Monday, January 2, 2006

Happy New Year 2006

We spent the weekend in Amagansett. Mostly so that Frisket did not claw me to death during the expected fireworks display.

We watched My Architect (IMDB, Amazon, Netflix) on my friend Jon's recommendation. Good movie, it felt a little bit long, but there's lots of ground to cover and it could easily have been longer. It tells the story of the American architect Louis Kahn and his son's efforts to learn about his father (the son, Nathanial, was born to one of Kahn's mistresses and only saw his father occasionally).

Last night we watched House of Flying Daggers (IMDB, Amazon, Netflix). Sad to say, what little Mandarin I'd learned in 2001 was useless for listening to the movie. I liked it, somewhat less than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I haven't seen Hero, which this movie is related to (not a sequel, not the same characters, but set in warrior-era China). There are a number of twists in the plot which become apparent late in the movie. Ziyi Zhang stars as the heroine (she is currently in Memoirs of a Geisha).

The drive out on Saturday and back today was remarkably easy, two hours each way.

e.p.c. posted this at 23:10 GMT on 2-Jan-2006 .

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

PA State GOP Proposes 6% tax on advertising

PENNSYLVANIA CONSIDERS 6% AD SALES TAX: In order to offset a reduction in property taxes, the PA State GOP has proposed removing the sales tax exemption for advertising, resulting in a "new" 6% tax on advertising.

In a last-minute bid to cut state property taxes, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives Dec. 20 voted to remove the sales tax exemption on a number of services including advertising, a move that would make all advertising in the state subject to a 6% sales tax.

I'm curious how this would be implemented for Internet based advertising. Would Google be required to add 6% to CPC/CPM payouts for sites registered with a PA address? Or would you need to know that a user was reading the site from PA and then tax that advertising-viewing transaction, regardless of the physical location of the site?

This might affect me as I currently host my sites on Pair networks, which is based in Pittsburgh, PA and use Google Adsense (I'm not sure why, it's barely earned enough in two years to pay for).

The ad tax was part of a package offered by Rep. Mario M. Scavello, a Republican, to remove various sales tax exemptions. The details about how it would apply are sketchy; the legislation itself refers to broadcast and newspaper advertising, but not cable, and does not address of how regional ads would be calculated.

Now, if it only applies to broadcast and newspaper advertising, well, on the one hand I'd be relieved, on the other hand: how stupid can they be? Tax industries that are getting absolutely nailed by alternate media?

e.p.c. posted this at 22:02 GMT on 4-Jan-2006 .

Thursday, January 5, 2006

Wow...upgrade to Firefox 1.5

I held off upgrading my copy of Firefox for a couple of months, hoping that my favorite plugins would get upgraded. Today I tried to install the new blog editing tool Performancing and it failed because it was only available for 1.5. So I finally upgraded and: wow! This is only after a few minutes of use, and no crashes yet, but the speed pickup is noticeable. Layout seems to be much faster, Bloglines seems to be much faster (Bloglines is almost all JavaScript for display).

So, if you've held off upgrading, upgrade already.

e.p.c. posted this at 03:17 GMT on 5-Jan-2006 .

Friday, January 6, 2006

The man who said "no" to Wal-Mart

The Man Who Said No to Wal-Mart Wier is too judicious to describe it this way, but he looked into a future of supplying lawn mowers and snow blowers to Wal-Mart and saw a whirlpool of lower prices, collapsing profitability, offshore manufacturing, and the gradual but irresistible corrosion of the very qualities for which Snapper was known. Jim Wier looked into the future and saw a death spiral.

e.p.c. posted this at 22:48 GMT on 6-Jan-2006 .

Saturday, January 7, 2006

That darn cat: The Magical Behavior Of Subatomic Particles Moves Into Real World

Oddly, Misha and I were just talking about this last night, though the context was Yoga: WSJ.com:The Magical Behavior Of Subatomic Particles Moves Into Real World - Science Journal (sub. req'd): The most famous feline in science belongs to Erwin Schrödinger, or at least to his fertile imagination. A founder of quantum physics in the early 20th century, Schrödinger wondered what would happen if the seemingly magical behavior of subatomic particles occurred not only in the micro realm but also up here in the macro world. Which is how he found himself in 1935 with an imaginary cat that was both alive and dead. [...] [S]cientists at the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Boulder, Colo., scored a cat trick. They made each of six atoms spin in opposite directions at the same time. Each whirls like a top. But unlike any real top, the scientists reported in the journal Nature, each spins clockwise and counterclockwise simultaneously.

Note that because The Wall Street Journal actively discourages people from linking to their articles, this link will link somewhere else in a short period of time. Specifically, the WSJ doesn't (apparently) have a permanent link for these Science Journal columns, at least not one readily apparent.

In an essay at the Web site Edge.org, astrophysicist Piet Hut of the Institute for Advanced Study muses that quantum advances are making conventional understanding about what exists and what is real start to melt away. With "avant-garde insights" such as entanglement, he writes, the next scientific revolution could be a dissolution of the strict distinction between reality and fiction.

And for the taxonomists in the crowd, from that essay by Piet Hut: The ontologies of our worlds, concrete as well as abstract, have already started to melt away.

e.p.c. posted this at 00:30 GMT on 7-Jan-2006 .

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Make that warp factor 5 please...

Hyperdrive? Might actually be possible: New Scientist Take a leap into hyperspace - Features [Heim] claimed it is possible to convert electromagnetic energy into gravitational and back again, and speculated that a rotating magnetic field could reduce the influence of gravity on a spacecraft enough for it to take off. Basically, this scientist named Burkhard Heim rewrote the equations of general relativity into a quantum framework in the 1950s. In doing so he discovered (it seems) a way to use electrical energy to affect gravity, and vice versa. Being very cautious about his idea, he only published one paper and did not trumpet his work until he could put together an experiment to validate it.

In the 1980s computer technology had advanced enough to run his calculations and (theoretically) prove his theory correct.

What this means is, in theory (I'm hedging a lot here), is that one could build a device (likely in space) which could warp the gravity field around an object, freeing it from a planet's gravity well, and furthermore, projecting it somewhere (as a vehicle, though it wouldn't surprise me if someone weaponized such a thing).

e.p.c. posted this at 03:52 GMT on 10-Jan-2006 .

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Wednesday Morning Ramblings

Am trying out the Windows version of ecto. The Mac version supports rich text editing...I've either turned it off on the Windows version or it's not supported. It's a neat application...am looking for something I can use to write more. I hate using MS Word, but want something a step up from microemacs.

I finally figured out a metaphor for dripldu...I am going to refrain from repeating it in public to save what little credibility I have for the moment the site is actually running. However, it picked up my spirits just a bit. Why, indeed, I think dripldu (yes, it's a goofy name, get over it) might make a buck or too.

I was disappointed in the Apple announcements today...I mean, great that they have intro'd the first Intel Macs, but I don't want an iMac (won't fit anywhere in my office). And I'm not sure about the new powerbook...was hoping for a new Mini actually. I don't want to buy the current Mac Mini...why go with the year before last's model? Part of the problem is that our current Mac G4 is working just fine, albeit slow compared to pretty much anything recent. It's from 2000 and other than the speed issue performs fine as a server. I have taken to ripping cds on my laptop, I get 18x from a firewire connected CD/DVD player, compared to 4x on the Mac.

I decided to bite the bullet and run the Thinkpad maintenance routine I avoid religiously. I always fear something bizarre will happen in the midst of an update and I'll end up with a titanium black lump. I went to the Lenovo site to figure out what I needed to load and discovered a new all-in-one application which managed to download all of the updates and install them across multiple reboots. No crashes. The only confusing thing was bouncing back and forth from ibm.com to lenovo.com.

Kind of odd seeing essentially the IBM.com design being used to tout Lenovo's involvement with the Olympic Games. Gosh, if I'd just stuck it out for five years and transferred to PCD, I might be still doing the Olympics.

One thing I was still looking for after the updates was any evidence that I could use a Bluetooth headset with my laptop (for Skype or whatever else). We picked up very slick Jabra Bluetooth Headsets at J&;R at the end of the year (Amazon) but I have yet to use mine and was hoping to use it with Skype so that I stop tripping on the cord from my USB headset.

You were warned with the title that this was ramblings, right?

Anyway, I've been using my Thinkpad almost exclusively, with the Mac relegated to serving MP3s, archiving video from the Tivo, and logs from my web sites. One frustration is the quality of Itunes on the PC. I'm not sure if it's a driver thing, Quicktime, or something else but there's a loud static noise generated when I play anything with iTunes, independent of the volume either in iTunes or on the PC. Same track played via Windows Media Player (using Samba to connect to the Mac) plays cleanly, no static. Doesn't matter whether I play through speakers or through the previously tripped upon USB headset, static. Could be Quicktime 7 I suppose.

I've kept up two of my resolutions for the year: cutting back on soda (not quitting entirely, it's my only source of caffeine) and working out regularly. Last year I restarted working out with a trainer three times a week. Starting last week I have added in working out on the "off" days, mostly doing some cardio work with some weights. Also last year, I completely cut out drinking diet soda. I went from drinking 4-5 20oz bottles a day of diet soda to 2-3 bottles of regular soda. Unfortunately 1 bottle of regular soda is usually 250 calories.

Anyway, for this year I'm trying to cut back to at most one bottle of soda a day, none at all if possible. If you ever saw my cube or office at 55 Broad Street, you'll appreciate what a change this is (for those of you who didn't, there was typically a copier paper box for cans or bottles which was filled on a near daily basis).

e.p.c. posted this at 06:16 GMT on 11-Jan-2006 .

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Linkday Thursday

  • Prawns kill: Benihana shrimp toss cited in death
  • Dogs Keep Dying: Many Owners Unaware Of Toxic Dog Food: aflatoxin was found in a batch of Diamond brand dog food. Aflatoxin poisoning damages the liver and can kill within a couple of days. The distribution of the "bad food" is more widespread than thought and rather than a dozen dogs, possibly a hundred or more have been killed since some time in the fall. Cornell Vet College is tracking the problem on its news page.
  • Via Science Daily: keeping weight off is harder than losing it. Researchers at Columbia University have show[n] that body weight is regulated by coordinate metabolic, neuroendocrine, and autonomic systems that act to actually restore fat mass in individuals attempting to maintain their slim new figure. The authors suggest that our bodies interpret the weight-reduced state as one of relative deficiency in the hormone leptin.
  • Here's something new...spatial data mining. Driven by the need to determine how many people walk by a given billboard in a period of time to determine fair pricing, researchers in Germany developed a method of spatial datamining which compares company's databases of customer information with and filtered by a database of geographic information and traffic volume. Via Science Daily: Calculating people passing by. All thanks to the technique of spatial data mining, as developed and put into practice by researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Autonomous Intelligent Systems AIS. It involves the use of a set of calculation methods that allow large volumes of data, such as the customer databases held by major companies, to be systematically searched and filtered according to geographical criteria. My interpretation: think of it as web traffic statistics for the real world.
  • Taking A Taxi Could Increase Your Exposure To Pollution: Researchers have discovered that your level of exposure to pollution can vary according to what method of transport you use, with travelling by taxis resulting in the highest levels of exposure and walking the least. (Also: BBC, MSN/Reuters, Imperial College)
  • Sleep can leave you as groggy as booze. Study measures sleep inertia...how long it lasts and the cognitive impact. For a short period, at least, the effects of sleep inertia may be as bad or worse than being legally drunk,
  • Diabetes and Its Awful Toll Quietly Emerge as a Crisis

e.p.c. posted this at 15:03 GMT on 12-Jan-2006 .

Dow Jones loses a few customers

Unlike apparently 99.9% of the web, I have no problem paying for an online subscription to something like the WSJ. Apparently, though, the WSJ included a subscription to Barron's online for awhile but since January 8, 2006 has separated the two. That is, if you subscribed last year to both online, you now have to get a new subscription to Barron's online. I actually have no idea whether or not Barron's was included in my last renewal. It's not on my radar. I'm actually reading the WSJ so little these days I'm considering cancelling both of my online and paper edition subscriptions. Anyway, here's the better story: The Big Picture: Dow Jones pulls a fast one . . .

e.p.c. posted this at 18:16 GMT on 12-Jan-2006 .

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Review: Brand Failures

I managed to sit down and read a complete book Saturday...possibly the first time I've managed to read a book cover to cover in a day in years. The book is Brand Failures by Matt Haig.

I wish I could write that it was incredibly enlightening. It was definitely interesting, but it felt like a bibliography of business errors that negatively impacted brands. A few failures get two-three pages of treatment, but most are 1-1½ pages describing the problem, the failure and then a few curt lessons learned.

I think I can sum up the lessons learned as:

  • If your brand is tied closely to a single product or product category, don't try to extend outside the category.
  • Brand marketing history is littered with companies and brands which were over extended. Case in point: a company which had so many variants on beer, it felt the need to create Brandname Regular beer.
  • A bad communications plan is the death of a brand. If there's a problem with a branded product, address it directly and forthrightly.
  • If someone attacks your brand, assess the value in protecting the brand against the cost in prosecuting the person attacking the brand. It may just be more valuable to ignore the attack than to give it more publicity.
  • A company comfortable with its brand is a company in decline. New products and technologies are always on the horizon. Competitors may emerge, the marketplace may change, your customers may disappear.
  • Some brands deserve to die. If the company behind the brand failed to keep abreast of changing customers, markets, technologies, it may be better to allow the brand "go out of business", rather than pour company assets down sinkhold trying to keep the brand afloat.

There's 100 tales of brand failures, running the gamut from cars (GM's Oldsmobile), smokes (RJR's "smokeless" cigarettes), women (Dodge's La Femme auto from the 1950s) and song (some group named Hear'Say).

Most of the tales I'd heard, which is somewhat surprising as I'm not a marketing guy. Many of the tales are about UK companies or organizations.

It's unclear what makes these the the 100 biggest branding mistakes of all time. Ie, I don't see how the author quantified the failures (given that some are described in one-two paragraphs while others get several pages).

I was left wanting something more. Although the introduction lays out the book well, the book just ends, there's no summation of the various lessons to be learned.

One of the lessons I took away is that there is such a thing as terminal market penetration of a brand...that is, if you have, say, 45% of a market sized N and your major competitor has 45%, and it's been that way for years, you are highly unlikely to either grab the remaining 10% or a share from the competitor by changing your product, service or brand. You are far more likely to cede market share by doing so. This flies in the face of standard corporate goals of continuous improvement and ever increasing market share. There are only so many customers in a given marketplace, if you've saturated it you are better off leveraging your skills in a new marketplace, than fighting to be top dog in a mature market.

As to why I was reading Brand Failures...I'd seen a book titled Brand Pirate when we were in Tokyo in October and made a mental note to get it when we returned since it was printed in the US. On returning and surfing through Amazon, I found what I thought was that book, but the summary was nothing like what I'd read in Japan (I know, should have written down the ISBN). Brand Failures was displayed in the search results and I bought it instead. Interesting book, somewhat flawed, but interesting, probably of more value to a marketing professional than a hack like myself.

Brand Failures The Truth About the 100 Biggest Branding Mistakes of All Time by Matt Haig. Published by Kogan Page. ISBN: 0-7494-4433-9.

e.p.c. posted this at 07:18 GMT on 15-Jan-2006 .

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Fixing Bluetooth on an IBM Thinkpad

Last week I did a massive update on my Thinkpad, hoping to catch the appropriate updates for Bluetooth so that I could use a headset with the computer. No go. At the time I did not know that Microsoft's Windows XP implementation of Bluetooth is braindead and overrides whatever the OEM supplies. David Singer had already run into this and reminded me of it this morning (he'd emailed to report that my RSS feed wasn't validating).

So, I went off in search of the magical incantations to re-enable the bluetooth stack.

I was quite surprised to find the answer on the IBMLenovo site (or LenovoIBM, I get confused. Integrated Bluetooth II software for Windows 98 SE/2000/XP... is a surprisingly well-written and useful guide to fixing the Bluetooth stack on an IBM Thinkpad. Basically, I had the right stack on my system through the updates, but I went ahead and downloaded the driver files again and re-installed. The key thing is apparently to update the driver for the IBM Integrated Bluetooth II and use the unsigned (meaning: non-Microsoft) driver to complete the update.

Voila! After a reboot to clear out the baffles, I was able to use the Jabra headset I'd picked up in December to make a Skype call to Lisa. The quality was fine on my head, she reported that it was a bit quiet on her end. But more importantly, it was over Bluetooth and the Microsoft stack didn't re-emerge to trash the updated stack.

Update

This update has nothing to do with Bluetooth. Apparently, the site I referenced is managed using Lotus Notes. I'm guessing here, based entirely on the error message I got when I used http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/document.do?sitestyle%3dlenovo%26lndocid%3dMIGR-50245 as the link. See that %3d in the URL? That is the URL encoding for the = character. The %26 is the URL encoding for the & character. I've taken to encoding the & as %26 in URLs because it's easier for me to remember than to use &. See, the & character is special. In SGML and SGML derived languages it refers to an entity, a symbol or character that typically can't be typed in a keyboard (or, when I was a lowly IBM technical writer, a character which was guaranteed to get screwed up in various codepage translations like [ or ] or ^).

But I digress.

Since, oh, 1993 (and possibly earlier), it has been part of the HTTP specification that URLs coud be encoded using the hexadecimal representation of the character, with a % character to denote that the following two bytes were a hexadecimal string. Unfortunately, whatever's backing the Lenovo Support does not support URL encoding of URLs, which is why we get the following error:

There is a problem retrieving the document
$view.getDocumentView().getLndocid().

When URL encoding the & and = in http://www-307.ibm.com/pc/support/site.wss/document.do?sitestyle=lenovo&lndocid=MIGR-50245.

This concludes my tweaking of the IBM.com/Lenovo.com site for the day.

And now that you've read all of that, I'm finding that links are working when URL encoded...some times. So, I don't know what's going on behind the scenes but something appears amiss. Perhaps one of the systems being proxy-passed to is trashing the encodings. Dunno.

e.p.c. posted this at 03:12 GMT on 18-Jan-2006 .

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Ads end up in the strangest places

Via Consumerist and ars technica. Counterstrike is a MMORG. The company which produces it outsources the hosting of the game to 3rd system providers, typically ISPs. Subway hired an ad agency to promote a new sandwich. Through a chain of companies I'm not going to repost here, the advertising ended up being placed on a billboard inside the Counterstrike game, using a modification to the code running the server side component of the game. What is interesting is that a third-party company, entirely unrelated from Valve (the producers of Counter-Strike), has found a way to make money from the millions of people who play the game without dealing with Valve directly. Valve has responded that this violates the game's EULA, though it would appear to be more a contractual issue (between Valve and its service providers).

I find this fascinating. Is it a security issue? Yes and no. Yes: the play of the game can apparently be affected by modifications to the game by third parties, not the producer of the game nor the user/consumer, but by the organization hosting the game. No: in this specific case, what was changed was display content and not the play of the game itself.

But, in a universe where people are making real-world money playing in these MMO(R)Gs, this would appear to be a point where one could insert code to take advantage of the process of game play. I mean, if you can change the display copy (leaving aside the matter of whether or not another organization had paid the game developer to advertise on that space in the first place), you can probably affect the game play. And the effect of changing the game play can have real world monetary impact.

On the other hand, companies like Valve choose to outsource the hosting of these games to distribute the capital cost. Instead of having to raise and maintain massive server farms, the company offloads that cost, and risk, for a small reward to third parties. Some comments on both articles argue that it's entirely fair for these third parties to recoup their costs by additional means than whatever licensing or revenue stream exist for hosting the game.

See my earlier posting on the interchange between online game economies and real-world monetary markets, and Edward Castronova's new book Synthetic Worlds : The Business and Culture of Online Games about the worlds within online games.

e.p.c. posted this at 16:58 GMT on 21-Jan-2006 .

Sunday, January 22, 2006

We ate a delicious dinner tonight at The Stanton Social, after a quick drop by at Helen Mariënto pick up a new bag. We had oysters, a nifty spinach and corn salad, potato pierogies, a Kobe beef slider (which I had to follow up with two pulled pork sliders, I'd forgotten how small they were), French onion soup dumplings, and butternut squash and pumpkin ravioli. Beverages ranged from an orange gimlet (which started fine but wasn't so enjoyable), Sapphire & tonics, and a forgettable after dinner port and a nice Oban.

The trend in New York last year was to convert hotels to condominiums. Confusing matters this year is the trend of converting apartments to illegal hotels. Perhaps they could skip a step and just go directly to condos.

Apparently the Washington Post fact checkers think the capital of Australia is between Jackson's Landing and Botany Bay. In an article touting U.S. hegemony in East Asia: In East Asia, meanwhile, U.S. relations with Japan grow ever closer as the Japanese become increasingly concerned about China and a nuclear-armed North Korea. China's (and Malaysia's) attempt to exclude Australia from a prominent regional role at the recent East Asian summit has reinforced Sydney's desire for closer ties. That, or Premier Iemma has succeeded in propelling NSW to the forefront of East Asian diplomacy. [Via Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal] I can understand the mistake. Canberra was selected as the capital in 1911. If only there were a service where one could search for such mysterious facts.

Apparently the most blogged about wine of 2005 (perhaps) is coming to the U.S., however it's blowing off New York so I'll keep to the Shiraz and Rioja's I've been chugging.

We're going to Miami on Thursday for the weekend, missing the Wine Australia Festival amongst other Australia Day events. Then again, I've managed to miss every Australia day except for 2001, when I was so sunburnt from falling asleep on Coogee Beach that, well, I couldn't celebrate much anything.

I'm in a weird early-90's flashback mode tonight. Listening to 1980-1990s hip-hop and recalling various misadventures at IBM's Myer's Corners Lab (aka MCL or MCR depending on your perspective). For instance, there was much discussion on the P-Aisle of Building 921 of whether or not Can't Touch This was a rip-off of Super Freak and whether the beat was dah dah dah dah duh dah dah or dah dah dah dah (pause) dah duh (pause) dah duh.

There was much prankery in the ID section of 921. The worst thing you could do was to walk away from your terminal without locking it. I was generally innocent. Though there was one time I modified a colleague's copy of TM EXEC. We used TM to I/M people on the IBM internal network (this was over RSCS/SNA, not TCP/IP). In this instance I was getting retribution for something which I've since forgotten, but am obviously so thrilled with my brilliance to remember my prank: I modified this colleague's copy of TM so that every message he sent appeared to also be sent to RHQVM20(JAKERS). I guess you had to be there. Learning later that year that, while JAKERS AT RHQVM20 was a valid address, JAKERS himself did not actually have a computer or a terminal in his office lessened the value of the prank. 'Course by then we were being warned that the lab may be shutting down so there were other concerns on our mind.

Here in present day New York City, the Transit Workers Union have kneecapped their leadership. I don't see how they get out of binding arbitration now, which is what the union was adamantly trying to avoid.

e.p.c. posted this at 03:18 GMT on 22-Jan-2006 .

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Well, that was stupid

In the course of doing some minor site maintenance work last night, I left in an extra ,OR in a RewriteCond statement in the root .htaccess file for this site. The side effect was to block access to the entire site for the day.

Doh!

See, I'd deleted a number of the lines that caught various referer spam and affiliate spam hits but did not change the new last line of the remaining list to elide the OR statement, which caused the entire structure to be true at all times.

Service has been restored. The webmaster will be flogged.

e.p.c. posted this at 02:07 GMT on 24-Jan-2006 .

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Yesterday

Woke up in the morning, walked the dog, waited for the plumber to arrive to replace the hot water heater.

Waited.

Patiently, waited.

Plumber arrives, spends next three hours replacing 16 year old heater.

I pack. Clean. Get nervous about time it's taking to replace heater (unreasonably, I'm sure).

Plumber leaves. Old heater left on parkway. Expect ticket from NYC-DOS on returning from Miami.

Scramble to finish packing. Desperately look for noise-reduction headphones. Give up.

Get car, drop Frisket off at Monstermutt. Try to get to LGA in time for 4:16 flight to Miami.

Avert accident on GCP where two limos and a NYC taxi attempt the physically impossible. It is still true: no three objects can occupy the same space or lane at the same time.

Arrive LGA, park car. Nervous about parking car at LGA.

Check in, zip through security behind couple complaining about $65 tickets to Florida.

Contemplate that my ticket was much, much more due to change in plans to accomodate the death of the water heater.

Arrive LGA Admiral's Club, ask if flight is on time: Certainly. No weather or equipment problems.

Bop down to gate at boarding time. Notice large number of anxious people.

Departure time arrives and gate door opens to permit previous passengers off plane.

Wait patiently.

Boarding call for First classs. 200 people rush the gate.

Perhaps I exaggerate, a 737 cannot hold 200 people.

But certainly more people attempt to board than there are seats in First Class.

Wait patiently.

Boarding call for Executive Platinum and Platinum. 184 people rush the gate.

Again, I exaggerate. However fully half of the flight apparently consists of people who are Platinum level.

Board plane. Squeeze into middle exit row seat.

Attempt to listen to music. Replacement headphones no match for aircraft's P.A. music.

Passengers on both sides begin to cough. This continues for the next 200 hours of the flight. (I exaggerate, they stopped briefly during the flight).

Plane eventually takes off around 5:30 p.m. Pilot announces we will land around 8:30 p.m. Miami gate crew takes note and parks replacement plane at our destination gate.

The flight is uneventful except for being poked and prodded by co-passengers attempting to work on plane.

I doze and listen to a rambling mix of R.E.M, New Order, The Magnetic Fields, and some unmemorable trance gorp.

Around 7:15 we start initial descent to Miami, a full hour earlier than expected. Around this time the Miami ramp crew is contemplating what to do with the Airbus which has been parked at our gate and which has allegedly broken down.

We land at 7:30. Pilot announces that our gate is blocked by an aircraft with a problem.

We finally reach the gate at 8:00 p.m. The gate is actually somewhere in Boca and we walk what seems to be several miles to the exit.

Finally I reach the exit where Lisa and her mother pick me up. Coco greets me very excitedly.

We eat dinner, arrive at the condo. I call the house to verify it hasn't disappeared due to the new water heater.

Two messages on the machine, the first consists of my attempt to enter the password for the machine. The second is a terse message from the storage locker manager in Illinois. Please call this number, it is urgent.

I contemplate all the possible reasons for the locker manager to call me. Billing is ok, they charge me monthly. They know how to reach me obviously. So, obviously, someone has broken in and stolen everything in the locker. The fact that the locker contains (contained?) almost solely photos and geneology research from my mother's estate would likely not deter someone from grabbing all the nicely packed boxes.

I call the number and reach an answering machine. I look up the main number for the storage place online and call....placed on interminable, indeterminate hold. At 10:30 p.m.

I contemplate the fact that this is supposed to be a 24 hour staffed facility.

I contemplate driving to Illinois next week to retrieve what, if anything remains of the locker contents.

I call again...there are few physical things I have of my parents, and they are mostly in that locker due to lack of space in our place in Brooklyn. No answer.

I contemplate all the possible ways to break into the storage locker. How to evade the security cameras, the passcode to enter the facility, the two locks I placed on the locker.

Perhaps this is fortuitous since I can't actually find the key to one of the locks.

These thoughts keep me awake most of the night.

Finally, this morning I call the locker manager.

They have the wrong address. That is all. Nothing wrong with the locker.

I contemplate placing my brain on waivers due to its propensity to run ahead of itself. And also, whether or not to drive to Illinois anyway.

e.p.c. posted this at 16:29 GMT on 28-Jan-2006 .

Slightly acerbic and eccentric dog walker who masquerades as a web developer and occasional CTO.

Spent five years running the technology side of the circus known as www.ibm.com.

More about me here.

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