Millionaires Demand more money from the poor!

Posted in Personal Topics, World at 8:45 pm by Tomas

OK, the subject line is a bit over the top, but hear me out before you object too loudly.

Professional basketball, a consortuim of billion-dollar private businesses with million dollar employees going under the name of the NBA is at it again. (See THIS PREVIOUS POST for the last time they got my attention.)

I’m not a fan of the freaks in short pants, but when they again come begging ME for money from my fixed income to help pay for a playhouse for excessively tall multi-millionaires, they get my attention.

Very recently the NBA (National Basketball Association) Commissioner, David J. Stern, took us to task for not breaking our butts to pay for the Seattle SuperSonics getting a new place to play at public expense.

Here’s a brief news story about that:

PHOENIX – NBA commissioner David Stern warned on Thursday that if the SuperSonics leave Seattle he sees no way the league would ever return to the city.

“I’d love to find a way to keep the team there,” he said, “because if the team moves, there’s not going to be another team there, not in any conceivable future plan that I could envision, and that would be too bad.”

At a news conference following his announcement that the 2009 all-star game would be held in Phoenix, Stern criticized the city of Seattle and the Washington legislature for its handling of the issue of funding a replacement for Key Arena.

Stern repeated earlier criticism of the mayor and city council for promoting a measure, overwhelmingly passed by voters, that requires any funds to help build an arena earn money at the same rate as a treasury bill.

That measure simply means there is no way city money would ever be used on an arena project, Stern said.

He also lamented that the state legislature refused to even consider continuing a tax that helped fund Seattle’s baseball and football stadiums.

“To have the speaker of the House say well, they just spend too much money on salaries anyway, so we need it for other things,” Stern said, casts aspersions on the whole league’s operations. “We get the message. Hopefully, maybe cooler heads will prevail.”

He was referring to a remark by House Speaker Frank Chopp last February when funding for a new arena in the Seattle suburb of Renton was proposed.

“They ought to get their own financial house in order when their payroll is over $50 million for, what is it, 10 players? I think that’s a little ridiculous,” Chopp said at the time. “They need to get their own financial house in order and if they did, they wouldn’t have to ask for public help.”

Here is the very short letter I wrote to the NBA:


The subject choices for these messages gave me a starting point: Business of the NBA.

Recently Mr. David Stern commented about my state’s legislature not allowing additional taxes from the citizens of the state to help support a billion dollar enterprise with millionaire employees.

First off, it is NOT the “Business of the NBA” how our legislature taxes the citizens of the state, and definitely not Mr. Stern’s business.

As one of the folks who would suffer additional taxes to help support a private business composed of millionaires, I would be more than happy to let Mr. Stern assume all responsibility for the taxes he wishes the state legislature to impose on my limited fixed disability income, and in turn he can have any and all interest I have in seeing the Sonics or any other NBA team.

If the team can afford to pay multi-million dollar salaries to individual players, they can certainly afford, much more than I can, to pay their own costs for a place to play. Don’t ask ME to pay for it.

Mr. Stern: Go away, and please take the Sonics with you…

(And remember, guys, you all signed a CONTRACT with the city the LAST time we put together a place for you to play at public expense. That contract requires you to play in that place until a certain date. That date isn’t here yet. Suck it up, guys, act responsibly, and play out your contract where you said you would, the way you said you would. After all, that’s what let you suck money out of our pockets LAST time…)



Sometimes even with the best of intentions…

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion, World at 7:11 pm by Tomas

UPDATE 11OCT07: Just this morning the Regional Office of this manufacturer sent out an e-mail to those registered that they have arranged for parking 500 to 750 feet away from the dock. While this is good news, it is very late (two days before the event) and still rather distant. I wish everyone going on the cruise a wonderful time!

UPDATE 26SEP07: Since first posting this I have canceled my reservation for the cruise due to lack of adequate accomodation. 🙁


A manufacturer that I greatly respect and am very pleased with, has annual “Owner Appreciation” events around the United States that are free events to any and all current owners of their product. There certainly is no requirement that they do this, and the fact that they do it anyway is greatly appreciated.

Over the past three years I’ve attended these events, and greatly enjoyed them, and expressed my thanks – in fact the last local annual event I even worked the ‘entry’ position for a few hours directing hundreds of vehicles to proper parking areas and answering questions (didn’t get so much as a T-shirt).

Even with the best of intentions, though, some parts of the planning consistently slip through the cracks in these events (and others sponsored by the same corporation).

In six of the events sponsored by this corporation that I have had some part in, accessibility for handicapped individuals has been sadly lacking, and usually completely ignored, until they are sometimes rather pointedly reminded of the ADA and associated laws and regulations. http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/ada/cguide.htm

Some examples…

Two segments of a Seattle event for about 400 people took place about a half mile apart, with no planning for the needs of the mobility impaired in getting from one area to the other, then back to the first where their vehicles were parked. That same event had one pair of tiny restrooms about 300-400 feet from the center of the first area.*

Next year, parking was provided for the mobility impaired at both event areas, and there were many more restrooms provided at the first area – still 300-400 feet from the center of the area (admittedly a contractor error).

Another Seattle area event actually had handicapped parking – 700 feet from the door…

It is understandable that the able bodied don’t recognize the difficulties faced by the handicapped, and can easily overlook their needs. HOWEVER, when they are repeatedly reminded beforehand of the need to have accommodations for the handicapped and still fail to respond to those needs, it becomes obvious there is a deep systemic problem.

Another series of events is planned this year, and once again, during the early planning stages and many times thereafter, reminders that not everyone is hale and hearty were repeatedly sounded.

Again, little to no actual consideration for the needs of those with handicaps actually made it into the final plan.

The event this year is a dinner-boat cruise in the Seattle’s harbor and nearby Puget Sound. The boat itself actually has some accessible areas, but parking is an unplanned, ill-considered nightmare.

Attendees are told that the tour company has no parking, and that they will have to find either someplace on the waterfront streets to park, or perhaps find a parking lot or garage within a few blocks (one block is anywhere from 300 to 600 feet).

When the tour company was contacted directly for assistance/suggestions, here was the e-mail exchange:

From: Tom
To: Sales Inquiries
Subject: Accessibility


What arrangements are available for handicapped parking for a ‘customer appreciation’ brunch cruise (already scheduled) on the Royal Argosy? Can you provide directions to your closest handicapped parking?


Hello Tom,

There is no Argosy Cruises designated parking, handicapped or otherwise. There is public meter parking available across the street from Pier 56 on Alaskan Way that is free on Sundays. To the best of my knowledge, there aren’t any designated handicapped spaces. If you require special accomodations, you may arrange to drop off handicapped individuals in front of the Pier 56 building and then park the car elsewhere. There is a 15 minute load and unload lane on the west side (water side) of the street.

If you have further questions, please call Argosy Cruises at (206) 623-1445 and ask for Guest Services.

Argosy Cruises
Guest Services

Thanks for the quick response!

The problem with “drop off handicapped individuals in front of the Pier 56 building and then park the car elsewhere” is when the DRIVER is handicapped, and arriving solo.

I’ll refer this on to the folks doing the event planning for this 400 person bash, and see what plans they have for ADA compliance for the event.

Thanks again,

As is evident, this one also fell through the cracks.

Here is a portion of my inquiry to the event sponsors (in addition to including my exchange with the tour operator):

For Portland, the parking is obvious and easy, in a lot right near the dock (this includes handicapped parking right near the ramp, per the cruise operator).

In Seattle the parking is more complex. On street if possible, or remotely located open lots – in the waterfront area… Per the tour operator, they know of no assured close-by parking and no handicapped parking. Not only are some folks leery of parking [customized vehicles] on the street or even in unsecured lots in that area, but those with mobility limitations (there are a few) have no assurances they can get close to the dock. Some guidance and hints on where to park and what arrangements need to be made would be helpful.

As the time for the cruise approaches, with no reasonable solutions forthcoming, I will probably simply cancel my reservation.


* One of the typical requirements for getting a handicapped parking placard or license plate from the state is that the person has great difficulty walking 200 feet… See: http://apps.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=46.16.381


The (sad) State of the Union…

Posted in Personal Topics, World at 1:53 am by Tomas

When I was a kid, going to school (Yes, there were schools back then, now pipe down!), I was taught that the President’s “State of the Union” address was essentially his yearly “stockholder’s report” to the people of the country.

I’ve gotten a number of stockholder’s reports over the years. It strikes me that most them reported on what has been accomplished over the previous year, the status of ongoing projects, positives and negatives facing the enterprise, and an accounting of how the financials are right now.

A small portion is usually dedicated to future plans, positives and negatives that may be in the path, and a best guess at where the enterprise expects be at the next report. Checkpoints and goals are enunciated so we can observe progress – or lack thereof.

Keep in mind, now, that we, the people, elect our president (and others) to run the company for us, er, I mean run the country for us. They work for us, despite what they seem to think at times.

Because of this, we have every right to expect a yearly accounting of what has been done, what is being done, how the economy is doing and if the expectations from last year’s report have been met.

Instead what we just got from this temporary leader of the country is “none of the above.”

This particular president seems to feel that he is above all that, and that he, and only he, has any right to that information. It would never occur to him that he actually owes us an accounting of his past year’s performance. We pay him to do a job for us, and have every right to expect performance. In his address, there were no past accomplishments, no current progress reports, no listing of objectives met, etc.

We got all sorts of nebulous words telling us what he thinks needs to be accomplished in the future, but all presented without a plan of how to accomplish any of it. No concrete objectives, no goals to be met, no time frames, and certainly no outline of how he, personally, plans to accomplish all those grand sounding phrases. Sound bites is what they are called, I believe.

Trying to wring an honest “State of the Union” address out of this president is a lost cause. He doesn’t feel that he needs to report to us what he has accomplished, what he has failed at, and the current status of works in progress. We are just a bunch of rubes that fund the whole works, while He is “The Decider” and “The Educator.”

No matter if you are a supporter or detractor of the current regime, if you honestly look at the State of the Union address given by it’s leader, you will find it almost totally lacking in ANY hard information on the current state of the union.

Please, please tell me, that with millions and millions of people to chose from, this it NOT the best we can do. If this is the “best,” may God save us all – we are doomed.

Might I make a humble suggestion?

Please vote every chance you get. When you vote, please try to look beyond pretty faces or grand sounding rhetoric, and vote for the person who has a chance to do the best job for us all. We have some very rough years directly ahead, and we need folks in office who are up to the task, and who can see beyond their own over inflated egos to real needs and real solutions. We need people in office, working for us, who can make some hard decisions based on what is best for the country and world as a whole, rather than what might be best for their political party, their friends, and their ego.

Please try to get the best leadership we can, the finest minds, the most intelligent, moral and dedicated to the job at hand that we can find. We don’t have that now and we desperately need to turn this all around.

Thanks for listening.


“READ CAREFULLY. By reading this article, you agree, on behalf of your employer, to release me from all obligations and waivers arising from any and all NON-NEGOTIATED agreements, licenses, terms-of-service, shrinkwrap, clickwrap, browsewrap, confidentiality, non-disclosure, non-compete and acceptable use policies (“BOGUS AGREEMENTS”) that I have entered into with your employer, its partners, licensors, agents and assigns, in perpetuity, without prejudice to my ongoing rights and privileges. You further represent that you have the authority to release me from any BOGUS AGREEMENTS on behalf of your employer.”


Immigrants or criminals?

Posted in Personal Topics, World at 4:16 pm by Tomas

Most folks in the United States are historically recent immigrants.

Their families arrived from many places around the world over just the past few hundred years.

Looking at more recent times – let’s say, oh, the last 100 years, there have been rules to follow, conditions to be met, to enter most ANY country legally. The United States has such laws.

Today there are many recent immigrants demonstrating on the streets of the United States. Some of them are quite legitimate “legal” immigrants, who followed the rules, and some of them are “illegal” immigrants who’s very first action on entering the United States was to break federal laws.

“Illegal immigrants” are not even “immigrants” they are “illegal aliens.” I will use the correct term in the rest of this post. (As opposed to most of the national media covering the demonstrations today.)

When my ancestors came to this country, about a hundred years ago, they got permission, followed the rules, learned the language, became citizens, and did their best to blend in, to become an integral part of the society and culture they chose to migrate to.

(Sadly many of today’s immigrants refuse to even try to blend in, to become a part of this society and culture. They don’t even learn the language of their new country.)

The folks demonstrating today are doing so with the clearly declared goal of disrupting the functioning of the country and hurting the economics of as many businesses as they can to get their ‘rights’ recognized.

Even ignoring the fact that some are carrying flags of foreign nations where such demonstrations would not be allowed (and would be met with a military response), these are for the most part foreign nationals intent on injuring the United States with their actions today.

I have no objection to immigrants coming to this country and becoming a part of it – so long as they do so legally. I, myself, come from immigrant stock.

Do we have a “right” to keep people out of the United States? Yes we do. All countries do. The United States is a country that has always welcomed immigrants that followed our rules – and rejected those who intentionally subverted them.

Illegal aliens only “rights” are to be treated fairly as we eject them back to their own countries.

I guess my bottom line is that my objection is to illegal aliens – the foreign invaders currently marching on our streets in the millions – demanding a ‘path to citizenship’ and ‘health care’ and ‘free schooling’ and all sorts of “rights” that THEY SHOULD NOT HAVE AS PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY ILLEGALLY.

There is already a ‘path to citizenship’ for aliens, a path to all those marvelous rights: LEGAL IMMIGRATION.

Legal immigrants have by our laws the right to most everything any citizen does.

Illegal aliens do NOT deserve those “rights.”

Last year nearly 8,200 illegal aliens PER DAY poured across our southern border with Mexico and hid themselves in the cracks and crevices of our society. Think about that. Nearly ten thousand each and every day that came across the border illegally and stayed. That does not even count the number who went, or were sent, back where they came from.

Should millions of foreign nationals purposely disrupting the basic functioning of our country be viewed as “OK” or should that be viewed as an attack on our country?

Either way, what “rights” do you want to give to the millions of illegal aliens (just another term for criminal, since their first act, entering the country illegally, broke laws and made them criminals)?

Legal immigrants deserve, and receive, many rights. Illegal aliens should only have the right to be ejected.

Most legal immigrants work hard to become a part of this society. Illegal aliens want shortcuts.


PS: We also need a law declaring ENGLISH as the official language of the United States. When I walk into a business I want to be able to speak in English and be understood. (At least I don’t demand they speak Polish, my family’s language.)

So many immigrants today do not view the US as a ‘melting pot’ made stronger and more vibrant because we all bring our backgrounds and blend them with all the others, but as a place where they can keep to their ways and languages, even their own laws, and ignore the culture and society they chose to be in.

That is NOT what makes us strong. Not at all.


Getting Serviced…again {UPDATED 04-06-06}

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion, World at 8:03 pm by Tomas

It seems there are fewer and fewer people with any personal integrity about just doing their jobs right. More and more often we seem to end up disappointed if we expect someone to just do something with honesty or craftsmanship. Repair work seems to be especially lacking in even a modicum of workmanship and pride in a job well done at many shops.

Having someone work on a vehicle is especially frustrating.

Without further comment (and redacting last names and e-mail addresses), here is a note I just wrote to the salesman who sold me my vehicle…


Hi, Lyle.

Why does one so often get upset with the utter lack of quality in service and repair jobs? Is it just that the people doing the jobs don’t feel responsible for doing the job they are being paid for?

(This isn’t YOUR problem, Lyle, but it IS Titus-Will’s problem. I’m not one who asks to get “something for nothing,” but I DO feel that I should get honest, quality workmanship for money spent. When I don’t, I make noise and if I’m bothered enough, I endeavor to make those who did a lousy job as publicly uncomfortable as possible.)

Sunday, on my way home from Canada in my xB, I had a rather large rock hit its windshield, kicked up by a truck in the construction zone on 405 in Kirkland. 🙁

It was large enough, and hit hard enough, that it actually broke both layers of the windshield – right in front of me, the driver.

I pulled off at 124th in Kirkland to inspect the damage, and called my insurance company (Hartford). For glass damage, they have “SafeLite” field the calls for them.

I scheduled my vehicle for the first available repair time, which was today.

When the SafeLite technician removed the old windshield, we both saw that there was a fair amount of rust along the pinchweld at the top of the windshield. Closer inspection showed deep gouging of the paint and metal where the windshield had previously been removed for replacement. Those gouges had obviously not been primed or sealed when that job was done, which explained the rust on my vehicle at only 5004 miles.

The only work on the windshield was done a year ago when Titus-Will Collision Center replaced the hood and windshield because of vandalism.

While the SafeLite tech continued to remove adhesive from the frame, and clean the area, I called the Titus-Will Collision Center. I explained the problem, the young lady who answered said she would have “Pat” call me right back. That was at 1:07, and Pat called back at 2:37 (times per my cellular phone log).

I explained to Pat what the problem was – rust around the windshield caused by damage done to the vehicle while in the care of Titus-Will Collision. Pat remembered me, and my Scion xB, and even recalled having the windshield replaced twice while there, because the first replacement had totally unacceptable workmanship.

Pat asked if the new windshield was in yet (yes it was – the SafeLite tech is paid by the completed job, not the hour, and was on a schedule) and then asked if the rust was visible with the new windshield in place. I told him that no, the rust was not visible now that the windshield was installed, and that the SafeLite tech had put some sort of black ‘primer’ over the rust to try to protect against further damage. When Pat suggested I should have called before the new windshield was put in, I told him that I had – an hour and a half earlier.

Why am I writing this detailed narrative about finding hidden damage to my vehicle?

It is because, first of all, there is no excuse for it. None.

Secondly, putting primer over the rust by the SafeLite tech may or may not prevent further rust. If it does not, SafeLite specifically does NOT cover any problems because it was a pre-existing problem caused by someone else’s poor workmanship.

Since SafeLite has now replaced the windshield, my third reason is that Titus-Will can, and I expect will, simply look at any problems they caused as being moot because someone else has worked on that area and it is no longer their responsibility.

This leaves me, the owner of the vehicle, shouldering the responsibility for potential further deterioration and expense caused by the hidden damage to the vehicle while under Titus-Will’s care.

While Pat did promise to put some sort of note in my file about this, and told me to bring it directly to him should I have any further problem with the rust, I expect to have this vehicle for longer than I expect Pat to be at Titus-Will – and certainly for longer than he will remember anything about one insignificant vehicle out of thousands.

This narrative is my attempt to record details ‘for the record’ and a start at making folks as publicly uncomfortable as possible for shoddy workmanship and sloppy quality control.

What I expect when I pay for service is honest dealing and quality work. When I experience questionable honesty and/or poor quality workmanship, I become an unhappy customer, and a noisy one, in a very detailed manner.

Since this isn’t something directly under your control, Lyle, I don’t hold you responsible for this, BUT since you are a part of the organization, I would ask that you pass this on to folks there more directly concerned and responsible.

For now I need to write this up for further publication in the nation’s largest and busiest Scion site (ScionLife.com, where I am a moderator) and for publication in my personal Blog.

Take care,

I will let you know, right here, if there is any sort of response, or if my ‘complaint’ simply falls on deaf ears.

Tom's 2005 xB


I got a call from Lyle in response to my note. He did contact the manager of the Collision Center to discuss it, and the basic response was that Titus-Will Collision didn’t do the work (it was sub-contracted by them to another company) and they can’t afford to have someone watch everything the other company does.

While both statements are true, they in no way absolve Titus-Will of any blame.

Lyle also asked me where the “rust spot” was located and I explained it was NOT a “rust spot”, but a groove, gouged through the paint and into the metal, in the recessed area behind the windshield glass seal from about the top-center of the windshield to the top driver’s corner of the windshield, and that it was an interrupted line of rust 15-18 inches long and 1/8 inch wide. I also explained, again, that this was on a previously undamaged area of the vehicle, and that the damage was done when the vehicle was under the care of Titus-Will and hidden rather than corrected.

I was told by Lyle that the next time I need to have the windshield replaced, I should bring it in to their shop and they would look at it.

Sadly, we, as a family, have dealt with Titus-Will for decades, but as this is the ‘third strike’ in just over a year on this one vehicle, that likely will be changing. I like some of the people there, Lyle, Al, Elizabeth, for example, but as a customer I expect quality workmanship and honest dealing. If the ‘company as a whole’ fails in delivering, it doesn’t matter if I like the people there or not. I pay for results not friendship.

There are three other Scion dealerships reasonably close, I know some of the people working at two of them because of the dealership’s activity and strong support of the local Scion community. I will be considering one of those.



Military draft in the near future?

Posted in World at 3:55 pm by Tomas

In another forum I frequent (and moderate), that has a large majority consisting of young US males, there has been a discussion recently about the potential for the military draft to return in the United States. To put it bluntly, none of the folks commenting, young or old, are in favor of that.

The current biggest reason for the concern is how thinly the US military is spread right now, with no expectations of it getting better, only worse. Add to that the news items that keep coming up that the military services are having a difficult time meeting their recruitment goals with qualified volunteers, and the question of the US again going to conscript troops must come up.

Our biggest problem tying up our military right now is, of course, our invasion of Iraq, and our current attempts to put back together what we broke. (Anyone who thinks that the conditions for the citizens of Iraq are better now than before we went in there and took out their most recent dictator has not been paying attention.)

We really don’t appear to have any plan on how to extricate ourselves from this quagmire – the longer we are there the worse conditions get, quite honestly. Our military there are targets simply from the fact that they are there. This also makes ALL of us, worldwide, targets to some extent.

Quite seriously, a couple hundred thousand military folks from the other side of the planet (US Military) are really unlikely to change the way that part of the world has been run for over 4000 years.

That area has always been run by assorted warlords and religious leaders each intent on their own goals. This goes back to the very, very earliest of the recorded history of the human race.

That sort of deep cultural and societal drive can NOT be changed by outsiders overnight. It just isn’t going to happen. Sorry.

What makes the president think that in a couple years a few people, who don’t understand the cultures or even the languages, can change that kind of history, culture, and society in any significant way? Hubris!

The truth is, this president doesn’t even understand the enormity of the problem he’s stuck us, uninvited, in the middle of. To add to his non-knowledge of history, and cultures, he has no serious understanding if strategy, tactics or anything else military.

His best path would be to find the absolute best people he can in the disiplines involved, and give them the job of doing the best we can within our means. Not every problem can be fixed with just bailing wire, bubble gum, and bullshit.

Anyway, back to the draft: If we continue along the path our president has us locked into, we will need more quality ‘volunteers’ than will come knocking at his door. That means he must recruit folks who don’t WANT to be recruited. That means the return of the draft.

With a lot of luck that path will be changed and we won’t have to go there.

(Just for interest, when I was in Viet Nam and finally got to know the people, I finally understood that the vast majority of them didn’t really care who won the war. They didn’t care what government they were under, or what ‘system’ that government professed. All they wanted was for everyone else to go away and leave them alone so they could go back to living quietly and honestly, raising rice and little babies.)

I guess I’ll close with a couple of quotes from Heinlein. I could put 20 of his here that would apply and be correct. I’ll stop at just two.

What are the facts? Again and again and again – what are the facts? Shun wishful thinking, ignore divine revelation, forget what “the stars fortell”, avoid opinion, care not what the neighbors think, never mind the unguessable “verdict of history” – what are the facts, and to how many decimal places? You pilot always into an unknown future; facts are your single clue. Get the facts!
–Robert Anson Heinlein (1907 – 1988)

No state has an inherent right to survive through conscript troops and in the long run no state ever has.
–Robert Anson Heinlein (1907 – 1988)


It’s time, again, for me to remember…

Posted in Personal Topics, World at 7:01 pm by Tomas

ALAN DENNIS CURTIS was born on July 13, 1948 and joined the Armed Forces while in WOONSOCKET, RI.

He served in the Air Force. In 1 year of service, he attained the rank of A1C/E3.

On December 6, 1969, at the age of 21, ALAN DENNIS CURTIS perished in the service of our country in South Vietnam, Binh Dinh province.

You can find ALAN DENNIS CURTIS honored on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial on Panel 15W, Row 31.


He was one of the kids under me who did not see his mum again. He died from a single shot in the night.


Curtis, I remember you and salute you. You were so young. You were kind. You tried. You did your best. One cannot ask for more.


Last Assignment, USAF, AAVS 600PS Det16, RVN
(Click for larger image.)


A bit more on Cellular Phones

Posted in Personal Topics, SprintPCS, World at 2:27 am by Tomas

Lets talk about cellphones a little bit, OK?

My requirements for a cellphone are not super high-tech, or out of reach to today’s technology, they are really rather simple: I want my cellphone to be first of all a PHONE. I’m not after a low resolution digital camera, I’m not after an even worse video camera, I’m not after a micro web-browser, or e-mail device, or a postage-stamp sized TV, or a portable audio recorder, or an MP3 player, or a PDA, or a GameBoy, or a walkie-talkie, or a portable FM radio, or a flashlight, or a wireless modem, or a whatever else they are going to be putting into the latest “cellular phone.”

What I want is a high quality voice telephone with a high quality, full duplex speakerphone with adequate fidelity and volume to be useful in a vehicle. I expect this phone to have long battery life (which should be a snap with all the “extras” left out), reasonably compact (ditto) and reasonably rugged.

If it is a ‘candy bar’ phone (non-folder) I want to be able to lock the phone with one touch (not four levels down on some menu) so bumping a few keys won’t initiate a call, and I want to be able to unlock it quickly with a four digit PIN.

If it is a folder, I want to be locked when closed with no buttons active on the outside.

I want to be able to answer a call even when outgoing is locked.

I want the phone to be happy with being dumped in a pocket.

I’m willing to pay decent money for this phone.

Instead, what do I get offered by my carrier? Ever more elaborate feature sets on their “better” phones, or cheapo ‘entry level’ phones if I don’t want all the whizzbang features.

The closest I can come in my carrier’s most recent offerings (SprintPCS) is the Sanyo SCP200. It actually has a duplex speakerphone and is minus most of the extra features. Thing is, it is an ‘entry level’ phone, and the speakerphone volume and fidelity really shows it. *sigh*

Right now I’m using an old Sanyo 4900, which has a very solid speakerphone that works great from it’s clip on my car’s dashboard. It even has great battery life (seven hour talk time).

Sanyo 4900 phone on dash

It works well, and I even have a ‘spare’ should this one fail. The only bad features are in the locking of the phone (cannot lock directly – must search down several levels in the menus) and it’s size/weight. It is a fairly large and very heavy phone.

Actually, I would even be willing to accept some of the ‘extras’ I disdain above if the phones in the US were chosen from some of the better designs available in Japan. Sadly, the well designed yet inexpensive phones like the Talby by Sanyo (a designer model with speakerphone, 1.3M camera, web browsing, messaging, etc., that sells for $150) never make it into this country.

Sanyo 'Talby' cellphone

There are many other fine designs out there, by many manufacturers, but mostly the hideous silver-painted plastic blobular designs make it here.

Anyway, my biggest question is: Why don’t we have available a selection of high quality cellphones designed solely for making phone calls???


Is Tomas enough of a geek?

Posted in Personal Topics, World at 7:30 pm by Tomas

I have seen interesting stories on how various people arrived at the F/OSS (Free/open source software) supporter outlook they now have. A very typical end-user path is from Microsoft Windows to Linux; Microsoft Office to Open Office; and Microsoft Internet Exploiter, er, Explorer to Firefox.

I didn’t follow that path.

I’d guess I was lucky in that I never used Microsoft Windows either at work or at home.

That’s right, not once in over thirty years of using computers…

Work Computers

For years, both in the military and in my later civilian jobs, I was just a low-life end-user, neither knowing nor caring what operating system the computer was running, just worrying about remembering how to talk to the doggone thing.

Then, because I was an engineer familiar with the jobs our new massive “TIRKS” (Trunks Integrated Record Keeping System) application would have to handle, I was put into the beta testing and user-support team for TIRKS for my state (along with about 15 others).

TIRKS ran on IBM and Amdahl mainframes under AIX and UTS (the UNIX flavors those big pieces of iron ran) and kept track of millions of designed service circuits in our region and all the bits and pieces that made them up.

After about a year or so of sorting out user problems, Bell Telephone Labs came calling, wanting someone to write a series of manuals for use when installing and testing Analog Data Services in the Bell System. I was one of three people recommended in our four state area (because of some user manuals I wrote for TIRKS), and ended up being chosen by the evaluation team that came out from New Jersey from AT&T and BTL.

The time I spent at the Labs was my REAL introduction to computers, as all of the BSPs (Bell System Practices) were written using the ‘ed’ or ‘vi’ editors and the ‘nroff’ and ‘troff’ formatters in UNIX.

When I walked into my newly built office in New Jersey I was given a slip of paper with my user_ID and Password, handed the UNIX III manuals, and given a quick overview of my HP terminal with built-in thermal printer.

I learned what I needed to know about UNIX and it’s built-in utilities fairly quickly, and found ample information and experts scattered about to learn some other things, too. Actually, the usual mix of folks at the Labs, mostly uber-geeks, were always playing tricks on each other, so learning many of the ins and outs of UNIX was just self-preservation. 🙂

When I finished researching and writing that series of manuals I went on to help develop and then write some of the documentation required for the breakup of the Bell System by the Federal Court under Judge Harold H. Greene.

When I returned to what was left of the telephone company, I went back to engineering, and ended up developing, engineering, and directing installation of high-speed digital services equipment at customer’s premises (we installed some of the very first T-1 lines to customers). My engineering district got it’s computer support from three mainframes running specialized applications under AIX, and our 219 Apple Macintosh desktops.

During the years that I was an engineer, project manager, and engineering manager in that group I ended up writing quite a few simple shell scripts I and others used throughout the day, and a couple of very minor “C” programs for our use.

When I left that company, I and a friend started a small consulting and design firm – he was the people person and I was the techie – and up until I had a stroke and could no longer do that we and our employees used Macs.

Home Computers

At home, when I returned from Bell Labs, I bought my first “home computer.” Since all I knew was UNIX I bought a UNIX based machine – a Radio Shack TRS 16B+ running Xenix 1.0…

That machine not only was my “home desktop computer” but also was a mail and USENET server for myself and a few friends I gave dial-up accounts to. It was a happy little machine with a few Hayes modems, and a full load of RAM – all 768K of it…

Over the years I added a TRS Model 100 laptop and assorted Macs. Until recently I still had that original UNIX engine, and the laptop, but I shipped the UNIX engine off to a small ‘puter museum in Illinois this year.

Here’s a pic of Boris in the back of my Scion xB getting ready for the ride to the shipping company.

Boris in Box...

These days I just run a small wireless LAN with four machines on it, three desktop Macs and a Mac laptop. All four machines access the world via a high-speed cable internet connection.

Sufficiently Geeky?

As you can see, I’m not really a computer geek, merely a computer user. I’ve never had formal computer training. I view my computers as tools that make it easier for me to do other things, not as ends in themselves. I certainly am not a programmer.

As you may have noticed, I didn’t mention Linux.

I remember when I was still a serious UNIX end-user hearing about some guys trying to put together a UNIX-like kernel while blindfolded and wearing earplugs (OK, that’s an exaggeration, but not by much), but I didn’t really give them much chance for real success.

I really did appreciate the idea of “GNU” and “GPL” and, eventually, “Linux” but never got involved in any real way. I was a BTL UNIX and BSD UNIX and Mac OS type.

Over the years, I pretty much wandered away from UNIX as other end-user, GUI oriented operating systems became more and more useful. I’ll admit, though, I was quite pleased when Apple decided to base their latest OS versions on a flavor of good old freeBSD.

While using Mac OS X I’ve acquired quite a fair assortment of F/OSS applications – and most of them were excellently done. I was very pleased to be able to directly support the developers by buying their commercial products or optionally making ‘donations.’

So where am I?

I didn’t follow the most common route to get where I am with computer use – in fact I’ve NEVER used Microsoft Windows even though at one time WHG III and his company were clients. I started with UNIX, went to Macs, and eventually came full circle when Apple based it’s latest OS on UNIX.

So, am I, too, a F/OSS supporter? I don’t use Linux, I use a proprietary GUI (Aqua) on top of an open-source OS (Darwin) along with a mix of both proprietary and open source applications and utilities.

I don’t know if I’m allowed to be a F/OSS supporter or not.

Sometimes the more radical sorts of F/OSS uber-geeks seem to insist that using ANY proprietary software leaves me with the unwashed.

Others are not so critical.

At least I can say that in over 30 years of computer use I’ve never used Microsoft Windows (though I did use Xenix, which was the Microsoft port of UNIX III to desktops).

These days I run my little LAN as a “Microsoft Free Zone” and maybe that will at least give me a day-pass into F/OSS land… 😉

What do you think?


I’m a Frapper…

Posted in Personal Topics, Scion, World at 10:16 pm by Tomas

Google has another neat new beta project going – www.frappr.com

It is a “friends map” to show how you and your friends (people with some sort of common interest) relate geographically.

Right now the only Frappr Map I’m a part of is one started up by David (skybiker) at ScionLife.

It is an interesting project in showing the distribution of ScionLife members (at least, those members who sign up), and therefore Scions.

You can look at the ScionLife “Frap” here: www.frappr.com/scionlife


« Previous entries Next Page » Next Page »