29 November 2006

E-mail + spam = headache

I was dismayed but not very surprised when I read this CNN article which basically says that 9 out of 10 e-mails sent worldwide are spam. For the past month or so the e-mail address I used for my website has been inundated with spam, at least 20 per day. I was finally so fed up with it I dropped that e-mail address and created another, making sure this time not to make it a hyperlink (i.e. comments AT r32argent.ca). I figure most people are savvy enough these days to know what that means.

Unfortunately, that didn't completely solve my problem. One of the e-mail addresses I use solely for personal contacts has recently been receiving spam, too. Since this particular address was never used for mailing lists, online shopping, forum sign-ups et cetera, I'm assuming someone's computer with my e-mail in their address book is now an unwilling participant in a 'zombie network'. Ugh.

Remember to keep your antivirus programs and firewalls up-to-date, please. And if you aren't using either... why the heck not!?

25 November 2006

Power Steering Fluid

Yesterday I topped up the power steering fluid in my R. It was the first time I checked it, and it has now officially joined my monthly to do list. Follow the link for additional details.

22 November 2006

Trouble with Fedex

Recently I've had to deal with some frustration caused by Fedex. Despite the occasional hiccup, I've been using Fedex exclusively (actually, now that I think about it, I use USPS, too) whenever I need to ship personal items. The most glaring hiccup being several years ago: I was waiting for some unique documents from Hong Kong to arrive in Canada and after having confirmed with the sender that the envelope had been shipped I finally called Fedex to request the status of my package. To my astonishment, Fedex informed me that they had already delivered the package several days ago. As a recipient's signature was required to accept the delivery, I felt comfortable in saying no, it had not. Anywhoo, to cut this story short--it's not even the main plot of this post--it turns out Fedex had simply left my envelope outside my front door... in the rain... this is winter weather in Vancouver that I'm talking about here. Did I mention someone was supposed to have to *sign* in order to take delivery?! Wangos.

Well, a couple years passed before I dared, or had the need, to use Fedex, again, and for a while everything has worked well. But now doubts have resurfaced.

9th November: I came home from work and discovered a 54" x 12" x 12" tall Fedex package sitting in front of my door. What the heck? I checked the delivery address, and Fedex had left this massive package in front of the wrong door... in the wrong building. At least they had the right street. My first thought was to contact the correct address via property management but no, the thought of doing for free what Fedex had been paid to do irked me.

I phoned Fedex. Very helpful, very quick to talk to a live person. They apologized, thanked me for calling, and told me someone would pick up the package the next day. Great!

10th November: Hmmm, the package is still in front of my door. I'm feeling generous and give them another day.

11th November: Nope... it's still there.

12th November: In the evening I phone Fedex. Very helpful, very quick to talk to a live person. They apologized, thanked me for calling, and told me someone would pick up the package the next day. Wonderful.

13th November: Uhhh, where are you, Fedex?

14th November: ........

15th November: In the evening I phone Fedex... again. Very helpful, very quick to talk to a live person. They apologized, thanked me for calling, and told me someone would pick up the package the next day.

I remind them how long I've been waiting, and ask what I should do if they don't pick it up tomorrow. Can I get rid of it? Fedex avoided answering and assured me they would pick it up the next day. Right.

16th November: Wangos.

17th November: I phone Fedex. This time I get bumped up to a supervisor/manager person. She apologizes profusely--talking a mile a minute--and says she doesn't understand why the package isn't being picked up. Guess what? I don't understand it, either. She says she is going to leave a message for the Fedex manager of my area and the package will definitely be picked up tomorrow. I'll believe it when I see it, or, to be accurate, when I don't see it.

18th November: I seriously reconsider my decision not to contact property management and get them to arrange for the package to be delivered to the correct address. But if the thought of doing Fedex's work irked me before, you can just imagine how I feel about it now.

19th November: I phone Fedex. It takes a while for the rep to skim through the report/past history. She tells me that according to the record the local Fedex people tried to phone me to confirm time of pick-up. But since I have no voicemail, they e-mailed me, instead.

I'm too flabbergasted to make all the rebuttals that flashed through my mind. I just mention one to her, "How would they know my e-mail address?" Her reply, after a long pause, "I don't know".

"Why do they need to phone me?" I asked, and explain as I had all the times previously that the package was just sitting outside my door. Running through my mind is the thought that if they want my signature or anything I'm going to take the stupid thing and throw it in the trash. "I don't know," was the answer.

[The other points I wish I had made at that time were 1) I *do* have voicemail, and 2) I also have caller ID, which tells me who called and when, regardless of whether they leave a message and no, Fedex did *not* call me]

Anywhoo, she can't promise me they'll pick it up on Monday, but they'll try. But... Hallelujah! I finally, *finally* get Fedex to say that if they don't pick it up by Tuesday evening I can throw it away. Yippee!

20th November: I'm actually looking forward to tomorrow... Trash Day. I feel slightly guilty about the addressee losing their package, but I'm way too annoyed at Fedex to let that stop me.

21st November: I come home and... it's gone? I have mixed feelings. Relieved I don't have to lug it down three flights of stairs and down the street to the trash bin, but at the same time regretful that I won't be able to. I got over it. ;o)

So... this whole thing took, what, a week and a half? This latest incident wasn't even my package, so it's not like I'd been eagerly waiting for a delivery, or needed someone to receive something urgently--no tangible emotional or monetary investment on my part. But it's still made me very hesitant about using Fedex in the future. I guess next up to bat is UPS.

18 November 2006

My favourite actor

James Stewart (1908-1997) is my all-time favourite actor (though in regards to his politics I generally differ). Anywhoo, I mention this because I was pleasantly surprised to find a recent article on James Stewart on CNN. From the movies I've seen, and what I've read, I greatly admire Stewart as both actor and person.

You can find his filmography here. He's made some great movies, and some not-so-great movies, but I enjoyed watching all of them. Well, to be perfectly clear, I did think a couple of the movies were pretty poor--but Stewart's presence made those particular films bearable ;o)

17 November 2006

VW R36--it's real!

Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, rumours of Volkswagen upgrading the R32 3.2L engine to a "R36" with a 3.6L engine have been resurfacing every so often only to be shot down by the common collective and those who should know. Well, just the other day VW announced the upcoming release of the R36!!!

I'm not getting too excited, though. First, it's only being released in Europe. Second, it's a Passat, not a Golf/GTI--a 3.6L Passat with 300hp, only a 20hp bump from the current 3.6L 280hp Passat. Still, I think it's encouraging that VW is expanding their R-line vehicles, especially given the success of the R32.

Anywhoo, more information on vwvortex in this article.

15 November 2006


I was ::ahem:: googling myself and discovered a link to my blog at a site called Blogshares.com. As I'd never heard of this site I took a quick look. Blogshares, at its simplest, is an online investment game where people buy and/or sell shares in blogs using virtual "Blogshare money (B$)".
"BlogShares is a fantasy stock market where weblogs are the companies. Players invest fictional dollars on shares in blogs. Blogs are valued by their incoming links and add value to other blogs by linking to them. Prices can go up or down based on trading and the underlying value of the blog. No actual ownership of blogs is transfered. BlogShares is purely a fictional marketplace."
The primary goal, of course, is to see how much money you can make. If I understood correctly, Blogshares was originally started to test the Power Law which says, in part, that 20% of the population has 80% of the wealth, or in this case, to determine whether 20% of the blogs would have 80% of the links.

Sign-up is free, you don't need to have a blog to play, and everyone is given B$500 to start. Investing in blogs can become a lot more complicated than simply buying low and selling high, and to do well enough to actually get ranked would probably take more effort and interest than I have.

Anywhoo, I thought it was a neat touch the way they reserved 1000 shares of each blog for the blog's owner, whether or not they register on Blogshares and "claim ownership".

The current value of this blog is B$6,214.82. You can follow this link to see investment data for my blog. Buy them while they're still cheap! Only B$0.91 per share! :o)

11 November 2006

Magellan Roadmate 2200T

Along with my new HTC S620 the last of the big purchases I've made recently (see: Goodbye, hard-earned cash) was a portable navigation system, the Magellan Roadmate 2200T.

In deciding on which GPS navi to buy, I wanted something that was easily portable, reliable, with maps of Canada and the United States, with text-to-voice, and at a reasonable price. In addition to Magellan, I also looked at similarly priced models from TomTom and Garmin. I chose the 2200T because of various reviews I'd read, and it met all of my criteria. It doesn't have the most POIs out there (1.5 million), and I find it a little laborious searching for some specific POIs, but overall I'm satisfied.

The 2200T has several additional features I'm not interested in, like playing music, displaying pictures, upgradeable traffic updates and more, but I couldn't find any GPS navi that was just a navi and still met all my criteria (what's up with that?!). The worst thing about the 2200T is that it didn't come with an AC charger. There was a dash mount, windshield mount, and car charger, but no AC charger. Ugh. I had to fork over extra cash to get the AC charger. Unforgivable.

Some good points: it's small, light-weight and fits easily in my pocket (I might not want it in there all the time, but as a temporary thing it's fine), the rechargeable battery is rated for 8 hours, has an auto-detour feature to get around traffic jams, auto re-routing and multi-destination routing, the option to avoid toll roads when routing, and has an address book to store destinations for future use.

Anywhoo, previously I hadn't been impressed with GPS navis I'd seen at work, but I think that was do to my unfamiliarity with the system and how it works. The more I use the 2200T the more familiar I become with the voice, how it relates directions and how much time I have before having to perform the latest instruction. The more familiar I get with the 2200T, the more I realize just how useful this little device can be.

Road-trip: Skyline Drive

With beautiful weather and a freshly waxed R, I decided to go on a cruise that ended being about 280 miles, round-trip. I drove down to Skyline Drive, the only public road through the Shenandoah National Park. The official guide says it takes about 3 hours to drive completely through, but I turned back halfway, at Big Meadows Wayside. Skyline Drive was a joy to drive--a curving, winding road with changing elevation, and beautiful scenery (though I was too late for most of the fall colours).

It felt kind of weird, though, because while other park-goers were taking pictures of nature, I was taking pictures of my R32. :o) Hey! I took some of those, too! Anywhoo, click here and also here for more pictures.

10 November 2006

Who writes this stuff?

Tonight I was watching a local news channel (WUSA9.com) and one of the anchors, Tracey Neale, reported on a story that completely blew me away--and not in a good way. It wasn't the story itself but how Tracey Neale said it and what she said that's making me vent.

Neale previews the upcoming news bit by saying "a thief doesn't get his way" after the commercial break (I'm paraphrasing, here).

Go to commercial.

Back to T. Neale: "Channel 9 reported previously on a charity that had sold used wedding dresses donated by cancer survivors/victims--with proceeds going to said charity. Unfortunately, the proceeds were stolen by a thief. In response to Channel 9's report, local bridal shops donated wedding dresses so more money could be raised."

First let me say that Neale's delivery was so... stilted with... long silent... pauses in... the middle... of sentences... pausing... after every... three to... four... words... was extremely... painful... for... me to... listen to. Enough... said....

Here's the kicker--T. Neale ends the story by saying something like, "due to the shops' generosity the thief's intentions were foiled". What the heck is Neale saying?! The thief is still at large with the money--how exactly were his/her intentions foiled? Oh, I see... the thief didn't *really* want the money, the thief just has some sort of vendetta against the charity. Or hates weddings. And dresses. And don't forget the colour white.

All possible, I guess, but I'm still betting on the money.

This forced and inappropriate slant--and Neale's horrid delivery--turned what was a typical feel-good story (generosity of shops) in to one of the worst reports I've ever had the misfortune to listen to. Whoever wrote this terrible piece should be drawn and quartered. Who writes this stuff, and where was the editor?

08 November 2006

Candy trumps Democracy

Driving home last night I noticed something funny. Judging by the amount of traffic, more people were interested in getting home in time for Hallowe'en last week than in getting home in time to vote in the midterm elections. My commute home on Hallowe'en evening took me a little more than an hour. Last night it took a mere 32 minutes.

I wonder what the voter turnout was. According to the data tabulated by IDEA (International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance), voter turnout (all elections from 1945-1998) for the United States is 48.3% of eligible voters, placing the U.S. at 114 in the world, just squeaking by Mexico (48.1%), but falling behind countries such as Burma/Myanmar (50.0%) and... Canada (68.4%). Ha ha, take that! Great participation in Italy, which came out number one at 92.5%.

I think the dismal voter turnout--which trends lower every year--is indicative of the inordinate influence special interests and corporations have on politics. Politicians, seemingly willing to do almost anything to stay in power, are more beholden to their donors than their voters. A lot of people just don't feel their vote has any effect, so why bother? Money talks... and I don't have any. :o(

01 November 2006

Site visitors in October 2006

The top 5 visitors, listed by country, in October were:

1) United States
2) Canada
3) European Union
4) Germany
5) Great Britain

The full list of visitors for October 2006 can be found here.

Statistics for previous months can be found by following this link.