Saturday, December 31, 2005

My Wikipedia entry

Well, I don't have one (there is one for my last name), but if I did it would probably say something like this:

Josh Turiel (b. 1966) is a Boston-area IT consultant and general-purpose nerd. He currently operates a moderately successful Beverly, MA-based consulting firm (the eponymous JH Turiel & Associates, Inc.), serves on the board of the Greater Boston Network Users' Group, and generally has a far higher opinion of himself than he probably should. He has written a few technical articles for pay and lives in a big old house on Boston's north shore with his wife and 3 1/2 year old son. He weighs too much, plays far less golf than he would like, and drives a minivan.

I think that would sum it up pretty well... Happy New Year!

March of the Minivans

Last weekend, we went down to see my folks in Connecticut for Christmas (after an early unwrapping at our house first), and had a lovely time for the couple of days we got to spend there. Christmas night, I watched "March of the Penguins" with my parents (Jane and David watched intermittently with us). Interesting movie, not worth the hype though.

So this week, after returning I went straight back to work. On Thursday I went into Boston to take a new server live at one of my clients that is located right by North Station. So when I go there I usually park at the Garden (there's plenty of spots open during the day so long as you're out by 6) and walk over. This time, though, I didn't realize that "Disney on Ice" was doing two shows during the day.

I was in a long line going in - and looking at the crowd I realized that I was trapped in a March of the Minivans. Worse, though, was the departure. I left the client at 5:30, and made it to the Garden 10 minutes later. But there had been an afternoon show as well, and I was on the bottom level. It took me nearly half an hour to get out (trapped below the ice, essentially - like a penguin in the jaws of a seal). But the good news was finishing the year on a strong note.

I worked briefly Friday, then went with Jane (who had the day off) to meet all my ex-employees at a lunch for my former lieutenant - now joining the ranks of the laid-off from my old company. Bleh. Our staff of four IT people serving about 160 employees is now down to one person and a Illinois-based help desk for about 70 remaining employees.

On a better note, today we made a voyage to Ikea and bought David his Grownup Bed. It's a full-size bed that he should be able to hang on to until he's ready for college someday. And Ikea is an interesting experience. Everything's remarkably cheap, decent quality, and crowded. And the food in the cafeteria is surprisingly good, and also cheap. All in all a major success.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Whatever

As I mentioned earlier this month, the current Republican Christmas War is ludicrous. Period. Speaking from my perch as a total non-believer (I'm ecumenical - I believe all religions are equally wrong), I'm not in the slightest bit disturbed by being wished a merry Christmas (heck, I even usually spell the whole thing out instead of saying Xmas). Christmas doesn't bother me, I'm not threatened by it, and I couldn't care less if it's observed. We have a 3 1/2 year-old in this house - to us, Christmas is about Santa and how cool it is when a toddler magically gets presents that morning. I'm very excited about tomorrow.

But I know a lot of people out there don't like having Christian holidays thrust in their faces. Since the far-right lunatics are blowing smoke out their asses when they declare that we live in a fundamentally Christian nation (the Founding Fathers were, almost to a man, Deists, and deliberately erected the First Amendment as a wall along with not mentioning the word God anywhere in the Constitution), many people and businesses choose to be non-specific at holiday time. And that's fine.

I'm utterly convinced that Jesus had no divinity to him (I do believe he existed as a historical person). But I've read pretty much all the same stuff that the believers did, and were he around today he'd be deeply embarrassed by what these jackasses do in his name.

So have a happy holiday season, enjoy the moment, and try and do good towards your fellow man for a change.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Is it me, or was this truly stupid?

Today, I had to hang around the house for a little while this morning - my minivan was in the shop for routine service and a couple of minor problems. It was finished and ready by late morning. But I digress.

The reason for this entry is United Parcel Service. UPS is an important part of my wife's life - not because she's an eBay geek or anything, but because she works for A Giant Consumer Products Company from the Midwest, and she works out of a home office. They are constantly shipping huge quantities of product to her, and she, in turn, is regularly shipping products out to company reps in department stores across New England. In addition, she gets sales reports, marketing collateral, and all kinds of other stuff.

Yesterday, she shipped out 12 boxes of gratis product (freebies that reps can earn as incentives) that she re-packaged and shipped out in boxes re-used from other goods she's received. No problem, right? Well, while I was home this morning the local driver dumped one of the boxes back on our front porch - it had been rejected as "hazardous materials that were in discrepancy with the published description". Well, it's perfume. All 11 of the other boxes were perfume, too - and they got delivered, as do literally dozens of boxes per month. I was home, Jane was on the road, so she asked me to get to the bottom of it. I called UPS, and the initial agent was helpful - he told me that that was probably a mistake of sorts, and he'd get in touch with the right people to figure out exactly what went wrong. Meanwhile, he took my number for follow-up, and told me to go ahead and leave it on the back porch for re-pickup later in the day.

Fine, mistakes happen. So a little while later, I'm back in my car on the way to a client. And the phone rings, with a local phone number. It's someone in the local Lynnfield UPS office, calling to tell me that perfume most certainly is hazardous, and that if all the other boxes have gone without incident it must be because Jane wasn't shipping stuff properly. She'd have to declare all that going forward. I asked how it might be possible that Jane's employer, who was even farther up in the Fortune 500, could possibly be sending all this product out themselves without hazardous material declarations. And why hasn't a problem existed until now, anyways?

She told me that they'd have to discuss this with the company. Wonderful. I left the discussion by telling her that frankly I didn't care what their policy was, I wasn't interested in any follow-up, I simply wanted a reasonable answer as to why one package out of a dozen identical ones was rejected. She was unwilling to provide clarification any further. I told her that was fine - as far as I was concerned the two companies were more than welcome to have a pissing match over the issue - and if it resulted in (given the scale of this) thousands of shipments per day potentially going to another carrier I was going to put my money on the company shipping the products.

I considered telling her that the only way perfume bottles were hazardous was if they were shoved directly someone's ass, but I had positively admirable restraint. I hung up instead.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Reports out of New York...

According to reports tonight, Johnny Damon is signing a 4 year, $53 million contract with the Yankees. Bad move for Johnny, good move for Boston overall. Damon is a terrific ballplayer overall, with very good speed and a strong bat. He also covers a lot of outfield territory.

On the other hand, he's not a "true" leadoff hitter in many ways, isn't the base-stealing threat he once was, and has been very injury-prone the last couple of years, breaking down in the latter part of the season. He also has a horrible throwing arm, and in Fenway that's typically less of a problem than it is in Yankee Stadium. He's also now inked for a long-term deal as a center fielder in a game that rarely lets center fielders age gracefully (though he could always move to right in Yankee Stadium with the short porch).

Depending on what trade comes down the pike next for the Sox (the rumor is that we pick up either Coco Crisp from Cleveland or Jeremy Reed from Seattle in exchange for pitching), this could work out OK. It's too bad that Scott Boras simply guides his clients where the cash is highest - Damon's reputation and back story here would have easily made him a lot more long-term cash on endorsements and the like. In New York, he's just another ballplayer. Here, he was Caveman Johnny, the "idiot" who helped Boston win their first World Series in 86 years.

There's a definite difference in value between the two.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

One less reason to listen to the radio

Air America cancelled "Morning Sedition", which was, in my opinion, the best morning show left on radio. Growing up in the New York area, you were either a Stern guy or an Imus guy, and I was an Imus guy so Stern's never been an option for me. And Imus has lost his edge entirely, so I don't really listen to him anymore. All the other local morning folks are paleolithic right-wingers, so listening to them only pisses me off. Morning Sedition was perfect - the hosts played well off one another, the interviews were well-done, and the comedy bits were either funny funny or stupid funny - either way, I'd laugh at them.

Of course, since I like it the show had to go. Now the only things I have to listen to outside of sports talk are Stephanie Miller and Al Franken (and Franken isn't as good without Katherine Lanpher as his co-host). The only bright spot is that Mike Adams (who has deserved a full-time radio gig for years), finally got the nighttime spot vacated by the excruciating Ted Sarandis (good riddance!).

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

The warm orange glow, the BackUPS beeping...

As I sat in my chair, working on a minor issue for a customer, I suddenly noticed that the UPS units in my home office (I have three of 'em) started beeping like mad, and there was a bright orange light in my window. The lights in my room were flickering.

This couldn't be good.

I looked out the window, and burning like a flare was the top of the utility pole across the street. A distribution unit had blown out and was on fire, sparking and sputtering, lighting up the whole neighborhood. We were basically down half of our 200 amp service so far, with the remainder flickering on and off. I shut down the UPS units, calling 911 as I did so - they quickly got me to the fire department and as I reported it I heard them heading out already. Within a couple of minutes, a ladder truck, two police cruisers, and a National Grid (the electric utility) were already on my street. The firefighters just watched, and soon left - it was out of their area of expertise. The police blocked off the end of the street and let the lineman work.

First, he headed down to the other end of the street to cut power to the whole line. Then he cut it at my end as well. Meanwhile, the fire burned out and the failed unit (estimated by the lineman to be about 50 years old) fell to the ground in glowing pieces. He went up in his bucket truck and within 15 minutes had replaced the failed unit with a brand new one, and made all the cable repairs.

The entire incident, from the first flames to restored power, lasted less than an hour. In freezing weather on a Wednesday night. Those guys are good.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

A sad day for overeaters

I just read in today's Globe that Jan Companies (the local franchiser) closed their Saugus and Medford Krispy Kreme locations for good yesterday. I know they closed their Prudential Center one earlier this year. So if you're a fan (I like them OK, but mainly I've bought them as gifts for the local Apple Store folks), you'll have to go to Dedham at the closest for your fix.

Meanwhile, Dunkin Donuts continues its reign over New England virtually unopposed...

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Triumph at last!

Jane went out for dinner with a couple of friends tonight, so I'm home with David. After dinner, he walked into the other room, and then while I was on the phone with a customer who called, he called me into the bathroom for help - when I arrived, he had his pants and pull-up on the floor and he was climbing on the toilet...

And proceeded to drop a Nixon! Hooray!

I helped him clean up and told him how splendid he was. This was the first voluntary Nixon he'd ever done (the other two were through trickery on our part), and he was very pleased with the result. Maybe showing him last night how the toilet worked helped his decision today.

We'll be leaving the diaper bag home forever Real Soon Now!

Friday, December 02, 2005

Why I prefer arguing politics on my blog...

When you argue via a blog, you can actually use facts. It's nicer than simply working with dogma, which is what most right-wingers are doing. When I argue in person, my BS detectors get blown clean off by the lack of reality I'm typically countered with. And that just turns me, a normally articulate individual, into a stuttering fool.

This is how right-wingers argue so well on radio and television. Those of us who are in the "reality-based community" just have few effective counters for absolute howlers. We're better in print.