Thursday, October 1, 2015

To: Cricket Wireles. From: An upset customer; Paying for service I am not receiving.

As a relatively new customer to your service, I was thrilled with your pricing, etc. But it seems that that comes a cost. A cost that is seemingly too high. The cost of reliability.
I have been unable to receive incoming calls or text messages for a week, at least. I Do not know exactly when this issue started because everything seemed fine on my end. I could place outgoing calls and *send* text messages, but not get any replies in turn.
When I realized that I was having an issue I called your tech support. Your people were very friendly, and utterly unhelpful. After several protracted phone calls, I was finally told that the issue *must* lie with my phone, and was transferred out to Motorola, so they could assist me.

Not understanding how the issue could possibly be my phone, yet driven by a need to solve the issue, I spent the next 5 hours dealing with them, in the end factory resetting my phone, and being forced to spend many hours rebuilding my contacts lists, apps, etc.
Only I still had no service.
After several *additional* calls to your tech support over the course of two days, I was finally told that "oh, the cell tower you are using is down for maintenance, and has been for days." When I asked how much longer it was going to be down I was assured that it would "Only" be down for an *additional* two days. Upon asking, I was informed that I could get an allowance to reimburse me for the gap in my service.  It would be roughly 4-6% off my bill. How utterly underwhelming.

That was three days ago. And I still don't have service.
 To say that this has negatively impacted my view of your company would be a vast understatement. As an individual counting on your company I have already missed being able to talk to my sister on her birthday, had dinner plans with numerous friends fall apart, and I know not what else.
As the sole operator of a small business, I don't even know *how much*  business I have lost. A single missed contract can cost me an entire month's living wages. In the past week I sent out numerous bids to potential customers, and my phone is absolutely vital to communicate with my customers. Can you imagine if you suddenly lost access to *your* phone? And I have no doubt that you have secretaries, and multiple phone lines to help you.

I look forward to hearing from you.
C.W.Holeman III

Thursday, September 6, 2012

A Baker's Dozen: Photography Tips For Events

I recently had someone ask me for advice on shooting a wedding. I gave her the following tips and tricks. Do any of you have other ideas, corrections, or pearls of wisdom to share?

  1. The most important piece of advice I have to give is to take more photos! When shooting a wedding, if you walk away with less than a thousand pictures, you probably did something wrong. Just keep shooting everything, and everyone, in sight.
  2. At least 80% of the pictures I take never see the light of day. You only get to see the cream. (Bonus tip: If you post all your photos of people trying to laugh, talk, and eat at the same time, you won't have anything to blackmail them with later. Keep a strategic reserve.)
  3. If you shoot in manual mode ~95+% of the time, like I do, you have to be aware of things like turning around while near shadow-boundaries, etc. (exposure needs can change radically when you least expect it.)
  4. I also recommend that you keep the image-review mode turned on; that way you can see if you are messing up on things, such as exposure times, with every shot.
  5. Make sure you have a tripod (So useful!), enough space on your memory card, and a spare battery or two.
  6. Auto focus is usually the best way to go, as it frees your mind for finding your next shot, and not on trying to get the previous one right. BUT! Sometimes you will want manual.
  7. Get there early, and stay late. Shoot anything that moves, and also any of the things that do not.
  8. Longer distances + lower F-stops = more focus contrast between subject and background.
  9. Check out your shots by zooming in on the details of one every once in a while, especially around the time before and after the sun sets.
  10. Change your angles a lot. Shoot from the hip. Hold your camera on your tripod up as high as you can reach. Don't be afraid to get down on the ground; Perspective matters!
  11. Remember, there is no such thing as a wasted picture; you're not shooting on film. It's free and unlimited and free!
  12. Change around your settings and play with your equipment before the event to get a good idea of how you want to roll with things when you are crunched for time. (They aren't going to walk down the isle again for you.)
  13. Have a back up camera! (Beg, borrow, or steal!) Even if it's just a point-and-shoot. I have a friend who is a professional photographer and her camera recently went out in the middle of a wedding shoot. If the bride and groom had not hired two photographers, she would have been in a world of hurt. A P&S may not take super quality shots, but it's a mountain better than nothing.
Hope this helps!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

---This Post Contains minor SPOILERS for 
both The Hobbit, and the movie (Part 1) of the same name.---

The Hobbit (Part 1) movie is still eight months from release, and I already have a minor litany of complaints about it. I'll restrict each post to a single point. 

In an special screening of a ten-ish minute long segment shown to theater owners and reporters in late April 2012, (in which it was generally lambasted for using 48 FPS 3D filming techniques, which I cannot comment on, having yet to see that) one reporter gave a quick summery of a few of the tidbits he was privy to, including this quote:

"Bilbo imperiled by three giant troll-like monsters before Thorin Oakenshield and the dwarves come to his rescue."  []


This is a perfect example of changing the superbly crafted story that J.R.R. Tolkien wrote simply for the sake of changing things. This is the one thing that truly drove me bats-in-the-belfry, crawling-up the-walls, yelling-at-the-theater-screen, enraged in the Lord of the Rings movies.

I have always loved the scene with Burt, Tom and William. It's a delightful, light-hearted, yet suspenseful encounter. In it we get to see that Gandalf is not only a high and powerful wizard (A member of the Istari, a Servant of the Secret Fire, wielder of the Flame of Anor, etc.) but he can use guile and small tricks quite effectively as well. In addition to all this, we get to see the,  nature of  Trolls, how they interact with one another, and just how out-classed dwarves are by Trolls.

Instead, it looks as though we are going to get, "dwarfs attacking monsters." (Yes, I spelled  dwarf with an F; as in Fail.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

From the B.I.N. # 5

Death Star anyone? If you are looking for the next big laser thing, I give you this:  "it is fired to produce [10] large laser beams several feet wide that are then combined and focused down onto a tiny spot..." That will,  "tear apart the fabric of space." with 200 petawatts of laser power; "100,000 times the power of the world's combined electricity production."

Are you ready for Cyber War? ('Cause it's coming...)

Genetically modified mosquitoes designed to kill off their children before reaching maturity released into the wild.

Threaten to wipe Israel off the map, and for some strange reason, they consider a preemptive attack; you know, before you finish building your nukes. Go figure.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

From the B.I.N. # 4

Computer virus hits US drone fleet. Refuses to leave.

US Army to deploy the new Switchblade, a backpack portable drone/guided missile.

114 year old electric car had same range as the Chevy Volt.

A NY senator believes that we have too much freedom of speech: "Proponents of a more refined First Amendment argue that this freedom should be treated not as a right but as a privilege — a special entitlement granted by the state on a conditional basis that can be revoked if it is ever abused or maltreated." (Emphasis added.)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Comic-Con 2011

I went to Comic-Con International yesterday for the first time. It was also the first time I've been to this sort of Con when I was the one calling all the shots. I learned how not to make a lot of serious and painful noob mistakes, the hard way. But, I got in for free, so I can look at them as low cost lessons, however painful they may have been.

The one thing that I did really right was to get into Comic-Con for free by pre-registering to be a volunteer. You work a three hour shift doing some menial task at some point in the day, and get to play the rest of the day for free. You can get in like this as many days as you want, and they throw in a free t-shirt to boot. (Thanks to for letting me know that this could be done!)

Lessons Learned:

  1. Go more than one day. One day is simply not enough time to even skim the floor if you want to go to any panels. This is the most important lesson I learned. When presented with the option of stopping to get a photo of this costume and to chat with the person at that booth, or to keep moving to see what is further ahead, I usually picked the latter because I didn't have enough time. And even while making that painful choice so often, I still never did cover the whole floor.
  2. A written out schedule is essential. I missed several events I would have liked to see because I had the wrong times in my head and or because I just forgot about them with so much else going on.
  3. Arrive before 7 am. I got there too late to get an early volunteer assignment, so I wasted three hours doing stuff for the con instead of doing stuff at the con after it opened.
  4. Some panels have epic lines, others have none.
  5. Bring a mini-folding chair. There will be time spent in those epic lines. Be ready.
  6. There are boring lines, have a (small, light!) book with you.
  7. Make sure shoes are ready for lots of walking/not-quite-running. A panel on each end of the building and zero time to get from one to the other means you won't always be able to stroll from one place to the next. (Mine needed fresh gel pads.)
  8. Bring paper. I saw several people I would have liked to get signatures from, but had nothing for them to sign.
  9. Check the signing schedule carefully and bring the appropriate books.
  10. Most signings require a ticket/bracelet you have to get before hand, or you can't even get in the line.
  11. Bring more snacks. Between the walking around all day and seeing thousands of people eating plate pizza, etc., I wanted to eat more than I brought with me.
  12. There is a lot going on.
  13. Bring an SLR with some serious zoom. There were some pretty awesome pictures I could have taken if I had a lens with 20x or 30x magnification instead of my paltry 4x.
  14. 20 GB of cards for my camera was more than enough. However, had I gone to more panels, I would likely have shot a lot more video, so 20 GB was not overkill. Also, three batteries was a close call, so bring four next time to be on the safe side.
  15. Rob a bank on the way there to have enough cash. There was a lot of really cool things I could have bought, and not all of them cost an arm and a leg. Admittedly, some of them did cost a few limbs, hence the bank job.
  16. The floor closes early, like a business, and does not stay going forever like a fair. (Hence the "could have" in #15. I was going to go back down to the floor after the Mythbusters panel and buy the things that I thought I was being smart by purchasing later and therefore not carrying around all day.)
  17. You can row hop close to the front of a big-deal panel by arriving several events ahead and moving fast when it empties out after each event.
  18. A volunteer job may be very boring. I was a Human Wall for two hours before I got reassigned.
  19. Get your volunteer shirt as soon as possible after you can, things close down earlier than you may think. 
  20. The Mythbusters are even more funny in real life than they are on TV.
Coolest Costumes Seen:
  1. An older Steampunk Lady with a Predator on a leash.
  2. The Monty Python set of three: A king and two knaves. Massive pack and clomping coconut shells included.
  3. A Centaur with articulated rear legs.
  4. A family of Klingons.
  5. A Death Star.
  6. I think Darth Vader requires a special mention. There were more flavors of him than you might think. There was the Classic Vader, the Mini-skirt and leather Lady Vader, the Black and White with Jar-Jar's head on a platter with lettuce Vader, the Bobble Head Vader, the Hello Kitty Pink and Black Vader and more.
  7. I saw one Captain Jack Sparrow that was so good that I thought it was Johny Depp for several seconds.
  8. I'm not even going to mention the mountains of Stormtroopers, fairies, elfs, zombies, superheros and capers. But there were hundreds and hundreds of them.
People seen:
  1. Molly Quinn from Castle just walked across my path which was very cool.
  2. Jim Butcher was at a signing.
  3. The entire Mythbusters Cast was at their pannel:
    1. Adam Savage (Twice! Once at the panel, and once on the floor in disguise, so I didn't recognize him at the time.)
    2. Jamie Hyneman
    3. Tory Belleci
    4. Kari Byron
    5. Grant Imahara 

All in all, I had a great day and hope that I can make it back next year. With these lessons learned, I plan to have an absolute blast next time around.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

From the B.I.N. # 3

Putting the Intelligence Into AI
Not content to create an AI that could learn how to play the computer game Civilization on it's own (and win 46% of the time) researchers at MIT taught the AI how to learn how to read English. (Note that they did not teach it English, they actually made it smart enough, that it was able to learn English it on it's own by playing the game and looking at the manual!) When it was given the general help / instruction manual for Civilization, it was smart enough to assimilate that knowledge, and increase it's win rate to a staggering 79% of the games it played.

Synthetic Burgers
Professor Mark Post, from Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and his team have grown synthetic pork  strips and claims that within a year, they will also be able to grow synthetic beef for use as a cheap and efficient  meat source.

Global warming?
"The earth is heating super rapidly! It's caused by man! We are killing our planet!" Only, the temperature has not moved in over a decade. Hmmm. Asia pollution "blamed" for halt in warming. The key sentence from the article: "World temperatures did not rise from 1998 to 2008, while manmade emissions of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuel grew by nearly a third, various data show." (emphasis added.)

Man Induced Climate Change?
"Global warming will cause terrible storms which will grow to truly epic proportions!" Only, "During the past 6-years since Hurricane Katrina, global tropical cyclone frequency and energy have decreased dramatically, and are currently at near-historical record lows." (emphasis added.)

Don't take no pictures!
"Be afraid. Fear everything and everyone!" That's the message we hear every time you get near an airport. Fear is used as a catch-all excuse to do anything. Don't like a passenger taking a picture of your name badge when you are rude to passengers? Call them a "security risk" and have them booted off the airplane!