A three day weekend --  01/15/06

The school where Nancy teaches will be closed on Monday for Martin Luther King Day so I scheduled a day off for myself as well. When my job was centered around developing courses and teaching courses, it seemed as if there was always something keeping me from taking a vacation day when Nancy would have a school holiday.... either I would be teaching a class that week or I would have some hot deadline for finishing writing a class that would keep me from being able to take a day off.

So ever since I shifted jobs a couple of years ago to doing quality assurance (what we call ESP -- Education Standards and Practices) so that I spend much of my time reading, reviewing, testing, and editing courses, my time is a lot more flexible so I am usually able to take off on these school holidays that are not days when mainstream business closes down -- for example, my company has no holidays between New Years Day and Memorial Day (for non-US readers, that is the last Monday in May).

Of course I actually worked three hours on Saturday morning.

There was a Web-based training course that was moved to our test server on Friday afternoon and I was attempting to complete the process of validating it (I had already put it through an error-checking and editing process; this was the corrected version I was trying to validate). Unfortunately, I found performance problems with the demonstrations contained in the course. They had been slow on the server I had been using to check them out during the editing process, but I am accustomed to that server being slow with both the demonstrations and the regular Web pages. Now, however, it is actually on the same level of server as would be used in production (so the Web pages are served up at an acceptable rate) but the demonstrations are still too slow. Thus, I rejected it as not being ready for production status -- however, I think I might be able to fix the problem by making some changes (reducing the color palate used, etc.) but I need to get some technical information from a colleague on Monday -- which means I will be putting in at least an hour or two on my holiday. Ah, but it is only an hour or two

Maybe it comes from spending so many years as a systems analyst -- writing code, fighting deadlines, putting out fires, answering 2 a.m. phone calls from the third shift computer operators, working whatever hours were needed -- that I just don't have a nine-to-five mentality. On the other hand, as a school teacher, Nancy works an incredible number of hours each week. Right now she is taking her Sunday night guilty-pleasure break watching that popular prime time soap opera Women Who Have Plighted Their Troth to Their Domiciles and Are Experiencing the Depths of Despair (a/k/a Desperate Housewives). I would estimate that with lesson-planning and grading and such in addition to the actual school day, she very rarely puts in less than a fifty hour week.

Last night we got together at Nancy's mother's house for dinner (I brought some skewers of chicken and veggies that had been marinated in Salamida's Spiedie Sauce -- usually I buy it by the case from their Web site but since we were in upstate New York for New Year's Eve, we stopped at the Johnson City Wegman's Supermarket and bought a lot of it.) and then did some cruise planning. We are getting together with two of Nancy's sisters and their families to go on a Caribbean cruise this winter. None of us have ever done this before (although I've received a lot of good advice from my brother -- he and Donna are really hooked on cruises) and so there was a lot of concern about all of the multitude of activities available at the various stops.

If your e-mail experience is anything like mine, every day you receive letters from family members of various deceased African dictators, from lawyers (or bankers) in various countries telling you about the large accounts left by deceased millionaires who have left no legal heirs (and who have usually perished in some notable airplane crash), from foreign businessmen who need your help in collecting and passing on payments for them (taking, of course, a large percentage as your handling fee), from representatives of the European Internet Lottery telling you that you have won a large sum of money, from a major credit card issuing bank telling you that your account information has been compromised, etc., etc.

I find that, in general, Yahoo does a pretty good job of directing these e-mails to the Junk Mail folder. I tend to glance through the folder before emptying it, just to double-check and confirm that no real mail has ended up there. I am amused at the number of "PayPal" e-mails I receive (some days I get four or five or even more) telling me that I must log in immediately to validate my account information. Over the past year or so I've noticed that they are getting better at replicating an e-mail that might actually come from a company, but they are still usually being sent by crooks for whom English is a second language (often, a very distant second) and their e-mails are filled with bad spelling and mangled syntax. I got this one tonight -- I count at least fourteen spelling, usage, and grammar errors.


Message sent to you follows:

Dear PayPal client,

While performing it's regular scheduled monthly billing address check our system found incompatible information which seams to be no longer the same with your current credit card information that we have on file. If you changed your billing information or if you moved from you previous address please follow up the link bellow and update your billing information: If you didn't change any of this information you still need to follow up the previous link and update your existing billing information because it means that our database regular scheduled update wasn't made correctly. Choosing to ignore this message will result in to a temporary suspension of your account within 24 hours, until you will choose to solve this unpleasant situation. We apologies for any inconvinience this may caused you and we strongly advise you to update your information you have on file with us. Please login in order to avoid any possible futuring billing problems with your account.

The word "login" in the last sentence is a hot link that supposedly will take you to the PayPal site but will actually take you to a domain registered in Chile (which is a bit different -- usually these scams take you to somewhere in Russia, or an Eastern European country formerly affiliated with the USSR, or perhaps to Taiwan or one of those tiny Pacific Island nations). Their English, nevertheless, remains weak.

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