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One of the great things about owning your own domain name is that you can give different email addresses to different companies that ask for it, and track down the origins of your spam. One email address I use that’s particularly spammy, of course, is the address I have to give for WHOIS information when registering domain names. In the recent past, they’ve made it harder for spammers to get at these email addresses in bulk, but it’s still possible, and it doesn’t do anything for those of us who’ve owned various domain names for years.

There are only two sources of email I consider legitimate for those addresses:

  1. My domain registrar, if the email is about my domain names.
  2. Other internet citizens, if they are legitimately seeking the domain owner about something wrong (for example, an improper DNS setup) where they can’t otherwise find the appropriate contact information.

A few days ago I got a very legitimate-looking email from Sky Radio Network, who seems to provide content advertising for American Airlines‘ in-flight magazines and video programming. It was sent to an address I know is only used for domain registrations, so I know they just bought some old list of companies to blast their message out to. If Sky Radio Network had taken the time to browse the site, find a contact form, and submit through there, I wouldn’t have even considered it spam. Too bad they’re lazy and proved their ineptitude.

Time Sensitive Material
Paradise, Paul
+1 (XXX) XXXXXXX

I am writing on behalf of Sky Radio Network, the nation's
leading in-flight media company, in regards to our upcoming
"America's Innovators and Entrepreneurs" Talk Radio Show
on American Airlines.

This special on-going radio series spotlights compelling
profiles of innovators and entrepreneurs -- from small
businesses to large enterprises -- the people and companies
that make up the backbone of business in America and are
rarely heard from.  This show will feature stories of hope, ideas
and success stories in ways you've never heard before.

I would like to personally invite you to participate in our special
program, which airs worldwide on American Airlines for a full
month reaching 4.2 million business and leisure travelers.  This
special advertorial opportunity requires a small production fee
(see participation details and costs below).

Our guests to date include:

Anthony Ambrose, General Manager, Intel
Craig Ellins, CEO, DigitalFX
Stephan Brant, Managing VP, Hitachi Consulting
Al Knapp, President & CEO, Ethanex Energy
Debbie Grodon, President & CEO, Snappy Auctions
Joy Flora, President, Merry Maids

To hear some of our current and past interviews, click on

http://www.skyradionet.com

Our production team will produce a dynamic one-on-one
interview.  Our writers will script everything in advance with
your final editorial control.  Your interview will air in a
continuous loop on 29,000 audio-equipped American Airlines
flights during the full month of October 2007.

Since we're on deadline, we're offering our last few spots on
our October 2007 edition for only $3,995 (normally $6,500).
Please note we're recording interviews by now and June 12th
and due to our tight deadline, we need a commitment to secure
your spot no later than noon PST on Wednesday, May 30th.

Your participation includes:

1. Production and placement of a 3-minute interview/profile
to air worldwide on "The Business and Technology Report" on
29,000 American flights reaching 4.2 million in October 2007.
** American Airlines is the world's largest airline and flies to
more destinations than any other airline.
Media kit: http://www.skyradionet.com/mediakitaa.cfm
FAQ: http://www.skyradionet.com/faq
2. Sky Radio's "America's Innovators and Entrepreneurs" program
listing in American Attractions (350,000 monthly copies).
** American Attractions has the greatest number of readers
and largest circulation of any in-flight publication.
3. Rebroadcast of interview on http://www.skyradionet.com
with link to your site for 1 year.
4. Digital audio file of interview for promotional and marketing
purposes.
5. "As heard on American Airlines" logo for airing of interview
on your website.
6. All turnkey production including scripting, recording, editing,
mastering and delivery.
7. Total cost for all of the above is $3,995 (normally $6,500).

Please contact me as soon as possible to reserve your interview
segment, as space is limited.  In the meantime, I encourage you
to visit our website to gain a better understanding of who we are
and the caliber of clients we represent.

Look forward to hearing from you soon.

Sincerely,

Patricia Chi
Producer
Sky Radio Network
12155 Riverside Drive
Valley Village, CA 91607
818.754.6687 Office
310.594.9609 Mobile
818.301.2099 Fax
[email protected]
www.skyradionet.com

Producers of the #1 Talk Shows in the Sky and on the Web

Sky Radio Network is an independent producer contracted
to place business and lifestyles talk radio programming for four
major domestic carriers. If you'd like to call for a reference,
please contact the Executive Producer, Elizabeth Montgomery
at 818-762-6800 ext. 11.  To unsubscribe from our mailing list,
please reply to this email stating your intent.

Update: Sky Radio Networks called me on the phone.

Thumbs up: Crucial

About 4 years ago, when I was still in college, I purchased my last laptop. It’s a Dell Inspiron 4100, loaded with 512MB of aftermarket RAM from Crucial, because at the time Dell charged an arm and a leg for RAM upgrades. It served me well until a little more than a year ago, just as the three-year warranty was failing. Before the warranty expired, the hard drive on it started dying, and Dell replaced it for free. About one month after the warranty expired, one of the two hinge assemblies snapped, making it nearly impossible to open/close the lid of the laptop, although everything else worked fine. I replaced the hinge myself for about $20 and 2-3 hours of my time, given that replacing the hinge involved taking a large portion of the computer apart.

Eventually, I abandoned the laptop when I got a hand-me-down Acer C100 Tablet PC from work. It had roughly the same specs, but had a smaller screen (12.1″) and was lighter. Eventually, that laptop died during a BIOS flash-gone-wrong, but I got another hand-me-down – a Toshiba Portege 3500 Tablet PC – a few weeks later.

Now, I’m losing my hand-me-down tablet, and I’m looking at resurrecting the old Dell. Windows won’t boot – it bluescreens at startup complaining that the BIOS is not ACPI compliant. (That’s funny, it’s been ACPI complaint for the past few years!) I’d initially suspect hard drive corruption, but the drive is relatively new given it was replaced a bit more than a year ago. The next suspect was the RAM. I booted up a Memtest86+ CD, and sure enough, one of the DIMMs was spewing errors.

I unplugged the laptop, removed the battery, opened the case up, removed one bank of RAM. After powering it back on, and it wouldn’t boot – or even POST. Hmmm, I bet the remaining RAM is in bank 2 instead of bank 1. I swapped the remaining RAM into the other bank, and try again. Success! Windows still bluescreens, but Memtest86+ has been running for 30 minutes straight without any more errors. The bad news is that I’ve now got 64MB RAM instead of 576MB.

I’ve been a loyal Crucial customer for years, and never had trouble with any RAM from them. It was time to see if they’d honor their lifetime warranty. I called them up, spoke to Brian in the returns department, and explained my story. Brian already knew my name and order history based on the CallerID from my phone. I gave him the serial number from the DIMM, and he was able to retrieve the order # from when I purchased it years ago. They’re happy to honor the lifetime warranty, and they transferred me to customer service to get an RMA number. After about 15 minutes on hold (I guess Saturday mornings are busy for them!), John gave me my RMA number – without me needing to repeat my name, purpose of calling, or anything else that usually ticks me off when dealing with phone support. They’re cross-shipping the replacement RAM to me, and aside from about 15 minutes on hold, the process was completely painless.

Crucial probably lost money on this order by having to send me a replacement 4 years later, but they just bought themselves a very happy customer.

Nose (re)injury

When I was much younger, I managed to hurt my nose pretty badly in a stupid athletic way.

My swim club at the time reserved one day of practice to be a “fun day” in which we held a mock swimming meet against our parents. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the kids could soundly beat the parents in any swimming race, but it was interesting to see the parent’s reaction – they cheated to keep up with us. Of course, the young, impressionable kids that we were, decided to cheat back.

I was on a 266-yard relay event, where each swimmer swam 2 lengths of the 33-yard pool. Instead of the usual technique where you time jumping off the starting block just as the prior swimmer touches the wall, we were diving in a bit early – say, when the prior swimmer hit the 33-yard mark. The swimmer before me in the relay never competed with goggles, preferring being blind in the water to the chance of a highly annoying malfunctioning goggle. I always wore goggles, but my dive happened to be one that resulted in a malfunctioning goggle, now filled with water instead of air. Imagine, if you will, two blind swimmers, racing as fast as they can towards each other. I was one of those blind swimmers – at impact, my nose hit his forehead. Thank goodness for chlorine – there was plenty of my blood to go around, and I think my nose has always been a bit bigger because of it.

This past weekend, I managed to repeat my sports stupidity.

I was skiing with my friends Nick and Amanda at Snoqualmie – my second time up this winter, which probably sets a single-season attendance record for me. Nick has been skiing since he was 2, but Amanda and I were both relative beginners. I’d mastered the bunny hill, and the blue squares were now my challenge. I’d already spent most of the day falling, and by about 2pm, we’d declared this last trip down Alpine to be our final run for the day before we even got on the lift one last time. Most of the route down was uneventful – some good turns at first when I was fresher, some good falls in the middle as my legs got tired, and as we got near the bottom, Nick sped off to the lodge, leaving Amanda and me to fend for ourselves.

I wish I could say I got hurt landing some massing jump, or going down a double-black-diamond run, or even just skiing into some trees. But in the end, just as the slope started leveling off, what did me in was a little girl. I was skiing at an angle to the run and nearing the left tree line, and turned to go right. Amanda was fairly close on my right side, so I turned back to my left and there, a few feet in front of me on a collision path, was a little girl I hadn’t noticed before. I tried to stop the only way I knew for sure worked – falling. I didn’t make it all the way – in the end, my goggles made impact first, sending us both flying, and knocking her out of her skis.

Of course I felt like an idiot bowling over a little girl, the good news is we both skied away. My goggles pushed my glasses into my face, cutting my across the nose bridge more than once. The girl was unscathed, but my nose ended up looking like Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, covered in blood from the cuts my glasses gave me. I apologized as much as I could, but still ended up getting some glares from the girl’s dad. She stopped crying before I stopped bleeding, so I think she got the better end of the ordeal.

I made it down to the lodge, found the bathroom, and tried to clean my wounds. Finding the bathroom, I could tell everyone was staring at me, but it was even worse in the bathroom. Some little kid in there was fascinated with my nose – knowing no shame, he probably spent 3-4 minutes just intently staring at me, until his dad finally pulled him away. Now, one trip to the eyeglass store and a few days later, I’m mostly back to normal, excepting a nice set of scars on my nose that’ll probably take another month to go away.

Here’s hoping I don’t make injure it a third time.

When I moved in to my townhome, it came with a stipulation forcing me into a 3-year monitoring contract with an alarm company at $25/month. Worse still, they can’t monitor without a home phone line, which would add another $20/month. I wasn’t planning on getting a phone line, so now the free alarm installation was going to cost me $45/month for the next 3 years.

In the end, I managed to buy my way out of the contract for $300, and switched to using NextAlarm for alarm monitoring over an IP connection. It works fine, and prevented me from needing a landline. Until I learned how bad the service coverage was on my cell phone. I learned a lot about VoIP service when I was researching alternatives for the alarm, and decided it was worth the small monthly cost to get a “landline” that was really a VoIP connection. At the very worst, it was a cheap way to get a new electronic toy to play with.

For the past year, I’ve been using a Sipura SPA-2002, connected to Telasip. The Sipura gave me no trouble, but Telasip has been spotty at best, and their service always felt a bit fly-by-night. I’d have days when the audio only worked one way, or calls would go straight to voicemail, or the audio quality wasn’t as good as it should be. But I had fun fiddling with my DD-WRT firewall settings, enabling QoS on my home network, all to try to make the “landline” feel more like a landline.

However, things got much worse this past weekend. I don’t get a dialtone. Incoming calls ring the phone, but the audio doesn’t work in either direction. I spent a while tonight with a softphone and discovered that it’s not actually Telasip that’s the problem this time – it works fine through a softphone on my PC. I can access the admin interface of the SPA-2002, but when it comes to letting me talk, it just doesn’t do anything.

Now it’s time to reassess. Do I replace the SPA-2002 with something new and hope it makes things work again? Do I cancel my Telasip service and go somewhere else? Do I throw it all away, and go back to just having a cell phone?

Dear Lazyweb,

Google recently updated their customized homepage to include themes. This reminded me of a long-nagging question I’ve had about this service: why is the URL for it http://www.google.com/ig? I don’t know what “ig” stands for in this context, other than being short, easy-to-type, and hard-to-remember.

Other similar services all have similarly short but easier-to-remember URLs: my.yahoo.com, www.live.com, etc. What’s wrong with something like my.google.com or home.google.com? Am I missing something?

In college, some of my favorite courses weren’t computer science, they were finance courses. There are no minors at Mudd, but if there were, I was pretty close to getting one in economics.

I’ve been following the bull market of the past few years, along with more gloomy details on subprime mortgages, inflation, our national debt, etc. The bit that scares me most is the negative savings rate of the average American – spending more than you have is a recipe for disaster, plain and simple.

So you can imagine my surprise to find a story on hip-hop artists teaching their fans about personal finance. And it’s not a joke – they’re actually trying to learn from their mistakes and make sure that others don’t run in to the same problems they did. For example:

“I took my homeboys to the club, buyin’ bottles, got the rims — you know what I mean,” said Slim Thug, 26, a Houston rapper whose prized possessions include a $460,000 Rolls-Royce Phantom. “Then I couldn’t be paying the rent! Homeboys can’t help you now.”

Maybe it just takes the right teacher…

Last week, I took a few days off work and went down to San Diego to visit my parents. When I got back, I noticed that my USB key was missing, but wasn’t too concerned – I’ve misplaced it before, and it’s even survived at least one trip through the washing machine with no ill effects already.

However, today I got an email telling me that I definately misplaced my USB key.

In Germany.

Apparently, a very kind person found my USB key, noticed my “If Lost.txt” file on it, and emailed me. From Germany. She said she found it in the San Francisco airport, which is odd, because I flew directly from Seattle-Tacoma to San Diego, so I’m not really sure how she’d find it there. I don’t even know if I lost it on the way down to San Diego or on the way back to Seattle, but I think it’s safe to say I lost it in an airport.

There’s very little on it that I care about losing – I’ve got some random utilities I like to keep around on a key, and anything I’d rather keep to myself is encrypted on it. Given my key is all the way in Germany, I might just tell her to keep the key as a reward and ask nicely for the data back. I can’t imagine how long it’d take to mail it all the way from there, just to get a $20 key back.

It’s been a long time since I posted, so I figured I’d de-lurk and mention that we just shipped Windows Desktop Search 3.01 to the world today. Brandon has many of the details, but the short release notes include built-in support for indexing networked volumes, more group policy support, and a smorgasbord of bug fixes. My personal favorite fix: in WDS 3.0, some users would click the search button in the deskbar, only to have their C:\ drive open instead of search results – but only the first time they tried.

Download:

Rubbers

I went home for a three-day weekend in San Diego, taking advantage of a “work optional” day in my group at Microsoft. It’s been a long time since I’d been down in San Diego; the combination of sunny weather in Seattle during the summer and having Margot in town for her internship gave me much less reason to travel. Now that Margot’s not in Seattle and summer is coming to an end, I’ll probably be taking more trips down south, especially once the rainy season starts again.

While I’ve been gone from San Diego, my mom got a “replacement dog” – that is, the dog is replacing me. He was 20 lbs. when the got him from the animal shelter, and he’s about 40 lbs. already, after about 2 months. Fittingly for my parents, they’ve named him Rubbers, and he has to be the most spoiled dog on the planet. So, as part of my trek down to San Diego to visit my parents, I also got to meet the newest member of the Paradise Family, who happens to have 4 legs and likes chewing on things.

This all comes as a bit of a surprise to me. My entire childhood memory is filled with my family always owning a cat. My parents told me that when I was really young we had a cocker spaniel named L.C. (Little Cocker), but he was too hyper, ate through everything, and never got housebroken, so they gave him away. I’d had a few cats after that, including one that lasted about 15 years. To think of my parents as “dog people” all of the sudden didn’t make sense – dogs require walking, training, and a heck of a lot more attention than cats, and I didn’t really imagine my parents being up to that task.

I flew out of Seattle on Friday morning, and landed in San Diego about noon. There to pick me up was my Mom and you guessed it, Rubbers. He growled, he barked, and he tried to chew my hand off. This did not make me happy. I’ve always had a bit of a fear of dogs, which I atribute to being bit on the ass by one as a small child. As long as I can remember, I’ve had a problem with dogs barking at me, jumping on me, or biting at me. There’s nothing like getting nipped on the buttocks to instill a fear of dogs in young children.

On the way back north towards my parents’ office, we stopped at Chicago on a Bun for lunch. I was told to hold rubbers on his leash outside while my mom went in and ordered for the 3 of us, but Rubbers wouldn’t have it – I was some weirdo come to take him away, so we switched and I did the ordering. Mom, Rubbers, and I all had a hot dog. A good portion of the meal involved me feeding bits of the hot dog to Rubbers, since it kept him from barking or chewing on me. Rubbers was a much slower eater than us, so the remained of his hot dog came along for the rest of the car ride.

At the office, I got to see Rubber is his more natural habitat. He loves running aronud the office, and he’s got more or less free reign over the place. Andrew, one of the guys who works in the warehouse, loves to roughouse with him and play tug-of-war. Rubbers mostly ignored me, except once in a while he’d pay attention to me by barking at me and growling.

That evening, both my Mom and Dad left to go pick up dinner and left me alone with Rubbers. He ended up hiding under a chair by the front door, and then ran away when I came over by him. It was quite obvoius that in the ranking of people, he liked my mom best, then my dad, and I was somewhere near the bottom. He kept looking out the window for the car to come back, but every once in a while wandered upstairs to see if my Dad was in his office. I guess he forgot that they went together in the car.

The next day, I woke up to more barking, but this time when he came up to me he actually started licking my hand, in addition to his usual chewing. I also barked back at him, which I think confused the heck out of him – nobody other than another dog had ever barked at him before. All the sudden I think I was okay in Rubbers mind, although he still barked at me. Later than morning I went on a walk with him and my Mom, and while he mostly ignored both of us, I think he got used to the fact that I was there and wasn’t going away if he barked. By the end of the day, he’d actually let me scratch him, play with him, etc.

On Saturday night, my friend PJ came over to visit, and then it all started anew. PJ got barked at plenty, as did I – I guess since I was the friend of the enemy, so I must be the enemy too. PJ noted that he probably wasn’t introduced to enough people as a puppy (my parents got him when it was already a bit too late) and that was why he didn’t deal so well with new people. At least PJ was a good sport about it – he’s had dogs in the past, and knew how to handle them. I think if I were PJ I’d have just been freaked. Rubbers growled the entire time, and only got quiet when PJ left.

Sunday morning I woke up to more barking, but it was very short lived and more of a playful bark. At this point, I think Rubbers really likes me. He spent a good amount of time playing tug-of-war, frisbee, and fetch with me, so I think I’m alright in his book now. Oh, and feeding him a lot doesn’t hurt either.

I’ll be back down there in two weeks for Labor Day, so I’ll be curious to see what his reaction is to me then. It’s long enough that he might not remember me that well, but I’m hoping I don’t have to deal with re-introducing myself to him every single time I visit. Rubbers is a cool dog – he’s very playful, but not being a dog person myself, I could do with a bit less barking and hand-chewing all the time.

Ingredients

  • 1 lb. boneless top sirloin, cut into 1-2 inch cubes
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 4 tsp. white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp. chili powder
  • 1 tbsp. honey
  • 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup minced green onion
  • 1/8 tsp. garlic powder
  • 8 oz. plain yogurt

Preparation

  1. Mix brown sugar, vinegar, oil, chili powder, and honey in a medium bowl.
  2. Add beef pieces; toss to coat. Let sit 15 minutes to marinate.
  3. Stir together yogurt, green onion, and garlic salt, set aside.
  4. Place beef pieces on skewers; grill for about 10 minutes or until done.

Delurking

So, I’m trying out some new weblogging software. Previously, I was using PyBlosxom, a python port of blosxom. This worked great as a tinkering tool, but I just found it incredibly inconvenient to work with compared to some of the other blogging tools out there – particularly, needing to ssh into a host and run emacs just to update my blog. (Yes, I know I could have setup an email-to-blog gateway or somesuch, but even that would have been relatively painful.)

Now, I’m trying out the brand-new beta build of WordPress. It’s clean, it’s PHP, and it seems to have all the main features I want in a blog without having to write them myself.

My car arrived.

As my old car technically belongs to my parents and I’m getting a new one, my parents sold my car to some family friends in San Diego and paid to have it shipped back south.

On Friday, I got a call to pick it up, and arranged for the towtruck to pick it up on Saturday morning. Saturday rolls around, towtruck arrives, inspects the car, and takes it away.

Fast-track to Monday: I get a call from DAS that they had the car in Seattle and wouldn’t ship it until it was paid for. That’s funny, because we only got a quote from DAS and chose to go with United instead. It turns out that from only getting a quote, they arranged for pickup and everything, and only asked for money once they had the car in their possession.

From what I can tell, we’re going to use DAS anyways, because it’s the path of least resistance. At least they’ve agreed to the lower price United quoted, but I still think they’re a terrible company for what they did.

Without giving away anything to everyone who haven’t seen it yet, I was underwhelmed. At least I got free nachos, drinks, and they gave me real change back on the fake money for concessions.

Flu Shots

Back at Mudd, I paid $10 or $15 and waited in line for an hour to get a flu shot. Here at Microsoft, I paid $5 and waited for one person in front of me to get their shot. Total time, including getting from my office to the room they were doing the shots: 5 minutes. I guess it makes sense that Microsoft wouldn’t want to waste our time standing in line instead of working, but that was fast.

I get to the the Matrix: Revolutions.

For free.

During business hours.

A day before it’s released to the public.

That is all.

Trekkie Sex

Ladies, here’s a lesson in what not to ever do.

Next week I’m going to be required to fill out an online survey about my commute methods for this week. It’s a legal requirement that Microsoft has to do, and I got randomly selected.

I wonder if they will have a “I unicycled to work” option. Probably not. That’s gonna be fun to explain.

So I’ve sitting on hold with Bank of America (36 minutes and counting!), and listening to the muzak they’re playing in the background. As is typical of music on hold, they have someone saying “Thank you for your patience, you will be assisted momentarily. Please, stay on the line.” That’s all fine and dandy – they even keep the background music going so you can enjoy the muzak uninterrupted.

I’m sitting there listening to that blissfull muzak, and all the sudden the music goes away, and I hear a new voice on the line. I get to speak to a real human being! What does she tell me that’s so important as to interrupt my muzak? “All representatives are still assisting other customers. Please continue to hold for the next available representative.” And then the muzak returns.

Would someone like to explain what the point is of two levels of “you’re on hold” messages? I don’t even like one level (but hey, at least that one compliments the muzak!), but what’s the point of getting my hopes up by making the muzak go away?

44 minutes and counting. I think I’m going to hang up soon and bitch them out later.

Don’t you hate that beep when you battery dies on your cellphone?

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