Crossing the lines
buzzed, B&W
There's been plenty of studies that show mixed socioeconomic schools lead to better outcomes.

The Tale of Two Schools is an interesting piece in the New York Times Magazine that took a brief look at a program called Classroom Connections, which connected students from two schools that are six miles apart: University Heights (in one of the poorest congressional districts in the US) and Fieldston (private school with a tuition of $43k a year). It sounds like a rad program, getting these two extremes to see each others lives.

As a magazine piece, they went for big pictures and a few quotes from the students. It's hard to tell how much the students have internalized the lessons they're learning, and how much is just lip service from the individual quotations, but still an interesting read. One of the Fieldston students said:

I consider my family to be in the upper middle class. We are well off and can afford the luxury of vacations, a private education, an apartment in New York City. However, many of my friends are much wealthier than I am, and sometimes this makes me feel inadequate and somewhat ashamed. But I recognize the unbelievable privilege I have, too, and my financial situation only motivates me to use it wisely.

Just one more sign that the "middle-class" is such a vague term. This article from USNews talks about how "the current definition of middle class is so broad that it excludes only the top 1 or 2 percent and the bottom 10 or 20 percent." And of course, no one thinks they're rich - "In the latest Mendelsohn Affluent Barometer, most of the $250,000-plus earners say they’re only in the top 20 percent. In fact, as a group, they’re in the top 3 percent and higher."

Positive Thinking
buzzed, B&W
When I was younger, I was pretty cynical, and thought things like meditation, introspection, etc were kind of silly.  Somewhere along the line, probably while I was an AmeriCorps VISTA Leader in Montana and helping training our incoming members, I saw (and eventually internalized) the value of being open to these types of activities.

I'm still far from a touchy-feely kind of guy, but I try to be more open to the emotional aspects of things now.

In any case, while running tonight, a cyclist was riding towards me, and while she passed yelled "Oh my god, I love your dedication!"  (We'll ignore the fact that my running is sporadic at best, and I actually prefer running at night.) 

Definitely put a little smile on my face and gave me a bit of a boost while running to have that random stranger cheer me on. Thanks!

Do all banks suck as much as USBank does?
buzzed, B&W

Not a fan of my bank these days.  I'm a pretty low maintenance customer with USBank, having had my various accounts for I'd guess 10 to 15 years.  I'm not a huge customer, but do have a checking, savings, and brokerage account with them.

I rarely require service, and I think the only teller/banker transactions I've done over past 5 years or so have been when they've changed their account types, and I need to switch accounts to avoid a fee or what not. 

I had a notably crappy experience in June and July of 2013, when I was switching account types. I went to the 4000 Kietzke location in Reno, since they had Saturday hours - I ended up having to wait 90+ minutes just to talk with a banker (the branch manager, who in her defense was pretty solid)  to say I'd like to switch from my current account type to a different account type.  Not sure why the teller couldn't have done that for me in 5 minutes, but whatever. 

The banker suggested I talk with one of their investment folks since I had a fair amount of cash sitting around idle.  I know this isn't a great thing, and at a minimum should throw it into an MMA or CD or something, but I just can't make myself care, especially with interest rates being so low these days.  Let's say best case I'm looking at maybe $200 a year, but that savings to me was effectively lost due to the incompetence of the investment consultant/banker at the USBank branch (4000 Kietzke).  The guy's not there, so I scheduled an appointment for another Saturday morning.  Anyway, I end up going back, waiting, and the guy never shows (even though the bank had called and confirmed the appointment earlier in the week).  The guy calls me later in the week, leaving me a voicemail, asking if I still want to explore options.  I don't recall there being any apology, and since my bank visits had basically costed me two Saturday mornings (which to me are worth significantly more than $200), I just dropped it. (Cross posted to Yelp)

Tonight, I had another bad experience, trying to use their mobile app to sign up for what they call DepositPont - same thing all the other major banks are doing where you can take a picture of a check to deposit it.  I click on the "deposit" button in the app, which then presents me with three survey style questions (how often I plant to use it, how much I plan to deposit, and I forgot the third question).  I answered all three, and am then presented with a message that states "Looks like you didn't complete your DepositPont enrollment.  Please call 800-US-BANKS (872-2657) to finish signing up."

I then call, only to find out that I can't be helped unless I call back again tomorrow morning.  The customer service rep sounded half awake, and I had to ask many specific questions about what times I could call to get the issue resolved, how to best navigate the menu system to make sure my call went to the right place, etc.

While I was reluctant to sign up for the service, thinking a $0.50 charge for each deposit seemed a little silly, figured that was the price of convenience.  At this point, DepositPoint is anything but convenient, and I assume that by the time I navigate the phone support another time, try to re-activate DepositPont on my phone, this attempt at "convenience" will have actually cost me close to an hour of my time.

At a minimum, the error message when signing up via the phone should state what hours support is available.  For a truly positive experience, the sign up should not dump the user out saying the enrollment did not complete and providing no information as to why.

Blah.  Crappy software, and hard to recommend at this point. 

I'll likely stick with USBank, since it's too much hassle to switch banks (direct deposit and a bill pay system that seems to work), but I can't recommend it.

Poor surveys . . .
buzzed, B&W
So, what option should I have picked?


Does no one proofread?

Hint: My Civic was a 2000 . . .

New phones, new operating systems, new bugs . . .
buzzed, B&W
So, I upgraded to an iPhone 5S last Friday, as my 4S had a broken screen, and I'd been eligible for a while.

I backed up my 4S to my laptop, and went to restore it.  I was surprised when the apps didn't restore, but apparently you have to select the option to Transfer Purchases for apps to backup and restore. 

In any case, I eventually backed up my apps from the old phone, and then restored them to the new phone.  Unfortunately, I had already downloaded and installed some apps, so all the apps were installed to the new phone, but no icon placement restored.  So, I spent an hour or so restoring my icons.  Then, I went to work trying to log back into the various apps, transfer settings, etc.

One of the games I played didn't allow for logins, but instead relies upon the device serial.  The account transfer procedure for this was to download another one of the company's games, which had logins, which would update the setting for all the related games.  I'm guessing this would set some local database value on my phone and update their servers with my device serial.  So, I went to download the new game, clicking on the install button in the App Store.  I watched the progress icon rotate and the app install, then clicked on the "open" button, but nothing happened.  I tried clicking this button a few more times, and nothing happened, so I ended up powering down and powering up.

When I powered the phone back on, most of the app icons that I had spent the previous hour setting their locations were gone.  I was confused, so I went to the App Store again, trying to reinstall one of the apps that was no longer there.  The App Store was showing the "Open" button for the apps, implying that they were already installed.  I then noticed this in my email:

"Your Apple ID, [redacted], was just used to download Racing Live™ from the App Store on a computer or device that had not previously been associated with that Apple ID."

So, something had obviously gone wrong.  Next, I went and checked the Settings > General> Usage, and the picture is what I saw.  When I clicked on one of the apps without a name, the name showed as "(null)".  I don't know much about the backend for iOS, objective C, or the databases that are used, but apparently something had gotten corrupted.

Blah.  I don't know what I did that triggered this bug, but it wasn't good.  The only way for me to recover was to reset the 5S to defaults and re-restore the original 4S backup.  The one advantage to this process was that since the apps were backed up to iTunes, they all restored . . . but far from the seamless upgrade process Apple talks about . .  I'm going to guess I probably spent 8 hours or so dealing with the various issues of backing up, restoring, backing up the apps, restoring the apps, organizing the icons, researching if there was a way to repair the app database, and then having to do it all over again . . . blah.

Bike to Work Week
buzzed, B&W
This week happens to be Bike to Work Week, and the Truckee Meadows Bicycle Alliance is organizing as usual. My commute is just under 10 miles, and takes me about 45 minutes.

Rides this week:

So, what have I found out so far?

  • Riding like this makes me hungry - at 600 calories or so, that's probably 20% to 25% of my daily calories, so obviously my body will want to make this up

  • My IT band is not anywhere near as sore as I thought it would be. While it's a little sore, and I find myself stretching throughout the day. Still, not as bad as it's been before.

  • I like the time - the morning ride wakes me up, and the ride home gives me plenty of time to process my day.

  • I miss NPR - I value my situational awareness, so no headphones while riding. This means I'm missing out on my daily NPR (and news in general) fix.

  • I'm surprised by how consistent my times are. My Tuesday commute in was on my single-speed, which is maybe two-thirds the weight of the grocery getter, and is running 25 mm (vs. 38 mm) tires, so a lot less rolling resistance. The Monday ride in was 47:39, while Tuesday's was 44:47. My time home today was 49:02, and the headwind made me think I'd have been a lot slower - there were times I was dropping to the third ring up front.

  • Gears are good. While the single-speed is great for the short, quick jaunts to the bar or coffee shop, it was pretty brutal for the commute.

  • I heart data. I've been tracking the rides in both Strava and in RunKeeper. I like Strava as it's got "segments" (mainly short hills and things) on there where it times you and lets you race against the Strava community at large. I'm using RunKeeper as it integrates with Fleetly. I haven't been working out as much as I used to, but having the cardio data with the workout data is kind of nice. In any case, part of me wants to get a Bluetooth heartrate monitor and cycling power meter (which I'm not a serious enough cyclist to justify). Still, it's amazing how much data we can get these days.

No commuting tomorrow as I have to be at UNR at 1 . . . Friday's a bit dicey too as the weather may be iffy, but I do plan on volunteering at the Bike Project's Pancake Feed . . .

Back from the dead?
buzzed, B&W
Crazy . . . I got a Dell Mini 9 back in 2008, and like many owners, the SSD appeared to have died on me, showing as 0 MB in the BIOS. I did a bit of research, but realized that the replacement drives (PATA mini PCIe) were a very niche product, and pretty expensive, so didn't bother getting a replacement.

Recently, I've been fiddling with getting it booting off USB to use as a wireless print server. It was working for a while, but after a power cycle, it stopped working. Apparently there are some driver issues with the Broadcom wireless card in there and booting off a Live USB drive (with a persistent partition).

While I was researching this, I came across a blog post titled How to revive your Dell Mini 9 failed Mini PCIe SSD disk, which implied that many of the SSDs that shipped with the earlier Minis had firmware issues. I figured I'd try the instructions out (basically creating a DOS boot disk with the utility), and lo and behold, the firmware on the drive updated.

I've got the Ubuntu installer running on it now . . . should be a lot faster than the thumb drive it was running off before, and hopefully easier to configure the wireless.

The rise of pets
buzzed, B&W
I still don't get pets being vital family members, but apparently it's getting more and more common, at least anecdotally speaking, with Fiona Apple canceling the South American leg of her tour.

Yelp reviews
buzzed, B&W
So, I had a pretty bad experience at this place in Helena, MT ( Summary is that it's called Fusion Grille, I order the "Korean beef" appetizer, described as "tender thinly sliced Korean marinated beef served with Jasmine rice" and ended up with beef fajitas and a side of rice (

I know, I know, it's Helena, MT (the place where when I first moved and went out to the bar, some guy came up to me and said "Welcome to our country" - completely seriously).

In any case, looks like someone from the restaurant commented on my livejournal -, and it looks like they're making an effort.

So, a few questions:

1) Why the hell did they respond on my personal blog (linked to from my yelp profile), rather than messaging me here on Yelp? (I get that that would require setting up an account, but that seems like a better idea than clicking through and posting a comment on my blog.)

2) Why not leave a name? Phone number is nice, but should I call and be like "Umm, hi, I'm trying to reach someone about a blog comment in response to my yelp review?!?" Really?

3) I appreciate they're making an effort, but stating "Or, if you are unable to visit us again, please consider removing or editing your review on Yelp."? Really? So, just because you say you're trying harder I should modify my review?

4) They state in their response "At the time, the place was brand new and had a few kinks to work out" - really? I went at the end of October - the first review (albeit filtered) is from mid-June. Saying your place is "brand new" after 4 months is naive at best, and strikes me as rather disingenuous. How much time should a restaurant be given to hit their stride?!?

I mean, I probably won't be back in Helena for at least another year, but come on . . . I get that I left a harsh review, but the food was overpriced, probably came straight off a Sysco truck, and didn't even come close to matching the menu. What do you expect?

Of bikes and Reno . . .
buzzed, B&W
I really should write more.

Anyway, I had my 2006 Specialized Langster stolen a while ago. Fun little (and I do mean little - frame was a 50 or a 52 cm) bike - nice light and stiff frame with a fun, twitchy track geometry. I had put pursuit bars on it, with some bar end brakes, and thanks to some luck during a raffle at Reno Bike Project's Bikes and Brews, had put on a Brooks saddle, and thanks to John and Aimee, corresponding Brooks bar tape. There was some toe overlap, which would keep me on my toes occasionally, but still a fun little ride.

I was riding the bike that morning, thinking it was fun, especially as I had just got some Gatorskins for it during REI's annual sale. I volunteer that morning at the bike project, and then was going to a friend's place to watch the Spain/France Eurocup game. Left the Bike Project, and it's probably 11:30 or 12 ish, and I stop at Craft to get some beers. Being in a bit of a hurry, I decided I'd risk leaving my bike unlocked. The whole front of the store is glass, so I figured I'd keep my eye on it . . . I went in, grabbed some Sofie, as well as a six of Maui's Big Swell in cans. I looked out the window, and saw my bike, as I handed my card over to pay for the beer. I sign the receipt, walk outside, and the bike is gone. So, in the span of 60 seconds or so, someone walked up to the bike in broad daylight, probably hopped on it, and rode away. Amazing, and gutsy, especially considering that the cops were out in force all of a block away on Virginia St, doing crosswalk enforcement.

I ended up replacing the bike with a Dawes SST from Bikes Direct that someone happened to be selling in South Lake for $300 - they'd apparently owned it a week and decided it wasn't for them. Fits a bit better since it's a 54 cm, but I miss the track geometry, and it's slightly heavier . . . I'm thinking I'll probably stick with the standard drop bars and factory seat for the time being.

So, that's the second bike I've had stolen . . . you'd think I'd have learned after the first . . . "Fool me once, shame on you . . . fool me twice, shame on me". Bleh.

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