31 December 2007

New Year's Resolutions for 2008

I really don't know what all the fuss is about. I think that if one is going to make a resolution, one shouldn't have to wait until the New Year to do so. But as is custom and tradition, far be it from me to go against the grain (actually, it wouldn't be far from me to do so but, I digress....).

So keeping in mind that I find the entire notion of resolutions for the coming New Year to be ridiculous and out of place, especially considering the abysmal failure rate in keeping one's new year's resolutions (maybe more people should read some articles on how to keep your new year's resolutions), here are my resolutions for the coming 2008 New Year:
  1. Eat more and Weigh less
  2. Shop more and Spend less
  3. Earn more and Work less
  4. Compute more and use less Energy
  5. Be more tolerant of Intolerance
  6. Start, then Quit Smoking
  7. Stop to Smell The Roses, then Cut and Sell them
  8. Get Drunk but don't get a hangover
  9. Help Others more but Give Less to them
  10. Keep Everything but Throw Out the Clutter
  11. Pay Off Debt with less income
  12. Get an education with no money (down)
That's all I can think of for now but I'll add more as I can think of them.

[Update 1 2007-12-31-5:14pm EDT] Leave it to the folks at The New York Times to be just as cynical about New Year's Resolutions as I am; the title of their article, Will Your Resolutions Last to February, speaks for itself. But just in case you don't quite get it, here's a little preview:
Four out of five people who make New Year’s resolutions tonight will eventually break them. In fact, a third won’t even make it to the end of January.
Oh, and for your amusement (especially if you're planning on getting as sloshed as some of my friends are), here's a little video humour to welcome in the New Year (I think one of these girls might be one of my cousins....)


For my Gather friends, return here to post comments.

24 December 2007

Little Love Among Matchmakers - New York Times

Little Love Among Matchmakers - New York Times

It's amazing the sort of news that one can find in those "non-essential news sections" of the newspaper, e.g., Lifestyles, Culture, Theatre, Travel, Technology, Business, etc. I usually tend to avoid the "regular" sections of the newspaper, e.g., local, national, and world news, as all too often these days, the stories are just too depressing.

For instance, the last time I dared venture a look at the regular news section, the first article I came across was about the teenager who shot and killed nine people and then himself at a mall in Omaha, Nebraska. I mean, who can deal with this kind of information shoved into your face when all you're trying to do is keep abreast of current world events? It just makes my depression dovetail.

So with that in mind, I pretty much stick to the relatively less sensational and more boring sections of the paper, such as the Business, Technology, Life, Culture, Travel, and other such sections. And it is there that I came across this wonderful gem:

The online dating service Chemistry.com plans to unleash a new campaign that seeks to depict its older and larger competitor, eHarmony.com, as out of touch with mainstream American values. The ads, which will appear in weekly newspapers and magazines starting Monday, attack eHarmony for refusing to match people of the same gender and for the evangelical Christian beliefs of its founder, Dr. Neil Clark Warren.

Ah, how sweet the melody of this musical reporting. I've always held that eHarmony.com's refusal to match couples of the same gender, e.g., gay/lesbian couples, was a choice they made on their part. I've lost my records on this via theft but when they first came out and I contacted them as to why they didn't offer gay/lesbian matching, their response was that the research of their founder, Dr. Warren, was targeted specifically at heterosexual couples and he had done no research as to homosexual couples and therefore they couldn't offer such services, or something along those lines.

Well, what a load of malarkey if ever one were to be had! As if what gay/lesbian couples seek in a relationship is so different from that which hetero couples seek. If one is seeking a relationship, I believe that the aspects of one's personality that these sites use to match users with others will basically be the same.

The eHarmony.com's response as to why they don't match couples has changed over time. Now, according to the article, this is what they're saying:

“EHarmony’s matching system is based on psychological data collected from heterosexual married couples, and we have not offered a service for those seeking same-sex matches. Nothing precludes us from offering a same-sex service in the future, but it’s not a service we offer now.”

Bingo, bango, mingo, mango (or however that goes)! They've basically come out and said it now. It's not that they can't do it, it's that they choose not to do it. And why do they choose not to offer their services to gays and lesbians? Probably because of the evangelical religious beliefs held by their founder (this is my opinion, in any event).

So way to go, chemistry.com; I'm hoping that you'll draw tons of eHarmony's subscribers away from them. I recently had a friend disclose to me that she subscribed to eHarmony's services. When I told her that they refused to offer their matching services to gay/lesbian individuals, she told me that she would drop her membership in protest and demand a full refund.

Now, with chemistry.com's aggressive advertising campaign to set it as the leader in matching services for all individuals who desire a relationship, she has another route to follow. And so, hopefully, does everybody else who doesn't feel like being chastised for not adhering to the evangelical christian beliefs to which eHarmony.com subscribes.

18 December 2007

The NYTimes on Google v. Microsoft (a brief overview)

The New York Times just sent an interesting article to my Inbox. Here's a paragraph from the article that, I believe, explains fairly well its gravamen:

The growing confrontation between Google and Microsoft promises to be an epic business battle. It is likely to shape the prosperity and progress of both companies, and also inform how consumers and corporations work, shop, communicate and go about their digital lives. Google sees all of this happening on remote servers in faraway data centers, accessible over the Web by an array of wired and wireless devices — a setup known as cloud computing. Microsoft sees a Web future as well, but one whose center of gravity remains firmly tethered to its desktop PC software. Therein lies the conflict.

There have been a number of articles online about the growing battle between Microsoft and Google--David (Google) taking on Goliath Microsoft). One of the odd things about this analogy is that Google is described as being a David when it is anything BUT. Granted, they're not the evil corporate empire that Microsoft has become, and hopefully they never will get there.

What is interesting to me is the manner in which Google is battling Microsoft. They're not exactly using what most would consider to be "white gloves" tactics; they're playing just as down and dirty as the rest of corporate America. The difference here, however, is in the goals that Google seeks to reach, and that they haven't to date gotten too "down and dirty."

Considering that Microsoft and Google both offer a number of competitive, comparative products, and that people tend to have preferences, which do you prefer, and why?

I believe my preference is fairly obvious but in case it isn't: I'm definitely a fan of Google, in large part because Google has--again, to date--used its clout and resources in order to comply with its corporate philosophy to "Don't Do Evil" and not only have they managed to not do evil, but they're aiding and abetting others in who battle evil. For instance,

The fact that Google's actions have traditional analysts, such as Scott Cleland, all up in stitches is, to me, definitely a good sign. It seems that American corporations have become all too obsessed with the almighty dollar, with turning profit, and have all but forgotten the basis (and most important part) of their business in the first place: the customer. Thankfully, that fate has not yet befallen Google, and I hope that Google's Corporate Philosophy (which is rumoured to have been incorporated into their by-laws) will enable them never to fall prey to that trap.

Google provides services that the customer wants, and for a reasonable price. In doing so, they have become one of the largest and most successful global companies in the history of business. Even though they charge pennies to the dollar that other corporations, such as Microsoft, charge their customers, Google is experiencing exponential revenue growth. And I firmly believe that it all has to do with their corporate philosophy. This is something that people want and, as more and more people around the world come to terms with technology and are better able to access it, I believe (and hope) that Google will be the winner of this battle.

For another take (or perhaps a similar one; I just spotted the article) take on this battle of the giants, take a look at this C|Net article.

[Updated 18 December 2007, 5:45am]:

I had to put this update in, I just found on the web, because this further exemplifies why Google is, by far, my company of choice for all things Web. David Berlind, Executive Editor of ZDNet, recently blogged about some of the recent changes that have occurred with Gmail, Google's (primarily) web-based email service, and when you read his blog post, you'll find out why I have "primarily" in parenthesis. Here are some excerpts from his post:

One of Google’s core philosophies is that user data should never be held hostage. We want people to be able to take their data and do whatever it is they want with it. This isn’t something that’s really standard for e-mail services. Particularly Web mail services that rely on ad revenue. There’s a risk if you let people get their mail in Outlook or some other client that they’ll stop using the Web interface and they’ll end up just reading their mail in a desktop client. We believe that if we give users the best possible product and if we create a good Web interface, and let them use their data in these clients like Outlook or like their BlackBerry, that they’ll overall have a better experience and be happier with the product. So, we’ve made a point throughout Gmail’s history to give people this freedom with their data.

. . .

Regarding the updates to the underlying Javascript engine, Coleman talks about how, as a result of those changes, not only has the Gmail team been able to add eight new features in as many weeks (colored labels [mentioned above], keyboard shortcuts, instantly opening e-mails [via prefetching], integration of AOL Instant Messaging, group chat, etc.), but about how the pace of change will be very fast which means a great many more enhancements (barring foldering capabilities, none of which Coleman would let slip in the interview) are coming Gmail’s way (some experimental, some not). However, one feature that’s here now, that Coleman did slip-in, is that the storage limit for users of Gmail currently exceeds 5 gigabytes. [emphasis supplied]

I just checked my Gmail account and, sure enough, I have nearly 6GB of storage space that's being provided for me. How neat is this?

17 December 2007

AIM and Gmail Integration

Gmail (Google's free web-based email service that offers tons of storage) has just introduced AIM integration into its chat feature. Provided that you're able to access Gmail with chat enabled (at the bottom of your Gmail screen, make sure you're using the Standard view), users can now sign into AOL Instant Messenger and chat with all of their AIM buddies right from within their Gmail window.

This is totally awesome news for me. I no longer have to launch AIM just to chat with a few people who I haven't convinced to use Gmail (stubborn, they are at that!). And this means that I'll basically havce another 75kb or so of free memory to run other applicatoins on my system.

The only hitch, and it's a very small one at that, is that you'll need to have an AIM account separately from Gmail in order to use this new feature. If you're an old AOL user or you have an AIM account, that's great; if not, just go over to AOL Instant Messenger and create one--it's totally free!

Here's a the announcement from Google's Press Release:


December 4, 2007

Now chat with your AIM buddies inside Gmail

In February 2006, we integrated real-time chat into the GmailTM email service. Our goal was to let users switch between email and instant messaging without having to think about which they were using -- we even kept a history of chats and emails together in conversation threads so you could view and search both without worrying about whether your conversation happened as an email or a chat session.

But we know many of our users also have friends who use other chat services such as AIM.

So today we're rolling out a new feature to make it even more convenient and useful to chat from Gmail: you can now chat with all your AIM buddies right inside Gmail. Just click on the upside-down triangle next to "set status here" in your Gmail chat and select "Sign into AIM" from the drop down menu. Once you've entered your AIM log-in information, your AIM contacts will appear intermingled among your Gmail contacts, and you can select an AIM contact and chat with them directly.

This is just one of the first new features we're able to launch using Gmail's new code structure. This is rolling out in the newest English version of Gmail first and will be available in other languages soon. We're always looking for new and useful ways to help our users connect with friends, family, and coworkers, and we look forward to your feedback.

For more information or to start chatting, just log in to Gmail at www.gmail.com.

And be sure to check the Gmail Help Center for assistance with this great new feature, including instructions on logging into and out of AIM via Gmail.

Needless to say, I was pleasantly surprised when I discovered this ability this morning. :)

16 December 2007

Pandora radio from the Music Genome Project

It is said that music truly is the universal language; perhaps there is truth to this statement because music is both mathematical (and we all know math to be a universal language) and emotional at the same time.

Case in point: I was listening a new station on Pandora.com (clicking on this link brings you to my profile page on Pandora). Pandora is the free Internet radio service where

  • you can create your own station by naming just one/song artist, and Pandora will use the Music Genome Project to discover related works that it think you might like,
  • you can vote individuals songs and artists into/out of your stations,
  • you can create an unlimited number of stations,
  • you can share your stations with your friends and the rest of the world,
  • you can see who else is listening to any particular song/artist at the moment,
  • you can get information about the currently playing song/artist/album with one simple click,
  • while Pandora goes about playing new content it thinks you might like, you can purchase the song from iTunes or Amazon.com, as it's playing, right from the Pandora interface), and
  • where you can do all of the above completely free of charge (except for purchasing the music from iTunes or Amazon)

I called my new station "The Crooners Station." As you may have guessed, I set up the station to play all of the great oldies from the greatest Crooners--both male and female--that America had to offer: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Billie Holiday, and Bette Midler.

So I was pleasantly surprised when my new station played Barbra Streisand's People. I haven't heard this song in such a long time and, as always is the case with Babs, it was sung with such flawless execution and heartfelt emotion that I'm glad I wasn't in public because I was basically falling apart at the seams, overwrought with emotion. And how great is a radio station where you tell it that you like Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Billie Holiday, and Bette Midler, and it's able to determine that there's a good chance you'll like Barbra Streisand, Fred Astaire, Perry Como, Ella Fitzgerald, and Peggy Lee?

This is one of the many songs that's able to do this to me and it got me to thinking: are there any songs out there that hold a significant emotional value for you? Over songs do you end up coming apart at the seams? Post a comment and let me know which music takes you on that emotional rollercoaster we all so desperately want to avoid 99% of the time.

And as I'm writing this, another of Babs' songs is coming on that's bringing tears to my ears (I just made that up--whaddya think, tears for your ears?): Somewhere (Live from her The Concert - Act 1 double- CD set. And what was just as moving as Babs' singing was the statement that she made reflecting her views on diversity and equality (how the world would be such a boring place if we were all the same, how we should all embrace each otehr's differences but be treated equally, etc.), before she blossomed into song.

So head on over and give Pandora a listen; if you enjoy listening to music, I'm confident that you'll find something to suit your tastes there. And while you're there, check out my profile and see the stations I've created. And let me know if you create any stations so I can check out your musical tastes, as well!

14 December 2007

Identity Theft Protection Support Corporation at 1-866-575-0260

I'm really about to blow my gasket. I mean, after everything that I've gone through over the past month with having to straighten out my financial accounts (which, to this date, still aren't straightened out but at least they're on the way toward getting there now), I almost had a stroke when I received an email alert from my bank, letting me know that my account had gone below zero.


This is getting to be quite ridiculous. My bank account is less than two weeks old, as I had to open a new account with my bank (which, thankfully, they were able to do for me even though I have no identification because they had all of my ID on file already and were able to confirm my identity through my ID on file and also by asking me questions that only I would be able to answer) as my old account has been frozen due to fraudulent activity on it that Louie Rivera committed while I was in the hospital this past October/November and all of my possession were left in his care (it's a long story, and I've pretty much run through it in a few posts on Gather.com).

Now what's really weird about this is that the only entity I'd given my new banking account information to is Social Security, so they could re-send my SSD payment for last month to me, as last month's payment was returned to them by my bank as my accounts had been completely frozen. And if you've been reading my blog for some time now, you know that I know my way around computers pretty darned well and am not like most people who don't know what they're doing, and my computer is locked down almost to be almost bullet-proof against unauthorized usage and access.

Now here's the thing: the reason my bank account went into the negatives is because an ACH Withdrawal in the amount of $31.98 was made to my account. I called my bank to find out which entity made this illegal transaction on my account and, get this: the only information provided with the ACH transaction was a phone number: 866-575-0260. So I did a reverse lookup on the phone number and nothing came up. I then decided to Google the number and bingo bango! A bunch of web sites popped up, all of which basically were complaints about a company withdrawing money from individuals' bank accounts without their permission.

So as I'm waiting on hold for someone to answer the damned phone, I'm reading more and more accounts of what's happened to these poor saps and my blood pressure is just rising and rising. So finally, after about a half hour of being on hold, someone answers the phone and the first words out of his mouth are that he's asking me for my social security number.

Hold the phone, motherfucker! You just illegally took money out of my checking account and you think I'm going to give you a piece of information like that? What the hell kind of crystal meth are you smoking?

So then he asks for my checking account number and, since they already had that, I figured it couldn't do any more harm. He spends about ten minutes typing into the computer, without saying anything, perhaps thinking that I would hang up or something but my Scorpio was out and looking for some nice flesh to sink its poisonous stinger into.

So then this guy tells me that I submitted and online application on 13 December 2007 for identity theft protection services. I ask him for the name and address and time of submission and whether or not he has the IP address used to make the application. There were a number of inconsistencies:
  1. The name turned out to have a hitch in it, although I didn't tell him that. The way it was listed is not the way that I would ever use my name in a formal document, contract, application for services, etc.
  2. The address used was that of my bank account, not the address I use as my mailing address (since I still don't have an address of my own, I use other peoples' addresses, with their permission, instead).
  3. The application was submitted at 9:54am. At 9:54am yesterday I was, essentially, comatose. The sun, after all, out and I had retired to the comfort and safety of my coffin. My computer was safely locked down with multiple passwords that no one has ever been able to breach, and these passwords are changed on a random basis, at random intervals.
  4. If you're truly a firm established to protect the identity, and prevent identity theft, of your customers, why would you ask for their social security number as the first words out of your mouth?
  5. Even though they gave me the IP address that my computer currently was using, it had been reissued a few hours prior thereto as the cable connecting my laptop to the cablemodem keeps falling out and it had fallen out while I was taking a nap.
Keep in mind, folks, that at no point in time did I fill out any application for identity protection services or any such thing. I know how to protect my identity and I also know of groups that will take certain actions on your behalf, free of charge. Additionally, I knew that I only had a few dollars left in my checking account, so why would I allow my account to be overdrawn for something that I so was not in need of (I mean, I could understand if I wrote a check to the grocery store b/c I was hungry and had no food but identity theft protection services? it's all bogus....).

So long story short, I asked if they were going to refund the money that they illegal took from my account and was told that they wouldn't do that since they had a valid application in their possession and suggested that I go to the police if I wanted to have this matter investigated. So now I know that this is definitely not Kosher.

Now, as far as these other complaints that I'd found on the Internet, well....here's some of what they've said:
This number has charged my account! I didn't authorize the charge and when searching through the web and found this:

"The first flag that went up was the phone number given to me by the bank (charter one) for the company that charged my account. When calling the number given me i.e. 866-585-0620 a gentleman immediately explained that the number i am trying to reach is 866-575-0260 not 0620, so it lead me to believe that there was fraud envolved immediately, then when you call the correct number you get a long message about credit card theft and idenity theft and then you get several minutes of music that fades in and out leading you to belive you are losing the signal. If you are persistent, then finally a telemarketer who explained to me that he was sitting in a suite with several other minimum paid workers manning phones and trying to sound professional until questioned. He gave me much information. He told me the owner of the company is jay thomas who is conviently on vacation but didnt know where. He gave me his complete address where he was speaking to me from which i have included with this report including his fax number. He told me to report the fradulant charge to my card that was not authorized by myself to the police department and then fax this to him and once this was done they would take the charge off.
It would seem to me that charter one seems to be the target whether they are lax in their security or otherwise, it seems that most fraudulant charges stem from their banks."

This is almost exactly what happened to me!
I didn't receive a call but, phone# 866-575-0260 appeared on my bank statement with a withdrawal for $31.98 IDINS. I have called twice and listened to the recording that a representative will be with me shortly. Hold time 20-30minutes. I want my account credited immediately. My bank has been alerted of fraudulent charges.
So I've already filed a fraud complaint with my bank but it's a pain in the ass for me to have to keep doing this! And, of course, let's not forget about the overdraft fees that my bank is going to charge me, which will push me further into the negative balance.

So I'm writing this as a warning to people out there. I don't know what company it is that's doing this but if you see the phone number 866-575-0260, run, run away as if the devil is hot on your tail and get as far away from them as possible!

12 December 2007

Jodie Foster comes out... finally - Times Online

Wow, this is something I really wasn't expecting, nor did I know about. My good friend, Stacey, must be totally wet by now. I'm going to have to get her a bib for all the drooling she's done over Jodi in her life. But I would like to respond to some of the comments in the article:

Jodie Foster comes out... finally - Times Online
“It is her life to live as she pleases. Why do so many gays worry about who is and who is not gay?” asked one reader.
The reasons that so many gars worry about who is and who is not gay are, I believe,
  • We like to know that we might have a chance withe the people we're fantasizing about
  • When people come out, it helps erode the hatred and prejudice in the form of homophobia. Most people who are homophobic either themselves are gay or they just don't know any better. For those who don't know any better, and I know I'm making sweeping generalizations here but for the most part, they're accurate, these are the types of people who watch Oprah and are influenced by celebrities. So when a famous celebrity comes out, it sometimes gives these people pause and they might just rethink their feelings/beliefs toward us gay folk.
  • I can't think of anything else right now but if you can, just leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail and I'll update this post!

Another Hospitalization, A New Notebook Computer, Social Networking

OK, a bunch of things for this post. And I know it's been a while, except for those few posts that I was able to send from my mobile phone. And why, one might ask, was I posted text to my blog from my mobile phone instead of my computer? Well, this three-part article that I just posted on the social networking site Gather.com might explain things.

I'm really beginning to like Gather. It's a social networking site that combines the functions and features of blogging into the more traditional social networking sites, like Google's own Orkut (view my profile there), all the while incorporating a rewards program similar to that of MyPoints.com. Essentially, You can find out all about Gather, and how it rewards users for participating, from their FAQ page.

And if you think Gather sounds interesting and you'd like to check it out, please use my personal invitation link to join; I get points when people sign up to Gather using my invite link. And points can be turned into rewards, once enough points are accumulated. Pretty nifty, eh?

So now that I'm back and I have a working computer again, hopefully I'll be making some updates to my blog here. I've got to get the template into something that the new Blogger can deal with, so expect a redesign at some point in the near future.

In the meantime, check out that article on Gather as to why I was hospitalized, and hopefully this will be the last time.

02 December 2007

My Brother

[Updated 13 December 2007 to clean up some of the crap that my mobile phone sent when I published this]

I'm sending this from my phone and can't tell if the link to the
article i just posted on gather.com is showing up but i'm working
under the assumption that it's there. if you can't get to the article
please let me know. thanks.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Hi there,

Peter (needs a new laptop) C. Frank sent you an article.

My Brother, by Peter (needs a new laptop) C. Frank
Ok i'm kind of freaking out right now. my mom called and left me a
message that my brother was in an accident and someone died and i
tracked him down to the right hospital but they're not releasing .
. .

View this article here:

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your unique voice shine through the articles, images, reviews, or
audio you publish. We'll even compensate you with Gather Points(TM).
Being rewarded for something you'd do for free? Now that's a pretty
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Sent from Gmail for mobile | mobile.google.com


"People are stupid; given proper motivation, almost anyone will
believe almost anything. Because people are stupid, they will believe
a lie because they want to believe it's true, or because they are
afraid it might be true." ~Wizard's First Rule, axiom by Terry
Goodkind (US Author, 1948-)