Splitting the difference

Jeff Jacoby:

WINTER DOESN'T OFFICIALLY END for another three weeks, but Daylight Savings Time arrives next Sunday, and with it the semiannual aggravation of resetting every clock and watch in our lives. (Don't forget the microwave! And the car dashboard!) Must we be saddled forever with this World War I-era relic? Contrary to popular belief, daylight savings doesn't reduce energy consumption, it increases it. And not everybody relishes late-evening daylight; plenty of people would rather see sunlight earlier in the morning.

We can end this spring-forward-fall-back madness once and for all -- and we can do so without having to choose between daylight time and standard time. The solution is simply to split the difference: Let's amend the Uniform Time Act so that clocks would be shifted by 30 minutes -- then let's leave them that way for good.

The End Times

Tony Woodlief never fails to amuse me in some fashion:

[T]his is what we have come to: a grown man, grooming his eyebrows in traffic, using his rear-view mirror. In Wichita.

Yeah, what he said

Tom's thoughts on the National Anthem mirror my own.

The missus can regale you with many a tale of Super Bowl, college bowl, NASCAR, baseball, hockey, and other sports viewing wherein I severely critique the anthem singing because they fail in one of the ways Tom speaks of.

Look, we know you're a good singer. Otherwise, you wouldn't have been chosen in the first place. And if it's a major sporting event, we know you're a great singer.

(Or you're just the flavor of the month, since we all know popularity doesn't necessarily reflect impressive skill.) (We do know that, right?)

Don't Ban Incandescents

From the 02.26.07 edition of Red Herring magazine:

California's proposed incandescent bulb ban (see "Could California Ban the Bulb?", February 1, 2007) is ridiculous! Fluorescent bulbs may last longer (not in my house) but you have to include the cost of the ballast and the starter in both energy to produce and additional expense of the fixture. When these and the additional cost of installation are included in the equation, plus fixture replacement costs due to poor reliability, the cost of fluorescent lighting is vastly more expensive than incandescent lighting. Incandescent lighting is also better for the health of our eyes and sanity as that endless flicker fatigues the eyes and drives people nuts!

Fluorescent bulbs are also considered hazardous waste. The energy costs to clean up or keep the environment clean are not worth the few bucks saved at the meter. This ban is not a good idea. Neither is Title 24, which bans incandescent sockets in new-home construction. People just change out the fluorescent fixtures to incandescent after the house has been inspected. Then the fixtures just end up in the dump. I for one will just buy my bulbs out of state and stock up.

The best way to reduce energy waste is to educate people and business to not waste it. Turn the lights off when not in use!

--Roger Smith, Bishop, California With the mass, recent push for everyone to switch to fluorescent bulbs, I thought a contrarian point of view might be good for discussion.

Once again, we learn why they're called analysts

So let me get this straight: Apple sets new company records for revenue and profit, beats the Street's estimates, and ships 28 percent more Macs and 50 percent more iPods than they did this time a year ago, but because a bunch of analysts don't like future estimates, the stock price takes a dive? No wonder monkeys do just as good a job at the stock market as analysts.

Doomed by the dish

So it's the biggest college football weekend of the year. And I'm missing all of it. I am not doing so willingly. Friday, we had some thunderstorms in the area. Nothing too bad, though the rain was intense at times, and we had a few lightning strikes here and there. But it's rained much worse, and we've had lightning last longer. Our DirecTV satellite dish system became inoperable at some point Friday afternoon. Two days later, still nothing. It would seem, after all the troubleshooting I've done, that the problem is the dish is out of alignment. My bride thinks the disalignment began with the severe cold snap we got last month, which brought in some ice, and we lost the satellite signal for about a day. She thinks, and I can't find any fault in her logic, the weight from whatever ice collected on the dish was enough to begin the process, and wind since has steadily moved it more until it's just off enough that we're getting nothing. Except last night. At midnight. When we were turning in, and I just kicked on the satellite receiver for the heck of it. This morning, nada. Nothing. Reset all three receivers. Zip. Zero. On startup, the receivers never get beyond 0% in receiving the satellite signal. I've checked cables on all the receivers. I checked the cables in the OnQ box upstairs. My friend Drew suggested I disconnect one of the satellite lines from the multiplexer in the OnQ box and hook it directly in to one of the receivers, to rule out the multiplexer as the problem. So I lugged my JVC 13-inch television, and the attached receiver, from the study, upstairs to the OnQ box, and plugged it in directly. Still nothing. So, having ruled out everything else, it has to be the dish itself. This is what was determined yesterday afternoon, when, after 24 hours of no signal, I called DirecTV technical support. (Note: If you have to do this, never waste time with the first-line customer service reps. All of the ones I've spoken with have been pleasant, but they've got limited knowledge, and your best bet is to ask them to connect you to "second-tier tech support", where more knowledgeable folks reside.) The tech rep I spoke with, after I explained to her everything I had done to that point, said it sounded like everything had been ruled out but the dish itself. So she scheduled a technician to come out to the house to get up on the roof to realign the dish. Thursday. Thursday. Just in case you didn't catch that, the tech is coming on Thursday. Thursday, January 4th. After which there is only one bowl game of any significance, the BCS Championship Game.

So if I get to watch any of the big bowl games tomorrow, it will only be due to Brent’s generosity in inviting me over to his place. I’ll get to watch the bowl game I care about the most, LSU vs Notre Dame in the Sugar Bowl, over at Drew’s. (Which isn’t bad, since we all went to LSU, Drew and I were in ROTC together, and it’s always fun to watch the games with fellow alumni.) Still…Thursday? Apparently the technicians don’t work on Sunday, and I can’t begrudge them a day off during the week. They’re not working on what is likely the second-biggest football day of the year (after Super Bowl Sunday, of course), since it’s New Year’s Day, and I can’t begrudge them having that day off, either. Likewise, no techs are being scheduled on Tuesday the 2d, as that’s the National Day of Mourning for President Ford. I can’t begrudge them that, either. And since Wednesday is the first day available after three straight days of unavailability, it’s booked solid when I called on Saturday afternoon. So I’m left with Thursday. And while I can’t begrudge the techs the above three days off, I’m still left with the feeling that this all stinks. The timing absolutely sucks. At no point did anyone from DirecTV say, “Gee, you’ve been a customer of ours for nearly a decade. Let’s see how soon we can get someone out there.” Which would of course have made me deliriously happy, but we can’t always get what we want, which is someone out right now to fix the problem. Because the problem is about twenty feet up, on the roof of our second-story home with a steep, pitched roof, and I have no ladder taller than eight feet. And while I don’t fear heights, the prospect of getting on the steep, pitched roof while it’s as windy as it is today–provided I had a ladder taller than eight feet–isn’t very appealing. I know what those of you who know me are probably thinking: Why don’t you have Verizon’s FiOS TV, anyway? You have the fiber optic for Internet and phone, why not for television, too? A good question, certainly, and the answer is this: because earlier this year, midway through January and before FiOS TV was available, my bride placed an order with DirecTV for two of their new satellite receiver/DVR units, and this locked us in to a new, two-year contract with DirecTV. Even though we were long out of our original contract. That’s why we don’t have FiOS TV. (And please don’t think I blame my wife in any way. The receivers these new ones replaced were old, and sucked, and we wanted DVR capability in the study and bedroom.) I’m seriously considering looking into what it would cost us to break that last year with DirecTV. I’ve been looking at TiVo units direct from TiVo, because, despite the company’s problems, their product is still the best DVR available, and all others pale in comparison. There may be a hefty cost for a switch now, but I’m wondering if it would be worth it to never again have to worry about being doomed by a unaligned dish.

Frustration at the P.O.

(With apologies to Eudora Welty.) Since I began unloading some CDs on Amazon Marketplace, I've been spending more time than usual at my local post office. In an effort to maximize my profit margin, like a good little capitalist, I've been using my tax dollar-funded government mail service to ship the Marketplace-sold items. The majority of these items have been CDs, which I pop in to a CD mailer--purchased in bulk at our local OfficeMax--then slap a postage label on to before depositing it in the outgoing mail slot within the post office. I haven't stood in line to interact with a postal worker to mail any of these items, instead using my good friend, the Automated Postal Center. (If you've never used an APC, think of it as an ATM that instead of dispensing cash takes it, and in return weighs your letter or light package and spits out the proper postage.) So, as I was saying, I've always used the APC, and never had to wait in line to get postage. Until today. On Saturday, while out with my sweet, I stopped by the post office with the full intent of using the APC and leaving the outgoing CD in the appropriate mail slot, and getting on with the rest of our evening. Only the APC was unable to dispense the postage for this particular parcel. Because it's going to an APO. I got a message on the APC's screen stating it was unable to provide postage for APO addresses, and I would have to stand in the always-long line and wait to interact with a postal worker. Sigh... Today, after dropping the little phisch off at school, I steeled myself and entered the doors of the post office. Looking forlornly at the Automated Postal Center, standing by itself, waiting to be used, which no one was, I shuffled to the back of the already-long line. Then I noticed that of the four stations at the counter from which a postal worker should be interacting with the citizens that fund their always-in-the-red dysfunctional "business", there was one worker. Twenty-five minutes later--I was so glad I had the foresight to bring a magazine--I began my interaction with the aforementioned solo postal worker. She did not know why the APC was unable to handle postage for an APO address. No, there was nothing really special about the APO address which would negate the APC being able to to process postage for it. It was likely just a matter of someone somewhere not having gotten around to programming the APC to handle APO postage. (Or better yet, some management bureaucrat not having made the decision to provide postage for APO addresses through the APC.) No, the APO postage for first-class mail was not any more expensive than first-class mail to any where else in the country. (Every CD I've shipped individually has been US $1.35. Every one. Including this one.) So a half hour out of my morning to get the same little sticky piece of postage from a human that I could have gotten in two minutes from the Automated Postal Center. I'm thinking of running the calculations to see if the half hour of my time was worth the profit-margin savings. Then again, that just might frustrate me more.

And Sony wonders why they're losing to Samsung and Apple

We have a Sony DirecTV/Tivo unit my mother-in-law gave as a Christmas gift to us several years ago. In techno-age, it's ready to retire and move to Florida, but it still does the job, and the TiVo interface is still light-years ahead of DirecTV's own DVR receivers, of which we have two. Some of the buttons on the Sony remote have stopped working, however, and it's finally gotten to the point where we need a new remote. A trip to Sony's web site reveals they no longer sell the remote (shocker, I know), but there is an online form with which you can inquire as to parts. So I fill it out, noting we have the DirecTV receiver/TiVo DVR combo unit, as well as putting in the only part numbers I'm able to find any where on the remote itself. This was a month ago. Today, I receive a reply from Sony. Therein, I'm told:

I think you might have model SVR2000. If this is it, the remote is rmtv303 (147603612) which is nla. Please go on and type in either the part number of the model number of the remote and do a search. There still should be internet distribuors that carry it. Fine and dandy, this was along the lines of what I was expecting. Except the genius got the model number wrong, and the part number for the remote wrong. I only discovered this after doing exactly what is suggested above, running a Yahoo search. On one page which listed several remotes, I discovered another part number for a Sony TiVo remote, and it turned out to be the correct one. For the record, the SVR2000 is the Sony TiVo DVR; it is not the DirecTV receiver/TiVo combo. That is model SAT-T60. The remote part number for the SAT-T60 is RM-Y809. I found a new one for $55, with a 30-day, money-back guarantee (yay, Yahoo!). This is future reference for myself, as well as help for anyone else who may find themselves in a similar situation. I just think it shows very bad form for a Sony employee to, (a) take a month to respond, and (b) when finally responding, providing the wrong information. I was very explicit in noting that we had the DirecTV receiver/TiVo combo, and not the TiVo-only SVR2000. Sony has rested on its laurels, and formerly well-deserved reputation, for too long, and it continues to result in products no one are buying, and poor customer service after the fact.

Do you know what sucks?

Having a quarter bottle of picante sauce in the fridge, plus an unopened bottle in the pantry, and not a single tortilla chip any where in the house.

The Anti-Semitism Story No One's Talking About

Jeff Jacoby has a great piece on he disparity in reporting regarding Mel Gibson's drunken racial slurs, and Naveed Haq's murderous rampage at a Jewish center in Seattle. The latter is yet another example, as Jacoby points out, noting other such type attacks which have taken place over the past few years, of members of the "Religion of Peace" suddenly developing "Sudden Jihad Syndrome". A Christian, who is such a rabid anti-abortionist that he begins killing doctors who perform the operation, is news fodder for weeks. But if a Muslim walks up to the counter of the Israeli-owned airline El Al, killing two people as he sprays the ticket area with bullets, it's quickly swept under the proverbial rug. What is the media's reluctance to point out what we know to be true: that the so-called "Religion of Peace" shows, day in and day out by the behavior of its adherents, that it is anything but.


If only I had room in any of my bathrooms for one of these.

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Just when you think there might be some hope in this world that the tide of sexual immorality would take a turn for the better, something like the Shame On You Kit pops up. How about never putting yourself in the situation to have to have a "Shame On You Kit"?

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As a satisfied customer, I highly recommend KnowledgeNews, which today had a bit on the differences between viruses and bacteria. I loved this analogy:

Imagine it this way. If just one of the 10 to 100 trillion cells in your body were the size of a baseball park, the average bacterium would be the size of the pitcher's mound. The average virus would be the size of the baseball.


As is so often the case with video or film, the music totally makes the FedEx pilots drive around thunderstorm short film.

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I sincerely hope JPMorgan Chase & Co. realize they just flushed $150 million.

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This may have been posited elsewhere, but I think when the Power Mac G5 replacement ships, it will simply be called "Mac Pro". You have the Pro designation separating the portable models, and they're not going to call a tower/desktop without a built-in monitor "iMac Pro". Apple will still want to differentiate the line from the consumer series, so it will just be Mac Pro.

You boys <em>are</em> kidding, right?

Look, I'm just as much of a word nerd as Jim, Erik, or John, but gentlemen, with all due respect, this has to be the dumbest idea for a boycott I've heard in a while. Besides, I get better customer service from Walgreens than I do from CVS, so I'll pass on this particular boycott.

"We don't anticipate any management mistakes."

Given my personal experience working for Verizon, and continuously hearing stories from my friends who are still employed there, this rings so true.

The latest on mobile phone manners

Tony Long:

Look, the world is not your personal playground. Do not share with us your musical tastes; do not share with us your latest wheelings and dealings. In public places, you have an obligation to hold up your end of the implied social contract by not imposing yourself on those around you. This is crucial to a civilized society and just because technology allows you to act like a braying ass in public doesn't mean you should do it. Quite the contrary, in fact. You need to be more aware of your surroundings than ever.

I particularly liked one suggestion:

Ditch the ring tone and put the phone on vibrate. The only person who cares about an incoming call on your phone is you. Don't worry, you'll feel it. (It feels go-o-o-od.) Most ring tones are not only intrusive, they're inane.

One feature I like on my phone, and I'm sure it's on most new phones, is the option to have it simultaneously vibrate and ring. My phone vibrates first, then starts the ring tone, so I can usually nab it when only the first couple of notes are playing. It's also dead simple to change from "Vibe & Ring" to "Vibrate" when the situation demands (church, movies, restaurants).

The fact that most ring tones are inane is why I roll my own. My "standard" ring tone is the opening twenty-two seconds of The Who's "Baba O'Riley". When strangers hear it, I always get a knowing smile, or a quizzical look that says, I know that melody, but I can't quite place it... It's certainly unique, and I won't confuse it with anyone else's ring.

Which brings me to my own mobile phone usage tip: change your ring tone from whatever the default is. (If you can; I realize older phones still in use may not have that option.) I don't know why, but I find it irritating when the default Moto or Nokia ring tone goes off. Find something else. Please.

Every rose has its thorn

If Tiff is feeling old, then I must be positively ancient. Speaking of depressing age news, I have noted that I am now in another, less desirable demographic, what with the birthday last month. Previously, when filling out surveys and such, I could confidently click on the age demographic buttons for 25-34, or 26-34, or however they broke it down. Now, it seems every single age demographic mapping I would fall in to is listed as 35-50. Fifty? Granted, we do grow to be more like our parents the older we get, but from a pop culture standpoint, I can tell you I have little in common with my fifty-something parents. (No, I do not use the term "fifty-something" because I have no idea how old my parents are. I know exactly how old they are, but because they are not the same age, I thought the more generic "fifty-something" was more appropriate.) For the record, Tiff, I've seen the same commercial, and come to the same realization. It's nice to know another closet metal-head is out there.

Hot Potato

Is it not enough that as the father of a two year-old, I already hear "Hot Potato" by The Wiggles in my sleep, that now Special K has to use it for their idiotic diet commercials?

Dear Papa John's

Normally, when we order out for fast-food pizza, we order from a Papa John's franchise. We usually order a thin-crust pizza of some type. Tonight, we decided to try the Papa's Perfect Pan, the subject of much advertising of late. We will not be ordering this particular pizza again. What kind of pans are you running through that oven? When it comes to fast-food pizza, this version of the Pan Pizza can't hold a candle to Pizza Hut's venerable pan-style pizza. Not only in terms of taste, but for me, the latter evokes memories of college, and my comrades from ROTC, as a personal pan pizza and the salad bar, coupled with the largest iced tea possible, was our after-drill meal on Thursdays. Good stuff, and good pizza. For fast-food pizza, that is. Papa, you've got something to learn from the Hut in this area.

Today's miscellany

Yeah, it's been up a few days, but I'm just getting to it, okay? John Gruber has come around, much as I have recently, to the notion of PowerBook-as-main/only-system, a concept Lee has been a proponent of for some time. John also has an in-depth review of the latest 15-inch PowerBook, outfitted just as I would like, with his usual attention to detail. It's Monday evening, and I'm still sore from the neighborhood tree planting from Saturday morning. Eleven ten-gallon trees to go in the neighborhood's greenbelt area. Seventy homes, with an average of two adults per home. Seven people showed up, including myself. Yeah. An interesting tip I picked up from No Plot? No Problem! shows an innovative use for all that spam that gets collected for me. This one writer keeps a list of names that show up in the From field of spam e-mails, so she always has a pool of character names to pull from. I really like this, since usually when I'm working on fiction, I can come up with two or three good character names, then I start really pulling stuff out of bodily orifices. A simple text document in BBEdit now has 305 names, one per line, and the built-in Kill Duplicates filter ensures I don't have the same name twice.

VZW needs a new ad agency

Am I the only one that thinks the new "It's the network" series of commercials for Verizon Wireless are actually more annoying than the old "Can you hear me now?" commercials?

Update: Okay, I am forced to admit to a redeeming quality of these commercials. Tom's passionate defense of them as funny via IM made me laugh. "Perhaps goth angst doesn't translate to Texan" has to be the IM quote of the day.

Go to vote, get a ticket

Alternative title: My Moron Moment of the Day Of course, I have no one to blame but myself. Each election cycle, Denton County, in its infinite wisdom, changes the polling place for our precinct, and apparently for all precincts in the county. This election was no different. So after finding out we would be voting at Bridlewood Elementary, I set off to vote. I have passed by the Bridlewood development several times, but have never been inside. There is a golf club as part of the development, and part of the fairway parallels Bridlewood Boulevard. I followed my Yahoo! Maps directions, and turned off the main road to get to the school. After navigating a couple of turns, I find myself on Remington Park Drive, the street the school is on. I'm doing about 30, and slow to 20 when I hit the school zone, which starts near the top of a rise. As I begin to crest the rise, I see the school on my left, and a red sign with "Vote Here" in black and a large white arrow directing me in to the school's parking lot. I come down the rise, put on my blinker, and turn left in to the school parking lot. Then I hear the "Whoop!" of the motorcycle's cop siren. He does a single blast, and that's enough to get my attention. I pull over to one side of the aisle I'm on, wondering what I'm getting stopped for. It couldn't be the school zone speed limit. I was doing twenty. I know I was doing twenty, because I'm fastidious about keeping it at twenty while in a school zone. Did I bump up to 22, maybe, coming down the rise? He's going to give me a citation for that? These are the thoughts running through my head as he walks up to the window. Driver's license, insurance, I hand them over. He checks to make sure the insurance is current and hands the paper back. Then he asks if I know why he stopped me, and I tell him, no, I don't. "You missed a stop sign back there, Mr. Turner." I did what? Yep, never saw it. Sure enough, as I was leaving the school after I voted, there it was. Just on the down slope of that rise. I allowed my attention to laser-focus on the school and that "Vote Here" sign, and I totally missed the stop sign. (Stupid developer, putting a cul-de-sac right there in the middle of a down slope...) So now I get to do the payment + defensive driving course (hopefully I can do the video version) thing, to keep this off my record and from affecting my insurance. It's not good to be unemployed and broke, and have to cough up money because you were stupid. So again, totally my fault for not paying attention, and this voting experience could have been better. On the totally geeky side of things, the officer had a handheld computer which allowed him to scan in my license info--thanks to the handy magnetic strip on the back--then punch in the violation, then I signed on the screen a la signing for a package from UPS or FedEx. He punched another button, and a paper version of the citation rolled out of the top. Nice to see the Town saving a little money by doing away with cases of duplicate/triplicate citations. I'm sure there's a time savings, too, for the officer when he turns in the citations at the end of his shift. If I had to get a ticket, pretty nifty way to have done so.

And you built it that way why?

It rains nine months out of the year in Seattle. So why oh why would you replace an aging dome with an open-air stadium? Collective stupidity?

Why stock analysts are worthless

(Alternative title: There's an reason the word "anal" is in "analyst") Apple quadruples its profit, but the stock takes a ten percent-plus dive because the company "missed" the number of iPod sales stock analysts --who are not employees of Apple, do not sit on the Board of Directors, and who are not Apple executives-- said they thought the company should have sold? They sold 6.4 million iPods in a three months. How many Rios did Creative sell in the last three months? Oh, that's right, they canned that music player. Hold on, it gets better. Those same analysts, who are poo-pooing Apple for failing to sell as many iPods as the analysts thought they should have sold, seem to think Delphi is a good buy. No wonder monkeys are just as good at the stock market as these guys. [With thanks to John Gruber, and Matt Deatherage and W.R. Wing on the MacJournals-Talk list.]

So we're even rewriting sports history right now

Attention Steve Levy and the rest of ESPN's anchors: USC did not win the national championship in 2003. USC did not win the national championship in 2003. USC did not win the national championship in 2003. The Trojans did not play in the BCS national championship game for the 2003 season. The BCS was created to determine a single national champion. For 2003, that national champion is LSU. USC is not a two-time defending national champion. If you continue to insist they are, then I expect you to also refer to Auburn as a current defending national champion.

I'm thinking <i>Cluetrain</i> should be required reading for the Authors Guild

Note to self: do not join the clueless Authors Guild. I echo Gruber's sentiments regarding the decision of the Authors Guild to sue Google over Google Print. For one, an author can choose to exclude his work in a fairly simple process. Second, as an aspiring author, were I to publish a book, I would love to see it read by as many people as possible. If Google Print helped me accomplish that, so much the better.