Past Rants: 2002

Nothing to beef about in December...

    I had to think hard, "Which thing pisses me off more, a) that the voters of this state are completely stupid, or b) the Internet is not senior citizen accessable?" The first part is an ongoing situation; every couple years something beneficial to police, fire, roads, public transit, libraries, or schools comes up on the ballot, something that community leaders can stand behind and only good can come out of it – and something that doesn't work out mathematically is presented by the likes of Tim Eyman to eliminate the taxes which fund the above items also shows up on the ballot. And the people who don't want to pay for what they use vote for the unwise measure, and vote down the wise measure. This happened yet again a few days ago; people prefer to pay $30 for their car tabs than to shell out anything to keep up the roads they drive on. Being apolitical (did I say that a couple months ago?), I decided I'd better go for the latter choice, just to keep my blood pressure down. But not without first saying, here in front of God, Kibo, and everyone: You people who voted against R-51 are complete fuckheads, and may I remind you that your hero keeps getting investigated for fraud?! Where do you think the money for roads, libraries, and public transit comes from, thin air?? What's so wrong with paying your share? Will you bitch when you don't have the services you aren't willing to pay for? Okay, I'm better now. Fuckheads.
    So on with something that irked me a couple years ago and upon thinking about it the other day (courtesy of crossing paths with someone from the old cyber-hood recently) has only gotten worse. Warning: This is pretty old-school, so if you just discovered computers in the last five years and your only definition of "online" means you are browsing the Web, I'll be going over your head, or more accurately under your noses. Quick glossary: a Bulletin Board Systems (BBS) is a program running on somebody's home computer, and a person dials into them (they call someone's home phone number, and the computer's modem answers) to read message boards and swap email with other people who dial into that BBS; typically these stand alone but they can be networked to other BBS's – the three writers of this website met through such systems based in Yakima, Washington in the late 1980's through early 1990's (Chrome was the system operator [sysop] of a BBS called Backwaters Of the Mind) and we kept up communication after I moved across the state when a BBS in Tacoma started exchanging message base postings and email with Backwaters. Around 1995, the Internet became accessable to the masses courtesy of Windows 95 having the tools built in and more public providers started opening up. Onward...
    The standards you see nowadays are Apple Macintoshes and "IBM-compatable" PC's. (Operating systems are a different matter; I'm only taking about hardware right now.) In the 1980's there were more than two makes of computers – not only were people using Macs and PC's [almost always under MS-DOS], they also had Ataris, Commodores, Apple //s, and a few others. The service known as America Online started out as a nationwide dialup service for people with Apple //'s and PC's (and only stopped handling Apple //'s in mid-1998), and pretty much anyone could use CompuServe. In the 1990's, there were BBS's that started adding Internet functions to their standard set of features, and a person could browse the Web through text (the Lynx browser on the BBS's side), chat with people on the Internet Relay Chat, download files with FTP, exchange email and discuss things in newsgroups on a worldwide basis, all by dialing a local and usually free number. Or you could dial an Internet provider directly, same way as you called a BBS (through a terminal program – QModem, ProComm, Red Ryder, [whatever Ataris used], AGATE, ProTerm, [whatever Commodores used], Windows 3.1's Terminal, Windows 9X's HyperTerm) and just be faced with a command prompt that would also allow text-based [DOS or UNIX interface] usage of the Internet. I mentioned here a while back my reading a book recenty about the Internet that was written in 1995, which made no mention of the World Wide Web, and everything it described could be done on any make of computer with a modem and a terminal program. My primary computers in the 1990's were a highly-souped Apple //e and a moderately-jazzed Apple //GS. (Not Macs! Go away!) And they were dandy until about 2000.
    The stupid things that happened in my life enumerate two: First, the free BBS that was hosting my mail and newsgroups, Knight Line, went offline on January 21, 2000. The sysop discovered that while the email and newsgroups were indeed Y2K compatable, some of the online games were not, so rather than upset only a few people he decided to upset everyone. Second, the BBS I was paying $10 for 20 hours of access to, where I did a little email and a lot of IRC and FTP, reportedly had a hardware failure on the BBS box and decided not to fix it, encouraging folks like me to use their Internet service instead. Uh, the Apple //e doesn't have a TCP/IP stack (the GS does but I have yet to see any applications written for it beside Telnet) and that ISP wasn't offering shell access. Truthfully, the number of ISPs offering shell access nowadays is pretty low; even my own employer about two years ago shut off the last 40 shell-only accounts they had. [And if any of the old-timers were curious whatever happened to the NETCOMplete@ix.netcom address which had been used for software comments... I own that addy.] So it wasn't a happy time for me, but I'd started working for an ISP so did all my important online stuff at work for a couple months until I could cobble together a PC from thriftstore parts. And you don't want to get me started on Bennett's ego and the GS TCP/IP stack's development being halted by it. (Mate, you can't "pirate" what is given away free. Get over yourself. Blaming Dr. Turkey for the world's ills doesn't justify you being an asshole.) I'd still be on the GS if there were any working tools completed.
    Yeah, don't say it: I don't know how many people still use Commodores, Apples, Ataris and IBMs with less than a 486/66 processor on a daily basis, and today's computer and operating systems can do pretty much anything while being more affordable with less of a learning curve. But I like fun and I like a challenge. Windows isn't fun. Mac OS X is merely cute but not fun (unless you are rebelling against the Wintel cartel). Linux can be fun because you have to type stuff (and it's pure rebellion against Microsoft). An older computer with tools that enable it to do, in some form, something that it was never meant to do; that is fun to the hilt. I salute anyone who still uses one of the old beasts to do their Internet stuff; I've been there and wouldn't mind a visit again.  --#2

    My wife has three sisters: one older (by 11 months), one younger (I'm 50 weeks older than her), and one who died at the age of 24 about nine years ago. She gets along well with her older sister, but her remaining younger sister has been sort of a pill. Very smart girl, but it's hard to finish school when you're pregnant at 16. Got married before her son was born, he was a Marine and a Mormon who obviously had sex with a minor [three strikes, shoulda been out], but they proved everyone wrong by staying together and having six children over the course of seventeen years. And she's never really much liked me, sometimes for plausible reasons but other times for imagined ones. It was the joy of Paige's life to be able to invite her younger sister to her wedding five years ago, and the sorrow of her life when word came back that the girl now claimed not to have an older sister anymore. That's dirty, turning your back on family. (I may not like my own but I wouldn't blow them off if a major event was announced. They're not in the habit of inviting me.) But we figured she'd come to her senses, eventually. Birthday and Christmas gifts to her kids were stored in her closet instead of given to them, and after the eldest son found what was rightfully his and was punished for speaking Paige's name, the gifts were forwarded back to us. Sense was hard to come by, and we can only guess what kind of untruths she told her children about their aunt.
    Money got tight after her husband got out of the military and his excellent-paying job laid him off (typical aerospace industry contract-based-work bullshit) earlier this year, so she came up with the bright idea that she'd go to officer training school and support the family that way. First she needed to wean her youngest daughter, second she needed to do something athletic so she could survive bootcamp. With those two things accomplished, she started her Army career. And there she met someone else. Predictably? Noooo... This was a woman. Apparently getting out of the pool as a teenager before she could find out who and what she really liked finally caught up with her. The question then became how un-Mormon she could become: a) renounced her children, saying "she had no emotional attachment to them", b) divorced her husband, c) R.A.T. #3 told me that homosexuality is not a sin as long as you don't practice it, and the hickies don't lie, d) quit the church. [We have yet to find out about drinking caffiene, smoking, and boozing. I'd pay to have a photo of her with a cig in her mouth, holding a rum & Coke.] She then turned her back on her mother, who wasn't judgemental at all when the woman and her moll came to visit but the woman seemed to think she was. First time she speaks to Paige in five years and it's to curse her for emailing to say her treatment of their mother was wrong. And after some waffling about where the carpet-munching couple should go, they finally left together heading Back East, leaving the house-exhusband in primary custody to take care of six kids between 2 and 17.
    What is the rant, you ask? That someone could be such an absolute bitch to everyone who loves her. But I can end on a positive note this time... That part was announced this morning: Paige's family (mother, older sister, etc.) have plotted to come here for a barbecue next weekend. The poor exhusband was talking to Paige's mom and she brought up the barbecue, inviting him and the kids. He wasn't sure whether he should be in attendance but would be happy to bring the kids, and she invited him specifically, saying, "There's too much animosity in this family, and it has to stop NOW." Finally, a chance to reunite with the kids, whom we haven't seen in five years, and to set the record straight. It doesn't bring the woman back to the fold where she belongs, but since she's out of the picture the rest of the family can behave as a family again at last. [Anne: Senses came back without you, eventually. You're welcome to visit us, say next weekend so you don't interfere with everyone else's felicity. And sure, bring Carmen, we'll have a barbecue. Call first!]  --#2

    Normally I'm quite apolitical on Cryptic because I find the world to be a huge soap opera. Some things don't matter, some things matter but not to the proportion they're blown out to, some things are of utmost importance but they're not things you can do anything about at 3 a.m. so there's no point losing sleep. But I keep seeing news articles such as this one saying that more and more Americans, as many as 50%, claim that the First Amendment to the Constitution – the right to freedom of speech, for those outside the USA or who got a C- in History – goes too far and gets in the way of fighting terrorism. Hmmm, it's not like me to go waving the flag, but this really irks me. This is saying that half of Americans are totally stupid (I work in tech support, I know what the real percentage is), completely forgetful, or got a C- in History. And I have to say something.
    I really miss the Soviet Union. The USSR/CCCP wasn't a good thing, by any means, but it gave Americans a point of reference. People were constantly telling how great the USA was for its freedom of speech, and the phrase most often heard was that "in Russia you couldn't say such a thing; the KGB would drag you out of your home in the middle of the night, you'd be shipped off to the Siberian salt mines, and you'd never be seen again." (From that you'd think the Russian economy would be better, but I've never been offered Siberian salt.) We have a new set of bugaboos; the WWII 'Yellow Menace' and post-war 'Red Scare' have turned brown. How exactly we got from "these people want to take away your right to speak freely" to "we should give up our right to speak freely to defeat these people" is beyond me.
    Another novel thought I had was that this was the FIRST Amendment to the Constitution. Not the second, not the fifth, not the tenth… the first. The Framers (that's the PC term for The Founding Fathers) considered freedom of speech utmost and essential. Yes, not necessarily for women and people of color at the time, but those oversights were fixed eventually. People had left wherever they were from to come to the New World because they wanted to say what they thought and believe what they believed (if they didn't come here against their will in chains, or weren't already here and being forced out of their lands by the new neighbors), and The Framers put that freedom in the document as something sacrosanct. The folks who think we have too much freedom of expression have a glaring lack of foresight: if it weren't for the rights they're complaining about, they wouldn't be able to complain about those rights out loud. Funny how that works out.
    Two nice quotes have come out of the history files:
Hermann Goering
Why of course the people don't want war ... But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship ...Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.

Benjamin Franklin
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Or in the words of Jello Biafra: You'll be the first to go / Unless you think.  --#2

[preface: Emmer's Pentium 133 caught a virus, seems Nimda is back...]
I think the worst thing that happens when you have to format your HD is that you lose your favorite websites and your MP3's. With Audiogalaxy going down due to yet another pointless litagation from the monster music industry, this isn't as small a thing as it used to be.
Sitting in North Idaho, covered in mosquito bites and calamine lotion, sometimes the music choice is limited. Outside my window I can here the kids who came here for college painting the outside walls of the apartment blaring the newest album of EMINEM (yes Shady's back, shut up!). Driving down the road, you can hear lots of country songs, and some oldies... but what's to fill the gap? In such small towns, what is to fill the gap between the WAL*MART massmarket of EMINEM and the country western of the hill people? MP3's have served for some time, but apparently, it's not good enough anymore.
We can't even get good CD's here, and if you could they would be too expensive. Of course, that is the ploy of the music industry who already makes a hell of a profit off of an artists hard labor. Don't tell me that the artist makes THAT much off their album... they make a lot more off the tour, that's the reason they want you to buy it, they don't actually get much of the $17.00 per CD that you pay for it. If music companies really want us to stop our MP3 business, then they have to provide some alternative. Make music cheaper... or how about those songs that are not in print anymore, but you really like it, and want to hear it? What do you do about that? Copyright enfringment? Are you selling it to anyone? You could say the same thing about cassette tapes and radio stations then, since you can record songs off the radio for free as well... it's just about greed and control then right? Agreed.
At any rate, the as to the reasons for the format, we'll have to wait and see if they are all solved... [hours later]
Well, we installed 98, and the suspect folder is gone, so either we did something right, or the suspect folder really is part of WinME. Who knows.  --#3

    I'm a believer in business karma, meaning that your attitude as you go through your day does affect how you do your job and how others perceive your desire to do your job. Half the time I've ever lost a job, I had said earlier that day or week, either consciously or subconsciously, "Fuck it, I don't care about the consequences." Sometimes that was honestly how I felt and wanted out, sometimes I have been discontented but I didn't actually want to go (or just yet). This is why I refuse to say or allow myself to think, "I don't care," because much like Pierre in that Maurice Sendak book we read as kids, I actually do prefer not to be eaten by a metaphorical lion. It catches up with you and you get your prophesy fulfilled. So no, I am not tired of the job I have had for two years -- but I admit being weary. I am getting a little tired of people who can't think before they pick up the phone, and as far as I know the opportunities to advance to a position where taking customer calls are rare. Every day I talk to at least one person who is unclear of concepts, sometimes so much that I wonder how they got to be as old as they are (the old walk-and-chew-gum thing), and then there are days when things are downright surreal.
    Case: Woman has a geek work on her computer for seven hours, and now it doesn't boot. Does she call the geek to raise hell? No, she calls her ISP to raise hell and find out what he did, and halfway through reading the notes to tell her what we advised the geek calls and she hangs up on us to kiss his ass. Case: You name the hardware failure (monitor doesn't come on, operating system locks up halfway through boot cycle, "Keyboard not found, press F1 to continue", etc.) and instead of calling a repair facility or their computer's manufacturer, who do they call? Their ISP, and in mock brilliance start the conversation by saying they can't get their email... which is certainly true but it's all those preliminary steps like getting the computer to turn on which aren't in our parameters. Case: Put the two previous statements together and you have the woman who, after we had looked at everything pertinent to dialing out (Macintosh, OS 9.1, so there are only 3 places to check), was still getting a modem-not-found error when dialing -- and started screaming at her ISP because it has to be an error on their end, she'd paid a geek $250 to set up her machine "so it is perfect." Except for the nonfunctional modem, ma'am; 800-SOS-APPL, have a nice day. Case: The five or so minutes spent on the phone with an entire Middle-Eastern family where the question they were floundering with was, "What is your email address?" Their cell phone battery died before they could even state the problem they'd called in about, if they knew what it was in the first place. (I think my friend Karen in Customer Service, who used to work at an AT&T phone store, said it best: they make chargers you plug into the wall, they make cigarette lighter chargers, and today's cell phones batteries have more than 2 hours of talk time... why the hell did you call on a dead battery?!) Case: The folks who call/visit the right people to fix an issue (their ISP, their OEM, their authorized repair facility) because they have an issue, yet refuse to get the issue fixed -- a.k.a. complete wastes of your time -- and will be back to gripe about the issue again but do nothing about it then either. (The joke in my wife's family was how her grandmother always complained about how much of a mess the garage was, but when a work party would be organized to attack the garage she'd suddenly say "Oh, you don't have to do that now" and offer the workers lunch.) The one-step-beyond is the person who does try to fix the problem then gives up at a crucial moment for whatever reason (or no reason at all)... like the person who was two mouse-clicks away from a fix (two Okay buttons in fact, nothing intense) and she announced this was "too hard" and hung up. Case: Those times when the action requested is to let the technician hear the modem dial and find out what's happening, yet the person will not shut up so it takes several attempts. I read of one time it took 45 minutes to find 10 seconds of silence; it was only when the chatterbox stopped for a breath or a drink that the tech heard what he was trying to listen to. Case: Calling about an email retrieval issue on a cell phone in a car in traffic 20 minutes away from the computer, or better yet calling on any issue when the computer is in another state (either they're on vacation or the call is on behalf of someone else). Or the conversation starts with "Why can't I get on?" then when pressed admit they haven't tried to connect in three weeks. 'Nuff said.
    But not all stupidity is limited to the technical field: Windstorm reveals the oldest surviving intact outdoor advertising art in America, and while historical preservation societies swing into action Nike whitewashes the building.
    I'd like to give something positive to the world, so how about some advice... think! Know your email address before you call your ISP. If you use a dialup modem and can be off the phone line you use for the modem, please do. If you are calling on a cell phone or a cordless phone, charge the sucker up first. Lying will not help you, we're like Santa Claus and know whether you've been bad or good. Be in front of the computer. No, you can't use an instant messaging service or insert a CD into your Internet appliance (it only does email and maybe browses). When the tech says your shit's busted, it's likely because it is and you should take the recommendation offered. If the person says click, click the left mouse button. If the person says double-click, click the left mouse button twice without moving your hand. If the person says right-click, click the right mouse button. Rare are the applications where one clicks the right mouse button twice, okay? You don't have to qualify every action, just do exactly as you are told, and don't say you don't see something if you aren't looking for it. And finally, qualify what the problem is before you call anyone so you can call the right place... and don't get pissed off if the person you call sends you to the right people if you guess wrong (Microsoft didn't make your modem, your ISP didn't write the operating system, and your computer manufacturer didn't install Bonzi Buddy on your machine I should hope).
    Yes, I do long for the days when you had to understand computers in order to own one. But I'm sure even then there were people who drank lemon-scented dishwashing liquid samples because they didn't read the package...  --#2

   You'll have to bear with me this month; it seems that I don't have one singular thing that deserves to be complained about at length, but a whole host of smaller issues that only need mention (and maybe a sentence). Which is part of why I'm a week late in posting this, I was trying to figure out which is most annoying to me and came to realize they all are. Some more than others, sure, but they're all thorns in my side lately. If you empathize with any of these, glad to be of service. If you're part of the problem, STOP IT! :)
* I get back from vacation, prepared to take a test that will give me a pay raise and reduce the number of calls I have to take in a day. Go into the testing room, go to the test webpage, and somehow the testing system forgot that I was supposed to be in there. And the management couldn't get me reinserted right then and there so I have to wait! (twist of fate dept: turns out the answer key the test was graded with automagically was wrong, so the people who did take it were marked as failing... heh heh)
* The local photo processor stopped developing 110 and 126 film rolls on February 1, 2002 (which figures, just try to find those sizes of film in the store) so I have to send my goods to a processor in another state with a check that's 4x as much as I'd pay for 35mm (or 2x as much as I used to pay when the film was in vogue). I'm aware of the evolution of the world and stuff, which is why the two film sizes were discontinued, but there are hundreds of millions of these cameras out there -- in the 80's, what teenager didn't have a cute 110 and what mother didn't have a Kodak 126 with the blue faceplate? -- and I don't recall getting a memo saying they were being cut off.
* Honest, if more people would reboot their computers and power off their DSL/cable modems *before* they call Tech Support, they wouldn't have to call in at all. Yeah, it's job security, but it gets pretty tiresome to hear how long people have waited on hold (and bothersome for those people to have to wait on hold that long) and they feel compelled to give you their life's story (relevant or not, which is usually isn't), then the fix takes all of one minute plus was something they realize suddenly they could have done themselves.
* It's grey and rainy in the place where you take your vacation, a place not known for bad weather, and back home the weather is better than it had been in months. Ain't that the way of the world?
* You don't need a passport to go to Canada. You need one to come home. Some people get all up in arms about the concept of a national ID card/system (if only because certain corporations have 'volunteered' their technology to make it happen), but that's what passports are being used as -- and not effectively enough, apparently, since bad guys ARE identified by this system yet still given clearance to enter. I don't have a problem with an actual national ID system, as long as Sun, Microsoft, etc. aren't in charge of it... and I don't delude myself that such a system would completely eliminate future instances of the stupidity we've seen in the last year.
* Batteries from Walgreen's are worthless. I bought a 12-pack for my digital camera, so I'd be ready for all of my fun in the last month or two -- and they's so weak that they are dead after 2-10 pictures, and so weak that fresh out of the package they can't power the display on the back of the camera. I was worried my camera was on the fritz. Batteries from IKEA are excellent. And a quick reminder, brought to you by Tandy: RadioShack's alkalines were rated by Consumer Reports as being the cells with the longest life.
* I still haven't gotten in touch with my sister to meet my neice, Kayt Trudy, and that's my shortcoming. Had it not been so late, when I was visiting my friend Richard (who lives next door to her boyfriend's family) I should have seen if she was around.
* If you happen to live near Tacoma and have a tree that needs trimming, do not call Armey's A-1 Tree Service. It's been a month and a half, and they haven't returned to finish the job (the suckers off of the roots of the tree we had taken down are everywhere, when they were supposed to apply sage oil to kill it four days after cutting the tree down) nor have they returned their phone calls to ask WTF is going on.
* SuperCuts is off my rant list because the fat bitch who spent an hour on her boyfriend, making seven people wait, and the counterperson who said "you should have called ahead" when the people who DID call ahead also had to wait that hour, both got reamed by their manager after an email to their corporate customer service addy expressed my family's dismay...
* is trying to go the way of and remove the copyrighted music. I give them credit about how they are doing it gradually instead of suddenly, and the fact that I can still get every song I want despite these measures (heh heh), and I realize it's silly to complain about the inability to pirate so the rant is that all the people I know on AG are pissing their pants about songs being blocked -- they bemoan the system like it has already shut down and offers nothing when it's very much alive and well, thank you. Shuddup and download, people; search by song name!
   That should be sufficient for now... Better, focused rant next time. :)  --#2

There's a certain number of incidents that stick with us for life. Birth, breaking bones, falling in love, being ejected out of love, first time getting drunk, first time getting stoned, first time getting laid, meeting whatever savior one holds, getting married, getting divorced, having children, watching someone die, dying yourself, the moment your grandfather lets go of the handlebars or slides into the passenger seat and says "Here, you drive now." I have one moment which has been on my mind on and off for years, and whenever I tell someone the story their eyes get wide just as mine were when it happened. I don't need to editorialize much, the story tells itself.
   I was at my parents' house in the early 1990s, and my mother was saying those things only a mother can say, in this case it started with "Why can't you be more like your younger brother?"
   I was thinking, "Obvious reasons, such as I have an IQ," but I asked what she meant.
   "Your brother gets up at the crack of dawn, gets to work by 6 a.m., and he works until midnight. Why can't you be more like that?"
   I thought, "It's that IQ thing again." My brother worked in a mint field, which is hardly a prestigious thing, and she was phrasing it all wrong, so I had to correct her... "Mom, you do realize that Owen gets off of work at 2 p.m., then he drinks beer with his coworkers until midnight, right?"
   "He works for a living so he has earned the right to drink with his friends," she said as though this made sense.
   Correction time again. "Mom, Owen is seventeen and drives his friends around when they're drinking. I want you to tell me honestly, as a junior high guidance counselor, are you now condoning teenage drinking and driving? Think about it." What could she possibly say to that breakdown?
   "Well, at least he has friends," she replied.
Shit. It took me a minute to get my jaw off the ground. I was completely stunned that she actually said that. The conversation ended right there; there was nothing more I could possibly say, and in all honesty ten years later the dialog has never resumed. And likely never will.   --#2
p.s. - congratulations to Owen on making Mom a grandmother on April 29th; better you than me.
p.s.² - congratulations to Becky on making Mom a grandmother on May 22nd; beware of the Jewish mother's curse!

   The local newspapers have given a lot of airtime lately to the fact that a lot of the historic buildings downtown, the edifices that have been here for a century and definitely have seen better days, are being given the wrecking ball because whomever owns them isn't doing anything with them. There was an article in today's paper about one such structure which has a consciencious owner who was trying to raise $5.1 million to renovate it into a 21-room hotel, and just short of his goal he bailed out because of the economic downturn, leaving the building for sale again with likely no takers. In the place of a rant about unresisted destruction and unchecked decay of the historic part of my adopted town (there are plenty already out there), I'm going to speak fondly about one of the already deceased buildings.
   Long before I moved to Tacoma, around 1988, my friend Jessie took Paige and I to this gay club on 11th & Commerce called the Polar Bear. It was mostly a restaurant but had an enclosed bar so the whole family could enjoy. There was this beautiful freestanding neon light hanging over the bar entrance announcing it as the Igloo Lounge with an igloo over the words. The bar itself was huge, a solid oak structure with metal railings across the bottom for your feet. The restaurant had an old-fashioned saloon look to it, or maybe a soda shop look, because on one wall behind this counter there was a full-wall woodwork set of shelves with mirrors between. The carpets were truly old, like the kind my grandparents had -- a red velvet pattern with wear marks. The building itself was three stories tall, and at some point in history the upper two were offices or apartments or something. The front of the building, as often is seen downtown, had some ornate work on it, with little gargoyles on the edges of each floor's corners and scrollwork around the windows. It was a classic structure from the turn of the century which apparently had seen a couple popular times and a few slow times, and with the first floor as a restaurant it was trying to capture some of the classic charm without being able to really ride its coattails; the wonderment of the whole building was another time and another place.
   And then in 1991, for whatever reason, the restaurant closed. It seems to have been a hasty departure -- the oak bar had been removed, I'd imagine someone bought it as they were going out of business, but so much was left behind, captured in time. In 1998 or so I was walking down the sidewalk past the now-forgotten restaurant and I noticed there was this hole developing in the front door. I passed by every day for a week, knowing that it would be long before that hole would grow to something a person could enter. That day came four days later, and I brought a flashlight, a camera, and empty pockets.
   This wasn't the photograph I remember: years of rain had seeped in through the roof, down through floors of the upper two levels, and it was *raining* indoors on the ground floor. The ceiling of the restaurant was accoustic tiling, which by how had become saturated and fallen to the rotting carpet. The metal ladder from whomever was breaking down the business was oddly still there, so I borrowed it for my photo efforts. The neon sign was still there, amazingly, so I climbed up to sign level and took a couple pictures. I wanted desperately to be able to take the tubing with me but I didn't know how to get it out of the wall without breaking it, so photos would be as close as I could come.
   I walked into the bar, finally of legal age to enter but long past when it would have done me any good, and the wooden bar was long gone... when I talked to Jessie later on, he said that was a good thing because it would have been completely destroyed by the moisture. The bar area had its own more sturdy ceiling so it wasn't so wet in that corner. A screwdriver, a stack of CD cases without their CD's inside, a bunch of photocopy posters promoting some event the restaurant was hosting, these things I pocketed; big pictures of Marilyn Monroe and Ben Turpin and other old film stars had fallen off their nails but remained upright, and various other elements of this being a bar still remained. I crossed the aisle and went to the kitchen. A lot of things were still in place, including the microwave, and I pocketed their framed liquor license. Walking through the kitchen I found the back stairs to the upper levels... how I would have loved to have gone up there, but judging by how much water was coming through the ceiling I knew that the whole inside of the building would collapse if I set foot up there. Nature had compromised my further urban archaeology in this structure, so after a few more photos I went out the way I came in, nearly getting caught emerging by a passing block security guard, and I went home with my treasures.
   The next time I passed by, a board had been put up over the door. Six to nine months later, the entire block was razed to build a bus stop. And the question in my mind was: did the neon sign survive the wrecking ball, or did it even survive other explorers who came in through the hole in the door? I'm sure that building meant a lot more to some people than me, those who remember when the inside was as amazing as the outside or who went to that bar almost daily for years. But I have the proof they were there, I have photographs of a moment the world never got to see.   --#2

    Mark Twain, or maybe it was his collaborator Charles Warner, said "Everybody talks about the weather but nobody does anything about it." This entry is another example of such: it was the Ides of March yesterday, it didn't get very cold or precipitate much between November 1 and March 1st, and in one week it's the vernal equinox. So what has it done three times in the last two weeks? Yep, snow. There's two inches on the roof of my car right now. (Recall last year, when it snowed one week after I took the studded tires off my car.) Stuff's growing outside, some even in bloom, and I've planted schizanthus in a hanging basket. This isn't fair! To quote another great American, Joe Walsh from The Eagles, "nature has her little surprises."
    Sure, this isn't much of a rant, but if I hold up my end (or someone else in this organization holds up their end) it will only sit here for a couple-three weeks. :) Understand why this snowfall matters to me: I get my primal urge to plant things in late January, which I admit doesn't make much sense because I live in the state of Washington -- on one side of the state it isn't warm enough to plant outside until May, and on the other side it is nice enough to start planting in mid-February because it's temperate (and the Corsican mint beneath the roses or mums is running rampant) but as the local joke goes there will be one final frost on April Fool's Day. I think that's why dandelion grows so well here; the less attention you give something in the yard, the better it grows -- and obviously vice versa, that the more nurturing you give the plants, the higher the likelihood they won't survive. The snow will only hurt what we paid for, not what came up volunteer, and like I've mentioned before there are a lot of pretty things in this yard that were here before us (happily). To my knowledge, we're only out one primrose which was waiting by the front door for a permanent home, and I personally have never trusted those critters.  --#2

    My job is in ISP tech support, whereupon people call me from far and wide to ask how to fix their computer problems (mostly connectivity, email, and browsing but other issues slide in like virus removal and removing the ton of spyware & crap in the startup sequence the happyclickers download and install merrily). It's what I studied to be when I grew up, more or less. I work with a hundred or so people in my office, and a few hundred more in other call centers across the country, including one center of outsourced labor to lighten our load. The company goal has always been "one-call resolution," which most of the time isn't all that hard if a) you know what you are doing and what causes what, and b) you are dilligent about fixing the problem and not just tossing the caller a bone.
    (And before you read the following, bear in mind that if you change the names and situations, a lot of professions have the same issues. Nearly every job has somebody who isn't pulling their weight, so someone else must come along and take up the slack, and that person has to work that much harder to do so.)
    And my rant is that half the time we don't get that first-call resolution because someone didn't do their job; telling the person to retype their password after you've checked the call log to see if it says "password invalid" when they were trying to get on then verifying they have the right one and the account is active and the number they are dialing is working, okay-bye, is understandable -- but retyping the password isn't going to work if the person didn't pay their bill and got turned off. And I have never seen an initialization string in a post-Windows 3.1 machine fix anything whatsoever, let alone a "username and password is invalid on the domain" error. You could say it's job security that people are going to call back to get the problem fixed this time but after the third call the average Joe and Jane is thinking about calling a different company because this one is coming off as inept. Yesterday I read a story on about a company whose tech, when the issue was a phone number needed to be changed in the dialer, suggested a Windows reinstall... yeesh! I hate mopping up after idiot coworkers, and it's always the folks who don't work in the same center as myself so I can't walk over and box their ears. Customers doubt my ability to tech a problem because the last half-dozen didn't, though I can say that once they are functional courtesy of me (or whomever fixes them, I'm not trying to be vain here) they're quite happy to have located, as the guy in the next cube says far too often, "a smart monkey" but wonder why the blazes it took X number of calls to do. And so do I, and I apologise for the hours of hold and minutes of irrelevant click-work they weathered.
    And typically people who don't do their job either leave lousy, inaccurate notes or no notes at all so they can't be tracked down and spanked. That's always fun, when the customer says "this is my fifth call" and you have no idea what other people have done, or what they've done that you need to UNscrew, and some customers are of no help whatsoever on finding out [but my "if you have owned this computer for a great span of time, why don't you know your way around it?" rant was done earlier, heh -- the "you call yourself a sysadmin/certified and you don't know the basics?" rant is for another day]. Then it comes down to me and my friends to unravel; pass the nitroglycerine tablets, our blood pressure is on the rise. I hate inept coworkers! If you want to be useless, become management!  --#2

   For the better part of 34 years, I've believed that the concept parents and teachers always foisted upon kids, that one should apologise and all will be better, was a load of horseshit. And for the most part it is, since it doesn't fix broken glass, broken hearts, or broken lives. But eventually I came to realise that something so worthless serves a purpose -- it gives the person who feels hurt by someone else (if the apology is sincere) a sense that the person is owning up to the event. This is something we mortals need sometimes, that mental assurance that cause preceded effect and someone is honest enough to take the credit.
   Which brings me to why I have a new digital camera, a Veo Capture 1300. In mid-December I asked the friend who had borrowed my Agfa ePhoto 780c a month or so earlier for a birthday party to return the camera. This took a little doing; I left a message on his machine and figured he was at work, but later on I stopped in and found that all of his family (including a sister and neice who were camping out at his house) were all there in their jammies in the middle of the afternoon. He gave me the camera and the peripherals, and when we went out front to chat he said that he had somewhere to go, so we were going to part but I needed to ask his sister a question. Two hours later I left, some hurry he was in... Upon actually leaving he asks me to get those birthday photos off the camera because he'd been too lazy to do it himself -- and couldn't just do it right then because he'd already uninstalled the software. So the next day I pull the camera out of the case to take a photo for my family's Christmas letter, and notice he'd left the batteries in. Corrosion all over the terminals and across the bottom of the camera. Easily cleaned and neutralized... but still the camera won't turn on. Took a bit of work to get the screws out but I got inside the camera and discovered the corrosion had engulfed a relay inside the device -- call this one, doctor, it's dead Jim. Not that the two-year service contract I bought would cover this, but I do have one... erk, or I did; the camera was bought on November 27, 1999 and the day I got the camera back was December 10, 2001. A week and a half late!
   I hope you can see where this is going: My friend, who is six months younger than I and has two kids, should have 'fessed up, been honest, apologised, at least said something to the effect of "whoops, my bad" and owned up to the problem. That's what really bugged me, that he didn't and tried to get me out of the way before I noticed. I sent off an email to him and to his girlfriend (she checks her mail more often than he does his) asking, "what happened?" No request for repayment or replacement, nothing angry or accusatory, just a simple request for him to tell his side and say he's sorry. To date he hasn't said a peep, and I'm expecting a call from him any day now anyway (his sister has a computer problem, and she said she'd have him contact me when her schedule was free so I could have a look at it "which would be around January 7").
   While technology progresses -- Moore's Law in action: this $80 camera takes better pictures and is more expandable than the $180 camera it replaces -- people are still shmucks.  --#2


...back to today's Rant...