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Hospitals Suck

Sorry about the total lack of further updates.

Please Welcome MacGyver Obama Narwhal Propst!

(this is our birth announcement email, reposted here for spreading on the intarwebs)

Nah, we’re just screwing with ya... we just like to make the grandparents gasp... ; )

His actual name is Gram Propst (we’re still working on middle names)
He’s 8lbs 4oz. and 20 inches long He was born at 6:53pm yesterday.

Dell Sucks

I ordered a Dell Mini 9 online on 3 March 2009. I won't bother linking to Dell; don't bother going there.

See, they don't have any.

This didn't stop them from putting a huge "back to school" banner on the Japan website (school starts in April here), complete with a "Hurry! Sale ends tomorrow!" tagline.

Having read a lot about how easy it is to install MacOS on them, I thought it would be nice to have a tiny, low-powered, cheap laptop to carry around campus and take to conferences. Like the MacBook Air, but not a million billion dollars and requiring a dongle for ethernet and a dongle for video out (what good is an ultraportable laptop that requires you to carry a bunch of junk in order to use it???). And, reading that back just now, yeah, that would be cool.

For this reason, I ponied up my $400 or so (fully loaded--the most RAM and the biggest SSD drive) and prepared the materials needed to effect its transformation. The full amount was promptly deducted from my credit card.

Then it turned out that I wouldn't be getting the computer until after moving to my new place here in Kanagawa, so I needed to give them that address for shipping. But no worries. School didn't start until 8 April, and if I hadn't quite gotten all the Hackintosh bugs worked out yet by then, I could just use my MacBook.

Then the ship date was updated to 20 April.

...Ummm... Okay. This is not what I had in mind, but shortly after that is Golden Week, so I will have time to fix it up then and I can really start using it day-to-day after that, when the school year finally gets reallty underway and you don't have a public holiday every week (this sounds nice, but it's awful to try to plan a class like that).

The 20th came and went with no laptop. I checked the website.

15 May was the new date.

Why Obama's High-Speed Rail Idea Won't Work

Recently, Obama presented his idea for a network of high-speed rail in America. This has prompted a lot of discussion in the blogotubes, and I would like to toss my two pennies on the already-towering mountain of copper.

I live in Japan, and enjoy having one of the best high speed passenger rail systems in the world. These trains are amazing. On time every time, fast, and the price is the same no matter where you are in the country.

20 minutes of excercise a day, year 3

Well, I officially hit year 3 5 days ago, and forgot all about it. Not because I'm not exercising any more, but because it's just a habitual thing I think about every day.

I hit a year at CSU in February (yeah.. I now know lots about .NET) and have ridden my bike to work every day except day one. So most of my exercise has been biking around town. On days when I can't find some distant errand to run, I take the long way home to stretch out the time it takes.

Send SMS texts via Google chat!!!

Sending SMS texts to friends in the US can really be a hassle if you live abroad. Some countries support it, some carriers support it, many do not. And even if you can do it, it can be expensive.

Google Labs to the rescue!

There is a (new?) feature to Gmail, available in the Labs tab of the Settings, that allows you to send texts to US cellphones via the chat client in Google. Here's what you do:

1) Log into your Gmail account (duh).

2) Click on "Settings" in the upper-right.

3) Click on "Labs" in the dark yellow bar at the top.

The iPhone in Japan, Part 1: Why Academics are Better than Journalists

You may have read this damning piece about Wired's coverage of Japan's "hatred" for the iPhone. If you haven't, go read it now. I'll wait.

(Playing Sol Free on the iPhone... Operating my iTunes library from the iPhone... Checking mail on the iPhone...)

You done?

Good.

Basically, here's the thing: In academia, when we write a claim--any claim--we have to either back that claim up with data we've collected and analyzed, or we have to cite some other available source written by someone who did. This is to ensure that we aren't just pulling things out of our butts and lying to people.

And that, my friend, is why academics are better than journalists.

"Yeah, but, who cares?"--I hear you thinking aloud, "it's just a stupid puff piece about a phone."

Wel, in this case, yeah, it's not the end of the world if it's wrong. It isn't going to get anyone killed, but it could have a negative impact on Apple's stock price, which could mean lost jobs, which could add to the unemployment problem in the US where the company is based, which could add to the overall economic downturn...

Everything is connected, and in the information age, putting out bad information from a position of authority, whether it be deliberate or negligent, is serious business. Wired is supposedly a respected and respectable technology magazine. In this case, a writer abused that reputation to try to get away with just throwing some crap on paper and cashing his paycheck.

And that's not right.

Flattery will get you google rank

So every couple days or so I get a new comment on the blarg (most of them on this one article) that sounds like this:

You are really great
Submitted by Essay Help (not verified) on Tue, 02/17/2009 - 11:15pm.

You are really great dude.that's a really cool idea. i may use that in my own filing system.

Man v. Corporation

So for the past two months, Celeste and I have incurred massive phone bills with At&t. After the first big one, I accepted that oops, yup, we talk more than our rate plan will allow. I called At&t up, and the nice man there happily sold me a larger rate plan for more money. I asked him, "So, when does this go into effect? this month? (it was january 19th) Like, we'll have more minutes now?" He said "Yes sir."

So, it's February 6th, and I've got another bill from At&t for $360 bucks. I called them up hoping this was a billing mistake, but of course... Corporations never make billing mistakes. When the computer's all you've got, what the computer says is the word of god.

I tried to explain my conversation with At&t call center Monkey1 to At&t Monkey2 and then Monkey2's supervisor. Both of them checked with 'the word of god', and there was no record of Monkey1's words.
(in their defense, they were willing to halve the overage charges.)

Here's the thing.. (sorry it took me so long to get here) Throughout this entire conversation, I felt completely powerless. At&t holds all the cards. I signed their contract, so I can't take my business elsewhere, if they wrong me, I've got more or less no recourse. This power imbalance translated all the way down to Monkey2, who acted like I should feel lucky that she was willing to work with me as much as they have, and that she CAN transfer me to her manager, but then the huge favor she's doing for me could be taken away because I'm making waves.

Yes, it's my own damned fault. I sold my soul to Apple and by extension to At&t. I sold what little power I would have had over their actions for a cheaper iPhone. Really though, how much power are we talking about here? Enough to change the motivations of Monkey2? Probably not.

(batty will hate this but:)

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