Archive for the ‘MrT’ Category

About My Internet Addiction

Friday, May 8th, 2009

I think it is widely accepted that I have something of an addiction to the Internet. Email, blogs, twitter, IM, and so forth. I find it very hard to put them aside and ignore them. But I have come to a point where I would sort of like to break that cycle. There are two problems with that.

One is that I just can’t afford to ignore some of that. Most of my work information including things to do and meeting requests comes by email. Most of my training is online. If I ignore it than it rapidly becomes too much to deal with at once. So I keep up with it all the time. Could I do it less often? Yes, and to some extent I am doing that. But I can’t shut it off completely.

The other is that I am something of a knowledge junky. That is I am also addicted to knowing what is going on. I have found that I can be away from the news for longer periods of time so that gives me some hope that I could break free from the Internet if work didn’t keep requiring connections.

The real question is do I want to break the addiction. Actually the answer is yes. I just don’t see a way to do it short of retirement or at the very least finding some other job. That’s my story and I’m sticking with it.

You Can Call Me Al

Wednesday, May 6th, 2009

I had a conversation with a salesperson one time that got off to a bad start. Very often sales types start off by trying to move much too quickly to a level of intimacy that they are not really entitled to. This guy was no exception. He started off and without taking a breath said something like “Hello Alfred. Your friends call you Al? Can I call you Al?”

I replied that “My friends call me Alfred but you can call me Al.” It threw him off his game which made me very happy.

I don’t go by “Al.” And if fact I know very few people named “Alfred” who like “Al” as a nickname/diminutive.  Many of them put up with it anyway (my Dad does) just because it is the path of least resistance. I never have. “Al” is short for “Allen/Alan” or “Albert” but it is not, in my mind, short for “Alfred.”  “Alf” is short for “Alfred” and I’m a lot more accepting of that though few people use it for me. Those people are almost all close family and I don’t generally invite people to use “Alf.”

I find that people generally want to be addressed by the name they introduce themselves with. I introduce myself as “Alfred.” And that is the name I recognize as mine. In fact one time I was walking though a mall with friends and one of them said “I think that person is calling you.” It turned out that someone I knew (a more or less work relationship) was calling me but they were calling “Al.” I would no more hear that as someone calling me than I would if they have been calling “Charley.”

Speaking of “Charley” I once worked with a salesman who insisted on calling one person we called on for business as “Charley.” He introduced himself as “Charles” and all his co-workers called him “Charles.” I pointed this out one day and the salesmen blew it off saying “he likes being called “Charley.” It didn’t seem that way to me but well we didn’t get the business. Was that a factor? Who knows. But I do know that someone who calls me “Al” is pretty unlikely to get my business.

Hats

Thursday, March 5th, 2009

I just don’t understand why more men don’t wear hats. The story I heard is that when JFK didn’t wear hats that was the beginning of the end. I have no idea if it is true but if it is that is not a credit to him.

I pretty much have practical reasons for wearing head coverings. I wear head coverings because I am short of hair covering my head. The sun in the summer and the cold in the winter and rain and wind all year round can make things uncomfortable for me. But I also like the way a good hat looks.

Yes I like hates. Not caps so much. Baseball style caps are just too informal for many occasions – as in pretty much anything but sports and recreation activities. I admit that I used to wear them but mostly because it was the socially acceptable sort of head covering to wear. But it never felt quite right so some time ago I decided to wear real hats again.

What’s the difference? Generally hats have a brim and caps don’t. Baseball caps have a visor. Brims go all he way around.

A hat is warmer in the cold weather. In warm weather I have a straw hat and a hat with ventilation so it can actually be cooler to wear a hat than not because of the sun protection. The brim also protects my ears and the back of my neck which caps do nothing for. It’s all good!

Lately I have bought some crushable felt hats. These are great because I can toss them in the suit case when I travel. Plus they really look nice and fit very comfortably. I have some non-crushable hats and in some ways they look nice. A good beaver felt hat can look really sharp. I have a high quality cowboy hat that I wore for many years. It needs either reblocking or replacing these days. I hope to get it reblocked. But at least you can do something with it. A cap gone bad pretty much just gets tossed out. And why not? But a hat has character and style. It’s real clothing.

If you have to tell people …

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

My favorite Margaret Thatcher quote is “Being powerful is like being a lady. If you have to tell people you are, you aren’t.” I was reminded of this the other day when I saw a huge pickup truck with a bumper sticker that said “Sexy ass woman driving a big ass truck.”  While there is no question that was a “big ass truck” I have a real hard time seeing the driver as a “sexy ass woman.” Well unless “sexy ass” has nothing to do with appearance. This woman was scary. Every time I have seen a bumper sticker or a license plate that indicated the driver/owner was sexy, beautify or otherwise attractive the bumper sticker was saying things that where contradicted by seeing the driver.

So I was thinking, if you have to tell people you are sexy are you really? Or is it just what you want to think of yourself as? I made the same statement with regards to being a new media expert recently. If you have to tell me you are an expert in blogging or Twitter or other social media isn’t that a sign of something missing?

Sure if you have things to tell me so that I can conclude you are an expert myself that’s fine. Or if someone else tells me “oh so and so is an expert” maybe I’ll listen. Although to be honest I’ll probably want some sort of evidence. There are too many cases of the one eyed man leading the blind out there in social media.

I see people put themselves out as experts on social media all the time. All too often they have Technorati rankings lower than mine (on my main blog which even when it was double what it is now was not that impressive) or they are “Twitter experts” and they have a follower count or a Twitter grader rank lower than mine. Not that I am an expert or anything like a social media star. I know people who are blogging, Twittering, Friendfeed, Facebook stars and trust me I am no where near where they are. I’m just saying that if you are a media star there should be statistics to back it up.

And there are other things. Like being smart or knowledgeable. Don’t tell me you are – act like you are and I’ll figure it out.

Now I’m not saying that people shouldn’t have positive self-images of themselves. If someone wants to look in the mirror and see a smart, sexy, just incredible person go ahead. I do. But I don’t go around trying to convince people that the thin, athletic, smart sexy guy with a full head of hair I picture in my head when I think of myself is necessarily the same as their reality.

Happy Anniversary to Me

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Not my wedding – that’s next week. It will be 32 years with me and Mrs. T on the 12th. But today is five years of me blogging. Mrs. T says it seems like a lot longer and I guess in some ways it does. Yet in other ways is seems like I have just started. Actually marriage is the same. In some ways it seems like we have always been married and in other ways like we are still newlywed.

So if you are interested my first recorded blog post is at http://thespoke.net/blogs/alfredtwo/archive/2004/02/07/6063.aspx on a site that is pretty much all closed up now.

25 random Things That Annoy Me

Monday, February 2nd, 2009
  1. Airport security – Every time I take off my shoes for the scanning machine I count that as a victory for terrorists.
  2. People who stand on the left (or passing lane) on moving sidewalks. Get out of the way people!
  3. Arena security. Come on does anyone really believe that the issue is security and not just a way to prevent people from sneaking in their own food?
  4. Drivers who do not use turn signals. When I think of all the turns I could have made earlier if people were signaling I resent the time I’ve lost.
  5. Airports that charge for wi-fi. I might not mind so much if they didn’t price it based on an imaginary 24-hours of use when people are likely not to use it for more than an hour or so.
  6. Expensive hotels that charge for wi-fi. The cheap hotels give it away for free so why to the expensive ones charge?
  7. Programming languages with semi-colons. They’re just a crutch for compiler writers anyway.
  8. Command line interfaces that do not use complete, correctly spelled English language words.
  9. People who block traffic in supermarket isles. Stand behind your cart not along side it people!
  10. People who stop inside doorways. Move out of the way so other people can come though.
  11. Places that do not warn people of allergens in the food. Especially nuts and peanuts! One of these places is going to make my wife a rich widow one of these days.
  12. People who share too much private/personal information too loudly in public places.
  13. Prices that also say “plus tax” without saying how much tax will be added. Trust me when I tell you that in a place 1,000 miles and several states from home I have no clue what the local sales tax is.
  14. Airport food prices. There is no reason a tiny “personal pizza” should cost as much as an extra large pizza that feeds three people at home does. The same is true for food concessions at sporting or entertainment events.
  15. Places that automatically put mayonnaise and/or mustard on hamburgers. Or anything that is not easily taken off. If you’re going to add stuff that is hard to remove it should be clearly stated so I can ask that you not do it.
  16. Fountain beverages that include more ice than beverage. The stuff comes out of the dispenser plenty cold enough for me. If I’d wanted a glass of ice I would have ordered one.
  17. LINUX – it’s a virus which is why it doesn’t “need” an anti-virus program. There are not many complaints I have about operating systems that LINUX doesn’t implement.
  18. People who are regularly late for appointments. Once in a while things happen but if you are late a lot it is your fault and wastes my time.
  19. People who toss their cigarette buts out their car windows. That’s just gross.
  20. People who don’t take time to air out after smoking. The smoke sticks to people like nauseating perfume for several minutes after the smoking stops.  Stand out in the cold and windy until it clears so I don’t have to smell it.
  21. Coffee breath. Even worse when mixed with smoker’s breath. Take a mint after coffee – thanks!
  22. Drunks. Everyone is entitled to screw up and get drunk once. After that if you don’t know your limit you are an idiot who should not drink at all.
  23. Cursing. If your vocabulary is so limited that you need to use “cussing” words work on your vocabulary. Or grow up. Or both.
  24. Too much perfume. The best smelling person is a clean person. Perfume too often replaces one bad smell with another that is even more irritating to the nose.
  25. Getting stuck in heavy traffic. I’m learning to be patient in it but it is still annoying as all get out.

25 Random Things About Me

Monday, February 2nd, 2009
  1. I ride a unicycle. I keep toying with the idea of buying an off road unicycle and a large wheel unicycle for road riding.
  2. When I was a teen I rode a bicycle from California to Delaware with a group. Nothing like travelling coast to coast on a bicycle to understand America.
  3. My original major in college (which I completed half way through my junior year) was sociology.
  4. I’ve only dated one person more than a couple of times and we’ve been married almost 32 years.
  5. I don’t drink alcohol but not because of religious reasons. I think it all tastes bad and the idea that it impairs judgment is enough reason to eschew it anyway.
  6. I like to play poker. I’m not good at it but it is fun and since it is a skill game I have a chance of getting better.
  7. I collect poker chips from casinos/card rooms where I have actually played. I have chips from about 20 places in 9 different states.
  8. I ride a snowboard these days because my knees like that better than skiing. I miss the skiing though.
  9. I have had ambitions to work at two companies in my career that are really hard to get jobs at – Digital and Microsoft – and have been able to work for both of them.
  10. The first programming language I ever learned was FORTRAN. It’s been over 15 years since I wrote a program in it though.
  11. The first programming language I taught myself was BASIC-PLUS. Over 30 years later I still choose a version of BASIC as my programming language for most things.
  12. I had lunch with Grace Hopper once. She was visiting the college I was attending and a small group of students had lunch and discussion with her.
  13. I was an operating system developer for almost two years. During that time I wrote the UI for a print/batch system from scratch. In BASIC-PLUS! Well I wrote some assembly language code too.
  14. I’m a preacher’s kid and proud of it.
  15. As a young person I was a “fire buff” and went to a lot of big city fires – sometimes riding fire trucks. Other times I went in my father;s car because he was a chaplain for the New Your City fire department. I had my own turnout coat and boots too.
  16. I’m an avid reader and will red almost anything but my favorites are science fiction and history non-fiction.
  17. I like to go snowshoeing in the winter time. Nothing like a walk in snow covered woods and trails.
  18. My summer exercise is kayaking.
  19. I used to SCUBA dive but it’s been years.
  20. Snorkeling is one of the things I really like to do when I can get into warm clear water. Doesn’t happen enough. Warm clear water is only found in swimming pools in New Hampshire.
  21. I’m addicted to email. But than if you know me at all you probably know that.
  22. I’ve written several textbooks – all on Visual Basic.
  23. What I really want to do is write fiction. I can’t seem to find the discipline to actually it though. I did try once and there are some short samples at http://www.acthompson.net/Fiction.htm I just looked at the dates on those and can’t believe it has been so long.
  24. I have not lived in East Hampton, NY since I was 5 but I still think of it as home.
  25. I am genetically incapable of keeping my opinions to myself. That probably explains why I am writing this. And blogging. And Twittering. And getting involved in all sorts of online forums.

I should be playing Gears of War II

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

I have a tough job. Long hours, lots of travel, struggling to keep up with the latest products, etc. Recently I was in a local office and someone handed me a copy of Gears of War II which I am told is quite the game. I haven’t played it yet though. I guess I really should.

I have an Xbox. Actually there are two in the house. Mrs. T got one for Christmas the other year and the company sent me one to use for demos. So I don’t really have an excuse for not playing. And clearly I am going to be at an event (or several) in the coming months where Gears of War II will be played. People tend to expect MSFT employees to know how to play. I get something of a pass because of course I am “old.” But still…

I keep wasting time on meetings, phone calls, email, writing for my blog, researching for a project I am doing and other more traditional work things. I may just have to re-think my priorities.

What are you?

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

Just for the fun of it I was taking a series of poll questions at Microsoft’s Microphone application on Facebook this afternoon and all of a sudden this question came up and I was stumped.

Do you consider yourself primarily a:

  • Gamer
  • Programmer
  • Computer Scientist
  • Artist
  • Technology Hobbyist
  • IT professional

And I didn’t know. Clearly not gamer or artist. IT professional? What does that even mean today? I work for a computer company but not really in an IT role. And while I have done that it never defined me. So that’s out.

These leaves technology hobbyist which feels ok but not quite. And then programmer and computer scientist. I want to say computer scientist. I really do. But do I reach that bar or am I “just” a well educated programmer? I think I would have to answer computer scientist but admit that this is as much aspirational as actual. And I have to think about how I define computer scientist.

So where do you see yourself?

Engineer

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

I self-identify as an engineer. That may not be how I earn my living but it is how I describe myself. What does that mean? I found this definition in Wikipedia.

An engineer is a person professionally engaged in a field of engineering. Engineers are concerned with developing economical and safe solutions to practical problems, by applying mathematics and scientific knowledge while considering technical constraints.[1][2] As such, the work of engineers is the link between perceived needs of society and commercial applications. Some consider this profession to be the link between art and science.

That sort of works but in some ways is too narrow. I do like the “link between art and science” though. But to me engineering means more. It means that  I like understanding how things work; how they are put together; and how people use them. I means I need to draw pictures to explain things. It means that I like to solve puzzles and make things work better. It means that I find wonder and a feeling of commonality in a diverse set of things – materials, architecture. cities, roads and the things that travel on them and machinery of all shapes and sizes.

One last thing, to me engineers are people who change the world – usually for the better. It’s the politicians and some in business who mess up what the engineers (and scientists) do. In my world view engineers are the good guys. 🙂