Monday, December 29, 2008

Looking for a good mechanic in Burlington County?

My son needed brakes and Mongo's in Delran just did a great job at a reasonable price.

Fast appointment, pleasant service staff, good price, and quick service.

Mongo's
1808 Taylors Ln
Cinnaminson, NJ Phone:
856-786-5101

As for me, I still use O&J, which is nearby in Riverside. Great service, just a bit harder to get an appointment.

O&J's
307 S Chester Ave
Riverside
856-461-0603
http://www.ojcarrepair.net/

Guitar Hero---Drum Problem

It's a shame (a real shame) that the first thing I can do after dragging myself out of bed with the flu is to write a note about Guitar Hero, ActiveVision.

We bought our daughter Guiar Hero, World Tour, for Christmas. ($200+) from EBGames in the Moorestown Mall.

Christmas morning she excitedly opens it--guess, what the drums don't work.

A Google search reveals that this is a known issue---

On Saturday, December 27th, my wife tries to return the defective item to EBGames in the Moorestown Mall, but it's not their 'policy' to accept Guitar Hero defective material (they should tell you that before you buy the junk). They give us a Toll Free Number: 1-800-205-4713.

I call the number---they've been waiting for me, as there is a dedicated number for the return of defective Guitar Hero World Tour Units.

I give them some information---they ask the for Serial number found on the Drum console. Hmmm...there is none. What does that mean?

No matter, they will accept the return, email me a postage paid label and ship me new drums when they get the old ones. By the way, if you go through this process, you may as well ship back the cymbals---an orange and yellow one---as they may be defective also. I am given three RMA numbers for the return. One for the drum console, one for the orange cymbal, and one for the yellow cymbal.

I'm told that it will take at least 24 hours to email me the package label, 3 days shipping each way. My daughter wants to know when she can start drumming.

Sunday morning, I check my email--nothing there. Perhaps the operator got my email address wrong? Perhaps my ISP has determined that it's junk mail and filtered it. I decide to wait until Monday. All of this, by the way, while coughing and hacking up huge amounts of thick, disgusting mucous. Merry Christmas.

Monday morning---no email from ActiveVision.

I call them again around 12:45.

I get the same woman (at least it sounds that way) who dealt with me before. She tells me I should expect the email sometime today.

I say wait a minute, I called on Saturday.

Oh, she says, I need to call the RMA hot line at this number. 1-310-255-2050. Then press #1.

I call, the phone rings. It tells me I have reached the Drum hot line. I press #1. This option wants to give me cheat codes for some game.

I can no longer type my responses---now I need to speak them (with a raspy voice nonetheless).

In frustration, I utter a profanity into the phone, and the automated response comes back and says "just a minute, we'll have you speak to an operator." That was at 12:50.

Every one in a while a message comes on telling me that all operators are busy, and that someone will be with me momentarily.

It is now 1PM.

1:04---I'm now speaking with a very knowledgeable person who tells me that with the weekend, it may take more than 1 to 2 business days for the email to show up.

He also seems to know about the Drum Controlller and the Wii, and he thinks the problem is probably the drum controller.

The bottom line--give it another day.

He also says that I can check this link for the status of my RMA...

http://www.activevision.custhelp.com/

However, that doesn't exists...hmmm

Let's try

http://www.activision.com/

That's close.

Turns out the actual URL is this one...

https://activision.custhelp.com/cgi-bin

In fact, here's a dedicated cutsomter site for Guitar Hero World Tour

http://redoctane.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/redoctane.cfg/php/enduser/std_alp.php?p_sid=EeDAkBmj

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fan Mail letter of the week---December 25, 2008

Just received this email...



My name is Mark and am deaf-blind. I personally wanted to tell you how much I loved to read "Learn To Program" book series and made my addictions. You are a very honest and proficent author and know our feeling comfortable about your author.

I'd like to know where I could find a "Learn To Program With HTML 4" and "Learn To Program With ASP.NET" technical/educational books.

I was a former COBOL computer programmer analyst in Information Systems at the federal government over 20 years until I left on my disability retirement in 1996. Right now I am facing to learn a conversion from IS to IT. In addition, I'm not familiar in IT, but I'd love to learn many new technologies in IT.

Could you able provide me information how did you get started to build your website from scratch? Server or Hosting? What web publishing and database software programming that you currently use? Thank you.

Kindest regards,
Mark

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Patchwork on Route 130

I've noticed, while driving Route 130 through Cinnaminson and Delran, that one of New Jersey's worst roads is undergoing some seam repair.

That won't help the gullies and trough in the road.

This morning, the area around Bayard's Chocolates in Cinnaminson is also being patched.

Cinnaminson Friendly's---Update, December 23, 2008

I haven't heard any news about the Cinnaminson Friendly's armed robbery from a few weeks ago---I also haven't heard any news of more armed robberies in Cinnaminson since.

Someone I know was looking for a place to go last night around 10---she suggested Friendly's in Cinnaminson, but I directed her to the Moorestown Friendly's instead.

Broken Nose update, December 23, 2008

I see that people have been directed to my blog by searching for information about broken noses.

One query that was generated this morning, and which resulted in a hit to my blog, was how to get swelling down from a broken nose.

Interestingly, the first thing I asked for when my wife asked if there was anything she could do for me as I bled on my upstairs hallway rug was ICE. I've had injuries before (not to my nose) and I know that ice is very good.

Even more interestingly, first responders and emergency room personnel never gave me any ice at all for my nose.

They told me that the swelling would go down in 6 weeks (which is for the most part true) and my plastic surgeon said a full recovery would take about 6 months.

My nose still hurts (the bony part anyway that was broken) and is numb (the area where it was stitched).

In short, if you have a broken nose and want to the swelling to go down, I would ice it for 24 hours, and after that, you're pretty much at the mercy of your own healing time.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Saladworks---A response to my letter concerning the salad bowls

I received this letter from Saladworks addressing my concerns over the size of their takeout salad bowls.

I commend the Public Relations Manager, Patrick Pantano, for responding---this is a much more customer friendly response than the one I received concerning my complaint over the Honey Mustard Fat Free salad dressing. While I don't necessarily agree with him, I do think the situation is improving, and most times, I am getting a reasonably sized portion.

Here's the letter.

Dear Mr. Smiley,

Thank you for contacting Saladworks regarding our new salad bowls.

While we admire the thoroughness of your personal experiment and appreciate you being a fan of Saladworks, we must point out your inaccuracy.

Contrary to your assertion, our new white salad bowls were designed by use to hold precisely the same amount of salad as the previous orange design.

The portion sizes of the signature recipes for all Saladworks salads have not been adjusted or altered in years.

Furthermore, the mixing bowls which all salads are prepared in prior to transfer into the plastic bowl are the same size. You are receiving the same fresh salad in the white bowl, as you did in the orange. JOHN SMILEY NOTE: Provided the mixing bowl is filled properly. My early experience showed that salad preparers were 'light' with the salad in the mixing bowl, knowing that the white salad bowls were smaller, and therefore would result in spillage.

Because every salad is custom made, we hope you are not experiencing human error in portioning at your favorite location. We'll confirm with the team at the Delran Saladworks that the portion is the proper size per our recipes.

Saladworks appreciates your zeal and salutes your passion for our product. We hope you and your family continue to eat at Saladworks and enjoy our "fanatic'ly fresh" offerings.

As always, Saladworks is committed to providing a fanatical customer experience. Please use the enclosed gift card to enjoy your next salad on us.

Sincerely,

Patrick Pantano
Public Relations Manager

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Fan Mail Letter of the Week--December 18, 2008

I received this email today... it's a nice example as to why I love to write books that help people.

Hi John,

Yesterday I bought your pdf version of LTP with VB.net.


I would also like to use an opportunity to thank you for everything I have learnt through your books.

I know you have heard this "zillion" times, but still...

I own all of your VB6 books which were the starting point of my learning. They gave me very, very good basis for my subsequent learning. I doubt I would be where I am today without your books.

Your teaching style is second to none, by far...

And your ability to "step into beginners shoes" is unbelievable. I don't believe you can learn this...you're blessed with a very rare talent...but you already know that ;-).

Keep up the excellent work!

Take care and I wish you and your family all the best in 2009 (and beyond).

Greetings from Slovenia,
Samo

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Social Networking for Grownups: Building Your Business in the 21st Century

Social Networking for Grownups: Building Your Business in the 21st Century

This is the title of an article in the Winter 2009 edition of Girlfriendz Magazine

www.girlfriendzmag.com

Sorry, there is no link to it, but the key to the article is to use Social Networking sites, such as MySpace, Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter to build your business relationships.

No news there---I've been telling you to do that.

Twitter, in particular, I think will really help my business---for as long as they remain in business :)

Build-A-Bear's Founder offers advice on how to start your own business

Maxine Clark, Founder and Chief Executive of Build-A-Bear offered these tips on starting your own business in the Winter 2009 issue of Girlfriendsz

http://girlfriendzmag.com/pdf/Issue5_MaxineClark.pdf

1. Plumb Your Passion (i.e. do something you love).

2. A Goal is a Dream with a Deadline. It takes a plan - a business plan - to organize what you want to do.

3. Don't give good customer service - give Phenomenal customer service (Retrofitness, Saladworks, Outback Steakhouse, are you listening?)

4. Empower your employees

5. Give back (to the community)

Having a bad day---smash a plate

I was reading the latest issue of Fortune Small Business, and came upon an article about a woman who founded a business called Sarah's Smash Shack, a San Diego shop where customers pay to smash tableware.

http://www.smashhack.com

This reminds me of a company I heard of in Center City Philadelphia which allowed employees to throw out old computer equipment off the fire escape of their high rise building into a dumpster many floors below.

Considering how people feel about computers some days, that was probably quite satisfying to them.

Smashing tableware may be the next best thing.

Maybe I can buy a franchise.

Totally Wasted---And proud of it (no, not me)

Totally Wasted---And proud of it

This is the title of an article I read over the summer in my wife's Glamour magazine...I totally forgot about it until I found it at the bottom of my in basket this morning.

It details the levels---degrees---degradation that underage drinkers are going to these days in order to achieve their 'high'. Check out the online version here...

http://www.glamour.com/health-fitness/2008/08/totally-wasted-and-proud

I'm totally against underage drinking, driving under the influence, excessive drinking of any kind. The drinking age is 21---wait until then to have your first drink, and quite honestly, I don't care if my kids ever have a drink.

Some may call me a prude (and I've been called worse) but I've seen too many lives ruined by this crap to condone it.

I knew someone who, when finding out that their daughter was at a party where underage teens were being served, called the police. I would do the same thing.

I'm sick and tired of parents trying to be friends with their kids, saying that they'll drink anyway, pretending that serving them vodka jello jigglers is preparing them for college, etc, etc. Give me a break---if they have to go out in the woods to sneak a drink, let them---don't condone it in your house.

Microsoft Visual Basic 6.0 Service Pack 6 Cumulative Update

Microsoft just posted a link for a Visual Basic 6.0 Service Pack 6 Cumulative Update---it's intended to address security issues. Here's the big link

http://www.microsoft.com/downloads/details.aspx?FamilyID=CB824E35-0403-45C4-9E41-459F0EB89E36&displaylang=en

and of course, the Tinyurl link...

http://tinyurl.com/5pzffh

Monday, December 15, 2008

John A Smiley

I was doing a keyword analysis on searches that resulted in a hit on my blog, and I noticed that someone this morning tried searching for

John A Smiley

I know a John A Smiley in the area---in fact, one Saturday afternoon a few years ago, he showed up at my door.

If the person searching for John A Smiley comes back here, and wants to learn more about him, contact me at

johnsmiley@johnsmiley.com

The man who looked like Frank Sinatra and the man who sang like Mario Lanza

I was listening to a Frank Sinatra Christmas song today when I remembered once riding on the Frankford El with a man who looked just like Frank Sinatra. I wondered if he could sing---or ever thought of it.

I also worked with a man at Action Manufacturing (sorry, I don't remember his name, but I do remember his nose) who sang like Mario Lanza, a famous Opera Singer/Actor from South Philadelphia. Actually, he sang better. I often wondered why he didn't pursue a career.

I guess these fall into what I call the 'close call' categories in life---people whose lives could have gone in different directions if only...

Facebook---Michael Smerconish again

I blogged a week ago about Michael Smerconish and his revulsion of Facebook in the Philadelphia Daily News.

I saw this response (from Sandie Rabena of Phoenixville) to his article as a Letter to the Editor in the Philadelphia Inquirer (Sunday, December 14, 2008). It's quite good...

RE: "Facebook epidemic," Michael Smerconish, last Sunday:

As a parent of children ages 21, 20 and 17, I can tell you that they think it is "SO LAME" for older adults to have a Facebook profile, and, even worse, for anyone over 30, particularly a family friend or relative, to ask to be added as a friend.

One thing I did ask my children was: When did they plan to get rid of their Facebook profiles?

A hard question, since it is their lifeline to about a zillion of their closest friends. Brows furrowed, they got very quiet, and finally, could not offer an answer. And that, perhaps, is how it will someday be OK for adults to use Facebook!

I'm 53---I remember when our generation said "Never trust anyone over 30." Then of course, we turned 30, and 40, and 50.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

When I am 50 years old (as written by Elementary School Students)

My son's friend is an Elementary School Teacher.

In celebration of another teacher's 50th Birthday, he asked his students to imagine what they would be doing when they were 50. Here is a compilation.

When I am an old lady of fifty, I would be complaining that God hasn't take me yet that is if I'm still living. I( would feel achy and my life would be awful.

When I am an old man of fifty I would play golf almost every day with my buddies. I would be working every other day making $100 a week. I would have to watch my grandchildren when I am not working or playing golf. I would go to any place where senior citizens don't have to pay. I would live in Blue Bell in an apartment for old people.

When I am an old lady of fifty I'd probably be living in a small house, reading most days. Good books, not the kinds in hospitals.

When I am an old lady of fifty I would be living in a big house. I would have a small white dog. I would have a wealthy husband, no kids, and live happily ever after.

When I am an old lady of fifty, I wouldn't need a walker or a home.

When I am an old man of fifty I hope to be in good health. I want to think that I will have accomplished many tasks. When I'm fifty, I will be getting ready for retirement. I will have a whole lot of time on my hands, so I will do many exciting things such as go skydiving. I will be the coolest fifty year old person.

When I am an old man of fifty I will build an amusement park with roller coasters and food carts. I will go to China for a vacation and see all the wonderful things. I will live in Asia. I will go water skiing.

When I am an old lady of fifty, I will be in a small house with pink and purple walls and a blue door and red windows. My cat and I would bake cookies everyday and my husband would watch football. Every other weekend, my grand kids would come over and we would go out and have fun.

When I am an old lady of fifty my daughter will get sick of me harassing her then she'll put me in a retirement home and also I shell find me a new husband because my old one is dead.

When I am an old man of fifty I don;t think I would look like an old man with a cane and wrinkles with false teeth, gray hair, and bald spots.

When I am an old lady of fifty, I will be playing bingo every Sunday. Every part of my body will ache horribly. I will live in Germany to see where my ancestors came from.

When I am an old many of fifty I will probably join the hair club for men. I will way my finger at kids on my lawn, have a power chair, and lots of money.

When I am an old man of fifty, I will live in Tokyo and have a great phone that shows live video.

When I am an old man of fifty I will think the closes are very strange, like sweater vests.

When I am an old man of fifty I will be using a cane, have no teeth and eat pudding.

That's not Vince Vance singing that song

Have you ever been overlooked or done exceptional work only to be bunched into a group with others who got all the credit?

Vince Vann and the Valiants is the name of the group currently playing "All I want to Christmas is you" on B101---but that's not Vince Vance who is singing, it's Lisa Layne.

She has a beautiful voice, and if she were recording records today, I think she would easily be the best selling female vocalist--but no one even knows who she is.

After 5 years with Vince, she went solo as a country artist. You can check out her website here...

http://www.lisalayne.com/

Here's the Wikipedia entry for Vince Vance---he and his band are very notable...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vince_Vance_and_the_Valiants

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Day The Earth Stood Still--Very Disappointing--Klaatu barada nikto!

The Day The Earth Stood Still---very disappointing.

Spoiler Alerts---don't ready any further if you don't want to read some spoilers.

OK, I'm a big fan of the original

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0043456/

which I think is one of the greatest Science Fiction movies ever made.

I've been looking forward to this movie since I heard about it last March, although I really wondered how it could approach the original.

I was hoping for an update--but this rework was shoddy.

It lacked the true warmth of the original---Keanu Reeves is frosty.

So many lost opportunities---for instance, when Jacob asks Klaatu to resurrect his dead father, he doesn't. Nor does he offer any reason as to why not. Had too much time passed?

Klaatu resurrected the policeman he killed.

I think the movie missed a great opportunity to do something the original never did.

And really, if you are going to stick to some of the original plot (landing on a ball field in Central Park, befriend a single mother, get shot upon landing) be concise.

For instance, when Klaatu corrects Professor Barnhardt's blackboard formula, why leave out a crucial sequence in which Klaatu tells the Professor that the formula is good enough to allow him to travel from one solar system to another.

And why stop the earth at the very end---it was used in the original to lend credibility to Klaatu's claims.

And why no "Klaatu barada nikto!"

All in all, I think purists will be very disappointed in the remake.

Moviegoers who never saw the original may like it---it has lots of gore and special effects which appeal to young people these days, but no warmth and very little character study.

70-305 and 70-306 to be retired

I've heard that Microsoft exams

Exam 70-305:
Developing and Implementing Web Applications with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET

and

Exam 70-306:
Developing and Implementing Windows-Based Applications with Microsoft Visual Basic .NET and Microsoft Visual Studio .NET

are to be retired in March of 2009---but I still don't know what is replacing them. Looks like it may be

Exam 70-563:
PRO: Designing and Developing Windows Applications Using Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5

and

Exam 70-564:
PRO: Designing and Developing ASP.NET Applications Using Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5

Here's a link to the announcement on the Microsoft Website.

http://www.microsoft.com/learning/mcpexams/status/examstoretire.mspx

Cemeteries

It must be that time of year that causes me to think of deceased loved ones.

I blogged the other day about Lakeview Cemetery in Cinnaminson that is in the midst of a controversy over graveside remembrances.

The Lakeview community is lucky in some regards---they're getting a response from someone at the cemetery.

I've visited cemeteries looking for the graves of loved ones where there is no office, or the office is always closed when I visited. Phone calls go to voicemail.

For instance, I've been trying for years to find where my English grandfather is buried in St. Dominics in Holmesburg. I don't want anyone to think I've spent hours and hours on this. When I've stopped by to visit my wife's parents, I've gone to the office and it's always been closed. I've called, and left a message, but got no return call.

Last March I went for a physical at my Doctor's office who happens to be very near Whitemarsh Cemetery. I thought I would call ahead of time to find out where my wife's grandmother is buried. I think my Uncle Francis is also there. But I couldn't find a number for the cemetery, and when I drove by, I couldn't find a caretakers building or an office so I gave up.

If I had time, which I don't, I'd like to set up a Web site that has information on Cemeteries, along with the deceased that are buried there.

I know there are some informal sites that do that---I'll revisit the topic sometime in the future and build a list of them here...

.
.
.

I think one of the worst things we can do to our deceased loved ones is to forget them.

Online Condolences

I just posted an online condolence in a Philadelphia Daily News/Inquirer obituary Guest Book.

My wife and I will be sending a sympathy card later.

Interestingly, after posting it, a message appeared that it would be reviewed for 'correct posting guidelines' and should appear in a few hours.

At a tech person, I know that this isn't going to be done by a real person--we know that newspapers are in trouble, constantly folding, so I'm sure the last thing a newspaper will do is hire someone to ensure that no one is posting inappropriate messages in Guest Book entries.

Perhaps it's software that does that--but if it is, why isn't it done at the time of posting.

The delay has me wondering.

Maybe one of the two people who regularly read my blog has an idea.

Moorestown police seek carjacking suspect

Moorestown---it's not Cinnaminson, but it's close, and so it appears on my Crime Report

The Burlington County Time reported today (December 13, 2008) on Page 1 that police are searching for an armed man who pointed a gun at a pregnant woman Thursday night (7:45PM) during a carjacking.

According to police, the carjacking occurred at around 7:45PM in the parking lot of the Family Dollar Shopping Center on West Camden Avenue in the Lenola section of Moorestown.

For those of you not familiar with the area, this is the same center that houses the Retrofitness health club, the Dunkin Donuts next to it, and Rita's Water Ice.

It's a foolish location for a criminal to attack---the place is under constant surveillance by the police, who frequently check in at the Dunkin Donuts (no joke intended) and drive by and through the parking lot, both front and back.

3 Philadelphia Community Newspapers close---Olney Times, News Gleaner, Northeast Breeze

The Philadelphia Daily News reported today (December 13, 2008) that three Philadelphia weekly pulbications ceased operations on Thursday.

According to the story, staffers of the Olney Times, News Gleaner and Northeast Breeze were told all three weekly publications were going to be shut down on Thursday.

Publisher J. Wesley Rowe cited the struggling economy as one of the reasons for the closing.

The News Gleaner has covered the Northeast Philadelphia community since 1882.

Here's a link to the story...

http://www.philly.com/dailynews/local/20081213_3_community_newspapers_close.html

Mothers---please put down that cell phone

This applies equally to mothers and fathers---I've just been noticing it a lot lately with young mothers.

My problem?

Mothers with cell phones plastered to their ears, yakking away to anyone and everyone, while feeding their babies or young children, walking them in a baby carriage, playing with them on a swing---well you get the idea.

My wife and I were eating out a few nights ago when a young mother holding an 18 month old baby walked in, with the cell phone against her ear. She removed the baby's coat, sat her in a baby seat, ordered for both of them, ate an appetizer, all the time talking on the phone. The baby, by the way, choked on a piece of the appetizer---I thought I would need to 'Heimlich' the baby as the mother wasn't noticing because of her conversation.

This isn't an isolated event. I've seen this more and more with cell phone.

You wouldn't go out to dinner with a friend and treat them like this (well, I must say I've seen some adults do this as well). It's rude.

Children aren't dogs---they need interaction, eye contact, conversation in order to grow into normal adults. An 18 month old child can be a source of great entertainment---try talking with her instead of your friend (if he was that important to you, you should have asked him along.)

I shudder to think what these children are going to do to get the attention of a parent who obviously doesn't think their undivided attention is that important.

Java Update Available--is that safe?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Lakeview Cemetery Petition for Rob Ashley

I know a lot of local Cinnaminson residents choose Lakeview Cemetery for their final resting place.

Over a year ago, a Cinnaminson boy named Rob Ashley died in an automobile accident, and his family chose Lakeview.

They, and some other families, are currently involved in a dispute with Lakeview and I thought I would post this link to a website that describes the dispute and gives you a chance to sign and online petition.

http://www.thelakeviewfamily.com/

There is also a Facebook group set us called

Petition to Lakeview Memorial Park

Thursday, December 11, 2008

I remember...Rockin around the Christmas Tree

Rockin around the Christmas tree.

It's a Christmas song legend.

I remember its premier on American Bandstand during the Christmas season of 1959. I would have been 4 at the time, almost 5.

Update: 2008-12-12

I wish there was an IMDB for music (maybe there is, and if so, somebody will probably tell me.

At any rate, I did a Google search for the song and discovered that it recorded by Brenda Lee in 1958. She was 13 at the time. It's possible that it was played on American Bandstand in 1958, in which case I would have only been 3 at the time I remember Here's a link to an a brief article about it and her...

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16188562/

The article says that the song didn't really take off until 1959 or 1960.

IMDB does show Brenda appearing live on American Bandstand 3 times, the first in 1961.

I think He would be surprised.

I think He would be surprised.

Risky Times ahead for Baby Boomers---embrace technology

I was just reading this Internet article by Robert Powell of Marktwatch entitled

Risky times ahead
Baby boomers face three new risks in coming decades, but there are answers

http://tinyurl.com/5hkn59

In it, he cites research done by AARP, among others, in which...

According to the report, the laundry list of risks include: "A rapidly deteriorating environment, shifts in global economic power, the decline of legacy institutions that [boomers] have both opposed and worked within, the meteoric advance of technologies that confer advantage on the youngest members of society, and perhaps even the loss of faith in science as the basis for a rational society."

Since I am a technologist, and recently blogged about Michael Smerconish and his reluctance to use Facebook, I suggest that we concentrate on the statement: the meteoric advance of technologist that confer advantage on the youngest members of society.

I would suggest that boomers develop technology skills to negate that advantage.

It's been my observation that although younger members of society seem to use technology more than older members (ie PC's, Cell Phones, Facebook, Twitter, etc), their use of it is much less efficient than older members who finally get around to it.

It's a rare young person I find who sees the potential that technology can offer financially, career wise, quality of life wise. Older people tend to see these things immediately, once they embrace the technology.

I'm beginning to sense that I have a potential audience of boomers who will need my help to learn Facebook, Twitter, Tinyurl, etc.

Forgive me

Just about everyone has something to apologize for---some of the recipients of our apologies are no longer around, perhaps because they have moved, dropped out of sight, or died.

Others might not take our phone call anyway.

Since I'm a technologist, I was thinking it might be a good idea to create a website (like PostSecret.com) where people could post apologies to people in these categories---it might help to get it off their chest.

Urinal Etiquette

It confounds me why anyone would throw/spit a piece of gum into a urinal.

My friend Russ needs to clean that now---at best, he needs to place his hand into a urine splattered urinal (redundant, I know) because of the inconsideration of one person.

Tinyurl

Speaking of Tinyurl, the website that converts long url's into tiny url's

http://www.tinyurl.com/

Does anyone else wonder what they do with the url's they convert?

Do they make these url's available for market research purposes?

Is there a voyeur window into tinyurl?

A few hours later...

Just came upon this ZDNet article that addresses some of these issues...

http://blogs.zdnet.com/Berlind/?p=200

Notice how I didn't convert this to a tinyurl--no need.

Thanks Dell for allowing me to have Microsoft XP

I was telling some people that I would like to upgrade my computer system, but I don't want to get stuck with Vista.

I kind of knew, but wasn't sure, that if I yelled and screamed, Dell would provide me with a PC running XP.

I got an email this morning from Dell about 'holiday' savings, and towards the bottom was a link that said 'Get XP'. When I clicked on it, I discovered that there are a bunch of systems you can get configured with XP Pro, and also Vista if you later decide you want it (yuk). Here's the tinyurl link for it...

http://tinyurl.com/586jjm

When you arrive, there's a big banner that says

"YOU SPOKE - WE LISTENED"

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Facebook. Michael Smerconish---doesn't get it

I really like Michael Smerconish (1210AM, Philadelphia Daily News), but he really missed the ball the other day when he dismissed the true power of one of my favorite Social Networking tools, Facebook. Apparently, Michael thinks it's for kids. In fact, he says...

"More than 120 million have joined, many too old for this nonsense. Whatever value it could have is trumped by the etiquette traps it sets." He goes on to say that "texting is for chicks."

Too old...hmm, I must admit I am a computer geek, that's how I earn my living, and I do think that a lot of people over 50 would do well to increase their geekiness. But etiquette traps? Come on now, people put their foot in their mouth every day, they don't need Facebook to do it. Like anything (including email) be careful what you put out there.

Obviously, Michael doesn't spend the time that I do each day trying to stay in touch with readers, students, customers, friends, etc. I'm sure he has someone who does that for him, but I have to do it myself.

I maintain a mailing list of over 5,000 names---and when I send an email out once a month, about 10% of them come back undeliverable. Just maintaining an up-to-date email list can be a nightmare, which is why I love Facebook.

Every person who buys something from me (a book, a class) or who asks me a question about something (programming for the most part) is invited to join Facebook and to be my friend.

Not everyone does---only about 5% right now, but for those who do, it provides them an insight into me, and allows me to more easily announce new books, updates to existing books, new classes, etc.

And I do all of this without bothering them a great deal (well, once in a while I do announce one of my wife's Avon campaigns).

Here's the link to the article by the way...check out the comments, they are great!

http://www.philly.com/inquirer/columnists/20081207_Head_Strong__Facebook_epidemic.html

Monday, December 8, 2008

My wife called me a grinch

It didn't take long for my wife to call me a Grinch this Christmas season---December 7th.

I told her that for me, it's Christmas every day when I wake up in the morning with her next to me, the kids are happy and healthy, and we have enough to eat.

What more could I want?

Lights...A tree...Presents under the tree...

By the way, for Christmas this year I'm giving my basement (well, the contents anyway) to St. Francis Inn in the Kensington section of Philadelphia.

http://www.stfrancisinn.org/

That's a present well worth giving.

Charlie Brown Christmas Special

The Charlie Brown Christmas Special is on tonight...

Does anyone else think it's a little depressing?

I mean the kid has no visible parents, nothing really good or bad ever happens to him, and the music sounds like a funeral march.

The Innocence Project

"Using DNA to avoid getting the wrong people in jail makes sense."

http://www.innocenceproject.org

18 innocent men were exonerated through DNA testing in 2007, having served a combined total of 306 years in prison.

Illegal Immigration---the paradox

I'm sure this has some bearing on the Illegal Immigration debate...

A onetime illegal immigrant, Dr. Alfredo Quinones-Hinojosa, has been named by Popular Science to its annual Brilliant Ten list of "the most creative, the most groundbreaking, the most brilliant young scientists in the country."

You may have seen him in the summer series "Hopkins".

Here's a link to the story...

http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/dome/0609/top_story.cfm

Economic conditions taking a toll on OSI Restaurant Partners

In researching where my 9 ounce Outback Salmon went, I came across some news articles on Outback Steakhouse. Here's one describing the current conditions of the Restaurant chain from the Tampa Bay Business Journal...

http://www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/stories/2008/11/17/daily22.html

Here's an excerpt--be sure to check out the full article at the link above...

Disruptions in financial markets, including the subprime mortgage crisis and the bankruptcy and restructuring of key financial institutions, pose challenges to OSI Restaurant Partners LLC.

For the three months ended Sept. 20, the large Tampa-based company reported a loss of $46.63 million on revenue of 948.53 million, a steeper loss than the $16.68 million on revenue of $1.01 billion in Q3 2007.

Restaurant sales decreased by 3.2 percent or $99.97 million during the first nine months of 2008 as compared with the same period in 2007. This decrease was primarily attributed to decreases in sales volume at existing restaurants and was partially offset by additional revenues of about $65.17 million from the opening of 42 restaurants after Sept. 30, 2007.
...

Declines in consumer confidence and diminished spending patterns are reducing revenues and cash flow from operations, OSI said. It is working to mitigate that impact with cost-saving efforts including food cost decreases via waste reduction and supply chain efficiency, labor efficiency initiatives, and reductions to general and administrative expenses.

“We have also developed new menu items to appeal to value-conscious consumers and have used marketing campaigns to promote these items,” the company said in its filing.

The restaurant industry “is highly competitive and fragmented and subject to changes in the economy, trends in lifestyles, seasonality and fluctuating costs,” OSI said. Operating margins for restaurants are susceptible to fluctuations in prices of commodities. They include beef, chicken, seafood, butter, cheese, produce and other necessities to operate OSI restaurants, such as natural gas or other energy supplies
....
The company has begun to offer “off the menu” daily specials at Outback Steakhouses that reflect a range of entrĂ©es and price points.

“We believe they provide new reasons for customers to come back to Outback Steakhouse more often,” the company said in filings. OSI now has a multi-year plan to refresh and update its Outback Steakhouse restaurants.

“A new look delivers an experience that we believe reaches beyond the existing interpretation of Australia and the Outback in our restaurants, and it is expressed in updated fabrics, textures, art, lighting, props and murals,” the company’s filing with the SEC said. “Our marketing strategy of getting people to visit frequently and also recommending our restaurants to others complements what we believe are the fundamental elements of success: convenient sites, service-oriented employees and flawless execution in a well-managed restaurant,” the filing said.
...
OSI “went private” last year.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Outback Cherry Hill---Saturday, December 6, 2008

I've got to tell you that it's a rare occasion indeed when I go to my favorite restaurant and am not very pleased with the experience, but Saturday, December 6th was one of them.

For those of you who don't know, we visit Outback in Cherry Hill just about every single week.

It started out well as both my wife and I were greeted by the very friendly staff (Arlene, et al) when we entered. We had called ahead for 9:15PM and arrived around 9:17.

The place was pretty crowded.

The restaurant has undergone some physical changes in the last few weeks, and some booths have been eliminated in favor of high top chairs and stools (something I don't like), so we had requested a booth at call ahead time.

We were seated at Meghan C's section, and my wife was looking forward to the stuffed shrimp that we had been told, for the last few weeks, that it would be on the menu starting December 4th. Guess what? It wasn't there.

I guess it wasn't fair to Meghan that we immediately expressed our displeasure.

I don't recall having her as a waitress before--she probably thought we were playing the free meal or discount meal game---we weren't.

We told her to send a manager over so we could complain---none ever showed up.

My wife said she was disappointed that no stuffed shrimp was on the menu. We gave Meghan our drink orders and she said she would check on the stuffed shrimp.

When she returned with the drinks, she said that the stuffed shrimp was a regional dish, and that they didn't have it. She didn't offer anything after that. I figured we would get a good explanation when the manager arrived (he NEVER did).

My wife decided on Alice Springs Chicken (for the 33rd consecutive time).

I began to order the 9 ounce Atlantic Salmon when Meghan said they no longer had the 9 ounce version---only the 7.

Are you kidding? A 7 ounce salmon slice?

Wow, someone else deciding my portion sizes. (I'm 6 foot 1, 158 pounds, I really don't need a dietitian deciding my portions).

Meghan did say that although the portion size was reduced, so was the price? Huh? I don't care what I pay for my salmon, I want something that will fill me...I don't do the 3,000 calorie 'appetizer' thing.

Again, I asked for a manager---Meghan told me 'Jack' would come over to see us. I suspect at this point that Meghan just thought we were troublemakers---at any rate, the manager never showed. I opted for the 14 ounce Rib eye (not a healthy choice, Mr. or Ms. Dietitian) with a baked potato. I would have preferred the 9 ounce salmon that is no longer offered.

My wife and I left a generous 15% tip---something I regretted on Sunday morning because my request to see a manager was never honored.

I've seen the 'game' played in this restaurant many times---and those who play it have no trouble getting a manager to fawn all over them.

As time permits, I'll be sending a letter to the Corporate office.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

The Price of Greed

Just saw this in the Letters to the Editor section of SJ Magazine...there's some wisdom in Steven A. Boorstein's letter. He comments on the "Price of Greed", as in Wall Street Greed, from the November 2008 issue.

I agree with much of what he has to save---people have been too concerned with acquiring 'things' the last 20 years. I do take exception to the notion of paying for everything with cash. We can't underestimate the importance of consuming financing, which has driven the prosperity of the nation since World War II. We need to borrow what we can't pay for in cash---but we need to be able to pay it back. Adjustable rate mortgages are for the birds, as my mother used to say.

Here is an excerpt of his letter.

"Consumers are also partially to blame. In my grandfather's time, you didn't buy what you didn't have cash to buy.

If consumers looked towards their life, work and relationships as more important than the Lexus they drive or the 3,800 square-foot home they own, they might realize that happiness is not 'things', it's experiences and people. Maybe what happened is a great lesson that should be heeded. Maybe we should look beyond the mess and focus on that lesson, which could be: Focus on what you need. Give. Build lasting relationships. Find happiness in life's experiences."

Friday, December 5, 2008

Hoeganaes closing Cinnaminson Plant

This is from the Philadelphia Inquirer...

Pushed by the recession, a Cinnaminson manufacturer of metals used in auto parts said it would cease industrial activity in February and lay off its last seven plant employees.

Hoeganaes Corp. said it would keep headquarters and research and development there, while manufacturing will continue at other sites worldwide. About 70 employees will remain in Cinnaminson.

Cinnaminson Friendly's Robbery Update, December 5th

Not much more to report on the robbery---I emailed the Burlington County times about the robbery, and I see they have a report about it on December 3rd. Pretty much the same account, but this one has more of the violent details.

By the way, I take some exception to Palmyra's School Superintendent saying that
'Unfortunately, things like this can happen to anyone.'

Things like having a shotgun pointed at your head shouldn't happen to anyone. It's never happened to me, and I don't see why law abiding citizens should ever feel that it's something that is 'normal'.

Here's the link to the story...

http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/112-12032008-1631470.html

I heard through the 'grapevine' that the employees present at the time were told they could take a few days off from work. If it were me, I wouldn't report back for work until Friendly's hires an armed security guard. That's what one of my Philly banks had to do a few years back---in fact, he circles the block to make sure none of the patrons are mugged before going in.

If this Cinnaminson crime way persists, I may need to move back to Philly--at least you know where the danger lurks there.

Here's the BCT story...

CINNAMINSON — Police are looking for three robbers who held up 24 teenagers and four employees at gunpoint at a Friendly's restaurant on Route 130 early Saturday morning.

According to Cinnaminson police, two men with handguns and another with a sawed-off shotgun entered the restaurant at 12:27 a.m. The man with the shotgun pointed it at the head of a teenage girl and ordered everyone else to the back of the restaurant, police said. The people were told to leave their belongings, including cell phones, at their tables. The patrons and employees were led into a restroom, where they were ordered to remain.

One of the men leaped over the counter and went directly to the office area and demanded the employee there hand over the money she was counting and open and empty the safe, police said.

The three men, described by police as wearing dark clothing and gloves, fled the scene in a dark colored minivan with more than $1,000 cash. Twenty of the teens were Palmyra High School students who were coming from the school's homecoming dance Friday night. Two other teens were from Cinnaminson High School and were at the restaurant coincidentally, according to Cinnaminson Superintendent Salvatore Illuzzi.

Palmyra Superintendent Rich Perry said the 20 district students were offered counseling Monday morning.

“You could imagine that several of the students were very upset with what had happened,” Perry said. “Unfortunately, things like this can happen to anyone. These kids were just going to an ice cream parlor after a dance. They were really taken back by this so we felt the need to set them up with counselors.”

The two Cinnaminson students also received counseling.

“They are OK,” Illuzzi said. “We took the liberty of talking to the kids and going over what should be done in situations like that.”


Cinnaminson police are asking anyone with information to contact the police department at (856) 829-6667, ext. 22.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Outback Steakhouse in Cherry Hill---Gift Cards

My wife and I were eating in Outback Steakhouse in Cherry Hill (Route 38) a couple of weeks ago.

They have an interesting deal going.

If you buy a $100 Gift Card, you get a Gift Card of $20 for free.

But watch out for the fine print.

The $20 Gift card can only be used from January 1 to February 10, 2009---it can't be used for liquor, gratuitiy or tip, and only 1 can be used per visit per table.

Still, if you go there frequently, as we do, you can buy several $100 Gift cards and get some decent cash value back.

Blog Readership hits a new daily high

My blog had a banner day for readership yesterday (95 visitors)---most of it attributed to my coverage of the Cinnaminson Friendly's robbery of Saturday, November 29th.

Apparently the terrorized (and robbed) students in the Friendly's that night were getting a bite to eat after the Palmyra High School Homecoming Dance.

Cinnaminson Recycling Day---first day of Blue Carts for me

It's Cinnaminson recycling day---and about 5% of the new, blue paper recycling carts I saw while jogging this morning are facing the wrong way.

I guess not everyone read the directions included with the blue cart.

I think it's easiest if you remember to have the serial number, painted on the side of the cart, face the street. There's also a steel bar about halfway up the cart on that side.

Here are the ferences to proper placement of the cart included in the two brochures that were delivered with it.

Place your cart at the curb for collection with the arrow on the lid pointing towards the street.

The lid opening must face the street.

The lid must open towards the street.

Q. Why does the lid opening need to face the street?
A. the truck's automated arm cannot turn the container around. Dumping the container "backwards" can break the lid.


Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ah the Holidays!

People keep telling me how much the 'holidays' depress them.

My answer is simple---don't have them.

If the holidays depresss you, skip them and move right to January.

Sephora in the Cherry Hill Mall--watch out

My wife just got back from Sephora in Cherry Hill Mall (New Jersey) as is mad as a hornet.

She went to the counter with an item marked $34 which rang up $50---the 'Sales Associate's' explanation--it was mis-marked.

She bought it anyway---Merry Christmas!

Buyer beware---I'm sure this wasn't intentional :)

I love Jesus, but this Festivus stuff we can all do without.

Can't we just celebrate HIS birthday?

Christmas Songs on B101

Listening to B101 trying to win a Big Screen TV. This is a great Christmas song, with some great lyrics.

Do you remember me
I sat upon your knee
I wrote to you
With childhood fantasies

Well, I'm all grown up now
And still need help somehow
I'm not a child
But my heart still can dreamS

o here's my lifelong wish
My grown up christmas list
Not for myself
But for a world in need

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal the heart
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end oh,
This is my grown up Christmas list

As children we believed
The grandest sight to see
Was something lovely
Wrapped beneath the tree

But heaven only knows
That packages and bows
Can never heal
A hurting human soul

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never endOh,
This is my grown up christmas list

What is this illusion called the innocence of youth
Maybe only in our blind belief can we ever find the truth

No more lives torn apart
That wars would never start
And time would heal all hearts
And everyone would have a friend
And right would always win
And love would never end, oh
This is my grown up christmas list
This is my only life long wish
This is my grown up christmas list

Monday, December 1, 2008

Christmas celebrates the birth of Christ--try to remember that

Just a reminder---Christmas, December 25th, is a celebration of the birth of Christ, not a contest to see how many lights we can place on bushes, the number of candy canes we can place on our walks, and how high we can place a string of lights on a tree.

I have seen more people this weekend (and the past) spending more time working on their lights than they spent in Church all year.

I know you don't need to be a church goer to believe in Christ, but please, keep it in perspective, and don't question my 'Christmas spirit' because of my intentions to place a single Christmas wreath on my door this year.

Fan Mail of the week---Monday, December 1, 2008

I just received this very nice email from a reader of my C++ book in Iraq. My C++ book is the most heavily pirated, illegally downloaded book in the world--but I don't mind if it helps people learn this very tedious, sometimes difficult language.

Leon was wondering how to get the book in Iraq or Syria--my print on demand company, Lulu.com, assures me they will ship there. And he asked about a Part 2 of the book, something I am working on now.

Here's the email...

Hello John Smiley!!

How are you?

I've been reading your great book called " Learn To Program with C++(2003) "actually it is very very easy to understand C++ , like i live with the real Professor in classroom, but unfortunately, I have this book in PDF file only, not the real book in my hand, Ii want to buy this book, from where?

Because i live in Iraq, we don'thave this book,is there are a library in Syria that they can have this book? Because alot of Iraqis are traveling to Syria and back to Iraq after few days, maybe I will inform someone to buy this book,and if you don't know, just tell me the way to get this book, but not byMailbox, because it is not work here.

And, is there are a 2nd part for C++ ? like more details about drawing desgins and more C++ codes for expert programmer.

Thank you

Leon

Cinnaminson Friendly's robbed at gunpoint on Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Cinnaminson Friendly's was robbed at 12:27AM on Saturday morning. I first heard of this today on 1210AM this evening...the story is also on the CBS website

http://cbs3.com/topstories/Friendlys.robbery.cinnaminson.2.877094.html

This Cinnaminson crime trend is getting to a bit tiresome---the crimes are getting bolder and bolder, and this time there were multiple robbers with multiple guns---a formula for tragedy. The radio report I heard said that one gunman had a shotgun, and the other two handguns. Someone in the restaurant easily could have done something to spook the robbers into violence---or a passing policeman (and there are a bunch in that area) could have interrupted the robbery with dire consequences. Any more, it just seems that anything on the Route 130 corridor is an invitation to robbery. I tell friends and family to be very careful when patronizing a route 130 business at night.

Some things about the story don't quite add up. I've been to this Friendly's, and I don't think it's open after midnight. Also, forcing 24 people into the men's room is hard to believe. Here's the story from the website.

Police are searching for three armed suspects who robbed patrons at a crowded New Jersey restaurant early Saturday morning.

The suspects, armed with handguns and a sawed off shotgun, barged into a Cinnaminson Friendly's at about 12:27 a.m.

Police said two of the suspects vaulted over the counter and ordered an employee to empty the safe and the register.

Approximately 24 customers and four employees in the restaurant at the time of the robbery were ordered to the rear of the store. All were told to leave their belongings and cell phones where they were seated.

A majority of the customers were high school students who stopped at the restaurant after a dance.

The suspects then forced the victims into the men's restroom. No injuries were reported.

Police said the three suspects fled the scene in a dark colored minivan with over $1,000 cash.

The incident remains under investigation. If you have any information, contact Cinnaminson Police at 856-829-6667.