Friday, December 29, 2006


Reports are that Saddam Hussein is due to be hung for crimes against humanity any time now. I will not be sad to see him go and, in all honesty, I don't think I would have a moral dilemma we I pulling the lever myself. Good riddance.

But that having been said, it was never our place to invade Iraq searching for mythical weapons of mass destruction, fictional al Qaeda links, contrived "war of Terror" excuses or even as revenge for an assassination plot against Dubbya's daddy. Neither any of that or the ultimate goal of having Saddam swing was worth the thousands of young American soldiers nor the tens of thousands of Iraqi deaths that have resulted.

And, in the end, even the death of a murderous tyrant will not be a silver lining in this otherwise black cloud, for his kin will only elevate him to the status of martyr and escalate the civil war further.

And Dubbya is only too happy to oblige them with a so-called "surge" of his own. Matters will only get worse. We should get out and get out fast. We should have gotten out a long time ago.

We never should have gone in in the first place.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Drive-by Performance Review

As I was originally hired in October, my annual performance appraisal should also be in October. Typically, though, management seems to forget about it until I remind them. Since my performance isn't going to be converted into any sort of bonus or salary increase, I figured I wouldn't bother. Without any incentive or penalty, the review process seems moot.

Apparently, the Corporate Overlords sent word down that requires performance reviews be done for the calendar year instead of based on employment date and also must be completed by the end of this year. So, my Team Lead called me in.

It used to be that the Site Manager, Operations Manager and Team Lead were all in on the reviews. I had been given a review sheet in advance so that I could rate my own performance and in the meeting the four of us would go item-by-item though the list, comparing my opinion of my performance to that of my Team Lead. Performance reviews would take at least half an hour and would often go longer, especially once I got rolling with my opinions about how things were going at the Help Desk. My performance appraisal of the managers, as it were.

This time, the review process has been streamlined. The meeting with only my Team Lead took only a few minutes. There was no point-by-point review, just a summary. I am apparently an "adequate" employee with some verbal communications issues. No, there's no chance of a raise in the foreseeable future.

Back to work.

cryPod echoes

Several months back, I went through a nightmare trying to get my newly purchased iPod to work with my antiquated Win98 OS.

Afterwards, I noticed problems with my system running out of resources. At first, I didn't know what was gobbling up my memory but more and more I came to suspect that the iPod "detector" running in the background had a memory leak. I tried uninstalling the software but it didn't seem to actually go away. Finally, I started up my Microhelp Uninstaller software and cleaned it out thoroughly.

Performance seems to have improved on my desktop machine and I haven't yet run out of memory resources. The Xplay software and iPod Updater is still running on my laptop (because that's the only machine I could get to actually work with the iPod) but I don't use that machine often or for long enough for the memory leak to be much of a factor.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Inquiring minds are confused

I'm a regular reader of The Inquirer as it updates what's going on out in the techie world. And while I generally appreciate the British perspective presented there, I've grown tired of their butchering of the language. This is not some po-tay-toe / po-tah-toe conflict, but a stylistic decision made my the writers at The Inquirer.

For one, they have taken to referring to Microsoft as the Vole. I'm not entirely sure why Microsoft would be made synonymous with a small rodent but I understand that it is somewhat derogatory so I can deal with it.

But the writers are going further and further afield and it is making the articles more difficult to understand.

Open source has become open sauce.

Intel is Chipzilla.

Apple has become Fruitzilla. Apple computers with Intel processors are MacInteltosh.

Firefox is referred to as Firebadger or even Fireferret. Mozilla is

And, most recently, blog and become bog and bloggers are now boggers.

An occasional usage to point out that you are heaping a certain amount of ridicule on these companies and products is appropriate. A little bit of satire never hurt anyone. But when they seem to replace the correct word with this revisioned word in the spell checker, it makes the article difficult to understand. I shouldn't have to translate the article to know who you're talking about.

If this keeps up, I may abandon The Inquisition and just stick with The Register for my IT news from across the pond.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Things started out quietly this Friday morning but then picked up a little. At one point, D**** sent out a message:

"Geis - we're in the middle of've been on your call for 10 mins.......please wrap it up."

I've gotten into the habit of simply ignoring his talk time whining. Eight minutes later, after I had wrapped up that call and taken two more, he sent out another message:

"Geis - please disregard previous're averaging approximately 80 calls per days.....take as long as you'd like... I apologize for the oversight but I react when I see the queue and just start sending IMs to everyone."

The interesting thing is that I am not actually averaging 80 calls a day. My average is a still impressive 60 calls or so a day but I only top 80 calls on unusual days, say when a few mail servers go down or a branch application update fails. However, on Wednesday I was talking to the site manager and mentioned that on those days that I do take 80 calls, I am still outperforming everyone. I pointed to one print out hung in my cube from Tuesday when I took 80 calls for the day and the next highest analyst took 63 calls. The average for the Help Desk that day was 37.

So, when D**** sent out that message and CC'd everyone, the Site Manager must have sent him a response referencing the 80 calls number and saying essentially, "Geis is working his ass off so chill out."

Monday, December 18, 2006

$25 buys a goat

My mailbox today contained a Christmas gift from my Father-in-law. Twenty-Five dollars in an envelope taped to a donation catalog from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. Thirty-some pages of ways that I can give the money I just received to ministerial causes worldwide.

He sent the same thing to his daughter and granddaughter. He knows they are Unitarians, and that's insulting enough, but does he realize that I'm an atheist? Does if have any clue how arrogant it is to send such a gift to an atheist taped to a blatant suggestion that it then be donated to evangelicals?

It's like sending a Hanukkah ham.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

26 Degrees of Separation

Today was the weather I hate the most for bicycle commuting; in the low 30s for the ride in, 60s for the ride home. Weather like that is a challenge to dress for as anything you wear for the ride in you have to carry for the ride back. It's much easier to plan for when the weather is uniformly cold or warm or moderate.

Monday, December 11, 2006

A Test of Citizenship

At the end of November, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced a new set of questions that will be administered to immigrants hoping to become naturalized American citizens. It is apparently a lot tougher than the previous test, they claim to make better citizens but, more likely, to deter or prevent citizenship.

What I wonder about is how many natural born US Citizens and products of the American education system could pass this test? I am pleased to say that I went through it and was able to answer the vast majority of the questions correctly, missing only the more trivia related ones such as "How many amendments does the Constitution have?" In fact, I even found a few errors. (more on that later.)

Why don't you try your hand and see if you could earn your citizenship:

1. Name one important idea found in the Declaration of Independence.
2. What is the supreme law of the land?
3. What does the Constitution do?
4. What does "We the People" mean in the Constitution?
5. What do we call changes to the Constitution?
6. What is an amendment?
7. What do we call the first ten amendments to the Constitution?
8. Name one right or freedom from the First Amendment.
9. How many amendments does the Constitution have?
10. What did the Declaration of Independence do?
11. What does freedom of religion mean?
12. What type of economic system does the U.S. have?
13. What are the three branches or parts of the government?
14. Name one branch or part of the government.
15. Who is in charge of the executive branch?
16. Who makes federal laws?
17. What are the two parts of the United States Congress?
18. How many United States Senators are there?
19. We elect a U.S. Senator for how many years?
20. Name your state’s two U.S. Senators.
21. How many U.S. Senators does each state have?
22. The House of Representatives has how many voting members?
23. We elect a U.S. Representative for how many years?
24. Name your U.S. Representative.
25. Who does a U.S. Senator represent?
26. Who does a U.S. Representative represent?
27. What decides each state’s number of U.S. Representatives?
28. How is each state’s number of Representatives decided?
29. Why do we have three branches of government?
30. Name one example of checks and balances.
31. We elect a President for how many years?
32. How old must a President be?
33. The President must be born in what country?
34. Who is the President now?
35. What is the name of the President of the United States?
36. Who is the Vice President now?
37. What is the name of the Vice President of the United States?
38. If the President can no longer serve, who becomes President?
39. Who becomes President if both the President and the Vice President can no longer serve?
40. Who is the Commander-in-Chief of the military?
41. How many full terms can a President serve?
42. Who signs bills to become laws?
43. Who vetoes bills?
44. What is a veto?
45. What does the President’s Cabinet do?
46. Name two Cabinet-level positions.
47. What Cabinet-level agency advises the President on foreign policy?
48. What does the judicial branch do?
49. Who confirms Supreme Court justices?
50. Who is the Chief Justice of the United States?
51. How many justices are on the Supreme Court?
52. Who nominates justices to the Supreme Court?
53. Name one thing only the federal government can do.
54. What is one thing only a state government can do?
55. What does it mean that the U.S. Constitution is a constitution of limited powers?
56. Who is the Governor of your state?
57. What is the capital (or capital city) of your state?
58. What are the two major political parties in the U.S. today?
59. What is the highest court in the U.S.?
60. What is the majority political party in the House of Representatives now?
61. What is the political party of the majority in the Senate now?
62. What is the political party of the President now?
63. Who is the Speaker of the House of Representatives now?
64. Who is the Senate Majority Leader now?
65. In what month are elections held in the United States?
66. What is the current minimum wage in the U.S.?
67. When must all males register for the Selective Service?
68. Who is the Secretary of State now?
69. Who is the Attorney General now?
70. Is the current President in his first or second term?
71. What is self-government?
72. Who governs the people in a self-governed country?
73. What is the "rule of law"?
74. What are "inalienable rights"?
75. There are four amendments to the Constitution about who can vote. Describe one of them.
76. Name one responsibility that is only for United States citizens.
77. Name two rights that are only for United States citizens.
78. Name two rights of everyone living in the U.S.
79. What is the Pledge of Allegiance?
80. Name one promise you make when you say the Oath of Allegiance.
81. Who can vote in the U.S.?
82. Name two ways that Americans can participate in their democracy.
83. When is the last day you can send in federal income tax forms?
84. Name two of the natural, or inalienable, rights in the Declaration of Independence.
85. Who wrote the Declaration of Independence?
86. When was the Declaration of Independence adopted?
87. Name one reason why the colonists came to America?
88. What happened at the Constitutional Convention?
89. Why did the colonists fight the British?
90. When was the Constitution drafted?
91. There are 13 original states. Name three.
92. What group of people was taken to America and sold as slaves?
93. Who lived in America before the Europeans arrived?
94. Where did most of America’s colonists come from before the Revolution?
95. Why were the colonists upset with the British government?
96. Name one thing Benjamin Franklin is famous for.
97. Name one famous battle from the Revolutionary War.
98. Who is called the "Father of Our Country"?
99. Who was the first President?
100. Name one of the writers of the Federalist Papers?
101. What group of essays supported passage of the U.S. Constitution?
102. Name one of the major American Indian tribes in the United States.
103. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1800s.
104. What territory did the United States buy from France in 1803?
105. What country sold the Louisiana Territory to the United States?
106. In 1803, the United States bought a large amount of land from France. Where was that land?
107. Name one of the things that Abraham Lincoln did.
108. Name the U.S. war between the North and the South.
109. Name one problem that led to the Civil War.
110. What did the Emancipation Proclamation do?
111. What did the abolitionists try to end before the Civil War?
112. What did Susan B. Anthony do?
113. Name one war fought by the United States in the 1900s.
114. Who was President during World War I?
115. The United States fought Japan, Germany, and Italy during which war?
116. What was the main concern of the United States during the Cold War?
117. What major event happened on September 11, 2001, in the United States?
118. What international organization was established after World War II (WWII) to keep the world at peace?
119. What alliance of North America and European countries was created during the Cold War?
120. Who was President during the Great Depression and World War II?
121. Which U.S. World War II general later became President?
122. What did Martin Luther King, Jr. do?
123. Martin Luther King, Jr. had a dream for America. What was his dream?
124. What movement tried to end racial discrimination?
125. What is the longest river in the United States?
126. What ocean is on the west coast of the United States?
127. What country is on the northern border of the United States?
128. Where is the Grand Canyon?
129. Where is the Statue of Liberty?
130. What country is on the southern border of the United States?
131. Name one large mountain range in the United States.
132. What is the tallest mountain in the United States?
133. Name one U.S. territory.
134. Name the state that is in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.
135. Name one state that borders Canada.
136. Name one state that borders on Mexico.
137. What is the capital of the U.S.?
138. Why does the flag have 13 stripes?
139. Why do we have 13 stripes on the flag?
140. Why does the flag have 50 stars?
141. What is the name of the National Anthem?
142. On the Fourth of July we celebrate independence from what country?
143. When do we celebrate Independence Day?
144. Name two national U.S. holidays.

You can check your answers at the USCIS Website.

You see that there are a number of redundant questions phrased differently. I can only assume that they would be mixed up so as not to be so obvious as they are here.

The answer to Questions 60 and 61 about which political party controls Congress is incorrect. While the website says it is the Democrats that control the House and the Senate, in point of fact, while the Democrats won the election, they do not actually take control of those bodies until January. But since the test isn't actually to be released into pilot cities until early 2007, by the time people start taking the test, the answer will be correct.

So, how did you do? Would you be admitted as a citizen of the United States? I wonder how well our elected representatives would do.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Government In Action. Corporate Inaction.

Back in September I began hearing rumors that The Corporation was screwing up reporting employee incomes to the Social Security Administration. There were lots of rumors about a lot of screw ups but I didn't follow up on it right away. As the reports got more prevalent, I finally contacted the SSA to get a reprint of my statement to be sure everything was OK.

It wasn't.

The Corporation had reported my income for 2004 as zero. That means that any Social Security benefits I might have earned for that period of time will also be zero.

Two weeks ago, after I received the confirmation of the screw-up, I went to the Operations Manager to have her initiate and investigation, or whatever it is that HR would call such an action. And, having zero confidence that The Corporate Overlords would actually take any sort of action, I contacted the Social Security Administration directly. Their solution was a simple as me mailing them a copy of my W-2, having then check it against a database, and amending my earnings statement.

From my phone call to them to my receipt of issue resolution took fifteen days. That includes the time the letters were in transit and the long Thanksgiving weekend. A spectacular response, given that the person I spoke to said that it could take up to 90 days.

As to my own Corporate HR. . . I'm going to let this sit to find out just how long it takes them to try to address this. I suspect that it is some large number approaching infinity. They are three months overdue for my performance appraisal. When they screwed up my occupation taxes it took the better part of a year for them to do anything and that took my pestering them and a phone call to the City tax auditor to get them moving. If I'm lucky, they'll eventually come back and say, "We couldn't find anything wrong."

"Of course," I'll say. "Based on past experience I expected you to drop the ball so I called the Feds myself and took care of it for you. They took less than two weeks to take care of it. Why did it take you as long as you did?"

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

OK to Drill

Even before work began on the Hot Metal Bridge project, I noticed a number of painted survey markers along the Eliza Furnace Trail. It only makes sense when you are going to build something like a bridge, you need to know where everything is. Recently, I've noticed that a few of those survey marks have a mysterious message "OK TO DRILL" painted next to them. Drill what? Why? These things are quite a way from the bridge itself, what possible reason could they have to drill there?

Well, today on the way back after work, I saw a work crew that appeared to be engaged in drilling at an OK place. Foolish me, I neglected to stop and ask what it was they were drilling for. Maybe I'll get lucky later this week and run across them again. This time I'll ask.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Geis (R)

I admit, I am a card carrying Republican. In my defense, I joined the Republican party two decades ago when the Reagan Revolution promised smaller government, a balanced budget and a strong defense against the Soviet Union. As I grew older, I realized that the things they promised were not what they delivered, as the budget spiraled higher, government got bigger and the Soviets failed to invade Europe, wasting all the money we spent on that strong defense. I grew wiser and learned that I wasn't even remotely a Republican. I like to describe myself as Politically Non-Euclidean, but as that only confused people, if I must accept a political label, I would choose a Centrist-leaning Libertarian.

And yet, I continue to carry that Republican registration card. Why should I do such a thing? Well, were I to register as a Libertarian or an Independent, I would be choosing to exclude myself from this country's institutionalized two-party primary system. So, with the third party option out, why not register as a Democrat? Surely more of the views of the Democratic Party parallel my own.

That's not so easy a thing to answer. Part if it could be keeping me in the loop so that I can see first hand all the propaganda that goes out to the party faithful. Perhaps by being a Liberal Republican I can, in some small way, pull the Republican Part back from the extreme right. Maybe, when the primary season comes along, I can vote for the most liberal Republican. Of course, in doing that I might be playing the part of the spoiler, taking a vote away from a centrist Republican, allowing the core of the Radical Right to install their blessed candidate. In the end, however, in the primaries I am always choosing the lesser of evils.

Not how our political system should work.

In the end, however, I remain a Republican (in name only) because of apathy. The label doesn't mean much to me. I don't feel a strong affinity for the Democratic Party. Why should I bother making the change? What does the country care whether I have a (D) or an (R) after my name?

Burn Rate

Typically, for me to have more than 80 calls in a day, it requires mail servers to go down or some other Bank-wide catastrophe. Then, for an hour or so, it's call after call of "Yes, we know the server is down. Yes, they're working on it. No, we don't know when it'll be back up. Have a nice day." Those short calls allow you to pack in the numbers.

But today, I had 50 calls by lunch and 80 for the day on typical calls. No servers down. No widespread outages. Just call after call. The Help Desk seems to continue to hire and bring on new people (the Operations Manager walked by just today with another interviewee), but when I look out on the floor there are the same number of empty desks as there have been for a year. They seem to be fighting an uphill battle as The Bank does more consolidation and requires the Help Desk to support more services groups and yet we can't seem to increase our staffing levels to accommodate the increasing call volume.

Why? Because they pay shit, have no opportunities for advancement or even raises and have no training for the job you're about to be thrown into. It's no wonder I'm left working my ass off. I took 80 calls for the day. Another analyst took 65, two others took 60 calls and the rest spread out from there in the 50s and 40s. I wish I could be truly apathetic and lazy. Instead, I care about the job I'm doing and actually put an effort into it. That nominal effort is able to outperform more and more analysts until it seems as if I'm carrying the whole Help Desk.


Winter Suddenly

When I hit the trail for my commute on Friday, it was 60 degrees. This morning it was 23. With the wind chill, 10 degrees. In some ways' I've actually been looking forward to this weather. There is in spring and fall that time between when it's cool in the morning and warm for the ride home. What was worn in the morning must be somehow carried at the end of the day. And the trunk bag simply doesn't have the space. But now that winter is here, the slight difference in temperature means that I don't have to play that packing game.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The wheel turns

Brown's Law Of Tire Sizing states: If two tires are marked with sizes that are mathematically equal, but one is expressed as a decimal and the other as a fraction, these two tires will not be interchangeable.

I have to deal with this first hand as my rear tire has worn to the point of replacement. Several years ago, I had my rim break. A spoke pulled a chunk of the rim out. When I replaced the wheels, they didn't seem to be the same size. My brakes didn't bear down on the rims the way they used to because the new rims were more narrow. My existing tires didn't fit right. I had trouble replacing the tires when their time came, I suspect because of the rims that I had gotten. So, now that it was time to replace another tire, I wanted to be sure of what I was in for.

The only information I could find on my original rims was "alloy 36H", which only seems to indicate that they have 36 spoke holes. Not really relevant until I want to replace my current rims, which are Alexrims RP15F rims.

Tech Spec
Pin joint 36 holes, silver/black
Optional CSW
700C, ERD 602.9mm, ETRTO 622X16mm

The tires I currently have are Bontrager 700x38C (40-622). Notice that the rims and tires are not described in quite the same way. You'll see that both the numbers 700 and 622 appear, but neither of them actually conform to an actual measurement on the wheel. ERD (Effective rim diameter) apparently refers to the interior diameter of the rim; 202.9mm (which is actually measured correct). But then the external diameter is 636.5. So, given that the tire needs to fit under the lip of the rim, you might think that the ERTO (European Tyre and Rim Technical Organization) number of 622 would refer to the interior diameter of the wheel. However, that actually measures closer to 627mm. One would think that if you're accurately measuring millimeters, you wouldn't be off by half a centimeter.

And then there's that pesky ERTO number of 16mm. Doesn't that refer to the width? 15.7 is close enough to 16 to think they just rounded that number. Except that my tire is labeled 40-622 compared to the wheel's 622-16mm. I suppose that the 40 refers to the width of the inflated wheel, but then why is there that 38C. Why say both 38 AND 40?

In the end, I purchased a Specialized Nimbus 700x38C because it was labeled the same as my current tire. Of course, according to the tire size charts, my tire is too wide for my rims. I should be using nothing larger than a 35mm wide tire when I am actually using a 38 or 40 (depending on which number is true). Sheldon Brown's website says, "if you use a very wide tire on a narrow rim, you risk sidewall or rim failure." Well, I've been riding this combination for a few years without tragedy but eventually I'll want to replace the undersized rims with what should be on the bike so that I can restore my braking performance.