Quick Roundup 453

Thursday, July 30, 2009


Well, I can now add theft to the long list of annoyances that have plagued my move to Boston. Whoever it was that received my desktop after its manufacturer repaired it and then "cross-shipped" it and his computer, has, as I learned when I called yesterday to ask when I could expect it back, "not been cooperating." I sent his in nearly two weeks ago, the day I received it. If I hadn't received mine by now, it should have been on its way, according to my last conversation with them.

In other words, this person ignored the strange boot menu he got when he powered up the "upgrade" that arrived after he sent his in (It dual boots Windows and Linux.), never bothered to call about the error, and then ignored the calls he got requesting him to send it back. In short, he stole someone else's computer and he knew it. He stole from me. At least I removed the data from it before I sent it in and have full, redundant backups, including the hard drive of the machine it replaced.

I'll end up with a computer as good or marginally better in every respect, but I have now been without my main computer since leaving Houston and will be for at least another week, possibly two. And, of course, this has dragged out incrementally, tossing in good time after bad. Had I known I'd be without my computer for six or seven weeks, and had the money to do so, I might have just sucked it up and bought a new one.

The real kicker is that every time I call these clowns, the first thing I hear is an "offer" for an extended warranty! Ummmm... No thanks. And the new machine had better be as good as they say (and work) or I'll mention the manufacturer by name and tell the whole story in more detail all at once.

Dude, I should have gotten another Dell...

Seriously. On-site repairs!?!

Thoughts on Meetings

Over the course of my work life, I have endured my fair share of time-wasting, counterproductive, and inane meetings. Lifehacker's Gina Trapani discussed some concrete ways to get meetings to speed along some time ago. (I doubt whether making people stand is necessarily a good idea.) I recall finding some of the back-and-forth within the comments worthwhile, too.

What reminded me of the Trapani post was a highly original piece (also via Lifehacker) by Paul Graham that I ran into yesterday evening. It explains -- for the benefit of creative types and management alike -- why meetings are hated and feared by the former (although they are necessary).

Graham notes how "makers" and managers use their time differently, and explains it from there. As with many of his essays, this one is so clear and forceful that the point seems obvious after you read it.

Most powerful people are on the manager's schedule. It's the schedule of command. But there's another way of using time that's common among people who make things, like programmers and writers. They generally prefer to use time in units of half a day at least. You can't write or program well in units of an hour. That's barely enough time to get started.

When you're operating on the maker's schedule, meetings are a disaster. A single meeting can blow a whole afternoon, by breaking it into two pieces each too small to do anything hard in. Plus you have to remember to go to the meeting. That's no problem for someone on the manager's schedule. There's always something coming on the next hour; the only question is what. But when someone on the maker's schedule has a meeting, they have to think about it. [bold added]
Do you manage makers? Are you a managed maker? Either way, you will want to read this all the way through. And it's as engaging as it is insightful and useful.

Myths and Realities about Writing

Erin Doland, a professional writer who is editor-in-chief at Unclutterer, describes how she used to imagine life as a writer:
Before I became a full-time writer, I didn’t give much thought to what a realistic day at the office would be for me. I had an idealized image of a writer in my mind -- one that included afternoon drinks at the White Horse Tavern with Jack Kerouac and Anais Nin -- and most of my wayward fantasies didn’t actually include writing.
This reminds me of two other, more realistic pictures of writing. One, by Tom Shone of The New Yorker, takes a sobering look at "writers who drink." And, on a more positive note, Doland talks about "Having it all."

Lessons for Activists

Amit Ghate points to a story about how to fight off a bureaucracy, and Moe Lane of Red State tells us "How to ruin a professional agitation group's day." (HT: Instapundit)

-- CAV


: Corrected an attribution and made one other minor edit.


Andrew Dalton said...

"And, of course, this has dragged out incrementally, tossing in good time after bad. Had I known I'd be without my computer for six or seven weeks, and had the money to do so, I might have just sucked it up and bought a new one."

This reminds me of my experience buying furniture (from Levitz, now defunct - heh) a few years ago. Some of the pieces were not in the warehouse, but the salesman assured me that they would be delivered a couple of weeks later.

When that time had passed, I received a letter that bumped the deliver date by another month. And when that time was approaching, I received another letter bumping the date again.

I later discovered that Levitz had to ship the furniture from New York to California, and that they were waiting to have enough orders to fill the truck. In other words, their projected delivery dates were meaningless, and the actual delivery was going to take place at their leisure.

So I finally did get my furniture after about 10 weeks, but I might not have agreed to purchase backordered items if I had known that it would take so long.

Rational Education said...


The "Thoughts on meetings" was a extremely helpful post and timely reading for me. I am dealing with lawyers, who can be masters at obfuscation - perhaps in attempts to earn their bread and better, which works in "billable hours". I literally had a frozen brain from a two hour "meeting" with my lawyer on Friday, and frustrated as hell! You go to a lawyer hoping to be able to resolve issues that you were coming to stalemates on your own, only to realize that has made you $$$ poorer, and you are still at square one and no solutions in hand!!

Anyone on this blog have knowledge of any lawyers in Raleigh/NC that remotely work at their professions on rational, objectivist principles please forward info.....thanks in advance.

Gus Van Horn said...


Empty promises like you describe by "pragmatic" salesmen are near the top of my list of "ways that modern philosophy annoys me" -- right up there with thieves like the one I described, who probably don't even think it's "really" theft since he and I will "win" with new computers.

Good to hear that Levitz is defunct, but I guess I'll run the name of any place I want to buy furniture from though a search engine with terms like "back order" before I buy...


I wish I knew a lawyer or two so I could get a referral for you, but I don't. I hope having your comment posted here ends up helping you.

(For anyone who might be able to help, you can probably contact Jasmine though the comments of her blog.)


Mike said...

Now that it's all sunk money, time to start over on the right track and get yourself a Mac! :)

Echo the Levitz complaint... shady as palms, those guys.

Jasmine, well you won't find a listing in Martindale-Hubbell identifying attorneys as Objectivist, more's the pity. One way that might work would be to visit your local shooting sports retailer. Such establishments tend to teach concealed-carry classes and so forth, and thus many of them maintain a list of attorneys who are "gun owner sympathetic." There is a lot of overlap between that class of attorneys and the class you're looking for. It's no guarantee... you'll find some drifting libertarians too... but it's a good sight better than throwing darts at a page full of phone book ads.

Gus Van Horn said...

"Now that it's all sunk money, time to start over on the right track and get yourself a Mac!"

Not quite. I haven't spent anything so far, and the new machine, which will have a different video card than the one that failed will do me fine, if it's like the other one, which I was told it is. The time is sunk, and that has hurt, but at this point, another week or so won't kill me.

Macs do have a reputation for higher quality components, but how long do you really need a PC to last? Furthermore, this IS the only time I've ever had a component failure happen within three years of purchase and, at the risk of sounding like an OS fanatic, I find the Mac OS GUI annoying. (In its defense, at least it is Unix under the hood. :-P)

I'm pretty much a Linux man, and "do Windows" only when paid to do so. You can get hardware components for far less on an Intel platform. Forking out the extra dough for a Mac whose OS I'd want to replace anyway doesn't make sense for my purposes.

Mike T said...

Yo, Gus, the article about novelists who sober up is by Tom Shone, not Richard Yates (who was instead mentioned in the article). But man, a bottle of whiskey a day? That's like being a permanent undergrad at one of those big Midwestern top-ten party schools.

Jim May said...

Gus: backups aren't enough. Make sure that you didn't have any sensitive information sitting on there. If you've used that machine to log into online banking etc. you should start changing passwords soon. Assume a compromise.

Mike: you'll probably find some screaming religionists too among that group... but overall, I agree with you that gun-friendly lawyers are a more fertile ground to search for a more rational than average lawyer.

I wonder if that is related to the fact that conservatives, compartmentalized as always, often invoke far better arguments when defending the Second Amendment and gun rights than they do on any other topic. It's one of my secret weapons to be used them; use their pro-gun arguments against them on the topics where they are statist, e.g. the military draft, or immigration.

Gus Van Horn said...


Thanks for catching my error.

I swear I wasn't trying to write like one of those novelists -- or a permanent undergrad from a midwestern party school!


Thanks for the heads-up. That's probably a safe bet, so to speak.