Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Blank Slate

In about six hours that’s what we have. At least that’s how we think about it. NEW year. Epiphany. Resolutions for change. As almost President Barack Obama would put it, we long for change, for the better.

2008 and all the years before started the same way in our minds. The blank slates turned out to have some invisible historical chalk on them that colored each new year. 2009 will be no different with respect to the effect the past has on the future.

Even as babies, we do not have a tabla rosa upon which to build. We have physical and environmental influences that shape us. But, we do have what we have and a mindset that drives us to change for better. We differ on what is “better.”

So, what is better for you? Think about it. Decide how to get it. Follow your plan. The steps? Epiphany, resolution, change. It's that last word that is the hard part. Let me know how you do.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Warranty Woes

Interspersed with making a living today I:

Took the car to the dealer because it is making a ticking sound on an increasingly more often basis. I’d researched on the Internet and found that it can be a precursor to a lifter problem.

It made the noise when I left home. At four this afternoon, I was told the service writer, the technician and the service manager couldn’t hear it; and, it could be the result of not using a “genuine Hyundai oil filter” which is not something that will lead to a lifter going bad. The technical bulletin I was given called the symptom of the after market filter an engine knock which I don’t have. I have a tick, not a knock. I know my ticks and knocks. As I left the lot, I could hear the tick. Oh well, my symptom is on record and there’s another 60K on the power train warranty.

This morning while waiting for a friend to pick me up at the dealership, my Google phone did what it is wont to do on a too often basis: calls don’t go out. This is the fourth time it’s happened since I’ve had it. The first time, the problem went away on its own. The second time, replacing the SIM card did the trick. The third time and today, doing a master reset of the phone brought it back; though doing this is no fun as you have to download all of your applications again and you lose all of your call, text and Email history.

So, after lunch I called T-Mobile and explained my problem and my frustration. The nice 611 lady sympathized with me and diagnosed that I had a hardware problem which she would solve by sending me a new phone. She rattled on, throwing in the middle that the replacement phone wouldn’t cost me anything, I just needed to pay $9.95 for shipping by T-Mobile of the HTC defective phone. I asked why I had to pay for T-Mobile to send me a phone to replace a defective phone. She repeated what she’d said before (from the script on her screen). I told her that I fully understood what she was telling me but that I wasn’t happy with what she was telling me. She then said the same thing in a slightly different way. I said that I was assuming that she couldn’t help me with the charge and asked if there was someone up the chain that could. She said she didn’t know but she would ask her supervisor. Less than a minute later, I had free shipping. I told her that I thought she was a very nice person.

She then read me another script about the exchange process that included the advice that if they didn’t get the bad phone back within seven days of receipt of the new phone that I would have to pay a $395 non-refundable fee. Since it was coming ground and it would take as many as “seven business days (not including weekends and holidays)” to get to me I asked what would happen if I sent it and UPS sent it astray. She then said as long as UPS scanned it in, they were on the hook, not me. Why not tell me that in the first place?

Polite and persistent wins the day, I think.

Monday, December 29, 2008

"Job seekers should dress professionally but remember to stay comfortable and make sure the outfit they choose is free from stains and wrinkles...."

From an article at reporting the results of a survey of IT managers and their hiring criteria when it comes to attire.

"Cash Value 1/10th of a Cent"

That’s what used to be in the fine print on the back of a coupon. I just read a post by Jim Donahue at The Velvet Blog. He copied the fine print on a Borders coupon to humorous effect. But it struck me that the cash value part wasn’t a tenth of a cent; rather it was “.01,” a hundredth of a cent.

Cheap bastards.

I tried to Google the meaning of the disclaimer and struck out. Any ideas?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

A Very Short Tour of the French Quarter

Here is where I ate breakfast on Saturday morning in New Orleans, Cafe Du Monde. Cafe Au Lait and Beignets. The guy on the sidewalk with the beret was singing, not too bad, and talking to the diners. His best lines: To a group of people along the rail next to the sidewalk trying to studiously ignore him: "You can't ignore me away." "You want me to go away?" The guy near me on the covered patio nodded his head. "That'll be twenty bucks," pause, "it's cheaper to keep me."

This is half way back to the Central Business District. The dude immortalized by the statue in the left side of the picture is the founder of New Orleans, someone Bienville. The baby park is also an historical park and museum according to the sign on a building just to the right of the picture, dedicated to Jean Lafitte (I may well have spelled first and last name wrong; but I'm lazy: he's the French guy that helped us win our first, among many wars).

This is a picture of Canal Street, at its foot, showing you the "neutral ground," the median between the north and southbound lanes, so called because the early French on your right, and the later coming Americans, on your left met here. This last factoid is brought to you courtesy of the local tourist channel in the hotel.

Less important, my hotel is immediately to the lower left of the picture. Harrah's Casino is immediately to the upper right.

A last side note, the new Google phone has an OK camera.

Back to work.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Off to NOLA

I had planned to drive down to Biloxi tomorrow morning, staying at Harrah’s Grand Biloxi and coming back on Sunday. As I was wrapping things up at the office yesterday I realized that I'd just be sitting around home today and decided to look into going a day early.

Harrah’s Biloxi must be doing better than Harrah’s New Orleans. Biloxi wanted $150 for tonight. Checking New Orleans revealed a much better price – free. So, I checked AirTran which had a cheap flight; and, I’m off to NOLA. says high seventies with some showers today and Saturday, so Friday looks like a good day to wander the Garden District.

Dispatches to follow, maybe.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas 2008

Many of my readers have gotten this picture by Email, sorry for the duplication. For those that read me and whose Email I don't have (or can't find), enjoy the holidays, be well and come back soon. For those of you passing by, the best to you too!

Monday, December 22, 2008

An Annoyance of Modern Life

My cell phone number has made its way to one or more spam texters of the sleazy sort:

“yes baby I (I is actually lower case, Word won’t let me type it other than as upper case) love it send me a picture of u….”

At least (or damn!) the “˂Picture˃” didn’t come through in the texts. I’m not a prude and I’ve gotten the Viagra/appendage enhancer/Nigerian princess Emails too many times in the past. I use filtering and domain blocking to cut down on them. What bugs me about this new mini-onslaught (one yesterday and four today) is that my only defense is to block all SMS’s.

In reading up on the issue, I learned that other cell providers allow you to block texts sent via Internet auto dialers thus eliminating or greatly reducing text spam. T-Mobile, my provider, won’t do this, it gives me the choice of all, good and bad, or none; and, of course, if I exceed the number of allowed texts allowed, it will charge me for the pleasure of receiving sleazy spam. I’m not a programmer; but, if Verizon and AT&T can implement a sub-program to block this kind of stuff (and not charge for it), T-Mobile can too, and should.

In the interim, if you want a good time, text 202-315-7097 or 704-609-5824.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Before It Happens, I Hope

The Atlanta Falcons are just into the second half against the Minnesota Vikings and are leading by a bit. Sorry Moe (and sorry about the Lions).

If they win, they get into the play offs. I don’t really care.

Sports Illustrated predicted they would win two games. I thought four of five would be nice, given where they were.

Think back with me. We had Michael Vick and his baggage. We had Jim Mora, Jr. who wanted to be every players’ best friend. Then there was the Petrino guy, who left in the middle of the night a bit over a year ago (he left a note on the lockers of the players).

Then Arthur Blank, the Falcons' owner, one of the former owners of Home Depot, made the best decision of his post-Home Depot life. He quit trying to run the team. He hired two professionals – Thomas Dimitroff, a scout/draft kind of guy from New England and Mike Smith, a defensive coach from one of the Florida Teams, now respectively the General Manager and Head Coach of the Falcons.

Here’s what they did. They drafted and traded for players that played old-fashioned football. Then they insisted that the players would do what they were told to do. They had a bunch of millionaires on the team, though kids.

Here’s the cool part. Some of you know that when you tell a kid, you don’t even have tell them what to do, you just have to expect it, kids do what they’re told/expected. The kids on the Falcons, with the jaded veteran,s have bought into playing their hearts out and their asses off.

A few minutes into the second half and they have just recovered a fumble when they were about to be scored on. Again, they might not win the game; but, they’ve won the season. We don’t do foolishness around Atlanta football anymore. Win or lose, the Falcons are a well-run, professional football team.

$5,568,000,000,000 UPDATED

In the event you still aren’t comfortable counting as high as the number in the title (as I'm not), it’s $5.68 trillion.

According to this article that’s the amount of money we have authorized to be spent to deal with the financial meltdown in this country. About $1.6 trillion of it has already been spent (according to my Fed banking friend, committed, not spent).

The U.S. GDP for 2007 was about $13.8 trillion, a little more than double the money committed (authorized) to save us. How does it take about 40% of what we produce in a year to do this?

At times like this I wish I had more than one micro-economics course and no finance course under my belt. I’m not used to feeling stupid; and, I don’t like it.

I have no clue, 1) what the hell we are doing; 2) why the hell we are doing it; and, 3) whether the people doing this stuff have any more idea what they are doing and why than I do. And, I REALLY don’t like that.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Don't Read This Unless You Love Golf

Now that those people are off to something else, this morning started a bit rocky as I had the guys over for poker last night, which ended later this morning than it should have.

Then there was the mist alternating with light rain bands. Coffee fortified me for the drive to my missed pastime.

You may recall that I broke my toe at the end of October. I hadn’t been able to play for a couple of weeks before that. So, this morning, it had been nine weeks since I’d teed up a ball.

I can still “feel” the toe now and again and I made the mistake early in the round of compensating in my swing so as to not stress the toe. This led to a lot of, let’s say, less than perfectly straight tee shots for the first few holes. Then I decided the toe either worked or it didn’t and swung like I’m supposed to. I felt it a few times; but, it didn’t fall off.

I didn’t play really well, a lot of rust getting in the way of good scores. And the weather didn’t make for a picture postcard day (though my new rain shirt worked nicely). And, I’m sore.

An all-together lovely day.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Bad Business Person, Am I

I got an Email from a client earlier this evening. I replied, he replied, I replied.

Now, were I a good business person, I’d not have just thrown out the quick answer based on his need to look at a particular document, I’d have researched the general area of law, the particular law of the state and then carefully crafted an opinion.

Instead, I told him to look at paper. The paper says we are OK, as I thought.

Instead of a five digit invoice, we’ll keep it in the two’s.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

I Have a Virus or an Evil Computer

I did a post last week, or the week before, saying The Hedy Experience, nee’ Hedy Blog had disappeared. I’ve had a few other losses. A few minutes ago I discovered that had disappeared from the IE7 Favorites list. I also have a problem with “Google Desktop” stopping suddenly, except that it isn’t installed on the computer.

Now I see that the MagicJack program for my internet phone is no longer resident in the program list and a search of the computer doesn't show it here.

I've been hijacked! Any ideas? Anyone?

I’m running AVG now to be followed by Spybot and whatever else is in this damn thing.

Who Knew?

I did a little Email survey a couple of weeks ago. A friend had sent me an Email saying that there was a foolproof way to know what side of a car the gas filler cap was on. Those of you that rent frequently know this is valuable information.

What the friend had said is not fully accurate; but, the following trick is. Look at your gas gauge and particularly the little gas pump icon. If there is an arrow pointing from a side of the icon, it is pointing to the side of the car that has the gas tank filler.

You are welcome.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Brian Nichols Will Live, Limitedly

Brian Nichols was convicted of killing a judge, a court reporter, a sheriff's deputy and a federal agent early this week. There was no doubt that he did the killings, the question was whether he would be put to death for his crimes.

In Georgia, after a conviction, there is a sentencing phase in a trial in a capital murder case. The same jury hears why the defendant should and should not die.

Nichol’s jury found 9 to 3 that he should die. To execute him, the vote must be unanimous. So, the judge must now decide if he gets life with, or without, parole. I’m sure he’ll get the latter.

I think it is a good result.

If a jury in Georgia, even Fulton County, notoriously “liberal” when it comes to not killing killers, can’t vote to execute Brian Nichols, it may be that our society is changing and the death penalty will become a thing of the past.

It isn’t as if he is going to “get away” with murder. Whether he spends the rest of his life in a maximum security prison in Georgia or in Colorado’s federal “Super Max” prison (he killed a federal officer) he will live a minimal life, for the rest of his life, year after year after year.

And we, as a society are better than he is. He killed, we have not.

Newspaper Slow Death

The Wall Street Journal just reported that the Detroit News and the Free Press will only offer home delivery three days a week.

“The publisher hasn't made a final decision … but the leading scenario set to be unveiled Tuesday would call for the Free Press and its partner paper, the Detroit News, to end home delivery on all but the most lucrative days—Thursday, Friday and Sunday. On the other days, the publisher would sell single copies of an abbreviated print edition at newsstands and direct readers to the papers' expanded digital editions.”

Does that make them a “treakly?”

Print is dead, but it is a slow, tortured demise.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Gas and Geography

This post may be of interest only to local readers; but, you may see the same phenomena where you live, let me know.

I live “inside the perimeter” (ITP) versus “outside the perimeter” (OTP), the perimeter being I-285 which circles the most urban part of Atlanta.

Lots of stuff costs more ITP than it costs OTP, office rents, houses, restaurants and bars being good examples. The closer to downtown, unless you hit the few remaining blighted areas, the more stuff costs.

But I’m having trouble with gas and geography. I understand that the BP station on Monroe just off Piedmont in Midtown charges a bunch for gas. As do the one on Peachtree near Ansley Park and the one on Fourteenth off of Spring, they are the only ones within miles and the real estate is very pricey, etc.

The most consistently cheap gas in Atlanta is a QuikTrip. There’s one down the street from the office, another near home and two along Buford Highway, not too far from me. All are ITP. The prices at all four track each other. Today they are $1.55 a gallon.

Today, I had to go up to Lawrenceville in Gwinnett County, Northeast of the City and about ten miles OTP. The QT had gas for $1.39 a gallon. In the past I’ve noticed that gas prices in Gwinnett and Cobb County (Northwest of the City and stretching from just OTP to 15 miles OTP) are usually significantly cheaper than where I live.

Now here’s the thing, the “tank farm” where all the gas haulers fill up is “just” OTP off of Buford Highway, much closer to me than the stations in Gwinnett and Cobb. That both Cobb and Gwinnett Counties have a cent less sales tax than DeKalb County where I live doesn’t make up for the price spread. All of the mentioned counties are within “Metro Atlanta” and subject to EPA blending regulations. The differential cost for a quarter acre in Cobb and Gwinnett versus DeKalb to put up a QT can’t be the difference.

So what is it?

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

For My Nieces

Two of my three nieces are graduating from college this month.

In order of appearance on the earth, the first is a newly minted elementary school teacher. Her younger cousin by a few months is going to be a pediatric nurse.

Other than feeling a bit old, I’m feeling pretty good about this. Both women have made their way though their youth with no mishaps (that I’m aware of). And it’s silly to even mention mishaps, as both have always been at the top of their classes and their communities.

Not bad for a person who cheated at Uno when playing with her Uncle (the elder) and the other, whose first “word” that I heard from her, rather than Mama or Dada, imitated one of the family dogs panting.

I wish all the best there is to have for them. They're adults now in a dangerous world. I and their other elders have not left them as good a place as we should have. One of the things that makes me feel optimistic about what will happen as we go on, is knowing people like them are going to have a say in running things.


And less than one: Government funds are trading at a negative rate, if you have the instrument at no interest, there some people willing to buy it and give you money.

I'm not smart enough for this stuff

There's Stupid and then there's STUPID

The Governor of Illinois was arrested this morning on federal charges such as trying to sell President-elect Obama’s vacated Senate seat to Obama (for his choice for his replacement) and a few others.

The man has known he’s been under investigation for years; yet, he’s been recorded by wiretap since November 3 in conversations about his intent to profit from his right to appoint Obama’s replacement.

It’s kind of like Gotti back in the Nineties, Nixon in the Seventies and a host of others: bullet-proof people that rise to the “top” with their amoral approach to life.

It worked and it worked and it worked, until it didn’t. It seems to me that there is a bit too large a percentage of our elite that evidence this trait.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Hedy, I'm Stumped

Regular readers will now that Hedy is a reader and someone whom I read.

Hedy has apparently offended Microsoft sometime today. I was wandering through Favorites, subcategory Blogs this morning and she had an especially short and nice post. I commented.

I just now, bored, while watching the Simpsons Movie (a half hour is the interest max) started surfing again. I got to the “G’s” and there was no Hedy Blog after them. I know she renamed it to the Hedy Experience sometime ago; but, it’s always been there. It wasn’t there.

So I googled Hedy Blog, Hedy Experience is the first result, I hit it and went to her. I then added it to the Favorites. There it was, at the end of the list. I right clicked on the first Blog Favorite and then clicked reorder by name. Hedy was gone again. Not in alphabetical order, not at the end of the list.

Hedy, what did you do to Bill Gates or the Ballmer guy?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Failure to Plan

I planned to make spaghetti today; and, I did.

As I type, the sauce is simmering in the crock pot, the aroma wafting its way toward me.

Earlier, I swore I had oregano, as it turns out I didn’t. A quick search of the internets told me that a third more marjoram is a substitute; and, it seems to be working out.

I also swore I had cheese. I do have the cheap singles stuff and some swiss. A search a few minutes ago turns up no parmesan, no any Italian sprinkle or grate on cheese.

You can’t have spaghetti without it. So, as the wonderful aroma surrounds me, I’m going to console myself with the fact that the sauce is going to taste even better tomorrow after sitting in the frig for a day, during which time I will get some good cheese.

Now, what do I eat?

Friday, December 05, 2008

Is a Depression (to be hoped mild) in Order?

I am fully convinced that there isn’t a politician extant that has a clue what to do about the current economic melt down. That’s here, there and everywhere.

Think about it. One day a few months ago someone came up with the number: $700 billion. He, she, they threw out a few ideas about what to do with it. Early “winners” were AIG, Citi (twice I think) and a laundry list of banks. Since, we’ve had a series of plans, none of which got more than a day or two of thought by their proponents.

Then the circus stalled. We are all pissed because the Big Three auto makers want a shifting low eight figures in some shifting loans, lines of credit and other stuff, which may get them through the end of the year, quarter, or not.

The chief clowns flew the first time and drove hybrids the second time, the Ford guy stopping at Quiznos on the turnpike. The GM guy said something about how saving his company was a noble thing to do, or something else. The Chrysler guy did a great job with GE during the boom times and screwed up Home Depot when things were not so good.

Think about this. You are either in a deep world of doo doo right now, or not so much. Whichever category you inhabit, it may or may not be all, some or none of your fault.

So, why not let it all collapse, if collapse is where this thing is going? Use our public resources to pull those at the bottom of the heap out of the bottom of the pile. Let the businesses that don’t make economic sense fail. Put some more public money into economic policies that make some economic sense (run by people that can at least articulate a business plan).

If we bottom out and protect the really hurting people, where will we be? The houses and apartments will still be there, at prices that reflect what people are now earning. Cars will be there, again at prices that reflect the new economy. Etc., etc..

My thought is that while this isn’t isolated to just this country, we still have enough economic effect in the world to make this shifting of the economic base a world thing.

Then there are the geo-political implications. Iran, Russia, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, dependant on a failed oil and industrial economy, do not have the influence they would have hoped to have wielded. North Korea is still the basket case it has always been. China is delayed, but still in the game.

I admit, I don't have a clue; but, we are mortgaging our and our kids futures on a crap shoot.

We’ve been drummed and drummed and drummed on the genius of the free market economy. Is it the time to let it work, saving our collective contributions to government largess for those who fall out during the time that it needs to work?

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Watershed is Too Strong a Word

Whose physical address do you know? We can take it further. Do you know any phone numbers, Email addresses?

As a kid, I lived at 17972 Colgate. The phone number was Logan, hell, I’ve forgotten. (Hah! 2-1284. This is an edit – see below.)

I used to know a lot of addresses, phone numbers, even fax numbers.

I think every non-physical contact I have with another human is enabled by a chip. There’s a chip in my office computer, my laptop, my fancy new Google phone, my new internet home phone. The Google phone keeps all the addresses in the “cloud.”

I scroll, type a letter or two or three, etc. and then you and I talk or write back and forth.

I don’t ‘write” anymore. My handwriting has become abysmal. Do you find yourself to be impatient as you are scrawling letters on a page?

It’s time to think about Christmas, or Hanukah if you will. I stopped sending cards years ago, opting to send an “Ecard.” I’ve always felt a bit guilty about it.

My angst, too strong a word, was triggered again a couple of days ago when I got a real live paper invitation to my niece’s graduation. I would have replied by Email; but, transmitting green stuff, without her bank info for a wire transfer, seemed a bit difficult.

I don’t really think we have lost too, too much by our movement to electrons. Our communications are probably a bit less considered, but a bit more often.

I’ve occasionally thought that this blog would be of better quality if I did it the old fashioned way – write it out on a piece of paper, thinking before putting each word to paper because if I made a mistake or had a poor thought, I’d have to start over again.

I won’t go back, I don’t have the time or the inclination; but, I’m pretty sure I think differently than I did years ago as a direct result of the way I communicate. As I’ve been tapping this out, I’ve wandered back through the text a few times, changing something each time.

In the old days I said less with more thought before I said it. Better?

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Georgia's Still a Red State

As of a few minutes ago, AP called the Georgia Senatorial run-off for Saxby Chambliss.

We also have a run-off for a Public Service Commission race. A politician formerly known as “Bubba,” then a Democrat and now a newly christened Republican, Lauren (his given name) McDonald, who never met a utility he didn’t get money from and vote for, is leading his opponent handily.

A right wing Republican in a non-partisan race for the Court of Appeals, is running close to his more temperate opponent.

We’ll be just fine down here.