Southern Man

Saturday, December 29, 2007

New Phone Rants

To celebrate the holiday season Southern Man treated hisself to a shiny new toy - a T-Mobile "Wing" cell phone. It's a little big but very, very fancy. Big screen, unlimited Internet, all the trimmings.

It also runs the Windows Mobile 6 operating system, and while Southern Man gets along just fine with most flavors of Windows, he has discovered that he hates Windows Mobile 6 with a passion equaled only by his loathing of Windows Vista. For example:

The main "Today" screen is customised in the usual way by tapping Start - Settings - Today. And you can customise until the cows come home and your screen will NOT change. Until you also tap Start - Settings - System - Screen, change the font size, hit OK, change it back again, and hit OK again. And with some font sizes you can't customize at all - the phone stubbornly refuses to accept any changes. Added later - cured by a "hard reset." Which more or less obliterates all of your custom settings, address book entries, and so on. Fortunately these can be backed up to the PC through a handy little USB cable, so it's only somewhat painful.

There's a little icon that toggles whether or not the media player is shown on the main screen. It has no effect unless youy also go through the font-resize procedure above. This amusing little problem appears at random and can also be cured (usually) by a "hard reset" or two.

There's an icon to set up your Yahoo! email. Cool, Southern Man has Yahoo! accounts. Several frustrating hours of failure later, Southern Man finally stumbles on an obscure link on the T-Mobile web site that says that, well, this only works with Yahoo!® Mail Plus, not the free Yahoo! account. Never during those hours of frustration was this information indicated by Windows. Thanks for nothing, Bill. But Southern Man, being the stubborn cuss that he is, finally got it to work with one of his Yahoo accounts. Sometimes. No luck at all with his GMail accounts, though, which makes email on this phone fairly useless.

The phone has a lovely backlight that dims after a minute or so to save your precious battery juice. Fine. Every phone that Southern Man has EVER owned will light right back up if you press ANY button on the phone. Not the Wing - if the phone isn't lit those big fat buttons on the front do nothing. NOTHING. To relight the backlight you can either pull the keyboard out or press the teeny tiny on-off button on the top edge. That's such an obvious miss that Southern Man wonders if the builders of this thing did any usability testing at all. This misfeature alone will drive Southern Man insane.

The phone has a "lock" feature. Very handy. However, it automatically unlocks whenever you recieve a call, meaning that whenever it's ringing and you're trying to dig it out to see if you want to answer or ignore the call, you invariably end up hitting either the big fat "answer" or "ignore" button without meaning to do so. This is monumentally stupid. Did anyone actually use this phone before putting it on the market?

The operating system supports a sort-of address book called a "Contact" list. T-Mobile has a cool little feature called My Faves - basically, free calls to your five favorite people. Do these features get along? Of course not. If you modify an entry in the Contact list - say, update an email address or a ring tone - then you get to do it AGAIN for the same person in your My Faves. Sheesh.

But here are the two killers. First, this phone has the maddening tendancy to call someone other than the person currently displayed on the screen. From a user-interface point of view, that's absolutely insane; if there's a name displayed on the screen, that's the person that should be called. Second, when you get a text and try to read it, the phone takes you to whatever message folder you last browsed, not your inbox. In other words, this thing often fails to correctly perform the two most frequently used tasks required of a modern phone - making calls and reading text messages.

Naturally, Southern Man blames Windows for all of this and his next phone will definitely NOT be a Windows-based phone. The upcoming Google phone, perhaps. We'll see.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A Geeky Quiz

Take the Sci fi sounds quizI received 100 credits on
The Sci Fi Sounds Quiz

How much of a Sci-Fi geek are you?
Guess the Sci-Fi Movie Sounds here

I know this isn't MySpace but...

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Mixed Feelings

Two Christmas performances today. The first left Southern Man a little perturbed, but the second...

The opener was the annual Christmas drama at Southern Man's old church. Both of his daughters were participants (yeah!) but, as usual, his talented ex had a central role in the production as well. It surprised Southern Man how unsettling it was to go to the performance; he clearly hasn't moved beyond this particular issue as far as he thought he had. It didn't help that her speaking part was about troubled families and separation and possible divorce. But he did get to see and hear his daughters sing and see some old friends, and that was worth it.

Then this afternoon was an annual treat; a local choral society hosted a Messiah sing-a-long. Now, Southern Man is really a baritone (meaning that he can't dig deep enough to be a bass nor climb high enough to be a tenor) but he's sung the tenor line in Messiah many, many times. So he grabbed his well-thumbed score and headed to (of all places) the chapel at his university workplace, where he got to chat with his parents for a bit before joining the rest of the tenors - about half choral society, about half pick-ups and wannabe singers like Southern Man.

It was a fairly lean production - perhaps a third of the membership of the choral society, the church organ, a handful of instruments - but Southern Man was ready to relax and enjoy listening and singing. The organist did a nice job with the introductory prelude...and then came those wonderful opening words from Isaiah, in a high clear tenor...
Comfort ye, my people, saith your God...
And Southern Man pretty much lost it right there. The text to Messiah has always spoken to him in a powerful way but today...well, he wasn't able to do much other than sniffle and wipe his eyes and listen until well into the first hour.

Comfort is something that's been hard to come by lately. Southern Man's life has been pretty crazy these past few months- all that stuff he can't blog about, remember? And there are plenty of times when he just can't cope by himself. Fortunately, he doesn't have to. Lord, grant me comfort in these trying times. I know that I can't carry this load alone. I pray that You would grant me the courage to lay my burdens at Your feet and put my trust in You. Amen.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Here We Go 'Round The Mulberry Tree

Bush? Nope. This thing passed "bush" a long, long time ago.

Anyway, there is this huge (and I do mean huge) mulberry by Casa Southern Man and the landlord's crew came by and reduced it to a not quite so huge mulberry tree, leaving a small mountain of former mulberry tree at the bottom of the driveway for the city crew to pick up tomorrow.

Now, Casa Southern Man has a fireplace, and Southern Man had already put in a winter's supply of firewood. Or so he thought. Turns out that teen son thinks fire is kinda neat and has lit one pretty much every cool evening for the last few weeks. Now this is quite nice - a fire makes the living room all warm and cozy and Southern Man still remembers the pleasure of coming home that first evening to be greeted by a cheery blaze - but it has made serious inroads into the wood supply. So naturally when Southern Man saw all that tree his first thoughts were of an incendiary nature.

So Southern Man cut by his workshop last night and retrieved the necessary tools and spent a most enjoyable afternoon with hatchet, axe, and chainsaw and now there is plenty of wood in the woodpile. Sure, it's mostly green mulberry but that's a step up from what was there, which was the remnants of someone's old stockade fence.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Southern Man Can Cook

The womenfolk wil probably shudder to read this but for Southern Man there's nothing quite as relaxing as an evening spent in the kitchen. Southern Man tends to have cooking marathons and then freeze enough for his lunches and dinners for the next week. Tonight it was

  • Potato Soup (specifically requested by teenage son tonight)

  • Bean Soup (he didn't put a beer in it this time, though)

  • Banana-Nut Bread (with dad's home-grown pecans, of course)

  • Chocolate Chip Cookies (from frozen dough purchased from teen daughter through a fundraiser)

  • Brownies (with an extra handful of dark-chocolate chips and pecans thrown in for good measure)

So Casa Southern Man is filled with the aroma of wonderful food. And teenage son has a fire crackling in the fireplace and the BCS selection show on the tube. It really does feel like home tonight. Lord, again I thank you for the many blessings you have bestowed upon us. I pray that we'd never forget your providence, nor fail to seek Your guidance and Your will in our lives. Amen.

Questions and Answers

Southern Man has a new addiction. It consumes him night and day, drawing him like a moth to flame. Like all addictions, it can only be satisfied through indulgence; and, like all addictions, the high is only temporary. And the dose required to get a fix becomes larger and larger with each passing trip.

You see, Southern Man foolishly joined Yahoo! Answers. And now he's hooked.

It began innocently enough; a way to relax in front of the 'puter for a few moments before going to bed. And at first it was just for fun. Southern Man enjoyed the mental challenge of answering science and technology questions in a way that hopefully will help the asker learn a bit. So we're talking about a harmless little pasttime. A few minutes here, a half-hour there. Nothing serious. It doesn't mean anything to me. I can quit any time. Really.

Then the first email arrived.

"Yahoo! Answers: Your answer has been chosen as the best answer!"

That was the first hook. Because now Southern Man and his rapidly inflating ego want more "best answers." More and more and more!

And then came the contacts.

"Yahoo! Answers: Some Random User is probably a fan of your answers and has made you his newest contact!"

That was the second hook. Because nothing strokes a forty-something-year-old ego like having a bunch of anonymous middle-school fanboys and fangirls who hang on your every (written) word.

And then Southern Man was busily cranking out answers one night when he noticed that his little avatar icon had a new addition.

"Top Contributor - Physics."

If that isn't a big time ego stroke, Southern Man doesn't know what is.

But why just Physics? Southern Man also answers questions in Mathematics and Engineering and Astronomy and Programming and Homework Help and Pets - Fish (he used to raise tropical fish, sort of), and they're damn fine answers, too, so why not Top Contributor in those categories as well? It's insulting! So he finds himself frantically searching for questions to answer in Mathematics so he can be a top contributor there, too. And in Engineering. And in Astronomy. And in Programming. And in Homework Help. He gave up on Pets - Fish a while back. You can't do it all, you know. He is rapidly becoming a master at finding the most obscure information using Google and Wikipedia. He goes to the extra trouble to use Greek fonts in his science answers. He argues about minutia with the other Top Contributors and votes their answers down when they upset him. He checks his email every half hour and stomps about the office in a red-faced rage when no new "Best Answers" have been noted - then logs in and answers more questions. Hey, you can't get "Best Answer" if you aren't crankin' 'em out! It's not even fun anymore. It's work. But Southern Man has got to have his fix.

Well, Southern Man has been down the addiction road before. Empire, Rogue, and Moria (old mainframe games that cost him an extra year of graduate school). FRAC (a three-dimensional Tetris clone). Star Trek: Armada. Don't even get him started on TIE Fighter, a game so awsome that not once, but twice, Southern Man build PCs dedicated to playing that game and nothing else. They eventually burn out and are reduced to occasional harmless fun. Although Southern Man does have PC ports of Empire and Rogue and Moria that he still plays every now and then. Especially Moria, a game so cool that it has its own USENET group that Southern Man no longer reads every single day. Really. And FRAC is just a click away. And there's an Armada game paused on the other 'puter right now. And he put in a Freecell marathon just a few weekends ago...