Thursday, January 31, 2008
Go to this link, wait, and watch: http://producten.hema.nl/?whatthefark.
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
Buying an Engagement Ring
I'm getting married. You may congratulate me.
I asked The Question, and she said yes. I know you're supposed to buy an engagement ring first, and present it as part of the proposal, but I wasn't really prepared when the conversation happened. So, the following day, we went out to shop for rings.
After hitting a half-dozen jewelry stores, we selected a beautiful ring. Of course, I'm a guy, so all jewelry is just shiny metal and sparkly rocks to me, but I was surprised when the one she liked is the one that I probably would have bought if she wasn't along for the trip.
This was on Sunday. I put down a 20% deposit on the ring, planning to move more money into my checking account on Monday so I could pay the balance on Tuesday.
Paying the deposit took a while. The nice salesperson at the store spent several minutes trying to figure out the menus and commands in the computer system. Then, when she tried to validate my check by TeleCheck, she had to call them and stay on the line for about twenty minutes before they cleared it. She said they said that the holdup was due to my address recently changing. I received a receipt, and I told them I'd be back on Tuesday.
I made my checking-account deposit on Monday morning, and went back to the store around noon on Tuesday. The nice salesperson from Sunday wasn't working on Tuesday, so nice salesperson #2 took my receipt, and spent several minutes trying to figure out (a) what I was buying and (b) how much I owed. She eventually figured it out, and I wrote another check. She ran my check through TeleCheck, and the answer came back: Declined.
Nice salesperson #2 asked if I had recently made a deposit. I told her I had, but that the bank told me the funds would be available immediately. She suggested I visit the bank to clear things up. I asked repeatedly whether I could bring back a cashier's check or money order, but she wouldn't answer that question, instead repeatedly insisting that, because she had worked at a bank in the past, she knew that there must be some kind of hold on my account.
So I went to the bank. Nice bankerperson told me that all my funds are available, and there is no reason that my check should be declined.
So I went back to the jewelry store. Nice salesperson #2 is heading out to lunch, so I had to explain the history of this transaction to nice salesperson #3, who then spent several minutes studying my receipt and looking up computer records to figure out (a) what I was buying and (b) how much I owed. She ran my check through TeleCheck, and the answer came back: Declined.
As she was walking out the door, nice salesperson #2 suggested that #3 call TeleCheck, which she does. She's on the line for twenty minutes, but the only answer she gets is that I've been declined.
I asked whether I could just go to the bank and bring back a cashier's check, money order, or a briefcase full of cash. She asked whether I have a debit card with me.
Yes, I did have a debit card with me, but I was under the impression that it had a limit of $400 or something like that. She swiped it through her card reader, and boom, thousands of dollars were exchanged for a sparkly rock. Wow, technology is cool. So now I own the ring, but have to wait a few days for it to be resized.
It was easier to buy my last car than to buy this ring.
- TeleCheck can bite me. I haven't used checks for retail items in a long time, but I thought a check would make sense for this large purchase. TeleCheck's validation system wasted a couple hours of my time. From now on, I'll just use credit cards for everything.
- Jewelry store salespeople could use more training on their computer systems. All three of the salespeople I observed seemed to randomly try every menu item until they got results that seemed reasonable.
- I'm never getting married ever again.
[UPDATE: My fiancee read this entry, made a face, and remarked, "There's no love in there at all, is there?"]
Thursday, January 17, 2008
Another year has gone by. I didn't really set many goals for myself last year, so I'm not disappointed by any failures (although I am disappointed that I didn't set any goals). I lost 20 pounds and ran the Peachtree Road Race, but I've regained the 20 pounds.
The biggest change in my life is that the Match.com thing worked out and I am now part of an "us." This is making me very happy. We live in a newly-purchased old cabin in the woods. I'm now spending my weekends doing yardwork and other handiwork, which is a big change from my old lifestyle. I now have access to a chainsaw and will soon have a tiller. At some point, I'm going to have to learn about wells so I can get rid of the sulfur smell in our water.
I never understood why all the guys with wives and girlfriends never have any free time to hang out with us unencumbered guys. Now I understand. There's not much "me time" anymore, but I don't miss it. (Love you, sweetie.)
I am practicing guitar whenever I have some free time. I hope to be able to play some actual music by this time next year. I also want to master the drums on Rock Band.
I'm going to start taking a self-portrait on each birthday. I hope my deterioration will be very slow. I haven't decided yet whether the beard is going to be a permanent part of my appearance.
[UPDATE: 2/4/2008: Beard is gone.]
[UPDATE: 2/26/2008: I miss my beard.]
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
The term "death march" is commonly used for software projects that are behind schedule, over budget, have no end in sight, and yet must be completed. There is a book with that title.
I've recently become involved in one of these projects. I should say "re-involved," because I was involved with the project a year and a half ago, and I quit. As an independent contractor now, I feel less pain than the employees do: I get paid by the hour and can set my own schedule, whereas they have to work unpaid overtime, and they are shackled to their desks.
Yesterday, one of the developers had to go to a doctor. The stress and long hours had led to high pulse rate and other signs of anxiety. The doctor told him to go home and get some rest, which he did.
We're all glad that nothing more serious happened. Managers express surprise that anyone would work himself so hard. I've only been involved with this for a few days, but here's what I've observed:
- Requirements and UI design are still changing.
- Work that was originally estimated to take three months has now been scheduled for completion in three weeks.
- A manager stops by every hour to get a status update.
- There are a couple of hour-long meetings every day. Plans are changed during each meeting.
Yeah, I can't imagine why anyone would feel pressure, with management being so "helpful."
He's young. I remember when I was younger. I tried to meet crazy deadlines. I took it personally when managers demanded faster progress. I blamed myself for everything that went wrong. I worked myself sick.
Now, with a couple of decades of seasoning, I know better. If you're involved in a death march, it is due to your managers' incompetence, not yours. Work at a sustainable pace, and remember that no matter how loudly the managers are screaming, there is no need to sacrifice yourself for the good of the company.
Saturday, January 05, 2008
Science, Evolution, and Creationism
The National Academy of Sciences has issued a report that documents the methods of science and the overwhelming evidence in support of the theory of evolution. It also presents the arguments against the teaching of creationism and Intelligent Design in public-school science classes. However, it also clearly outlines the reasons that a belief in evolution is not incompatible with a belief in God or with other religious beliefs.
It is available for download (PDF) from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11876.
I personally find it repugnant that some religious fundamentalists are trying to erode this country's science-education programs. They have convinced a large number of people that there is a large body of scientific evidence against evolution and that there is a debate in the scientific community about its validity. They use fallacious arguments to present Intelligent Design as a logical "scientifically based" alternative. They say that "good Christians" need to support inclusion of these teachings in our kids' science classes. They want us to embrace ignorance.
Those people are dishonest and evil. The information in this book can help us fight them.
Tuesday, January 01, 2008
Slower Traffic Keep Right
Having driven a few thousand miles over the holidays, I decided I'd like to present the following message to all the drivers of America:
If you are driving in the left lane on an interstate or other multi-lane highway, please check the following:
- Are there cars right behind you, but no cars in front of you?
- Are you driving well below the posted speed limit?
- Are people passing you on your right side?
- Have you been driving dead even with the car to your right?
- Are you talking on the phone, eating, fixing your kids' hair, or engaging in any other activity that may distract you?
- Is there no possibility that you will pass anyone, ever?
If you answer Yes to any of the above questions, then please get out of the left lane. You don't belong there.
And please, don't speed up when someone tries to pass you. Highway driving is not a NASCAR-sanctioned event, and you won't lose any Winston Cup points if you let somebody get in front of you.