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May 31, 2008

SPOT my location, please.

Recently I was looking at Electronics at REI.  I ran across this personal locator beacon, that was fairly inexpensive, called the SPOT Satellite Personal Messenger.  This little box has a GPS receiver and a satellite transmitter all in a ruggedized and simple case.  If you are in danger, you can press the 911 distress buttons and it alerts their emergency operations center.  But the cool feature is that it can be used to "check-in" with your location, which gets forwarded to your designated SMS and e-mail recipients.  

 

I would love to see an SMS or e-mail to APRS-IS gateway that for a device like this.  Could you imagine the search and rescue implications for hurt hiker or boater to give their exact coordinates to the SAR staff this is trying to rescue them.  Heck, this might even be a wonderful tool for people that are outside of normal phone service range that just need a reliable way to signal their need for help.  It isn't complex, nor can it send complex messages, but a location and a distress signal is worth every penny you pay for it when you really need it.

 

Mortality and leading a good life

Over the last few weeks I've been thinking about how short life is and the importance of how you treat people on a daily basis.  Last October, one of my favorite undergrad professors, John Long, passed away of a heart attack.  He was truly an intelligent,  kind and insightful man. 

When I am older and look back at my life, I hope I can have the impact of a man like John.  While I was a student at Chico State he probably worked with a few hundred young people, if not more.  Over the period of his life he touched thousands and positively affected the thinking and careers of all who were under his tutilidge.  Whether you try or not, you do affect the world around you.  You don't have to be a truly selfless person, just try to balance what is best for you with what is good for the world around you.  

I scanned this in from the CSU, Chico Alumni Magazine:

John Long Obituary 

May 29, 2008

Highway Robbery

My employer is pretty decent overall.  But for two years or so they engaged in a practice that I am pissed off about, even to this day.  This is such a minor thing, but as I'll explain, it is big money...

 

In my understanding of California state employment law (IANAL), an employee can accrue or be granted vacation/paid time off, which is measured in hours.  These hours are owned by the employee, and in the case of termination, they must be paid out at the hourly rate of the employee (salary divided by 2080 hours) on the last day of employment.  A lawyer could state it better and I am just relying on some AEA employment law seminars I took as a manager several years ago.

So here's the rub, upon getting a raise, my employer would recalculate the amount of hours an employee had on the books by converting the hours to a dollar value (the old hourly rate), then taking that dollar value and dividing by the new hourly rate.  The better you did, the higher the raise, the less vacation you would get to keep.  I think this may have been a disincentive to keep vacation on the books, but the problem is that is isn't necessarily legal. 

I'll make a generic example.  Many of these numbers are based onn assumptions/guesses at and are just for visualization.

  • ($25.00/hour) * (120 hours of vacation) = $3000

If we assume a 5% raise yearly

  • ($3000) / ($26.26/hour) = 114.3 hours of vacation

So, the employee just lost 5.7 hours of vacation and the employee has lost $149.63 from what their vacation should be valued at in California.

Let's assume that there are 5000 employees in California and the above calulation is average

  • (5000 employees) * ($149.63) = $748,150

Wow, that is a quarter million dollars...  I wonder where that went...

The company has since stopped this policy and complies with employment law in California as far as I know.  The sad thing is that most likely the average hourly rates are probably higher and the amount of vacation time banked it most likely higher. 

This sort of reminds me of the Salami Slicing scheme used in Superman 3 and later referenced in the movie Office Space...  there goes my money once slice at a time. :)

 

Links:

 


May 28, 2008

It is a joyous day to be alive

One of our favorite family members, Duke the dalmatian, has had a pretty rough patch in the last few days.  Due to some surgical wizardry and lots of love, he's on the road to recovery.  We thought we were going to lose him on Sunday, but he pulled through and is now ambulatory!  Duke has a will to live and is fighting back against the cancer that has caused him all this suffering.

 

Thanks to Christie for the wonderful phone cam pictures that made me smile!  For those not initiated into the ways of vet medicine, the fashionable mesh garment Duke is wearing is not just for aesthetic purposes, it is to help keep swelling down and to protect the sutures on his stomach.  

Thank you to all who have emailed or called with kind wishes for Duke's recovery, it was those good thoughts and prayers that kept him alive through everything. 

Flickr Photoset: http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaron_anderer/sets/72157605311980987/ 

There are other wonderful reasons to smile today, but I'll save those for a later date. 

Update 5/31/2008 - Duke is still doing well, but his rear end is still very tender.  A bit wobbly, but his appetite is back.   

Update 6/3/2008 - Duke's bottom isn't healing like it should.  Most likely another surgery tomorrow. :(

Update 6/5/2008 - He had another surgery yesterday.  Things look really decent and he's in great spirits.  The doctor has us adding metamucil to his food so he'll have more solid stools and has a whole new scheme for using gauze pads to protect the suture sites but still keep it dry and free of fecal matter. 

Update 7/12/2008 - He's out of the woods.  After four surgeries and countless visits to the vet, Duke is on the mend!  He's a bit wobbly, but back to his old self.

May 19, 2008

Cooling off on a hot day

Other than getting called into work over the weekend, we were able to enjoy a bit of the almost triple digit heat with a swim.  In our family, the dogs swim as well, and they happen to enjoy it as a way to cool down.

 

Check it out in the Flickr Photo Set:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/aaron_anderer/sets/72157605131360552/

May 18, 2008

Something to be proud of

I am a lover or all things lolcat, so when I heard about this mural, my heart skipped a beat.  San Francisco finally has something to be proud of ;)

 

link here: http://laughingsquid.com/the-worlds-largest-lolcat-invisible-bike-mural/

the ichcb original: http://icanhascheezburger.com/2007/01/26/invisible-bike/ 

 

May 16, 2008

So easy, even a CAVEman could do it

I was talking with a friend about NIMBYism out in the various 'burbs that we live in.  While Not In My BackYard is a pretty common term, my friend sent me a link to an article that had more terms that I ever imagined.  Ric Stephens is an urban planner in Portland, Oregon that also happens to be a blogger.  His listing of terms is very amusing and  available here:

Here are my favorites:

  • CAVEman: Citizen against virtually everything.
  • BANANA: Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anything
  • DUDE: Developer Under Delusions of Entitlement

 

May 14, 2008

Blazin'

In the Internet world of humor memes, Denny "Blazin" Hazen stands alone.  He possesses the duality of being laughed at and with at the same time.  He was recently showcased at ROLFcon, but he's been blazin' the internet scene for years.  His rap stylings are in some ways amusing.

 

While Denny has had more than his 15 minutes of fame, I don't see this lad going away any time soon.  I don't know why I refer to him as a lad, as he's probably several years my senior, but using that word is somewhat comforting.  I'm going to type a few sentences here and most likely make no sense.  Blah Blah Blah.  Is anyone reading this?  Probably not.  Anyways...  Denny's music and antics have lightened the mood in the office during some stressful times.  His music is somewhat like Christian Rap, but without Jesus and quality, with all the humor remaining as a fortified super-concentrated nugget.

 

May 02, 2008

Web 2.0 troubles; Tangible memories of 1.0

The dot-com 1.0 meltdown was awful, and I hope that when the 2.0 bubble bursts, people are able to find new employment and stability in the valley.  Thinking about all this impending doom and gloom about a 2.0 burst, I've transported my mind back to an easier and simpler time, the year 2000.  It was already a few months in and guess what, no nuclear holocaust, no flickering electrical grid, no contaminated water, and just a few hundred thousand personal web pages that were computing that it was 1900.  Not so bad, eh?

The 1.0 company that holds a place in my heart forever is WebVan.  Officially it could be acceptable as a time management  tool for the busy professional, but truly it was an enabling tool for the chronically lazy.  I'll paint a scenario for you. I'd schedule a late evening delivery with my groceries for the week.  I'd get home from work at about 6:30, get a knock on the door from the cheery WebVan driver at about 6:45, and at 7:00 my groceries were put away.  I was in a magnificent cucoon in my Sunnyvale apartment.  Far from the hurried crowds at the Albertsons, far from the cries of babies and the chatter of soccer moms.  The produce was top notch and well picked.  Did I mention that they delivered beer as well?




I know that Safeway does this type of delivery service in my neighborhood now, but I'm in a different place in my life.  I want to go out and experience my surroundings.  I want to hear the chatter or my neighbors and their kids as they melt down in aisle 7 over a box of pop tarts they aren't allowed to have.  Life outside the consumption cucoon is so much more rewarding, and sometimes very amusing.