Best comeback of all time?

Once at a social gathering, Gladstone said to Disraeli, “I predict, Sir, that you will die either by hanging or of some vile disease”. Disraeli replied, “That all depends, sir, upon whether I embrace your principles or your mistress.”

Is this the best English language comeback of all time? Got a better one? Post it as a comment.


“No” means “No”, maybe

The interaction between the sales department and the IT department can be a very interesting thing. A lot of it relates to how you view the word “no.”

In IT, when we say “no,” we usually have a really good reason. The usual suspects for saying “no” are:

  • Something is going to fail
  • It won’t do what you want
  • It will be ridiculously expensive
  • It will be an horrendous amount of work for everyone.

I don’t want to say “no,” but when I do, I really mean it. I’m not being capricious, rash, or nasty (most of the time.) I have thought about it or have enough direct experience that I know what will happen. “No” is a conclusion , a result of rational and reasoned thought. That’s a lot of what IT folks get paid for.It has been my experience with better salespeople that “no” is the place where negotiations start. In their line of business, they are trained to overcome the “no” to get to where they think they need to be.

Thinking about it a little further, it is not only salespeople, but sometimes lawyers and anyone who have read too many books on the art of the deal or negotiations. Those folks seem to cluster in the sales department more than other areas, but they can exist in almost any department.

The IT department comes off as being hard-nose blankety-blanks who always get in the way of progress and the salespeople come off as selfish, not listening or not understanding basic English. Neither is true, but it certainly feels true to both sides.

I think part of the issue is also how you view decisions and opinions. When asked a question or for an opinion regarding a subject for which I am responsible, I take it very seriously. It may not take a lot of time, but the answer you get from me will be my best effort to make what you want happen to happen in the best possible way. Sometimes, given certain restraints, you are better off not doing it the way it was presented.
When the negotiations over “no” start, I can get to the point where I feel that you asked for my somewhat expert opinion, I gave it to you, and the negotiations are not adding any new information that will change my mind. You asked for my opinion, I gave it. Normally, you are not going to be able to negotiate me off of a technical concern. If you want to overrule me, that’s OK too. I understand that I am not going to win every battle. Just don’t ever think you are going to win the technical argument. When I get overruled over a “no”, that’s usually not fun, because of the reasons for “no” outlined above. I just have to change the parameters to mitigate the damage or live with consequences. That’s life. It’s OK.

It took me the longest time to understand what was happening. Now that I do, I try to remember what “no” means. That’s something I thought I learned when I was about 2 or 3. Live and learn, I guess. TomOriginally written on 25 June 2007, heavily modified 26 June 2007, 7:00am PDT

$200 trash cans

I was at Linens ‘n Things last night. Anne was looking for something, I forget what. In touring the store, I noticed a standard, everyday kitchen trash can for $200. Now, who really needs a $200 trash can? If you want a trash can that expensive, I would normally say that’s your business, and why should I care?

There is a problem, though. Just by the fact that there are $200 trash cans in the market, all of a sudden almost all the prices of standard trash cans have gone up. Because in comparison to $200, they are still inexpensive. I have been noticing this a lot recently, where the entire market for an item is being pulled up by the craziness at the top.

Stop the insanity! Don’t buy the $200 trash cans or the $30+ lb Yukon River salmon. It raises the entire market and we end up paying more for normal wares. So you buying that expensive stuff you really don’t need costs me money. Cut it out.


p.s. If you are going to buy crazy stuff like this, please do it for wine, beer, liquor, cigars, cigarettes or a junket to Las Vegas. I don’t participate in those markets. So I would much rather you buy a $200 bottle of wine than that stupid trash can. Yes, I am being petty and greedy. That’s what free markets are all about.

Quick Browser Comparison

So Apple thinks Safari is a good browser. Internet Explorer is the 500-pound gorilla. FireFox is the upstart, open-source, viva la revolucion, browser. Opera is, well, Opera. Are there differences? Does it matter?

In order, yes there are some differences and it sort of matters.

They all are going to take you to the same pages. They all are going to let you search. So in that sense, it’s not that big a deal.

I already had IE7 loaded on my computer, so I downloaded the newest version of Safari (beta), FireFox ( and Opera (9.21). They were installed within 30 minutes of each other. All 3 installed flawlessly, including picking up some tricky proxy settings from the Internet Explorer connections settings.

There are differences in how pages display. While this is somewhat subjective, I think that, in order, the displays go to Internet Explorer, then FireFox, then Opera, then Safari pretty far behind. The links are a sample screen shot of the same page in each of the browsers.

  • Internet Explorer has the advantage in that a lot of sites are designed to look good in IE over anything else. It is never the worst looking page, and usually the best looking overall. Sometimes Safari does a better job especially with larger headline and caption fonts. It is not as fast as FireFox to refresh a page, but faster than Opera and Safari.
  • FireFox does a good job on matching the vertical and horizontal spacing of IE, but uses a slightly different font set that may not be as appealing. Usually, body text is fine, but larger headlines and captions can be pretty bad – sometimes the worst of the bunch. It is the fastest to refresh a page.
  • Opera displays the fonts better than FireFox, but it’s vertical spacing is way different than FireFox or Internet Explorer. It is pretty fast, but not noticeable faster than IE, and slower than FireFox. It also does not have a home page button out of the box. You have to add it to your toolbar.
  • Safari for Windows is a beta, so I am not that upset yet. It has the most inconsistent display fonts. Some pages look great (maybe the best of the bunch) and some pages look horrible (the worse of the bunch.) The vertical spacing is better than Opera, but still tighter than FireFox and IE. It had the sllloooowwwwest refresh rate of any of them. It also does not have a home page button out of the box. You have to add it to your toolbar.

So, what does this mean?

  1. Internet Explorer is still the browser to beat.
  2. FireFox could be the browser to do it, but it is just short of slaying the Microsoft beast. I can certainly see using this as your primary browser.
  3. Opera is still pretty niche. It’s vertical spacing problem really can mess up the comparisons.
  4. If the full release version of Safari is not a vast improvement over this beta version, skip it.

Tomp.s. This is ongoing project. I will make updates to this post or add comments as appropriate

Hey, I’m still at this

It is surprising to me that I am still blogging. This was supposed to be a little demonstration project. I had no plans to continue blogging, just as I had no plans to stop at any particular time.

One of the things that I have struggled over in this medium is how much to share and how much to keep to myself. This is becoming a generational issue. Most kids today (mine included) have no compunction at all on what is said to them, about them, or by them on websites, or any other media. There seems to be a more limited view on privacy. This is not a horrible thing, but it is difficult for me.

As I have state previously, I am an introvert. Even doing something as simple as this blog is somewhat of a departure. I have no delusions of grandeur on what this means. It is not fantastic writing by any stretch of the imagination. Yes, I can put a few words together into a cogent sentence, but it does not seem to me to be much more than that. All this means is that I paid attention in English and Lit classes in high school and college.

This platform allows for both a sense of connection and a sense of anonymity or a degree of separation. I don’t have to look you in the eye when you read this. You don’t have to sit there listening to me babble on. You can read this or not. It’s your choice, and I’ll never know.

I have always been guilty of “sins of ommision” rather than “sins of commission”. Sorry about that – Catholic upbringing rearing its’ ugly head. This can seem like a much easier path through life. The less you do, the less are responsible for. At some point, though, this is no longer helpful. Some people never reach that. Lucky for them, I guess.

When you reach that point, the cost of not doing exceeds the cost of doing. This is still a new concept for me. I still define myself it terms of what I don’t do, instead of what I do. The fact that I am still writing about that and telling you this means that things are different.


Left-handed vengeance is mine!

Anne loves me. She got me a left-handed can opener. Actually what happened is that she was buying her daughter a can opener (she is also left-handed) and they have a special pricing deal on two instead of one. Hey, I can choose to believe that she was looking for me and her daughter is getting the second one. We are all entitled to our own delusions.

We are looking into a kitchen remodel at Anne’s house. This is going to be a challenge, because we are going to have to set up a truly ambidextrous kitchen. This is much harder than it looks.

For instance, there are a set of cooktops that have all the burner controls on the right side. This is plain old dangerous for a left-hander. Under normal circumstances, it’s not a problem. The problem comes along when things get crazy, like a boil-over or small pan fire or something like that. A right-handed person would reach the controls unimpeded.

A left-handed person, in an emergency like that, would use their dominant hand, cross over the burning cooktop, get burned, still reaching, turn the knob the wrong way, possibly adding more fuel, then finally turn off the burner in a very unnatural motion.

I call those the burn-ward cooktops. Those we can rule out immediately. Now we move on to some of the more insidious things – like knobs that OK as far as location is concerned, but are designed to turn on and off with the right hand. I still have turn my wrist into this strange position and turn it in the unnatural direction. This is a pain (literally, sometimes) but I can almost live with it.

There are a few cooktops (monstrously expensive) that actually use a slide control, like you would see on an audio mixing board. These are sweet!

Here’s something that’s a little crazy. I can’t tell my left hand from my right when asked. If someone tells me to turn right or left, I have a 50 – 50 chance of being correct. But, if the same person under the same circumstances tells me to turn North or South, my accuracy is up to 95%. Port and starboard is great. Inland or toward the water. Windward or Leeward. All those are great. Just don’t say left or right.

That’s one reason I don’t bother with voice-activated GPS direction systems. They use “left” and “right” rather than direction. I have no idea if this is a left-hand thing or just a crazy Tom thing.

Back to the can opener.

These are just about the most handed manual devices in the kitchen. I have been liberated from pain and contortion. Bend to my will, lowly canned goods! You are no match for me. I am now the master of my pantry.


I never sang with The Sopranos

I have never watched more than 2 minutes of The Sopranos, or Seinfeld, or Friends or Lost or just about any other “event” show that you can think of in the recent past. Don’t get me wrong. I watch plenty of TV and I have cable and DVR, so I am not a TV Luddite.

These shows end up requiring a commitment of time and, to some very slight degree, effort to keep up with their premise and characters or whatever their particular draw is. I just haven’t been that interested in doing that with a TV show. More accurately, I haven’t found the right show recently.

Maybe it has to do with getting older. I guess I am not the prime demo any more for what happens on TV. I am well past the 18 to 34 age range. But I would have thought there would be some weekly show that I can’t (or don’t want to) live without.

I will watch the occasional House episode, but that’s about it. Even that get old pretty quick. Forget about the silliness of the “reality” shows or contest shows or the silly game shows like Deal or No Deal. You watch that 5 times and you’ve just about seen all you need to see.

There have been shows that have been “my shows” in the past, so I know that it’s possible, it just isn’t happening. That’s OK. It’s just a thing.

Looking back over the last 5 or 10 years, there have only been two shows that really fell into the category of “my show.” One was The West Wing, which wouldn’t be a big shock to anybody who knows me, and the second was, believe it or not, Buffy the Vampire Slayer.


Streetcar named Banana

There once was this street-car conductor who was doing his job, going down the street, driving the street car. Ringing the bell, going ding-ding-ding down the street. When suddenly, a woman jumps in front of the train. He tries to stop, but can’t. The streetcar hits the woman.

There is a big commotion. The police arrive, the ambulance comes and takes her to the hospital. She has four hours of surgery, and then she dies.

The city goes crazy. “How could this happen?” “That conductor is a murderer”. There are allegations and investigations. The streetcar conductor is arrested. There is this huge trial that goes on for weeks. There are witnesses, charts, graphs, photographs of the crime scene and just about everything you could think of. After a full week of jury deliberations, the streetcar conductor is convicted. He is sentenced to the death penalty.

After a length appeals process, the day finally comes when the streetcar conductor is going to be executed. The prisoner is asked for his request for a last meal. He says “I would like a red banana.”

Now, red bananas only grow in deepest, darkest Africa every other year. This was not one of those years, so they postponed the execution until they could send one of the guards to fetch the red banana from deepest, darkest Africa. So finally the guard returns from deepest, darkest Africa with a red banana in hand. They strap the streetcar conductor to the electric chair, and hand him the red banana. He peels the banana very carefully halfway down the length of the red banana. He places the red banana in his right hand and, without eating it, tells the executioner to go ahead.

The executioner is really upset at having to wait all this time for the red banana from deepest, darkest Africa. Then having the conductor not even eat the darn thing was maddening. In this jurisdiction, they use the electric chair. He throws the switch as hard as he can.

The red banana glows and glows and then it drops from the streetcar conductor’s hand. The executioner is thinking that there goes another one. But Wait! The prisoner is alive. The executioner is beside himself!

Now there is a codicil of law that states that if you survive the sentence, you are a free person. Strange, but true. The streetcar conductor is released and even gets his old job back.

Well, wouldn’t you know that three years to the day of the first accident, the streetcar conductor is driving the streetcar down the same street, ring the same bell, “ding ding ding.” Guess what? He hits another person. The person dies again. He is charged again. This time the trial takes less than a week, The appeals are dispensed with, and he is sentenced to die again.

The day arrives. They ask what he would like for his last meal. He says “I would like a red banana.”
Luckily for the everyone concerned, it happened to be the right year for red bananas. The send a guard to deepest, darkest Africa. So the guard returns from deepest, darkest Africa with a red banana in hand. They strap the streetcar conductor to the electric chair, and hand him the red banana. He peels the banana very carefully halfway down the length of the red banana. He places the red banana in his right hand and, without eating it, tells the executioner to go ahead.

The executioner, really upset about the last time, has rigged all the electricity for the entire prison through the chair. He throws the switch and the prison goes dark except for the unbelievable glow of the red banana. The red banana falls to the floor.

He turns the switch off and the lights return to the prison and the streetcar conductor is still alive! He is released, and somehow gets his old job back.

Well, he was driving the streetcar down the same street again, ringing the same bell again, and he hits and kills another person. Short trial. No appeals. Into the chair he goes. He is once again asked about his last request and he says “I would like a red banana.”

The executioner says “Fine. The last time this happened, we made sure that we got two bananas. Here you go.” And the executioner hands the prisoner the red banana. He peels the banana very carefully halfway down the length of the red banana. He places the red banana in his right hand and, without eating it, tells the executioner to go ahead.

This time, the executioner has wired the entire city’s electrical grid into the chair. He throws the switch. The entire city is plunged into darkness. The red banana glows so bright that it looks like the sun! No one had ever seen anything like it. The red banana drops from the conductor’s hand.
The execution thinks that this guy must be toast, and turns off the switch. The guy is still alive! The executioner is now crying on his knees.

He finally asks the prisoner just what is going on. “How can you still be alive?!?!?” To which the prisoner replied “I guess I am just a lousy conductor.”


p.s. I heard this 30 years ago and it has always been groan-worthy ever since.

Crosswords and Spaghetti Sauce

I kind of like doing crossword puzzles. It’s a family thing. My mom used to do the New York Times Sunday crossword puzzle every Sunday afternoon (or so it seemed) while making her excellent spaghetti sauce. I still have never come close to that sauce. I don’t have the patience, or talent, for that I guess.While never as good as my mom on the crossword front either, I occasionally will do the daily crossword puzzle in the L.A. Times. But I never have a pen or a pencil. I don’t find them evil per se, but I never have one around. I can go weeks without picking up a writing device. But I still want to do the crosswords. So I now do them without pen or pencil. I just do them in my head. This is very strange. So are the looks I get in the lunchroom when I do it. Tom