I’m going to hell…

Yeah, that’s right, I’m going to hell. My place is reserved.

But, surely I’m not the only one who thinks that the final days of the pope have turned into a bad, reality-tv version of “Weekend at Bernies.”

Pope-on-a-string

/subtle

Slow City + Letter = Fast City

About two weeks ago, I noticed a water leak in front of my neighbor’s house. The water was pouring out of the junction box where the city pipes connect with the meter, just beyond the sidewalk in my neighbor’s yard.

Water is pouring out at a very good pace, probably a gallon a minute. It’s pouring out of the box, and onto the sidewalk. There’s constantly about an inch of water on the sidewalk, and that’s only because it is overflowing on to the road. There is about an inch of water along the road as well, about 2 feet wide and 25 feet long. This thing is really pouring out the water.

This has already been repaired before. Several months back, the city came out and fixed the same leak. I’m thinking that they knew it was a bad leak, but only performed a temporary fix. We are, after all, talking about city workers.

Well, a few days after I called to report the leak, they came out and had a look. They painted some blue lines on the road (assumingly to show where the pipes were), and left. A week passed.

Last night, while headed out to pick Jaime, I met up with my neighbor. Believe it or not, his name is “Ike.”

Mike: Hey Ike! How’s it going?
Ike: Hey Mike. Not bad, how about yourself?
Mike: Good. Hey, is the city ever going to come clean this up?
Ike: Man, they told me it would be another month and a half.
Mike: A month and a half? They’re going to let water pour on the street for a month and a half?
Ike: Yeah, and it’s a mess. I clean it up, and it just gets messy again.
Mike: Man, that’s terrible.
Ike: Yep, terrible.
Mike: Well, I’ve got to go. Seeya later, Ike.
Ike: Seeya later.

OK, that was enough for me. A month and a half? No way! That is not acceptable.

For the past year or so, the city of Savannah and the county of Chatham have been putting up billboards advising people to conserve water. Some of the signs show a dripping garden hose with the phrase “Don’t let Chatham County drip dry.” Obviously, we have water concerns.

See, we get our water from the Floridian Aquifer. You can read all about it here. There are constant battles between Georgia and Florida about the use of the aquifer.

The next issue at hand related to the water is “blight.” The city has been cracking down on blight (article).

If they consider items on your property as “blight,” you will be warned. If you do not correct the situation in the specified time, the city will come remove the blight and bill you. Now, if citizens find blight on city property, are we allowed to warn and fine the city? Nope, of course not.

The last issue at hand is damage to my road. The road itself is in very nice shape, with exception to one segment. Directly in front of the water leak, there are spider-web like cracks that cover the width of the road, and extend about 50 feet to either side of the water leak. It seems to me as though the water had leaked under the road and saturated the ground. Winter came, and a bit of freezing and thawing has caused stress upon the road and lead to the cracks. Seeing as we have had sink holes in Savannah before, I think it’s important for the city to ensure that roads are safe when they have a large quantity of unusual cracks on the pavement.

So, keep this all in mind when you read the following email, which I sent to the head of the Sewer and Water department last night:

Subject: Water repair issue
Mr. name omitted:

My name is Mike name omitted, and I live at address omitted in Savannah.

Last week, I notified the city of a water leak occurring just north of my property. Within two days, the city workers came out and marked the area for repair.

Earlier today, I was talking with a neighbor and was told that the repairs are estimated to take a month to a month and a half to complete. No work has started.

That means that, at my estimate of 1/2 gallon per minute, the city is allowing roughly 5,000 gallons of water *per week* to leak onto the roadway and sidewalk until the repairs are completed.

As I drive around Savannah, I see these huge, expensive signs that direct me to conserve water. I am told not to let Chatham County “drip dry.” Yet, when I walk out my front door, the only water I see being wasted is at the hand of the city.

Additionally, when I read the paper or listen to local talk radio, I am consistently reminded that the city is cracking down on the *blight*. Is it not blight to have a perpetually flooded sidewalk, flowing into a perpetually flooded road? As a resident, I think it is.

Lastly, it seems as though this problem may have already had a structural impact upon our street. If you walk the street from end to end, you will notice that it is in very good shape. However, directly in front of the leak, the road has very defined cracks. This is not a small area; it spans the width of the street, and approximately 50 feet to either side of the water leak. If possible, please direct the city engineering department to inspect the road for safety.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to your response.

Mike name omitted
private email address omitted americasdebate.com

Well, folks, as of noon today, the city is working on the repair!

As I look out my window right now, I see three men with a big truck and some orange cones. They have the street torn up, and are working on the repair.

YES!

This only shows that polite yet firm letters do get results!

My neighbor will be happy when he arrives home tonight to find his water leak repaired. He won’t have to worry about a pool of water– no fault of his own– making his property look bad. And we won’t have to worry about mosquitoes breeding in the mini-pond on the roadway.

Ah, it’s been a good day so far. Now let’s see if our water is still on– I need a shower. :P

Mike

AD Maintenance

Alright, so unless you are completely unobservant, you know that I own/run America’s Debate. My main job is to handle the technical end of things. When things break, I fix them.

Well, there has been this problem that has been bugging me for a very, very long time. When we upgraded from 1.3 to 2.0, some of the posts got pretty screwed up. It seemed that, for some reason, some quotations caused the HTML to miss a tag or two. The page navigation that is normally found at the bottom of the forum was actually embedded in the last post. Oh yeah, and this problem only occurred on good browsers– there are no problems with IE.

When I first did the upgrade, I noticed a tool called “Rebuild Post Content.” I didn’t know what it did. I backed up the forum, and gave it a shot with the default setting of 500, and it just killed the server. After seeing the server load skyrocket, I stopped the tool. We’re on a shared server, so making sure we don’t monopolize resources is high on my list. I really don’t want to have to dish out the money required to pay for a dedicated server that can handle us. ;) For some reason, I didn’t try it again.

I was doing some maintenance on the forum earlier, emptying out PMs (nearly 1,000!) and old tracked topics. I decided to try the maintenance script again, after giving Matthew (our host) a heads up that I may be taking some high load.

I fired it up with 250 post per run, and the sever load spiked (up to 9+ at its highest). I had to stop. I tried it at 50, and the load rose to over 5. I tried it at 10, and the load was still over 4! That’s just crazy.

So, now I’m running the tool at 5 per cycle. The server load is in the 3s, so that’s not bad. With my projections, it will take about 10.5 hours. I’m going to have to stop it for a while, since the server’s backup has begun. Loads are headed up again, and that’s no good.

When I check some of the topics that were corrupt, they are fixed after the rebuild. It is basically the equivalent of hitting “edit” and then “submit” on every post.

Tomorrow, I plan on doing even more maintenance. I’m going to drop the fulltext index on the posts table, and rebuild it. I don’t care what they say– fulltext indexes get screwed up over time, and take a performance hit. After I rebuild the indexes, searches are much faster, like the difference between night and day. This process requires permission from the host, and can take up to an hour to complete during which the server has to do some heavy duty work.

Fun stuff. :)

Woohoo! Spring is here!

So, I don’t know what the weather is like where you are, but I’ve got to tell you– the weather here has been beautiful for the past two days. I think spring has finally begun in Savannah!

Today, the temperature rose into the low 80s. Now that is perfect February weather, isn’t it? When I look at the forecasts for the next 7 – 14 days, I see low 60s or better daytime highs. And that’s about average.

This time of year, our normal low is 54 and our normal high is 66, so we’re starting to get in line here. By the end of March, we’ll be at 62 at night and 74 during the day.

As I listen to WLS-AM, I’m hearing temperatures in Chicago will be in the 20s overnight, and the thirties during the day tomorrow. Suckers!!

Well, I’m off to open some windows, and cook some dinner. :P

My photo gallery.

For those of you who don’t know, I enjoy taking photographs. It’s been a hobby for a little over a year now, and I have taken thousands of photos in that time.

I’ve got a gallery that I setup quite some time ago that I have updated regularly with some of my favorite shots. If you would like to look, you can click the link below:

Mike & Jaime’s Photo Gallery

Let me know what you think! :D

Must… hack… software…

For some reason, I can’t seem to keep from monkeying with the works of any php script I get in my greasy little hands (note: my hands are not really greasy, or little, and my php skills are significantly greater than those of the average monkey).

Take the script that powers this blog, WordPress. All in all, it’s a very nice script. It’s got some features I would never use, but it’s also got some weak points. Sure, it has a nice plugin system so you can add what you need, but is it really a plugin if I have to edit files and manually run sql queries? I don’t think so.

Anyway, I’ve had to hack this blog script a few times in the short period I’ve been using it. This weekend, my blog and Jaime’s Blog were hit by some loser spammer. He is linking to a site about online poker that is pure spiderbait. I really don’t know how he plans on profiting from it– he’s doesn’t even have an affiliate link. I guess he’s hoping to drive a bunch of traffic to the site, and then switch the content into something that will generate revenue. Or maybe he’s just an annoying prick.

He typically posts what appears to be a random line along with a link to his lame site. It’s probably a bot. Sure, WordPress can moderate the comments based on keyword, but I really don’t feel like spending my time denying comments just because some mope decided to add me to his list of people to annoy. So, I made a little hack that does a preg_match on the comments, email address, and website that checks for his domain. If it’s there, he gets forwarded to The FBI. That stopped him for about a week.

Now he’s gotten a bit more resourceful, and has started using trackbacks. Some of you may know what trackbacks are. For those of you who do, you are one step ahead of me. I think I get the basic concept, but I’m not really up to speed on how it works. Well, now comments submitted via trackbacks also run through my keyword module, and if the loser’s domain is listed, he gets an error.

He’ll probably find another way to get his comments posted, and I’ll hack up the code a bit more to shut him down again. What a waste of everyone’s time.

These ridiculous car magnets

Alright, I’ve been sick of these things for a while now. Just between me and you, I call them “idiot magnets.” Here we have a bunch of people who think they are supporting the cause listed on the magnet, but in reality they are supporting the enterprising individual who is exploiting their sympathy for his or her own personal profit. Sure, some of the proceeds from some of these magnets does in fact go to a good cause, but for some reason I don’t think the ones you find at local gas station are benefiting any cause. Maybe I should call them “Valentine’s Day” magnets (see below ;) ).

A few moments ago, Jaime sent me a link to AntiMagnet, a site that basically echoes my sentiment with the addition of some seemingly misplaced anti-China comments. This guy has a decent idea, but the delivery is all wrong. If you’re going to have a site opposed to magnets, you need to be selling magnets that directly make fun of the magnets you oppose. But come on– a $7.60 bumper sticker?

If you support a cause, just give to that cause directly. Otherwise, you’re just giving some of your money away.

Cutters and the cutting cutters who cut.

I hate cutters. You know them– the people who cut in line while everyone else stands around waiting like a bunch of suckers. Somehow, there is a certain portion of the population that has failed to retain a basic lesson that is hammered into most people’s head during kindergarten.

Earlier today, Jaime and I went on a six mile bike ride down the McQueen’s Island Historic Trail. It was in the mid-sixties and sunny, and we’ve both been sick with a head cold (her last week, me currently), so we decided that we couldn’t pass up a nice February day. We recently purchased a new bike rack with some of our Christmas gift certificates, and Jaime bought a nice new seat, so we were looking for an excuse to use them. ;)

On the way home, we stopped to get some gas. The gas station was pretty full– only one pump available that didn’t involve me having to reverse my car with limited visibility caused by two bikes hoisted directly into my rear field of view. I go to pull up to the pump, and there is this guy in a very colorful bright green outfit standing right in the middle of the area where I needed to place my car in order to pump gas.

I creep, he looks at me. Another inch forward. Still looking at me. OK, buddy, get your ass out of the way. This is a place of business, and I am in fact here to conduct business. I just let my car idle– if I hit him, it’s on tape, and it’s his own stupidity that would be the cause of the accident. As I roll, he takes two steps backwards to avoid being hit. Now I’m lucky enough to have this guy right at my door. How rude can one be? I open my door as he steps back, I give him a dirty look, I lock my doors, and I go in to prepay.

The line is long, so I take my place at the end. Two lines, one with a clerk I know is slow, one with a clerk I know is fast. The slow clerk is getting some lottery tickets, so I pick the line on the left. OK, I’m fourth in line, behind creepy, stupid green jump suit guy. Apparently, the line was not moving fast enough for him. From his inch-thick wad of cash, he pulls ten singles. He walks up to the front, and says, “My child is in the car. Put ten on pump six.” He tosses down the cash, and goes to his car.

OK, now, if your child was in the car, why the hell were you two spots over, where I needed to park, talking to someone in a car that was not yours? I’ll tell you why– because you’re stupid and rude. Your waiting child is excuse enough to cut in line, but not excuse enough to interrupt your conversation and subsequent inconveniencing of others? Pathetic.

So now I’m number three in line, waiting my turn like a good little boy. The guy who was first just had to pay for gas, so he was nice and quick. I’m second, and the guy ahead of me seems to be just standing there, so I ask, “Excuse me, are you in line?” to which he replies, “No, go ahead.” I step forward, and like that, some rude person from the lotto line sneaks in front of me.

Come on now! I’ve been in line too, and just because I’m more observant in the pace of the lines and have actually waited less time than you doesn’t mean you now have the right to cut in front of me. That’s not how the line works.

I step up next to him, tell the cashier that I was next in line, and that I expect to be served first. She looks at him. She looks at me. He’s getting a Mr. Goodbar. I’ve got a stack of cash ready to pay for gas. She looks at him. She looks at me. She was going to allow the cutter to break the rules! I again state that I was in line first and that he cut, and I hand her my money for my gas pump, she rings me up, and I leave. That damn cutter is not going to subvert the well-established and easily-understood rules of waiting in line.

I pumped my gas and went home, with yet another less than favorable review of the general public.

We did have a nice bike ride, though. :D

Stupid gift card policies.

Gift cards. Either you love them, or you hate them, or both. I’m in the “both” category.

Gift cards make great gifts. Makes sense. Why give someone a Captain and Tennille CD when you can just give them a gift card, and let them pick out the American Idol Season 2 CD that they really want.

I’ve got a couple of problems with gift cards, though, and I’m going to use two specific stores as examples of bad gift card policies.

Best Buy
Best Buy sells a boatload of gift cards. At the moment, I am on hold because of my specific issue with Best Buy gift cards. They will sell you gift cards online all day long. The problem: Best Buy gift cards are not an acceptible form of payment at Best Buy’s online store.

Right now, there is a product at Best Buy that I would like to order (this). It’s $20, and I have a $20 gift card. Unfortunately, the item is not stocked locally, and I’m not driving to Florida to get one.

So, emailed Best Buy from their website. Their unhelpful supposed customer service agent was– big surprise– unhelpful. “Paula” didn’t read my first email, and opted to send me a generic form email that didn’t even come close to addressing my question. I responded that I didn’t appreciate the fact that I waited two days for a waste-of-time form email, and that I would like my question answered.

The question is simple: Can I go to Best Buy with my gift card and order the item directly from them, since gift cards are not valid online. It seems to make sense.

Well, she then actually responded, and she punted. She recommended that I call the store.

I have been on hold now for over 45 minutes to talk to my local Best Buy store!

If this jerk tells me one more time that Best Buy “appreciates my call” and then suggests I will be a “hero” if I purchase Best Buy gift cards for my friends and family so they may “pick out the fun stuff themselves,” I’m going to go insane.

I do take some comfort in knowing that Best Buy’s days are limited. Their service is subpar, their salespeople know very little about salesmanship, their prices are relatively high compared to online resources, and their selection is mediocre at best. Best Buy will go the way of Blockbuster (give it a few years– Blockbuster will be busted).

Note to family members: Please don’t get me Best Buy gift cards anymore. Visa gift cards are much more usable. Thanks :)

Kohl’s

Kohl’s suffers from similar problems as Best Buy, but they compound it to make the process of receiving a Kohl’s gift card even more excrutiating.

First, they charge fees. If you receive a Kohl’s gift card and don’t use it, they dock the card $1.50 a month! What a scam!

We received a $50 gift card several years back. We were never able to use the card, however, because our nearest Kohl’s is over 100 miles away. Kohl’s, of course, did not accept gift cards online up until recently.

I checked their site and it said they now accept gift cards online! Alright, I though– I can finally spend this $50. Well, the $50 gift is now only worth $38.50. Apparently, Kohl’s needed to charge us 23% of the total gift. That’s ridiculous. The gift was $50 and they have been earning interest on the money for two years. Why make the gift recipient pay to loan Kohl’s money? It’s another scam.

So, anyway, I go through their site full of mediocre-quality merchandise, and I find a couple of items I want. I add them to my cart, sign up to be spammed, and proceed to checkout.

But wait!! My gift card doesn’t have a “pin.” That means I can’t use it online.

Kohl’s solution? Well, I emailed them two days ago, and they haven’t responded. Go figure. Their website recommends that I simply take my Kohl’s gift card to my nearest Kohl’s, and they will exchange it for one with a pin.

This is where I would insert the :huh: or the :blink: emoticon. That policy is just idiotic. Congratulations, Kohl’s, you have successfully lost my business for life. I will never shop at Kohl’s, just like I have not shopped at Target for over 5 years. If profit is more important than service, you lose customers. I exemplify this.

I’m still on hold with Best Buy. Over an hour now to get a human on the phone at my local Best Buy. Bad business! Bad, bad business! Once my gift card is used, I will be closing my Best Buy credit card, and recommend that all of my customers wait the extra day to order their computer parts from a reputable merchant like NewEgg. So long, Best Buy!

Mike