Verizon Does Not Have Enough Phone Lines

I’ve complained about Verizon twice before, and still haven’t gotten around to my omnibus Verizon entry. The latest issue is that I cancelled my Verizon DSL over two months ago, having switched to Speakeasy, which, although much more expensive, provides so much better service (both by way of connectivity/throughput and customer support) that it’s actually worth it. I called Verizon at the time, and asked them to cancel the DSL, which they said they would do immediately. The next month, DSL was still on my bill, but I figured it was probably a billing cycle issue.

The following month, the DSL charges were still on my bill, so I called to find out what happened. They had no record at all of my prior request to cancel service, but said they would happily cancel it now and refund both months. I asked them if there should have been a paper trail for the earlier request, and they said there wouldn’t be. I asked them if I could have some sort of paper or email acknowledgment of my current request, and the representative insisted it wasn’t necessary (and apparently just “not done.”).

Now again this month, I still have the charge on my bill, and the last two months have not been refunded. When I try to call today, however, after maneuvering through several menus to get to a human, I am informed that not only are all representatives currently serving other customers, but there are no available phone lines for holding, and I should call back later. Click.

How is it that this country’s largest phone company doesn’t have enough phone lines?

(I suppose another question is how is it that they manage to retain so many customers. But that’s a question for another day.)

(Any Verizon folks out there who could comment on this entry and provide some illumination?)

Doing It Right: BabyOp, Perl, and OOP?

I’m coding a new CGI application, tentatively entitled BabyOp. It is software to run a babysitting coop; I suppose it is a species of “social software.” The idea is to be able to track hours credits, schedule babysitting times, centralize contact information and other details about babysitting requirements.

I considered using something like Zope or Drupal for the application, but I’ve never liked developing exclusively through a web-interface and found myself having to do a fair bit of “actual” coding to get the results I wanted. I realize there is a command-line interface for Zope, but it’s really pretty limited. I had some plans a couple of years ago when I designed my wedding site in Zope to extend it to be more useful, but sadly never got around to it.

So I’m back in my comfort zone, perl. I’ve written a fair amount of unmanageable perl code, however, CoopOrder probably being a shining example (it was also my first perl program). I’ve certainly improved since then, and the fact that I’ve received several patches from others for randomplay suggests that my coding style is getting to a half-decent point.

I’d really like to get it right this time, though. One thing I’ve learned over the years is always to look for a module to do what you want before setting out to do it yourself, since chances are the module writer is a better coder than you (or at least, than me!). To that end, I’m using CGI::Application, HTML::Template, and DBIx::Abstract, among others. I’m also trying to keep things really granular and avoiding long subroutines. Certainly taking the HTML out of the perl code helps with that. I’m amazed at how often my code now just “works” on the first try, similar to esr’s story about his first look at Python (“Brace yourself: this code only took me about ninety minutes to write—and it worked correctly the first time I ran it.”)

I’m trying to figure out if it would be sensible to make this application more fully object oriented. Growing up in the ’70s and ’80s and having done a lot of database programming, I’ve always been unfortunately pathologically declarative. (My first major package was in Clipper—I was 13 years old). I find it a lot easier to modify a pre-existing object oriented package than to design my own.

But then again, does it really make sense to attempt an object-oriented design where there is really only one important “object” — in this case, the babysitting unit?

Winter Sunset

Death Penalty Supporters

Reading about California’s execution of Tookie Williams Monday night, it occurs to me that there are two categories of death penalty supporters:

  1. People who don’t understand the legal system. If you’ve never sat through a criminal trial (or several), you can’t possibly understand the uncertainties in every case, including those cases that the press paints as “open and shut” (e.g, the O.J. Simpson Trial). Human fallibility permeates the process: the prosecutor, the defense attorney, the witnesses, the jury, and the judge. Sometimes it reduces to a question of whom to believe, and the legal process is not necessarily the most effective way to answer that question if your goal is to get to the truth.

    Sometimes “what happened” is actually pretty clear, but it still seems like fitting square pegs in round holes to match the facts of the particular case to the abstract categories set up by the law.

    The other thing that should be abundantly clear to anyone who has participated in or witnessed a criminal trial is that degrees of potential punishment have only a minimal impact on an individual considering a crime. For the most part, those individuals just don’t expect to get caught (or they aren’t thinking about it at all). I would be shocked if anyone could prove a crime was deterred because the death penalty was a potential punishment for the act in question, rather than, e.g., life in prison. It should be obvious that people who commit murder are generally not rational beings, weighing their options and the potential consequences. Certainly, there is no statistical correlation between increased application (or availability) of the death penalty and decreased violent crime.

  2. People who use the death penalty for political advantage. These people, mostly politicians, may or may not appreciate the fundamental problems of the death penalty, but realize that most people do not understand the criminal justice system, and that taking a pro-death penalty position will communicate a message that they are doing their utmost to reduce crime and make people safer (regardless of whether or not that is actually true).

Are there any death penalty supporters who don’t fit into those two categories? Perhaps certain victims and their families, who view the death penalty as necessary to reestablish some sort of karmic balance in the world and “put the whole thing behind them”? Nigerian-ish Scam

I just received my first “internal” Nigerian-type scam email:

There’s a new message in your inbox from jenny
Message details: hello Adam
Dear Adam, Please i decided to write you because i have no other alternative. Since after the death of my father in the hands of the rebels i have been in a very big difficulty of how to safeguard the money that my father left for me before his death because,the money is too much that i am afraid i dont know how and where to start to go about it. Please if you can help me try to reply me urgently and i will tell you how much and explain more to you and we can discuss fully and God will always bless you for your help whch i know you shall never regret as i am going to take you as my father. I am Waiting eagerly to hear from can write me through Sincerely Jennifer.

I suppose it was only a matter of time. I wonder if Friendster and other similar FOAF services are prepared to deal with the infiltration of their networks by scammers and spammers.

Most Important Lessons of 2005

Via Between Lawyers, What Was the Most Important Lessons You Learned in 2005?

A few of them are a little too “clever web 2.0 meme” for my taste (e.g., “As work gets more complex, more specialized and more networked, we are seeing a World of Ends, and the End of Process.”), but several are quite insightful. This one in particular caught my attention:

15. Look carefully at the data before you jump to conclusions. The main reason for the recent decline in violent crime in America’s cities was Roe v. Wade two decades ago and the increased access to abortion that it allowed. Not law & order, not more prisons and stiffer sentences, not gun control.

I don’t know if that’s true, but I hadn’t thought of it before.

Personally, I have no pithy observations about the most important lessons of 2005.

Windows Live Maps

I just checked out the new Windows Live Local—Microsoft’s answer to Google Maps. The interface is a little clunky, but the flyby image quality is amazing.

Here’s my house on Windows Live (by the number 1):

The same location, at the maximum magnification from Google Maps:

Google is going to need to invest in some better images. I think what this proves is that even Google needs some competition.

Interestingly, neither of these images shows the 9-unit condominium complex that replaced the duplex across the street from us. The duplex was demolished more than a year ago.

Dear Msnbot

Dear Msnbot: why do you hammer on port 8080 when there is nothing listening there?

I recently set in place a comprehensive iptables firewall and have started logging dropped packets. I’ve noticed the highest number of dropped packets comes from aka Does it just try port 8080 on every known domain name, “just in case”?