Because it is the only TV option available, and because my DSL tops out at an anemic 1.5 megabits, I am a Dish Network subscriber. For the most part, it is innocuous and not egregiously more expensive than the value we get from it.

But occasionally, as was the case tonight, it intrudes upon my consciousness, and neither it nor I walk away happy with the interaction.

In January, Dish decided to give us a year of the Starz package for free. This is all well and good, and we've watched two or three movies that we otherwise would not have as a result.

Tonight, they called with an offer to replace the remainder of the year of Starz with three free months of HBO and Cinemax, which is similarly fine with me, which is to say I could not care much less.

Except with the HBO package, after the three months are up, it will automatically convert to a paid subscription unless I call them and cancel. (The Starz was set to softly and suddenly vanish away when the year was up.) When I heard this, I said, no, I don't want it at all if I have to call you and cancel it.

"You don't have to call," she said. "You can go to Channel 100 and make the change there."

"No," I said. "I don't want the package if I have to cancel it myself."

I believe she thought I meant I didn't think I could figure out how to navigate to Channel 100 and manage my account, because that's when she trotted out the question in the subject line above, after which I didn't say the first six things that popped into my head, including, "I'm more familiar with the Internet than you will ever be," "Honey, I built the Internet(1)," and "Wow, what an offensively condescending question, fuck you."

No, I just reiterated my preference to not be switched to a service that I will have to try and remember to opt out of, because even that level of effort raises the cost higher than the value I'd be receiving from the service. (I also know more about economics than she probably ever will.)

And now I'm using my "familiarity with the Internet" to see if there's any new information about a timeframe for faster pipes in my area, so that streaming might actually be an option soon(2).

Lesson learned, if the caller ID says "Toll Free", let it go to voicemail.

(1) Granted, that one is a bit of an exaggeration. But given a twenty-year career in networking and network services, it's at least in the neighborhood of the ballpark of true.

(2) Also, of course, to share my annoyance with an uncaring world. :)
So teh_boy's school is having their annual book fair, and as always, there is a big table of gimmicky crap for those students who still have some pocket money after buying all the books they want.

This year, one of the items is a $2.99 pen that writes in an invisible ink that phosphoresces under UV light, and has at the eraser end, a small battery-operated ("batteries not replaceable") UV LED. Which is actually pretty darned cool, and I wish this kind of thing had been available when I was a kid. Teh_boy spent some of his allowance on one, many of his friends acquired their own, and the school is apparently now awash in secret notes being passed back and forth.

However, I happened to see one of the aforementioned secret notes written by teh_boy, and across the top in black felt pen was the message, "Dear [J], read this secret note with your spy pen!!!" and an arrow pointing to the apparently-blank center of the page.

Son, I fear that you are missing the point.
Our email host is on Comcast's blacklist forever, apparently, and the workaround we have in place just got totally, instead of somewhat, unacceptable. So I spent the morning setting us up with a Google Apps account so we could use gmail.

Turns out, though, that you can have a Google Apps account OR a Google+ account, but not both. M. got a nice little web page warning and they will set her up with a new login for her Google+ account if she so wants, but I seem unable to generate that page for myself.

So I am on an undesired Google+ hiatus, and may never bother to return to the service. Way to go, Google, I thought I'd only be annoyed at the stupidity of one Internet giant this week, but you've made it two, and it's only Tuesday.

C'mon, guys. It's about convenience, convergence, and integration. Deliberate isolation of related services isn't a win for anybody.
In 1997, there was this new thing--instead of going down to the local Blockbuster on a Friday night and hoping they had something in stock that you could stand to watch, now you could hit a Web site, give them a list of every movie that interested you, and they'd mail it to you. Better yet, if it turned out that your appendix burst just as John Hurt started convulsing in _Alien_ (whoa, wouldn't that have been freaky?), you wouldn't have to take the movie back without finishing it, even assuming you remembered to take it back to avoid the late fees. Just keep it until you're able to watch it!

We didn't jump on the bandwagon right away; we'd gone down the laserdisc path, and it wasn't quite obvious yet that it was going to be just as much a dead end as the first wave of LDs had been. But once we did, it was everything everybody said it was and more. Between the selection and the convenience, I think it's been ten years at least since I've been inside a DVD rental store--I live out in the middle of nowhere, so it's a bit of a trek to get to town anyway, especially if I have to do it twice, and just try and fit it in around my work schedule (when I have one). When they added streaming, that was extra awesome with a side of awesome sauce. Suddenly I didn't necessarily have to wait for a disc that they only had one or two copies of (or they'd lost the last one!), I could stream it. And yeah, the new house has crappy bandwidth, so streaming isn't as viable an option here as it was at the old place, and yeah, they don't have anywhere near the selection for streaming that they do for DVDs, but it was still an option that I could take advantage of if I felt I needed it. The integration between my DVD queue and the Watch Instantly queue is a HUGE feature here; if I'm feeling in the mood for some instant gratification, a quick glance down my DVD queue tells me exactly what's available for streaming.

Sure, there have been hassles along the way. We, along with a lot of other people, got bit by Netflix's throttling of more-active users. Plan prices have bounced around a lot. But solid features, the integration of services, lingering goodwill, and a fair amount of inertia, have kept us satisfied Netflix customers for well north of a decade.

But we just noticed this week that Netflix had raised our plan rates without telling us, and split out the streaming from the DVD rentals, so streaming is no longer a free add-on to the service. To be clear, we've been expecting this move for a while, and we understand it. It's the total lack of warning and not giving us a chance to choose for ourselves which plan we wanted going forward that hacks me off. We made the necessary decision to cut the streaming service, but fully intended to reinstate it when the bandwidth out here makes it attractive again.

Then today, we found out that the split of services on our bill was only a preliminary move, and that Netflix is spinning off its DVD rental service, completely severing its integration with the streaming service, and renaming it to "Qwikster". Now there will be two different Web sites, two different bills, and I won't be able to skim down my DVD queue to see what looks good to watch right now.

Or, rather, there will be for other folks. I'll be keeping my "Qwikster" account for now, as my queue represents a fairly significant investment of energy and research, but when bandwidth improves, I'll have an entirely open mind as to what service to go with, and I'll be looking more closely at other DVD services out there now, too.

And judging from the reaction on Netflix's forums (and on Wall Street), I am not alone in deciding that the goodwill has eroded enough that inertia's not really a compelling argument for staying anymore.

So, well done, Netflix. In just about a month, you've taken a company whose name was synonymous with the service it provided ("I Netflixed _Avatar_ this weekend. Talk about overrated!") and shot it in the head.

The Oatmeal sums it up pretty well:
http://theoatmeal.com/comics/netflix

/Ranting Swede
georgmi: (Gurren_Lagann_Simon)
( Sep. 6th, 2011 07:07 pm)
Just watched it. The book debuted during my Dark Age, and since I started reading again, I've been focusing on backfilling Bendis, Tezuka, Sim, and Gaiman, so the movie was my first real exposure to the property. As such, I am not competent to discuss how true the film was to the pre-existing canon. Also as such, I didn't really know what to expect.

Whatever I did expect, I mostly didn't get it, though. You think superhero movie, you think action, right? Think again. There were fights, sure, but they were slow, drawn-out things without tension. You think Lovecraftian horror, you think suspense and fear and the melting of minds, yeah? Again, not so much. Sure, the Things were slimy and misshapen and vicious, and the places where they were hunting folks were underground and dank, but again, the slow pace drained out all the tension. Even the Romantic Misunderstanding was half-donkeyed.

The pace was pretty clearly an artistic choice by the director and editor; they were going for ponderous and Important. We are talking about an attempt by the bad guys to bring about Armageddon, here. And maybe that worked in the theater, where you're pretty much stuck until the end credits roll. But at home, even with the soundtrack turned up and the subwoofer shaking the couch, I kept finding myself thinking at the most inopportune times, "I need a sammich." (Fortunately for me, the house is copiously supplied with tools and materials for fixing myself a variety of said sammiches.) I think the word I'm looking for here is "boring".

Characterization was flat and shallow, which one has come to expect (though not to be resigned to) from an origin movie; it's apparently too much for the form to carry all three of the origin story, the present-day crisis, and decently-developed characters.

I watched it to the end, which means I got to see Hellboy take on Cthulhu fist-to-tentacle, and that should have been awesome, but we'd already seen the minion demons slam Hellboy around and break the walls with him, and the final boss battle didn't ratchet things up particularly.

I'm not sorry I watched it, but I'm glad I waited for an afternoon when M. wasn't around, because it would have been a huge waste of her time. I most likely won't be watching the sequel, either.
Really, I get that most people who call tech support actually need help, but all I need is for you to reset my PPP password, because I never wrote it down and the last time I used it was when I was setting up the old DSL modem a year ago. No, I do not need your "expert" help with anything. I especially do not need your "expert" help in installing your anti-virus software (I have my own solution), or in checking whether or not I can browse the Web. Oh, and dear god no I do not effing want your quick setup wizard to "automatically scan my computer for problems", no matter how many confirmation prompts you throw in my face to try and scare me into installing an unwanted TSR application to hunt for unwanted TSR applications.

Just tell me the new password and I'll go away.

On the bright side, it does not appear that Qwest's legendary customer service has been adversely affected by the CenturyLink acquisition. :/
Signal boost for a friend. If you're interested, either drop me a line or contact Herb directly.

SDET – Position 1
One of our major clients is constantly looking for ways to improve its products online metrics. Primary responsibilities include live site data metrics and reports, live site monitoring and dsat handling, working closely with the Program Management and Development teams to design, experiment and test new data quality improvement features that directly impact end user shopping experience. Key machine learning algorithms are used to perform product classification, product enrichment, data quality evaluation, products clustering with the goal of transforming unstructured data to semantically rich query-able structured data. Other activities include processing of different feeds from merchants, rapidly updating the index for price/coupons/merchant deals.
The successful candidate will have performed solid test planning and test development for a major feature on a software team through one or more full product cycles and will have a demonstrated ability to function autonomously and demonstrate success in a rapidly changing, aggressive release cycle.
Requirements
• Experience in building or testing server products/scalable web services.
• Strong debugging and problem analysis skills.
• At least 3 years of SDE/SDET experience.
• BS or higher degree in Computer Science.
Desirable:
• Strong object oriented programming skills in C#
• Knowledge of Internet based services, Web technologies.
• Passion for Machine Learning/Statistics
• Experience in SQL
• Familiarity with IIS/XML Web Services.
• Understanding of technical operations and scalability of online services
If interested please send your resume to jobs@wbfsolutions.com

SDET – Position 2
One of our major clients is looking for an SDET with a strong Web testing background.
Job Responsibility:
• Developing Master Test Plans, detailed test specification, [automated] test case design and development for assigned product / feature areas.
• Participate in technical, infrastructure, process and quality improvements initiatives
• To ship in short release cycles
• Collaboration with partner teams
Qualification:
• Passionate about web technologies
• Strong development skills in C#/C++, ASP.Net, SQL
• Solid experience designing / developing automated test cases and test harnesses
• Excellent written and verbal communication skills
• Bachelors or Master's degree in Computer science or related field.
If interested please send your resume to jobs@wbfsolutions.com

SDET – Position 3
Do you want to be part of a fast paced and exciting team that is driving some of the coolest features on the internet and helping shift the paradigm of social sharing? This team is working on some very interesting and challenging technical problems to help push the envelope of search experiences. This is a great opportunity for an experienced SDET who is passionate about working on the best search experience on the planet.
This position will require driving test development, writing high quality code that will enable automated testing of new search features.
The candidate we are looking for must possess the following:
• 2+ years of professional testing and/or development experience
• Experience coding for test automation
• Strong programming and debugging skills in C/C++, C#, and/or the .Net Framework
• Self-starter with relentless focus on getting things done
• Great problem solving skills
• Strong verbal and written communication skills
• Proven history of driving test strategy and development for a given feature area
• Proven history of effectively resolving issues and sticking to a development schedule
If interested please send your resume to jobs@wbfsolutions.com
So S&P has downgraded the US government's credit rating, and of course, all the world is reacting with shock and surprise and dismay as if a credit rating adjustment were an actual event.

Thing is, it's not. Any credit rating adjustment is a reaction to existing, publicly-available information. The US was exactly as likely to default on its debt last Thursday as it is today. Replacing that third A with a plus sign changes nothing, except possibly the interest rate the US will have to pay on any future debt it takes on. Which will (possibly ironically) mean that it's easier for the US to sell its debt, because nobody out there actually believes the US is going to default.

Neither is this change sudden or unexpected. S&P has been threatening to do it since April. Anybody in D.C. or on Wall Street who pretends that they are surprised by this is a lying idiot who thinks the average American is too stupid to see through that shit.

And don't forget the political angle of the whole thing--S&P in their report quite clearly blames the downgrade on partisan politics and gridlock in D.C. We will leave aside the fact that the net result of the downgrade has been an increase in partisan rhetoric and finger-pointing; we have no way from this remove of knowing whether this wholly predictable outcome was the intent of S&P or something they were hoping to fix with a sharp slap to the government's face.

However, none of this is going to affect the job market--the government's credit rating is not a concern for the vast majority of hiring managers. It's not likely to affect the housing market--federally-insured mortgages are still approved based on the individual's credit rating, and see above re: nobody believes the government is going to default. (You may see the government's credit rating used as an excuse for denying marginal applicants, but I would be very surprised to see a statistically significant uptick in denial rates.)

So the next week or so, we're going to see the stock markets retreat some, and more wailing from our politicos about the unfairness of it all and the intransigence of their opposition, but by the end of the month, things will have settled down, and we'll be back to limping slowly out of our recession.
georgmi: (style)
( Jul. 21st, 2011 10:51 am)
The primary feature of any social media product is userbase. User interface, apps and games, privacy and security failures are all secondary to the ability to aggregate your connections with people you'd otherwise never interact with.

Facebook is what it currently is because it has half a billion users, which means most of the people you've lost touch with who are also online are probably on Facebook. What's awesome about that is that now you can go to one Web page and see what's happening with most or all of your friends. Before social media, you had to find their personal Web page, which most of them didn't have in the first place, visit each one individually, and hope that they'd put up some new content.

Now here's Google+, hoping to eat Facebook's lunch. Nothing wrong with that as far as it goes; that's what you get with a freeish market. If Google can do what Facebook does better than Facebook, more power to them. It's not like Facebook brought anything new to the social media world--they just brought a bunch of other sites' functionalitites together under one umbrella and made them play together. (Much like Microsoft and the Office suite, actually, but that's a different post.)

The problem--to the extent that it's a problem--comes when Google fails to get everybody to switch over to Google+. Now some of your friends are on FB, and some are on G+, so in order to keep up with all of them, you have to be in both places, which means to get all the benefits you used to get with just FB, you have to shoulder the costs of maintaining twice as many accounts, and the risks of having twice as many opportunities for people to share or steal your personal data.

We've already seen this on a smaller scale with LiveJournal--every time LJ does something particularly egregious, you see another raft of people abandoning them for something similar but nicer.

I don't have a solution here. We have to go where our friends go, and when our friends don't all go the same place, we have to go everywhere any of them goes. Fragmentation of the userbase and proliferation of accounts to manage seem to be the order of the day. I'm just here to complain about the fact that once, I could see all my online friends on one page at LiveJournal, and now when I open my browser, it launches half a dozen different sites, all on the back of my piddling 1.5Mbps. Not to mention the increasing complexity of managing my web of crossposting, so that people can see what I'm up to no matter where on the Web they're watching me from. (Note: No way to xpost to Google+ yet, apparently.)

It's also an opportunity for me to mention that I'm now on Google+, so if you're there, you can look me up if you want. Or if you're not there yet, you can ask me to invite you.

(This is not, I hasten to remind you, a problem for either Facebook or Google, because they're still getting their income. So don't expect anything except further fragmentation of the social media world. I'm sure Microsoft and Apple are already planning how they can get into the fray.)
georgmi: Liam portrait (teh_boy)
( Jul. 10th, 2011 08:04 pm)
Picked a tree, a big multi-trunk maple northwest of the house. Some rotten junk piled up in the crook between the trunks, but the trunks themselves seem fairly sound, and the branches are strong as far up as I climbed--maybe 25, 30 feet off the ground. If I drop a couple of the youngish firs just downhill, I think I'll be able to see Seabeck Harbor (and thus the fireworks next year).

Time to call an arborist to see what they think. Maybe they'll know the county ordinances related to building a treehouse, too. Hope teh_boy's not got his heart set on a helipad.

Mental note: Need to update the pic of teh_boy. He's about twice as old now as he was in that shot.
In 1997, I preordered online a copy of Duke Nukem Forever. In 1998 and 1999, I got email from the retailer asking me if I wanted to keep my reservation active. Both times, I said yes. In 2000, I got email from the retailer telling me they'd canceled my reservation because they didn't want to keep it on file anymore since the game was never going to come out.

Today, I picked up my copy. :) A quick look at the reviews suggests I'm not going to be very happy. :/

ETA: On deeper review, it looks like the main criticism is that Duke hasn't kept up with the state of the art in FPS games. But since I haven't played a FPS game since Duke Nukem 3D, I should be fairly well insulated from the problem. Tacky sexist violence, here I come!
georgmi: (NOM)
( Jun. 11th, 2011 11:34 pm)
Between the crappy weather and not moving the grill from the old house until this week, grilling season started late for us this year, but today it started with a bang.

Not a literal bang, like the ones that have crisped my facial hair in years past, just a nice metaphorical one with bacon bleu cheese burgers and grilled corn on the cob. Yum.

And thanks to not finding the matches and fire lighters in whatever moving box they still occupy, we have shiny new and better ones now. :)
georgmi: Blurry wolf portrait (wolf)
( Jun. 10th, 2011 08:01 pm)
Sitting in the office, window open. The neighbor starts attacking a tree with an axe. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack.

Hang on. The nearest neighbor is a quarter-klick away. That axe is thirty, forty feet away, tops. Whack. Whack. Whack. I get up and check other windows to triangulate. Yep. The maple cluster right across the driveway from the front door.

Out the front door, and the axe noise is coming from above my head. Whack. Whack. Whack. I wander around a bit, and w-a-a-y-y up there in the middle of the cluster is a pileated woodpecker. Whack. Whack. Whack.

I go back inside. Whack. Whack. Whack.
georgmi: (climbing)
( Jun. 3rd, 2011 04:37 pm)
Schedules, illness, vacation, and postop recovery all finally failed to prevent me from a real climbing session yesterday. Woot.

I started right where I left off in late April, too, with a bunch of 5.9s and an a-l-m-o-s-t 5.10- (I managed to touch the top hold, but couldn't get a grip on it to finish the pitch; I suspect I will nail the hell out of it next time). Double woot.

Most of the rest of the climbing group had other commitments, so it was just me and L., who doesn't do much climbing on the ropes, which means no breaks between pitches for me, which means an awesomely exhausting workout and a lingering guilt that I'm taking base advantage of her good nature. (Not having a particularly good nature myself, I am unsure of the protocol for taking advantage of same.) Anyway, I knew it was a good workout because I tried to finish by climbing a short 5.6 pitch, and failed to get even halfway up. These were huge, friendly holds, that even a complete newbie should have no trouble with, and I couldn't grip them. Good thing I keep Aleve in the car, or I mightn't've managed to drive home.

So to L., thanks again, and to the rest of the climbing group, pooh to you, sirs. ;)
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georgmi: Camping on Shi Shi Beach, WA (Default)
( May. 16th, 2011 02:06 pm)
Got my biopsy report back. "The lesion removed surgically shows clear margins."

In other words, they got all of it, and before it turned into melanoma. Can I get a "Whoa, early detection"?

Lesson learned: even if you live in Seattle, even if that weird (new or changed) mole is in a spot that never sees the sun, have it checked. I almost didn't mention mine to my doctor, because I wasn't sure that the mole hadn't always been there, and I'd already asked about a whole lot of other things. And he was "pretty sure" it was OK, but his policy is "better to check".

So I'm going to have a scar, but only M. is ever going to see it, and she says better that than the alternative (some stats I've seen say that the fatality rate of melanoma if it *isn't* caught before it spreads is 85% or higher).

(ETA: That's not a typo. Fewer than one in six people survive advanced melanoma. I'm not looking for sympathy, or recognition as a "cancer survivor" because I *did* catch it before that became my prognosis, and I know plenty of people whose encounters with cancer are much more significant than this slight brush. I'm just having a hard time wrapping my brain around the stats and how fortunate I was.)
(Not really, I just couldn't resist the alliteration.)

We learned today that the Mariners have designated Ryan Langerhans and Milton Bradley for assignment, and are calling up Mike Wilson and Carlos Peguero, who will almost certainly platoon in left field. Neither Wilson nor Peguero plays very good defense, and neither hits very well, but both could potentially be legitimate power threats.

But what are we giving up? )
We rarely buy a movie if we haven't already seen it*, but there was almost no chance I wasn't going to want to see TRON:Legacy when it came out on disc**, and as soon as Disney elected to release a special edition collection with the original movie, we preordered it.

Teh_boy has not seen the original TRON, so we queued that up this weekend and will get to the new one in the next couple of weeks, probably.

I'm going to assume the rest of y'all have seen the original TRON, however, and not worry too much about spoilers. Or the plot synopsis that could potentially lead to spoilers, for that matter.

To the 'review'! )
Tags:
georgmi: (style)
( Apr. 21st, 2011 08:30 am)
From the "They should have thought about that a little longer" department:

I'm on the email list of our local paper, the Kitsap Sun. This morning, I got an ad from them for "a new two day event focused on celebrating all aspects of a woman’s life" at the county fairgrounds called "Women Today".

The subject line of this email ad? "Women Today: Buy One Get One FREE!"

It got me to read the email, anyway. Too bad I'm not their target audience.
Had some friends over for dinner tonight, showed them around the new house. They thought the place was pretty awesome, and said so.

Don't get me wrong, the house is pretty awesome. But I'm not sure how much of that I can really take credit for, and how much is all the other folks who worked very hard to help us realize our dreams here. And to a certain extent, I feel guilty about how much it all cost and that we were able to afford it in the first place, when so many other folks are having their dreams fall down around their ears with the economy and housing market the way they have been the last few years.

So every time someone tells me my house is awesome, I get hit with all of that--the pride, the humility, the guilt--and nothing I can say really seems adequate. Probably all folks are looking for from me is a simple acknowledgement of the compliment, but "Thanks!" seems flip and inappropriate and I can't say it.

It happens with my photography and all kinds of other things in my life, but those are generally smaller, and the fair distribution of credit is easier to parse.

All of which might add up to me whining about how much it sucks that my life is so great, and I am far too old to really carry the emo.
georgmi: Liam portrait (teh_boy)
( Apr. 13th, 2011 09:24 pm)
The boy was making up terrible jokes this evening, so I had to tell him one of my favorites.

A string walks into a bar. The bartender points at him as he walks in and shouts, "Hey, you! We don't serve your kind in here! Get out!" The string leaves.

The string calls up some friends, and tries to sneak into the bar among them, but the bartender sees him and throws him out again.

Frustrated, the string stands outside the bar for a minute, fuming. Then he twists around himself, musses up his hair, and walks back into the bar like that. The barkeep says, "Hey, aren't you that string I just threw out of here?"

The string replies, "No, I'm a frayed knot!"
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