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Getting Old – the Signs are Everywhere

There are plenty of symptoms and signs that you are getting old. And I am not talking about the harassment by AARP for you to join.

Sign 1 – You have a pill box to organize your daily medication. Often this starts as one, but soon becomes two as you will have morning and night medications. Statins, Ace Inhibitors, Beta Blockers, aspirin, anti coagulants. Yep you are getting old when you are on a first name basis with your pharmacist (and I am not talking weed)

Sign 2 – You give up your motorcycle endorsement on your drivers license. I have had that endorsement since I was 16 and got my license. I carried it with me to Arizona. But coming back to California, I let it drop. This is acknowledging I will never ride a motorcycle again. Sad day indeed.

My Atheism – 4, What a Waste

The next episode in my experience with organized religion and why I am grateful to have been a life long atheist, is from my time in College. Not well known is the fact that I worked my way through college in restaurants. There I met a mormon woman, I will call Cheryl (not her real name).

Cheryl was in high school, and knowing that I was studying physics and math, she asked for some help with her schoolwork. She was a junior and was taking AP calculus, so without a doubt she had aptitude.

After these mentoring sessions (really, it wasn’t tutoring, she just needed some blocks to her thinking removed), we became friends. As friends do, we shared stories about ourselves, mostly just topical themes (completely platonic.)

As with many religious people, she was completely molded by her religion, chosen for her by her parents and enforced by her familial ties. I had known she was a “Mormon”, but at that time I really didn’t know what that meant, other than that it was  some form of Christian.

As time went on and I was helping her more with her math and science topics, I asked about where she was going to go to college, and then I was floored with her response. She wasn’t going to college. She had a husband arranged for her, and he was on his “Mission” in some place of the world. When he returned they would be married, and she would be the homemaker, raising their kids, and doing her part.

Wow. Here was a very bright, gifted young woman, who because of the religious indoctrination of her family would be trapped at home to care for a gaggle of kids. And she seemed to be satisfied that was her place in life. At the age of 17.

Not to denigrate the role of homemaker, and stay at home mom, but to have that decision made (for you) before you finish high school seems really whack to me.

Years later, when I was learning about contemporary religions, I learned about the story of Joseph Smith, and the genesis of the Mormon church. 100% quackery and bullpuckey. Thanks to the boys of South Park who did a quite factual episode describing their beliefs and origins (and not making fun of their special undergarments).

I was quickly learning that there was little positive about the blind following of a religious sect. And up to this point I had only experience with “christian” denominations.

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Getting Old – uh, what was I talking about…

There is plenty of evidence of getting old. Having a heart attack. Finding out that you have arthritis in your hands. Chronic pain in various parts of your body that just don’t go away.

A few weeks ago, someone mentioned that they were ignoring the advice of their physicians and abusing their bodies. I of course had to weigh in.

As I approach the magic five oh, I am falling apart. Early in my life I had a similar belief. As a teen, I got heavily into motorcycles. Starting with off road, it was an every weekend practice. I was young, I was invincible. I would ride any trail, I would do anything. Hills, jumps, gnarly tree-filled trails. Absolutely bulletproof.

Then at the ripe old age of 16, I got the first life lesson. Riding at Hollister Hills on the TT track, I was riding a friends bike. It was a 1979 Yamaha TT 500. Big single thumper. A natural slider. Not a lot of suspension travel, but a natural slider. I was flat tracking it that day like Mert Lawill at the San Jose Mile.

Then in one corner, I got nailed. A rider on a Yamaha YZ400 hit me while I was sliding. Off, on the high side. Massive dislocated shoulder.

Groan. 3 years later, it is popping out while I am sleeping. Right after I graduated high school, I get it repaired. A Bristow repair of my shoulder.

Fast forward to today. Somewhere at age 26, it re-dislocated. Not worth describing how, but it was painful. Today, I have a constant ache. It isn’t agony. But it is getting worse. Since my heart attack, I have been on medicine that preclude taking NSAID’s, and oh boy, that causes pain.

Have a heart attack (age 44), dislocate a shoulder (age 16, repaired at 18, re-dislocated at 26), have plantar fascitis at age 45, jam you knee badly (again off road motorcycling) at 38, and at 49 you are in a pretty constant state of pain.

I wouldn’t recommend getting old.

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Apartment Living – Bad and Good

There are many bad things about living in a less than great neighborhood. But also some really good things. This is a mixed bag post.

First, the bad

Sandals

Early this week, while walking my dogs, I stepped in some dog feces. One of the hazards regardless of how nice the neighborhood is, no matter how cultured (or not) the residents are, people walking their dogs are very negligent in picking up their dog’s droppings.

Instead of tracking it into my apartment, I left my Teva’s to let the poop dry so I could shake it off. But the next morning I step outside to shake the shit off, and they are gone. Someone decided that they needed my sandals more than me, and took them.

They were well worn, so I am not going to cry a river, but it does seem petty that footwear isn’t safe.

Early phone calls

Our master bedroom faces over the patio(s) in our bank of units (it also faces a busy street, but that is a different story).

Of course, that means we hear the wild parties across the street (2 – 3 nights a week), and the drunken fights that happen as the parties breakup. Bad enough.

This morning, at 4:00 AM, our neighbor is on his patio talking to a (suspected ex) love interest. Not fighting, but loud, a mix of english and spanish, and a lot of sad sap pleading about how much he loved her and can’t live without her.

For over an hour.

Groan.

Next, the good

Mariachi

Last night, walking the dogs, there was a small mariachi band practicing on the steps of one of the apartments. Guitar, Accordion, and horns.

Not that I am aficionado, but they were quite good.

Well, that is all for this episode of Apartment Living.

His Steve-ness with the MacBook Air. But will it blend?

The Mac Book Air – One Year In

Last July, I splurged and bought me a Macbook Air. The product line was refreshed, and brought faster, more energy sipping processors. I had been using a monster MacBook Pro (still have it) 15″ that was loaded. Max memory, SSD boot/spinning rust extension disc, and the high resolution screen. But lugging it around was tiring.

The factor that tilted me in favor of the air was the lightness, and the battery life. Purported to be 10+ hours (I regularly get 12 or more hours on a charge), was the key point. I was honestly considering a chromebook (the google one with the retina level display), that was about 3/4 the price, but when I went to see it at the local Best Buy, I was underwhelmed.

How has it held up to a year of daily use? Quite well. It is my main home PC. I write on it, I do some light web development, and of course consumption of media. It is comfortable to use, and even when there is 10% of battery left, it isn’t a mad dash to find an outlet to charge it up (once my 15″ MBP hits 15% you get really nervous). I have taken many trips with it, so I can say that it holds up well to the rigors of travel, and it is a joy to use even on a cramped fold out table on a typical airplane seat (nb: I am a million miler on United, so I get complimentary economy plus seating).

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Linked in bullcrap

I have ranted often about LinkedIn, from their desire to be a destination as often and for as much time as Facebook, a tall order indeed. Many of the people I know in Marketing are hailing it as the B2B marketing platform, praising the blogs, the opinion leaders they have recruited, and the communities that can be created.

I naturally have a LinkedIn profile, and I am a member to many of these communities that are relevant to my field, and I will admit that there are some interesting discussions. But there is a downside. First is the volume of notifications. Holy moly, my social tab of my Gmail account must get 30+ notification emails a day (I am sure there is a way to turn that off, but like facebook, LinkedIn doesn’t make things like that easy). And they are mostly lame.

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Gun Culture

No, I am not going to rip on the prevalence of guns in the country, or about how to solve the problem of so many nutty people going out in a blaze of glory. Instead I am going to offer an observation, from my single data point, me.

I have long enjoyed shooting. Got my start at 8 years old or so, I was a typical boy, so the usual “cops and robbers” and “cowboys and indians” were typical play time activities.

To this day, I still enjoy going to the range and relieving stress by putting holes in paper. Consequently, I have a safe full of firearms. Some I bought. Many I “inherited” from direct or distant family members. Rifles, Shotguns, Pistols, I have it covered.

I don’t hide this fact, but I don’t advertise it either. In fact, I do not look or act like a “gun nut” (probably because I am not a gun nut.) However, when someone who is steeped in the gun culture finds out I am an enthusiast, the conversation gets predictable.

Case in point: Our movers.

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Office 2013 – First Impressions

My work laptop got wonky and my copy of Office 2010 was corrupted. Really weird stuff happening, but the icing on the cake was it saving corrupted files. I used all my ninja mojo, ran out of ideas, and then turned to our internal desktop support group, again to no avail. The last ditch effort before re-imaging the laptop was to try Office 2013.

Office 2013 with the release of the first service pack became “supported” on our computers, so a quick transaction on the SW lifecycle management tool, and it was installed. A couple reboots later and it is working.

It had no trouble finding my exchange email account, and syncing, and the plugins that I have installed work well with it (seems like the Acrobat plugin is a bit wonky, but I virtually never use that).

Service Review – Capitol Honda

This is the email I sent to Capitol Honda in response to their badgering me to rate my service experience excellent. I thought I would share it. I already posted it as a review on Yelp.

Perhaps you should not have emailed me.

Having recently moved from Arizona to California, and needing a minor service, as well as obtaining a smog test to register my S2000, I booked an appointment at your dealership. While my car is long out of warranty (and even the extended warranty), in Arizona I had great experience with the two dealers I went to, Dobbs Honda in Tucson, and San Tan Honda in Gilbert.  My experience at Capitol Honda was not so shining.

Going in for a minor service, something I have come to expect to be in the $75 range, I was shocked at the first estimate shown by the service advisor. Still, I needed service so I just signed the form. If I recall, the initial estimate with the smog check was on the order of $275. I can’t say exactly what it was, because I didn’t get to keep a copy of that estimate. I was told to expect the service to be done around 9:30. A little longer than I had become accustomed to, but not an issue. I had also mentioned that the keyless remotes for my Honda factory security system (installed shortly after I bought the car) were non functional, and that I would like the system fixed. I was also told that there would be a 10% discount applied to the total.

About 9:00 while I was waiting in your “lounge” my cell phone rang. It was the service advisor, who was urging me to change transmission fluid, and differential fluid.  I was a little hesitant, but he was insistent. I should point out that since the day I bought my S2000, it had been takes solely to a Honda dealer, and had the recommended service done at every interval.  Additionally, he mentioned that there was some leakage on the battery, and that it would cost $60.00 to clean up. Not quite sure how a little water and baking soda, plus a dab of petroleum jelly and 5 minutes of work justifies $60, but by that time I just wanted to be done with the experience. The service advisor then advised me that the normal troubleshooting of the remotes failed to identify any obvious issues (like dead batteries). If I was interested in the technician diagnosing it, it would be $125 an hour.  I declined that.

At about 11:30 I get the call that the work is done. The total was a little over $580, and numbly I paid.

The real disappointment, and the reason why I will not be returning to your establishment, EVER, is around the security system. The service advisor mentioned that since there was another S2000 in the shop, the technician programmed and verified that those key fobs worked. I was stunned, because he should know that the Honda factory alarm system uses different remotes, that are tied to the central unit, and that while the standard fobs would still lock and unlock the doors, they are not activating and clearing the alarm. The conclusion by your technician and your service advisor was that I just needed new remotes. Oh, and for a mere $307 each, plus a small programming fee, they would be happy to supply them to me. Of course a simple internet search shows that I can buy them for $120 each, and programming them is trivial, so the price quoted, even with the promised 10% discount is a complete rip-off.

As if this wasn’t enough, to find out that Capitol Honda doesn’t have a car wash facility on premise, and that the customer (who just spent close to $600) is given a voucher for a local carwash, I can tell you it was a challenge to not laugh in the service advisors’ face. Additionally, I would like to comment on the “lounge”. I do not expect Honda to have the opulence that you expect in a Lexus dealership, but clearly, Honda doesn’t have standards of what is expected of dealers. In Arizona, the lounges were large, with plenty of comfortable seating, some private work areas, coffee and fresh pastries. In general, they were places you didn’t mind spending a couple of hours at.  Your lounge, is small, uncomfortable, and lacking comfortable seating. It is almost as if you do not want people to wait for service, and to push them to your shuttles or the local businesses.

For these reasons, I can assure you that I will never set foot into your dealership again. Clearly I had become spoiled by dealers in Arizona who felt compelled to offer as good of service as the independent shops, and to compete on price, yet differentiate with amenities. I guess I will be looking for a quality independent shop. Fortunately, the S2000 club tells me of several outstanding local shops who will take as good, or better care of my S2000.

To add the icing on the cake. On Sunday afternoon, I received a phone call from the service advisor to “remind me” to rate him excellent. Bothering me on a weekend is an unforgivable sin.

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Props to Microsoft

It almost pains me to admit it, but Microsoft has gone a long way to restoring my trust in them as a brand and a company to do business with. From the bullshit around Internet Explorer 6 (that I still have to deal with on my websites), to the piss poor security model of pre SP2 Windows XP, they had a pretty big deficit to overcome. How did they do it (in my case at least?)

Yesterday, I got a message that someone suspicious had control of my live.com account. I happen to have a couple, so it took me a while to realize that it was the one that is my Xbox Live account (and uses my gmail address). I haven’t actually logged into the account in a couple of years, and it was really just used to coordinate my activities on my xbox. No email, no other “goodies“, so low risk. Or so I thought.

Sigh, so I go “reclaim” my account. Not too hard as the asshat who scammed the credentials hadn’t done anything to change the main security features. Phew. Fortunately, I have a pretty long history with Microsoft commercially, and I will admit that their business/billing systems are pretty good to work with. No real complaints, clearly they have a good grasp on dealing with the masses (unlike Google, cough. cough) when there are issues.

As has become the custom, I turned on 2 factor authentication. Really annoying to do this for a lightweight use, but c’est la vie. There is an “app” that you can setup to provide the code (or you can just go with the SMS message to your phone”.

Yep, Microsoft uses the Google Authenticator application. Kick ass.

Who would have thought that MSFT would use the Google tool?

Oh, and they acknowledge that a few people do want to use iPhones for their services, so there are really good setup instructions for Apple gear.

Trust not completely restored, but well on the path. Credit where credit is due.