Monday, December 31, 2007

Anger Management

I read this blog posting on atheist anger and found a part opf it that related to how I've been feeling in my personal life.

Because anger has driven every major movement for social change in this country, and probably in the world. The labor movement, the civil rights movement, the women's suffrage movement, the modern feminist movement, the gay rights movement, the anti-war movement in the Sixties, the anti-war movement today, you name it... all of them have had, as a major driving force, a tremendous amount of anger. Anger over injustice, anger over mistreatment and brutality, anger over helplessness.

I acted this weekend out of anger. Anger over decades of ignorance and miscommunication. Anger that all of my moderate efforts to bridge the gap were for nothing. Anger that my family is broken and nothing I have done to fix it seems to have worked. That anger boiled over and I expressed it in an effort to make things right.

Well, I'm not angry anymore. I have too many good and positive things in my life to waste any more time on trying to fix something that doesn't want to be fixed. My family is broken and it cannot be fixed. I cannot make it right so I am going to refocus my attentions on those things that I have gotten right. My wife. My daughter. My friends. They are my family. Those people who were my family. . . they are just the people I'll have to deal with occasionally over the phone or when a funeral comes up.

My anger has been replaced with a sadness. Opportunities that were not lost but were squelched and refused. Not my problem anymore. You chose the path of darkness. I have chosen to walk in the light and will reserve my anger for things that maybe, just maybe, I can fix.


My hour long walk into work (I still don't want to agrivate my broken hand by riding) was filled with replays of this weekend's drama. Endlessly played over and over. New Year's Eve at the Help Desk was fairly light giving me a chance to write it all down. To purge it from my system so that my walk home was filled instead with formulations of my Zombie Plan™.

Drama Flakes

I am a storyteller. And while I still haven't been able to formulate a story that I can get published and make some money off of, I still like to think I tell an entertaining story.

This is not one of those stories.

This is one of those stories that I need to tell to scrape its festering mass out of my skull to keep it from rotting my brain. This is a story about a topic a rarely blog about. This is about my family.

First, a little background; the relationship between my brother, sister-in-law (living in New York) and parents have been strained from the beginning. I'm not sure what it's all about but I'm pretty sure it boils down to control issues. My sister-in-law has ideas about how a family should behave and my mother will not tolerate interference in the management of her family. This has been going on for more than 20 years.

My sister-in-law sent us an email last week letting us know that the holiday card she sent to my sister (in Maryland) came back “Return to Sender.” This wasn't a post office mistake, my sister had written those words and refused to accept the card. I sent an email to my sister asking what was up with that.

“I have tried to get in touch with them in the past with no response. I didn't feel they wanted to keep in contact.”

I'll admit to becoming a bite irate:

“So, let me get this straight. . . you try to keep in touch but don't get a response. When you finally do get a response in the form of a card that says "Happy Holidays" you refuse to accept it and throw it back in their faces with "Return to Sender."

I detailed a number of hurts that family members have inflicted upon other family members, usually for no good reason. I detailed that these hurts are compounded because no one talks to one another about issues. I detailed how I had been playing negotiator for twenty rears and it was all pretty much gotten nowhere.

“So, if you care about your brother at all, you'll think long and hard about exactly why you are spitting on him by sending his holiday card back with "Return to Fucking Sender." If you care about him at all, you'll pick up the phone and call him to work out what the hell is really going on. And the first words out of anyone's mouth is going to have to be "I'm sorry", because until people start showing a little humility and take responsibility for what they have done then no one is going to be able to give, or even have an opportunity to give, their forgiveness. If you have courage to do that I think you will find that there is nothing to warrant this sort of nonsense.”

I went on further but ultimately I sent my email response to everyone because, frankly, everyone needed to know what was going on and that I had had enough of this bullshit. For too long, people had kept the secrets and no one knew the depths of what was going on.

It wasn't long before my dad read his email and called me to take exception. In my email I related what had happened between us when my unwed, pregnant girlfriend moved in with me in college. I don't remember exactly what about that set him off but he made it clear over the phone that he thought she was a whore who had tricked me into this by getting pregnant. He thought she should get an abortion. He told me that he was going to come down and “punch my lights out.” My father now denies that it happened that way.

“I would never say such a thing.”

“You would, and you did, Dad.”

He had completely blocked out the whole thing. No wonder this crap has gone on for twenty years when people have been rewriting history like that. I told him that I forgave him for that. We worked that out and that's not what this is about. He shouldn't be calling me, he should be calling is daughter in Maryland. He should be calling his son in New York.

My sister left a voicemail and I emailed back that, again, she shouldn't be calling me. She should be calling New York.

Saturday morning and I talkd to my sister-in-law via IM. She appreciated what I've done but I could tell that she was still firmly entrenched. My brother wouldn't call and she couldn't make him. I told her that she should call, but she won't.

My mom called. She wanted us to come over. I was willing to but, I say, this wasn't about me. She spit venom over how much I'd hurt my father. After that, I tired to explain yet again about what was going on and, if this was the way that I was going to be treated than there's no way I would be going to my parent's house so I could be bullied and berated in person.

My mother called me a coward.

I talked more with my father. He told me things that I didn't know about how nasty their daughter-in-law was towards them and I said that I had spoken to her earlier about those very events and she had a different version. I said that I had no way of knowing what version, if any, was true, but that they should call New York and work it out. I was left with the impression that he wasn't going to call.

I got an email back from my sister in that she had called New York and learned some things, which was good. She still didn't adequately explain why she would choose the most hurtful solution.

“My intentions, however misinterpreted they were, was for healing or peace, even if pain had to come first.”

I have trouble understanding healing and peace from “Return to Sender”. But I suppose, in a sense, that was what I was doing when I did what I did. I know that what I did hurt. It was meant to hurt. But there was no deception in it. I spoke the truth for all to see because the truth needed to be told. And, in the end, I feel my risk (yes, Mom, my bravery) in exposing myself and my fears to all was for nothing. My dad won't call my brother. My brother won't call my dad. This will go on for another twenty years.

And the irony of it all is that I, the family atheist, spent my weekend speaking about truth, compassion, charity, love and forgiveness to my supposedly Christian family. This is something they should have been doing all along.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Fan Boys

I was always more of a Trek Nerd but I must see this movie.

Thursday, December 27, 2007


After several weeks of having my game camera on the Eliza Furnace Trail hoping to catch automobiles using the trail illegally, I moved it from the Hot Metal Bridge to the 2nd Avenue Parking lot. After a week there, and having captured no incriminating photographs, my initial fears have been unsubstantiated; while I know that unauthorized vehicles have been on the trail, it is probably not a regular occurrence. With that conclusion, I had grown tired of checking the camera every day and brought it home yesterday.

This morning on the walk in I saw that a garbage can near Bates Street had been set in the middle of the trail. Assuming that some vandal had moved it, I returned it to where it belonged. But at the 2nd Avenue lot there was a construction barrel set in the middle of the trail. Could it be that the city has taken my stated concerns seriously and are taking action to prevent cars from accessing the trail illegally? Maybe they only had one barrel and decided to use the garbage can as a makeshift barrier. Perhaps some civic-minded vandal took the barrel that had been in a corner of the 2nd Ave lot and moved it. Most likely, however, they were just vandals moving things around and that the movement serves a useful purpose is merely a coincidence.

Had I left my camera in place I might have captured the action and known for sure.

In any case, the gates are busted up and need to be repaired and kept secure but at least a barrel in the middle of the trail will turn back those who would otherwise access the trail accidentally.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Nerd Eargasm

Church of the Slag-Blah

With the Solstice today and the X-mas season drawing to a final close (thankfully), Phil Foglio's "Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire" just posted a relevant comic:

To quote the Priest, "Slah-Blah's philosophy is that of Militant Agnosticism; we don't know, and you don't either! So we believe in everything! No religion is too silly, no pantheon too crowded, no cosmology too counterintuitive!"

This is Pascal's Wager taken to its ultimate conclusion.

Christians attempting to address agnosticism or atheism posit that it is a better bet to believe in god, given that the rewards of that belief are infinite, than it is to not believe and risk the chance that the cost of being wrong is eternal damnation.

But if you're going to bet your faith on the chance that god exists and your belief in Jesus will save you, why would you then discount the possibility that Mohammad was right and Allah has a different reward waiting? How about the possibility that the Hindus or Buddhists or Sikhs or Zoroastrians or Pagans or Animists or Rastafarians or Scientologists or someone else may have it right? If you are suggesting that we atheists should abandon our belief in reality in favor of your's because of a slim probability of salvation, why don't you take that to it's logical conclusion, hedging your bets by adhering to and believing in every other faith?

It is because you are arrogant and will ignore any truly logical argument that does not support the conclusions you have already made. Were you, for just one moment, to accept that it's possible that another faith might have some value then you must inevitably accept that your own faith may not be the one way. You would be faced with the notion that the ease at which you discount Zeus, Odin and Osiris could be similarly applied to Jesus Christ and faith in an all knowing, all seeing, all loving, invisible old man in the sky would end.

And what's wrong with that?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Not Busted

Last week I reported seeing tire tracks in the snow on the Eliza Furnace Trail, indicating that vehicles were on what was supposed to be a trail exclusively for the use of pedestrians and cyclists. A contact at Friends of the Riverfront indicated that there are vehicles that are authorized to be on the trail but I was doubtful that two municipal vehicles would be on the trail between 5:30 at night an 6:00 in the morning. I had trouble understanding what it is they would be doing there after hours.

I set up a sport camera in hopes of capturing definitive proof of this activity, whether authorized or illegal. Since the camera also has a flash I placed a sign telling people not to be alarmed and why the camera was there. Typically, the camera will take 70 pictures or so in a 24 hour period. About 10% of the images capture what it was that set off the motion detector, usually pedestrians and occasionally cyclists moving away from the camera. Those walking towards the camera are typically past the lens by the time the camera warms up and actually takes the picture, though that depends on how quickly they are walking. It's possible that trucks going by on the Bates Street on-ramp also set off the camera, so the 60 or 70 pictures a day do not necessarily represent the normal traffic actually on the trail itself.

In two pictures there is the back end of a City of Pittsburgh police car on the trail. Both at 9:30 in the evening on consecutive nights.

There are, so far, no photographs of other vehicles. But given the limitations of the camera, absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

It's good that law enforcement is out patrolling and the photographic evidence increases the possibility that the tracks that I saw were not made illegally but the facts remain that I have seen unauthorized vehicles on the trail in the past and the gates at either end of the trail, the only thing that could keep violators off the trail, are all busted up and need to be repaired.


It's been two weeks now since I fell crossing a street on the South Side and injured my hand. While it has improved over time, it still hurts and I feel I may have actually broken my hand instead of merely bruising or spraining it.

Poking around, squeezing here and there and trying to figure out just what damage has been done, I find the focus of my discomfort and occasional pain about mid-way between the middle of the palm of my left hand and the heel. There is no pain in the wrist. I can move my fingers without pain for the most part and even make a fist but can feel it if I touch my thumb and my little linger together. It particularly hurts to put linear pressure on my fingers, such as doing a push up on my fingertips. I feel that down in the middle of my hand as well. Looking at an illustration of the bones of the hand I'm guessing that whatever damage I did is pretty close to the base of the 5th or 4th Metacarpal in the Carpus cluster of bones. A compression fracture of some sort?
Of course, there really is nothing to be done about it other than what I have been doing; avoid using it to give it a chance to heal.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Holiday Tree

There rests in the lobby a sign from the Salvation Army for a Christmas toy collection drive. Some smart person at The Bank, realizing that The Bank has policies and the Federal Government has laws against religious discrimination in the workplace, thoughtfully replaced instances of the word 'Christmas' in the Salvation army's sign with the more neutral 'Holiday,' completely missing the irony and hypocrisy of this edited sign standing right next to a 15 foot tall Christmas tree dominating the lobby.

Yes, the tree was originally a Pagan symbol, but the tree has been appropriated by the Christians, is put up by Christians and is almost universally called a Christmas tree for five centuries. It's an overly Christian symbol at this time of year dominated by Christians. Calling it a 'holiday tree' will not make it otherwise, in the same way that editing the Salvation Army's sign changes the nature of what they do.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Driving away

Last year's car inspection was a pain in the ass because some ongoing issue with the computer resetting, necessitating that I take time off of work to came back the next day. Expecting that in advance, I took the day off so that I could would not be surprised. And besides, I need to spend PTO before the end of the year.

The computer behaved but plenty of other things neded to be taken care of. New exhaust system and muffler. New front brakes and rotors. Total that up with the inspection itself, throw in some wiper blades, load up the labor and taxes and the total came to $716.54.

I have nearly 165,000 miles on my '97 Honda Civic. Is it time to start counting costs of maintenance and balancing those against those of obtaining a new (or used) replacement vehicle?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Water over the bridge

A neighboring coworker who seems to think highly of my depth of knowledge and intellectualism, asked what I thought of the latest news of the CIA having destroyed interrogation tapes.

I responded that it was a load of horseshit. That they had destroyed the tapes ostensively to protect the identities of interrogators but what they were really doing was covering up illegal torture. A former CIA agent had even come forward yesterday to say that he was in those tapes waterboarding detainees and he now thought it was wrong to have done so.

From behind me, one of the Red State cubicle residents started ranting that waterboarding wasn't torture. There was no danger to the interrogated and it was all psychological. He claimed to have been waterboarded himself and it wasn't a big deal.

I ignored him until my phone rang and then I tried to focus my attention on the Help Desk call while we continued his spew. Eventually he tired of talking to the back of my head and went back to reading the latest book from wingnut Glenn Beck.

I'm not going to waste my time on this coworker. My first thought is if his claim of being in Military Intelligence in Iraq is true, why are you a wage slave at $12 an hour at a bank help desk? If you were really waterboarded you, no doubt, were subjected to this by your comrades who, at the first sign of discomfort, would stop. You weren't strapped down and in fear of being drowned by people who hate you and are screaming at you that, given the choice, they would jut put a bullet in your head.

That's torture. It's not merely uncomfortable. It's abject terror and it's illegal and wrong.

And guess what. . . the US said so. In 1947, the United States prosecuted a Japanese military officer, for carrying out a form of waterboarding on a U.S. civilian during World War II. American soldiers photographed waterboarding Viet Cong prisoners in 1968 were courtmarshaled. In 2005, the Department of State formally recognized "submersion of the head in water" as torture in its examination of Tunisia's poor human rights record. The U.S. is a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Torture and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which explicitly probibit torture under any condition. The U.S. is a signatory to the Geneva Convention which clearly spells out the way prisoners are to be treated. The Eighth Amendment of our Constitution prohibits "cruel and unusual punishment."

The Bush Administration has violated all of these. By definition, what they have done in secretly authorizing these so-called "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" are war crimes. They are crimes against these individuals. They are crimes against the laws they swore to "preserve and defend." They are crimes against humanity. They are crimes against reason and justice and all the things that we as Americans should hold sacred. They are monsters. They are the new Inquisitors. They are all that we were told was evil in the world.

They are not Americans.

And you, fucktard ranting to the back of my head, justifying their actions. . . you are and embarrassment to humanity.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Treated like dirt.

I received a call from a user that was reporting their system slow. I asked about whether it was everything or just when she was connecting to network resources. She said it was network resources and when I pinged her workstation I indeed saw some network slowness. Nothing spectacular but it was there. I asked if it was just her or if other people were having problems as well. She asked a coworker and they were slow as well.

I opened a ticket with the following text:


The ticket went up to support and was set back to the Help Desk with the following comments from the tech:
You asked "who made the call"? It was me. My name is right there at the top. See?

"Who determined this?" It was ME and I used a ping. See? The ping shows that the network is slow.

"What are the symptoms?" There it is right there; the systems are slow. Slow performance with a higher ping time are symptoms that tend to indicate something to do with the network.

"Whole site or just one user?" First line says "multiple users." Can't you fucking read?

"Who researched this to determine it was a network problem?" It was ME, you frelling halfwit! It's all right there! Arrogant moron, open your eyes!

This support person was so upset that someone at the Help Desk would DARE to come to some sort of troubleshooting conclusion that they completely forgot what they had just read. And they put this ignorance into the ticket for everyone to see.

So, I took it up the the Site Manager for him to see what sort of idiots they take us for. I told him that I don't have to stand for this sort of childish, belittling and bullying treatment. I'm a professional and I deserve to be treated as one.

We'll see if anything comes of that.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Deadlands RPG Session Two

From: Mr. Zebulon Pike, Eastwood Ridge, Dakota Territory
To: Mrs. Hannilore West, Kingsport, Mass.
July 1878

Dearest Sister

After the “Dread Tree Incident”, it had been decided by our somewhat haphazard assemblage that we would wait the day or two until the expected arrival of the area's marshal. There had been a series of gruesome murders that would need to be explained to authorities. Since the truth would most assuredly not be believed, it was also agreed that we would describe everything as having happened exactly as it had occurred with the substitution of “bandits” for “ambulatory demonic tree” and “the walking dead.”

And even though the townspeople had received this edited version of events, the “bandits” were still at large and the town had apparently had enough of the killings. They spent the day preparing to abandon their homes. We took the time to investigate the homes of those that had been murdered in recent days. For many of my comrades, it was much a matter of sanctioned looting. The townspeople had already gone through many of the homes and recovered what useful items they could before their own abandonment. Mr. Tobin found a workable shotgun and employed my technical skills in shortening the barrel and stock to add a shotgun pistol to his weighty arsenal.

The cut-away barrel and Mr. Tobin's flaming distillate has given me an idea for a device for my own protection. Zebulon Pike's LeMat Revolver. It features nine .44 caliber rounds in the cylinder and a single shot 16-gauge shotgun under the primary barrel.While my pistol is certainly effective and I am not unskilled in its employment, there are many situations where a pistol's use may be restricted or obviated altogether. There are establishments and entire towns even here on the frontier that require one to check all firearms before entering. I doubt that people such as Mr. Tobin will abandon all their protections and so it seems logical that I also should have such a camouflaged holdout for myself.

Though I know you have a keen interest in the sciences, I will not go into details at this time as I am only in the early formulation of the idea myself. Suffice it to say that it will be an incendiary projector and, should my chemical formulation balance out, this device should be overwhelming in it's effect so as to end hostilities immediately.

As nightfall approached there were signs of a fire quite a distance outside of town. The tavern keeper indicated that “Zeke” lived out that way and since none of the townspeople were interested in investigating so our happy band mounted our horses and set out.

Zeke's home was fully engaged by the time we arrived and the Marshal and his two deputies were on site. It seemed a suspicious coincidence but, as the Marshal was the law in these parts, I suppressed my initial skepticism in favor of a more civilized expectation. As might be expected, the Marshal found us dubious as well and we explained the events of the previous days (as we had agreed). He didn't seem overly concerned with a troop of bandits having murdered a dozen townspeople in the past weeks. My suspicions were elevated.

His two deputies were left at the homestead where it was feared that the body of the unfortunate Zeke was still within the conflagration. We returned to town and were witness to a strange interaction between the Marshal and the tavern keeper. The Marshal, a relative of the tavern keeper, revealed himself to be quite the bully and he was irate with the tavern keeper's decision to pack up and leave.

It was past midnight when the deputies came riding noisily into town. Mr. Bonjiovi and I realized that Mr. Chenshaw and Mr. Tobin were not in the house and instantaneously concluded that they had gone off and done something precipitous. When the Marshal and deputies rode out of town, we collected our horses and followed at a discrete distance.

There was another fire. I guessed that Mr. Tobin had gathered combustables that had not been burned on the previous night and set another bnlaze to draw the Marshal's attention and provide some light for the gunfight I expected him to be initiating. Before coming upon the entirety of that situation, Mr. Bonjiovi and I discovered one of the deputy's horses tied to some brush behind a low rise. Having read von Clauswitz does not make me a tactician but I clearly deduced that one of them was likely to have taken up a firing position on that hill. As we dismounted, my expectation was confirmed as there was a rifle shot from there. We advanced stealthily in an effort to ambush him.

Then there were a pair of shots from the homestead; a report that I recognized as one of Mr. Tobin's Walker pistols immediately followed by a shotgun blast. There was another rifle shot over our heads and I assumed that it was Mr. Pace firing at the deputy on the hill. That suspicion was confirmed when the deputy came upon us heading headlong down the hill.

Mr. Bonjiovi assaulted and disarmed him and as he was restrained be began babbling incoherently, his speech impediment a direct result of his deafness. (I apologize for not having mentioned this fact earlier.) He seemed genuinely scared and mostly harmless in this state so I handed him a piece of paper and a pen in hopes that he could make clear his attempts at communication. It was difficult to see in the starlight but I could make out a drawing of a knife and a star. This, and his wild gesticulations, lead us to confirm our suspicions that the Marshal had stabbed Zeke for some reason and subsequently burned the house to conceal his crime.

Another drawing of a horse indicated that the deputy wished to be allowed to escape. And to that end he pulled from his saddlebags an item for each of us. Heavy and about the size of a pack of playing cards, even in the dark it had the faint glitter of gold. For this bribe, we would allow him to escape.

It was Mr. Bonjiovi who traded the bar back to the deputy and then claimed the saddlebags. The change in the deal was apparently acceptable to the deputy who rightly feared for his life and fled with his single bar leaving us with a total of five bars.

By the time that Mr. Tobin and Mr. Pace had joined us, Mr. Bonjiovi and I had divided the bars with a pair for each of us and the one handed to me to share with the others as the bribe we had accepted to allow the deputy's escape. Mr. Tobin had another bar and, given that I estimated the value of each bar at around five-hundred dollars, there were not many questions. I admit to a certain. . . discomfort in how easily I fell into this deception. It is a weak justification that Mr. Tobin, in looting the abandoned homes had probably acquired some items of value that had not been shared and it was entirely possible that he had found additional bars of gold. It seems unlikely that the deputy would have all the gold save the one that Mr. Tobin found lying about.

We may never know the full story of the dispute but Mr. Tobin had suspected that the dispute had been over something of value and that the deputies had been left behind to guard whatever it was. He had gone out in the night, determined that that gold was the root of this evil and sent the deputies back into town to draw the Marshal out. The Marshal obliged and was killed when Mr. Tobin, defying all reason and probability, outdrew the Marshal's already drawn gun and killed him. The other deputy shot the falling Marshal in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to ingratiate himself to to Mr. Tobin and was himself subsequently killed.

So, dear sister, as I close this letter you will surely have realized that this weighty package contains more than just my correspondence. The enclosed will more than compensate you for the cash that you advanced me for my passage westward and also lessen the stress caused by my brother-in-law's incharitability. If you do not already have for yourself a trustworthy financial advisor, I suggest calling on Mr. Freeman at his business on Bedford Street near the Green in Boston. He will remember my service in averting damage to his establishment in the fire of '72 and will extend to you every courtesy.

With deepest affection,


Blooming flowers of hate

I had the following text message delivered to my phone:
(Hey it's Catalina)
Let one thousand flowers bloom
Below the Radar Equity is UTEC Inc (nanotech play), lookup UTEI thats their symbol
Dec 9, 3.24 am

Spam. I'm now getting SMS Text Spam. And what is worse is it is costing me 15 cents. So much other spam has more nebulous costs but a text message to my phone is itemized on my phone bill at 15 cents a pop.

So, what's to be done? Well, first is to contact Verizon and see if I can get them to take the charge off my bill because this message was unsolicited and I consider it a theft of service. Next, because I don't think Verizon will be sympathetic because they make money off of each message no matter who sends it, is to have SMS disabled for my phone. I never send or receive text messages from anyone so why should I open myself to someone else making me pay for a service I don't use?

I don't expect that to work. An online article I found indicates that Verizon "does not have the capability" to turn off texting.

Next is to send a bill to The Royal Bank of Canada, owners of Oh, it's possible that the address is spoofed but when spoofing, phishers usually have a link that will take you somewhere other than the address you see on the screen. In this case, the text message came from a financial institution offering, albeit in broken English, financial advice.

I doubt that this will work either. My expectation is that the Royal Bank of Canada will deny all knowledge of this behavior.

after that, well, I suppose I just have to suffer or abandon the technology of cell phones altogether.

Thanks, Catalina. Bitch.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Barbarians Through the Gates

On Wednesday, my daily commute again took me along the Eliza Furnace Trail. At 6am my tracks were the only ones in the freshly fallen snow. My commute home showed many tracks, both pedestrian and bicycle. However, the Thursday morning brought a new set of tracks; those of automobiles.

The picture shows the access to the trail at the Swineborne Street parking area. The track in the snow clearly shows a set of tire tracks going around the gate and continuing onto the trail. The gate itself was broken a long time ago and so cannot be secured closed but there is sufficient space on either side of the gate for vehicles to pass.

Out of frame to the right there is another gated access to the trail. That gate is also open and the snow shows tire tracks that appear to be from a different vehicle.

The tracks continued to the ramp to the newly refurbished Hot Metal Bridge where the vehicle apparently backed up and then went around the ramps continuing on to Bates Street.

At Bates Street there are more tracks which show a vehicle (and the tracks look like those at the Hot Metal Bridge) either turning around at the “intersection” or exiting and later reentering the trail.

The tracks do not continue down the trail towards the 2nd Avenue Parking Lot.

Over my years of bicycle commuting on the Eliza Furnace trail I have occasionally encountered automobiles on the trail. I had always assumed that they had merely taken a wrong turn (or rather, two or three wrong turns and then missed the gates) or that they were construction or maintenance vehicles. However, even for construction vehicles I'm not sure my assumptions are correct.

Over the past year with construction ongoing on the Hot Metal Bridge, there was a white sedan with a hazard light on the top that would occasionally pass me on the trail in the morning on what I would assume was business having to do with either the bridge or the ongoing concrete repair along the Parkway (the trailers of which are under the Birmingham Bridge, another access point to the trail.) Since I would not later pass that vehicle parked on the trail he was clearly not on the trail to do something specific but was inappropriately using the trail as a throughway.

With at least two vehicles using the trail over a single night, it suggests the very real possibility that the trail is being used regularly by vehicles, this has likely been going on for years and that the snow has merely provided tangible evidence of this use.

This is unacceptable and the solution is simple; the gates at the various entrances to the trail must be repaired and improved.

At the Swineborne Street parking lot, the one gate has sufficient space on either side for vehicles to circumvent the gate, even if it were repaired, closed and secured. The other gate needs to be closed and secured.

At Bates Street the large rock that once blocked vehicle access to the trail has been moved aside. It either needs to be returned to its original location or a gate must be installed.

The two gates at the end of the 2nd Avenue parking lot need to be closed and secured.

To that end, I have sent a letter to the Mayor's office. We'll see how they respond.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Too late

A user calls with a remote access issue. He had had a problem last week and on Thursday support installed the latest remote access client on his machine. Tested it OK at the office and sent him on his way. Well, it didn't work for him at home and he's calling back. I worked on some troubleshooting and, based on what I saw in the previous ticket I thought that his real problem was that he was using a slow dialup connection. I didn't think support was going to be able to do anything about that but I'd open a ticket to try.

Now, here's the kicker. . . he MUST have this resolved by noon.

Considering that it was 11:54, I told him I would escalate the issue's severity but pretty much assured him that his issue was not going to be addressed, let alone resolved, in the next six minutes.

That apparently wasn't acceptable because what he needed to do was so terribly important. He demanded to be put in contact with the Command Center. I called the Command Center and before conferencing in the user explained to the person there that he demanded to be put in touch with them. Because what he needed to do was server related, I thought that perhaps he wanted the Command Center (who's responsibility is to the servers themselves) to do something on his behalf because his remote access was down but I also explained that I thought that he just wanted his issue resolved and thought the Command Center had power proportionate to it's name that could make it happen. The tech at the Command Center thought the user was going to be disappointed.

Sure enough, when the user spoke to the Command Center and told his story, the Command Center had to say that it wasn't their responsibility to resolve remote access issues. It was the Help Desk's job.

That sorted itself with surprising rapidity and his ticket was actually submitted with four minutes left before his deadline.

So, let me get this straight. . . you had seven days, (over ten thousand minutes) available since the problem you had was supposedly resolved and waited until the 10 minutes before your vital deadline to actually test to see whether that was actually true? And then you expect support to resolve the issue, not just quickly, but instantaneously! Are you stupid or just lazy?

Well, his high severity ticket was reduced to a more normal severity level when support got around to it an hour later. In lowering the severity they indicated that he didn't deserve the high severity because he wasn't executive staff.

An hour after they support contacted him and confirmed that his problem was that he was using a crappy connection from a slow internet service provider.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Here's looking at you

I had a optometrist appointment, my first in three years or so. After getting through the circus of sorting through insurance (one of the reasons I don't go to appointments more regularly) the exam went smoothly and I learned that my prescription hasn't change in eight years. Apparently a record for the office.

Even though the insurance I carry entitles me to new glasses every year, I chose not to get a new pair because my prescription hadn't changed and I like the glasses I have. Not the style, particularly, but the material.

You see, my sweat is pretty corrosive and previous glasses were destroyed. Paint flakes off very quickly. The metal in the arms would be pitted and weakened. Brass screws would either freeze up completely or break off. Finally, I got a pair made of titanium. The coating has been eaten off but the bare metal is still in perfect condition. And since the lenses are still in good shape, I'll stick with what I have.

But there's a part of me that thinks that I've worn the same style of glasses since I first got glasses 30 years ago. Maybe I should try something new.

Well, maybe when my prescription changes or these glasses get busted.

Happy Freak'n Holidays


If I must have a holiday tree in my house for the sake of so-called "tradition," can I at least have something cool like this? Please?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

the sound of one hand typing

wednesday was a big day for me. firstly, i took the day off so that i could attend the official opening of the hot metal bridge. i went downtown early so i could stop at the broadway army-navy store and buy a new neoprene face mask and headband for cold weather bike riding. somehow i had lost my previous set. it's around the house somewhere, i'm sure.

the event was terrific. estimates say that there were 500 people, which is important politically in convincing officials that these bike routes are important to people.

wednesday evening i was back to the south side to attend a talk and slide show on the c and o canal. crossing the street i hit a handicap ramp wrong and fell, jamming my wrist.

i spent all of thursday trying not to use it but trying to keep up at work is pretty much impossible to do one handed. quadruple dosing on ibuprofen is not an acceptable pain-killing option.

friday wasn't much better so i left mid-way through the day to maximize my not using my hand for the weekend.

my wrist doesn't hurt if i don't use it. well, perhaps a slight ache. it's a little swollen but i have almost full flexibility. even flexing my hand doesn't hurt much, it was the regular usage necessary to work that was painful. i don't think i broke it and, even if i did crack something, there's little a doctor could say in this case besides immobilize and don't use it. i'm doing that already so i can save myself an insurance deductible.

typing one handed sucks, though.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Spaghetti Traffic

I came across some pictures of the renovations of Interstate 95 in Maryland and am appalled. The driver in me that despises being stuck in traffic can understand the perceived necessity of adding new roads to better facilitate traffic flow into and out of Washington and Baltimore but the cyclist in me looks at this monstrosity and wonders if the madness will ever end.

Here is what the interchange of I-95 and I-695 looks like now: And this is what it will look like after they add ramps for express toll lanes get added to the mix: My mind is visibly boggled. Can't we find a way for people to get from one place to another without destroying everything in their path?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Now everything you eat can taste like bacon.
Bacon Salt!

Monday, November 19, 2007

Proxy snark

Last week, I received a password call. Normally a simple enough thing but in this case the user was part of the Audit Department. Being Audit, these users have a higher security level than we do and so we cannot access their profiles to verify their identities or change certain passwords. The procedure is for us to call Data Security and have them address the issue.

On this call, the person at Data Security said "You know you can do these, right?" and directed me towards something labeled as an Emergency Password Reset Procedure. This was for off-hours and weekends when the Data Security Department wasn't staffed and was a back door around security.

I countered that the first page of the documentation indicated that during business hours we were to direct calls to Data Security. She resisted, saying that the workaround was available anytime but did the password reset anyway.

Afterwards, I sent a message to the Site Manager:

"Even though she did the password reset, she indicated that we can user the "emergency" procedures any time. I suspect that Data Security simply doesn't want to be bothered with these calls. (That, and they always take at least half a dozen rings and one rollover for anyone at Data Security to answer the phone.)

If Data Security wants the Emergency Reset Procedures to be standard
procedure, they should contact the Help Desk and authorize that change. If that is the case and they are authorizing us to bypass the access levels for audit all the time then it makes sense that we shouldn't be a lower access level than audit. Pointing that out to them will probably have them change their minds about making the Emergency Reset Procedures the new standard."

To my surprise, the Site Manager forwarded my comments in the entirety, snarkiness and all, to the head of the Data Security Department.

I wonder ho well that's going to go over.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

You must be this smart. . .

This Blog's Reading Level: College

UPDATE: (9 December 2007) When I originally posted this link, I realized that the ALT tag had something of a redirect that was an advertisement and I simply stripped it out of the code. This article reveled that it was more sinister than that in that they could at any time change the image itself to become an advertisement and that the link could also be changed.

So, I saved a copy of the image and loaded it up on my own dime. If you click on the link to calculate your own blog's reading level (and I'm a bit suspicious as to it's accuracy anyway) do the same.

Bad Sectors

On of my Windows drives may be dying at an accelerating rate. Last week I had some issues with it not responding properly and my loosing some files. I performed a scandisk and re-installed the mapping software I had on the drive but I'm having problems yet again. Another scandisk lost several more bad sectors.

Yet another reason to migrate to Ubuntu. Unfortunately, the mapping software that runs on Windows, National Geographic Topo, does not run under Crossover on Linux.

Deadlands RPG Game Session One

From: Mr. Zebulon Pike
To: Mrs. Hannilore West, Kingsport, Mass.
July 1878

Dearest sister,

I will first apologize for the lateness of this correspondence. Having left the silver rail of civilization, I have also left the somewhat more regular channels of communication. I will endeavor to continue in my regular writings and will send them as the opportunity becomes available.

I had late this afternoon arrived at the prairie town of Eastwood Ridge, an interesting moniker in that it is not particularly east of anywhere, there are no woods nor is it located in proximity to a ridge. It was also strange that at the still early hour, there was absolutely no activity. Like those puritanical communities that "roll up the streets at night," all the shops and houses were shuttered, barred and locked. That is, except for a pair of horses tied up at the town's drinking establishment. By a remarkable coincidence, the horses belonged to two gentlemen that I had met at the station some weeks ago.

The first was one Mr. Don Bongiovi, apparently a former cavalry officer (though for which army I could not determine) who was continuously strumming upon a well-worn guitar. Even when conversing, he would play upon his instrument to accentuate certain points, much like an orchestra would accompany and operatic performance, though singularly more pedestrian.

The other occupant of the tavern was another former soldier, one Mr. Ezekiel Tobin. My first encounter with Mr. Tobin was his asking me, entirely without provocation, as to whether I had ever met or heard of a certain man. Given his demeanor and the armory he carried I had the distinct impression that Mr. Tobin had some deadly unfinished business with this mystery man. It also seemed that Mr. Tobin had received the worst of it so far as he drank heavily and had raspy cough.

The taverns proprietor made an appearance and we learned what had the town closed up so tight. There had been a series of horrible assaults and murders in recent weeks. Homes would be broken into and the occupants would be dragged out of town to be hung en-masse from the so-called hang'n tree a mile outside of town. Several posses had been formed to seek out these marauders but many of them had not returned. Out of fear, the proprietor said.

The coincidences piled one upon the other when Mr. Alexander Pace, who I mentioned in my last letter, also arrived in town. Quite spontaneously we all took action to investigate this situation. Mr. Tobin and I took the horses to the livery, Mr. Tobin having to be exceptionally persuasive to get the stable attend to unbar the door and take in the horses. Mr. Pace took up a position on the roof of the tavern while I and the others were at the one end of town in the house that had been most recently assaulted.

After midnight, there was a gunshot from the tavern and while both Mr. Tobin and Mr. Bonjiovi had earlier exhibited selfish tendencies, they both showed good character in immediately moving out into the street to lend assistance.

Up the street, the unfortunate tavern keeps was being dragged away by a shadowy assemblage of assailants. And while Mr. Pace and Mr. Tobin each dispatched several of the brigands with rifle shots, others set upon the tavern keeper and continued towards the edge of town, still intent on hanging this man even though several of their own had been killed.

Now, dear sister, I must stress upon you at this point not to pass on what I am about to replay to you to any others, most especially not your husband. His opinion of myself is already at an ebb tide and I would not want to fuel his disdain.

As the others continued their pursuit of the attackers, I paused to investigate the bodies as, even at a distance in the dark of night, they seemed unusual. They were corpses. Not for having been just shot but the cold, deep lifelessness of having been deceased for day or even weeks. Their spines had been broken and the heads swung loose on only the muscle and tissue of their necks. It came upon me the dread realization that these people were the victims of the previous week's lynchings and after having been dressed in their best clothes and respectfully laid to rest by their neighbors, they had risen from their graved to reap some unknown revenge.

When I caught up with the others, they were locked in battle. The hanging tree was not a mile outside of town, it was right at it's edge, and by some dark arcanum was ambulatory, having literally pulled itself from the ground to advance upon our group with malevolent waving of limbs and ropes, like tentacles, reaching out. Mr. Bongiovi had cut one such rope from around the tavern keeper's neck and was fighting off additional ropes while Mr. Tobin repeatedly fired rifle rounds into the apparently unaffected trunk. Mr Pace was nowhere to be seen, having gone back to the stables to recover the horses to accelerate our pursuit. He can easily be forgiven for missing out on the fight, not realizing that the tree had come to us.

I am quite pleased with my steadfast comportment under the deadly assault from otherworldly horrors. Lesser men might have fled or be struck dumbfounded but I set upon the task with purpose and fortitude. I drew forth one of the sticks of dynamite that I had purchased on a whim in Chicago. I had placed two stick in the pocket of my jacket earlier in what I had thought at the time as being somewhat overly paranoid. The first stick hurled at the tree with a short fuse exploded with little more effect than to make the monster "angry" and advance upon me with surprising swiftness, that is, for a tree. The second stick landed in the boughs and hurt it more significantly but it set upon me with enchanted ropes and threatened to throttle me were I not to escape in short order.

That monstrosity of a pistol you had insisted I take with me was drawn from a pocket and fired at close range, severing the rope that had attached itself to my leg. Meanwhile, Mr. Tobin had set on the ingenious idea of taking one of his whiskey bottles and, with his handkerchief inserted in the bottle and set alight, he threw the improvised incendiary at the tree. This slower burning weapon was much more effective than the explosive effect of the dynamite I had thrown and in short order the tree was fully ablaze. (I must make myself something similar for future use.) The walking dead who had been under the tree's evil influence collapsed, signaling the end of its power.

So, the rumors are true. Strange things are moving out on the frontier and I was right to travel here to investigate. And while little would please me more than to reveal this revelation to your husband and his cadre of doubters, there is not yet enough proof. I will show them, though. I will show them all.

This chance meeting of four travelers in the wilds and our subsequent adventure, did I not know better, might have me believe that divine providence had taken a hand. And even though it is the most suspicious of coincidences, I have nonetheless taken the opportunity to throw in with them. Their "type" seems the sort to invite adventures of the preternatural sort and since research of such things was, again, my initial goal, I will continue to travel with them.

Do not fear if my letters do not come with as much swiftness as they had previously. The vast distances of the frontier make such correspondences unlikely. But I will continue to write regularly and post the letters as a group when such opportunities present themselves. Give my warmest regards to your sister-in-law and my continued disdain to your husband.

Your most loving brother,


Friday, November 16, 2007

When someone asks if you are a god. . .

I received a call from a user today who was having problem after problem with her passwords. The short explanation after half an hour of troubleshooting is that she is part of a pilot program that has Call Center employees working from home with a special version of remote access running. This somehow links ther logins in such a way that if their Windows and Remote Access password do not match, then the login will fail. Here problems had been that she would have a problem with her Windows password, the Help Desk would reset that but she'd call back a few minutes later with a Remote Access password issue. The Help Desk would reset that but then her Windows password wouldn't work.

As I said, I spent half an hour working out a procedure that ultimately involved the Help Desk setting her Windows password to what she told the Help Desk she wanted it to be and then having her synch up her Remote Access password.

She was overjoyed that her weeks of problems on and off had (at lest, we think so) had been solved by me. She had called previously and I had worked with her on an issue on the same day she had been working with the personal issues of a death in the family. She was so grateful then and was so grateful now that she called me "a Help Desk god."

If I played by the rules and never went over the recommended 7 minute talk time, these issues would never be solved. It is my independence and refusal to conform to arbitrary rules that allow me to solve real problems. And in this issue, there are three:

1) There are only about a dozen people in this pilot program so if they call the Help Desk do not make it known to the analyst that they are Call Center Remote Access users, their password reset will fail because the analyst will assume they need the same sort of passwords that the thousands of other users need.

2) The analysts need to be informed of this procedure. If they don't do it correctly, the reset will fail.

3) Support needs to get on the ball and fix the application. This procedure has the inherently insecure procedure of the Help Desk knowing what password the user has chosen. While we really don't care and probably couldn't do anything with it anyway, it is still a security issue that must be resolved.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Severe Policies

Earlier this month, Management instituted a policy that Severity 1 tickets (issues of the highest importance) were no longer to be opened. Analysts were to open lower severity tickets and then notify the Function Desk. Why? Because too many analysts were opening high severity tickets incorrectly. So, instead of TRAINING people to do it right, they create a more convoluted procedure that is even MORE likely to be done incorrectly.

And so, today I had to pick up the pieces. A user called to report that all the phones for an entire building were down. A ticket was opened that should have been a Severity 1 issue. It was opened at the lower severity, as directed, but a bunch of other things were screwed up.

Fifteen minutes later, a Senior Vice President calls and asks me what's going on.


The ticket had not been assigned. It had not been updated. The severity had not been raised. Nothing. This is an entire building down. People with deadline. People have to communicate with the Federal Trade Commission. People who need to move money. So, I updated the ticket and went up to the Function Desk to find out what was going on. The excuse was that they couldn't get into the ticket because I had been in it.

"Not for the past 15 minutes!"

In the end it took a full half an hour for the ticket to be assigned.

When the Site Manager came back on the floor, I took a few minutes to rant at him. "I know why you took away Sev 1 tickets. It's because people were screwing it up. But you don't solve that problem with another procedure they're going to screw up, you do it by training people how to do it right. Now, I know you don't want me as a trainer anymore but you have to find someone to do this shit."

He had a look on his face like he was surprised to find out that I wasn't wanted as a trainer. Apparently, the Service Delivery Manager hadn't passed on the contents of our last conversation.

"In any case, there is no reason for it to take half an hour for a ticket like this to be assigned. This procedure has failed on EVERY level and I'm getting sick of cleaning up this sort of crap because of sucky training. If you find someone who can do training better than me, fine. Do it. But get someone training people how to do this right or we're going to get burned."

Apparently, I ruffled some feathers because latter the Problem Manager, the guy who covers the Function Desk, came over to tell me I didn't know what was going on behind the scenes. That they were on the phone trying to contact people while I was in the ticket.

"I didn't know what was going on because there wasn't anything in the ticket. That's what the ticket is for. To keep track of what's going on so that when Executive Staff calls asking what the hell is going on we don't have to say, 'Nothing' or 'I don't know.'"

He tried grilling me about the specifics of why it was a Severity 1 issue and when I said "communicating with the Federal Trade Commission isn't enough?" he chided me for not stating that in the ticket.

"I didn't open the ticket. Someone else screwed that up and I'm just trying to clean up the mess while Executive Staff is asking why nothing's been done with her issue."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


There are times that I react to things without realizing what they are. As when Team Lead D and half a dozen of hos co-conspirators were fired and I, hidden behind my cubicle walls, could sense that something was going on outside my sight. I had a similar response today. I don't know if users were particularly stupid or if I simply had a harder time moderating my response, but I was in a bad mood all day and I didn't know why. Only at the end of the day did I realize what was really going on.

While I was droning away in my cubicle hell, the elves came out while I wasn't looking and set up Christmas in the lobby.

I suppose Thanksgiving isn't even a holiday anymore as we've skipped right from Halloween to Christmas. Even in the stores, they seem to have given up on Thanksgiving altogether.

41 days, 5 hours, 40 minutes.

The Creation Museum

Hugo nominated author John Scalzi vowed that he would never visit the Creation Museum. His readers, however, dared him to go, bribed him with a lot of money, and he has thus created the following review:

"Here’s how to understand the Creation Museum:

Imagine, if you will, a load of horseshit. And we’re not talking just your average load of horseshit; no, we’re talking colossal load of horsehit. An epic load of horseshit. The kind of load of horseshit that has accreted over decades and has developed its own sort of ecosystem, from the flyblown chunks at the perimeter, down into the heated and decomposing center, generating explosive levels of methane as bacteria feast merrily on vintage, liquified crap. This is a Herculean load of horseshit, friends, the likes of which has not been seen since the days of Augeas.

And you look at it and you say, “Wow, what a load of horseshit."

Read the rest of his review at

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Ubuntu Ascending

I've solved the issues I had several weeks ago with my iPod and USB drive and appreciate Ubuntu for it. Having had difficulties getting both Win98 and Ubuntu to recognize these devices I pulled up Ubuntu's system log. Helpfully, the log suggested an issue with the USB cable. I worked out with my desktop machine that the issue was with the unit's USB port. Using a different port solved those problems.

I had a similar problem with getting my iPod to also be seen by my laptop. Using a different USB port also solved that issue. For some reason the iPod prefers to use the upper port rather than the lower one, even though the port itself is fine and other devices work on that port without issue.

I've installed Crossover from, an application that uses Wine to run Windows applications on Linux. The application I want most to run, National Geographic TOPO, doesn't work, unfortunately. Autostitch works. GSAK fails when you first start it but then works.

I have had an ongoing issue with connecting to the wireless AP at Carnegie Library in Squirrel Hill. A week or so ago, I was at the library in Carnegie and was able to connect without issue. Today, I am now able to connect at the Squirrel Hill library (I'm posting from there now) so I imagine that my update to Gutsy Gibbon had something to do with that.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Total Appreciation = $28.88.

Today's Employee Appreciation prize was a Timberline Colorado fleece blanket (50" x 60" with heavyweight nylon stadium carrying strap and imprinted with The Bank logo). They spent all of $8 for it. Ooooh. Ahhhhh.

Actually, it's the first thing all week that I find actually useful. Well, besides the food.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Total Appreciation = $20.88

We received an email from The Bank to the IT Department (of which we are nominally a part):

"By now you've received the first of several tokens of our appreciation for the hard work and dedication you've shown throughout the year. On Monday we celebrated the tremendous effort by our entire team around The Integration, the largest and most complicated integration in The Bank's history. Please enjoy the other events throughout the week and know that none of this success could have been accomplished without IT's greatest asset, our employees! Watch for a surprise on Thursday as the week draws to a close."

Surprise! Today's addition to Employee Appreciation Week was a certificate thanking me for all my "hard work and dedication." Ooooh. Ahhhh.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Total Appreciation = $20.61

The Operations Manager sent out this message:

Hello Team -

In continuation of "Employee Appreciation Week", we have a CAKE for your enjoyment. Please feel free to stop over to get a piece. (It is located next to my cube.)

Again, thank you for all your "Hard Work" and "Dedication".

Why is "Hard Work" and "Dedication" in quotes? Is it the ironic or snarky usage of quotes meant to imply that we are not working hard or are not dedicated? And while that may or may not be true, it's not particularly professional for Help Desk Management to state it this way. It makes me think that they really don't "appreciate" what we do. But, in all honesty, I just think that the Operations Manager is clueless when it comes to corporate communications.

In response, an analyst commented:

"Now, Milton, pass the plates around so everyone gets a piece, ok?. . . JUST DO IT!"

Referencing the scene in "Office Space" when the long oppressed Milton passes cake around to all his coworkers to find that the pieces have run out when it's turn for his piece. There is certainly irony in this as yesterday those who weren't first in line to get "Employee Appreciation Sandwiches" were left out. There was plenty of bread and salad, bowls of condiments and a gallon of salad dressing but not enough meat and cheese.

I sure those hungry employees felt "appreciated".

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Total Appreciation = $18.86

Today's Employee Appreciation Week festivity was lunch. Big bowls of salad, fixin's for sandwiches, chips and cans of pop, served by our management staff. I figure they spent another $8 or so a person on this. Ooooh. Ahhhhh.

They set up tables on the empty side of the floor in an apparent attempt to get us to sit and socialize but the vast majority of people simply grabbed their food and went back to their cubicles.

Monday, November 05, 2007


Remember, remember the fifth of November

"Happy Counterterrorism Day" by Scott Horton.

"Special Comment: George Bush’s Criminal Conspiracy of Torture" by Keith Olbermann.

Total Appreciation = $10.56

The first day of Employee Appreciation Week and we have received a Leeds New Connections Dual Compartment Lunch Cooler affixed with The Bank's logo, valued at $10.56. Ooooh. Ahhhhh.

The plastic logo was easily removed so now I have an insulated lunch bag that I will never user to sit next to the three other insulated lunch bags that I have collected over the years and never use.

Saturday, November 03, 2007


It's a mangy bear.

Why do I say that and not agree with the Bigfoot "experts" in saying that it's an "unclassified primate"?

1) Bear spines curve like that, primate backs do not. They are straight. And even when bending over, a primate's back does not curve that much.

2) Bear front and back legs are pretty much the same length, ground primates, like chimps and gorillas, have shorter back legs.

3) Bears are common to Pennsylvania, primates are not. In fact, there is no physical evidence, either contemporary or in the fossil record, that primates have ever lived in Pennsylvania since they first evolved some 34 million years ago.

4) Two bear cubs were photographed by the same camera at the same location 28 minutes earlier. This close association suggests that the mystery animal is not only also a bear but a bear related to the cubs. Perhaps even the bear's mother.

The PA Game Commission agrees in saying that it's a bear. The Bigfoot Field Researcher's Organization debunks the Game Commission's statement by saying that the PGC is wrong when they say there are no mountain lions in Pennsylvania when there actually are. First off, this is not a "debunking", this is an ad hominem argument, saying that someone is wrong about one line of reasoning because they are wrong about a completely different thing.

Taken on it's own merits, the arguments of the Bigfoot enthusiasts simply aren't convincing or even compelling. And that they label the photographs "unclassified primate" instead of "unknown animal" lead me to think that they have already made up their minds as to what they want the creature to be.

That is bad science.

Friday, November 02, 2007


Next week will be Employee Appreciation Week at the Help Desk. On both Monday and Friday, the "business casual" dress code will be relaxed so that employees can wear Steeler black and gold. There will be a free lunch. Free cake. Certificates of appreciation and gifts from several divisions of The Bank in gratitude for all we at the Help Desk did during recent integrations and major rollouts.

Meanwhile, other technicians within The Corporation are having their compensation adjusted. They will no longer be receiving commissions but will have an increase in their base pay. When the dust settles, however, they will be getting three or four dollars an hour less than when they were making commissions.

Now that's some appreciation.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Golden Rule

"These books denigrate Christianity, thrash the Catholic Church and sell the virtues of atheism," said Bill Donohue, president and CEO of the Catholic League.

So quotes a Fox News Online article on the Philip Pullman series of books from which "The Golden Compass" film has been adapted. The raving is that this is some nefarious atheist conspiracy to steal the faith from American children.

I knew there was a reason I wanted to see this film.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hands of Blue

Went to see Blue Man Group last night, my first time ever going to a rock concert. As a drummer myself (high school marching band and continuous foot tapping and leg drumming) the beat was great. I wanted to get on stage to play with the instruments.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Help Desk Quote of the Day

Executive: "Someone who's paid as much as I am shouldn't have to put up with these problems."

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Thanks. Bye.

I was asked by Team Lead R if I could stay to work an extra half-hour. I agreed, whereupon Team Lead R thanked me for my support. . . and then left for the day.

I took 104 calls for the day. He took 3.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Don't bother calling

The Bank has been encouraging employees that need to access systems from home to get the VPN software installed on their home PCs. Using remote desktop, they can then access their PC at work and do all the things they need to do.

For The Bank, it saves them the expense of buying these user's laptops. It also keeps them from spending any money on support. Note the document below that they are required to sign when they choose to use remote access:

In consideration of The Bank’s grant of access to the Remote Access System, you agree to the following:

1. The Bank will provide you with (i) software that will enable your use of the Remote Access System and (ii) documentation explaining how to install such software. The software and documentation are provided to you 'as is,' without any warranties, express or implied.

2. You are solely responsible for the acquisition of all equipment necessary to run the software and use the Remote Access System. The Bank will not be responsible if the software does not run properly on your equipment.

3. You are solely responsible for the acquisition of any services necessary to connect to the Remote Access System, including, without limitation, internet access or telephone dial-up services. The Bank will not provide such services.

4. You are solely responsible for the installation of the software. The Bank will not provide support in the event you have problems with the installation.

5. Your use of the software and the Remote Access System is at your own risk. The Bank will not be responsible if the software or Remote Access System directly or indirectly cause any damage to your equipment or to any other software installed on your equipment. You agree not to file a suit or make any claim against The Bank or otherwise seek damages from The Bank in the event any such damages occur.

6. You agree that you will not use the software or the Remote Access System in a manner that is inconsistent with any provisions of The Bank’s Electronic Media Policy, as set forth in the The Bank's Code of Ethics. This obligation applies whether or not you are an employee of The Bank. You agree to review The Bank’s Electronic Media Policy before using the software or the Remote Access System. The Bank's Electronic Media Policy is accessible via The Bank’s intranet. If you cannot access The Bank’s intranet, it is your responsibility to request a printed copy.

7. You agree that you will not use or install other unlicensed Bank software. Standard desktop products which licensed by The Bank and are also allowed to be installed on a home PC without an additional license are limited to: Lotus Notes, Sametime, and Symantic AntiVirus.

8. In the event any portion of these Terms and Conditions of Use is deemed to be unenforceable in its current form, such portion shall be enforced to the maximum extent permitted by law, and the remainder of these Terms and Conditions of Use shall remain in full force and effect.
So, to sum it up. . . use this software, use only this software but we're not going to help you use it, make sure it works, take any responsibility if it doesn't work or otherwise help you in any way.

Good luck. . . suckers.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Ubuntu Miscellanea

I wanted to upload some more music to my iPod but the gtkpod application wouldn't see my iPod from my laptop where the particular MP3s were. (The CD-R of music I had would not play or rip to MP3 on my desktop but would on my laptop.) Ubuntu would mount the iPod as a volume but the application couldn't see it. When I went to my desktop machine I found that it wouldn't recognize the USB drive that I store all my MP3s on. The Win98 drive plugged into the desktop will see the USB drive without issue but Ubuntu won't anymore. I wonder what might have changed since the last time.

I updated my OS from Feisty Fawn (7.04) to Gutsy Gibbon (7.10) on both machines without any issues whatsoever. That didn't resolve my iPod and USB drive issues, however.

I had some issues with my laptop loosing network connectivity. I still had full bars on the wireless AP but just didn't have the connection. Looking in the system log I saw the system repeatedly trying to get an IP address and failing. I reconnected to the AP, inserted the WEP key and got a good connection that seemed to hold. I suspect that it had to do with the fact that we have two wireless routers. In any case, that issue is resolved.

I uploaded some flickr pictures and discovered that when I use the Gimp graphic editor in Ubuntu, the EXIF data (camera, focal length, shutter speed, date and time, etc) is retained to be uploaded to flickr automatically, whereas when I use the Paint Shop Pro software on my Win98 machine, that information is stripped. Yet another reason for me to migrate to Ubuntu.

That is, if I can solve my iPod and USB drive issues.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


There was evidence that we rodent invaders in the house so the traps went out. Got one on Friday and another one today. I took him out back of the house into the woods to let him go. Those deer mice are kind of cute, when they aren't pooping on the kitchen counter.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Project Pterosaur

This parody site would be hilarious if it didn't hit so close to the truth of the "science" done by IDiots.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Call the helpdesk

It used to be that new branch users underwent training that included how to signon to their systems. Occasionally the passwords they were provided didn't wok and they had to call the Help Desk for a reset but, all in all, passwords were a part of training.

Well, not anymore. User's are sent to their new branches with absolutely no clue how to signon to the machine and what password to use. The mail program is a standard initial default, set to the same thing for everyone, and you would think that at least one trainer out there might know to give that to the users but, no. Nothing. Call the Help Desk.

There are callers who don't know what the time sheet system is. They don't know how to get login screens for various applications. I've even had users call not knowing their login id. They were just told to call the Help Desk.

We are not branch trainers. This is not our job. There are people called trainers who are currently being paid to do this and they are not.I'm sick of picking up their slack.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

World War W

The President: "I’ve told people that if you’re interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from have the knowledge necessary to make a nuculer (sic) weapon."

You're warning us of World War III if we allow Iran to have the KNOWLEDGE of nuclear weapons??? Hell, I have the knowledge necessary to make nuclear weapons. Go to any frelling public library or search the Internet and you can have the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon. Is W going to attack Iran because they know something that's almost public domain?

No, he's going to use that knowledge as AN EXCUSE to attack Iran. He talked about "actionable intelligence" and needing FISA gutted to allow him to get actionable intelligence but really, he doesn't need it. He doesn't even want it. He's got a hard on to attack Iran just like he was jonesing to attack Iraq even before he got himself elected president. He's using the talk of WW3 to scare people into giving him carte blanche again.

I hope it doesn't happen this time. Of course, all of Congress's noise about not giving the president everything he wants really isn't much compared to what the president keeps doing in spite of the noise. I have no doubt that W believes that he can attack Iran at any time and that there's nothing anyone can do to stop him.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Team Lead J: "Geis, I am getting some complaints from other analysts concerning the volume of your voice. It is affecting their ability to hear their own callers. I know we have had this conversation before and I realize it is your natural speaking voice, but please take whatever measures you can to provide a more quiet environment for your neighbors."

So, let me get this straight. . . I report to management that employees and a Team Lead are using bigoted, belittling, sexist and otherwise offensive language and nothing is done about it for two months until someone notices that pornography is also involved and you are censuring me because of the VOLUME of my voice?

Saturday, October 13, 2007


I played paintball today with my sister's family and friends at Riverside Renegades. To put some of this in perspective, I've been playing paintball since about 1985 or 86. Back then, it was Splatmasters, PGPs, no maximum velocities, no organized fields and no full face masks. There was a time when I was playing regularly but that group has moved on and I simply don't have the time or the circle of friends to keep in practice. Even so, I can tell my nephew that I have experience from before he was born so I am something of a legend in that sense.

Today, I had a chance to try my camera. I couldn't mount it on the mask so I ended up strapping it on the side of my gun, an older Spyder Compact. I won't go into all the games, just the video highlights.

We were advancing on a 3-walled fort with the flag. There was at least one defender inside and I had some support up on the hill to keep his head down. The walls of this particular fort (DJ's DMZ) do not reach all the way to the ground so I advanced, almost casually, fired a few round to keep the defender's head down and then. . .

. . . shot his feet out from under him. Oooh, he hated me for that. I grabbed the flag and ran back and then started down the hill. I passed the flag off to one of my younger teammates to get it back to our fort. There were still plenty of defenders to lay down fire and slow his return. I don't know if we won that round or if time ran out.

A later game and we were advancing down the hill towards the enemy's flag in a fully enclosed fort with a floor (Dragon Scales). There were to begin with at least three defenders inside but eventually they were picked off, leaving, I thought, only one. Everyone else was sort of hanging back so I continued past them down the hill, reaching a bunker below the fort without opposition. I then turned and came up from behind.

This fort has an access up through the floor in the back, tricky to get to if someone is watching the back. . .

I popped up through the floor and fired one shot. I then moved around the front, thankfully not taking friendly fire, and took out another defender on the right.

I grabbed the flag and passed it off to one of my younger comrades who had followed me to let him run up the hill. I yelled at him quite a bit to just go up the hill but he insisted on taking the long way. I walked up the middle in full view to see if I could draw any fire and gauge the remaining enemy numbers. I took no fire and eventually the kid got back to our fort and won that game.

Another game found that my gun wasn't working properly. I play with a 4 ounce tank, which isn't a lot of CO2 but it should last for more than one game. I think it was getting too cold from firing and the gas was liquefying. Anyway, with my primary gun out of action almost immediately, I headed towards the exit, which was right past the enemy fort (Jared's). When I reached a ref, I told him that my primary gun was out of air but I wasn't calling myself out. My sidearm, a vintage Sheridan PGP, was still full. I walked right by the fort with paintballs flying past on either side. I hadn't raised my hand to signify I was dead and so any of the enemy would have been well within their rights to shoot me, but they didn't. On the far side, just near the exit, was another fort with a single defender.

Once I walked past him, I set down my useless primary gun, drew my sidearm and fired right at the middle of his back. The gut went off but there was no paintball. He didn't seem to notice so I cocked the gun, stepped up beside him and pressed the barrel of the gun against his arm.

"Do you want to surrender?"

"Aren't you out?"

"That gun is empty. This one isn't. Do you want me to shoot you now?"

He surrendered. A few moments later, three defenders came over from the fort. They moved so casually that I thought they might have been out but the took up defensive positions inside the fort I was in.

I'd like to say it was like shooting fish in a pond but it didn't work that way. I shot one guy in the back but the ball didn't break. I shot the second guy but I don't think a ball dropped into the chamber because I cycled too fast. I shot the third gut in the chest and it broke. My fourth shot went off just at the same time they realized something was terribly wrong and someone shot me in the hand. My ball didn't break so he survived.

I love carrying a sidearm.

Finally, something unrelated to paintball. Buddy, the guy who runs Riverside Renegades is something of an ass. He wears the moniker with pride, I should think. That sort of behavior encourages that sort of behavior and at some point one of my sister's friends whispers to me that he was about to use the term "Buckwheat" before he realized that one of the players on the field was black.

"Not a good thing to say," he said, referring to the circumstances.

"Never a good thing to say. Ever," I responded.

And later, Buddy was going of on one of his rants about women and the trouble they are, and he said, "If I had it to do all over again, I would be a stone faggot." Everyone laughed, my sister, my brother-in-law, my nephew, and everyone else in attendance. I didn't laugh.

Sometimes my family embarrasses me and I wonder how I was able to escape to turn out the way I did.