Looks like our dog!

May 30, 2008

VIDEOS: Pedigree Adoption Drive commercials

May 30, 2008

Pedigree will always have a soft spot in my heart.

Sarah McLachlan’s ASPCA ads can absolutely bring you to tears but so do the commercials from Pedigree’s Adoption Drive. 


imageHere’s the videos of all the actual dogs in Pedigree commercials that are looking to be adopted.  The videos depict the circumstance that each dog found themselves in through no fault of their own:

There are a few follow ups that return to the dogs that did eventually get adopted but just like the real world, more than 50% of them never got adopted.

Posh Puppy of Beverly Hills closed

May 29, 2008

My wife and I went driving through Beverly Hills today on the way to dinner at Restaurant Row on La Cienega.  We drove by a store called "Posh Puppy" which seems innocuous enough until we saw that it had been closed down.  A giant "for rent" sign hung in front of the building and the inside was dark.

By a strange coincidence, tomorrow is the rebroadcast of Oprah Winfrey’s famous "Puppy Mill" episode:  The Lisa Ling expose where she brings in hidden cameras to the underbelly of some of the most despicable places you’ll ever see:  Puppy Mills on the eastern seaboard.

I fully planned on recording-editing-and-posting the entire broadcast on the Internet being that it seems no one’s done it yet.   I’ve only seen brief 9 minute clips of the show.  (Could it be that the animal welfare advocates out there don’t have the technical ability to record & edit 42 minutes of video?  Hell – someone give me a call next time.)

But before I went through the trouble, I thought I’d skim through YouTube one more time to see if someone had done it yet.  While searching guess what I found:

Posh Puppy closed

At the heart of the problem is that Posh Puppy sold dogs that came from California puppy mills – which we later learned were some of the worst in Southern California.  The owners of Posh Puppy apparently closed the store for the day instead of dealing with the backlash of the protesters present in front of their stores.  The story is here:

But I guess some folks just don’t learn.  They continued to sell dogs from the puppy mills and so finally, KTLA broadcast a press conference that "Last Chance for Animals" ran in front of their store:

Guess what?  Posh Puppy’s now out of business.  Apparently folks don’t feel comfortable buying merchandise from an ethically challenged place of business.

Dear UAC whiners: Get over it already – UAC is a godsend.

May 28, 2008

<shakes head>
I’ve noticed that there’s a certain small but vocal group of IT professionals out there that are still whining about UAC’s implementation despite all the incredible good it provides and all the evolutionary improvements made it. 

To the few uneducated folks that are still complaining, "There’s too many prompts from UAC," I’ll take Vegas odds that you haven’t been consistently using Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 on your production machine have you? 

Because if so, you’d notice that there are far fewer prompts now that in the RTM.  And even if you have, by saying that you don’t like the security prompts and you want them removed "because end users won’t read them", you’re effectively absolving end users of their obligation to be responsible for company security.  There is no substitution for end user accountability. 


And to the folks complaining, "There are too many applications that balk at UAC," yes, many applications do not adhere to good security practices and UAC catches them when they attempt to do things they shouldn’t.  However, complaining about UAC is like complaining about your Mom when she tells you not to touch the stove because it may or may not be hot.

That being said, all applications can integrate with UAC.  Again, for effect:


It just requires preparation to ‘bless’ the application using a technology like Privilege Manager from Beyond Trust.  Privilege Manager ultimately eliminates all UAC authorization prompts for applications by providing seamless authorized access to just the specific higher level privileges that an application requires because it’s written with poor security practices.  (For example, it may require the ability to automatically reboot the workstation)  This is infinitely better than providing Local Administrator privileges.  Most customers I work with have already downloaded the software and have been working with it.

Humorous Web Sites that Keep Me Entertained

May 24, 2008

Today, I’ll admit:  I sort of vegged.  I got a bunch of email done and I just plain ran out of will to work.

So I started surfing and thanks to some coworkers, found some web sites that specialize in certain odd types of humor.

For example, take "Indexed".  It’s a web site dedicated to index cards with interesting Venn diagrams and Trend graphs that have some sort of social commentary within them.

The example to the right is a good example of the kind of index cards that are published.  Humorous and lighthearted… the kind of thing you’d RSS subscribe to for a laugh.


And then there’s ICanHasCheezBurger.  This is basically a collection of photos with humorous captions written on them by the public. 

I’m sure you’ve seen them.  Usually they entail cute photos of cats or kittens since that’s how this whole trend/concept originated… with kittens. 

Now, as you can see by the photo to the left, it’s expanded to… other species.




song chart memesBut one of my favorite "thinking humor web sites" is Graph Jam. 

Essentially it’s a collage of community created graphs that illustrate fictional scenarios that can be depicted using business charts and graphs created in Excel.

Some of them are quite entertaining as you can see to the right.


What is it that I do these days

May 24, 2008

Although my title hasn’t changed in 9 years, my job has changed rather dramatically over the years.

Someone asked me at a wedding the other day, what it is exactly that I do.  If it’s someone in the computer industry I usually just say, "Systems Engineer" since most people in this field know what that is.  If it’s a lay person however, I usually go through the machinations of describing how Microsoft has a hundreds of products and how the combination of them create what people know today as the 800FLOWERS.COM e-commerce site or how it is that their "Outlook Email" works and what it takes to get that set up in companies.

This time, I simply showed him this on my PDA.  It was a lot quicker.


My life & the Fair Tax

May 15, 2008

I woke up one day in early April a couple years ago, and got a surprise call from my accountant.  She’d figured out the taxes for my wife and I, and much to my chagrin, we were going to owe a gargantuan amount of money.

We didn’t fully understand why until later, but it seems that when you get married and live in TWO separate "primary households", (two homes with two mortgages) you get to write off a lot more on your Federal income taxes in aggregate.  But now that we only had ONE "primary household" since we lived under the same roof (and a ‘rental property’) we no longer had the combined benefit of two mortgage interest deductions:  Only one.  The result was a massive 5 digit tax bill.

I got married and suddenly, we’re getting raked over the Federal Tax fires.  As we struggled to pay this monstrosity, I said to myself – this is just not right.

A year later, after we’d made adjustments to our Federal Tax withholdings, we received a similar call early in April.  It’d happened again:  Despite saving a lot more for taxes, we owed another 5 digit tax bill.  It seems this time, we’d gotten raises at work and were thus moved into another HIGHER tax bracket.  To make matters worse, I suddenly became very familiar with this thing called the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) which is essentially a special tax scale that supercedes the normal tax scale that people pay on, if you make over a certain amount of money. 

What’s especially frightening about the AMT is that you can’t deduct a lot of things you could under the standard income tax like Property Taxes, State/Local taxes, Medical Expenses, etc. and if your taxes calculated under the AMT tax scale is higher than the standard federal income tax, then that’s what you have to pay.  So the more money we earned, the higher the percentage rate we were being taxed at increased – ANNND the fewer deductions we can take.

I got a raise at work, and now I don’t just have to pay more, I have to pay a disproportionately higher amount more.  I said to myself – this is just not right.

After feeling miserable for a few weeks, I picked up a copy of The Fair Tax Book on a lark.

WOW.  The Fair Tax is a proposed national sales tax on new finished goods & services of 23%.  In exchange, it eliminates all Federal Income taxes, Payroll taxes (social security, medicare, medicaid taxes that companies pay in conjunction with employee salaries that amount to 9.1% of each worker’s income), capital gains taxes, death/estate taxes, and it gives every citizen a monthly "prebate" or stipend to refund every family an amount of collected taxes to keep everyone at or below the poverty level from paying a dime of Federal taxes. 

I still have a few questions however unlike the Forbes-advocated Flat Tax (a completely different idea from the Fair Tax), the Fair Tax did something I didn’t even think was possible:  It collected the same amount of Federal Income taxes, while minimizing – even potentially reducing my Federal tax burden.  (Because after all, if I don’t buy anything, I don’t pay taxes) 

So how is this plan "revenue neutral" – i.e. make the same about of money as today’s income tax?  You can’t of course ‘fabricate money’ out of thin air – it has to come from somewhere.  But if not from people like me, then who?  The key to how the Fair Tax works lies in what appears to be 3 ‘new’ sources of Federal Income Tax:

    The average citizen pays 25% in Federal income taxes.  Guess what percentage income tax the "wealthy" pay?  The answer is 15% or less.  The reason for this is, typically, the rich don’t make income.  They make INTEREST/CAPITAL GAINS on money that resides in banks or investments, and the tax on capital gains is 15%. 

    What’s even worse is that most of these folks know "a way" to keep money out of sight from the IRS (Bahamas, Brazil, Switzerland, etc.) meaning that they make interest/capital gains tax free on much of what they have.

    The Fair Tax doesn’t worry about income or capital gains.  It doesn’t tax them.  Instead it taxes purchases of new goods & services so if they buy a new yacht or a new car, they’re going to pay their federal taxes.   Buying gas for that new car or boat?  Taxes.  Any new good or services that the person consumes is taxed.

    The average legal business contributes an additional 9.1% of their total payroll (above and beyond worker’s salaries) to pay for federal payroll taxes.  These taxes along with a matched amount from workers, pay for Social Security, Medicare, & Medicaid. 

    So guess how much drug pushers, illegal gamblers, & underground import companies pay in payroll taxes?  The answer is ZERO.  And because it’s impossible to find these folks much less monitor them, they never get taxed, ever, despite the huge amount of money that goes through their ventures.

    Now, since these people will pay no income taxes but they’ll have to pay a sales tax on every bottle of liquor or Hostess Cupcake they buy in their daily lives, they’ll naturally be paying taxes, and monitoring the 5M legitimate businesses in America is a 100x easier to do than monitoring 300M individual citizens.

    The proposed Federal Tax incidentally includes the INTERNET – the biggest tax loophole in America.  Why should someone be exempt from paying taxes just because they’re buying a book across a border, where as a local book retailer making a contribution to the local economy has to pay taxes and be at a disadvantage to the Amazon.com’s of the world.  Ludicrous. 

    Visitors & undocumented immigrants pay absolutely no Federal income tax to sustain the US economy – yet they enjoy all the benefits of federally funded hospitals, law enforcement, fire & rescue organizations and other services.  Now, since they’ll be paying an embedded federal tax at retail stores for any goods & services they purchase, they’ll have no choice but to contribute to the Federal coffers. 

    The kicker here however is that NON-CITIZENS DO NOT GET THE PREBATE.  Without citizenship, there is no funds distributed to these folks’ households to bring them up to the poverty line.  They get no free lunch any more.  The only way to get the prebate is to be a citizen of the US, encouraging immigrants to apply for citizenship legally & fairly.

Puppy Size

May 8, 2008

clip_image001"Puppy size"…  Danielle keeps repeating it over and over again.

We’ve been back to this animal shelter at least five times.

It has been weeks now since we started all of this,’ the mother told the volunteer.

‘What is it she keeps asking for?’ the volunteer asked.

‘Puppy size,’ replied the mother.

‘Well, we have plenty of puppies, if that’s what she’s looking for.’
‘I know, we have seen most of them,’ the mom said in frustration.
Just then Danielle came walking into the office.

clip_image002‘Well, did you find one?’ asked her mom.

‘No, not this time,’ Danielle said, with sadness in her voice.

‘Can we come back on the weekend?’

The two women looked at each other, shook their heads and laughed. 

‘You never know when we will get more dogs.

clip_image003Unfortunately, there’s always a supply,’ the volunteer said.
Danielle took her mother by the hand and headed to the door.

‘Don’t worry, I’ll find one this weekend,’ she said. 
Over the next few days both mom and dad had long conversations with her.
They both felt she was being too particular.

‘It’s this weekend or we’re not looking anymore,’ Dad finally said in frustration. 

clip_image004‘We don’t want to hear anything more about puppy size either,’ Mom added. 

Sure enough, they were the first ones in the shelter on Saturday morning.

Now Danielle knew her way around and ran right for the section that housed the smaller dogs.

Tired of the routine, mom sat in the small waiting room at the end of the first row of cages.

There was an observation window so you could see the animals when visitors weren’t allowed.

clip_image005Danielle walked slowly from cage to cage, kneeling periodically to take a closer look.

One by one the dogs were brought out and she held each one.

One by one she said, ‘Sorry, you’re not the one.’ 
It was the last cage on this last day in search of the perfect pup.

The volunteer opened the cage door, and the child carefully picked up the dog and held it closely.

This time she took a little longer.

‘Mom, that’s it!  I found the right puppy!  He’s the one!  I know it!’ she screamed with joy.  ‘It’s the puppy size!’
‘But it’s the same size as all the other puppies you held over the last few weeks,’ Mom said.

‘No not size, the sighs. When I held him in my arms, he sighed,’ she said.  ‘Don’t you remember?

When I asked you what love is, you told me love depends on the sighs of your heart? 

The more you love, the bigger the sighs!’

The two women looked at each other for a moment.

Mom didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  As she stooped down to hug the child, she did a little of both.

‘Mom, every time you hold me, I sigh.

clip_image007When you and Daddy come home from work and hug each other, you both sigh.

I knew I would find the right puppy if it sighed when I held it in my arms,’ she said.

Then holding the puppy up close to her face she said, ‘Mom, he loves me. I heard the sighs of his heart!’

Close your eyes for a moment and think about the love that makes you sigh.

I not only find it in the arms of my loved ones, but in the caress of a sunset, the kiss of the moonlight and the gentle brush of cool air on a hot day.

They are the sighs of God.

Take the time to stop and listen; you will be surprised at what you hear.

‘Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.’

On the Yahoo! acquisition

May 6, 2008

I was prepared to write something simple… something about why our "walking away" was the right move to make and that while I was still disappointed that an agreement couldn’t be made, I was proud that our leadership didn’t do anything stupid like up our offer anything ridiculous.  And I was also ready to respond to certain two-bit Northern California hacks in the media announcing how "Microsoft failed" and "Yahoo won" etc.  Ahem.

Then the Wall Street Journal, CNN, and Bloomberg chimed in, among others, and… well… pretty much did the typing for me.

ESPN: You guys are a piece of work

May 6, 2008

This is the kind of shady billing that really chaps my hide.

If you sign up for "ESPN Insider", they actually force you to auto-renew.  This means that one day, you look at your credit card and you see $49 charge from ESPN on there.  No email notification, no nothing.

ESPN.com will automatically renew and charge a Customer’s account as follows:
* Once per month for a Monthly Subscription
* Once every six (6) months for a Six-Month Subscription
* Once per year for an Annual Subscription

I’ve NEVER heard of this.  Usually, they make auto-renewal an optional element of membership for convenience, (in the form of a checkbox or some kind of indicator stating that that was your will) but subscription services NEVER automatically force people to perpetually auto-renew.

And not only do they basically just take your money automatically, then they have no way on their web site of "canceling" your account.  They take the tact of basically making it difficult to cancel your account through obscurity.  I challenge you to try to figure out how to unsubscribe.

I did an Internet search and turned up a phone number to call.

Call 1-888-549-ESPN to cancel an account.

“Just Pick One”

May 6, 2008

I’ve seen a lot of political videos on both sides of the fence but this one is definitely one of the funniest!

INFO: Reinstalling Zune Drivers in Windows

May 5, 2008

image Interestingly enough, if you do a repair installation (an Upgrade install over an existing installation) of Windows, Zune’s driver apparently disappears. 

I recently did a repair install myself and to my dismay, my Zune no longer synced when I attached it via the cable to the USB port of my laptop.  Windows said that it needed a driver all of a sudden and when it searched Microsoft Update for the driver, it came back empty.  I pointed to the original install files and no joy:  Windows didn’t find the driver there either.

The obvious solution is to simply uninstall the Zune software and reinstall it, to make sure that the drivers got installed into the OS.  Of course I was a little worried:  I didn’t want to have to reinput all of my podcast URLs – especially since I had no idea where it stored this information on the drive.

Fortunately, all that configuration information remained after I uninstalled the software and reinstalled it.  And as expected, once I did that, Windows picked up my connected Zune immediately and started the process of syncing the new podcasts and clips I’d made available.

So the good news is that the workaround is simple.

The bad news is, why is getting the Zune driver such a pain in the butt?