So far, so good….

I’ve been watching the bank’s credit card site closely, and no other fraudulent charges have shown up, but their reporting runs a couple of days behind, so I’m not totally out of the woods yet.

The good news is that my new temporary card arrived quickly and appears to work (at least the pump at two different gas stations accepted it), so I’m not facing a weekend without E-Z Credit.

Speaking of E-Z Credit, Commander Dave points out in the discussion group that having a fraud alert on one’s records can make it hard to take advantage of special financing deals (like the ones department stores love to run: open an account today and take 10% off everything you buy). That’s true, but right now, I’d rather feel safer.

I’m looking forward to a quiet weekend; the taxes are done and there’s no religious school on Sunday because of Passover (unfortunately, I can’t go to the YMCA and work out on Sunday, either, though it’s not due to Passover). I have uttered a mighty oath that I will clean up the junk on the dining room table this weekend so that it can be used again, and also that I will replace the under-the-sink water filter; I am sure I’ll utter some mighty oaths in the process, too.

Shabbat Shalom!

\"Did you buy a Pioneer MP3 player from us?\"

I happened to mention my problems to my boss when I talked to him later on, and he suggested I call the credit bureaus to have a fraud alert put on my records. That’s not something I would have thought of, so I’m glad he suggested it. The process might be easier during the business day when there are people available to help, but it works at night, too — differently at each of the credit bureaus.

  • Experian pointed to their “Fraud Center” right from their home page and let me add the fraud alert online. Quick and easy.
  • Equifax buried the information on how to add a fraud alert deep in the site (they are really interested in selling you your credit report, though!); I couldn’t do it online, but their toll-free number (800-525-6285) was fairly easy to deal with.
  • Trans Union had an easy link to tips to protect yourself from credit fraud right on their home page, but it wasn’t quite so easy to figure out how to get a fraud alert added (the answer: call 800-680-7289). Their automated system was a lot more painful to use than Equifax’s, but I think I got the job done.

So now I gotta find everyone who has my credit card on file and give them the new credit card number. If that’s the most trouble I have from this, I’ll be very happy. Not as happy as if I didn’t have to do it at all, but such is life.

I thought monofocals were supposed to be easy

I’m breaking in a new pair of glasses today — these are official “computer glasses”, designed to help me focus at the distance between the screen and my eyes. So far, I’m none too sure I like ’em — everything is sharp on the screen, but suddenly, my flat-screen monitor appears to be curved. Even my ThinkPad LCD display appears to be curved!

We’ve got a busy weekend planned; tonight, we go to shul for Friday Night Live, tomorrow it’s back to shul for Torah Study with the Rabbi (who’s back from Israel) and then Las Meninas at San Jose Rep and then a Games Night to prep for CultureQuest next month. And on Sunday, I’ll probably finish doing our taxes in between other activities.

Maybe next week at work will be more restful.

Shabbat Shalom!

Staples tries to buy me off

Today, I got a response, along with a $10 gift certificate. In the interests of fairness, I’m quoting their letter.

Dear Mr. Singer:

Thank you for bringing to our attention your concerns regarding the lack of customer service you received in our Los Gatos, CA store.

Please accept our apologies. We always enjoy hearing from our customers, especially when they offer us the opportunity to correct a problem situation and regain customer satisfaction. We hope this incident does not discourage you from shopping with us. For your next visit we have enclosed a Staples Gift Certificate to use toward your purchase.

We appreciate that you shop at Staples and look forward to serving you again.

Sincerely yours,

[name redacted]
President’s Office

Customer Relations Specialist

The nearest Staples is now significantly less convenient than Office Depot, so I doubt I’ll do much shopping there, but I do need paper, and it’s hard to imagine that they could screw that up, so I’ll probably redeem the gift certificate. I guess.

Rain and Taxes

The weather yesterday was lousy — wet and cold (in fact, it was the coldest March 17th ever in several locations in the area). So it was a perfect day to sit in front of a hot computer and do taxes.

Tonight, Jeffrey and I go to another Sharks game, this time with the Shir Hadash Men’s Club.

And I just found out that BattleBots 5.0 is coming to Treasure Island the last weekend in May!

Too optimistic, perhaps…

And so a day after writing that I get optical effects but no headaches, I got a headache (though it didn’t match the classical description of a migraine headache). Oh, well. Maybe I should write that I don’t win the Lottery and see if that turns out false, too!

It’s been a busy, but mostly unpublishable week. I did finally get around to making an appointment for a physical — which the doctor’s office conveniently scheduled for June (good thing I’m not in any hurry!), and to calling the Saab dealer to schedule an oil change and display replacement (which they can do on Monday — I expected them to schedule me into June!). And I registered for WWW2002 (I have to be there, I’m a track co-chair) just in time to beat the Early Bird deadline and got a decent price on my flights and an upgrade (there goes another 30,000 miles…better than spending money, though).

I’m having problems with upstreaming with Radio Userland; it looks like Norton Personal Firewall gets in the way, but not all of the time. *sigh* If I can ever get that fixed, I’ll probably move my activity to Radio Defenestration Corner, since EditThisPage isn’t always up when I want to write.

Book of the Day

It’s been a long time since I’ve written about the books I’m reading; I want to get back into the habit. Today’s book is War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. It’s a fantasy, set in and around Minneapolis, about what happens when reality and Faerie collide. I’m about halfway through the book, and it’s excellent — I had to tear myself away from it last night to go to bed, and I grabbed it again early this morning to continue; I hope to finish it tonight. I’m somewhat amazed that I like the book, because I usually don’t like fantasy, other than comic fantasy like the Discworld series — but it’s wonderfully written and evocative. Strongly recommended.

Shabbat Shalom!

A migraine, but no headache

It’s Over

On July 26, 2000, I announced the official availability of the IBM Weblog server. But for some reason, weblogs never took off inside IBM, and I had better things to do with the machine hosting them, so I
turned off the server last Friday. It was a noble experiment, if not overwhelmingly successful.

Book? What book?

While I was looking through the archives of this weblog to figure out when I started the weblog server, I reread the pages I wrote about the fourth Harry Potter book. And that made me wonder if there was any news about the fifth Harry Potter book, so I thought I’d check the site.

Silly me. Once upon a time, that site was about the books, but now it’s an immediate redirect to the Warner Brothers site about the Harry Potter movie, complete with a countdown till the North American video release. As far as I can tell, there’s not a single word about the book on the site (except on the discussion groups). And why should there be? Warner Brothers doesn’t own the book! And, more to the point, Warner Brothers doesn’t make money from the book! works better, giving pointers to the publishers’ sites all around the world, and when I looked on the Bloomsbury Publishing site (the British publisher), I found that they’re still hoping for July, 2002
for the fifth book

I’m ready when they are.

Good news on the hockey front

During the first intermission, I called my Mom and got the result of the RPI-Princeton game; RPI won, 6-0, and advances to the ECAC Final Five next weekend in Lake Placid.

The Sharks game was fun, though I wish I knew hockey better — Jeffrey and I will be going again next week with the Shir Hadash Men’s Club. And if time permits, I’m going to try to listen to next week’s RPI games on WRPI.

A new record!

I just checked my work e-mail account; there were 51 new messages waiting for me. 43 were clearly spam just from the subject line (more than half of those were in an Asian character set!) — unless, of course, the IRS is really trying to get in touch with me by e-mail. Of the other 8 messages, one was a (funny) joke from my Mom, one was a bogus and content-free virus warning, one was from a mailing list which I actually subscribe to, and the other four were generated by various automated processes inside IBM.

I remember when e-mail was the killer app. Now, it’s more of a time-killing app.

A somber Friday

I stayed home today to be able to attend a funeral, about which
more anon. But while I was home, I had the chance to chat via instant messaging with a colleague in Israel — we started out talking about business issues, but then I asked her how the situation there was affecting her. I was hoping to hear that the news media was exaggerating the situation, but here’s how our conversation went.

her: wanna hear more about how it is in Israel?

me: Yes. I think.

me: All I know is what I read on the JPost’s web site.

her: well… in general, I sort of gave up on listening to the news – I mean many months ago, I stopped. it seems so hopeless. Even though I know for democracy it is important to “know”, it feels that there’s absolutely nothing we can so anymore, not even during elections – they’re all the same….

me: Have you changed your daily routine?

me: Other than not listening to the news, anyway.

her: however, in the last few days, there’s a war feeling here, and so even I (and I’m not the only one) cling to the news

her: well, we definitely avoid going into crowd places, like malls and such

her: we avoid going to Tel-Aviv if we don’t have to

her: we ourselves don’t have much to do in Jerusalem, but people avoid that too

her: and we’re all pretty terrified – I mean people in military reserve, for instance, are used to getting posts to watch, where they can actually take it easy, and so often they are not fully trained for defending themselves (or don’t remember anymore) and suddenly, they’re out there in the open, being shot at, dying everyday…

me: That sounds horrible.

me: It sounds as bad as the JPost makes it seem.

her: well, yes, I guess with the numbers of people dying, and the way they do – helplessly, in situations that seem avoidable – is terrible indeed

me: I was thinking also of the way you have had to restrict yourself to try to avoid being one of the victims.

her: as for the changes in our lives – we hope that’s temporary… but the effect on our way of thinking is more permanent, learning to be less sensitive to survive

me: I can’t imagine what this must be doing to you all.

her: yes….

her: I think I’ll log off soon

her: the news are on….

me: OK. Shabbat Shalom (I hope).

her: :-) bye

me: bye.

A Funeral With an Intermission

A friend’s mother had died while on an Elderhostel trip in San Francisco (she was chatting one moment, and gone the next), and the funeral was this afternoon. It started out as a typical Jewish funeral — the pall-bearers (including me) carried the casket to the graveside, where the family and friends gathered for a short service and eulogy.

Then the funeral director spoke, telling us that they did not yet have clearance to actually bury the body but still had to wait for a fax from the San Francisco Medical Examiner’s office, which was closed for lunch. So we all milled around and talked for a half-hour until the fax arrived; then the casket was lowered and we took turns shovelling in dirt until the casket was covered. Then we recited the Mourner’s Kaddish and formed two lines for the family to walk between, and that was that.

While we were waiting, I asked the Rabbi how often this happened — he said that this was the second time he’d it happen to him. And the funeral director said that it never happened when dealing with the local authorities — but San Francisco was a different story.

It’s always something, as Gilda Radner once said.

Shabbat Shalom!

…and then again, sometimes it's wonderful

All that I could remember for sure was that there was a judge, that verdicts were handed down, and that the words “Messire” and “Guilty” appeared in the story. So I tried the obvious Google search and the sixth hit gave me the full text of the story (The Executioner, by Algis Budris).

And of course, there are other wonderful secrets on the Web, too, such as the secret of desktop fusion, as discovered at my Alma Mater. Let’s Go Red!

Google is too limited

I wasn’t going to buy a phone from Staples no matter how good a deal it was, so instead, I visited the local Office Depot and found the VTech 2931, which met my needs, on the display. But they didn’t have one in stock — so they called around to the other nearby stores and found me one. If I’d been willing to wait a day, I could have had it delivered, but I wanted it for tomorrow, so I drove up to Santa Clara, brought it home, and hooked it up; assuming the battery charges overnight, I’ll be all set.

The phone comes with everything but a headset, but that shouldn’t have been a problem — it uses a standard 2.5mm mono jack, as did my old Sprint PCS phone. But I’d made the mistake of putting the old headset away when I stopped using the Sprint phone.

So I started searching. That was two hours ago. I still haven’t found the old headset. Life would be so much easier if I could use Google to search my house!

Star Trekkin'

This morning, I had a very strange dream indeed; all that I can still remember about it was that I was talking with Tim Berners-Lee, who was wearing a Borg uniform.

I’m sure this means something, but I’m not at all sure that I want to know what.

The fun side of frustration

I spent two hours this afternoon trying to make a contact with a friend from work via ham radio, with no success. We spent the entire time on the phone trying to figure out what was going on — but neither of us could hear the other one on the radio, whether we used voice (SSB) or digital (PSK31). It’s a good thing the nation wasn’t relying on us for emergency communications today!

And I guess it’s also a clue that I need a better antenna.

But at least I got the radio back into action for the first time in months! Some day, I’ll actually work someone….

Why I'm not likely to be a Staples customer again

Today, I stopped by the local Staples, which is going out of business, to pick up a bunch of miscellaneous supplies (labels, Rolodex cards, and the like). They happened to have a pile of Tensor booklights, too, and I needed one, so I bought it. When I got home, I found that the light didn’t work; foolishly, I thought that they might make an exception to “All Sales Final” for merchandise that was instantly defective.

So I went back to the store and asked the cashier, who called the manager, who told me that “Staples doesn’t own the merchandise in the store any more, the liquidator does, and they say no returns”, and went on to say that I should have tested the booklight before buying it (which would have required opening the blister pack and having had the foresight to have brought batteries along).

I could have tolerated being told “no refunds”. But I was angered by the manager’s “blame the customer” attitude, hence this posting (and the letter I’ve just mailed to Staples’ CEO), and my plan to avoid Staples from now on.

More power!

One of the reasons I wanted to be running Windows XP on my laptop was the hope that I could use its ability to support two displays at once. It doesn’t matter how big a screen is, I always wind up covering it with a single application — but with two screens, I thought I might be able to have two applications visible at once and even do cut-and-paste between them.

So I got a port replicator and set things up yesterday, only to find that it was a disaster. Having two displays was nice, but when they’re wildly different in size and placed fairly far away from one another, I found it very difficult to cope. It didn’t help that Windows doesn’t notice when one undocks, and so applications still tried to use the screen that wasn’t there.

So I gave up on that idea. Today’s attempt, which seems to be a bit more successful so far, is to use two screens on my desktop machine here at work. The screens are nearly the same size and are close enough togther that the mouse does seem to move almost seamlessly between them, but I can sure tell that one of the displays is a significantly older model, with a curved screen (instead of the flat CRT of my newer display). What I’d like is two modern LCD screens, but I can’t really justify the upgrade yet.

(Update: I swapped my old curved CRT for a newer, flat-screen CRT, so now I have two CRTs with the same characteristics. That’s much better!)

Thanks, Brent!

Brent Simmons is leaving Userland today. Thanks, Brent, for all the hard work on Manila, Frontier, and especially keeping the ETP servers up and running.

Thanks, Sam!

Sam Palmisano took over as CEO of IBM today, and the stock went up $4.90. Now, if he can just keep that happening for fifty more days, I’d be a very happy camper.

Shabbat Shalom!