Sunday, March 23, 2008

Those Tricky Credit Card Companies

It seems that credit card companies are in the business of screwing people over. They do this in a lot of ways but I am just going to mention one of them.

Have you noticed the way they have a place for you to sign your name on the slip used to pay your bill. Some people sign it without bothering to read the fine print. If they sign they get automatically enrolled for credit card insurance. This basically tacks another 9.95% expense on to the credit card.

One day I decided to write "Tricky" in place of my signature and they signed me up for the insurance. Grrrr. I called them up and complained and got my money back. I was kind of hoping that they wouldn't reimburse me though; that way I could haul them into small claims court and waste their time and money.

Maybe we should start a "tricky" campaign against the credit card companies. And get them to remove that tricky signature line from billing slips. Can you spell "tricky"?

Hey you know what's funny. I bet some of those credit card companies are advertizing on this blog entry. You know what's not funny. You may have accidently signed your name on a billing slip months or even years ago. Maybe you should go check your billing statement.

Credit Card Companies Evil Tricks

20 Sneaky Credit Card Tricks

Thursday, March 20, 2008

People I Like

One of my hobbies is listening to talk radio. I listen to a lot of shows hosted by people with all sorts of opinions. By far, the talk show host I like the most is Dave Ross. I live in the Seattle area so I listen to him locally, but his show is also available over the internet. I like him because he treats every one who calls into his show with respect. It doesn’t matter whether the caller agrees with Dave or not, is complementary or insulting, is intelligent or nuts – every caller gets treated with respect. The way that respect is shown can sometimes be subtle. Dave shows respect to callers by truely listening to their point of view; and when he disagrees he does it without demeaning the other person. You could say that listening to what others say is one of the best ways to show respect.

I like people that respect other people. Some people say that respect must be earned and I don’t agree with that. Respect should be freely given – honor or dishonor is what needs to be earned.

Next: People I like

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Teaching Children Chess

I always wanted to have a child that could play a good game of chess but I never got one. But when my kids were small I didn’t know how to teach children chess. I have been able to teach my grand daughter a few tricks, though. She is six now and can beat most adults. She even knows some things that I didn’t know in high school -- and I played first board on the chess team.

To teach children how to play chess it best to make up games that they can win without being handed the game. With Tianna, I started out by teaching her to capture pawns with a rook. The game started with me having 4 pawns and her have a rook and a king. If she could capture all my pawns before any of them reached the eighth rank she won. So there were only three types of pieces on the board and she learned how to use them. It’s easier to learn how to use one or a few pieces well than to learn how to command a board full of pieces.

After she was able to win against 4 pawns we moved to the next level. King and rook versus five pawns. Kids these days play video games and they understand levels. After rooks levels came bishop levels, and after bishop levels came knight levels.

When we got around to using the queen the games changed to include the concept of checkmate. She started with a king and a queen and I had a king. I setup the board so that there was mate in one move and explained it to her. Then I let her try it from different but similar positions. Then mate in two moves. This eventually progressed until she knew how to systematically force a checkmate in less that one minute from any KQ versus K starting position. You would be surprised at how many chess club players can’t do that in a minute. Of course any of them could do it if given a few minutes to bumble through it.

Next I taught her the principle of opposition followed by how to checkmate with a rook and king. We played a few more games but eventually I ran out of ideas so I picked up the book Pandolfini's End Game Course which consists of a series of endgame puzzles and we are going through them. If you really want to be a good chess player, learn the end game first.

As you learn the endgame you learn to recognize winning positions. When you get one you will know exactly what to do to win, and not even Bobby Fisher (R.I.P.) would be able to stop you. When I am playing chess and I get to a winning endgame position, I like to tell my opponent that I will checkmate them in 27 moves if they play perfectly and less if they don’t. I usually say this in such a way as to imply that I have thought the game through all the way to the end with all possible combinations. I like people to think I am smarter than I am. But the point is that if you know how to recognize a winning endgame position, you will have a better chance at getting to one.

Tianna isn’t chess club material yet but she might be able to beat you. If you play her she'll assume that you're smarter than her and will try to trade down to make the game less complicated. You will think the game is even but her trades will destroy your pawn structure. This will put her at an advantage in the endgame and she will try to queen a pawn. If she does that you’re dead meat.

I can sometimes be found online playing chess at under the alias of HappyPawn8. I like to queen pawns. If I am winning and I want to punk you, I will queen 2 or 3 of them.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Does Jeremiah Wright define Barak Obama?

The person I most admired and wanted to be like when I was growing up was my uncle Roger. My uncle Roger is a Professor of Physics Emeritus at Cal State Fullerton, speaks six or seven languages fluently, spent his life working for peace, and basically lives in a free spirit kind of way. Those are some of the things I admire about him. Uncle Roger is also an atheist and a member of the Communist Party and those aspects of my uncle don’t represent me at all.

Many Americans, my self included, are inspired by the words of Thomas Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson was a slave owner. Does this mean Americans endorse slavery? Of course not.

Why should it matter if Barak Obama’s pastor and mentor, Jeremiah Wright, said something offensive in some of his sermons? Which one of us hasn't said something offensive? Jeremiah Wright doesn’t define Barak Obama no matter how much respect Obama has for him.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Was it a Demon or Sleep Paralysis

By unusual circumstance I happen to know quite a bit about the Bible and Christianity. When I was sixteen I had an experience that had a profound effect on me for many years. At the time of the experience I was a devout Christian attending Warm Beach Assembly of God church in Stanwood Washington.

Here's what happened. I used to share a bedroom with two of my sisters. One night my eight year old sister Shelley began crying and she told me and my other sister Roxanne that she heard bees. We tried to comfort her. We explained that there were no bees in the house and that bees don't come out at night. She kept crying for a while but soon fell asleep.

Probably less than 15 minutes after that I too heard a loud buzzing noise. I felt like something had griped my body and I was unable to move. I felt an evil presence in the room and I thought that a demon was trying to possess me. I was afraid. I tried to speak out loud and rebuke Satan in the name of Jesus but I was unable to. I begin to pray and rebuke Satan in my mind. Eventually I was able to speak and I began to rebuke Satan out loud. The noise went away and I was able to move again.

The experience terrified me so I decided to turn on the light on and read the Bible for a while. I never did hear the buzzing noise again but each night for months I would sense an evil presence in the room and I would read the Bible and pray to comfort myself. It wasn't long before I had read the whole thing. Eventually I concluded that an evil spirit was trying to harass me but that there was nothing that it could do but frighten me, so I decided to ignore it. After a while the fear went away but the habit of reading the Bible did not. I am not sure how many times I have read the Bible but it is several. Some of its books I have read more than a hundred times.

Some people that I have shared this experience with may have thought I was lying or perhaps mentally ill. Most people don't tell me what they think. However one day I shared this experience with someone and she told me that she had experienced the loud buzzing noise and inability to move repeatedly in childhood and had discovered that it was a condition called sleep paralysis. I have read several web pages on the phenomena and have concluded that what I experienced was in fact sleep paralysis. The only doubt I had regarding this interpretation of what happened was that my sister Shelley also heard the same buzzing noise that night and that was the only time I have ever heard it. So perhaps it was an evil spirit. Or perhaps something we ate that night made us both more susceptible to sleep paralysis.

What do you think?

ADDENDUM March 4, 2011

I have recently read that the vaccine for the H1N1 virus has increased the narcolepsy risk for those aged between 4 and 19 and probably affects those with a genetic predisposition toward narcolepsy. Because of this I now suspect that my sister and I have a genetic predisposition toward sleep paralysis and the simultaneous experience was triggered by a virus.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Lightning Bolt Dan

When I was attending the University of Washington I worked for a brief time as a busboy/dishwasher at Mannings restaurant which has been recently designated as a Seattle landmark. I can testify that being a dishwasher is a much harder job than most people might think. Anyway, I had trouble getting my job done before the restaurant closed so I would end up working overtime for free. This was happening to other employees too so I decided to complain to the manager. She wasn't happy with my complaint and informed me in kind of a mean way that, unknown to me, my nick name was "the turtle".

Fast forward twenty-eight years. My son Daniel is working the grill at the A&W at the Everett Mall and he comes home one day upset that some people where he worked were calling him "turtle". I explained to him that tall people often appear to be moving slow even when they aren't and related my employment experience to him. About a month goes by and I ask Daniel how his job is going. He says his nick name had been changed to Ninja Turtle. Apparently his employer noticed that Daniel was working faster than it appeared and everything ran smoothly when he was at the grill. I felt vindicated.

Despite some begging, pleading and bribery by his employer, Daniel switches jobs and ends up at Applebee's working as a host/busser hoping for promotion to server which pays much more. It isn't long before Daniel is complaining (his third favorite sport) that they won't promote him to server. I didn't have any advice for him. I did end up going to Applebee's for dinner sometime later and I discovered the problem. Daniel was zipping around the restaurant about as fast as a Tasmanian devil but with the grace of Michelle Kwan. I had never seen a restaurant worker move so fast in my life. They would have to hire three bussers to replace him. No wonder they wouldn't promote him. I later found out that his nickname at Applebee's was Lightning Bolt. I felt less vindicated.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The Microsoft Exception Management Application Block sucks

Many people recommend using the Microsoft Exception Management Application Block (EMAB). I don’t. In all fairness, though, when I was evaluating EMAB, I was evaluating it for use in a client-side application. The EMAB is best suited for server-side applications when there is a need to configure the exception handling behavior of the application after it has been deployed. Since the EMAB has a fairly steep learning curve (in comparison with other components) I don’t recommend it for any other case.

I apologize for the title of this blog entry but its there for a reason. Whenever I evaluate a product I always start with a Google search of “[Product Name] sucks” to see what the complaints are. I wasted almost two weeks evaluating the EMAB for a client-side application. If someone else searches on “EMAB sucks” maybe this blog entry will save them some time.

More key phrases: The Enterprise Library Exception Handling Application Block sucks. EHAB sucks.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Repetitive Sequences Don't Imply Junk DNA

It seems like part of the argument in favor of junk DNA is the various types of repetitive sequences found in DNA. Shouldn’t repetition imply design instead? I don’t know anything about electronics but I do know what I see when I pop the cover off my computer and look at the circuit boards – the same old widgets used over and over again.

Consider software. If you look at software executables (like .exe and .dll files on Windows computers) they are full of repeated sequences. You may have written a program yourself. If so, you would certainly be familiar with the concept of a subroutine. At the assembly level, whenever a subroutine is called registers are pushed on the stack, when one returns they are popped of the stack. The code to push and pop registers is automatically generated by the complier and is therefore not apparent at the source code level. This translates into a massive amount of simplistic repetition at the binary level. These kinds of repetitive sequences would probably be classified as SINES by geneticists trying to understand the binary code. While this kind of code doesn’t map to any kind of a program function it is essential.

You may also know that most software developers these days work with object oriented languages where inheritance and polymorphism are used to develop hierarchies of classes. At the source code level inheritance enables developers to reuse source code without retyping it. However, when source code is compiled into binary form the result is a massive amount of repetition, but of a more sophisticated nature than that of just pushing and popping registers. These kinds of repetitive sequences would probably be classified as LINES.

You could say that repetition is a sign of information. Aflkjkjnejiadudfmoqe. The characters preceding this sentence were randomly typed and contain no information. This sentence repeats character sequences that have been used before and you can recognize them. The repetitive nature of DNA implies information content – not the other way around.

Monday, March 03, 2008

I'm NOT Worried About Global Warming

I'm not worried about the excessive use of energy by americans contributing to global warming. I am worried about it contributing to a nuclear winter.