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KeyboardDevil

The greatest blog ever

That’s how it’s done

I’ve had a Craftsman 3/8″ torque wrench for about a year and a half, maybe two years. Love my torque wrenchIt’s one of my favorite tools in the garage. In fact, take a look at the photo on the left and you’ll see me using it on my bike with a great big smile. Every semi-serious shade-tree mechanic needs a good torque wrench, and generally they last forever. And that’s a good thing, because you’ll rarely find a good one for less than $100.

I buy Craftsman tools because Sears stands behind its products (well, usually).  Craftsman hand tools have a lifetime warranty, and I’ve personally returned more than a few.  Suspension work frequently results in broken sockets and ratchets and Sears has always been great about returning them.  But not all tools are created equally, and some of them, like torque wrenches, are only covered for a limited time.

Last week, I lent the wrench to a friend who managed (somehow) to break it.  The grip became loose and the wrench’s torque set was stuck somewhere around 15 ft lbs.  Now, I know that Sears only guarantees wrenches like this one for a year, but I figured what the hell and brought it down to my local store.  I’ve read mixed reviews lately about returns, but my experience was nothing short of awesome.  While standing in line, a sales associate and a guy in plain clothes approached me and asked if they could help.

When I explained the situation, the sales associate told me that the wrench was no longer covered.  It was clear he recognized the older model and knew its age.  I thanked them and said, “well, see if you can find a trash can to throw this into, then?” and handed over the wrench.  That’s when the plain clothes guy stepped in and said “let’s see if we can figure out when you bought this wrench” and smiled at me.  We walked to the nearest computer and he looked up the part number, and then asked me if I was a Craftsman Club member, which I am.

torqueHe never asked for my name, phone number, address or any other identifying information.  He said to me, “so you bought this no more than a year ago”, without even waiting for my reply he looked at the sales associate and said, “swap him out, and make sure this one gets labeled as a return”.  On my way out of the store, I stopped and shook the hand of the plain clothes man (it was clear now that he was a manager or supervisor of some kind).  He smiled at me and said, “thanks for coming in, it was my pleasure”.

The price tag on the wrench was $69.99, and for a one-time investment, Craftsman has created a customer for life.   I’ve spent thousands on tools, boxes, and benches over the years, and when Sears had the opportunity to do customer service right, they nailed it.  Someone from Sears seriously needs to call someone at Kay’s.

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Today’s marvel is tomorrow’s trash

Over the course of automotive history we’ve encountered some pretty creative technology including vacuum line powered filp-up headlights, dash-mounted 8-track players, and dozens of other terrible ideas.  About 4 years ago, I purchased my most technologically advanced car yet.  nissan-370zIt’s a 2009 Nissan 370Z Touring with touch-screen satellite navigation, MP3 player that reads a Compact Flash card, power everything, and computer controlled vehicle dynamic stability control.  In ’09 it was a technological marvel.  Now it’s 2014 and already those techno-toys are becoming dated.  Compact Flash is losing the portable media war, and my nav system relies on maps created five years ago.

If you’re a gear head like many of my readers, you probably have at least one “one day I’ll own one” car.  You probably have three of them actually.  I’ve been chasing the 1963 split-window Corvette and a late 60′s fastback Camaro for over a decade, but I sincerely doubt my 2009 370Z will end up on some dude’s auto wish list.  69 Camaro SSIn ten years, the power seats won’t work, the dynamic stability control will be replaced with cheaper, faster computer solutions, and you won’t even be able to find Compact Flash disks on ebay’s collector’s forum.  Seems unlikely that Year One will start cranking out power window modules and hatchback struts for 2000′s Nissans, don’t you think?  But when we consider the 40 year old technology that powers a 1968 Chevrolet…  Well, people have been getting in line to order replacements since before I was born.  Why?  Because iron intake manifolds don’t plug into a USB port.  If classic car collectors and parts manufacturers have taught us anything it is “the fewer moving parts the better”.  The simple truth is:  If you have to plug it in, power it up, or push more than one button, it’s probably already too complex.

So, this is usually the part of the blog post when the writer starts complaining about disappearing standard transmissions, the discontinued use of fuel-burning only engines to create super cars, and the great “death of the American muscle car”.  Sorry to disappoint, but I’m not playing that card.  Although I am unhappy about the majority of those topics, I actually believe we’re kind of lucky to be involved in the next evolutionary step of automobile technology.  30 years from now, new drivers will have no idea where their audio systems came from, how they work, or just how we got by with radios not connected to the global wireless network so you can access your music from anywhere (that is going to be freaking awesome).  They’ll have no understanding of crankshafts, pistons, valves, turbos, or direct ignition systems once they’re replaced by the Apple iCombust (probably already patented).

But we will have that knowledge.  Having lived through the grey area between evolution’s footprints, we will have the gift of perspective and respect that the next generation can never appreciate.

Wow, I just realized how much I sound like every gear head grandfather when I read that last sentence.

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The importance of being thorough

Every once in a while, I get a nice cease and desist email from one of the companies I write about on my blog.  This, however is not one of those.  Hilariously, it is quite the opposite.

First, go read this blog post about Montel Williams and MoneyMutual.com

Then, read this email I received earlier today:

I’m Jay with MoneyMutual.com, and I wanted to thank you for linking to our site from these urls:Money Mutual
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/2012/05/a-shark-named-montel/
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/category/general-life/page/2
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/category/general-life/page/2/
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/category/logichypothesis/page/2
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/category/logichypothesis/page/2/
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/page/3
www.keyboarddevil.com/blog/page/3/
However, it has come to our attention that these links may have been acquired against Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. It is important for us to bring our site into compliance. Would you please add a rel=”nofollow” attribute or remove our link from these pages and any other page on your site?
Thanks,
Jay McMillan

Thanks for the email Jay!

But, you didn’t even read my blog.  Not a single word.  At first, Money Mutual looked like an evil corporate predatory lending monster.  And now…  Well you guys still look that way and you’ve managed to add fucking stupid.

So, what the hell.  As a former software developer I can see the importance of valid links for SEO purposes.  Here’s my response to Jay:

moneyMutReply

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Everyone follow.. Ford?

This could be it.  Earlier this week, Ford released details that their new turbo-charged 4 cylinder Mustang could deliver over 300 HP!  Now, your first reaction might be “What do you care, Frank?  A Mustang?  What gives?”  And you’d be right.  I’ve actually owned two Mustangs over the years, and they’ve both offered me the reliability of a Yugo.

But this isn’t about my experience with Fords.  It’s about the auto industry’s penis contest.

Turbo 4-cylinderBack in 2000, I was looking for a small performance car and ended up with an MR2 Spyer.  Those of you who know me know that I spent the next 5 years (and $20,000 dollars) trying to build one only to fall short at the end, limited by the Eco-friendly engine in the car.  This inevitably led me to a V6 for my next project.  Even after the release of the WRX STI and the Lancer Evolution, 4-cylinders just weren’t putting out the power sports car enthusiasts expected, seemingly up against some invisible 300 HP wall.  Is it an insurance issue?  Perhaps reliability fears?  Certainly we have the technology.  I’m sure someone in the industry can answer with an educated guess, but who really cares?  The fact is, now that someone has ventured outside the turbo-4-comfort-zone, my hope is that everyone else will follow.

Isn’t it about time for a 350 HP version of the STI?  How about a 275 HP version of the new (and tragically underpowered) BRZ/FRS?  Talk about a hot seller!

Come on auto industry!  Stop telling me what I want, and making vehicles we want to buy!

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Never anything on

Ever notice that there’s never anything on?  Well, if you have Comcast you do.  Because their fucking cable service doesn’t work.

That’s right… It’s broken again.  Here’s the latest score:

brokeSunday, my cable box in the living room started freaking out.  Blank screens, no guide information, sound would go out, DVR recordings wouldn’t play, etc.

So, on the phone we go…  Again.  After holding for what felt like 30 years, I hung up and went to the online chat.  As usual the agent had me restart the box, read the serial number, restart again, hop on one foot while reciting the Greek alphabet and burning incense, but… No dice.

All I ever got back from the cable box was a lonely “0″ on the screen and no sound or video.

The agent informed me that the box is toast, and they had to swap it out.  Now I’ve had some experience with the repair jackasses coming to the house, so I opted for the “ship the new cable box” option.  It arrived Wednesday.

I plugged in the new box, and went through the online activation instructions (http://www.comcast.com/activate/) which didn’t work.  I know, I was surprised too!

The box reported via error message on the screen to call an 800 number.  That number took me to a menu with no option for my problem.  A second failure.

Finally, I went online and started another chat.  After unplugging the box, a ceremonial fencing match with technology, and a great deal of “I’m so sorry you are having that problem, sir” commentary, it finally started working.

sucksToday is Thursday.  The very next FUCKING day.  Now the cable box in the bedroom is freaking out.  Won’t play DVR’d shows, no sound, no picture, random fucking broken bullshit.

This time I decide to skip the phone bullshit and go straight to the web.  In a show of amazing patience and good nature, I don’t type in all caps and call the agent any names.  Although, I must admit the lure of vulgar vernacular was almost too strong.

Long story, longer… One of their technicians will be at the house Sunday between 5 and 7.  Which, when translated to Comcast technician-ese means Saturday at 11:00 AM when no one is fucking here…  Again.

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Someone should really do something

“Someone should really do something!”

Whenever there is outrage, anger, or perceived injustice, the country reacts and we band together to make it all right again.  Don’t we?

Yeah… Not so much.  Let’s assume that you’ve been in a coma and let me take a minute and bring you up to speed.
fracking

super heroNone of this is made up and none of it is over-stated

The list goes on, and on, and on.  Seriously, choosing only the ones above was a challenge.  All of this injustice, all of this travesty…  Surely someone must be doing something!

Truth is, no one is doing anything.  No one.  Nothing.  Nothing is being done.

grindsNo super hero has come forward to save us, no justice seeking judge or famous-faced cop has stepped into the light to lead us to freedom.  Nothing is being done.  And we’re all so willing to turn the cheek and just go back to our lives.  In fact, when you finish reading this we’ll shake our heads, and go back to ignoring all of it.  And I’m just as guilty as the rest of you.  The most I’ve done to fix the financial crisis or make a case against the TSA is blog angrily about it.

When Watergate came to light, the people called out the government and the President resigned.  And that wasn’t enough!  The scandal also resulted in the indictment, trial, conviction, and incarceration of forty-three people, dozens of them were Nixon’s top administration officials. (source)

You are Black!When the NSA spying story broke, the ACLU started a lawsuit.  Don’t let me spoil the ending for you, but…  Best of luck collecting on that one.  In the financial crisis of 2008, hundreds of laws were broken, billions of dollars funneled through falsely valued mortgages, and questionable (at best) methods were used by mortgage underwriters, insurance companies, and investors across the country.  And as you may have guessed by now, no one is accountable except one random fall guy and a bunch of protesters:  For those keeping score that’s ZERO bankers, and over 2,500 protester arrests. (source)

So, if I’ve done my intended job you are all riled up and pissed off like I am.  But we won’t do anything about it.  In 90% of the cases, we can’t.  Neither you nor I can tip the scales of the elite vs the rest of the world.  And in this time of a growing chasm between them, all we can do is step back and watch, and hope for some lubricant.

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In Soviet Russia, gay hates you!

In Soviet Russia...In the event you’ve been away from your TV for the past few weeks, the media is cranking up about the 2014 Winter Olympics that are slated to take place in Russia.  There is a lot of talk about Russia’s so called “ban on gay propaganda“.  A ban which many have claimed is just poorly shrouded anti-gay hate-mongering.  And it turns out, they’re probably right.

Far be it for the United States to step in and start crying about a country disliking the gay lifestyle.  Drowned in a sea of an admittedly Christian population has set up an understanding in this country that there are just some people here who don’t like gay folks.  And that’s fine, it’s America…  To each his own.  But that’s not the point here, and to claim a equivalence is a completely invalid argument.

This isn’t propaganda legislation.  This isn’t a law to protect children.  The law isn’t even a good cover story.

Much of our media, including the President, have come forward with reasons not to boycott the Olympic games.  Many of the claims site Jesse Owens‘ amazing accomplishments in the 1936 games, and although I can appreciate the similarity, this is not a valid reason to encourage the games, and ignores the obvious atrocities that are taking place in Russia RIGHT NOW.  In hind sight, America would have nothing to do with the 1936 Summer Olympics in Germany.  In fact, I would venture a guess that, knowing then what we know now, there would have been no games in Germany.

I’m not gay.  The gay lifestyle has nothing to do with me, or anyone in my family (as far as I know).

But I’m not Jewish or black either.  And not being Jewish or black or gay are not valid reasons for a country and a government where human suffering is taking place.

Have a look America.

Have a look at your money being spent to support human suffering:

Russia russia2 russia3 russia4

russia5 russia6 russia7 russia8

Ignore the President. Ignore the media. As human beings, we have a moral imperative to boycott human suffering in all of its forms.

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“I’m sorry” makes it all better

nsaLogo1What’s everyone clamoring on about?  Didn’t you hear that the NSA is sorry?

Totally innocent!Anyway, it’s only .00004% of total web traffic so that makes it OK.  You know, kind of like when someone calls a guy a serial killer, but he’s totally not.  I mean, he only killed that ONE guy.  That’s not serial.  That’s completely fine.  It’s like it doesn’t even count.  He totally apologized for it anyway, I mean give the guy a break!

The good news is that the NSA has completed an internal investigation and come forth with this information without any outside pressure.  Well, except for that one guy who basically threw his life away to tell us about it.  But other than that, no pressure at all.  Because they’re totally transparent that way.  Except that they’re not…  Not at all.  Not even in the least bit.

Usually, this is the part where I tweet and email the organization I’m talking about and raise holy-internet-hell, but I have a sinking feeling they’ve already read this.

 

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Danger!! Danger!

Danger!

Carlos Danger for mayor!

You just can’t make this shit up. LOL

Washington Post: “Carlos Danger was a joke”

Colbert Report: “Carlos Danger: Secret Mayor”

RealClearPolitics: The Desperate Life of Carlos Danger

LA Times: Carlos Danger: The man, the myth, the reality

NY Times: Hard to Delete

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Beyond the Mouse

It wasn’t an easy decision, I’ll give you that.  But now enough time has passed to where I feel like I can speak (or blog) candidly about… That place I worked that one time.

OK, so almost candidly.  But you’ll get what you get, and you’ll like it.

Way back in 2005, I started an exciting career at (REDACTED), when the entire department had less than 8 developers.  When I finally hung up my giant white gloves and moved on, there were over 150 of us on-site, and somewhere in the neighborhood of 225+ when you included off-shore contractors.

fishAt every job before this one, I was the prodigy.  At first, it was amazing.  I was the youngest developer ever hired by my first company.  And it was awesome.  But after a while, it felt like an intense weight on my shoulders.  When I moved on to other companies, the weight continued to amass until it was unbearable.  I was a big fish flopping around, and my pond felt like a spilled glass of milk.

Then, by some weird stroke of luck, I was downsized right out of a job.  I spent a month hanging around the house, and then another month doing contract development work and living the easy life, but I was bored.  Finally, an unexpected call led me to an interview with one of the most famous companies on the planet.

Truth be told:  I didn’t feel like I belonged at this place.  The other developers were really smart, and I was a small fish in a HUGE pond just trying to get noticed.  I remember a conversation with my mom when I told her that this job wouldn’t last.  We were contractors, all of us, and we were told we’d be competing for full time positions.  I told her I was in way over my head, and the other developers were eventually going to outshine me, right out of a permanent spot.

Everyday I walked into that office it felt like a gift.  Never, in my career, had I worked with so many amazingly talented people.  I know people use the word all of the time, but it was, truly, awesome.  The department had no idea what they had their hands on.  Everyday, project managers would fight over which developers they got for their projects, and we were kings.  There was a magic about that “kingdom” that I thought was irreplaceable.  Thinking back…  Maybe it was.

The last day of my 6 month contract, I was extended to 9 months, and then a year.  Then finally, late one evening, while chatting with another developer outside the kitchen, I was approached by my manager and pulled into a conference room where he told me they wanted to offer me the full-time job.  It was an 11% pay cut, and honestly, I would have accepted if it had been 20.  To date, it was the greatest accomplishment of my life.

unknown technologyOver the next 6 years, using a language no one had ever heard of on a server no one knew existed (and, no one would ever miss) we created websites that upped revenue (in just one case) from 500 million to over 1.8 billion dollars, and another that redefined the way restaurants were booked for a massive family of locations.  Before agile and JQuery, we created process where there was none, we wrote a syndicated code base used across thousands of travel websites, and fostered the environment for a development family like none other I’ve ever witnessed.

After a few years, I knew every site like the back of my hand.  I had built big chunks of it, after all!  But, at the height of my career, the tide started to shift.  We were bringing in more and more contractors, and taking on more and more work.  It was an exciting time to be a part of the senior staff but, at the same time, the writing began to appear on the wall.  One by one the original development team began to disappear.  We lost one talented developer to Oakley, one to YouTube, a few to start-ups across the country, and another to a credit union just starting their web business.

childLabor

I moved from project team to project team, and finally settled in on the operations team as a senior level mentor and trainer.  By this time the technologies had begun to change.  We were moving in the direction of a new language, a new web server, a new JavaScript library, and a new direction for the sites all together.  Had it been just languages that changed, I could have survived.  But the greatness of the team had disbanded and the personality of the department had shriveled up and became that of a giant, code pumping machine.  The Nerf guns were banned, the holiday parties were long gone, and the annual indoor golf game was lost to memory.  Long forgotten were the days of “Dev Chat” meetings, and off-site gatherings you could fit at a few small tables in a local restaurant.

We had become a world-class development shop who had completely forgotten that we weren’t a development shop.

I wasn’t even looking for a job when I got the first call.  In fact, I dodged the hiring manager, the HR rep, and the vice president of eCommerce for two weeks while they pursued me in the evenings and weekends.  But, finally I agreed to drive down to south Florida to meet the team, and get a feel for the company.

It was like traveling back in time.  Had I found the small, intimate development shop I’d been looking for, again?

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