Friday, 13 April 2007

I used to be a Netflix user. In fact I was subscribed for well over a year, but after the first few months I never built the queue back up and I just didn't care to use the service. I found myself constantly forgetting about it. Movies sat around the house after being watched. My monthly fees were going nowhere. Then an opportunity came along to sign up for Blockbuster's online service, and I took it - and promptly canceled my Netflix account. As it turned out, Blockbuster not only offered three movies at a time for a competitive price, but I would also be able to get free rentals in the local store by using monthly online coupons that I'd just load in my browser from the web site and print out at home. That sounded pretty cool to me.

Fast forward about a year, and Blockbuster enhanced their online rental service to allow you to return movies to the local store - they call it Total Access. On top of that, when you return your movie in its mailer to the store instead of dropping it in a mailbox, you get to exchange it for a free store rental of your choice. Now that's a great deal. In the end, it means I can sit at home and set up my rental queue, and rent online, and when I drop them at the store I can get three more movies to watch while I wait for the next set of movies to ship in the mail from my queue. And I still get the two free rental coupons (which can be used for movies or video games) each month. It's pretty awesome. We are watching a lot more movies as a result, and we're also watching more movies that fall into the "interesting" category, too.

I have only one wish-list item for Blockbuster to improve its service, and this is a big one in my book: Right now, if I put movies in my online queue to have mailed to me, there is no intelligent connection between what I rent in the store and what sits in the queue. So, if I put Children of Men in the online queue and I also rent it in the store because I find it on the shelf while I am in there, currently there is no way for the online service to "know" I have already rented it. What Blockbuster needs to do (in my humble opinion) is to compare what I rent in the store to the list of movies in my online queue. If I pick up a movie in person, they should prompt me to remove it from my queue, or allow me in my account settings to have that film automatically removed. More than once I have picked up a movie at the store only to have it shipped the next day or so from the mailing service. In those cases I have just taken the duplicate mail copy and exchanged it for an in-store rental, so no real harm or anything, but I would sure like to have some inventory and queue connection happening with my account.

I highly recommend Blockbuster Total Access. They ship fast, the selection is good, and I am really enjoying the in-store integration.



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Friday, 13 April 2007 14:09:32 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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One of my favorite people in the whole world, Scott Hanselman, has launched a campaign to raise donation funds for Team Hanselman's goal of $50,000 in this year's Step Out to Fight Diabetes fund raising walk.

Last year, Scott's team raised around $12,000 on a goal of $10,000. This year Scott's pushed way ahead and has more than quadrupled that amount for the team's current goal. You can help! Go to:

    http://www.hanselman.com/fightdiabetes/donate 

... and provide your assistance there. Here is what Scott has to say on his blog about the walk and the goal:

This year Team Hanselman, led by myself and my wife, Mo, who had this whole idea, will be walking to fight diabetes on Oct 20h, 2007. We have set a goal of raising US$50,000. Crazy, huh?

If only 2500 of you, dear readers, gave US$20 to this cause, we've met our Team Goal. If only 1000 give US$50, well, you get the idea. If you can't donate, that's OK. Post about this on your blog, spread the URL http://www.hanselman.com/fightdiabetes or put some of our Diabetes "Flair" on your site!

Last year this time, there were over 5000 people subscribing to this blog (for the technical content, I assume) - this year there are over 14,000.

Let's see what we can do to add to the pot. There are more than 14,000 daily viewers of this web site, as well - so if there is anything you can do to help, even just a couple bucks, please consider making a donation!

Read more about the walk, Scott's own motivation and battle with diabetes, and get all the details at Scott's site.



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Friday, 13 April 2007 09:16:10 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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A few weeks ago I had to fly with a coworker down to Santa Barbara. It was a last-minute trip. Of course, if you absolutely have to fly somewhere for work at the drop of a hat in March, Santa Barbara's a pretty darn nice destination. Good weather, good food, interesting people. We spent almost all of our time there indoors, but we did get an evening outside to enjoy the nice weather and check out the town.

Anyhow, this particular story actually starts right about the time we arrived at the airport for our return flight back to Portland. My co-worker Matt and I finished up our work and dropped off our rental car. We headed for the terminal at the last minute. In the process, Matt found out first-hand why one shouldn't pack liquids in carry-on bags (heh).

Immediately we were faced with a departure delay. Now, I'm not sure what the rest of the world's experience is with SkyWest Airlines (a regional commuter airline that operates and flies the smaller aircraft fleet for the "bigs," in this case United Express), but my consistent experience over the past year is that they do a pretty poor job of being on time and they generally come across as semi-pro. They're just a bit too casual. By contrast, other regional carriers for United Express have always been quite professional and timely. Your mileage may vary, I suppose.

Anyhow, eventually the aircraft showed up from it's previous leg. When it came time to board the airplane, an E120 turboprop, we waited in line as instructed, like impatient school kids waiting with eager anticipation five minutes into a fifteen-minute recess to be told they can run onto the play field, staring out at our aircraft. Our anticipation was interrupted a few minutes later as we were ushered back indoors and directed to take a seat again. "They have to reboot or reset something or another with the airplane, but they didn't tell me what it was," the gate agent informed us. "We'll let you know when it's time to go." Breeds confidence. Nice.

No less than two minutes later they got us back up, hurried us back into line (by now it really did feel like first grade), rushed us to the airplane like a herd of cattle. I looked at my watch. We were nearly an hour behind schedule by now, and it was very unlikely we'd make our connecting flight in San Jose.

Fast forward about 45 minutes to our landing in San Jose and sure enough, we hit the ground five minutes after our connection had already left for Portland. Nice. We headed over to Alaska Airline's service desk (because that's who had the ticket for the flight we'd just missed) and the agent there quickly told us that she would not be able to help us find a flight, that we had to go down to United. There's probably some rule or something that says who has to deal with the ticketing that I am not aware of, but I can tell you that it seemed as if she really just didn't want to be bothered (although the lady standing next to her was quite nice) and was brushing us off without any real concern to the next counter, but what the heck. I'm a frequent flyer with United and have what they call "elite status" with them (I easily broke the 100,000 mile mark last year), so we marched with our bags in tow down to the United ticket desk.

That's where things changed. As it turned out, there were no more flights that night from San Jose to Portland (save an Alaska flight later that night, and I was not about to go back there). But the United desk agents jumped right in and saved the day. They hired a town car (on their dime) to drive Matt and me to the San Francisco International airport (a 40-minute drive) and got us on a flight to Portland that evening. Even better, we ended up in first class and got home the same day (it was late, but at least is was not a day later).

The fact is that traveling for work is not the super-fun thing that people who don't travel sometimes assume it is. More often than not I get to see airports, the insides of office buildings, hotel rooms and lobbies, and the scenic drives through often industrial areas from the airport to the hotel and back. Several months back I started to make a point of scheduling some extra time at my own expense in places where I know I would regret not seeing the sights and taking some time for myself (and Lord knows if I didn't take vacation time that way I would pretty much never get any).

But it's nice that all that flying means I can count on United to be there when things get tough. They may not have the most comfortable seats on their aircraft (Alaska's got them on that one for sure), but the people are consistently great and believe it or not they almost always get me there and back on time, even with all my flights that go through Chicago, which is pretty good in this day and age. So -- Thanks, United.

Do you have a favorite airline? If so, why?



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Friday, 13 April 2007 08:24:43 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Exactly forty years ago my mom and dad brought me into this world. As I recall (from their stories, not from personal memory), my dad went to park the car and by the time he got to the delivery room I was already in preschool (not really, but it was a very fast delivery and dad actually got there real quick). I'm told that when they handed me to my mom, I peed in her face, and the rest is history. What a great way to kick things off, eh?

It's been quite an interesting journey so far, with lots of life lessons, trials, tribulations, successes, fun and great experiences. I am blessed by the many terrific people, friends and family members who are and have been a part of my life - and for that I am truly grateful. Thanks everyone. I only hope I can give as much back.

I suppose it's just about time for a mid-life crisis, so... I think I will sell my motorcycle. How's that for backwards? And the spur of the moment trip I made this past weekend to Las Vegas with my good friend (and with less than an hour's notice)... Well, lets just try for a bit more of that kind of fun.

Mostly it's just another day, and it's always nice to keep adding those on - one at a time. I don't plan to do anything particularly special, other than to maybe getting outside and enjoying the day for a while and hanging around people I work with and a couple friends.

Maybe I should shave my head or get (another) tattoo or something?

Or maybe not. Heh.

Here's to another forty, if I'm lucky enough.



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Tuesday, 10 April 2007 23:09:41 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 10 April 2007

What better way to spend your "I am officially old" day than doing something completely new? As of today, a new podcast called RunAs Radio, hosted by Richard Campbell and co-hosted by Yours Truly, is being launched. Richard writes in a bit more detail about it on his weblog.

It's a weekly IT podcast with a Microsoft technologies focus. Richard and I will discuss all sorts of relevant topics with a variety of smart and interesting people. I am excited and looking forward to being a part of this project.

RunAs Radio was launched on April 11, 2007 with a nod from its sister show, .NET Rocks!, which started as a weekly downloadable mp3 in August, 2002! Coincidentally, the first RunAs Radio show features Patrick Hynds, who was also the first guest on .NET Rocks!

I have acquired a nice new mic and accessories to make some high quality recordings (but I will save the details for another post).

We hope you enjoy the show, and of course you should let us know what you think. The show is professionally produced by the great people at Pwop Productions.

Show #1 | 4/11/2007 (46 minutes)
Pat Hynds on Storage Technology

Patrick Hynds from Critical Sites kicks off this all-new Microsoft-centric IT podcast with a discussion about storage. This show is atypically long. We're trying for 30 minutes per show.

Links: RunAs Radio web site and RSS feed



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Tuesday, 10 April 2007 22:56:05 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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 Tuesday, 03 April 2007

My friend Chris forwarded me recently. Apparently I need to get in touch with myself so I can figure out how to get some of what I already got. Also to find out why I am dead. Identities below changed to protect the "innocent" (and by that I don't mean "Harry." I mean people who read this and might for some reason email or call "Harry").

From: Harry Traore [mailto:haruna_traore309@yadayada.com]
Sent: Wednesday, March 28, 2007 3:03 AM
To: htraoreabcs.com
Subject: From Harry

My name is Haruna Traore (27), I work as houseboy and steward to Mr. GREG HUGHES. He was come from America, and who use to be contractor at big oil servicing bureau here in Cote D’Ivoire. Last year {Jan. 2006 }, my master die of a terribly illness , but before him death, he tell me in confidence of money,  $8.5 Million dollars he deposit with a bank here.

He was very sick and afraid to die and lose all he has in foreign land. He make me to promise he that if him die, I go should try everything possibly to make the money at bank to gets to survivals 1. the earthquake of Pakistan (where he work for long before come here to Africa) and 2. hurrycane of America and he handed over bank document of this deposit to me with letter carry instruction.

I go bank before but they refuse to release money for me unles I appear one of Mr. GREG HUGHES relationes. This hard for me, because since I live with master he no mention any name of family. i try for one year now but no succeed so therefore I want to appear you to bank as my master relation because you are foreigner.So that my master wish before death will ok be done.

I am an ordinary houseboy and not fit reach the survivals in Pakistan and Amerika. If you able to do it for me thank you and respond back immediately so we talk on what will be give to you from the money.

Please telephone me for 225-04-123456

Thanking you for agreement.

Haruna Traore

Oh wait. I'm dead? Wow, I sure missed something here. Hmmm.

Call me, Harry. We should talk.



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Tuesday, 03 April 2007 20:12:30 (Pacific Standard Time, UTC-08:00)
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