February 09, 2003

War apathy

I have a confession to make: I am really tired of hearing the debate on the war with Iraq.

I know, it's really important. It's obviously one of the most pressing issues that our nation has to deal with at this time. But, for whatever reason, I am having a harder and harder time actually caring.

Yes, Hussein is a mad-man dictator. Iraq could hardly have a worse person running the country. If Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, I've no doubt that they would have little compunction about using them on the US. It's just that, well -- I'm tired of the debate.

It seems to have been going on for over a year. Iraq is evil, they want to kill us, we have to stop them first, we have to stop them because they are ignoring the UN, even if we have to ignore the UN to do it ... we shouldn't attack first, we can't attack without UN approval, it will just destabilize everthing if we do ... blah, blah, blah. It's at the point now that I don't even read the articles about it, and will turn away from NPR when they are discussing it.

I'm more interested in the fact that California is hemorrhaging money, actually. The dismal state of our state's economy has a much more direct impact on people that I know. Yes, that's kind of a selfish view. But -- it's where I'm at right now. Actually, in global terms, North Korea's Kim Jong Il scares me far more than Hussein. North Korea's leader is also evil, ruthless, but, unlike Hussein, seems completely, certifiably insane. This is not a good combination.

But as for Iraq? Well ... I'm glad people are having the debate. I just don't want to hear it right now.


Posted by Mike at 03:58 PM | Comments (1)

February 10, 2003

Macintosh: it's just so easy?

Recently, Meredith said that she wanted to be able to print to our HP inkjet printer from her iBook. I had recently discovered that if I turn on printer sharing on my Windows desktop, which the inkjet is connected to, then I could select that printer from my Windows laptop and print as long as my desktop was on. Wow -- so easy.

I had heard that Jaguar, aka Max OS 10.2, added a bunch of support for Windows networking. And, Apple's 'switch' page includes the statement: "As a result, the Mac is at home on PC networks (or just about any other kind), making the business of sharing files and printers with PCs entirely painless." So, confident that it would be at least as easy to do there as it was on Windows, I headed to her iBook to set it up for her.

Hmm ... well ... none of the choices in Print Center seem to be right. I'll just try a few ... no ... OK. Well, time to Google for this.

Ah, I see. The first problem is that I have to enable SMB printing on the Mac. You can do this by opening the terminal, becoming root, and typing

cd /usr/libexec/cups/backend
ln -s /usr/bin/smbspool /usr/libexec/cups/backend/smb

Then restart the computer, or at least CUPS (the printing system) with kill -HUP.

Yes ... well ... that was, um, not very Mac-like. All the power of Unix, Apple says. Guess all the ease of Unix, too. But fine. Now I can add the printer, right?

Not quite.

Now I can add the printer, and print Postscript via the Windows printer sharing. But we don't have a Postscript printer. So, the one line 'this is a test' document prints as a five-page document full of Postscript. OK, off to the HP site to install the HP Photosmart drivers for Mac OS X.

Oops -- those only support the printer if it is connected via USB or via HP's own JetDirect print server. There's no way to pick that driver for a printer connected any other way.


With some more searching on Google, I found 'GIMP', an open-source print driver architecture for Linux that someone has ported to OS X. First, I had to install 'GhostScript', a Postscript interpreter. The Macintosh, I thought, has a Postscript interpreter (can't Quartz do this?), but, for some reason, GIMP needs its own. Fine. Then, I got to install GIMP.

Finally -- several hours after I started out on this project -- it worked. I could print to the inkjet from Meredith's iBook.

This is easy????????

Posted by Mike at 08:45 AM

February 13, 2003

Today's loan is brought to you by the letter "L"

We closed our refinancing today. This is the second time we've refinanced our mortage since we bought our home a little over three years ago.

It was all very simple, until we got to the deed, when this question came up: does Meredith's name have a middle initial ('L') or not?

When we first bought our house, this didn't even come up. Meredith L. Dodd signed many documents, with nary a question about the existence or not of a middle initial.

Then, a year ago, we refinanced. Somehow, the refinancing company screwed up, and left Meredith's middle initial out. This wasn't discovered until we got to the closing, at which point the title company decided that rather than fix every single page to have a middle initial, they would instead execute a 'grant deed' that would transfer ownership of our property from Michael D. and Meredith L. Dodd to Michael D. and Meredith Dodd.


Fast-forward to today. This time, most of the documents have Meredith L. Except the deed, which has, on the front, Meredith (no L), and, on the final page (where you would sign), Meredith L.

The problem, of course, is that the names on all of these documents are supposed to match EXACTLY.

In the end, the notary suggested that Meredith use L. in all the documents excelt the deed, where she should initial as 'md' (not mld), then sign her name both ways on the final sheet.

Who knows how our deed is going to end up. With our luck, our house will soon be registered to Michael D., Meredith L., and Meredith Dodd.

Ah well.

Posted by Mike at 08:36 PM | Comments (2)

February 14, 2003

$137 in desserts, anyone?

We had Valentine's Day dinner tonight at Waterfront Restaurant & Caf� in San Francisco.

Dinner was excellent. It's right on the water (as one might logically assume from the name), so the view is great.

The one big surprise of the evening came when the bill arrived. Each of our desserts had been billed at $68.42. While they were, indeed, quite good, they were not quite that good. At least the waiter was (appropriately) astonished when this was pointed out.

Posted by Mike at 10:06 PM | Comments (2)

February 15, 2003

Jiffy Lube sucks

Both of our cars were long overdue for oil changes, so, with little time today, but some fear and trepidation on my part that I was working hard to suppress, we took our cars to Jiffy Lube.

Note to self: in the future, listen to my fear and trepidation. Words to live by: Jiffy Lube Sucks.

First they explained to me that my car was out of oil and so would need a 'complete engine flush'. Not just low on oil, they insisted, but completely, bone dry. This seemed unlikely for two reasons: (1) I had checked the oil last night before driving to the city, and I had plenty. (2) the car moved, on its own power, to Jiffy Lube. Cars that are completely out of oil do not typically drive very far. Certainly not without horrible grinding noises, which somehow I had failed to observe.

I finally told them to pull the drain plug and see how much oil came out. Wow, look at all that oil. "Well, it's ... it's pretty black. You should still get an engine flush." Mmm hmm... no thank you.

At least Meredith's car wasn't "completely out of oil". Instead, it took them fifteen or twenty minutes to figure out how to get to the oil filter. Perhaps they don't see a lot of Passats? Actually, what seems likely is that most Passat owners are smarter than we are and don't take their cars to places like Jiffy Lube.

Here's something amusing, though. Their web site suggests: "Give a Jiffy Lube gift certificate! It�s the perfect Valentine�s gift for calorie counters! Show someone you care by giving them a Jiffy Lube gift certificate." A Valentine's gift??? Maybe this would be a good Valentine's present for someone you would like to soon make your ex.

Update: See June 3 follow-up...

Posted by Mike at 02:34 PM | Comments (494)

February 17, 2003

Trees vs. Highway

VTA is finally at work redoing the 85/101 interchange in Mountain View. Regular commuters of these highways know that this is one of the worst interchanges you can find. Traffic regularly backs up for over a mile on 101 south and 85 N as drivers try to merge from one highway to another.

The Microsoft campus where I work is right next to Highway 101, separated by only a hundred feet or so and a row of trees. If you were behind the campus, you could almost forget that you were right next to a major highway. Well, if you closed your ears, maybe. Or were inside.

No more. Because of the new construction, all the trees have been cut down to make room for the new ramps. There are HUGE piles of trees in stacks along side the highway. Now, sitting in the cafeteria, you can look out and see ... cars whizzing by. And when they build the new ramps, the cars will only get closer.

Ah well. It's still good that they're doing it, because the interchange desperately needs the work. But ... I still miss the trees.

Posted by Mike at 01:25 PM

February 25, 2003

Cambridge SoundWorks

As I write in here occasionally about companies that suck (*cough*Jiffy Lube*cough*), it seems only fair to write about companies that are actually cool.

A few years back, I bought a Cambridge SoundWorks MicroWorks sound system for the computer in my office at work. I liked it so much, I bought a second one for my system at home shortly afterwards. Both systems worked really well for a long time, until recently, when the speaker wire clips broke on the back of the amp on both of them, about a month apart. I've owned both for at least three years, so they were well out of the one year warranty.

I finally called the Palo Alto Cambridge SoundWorks store and told them about my problem. The person who answered the phone said that it was a flat $25 fee per amplifier to fix it, and that it would have to get sent off to the factory for repair. The $25 fee seemed fair, but the estimated time to fix was 6-8 weeks. Ugh.

Then he suggested bringing the amps down to the store, and he said he'd swap them out for new ones he had in stock. So, half an hour and $50 later, I had two new MicroWorks amplifiers, and he was sending the broken ones off to the factory to be repaired there.

Wow. Yay, customer service!

Posted by Mike at 08:43 AM

February 26, 2003

London pictures

We finally finished putting up pictures from our vacation in London. Enjoy!

Posted by Mike at 09:02 AM

February 28, 2003


While driving to work this morning, I found myself behind a car whose driver, evidently having a very passionate conversation with the person sitting next to him, felt compelled to repeatedly gesture with his hands by raising them above his head and shaking them. Yes, hands -- both of them. Every time he did this, his little Porsche swerved a little.

Fortunately, I didn't have to remain behind him very long. Sheez...

Posted by Mike at 12:36 PM