Category Archives: Rants

Eureka! Indexes in Chronological Order

AZIndex LogoAsk and ye shall receive!

I have been going through the backlog of comments and noted that a couple of people wanted to sort their indexes in chronological order — i.e. they want the list of posts sorted by date with the most recent at the top.  So I was just pondering the issue, wondering if I should really add this feature even though it’s not really something AZIndex is designed to do, when I suddenly had “D’oh” moment…

You can already do this with the current release of AZIndex!  (By using a one-line custom compare function.)

Here’s how you do it:

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My allegedly jaundiced view of the world

Somewhere between the skies over England and the haven of Stratford-upon-Avon, my trusty steed of a laptop, used and abused over almost four years of constant operation, has finally developed what could be a fatal flaw. As I powered up my Thinkpad, I was greeted by a screen-load dancing yellow splotches coloring my window on the world. My laptop has jaundice, it seems.

Alas, my Thinkpad has finally suffered the fate shared by many its Thinkpad T42 bretheren–my constant manhandling has flexed the case, and thus the system board, to such a degree that the graphics chip has been cast adrift from its moorings. Some Thinkpads suffer a mercifully swift demise as a result, but it seems that mine will struggle on until I tire of the ghastly yellow hue of dancing dots before my eyes.

Ungainly bodges, consisting of stacks of Post-it notes or other scraps of paper wedge between the graphics chip and an alarmingly bulging keyboard may provide some relief from the ghastly attack of jaundice, but will likely only stave off the inevitable. At some point, in the near future, my T42, my MUSE (yes, I really did give it that name on my home network) will be laid to rest, and Thinkpad, son-of-Thinkpad, likely faster and more capable, but no more loved for that, will take its place.

Automated Customer Service: Satan Rides Again

Following on from my little set-to with United Airline’s automated non-service line last week, the flight attendant on the much delayed flight from Austin to Chicago suggested at one point (while we were waiting in the refueling area in Indianapolis) that we should contact the United 1-800 number to check on later flights and to help resolve our missed connections.

Like a fool, I listened to that advice, called the number, and selected the option to query flight departure times thinking I could find out when my London flight was leaving and perhaps reserve a seat on a later flight, if necessary.

“Please speak or type the flight number you are inquiring about.”

(Not being a complete fool, I typed the flight number)

“Your flight appears to have multiple stops, please say the name of the city you want the departure time for.”

(Uh-oh). “Chicago.”

“I do not understand. Which of these cities do you mean? Portland–” (a flight attendant walks by muttering, the voice recognition system picks it up and stops talking)

“Did you mean Detroit?”


“My mistake. Your flight appears to have multiple stops, please say the name of the city you want the departure time for.”


“I do not understand. Which of these cities do you mean? Portland–” (my neighbor coughs)

“Did you mea–” (a baby cries out nearby)

“My mista–” (a passenger walks by)


“Are you inquiring about a domestic or international flight?”


I hang up. Yelling down the phone in private is one thing. Doing in front of a planeload of tired and irritable people is quite another. Then about a minute afterwards, someone just in front of me (one of those going to Kiev) by some miracle got through to a live operator only to be told that nothing could be done about remaking connections until we all got to Chicago anyway!


Automated Customer Service from Hell

I’m off to the UK next week to exchange the flooding rains of Texas for the flooding rains of middle England. (Sigh). After I booked my flights a couple of weeks ago, I never received an itinerary via email, so I decided to call today to get one. I first called Delta Airlines, believing it to be the airline I had booked on, and was immediately flung into their voice response system.

After the usual “press 2 to…” dive through the menu system, I was asked to read my confirmation number: “SPWCLA”. No problem, the system understood me at the first attempt. Cool. I was quickly connected to a live operator and, guess what? I was immediately asked for the confirmation number again.

“But I just gave it to you!” (snarl)

Why does this always happen? Do they do it just to annoy their customers that little bit more, so they will never have the temerity to call customer service again?

Anyway, after they could not find the reservation, I told them I remembered I was going through Chicago on the way to London.

“Chicago?? This is Delta Airlines.” (as in, are you kidding me?)


So, moving swiftly on, I then called the correct airline, United Airlines. I get “press 2 to …” about five times before we’re back to: “tell me your confirmation number, use common names if you want…”.

(Good idea, I thought, foolishly.) “Sam, Peter, Walt, Chris, (uh-oh, er) Larry, Andrew”

“Was that D-P-W-R-P-A”


“I’m sorry, my mistake.” (coo) “Please try again”

(Forget the names) “S-P-W-C-L-A”

“was that S-P-Z-C-L-A”


“I’m sorry, my mistake.” (coo, purr) “Please try again”


“was that F-D-C—”


“I’m sorry, I assure you that it is my fault.” (coo, purr, soothe) “Please try again”

“S!! P!! W!! C!! L!! A!!”

“was that F—”


“I’m sorry, my mistake, please wait while I connect you to a live operator…” (cue the music)

The live operator I was eventually connected to was very lucky that over 10 minutes had passed since I had yelled down the phone at their machine. Word to the wise, shouting letters at a voice response unit doesn’t make it any more accurate.

I am a pretty calm person most of the time, but I could feel the blood pressure rising to dangerous levels. And to think that my last five working years at IBM were dedicated to creating software to help make these vile automated voice response units possible. I don’t believe in karma… really, I don’t…