Monday, December 28, 2009

It was a Merry Catsmas

I live alone and (thankfully) don't have any relatives within travelling distance, so it was just me and the cats for Kwanzmasukkah this year.

A friend and I are exchanging gifts, but they're of the relatively inexpensive "Damn, I've been meaning to get one of those..." variety.

The big celebration was reserved for my "kids", Elf and Radar.

Now, I like pets and all that, but I'm not one of those people that will run out and spend $100 on a pet sweater or high-end bed or anything like that. What the cats got was a can of people-grade tuna (making me their favoritest person in the whole world... for exactly as long as the tuna held out), and a large paper bag from the local grocery store. Yeah, the bag was free, but they couldn't have had any more fun with it if I'd actually spent cash money on it.

They had a dandy time "exploring" it, ambushing the snot out of it, making it crinkle and crackle, taking turns playing 'bag-mouse', and so on.

The only bit of awkwardness came when I heard Radar complaining about something; all I could see was Elf laying on the end of the bag. After trying to figure out where the noise was coming from, I finally realized that Radar was inside the bag, and couldn't get out because Elf was holding the opening shut. Once Elf was enticed off the bag, all was well with the world again.

As expected, it didn't take long for the two of them to "break" their toy: less than 24 for them to tear a large-ish opening in the side, and another 12 to have that side of the bag completely ripped open.

Nice, Max, real nice...

It certainly looks like our esteemed Senator Max Baucus has enjoyed his share of Holiday Cheer in this video from the Senate floor...

H/T to Good Sir Jimbo

Friday, December 25, 2009

Lessons learned

Of course, there have been a number of things that everyone has learned along the way -- some of them more important and immediate...

Thursday, December 24, 2009


A lot of guys (and even some women) are real fitness fanatics.

Part of the thing about being "fit" is that so many people really want what are called "six-pack abs".

That's something I don't have to worry about -- I've done even better than that.

I've got keg abs!

the last minute

As the time for departure gets close, everyone on Santa's staff gets concerned -- some of them more so than others...

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Staff problems

While on his rounds, Santa isn't the only one that runs into difficulties along the way.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Technical issues

Sadly, it sometimes happens that something happens that Santa simply can't deal with any other way, other than just like everyone else...

Monday, December 21, 2009


Now that the assclowns in the Senate have passed the so-called healthcare "reform" bill, I am so totally, thoroughly, unspeakably pissed at my local shitbird that I've called his office (Senator Jon Tester, Billings 252-0550) to try and let them know that I am MOST DEFINITELY upset.

The entire state of fucking NEBRASKA getting out of having to pay anything because their scum-sucking, bottom-feeding, asswipe Senator went for a fucking power-play in exchange for his vote? This doesn't stand any kind of test, never mind "smell".

It is my sincere and fond hope that every microcephalic, misanthropic, pusillanimous pinhead that voted for this offence against the very IDEA of "democracy" should be smitten with suppurating pustules, have the fleas of a thousand camels infest their crotches, be flogged repeatedly and have the wounds rubbed with salt -- and then be seriously abused.

Santa's personnel problems (Part 3)

Some of the problems that Santa experiences are -- sadly -- of the self-induced variety.

Sunday, December 20, 2009


Trying to get to every kid on the entire fucking planet does keep Santa moving along -- meaning that he doesn't always have time to do the right thing when some problem or other comes up.

Saturday, December 19, 2009


You might not think so, but Santa's popularity and fame does present its own problems...

Friday, December 18, 2009


While Santa is out on his rounds, he gets all the support he could possibly need. In some cases, it's simply a matter of one of the staff being alert to potential problems...

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Pets = Family


My cats (Elf and Radar) are industriously involved in a rousing game of "ambush": one of them will go 'hide' somewhere, and the other will wander around in search of the first. When found, the one that was hiding gets to chase the searcher for a little while before they swap roles.

It's usually somewhat noisy game, and I just caught myself telling them "If you two don't knock it off, you're both going to bed without supper!"

Yeah, pets are family, alright...

Santa's personnel problems (Part 2)

On the plus side, some of the problems that Santa runs into are easier to deal with than others. In fact, some of them actually turn out to be non-issues, as it were --

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Old technology

It doesn't always work out that Santa is able to find all the places he's going as easily and quickly as he'd like...

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Mrs. Claus

As busy as Santa and the rest are during Christmas, and the days leading up to it, Mrs. Claus has her share of problems, too...

Monday, December 14, 2009

My cat is a perv...

Radar, the kitten I got as an emergency backup cat, has turned into some kind of pervert.

It seems that I can't make vertical use of the commode without her not only following me into the bathroom, but jumping up on the commode to watch as I take care of things; she particularly likes to watch the water swirl around when I flush.

Having an audience while I go about my business is one thing -- but I get nervous when she starts eyeing my dangly bits...

Santa's personnel problems (Part 1)

As previously mentioned, some of the crew up at Santa's Workshop have what might politely be called "issues".

Another problem that some of them experience is loneliness, which cropped up last year...

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Out in the toolies

One of the things about Santa Claus' operations is that it's way the hell out in the toolies -- so far, in fact, that they don't even have a Starbucks.

As you might expect, living in that kind of isolation means that Santa and his staff are pretty much on their own outside of Christmas. That results in some of them developing their own little... foibles, as shown:

Saturday, December 12, 2009


After an unfortunate incident last Christmas, Santa Claus has installed a number of safety features on his sleigh. Here's an illustration of why the first item was a seatbelt...

Friday, December 11, 2009

(un)Express Lane -- redux

Got an alleged response from the twerps at Albertsons.

I say "alleged" because it didn't respond directly to what I had to say, made no promises, and was about as generic and mealy-mouthed as it could be. To wit:
Thank you for contacting us regarding your latest shopping experience at your local Albertsons store. We appreciate the opportunity to assist you. We strive for continued customer satisfaction and sincerely apologize for the inconvenience that this may have caused you. We appreciate you taking the time to share your comments with us. Your comments have been sent to the Store Director. If you need further assistance please contact us by phone at 1-877-932-7948 or via email.


(the name has been redacted to protect the poor schmuck that had to send it out).

Dumb bastards -- don't they know that the only way they've got to fight Wal*Mars is by offering something 'Mars doesn't? Namely, customer service?

In the spirit of the Season

Wishing anyone that happens to wander by a Merry Kwanzmasukkah!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

When is an Express lane not an Express lane?

When the cashier at the local Albertsons doesn't say anything when some inconsiderate, unobservant, ignorant git go through it with two full shopping carts of groceries -- totalling nearly $350.

I know this because it just happened to ME. When I got up to the checkout area with my half-full little basket of stuff, one lane had three people with full baskets; the next lane closed while I was still five or six feet away from it. The last open lane was the (HA!) "Express Lane" for 15 or fewer items -- where said git was industriously unloading her second basket. Oh, and as an added bonus attraction, the assistant manager of the store was puttering around in the immediate area, and completely failed to say anything to either the cashier OR the git.

When I finally got my turn to be checked out, the cashier seemed surprised that I was rather less than cheerful, happy, and friendly.

On my way out, I said something about what had happened to the assistant manager. The correct response, of course, would have been something along the line of "I'm sorry, sir. We'll speak to the cashiers about working on the Express lane"; what I got INSTEAD was a half-smile as she hemmed and hawed and tried to play it down.

After getting home and putting the groceries away, I went to the Albersons web site and left them some testy (but polite and not profane) feedback. Supposedly, I'll hear something back from them within 24 hours; if/when they actually respond, I'll update this entry.

From where I live, the next-nearest grocery facility is a (gag, retch) Wal*Mars. I wonder if I shouldn't do my shopping there for a while to make a point...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Every little bit helps

The New York Times is reporting on an actual lifetime cost comparison between 3 different types of light bulbs: incandescent, LED, and CFL (Compact FLourescent) done by Osram, a German lighting manufacturer.

As it turns out, LED and CFL bulbs use approximately 20% of the energy of an incandescent to generate the same amount of light.

If you're wondering how much the higher initial cost of LED/CFL bulbs affects the calculations, it works out that it's pretty much the same for all 3 types: manufacturing and distribution represents about 2% of the lifetime energy cost. That means that the higher initial cost of LED/CFL bulbs will be paid for by how long they'll last.

While I personally think that the various efforts to outlaw incandescents by 2014 is just another example of Congress getting too full of itself, it does make a fair amount of sense to convert to LED/CFL lighting -- particularly when you consider how many lights there are in peoples homes.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Nightmares are made of these

If you're prone to nightmares, you can have a look at this assortment of deep-sea and marine critters to see if anything looks familiar. Some of them aren't too bad -- others are the kinds of things that you'd only want to see IN a nightmare that you could wake up from...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Absentee Parenting

My Primary cat, Elf, learned quickly and easily that she wasn't allowed to go certain places -- kitchen counters, bathroom sink, dining table, my electronics workbench, and so on. Whether it's because she's more stubborn, or dumber, I'm not sure; but my emergency backup cat, Radar, isn't learning as well.

Rather than have to try and catch her in flagrante delicto to punish her (so she associates the punishment with the place/action), I'm trying something different: booby-trapping the places I need/want her to stay off of.

The booby-traps consist of multiple squares of highly adhesive tape (I'm using package strapping tape, since that's what I had handy; duct tape or similar would have done as well) along the jump-able edges of things -- sticky side up, so that they'll adhere to her foot(s) when she lands or steps on one or more of them. That way, the unhappy thing (getting something stuck to her hoof) will happen regardless of whether I'm home and/or paying attention.

This may turn into an "interesting" experiment...

(11:32) Would anybody like to guess who just came wandering through the living room with tape stuck to her two back foots? Fairly radiating innocence and outraged indignation while trying to shed the tape by shaking the taped extremeties at every step?
As much as she apparently doesn't like it, I figure I'll leave her to get it off on her own -- driving the point home with a sledgehammer, as it were.

Friday, November 13, 2009

EDUP wireless lan PC card

Anyone running Linux and thinking about buying one of these cards ("popular" on eBay -- example HERE) should NOT do so -- they are Windows ONLY, and you'll only be wasting your money.

NONE of the potential work-arounds for Windows-specific wifi devices will work with these things.

Just so you know...

Computer Service

One of the things that I try to explain to people when I work on their computer is that heat is something that electronic components absolutely do not like. I go on to tell them that dust on the parts in their computers is like wrapping them in tiny little blankets, making it all but impossible for the heat to escape. Finally, I suggest to them that they pick one (or even two) days a year to remove any dust and other particles out of their computers.

It's perfectly okay to simply open the computer up and go after the insides of it with a vacuum cleaner (I recommend the crevice attachment) or a can of compressed air. Pay special attention to the processor heat sink and fan assembly, but don't forget to clean the rest of the parts as best you can. With the vacuum or compressed air, you're not likely to unplug or disconnect anything, so you don't have to worry about "breaking" the computer. In the case of a laptop, simply get yourself a can of compressed air and give the vents a few shots every couple of months.

By giving your computer a cleaning like that, you'll not only be doing yourself the favor of extending the life of the computer, but saving yourself any potential embarrassment if you DO have to have it serviced. After all, you wouldn't want it to look anything like one of these, would you? (WARNING: not for the squeamish!)

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

"We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm."

Find a veteran, and tell them "Thank you".

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Pleased with myself

A few weeks ago, the display went out on my laptop -- it's an old IBM Thinkpad, and the little fluorescent tube that makes the screen light up finally went out on it. Perfectly reasonable, and no big deal -- other than I had to order the part, disassemble the display subassembly, replace said part, and then put everything back together again.

I managed to do this (a task that involved no small number of miniscule screws of various sizes) not only successfully -- I'm using the laptop for this blog entry -- but ended up with the same number of parts as I started out with: I experienced neither a screw shortage, nor any mechanical amplification (having more parts when I finished than when I began).

Damn, I'm good.

And modest, too!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Wal*Mart spreads H1N1


"... employees of the Arkansas-based retail giant -- even its food handlers -- feel they have no choice but to work when they're sick. That's because the company gives workers demerits and deducts pay for staying home when they're sick or caring for sick children."
I think it might be a good idea to do your shopping in Real Stores for a while, folks...

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Fierce is as fierce does

If I'm ever attacked by a horde of plastic or paper bags, I want my kitten Radar on my side -- the things wouldn't stand a chance.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Cruel Red Dot

The Red Dot (tm) has turned out to be an unspeakably cruel tormenter of the cats.

It has them chasing all over the apartment for as long as they're willing/able to go after it. It also torments them by going places that they can't quite reach, wandering around in front of them just out of ambush range, suddenly disappearing without warning (only to reappear somewhere else), and exhibiting some rather dramatic speed and direction changes while it's being chased.

Of course, there's no point to being a cruel Red Dot (tm) unless it runs them up and down their cat tree a dozen times or more, leaving both of them laying on the floor panting as they try to plot SOME way to catch it.

Neither of them is showing any signs of losing interest in catching it, however.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

I am Evil...

Yes, I certainly am.

While at Target today, I got a new laser pointer (mouse-shaped, $3.99 with an extra set of batteries) to annoy the cats with.

Since I've gotten home, I've:

  • Gotten both of them spinning around in circles until they got dizzy and couldn't walk straight.
  • Used sudden direction changes to get them to trip over their own feet.
  • Let them chase it around in the kitchen, then stopping it IN their water dish.
  • "Walked" around in front of them until I see the pre-pounce butt-wiggle, then suddenly turning it off ("Hey! Where'd it go?!").
Yes, Evil is Me...

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Caturday 20091017

Radar demonstrates why she's such a dumbshit: trying to catch her own tail...

Note the lack of coordination and balance as she almost falls off the cat tree a couple of times.

Friday, October 9, 2009


I'm sure everyone has heard the old saying that "'Almost' only counts in hand grenades and horseshoes". I think most would agree that the same principle applies to 'wants' and 'intentions'.

Well, if His Obamaness can win the Nobel Peace Prize for his intentions to change the world and all that when he took office, then I by-God want my Nobel prizes in Math and Physics, since I fully INTENDED to get degrees and make big advances in those fields when I was younger.

I mean, fair is fair...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009


Here's why you shouldn't (at least while driving)

I mean, just so you know...

Monday, September 28, 2009

Demonstrable Geekiness

While I'm nowhere near "professional grade" at programming, I have managed to finish my little learning-to-program-in-Java project.

It's a simple, basic little utility to let someone interested in building a small (home/cabin) solar panel (Photo-Voltaic) to generate and store some amount of electricity.

The program lets the user enter and adjust a variety of different loads (a fridge, TV, etc), how many of what sizes of solar panels and batteries, power inverters for those things that NEED regular "line" power, and a few other little helpful options. As the different user-input values change, the program recalculates everything. The user has the option to either print the information to a printer, or save it to a computer file that can be imported to a spreadsheet (where they can get serious about playing with the numbers, if they want). The program is called PVcalc, and is available for download from my website.

If you're interested, curious, or just like to watch trainwrecks, go on over and get yourself a copy and let me know how bad I suck at programming :-)

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Not for mere mortals...

I've been teaching myself the Java programming language for the past couple of weeks. It has been something of an "adventure", but I've actually rather enjoyed it.

I wanted to learn Java, specifically, because it is widely touted as being a cross-platform programming environment: something written in Java is supposed to run on a Windows box, a Linux machine, an Apple, or damn near anything else that can handle Java.

The downside of that kind of power and flexibility (TANSTAAFL!) is that doing things the Java way is appreciably different than what I've been used to. Doing math stuff in Java, for example, leaves one with a thorough grounding in touch-typing as a consequence of the refusal/inability of Java to automagically convert between types of numbers (integer, real, etc).

I've got my learn-by-doing program almost finished, and have run into what I reluctantly have to consider a major weakness: the inability to EASILY print simple, basic text to a (default) printer. By way of illustration, if I were using another programming language, I could do something relatively simple, like
printer.print "This is some text that I want to print"
to whatever the default printer was, using whatever passed for a default font and size.

In Java, however, it isn't that straightforward -- almost every cotton-picking little detail has to be declared, defined, and described... regardless of whether I'm printing a short line of text or rendering a copy of the Mona Lisa. While I don't doubt that the capabilities of printing in Java are wonderful, at this point it's SO damn flexible to me that I can't get hold of it well enough to actually do anything simple and basic with it.

Further aggravating my situation is that all of the tutorials that I've looked at have been of the starting-from-scratch, all-by-themselves variety; there doesn't seem to be anything that explains or demonstrates how to include printing basic text from within an existing program -- or, at least, not that I've been able to find/understand. If, or when, I finally get my head around how to print from within a Java application such as I've written, I may have to have a try at writing a "Java Printing for Dummies" tutorial.

In the mean time, it's various permutations of headache remedies and alcoholic beverages for me...

Saturday, September 19, 2009

What the hell happened to Saturdays?

When I was but a wee lad (mid- to late-50's), Saturday mornings were for cartoons -- Bugs Bunny, Mighty Mouse, Heckle and Jeckle, Tom and Jerry, Popeye, and other such entertainments.

This morning, just for drill, I had a look at our local selection of programs and didn't see a damn thing that looked even vaguely amusing.

WTF is a Yu-Gi-Oh? I've seen/heard about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Power Rangers (some years ago, it was on in the afternoon in the Dallas area; when the program ended, the kids in the apartment complex would go outside an re-enact various scenes with one or two of them getting karate-chopped or -kicked every so often). Similarly, I've heard of Pokemon (a friend's kid wanted Pokemon underwear for cryin' out loud!), Care Bears, and so on.

Where's the mindless laugh-yourself-silly stuff that so many of us grew up on? Yes, it was violent (tough to get much more violent than the Coyote's schemes against the Roadrunner, for example), but we KNEW that it was cartoons, that Real Life didn't work that way. Now all we've got is techno-fantasy crap and play-nice-and-be-happy drivel.


I miss Looney Tunes.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Radar on Guard

Radar, in the Belly of the Beast (the Box Monster)

On the attack against the Plastic Bag from Hell

Her most dangerous foes, the Poisonous Plastic Bug and the dreaded Purple Stuffed Mouse

See? We can all just get along...

I'm trying to nap here, dude...
You woke me up for THIS?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Guard Cat

Radar, the kitten, is proving herself to be quite the guardian around my apartment.

For her size, she's surprisingly ferocious -- thus far, she has fought and defeated:
  • the Shoelace Snake
  • the Foot of Death
  • the Box Monster
  • entire swarms of Kibbles
  • the Blinky Ball of Doom
  • the Plastic Bag from Hell
  • the dreaded Purple Stuffed Mouse
  • numerous Bed Mice (the 'mice' that run around under the covers), and
  • the Poisonous Plastic Bug
Elf has gotten used to having Radar around, and is pretty tolerant of the little fuzzball -- except when Radar gets too rambunctious, and starts trying to include Elf in playtime.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Charity telemarketing

In the last few days, I've received several calls from assorted charitable organizations seeking donations.

The thing is, each and every one of them has started out with the person on the other end asking for someone other than me ("Marsha", "John", etc).

I'm wondering: is this simply a case of several telemarketers individually trying to recover from an error (mis-dialed or erroneous number), or an example of a new technique in telemarketing -- an attempt to somehow get past most people's initial negative reaction to being solicited for money?

Inquiring minds want to know...

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kitten School

In the last couple of days, Radar the kitten, has gone through the following courses:

Class 1
  • Jump up on Dad's lap, sit while watching what he does on the computer.
  • Sitting is too tiring, so lay down on his leg.
  • Fall asleep.
  • Try to roll over, fall off leg.

Class 2
  • Get into laundry basket.
  • Discover all the things you can beat up.
  • Jump out of laundry basket, try to drag something out to play with.
  • Discover that item is way bigger than you thought, drag harder.
  • Succeed in pulling Dad's bluejeans out of basket.
  • Get covered by bluejeans.
  • While trying to escape bluejeans, manage to burrow your way into leg, get trapped.
  • Yell for help.

Class 3
  • Play with assorted cat toys.
  • Get tired of assorted cat toys.
  • Go looking for new toy.
  • Spot twitching tail.
  • Ignore that twitching tail is connected to (way) bigger cat.
  • Ambush tail.
  • Get soundly thumped on the head for your efforts.
Most important lesson
Do NOT suddenly jump up on toilet while Dad is standing in front of it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Physician, heal thyself

One of the things that has been rattling around in my head is the prospect of savings in the healthcare field. I'm not a professional policy wonk, but I have had more than the usual amount of exposure to medical professionals, and how the healthcare field actually works. Here are a few of the things that I hope are addressed:
  • Electronic records can and should be the norm. Electronic records allow for more efficient storage of greater amounts of information (not just patient notes, but digital X-rays, scans, etc.), provide greater assurance that the various bits of data will stay together (no more physically lost X-rays that wouldn't fit in the regular patient folder, for example), and make for easier transfer and sharing between various providers.
  • Standardized documentation -- not so much for the actual medical documents (which seem to be pretty much geared toward the people that need them, anyway), but the support paperwork. I've seen, with my own two beady little eyes, the claim forms for three different insurance companies. All three of them asked for the exact same information, but used completely different forms to do it. This is a clear and compelling example of how and why electronic record-keeping would save money: using something called XML, insurance companies could have their own "unique" individual paperwork, but still make available a common base that would dramatically reduce the time and effort (and expense) of filing claims. It doesn't matter if you call a blank on a form "Home", "Residence", "Address" or whatever -- it's the place where I live, and I should have to provide it only ONCE for everybody treating me or paying for the care I receive.
  • Defensive medicine is something that a lot of physicians feel the need to practice; it's the "policy" of ordering tests that aren't necessarily needed to establish a diagnosis, simply to ensure that they've covered ALL the bases in an effort to insulate themselves against a malpractice suit. This, of course, leads us to:
  • Malpractice reform is something else that needs to be addressed. There are entirely too many people and lawyers willing to sue for any damn thing, and juries willing to slap heavy-duty lawsuit awards against doctors and other healthcare professionals for things that weren't the result of actual negligence. I mean, let's face it: no matter how much schooling they've had, or how long they've been in practice, doctors aren't immune to making mistakes. Sure, they should be making a hell of a lot fewer of them, but they aren't the life-giving Gods that people want to think they are (despite how some Doctors act). That being said...
  • Physicians (as a community) need to be a HELL of a lot more open about their profession, and the people in it. By that, I mean that patients (consumers!) should be able to find out if a particular physician has a history of bad judgement, ineptitude, substance-abuse problems, or other factors a potential patient should be aware of. Similarly, it should be possible to get some idea of how experienced and proficient a physician is: if, for example, I'm looking at getting a knee replacement, I should be able to look up the names of doctors that do the procedure and see how many they've done, and how successful they were (including long-term results). Yes, some doctors take on "riskier" patients than others, and that can be noted and factored in; it doesn't change the underlying need for accountability and public awareness. I've heard of a lot of physicians saying that they can police their own; I say it's time they do just that -- police themselves, with the corresponding punishments and public accountability, just as the legal system provides.
  • Individuals need to be a lot more active in their healthcare, too. As noted above, the title "Doctor" doesn't equate to "Divine Entity"; folks need to ask a lot more questions, insist on intelligible answers, and not give health care staff an automatic pass on things. By way of illustration, if I ever find myself in a hospital bed again, I fully plan to have a box of gloves and a big bottle of hand sanitizer next to my bed -- and if I don't SEE the staff cleaning their hands (THE most common means of infection transfer in hospitals), I'll insist they use one or the other before touching me so that I reduce my infection risks. Hell, be a pain in the ass, if that's what it takes -- it's your body, life, and health, isn't it?
  • I'm going to suggest something that I think is new, here: a lower level of initial healthcare contact. By that, I mean we should maybe think of having an initial contact level of healthcare that serves as a "triage" point: let doctors and nurses in offices and emergency rooms deal with stuff that really needs people doing doctor stuff, and let this initial contact point serve to tell folks to put an icepack on their sprained wrist (minimal attention needed), they need to make an appointment with a doctor (more important, but not "critical"), or get them to an emergency room. Wouldn't it seem more efficient (and cheaper) to let an LVN/LPN wrap that sprained wrist or give a flu shot than the better-trained and more experienced RN or a doctor -- freeing them up to tend to stuff more appropriate to their knowledge and skills? I'd think that parking a mobile home outfitted as a first-care office in one corner of every schoolyard in the country would dramatically reduce the overloaded emergency rooms and doctors offices, and be cheaper to operate to boot.
  • Insulate doctors (and other health care professionals) from the infrastructure. I can't imagine why a doctor (or nurse, or Physician's Assistant, or...) should even be allowed to have any financial interest in a drug company, medical technology company, or any other kind of product or enterprise that they have direct and immediate contact with. A doctor sending a patient to an MRI facility that he is a part owner of is inexcusable, just as it should be for them to prescribe a drug made by a company that they have stock in (or otherwise stand to receive any kind of tangible income or reward from). Granted that they may not be all THAT many doctors involved in such shenanigans, but I don't think there should be ANY. If doctors want to invest in such things, then it should be done as a "blind" trust -- the doctor(s) involved shouldn't have any idea of who, what, or where.
  • Non-traditional medical "practices" should be subject to rigorous review and evaluation -- there has got to be a way to get rid of the pay-for-pills "pain management" offices, the whiplash-centric chiropractors, and the like. Not only do they give the rest of the medical profession a bad name, they directly and indirectly contribute to the associated costs the rest of us have to pay: increased insurance rates to cover inflated insurance claims, crimes associated with drugged "patients", waste and abuse of the medical infrastructure due to fraudulent claims, and more. I'm not suggesting doing away with pain management or chiropractic practices entirely -- only those that are patently engaged in fraud. If one office accounts for a statistically significant higher number of cases (lawsuits, crimes, etc.) than anyone else, it would seem pretty obvious that something untoward is going on.
No single ONE of these things is going to make a whole hell of a lot of difference by itself. But taken together, I think they'd be a damn good start on reducing the cost of healthcare, and the increasing rate that it's rising at.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Blended family

As mentioned in my last post, I've opted to take in a new co-owner. After spending the day with them, I finally settled on taking the cat formerly known as Sally Forth (the one with the white paws, a female). Here's a picture taken yesterday; in it you can see (click to make bigger) why I'm thinking about renaming her to "Radar" (because of the huge satellite dishes on her head), or possibly (because of the dark smudges around her nostrils) "Booger":
Of course there was a certain amount of displeasure from my current owner, Elf, expressed as growling and hissing at the interloper; and a refusal to even share the same room in my apartment with the little beast.

Happily, that has (mostly) passed by now. Elf isn't ready to become buddy-buddy with the new family member, but has at least gotten to the point that the complaints are mild and infrequent (usually when the nuisance gets too close). Here she is watching the newcomer beating the crap out of a ball in the kitchen:
I expect that once the two of them get used to each other, they'll get along fine, and keep each other company.

In the mean time, I've had a couple each of toes and fingers tested to see if they were edible (they weren't), had assorted body parts attackled while in bed, had my feet and ankles ambushed repeatedly, and (of course) been slept on.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

New family member

I've been contemplating it for a while now, and decided to go ahead and add to my little "family": my cat, Elf, is getting a little baby brudder or sister today.

A friend of mine has a cat that had kittens, so I'm "babysitting" the two of them that haven't been spoken for today; the idea is to get some idea of which one will best fit in with me and Elf. Needless to say, Elf is considerably less than impressed with the idea -- she spent the first half hour staring at them while growling and hissing at them. Following that, she went off to sulk for a while.

The kittens are both gray longhairs; one has while front feet that the other doesn't. Both have a few random white splotches. One is female (named "Sally Forth"), the other is male ("Marco Polo").

It's been a couple of hours since I opened the carrier they were in, and both of them have pretty much gotten used to being in a new environment, and are actively investigating my apartment. As soon as I can, I'll get pictures of both to put up here.

As promised, here's a photo showing the two fuzzballs...
clickenize to embiggenate

Monday, August 17, 2009

Sunday, August 16, 2009


This is pretty much how I schedule my housework efforts...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Public Service Announcement

I was just watching Wheel of Fortune, and I am forced to the conclusion that there are lot of people that don't bother to prepare for the game.

Since the contestants win money by correctly guessing letters that might be in the puzzle, simply using the normal distribution of letters in the English language dramatically increases the chances of winning. I mean, there's a REASON that one has to 'buy' vowels: they constitute 5 of the first 12 most common letters.

For those that would like a quick and easy 'tool' to remember, the most frequent 12 letters in the English language are (in order)


If you'd like to see the full distribution, you can either see it as a graph in alphabetical order, or in the most- to least-used order.

If anyone reading this should happen to find themselves on WoF, and win whacking great wads of money, you're welcome to show your appreciation by sending some of it to me.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Explanation, please?

I'm paying attention to all the fuss and furor over The One's health care reform program, and there are a few things that I'm not understanding. Now, I'm not a Republicrat or a Demolican, I'm not a spokesmodel for any interest group, nor a doctor, lawyer, or Indian Chief. I'm just a plain-old Mk I, Mod I human people. Perhaps some knowledgeable person could give me clear and definitive answers to a few things:
  • A lot of what I'm hearing involves affordable health care -- so just what, exactly, does "affordable" mean? Is that going to be the same for me and the schmuck next door, or is it going to be dependent on income? If it's going to be income-dependent, doesn't that mean that some folks are essentially going to be underwriting (paying for) the care their less-fortunate brethren get?
  • There's also a lot of discussion on a "public option", where "public option" translates into government-funded. If the government DOES get involved, how much would that involvement include? Simple transfer of funds from collection to disbursement? Or would the government start mandating policies, procedures, and a whole raft of other dictates? If the government IS involved in the decision-making process, what would the limits of that involvement be?
  • His Obamaness (and the Democratic party) are pitching a fit that there's a lot of astroturfing going on by opponents to Health Care Reform, and that everybody should be supporting the reform program -- except that all we have at this point are two completely different bills, one in each of the Senate and House, that aren't anywhere near ready for Presidential signature. With no single implementable bill available, we don't have any details or particulars to consider -- just a couple of incompatible vague suggestions. So just what the hell is it that we're supposed to be supporting?
  • I haven't heard any clear, definitive explanation of how all this reform is supposed to be paid for. Sure, there're a few billion here and there that can be saved via pooled drug purchases, increased efficiencies in medical facilities and practises, and so on -- but those are minuscule compared to the projected costs of the entire reform program. So where is the money coming from? Somebody is going to have to pay for all this change -- so who is it?
  • I find it telling that nobody is addressing the issue of the efficiency of any administration of this reform. Since the government doesn't have the most stellar record of efficiency, the ability to quickly adapt to changing circumstance, accountability, or restraining program growth, why in the world should any of us believe that government involvement is going to be beneficial to the process?
  • Something else that I haven't heard any mention of is what specific goals are going to be set, who's going to set them, and how we're supposed to know when they're achieved. Is this whole thing going to be turned over to a bunch of social-reformers, professional (non-government) administrators, or someone else? What, if anything, is going to be done to keep any über-progressives from inflicting their wishes and opinions on those that don't agree with them? What reason do we have to believe that any policies that are proposed will have the greatest effect for the least cost, versus targeting anything or anyone the policy makers don't like?
  • Who's going to be in charge of this operation? What are their responsibilities, and how are they going to be evaluated? Who's going to decide how much of what should be done? How are those decisions going to be reached, and what recourse is there for those adversely impacted by the decisions?
I have to admit that I've got a deep, deep mistrust of any policy or program that is initiated, sponsored, controlled, or directed by our very own U.S. Government -- there are simply too many shining examples of gross incompetence, ineptitude, inefficiency, and flat-out dumbassery for me to view any kind of major proposal like health care "reform" with anything else.


Cat Says
It means


Feed me.

Pet me.

I love you.

I am in love and must meet my amour outside beneath the hedge. Don't wait up.

I feel like making noise.


Please, the time is come to tidy the cat box.

I have remedied the cat box untidiness by shovelling the contents as far out of the box as was practical.


Play with me.

Have you noticed the shortage of available cat toys in this room?

I believe I have heard a burglar. If you would like to go and beat him senseless, I shall be happy to keep your spot in the bed warm.

Since I can find nothing better to play with, I shall see what happens when I sharpen my claws on this handy piece of furniture.


I am not amused by your shenanigans. Cease at once!

I am now recalling, with sorrow, that some of my private parts did not return with me from that visit to the vet.

I am so glad to see that you have returned home with both arms full of groceries. I will now rub myself against your legs and attempt to trip you as you walk towards the kitchen.

My digestive passages seem to have formed a hairball. Wherever could this have come from? I shall leave it here upon the carpeting.

Snuggling is a good idea.

Shedding is pretty good, too.

I was enjoying snuggling and shedding in the warm clean laundry until you removed me so unkindly.

I have forced my body into a tiny space in order to look cute. How'm I doin?

Miaow! Miaow!
I have discovered that, although one may be able to wedge his body through the gap behind the stove and into that little drawer filled with pots and pans, the reverse path is slightly more difficult to navigate.

Oh, small bird! Please come over here.

I believe that I have found a woodchuck or similar small animal. I shall now act terribly brave.


It is certain that the best tasting fish is one you have caught yourself.

If I sit in the sunshine for another hour or so, I think I shall be satisfied.


I do believe that you are failing to pay sufficient attention to me.

Do you serve catnip with that?

Miaooww! Mriaow!
Since you are using the can opener, I am certain that you understand the value of a well-fed and pampered cat. Please continue.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Ling and Lee

I dunno, maybe it's me, but with all the happiness and joy over the return of Laura Ling and Euna Lee from North Korea, there seems to be one wee little technical detail that hasn't been fully explained...

How the fuck did the North Korean authorities get hold of them?

If they did, in fact, sneak across the border then what the hell made them think that they were somehow going to be immune from NoKo rules, regulations, and laws? Just because they were "journalists"? Why should that could for anything? I've spent no small amount of time travelling around while in the Navy, and I can't think of ANYPLACE that would tolerate anybody violating local laws, no matter who they are. If those two did sneak across the border into a totalitarian military-controlled regime, I figure they got off damn lucky with only 140 days in the clink; it would have served them right if they'd had to serve half the sentence before getting out for good behavior...

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Terrorist strikes at McD

Every now and then, I give in to the temptation to enjoy the fine dining at McDonalds -- I'll admit that there are a couple of things on the menu that I actually like.

This morning, I stopped in for breakfast. Being a Troublemaker, I like to order what I want, versus their default manufacturing process. Accordingly, I wanted a quantity of TWO Snausage McMuffin sammich meals -- except that instead of two small cups of coffee, I asked if they could just put them into one larger cup.

Now, you might think that my request was simple and straightforward, but such was not the case. You see, McDonalds doesn't apparently grasp the concept of customer convenience or doing anything outside their Established Procedure.

From the reaction from the counter-person (something like an anti-person, I'm thinking), you'd have thought I asked him to solve a twelve-variable calculus equation in his head. After much brow-furrowing, he had to ask for help in trying to enter my request into the picture-screen. It wasn't working, and they finally had to get a blue-shirt to supervise. Before all was said and done, I was half-afraid the computers at McD Corporate were going to asplode.

I did get my one large cup of coffee, but it necessitated that they enter the order as:
  • ONE meal with no drink
  • A large coffee
  • A separate Snausage McMuffin sammich
  • A separate hashbrowns
Whereas two Snausage McMuffin meals would have cost me $8, the order they had to enter ended up costing me $8.40. That's right, folks -- I paid MORE money for LESS food (instead of 2 12-oz coffees, I got 1 20-oz; they "saved" 4 oz of coffee).

This is why jobs that require no thinking ability are referred to as McJobs, methinks...

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Stupid is as Stupid does

For reasons that escape me, Elf (a.k.a. the Hairy Nuisance) has decided that the bathtub is the feline Holodeck -- she'll get in the tub and flop around, paw at things unseen, and generally entertain the hell out of herself.

Yesterday, I helped out a friend by mowing his yard while he was out of town; when I got home, I put the pants I'd worn into a little water in the tub to soak (in an effort to preclude grass stains). While I was in the bathroom, Elf wandered in and decided it was recreation time. However, it wasn't until she was halfway into the tub that she realized something else was already there -- and like to have had a seizure trying not to fall into the tub with it. In the process, she managed to do a face plant on the tub before falling most ungracefully onto the floor.

As I practically ruptured an internal organ laughing, she stomped off while cursing me, my ancestors, and any progeny I might have.

One of these days, I'm going to give in to the repeated temptation to leave about an inch or two of water in the tub, just for the entertainment value of seeing what happens when she jumps into it.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Four-legged fiend

In the spirit of Leeann, I hereby submit the Top 10 things I say to my cat:

10. "And just WHERE do you think you're going?"
(when I leave the door open to go outside for 10 seconds; she's an indoors-only cat)

9. "Do you fucking mind?"
(during a too-close encounter, such as trying to sniff the inside of my nose)

8. "What the hell was THAT all about?"
(immediately following a Krazy Kat tear-around-the-house session)

7. "I don't CARE if you don't like it. That's what you get."

6. "Knock it the fuck off!"
(after a protracted session of whining that she wants something... God only knows what)

5. "You keep that up, and I'm going to swap you for a dog - and shoot the dog."
(after leaving a particularly smelly deposit in her litter box)

4. "Why is there a cat in the middle of __________?"
(she finds a way to lay wherever it's most inconvenient for me)

3. "If you shed any more, I'll be able to make a whole new cat"
(should be self-explanatory)

2. "Ow, ow, ow!"
(she isn't above using her claws to get my attention)

and the #1 thing I say to my cat:

1. "Am I going to have to club you?"

Saturday, July 4, 2009

This is me!

The Scientist option, if you weren't sure...

Friday, June 26, 2009

Feathered Friend

I went over to a friends house today to help him out by mowing his yard while he's out of town.

On arrival, I was checking the yard for hazards, and happened on a smallish robin. Surprised that it hadn't flown away, I approached it to see what the deal was. It just stood there looking at me, even after I gently nudged it with my foot and convinced it to take a couple of half-hearted hops.

I figured it would find some place else to hang out once I got the mower fired up, but the dumbshit just stood there watching me. When I finally had to choose between stopping the mower, and creating robin puree, I stopped the mower. A few nudges convinced him/her (sorry, I didn't look close enough to establish gender) to take the few hops to a neighbor's yard, where (s)he would be out of the way. Once that was accomplished, it was back to the mowing. A while later, I saw that (s)he had finally decided to relocate.

I can only figure that I was being tested, and that my actions have resulted in a favorable report being sent off to the Organisation of Birds International - Western Area Network, and that my car has now been removed from the acceptable targets list.

At least, I'm hoping...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Debt Collectors and Telemarketers

Sen. Jon Tester
222 N 32nd Street, Suite 102
Billings, MT 59101

Senator Tester;

I have recently made the conversion from traditional telephone to 'digital' service through my cable company. In the process, I neglected to ensure that I retained my original telephone number; as a consequence, I have had the opportunity to discover a few things about some companies that do a majority of their business over the phone.

The types of companies that I'm referring to are debt collection outfits and telemarketers, and what I've discovered is that neither of them seems to pay the slightest bit of attention to those unlucky enough to become their targets.

The debt collection agencies are probably the worst: they seem unable (or unwilling) to accept the fact that someone who has had a bill turned over to collection may also have lost their telephone service, too – and that the number may have been re-issued to someone else. I have gotten repeated phone calls from some agencies that have been annoying and persistent enough to provoke me into considerable ire (and profanity, I must confess).

While I have registered my (new) phone number with the national Do Not Call registry, it takes several weeks before that is (supposed) to become effective; in the mean time, I've been subjected to no small number of calls offering products I don't need or want, advised that I've won a variety of contests that I never entered, and enticed with a dizzying assortment of scams. The thing with the telemarketing calls is that many of them are robo-calls that tell me to press a number on my phone to stop receiving the calls – which don't stop, anyway.

Further exacerbating the situation is that the vast majority of these calls (of both types) have had names and/or numbers that didn't bear even the faintest connection to the actual caller.

After giving the matter some thought, I think that it would be entirely appropriate for the
government to address the issue. What I would like to see is the following suggestions be implemented as laws or regulations governing debt collection and telemarketing companies:

For telemarketers:
• Those called must be given an opportunity to decline, and be removed (permanently!)
from the contact list within 24 hours. Violations should result in a fine/penalty of $5,000
• The company contracting the telemarketing work (i.e., the one they're calling for) should
also be held liable for any violations made by the telemarketer. If I can learn that a
particular telemarketer has a reputation for bad behavior, I have to think that someone
hiring them can, too – and should be held accountable. I think applying the same perincident fee to them, too, would be appropriate.

For debt collectors:
• When advised that the person they're after no longer has a particular phone number, they
must immediately end the call, and make no further calls to that number until and unless
they have verified the number using something other than the most recent telephone
book/listing. Repeat calls should result in a fine or penalty of $10,000 PER INCIDENT.
• When a debt collector receives an account where the contact details are more than 6
months old, they must verify those details, as above, before making any calls. A
fine/penalty of $5,000 PER INCIDENT would be appropriate.

For both:
• When requested by a contact, representatives of the calling company must provide the
legal name (as in: the one printed on their paychecks!) of who they work for, vice who
they're calling on behalf of. Violations should be fined/penalized $50,000 PER
• Companies calling on behalf of someone other than themselves (such as telemarketers
and collection agencies) must provide their real names and contact phone numbers for
Caller ID. Failure to do so should cost them $50,000 PER INCIDENT.
• Allow those contacted to record and document such activities, and forward them to the
FCC for priority investigation. Current laws on the recording of telephone conversations
are a mish-mash of limitations imposed by different states; establish one overriding
exemption for those receiving interstate commercial calls.

Doubtless, representatives of both of these types of businesses will scream bloody murder at the idea; however, since they are patently unable or unwilling to effectively police themselves, then it must be done FOR them. Also, the dollar values I've proposed are meant to be high – the cost should be sufficient to ensure that non-compliance isn't even considered. If you wanted to double (or even treble) them, I certainly wouldn't object...

I would also suggest that funding to the FCC (or other agency, as appropriate) be increased
somewhat so that they would have the means to investigate such activities, and even take a proactive approach toward ensuring compliance.

I shall look forward to receiving any response you might care to make to this letter.


David K. Merriman

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Caturday 20090613

"Everybody knows" that kittens are harmless... except this puppy!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Got Milk?

With a hat tip to the Presurfer, here are some ad clips from a Canadian version of "got milk?"

I'm particularly amused by number 3 (the T. Rex) -- and the closing. You'll see why...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Caturday 2009-0606

Mooch, the cat really likes his "Temptations" treats. His un-named buddy -- not so much...

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Caturday 20090530

This kitten thinks (s)he's a whole lot bigger and badder than (s)he really is; the puppy is more like "Yeah, fine, whatever..."

Thursday, May 28, 2009

May you live in "interesting" times...

With GM on the verge of going tits-up, and the UAW taking part ownership of the company (and thus directly and immediately involved in operations), it's going to be "interesting" to see how the unions deal with a more immediate and direct connection of the consequences of their attitudes, demands, and actions.
Personally, I think the UAW has been more like a 10-pound tick on a 20-pound dog; now that all the perks, benefits, and salaries they've demanded over the years affect the company they've now got part ownership of, I think they're going to have to re-evaluate their positions on a whole raft of issues.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Caturday 090523

This should help de-stress your life, a little... :-)

Friday, May 22, 2009

Heh... got THAT right...

While I'm a big fan of Linux, and am willing to help others learn the benefits it offers, I'm not a hard-core FanBoi that Bill Gates is the AntiChrist.

That's not to say that I don't find these examples of what would happen if Microsoft made everything highly entertaining. Like THIS one:

Go ahead, see for yourself.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Intertoobz -- I gotz 'em

The local cable company (Bresnan) turned up yesterday (at the beginning of the two-hour window they gave me) to get me connected to their systems.

It didn't take long for the installation guy to get me hooked up with cable TV (more on that in a moment), Internet, and digital telephone (technically, 'Voice over IP', or VOIP). I've got more bandwidth than I had with DSL (though it IS somewhat clogged with a bunch of Windows systems spewing crap), and the couple of calls that I've made with my phone indicate that everything phone-wise is working well, too.

When I signed up with Bresnan, I agreed to their $100/month TV-Internet-Phone package; compared to their regular prices listed in all the paperwork they issued me, it is something of a deal. The thing is, I'm really not all that interested in the TV side of it -- I simply don't watch it that much. There are a couple of movie channels that I'll likely use a little, and a couple more specialty channels (I watched programs on the M1A1 Abrams tank and the F-117 stealth fighter on the Military Channel last night, for example), but that's about it. I simply have no interest in the myriad of food/living channels, the sports channels, the reruns of OLD programs (I Love Lucy? yeesh!), and so on. So when the trial period expires, so will the cable service, methinks. The remote they issued me for my cable box has enough buttons on it that it looks like something NASA came up with, too.

Anyway, I have a shiny new phone number (I could have kept the old Qwest number, if I hadn't told them to buzz off before the installation guy turned up), a bigger pipe for my Intertoobz, and a shitload of TV channels not to watch.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Stepping in it

Apparently, Qwest and I didn't reach any kind of agreement: at no point in time yesterday did any kind of delivery service turn up to hand me my replacement DSL modem.

I have to admit that I'm more than a little surprised by that -- the last person I spoke with at Qwest assured me that it would go out Monday because my name was second on the list at just after 9:00 in the morning.

I don't know what happened, who's responsible, or why. The Qwest support person that I dealt with last expressed their understanding of the consequences if I didn't get my modem, yet it didn't arrive as promised.

So, at 3:05 (I waited until 3PM, Just In Case) yesterday, I called Bresnan (the local Cable company) and signed up for one of their specials: Internet, digital telephone (aka Voice over IP, or VOIP), and basic cable. I expect that when the intro deal period passes, I'll drop the cable TV. Installation is supposed to happen between 10AM and Noon this coming Monday, the 18th.

Qwest, you've got to learn to quit stepping on your own weenies...

Monday, May 11, 2009


As promised/threatened, this morning I made my call to Qwest to address the "issues" that came up over the weekend.

It took nearly 45 minutes and 3 phone calls, but Qwest and I have reached an understanding: Qwest will give me proper technical support; in return, I won't leave any more of their employees walking around with only 1 ass cheek and feeling like they could pass a watermelon without noticing.

I remained calm, polite, and courteous. I also remained obstinate, insistent, and adamant. Along the way, I gave a couple of Authority Figures the trouble ticket numbers that I'd been issued, so that they could see what all had transpired. I also offered a couple of genuinely helpful suggestions -- one of them being that if a caller says they're running Linux or MacOS, immediately bump them to level 2 tech support so that they aren't jerked around by the front-line script-reading dolts.

I just mentioned that I had to make three phone calls. The first got me some tech support weasel that was as willfully ignorant and unhelpful as the bundle of boobs I had to deal with this past weekend. The second phone finally got me someone with the willingness to actually address the underlying problem of Qwest's lack of support for Linux (and Macs, I expect) -- and resulted in me being forwarded to someone with the horsepower to actually issue me a replacement modem. Sadly, that person didn't quite grasp the concept that because I initially called the problem in on Saturday, I considered that to be the start of the promised 3rd day arrival of the modem. Since that person's supervisor hadn't arrived at work yet, I ended the conversation and made my third, and final, call. I was able to get the person on the other end to understand that I was not merely unhappy, but thoroughly disgusted with Qwest. I suspect that my comment that I was blogging about the process and perfectly willing to terminate any services through Qwest in favor of digital telephone and Internet with the local cable company (Bresnan) may have influenced them.

The bottom line is that I will (theoretically, anyway) have a replacement modem in hand tomorrow (it's supposed to be shipped Overnight), at no cost to me.

Why, yes, I can be an asshole -- but only for the forces of Good, I assure you.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Blech Support

Much to my dismay, my official Qwest DSL modem went off into the weeds this morning: it shows that I have a DSL connection, but nothing is getting through; nor can I get into it from my network to configure it. After troubleshooting the situation, and determining that it was the modem and not something else, I was obliged to call Qwest DSL tech support.

My call was answered by some git in Mumbai or Calcutta or some damn place like that, and the flaming idiot simply couldn't understand that I'd already tried everything that his book of troubleshooting scripts called for. Nor did he grasp the concept that I was running something other than MS Windows. When I finally got fed up with dealing with him (along about the fourth attempt to walk me through the Windows modem setup), I went off on him and demanded a supervisor.

Well, she wasn't any kind of improvement -- she was equally adamant that I simply had to go through the script(s), and kept telling me that I had to do this or that so that we could configure the modem. It didn't take me long to lose patience with her (the third time she asked me what version of Windows I was using, despite me already telling her that I run Linux, and declaring that we needed to get my ISP online so we could input the modem settings). Slowly, carefully, and using a calm voice and small words in the hope that she'd understand, I told her that I was through screwing around with them -- that if she didn't authorize a replacement modem right then, the call was over and that I'd be raising hell with Qwest customer support on Monday (useless bastards are closed nights and weekends, of course). She said that all we had to do was input the modem settings. I asked how we were going to do that when I'd already told them several times that I couldn't get INTO the modem to set it up, and that I wasn't using Windows, which was the only thing they knew how to use to configure it. After several seconds of deafening silence, she tried to tell me (again!) that they could see the modem, so all it needed was to be configured. That was all it took for me to tell her that she was an idiot and hang up.

Come Monday morning, some poor soul at Qwest is going to learn that aggravating me is not a Good Thing To Do. For starters, I'm going to ream that person about the blazing incompetence, idiocy, and ineptitude of their alleged "tech support". Then I'm going to let them know that if they can't/won't get me back online by end-of-business Tuesday (the next day), then my first call Wednesday morning will be to sign up with Bresnan for cable, digital phone, and Internet -- and closing my Qwest account.

Back before they became Qwest, the company was U.S. West -- or as people liked to call them, U.S. Worst. I think an appropriate nickname for them now is Qworst.

Anyway, it looks like I'm going to be offline for the next couple of days, except for the infrequent visit to a local coffee shop...

Friday, May 8, 2009

I've tried to tell people...

While I use Linux, and do what I can to encourage others to get away from Micro$oft, I'm not what I'd consider a "fan-boi" -- one of those hard-core types that thinks Linux is the do-all and end-all of computer operating systems. I readily admit that Windows works just fine for a lot of people; it's just that the very people that "should" be using it aren't taking responsibility for knowing enough about owning and using an Internet-connected computer: the same folks that think nothing of buying a complete system and hanging it off the Internet would be horrified at the idea of an unlicensed and untrained driver being turned loose on the roads.

I've previously written blog entries about the hazards of an unsecured computer being used as part of a "bot net" (network of computers taken over by someone other than their owners): used to send spam, having personal and financial data stolen and misused, and so on.

Well, this Washington Post "Security Fix" article points out an additional hazard: having that remote overlord tell your computer to, essentially, commit suicide...

One of the scarier realities about malicious software is that these programs leave ultimate control over victim machines in the hands of the attacker, who could simply decide to order all of the infected machines to self-destruct. Most security experts will tell you that while this so-called "nuclear option" is an available feature in some malware, it is hardly ever used. Disabling infected systems is counterproductive for attackers, who generally focus on hoovering as much personal and financial data as they can from the PCs they control.

But try telling that to Roman Hüssy, a 21-year-old Swiss information technology expert, who last month witnessed a collection of more than 100,000 hacked Microsoft Windows systems tearing themselves apart at the command of their cyber criminal overlords.

If you'll go read the article (which I would strongly encourage; it's NOT full of computer-ese), you'll find that at least one of those hundred thousand machines belonged to someone in New Jersey, who used it as part of his business.

I will once again reiterate my standing offer to send a FREE (no cost to you at all) "live" (everything runs off the disk, and WILL NOT do anything to what you already have) CD that will let you take Linux for a test-drive so you can see for yourself that Linux is a viable alternative to Microsoft Windows: Linux (and all the software you'd ever need -- MORE than enough to fill a DVD) is free, infinitely more secure than MS' offerings, and runs faster and better on the same hardware. Several of the people that I know that have made the switch are delighted to have done so. Simply send me an email with your snailmail address, and I'll get the disk out to you the same day.