HOWTO: Record a VOIP phone call in OneNote 2016 for Windows

December 13, 2017

UPDATE 1/12/18:
I discovered that hitting MUTE during the call from your VOIP speakerphone may prevent OneNote from recording the audio in both directions (not just audio from your microphone) during the call.  OneNote will record audio while MUTE is off, however when it is on, you may hear long periods of silence.  This may be dependent on your hardware however this is what I’ve seen in my testing on a Polycom CX300 VOIP desk phone.

ORIGINAL POST – 12/13/17:
imageThe other day I received the question:

“How can I record a phone call while using OneNote 2016 for Windows?  For example, if I’m using OneNote to take notes during a phone call with, say, a customer service representative in order to take down their name, the claim/case number they’ve issued me, & the details of what I’ve been told… it’d be great to be able to also record the call using OneNote’s recording feature while I’m taking notes to fully take advantage of things like OneNote’s voice-to-text capabilities, audio search-ability, & audio timemarking to jump to specific spots in the recording & playback.”

[Disclaimer: I’m a tech – not a lawyer.  This is a post about what’s technically possible using OneNote. Please research your state’s laws on this phone recording to ensure you are using this feature in a lawful manner.]

Recording phone calls is simple in OneNote 2016 however there are some pre-requisites.  You must have the following:

  1. VOIP phone solution.  Skype for Business 2015 or 2016, Lync 2013, or Skype (consumer) are all great examples of Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) phone solutions in which you can make phone calls over an Internet connection.
  2. VOIP speakerphone connected to your Windows computer.  This is critical because VOIP headsets (where the speaker & microphone are isolated) will not work.  Only one channel (the microphone) will be recorded if an attempt is made to record a call using a headset, in my tests. You must use a speakerphone in order for both sides of a call to be recorded.

Configuring this within OneNote requires the following:

  1. Set OneNote audio recording device specifically to the “speakerphone”.
    Go to File –> Options: “Audio Video”.  Under “Audio recording settings”, click the “Device” field dropdown list & select the entry matching your speakerphone.
  2. [OPTIONAL] Select & configure the codec/format.
    If you require a crystal clear call recording, you can do the following:

        1. Change codecs
          Under “Audio recording settings”, click the “Codec” field dropdown list & select “Windows Media Audio 10 Professional”.  Warning: This will greatly increase the drive storage requirements by as much as 10x and will balloon your OneNote file size, but your audio quality will be substantially higher. You can hear a pin drop with this codec.  If you anticipate only voice discussions, you may consider simply using the default codec, “Windows Media Audio Voice 9” which compresses audio much, much better and is much more efficient on disk space.
        2. Change audio fidelity.
          Under “Audio recording settings”, click “Format” and select “20 kbps, 22.05 kHz, mono”.  This will increase the sampling rate & provide a much clearer recording.  Again, this will produce a larger audio recording in your OneNote in use more drive storage.
  3. Click Record Audio.
    From the OneNote ribbon, click File –> Insert –> “Record Audio”. (Note: This will be greyed out if you’ve previously recorded something within the active OneNote page.
  4. Press “Stop” when you’re done.

#SavePlayer1

December 8, 2017

I love everything about this spot.


Because you can never have too many dog videos

December 4, 2017

Stuff to save & play back for my son

August 12, 2017

Andy Serkis reads Trump’s tweets outloud… as Gollum

July 12, 2017

I’m pretty certain this is the best thing that I will see all week.


Henry Rollins: The One Decision that Changed My Life Forever

July 10, 2017

I love this video so much because I see so much of myself in it.

The line that got me was, “I don’t have talent: I have tenacity.  I have discipline.  I have focus.”

I remember in high school thinking, the truth is that I’m not inherently talented.  I just have some odd interests that make me unique & ultimately, I always try harder than the next guy.  And the next guy.  And the next guy.  Figuratively, I’m the last guy in the gym taking jump shots everyday.

The other thing Henry said was, “You better get plan B, C, D, E, F, & G, otherwise you’re going to starve to death in America.”

This is so true.  I could never understand people that didn’t prepare for when things didn’t go their way.  It’s part of what boggles me about Hollywood because there’s a saying here for folks in the entertainment industry that goes, “Don’t have a plan B because that’s a plan for failure & you’ll too easily fall back on it.”

My god, who in their right mind wouldn’t plan for failure unless they treated failure as something awful?  Failure is a learning opportunity & how fast & how well you recover from failure is what defines a person’s character.

The only time you really fail is when you don’t get back up.  And there’s nothing wrong with preparing to get back up… and go a head in a direction.


DirecTV & “Your receiver isn’t authorized to record this program”

June 22, 2017

I have DirecTV with an older DVR model – the HR20.  The other day I was watching a show & attempted to record it by hitting the “RECORD” button on the remove after about 35min had gone by of the 1 hour long show. 

I was greeted with this message:

“Your receiver isn’t authorized to record this program.”

I hit RECORD multiple times and it still wouldn’t work.  I’ve actually seen this before but never figured out what was causing it.  After doing some research, I’ve found out the following things:

This is apparently associated with a long standing bug in the DirecTV DVR software that affects numerous models – including mine:

  1. LIVE/IN-PROGRESS BUFFER
    If the program you’re watching & want to record is a good ways into the show, it is a known problem that attempting to record the show by hitting “the RECORD button may fail with this error.
    I’ve heard that it has to do with the live buffer being completely filled – i.e. all 3 hours of live in-progress buffer is filled with past programming.  This is why this doesn’t happen consistently:  If you or the DVR has changed channels within the last 3 hours, you won’t get this issue.
  2. CHANGING CHANNELS
    If you change the channel and switch back, you’ll find that hitting the RECORD button will now work… however you will have lost the buffer of the show’s progress. i.e. If you’d watched 35min of the show, then change to another channel and come back to the original channel, you will be able to record but you will not hae the previous 35min in the recording.
  3. RECORDING FROM GUIDE
    If you go to the channel guide and press RECORD on the show playing at that moment, the recording SHOULD still work.  This is the best workaround.

Differences between Windows 10 Mobile (Nokia Icon) & Android (Samsung Galaxy S8)

June 15, 2017

imageHere’s a list of things I’ve noticed that are different between Windows 10 Mobile (Nokia Icon) & Android (Samsung Galaxy S8) since I’ve moved over:

POSITIVES:

  • Device unlock & authentication using fingerprint is a seamless experience.  While really not necessary & just a ‘nice-to-have’, this is probably the most surprising & delightful thing I’ve discovered about moving to the Samsung Galaxy S8.  Every time I discover another Android app that supports fingerprint auth (Bank of America, Chase, Paypal, etc.) instead of username/pwd/pin, I smile.
  • Battery life is really excellent.  While it is a new phone, I would argue that the battery life on the unit is 100%-150% more than that of my old Nokia Icon.  I used to make do with charging in my car or carrying an extra battery like we all do. So far I haven’t needed an extra battery, so again, this is convenient but a ‘nice-to-have’.
  • Fast. Wow, this thing is fast. Apps run fast, both wired & wireless charging is fast, fingerprint/facial authentication is fast, browsing is fast.  Again, while this sounds exciting, it’s more of a ‘nice to have’.
  • Skype for Business client for Android absolutely kicks the ASS of the W10M version and that’s pretty embarrassing. Part of this has to do with how the app runs in the background all the time, while it closes when not in the foreground on W10M.  This is borderline revolutionary because I use Skype for Business so much, and a pretty good value proposition for moving to Android.
  • Thin & light.  It’s indeed the thinnest phone I’ve ever had.  Even with a gel case, it’s thinner than my Nokia Icon.  The downside is that you don’t feel like you have a grip on the phone they way you did with the Nokia. I’m dreading the day I drop it.
  • The display is a little longer – about 3/4” longer – than the Nokia Icon and that’s including the softkeys at the base (back, home, apps), meaning there’s a bit more real estate to display things.
  • The display is really beautiful.  There’s no question that it’s the most vibrant and easy to view screen I’ve ever used.  The auto-brightness is excellent as well.  This element of the phone is nearly perfect.  But because of the convex nature of the glass, you REALLY need to get a tempered glass protector over it – which is a simple $12 purchase.

NEGATIVES:

  • It hate having to page through grids of icons.  I used to be able to store 90% of what I needed on a single page because of resizable tiles under Windows 10 Mobile.  Now I have to have 4 pages of unsizeable icons.
  • Outlook for Android doesn’t appear to have the basic ability to set an appointment as “private”.  Nor does it have the ability to set categories.  Or make an appointment reoccurring. 
  • Configuration is a nightmare.  There are so many configuration menus & sections, it’s mind-boggling.  Easily 3x-4x more than W10M, and while that is partially due to there being more flexibility, a lot of it is just lousy UI.  Good luck ever finding what you need in that maze of knobs & switches.  Worst configuration panel ever.
  • The UI is very inconsistent between apps & the OS. “OK” or “Send” is top of screen, bottom of screen, left of center, right of center. Really annoying – especially when the send button is at the top of the screen & because of the length of the phone, you have to move your hand to the top of the screen.
  • Microsoft Authenticator doesn’t always pop up notifications when expected.  We use Microsoft Authenticator to verify two-factor authentication for everything from VPN into Microsoft to access to extranet sites and not getting the notification on your phone for TFA auth is disturbing.  You find yourself frantically opening the Authenticator app and checking to see if it’s working – which is usually is, but Android simply didn’t post a system notification for you to respond to.
  • Widgets suck.  They take up a horrendous amount of space, none of them look attractive, and they’re all poorly written.
  • Voice to text is super important for me, and Google’s voice to text is quite accurate – but it doesn’t autocapitalize proper nouns or the first letter of each sentence, nor does it add punctuation where it belongs.  Cortana voice to text is FANTASTIC.  It not only does a great job with capitalization & punctuation but also with proper nouns.  I really miss it.
  • Not having Outlook contacts sync with the local contacts of the phone is a royal PITA.  You can push all your Outlook contacts (via the Outlook settings) to your Android contacts but once they’re out of sync, you’ll get incoming calls/texts that have only a phone number… annoying. 
  • Android Notification hell is hell.  I remember seeing other Android users’ notification icons and saying, “Why do you have so many icons at the top of your screen?” and they usually just shrug and say they ignore it.  How stupid is that?  Every damned app has notifications access & to tune your notifications, you basically have to wait until something shows up that annoys the hell out of you & then mute it or turn off notifications entirely for that one app.  There’s no standards for notifications on Android… it’s horrible.  I don’t remember ever going through this hell on any other platform.
  • The device froze on me.  I woke up one morning and the device was completely locked up on my nightstand.  I have to do a Volume-Power button reset.  After doing so, the always on clock configuration was weirdly reset. I don’t remember my Windows 10 Mobile EVER locking up on me. It may have had other issues but that wasn’t one of them.
  • Audio stop & start.  If I get a call or a reminder while music or audio is playing, the audio won’t necessarily continue.  This appears to be a ‘per app’ thing – as in each app has to take care of this on their own.  For example, there’s a setting on Audible for Android to continue playing back audio if it’s interrupted by a phone call or a notification.  On other apps, that’s not necessarily available.  So when you get a phone call or a text message, the audio… just stops.  In the car or in the shower, that’s really annoyingly stupid.

The future of connectivity is cellular.

June 3, 2017

This past week at Computex 2017 in Taipei, Microsoft announced a series of Always-Connected PCs – some Qualcomm ARM CPU-based, some Intel CPU-based. One of the showcase capabilities of these devices are eSIM-based cellular connectivity.

imageTHE EDGE OF TOMORROW
If you’re not paying attention, you could very well miss what seems an obvious future:

Cellular networking will soon outperform traditional wired & WiFi-based networking.

Your cellphone & any cellularly-connected devices will potentially have network speeds & performance superior to any WiFi, DSL, Cable or even FIBER connection you might get at home, at the office, or in a coffee shop.

Need evidence?  Here’s a device that was announced March 2017:

This home router connects to a cellular network at home & provides 1Gbps Internet access at the edge (farthest from the cell tower) and 4Gbps optimally at close distances.

Now imagine a fraction of this speed in your pocket on your cellphone: Anywhere you go, you could wirelessly get Internet access better than what is available from your home or your office. (Some people get this today compared to a DSL line!) Yes, your smartphone may not get a full 1Gbps due to power requirements, but it could be as much as 300-500Mbps.

WAIT, FROM MY CELLPHONE?
Yup.  Prepare yourself for your cellphone to have blazing network speeds.  But so will ANY CELLUARLY-CONNECTED device…  such as eSIM-enabled laptops & tablets… and also:

DESKTOPS: This is why Microsoft is partnering with HW OEMs to produce laptops & potentially DESKTOPS with cellular networking in them.  If a person can get better networking from cellular than from the Ethernet port in the wall, why not just use cellular and get rid of all the wires & equipment? Suddenly management of those machines got a lot simpler.

SERVERS: Why can’t datacenter servers be connected this way too? Indeed: Datacenter servers could use cellular as well.  All traffic would be encrypted & it would likely save power, reduce heat dissipation, and reduce management costs.

A WORD ABOUT SURFACE: The decision to include/not include LTE in past Surface devices wasn’t really ever about demand. (a.k.a. the statement we made that “We aren’t including LTE in Surface because customers aren’t asking for it.”) C’mon – we know that there were, in fact, people asking for it, otherwise why would we need to make a statement about it?  No, it was more about hardware economics: At the time of Surface Pro 2 & 3, we couldn’t physically fit the LTE transceiver & antenna into the Surface design without it substantially impacting aspects such as cost, battery life, and ultimately the time/budget to rearchitect a design for something that a minority of device owners would use where others wouldn’t. With Surface Pro (5) enough hardware innovation has been done to incorporate LTE Advanced into the device design cost-effectively, but it took a bit.

BUT IF YOU’RE ON A PHONE NETWORK…
…then you can make voice calls & have voice mail, right? Now think about that: If you don’t need a physical network or WiFi & you’re already on a cellular phone network, why do you need a VOIP phone system?

In other words, if I get rid of my wired/WiFi network at work, can’t I get rid of my desk phone PBX as well?

Yup.  All those corporate PBX’s & VOIP desk phones suddenly aren’t really necessary if you’re using a cellphone for everything.  Now, all you need is virtual telecom management solutions that work with your cellular provider and you’re set.

WHEN WILL IT BE REAL?
This is not 10 years down the road.  This is next year in mid-2018. Among other providers, Verizon has committed to making 5G available in major cities by then.

Also, it’s important to understand that the technology is not new:

  1. The cellular bandwidth/speeds in Japan is regularly 500Mbps–1Gbps, while we in the US get excited about our smartphones phones doing 5-25Mbps.
  2. While 4Gbps 5G network performance is stunning, Japanese researchers in early 2016, had developed 100Gbps 5G network performance. Again note: This is GIGABIT speeds. conventional WiFi on laptops working in offices & coffee shops generally only do 300Mbps-1Gbps at optimal conditions.
    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/japanese-5g-researchers-achieve-breakthrough-100gbps-wireless-internet-speeds-1543485

Of course, this won’t be everywhere overnight.  But it will be in metropolitan cities & expanding.

WHY DOES ONE NEED PHYSICAL NETWORK EQUIPMENT THEN?
This transition is similar to the move from land line phones to cell phones:  If all your networking is cellular & and routing is all done virtually, where does this leave networking vendors who depend on conventional network equipment sales for revenue  Good question. I don’t really know. Personally, at first glance, I think it means they have to diversify their offerings as the market changes.

WHAT ABOUT MICROSOFT WINDOWS?
Windows 10 is actually optimized for cellular networking. If you haven’t been paying attention, you may have missed the cellular configuration settings that are in the OS:

imageThere is also an app called “Paid WiFi & Cellular” that comes with Windows 10 that allows you to purchase cellular minutes in areas not covered by unlimited data consumption for your eSIM enabled Windows device.

—————-

EPILOGUE:
REGARDING TWO BODY SOLUTIONS & COMPETITORS:
Two body solutions are stop-gap solutions.  Having a MiFi Internet Access device & laptop PC (or a MiFi USB dongle) may be okay for a subsegment of the world, but for most people buying computing devices: They want the connectivity built-in to the computing device itself. We saw this in past history in the mobile market and we’re seeing it now here. (I’ll explain that in another post later.)

One thing that was mentioned by some experts is that Chromebooks don’t have this – neither to Macbooks.  (iPads have historically had an early version of embedded cellular/SIM technology but the challenge has often been, how do you move from carrier to carrier on the same iPad.)  Additionally, cellular is incredibly important in markets where WiFi & LAN networking isn’t as readily available… like China.  Or India.

Isn’t that interesting?


Angry about the AHCA? How about doing something about it?

May 6, 2017

imageTwo days ago, Republicans in Congress voted to pass the American Healthcare Act – an insane piece of legislation that has only two purposes:  Spite & power.

  • Not a a single healthcare organization supports it. 
  • The House Oversight Committee never got the chance to study it and provide estimates on it’s impact.
  • Not a single Democrat voted for it.
  • AHCA effectively cuts healthcare from 24 million citizens – especially those with pre-existing conditions who desperately need it.

Documented here (https://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/115-2017/h256) the inhumane suffering & loss of life over the next several years will be staggering.  For an idea of the impact this will have, read this article:

So what are you going to do about it?

I’ll make it simple for you:

Almost every Republican voted for the bill.  If your Congressman is Republican, it’s likely he or she wanted to protect their own jobs & voted AGAINST the American people’s interests, believing you, their constituents, wouldn’t notice their actions when they run for reelection in 2018.

  1. AGAIN, ALMOST EVERY REPUBLICAN IN THE HOUSE VOTED TO PASS IT. (Click here for the House vote tally – the following Republicans did NOT vote for the AHCA)
      1. Biggs, Andy, AZ 5th
      2. Coffman, Mike, CO 6th
      3. Massie, Thomas, KY 4th
      4. LoBiondo, Frank, NJ 2nd
      5. Smith, Chris, NJ 4th
      6. Lance, Leonard, NJ 7th
      7. Katko, John, NY 24th
      8. Jones, Walter, NC 3rd
      9. Turner, Michael, OH 10th
      10. Joyce, David, OH 14th
      11. Costello, Ryan, PA 6th
      12. Meehan, Patrick, PA 7th
      13. Dent, Charles, PA 15th
      14. Hurd, Will, TX 23rd
      15. Comstock, Barbara, VA 10th
      16. Herrera Beutler, Jaime, WA 3rd
      17. Reichert, David, WA 8th
      18. Ros-Lehtinen, Ileana, FL 27th
      19. Donovan Jr., Daniel, NY 11th
      20. Fitzpatrick, Brian, PA 8th
      21. Newhouse, Dan, WA 4th
        (Abstained)
  2. YOUR CONGRESSMAN IS LISTED HERE.
    (Figure out who your Congressman is, if you don’t know. If they were Republican, they voted against public interests. Click here to look them up.)
     
  3. GET REGISTERED TO VOTE.
    (Prepare for the next Congressional election. Make your vote count. Click here to get registered.)
  4. VOTE & ENCOURAGE OTHERS. (November 2018 is the next Congressional election. Voting is the single most impactful action you can take. Click here to find out when & where the next election will be in your location.)

My favorite pinball game of all time: “Slugfest Baseball”

May 3, 2017
Slugfest Baseball/Pinball Game Play

I started nostalgically searching for my favorite pinball game of all time, back in college, and OMG, I FOUND IT.  It was called “Slugfest Baseball” and this pinball game was amazing. I must have plugged 1000’s of dollars into that game – all in quarters.

PITCHING: It would pitch a pinball to you that you had to hit with a flipper with 4 different pitches: Fastball, curveball, change up, & sinker. The fastball & change up are self explanatory, but the sinker put backspin on the ball so it’d slow down right before it hit you. And the curveball would go off to the side using MAGNETS under the game top.

HITTING: Where you hit the ball made a big difference. You had to hit the highlighted sensors in the back for a single, double or triple, otherwise, it’d be an out. If the ball came back, naturally it was a strike. But if you were fast, you could rapidly pound the ‘steal’ button with a man on base and steal with the leading runner.

HOMERUNS: The big exciting moment came when the clean up hitter came up: An actual ramp would lift out of the game top for the duration of your at-bat. If you hit the ball up the ramp with enough velocity, it’d leap into the air and actually hit the upper deck above the sensors – which was a home run.

RUNS=CARDS: For every 5 runs you made, or a Grand Slam, you could actually get a real baseball card given to you. There was a dispenser under the game that would drop your baseball cards like little rewards for doing well. I actually got a Chipper Jones rookie card from the machine.

AMBIANCE: The game’s ambiance was fantastic. It played organ music and had a crowd noise. It had the voice of an umpire calling the balls & strikes, and when you hit it out of the park on a home run, the lights would turn off on the game and explode in a ridiculous celebration of the hit.

TWO PLAYER: The game could be played two player. One person could select from the 4 pitches and the other player would have to hit, and you’d swap after 3 outs. People used to gather around the game to watch people play. I skipped classes in college to finish games until the 9th inning. We must have played that machine into the ground.

…this game is probably the last remaining arcade game I’d buy if I had the room in our house.


Where the Heck is Matt? 2016

May 1, 2017

Did you know that Matt Harding did another “Where the hell is Matt?” video compilation at the end of 2016?

Where the Heck is Matt? 2016

Where the Heck is Matt? 2016

In case you’re not familiar with Matt Harding, he’s been a source of happiness for me over the past 10-15 years.  So much so that I bought one of his orange t-shirts.

Just start at 2005 and keep watching:

Where the Hell is Matt? 2005

Where the Hell is Matt? 2005

Where the Hell is Matt? 2006

Where the Hell is Matt? 2006

Where the Hell is Matt? 2008

Where the Hell is Matt? 2008

Where the Hell is Matt? 2012

Where the Hell is Matt? 2012

Pedigree Child Replacement Programme

April 27, 2017

Yeah, New Zealanders are wacky.  And hilarious.

When your kids move out, move on. Adopt a dog with the Pedigree Child Replacement Programme at http://www.replacethem.co.nz

PEDIGREE® – Hard Man to Impress

PEDIGREE® – Hard Man to Impress

PEDIGREE® – Treehouse

PEDIGREE® – Treehouse

PEDIGREE® – Scared

PEDIGREE® – Scared

Pedigree… you’ve done it again. Dog adoption FTW.

April 27, 2017

These commercials make me wanna go out and buy a bag of Pedigree.

PEDIGREE® – Pick Me
With nearly 4 million dogs entering shelters yearly, there are so many furry friends waiting to find forever homes. Pedigree, a long-standing supporter of dog adoption, developed this film to raise awareness for dog adoption around National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day (April 30th) and National Pet Month (May).

PEDIGREE – ”Pick Me”

PEDIGREE® – A Vote for Good
What’s the one thing supporters of either party can agree on? Watch our social experiment unfold. #AVoteForGood #FeedTheGood

PEDIGREE–A Vote for Good

PEDIGREE® – Rescued
Beautiful and meaningful relationships start at the dog shelter. That’s where Dan, a veteran who was wounded in action, meets his kindred spirit, a dog that’s also been through a lot. This is another example of how Dogs Bring Out The Good In Us.

PEDIGREE® – Rescued

PEDIGREE® – “By My Side”
Dogs bring out the good in us. Not only in good times, when everything in life seems to be going our way, but also during the toughest times. The first film in Pedigree’s Learn From Dog series features Dan Lasko, a wounded warrior whose service dog helped him through PTSD and taught him that “Everything is going to be alright.”

PEDIGREE® – “By My Side”

Why I will never fly American Airlines, i.e. The Straw that Broke the Camel’s Back

April 24, 2017

image

Recently, the following story hit the headlines of news outlets:

American Airlines employee allegedly hits woman with stroller, confronts angry passenger

I’ve had many issues with American Airlines.  Their planes were old & dirty, their crews were rude & entitled, their seating was cramped – and I’m a short, small guy, their customer service was atrocious.  But this is the story I tell when people ask me why I refuse to fly American Airlines (& United) and haven’t flown them for more than 15 years.

I used to cover the Walt Disney Company back in the early 2000’s as a client.  I’d just flown on American Airlines into DFW/Dallas Fort Worth from a company sales conference in New Orleans and was taking a connecting flight to MCO/Orlando to get to Disney Imagineering in Florida.

Needless to say, I was pretty tired.

“THE PLANE HAS A MECHANICAL PROBLEM”
But upon arriving at DFW, we had to get on and subsequently get off 3 different planes at three different terminals.  The reason?  The American Airlines captain announced to the passengers that each of the planes we had boarded had a mysterious & identical “mechanical” issue on each of them – and of course, no details were ever given. We even sat onboard the first plane and were stuck on it for at least 1 hour before deplaning.

Back then you had to take a tram from terminal to terminal and our subsequent “new” planes were all on separate terminals making it an even bigger ordeal for us to drag our hand-carry luggage from gate to gate.  It was such an ordeal that I distinctly remember seeing passengers carrying sleeping children over their shoulders, business men with sweat stains under their dress shirts from dragging their stuff between gates, and elderly folks – frightened that they might miss the new flight try to get to the gates on their own without waiting for wheelchairs.  I also remember seeing kind people helping others with children or the elderly carry their bags to the new gates.

MY TALK WITH THE FLIGHT ATTENDANT
Delayed more than 6 hours, passengers were near riot-level angry at the 3rd gate we’d arrived at, and I saw one of our crew’s flight attendants – with her hair a total mess – quietly handing out pieces of paper to people waiting at the gate, having just been kicked off the 3rd plane. I walked up to her, and asked her what in God’s name was going on. She took me aside and quietly told me a story similar to this:

“Imagine you lived in Dallas but your destination was Orlando and you only had 6 hours left that the FAA allowed you to fly by law. Now say, if you were the captain, your word about the plane’s flight readiness trumps anything else… so you could conceivably hold a flight on the ground by stating it had a “safety problem” until your 6 hours expired, at which point you & the flight crew would be forced to stay in your home town of Dallas per FAA regulations and a new crew would have fly in and take over.”

I blurted out loudly, “Oh, you have GOT to be kidding me.” She said, “This is all hypothetical, of course. Oh, by the way? Here’s a customer feedback form. Our flight is AA407 & in case you’re wondering, our captain’s name is [pilot name here].”  Every passenger in the gateway area was being handed a form.

2 weeks later, I got a written letter signed by the CEO of AA apologizing for the incident and a coupon giving me 25,000 frequent flyer miles, which was the equivalent of a free flight. I tore it up and swore to never flew with them again, if I could manage it.

EPILOGUE:
7 years later, AA was the only choice I had to fly into Dallas.  The price difference was too great between American Airlines and any other carrier that was on our company’s preferred vendors list.

So I got on hoping for the best.  I should have planned for the worst because sure enough the plane was delayed 4 hours and I had to sit in various gate areas because LAX was under construction and there was no concessions.  When we finally got on, I mentioned to the first flight attendant I saw that I was feeling rapidly nauseated and needed to use the bathroom as soon as I boarded.  Her comment was something about needing to expedite for “an on-time departure” and I told her, “What? Y’all are already 4 hours late. What do you mean ‘on-time’?”

And that was the end of that – the bat signal must have gone out one me, because every crew member did their best to ignore me for the rest of the flight.

————–

Personally, after years of terrible customer service, I really don’t believe American Airlines employees have any fear of ever being fired.  I don’t care about how “they’re only human” and all that jazz:  No one with that kind of concern in their mind would ever treat their customers the way they do.


What is a Quantum Computer? How does it work? Why is it so important?

March 19, 2017

I really like this explanation of Quantum Computing and what it’s potential is.

Quantum Computing is a science that has the potential to solve problems at 1000x the speed of today’s fastest supercomputers… search vast amounts of data in 1000x the speed of todays’ fastest searching algorithms.

This explanation is the simplest I’ve found to date:

You don’t know how Quantum Computers work!

MICROSOFT & QUANTUM COMPUTING
Microsoft has had large resources dedicated to this field of research for decades, featuring the leadership of one of the world’s preeminent mathematicians, Michael Freedman.  Michael Freedman is a Fields Medal Award winner, an honor often referred to as the “Nobel Peace Prize of Mathematics”, given to the world’s best mathematicians. Together, with numerous other Quantum Computing Researchers at Microsoft’s “Station Q” research facilities in UC Santa Barbara (and other locations), they are on the forefront of Quantum Computing.

Microsoft Quantum Computing Research have also published a video that has a more high level explanation of Quantum Computing and it’s value.  (Hmm.  Maybe I should have put this video first on this post considering it’s simplicity.  Oh well.):

Quantum Computing 101

Here’s a write up about Station Q, our Quantum Computing headquarters:

Here is the web site for Microsoft’s QC Headquarters:


Fareed’s Zakaria: Trump is a B.S. artist

March 19, 2017

Fareed offers his take on why Donald Trump fits the definition of a B.S. artist.

Fareed’s Zakaria: Trump is a B.S. artist

Do not confuse motion with progress.

March 19, 2017

Fareed Zakaria on Donald Trump:
“Let’s say you’re a Trump voter: An honest hardworking American that put up with Donald Trump’s unusual behavior because you wanted aa president that would stop playing Washington’s political games, bring a business man’s obsession with action and results, and focus on the economy. 

How’s that working out for you?”

Fareed Zakaria’s take on the Trump Presidency


Collecting Legoland California Pop Badges

March 13, 2017

UPDATE 6/5/17:
Looks like in the latest flyer for LEGOLAND California, they are advertising the latest special Pop Badges for July 4th & for July 28-29.

And they provide a bit of information about the mysterious Gold Pop Badge as well.  Looks like they are having as many as 10 park employees wear Mr. Gold pop badges and even providing hints on poster, which seems to be a big jump in help obtaining the badge compared to previous Mr. Gold campaigns.  (Hope it’s not ‘too easy’.)

image

ORIGINAL POST 3/13/17:
Our family is pretty loyal to Legoland California.  We’ve been to the other theme parks & resorts in Southern California but the only one we buy an annual pass to is Legoland.

INTRODUCTION TO OUR FAMILY & LEGO
imageMy son in particular loves Lego.  When he was in pre-school, he assembled the LEGO Movie 70810 Metal Beard’s Sea Cow by himself – all 2,741 pieces. I never placed a single brick on the model for him. (For those not aware, the Sea Cow is one of the largest LEGO sets on the market)  He’s since also completed:

  • X Wing Fighter (Pre-school)
  • Millennium Falcon (Kindergarten)
  • Imperial Shuttle (Kindergarten)
  • TIE Fighter (Kindergarten)

And his biggest current accomplishment:

He’s currently working on:

LEGOLAND CALIFORNIA “POP BADGES”
One of the collectibles that LegoLand has that seems to be lesser known is Pop Badges.  These are plastic badges that adhere to your kid’s Legoland lanyard or their shirt and represent some special accomplishment or feat.

First news of the Pop Badge Challenge was on this site: https://legolandcalifornianews.com/2016/03/17/collect-your-limited-edition-pop-badges/

They actually first started in the LegoLand Park in the UK, where they’ve been handing them out

Since then it’s been a quiet pursuit of Lego fans that visit the parks.  If you go to LegoLand California, you’ll very occasionally notice some kids walking around with badges on their lanyard or their shirts. These are badges of pride as “they know” about the pop badges and collect them aggressively. 

HOW DO YOU GET THEM?
All you have to do is ask the ride operator for one.  Some of the bigger rides have them.  Here’s a few that we’ve obtained:

PARK RIDE BADGES
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These are the badges that you can get by asking the Model Citizen (MC) running/hosting the ride.  Here’s the ones for Heartlake City Horse Riding, Ninjago the Ride, FunTown Firefighters, and The Dragon Rollercoaster.

WP_20170221_21_21_10_RawHOTEL BADGE
If you stay at the LegoLand Hotel, you MAY get a pop badge.  This badge lets you and your family into the park at 9:30AM – a half hour earlier than anyone else to ride a small selection of rides.  They usually include Coastersaurus, Lego Technic, Heartlake City Horse Riding, and Safari.

WP_20170221_21_21_19_RawKING’S GOLD
If you go through Castle Hill, you may wander past an area that looks like panning for gold.  That’s exactly what it is.  For $3, you can receive a pan and start go through the river sand looking for a nugget of gold.

It’s a fun activity for the kids and if they find one, they can turn it in to the cashier for a gold medal from the King’s Treasury.  This is what it looks like.  It’s not technically a pop badge but you’ll find kids wearing them with pride nonetheless.

HALLOWEEN BADGES
WP_20170312_14_04_42_Pro.jpg (2)These are badges that you can obtain if you visit LegoLand during the month of October SPECIFICALLY during their special “Brick-or-Treat” days, where they had out treats and have other special activities for kids dressed up for Halloween. The photo above is the set from the 2016 Halloween.

GOLD BADGE
There is reportedly someone with a special rare “Gold” pop badge wandering the park.  We’ve never encountered it while there but photos of the supposed-badge look like a gold-colored badge showing a gold mini-figure on it reading, “Take me to guest services”

There is a sign in the Legoland Hotel that briefly talks about it near the elevators and it describes the badge as being very rare and worth something if you turn it into guest services.  At the UK Legoland, it looks a bit different, showing a ‘gold brick’ on the front and it is reportedly worth a free ticket to the park – but it requires that you turn the badge in to guest services, meaning you lose the badge as a collectable.


Examination Day

March 10, 2017

I have never been one to succumb to conspiracy theories or quackish beliefs in extreme subterfuge like that of what some of my “far left” or “far right” friends subscribe to…

…but when I actually see people that celebrate (CELEBRATE!) outlandish propaganda, blatant deception against their own interests, full retraction/negation of citizen’s rights – all based on what can only be called pure ignorance, the inability to comprehend 6th grade logic, and the unverified carrot of “I’ll take care of you & rid all that ails you”, I start to wonder if ‘Keep America Stupid Forever’, really is the long term strategy for this administration.

Many years ago as a 15yo kid, I saw this short 10min episode of the ‘new’ Twilight Zone, and it will be no surprise, once you read it, that after more than 30 years, it suddenly came rushing back to me. At the episode’s conclusion, I remember sitting in the corner of the living room sobbing.

It’s a really good episode about the future. Do me a favor, and watch it.

Twilight Zone “Examination Day”