Monday, January 30, 2006
Just stick the aerial under my skin and let the signal run through my veins
• Looking up who sent an email by the IP address and who was online. First, in many cases (especially dialup) the IP changes with every connection. Second, while it is possible to find out what computer/user was using a specific IP address at a specific time ["check the grep log" as the geeks say] most ISPs require a court order before releasing this information. It's nice that Archie on CSI can pull someone's user data in ten seconds, but in real life this will take at least 72 hours. But with our terror-stricken leaders invoking the PATRIOT Acts and the RIAA/MPAA waving the DMCA around like a doo-rag to sue computer users pseudorandomly, whenever they have a whim to know what you're doing, we're getting closer to that sort of no-accountability-required privacy invasion all the time.
• Video cleanup software making a license plate fourty yards away in a fuzzy video razor sharp. Yes, NASA has developed some software that can help reduce the noise in surveilance camera video to the point that faces and details can be made out, but not to the point of taking a 8 pixel by 5 pixel area of a scan off tape that's been used 50 times without a headcleaner, blowing it up to half the screen size, and having it look as clear as if you were standing before the item in question. Too bad the stuff on TV doesn't exist, I could fix the footage of my sister on the evening news a friend copied off late-1980's VHS tape for me, above.
• There was a recent episode of CSI: Miami involving a blog, and the way pages came up was the text was graphically displayed (like it were going through an image editor, not a browser) backwards then doing a 180° rotation on the vertical axis to be displayed forward, against an amorphous multicolor background. Er, no. Potentially possible using Java but far too flashy to be practical. But then they did something stupid: they ran the mouse across the screen to see some hidden stock tips. It's true that you can hide writing by making the text the same color as the background (anyone who has been on a message board with a "spoiler" feature, used on movie or videogame discussion sites, where you have to highlight a blank block to see the writing so you don't reveal a secret without trying has used this concept), but the background as said was not a solid color. The laser 'keyboard' in that episode, by the way, does exist.
• I've seen two shows where a USB memory stick was used in ways that don't happen. In both (the season 5 closer of CSI and an episode of NCIS) someone plugs the drive into the computer and a video starts playing. Autoplay doesn't happen with those thumbdrives like with a CD; you have to open it like a hard drive and view the contents. There were other things that didn't work in that CSI episode, like the randomly jumping IP addresses for Nick's crypt webcam but I'll overlook those since this episode featured Batman's nemesis The Riddler, Frank Gorshin in his last TV role, and was directed by Quentin Tarantino.
• Hey, you want old school? How about that episode of Star Trek where Spock disables the computer by smashing the keyboard with his clasped fists? You want new school? How about that episode of NCIS where Gibbs stops a guided missile by shooting a notebook computer? (Which reminded me of the notebook-operated-machine-gun-in-the-minivan scene from The Jackal, which isn't impossible... by the way, folks, Die Hard 4.0 is coming out this year. Be afraid, be very afraid.)
Others exist but I have a short memory. It could be worse, the movie version of TVOS is really bad too; I'm not a movie-goer so I can't get point-and-verse but some examples include the viruses in Hackers (c'mon, Cookie Monster is an annoyance that begs you to type 'cookie', not a threat; the real Michelangeo virus is about 4 kilobytes that will wipe your hard drive one March day, not an animation with voice in excess of a gigabyte that goes after oil tankers) or Independance Day (why would an advanced civilization from far away be using Windows on Intel chips?) and the degree of identity theft in The Web (even if you wanted Sandra Bullock to disappear!). And I don't even want to think about You've Got Mail. I can't suspend my disbelief when I watch TV, I'm sorry, and I apologise to those whose enjoyment of the boob tube I've crimped in the past. I can't be the only one who shouts "FAKE!" at the TV.
Saturday, January 28, 2006
Blue on black, tears on a river
Which is a great lead-in to the stupidity I'm reporting on today: that of the people who lived in this house before me, in regard to the landscaping. The house was built in 1959 and had one owner for about thirty years, which is typical for this neighborhood according to Lillian next door who has been in her house since its construction 45 years ago. When the original owners left, a crack addict and her two little bastards move in, and you're welcome to guess how well the house was kept up. [That's the topic of a different Everyday Stupidities entry, which I'll write some other time after I rewire jerryrigged lighting fixtures, paint a room, or replace doors and the trim strips around them. I now know how I got such a great price on the house.] Crack addict eventually got arrested, addict's mom moved in to take care of the little bastards, addict eventually got out of jail and moved elsewhere then reclaimed her little bastards, and grandma didn't need such a large house anymore so sold it. Grandma, it should be said, did a pretty good job of taking care of the little things and beautification (even if she had a thing for plaster statues and birdhouses). However, she – like the longtime predecessors – didn't touch anything big. Such as trees. You can see a ladder in the background, sort of between two large shrubs. There was a giant oak tree between the two shrubs, which the original residents had planted in the 1960's then paid no attention to, and it was starting to infringe upon the fenceline. Lillian had said something to them about it in the 1970's but they laughed it off. Lillian said something to them in the 1980's and they didn't seem concerned. So by the 1990's it was this monstrocity that could have taken out any part of the house or Lillian's house and garage, and that's when those folks left. The grandma spent every day plucking the suckers that tree was spreading across the front and back yards, and Lillian was finding them approaching the foundation of her house as well. I had to spend an income tax refund a couple years ago to get that tree taken down [and the guy who did it, well, despite him taking it down fine he turned out to be another Stupidity]. I let the back yard die of thirst to choke off the roots and suckers, and now only an occasional one in the front yard, from a bit of root system which still lives independant of the rest of the now-decayed stump, crops up.
Which brings us to this tree, which wasn't quite as old but I recall looking at it when I first saw the house and thought it had a bit of tilt to it, but figured that was natural and possibly caused by a swing which had two decades ago been across a horizontal branch. And one day, the two trees in the farthest corner of the yard which seem to be older than the house will also have to come down because they are so large and of questionable stability that they could do some serious damage to house of the neighbor behind me. (And my real estate agent told me this when he showed me the house.) Hopefully I'll have a really big tax return when it comes down to that day, as well as find an arborist who follows through on promises and contract terms. My brother-in-law and I did this bit of cutting at no charge. Speaking of taxes, I got my last W2 today so will attend to the 1040 very soon... I don't believe in putting it off. I've always believed that holding off until April 15 (or February 15 for that matter) when you have all the materials required to file gathered and ready to be unnecessary. People are intimidated by math, sure, but for many people there's nothing more they need to joust with than a 1040A or even a 1040EZ, plus if things are a bit more complicated that's why tax preparation firms exist. For the last three years I've been using H&R Block's online filer, and prior to that I filled out the paper forms my damn self... and always had refund money in my bank account by March 1.
Monday, January 23, 2006
"Look at those two boobs... Heckle & Jeckle!" - Stanley Roper
Six years ago I was hanging around with some friends, and Michelle asked me privately who I thought had larger breasts, her or our friend Melissa. I told Melissa about that inquiry later when I was giving her a ride home, and she said she too wondered who I thought was bigger. The question in its duplicate form took me aback for several reasons. First, I didn't realize that women had that sort of envy thing going on like some guys at the urinal/in the locker room do. But women are human and have egos too, I suppose. Second, they were both in halter tops so there shouldn't have been much research required to answer the question, just a quick glance around the room. (Michelle was a full-figured C, Melissa was a conical B.) Third, when I asked for more empiracal data neither were willing to hang theirs out right then to eliminate further speculation, yet they both expressed curiosity. I had seen both of them topless at least once over the course of the summer, but not yet when the question was posed. Fourth, and most cloying, why were they asking me this question? I was flattered that my opinion was being requested and valued, and that my (dwindling) sense of vision and my mind's interpretation of spacial relations and dimension were being trusted. Neither were willing to actually present evidence and neither had any greater interest in me than being a buddy, so what point would there be in (pardon the pun) tittilation? Did they seek an honest judgement of size and aesthetics, or were they testing to see if they could get (pardon the pun again) a rise out of me? Possibly they mistook me as gay and thus would make a fair and unbiased judge, but they should have been aware that I wasn't [gay, I mean], I'd flirted with them both a few times. Oh well, no complaints, just curiosity what was on their minds beside competative/comparative body image.
I don't know if this thought qualifies as a stupidity, but it's ponderous nonetheless. Why is it that some of the most renowned experts on sex are people whom at first glance appear as though they could never get any themselves? Image links:
• Alfred Kinsey. Get jiggy with Eraserhead!
• Masters & Johnson. Sexless. Beside each other, of course.
• Ruth Westheimer. "A small Jewish woman that talks about oral sex, yet you know she doesn't eat pork." - Robin Williams
• Sue Johanson. Her I can picture as exciting, though. Potentially a grand-MILF!
• This guy at the left. Especially him. He'd flippin' croak! Picture sitting in his office and asking for sexual advice. Can you? Would you?
The February update to Laughter is the Spackle of the Soul has been posted, a week early as I prefer it to be, so there's some more stupidity to enjoy.
Saturday, January 21, 2006
Gag me with a spoon and choke me with a fork
What surprises me is how many people totally bone my first name. At my call center gig, the phone picks up automatically when a call comes in, and so I hear a beep followed by my pre-recorded shpeal, "Thank you for calling [business], my name is Brian; may I have your name and phone number, please?" Not that I give a rat's ass about their name, it's the number that matters, but I have to ask to keep the Crimson Quality Assurance folks happy (and technically I've only asked that one time, when the greeting was recorded in July 2005). Anyhow, I tried to be as clear as possible when I said my name. And when I subsequently have to answer the question, "What was your name again?", as well. Yet people still blow it. I no longer correct them, it's easier to be 'Brad' for the next five minutes. I can handle being 'Ryan' but oddly that mistake hardly ever is committed. I kinda like the name 'Brett' so it's a change of routine for me. I know I've been 'Mike' and 'Fred' on at least one occasion, leaving me to wonder how they derived those. But the misappellations that intregue me the most are where they flat out made up a name. Seriously, I've been "Bran" and "Bryn" and some other interesting things, and I'm pretty sure I'm neither roughage nor Welsh. Hearing made up names like that makes me think of that episode of The Simpsons where they go to KrustyLand and Bart finds all this personalized merchandize in the gift shop for "Bort", and after Bart asks "who the hell names their kid 'Bort'?" two people named Bort discuss the matter. I can see my former coworker Brehden ("like in braidin' your hair" he would tell people on the phone) getting those confusions, or any of the customer service people with invented black names like LaQuanisha that transfer customers to me, but as for the simple and popular Irish-origin name Brian? Get the peanut butter out of your ears, folks. I swore at age 15 that I would change my name legally to Mushroom M. Mandrake (picture THAT when you hear my canned shpeal!) but, alas, I never got around to it.
The picture above is representative of how my cold has not improved much after a week. Yes, it's gotten past the ass-kicking stage where I can't move, but I still wind up with a cruddy taste in my mouth from breathing through it all night and enough thick snot in my head to drown someone, either crusted up and ready for removal or still in its gooey liquid form behind the crust plugs in great volume. The first thing I do when I get out of bed is get into the shower to let the hot water loosen things up, and I wind up sounding just like my sainted grandfather (Barney) when he'd erudicate the crap in his lungs on upward in the morning... it was a routine with him. Though with me it's hock, choke, gag, snort, cough, ptui! half a dozen times in hopes of clearing out the pipes enough to breathe and depressurize my inner ears. I haven't been able to get the cruddy taste out of my mouth today, and here it is 9:26pm. I may have contracted strep in the last 48 hours, because that's what the back of my throat and up toward the nasal passages feels like, but as mentioned in a previous blog entry this no longer phases me. I've given up on the Zicam, I just ran out of Quasi-Quil this morning (I've been taking it in the morning so I can stay awake during the day), and I go back to work tomorrow so hopefully things will work out tonight. I only get dry coughs late at night, when there's almost nothing in my throat, and those annoy me greatly. But I am still alive and have improved enough that I don't feel so much like death anymore. Still waiting for someone to invent a way to turn phlegm into a smooth, evenly-spreadable non-germy organic wallpaper paste.
Thursday, January 19, 2006
Inflatable Woman, stay away from meee-eee
• Lifelike in every detail! Except the ones one actually seeks in a date, beside submission.
• Dress her up and let her serve! Can those inflatable arms hold a tray?
• Dress her down and keep her at home! Yeah, like you'd be seen in public with her...
• Dress her for bed if you have the nerve! She ain't gonna do it for you.
• The most realistic, lifelike companion you'll ever own! Now that is sad. This like the gamer geeks of today who'd rather look at porn online than go on a date. Okay, if you get hung up on the word "own", let's change the example to preferring a Tamagochi to a real dog or cat.
• She was made to please you! Quite literally.
• Judy feels smooth and almost too human! I wonder what Tom Hanks in Castaway would have done had this washed up onshore instead of a volleyball. Er, scratch that, I'm low on brain-bleach. If you can confuse Judy for a human, you've got some issues.
• Accept no imitation! Dudes? She is an imitation.
• Over 100,000 people own one! And may we never meet them after 6pm.
• Judy's ready for action!... Entertaining, surprising accomidating. AND VINYL.
• Your Love Maid was created to fulfill your ever wish! Make me a sammich!
• She'll follow you into the pool, tub, or shower! And she can be used as a flotation device.
• She's not scared of anything! Except cacti, pins, and cats' claws.
• If after 10 days you aren't satisfied, return her for a refund! Ya know, I'd hate to work in the Receiving dock of that business. "This package is dripping!"
• Wardrobe! For only $4 more you can own some women's intimate attire. Now people can mistake you for really having a social life if they see her negligee laying on your bedroom floor. Let's hope your guests don't open the closet door.
• Pictures shown are of the actual model from which the doll was fashioned! Caviat emptor, the box will be more exciting than the contents.
Judy is perfect if you've always wanted to hit the hay with Barbra Streisand, circa Funny Girl. And with that 10 day satisfaction guarantee, you can send her back around the time you're tired of her constant nagging (or have chafed yourself to the point of losing your libedo for another six months). And honestly, if you've priced sex dolls at Castle Superstore lately, you know this is a bargain; $8.95 verses the $75 for a figure with "French and Greek openings" and no outfits that doesn't look like a sexy human female, and the only thing you'll find in the under-$15 price range is the inflatable sheep (for gag and amusement purposes only) if it's on sale. I do wonder about this: how many guys paid the extra buck for rush shipping?
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
My Chemical Romance: More of Mushy's sick thoughts
I've been using this zinc-based product called Zicam to try to fight the cold, and it comes in four forms, the first two of which I have tried. They make cherry-flavored disks that melt on the tongue, mint-flavored spray for dousing the inside of one's mouth, a nose spray that hopefully has no scent of its own, and swabs for pretending you're doing DNA sample gathering on prime time television shows. The meltaway disks are not too bad, but the minty spray – which always makes me think of guys in singles bars, giving their breath a Binaca blast before pouncing on some unsuspecting female like a hawk on a bunny – starts off nice but then it sinks into your skin and taste buds, with the resulting feel in your mouth being something totally indescribable. You're supposed to take the zinc remedies at the onset of a cold to lessen the severity and hurry the cold along. Judging by how I feel, this cold must be a real ass-kicker if this is what it's like with those preventative measures in place. Somehow I figure massive doses of Vitamin C would be about as effective against the rhinovirus, and much much tastier.
I'd heard about NyQuil for years, and it was always the same description: drink before bed, get totally zonked on it, and wake in the morning feeling better. Their tagline, afterall, does name all these symptoms and concludes with "so you can rest medicine." Being cheap, I bought the Walgreens Pharmacy brand rendition, which has "Compare to Vicks® NyQuil®" on the package in a couple places. And my comparison is this: It has the opposite effect than the leading competitor, and that can't be a good thing. 'Rest Easy NightTime' keeps me awake all night. Granted, I can breathe and am not coughing or sneezing for the first few hours, but the "so you can rest" part of the slogan is completely contradicted. There are four ingredients listed on the front of the package: Acetaminophen (pain reliever, but I have always prefered ibuprofen to Tylenol), Dextromethorphan (good for the cough), Doxylamine succinate (dunno what it is but it's an impressive name; the bottle says it's an antihistamine), and Pseudoephedrine (the snot-stopper, and a known stimulant). I kinda figured the 10% alcohol would counteract the uppers, but no such luck after the first two hours. Oddly the phlegm-drying qualities of the pseudoephedrine end before the stimulant qualities do, and I finally start to get sleepy around 7am. I seem to remember how as a teenager I couldn't sleep sometimes so I'd sit on the couch in the livingroom and enjoy the moonlight, and my parents thought I was on some substance – but they thought it was Contac, whose active ingredients are barbituates so their fears made no sense; I definitely wouldn't have been awake at all if that were the drug. 'Rest Easy NightTime' comes in two flavors, cherry (why does every medication have a cherry-flavored version? Yay, Cherry Pepto!) and "original"... which as far as I can tell is "black jellybean", artificially flavored licorice, yet the color is deep mouthwash green so you'd think at sight it would be minty. At this rate I think that horehound candies for the cough, menthol-eucalyptus candies for the sinuses, chamomile tea steeped with catnip leaves for the inevitable relaxation, and a box of tissues at the bedside would be a better plan... at least I wouldn't be hocking brownish-green stuff that has congealed behind my eyesockets in the shower. If this is the nighttime formula, I fear what the non-drowsy daytime formula does... lets you sleep?
Yesterday at 5pm I started the coughing phase of this cold, and I got home from work and took the Quasi-Quil first thing rather than waiting for bedtime, figuring that the too-active ingredient would wear off by dawn and I could get some actual sleep about the time the alarm clock goes off. I've found my bag of horehound drops (I've loved horehound since I was a kid, courtesy of my sainted grandmother, and grow it as well) but will have to hunt up the menthol-eucalyptus candies out of a box of kitchen stuff in my room from back in the days when Hickory Farms sold them by the barrel. [Yes, they stopped carrying them about a decade ago. Whazzup with that?] I grow catnip & catmint, and have bagged chamomile tea (thanks, Ariel) as well as a bumper crop I grew. But I am well aware that no matter what I do, and no matter how many cherry-flavored apothocaries I take, this cold will go away when it damn well pleases.
[Addendum of the morning: I had the chamomile tea with a hydrocodone chaser... codiene cough syrup tastes a little better than Triaminic, but that ain't sayin' much. I fell into the arms of Morpheus (courtesy of morphine's sibling) and woke up with my nose totally full of crust. And have lost my voice, which oughta go over real well at my call center job...]
Tuesday, January 17, 2006
I must confess I am obsessed with the two protrusions on your chest...
Now of course, as a guy, I don't have to carry the darn things around, so I can love 'em all I want... they're like children, they're great when they're someone else's and I can give them back to their owners when I've had my fill. And like children, ladies, you should love yours for who they are – and as the person in the above-left is trying to say, dress them properly. Neatness counts, aesthetics matter. That leads a peeve of mine: the women with A-or-less who always wear bras despite having nothing to hold up, and the D-or-greater women who leave the house without support. (One can't hold a pencil, the other can carry a typewriter.) Never mind my personal reasons for why the lesser-chested should fly free, I just don't see why one should pay a bundle of money (and I'm told good bras aren't cheap) on something that serves little purpose beside, say, body armor and filling an arbitrary societal expection. But as for the women with huge boobs hanging down to their navels and off to their sides, wandering through the supermarket knocking cans off of shelves when they turn? Damn, get a steel-belted radial on those things! Think of other people! We don't wanna see two hippos wrestling under a torn tarpaulin! In the middle of this we have the folks who wear padding, to try to disguise the fact that they're of lesser amplitude. There's nothing wrong with small busts! Oddly a number of these people who have fluffed up their pillows wear low-cut shirts to display their newly-forged cleavage, and it doesn't take much work to see the puffy parts sticking out around the fringes... it's called a Wonder Bra because the guy wonders where everything went when his date takes it off. Honesty is the best policy, just live with what you've got and don't be deceptive.
The title line of this entry comes from the song "Tits" by John Paragon (a.k.a. Paul Reubens, who later became Pee-Wee Herman) in an HBO special called Paragon of Comedy [possibly released on video as Uncensored]. "Boobs, I'm wild about boobs, like two Rubik's Cubes that I want to twiiist... I put them at the top of my shopping list." Tune in some other day, when the next body part I spend too much time on is exposed midriffs. Big or small, on either gender.
Saturday, January 14, 2006
Tenth Collerary to Murphy's Law: Mother Nature is a bitch
Total cost of creating the business: $315 ($300 for county permit + $15 for state license)
Total income of the business: $325
Difference: $10 "profit"
State/local taxes, based on the income after $2 of credit: $28
Grand earnings therefore: <$18>
But hopefully things will be better when I file my income taxes next month, because as a home business I just fill out a Schedule C to account for the business stuff and they have a mileage deduction. I logged 825 miles going to jobs outside my local area, so this should count for something. If it weren't for my friends in the distance, I'd have no business at all. Know what burns my butt? ("flames about yay high"?) When I started the business, one of the inspirations was how people always came to the local library to ask for help, so I figured I could get my name pitched to those folks. How many of those people who didn't already know my household called? Zippo. Missed the demographic I was targetting completely, though I did do work for a couple people who worked at the library.
You can see my house in the distance if you watch the local [Seattle stations] nightly news. It has rained every day for 25+ days in this area, and the creek a block or two from my house has overflowed into yards and streets. I'm fine, thanks, and the newspaper says that the salmon are liking having rivers to swim upstream to spawn in again (it's been too dry here the last couple years), but it could get kinda ugly if the weather doesn't let up soon. Some neighbors have their lawns underwater, ergo the TV cameras, but as yet no one has had to evacuate or had their houses damaged. I took a photo yesterday of the house on the next block which has sandbags in its driveway, and benchmarks of debris halfway up the driveway to show why these measures are justified. I realize that I'm luckier than the folks in various other parts of the country or world, who have been hit with floods and tsunamis, as well as the folks with houses near Clover Creek I can see from my front stoop.
The real stupidity of the day is this furshlugginer cold. I'm usually a healthy cat, so much so that I stopped going to the doctor whenever I'd catch strep throat because 3 days later my immune system would take care of it on its own. (I had strep a lot as a kid...) But this cold here is taking me down a peg. Yes, I have been drinking OJ and taking zinc tablets to build up my resistance, and that was working well until I failed to follow the Zicam's label directions and continue taking it for 48 hours after I felt better – it came back with a vengeance two mornings later, which would be today. Apologies to Chrome, R.A.T. #1, who spent the night, if either A: I gave you this disease, or B: you were disappointed by how not-fun I was when I got up this morning. I'm calling in sick tomorrow so I can stay in bed and possibly drill a hole in my skull to drain my sinuses, and give my car's windshield (the seal was repaired yesterday, gratis) a little more time to cure. Speaking of, how damn long does it take for a foam rubber firewall to dry?! It's been indoors for a week and I can still feel damp spots. Anyhow, wish me increased health and let the happy thought that you don't need the product below add light to your day.
Friday, January 13, 2006
If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all
Anyhow... Today's entry is a bit lighter, and reminds me of the joke about the guy who drowned because he was waiting for God to come save him from a flood, and when the guy got to the Pearly Gates and complained to God about the matter, God said "dude, I sent the neighbors, a boat, and a helicopter for you!" You never know who you're going to meet as you wander through life so as an old saying goes, you should keep your words sweet because you may have to eat them. This story comes to us from Jeff, the guy on the other side of my cubicle, who was "establishing a rapport" (as we're supposed to, blah!) with his caller a few hours ago. The customer was the 'gentleman' in the following tale:
This gentleman and his buddy both work for a metropolitan health department. After work one day, they went out drinking and cruising, and around 10pm they wind up at this bar and decide to get something to eat and swill. The server brings their food and some tableware, and he notices after a moment that the spoon has a waterspot on it. He walks up to the bar and politely says to the bartenderess, "Excuse me, there is a waterspot on my spoon, could I get a new one?" The bartenderess grabs it and shouts "WHO THE F*CK ARE YOU, THE GAWDDAMN HEALTH INSPECTOR?!"
The gentleman quietly produces his health inspector badge and says "Bar's closed."
Wednesday, January 11, 2006
Mothers are from Uranus, fathers are from Pluto
The incident I am still steamed about, over twenty years later (and you will see why), is the time my parents threatened to clean my room out completely if I didn't meet some unreasonable cleaning goal, and one day I came home from school and they had – they had thrown out almost everything. Even the things they said they would not. For quite awhile I'd think of things I needed at that moment and owned, yet no longer had. I still resent them trashing the 'Visible Frog' anatomy model I worked hard to construct and paint, mostly because the company no longer makes that model. Adding insult to injury, some quantity of the stuff they didn't throw out they sold at a yard sale when I was elsewhere. That wasn't the first time they'd screwed me over bigtime; when my family moved from the country to the suburbs I was 7, and Mom brought in two boxes and told me to put the stuff I wanted to keep into these two boxes and I could leave the broken bits of garbage in the bottom of the toybox for them to dump. When I got to our destination, the toybox was still full of broken bits of garbage and they'd given the two boxes of nice stuff I intended to keep to charity. Nice move, guys! I decided early on that if I got written out of the will, it would be no surprise. My sister already is, my father told me (though now that she has provided their first granddaughter, that may have changed). Nah, I won't get into the "they always liked my brothers better" diatribe that my sister and I have ranted on about how well our brothers (whom they birthed, we were adopted before our folks got their parts to work) get treated. You could have seen such a proclamation coming.
What was amusing to me growing up was that since both of my parents were educators (there's an irony in there somewhere), they were in the public eye and exposed to quite a few youth and their parents, and these people always came up to me to say nice things about my folks which I knew weren't true. "She's so pleasant to talk to" or "He's so open-minded" or anything that would make my jaw drop and force me to ask if we were talking about the same people. The person who never ceased to speak ill of others behind their backs after she'd been talking happily in person to those folks, and the person whose parenting philosophy was "don't explain it to the kid, just make him do it"? Yes, exactly. The woman who once commanded the kids to act up when we went out to eat with her mother-in-law, but when she realized that our paternal grandmother was rather old and rather rich she made nicey-nicy... and the man who didn't take any photos of his eldest son's wedding, despite being a photography teacher and having the camera in the car trunk (a fact he told the bride at the ceremony but denied to the groom months later). These were the people that moved in February but I didn't find out until May, only because my sister asked me for their phone number (me: "What??"), and my mother's reaction when I found the digits online and called to ask why they didn't so much as send a postcard was "We knew you'd figure it out." (me: "When?! When the Christmas package arrived with a different return address in six months?") I used to complain a lot about my upbringing, but around age 25 I was advised by someone who loved me that I had moved 150 miles away from them and the past is the past. That's what I needed to hear, since the words "get over it" weren't appended to the end but that was the subtle implication, so I did. I see them once every year or two, for an hour or two, and that is quite enough... we're all happy in our separate lives. I've heard worse, like the woman who said that her living on the West Coast and her parents living on the East Coast was still too close, but I believe in forgiveness. Mind you, I'm expecting nothing different from them in the future, I have not forgotten and will not forget [to err is human; to forgive, divine; to forget, stupid], and I do not expect a red cent of their fortune when they've gone, but I can put aside the old bitterness caused by their past stupidity if I let myself be peaceful (and avoid them). As my father told me, absence makes the heart grow fonder... for someone else.
Monday, January 09, 2006
Now back to you, Bob... Bob?
The Blackberry administrator for some organization called me to figure out a problem that one of his users was having, specifically that user could not use the phone function and when dialing the display on the device said, "Sorry, emergency calls only." I looked at the account details, and I didn't see any of the usual reasons why it would disallow outgoing calls, such as the cellular provider putting a block on the function in the provisioning or nonpayment of the bill. The administrator asked me to call the user on line 2 and conference them together, and since the user had the device I figured that would be a bright idea [see previous post about calling without the thing you want to fix in hand]. I talk to the user for a bit with the administrator on the line, being totally silent, and after having the user try a few things to persuade the phone to let him make calls, I decide there has to be something I'm not privy to about the account, so I let them know I would be bringing a customer service agent onto line 3.
After a minute or two of holding, the admin on line 1 hangs up. He must have had more important things to do than his job. Soon after, the customer service person comes on, I bring the user from line 2 on, and we discuss the problem. The customer service agent says, "I think we had an email recently about this issue," and we can hear him flipping through his mail program. He then reads the content of a missive he had received, which explains that if a Blackberry which uses a Blackberry Enterprise Server for its mail produces a "Sorry, emergency calls only" message, the cause is the administrator has applied a block on the phone function. I wonder how many calls it took for the user to get in touch with the administrator (they are elusive beasts) and convince the admin that he created the problem so only he can fix it. I'm guessing... five over the next three days.
Saturday, January 07, 2006
What are... 'Things NOT to say to tech support'? *ding!*
Anyhow, from my experience and my time around others who have been doing this for too long, I would like to offer a list of phrases you should not use when speaking to the technical support representative. This goes for any form of technology repair, and I'm pretty sure that some of them or some form of them were used on radio repairmen who came to customers' houses to replace vacuum tubes, so there's nothing truly new in the universe. You will reduce the number of alcoholic/substance-reliant boys and girls in headsets dramatically while still not threatening our job security significantly. Here we go...
• Why can't I get online? ... I'm not at the computer right now, it's [at home, in another state, in the shop].
• I didn't change anything! I only replaced the hard drive.
• Single click or double click? Left click or right click? Do that now?
• What does this error message mean? ... I don't know what it said, I already clicked out of it.
• The box has one button and it says "Next ->". Should I click Next?
• I don't know anything about computers. [said when they've been using computers for more than two years]
• I like BonziBuddy. Why is my computer running so slow lately?
• My friend sent me [joke program or crapware], now I can't get the computer to finish booting.
• How do I download the Internet?
• Internet Explorer? I don't see that on my desktop. You mean the big blue 'e'?
• I don't have that key on my keyboard.
• Thanks, I'm taking this back to the store tomorrow. [said after spending 2 hours fixing errors and the thing is now working perfectly]
• I am not going to tell you my name/number or explain my issue, I want your supervisor right now!
• I bet you talk to dummies like me all day.
• It worked, but I didn't like how it looked so I deleted it. Can you help me find it again?
• Hello?! [said if there is 8 seconds without talk, or even more amusingly said midsentence... are we that used to really bad phone service?]
• I'm on the line/device that I dial the Internet on.
• Will you help me set up my AOL? [or any mention of AOL in any context]
• Could you transfer me to [name of someone who doesn't work in this location and didn't leave notes]? They understand my issue and so I'd like to talk to them. The line dropped suddenly while we were talking.
• Where are you located? How's the weather there?
• My grand-daughter is in school learning about computers... She has this little dog, she comes over about twice a year and I wish she would bring it over... [yadda yadda ad infinitum].
• I am the [grand poobah] of [unknown company] and I need this to work immediately, I'm losing [large number] of dollars every minute this is down! [usually said by someone who is using a cheap consumer plan, not a business plan]
• I can't do my day-trading/eBaying/Pogo.com/Slingo, fix this!!
• Were you waiting for me? I was waiting for you. [said a span after you'd given an order such as 'reboot the computer', which they as yet haven't done or didn't tell you was completed]
• Click on the Start button? Slow down! Don't use that techno-jargon with me!
• Can't you fix it from there?
• Is the Internet down? When will it be back up? [often said after the phone system has mentioned an outage in their area, and they waited on hold for over 20 minutes to ask you anyway]
• I can't get [unrelated service by parent company, like DSL to a cellular provider or cable TV to the cable Internet department] to work.
• I want a new mouse!!
I'm going to quote that same prof's best statement: "A computer is a sandbox. The main component of sand is silicon, the main component of computer chips is silicon. Children play in sandboxes without any fear, children play on computers without any fear." What he didn't add was that real sandboxes attract cat feces and techno-sandboxes attract a different breed of crap, so whatever you find while you play you shouldn't put in your mouth, but it was a gentler time when he said it. There is no shame in calling for help, it's not a ding on your masculinity or your technical prowess. We're there for you when you need help. But do not make our jobs any harder by turning your brain off when you dial the phone, we sorta need it right now. Additionally, don't freak and shut off your interpretation skills when a message comes up on screen which might or might not be an error, since your username is not 'Valued Customer' and the world continues happily if a box only asks you to click Okay; also, it's good if you can read the dialog to us exactly as it is worded, your rewrites often don't work. And for the love of any chosen deity, do not call us when you're drunk, stoned, engaged in any form of sex act (it happens), or using the friggin' toilet – or are nowhere near the thing you need fixed. Now, with all that said clearly, operators are standing by. Call now!
Friday, January 06, 2006
My swamp on four tires
He and this young guy alert me that it's not the plastic wheel shield that is allowing the water in, so replacement is not necessary. I thanked them for their studiousness, then reminded them that regardless of my misdiagnosis water is coming in somehow so they can kindly ferret out its cause and remedy it. The young guy asks me, twice, whether I still want the plastic shield replaced. Again, no, but you're welcome to fix the real problem anyway, kid. I was told by the counter guy that it might take three hours (at $99 an hour labor) to solve the problem, in a tone of voice that suggested he thought I might change my mind about getting my issue fixed. I tossed off something about how that three hunded bucks was petty compared to how much work would be required to take care of the rust and mildew caused by not acting, and he seemed to accept that logic. I return to the waiting room, read a few more pages, and attempt to curl up and doze off. At some point, some woman who visibly worked here but in an unknown capacity walks in and notices the idiot box is off. She fails to notice that no one cares about that detail. She spoke in my direction (with my eyes at half-mast and a facial expression that appeared unsure she was actually speaking to me) about how people want to watch television so it should be on. She turns on the set, flips channels, and raises the volume about seven notches. This is an infomercial for Oreck vacuums. And predictably, once she'd done this she left the room. I'm eight feet away from the television so I'm the one hearing it loudest, and the infrared sensor is out of my range. I wander around with my book in hand, over to the children's play area, and once inside I push the button on the TV-B-Gone and step up to the playroom's window and wait. Out goes the set, and again nobody notices. I wandered back to my chair and attempted a real nap this time.
Two hours after I got there, I am again summoned to my car, and the young buck is demonstrating that the bottom of the windshield (which had been replaced six months prior due to vandalism) is not sealed. I'm still not convinced this has anything to do with the flood under the footboard, since my logic says my dash would get wet or the instrument panel would short out if the leak was there. But what do I know. The counter guy tells me to call the folks who replaced my windshield because the work should be guaranteed. The young guy asks again if I want that plastic piece replaced, and I begin to wonder if his head can stop gamma particles. So the counter guy rings up my bill and sends me on my way with a complimentary car wash. Er, wait, not a damn thing was done about the leak, and I gotta shell out $250? Fascinating. And the carwash was really half-assed, with big dirt streaks in all the places dirt accumulates plus a few. Yes, I'm complaining about a lousy complimentary carwash; carwashes are like oral sex (according to a Whoopi Goldberg bit) in that the only thing worse than not getting the service is getting the service done poorly.
I came home, called the glass people (they'll be over on my next day off), then removed the driver's side carpet and part of the firewall, both dripping like a sponge saturated with pond water, to let them dry and give me an opportunity to trace the leak more accurately. Somehow I managed to knock out the power door locks [don't get any ideas, the security system still works] so I have to have a look at that
[Addendum 1/8/06: Okay, maybe it is the window seal. I didn't drive it at all yesterday and it rained all day, and this morning there was half an inch of water on the footboard. Still, a steep price to pay to not get the problem fixed. Not even an offer of slapping on some masking tape? And if for some reason the window is not going to be fixed for free by the installer... Hardware store, bathtub caulk.]