Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Migrating from Gmail's POP to IMAP: the (sort of) easy way

I've read a lot of posts about what happens if you use labels in Gmail and how they get messed up in clients like Outlook, iPhone, Thunderbird, etc. This article attempts to answer the opposite question:
What if I never use gmail's web interface because I always download and organize my mail in my own mail client using POP?
If you're like me and use Outlook 2003 (or some other program) to access Gmail's mail via POP, you've probably created some sort of folder structure to manage all those emails. If you're also like me, you rarely use Gmail's web-based interface to keep the messages organized there, too. The result is an organized mail folder system at home but an unorganized mail folder system on the web. Making matters worse, all these messages on the web appear to be unread and still sitting in the inbox because you've already downloaded them into your favorite email client.

Here's an easy--though time consuming--way to get things looking the way they have always been. Keep in mind, if you have thousands of emails, this process will take a *long* time and I do mean *long*.

The following assumes you've been downloading your Gmail via POP; you have IMAP enabled in Gmail; and that you have NOT YET set up your IMAP account in your favorite mail client.
  1. DISABLE SEND/RECEIVE for your current POP-accessed Gmail account
    DISABLE SEND/RECEIVE for your current POP-accessed Gmail account
    DISABLE SEND/RECEIVE for your current POP-accessed Gmail account

    Why? Failure to do so will result in your email client downloading all the email you are about to move from your computer to Google's IMAP server. Don't ask me how I know this.

  2. Start emptying out all folders in Gmail, since you've already downloaded them once via POP.
    1. Starting with the Inbox, choose Select All, then right below that click "Select all [X] conversations in [Current Mailbox]"

  3. Click the Delete button
  4. Repeat for each folder until you have no mail left in any of your Gmail folders
  5. Create your new Google IMAP account in your favorite email client
  6. Transfer your previously-downloaded messages back over to IMAP

    WARNING: if you have a lot of mail in a particular box, it will take some time to transfer everything.

    1. To make IMAP's folder structure replicate your email client's current folder structure, simply drag your old folder into the IMAP root (imap.gail.com). On the web, Gmail will treat these newly created folders as "labels".

  7. Enjoy a cup of coffee while you wait. If you have amassed many emails over the months/years, I'd recommend finding something more productive to do than sip coffee. Perhaps you might make and eat dinner. If it's a really large folder, you might just want to let it run overnight or while you're out running errands, as it could take hours for the transfer to complete.
  8. Repeat for each folder you want to add to Gmail's IMAP account.
To verify this process is working, initiate the transfer of the first mailbox's messages to the corresponding IMAP folder, then head on over to Gmail on the web and browse that same folder. After 15 seconds or so, refresh that page to confirm that the number of emails in that mailbox has increased.

While this method takes a while, it will be worth it in the long run; you'll have all your organization set up the way you like it, the way it has always been.

Hope this helps.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Do you keep getting the following error while using foxmarks?
Status: DNS Unknown host

If so, the solution may be something as simple as changing your password. In my case, my password had a pound sign in it (#). Once I created a new password without the pound sign, all was well in the world again. I'm not sure if this error occurs when there are other symbols in the password, but I know for sure that Foxmarks does not like the pound sign.

Happy syncing.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Windows Task Manager (Not Responding)

You know it's a bad day when Windows Task Manager decides it's Not Responding.

...and iTunes reports it's using 116MB of memory.


Monday, September 17, 2007

My Maui Jim Sunglass Repair Experience

If you own a pair of Maui Jim sunglasses, you may or may not be aware that they have a pretty kick-ass repair policy. What was your experience like? Tell the world about yours in the comments below.

My repair experience has been a positive one. So far, I've broken them three four times and only had to pay serious money for repairs once. The first two times, I must have still been under warranty and there were literally no questions asked; I just sent them in along with $8.95 shipping (as of 5/3/2013 it's now $10.00, but who cares), and they sent them back to me ASAP. The first time they repaired the broken piece, and the second time they replaced the entire glasses for free--bridge, temples, lenses... everything. AND they gave me a new case for them. All free of charge.

The third time, however, I received a call from Maui Jim and was informed that I was no longer under warranty since I bought them back in 2003. The bridge was bent beyond repair, so that would need replacement. $49.50. My lenses had pits and scratches in them and I could either do nothing, or they'd give me new lenses for half price. The temples were bent, too, but I learned those are always replaced free of charge -- "it's just something we do for the customer" to foster good relations, the service rep said. I think it's a great policy.

All together, it cost $79.50 to rebuild them into a brand new pair of $250 glasses.

Here's what I know about how they operate:
  1. If you break them and you're under warranty, send them in. My experience was that they repaired everything with no questions asked.
  2. If you're out of warranty, the bridge will cost you $49.50 as of this writing (9/17/07). Lenses sound like they are $60, as I was given half off and paid $30 for them.
  3. Temples are always replaced free of charge if they are damaged
  4. If you send them to Maui Jim without a case (i.e., you lost or damaged yours) it's possible they might send them back to you in a brand new case. UPDATE 4/18/13: I've later come to find out that not always is this the case. (No pun intended!)
  5. Fast turnaround time. Sent them out on 9/7/07, got a call from Repair Dept on 9/17/07 (10 days later) indicating my glasses were received, repair work would be done right away, and glasses shipped out tomorrow 9/18/07, taking about 3-5 business days to arrive. Total repair/transit time: about 2 weeks.
  6. Maui Jim Repair Department Caller ID was 309-691-3700.
  7. Much cheaper than paying retail of $249 for a new pair
  8. Repairing Prescription Sunglasses: Rx lenses that are damaged or need replacement should be returned to their place of purchase. Rx lenses cannot be replaced or remade through Maui Jim directly. However, if your prescription sunglass frame needs repair, you can visit their Repair Department's web page and, follow the instructions, and clearly mark "RX REPAIR" on the outside of the container.
EDIT 07/08/08: If purchased at Sunglass Hut, they offer a kick-ass additional "warranty," if you will. For the first six months, if you absolutely destroy your sunglasses beyond repair (run them over with your car, drop them down a garbage disposal, etc.), they'll give you a significant discount on a replacement pair, so long as you bring in the fragments of whatever's left of the old pair.

EDIT 05/28/09: Here's a link to their repair department.

UPDATE: 4/18/13: Damn! Broke them again! This time the temple snapped while I was taking them off (with both hands)... it seems that my particular style is prone to this kind of thing--you see, over time the temples develop small stress fractures and, as one might expect, they get worse the more you put the glasses on and take them off. Sent them in for repair again, so we'll see what the experience is *this* time! Hopefully they're just as good as I claimed back in 2007 when I wrote this post.

UPDATE 5/3/13: Got them back (no thanks to the Post Office ... technically they arrived on 4/27 but the Post Office held the package instead of re-delivering after they missed be because the package required a signature confirmation. Once again, Maui Jim is furthering my love for this company. My lenses had seen better days and while it was my temple that snapped, I joked around in my letter to them and asked if they had any spare lenses just lying around they were looking to get rid of, I'd love to be the one they donate them to. They did! And so, they continue to earn repeat business and referrals and free advertising from me as a Maui Jim advocate/evangelist. I'm so happy that Maui Jim hasn't lost sight of how to deliver WOW.

Monday, September 10, 2007

iPhone, therefore iAm

So I just got my new iPhone on Saturday September 8th. Man, what a joy this thing is to use. I will admit that there are a few shortcomings that have been covered by other sites. The first I encountered was that seemingly almost any iPhone case or cover that you buy is not dockable. (UPDATE: InvisibleShield is dockable, I bought one, and it's worth every penny.) Few are, and these few typically have the bottom-left and bottom-right corners chisled out of the case's design to allow dockability. Of course, you could get a screen cover to protect the glass screen, but after PC World's torture test, I'm not really sure if it's necessary.

A point to note: iPhone does not come with a native IM application. However, as of August 15th, meebo.com is your one-stop shop to temporarily solve this mess until native apps arrive on the scene from either Apple itself, or other third-party developers and a little hackery. With Meebo, you use Safari to browse to the main page. Meebo detects iPhone as the browsing device, and delivers a specially coded version of its site that looks and feels like a native iPhone app. Pretty cool.

The only downside to this is that if you move away from that one "dynamic web page" of sorts (i.e., open a new browser window or switch to another application within iPhone), you have no idea whether or not you've received any IMs--although it appears you remain logged into the messaging client as long as you have an internet connection.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Greasemonkey for Firefox

I know it's been out for a long time now, but I've just discovered the Greasemonkey extension for Firefox. There are countless reviews about it on the web, so I won't bore you with those details. Rather, I will simply endorse it and proclaim it an absolute must-have firefox extension if you spend lots of time on the web.

For those who don't know, Greasemonkey is a Firefox extension that basically re-works web pages of your choice to make them look and act the way YOU want them to. Click here (Wikipedia entry) for more details on that.

Meanwhile, I can tell you that I'm using Greasemonkey to make posting this blog entry a little more efficient, I use it to get rid of all the clutter on my MySpace profile editing page (say goodbye to every single ad they serve up) and it has proven exceedingly handy while on Digg.

Some other must-have Firefox extensions:
  1. FasterFox
  2. NoScript
  3. Foxmarks Bookmark Synchronizer
  4. Minute Minder for AT&T Service (if you have Cingular/AT&T Wireless)
  5. Session Manager
  6. IETab
Here are two extensions that don't get daily usage, but rather are very handy when things could be "just a little more efficient"
  1. Split Browser
  2. Viamatic foXpose

Thursday, August 2, 2007

North Natomas Drivers Suck: Volume 1

We've all seen them: those pesky drivers who refuse to stop at the limit line. Or the antsy driver who's so eager to gun it after waiting so extremely long at a red light (about 3 minutes) that he creeps halfway into the intersection before realizing his light still isn't going to change. Then, much to his chagrin, he throws it into reverse--only to be caught with his hands on his stick as the light turns green.

These types of drivers are everywhere. Of this, there is no equivocation. But is it me, or do they seem particularly fond of a newly-developed neighborhood called North Natomas?

Quick Geographical Background: North Natomas (pronounced nuh-TOW-mus) is a neighborhood in the northern city limits of Sacramento, California that used to be farmland but is rapidly being developed by wide-eyed home builders and developers. Flanked with new homes, it appears that the sprouting community is also riddled with new drivers, too, as nobody here seems to understand what a limit line is, and how it differs from its double-sided cousin, the crosswalk.

Case in point: I recently got back from a kite festival in Berkeley, California, and was really excited to fly a kite. In fact, even though I believe I'll be getting one for my birthday later this month, I decided to make one out of printer paper and go fly it on this breezy day just for fun. As I departed my apartment on foot headed toward the park across the street, I did everything a good pedestrian should do: I pressed the crosswalk button, waited for the signal to light up, and made sure nobody was still driving on my side of the road. Then along comes Little Red Truckinghood.

Now, Little Red clearly had her mind in other places, which is understandable--we've all had a moment when we catch ourselves daydreaming behind the wheel. However, what set Red apart from others is that not only was her mind in another place, so were her eyes--pointed down toward the steering wheel, as if she were playing with her cell phone or reading a fine book. Once she noticed the light was RED (as in "not green nor yellow"), she slowly applied pressure to the brakes and eventually, she stopped--right at the very edge of the crosswalk I was walking on. As Figure 1 to the right illustrates, Little Red did indeed block the *entire crosswalk*.

As I walked toward Red, she shrugged her shoulders and mouthed the obligatory "sorry" through her tightly rolled-up window. Kite in hand, I evoked a blank stare at her and shook my head as I passed. Then, to my astonishment, I raised my eyebrow and one-eyed another car (this time a 2-door silver coupe) who just barely managed to brake enough to avoid the same blunder. And if you'll notice, not one damned car had the wherewithal to stop behind the limit line, even though a pedestrian was crossing the street. (For reference, since it's a little hard to see with the ass-hat drivers covering them: the first solid white line is the limit line; the 2nd and 3rd white lines are the boundaries of the crosswalk.)

Zero for three, North Natomas, not bad--just an average day in cow town where the drivers appear to be as virgin as the homes.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Flying High at the Berkeley Kite Festival

A thick blanket of fog looms over the towering skyscrapers of San Francisco's peninsula, but across the bay in Berkeley it's a different story. The sun is out, the sky is blue, and the wind is strong against your back. Perfect conditions for flying a kite.

As you make your way through the paved parking lot's shady trees and out into the bright open field, a swarm of acrobatic kites and airborne octopuses surrounds you, making the sky much more interesting to watch than any other ordinary day, as evidenced by the gawkers on the freeway who predictably slow traffic to a crawl.

Walking around the park, the aroma of corn dogs, fried calamari and good old fashioned barbecue fills the air. There's children running around with mini-kites and frantic parents chasing after them, yet you feel an ever-present sense of calm provided by those giant, flying pieces of ripstop nylon with their long, sloped lines tethered to spikes in the ground. You laugh as you hear the emcee announce the items currently on display in the lost and found: a purse, a cell phone, even a kid "about two, maybe three years old". Just a few steps more and you have your spot. Finally, a place to sit back and watch the show.

The fanfare begins and the sound of trumpets fills the air. With all the elegance of a Broadway ballet, the first kite launches glamorously into the air. Moments later, as if on cue, the second kite launches into the air, following the flight pattern of the first. It is clear that these kites are synchronized to the overture. Then a third launches. And a fourth. Fifth--no... sixth! Folks, we are now airborne--the competition is on.

The competitors gave a dazzling display of what feats and tricks kites can do when set to music. It was a kite ballet of sorts, and very pleasing to both the eyes and the ears. Perhaps the most enjoyable one was a couple from San Diego, California, who flew their two quad-line kites with such precision and delicacy that they danced and trotted along the ground using their pointy corners, then leapt into the air away from each other, only to come screaming back across the sky and--ERRT!--stop within mere inches of each other, appearing to kiss for just a few seconds before being whisked away from each other once more.

However, you're struggling to watch the act because of these two stunt kites in the test flight area in front of you. Curious, you go check it out--and decide it's high time you signed up for flight school. The flight instructor gives you the basic instructions, a little lesson about wind, and before you know it you're off and flying--well, sort of. As the wind and thermodynamics get the best of you, you struggle to maintain altitude, over correcting your unavoidable first-time blunders. Hey, who hasn't nose-dived their kite a few--no, more like many--times before getting the hang of it?

Finally, some smooth sailing... but you're not flying very impressively, given that your kite is just floating in space above your head for now. As you feel the wind begin to shift, the reins tighten and you feel it start to pull it to the left. Then right. Then way right--oops, time to go left again, but oh no! A stall! But how to recover? Alas, your attempts to recover are futile and once again the kite nose dives and performs a painful face plant into the soft, forgiving grass. Thankful that wasn't a person you just dive bombed, you thank your flight instructor for the lesson and find a seat closer to the competition area so you can continue on with the rest of the show. It feels good to be on the ground again watching the pros show you how it's done.

Suddenly, your attention is diverted as noises from behind and afar fill your ears. Ah, what's this? A parade coming through--how lovely! It's a convoy of Japanese men and women toting their traditional Machijirushi kites, which are indigenous to Hamamatsu, Japan made from fine paper and bamboo. As they inch closer, an unexpected turn sends them into a near head-on collision with you and other festival-goers as you all scramble to pick up your belongings and get out of their way while they make their entrance on to the competition and demo field. The feeling is comparable to trying to stop a moving freight train; it's hard to stop a train. That was a close one.

After the competition and demos, the Rokkaku Kite Battle begins. 30-something kits take to the sky, transition on to the battlefield, and begin. The goal: use the kite, the line and the wind (or lack of it) to down the opponents' kites and be the last one flying. You seem to like the black, white and blue kite, so you choose that one as the favorite to win it. One by one, and sometimes one-by-three, the kites go down as they get beaten and sawed apart from their operator's lines. Finally, an intense battle between the last three kites emerges, and lo--your kite is one of the three! You root for your kite and "ooh" and "ah" as it creeps higher and lower. In a final furious thrashing, the black, white and blue kite is the victor! You celebrate with a smile and check your watch. It's 3PM; time to go.

With an audible sigh, you head back to the shade trees of the parking lot--past the "octopile", past the zooming acrobatic stunt kites, and finally through the sea of calm, one-line kites floating overhead in the breeze. Your journey in the Bay has come to an end, and now it's time to leave the ice cold winds of the Bay Area and head back home to warmer pastures--AKA the Sacramento Valley. As you sit in this parking lot of a street waiting for each car to take its turn to get on to the freeway, you're filled with a sense of childlike fun and wonder, rather than the irritations of everyday traffic hazards.

You simply can't wait to get a kite of your own so you can relive the fun and excitement that kity flying can bring.

And so, when life gets you down, or you're just bored to tears, perhaps this advice is all you need to perk up and have some fun: "go fly a kite."

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Private Domain Registration: It's a MUST

I recently registered a domain name. It's been a while since I'd done that and boy have times changed. Within 48 hours, I received my first SPAM phone call from APlus.net (caller ID 877-577-0877). Do a google search on this phone number and you'll find myriad people who've been called by APlus.

After doing a little research, I was ready for their next call. I received that call this morning. Here's how I ended the conversation in 48 seconds:

Them: "Hi, is Michael there? This is Andrea from APlus.net, do you currently have a web site up and running yet?"

Me (>) APlus.net (+)

> How did you get this number?
+ When you register a web site your whois information is published.
> Oh, so you're harvesting the whois database for information, then.
+ No, we're not harvesting the whois database.
> OK, so where do you get your information from then?
+ APlus: I don't know, but we're not harvesting the whois database.
> Ah, I see. Well would you please put my name on the "please do not call me ever again list?" Thanks.
+ OK, fine (she hung up on me).

30 seconds later I got four marketing emails from APlus. Here's what was at the bottom of each message:

This e-mail was sent to you because you recently spoke to an Aplus.Net sales representative and requested more information about our services. You are not subscribed to a mailing list and will not receive additional emails unless you request them.

Moral of the story: register your domain name privately. If using GoDaddy.com, this costs a mere 6.95/yr and uses DomainsByProxy. What this means is that DomainsByProxy's information is made public, not yours. For most techies out there this is common knowledge. But for people registering websites for the first time--or for those who it's been a while since the last time--be sure to spend the extra $6.95.

UPDATE 7/30/07: Haven't received any marketing materials from APlus, so it looks like I am in the clear for now.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Southwest Airlines can be expensive

Note to self: when purchasing air travel for someone else, make sure you list them as the passenger, not yourself.

This is the mental note I made this morning after an Internet Special fare, originally $118 round trip from San Diego to Sacramento, ballooned into a Reality Nightmare fare: $284.80 round trip for the same ticket. All because I had to change the name of the passenger at the last minute.

Even though I swear I listed the passenger name correctly--i.e., not myself, but the person I was buying the ticket for--somehow I must not have done so and so I got a phone call at 7:30 alerting me to this fact.

So, I called SWA to change the name but they said they cannot do that without me shelling out more dough--they would have to create a new reservation with whatever rates prevailed at that time. And so, I ended up paying an extra $166 for the tickets.

I guess it could have been worse.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Buy a Mac

Want to track a flight with a cool widget like this one instead of searching for a website then hoping it works with your browser? You're out of luck if you're on Windows. If I wasn't a lowly college student I'd buy me a Mac.

Calling all Yahoo! Widget authors: this is your opportunity to create a truly useful tool.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Safari for Windows is out

In its classic, secretive fashion, Apple has just announced the launch of its Safari web browser for the Windows platform. It works on both Windows XP and Vista. It still shows signs it's in beta form, as the application crashes every now and then when browsing certain web sites.

Can't really say much about it, other than I am pleased to see that much of the Apple user interface has made it into this program, right down to the aqua scrollbar, arrows, and smooth flowing dialogue boxes (try bookmarking this page in Safari, for instance). They even got the glowing buttons right.

However, this is a beta and there are plenty of things to complain about. Since there are thousands of other tech writers out there I'll leave the details to them. I just wanted to write this post in Safari to test how it interacts with different web sites.

It's no replacement to Firefox just yet since it's still in beta, but once it's a finished product for Windows, it'll be a contender. The one thing I really like about firefox is all the plugins. NoScript, FasterFox and the IE Tab plugins are truly useful, as is the crash guard built into Firefox. (If the browser crashes for some reason, you can restore your previous browsing session, for example.)

Monday, June 11, 2007

Motorola KRZR K1: A strong swimmer

For years I've been bashing the Motorola brand of cell phones because its user interfaces SUCKED. Fast forward to 2007: they still SUCK, but each subsequent UI does seem to improve.

But this is not the reason I'm writing this post. The reason I am PRAISING Motorola today is not for its software, but for its hardware design.

Over the weekend, I visited Bassi Falls, near Pollock Pines, CA. The base of the falls is formed by gigantic slabs of granite--and when wet, they get slippery. Needless to say, I slipped and fell into a shallow pool and my cell phone got wet. Hoping it wouldn't be too damaged, I set all the pieces of the phone (battery door, battery, sim card, phone) on my shirt to dry.

At the end of the day, I went to put my shirt on. Everything would have been fine, except for the fact that the wind blew part of my shirt over the phone and I have a horrible memory. So as I pick up the shirt, my phone goes tumbling down the rock and into the ice cold 4 1/2 feet deep pool of water.

After 15 minutes of hemming and hawing about how cold it is and how it'll be no good if I pull it out, I finally decide to go in after it, for the good of mother nature--I didn't want to contribute to leeching chemicals into the natural fresh water stream.

After I pulled it out, I dried it out the best I could, popped in the battery for shits and giggles, and turned it on. Yes, it actually turned on. But then, it started freaking out and going into emergency calls and calling 9-1 (fortunately it wasn't able to add in the last 1 to complete the 9-1-1 call). So, I turned it off and let it try out the rest of the day.

Long story short, it took just one day of drying out on my patio on an 82 degree summer day, and the phone is back in action after being submerged for over 15 minutes in an ice cold pool of water 4 1/2 feet below the surface.

...now if Moto could only make its user interface as water-tight as its phones...

Monday, June 4, 2007

FedEx Disaster Resolved

After almost a month working with FedEx, they finally did the right thing: they made a one-time exception and agreed to pay our claim.

I haven't received the check yet, but I was just told today that they'd be sending it out from Pittsburgh, PA on Wednesday of this week.

Lesson learned: Always, always, ALWAYS be 1000% clear that you have both the correct tracking number and the correct declared value. ALWAYS. Keep detailed documentation of phone records, and any photographic evidence.

I'm a patient and forgiving man; FedEx gets one more try. If it fails and the package arrives damaged or with missing contents, it's time to find another carrier. I really want to like FedEx because they are the least expensive and pretty reliable when I used them in another business (overnighting important envelopes), so let's see how round two goes.

For your information, here is the process, as I experienced it, if your package gets damaged:

  1. FedEx accidentally damages package.
  2. Original package is inspected, damaged contents are discarded, "balance" (undamaged items) are re-packaged in a different box with different packing material (in my case, they just threw the glass jars into an oversized box full of lousy peanuts).
  3. Original labels are cut out from original box and pasted on to new box.
  4. Box is shipped.
  5. Recipient receives box, wonders What The Flounder happened to this thing???
  6. Recipient (or sender) files claim with FedEx.
  7. FedEx picks up package from recipient to inspect it, per the claims process.
  8. FedEx inspects, then repackages with yet a different box and different labels, thus obliterating any original labels that might have helped your cause.
  9. FedEx returns package to recipient with no (and I mean absolutely ZERO) packing material inside (such as peanuts, bubble wrap, etc).
  10. Recipient faints dead away at how a package with fragile items, such as glass jars with habanero sauce, could get away from FedEx without SOME KIND of packing material to keep them from breaking.
That about covers it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

FedEx Disaster

My mom is a disabled pizza delivery driver for a national pizza chain, though because of her disability she won't be doing that for much longer. She stumbled across a habanero sauce/marmelade recipe one day and after many iterations of improving upon it and making it her own, she decided to see what people thought. They loved it.

So, I brought some back home with me from a not-so-recent Southern California trip to see her, and started selling it at local craft fairs for $8 per jar. The product proved to be popular that I sold out. I begged my mom to make some more and send it to me. We decided to use FedEx because they were the cheapest. Well, sometimes in life I guess you truly do get what you pay for.

This is our story.

Original shipment: submitted online 3 days before scheduled delivery date of May 1st. Claimed value: $450. Shipment type: FedEx Home Delivery.

My mom had packed the box precisely as the fedex rep had instructed. Double cardboard on the bottom to fortify the base from tearing, packing peanuts between the box edge and the contents, bubble wrap in between each flat of 12 jars (of which there were 4.5 flats)... everything right that you could do to pack a box, she did right.

However, the box I received (short, fat) looked nothing like the box that was shipped (tall, skinny). In fact, this is because it was not the box that was originally shipped; it appears the original box was dropped, half of its contents destroyed, and all of our receipts in the envelope (far right in the picture) were MISSING.

Here is what arrived at my doorstep:

Note that I was expecting twice as many jars, and packing peanuts were the only materials used to insulate the jars from hitting each other. This did not prove effective:

And that's one of the few jars with the label still in tact. Every other jar was either dented and/or had a torn label and/or was covered in sauce.

5/9/07: So, I was understandably upset because I was going to sell these things in a few days at a craft fair. I called FedEx and filed a claim, which sounded like a very easy process since they pay the claim in 5-7 days. "Great," I thought, "at least we can recover our capital and continue to make more sauce." This was on 5/9/07. I faxed the claim to two different numbers, just to be safe, and included all appropriate documentation. At the same time, I did as they told me and left the damaged contents at my apartment's leasing office for them to pick up and examine for the claims process.

On 5/17/07, I called back to check on the status of my claim because we hadn't received a check. Spoke with Pat in the claims department. It sounds like he can't read our pricing sheet and instructed me to re-fax pricing sheet and include this tracking number. Pat was to look into situation and call me back on my cell phone. Never got a call back from Patty Cake, Patty Cake, baker's man.

Furthermore, it seems that nobody at FedEx has a clue what happened with this shipment. There is no original invoice number, invoice date, etc. on my fedex.com account; they stated to me that over the phone it appeared there was no declared value, but yet I put a declared value online and over the phone. They are trying to retrace this online order back to the start to see if they can uncover the fact that I really did claim $450.

5/23/07 rolls around. Spoke with Carla Duncan in c.service. No direct # for claims dept. Claim closed (denied) on 5/18/07, then re-opened some time later because "additional documentation was received. Person handling claim, Jacquelyn, won't be back in the office until Tuesday, since Monday is a holiday. Fuck. I guess I get to wait some more.

5/29/07: 9:20AM. Spoke with "India". She says claims dept has denied claim--they say it was delivered on a different tracking number. Seems like nobody knows what the fuck they are talking about in this company, since yesterday I was told the claim was re-opened. India offered to leave a callback request with Jackie. We'll see if she calls back today. [Nope, no call back.]

5/30/07: 1:17 PM. Finally spoke with my assigned claims rep, Jackie (caller id 901-922-7000), who says that the tracking number starting with "889" means that the item has been repackaged, and that's not the tracking number they need for whatever it is they have to do (are they still trying to verify that I originally claimed a $450 value??). This seems ludacris to me, since, if an item is re-packaged, one would think it would be linked to the original tracking number in the database... and since I placed the pickup order with a CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE, you'd think there would be an original tracking number SOMEWHERE IN THEIR SYSTEM.

Welp, Jackie said she would have to do some more investigating and call me back tomorrow since she was about to leave for the day in 15 minutes. How convenient.

Curious, I wonder where my "damaged contents" package is since I shipped it on May 10th (it is now May 30th) and they said it'd be shipped right back to me. They must have looked at it by now and documented it, right?

Indeed, they had. But where was the package? I later found that they had delivered it to my apartment complex, but failed to put my apartment number on it. So, my apartment complex let it sit in their office for about 2 weeks before I finally called in to inquire.

When I opened the box I glanced in to see what kind of packing material they used to secure the GLASS JARS this time. At first glance, I was delighted with what I thought were those sealed bags of air that Amazon.com uses to ship BOOKS... (you know, the things that don't break and spill all over the place) ...but no.

To my dismay and utter SHOCK, it turns out they just dumped all the jars into a pink plastic bag, tied a knot at the top, and dumped that bag in another bag, with a knot at that top of it as well. Same way you might dispose of, you know, a dead human body.

Hmm, seems to me like they knew it was going to be a complete CLUSTER FUCK in that bag, "so we better make sure it doesn't leak too bad."

Below is what I received:

I just opened the box, haven't tampered with anything.

Inside of the bag.

The labels are practically see-through due to all the sauce they've absorbed.

Another gnarly picture of the chaos that ensued.

And finally, the video:

, shockwave-flash@http://www.youtube.com/v/MRzV-1AZ3pQ" href="http://www.youtube.com/v/MRzV-1AZ3pQ" id="">

Now... the claims process is STILL going on and it's unknown how long it will last.... but as it progresses, I'll post updates to this blog entry in chronological order.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Go Wireless Today!

My other half decided that her toes wanted to go on an adventure today while she was at her workstation. Somehow, her toes made it far enough off the beaten trail that they stumbled upon the switch to one power strip, which in turn powers another power strip, and... you guessed it: her toes accidentally hit the power switch, causing her computer, speakers, printer, desk lamp, monitor, external hard drive--not to mention my entire side of the desk (remember how I said a power strip was linked to another power strip?)--causing a complete black-out in our workspace.

Fortunately I was running on batteries (I have a laptop) during the outage, but I could have lost valuable work had I not been momentarily battery-powered.

So, if you've ever had this happen to you, or if you've ever cringed when you looked under your desk at that unsightly labrynth of cords, have hope. For about $13--or less, if you're one of those DIYers--you, too, can have a clutter-free corner of the world and let your wild toes roam free.

HOW, you ask? By reading this article.

Unfortunately, I didn't take pictures of the before. But here's the after.

Plenty of room for toes to explore and it looks nice, too:

A look underneath:

From foot-level. None of this is visible while standing.

A little closer underneath:

Wide shot of the completed setup:

I'm not done yet, since we have one more power strip on my side of the desk... but it'll be the same process: mount the power strip to the wall as high as possible with drywall screws, coil the remaining cables up into the cable trunk, and enjoy the cleanliness that is our workstation. If you were wondering, the power strips didn't fit inside the cable trunk with everything plugged in (as it did in the post I told you about above), so I decided to mount the strips to the wall.

Side note: you should make sure that you are pretty clear about your desk equipment being situated exactly where you want them; once this system is implemented, it'll be a pain in the ass to uncoil everything and sort everything out. I didn't use zip ties for this example, but if I had, I probably would have grouped common cords (ones that don't move much) together and zip tied them, while leaving other cords, like my cell phone data cable, speaker cable, etc., free so that I can reposition them if needed. Most things like printers and monitors don't move much, so those wires are easy to strap down a little more permanently with zip ties.

Have fun! Post pics of your setup if you decide to try it. Before and after would be great.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Spring Break Anniversary Trip

Debbie and I have been together now for five years and to celebrate we decided to take a Spring Break road trip up through Oregon and Washington. Here are some photos of the trip, including a short video of some happy-go-lucky sea otters.

If you've never been to Oregon or Washington, I highly recommend you take the trip. Oh, and don't forget that in Oregon it's illegal to pump your own gas. Upon realizing that I had pumped my own gas, the gas station Pump Nazi quipped with a serious face, "I don't even wanna know who started that pump." I looked around for someone to blame, but there was nobody; I raised my hand in ignorance. :-)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Death to Database! (AKA The B+ Tutorial)

From Hell's Kitchen:

Well, two days ago I took my first database test. Long story short, I bombed it (61%). Am I bummed? Sure. However, I prefer to take this opportunity to improve by understanding where I went awry. So, I've created a step-by-step tutorial on the B+ Tree and put the explanations in English so that I and other students can finally understand the inner workings of the basic B+ tree.

While the B+ Tree wasn't the only thing that killed me on the test--mainly it was the fill-in-the-blank front page that caught me with my pants down--creating the tutorial has taught me quite a bit. Even if I never do another B+ Tree again, at least I seized the opportunity to assist my fellow classmates and learned a little more in the process.

Now, hopefully, you can finally understand why 28 is at the top and not 17.

See you in Hell's Kitchen,


PS: Sorry it's a little abbreviated and some steps are combined into one, but I didn't want to spend too much time on it after having bombed the test. :-)

Saturday, February 24, 2007

New plants

Now that the water's pH has finally stabalized to 7.0, I've added in some new plants:

White Ribbons (Dracaena sanderiana) - large thin green leaves with light yellow bands on the sides
Kyoto Grass (Ophiopogon japonica) - deep dark green, tall, thin grass
Argentine Sword (Echinodorus argentinensis) - broad green leaves
Java Fern (Microsorium pteropus) - deep dark green, narrow leaves with frilly look to them

It's nice having a small tank because just a few plants can create a whole new look. These plants came from Top Fin and were prepackaged in a tube. I found it odd that you could purchase aquatic plants that weren't already submerged, so we'll have to see how long they last.

I'm going to purchase some more plants, but this time I'm going to get them from the internet. Once I get those, I'll post more pics. And at some point, I plan on putting fish in here, too :) It's just hard making the choice of which fishes to stock.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Craigslist + RSS = Sweet Deals

Ever wish you could heave a "steal of a deal" pushed through the internet directly to your inbox? Now you can. I stumbled upon this neat trick last week and had to share.

I prefer a site like Craigslist. Search for [bills] and nothing else. What results is a list of people who are generally selling so they can "pay the bills" or "have bills to pay" or... you get the idea. Often, they are very motivated sellers. It is here where you will find your steal of a deal.

"But wait," you ask, I still have to manually search for this stuff. That's not convenient!

Enter RSS.Subscribe to the RSS feed of the search query you just executed (in Firefox, click on the little RSS icon in the URL bar), and off you go--in Firefox, just subscribe to the "live bookmark" and you've got your self an automatically updating list of great deals on craigslist.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Adventures in Aquariumland

I just tore down my old 10 gallon planted aquarium and rebuilt it with a new substrate (well, new to me, anyway) by CaribSea Inc. It's called Eco-Complete (TM) Planted Aquarium Substrate. Basically, this stuff comes prepackaged with everything plants need for healthy growth.

This is the beginning of my Adventures in Aquariumland series, which will be updated whenever I feel like it.

Here's my first picture. Very plain, very new. On the right are two separate pieces of driftwood propped up against the side and back walls to make a small cave for hiding.

At the left are some Italian Vals (Vallisneria spiralis) and in the center is what i believe to be Cryptocoryne wendtii, though I'm not entirely sure since I bought it long ago and never kept track of the names of the plants I was buying.