The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

The Sulfuric Acid Dump Tank

Driving to work this afternoon I saw a sign that said “4-Kids by Kids Carnival” and my initial reaction was if I had kids, there is no way I'd send them to this carnival! I remember being a kid (although Spring might argue that I was never a kid—heck, even my Mom (if she were still alive) might argue that I was never a kid, but I digress) and had I and my friends run a carnival … shudder.

Scene: 7th grade Gifted™ science class, working on chemestry that quarter. My best friend Hoade and I are sitting in the back of the room, killing ourselves over juvenile science jokes as Ms. Absten (Abston? Abstract? Heck, it's almost twenty-five years since this scene occured) gives us the Evil Eye™.

“Fill a pool up with sulfuric acid,” said Hoade, choking back tears of laughter. “And then the mother-in-law dives in,” I said, also chocking back tears of laughter. “SPLOOSH! Yaaaaaaah!” said Hoade and the both of us would collapse on the floor, convulsing in laughter.

Okay, it wasn't great science humor, like MC Hawking'sAll my Shootings be Drivebys” but hey, we were twelve. Twelve year olds have sick humor (remind me to forget about Hoade's “Thumper The Bunny Cartoon” series). Like the time, again in 7th grade Gifted™ science class Ms. Absten actually let us work with chemicals. There we were, all at a lab station working away. I had to turn away from what I was doing to read something, and as I was looking away, Hoade dumps a test tube full of some liquid on my hand.

Remember, all year we did nothing but make sick jokes about sulfuric acid.

I screamed like a five year old girl and spazzed out trying to work the sink quickly enough to keep my hand from disolving into a puddle of melted flesh. Hoade was on the floor convulsing in laughter and managed to spit out that he dumped plain old water on my hand.

The fact that I'm still friends with him testifies that had I thought of doing that to him first, I would have.

So had my friends and I designed a carnival for other kids (and I should mention, we were in the Gifted Program™—read: social rejects from the rest of the school) we would have a great time watching all the other kids screaming and yelling from say, the Sulfuric Acid Dump Tank, the Burst the Hydrogen Filled (not helium—it's inert) Balloons Tacked to A Stone backboard with Flint Darts or the ever popular Slide of a Thousand Razor Blades (coated with Lemon Juice of course).

Which explains why we never did have a carnival for kids, designed by us kids. Our teachers knew better. And I know better.

“You see, we lease this back from the company we sold it to, and that way, it comes under the monthly current budget and not the capital account.”

There was an amusing conversation yesterday between Smirk, G and I, concerning The Monopolistic Phone Company and The Monopolistic Phone Company Union. Smirk mentioned that The Monopolistic Phone Company Union only allowed their technicians six roll-outs per day (basically, six jobs per day) even though one technician admitted to Smirk that they could easily do twice that number of jobs. G explained that the “six roll outs” policy was not mandated by the union, but by The Monopolistic Phone Company to the union, which then told The Monopolistic Phone Company that their employees could only do six roll outs per day (it comes down to a safety issue—The Monopolistic Phone Company does not want their employees rushing between jobs in those white and gray vans, hitting little old ladies or the Boy Scouts leading them across and thus opening them up for litigation).

So The Monopolistic Phone Company told the union to tell them that their own employees could only do six jobs a day.


But, as G went on, the union's executives receive their paychecks not from union dues, but from The Monopolistic Phone Company itself. It's not that the union executives have one job with The Monopolistic Phome Company and they do the union executive thing on the side, no. The Monopolistic Phone Company pays the union executives to run the union.

So if you work for The Monopolistic Phone Company, the union you belong to is paid for by The Monopolistic Phone Company.

And as if that weren't surreal enough, the union executives belong not to the union they work for, but for a Monopolistic Phone Company union executive union. Yes, the executives have their own exclusive union. Run and paid for, by—you guessed it—-The Monopolistic Phone Company.

If this sounds like something from Monty Python's Meaning of Life, well … yes. It does.

Except The Monopolistic Phone Company doesn't have a machine that goes “ping.”

“If you are having problems with your email, please email us … ”

Still trying to resolve the email issue. I sent email to and and this is what I got back:

From: <>
Subject: Re: Deblock our customer's email server please
Date: Thu, 29 Sep 2005 14:25:17 -0500

Dear Sir or Madam:

This is an AUTO-REPLY to acknowledge that your mail to the Abuse Department of The Monopolistic Phone Company Internet Services has been received and to provide some information on our abuse policies and procedures. Please DO NOT REPLY to this message.

The Monopolistic Phone Company Internet Services does not allow or condone any abuse of our Acceptable Use Policies, and we maintain a “zero tolerance” policy towards spam and network abuse of any kind. Because we take your complaints seriously …

Blah blah blah … okay. Scan past the broiler plate:

Block List issues:

Okay, here we go …

Okay, that's not me. Reading further:

Yes! Okay! Only … I'm the bloody ISP! What do I do?

Hacking Complaints:

If you are reporting "hacking" or scans/probes by a Monopolistic Phone Copmany Internet Services subscriber that your firewall is detecting, we need the following …

Aaaaaaah! There's no information for the ISP!


Thank you for taking the time to submit your report to the Abuse Team.


“I don't care if you have nothing to do with this, I still want my money!”

The tech support phone rings. I answer it.

“Yes, this is Joe,” said the person. “I just bought a CPU from XXXXXXXXXXXXXX for $105 and I never got it. I tried emailing and calling but no one has responded. I spent a lot of money and I either want the CPU or my money back.”

I felt for the guy, but we're not XXXXXXXXXXXXXX and we don't even host the website in question.

Small digression: The Company partners with another web hosting company (other side of the building) and the data center is jointly run between the two. Yes, we host web sites, but the markets are different so there's little if any competition between us and the other company. Calls to the “data center company” come here.

So while the site is hosted here in the data center, it's actually a customer of the other company, not us. Okay, so back to the story.

“Yes,” said Joe, “I used [a traceroute-like program] and I got XXXXXXXXXXXX [the data center company]. I want my $105 back.” And on and on and on. Joe wouldn't stop talking.

By now, Smirk noticed I was on the phone and not saying much and asked what was up. Muting the phone, I told Smirk what was going on. “Hand me the phone,” he said. I unmuted the phone, broke into Joe's monologing and told him I was transferring him to my manager.

“Hello sir,” said Smirk. “How can I help you?”

Several minutes go by as Joe monologes at Smirk.

“Sir,” said Smirk. “We're a data center. One of our customer's hosts this website—” Smirk is cut short; several minutes go by. “Yes, but we're not … no, sir! Are you listening to me? … We're a data center, and one of our customers is hosting … no, we're just a data center … if you just … let … me … I'll give you a phone number you can call … data center … we have nothing to do with XXXXXXXXXXXXXX … it's a site our customer is hosting … I'm sorry about your $105 but … sir … aw XXXX this,” Smirk said, hanging up the phone.

For Joe, if you ever read this: we tried to help you, but in your anger, you didn't listen to what we were saying as we were trying to steer you in the right direction. Sorry about your money, but tracking people down on the Internet sometimes takes time. Look how long it's taking me to track down someone helpful at The Monopolistic Phone Company …

Muntzed the car to death

And how did Muntz get his circuits designed to be so inexpensive? He had several smart design engineers. The story around the industry was that he would wander around to an engineer's workbench and ask, “How's your new circuit coming?”

After a short discussion, Earl would say, “But, you seem to be over- engineering this—I don't think you need this capacitor.” He would reach out with his handy nippers (insulated) that he always carried in his shirt- pocket, and snip out the capacitor in question.

Well, doggone, the picture was still there! Then he would study the schematic some more, and SNIP… SNIP… SNIP. Muntz had made a good guess of how to simplify and cheapen the circuit. Then, usually, he would make one SNIP too many, and the picture or the sound would stop working. He would concede to the designer, “Well, I guess you have to put that last part back in,” and he would walk away. THAT was “Muntzing”—the ability to delete all parts not strictly essential for basic operation. And Muntz took advantage of this story, to whatever extent it may have been true, and he publicized his “uncanny” ability to cut his costs—in yet more televised advertisements.

What's All This Muntzing Stuff, Anyhow?

Reminds me of my friend Bill's father. Bill got the old family car once he got his license (hey, it was a 'Vette … okay, a Che“vette”). Over the years as the car broke down, Bill's father would repair it, and rip out more and more of the engine block. “Don't need this hose,” he'd say, “since it doesn't snow.” Or “don't need this belt, since it never snows.”

Slowly, over time, the engine became more sparse as Bill's Dad work the engine over. Eventually though, the engine became too spare and it broke down just outside of FAU and never ran again.

Bill's Dad might have muntzed the car to death.

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