Java Zen:Thinking Out Loud Thursday, 2021.08.05
Winning isn't everything, but losing isn't anything.

2008.06.28

Paper Wars

Turns out Eric Scheie and I are fighting the same battle today. My efforts are far more modest than Eric’s, involving one puny schredder and a few garbage bags. Still, there is a lot of paper I HAVE to keep, mostly related to Janet’s psychotherapy practice. Stuff I can’t distroy for a few years yet due to some rather vague legal reason. Ack. Nonetheless, I toss what I can.

What’s interesting about the battle in Eric’s trench is he apperently gets far mor junk mail than I. He quotes from these folks:

“The amount of paper junk mail sent each year in the USA is staggering — some 4 million tons, nearly half of which is never opened.”

The most staggering thing about that statistic, assuming it’s true, is that of those 4 million tons, over half of it actually is opened.

Who are these people?

2008.05.19

Road Report

This story begins where it has ended, with me in New York City cheerily, albeit weary and fighting a ugly head cold (more on that later), clicking away at the keyboard of this fine laptop provided by my employer (assuming “fine” includes the fact it doesn’t recognize the power cable half the time and looses track of the touchpad, thus requiring a reboot) at 2+ AM in the Belvedere hotel. Belvedere, by the way, is French for “Not the hotel booked by Corporate Travel for Greg”, just so you know. I’ve only been here a half hour, but so far this place is GREAT!

I had been booked to stay at the Hilton Garden Inn. The week before I had been put up at the Novotel, which is a bit of a dive in a Euro sort of way, so I figured the Hilton had to be better. While the staff was friendly and helpful, the accommodations were lacking. Arriving so late, my options were for a non-smoking room with two queen sized beds or a smoking room with a king sized bed. (Sidebar: Walking this planet with a 6’5″ frame means there is no such thing as a “king” sized bed. There are either “regular” sized beds, small beds, really damn uncomfortably small beds and cribs. When I travel, my best shot at any thing resembling a decent night sleep is a “king” sized bed.) Ah, but non-smoking trumps king sized bed so I took the non-smoking room. Ready to turn in, I slipped the door key card into the slot and pushed the door open.

Wild horses will not pull out of me what I saw. Let’s just say the room wasn’t available and that it was VERY much in use. What fun to be the scary stranger in the doorway at 1:00 AM. Thanks, Hilton!

The front desk agent was very apologetic and comped me free breakfasts for my stay (I don’t eat breakfast.) That left the smoking king. Ugh. Thinking (or not thinking very well, as it turns out) this head cold would block out the smoke smell, I took the room. After all, it’s New York City and it’s pushing 1:00 AM. What are my options?

Well, the entire floor stunk. The room really stunk and when I pulled back the covers, I looked around to see who it was that was standing behind me that just lit up a cigarette. The stench of cigarette smoke permeated everything and if I didn’t get out of there fast, my clothes and my person would stink of smoke for the duration of my stay. The collection of Good Ideas generally doesn’t include reeking of smoke in business meetings involving Ogilvy in the heart of New York City. Well, at least I was thinking again.

So back down to the desk to press for better options. The desk clerk called around to a couple of hotels and sent me over to the Belvedere. Did I mention this place is GREAT? It’s 100% non-smoking. And check this out, the soap is from England! Penhaligon’s Quercus soap.

OooooOOOOooOoooo. Fancy! Novotel just had a cake of stuff in shrink wrap labeled “soap.” I kid you not.

So it’s better at the moment, but this head cold is in the Noseagra Falls stage. I packed something like 8 handkerchiefs to deal with it over the next two days. I can thank being sealed in an aluminum can for 4+ hours last Friday as I flew home from New York City. The guy across the aisle was constantly sneezing and sniffling (like me now) and had a penchant for not covering his face when aerosolizing his wretched illness. But I feel his pain now. There’s nothing quite like a head cold across altitude shifts from 5,000 feet to 36,000 feet to 200 feet to really make one ponder the science of hydraulics.

I love road warrior stories, especially when they happen to someone else.

Well, time to find a pillow. I have to wake up and be charming in six hours.

[Edit History]

2008.19.2008 – 02:35 AM

Coolness. They even have a bath robe for me here. Too bad it’s for a guy about 18 inches shorter across the shoulders than I.

2008.04.28

FedEx Road Show

Turns out, FedEx has both “tracking numbers” and “tour numbers.” Tracking numbers are those which show you where your package is as it moves from Point A to Point B, where presumably you are at Point B. For example, a recent purchase of mine was shipped from the vendor in two separate packages. Using the FedEx “tracking number”, we see the trace of Package One’s journey from Point A (the vendor) to Point B (me):

Nicely done, FedEx. “Tour numbers,” however, show your package’s progress from Point A to all points in between Point A and you. Using the FedEx “tour number” shows a different trace for Package Two:

Package Two went from Columbia, MO, through Denver (I missed the opportunity to wave as it went by), on to Salt Lake City and then back to Denver. What fun! Problem is, there’s no way to know what kind of number you have. Not so nicely done, FedEx.

Well, I hope Package Two enjoyed it’s visit to Salt Lake City.

2008.02.13

Laptops For Less Bait And Switch

Interesting bait and switch from Laptops For Less. Here’s what you see when you first hit the site:

LFL1

Note that the claim is for free shipping on orders over $30. Coolness. I need a replacement power cord for an ancient Compaq. But then notice what happens when you head on down the checkout path:

LFL2

Well how about that! My over $30 order is charged for shipping and the LFL website now shows free shipping on orders over $50. “Click for details” makes no mention of the $30 threshold, just the $50 threshold. I ordered the power cord from MobileTechPower.com which also charged me shipping but were upfront about the charge. In fact, the item was $8 less expensive overall from Mobile Tech Power.

2008.02.11

Non-Profit Transparency

Too late for Cherubim Foundation, but nonetheless good to see: Stricter IRS Form 990 to be more revealing, costly.

Among other things, the IRS wants to know more about the nonprofit’s business transactions and joint ventures, and its relationships with the directors on its board, as well as directors’ relationships with each other. Nonprofits will have to disclose more information about their officers’ compensation, political campaigning and lobbying activities; whether the organization has written policies covering conflicts of interest, whistleblowers and document destruction; and describe how it enforces some of those policies.

Funny-sad that a software engineer had a better sense of what the future had in store for how non-profits would be held accountable than a board of purported business leaders. I believe a lot of what they did, or rather didn’t do, was the result of weak accountability. When people know they will be held accountable, in some meaningful way, they tend to pay better attention to the consequence of their actions – particularly when the risks they take are done with other people’s money.

2007.11.28

And How Is Your Christmas Shoving Going?

Er…I mean Christmas shopping.

“They were having a big fight. Two ladies was jumping a lady over credit cards,” witness Sylvester Wilson said.

Nearly a dozen Wauwatosa squad cars responded to the call just before 11 a.m. Saturday.”It was a nice brawl. It came from inside to outside. If you go up there, you’ll see hair, earrings, all pulled out on the ground,” Wilson said.

Online shopping, baby. It’s the way to go.

2007.11.10

Run, Legacy Media, Run!

Glenn Raynolds’ wrap up from Blogworld Expo in Las Vegas:

It really underscored to me how big and diverse the blogosphere has become. There were lots of big bloggers I barely knew of, because they’re in areas I don’t follow. Some tech folks were telling me that they liked it because, going to the tech conferences, they saw the same people every time. I think a lot of political-blogger types felt the same way. There was plenty of cross-fertilization.

But the bottom line is that the blogging pond has gotten very big, and there are a lot of big fish in it now. I think that’s a huge success for the blogosphere.

I would agree and I believe the blogger’s effect on news and information is still defining its self. Just two years ago there were a handful of blogs I kept up with on a daily basis and of those I pretty much kept up with all the posts and comments. Of that handful, just two remain that I follow that closely: Instapundit and Tim Blair. I still tune in now and again to many of the old favorites, such as Althouse, Hot Air, Gateway Pundit, Iowahawk, The Anchoress and the Advice Goddess. But the time that had been spent keeping up with the second tier blogs has been supplanted by time spent at a variety of excellent blogs related to my business and industry. Two years ago, there wasn’t much out there in the blogosphere related to my business. At least not much beyond the posting of code samples, requests for technical support and rants against Microsoft and such. Today, there are a number of excellent blogs related to software design, development and security. Joel Spolsky and Bruce Schneier are no longer such lonely examples in the blogosphere.

The adaptability of the blogosphere, where evolutionary rules prevail more so than the revolutionary, is not its only advantage over the legacy media. The blogosphere, I believe, will host a diversity of which the politically correct congregation cannot even conceive. When an environment of diversity exists without fear of reprisal or repression by guilt, there can be true dialog and understanding.

In the blogosphere there are no suicide bombers to be fearful of, entitled, unfocused hunger strikers receive the collective yawn and laughter they deserve, lies are exposed, and justice prevails. In the legacy media, you’ll find support of terrorists tactics (bombers, snipers, use of human shields), exaggerated importance of trite stories, fabrication, lies, bias disguised as journalism and efforts to incite lynch mob frenzies among their readers. True, you may find this among bloggers. But other bloggers will expose such bloggers. Legacy media does not do this to its own.

I have great faith in the general population’s distaste for being duped like this and judging from the falling circulation and stock prices among the major US papers as well as the anti-war bombs being cranked out by Hollywood, I’d say the general population is catching on to what a shabby product the legacy media is producing. And for those that see, the blogosphere is there to catch them.

2007.11.01

Not Your Father’s IDE

That’s Integrated Development Environment to you non-software developer types. More generally, I’m referring to most of the marketing material for developer tools originating from the Great Northwest. I’m seeing more and more of this stuff with the ninja-kung-fu-martial-arts theme.

“Use our tools and be an instant black belt master of codi-fu on that next killer app!”

Much of the code I see from the younger set of developers, those that are a generation behind me and who have never known of a world without a wide web, is indeed quite killer. As in the “killed the project” kind of lethality. The IDE wrapped around the .NET languages has become a warm blanket for new developers which insulates them from the consequences of sloppy design until much too late in the development process.

I came to software development just at the end of assembler’s run and when C was it. Memory was still scarce but there was a lot more wiggle room in 640KB than there was in 64KB. A bad design still failed early and a good developer understood how design effected performance. Not only did you need to know the language, you needed to understand the hardware as well. These days, systemic knowledge is a tertiary concern if it’s considered at all.

“Black Belt Programmer” is a phrase that has always made me wince. The discipline required to achieve a black belt rank in most martial arts is considerably greater than the discipline required to become an excellent software developer. I can make this call because I actually have a real-life black belt rank in a martial art (currently, 3rd Dan in Aikido) and sustain an excellent quality of life as a software developer (so presumably I’m good at that, too. Right?)

So I’m not buying into this ninja marketing hype, yet that’s what is selling to them that’s buying. Will “evil code assassins” replace “debuggers?” Will my work day be interrupted with Kato-like tests (à la Inspector Clouseau) of my skill and attentiveness? Hiiiiiieeeeeee-YA!

Leaves me with the feeling I’m not long for this world of main stream software development.

2007.06.06

Cherubim Foundation Update V

The 2005 990 filed by the Cherubim Foundation Board has the numbers behind the organization’s last year in business. The document is public and is available from sites like GuideStar. For 2004, Cherubim Foundation showed $72,000 raised for the entire year. The Unfounding Board of Directors had $86,000 to work with, most of that on hand around May 2005, and yet they managed to fly the organization into the ground by year’s end.

The numbers don’t look right to me. They claim $57,000 “provided as aid and education to 56 participants” ($1,018/participant). Yet the 990 for 2004 claims $35,000 “provided aid and education to 42 patients” ($833/participant). 14 more participants consumed $22,000? Their own Board meeting notes indicate they moved to cut participant benefits. And I don’t know what happened to all of Cherubim Foundation’s material assets (office equipment, furniture, sound equipment, etc.).

What the Board didn’t know is someone on the Board, or close to it, was dropping notes at my door. I don’t know who and would rather they hadn’t. I prefer whistle blowers who actually blow the whistle. Regardless, the Note Elf(s) seemed pretty accurate and corroborating the important stuff was easy enough. A good look at the books would have been most enlightening, but would have served little more than to confirm what I’ve been saying all along. The Board members listed in the 2005 990 lacked the skill and the steel to do a decent job. They and they alone own Cherubim Foundation’s failure. It’s success belongs to the rest of us.

2007.04.25

Flying Pig From Seattle, WA

Looks like Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments “found” my $2,000 deposit. Apparently, “posted no later than March 31st” means “April 16th” on the Jensen business calendar. I’ll find out tomorrow if the bank is impressed. Assuming it’s good, it means a modification to the Jensen Musical Instruments web site. Until Mr. Jensen compensates me for lost interest and the cost of the Jensen Musical Instruments web site, it will stand as a warning to others who may be considering doing business with Mr. Jensen. I have heard privately from several people similarly burned by Mr. Jensen that my efforts to shine light on his business practices have yielded positive results for them as well. To that end, I am satisfied and consider it a small miracle my $2,000 deposit was ever returned.

Refund Check

[Edit History]

2007.04.26

Several grammar changes.

2007.04.03

Worthless Words

As was easy to predict, the promise from Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments to return my $2,000 deposit by March 31 has proven to be just as vacuous as his promise to build an electric cello. Here it is, April 3 and not so much as a penny has been returned.

Lying leech.

I’m amending my demand to say I want my deposit and expenses in the form of a cashiers check. I have zero confidence in the ability of Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments to act in an ethical manner. Someone suggested he could potentially send another bell and whistle laden package which would be empty and he could then claim he sent cash. Regardless, any future correspondence with Mr. Jensen will be opened before witnesses and on video tape.

Lying, unethical leech.

2007.03.03

The Paper It’s Printed On

That’s what this is worth…maybe…

Letter From Jensen - 20070303

The letter was sent priority mail, certified and return receipt. Not sure what that was about. Mr. Jensen gains nothing with some sort of paper trail. Is he trying to demonstrate the sincerity of his intent to refund my deposit? I won’t be holding my breath until March 31st. From my perspective (That would be the one of the customer who is out $2,000.), nothing of substance has changed. In this deal, talk has been cheap and promises empty. I’ve been put off before by such chatter and promises from Mr. Jensen.

Neither will I be altering in the slightest the plans I’ve put in motion. Eight bucks of postal pomp and circumstance hasn’t inspired me to call off the dogs. If Mr. Jensen wants to impress me, he can send my money back, plus interest, and cover the expenses I incurred while trying to get his attention. And remember: the terms are cash. It will save the burden of having to spell my name correctly.

Previously:

Ripped Off By Eric Jensen And Jensen Musical Instruments

[Edit History]

2007.03.03

Something about this letter bugged me even after accounting for the postal pageantry and name misspelling (after first spelling it correctly.) It’s dated February 29th, 2007. Typed on a date that doesn’t exist. Perhaps that’s to match his promise? What calendar is Mr. Jensen looking at? I’m thinking the same one he uses to schedule his delivery commitments. Grateful, I am, there is a March 31st. Although, Mr. Jensen doesn’t specify a year.

2006.11.27

Ripped Off By Eric Jensen And Jensen Musical Instruments

I’ve been fighting a number of battles over the past 6 months or more. I’ve also let a few dings go unanswered. Like the General says, you have to pick your battles. It looks to be time for releasing some of these into the wild. As I found with Cherubim Foundation, some folks just don’t respond to common sense, fairness and decency until they realize the rock they’ve slithered under has been turned over, exposing them to the light of day and the view of the world.

Today, the rock I’m flipping over is the one under which Eric Jensen and his business, Jensen Musical Instruments, are hiding. This leech, Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments, robbed me of $2,000.

Last February, I signed a contract for a custom built electric cello and put down better than half the money. I had done my home work and researched a number of potential vendors over the course of 3 months before deciding on Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments. I consider myself a pretty sharp Internet buyer and have never lost so much as a dime due to a fraudulent transaction conducted over the Internet. I’ve been shopping on-line for over 8 years. The BBB said Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments was good, a number of professional musicians credit Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments on their CD’s and I had a good conversation with Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments on the phone where we discussed instrument options and such.

Even so, just how many crooks bank on getting rich by flipping phony electric stringed instruments? The electric cello niche has to be pretty damn small. It’s a small market and if you run a bad deal your reputation will suffer. Or at least it should. That’s the purpose behind this post. I doubt I’ll ever seem my $2,000 again, but I sure don’t want Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments sucking on anyone else.

But the Internet wasn’t the problem. Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments could have ripped me off just as easily if he had a shop here in Denver. But he is in Seattle which complicates the idea of making a visit. The leech no doubt had this in mind as he negotiated the theft of my $2,000.

Follow the links to learn the details about Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments. I have an attorney working on this to explore the consequences of the leech having conducted such a transaction over the Internet, across state lines and such. I’d like to shut down his web site (which I won’t link to) but until I get some kind of judgment this doesn’t look to be possible. Does anyone know anything different about shutting down a web site?

So you know, I have since acquired an electric cello. It’s a beautiful 6 string instrument from Ned Steinberger. The Steinberger was my second choice only because the vapor-instrument from Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments was pitched as having a few bells and whistles which I liked a little better. In addition, the non-existent Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments vapor-instrument was alleged to be slightly smaller and thus easier to travel with (a major purpose for acquiring an electric cello in the first place.)

The Steinberger cello is a beautiful instrument and the customer service from both NS Design and their recommended vendor was outstanding. The Steinberger cello deserves its own post in the near future.

By the way, did I mention that the leech which stole $2,000 from me was Eric Jensen of Jensen Musical Instruments? What the leech doesn’t know and certainly doesn’t care about is that this is money from Janet’s life insurance policy. Money I set aside exclusively to bring music back into my life. The fucker stole blood money and may his wretched business life suffer the curse of psychotic customers until he returns my money and re-reimburses me for my expenses. I tried to do business on your terms, leech, but you failed. So now you are doing battle on my terms. Cash only, leech.

[Edit History]

2007.03.07

See update post:

The Paper It’s Printed On

2006.08.18

In-Flight Internet Abandoned

I’m not surprised by this:

Boeing is scrapping its in-flight high speed broadband service because of lack of interest from leading airlines.

The discontinuation of its Connexion service will cost the plane maker $320m (£169m) in one-off charges.

There are probably any number of reasons, vaguely encapsulated by Boeing’s reason of “Regrettably, the market for this service has not materialized as had been expected.” Specifically, I’d venture the following:

  • It’s yet another thing the airline has to support, which adds to their cost.

  • Focusing on a computer screen for the duration of a flight is tiring on the eyes, even for the few times I have attempted to do this. There are enough headache causing things about air travel. No need to add another.

  • Airplanes are just not good places to focus on work. Anything from turbulence to interruptions by flight attendants passing peanuts and beverages to row mates getting up to go to the bathroom make it near impossible to keep a decent train of thought going if you want to write an article or work on software code.
  • Security rules have made the prospect of pulling out a laptop during a flight increasingly inconvenient. I can foresee a day where laptops in the cabin will be forbidden.

  • For a lot of people, there just isn’t enough space to open a laptop. If you are my size (6′ 5″) it is flat out impossible. The few times I’ve been able to open a laptop and do some work for an hour or more it has been because the seat next to me was open allowing me to use that seat’s drop down tray.

These, and I’m sure other things I’m not thinking of at the moment, push “Internet Access” down on the list of desired amenities during an airline flight. Criminy, these days I’m just delighted, as I’m sure are others, to keep the clothes on my body without security confiscating them.

2006.06.17

Modern Day Marshalsea

While on a recent trip I found myself short of cash. “Not to worry,” me thinks. “A convenient cash advance from my credit card and all will be set right.” And so it was, until I got my credit card bill. I hadn’t done any kind of cash advance for years, as in 15 years. Having learned early about the black pit that is “Credit Card Debt,” I vowed to myself as a young lad never to fall into that dark, unholy place again. Since that day, I’ve paid my credit card balance in full each month.

But there are new rules (new to me, anyway) about cash advances. Not only do you pay a “fee” for the cash advance transaction, $20 in my case, but the damn thing is subject to immediate and Draconian finance charges. Check out the APR put in place by a simple cash advance:

Ouch

It would seem with the recent changes in bankruptcy laws (aggressively lobbied for by the banking and credit card industry) and the ability to jack interest rates to such obscene levels, the credit card industry has successfully pilfered the signage above the very gates of Hell: “All hope abandon, ye who enter here!” All the more reason to be mindful of the benefits of hard work and grateful I can pay my balance in full each month.


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