Mount Sutro: An Electronic Periodical

0658Hours EDT

The Forces of Habit

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

I suppose it is the very nature of habituation to slide beneath the radar of our normal perceptions. This occurred to me the other day as I noticed I was stuck in a habitual cycle, one which I had become aware of due to a change in circumstance.

For the longest time, the old impact printers at the office were connected to the mainframe system via a gateway PC. Due to the age of this set-up and the frequency with which the PC would lose the connection to the mainframe, I got into the habit of turning my head to peek in at the status display whilst walking past the printer room.

Now that the operation of the mainframe printers has finally been taken over by HIS, the gateway PC sits unpowered, awaiting its journey to the land of surplus. Yet each time I pass the printer room—situated so that I pass it several times a day—I still take a glance inward.

I wonder how long it will be before I stop looking. Will it happen because I have thought about and discussed it specifically or because my brain finally just gets it?

Habit breaking itself is not necessarily difficult. For example, I recently had the driver's window in my car repaired. It had been gradually malfunctioning, first necessitating pressure from my elbow as I raised or lowered the glass to keep it from derailing. This went on for a while before it threw in the towel and quit.

I cannot recall how much time had passed between that day and present, but I figure around one year. So it came as little surprise that I only used my elbow when opening the window once or twice thereafter. And that was that. Never again have I reverted to this learned behavior. I suppose the joy associated with the now-functional window coupled with the passage of time aided my swift acclimation to pre-habit.

Speaking of car repair, since the only system left unrepaired after my recent flurry of automotive expenditures is the air conditioner—which I vow to repair before summer; I am tired of hot, sweaty summer commutes—I am looking forward to making some weekend day trips.

Most recently I took the visiting family to the Wakulla Lodge for lunch and to take the river tour, then up to Havana where we walked around and looked in shops, and finally ended up in Quincy to drive and walk around before heading back.

Next I would like to hit up the Natural Bridge Battlefield State Historic Site, Britton Hill, the Saint Joseph Point Lighthouse and a barbeque restaurant I passed during another trip. The name escapes me but it is possibly Hog Wild BBQ in Carrabelle. All I can remember is that the sign advertised barbeque worth driving 100 miles to eat.

It would be really nice to have a camera before embarking on any further travels. The film SLR I had is beyond repair and I do not have the budget for an SLR digital with removable lenses. I would love to get another film SLR, but the idea of uninhibited picture taking at no cost is appealing right now. Can anyone suggest an affordable but quality digital camera?

The Glass Master

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

Those of you who enjoy the musical compositions of Philip Glass should make an effort to listen to his latest production, the score to the film Notes on a Scandal.

I have not seen the movie and know little about it, but the music developed by Glass is up to his usual standard. Each track contains a segment of that overall distinctiveness found in all Glass music—the comfortable and familiar percussion elements, chord progressions and melodies all have their place in the sun.

As an added bonus for those reading with a thirst for String Quartet No.3 (Mishima) 1957, a version of which was featured in the often-discussed American Express advert Tribeca, several tracks on the score "borrow" elements from that piece.

With a total play time of only 50:41, the conclusion of the disc brings a wanting for more. Fortunately, my enjoyment of the album easily allows for repetitious play.

When you fear you may laser an etching into the often-played disc, you might try these additional albums: Aguas de Amazona (Glass and Uakti), Glass Cage (Cage and Glass with Brubaker), Glassworks (Glass) and Hydrogen Jukebox (Glass).

For more information about and multimedia of the String Quartet No.3 (Mishima) 1957, visit the article "American Express: Tribeca."

The Perfect Exchange

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

For the past week or so my DSL modem has been on the warpath, seemingly bent on punishing me with technical minutia when I am not at work.

At first, minor connectivity problems occurred leading me to believe that either interference, line noise or central office difficulties were to blame. The problem quickly worsened and was finally compounded by the partial failure of the modem.

The web-based interface does not accept incoming requests or give any sign of presence. Telnet, SSH and even pings are all refused as if the hardware no longer exists. It still gives my network router an IP address dynamically, though.

I finally gave up and decided that my troubleshooting solved basically nothing and hardware failure of the modem must be the culprit. All that was left to do now was what I had been hoping to avoid from the start—call technical support.

While my one and only previous encounter with Embarq's customer service was an extremely positive one, dealing with computer-related technical support is something I loathe. Needless to say, I was enamored when I discovered I could chat with a support representative online.

What happened next can only be described as some of the best customer service I have experienced and absolutely the best technical support experience ever.
15:06:13 — You
Initial Question/Comment: I believe my DSL modem may be defective.

15:06:19 — System
Steve W has joined this session!

15:06:19 — System
Welcome to EMBARQ. For security reasons please provide your 10-digit EMBARQ Local Telephone number and last four digits of your Social Security Number. Once you have provided this, please allow us a few moments to respond.

15:06:36 — You
8502224747 ****

15:06:50 — Steve W
Thanks! I am sorry to hear that. Is the power light on it going out?

15:06:59 — You
No, but connectivity has become intermittent, the modem no longer responds to pings and the web-based interface is inaccessible.

15:07:45 — Steve W
I will send you a replacement for free.

15:07:52 — You
That would be great.

15:07:55 — Steve W
It takes about 2 to 3 business day.

15:08:05 — Steve W
Sure. Anything else today?

15:08:17 — You
No, that was it. Thank you so much.

15:08:36 — Steve W
You are very welcome. Thank you again for contacting Embarq's Online Services.
I mean, damn.

I fully expected to be grilled like a fish about my computer, network, settings and every other detail which I had already exhaustingly eliminated. But instead of alienating their (probably non-technical) customers with endless technobabble questions and flowchart nonsense, Embarq smartly cuts to the chase and delivers results.

The last part to be confirmed in two to three business days.

UPDATE: Tuesday, 14 November 2006, 1748

I just signed for a UPS package from you know who. True to their word and according to UPS tracking information, Embarq shipped my order Monday evening and it travelled all night (from Fort Wayne, Indiana with stops in Louisville, Kentucky and Albany, Georgia) to arrive in my hands. Now the internet functions again thanks to superior customer service from Embarq.

The Last Straw

by Archived Article (2001–2014) Help

My state of embarrassment over my government only grows stronger as every new realization of a crooked politician comes to light. If you have not figured it out by now, we have given the keys to the United States car to hypocritical, selfish babies who could not debate their way out of a paper bag without spouting party-line rhetoric or messages of hate.

People who do not have the ability to admit when they are wrong, to finally sit down and not retort with a ridiculous comparison, have no place in a democratic argument. Just as it has been said the mark of a "done" online debate is when Adolph Hitler and the Nazi Party become the next analogy, modern politicking cannot seem to go two seconds without badmouthing the opponent.

Take this for example, our infamous former Representative Mark Foley (R, FL) is clearly a scum bag. We have a man in an important public position not only screwing around online on my dime but also sending harassing messages to minors.

In this critical pre-election time for the GOP, amid the continuing decline of support for the current administration, having yet another controversy like this can hurt. It comes as no surprise then that FOX News identified Foley as a Democrat via on-screen graphics and corrected the error later by simply not identifying his party affiliation. Come on.

When you cannot argue with the big kids, throw mud, right? We have our own problem children, thank you, so why don't you pull the reigns in on Katherine Harris (R, FL) before she alienates every segment of the population you desperately want to vote Republican. Like the Jewish and Hispanic people of south Florida. Yeah, she forgot about them, didn't she?

Make no mistake, I am not much more pleased with the Democratic party for their (yet again) lack of organization when it comes to campaigning. Who thought it would be so difficult to find an educated, intelligent, articulate and skeleton-free closet owning individual who wants to run for public office? I mean, are there any politicians left who cannot be bought and sold like cattle?

Regardless of my anger toward just about everyone involved in politics right now, the world does keeps turning. And what is our next step? Oh that's right, passing legislation to deny Constitutional rights to those arrested for alleged terrorist activities.

At a time where the people of the world are watching our every move, as we push our goals and beliefs on to others, should we not be the good example of proper democracy? We preach democracy, but openly deny it. We preach justice, but actively defy it.

After the passage of S.3930, the Military Commissions Act of 2006, a Republican friend of mine was so angered by the administration and Congress' apparent lack of concern over taking such dramatic actions to undermine the rule of law, he decided to write Congressman Mel Martinez (R, FL) a letter.

The response from Martinez angered my friend even more as it defended the values of our democracy while at the same time took the firm stance that so-called "enemy combatants" do not deserve their day in court. After reading this my friend's question to me was this: "And how do we prove anyone is an enemy combatant if a proper hearing is not first held?"

Good question.

As for me, I did something that I had planned to do for a while. Several years ago, Erik told me of his adventure in trying to give me the gift of an American Civil Liberties Union membership for my birthday. Apparently they are not configured to accept donations for persons other than the remunerator.

I can tell you now, the process of joining the ACLU for oneself is remarkably simple. I do not hold any thoughts of grandeur over my modest contribution, but I do believe in the strength in numbers. And I believe in showing my support for the ideals we are supposed to be preaching and practicing as a nation.

Serious people need to take a stand against the issues plaguing our nation, but nothing will be accomplished so long as we openly practice segregation in our justice system.

A notion with which my Republican friend agrees. So much so that he plans to become a card-carrying member of the ACLU himself. And check it out, I did not even have to trash the Republican party when talking the issues.

UPDATE: 12 October 2006, 1845

According to the Tallahassee Democrat, Katherine Harris met with Jewish leaders in south Florida yesterday hoping to save face with those voters she likely offended with her "legislate sin" comment seven weeks ago. Hopefully the smart people of the State of Florida will see through Harris and support incumbent Bill Nelson.