October, 2006

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DH-Hell

Monday, October 30th, 2006

We’ve all heard horror stories about shipping companies such as FedEx and UPS, but by far the most utterly incompetent, totally useless carrier is DHL.

I recall when I ordered the Miata’s rollbar last year, it was shipped to me via DHL. It was due to be delivered to my home just before a long weekend, but for some reason or another they failed to deliver it. I really wanted to install it that weekend so I called them up and asked them if I could just go to their warehouse/customer service center and pick up the package from there. No problem, they assured me. Well, I showed up there with the package information and lo and behold, they were unable to locate it. No idea where it was. They did finally deliver it the following week but I think it ended up being almost a week late.

I bought a navigation system for the truck from Dell last week. For some stupid reason they chose to ship to me it with DHL. It was due to be delivered today, but sure enough, they screwed it up. How they managed not to deliver it, however, still baffles me. Apparently they transmuted my last name to “Tam”. I don’t know how they managed this because my name on the order is clearly stated as “Viet-Tam Luu” so how “Tam” became my last name is beyond me. Regardless, they should have been able to get it to VMware’s Receiving department who know me well and would have figured out the parcel was for me despite the name mangling. Yet somehow DHL managed to fail that too. Did they fail to go to the company’s Receiving department at 3210 Porter Drive rather than the corporate HQ at 3145 Porter Drive? (My orders are always addressed to 3145, and FedEx/UPS/USPS/etc. all know to go to the Receiving dock at 3210.) Even more baffling is that the receptionist at 3145 Porter mentioned to me that DHL had contacted her. How they managed to screw things up even with her instructions, completely defies all explanation.

Being enticed by a $20 off $100 coupon, I bought a bunch of stuff from Amazon.com’s automotive department. It turned out to be remarkably hard to find $100 worth of stuff actually sold by Amazon proper (and not one of its “affiliates”) that I actually needed and wanted to by, but I managed to fill out the order with motor oil for the truck and the Evo. The oil was shipped out today from Amazon.com’s Kentucky warehouse. The carrier? Airborne Express… which, I just learned, was merged into DHL. Crap. Estimated delivery date: November 13. November 13?!? What’s it crossing the country by, mule train? There’s nothing “express” or “airborne” about this shipment… unless maybe if their idea of “airborne” transport is a hot-air balloon, then I could almost believe it would take that long to arrive. Of course that completely defeats my having bought some trick racing motor oil for the Evo, since I needed it before going to the track on the 12th. I couldn’t imagine it would take that long to deliver.

Words simply fail me.

And I thought “Evercrack” was bad…

Monday, October 30th, 2006

My friend Junko stopped showing up on AIM a couple weeks ago.

She’d started playing World of Warcraft—against my advice—the week prior.

I strongly suspect the timing of these two events is not coincidental.

That’s the British Broadcasting Corporation, right?

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

I like to go to the BBC News website for the latest world news since I find American news sites overly focused on US news. However, at this very moment I see no less than four “headline” stories on the BBC News front page that pertain mainly or entirely to the US: one story about vice-president Cheney, one about California wildfires, another about the upcoming California elections, and one about the so-called baseball “World” Series.

What’s up with that? The BBC might be forgiven if those were stories of international importance, but for the most part they are not. Please… if I gave a flying flip about US news I’d go to CNN.

Goodbye YourSite, hello DreamHost

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

I finally got around to moving vtluu.net to the same DreamHost account I’ve been using to host Vital Motorsports. With that move, I may soon get around to “re-launching” vtluu.net as a WordPress or Joomla based website. The site is long overdue for a makeover; the tricky thing will be to migrate all my old Blog entries to the new software.

EMC can suck it

Friday, October 27th, 2006

Last week I filed an expense report for my recruiting trip to
Waterloo. On the same trip I renewed my TN work visa since VMware’s
bumbling immigration attorneys once again (for the second year in a
row) failed to renew the visa by mail as had always been the case with
NVIDIA. (Two hours waiting around in the INS office for fifteen
minutes of paperwork; mark my words, one way or another I’m never
doing that again.)

Yesterday I got an E-mail from EMC (VMware’s parent company) stating
that since I’d traveled to a country with VAT or GST (Goods & Services
Tax), which can be recovered by visitors from abroad, I had to
re-submit my original travel expense receipts so that EMC could
recover the tax. Fine in principle, but I’d paid maybe $20 of GST on
the entire trip. Furthermore I’d already filed my receipts with EMC’s
expense reporting system and no longer had them. Except for the hotel
receipts which I’d misplaced and anyway they were itemized on the
company credit card statement so I figured that was fine.

I pointed out to them it made no sense for me to waste an hour or so
of my time—company time—filing paperwork so they could
recover a few dollars. They insisted. I protested. They threatened to
withold expense reimbursement and suspend my expense account. I had
dark, dark thoughts about what I would do to EMC’s accountants if I
could get my hands on them. Inevitably I had to relent since there was
no way I could win on this one. $60 or so of my time, not to mention
howevermuch EMC pays their accountants on their end, to recover $20 of
taxes.

This is why I hate working for big companies.

Reason #1,000,001 why MySpace sucks

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

There’s an ongoing joke that MySpace is a website for child molesters (anyone checked if Rep. Foley has an account?). While that’s a bit unfair to the thousands of users who are not molesters or molestees, consider this little factoid: I can’t specify my college (the University of Waterloo) in my profile because it doesn’t appear on MySpace’s list of schools in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. What schools do appear? Seven local high schools and public schools. Nothing at the post-secondary level, namely U of W, Wilfrid-Laurier U, or Conestoga College. This, despite my attempt to get U of W added four times and counting!

Make of that what you will…

New website coming along

Monday, October 2nd, 2006

I’ve made a fair bit of progress with the Vital Motorsports website. After a brief flirtation with MediaWiki, I decided it clearly wasn’t the right tool for the job. I then wasted a couple days designing a new website the “bad old” way—writing HTML and PHP code by hand—before my friend Bryan, a professional web designer, mentioned Joomla, a web-based “content management system” (CMS) tool for laying out, designing and publishing websites. Turned out it was exactly what I’d been looking for.

After getting Joomla up and running (which was super-easy using DreamHost’s “One-Click Install” tool) I quickly made a design by customizing (my HTML, CSS and PHP knowledge still have some use) an existing template, and then added some modules such as an event calendar and photo gallery. The process has been fairly pain-free.

Now the job is adding content. I’ve fleshed out parts of the site but there’s still plenty to be done. I’ve also started up my motorsports “blog” on the site, so hopefully I won’t be “polluting” vtluu.net with incessant car talk anymore (so what will I talk about?)…

Once things settle down with the new site, I’ll be applying what I learned to “re-launch” (that’s such a cliché) the vtluu.net website. I may end up using WordPress instead of Joomla for this website, since it’s more blog (how I hate that term) centric than my racing site.

What really boggles my mind is the complexity of Joomla and other web components. Fairly huge PHP scripts are needed to dynamically generate the contents of the Vital Motorsports web pages. I suspect that it takes about 10-20 times as much processing to serve up the front page of VitalMotorsports.com, compared to vtluu.net (which does use a little bit of PHP). I can definitely notice a bit of delay when loading the former. Mind you, the average web server now has 10-20 times as much processing bandwidth as the average server that was around back when I created vtluu.net; nevertheless I’m still amazed by the size and complexity of the building blocks used today. The web has come a long way since I built my first web page back in 1994.