It’s Surgery Day

Posted by TechyDad on July 21, 2014 under Medical

TechyDadsCATScanAnnotated[1] As this post goes live, I’ll be in the hospital.  As I’ve mentioned before, I have some sort of mutant structure in my nose that tried to form into a third nasal passage.  (Thankfully, no third nostril, though.)  This has pushed on my nasal passages causing one to become tiny.  This, in turn, means that it is almost impossible for me to breathe out of one side of my nose.  Although I’m really nervous about this procedure, I’m also looking forward to not lying awake in bed at night, unable to breathe properly, and feeling the panic rising that I’m not going to get a decent breath of air into my lungs.

My doctors have told me that I’ll have a quick recovery, but depending on how I feel, I might skip posting for a few days.

Have you ever had a surgical procedure performed?  How quick was your recovery?

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Having Some Mandatory Fun, Weird Al Style

Posted by TechyDad on July 17, 2014 under Music, Review

Mandatory_Fun I’ve been a fan of Weird Al Yankovic for years.  From Eat It, to Amish Paradise, to White & Nerdy, I love all of his songs and always eagerly await his next works.  This week, Al has released a new album: Mandatory Fun.  In addition, he’s releasing eight videos

The day before the album’s release, Al released Tacky, a parody of Pharrell’s "Happy."  Instead of singing about how happy he was, Al sang about rude behavior ("are you pregnant girl, or just really fat?") and extremely questionable fashion choices (the image of Jack Black twerking while wearing a sequined fanny pack has been burned in my brain).  It’s a hilarious look at the behavior that some people think is completely appropriate.

The next day, Word Crimes came out.  If Tacky addressed violations of good taste, Word Crimes (which parodies "Blurred Lines" by Robin Thicke) tackled those to whom proper grammar is a foreign language.  Not only does the song complain about the use of numb3rs in words, but it also warns against u using single letters to represent words.  Its also quite insistent on the use of it’s versus its.  (For the record, I made those "grammar mistakes" on purpose.  It was hard for me to do that even for the sake of a pun.)  Anyone who has ever edited someone’s writing or who has had the misfortune to read something from this kind of writer will find Word Crimes cathartic.  Plus, you’ve just got to love a song that works the word "nomenclature" in.

Yesterday, the third video, Foil was released.  This song (a parody of "Royals" by Lorde) proclaims the uses of aluminum foil to preserve food.  However, it quickly descends into paranoid ravings about the Illuminati and the uses of tin foil to construct mind reading blocking helmets.

Though I don’t (as of this writing) know what other videos will be released, I’ve already purchased and listened to the album in full.  Here are some quick impressions of the rest of the songs:

  • Handy – Parodying "Fancy" by Iggy Azalea – This is a delightful song about the many things that your local handyman can repair.
  • Lame Claim to Fame – Did you know that my aunt once dated a guy who was in charge of the rolling bolder scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark?  While that is actually a true story, this the kind statement that people will recite to make themselves seem more important.  This song is all about these "claims to fame."
  • Sports Song – Go team!  Which one?  It doesn’t really matter.  This "generic football fight song" is purposefully vague as to which team or even which sport we’re cheering on.  All we know is that our team will beat the other team because we’re so good and they aren’t.
  • My Own Eyes – There are many things that you see through the years that you wish you hadn’t.  This song, in the style of the Foo Fighters, names a few things that Al has allegedly seen over the years.  If only half of these are true, it might offer an insight into how his mind can be so brilliant and twisted at the same time.
  • NOW That’s What I Call Polka! – Sometimes Weird Al will alter a song completely in parody.  Other times, he simply sings the songs as they are, albeit in polka form.  This medley combines songs such as Wrecking Ball, Gangnam Style, and Call Me Maybe.  If you are thinking that you can’t possibly sing some of those as polka songs, then you obviously don’t know Weird Al Yankovic.
  • Mission Statement – Sung like Crosby, Stills, and Nash, this song will be the anthem of any cubicle resident who has had to contend with managerial speak.  This song achieves synergy through vertical integration of its operational assets in a holistic fashion.
  • Inactive – A parody of "Radioactive" by Imagine Dragons.  This song tells the tale of a couch potato who doesn’t like to move.
  • First World Problems – In the style of Pixies, Al tells the woeful tale of someone who has varied problems in his life.  One wonders how this person copes with a house too large for Wi-Fi to work in his kitchen, a fridge that can’t fit all the food he bought, a gardener whose name he can’t remember, and a shower that loses hot water after only an hour.  Truly this person suffers more than anyone else on this planet!
  • Jackson Park Express – Sung in the style of Cat Stevens, Jackson Park Express in the inner monologue of someone who spies a woman he fancies while riding a train.  With any other singer, this might result in a touching love story.  With Weird Al, though, we get a different kind of "touching."  As in he’s touched in the head in an extremely creepy way.  Of course, it’s Weird Al so he somehow makes creepy and disturbing entertaining.

The entire album is packed with wonderful songs.  I can’t wait to see which of them are featured in the next five music videos.

You can see all of the music videos (even the ones uploaded after I posted this) and get links to purchase the album on

NOTE: The album image above comes from a screen capture I took of my phone as it played the album on Amazon Music.

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My Open Letter To The FCC Concerning Network Neutrality

Posted by TechyDad on July 15, 2014 under Internet, Technology

DTRave_Cartoon_Computer_and_Desktop_small1[1] Over the years, I’ve written about the bandwidth caps that cable companies are placing on Internet usage, use of the term “cord cheater” to describe people who view online videos, and Network Neutrality.  On the last item, the FCC has been collecting comments.  To date, they have collected over 650,000 comments.  Today, however, is the final day for submissions.  I submitted mine already, but thought I would publish here as an open letter. Below is what I sent the FCC.  If you haven’t submitted your comment yet and are quick, you might be able to send it in.

Update: Due to tons of people flooding their systems with last minute comments, the FCC has extended the deadline to Friday, July 18th.

NOTE: The computer image above is by DTRave and is available from

To whom it may concern,

I’m very worried about the issue of Network Neutrality. As a web developer and someone who is active on social media, I spend a lot of time online. I also keep up to date on what is happening in the online world. Unfortunately, I see one very big problem.

Most ISPs are monopolies or duopolies in their areas.

To give an example, I connect to the Internet via Time Warner Cable. I have no other wired broadband options available to me. FIOS doesn’t reach my area and DSL is a dying technology. (It’s older and slower and the telecom companies are chomping at the bit to get rid of it.)

What this means is that Time Warner Cable can essentially do whatever they want and I’m forced to continue service with them. They can raise rates, slow down my general connection, impose harsh caps/overage fees, or slow down specific sites until they are unusable.

If almost any other company did these things, the free market would lead customers to flee to their competitors. Unfortunately, the ISP market isn’t free. The cable companies know they have a lock (or near-lock) on their area. Cox isn’t going to invade Comcast’s territory and vice-versa. They’ve carved up the land into their own little fiefdoms where they can do as they please.

But why would a cable company want to slow down a connection to a website? Two words: Internet Video.

Cable companies make their money from cable TV – both live/DVRed content and on-demand content. However, services like Netflix, Amazon VOD, YouTube, etc, compete for consumers’ entertainment dollars and are drawing people away from cable TV. These are 100% legal options, but cable companies don’t like them. After all, everyone who watches a video on Netflix could have potentially paid the cable company to watch that video. The cable companies see money flowing to these “Internet upstarts” and it is ruining the cable companies’ status quo.

So something must be done.

The opening salvo came from Ed Whitacre, former head of AT&T, who in 2006 claimed that these Internet Video companies were getting a “free ride” off of AT&T’s connections because they weren’t paying for access to AT&T’s customers. Of course, the fact of the matter is that these Internet Video companies pay for their own bandwidth. To make an analogy, this would be like a pizza shop getting their business phone line from Verizon and AT&T complaining that the pizza shop was making money off of AT&T’s customers calling them without them paying AT&T. Nobody in their right mind would suggest that businesses should pay all phone companies so that those phone companies’ users would be able to call the businesses. Similarly, online companies shouldn’t have to pay ISPs access except for the company they pay for their bandwidth.

But who pays for the connection to the user, you might ask.

Here’s how the payments/connections go. The business (e.g. Netflix) pays their ISP for bandwidth. If that ISP is not a top tier ISP, they pay their upstream provider for bandwidth and so on until they reach the top tier. (In fact, Netflix pays a top tier ISP for bandwidth.) On the other side, users pay their ISPs for bandwidth. These ISPs again pay their upstream providers until the top tiers are reached. The top tier ISPs come to agreements with each other about how data is going to pass between them and what, if any, payments are required. As you can see, everyone gets paid. There are no free rides.

ISPs quickly backed away from any claims that they would block sites. Instead, they claimed that they simply wanted to open a “fast lane” to “help” websites get to users faster. All it took was a little payment. Otherwise, websites would be stuck on the “normal speed” lanes which the ISPs claimed would still be fast.

Unfortunately, we go back to the monopoly/duopoly situation. Since the “normal speed” lanes wouldn’t generate any profit, the ISPs wouldn’t have any incentive to keep sites using that service running at a decent speed. In fact, they would profit more if sites using the “normal speed lane” found themselves slowing down and needed to pay for “fast speed” access. Meanwhile, the ISPs’ own video services would get instant “fast lane” access without needing to pay anything. In short, the “fast lane” would be a money maker for ISPs. They would either slow down competitors or make additional money off of them.

As a side effect, these extra charges will be passed on to the Internet Video customers via rate hikes which – the ISPs hope – will push people away from Internet Video and to the ISPs’ offerings.

On the other side, ISPs are looking into instituting caps on their users. They claim this is to only charge users for the bandwidth that they use. The true purpose, however, is to punish users who use Internet Video. With caps in place, Internet Video users suddenly will find themselves with limits on how long they can watch. If they go over their cap, they risk getting charged overage fees. Of course, the ISPs’ own offerings will be exempt from the caps.

The net result of this is the effective price of an Internet Video service will go up which will, again as the ISPs hope, result in people leaving Internet Video for the ISPs’ offerings.

I’m not a huge fan of government regulations. There are many times when they just raise costs and add bureaucracy to a process that could be done cheaper/faster without the regulations. However, government regulations do have a place in this world. One instance is where the markets are so broken that companies can use their monopolies to crush competition and/or abuse customers.

The ISPs would love for the government to stand back and let them crush their competition with no interference. This way, they can make more money, grow even bigger, and wield more power over what people watch and when. I and hundreds of thousands of Americans are hoping that the FCC will stand up to these ISPs.

Companies shouldn’t be able to use monopolies in one area to protect their business interests in another area. The ISPs are trying to do this with “fast lanes” and by favoring their own traffic over those of their competitors. Those who support Network Neutrality want traffic to be “origin blind.” It shouldn’t matter if a packet of information comes from Netflix, a cable company’s on-demand service, or YouTube. It should be treated the same no matter what.

Note that this doesn’t mean that ISPs can’t prioritize traffic. For example, an e-mail message is less important to deliver right away than a video call. So video call packets could skip ahead of e-mail message packets. However, this is different than ISPs allowing their services to get priority over similar services offered by other companies. The former improves user experience, the latter improves the ISPs’ position at the expense of users and competitors.

When you are looking to craft Network Neutrality regulations, please keep in mind the millions of users your regulations will be affecting. They are currently helpless against the big ISPs profit-seeking and monopoly abusing schemes. As a government agency, of the people, by the people, and for the people, your first concern should be helping the citizens affected, not preserving ISP monopolies and turning a blind eye to their abuses.

Thank you for your time,

- TechyDad

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Speed Reading Quandary

Posted by TechyDad on July 11, 2014 under Books, Harry Potter, NHL

reading_ahead[1]Awhile ago, we showed NHL the first two Harry Potter movies.  After he was hooked, we made a deal that we would need to read the books before he saw any more of the movies.  I began reading the books to him starting with the first.  This was a treat for me as well as him as I had never read the books before (though I had seen all of the movies).

Slowly, we made our way through the first three books.  Then, as we read the fourth, NHL balked at watching the third film thinking he would be afraid of the werewolf.  Finally, he watched it and enjoyed it.

When we hit the fifth book, we faltered.  NHL didn’t seem to be enjoying them anymore.  He was having some problems with his teachers and, though they never tortured him the way Dolores Umbridge tortured Harry, I think the subject of a mean teacher hit too close to home.  We eventually picked it back up, though, and finished it.  He really enjoyed that movie as well.

Now, we are on the sixth book, but NHL is again slowing down.  I think part of the problem is that the books take their time in the beginning.  They set a lot of situations and characters up while the movies rush through these – or leave them out entirely.  Arguably, this makes the book better, but to NHL is means the book is a huge project to wade through while the movie can be over and done in an hour and a half.

To me, though, books hook me in.  I’m a bit of a speed reader, especially when it’s a book I like.  I was really liking Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.  This was odd considering that this movie was my least favorite of the films.  The film made it look at though Harry didn’t really do anything.  He just kind of meandered his way through the film.  In the book, though, Harry is determined and focused.  Perhaps not always on what he should be focused on, but focused nonetheless.

I couldn’t take the slow pace so I forged ahead.  A couple of nights ago, I finished the book – having read about 490 pages in around four days.  I would have finished sooner, but I only had about an hour per day to read.

Now comes the quandary.  I would love to proceed on to the last book in the series: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, but I want NHL to catch up with me.  If I go ahead, I’ll get hooked on the last book and won’t want to stop until I’m done.  Without me pressuring NHL to keep on, he might just drop the series.

One of the problems is that NHL was spoiled.  He was told about a certain major character’s death and he thinks this has ruined the book.  I reminded him, though, that there’s still much he doesn’t know.  He doesn’t know HOW the character dies.  He confidently told me that he figured that out and gave me his explanation – which was completely off.  Now that there’s some mystery left, he might want to read on.  I might even drop some non-spoiler hints about exciting story events to spur him on.  (e.g. "You’ll never believe it when SPOILER fixes the SPOILER and the SPOILER comes out to SPOILER SPOILER and SPOILER SPOILER!")

How quickly do you read when you really like a book?

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The Great Google Analytics Crash

Posted by TechyDad on July 9, 2014 under Blogging, Web Development

Last month, I was browsing through our Google Analytics reports when I saw something shocking:



Yes, that was her analytics numbers flat-lining.  She went from a respectable amount of traffic to only a couple of page views a day.  Something was obviously seriously wrong.  I immediately ruled out her traffic actually dropping.  Traffic numbers just don’t drop like that unless you do something monumentally stupid online to cause your readership to flee, and B didn’t do anything even remotely like that.  So what could it be?

As we thought it over, I suddenly remembered.  B had told me to add in a plug-in for a blogging program she’s a member of.  I installed that plug-in on the night before the analytics plunge.  That must have been to blame.  We e-mailed her contacts and they were very helpful, but they had never seen anything like this before.  After some investigation, I realized that their plug-in was adding Google Analytics code just before my Google Analytics code.  Their code must have been interfering somehow with our code resulting in the lowered numbers.

I couldn’t modify their plug-in, but I was able to modify the theme on B’s site to move our Google Analytics code higher.  (One of the perks of being a web developer.)  Then, it was a matter of waiting to see what would happen.  Would her numbers rise back up?  Or would there be something else preventing the numbers from being reported right?

Analytics_Return Luckily, her numbers started going back up until they were back to normal.

The lesson here is to keep an eye on your Google Analytics closely.  This is especially true if you’ve made any changes to your blog recently.  B was lucky that her reported numbers only dropped for 10 days.  Had I not checked in when I did, we could have gone for much longer and then, when she needed to report recent traffic amounts for blog campaigns, she wouldn’t have had good information to report.

Have you ever encountered a dip in your blog traffic due to technical difficulties?

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