Archive for September, 2007

Four on the Floor

It’s meme time, boys and girls. I broke the chain on the last one and got seven years of bad luck, so I might as well get Rich and Famous! this time. Or something like that. Thanks/a pox on Dave for tagging me.

Four jobs I have had (current job excluded):

  1. Paper Boy. For nearly three years, starting when I was 13, I was a morning paperboy. I’d get up every morning at 4:30 and head out to retrieve, fold, bag or band, and deliver anywhere from 50 to 100 papers, by bicycle. No wonder I hate mornings so. Every two weeks I’d go door to door, collecting (“I want my two dollars!”); nearly no one paid by mail. As much I hated the early mornings, I think I dreaded collecting even more, since it cut into my actual leisure time, such as it was. Still, collecting had its benefits. I made an effort to learn each customer’s preferences (in front of the door, inside the storm door, on the ledge next to the door, “stay off the grass”, etc.). In return, I made pretty good tips, and really cleaned up at Christmas. Wearing the Santa hat while collecting in December helped to remind everyone it was time for the Christmas tip, too.

  2. Dish washer cum Burger Flipper. After years of early mornings, I was ready for a “real” job. The only real options in walking distance when I turned 16 (old enough for a job in Virginia at the time) were McDonald’s and Wendy’s. I worked at Wendy’s for about 4 months, which was plenty of time to realize that “real” jobs suck.

  3. Retail Clerk/Shoe Salesman. When summer started, a friend got a job at Sears at the local mall, and told me they were hiring. At this point I was ready to never see another burger, much less flip one, so I applied. I was initially hired as a clerk in the Men’s department, but in a lucky break got promoted to shoes by the end of the summer. Lucky? Oh yeah… the Shoe department worked on commission.

  4. TV Shopping Channel Order Entry Operator. “Thank you for calling QVC, my name is Jason. May I please have your item number?” Took this one over the summer during college. Boring, boring, boring, but eventually lead (after several other positions in the company) to my first job as a programmer.

Four Films I have Watched Again and Again:

  1. Better Off Dead. Still my favorite John Cusack role. Best quote is a tie: “I want my two dollars!” (see number 1, above) and “Now that’s a real shame when folks be throwin’ away a perfectly good white boy like that.”

  2. The Princess Bride. What a fun, funny movie. My favorite Mandy Patinkin role. Best quote is also a tie: “Hello! My name is Inigo Montoya! You killed my father! Prepare to die!” and “You keep using that word. I do not thin[k] it means what you thin[k] it means.”

  3. Driving Miss Daisy. Morgan Freeman and Jessica Tandy are just fantastic in this film. This is one of those films I will stop and watch any time I find it while flipping channels.

  4. Star Wars. Still a classic, and so much better than episodes 1 through 3. Best Quote: “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.”

Four Places I Have Lived:

  1. Virginia Beach, VA, where I grew up.
  2. Norman, Oklahoma, where I attended the University of Oklahoma, for a time.
  3. Portsmouth, VA, where we first lived after I was married.
  4. Bear, DE, where I first lived when we moved to the greater Philadelphia area.

Four Shows I Love to Watch:

  1. Good Eats. Alton Brown is a genius. I’ve learned more about cooking watching AB than any three other cooking shows combined.
  2. Boston Legal. “Denny Crane.” The role Bill Shatner was born to play.
  3. Heroes. Not only is this a great show, my son and I always watch it and try to figure it out together, which I love.
  4. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. I tried to limit this list to current shows, but DS9 deserves a mention because it has become my favorite Trek series. Admittedly, I wasn’t that impressed when it first came on, and I only saw about half of the episodes originally. Last summer, Spike ran the entire 7 season series, in order, two shows per day, and I Tivo’d and watched them all. Like many series, it got off to a bit of a slow start, but there was a lot of foundation laid for later character development. DS9 was also much more of a serial than any of the other Trek series, and the ongoing development of characters, relationships, and plot lines made it worth watching end-to-end. I just wish the complete season DVD collections weren’t so expensive.

Four Places I Have Been on Vacation:

  1. Mt. Dessert Island, ME. Home to Bar Harbor, I’ve spent many vacations across the island in Southwest Harbor, where my father grew up. I beautiful place to visit, and I still have lots of family back there.

  2. Outer Banks, NC. I’ve stayed in Nags Head, and Kitty Hawk, and this past summer we rented a house in Duck. I’m not a big fan of the beach like the rest of my family are, but there’s lots to do, and it’s not far from Virginia Beach & Portsmouth, where we have family. Kitty Hawk Kites is always fun place to visit.

  3. Galveston, TX. We spent a long weekend in Galveston this past spring, looking for a warm weather beach destination we hadn’t visited that didn’t require passports, as the kids didn’t have them yet. The weather didn’t really cooperate, but we stayed at a very nice place with a heated pool that included in-pool bar/food service, so I can’t complain too much.

  4. Niagra Falls, Ontario, Canada. Took the kids when they were younger. The falls are an impressive site, but the town is very much like a beach boardwalk, folded into about four square blocks. We had a nice time, but I wouldn’t recommend more than about three days’ stay.

Four of my Favorite Foods:

  1. Coffee. Yes, it’s a food. It nourishes and sustains me.
  2. Donuts. Mmmm. Donuts.
  3. Bacon. Everything is better with bacon.
  4. Oh Boy Doughboy. A doughboy is a fried dough snack, similar to a doughnut rolled flat before frying, found in Maine (and possibly other areas; sometimes under other names); an Oh Boy Doughboy is a variation unique to Maine-ly Delights, a family-run restaurant located across from the Swan’s Island Ferry Terminal in Bass Harbor, Maine. The Oh Boy Doughboy is a freshly fried doughboy topped with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, and your choice of hot fudge, strawberries, or blueberries. The blueberries are prepared similar to a pie filling, and are clearly the best choice. I’m getting fat just thinking about it. If you visit Bar Harbor during the summer (Maine-ly Delights is only open during the summer), take an afternoon to drive across the island and visit the Bass Harbor Lighthouse, and have lunch (and a doughboy!) at Maine-ly Delights. You can thank me later.

Four of my Favorite Drinks:

  1. Coffee. Yes, it’s a drink too, since I can wash down food with it.
  2. Guiness. My fall/winter beer.
  3. Corona w/Lime. My spring/summer beer.
  4. Jack and Coke.

Four Places I Would Rather Be Right Now:

  1. Edinburgh, Scotland. I’ve made several trips for work, can’t wait to go back again.
  2. Vancouver, BC, Canada. Visited for a weekend for Sean and Marlene‘s wedding, would definitely like more time to explore.
  3. Southwest Harbor, ME. Didn’t get to visit this year.
  4. A Philadelphia Eagles home game. Never been.

Four Suckers Bloggers I’m Tagging:

  1. Doug, who hasn’t issued a Monthly Blogging Challenge in a while (of course, neither have I!).
  2. Uncle Roger, who used to join all the Challenges as well.
  3. Effika, who leaves me nice comments from time to time.
  4. Sean, who bugs me about never posting, and never posts himself.

Arrrrr

Avast ye scurvy dogs! Today be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! Once again, a tip o’ tha tricorne to Dougal Campbell, a scurvy dog if evar thar was, for his Text Filters Suite, which be makin’ this whole site a treasure trove of pirate speak today.

And whilst ye be talkin’ as God and Davy Jones intended today, be sure not to walk th’ plank… Captain Zeldman, the old pirate, suggests a few utterances ye might should avoid.

Logic Studio

Apple has updated their flagship music authoring software, Logic Pro, as part of the new Logic Studio, available for 499.00 USD. Last time I checked, Logic Pro was 999.00 USD. Wow. Among scads of new features (MainStage looks awesome), it includes all of the content of the first 5 Jam Packs (the new Voices pack apparently didn’t make the cut), “featuring redesigned content that incorporates the professional sound quality of Studio Instruments and Studio Effects.” In other words, for the money it would cost you to purchase those Jam Packs, you can now get the complete Logic Studio. They even removed the stupid dongle.

Want.

Of course, my hard drive is nearly full to bursting as it is. I’ve been idly considering an upgrade to a shiny new Intel Mac for early next year. I really don’t want to wait that long to grab Studio, but it’s not in the budget right now anyway.

But still. Want.

I know where my 100.00 USD iPhone gift certificate is going.

Data Mining and the Apple Store.

When I was in college, all CS majors had to take a course about the impact of computers on society. I’m not sure of the title anymore, I think it was something pithy like “Computers and Society.” Since it wasn’t an actual programming or algorithms class, I wasn’t very interested, but it’s one of the courses that has stuck with me to this day. I still recall animated discussions about the sort of information which computer systems hold about each of us, and the sort of information harvesting that results. We all live with this reality today, especially with the mainstreaming of the Internet. How many of us would want a list of every Google search we’ve ever run posted for all the world to read? What sort of information do companies glean about us by tracking our credit card transactions. To this day, I dislike “membership” discount programs, such as the “bonus cards” most supermarkets require in order to qualify for sale prices. What a perfect way to monitor everything your customers purchase, and to link every purchase to a specific customer.

All this was brought home to me again today. I had to visit the Apple store because my daughter’s MacBook has developed cracks in the case where the top lid meets the lower lid. After meeting with a genius (“No problem, we can fix that”), I decided to pick up a Belkin iPhone adapter- the one that lets you use any headphones with the specially recessed headphone port on the iPhone. The Apple store I was visiting is the older design- they still had a separate Genius Bar and Register area. While waiting in line to check out, a store associate wielding one of Apple’s hand-held checkout devices offered to complete my sale, if I was paying by credit card. Rather than wait, I agreed. When he asked me if I wanted a receipt by email or a hard copy, however, I opted for the hard copy. As quick as the handheld devices are, I didn’t want to wait while he picked out my email address on his on-screen keypad using the stylus. He swiped my credit card, retrieved my receipt (and a bag) from behind the Genius Bar, and I was on my way.

So imaging my surprise about an hour later when, upon checking my email on my iPhone, I discovered that the Apple store had emailed me my receipt. The only possible explanation is that they had saved my credit card info and the associated email address from a prior purchase (at another Apple store, no less) and used that information to send me a receipt anyway. It’s a good thing that my purchase wasn’t a gift, and that I don’t share an email account with anyone. And before you ask, they did not get my email address from my earlier Genius Bar visit. Beside dealing with different associates, I never gave out my email address- the MacBook in question is registered to my daughter.

Now, I understand that emailing a receipt is a convenience- both when checking out, when it allows staff to ring you up from anywhere in the store, no need for a printer, and for the customer, as a lost receipt is replaced by a quick trip to your email client. I also know that when I make a purchase via credit card, the merchant may store that number with my order; Internet retailers commonly keep it on file for later purchases. It still bothers me that a retailer would use my credit card info from this purchase as a lookup key to find earlier purchases, and then use that information to contact me with content I had already declined.

There’s no escaping this kind of data mining today, but it still bugs me. I think I may start carrying (and using) more cash.