Joho the Blog » whines

April 30, 2013

I’m tired of your attitude

I remember well the first time I heard the word “attitude” used to mean “negative attitude.” It was shortly after John Lennon had been killed. I was in a mall and the poster shop was selling some crappy Lennon memorial posters at jacked up prices. I was devoted to Lennon, and muttered something about it being opportunism. “You got an attitude,” the clerk said, sneering. “I don’t need your attitude.”

I was tempted to say, “Yes, I have an attitude. We all have attitudes.” But I knew what he meant.

Likewise, nowadays I hear weather forecasters predicting that there will be “some weather moving in.” No, there’s always weather. They mean “severe weather” or maybe just “noticeable weather.” I do sometimes correct them, but since they’re on tv, it hasn’t yet had an effect. Except on my wife who finds it charming every time I do it, or so I choose to believe.

This is far from the first time a quality has been taken as denoting a particular value when used unadorned. “He has a temperature.” “You’ve got a reputation.””He’s in a mood.” I suppose you could even put “a person of color” into that category. So, it happens.

But that won’t stop me from whining about it.

2 Comments »

June 21, 2011

The Argument against Word, Reason #513

Here’s what’s happening with Microsoft Word 2008 on Mac. Note that I am not looking for help. I am merely venting.

1. Redefined heading2 so that it begins with an auto number.

2. Now when I select Normal paragraphs and apply the “number me” button to them, they all turn into heading2′s.

3. Create a new element called Normal-List, defined as beginning with an auto-number.

4. After the fourth instance of heading2, begin my fourth set of Normal-List items.

5. That fourth set continues the numbering from the third set. Select the first item and choose “Restart numbering.” It is a no-op.

6. Try every thing you can think of. Nothing works.

7. Re-open it in LibreOffice (nee Open Office) and fix the goddamn autonumbers.

Q: How many years will it take for Microsoft to get auto-numbering right?
A: How many years are there?

This is especially frustrating since the software company I worked at from 1986-1994, Interleaf, got this right about twenty years ago. AAAaaarrrrrgggggghhhhh.

2 Comments »

March 23, 2011

Yet another reason to hate your mobile provider

4. [NOTE: (These notes are in reverse chronological order. I have numbered them for your reading convenience.)I unlocked my Blackberry by calling Verizon support. I bought an Orange SIM card in a cigarette store in the Old City of Jerusalem for $10, plus $9 of calling time that times out in a week. So, I now have a working phone. It does not come with a data plan, however.]

3. [NOTE added minutes after the note right below this one: I'm on the phone with Verizon. It is indeed $20.48 per MEGABYTE. But wait...I am now talking with a tech support person who assures me that attachments don't count unless you actually download them. Well, that's something. She, however, is also telling me that the first two reps I talked with are wrong; in fact (says the tech support person), Verizon's international plan gives you 70MB per month for $100, and every megabyte after that is $20.48. That's still piracy, but the broadsword goes into you slightly more slowly.]

2. [Note added minutes later: Some other knowledgeable people tell me that Verizon must mean $20/gigabyte, not per megabyte. So, this may have been a mistake by the the service rep. I would happily take the blame for any misunderstanding, except that I confirmed that the rep said "megabyte" by inquiring, "PER MEGABYTE? PER MEGABYTE? ARE YOU FREAKING CRAZY!!!!!!!!!!," to which he replied in the affirmative to the first two of the three questions.]

1. I’m going overseas tonight for a week. In the past, I’d call Verizon and have them switch service from my Droid to my previous phone, which was a Blackberry with “world phone” service. For $2/day, I’d get unlimited data access, so I could check my email and perhaps check the news on the Web now and then. (Believe me, on a Blackberry you don’t want to do a lot of heavy Web browsing.)

Today when I tried to make the switch, Verizon informed me that they have changed the plan, entirely for the benefit of their customers of course. So, now it’s $20 per megabyte. Holy crap! What kind of unearthly profit margin is that?

My knowledgeable friends tell me that that I should figure 50-100 emails per megabyte (although that number is conservative). So, no email for me. That’s what happens when the “free” market is so pwned that it laughs in the face of competition.

And these are the folks we’ve handed our Internet to? Great. Freaking great.

7 Comments »

September 4, 2010

Verizon’s False Friends and Dysfunctional Family program

On paper, Verizon’s Friends & Family program is sweet. We can list up to 10 telephone numbers we can call as much as we want without those minutes subtracting from the 2,100 minutes we pay for. (We have five lines.) Verizon also doesn’t count against those 2,100 minutes calls made to other Verizon wireless subscribers.

So, what one piece of information do you need in order to figure out which ten F&F to choose? You need to know which ten numbers outside the Verizon network you have spent the most minutes on. And what information can you not get from the Verizon site, from the person you chat with on the site, or the customer support person on the telephone? Yay!

The site lets you see calls ranked by minutes or expense within each telephone line, but not across all lines. Worse, you can’t tell if the calls are within the Verizon network. The telephone person I spoke with actually was quite kind and spent many minutes looking through our 40-page bill, pulling out useful information. But even she didn’t have the magic query that would answer the question. And it’s really not that hard a question for a computer to answer.

I’m sorry to say that the most plausible explanation is that Verizon simply does not want its customers to make effective use of the Friends & Family program it promotes so heavily.

2 Comments »

August 7, 2009

Tags again

Jeez, it would save me a lot of time if Keynote (or Powerpoint, if you insist) let me tag slides and objects in slides (especially images). I spend way too much time looking for that slide of a “smart room” or the one that shows business vs. end-user use of Web 2.0, or that photo of an old broadcast tower. (Later that day: Maybe I should add, having just rewritten the Wikipedia entry on Interleaf, that back in the early 1990s, Interleaf gave us exactly that capability.)

Instead, I have two hacks, both a pain in the butt. First, I keep a humungous file of slides I think I’ll want to use again. Second, I’ve started putting tags into the speaker notes by putting the tags in brackets. But I use the speaker notes to speak from, so larding them up with tags is sub-optimal.

And especially if you save Keynote files in the pre-2009 multi-file formats, then it’d be a snap for third parties to build tools that extract the tags and manage them. (I have a fussy home-made utility that extracts the text from the speaker notes and builds an editable file of them. If you want it, let me know.)

Tags are easy! Tags are useful! Let tags be tags!

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2 Comments »

May 25, 2009

Google Docs path to competency

I use Google Docs a lot because I frequently want to share my drafts with some set of people and because no-frills writing software keeps me from distracting myself with frills. But, as a writing tool, Google Docs heads us back to somewhere between NotePad and a 1998 wysiwyg HTML editor. For it to catch on for anything more than the occasional shared doc, it needs to add a whole bunch of features that leverage its social usage. Here are the ones that spring to mind. Please add your own mind-springers…

Create groups of users + permissions that can be managed and easily applied to a document.

Apply groups to folders, not just individual docs, so that any doc put in that folder inherits those permissions by default.

Name versions so if you want to remember the draft that tried switching sections one and two, you can find it again

View and delete comments by commenter.

Make the document file browser far more powerful, as if it were a view into a database of docs, which of course it is. E.g., browse by permissions, by project, by workflow status (in progress, published), by “smart” folders, etc.

Create CSS style sheets that can be applied at will. (Yes, you can already hand-create CSS for individual documents.)

Tags.

I don’t mean to look a gift horse in the mouth, except I entirely do.

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5 Comments »

May 20, 2009

Vegetarian whine

A fancy restaurant that assures a diner that it can take care of vegetarians and then serves a plate of side-dish vegetables as the main course:

1. Has an incompetent chef.
2. Ought to be ashamed of its lack of imagination.
3. Is as embarrassingly ignorant about vegetarianism as they would be if they reassured a diabetic that they don’t cook with diabetes.
4. Is doing the equivalent of serving a grilled cheese sandwich or a plate of Ritz crackers and peanut butter, except that either of those would be preferable.

Note that this is not a multiple choice question.

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3 Comments »

January 11, 2009

Snow grinch

“Oh, I just love snow”

Fine. You can have all of mine. Here’s a shovel.

Me, I don’t care for the stuff. Sure, I liked sledding when I was a kid, because sledding takes all the skill of falling down, and, by the way, works on the same basic principle. But now, slipping downward without the ability to stop is pretty much just a description of living day to day, except sledding is colder.

As for all that great cardiovascular exercise that shoveling is supposed to give you: Then why don’t you see snow shoveling machines in health clubs? The answer is simple: It’s. Bad. For. You.

Yes, snow is pretty. See, I’m open minded. And then, after a couple of hours of city traffic, the pretty snow is like the white handkerchief a doctor has a smoker blow through to show the damage the tobacco is doing. Snow is white so that it can display the city’s sputum ever so much more clearly.

Bah.

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7 Comments »

November 17, 2008

$1,080 an hour

From 8:02 until 8:58 this morning, I was in the care of an excellent endodentist, having a root canal. At the end of that hour, I was presented with a bill for $1,080, a number I associate more with high definition TVs than with hourly wages.

My endodentist was excellent. She’s highly skilled and had great chair-side manner, narrating each step, and preparing me for every delightful little surprise ( “You’ll feel a dull thud as I jam this this phillips-head screwdriver into your tooth, handle first.” “The smell of your own body burning may be a little pungent.”) I am old enough to remember when root canal was the standard measure of pain, just as “the length of a football field” is the standard measure of distance and “as many books as in the Library of Congress” is the standard measure of volume, so I have no complaints about a procedure that has become merely uncomfortable with occasional sharp twinges.

But $1,080 an hour? In Boston, that’s seems to be the going rate, albeit at the high end. On the other hand, after dental insurance, it only cost me $1,080….because there’s no practical way for me to get dental insurance.

I seriously don’t understand the pricing model. The endodentist is part of my dentist’s general practice. She shares the facilities and uses the same rooms. There doesn’t seem to be a whole lot of complex special equipment involved, outside of some rasps, a keyhole saw, and a cash register. She’s had some specialized training, but are root canals really that much more complex than the range of procedures my general dentist can do, from reconstructing a tooth to diagnosing gum problems? Meanwhile, the endodentist is in danger of getting repetitive stress syndrome from doing the same motions — drill, scrape, fill, phone her broker — over and over.

Is it pure scarcity that drives the prices up? At those prices, why is there a scarcity? And why aren’t other dental procedures broken off and priced as exorbitantly? Or is this a residue of the days when root canals were so painful that people wanted to feel like they were getting their money’s worth? [Tags: ]

16 Comments »

October 12, 2008

Applications folder crashes Finder. Re-installed OS X.

Clicking on my Applications folder crashes Finder every time. I have: Nuked the finder plist. Nuked Library/Caches. Nuked the folder’s .DS_Store. Repaired permissions. Used Drive Magician to check the hard drive. Did a fsck. Entered single-user mode and watched it hang as I tried to access that folder via the command line. Nothing worked. So I reinstalled OS X, using the “archive” option, which put my old installation into a folder. The Application folder within the archive still crashes Finder. This is a pain in the butt because it means I can’t transfer my old apps into my new Applications folder.

Plus, I’m really curious about what’s going on. Any ideas?

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[LATER: System.log here.]

15 Comments »

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