Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Passing of Dith Pran

While playing "Guitar Hero" with my kids, one of the songs we were to "play" was "Holiday In Cambodia" by the Dead Kennedys. Of course, the historical references were lost to my boys, their history education severely lacking in the genocide department. I tried in vain to explain to them who Pol Pot was and the terrible things he did to the Cambodian people.

Because those who don't learn from history are doomed to repeat it, I rented "The Killing Fields" and watched with my kids. Afterwards, we had a great discussion about genocide and how we mustn't forget those horrible crimes against humanity because if we know how they look we can recognize them later.

That story of Dith Pran's historic and arduous trials in Cambodia hold a lesson humanity must never forget.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

If This Isn't Just Ridiculous ...

Back in December I went to the local Texas AG office to "negotiate" my child support payments. This was after they accused me of being behind and the subsequent mess I went through to prove I wasn't. (If you're interested you can read the history here)

After the paperwork was all done, I was told I had to pay the court costs. This was supposed to cover the filing fee for the paperwork since we didn't actually go into court. The lady at the AG office who did the paperwork told me how much it was and that I had to pay it by the end of March.

So, being a procrastinator I waiting until March 1st to send in the payment. When I checked all the paperwork I got that day from the AG office, there was no mention of how much I was supposed to pay. Having slept numerous times between December and March, I couldn't remember how much it was.

Being the web-savvy guy that I am, I checked the local District Court's web site. It's hard to figure out and I couldn't find out for sure how much I was supposed to pay. To find out the amount, I emailed the District Court office.

After I week, I got a response to the effect of: "It's $20. We sent you a bill in December." I didn't remember getting anything from the District Court, and I mentioned that in my reply. At the end of the email I sent I mentioned something like "No matter if I didn't get the bill, I'll just send you a check." The email bounced.

The next day I mailed my check. And, I foolishly thought that was the end of it.

I got my check back today in the mail. Enclosed was a copy of the bill with the text highlighted at the bottom "No Personal Checks!"

I can't tell you how ticked off I am right now. Why didn't the person who responded to my email mention that little fact. Now, not only do I still owe the money, I wasted the postage, the cost of the check (a pittance, but waste nonetheless), and my time. Now I have to either invest enough time to go a buy a money order and mail it, or drive down to the office on my lunch hour and pay it in person in cash.

OK, I'm calmer now. Thank you for letting me vent.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Caveat Emptor: CallPhoneShop.com

A couple years ago I had a Nokia cell phone. It had a nice feature which allowed me to sync Outlook calendar and contact list with the ones on the phone. The only drawback was that it required me to get a proprietary USB cable so I could use the software Nokia offered free on their web site.

A friend recommended CellPhoneShop.com. She administered the cell phones for our company and told me she bought from them regularly and was quite satisfied. So, I ordered the cable from them, it came promptly and worked out well.

Fast-forward to last September. Now I have a Sony-Ericsson Walkman phone (which I blogged about soon after I got it). This phone came with the cable and software needed to upload music and sync with my Outlook.

All was well and fine until I got a new PC running 64-bit Windows XP. Among the items relegated to my geek trash heap was the phone sync program since the drivers from S-E for my phone don't install on 64-bit Windows and they seem to have no interest in making new drivers work with my "obsolete" phone . I can BlueTooth my music back and forth, but I can't sync with my Outlook.

Remembering my good experience with CellPhoneShop.com I went to their web site to see if they had any after-market products which would get me syncing again. I corresponded with them several times to make sure the software I was planning to order would install on my 64-bit system and work with my phone. I was assured by their representative I was getting the right thing. So, I ordered it.

Not only did the software not install on my 64-bit system, it didn't support my phone. The documentation accompanying the software clearly spelled out the phones it supported and mine was not on the list. The description on their web site listed my phone as one which the software supported. After numerous emails back and forth, CellPhoneShop finally agreed to take the package back and refund my money (minus what I had to pay to ship it back).

Fast-forward again. I recently got an AT&T Tilt for my work cell phone. It's very nice and works quite well for me so far. But, I didn't like the case I was given and I wanted to get a wired headset for it. After looking at AT&T's web site and learning the items I wanted would cost over $100, I thought to try CellPhoneShop again. I went to their web site, and on the page which lists the accessories for the Tilt was a mini-USB plug cable into which I could plug in my own ear buds and use as a headset and hands-free device. There was also a rugged, "outdoor style" case which looked to be just what I wanted. Keep in mind, both of these items were listed as being accessories especially for the AT&T Tilt both on the accessories list and in the individual product description pages.

I got my package yesterday. The headphones are capable of being used with the Tilt, but the ear buds are permanently attached. I tried them and they don't sound too good. Granted, I may have to play with the EQ in Windows Media Player, so they might not be a total loss at $7.99.

The case, however, is a whole other issue. This case is so small, it won't hold the Tilt, nor will it even hold my S-E Walkman phone. It barely holds my wife's skinny and thin Nokia.

All told and taking into consideration that the headset at least works, I guess I'm only out about $10. Still, I won't be shopping with CellPhoneShop any more.

Home Schooling Unconstitutional In California

Court: Parents Must Have Teaching Credentials to Home School Kids

I don't know much about the state constitution of California. But, I do know this is bad. The laws which require a credentialed teacher to be involved in home schooling is wrong. This is a huge infringement on parents' rights to do what they think is in the best interest of their children. It's tantamount to requiring those parents who can't afford private school or credentialed tutors to have to enroll them in the public school system.

People think a voucher program offering parents a choice in education for their children is unconstitutional? THIS is unconstitutional.