Archive for the ‘Generalities’ Category

New ASU-Starbucks partnership

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/06/16/starbucks-free-college-tuition/10569971/

 

On the surface, this sounds like a great opportunity for Starbucks employees. They will get essentially free tuition for ASU’s online programs, and current ASU students like me may ultimately benefit from a greater selection of courses. The problem today is that ASU offers only about 33 undergraduate programs, most of which are of the ‘Applied Science’ category, like Web Design, and not Computer Science or Computer Information Systems, for example. I hope the availability of courses and programs will be enlarged, and I hope Starbucks employees take advantage of this new program. The downside is that the existing tuition reimbursement program will be discontinued, which means unless they can transfer to an ASU program they will lose choice in their educational plan.

Common Core

There seems to be a lot of misconception about Common Core. Now, I don’t have any kids in school, so I don’t really have any dog in the hunt, as it were. However, a lot of people seem to be up in arms that Common Core is going to allow the federal government to take over our local schools, etc. Others are alarmed at the content of some of the textbooks created under the Common Core guidelines, which I think is the real issue here.
First step always, is to educate yourself as parents and voters. It is after all, us who control voting for all the people who pass and implement the laws concerning education, from the President all the way down to our local school board members. Go to the Common Core website (www.corestandards.org), and actually read the guidelines. They currently cover only English and Mathematics skills. They will be expanded to other subjects, such as History and Science in the future.
The guidelines themselves are rather innocuous, only stating what a particular child in a particular grade level should know at the end of that grade year. I think that is important, as if you don’t know where you should be, how do you know how good you are doing, either as a student or an educator? Perhaps these initial guidelines are set too low, which is my personal opinion, but the public education system in this country has been deteriorating for decades in order to encompass too many students who are treated as victims instead of being challenged and held to high standards.
Common Core is a good first step, but we really need to do more. Much more.
Now, the issue of the textbooks is a whole other matter. Many parents and educators have pointed out glaring inaccuracies in some new textbooks that were allegedly produced to conform with Common Core guidelines, but end up looking more like someone is pushing an extreme liberal agenda. This is very much a result of our failure to be active in our children’s education, especially at the local school board and state level. Textbooks are largely written by academics and college professors who have already been corrupted by the liberal agenda, and are trying to push down to the grade school level the new social norm as they see them.
This is what we really need to be concerned about.

9/11

12 years ago this morning, I was getting ready for work like any normal day. I turned on Fox News, like any normal day. But it was not any normal day. A plane had flown into one of the World Trade Center buildings, where I had been just a few months before making a late night visit to the Duane Reade in the basement for some forgotten toiletries on my business trip for eFax.
The person I lived with at the time sat there in utter shock at what we were seeing, and both of us flinched when the second plane came in and crashed. I knew immediately that it was a major terrorist attack. Reports began coming in that additional planes were suspected to be bound for Los Angeles. I called in to the office and told them I wasn’t coming in. Later that morning as events unfolded management officially closed for the day. I called my mom in Arkansas, and she told me that my nephew was in New York. I didn’t find out until a little later that he was standing under the twin towers when the first plane hit, waiting to take the tour on the observation deck.
Things could have turned out horribly tragically for my family that day. I’m very glad they didn’t. Still, we all have to remember the people that were affected: business travelers on the planes, people going back home, the firemen and police that tried to save people in the towers, the servicemen and woman at the Pentagon, and all the families that had losses that day.
Lest not we forget.

An open letter to Doug parker, CEO of US Airways:
I’ve been a loyal customer of US Airways for several years, always preferring to fly USAir, and trying to maximize my Dividend Miles accumulation, including by obtaining both the Bank of America Dividend Miles Debit card and the US Airways Dividend Miles MasterCard.
I am extremely dissatisfied with the customer service I have received from Juniper, and this reflects on you and your airline for choosing them as your credit card partner.
I recently had enough of the foreign call center customer service, the lack of response to my credit increase requests, and most of all, the high fees for so little benefit. I cancelled my MasterCard account. Trouble is, the lack of customer service continues. Shortly before my cancellation, my annual fee was charged to my account. The annual fee pushed me above my credit limit by $6 or so. This triggered the addition of a $39.95 over limit fee. When I called to cancel the account, Juniper rescinded the $79.00 annual fee, but insisted I still owed the over limit fee.
And that is where the account sits today. I have paid off the remaining balance on this account except for the over limit fee, and now a $2.00 minimum service charge on top of it. I refuse to pay this.
I expect some satisfaction as a customer not only of Juniper for the last few years, but especially of US Airways. As I said, this lack of customer service reflects on US Airways, not only Juniper Bank.
Unless and until I get the satisfaction and consideration I feel I deserve, I will follow through this dispute with the FTC and the Arizona State Attorney General’s Office. I will additionally use my position within the internet community to publicize this treatment as far and as wide as I possibly can.

I’ve just made it into work after casting my ballot this morning at the First Baptist Church, around the corner from my house. Upon arrival there were approximately 100 people waiting in line ahead of me. This is a far larger number than I have previously seen here, but this is my first presidential election at this precinct, having only voted here in the previous off-cycle and local elections since moving to Maricopa. Volunteers were passing out coffee and donuts to those waiting. Everyone seemed to have a very positive outlook and the feeling that this was indeed an important election. This was also my daughter’s first election, having turned eighteen earlier this year, and I was very proud to have her standing beside me.
I’m generally conservative in my views, and typically vote Republican. This year was no exception. My preferred candidate, Fred Thompson, unfortunately didn’t make the cut. I can’t say that John McCain is the best candidate we could have fielded, but he is the one we ended up with. The addition of Sarah Palin to the ticket, which some have lambasted, I believe was a superior choice which ultimately strengthened my support for the ticket. I could definitely see myself supporting her for 2012.
John McCain is a war hero, and he has made some initiative to eliminating corruption and waste in government. I don’t believe he is strictly conservative, as he hasn’t supported measures that would clamp down on the illegal immigration problem, which has been particularly acute here in his home state of Arizona. That has cost him some support among the ‘Goldwater’ and ‘Reagan’ conservatives.
Sarah Palin, although much maligned, is the only governor of a state bordering a potentially hostile nation, the only governor who as commander in chief of the Alaskan National Guard controls an active duty missile defense battalion, the only governor who is routinely briefed on national security issues, and one who is intimately familiar with the issues surrounding energy production and delivery. I think she is very qualified to be President, let alone Vice-President. Time will tell if she has staying power on the national stage.
While I don’t believe that George W. Bush has been the worst president we’ve ever elected, as a conservative I have been greatly disappointed that he has not shown more leadership and allowed Congress to spend with wild abandon over the past eight years. Much, but not by any means all, of the mounting deficits can be attributed to the Iraq and Afghanistan actions and poor oversight. Unfortunately at the same time we have experienced a huge increase in domestic spending that as a fiscal conservative I believe the federal government has absolutely no business being involved with in the first place. The pork barrel earmarks need to be extinguished and the scope of the federal governments’ involvement in local affairs needs to be greatly reduced. I predict with an Obama presidency the exact opposite will happen. If McCain were to be elected, I believe he would at least make an attempt at being a ‘maverick’.
The most critical elections, however, do not involve McCain or Obama, as in reality, whomever is president can really only suggest policy, and a direction for the nation. It is up to the members of Congress to actually enact the legislation to make it happen. On this election eve, we are faced with the possibility of an incoming Congress with a huge Democratic majority, possibly one that will have the power to stifle any opposition from across the aisle. The most important elections occurring today are for those 435 House seats and 35 Senate seats that are up for contention. The Republicans are expected to lose heavily, even in some stalwart Republican districts. I have to say that while I am dismayed at the prospect, I can hardly blame the electorate. Even lifelong Republicans such as myself are embarrassed that the opportunity our party had to show fiscal restraint while encouraging economic growth was utterly wasted. Ronald Reagan must be spinning in his grave, God rest his soul.
While I stop short of actually voting for the other party, I do believe it is well past time to enact a constitutional amendment providing for term limits for members of Congress. I have even gone so far as to produce a draft of such an amendment and have forwarded that on to my state delegation. It is time not only for new blood and new ideas, but of an end to a legislative career. It is only fair after all, since Congress enacted an artificial term limit for president (the 22nd amendment to our Constitution), that there be an equal limitation for our legislators. Our founding fathers never intended for public service to be a lifelong career. This year, somewhere close to a billion dollars will be spent on the presidential campaign alone, for a job that pays around $400,000 (plus excellent benefits). Senatorial campaigns will cost in the tens of millions, in order to receive an annual paycheck of less than $200,000. It is clear the draw of power in itself is too great a temptation, and the dynamic needs to be changed. I think it will be ultimately better for the nation.
So this evening, after I rush home from work to sit in front of TiVo and eagerly await the returns from across the US, I will not only be watching the train wreck of John McCain’s (probably final) candidacy, I will also be scrutinizing the House and Senate results from Alaska to Maine, with of course a special focus on the congressional delegation (House only, as John McCain and our other Senator, John Kyl are not standing for re-election in this cycle) from The Great State of Arizona, (God’s own country, Goldwater country, and my new home since 2006), and as much interest as I can muster for the handful of state and local ballot initiatives and bond issues. I will hope for the best, and right now the best looks like just this side of a disaster for my party, and perhaps for my country.

Several weeks ago, I had a cock-up on my webpage here, so I’ve lost a bit of content on this page. I’ve been working on another site of mine, and I accidentally loaded the pages intended for that site to this space. So, I will try to backfill some of the lost content as well as fill-in for some of the time I haven’t been active here. So, at the moment, I’m ‘in between’ assignments – doublespeak for unemployed – and have been furiously seeking my next gig, and trying to keep my head above water with the house and all. One project I’ve been working on will take me to New Jersey for an extended period. I’ve also been looking at possibly relocating to the greater Philadelphia area; there is a woman involved, and it would be silly, indeed, but love makes us do strange things. I’m still trying to find something permanent here in Phoenix, as I really like it here, despite this weeks’ 108-degree temps. The job market here has cooled just about as bad as the housing market, whereas in Philly it seems quite robust. I know I would miss the relatively low cost of living here, though. And a few friends I have made here, as well. The little town I live in is still missing some of the comfy things, like a Wal-Mart, Lowe’s or Home Depot, but we finally got a Starbucks (although it is located inside one of the main grocery stores). The cafe I have been going to here lately makes some pretty decent bagels and coffee, and free wi-fi gets me out of the house and retains my sanity. A few new restaurants have opened here in town, some good, some ‘eh’…I still go to the Native New Yorker to drink my Guinness and give Melinda, my favorite bar mistress, the occasional massage upon request. Her ‘huge tracts of land’ must really give her chronic back problems. All innocent, friendly fun of course. Melinda and Ryan usually have a pint sitting in front of me before I can pull my bar stool up and take good care of me throughout my evening. Ryan gives me dirty looks when I quit after a couple, but he’s gotten used to me being much thirstier. On Tuesday’s my good friend Mike C. and the rest of our posse
still have occasion to visit the Fox and Hound, where they have a lovely $2.50 pint night special, as well as half-price appetizers. My daughter turned 17 (!) last month – one more year of child support! Of course, then there will be
college costs, but at least I won’t have to deal with my ex-wife any longer. By the way, I must have finally shamed her about taking communion after our divorce, since I’ve recently received annulment papers from the Little Rock
Archdiocese. One of those seemingly strange quirks of the Roman Catholic church leaves you still married in the eyes of the church after a civil divorce. This prevents you from receiving certain sacraments in the Church, such as holy
communion, marriage, etc. When it’s all done, I will be able to avoid going to hell. Yeah me! I really liked being married, just not so much the who. The only positive thing that came out of my nearly ten years of torment is my daughter.
If I had a do-over, I think I would’ve gone into the service as I had planned. But I wouldn’t trade my daughter for anything. Someday, I hope to get married again. I’ve had a few candidates in the past: Psychotic Nymphomaniac Mary;
Perpetually Noncommittal Debbi; Sweet but Standoffish Kate; all could have been, but the window opened and closed. Now the Enigmatic Mystery Woman. Well, I’m still accepting applications, but my attention is currently directed several thousand miles away.

Greetings from Oklahoma City! It’s Saturday afternoon, and my team has all but finished up the AD migration for one of our more complex sites, and at least a day early at that. We had great help from the local IT Staff, who brought in a member of each department to check their own PC’s after they were migrated to AD. Tonight, we’re probably going to find something other than steak for dinner, and very likely many adult beverages. Thursday night we checked out Charlie Newton’s, a popular local steak house, and I had one of the best Filet’s I’ve ever had. They don’t server Guinness on tap, alas, but they did manage to come up with a bottle, so I give them a pass on that score. After, we headed to Cock of the Walk, a local bar, where I had an expert barman pour me Ireland’s finest, complete with shamrock. Brian, who’s joined our team for this migration due to its size, and I played several games of pool, where I made a much better showing than I had the week before at his house. He had the home table advantage there, though. last night, we went to Cattlemen’s Steakhouse in Stockyard City, also recommended by the friendly front desk manager of our hotel. The Ribeye was pretty good, not the best I’ve had, but very tasty. Again, no Guinness served, but one occassionally must rough it. Overall, the people of Oklahoma City have been extremely warm and friendly, despite the heat equaling what we left in Phoenix. Tomorrow, we’ll likely spend an hour or two on-site wrapping some things up and checking to see if anything needs last minute fixes before the Monday rush. Everything is looking great. Avis upgraded me to a Jeep Liberty, which was really great. I’ve owned several Jeep vehicles over the years but haven’t really driven one in about ten years. I have to say I’m disappointed it rides more like a Jeep than a car. It’s very road-noisy, and visibility absolutely sucks, although I have no complaints with its seating or power otherwise.

Just back from the Livermore migration. This was one of our busiest locations, but Aaron, the local IT guy was much more prepared than we were expecting, and so the migration happened pretty much as planned. I got to spend some time exploring Northern California for the first time. Saturday I walked around the Columbus Square area in San Francisco, visiting the base of the Transamerica Pyramid, where my dad used to work, and hiking up the hill to Coit Tower, one of the great landmarks of the city. After quenching my thirst at a nice quiet Irish pub, I walked down to the embarcadero, where I later hooked up with my team mate Matthew, and we drove over to Ghiradelli Square and had dinner at McCormick & Kuleto’s. Sunday afternoon I drove through downtown Livermore, which I was impressed enough with to want to go back and spend a few days exploring at soe point in the future. Today I availed myself of the opportunity to drop by the San Jose office of my other part-time employer and meet with my counterpart and tour their facility. I now have a few weeks to relax and prepare for my next back-to-back roadtrip to
Oklahoma City and Houston.

I’m writing from La Mirada, the next stop in the AD Migration Tour. My daughter Marilyn has been visiting me for the last couple of weeks, and I’ve been taking some time off from work to spend time with her and have fun. We’ve seen a couple of movies, Superman Returns and The Da Vinci Code, both of which were pretty good. We are both big fans of Dan Brown’s books, and have been looking forward to seeing the celluloid version of the religious-themed page turner. On Wednesday I took her to see the Grand Canyon for the first time. We walked around the South Rim for a couple of hours taking in the majesty of the view. Truly amazing. Since I had to work in California this weekend, I brought her with me. Tonight, she’s at Disneyland with my friend Andy’s daughter Emily, so this trip has been very busy for her, and for her personal taxi driver! We have to fly back to Phoenix tomorrow night so she can catch her plane back to Arkansas Sunday morning. I will be returning to La Mirada for a few more days of work, then back to PHX for a couple of days before jetting off again to Livermore, California for the next site. I’m tooling around in a Chevy HHR, which is a pretty nice ride for an Avis rental, although a bit cramped in the cockpit for my tastes. We’re staying in a real nice suite at the Residence Inn, probably the closest to a home away from home as you can get. Highly recommended. My man Donnis Henry at TekSystems really hit it out of the park getting my travel plans for this weekend together for me. After work tonight, Matthew, David C. and me went to Clearman’s North Woods Inn for dinner and practically had to be carried out on stretchers we ate so much. It’s a must if you’re in Southern California.
I took a trip to Carlsbad a few weeks ago after the house closed to pick up the first load of my crap from storage. I finished installing ceiling fans in all the bedrooms and the two great rooms. Now I need to buy some furniture and some wood blinds. I’ll have some pics up soon.

What a month! I just got back from Chicago, my first trip in the Active Directory migration project. This was the training trip for Brian, Matthew and myself, the new members of the team. We had a good part of the work complete before hitting the ground, thanks in no small part to Artie, Tony and Nick, the on-site IT crew. Because of this, we had probably 80% of the job done on the first day, leaving us with plenty of time, not to mention plenty of reason, to hit Rush Street in earnest. So much has changed since the last time I was in the Windy City, eighteen years ago or so, but so much for the better! We started out at Hugo’s Frog Bar, where I tried frog legs for the first time. Tastes like chicken…chicken scampi. I also had this huge porterhouse delivered from Gibson’s Steakhouse, next door. We visited The Terrace at the Conrad, had an excellent meal at Tavern on Rush, ate the Bucket of Boat Trash at Bubba Gump’s Shrimp Co. at the Navy Pier; oh, and we went to Hooter’s (yaaaaawwwnnn…). Brian and I also sampled many a fine pint of Guinness, notably at some of the aforementioned eateries, and also at Charlies Ale House on the Pier. Monday evening we stopped by Sluggers Sports Bar prior to visiting famed Wrigley Field to watch the Cubs get trounced by the Brewers. Afterwards we took in Bar Louie to sympathetically drown our sorrows. If it seems like we partied the whole time while we were in Chicago, well, we did actually put in some hours to get the job done, but describing it really wouldn’t be all that interesting.
In other news, as the commercial goes, I’m now officially in debt up to my eyeballs – I bought a house! I guess I’ll be sticking around the Phoenix metro for a while. More on that later. The two or three of you out there in cyberspace that read my useless drivel on occassion will also notice that I finally upgraded my menu system to the left. Much spiffier, but you’ll definitely need to enable javascript in order to navigate the site from now on.
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