Friday, February 29, 2008


Stinking cold out here. According to my car, it's 45. Probably should have worn my jacket. I've been trying to push spring along because I can't keep paying these power bills. And yet Accuweather's 15-day has snow for four or five days a week from now. Most likely, it'll eventually disappear from the forecast, but still. Snow. March. Ooookay....

Yesterday was probably one of the top 5 worst days of my professional career life. And I haven't forgotten my the layoff, the termination and every day at my last job. And all of the badness was contained in the first 30 minutes. Today will not be a repeat. Today will be good. Final day of interesting training, small group tonight and the weekend stretching out after that with a calendar that appears empty.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Semi-Bad Sheraton

I recently attended a conference and stayed at the Sheraton where the conference was held. This conference, ironically, was all about email marketing.

The travel arrangements had been handled by someone else who would forward the email confirmations to me when she got them.

However, for the actual stay, I needed to use my own credit card and request reimbursement. So, when it was time to depart, I walked up to the self-service kiosk because that's the kind of anti-social love-to-play-with-gadgets kinda guy I am.

It asks me a bunch of questions and then tells me that self-checkout is not available and to go to the desk. Fine, whatever.

Guy checks me out and hands me an envelope containing three copies of my bill. A very nice touch. I ask if I can get the bill emailed to me. He didn't offer, but we always get that when we stay at a Hilton, Doubletree or Hampton Inn (The Hilton Family of Hotels is the official hotel chain of The Lamb Family.) .

He said, "sure" and brought up a screen. The account had the email address of the woman who had handled my travel arrangements. I gave him my email address, he punched it in and said that email bills were generated each nght. (X)

I did not receive the bill. However, two days later, I did receive an email thanking for me for staying at the hotel and welcoming me to their mailing list. (Slightly personalized - a photo of the hotel and "signed" by the manager of that hotel.)

I immediately unsubscribed and sent back a quick note saying that I had not given permission to be added to any mailing list and I had still not received a bill.

I got an automated response saying my email had been received (I think), and then within 24-hours, a template-driven response from "Cheryl Laframboise" a specialist in the E-Communications department. I only mention her by name because she actually did good in this situation.

The templatized email from her was obviously generated by Kana Response and only dealt with my unsubscribe request and also offered me the opportunity to sign-up for another email.

I sat on it, slightly annoyed, for a few days. Finally this morning I sent a response saying that their automatic response system missed the point of my email and suggested the wrong response and that I had still not received a copy of my bill.

While I was tying this (at the "(X)" above), Ms. Laframboise called to apologize and to ask me which hotel I had stayed at, so that she could send a request to that hotel. Two things to note here... 1) This information, including photo and address of hotel was on our email exchanges. I am totally willing to cut her slack on this. 2) The number she was calling from came across the caller ID as "Howard J" (Howard Johnson? Amusing.)

I gave her the information and she asked if I had access to a fax machine. I was a little taken aback by this, considering the entire effort was to get an emailed copy of my statement. I stammered and then lied and said "no" (I really should write down the number to the nearest fax machine as I'm sure it would be handy to have on hand.)

She said she would send a request to the hotel and that it would take about five days.

So, kudos to Ms. Laframboise. Obviously there are problems in the Starwood system but at least their customer service team is allowed to make outgoing calls and try to get things fixed.

We'll see if I receive a copy of the bill by email.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

In Defense of Lindsey (sort of)

Lindsey's still in the press. This time, for participating in a photoshoot. The photoshoot finds Lindsey in poses that mimic a photoshoot done by Marilyn Monroe before she died. Not surprising as it was proposed by the photographer who did the Monroe shoot as well.

I have not seen the photos and have no plans to, but I'm annoyed by people who call them "macabre" and in bad taste. It's not like she was posed laying on the floor with a doctor leaning over her or something. It's an homage. Or more appropriately, it was a publicity stunt to which she was a willing participant.

Bad taste? I don't think so. Bad judgement. Probably. This is Lindsey's problem. She appears unable to make the kinds of decisions that lead to good publicity, so she's embracing the "no press is bad press" philosophy and proving how false that statement really is.

Marilyn died three weeks after this photoshoot. I hope that Lindsey does not pull a Farley.

What Lohan really needs to do is hire some competant agent and perform a talent makeover. I believe she has the talent to do well in Hollywood (yeah, go ahead and debate what "well in Hollywood" means) but she seems happy to be the butt of jokes.

And that's just sad.

(Yeah, I'm not very good at defending.)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Just Walk Away

I am really behind on updating this blog. I should be caught up soon and have everything updated. (I've been keeping track.)

But I wanted to write about something I've noticed recently. A guy in my group keeps a jar of candy on his desk. Some days I will go the entire day without getting any candy. But as I'm shutting down, or going to the restroom at the end of the day, I will think about the candy and I will actually argue with myself about whether or not I should have any candy. And usually it's a matter of simply walking past his cubicle twice without going inside and getting some candy. I cannot understand why this is even an argument. It should be pretty plain and simple. Just walk away.

And yet, I'm finding that so difficult.

It's no wonder that I now weigh the same weight I did at the beginning of the year. (I've been able to successfully walk away lately, but there have been some other factors. Though I can't really think of any right now. Just a major plateau apparently. And not good enough weather for lots of walks. And trouble getting up in the morning to exercise before work.) (moved from The Year was 2008)

Use Blogger?

If you use Blogger, you can now get a GrandCentral account.

What is GrandCentral? In a word, it's awesome.

See that "Call Me" button on the right side of my blog and on my Facebook account? If you click that button, it will ask you for your phone number. (Also great for putting on eBay pages and stuff.)

You enter it, and your phone starts ringing and my phones start ringing. (Yes, phones. You add all your phone numbers, create rules about which ones should ring -- based on time of day or who's calling. You can even set it so that some callers always get voicemail. Or get a "This number is out of service." recording when they call. Oh, and you can also set different answering machine recordings for different people or different groups.)

When my phone rings and I answer, I have several choices. I can take your call, I can send your call to voicemail. I can send your call to voicemail and listen in (like an old-timey answering machine). And I can take your call and record it.

It also has spam filtering. (If you get a call and it's phone spam, you tell Grand Central. Enough people tell Grand Central and that caller will always get someone's voicemail instead of ringing through.)

There are lots of other cool features as well. My favorite is call transfer. Say someone calls you and you pick up at home... but then you want to leave and they're still yakking. You press * and all of your other phones begin ringing. You answer your cell phone, hang up your home phone and walk out the door. And the person you're talking to doesn't know you even transferred phones.

And you can pick a number in your area, or some other area code. It comes with voicemail you can check online or by dialing your own GC number from one of the phones linked to your account.

A few things they haven't worked out yet... no way to have your Grand Central number appear on other people's caller ID. They'll still see your actual number.

But, it's a really cool service I've been using a for a year now. I highly recommend it and I'm glad that they've opened it up to so many people now.

The link is on your dashboard once you've signed in.

(If you think this is cool, I also recommend and

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Personal Assistants

I will probably never have personal assistants. But it doesn't stop me from dreaming.

First off, they would meet me at work. I would drive up in my car. I would get out and one would hand me a cup of coffee and get in the car to park it. The other would run my lunch to the lunchroom and my laptop up to my desk.

Then I don't know what they'd do the rest of the day. Maybe they could timeshare with someone else who needs an assistant or two. Besides ironing my wrinkled clothes and getting my car washed, and keeping the tank full. I can order just about anything off the internet, but I still have to drive to the stupid gas station to fill the car with gas. Irritating. I want an electric car.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Depth of Field (Yesterday's Photo)

I had intended to go back and add some text to go along with that email, but the day just got away with me. And by lunchtime, the day looked nothing like it had in the morning.

The morning had been one of dense fog, so much that everyone had to drive slower. Everything looked really cool. As you walked or drove, things were slowly revealed to you. There was far less to take in, far less to see -- maybe why it's loved by video game designers? Anyhow, I like fog for that very reason. You see a much smaller world, a more cozy, intimate, calmer world. It lends itself better to being aware of your surroundings and at the same time, being introspective. There's far less clutter.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Clever Online Store

Check this out. Apparently there's an actual store and they decided to have a little fun and turn it into a rube goldberg machine.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


19.20.21. embarks on a mission to study the 19 cities that in this century will top 20 million people. So far, it's a nice looking flash powerpoint presentation, but still an interesting (and quick) read.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I hate COA and ECOA and GM

Today I got a piece of mail in my post office box. Service offers for my Buick.

Only I don't own a Buick. My dad does.

And I got an email today from Buick. Because of the address I used, I can track it back to an email I sent to a local Chevrolet dealership asking questions about the new Malibu.

And this isn't the first time I've gotten mail at the post office box addressed to my dad.

My dad is acting as our banker and owns about 2/3 of our house.

Somehow, marketers are connecting our house to our post office box -- and now my email address -- and confusing me with my dad. (We have similar names.)

How? A stupid process called COA or ECOA, offered by companies like Fresh Address. When you don't update your information with some company that has it, they go to a company like Fresh Address. Fresh Address buys address change information from the companies where you do change your address and then sell it to these companies you chose not to give your new information to.


Wednesday, February 13, 2008


I am home. I am feeling a lot better now that I expected to. Flight back took an hour longer than the flight down. And on the way down we flew past the airport and headed back north to land. So why an hour longer? I have no idea. Turbulence was horrible. There were some children, but they did pretty well, no long crying jags. I feel a little bleh now and despite all my exercise, I guess I ate cruddy.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

King of Pain

I thought it was an interesting song to come up on the iPod. Notsomuch the title, but the thought of a black spot on the sun. Granted, it is nighttime, the fog is rolling in really, really heavy. As the song began, I could see the fog rolling in from about 15 feet up, light giant breakers off the bay. But the time I began to type this, I was fully wrapped in it. Now it's some nostalgic non-hit Bryan Adams CD-filled track. The streetlights floating orbs of white, yellow or greenish light. Coronado Island - entirely gone. Downtown San Diego almost gone. iPod now failing me with more songs with the black mark of skip incremented and I settle with Roxette ready to hear something, anything so I can get back to typing. I am on mile two. I really want to do the entire lap twice, but we'll see how I feel when I get to the hotel, if I want to spend another hour walking (apparently I walk slow).

I love this ability to walk late at night. I used to do that in Sherman Oaks and Van Nuys. Then when dating we'd walk a lot in Burbank and then when married Glendale, Monrovia and Pasadena. I really miss that, the times for leisure walks, either alone or with Lori, and later while pushing a stroller. I walked some in Seatte, mostly with the dog, but I always felt guilty, that I was neglecting chores or temporarily abandoning the family for selfish reasons.

It's a phase, I know. I'll get to walk again.

The Flight

If it weren't for the fact that I know we're moving, the slight vibration of the cabin, the roar of the engines, the occasional, subtle sway, I would think we were fixed in place. Minimal lights dot the cabin of individual readers and there's the general murmur of talking. A tall flight attendant with dark shoulder-length hair strides through the cabin with a white plastic bag, stopping occasionally to collect discarded plastic cups and to chat with passengers. The seats to either side of me and in front and behind vacant, I stretch out and relax, my laptop resting on my seat back tray table. Chilled air flows down onto me from the vent above my head, mostly hitting my left arm. The air has very little smell, far cleaner than the stale smell I am used to on an airplane. Out my window, all is calm. Below us, blackness. Straight out, the wing angles up, the wingtip lit by a small light, a band of white and green visible. A light blinks regularly, splashing the wing with red light. In the far distance, straight bands of red, orange, brown, gray, light blue and finally dark blue precede the eventual blackness of night that will swallow us up within minutes.

A Little More Human

I feel better this morning. I should have gone to bed earlier, but I slept really well. I felt like I woke up a lot, but I still feel quite rested. I got a tiny bit of exercise in, I'm registered for the conference, got my Starbucks and am thinking about a second scone. And best of all, I'm seeing lots of people with nametags like mine. And it turns out there are two children next door, possibly a family on vacation. One of the children cried out a few times during the night, but never anything that lasted more than a few seconds. I read on Justin's blog that he had a fire alarm. Either I slept through it (unlikely) or I got a better room in a different building. Turns out the computers in the lobby are free, as is wireless internet in the little "link" lounge. Sitting here makes me think we need a tall bar seating area at home with the computer and we need a water feature visible from said seating area. Alrighty... off into the wild blue email yonder.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Live and On Scene

Ok, I breezed through security, had a whole row to myself on the plane, a nice quick (40 minutes quicker than planned) and smooth flight, didn't have to check anything, walked right out and on to the shuttle, got here and was bummed. No reasonably priced places to eat, internet that costs $12 for 24 hours and a fitness center that cost $10 a day. Turns out the fitness center did not have a cost (though I didn't make it there today) and while a lot of people are having Blackberry problems, I was not one of them. After a nice meal, I felt much better, though I was seriously hating myself for the onion rings. So I walked Harbor Island Drive. All of it. It was just over three miles and I did it in less than an hour, even jogging for a few feet. Walking and jogging kinda bore me. But it was really nice out there. Not sure of the temperature, but I was wearing shorts and wasn't cold. There weren't many people out and I saw a number of cranes just hanging out on the shore, regarding me as I walked by but not looking ready to spring up and flee. I just got back and wanted to see what the how long my walk was so I walked up to the kiosks in the lobby and someone had left one logged in (after comparing the prices of used "white lexus sc430" according to their search) so I hopped on. The part that does concern me is that I might end up staying on here too long. Hopefully not, I have other stuff I want to do tonight and I want to get a decent's night sleep so that I'm well rested for tomorrow. There may be a cryiong kid in the next room. I'm a little scared about that. Anyhow, I made it in one piece and now that I have some food and exercise in me, I'm feeling quite a bit better. I haven't seen anyone I know, but I did get instructions for a flash mob I'm to be part of tomorrow. That sounds kinda cool, except it's at an event I wasn't sure I was going to attend. We shall see. Anyhow, if you need to reach me, just use that call button on the right side of this blog and it'll ring your phone through to mine. I wrote something really cool on the plane and mailed it to myself. I'll post it after I have internet access. Ok, I'm going to wander away from the free internet and hope it's still there the next time I have need.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A Little Less Safe

My family was the victim of a rather unpleasant, though petty, crime today. I can't say much about it, but I am grateful to the fast work, not to mention gentle and compassionate handling of the situation by the Federal Way Police Department. I am also amazed by the fast work that brought the efforts of an anonymous samaritan, the management of WinCo and the Federal Way Police all into alignment over a crime that happened elsewhere. Also props to the managers of the Gateway Cinemas theaters and the staff of the King County Regional Library.

Sadly, thanks to the work of some underaged criminals who roam our streets, we'll be sleeping a little less soundly and it's going to take quite a bit of work and some money we don't have to get things back to almost normal. Some of the feeling of security -- the innocence -- is stripped away, never to return.

120 Seconds of Lit

He wrapped his coat tighter around his body, pulling his arms close as he struggled against the rain and wind, hugging the metal railing to his chest. He peered into the darkness, seeing lights far off. The lights blinked on and off as the gusts of wind and rain blocked his view. He tried to breathe shallow breaths to keep the freezing air from burning his throat and lungs. But every so often his body refused to obey, sucking in large gasping breaths, the salt water, rain and air causing him to gag. The choking sensation was almost more than he could bear and the coughing grew worse, making it even more difficult to control his breathing. The waves pounded the little boat, each crash threatening to throw him from his perch on the bow. They were making headway against the storm, but he had lost all track of time. He hadn't spoken to anyone since the storm grew worse but every so often he'd hear something from the radio in his coat pocket, and they still seemed to be headed towards the light, so if it could just hold on -- and if they could continue to make forward progress, they would be alright. He leaned hard against the post, closed his eyes and and let his mind drift, just for a second, to the thought of soup, but then quickly snapping them back open. If he didn't keep them open and they hit the rocks, that would be the end of it.

Why do I gotta do stuff? Isn't believing enough?

One of the things I've wondered about in the past has been the struggle between works and faith. In the early times of Jesus, He wrestled with the legalism of the Jewish leaders... Do this, this and this. Don't do that, that or that. Properly obey all rules and you will receive salvation. And then Jesus came along and said "Believe in me. That's all it takes to receive salvation." But then there still seemed to be rules... things you ought to do, things you shouldn't do. So, what was the deal? As I've grown in my own understanding, this has become clearer. Today's sermon was also on this topic and I got some good stuff from it. Like the idea that "works as proof of faith (I do this to prove my piety) flies in the face of what Christ did by dying on a cross. But works as an expression of faith complements Christ's work." That is, a faith that is not dead, foolish or useless will produce good works. That is, your honest believe in Christ and that He did for your sins will compel you to seek out a live that shows His love through you to others. Because we love Jesus and receive the gift of His sacrifice we act, not because we're trying to get His attention. Just thought that was worth writing down... usually I take notes, capture "nuggets" and then they end up in the recycling bin as we tidy up our kitchen.

Not Feeling So Smug

First my dad tells me that H&R Block's online program fails to check a box on his tax form and that it probably didn't check it on mine, either. A box worth about $150; and that he recommends I file a 1040X. I'm 75% tempted to not -- what better way to pick a candidate for an audit than someone who files an amended tax return asking for money. Only last night I realize that I failed to account for $210 a contractor paid me in June 2007 for work I did in October 2006. Ugh. So now I must file. It's still a net gain, but it's not all that exciting. All this work avoided by paying H&R Block $20 to do my taxes overturned by mistakes on both parts leading to a form which the IRS says takes people an average of 3-1/2 hours to complete. Blargh.

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Ok, after Hillary last week declared she'd lose Washington because it was a caucus and not a primary, we started doing some research.

First off, caucuses seem incredibly stupid. As bad as the whole electoral college as far as rigged, fraudulent and not representative of the population. I've decided this evening that I support the popular vote, even if it means that Al Gore would have been president. (On the other hand, Cheney wouldn't be. Down with Cheney!)

Apparently in Washington, Democrats rely solely on the caucus. To vote for a Democratic candidate in the Washington primary is simply helping to create a "trend indicator" - a wasted vote that has no impact on who Washington puts its support behind. On the Republican side, it's a half vote, since the votes are split between the primary and the caucuses.

So, diving deeper into Hillary's quote, it strikes me as quite humorous. If people just go to the polls and vote, they would vote for her. If they gather together in small groups and make impassioned speeches, they vote for Obama. That seems to suggest that caucuses are made up of more informed people who are actually more interested in politics (maybe a flaw in my support of popular vote) and that when people are more informed (not voting for someone based on their husband's reputation), they make a better choice.

I was going to vote for Obama in the primary until I realized (a) it means nothing in the Washington primary and (b) the state shares my name and address with the democratic party. So now, I'm left with a dilemma... vote for John McCain or myself as a write-in... either way the republican party gets my name and address or abstain entirely as this is a useless waste of time.

I hate politics. And lately people have been discussing them in morning devotions at work. I don't know if that's worse than the sports discussions that keep erupting at the morning devotions, but it's enough to make me want to just regularly skip them.

Still voting yes on the school levy and the ability to elect our own mayor.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Cool Site:

This is a cool site, I don't know how it works (or if it won't be gone tomorrow for running afoul of copyright laws), but you type in a song and an artist and hit "Play" and a few seconds later the song begins.

Beat Yesterday

Hard to believe, but I feel more tired today than I did yesterday. I know I got more sleep. Maybe it was because I was suddenly awake 1 minute before my alarm was to go off. So now I sit on the exercise bike and man do my eyes hurt. Mostly just keeping only one opened.

But, it's Friday. That's encouraging. I feel like I got a lot done yesterday and got a little unburied. Today I'll hopefully be able to get some good work done on a proposal I need to build. Some people have flags or sheets they hang across their cubes to indicate that they don't want to be disturbed. I need to get one of those.

Just saw a goofy ad. Their name is "Two Men and a Truck" - and yet in the voiceover, the guy says "we're more than two men and a truck." And their website address is easily misread... Thanks to T-Mobile, I don't read "" when I see that, I read "T-Women."

Thursday, February 07, 2008


Wow... I feel tired. I slept ok last night, but not nearly enough. I could have tried sleeping in like I did yesterday, eschewing exercise. And that would not have accomplished anything.

I'm feeling a little bit down this morning. I think it was the insufficient sleep, but also a rather discouraging day yesterday. I'm trying to put on a brave face, to aim to have a better day, though I'm feeling slightly defeatest, that in some cases, some of this is circumstances beyond my control.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

I Deserve a Treat

I'm behind on posting on here... and we're one-tenth of the way through the year already... wow. 10.1% to be quite precise.

I am behind on talking to most of the family.

I am behind on my assessments, legitimate posts and weight loss. I am ahead on flossing (wow) and behind on being in bed by 11 pm. I am also behind on walking, but that will improve as the weather gets better. I am ahead on all of the other exercise.

I had a really rough day and so I had my last piece of birthday ice cream cake. I had considered saving it, but I really deserved it today.

I am not happy about being behind on stuff. I had a great day of exercise yesterday and then a rather poor day today.

But, 9/10 of the year left to go. I believe I can get caught up. (moved from The Year was 2008)

Monday, February 04, 2008

Well, I never...!

A colleague's email to me after I requested changes...

(He doesn't put cover sheets on his TPS reports, either.)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Holy Cow

Microsoft Makes 44.6 Billion Dollar Bid for Yahoo!

As far as big news on a day I take off from work (terrorist attacks, shuttle explosion), this is rather tame.

I don't know what to think... I guess really the only thing I disliked about Yahoo! was its name. Yahoo! actually owns two products (they didn't create themselves, just purchased) that I do pay money for enhanced versions of - Flickr and LaunchCast.

Now, Microsoft... I'm not sure why, but I like Microsoft. I mean, I like Google better. Microsoft makes web products that are so bloated they eventually become useless (Messenger, Hotmail, Internet Explorer) and their design is always so heavy and clunky. They take something (backgrounds with a gradient) and run them into the ground. I keep wanting Microsoft to get it, with all the great examples (to name two, here and here) but they keep not getting it.

Yeah, I know that's one-sided, comparing everyone's favorite cute little kitten, Apple, against the big mean fatcat, Microsoft, but I think it's still doable. Apple has (as Joel says above) has a culture, or at least a cohesive face. Microsoft doesn't. And what it does isn't pretty. It would require a seachange and a lot of patience to make Microsoft look different. Maybe merging MSN into Yahoo! and keeping the Yahoo! look and feel online won't last. Would that ever happen? Doubtful, Microsoft seems to be a very proud company and there's a lot of overlap between MSN and Yahoo!, and you have to think they'd keep the MSN version in any head-to-head, even if it were the inferior product.

Maybe I like Microsoft because of my home-team rule. (The Home-Team rule says you must cheer for the home team because this is your home. I hate it when people blab on and on about a sports team from where they used to live. Love it so much? Go back there. College students are exempted from the rule because they may just be long-term visitors.)

But I'd like to see Microsoft do well. It'd be an uphill fight against the common public opinion. As with everything, yeah, you gotta do things well, but more than anything, you gotta have style and you gotta have excellent marketing chops. Leopard has more flaws and virus vulnerabilities than Vista. But people are paying serious money for "point revision" upgrades to Leopard... it works. Vista apparently doesn't. And that's just sad.

C'mon, Microsoft. It's time for a change. Use Yahoo! to slingshot yourself. Protect Yahoo! from the bad Microsoft culture while designing something brand new that picks the best from both while leaving the bad behind.