Mostly about my amusement

Tag: Train blogging (page 1 of 2)

October 24th

Tomorrow is the 2nd anniversary of when my Dad passed away. It’s also the day I fly to attend WordCamp San Francisco and in all the excitement I’d completely forgotten the significance of the day.

That’s alright and it’s good. In my immediate family we’ve never been concerned about such dates. The thing to remember is the person and the impact they’ve had on you. You remember their life and not their death.¬† That doesn’t mean I don’t remember Dad; not a day goes by when one of us will say something like “Grandpa could fix anything”.

Dad’s hobbies where simple: learn how to build anything that he needed to make or repair something else. He was an electrical engineer and that often meant he would write his own custom assembly language compilers for some EEPROM he needed to program. Or test different paints for cooking a 1930’s radio chassis in the oven to reproduce the right wrinkle effect. Did you know that you can bake some clear plastics to remove the cloudiness and make it more transparent and new?

I don’t have that level of expertise in my hobby but I knew that Dad understood why I like to get involved with WordPress. He would approve of my attending a WordCamp (I only started at WCNYC this year) because you can’t ever stop learning new things.

That’s a recurring theme in my family: learn new things and do those things you like to do. That’s a large part of what my family taught me and I hope I pass that onto my children. That’s what I’ll remember tomorrow and how I’ll observe the day.

That was a short walk and I installed Xmarks

When I switched the laptop back to Firefox I bemoaned the lack of being able to synchronize my browser’s bookmarks with each of my other devices. That was on the list for why I used Chrome in the first place:

  1. Shared passwords
  2. Shared history
  3. Shared bookmarks
  4. Participating in the massive data collection experiment known as The Great Google‚ĄĘ BOW BEFORE THE DATA COLLECTION MONSTER!

That last one always made me tighten my tin foil hat just a little.

Shared passwords are easy with 1Password. I set it up to synchronize with Dropbox, picked a reasonably complex password that I can remember and just go. I have my passwords on Windows, Mac, my Android phone and the iPad. It doesn’t work with Linux as far as I know but I always have my phone with me and it’s all good.

Using Xmarks covers the other items and it works well.

I use it to synchronize my bookmarks and history but I turned off the other add-on items like site info. This shouldn’t surprise me as I’d used this tool before and I still can’t recall why I stopped using it (though it might have been because it shutdown for a while).

It works in the background and with those other features disabled it’s really transparent and unobtrusive. That’s good software design: it performs it’s job and gets out of your way. Cool.

I could setup my own server to sync with but I don’t think my bookmarks are really that telling. That doesn’t mean there is not a lot of good social engineering potential in my bookmark data: it’s just that I’m already tracked one way or another by the Great Google Monster‚ĄĘ so Xmarks isn’t high on my list to be concerned about.

Featured image photo by B Rosen

Cross platform browser bookmarks?

Chrome on my laptop drains the battery dry so I’ve installed the current Firefox and went through some quick installations and all is right in the world. I installed the following:

  1. Firefox – Duh.
  2. 1Password4 extension
  3. Greasemonkey

It struck me that my favorite tools have cross platform equivalents.

  1. Chrome
  2. 1Password4 extension
  3. Tampermonkey

But what I am lacking is a tool to easily sync my browser bookmarks. Yes, I can easily export and import them but I’m lazy and would prefer a tool that works across all browsers.

I may need to give Xmarks another look. I forgot why but there was something about it years ago that turned me off.

I prefer using apps that work the same between platforms. I use Postbox for that reason (it’s also a cool mail app) even though it doesn’t have any data sync exactly. I’m using the same mailbox in both so the experience is the same even when I accidentally send a private email to a mail distribution list. I make the same mistakes on both versions.

The same goes with the 1Password application and I was thrilled when the Windows version was updated. The 1Password app is a great example of cross platform utility. The experience between Windows and Mac just works and it works consistently.

I’ll need to do some digging for a bookmark solution that I like.

Featured image Photo by Titanas

There is no anonymity on the Internet

Well, at least in the U.S. there really isn’t. This morning around 2 AM EDT a troll followed me from a topic on the¬†WordPress forums from Denver, Colorado.

He’d poked around for about 30 minutes with his Android tablet using Firefox (likely from his parents basement) and left a racist contact form submission about my wife and how¬†I¬†“struck out with pretty white girls and ended up in the bottom of the social barrel”.

There’s something¬†really¬†sad and pathetic¬†about someone posting¬†that¬†from their parent’s basement after midnight their local time.

None of that bothers me; trolls on the Internet have been around forever. I’ve heard that in the work place (though that was 20 years ago) and hey, it’s the Internet.

Had he left anything remotely threatening then instead of a blog post I’d be preserving log data for law enforcement and making some calls this morning.

What irks me is when a plugin developer¬†follows me¬†home to continue an argument or leave a “<EXPLETIVE DELETED> YOU!” message. When that happens I don’t get angry but I do get disappointed. It doesn’t happen often as most WordPress developers are cool.

Troll are bad. WordPress developers losing their mind? More sad than anything else. I expect¬†people who contribute to the community¬†to be better than that. ūüėČ

Really? Congratulations!

I get odd solicitation calls but occasionally people dial it up to eleven to try and sell things.

Yesterday Lily got a call at the store from someone looking for me. It happens and I’m pretty sure that Googling my name might lead you to the store’s WordPress site.

What was odd was that they’d pronounced my name¬†perfectly and seem to have a Polish accent.

Lily got the phone and had this conversation.

Sales Monkey: Can I speak with Jan Dembowski?

Lily: He’s not here. Who is this and why are you calling?

Sales Monkey: Do you know when he’ll be back?

Note to Sales Monkeys everywhere? When my wife asks you a direct question just get to the point. Do not make her repeat herself. She can track down your boss, call him if she wants to and hurt you in “ways”.

Lily: Why are you calling?

Sales Monkey: Does he speak Polish and have life insurance?

Ah ha! Yep, Sales Monkey. This is the same person who called me at the house looking to speak to and sell life insurance to my late Dad. That was a fun conversation.

In short order Lily explained that we’ve got that covered and stop tracking me down. I don’t speak Polish and these are not the marks you are looking for.

Sales Monkey: (Incredulously) He does not speak Polish? He is not from Poland?

Lily: He doesn’t and he was born here in the United States.

Sales Monkey: Oh. Congratulations!

I had no idea I was special for that reason. I alway thought it was my carefully honed sense of humor.

Just mind the wind

My son is a fan of all things remote controlled and his latest thing is R/C airplanes. After indulging him with R/C cars Lily and I told him that he could get one under 2 conditions: he had to earn it and he had to pay for it out of his own pocket.

Note to aspiring parents: watch out for setting well defined conditions. After weeks for trying to behave well and saving up we went to the hobby store and picked up a HobbyZone Duet. He paid cash and got a receipt.

This is a starter plane and like most of them is built using light weight foam. Last week it took a nose dive and I had to use white glue and clear tape to put the nose back on. He did everything right but it took a dive onto some pavement and neatly broke the nose off.

Yesterday we went to his school and he gave it a good run but within 2 minutes he wanted to stop.

“Dad? I’m going to land it now.

Me: You could but why not keep it in the air for a while? Notice how there’s nothing you can crash into up there?”

That convinced him and he built up his confidence and nearly ran the battery down. He landed perfectly in the grass (we took the landing wheels off).

The second run was more fun. The plane weighs next to nothing and a light wind pushed it slowly across the school fields. Slowly as in we didn’t notice how far it really was until we saw the tree line. Fortunately he landed it without crashing¬†and we had a great time.

It’s a fun hobby but¬†this plane really needs a calm day to fly.

Praise The Monkey!

Some work stories you can share. Years ago I had a production change and I¬†didn’t¬†quite implement it correctly. It was fixed quickly but the user wanted what happened.

User: “In the least technical language possible can you explain what happened?”

We were on speaker phone in the support center. My pal thought for a second, looked at me and with all the seriousness he could muster replied like so.

Pal: “The Monkey pushed the wrong button!”

He emphasized “The Monkey” and “wrong button”. Fortunately¬†she¬†had a great sense of humor and we all laughed. Most people do enjoy a little levity in the work place.

Careful what you post online

So it began innocently with this Tweet/Foursquare check in.

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 8.09.43 AM

I checked in with Foursquare which is something I do on a regular basis. I do this every time I visit the store. It’s a form of advertising in my not so humble opinion.

The store then got a call from someone named “James” asking for me. When I picked up the phone I was asked if I’d locked my key in the car. Naturally I asked who is this and a short game of “Don’t you know?” which ended with Lily saying “That’s nice, everything is fine now, goodbye.” and hanging up.

I thought the call was from a customer so I gave the phone to Lily. “James” claimed to have met her¬†yesterday.

Here’s what happened: either the Tweet or the Foursquare check in matched a search. Somone saw that the store has a web site, the phone number is there and the rest is history. Or it could have been one of my followers (I’d like to think that’s not the case) or I’m on a Twitter list.

Now as stories go this is creepy and definitely stalkerish but it could have gone much worse. There was no swearing, no shouting and we didn’t get a call back (the number was marked private of course). But that¬†really was my own personalized PSA¬†about casually posting some details online.

I’ve been using social media (that’s a great term isn’t it? It beats “online extrovert”) and I am always aware of the risks. We’ve all read about or even know someone who has been¬†harassed and stalked.¬†I’ll try and be more circumspect about details like that in the future. It’s unfortunate but it’s the reality of this media. The world is more connected and that fellow could have been calling from anywhere.

If someone’s reading this and getting a chuckle then thanks for the wake up call. I’ll adjust accordingly.

What really irks me is that I’ve been trying to get Lily to use Twitter. This little episode really cements her opposition to that. It’s not that she has anything against Twitter it’s just that that medium doesn’t interest her. This small event pretty much means her social interactions will remain squarely in the real world.

I’ll always be a transplant from Queens

Queens globe photoPhoto by Mr.TinDC

You think of a lot of things during a 15 minute drive to the train station. I will never be mistaken for a native Long Islander.

I grew up in Queens, attended high school in Brooklyn, went to City College on 136 street in Manhattan and eventually Queens College (very long story). I didn’t get my first car until I was 24 or so. I lived in the 5¬†boroughs and I liked taking the subway and trains to anywhere I wanted in NYC.

We moved to Long Island because we needed a bigger house and wanted to send our kids to a better school district than the one in our Queens neighborhood. It’s a great house in a good neighborhood.

That said, I will never get used to Long Island.

There’s no sidewalks anywhere

Part of my weekend routine was having breakfast at the Dunkin’ Donuts near St. John’s University. We lived just a few blocks from there and we were just a little more than across the street from the school. I like being able to walk to shopping for groceries and things.

There’s not anywhere I can walk to. Everything is at least a 10 minute drive. If I was feeling brave I might use my bicycle but less than mile away a cyclist was¬†left as the victim of a hit and run. That pretty much rules that idea out.

Some of the drivers are the worst

Not all of them of course but a lot of them. My biggest pet peeve is the yellow line is perceived as a¬†suggestion. I always drive on my side as I don’t think getting in to a car wreck is a good way to meet new people.

A fun example: I come out of my side street and head to the light. Another driver rounds the corner and is almost half his car width¬†into my lane. I stop my car and put on my least offending “What are you doing?” face and the other driver swerves out of my lane. Usually I get the “What? I didn’t do nothing wrong!” look but on one occasion I got flipped the bird. Maybe he was from NYC too?

People who drive by their own rules irk me too. I’m at a light, it turns green and I advance into the intersection signaling a left turn. I’m waiting in the intersection* for the opposite¬†car to either turn or go straight. That gets me a blank stare and the other driver eventually makes hand motions indicating I should turn in front of him. I usually make my own hand motions right after that.

The grass really isn’t greener and I’m not moving anytime soon

I do like the privacy and it’s a great house on a great property. Also I’ve met some amazing Long Islanders and our friends are the best. Lily and I do like living here.

But I’m typing this on a LIRR train. This leg of the commute is long enough that I can draft up a 600 word blog post from scratch. It’s an adjustment and after almost 10 years I’m pretty sure I’ll continue to do this commute. But I’ll still¬†miss some of the convenience of living in Queens.

*NOTE: Yes, I invented my own intersection driving rules. In NY you are not supposed to enter the intersection until you can successfully make the left turn. It’s my blog and I can complain about what I want. ūüėČ