Always date your work

Excellent advice. I wish more organizations would follow it. It doesn’t really matter if what you’re writing is meant to last for a long time, or is supposed to be timeless, or if it only has meaning for a specific time period.

When I was in middle school, I never liked dating my homework. It seemed silly – this report on the effect of jerk on a string tied to a hanging weight was obviously from Thursday’s lesson, and once it’s graded, why does anyone care when it was? Plus in one particular case I think a teacher was very particular about the specific way you wrote dates, which rubbed me the wrong way.

In professional life I realized it was generally useful to have a date on your work. And after a while of writing code, any good developer will realize you should always comment and date your work. You know that you will be called upon to fix something in your code long from now, even when you think at the current moment that it’s throwaway code (generally a bad idea) or when you’re planning to leave the project soon. The lesson takes a while to sink in – several iterations of saying to yourself “yeah, I know I wrote this, but what the hell was I thinking?” – but eventually it does, and you start putting in the date and a comment.

This concept came to the forefront today when we were at a medical appointment. We were in a rush, and I didn’t realize that the two (different) insurance cards I brought with me were both outdated. Neither had dates, of course; I just guessed from the names which should have been correct, but neither was still valid. So tonight I dig through the filing cabinet to find the right one, so we can call it back into the office for billing.

Ah-ha! At the very back of the first folder I look through, I find the letter from the insurance company, with the little wallet cards stuck at the bottom. Nice. But wait. There are two letters, both from the same company, both saying blah blah here are your cards blah blah. Both with my name, and what (could be) the correct year’s subscriber ID number.

But no dates.


I lie; actually there is a date. On the back, the first one lists “Notice of Privacy Practices, Effective August 2003”. Ah – go check the other one. No good – it’s the same exact notice. Sigh. C’mon, folks, you’re a big insurance business, and I’m sure that you triple check dates when claims are made to see if I have coverage on that date or not. And you can’t be bothered to include the date on the letter? Anywhere? Jeesh.

Reading the letters more carefully, I believe I have figured out which card is later than the other (they changed the plan names, and one letter mentions the change). However I still have no idea if this is the card from 2005, 2006, 2007, or 2008, or even if it matters (I sure hope they finally made up their minds as to what subscriber numbers to use!) Guess I’ll try looking through the other pile of to be filed papers to see if I have any other versions, huh?

The mid-summer gas crisis is over

There, it’s on the internet, so it must be true.

Srsly – besides the obvious news pundits, economic indicators, oil futures, and Middle east politics… Beyond the local gas price surveys, and the raft of traditional discount gas stations in the mid to low 4.0x’s. Beyond the breaking of the weather from miserably hot with too much air conditioning, to miserably humid and rainy – it’s not just that running your wipers uses less energy.

No, it’s finally noticing that the Shield Mini Mart in Summvile just inbound of Ball Sq is now listing regular for $3.95/gallon. Of course their “3” is half-broken, so it ruins the symmetry of the sign a tad, but as a discount station I’ll forgive them.

But $3.95 is a real indicator – unlike the numerous $3.99 places we’ve seen on and off the past two weeks. Pricing at $3.99 is just playing the psychology of 3 versus 4; of an at-first-glance 25% savings from your $4.05 or $4.13 competitor down the street. Pricing at $3.97 – which I saw last week – could be used by a desperate discount place to compete against the lucky name brand gas that could dip to $3.99 for a few days due to a good contract. But pricing at $3.95? That’s a clear shot across the bows of high prices, a definite signal that the peak has passed! Yay! Good times ahead! Make those vacation plans, and book your hotels now! Enjoy!

Decent Office Chairs? And Friblogging

So the time has come in my life to invest in a home office chair. I’ve done all the rounds of Inexpensive Office Supply House chairs, and even special order ergonomic chairs you can request at $dayjob if you figure out the right forms to fill out. And still, I have persistent back problems. So it’s time to invest.

Before I blow several hundred USD on an Aeron, does anyone have specific suggestions for fully-adjustable, comfortable, traditional-ish office chairs?

No, I don’t like the knee chairs. Yes, I might someday consider a ball chair with a back. And yes, I probably need something that rolls; that has seat level and angle adjustments; has back up, down, angle, and lumbar depth and height adjustments. None of the normal chairs I’ve tried ever end up being at the right place of my back.

And now for the Friblogging. You were wondering what that… well, maybe not.

Death Defying Driving!
Yes, it’s true: I drove under the Longfellow today – twice! – and lived to tell the tale. Even more amazing: there were simultaneously 2 red line trains atop the Longfellow at the same time. I seriously considered waiting, but there’s no place on the little Memorial/Land Blvd turnaround loop to pull over, so I took my chances.
What’s with the recent invasion of little white “TownName SINGLES!” signs everywhere? I swear they’re worse than mushrooms after a heavy rain, or kudzu. Do my fellow readers to T/bike/walk ever see them? If you drive local roads in or near Cambridge, you can’t miss’em. I think one day I saw someone just walking by removing them just out of spite (or because they were DPW workers cleaning them up).
Bureaucracy stinks.
A project I’ve worked on is now suddenly – at the last moment – held up because of a missing approval. Sigh. Paperwork will get you every time, immaterial of actual work done. I think it’s time for everyone to simply have an unlimited mail store, so we can all save everything, just in case you need the records someday. (Yes, I realize that’s actually a huge issue for modern business).

Galleria:AppleStore:iPhone:Line:One week later

Galleria:AppleStore:iPhone:Line:One week later

Yes, Virginia, people have waited in line for ONE WHOLE WEEK just to be able to touch an iPhone. OK, just kidding, I keep going around lunchtime, so I’m sure it’s people who were only waiting an hour or so. I hope.
I was interesting, nonchalantly walking into the Apple store, right past the 3 mall security guards they had guarding the doorway. I actually needed to buy something that wasn’t an iPhone. There was still a line to pay, but not as long. Phew. Luckily, I had brought some food just in case I got trapped.

iPhone 2.0 from One Infinite Loop

With the coming of the second iPhone, many eyes in locked-in cell phone contracts turned hopefully, or desperately, toward the freedom of the free data plan. The Apple store became the great activation point.

But, not everybody could get to the Apple store directly, and so a tortuous, roundabout activation trail sprang up – from the Starbucks to the Crate & Barrel… across the food court past the A&E… then by skateboard, or rollerblades, or foot across the red rope of the line, to the Apple store in your neighborhood.

Here, the fortunate ones through money, or influence, or luck, might obtain iPhones and activate them online; and from activation, to the land of fast web browsing. But the others wait in line… and waitand waitand wait.

Pop culture references

And now for the local news.

Galleria:Apple Store:Line 2 A local man, reported missing by his loved ones, was discovered today at the Cambridgeside Galleria. Reportedly he had been waiting in line to have his iPhone activated, and was unable to phone home to report his whereabouts.

In related news, coffee sales on Boylston St and at the Galleria are up 55% this weekend.

Wabbits! Giant, ravenous, carrot-eating, whitetailed rabbits have been spotted leaping over Arlington Heights this weekend. Suburban gardeners not used to natural predators are warned to keep a close eye on their gardens as these wascals invade new neighborhoods.

In related news, a new study on the Socioeconomic implications of food in animated American television is reported today.

BKLNE BMPR STCKR While up-and-coming Brookline may have it’s fair share of hybrid drivers, it now has enough bumper stickers going around to get easily spotted when waiting in Cambridge traffic.

In related news, Cambridge scooped the region with the largest Bastille Day celebration.

Film at eleven.

How long did you wait for an iPhone?

I didn’t.

Galleria:Apple Store:Line But I did take a couple of pics at the Galleria, and was highly amused to see the disparity of line between the Apple store – admittedly a much cooler place to buy – and the AT&T storefront in the mall. And this was at 10AM, mind you!

I will be getting one at some point, but I don’t need to stand in line on opening day. Anyway, the only cool place to stand in line would have been the flagship Boston Boylston store – I wonder how many liveblogs were sent from there overnight? Not nearly enough from my googling so far. I can’t decide who’s more the true apple geek: those who went for the camaraderie of waiting in front of the giant glowing apples, or those like Jenny who simply plotted out where the nearest under-crowded AT&T store (or other carrier, if you don’t live in the US) was on their way to work.