Wednesday, November 25, 2009

My Dream Job

Maybe when I "retire" I'll do this. I don't know, I guess you might say I already enjoy my dream job, but this would be even dreamer. It took this picture this summer at a Durham Bulls game. The house "organist" is just sitting out there in the open, doing his thing.

He gets to watch baseball every day, and make thousands of people listen to him while he plays the keyboard. I could do this.

Of course, I would take requests.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Facebook Scam

I have occasional discussions with my wife about the various pros and cons of social networking in general and Facebook in particular. Even though she hasn't jumped on the bandwagon of Facebook yet, I had an experience today that should make us all think twice about our connections and who is really on the other end of the line.

In my browser I have set two perma-tabs and faviconized tabs that are always open. (Check out this great hack from smarterware using Firefox extensions). So even when I'm not actively using one of those browser windows, I'm constantly logged in to Facebook and my Google Reader.

While working elsewhere today, I heard the familiar chat pop come through my speakers indicating that someone was sending me messages. I flipped over to the Facebook tab and found that my friend Micah, whom I have not spoken with since our high school graduation, and whom, other than this Facebook connection I have shared maybe one sentence of "hey how ya doin'?" initiated the following conversation:

you there?
hey man! what's up!?
not good at the moment
what's going on man
i'm stuck in London,England at the moment
not a bad place to be stuck, I'd say? flight delayed?
i was mugged at gun point last night
oh wow...down town?
here in england
did they beat you up?
all cash,credit card and cell were stolen off me
i was hurt,bruises all over my neck
awe man, I'm sorry...did they take a passport?
i still have my passport with me
i've been to the US embassy and the cops here
they're both not helping issues at all
not working together?
they asked me to wait for 3weeks,but my flight leaves in less than 3hrs from now
but the hotel manager won;t let me leave

At this point, I'm trying to picture his scenario, the embassy, the cops, and the hotel thing. These pieces didn't elide in my head, almost as though he doesn't want to admit something--but I kept going:

because you have no credit card?
yeah to settle the hotel bills
are you there on business?
i need your help urgently

OK. I paused. At this point, a lot of questions are going through my mind. Remember, I haven't seen or heard from this guy since high school. I'm beginning to have doubts, but I continue.

what do you need?
i need you to lend me some few bucks to settle the hotel bills
i'll pay you back tomorrow as soon as i get back home
i don;t want to miss my flight
so you're there on business? why do you need ME to do that? what can't your company do that?
i came here on a business trip by myself
no one else state-side to support you? are you in business on your own?
no one to contact now
please help me
hang on a sec

At this point, I'm smelling something funny, but just to get a second opinion from a guy who also knew Micah from high school, I called my good friend Dan. Right away he declared it a scam. I didn't want to be played, but I didn't want to leave an old buddy in need. Dan's idea: ask him something about himself that only he would know. Yes. Of course:

hey help me out here.
I need to verify you are who you say you are.
go ahead ask me any question
what was the name of the group you founded at Kings?

I imagine at this point if the scammer is on Micah's page, he's probably glancing through his profile trying to find an answer. Notice the time that elapses before his response:

you kidding me?
nope. you would know.

And that's how it ended. He never finished the talk and we never went any further. I emailed Micah from the address given on his profile page but I haven't heard back from him. I hope our hunch was right and he's not at this moment sitting in the hotel lobby in London waiting for someone to bail him out.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

What's Google been working on?

Yeah, I'm a Google fanboy. Here's what they're working on. I like the way they think, though it probably scares some of you.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Summer Project #1

I'm certainly no Roger Cook, but I took a crack at unifying our back yard this summer by removing a fence and some landscaping.

The previous owners of our house had a couple of dogs. The customized their (our) house and back yard for these dogs by putting in doggy doors so that the dogs had freedom to move in and out when they wanted. They also put a fence down the middle of the yard so the dogs could do their "thing" on one side and so they could enjoy the other side.

Since the time we moved in, I have wanted to remove that fence and bushes and landscaping they put down the middle of the backyard, and regain a contiguous backyard for our kids to enjoy. The yards in our neighborhood are not large, but our backyard is probably one of the largest and most private, since we are on a cul-du-sac and since there is protected greenland behind our house.

So the poject began over several weeks (read: months) as I pulled out seven bushes and other plants.

the fence posts were anchored in concrete so I had to cut them out with a reciprocating saw.

I rented a rototiller and planted grass seed.

After a couple of weeks (in October) the grass came up and I removed the straw. I only wish the rest of the yard looked as good as this single strip.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Sort by Magic

Do you use Google Reader? I've written extensively about it here.

Now, Google has this clever new feature Gina pointed out on TWiG, which I think is really slick.

If you're like me, you add many web posts to your feed and sort them by category. This sort is best handled with folders. Well now there's this nifty little feature called "sort by magic" which is an option under the "Folder Settings" pull down.

What it does is sort to the top of the list items that it thinks you will be most interested in based on your browsing habits. If you've shared, emailed, starred or "liked" certain types of posts in the past, it will elevate similar items to the top of your list. It works best if you have a lot of unread items as it will not show any regard for read vs unread items.

One more way in which Google knows even more about our browsing habits and interests. Ostensibly so they can sell you another ad.