Tuesday, July 31, 2007

PhoneMort Update

Well now i'M iRate. There are a few shortcomings with the iPhone that are inexcusable. There are some business practices at play here that are as well.

There is no copy and paste. iThought that this was supposed to be a smartphone replacement. Some even said it would be a laptop replacement. On occasion iDevelop software and run services from my laptop. iKnew it would not replace that but jeez...

Only one address per SMS and no "Reply-All" option. This is only made worse by the lack of copy and paste.

No vcards for sending or receiving. iUsed to transfer my contact information from my old palm phone via iR. Once phones started going to bluetooth, iWas limited in my ability to transfer contacts. Now iCannot transfer contact information at all. It all has to be typed.

iHave to email people my, and others', contact information which cannot be copied and pasted into the email. If a contact has more than one email address, it goes to the first address; there is no choosing.

There are numerous software bugs that can be expected in a first release that do not bother as much except for one...

With multiple mail clients on my laptop, iDo not always have the primary one active. If iSync the phone with the non-main account running, all of my contacts are deleted and replaced with the active mail account's contacts. Moreover, the warning message states that it will modify more than five contacts on the computer. All changes made since the last sync are lost. PhoneMort* was almost used for target practice after that happened.

There are a number of business practices that fell into play here too. Again, it was the "unadvertised ones" that bother me:

The developer API was extremely limited in scope. iThought Microsoft was bad about this.

LNP was not fully tested. This is what allows mobile customers to retain their phone numbers when switching operators. This was a rush to market with regard to least used scenarios.
Fortunately, most of these things can be fixed with software improvements. Failing that, a hardware upgrade in .44 caliber may be needed.

*PhoneMort is the name for my phone. Even if iTunes did not require that devices be named, it would still be PhoneMort. Why PhoneMort? Because my wife's iPod is "PodMort" so "PhoneMort" just seemed to follow.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Taking Inventory

So I went to the range again today, bringing along my "reading material" and a new shooter.

I try to take at least ten new shooters shooting every year. I also try to bring along as many others who have shot but are not yet "in the habit." These are not set in stone numbers but just general guidelines.

This year, I have taken shooting:

1 x Mexican (this evening / new shooter)
1 x Israeli (this evening and the week before last / shot twice before - once while conscripted and once for fun)
1 x Ghanaian (this month / new shooter)
1 x General Euro Mix (OK, he is a Portugese citizen from Germany with Latvian heritage / shot several times before / first time with me and usually since / yeah... I got him "into the habit")
1 x Pole (last month / new shooter)
1 x Washatonian (Washatesian? / shot a few times before / originally from Florida)
1 x Chinese (Taiwanese actually / few months ago / new shooter)
2 x Finns (husband and wife / few months ago / he shot rifles when he was a teen)
1 x Dane (a few months ago / shot .22's a few times when he was a boy)
2 x Israelis (boyfriend and girlfriend / not counted with the other Israeli because that may have been last December / I cannot remember / both shot either an Uzi or M-16 while conscripted and she had also shot some unknown pistol)

Of course I have brought my older daughter with me shooting several times but she is neither a new shooter nor anywhere near old enough to go shooting by herself (ergo "habit" need not apply).

The Ghanaian was really unique. We spent three hours at the range that night. The Israeli, the GenEurMix, and my Washington shooting buddy where all there too. We started him and the Israeli on a .22LR pistol (Kimber .22/.45 conversion then switched to a Ruger Mk. II). They then shot my 9mm, my buddy's .40, his MAC-10, and his .44 Magnum. We were making so much noise and had spent so much, the range brought out a .500 Magnum and gave a round to each of us. He shot it too. Having never shot before that evening, he went from a .22LR to a .500 Magnum within three hours. He is "chomping at the bit" to go again.

I wrote about the Pole a few weeks ago. That was the only time I have ever really been scared around firearms. The fact that they were loaded, less than two feet away, in the hands of a novice, and pointed at my face had a lot to do with that.

I have pretty much met my quota for the year and given that I have planned to do a lot less travel after August, the "foreigners" will have to wait.

Our homeschool group, however, has asked for someone to coach a trap shooting and rifle team. My wife volunteered me before I even knew about it.

Looks like I will be taking many more before 2008.

Monday, July 23, 2007

They Don't Care What You Read

So I arrived at DFW airport last night a bit earlier than expected. This was good; although at the time, I thought I had wasted half an hour. I usually feel that I have wasted time if the door does not hit me as I get on the plane.

I figured that I would stop by the airline club and get something to drink or one of the free stale cookies that they always leave for weary travellers.

Boy was I wrong.

As usual, I was checking a firearm. There is a nice indoor range not too far from one of the offices in Washington. I always try to bring as many people as possible to get them into shooting. I also try to bring old shooters that have not been in a while. I also bring my range bag with spare goggles and ear phones, Shoot-N-C (tm) targets, and spare magazines.

I declared to the Check In Agent the firearm. She took inventory. She said that she had to see it to make sure that it was unloaded. I do not know why they say this. Only once has the Check In Agent actually cleared the weapon, verifying that the inserted magazine and chamber are empty. To the TSA's credit, they check it. They always do. Sometimes they do several times.

Fortunately, I am not bringing ammunition this time. I split a few cases with some friends last trip and decided that I would keep it with them. This would save both the time and the hassle of checking ammunition. Firearms are easy to check. Ammunition is not.

So I was a little surprised when the Check In Agent said, "You're overweight."

And I say, "Well you're ugly." (Not really but I thought it would be fun to add that.) I know that I am not as trim as I used to be but I exercise and am still somewhat slender. My bag, which does not have ammunition in it is still eight pounds overweight.

I was overweight on my last trip and had to pay an extra $25 to the airline for the inconvenience of having a heavy bag. I am sure that they use that to offset the medical costs of the injuries that their baggage handlers receive when they lift a fifty-eight pound bag. However, I could not help but feel that they were soaking me just because they could.

So this time around I was determined that I would not pay that non-reimbursable travel expense. She said I could check another bag. In my big bag was my range bag but it is just a shoulder backpack. I did not think that could be checked. So I took out my shoes and rangebag with the plan of carrying them onto the plane.

I told her that it was my range bag and that it had thumbtacks and magazines in it. She said they would be fine.

I went down to the TSA bag check and gave them my now barely underweight bag. While they verified that my firearm was unloaded, I tore through my range bag for anything that might not be carried onto the plane. I took out my buck knife which I knew was in there. I searched and searched again for any loose ammunition.

After giving my knife to the TSA agent to put into my check bag, locking my check bag, and satisfied that everything was fine, I went to the security check.

I use three bins: computer, non-computer metalic items, and non-metalic x-rayable items (such as sandals). It takes a while for everything to go through. I stand there at the opening of the x-ray waiting to put on all of my items.

My range bag is the first thing. The pretty TSA guard at the x-ray monitor looks panicked. She then calls another agent over to her. He looks at it. He then calls another agent to look at it. The first agent looks at me and says, "Ummm... Sir."

That is not a statement or a question. I am not sure what she is saying but since she is the prettiest TSA agent I have ever seen - maybe the only one now that I think of it - I decide not to correct her poor conversational skills and instead say, "I had not intended on carrying that bag onto the plane."

My fear is that I somehow managed to miss some loose rounds. I am normally very particular about how I pack ammunition on a plane. So are the airlines and the TSA. I figure a loose round is good enough to get me arrested and interrogated and possibly spend some time in jail. I thought, "I'm at least going to miss my flight."

After closing my line and directing everyone else to the others, they take a few more minutes and let me pass through. They give me a "PC pat down" and let me gather my things - everything except the range bag that is.

They ask if they can go through it. I was as courteous and polite as I could be. So were they. I thought for a moment, this is going to be the most pleasant experice I have ever had on my way to jail.

Then a moment of dread: if carrying a loose round through airport security is a felony offense and I cannot prove that I was not an accident, I will be a felon and will not be able to own firearms anymore. Then I thought I might be over-reacting. Then I thought, "To hell with it. There are probably a few laws that I need to be ignoring anyway. That would be as good as any."

As they went through, the senior agent showed great interest in the Shoot-N-C (tm) targets. I explained what they were and he said, "Neat." He then pulled the magazines aside and finished with the bag.

He looked at me and said that they could not be carried onto the plane and that he would have to do a full report. At that time, I had an option of either putting them into a checked bag, mailing them home, or surrendering them. I did not know if my checked bag had already made it to the gate but thought that I would see what I could do.

He took a lot of information from me. I relayed the part about the Check In Agent telling me that the magazines were fine to be carried. He showed the thumbtacks to the pretty agent who, being relatively new I discovered, thought they might be rounds facing up on the monitor. He was also able to see which agent it was that had Checked Me In on my ticket.

He said that I would likely get a letter in the mail at least in a follow up investigation and that the Check In Agent would be beaten a bit too. He gave me my magazines and escorted me out of the terminal.

Back at the counter, the same agent was working. I told her how magazines were not OK to be carried and that they needed to be checked. She gave me the funniest of looks. I took out a set of earphones to make room, put my shoes in my range bag, and asked the agent to use a zip-tie to secure it. I wish I had thought of that originally.

As I put the magazines back into the bag she said, "Oh, those have to be checked."

I told her that I had mentioned them when I took my range from my large suit case.

She said, "Oh. I thought you meant reading material."

The stale cookies will have to wait until next time.

Friday, July 20, 2007

As Easy as Saying One, Two, Three

In this interview via LGF, Hirsi Ali makes several glowing statements about America - and in general Western - democracy and freedoms. The host may have been playing the devil's advocate or may have just been an idiot but he asked incredulously, "How can you say [such great things] about America?"

He also argues against "extreme Christianity" and how it is just as bad as "radical Islam."

She shuts him down quite easily. She points out that when a Christian shoots an abortion doctor, he goes to jail. Then talks about how the murderers of a couple publicly holding hands in Iran not only go free, they are often "working" on the government's behalf.

She also mentions how he, having grown up in Canada and wealth, has no concept of authoritarian or totalitarian oppression and can therefore spit on his freedoms.

He also asks how she can say things like a penniless immigrant can come to the U.S. and become wealthy.

Perhaps I have known too many immigrants come from communist countries that became millionaires. More than any other country, a person can grow his business in America - even moreso than the old capitalist Hong Kong.

Having known literally hundreds of people who became successful (by their own definitions) in America, I would say that it is easy to say.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Buggering of a Lifetime

Of course I am referring to the IRS.

I pay a lot of taxes. When I was an independant contractor, I paid a lot of taxes. I am now a regular employee of a medium-large size company and I still pay a lot of taxes.

I am now having to go back to past tax years of when I an independant contractor and redo my taxes because of not paying enough Selp Employment Tax. What the IRS says I owe now works out to around forty-two percent of what I made those years.

I am no fan of progressive taxes but that's just ridiculous. Had I not been independant, that would have been around fifteen percent.

I am now left with refiguring them, etc. They will review my resubmissions but unfortunately, their large accounts recoverable (receivable, whateverable) moves a whole lot faster than their reconsideration department. I will likely have to pay it or suffer liens and levies until that gets paid and hope that the overall amount is lowered sometime in the future. Did not the levies burst?

It is things like this that make Americans want to rent Ryder trucks, stop by the Ace hardware, and then pay a visit to the nearest IRS office. Or even worse... support Ron Paul for President.

Hyperbole aside, I need to get this resolved and it is not fun.