Friday, February 28, 2003

Guilty Pleasures
  • Kim Possible, Disney Channel. Ok, perhaps it's silly, but I'm quite entertained by it. I'm not sure if there is really more than six episodes since they keep showing the same ones over and over again, but tonight I did see a new episode. Kim's arch-nemesis went to school with Kim's dad. He was kidnapping his former friends, including Kim's dad but had never put two and two together and realized that his classmate is Kim's dad. He then attempts to argue that "Possible" is a common last name, even leaving the room to find a phone book. It doesn't translate well, but man did I laugh.
Commercials Someone Should MakeTM
  • A couple is in a car and it won't start. The wife says "I guess we'd better get the car first aid kit." They both get out of the car and go into the garage and then pull out a giant white box on wheels that says "Car First Aid Kit" and has a big red Chevrolet logo. They open the box, get in the Chevy, start it up and drive off. Tagline "Chevrolet. Dependable." Hey, free for the taking.
Remants of WorkTM
  • Fridays are supposed to be my day off, but I spent about 12 hours there today. Fortunately, I got paid overtime for some of it. Still working on EMS. I have an almost perfect solution to the vision problem. Visio is integrated into the client, but not the web version. Try as hard as I could, I could not figure out how to convert a file into the binary format and uploaded into the SQL. But, I came pretty close. When people sign-in, they see their Reservations, they click on one and it shows all the Events. When they click on that, it looks up what room the event is in, then sees if a room template already exists. If not, it copies the standard room diagram for that room to a new file whose name includes the user's webuserid, the reservationid and the bookingid. Then it creates a small HTML file that contains a meta-refresh to the new visio file. (The goal was to upload this file into the database - the partial solution is to include that filename into a comment into the attachment database. So it appears as an attachment, but with no actual file. The only bummer is that you have to cut and paste the URL to see the Visio file. That's fine, we only have to teach one person how to do that. To the end user, it's all transparent.) IIf the file exists already, it picks up at this point. It calls the HTML file and that bounces them to Visio document where they can make changes. The last piece of the puzzle is to buy some more Microsoft File Sharing Licenses because Microsoft and Novell aren't communicating well and so we're just going to give users access to a single directory on the webserver.
  • Next week, I have to work some more on our directory project.
  • But, still more EMS work to do. They didn't even make it possible to edit the Event Name, Event Description or Event Type. Really crappy of them to deliver such an incomplete program. But that's where I come in, I'll comeplete it without them. (Someday I'll take clesses so I can explain what I'm doing.)

Thursday, February 27, 2003

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

The Suckage that is Sprint PCSTMRemnants of WorkTM
  • I spent some time working on stuff for my communications boss today, so hopefully he realizes I still work for him.
  • As for EMS, we figured out that a bad router allowed the wrong database be updated. So all of the education and testing yesterday were done on the live server. Big ol' d'oh!
  • Another feature that DEA wants to sell us is this system that will allow us to display current schedules on television monitors (think of airline departure and arrival monitors). I don't know why. We could do this ourselves with an old PC that can run a browser and some very simple SQL code. I made a proof concept this afternoon that displays a map of the campus, an aerial view of the campus (both color coded - it was fun colorizing the aerial photo kinda looks neat) and displays the next five upcoming events. My communications boss was asking how useful it would be and my tech. boss thought it was pretty neat, but he only saw the initial mockup with no design. Either way, I'm going to put it live on the one self-service kiosk we have near the reception desk. Every few minutes, interspersed with the ads, it will flash upcoming events on the screen. The next step would be to develop some kind of scrolling or cross-fading type system, something to display more events at one time.
More Commercials I HateTM
  • There's a Mercedes commercial where a young guy and an middle-aged guy are looking through a window and the older guy says "first one?" and you think that they're in a hospital looking into a room of newborns. The young guy confirms and the old guy announces "This is my seventh." And then adds "For now." Ok, either (a) this guy is a really bad driver and keeps wrecking them... (b) he collects them (he must be rich... I can't identify with a guy that owns seven) or... (c) Mercedes are of poor quality and he has to keep trading them in because they keep breaking down... or (d) he likes to keep trading in for new cars (again... rich guys I can't identify with). In the end, the young guy is kissing and embracing his car. Oh, please.
The Other Side of the CoinTM
    I really like the two Kia commercials. There's one where they race against other SUV's. Funny. There's one where they hog-tie the accountant and stick him in a closet and priced the car under $20 grand. Really funny. And then there's one where a girl sort of travels through time. She passes through decades (Kia didn't even exist back then) and her puppy grows up and becomes a dog. She's got a different boyfriend in each decade and quick glimpses make you see how wrong they are. At the end, she runs out of gas and they intimate that the AAA guy might be the one. It would have only been better if the AAA guy had a dog in the cab of his tow truck.
  • Ok, Dreamcatcher looks freaky. And rain overnight and tomorrow. Yay.

Tuesday, February 25, 2003

Remnants of WorkTM
  • You know? I could probably write reams about work on here, but I'd rather play Sim City. Suffice it to say, today wasn't a great day. One of my two bosses probably wonders if I still work for him. I have barely been at my desk for a few minutes in the past few days, and every time I have, my other boss has been sitting next to me trying to work on a problem with him. Today was the first day of user training on the web version of EMS. For the training, my boss made up a computer that had its own IIS, its on SQL server and its own copy of EMS Enterprise. And my customizations. Unfortunately, as he was showing people how it worked, it wasn't. I'm not sure what was going on, but I didn't want to deal with it, so I didn't really question it too much, but things were disappearing from the database. Always a very scary sign. If that happens on the real database, there will be hell to pay and we'll have a really crippled system if there's no way to add rooms to an existing event. Of course, one person has already not quite figured it out. After training, they were given permission to start using the live system. So someone requested a room (in my opinion, the wrong room) for an event and then happily forwarded us the confirmation that it was pending, since we had been hounding her for weeks for the room reservation. Of course, since it's pending, it's not official. I'll let my other boss ask her why she's forwarding us non-confirmed information. It's gonna be a wild and crazy ride.
  • I've thought some more on how we'll do pubicity and advertising for events from EMS. It won't be easy. But it could end up being pretty slick and pretty cool. I wish I had all the time in the world to just work on these crazy ideas of mine. Of course I also wish they were paying me for more than 30 hours a week since I work more than that and they act wounded and disappointed when I announce mid-Friday that I've done enough and I'm leaving. But, when there's a budget shortfall and possible layoffs coming up that I've been assured won't affect me, I should shut up, eh?

Monday, February 24, 2003

Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy
  • Ok, I'm a poseur because I've never actually seen an episode of Ren and Stimpy (I saw part of one... the square one was eating cat poo or something), but I like the phrase. Anyhow, Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy... it's raining really hard outside.
AOL Time Warner NewsGo Bruins!
  • I got an 88 on my mid-term for Modern Database Management. I'm kinda ticked... I thought I did better, considering it was only 50 multiple choice questions. We had two hours and I did it in 28 minutes. Perhaps I should have spent a little more time on it. But it was dumb. No diagrams, no application or demonstration of the knowlege of concepts, just tricky questions about definitions. I mean, call me crazy, but some short essay questions, or some data modelling diagram interpretation questions would have been cooler, and I probably would have done better. Future classes where we're actually building SQL statements and databases will probably be better for me.
The Suckage that is Sprint PCSTMRemnants of WorkTM
  • So, still working on the EMS (Events Management System). They're selling a really crippled web version. I'm not sure why. But simple stuff... let's say that I create a Reservation and reserve five rooms. Then I find out I want another room? I can't add it to the event. How dumb is that? Well, I finished my "hack" today. I determined that EMS records the email address of the last person to log-in as a cookie. So I read that cookie, cross-reference the email address against the webusers database, cross that against the Reservations table and present the individual with all of their upcoming reservations, with all of the bookings listed. Then they type in the reservation number from the two events and it combines them into a single event, turning the status of the remaining event to "Pending-Combined" so that the Event Coordinators can review and make sure everything's still ok. The second reservation, which now has no bookings gets dumped, with a status of "Cancelled-Combined". This will help us run reports later to determine how many times people had to combine stuff. (DEA is promising to allow you to add rooms to an existing reservation in the next release of their software, but we figure that's close to a year off.)
  • I also hacked their menu today. My boss' laugh is a mixture of concern and glee when he sees what I can con the program into doing. I found an undocumented table, played around with the settings and figured out how to add stuff in such a way that the desktop client (that controls much of the web administration) recognizes my changes and adds them in. I, for one, appreciate the flexibility that they've built in, though it's somewhat annoying because they will consider it a hack of their system, probably. As long as it doesn't void the maintenance contract.
  • tomorrow the we're turning over the reservation request process to the admins in each department. Right now there are paper forms that everyone fills out and then one person inputs into the computer. Usually the paper forms have mistakes and are incomplete, so she spends a lot of her time following up with people. Now that they can see what's going on before they request and are really a lot more involved in the actual request problem, combined with the fact that the computer won't let you forget information, it's going to be a much better process. Before their training, we had to figure out how to take the years of upcoming events already in the system and reassign them to each user so when they logged in, they'd see their existing events. I eventually had to write an ASP page that read in each reservation from a given group into an array and then updated each one individually with SQL statements since the information required to find out which events were which were in two different tables. We spent a long time trying with JOINS and other SQL trickery to no avail. Oh well.
  • EMS 2.2 finally added a "comments" field. We will use that to feed information into our website's calendar and into our print publications. Only the dumb thing is, there's no mechanism for changing it once it's gone live. So that's another routine I have to build tomorrow.
  • And I still have the Visio room templates to work on. Again, well-integrated into the client, completely lacking on the web-side. I have to figure out how they are referenced in the database, figure out some way to copy them, allow the users to make changes and then somehow still get them back into the database so that Campus Services, Operations and Security have the room diagrams in the client where they need them for reporting. Anyone else worked on a project like this?
  • Lastly, you must be wondering why all the detail about a program very few people use on a blog that no one reads. I'm hoping that someone searching for ways to better use EMS will come across it and ask me some questions. It's dumb, but I derive a lot of joy out of sharing information I've learned.

Saturday, February 22, 2003

Why AOL is DumbTM
  • I read a report yesterday on that said that if all you know is someone's email address at AOL, you can call Customer Service (especially in a foreign country) and ask them to reset the password. You just mumble your way through the questions they ask and they get frustrated and just do it for you.
The Suckage that is Sprint PCSTM
  • Sprint PCS sucks in San Francisco/San Jose/Oakland (click here)

  • Sprint PCS sucks in Chicago (click here)

Thursday, February 20, 2003

More Commercials I HateTM
  • The Apple Powerbook ad. While it gets points for having Verne Troyer, it's a dumb ad. It may be cool that Yao(sp?) can reach up and open the overhead compartment and get his Powerbook without leaving his seat, but he should stand up and close the overhead compartment. Otherwise, it's there open and his bag is open, so any turbulence and people get injured.

  • The Mercedes ad where they stretch, then get in their SUV and drive about 20 feet to the fitness center. First off, that's really stupid. Secondly, they'll get their car all stinky if they work up a sweat. Third, there's never a parking space in front of a fitness center. Trust me on this.
The Suckage that is Sprint PCSTM

Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Today's Top Stories, According to MeTM
  1. Google has purchased Pyra Labs, the company that provides this free website where I blog. Cool. Google Rules. (Grugles?)

  2. Mastercard and VISA admit that 5 million accounts were recently hacked. But they refuse to give any details about who was hacked, or who might be involved, instead saying that people should wait to hear from their credit card company and that users aren't liable for any fraudulent charges. Which, in my opinion, is so horrible bass-ackwards. I'm sorry, but if my information has been pilfered, it's not just enough to know I won't have to pay for stuff, but if my account were closed down and the only way I found out about it was my bank or credit card sent me a letter, I'd be redfaced as I tried to explain it to people who had charged my card as to why they were declined. It could hurt my credit record, not to mention all the non-credit-card-number specific info that people may have gathered about me that could used in identity theft. It sucks that we have a duopoly (sorry AMEX and DISCOVER, you're minor players since the Mastercard and VISA have locked up the banks) on credit cards.

Monday, February 17, 2003

I also hate the Volkswagen commercial with the guy who sort of looks like Seinfeld who licks the handle of the car because he thinks other people are coming out to look at it. (1) Who buys cars right off the lot? Not me. (2) That's gross. (3) There is more than one stupid silver gray volkswagen around here. Look around. There are a million stupid volkswagens of every color. Be original. Don't get a Volkswagen.

And there's a new Verizon commercial... a woman's in an elevator and a guy gets in, but you can't see who it is. She's pressed the button for floor 48 or something. He starts pressing every other floor button. Near the end, you see that it's him and then as it fades to black you hear "Can you hear me now?" I'm sorry, I don't find that funny. Great, my wireless company has hired a bastard.

For all the hype, the 300th. episode of the Simpsons was kinda flat. I think I laughed more during the 301st. episode, and even more than either Simpsons episode at the episode of King of the Hill. Sadly. But speaking of really laughing hard, when is there going to be a new episode of the Andy Richter show? No TV show has ever made me laugh harder.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

AOL pushes for name change

(Can I have my job back? But you have to re-hire Wendy, Rikk, Becki and Dave.)
Ok, I want to complain about a few car commercials...

1) Saab... the commercial begins... "Anyone who's ever complained about spending half the day in traffic..." "...has never driven a Saab." To which I'd add "...because then they'd know it could be worse... they could be driving a Saab." I've never driven a Saab, but I think they're ugly and that commercial dumb.

2) Saturn ION... while I have to give them props for using Alphaville's "Forever Young" they cut it all up weird which is just sad. But what I don't like about the commercial is the part that says "Specifically engineered for whatever's next." So, Saturn cars are specifically designed to be vague and blah to fit any situation, without any character or style.

3) Volkswagen... riding in my friend's new Volkswagen, we came up behind a large truck which had a sign on th back which read "Drivers Wanted" He's like "Hey... that truck stole the VW slogan." And I'm thinking "That's the best they could come up with? Some guy late to a pitch meeting came up with it while stuck in traffic behind a large truck."

And my own car (not in a commercial)...

1) Dodge Intrepid... it and several million other Chryslers and Dodges have a recall because the bolt that connects the seat to the power seat adjustment motor to the seat can break, causing the seat to fall backwards, which could really suck while you're driving. Actually, mine broke about 3 months ago and I went to the dealership and they said all they could do was sell me an entire new power seat motor assembly for $150 plus labor. I said "no thanks" and went to Home Depot. A replacement bolt cost me 15 cents, but I did have to totally remove the seat. It was a pain, but I was glad I was able to do the work myself, despite my dad not allowing me to take autoshop in high school.
I'm resolved to post more frequently to my blog. Why not? Afterall, I'm pretty sure no one else is reading it but me, especially after how infrequent my posting has been. Perhaps I'll just use this as a repository to store my credit card numbers so that I can get to them from anywhere I have access, without having to carry them.

It's almost noon on a Saturday. I've been up close to three hours, but probably longer. I had to get up at 6 and feed the cat a pill before taking her to the vet at 10 today. I also am wrestling with a problem in my head that's been preventing me from sleeping... my job.

I work for a large church in Communications and Information Technology. We just got a new piece of software called EMS Enterprise. EMS stands for Events Management System and Enterprise is the fanciest version. It's from Dean Evans and Associates. I only mention this so that if someone's searching and finds this website, maybe they'll be able to offer me some suggestions on how to improve the system.

We had EMS Professional before and I guess it worked well enough. But, it's labor intensive scheduling everything for the church, so we're trying to automate the system and allow departments to do some more of the legwork themselves, but seeing what's available and putting in requests via the web. The only problem is that the Windows client for EMS is so much more robust than the web version, so we're trying to figure out how we can improve it. Fortunately, Enterprise uses SQL so we can go in behind the scenes and add some of the functionality we want. Unfortunately, I'm a real novice with SQL and am having to learn as I go.

Some of the problems we're coming up against is that once you make a request, you can't add rooms or dates to the request via the website. Another is that the client has Visio support built-in, which lets us diagram each room. But the web doesn't, and we'd really like to move away from all the paper and let people do their room diagrams (for where chairs, tables, podiums, etc., should be) online as well. So we're trying to figure out how to get that stuff in and out of the database. (Which unfortunately takes attachments and actually puts them inside the database. Yikes.)

But today I'm sure I'll think of it some more as I do my readings for class (Database Management Theory, a beginner's course that teaches almost no SQL, at least so far). But it's a nice quiet day and I'm thinking of just putting in a movie and chilling as I try to beat the rest of this danged cold.

Cleaning out my mail today, I stumbled on this from my friend Kevin's brother Jeff. Kevin is currently in Kazakhstan with the Peace Corps. because some dared him and he couldn't think of a reason not to. Jeff and I were talking about what to send Kevin in care packages and I thought this little snippet was great, worth saving...

James; I have never met you, but I wanted you to know I feel I have met you from what my brother has told me about you. You ARE his best friend and our support from this end of the world will help him grow as he experiences this journey. One of the last things I told him was that I hope he finds what he is looking for: You know what? I know he will with this support you and I and his friends give him.

Friday, February 14, 2003

Oh... Windows users, you need to get the 'bork' edition of Opera... MSN and Opera are feuding right now because when you visit MSN, it gives you a different style sheet than if you visit with Internet Explorer. Opera says they should get the same style sheet because they display identical to IE. But MSN says no and gives them a different style sheet and the page doesn't display correctly. So, the bork edition is their revenge. It works normally on every website, except MSN, where it translates the entire site into Swedish-chef speak. Hillarious!
Hey there... life has been busy. And somewhat boring. But Sprint PCS hasn't stopped sucking. Oh no, never fear.. they're on a roll of suckage. Enjoy!

Sprint PCS sucks in Seattle/Tacoma

Sprint PCS sucks in Kansas City

Sprint PCS sucks in New York City

Sprint PCS sucks in San Diego

Sprint PCS sucks in Boulder

Sprint PCS sucks in Tucson

Sprint PCS sucks in Seattle

Sprint PCS sucks in Seattle

Sprint PCS sucks in New York

Sprint PCS sucks in Baltimore

Sprint PCS sucks in Los Angeles

Sprint PCS sucks in Chicago

Sprint PCS sucks in Atlanta

Sprint PCS sucks in Austin

Sprint PCS sucks in New York

Sprint PCS sucks in San Francisco

Sprint PCS sucks in Houston

Sprint PCS sucks in Baltimore

Sprint PCS sucks in Chicago

Sprint PCS sucks in Trenton

Sprint PCS sucks in Washington, D.C.

Sprint PCS sucks in Las Vegas

Sprint PCS sucks in Oakland