15 August, 2006

Central Park

I was in NYC's Central Park a few weekends ago, up near the reservoir. I took a picture of this tree on my mobile camera phone, because I thought it was interesting, and beautiful, in a non-traditional sort of way. It was so peaceful and beautiful up there. Nature is a beautiful thing, but it can be pretty darned dangerous (how's that for some funky alliteration?).

Then, I had to be whisked back to the cold, drab realities of what life really is like.

Test from my mobile.

14 August, 2006

Google going the Oprah route?

OK, this is kind of scarey, given the non-traditional, do no evil, corporate culture/philosophy that they usually portray. But guess what? Google is pulling an Oprah:
Search engine giant Google, known for its mantra "don't be evil", has fired off a series of legal letters to media organizations, warning them against using its name as a verb.
Rather than focus on the use of their trademarked name (which they have every right to protect), perhaps they should focus on ensuring that the definition of "Googling" retains its current meaning, and that this definition spreads throughout popular culture:
The verb to Google, or to google (depending on the dictionary) means "to use the Google search engine to obtain information on the Internet."
That way, Google is protecting its trademark, but allowing its name to become a part of culture. To me, I think it would help a company, not harm it, when the name of something that the company has invented (whether it be a product or a service) becomes a part of our every day vocabulary, especially when the name of the product is the same as the name of the company.

I just don't get it when companies object to their names becoming something more than what they are. Take, for example, Xerox and Kleenex, which have objected to the conversion of their trademarked names into generalized terms.

So, instead of objecting to various media organizations' use of the verb "to Google" (and variations thereof), perhaps Google should just be making sure that the journalists who use the verb are, in fact, using the Google search engine to conduct their web queries. What do you think?

Independent Online Edition > Business News

My poor, poor car

OK, so I was driving home tonight, and the battery light came on in the car (I have a 1995 Buick Park Avenue Ultra, which needs a paint job). This means that the car is now running off the battery. I saw the voltmeter begin to go down, and I knew I had to make it home, fast. I stopped at my friend's work place and hung out there, where I let the battery "re-charge" for a few hours. Then I went for the gold and made it the rest of the way "home" (you know, the place where I'm sleeping on the living room floor of a friend's Section 8 apartment that I'm not really supposed to be staying in).

So, there's now something wrong with the electrical system. I don't know much about the inner workings of cars. All I do know is that I just replaced the alternator about four months ago, and it appears that this is the same -- or a similar -- problem. Oh, and did I mention that it's also a new battery -- less than six months old? So this means I'm probably going to have to get a new alternator. Plus, I still have to get the crankshaft pulley (after a lot of on-line research, I've found out that this is also called the 'harmonic balancer'), the seal, and possibly the crankshaft itself replaced. Not to mention, the A/C compressor, and an external temperature sensor that prevents the ventilation system from working properly.

Do I have the money for this? Of course not. I have exactly one penny in my pocket. All of my money is going into this car. Is it worth it to keep pumping money into the car? Probably not. But the thing is, I can't really get around all too well without a car, so I don't really see having much of a choice in the matter. If I can just fix everything at once, then things like this probably wouldn't be happening. But by leaving one or two things unfixed, it starts breaking down other systems, which is why I've been having so many problems.

The problem, of course, with fixing everything at once, is that I don't have the money for it. And not having the money to get my car fixed all at once (and not having money, period) just fuels the fires of my depression.

Maybe there are some really kind folk out there -- my fairy godparents -- who will help me pay to get my car fixed, once and for all, all at once.

10 August, 2006

Don't Ping My Cheese With Your Bandwidth

I really love today's Daily Dilbert. It pretty much reflects are large portion of my outlook on life. Click on the image below to go to the Daily Dilbert site and be taken (hopefully) to the right strip. Post a comment and let me know if you can figure out this large portion of my outlooik on life.

OK, still haven't figured it out yet? I'll give you a hint: the mildly retarted consultant, or a certain aspect of what he represents, or a certain aspect of what he says, to me, at least, represents life, itself (have I used enough commans in this sentence?).

Pain & Depression, QOTD

OK, so on a scale from 1 to 10, today's pain factor is about a 7. And that's after I've already taken about 8 Aleve pills. And it's only 11:22 am. This is really getting to be a bit ridiculous. Not to mention, painful. And, of course, the pain affects my depression. Scientists have just begun looking into the effects that physical pain has on the effectiveness of various drug therapies and other treatments for depression:
"In particular, the odds of a poor depression treatment response were twice as high in patients with moderate pain at baseline and three to four times as high in those with severe pain," Bair says.
In another study, researchers have linked chronic pain to depression. So it's kind of like this vicious cycle, wherein pain causes depression to worsen, which in turn causes more pain:
Among the participants, 17 percent had chronic pain and 4 percent had symptoms of major depression; however, 43 percent of those with major depression also had chronic pain. Of the symptoms, headaches and backaches were most commonly found in depressed people. People who had pain for 24 hours were also more likely to have major depression, indicating that continuous pain increases the likelihood of having a major depressive disorder diagnosis.
When the pain gets to around this level, I really start concentrating on whether it's all worth it to carry on. So to take my mind off things, ponder this:
There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory which states that this has already happened.
~ Douglas Adams (1952-2001), U.K. Author
(famous for his novel, A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy)

08 August, 2006

Techdirt: Who Needs Harvard When You Can Blog?

Well, it's taken a little more than fifteen years, but the original purpose of the Internet has finally come to fruition:
But as the internet and other communication technologies have made it easier for academics to share information with others in their field (not just at one's own university), the relationship between one's output, and that of others at the same university has been eliminated.
Techdirt: Who Needs Harvard When You Can Blog?

31 July, 2006


Some of my friends have begun asking me, "Is there any way I can be notified (by email) when you post something to your blog?" The short answer to this is, well -- it depends.

You see, most blogs, and some web sites, have something called a feed. Six Apart, the maker of some of the best independent blogging software out there, has a nifty little page that tells us all about what feeds are, and why we need them
Many websites have links labeled "XML" or "RSS" or "Atom". All of these are ways of saying that you can find out about updates to that site without having to browse to it yourself to check.
The Site Wizard has a more in-depth article about feeds and how to use them:

RSS feeds and ATOM feeds are simply special types of web pages. Websites typically use such feeds to notify its visitors when something new has been posted on their website. thesitewizard.com's RSS feed, for example, usually contains news about new articles appearing on the website as well as new or updated scripts that may be published. RSS and ATOM are simply the names of two different types of formats of the feeds. Most websites using site feeds choose to use either one or the other. From the user's perspective, however, it doesn't matter which format the site uses, since both serve the same function.

To "subscribe" to a site feed, whether RSS or ATOM, you need a feed reader. Simply point the reader to the URL (address) of the site feed, and it will do the rest: it will display the contents of the feed in a window or panel for you. The feed will look like a series of messages. Although the word "subscribe" is used, there is no actual subscription (in the traditional sense of the word) involved. You do not need to give your email address, fork out any money, nor furnish any information whatsoever. Your feed reader does all the real work: it checks the website regularly to see if the feed has been updated. If the latter has been changed, the feed reader software will inform you and allow you to read it, giving you the illusion that you have subscribed to some sort of newsletter or message service.

So now that you know what a site feed is, you need to know how to use them. The Site Wizard goes on to state,
Some browsers already contain built-in support for tracking and reading RSS and ATOM site feeds. Often, in those browsers, all you have to do is to click on the link to the feed to subscribe to it.
For example, Mozilla Corp.'s Firefox web browser has built-in feed reading support (they call it Live Bookmarks). When you browse to a web site that provides a site feed, an icon appears in the URL bar letting you "subscribe" to the feeds that the site offers.

There are also a number of stand-alone programs, such as NewsGator, that let you read site feeds. Additionally, there are web sites that are designed to let you subscribe to feeds, such as Google Reader, My Yahoo, AOL, and others.

If you're using one of these services, to add my site to your RSS Feed Reader of choice, simply copy the URL that's in the right-hand sidebar labeled "ATOM XML Feed" into your feed reader of choice (the links above to Google, Yahoo, and AOL bring you right to the page where you can add a feed to your service). If you're really technologically challenged, here's the URL you need to enter: http://petercfrank.blogspot.com/atom.xml

Now, back to the original question -- is there a way to be notified via email when I've updated my site? To the best of my knowledge, there's only one email program that has built-in RSS/Atom support: Mozilla Corp.'s Thunderbird email program. So if you're using Thunderbird, you can set up an RSS/Feeds Account, and add feeds to it ("subscribe" to them). If you're unfortunate enough to be stuck using Microsoft's Outlook email client, then you'll have to purchase a plugin in order to get RSS feed support built-in.

So, there you have it. Any more questions, send me an email, or leave a comment!

29 July, 2006

Either I'm cursed, or my car is

OK, so I FINALLY get my car back. Let me tell you something, eSurance is also the Suxx0r. It took them an entire week just to send someone out to look at my car. Then, they pay me only $600 out of the $2,000 it cost to get it fixed (and I didn't even get the replacement parts painted, because they weren't going to pay for that since the paint on my car is chipping away as it is). I mean, WTF is up with these people? (Not to mention, I rented a car, for a weekend -- which I could have afforded, except I kept it for a little over a month--ooops!)

Anyway, so I get my car back last Friday. I'm driving back from the grocery store, and there are mad crazy thunderstorms all about. (One of my best friends, Stacey, lost her power due to the storm. She has some crazy pictures of damage that it did to her yard (mind you, this was just a thunderstorm!) But I digress....) So I'm driving back to the apartment that I'm not allowed to be in because it's my friend's and he's on Section 8 and he's not supposed to have people living with him (which is why I still consider myself to be homeless, especially since I'm sleeping on the living room floor!) and it starts pouring. And by pouring, I mean it seems like someone's taken a huge bucket filled with water and dumped it upside down, kind of like this image, but more intense.

And so then all of a sudden I see this rush of water coming down the street. It's a freakin flash flood for christ's sake! And to make matters worse, it's an urban flash flood. So the street literally turned into a river. And it hit my car as I was driving through it. But I did manage to drive through it and get up the hill. However, (you knew this was coming, right?) driving through the street-turned-river caused one of the belts for my engine to come undone. It was the supercharger belt. I managed to get back to the apartment, after waiting a very, very long time for a tow truck (and shelling out a few hundred bucks or so), after I tried to get back to the apartment by driving it, and quickly I saw that the car wasn't going to be drivable, as it had overheated in a very short period of time. Apparently, the supercharger belt not working has something to do with the car overheating. Anyone care to explain this to me, since the alternator belt (which drives the engine cooling system) was still working (although barely).

So what's the damage? Well, I already knew that I was having a problem with the belts because oil is leaking onto them, because, apparently, this $5 seal on the crankshaft is leaking, which has caused the crankshaft pulley to break, although the car still drives I'm not get as good performance/mileage/economy out of it, and it makes a loud clacking sound while the engine is running. So driving though the water caused one of the belts to come off, and the other belt to start to shred.

I got the car fixed today, but just to the point where it's running again. I still have to get the crankshaft pulley/seal fixed, and the A/C compressor is leaking which is why my A/C isn't working, so I need to get that replaced, and there's something wrong with the moonroof because it won't open anymore, but I'm out of money now. As in, I have no money. Actually, I take that back. I have negative money. So if you can, click on that donate button down there on the bottom right hand side of the screen, or use the button below (the right-hand sidebar, toward the bottom) and send some money my way!

23 July, 2006

Time Warner Cable is the Suxx0r

Time Warner Cable is definitely the Suxx0r.

OK. I'm back online with RoadRunner hi-speed. At first, I ordered AOL Broadband which provided the RoadRunner Intro internet connection at $25.95/month and that operates at 768/128kbps up/downstream, which, after having been accustomed to Cablevision's Optimum Online, which operates at 10mbps downstream and 2mbps upstream. So I basically had to upgrade to RoadRunner Hispeed, which offers a 5mbps downstream and 384kbps upstream. Not quite what Optimum Online offers but it's better than the Intro package.

And, while I was upgrading the Internet connection, I decided to order Time Warner Digital Cable Television service as well. I knew that I wanted digital television, and decided on the DTV Value pack, which offers all digital television channels available. I also ordered Showtime, because I really like their home-grown programming, and there was a deal that if I got HBO with it it came out to a good price so I got that, as well. That's $98.90/month for digital television and Internet (plus the charges for Showtime, and two cable boxes and two remotes). Now, mind you, with Cablevision, I could have gotten digital tv, internet, and telephone service for $29 each or a grand total of $87/month. Already, I'm not liking Time Warner too much.

So then I look on-line and see my statement (which hasn't come in the mail yet), and see that I was charged $19.00 and $9.95 for installation. WTF???? When I signed up for the television service, I checked the web site first, and verified with the telephone rep, that I would be getting free installation.

So I call up good ol' Time Warner Cable and ask to have the installation charges removed, because I was told that I'd be getting free installation. Their response: "Free installation for the first set only, not any additional sets." Again, WTF.

I asked to speak with a supervisor, and got disconnected. So now, I'm sending them this little ditty through their "Contact Us" web form:

I just checked my on-line statement, and your billing representative hung up on me and I can't reconnect with your billing department -- I keep getting disconnected. I asked to speak with a supervisor and that's when I was disconnected. I noticed that I was charged $19.00 and $9.95 for installation charges. I was advised (and responded to an advert that stated) that installation was FREE. To me, FREE INSTALLATION MEANS FREE, *NOT* "free for the first set."

Considering that the average American household has more than two television sets (source), this is misleading advertising, and I'd be more than happy to report it to Elliot Spitzer. I'd also be more than happy to cancel my premium services, and refrain from upgrading to roadrunner Premium, which I am contemplating. I pointed this out to your billing representative (who also helped me with a technical problem that I was having with ONE of my cable boxes ever since it was installed, which should help you track it down) and he advised me that installation charges aren't refundable, which is when I asked to speak with a supervisor and got disconnected while on hold.

So, I'd like to know if you are going to refund the approximately $30 in installation charges, or if I should cancel approximately $40 in recurring monthly charges and contact Mr. Spitzer.

Please advise.

Thank you for your time and kind consideration.
[/s/ Peter C. Frank]

Oh, and for the record, their web site doesn't say "free installation on first set only."

Now, if you were a big old corporation, would you decide to refund a one-time charge of $30 to a customer, or lose a potential of approximately $40 in recurring monthly income?

If cable television is ever deregulated, I'm switching to Cablevision in a heartbeat.

19 July, 2006

Traditional Media vs New Media: They just don't get it

I just posted this comment on The Malcontent web site, about a little spiff that they're having with a certain very famous person's ("VFP") legal team, because this certain VFP's legal counsel doesn't think it's a good idea for people to be writing about this certain VFP, especially when such writings aren't in the most favourable light.

What were some of those sayings about bad publicity?

There is no such thing as bad publicity except your own obituary. Brendan Behan, Irish author & dramatist (1923 - 1964)

The only bad publicity is NO publicity. P.T. Barnum.

Here's my post:
Given this kind of behavior, I think you should remove all references to the person in question, and whenever you write about her, just refer to her as "the person in question." Don't display her name on your site, and definitely don't link to any of her web sites. Why give her the free publicity?

This sort of 19th century thinking is exactly why the ventures being proferred by the people retaining this type of backwards thinking will fail. There have been a number of cases lately where traditional media just doesn't get the web, including a spiff between GM and the New York Times, a series of criticisms over the New York Times's criticism of online sociology, and others.

So, I think it'd be best if we all just ignore the person in question.

The Malcontent - Reviled By Many, Respected By Few » Never Pick Fights With Women Who Buy Pudding By the Barrel

Oprah Says She's Not Gay -- Yeah, Right

OK, I'm with Kathy Griffin on this one. I mean, what with Oprah Winfrey's BFF relationship with Gayle King, and all of their reported travelling and expeditions together ... mmmm-kay.

The blogosphere, of course, isn't buying it, either:

No real woman who has a man totes her "best girlfriend" to every darn thing, to EVERY very special event, etc. - TMZ.com

Headline of the Week: "Oprah: Gayle And I Are Friends, Not Lesbian Lovers" - Perezhilton.com (considering why Perez Hilton chose this as the headline of the week, I think it's pretty obvious what he really thinks of her statement....)

What do you mean there isn't a definition? Hello, it's called BFFs with benefits. - Jossip

More to come ....

Oprah Says She's Not Gay

18 July, 2006

GW Bush Is Always Good For A Laugh

I received this from a friend via e-mail:
Donald Rumsfeld was giving the president his daily briefing.
He concluded by saying: "Yesterday, 3 Brazilian soldiers were killed."

"OH NO!" the President exclaimed. "That's terrible!"
His staff sat stunned at this display of emotion, nervously watching
as the President sat, head in hands.

Finally, the President looked up and asked, "How many is a brazillion?"

(This is what happens when we elect a President who was able to garner only a 'C' average at Yale....)

17 July, 2006

A Letter To My Congressional Representative on the proposed Anti-Gay Marriage Amendment

This is a letter that I sent to my Congressional Representative, U.S. Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey, regarding my position on the proposed constitutional amendment seeking to ban same-sex marriage, which is up for a vote tomorrow:
[17 July, 2006]

Dear Congresswoman Lowey:

I understand that a vote is upcoming tomorrow on an amendment to the United States Constitution that would define marriage as existing only between one man and one woman. As one of your constituents, I strongly urge you to vote against this hateful amendment, as love, and families, are found in many different forms other than the quote-unquote traditional one-man-one-woman relationship.

Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits discrimination on the basis of, inter alia, sex and religion. Prohibiting marriage (which is a fundamental right, (Loving v. Virginia, 388 U.S. 1, 1967)) because both couples seeking marriage are of the same sex violates this provision, and a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting marriage on this basis flies in the face of the spirit of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Additionally, some religions allow for same-sex marriage. How can the US Government advise certain religions that their marriages are not to be recognized under U.S. law, while others will be? To me, this is the very definition of "discrimination."

Again, I strongly urge you to vote against this heinous amendment. I remember your vote in favor of DOMA back in 1996, and am still disappointed by it and your performance in favor of affording the same basic, civil rights to all citizens of our nation, regardless of their sexuality.

Thank you for your time and kind cooperation.
I just came across the fact that my congressional representative (Nita M. Lowey) did not vote on H.R. 3313, which limits federal court jurisdiction regarding challenges to the DOMA law, in essence stripping the courts of jurisdiction to hear such challenges to DOMA.

I've basically come to the conclusion that, like most politicians, Congresswoman Lowey doesn't want to take a strong stand and risk alienating anyone and therefore will just avoid the issue completely. To the best of my knowledge, she hasn't spoken out in favor (except in arenas where such speeches would be well-received, such as LGBT fundraisers) of the right of same-sex couples to marry. Of course, neither has she stated that she is against it. It would be nice, for once, to have a political representative come out and state, in public, and in a general public forum, of their support for same-sex marriage rights.

But by not coming out, in public, on one side of the issue or the other, she has, in fact, alienated at least one of her constituents -- namely, me!

No matter what side of the issue you're on (although I do hope you're on the side of justice and equality), please contact your Congressional Representatives to let them know how you feel!

QOTD / Being Homeless in Westchester County / Not worth growing older

"Decide? Some things in life you don't get to decide. Some things ... just happen."

--Ida Perkins
, 1988

(character played by actress Herta Ware
on the 80s hit sit-com The Golden Girls in the
"Brother Can You Spare That Jacket?" episode)

Other things that Ida said during the episode (paraphrased -- I can't remember them exactly, if anyone else can, please leave a comment!):

I didn't know that growing old would be such a curse.

Nobody told me that it takes money to grow old.

Given my life over the past year, and over the past five years or so, it's no wonder I identify so strongly with Ida Perkins.

I didn't get to decide to become homeless. I was kicked out of my home by my Uncle. Of course, nevermind the fact that my home is owned by my grandfather, not my Uncle (who lives in Wilmington, MA). But my Uncle supposed is a certified psychiatric nurse in the state of Massachusetts and has convinced my grandfather that it is for the best.

Never mind the fact that because of what my uncle did, I have to re-start the application process to get housing, which is almost non-existent in Westchester County. A New York Times article on the state of affordable/low-cost housing in Westchester County stated,
Our concern is that in the last few years affordable housing has disappeared off the radar screen.
There also have been a number of lawsuits against Westchester County regarding its lack of affordable and low-cost housing. The County even acknowledges the housing crisis (on its web site):
The lack of housing for working families with financial restrictions (our young people, our older residents, the employees of our corporations and our teachers, police and firefighters) - is one of the most critical issues facing our County.

So exactly what has been done about the housing crisis in Westchester County? To the best of my knowledge, and from my own personal experiences, not much. The 2005 Westchester County Databook, Housing Edition (note: Housing Edition is an Adobe Acrobat (PDF) file), holds the following information:

The Average Median Income for a 1-person household as of January 30, 2004 was $65,400. The reason that this figure is important is because it's used to determine eligibility for Section 8 housing. Westchester County has a web page that explains the eligibility and requirements for Section 8. Since Section 8 pays only 70% of the monthly rent, and in 2004, the average monthly rent for a studio apartment was $960, that means that the most that Section 8 will cover for a studio apartment in Westchester County is $672. Consider that studio apartments are quite rare in Westchester, and even then, one normally would pay more than $960/month for it, but Section 8 still covers only up to $672/month, so if one finds a studio apartment in Westchester for around $1100, and one is eligible for Section 8, one still must ay $428/month, and that's just the rent!

Add in electricity (the New York City region has the highest electric rates out of any municipality in the nation,( see the NYC Comptroller's report (PDF) and this lawsuit filed by the NYS Attorney General) and other utilities, and those on limited incomes are easily paying close to $1,000/month for subsidized housing. Considering that most people on limited incomes earn around $1,000/month, how can this be considered "affordable"?

In my case, I earn $1,155/month from Social Security Disability. Out of this, I pay $88/month for Medicare health coverage (and I still have to pay at least 20% of my health provider's bills, in addition to any amount that Medicare does not cover), as well as around $40/month for my Medicare Part D Prescription Drug Coverage. That least me with a whopping $1,027/month. Out of that, I pay around $100 for my phone, $300 for car insurance. Add in gasoline for my car (currently at around $3.55/gallon), and I'm spending around $600/month for basic bills. That leaves me with $400/month to spend on rent, and food. I spend about $100/week on food and prescription drugs (I still have to pay for a portion of my prescription drugs, even though I now pay $40/month for "prescription drug coverage" from Medicare -- what a ripoff!!!!) (I don't get any assistance for food, and I'm not eligible for any, but more on that later), so that leaves me with $0 for rent. Fun stuff, right?

Quite honestly, I really would be better off dead. Ida Perkins had it right -- it's not worth it to grow old, or to get any older.

16 July, 2006

I Miss Grandma

My grandmother died four years ago, today. I miss her. I doubt very much that I would be in the predicament that I'm current in were she still alive, today.

She died while I was in the hospital, so I never got to see her or say goodbye. She had fallen down in the house and broken some bones. She went to Greenwich Hospital, even though I had begged her to come to Westchester Medical Center, where I was (I was in for my depression/suicide, but at least I would have been able to see her). So Greenwich sent her to a nursing home for rehab, and they sent her to King Street Nursing Home. She had an aneurysm early in the morning, after a nurse came in and gave her her medications.

I really miss her, and wish I could be with her right now.