Monthly Archives: August 2008

This has been driving me crazy:

People across the country are reporting telephone calls coming from the numbers 623-238-6228 and 408-587-2116. These calls claim that your car warranty is expiring, but they are really scam artists trying to steal your personal information and identity. Other numbers generating these spam identity theft calls include 202-552-1332, 702-520-1105, 609-948-0971 and 562-289-8136.

The calls always say roughly the same thing (often leaving automated voicemail), along the lines of:

“Your car warranty is expiring. We have notified you several times by mail.”


“Your car warranty has expired! Protect your loved ones with an extended warranty!”

Sometimes, instead of an expired warranty, they will also offer debt consolidation or refinance loans.

In any case, they are after your financial information, and your money.

I get about three calls on my cell phone a week. Unfortunately, having moved to a new area with a whole new set of area codes, I can’t yet tell if it’s not a local call. Not that it matters anyway because it’s easier to take the call than have the messages pile up in my answering machine. The only illegitimate calls I’ve ever gotten on my cell phone (except maybe a couple in Deseret, now that I think about it) are from these people. They say on their automachine that if you press two they will remove you from their service, but I think all that does is tell them that you answered and that they should try again.

I’m getting the debt consolidation calls on our landline, which is on the Do Not Call registry.

Unfortunately, there really isn’t a whole lot that can be done. Obviously they’re not interested in the law. If you press “1” to speak to a representative and start asking questions about what company they represent and what state they’re operating out of they hang up. I’ve tried that three times and only once did I get an answer (the company name was so vague as to be functionally useless and I didn’t get a state).

Apparently the answer to the “state” question is Missouri. No big surprise, it turns out that their “product” is about as disingenuous as their sales tactics:

Chris explained that this was a one-time deal and if I said no, their computer system would “automatically delete” my files at the end of the phone call. That was clearly designed to put pressure on me to make an on-the-spot decision.

Now it was Corey’s turn to close the deal. He had good news. I “qualified” for full coverage: four years or 48,000 miles. And he was going to waive the vehicle inspection.

By activating my coverage today, I would get 20 percent off the retail price. With that discount, the cost of the four-year coverage was $3,110 or $777 a year. Corey offered a variety of payment plans and pointed out several times that this was not a contract. “You are not obligating yourself to anything,” he kept saying.

I can’t remember the last time I had a car that was even worth $3,110, much less worth paying that much just to have a warranty on.

Category: Market

I made a decision about this blog of utterly minimal consequence, which is actually the reversal of a decision that I don’t think that anyone actually noticed. But it’s related to the history of my online nickname, so I’ll share a bit about that.

All of you have probably figured out that “Trumwill” is the first four letters of my last name followed by the first four letters of my first name. The name was derived from the account naming convention of a former employer wherein they did the same. The formulized account name became so prevalent in everything we did and the office environment itself was so cold and impersonalized that when it was pronounceable we called each other by our account names rather than our real names.

When I started this blog, a lot of it involved talking about work. The email addresses and account names at Falstaff, where I was working at the time were our first name followed by our last initial. Most of the accounts I’ve had were my first initial followed by my last name. Sometimes my first two initials. Once it was like “Trumwill” except it went 6-2 rather than 4-4. I was initially going to go with WillT (and I do use that sometimes), but I came to the odd decision that if someone from my work saw that naming convention it might be familiar or something, so I explored alternatives. wtruman and trumanwi were both lame, but trumwill was perfectly pronounceable and even if no one knew precisely where it came from it was indicative to me of corporate absurdity in a blog about (at the time) corporate absurdity. So “trumwill” it was.

So that brings me to the current decision. At the former employer, our account names were never capitalized. So for this blog, I almost never capitalized my name. Everyone else did, but I didn’t. Even in blog post titles. The idea in my mind was that it harkened back to the former job with the former company. I’ve since come to the conclusion that it is more easily interpreted as lame like a black-clad teenager that things that never capitalizing anything or capitalizing sporadically is kewl like ee cummings or some crap like that.

So despite its origins (which are largely irrelevant and will be made moreso as it’s unlikely that I will get into the grit of my current work since it’s all so bloody obvious who it’s with), Trumwill is now officially capitalized.

Category: Office, Server Room

I know that I have at least a couple computer-people that read this blog. So for y’all I have a question.

One of the advantages of SATA hard drives over IDE hard drives is supposed to be that the former are “hot swappable” while the latter are not. I understand “hot-swappable” to mean that the computer will accommodate adding or removing a hard drive with the computer still on without any ill-effects (unless a file on a removed HD is open).

This is how USB Thumb Drives work. You put it in there and the drive appears. You take it out and the drive disappears. Does “how-swappable” mean something different when it comes to SATA drives?

I ask in part because I have a SATA hard drive that is somewhat blinkered. It seems to sporadically cut out. I have a USB external drive that cuts out, too. When the latter cuts out, the drive simply disappears and reappears and as long is nothing on it is open, there’s no problem. Even if something is open, typically the worst that will happen is an error message or two. The SATA, though, throws Windows XP into fits. If you so much as open Windows Explorer, the app will freeze even if you’re not trying to access data from that particular drive. Even if you don’t open explorer or try to access the drive the system itself will intermittently freeze for about 5-10 seconds every minute or two.

I was willing to attribute this to a faulty drive that was doing more than cutting out. Somewhat unrelated to this problem, I purchased a front-loading SATA bay wherein you can put the HD into the system while it’s on and take it out. The SATA drive connects to a port that connects to a SATA port on the motherboard. The box says in large letters “HOT SWAPPABLE!”, so I assume that I am not doing anything that this particular device did not intend.

Yet the behavior is identical to the faulty HD. If I take a drive out, the system throws fits. If I put a drive in after it’s booted, it doesn’t show up. The documentation I’ve seen on Windows says that XP and Vista both are hot-swap-capable for SATA drives, though maybe I’m looking in the wrong place. I haven’t actually seen all that much information beyond “Hey, isn’t it cool that it is capable of this?!”

So the two questions I have are:

1. Do I not understand the meaning of the term “hot-swappable”? If so, what does it actually mean?

2. Is there something in particular I have to do within Windows to enable this? Is it like USB drives in Windows 2000 where you have to tell it you are about to disconnect a drive? I haven’t found any information on this whatsoever.

Category: Server Room

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

Students respond more profoundly to cultural imperatives than to market forces. In the United States, students are insulated from the commercial market’s demand for their knowledge and skills. That market lies a long way off — often too far to see. But they are not insulated one bit from the worldview promoted by their teachers, textbooks, and entertainment. From those sources, students pick up attitudes, motivations, and a lively sense of what life is about. School has always been as much about learning the ropes as it is about learning the rotes. We do, however, have some new ropes, and they aren’t very science-friendly. Rather, they lead students who look upon the difficulties of pursuing science to ask, “Why bother?”

Success in the sciences unquestionably takes a lot of hard work, sustained over many years. Students usually have to catch the science bug in grade school and stick with it to develop the competencies in math and the mastery of complex theories they need to progress up the ladder. Those who succeed at the level where they can eventually pursue graduate degrees must have not only abundant intellectual talent but also a powerful interest in sticking to a long course of cumulative study. A century ago, Max Weber wrote of “Science as a Vocation,” and, indeed, students need to feel something like a calling for science to surmount the numerous obstacles on the way to an advanced degree.

I think the first paragraph is particularly insightful. It’s unfortunate that we live with the consequences of decisions that we made before we knew what those decisions would really mean. I say this as someone that took the vocational route and who was raised amongst the children of engineers many of whom went on to become engineers. When we talk about practical and impractical majors, we sometimes forget that at the time these decisions are made, they are entirely practical. You have the option of spending 15 hours a week with a bunch of people that are likely to have the same backgrounds and interests as you and another 30 hours a week studying on subjects that interest you… or you can spend a lot of time with something really difficult surrounded by a lot of people with whom you have quite little in common.

Of course there is the argument that these kids aren’t thinking ahead, to which I say “Yep.” That’s all part of a larger problem where a substantial chunk of college-bound students spend the five years prior to going to college gaining more and more “adult rights” without adult responsibilities. There’s really not that easy a solution to this part.

In the meantime, my solution remains a sliding tuition scale for different majors which provide more here-and-now motivations for students (with academic scholarships thrown in so that the least academically marginal have more flexibility), an idea deeply unpopular with most non-blog people I’ve discussed it with.

Anyway, from the above paragraph forward the article descends into standard anti-PC “kids are ruined by good self-esteem and a sense of entitlement” stuff we’ve all heard a million times before and already agree or disagree with.

Category: School

The subject of the debate: American Sriracha hot sauce + Reduced fat cheddar cheese + crackers

Arguing in favor would be my taste buds, the side of my tongue, and the makers of the half-gallon of kool-aid I’ve had to drink tonight.

Arguing against would be my stomach, the front tip of my tongue, and my exhausted toilet.

Category: Kitchen

(Please be aware that the bulk of this post was written before any conflict-of-interest that may or may not occur may or may not have begun occurring. Over the next couple of weeks I will be clearing the decks of such old posts so that they are not influenced by recent circumstances.)

I have written four different novels in my life using four different document formats. The first was originally written on Microsoft Write (*.wri), the freebie that came with Windows 3.1 that was replaced with WordPad on Windows 95. We didn’t own Microsoft Word at the time, but I probably wouldn’t have used it even if we did because I had the opportunity to use Microsoft Works but didn’t. The second was written on Word (*.doc). The third was written on 1.1 (*.sxw). The most recent one was also written on, but it was using the new OpenDocument Format (*.odt). I’ve toyed around with the idea of writing the next one on a more recent version of Microsoft Works (*.wkd) just to keep the streak going, but I probably won’t.

I first started moving away from MS Word in 2002 when StarOffice released the code for its software suite under the name and allowed it for free consumption. My friend Tony, a big-time Open Source Software (OSS) advocate, suggested it to me. I’d toyed around with StarOffice before and though it was perfectly fine I still ran into the licensing problem that MS Office had insofar as I had numerous computers and didn’t want to be responsible for holding numerous licenses*. OpenOffice offered me a chance to be thrifty and legit, so I decided to give it a shot. I was planning to write a November Novel and decided that I’d give it a trial-by-fire test run while writing it.

It took a bit of getting used to for finding the various features, but for the most part it passed with one grave problem. I did have a few complaints, though. It was resource-intensive (even compared to its Microsoft counterpart), interoperability with MS Office was flawed, and the aforementioned grave problem. I was writing the novel on a laptop and whenever I closed the laptop it would go into sleep mode. OpenOffice couldn’t handle that and when it came back up the document would revert to the previous saved version. Further, the auto-save feature was not very diligent. So I’d have to rewrite a page or to. How I actually put up with that considering the tight deadline I was under is beyond me, but I guess after it happens the first couple times you remember to save your work with OCD-like vigilance.

I voiced my complaints to my OSS-boosting friends and they responded how OSS people frequently did whenever their product fell short, which is to blame the user. It was my fault for expecting it to be able to handle such user behavior and my fault for not saving my work just to be careful. Further, they explained to me that it was Microsoft’s fault because their sleep mode should save everything exactly as-is. Be that as it may I simply said that even if it isn’t OOo’s fault it is their problem and that I wouldn’t be using the software on the laptop anymore (which, at that point, was the only place that I was using it).

Fortunately the corporations that contribute to Open Source Software are more large-minded than many of its advocates, so when 2.0 came out they specifically addressed all of the above issues. The part that sold me, though, was the implementation of OpenDocument Format (ODF). What ODF promised was an open standard that would be consistent across almost all software suites so that even if development on OOo stopped or at least stopped improving, I could simply take my documents and use them with something else. Microsoft hadn’t signed on** (of course), but Corel Suite and various others had.

Around that time I heard that Microsoft was itself changing its document formatting and that though conversion would be possible it would still have to go through conversion process and that without a patch of some sort my Microsoft Office wouldn’t be able to read new documents anyway. This was something of a last straw for me. I’d managed to keep on keeping on with MS Office 2000 and this started sounding more and more like a play to force me to upgrade when Office 2000 still did everything that I needed it to do. It also lifted the immunity I had from whatever draconian authentication schemes Microsoft came up with and made me want all the more to become independent of the company.

So when OpenOffice 2.0 came out, I downloaded it. In addition to fixing the problems above and the ODF support, it also have a very handy conversion tool so I was able to convert all of my documents at once (saving old copies, of course!). Interoperability with Microsoft had improved marvelously. All but the most complicated of my Word documents converted perfectly and even those that didn’t convert quite right came a lot closer than with OOo 1.1. Ironically, conversion was better between Microsoft’s formatting (*.doc) and ODF (*.odt) than it was between the old OpenOffice formatting scheme (*.sxw) and and ODF.

I’ve been reasonably pleased with it and use it 90% of the time. I had intended at the same time to start transitioning away from Windows. That transition was not nearly as successful.

Soon I will write more thoroughly about what OpenOffice can and cannot do.

* – Turns out that this was a needless worry. StarOffice, as opposed to MS Office, allowed you to install the software on multiple computers provided that it was the same person using them.

** – I think that Microsoft has since announced that it will support ODF files natively, which could mean that I can send my ODF files directly without having to risk a conversion blip or taking the time to stamp any blips out. The area where this would be most helpful is with my resume.

Category: Server Room

Because we’ve been a little low on money right lately, I decided to put off buying my new laptop until we’ve both gotten at least one paycheck. It’s a symbolic gesture, but I’ve found that it’s often good to put a little time between you and the things you want or think you need so that you are reminded that you don’t actually need them.

Her first paycheck has come in and mine comes in on Friday. Plus, now that we have a wireless setup she spends a lot of her time downstairs instead of the computer room and I’d really like my own laptop so that I can join her down there.

In short, it’s time.

So I go to the ThinkPad website and I’ve been rewarded for this good behavior by the fact that the model I was going to get is no longer in production, the replacements are not significantly cheaper (when adjusted for speed), and the web site no longer offers the XP Downgrade CD (meaning that performance on the computer will be worse or the computer a lot more expensive than it would have been if I’d bought it a month ago). I’m hoping that if I call I can get it.

Category: Market

quenkyle: Did you ever get those Exo-Squad files to work on your computer?
trumwill: No, I never did
trumwill: It never ceases to amaze me when a show hasn’t been released to DVD
quenkyle: Well, it does cost quite a bit
quenkyle: and some shows may not have enough of a following to make a profit
trumwill: Someone needs to find a way to do it cheaply.
quenkyle: What *does* surprise me, is that they don’t sell them online
quenkyle: Online distribution is that way
quenkyle: But the rights-holders are old school DRM enthusiasts
quenkyle: Generally speaking
trumwill: There’s got to be a way to put low-volume shows on DVD at relatively little cost.
trumwill: I mean, look at the $1 DVD section at Walmart! These aren’t exactly high-demand products.
quenkyle: True, but the quality of the video and audio tends to be godawful
quenkyle: I do want my DVDs to be in a semi-watchable state
trumwill: Oh, they’re at least semi-watchable. Not really DVD quality, but for low-volume stuff I don’t see that as a problem.
trumwill: It’s about as good as VHS (in fact, probably taken straight from VHS)
quenkyle: It’s a fine line to walk, though. Even if they put it out like that, the company in question may get a reputation for less-than-stellar DVD releases
trumwill: That’s why you create a special Discount label. Something like Cheap {Spit} Productions.
trumwill: Then you say “We’re going to release this via CSP, but if enough people buy it we’ll do a full-on release. So go buy this crappy product if you want the real thing!” Studios love pulling that crap.
quenkyle: But word will get out about who owns it. Just like when Disney quietly purchased Miramax and started editing things they didn’t like out of their movies
trumwill: See, I didn’t know that Disney even did that! 🙂
quenkyle: haha
quenkyle: I still think digital distribution is the best way to go. Especially for shows like Exo-squad, which they’ll never revive. Better to make a few bucks off it than have it moulder in a vault somewhere
quenkyle: Oh!
quenkyle: That’s another reason
quenkyle: A lot of those old shows have been lost. As in the masters are gone
quenkyle: Did you hear about The Who and Rock Band?
quenkyle: They wanted to release a full album, but the band itself couldn’t find their own masters.
quenkyle: Shit like that is pretty common, it seems
trumwill: Actually, what they could do is contract it out. Sell the right to produce crappy DVDs to some third party distributor for a commission or something. Kind of like the pirates do now, except legit (and probably of somewhat better quality)
trumwill: The masters only matter so much if you want to release something that looks really nice.
quenkyle: haha
quenkyle: That is kinda the point, though, I think.
quenkyle: Even if it were cheap, I wouldn’t buy a DVD that looked like ass
trumwill: What if you couldn’t get it any other way?
quenkyle: VHS quality is a no-go these days
quenkyle: Then I’d wait for someone to post the shitty quality one online and download it
trumwill: Damn pirates!
quenkyle: haha
trumwill: People actually pay $100 for VCR-recorded episodes of The Practice, Crossing Jordan, Judging Amy, and other shows that (thus far) have not made it to DVD. There’s money to be made here!
quenkyle: O.o
quenkyle: I had no idea
quenkyle: crazy bastards
trumwill: If it’s the only way that you can get the show, you’ll do what you gotta do. I almost broke down and bought The Drew Carey Show.
quenkyle: crazy bastard

-{See also: Coming Eventually to DVD}-

Category: Server Room

This post was originally going to be a review of Abel Keogh‘s book but instead it’s mostly just a collection of thoughts and impressions. The book is called Room for Two and explores the aftermath of his wife’s suicide.

Suicide is probably the most emotionally complicated way to lose a loved one or even an acquaintance. If someone dies in a protracted manner, you can say that the death was the easing of their suffering. If they die suddenly and unexpectedly, you can remember them as the vibrant person that they were. You can tell yourself that they’re in a better place now and that maybe you’ll see them around the corner (which, paradoxically, you hope is a very long ways away). Whatever the case, it’s a tragedy but it’s a tragedy not without its comforts.

Suicide, though, is different. It does more than take them away from you, it mars your very memory of the person. It leads to doubts and recriminations. What did you know and when did you know it? What could you have known earlier if you’d just been paying more attention? You drift in this vague selfish feeling of wondering why you weren’t enough, of anger at the turmoil they left behind, and of the natural sadness of knowing that they’re not there anymore.

As many of you know, I had a really good friend named Walt that killed himself. I also had a former acquaintance do the same long after she had alienated me and everybody else. I’m not even going to begin suggesting that what he went through and what I went through are the same thing. Indeed most of the book I couldn’t relate to with my own experience. But the emotional confusion was something that I could.

There is a great book by Haruki Murakami called Norwegian Wood that explores the suicide epidemic in Japan many years ago. I remember as I read the book how angry I was at the characters that killed themselves and how scornful I was of Naoko, the lead female character who I knew by the nature of the book would do the same. I can’t remember hating a character so much. It made me think of Caitlyn, the former friend who was not Walter who killed herself. It was, to me, her last gasp of narcissism. The last best way that she could make those of us that had long stopped caring about her care once again.

The thing about Naoko and Caitlyn is that they were easy to hate. They were easy objects of scorn. My guard was up against ever liking the former and I’d long since stopped liking the latter. No emotional investment. In fact, not only could I cavalierly declare their actions selfish and cruel, I could redirect all the residual anger I had at Walt and redirect it towards them. They were such a convenient outlet. As such, as I gradually got over Walt’s death, my anger against Naoko and Caitlyn subsided.

All of this talk about friends and former friends and fictional characters doesn’t do the slightest bit of justice to the idea of losing what Abel did, the woman to whom he had dedicated the rest of his life to. At the outset, I wondered how he would express his anger in addition to his grief. Particularly when she took the life of their unborn child with her. Everybody will tell you how you shouldn’t feel, but it’s something that simply has to be confronted and dealt with.

In writing such a book, I imagine that most writers would be tempted to gloss over this part. Who wants to present themselves as being someone angry at someone that was such a mess that they killed themselves. One of the more refreshing aspects of the book was the even-handed manner in which Abel presents himself. He neither presents himself as the tragic victim who had done nothing to deserve his wretched fate nor go too far in the other direction by trying to elicit sympathy as the guy that feels responsible for something that was obviously not his fault.

On the whole, the book is a surprisingly quick read, both because it’s relatively short but also because it moves along quickly. He doesn’t get bogged down with details or the desire to express every thought and emotion perfectly. It provided some thought-fodder and then moved on before you got tired of thinking about it.

Abel is a friend to Hit Coffee and as such it’s unlikely that if I didn’t enjoy his book that I would actually say so. On the other hand, if I hadn’t enjoyed it, I probably wouldn’t have said anything at all. So consider these 800 words an endorsement.

Category: Coffeehouse

Jerry Seinfeld had a stand-up monologue in one of his shows about how our ability to put the man on the moon became a rallying cry for dissatisfaction with the limitations of modern society technology. You know, as in “We can put a man on the moon, but we can’t get our dang restaurants to hold the tomato on an order like I ask!” or something equally inane. He said that Neil Armstrong should have said, “This is one small step for man, and one giant leap for every malcontented SOB in our country for decades to come!” I’m not getting what he said exactly right, but you get the gist.

In a lot of public restrooms, in lieu of a faucet the sinks have a button. You push the button and some water comes out as the button comes back up. If you need more water, you push the button again. More water comes out, the button comes back up.

When Clancy and I lived in Deseret, our apartment shower-head and/or pipes became clogged. Over weeks the water deliver became increasingly less forceful until it, as I put it, started moving less water than a rat terrier urinating. Then it stopped altogether. Until they could fix it, we had to use gallon water jugs to take our morning showers. It took her four and me two. She was more vigorous about washing her hair than I was and she had more hair to wash. You’d dump yourself with maybe 2/3 of a gallon to get yourself wet, lather down with soap, then finish the bottle washing the soap off. Then you’d do your hair, then maybe another round on your body, then again in your hair to take care of the shampoo, then your hair again for the conditioner.

It was slow, but it got the job done. Frankly, it got the job down better than those damnable low-flow shower heads.

I think that both Married With Children and Unhappily Ever After (one of the most tragically underappreciated family sitcoms in my lifetime) both had an episode with the main plot being the family becoming smugglers from Canada. If I recall, the Bundys smuggled toilets and the Malloys shower heads. Canada, in the show if not in real life (it seems unlikely that our environmental regulations exceed theirs in just about any respect), hadn’t banned low-flow toilets and shower-heads. There was an increasing demand because Canadian showerheads and toilets refrained from being so pansy-ass.

So yeah, count me among those that say “screw the environment and let my toilet FLUUUUUUUUUSH!!!!” Who doesn’t hate having to flush two or three times to get everything down or see it get clogged in circumstances where you suspect that a real toilet wouldn’t have. And what can you do with a shower-head that’s too weak to get the shampoo off your darn head?

But does it really have to be either-or? I mean, the environmentalists are right that flushing so much water is often unnecessary and having the shower at full blast while you’re standing away from the water soaping yourself down is unnecessarily wasteful. So how come, instead of the government regulating our water-expending apparatii somewhat useless, we haven’t instead come up with a solution?

For example, why must there be one strength of flush? Why can’t we have one flush that assumes that there is no solid waste matter, but then when there is have a “mega-flush” that loads some extra water into the toilet to prevent clogging and then swooshes it all down with a manly-man flush? If we can put a man on the moon…

For showers, we can use the aforementioned public restroom sink button. When we need some extra power with which to get the shampoo out of our hair or the soap off our bodies, we press the button and get some extra force. Because we have two faucets, it’s kind of difficult to easily change the force of the water without changing the temperature. If the power of the shower can be dictated by the showerhead (in addition to the faucets), surely there can be some sort of filter we can put before the showerhead to slow it down except when we press the button.

We can, after all, put a man on the moon.

Category: Coffeehouse