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Rants and Raves

I’ve started to write more posts, and for the moment I’ve scheduled them out for the next month one per day at noon to keep content fresh.

Hopefully I’ll get a better handle on my schedule and be able to post more and more information on more and more topics.

Originally posted 2008-11-03 12:39:30.

Why so many quotes?

I’ve been asked by several individuals why I publish so many quotes on my BLOG.

The answer is simple.

You gain new perspective by viewing an issue from another vantage point.

Good quotes are ones that make us think and reassess the conclusions we’ve drawn about a topic.

Even if you don’t change your view point, a quote is often good for a chuckle — or a shake of your head.

Originally posted 2010-03-14 02:00:15.

Bed Bath and Beyond

I can tell you what the Beyond is in their name… that would be their service.

First, I’m not much for “assemble yourself” furniture… I prefer well made, solid wood furniture (which generally means I buy turn of the century — that would be circa 1900; and have no problem paying for it).

Unfortunately I wanted a piece of furniture for my bath room, and I wasn’t having much luck finding an older piece (I guess bath room furniture wasn’t very popular 100 years ago), so I looked around a found a couple places that had at least solid wood frame furniture that seemed relatively well made.

The local Bed Bath and Beyond didn’t stock the piece I was interested in (they had a similar piece, and another piece in that collection — but the piece I wanted was being discontinued — figures), so I had to order it (the upside was that it was about $50 less).

I placed the order, got a confirmation, and a shipment notice the next business day (all of which I expect from any decent e-Tailer).

The piece arrived, and the UPS person delivered it and for the most part the box looked like it was in pretty good shape, two of the corners were a little dented — but no reason to assume that item was damaged.

As I started to assemble the piece, I noted that one side piece had a very small chip, but I felt that it probably wouldn’t be noticed, and it would be easy to touch up.  Then I got to the top — damn — the back right corner must have been right where one of the packages corners took a hit, it was slightly deformed, and with light shining on it it was going to stick out like a sore thumb.

I wasn’t sure what to do, but I figured I’d call customer service before I continued the assembly.

I called, and the hold time was much longer than I would have liked — and the annoying message that I could leave a message (over and over) was beginning to get on my nerves just as an agent picked up my call.

She was polite, and immediately made what sounded to be a genuine apology for the inconvenience.  She would have been happy to have the warehouse ship me both parts, but as I told here I’d probably cause more damage replacing the side piece, and really only the top was a “must replace”.

I haven’t seen the confirmation of shipment of the replacement parts yet — but I have every confidence that there won’t be any issues…

Now, we’ll see if the local store is as easy to deal with doing a return of another item.

Originally posted 2009-08-06 01:00:42.

As Kagan Joins, Federal Courts’ Roles Rise In Importance

by Ron Elving

This weekend, Elena Kagan was sworn into the elite club of 112 who have served on the U.S. Supreme Court. The moment was duly noted across all news media, in large part because Kagan is just the fourth woman in the club.

But journalists also pounce on new appointments to the High Court in part to correct our perennial neglect of the judicial system. By far the preponderance of political journalism spilling out of Washington is devoted to the White House and Capitol Hill. As a rule, we pay attention to the courts when they interfere with something the other branches are trying to do.

This summer, federal judges have once again been horning in on issues of great interest and high stakes. Gay marriage. Immigration. The health care law. The post-BP moratorium on deepwater drilling. Each of these decisions will be reviewed by federal courts of appeal and ultimately by the U.S. Supreme Court.

But for that reason alone they will be generating news, inflaming public opinion and determining the direction of our politics, economics and culture.

Although most of the federal judiciary labors in lofty obscurity, at moments such as these one man or woman in a black robe can make an incalculable difference. Governors and senators and others in public life can only dream of such moments of influence.

Consider that on one day last week, one federal judge in San Francisco issued an opinion that invalidated the best known voter initiative of recent years: Proposition 8 on the 2008 California ballot, which overturned the state’s recognition of gay marriage.

Presenting extensive findings of fact from the trial before him, U.S. District Court Judge Vaughn Walker noted that defenders of Proposition 8 had scarcely attempted to refute these findings. In fact, the Prop 8 defense in its entirety was so cursory as to suggest its attorneys scarcely thought the trial court level was important. Their eye was on the friendlier venues of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and the U.S. Supreme Court.

But if liberals and libertarians were heartened by Walker, they were equally gratified one week earlier by the ruling of U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton, who kicked out the key pillars of an Arizona law attempting to crack down on illegal immigration. Bolton found fault in that law’s provisions allowing state and local officials to question the immigration status of people they deemed suspicious — for whatever reason. The requirement that residents who ran afoul of such suspicion produce papers proving their immigration status was also spiked by the judge.

Bolton, like Walker, knew well how every word she put to paper would be scrutinized, analyzed and politicized. No doubt the same could be said for other judges bringing a more conservative viewpoint to bear on equally significant issues in recent days.

First of these was federal District Court Judge Martin Feldman of Houston, who spiked the administration’s six-month moratorium on oil-and-gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. The administration may well have thought the argument for shutting down new explorations in the Gulf was open and shut in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon debacle. But if the shutdown was a no-brainer for environmentalists and industry critics, business folks in the Gulf states seemed to see it primarily as a short-term job killer and a long-term cloud over the economic future of the region.

Liberals were swift to note that Judge Feldman had a portfolio of stock holdings in the oil and gas sector, one that might well suffer in the event of a long-term slowdown in Gulf energy production. They also noted that the relevant federal appeals court, the 5th Circuit in New Orleans, was dominated by judges with business interests much like Feldman’s.

But the judge’s ruling stands, and is likely to stand longer than the Obama administration stands behind its six-month moratorium.

Similarly, in the same week as the Prop 8 ruling, supporters of the Obama health care law were incensed that U.S. District Judge Henry Hudson in Richmond had approved Virginia’s standing to sue the federal government over the enforcement of provisions in that law. Defenders of the new health law had hoped that Hudson might uphold the historic principle of federal pre-eminence, a central issue since the founding of the Republic.

Many have noted the symbolic power of having this challenge emanate from Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy in the 1860s and the epicenter of “massive resistance” to the school integration decision of the Supreme Court in the 1950s. State’s rights may be a heading in a history textbook for some parts of the country, but they remain a mainstay of current events in the South.

Talk of nullification — the asserted right of states to ignore federal laws as they choose — has re-emerged as President Obama has pursued an activist agenda. In Texas and Tennessee, candidates for statewide office have allowed references to secession to enter their campaign vocabularies.

While no one expects another Civil War, we are clearly heading into the most significant round of state-federal confrontations we have seen since the 1960s. And that struggle has already been joined in courtrooms around the country, where it will largely be fought.

Small wonder then that Republicans in the Senate have made resistance to the judicial nominees of the new president such a salient element of their mission in these past 18 months.

To be sure, the president has seen both his nominees to the Supreme Court approved with little suspense. But the Senate has yet to allow a vote on most of the 85 nominees he has sent up for federal judgeships at the district and appeals court levels.

Same old partisan story? Not quite. The last five presidents, three of them Republicans, have seen four out of five of their appointments confirmed.

Democrats under Majority Leader Harry Reid have not been willing to call the minority’s bluff on this tactic by demanding real-time filibusters with all-night sessions and cots in the lobbies. No one wants the delay, the drama or the indignity.

But as the number of Democrats in the Senate shrinks in the November election, those who remain will need to reconsider what means are necessary to install their president’s choices in the increasingly powerful job of judge.

Original Story on NPR.org

Originally posted 2010-08-21 02:00:48.

High Speed Rail might be de-railed

It’s very likely that one of the casualties of the mid-term elections will be the high-speed-rail grants.

Representative John Mica (R-FL) who is in line to be chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has indicated he wants to re-examine all $10 billion worth of high-speed-rail grants that have already been awarded around the country.

High speed rail service would be an extremely cost effective competitor to increasing air transportation; it would be far more eco-friendly; use less energy; potentially use renewable energy; and unlike airports, high speed rail stations could be in the middle of busy metropolitan areas.

No question the US has to tighten it’s belt and bring it’s spending in line with it’s bank accounts — but investments in long term infrastructure improvements are likely what will allow the economy to rebound and gain a solid footing.

I’d say we need to look at all the spending and make sure we make cuts where it’s waste first — and then weigh the costs and benefits before making other cuts.

As I’ve posted before — we could cut down the salaries, retirement pensions, and health insurance costs for elected official… that’s a good start to savings — and elected officials should get the same “benefits” they approve for the American people.

Originally posted 2010-11-23 02:00:13.

Hurricane Names

Hurricane names come from six pre-established lists; however, when a storm is extremely severe, it’s name is retired from the list and replaced by a new name.  You can view lists for past and future years simply by doing an internet search on “hurricane names”.  [Notice that there are no names on the list that begin with the letters ‘Q’ or ‘U’]

The name list for 2009-2012 Atlantic Hurrican Seasons are:

  • 2009 Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fabian, Grace, Henri, Isabel, Juan, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor, Wanda
  • 2010 Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Igor, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tomas, Virginie, Walter
  • 2011 Arlene, Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, Franklin, Gert, Harvey, Irene, Jose, Katia, Lee, Maria, Nate, Ophelia, Philippe, Rina, Sean, Tammy, Vince, Whitney
  • 2012 Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sandy, Tony, Valerie, William

 Retired hurricane names alphabetical:

  • Agnes (1972)
  • Alicia (1983)
  • Allen (1980)
  • Allison (2001)
  • Andrew (1992)
  • Anita (1977)
  • Audrey (1957)
  • Betsy (1965)
  • Beulah (1967)
  • Bob (1991)
  • Camille (1969)
  • Carla (1961)
  • Carmen (1974)
  • Carol (1954)
  • Celia (1970)
  • Cesar (1996)
  • Charley (2004)
  • Cleo (1964)
  • Connie (1955)
  • David (1979)
  • Dean (2007)
  • Dennis (2005)
  • Diana (1990)
  • Diane (1955)
  • Donna (1960)
  • Dora (1964)
  • Edna (1968)
  • Elena (1985)
  • Eloise (1975)
  • Fabian (2003)
  • Felix (2007)
  • Fifi (1974)
  • Flora (1963)
  • Floyd (1999)
  • Fran (1996)
  • Frances (2004)
  • Frederic (1979)
  • Georges (1998)
  • Gilbert (1988)
  • Gloria (1985)
  • Gustav (2008)
  • Hattie (1961)
  • Hazel (1954)
  • Hilda (1964)
  • Hortense (1996)
  • Hugo (1989)
  • Ike (2008)
  • Inez (1966)
  • Ione (1955)
  • Iris (2001)
  • Isabel (2003)
  • Isidore (2002)
  • Ivan (2004)
  • Janet (1955)
  • Jeanne (2004)
  • Joan (1988)
  • Juan (2003)
  • Katrina (2005)
  • Keith (2000)
  • Klaus (1990)
  • Lenny (1999)
  • Lili (2002)
  • Luis (1995)
  • Marilyn (1995)
  • Michelle (2001)
  • Mitch (1998)
  • Noel (2007)
  • Opal (1995)
  • Paloma (2008)
  • Rita (2005)
  • Roxanne (1995)
  • Stan (2005)
  • Wilma (2005)

Retired hurricane names chronological:

  • 1954 – Carol
  • 1954 – Hazel
  • 1955 – Connie
  • 1955 – Diane
  • 1955 – Ione
  • 1955 – Janet
  • 1957 – Audrey
  • 1960 – Donna
  • 1961 – Carla
  • 1961 – Hattie
  • 1963 – Flora
  • 1964 – Cleo
  • 1964 – Dora
  • 1964 – Hilda
  • 1965 – Betsy
  • 1966 – Inez
  • 1967 – Beulah
  • 1968 – Edna
  • 1969 – Camille
  • 1970 – Celia
  • 1972 – Agnes
  • 1974 – Carmen
  • 1974 – Fifi
  • 1975 – Eloise
  • 1977 – Anita
  • 1979 – David
  • 1979 – Frederic
  • 1980 – Allen
  • 1983 – Alicia
  • 1985 – Elena
  • 1985 – Gloria
  • 1988 – Gilbert
  • 1988 – Joan
  • 1989 – Hugo
  • 1990 – Diana
  • 1990 – Klaus
  • 1991 – Bob
  • 1992 – Andrew
  • 1995 – Luis
  • 1995 – Marilyn
  • 1995 – Opal
  • 1995 – Roxanne
  • 1996 – Cesar
  • 1996 – Fran
  • 1996 – Hortense
  • 1998 – Georges
  • 1998 – Mitch
  • 1999 – Floyd
  • 1999 – Lenny
  • 2000 – Keith
  • 2001 – Allison
  • 2001 – Iris
  • 2001 – Michelle
  • 2002 – Isidore
  • 2002 – Lili
  • 2003 – Fabian
  • 2003 – Isabel
  • 2003 – Juan
  • 2004 – Charley
  • 2004 – Frances
  • 2004 – Ivan
  • 2004 – Jeanne
  • 2005 – Dennis
  • 2005 – Katrina
  • 2005 – Rita
  • 2005 – Stan
  • 2005 – Wilma
  • 2007 – Dean
  • 2007 – Felix
  • 2007 – Noel
  • 2008 – Gustav
  • 2008 – Ike
  • 2008 – Paloma

Originally posted 2009-08-11 01:00:26.

Voting Advice With Your Paycheck

A Canton, Ohio McDonald’s franchisee (Paul Siegfried) took it on himself to include an insert in his employee’s paychecks suggesting that his employees vote for three Republican candidates, also on the note was:

If the right people are elected we will be able to continue with raises and benefits at or above our present levels. If others are elected we will not.

Sounds a little intimidating / threatening… I guess this business owner didn’t feel that election laws applied to him.

It’s really a travesty that any American wouldn’t know that it’s illegal for an employer to in any way try and influence his employees to vote for or against a given candidate or measure in an election… and even if you didn’t know it’s illegal, it’s certainly immoral.

Personally I hope Mr Siegfried finds himself in jail as an example to others who simply do not feel the law applies to them… and if I were McDonald’s I think a little more than a statement saying that their franchisee doesn’t speak for them is in order, particularly since it was on a piece of stationary bearing the McDonald’s logo.

Originally posted 2010-11-01 02:00:29.

NetTalk

UPDATE:  NetTalk’s growth has cause many individuals to have issues with placing and receiving calls, if your VoIP service is intended to be your only phone line you may want to think twice about going with NetTalk — particularly as long as they maintain their “no refunds” “no credits” policy… though realistically if you find they don’t live up to what’s reasonably expected, your credit card company will probably be happy to open a charge dispute for you and return your unpaid service… but I personally seriously question companies that don’t feel they need to supply the services they sell to consumers.

NetTalk VoIP services are inexpensive, easy to use, and work faily well… much less than services like Vonage or services from your cable or xDSL company.

$69.96 for the first year (that includes the purchase of a small VoIP adapter — NetTalk Duo — that can plug into your Ethernet router or your computer); then $29.95 per year after that (there are discounts for multi-year pre-pay).

 

NetTalk had a buy-one-get-one free special, and has had several discount codes; hopefully one of these two will still work for you to purchase the first year of service and NetTalk Duo device.

DUOAPP25OFF = 25% Off
DUOAPP50OFF = 50% Off


 

NetTalk Duo NetTalk Duo II NetTalk Duo WiFi


 

Nettalk Calling Features

 
 

FAQ’s on Nettalk Calling Features

3-Way Calling

Press the Flash button (or the hook) during a call. Once you hear the dial tone, dial the second party. When the second party is connected, press the flash button again to conference in the first party. There will be a three-way connection!

Call Waiting Once you hear the tone signaling a second call coming into your line, simply press the Flash button (or the hook) on your phone.

 

Caller ID

With VoiceLine Caller ID, you will see the phone number of the party who is calling you — even when you are on the other line.

You must have a phone equipped with a caller ID display.

 

Below are the dial codes for some popular VoiceLine calling features.

Action Dial Code

Selective Call Acceptance

Receive only calls from telephone numbers on your pre-defined acceptance list. *64

Deactivate feature and receive all calls. *84

 

Selective Call Rejection

Block only calls from telephone numbers on your pre-defined rejection list. *60

Deactivate feature and receive all calls. *80

Anonymous Call Rejection

Block all calls whose telephone numbers are hidden due to the caller purposely blocking that information. *77

 

Call Blocking

Deactivate feature and receive all calls. *87

Send all calls to a pre-defined destination #. *72

Send all calls to VoiceMail. *72123

Send all calls to a destination #. *72 [phone num]

 

Call Forwarding*

(All Calls/ Unconditional)

Deactivate feature & receive all calls. *73

Call Return Call the last person who called you. *69

Do Not Disturb Block incoming calls. *98

 

Speed Dial

Dial a number using a speed dial code. **[code]

Redial Call the last number you dialed. *66

Assign a phone number to a speed dial code. *97

VoiceMail

VoiceMail Access the VoiceMail system to record a greeting or hear your messages. 123#

* When you forward calls, the inbound and outbound calls are priced according to your calling plan.

 

Originally posted 2011-08-10 02:00:09.

Lowes Ceiling Fan Followup

I got two calls from the local Lowes store regarding my ceiling fan issue, and I have to say I was quite impressed by how efficiently the local store handled the issue.

They had a replacement fan ready for me when I stopped by, and they actually had no problem just putting the purchase price of the fan onto a gift card so that I could select a different model.

I would say the greatest failing of Lowes in this entire incident is that the corporate offices has put together an online system that poorly reflects on the ability of local Lowes management to handle problems; perhaps the best thing for Lowes to do is simply forward online request to local management and not ever try and resolve issues at a corporate level…

NOTE:  I actually purchased a Hunter ceiling fan at The Home Depot since Lowes didn’t have a suitable replacement fan in a brand I trusted.  The Hunter fan’s motor is easily three times the weight of the Harbor Breeze’s motor, and like the other Hunter fans I have (and have had in the past) it’s totally silent (and was much easier to install).

Originally posted 2009-10-28 01:00:12.

VirtualBox LinuxDesktop RealPerformance

The other day I installed VirtualBox OSE on my Ubuntu machine so that I could migrate over a Windows Server 2003 machine.  I wasn’t really expecting great performance since I was putting the virtual disks on a single spindle…

Sometimes you get a good surprise.

When I started up the virtual instance, it seemed very fast — so I shut it down and started it again.  Then I performed a few quick tests and I realized that not only was VirtualBox on a Ubuntu 10.04LTS Linux machine substantially faster than on a Windows 7 machine (with a faster hard disk and faster processor), but it was faster than on a Windows Server 2008 machine running Hyper-V.

The really incredible thing was that Hyper-V was running on a disk array with fifteen spindles verses a single spindle for VirtualBox.

I really didn’t have any way to do a set of rigorous tests, but what I found was that as long as the disk wasn’t saturated, VirtualBox was able to handily outperform Hyper-V on every test (read or write) that I performed… it was only when I started to push near to the limits of the drive that VirtualBox and Hyper-V had similar disk IO performance.

I didn’t evaluate how VirtualBox performed on Linux with a disk array, but my guess is that it’s simply much more efficient at scheduling disk IO than Hyper-V; and likely Linux is more efficient at disk IO than Windows period.

I’m a huge fan of VirtualBox; and if I knew now what I knew about Hyper-V eighteen months ago I would have avoided it like the plague and simply used VirtualBox or Xen as a virtualization solution.

I’ll put a more thorough investigation of disk IO and VirtualBox verses Hyper-V performance on my “TO-DO” list; but I don’t expect it’ll float to the top until this Winter at the earliest; until then my advice is choose VirtualBox (or Xen).

Originally posted 2010-08-24 02:00:27.