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3rd August 2011

10:41pm: Verizon Web Site fail.

Need I say more?

General Info
Chat start time  Aug 3, 2011 9:44:43 PM EST
Chat end time  Aug 3, 2011 10:37:08 PM EST
Duration (actual chatting time)  00:52:25
Operator  Amber

 

Chat Transcript
info: Please hold for a Verizon Wireless sales representative to assist you with your order.  Thank you for your patience.
info: You are now chatting with ‘Amber’
Amber: Hello. Thank you for visiting our chat service.  May I help you with your order today?
Mike: yes, please
Amber: How may I?
Mike: I am curious to know about the mifi mobile hotspot
Amber: I would love to help!
Amber: It’s just like the WiFi signal you would have at your home or at like McDonalds!
Mike: cool. 
Mike: What is the monthly charge?
Amber: Totally!
Amber: We have a couple options. Let’s get the device in your cart to see the options in your specific area!
Mike: which one would be better, the mifi or the samsung?
Amber: Their the same thing, but different makers.
Mike: I understand that the mifi can’t charge via usb and be a hotspot at the same time
Amber: It can. It can. You can use it as both USB and WiFi. You can also charge it via USB or via the home charger.
Mike: that’s contrary to what I am reading online
Amber: Where are you reading it?
Mike: comparison reviews
Mike: ”Unfortunately, you can’t charge the 4510L over a USB connection to a notebook and broadcast a Wi-Fi signal at the same time like you can with the Samsung SCH-LC11 “
Mike: the review was in May of this year
Amber: Reviews aren’t always right.
Amber: Most the time their wrong.
Mike: That’s not entirely true.
Amber: That is unfortunately true. Most people who do reviews are usually the people who don’t know how to use the device or have had issues. All the devices have a 2% chance of having an issue. Tvs, microwaves and cars have more of a chance of a manufacturer’s defect.
Mike: interesting.
Mike: ok, let’s proceed.
Amber: Ok. Do you have the device in your cart?
Mike: trying to add
Amber: If you click on the name of it, you should have an add to cart button.
Mike: why would I want text messaging for this device?
Mike: I am required to select a text messaging pay as you go plan for this device
Amber: It’s a just in case. It will have a phone number.
Amber: Pay as you go would be the best option.
Mike: it’s the ONLY option.
Amber: There used to be a 5 dollar option.
Mike: and the shopping keeps crashing my browser
Amber: I’m sorry, they changed things recently. I’m sorry that it keeps crashing. What error do you get?
Mike: it kills the browser window – and a hard crash
Mike: I’m trying a different browser
Amber: Strange.
Mike: it’s almost impossible to buy this online
Mike: ”The selection you made is unavailable at this time”
Amber: That’s a bad error. We’ve been having some issues today. May I have your phone number to report this issue?
Mike: XXX-XXX-XXXX
Amber: Thank you.
Mike: I even tried selecting the 10gb option – same message
Amber: I know if you keep trying it eventually works.
Mike: this is not very inspiring
Mike: I don’t feel like I’m going to “Rule the Air” – rather limp along and beg
Amber: I’m sorry! Their fixing things.
Amber: It will be better when it comes to the device. It’s the website that’s having issues and being fixed.
Mike: how do I put faith in a device provided by a network that can’t let me purchase it on their own website?
Amber: We haven’t had issues like this in a very long time. Every website has issues. It is not a reflection on our devices or our services. If say Facebook is down, and that happends a good amount of time because of the growth of it’s accounts, you’re not going to delete your Facebook account are you?
Mike: Facebook has never been down – that’s their priority, because that is what they provide.
Mike: I’m a systems engineer – my job is to make sure sites never go down.
Amber: I apologize, that is incorrect. I am a Facebook user and the site has been down.
Amber: But we’re not here to discuss websites, we’re here to order you the HotSpot.
Mike: This is what facebook provides when they have an outage: http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=431441338919
Mike: Where’s the Verizon note/blog post on why 
Mike: I can’t buy a device?
Amber: And with the phone number you have provided I have reported it. It’s also known and being worked on. We have fixed the main problems and now we’re continuing to fix other issues. Earlier no one could log into MyVerizon. That was a priority. And I apologize but we do not post on blogs about the site issues because that is internal work. You can buy a device, patience is needed for this process tonight. I’m sorry!
Mike: Well, I’m trying repetitively. It’s still failing.
Amber: It will work. I know it will.
Mike: I am literally on another vendor’s site right now, to see their competitive options
Amber: When you buy from third party companies they make you sign their own terms and conditions. That can effect you from return policies, to changing plans to early termination fees. Also feature changes and what phones you’re able to get.
Mike: of course it does. that’s absolutely no different than what Verizon provides
Mike: ”Third Party” – they are a vendor, just like you.
Amber: I’m sorry that is incorrect.
Mike: how are you not a vendor?
Mike: how is anyone else not a vendor?
Amber: We are a vendor. But we are direct. Not third party.
Mike: Direct? Third Party? Direct to whom? Third party of whom?
Amber: Verizon Wireless lets other companied to sell our products and services. They do have the right to change most options. If you go to a direct Verizon store or VerizonWireless.com that is Verizon selling Verizon products. If you buy from say WireFly or BestBuy they are selling our products.
Mike: ah yes – but I’m not looking at a device to connect to verizon – rather an entire other network.
Mike: a competitor, not a third party distributor of your products
Amber: Oh. I understand your wording choice now. I’m sorry. The reason their plans are less, is they have a lower coverage quality and area. We have a huge service area and we have the fastest coverage area as well with 3G. We’re working on getting 10X faster in all places with 4G soon!
Mike: I choose my words with care. while that may or may not be the case – depending on whose marketing team you choose to believe – they are still allowing me to purchase their product online.
Amber: They are not currently having issues as far as I know. And I don’t use their services whom ever they are so I wouldn’t know personally if they do have issues ever. This conversation isn’t going in any direction. And I apologize for that. Would you like to get one of our devices?
Mike: I am absolutely trying to get one of your devices. 
Mike: that’s the entire purpose of this conversation.
Mike: and it should not be this difficult.
Amber: Let’s try deleting your cookies, that may help it.
Mike: sure thing.
Amber: Thank you. Please tell me when you have finished that.
Mike: cookies are gone
Mike: signing back into myverizon
Mike: fail.
Mike: again.
Mike: ah well.
Amber: Please try.
Mike: ”The selection you made is unavailable at this time Browse one of the options below to choose a different plan or phone, or call (800) 2-JOIN-IN for assistance.”
Mike: nope.
Mike: well, I guess this makes my decision pretty easy, doesn’t it.
Amber: It may be easier and less frustrating for you to call customer service. The phone number to customer service is1-800-922-0204 and hours of operation are 6AM- 11PM EST. Also you can contact them via *611 from your handset. You may also call 1-800-2 JOIN IN
Mike: I thought this was customer service.
Mike: I must be mistaken.
Amber: There is over the phone sales, 1-800-2 JOIN IN and there is customer service 1-800-922-0204 or *611 from your Verizon cell phone.
Mike: Yes, I see what their number are. But the failure to provide service via methods clearly advertised is not very inspiring.
Mike: I’m curious – how many service calls are dealing with failed purchases?
Amber: I’m not sure. Also I’m sorry for the inconvenience. Is there anything else I can do for you?
Mike: No, that’s it. I only wanted to order a mobile hotspot, commit to a two year contract and give you more of my money.
Mike: But I can’t do that.
Amber: I wish I could fix the website for you. Though I’m unable to do so. Thank you for chatting with Verizon Wireless online sales. Have a great evening!

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

10th February 2011

6:37pm: Sit on this, and logrotate!

Since a lot of what everyone does on those pesky devices called “comp-you-tars” is becoming increasingly more business-critical, and we’ve come to a point where a web company that has “one server that we all use” is going nowhere, we have piles of lovely silicon and metal, with electric pulses flowing through them to create the world as we see it today.

Server Room

I love these machines, as they have extended our abilities far beyond a single person, they have connected us in ways that our ancestors could only imagined and written about in fiction, and they provide a central part of our everyday lives.

Developing complex systems has provided us with a challenge of building and maintaining large amounts of machines, and done correctly, a single person can easily control thousands, if not tens-of-thousands, of machines with a high degree of stability, confidence and grace.

Back in the olden days, systems were small, resource constraints were very much a real problem, and this provided developers the incentive, nay, the requirement, of knowing about their system and how to write efficient and clean code within the constraints.

As time goes by, each resource constraint is alleviated, for a while, by hardware manufacturers

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

19th January 2011

2:01pm: The beat keeps moving on.

As I sit here in another airport waiting area, I again realize the futility of airport security.

The entire TSA was probably created to give people jobs and create a semblance of security.

This time, I got into the line at LAX – United that had the scary body scanner.
I stood in two blue rectangles and placed my hands above my head, not unlike a prisoner, about to be shackled and tortured. In defiance, I stuck my tongue out during this process.

After I got through, thinking I was in the clear, the TSA dude tells me that he has to pat me down anyway. WTF. Sigh.

And then he “handles” me.

I feel so secure right now. Ugh.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

14th January 2011

1:31am: Thanks, but no thanks, Verizon!

I guess Verizon think they know what’s best for me.

Recently got a nice little Verizon USB 760 Modem from work, not a new concept for me, just something to keep in touch while on the go.

Unfortunately, the Verizon Access Manager software most decidedly does NOT install correctly on my Mac. Instead, it tells me I’m not an administrator. Feels a lot like trying to install software on Windows Vista.

See the failure, how pretty it is...

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

3rd January 2011

11:38pm: You call this security? You’ve got to be kidding me

I just got off the phone with PayPal’s customer service department.

The reason I was on the phone in the first place – because you probably know how much I absolutely love talking to customer service representatives – is that I was trying to be a good Netizen.

I received a couple – not one – of emails originating from Paypal’s service for password resets. This is not a foreign thing, especially for someone that has his email address all over the web. It’s usually some scripting hacker trying to get access to my stuff.

The problem is that at the bottom of the email, there is this section:

Read the rest of this entry »

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

9th December 2010

2:34pm: Making a Mac actually work

I recently got a MacBook Pro from work, and wanted to see how extensively I could get it to do the things I want to.

A lot of tools I like to use are from the Linux world, command line and peppered with dependencies. A lot of Linux distributions have package management systems, like RedHat/Fedora/CentOS use RPMs and yum, Debian (and derivatives like Ubuntu) use DEB and apt.

Mac has Fink and macports, but I’ve heard differing opinions on them. So when it came time to get something for myself, I decided to try an alternative called Homebrew.

Unfortunately, almost all of these solutions require you to download some 4GB of Apple’s Xcode software, and that means you have to register, etc. But once it’s done, it’s done.

Installing a new package is as simple as running:
brew install <packagename>

It figures out the heavy lifting stuff and Just Works.

Enjoy!

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

25th October 2010

8:16am: Take these broken wings and learn to fly again

Wow. This was a short trip. Five days. I think the only time I’ve ever done this short of a day-to-mileage-traveled ratio.

While I won’t burden you with the details of my trip – and believe me, it’s no burden, just another set of stories for another time – the travel never fails to meet expectations.

On this return trip, things seem to have gone slightly more smoothly – partly because I was unencumbered by a travel companion that did not have the same set of travel credentials that I did. Apparently, when travelling with El Al, the assumption is that Israeli citizens (passport holders) are less of a security risk and may not need the full treatment.

While waiting in the initial line that wasn’t moving, a mindful attendant figured out that someone at the entrance to the routing was not balancing the queues, and simply shuffled a bunch of us to a faster-moving line.

I happen upon a young woman, whose job it is to perform the initial questions – the good ol’ ones that I know how to answer clearly and firmly to instill confidence in the asker that I know what I’m doing, and that we can do away with this formality. After she is done, we spend a few moments chatting, not a normal occurence, more flirtatious, probably because this is a rare moment in her day when someone is actually smiling at her, and not making her life miserable. I recognize that this probably isn’t her dream job, and that she processes some multiple of thousands of people a day, and wishes she could be one of us, taking flight to another destination, or returning from some fabulous experience, but whatever the case may be – she probably doesn’t need me to add to her misery, so instead I try to lift it up, offer a friendly smile and word. She sends me through the fast-track line with no requirement to scan my bag, or shudder the thought, open it at the second security station for further inspection.

Making my way to the check-in array of counters with hard-working boys and girls, also probably only doing this job to pay for something greater, I wait, patiently, for people to get ticketed, and moved along.

When it’s my turn, I reach a young man, probably in the range of 22-26 years old. He quickly punches me in, double checks my meaql preferences, seating, and we chat briefly about where I’m going, and I ask him when he is making the trip. He’s happy to tell me that he is traveling to Thailnad in two weeks and is very excited about it. He speeds me along, gets me my boarding pass, takes my checked luggage, and we part smiling.

Since I have a little time, I had coordinates with a friend of mine to meet at the airport, since he works nearby, and this trip was so short, that I barely got to see him. My last visit, he had his spouse were on vacation outside the country, so this was a nice opportunity to see each other, catch up over a coffee, and talking at the speed of light to cover so much in a short time.

After a bit, we bid each other farewell, and hope to see each other during the next trip.

On to the security scanner.

Oh boy.

This time, I’ve got it down. I’m wearing synthetic shoes, cargo pants with absolutely no metal in them, nothing in my pockets. Everything goes into the backpack, and I proceed to the detector. In Israel, they did not require removal of shoes. I guess they have not gone completely nuts yet.

I step through, and sure enough, the buzzer goes off.

WTF.

There’s NOTHING to set it off! Maybe at some point in these five days, I was drugged, kidnapped and secretly implanted with some device that an organization is looking to retrieve on the other side through other nefarious means? Probably not, since during the trip it’s been non-stop family and brief interludes with friends.
So I get pulled to the side to get wanded. Oh boy. This guy looks like he’d rather be shewing on broken glass than doing this as he tells me to raise my arms, runs the wand over me, covering each area efficiently, and finds nothing. He does it again, and then shrugs, and nods me to move on with my life. I smile, shrug, and say in Hebrew “Go figure.”

Apparently the man in front of me at the scanner is STILL figuring out how to retrieve his articles from the scanner – something I tohught we knew the mechanics involved by simply looking at the return capacity tray and seeing that if you leave your large items there, new articles cannot move into there until there has been room vacated. Instead, he reaches into the tray that is still halfway in the tunnel for his hat and jacket, puts them on, before pulling his bag and laptop from the tray area, allowing me and the fiive people behind me that have now built up a queue to get our stuff in a record time of 0.3 seconds and move on to passport control.

This spot is the one place that I can truly appreciate. Efficiency. Technology. Let me get on with my life.

About four years ago, the Passport Control Gang (I guess they are really the Border Police?) figured that despite having lanes for Israeli and Foreign citizens available, there was constnantly a delay in processing enough people to get through in a timely fashion.

They set up a series of automatic kiosk-style biometric scanners that validate your palm-print and spit out a border crossing receipt that is legally allowable and fast. To get a card, you simply had to wait in line at another desk for maybe 30 minutes for them to register your hand with your passport, magnetize the card, and you are on your merry way. Passport control, for entry and exit, takes me a total of under 60 seconds. I Like This.

You take your receipt and head through another gate where a border partol gal looks at the receipt, tears off a corner, and sends you along to the main hall – where you can now shop for perfumes and such, drink coffee, connect to the free wireless signal, even connect to well-places power ports to top off the charge for your laptop prior to your trip.

I spend some time musing around, take a bit of a jog through the area, find a new cologne, walk around and see that not much has changed since my last time here. There’s not much I want here. I can find virtually anything for sale here at my destination, and I don’t want anything here anyways. The only thing I do get is some Elite Cow Chocolate (named for the cow imprinted on each bar). Yummy. Something to munch on the plane.

Headed to my gate. There’s always a million people flying to New York. While there are many, they typically are easily categorzied just by looking at them. There’s the young parents with many children, the young couples with screaming babies, the old couples that don’t speak a word of English or Hebrew, and the Orthodox men – so easilty identified by their black hats, and The Israelis. I hate to say it, but this deserves a category of its own.

There is something very particular about the Israeli attitude – that usually exists with Israelis that are about middle-age, and traveling to New York. I don’t know where it comes from – whether there is some sort of meeting where everyone agrees that a degree of self-entitlement should be professed when having dealings with others, or that since they have shelled out their hard-earned money for a flight in economy class that they should have the height of comfort. I have no idea.

Then there’s people like me – the loners. People simply trying to get from Point A to Point B while retainig a modicum of sanity. Maybe we are going on a business trip, maybe returning from one, maybe a familial one. But basically, these people are usually the least hassle of all, because we recognize that everyone else is going to put that much more pressure on the trip that there’s no need for us to add to it. I just want to get out of this alive.

Invariably, no matter what seating arrangment I book when choosing my seats – front of the plane, back, winodw or aisle – I’m going to be stuck right next to either the young couple with the scraming baby or the family with a bunch of unruly children that insist on screaming about some sibling doing something to them.

Today I got the latter. The mother looks like she needs someone to take the kids, feed them some Xanex-laced chocolate, so she can finally get a couple hours of respite. The father simply looks clueless, and is trying to juggle too many seat assignments – who’s going to sit next to who, wait – she can’t sit next to him, because they will fight, he needs to sit next to mommy, she wants to watch the DVD, he needs his diaper changed, and on and on.

The mother catches my eye and I see a fleeting look of desperation, a silent cry for help, before she turns her attention abck to her brood. She glances at me again, I smile, and chuckle lightly. She smiles too, and seems to relax a little.

This flight, I was lucky enough to have an empty seat between myself and the older woman in the window seat. This hasn’t happened in a long time, so I revel in the extra leg room, the lack of fighting over the armrest, and the ability to drop some articles on the seat between us.

As the flight progresses, Flight Attendants bring out the drink service, and I get a tomato juice and water, and place them on my seat tray. That in of itself is rarely noteworthy, however, as I put down my tomato juice and rest my arm for a slight moment, one of the restless children in front of me decides that at this moment he must jump and climb over his mother, bouncing the seat violently, toppling my water on to my lap.

Now, I don’t know if you’ve ever been on a transatlantic flight when your pants are pretty soaked, but let me clue you in to something – it’s no picnic. After the initial cold spreads far enough that the pant material has soaked it all up, then the slow process of evaporation in a climate-controlled cabin can begin. And it will take forever. Ah well. At least it was the water, not the tomato juice.

Anyways, we are now only three hours into our flight, and I’ve written a bunch already.

What have you done in the last three hours?

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

20th October 2010

8:24am: Spread your wings and fly…

Commercial flight is no longer something I look forward to.

There was a time that I would get excited about traveling through the air, it was different, exotic, something reserved for special occasions.

As I have grown, and flown more, it feels like when you can see beyond the intricacies of a magicians’ web of illusion, and realize that the trick wasn’t that complicated after all. It’s all simple mechanics, and seeing the same trick performed again and again, it becomes routine and mechanical.

I guess that’s true of anything though – take the fact that I am writing this mid-flight, over the Atlantic Ocean, on a device that did not exist a few years ago – a netbook computer – and how much that has become a routine part of our lives and like many technological advances is taken for granted soon enough.

My traveling companion for this trip is my uncle, who rarely flies internationally, and just requested that I don’t write about him. Apparently he doesn’t realize that the request in and of itself a reason to do so – everyone say Hi to Uncle Dennis!

Today’s trip started with us meeting at the airport, and spending a few moments weighing our bags with a mini-bag scale that I carry on trips, to verify that our checked luggage would be within the weight parameters and not incur hefty overweight fees. A short re-distribution took place, where we exchanged some items for others between our bags so that we were both at the appropriate limit of each bag being under 50 pounds (or 22 kilos).

Then we joined the line of the many people trying to be processed at the El Al check-in desks. This is a different procedure than any other airline, as El Al has their own security screening process, which isn’t that secure, I hate to tell you.

Once you finally get around enough of the line to reach an actual security person, they ask you a few standardized questions – pretty much the ones that George Carlin has ridiculed in epic words – before sending you off to the right, to wait in line again, where your checked luggage (only checked luggage!) will be scanned by their heft X-ray machines.

Waiting in this new line showed a degree of inefficient operation that I have grown accustomed to, and just like everything else when it comes to international flight, I simply sigh, suck it up, and ride the waves of despair. There are two large scanners, and only one person loading bags on to them. One line shuts down while we are waiting there due to a large family with a bunch of children having some sort of issue with putting the stroller through, or something else.

Most of the staff are American TSA workers – except two – an older Israeli guy who kept fluttering around and interrupting any kind of flow that was slowly being achieved, and a younger Israeli girl whose sole job, it seemed, was to place a “scanned” sticker on bags that gad been scanned. She couldn’t do that very well, as a family had to come back from their lengthy check in process to ask for a sticker – which she simply gave to them.

Insecurity Note #1 – who is to say that bag was scanned or not? What is to prevent me from taking the same approach, simply not choosing to scan one bag, then coming back to the desk and getting a sticker for the second?

Insecurity Note #2 – once the bags were scanned – only checked luggage, mind you – they are returned to our possession for a lengthy wait for the check-in desk. During this time, I literally could have placed anything at all from my pockets, or even anything larger from my carry-on or backpack into my luggage that now, thanks to the security girl’s ability to focus for a moment, has a nice, official “scanned” sticker on it.

Uncle Dennis and I chat about this, shake our heads in despair and continue on with the show. I could have brought a bag full of firecrackers with me.

The check-in desks never seem to operate fast – every traveler in line in front of me seems to have a very specific set of problems that has never been encountered in the past 40 years of flight, and requires involvement of a supervisor, a manager, and sometimes a quick chat with the captain. However, it must be me, that I take the time to figure out the rules of this stupid game and adhere to them, as the moment I step up, I am typically checked in, have my boarding pass and luggage tags all in under three minutes.

From this point forward is the move to the last security scan before the gates, and the last time beloved ones will see you – gone are the days where they can stand at the door of plane, wave at the aircraft as it taxis away to wait forever in line on the tarmac for clearance to take off. Now they say their goodbyes, and sometimes watch as the mass of humanity gets funneled slowly into another snake maze line, where their passport and boarding pass and given a cursory glance before shunting them into another processing line where the most exciting part of all of this takes place – the metal detector and carry-on x-ray.

Why is this the most exciting? Because it has become a challenge to me to beat this system at its own game. I have been stopped more times than I can count at this gateway.
My shoes are unlaced and come off, my bag pops open and the netbook comes out into a plastic tub, the shoes go in there too. Everything in my pockets – phone, wallet, and change, anything – goes into the bag. My belt flies off into the plastic tub. My jacket is already in there. Everything goes on the conveyor belt.

Then, with a deep sigh, I step forward to the beckoning TSA agent at the metal detector. And with a sense of “I know this thing is going to beep at me”, I walk through and stop, waiting for the questions about my pocket contents, any medical metal hardware or whatever else they can ask me.

Guess what? I won this time. Maybe the machine is malfunctioning. Maybe the sun is shining just the right way right now, or maybe the magnetic poles of the Earth are aligned perfectly for me right at this moment.

No call for a bag check, no red light went off, requiring a roundabout impromptu interrogation by a security idiot, for whom petty power has corrupted beyond all proportions, and no further hold up for me at this station.

Sigh of relief, grab my shoes, bags and laptop. I had almost considered doing this trip in only my pajamas.

Up until this point, I think I’ve waited in about four lines, and there’s one more – boarding the plane. Not the most efficient process to say the least – as this airline does not board by section, row or reason – simply board now. There’s a line that stretches to two gates away for this flight only. We take a seat, and wait for the line to be processed at a snail’s pace.

Once on board, again it seems like people have forgotten all semblance of “how things work”, not realizing that we’re all going to be compressed in this tin can for the next 10 hours or so. Crowding in the aisles, stopping and talking with people already seated, blocking the passage of everyone else from boarding, tossing their carry-on in to the overhead compartments and sitting down.

Before leaving home, I took the time to visit the El Al web site and look at their carry-on luggage policy – and got out the measuring tape to verify that my bag did indeed meet the required size limits, and it did. However, a Boeing 747-400 (how long ago was this particular aircraft made?) center overhead compartments are about 1 inch smaller than the advertised capacity. My frustration of trying to jam my own bag into their compartment were heard for a few rows, and a few people smiled in sympathy, and nod. I guess they had a similar experience at some point.

I walk farther down the plane looking for space in one of the overhead compartments that face the windows, large enough to share, and as I see an opening and begin to raise my bag, a guy tells me that his “seats are here and this room should be reserved for him and his family”. I grumble and move along further down, finally spot a vacancy 10 rows away, rush there, toss my bag in, slam the compartment shut and sigh in relief.

Fighting my way upstream to get back to my seat, I look and see that, of course, I’m sitting next to a guy that has had his (and mine and yours) share of good meals, and that his gut spills over on to the armrest, to squash against my right arm, prompting me to fly with my arms folded in front of me for most of the flight.

The woman in front of me comments loudly that she cannot believe how small the seats and space between rows is. I smile in sympathy and nod.

And we haven’t even begun to taxi to the runway yet.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

3rd June 2010

5:59pm: Time goes by, so slowly

I seem to be letting larger amounts of time slip by between posts, and that kind of makes me sad.

Between having the ability to Tweet, Facebook status update and Google Buzz, i feel that sometimes I just don’t want to write, and that is a Bad Thing.

Writing is a great way to dump some of the thoughts, feelings and ideas from inside this mess of a brain to written word, and in the past has allowed me to review these at a later date to see what the heck I was thinking and talking about.

Now I am not committing to writing regularly, or even on any set schedule, but just doing it now and then seems to help out.

In recent past, I’ve been tinkering with all kinds of technologies – from TCL to python and powershell, from Wordpress php and css to Google AppEngine, and even more in the hardware and software realms.

Some of the things I am teaching myself is how to understand enough of the lowest possible level to get the core ideas to then be able to make that jump into the high-level arena, where having the big picture is crucial.

Some of that lies within data visualization, some of it relies on knowing the inner workings of a system, another is how to get data in and out of a management interface, and trying to figure out what is the question you want answered.

I think figuring out these kind of things are the challenges I like most.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

23rd January 2010

11:27pm: Blue Surge

I just got back from a long afternoon.

Ran over to do some hot yoga at Yoga To The People – hard work, and I can see that I am improving, slowly, and that it’s gonna take a little time. Perseverance.

After that, I rushed over to the East Village, where I watched a new show – Blue Surge (details here: http://www.extantarts.org/play.php?playid=10 ).

Show was directed by a friend of mine, and it’s an interesting picture of a storyline that might seem cliché, but they put a pretty interesting spin on it.

It’s playing for the next couple of weeks. Go on out and see it.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

23rd December 2009

11:30pm: It’s getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes…

For those of you that live in unenlightened circles, the title is a lyric by Nelly.

Day 2, Tuesday, December 22nd, 2009

Day 3, Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

Two days, back to back. Three days in a row of this crazy abuse.

These times, I’ve felt less inclined to pass out, having hydrated well for the entire day before class, and drank some potassium-filled coconut milk drink.

But I still am not able to perform all the poses, and need some long breaks to try and get my heart rate under control. I’m simply glad I can tough out lying in that heat, pouring sweat from every possible distasteful location on my body, until the end of the class.

I made some progress, inasmuch I can understand some of the flow of transitions from pose to pose, and see how they all kind of lend themselves to experiencing the next one.

In today’s class, at some point a man was told some comment by the instructor, and suddenly got up to leave the room. A big no-no, and a bunch of other people voiced their concern that he shouldn’t leave, no matter what. He didn’t, and then it was cleared up by the instructor – “If you put a shirt over your eves, you might as well not be here, as your mind goes away.”

It was a roundabout way to tell the dude to keep his eyes open and unobstructed. Oh well.

At another point, when we were all lying down, in semi-darkness, one woman began sobbing loudly. Nobody addressed this – and I kind of appreciate that. The instructor mentioned: “You are here because you want to be here. Nobody forced you to come here and put yourself through this.” True.

I found out later that the woman was one of the instructors-in-training or such, and that was kind of a great motivation for me. If others at that level find this difficult, then I shouldn’t feel bad that I’m finding it very hard.

A discussion with another random dude in the locker room after, in which I said: “I think this is about pushing your limits. Everyone’s limits differ, and as long as you’re pushing your own, that’s really what matters. Not if you can be a perfect half moon.”

Statement resonated within. Got to remember that. And the utter cliche – “Do your best”. Ugh.

My best hurts a lot. Looking forward to next class. Neil, the dude who seems to know what’s going on and runs the place, is 23 days into a 100 day challenge (with himself? unclear.) so hopefully I’ll see him there again tomorrow.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

22nd December 2009

5:27pm: Cold Turkey – or Hot Tofurkey?

Day #1, Monday, December 21st, 2009

Some say the arrival of a new year is a good time to make resolutions, and re-evaluate one’s past year. I consider Monday a better choice, and that’s any Monday. Not the beginning of the year, as then you get to easily postpone your responsibility until then, but any Monday.

This particular Monday, I had in mind that I was going to subject my poor, out-of-shape body to a new experience: Bikram Yoga.

Also known as “Hot Yoga”, this exercise discipline differs from many others in that it takes place is a location with an average temperature higher than Death Valley, CA reaches in springtime (105 degrees Fahrenheit, 40 degrees Celsius), and about 40% humidity, bringing the Heat Index nice and high.

Armed with a little knowledge, not nearly enough, and delusions of grandeur, I packed a pair of shorts, sleeveless shirt, large towel and water bottle and headed to the Yoga To The People studio on 27th St.

Arriving, I met Neil, behind the counter, where he asked me if I had done this before, gave me a quick lowdown, and after paying a really small amount of cash for a health class, gave me a mat, towel and sent me on my way.

I changed in the locker room, and dragged my gear into the heated room, nice and dark. Found a spot to place my mat on the back row, covered it with my towel, put down my water bottle, and simply began to breathe in the heat. Wow. That’s hot.

As more and more people came in, an instructor’s assistant called on anyone who hadn’t done this before to come and learn the warm-up breathing method. This was interesting, and there must have been about 8-9 of us in the learners circle.

Back on the mat, class starts, and the Door Closes. once the Door Closes, you should not leave the room, unless it is a dire medical emergency, instead, sit down, take a break, relax, and continue when you can. There was absolutely no pressure to keep up, and working at my own pace meant that I could sit down, and nearly pass out, thanks to not enough oxygen reaching my brain in a stressful scenario.

I sweat more than I thought was possible, and tore my sleeveless shirt off about a third into the class – I couldn’t bear it any longer. Was a little better once it was gone.

You’d think I would shy away from such a painful experience, but I actually reveled in completion, and felt great. Today, I’m sore, so I’m going back again tonight for round #2.

Wish me luck.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

12th August 2009

1:17pm: Just thought I’d share

This has been on my browser for about a week now, just purely due to the amazingness of it.

http://www.usbchainsaw.com/

Enjoy.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

13th July 2009

12:08pm: Train musings

This morning’s train brought back some memories for me.

I saw a dude wearing a lack t-shirt with Beavis and Butthead in skeleton form, rocking out as usual, and it brought me back to high school, 1995 in Jerusalem, where I met one of my best friends Yos, and he proceeded to educate me in MTV and a lot of animated pop culture.

We spent countless hours at his Dad’s place – whether in front of the TV, on the balcony or causing some sort of havoc in the neighborhood. Good times.

Then my iPod decided it was time to play a dialogue from Free To Be You And Me… – the same dialogue that Talisa and myself performed in 2003, for many children and adults. It was a good time, and it was shared by a bunch of awesome people.

I think it was during that show’s run I got my motorcycle license and bought Stella. Ah, the open road.

Anyways, have a great Monday.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

24th June 2009

10:52am: A random chat with a coworker

As a lot of hi-tech companies do, we also communicate via chat. After you’ve been chatting with people for more than a year,  and are friendly with them, you tend to derail the technical conversation into weirdness.

Here’s the tail-end of one such conversation that I had this morning. I have no idea where this came from.

(10:16:12 AM) chris: thanks for the understanding Mr sensativity
(10:16:34 AM) mike: hey, I’m not the guy the gals turn to for a shoulder to cry on.
(10:16:56 AM) mike: I’m the one who made them cry
(10:17:05 AM) mike: by running over their cat in a driveway or sometrhing
(10:18:20 AM) chris: nice, you are one of the nicest guys I know
(10:18:31 AM) mike: except when it comes to cats
(10:18:41 AM) mike: then I turn into the hate-mongerer
(10:19:20 AM) mike: Actually, I haven’t decided if it’s that I hate the cats, or that I love to see a gal cry.
(10:19:28 AM) chris: twisted
(10:19:36 AM) mike: I’m so confused and emotional about this time in my life
(10:20:09 AM) chris: well if you need a hug, I heard JP is giving them out
(10:20:28 AM) mike: ewww.. You might get more than you bargained for with him.
(10:20:54 AM) mike: like some weird Canadian STD that nobody ever heard about, has no visible symptoms, and cannot be detected in any way.
(10:21:05 AM) mike: That has no cure
(10:21:07 AM) chris: ohhh!
(10:21:12 AM) chris: or ewwww!

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

7th May 2009

9:01am: Continued pain

So to some that have followed my bodily harm escapades, here’s another one for the record.

Yesterday, walking to the train with a couple of coworkers, I spent some time chatting with one more than the other.

This guy has a hearing problem, so he reads lips, so I turned my head 90 degrees so he could see me clearly, and there would be no “slurred” words.

As we’re walking up a hill at a decent pace, I suddenly feel immense pain in right thigh, all at the same instant.

Yes, I just walked into a fire hydrant.

Snuck up on me. I didn’t stand a chance.
And I was going at my normal pace, full momentum smashed me into the immovable object.

So now my right leg is largely useless. Don’t ask me to run, dance, skate, or walk too far. It hurts.

Oddly enough, I was looking forward to posting an image or two of some huge bruising, but it seems like the damage was done too far below the epidermis for it to be visible.
Oh well.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

1st April 2009

10:01am: A Secret Improv Mission

A little while ago I participated in another wonderful secret mission with Improv Everywhere.
We all got together and made a difference.

You can read the full article, and all the details along with stills here.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

21st March 2009

10:36pm:

I just finished watching my DVR’ed episode of the Battlestar Galactica two hour finale.

To those of you who watch the show regularly, this will not come as a surprise.

This episodic saga is quite the amazing drama, which kind of happens to take place in space. But that fact doesn’t make it purely a geek show, it is much much more.

For those uninitiated, it follows the lives of a bunch of people - some closer than others - put into extraordinary situations and forced to deal with scenarios that, while seem to be highly unlikely and sometimes unfathomable, somehow shows us a glimpse into something that no matter how far out, in a a galaxy far far away, touches you.

Call me crazy, and I’m sure some do, this is a series that I think most people can enjoy - whether or not they like Sci Fi genre stuff - it’s an amazing story about people, and how they relate to other people.

The finale had moment in which I laughed out loud, and others where I actually teared up, and really felt for the characters and their predicaments.

All in all, if you’ve had any reservations on watching this show due to its geekiness, try to put those aside for a minute and give it a chance to lure you in and learn to love them all.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

17th January 2009

1:18am: Is this good or bad?

I was playing around with OkCupid’s site, taking some test and stuff, and came up with this:

The Boy Next Door

Random Gentle Love Dreamer (RGLD)

The Boy Next Door

Kind, yearning, playful, you are The Boy Next Door. You’re looking for real Love, a lot like girls do. It might not be manly, but it’s sweet.

We think the next three years will be very exciting and fruitful ones for you. Your spontaneous, creative side makes you a charming date, and we think you have a horny side just waiting to shine. Or glisten, rather. You enter new relationships unusually hopeful, and the first moments are especially glorious. If you’ve had some things not work out before, so what.

On paper, most girls would name the Boy Next Door as their ideal mate. In the real world, however, you’re often passed over for more dangerous or masculine men. You’re the typical “nice guy:” without just a touch of cockiness, you’re doomed with girls. A shoulder to cry on? Okay, sure. But never a penis to hold.

More than any other type, Boys Next Door evolve as they get older. As we said, many find true love, but some fail miserably in the search. These tarnished few grow up to be The Men Next Door, who are creepy as hell, offering backrubs to kids and what not.

Always avoid: The Nymph (DBSD)

Consider: The Maid of Honor (DGLM), The Peach (RGLM)

Link: The Online Dating Persona Test | OkCupid - singles | Dating

So, thoughts, comments, or otherwise snide remarks?

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

29th November 2008

5:40pm: You can’t do THAT on TV!

So last night I was watching late night television on Comedy central, and after midnight they run ads for Girls Gone Wild. The ads show scenes out of their DVDs, showing girls is a variety of locations, “going wild”.

Let’s clarify this - “going wild” seems to be lifting their shirts to expose their breasts and possibly making out with another girl.

Now that’s wild.

What bugs me about this is that the girls exposing themselves is always covered by a playful-looking “CENSORED” graphic - always covering the naughty bits - but when two ladies are kissing, that’s not required to be censored.

Now, I’m not suggesting that everything be censored, but censors, get your ideas straight.

Why are certain body parts censored, but physical activity is not? It seems that if the censorship is governed by the conservative puritan movement, then women kissing is a much greater offense to the whole “God’s way of the world” anti-same sex activity idea, much greater than the natural, life-giving mammaries that we all suckled on as children (apologies to those that were strictly bottle-fed, your therapist should try to sort you out).

I’m not suggesting that censorship is good, or needed, or that we should also censor these activities, but if you’re going to censor something, at least be consistent, or not at all.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

23rd November 2008

12:47am: The day my Xbox died

So today I’m hanging around home, and figured I’d geek out a bit and play around with my home entertainment setup.

I have a Samsung 42″ plasma TV, great picture, connected via HDMI to my TimeWarnerCable HD-DVR box.

Also connected is my Xbox 360, via component, and I typically use that (when not playing games) to watch videos, stored on my Drobo, with the attached DroboShare running fuppes to front the files via UPnP.

And today, when I had sat down to watch a film, I turn on the Xbox, and it freezes. And then displays the ominous Red Ring of Death. Damn.

Now I’ve submitted a repair for this, so even though it is out of warranty, M$ offers up to three years on this particular issue, and provide shipping and packaing for it all, so hopefully in a few days I’ll get their boox and send my dear console back to the for repair.

This failure spurred me into wondering how I could watch my films, so I hooked up my laptop’s video out and headphones up to the TV, and saw that work well. And then my roommate mentioned that I might want to hook up the mini-stereo system to the TV as well.

So I did. And the sound is pretty good compared to the internal speakers on the TV. They are ok, but the stereo speakers provide a much warmer sound, a fuller environment.

So now that there’s a new set of speakers involved, and my eternal desire to not have fivethousand remote controls around the house, I got a Logitech Harmony remote control a while back, so I updated it to use the correct sequence, and control the stereo volume.

So it’s all nicely playing together, all except the Xbox, which is dead. That lead me to look into other multimedia solutions, like XMBC and Plex, both pretty good looking. So I might figure out some way to create that link sometime soon, so it’s a very pretty multimedia interface.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

13th November 2008

12:40am: The Arrested Meme

From my good pal joshbrown

If you saw me in the back of a police car, what would you think I was there for?

Answer me, then post this in your own journal (or not) to see how many different crimes you get accused of committing.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

4th November 2008

3:30pm: Vote for me! Or don’t, it doesn’t matter.

So today was election day in the US of A.

As a good citizen, I had previously registered to vote at the DMV last year, and today I went to my designated poll to cast my vote, alongside many others.

In the past, my votes have all been absentee ballots, sent in from Israel, and had a certain “boring” aspect to it. Fill out form, enclose in envelope and send in mail.

Yawn.

But today was my first interactive voting experience, and it was nice and simple, with a big red lever involved. I felt like pulling that should activate some sort of trap door, ejection seat or alarm, but no.

It also made me think about how the fact that my personal vote doesn’t really affect anything, since the Electoral College is the defining vote for the president elect.

So the knowledge of the fact that I had close to no affect on the eventual election of the president has somewhat made this election day a little more like the rest of the days of the year, and not that special at all.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

16th October 2008

3:47pm: Trying to catch up

So sometimes I get so busy that I don’t take the time to get thigns done - check my emails, follow up with some projects, and read my mail.

Right now, my inbox has over one hundred unread emails, so if yours is in there, sorry. I’m going to try to sit down and clear some out this weekend.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

2nd September 2008

4:48pm: Keep rolling, rolling, rolling…

A while back I wrote about using Nagios as a monitoring system.

Since then, I’ve had need to have it deployed via a packaging system called RPM, and since no “stable” community editions are out there, I have the need to “roll my own” for distribution on our platforms.

I’ve never used RPM from the “packager” side before - and it’s both very cool and infuriating. It has all sort of features and powerful macros, but debugging it isn’t a piece of cake at all.

If anyone has a great RPM tool out there that they want to recommend, let me know.

Originally published at Mike's House. Please leave any comments there.

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