Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Bicycle Love

She really, REALLY loves her bicycle. NSFW and care of Urban Velo.

http://urbanvelo.org/hmm/

Monday, January 28, 2008

Internal

Last night we went out to Rock Bottom at the Waterfront in Homestead. I had wings and the pepperoni and sausage pizza. For three hours or so this morning there was an unpleasant rumbling of gases in my lower intestines. And to make matters worse, I thought of an "Alien Chestbuster" analogy that, while apt, was not quite what I wanted to be thinking about all morning. Especially since the discomfort was in my bowels and not my chest.

And all that implies. . .

Webcomic quote of the day

I don't follow Dan and Mab's Furry Adventures very closely but I really liked this quote noted after the comic:

The best thing about enemies is you are usually not the only one they have.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Building up a tolerance

Yesterday seemed like a slow day at the Helpdesk but when I looked at the numbers I saw that I took 76 calls. Not slow at all. In fact, looking over the past couple of months, my average call volume is 73 for a day.

And what is a worse commentary on the skewing of my perceptions was a look back at one of my earliest blog posts from 2004:

As of noon I have taken 42 calls, which is about the number I get on a normal day. 3.5 hours to go.

In four years, the call volume that I consider "normal" has nearly doubled.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Recovery

It's been eight weeks since I fell and broke my hand. It has healed significantly but I haven't been riding my bike in all that time so I don't know how much doing so might aggravate things. I can still feel that my hand is damaged and will probably wait until the temperature rises into the 30s before I pull out the bike and start riding again. when I do, I'll have to change the gear cassette again. Just before my fall I had changed the chain at 1000 miles or so. Doing this is supposed to limit wear on the gears but it didn't work this time. The new chain slips in the highest, most used gear.

In the past, I've gotten 2000 miles out of the gear but I changed from a freewheel to a cassette on the bike shop's advice to extend the component's life. In fact, it's life has been halved and my efforts seem to have been wasted.

Why is it that my old Schwinn Sierra ran for years when I only changed the chain once a year and almost never changed the freewheel and my newer Giant Cypress needs the chain and now the cassette change twice a year? My only guess is that the metal they make components out of now is crap.

Been there. Done that.

I'm not usually a meme follower but this one came up and I thought I'd give it a try.

Ten+ things that I've done that you probably haven't done.

I earned my Eagle Award in the Boy Scouts by completing 5 merit badges in the 2 days before my 18th birthday.

I become a parent at age 19 and went on to complete college.

I fell out of a truck onto a highway at speed and suffered only a cracked skull.

I have installed and regularly used an operating system other than Windows. (Ubuntu Linux)

I willingly identify myself with "America's most hated and distrusted minority"; atheism.

I have napped flint and become marginally proficient with an atlatl.

I participated in a job interview that was essentially a spontaneous
recreation of the interview scene in the beginning of "Blade Runner."

I have ridden my bicycle from Pittsburgh to Washington DC. . . in two and a half days.

I was recruited my the Mayor's Office to perform Christmas carols in Pittsburgh subway stations. . . in Klingon.

I think that's only nine, but that's what you get.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

One Fish. Two Fish.

I made a posting on the Ubuntu Forums concerning my issue with Bluefish not starting and got the suggestion of running it from the command line.

It ran perfectly.

So, I looked at the command line associated with the icon in the menu.

bluefish -n -p %f

I deleted that non-functioning icon from the "Other" menu and found an inactive icon in the "Programming" menu, perhaps left over from a previous installation. The command line for that was:

bluefish %f

That icon worked so my problem all along was something to do with the command qualifiers. And, of course, the question of why it was working before and then stopped working, even after deleting the personal settings directory (~/.bluefish).

It works. I'm happy.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Deadlands RPG Session Three

Out of game comment: When the game started, it was unclear where in the West our adventures were actually taking place. Now we know that we are in the Black Hills heading north to Deadwood. Therefore adventures we had in Eastwood Ridge would have actually been occurring in Eastmont, South Dakota. I shall use that name henceforth.

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

Dearest Sister,

With all the weirdness going on in Eastmont, it was decided that we would continue to maintain a nightly watch lest anything untoward occur while we were sleeping. The night before we were to leave Eastmont I awoke late, lot having been alerted to my watch by Mr. Tobin. During his watch he had packed up his things and left, leaving us a note that he was taking the “short route” to Deadwood and that he would make arrangements for our arrival. As an unbalanced fellow prone to gunfire, I thought it might be for the best to spend some time away from his presence while he pursued his own agenda.

The next morning, our departure was again delayed. We thought to say goodbye to the tavern keeper but Miss Bowden the sister of one of the now dead deputies, was having a hysterical fit in the tavern. Mr. Pace, Mr. Bongiovi and I were all agreed that it would be best to ride on when she stormed out to confront us over the death of her brother. We were able to able to honestly say that we hadn't seen what had occurred and speculated that it was some sort of dispute between the marshal and his deputies. We benefited greatly in the obfuscation by Mr. Tobin's absence and were finally able to make our escape.

The road to Deadwood is paved with disappointment. The discovery of gold in the Black Hills by Custer back in '74 lead to a rush. Many of those camps and towns that grew overnight quickly disappeared when the gold found there played out or never materialized in the first place. Since the towns of Deadwood, Central City and Lead and the gold that supports them continues, the towns on the trail to them have endured, if not as actual communities, at least as way stations.

I will refrain from using the colloquial “Ghost Town,” to describe the former town of Hot Spring as it is devoid of actual ghosts, in so far as we could determine in our brief stay. There were a few wooden foundations and outbuildings but most of the tents that had been the town had been packed up long ago. One building remained as a stagecoach station except that when we arrived it had been burned and there was no sign of the station keeper. A search revealed a number of unshod hoof prints, indicating that Indians might be responsible.

Rather than staying there and drawing attention to ourselves we rode on until nightfall and camped without a fire off the trail. Even so, Miss Bowden had been able to find us. She seemed intent on being our companion on our trip to Deadwood where she would meet with another of her brothers. She also grilled us again about the events surrounding the death of her brother. There was little we could do to prevent her from joining us.

The next day we rode on to Custer. Much like Hot Spring it was little more than a way station but unlike Hot Spring it was, as yet, unmolested. The old man (and why does it always seem to be old men attending these stations?) seemed less concerned that I would have thought at his neighbor having been burned out by Indians and the distinct possibility that his place may be next. He said he was expecting a stage through soon and we decided to wait. The stage never came but that evening we were attacked by Indians on horseback. Riding through the darkness they somewhat ineffectively launched flaming arrows at the building. Mr. Pace, from his vantage point on the roof fired a few rounds and down one of their ponies, which was sufficient to drive them off.

As I write this, it is the next day and the Indians have been showing themselves on a rise in the distance. The station attendant seemed intent to have us ride on, saying that he thought we should be able to continue and that he wouldn't be bothered. I thought the man delusional for the natives had clearly shown their hostile intent the night before and would have the distinct advantage over us should we mount our horses and take to the open road. No, we were set to stay.

I have set a table out on the porch for a clear view with my pistol nearby. I have been trying to do some development work on my personal defense weapon but to advance that I will need some additional scientific apparatuses. Instead, I have alternated between writing this letter and sketching some other concepts. What do you think of the armored convenience on the next page? I have heard of so-called “war wagons” but an armored wagon leaves the horses exposed. What one would need is a self-propelled vehicle, much like a trackless train engine. It would need wide wheels to support the weight of the boilers and armored passenger compartment. Are the slopped sides and lighter armor adequate for deflecting bullets? Would the boilers provide enough power to propel its own weight at a sufficient speed over terrain? I seem to recall reading of a German producing an engine wherein gas is ignited within the drive cylinder rather than having externally heated steam drive the pistons. This strikes me as a much lighter and more efficient method. Would a stratified downdraft gassifier produce fuel quickly enough to drive the engine or would some sort of pressurized cylinder be necessary to hold the combustible gas? Carrying only the concentrated fuel, perhaps even if it could be liquefied, would save additional weight.

And, though things are somewhat tense, the fact that your are reading this proves that I have escaped relatively unscathed and have found enough civilization to post this letter to you. Fear not, for I shall write you again soon with news of my daring escape from marauding savages.

With fondest regards, your brother,

Zebulon

The blues

It began with me wanting to do some website editing with Bluefish on my Ubuntu laptop. It would clock but then would not actually start. I rebooted, restored Bluefish, and rebooted again all to the same result. I did a complete uninstall and noticed that my Bonager application was informing me that a file system check was due to be done on the next boot so I booted again.

* Checking root file system...
fsck 1.40.2 (12-Jul-2007)
os_part contains a file system with errors, check forced.
os_part: |==================================================| 100%


(there may have been more here but it rolled off the screen)

os_part Inode 131111300 has illegal blocks(s)

os_part: UNEXPECTED INCONSISTENCY; RUN fsck MANUALLY.
(i.e., without -a or -p options)
fsck died with exit status 4

*An automatic file system check (fsck) of the root filesystem failed
A manual fsck must be performed, then the system restarted.
The fsck should be performed in maintenance mode with the
root filesystem mounted in read-only mode.
*The root filesystem is currently mounted in read-only mode.
A maintenance shell will now be started.
After performing system maintenance, press CONTROL-D
to terminate the maintenance shell and restart the system.
bash: no job control in this shell
bash: groups: command not found
bash lesspipe: command not found
bash: command: command not found
bash: The: command not found
bash: dircolors: command not found
bash: command: command not found
bash: The: command not found
root@dell:~#


I entered

root@dell:~# fsck /dev/sda6

fsck 1.40.2 (12-Jul-2007)
e2fsck 1.40.2 (12-Jul 2007)
os_part contains a file system with errors, check forced.
Pass 1: Checking inodes, blocks, and sizes


this ran for 10 minutes

Inode 131111300 has illegal blocks(s). Clear? yes

Illegal block #12 (247843560) in inode 131111300. CLEARED.


there were then 10 additional illegal blocks cleared

Too many illegal blocks in Inode 131111300.
Clear inode? yes

Restarting e2fsck from the beginning...
os_part contains a file system with errors, check forced.
Pass 1: Checking inodes, blocks, and sizes


after 15 minutes it got to

Pass 2: Checking directory structure
Pass 3: Checking directory connectivity
Pass 4: Checking reference counts
Pass 5: Checking group summary information


It threw some sort of error with a gazillion blocks and asked if I wanted to fix them

Free blocks count wrong for group #12804 (2, counted=1198).
Fix? yes


There were scores of these questions. I just held down the "Y" key for 40 seconds.

os_part: ***** FILE SYSTEM WAS MODIFIED *****
os_part: ***** REBOOT LINUX *****
os_part: 143595/14195712 files (5.9% non-contiguous), 20304605/113563452 blocks
root@dell:~#


A ctrl-d rebooted and the mess was apparently cleared up. OK, so where was I? Oh, yes. Bluefish. I tried re-installing aaaaaand. . . . it still won't run.

Girl Toys. Boy Toys.

I was in the toy store when a mother and kids walked by. One of her young girls took a moment to stop and admire the new Indiana Jones Lego sets that just came out. The mother scolded:

"Don't look at those. Those are for boys."

Can you think of anything more demeaning or sexist? Legos are one of the best, most universal, most imaginative, most fun toys ever invented. Hell, I was in the store specifically to buy Lego for myself, and I'm 41 years old! Why would any parent deny a child Lego because of their gender? What's wrong with you, woman?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Chatty

Last week, I had left my machine on overnight and my chat program (Pidgin) running and got up to find a message waiting for me. This was different from the typical spam messages one is likely to receive in that the person actually had a real online profile. Actually, there were two profiles, one indicating that she was a single 30 year old fashion designer in London and the other that she may have been living in Virginia Beach. My own profile was three years out of date so I didn't find anything to suggest any deception.

I responded to the message that I was going to work and would be back 12 hours later.

She responded "i will like to talk with u" 45 minutes later when I was again away from my machine.

The next day we again missed each other.

On the third day I made a point of not going to bed early on the chance that she would be on after 10 as she had been the first time she tried to talk to me.

sara: Hello hey
sara: are u there
geis: Indeed, I am.
sara: Nice to meet u
geis: And good to have a sentient on the other end. Most of the messages I receive are from spam bots.
geis: So, what brought you to be knocking on my virtual door?

And that was it. She didn't respond after that. Was she really a bot that I confused with my response. Was she a human confused by my response. My sentence structure when I write is sometimes archaic, having been influenced by my early reading of Verne and Wells, but it's certainly more clear that the online Newspeak of "r u ther." I know I can be frightening at times (I scared one of my daughter's friends just by saying "Hi, how ya' doin'") but surely I'm not that scary.

It was quite odd.

Cloverfield

Many of the reviews I had heard for "Cloverfield" were fairly mixed. They had liked it but despised the hand-held camera technique that went on and on. "The Blair Godzilla Project" was the tag line that many of them used. There had been huge amounts of hype on the internet driven by a viral marketing program. My expectations were not high but as a Godzilla fan I was interested in seeing a film from a ground level perspective.

I am pleased to say that I was pleasantly surprised, if seeing people get horribly mauled by spider-things and explode later could be considered pleasant.

The movie begins as a recovered video of some guy and his now estranged girlfriend. This two month old video is being taped over by the friend of the guy's brother by current events beginning with a going away party for the guy.

You'll note that I don't use any names. Even though they spend 20 minutes of a 70 minute film attempting to develop characters through the dynamic of this party, I didn't really care much for anyone. I remember that the guy doing the filming was named Hud but the rest have been completely forgotten an hour after the film. Aside from the shaky camera technique (which didn't give me vertigo as it did so many others), this was a significant failing. I didn't care for the people dying when the monster shows up and begins destroying the city, I didn't care when the guy struggles across the city to rescue and then reconcile with his girlfriend, I didn't root for the highly competent but apparently ineffective military, I didn't root for the monster as it destroyed the city. When Hud gets chomped upon by the monster I was thinking about the noise that the auto-focus on the camera was making rather than the emotion of the camera attempting to focus on Hud's lifeless eyes.

People complained about it having too many loose ends but, hey, it's J.J. Abrams, the guy who did "Lost," a show that exists because of loose ends. I don't mind loose ends in a short story, and this is what it is. It's an hour and a quarter long and certainly shouldn't have been any longer than that. I don't care where the monster came from. Don't care what those parasite spider-things are doing. Don't care about the exploding guts. Don't care how the military was on the scene so quickly. Well, actually, I do care but don't need to actually see it on film. That's how a good short story is told.

Not that you aren't told. It may have been too subtle for most movie goers but I saw the the hints that were dropped into the film. I'll spoil the one that comes at the very end when, after everyone is dead and they've wiped out New York the tape cuts back to the couple riding the ferris wheel at Coney Island and you see something fall from the sky into the water.

Oh, did I spoil the ending for you? This is J.J. Abrams, were you expecting anything else? Honestly, like just about every American monster film you've ever seen, there are no surprises and even the things jumping out of the darkness moments are foreshadowed enough so that they don't startle.

All in all, if you can survive the handi-cam cinematography, it's a good kaiju film. Better to wait for the DVD if you get motion sickness. Worth the matinée price.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Arquebusted

On a table at the Gun Show there was a three-barreled hand cannon. I was just glancing at its $1200 price tag when someone else asked the vendor about it. He described it as a hand canon from the 15th Century, or at least, invented in the 15th Century. He didn't know anything more than that so I stepped in to give a history lesson.

Indeed, the arquebus was developed in the 15th Century but this device was certainly not that old. I had never seen a three-barreled arquebus and while re relayed that it may have been a movie prop I commented that I had never seen an arquebus portreyed in any film, and certainly never one as poorly constructed and historically inacurate as this one. It had nipples on each barrel, like what one would find on a cap-and-ball blackpowder gun developed during the Civil War. The three barrels were welded together. I'm not overly familiar with the history of welding but I guessed that it couldn't have been much older than 100 years. The wood of the stock looked old but I've seen wood from 40s and 50s that looked like that so it could easily have been a mid 20th Century project and given the quality of the construction it was probably a prototype, amateur, knocked together in the basement piece of crap. There was no mechanism to set off the gun so I envisioned the gunner holding the stock under his arm and trying to smack the caps with a hand-held hammer.

Interesting, but probably not worth $1200.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Return to normalcy

My dad called me this evening to ask if I was going to the Gun Show this weekend. If so, he was going to loan me the Bill Bryson book he got for Christmas, "In a Sunburned Country." My mom had asked me when we had been together at Thanksgiving for a book recommendation and I knew my dad would appreciate this one.

The conversation went on as if the familial meltdown of New Years had not even happened. It was completely expected. My father conveniently ignores conflicting issues and, given enough time, apparently forgets completely that there were issues in the first place.

This only reinforces my conclusion that my efforts to "fix" my family have been completely wasted. If my rantings and tearful pleadings had no discernible effect on my parents behavior then it is a lost cause.

I've tilted that windmill.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Tardy

My Team Lead sent a message out today stating that on a regular basis we were going to be receiving a message from him summarizing our metric. This is, of course, nothing new as these updates have been instituted before only to fall by the wayside as they became too much work for managers to maintain. We'll see how long this attempts lasts.

This update has a summary of my instances of tardiness since the beginning of the year. I hadn't paid attention to the very stringent interpretation of the policy that was going into effect wherein being late by 1 minute was going to count as half a point. Being late more than 7 minutes was going to count as a full point. Accumulate 3 points would earn a verbal reprimand. 5 points gets you written up. 7 points and you get sent home for the day to repent you sins and 10 points would get you fired.

Apparently in the two weeks since the beginning of the year I had earned myself 2.5 points and the next occurrence would get me called down on the carpet.

I found it hard to believe that I had been late nearly 25% of the time and so I asked what the time stamps on those infractions actually were.

01/03 7:31AM
01/04 7:32AM
01/07 7:31AM
01/09 7:33AM
01/10 7:33AM


What a reprobate I am! A few minutes here and there and they are waving the big stick. And, even for my walking into work since I broke my hand I'm sitting at my desk typically half an hour before my scheduled start time. Quibbling over those couple of minutes and calling me "tardy" is a bean-counting absurdity.

I've said this numerous times before and no one seems to take it seriously, this is a failure to manage people. There are a few people who are problems. Managers need to deal with those people. Instead, they create metrics and numbers and other nonsense that is insulting to those of us who are doing our jobs well. In the past when I brought up this pattern of behavior, Management claimed that they were "collecting information", implying that they couldn't take any action without a mountain of evidence. But when they use "at-will employment" they are admitting that the numbers they collect don't actually matter.

I think that Managers are really attempting to avoid conflict. . . to avoid actually managing. . . by creating an arithmetic system. No decisions. No judgments. Let the numbers decide. Of course, that will collapse when they have to start disciplining the best employees for infractions that have nothing to do with their job performance.

Oh, they've done this before, too. Made a stink about tardiness and then abandoned it because the rules they set were not workable. Add to that the knowledge that the phone system times are often a few minutes off of the server time and has been that way for years on years. I was about to send an email to my Team Lead pointing this out when the Help Desk Programmer sent this out:

Note there is a time discrepancy between the ACD system time and 'actual' time as referenced to the NIST government time site. Time variance has been measured to be up to one (1) or two (2) minutes.

See? I saw that coming.

But I wasn't sure that was going to be enough. Recall my Handbook blog post a week ago that has the procedure manual including a requirement that everyone actually start 5 minutes early. I wondered if they were going to hold this up to say, "those couple of minutes wouldn't be there if you logged in 5 minutes before your start time like we require you to."

Not too long after the Programmer's message, my Team Lead sent me another message:

Due to the technical issues described, I have removed 4 of the 5 occurrences you have accrued because you very well may have logged in on time.

Pretty much saw that coming too. He went on:

I know that you arrive to work well before your scheduled start time. I suggest logging in earlier and remaining in aux (aux 9 will not affect your availability) until your scheduled start time, just to be on the safe side.

Which isn't quite the "log in early" requirement of the manual. The manual requires that I be logged in and taking calls. In this, he's telling me how to tweak the system so that I can avoid punishment but not requiring that I start early as it is stated in the manual.

And so, the downfall of this policy is underway almost as soon as it was implemented.

Electoral Compass

Saw a blog with a link to an electoral compass and figured I'd give it a try.
It seems to "recommend" that I vote for Barack Obama.

It's interesting to compare it to a different political compass which has me well outside of many of the views of even Obama.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Regionalism

A friend of mine brought a "Tales from Earthsea" DVD back from Japan. The problem is the Region 2 DVD will not run on US players. I popped it in my Ubuntu Laptop and it started right up. The problem I have is that it defaults to playing DVDs with Totem Movie Player and Totem starts playing the movie right away and doesn't allow me to access the menu so I can read the subtitles. I prefer to use Ogle. (I haven't changed my default settings yet to have it start Ogle automatically.)

So, I can watch the movie. Not as good as I would have hoped, apparently director Gorō Miyazaki did not inherit his father Hayao's directorial skills. (I may review it here in more detail later.)

Even so, I wanted to have a copy of it since I don't have any idea when it may be released in the US. (Not for two years at least.) It wouldn't work with the standard copy program because the 7+gig image would not fit on a 4.7gig DVD-R. I installed k9copy and it appeared to copy the disk completely but it will not run at all on Ogle. It will start up with Totem but, again, I can't access the menu to adjust the subtitles.

More work to be done.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Outgoing Income

First paycheck of the year and it's good to see that after eight years, the Corporate Overlords have finally adhered to the law and deducted the City's Occupation Tax without being harangued into doing so. It's also nice that the city has changed their laws so that the tax is taken out at $2 per paycheck instead of slamming us for $52 out of the year's first paycheck.

And my bi-weekly take home pay has dropped even more because my health care deduction has increased by 10%. Oddly enough, this is a good thing because this is, in fact, the lowest increase in my health care costs since I started here at the Helpdesk, with the highest increase being 21% and the average over the past eight years being 15% annually. That means that while most everything (excluding energy prices) costs 20% more than it did at the turn of the century, my health insurance costs have increased 225%.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Handbook

Management has been making a bing deal about the Employee's Handbook recently. Probably because for the past several years they have been in such a rush to get new analysts up and running on the phone that they have been lax in making it clear just what is expected of people and this has led to a distinct drop in professionalism. Mostly, it's been in the form of people not showing up for work on time but in some cases it's sloppy adherence to the dress code and other less important things. Nothing's changed significantly in the document itself, however.

Some highlights:

"By signing below, you acknowledge that you have received a copy of the Corporate Helpdesk Handbook, and understand that it is your responsibility to read and comply with the policies contained therein and any revisions made to it. Furthermore, you acknowledge that you are employed "at-will" and that this handbook is neither a contract of employment nor a legal document."

So wait. . . if it's not a legal document, why am I required to sign it?

"The Corporation at its option, may change, delete, suspend, or discontinue parts or the policy in its entirety, at any time without prior notice. In the event of a policy change, employees will be notified. Any such action shall apply to existing as well as to future employees."

This is just making it clear that it's not a legal document. The Corporate Overlords can do whatever they want, whenever they want, and aren't to be held accountable for what they do. At least, though, they'll do you the courtesy of telling you.

"Each analyst is required to remain available (at their desk) with PC powered on and signed on to the Network 5 minutes prior to start of shift."

Five minutes early is 25 minutes a week which is 21.25 hours a year (with PTO taken into account). That's over $400 at my current hourly rate. Are you going to pay me for this time? No? Then you're going to get me when my scheduled times starts.

"Should you choose to resign from the Help Desk Project, The Corporation expects you to provide a minimum of two weeks notice to your respective Team Lead / Operations Manager / Site Manager."

Remember that "at-will" statement that you put at the beginning of the document? Here in Pennsylvania it works both ways. I am not required to give you two weeks notice. I could walk at any time and there is nothing you can do about it. In fact, were I to obtain another job I would expect the Corporate Overlords to not compensate me for the PTO that I had accrued. To ensure that I got what was coming to me I would apply for two weeks of vacation time and then tender my resignation the minute after my last timesheet was approved.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

The "Miracle" of St. Nicholas

Last night I was watching a WQED program on the Darr Mine disaster. On December 19th, 1907, a massive explosion ripped through the Darr Mine near Van Meter. It shook the ground for miles. A gout of flame was said to have reached across the Youghiogheny River from the mine's entrance. 239 men and boys, mostly Hungarian immigrants, perished. Many bodies were never recovered. Others were identified only by bits of clothing, personal effects and body parts. Local cemeteries were not prepared to handle all the bodies so they were spread all over neighboring townships and counties. 49 bodies never identified were buried in the nearby Olive Branch Cemetery.

200 men had skipped work to attend a Greek Orthodox mass for Saint Nicholas. Their lives were spared through this miracle.

Are you people defective? OK, maybe if you have a petty, vengeful, jealous or apathetic god. I could imagine a god like that choosing to spare the lives of those who chose to worship him and punish those who had the temerity to go to work that day. Such a god would not have a problem murdering those men and condemning their families to poverty and despair.

But if you have an all-knowing, all-powerful, all loving god as you claim to have, well, that god can't possibly exist and be all that. A god cannot be all-loving and and all-powerful and still permit horrible suffering to be inflicted upon his believers. An all loving god would be compelled by his own moral imperative to prevent that pain and an all-powerful god would succeed in preventing it. An all-knowing and all-powerful god would have known what was coming and would have had the power to prevent it but chosen, for his own reason, not to. Such a god could not be all-loving. An all-knowing or all-loving god would not have to be reminded or convinced by Nicholas to do the right thing.

There are too many contradictions for god to be what you say he is.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Wipeout

I've been trying to upload Google Earth .kmz files up into Google Maps but it kept giving me an error. The Google Earth Community website revealed that the upload from file feature had been broken for some time. The option was to upload from a URL. To do this I would need to load the file up to my domain with FTP.

I hadn't loaded an FTP client onto my Ubuntu Laptop yet so I shopped around and decided to try FireFTP, an FTP client for Firefox. Afterwards, though, my NoScript extension failed. And then, I would have to attempt to start Firefox two or three times to get it to finally launch. I tried disabling the extensions and reinstalling them all to the same result.

I went into the Synaptic Package Manager, uninstalled and reinstalled Firefox. I did a complete removal and reinstallation of Firefox. Same result.

The Ubuntu Forums had the following command line uninstall:

sudo apt-get remove --purge firefox
mv -v ~/.mozilla ~/.mozilla-backup
sudo apt-get remove --purge firefox* mozilla-firefox*
sudo apt-get clean
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install firefox
That did it. I added the FireFTP extension first and everything was fine, so it wasn't it's fault inherently. I reloaded all my other extensions but when I reloaded NoScript it crashed again.

I tried again, figuring that FireFTP and NoScript were incompatable. I uninstalled and re-installed everything again except FireFTP. But then NoScript crashed again when I reinstalled GreaseMonkey, and that fragged Firefox.

I don't think it's FireFTP or GreaseMonkey that are to blame, it's an instability in NoScript.

One more uninstall and reinstall. This time, I installed NoScript first. Then GreaseMonkey. That went well so I thought I'd try to expand things by installing FireFTP. This was looking good. Then ForcastFox. Then ColorZilla. Then AdBlock.

Crash.

I was back to figuring that it was NoScript and FireFTP. I tried it all one more time. NoScript. AdBlock. GreaseMonkey. ColorZilla. ForcastFox.

Crash.

Once more, without NoScript at all.

Success.

I like the security provided by NoScript a lot but it's clearly shown itself to not play well with others.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

New Year. Old Patterns.

The first day of work after New Years has consistently been the busiest at the Help Desk. Mondays' are the busiest of any weekday because people can't remember their passwords over a weekend, so multiply that by two weeks and you can get an idea of how the new year starts off.

And it was even better because Management somehow thought that with New Years Day in the middle of the week (as if Tuesday is the middle of the week) that people weren't really going to be coming back to work until the following week. I've been here for eight years and that's never happened. January 2nd is the big day.

So, we were understaffed and got pounded. It wasn't as bad as some days, say, when branch systems go down, but it was pretty heavy. My call volume went to 109 calls for the day. The next highest analysts were in the mid to low 80s.

And this happens pretty much with every holiday. There was the "part-time people can earn some extra hours the day after a holiday" policy. Then the "everyone must work overtime the day after a holiday" policy. The "please volunteer to work overtime the day after a holiday" policy. This is the "Holy shit, we didn't think it was going to be like this the day after a holiday so please, oh please, work overtime" policy. One might think that after 8 years someone would have noticed something of a pattern developing as to what sort of call volume we get the days after a holiday.

But it is, of course, systemic. The "just in time" manufacturing model applied to service. Just enough people be paid to manage the standard, average service levels but, should something actually go wrong, we get completely pounded. Way to cut those corners, guys. Way to set that bottom line.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Don't door me, bro!

Seattle, one of the country's most bicycle-friendly cities, is taking action on the problem of bikers being doored. For those who don't know, that's what happens when some guy who's just parked his car doesn't look before he opens his door to step out and an unsuspecting biker runs full on into the door suddenly in his path.

Here in Pittsburgh, we have a systemic setup for just that situation. The new bike lane that runs down Liberty Avenue in Bloomfield is set right up against the parking lane. It is, in my opinion, a death trap actually worse than the situation that proceeded it with no bike lane.

We were told we were going to get sharrows. A sharrow is a shared lane marking set outside the door-zone that indicates to cyclists where they should be riding to be safe from such things and indicates to motorists that bicycles are supposed to be out where they are, sharing the traffic lane with them.

Instead we got two lines that trap cyclists in a lane squarely within the door-zone. Additionally, the lines give motorists the mistaken impression that cyclists aren't allowed in "their" traffic lane and are to be segregated to the bike lane only.

I have heard rumors that the City is planning on fixing the lane but really, if you read the design guidelines you would have gotten it right in the first place.