January 31, 2005

Bun-bun Is Back!

For all you fans of Sluggy Freelance, Bun-bun has finally returned!

When last seen (January 11th 2004), he was kicked out of time by the other holidays. In today's comic (January 31st 2005), he's finally back in the start of a new story. Looks like he's out for some revenge.

January 22, 2005

Enterprise Must-See?

I was just reading this article on SciFi.com about Enterprise, they've got a few episodes coming up that may be interesting to long time Trek fans:

  • something about the Mirror Universe (from the Mirror Mirror episode of the original series)
  • two episodes that finally explain how Klingons went from swarthy humans to guys with bumpy foreheads

January 20, 2005

I Hate My Job

This evening I was visiting Tim, who's down from Vermont to see relatives. But it turned into a night of angst for me, thanks to my job.

All afternoon today (as well as on Tuesday), I spent out at the Jarret CellMaster trying to isolate a transmission problem on one side. I'm not going to get into what a CellMaster does, except that it has two sides (for redundancy) and that one of these sides transmits sometimes then just drops out completely. Today I was trying to isolate the problem to one component, which I did (I suspect a bad transmit power adjustment screw).

I did not have enough time to complete my work today, so I set the site back to its original configuration, confirmed the good side was working fine, then locked up and left.

(during the ride home I experienced several computer lockups, actual blue screens - but this has no bearing on my story, other than I was on the phone the whole way home talking to my local support people.)

Drove home, showered, then started my drive north to see Tim.

I stopped in a Wawa, when I came out I noted that my managed had tried to 2-way me, but had not called nor left a message. I figured he just wanted to see if I felt like chatting, which I didn't (it now being 2 hours after work, all you hourly employees know what I'm saying). A minute later one of my coworkers (who happened to be on call) 2-wayed me, then started asking questions about Jarret. The first thing I learned was that the site was now failing everything on both sides; the second thing was that my boss was furious.

I was already on my way to see Tim, so cancelling and turning back was out of the question. Besides, I'm not on call this week, plus I verified good operation before I left. Needless to say, I sweated it out the entire evening while my coworker drove out to the site and started his troubleshooting.

Knowing my boss was furious, I took the time to call our NOC and ask about any alarms. They saw the door alarm (when I opened the site), several manual side switches (which I did as part of my troubleshooting), then the door alarm cleared (when I was done & closed the door). The site was operating fine before I left, which I personally verified before closing the door and which the alarm log backs up. The first outage alarm was received 45 minutes later, by then I was almost home.

Turns out the site was switching sides on its own. This is a very unusual outage, one we've only seen a couple of times before at different sites, it's proven almost impossible to reproduce (meaning that since you can't force it to happen & observe it, you can't really troubleshoot it). Bottom line, it's nothing I did, since if the site can't keep a side it will switch every 2 minutes or so, and it was doing nothing of the sort the entire time I was there. So that worry is off my back.

Now I have to worry about if or how bad my manager is going to flip out tomorrow. I'm sure I'll get the 20 questions treatment, certainly he's going to throw accusations my way (either that I caused the problem, that I should have gone out, or both).

The thing that really sucks is that for several months now I've been on his good side, he knows he can rely on me and that I perform good and timely work. But one little thing like this, even if it isn't my fault at all, and suddenly it's like I'm the red headed stepchild who can't do anything right.

If anyone knows of an open job making decent money, please please let me know so I can get out of this hell-hole!

January 11, 2005

FCC - 2004 In Review

Last year I wrote a major rant on the FCC (posted on 11 November). Since we're coming up on the Superbowl, and we all remember what happened last year, I thought I'd post some new information on this topic.

According to Time magazine (an issue from late last year, alas I don't remember which one), 1.1 million complaints were filed with the FCC in 2004. Almost half of those, 540,000 to be exact, concerned Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction".

Wow, that's a lot of pissed off people, right? Maybe not...

According to this MediaWeek article, prior to 2003 the annual number of complaints received by the FCC was under 15,000. In 2003 the FCC received 240,000, 99.9% of those were filed by one source, the Parents Television Council. And in 2004, 99.9% of those not related to the Superbowl were from the same source (this last fact is also in the Time article).

What this means, according to the president of the Center for Creative Voices in Media, is that "Really a tiny minority with a very focused political agenda is trying to censor American television and radio."

In one example, Fox Broadcasting was fined $1.2 million when the FCC received 159 complaints against Married By America, which showed strippers covered up by digital pixilation. But when Fox confronted the FCC, the federal agency could only produce 90 complaints filed by 23 different people. Worse yet, all but 4 of the complaints are identical and only 1 individual claims to have watched the show.

Should 23 people and a photocopier decide "community standards" for a show watched by 5.1 million viewers? Should these same 23 people decide censorship issues for every TV viewer and radio listener in the entire country?

They're certainly trying...and the FCC is listening.

Verizon Versus AT&T

About 6 months ago, a very polite technician from AT&T came to my door with a customer satisfaction survey. This took about 10 minutes, at the end he asked me to sign, which I thought was a bit weird but whatever. Turns out that at the time I had AT&T for one service & Verizon for the other (can't remember who was Long Distance or who was Local).

I suddenly found myself entirely in thrall to AT&T. Why those dirty, underhanded bastards! But then I shrugged it off - after all, I've had AT&T for years and never had a problem.

Then they started doing goofy things to my bill - I'd pay it, but they wouldn't credit the payment & next month my bill would be twice as big. If I only paid the new charges then the old charges still showed up as unpaid...until I just paid the whole thing, then suddenly I had this credit.

Granted, I have a cell phone through work that allows me to make reasonable toll calls for free. So we're talking $30 or so a month, plus any long distance calls. Not much, but having a monthly battle with the phone company that thinks I owe $60+ and won't properly credit my account until I overpay is annoying.

Worst of all, this happened twice. Come on AT&T - you really expect me to believe in this age of computer spread sheets, you can't prepare my invoice on a monthly basis?

So I called Verizon and set up my new phone service. Now I get the same phone service, plus have Call Waiting and Caller ID with no additional charge (could have even taken a 3rd service). Then the nice lady pitched me DSL, which is only $9 a month more than I'm paying right now for dial-up. Need I say it - SOLD!

January 09, 2005

Welcome to the New Year!

Hey everyone, I've been real busy and so haven't posted anything in a while.

Well, how was everyone's holidays?