Monday, January 28, 2008

Not Quite Getting It: US Postal Service

Sometimes I just don't understand how something so simple becomes so complicated. Submitted on the website...
Suggestion: Would be nice to be able to renew P.O. Boxes online. (I've misplaced my form which means I have to go stand in line on Saturday. Not so much fun.)

I don't need a reply back. Thank you!
They respond... at 7:30 am on a Sunday. (They won't bring me mail on a Sunday but they're paying someone to respond to emails on Sundays?)
Response (Ethel G) 01/27/2008 07:37 AM
DearJames Lamb,

Thank you for contacting us regarding in the future to renew po boxes online..

I have sent this information to your local Post Office™ for immediate attention. If you need to contact me again regarding this issue, please refer to the following confirmation number, CV35921326.

If I can be of assistance to you in the future, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Thank you for choosing the United States Postal Service®.


Denise G.
As if that wasn't enough, someone also called today. They were surprised to have gotten voicemail, based on their "Oh. (laugh) Uh..." start to their voicemail. It sounded to me like it was someone here at the local post office. (A local post officer?)

Ultimate Lazy

This is even too lazy for me. But not as quite bad as pre-toasted bread (drop in microwave for 15 seconds). (If you can't see this well enough, it's hot dogs and hot dog buns packaged together. But, it's not completely useful... it doesn't appear to come with ketchup and mustard and relish packages, and you still have to find a microwave. It ought to come with break-and-use heat packs.

Multimedia message

Work for Ceridian?

If you work for Ceridian, you should be ashamed of yourself for forcing a half-baked product out on people. There's absolutely no reason your program should fail to work on Firefox. It's not like you do anything fancy at all. Or, at worst, how about an accurate, readable and relevant error message? While you're at it, you could use a designer as well. Much as there's no reason for the poor usability, there's no reason that it should be an affront to people who are visually unimpaired. I mean, even your corporate website is at least passable and appears to work on all browsers.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Beautiful 43

I had to run some errands at lunch time today. I opted to leave my jacket in my cube at work. It wasn't warm by any stretch of the imagination, but it was certainly warm enough. I wore my short sleeved Hawaiian shirt. At Borders, the woman asked me if I was feeling optimistic. I didn't understand it until I got back to work and someone asked me if I thought spring had arrived. I don't get these people. They didn't spend 10 years away. (I can't use that much longer... I got my tab renewal and it's already time for another smog check on my car. Dang it all.) So, yes, why not. Sure, let's call it Spring. Spring has sprung. And it was a beautiful day.

Of course, I got in the car for the drive home and it was 36 and by the time I got home, it had dropped to 32. And Accuweather is predicting snow in the near future.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Last Word

It's difficult for me to get an email and read it and then not respond. Sure, there are some where deleting is fine, and some I delete without even reading.

But I'm talking about emails from actual people sent directly to me. I feel like I owe everyone a response. To not respond seems, well, rude.

But I was thinking today. What if everyone felt that way? Our inboxes would be more paralyzingly useless than they are today.

But what I need to keep in mind is that there are plenty of times where I've written to someone and they haven't responded. In many cases, I probably won't remember that I wrote to them, so I'm not sitting there upset at the lack of a response. Moreso I'm pleasantly surprised to find a nice new personal email in my inbox.

And someone has to make the bold commitment to kill a thread that has died. Like when you stand there with someone in the hall long after you've run out of things to say and both of you are panicking because your coffee is getting cold and you can't break free. (I'm not good at ending those kinds of conversations, either.)

So, that's an unofficial goal of mine for the year. Getting better at knowing when a thread should die -- and then letting it go peacefully into the Trash folder without worrying that I've offended.

Monday, January 14, 2008

I Love My Backspace Key

Ok, here is the rules. four minutes on the timer. No use of the backspace key. Just type until the tier timer runs out. About what, I do'nt know. Arg, this is hard. I like my backspace key. I am a really poor typer, I just type really fast and my fingers naturally go to the bakstap blech blach b dang it. naturally go to the bakcspace key, they nowk dang it know I'm about to mistype and they're prepared to catch the pieces as we continue on. This is probably how my typing looked whe I used to send emails after having confusss this sucks! This is probably hot my t sheesh. Trust me, I am not drunk, I've had nothing to drinlk. I'm just trying to type without the backstpace oops, I used it. I can't help it. I love the backspace key. 2 minutes to go. It's nearly 11. I need to feed the cats and get upstairs and get stuff ready. One of my goals this year is to ebbeeeerewrwerfsdlfsd;ka stupid stujpid what a dumb idea this was. Maybe yeah, that's it. I'll title this post ode to the backspace key. Of course, I'll probably type that wrong. 1 minute to go. I'm not tired. I don't wnant to go get ready for bed. I want to sit down here on the couch and play on the computer for awhile longer. Oh well, at least I can read some more in my book, even though it's quite cdull so far. It's a Jonhn Grisha,m. No idea how old or new it is. Called The Innocent Man or something like that. 3 seconds. Bzzzzz.

Later added as an honorable mention to the "120" category.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


I was looking at my contacts in Gmail. There were close to 500. That didn't seem to be right, so I started looking closer at who was in there. There are contacts in there going back to the late 90's. I guess I've been carrying them forward, importing, exporting, syncing. To be sure, I've done weeding over the years, but the list still keeps growing. Worse yet, there are old email addresses, old phone numbers, old addresses. Lots of useless chaff. So while I've been watching TV tonight, I've been doing some more weeding. I'm down to 425. I figure, ultimately, I should arrive at a number somewhere between 100 and 200. Thoughts?


Hehehe... just saw this ad. The entire premise was that they "don't know why people don't get accepted into eHarmony" - so apparently this other site is a good place to sign up for if you're ready to lower your expectations.


This is a really compelling gallery of how much people spend each month on groceries. In a very interesting way -- all the groceries laid out on a table. I think it's more interesting if you work backwards from the most money spent to the least money spent. Go here...

Friday, January 11, 2008

For Starbucks Only

If you do not work for Starbucks, please disregard this post. (Especially if you work for Tully's.. don't read this!)

Dear Starbucks, as you can see from the attached map, you have three locations in the area of Federal Way that I've highlighted. However, due to Interstate 5 and the traffic it creates on surface streets and the 18, they might as well be in another state. Please consider this a request to explore the idea of opening a "rest stop" for all of us working east of the freeway, preferably in the southern region. I have seen examples of Starbucks inside office complexes, my favorite being the one building at at Kenwood between Alameda and Riverside in Burbank. I do believe it would be big hit with the students at DeVry and the professionals at Weyerhauser, World Vision and other large office buildings in the area.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Diminishing Returns

Ok, first off, I gotta say that one of my goals -- being in bed by 11 pm each night -- is proving to be more difficult than I thought. I find myself running around at the last minute, cleaning cat boxes, feeding cats (yeah, yeah, stop one and I can stop the other... thanks, Kevin), arranging all my electronics and keys and wallet and ring (think the hero scene where the hero puts all his gear in his pockets and holsters and stuff and that's my mornings) and then getting all my clothes arranged (I have a butler, his name is James. He hangs the next day's clothes in the bathroom and thoughtfully leaves the underclothes on the heat vent so they're toasty after the shower) anyhow, I find myself running to get everything done at the last minute just so I can be in bed by 11.

But I did make it. And so far, I have the room to myself. So the window is open so I can hear the rain. It's pretty cool. And yeah, I do have the laptop. This is our week to read through the entire book of James each night. I think every Christian pastor is required to assign this task to their congregants at least once every five years. Maybe it's a constitutional requirement to keep their non-profit status or something. I dunno. Anyhow, I still need to do that. I've been doing that on my Blackberry the last two nights, except seems to have something in it that likes to crash Blackberries. Yeah, I feel like rambling tonight. Deal with it or change the channel, eh?

Anyhow, there was an interesting discussion today in a meeting. It was all about knowing your audience and not trying to be all things to all people. It actually came up in a very different way in a second meeting today. It's interesting to think about because I am somewhat of a perfectionist at times. Sometimes I'm lazy and half-arsed and I abandon projects from time to time and I have a "someday" list that's pretty dang long. But there are certain places where I really feel like a perfectionist. And one of those is my job. I and my colleagues are responsible for creating things seen by the public. And I want them to look great. I want them to be perfect. Unfortunately, the conditions under which they are viewed are outside of our control and immensely varied.

I hit a wall today, unintentionally. I was wrapping up a project that has had its share of difficulties. On a whim, I tested my product today, using a Microsoft website on a non-Microsoft browser. And it broke. At what I'd consider the 11th. hour. I was so close to being done. It worked everywhere else as good as could be. (Which is to say, basically everywhere but in the IBM's offering.)

I began to think about the dilemma.... here's a scenario where someone's using a Microsoft website on a non-Microsoft browser. (It worked fine with the Microsoft website on the Microsoft browser.) It occurred to me that if someone had the know-how and attitude necessary to use a browser other than Microsoft's dominant browser, chances were that they would also use a different website other than Microsoft's as well.

So I finally had to realize that if that obscure combination of events ever came up, that particular small cluster of people will have less than the absolute best interpretation of my presentation. That perfection and consistency is absolutely impossible and that I have to do as much as I can for the majority, after which point, it becomes a waste of time and a waste of money (not to mention stressful!) to contine to pursue the impossible. (I could ask for help on message boards or see if I could get a consultant to review/audit the process, but those types of things would take time and money and just delay things. Besides, I think I am pretty competant and not sure the results would turn out different if someone else participated in the process.)

But we'll deliver the best possible product to the most people possible and for the rest, it ends up being outside of our control. It feels like settling, but I suspect it's more about being realistic, accepting limitations and continuing to do the best you can with what you're given.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Too Early

I did not want to get up this morning. For some reason, the little one was up a few times during the 5 am hour asking for a "nose wipe" and telling us her "tummy was rumbly." Now the nose wipe she can typically take care of herself, so not sure what's up with that. The rumbly tummy is because she consistently refuses to eat more than a few bites at dinner. So we usually leave a small bowl of saltines and a sippy cup of water on her dresser at night. But I guess we forgot last night. Lori was gracious to get up with her each time. I was prepared to get up the second time she came in, but Lori was up like a flash.

It's snowed a little bit outside. When I first looked at 3, all of the non-street areas that I could see were white. When I looked just now before coming downstairs, my neighbor's pathstones were visible, little round dots intersecting his yard. I guess that means that it's not very deep. I can't tell what condition the steep street is in, I'm guessing slippery and icy. I hope I have time to shovel my side of the drive before I leave.

But that all depends. My mother-in-law is still staying with us. I've stayed quiet on the whole situation on here until now. Anyhow, the relevance? Lori has to park her car outside because the mil says that her car might not start if it's parked outside. Not a request, just a declarative statement that she made - she gets to park in the garage. And she leaves first each morning, going to a class that will hopefully make her more employable. (Since sitting on our couch, venturing out of the house occasionally to get new books from the library, for the past five months hasn't landed her a job.) Which means that she has to move Lori's car before she can leave. If she moves Lori's car to the street, then my side will be untouched and I can shovel it quickly. If she moves Lori's car to my side of the driveway, I'll then have to move Lori's car and the snow will be compacted and unshovelable. We shall see.

I really debated trying to go back to sleep this morning, even going so far as to set my second alarm. But after 10 minutes of laying there, I realized that was a fruitless pursuit. Instead of going back to sleep, I was feeling guilty for not riding and thinking of how the commute would take longer and it would be too cold to do laps before work and that I was not making any progress towards my goals by sleeping. I really should have made a goal of sleeping more per night. That would have been a better goal than losing weight. And I think I read somewhere about sleeping more can help you lose weight. I should just give up exercising and try to get 10 hours of sleep a night and watch those pounds just roll off.

Yeah. Right.

Monday, January 07, 2008

A Charity I Can No Longer Recommend: National Braille Press

I'd probably heard of National Braille Press before, but they came to the forefront of my awareness just before Harry Potter 6 came out when it was announced that in partnership with J.K. Rowling and with the financial assistance of Lumber Liquidators, they had worked really hard and the braille version of Harry Potter 6 would come out the same day as the normal print and audio book versions, no small feat. Something that really impressed me and convinced me that they were doing something great. So when we sold our house and made all that crazy money, we picked some charities... PLU and PLNU to be sure, and then some smaller one like King County Humane Society (who sold or rented our information) and the aforementioned National Braille Press.

My sole complaint with National Braille Press is that they keep sending me stuff in the mail. When we made the donation, and numerous times since, we've indicated that this was a small, one-time gift. And requested to be removed from the mailing list. Despite assurances that it'd been handled, the mail continues. I understand the need for cultivation, but this becomes a broken donor promise and bad stewardship when you say one thing and do something else.

So, as long as the printed mail continues, National Braille Press is breaking its promise to me and throwing away the money we sent them.

Update; I attempted to originally post this on Thursday but it didn't go through. Over the weekend I checked an old email address, the one I used when I made the contribution to NBP. They continue to email me as well.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Toyota A-Bat

See more photos at NEWS.COM - This is a prototype from Toyota, a re-imagining of a utility vehicle. Can seat up to four, or the seats fold down and there's room for a full sheet of plywood in the bed. Sure, there's a Chevy that does that, but this is much more fuel efficient, aerodynamic and looks pretty sharp. I hope they make this into a production vehicle.

Thursday, January 03, 2008


The light in the center of the ceiling is inadequate for the room. A slightly ornate fixture, it hangs down from the ceiling. An inverted mottled glass bowl designed to look old hangs from three curved silver arms that join at the bottom to a circle. The pattern of light projected on the ceiling has almost a shamrock appearance to it, with the placement of the bulbs casting uneven light, shadows created by the intersection of the arms. Too small to be considered a chandelier, from this distance it has almost the appearance of a large, fanciful mushroom. The ceiling is a tan color. In bright daylight, it's a rather attractive color. But lit only by the single fixture, it appears dingy. The room is tall. The ceiling's tan color extends down the wall a foot and a half, an attempt to fool you into thinking the room is shorter than it is. Moudling, poorly affixed to the wall creates a separation, below which the walls are your standard Swiss Coffee white. In one corner, a small desk holding a computer, with a large file cabinet beside. Several trash cans sit in front of the file cabinets with with printed labels affixed to them announcing "Trash," "Rececling," and "Shred." Atop the file cabinet, a scanner and several empty Christmas light boxes. A large, green leather couch takes up most of one wall. A blanket has been spread across the cushions. At one edge, a cat sits, compact, staring. At the other end, unashamed, a cat cleans itself in a most inappropriate matter. Above the couch, a large window covered by long deep burgundy curtains. Behind the couch, a third cat smacks at a toy. Two other walls are dominated by storage boxes labelled "Christmas", some mismatched furniture, a large TV and a door. On top of the furniture are more boxes, cleaning interrupted. The final wall is mostly just a big sliding glass door, covered by deep burgundy curtains. Next to it, a bookcase filled with board games, an exercise bike and more storage containers with a laptop, a sudoku book and a box of Kleenex perched on top. At the center of the room you see several large piles, green tangles of Christmas lights. A wooden coffee table sits in front of the couch holding several remotes, a few DVDs and a book. In front of the sliding glass door, two large green carpets.

Frankly, this room is a mess.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

The Last Candy

Years past, my resolutions have been along the variety of "I resolve not to make resolutions." or "I resolve to change nothing." or even more recently "I resolve to be even awesomer in the coming year."

No, this year, I decided concrete goals were the way to go, and this year, I'm going to stick to them. Last year, I kinda fizzled and forgot to keep going on my goals, and they weren't really all that concrete.

So, I've kicked off More Cake 4, this time combining it with a my other goals and starting a special blog just to chronicle the next year. Why do it there and not here? I'm not really sure, but I thought it would be interesting to capture a separate snapshot for the year, just of my goals.

The first 100 jumping jacks are done, the candy has all been dumped on the conference room table at work and I've informed Lori that the rest of the sweet stuff in the house is hers to get rid of.

To the new year, cheers.