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Archive for the ‘mild-rantings’ Category

Why can’t I get to Hawaii?

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Last year we were planning to go to Hawaii in February, but some serious family medical stuff resulted in that trip being cancelled.

This year we’re planning to go to Hawaii at the end of April. Due to pricing, logistics and some flight vouchers we were booked on Aloha Airlines for the outbound leg and Southwest (operating via ATA) for the return trip. (You can probably see where this is going.)

First, Aloha discontinued operations. This move trapped my Stepdad in Hawaii last week and necessitated the purchase of a super-full-fare return ticket to get him home. It also required finding alternative transport on another carrier for our end of April trip. We booked a one way flight to Honolulu on Hawaiian Airlines for approximately $200 more than our previous tickets, and Wells Fargo refunded the full amount of my previous tickets on Aloha. So we’re all set…

Next, ATA discontinued operations. I don’t know what Southwest intends to do about this yet, but we bought the tickets using vouchers, so they’ll probably issue more vouchers. Having little faith in this, I decided to try booking a different one-way return leg. Suffice to say that this would have been expensive. Lo and behold, United now had rewards travel available on the days we were flying, so for the low low price of $20 and 70k air miles we now have round trip tickets to Hawaii. Yeah!

If anything else goes wrong with this trip I’m staying home. I know when to take a hint…

Written by jthurber

April 3rd, 2008 at 12:06 pm

Posted in mild-rantings

Minor iPod Emergency

with 21 comments

Well, it’s been a very iPod-centric day for me.

I manually sync’d some new music and an interview with Bruce Sterling (for more on my overall iPod “strategy” you can read this earlier post). I then walked out to the car, plugged the iPod into it’s Belkin Auto Adapter and tried to find the book I was listening to yesterday…

My only playlist was the “On-the-go” playlist, which was empty
so I rebooted it (Menu and Play buttons together)…
no music magically appeared under Playlists or Browse.
So I drove to work listening to the radio and talking on the phone, thinking that some quality time connected to the Powerbook might heal my sick iPod. But, nothing worked!

So I went out at lunch and bought a 120GB External Drive, backed up the (invisible) contents of the iPod using PodManager (which I bought, upon reflection I should have learned to use rsync), erased the iPod using DiskUtility, re-installed using the iPod Installer 2.1 and connected it to Scott’s 17 to wake it up (’cause the 12 wasn’t seeing it) and dropped the contents of the backup onto the iPod icon in iTunes…

I’m now waiting for 4142 songs to be copied across! Thank God it’s over Firewire instead of USB 1.1!

What have I learned:

  • Don’t trust the iPod as a stable place to store music and books
  • I need more semi-portable, backup-type, storage (problem solved with the 120GB drive… at least for a while)
  • Anything having to do with music or video is a HUGE time-sink, especially when it stops working
  • I probably could have gotten away with deleting the iTunesDB file from the iPod_Control/iTunes folder of the iPod, but I’m an idiot and had already wiped it by the time I found that advice on Google
  • Written by jthurber

    January 7th, 2004 at 6:11 pm

    Posted in mild-rantings

    Curiouser and curiouser…

    without comments

    One of my friends send this to me:

    White House Puts Limits on Queries From Democrats

    By Dana Milbank
    Washington Post Staff Writer
    Friday, November 7, 2003; Page A29

    The Bush White House, irritated by pesky questions from congressional Democrats about how the administration is using taxpayer money, has developed an efficient solution: It will not entertain any more questions from opposition lawmakers.

    The decision — one that Democrats and scholars said is highly unusual — was announced in an e-mail sent Wednesday to the staff of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees. House committee Democrats had just asked for information about how much the White House spent making and installing the “Mission Accomplished” banner for President Bush’s May 1 speech aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln.

    The director of the White House Office of Administration, Timothy A. Campen, sent an e-mail titled “congressional questions” to majority and minority staff on the House and Senate Appropriations panels. Expressing “the need to add a bit of structure to the Q&A process,” he wrote: “Given the increase in the number and types of requests we are beginning to receive from the House and Senate, and in deference to the various committee chairmen and our desire to better coordinate these requests, I am asking that all requests for information and materials be coordinated through the committee chairmen and be put in writing from the committee.”

    He said this would limit “duplicate requests” and help answer questions “in a timely fashion.”

    It would also do another thing: prevent Democrats from getting questions answered without the blessing of the GOP committee chairmen.

    “It’s saying we’re not going to allow the opposition party to ask questions about the way we use tax money,” said R. Scott Lilly, Democratic staff director for the House committee. “As far as I know, this is without modern precedent.”

    Norman Ornstein, a congressional specialist at the American Enterprise Institute, agreed. “I have not heard of anything like that happening before,” he said. “This is obviously an excuse to avoid providing information about some of the things the Democrats are asking for.”

    Campen’s e-mail wording suggests the policy may extend to other inquiries about the functioning of the Executive Office of the President, but the immediate targets were the spending committees. For years, those panels had a strong bipartisan tradition in which the majority party generally joined the minority in tough oversight of the administration.

    Brookings Institution government scholar Thomas Mann said the Democrats have little ability to challenge the decision. “This is just one of many instances where Republicans have a legal basis for what they’re doing, but it violates long-standing norms,” he said. All the Democrats can do, he said, “is carp.”

    The White House said it is in discussions to reach an amicable compromise. “There have been staff-level discussions about ways to better coordinate requests from Congress,” said spokeswoman Ashley Snee. “It was not the intent to suggest minority members should not ask questions without the consent of the majority.”

    Written by jthurber

    November 10th, 2003 at 12:06 pm

    Posted in mild-rantings

    On Stem Cells and GW

    with 18 comments

    This article (from the Washington Post) is excellent. It disusses the Bush Stem Cell policy and why is not only is logically inconsistent, but a damning example of a general pattern in this Administration’s behavior.

    As an aside, I have been listening to the Audible.com version of Bushwhacked by Molly Ivins, it is one of the most upsetting things I’ve ever listened to. I strongly recommend that everyone read/listen to it!

    Written by jthurber

    October 28th, 2003 at 6:07 am

    Posted in mild-rantings

    Hanging Chads…

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    Voted this morning. Got to experience the joy of the punch-card system that caused so many problems (e.g. President Bush) in Florida. What a horrible system.

    The basic usability test of any product should consist of taking 100 random people and asking them to use it without asking questions (or spending an inordinate amount of time reading the detailed instructions) (rather like Joel’s Hallway Usability Test). By this standard the punch-card system fails miserably.

    I had to spend approximately 30 seconds puzzling over the process to make sure that I 1) Insterted the ballot the correct direction (side up and which edge in) 2) Knew what would invalidate my ballot. Now, some readers are certainly saying to themselves “what an idiot, voting with punch-cards is easy”. To you I respond; see the usability test above? From all around me I heard people asking the same questions I had. Just because it may have made sense to some (and might even have made sense to the system’s creators) doesn’t validate the system. I’m looking forward to touch-screen voting next Presidential election (even if my vote may be hijacked by crackers, or the funders of the voting system for that matter).

    Written by jthurber

    October 7th, 2003 at 8:11 am

    Posted in mild-rantings

    Retraction and follow on re: tha’ Move…

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    I’m sorry I said anything negative about Mountain View Garbage (actually Foothill Disposal). They came by Monday evening and picked up everything we had left out for them (without my having to call them).

    On the other hand, I am really pissed at Sears Home Delivery. They sent the second team of guys out today, called me to come home in the afternoon (they we supposed to be there between 4-6pm and changed it to 11:14am at 10:30am). However the were unwilling to try and get the ‘fridge box (which is admittedly huge) over the railing of the second level of our split-level main floor. I can sympathize with the delivery guy, who is a contractor and responsible for any damage he causes, but am extremely frustrated by Sears inability to deliver a reasonably sized appliance into a normal home…

    So, tonight I hope to have about 6 buddies over for a Bar-B-Q. Our extremely technical plan is just to lift the thing over the banister and get it done! It only weighs 375lbs in the box (which sounds like a lot, but between 4 people should have been totally do-able, 6 should be overkill). Hope everything goes ok, we won’t start drinking beer until after it’s upstairs!

    Written by jthurber

    August 20th, 2003 at 11:06 am

    Posted in mild-rantings

    News from the homefront…

    without comments

    So, here we are, several months later and I have experienced (almost) the entire home acquisition process (everything except the fun bit where you’re moved in and unpacked and haven’t yet made your first mortgage payment).

    It’s been fun, except for the ungodly amount of financial documentation the lender needs, the complete inability of anyone to call me back and the (occasional) uncertainty around the question “is the house actually going to be done by the time we have to be out of our current place?”. The answer to that last question has changed from day to day. The answer today is a resounding “maybe” (as compared to yesterday, where the answer was a “probably”).

    One of the biggest dissapointments of the whole process is the state of the house when I walked thru it this afternoon. I guess my expectations were out of line with what I could expect from a big builder, but there’s still a ton of work left to do on the house. I would find that easier to stomach, were it not for the fact the there are some pretty major problems with some of the work that’s already “done”. There are several badly textured areas of wall, in every room. The baseboards in any room with tile (kitchen, dining room, bathrooms) do not sit flush with the tile in all cases. The counter tops in the kitchen aren’t smoothed along the lower edges. Some of the steps are too thin (wall to wall) so there’s a 3″ gap on the left side of each step. Basically I’m a picky SOB, and am having trouble adjusting my expectations down to accepting the cookie-cutter quality that the builder wants to deliver! Hopefully we can find some sort of middle ground by next week!

    Written by jthurber

    August 8th, 2003 at 2:50 pm

    Posted in mild-rantings

    German Engineering and other myths …

    with 19 comments

    Listening to several people I know that own VW’s and other “German” cars, I am struck by a phenomenon that seems to manifest itself quite strongly in these car owners. Despite the anecdotally horrible reliability of VWs and the crippling cost of BMW maintenance when you actually talk to most owners they say “I haven’t had any problems with my <insert brand name here>”.

    But, when you actually ask them about particular incidents they have all had strange electrical problems, handling issues, falling head-liners, failing water pumps and bent frames (bent from the factory no-less). That’s the VW owners… the BMW owners may experience fewer problems, but in exchange for the perception of “superior handling” (i.e. stiff suspension) they get cars that are ungodly expensive to maintain, with a dealer network that generally treat them like they’re doing them a favor taking their money and “servicing” their car.

    The same mass-delusion can be observed among “domestic” loyalists, so it’s probably not a result of subliminal messages in German car commercials (at least, that’s not the only cause ;) ).

    I have been driving primarily “Japanese” vehicles of late (Toyota, Honda and Subaru specifically). I’ve observed an interesting thing. It seems that for some reason Toyota can move an assembly line to Indiana (or even Tijuana), or Honda move Accord assembly to Mexico and still continue to maintain reasonably high standards of quality, while BMW moves to South Carolina and builds 318’s with the overall build quality of… well… “American made cars” (in the pejorative sense of the word) while VW moves to Mexico and builds Jettas that are (debatably) of worse quality than the original 60s-style Beetles still being made in that same country (and who knows, possibly in the same plant).

    Now, my “Japanese” vehicles haven’t been perfect… my WRX had a ding in the hood when it was delivered (which Subaru sent back to the paint shop 3 times without my asking, as they were dissatisfied with the quality of the work done), I ripped the bottom out of my CBR1100XXs motor when I hit a chunk of metal on 280 South and my WRX’s ignition system “came out of spec” and had to be re-flashed, but those are the only problems I’ve had in the last 5 years of driving 4 different Japanese vehicles over almost 100,000 miles. Strictly speaking, only the ignition module chip could be fairly blamed on the manufacturer.

    Don’t even get me started on recent BMW Motorcycles!

    Written by jthurber

    July 21st, 2003 at 2:03 pm

    Posted in mild-rantings