We still don’t have air conditioning.
I called the HVAC company two nights ago. A company that has been in business for 30 years, and which I’ve worked with before. To their credit they showed up first thing the next morning, but then it took them all bloody day to drive half an hour down the tollway to pick up a part at the warehouse. Then they had to stop at a half-dozen more warehouses for more parts. Then they had to take the part back to their home base, which is an hour across town from me.
Only then, when they had the part in their hands at their shop, would they deign to schedule a service call to actually install said part so that my A/C could start running again. I tried to get them to schedule me in advance yesterday morning, when they told me the part was at the warehouse and that it was definitely going to be picked up that day. They refused.
Of course by the time they did get the part in-hand, it was five o’clock in the afternoon, so they weren’t going to be able to install it until the following day (today). And of course, by then, their schedule for the day was mostly booked up, so I had to take an afternoon slot.
Now it’s five o’clock on the following afternoon and I still haven’t even gotten a call that a tech is on the way over here. I’ve called the shop three times, once just minutes ago even, and each time they assure me that a tech is definitely coming today and that they still have a few service calls left on the schedule.
I swear that there will be very unkind words said on the phone if I get a call at eight o’clock only to be told they’re pushing me off till tomorrow. At this point I’m beyond caring when they get here today, as long as it is today.
Naturally, this had to be the week when I’d be knee-deep in some ridiculous new project at work with another infamously ridiculous deadline. I’ll be working on it until bedtime tonight without a doubt, which is just what I need when I’m already exhausted, nauseous and sweat-drenched, with a serious case of eyestrain from having to stare at bright monitors while all the window blinds are closed to keep the heat out.
I do know one thing for sure, and that is which HVAC company I will never be calling again.
The Great Texas Bake-Off
…Where the main dish is US! Tomorrow is forecasted to be the hottest day so far this year with a high temperature of 99 degrees, and tonight our home’s AC condenser fan motor crapped the bed. So it looks like we’ll probably have to escape to somewhere cooler, or at least my wife and infant son will. It all depends on how quickly we can get a tech out here to get the system up and running again.
We’d started getting clues that something was awry a day or two ago. My wife mentioned in passing to me that she had woken up during the night in time to hear the AC kick on and said it had made a strange sound. Then my parents (who just so happen to be visiting us this weekend) said that our upstairs game room didn’t seem to be cooling off as quickly as usual. Then today I heard the condenser fan running and thought it sounded unusual, like a bearing failure was on the way. So my dad and I went round the back of the house for an inspection.
The fan didn’t quite sound healthy, and there seemed to be an inordinate amount of vibration. When I shut the system off, it took only a few revolutions for the fan to come to a complete stop, and with an ominous scraping sound at that. Yeah, looks like the bearing, all right.
The funny thing is, I was ready to man up and fix it myself. Having identified the problem with certainty, and knowing that the condenser fan motor is typically easier to replace than the interior blower motor, I thought I’d order a motor and capacitor and try my hand at a repair. I was gonna have to do some research and watch some how-to videos, but I figured if I could replace the garbage disposal at our old house, I could do this.
Too bad the damn thing failed spectacularly not five hours later, leaving me in the lurch with no time to wait for parts to ship or training videos to be absorbed. I left a message with our AC tech and will probably follow up with a call first thing tomorrow. Having an infant son to take care of means I can’t screw around, because the heat is not good for him.
My parents are heading home tomorrow afternoon, too, so I feel bad that their last night with us will be fairly uncomfortable with no AC in the house. (At least we have ceiling fans.)
Everything rides on when the AC tech can get here tomorrow, so I really don’t have a clue what my day is going to be like — except to say it’ll likely be a little crazy.
An Improper Start
It was not a good night.
Something — perhaps the energy drinks I’m consuming every morning — had me awake and fairly wired last night, such that I didn’t get to bed until 1 a.m. After that, it looked like it was going to be a somewhat short but otherwise fine sleep session until the 6:30 a.m. bike ride, but that’s not how things turned out. At the crack of 4 a.m., we woke up to the hideous sound of an electronic alarm hooting at us.
Took us a moment to realize that it was the baby monitor blaring. What the crap? Apple tried to pick it up and look at it, but when the screen came on it was so bright that she was unable to see anything and dropped it. I gave it a try, squinting, and saw that the monitor had lost communication with the camera. No signal at all. So it was emitting an alarm that would be right at home in the prelude of a post-apocalyptic film, just before the nuclear warheads launch and destroy the world.
Power-cycling the monitor didn’t fix it, so I decided there was only one thing to do: go into Connor’s room and power-cycle the camera itself. Well, that was going to be fun: if I went in there guns blazing, he was probably going to wake up and get excited, and neither one of us was feeling up to trying to calm him back to sleep (or worse, actually get up with him for the day) at 4 a.m. So there I was, crawling across the floor slowly so as not to wake Connor, keeping my head down so he wouldn’t see me if he did happen to bat an eye.
Squeezing into the corner between the crib and the glider chair, where the camera’s AC adapter meets the wall, was the big challenge. After I got the thing rebooted, I lay there in a silent contortionist position for a minute and contemplated just going back to sleep on the floor. Eventually, though, I slunk out and returned to the bed proper, where fortunately the “no signal” issue with the monitor had been resolved.
As if that wasn’t enough, less than two hours later a freak thunderstorm blew through the area, soaking us with rain and waking me up yet again with all of the racket. By that time I was in no mood to slither out of bed in another thirty minutes and go on a five-mile bike ride — even a stationary one in front of a plasma TV, as would have been the case — so I slept in. I suppose I’ll have to make up the lost ride later. Perhaps this evening, if this day doesn’t kill me first.
We See What We Choose
As I type this, "Kenan & Kel" is trending on Twitter. For anyone who doesn’t know what that is, it’s the name of a teen comedy TV show from the Nickelodeon network that aired in the mid-to-late ’90s. Apparently Nickelodeon (hereinafter referred to as “Nick” to save my fingers the wear and tear) recently started re-airing some of its mid-’90s favorites after midnight, including Kenan & Kel, Rugrats, Rocko’s Modern Life and All That, in what used to be the old Nick at Nite time slots. (Apparently Nick at Nite still exists, but most depressingly, it is currently dedicated to nothing but reruns of Friends. Man, I never thought I’d be nostalgic for Get Smart or Dick Van Dyke.)
I noticed that tonight’s trend has led to lots of people a decade younger than me waxing nostalgic on the merits of all their favorite Nick shows from the ’90s. “Remember Hey Arnold? RugRats? CatDog? RocketPower? Kenan & Kel? The Amanda Show?… when Nickelodeon made sense,” muses one Twitter user. “I want a Kenan & Kel, Smart Guy, Hey Arnold, Boy Meets World, and Fresh Prince marathon. We had way better shows!” says another.
It’s funny, because I remember saying the exact same shit…fourteen years ago when I was their age and these shows were actually on TV at the time. “You Can’t Do That on Television…Danger Mouse…Turkey Television…Out of Control…Pete & Pete…we had way better shows!” I groused like an old codger with pipe tobaccy in his mouth. “Why, in my day…!” (insert first-waving here)
I’ll admit, there is some overlap with the “classics” Nick is rerunning now and the stuff I grew up on, like Doug and Ren & Stimpy, two of the original “Nicktoons” when that was some kind of hip and cool thing amongst we happenin’ sixth graders. Otherwise, though, seeing the youngins complaining now about how much today’s crap sucks and how much their stuff ruled makes me realize that we all see what we choose to see. We all look back with rose-colored glasses at the era that’s closest to home for us and consider it the pinnacle. In another fourteen years there will be a crop of twenty-somethings moaning about how awesome it was to be able to watch Spongebob Squarepants or whatever Nick runs these days.
Nostalgia, after all, is a very personal thing.
Now where is my Hey Dude DVD boxed set.
Automated Google Asshattery
I kinda went off on a bender about Google a few days ago. Just as I was starting to simmer down and think that maybe I came off a bit too harshly, Google pulls a dumbfuck maneuver on me this morning that immediately halted all such consideration.
Last night our IT admin took our website offline for about 15 minutes to do some database maintenance. During that window, apparently, one of Google AdWords’ bots scanned the destination URLs of a bunch of our company’s ad campaigns and decided that they needed to disapprove dozens upon dozens of keywords because they were returning an invalid HTTP response. Because, obviously, if a URL isn’t resolving properly for 15 minutes, it means that it will never, ever work again and you should just discard it. Right? NO! Jesus!
Before running last night’s maintenance, we followed our web CMS’ instructions to activate a catch-all “app offline” page that users would see if they tried to visit during the downtime. We thought that would prevent problems exactly like the one we’re seeing from Google. However, our CMS apparently returns an HTTP response of 503 (Service Unavailable) when the “app offline” page is used, which Google AdWords treats as invalid. Goooooood lord.
So now I have to go through all of our AdWords campaigns and make some kind of superficial edit to the destination URL of every disapproved keyword, so they will be submitted for re-testing and approval. What a waste of my time.
In doing a little searching on this issue (to find out the fastest way to get my keywords resubmitted for approval), I found a forum where someone else had posted the same question. After responding with an answer, an AdWords expert reminded the user that “AdWords’ policies state that in order to comply with them your website must not be down at any time.” Is Google so deluded that they believe this is actually feasible? They might as well require that a natural disaster never strike at any time either, or that morning traffic on the LBJ never slows down.
To be fair, I looked through Google’s actual AdWords advertising policies myself and was unable to find that specific language, but the way Google reacted to our very temporary downtime last night suggests that this requirement may actually be in force.
I’ll ask you again: Is this the company to which you want to entrust all of your data, including personal information?
Never Game Alone
When asked how Chinese developers were dealing with the problem of video game piracy, a Chinese friend replied with a shrug, “Every game in China is an MMORPG.”
I guess that could do it.
A friend at work just showed me this and I about died laughing. Watch Mike and the Bots from Mystery Science Theater 3000 make light of a bizarre 1950s PSA about the importance of hyper-structured family dinner dates and the seething cauldron of angst they will almost certainly become.
The Google Singularity
It confuses me how at-odds my opinion is with most tech-savvy people today, but I trust Google even less than the proverbial mustached guy selling candy out of his ‘78 Ford Econoline.
Seriously. This company that built the greatest web search engine in the world now has its hand in so many pies, and is backed by so many dollars, that it has become a juggernaut that can upset almost any industry on a whim. Any small business owner in the technology sector must cringe at the ever-present spectre of Google, fearing the day when Google might whimsically decide to make his entire business irrelevant by offering its own facsimile at a price that he can’t possibly afford to compete with.
In short, I view Google increasingly as the Wal-Mart of the Internet.
And oh, how I hate Wal-Mart.
"But how can anyone hate low prices?" you ask. Who said anything about hating low prices? I hate the fact that Wal-Mart’s incredible size and bullying power has increasingly made them the only retail source for goods, and reduced the overall quality of goods in their single-minded race to the bottom on price. Which means that if you don’t like the selection Wal-Mart offers, if you prefer a product of better quality rather than lowest possible price, or if you just don’t like the shopping experience Wal-Mart offers, you may soon be SOL — if you aren’t already.
Google is largely doing the same thing. It’s behaving similarly to Microsoft of the past decade, the one that ran afoul of anti-trust laws by bundling its own services with its own operating systems, which EU courts saw as anti-competitive. Except that for some reason, when Google does it, everyone laps it up and falls all over themselves to gush about the wonderful, generous Google overlords and how they’re all doing us such great favors.
Sure they are. Because the more people who use Google services, the more data Google can collect about who those people are, what they search for, what services they like to use, what they buy, and so on — data that is worth a fortune to every marketer on the planet. And as it happens, it’s marketing itself — yours, in fact — that has made Google so much money, via their PPC advertising programs.
I’ve seen how it works; my company has used Google AdWords for years. It’s incredibly easy to screw up and pay Google an absolute shit-ton of money if you don’t know how to use it properly. Occasionally, Google account representatives would contact us and offer advice on how to “improve” our advertising account, which would almost always involve broadening our sponsored keywords to the point where they would be making significantly more money from us, even though that didn’t make sense for our target market. When they come calling now, we ignore them.
With all of this money that it has amassed, it seems to me that Google has become empowered to operate increasingly close to fine lines of legality and ethics. Case in point: my first link above, which details the case of how Google deliberately ignored privacy settings in the Safari web browser so that it could surreptitiously plant a cookie on end-users’ machines that would deliver targeted Google advertising to those users, even when they had requested not to receive it. Careful, Google — your hubris is starting to show.
Now, we’re told to welcome with open arms all of the wonderful free* services that Google offers us, anything from file storage (Google Drive) to cell phones (Android) to cars that drive themselves. It boggles my mind that no one else seems to believe that it’s dangerous to place so much of your information in the hands of a single company. Much as Microsoft’s excellent new Windows Phones can’t gain any traction today because of the years of ill will they cultivated with their craptacular Windows Mobile OS, I’d wager that Google’s fans are largely ignoring their increasingly worrisome behavior as a result of all the goodwill the company created in its earlier years. Hell, there was a time that I was a huge Google cheerleader, too.
Any more, though, I regard every new and supposedly amazing service that Google offers with a healthy dose of suspicion. Before I give them any data, I consider what might happen if that data were to be scanned, translated, OCR’ed, analyzed or otherwise shared with other portions of Google’s services (or worse, the Internet at large). And I wonder from time to time if I’ll wake up one day and not have a job anymore because Google has decided to replicate what we do and offer it for free, subsidized by the millions of dollars it makes from its advertising networks (which, ironically, we’re using — we might be contributing to our own demise).
I just seems weird that people harp on companies like Microsoft and Apple for doing this same kind of stuff, calling them “bullies” and accusing them of “using strong-arm tactics” to squash their competition, when I see absolutely no difference between them and Google. Well, okay, maybe one difference: Google cloaks their predatory actions in a blanket of altruism, pretending they’re doing you a tremendous favor by reducing your choices in the marketplace and monetizing every aspect of you and everything you’ve ever shared with them.
And a Google self-driving car? Unless it talks in a smartass voice and looks like a third-generation Trans Am, I’ll have nothing to do with it.