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I’m finishing up my PhD and have a job lined up, so i’ll have way more motivation to update this site.  Probably mid-late August.

Obviously.  And someday I’ll make use of this webspace I pay so much for…

Seems like my life is either not exciting enough to write about, or too exciting to tear myself away to write in a blog.

Since it’s probably the first, I’ll just have to start writing about my hobbies.

I just paid off a credit card I got since I partially financed my fiance’s pretty engagement ring.  Except for the first statement and the credit card itself, I have never received a statement from them.  Only because I started to worry did I switch to managing the card online, and luckily I did or I would’ve missed a payment.  Since the card’s paid off and I don’t like being jerked around like that, I called today to cancel the account.  Here’s what took place after I mentioned the lack of statements being a reason to close the account.

Credit Card Woman: “I see here that we’ve had mail returned that was sent to you, so maybe the address is wrong.”

Me: “Okay, well you got me the first statement and the credit card just fine, so I don’t see how the address was suddenly wrong.”

Woman: “Can you confirm the address with me?”

Me: “And besides, why didn’t you guys try to let me know when you started getting mail back instead of waiting for me to call?”

Woman: “We’ve tried several times to let you know.”

Me: “Nobody’s called me.”

Woman: “Oh no sir, you misunderstand; they wouldn’t have called, we’ve sent letters saying we need to update your address because there’s a problem.”

It may not be immediately obvious, but I’ve recently changed over my domains to a new host.  It’s a rockier transition than I would’ve liked, namely thanks to the old host’s virtual inability to give me access to my own %$&#ing site as stored on their server.  Fortunately, I figured out a workaround so I didn’t lose everything.  There are some other things that need straightened out but hopefully that won’t take long.

So, late last year my Mac Powerbook pissed me off for the last time.  That coupled with another hypocritical commercial from Apple means I bought a new laptop.  The Mac was sitting around, doing nothing as an identify theft liability after 3 going on 4 years of computing history.  I finally decided I could donate the laptop, but without the hard drive.  I began with needing to open the case.  The screws were designed with such a small head that I had to give up and use a special screwdriver.

Special Mac Screwdriver

Next, I had to delicately extract the hard drive.  I didn’t stand a chance at finding and releasing the screws there.  It took hours of hammering and prying.  For future reference, the hard drive is located inside a Powerbook in this location.

Hard Drive Location

The hard drive looked like this.

After the Extraction

There was a hole in the side and what appeared to be glitter was falling out.  The “hard” part of a “hard drive” is actually more like metal-coated glass, and shatters during a strong impact.  I pounded at the hard drive to get as much of the platters out.

Platter Shards

It was fun stress relief, and definitely keeps your credit card information safe.

I just got a refurbished Roomba 530.  I’d been eyeballing them in general, and decided to snatch up the refurbished deal.  One of the downsides is it can’t be scheduled.  Not officially anyway.  As it turns out the interface supplied by iRobot, the manufacturers, allows for the same low level commands to be sent to the 530 (and 510, and any other impossible-to-schedule 5xx model) as are used to schedule the other kinds.

This can be done manually, which makes for rough riding by a lot of Roomba owners, but I’ve automated it in a simple program.  It requires:

  • A serial port on your computer
  • A cable to connect the Roomba to the serial port, I recommend the iRobot Create Cable.
  • Windows with .NET 2.0 or better (standard on all computers that have been updated in something like the past 4 years)

A .zip with the program and a readme is available in the downloads section.

Here’s a brief summary of what I’ve learned so far since moving out here, but not necessarily as a result of moving here.

1. Nothing can lift a mustard stain from carpet, nothing.  Even switching to the abstract “strongest forces in the universe,” like love and prayer, won’t work.

2. Cardinal Tetras are $3.50 each, but die for nothing.

3. Science fiction movies of the ’80s and ’90s were very optimistic when considering the technological advances possible in a short amount of time.  Twelve Monkeys has time travel possible within my generation, the Terminator movies are simply out of whack, and Blade Runner takes place in 2019.  We’ve got 11 years to develop perfect androids, flying vehicles, and off-planet colonization.  Good news, computer screens can go back to monochrome block ASCII text readouts.

3.1. “You’re looking through a magazine and see a full-page picture of a nude woman” will be a syntactically valid question in 2019.

4. SEPTA trolleys run on a schedule.  Theoretically.

5. The chili-cheese burrito is not only absent from the menu at Taco Bell in Philadelphia, but apparently is the go-word for a mental breakdown in certain employees.

6. Going into a country with armed forces to do something said country is unable or unwilling to do is not invasion.  Thanks for clearing that up, Obama.

7. You can completely flame your political opponent for suggesting the Vice-President has a legislative role in government, then spend the entire rest of the debate talking about how your legislative experience makes you better qualified than her executive experience, and make endless legislative promises and no one will raise the obvious question.  ’Sup, Biden.

8. A controversial voting record can be cast aside with the phrase, “no I didn’t.”  Even if the official government records say you did.

9. The people that come up with the story arcs for Heroes appear to be out-of-work Haiku writers, as that’s the extent of the plot depth.

I recently moved to Philadelphia to start graduate school.  I think it’s a pretty nice location.  I knew I didn’t want to live in Center City or University City like the other students tend to.  I don’t like the idea of living on the 14th floor of some high-rise apartment, or having to parallel park my car five blocks away because that’s as close as I can find a parking place.  So, I’m on the outskirts of Philadelphia, away from the crowded urban districts.  I’m near the airport.

Of course, when I tell people I’m near the airport, they seem to think I mean a rough proximity.  So, in order to explain better how close I am to the landing planes, I’ve taken a quick video on my camera and posted it in the downloads section.  For convenience, it’s also linked here.

Imagine you pay for an expensive car because you saw a commercial that said it has a 100,000 mile powertrain warranty.  After only 30,000 miles, the transmission goes out, so you have the car towed to a garage to have it replaced under the warranty.  You go to pick up the vehicle and have a huge invoice that needs to be paid for.  You say, “no, it has the 100,000 mile warranty, this should be free under the guarantee!”  The mechanic looks at you and says, “yes, but after 30,000 miles the guarantee has been met.”  Bet you’d be pissed, wouldn’t you?

The United States Postal Service has an offer where for a mere $16, you can send a letter and have it delivered before noon the next day.  It’s guaranteed overnight by the time indicated on the receipt at the time the express mail is dropped off.  Imagine my surprise when the USPS managed to not get the letter to me by noon.  I found on their site where it says there will be a refund if the commitment is not met.  Their commitment to me was noon by today, August 26.  I called and asked how my mom goes about getting her money back, because $16 is a lot to spend on a letter when normal postage is what, $.42?  I kid you not, the USPS customer service agent on the phone said, “No refund will be issued until the mail is over 48 hours late.”

So just remember, next time you have something that really, really, REALLY needs to be somewhere the next day, and are considering USPS Guaranteed Express Mail, you might be paying 3809.5% more than a stamp for something that’s still allowed to take 3 days to get to the destination.  Seeing as how I’ve found no fine print ANYWHERE saying the guarantee is for 3 days or less, any other business/private person would get the snot sued out of them for false advertising or breach of contract, but something tells me the postal service is immune.