The torrents of greed^h^h^h^h^h unLIKEing on Facebook

For myself and others one of the most unappealing parts of both Facebook and Twitter is the way they try to improve by being more like each other.

I have been shielded by the bulk of the effects of the Twitterverse by taking some specific steps to avoid the bulk of their “exciting innovations” like Lists and their official retweets. Though in truth Twitter’s own rejection of third party clients all the way back when I owned a Palm Pre is what officially made them Jump the Shark in my eyes, especially when their own efforts in the client space and the website avoided simple functionality that others provided like shrinkification….

Over the course of many months, I stopped FOLLOWing almost every celebrity I had been, including the ones I knew personally, for the simple but depressing reason that it turns out celebrities tend to be just like us, and maybe even a little worse when they don’t filter through their publicists.

I’d rather keep my illusions about celebrities as kinda heroes. It’s the same reason I unsubscribed from the Huffington Post and why I don’t watch TMZ.

For me, Twitter is pretty much only about announcing my blog posts, these days at least. As I unFOLLOW more, I might eventually find Twitter more generally useful again, though probably just the Windows Phone client and not the damn website.

Facebook, on the other hand, was much more insidious with its LIKEification, something I kinda realized but never paid enough attention to. But almost in the reverse of the Muddy Waters lesson of not missing your water until your well runs dry, you don’t realize how hard it is to unLIKE things on Facebook until you really try do it in earnest.

To be clear, I’m not talking about unLIKEing a comment or a status update that nobody ever sees again — I am talking about unLIKEing all the movies and books and television shows and bands and songs and so on and so forth.

I never realized it would be a challenge until I resolved to unLIKE almost everything the other day.

At first it was easy, as I could go to the Facebook website and see pages of things I LIKEd in each category, ripe to be unLIKEd, at the careful click of the left mouse button. But then something happened….

I unLIKEd all the books that were listed, and yet even the website claimed that I still LIKEd 40 books. And the same thing was happening in other categories, including one that were not as willing to be listed, especially.

In the end, I had to manually unLIKE the bulk of the groups and pages and so on whenever they popped up in the Facebook feed, whack-a-mole style, with just a few exceptions, such as

• Samantha Ronson, because she is such a truly amazing DJ/singer/songwriter that every time I saw her was an honor and a privilege, and

• Worlds Of Fun, the Kansas City amusement park where I met the young Naomi Dennis wearing an unforgettable red tube top.

I also started unFOLLOWing people who were no longer Facebook friends, and in a small number of cases unFRIENDing people who were basically not people.

Suddenly I am seeing more of my friends, some of whom I haven’t seen in a long time. It is almost a whole new Facebook. And it only took a ton of unLIKEs to get there….

Fractions may be your friend, but they can trip up Microsoft!

Microsoft is a huge multibillion dollar company.

In fact, they are so big that they are self payers for things like health insurance. Now Microsoft doesn’t get into a complex business like health insurance. But they pay the bills quite generously, a fact that I myself (not to mention many others!) have benefited from.

The truth is, however, that they don’t only do this with health insurance. They also do it with other things. Things like disability insurance (which I am currently on, as I deal with problems like trigeminal neuralgia).

But only the short term disability insurance.

Even though Prudential Insurance administers both short term and long term disability claims, Microsoft is self pay for only the latter, not for the former.

Now none of this is really all that much of a secret. Unfortunately, there are some problems with it, at least two of which I am suffering from.

FIRST, they and/or their (internal?) payroll tools can’t handle basic fractions, and I’m not talking about complex number type fractions but simple ones like 3/4, aka 75% (the amount that my short term disability insurance covers).

And it is the internal tools that handle paying that 3/4; they simply leave the pesky details like medical necessity and such to Prudential.

Since over the course of the 26 weeks they have overpaid just as often as they underpaid, I can’t assume any malice here. As they say, one should never assume conspiracy when garden variety incompetence will do. However, this leads to their next problem, something that I’m sure you knew was coming.

SECOND, they are really worried about a particular overpayment.

There is the letter they sent me, just the other day, at the same time another letter (one also sent by email) reminded me about open election of benefits for next year, by the way (that other letter would likely lead to deciding just how Microsoft was going to give me tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, during calendar year 2015).

I would provide a copy of the letter, but it contains many internal email addresses and the exact amount of my salary for anyone able to reverse engineer the whole 3/4 or 75% thing.

You see, with twenty six (26) weeks notice, they apparently miscalculated the end date of my short term disability insurance claim and the start of my long term disability insurance claim.

By three days.

Let me stop for a moment and repeat that last bit, since in the words of George Carlin it seems vaguely important.

By THREE DAYS.

Now there are some people at Microsoft (like Satya and a long line of vice presidents and distinguished engineers and technical fellows and partner architects who have such impressive salaries that 3/4 or 75% of three days might make a huge dent in Microsoft’s bottom line.

However, as a lowly Senior Program Manager with a bunch of knowledge about Internationalization, some mild knowledge regarding Unicode, and an uncanny expertise in keyboard layouts is hardly making enough for three days to matter.

Now I don’t think I am overstating my case to point out that are either obnoxiously greedy or pathologically impatient.

Either the doctors will figure out my medical problems (so I can return to work) or they won’t (in which case they’ll give me my severance and wish me well). In either case, they’ll have a way to get their three days worth soon enough.

What the hell is the rush that they have to interrupt my feeble attempts at recovery to deal with this crap right now?

For now, I’m going to ignore it and focus on my recovery. It’s not like they’re going to take me to court to get their three days pay back faster. From someone in a wheelchair. Good luck with that….

For a company with so many smart people, they can sometimes do the stupidest things, you know?

Happy Endings Aren’t Really Real

So yesterday Teresa came out and spent a lot of the day here. And I explained to her more about Liz. You know, how I never realized how she felt until it was to put it simply too late. After all, the only thing we ever shared that could be deemed romantic was a few songs dancing and one kiss.

Teresa and I even talked about movies and I pointed out how I can’t even say Liz and I fell just short of an inspiring love story. It wasn’t Reese Witherspoon and Mark Ruffalo in Just Like Heaven, because they spent the whole movie falling in love, and the one brief moment that she woke up and didn’t recognize him was forgotten when he built the huge garden for her and then touched her hand to return her spare key. After that, she realizes that it wasn’t a dream and they will [presumably] live happily ever after.

With me as the entirely clueless one who didn’t realize anything until it was too late, all I can say about Just Like Heaven is that it was clearly not our story.

Perhaps City of Angels with Meg Ryan and Nicholas Cage might come to mind. You know, the couple that had just that one night together before she died, and he (as a former angel) has the rest of his long life to remember their brief moment together.

Well maybe that would have almost been the story from Liz’s point of view, but I was too blind to give her the small crumb that would have meant the world to her. I would simply have been a supporting actor in her love story that spanned half of our lives. But I didn’t even give her *that*. All that I did was give myself a tragic memory of what could have been.

I could probably think of countless movies with happy endings with such similarities.

And I could probably think of almost as many epic plays that were tragedies, all of which would echo in such a familiar.way.

But the one advantage to being cynical is that I can take The Story of Liz and Michael (such as it is), my adult lifetime of serial monogamy, and the recent recurrence of 30-80 attacks per day of trigeminal neuralgia (intractable to medication, so far) and think of all of it as a tragic tale of *just desserts*?

Yes, the trigeminal neuralgia is incredibly painful, just like it was in 1993, until the radiofrequency rhizotomy done in 1994 by Poletti and Apple left me pain free for two decades.

But last time I dreaded each tic (attack) of trigeminal neuralgia and thought cynically that “it figures I am being punished for no reason!”.

And this time I almost welcome each tic (attack) of trigeminal neuralgia as proof that even an atheist MOT cynic can have the opportunity for experience a non spiritual form of karma.

I said ALMOST. It is still intensely painful each time a tic occurs. But with neurosurgeon Charles Poletti retired, neurosurgeon Sherry Apple passed away, and the disease [so far] not responding to medication, I don’t even have the first clue who might be able to help me.

Oh well. I’m enough of a cynic to appreciate the irony in following twenty years of numbness with a whole huge mess of pain.

I’m older now. And not so easily cowed by something as trivial as pain. Liz put up with a lot more, after all.

 

 

for Liz, with apologies, too little and too late….

Emoji is once again not so good for Unicode…

Sorry for the long pause between posts, but being on disability turns out to not be such a vacation!

This last week was the latest WG2 meeting, which caused quite a stir both there and on the Unicore list due to the apparently racial (racist?) bias of facial Emoji in Unicode.

My blog today is not about that weird issue but on the unrelated one about the lack on any type of descriptive grammar for Emoji that an author trying to read a book aloud could use as a guide on how the Emoji should or should not be read.

Not that having such a grammar would necessarily help much. The precursor to Emoji (the ASCII leet aka leetspeak aka 1337) *has* such a grammar defined – in its Wikipedia article and elsewhere – yet it was not used in the few cases where it appeared in recorded books such as Mark Russinovich’s Zero Day. Reading out the names of the ASCII symbols by name was quite a distraction from pieces of the story that simply doesn’t happen when the book is read since the eye knows how to interpret 1337 without such distractions.

Emoji will have much the same problem, and it even lacks the descriptive grammar, not that anyone would use it. I shudder to think of the best case being a static reading of Unicode character names.

It makes me wonder what screen readers do today on blogs like mine with Emoji in them like mine. What is an avid Audible user to do? ;-)

My drink @ Windows on the World with Liz more than a decade ago…

The year was 2001.

It happened at The Blue Bar inside Windows On the World, high up atop the North Tower of the World Trade Center.

Now it wasn’t just before 9/11, because I was in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for Tamil Internet 2001 at the end of August. The trip’s most intriguing issue was that I spent more time in the air than on the ground because Windows XP was going to ship and no one wanted me to take a vacation then. I was a vendor at the time but I was worried of being fired off my contract for being on the wrong side of the world for a month.

In the end, it was just as well since I ended up being trapped in Los Angeles on 9/11 after a breakup that happened on the weekend before. It was weird enough having to consider a car rental from Los Angeles to Seattle; if I had been trapped in Malaysia I might really have been fired off my contract for being away that long.

Anyway, I was in New York earlier in 2001 for a consulting gig, and since my Perfectly Normal Liz happened to be there too, we decided to have an only moderately overpriced drink to get the best view in the world.

I can’t remember what we were talking about, and I guess in the scheme of things it really doesn’t matter. I certainly wasn’t in any danger or anything, but it’s hard to think about semi-casually visiting a place that isn’t there anymore.

Now that I think about it, Liz isn’t there either, which makes this blog depressing and sad on four levels:

• I didn’t visit the building akin to the World Trade Center in Malaysia when I had the chance;

• I had just broken up with someone who I thought at the time was a pretty serious girlfriend;

• It reminds me of Liz and yet another of those times that I failed to notice her interest;

• Of course the actual reason to be unhappy, the terrible events of September 11, 2001.

There was a point to the actual blog here, but I can’t remember what it was now. I think I’ll post it anyway, since I do remember Liz was wearing a pretty hot dress and I teased her about having a date after. One can never get enough reminders about me being oblivious here….

I will admit that the Blog does have some unique intrinsic value…

It started the other day when a colleague noticed that I was mentioned in the Internet:

https://medium.com/@eteraz/the-death-of-the-urdu-script-9ce935435d90

 This was the guy I met last year at the Internationalization and Unicode conference who loved the new Urdu Typesetting font.

I ended up showing him how to use the new font even on downlevel platforms by using the same font subset feature that I previously showed with the Nyala font in the “Rhymes with Amharic” series on the Blog.

It suddenly came to me that there were quite a few of these items that no one ever bothered to document anywhere. Even if some people are too short sighted to recognize it, the fact is that the work was needed, and the work was done.

And I’m glad it’s out there, and that it can stay out there for people to follow and enjoy….

Sorting it all Out , reborn and reconstituted!

My Blog was recently reconstituted by friend, colleague, and fan of the original Sorting it all Out Jan Kučera as a hosted WordPress Blog at http://siao2.com/ for worldwide access.

Pretty much all of the blog posts made the move as did the bulk of the comments. In fact, only a few things might be missing here:

• Some of the pictures may not be there;

• A few of the samples may be gone;

• Linking to the original Blog obviously won’t work, unfortunately.

Nevertheless, having full access to nearly a decade of posts has reminded me how much I love ❤ Sorting it all Out. It is a great technical resource with posts that literally do not exist anywhere else. And it covers personal issues, relationships, iBOT situations, multiple sclerosis issues, and more.

Perhaps most interestingly, the reconstituted Blog had been getting a few hits (maybe forty a day), but on the strength of one tweet on Twitter yesterday, there were over 600. How did that happen?

Audible’s badge model is fascinating to me…

I find Audible’s whole model fascinating from a psychological standpoint.

There are 17 badgies that one can have.

And there are three levels (silver, gold and diamond) where one can have each.

To date, not a single person or wiki or blog I can find documents all seventeen of them, even when people claim to have emailed Audible directly (that usually gets a list of fifteen of them).

My actual interest is in reading or books I expect to enjoy and re-reading books I love in this fascinating new way that allows me to have the book read *to* me by someone else.

The only downsides to using the Audible App on my Nokia Lumia 1520 running Windows Phone 8 are some minor bugs I’ve reported to the App developers plus one I haven’t yet reported (cannot change the speed at which the book is read to me) but I suspect that they would consider it by design.

I am left with the seventeen badges (only fifteen of which appear to be widely documented), none of which I am chasing though I’ve managed to snag thirteen just by being an obsessive (some might say compulsive) reader of books I enjoy.

I refuse to chase down the remaining three badges or how to raise to Diamond level any of the badges that are only at Silver or Gold level.

Though I find it fascinating how many of my own friends are obsessively or compulsively chasing them, for example when I find notes on Twitter or Facebook or LinkedIn (or maybe all three!) noting their reading habits, proving they are chasing after the “Social Butterfly” badge!

It can be easy to fall into such traps, though I would rather stay on target and just keep reading the books — Audible (and thus Amazon!) gets the money anyway for the books I am reading by having them read to me.

The fifteen that are usually documented can be found at the following link: http://www.satcomvideo.com/myblog/2012/06/11/audible-app-badges/

I will list the seventeen badges, just for the record, and challenge anyone to explain how all seventeen of them work:

  • Stenographer
  • Audible Obsessed
  • Weekend Warrior
  • Repeat Listener
  • All Nighter
  • Marathoner
  • Undecider
  • Flash Eighty
  • High Noon
  • Binge Listener
  • Social Butterfly
  • Seven Day Stretch
  • Procrastinator
  • The Stack
  • Mount Everest
  • Look Ma No Buttons
  • Sleepy Head

The last two badges are the ones seldom mentioned though a Bing or Google search can dig out obscure references to the *hands free* and *sleep timer* features, which are both available on all platforms but are apparently not understood very well.

Let’s just call them doc bugs, which actually means they are user interface bugs due them not being designed more intuitively, and documentation failed to adequately cover for the lapse.

The features themselves are pretty easy;  one lets you work backwards and forwards through the book and add bookmarks with gestures (although the unclear connection to related Speech commands would be an additional UI bug and perhaps even a badge bug!), and the other helps you guard against falling asleep by shutting off at a set time interval if you’re afraid you might fall asleep soon.

Another simple search will reveal that a lot of people are completely obsessed with the game of obtaining Audible badges, which have no intrinsic value and which have no benefit beyond the sense of accomplishment after getting it.

Oh wait. Someone gave Amazon some money for the books. Can’t forget about that bit, right? ;-)

I can see obvious avenues to take if I ever wanted to chase the remaining four badges (and I will admit to once wasting two hours chasing the *Repeat Listener* badge by listening to Samuel L. Jackson reading “Go The Fuck To Sleep”, though it was in vain — I think it knew what I was trying to do and I can’t use a five minute book to do it. There must be a minimum time required rule or something.

And I haven’t yet run across any books longer than thirty hours other than The Bible and as an agnostic M.O.T. I can’t imagine being willing to put up with *that*. But maybe there are other interesting long books out there….

Getting back to the psychology of the Audible badges for just a moment, I think it is fascinating to consider the consequences of how exciting it must be to be to imagine some mythical Program Manager or Software Development Engineer at Amazon who spec’d out or wrote the Audible badge feature that makes extra revenue due solely to personality quirks of people who read! My hat is off to them!

Well, it isn’t all altruism having nothing to do with the bottom line. For example, the Diamond level of the “7 Day Stretch” badge has a simple requirement: “Completed 50 books in a single week.” That is not so much altruism as enlightened self interest.”

Still brilliant, either way! I remain impressed at the psychology here! ;-)

Sorting it all Out is officially dead, but…

It has been made officially clear to me that the Blog I worked on from the end of 2004 until just recently is for all intents and purposes *dead*.

In my view that is unfortunate, because by starting just a few years after I started working for Microsoft fulltime, it is a chronicle of Internationalization and World Readiness know how that spans the bulk of my i18N career at Microsoft, at least!

As I have shown in another blog
here, most of it is still reachable, so although some of the readymade samples are gone, most of the Blog’s actual content is still available in a way that cannot be taken away.

Long live the amazingly wonderful website called The Internet Archive @ http://archive.org !!

Now a part of me wants to find my favorite blogs and liberate them to this new Blog. Perhaps it would be exciting to re-inflate the Blog this way. I would enjoy it, and scrolling through nine years of blogs would be exciting, don’t you think? ;-)

A couple of the benefits of books you read that are in fact read to you

In my post the other day, I talked about the way that all of my reading habits have been changed by using Audible Books via their App on my Nokia Lumia 1520 running Windows Phone 8.

And I couldn’t be happier, truth be told!

Right now as I type this, I am listening to (and thusly re-reading!) “The Rainmaker” by John Grisham (read by Frank Muller), a book which helps remind me why although I’m a big fan of Audible Books, I’m such a huge fan of movies based on books.

That movie was okay, yes. But it is hard to compete with the almost 17 hour Unabridged Audible Book by using a less than two hours Hollywood movie.

The book is almost entirely in Rudy Baylor’s head. And not even famous actors achieving excellent performances can really compete with that.

In the end, the main reason the movies do so well is something that authors like John Grisham will readily admit — comparably few people both see the movie AND read the book.

And all the ones who do will say (even if they liked the movie) that the book was better.

Nor can I claim that this is due to nothing beyond coincidence. The book before this one from Audible was a re-reading of “Presumed Innocent” by Scott Turow (read by Edward Herrmann). In both cases, this one with over fifteen and a half hours of unabridged novel versus another ~2 hour movie, the book, will once again win.

My next book would further prove the point — friend and colleague Mark Russinovich’s “Zero Day” (an Audible book read by Johnny Heller), which at trim over nine and a half hours will be the thinnest proof this week that the book is always better (though that last book currently has no movie to prove the larger point again).

I am beginning to believe that Orson Scott Card had a point when he talked about the irony of people telling him that his book (Ender’s Game) was so good that it ought to be a movie.

The book will (almost always) be better!

Almost subconsciously I am reminded of the ultimate example of a book that can’t be done properly by a movie (and ultimately wasn’t) — the homicidal car Christine by Stephen King. Another book almost entirely written from the point of view of the car makes no sense whatsoever as a movie; I didn’t even bother trying the Audible version of that one!

I will of course mention that Amazon got to charge me once more for the Audible version of most of the books I mentioned here….

One of the other problems with lots of book reading is that over time your passive vocabulary gets much, much bigger.

If you look at the Wikipedia article about Vocabulary it talks about the process a word routinely goes through in the journey from “Huh?” to fluent understanding:

  1. Never encountered the word.
  2. Heard the word, but cannot define it.
  3. Recognize the word due to context or tone of voice.
  4. Able to use the word and understand the general and/or intended meaning, but cannot  with the word – its use and definition.
  5. Fluent with the word – its use and definition.

Now obviously moving into the world of “passive vocabulary” will alter the process.

The article explicitly distinguishes it by calling it “reading vocabulary” outright. Think of it the same way, though.

In my own past, when reading the book “Gorky Park” by Martin Cruz Smith (the later Audible Books version read by Henry Strozier). I tripped over the word “ennui”, which my passive or reading vocabulary called “enn-you-eye” even though I was aware of the word pronounced “ahn-wee” (even though I had no conscious idea how it is spelled) That kind of problem would never happen with an almost fifteen hour Audible book!

(In contrast, the less than two hour movie doesn’t even include the scene in question.)

Which is not to say that there are never mistakes in Audible Books. In Gorky Park, Henry Strozier pronounces the last name of one of the murder victims (Davidova, as in Valeria Davidova) with the emphasis on the “do” rather than the way the movie and my Russian home health care assistant placed it (on the “vi”).

Though I don’t necessarily trust movies to always get it right, I do trust my Russian home health care assistant and how she would pronounce it! ;-)

But that kind of thing is relatively uncommon, and happens much less often than mistakes like mine with ennui.

At the same time, I really enjoy “reading” this way, which for me now feels like the only way to read, to enjoy a book truly.

You may not agree, and that is okay, too. I know what I love. What you love is allowed to be different….

I realize by not following every word in a reader like the Kindle leaves me vulnerable to the same kinds of passive vocabulary error that I had years ago with “ennui” but I don’t mind. I want to enjoy the books I read and re-read, not merely treat them as vocabulary stretching exercises and nothing more. Don’t you feel the very same way? ;-)

A blog about all the things that the old Blog was about!