BE AS A PARTNER IN A GAME OF CONCENTRATION.

Follow-up by an actual human being is requested.
———

Thank you for your e-mail message.

We appreciate being informed the selection(s) indicated on your invoice were not received. We apologize for the packaging error that resulted in your receiving an incorrect shipment. A postage paid mailing label is being sent via

U.S. mail for your convenience in returning the selection(s) noted below.

HARRY POTTER AND CHAMBER OF SECRETS

A replacement order for the following is currently being processed. Please allow sufficient time for delivery. We are sorry for the inconvenience and hope this satisfactorily resolves the problem.

If we may be of further service, please let us know.

Sincerely,

Dalton Thew
Customer Service

———-

(some weeks went by, and I received the mailer. I sent in Chamber of Secrets, and on Tuesday, received The Crow, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs… and a larger-than-it-should-be bill….)

Related to this matter, I have another problem to report.

When I received the first shipment (O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets), I received a bill for $40.63, which I paid in good faith, understanding that I would return Chamber of Secrets and get the movie I actually ordered, The Crow, as well as the other two movies in my order, Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs.

Yesterday, May 27th, I received all three remaining movies, as well as a bill for $55.20. The itemization clearly indicates that I am being charged for all three movies, with no refund being credited for Chamber of Secrets.

If I could receive a corrected bill, I will be happy to pay it immediately. I am not paying for five movies when I only purchased four, however.

Thanks!

–Matt
———–

Thank you for your e-mail message.

Credit has been issued to your credit card company for the return of the following. Please allow 45-60 days for this credit to appear on your credit card statement.

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

Although an invoice will accompany the shipment, only one charge will appear on the account. In the event this was a credit card purchase, appropriate credit will be issued to your credit card company.

We appreciate the opportunity to explain this matter.

If we may be of further service, please let us know.

Sincerely,

Joseph Lobo
Customer Service
———-

I wasn’t aware I had a credit card on file with Columbia House for you to issue a refund to. That might be a reason why it would take 45-60 days for the refund to show up.

I see by looking at the Columbia House web page, that my total due is listed as $29.14 . This seems closer to what the correct total should be. Is this the correct total?

I really don’t want a refund to a credit card. I simply want the total I owe to be corrected, showing that I purchased four DVDs and not five. Once this is done, I will promptly send payment.

Is this possible?

(In retrospect, I should have given up on thinking CH’s Customer Service would be helpful and just paid the amount listed on the web page. I had no idea what stupidity lay in wait.)
———-

Thank you for your e-mail message.

A reply, which was recently sent to you, contains incomplete or incorrect information. Please accept our apology. Hopefully, this e-mail message will clarify any misunderstanding.

A replacement order for the following was processed for shipment on 05/22/03.

Due to delays, which can sometimes occur, please allow a total of four weeks for receipt of your order.

CROW 1 COLL.SE 26.06 025987042W

We appreciate being informed the selections indicated on your invoice were not received. We apologize for the packaging error that resulted in your receiving an incorrect shipment. A postage paid mailing label is being sent via U.S. mail for your convenience in returning the selections noted below.

HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBERS OF SECRET
WHERE ART THOU

A replacement order for the following is currently being processed. Please allow sufficient time for delivery. We are sorry for the inconvenience and hope this satisfactorily resolves the problem.

PULP FICTIONCE 14.57 027481012W
RESERV DOGS SE 14.57 027274022W

Although a charge for the replacement shipment will appear on your account, credit will be issued when the return of the original shipment is received.

If we may be of further service, please let us know.

Sincerely,

Durin Padula
Customer Service
———-

Good lord. Are you people actually *reading* the emails I’m writing?

I have the correct number of DVDs. I simply want to only be billed for the correct number. I do not need to return any DVDs. The incorrect DVD has already been returned, and the correct DVD received.

Please send me a toll-free number I may contact Columbia House Customer Service at.
———-

And that’s where we stand, as of this morning. I sort of regret that I’ll most likely be unable to transcribe what will undoubtably be an entertaining phone call.

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