Michael J. Radwin

Tales of a software engineer who keeps kosher and hates the web.

Currently Viewing Posts in Etcetera

American Airlines allows cell phones during taxi-in

AmericanAirlines.gif A couple of weeks ago, American Airlines began allowing the use of cell phones during taxi-in (after landing but before reaching the gate).

It’s a very smart move (and one that will be sure to make John Dvorak happy). As a business traveller for the past 3 years, it’s always driven me crazy that the airlines wouldn’t let you use your phone or Crackberry after touching down. On the flights I’ve taken, many folks simply ignored the rule and just spoke quietly enough so the flight attendants wouldn’t hear them or simply listened to voicemail without calling people back.

I hope Southwest follows suit.

More headhunter email

I got pinged by a headhunter again today. This happened last month for the first time in a couple of years, but I guess the job market is heating up again.

Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2003 08:48:51 -0400

From: Krista B... <krista@...>

To: Michael Radwin <michael@...>

Subject: Confidential to Michael Radwin

Dear Michael:

I apologize for dropping into your inbox unannounced.

I prefer a proper introduction as I am a consultant based

in Westport, CT and wonder whether you might entertain

a role as a development lead on Microsoft's new next-gen

search engine team. Of course, this would involve a move

to Redmond . . .(Are you based in Santa Monica?)

If you are interested in learning more, simply forward an

updated resume and detail a window or two of availability

for a brief phone conference.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Krista B...

Wesport, CT


PS -Should you like to learn more about our practice,

I invite you to check our credentials at our website at


Another well-written cold call message (aside from the “Westport” typo in the signature). I’m not really interested in relocating to Seattle, but it’s sure interesting to hear about our competitor’s strategy, however. 🙂

The whole tooth and nothing but the tooth

Whoa, Sam. Those are some nice-looking teeth you’ve got there.

This reminds me of a couple of dental-related puns.

Q: Why do dentists have the highest suicide rate?

A: Because they’re always down in the mouth.

And of course, the best Tom Swifty of them all:

“Oops, I dropped my toothpaste,” said Tom crestfallen.

Rhinospray® to the rescue!

We spent last weekend in the Bay Area for Gil and Becky’s wedding. On Sunday, I started coming down with a cold and was feeling miserable. It was late at night and I didn’t feel like going out to the drugstore to get a decongestant.

My mom remembered that during a trip to Europe last year she started getting a cold and picked up a nasal spray in the airport just before her flight home. The medicine had probably expired, but I was welcome to try it:

Rhinospray sensitiv bei Schnupfen

I tried to read the label, but everything was in German. Rhinospray sensitiv bei Schnupfen. Wirkstoff: Tramazolinhydrochlorid… I needed to know: how many times should I spray? How often? Are there any dangerous side-effects?

Alas, I don’t speak German, yet I really needed to clear my nose. So I gave it a shot. And viola! Like magic, I was breathing clear again. I no longer cared what the active ingredient was; it could’ve been arsenic and I’d still use it again.

Today, I learned from netdoktor.de that the Wirksamer Bestandteil (active ingredient?) is Tramazolin.

Whatever that is.

Wesley K. Clark for President

So I’ve been granted the lovely honor of being a guest author on my brother-in-law Michael’s blog. I’m so excited, and there are so very many things that I could talk about. But I think I’m going to talk about what was on my mind this morning at work (I work at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, which is just boring enough to provide me with plenty of opportunity for thought problems…).

Draft Wesley K. Clark for President in 2004!!

Why? OK, well, the Democrats don’t really have anyone. Let’s be honest. We’ve got Dennis Kucinich, who looks like a character actor from a terrible B movie. We’ve got John Edwards–TV psychic or South Carolinian Senator? John Kerry–looks like a bloodhound. Carol Moseley Braun–let’s get serious. Howard Dean–flash in the pan, soup du jour, flavor of the month. He won’t last. Joe Lieberman–right, because everyone wants a President who puts them to sleep with the very sound of his voice. Anyway, you get the point. It’s been belabored by others, so I don’t really need to elaborate any more…

And then you have Wesley Clark. Let’s see…Rhodes Scholar, graduated number one in his class at West Point, winner of the Purple Heart and the Medal of Freedom, Supreme Commander of NATO forces Europe, serious about national security, pro-choice, pro-environment, distinguished, brilliant, an Ike for the aughts. But truth be told, he’s got no money, no name recognition, and no organization, so in all likelihood Clark on the ballot will be as VP (Dean and Clark? ugh. Kerry and Clark? has a nice ring to it…).

But he’s my man for ’04. He can give to the Democratic Party the moral vision and clarity of purpose to raise the party out of its ideological quagmire. He isn’t a dove, and isn’t a hawk. He wasn’t opposed to the war in Iraq, but was opposed to our brazen hegemonic stupidity in acting outside of NATO and the UN(Check out his article in the Washington Monthly from September 2002).

Sadly, he could run in ’08, but Hillary’s got that one all sewn up…though Bill Frist will spank her in a general election. She’s the kind of candidate for whom the party faithful will love to vote. But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Anyway, that’s my thought for the morning.

Oh, one other, actually. This is a book recommendation: Bystanders to Genocide: Why the United States Let the Rwandan Tragedy Happen by Samantha Power. She’s brilliant, insightful, thoughtful, and brazen. Witness one of my favorite quotes from the book…”We have a foreign policy based on our amoral economic interests run by amateurs who want to stand for something

Banzai on FOX

Last night I saw the premiere of Banzai, a mock Japanese game show of sorts where the contestants do a bunch of wacky things and the audience is supposed to bet on the outcome.

Banzai - Sundays at 8:30pm on FOX

I imagine that if you’re drunk it makes for a very entertaining experience.

Kudos to Dennis the Headhunter

I got this “cold call” email today:

Date: Wed, 11 Jun 2003 12:19:09 -0700

From: Dennis R...

To: Michael Radwin <michael@...>

Subject: Could you/your family be interested in moving to Seattle

area to do Browser and/or algorithm work for AMAZON?

Hello Michael,

I know this is out of the blue.  No, we've never

communicated before, to my knowledge.

Please let me know if you're at all interested.


Dennis R...  -  Principal Account Manager

425-xxx-xxxx   or   800-xxx-xxxx

I told him “Thanks, but no thanks,” since I’m happy with my job right now and we’re going to be in LA for the forseeable future.

He did several things right that recruiters usually get wrong:

  • He was honest and direct, and admitted that he didn’t know me. Aside from jobs (often with companies you’ve never heard of), headhunters don’t have much to offer. The best they can do is show you courtesy and respect.
  • He thought about my family. That’s imprortant; I’m not some 22-year-old kid who can just pack up and move to a new city without affecting other people.
  • He called me Michael, not Mike. Unless you know someone personally (or they say otherwise), I think it’s professional courtesy to address someone by their full name. It’s the closest thing English has to Usted.

So, although I’m not interested in the job, maybe some of my readers are. Drop me a private email and I’ll forward Dennis’ contact info to you.

T-mobile customer service finally comes through

masthead_tmobile.gif After a few weeks of pleading with my cell phone carrier, they have finally resolved a billing error. This is a good thing for both of us. Good for me, because I generally like my calling plan and would hate to give it up, and good for them, because they will continue to get my business.

Back in March, we traveled to Italy, Hungary, and Israel for a couple of weeks. Since I have a GSM phone, I called T-mobile from the airport to find out if I could use it overseas.

The customer service rep told me that yes, in fact I could use the phone in Europe and Israel. When I asked about rates, she said that it was basically 29 cents a minute. I asked several follow-up questions — 29 cents a minute from Europe to the US? Yes. How about from Europe to Europe or from Europe to Israel? Yes, same 29 cents a minute rate applies. From Israel to US? Also 29 cents. Same per-minute rate for incoming and outgoing calls? Yes. Any service charge or monthly fee? Nope.

This seemed like a pretty good deal. So sure enough, we used the phone quite a bit to make hotel reservations, reconfirm our flights, and call our friends and family. In total, we made 166 minutes of calls while we were overseas.

When we got back to the US, I got the bill. Instead of the $48 in roaming charges I was expecting, somehow we managed to rack up a total of $313. Simply put, the rates were totally different from what the rep quoted me. I was billed 99 cents a minute for calls made within Italy and Hungary, and $2.99 a minute for calls made within Israel.

So I called T-mobile customer service and explained the situation calmly and patiently to the rep who answered. Laura seemed very friendly and sympathetic, but ultimately was unable to help me. She explained that the other rep must’ve been confused, since the 29 cent rate is for the opposite calling direction.

Laura even put in a request for a $265 credit, but she said wasn’t sure it was going to go through. The fact that the original rep never mentioned the 29 cent rate explicitly in my file meant that the billing folks would likely reject my credit request. I explained that I would be happy to talk to her supervisor or anyone in billing if they wanted more details.

A couple of weeks passed and no contact from T-mobile. The auto-pay thing kicked in and my credit card was charged for the $313 amount. I guess they rejected the $265 credit request.

I called back today and got a hold of another rep. I explained the whole situation to John, and he put me on hold so he could read up on all of the notes in my file to see what happened. When John came back from hold, he apologized for the overbilling problem, but explain that the billing department rejected the claim because there was no evidence in the file that the rep in March said anything about the 29 cent rate.

I told John, “I’m really frustrated because I think T-mobile should honor the rate that I was quoted back in March.” I even explained that I understand now that the actual rates are $0.99 and $2.99 and that the original rep was wrong to quote me 29 cents back in March, but that I feel that I shouldn’t be penalized for her error. He apologized and empathized, but admitted that he was powerless to help me. He offered to put in another credit request for $265, but was pretty sure it would just get rejected again.

I told him that I guess I’m going to need to cancel my account if they can’t honor the rate that they quoted me.

Those must have been the magic words, because John said, “Well, before we go down that road, let me see if I can find someone in a different department to help you.” He put me on hold for a while longer, and Susan got on the phone. She had already read my file, but asked me to explain what happened in my own words. We talked for a while, and she said she needed to talk to her supervisor, so could I please hold.

Susan finally came back from hold with the greeting, “Good news. We’re going to honor the rate you were quoted, so we’re going to credit your account for $265.”

Apparently I found the right person to talk to. Thanks, Susan. You’ve restored my faith in T-mobile.

Using passive voice for moral neutrality

It drives me crazy when I read a headline that says “3 die in bombing” and it turns out that one of the three people was the suicide bomber himself.

Instead, how about “2 killed,” or better yet, “2 murdered?”

The press often writes headlines in a way that imply that the suicide bomber just happened to be there and accidentally got killed like everyone else. But his death is not morally equivalent to the victims of the bombing. He is a murderer.

Murderers don’t deserve to get counted. They’re not victims; they’re criminals.

By using the passive voice, newspapers claim that they’re being objective. But really, what’s so subjective about condeming murder? There are moral absolutes in this world.