Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Computer Madness...

Those of you who have read this blog and comments for a while may be aware that I have two functioning laptops in my home, both of which are capable of doing anything technical this site has required. The newer of the computers I purchased a little over a year ago from Office Depot.
Lately I have been having problems with this newer laptop..a Toshiba Satellite A75. Besides being inconsistent with its audio performance it has recently taken to overheating and turning itself off. Fortunately none of these “shutdowns” has ever occurred while I was doing something important with it..
In my latest adventure in trying to get repairwork done I discovered some things:
1. There is ALWAYS a busy signal when you attempt to call an “800 help line.”
2. Anyone representing a warranty provider will try to get out of the responsibility of helping you.
3. Those things a service warranty says to get you to purchase it are BS.
e.g. “carry-in/drop-off service will be provided for notebooks. With thousands of service facilities nationwide reliable service is always nearby.” (It turns out that if something is really wrong with your laptop it is going out of town whether you like it or not).
Yesterday I finally got hold of someone at the 800 number. They informed me that they will be forwarding me a carton in which to send them the malfunctioning computer. In the meantime they advised that I do what I can to save anything important in the laptop in some other form because the nature of my problem suggests I will probably lose the hard drive if not the whole computer itself. So I may be getting a new computer several weeks from now…yeah right..I’ve since read a dozen horror stories of what happens after you ship the computer off to the service warranty provider.

Friday, April 21, 2006

Scott Crossfield: 1921 - 2006...

One of my favorite movies is “The Right Stuff,” an 80’s classic based on Thomas Wolfe’s book of the same name about the relationship of 50’s era elite test pilots and the budding space astronaut program. Wolfe’s work thoroughly details that time when advanced jets were equipped with rocket motors at Edwards AFB and man first ventured into space.
A key figure in both the book and the movie was Chuck Yeager, the test pilot who chewed Beemans Gum while breaking the sound barrier for the first time. Many Americans only know of Yeager as a shill man for sparkplugs.
Another character, then in the book who was for cinematic expediency not portrayed in the movie was Scott Crossfield, the test pilot who was the first to successfully fly at Mach 2 or twice the speed of sound.
Crossfield was the most famous pilot of my youth, periodically flying various generations of rocket planes, the last one known as the X-15 at faster and faster supersonic speeds. He eventually flew the X-15 to an altitude of more than 88,000 feet, and a speed of 1,960 miles an hour, nearly three times the speed of sound.
The 84 year old Crossfield died on Wednesday when the single engine plane he was flying in bad weather crashed in mountains 50 miles northwest of Atlanta. At the time he was on a flight returning from Alabama to his home in Virginia. He was the only one on board the six passenger Cessna 210A located by the Georgia Civil Air Patrol yesterday.
He served with the US Navy as a fighter pilot and flight instructor during World War II.
According to NASA Scott was still flying approximately 200 hours a year in his eighties.

And now 'tis man who dares assault the sky . . .
And as we come to claim our promised place,
Aim only to repay the good you gave,
And warm with human love the chill of space.

Thomas G. Bergin

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Spastic Tiger...

Sometimes I think the world is full of idiots.
Today Tiger Woods apologized for using the term "spaz" to describe his putting during the Masters, a remark that was criticized outside the United States as insensitive.
Woods' agent, Mark Steinberg, said in a statement posted on Woods' Web site that the world's top-ranked golfer was "poking fun at himself and meant no disrespect to anyone."
Evidently in several countries, "spaz" is an offensive term for people with Cerebral Palsy. London-based Scope, formerly the Spastics Society, denounced Woods' remark as "appalling and insensitive," and international newspapers also criticized him.
In a televised interview after finishing third at the Masters on Sunday, Woods, 30, said he "putted atrociously. Once I got on the greens, I was a spaz."
I actually thought the word was inappropriate when Woods used it, but not because it was offensive. Most of the golfers during Saturday and Sunday rounds suffered on the wet greens at Augusta and had the unfortunate experience of having seemingly “perfect putting” going over and around the holes without the ball falling in.... everyone..well, except for Phil Michelson the winner.
When I was growing up the term “spaz” was known to all of us males. It meant when performing an activity sudden uncoordinated movement that interfered with performance, mostly in sports..
e.g. "When Mark turned 13 the youngster who had been the perfect little league player suddenly became a spaz in his awkward teenage years and never played the game again" …or …“I threw the basketball to Fred and instead of shooting it he became a spaz and threw it to the other team.”
None of us knew that the word had origins in foreign countries which were derogative toward people with Cerebral Palsy.,
I’m reminded of the opposite degree of political correctness when several years ago a Washington DC Mayor's Aide David Howard lost his job because he correctly described the stingy attitude of District’s city commission toward their budget as “niggardly”.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Tax Return Privacy...

I got a rude awakening this morning. Sometimes I miss stuff that I shouldn’t and maybe this story has been around every year and I’ve just missed it. As a “quasi libertarian” I generally come down on the side of privacy rights in almost every instance unless you are planning to blow my neighbors and myself up. We take for granted a certain amount of personal privacy when we deal with our Doctors, Lawyers, Accountants and Financial Advisors. Why? Because those confidentiality considerations are built into the “ethical” obligations of those who practice those professions.
I’ve always done my own taxes. Partly because I am “cheap”. I don’t think tax law is that complicated for a lay person who isn’t seeking a bunch of unusual shelters or ways to hide your money from the government. (The two audits I’ve gone through in 40 + years of doing my own returns aside…that’s another story). Just like I pick by own stock equities I rely on myself to prepare my 1040’s.
This morning I discovered that those of you who use "professional tax preparers" like H&R Block or Jackson Hewitt Tax Service (the two largest) have been giving up the privacy of your tax returns. Not to the government but to other businesses who have an interest in examining your return and are willing to pay them for the privilege.
How can they do this? In 1974 the IRS adopted rules which allowed the tax preparers to share your information with “affiliates” or to sell it to third parties. When you sign documents for the tax preparer permission to share the information is buried in the fine print.
The IRS is holding a hearing today about complaints about the abuse on the part of the tax preparers. Proposed are new rules that require explicit consent forms to be signed before the preparers share such information from now on. Resisting the new consent forms are the lobbyists for the preparers including the two famous ones listed above. What a bunch of jerks who clearly don’t have the best interests of their clients at heart.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Happy April Fools Day...

Speakeasy Speed Test