Monthly Archives: July 2005

Hydrant-related fatalities

You have to admit. Before the Internet, I couldn’t have possibly known that in New York City, it’s illegal to open a fire hydrant & waste all the water, but you can legally open the hydrant if you pick up a free spray cap. The cap limits the amount of wasted water, while letting kids party around the fire hydrant:

I love the commissioner’s explanation for why you shouldn’t illegally open fire hydrants. She went through all the legitimate reasons, and then for good measure, added:

Also, children can be at serious risk, because the powerful force of a open hydrant without a spray cap can push them into oncoming traffic.”

Not that the powerful force can hurt them, but specifically that it’ll thrust little Joe through a car’s windshield.

I stand corrected if this has actually ever happened.


Office "thermostat"

A few months ago, we moved offices, and my new office was extremely cold. I was pleased to find an intranet site with two big, graphical buttons: 1) my office is too cold (with a snowflake icon), and 2) my office is too hot (with a picture of the sun). I clicked #1 and a few days later, my office was magically warmer. Naturally, I assumed that heating elves dropped by and applied elvish heat upgrades to my walls.


Recently, I was in my office, hard at work as usual while staring at the ceiling, when I noticed something interesting. There was an extra ceiling tile blocking 90% of the A/C vent in the ceiling. That’s when I realized that elvish heat upgrades were rather low-tech.

Who needs mail merge?

Got this letter from my garbage collection agency today. Perhaps they had a meeting that went something like this:


Joe: As you all know, we just changed the garbage truck routes to <Joe makes the double-quote signal with his fingers> insure the highest quality of service for our customers <end quote, snickers all around>. But, that means the pick-up day has changed for some of our customers, and I need to tell them. On an unrelated note, I’ve got this database of our customers and their pick-up days. Team, what should I do?

Team: <blank looks, uncomfortable silence>

Pete: I’ve got it. Send out a notice to all the customers, but leave it ambiguously worded so it will be accurate for both customers that have a new pickup day, and customers who still have the same pickup day. And don’t, and I can’t stress this enough, don’t use mail merge to make the letter seem more friendly.

Team: Great idea, Pete. You rock! <high-5s, hoots> Now let’s all go to the strip club!


—scanned & OCR’d letter follows—


July 8, 2005




Dear Customer,


In order to provide you, our customers, with the highest quality of service we have just completed a reroute of the area you live in. This may or may not result in a day change for your area.


Effective the week of July 18, 2005, your collection day will be Thursday.


We hope this change causes no inconvenience for you and your family. If you should have any questions or concerns, please call our Customer Service Line.


Thank you.





Rabanco Connections/Allied Waste Industries


NOT prosperity, death death

A coworker of mine just got her corporate cell phone account. She took one look at the phone number and freaked out. Turns out, its xxx-5844.

Perhaps you werent listening. xxx5844! Can you imagine?

Oh, shoot, guess I should explain, since I didnt get it either. In China, certain numbers are lucky while others are not. 5 turns out to be the NOT operator, 8 is prosperity, and 4 is death. So her number means NOT prosperity, death death. As if one death wasnt enough.

Anyway, she traded her SIM with her officemate J.

Indie Rock recommendations

Bored? Want to listen to something new?

2 bands on high rotation for me:

·       Arcade Fire. I didnt realize how huge this indie band was until I saw their shows ticket prices. $25 at the Paramount! Try Tunnels and Rebellion.

·       Album Leaf. DJ Kenneth Tam introduced me to this solo project. Allmusic describes it as a mix of classical, jazz, and post-rock.

I wish I could put a Rhapsody URL here because then you could use your 25 monthly free plays to listen to the full songs.

Why do we have to remember phone numbers?

Lets say that you meet someone at a party named Paris Hyatt, and you want to contact that person. Great, she gives you her phone number. Ready? 742-594-6734. Woah, I cant remember that. Can you tell me again & Ill type it in my cell phone?

Lets say that you then meet someone else named London Sheraton. You also want to contact this person, but she says just go to Great, thats easy to remember.

Now, maps to an IP address like, but London didnt have to tell you that.

Similarly, Paris shouldnt have needed to tell you 742-594-6734. She should have been able to give you a friendly phone number like

In other words, phone numbers are like IP addresses. They expose a technical detail of the old phone system (e.g. 212 used to physically tell the switches to route to New York) that we shouldnt have to deal with. So just like the DNS system for IP addresses, we should have a DNS system for phone numbers. So I can literally dial

SIP helps because you can call, but that doesnt apply to most phones. ENUM solves this by mapping +1-202-555-1234 to, assuming that you set up a DNS mapping from to that .arpa address. So were almost there