|random thoughts and thoroughbred selections|
|"All life is 6-5 against" - Damon Runyon|
Saturday, July 21, 2007
My Firefox Setup, And If You Use Google Reader...
You're going to want to check this script out. Via Lifehacker, this script adds a "Preview" button to the Google Reader item you're reading, enabling the whole post to load up in the Google Reader window without bringing you to the website directly. Absolutely brilliant, don't know what I did without it.
Lifehacker has been running this series where readers can upload screenshots of their Firefox setup, but I thought I'd post mine here instead (big picture), if you're interested. I love how customizable the browser is, and here's what I've done to this point:
I have a 17" laptop screen, so I don't have a real concern about horizontal browser real estate. Instead, I like to maximize the north/south space, so I've minimized the menu bar to the slimmest state possible. The buttons are smaller and closer together than before, and feature no explanatory text. You'll note that I have the Firefox icon with a down-pointing arrow at the very top left, which contains my "File," "Edit" and "Tools" menus, among the others. Bookmarks live in a collapsible sidebar way off to the right edge of the screen, and generally stay hidden from view, except for my Google icons, which were brought to the menu bar using an Add-On listed below. The tabs stay docked along the right edge, which keeps them as a minimal distraction while I'm reading text in the main window.
Adblock Plus (with Filterset.G Update)
Drag de Go (mouse gestures)
GButts (gives you the option of a Google-specific toolbar of buttons)
Gmail Space (use your free storage in Gmail like an FTP client)
IE Tab (change rendering engine - useful for video-rich sites that only run MediaPlayer files)
repagination (absolutely awesome - any multi-page site with a "NEXT" link can be loaded page-by-page in the same browser window)
Scribefire (for blogging - highly recommended)
Stylish (a Greasemonkey-type engine to allow customizable appearance of the browser - it's how I have the little tiny buttons all scrunched together in my menu bar, how I've combined the Stop/Refresh buttons into one, and how I've moved the sidebar to the right side of the window)
Tab Mix Plus (lets you shuffle the tabs)
More than a couple, but besides the one linked above, I've got a script that changes "Tomkat" to "Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes," does the same for "Brangelina" (well, you know what I mean), and eliminates all excess exclamation marks from sentences (one is plenty, no one is that enthusiastic). There's also a script that puts a tiny icon in any window for sites that can be subscribed to via Google Reader, and another script which remembers what I've typed in a text box if I accidentally leave the page and press "back" in a panic.
Friday, July 20, 2007
Know Anyone That Works For Sprint?
I posted this morning about my attempts to secure the Sprint Employee Referral deal for mobile broadband, and - as expected - I got shot down. Really, my only mistake was calling for support. Had I just been patient and waited for the returned card to clear, I would have been able to purchase the new card and the plan for the price I wanted.
The lady on the Sprint Executive Customer Service Help Line told me that they take their employee friends and family plan seriously, and that the email with which I signed up ("firstname.lastname@example.org") shouldn't have been used for this purpose. That, and the assertion that Sprint didn't want people outside of direct employee referrals handling this problem, are laughable statements. This forum thread at FatWallet features (by the time you read this) more than 400 pages of discussion, and presumably 100-300 people who have used that specific email address to process their SERO plan, and that's one of a half dozen or more message boards posting on the topic. If this was really an issue and not a subtle and passive way to secure more subscribers, they would have shut this down a long time ago.
Fucking hell, if I can't get a Sprint employee to refer me now, I'm going to end up paying Verizon FIOS or Comcast (god forfuckingbid) for Internet at home, and that is not the most desirable of outcomes.
Know anyone that can help me out? Pretty please?
I Didn't Have Anywhere Else To Put This Stuff
So long as I feel like blogging today, here you go...
 Iggy wears Axe body spray. Not sure why I find this so amusing, but here we are.
 I had lunch with a couple of business associates this week who I believe with about 41% certainty are a lesbian couple. One of them mentioned that I looked like I had lost weight (oh god no), and I said it was likely my facial hair throwing her perception off. She then said, "I should look into getting a beard then."
 My birthday was a few weeks back, and I received four presents. First, from a friend who shall remain nameless, a picture of her chest taken while wearing a slightly-too-small-for-her t-shirt (hooray for boobies!). Second, from my mom and her boyfriend*, an 80GB USB hard drive. Third, Bob bought me Speaker's unused Yankee ticket for that June 30th game (and I hope he's paid you back, K). And just last night I received my final present from my old man: a set of hemp shopping bags so that I can look like a self-satisfied pseudo-environmentalist (whilst climbing out of my 19 MPG Buick) at the grocery store. I had asked for these bags after watching a report on TV that said the only plastic that's non-recyclable are those "t-shirt" bags you get at the grocery store. They end up clogging the works at the recycle plants, and invariably fill up our landfills to the tune of one trillion bags per year. I can look like an asshole during my hundred supermarket trips if it keeps 500 bags a year out of the landfills. I can do at least that.
*The joke with my mom is that my brothers and I have often referred to her long-time boyfriend as her "gentleman caller," which is just a beautifully antiquated reminder of how old she really is. Now that they're moving in together, I think perhaps the Catholic co-habitation warnings will have to begin in earnest.
 Just for clarity's sake, the post immediately below isn't describing how I'm giving up on ALL friendships, just on the efforts to try and find this particular one which I had lost.
 A couple of observations from my afternoon with Al at the Phillies game:
-- AJ Daulerio, my former editor at Oddjack, is a nicer guy in person than I had figured. Who woulda thunk?
-- Sports bloggers are at least as dorky as poker bloggers.
-- Sports bloggers who are also well-known poker bloggers are rugged and masculine, with notable exceptions.
-- There was a bartender (bartendrix? bartendress?) at McFadden's who was just perfect. She had one of those Brooke Burke bodies with jiggly Ds up top and nothing but perfect little curves all the way down. Every time she'd bend over in front of us (at our unintentionally advantageous place on the other side of the bar's ice bin), we'd clink our glasses together in sheer joy. Surreal.
-- I know the food looked good at the stands in centerfield at the ballpark, but why in the hell would you stand in a line that's two innings long to get a cheesesteak? You paid for the ticket, watch the game for chrissakes. Still, a two inning wait at the park beats the two plus hour wait at the popular cheesesteak joints in the city.
-- Our seats at the park were so bad we were looking down at the top of the left field foul pole. Sir Edmund Hillary had to send Babu the Sherpa up to rescue us. Thankfully he did, and we spent the last two innings five rows up from the right field wall. Unfortunately, there were Cardinals fans in front of us, who were getting ribbed mercilessly by Al's acquaintances sitting right behind us. I don't know how they put up with it all game without climbing over seats and causing a brawl.
-- After going to a game in a Philadelphia stadium, I can assure you that jokes about smuggling D-cell batteries into the ballpark are both topical and entertaining.
-- We stayed for the whole game, walked to our car with the rest of the departing crowd, and took the same roads to get to the highway as everyone else. Thing is? We caught one traffic light on the way to the on-ramp, and not a single traffic backup on the highway heading home. I have never in my life left a major sporting event without sitting at a dead stop for 20 or 30 minutes somewhere along the way. It was a Christmas Miracle.
 I need help moving on August 11th. If you help, I'll cook and drinks are on me. Who's game?
 One of the biggest drawbacks to moving (as opposed to finally having central air and a dishwasher) was that the neighborhood woman (who I believe is slightly developmentally disabled) who would watch Frye in my absence couldn't make the trip to my new neighborhood to keep her gig. Fortunately, she introduced me to a woman who'll take Frye into her home, and it appears like that's going to be workable for my August work conference trip as well as Christmas (oh, and CJ's wedding, hopefully). Huge relief. I brought Frye to a kennel to check it out once, and it's like doggie jail there. Having a lady who'll watch him is a weight off of my shoulders for sure.
 I made peace with the ex-wife a month or two ago. Didn't feel like writing about it, as I had let her off the hook emotionally a long time ago, and just felt like it was time she knew that. It's pretty much a non-story.
 Save for lunch just now, I've had a vegetable with every meal so far this week. My stomach doesn't know what the hell is going on. I'm basically my own case study in fecal consistency this week - just all over the map. I think I need a big plate of nachos to set things right, unless by 5PM I feel like a whole bunch of bran muffins should do the trick instead.
 When you google "measure fecal consistency," you get more PDFs than I thought you would. I mean, why would you want that research to be so inconvenient for downloads on the Internet?
 Predicted record for the 2007 Detroit Lions = 8-8. Predicted record for my fantasy team this year = 9-5.
 The local Democratic Party's best hope for challenging incumbent Rep Charlie Dent for his US House seat just got exposed as having an egregiously large salary as the principal officer of a charitable organization she set up. I think I see my opening.
 I've got this thing brewing in my head I just can't seem to get started, but it involves capitalism, Idaho, ambition and my credit rating. I assure you that if I can ever find the narrative in what I want to say, I'll write the stupid thing.
 Does this make you happy today?
I Guess That's That
If trying something multiple times while expecting the results to change is the definition of "insanity," what is it called when trying something multiple times while having no expectation of success?
I've got a laundry list of frustrations, as if that hasn't been the unraveling theme of this blog since 2003. One of my big ones surrounds the implosion of a significant portion of my college friendships in the wake of my marriage and divorce.
I could blame the ex if I wanted to, but it'd be only a partial truth. She didn't like my friends (or my family, or my job, or my insert-personality-trait-here), and basically forced me early on to choose in that subtle and implicit way that only a woman can. Obviously, I chose wrong. I could blame her, but it'd be only a partial truth.
The full truth is that I made poor choices and didn't assert the importance in my life my friends deserved, driving the wedge myself. Further, as the marriage crumbled and my depression grew, I convinced myself that I would simply be an undue burden to my friends, and didn't reach out for the support I needed at the time.
So it went with my best friend from college. We were roommates freshman year, worked in the same restaurant, and were pretty well inseperable for the four years we were there together. After college, I lived alone for a year, then we did the roommate thing again for another eight or nine months while I rekindled things with the then-girlfriend/eventual-ex. That's where the wedge started to be driven, and I absolutely regret putting this woman or any in the middle of our friendship.
We only saw each other sporadically over the next couple of years, and while I'm certain I wasn't changing for the better personally (the "whiny little bitch" theory), he started lapsing into douchebaggery. We tried each others' patience, and "sporadically" became "rarely."
In the wake of the divorce, I tried a couple of times to reach out. I really did. But as I started talking about how rotten I felt and how difficult all this was to handle, he was apparently in some period of his life where he could only talk about coke and pussy, or some such retarded frat boy bullshit. I gave up quickly and didn't call again for awhile, until I found out he had moved out west to pursue his Eastern Medicine degree. I took that as a positive sign that he was getting his head screwed on straight, and we did manage to connect a couple of times on the phone during those years in a semi-engaging sort of way. Still, over those four years the conversations seemed to be steered specifically away from anything beyond what may be happening with me on a superficial level, and were just a Cliff's Notes version of catching up at best.
I felt blown off more often than not. I don't think he wanted to hear any of it.
I think he's two years out of med school now, and it's been at least that since we've last spoke. Two weeks ago, I had occasion to call in order to persuade him to rejoin the fantasy football league he left behind to finish med school. We spoke for about 30 seconds, he promised to call me back when he had more time, and I assumed that to be the generic and genial dismissal I've been getting in various forms since 1999.
Two weeks later, no returned call, and I haven't been proven wrong on the dismissal theory yet. I think I'm just going to give up on trying, as much as that isn't the most desirable outcome. Why try, if this is all I'm going to get in return?
In the wake of an emotionally destructive marriage and the disintegration of cherished and trusted friendships, it's kind of interesting that the people in whom I have spent the past few years developing relationships and trust are all sitting at a safe and comfortable distance where maybe I can see disappointment coming before it has a chance to surprise me.
Ruining It For Everyone
Since I'm moving in a couple of weeks (across town, no biggie - here's pics), I've been shopping around for cable and Internet service, and decided to give Sprint Mobile Broadband a shot. So two weeks ago, I found this Consumerist post and this message board directing people to the Sprint SERO employee referral store, which isn't being advertised by Sprint, but is accessible to anyone who wants to do the research.
Why SERO? The rate plan is $50/mo, as opposed to the market price of $60/mo, and the air cards on sale are sold to you at cost net of all rebates. Were I to purchase this stuff off this plan, I'd have $100 or more locked up for four to ten weeks, waiting on a rebate that might never come.
There's also the fact that the company where I work has locked down CBS Sportsline, which makes "anywhere Internet" that much more valuable to me during football season.
Anyway, I ordered a PCMCIA card two weeks back through SERO, and what do you know? It gets here and I find out my laptop doesn't have a PCMCIA slot. Fantastic moment of brilliance there. I box the thing up and send it back, and try to order a USB air card off the site. Unfortunately, with one order active, they're not about to process a second for me automatically.
I call the phone support lines, attempting to get them to release my first purchase so that I can get the right hardware delivered. Unfortunately, I spend two days trying to dial in and get someone helpful, but the insidious construction of the Sprint tech and sales support lines foil me every time. When you ring in, you get put in the main queue, and eventually routed to a rep. I get that. But when you get the rep, they periodically put you in a different hold queue while attempting to solve/get answers for your problems. When you get sent there, you're on a timer. If the rep doesn't get back to you in five or ten minutes, you're shuttled into a black hole hold queue from which there is no escape. I'm confident they specifically design this stuff for breakage, sapping your will to complain and hoping you'll just go away.
I figured there had to be someone willing and able to let me buy another card from them without dropping my calls and claiming ignorance. I searched a little further and found the Sprint Executive Customer Service Hotline, and gave that a shot.
Wow. The woman on the other end was totally helpful, and got my USB air card out to me via overnight delivery.
...the thing wasn't set up. I called to activate the thing, and found it didn't have a "phone number" (I guess air cards have phone numbers), and it wasn't tied to a billing plan on my account. Fantastic. The rep at the activation desk could have put the $60/mo plan on there, but I balked. I figured the Exec CS Hotline lady could help again.
She called me back this morning and politely started grilling me on how I got in to the SERO website in the first place. I pointed out that it was fairly common knowledge on the web that "anyone" could take part in this program, showed her where I found my info, and added that I believed Sprint was advertising this in a passive sort of way. "No, that's not true," she said. "This is intended for only friends and family, and our executives have been concerned lately about how many plans are coming through the SERO store." She then said that she was going to have to discuss whether I qualified for the SERO deal with her managers, and that she'd get back to me.
Now, I'm not going to pay $60/mo for something I know they'll do for me for $50, but I'm laying 3/5 right now that I'm going to get a call back shortly from the lady at the hotline telling me I'm out of luck. Worse, while I'm certain I couldn't possibly be the first or the last person to bring this sort of problem up to the people on this hotline, I am sure that giving up the goods on the message board's advertisement of the deal isn't going to lead to anything positive for the rest of us.
I can't believe I cracked while being interrogated over the phone by a well-mannered woman from Texas. I'd make a horrible double-agent.
Anyway, I'll let you know how it goes. For now, I'm just sitting and waiting for what I'm assuming is going to be the bad news. I was really hoping not to have to give my business in my new apartment to Comcast...
Monday, July 16, 2007
So Al and I are out at the bar on Saturday, and he ended up having a little bit of a problem getting his appetizer ordered. The Bacon-Wrapped Scallops on the specials menu were entered into the computer incorrectly, with a "beverage" label instead of the correct "appetizer" designation.
This begs the question - if there were a cocktail called "The Bacon-Wrapped Scallop," what do you suppose would be in it? Post your answer in the comments. Best answer wins... I dunno, the ingredients to make the worst answer?
Bill Simmons @ ESPN
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