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.

Cleansed

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

Barrel

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.

Busted

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:

GEIS
NETWORK SLOWNESS/SOMEWHERE
MULTIPLE USERS AT LOCATION REPORTS SYSTEMS SLOW
APPEARS TO BE NETWORK RELATED, NO TIMEOUTS THOUGH

PINGING WORKSTATIONID.BANKDOMAIN.COM [XX.XXX.XXX.XX]
REPLY FROM XX.XXX.XXX.XX: BYTES=32 TIME=113MS
REPLY FROM XX.XXX.XXX.XX: BYTES=32 TIME=150MS
REPLY FROM XX.XXX.XXX.XX: BYTES=32 TIME=274MS
REPLY FROM XX.XXX.XXX.XX: BYTES=32 TIME=60MS
The ticket went up to support and was set back to the Help Desk with the following comments from the tech:
SENDING BACK TO HELPDESK. NOT SURE WHO
MADE THE CALL AS STATED ABOVE "APPEARS TO BE
NETWORK RELATED". WHO DETERMINED THIS? WHAT
ARE THE SYMPTOMS? WHOLE SITE OR JUST ONE USER?
WHO RESEARCHED PROBLEM TO DETERMINE NETWORK
PROBLEM?
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,

Zebulon

Blooming flowers of hate

I had the following text message delivered to my phone:

eqcommittaltoi@actiondirect.com
(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 actiondirect.com. 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

Squidmas


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.