Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I don't get it

Why would these be "inappropriate?"  Especially the grown-up Wednesday Addams model.  Yow!

(Most likely NSFW).

Sunday, October 28, 2012

A couple of vintage book covers

Found these at My Ear-Trupet Has Been Struck By Lightning.

"I will just add that the people who bought this book based on its cover were among the most cruelly disappointed people in history."
Heh...no kidding.  If you saw the covers of the versions of these books that I own, you would be hard-pressed to believe they were the same books.

I might have to re-read that first one again.  I don't remember anything about a sarcastic beaver.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Shaun of the Dead

Just wanted to say that I finally got around to getting this DVD from Netflix.  I guess I was expecting it to be a lot funnier because so many thousands of people kept telling me how frikkin' hilarious it is.  It was funny enough and I enjoyed it, but it wasn't nearly what I expected.  As far as I'm concerned, Zombieland was much better.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Meeting follow-up

I think I acquitted myself well at the meeting today.  The only point I made that ran up against opposition was the one about showing us the customer name.  The main objection was, "but it's too haaaaarrrrdddd."  I found that some of my suggestions had already been addressed by the higher-ups.

The manager who was running the meeting started talking about how GPS should be incorporated into the new units, and for a few minutes he and I went off on a tangent talking about the potentials of using GPS in such a device.  Everyone else was stone silent; I don't think anyone else had ever used a GPS device and no one understood what we were talking about.

If you're a customer, you might be wondering if this is worth the money.  I guess that's up to you to decide, but...the old units are old and are having problems:  primary batteries that won't keep a charge, a back-up system that doesn't work on many of the units, and a contract with a company that can takes weeks to make a simple repair like replacing a broken screen.  Also, the recent addition of the other water company has introduced further logistical problems because they use a different make of handheld.  They want to get everyone on the same unit.  Also, any new contract will include a 3-year commitment to replacing worn-out batteries and broken screens for free.

If you're wondering why screens get broken, you should try doing this job and see how long you can go before you trip over a hidden obstacle and fall down.*  I've never broken the screen on mine, but one look at all the scratches on it would tell you that I've fallen down and dropped it many times.

*I think the worst offender is the "retracting" sprinkler head that no longer retracts.  Those things just kill me.  They're essentially invisible until you crash into one.

Got some good laughs out of this

People photographed with expressions of terror in a haunted house at Niagara Falls.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What have I gotten myself into

I volunteered for something a few weeks ago, completely against my policy of ever volunteering for anything.  I did it only because of the same reason I have ever (rarely) volunteered for anything:  I was afraid there weren't going to be any competent people involved.  This isn't a boast about myself; rather, it's an honest reflection of how I perceive the people around me.

So anyway, the company is planning on buying new handheld devices for us, to replace the old Datamatic Roadrunner.  I thought they were asking for volunteers to try out new devices.  Back when I was first hired, I was trained on the Roadrunner by a few people, but within a few days I had already figured out how to do a lot of stuff I was never told about.  It's a knack I have.  So I thought it would be fun to work with some different handhelds and figure them out.

Unfortunately, I have since learned that I will also be required to attend meetings.  So tomorrow I have to go to a meeting and bring some recommendations for the new device.  I've spent the last hour or so writing up the following, which I offer here just in case you aren't already bored enough.  You may notice a running theme which is explicitly summarized in the final point.

·         Multiple trouble codes:   We frequently encounter a situation in which two or more trouble codes could be used.  In these situations, the meter reader is required to use the trouble code which prevents him from receiving a processing error, which is not necessarily a trouble code that would generate a work order.  For example, a frequent occurrence is to have a meter that is vacant but shows consumption, and it has a service-side leak as well.  In this situation, the meter reader would be forced to enter a trouble code 82 to keep from receiving a processing error and then must “write out a card” for the leak.  Our current handheld device is capable of recording up to three trouble codes, but the system that receives the data is set up to catch only the first trouble code; the remainder are ignored.
·         Input of new meters:  When a new meter is found that is not yet on the Roadrunner, we are currently able to add the new meter in and properly sequence it, however, the system is not set up to catch these new meters.  It goes ignored, and we must “write out a card” on the new meter.  Adding new meters should be fully electronic.
·         Straight connections:  In relation to the previous point, the ability to add new meters could also be used to electronically add straight connections, rather than being required to “write out a card.”
·         Special messages/instructions:  Our current handheld device has the capability for the user to type in a “special message” on any given address/account.  However, the system is not set up to record and remember these special messages.  Such special messages would be invaluable for meter readers to leave each other specific instructions on how to approach and find difficult meters.
·         Customer information:  The handheld device that I used when working as a contractor for CPS had customer/account holder name available at the touch of a button.  This extra information was often very useful in finding business accounts which had no address displayed on the property.  Also, the Roadrunners that Alamo Heights currently uses have room on the display for the customer name to be displayed at the bottom of the screen.   Therefore, our current Roadrunner device also has this capability, however the system is not set up to give us this information.
·         Backlit keypad:  Our new unit should have a manually switchable backlit keypad.  Manually, in that there is no light sensor employed, but the user is able to turn the light on or off as conditions require.  Ideally, a timer would also be used in the backlight circuitry so that it automatically switches off within a certain period of time of no keys being pressed.  This would help prevent battery drain.
·         Adjustable contrast:  The display of our new unit should have a manually adjustable contrast that is controlled by the user.  This would be very useful in increasing readability based on lighting as well as sky and weather conditions.  Both the backlit keypad and adjustable contrast would help reduce input errors and improve accuracy.
·         Technical support:  We absolutely must have proper technical support for our new device.  As shown in several previous points, our current units are capable of more than how they are now used, but the system behind the units has never been set up to exploit these capabilities.  Exploring, adapting, and even changing the capabilities of the new unit should be an ongoing process as new needs arise and new situations are encountered in the future.

And here I'll just go off on a little rant.  A "processing error" is an "error" in which the meter is read correctly, and there will be no error on the customer's bill.  In fact, the customer will never know about it.  They are put there for the sole purpose of creating additional potential for someone like myself to make an error, because they do everything they can to make sure we get as many errors as possible, even when the "error" doesn't mean $#@!.  Probably the biggest offender here is the trouble code 82, which means "vacant meter shows consumption."  The computer already knows that a vacant meter is showing consumption, because it makes a kerchunking error noise and forces us to re-enter the read.  I'll also add here that the Alamo Heights Roadrunners don't even have a TC-82 because of why I already said.  If a meter is vacant, and you enter something higher than the previous read, that can only be because a vacant meter is showing consumption. If a vacant meter shows consumption, but also has a leak, in my opinion the leak is more important, but we can't enter the trouble code for a leak because if we do, we'll get an error for not putting a TC-82 on it.  So it continues to leak, and our only recourse is to "write up a card" on it and hope someone notices.  Usually, they don't.

This kind of dumbassery is standard operating procedure.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fainting goats

Fainting goats.  Heh.  When I was a kid, a guy who was in the Air Force and stationed at Randolph, and who lived in Universal City bought the 50 acres behind my dad to use as a sort of "weekend getaway" place in the country.  He never built a house there, but he did build his own gun range, with benches at 25 feet (for pistol shooting), and at 50, 100 and 200 yards.  He gave us permission to use the place--we occasionally ran some of our cattle on it, and to hunt there if we wanted or to use the gun range.  So I grew up with this home-made gun range just a couple hundred yards from my house.  Man, I miss that.

Anyway, he also put some goats on it, partly to help clear out the underbrush--which goats are exceptionally good at--and partly to get an agricultural exemption on his property tax. He had told us they were "fainting" goats, which I had never heard of before.  So I knew about the goats, but never really thought about it much.

One day I was over there, probably walking to the gun range, and his dozen-or-so goats were following me, probably because they expected me to throw out some pellets or range cubes for them.  Being a somewhat mischievous teenager at the time, I suddenly spun around and shouted "BOO!" or something like that at them.  Goats suddenly toppled around me like they had all just been struck dead by the hand of a vengeful, goat-hating god.

For about two seconds my mind was completely blank.  Well, maybe not completely blank, but certainly there was nothing in my thoughts except a whole bunch of exclamation marks and a few question marks.

There's a certain breed of goats that have an inherited genetic disorder that doesn't actually cause them to "faint," that is, they don't lose consciousness, but they do become paralyzed when frightened or stressed.  That Wikipedia article says "Older goats learn to spread their legs or lean against something when startled, and often they continue to run about in an awkward, stiff-legged shuffle."  Well, these were all fully adult goats and they hadn't ever learned anything.  They just collapsed.

After a few seconds I remembered what he had told us about the "fainting" part, and within 10 or 20 seconds they were all up and staggering around, and a minute or so later they were all back to normal.

So then it became funny, and I still laugh about it sometimes when something like this picture reminds me of it.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thanks, internet

I saw this at LP Cover Lover and just had to hear the story behind it.  And here it is at archive.org:  Edna and the Toothbrush.

"I ran as fast as my legs would go, and right behind me was the Toothbrush Man tickling the back of my neck with his bristles at every step.  I ran with the Toothbrush Man just one step in back of me.  As I jumped into bed, and pulled the covers over my head, I could feel the Toothbrush Man brushing up and down on the top of the bed spread."

And this was supposed to make kids want to brush their teeth.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

This may be the most epic music video I have ever seen

The Fount of All Knowledge

Wikipedia Deems Philip Roth an Unreliable Source On a Philip Roth Novel

There's an old post on this blog about an obscure and forgotten rock band called LAW, which I wrote about because I somehow managed to get one of their albums.  Somebody on Wikipedia linked to my blog as a source of further information, but they linked to the main page. I have tried several times to change it to link directly to that specific post url, but they won't accept the change.

Reminds me of something I read somewhere once:  "Wikipedia is a reliable source for The Family Guy, but not much else."

I still use it quite a lot to find track lists of albums I'm trying to hunt down, which I think should be safe.  But if not, I don't think it matters a whole lot.

A totally hypothetical situation

Let's say you pay someone a certain fee every month for a service they provide you.  One month, they accidentally overcharge you.  The following month, they deduct the amount of the overcharge from your bill.

Would this, or would this not, correct the overcharge?  Because if it doesn't, I must really be missing something.

The stupid people were coming out of the woodwork today.  Another guy told me that he keeps his water bill down by drinking bottled water.  And, "I only bathe four times a week."  TMI, dude, TMI!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Mars Curiosity rover video

Cool video showing the process of getting the Curiosity rover to Mars from blastoff to landing.  I thought it was kind of funny that it landed by inflating a bunch of balloons around itself and simply bouncing and rolling until it stopped.

I must say, though, that the "swooshing" noises it made going through space were kind of ridiculous.