Another successful fundraiser

Last night’s show was the last of three fundraising episodes for this fund drive. We were tasked with raising $1920 per show. To make the goal easier to speak to I just announced it as $2000 as a nice, round number.

During week 1 we raised nearly $2700 which was pretty awesome. Our listeners stepped up in a big way. We were joined by Renee Feltz of the KPFT News Department as the fund raising coordinator during the program. Her energy added greatly to the efforts.

During week 2 we fell short of the goal by about $500 so that was a little disappointing. Still, with the overage the first week we has some cushion and in terms of the overall goal we were right where we needed to be. Renee was out of town and Robb was absent as well. Dr. Simotas was our fundraiser coordinator and she did a good job. It was her first time to work with the Technology Bytes crew so it didn’t gel as well as I would have liked.

Last night we were re-joined by Renee Feltz and Robb Zipp in their usual roles and Dr. Simotas joined us in the studio. It was a winning line-up as we blew through the goal with 30 minutes left in the show. I think having a fully qualified ObGyn in the studio and on the air during a computer technology talk show pushed us over the edge. The final tally for last nights show was just over $2600.

Alexandra Simotas in the control room with phliKtid

Overall, we exceeded our goal and it was a successful fund drive for us.

Glad to be of assistance

As you might imagine, I have answered a LOT of computer questions over the years as a result of my chosen path as demagogy-free radio talk show host and newspaper techno-pundit.

The questions come via e-mail, IM, the phone, in person and via third parties, friends and relatives. Everything from consumer advice to complex network troubleshooting. Sometimes I know the answer and sometimes I am quick with a well executed Google search and on certain occasions I just grunt my displeasure at being used in this manner and go back to what I was doing before I was so rudely interrupted.

Since all my Q&A’s I write for the Chronicle are archived in the Helpline Blog they are turning up in the search engines when people are looking for an answer to a problem. This means that I am answering questions now without actually interacting with the person experiencing the problem.

There’s no way to track this. I simply have no idea how much assistance (or damage) I am perpetrating. I do, however, have an inkling based on the steady stream of replies to one particular posting I made back on Sept. 9, 2005.

My screen is sideways

It was a Q&A I put together based on a real live helpdesk issue that I solved with one of my users in the course of my workday. In terms of publishing it was kind of a “throw down” posting in that I did not see this as something that affected very many people and would possibly be more filler than anything or perhaps just demonstrate a quirky computer factoid.

I was wrong.

This week I have received three comments thanking me for that one single answer and I have received around 28 since it was posted. And since I rarely hear from people I have successfully helped the true number of people this has helped may never be fully known.

I can only imagine how many people have been suffering with a monitor turned on it’s side looking for a solution.

I’m glad I could help.

from border to border and coast to coast and all the ships at sea

Technology Bytes is moving back to it’s old time slot of 8-10 pm. We had been moved to the 7-9 pm slot for awhile but it was just not the same so I lobbied for our old slot and they finally gave it to us. The change takes effect Wednesday April 19th.

This is part of a station-wide programming revamp. Many shows are moving. The new program schedule is online at the KPFT website and can be downloaded in PDF format directly from this link.

In other Tech Bytes house-keeping news; Groovehouse has been doing an awesome job as the new phone screener, following in the footsteps of the original Phone Girl, Leslie the Phone Girl, Phone Boy and David. And beyond that he has become the official photo-chronicler of Tech Bytes at the studio and at our events. You can check out his work in the on-air gallery of

Some of my favorites:

Jay Lee, Barrett Canon, Lauren Steffy, Dwight Silverman Jay Lee and Barrett Canon Phlikitid in the control room

Captive audience

One of the odder aspects of doing radio is the fact that prisoners in Huntsville tend to listen to the station.

In this fast paced, connected Internet world we live in it’s all instant messaging, cell phones and e-mail. Of course the inmates at the local correctional facility don’t have access to such amenities. When someone there wants to make contact they have to do it the old fashioned way and send a hand-written letter.

I tend to get about two or three letters a year from someone in the Wynne Unit. You can always tell it’s prisoner mail when you see it. The hand-written address on the envelope is dead giveaway. When you open the envelope to remove the letter a small piece of paper usually falls out that says


It’s like one of those ‘Inspected by #42’ tags that you find in the pocket of a new pair of pants.

Most of the time the letter tends to be a question about what to study to get a computer job when the inmate is released or some other question about something we talked about weeks before.

Last night there was a letter in my station mailbox and it was immediately obvious it was another prison letter. I opened it up and read it. It was an unusual letter in that it asked nothing of me. No question to respond to or anything. It was just one prisoner’s observations on the show.

This is how it started off:

Jay and everyone else,

Greetings. Yes I’m writing from prison but before you start thinking I’m some tin-foil hat wearing weirdo stalker type person, let me assure you I have never even owned a tin-foil hat! Kudos on the show, I’ve even learned a thing or two but usually, though, I just tune in for all the jackassery so double kudos on that!

The rest of the letter went on to describe, quite humorously, some of his observations of the program. I read the whole thing on the air last night. I hope he got to hear it.

It made me think how much I miss hand-written letters. There’s something about holding a piece of paper in your hand and reading the contents when it’s something crafted just for you in such a manner.

Oh, and it had the word jackassery in it! That is, certainly, an underutilized term that I think should be used much more. As you prowl the Interweb today you should drop it on your friends in casual comments and conversation.


Last night’s show was, well…interesting to say the least.

At one point I was describing Groovehouse‘s eagerness to answer and screen calls as we were inviting listeners to call in. I used the idiom “chafing at the bit” as in “Groovehouse is chafing at the bit to take your call.”

At this point I noticed someone on IRC and Phliktid having a good laugh I asked them to share what was so funny.

Apparently someone in IRC found great humor in my application of the word “chafing” and pointed out that it should be “chomping” or possibly “champing”, suggesting that “chafing” was incorrect and intimating that the connotations of “chafing” was strictly an inside the pants situation.

Basically he called me out on a mixed metaphor. I was horrified. Could I really have been using an incorrect figure of speech so egregiously all my life? That’s unpossible!

I struggled vainly to explain that it could totally be “chafing” when one considers that a horse straining against the bit of the bridle might chafe the inside of the horse’s mouth but he would have none of it.

For the sake of good radio I conceded my lifelong error and moved on. Until this morning when I did some research. As it turns out “chafing at the bit” is completely interchangeable with “chomping/champing at the bit” and is a widely accepted version of the idiom.

Exhibit A
Exhibit B
Exhibit C


Another incident involved the idiom “Curiosity killed the cat” used by a caller to describe his efforts to diagnose his own problem and perhaps going a bit too far and ending up doing more damage.

When the caller said that, I responded with a quick quip along the lines of “we like dead cats.” at which point one of our guests looked like he’d been hit by a truck. Oh yea, he’s a huge cat person. I should not have been surprised.

It certainly was not my intention to offend any cat lovers (although they are such easy targets). What I meant was that if curiosity kills cats then those who appreciate or participate in curious behavior (something that describes most nerds) must like dead cats.

Not literally! I was being idiomatic!

It’s not like we had a real bridle on Groovehouse chomping, chafing or otherwise. Of course no-one seemed to take issue with the idea when the idiom was used. No one rallyed to Groove’s cause when it might be suggested that, even if only idiomatically, he might be strapped into some type of riding harness. But use the word “dead” and the word “cat” in a sentence and watch out!

Anyway, I stand by my free lance idiom “I like dead cats” to describe my curiosity and offer it up unto the every-growing lexicon of language. In fact, upon further reflection and refinement of thought I would add “I’m killing a cat” and “I’m committing cat suicide” as ways to describe indulging in one’s curiosity.

For the record, I do like cats and I am in no way an advocate of killing them.

Another initiate to the broadcast hole

Wednesday night’s broadcast of Technology Bytes will feature yet another guest host in the studio.

Tomorrow night we will be joined by Kyrie O’Connor. Kyrie is best known for her efforts at The Houston Chronicle blogs under the name MeMo writing about, well, read it yourself and you tell me.

She’s also an occasional guest on NPR’s Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me program along with such notable talent as Paula Poundstone, P.J O’rourke, Sue Ellicott and others.

Kyrie has a long standing love hate relationship with my regular co-host, Dwight Silverman, who she affectionately calls Evil Dwight.

This should prove to be quite fun! Apparently she’s under the same impression.

Hey! NPR! Listen up!

Lucky me!

When I go to the Houston Chronicle site to update The HelpLine Blog and I see that banner pictured above it’s like seeing my name in lights.

I was just browsing through the archives of my column and was amazed to realize I have been writing for the paper for almost 6 years now.

What an amazing experience the whole technology explosion has been for me. From my humble beginnings as a sales dweeb in the computer department at Best Buy over 11 years ago to working in the IT department of a huge software company today.

Along the way I have gotten to do cool things and meet amazing people.

When I was the operations manager at Neosoft many moons ago was when I first encountered technology columnist Dwight Silverman. Dwight was the original HelpLine columnist for the Houston Chronicle.

Technology Bytes was still in it’s infancy and Dwight was an early adopter of residential ISDN. I had many opportunities to sit on the phone and go over the configuration of his Pipeline 25 whenever his Internet connection would drop. Over a short time we developed a rapport and he even wrote a very nice article about the radio show for the Chronicle which gave us a much needed push in listenership back in those formative years.

I moved on from Neosoft in 1999 but did not lose touch with Dwight. He guest hosted on the show every now and then and in 2000 he informed me that he was getting promoted at the newspaper and would be giving up the HelpLine column.

The story on how I came to take over the column varies depending on whether you talk to me or talk to Dwight.

My recollection is that Dwight didn’t even offer me the opportunity to apply for the position. When I suggested the idea to him I seem to recall him dismissing it rather out of hand, citing my lack of journalism credentials. In my mind I pushed the issue and was granted the opportunity to write a test column to be reviewed by his editor and they would consider my application. It was none-too-encouraging, but my desire to be a media-whore was strong.

I took the time to find the original e-mail exchange. This is the response I sent to Dwight when he announced his moving on to other things at the Chronicle:

To: Dwight Silverman
From: JLee
Subject: Re: The times, they are a’changin’ (was Re: Tech Bytes)

Wow….big changes!

Maybe I should apply as your replacement…

At 09:26 PM 08/21/2000 -0500, you wrote:

Jay –

You may be interested in this note I’m sending out to my sources…

Effective Monday, Aug. 28, I will no longer be covering business technology for the Houston Chronicle. Instead, I am taking on the job of Web Development Editor for, the newspaper’s Web site….*snip*

And this was his reply:

To: “Dwight Silverman”
From: JLee
Subject: Re: The times, they are a’changin’ (was Re: Tech Bytes)

Ha! Maybe you should! Got a journalism degree?

At any rate, I applied and Dwight ended up helping me quite a bit with my first efforts at writing the column. In the end the position was offered to me and I accepted.

Things have evolved over the years. The HelpLine column is now an almost daily blog and remains a weekly feature in the business section of the paper on Tuesdays. It used to be Wednesdays, same as the radio show which made Wednesday Jay Lee Day for awhile, or so I dubbed it when Andrea declared that nothing important or entertaining happened on Wednesdays.

Now Dwight is a regular on the program and we’re going stronger than ever as the show approaches it’s 11th anniversary in June.

I just love being a geek and getting to do what I do.