Monday, April 28, 2008

Request for Software

I want a software product that will intercept my incoming emails, and anywhere there are multiple exclamation points or question marks, convert the characters to one single exclamation point or question mark. THEN, at the bottom of the message, a note should be appeneded, inidicating the replacement took place.

Ideally the app could magically work with any email viewer I use (Outlook 2003, Ooutlook 2007, OWA, Windows Mobile 6, The Bat v3), but if it only worked within Outlook 2003 and 2007 I could tolerate that.

If the app lived on the Exchange 2003 server that might be tolerable, but it would have to only affect my mailbox as opposed to all mailboxes, and even then I doubt I'd have the courage, daring, or permission from above to install it to the production email server.

This could actually be an app that many people would find useful. I'm declaring here and now that I'd offer $15 for it.

I'm simply tired of receiving emails from specific individuals that ALWAYS use ??? or !!! or ??!, !?!, !!!! in every!! message !!! they send!!!!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Feels like a Sunday Morning

I woke up this morning at 5:50am. For no reason at all; I just woke up. For about 10-15 minutes I tried to go back to sleep, and then gave up and decided to see if I could find anything interesting to watch on TV.

I started on channel 2, and had made my way through the program guide into the hundreds wothout finding anything. I was nearly ready to give up when I came across a Woody Allen movie I don't think I'd ever heard of. It was called 'Melinda and Melinda', from 2004.

Ordinarily I'd have passed this up, but as there was nothing else on, and nothing to do that early on a Saturday morning, I pulled up the Info page on the movie to investigate. I like some Woody Allen, and find other Woody Allen films boring, so the fact it was Woody Allen was only slightly intriguing. The summary of the plot didn't interest me, but the info page mentioned two actors in the movie. I'd never heard of the female lead, but Wallace Shawn was the other name mentioned, and I like him, so I decided to give the movie a shot.

As it turns out, having missed the first twenty or so minutes, I only saw Wallace Shawn for about 2 minutes in the rest of the movie. And the movie was really more like 2 different movies, spliced together. Piecing together the very last scene (that did have Wallace Shawn) and the summary description, I think the idea is there are two guys (directors, maybe?) that each describe the way they would approach a movie or play about a particular woman and her lovelife. One chooses a dramatic, intense, and ultimately sad portrayal, while the other goes for cute, funny, and whimsical.

The movie that I watched is the two different takes, showing some from one style, and then scenes from the other, switching among the two every few minutes. I found the dramatic story to be a little bit dull and cloying. I very much enjoyed the lighter story.

Sometime in the late-90's I registered at the Internet Movie Database and began rating movies on a scale of 1 to 10. A few years later, Jessica pointed out to me that I almost always assign a rating of 7 to every movie I see. After watching the movie this morning, I wanted to give it a 7.

Lying in bed I thought about this. I see two ways to look at this. It could be that I seldom rate movies a low score, because I have very good judgement, and successfully avoid rotten movies. OR, it could be that I'm too risk-averse, and only choose safe movies that I know I'll like, potentially preventing myself from seeing anything that would be adventurous and ultimately more rewarding.

For example, Melinda and Melinda starred Will Farrell. It also had a bit role by Steve Carrell. I never liked Will Farrell in SNL, and every movie I've ever seen him in has looked very, very stupid. (Except for one, where some fiction writer is writing his life. That looked good, but I haven't seen it yet.)

If this movie had been presented to me as a Will Farrell movie, I'd have never given it a chance. But as things worked out, I liked his character the best, and he had the only two really funny lines in the movie.

I noticed something else interesting to me as well. In the movie, there are two instances of interracial dating. In each case, a white woman dates a black man. I think I've seen this in other movies as well as TV. In nearly every filmed case of this I can think of, the couple is a white woman and a black man. I can only think of one instance of a white man dating a black woman (Firefly and the Firefly movie, Serenity). Curious.

Anyway, as I write this Jessica and Maren are still sleeping, Nate's dressing up in superhero costumes, the morning sunlight is streaming through the living room window, and I'm listening to a GRP Jazz Sampler CD I got years ago, on my new CD player. (Thanks Mom!) It feels very much like a Sunday morning, although it's really Saturday, hence the title of the post.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Another post, from another airport.

Last weekend I flew to South Florida to celebrate my Dad's 65th BDay. About this time last Friday evening, I received an email that my office had scheduled me to travel to Atlanta yesterday morning (on a 7:15am flight) through tonight. SO, I am now sitting on the floor at gate D22 in Hartsfield-Jackson Airport. My 8:20pm flight from ATL to Newark, NJ, was delayed until 10:58pm, scheduled to arrive in NJ sometime around 1:45am.

Having nothing else to do after finishing my work at the client today, I explored Fry's Electronics for about an hour (we don't have those in NJ). I then drove to the airport, returned the rental car, and began puttering around the airport at about 6:30 or 7:00pm.

Around 8pm I went to Friday's for dinner. ( TIP: A Security Agent offered me the very nice tip that there are more dining options in terminals A & B, as opposed to C, D, and E. If you're ever in the Atlanta airport looking for a bite, maybe this will help you too. )

While waiting for my meal, I got a phone call from home. My 3-year-old daughter was crying hysterically because she missed me and wanted me to come home. She settled down when I assured her I'd be home when she woke up. (So, to whatever crew is flying my plane and working Air Traffic control, you better not make me a liar!)

I finished my dinner, and proceeded to walk to my gate at a very leisurely pace. While on a very, very long escalator, I overheard a conversation behind me. A lady was telling a man about her family, including 3 children. Her husband returned home from Iraq this morning, and she was on her way to reunite with him. She mentioned that this was his second tour of duty over there. The first tour was 18 months, and the once concluded today was 13.5 months.

Maren was distraught after I'd been gone for 2 days.

Monday, April 07, 2008

The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

(Typing this from Gate C3 at Fort Lauderdale Airport, Florida.)

The Good
Pursuant to my CD Organization project, described earlier, I've been trying to track down another one or two large CD binders. I've got about 100 more CDs to be filed, and am out of space in the binders I already own. The last time I bought these binders was June, 2003. Since then, Case Logic has changed the construction of their large binder, and the current model (still carrying the same model name/number) seems to me to be of much lower quality, has fewer features, and is ugly. My other cases are from The These don't appear to be in-stock anywhere, online or brick-and-mortar, and their website reports 'out-of-stock' for every product I checked. Also, I think the last time the website was updated was 2003. I don't believe that company is still operating. I've scoured the web for the old-stock model of the Case Logic case for two or three weeks and come up empty. I've checked every electronics or music retailer anywhere near me, and found no CD binders of decent quality. I almost traveled 90 minutes to South Jersey to see if I could find anything satisfactory.

The reason our return flight from Florida this weekend was scheduled for today instead of yesterday (Sunday) was that our birthday present to my Dad was a family portrait session including him. This morning we woke up early, and went with my Dad to Sears, where we visited the Portrait Studio and had a batch of professional photos taken.

The service was pretty slow, and N & M immediately got out of control. To short-circuit the sibling friction, I grabbed M and took her for a walk through the store while her Mom & her Zayde went through the tedious and slow process of reviewing the photos and selecting what to buy.

Naturally, my first stop (after letting Maren grab a rolling Dora suitcase to play with) was the Electronics department. I'd been unwilling to get my hopes up, but I looked at the aisle with the CD cases, and this Sears, located at the Town Center mall in Boca Raton, FL, had FOUR of the Case Logic case that is out of production and that I've been searching for. I snapped up two of them. Each case hold about 112 CDs, with their liner notes; I figure I'll fill one up with what I own now. It's taken me 22 years to accumulate the ~600 CDs I have now, including high school, college, time spent working at a Music Store, and time spent working at a radio station. That's an average of about 27 CDs/year. (Wow, I wouldn't have thought I'd purchased at nearly that high a rate!) I very much doubt I'll run out of capacity now, ever. (Although, having done the math I'm not so confident now.)

Finding these binders way down in South Florida has made my day. This was GOOD.

The BAD:
For a long time, I've thought there is nothing I can think of that I wouldn't rather do than yardwork. However, I've also despised air travel ever since puberty. Air travel is simply the most horrible experience that occurs in allegedly civilized life. Currently going through it again, with two young, cranky children and a wife short on patience, has me convinced that I prefer yardwork to commercial air travel.

: The opposite of the scenery in South Florida. Granted, I don't like South Florida. I especially displike Miami. I like New Orleans. I like the brief time I've spent in Tennessee, and I like the Orlando area, so I'm not anti-south. BUT, having spent a weekend in the Fort Lauderdale area at the beginning of spring, I can say with no doubt at all that UGLY is the opposite of South Florida. And, all decorum aside, (LOW CLASS ALERT!), South Florida must be the world capital of beautiful women and cleavage. The weekend was stressful, but it wasn't ugly!

Correction to the previous post.

In my previous post I stated that my observation, gleaned from overheard chatter, was that many of the guests at the reunion I attended over this past weekend that represented my parents' generation seemed to favor John McCain, then Hillary Clinton, and then Barak Obama, in the upcoming presidential election.

I've since learned that I was wrong in my observation. I was right that almost none of that generation like Obama at all, but I've learned that most of them prefer Hillary C to John M.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

A generational thing?

This past weekend I had the pleasure to visit Boca Raton, FL, to celebrate my Dad's 65th birthday. The celebration included about 30 guests, at events spanning the weekend. Disappointingly, most of my cousins and their families did not attend. My brother was present with his wife and daughter, and one of my cousins attended, with one of his sons. Otherwise, all of the guests were of my father's generation - aunts, uncles, and friends.

Now, in my usual circles, it's pretty much a no-brainer that in the upcoming presidential campaign, of the remaining candidates, anybody would be better than McCain, and Barak Obama is the obvious choice.

Surprisingly to me, among the chatter I heard this past weekend in a crowd that was almost entirely of my parent's generation, the sense I got was that McCain was the obvious first choice, and anyone with half-a-brain could see that Obama was the worst thing that could ever happen.

I think the contrast is interesting.

The guests at this gathering weren't unintelligent, or uneducated people. They weren't evil. I simply can't reconcile these people's political opinions with my opinions of their intelligence and character, and my beliefs and opinions of the state of the world today and our present government and politicians.

One other thing I found notable is that it seemed to me that a prevailing belief among the group was that authoritative national and world news came from Fox, CNN, and maybe MSNBC. I don't trust the presentation of the news from any of those sources, least of all Fox, the network that habitually identifies Republicans as Democrats whenever reporting on a scandal involving a Republican Congresscritter.

I believe a more truthful and factual representation of the news can be obtained from Rolling Stone, The Daily Show/Colbert Report, Google News, and actually sitting, reading, and comprehending most newspapers. I've got biases just like anybody else, routinely reading Huffington Post, and occasionally Slate or Salon, but I like to think I can recognize bias in the articles I read, even if it supports my opinion. For example, a while ago I tried listening to Air America when it was carried by Sirius Satellite Radio. After a day or two I was completely turned off by the channel. Yes, it espoused the views and opinions I shared, and bashed the people and groups I oppose, but the tone and characterizations were juvenile aqnd hateful, just like the rantings of malevolent windbags like Rush Limbaugh or Hannity. The point is, I didn't like that sort of behavior even if it was 'on my side'.

Personally, I think any clear-thinking person with even a shred of intelligence or simple human compassion or empathy recognizes immediately that the current occupier of the White House is without a doubt the worst president our country has ever suffered through, and is also a contender for the most dangerous person alive today. I think the damage done to our Nation, if at all repairable, will take literally generations to repair.

I lost all respect for McCain after 2000, when he completely sold out his principals and became Bush's biggest boot-licker and yes-man. I think McCain becoming the next president would extend the current administrations practices and priorities for another term. I already have doubts our country can ever return to what used to be an America based on the rule of law and the US Constitution. If McCain becomes President, there's no way we'll ever get any of that back.

So he's out. Not at all an acceptable choice.

Hillary seems to be the type that will say or do anything to become President, and it seems to me she wants the job more so that she can be President than for any other reason. I don't like her, and I don't trust her. BUT, I think her agenda probably/hopefully aligns with mine, at least somewhat, so if she gets the nod against McCain I'd unenthusiastically vote for her.

That leaves Obama. I don't know much in-dpeth about him. BUT, I also haven't seen or heard anything substantive about him that I don't like. I think it's unfair to judge him because of some association with somebody else. I think it's ridiculously immature to judge him due to his NAME, and I think it's childish and bigoted to oppose him because of a suspicion that he's a Muslim. I don't believe he is, and even if he was indeed a Muslim, so what?

Listening to or reading his speeches gives me more of a feeling of hope than I've ever felt from any politician in my lifetime. After everything the Republicans have done to our country over the 30 years or so, I usually feel very despondent and discouraged when thinking about national and world politics. It's very, very refreshing to feel a sense of hope. I've never tried mood-altering drugs - no cocaine, no heroin, not even Tylenol with Codeine. BUT, I definitely felt uplifted when I heard Obama speak at the 2004 Democratic Convention, or when I read his speech on race relations last month.

Maybe Obama is just a better used-car salesman than the others, and he'll prove to be jsut as much of a lyinbg dirtbag as the others. But their generation has had it's chances to improve our world, and we're in worse shape than we've ever been. Continuing the status quo, as I believe either Hillary or McCain would do, is unacceptable. If Obama is taking a chance, I think there's no other choice but to take the chance.

For the record, among all of the candidates that were originally running, I'd have preferred:

* Dodd
* Richardson
* Edwards
* Kucinich

over any of those still running, but sadly they're no longer a choice.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Another Kids say the darndest things

Blog entry – April 3, 2008

A few quick things before I forget them entirely. I've had an unusually, hellishly busy time for the last two weeks, and haven't had a chance to update this here.

1)A couple of weeks ago I undertook an enormous project to organize and neatly store my large CD collection. As I wrote previously, as soon as the project was done, my CD player broke. Then something very nice happened – my Mom offered to buy me a new CD player to replace the old. Thank you Mom! Now, the old player performed well for 17 years. So far, the new player is 4 days old, but it's shown no problems yet! And Maren and I were able to listen to Magical Mystery Tour, Revolver, and also the newest Joe Jackson album. Unprompted, Maren told me she likes the new Joe Jackson song Rush Across the Road – looks like she's got uncommonly good taste.

2)Work has been busier than it's ever been, and very, very frustrating. Last Monday I visited a client for a 1-2 day project. Ideally it would have been one day, but there was a small possibility the job would run into a second day. Another client engagement was scheduled for Thursday. Then, yet another project was scheduled for this past Monday. All three projects ran into major problems – two due to a Microsoft software bug that I've been working on with Microsoft Support since Friday morning, with no solution found yet, and the thrid due to miscommunication between the client and the salesman. NOW, I've got 3 clients in bad situations, with systems not working, and I had to hop on a plane for a previously scheduled family trip. I wrote things up as well as I could and handed things off to a coworker, but I'm not happy about the situation.

3)Now for the good part, the episode that makes everything worthwhile. Sunday evening I needed to drive out to my office to pick something up. The drive to the office is about 40 minutes, so this wasn't a minot excursion. Nate went with me for the ride, and while we were out near my office we went to a restaurant out by the office. On the way home I had to stop for my weekly give-the-oil-barons-more-money event, and Nate asked me “what happens when the gas pump runs out of gas?” I explained that there are holes in the ground at the gas station, and a large gas truck routinely brings more gas to the station. When the truck arrives, a large hose is connected to the gas tanker at one end, and the other end is placed in the hole, and the gas then flows from the tanker truck into the underground tank at the gas station. This led to an explanation of oil drilling platforms, gasoline refiniries, other petroleum-based products, all the way back to dinosaurs. The conversation wasn't brief, but anyone that knows me can't find that surprising. A few minutes later, Nate said from the backseat “Dad, that's why I like you so much.” I asked him what he was talking about, and he replied that when he asks me a question, I don't just answer him, I give a whole story!