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March 16, 2011

San Francisco vs. Japan ()

by fluffy at 2:22 PM

Japan:

San Francisco:

South Van Ness is pretty much falling apart. There isn't a single area between Division and Cesar Chavez that isn't pocked with giant potholes and temporary metal plates, and when it rains or gets dark out it becomes nearly impossible to see the lane markers. There are even some sections where the road surface has buckled so severely that there are giant bumps right in the middle of the lane, leading to even more of a hazard when people suddenly swerve to avoid them. This street is very dangerous to drive or bicycle on, and yet is very heavily-trafficked as it's the most convenient thoroughfare from the Mission to SoMA.

It absolutely needs to be resurfaced, and it would be nice if it also had designated bike lanes added, as opposed to the current de-facto "bicycle gap" left from where people park in the curb lane.

It would also probably improve street safety and traffic flow if the lanes were reconfigured to be more like Valencia street, with a single traffic lane in each direction, a central shared turn lane, and dedicated parking and bicycle lanes.

But at the very least it MUST be repaved and restriped.

Thank you for your consideration.

Thank you for contacting DPW with your concerns regarding the roadway condition of South Van Ness. You are correct that it is in need of repaving and is a major thoroughfare for SOMA. To repave a major artery such as South Van Ness, all utility companies and construction operations must be coordinated. Once the roadway is paved, it cannot be opened unless there is an emergency. According to the 5-Year Paving Plan, efforts to coordinate construction/repair operations have commenced on January 3, 2011 with PG&E, SF Water, etc. and appear to continue from Market to Cesar Chavez through 2015. For more detailed information and adjacent roadways affected, please visit DPW's website at http://www.sfdpw.org/index.aspx?page=370 and click on Five Year Plan.

March 15, 2011

St. Luke's Hospital continues to FUCKING SUCK (, , )

by fluffy at 7:33 PM

I thought I'd had all the bills settled from my endoscopy last year. So of course today I just got another bill from St. Luke's for $713.72 with no reason given aside from "balance due," saying that there is no more insurance payment forthcoming on this account. The only contact option given was either calling their toll-free number or "access your account online." Knowing that the online access is useless I called the number. I was greeted with an endless cavalcade of data entry, which ended with "our office is now closed; please call back during regular business hours." They could have said that BEFORE I spent 5 minutes entering every bit of information they wanted. Ugh.

Meanwhile, I have no idea what this amount could be for. I am pretty sure that I have paid every bill that came to me. All this shows is: Service date June 24 2010 (the endoscopy), total charges $6430.07, $4044.56 in payments, a $-1671.79 "adjustment," and a balance due of $713.72. I am pretty sick of this whole stupid situation.

And of course my employers moved me over to a new insurance provider this year so who knows what the hell the status is of my previous insurance vis-a-vis handling this issue. Obviously my new insurance company wouldn't be held accountable for this.

St. Luke's billing department is the embodiment of failure and a shining example of what is wrong with the American healthcare industry.

Or, in short, St. Luke's hospital FUCKING SUCKS.

February 16, 2011

Any mod_rewrite gurus out there? (, , )

by fluffy at 10:50 PM

As an attempt at getting rid of some stupid spammers who are also trying to exploit nonexistent scripts on my site, I'm trying to redirect all requests that contain /../ in the original request URI (which are basically guaranteed to be an exploit attempt) elsewhere. However, it looks like mod_rewrite is only performing the substitution rule on the resolved path (i.e. it's treating /foo/../bar/ as /bar/) despite the fact that the REQUEST_URI environment variable still has the original /../-containing expression in it. I know my regexp is written correctly because the rule is working on other things (such as QUERY_STRING and HTTP_REFERER).

So, does anyone know if there's any configurations to mod_rewrite which might fix this behavior?

It's not a big deal but I've noticed a high correlation between the spammers who get through and the folks who are trying to find stupid CGI exploits and I figure anything that trips them up can only help.

December 5, 2010

What I miss about blogs (, )

by fluffy at 11:02 PM
Once upon a time, everyone I knew had a blog which I could use to keep up with them. The blog may have been hosted on their own site or may have been a diary on one of the public journaling/social media sites (HuSi, LiveJournal, etc.) but it was easy to keep up with people and interact with them via RSS readers and so on.

Then people decided they didn't want to broadcast everything to the Internet, so they started setting their entries private. Which in and of itself isn't a bad thing, except that most of the social media sites implemented it in such a way that your RSS reader needs to be "logged in" in order to see the items — which is impossible on most server-based aggregators (Bloglines, Google Reader, LJ Syndication, etc.). So for every site that did things in that way, you have to manually check on some regular basis. (This, incidentally, is why for my friends-only entries I still provide a "friends-only entry" item for non-logged-in RSS clients.)

But then all that's moot because the various blogging platforms are veritable ghost towns. Everyone's moved to Facebook or Twitter. In and of itself that wouldn't be a bad thing if the same sorts of content were happening, but it isn't; instead, people are just using them as platforms to write one-line "status" updates which are usually along the lines of "eating a tuna sandwich" or are links to whatever latest YouTube video has gone viral or whatever. Very few of my friends are actually talking about things that are going on in their lives anymore. All social interaction has been distilled down to one-line soundbites which are more about sharing things that other people did than they are about talking about things. I really miss it.

Not that I've been particularly good about that, myself. Somewhere along the line I decided that I'd just post random quippy status crap to Twitter, and reserve my blog as a platform for more general-interest topics. For some reason, blogs are no longer an acceptable way for people to just keep in touch with their friends; they all have to have Meaning and Value. It doesn't help that the various subscription engines still seem to treat the feed as the unit of currency, rather than the item, so it's difficult for people to find the generally-interesting stuff in the deluge of chaff that comes about from a mixed-function feed.

HuSi still has a fairly active diary community from the long-time participants there, but it has the private entry RSS issue, and I hardly ever remember to check for stuff there. When I do I see months' worth of out-of-date stuff that I don't really care about, and no easy way to just see a date-based feed of the few people there who I care about.

It also doesn't help that places like FaceBook et al have decided to center themselves around sharing as much of what you post with as many people as you know in every context as possible. Why would anyone want to post a rant about their coworker there when it's quite likely that a mutual "friend" (meaning acquaintence) will comment on it and thus expose it to the coworker? To make matters worse, these social networking sites have decided that real-life identity is Very Important and that there's no value to someone who wants to talk about things without having it associated with their professional life. In real life we all have several different faces; what you show to your boss, to your family, to your friends, to your lover(s), to fellow hobbyists... but on FaceBook you end up having just a single Identity that is immutable and indistinct, and so you either end up showing everything to everyone, or culling it to the minimal set of only what you think is appropriate for everyone to see (which, as it turns out, is very little).

I miss the old Internet 2.0.

November 30, 2010

My Android music player wishlist (, )

by fluffy at 11:04 PM
It's silly for me to carry around both my Android phone and my iPod and to have to juggle the two of them when I want to listen to music while using decent apps. I'd really like a music player/sync solution for Android which does the following:
  1. Synchronize from an iTunes smart playlist, and be able to play it in the playlist order
  2. Keep track of play counts, and synchronize that information (or at least "last play" and optionally "last skip") back to iTunes

November 16, 2010

One step forward, several steps back (, , )

by fluffy at 3:50 PM
An intersection of confluent issues with how Google and GMail handle their various accounts has just made my life much more difficult, again.

September 15, 2010

Why I hate being HOA treasurer ()

by fluffy at 7:33 PM
The worst thing about owning a condo is being a member of the homeowner's association (HOA), a joint corporation that owns and cares for the common areas. The worst part about being a member of the HOA is the risk of being elected onto the board. The worst part about being elected onto the board is ending up as the treasurer, the only position that has to do any real work and which has the thankless task of collecting dues from everyone and making sure the common bills get paid.

This is bad enough when the HOA all gets along, but there is one member of my HOA who seems to have a pathological hatred of the treasurer, and has never, ever gotten along with anyone in that position, simply because he sees dues as something to get out of paying and the property as a burden that he'd rather not deal with. (he owns quite a lot of property around the city).

September 9, 2010

I am so sick of St Luke's Hospital (, , )

by fluffy at 8:16 PM
I have gotten several more bills from them for things which they are still insisting that my insurance isn't covering, all from June. They are now saying it's past-due and threatening to send me to collections. My insurance still says that they have never gotten any actual claims from the hospital. Today I found out that some idiot in the billing department had transposed a couple of characters in my insurance ID, and as far as I can tell they are too fucking ignorant to fix it when they submit the updated claims, and this is just so aggravating.

Today I left another message with their idiotic billing department, and I tried to keep it cool but I lost it and after explaining the situation I kind of lost it and started swearing a lot. Maybe they'll get the fucking message here, but I have a feeling they're just going to hold it against me for being "unprofessional."

I'm just so FUCKING SICK OF THIS SHIT.

Judging by the reviews on Yelp, I am far from the first to have these problems, and will be far from the last. They are goddamned inept, and who knows how many people are suffering for it with ruined credit and being forced to pay thousands of dollars for a routine procedure that their doctor ordered?

In any case, I will definitely not be making use of St. Luke's Hospital or California Pacific Medical Center ever again if I can help it. This is the last goddamn straw.

September 3, 2010

California Pacific Medical Center (, )

by fluffy at 3:20 PM
Their billing department is a total joke.

August 24, 2010

Bandwidth caps exist (, , )

by fluffy at 7:26 PM
Somehow I appear to have gone over the 250GB Comcast bandwidth cap this month, and "coincidentally" my connection has been shut off. According to the handy bandwidth chart I usually use about 100GB/month, which actually surprises me since I don't do a lot of torrenting or online gaming. I suspect this is a result of my new hard drive which caused Crashplan to go crazy with re-scanning my whole disk.

At least I can get online via my Nexus One in the meantime. Sigh.

Annoyingly enough, Comcast was supposed to call me to warn me, rather than just shut me off outright. Meh.

July 31, 2010

Pro audio apps leave much to be desired (, , , )

by fluffy at 11:16 PM
So, I'm finally getting around to reinstalling Native Instruments Akoustik Piano on my MacBook, and I'd forgotten how much of a royal pain in the ass it is.

July 29, 2010

Current status (, , )

by fluffy at 2:53 PM
It's been a while since a self-indulgent blog post about my ongoing woes, and seeing as how that's the whole reason to have a blog anyway, I'd might as well update the three of you who still bother to read it.

July 24, 2010

Reevaluating drawing apps again (, , , )

by fluffy at 9:42 PM
Since I'm in a break between comics, and I've been completely redoing my MacBook because of upgrading its hard drive and adding a dedicated NAS to my network and so on, I decided to go ahead and upgrade to Photoshop CS5. Which is, frankly, terrible in how slow and laggy it is.

I've owned a copy of Pixelmator for years, and they've improved it immensely over that time, but there are still a few glaring deficiencies in the UI. They've finally gotten the brushes to work really well, but now I'm finding that all tools are set to use the same brush all the time - including the eraser, which is always sized exactly the same as the brush tool. Which makes drawing much more of a chore than it should be.

So, once again I'm looking at alternate drawing apps. I have VectorDesigner as well, but vector drawing has never really agreed with me for a number of reasons (usually tablet pressure support is rudimentary or even nonexistent, and I also like being able to screw around with things at the raster level which I find to be much more flexible, even with its "inaccuracy"). This also pretty much rules out Inkscape, although I might give it a try again anyway.

GIMP on OSX is of course a joke (the various native efforts are in perpetually primitive states, and the X11 version doesn't support tablet pressure since X11 on OSX doesn't support much of XInput).

Basically, I need a drawing app with the following features:

  • Runs on OSX
  • A drawing/sketching-friendly workflow
  • Tablet support (pressure, subpixel brush positioning)
  • Layers (ideally with groups, and group blend modes)
  • Magic wand selection and filling, as well as fast selection refinement (expand and contract at least, ideally with fast keyboard access)
  • Is affordable and I can justify paying for it with the understanding that I'm an amateur who likes drawing for fun and doesn't intend to ever make money on this
There's a lot of free/cheap drawing apps out there, but most of them have critical flaws that make them pretty much not worth working with. It seems like there's a whole bunch of niche apps which work pretty well for their niche, and then Photoshop is what everyone else turns to, ignoring that it's slow, bloated, and massively overpriced for just a drawing app...

June 30, 2010

Dear Playdom: (, )

by fluffy at 8:36 PM
I'm glad you feel that adding a poker game element will be the most innovative thing ever for whatever crappy Mafia Wars knockoff you're working on now, but if you insist on using the bathroom as a meeting room for discussing your game designs while I'm taking a crap, I'm going to crap on your game designs.

June 10, 2010

Poached juice (, , )

by fluffy at 7:05 AM
So the staffing lead who's been working with my interview process at Google sent me an email yesterday that showed the usual Google lack-of-ethical-thinking:
Once again, thanks for taking the time to come in and talk to us on Tuesday. As promised, I hope to have news for you early next week in regards to feedback from your interviews at Google. With this in mind, I wanted to drop you a quick email to see if there's anyone else you can think of that you would recommend to work at Google? As we have so many open roles within Software Engineering, anyone you suggest would not be competing with you for a position - but it's an opportunity for you to be working with some of your best previous/ current colleagues. If you don't want me to tell any of the people you suggest that I got their details from you, that's quite ok too (just let me know) - but we'll give you full credit for any successful hires in terms of the Google referral bonus if you start work here (a healthy $4000 per successful applicant).

Any thoughts much appreciated,
[M]

I decided this was a good opportunity to provide feedback about the interview process.

May 27, 2010

HOWTO: set up a transparent squid proxy on an Ubuntu desktop box (, )

by fluffy at 5:11 PM
Here is a simple procedure for setting up a simple transparent proxy to conduct basic network testing of some connected device, when your desktop box is running Ubuntu Linux.

  1. Disable NetworkManager with sudo update-rc.d NetworkManager remove; killall nm-applet
  2. Set up your network cards explicitly in /etc/network/interfaces (this isn't hard, but NetworkManager's duty in life is to crap on this configuration, it seems) and do a sudo /etc/init.d/networking restart
  3. Install dhcp3-server and squid, and configure them as appropriate. Most important is to change the squid.conf line like
    http_port 3128
    to
    http_port 3128 transparent
  4. Use FireHOL for the actual iptables configuration, because life is too short to screw around with iptables scripts and tutorials that don't specify where said scripts go if you want things to actually, you know, work. My /etc/firehol/firehol.conf file is like this:
    version 5
    
    transparent_proxy 80 3128 proxy
    
    interface eth0 outside
    	policy accept
    	server http accept
    	server ssh accept
    	server https accept
    	client all accept
    
    interface eth1 inside
    	policy accept
    
    router nat inface eth1 outface eth0
    	masquerade
    	route all accept
  5. Angrily post this article to your blog because seriously why does Ubuntu documentation have to suck so bad
The (only) downside to FireHOL, aside from its website being a bit difficult to figure out and its documentation being hard to navigate, is there's no way (so far as I can tell) to specify which interfaces get the transparent proxy, so you can't restrict it to a certain set of clients on the lan side. So if you're doing this to, say, test how transparent proxies affect cantankerous embedded devices, you're going to have to accept it also screwing around with your desktop's web browser. C'est la vie.

May 17, 2010

Technology gripes from my trip (, , )

by fluffy at 9:54 AM
As great as technology was for my road trip (giving me a lot of flexibility and ad-hoc decision making without a lot of preparation), where my road tech of choice fell flat, it caused a lot of aggravation which seems like it would be pretty easy to make better.

Most of these are related to the Google Nexus One, but I have a couple of iPod issues too.

April 23, 2010

Because everyone likes hearing about my ulcer (, , )

by fluffy at 5:41 PM
I finally got the Zegerid today. Of course the pharmacist was really really worried about giving it to me because of the recent Nexium prescription. At the same time, he thought I should be aware that Nexium is "the same stuff," which it almost is (it's esomeprazole which is a kissing cousin of omeprazole), but it's in a time-release formulation and doesn't have the antacid, and that doesn't actually, you know, help for what I need it for. And of course I'm not going to take them both at the same time.

April 15, 2010

The comprehensive guide to transit etiquette (, , )

by fluffy at 10:04 AM
It often seems as if many people who use BART could use a bit of a reminder in how to keep the entire experience pleasant and efficient for everyone. If you keep a few simple things in mind, you can make it more pleasant for others, which in turn makes it more pleasant for yourself.

Of course, much of this also applies to other transit systems. Feel free to use the suitable parts accordingly.

April 14, 2010

Prescription acid reducers are EXPENSIVE (, , )

by fluffy at 7:11 PM
So I finally got a new scrip today, for Nexium (the purple pill), which my insurance was willing to cover. My cost after insurance was still $42 for a one month supply. The cost before insurance was $180! Zegerid looks like it costs over $200 for a one month supply. That's insane!

At least that costs me less than the (not at all effective anyway) OTC version ($20-$30/week depending on brand) but why does the prescription version cost three times as much for what is basically the same medicine plus a time-release capsule?

At least this is just a once-a-day pill. My prescription also only covers two more refills, so maybe the intent is that I take it for three months and then I'm done with it since supposedly the ulcer-causing bacterium will actually be gone by then, and my doctor will be able to suggest something else for maintaining the acid reflux.

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