December 31, 2004

New Years Eve 2004

2004, we hardly knew ye. You were full of many firsts, both good and bad.

You took me overseas for the first time on a life-defining trip.

You took me to Carolina, to live far away from home for the first time in my life in a permanent fashion.

You brought my first full time job.

You taught you to really cook for myself for the first time.

Unfortunately, you took a good friend from us for the first time. (I'll be thinking of you tonight, Vasu!) But, you also brought new friends as well.

You got me back into the Mac world for the first time in four years.

You brought the demise of old blue and my first new car.

You introduced me to some serious badasses who really changed my way of thinking.

You brought the advent of Podcasting.

You made me quite disappointed in my fellow countrymen, and all too recently brought the worst trajedy in memory.

Of course, there's always other bizarreness, happy times, and sad that I can't even mention.

How did I do on the resolution I made for this year? Well, though I got plenty of implicit rejection from women, never from ten in the same day (I don't think).

Tonight I'm heading for Karthik's house in Mansfield. Will hopefully be seeing many friends I haven't seen in quite some time.

Have a very Happy New Year if I don't talk to you! As always, hope you have someone to kiss tonight!

In Matters that are otherwise worthwhile

Posted at 04:20 PM | Permanent link

December 30, 2004

The great white north

This Christmas, Northeast Ohio has as much snow as I've ever seen (and that's saying something after having lived here for 23 years).

The snow is starting to melt now, but here are some pictures that I took a few days ago (notice the amount of snow on the railing and on the picnic table):

My German Shepherd, Max, with his head in the Snow My german shepherd Max, looking slightly snowy My german shepherd, Max, at the top of a snowy staircase My german shepherd, Max, lounging around the snow My german shepherd, Max, in the snow Car burried in snow Icey tree

(All are available at my Great white north folder)

In Matters that are otherwise worthwhile

Posted at 10:45 AM | Permanent link

December 29, 2004

Tsunami deathtoll reaches 68,000

Some news organizations are claiming that the tsunami death toll has reached 68,000, others are saying that it has already risen past the 70,000 mark.

This is death on an unfathomable scale.

Please, if you can, donate to the Red Cross International Response Fund. has other helpful information regarding the tragedy, including links on where to donate if you are located outside the United States and links to bboards for helping to locate missing persons.

In General

Posted at 10:06 AM | Permanent link

December 23, 2004

A tale of flight cancellations on Christmas Eve Eve

This is how it works when you're flying Continental and you're flight gets cancelled on December 23rd:

I go to the morning of my 5:45pm flight to check in and print my boarding pass. I'm able to do this successfully, and even able to change my seat on the flight. During this process, apparently neglects to inform me that the flight I just checked-in for has already been cancelled by the FAA due to weather conditions in Cleveland.

Luckily, I decide a few minutes later that it would be a good idea to check if my flight is going to be on-time. I go back to and check my flight status.

Status: Cancelled

No instructions about what to do about this are listed.

I call Continental customer support at 1-800-300-1547 and select option one for checking flight status. I'm told that I'm being connected, followed promptly by a busy signal.

I call 1-800-300-1547 again, and again select option one. This time I am put on hold for five minutes and am then connected to Juan.

Juan is obviously not a native English speaker and his hispanic accent makes him somewhat hard to understand. He informs me that my flight is indeed cancelled, that all flights going to Cleveland today are being cancelled, that all flights going to Cleveland tomorrow (Christmas eve) are full, and that all flights going to Cleveland on Christmas day are full.

I ask Juan what I'm supposed to do about this. Juan tells me that I can try to get a flight on December 26th or that I can cancel my itinerary and they will apply the money that I spent to a future Continental flight.

I tell him that this is unacceptable, and I will think about what to do about it. I hang up.

Fifteen minutes later, I call 1-800-300-1547 and select option 2 to speak to a customer service representative. I am once again connected to a busy signal.

I call again, and this time I am put on hold for ten minutes before being connected to a woman who's name I can't pronounce. She is also, obviously, not a native English speaker. I explain to her my situation, and ask her what Continental can do for me. She tells me the same thing that Juan did - flights are completely booked on Christmas Eve and on Christmas. However, she also adds that "they are under consideration." When I ask her what "they are under consideration" means, I gather that "they" are deciding what do do about this and that I may be able to get an earlier flight if I call in later. I thank her and hang up.

At 2:30pm, I call 1-800-300-1547. I'm put on hold for 45 minutes. This is enough time for me to surf on over to and discover that they have no fewer than five available flights for me to choose from on Christmas Eve. $140 fully refundable dollars later, I have a Southwest e-ticket to Cleveland in hand.

Eventually, I'm connected to Darlene at Continental. Darlene is a native English speaker, and although she has the same story to tell as the previous two service reps, she is considerably more apologetic about it. She doesn't seem to know anything about "they are under consideration," but makes the very reasonable suggestion that I might want to stop by the airport because Continental will be more receptive to giving me a full refund on the spot if I speak with someone in person. I thank her and hang up.

On my way home from work, I stop by the airport. Initially, I speak with a male service rep who also looks at the flight schedules in his computer and gives me that "guess you won't be home for Christmas, huh?" look, completely lacking any kind of empathy. He has to run and I am handed off to Ashley. I tell Ashley that I would like a refund for my flight to Cleveland, but if at all possible, I would like to keep my direct flight back to Raleigh on January 2nd. Ashley tells me that this is impossible, that I can get a refund for the whole roundtrip or no refund at all. I tell Ashley to refund me for the entire trip.

I go home, cruise on over to, and $140 fully refundable dollars later I have an e-ticket back to Raleigh for January 2nd.

By comparison, the cheapest one-way flight from Cleveland to Raleigh that is listed on for Jan 2nd is a seven hour, two connection ordeal with stops in Providence, Rhode Island and Newark, New Jersey. This, at a non-refundable price tag of $337.80. If that isn't to one's taste, one could opt to pay a non-refundable $460.10 for a direct flight.

The End

A philosophical question we can raise from this story is "What good is a full-service airline when their core service is worse than a discount airline?"

Consequently, if I were a betting man, I'd buy Southwest (LUV), and sell Continental (CAL).

[Update: I arrived in Cleveland, safe and sound, on Christmas eve. I hope everyone has a merry Christmas!]

In Matters that are otherwise worthwhile

Posted at 07:03 PM | Permanent link

December 22, 2004

Home for the Holidays with wi-fi

Tomorrow after work, I'll be catching a plane for Cleveland. I'll be in town until January 2nd, using the remainder of my vacation for the year.

Owing to the fact that my parents still haven't come into the 21st century with broadband, I have purchased a one-month subscription to T-Mobile wireless, which services most Starbucks and Borders locations nowadays (except, apparently, the new Southpointe Starbucks where I am typing this in right now). So, I'll be pulling an Adam Curry over the next week and a half.

"I need wi-fi; I need really good solid wi-fi; The wi-fi here is unbelievable. Of course, as I already posted on my blog, y'know, when it comes to me and connectivity...I mean, Jesus Christ, after four weeks of living on a modem, this is almost like, y'know, taking the first toke off of a joint after you haven't smoked for four weeks...which, of course...I can't about..."

-- Adam Curry, The Daily Sourcecode 12/20/2004

T-Mobile has a reasonable introductory rate of $9.99 for the first month, but I doubt that I'll be sticking with the service much longer than that. Their normal monthly rates are on par with what I'm already paying for regular broadband to my apartment - not to mention that their pay-as-you-go rate is more pricey than a long distance phone call.

With places such as Panera Bread now offering free wi-fi, I've got to imagine that this is going to change sooner rather than later.

As usually happens when I have time off, look for increased blogging activity.

In Technology and Software

Posted at 10:07 PM | Permanent link

Married in California...apparently

Ana enlightened me with some big news earlier this evening.

21:34:32 srbijanka123: hey josh, u there?
21:34:37 joshstaiger: yeah
21:34:38 joshstaiger: what's up?
21:34:41 srbijanka123: i have a funny story
21:34:50 joshstaiger: really?
21:34:59 srbijanka123: so today i met up w/ meredith and stacey for coffee [friends from high school]
21:35:05 joshstaiger: yah
21:35:19 srbijanka123: and meredith's like oh yeah so i heard joshwalt is married and in california
21:35:20 srbijanka123: LOL
21:35:25 joshstaiger: hahaah
21:35:29 joshstaiger: riiiight
21:35:46 srbijanka123: she's like oh yeah i heard from _TH_ when she ran into him at some bar and he was really drunk
21:35:53 joshstaiger: hahahaha
21:35:54 srbijanka123: and im like uhh well as far as i know hes single and in nc
21:36:04 srbijanka123: and shes like oh woops i told a bunch of ppl
21:36:04 srbijanka123: !
21:36:15 joshstaiger: well, that's probably going to make for some awkward situations
21:36:27 joshstaiger: hahaha
21:36:29 joshstaiger: oh well

In General

Posted at 09:54 PM | Permanent link

December 15, 2004

Contrarian insight on web application design

Philip Greenspun says an internet service lives or dies by the datamodel one designs in an RDBMS, and that how one goes about implementing the individual pages is "intellectually uninteresting and also uninteresting from an engineering point of view":

Paul Graham, on the other hand, thinks that "It is a common mistake to think of Web-based apps as interfaces to databases. Desktop apps aren't just interfaces to databases; why should Web-based apps be any different? The hard part is not where you store the data, but what the software does." Incredibly (!) he claims that at Viaweb, they did not use an RDBMS at all!!

"We didn't use one. We just stored everything in files. The Unix file system is pretty good at not losing your data, especially if you put the files on a Netapp.":

This blows my mind.

Given a little thought, I can see the merits of both points of view. I can see how one can gain extra flexibility from shunning the RDBMS model, but at the same time, one gets so much core functionality for free with an RDBMS that it is hard to pass up... I suppose that it depends on the type of web application you are building, the amount of data involved, and how it relates to each other. I'm going to have to mull this over a bit more.

In Technology and Software

Posted at 01:27 AM | Permanent link

December 05, 2004

Christmas List 2004

Feeding the Scum-Sucking Yuppie Materialist in me, and other unhealthy desires. 'Tis the season:

Interesting to compare to my list last year.

In General

Posted at 09:55 PM | Permanent link

December 01, 2004

Got the blues?

From Dave Winer, circa 1996:

Lots of people experience the blues this time of year. Major stuff comes up. Here's a recipe for curing the blues, or at least giving them a chance to recede.

When you're in a good mood, grab a piece of paper and write down a list of things that make you happy. Activities, people, movies, memories, sensations, songs, whatever turns you on. Put people who listen to you even if you're in a bad mood at the top of the list.

Put the list in a safe place. Now, when you get the blues, go get the list, read it, and do one of the things, even if you're *sure* it will make you even more miserable.

In General

Posted at 11:08 PM | Permanent link