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Review: Zagg InvisibleShield for Nexus One [24 Jan 2010|02:51pm]
I got a Google/HTC Nexus One cellphone recently.  I have scratched too many gadget screens in my time, and I told myself that I'd always get a decent screen protector in the future.  So when I got this, I got a screen protector as soon as possible.  I liked the thinness of the device, so I thought I'd also get as small a case as possible, too.  I did a little bit of research and decided that Zagg's InvisibleShield (which is a urethane film like the stuff people apply to their cars to protect from rock chips) looked like a good solution.

First, I ordered it on a Thursday and they didn't bother shipping it until the next Tuesday, and I finally got it that Saturday.  There's no reason that they couldn't have shipped it out sooner.

When I got it in, I discovered that the spray bottle of positioning lubricant described on their web site and videos was missing.  I realized that they'd shipped me a small heatsealed plastic basin with a sponge in it instead.  Odd, but I figured they knew what they were doing.  Boy, was I wrong.

The back side of the film is very sticky, so you need to cover it with as much of the lubricant as possible in order to make it slide around.  The great thing about a sponge is that it absorbs liquid.  It's not so great at applying liquid, though.  Try as I might, I had a nearly impossible time of getting enough of the lubricant on the back of the sheets to make them not immediately stick.  This means that the sheets would stick to the wrong area and I'd have to peel it off.  Peeling it off often deforms the plastic and sometimes makes the adhesive orangepeel.

You're supposed to be really careful about getting all of the lint off of the device and keeping it from getting on the back of the shield, for obvious reasons.  You know what else a sponge is good at?  Shedding little flakes of itself.  To be fair, it's not like it was a kitchen sponge; it's somewhat neoprene-like.  That doesn't keep little black pieces of foam rubber from flaking off, though.  So once I did get enough lubricant on the sheet to make it positionable, that means that I'd gone over it with the sponge so much that there were bound to be little flecks of black rubber caught underneath.  Which means I had to pull the sheet up again.  And getting those little black flecks off was near impossible.  I had to use something hard, like my fingernail or the "squeegee" (unpressed credit card) to get them off.  Which usually left the adhesive orangepeeled.

Also, you're supposed to apply one piece at a time, let it dry for at least 12 hours, then apply another.  Why is not exactly described in the instructions, but based on personal experience, it's because if you don't wait for one piece to adhere before applying the next, you will move it while trying to get the next one positioned.  If that's the case, an unresealable plastic basin is probably not the best storage device for a liquid.

All of these problems could have been resolved if they just included the spray bottle instead of the sponge.  But those are not all of the problems.

I think it probably makes sense for the protection for the screen to be separate from the rest.  And it definitely makes sense for the battery cover to be done separately.  It may make some sense for the front to be separate from the back.  That's four pieces.  Why, then, did Zagg separate it into ten distinct pieces?  There's one for the screen, one for the battery cover, one for the back below the "stripe", two for the stripe itself, one more for each side above the stripe, two for the trackball area, and one for the earpiece area.  The most egregious one of those is the two for the stripe.  It leaves a seam right across the middle of the stripe.  Why?

The answer may be part of the next problem.  The pieces simply don't fit well.  The battery cover and the screen protector seem to fit fine.  The two-piece stripe cover is too long, either going just past the seam between the screen and the body, or overlapping at the back.  It's also too narrow, leaving several millimeters of space unprotected.  The rear bottom piece has an overly complicated shape for the corners.  Before it's applied, it looks like maybe it's going to wrap around to seam up with itself.  Well, it doesn't, and it also leaves significant portions of the case unprotected.

The long thin stripes for the sides are incredibly fiddly, and there's no reason they shouldn't have been part of the whole stripe assembly, unless they were unsure about the fit, which is the impression I get from the product.  Honestly, at this point, I gave up.

Also, the pieces are diecut or laser cut or something.  But they had little isthmuses of plastic attaching them to the detritus, as if it was some sort of punch-out paper doll for an eight-year-old girl.  All this did was serve to stretch the plastic as I was trying to remove it, and help me get more fingerprints all over the sticky side.  Yes, I washed my hands, and, yes, I applied the lubricant to my fingers before I started manipulating the pieces, but you try snapping little pieces of intentionally really resilient plastic and see if you don't press the ridges of your fingerprints into the adhesive.  I suppose I should have used a knife.

So, in summary, The Zagg InvisibleShield is not shipped as advertised, but with inferior accessories, would take you at least five days to install if you followed the recommendations (ten pieces times 12 hours waiting time for each piece), is ill-fitting, and leaves the device unprotected.  I have requested a refund.  I'm not sure if I'm going to try someone else's urethane film, or if I'm going to get a silicone case.  I think I'll probably get a silicone case as a stopgap measure, anyway, not that the included protective sleeve does a bad job.
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The Late BellSouth [13 Aug 2005|06:44pm]
A few moths back, BellSouth cancels my DSL supposedly because I'm late paying them. Of course, the due date isn't for another week or so. I called several times asking when they were going to turn it back on, going so far as to pay the bill early to ameliorate them. After calling back several times, each time being told that it'll just be a few hours, I call back again to be told that it won't be turned back on until after the weekend. I was furious that not only did they cancel my DSL for no reason, but they refused to fix their problem in anything approaching a timely manner. I told them several times during the few hours that I was on the phone trying to get this fixed that if I didn't get my DSL back up by Saturday that I was cancelling the service. Usually that's an idle threat, but this time I meant it.

So a few weeks later when I got everything sorted out, I ordered TimeWarner Cable Commercial Internet service, VoicePulse VoIP and cancelled my BellSouth DSL and POTS. I hope that I never have to deal with them again. In fact, when Teri tried to pay the final bill, they wouldn't let her give them money because she didn't know our PIN for the account. They'd already cancelled the ability to pay over the Internet. I had to call and give them my SSN to pay. Absurd. And the best part was when the operator tried to end the call with "Thanks for choosing BellSouth". I had to point out to her, for the like fifth time that call that I went out of my way to avoid choosing BellSouth. Because they suck. And they do.
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Shrink [13 Aug 2005|06:39pm]
The shrink thing's going well. I seem to be less irritable in general, and I do seem to be learning how to cope with Teri more. Not completely, but more.
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Estate business [13 Aug 2005|06:24pm]
My cousin decided to submit this half-written will of my father's to the courts. It turns out that NC law doesn't require that a will be signed, much less notarized, in order to be valid. The best part is that he barely gains anything from the will: $500 and some tools, which I would have been willing to give him anyway, and more, if he hadn't been such a jerk.

At some point, I had to take out a warrant for his arrest, as he was driving around in my dad's old car, without insurance, with an expired license plate, and wouldn't return it. Initially I was just going to let him have it, as I had no use for it. But since he submitted that pseudo-will that notion went out the window. The will left him some woodworking tools, too, because dad thought that it would help him in his business. He took those tools before any court appearance, though, and, as I found out later, pawned them.

After the court date, in which I agreed to most of the will's demands, as I most likely would have anyway, I agreed to sell him the car. Then he couldn't come up with the money. Then, of course, that warrant got served. I was mortified that he got arrested for something he shouldn't have. I'd tried to get the warrant revoked, but apparently that's not possible. After he was arrested, I contacted the DA, and swore that I intended to drop the charges in order to get him out of jail. A week later, I found out that he was still in jail for another charge altogether. And then I was told that he'd have to go back to jail later on for another child support thing. During all of this, his girlfriend (who would date this guy?) said she wanted to buy the car. Figuring that she was just buying it on his behalf, and I asked her that specifically, I went ahead with it.

Of course, I had to get the car out of lockup first. That was the first time I saw it. It's a piece of crap. Ten year old American sedan. The steering wheel wobbles around on the dash, not only up and down, but left-to-right, too. I turned on the A/C and cigarette ash came spewing out. The check engine light remained on all the time. Over 50 MPH, it shuddered, and not just like it needed a brake job. I wouldn't pay more than $100 for it. But when I got to the DMV to sell it to his girlfriend, she knew about all of that and was still happy to pay $1500 for it, the amount we had agreed on in court. After the title was transferred, she told me that he wasn't happy about her buying it, in contradiction to what she told me before. I hope I don't get in trouble for that.

Then I also had to deal with a church that the pseudo-will left the bulk of the estate to. They were awfully mercenary about it. Kinda confirms my opinion of churches in general. I ended up giving them a big chunk of the estate. Hopefully it won't be worth less than I promised.
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Freakshow [13 Aug 2005|05:51pm]
I never got around to telling you about my freakshow cubiclemate. Now that he's been fired, I suppose I might as well give you the whole story, as I knew it, and as was told to me.

We were both Unix admins. He had been there quite a while before I arrived on the scene, and he seemed friendly enough at first. The first problematic encounter was when we got in a new computer to install. He asked for my help physically installing the machine in a rack, and it was a cheap rackmount kit, which meant, as usual, that there was a lot of fiddling to do with it. At some point during this, he suggests that we just put it on a shelf. Now, it's a 1U device, and putting it on a shelf would mean wasting at least one other unit just for the shelf itself, and would mean that the innards would be virtually inaccessible, so I convince him to try for another few minutes to get it installed properly. We figure out what needs to happen, and we get about halfway through and go home. I get in the next day earlier than he does, so I thought I'd finish off screwing down the rackmount kit. I didn't really have a lot to do on my own anyway, as this was my first week or so. He comes in a few minutes after I start doing this, and proceeds to yell at me for, as far as I can figure, stepping on his professional toes. And I mean yell. At some point I told him to calm down, and he yelled at me that he was calm. This was only the first of these such incidents. I was later to find out that it was the first only for me.

He was also a spaz. Sometimes he would just not shut up. After the second or so time that he yelled at me, I resigned myself to just minding my own business. But that's hard to do when we're the only pair of Unix admins. “Fortunately”, he decided that half the Unix machines would be his to administer and the other half would be mine. Of course, that makes no sense. Despite the fact that it meant that I would have to deal with him more, I had to nix that arrangement, as it just didn't work. Anyway, like I said, he was a spaz. This is probably best summarized in this verbal tic that he had. He would be moving so fast that when he was talking and his brain couldn't quite keep up with his mouth, he'd just repeat things. Like this: "We need to update the password file, the password file, password, you know, the password file?" It was annoying at best. It was worse on some days than other days. At some point, someone told me that he'd been using Ephedra to lose weight. I think he was still on it, but he denied it. Of course, I never asked, and denials of unasked questions would seem to be some sort fo sign. Also, very early on in my time with him, he arbitrarily went off on this rant about how he thinks that kids these days are overmedicated, a stance I generally agree with, but a few weeks later, I came to the conclusion that it's because he had been medicated as a kid. He should probably have still been on it. While Ritalin has that paradixical effect, I think that Ephedra probably doesn't.

Slowly, I came to the realization that our manager was looking for a reason to fire him. When I went to him and complained about the times that he yelled at me, he told me to make sure that I told him everything inappropriate that he did. I didn't really follow that direction too well. I didn't want to be the tattletale that got him fired, even if the decision had already been made. As the months went on, though, I got less and less inclined to humor him. I was out with some friends and him at lunch one day and we were making fun of him for using a straw, just general ribbing. So he gets ready to tell us something he saw that was disgusting that made him use a straw. So I get ready for some apocryphal tale about how waiters regularly licked glasses or something and then he tells us that he saw, get ready for this, waiters touch the side of pitchers to the lip of his glass. Oh. My. God. I did not stop making fun of him for that until he was fired.

During the latter months he was there, he was going through a divorce. He has some number of children. Two or three maybe? And I think they're less than 10 years old. I couldn't really tell you for certain, since, unlike every other father I've ever worked with, I don't think he mentioned them more than two times. He talked about his pet turtle more. Seriously; I'm not exaggerating in the least. Anyway, it seems that he was getting a divorce from his wife because she got fat. Of course, he was pretty chunky, too, before he started taking the Ephedra. And his rational excuse for divorcing her because she was fat was that she wasn't interested in her health. That's right; the guy taking Ephedra said that. Now, I get the impression that she was a basket case, too, but that was never a reason that he used until they stopped living together. Best of all, another coworker that I otherwise liked thought all this was funny, so would stop by our cubicle and ask him about it all the time. I heard enough about it without that, but that made it unbearable. I frequently just had to leave and wander around the building.

Then I started hearing about how he'd pissed off other folks. Like the time that, out of the blue, he demanded that one of our vendors take him out to lunch, not that he was buying anything from her. And he apparently demanded to the point that she wouldn't talk to him for a few months. There was something about him yelling at an executive in the company, too. I only got that complete story after he left.

It seems that when they started looking for somebody that culminated in hiring me, they were looking for a technical lead to be in charge of Unix and Windows folks. He was apparently upset by this. I'm not sure if he felt that he didn't need one, or if it should be him, or what. Apparently he was so upset that he stormed into a VP's office and started yelling at him. Based on my experiences, I imagine that this was a yelling, and not just strong words. I was told that he should have been fired then. I assume that the problem was that they had no other Unix folks, the other one having left a few months before. Then they decided to change the opening from a tech lead to another Unix admin. I think I was hired specifically to replace him. I think that that's the reason that he didn't like me much. And who could blame him, really? I can't. But there was more than enough other stuff to dislike him about, so I'm not exactly upset at his dismissal.
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Math escapades [13 Aug 2005|05:39pm]
Okay, so Teri knows she's bad at math, and refuses to learn any, which is fine, until she starts acting as if she's better at it than I am.

We were moving the bedframe earlier today and I say that I think that it's not square. In order to fix it, I grab the tape measure and start to measure the diagonals. (If they're the same, then the bed frame is square.) I measure one diagonal and ask Teri to hold it the other way and she refuses. I'm kind of astounded, but before I can say anything she tells me to use the level. Uh, what? I tell her that levels don't work that way. She gets in a huff and I say "fine, here's the level" and had it to her. She huffs and says "no, the other level", so I hand her the laser level. She puts it flat on the ground and it won't shine a light and she gets frustrated. It won't shine a light because it just uses a weight to balance it to level and without the weight pointed down, it doesn't work. So I switch it over to straightedge mode and hand it back. She lines up the line with the two feet away from the wall and says something. I forget now what, exactly, but I point out that while that is a straight line, I turn it a little, and that's also a straight line. At some point during this I point out that levels only generate straight lines in parallel with the ground, not in parallel to some other arbitrary points. I didn't get around to pointing out that we know that the two lines are parallel and that we need to fix the angles, because by this point, she gets upset and says that we're done for the day.

I know that I should be past the fact that she's completely irrational, and I think I am, but it still confounds me that she refuses to allow me to be rational, and gets upset by it. I don't know whether to laugh or cry.
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Up and Down [06 Jan 2005|05:40pm]
After a long haul, this morning the wife and I bought a house. (Townhome, really. Whatever.) Great news!

So on the way to work after closing at the lawyer's, I get a speeding ticket. Bad news! I got caught in a speed trap that I drove exactly the same way I've been driving it for the last four months. Hell, the last fifteen years. Well, that's not true. It used to be a yield. Now you have to come to a stop just over the crest of a hill, so you have to hope no one's coming and gun it instead of being able to see over the top of the hill as you approach. They had three motorcycle cops there this morning. They'd pulled another person before they finished writing my ticket. Quota time, I guess.

Of course, it was for 50 in a 35. Also of course, no one drives less than 45 on that road. It's four lanes wide, and a main thoroughfare that turns into an interstate. Now I'm going to have to hire a lawyer to contest it because I can't afford my insurance to go up because I just bought a house, doubling my monthly outlay. (That'll be three lawyers recently, BTW. Dad's estate, real estate lawyer for the house, and this one for the traffic offense.)


Of course, Teri thinks that “the rules don't not apply to me”. It's not like she doesn't drive that fast on that road, too, though.

Alright. That's it for this interlude. I'll get back to telling all of you about those other things later. Maybe tonight. I've got a slow software install in front of me.
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My Dead Dad [28 Dec 2004|07:20pm]
Dad died a few months ago. I appreciate any sympathy you might be having, but he was a bastard and I hadn't spoken to him in a long time, so don't force it. I'd long thought about how I'd feel when he died -- if I'd be sad that I never talked to him again or that we never reconciled or what. Turns out I had basically no emotion about it at all. Other than vague surprise. I had an overseas trip planned during his funeral and I was glad that it gave me an excuse not to go.

That's only the beginning of the story.

He left no valid will. Or so I've been told. His nephew, who was living with him, called at some point about that and asked me to get involved, since I'm the only real heir. (My parents divorced about the same time I stopped talking to him, and I'm the only child.) I let it slide for a few weeks, which I shouldn't have, but when I called back, he didn't answer. That went on for weeks. Then the machine wouldn't pick up anymore, which means the power went out. After calling around on that side of my family for a while, I found out that he was in jail. Super.

So I found an attorney down there. (He lived about two hours away.) I gave him all the details I had and he said to just fax him a copy of the death certificate, which I had. So I did that, and waited. And waited. I called many times and he never returned my call. So I called back one day and told his secretary, who was the only person I'd spoken with past my initial consultation, that he was fired. I then immediately called another attorney down there and hired him. He had me come down for a day to explain to him what the situation was, and he was rather helpful, pulling real estate records on the spot. Meanwhile, the old lawyer had his secretary call me back to complain that he'd never received anything but the death certificate. Well, duh. That's all he ever asked for. I had called any number of times to find out what I needed to do. The answer was always “nothing”.

While I was down there, I went by Dad's house. It's inside a gated community, which I found odd. Dad was certainly not the kind of person to live in a gated community. As I looked in the windows, I saw that the house was not complete. Most of it was done, but there was no finished flooring or vents. The chimney was raw masonry. And so on. Wonderful. At least the lawyer said that there didn't appear to be a mortgage on it. But how am I going to sell an unfinished house?

Of course, that doesn't take into account the stuff that was packed from (sub-)floor to ceiling. It's not trash or junk, but it's in virtually no order. And there are papers there that date back to before I was born. That'll make it easy to find pertinent papers.

And where did his car go? I called the DMV and they didn't say that there was a lien on it, but suggested that I call the police and tell them that it had been stolen. Of course, I was pretty sure that his nephew had it. The fact that the DMV told me that the insurance had ben renewed after his death tipped me off.

Then the holiday season came up and I let it slide for a while. Now that that's over, I'm back on it. I called his nephew again. He claimed that he had the car at his place “for safe keeping”, because it might get stolen inside the gated community. Of course, he's just using it. I don't know what my libailites would be if it got used in a crime or was involved in an accident. But I'm letting it slide for now.

And now he's telling me that he has some handwritten will that he's trying to get validated. This is the same person that told me that there was no will and I had to take care of this stuff. Personally, I'd have been happy if there had been a will and I got nothing, but now it's my responsibility and I've expended a good deal of effort arguing with it. Anyway, I called his lawyer and she claims that she doesn't have a copy of the will, despite his claim that she should.

That's about how far I've gotten up to today. I'll keep you guys informed. Not that anyone is reading this.
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New day rising [28 Dec 2004|07:17pm]
Phew, it's been a while. Lots of stuff changed.

My father (with whom I hadn't spoken in many years) died. My contract was not renewed at my old job. (That's another way of saying they fired me.) I got a new job. My new cubiclemate (does anyone have four, or even three and a half, walls to themselves any more?) is a complete freakshow. Uhh.... I'm sure there's more. Oh yeah. I'm seeing a shrink now.

You know, these deserve their own entries. Let's do that.
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Incompetent management [05 Feb 2004|11:27am]
At work, we recently got an online timesheet system (as part of a much larger management system, but that's the only part I deal with). It started out that we just had to record the number of hours that we worked each day, but it was promised that, sometime in the future, we'd be required to enter the number of hours each day we spent on each individual project.

Well, that future arrived two weeks ago. It was sent out from upper management to everyone that we'd start having to fill out a field that was previously just left blank and that our local management would tell us what to put in there. Quite a while goes by and we don't hear anything about it from the local management. Last Monday I come in and try to enter my hours for the prior week and am unable to do so because I have nothing to put in that now required field. So I ask one of my managers about it, telling him that if I don't get my timesheet to my contracting agency by that afternoon, I won't get paid. He says he'll get back to me. The day passes and I don't hear anything. I'm pissed, but not in a hurry because I can't get paid for that time until the following week at that point anyway.

Finally, Tuesday afternoon, he sends out an email that we're going to have a meeting on Friday about it. I knew what was to come.

Friday morning rolls around and I make sure to get to work early enough to attend the meeting. First off, he starts it half an hour earlier than he'd scheduled, so I show up quite late. The meeting continues and lasts for at least forty-five minutes, probably longer. In this meeting, it was established that we had to enter the code “ITTSVSUPPORT” in that field and that's it. No itemization of hours or any distinction amongst us as to what code to use. Just a single code for everyone in the department.

Apparently, that couldn't have been determined in an hour and sent out via email. That would have been much too efficient.

Fuck it. I don't care about this damn job, anyway. I would like to get paid, though.
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Lunch ... [11 Sep 2003|03:28pm]
Lately, I've been a little depressed. Just general, all-purpose stuff. Grumpy, sleepy, many of the other dwarves, too. Don't want to go to work, don't want to go to bed, don't want to wake up.

Today, for the first time in quite a while, it's absolutely gorgeous outside. A little bit warm (80F), but a good summer day, with a good but not too-strong breeze, which feels good on the mild sweat you build up when in the sun. Few clouds, and those that are there either high, streaky ones far in the distance or very small cotton balls rushing by, trying to get out of the way of the sky as azure as a ... very azure thing.

And I'm stuck inside in this damn cubicle. No windows. Fluorescent lights. Nothing to differentiate between today and the past few weeks of near-constant thunderstorms or an overcast day or even nighttime, for that matter.

So I decided to play hooky. I left for lunch a little early and told myself that I was just going to take the rest of the day off. I went down to Pullen Park, the place I spent the only day I ever played hooky from high school. (It was rainy that day; a girlfriend had just broken up with me.)

I walked around the park, past the screaming kids and their parents and nannies hanging around the swings and the carousel, heading for the carpet-like expanses of grass, oddly well-kept for a city park. Maybe it actually grows that well on its own. I wandered around there for a while. Two purple-blue-black butterflies in some sort of fight or tryst scooted just past my head, they, the bees, and the occasional bird the only living things in sight. Even the traffic from the nearby roads seemed distant -- almost nonexistent -- as I marveled at nature.

I continued on towards the college campus (I was getting hungry by now, being lunch time, after all) I walked up a sparsely grassed, but tree-y hill. Suddenly, I noticed a man lurking behind a tree; he seemed to be watching me. I can only imagine he was hiding as much as I was, but I got the impression his concealment was somewhat more nefarious, so I avoided him. It didn't really make much different which direction I went, anyway.

As I got nearer campus, people started becoming closer and more crowded. But that's okay; this is nature, too, of a different sort. These kids were outside, walking around, going to Calculus or Physics, with more freedom than they're likely to have again for a long time. I'd already decided that I wasn't going to feel guilty. I wandered through campus, trying to take the same routes I'd taken a decade before, but they'd all left me. I always knew what direction I was heading and where I was, but it was never where I thought I was going to be.

It's lunchtime for the students, too, so there were a lot of them around. Walking somewhere, sitting on the grass, on the walls. Even the brickyard preacher had taken the day off from harassing the immorality of the student body. Perhaps it was too nice for him to work, too. That's okay; I was watching the student bodies as much as he ever did.

Heading to the comic book shop where I used to work, I still managed to take a slightly incorrect route. Of course, no one I knew was working there, except for the manager. He was confused about my presence, but I told him I was playing hooky and smiled.

So I decided to get a slice of pizza at the place next to the shop. There were a lot of folks there, but it doesn't take long to reheat a slice of pizza. I think there was a football player in line directly in front of me. He never removed the cell phone from his ear, and I heard him talking about not getting drafted. Maybe he's someone ``important''. Not today.

There's only one table outside on the sidewalk, but it was available. All those kids with that beautiful day, and they wanted to be inside. Fine. More day for me. I watched students walk by and bank customers try to parallel park. Some guy who looked like he'd spent the last couple of years sitting outside in that same patio-furniture chair commented on how nice it was. Yup.

I started to walk back to my car to get a crossword puzzle and a novel to while the day away back at the park. I took a different route back, not so much through campus this time. It took me by the baseball fields, where there were two groundskeepers measuring the lines for bases and cutting the grass. I could just imagine a game being played on a day just like today, throngs of people pressing at the chain-link fence, cheering. Today, it was just the three of us.

I had to cross over a railroad track. I must have managed to avoid noticing a bridge on the way to campus before. Surprisingly, there was an obvious footpath to a gap in the shubbery. People had been passing this way before, but who? I was the only person in sight. You'd think it would take more than one person a day. I could hear a whistle in the distance, but looking down the tracks revealed nothing but a red light shimmering in the distance in either direction. There was a train coming, but it was a long way away. I still had the inclination to run across the tracks in case one materialized in thin air, rather than traveling the mile or so in plain sight it would have to to get to me, but I forced myself to walk along calmly, looking at the rails and the ties and the variety of spikes holding the tracks down. Do all train tracks have those same blue-grey stones? Do they come from some train supply yard?

Suddenly, I was back in the park. Folks were sitting on benches, looking at me as if I came from some faraway land. But I just kept walking, back towards the kids. I needed to find a good place to sit and read. A few minutes later, I heard the train pass by. It was moving about ten miles an hour. It's a good thing I got past the tracks first.

Why do kids like to scream?

I went to the far side of the pond. The ducks and geese I remembered were still there, but they seemed fewer. Probably not enough people feeding them anymore; I didn't have anything on me. I should have kept my pizza crust, but it hadn't occurred to me. There's nobody on this side of the pond. An old, large oak had been wrapped by a handmade bench; it would be a perfect place, shade, the breeze whipping around the trunk just right, except that there was some sort of pumping station right next to it.

Further around the pond, still no people, there were a number of other good candidates -- none as good as that oak, minus the pump, but good. A bridge cut across the tail end of the pond, and I spent some time looking at the ducks paddle by. The water was far from clear, but I could still see their feet paddling like crazy under the water, their calm bodies above hardly belying that, and the huge V-shaped wakes their small bodies left behind.

Just over the bridge, there were a motley collection of geese, all different colors. There was even a Canada goose hanging out with them. The ducks seemed to keep to themselves. I sat down on a bench to a barrage of squawks, but, slowly, the chorus slowed and they crept closer -- close enough to touch. They pecked at my feet, but soon went back to the grass when they realized that neither I nor my feet had any snacks to provide. A park attendant came by with a bag of stale hot dog buns and I continued on after watching them squawk at her for a few minutes.

Walking back across the front side of the pond, I looked across at the calm but rippling water and the flora framing it, smiled, and realized that I was happy. I don't think I've been happy for quite a while. But reality quickly came back and it occurred to me that I'd accomplished what I intended. So I decided that I probably needed to get paid more than I needed to continue my bliss-out and went back to work.

So here I am now, back in my environmentless cube, having been blindly tossed into a meeting having nothing to do with me, but involving slight beration from one of my managers, with basically nothing to do, and the only happiness I have is from that memory of earlier today, already fading. I think I need to take a long lunch tomorrow, too.
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I got a new car! [12 Aug 2003|12:07pm]
Okay, so it's been a few weeks, but I got a new car — a Volvo S60R. It's pretty nifty, but it's the first year they made this particular model, and while it shares a lot with the other S60s, it's got a lot of new stuff, too.

One is the manual transmission. It's a new Volvo-designed 6-speed. But it's got a problem with the shifter buzzing. Mine does it in 5th gear. Folks on the Swedespeed forums claim that there's a Volvo notification about it with a resolution. I took it into the shop on Thursday to get it fixed.

Another is the gas tank. Apparently, it's split in two and there's a pump to get gas from one side to the other. I think the pump isn't working or something, as the gas gauge shows the level dropping dramatically at about half-full and I've only ever been able to put about half a tank's worth of gas in it. I took it in on Thursday to get that fixed, too.

The headlights are new bi-xenons. I've never had Xenons before. So far, I don't like them. It takes a few seconds for them to heat up, so it's nearly impossible to flash your lights at someone during the day. And bi-xenon means that the same bulb is used for low- and high-beams; the bulbs are moved within the housing to reaim them. This means that flashing lights at night is nearly impossible, as it takes a short but significant amount of time for the bulbs to move. But the real problem is that the low-beams are aimed so low that I can barely see a fraction of a second in front of me at highway speeds, even slow highway speeds. So I took it in on Thursday to get the headlights reaimed.

I also took it in to get the daytime running lights disabled.

None of these problems were fixed. The buzzing shifter buzzes less, but still buzzes. They claimed they couldn't find the problem with the gas tank. In their defense, I brought it in full, so I can see how they might not find it. I don't think they did squat to the headlights. Maybe they had the computer relevel them, but that didn't help. I'm sure they did that at the factory. And they claim that they can't disable the DRLs because of federal law. I can find the law that allows them (regulation, really — 49CFR571.108 — or the PDF version — §5.5.11), but none that requires them.

In addition, I got it back, and now the clutch pedal is slow to release. That is, when I remove my foot from the clutch pedal, it doesn't immediately spring up. It takes a little while for it to slowly (relatively) come back up to the top of its range of motion. When shifting normally, it feels weird, as there's not enough pressure against the bottom of my foot. When shifting quickly, my foot comes completely off the pedal and it squishes back on it's own, engaging the new gear too late, or at least later than expected.

So I got the car “fixed” by having nothing fixed and getting a new problem. Thanks.
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More BellSouth [26 Jul 2003|04:26pm]
It's now more than a week after I first mentioned it, and those drooping phone lines are still there. As far as I know, they've never come back for them at all.
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Cubicles suck [22 Jul 2003|05:40pm]
Okay, really, as much as people like to point it out, cubicles don't suck. Then again, they do. As compared to everyone working in their own office in the '50s, cubicles suck. But as compared to the “Open Office” style of the '90s and 2000s, wherein there are no walls at all, just banks of desks (which is, I suppose, much like the secretarial pool of the '50s), cubicles rule.

That is, of course, unless you have to share your cubicle with someone else.

I don't mind Joe, really. He's quiet, and we occasionally have interesting conversations, usually about bad scifi movies. Or, rather, movies I think are bad, but he thinks are great. Whatever.

The problem is that there's a new guy at work, Al. He's been here a month or so. For some reason, he has his own cubicle while I'm relegated to share one with Joe. Whatever. That's not even the point. The problem is that Al likes to hang out and talk to Joe. In my cubicle. And he has the most inane conversations. Notice that I didn't say “they have”, as mostly it's Al prattling on. Occasionally, he'll ask me some stupid question. Today, he noticed a DVD copy of Solaris (the operating system) on my desk and then went on and on about the plot of the movie starring George Clooney (speaking of bad scifi). Not that he'd seen it; he just saw that it was coming out on video soon. I was gonna point out the Russian movie made in the '60s, or the book, but quickly realized that the last thing I wanted to so was extend the “conversation”.

This is bad enough. But then he often steals my chair, even though there's another one in the cube for him to use. And today, he decided to come in here, I guess, to talk to Joe, but then had a conversation on his cell phone with someone else for, like, twenty minutes.

What the FUCK is up with that? It's driving me nuts. I had to go bother other people in their cubes today. I spent fifteen minutes in someone's cube who wasn't there, just to get away from it.
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New Computer [20 Jul 2003|05:52pm]
I just ordered a new desktop. Or parts for one, anyway.

The one I'm using now is many years old, except for a few upgraded parts, which consist of nothing more than a new video card and sound card, I think. Oh, yeah. A new hard drive or two.

When I got it, it was quite nice. Dual 333MHz Pentium IIs. 256MB of RAM. Of course, now it's nearly obsolete. None of the system parts (motherboard, processors, memory, etc.) can be used in an upgrade, so I've gotta get all new stuff.

So I ordered a new motherboard. It turns out that Intel now makes motherboards that have features and are affordable, unlike before. So, since I'm interested in stability above almost all else, I got an Intel D865PERLL, which has built-in audio, SATA, ethernet, and FireWire, all for about $125, which seems to be a price on a level with other reputable motherboard manufacturers.

And I got new memory. 2GB, which, while the most expensive part of my purchase, was not terribly expensive. And it's from a reputable manufacturer as well, Corsair. One of my friends had big, big, problems with some flaky memory. I became even more convinced that paying for name-brand memory is a very good idea.

I also got a pair of SATA drives. They should be fast on their own — their specs are about the same as the Western Digital Special Edition drives, which everyone seems to rave about — but the motherboard can do RAID0 (I've always had a problem calling this RAID, as it's far from redundant), which should, and is supposed to, speed them up even more, at the expense of a potentially lower MTBF.

I got a new processor, too, but that's not terribly interesting. (It's a 2.6GHz P4.) And a new power supply.

All for about $1100. Not half bad, I say, for stuff I picked out myself, instead of relying on Dell. Actually, a comparably equipped Dell would cost me about $2300. Of course, that would include stuff I didn't get, like a case, software, and a few other things. But I've either already got those or don't want them.


BTW, the online computer parts retailer NewEgg doesn't seem to have the absolute best prices, but they're cheap, and their online store is great. It's not the prettiest, but it's got a lot of information about the products and has an excellent search mechanism to narrow down your choices. And shipping was cheap. $5 for all that, standard delivery. It was only $17 for two-day, but I don't need it that soon. I might not even get to it as soon as it shows up, so it seems silly to waste $12, even if it seems like a good deal. I'd recommend them.
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BellSouth the third (and, maybe, fourth) [20 Jul 2003|05:18pm]
My wife calls me while I'm out yesterday and says that the phone's fucked up again. She's got no dial tone. In addition, the DSL's down, too. I tell her to call the phone company, and, this time, they claim it's a problem on our end — that one of our devices isn't working properly. Hmmm. Okay.

So I come back home and disconnect stuff. Sure enough, it appears as if our cordless phone isn't hanging up properly. But the jack it's plugged into is cramped, and it might be the cable. So I proceed to test this theory further, but on my second test or so, there's a modem on the line when I pick up. Weird. Maybe the TiVo decided that now would be a good time to make its daily call. So I go over there, and it claims it's not doing anything. Just to be safe, I unplug it from the phone line. There's still a modem on the line. So then I unplug my computer from the phone line (I've got a modem for faxes and backup internet access). Still a modem. I disconnect everything except for one standard phone I've got. There's still a modem.

So now my line is crossed over with someone else's. Since I live in a duplex, I ask my wife to go next door to make sure it isn't crossed over with the neighbor's. Nope. He's got no computer and he has a dial tone. So it's gotta be the phone company's fault again.

So I call them back and complain about this new problem. They claim that they'll have someone come by to fix it on Monday. It's Saturday. Whatever. She and I go back out and just leave it behind.

Early Sunday morning, I hear the doorbell and a knock at the door. Since my weekend is almost over and I'm sleeping well, I just ignore it. I'm sure it's bound to be the phone repair guy (who apparently all work only from 4AM to 9AM), but I'd rather get some sleep. The DSL's working anyway.

Later, after we're both up, I notice a sign he's hung on the doorknob asking me to call him back. So I do and introduce myself as the customer whose phone he tried to fix this morning. So he asks me if it's working right now. I'm a little confused, as it's hard to tell if someone's line is crossed with mine in the absence of evidence. In my confused stuttering, he then asks me if I've got DSL. I tell him yeah. Then I think he figured out why I was confused, as he then tells me that my line was, in fact, crossed with someone else's and he fixed it. He just wanted to make sure that it was working right. Oh. So it's already done. I sure am glad I didn't get up. I still don't know why he asked me about the DSL, though. Maybe someone else complained and they were hearing the DSL noise. Who knows?

Anyway, it seems to be fixed now. At least until someone comes back out and “fixes” those dangling cables.

Of course, now I've got to retest to see if my phone is still working improperly, or if it was just a feature of the crossover problem.
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Cars [19 Jul 2003|11:23am]
As you might have been able to tell from my postings a few months ago, I'd been looking to buy a car. I finally decided on the Volvo S60 R. It's a sweet ride, and the one I ordered should be here late next week or early the following week. Then I can get rid of my decrepit 1987 BMW 325, a car I've liked quite a bit the entire time I've had it, except for of late, when the repairs just started to overwhelm it and me.


Shortly after I ordered my new car, Teri's started going down the tubes. It's been in bad repair for a while now, but it's mostly been cosmetic-type stuff. The roof liner fell and I can't get it to stay up. The radio's power button came off and I've got it permanently jammed in now. The cassette player didn't work for at least a year before that. The driver's side window switch broke off, and you have to use a coin to operate it. The door gaskets have shrunk and torn, hanging from the opening. This means that the car gets somewhere between damp and wet every time it rains. There's a few other things, too.

For quite a while, it's had a very annoying squeak in the suspension. But it didn't really seem to affect the car, and the mechanic seemed to agree. Recently, it's developed a loud, disconcerting thunk. Sometimes it happens when you hit a bump, but sometimes it'll happen for no apparent reason at all. The mechanic tells us that it's a problem with the ball joints and that it'll cost over $1000 to fix.

Then, just recently, it developed a problem with the starter. Sometimes it just won't engage the engine and spins freely. It often takes over a dozen times for it to catch and start the car. I don't think that this is a difficult repair, but it'll surely add another couple hundred dollars to an already huge bill.

The car is a 1987 Chevy S10 Blazer. It's a real hunk of junk. It wouldn't be worth $1500 if it were in perfect shape. I really don't want to sink that much money into it. Which leaves me with the option of buying another car. Just as I'm getting ready to fork over a whole lot for one I ordered. I'm feeling sorta guilty about that now. Teri claims that I shouldn't, but that doesn't help a lot.

So now I need to find another car. She doesn't really drive that much, and doesn't really enjoy driving, so I don't need to get her a driver's car like I got myself. I'm thinking something like a late '90s Subaru Legacy wagon or VW Passat wagon. I'd like to spend less than $10,000, and that seems doable.

But this all depends on whether or not I can get a sizable raise when my contract is up for renewal. That's at the beginning of September, six weeks away, so I should hopefully know real soon.

I'll keep you posted, as if all none of you out there who real this really want to know.
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Teri update [19 Jul 2003|11:00am]
[ mood | cheerful ]

Once again, I find I have been very lax in updating my reports about my wife. This definitely signals a good thing, though.

Ever since she got off the lithium, her mood has improved and improved. She seems genuinely happy most of the time. She might actually be a little manic, but I can deal with that much better than with melancholia. (Occasionally, I have to tell her to calm down as she starts flailing about telling me a story of her day. Last night, she flung her hand into a dresser and managed to cut herself a little. On dull wood.)

I get this far and realize that I really don't have anything to say. This lack of news really is good news. Ignoring all the reasons to hate you, thank you very much, pharmaceutical industry for making these drugs available at all. They have unquestionably improved Teri's life and mine, too.

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BellSouth followup [19 Jul 2003|10:48am]
[ mood | amazed ]

Why do repair workers always come early in the morning?

Okay, okay. If they'd been late, I'd have complained about that, too. But, for some reason, my body had decided over the last few days that it only wanted to sleep about five hours a night, and I was getting more than that this morning, and on a Saturday, too, when the repair guy comes at about seven hours into my sleeptime. Ah, well.

So I get up and tell him that whoever was here yesterday hooked the circuit back up to the wrong circuit (I wish I knew my telco terminology better here), and that it needs to go … wherever.

At this time, he tells me that, at some point, I need to raise the cable for my DirecTV I've got strung up. I assume so that he can get his truck under it. In my back yard. I agree so that he'll do his job quickly and correctly, but what business does he have telling me how my back yard should be?

So I hop on the computer and start surfing, so I can see when he switches it over. I'm doing this for a while and was getting curious about what was taking so long. Just as I'm thinking that, the connection goes down. By the time I wander into the other room, move the phone line from the old ISDN jack to the normal one, and come back, the circuit is back up. Amazing. It's nice to see that at least some BellSouth folks can do their job right. He must have spent all that time preparing for the switchover and then done the actual switch the last thing. It must have taken him twenty seconds. Maybe.

So, good job, BellSouth. That's one thing out of four you've done correctly over the last three days.

Oh, and he told me he had no idea what the deal was with that collection of wires hanging down over there. I don't think he was impressed with it, either.

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BellSouth sucks [19 Jul 2003|02:20am]
[ mood | annoyed ]

Yesterday my DSL service went out. As is usually the case, my wife called me at work to complain about it, as she's turned into an Internet junkie over the last few years. She noted that there were mysterious BellSouth workers outside doing whatever mysterious things they do. All the while, they tell my wife that nothing they're doing can affect my service. Uh-huh. I called my ISP and asked them to look into it. They did as much as they could, but apparently the have little access to Worldcom's DSLAMs (or whatever they are), so couldn't help me out a lot initially. They forwarded it along to the next level techs who were supposed to call when I got home. An hour or so after BellSouth left, the DSL service came back up. (I figure it probably took that long for the “modem” to sync back up without being power-cycled.)

As I left for work this morning, I noticed that there was another BellSouth truck, this time at the neighbors'. I said to myself, “Uh-oh”, but what could I do? So I went on to work, where I found my DSL line went down a few hours later. I called BellSouth again. (I'd called them the day before, as well, to no avail.) They were not much help. In fact, they were unable to tell what those techs were doing, or even that they were or had been there at all. I called my ISP to see if they could lean on BellSouth. Then my wife called. This time, it turns out that the POTS line is down. And the techs continue to claim that it's not their fault. In fact, when she explains that they've obviously done something, they note that they're not “repair”. Nice. So I call back BellSouth to complain about all that.

When I get home, I find the POTS completely dead. There's no power on the line at all, based on the fact that toggling the hook produces no click at all on the line. So it's beyond just “no dial tone”. I wander over to the neighbors' back yard to see if there's anything obvious wrong. I found this clusterfuck. I call back BellSouth, by this point quite irate, complaining not only about having no phone service (I'm using company cell phone time now), but about the immense rat's nest they've left. Despite my protestations, the woman assures me that they can get there no sooner than tomorrow.

So I go back inside, weak from hunger and anger, and take a shower. (Being outside for more than five minutes in North Carolina in July necessitates a shower.) After having some tasty soup for dinner (the easiest thing I can think to fix), I get the bright idea that I should check as much stuff as possible, so I go out and check the demarc. It's one of the newer kind that has a customer accessible section and a telco-only section protected by a security screw. The customer section has a test jack. The idea is that the house's phone line is connected via the jack, so you can disconnect the plug in the jack, which disables all the lines in the house and plug in a phone in its stead for testing. So I did this just to make sure, and it worked. Hmmm. But the lines in the house weren't working at all. And there had been nothing done to them. (Fortunately, during this time, a thunderstorm decided to roll in and I got wetter than when I took my shower.) I also decided to check to see if I got any mail. There was a note scribbled on the back of a business card in fourth-grade print that the phone problems had been taken care of. It had obviously been there for a while, but I hadn't noticed it before.

Hours after I discovered the card and the fact that the line worked at the demarc, it dawned on me that I'd checked the wrong demarc. I'd checked the one that had been installed for an ISDN circuit and abandoned at least five years before. The repair technician had decided to rewire the circuit to the wrong place. Hurriedly, I found that old surface-mount jack that had been installed for it, which was conveniently on the floorboards underneath the outlet plate where the ADSL was plugged in and moved the plug over. Bingo! All's good.

Of course, now I've only got one live jack. And they're going to come back “tomorrow” and fix it. I'm not sure what's going to happen. They seldom ask what's wrong, so they may figure a way to break it even further. Hopefully they'll do the absurd and ask me. I have no idea where the demarc is for the original wiring. It's old enough that there might not be an official one. But I guess I'll find out tomorrow, possibly by fire.

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