March 6, 2007

The saga of the fire alarms continues as I learn this morning that the fire department is coming in at some indeterminate time on Thursday to pull the fire alarms again. That is three days of testing in just eight days and in just six business days. Every other day for over a week. The fire inspector is due to come in today to find out what is going on. There are ways to test fire alarms safely and there are ways to do it dangerously and this continues to be a dangerous process. I am hopeful that the inspector today can push through a change in the way that the testing is done. I am told that the alarms can be tested only locally to the areas that need to be tested and that they can be tested silently as well.

I stayed home with Oreo until about ten before going into the office. There just seems to be no physical way for me to leave the apartment before ten. No matter what I do I am always stuck either working or with something going on until ten. Every day. Without fail. Oreo does appear to have improved some during the night and he is not as delicate with the injured leg as he has been.

Last night before going to bed Dominica and I managed to finish the seventh season of Monarch of the Glen. It is sad wrapping up a long running drama series like that. You really get connected to the characters. Although Monarch completely changed its cast between the fourth and the sixth season. It was a very dramatic change and they did it so dramatically and abruptly that it is sort of disrupting to the show. Some of the characters just vanishing even when they are pivotal pieces of the drama. The cast that they ended on was much stronger than the original cast though. And Tom Baker of Dr. Who fame playing Donald MacDonald was awesome. Lloyd Owen has long been one of my favourite British actors and it was great to see him get a leading role on such a big series.

Now that Monarch has ended I have no currently running shows that I am actually interested in. Chris at the office tells me that the newish US show Prison Break is actually amazing so I plan to check that out at some point and I have heard about a BBC show called Robin Hood that has potential but those are the only leads that I have. Nothing awesome like Monarch of the Glen that I know of right now.

Here is some really cool news: MIT is putting its entire eLearning catalogue online for free! Currently the majority of the catalogue is available – over fifteen hundred classes – but the remaining several hundred are expected to be available by the end of the year. I look forward to checking it out.

A new material engineered at Rensselaer Polytechnic in Troy, NY promises to be the “blackest” material that humans have ever seen. They mention lots of important uses for the material such as enhanced solar cells and brighter LEDs but, of course, I immediately realize that it is the ideal material for defeating police speed reading lasers 😉

Best Buy, who has always seemed to walk a fine line between being an overpriced retailer of mediocre electronics and being an evil retail giant with few ethics, has been charged in Connecticut court with maintaining an internally accessible web site that is visually identical, or nearly so, to their real web site and using the increased prices on the internal site to “prove” to customers seeking the price matching guarantee that the store prices are the same as the Internet prices. But the internal web site displays the store prices and not the web prices but is designed to be indistinguishable. Best Buy pleads that this is an accident and not intentional and that employees are not aware that there are two web sites but one has to wonder why there are? If the purpose is to have higher in-store prices in the hopes of confusing customers – which is what Best Buy appears to be claiming – but not to use it to disprove outside prices it still seems that this falls under the category of being intentionally misleading. Just because you don’t actually state that the outside prices are different than they actually are going to the effort of building an entirely separate system in the hopes that customers are confused and don’t actually compare the prices is almost if not just as bad.

I have to link to Scott Adam’s “The Things I Say” Dilbert Blog post because you that know me will know how well this posts describes me. Good stuff Scott, keep it coming.

Okay, a lot of people don’t believe me when I say that AT&T has garnered itself a bad reputation over the past ten years or so. In the circles that I run in AT&T is up there with Dell as one of those “all marketing no product and no customer service” companies that caters to the crowds that purchased based on gloss rather than on engineering. Finally someone substantial writes something to back me up. Tom Yager, one of the most respected pundits in the IT industry writes about AT&T in Enterprise Mac. And now you know why I am not buying an iPhone. Until the iPhone comes with a Verizon sticker on the front I will stick with my Q, thanks.

This Friday I am working in Manhattan for a change of pace. I almost never go into the city which is so weird as I live so close but for one reason or another we almost always avoid going into the city. But Friday I will be going to a couple of presentations and then working the rest of the day from downtown, possibly from right on Wall Street.

I finally got a chance to make an appointment for the BMW to get into the auto body shop to get the rear bumper taken care of. It goes in on April 9th. They could have squeezed it in the last week in March but that is the house closing week and that seemed like it would be a bad idea to add anything extra that week. And it gives us plenty of time to bring down the Mazda 6 so that we are not stuck renting a car for a long time which would make the repair very expensive. As it is we are very hopeful that there is nothing but superficial damage and that no working parts have to be replaced once they take the bumper off and get a good look at everything.

This morning Dominica discovered that her interior door latch is no longer working which means that if the car loses power (and since it did yesterday that is a real threat) that she will not be able to get out of the car since the only way that she is able to do that now is by rolling down the window first! That isn’t good. So the car needs to be taken to the normal shop right away as well. We were not able to make her an appointment for the car today because to do that the shop requires the VIN number and Dominica was not about to walk out in the bitter cold just to go look it up.

Today was more or less the usual if anything ever is. The one thing that I do enjoy about my day back after having been at home for a day is that there is always a backlog of blogs to read. One of the most exciting things going on today is Make is preparing to “go to space” with a weather balloon and take high resolution pictures. You can check out the details as Make Prepares to go to Space on Rocketboom. This is good stuff.

If you are a child who has grown up with Hollywood as your teacher be sure to check out “Nine Laws of Physics that Don’t Apply in Hollywood.” Strangely, everyone knows these laws but somehow when watching movies don’t realize that they don’t even expect them to exist or work. It is really weird.

Today two US Senators have abused their positions in the US government to pressure Canada to bend to the will of large US media corporations to enact a DMCA like law in Canada that would significantly remove citizens’ rights and hand them over to large, primarily American, corporations. You can contact the Canadian Prime Minister via email and inform him and the rest of the Canadian government that the voice of a few US senators who have sold their souls to big American business do not necessarily represent the opinion of Americans at large and should surely not be considered when they goal is to remove Canadian civil rights in favour of American commercialism. It is bad enough that we have done this to our own citizens because the American public has failed to educate itself and stand up for its own rights but we should hardly be an abusive neighbour and global partner. I emailed the PM today and I urge you to do the same whether you are an American asserting that the American public does not support this law domestically or pressure from the US to enforce it abroad or if you are a Canadian concerned over your own civil liberties that US senators want to take away from you.

By half past five today the office totally ground to a halt and even because quasi-silent so I decided that I should duck out a little early and take advantage of the situation to escape. By the end of the day I was stuck waiting for responses from other people anyway and by that time I am pretty unlikely to be getting them before the morning.

I ordered some CDs from BMG today. How about “Best of” CDs from Chris De Burgh (Lady in Red) and Rick Astley! Now that is some classic ’80s stuff. It is amazing how the music from the ’80s really stands out to the people of my generation as “the music of our lives” and almost no music from the ’90s does. Maybe it is because the music of the early to mid ’90s was so silly (Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer – seriously this was awful) or maybe it was just because of the age that we were. By high school your impressions of the world are pretty solid but in the ’80s when the world is more ephemeral to me and I guess the music of that era took on a greater significance even though when compared to other music in the “big picture” it was very silly indeed.

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