Tag Archives: rant

Squeaking!

Certain keys on my laptop keyboard have begun to squeak when I depress them, none more so than the spacebar. It’s driving me nuts! It’s the kind of thing that would force me to go out and by another laptop if I wasn’t about to shell out $3,000 in taxes!

Does anyone know how to “oil” an iBook keyboard?

Petty annoyances

There are things that annoy me day-in and day-out and I find there are more of them as I grow older. I suppose this is what is meant by “grumpy old man.” In any event, I thought I’d list a few annoyances that I run into now and then. Keep in mind that I rarely express my annoyance at these things in an outward fashion. Mostly I just brood internally and then do my best to forget about it. But these things keep coming up.

Some annoyances

God Bless America

I may have mentioned this before, but seeing the Yankees season-opener yesterday reminded me of it so forgive me if I am being repetitive. It’s time to stir the controversy once again.

I am sick and tired of baseball games that play the god-awful song, “God Bless America” during the 7th inning stretch, instead of the more traditional, and in every way superior song, “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”. “God Bless America” used to just annoy me, but in the last five years, I’ve grown to hate it with a passion. It seems to me that the playing of “God Bless America” at baseball games began shortly after 9/11. Americans were frightened and the singing of a seemingly patriotic song made people feel somehow safer. Of course, the actual singing of a song makes no one safer but I will allow for it during times of grief. But the grief is long over and the fact that baseball games are still being played nearly six years after 9/11 should be a testimony to the ability of people to overcome their fears.

I don’t mean to sound unpatriotic. In fact, I love “The Star-Spangled Banner” which is our national anthem and which is infinitely more complex in both music and lyrics than “God Bless America”. The latter is, in my opinion, just terrible. Have you ever actually listened to the lyrics? They were written, I believe, by Irving Berlin, but they must represent a kind of low for him–the kind of thing he would stoop to today if he were trying to make it on American Idol I imagine. Whereas “The Star-Spangled Banner” can be emotionally moving, the only emotion that “God Bless America” stirs within me is nausea.

Why is this? It’s not even that the song is melodramatic. It’s just plain silly. It’s a song that presumes to tell God to bless our country (I don’t hear an appeal in there, just a statement). And what reason is given for deserving said blessing? As far as I can tell it’s because “it’s the land that I love.” God is also told to “stand beside her” and “guide her”. It seems to me that God is then truly insulted. He is supposed to be omnipotent and omniscient, and yet Berlin had to go and describe America to God just in case He was unable to recognize it Himself, or in case it had slipped His mind: “From the mountains, to the prairies, to the oceans, white with foam.” The funny thing is this is a terrible description and if God had forgotten exactly where America was, He was liable to accidentally bless Argentina, Australia, China, or some other country that has mountains, prairies, and oceans.

What annoys me most about the song is people’s reaction to it, especially at baseball games. Men remove their hats and put their hands over their hearts as if it is the national anthem, which it is not. I respect and enjoy “The Star Spangled Banner” but I grow annoyed when I hear “God Bless America” played during the 7th inning. If I happen to be at game, I will stand, but I spend that time doing what the 7th inning was actually designed for–stretching my legs–while at the same time, doing my level best to tune out the terrible song.

Goodbye Studio 60

I just finished watching Monday night’s episode of Studio 60 after having found out last week that the show is going on indefinite hiatus this week because of low ratings.

The problem here is that the writing is too smart for the average television viewer and that’s a shame, because the writing is brilliant. In some ways, this was the same problem that The West Wing faced. What really irks me about this is that CSI: Miami had a better share last night. I’ve seen episodes of CSI Miami with vickyandnorm. We make fun of them. The writing is terrible. David Caruso couldn’t act himself out of a wet paper bag with a chainsaw and a flamethrower. And yet it’s Studio 60 that’s going to ultimately get the axe.

What does this say to writers (or those of us who aspire to be writers)–of any medium? Good writing does not appeal to the masses. People want to be entertained and do not want to have to think about what is entertaining them. Ultimately, we write because we enjoy to write and create stories, even if no one else enjoys what we do. Good writing lends an extra dimension to that. It is clear to me that the major networks don’t care much about the writing, just what gets the most viewers, and by definition, that has to be something that is “dumbed down”.

On a positive note, however, Battlestar Galactica, which is on a smaller network, but which also manages to have very good writing has already been renewed for a fourth season.

I liked last night’s episode of Studio 60 and I think the show was getting better and better. One thing that made me laugh was the lawyer from “Cage Whitney”. Fans of The West Wing will recognize that as the same (fictional?) law firm that Sam Seaborn used to work for.

Next week the show is being replaced by The Black Donnely’s. Goodbye Studio 60.

Busy phase

I’ve entered into one of those busy phases at work where things keep piling on, no matter how much it seems that you get done. In the last couple of weeks, I finished up a significant project only two have two other projects hurled at me, both of which are, of course, on tight deadlines. And naturally, I have to continue with the other projects that I had going. It means that for most of this week, until I strike the right balance, I expect my days to be very fragmented: a few hours on project A, a short meeting on project B, a training session for project C, another hour or so back on project A, etc.

These circumstances make for a stressful time at work, and so I do what I can to counter that. Under these circumstances, I avoid at all costs staying any later than 4 PM. I do not work during lunch; I reclaim that time to have a quick bite to eat, and then spend the rest of the hour reading or napping. I don’t think about work after I go home.

My schedule today is typical for the week thus far:

  • My morning is relatively “free”, meaning I can spend the time doing real work, in order to stay up-to-speed on my various projects.
  • 11 AM: Code review meeting. For those of you who have never participated in code review, they are hard to describe. The closest I can come is that they are very much like watching grass grow.
  • 1:30 PM: An 1-1/2 hour long Application Staff meeting. These can be amusing, but on days when I am this busy, I tend to work through the meeting. (I have the advantage of being the only one in the D.C. office that participates in this meeting and I do so via phone. I can therefore mute my phone while everyone else talks and get some additional work done, at least until I hear my name called.)
  • 3:00 PM: Training session: I am leading an hour-long training session for an application I developed and that was moved into production a few weeks ago. I have not prepared for this at all, but that’s what happens when you get this busy. I can improvise so I’ll wing it, but I will be glad when it is all over.

In additional to all of this, our performance review cycle is about to begin, which means I’m going to be asked to do my self-evaluation soon, yet another thing that takes up my ever-diminishing supply of time. At this point, my one anodyne throughout the day are these blog entries, which I squeeze in between stray thoughts of database architecture, web server performance, and search algorithm efficiency.

Button-fly

The new pair of Gap jeans I am wearing has a button-fly. Who thought this was a cool idea? It’s not cool. It’s not even practical. The only reason I can think of for the invention of such nonsense is that the designer caught his johnson in his zipper. So because of one man’s lack of dexterity, we all must suffer! Stop making these infernal things already. It takes forever to get these things open. The Viagra will have worn off by the time someone can get this thing undone. A zipper is a huge improvement. Replacing it with buttons is like replacing an iPod with a massive 8-track tape player.

Gawd!

Seven hours!

Ladies and gentlemen, some advice:

When you are developing a software system in environment A with the full intention of rolling it out in environment A, do not be so foolhardy as to allow the Powers That Be to decide it will be rolled out in environment B. What should have taken an hour or so, took me seven hours today. The software that I wrote was developed to work with multiple databases on a single database server. Instead it was decided at the last minute to split the databases over multiple servers, each of which is a different version; and by the way, so is the operating system. In Windows 2003, Microsoft added some additional security measures to DTS and nested transactions that use DTS which gave me the majority of my headaches today.

That fact that I screwed up a password lost me only about one half hour.

And now a word from Scrooge

Now that the Christmas holiday is over, I feel relatively safe posting about this complaint that I have about the holiday season. My office building sits atop a high-end mall and it is jam-packed during the holiday season. There is a tremendous, ponderous five-story tall atrium into which I look. The atrium is so vast that it reminds me of the opening scene in Foundation when Gael Dornick first arrives on Trantor. At the bottom of the atrium is a food court, complete with Starbucks its attendant satellites. People scurry about like ants. It’s madness!

In the center of the atrium is, of course, a Christmas tree, and sitting in front of the tree is good ol’ Saint Nick. A line forms around Santa Claus and his elves happily exchange photos for cash. There is a sign in front of Santa Claus’s den that reads: “Please do not take your own photos unless you plan on paying for the photos” or some such thing. This is where I have a problem.

We all know that Christmas has gotten commercial, but when did Santa Claus get so commercial? When I was a kid, living in Somerset, New Jersey, Santa used to ride around on the local fire engine and toss candy to kids standing in their yards. I know: I choked on that candy! Isn’t this the guy that is supposed to ride around the world on a sleigh, giving gifts to good little boys and girls, free of charge!? There are a lot of people who would love to have their child’s picture taken with St. Nick, but who could not afford the $15 for 3 small photos. Why not let them take a picture themselves?

I think there should be a law that makes it illegal to be paid for dressing up as Santa. I think the law should further stipulate that if Santa is sitting in a mall, no one can charge money for photos taken with their own cameras. What I’ve seen these last few weeks has made me sick!

I felt much better this morning, however, when I saw that Santa had returned to the north pole along with his den and his collection of greedy elves.

Spelling out my issues with spelling

I have had enough comments about my spelling error to warrant an explanation on my thoughts and philosophy on spelling. You may or may not agree with me, but at least from here on out, we will all be on the same page. (I just realized that “on the same page” may not be an appropriate phrase, given what is going on with Congressional pages recently, but I trust you know what I mean.)

1. It’s all about the content

I am all about content. I’m not a huge fan of word processors because they distract people with all kinds of formatting and other nonsense. The focus becomes look and feel, and not content which is bad. When it comes to writing, I am the same way. I focus on content. Also, because I write as much as I do, and because I, like everyone else have limited amounts of time, I write fast and I willingly trade accuracy for speed. In other words, if making a few spelling errors allows me to write faster, then I will write faster and make the errors.

2. Pareto’s Principle

But why do I make the errors to begin with? Spelling should be second nature, something we learned in grammar school, right? Let me state for the record that I have always thought that teaching spelling in school is the dumbest thing in the world and a colossal waste of time. For that reason, it was the subject that I hated the most of all the subjects I took (with the possible exception of economics). I put very little effort into memorizing lists of words and their proper spellings because I realized that when I came to a word that I wasn’t sure about, I could always look up the spelling in the dictionary. (Why don’t I look them up in the dictionary, you ask? See #1 above.)

Spelling is too arbitrary for me. There are no hard and fast rules, and plenty of exceptions. It’s too complicated and I decided a long, long time ago that I wasn’t going to put effort into it. While I didn’t realize this back in grammar school, I was applying a variant of what is known at the Pareto Principle (the 80-20 rule) to spelling. (I spent 20% of my time on spelling, hoping to get 80% of the words spelled correctly. Actually, I probably spend far less than this, but you get the idea.)

3. Rote memorization vs. critical thinking

Word processors and even some text editors now check spelling as you type. When I use these tools, my spelling is better and I rely on them for correctness. Thus on my story manuscripts, email message, documentation (at work), correspondence, etc., spelling errors are almost non-existent. The reason they appear in my blog is that I use LiveJournal to type in my blog entries, rather than a third party tool. Since LJ doesn’t check spelling as you type, and since checking the spelling involves an extra step, I tend to skip that step (see #1 above).

One could argue that this is a slippery slope. If we rely too much on technology our brains could end up worse off. Why learn to add, subtract, multiply and divide when you can use a calculator to get the answer? To this I would say that there is a significant difference between spelling and arithmetic. Spelling is completely arbitrary, follows few rules, and memorizing it is nothing more than an exercise in busy-work. Arithmetic, on the other hand, is universal, has a specific, simple set of rules, and is the basis for logic and critical thinking involved in higher mathematics (induction, for instance). Thus, while I rarely put effort into my spelling and when possible, allow word processors and text editors to correct spelling for me, I am the opposite with arithmetic. On any given day, a look at my desk at work will reveal pages of handwritten calculations, graphs, numbers. I like doing the math by hand (without a calculator) because I feel that it helps to sharpen by brain. It adds value. Spelling does not.

Conclusion

These reasons may not satisfy anyone, but they satisfy me. (Certainly, they wouldn’t satisfy my grammar school teachers.) I try not to be hypocritical, when, on those rare occasions I find a spelling error in someone else’s writing. Usually I ignore it and focus on the content of what was written. Some people will argue that my poor spelling is due to the fact that I am lazy. I say it’s due to the fact that I just don’t care. If I convey my meaning I am happy, and besides, my spelling is correct when it counts. It certainly doesn’t count in an online journal. In this day and age, spelling has no practical educational value. Whether or not educators will admit it, we learn to spell when we learn to read. Rummaging through lists of spelling words each week improves our spelling in diminishing returns compared to what our spelling would be if we didn’t go through those lists. It is an exercise in rote memorization that adds little or no value to our education. Compare that to arithmetic, which provides the foundation for logic and reasoning. Do spelling errors annoy people? Yes, they certainly do, although I challenge anyone to give a good explanation as to why they feel annoyed by spelling errors? Is it because you are annoyed that the person didn’t take the time to learn something meaningless? They they are not following the rules? Certainly errors in spelling don’t annoy people as much as errors in arithmetic. Dollars to donuts you will be much more upset upon receiving your receipt from the grocery store if you were over-charged for your sirloin, then if the word “sirloin” is misspelled.

Making the switch!

I have decided that I am no longer waiting for the Powers That Be to make a smart decision. Instead, beginning today, I am officially converting to the superior Metric system of measurement. No more miles and feet, no more quarts and gallons, no more ounces and pounds. From now on it’s kilometers and meters, liters, grams and kilograms.

I’ve started mentally practicing some practical conversions: my car takes about 40 liters of gasoline. I get about 16 kilometers per liter as far as gas mileage goes. I weigh just over 67 kg, and I stand 1.75 meters tall.

I think the trickier parts will be converting the weights at the gym to kilograms, but even that is pretty straight-foward.

Anyway, I’m doing it. I think it’s ridiculous that the United States sticks with an ancient, silly system of English measures. Heck, Thomas Jefferson got us to convert to a metric currency back in 18th century. Why not the rest of our measures?

When you’re here, you’re family?

I decided to try the new Olive Garden they put in next to the Outback Steakhouse. I headed out for an early dinner, just me and my enormous book. When I got there, around 3:30 PM, it was already packed and I was told the wait was 30-45 minutes. “No problem,” I said. I sat down at the bar and cracked open the book and before I knew it, 30 minutes had gone by and I was being seated at a table. Things went downhill from there:

  • At 4:02, the waiter took my order, which consisted exactly of the bruchetta appetizer, chicken parmesan with salad and bread sticks, and a 22 oz. Bud Light on tap. He then disappeared for more than 20 minutes before I saw him again. When I finally did see him again, he brought bread sticks and promised that the beer was on it’s way.
  • Two minutes later, as if on queue, another waiter arrived with the beer–in a bottle. The other waiter disappeared so quickly that I had to wait several more minutes for my waiter to show up again to get this corrected.
  • Several minutes later, my appetizer and main course showed up at the same time. I hate when this happens, and usually I have them hold the main course, but everyone seemed so overwhelmed that I just accepted what they brought. I reminded the waiter that he still owed me a beer and a salad. Eventually, those arrived as well.
  • When the check finally came, I noticed I was charged for both the bottle of beer and the draft beer. It took another 15 minutes for that to be corrected.

Normally, I leave at least a 20% tip, but this time, on a $23 check I left exactly $3. I was just looking to get out and have a nice dinner and I spent the entire meal wondering what would go wrong next. (I was not the only one either. The people at the table next to me seemed to be having even more trouble than I was.)

But I gave it a shot. I now know to avoid the local Olive Garden. I probably could have figured that out without actually buying a meal.

Strangely enough, I managed to get a terrible stomach ache halfway through the meal. This happened to me yesterday as well, when I went to TGI Friday’s for lunch. It is the first time that I can remember being attacked by a stomach ache at two consecutive restaurant visits and I must say that it was equally annoying each time it happened.

Replica watch spam

I rarely check my spam filtered mail at work because I simply don’t care enough. If someone sent me a message that accidentally got caught by my spam filter, I naturally assume it was their fault. (It’s different on my personal email because fewer people have my address and the spam control software is much, much better. But I digress.)

At work I get a daily summary of the messages that were flagged as spam. I never look at this message, but this morning I was curious. There were 23 new messages flagged as spam in the last 24 hours. What I found interesting was that several of these messages seemed to be about replica watches. Some sample subject lines:

  • The best Replica!
  • Watches!
  • replica watches, rolex replicas, fake watches
  • Low Cost Replica Watches
  • The best Replica

I found this to be odd. I mean, there was a fair share of the usual spam (“Can’t find a good drug s tore?”, “GOt Meds?”, etc.) but replica watches?

It made me wonder if watches are back in now? I don’t use a watch. I have a good sense of time and I try and minimize the number of gadgets I carry to reduce redundency. I have a cellphone that tells time, so why wear a watch? But if 20% of my spam is about replica watches, I assume watches are once again on the rise.

It begs the larger question: can spam be used as a meter for social trends? I get plenty of spam for Viagra (usually spelled V|@gra in a clever attempt to fool automated filters). I get plenty of spam for stock tips. Both the little blue pill and the blue chips are hot items these days. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the people selling blue chips are taking the blue pill more frequently than others. So perhaps spam has the value of being attuned to social trends. It helps keep you hip and in the know.

There is one exception that I’ve noticed. I get a lot of spam with the subject line: “Re: Hi”. That trend seems to buck the tide. No one says “Hi!” anymore. (It’s all wussup or how’s it going or duuuuude.)