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Musings and Meanderings

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Some fun Links
Thanks to SJ's Daily Illuminator

Turns out the mammals weren't the wimps we thought they were. We live-birthers have been giving lizards what-for for 130 million years. That, or the Repenomamus giganticus has traveled back through time to alter history. If so, New Scientist has those parts of the story that the timeline has promulgated forward.

Plasma lights are neat . . . but in the past 20 years they've gone from museum pieces to dime-store novelties, getting smaller and cheaper rather than bigger and more beautiful. But here's something different. Aurora Studios is fusing art and technology to get past merely "neat" and head toward "breathtaking."

Technically it's not a robot, because it's tele-operated, but it's got a gun and it's on its way to a place where it can shoot and be shot at. Read the Yahoo story.

Booz Allen Hamilton is looking for a teleport test engineer . What does the job entail? All they'll say at career builder is that the required travel is "not specified."

Look at the teeny powerful Mac! We may have to get some of these around the office. The Mac mini is a powerful machine in a tiny little box, and it will work with the peripherals that many people already have on their systems . . .

It's understandable that the builders of Stonehenge are long gone and therefore hard to track down, but when the same thing happens in the late 70s and we still can't get a handle on it, it's embarrassing. Some guy managed to erect The Georgia Guidestones without anyone really sitting up and taking notice. You may as well read what he had to say, just in case he comes back to take an active hand fulfilling his dire admonitions.
posted by Mike 11:42 PM

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

A bit of funny

Got this from MW via Judy via Priscilla via..

Happy Inauguration Day

Bush is my shepherd; I dwell in want.
He maketh logs to be cut down in national forests.
He leadeth trucks into the still wilderness.
He restoreth my fears.
He leadeth me in the paths of international disgrace for his ego's sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of pollution and war, I will find
no exit, for thou art in office. Thy tax cuts for the rich and thy media
control, they discomfort me.
Thou preparest an agenda of deception in the presence of thy religion.
Thou anointest my head with foreign oil.
My health insurance runneth out.
Surely megalomania and false patriotism shall follow me all the days of
thy term, And my jobless child shall dwell in my basement forever.
posted by Mike 6:47 PM

Sunday, January 23, 2005

The Big Storm

Dropped about 8 to 10 inches around my house. The wind overnight Saturday to Sunday was amazing, and left channels in the show around the house.

A couple of kids from the neighborhood got paid 10 bucks to do the initial shoveling, the walkway and the sidewalk, but I was left with the odious task of digging out my car and clearing the street to the curb for the cars.

Took about an hour, and my back is sore needless to say.

The Big Games

I use the Digital Video Recorder we get from Time Warner to record an entire football game and then I FF through the waits, the commercials, time outs and all the other stuff that causes a 60 min game to take 3.5 hrs. Actually just watching only the plays, you can get through a game in like 45 min becuase the clock runs between downs a lot of the time.

Anyway kudo's to the Eagles to finally getting to the SuperBowl. Hope they do better than when the Raiders beat them up 27 - 10 back in the 80's. As for New England.. sornesville... this is getting to be like the Cowboys or the Yankees. I like some different people to have their day in the sun, but no question that the Rookie QB for the Steelers was not ready for the big game.

So NE and Phili in Jacksonville. I'd say NE again. Just a feeling from watching both teams, though they both have amazing defences.
posted by Mike 11:48 PM

Friday, January 21, 2005

End of the week

Well the week is finally over. What's the longest week in the year. Trick question. It's the one after a vacation. Well I've been on a 10 month vacation.

This is by the way a back-blog as I call it, being written on Sunday night in order to keep my resolution of posting at least every other day. Just didn't get to it on Friday.....

Anyway the week ended well with me in Randy's office discussing marketing and the "Bill Factor" till about 6pm. They hooked me up with one of their existing laptops yesterday and today they got it all fixed up so I could access their servers from the internet where ever I was, as long as I have an internet connection. However when I got home it didn't work... Otherwise it's very nice, a compaq, big screen running Windows XP Pro.

The gist of the after work discussion was that he is grudginly giving Bill enough rope to hang himself. He will let him run some appointments, with the forgone conclusion that he will not acquit himself well in the field in regards to closeing etc. I'm not so sure myself, Bill may have some closing skills, and the level their marketing is at this time is such that many of the leads are really "gimmie's", so prequalified that they are nearly asking for the order before we get there. Not too hard to close.

Alex and I rented a really horrible movie, on which I thought might be good from the trailers. It was Resident Evil 2: Apocolypse. Bottom line is the characters in the movie do lots of really stupid "slasher" type things, walking alone in buildings, you get the drift. Just dumb. Alex laughed at the parts that were supposed to be scary. I was just bored.

Liza is in Cincinnati, haveing headed out Thu afternoon for her annual "Roadmap" meeting at the home office. She gets back on Sunday. I was going to have chicken for dinner, but I left the bag at the store and didn't want to drive all the way back.. so I had lefovers. Yea I know, that is the smallest violin you have there playing my heart bleeds for you....

Oh and Randy handed me a wireless router and card for the laptop so we are "G" now in the home. Woo hoo, technology gets me so hot...
posted by Mike 11:56 PM

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

No closure.

If you are reading this a few days at a time and didn't read the Monday piece, drop down to that and read it.

Ok did you do that? Good.

No closure in the situation with the "other guy". In all fairness Randy is doing all he can to keep the guy from bolting, but it goes down wrong for me personally. I think he should be sat down and told the facts of life for the immediate future. The longer it goes on I feel the less good it looks when the reality sets in.

Anyway, spent some time on appointments the last two days. We have done a remote backup presentation, a phone system presentation, and had a couple of duds. The duds were set by the telemarketer, so that does not bode well. If Randy is running his personal leads, and I run mine and Bill's, and if Bill's are not good, this will cause some problems as well.

I have been spending the rest of the time in the office cramming my head with information. We have some presentations tomorrow as well starting right at 8am with the final decision maker for a phone system.

Bitter Bitter COLD

The temperatures have been BRUTAL here in the Northeast the last few days and will continue on for a week at least. We are talking highs that don't break 10 degress and lows below 0! Really cuts to the bone, and causes real drafts in this old house. Oh well, it IS the natural effect of the solstice, all that cooling and short daylight hours ends up hitting us the 4 to 6 weeks after the 25th of December. By Mid February it will be back to just cold, below freezing but above 15.
Stop laughing Californians!

Inauguration Tomorrow

I am sorry but it is absolutely appalling that this "war time President" is not reimbursing the District of Columbia for the costs of the security for the inauguration, like every President preceding him has done. Money which is earmarked for "homeland security". I guess Pomp and Pomposity is more important than money for Police and Firefighters. What a troll.
posted by Mike 9:01 PM

Monday, January 17, 2005

First Day, New Job.

Here is a cursory blow by blow of my first day at Technical Business Systems. It snowed two inches last night so I got up at 6:30 to get showered and dressed and clean off the car etc. Went ahead and did the shoveling as well as I knew it would be after dark by the time I got back.

Thank god it was MLK birthday because the roads were garbage. But because of the low traffic I was able to get to work in about 35 min, allowing me to psych up for the new job in the parking lot. The more "techie" partner arrived just after I did so I got out of the car and went into the building and the more "sales" partner was there already. His name is Randy, so it's good to remember that.

Most of all today was the beginning of what will be a huge info dump regarding networking, phone systems and other products that we sell. But we did go over other things like marketing strategies and the like.

I sat down with Randy and spent the morning beginning to go over products and services. They actually have many more things to sell than I though initially and of course that is good. We discussed sales attacks and tactics. At some point the "telemarketer" Bill came in to join us.

As we discussed things it began to dawn on me that Bill had no idea what I had really been hired for. In addition Randy did mention that Bill had been a bit pushed out of shape that he did not get a chance to at least interview for the position I filled. Randy was right however in that the man is not really qualified for outside sales yet, but he showed me to be great on the phone in the afternoon.

We went till 11:00 then I said to Bill that I wanted to chat with Randy more privately. We went over his expectations (Get him out of sales, take over sales, increase sales, then build a sales team) and I went over mine (eventual title, desire to get him out of the field, vesting in the company, the car allowance, etc.)

Being that we are an authorized IBM and HP dealer, he gets computers cheap, and I showed him how it would make more sense, because they didn't have a computer for me, to get me into a laptop so I could be more "mobile". Then around 1:00 Randy said he needed to eat and make some calls so I went out to sit with Bill and listen to him do his telemarketing thing. Asking pointed questions about how and why he did things in the guise of learning, but also so I could help make some improvements.

Then I said to Bill something to the effect "as we transition from Randy running the Leads to me running the leads I look forward to working closely with you". A total blank stare. Then he says to me "Why would you run the leads, if Randy wants out of the field, I can run the leads myself".
Oh boy. So I shut up and changed the subject. After a bit I went back into Randy's office and explained that someone had a misunderstanding as to exactly what I was doing there. I termed it in a way that it could be me that misunderstood (ie I was going to just do what Bill did and generate leads but run my own) but Randy assured me that he wanted me in the field.

Deep breath. So I suggested that Bill was not on the same sheet of music as Randy and I and that it would be cause for some problems fairly quickly unless it was ironed out. I wanted Bill to know I was there for him and to help him move along in the company too, but that I was not (as he was calling me) his "Sales Buddy". Randy agreed that once I left he would talk to Bill, after I was very clear that I didn't want it to cause Bill to quit or something rash.

Quite a first day. I like a good personnel challenge, really I do. Just wish they had brought this poor guy up to speed before I walked in the door. This is not unexpected, considering the interview process which you all pained through with me. Just something to work on in the corporate structure.
posted by Mike 6:35 PM

Saturday, January 15, 2005

10 reasons I love my new Palm Tungsten E

One of the coolest gifts I got this Christmas was from my Dad and Step-Mom. As you can see from the picture I have moved into the world of hand held "PDA's" with the gift of the Palm Tungsten E. This runs on the Palm OS software, the older of the two companies in the hand held business, still out performing the Pocket PC software of Micro$erf.

I was very excited to get it as it was part of the good Karma that was being laid down by everyone for the job I was still waiting to get. Of course it will be very handy in the day to day affairs of work, but up till now it has just been a personal info bundle that really rocks.

The biggest selling point of a Palm is it's handwriting recognition software. You write in the dark area you see above and it translates into typed text. If you are none to good at this you can even pull up a virtual keyboard and pretend type it in one letter at a time on the touch screen.

So here are some of the fun neat things (ok fun for me) that I can do with my Palm.

1) Listen to music. This palm comes with a version of RealOne. The only downside is that it only allows you to put music on a SD card so I had to wait to play with this till I got one. I acquired a 256MB card cheap off of e-Bay (till I can get a one Gig card) and now can load up a couple of CD's worth of MP3's on it. It will play in the background if you are using it, and if you leave the screen on the RealOne player after three min it shuts off the screen and leaves the music player running. Cool.

2) Read Read Read Read. The Tungsten E comes with three document readers: a Micro$erf Office "conduit" so you can import M$ documents via "Docs to Go"; an Adobe PDF reader; and the ubiquitous Palm reader. Via the Usenet there is a newsgroup that posts tons of e-Books, and you can buy and find free books everywhere on the web. Right now I'm reading all of the following when the whim takes me: the latest Economist (which I admit I have to cut and paste from the site into a Word doc, but it goes fast); The Fellowship of the Rings; and, The Art of War by Sun Tsu. In addition the Docs to go program allows me to put whatever I have in word on to the Palm, too many possibilities to go into but you get the idea.

3) Organize. Of course this is the raison d'etre for the Palm and it is only recently with bigger internal and external memory that all this other stuff can be handled. The Palm comes with some very handy features: a "memo" pad which looks like typed lists; a "notepad" which looks like virtual post it notes (you write directly on the "paper" not using the recognition program); a contact function where you can import your address books from Outlook; a To Do list where you can organize your thoughts etc. So in reality I have not written anything down on paper this year regarding "notes to self" etc. But to wrap these into one nice convenient interrelated bundle I recommend Agendus, an inexpensive program that brings all these facets together in an easy to use format, all under one program.

4) Games! Yes I said games. I have a one coming as part of the original purchase rebate but via the Usenet (warez) and some free downloads I have the following on my handheld. A killer version of Yatzee which is full color and very nice. A pinball game. Three card games. And a puzzle game.

5) A remote control. Yes I said a remote control. The PDA has an IR port and with a cool program called NoviSoft you can program your PDA to work on any of your electronic devices. Honestly the IR takes up lots of battery power so I don't use it that much, but being the techno geek I am I just had to have it.

6) An offline Web reader. I got a hold of a freeware program called "plucker" which is a website ripper (A program which goes as deep as you want in a website and puts the site on your HD) and HTML converter. This allows me to read any books that are HTML, as well as keep up on certain sites without having to be online. One such use is that I put all my favorite blogs into one "list" and Plucker grabs the site when I tell it to and I can read it from where ever I am.

7) Panache! Just look at the picture again. It's elegant and you should feel it in your hand, so there is a stylistic element here that can't be beat. Sort of the i-Pod design of Palm's. I've looked at others and they can't touch the sleek styling.

8) A world Clock. Maybe not that big of a deal to you, but when you have family in France and friends in Australia it's good to know what time it is before you call...

9) A calculator. Also included in the PalmOne package. This one is a pretty nice functional calculator that has a neat feature. You can calculate the number of days from event A to Event B. In fact I discovered that my day 16K anniversary on this planet is July 15th of this year. Cool.
10) Finally the neatest thing of all, is that all this is very portable. I can sit during commercials and read the Economist, or check a wish list of books when I am at the bookstore so I don't have to rely on my memory, or sit in bed listening to MP3's and reading The Fellowship of the Ring. I can't wait to start integrating it into my new job and really seeing my productivity soar.

So, what are you waiting for! Go get one.
posted by Mike 9:23 PM

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Fact check before exclaiming: Darfur and The Tsunami

I've been recently thinking some pretty "un PC" thoughts regarding the relief effort in South East Asia. Don't get me wrong, I think it is unbelievable the help and relief aid that has been brought to bear from governments to private citizens across the Globe. But something has been irking me for a few days now.

How come we can mobilze practially the entire planet to help out from a disaster that has claimed nearly 200,00 human lives, and will claim probably many more from disease, but we cannot bring our self to affect the latest genocide on the African Continent?

The reason for my subject heading was that until I did the research last night I was under the false impression that the genocide in the Darfur reigon of the Sudan had claimed more lives than the Tsunami in South East Asia. I was wrong. The count seems to be around 50,000 dead and rising daily with a few million homeless.....

But the point is still sound. Indeed Les Medicines sans Frontiers (Doctors without Borders) are urging people to donate to their general relief fund which goes to their work in Darfur now that they say they have enough funds to cover their work in SE Asia.

So my question is why is there such a vastly different global reaction to these two disasters?

Is it because one is the might of Mother Nature, an act of God so to speak, and one is the cruelty of man against man? Or is it because one area (albeit a bigger one) is more strategic for the world at large, while the other is ignored? (Remember what the world did for the Ruwandan Genocide, ie Nothing)

Either way the Tsunami Relief effort shows that the Global Village is willing to help out it's fellow man when faced with appalling destruction and death. The destruction of the indigenous peoples of Darfur is just as appalling, though if we are strictly counting bodies (I warned you that this would be "un Politically Correct") the SE Asia disaster has a higher count.

However, the child who has lost their parent through murder by Arab Bedoins or drowning by a Tsunami really doesn't see a difference. The family that has lost their home through flooding or haveing it forcibly pillaged does not see a difference.

How come the world does see a difference?
posted by Mike 11:40 PM

Monday, January 10, 2005

Is your day going by faster?

According to Richard Gross at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Dec. 26 earthquake that caused the massive tsunami that devastated south Asia and east Africa also redistributed the mass of the planet enough to alter the rate of the planet's spin. By 3 millionths of a second.
posted by Mike 5:28 PM

Sunday, January 09, 2005

It's S(n)o(w) Cool

Well we finally got the first real snow of the season (no surprise for my local readers). We had a lovely snow / sleet / freezing rain storm on Thursday then it slowly snowed all day Saturday. In all it put down probably another 4 to 6 inches, making the base 6 to 9 in. Funny thing is that by Thursday it should be all gone, as we have predicted here a warm 36 hours midweek below freezing accompanied by rain. The shoveling was not too bad, as it is very dry here.

I always love the first major snowfall of the year, everything nice and white, before the petrocarbons and street sludge blacken the snow, or it melts or sublimates away. We are blessed to have a great neighbor across the street who throws his brother's plow on his truck, so after the city plowed us in as per their contract (hee hee), he got all the immediate neighbors to move our cars around and got the snow pushed over to the curb.

My cup runneth over

I cannot express my deepest joy at the mass email I sent out about my getting a job, friends, family, all loved ones, responded with unprecedented volumes of emails. It was extreemly touching to get these email, some from folks I had not heard from in literally months or even years.

Thanks :-)

posted by Mike 3:18 PM

Friday, January 07, 2005

I can't believe its over.

At noon I accepted the offer from Technical Business Solutions in Schenectady NY. My new company sells business to business marketing a variety of products and services encompassed by the concept of Networking including business phone systems, designing implementing and executing network systems physically as well as monitoring services.

I will be reporting directly to the partners, and eventually creating a sales force of "my own". The company has also put on the table possible partial ownership if goals are met and exceeded consistently.

We are still not out of the woods, but at least we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm confident it's not a freight train coming on.....

Thanks so much to all the family members and friends for their support in my last 10 months of unemployment and underemployment and thanks for allowing me to share this good New Years news with my friends, family and loved ones.

Now I can collapse.
posted by Mike 1:25 PM

Wednesday, January 05, 2005

Been a long time!

That it has. Last entry was way back on Dec 21st.

I'm not going to go too deeply into my mindset of not writing. Most of it is still the extended break from the intensity of the last year or so regarding the political arena. Needless to say I was extremely disappointed in what transpired not only at the Presidential level, which to be honest I was not surprised at, but also in the tilt in Congress as well.

My personal life has also been antithetical to writing. The lack of a "real" job can create a very deep and profound malaise torwards the world in general, hence the lack of social or political commentary. It is also reflected by the personal front, with nothing to really say, I have just not said it.

The Christmas Experience

That being said however we did have a wonderful holiday this year. A quick recap may be in order here so bear with me. About 18 months ago or so, when I heard for certain that my Father and step Mom were finally returning to the US for good, I suggested to sister Laurie that it might be a great idea to get all the kids together for their first Christmas back in the US, i.e. Christmas 2004. So plans were set in motion and quickly we got affirmatives from sister Tracy and her family from MD as well as brother Greg out west. Our European brother Andrew was more problematic, as he has a large family, and air lifting them from France to the US is quite costly. In the end Dad came through and arranged for them to be with us this Christmas. Then the surprise guest was announced, my mom. My parents have long set aside whatever differences they had so this was a very wonderful surprise, with kudo's to my Step Mom Kathy for inviting her.

(A small lineup card may be in order. Though we have dropped the Step prefix, the girls mentioned above are the daughters of my step mom Kathy, and we three boys are from my Dad's first marriage with my mother.)

24 people descended upon beautiful NH arriving between the 22nd and 23rd. We even had two friends of Dad and Kathy's in attendance as well. The traditional Christmas eve dinner was phenomenal, great food and wonderful company. Christmas day was sheer, wonderful, loving chaos, with 9 children running about and their attendant parents and other adults. All in all it was one for the memory books indeed. Brother Greg is a professional photographer and he brought his equipment and captured the weekend for years to come with an incredible family portrait.

The only negative note was that the stomach virus that swept through the North East as well as other parts of the Country hit the clan on Sunday and Monday, in all affecting slightly over 1/3 of the attendees including this author. I won't give details, not pretty, but we all survived.

The Job Front

Frequent readers of this site have also been forced to put up with my meanderings about the job situation. Back on the last day of November I was brought in as a possible candidate for a dream position with a company in the Computer Networking industry. A quick scroll down the blog, or possibly to the "archives" will get you up to speed. Three weeks passed by before I was called back to a second interview, the company having winnowed down a field of 15 to just 3. Expectations were high that word would be given as to the decision before Christmas. In fact I had decided to be a bit sneaky and not to tell my patient wife if I got the job, only if I had not, and to simply put it on a card for Christmas morning. So much for the best laid plans of mice and men.

So Christmas passed and then then New Years and still no word. Various theories have been forwarded by the people I go to for advice about these things, but I feel that the combination of the time of year, and the company's past experience with two other people in the position has made them cautious and in no hurry to make the final decision.

I also spent the Christmas season back in retail! I was able to get a part time job with a local Radio Shack and had a great time believe it or not. Good people to work with and the company has it's act together (mostly) with their employees. But as all seasonal work goes, I got only 8 hours the week after Christmas, and was let go on that Thursday. There was however an attempt to transfer me to another store in reward for my hard work, but at the last minute that transfer was scratched by that store's manager. I am theoretically still an employee of Radio Shack, but with no hours and no place to go.

The surprise call

So with this background in mind, and the deep feeling that this was going to be a much better year than last, the phone rang yesterday and on the other end was the CEO of a company I had interviewed with back in November (same time I had interviewed with the Collection company). He stated that one of the two people he had hired for that position had to leave, and they wanted me to come in for a second interview. This is a company that sells it's own proprietary web based e-commerce services, from web hosting "mom and pop" companies to fully integrated gateway services.

However the 2nd interview today was not a 2nd interview at all, but a job offer. There in lies a huge quandary.

The "dream job" I have been waiting to hear on is a significantly better opportunity for myself and the family. Better pay, a better position, and a future that could include partial ownership of the company.

The company I interviewed with today has some amazingly great people, and in a serendipitous sign from the cosmos that maybe this is the path I should take, both partners are "prog heads" and were musicians in their earlier years. (In fact the one partner sent me home with their two CD's they cut in the mid 90's, a band called Cold Sweat, and it is some pretty good "neo prog" music).

So on my way home I called my headhunter and explained to him that I had till Friday to get an answer or my hand would be forced to go with the company I had interviewed with today. I told him that I couldn't turn down one position, albeit one with less initial pay, for the hope of getting the call on another. One must always plan for the worst and hope for the best, and the worst would of course to turn down the newest offer only to hear in a week or two that I was not chosen for the "dream job".

He suggested at this point I had nothing to loose and to call the "dream job" partner that I had interviewed with the most and lay it all out. So I did just that, to his voice mail. I was polite and very professional but said basically what I have told you just now in regards to not being able to turn one position down, to just hear that I didn't get the job with him either. So we wait. If I don't hear from the "dream job" by Friday at Noon I am accepting the job with the web hosting company I interviewed with today.

In other words, starting in a very few short days, I should be fully employed again, and hopefully on the road to financial recovery. Not a moment too soon.

A sad passing of an old friend.

Finally for today, and if you are still with me I am very impressed, I got a very unexpected e-mail from a total stranger on Monday asking if the Ben Merchant I had mentioned in the blog at some point a while ago was her step brother. Since it is a fairly common name, we did determine through email exchanges that indeed her step brother had been my boss in the days of the late 90's under the guises of Big Sky Home Direct TV etc.

Sadly she had to tell me that Ben had passed away on December 31'st. I was shocked and saddened by this news, though I had not heard from Ben in a few years. Although our relation ship was a rocky one at times, and he was a tough boss, he was always a loyal friend, and the world is missing something with his passing.

Well that is more than enough for this day. Thanks for tuning in. In a few short days I will commence upon a New Year's resolution to write at least every other day. With the caveat that if I write a few days in a row, a one day break is allowable. The few short days till I write again will give the infrequent checkers of this site a chance to tune in to this plan.

Happy New Year to all and wishing all a great 2005!

posted by Mike 11:33 PM

The musings and meanderings of an overworked and underemployed mind