BlathrWayne Lorentz

Showing blathrs with the tag “Tech.”

Recact-o-matic

Saturday, October 1st, 2022 Alive18,785days

H.E.B. notifying me that my groceries will arrive in 17 minutes

When H.E.B. says the grocery delivery person is 17 minutes away, thatʼs how I know he's standing outside my door unloading his cart. It's always exactly 17 minutes. I get the text message, look for the cat acting up, and can see the shadow of the delivery person outside my door.

Consistency is a good thing. And “consistently wrong” is a type of consistency, right?

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Break a leg!

Friday, September 30th, 2022 Alive18,784days

An error message from Houston Methodist Hospital's Epic system

Houston Methodist Hospital has eighty-brazillion dollars and ninty-brazillion employees. If it canʼt keep its webview from breaking a leg, what am I supposed to do?

Also, someone should fix that grammar. It's probably Epicʼs default, but that doesnʼt make it right.

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Marching on

Friday, September 30th, 2022 Alive18,784days

An x-ray backlight cabinet in a doctorʼs office

Since x-rays are all digital now, it looks like the old x-ray backlight cabinets are being repurposed as message boards.

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Thanks for nothing

Thursday, September 29th, 2022 Alive18,783days

Apple Maps showing me that the local American Express office is permanently closed

Dear Apple Maps,

Please stop showing me places that are “permanently closed.” I know the pandemic ruined everything. Youʼre not helping me find whatʼs left.

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Warm fuzzy logic

Wednesday, September 28th, 2022 Alive18,782days

A high temperature warning from my iPhone

It's nice that iOS 16 lets people know the phone is too hot when it does things. It used to do things, but not tell you.

When I lived in the desert, just having an iPhone in your pocket or on a table could sometimes cause the phone to turn itself off. If you were lucky, you'd see something very quickly appear on the screen about “Entering thermal shutdown” or some such. A minute later, you were out in the desert without a working phone.

Apple, and most tech companies, build their products for the environment where Apple, and most tech companies, are located — San Francisco. When I talk to tech people who work at these companies, sometimes they simply cannot wrap their brains around weather conditions that are commonplace elsewhere.

Another example is iPhone wired headphones. Theyʼre made with plastic that gets brittle in the cold. Of course, when youʼre bundled up against the cold is when you need your headphones the most. That was how I learned about Bluetooth headphones, and got a set of Sony headphones for use with my SonyEricsson M600c when commuting on the CTA in the middle of the night during Chicago winters. Apple wouldnʼt make its own wireless headphones until over a decade later.

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Still better than “John Rambo”

Tuesday, September 27th, 2022 Alive18,781days

Max Ice mode engaged on a KitchenAid refrigerator

“Max Ice” is my 80ʼs action hero stage name.

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Nerd alert!

Sunday, September 25th, 2022 Alive18,779days

My newly relabeled Harmony cartridge, hard at fun in my Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade

Today I decided to make a Sears-accurate label for my Harmony cart.

If you're not a retro video game nerd, some of those words may not make sense. To elucidate:

  • A Harmony Cartridge is a device that can be plugged into an 1970's-era Atari 2600 video game machine. Data files can then be loaded onto an SD card, and the SD card inserted into the Harmony cartridge so that you can play many different video games without having to swap cartridges all the time.
  • In the 1970's, Sears licensed the Atari 2600 and put out its own version, calling it the Sears Tele-Games Video Arcade. This is the machine that I own.
  • Sears also licensed Atari's video games for the machine, and sold them under its own Sears Tele-Games brand
  • Sears was notorious for changing the names of Atari games. Sometimes because the name that Atari chose for its 2600 game was the same as one that Sears used for an earlier video game machine. Sometimes just because. Sears was this massive company that built America's tallest building and had its own ZIP Code, so renaming a bunch of video games was no big deal.

The Harmony cart comes with a label that doesn't look like an Atari label, or a Sears label, so it kind of ruins the look of the machine. In fact, there's no label on the end at all. That's because that's where you jam the microSD card into the cart so you can play your games.

I found some fonts on the intarwebs and decided to teach myself a bit of Affinity Photo. The result is pretty good. It's far from perfect, mostly because I couldn't find a font that really matches the Sears font. Which makes sense, since Sears was a big enough company to have its own font artists.

On the left is a Sears Speedway II cartridge that my wife bought for me at the Charleston Antiques Market. In the middle is my invented label printed on plain paper. On the right is the new glossy label in situ.

Bauhaus appears to be the closest font, and there are hundreds of Bauhaus-inspired fonts available for free download on the internet. Sadly, most of them are corrupt, incomplete, or worse. It seems that the people who run free font web sites just copy files from one another, and don't bother to verify that the font actually works.

For the green text, I found a generic seven-segment-display-inspired font that's almost correct, except for the middle pointy bit of the capital M.

I printed out the label on glossy photo paper, which looks nice, but isn't truly accurate. To be accurate, it would be on matte label stock, sun faded, smeared with peanut butter, and have the corner peeled up a bit.

On the left is a Sears Speedway II cartridge. On the right is the new glossy end label on my Harmony cart.

Since Sears was in the habit of renaming so many games, I decided to change the name of my Harmony cart to "Super Multi-Cart." The name just popped into my head.

Because the microSD card sticks out of the end of the Harmony cart a bit, the label doesn't lay flat. I haven't decided how to address this. My options are:

  1. Use an X-Acto knife to cut a tiny square from the label for the SD card to poke through.
  2. Shave the plastic off of the end of the microSD card so it doesn't stick out so far. I'll have to look into if this can be done without ruining the electronics inside.

If you're into this sort of thing, here are the Affinity Photo label files I made, so you can print your own, or improve upon what I've done:

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Kern this

Saturday, September 24th, 2022 Alive18,778days

Ordinary human being: “What's the longest day of the year?”

Webdev: “In which font?”

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I have plenty of credentials

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022 Alive18,776days

A FortiClient error message with bad grammar

“Insufficient” means “not enough,” it doesnʼt mean wrong. “Incorrect” is closer to what FortiClient is trying to say. This is why tech companies should hire a proofreader for anything that leaves the building, even if only on a contract basis. It makes you look amateur, and in the case of this security app — insecure.

Also, if you use “credential(s),” rather than just counting the number of credentials and using the correct word, thatʼs just lazy.

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Ask what you mean

Thursday, September 22nd, 2022 Alive18,776days

Microsoft Teams asking how the call quality was

The call quality was awful. The organizer wasn't prepared, peopleʼs dogs kept barking, and I ran out of coffee. One star.

Oh, you mean how was the connection quality? Why didnʼt you ask that, Microsoft Teams?

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Still better than “Remington Steele”

Tuesday, September 20th, 2022 Alive18,774days

“Cache Update” is my 80ʼs action hero stage name.

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Still better than %NaN%

Saturday, September 17th, 2022 Alive18,771days

Bad data during iOS 16 setup

I guess someone on the iOS 16 team at Apple didnʼt check for NULL before shoving the date data into the string formatter. The lesson is, of course, that while you never trust external data, sometimes you can't trust internal data, either.

Still, Apple is the single largest company on the planet right now. If it canʼt do software, what chance do I have?

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Agree, and be ignored

Thursday, September 15th, 2022 Alive18,769days

Screenshot of the ITV News app

The ITV News app does not allow you to reject cookies. Not even optional ones. The only choice you have is to agree to its folksy question “You ok [sic] with our use of cookies?”

Another screenshot from the FAILed ITV News app

But, wait — it gets worse. Even if you accept the cookies, all that happens is the over-friendly “Agreed!” button gets greyed out. You never actually get to proceed to the ITV News app.

As the Brits say, it's “not fit for purpose.”

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Program it again, SAM

Thursday, September 15th, 2022 Alive18,769days

Creative Computing, May-June, 1978, page 28

SAM76 was one of many computer languages that came out in the 1970ʼs that promised to be the “next big thing,” but failed to gain traction.

It looks a bit like AP/L, with its tight syntax, but was meant for text manipulation like Lisp.

I haven't found a SAM76 interpreter to play with in 2022, so here's an example of what a SAM76 program would look like, from the May-June, 1978 issue of Creative Computing that would take a number from the terminal input, and uses recursion to print out the factorial of that number.

%dt,F,
!%ii,*,1,1,!%mu,*,%F,%su,*,1//////////=
%pt,F,*/=
%F,5,/=120

I'm no SAM76 expert, but I think there's a typo in this listing. I think the !%ii… is actually supposed to be !%is… to retrieve an “input string” from the terminal. But I'm happy to be proven wrong.

As you may have guessed from the ten slashes, this language is all about nesting commands. Amusingly, it doesn't matter how many slashes you close your expressions with, as long as it's enough. So just keep banging that slash key!

SAM76 is a great example of smart people dealing with the scarcity of their time. This is a language that has been optimized for teletypes, punch cards, and paper tape. The % isn't a command prompt, it's a command. (More specifically, a “warning character.”) The “mu” and “pt” and such are shortened, almost tokenized, keywords.

Sadly, there is no SAM76 entry on Wikipedia, and almost no information on the internet about it, so it will soon be erased from the public memory by search engines (*cough*Google*cough*) that choose to only show things currently trending in popular culture. Shakespeare, youʼre next.

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You did this to yourself

Wednesday, September 14th, 2022 Alive18,768days

Screenshot of Microsoft Word

…Now select “Hyperlink” … No, the other “Hyperlink” … No, the one with the control decoration indicating … No, the other one … No, just mouse over “Hyperlink” … No, the other one …

This is why Iʼm reluctant to help people through their Microsoft woes.

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Delivery headache

Tuesday, September 13th, 2022 Alive18,767days

I tried to track my PillPack delivery. I got this error message.

I guess this is what happens when I rely on the same company that sells me plastic adhesive googlie eyes 👀 👀 👀 to deliver my prescriptions.

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Word to your motherboard

Tuesday, September 13th, 2022 Alive18,767days

Microsoft Outlook is telling me that there is a problem with Microsoft Word. I guess itʼs well-intentioned, but snitches get stitches.

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Do what?

Monday, September 12th, 2022 Alive18,766days

This menu is beyond inscrutable.

There's a big push in large healthcare companies to make things easier for patients. It sounds dumb to have to state that, but there has not always been the institutional will to care for patients on their level. But a lot of studies and computer models have shown that something as simple as repeating instructions to a patient can improve the outcomes of treatment in a percentage of people. With so many people in the world now, even a small change can mean enormous savings in money for hospitals, insurance companies, and the patients, themselves.

Unfortunately, we're still at the beginning of the process of bringing the healthcare institutions down to the level of the people they are supposed to serve. The use of regular language and easy methods is spreading, but remains uneven.

To wit: The image above, which is the first question asked when trying to book an imaging appointment with Houston Methodist Hospital.

This is an online form for patients, not doctors. When a regular person phones Methodist to make an imaging appointment, it suggests you use this form to make the appointment online.

I am not a doctor. How am I supposed to know if I need an “MRI 1.5T Wide Bore with Contrast,” or an “MRI 3T without Contrast,”, or a “Fluoroscopy,” or something else? It turns out the type of appointment I need isn't even listed in the options.

As someone who builds healthcare web sites for a living, I understand the technical reasons why this is the way it is. But I also understand that it doesn't have to be this way.

There are people in healthcare who care quite a lot about making things easier, and therefore better, for patients. That caring and understanding rarely pervades and entire organization. But it has to.

What we see here is, in my semi-expert opinion, a breakdown in the chain of caring. Something got outsourced to an external company that doesn't have to care. Someone didn't get trained in the importance of making things easier for the patients, and let this awful thing see the light of day. Some web developer somewhere doesn't have the authority, confidence, or will to question what's been handed to him to produce. He's just there to push buttons and cash a check.

Every person at every level of a healthcare organization not only had to be told to care, but trained to care. Even, and especially, the directors and C-levels. The upper levels are told about how much money can be saved by making healthcare more accessible to ordinary people. But they aren't trained in what that actually looks like, so they are not able to spot mistakes as they're happening, so they can have the people under them correct the problems before they persist and spread. Allowing people to say “That's the way we've always done it” is evidence of a sclerotic organization.

Similarly, and as alluded to above, with the continual outsourcing of functions, you also end up outsourcing caring. Someone pasting together AJAX snippets from StackOverflow in an SalesForce application on the other side of the planet doesn't care that the web site is useless to 90% of users. They've done their job, and that's all their staffing company cares about. It's important to understand that lack of detail and care makes your healthcare company look bad, and it hurts your bottom line by making your treatments less effective, and making your doctors work more.

Everyone in a healthcare organization has to not only care about the patients, but be trained in this. Not just the hands-on people like doctors and nurses and patient liaisons. Everyone. The people who process forms. The people in accounting. And, yes, the I.T. people. Every single person in a healthcare organization affects patients in some way.

To its credit, of the dozens healthcare organizations I've interacted with in dozens of states, Methodist is among the better and more advanced with regard to how it treats its patients. But the process is incomplete.

Healthcare companies talk a lot about caring. But unless there is an ethos of responsibility to the patient that includes every single person in that organization, it's all just marketing.

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I understand that you understand

Friday, September 9th, 2022 Alive18,763days

Amazon.com chatbot in action

I'm not sure where the Amazon.com chatbot picked up the phrase “Thank you for understanding here.” But, inspired by its gratefulness, I think Iʼll understand “over there” next.

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Seattle, we have a problem

Friday, September 9th, 2022 Alive18,763days

An Amazon.com error message

With half a trillion dollars to work with, this still happens to Amazon.com. So, what chance do I have?

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Peesp!

Sunday, September 4th, 2022 Alive18,758days

Picture of a PlayStation Portable booting up.

I was digging the Halloween decorations out of the basement today, when I came across my old PSP gear. Joy!

Sonyʼs PlayStation Portable wasn't the first portable video game system I ever owned. I had the original Atari Lynx back in the 80ʼs. But the PSP brings back warm memories of a time in my life when I was more full of hope, and the world seemed to be filled with endless possibilities

I was in Japan in February of 2005, a couple of months after the PSPʼs launch, but two months before it became available in the rest of the world. My wife and I were riding on a subway in Tokyo when an OL (“office lady” — the female version of “salaryman”) sat down next to where I was standing. She pulled out a PSP and started playing ルミネス (“Lumines” in English). I was absolutely enthralled. I immediately said to Darcie, “Thatʼs what I'm bringing home from Japan.”

A game of ルミネス starting.

We were staying at the Keio Plaza Hotel, so as soon as it opened the next morning, I ran down the street to Yodobashi Camera searching for a PSP.

Yodobashi Camera is like the old Crazy Eddie electronics department store, except taking up a dozen floors of a skyscraper. If it runs on electricity, it's probably at Yodobashi. Anything from a Hello Kitty waffle maker to a household earthquake detector. From a refrigerator to a radiation monitor that you hang around your neck. From a transistor radio to the latest computer gear. If there was a PSP in Tokyo, I was sure I'd find it here.

Except that I didnʼt. Yodobashi was too much for me. Too many levels. Too much stuff. Precisely zero signs printed in English. I was over my head. Finally, I had to ask for help. A young man in an ill-fitting suit and an eager grin decided to take a chance with me.

A picture I took of Yodobashi Camera in 2016.

My Japanese is bad. Real bad. When weʼre in Japan, my wife is in her element. She handles the shopgirls, and drags me around like a wide-eyed toddler. But I was on my own this time.

I tried to communicate very clearly and plainly, “Video games?” Blank stare. I broke out my best non-regional radio voice and enunciated as clearly as I could: “Play-stay-shun Port-a-bull.” Nervous smile.

Finally, I resorted to pantomime. I held my hands out in front of me in loose vertical fists, and pumped my thumbs up and down like I was pressing buttons.

“Aaaaah! Peesp-o!”

With an expression of exuberant relief and a flourish of forearms and pointing palms, he guided me to a half-height white cabinet, bent over, slid back the glass door and popped up with a glossy white box.

“Peesp-o!”

With a hasty bow, he took off like jackrabbit down the warren of Panasonic boom boxes, Sony Cliés, and Sanyo voice recorders. His job was done, and he was happy to be done with me, and out of there.

That's why to this day, my wife and I call our video game machines “Peesps.”

Part of the opening video from the video game 首都高バトル.
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A meaningless milestone

Friday, September 2nd, 2022 Alive18,756days

Netflix says today marks one year since I've had Netflix. Which is not true. I've had Netflix for 24 years. But Netflix doesn't have a way to put an account on hold when you go on vacation, or move. Instead, you have to cancel your account, then sign up again when you come back home or arrive in your new place.

Amazingly, and much to its credit, when you sign up again, your Netflix queue is restored, and you're right where you left off. So I guess it's only ½ a fail.

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What did I just tell you?

Wednesday, August 31st, 2022 Alive18,754days

Every time I use Microsoft Windows, I manage to find another way it simply doesn't make sense to me.

In this example, I have instructed Microsoft Outlook to “Save All Attachments” from a particular e-mail message. Instead of saving all of the attachments, it pops up a modal window asking which attachments Iʼd like to save. Well, Iʼd like to save them all. Which is why I clicked on “Save All Attachments” and not “Save some, but I'm not sure which ones I might want, so why don't you stop me in the middle of my work instead of doing what I've instructed you to do.”

There would be no shame in Microsoft adding a “Save Some Attachments…” item to its already ample menu structure.

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Atlantic City can't get a break

Friday, August 19th, 2022 Alive18,742days

Looking for a fine collection of photos depicting Mozambique, Italy, Japan, and the Middle East? Just search Adobe Stock for “Atlantic City, New Jersey.”

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Touched by an angle

Friday, August 19th, 2022 Alive18,742days

Best use of these screens I've seen yet.

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Does not inspire confidence

Thursday, August 18th, 2022 Alive18,741days

Fidelity has 4½ trillion dollars ($4,500,000,000,000.00). If it canʼt make a web site work, what chance do I have?

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Failsourcing

Sunday, August 14th, 2022 Alive18,737days

Picture of a Chinese city in the Apple Maps entry for Midland, Texas

Crowdsourcing used to be all the rage in the tech industry. It was a way to get content for your project for free. Use your automation system to ask enough people for content, and some small percentage will happy oblige. The problem with crowdsourcing is quality control.

If you let anyone contribute anything, anyone will contribute anything. I once built a crowdsourced system for people to share photographs of landmarks. A significant percentage of the photos contributed were people standing in front of a camera holding up their resumes, presumably hoping that someone searching for a photo of the Berlin Wall might magically hire them to write code in India.

In the example above, we see the result of two levels of folly. Getty Images allows anyone to upload photographs to its system in order to sell those pictures to other people. That's the crowdsourcing. Then Apple outsourced photography for Apple Maps to a bunch of entities, including Wikipedia, TripAdvisor, and also Getty Images.

The result is a photo of a city in China among the photographs that are supposed to depict the West Texas city of Midland.

Never trust content you don't control.

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Coffee underachiever

Sunday, August 14th, 2022 Alive18,737days

A repair guy working on the super-duper high-tech coffee robot machine. Which is almost always broken.

The Costa Coffee machine at Whole Foods is broken. Again. I've been to this particular Whole Foods in Midtown Houston nine times. The coffee machine has only been online and functional once.

It's either bad timing for me, or a bad machine from Costa. Either way, it's bad news for Whole Foods.

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Whoops right back at'cha

Friday, August 12th, 2022 Alive18,735days

An error message starting with the header “Whoops!”

When your three-billion-dollar companyʼs error messages start with “Whoops!,” it does not inspire confidence in your three-billion-dollar company.

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Cleanup in aisle 500

Thursday, August 11th, 2022 Alive18,734days

An H.E.B. error message

H.E.B. has over 100,000 employees. Someone should get out and push.

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Performing stability

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 Alive18,733days

A list of meaningless status updates from eero

Vagueness is not a virtue. I can only imaging that the git commit history for Amazonʼs eero team looks like “Update,” “Update,” “Update,” “Update,” “Update.”

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No wonder boarding is so slow

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 Alive18,733days

A signboard at Midway Airport

Southwest Airlines encourages people to download its app for a “contactless day of travel.” You know what else is contactless? The way it was done up to now.

There's nothing about using an app that is more contactless than using a home-printed ticket, or even the old-style paper tickets. Both are read by a contactless scanner. It's not like the gate agent is going to lick your face because youʼre not using an app.

There are more disadvantages to using an app for your boarding pass than using a piece of paper:

  • Ask any janitor — people drop their phones in toilets all the time.
  • Restrooms, bars, restaurants, payment kiosks — there are a thousand ways to lose your phone in an airport.
  • Phones run out of battery.
  • Phone apps crash.
  • Phone apps malfunction.
  • Internet connectivity is required, but not guaranteed.
  • Internet connectivity in airports is notoriously slow and unreliable.
  • People run out of data on their mobile plans while waiting for their planes.
  • Screens time out and turn off just when someone gets to the gate agent. It happens constantly.

My observation waiting in line behind people using app-based boarding passes is that the paper passes scan more quickly, and more reliably than the phone-based equivalents.

The only reason to use an app-based boarding pass is if you enjoy forking over even more of your personal information to an airline so that it can sell that information to other people.

I am a paying passenger. I am not your recurring revenue stream.

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Iʼve fallen, and I canʼt get up

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 Alive18,733days

H.E.B. JSON payload

I sure hope Iʼve never broken a web site so badly that it starts squirting JSON all over the intarwebs.

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Youʼre next

Wednesday, August 10th, 2022 Alive18,733days

A floor-cleaning robot at Houston Hobby Airport

The tech nerd part of me that should think, ”Oh, cool! Hobby Airport has industrial-grade floor cleaning robots!” is outweighed by the human being in me who thinks, “Well, there's one more job that some person with low skills got kicked out of.”

Not everyone in the world has the mental or physical capability to do a mid-level or high-level job. But they still need a job, and deserve the dignity that comes with employment. In the 80ʼs the justification for turning jobs over to robots was that the newly unemployed could be re-trained to fix or run the robots. But in my experience, that's only rarely true.

The more I interact with people of all social strata, the more I realize that mopping floors in an airport is a really good job for some people. One they can be good at, and proud of. That will allow them to provide for themselves, and maybe even another person or two. Iʼm not currently convinced that we should automate the humanity out of society.

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Still more productive than an agile standup

Sunday, August 7th, 2022 Alive18,730days

Ycombinator error

Hacker News is broken. Silicon Valley productivity up 63%.

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Laissez les bons temps spamer

Friday, August 5th, 2022 Alive18,728days

E-mail unsubscribe confirmation. Maybe.

This e-mail from the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority reads “You unsubscribed.” It also says “You will receive an email update when new information becomes available.”

So, am I unsubscribed, or am I going to receive e-mail updates?

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The <blink> tag lives!

Friday, August 5th, 2022 Alive18,728days

Me: “Man, remember how V.C.R.'s used to blink 12:00 all the time after the power went out? That was awful.”

My KitchenAid microwave oven: “Hold my beer...”

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Watching a storm >$brew.sh

Sunday, July 31st, 2022 Alive18,723days

An error message from the National Weather Serviceʼs web site

The National Weather Service has a budget of $1.2 billion. If it canʼt keep a web site from drowning, what chance do I have?

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Lazybones

Sunday, July 31st, 2022 Alive18,723days

The Sears Tele-Games version of Atariʼs Flag Capture, which was known as simply Capture

People forget how primitive video games were in the early years. For a very long time, the only way to start a game was to press the Restart button on the console. It would be years before anyone dreamed up the idea of starting or restarting a game by pressing a button on the controller thatʼs right there in the playerʼs hand. Itʼs so elementary that people today take for granted that itʼs always been that way.

In the early years of video games, there was no such thing as sitting back and relaxing while playing a game, unless it was something with no end, like the free draw mode in Surround. You had to reach out and touch the console every few minutes when the game ended.

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Smells like a white linnen sheet flapping in the breeze atop a grassy hill

Saturday, July 30th, 2022 Alive18,722days

My debit card, after a million tumbles in the dryer

I lost my debit card a month ago. I found it today, wedged under one of the fins in the dryer. That means it not only went through the washing machine, it went through about 30 dryer cycles.

The card still works. The chip is fine, and the mag stripe works OK on newer machines.

Do that with your fancy device with Apple Pay, or whatever Google is calling its wallet this week, and you know what happens? You walk home.

I see people on the internet all the time claiming that plastic cards and cash are things of the past, and no longer needed. Thatʼs only true if you never go anywhere interesting, never eat anywhere unusual, and never do laundry.

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Connection over sneakernet

Saturday, July 30th, 2022 Alive18,722days

The Chase United Guide to benefits

Iʼm supposed to have super-duper awesome benefits with United Airlines because I have a Chase credit card. A couple of weeks ago, I decided to see what those benefits are. Naturally, the link on the Chase web site was broken. It just looped though a login screen over and over.

Since Iʼm a paying customer, I moaned about it to Chaseʼs customer service.

I ended up booking my ticket on another airline, and forgot all about it until I got this in the the mail today. I guess someone at Chase figured it would be faster to mail me a book about the benefits than to fix the link.

I guess this ends up being a story about good customer service, because not only do I have the book, but I just checked, and the link is fixed, too.

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The stack, she has overflowed

Friday, July 29th, 2022 Alive18,721days

Screenshot of Stackoverflow error message 'The service is unavailable.'

Stackoverflow is broken. Silicon Valley grinds to a halt.

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Tools of the trade

Friday, July 29th, 2022 Alive18,721days

Scrappy tech startup in 1972:

Two guys in the basement of a college science building, working all night with tubes, relays, and transistors.

Scrappy tech startup in 1982:

Two guys in a garage, working all night wire-wrapping circuits.

Scrappy tech startup in 1992:

Two guys in a college dorm, working all night optimizing cross-platform compiler routines.

Scrappy tech startup in 2002:

Two guys in an anonymous strip mall, trying to cram their big idea through a 56 kilobit ASDL connection.

Scrappy tech startup in 2012:

Two guys in loft over a Thai restaurant in a hip arts district, cobbling together other people's JavaScript modules on local government grant money.

Scrappy tech startup in 2022:

Two guys on the 43rd floor of a bank building, bluffing their way through a PowerPoint in front of a bunch of V.C.'s.

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Can't get there from here

Friday, July 29th, 2022 Alive18,721days

Me: “Hey, Siri, stop the music.”

Siri: “Sorry, Wayne. I'm unable to stop.”

Really? It's only R.E.M. It's not like you can dance to it.

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Speak directly into the horn

Saturday, July 23rd, 2022 Alive18,715days

Me (to the HomePod three feet in front of me): “Hey, Siri, is it going to rain today?”

A different HomePod (three rooms away): “-mumble- -mumble- -mumble- -something- -mumble-

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They should call it ToiletTime

Sunday, July 17th, 2022 Alive18,709days

Screen time screenshot

Today, Siri informed me that I use my phone an average of 19 hours and 22 minutes per day. Either Siri is wrong, or I really need to eat more fiber.

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Tubes for noobs

Saturday, July 16th, 2022 Alive18,708days

Photograph of my TV

I finally got around to fixing up the over-the-air antenna hooked up to my TV. I re-scanned and found 121 channels.

Not all of the channels are great. But that's no different than the DirecTV service I have in my apartment, for which I am obligated to pay $80 a month. Except that the majority of the dross over the air is shopping channels and infomercials, while DirecTV seems to be 90% pornography, sports, and also shopping.

The important thing is that with the over-the-air antenna, I get The! Movies! Network!, and MeTV+. I've also discovered a channel that is mostly British and Australian DIY and lifestyle shows, like Escape to the Country, of which Darcie and have long been fans. Going to have to rev that $20 ATSC DVR into high gear for a while.

Here's a table of what I found, mostly for my own reference, and subject to change with a shift in the wind.

If you're viewing this on a mobile phone, you won't be able to see the table until you hold your phone horizontally. That's because tables look like absolute pants on phones.

Display channel Station ID Network Primary language Content
2-1KPRC-TV/HoustonKPRC-HDNBCEnglishVariety
2-2KPRC-TV/HoustonStartTVStartTVEnglishVariety
2-3KPRC-TV/HoustonH&IHeroes and IconsEnglishVariety
2-4KPRC-TV/HoustonDABLDablEnglishLifestyle
2-5KPRC-TV/HoustonGetTVGetTVEnglishVariety
3-1KBTX-TV/BryanKBTX-DTCBSEnglishVariety
3-2KBTX-TV/BryanKBTX-CWThe CWEnglishVariety
3-3KBTX-TV/BryanKBTX-™TelemundoSpanishVariety
3-4KBTX-TV/BryanGrioTheGrioEnglishVariety
11-4KHOU/HoustonTwistTwistEnglishLifestyle
11-11KHOU/HoustonKHOU-HDCBSEnglishVariety
13-1KTRK-TV/HoustonKTRK-HDABCEnglishVariety
13-2KTRK-TV/HoustonLOCALishLocalishEnglishLifestyle
13-3KTRK-TV/HoustonKTRK-D3This TVEnglishVariety
13-4KTRK-TV/HoustonQVCQVCEnglishShopping
14-1KETH-TV/HoustonTBN HDTrinity Broadcasting NetworkEnglishReligion
14-2KETH-TV/HoustoninspireTBN InspireEnglishReligion
14-3KETH-TV/HoustonSMILESmileEnglishReligion
14-4KETH-TV/HoustonEnlaceEnlaceSpanishReligion
20-1KTXH/HoustonKTXH DTMyNetworkTVEnglishVariety
20-2KTXH/HoustonMovies!Movies!EnglishMovies
20-3KTXH/HoustonTheGrioTheGrioEnglishVariety
20-4KTXH/HoustonBUZZRBuzzrEnglishGame shows
21-1KVQT-LD/HoustonNewsmx2Newsmax TVEnglishSpecialty
21-2KVQT-LD/HoustonRetroRetro TVEnglishVariety
21-3KVQT-LD/HoustonElohimElohimSpanishReligion
21-4KVQT-LD/HoustonClassicClassic Reruns TVEnglishVariety
21-5KVQT-LD/HoustonCristoCristo TVSpanishReligion
21-6KVQT-LD/HoustonH-landHeartlandEnglishLifestyle
21-7KVQT-LD/HoustonLife-VVidaVision NetworkSpanishReligion
21-8KVQT-LD/HoustonINTVEnglish
21-9KVQT-LD/HoustonBiz-TVBiz TelevisionEnglishTalk shows
21-10KVQT-LD/HoustonNowMTVNowMedia TVEnglish and SpanishVariety
21-11KVQT-LD/HoustonACEAmerican Classic EntertainmentEnglishVariety
21-12KVQT-LD/HoustonABTVABTVVietnameseVariety
21-13KVQT-LD/HoustonMBCMillennium Broadcasting ChannelEnglishAfrican
21-14KVQT-LD/HoustonLaTeleLaTeleSpanishMovies
21-15KVQT-LD/HoustonKVQT-15nonenonenone
22-1KLTJ/GalvestonKLTJ-DTDaystarEnglishReligion
22-2KLTJ/GalvestonKLTJ-ESDaystar EspañolSpanishReligion
26-1KRIV/HoustonKRIV DTFoxEnglishVariety
26-2KRIV/HoustonDecadesDecadesEnglishVariety
26-3KRIV/HoustonFOX WXFox WeatherEnglishWeather
27-1KQHO-LD/HoustonVietSkyVietSkyVietnameseShopping
27-2KQHO-LD/HoustonS.E.TSaigon Broadcasting Television NetworkVietnameseVariety
27-3KQHO-LD/HoustonFodd&FUFood and Fun TVVietnameseVariety
27-4KQHO-LD/HoustonVNBCVNBCVietnameseShopping
27-5KQHO-LD/HoustonVietmedVietmediaVietnameseVariety
27-6KQHO-LD/HoustonIVTVVTVVietnameseVariety
27-7KQHO-LD/HoustonAvailabVietnameseVariety
27-8KQHO-LD/HoustontheVGlobal Mall TVVietnameseShopping
27-9KQHO-LD/HoustonAWMAWM TVVietnameseVariety
27-10KQHO-LD/HoustonPeace and Happiness TelevisionVietnameseLifestyle
28-1KUGB-CD/HoustonKUGB-CDNovelisimaSpanishVariety
28-2KUGB-CD/HoustonKUGB-CDnoneEnglishInfomercials
28-3KUGB-CD/HoustonKUGB-CDShop LCEnglishShopping
28-4KUGB-CD/HoustonKUGB-CDMagnificent Movies NetworkEnglishMovies
28-5KUGB-CD/HoustonKUGB-CDnoneEnglishInfomercials
28-6KUGB-CD/HoustonKUGB-CDnoneEnglishInfomercials
28-7KUGB-CD/HoustonKUGB-CDClassic Reruns TVEnglishVariety
32-1KEHO-LD/HoustonKEHO-LDEnglishVariety
32-2KEHO-LD/HoustonKEHO-LDnonenonenone
32-3KEHO-LD/HoustonKEHO-LDnoneEnglishInfomercials
32-4KEHO-LD/HoustonKEHO-LDMagnificent Movies NetworkEnglishMovies
32-5KEHO-LD/HoustonKEHO-LDStadiumEnglishSports
32-6KEHO-LD/HoustonKEHO-LDShop LCEnglishShopping
32-7KEHO-LD/HoustonKEHO-LDEnglishVariety
34-1KUVM-CD/HoustonKUVM-CDLATVSpanish and EnglishVariety
34-2KUVM-CD/HoustonKUVM-CDEnglishVariety
34-3KUVM-CD/HoustonKUVM-CDMagnificent Movies NetworkEnglishMovies
34-4KUVM-CD/HoustonKUVM-CDnoneEnglishInfomercials
34-5KUVM-CD/HoustonKUVM-CDMagnificent Movies NetworkEnglishMovies
34-6KUVM-CD/HoustonKUVM-CDEnglishVariety
39-1KIAH/HoustonKIAH-DTThe CWEnglishVariety
39-5KIAH/HoustonCourtTVCourt TVEnglishLifestyle
45-1KXLN-DT/RosenbergKXLN-DTUnivisionSpanishVariety
45-2KXLN-DT/RosenbergUnimasUniMásSpanishVariety
45-3KXLN-DT/RosenbergMysteryIon MysteryEnglishLifestyle
45-4KXLN-DT/RosenbergNTDNew Tang Dynasty TelevisionChineseVariety
45-5KXLN-DT/RosenbergDIGI-TVDigi-TVEnglishVariety
46-1KBPX-LD/HoustonNuestraNuestra VisiónSpanishMovies
46-3KBPX-LD/HoustonNuduNu DuMont TelevisionEnglishVariety
46-4KBPX-LD/HoustonHeartlaHeartlandEnglishLifestyle
46-5KBPX-LD/HoustonGEBGEB NetworkEnglishReligion
47-1KTMD/GalvestonKTMD-HDTelemundoSpanishVariety
47-2KTMD/GalvestonEXITOSTeleXitosSpanishVariety
47-3KTMD/GalvestonNBCLXLXEnglishVariety
47-4KTMD/GalvestonCOZICozi TVEnglishVariety
47-5KTMD/GalvestonOXYGENOxygenEnglishLifestyle
49-1KPXB-TV/ConroeIONIon TelevisionEnglishVariety
49-2KPXB-TV/ConroeBounceBounceEnglishVariety
49-3KPXB-TV/ConroeCourtTVCourt TVEnglishLifestyle
49-4KPXB-TV/ConroeDefy TVDefy TVEnglishVariety
49-5KPXB-TV/ConroeLaffLaffEnglishComedy
49-6KPXB-TV/ConroeTruRealTrueRealEnglishVariety
49-7KPXB-TV/ConroeNEWSYNewsyEnglishNews
49-8KPXB-TV/ConroeHSNHome Shopping NetworkEnglishShopping
51-1KYAZ/KatyMeTVMeTVEnglishVariety
51-2KYAZ/KatyMeTV+MeTV+EnglishVariety
51-3KYAZ/KatyAztecaAzteca AméricaSpanishVariety
51-4KYAZ/KatyStoryStory TelevisionEnglishHistory
55-1KTBU/ConroeQuestQuestEnglishVariety
55-3KTBU/ConroeNacionNación TVSpanishReligion
57-1KUBE-TV/BaytownKUBE-TVShopHQEnglishShopping
57-2KUBE-TV/BaytownnonenoneEnglishplaceholder
57-3KUBE-TV/BaytownSBNSonLife Broadcasting NetworkEnglishReligion
57-4KUBE-TV/BaytownChargeCharge!EnglishVariety
57-5KUBE-TV/BaytownnoneEnglishInfomercials
57-6KUBE-TV/BaytownMi Raza TVMi Raza TVSpanishInfomercials
57-7KUBE-TV/BaytownCRTVnoneEnglishInfomercials
57-8KUBE-TV/BaytownJTVJewelry TelevisionEnglishShopping
57-9KUBE-TV/BaytownUChurchSpanishReligion
57-10KUBE-TV/BaytownAChurchThree Angels Broadcast NetworkSpanishReligion
57-11KUBE-TV/BaytownVieTVVieTVVietnameseVariety
61-1KZJL/HoustonEstrella TVSpanishVariety
61-2KZJL/HoustonKZJL-2Estrella NewsSpanishNews
61-3KZJL/HoustonEstrella DeportesSpanishSports
61-4KZJL/HoustonShopLCShop LCEnglishShopping
61-5KZJL/HoustonPOSI-TVPositivEnglishMovies
61-6KZJL/HoustonQVCQVCEnglishShopping
67-1KFTH-DT/AlvinKFTH-DTUniMásSpanishVariety
67-2KZJL/HoustonGetTVgetTVEnglishVariety
67-3KZJL/HoustonGRITGritEnglishWesterns
67-4KZJL/HoustonHSNHome Shopping NetworkEnglishShopping
67-5KZJL/HoustonKXLN-HDUnivisionSpanishVariety
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Food for thought

Friday, July 15th, 2022 Alive18,707days

An H.E.B. error message

HEB made $31,000,000,000 last year. If it can't make a web site work, what chance do I have?

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High flyers

Sunday, July 10th, 2022 Alive18,702days

A flock of birds captured in an aerial photo on Apple Maps

Sometimes if I canʼt sleep, I like to scroll through Apple Maps and see what can be seen. On this particular night, I found a flock of birds near NASA. They look like egrets or something similar to me.

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Timeless

Friday, July 1st, 2022 Alive18,693days

macOS Montgomery installing very slowly

My headless M1 Mac Mini crashed hard, so I had to hook up a monitor and re-install macOS Monterrey, which after 30 minutes helpfully tells me, “About a minute remaining.”

And by “About a minute” it meant a little under three hours.

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A side of mystery

Friday, June 10th, 2022 Alive18,672days

Bad formatting on the Dominoʼs web site

Dominoʼs Pizza made four billion dollars in 2020. It should have enough people working on its web site to make sure the CAPTCHA doesn't overflow its container.

It also shouldnʼt use Google's reCAPTCHA service, but thatʼs a different bucket of plastic monkeys.

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Still better than “John McClane”

Wednesday, June 1st, 2022 Alive18,663days

Max Cool mode engaged on a KitchenAid refrigerator

“Max Cool” is my 80ʼs action hero stage name.

And I guess “Door Alarm” is my trusty sidekick.

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Well, add something!

Friday, May 27th, 2022 Alive18,658days

Bad string handling in the Amazon.com app

It seems that my choices are to:

  • Add a credit or debit card
  • Add a credit or debit card
  • Add a personal checking account
  • or add a personal checking account

Maybe Iʼll enter my personal financial information later, when Amazon.comʼs system is a little more stable.

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