Mail bag

Before we get started, two announcements:

1) A friend of mine is looking for someone with invitations for Google Analytics. This is a website-traffic monitoring service that is used for marketing analysis. Like Gmail when it first started, the service is currently available only if you have an invitation from a current member. So if you have an extra invite you don’t mind sharing, she’d appreciate it – email paul@paulryburn.com if you have one and I’ll pass it on.

2) Anyone doing an NCAA tournament bracket pool? I wouldn’t mind getting in on the action if you are.

All right. Down to business. Let’s open up the electronic mailbag.

Subj: ru happy with the size of ur thing
Subj: Pharr7macy news
Subject: Pharammacy news
Subj: GF complaining in the bed/room
Subj: natural in largement
Subj: Phaeermacy news
Subj: GF not happy with ur per4mance
Subj: Super Hot St0ck p1cks, get in early
Subj: SHORT D1CCK, EN LARGE YOURSELF UP TO 2 FULL INCHES
Subj: Ph@rrmacyy news
Subj: Pha2armacy news
Subj: how’s ur GF, satisfied?

Hey, I just noticed something. These messages are not sent to paul@paulryburn.com, my real address. They’re sent to (some random address)@paulryburn.com. In fact, they’re often sent to a bunch of random addresses @paulryburn.com, which is why I sometimes receive 40 copies of the same e-mail message.

However, my website is now hosted by GoDaddy, and guess what I found in their e-mail account management tools! There’s a little checkbox that reads “Make paul@paulryburn.com a catch-all for this domain”… uncheck that box and all that spam goes AWAY! I love it!!!

I made the change about 2 hours ago. Now, before, in a 2-hour period I’d receive about 40 e-mails. In the 2 hours since the change I’ve received a grand total of THREE e-mails – a test from myself, and two from friends. NO SPAM!

So, this is probably the end of the “Mail Bag” regular feature in my blog. Hope you’ve enjoyed it, and rest easy knowing that other regular features like “What the Bums Are Drinking this Week” are still around for your reading enjoyment.

Sigh… if only I could eliminate the bums with a checkbox…

New job

Quite unexpectedly, I have a new job. I wasn’t even looking for one – I’m quite happy at my current company, ACB, where I’m learning a lot and the work environment is very easygoing.

So a week ago Thursday, when a recruiter who had seen my resume online called to tell me about a web developer position with the Memphis City Schools, I said, “I’m sorry, but I’m not interested.”

She said, “Well, at least let me tell you what the pay rate is.” The rate she quoted was MUCH higher than what I make now – about 80% higher. Given that information, I couldn’t help but be interested, so I told her to go ahead and schedule me for an interview.

Last Monday – a week ago today – the recruiter called at 8 AM and asked if I could make an 11:30 interview. Despite the short notice, I was able to do it on my lunch hour. I went in and met with the application development manager. He explained why he needed to hire someone: Many of their apps are still mainframe-based, and it’s time to convert them to Web/Intranet solutions using ASP.NET. He liked the fact that I had a background in education, and that I had almost 2 years’ experience in ASP.NET and SQL Server 2000. He said I’d have a lot of bright people available as resources to learn from, and I’d get to work on some exciting projects. I was very impressed and thought it seemed like a good operation.

A couple of days later, the recruiter called, and said the City Schools would like to offer me the position, to start in two weeks. I told them no. My current job asks for people at my level to give 4 weeks’ notice upon leaving. When I started working for them, that seemed a bit excessive, but now I can totally understand the need for it. I manage relationships with a couple of large corporate clients, and I’ll really need all four weeks to transfer knowledge to other people in the company and make sure programming issues don’t fall through the cracks. Of course, they can’t require the 4 weeks’ notice, but this is a company that has treated me very well, and I’m not about to screw them over.

So, last Friday the recruiter called back again and said she had talked with the City Schools, and they’d be willing to let me start in 4 weeks. Having agreed upon that, I accepted the position.

Other than the money, the job is appealing for another reason – the job is at the Board of Education on Hollywood, at the far eastern edge of Midtown. So I’ll have a 4-mile commute to work as opposed to my current 17-mile ride. I’ll also have an hour lunch break (compared to my current half hour) so I’ll have time to re-familiarize myself with Midtown.

On the other hand, I won’t be able to wear jeans at the new job (at least not from what I saw when I went to interview). Don’t think I’ll have to wear a tie though. Also, I’ll have to be there at 8, compared to 9 for my current job. For a night owl like me that’s really going to hurt.

But the biggest downside of all was what I had to do today: I had to meet with my current boss and give him my resignation. Unlike other companies in the past where I’ve looked forward to leaving, I’m actually sad to quit ACB. The boss is a guy I really do like and respect, the co-workers are all people I get along with, and like I’ve said all along, I’ve learned a great deal there. The IT department is already a man short, and I hope my leaving won’t screw up their plans in a major way. I have a feeling it will though. Nevertheless, my boss was gracious in accepting my resignation. He praised my work and made me feel really good about my contributions at ACB, and wished me well in the new job.

My last day at ACB is Friday, April 7, and I start with the City Schools Monday, April 10.

If any web developers are looking for work there are now TWO openings in my current company’s department. E-mail me (paul at paulryburn dot com) for more details.

Back tomorrow with an “update” post. Laundry and sleep are on the agenda for the rest of the evening.

Deal of the Week

Short and sweet this week. 1 GB iPod nano at Circuit City this week for $149. First time I’ve seen the 1 GB nano for under $199. Here’s a chance to own the Cadillac of MP3 players at a discount price. The 1 GB will store about 200 songs and is only slightly bigger than a credit card.

(Edited Monday, March 13 to add:) Looks like this is a new model, not an existing model at a discount price. Up until recently, the smallest-capacity nano was the 2 GB at $199.

However, I have another Deal to make up for it. This week at Circuit City you can get a SanDisk 1 GB Cruzer Micro USB drive for $34.99, after two mail-in rebates. That’s half off the retail price of $69.99.

Sorry about the iPod confusion, and I’ll see you next Sunday with another Deal.

Falwell’s in good company… NOT

A couple of days ago I posted my results from OKCupid’s Politics Quiz. (See the March 9 blog entry). It graphs the results, with “social permissiveness” on the x-axis and “economic permissiveness” on the y-axis.

The site has a copy of the graph with pictures of famous people, showing where they would likely be if they took the quiz. Given my results (76% socially permissive, 28% economically permissive) my point on the graph would be right in the middle of Hillary Clinton’s forehead.

I looked at some of the other famous faces of the graph. At the end of the graph representing 0% social permissiveness, there’s a pic of Rev. Jerry Falwell. And who’s right there next to him? Osama bin Laden, Joseph Stalin, and Darth Vader.

That’s some good company you have there, Jerry… NOT.

Entrapment

This is the light at Main and Union, at appoxmiately 3:30 in the morning on Friday night/Saturday morning. I know you can’t tell, but the light is flashing red in all four directions (Main Street is a pedestrian mall, so that means it is basically a stop sign for Union). If you zoom in on the pic (I’ve uploaded it at full resolution – about 1 MB – dialup users be warned) you can see that there is a police car parked outside Cafe Samovar, waiting to catch people who don’t come to a full stop.

This is the only time that light is EVER set to 4-way red – when a cop is watching the intersection. Same goes for another intersection downtown, Linden and Walnut, which is a major thoroughfare for downtown into midtown. If you ever see one of these lights flashing red, I recommend coming to a COMPLETE stop – stop, 1, 2, 3, go – before continuing.

With all the murders, robberies, rapes, and other violent crimes in Memphis, I really have to question whether the Memphis Police Department is making the best use of its time and resources, switching traffic lights to flashing red as bait to catch minor violators.

If anyone from MPD reads this and would like to respond, I promise to publish your full, unedited answer in my blog.

I don’t usually take these cutesy-poo quizzes but…

You are a
Social Liberal
(76% permissive)

and an…

Economic Liberal
(28% permissive)

You are best described as a:

Strong Democrat

Link: The Politics Test on Ok Cupid
Also: The OkCupid Dating Persona Test

Thanks to Kat, whose blog led me to this quiz.

Speaking of politics… The Southern Republican Leadership Conference will be in town from today through Sunday, which means we’ll have people like Karl Rove and Bill Frist downtown this weekend, discussing ways to further enrich themselves and their cronies (because that’s what “leadership” means to Republicans). Democracy for Memphis will be hosting a democratic counter-event at the Bon-Ton Cafe, 150 Monroe (between Second and Third near the ballpark), at 3:30 pm Friday, March 10. I unfortunately won’t be able to attend due to the demands of the rat race.

My extra-long-life battery from BatteryGeek arrived last night, and I look forward to putting it to the test to see if it can really deliver the 8 hours of laptop power that the site claims. I plan on spending a lot of time next week sitting in Quetzal, the new Internet cafe at Union and Marshall, working on my new website idea, and having the battery will mean that I’m not limited to the seats next to power outlets.

I’ll be revealing more details about my new website soon. I registered an awesome domain name last night, and things are rolling with that project.

In other news… the Center City Commission has unveiled a new initiative to encourage people on the streets downtown to say NO to panhandlers. Here’s a link to a story in the Commercial Appeal. They’re exactly right – most of the bums who beg for money downtown are not homeless, and as soon as you give them money and get out of sight they head to the liquor store to spend your “donation.” Giving them money really isn’t the answer. For a better understanding of the homeless – people who are not bums, but who are legitimately homeless and need a hand – and what you can do to help, I recommend checking out The Homeless Guy’s blog.

All right… time for an exciting, fun-filled 8 hours of sitting in a cubicle. Yay!

Tuesday update

Sorry for the lack of posts recently. My conversation with my friend Angie Dawn last week has led me to an idea for a new website, an idea that has a lot of potential if done right. The thing is, though, the idea is somewhat time-sensitive – it will be a lot more successful if I launch in March or April than if I launch in July. So I’ve been spending most of my free time working on that. More details on the site coming soon. I’m shooting for March 31 or before as the launch date.

I’m stepping back from all weekly activities (trivia teams, poker nights) until this site is complete, so the Rapscallions won’t be seeing me at the Saucer tonight.

Ended up at the Hi-Tone Saturday night with some friends for the WEVL benefit show. Ran into my friend and fellow blogger Serrabee who I haven’t seen in a while. She writes a blog called “Rock’n’Roll Minor Planets.” The pool tables at the Hi-Tone pissed me off though. One was out of order, and the other one (the one we were playing on) should have been. Every time someone scratched, the cue ball didn’t come back out – it went in with the sunk balls, and we had to go to the (crowded) bar and get assistance from the bartender. What’s the point in having pool tables at all if you’re not going to keep them in good working order?

Looking for something to do this coming Sunday evening (March 12)? Movement in Metal, an art opening to benefit the Project:Motion dance collective, will be going on from 6 to 9 pm at the Vue Gallery, 2160 Young in Cooper-Young. The show features the photography of Monty Shane – specifically, pictures of the dancers. Wine and hors d’ouvres will be served by dish, LoLo’s Table, and I. Siegel Culinary Productions. $10 donation at the door. This is going to be that exceedingly rare event that actually gets me to leave Downtown on a Sunday evening. If the weather’s nice, I’ll ride my bike over there.

Surprising fact: My blog is not the most popular page on my site. It drew 126 hits yesterday; the calculator that I wrote for college students to compute their grades drew 213. The calculator is going to be involved in the new site I’m planning.

All right… that’s it for now. Still getting this server situation straightened out as I move to GoDaddy, so posts could still disappear and then reappear for the rest of this week.

Deal of the Week

Last week, the best I could come up with was a bag of Meow Mix. This week, I had a hard time limiting this column to five real Deals. So let’s get down to business and see what we’ve got…

Circuit City has a 17″ Proview LCD monitor on sale for $179, after a $60 mail-in rebate. This is an extremely good price on a flat-panel monitor, and I’m considering taking advantage of this myself to replace my aging 19″ tube monitor. I won’t be losing screen real estate – a 17″ flat-panel has about as much viewable area as a 19″ traditional CRT. Reviews at Circuit City’s site online indicate that this is a good entry-level flat-panel monitor at an excellent price.

I have a friend who has ties to the monitor biz, and he agreed that the Proview 17″ at $179 is a good price, but “the 19″ at $239 (regularly $299, also $60 off after rebate) is even better.”

Also at Circuit City, you can get the iPod shuffle this week for $69.99. I’m not a huge fan of the shuffle – I want a screen display and the ability to make playlists – but for those of you who have to have an Apple product, this is the first time I’ve ever seen the shuffle for less than $99.

Moving on to Best Buy… you can get a 32″ Westinghouse LCD HDTV for $999. Regular price is $1299, so with $300 instant savings it’s on sale for under a grand. By contrast, there was also a Sony 32″ in the same ad for $1000 more, so you can see that this is a good opportunity to pick up a 32″ screen at a bargain.

Also at Best Buy, you can pick up a 1 GB USB 2.0 SanDisk FlashDrive for $39.99 after Instant Rebate and Mail-In Rebate. This unit retails for $79.99, so you’re getting it for half-off – $40 total savings.

If you want more features than just your basic 1 GB drive, head over to Office Depot. They have a Swiss Army 1 GB flash memory drive – but this is not only a Flash Drive but a Swiss Army knife as well – for $49.99.

OfficeMax has a Brother P-Touch PT-65 Labeler for $14.99. This is also half-off – you save $15 off the normal purchase price, and for this item there are no rebates.

I’m going to wrap up this post by going back to Best Buy, where they have a Toshiba progressive scan DVD player for $59. I’ve been told this is not a Deal, in the sense that this is regular price for this model. However, this unit comes with a personal recommendation from a DVD expert who happens to be a friend of mine. He has owned four DVD players “and this is the best one ever, by far.” He says it’s easier to work than other DVD players, especially regarding the remote. He also tells me that this player does an unusually good job with foreign films with subtitles. “Really simple to work, no problems,” he says. You can get a DVD player for $20 cheaper, he tells me, but it will be a piece of junk. For a quality DVD player at a fair price, the Toshiba appears to be the way to go.

Whew… I feel like I just ran a marathon, but those are this week’s Deals. See you next Sunday.

Mail bag

Let’s see what we’ve got in the electronic mailbag today.

Subj: get ur watch at our quality internet store

If you’re a history fan like me, this is great news. There have been wristwatches that are tributes to Mickey Mouse, Snoopy, and Star Wars. But now there’s an Ur Watch, a watch that pays tribute to the ancient city of Ur in southern Mesopotamia, in the area of modern Basra, Iraq. Ur was the site of one of the earliest known civilizations, from about 3000 to 500 BC. The ancient Code of Hammurabi originated here. Here’s a link to a Wikipedia article about Ur. I can’t wait to order one of these watches.

Subj: Abolish all you are indebted without paying another dime
Date: 1/6/2030

Wow. A message from the future. Kinda makes me sad to learn that I’ll be in debt 24 years from now. But there’s a lesson to be learned here. This is what will happen if you pay minimum monthly payments on your credit card. Back when I was teaching, I actually did this as an Excel demo for my class one time. I think we did $10,000 at 19.9% interest with a 2% minimum payment, and it took over 30 years to pay off.

I’d like to thank this voice from the future for reminding us how evil credit cards are. Time to take Dave Ramsey’s advice: get a pair of scissors and perform plastic surgery!

Subj: enjoy the shopping experience at our online e store

When the bass is thumping and everyone is dancing and people are rolling on E, the world is a beautiful place. So be sure to log onto the Internet before you head out to your next rave. Although, I don’t know… some of these Internet stores can be… you know, shady. Why would you want to take a chance on buying Ecstasy (or “E”, as the cool raver kids call it) online when you can get it from a reputable local businessman like the 19-year-old kid with the visor, pacifier, candy necklace, and baggy pants?

Subj: paul Have you checked out the ratse
From: Mrotgage Xpert

I sure have.

Last Sunday there were three ratse running around near the dumpster in the alley next to Sleep Out’s. Big ones, too. I think this is a sign that Memphis is turning into a real urban environment – we now have ratse that approach the size of the ones found in New York City’s subway tunnels.

Of course, good-sized ratse can also be sighted near Memphis’ tourist capital, Beale Street. They tend to scurry around Silky O’Sullivan’s courtyard, where Silky puts out food for his goats.

(I didn’t want to be rude and tell Mr. Expert that there is no “e” at the end of “rats.”)

Subj: try the miracle new weight loss herb
From: Handball H. Unworthiness

Mr. Unworthiness – with all due respect, I’m going to make a prediction about your personal experience with this herb. I think for a short while, you’ll take it and see minor success, losing a few pounds in the process. But then a crisis (real or imagined) will come up in your life, and you’ll turn right back to what’s familiar – food – and gain the weight back.

You see, Mr. Unworthiness, I can tell from your name that your weight problem will never be cured by pills or herbs or diets alone. You’ve got to address the underlying cause – low self-esteem. I recommend that you check out the self-help section in the bookstore, or consider seeing a therapist or psychiatrist.

By the way – I also gather from your name that your parents must be fans of the sport of handball. I have a couple of friends who play at the local gym, and they’re always looking for opponents. Why don’t you e-mail me your parents’ contact info, and I’ll pass it on.

Subj: increase the size of your manhood 3-4 inches

I didn’t respond to the first 133,718 penis enlargement e-mails I received, so chances are I won’t respond to this one either. Let’s face it – the days of bulk e-mail marketing to promote this kind of product are over.

But I am not one to criticize without offering a better solution… so how about celebrity endorsements? According to this Wikipedia article, professional wrestler Robert Fuller (who wrestled as The Tennessee Stud, Col. Rob Parker, and Tennessee Lee) has a 13-inch penis. Maybe the makers of enlargement products could sign him to an endorsement contract. They could probably get him for cheap – from what I’ve read, the guy is perpetually broke, despite having owned wrestling promotions in Alabama in the past.

And that’s the mail for today. My domain is still in the process of transferring from old server to new server, so it’s possible that this post (or possibly the entire site) may disappear and then reappear over the weekend.

Moving servers

I’m transferring paulryburn.com to GoDaddy and moving everything over. Hopefully this will all go smoothly, but if you hit my site and there’s nothing there anytime in the next few days, that’s what’s going on and it will be resolved soon.