Thursday, September 16, 2004

Late "breaking" news

Sorry I haven't responded to any comments today. I have a huge deadline at work and my typing has been slowed a bit. It's hard to type when your right thumb is BROKEN. That's right, the amazing Brian has done it again. "How could you possibly break your thumb?" I hear you ask. Playing basketball. "What feat of clumsiness caused this?" you undoubtedly follow up. Oho! It was not clumsiness but extreme dexterity and timing. *grin* You see, were it not for my ninja-like reflexes, I would not have deflected that pass so close to its point of origin with my thumb. And the resultant direct hit on the top segment of my thumb would never have occurred. So, if not for my great agility, the bone in my thumb would not have broken between the first joint and the nail.

In case you are curious. After the amazing steal, I did score my teams first basket. Even with a broken thumb. Then more people arrived an I bailed in favor of X-Rays.

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Monday, September 13, 2004

100 Things about me...

A friend of mine passed along this little exercise to me. You have to try to list 100 things about yourself. It's far more challenging than it looks. As you start to list more things, you are forced to think a bit more about yourself. Granted you could cop out and put things like height, weight, hair color, eye color, the names of all your teachers from K-12, etc. But if you go with the spirit of the thing, it works out pretty well. Now, I'm not suggesting you all post your lists here. You are welcome to try, but I think there is a length limit on comments.

Ok, here's my list in no partiulcar order. I'm assuming this has to be things that most people don't know about me, so I'll skip some of the obviuous.

1. I used to sing in a men's acapella group.

2. My favorite food is Thai.

3. I love to dance, but when I do, I look like a demon scarecrow on acid.

4. My second toe is longer than my big toe.

5. My favorite sports to do are bicycling, basketball, and football.

6. No matter where I live, I'll always be a Red Sox and Patriots fan. (You'd be amazed how many people questioned me about this when I said I was moving to CA)

7. I used to do community theater and miss it very much.

8. I've been doing Improv for over 15 years and am hoping to find a group to do it with out here.

9. Once, when I was stage manager, I had to go on for one of the leads because he got pneumonia just prior to the final weekend of the show.

10. I STILL play Dungeons and Dragons.

11. I was once called a Marxist in a blog discussion, though I like to think of myself as more of a responsible capitalist.

12. I'm just getting into public storytelling and had a gig at the Chelmsford Library before moving.

13. I just sold my Magic the Gathering collection after 12 years and my comic book collection after 25 years! (This made Lynnea very happy)

14. I can't wait for Harry Potter 6 to come out.

15. We homeschooled Maya for 2 years. We just enrolled her in a bilingual (English/Spanish) charter school.

16. I have a Sheltie named Nala

17. My first car was a 1990 Buick Skylark. That was the year with the defective paint job, so all the paint peeled off it.

18. Of the cars I have owned and disposed of, none of the three were working when I got rid of them.

19. My current car is a 1996 Toyota Camry with 93,000 miles on it.

20. I have now lived in three different states: MA, MD, and CA.

21. I wanted to go to school for theater but my parents talked me out of it.

22. I've written two plays. Looking back on them, I still like one.

23. I play basketball almost every day at lunch.

24. I need to get back into weight lifting.

25. My middle name is Scott.

26. I met Lynnea (my wife) because I was her pledgemaster.

27. My favorite current TV shows are Alias, West Wing, and CSI.

28. My favorite no longer on shows are The Smothers Brothers, Babylon 5, and Laugh-in.

29. I've never had a traffic ticket. *knock wood*

30. I have run in exactly one road race, a 5k that I didn't train for. I finished two seconds ahead of Lynnea. ;-)

31. I am one half of "The Rappin' Rabbis". The other half is now a pediatrician in Orlando.

32. I really like amusement parks.

33. I can no longer go on the rides that spin around without getting motion sick.

34. I am a certified open water diver.

35. In the past few years, I've become really prone to seasickness, which sucks if you are trying to dive.

36. I've recently discovered that I like mowing the lawn, provided it is not too huge.

37. I like just about any style of music except gansta rap and country.

38. I have acted in London, England and Edinburgh, Scotland.

39. I went to Israel when I was a teenager.

40. The closest I have come to terrorism was to be in a building the day before it was blown up.

41. I have three sisters and no brothers. Lynnea has three brothers and no sisters.

42. I have an autographed copy of "Last Chance to See", Doglas Adams' book about endangered species.

43. I've known how to program computers since I was in high school.

44. Some of my favorite authors are Douglas Adams, Terry Pratchett, Robert Lynn Asprin, and William Shakespeare.

45. I used to play the trumpet and still do occasionally.

46. I was the town sheriff in this year's San Diego Renaissance Faire.

47. I now own my very own Renaissance Garb, complete with thigh high leather boots!

48. If I could go back to school for anything it would either be a PhD in folklore, or a PhD in mathematics.

49. I don't like Sushi. (And yes, I have tried it)

50. I had professional wedding pictures done at the Jefferson Memorial on July 4th with the fireworks in the background. Without a permit.

51. My parents are still married as are Lynnea's.

52. My shoe size is 10.5.

53. I have never had a hangover (*knock wood again*) though I have been drunk.

54. The three times I was most drunk were because of women.

55. My bachelor party was at an Irish Pub where we ate great food, drank good drink, and sang 'til the wee hours of the morning. No strippers.

56. I'm no good at darts. This is particularly true after several drinks at a bachelor party. (Don't ask me why they let us have pointy things you could throw in our condition...)

57. I consider my parents my friends and enjoy spending time with them.

58. Lynnea and I took the kids on vacation with my parents and we were all still on speaking terms when it was over.

59. I've never tried any recreational drugs other than alcohol and nitrous oxide.

60. My favorite musical is Les Miserables.

61. I've seen it in Providence, Boston, and London.

62. I passed up a full scholarship to any MA state school to go to WPI and take out massive student loans.

63. I taught myself to juggle while I was stuck at home with the chicken pox.

64. I was once accused of being a cop by some drug dealers and lived to tell the tale.

65. I worked as a security guard at a George Carlin concert.

66. I work with lasers.

67. I'm a registered independent.

68. I was in Florida on vacation during the 2000 Presidential election.

69. I like to cook and bake.

70. I was once in a car accident while dressed as Caesar Rodney, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence. My makeup was pretty extensive to make me look like I was dying of cancer.

71. Back before the really scary days of terrorism, I managed to get extensively hassled by airport security because I looked suspicious. I was wearing a black
turtleneck, black dress pants, black shoes and socks, and a black leather jacket. I also had a three day growth of stubble. I was on crutches. They took them apart and sniffed my shampoo.

72. I like to parody songs.

73. Not surprisingly, Weird Al is one of my favorite recording artists. I own more of his albums than I do of any other artist.

74. I once modeled in a fashion show.

75. I'm a brother of Alpha Phi Omega, a co-ed service fraternity.

76. I'm on my sixth job in under 10 years. All of the changes have been voluntary.

77. I cut my own hair. Lynnea does the touch up work.

78. I have a finely honed sense of sarcasm.

79. I like to read out loud to my children. And they like to listen.

80. I am not one to be typecast. I have played a scientist, a woman, an African Explorer, one of the founding fathers of our country, and a giant, talking blackbird as well as many other things.

81. I don't like gory movies.

82. I showed up to the first day of kindergarten and told my teacher "There's nothing you can teach me. I already know it all."

83. While I was living in Maryland, I mailed my grandfather in Massachusetts a letter to tell him how much I loved him. He died before the letter got there.

84. I gave Emo Phillips directions in Edinburgh, Scotland.

85. When I was little, I had to have 18 stitches in the back of my head. (THAT explains a lot)

86. While in Toronto, I won one of those REALLY big stuffed animals on my first try at a carnival game.

87. My first non-kiddie rollercoaster was Space Mountain, when I was in high school. I got tricked into going on it. (Thanks B.O.B.)

88. I once held Top Secret clearance.

89. My ethnicity is Russian/German.

90. I've lived in New England for most of my life and have never been downhill skiing.

91. I've seen Peter Gabriel, Genesis, Rush, and Sting in concert. I've also seen the Beach Boys and the Bee Gees.

92. I still have a TI 99/4a stored away in the attic. As far as I know, it works.

93. I once dated sisters, though not simultaneously.

94. In my teen years, I worked at McDonald's and was awarded the Silver Spatula.

95. Children and animals generally like me.

96. My spatial awareness is not very good. I frequently walk into or bump some part of my body on walls, doorways, and other things.

97. I have been married for 9 years.

98. When I was a boy scout, I successfully completed the mile swim.

99. I came one thesis short of a master's degree in Fire Protection Engineering at the University of Maryland. My grant ran out of money and they wanted me to work for three months for nothing while they tried to renew it.

100. I really enjoy card, board, and word games.

Man that was hard! It took me like four days to make
this list. Any other takers?

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Thursday, September 09, 2004

More California Differences

Having been here a little longer now, I'm starting to appreciate some of the differences beyond East and West being backwards to me. The latest thoughts revolve around the time difference. It's an adjustment to think of the folks back home as being three hours ahead. I was talking to my sister Sara-Anne yesterday as I drove home at 5:15. Her husband had just called to say he was leaving work. My first thought was that he was leaving early for a change. Well, if he had left at 5:15, that might have been true. However, he left at 8:15. Doh!

The time difference also makes the free calls after 9pm feature of my Verizon plan pretty useless. There's nobody I'd call that isn't in a time zone one or more hours away. Bleah.

There is a benefit to the time zone difference. At least there is for a sports junkie like me. I always know the score of the Sox game before I go to bed. Sometimes I know before I leave work! Even when they are out in Oakland, I don't have to stay up late to know they swept the A's - woo hoo!. I also don't have to stay up past midnight to watch night time football, like the Pats-Colts tonight. The vast benefit is lost on Lynnea, sadly.

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Late night radio advertising

So, I had the opportunity to work past midnight earlier this week. I went home for dinner and to put the kids to bed and then came back around 9:30 because that's when the hardware was available. At 2:30 am, I began the 20 minute no-traffic homeward trek. I was listening to an LA based news radio station - the California equivalent of WBZ for those back in Mass. Surprisingly, they were still doing the news. More surprisingly were the things that were being advertised. I don't know if it was the lateness or what, but one ad amused me enough to make me want to write about it...(WARNING - For those of you with children on your laps who can read, this is a little risque.)

It was for a "male enhancement" product called Proton Extreme. Just the name alone still makes me laugh. First off, a proton is a microscopic particle. Do you really want to associate a product for "enhancing" your maleness with something sub-atomic? Or perhaps they were referring to the power of the proton. And this is no ordinary proton. This one's Extreme! You know what, you have to be pretty desperate to want something labeled as "extreme" messing with that portion of your anatomy.

Name aside, I was amused by the claims they were making. Apparently, you can have more potent, harder, and stronger erections. Sounds like the opening to the Bionic Man. Steve Austin. A man barely aroused. Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. Make him better, harder, stronger. The Six Million Dollar Manhood. *cue music* Bah na na naaaaaah....

I realize that this product is in the supplement area where claims do not have to be substantiated by science, but aside from that, aren't all three of those things the same when discussing the topic at hand? Assuming they are not, how is this measured? For the claim of "stronger", all I could picture was guys with little weights strapped to their units trying to flex them. Er..I mean..BIG MANLY WEIGHTS. Yeah. More potent? Usually something more potent requires less of it to have the desired effect. So, a more potent erection gets your partner there faster? Or it's so potent, that it will work even with puny equipment? Dunno. Just trying to evaluate the claim. Harder speaks for itself, but again, how is that measured? Well, in a classical sense, this is how a hardness test is done. The Rockwell hardness test sounds like a good one. Although, perhaps, given what the purchaser feels he suffers from, perhaps the Microhardness Test is more appropriate. For those who don't want to follow the link, hardness tests typically involve attempting to cut the object with objects of a know hardness or vice-versa. Youch! No thanks! They couldn't pay me enough to help with that study. The other type of hardness test is to put a on a diamond, point down and resting on the material under test, and see how far it penetrates. Yow again!

So, it seems clear that science is not involved in the sale of this product. But it was "developed by doctors", so it must be effective, right?

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Thursday, September 02, 2004

Win A Free Pair of Sneakers!

This is not a gimmick. This is not a hoax. The winner of this contest will get a certificate that is good for one pair of New Balance athletic shoes from the New Balance factory store. The certificate doesn't list a maximum value, but I wouldn't be surprised if they tried to impose one...

You are probably wondering how I can make such an offer and how you can get in on it. Well, I'll tell you. Lynnea won a New Balance prize package when she was volunteering at the YMCA in Merrimack, NH. The package included a variety of things including a really nice NB gym bag. Contained in the bag was a certificate for the sneakers. Well, we procrastinated on getting the shoes. We knew there was a NB Outlet in Nashua, just minutes from our house. We never got there. Then this California thing came up. I persuaded Lynnea to let me have the certificate since she could never remember to use it. I got to the store on the day before we were to vacate our house permanently and looked at the certificate. Two problems. First, that store is no longer a New Balance store. Second, the certificate is only valid at the stores in Lawrence and Brighton.

So, if you want the shoes, here are the caveats:
* You have to be able to get to Lawrence or Brighton
* You have to use it before December 31, 2004

Since this is a contest, we need to have some form of entry. How about this. Tell me why YOU deserve the shoes. A celebrity panel of judges will determine who is most worthy. If I don't know th winner personally, they will need to contact me by private mail so I can get their address to send the certificate. Good luck!

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Identity Theft

As many of you know, identity theft is becoming an increasingly serious problem. Even people who are savvy about protecting their data can fall victim. Lynnea appears to be one such person. Fortunately, a California law enabled us to find this out early in the process...

Now, lest you think this cannot happen to you, Lynnea never enters her information online and never gives it out over the phone. I only enter it over https connections. we are still not sure where the information leak is, but the tipoff came from Capital One. Whilst in my temporary housing in Mira Mesa, I got a letter addressed to Lynnea at that address from Capital One. I almost chucked it. It's a reflex when I get a letter from a credit card company we don't have an account with. I think I'll have to stop doing that. I opened it and they just wanted to let me know that they had stopped the credit card application because one or more of the addresses on the application did not match any address in her credit history. They also gave a number to call if Lynnea did not make the application. Now, there was no way Lynnea would have made the application, so I knew something was up.

When Lynnea got here, we made the call to Cap One. The person on the other end indicated that Lynnea had been the victim of identity theft. Someone else appeared to have applied for a card in her name. He asked for her Social Security number to verify her identity, but by this point we were paranoid and refused. He asked if she had lived any place in New England other than Mass or if she had lived in New York. No on both counts. Apparently the person who applied for the card has addresses in one or both of those places. So, we had to file a police report and stop the credit card application. The Escondido Police were very helpful and gave us a pamphlet of what to do in the event your identity is stolen. Some of this stuff is good practice in general. It will make getting credit in the future a bit more of a hassle, but it's a small price to pay to protect your identity.

The first thing Lynnea and I both had to do was to contact all three credit bureaus and put a fraud alert on our accounts. This lets them know that there is some question about who has been accessing the account and puts certain restrictions on your account. Creditors must contact you before opening or modifying your accounts. They will also send you the most up to date version of your credit report to determine if any changes have been made already. Officer Padilla said that she tells everyone she cares about to do this even if they aren't the victim of fraud. The tighter restrictions force creditors to take more steps to make sure you are you when applying. Henceforth when you apply for credit, you may be asked for a photocopy of your driver's license, a utility bill, and/or other means of identifying yourself.

I recommend you do it as well. Here is the information for the credit bureaus. All three have automated systems for handling this.

To order your report, call: 800-685-1111 or write:
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

To report fraud, call: 800-525-6285 and write:
P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241
Hearing impaired call 1-800-255-0056 and ask the operator to call the Auto Disclosure Line at 1-800-685-1111 to request a copy of your report.

To order your report, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) or write:
P.O. Box 2002, Allen TX 75013

To report fraud, call: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742) and write:
P.O. Box 9530, Allen TX 75013
TDD: 1-800-972-0322

Trans Union
To order your report, call: 800-888-4213 or write:
P.O. Box 1000, Chester, PA 19022

To report fraud, call: 800-680-7289 and write:
Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92634
TDD: 1-877-553-7803

Of course, I was still paranoid and not satisfied. So, I checked Capital One's web site. The phone number we called was not anywhere on the site. So, I called the Capital One main number. After dealing with a really annoying phone menu system, I finally got a live person. He was able to confirm that this is their ID theft division. So, the letter was NOT a scam. Or else an incredibly elaborate one where they have hijacked Cap One's website. :)

Anyway, Officer Padilla took a copy of the letter for the case and gave us a pamphlet on ID theft. There are fourteen suggestions for things you may need to do.

1. Contact the credit bureaus
2. Contact all your creditors with whom your name has been used fraudulently
3. If you have had stolen checks, cancel and re-open your bank account
4. If your ATM card has been stolen, get a new card, account number, and pin
5. Notify the postal inspector if you suspect the ID thief has filed a change of address
6. Contact Social Security to report fraudulent use of your number
7. If you have a passport, notify the passport office in writing to be on the lookout for anyone ordering a new passport.
8. If your phone card has been stole, cancel it and re-open the account with a password that is required for all changes.
9. Check with the DMV to see if to see if another license was issued in your name.
10. Report the crime to the police
11. If a false civil or criminal judgement has been issued against you, contact your state justice dept and the FBI
12. Consult an attorney who has a background in the Fair Credit Reporting Act if you have any problems with creditors or credit agencies.
13. Seek counseling to deal with the emotional stress of being a victim
14. Send a courtesy letter about the police report to each of the credit bureaus

Another good resource is The FTC ID Theft Page

The process from here is long and painful. We need to scrutinize our credit reports every six months for the next two years for anything out of place. We also need to make sure that all our revolving accounts, even those with 0 balance, send us monthly statements so that we know our address is still correct. Officer Padilla said that if there are no more blips for two years, we are likely out of the woods.

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