Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Randomness for September 26, 2006

Random Quote: From "The Red Green Show"
Red Green: You know, the ancient Romans brewed beer, Harold. In fact, every great Western civilization brewed beer. Did you know that?
Harold: Yes, I did. And did you know that, at some point, every great civilization collapsed? Connection, perhaps?
Red Green: Harold, if it's good enough for Julius Caesar, it's good enough for Possum Lodge.
Harold: Veni, vidi, vomiti. I came, I saw, I ralphed

Question of the Moment: Is it time to go home yet? (Answer: "No")

Current Mood: tired
Current Music: Everclear, "Amphetamine," So Much for the Afterglow


Finally! I've been trying to get the IT department here to give one of the new students the right directory permissions to the department's server space so I can fully hand over the department's webmaster job to him. And I've been getting bounced from one person to another, getting different (and sometimes contradictory) instructions from each. But, I finally think we have worked it out and he has the permissions he needs. He's going to test it out this afternoon and let me know. With any (good) luck, we should be good to go and I can go back to concentrating on the other projects I'm working on.

Now, I just need one of my other clients to pay me . . .

Monday, September 25, 2006

There's Just No Changing Some People's Minds

I had the fun experience of trying to convince someone that Islam is, in fact, not a religion of violence, unlike Christianity which is a religion of peace. This was all precipitated when someone made a comment, saying that the Muslim reaction to the Pope's comments the other week only went show the "violent and intolerant nature" of Islam. I agreed with this person when it came to radical Islam, but I took exception to the fact that they were generalizing this to the entire faith. I tried to make the point that it was extremists who had taken Islam and perverted it into something evil and destructive for their own purposes. I pointed out the fact that Christianity could also be called a religion of violence based on things like the Protestant/Catholic wars, the Spanish inquisition, the Crusades, and the carte blanche given to European explorers in return for spreading Christianity around the world. These things have lead to the deaths of untold millions of people. And they were all authorized, in their time, by various popes. (Talk about a conversational hand grenade!)

They countered with "that was all in the past" and that unlike the majority of the world's religions, Islam is the only whose scripture actively called for "conversion at the point of the sword." Despite what so many people seem to think, the Qur`an is actually quite clear on the point that there is "no compulsion in religion" when it comes to conversion (SAQ 2:256). When it does talk about violence against non-believers, the Qur`an says that Muslims are to never start it and should cease all hostilities as soon as their attackers do. I even went so far as to point out a number of occasions in the Bible that violence is urged against non-Christians. (Oops! Hear that? There's another pin being pulled!) They came back, saying that I didn't know what I was talking about and that regardless of what might be actually said in the Qur`an, Islam is not practiced that way. I pointed out that what we hear about Islam from the media is biased toward what will sell (i.e. - the violent extremists) and that they might want to actually talk to some Muslims and see if the violent side of Islam is practiced by a majority or not. And here came the lines about "yeah, but look at all the leaders who preach violence" and whatnot. Great - now we've reached the point of circular logic.

While I could have gone on with particular "discussion," I decided to let it go because they were not going to even admit that they might be wrong. And to be fair, I will admit it. I might be wrong. I don't think I am, and everything in my experience and my education (both in school and outside) tell that I'm right, but that is not an absolute. As much I might like to claim that I'm omnipotent and all-knowing, I simply can't. But I am willing to admit as much; they were not. I tried but there's only so much I can say to someone like that.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

To the Young Woman in the Honda Civic

To the young woman in the Honda Civic behind me on the way into work this morning:

I like the rear bumper of my truck right where it is, thank you very much. I know you feel that your schedule (and probably every aspect of your life) is more important than anyone else's, but this does not (thanks to Journey for pointing out the fact that I missed a very important word here!) give you the right to tailgate me at 45 mph. A hint for you, young lady, if you're close enough I can't see your headlights, you're too damn close! Yes, I know that traffic was bad, what with the accident about a mile and a half back and all, but really. (By the way, did you notice the fact that said accident was probably caused by someone tailgating? No? I guess you were too busy thinking about yourself.) Do you really think that riding my bumper is going to make me go faster? If anything, I'm going to slow down and pace someone in the other lane just to piss you off. And when I do finally let you get by, please make sure that you actually get over into the other lane before you floor it. Like I said, I'm quite happy with the placement and condition of my bumper and I don't need you to help me adjust it.

If I haven't made myself perfectly clear by now, here's something I know you'll be able to understand: FUCK OFF AND DIE, BITCH!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Just Wrong

I just saw someone who was eating "soy jerky". Somehow, this seems wrong to me. I guess it's correct in a strict etymological sense in that "jerk" has come to refer not just to dried meat but also to the marinate itself. That aside, however, I still think the idea of soy jerky is just wrong.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

I Suddenly Feel Old

One of my colleagues stopped by with a handout she was given yesterday at a class for new teachers. It points out that most of the kids entering college this fall were born in 1988. It then goes on to list 75 things which illustrate the generational gap between them and us ("us" in this case primarily being people born in 1980 or before). While I won't list them all (with their numbers on the list), here are a few of my personal favorites:

1. The Soviet Union never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.

9. A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents'.

11. A coffee has always taken longer to make than a milkshake.

15. They have never had to distinguish between the St. Louis Cardinals baseball and football teams.

19. "Google" has always been a verb.

21. Milli Vanilli has never had anything to say.

24. Madden has always been a game, not a Superbowl-winning coach.

36. They have rarely mailed anything using a stamp.

55. They have always had access to their own credit cards.

62. Acura, Lexus, and Infiniti have always been luxury cars of choice.

66. Dolphin-free canned tuna has always been on sale.

67. Disposable contact lenses have always been available.

72. Richard M. Daley has always been the major of Chicago.

74. Ringo Starr has always been clean and sober.

75. Professional athletes have always competed in the Olympics.

This list is put out every year by Beloit College. See the complete list and lists from previous years here.

Maybe I'm A Conspiracy Nut . . . Or Maybe Not

Am I the only one who has noticed that, in the week or so leading up to the mid-term election primaries, gas prices have suddenly dropped? There is a part of me convinced that is not just coincidence. I'm thinking that the oil companies dropped their prices as a favor to W and the GOP. If people aren't constantly pissed off at how much they have to pay at the pump, does it help Republican candidates running for office this year? I don't know, I simply raise the question.

But, let's consider a few things here:
1. There was recently another war in the Middle East, in addition to the various other on-going wars. Violence in the Middle East never helps oil prices go down. Basic concept of supply and demand. Demand stays high (or even goes higher), but the supply goes down with an increase in violence. Result: prices go up.

2. W is from an oil family and many big oil friends. Okay - so this one is a little old and tired, but there is some truth here. One of the most basic human impulses is that of self-preservation. Which in today's world usually means economic self-preservation. I just don't really see an oil man wanting to lower gas prices. Doesn't make sense.

3. The bp pipeline in Alaska has been closed down. Back to that whole troublesome supply and demand thing.

Maybe it's just me (and I freely admit that I'm a historian, not an economist so I may not have all the facts or understand all the nuances here), but none of this seems to add up to gas prices going down. So what is the explanation? I still wonder if has something to do with the elections coming up in a few weeks.

Sidenote: VOTE! I won't tell you who or what to vote for, but I will tell you to actually get up off the couch and go vote. And don't even think about giving me any of that "One vote doesn't matter" crap! Arizona held our primary elections yesterday and there was actually a proposition which was decided by ONE vote! (Peoria Prop. 400, see it toward the bottom of this page).

Anyway, I have now done my part. I've pulled the pin on the political/conversational hand-grenade and lobbed it! Let the fall out begin!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Customer Service

A few weeks back I needed to download a full copy of Real Player so I could edit some audio files for my thesis defense. Unfortunately, they make you give them you credit card information to get the 14-day free trail. You the know - the one you have to cancel before day 14 to keep them from charging you $15 a month for the program. Fine - I needed the software and this was the easiest way to get it on short notice. So, I signed up, got the software, did my audio editing and all was happy with the world.

Until today.

When I went to cancel it so I wouldn't get charged.

Despite what it looks like on their site, Real Player will not let you cancel online. Oh no, you have to call them up to do it. Fuck it, fine. I call them and get placed on hold (of course!). Now, normally, I can deal with being placed on ignore (what I call "hold"), but the "music" they had playing made me want to shove an ice-pick through my ear-drum! We're talking worse than elevator music. After about two minutes of this, I get transferred to someone. Two problems. One, he is very obviously from India or Bangladesh or some other country in that part of the world. This makes it a little hard to understand what he's saying because he has a very thick accent. Now, I had a roommate who was from Bangladesh, so I have some experience deciphering accents from that part of the world. Even so, holy fuck! I could barely understand him! Second problem, he was obviously in a very large room filled with people who were also talking with Indian/Bangladeshi accents. So we have a heavy accent and a lot of back ground noise. Great. Just fucking great.

Now, with that context in mind, here's pretty much how the call went. When I tell him I want to cancel this subscription, we have to go through the whole "verifying ID" crap. You try spelling out "roguehistorian" (which, of course, with the logon name I had used for registering to get the software in the first place) to someone who does not speak or understand English very well. Once we have established that I am, in fact, me, he asks me to explain why I want to cancel (corporate research and all that). I tell him I no longer need the program and don't feel like spending $15 a month for something I am not going to use. So, of course, he offers me a free month. No. I just want you to cancel the account and leave me the fuck alone! (OK, so I didn't say the second half of that sentence, but I sure thought it!) On the plus side, I did just receive the email which confirms they have cancelled the account, so hopefully I won't get charged for it in a few days.

I understand the idea of outsourcing low-level jobs to cut costs and (theoretically) save customers money. But when you hire people who just end up pissing off customers . . . Maybe it's just me, but this seems like a bad business practice.

I have mentioned in other posts that I am a fan of Foamy, the neurotic squirrel. There is an episode on exactly this sort of experience. Check out Tech Support at Friends of Foamy and you'll see how I felt after this whole damn thing.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Randomness for September 7, 2006

Random Quote:
"I have never let my schooling interfere with my education." ~ Mark Twain

Question of the Moment:
Do I really have to read Rousseau? (The answer, unfortunately, is "yes")

Current Mood: Annoyed (the whole Rousseau thing)
Current Music: Emmylou Harris & Mark Knopfler, "This Is Us," All the Road Running

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Best Weekend Ever. Period.

Sorry about the lack of posts in the last little bit, but once you hear what this long weekend entailed, I think you'll forgive me. And I think it's safe to say that this was the best weekend I've ever had. Let's start at the beginning (i.e. Friday), shall we?

My thesis defense. Over the last two years or so I have been working on writing my M.A. thesis. After a series very aggravating back-and-forths with the University over paperwork which had disappeared ("poof!" gone!), I finally got everything settled and was prepared to defend. Most of the defenses I've been to been have lasted 30 to 45 minutes. Mine ran 1 hour and 15 minutes. But, I passed . . . with revisions. Which means there's still a little work to do, but since I've only ever heard of one person passing without revisions, I still consider it a win for me. Finally! This is a good way to end the week/start the weekend.

A (short) vacation. This is the first vacation I've really had in about 18 months. Oh sure, there's been the trips back to Colorado to see the family during the holidays, but I don't really count that as a vacation as there is not always a lot of relaxing going on. But this weekend was different. My girlfriend, April, and I planned to go down to Bisbee for the long weekend. A chance to actually see my girlfriend and relax at the same time. This almost never happens. You have no idea how much I've been looking forward to this! So, we head down to Bisbee, find our hotel, grab dinner at a pretty good "Mexican" (really Sonoran) place, go back to our room, . . . and promptly pass out. We've both had long weeks and are tired. Sleep is good.

Wandering around downtown Bisbee. Not that there's all that much of downtown Bisbee to wander around, but it's still fun to just stroll along and stop in any shop which catches our fancy. We even managed to find some Christmas presents for various family members. The weather was kind of grey and overcast. Absolutely beautiful.

Diner at Cafe Roka. Probably considered the nicest place in Bisbee and food certainly supports that. Great food, excellent service, and an absolutely stunning woman. What else could I ask for?

A slow start to the day and a little more wandering around town. We then had reservations for the Queen Mine van tour. It was just the two of us and the tour guide, a former miner from Bisbee. We got driven around the area and got the mining history of Bisbee and the surrounding communities. We also had the tickets for the underground mine tour. Naturally, it was very cool - both what we saw and the temperature. It's only about 47 degrees F underground, so I was not overly surprised when, toward the end of the tour, April kind off cuddled up and said she was cold. I do the good boyfriend thing and put my arm around her and try to warm her up. That's when she surprised me. She looked up and then ask, "Would you marry me?"

I said "Yes".

The Rest of Sunday and Monday
Spent in a bit of a happy daze. We had diner Sunday night at the Bisbee Grille, which was a little slow, but we weren't in any hurry so it was okay. Monday morning we got up and had breakfast at the Bisbee Breakfast Club, a little breakfast diner down the road a little bit. Good diner breakfast (which probably isn't all that good for you, but sure was tasty and far better than the fruit and toast they had at the hotel. From there, we headed back to Tucson, wandered around the mall, and had lunch. Unfortunately, I had to head back up here to the Valley.

So, let's recap the weekend:
1. Thesis successfully defended
2. A weekend in Bisbee with April
3. Nice weather for wandering around town
4. A great diner at a nice restaurant, with a beautiful woman
5. A couple of fun tours
6. April and I got engaged

Seriously, best weekend ever!