jewel on line at last

This is my personal weblog where I get to be as crabby as I want to be.

1.29.2006

On a Lack of Direction

This weekend my son had a two day soccer tournament in Sacramento CA. This meant driving, and lots of it. Normally Yahoo maps is a brick. Other directions suck. This time, Yahoo let me down. I tried the new maps beta. It sure looks pretty, but there's a reason it's still beta. First, getting the driving directions was a nightmare. The interface was horrible and the direction area too small. Trying to print them was even worse. Oh, dear. Well, I managed to blunder onto printing. The next morning, I see that the directions use North and South. Oh, no. I have no ability whatsoever to discern compass directions unless the sun is directly in my face. Sunrise and Sunset? Yes. Anything else and forget it. I am also Left Right challenged. As it happens, I do a LOT of stuff left-handed, even though I'm mostly right-handed. And, I suspect there's a wee bit of dyslexia (two siblings are diagnosed and quite badly affected) When I get tired, I start reversing d p b q etc AND I will often pick up a pen left-handed and start writing without realizing I've switched hands.

My point is that turn left, right or whatever works OK as along as I have plenty of time to confirm I am not confusing my lefts and rights. But North South? No. Not in a bazillion years.

So, the directions to the Soccer Complex were not only compass directions but WRONG. Completely wrong. They referenced highways and Interstates that, to my near certain knowledge, do not exist in the area. I know that because I was lost on them several times this weekend and never once saw any of the ones that were in the directions. The website for the Soccer Complex itself failed to mention which city it was in. It did, however, mention a street. So, I drove perhaps 20 miles past my destination, and then drove around stupidly for quite a while trying to get back to a place prior to whatever mistake I made. But then I saw an exit that referenced the aforementioned street. Desperate, I took it. It is a very long street and I was very far (as I later learned) from the end I needed to be on. I passed a freeway entrance that, suffice it to say, proved that the instructions were completely wrong as I did not need any of the middle part (that didn't exist anyway, as far as I know).

We arrived and one thing that went right was that I parked on the street instead of paying $5.00 for parking. This was a stroke of brilliant luck as I ended up facing opposite the massive traffic jam of people trying to leave the complex and, due to having been lost previously, knew a "secret" way out.

The directions from the soccer complex to the hotel were even more massively wrong. I didn't even attempt to use them as only one of the referenced streets existed. Someone had given me their directions from the hotel to the complex, with the hope that I could just do the opposite. Less than two minutes after setting out I was lost. (Here's how it goes... Carolyn knows she is left right confused. I am doing the opposite, so if the directions say left, I go right, only which way is Right? Left? Right? Or the other left?) Sigh. So, I decided I would be best off if I were lost in downtown Sacramento and having been lost before and seeing the freeway exits and on-ramps, I drove to the first exit that said Sacramento. And, indeed, I was soon lost in downtown Sacto. From which I could call the hotel and beg for rescue. Those instructions, too, were flawed as she sent me down a street that does not go to the one I needed to get to. But then, eventually, I was lost on that street, and I just drove until we found the hotel.

Getting back to the soccer complex was, also, no better. I had no way of reversing my route because I was hopelessly lost before with mostly no idea where I was. I checked the regular yahoo directions (better, but not perfect) and realized the first half was telling me to drive in a circle, hitting the same street twice. The hotel gave me better directions and I made it within 5 miles of my destination and then went right instead of left. The problem is everything looked familiar because I had been lost there just yesterday. So I drove farther than I should have before turning around.

Directions need to offer an alternative so that people who don't feel for my pain can have their dumb north south crap and others can have Left Right and still others can have Turn Left and if the street numbers aren't getting smaller, then you should have taken the other left.

And, no, I cannot afford a GPS because I'm getting a Chihauhua next weekend.

General Crabbiness Level: Off the Charts.

1.26.2006

I hate slow banks

Right now I am massively annoyed because Wells Fargo Bill Pay is so freaking slow. Now, I'll admit that WFBP is far superior to MSN billbay (sucks badly and which recently, in the grand tradition of website overhauls actually got worse and more confusing). But honestly, WFBP is slow slow turtle on valium slow. Painfully hurtfully slow. There's nothing but dial up out where I live, so the performance is extra sucky. MSN billpay is faster. Stupider and far worse, but faster. (I use MSN to pay the parent's bills, so I know whereof I speak.)

Which reminds me that I am pretty ticked off that in both MSNBP and WFBP if a payee's billing address changes YOU CANNOT UPDATE IT. You must delete the payee, and all the information that hasn't changed, and make a new one. What kind of stupid database design is that? Now, I suspect I know why, and it's also related to stupid database design. In the very early days of WFBP (when it was speedy but not too attractive) way back when the 49ers were in the playoffs every year, I payed my 49er season ticket via WFPB. Some couple or four weeks later, I get a letter from an AIDS Foundation thanking me for a donation in the exact amount of the season ticket price. Panic, let me tell you. I almost threw away the letter without opening it! Turns out that if you made any changes in your payee information (I had corrected a zip code) the payee address appeared just fine on the screen but IN FACT, defaulted to the address of the first payee in the database. (AIDS Foundation, get it?) So, WFB took care of it and I did not lose my tickets. Good thing, because they went to the Superbowl that year.

The solution to the stupid database design that quite obviously I think, was probably COBOL based and therefore lacked the concept of a foreign key, was to prevent the updating of any payee information even though a payee change of address is not uncommon at all. And so the tail wags the dog. Yahno, a REAL database, with primary and foreign keys and some normalization will fix that for you. WFB - you could even use Oracle and I wouldn't be too upset. I bet the query result would come back faster, too.

Referential Integrity people.

General Crabbiness Level: Moderate

1.25.2006

About that DOJ Request (by Jeremy Zawodny)

Hear Hear.

Read more at jeremy.zawodny.com/blog...

1.19.2006

I hate morning people

There's a new DBA at my day job and he gets in about 7 or 7:30 which is fine with me because he's more than capable of being quiet. Please note: Despite the ungodly hour at which I rise DoNotShine and go to work, I am NOT a morning person. But there is another person who apparently thinks it's really great that this new DBA comes in early because he likes to talk about stupid boring idiot stuff. Probably if this conversation took place at, say, 10:00 or 11:00 in the morning, I wouldn't be so freaking crabby about it. This morning there were two people at his desk and they were not talking about work. I like my nice quiet mornings where there's nobody around and nobody in the next cube over having stupid idiot boring conversations that do not interest me in the least. They should at least talk about something I care about. One morning, the new DBA and I were talking about DBA stuff and this guy was standing there looking irritated that we were talking about databases and servers. I won't say I don't waste my fair share of time, but I don't irritate people with it during what should be a nice quiet morning of letting the espresso hit the bloodstream with me adjusting to being awake at all.

General Crabbiness Level: Very High.

SANS - Internet Storm Center - Cooperative Cyber Threat Monitor And Alert System

While I understand the point being made, why is it up to me to force Nokia to provide a safe product? The problem is that if I were to try to do it myself, it's guaranteed I'd be hampered by a stupid and probably broken interface. Acutally, and maybe more to the point, why does my carrier get to implement broken versions of what Nokia ships? I don't get why carriers aren't eager to provide cool and useful tools that will make me think it's worthwhile to have a more expensive plan. Instead, what I see everywhere I look are disincentives to use my phone's features.

Read more at isc.sans.org/

1.18.2006

Shirky: Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality

Ah, a blog after my own heart. Fyi, if you haven't read Linked, do so. Can't wait for time to look at my stats for my other website, since that one gets enough traffic to matter. Makes for some interesting thoughts about marketing. But, what about Word-Of-Mouth? According to Barabasi, there should be identifiable persons to start with in generating buzz...

Read more at shirky.com/writings/pow...

1.16.2006

Technology strikes (out) again

Today, I am crabby about having to go back to work tomorrow. Yuck. I am crabby that Instiki is so far a really great tool for my writing, but it's not a don't-have-to-think-about-it product. It should be. Why release it to the public if the actual real-life public (which would be people like me, only even more clueless) if real people can't just freaking use it?

I'm diving into a new project and for me, the early stages means keeping track of a lot of things, characters (names, appearance, traits) places, chronologies, etc. I have more or less solved the issue of getting Instiki to know where it lives. Now, the issue is that I have a laptop and a desktop and I want to keep instiki synchronized between the two. My first stab at that failed.

Instiki has two export features, neither of which are sufficiently described. Which wouldn't make all that much difference except that when I click on the export link (either one) my desktop beeps for about 30 seconds -- just to the hold-the-button down to make it stop point. Obviously, there's an error of some kind, but what? No message pops up, there's no readily identifiable culprit in task manager, and based on the quality of the beep, it's coming from the system, not some application. It's a POST beep, not a windows wav sound. Best quess is it's some kind of pathing issue, EXCEPT that files get made. Restoring them to the laptop did nothing. Nor did just zipping up the whole darn directory. Crap.

I think I'll email the Instiki guy tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I am crabby because of the whole day job thing. And personal, private writing rant: I hate waiting. I hate that two proposals are going to an editor, may well be on the desktop now, and I have to wait for an answer. I hate knowing they're going to be running the numbers on my last books instead of looking at quality of the product. Why does that matter? Past results are no guarantee of future performance. Right? Right. All I can do is freak out about that. I swear to [insert deity here] writing is just not a job for nuerotics, but there's no such thing as a writer who is not neurotic.

General crabbiness level: medium-low to medium. Could be worse, but the cat's snoozing on my lap.

1.14.2006

What about a catapult? (by unknown)


What about a catapult? (by unknown)
Originally uploaded by Tijd.
I was all set to be crabby, but then I stumbled on this. It's not a static image, so you have to watch the progression. Love it!
General crabbiness level: low.


1.11.2006

sticki icky wiki?

A few days ago, I installed Instiki on my desktop and laptop with the intention of at last being able to use wiki technology to help out with developing my novels. I won't rehash why this could be better for certain types of work that helps a writer keep track of 100,000 word stories, for now, accept that I suspect it can. So, Instiki.

I am running into a technical issue with Instiki, but I haven't had time to research the area of my ignorance. I've got half a mind ( don't say it!) to email the guy and tell him if he'll help me out, I'll write him documentation that actually contains all the necessary steps and information. Cool Technology just should NOT be limited to geeks. That's unfair. It's like writing down the instructions for how to drive a car if you've never driven before and saying "Step on the brake" while neglecting to say where the brake may be found. Hmm. On the other hand, I seem to remember many times before feeling like a technology problem was my fault only to later discover it was a bug. Instiki cannot remember where to find itself. A useless product if it has to be reinstalled every time. I get it up and working, and then as soon as I close the browser and then open it again to use it, gone. Can't find it. Obviously a pathing issue, but where is the freaking thing expecting, but failing, to find the path?

In other technology news, I installed MySQL on my desktop at work, and it wouldn't install all the way. I just got a localhost port error. I can't find anything on the XP desktop at work that would allow me to explicitly open the required TCP port. So, I installed it on the laptop, ran into the same issue, but since I use Norton Firewall on my laptop, I was able to manually allow local traffic on the required TCP port and then everything was hunky dory. Googling the error revealed that I am FAR from alone in getting this error message. I could not find a posted soloution that made sense. And there we have the disconnect that drives me insane. Known problem. Lots of people have it. None of the "solutions" make any sense. It's plain from looking at the cries for help that this is mostly happening to people installing for the first time. So, chances are many of those people are looking to get their feet wet and do NOT, by definition!!! possess the inside knowledge required to figure out the problem on their own or make sense of the few posted solutions. (None of which, by the way, had to do with explicitly opening the correct TCP port on the localhost).

Similiar issue with Norton firewall by the way. I gave up calling and emailing their crap tech support. Windows XP has some fiendish way of saying it's OFF when it's really not and it breaks certain parts of Live update. I found this out only because I was at a hotel with the laptop and while I was setting up the broadband connection, up comes this message that says windows firewall ( which I turned off becuase I use Norton ) was "protecting" certain connections and did I want to turn that off so I could use the hotel broadband. Why, yes, I believe I do. Click. And ever since then, all portions of Norton Live update have worked on my laptop without any error. See, the reason I knew it was Win XP Firewall was that Norton worked perfectly on my laptop when the progession was this: Get laptop with XP Pro prior to release of SP2. Install Norton Firewall and have no problems whatsoever. Along comes SP2 which is installed with Norton running. No problems. Then my hard drive dies.

Oh. Dell Technical Support Hell. Hell! I curse the fact that I am too poor to buy a Mac. It took me 45 minutes to convince the tech that my hard drive had failed. Oh, please. It was horrible. I won't digress. So. Dell is unable to fathom the sort of customer service that sends you a replacement hard drive with all the stuff on it that was there when you bought it the first time. Alas. Windows XP with SP2 is now installed prior to Norton (with Firewall turned off) and now Live Update no longer works. Used to. With the same damn software installed. Norton sends its tech support to the same school that Dell does. Holy Hell. So, anyway, the computer gods tricked my laptop into turning off firewall and Norton Live Update works. But I cannot similarly trick the desktop because I live in the country and there is no broadband. It's dial up heck. Sigh. Google the error. Golly! Many people have the problem and all of them report that Norton's solution doesn't work. Why? Because the real problem is Windows Firewall only no one will admit it.

So, Instiki has an issue with instructions / behavior that confuses and frustrates the brave not-a-total-freaking-geek geek. I am busy. Kid. School, day job, novel writing. I really don't have time to waste. I should be fixing chapters for my next historical instead of doing this. But I'm crabby amd needed to vent.

No wonder people hate technology AND technologists, too.

General Crabbiness level: moderate to high

1.02.2006

Suprise! I'm crabby!

Today I am crabby because I have to go back to work tomorrow but especially because I am afraid my work pants won't fit and PARTICULARLY crabby because I am going to have to actually eat less and excercise more instead of just thinking about it moments before I eat something I shouldn't have. Drats.