Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Health Care Bill: No federal money on abortion

I haven't read the new health care bill and I probably won't read it. But from what I've heard, it specifically bares federal money from being spent on abortion. I think this is very wrong. Regardless of whether you are pro-life or pro-choice (pro-abortion is a word used only by demagogues because no one really wants more abortion) , as long as abortion is still a legal medical option, why should we specifically deny it federal funding? Sometimes I think people forget what it means to be part of a community. You don't get to pick and choose what you want your tax dollars to be spent on. Just because we all can't agree on the same policy on abortion doesn't mean we should undermine it. If every other medical option get federal funding, why shouldn't abortion? And where does it stop? Will we stop funding mental health because we think the power of prayer should suffice? Will we stop funding planned parenthood because the catholic church doesn't believe in contraception?

When someone says "I don't want my money to pay for x and y..", I feel I need to explain to the person that your tax money already pays for a lot of things you can't personally use. For the past 11 years, my tax money has been funding the education of a lot of strangers. I don't necessarily believe public money should pay for private schooling but nevertheless charter schools keep getting my state tax. I don't believe in wars and yet a lion's share of my tax dollars keeps funding 2 wars. I don't believe the military should be inducing recruits with huge sums of money and yet I can't seem to stop them!

When you pay tax, you can't pick and choose what to spend your tax money on. Unless you organize and get the offending item declared illegal. So if you think abortion is wrong, get together with people of like minds and get Roe v Wade overturned. But trying to circumvent the law by freezing funding for it is diabolical.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Diaper Review

Since we had the babies, we've used 4 brands of diapers: Pampers, Huggies, Costco and a white label brand. If I had to rank them in order of effectiveness, Pampers comes first. Costco is second followed by the white label diaper. Huggies are the absolute worst. Now I haven't tried Luvs but it'll have to really suck to be worse than Huggies. Fortunately, all the huggies diapers we've used were received as gifts. The rate of failure of the adhesive (in the size 1 version) was higher than that of the white label brand. The absorbency of the diaper itself left much to be desired. I'll say about 75% of the time the baby's butt was wet (which means the pee was not being absorbed completely by the diaper). So regardless of price and value, I will not be buying huggies. Each time we receive huggies as a gift, I am tempted to throw them out. That's how bad our experience with huggies has been.

The babies were started on Pampers Swaddlers from the hospital. And I have to confess they are the very best in disposable diapers. The material is very very soft and the absorbent crystals work exceedingly well. The diapers absorb so well that sometimes it's hard to tell whether or not the diaper is wet. The rate of failure of the adhesive is 0% (works all the time) and some of the diapers even have an indicator strip that tells you when the baby is wet. Sounds like a minor deal but it helps eliminate one potential cause when a baby is wailing.

In terms of price, Pampers was the most expensive. However it wasn't that much more expensive than the Costco brand. The difference was about 6 cents. That doesn't sound like a lot but when you calculate how many diapers a baby goes through in a single day, that 6 cents difference adds up to $175 per baby (8 diapers a day * 365 days). Multiple that by 2 (twins) and that's $350 each year!

The white label brand was by far the cheapest but it left a lot to be desired in terms of softness and fit.

Friday, October 30, 2009

I have become one of "them"

Before I got married and had kids, I was one of those guys that came to work early, left a little later than 8 hours, never called in sick and rarely took vacation or missed work for any reason. Why? Because I hardly got sick and work was way too much fun to need a break. And of course, it was beyond my realm of imagination to lie about being sick just to get out of work. And even when I had the flu, why sit around moping at home when you could get paid at work (yeah I know I could have taken sick days).

So while I didn't exactly disdain people who were routinely out for kid-related reasons, I didn't think they were super reliable. At least not like me. Oh no, I was a rock. Want someone to work Saturday morning, sure thing! Want someone to track down a production problem at 5pm? Am your man.

So now that I have kids and in the 5 months since they were born , I can honestly say I have missed more days of work than in all my 11 years of working professionally put together. If the baby sitter doesn't call out one day, they'll have a cold. Or a cough. Or a routine doctor's appointment. Or an immunization appointment. Or the baby sitter herself will have an appointment and thus the kids have to be picked up early. And they are only just 5 months old!

Thankfully, my boss and co-workers all (for the most part) have kids. So maybe they'll be more understanding that I was. My days of 100% attendance are over. My days of carrying the max amount of vacation from year to year are over.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Obama, meet me at Camera 3 (a la Jon Stewart)

Look Mr President, would you please stop showing your inexperience? You have advisers that are allegedly experienced Washington insiders, please listen to their advise. Ok? It's not appropriate to give a visiting head of state a box set of DVDs. No matter how great those DVDs are, they simply don't have the gravitas of a presidential gift. That's #1.

#2: Please never ever give or even contemplate giving the Queen of England a CD set. Just don't!

#3: I know you want to be a man of the people, but please tell your first lady that getting out of Air Force One in shorts is simply not acceptable. It might have been a long trip but please please change into something befitting a first lady before stepping out of the palatial plane

#4: Don't insert yourself into local politics. It's beneath you and it's a zero sum game. Just like a parent should never take sides when siblings fight, stay out of local political in-fighting

#5: Don't waste your time and political credit shilling for a losing cause. Chicago didn't have a chance at getting the 2016 Olympics. All you accomplish by going was cheapen your personal worth. Do you really think Bill Clinton would have gone and not come back with the gold?

#6: I am not going to ding you too much for trying to get Patterson to not run in NY's governorship race. But please try to not leave your fingerprints of black bag political machinations like that. Ask Sleek Willy or Biden how to do it via untraceable cut outs.

That's is. You may now return your regularly duties.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Redskins are fools (part 2)

Before the season, I wrote that the Redskins are fools for not addressing their o-line issues this offseason. Well, here's the proof. Sure their schedule is soft for the next few weeks (Lions, Bucs, Panthers and Chiefs) but wouldn't they have been better served signing a true o-line player instead of investing in Mike I-ate-too-much Williams?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Nostalgia-based business ideas: can they really work?

Occassaionally I run into websites that were created solely to take a general purpose idea and put a Nigerian spin on it. For example: Facebook for Nigerians, NaijaFeed (an aggregation of anything related to Nigeria on the web); Sturvs.com (a Nigerian social bookmarking website) etc etc

I admit I am not the most hardcore Nigerian person but can these sites really survive long term (i.e. past 6 months)? Is there really a marketable demand for Nigerian news that can't be found on Google News? Who would take the trouble to register on FacebookForNigerians when all of us are on the real facebook? NaijaFeed is ok but Nigerians that really care about Nigerian news know the websites of all the Nigerian newspaper. Besides, all the American-born Nigerian kids don't care that much about the fatherland. The ones that care were born and are stuck in Nigeria. Once they come here, I doubt they'll go to NaijaFeed to get news of the place they just left. So apart from old-time Nigerians and perhaps the casually-interested non-Nigerian, who exactly are the target audience of sites like these?

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Things I've learnt in 3 months of fatherhood

  • It's very easy to take good health for granted. When your siblings (by birth and marriage) have a combined total of 7 healthy children it's very easy for you to forget all the health risks (to the mother and babies) associated with pregnancy. I like to say it's like buying a lottery ticket for a drawing that doesn't take place for 9 months!
  • We are so lucky that these babies have no health issues (fingers crossed). They were so tiny when they came out, being early twins and all. It's amazing that at their size (4lbs) everything was fully developed and working.
  • Nothing beats seeing your 3-month old daughter literally jump up for joy upon seeing you for the 101st time in the same day.
  • It's amazing how a 3-month boy can be so in tune with music. Play any sort of music and Toni will start dancing. Doesn't matter the song...just play it and he'll dance.
  • Perhaps all babies do these things and mine aren't special. But still, it's cool to watch them both do their thing
  • When you find out you're having twins, you know you are going to need 2 of everything. But it doesn't really come through until you have to do the minutia of daily living: when packing the diaper bag, you need twice as many diapers; you need twice as many feeding bottles; twice as many onesies; twice as many bouncers, swings etc. And I am not even talking about the cost of these things. For example, we've recently switched the babies to #2 nipples. Guess how many new nipples we had to buy? 20! Guess how many we have to throw out? 20!
  • Going out with twins is an experience. Twice we've gone out to restaurants and each time it was like we put on a show. We get treated with more attention and everyone (even the kitchen staff) wants to see the babies. In fact, this past Saturday we ate at P.F. Changs in Baltimore and our waitress (Dawn) was super super super nice. She gave us free appetizer on her own dime. Told us about her own twins (even introduced one of them to us). While we were eating, my wife mentioned that this was our anniversary dinner. And guess what? Dawn gave us free dessert (again on her own dime). Apart from the free food, her service was excellent (so if you are reading, Dawn's boss, she's super).

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Technical Certifications are worthless

Technical certifications, especially in the IT field, are totally worthless. Why? All a technical certification prove is that you were able to buy a couple of exam prep books, cram them in a week or two and take an exam. My monkey (if I had one) could do that. I can't tell you how many times I have interviewed certification-carrying candidates for open positions at my company only to find them severely lacking in thorough understanding of computer science. I don't care that you have an MSCD or MCP or whatever it's called these days if you don't know foundational concepts in computer science and database design.

For example, I don't want someone who just knows that you store things in a hashtable using keys. I need you to know why a hashtable is better than an array in some cases. I need you to know when an interface is better than an abstract class; when to use recursion; the different kinds of joins and when to use each one; I need you to understand how crucial source control is to our field. Don't just tell me "some other guy handled authentication in my last project". That's not good enough. Don't tell me "I don't remember the different authentication types supported by ASP.NET". And definitely don't say "Well I haven't used recursion"

And please please don't put "wed services" on your resume unless you are wedding singer. I know it may seem minor but typos really show you don't care about your work. If you did, you would run it through Word and proof read your own resume!

So if technical certifications are worthless, what's the alternative? Well how about you show me your dedication by getting a 4-year degree? At the very least that shows that either you really studied or you were able to pull off your charade for 4 years. Either way, you are better than the guy who can't explain basic stuff but has an armful of certifications.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Health care reform

Why would someone that's against the so-called public option on the grounds that govt can't do anything right be proud of having gone to Virginia Tech or another public university? Why would the very same person feel secure knowing the men and women of the [insert juridiction here] police department are on the watch? Last time I checked, the federal govt was in charge of immigration (bad job), airport security (ok job), emergency response (ok job) and military defense (good job).

I don't know which health care system we'll end up but I know a few things:
  • our current system is broken, ineffective and shameful. If we want to claim "best country in the world" status, we should be ashamed of a system where people are forced to marry Canadians for healthare. We ought to be ashamed of a system where every body (except for the very rich) is just one major health issue away from bankruptcy
  • if we don't cover the uninsured in a structured way, we'll cover them in emergency room fees
  • a system where your doctor orders unreasonable tests just because he wants to cover his ass when you eventually sue him...that can't be the best in the world
  • a system where doctors pay through the nose for malpractice insurance premiums (which are then passed on to patients)...that can't be the best in the world
  • a system where a little boy had to die from minor dental problems (which escalated because his mother couldn't afford dental care)...that can't be the best in the world
  • it's hilarious that the GOP are now being fiscally responsible when it comes to healthcare for Americans. Meanwhile, when Bush wanted to wage a war of revenge and a futile exercise in nation building...then the GOP didn't worry about the deficit. If I have to leave a mountain of debt for my children, at least it's better for the money to have been spent taking care of Americans. At least attempting to take care of anyway...should health care reform fail spectacularly.
  • Obama's handling of this healthcare agenda shows his inexperience.
  • How badly do you think Bill Clinton wishes the power of the internet and social media was available during his presidency?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why I hate Nigerians


Ok maybe I don't totally hate Nigerians but I really really hate having to engage in any business deals with people that I call "overt Nigerians". The guy that answers his phone and proceeds to greet you in Yoruba (a Nigerian language) just because he hears your name is Tunde. The guy that goes all "my brother this" and "my brother that". Anytime I go against my natural instincts (or I am forced by circumstances) to use these guys, things inevitably go awry.

The latest moron that I had to deal with was the DJ for last saturday's Ikomo ceremony (baby outing) for our twins. Not being a party guy, I asked a friend of ours for recommendation and he recommended this dude (I'll call him DJ-certainly-not-christmas aka DJCNC). So my wife set things up with DJCNC to do 2 things:
  • DJ the party
  • arrive (like the other vendors) at 7pm to set up since the party starts @ 8pm
For these 2 things, this dude's fee was $100 per hour. I don't know what DJs go for these days but $100 per hour is not chicken change (I might have even been fleeced but we didn't have the luxury of time to shop around much). I sent him a check for a $200 deposit and he cashed the check. So now I knew we had a DJ for the event.

Fast forward to Saturday evening around 5pm-ish...we are setting up the hall. The photographer is setting up his equipment and he overhears us saying DJCNC is our DJ. So he says to me:

"Are you sure DJCNC is your DJ? I know he is playing in Fort Washington right now"

My first thought was "oh shit! We forgot to finalize with the DJ!". Then I remember that he had cashed my check.

Me: "Oh really? Are you sure we are talking about the same guy...his name is [real name redacted]"
Photographer: "Yes. My partner is working with him right now and they are playing at a Nigerian party"
Me: "Hmm, that's interesting. I'll call him"

So I spent the next hour and half trying to reach this DJ to no avail. His phone was immediately going to voicemail which meant 1 of 3 things:
  • his phone was dead
  • his phone was turned off
  • he was screening his calls
So now I am royally pissed. It's 8pm and guests are already arriving. Everything is in place except for the DJ. We are now playing a 1-sided phone tag where I'll call him, leave a message and find out from my photographer's partner that the DJ is still in Fort Washington (30 minutes away). So I call my brother-in-law who is a part time DJ. I tell him "please please bring your DJ equipment".

To cut a very long story short, the DJ arrives just as my brother-in-law was unloading his DJ equipment. DJCNC walks in, doesn't apologize and asks "Do you want me to set up?" I am like "hell yeah you f**king idiot! Do you think I send $200 checks to random people for no reason?". Outwardly, I tried to remain calm ('cos you don't want him playing shitty music) and told him to set up. I also made him aware that he was 2.5 hours late (he arrived at 9:25pm instead of 7). He gave me some bullshit excuse that were obvious lies but I didn't call him on it.

At the end of the party, I decided to pay him for 3 hours work even though he only worked for 2.5 hours. And still the dude didn't apologize once for
  • being horrendously late
  • being incommunicado
Fortunately, everything else went well. As for DJCNC, his performance wasn't earth-shatteringly good. Even without the lateness issue, I doubt that I would have referred him to others. Add in his lateness...well you have this blog which is a definite anti-recommendation. If you need a DJ for your party, DJCNC isn't your guy.



Friday, August 14, 2009

The Redskins are fools

  • What killed the Redskins last season was the break down of the offensive line. The defense ended the year ranked 4th in the league, behind only Steelers, Ravens and Eagles. That means the Redskins defense ended the year ahead of the Giants D with their vaunted d-line. Granted the Redskins D didn't make much game-changing plays (28th in sacks and 17th in INT). But given all that, you would think the pressing need this offseason would be getting O-line help, right? Well that's conventional logic. Around here, we buck convention. We went out and got Haynesworth (DT) and Orakpo (DE/LB). We re-signed DeAngelo Hall (CB) and signed a FA punter. For the O-line, we signed a former Redskins that didn't play last year in Buffalo (not exactly a team with a stout o-line).
  • For the first pre-season game, conventional logic say you give your starters enough reps to get in a rythm, then you play your backups. Against the Ravens yesterday, we allowed Jason Campbell to pass just 6 times (3 of which were incomplete)! Meanwhile, Joe Flacco (a second year QB) was out there slinging passes like a multi-year pro-bowler.
  • To further buck convention, we decided to hold out a few of our starters. Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, Albert Haynesworth, Carlos Rogers and Randy Thomas weren't even dressed for the game. Granted Thomas was hurt, but why not put your $100 million man (Haynesworth) out there to see what he can do in your scheme? If you are scared of injuries, wouldn't you rather he got injured now than later?
  • Conventional logic says you can't take anything away from preseason games. But I think that's not true. This was the Ravens first game since last year (and they've had less time since they went deeper in last year's playoffs). They were more physical, sharper, crispier (save for a few penalties) and to add insult to injury they blanked the Redskins and put up 500 yards of offense (to the Redskins' 196). This from a team that's predominantly run-first. So yeah, theRedskins can take away 2 things from this game: 1. we suck and 2. unless things change, Jim Zorn better be looking for a good realtor.
I know it's only the first preseason game but I think Redskins fans are in for a world of disappointment this year. Being Redskins fans, we ought to be used to it by now!

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Linq, SQL, CAML

So I went to a presentation about Linq yesterday. The presentation was given by Scott Allen. Before I get into my impressions of the content, let me say a few things about the packaging. You know how they say first impressions count? Well Scott Allen either didn't know that or he just plain ignored it. I wasn't impressed with the dude's appearance. But, before you crush me with accusations of superficiality, I have to say 5 minutes into the talk I was already impressed with his content. His tone was just right and the approach he took to explaining Linq (and even the use of "var" which I, hitherto, thoroughly despised) was excellent.

That said, I am sold on Linq-to-everything but sql. Some of the language enhancements that were made to support Linq are things I have always wanted to do. For example, you have a list with several items and you want to find items that match a criteria. How do you do it? You write a loop that has a lot of what Scott called "ceremony" i.e. fluff:

List matches = new List();
foreach (MyType x in myTypes)
{
if (MatchesCriteria(x))
{
matches.Add(x);
}
}

With C# 3.0, you just write
var matches = from t in myTypes
where t.StartsWith("svchost")
select t;

Imagine being able to query an xml document, a web service and a collection of objects with the same syntax.

So we are all in agreement that Linq is great for querying objects. However, where it breaks down for me is when you start using Linq to query modern day databases. I have a few problems with LinqToSQL
  • Microsoft's implementation of LinqToSQL (and I suspect all other implementations) uses queries generated on the fly. Sure SQL Server will optimize and cache queries for you but how do test the generated queries? How do you know the queries being generated by Microsoft's LinqtoSQL provider generates sound queries when it has no prior knowledge of your database?
  • When you use LinqToSQL, you give up all the power of SQL for the simplicity of Linq's syntax. For trivial applications that might be a good trade off (after all who wants to bother with stored procedures, views and functions in a trivial app). But for non-trivial apps, I think you need the flexibility and power of SQL with a C#
  • Ignoring the efficiency issue, when you start mixing queries with C# code, isn't that just a recipe for maintenance nightmare? Imagine how much harder it'll be when renaming a table; adding new columns, dropping existing columns, modifying existings columns...if you've got C# code directly accessing those objects.
  • What's so wrong with plain old SQL? Attempts to replace SQL with a 4th generation language-based query language will almost always fail. Why? For one 4th generation languages are geared towards you (the developer) coming up with the algorithm to retrieve data. Whereas, SQL is all about tell the RDBMS what to get and it figures out the best way to get it. When you start writing queries in C#, C++, Java, XML...well to me it looks like you are trying to do too much. And you just might end up with CAML, which is a truly awful query language native to SharePoint.
I get why Microsoft might have felt the need to introduce LinqToSQL for completeness sake. After all, you can't talk query with talking SQL. But I fail to see how one could use LinqToSQL in non-trivial applications.

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Fatherhood Tales

One of the ubiquitous things in our living room, in addition to all the baby changing stuff, is a notebook that we call the "baby book". This notebook contains a record of our babies' lives. We record who ate what, when and how much. We record who was changed when. We record who weighed and measured what when. We record who pooped and when. We record who took what medicine and when.

Why all the note taking? When we first got home, we had all these time-sensitive things we had to keep track of:
  • babies need to eat every 3 hours
  • babies need to poop once a day (or we call the doctor after 2 days)
  • my wife had to take 2 medicines: one every 4 hours and the other every 6 hours

At first, I tried to use the alarm on my cellphone. So basically, I would set the alarm for 3 hours after feeding the babies. That quickly turned out to not be sustainable. So we came up with this simple idea of a notebook with 3 columns:
  • who did it
  • what was done
  • when it was done
Now if I want to know when the babies last ate, I just look it up. If I want to know why Dara is so cranky, the baby book tells me she hasn't pooped in 1.5 days. If I want to know when my wife can take another dose of motrin, I just look it up. If I want to know what Toni weighed at the last doctor's visit, the baby book tells no lies.

Of course, the accuracy of the baby book depends on accurate and timely data entry. So to visitors, it might look like a crazy and perhaps over the top thing to do. But so many times, the baby book has come to our rescue. Without it, keeping track of the little things would have been overwhelming.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Drunk Driving

Read this article for background: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/07/30/AR2009073004030.html

I think drunk driving should be punished thusly:
  • 1st offense, no fatality: permanent revoking of the offender's driving privileges
  • 2nd offense, no fatality: mandatory installation of breathlyzer for offender's cars (and all cars to which the offender has access)
  • 3rd offense, no fatality: 10 year prison sentence
  • fatality (regardless of # of offense): charged with murder 1
To me anyone who drinks and drives is essentially saying: "everybody's live isn't worth the inconvenience of me taking a cab". The person is saying: "hmm, who can I find to kill tonight". I really don't care if you took 1 or 2 drinks. Why should everybody have to pay a hefty price for your inability to watch what you drink?

Take the care of this f**king bastard. He rang up tab of $107 (17 bottles of Corona, 2 Lemon Drops and 1 Cuervo Gold) and proceeded to get on the highway. He causes an accident, leaves the scene, calls 911 to report his injury and then checks into an hotel room. Doesn't turn himself in until the next day. So tell me, what right does a bastard like that have to life? Why should he live when he knowingly consumed a huge amount of alcohol before driving? BTW, this guy has previous convictions for drunk driving, reckless driving, selling marijuana and speeding.

To add insult to injury, he's only charged and convicted for manslaughter and could be out in 4 years with the slate wiped clean. This means in 4 years, this bastard will be free to kill more children just so he can drink. I hope he gets what's coming to him in prison.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

How I ended up scrubbing poop off the floor at 3am


If you are eating or have a sensitive stomach, you might want to skip this post entirely.


You've been warned.


It's 3am on Tuesday morning and my wife wakes me up to help feed the babies. Our overnight plan is that she gets the babies and food ready and wakes me up to help feed them. Each parent takes a baby. I feed, burp and go back to sleep for another couple of hours until the next feeding. At least that's the plan until she goes back to work.

So there I was trying to change Dara and like a well-trained new dad, I inserted the new diaper under the old, lifted up her legs, wiped her butt and what do I see? A little bit of poop dribbles out. Now this has happened before where she waited until I started changing her. So I say "Come on, Dara, how come you always poop when I change you?" I proceeded to grab another wipe ('cos by now the first one is ...use your imagination). The next thing thing that happened is a loud sound followed by projectile pooping. It was truely awful. I had poop all over my hands, all over the changing pad, the rocking chair, the pillow on the rocking chair, the window blind and the closet door. Oddly enough, my first reaction was to burst out laughing.

And that is how I ended up scrubbing poop off the floor of the nursery at 3am on a work day. What's not to love about parenthood?




Friday, July 24, 2009

Race and Inexperience

First, let's take inexperience. I have written before about President Obama's inexperience. He showed it again when he was asked about the Harvard professor case. Why call the police dept's actions "stupid" when you yourself admitted to not having all the facts in the case. Add that to being a friend of the professor, Obama should have just punted that question. Now he's gotten himself into an avoidable PR mess when he wants people focused on his health care plans. A seasoned politician of the likes of Clinton (male and female) wouldn't have made such an elementary mistake. You don't answer questions like that in such definite terms.

Second, race. Accusing someone of racism simply doesn't end well. Especially if that person is in a position of authority, then it really really doesn't end well. I don't think it's beyond the realm of possibility for a police officer, responding to a burglary, to ask and expect your cooperation. Sure sure you are pissed 'cos it's your house but the most expedient thing to do would have been to cooperate with the officer (even in the face of unreasonable requests) at the scene. And then file an harrassment case with the department. Just because you are the owner of the house doesn't mean there couldn't have been burglars in your house without your knowledge.

In any case, from my thankfully limited dealings with the police and other people in uniforms, I think it's more likely a case of abuse of power than racism.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Things I've learnt in 4+ weeks of fatherhood

So we survived the first 2 weeks. Here's what I learnt in 4 weeks of fatherhood:
  • Everybody has an advice on how to care for babies. Literally everybody! And everyone thinks their advice is the best. After all, they've raised x number of babies. Last week, we had 2 guests, one after the other. The first said we ought to cover the babies heads even in the house. So we did. As soon as he left, the next guest promptly said remove the hats! So what's a new dad to do? Initially, I would try to argue the small stuff (like babies don't really need hats in the house; that our pediatrician has said 72-75 degrees is fine for the babies and our thermostat reads 80). But then I realized, what's the use? Best case, the advice giver will simply not agree, after all she/he has raised x amount of babies. Worst case, the advice giver will think one is being an ITK after all this is our first babies. So if you come visit and say "put ski boots on those babies or they'll catch cold". I'll do it but you can bet those boots are coming off once you leave
  • This is all babies' fault. Why? Because babies are so resilient they survive sometimes in spite, not because of, what we do.
  • Burping is such a simple concept. You feed the baby, pat him or her gently on the back and all the air come gurgling out. In theory. In practice, it sometimes takes longer to burp than to feed. I suppose I could be doing it wrong but you can't not burp them.
  • The makers of Enfamil are sleek. They just shipped me 12 cans of 32 oz ready to feed baby formula. Each can retails for $6-10. So why would Enfamil send me $120 in baby formula? Because they know babies go through those things very quickly. And if your baby already seems to like Enfamil, why would you switch to Similac (a cheaper formula)?
  • Why can't the diaper people be just as sleek?
  • Our twins are so different they could easily just be siblings. He is such an easy going fellow. Just feed him, burp him, change him and put him on his throne (a contraption we rigged from a boppy pillow). Her? She's the queen bee. Her favorite position is in someone's arms. Luckily our boy doesn't get rattled by her crying. Like everything else, he just shrugs it off and keeps sleeping or looking at you with his Dick Cheney smirk.

Monday, July 13, 2009

How HCGH justifies their $240 cable bill

So I wrote about how HCGH charges $240 per month for basic cable and local phone services last week. Today, I returned their call and here's their justification for putting the burden of cancellation on the (sick) patient:
  • the charges for the phone and cable is spelled out in the consent form that new patients fill out upon admission to the hospital. This is the same consent form that grants the hospital the right to treat you. So if you don't consent to cable+phone charges and treatment, the doctors can't treat you. How nice!
I asked why not make it two forms: one for cable tv and one for treatment. God knows patients have to sign enough forms during the admission process. Their answer:

"Our patients have requested that the admission process be streamlined". Oh yeah, streamlined my foot. Wouldn't it make more sense to not turn on the service until a patient requests it? Instead, they waste their employees' time reversing silly charges. Or perhaps, not enough patients call in to complain and thus HCGH makes a nice little sum of money each month.

Either way, when planning to use HCGH (an otherwise excellent hospital) be sure to
  • call the hospital and have them turn off the basic cable non-flat-screen tv
  • call 1-800-775-8352 to ensure you are not billed upon discharge

Sunday, July 12, 2009

(Google) Chrome OS

Did you know Google now has an operating system? You didn't? Well I didn't either. But, like the classic definition of vaporware, Google announced their OS last week to widespread acclaim from the google fanboys. People are talking about Google OS having stuff Windows doesn't have. Nevermind that not a single code of Google OS has been publicly released (alpha, beta or RC).

So when Microsoft releases vaporware, it's bad. But when Google does it, it's the dawn of a new day. I seem to remember the same acclaim when Google Chrome came out. Several months later, it's stuck way behind IE and Firefox (except of course amongst the fan boys).

Also, if Microsoft got into hot water for bundling IE with Windows, how will Google circumvent the same legal trapdoor? I suppose it's more likely the presiding judge would be a google lover (or perhaps Google will impress upon him the need to rule their way or have his search data be public knowledge....I kid). Currently Google has it's foot in just about every thing:
  • search (www.google.com),
  • desktop search (google desktop)
  • maps (google maps),
  • calendar (google calendar)
  • instant messaging (google talk)
  • phone (google voice),
  • online payment systems (google checkout),
  • social network (orkut),
  • website traffic analysis (google analytics)
  • video (youtube),
  • online photos (picasaweb.google.com),
  • desktop photo management (picasa),
  • online office apps (google docs),
  • news (google news),
  • comparison shopping (google product search),
  • blogs (blogger),
  • encyclopedia (knol)
  • rss reader (google reader)
  • personal health records (google health)
  • 3D modeling (google sketchup)
  • groups (google groups)
  • personal websites (google sites)
  • lanaguage translation (google translate)
  • toolbar (google toolbar)
So tell me, how many of these Google products do you use and who should you be more afraid of: google or microsoft? At least Microsoft isn't overtly data mining your private email!

By the way, Google acquired some of these products the same way Microsoft acquired their best sellers: identify a small company with a good product; buy the company; rebrand and re-release the product and make it free.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Why I'll never rent from Blockbuster

Blockbuster sucks! I know that's not news but one would think a company facing strong competition (and losing btw) from Hulu, Netflix and even from public libraries would try to not suck as much. But they don't even try.

So it's the saturday morning after we came home with the twins and I get a call from one of those automated systems. What was the reason for the call? Apparently, blockbuster thinks I owe them $38. What's the bill for? The automated system doesn't know and can't say. But it does provide an easy way for me to pay the bill with a credit card over the phone. What? At the very least I would expect the system to know what the bill was for.

Anyway, I waited till the local BB store opened. Called them and got the manager on the phone. She claimed they couldn't find some movies that I had returned (one of which was 7 Pounds by Will Smith. A total crapfest if I must say). Thus they have charged the movies to my account. Well I know I returned the movie. So we went back and forth and she finally acquiesced and promised to clear my account.

A week later, the same freaking robot calls me for the $38. I called the same BB store and the person that picked up gave me the same spiel (goes to search on the shelf, doesn't find it, comes back to ask me for money). I am like dude, I am not paying money for movies I do not have. I asked about the manager that promised to clear my account and he said they did inventory and maybe that's why the charges went back. That doesn't make sense but whatever!

Now why am I so sure I returned the movies? Because
  • I made sure I returned every rental before the babies came
  • this has happened before. In that case, BB claimed I rented the same movie twice in the same hour. How ridiculous is that? Why would anyone rent a movie twice?
In that case and in this case, these guys working there are morons (at best) and thieves (at worst). So I am closing my account for good and will rely on basic cable, hulu and free movies from PG County library (oh yeah that's the secret. Save money by renting for free from the library).

I don't why these things seem to always happen to me. But I can't keep paying good money for services I don't consume.

BTW, Howard County General Hospital finally got back to me. I've gotta call the lady back (but she's promised to reverse the charges).

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Of toilet seats and parking

Why do men get a bad rap for leaving the toilet seat up? It's all over pop culture that men are inconsiderate pigs that don't put the toilet seat down after peeing. Well...women are just as guilty. Sure men don't put the seat down after peeing but women also don't put the toilet lid down. Just as you hate seating on a cold toilet, men hate peeing in a toilet when the seat is down ('cos then you'll have to clean up the inevitable spill). Personally, I think the toilet lid should be put down every time! Not only does that solve the argument, it's more esthetically pleasing. And might be healthier.

Enough about toilets. How do you park? Are you one of those people that insist on backing into a parking spot (even when there are no rules requiring it)? I don't get why people do this. Unless you are robbing a bank, and thus anticipating an hasty getaway, there's no reason to back into a parking spot. You have better control going in front-first into a tight space and when it's time to leave, you have more room to back out. And if you are lucky, the car in front of you will have moved and you won't have to use your reverse gear at all! So next time, you find yourself trying to back into a tight parking spot ask yourself why?

Hotmail Team says "thank you" for being with us for 10+ years

I got this from Hotmail today. 10 years, wow. That's a long relationship.


Monday, July 06, 2009

How do you pay $240 per month for cable and phone?

How do you pay $240 per month for cable and phone? Simple, you spend 5 days at Howard County General Hospital. As you may know, my wife delivered our twins at HCGH. Overall, the people there (nurses, techs, doctors) were extremely nice and helpful. In fact, I would give them a 9 out of 10. However, the hospital itself is the provider of what has to be the most expensive basic cable + phone service ever! Why? Today I got a bill for television and phone services that was provided to us while my wife was admitted at HCGH. The bill was for $40 for a 5 day stay (which works out to be $8 per day or $240 per month). For basic cable and local only phone service!

Sure that's way way expensive but that's not the worst. The hospital doesn't provide a clear way for patients to opt out of this service. It is automatically turned on once you're admitted and nobody in the hospital (at least not all the people I asked) knows how to turn it off. In fact, one nurse we asked said tv was free!

Anyway, I got the bill, calculated the daily rate and promptly got pissed. I called the 3rd party billing company HCGH uses and after a 5-minute conversation, they removed the charges. Now, if you've ever tried to get an American company to forgive a bill, you know it usually takes more than 5 minutes. When it takes less than that, you know the company is aware of its own shaddy practices (like when Vista print sneaks monthly charges unto your business card order). I asked the customer service rep how patients are supposed to know they need to cancel this automatic service and she said I should take their (the 3rd party's) information and call themnext time I am admitted at HCGH. How preposterous!

I called the hospital and spoke to the nurse supervisor in charge, thinking she'll have a resonable answer for me. She didn't. In fact, she joined me in complaining because her husband was also charged after being admitted at HCGH.

To me, this looks like a racket being perpetuated by the hospital. They automatically turn on the services; bill you via a 3rd party and hope you pay just for convenience (after all, how many people want to deal with spurious charges during their convalescence?) And if 1 or 2 patients call and complain, they've pre-authorize their 3rd party billing dept to automatically waive the charges. After all, that'll be cheaper than not billing your patients $8 per day for substandard cable and local phone service!

First day back at work

First day back at work and my mouse travelled just over 1 mile today. What? Read this

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Things I've learnt in 2 weeks of fatherhood

  • Looking at my two kids, I can now understand why parents can never ever see you as an adult. They'll always see you as the tiny little bundle that arrived after hours of labor. I look at my babies and think to myself: "one day, these two will try to prove they know more than I do". Yikes!
  • "Output" from a 2-week old baby can smell really really bad! But if your baby hasn't pooped in several hours, the sounds and smell of his poop can make you literally dance for joy.
  • Even 2-week old babies have little tricks up their sleeves. I swear my son was holding his bottle at 1-week. And when they're really hungry, they'll (attempt to) eat anything near their little mouths. And I mean anything: burp cloth, bib, their fingers, my finger. Thank God they don't have teeth yet.
  • Having a plan for the overnight feedings is crucial. In our case, we operated in shifts. My wife's mom took the midnight shift, my wife took the 3am 'cos she has to get up to pump anyway. And I took the 6am shift because I am usually up early. Don't know how the shifts will change once my mother-in-law leaves in a few days. But I am sure we'll come up with a plan.
  • On a good note, the past 2 weeks haven't been too difficult. I have finally gotten over the sleep deprivation and am getting used to sleeping in 3 hour increments. Now I just have to tear myself away from them to get back to work (unless I win the lottery in the new few days).
  • You know how they say to expect lack of sleep once you have babies? Well, I can tell you, it's not the sleep deprivation that'll get you. It's the forgetfulness. I can't tell you how many times I have been meaning to do something only to find out hours later that I never quite got to it. I started this blog entry 2 days ago and am only now just posting it
  • I have said this before and I suspect I'll say it again. With these kids, the days have been running into one another. I forgot my birthday until the last moment and I totally forgot about 4th of July. I was talking to my brother this morning and he said he was on his way to Atlanta. I was like "whats happening in Atlanta?" My sister and her family are travelling to NJ for a wedding. As for me, I'll be in this loop:
while (true) { eat; (poop &| pee) ; sleep; }

Happy 4th of July.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Dara's home!!!

After spending a week in the NICU (as a feeder grower i.e. no medical issues just needed to eat), my daughter came home today. So now my family is complete and we can get on with our lives. The past week has been strange. Kind of like living in a suspended state. While Toni was doing beatifully at home (gained 2 oz in 2 days), we couldn't be 100% estactic since we were still waiting on Dara. Well, today the NICU called and said "come get your child!" And so we did. Toni, Lara and I loaded up the car, busted out the travel system and away we went to get Toni's sister.

Check out the pictures on facebook (friends and family) and geni (family only).

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The babies are here

So it's a girl and a boy. The perfect combination. We wanted to wait until delivery to find out the genders. And we got so lucky to have one of each. The boy looks like his mom and the girl looks like me. For now.

So 12+ hours post-birth: I am doing ok. Mom is doing good. Babies are doing great. The nursery has been taking care of them, which I assume, gives me free time to post this blog :)

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

How far does your mouse travel each day?


In the past few weeks, I have been using my wireless mouse a lot more since I've been working from home. After changing the batteries yet again yesterday, I started wondering exactly how much distance does my mouse cover in an average day? Sure the mouse never leaves the desk but it moves from point to point each time you use it and that's distance that can be measured. And where something can be measured, there's data that can be visualized, sliced and diced.

So I went googling (or binging as Microsoft would prefer) and found Mousotron(http://www.blacksunsoftware.com/mousotron.html). It's free and pretty cool. Tracks your keystrokes, mouse clicks and more importantly the distance covered by your mouse. It sounds ridiculous but what if you found out your mouse moved 10 miles in one day. Sure it's no big deal for your mouse but your hand had to move your mouse, right? And you had to do it with your wrist on the table and your fingers on the mouse, right? That certainly can't be a natural posture for your hand.

PS:
Since I installed Mousotron (5hr 22 mins), my mouse has travelled about 900 yards. That's almost half a mile in a little over half a day's work.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Wining is everything

I'll admit: I watch MLS soccer. Sure it's not La Liga or Premier League but it's fun and available without my paying a king's ransom in cable fees.

Anyway, I was watching DC United beating NY Red Bulls 2-0 and the camera cut to a feed showing Juan Carlos Osorio (Red Bulls coach) furiously scribbling in a notebook during the match. Now, for those who don't know, Osorio is known as somewhat of a tactician. His note taking during matches is well known and up until now has been touted as part of his genius. You see him scribbling in the first half; his team comes out with the "perfect" tactics in the second; and he and his note taking gets the credit.

But now that the Red Bulls are struggling (last in the eastern conference, 0-6-1 road record with no goals on the road), Osorio's note taking is no longer a sign of brilliance. His penchant for changing line up is now thought of as over-coaching. Last year, when he managed to get the Red Bulls into the MLS cup final, he was a brilliant tactician. Now, he is fighting to keep his job and the same attributes that made him so good have turned him into an over-coacher.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Sex sells. But inappropriate office behavior?

I love Hulu. I wish ABC would just hurry up and join already. Anyway, there I was last night watching Fox's "Mental" on Hulu and I got to thinking "what the heck is wrong with all these shows on tv trying so hard to sell sex and general bad behavior at the office place?!!" If all you had for example of office place behavior was Fox's House, you would be fired even before you had your badge set up. House practically commits verbal sex harrassment each and every episode and it's like no big deal. He says really really inappropriate stuff to his female boss all the time. I know it's a tv show but please a little realism.

Add to that all the shenanigans on Grey's Anatomy & Private Practice and you'll think all hospitals are a hotbed of casual sex. I've never worked in an hospital but I certainly hope if I do go in, my doctor didn't just come from having a 1-on-1 with the nurse in the on call room. Yikes!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Who is Spencer Pratt?

A shameless self promoter? A seriously deluded shameless self promoter? A lover of the Costa Rican jungle? The future of American youths? God help us all.

BTW, Bing is live!!!

First change from expecting children

I totally forgot about my birthday! It's in a few days but because we've been so wrapped up in this pregnancy thing, I absolutely forgot about it. And this isn't some subconscious don't-want-to-get-old thing. I just didn't remember. Until my wife asked me what I wanted. Usually, by now I am busy scoping out which gadget to get myself (a video baby monitor doesn't count, right?). But this year, it totally escaped my mind. Even though the babies will probably be born around my birthday.

I know they say once you have kids, it becomes all about them. I just didn't think it would start so early.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Lebron is a punk

While he may be the most physically gifted player in the NBA, he is still a punk. The proof is in his reaction to losing game 6 to the Magic yesterday. Rather than stay on the court to shake hands with the winners (a sports tradition) and talk to the press (an NBA requirement for all players), LeTravel did what any punk will do: he walked off the court without a word to anyone. I heard he even refused to get on the team bus and sulked off to his mother's house (she lives in Orlando). What a punk! If that was Kobe, we would never hear the last of how Kobe is selfish. But with LeTravel, everybody (especially the fawning press) wants to give him excuses. He was so passionate about the game he couldn't talk! He didn't wanna saw the wrong thing! Bull!

I just wonder if David Stern will fine him for violating that rule. I remember one post-game interview where all Rasheed Wallace's response to ALL questions was "Both teams played hard". Dude didn't want to get fined but he knew he had a contractual obligation. But not LeTravel. When he wins, he's very loquacious; plays air guitar on the sidelines; blows powder at opposing teams' fans. But as soon as he loses (which he always will if he stays in Cleveland and is being coached by Mike I-allow-LeBron-to-run-things Brown), he clams up and refuses to talk. If he doesn't get fined big and publicly, it will only prove what we all known: David Stern wants LeTravel in the finals so bad, he's willing to sell the meager integrity of his game.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Jay Leno's last night

Tonight is Jay Leno's last night on The Tonight Show. He's being pushed out to make way for Conan O'Brien. Conan is funny but all Jay has done is kick Jay Letterman's butt for 17 years and been king of late night. But I guess that's not enough for the morons running NBC. What a bunch of idiots. I bet Jay goes to 10pm, gives it a shot for 1 season and calls it quit. I definitely don't think he'll be at 10pm for another 17 years.


Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Waiting for babies

Have you ever taken one of those classes in college where the final exam counts for 30% of your final grade? Where you've worked so hard and know that going into the final exam, all you need is to just write your name and you'll get a B? That even if you skipped the final, the worst you'll get is a C? I have and the feeling you get prior to the exam is sorta mixed. You can't quite let go since you really really want an A in the class. At the same time, you aren't too worked up about the final since you already have a good grade in the bag. You know that feeling?

That's the feeling I have been having the past 4 weeks. I know the twins are coming and that's a big deal. But I am not going to be doing the heavy lifting (or pushing as the case may be). We have a very good hospital, very capable doctors and I have made sure the car is gassed up (no stopping on the way to get gas). I know the way to the hospital (courtesy of the scare we had 4 weeks ago); it takes 20-25 minutes; and thus far (knock on wood) have never ran into traffic on the way there.

On the other hand, I know my life is going to change irreversibly. Even more than it changed after marriage. 'Cos what are you going to do; divorce your babies? So occassionally, I break out in a cold sweat and wonder "oh Lord, what did I get myself into?"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

A GOP I can respect

In the past few days, there's been talk about how the GOP is non-inclusive and how that will continue to cost them votes. People like Joe Scarborough and Collin Powell want the GOP to embrace non-right-wing ideologies like same-sex marriage, sex education, health reform etc.

While that's all well and good, I think I prefer that the GOP remain what it is: a party for rich white straight folks. Why? For 2 reasons:
  • if you don't believe in a party's ideology, then you shouldn't be in that party. You can't call yourself a republican when you don't believe in the party's core ideals.
  • the GOP remaining non-inclusive virtually guarantee more wins for the democrats. Not necessarily because they are better but because you gotta vote for someone, right? Better you vote for someone you know (and you will know because those 2 parties outspend all the other fringe parties combined) than vote for Nader.
So while Rush Limbaugh is a fat idiot, at least he's willing to stick to his beliefs, however wrong they might be. People like Joe Scarborough aren't saying the GOP's ideas are wrong. They are just trying to turn the GOP from a party with central core ideals into a loose coalition of people that don't believe in the same things but find it politically expedient to vote together.

Of course, one could argue this is what the democrat party has become!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Ready for them?

People keep asking me "are you ready for them?" Them being the twins my wife and I are having any minute now. When I am asked this, I give the customary "yes I am ready". Like what else am I going to say "oh shit! I didn't plan for this"? 

Sure the house is ready (set  up the cribs months ago; set up the bassinet this past week; pack 'n' play is on the way; baby video monitor is on the way; bought enough onesies). But am I ready? I certainly hope so but can you ever really know? After having lived with just 1 person for 5 years, how will I react to 2 babies crying non-stop? I am your typical early-to-bed-early-to-rise person, so how will I respond to midnight feedings disturbing my sleep cycle? What kind of dad will I be (thankfully I have an excellent template to follow)? Will they be healthy (this is my #1 fear every time I read about an abnormality)?

Am I ready? Ask me in a few months and I'll let you how ready I was.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What we've learnt Extreme Interrogation Techniques

  • It is torture. Torture, like a rose, by any other name is still torture
  • We all knew it was going on and we all turned a blind eye
  • It was systemic. It wasn't just a wink-and-nod kind of thing. There were memos and all sorts of legal instruments to give the doers legal authorization
  • You know there's something shady going to when memos are being destroyed. That demonstrates an awareness of wrongdoing.
  • We are better than that. If we have to resort to the methods of our enemies, then what are we fighting for?
  • "Warrantless wiretapping" is illegal. Period.
  • The funny thing is history is replete with warnings about the fallacy of trading freedom for security.
  • If this was done by a third world country, you bet the president of that country will be charged with war crimes.
  • Eventually, the period of Bush's presidency from 9/12/2001 till he left will be known as the dark days in American history. That along with things like segregation and race inequality.
On the question of whether or not these techniques ("techniques" is so clinical a term for something so God-awful) worked: really what does it matter whether or not they worked! The question is whether they were legal under US constitution. No reasonable person will try to make a case that slavery worked; or that searching a defendant's property without a warrant works. We know these things aren't allowed under the constitution so the question of whether or not they work is a non-starter. 

Bush people will like us to believe these techniques are what kepts up safe from 2002 till now. But is that the best we can do? Is that the lofty standard to which America wants to be held? 

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Friday, April 24, 2009

Obama, now you've opened pandora's box...

Good luck trying to get it closed in your guaranteed 4 years! Of course we tortured people. Sure we called it "enhanced interrogation techniques" and we tried to legalize it with memo's after the fact. But what's the upside to opening this particular pandora's box? It certainly won't endear us to our enemies and it won't strengthen our bond with England (one of the few true friends we have left). So why release the memos? What could you possibly gain? Unless your goal was to further embroil congress in grave matters of little consequences. We all know if you really follow the thread, you'll end up in Dick Cheney's office. So are you prepared to prosecute a Vice President of the United States for conspiracy to torture?

First you said you weren't interested in looking backwards. Then you said CIA interrogators won't be punished but the writers of the justification memos will be punished. How can you not punish the actual CIA interrogators when the guards at Nazi concentration camps were tried and punished? When a couple of the guards from Abu Graib are serving prison sentences.

Frankly this is just Obama's inexperience showing. We all knew about the torture but decided to turn a blind eye to it.  We all knew about the warrantless wiretapping but decided to ignore it. What makes Obama think we are now ready for the truth? He ought to have just stopped at saying "We don't and won't torture". Now he's gotta find a way to extricate himself from this process before his entire agenda gets derailed.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

Retention Bonuses

The economy is bad. Unemployment is high. Higly skilled professional workers are settling for unskilled work just to make ends meet. So why then are some companies paying retention bonuses to the tune of millions of dollars? I can understand wanting to reward loyal hardworking employees that are helping your company through the difficult times. But should you bankrupt the company to do so? Paying bonues in time of plenty is all well and good. But why would you pay $13.3 million in bonuses to 703 employees on the same day you lay off 53 of their co-workers?

I just wonder what these companies think employees will do if they aren't paid retention bonuses. Quit and join the millions of unemployed?

Friday, March 27, 2009

Never renew your magazine subscriptions

Recently my subscription to Time magazine came up for renewal and I decided to compare the renewal price to the price of a new subscription. Renewal fee: $49.80. New subscription fee: $20. I am not a marketing genius or a customer retention expert but shouldn't existing customers pay less for renewal than new customers? Certainly, I shouldn't have to pay more than double after I have been a loyal subscriber for 3 years?

I suppose I could call them and try to negotiate a better deal but I think I'll just cancel and save my $49.80. Thank you Time magazine for nothing!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

W4: What's your deduction?

If you ask an accountant for help filling out a W-4 form, the logical advice is try to claim as many exemptions so that your monthly withholding is as low as legally possible. The thinking here is that there's no use providing an interest-free loan to the govt by paying possibly more than you should in monthly withholding. Instead, pay as little as possible and send the IRS a check on April 15. This is a very logical advice but I have never followed it. For as long as I can remember, I have always put 1 on my W-4 form and I haven't changed it even after getting married.

The problem with this approach is how many of us really like the idea of cutting a big check to the govt on April 15? Most of us like to get refunds back (in fact, some people like it so much they think it's a windfall. It's not!). Apart from the illogical need to get money back, unless you've been investing that money during the year, it may be pretty hard to come up with the entire amount on April 15.

Another reason is the April 15 deadline is really only effective if you owe the govt money. If you think you are due a refund, you can file an extension and submit your taxes way after the April 15 deadline. You can still file an extension even if you owe but you are responsible for the interest accrued from the 15th.

Monday, March 23, 2009

What we've learnt from the economic collapse

  • Good things don't last forever. Bad things seem to last forever.
  • There's a lot of shady shenanigans going on on Wall street
  • CNBC is for "entertainment purposes only"
  • There's even more shady shenanigans going on in Washington
  • Living within your means isn't such a laughable concept
  • Thinking a software can predict the market for you is still a pipe dream
  • When there's a boom, better not be one of the morons that get into it late. You want to be ahead of a boom and definitely ahead of the bust.
  • If you are going to make stupid decisions, better make monumentally stupid ones that can bring down the economy. 'Cos then you are guaranteed to get federal bail out
  • Socialism isn't so bad when it's all that's standing between you and economic doom
  • Credit cards do have an APR
  • Credit cards do not like you. Not unless you don't pay your bills on time. Or you are one of the suckers that pay the "minimum payment".
  • Reverse mortgages are a really bad idea. Unless you plan to die soon and you either have no heirs or you want a last chance to stick it to them.
  • Store brand merchandise are sometimes just as good as the brand name versions.
  • "New and improved", "New shiny packaging" all mean "higher price" when it comes to grocery
  • You are more likely to be screwed by an American (on Wall street and in Washington) than by some foreigner in Nigeria.
  • All politicians, including Obama, are looking out for #1. And that sure ain't the people!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Why I hate Verizon

From consumerist.com:

Call it a "you're not making us enough money" fee. If you don't make at least 12.5 minutes of long-distance calls, Verizon is assessing some home phone customers a $3.49/month "shortfall charge." If you want to get rid of the fee, you can, but you'll have to pay a one-time $5.50 fee. Verizon told KING5, "that even if a person doesn't make long-distance calls, they still have access to the phone network. The "shortfall charge" helps pay for maintenance of the network." What a crock.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Why I am still at Aquilent

Usually people are shocked when they find that I have been at the same company for over 8 years. Especially since I am in IT where the norm is to jump from job to job in search of higher and higher salary. They tell me I can make more money at other places; that doing short-term contracting can bring in bigger bucks. 

Well, here are the reasons I am still at Aquilent close to 9 years after driving to a mostly residential area of Laurel for a job interview with an anonymous IT contractor:
  • the commute can't be beat. It's 7.3 miles of local roads.
  • the medical benefits are excellent! Both in terms of the quality of the providers and in the price the employee pays. When my wife and I decided to consolidate our health care with a single company, we found out that what I'll pay at Aquilent for "Employee + Family" is way cheaper than what she would pay at her company for "Employee + 1". That's coverage for more people for less money.
  • Tuition reimbursement. In fairness, my Masters diploma really ought to be made out to "Babatunde O. Akinsanya/Aquilent Inc." 'cos they paid for a huge chunk of it.
  • employees are treated like adults. By that I mean, none of that "big brother" crap other companies pull with their employees. You wan to install some software on your computer, go ahead. Just make sure it's legal and malware-free. Want to work from home? Just clear it in advance with your immediate supervisor. No filling out forms in triplicate around here.
  • the company pays $25 towards employees' home broadband service. And no you don't have to and are not expected to work at home to benefit. Sure it's not much, but $25 is $25
  • Casual Mondays. Casual Tuesdays. Casual Wednesday. You get the point. Every day is casual. In fact, it's so casual my wearing a tie to work once prompted my boss (not you Greg) to stop me in the parking lot and reassure me that the company is doing ok and not to leave. True story.
  • The game room (with classic xbox, wii, ping pong, foosball and pool tables) and gym (which I don't use).
  • Profit sharing.
  • variety of projects. Since I've been here, I have
  1. worked on a quasi-research project to create a framework for Java applications
  2. used the result of that project to create a software that helps NASA's flight engineers with scheduling data downloads from satellites
  3. worked on setting up an enterprise portal for the DOJ
  4. worked on a web service project for the DOL's Bureau of Labor Statistics
  5. supported an electronic fishing permit application for the National Marine Fisheries Service
  6. worked on an e-procurement system for the Navy (already been used to award billions of dollars in contracts)
  7. developed a system that helps universities and the Navy better process grant applications
  8. developed a system that helps the Navy track milestones for their procurements
Now I am not going to lie and say everything is great. There are things that can frustrate you:
  • having to purchase a second monitor with my own money (developers should, by law, have a minimum of 2 monitors).
  • the slow pace of hardware refresh for developers (sure 80GB hard drive sounds like a lot but after installing Visual Studio and MSDN, you can quickly run out of disk space).
  • the hoops one has to jump through to get the company to pay out of pocket for developer productivity tools
But all in all, Aquilent is still a great place to work. In my opinion anyway.

And yes we are hiring but please don't do this but do this

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

This is why I hate Apple

Sure their devices are sleek, cool and cost more than your mortage. But is it too much to ask that when I install 1 of their software, the installer doesn't install a bunch of other Apple crap that I don't need/want? 

First it was iTunes:
  • it doesn't work unless Quicktime is installed. Why I need another Apple video player as a pre-requisite for iTunes (a media player) is beyond me!
  • when you install iTunes, you get these "great" Apple software like "Bonjour", "Apple Software Update" (which isn't really a vehicle for delivering updates but one for delivering yet more Apple products to unsuspecting consumers). 
  • In addition to those, you get all sorts of Windows Services for managing iPhones even if you don't have one. 
I seem to remember there was a time Apple, Sun and others were against Microsoft bundling IE with Windows. I wonder how many MacBook Apple sells without all their iCrap software.

Today, I decided to try the beta version of Apple's Safari browser.  These are the installation screens:





This is the result of the installation:

Why does a browser need a separate updater? Why didn't Apple go the route of Firefox and Chrome, where the browser itself check for updates when you use it? And why for crying out loud is the updater pitching me Quicktime and iTunes? BTW, you'll notice from the screenshot below that all the "updates" are conveniently checked. What a bush league thing to do.





Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Too big to fail...our tax money at work.

This is an excerpt from a letter NY's AG wrote to the House of Rep's Barny Franks:

Bearing in mind that Merrill moved up its bonus payments in advance of its announced $15 billion quarterly loss and $27 billion annual loss, we have determined that Merrill Lynch made the following bonus payments:

  • The top four bonus recipients received a combined $121 million;
  • The next four bonus recipients received a combined $62 million;
  • The next six bonus recipients received a combined $66 million;
  • Fourteen individuals received bonuses of $1 0 million or more and combined they received more than $250 million;
  • 20 individuals received bonuses of $8 million or more;
  • 53 individuals received bonuses of $5 million or more;
  • 149 individuals received bonuses of $3 million or more;
  • Overall, the top 149 bonus recipients received a combined $858 million;
  • 696 individuals received bonuses of $1 million or more.
    Again, these payments and their curious timing raise serious questions as to whether the Merrill Lynch and Bank of America Boards of Directors were derelict in their duties and violated their fiduciary obligations.


The full letter is here: http://www.oag.state.ny.us/media_center/2009/feb/merrill%20letter.pdf

I just hope these bastards pay taxes on their windfall.