Category Archives: Diatribe

Is (New Technology) is Killing (My Hobby)?

<tl;dr> Betteridge’s law of headlines applies, “No.” </tl;dr>

In the ham radio communities, a rash of posts are going around about how FT8 / the Internet / Millenials / Nobel-prize physicists are destroying amateur radio:

Every one of my hobbies has these discussions about newcomers and/or a technical innovation leading to a decline in the perceived enjoyment their of a long-time group.

  • Cooking: Use of a microwave, Zojurishi, or Instant Pot to help speed meal preparation.  I am not going to forgo hummus awesomeness until tomorrow (to soak chickpeas overnight, boil for a couple of hours, cool, then make hummus) when I can plop dried chickpeas into Instant Pot, having it ready in 35 minutes.
  • Cycling:Electric assist!  Recumbent riders!
  • Geocaching: Cell phone users!   A lot of folks who started in the aughts (2001 – 2009) had access to a dedicated GPS unit, typically a Garmin, but sometimes a Magellan or Delorme.  The market for handheld GPS units is relatively small, so the innovations have been meh.  For example, the Wherigo player hasn’t been updated in over ten years.  However, thanks to phone users, there have been more published through third-party utilities, and some of them are excellent.

    “New” Last update: over ten years ago
  • Programming: Java/Swift/Scratch!   When I was an undergraduate, our department was not well-organized as evidenced by a different programming language each quarter (Pascal, assembly, Modula-2, C, Fortran, APL,  C++, and back to C).  While it cured me of any fear of reading the manual, there are much more productive ways to learn than RTFM.

I would assert that if your enjoyment of a hobby depends on everyone doing it the same way, forever, you’re the one who’s not doing it right.

The Mintern

In retrospect, there were signs that The Intern might not work out:

  • The child of a friend of the family of a Senior Executive
  • … touted as an upperclassman from a well-known engineering school, but was just starting a search for an internship in mid-June
  • … hasn’t been vetted or spoken with the hiring manager, but was slated to start Tuesday.  The IT folks love the smell of an unnecessary fire drill in the morning!
  • Intern shows up and wants to do Data Science!
  • …using only the skills he currently has (texting, Google queries, watching cat videos)
  • …because he’s actually a freshman
  • …and is only doing this because His Mom pushed him to get a job through a friend of the family.

Despite being given a clear set of tasks and the offer of tutoring from the team, this was not the experience The Intern had in mind.  He left after day three.  A weekend conversation between His Mom and the Senior Executive filled in some of the details.  The Intern would not be bothered with the courtesy of sending the hiring manager an explanation, even in email.

I have never seen our IT staff so giddy to delete an account.


Image credit: Melrose Municipal Schools
Image credit: Melrose Municipal Schools


Windows Update

Another, big batch (27) of security patches landed on my Windows 7 desktop. Since I’m likely to be running long, data-intensive jobs, I have it not apply them right away. Sensing this large group would necessitate a reboot, I avoided installation until lunch time today. The philosophy is simple: computing should not be about constantly applying software patches.  One of those Windows update failed. I rebooted and tried again. Same result:

Why? Because Code 80242009, that’s (expletive) why.  Don’t bother clicking “Get Help” because it won’t help at all.  In fact, it’s almost a guaranteed waste of time and dipoles.

Borrowing a scene from Pulp Fiction, this is kind of how I’m feeling at the uninformative error message:

Do they speak English on Code 80242009?

Clearly this error code has some meaning to the programmer who tests for that condition; it’s unfortunate they cannot use an informative error message like “Microsoft’s update site is borked; ignore this until we fix it next Tuesday.”

Fraud alert

Dear Valued Customer:

Blah blah blah our employee’s laptop computer stolen blah blah blah your personal information may have been compromised.


Company That Never Explained Why My Personal Information Was On Their Laptop In The First Place

Um, Thanks. And argh.

I found a really helpful overview from the government . In summary:

  1. You have the right to ask that nationwide consumer reporting companies place “fraud alerts” in your file to let potential creditors and others know you may be the victim of identify theft.

    I filed with Equifax, who notified the other two:

    A fraud alert encourages lenders to “take additional steps” before issuing credit.   I hope, hope, hope it also slows down the torrent of credit card solicitations, because I’ve not had good luck with traditional remedies: opt out of credit card offers (which does appear on my credit reports), the do not call list (more loopholes than an offshore corporation) and direct marketing offers.

    Consider exhibit 1, Marriott Rewards offers received from November 1st through January 31, 2011:


    Marriott Rewards’ support person was sympathetic to my plight and let on that they receive this request a lot. In the email blurb, she left on the directions they receive internally (Bold is mine for emphasis.)

    Use next two paragraphs if request is specifically about Chase: A request has been processed to discontinue all future credit card solicitations from Chase that are based on your Marriott Rewards membership. It may take up to 90 days to stop receiving offers that they have already prepared for delivery. I apologize for the inconvenience.

    Additionally, please follow any instructions provided by Chase to stop sending offers or invitations to you that are separate from your Marriott Rewards membership.

    I thought I had opted out of Chase’s marketing extravaganza a while back. However, after searching online, I found a separate process for opting out of paper solicitations. Of course.

    Unless an actual identity theft event occurs (supported by a police report and my body weight in paperwork), the fraud alert is only on file for 90 days. I don’t see any reason why I cannot keep filing new ones, though.

  2. You have the right to free copies of the information in your file. I have been requesting annual credit reports from Annual Credit (the only authorized source). You get one from each company, and can request them all at once or individually. One rather spooky thing is when you do this, they ask you some tricky questions to verify identity that might make one think the identity problem was even worse. For example:

    In 2009, you purchased a new car. The monthly payment is approximately how much:

    • $400
    • $300
    • $100 and a bottle of mustard
    • There is no loan.

    Ginormous bun is an aftermarket add-on

    After answering the questions correctly, the credit report is presented with a soft-sell for a subscription to a fee-based service.

  3. You have the right to obtain documents relating to fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information. Thankfully, I have not gotten this far yet.
  4. You have the right to obtain information from a debt collector.
    Good to know. Unfortunately, about once a quarter I receive robo-calls from some debt collection agency who’s too frecking lazy to notice “Current Resident” and “Zener Diode” are not the names of the people who have been living here. (The giveaway is a message with no specifics on reason.) Robocalls continue until I call back and tell them I am not “Max Power.”
  5. If you believe information in your file results from identify theft, you have the right to ask that a consumer reporting agency block that information from your file. I read through the extended documentation on this and it’s very paper-driven. I hope to never get this far.
  6. You also may prevent businesses from reporting information about you to consumer reporting agencies if you believe the information is a result of identity theft.This is another thing that must be done in writing, which means time, and hassle.

There’s Water at the Bottom of the Ocean

Brian posted an article about Splenda. Not Scout’s bike Splenda, but the chemical sweetener in the yellow packets. The website he referenced cites a couple of sources, including a Sugar Industry Sponsored Web Site.

As I wrote on Brian’s bog, when I read these things on the web, one of my first questions is about the motivation of the entity publishing the information.

Continue reading There’s Water at the Bottom of the Ocean

Time to go home

You know it’s going to be a bad day when the first email you have to send out is something like this:

I hate to have to send out a note like this, but Dave tagged me with being this month’s Kitchen Etiquette Czar.

Will whomever is taking out the one item out of the dishwasher, leaving it in an unknown state of cleanliness, either (a) finish emptying the dishwasher or (b) stop doing it?

When you do this, the “dishwasher done” light goes off. The dishwasher’s contents look clean, but no one can be sure. This presents a dilemma when the kitchen faeries see dirty stuff in the sink: do they subject my colleagues to the vagaries of bacterial mischief so they complete the 97-second task of emptying the dishwasher and remove the dirties from the sink? Or, do they add the dirty stuff, run the dishwasher a second time and doom a thousand** baby seals? Or, do they just let it become someone else’s problem? Colleagues, sea-critters, procrastination… this time they opted for emptying it.

+Probably far less than a thousand. Okay, at most one. Regardless, the faeries hate running the dishwasher unnecessarily.

My day got progressively worse, ending up with a ride home through some scary winds. Renton, the closest official reporting facility, had gusts of 34mph, though the I-90 corridor seemed to be pushing higher at times. It was so predictable that I had to stop three times and wait for a break.