Monthly Archives: June 2009

Comcast has rolled out faster Internet speeds (in one market) and they actually didn’t raise rates to do it! The people responded by… downgrading their service to save a buck. There has been some anger directed towards Comcast and others that they have failed to upgrade their networks. Well, in some markets at least (including my current market), they actually have been working to trot out faster services.

Part of me thinks it somewhat tragic that they (apparently) aren’t being rewarded for their efforts. The other part of me questions how much of this is their own doing. As ridiculously generous as their 250GB cap is, I can’t help but wonder if they’re making some people afraid to upgrade too fast. When I heard about the Zaulem Sound’s impending upgrade, I commented that this will allow people to reach their cap all that much sooner! A slight exaggeration since a 250GB cap is still out of reach for most people, but upgrading at least provides the illusion of yet another thing to worry about if they want to upgrade.

That brings me to one of the problems I had with the caps in the first place. Cell phone usage exploded right about the time people were getting enough minutes that they didn’t have to count minutes. Back before that point, people didn’t want to pay a monthly fee and then have to worry about going over and paying a substantial per-minute fee. The limits still exist, but it’s more than most people use. Of course, Comcast’s limits are also over what most people use, but people (including tech people like me) really don’t know how much bandwidth we use. Plus, the penalty for going over on Comcast isn’t paying extra, it’s losing service.

Of course, if Comcast (and other providers) are losing money on a certain class of customer, they have the right to establish whatever limits they see fit so long as they are transparent about it. I can’t help but wonder, however, if a better tactic would be to try to get these people to simply start paying more. The kinds of people that swap a lot of data are also the kinds of people that would consider signing up for Comcast’s Ultra and Extreme Plans. Yes, giving these people faster access could result in them swapping more files, but I’d have to think that there is a natural limit. And I think that imposing these limits and essentially telling them that their patronage is not welcome is a good way to make people wary about paying for faster access.

If subscribers both on the lightest and heaviest plans are similarly limited to 250GB, there is at least the perception that there is limited benefit in upgrading. That perception isn’t entirely rational since few users will even come close to reaching 205GB, but… what value is there in it? You can’t download more. There is still no guarantee that the connection will be faster when you need it to be (ie you’re still at the mercy of overall network speeds). Your connection won’t necessarily be any more reliable. The best advantage to higher caps are for people that intend to download large amounts of data. And those people aren’t welcome.

Time Warner, on the other hand, continues to pursue tiered pricing based on bandwidth. I still see the same problem here as with the old cell phones. You arguably want people to become more rather than less reliant on your product. That’s less likely to happen if people are having to monitor their usage closely. Time-Warner isn’t cutting off high-end users like Comcast, but they’re placing the usage on the tiers absurdly low.

Also worth mentioning, of course, are that both Comcast and Time-Warner are firstly cable companies and both have reasons to be concerned about streaming video cutting into their business. So if people become more broadband-reliant they might gain in one area but lose in another. The pool of potential customers in the US is also dwindling as so many have already made the transition. So if they’re going to be content to lose business as cable providers for the Internet, they’re going to have to make their money by either (a) focusing on the most profitable customers or (b) find ways to get more enthusiastic customers to be willing to pay for more.

Category: Server Room

I have a big post on premarital cohabitation coming up, but I thought I would share this first:

Nation’s Girlfriends Unveil New Economic Plan: ‘Let’s Move In Together’

The Boyfriend representative in this video totally blows it. Clearly, the better argument is this:

Of all the sectors of our economy, it’s housing that started this mess. There is, among other things, a supply excess that is driving home investments into the ground. If Boyfriends all moved in with Girlfriends, this would exacerbate the problem considerably. In cases where there are no roommates, it would lead to a contraction in the number of renters by half and leave rental property owners hurting. Further, even in cases where there are roommates, it’s not like Chad is ever going to get a job and be able to pay his own rent so he’s going to have to move back in with his parents which in addition to being a major bummer, is another contraction. So if you look at it objectively, it’s pretty hard not to see that the current economy demands that I be given some space.

Category: Theater

I am of the mind that “hypocrisy” is a charge thrown about far too often. And often disingenuously. To me, hypocrisy has one of two definitions. A narrow one or an expansive one. The expansive one is to say that anybody who denounces something while personally doing it is a hypocrite. The narrow one, which I prefer, is one that denounces something while believing that it is okay for him (or her) to do it. I prefer the latter definition because it is the most morally useful one. The former definition, in my mind, reduces the notion of hypocrisy into morally useless territory.

If we are to say that everybody that denounces something that they do is a hypocrite, then we are all hypocrites. More than that, we should be hypocrites. To be otherwise is either to live a perfect life or to rationalize away everything bad you’ve ever done. If someone is doing something that they recognize to be bad, they should be able to say so. Ideally, they should admit to what they are doing, but for various reasons that is often not a good idea. I am sure that, for instance, the wife and family of an adulterous politician would prefer the dirty laundry not be spread around.

Likewise, President Jed Bartlet concealed his smoking habit from the public because he did not want to lend his habit the veneer of respectability. He did not want, by his own actions, to suggest that smoking was okay.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama is somewhat more forthright about his relationship with “Uncle Phil”, as he’s called in the Truman home:

That Obama has just signed legislation designed to reduce cigarette use, it’s easy to suggest that Obama is worthy of condemnation for the hypocrisy. Obama deflects this in the same way that parents across the country do: For the love of god, do what I say and not what I do. In fact, Obama takes it a step further and uses himself as an example as to why this legislation is so important. Some would call this political posturing, but when I was coming of age the people that warned me the most sternly and effectively against smoking (I didn’t start until I was 22) were smokers themselves. Whatever the level of his sincerity (which we have no way of knowing), he is saying what a lot of sincere people do.

Criticizing Obama on the hypocrisy, though, is the easy way out. I feel the same way about Governor Mark Sanford (R-SC) and the recent revelation of his affair. And Senator John Ensign (R-NV), David Vitter (R-LA) and former Governor Elliot Spitzer (D-NY). They’re mostly cheap shots. They’re useful in the context of weakening a political figure. People who vote for Sanford on the basis of his alleged commitment to family values should probably know that he does not live up to them himself and he should be called into account. He can try to defend his actions or (more likely) admit that they were wrong and then the voters can decide whether they believe him or not (which they will miraculously do or not do along party lines).

But he should be called into account for what he actually did. It should not be used, as it has been, to attack his position on gay marriage. Further, revelations of infidelity should not be important primarily (or solely) if there is a hypocrisy angle. If it’s wrong for Ensign to cheat on his wife, then it’s wrong for a pro-gay marriage politician to cheat on his. The only time there’s really a distinction is if the pro-gay marriage politician is prepared to say that it’s different for him because he doesn’t believe that cheating on his wife is wrong.

A morally useful hypocrisy charge carries an implication that what the hypocrite has been caught doing is not actually that bad. Or at least is not as bad as saying that people should behave differently. Because it is criticizing the hypocrite not for what he did but rather for his condemnation of it. For instance, Ted Haggard was an anti-gay preacher caught in homosexual acts. His critics did not care that he was engaging in homosexual acts. In fact, they support the right to do so as free from consequence as possible. Haggard, despite his oopsies, continued to disagree. Haggard’s continued belief that what he did was wrong undercuts the hypocritical charge. So even when the charge is morally useful by virtue of forcing Haggard to confront the difference between his stated morality and his private actions, it did nothing to really prove that Haggard’s views on homosexuality were actually wrong.

There are some cracks in this, though. Democrats, to great effect, used hypocrisy against the Republicans during Bill Clinton’s impeachment hearings. The hypocrisy charge was successful not insomuch as it defended Clinton’s infidelity but rather the right of Clinton not to have attention brought to it. Since most people are skittish about the airing of dirty laundry (though not so skittish as to not pay attention to it), the message resonated and it’s one of the comparatively few cases where I can lend some credence to it. And so criticizing Ensign (who made some harsh statements directed at Clinton) on those grounds possibly have some sort of standing… except that it involves an issue ten years stale. So to suggest that now, ten years after the fact, infidelity is relevant and should be made public is… inconsistent. Perhaps hypocritical. Either a politician has a right to keep his private failings private or he does not. Saying out loud that these failings are failings does not, to me, really enter into the equation. Further, it is completely useless, though, to bring infidelity (or Haggard’s homosexual adventures) up in the context of gay marriage because that is an issue of public, not private, sexuality.

What disturbs me about this is that the charge is levied most frequently not to discourage immoral behavior but rather to discourage the condemnation of it, which in turn is to defend it. Otherwise, the hypocrisy is somewhat beside the point. The issue is that Haggard engaged in homosexual acts, that Sanford cheated, that Al Gore uses too much fossil fuel, and that Obama smokes cigarettes. If one considers these things bad then the hypocrisy angle is tangential at top and at bottom is appreciated because better they at least advocate doing the right thing rather than defend doing the wrong thing.

All of this brings me back to Obama and cigarettes. To suggest that hypocrisy is the issue, it implicitly assumes that what Obama is doing actually isn’t bad. For hypocrisy to be more important than smoking, then it’s his public face that’s wrong. And it’s difficult to say “they’re both bad” because either smoking is bad (and thus Obama’s public face is right) or it is not (and thus his private face is doing nothing wrong).

The stronger argument is that he shouldn’t smoke because it sets a really bad example. This is, of course, true. Of course, it wouldn’t be such an issue if the press didn’t keep asking the question. But then if they did that, I wouldn’t have had anything to post about…

-{Note, this post is not meant to be a platform for grievances against Obama, Sanford, Republicans, Democrats, liberals, or conseratives generally. Condemn or forgive the hypocrisy or the specific underlying behavior as you see appropriate, but let’s avoid comments like “I don’t care about x, I really hate him/them because y” and so on. I know these requests must seem tedious, but there are so many other places to discuss actual politics and politicians and some of the issues I like to talk about can easily get sidetracked into formulaic condemnations of people whose philosophies differ from our own}-

Having made a run at Facebook and Twitter, thus far Twitter has been something of a bust but Facebook has taken off like gangbusters. I can see why Mitch and Clancy took such a liking to it. Most of the people that came to mind that I wanted to add were handily available from my email contact list or as a friend of a friend. Those that weren’t (ex-girlfriend Julie, ex-roommates Dennis and Karl) don’t appear to be on the site at all. There was one other person that I was relatively sure would have a presence there that hadn’t popped up yet. It was, in fact, someone I’ve been trying to track down for a couple years now: Tracey Roberts.

Tracey is not someone that I’ve talked about a whole lot, but she played a pretty integral part of my life. Most particularly my romantic life. The first girl (of two) that ever destroyed me. I’ve been wanting to contact her for quite some time now. I’ve scanned through DMV records and googling, but all of this is made more complicated by the fact that her real name isn’t Tracey Roberts but is in fact one of the most common female names in existence within my generation. Googling her name is hopeless. Even trying to put in relevant details about her. All I’ve found through the DMV, voter registration, and zabasearch is her parents address.

So my assumption is that’s probably where she is. When I left Delosa six or so years ago, she lived with her folks. She was talking of moving to Canada with some guy that she met on the Internet. I would be surprised if that came to fruition, though it would explain what I’ve found (or been unable to find) if that’s the case.

Facebook, though, had apparently given me a lead to go on. The site lets you look for people based on not only on name, but also by alma mater. So I stuck in her name and Delosa Western University, the college I associate her with. Numerous people came up. The second looked promising. I took a closer look at the picture and the resemblance was striking. Was it her? I wasn’t sure. Facebook Tracey lived in Charlton, Tennassee. A lot of people move back and forth between Charlton and Colosse, so that wouldn’t be a big surprise, though I figured that if she left Colosse she would be leaving the south. She went to the appropriate university. Same color hair and eyes, though neither of those are uncommon (my wife has them). But something in her smile seemed very familiar. The more I looked at it, the more sure it seemed that I had finally found her. So I shot her an email: “Is this the same former Tracey Roberts of Camelot, Roosevelt High School, DWU, and UDC?”

I wasn’t sure if she would reply or what I would even say if she did. The main reason I was trying to track her down was to apologize. I won’t get precisely into the details of what I have to apologize for, but of the relatively short list of people I mistreated in my life, she is at the the top of it. She is one of only two people that I feel the need to go out of my way to say that I’m sorry. She hurt me badly and to say that I did not respond well was an understatement. I will probably get around to telling the story at some point, but maybe not. I wrote her a long letter a couple years back, but unfortunately it was on a thumb drive that got wiped and I haven’t had the time or energy to write it again. I was planning on writing it, sending it to her parents and asking them to forward it to her wherever she was. The main reason that I hadn’t done so was that I didn’t have a letter ready. And as of writing her the message on Facebook, I still don’t. But I needed to know if I needed to drop everything and write one. So I wanted in anticipation for Facebook Tracey’s confirmation.

Instead, I got a two word message back “No, sorry”.

I looked at the picture and I was dumbfounded. The more I had looked at it previously, the more sure I was that it was her. But I also wanted it to be her. If it was her, she had finally left Colosse as she had long wanted to do. If it was her, she’d lost a little bit of weight (something she was very self-conscious about). If it was her, she was married. If it was her, she had an adorable little girl. If it was her, she had finally escaped the darkness of her previous life and found the happiness that I’d formerly sneeringly (but more recently earnestly) wished upon her.

I’m not convinced that it isn’t her. The physical similarities, regardless of the picture, are too great for me to dismiss it. I’d honestly expected her to be less enthusiastic about my re-inserting myself in her life. I thought that I might not get a reply at all. Doesn’t seem like her to outright lie, though. And the timeline of the move to Charlton seem wrong somehow. I would like to know for sure if it isn’t her so that I can keep on looking. And I would like to know if it is her and if she genuinely doesn’t want to hear from me (or her old life) anymore.

As much as I would like to say my peace, I would respect those wishes. It’s the least I can do.

I find myself in the position of defending, among others, the recording industry and copyright holders. Not because I believe that there actions are justified, but rather because I believe the concerns that motivate them are genuine. Of course, sometimes they do things that are so indefensible that I lose any desire to keep a fair and open mind.

For instance, plugging another nail in the likely coffin of Sirius XM by requiring that royalties be paid for the songs that they play. This would be related to their efforts to bleed regular radio stations with the Radio Is Piracy perspective. Record labels exist in large part to get songs on the radio. Record sales are nearly impossible to accumulate in large numbers otherwise. As Mike Mesnick points out, this is why payola and its children exist. Radio stations are already struggling. Moves like this may make a little money in the short run, but when Clear Channel and Infinity and the rest start counting their beans, the result will be fewer radio stations playing music and more playing talk radio.

Of course, the result could be precisely what I said wouldn’t happen last week. Assuming that the law allows artists to waive these fees, it will provide a financial incentive for radio stations to bypass the record labels altogether. It’s never been easier to make music. It’s never been harder to get the attention of radio stations. This could really obviate the entire rationale behind the record label system.

I would say that I can’t even begin to fathom what they’re thinking, but I guess I can. People – the very critics of this maneuver, in fact – have been telling the RIAA and its folks that the days of people paying to own music are numbers. That they’re going to have to find some other way to get paid. If they can’t force people to buy records and they can’t stop people from illegally sharing music, what precisely are they supposed to do? The Free-Art people never seem to have a good answer to that questions. Concerts and t-shirts only go so far.

The eternal skeptic in me says that they will get their way because they’ll make it hard for unsigned artists to “opt out” or will charge just little enough that it isn’t worth it to radio stations to become adventurous. So fewer music radio stations. More talk radio. Radio stations becoming even more conservative with their playlist since every song counts just a little bit more.

-{Via Newsome}-

Category: Theater

A little while back I asked if anyone knew about an audio player that met certain specifications. Web suggested ZoomPlayer, which I have used for video before but never audio. Before trying that, I finally got around to trying XBMC. For those of you that don’t know what XBMC is, it’s the software package for the XBox Media Center. They have a release for Windows, Mac, and Linux free for downloading. It was the comprehensive solution I was hoping for to set up a better PC for my TV. Up until now, I’ve been running regular Windows, which does the job but does not have an interface remotely friendly to TV. I tried Windows Media Center Edition only to discover that it ridiculously required special drivers that I did not have. Then I beefed up on Linux to try MythTV, but the video out wasn’t functional for my laptop video card and since using a laptop is part of my eventual plan that scrapped that. So all that was left to try was XMBC.

It’s very impressive. In fact, it comes achingly close to having everything I could want and a little more on top of that. I say “achingly close” because there is nothing more frustrating than that one missing feature that would otherwise make for the perfect app. Or a handful of missing features in this case. So wonderful is the interface, though, that a handful of defects seems like only a few. And none of them are deal-breakers. They’re just frustratingly absent.

XBMC has a beautiful interface that’s extremely easy to navigate. The vast majority of my concerns prior to installing the program were not only addressed, but were addressed in ways far superior to what I had envisioned. For instance, creating the “library” was supposed to be a headache but was instead a breeze. Not only will it give me easy access to an emulator, but it even has a special place designated for it. File management was going to be an issue where I thought I would have to go outside the app, but what they provide is far superior to the ways that I was figuring I was going to have to rig it up. It’s got easy-to-access options for music, videos, optional libraries for each, emulators (installed separately), and more. Very nice.

Unfortunately, there are the absent features. Whenever features are absent from an otherwise excellent program, I figure that usually (a) it’s one of those areas where I use a computer differently than the average user. I have a special setup or a special way of doing things. Or (b) there is a way to do it and I just can’t figure out. There are probably some of each. Part of the problem is what I call the Linux Disease. Linux, by virtue of having different distros and desktop environments, provides good choices of things to pick between but none of them have everything. XBMC likewise has various “skins” you can install, some are superior to others, but with each one having something the others lack I have to choose between functionality. And because of the different versions and whatnot, you can’t just pick something and install and have it work. I keep running into compatibility issues.

The most troubling problem I’ve hit so far are fast-forwarding and rewinding audio and video. For audio, you can’t. It’s just next/prev track. Worse, on some skins, there’s no button for it and you have to select the next song you want to play. For video, you can jump forward 30 seconds or 10 minutes. Neither work for me. If I want to go back a little bit, it’s probably because of a line of dialog that I didn’t hear. So I just need to go back ten seconds or so. Likewise, if there’s some big plot point I missed, I don’t want to go back ten minutes. I usually want to go back five. And there doesn’t seem to be any way to easily change this setting.

The secondary issue is alluded to in the first. The options for music are limited. You can’t move backwards or forwards within a track. And on most skins, you can’t even tell it whether you want to shuffle or play straight through or whether you want it to start back at the beginning when it’s done. This is some pretty basic stuff.

Thirdly, it doesn’t accept a large number of buttons on my remote. This really isn’t that big of a deal because I can still do what I need to do. Does anyone know of a good remote control programming application? There’s got to be something like that out there. Or maybe I just need to buy a remote with all-assignable buttons.

Ordinarily, either one of the first two of these might be enough to get me to say “screw it” and move on, but the rest of the application is so impressive that I am trying to figure out how to work my way around it. I’m going to the trouble of researching it to see if there are options that I’ve missed.

If you can accept these limitations, so far I endorse this application.

Category: Server Room

Charles Homans think that ketchup packets are the worst idea ever:

I think that’s wrong. Very wrong. They’re not even the worst condiment packet ever!

Ever since my decision to make common cause with our president by putting mustard on my burger, I have been fumbling ridiculously over mustard packets. Mustard gets everywhere except on my bun. Unlike mayo and ketchup, mustard doesn’t come off the fingers with a lick. It’s like toothpaste on shirts. It has staying power until you break out the soap.

That aside, the mustard experiment has gone over well. Not only does it replace mayo, but combine it with some Sriracha or Tabasco sauce and it overwhelms any cheese you might put on it and you can replace that, too.

Category: Kitchen
A look at one-way amorousness and non-relationships on Grey’s Anatomy, in Hollywood, and in life.

The latest show that I’ve been consuming through my earpiece (as well as watching when I have a spare eye) is Grey’s Anatomy. So far I’m enjoying it. One of the more interesting aspects is the non-romance between lead Meredith Grey and her rejected suitor George O’Malley. In some ways it’s the classic case of a chick rejecting the sincere beta in search for her alpha. The alpha, in this case, being the unhappily married Derek (“Dr. McDreamy”) Shepherd. But it’s clear from the outset that Dr. Shepherd is not the only obstacle in George’s way. The primary obstacle is the fact that Meredith doesn’t even notice that he’s interested (or acts as though she doesn’t). This is problematic not just because it means that O’Malley has to do the heavy lifting to make anything happen, but in my experience if you’re hot for someone chances are good they either know it or the way that they see you is completely devoid of any sexual attraction.

O’Malley stands by in utter frustration as Meredith gets her heart broken repeatedly by the conflicted Dr. McDreamy while he knows that he would love her and never hurt her if he just got the chance. O’Malley gets some disingenuous advice from their mutual friends to go for it. I guess it’s something that people are expected to say, but it’s pretty bum advice when it’s equally obvious to everybody that it’s going to end badly.

And, of course, it does. As O’Malley is about to make his move, he catches Meredith having sex with somebody that she absolutely, positively should not be having sex with. He flies off the deep-end. Things tumble for Meredith until she is feeling beyond miserable about herself. In a moment of weakness, she receives O’Malley’s sexual advances. Long story short, the whole incident ends in a way beyond humiliating for O’Malley and he moves out (the two of them were living together with someone else), everyone takes his side, and Meredith is left feeling lower than dirt. Which, in his mind, is what she deserves after the awful way that she humiliated him. And most of her friends are willing to give her no quarter (their mutual roommate says flat-out that if it comes down to it, she’s siding with him). She apologized again and again, but he would have none of it.

As I watch and listen the whole situation unfold, it’s hard for me to experience too much sympathy for O’Malley. Of course, I can completely and entirely relate to the guy that loves the girl that doesn’t love him back. His hurt was understandable, as was a fit of rage after the humiliation, but a little perspective casts a pretty different light on things. He circled around her like a vulture. At her greatest moment of vulnerability (some of which caused by him), he made his move. Things didn’t work out like he’d known all along they wouldn’t until he saw his moment to strike, and he is indignant. None of this is to suggest that Meredith is free of blame. Though her reactions were the product of her own torment (much of it self-inflicted), self-destructive behavior becomes less tragic and more unforgivable when it has a radius beyond the self-destructive individual. And to be honest, O’Malley’s actions themselves were also the product of his own hurt. The main difference, in my mind, is that she has apologized repeatedly and neither he nor anybody else acknowledges the role he played in his own destruction.

This makes me think of the plight of a lot of beta males. The source of his pain was not entirely his own doing. It’s not like there was something that he could have done in order to win her over the “right” way. He had no chance. And to some extent, you can’t help who you are attracted to. But what you can help is (a) how much you cultivate that attraction and (b) how you respond to it. O’Malley followed the path that a lot of us do. He at once acknowledged that she was out of his league and so didn’t make his move but then did not acknowledge that the next move was his… the move away. Moving out of the apartment or trying to tackle his futile emotions. The romantic in all of us says that love is not something that can be contained, but to say that of O’Malley is also to say that of Meredith. The main difference being that she at least had a shot at her dream at one point.

There is supposed to be a romantic tragedy behind the love of the unattainable. I think that popular entertainment presents us with it so often (and make it love actualized sometimes) because we can all relate to it. But I view it as a truly destructive force. The inability to get someone out of your mind or to let a former lover go is one of the greatest sources of self-inflicted misery I’ve seen in those around me in my somewhat privileged life. It’s human and to some extent unavoidable, but I find Hollywood’s exaltation of this impulse to be problematic. I’ve complained before about how Hollywood misleads men by making them thing that persistence counts. But it misleads women into thinking that men will come around, too. And it misleads all of us into thinking that there is something beautiful about unrequited love and dreaming the impossible (Mc)Dream(y).

There isn’t.

And it isn’t just that it makes people unhappy. It’s a contagious sort of unhappiness. It leads to O’Malley the Vulture and Meredith the Succubus. It leads us to overlook the options that we do have. It makes us less pleasant for our friends to be around. Unless you’re a tortured artist, there isn’t much positive that can come from it. I think that we search endlessly for the bright side so we invent one. And though it never makes the pain stop, it makes us endure abuse and neglect and it makes us deal it out to people that are not the ones abusing and neglecting us. And, for that matter, exactly to the one abusing and neglecting us for the same reason that we are doing the same. Of course, that assumes that you’re in a position to deal the pain you’re experiencing. These people can be the most insufferable because they think that a dearth of available victims makes them benign.

Update: As if to make a fool out of me, O’Malley apologized in the episode I listened to today, outlining a significant portion of what I said above. He has regained his status as my favorite character. Most excellent.

It all started with my fifth viewing of The Watchmen. I heard it was playing in a hotel room in downtown Zaulem and decided that it would be worth the trip. Not exactly true, but true enough that I did end up watching the movie in a hotel room.

There’s never a good time to run out of gas. Never a good place.

Some times and some places, of course, are less bad than others.

Downtown Zaulem at one in the morning, for example, would be one of those times and places that are not less bad than many.

My friend Al Cavanaugh, a lawyer from Colosse, has a court case in Cascadia and flew up. I was running a little late picking him up at the airport, so even though I knew that I needed to refill the gas tank, I decided that I would do it immediately after we left the airport. With my gas tank running that low, there was no way that I would forget. Except, of course, that there is a lot that happens when picking someone up at the airport that pushes rather pertinent things, like a fuel gauge hanging on the other side of empty, out of one’s mind. By the time we got back in the car, we were already getting caught up on how things were going with one another that it completely escaped my mind until I glanced down when we parked at the lot adjacent to his hotel room. Then I did what I should have done at the airport. The one thing that makes me never forget to refill the gas tank.

Al and I went out to eat and had a couple martinis. The waiter got both of our main dishes wrong and I’m racking my brain trying to figure out how the bill came out to $40. But that didn’t matter nearly as much as the confirmation that the movie was indeed on the PPV in his room. We were rockin’. The movie ended at about fifteen after twelve and I needed to make a hasty exit. Partly because I was getting sleepy, partly because lots in Zaulem have this really irritating tendency to close at midnight. Seriously, why what use is a parking lot that you can’t leave your car parked at least until the bars close?

Fortunately, tired though I was, I did do that thing earlier that makes me never forget to refill the gas tank. Basically, whenever my gas tank is running feverishly low, I place a jacket, shirt, or rag on my steering wheel. Its the string on my finger for that particular issue. So when I got to the car, I knew what to do. I also knew that looking at the gas gauge, I didn’t have much time to do it. So I consulted my good friend Gippers where the nearest gas station was. I was in luck! There was a Shell station (my favorite!) a half-mile away. I forgot, however, that the half-mile was as the crow flies. The route it had me take had me going in all sorts of directions. I would have been suspicious, but Zaulem seems to be one of those cities where what seems like the quickest way to get somewhere isnt always. So in Gippers I trusted. Unfortunately, I was so distracted by the gas gauge that I missed a couple of turns, making my trip longer.

Then the stalling began. My car would stall any time I was parked at an incline. Fortunately, it restarted each time. But every time it did that it took a little piece of my sanity with it. It’s never good to run out of gas, but on an incline? In the middle of a startlingly dark and closed city? With no gas station nearly? It was all a good reminder as to why I don’t typically mess with the gas gauge. I have a long and unproud history of running out of gas, but I’ve been a lot better about it lately. Unfortunately, this was one of those times where my car mileage was doing unusually poorly and the near-outage caught me out-of-rhythm. The rhythm being the various Shell stations I can stop at between home and work, where I am prepared at just about any time to be running dangerously low on gas.

The car made it, fortunately. The gas station was in a rather lively part of town. There was a dude dressed as Elvira and all manner of people wearing all sorts of demarcations of individuality and hippitude. It made for some interesting people-watching as I filled up my gas tank, paying more than $3 a gallon for the first time in a long time but so very glad to have the opportunity to pay it.

Category: Road

I’ve seen it discussed here and there the correct pronunciation of Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor. The correct pronunciation is apparently So-to-may-OR while a lot of people gravitate towards So-to-my-er or So-to-may-er with the emphasis being either on the “So” or the “my/may”. I personally pronounce it as though it were spelled Sotomeyer with no obvious emphasis.

One school of thought is that you pronounce a name as the person whose name it is does so. Since she pronounces it SotomayYOR, so should we. On the other hand, you have others saying that we should resist “unnatural pronunciation” and it should not be insisted upon.

I’m honestly sympathetic to both points of view. On the one hand, we should try to call people what they wish to be called. Doing otherwise can be seen as (and is often intended as) disrespectful. It’s sort of like having a friend named Frank and insisting on calling him Francis because that’s his name. If the two of you know one another and it’s an inside joke or something like that, it’s one thing. Otherwise, it’s one of the things that people do to demean someone else in a way that they see as perfectly defensible because it has its own accuracy. It’s not entirely dissimilar to those that emphasized our president’s middle name or the first name of the governor of Louisiana and objected to all objections because, you know, that’s the legal name. Similarly, calling her Sotomeyer despite her preference and the custom of the language can be seen the same. People that make a point of pronouncing it differently are due particular scrutiny. Of course, you can pronounce it right in a disrespectful manner to. Someone that says “Justice Sotomeyer… wait… sorry, have to be {insert air quotes here} politically correct… sotomaYOR” is being more disrespectful than the guy that happens to pronounce it wrong.

On the other hand, I foresee people being accused of being disrespectful when they’re not intending to be. As Conor Friedersdorf points out in the aforelinked American Scene post, some people are just all jazzed up about accusing people (particularly people with whom they frequently disagree) as racist. But failing or declining to pronounce her name correctly is not racist. Nor is it inherently disrespectful. Some names are just hard to pronounce. To me, the correct pronunciation of Sotomayor is about as unnatural as names come. Something about the four syllables with the accent on the last syllable just ties my tongue in knots. I can pronounce it correctly, but it requires a degree of conscious effort. Maybe somewhere down the road I’ll get it right, but for now if I am mentioning her it’s because I’m trying to convey something about her and it obstructs clarity if I have to take a time-out to construct the pronunciation of her name correctly.

Interestingly, when President Obama announced her nomination, he got it right on the first pronunciation but then in later references he slipped into somewhere in between Sotomeyer and the correct pronunciation. When her name was the object of the sentence, he got it right. But when her name was just included, our well-spoken president wavered. I suspect that this is going to be an ongoing thing. In that vein, I hope that people will do what they can to pronounce it correctly, but I also hope that Sotomayor’s defenders will not use that as a bat to club the people with whom they disagree. And ultimately, I wish that Sotomayer herself would just consent to the pronunciation that is going to cause people the least amount of linguistic gymnastics.

Actually, Sotomayor (if confirmed) would not be the first Supreme Court justice whose name I have difficulty with. At least half the time, I pronounce Antonin Scalia as AnTONin Scal-yah. The first because it’s one letter off from the name Antonio, which I’m more familiar with. The last name is one that I have just never heard with any regularity until I started following the news. Now that I know, I am still used to the old pronunciation and the correct one, while not as unnatural as SotomaYOR, still doesn’t flow off the tongue. It’s kind of funny that I mispronounce an Italian name by my association of it with a Spanish one. It also goes to show that contrary to the assumption of some, it’s not out of disregard for Hispanics that some people have difficult with (or quite trying to find) the correct pronunciation of her name. Some people have only recently learned out Souter’s name is pronounced. I had once thought that it was Sowter rather than Sooter, but once I found out how it was pronounced it was a really easy one to switch to since Sooter/suitor is already an English word.

Interestingly enough, this is an area with which I already have some experience. My name is difficult for Asians to pronounce. Or at least it’s difficult for the Japanese to announce. So when I was working under a Japon in Estacado, he could not pronounce my name to save his life. It would usually come out as Wi-ih or more commonly as Wi-er or Weer. He struggled with this mightily. I could see him try to get it right, but he could not for the life of him get it out. I actually tried at one point to tell him that he could call me Wier if that would be easier for him. He seemed kind of offended by the suggestion. I then lied and told him that it “Wier” was sometimes used as a nickname for “William” and so Wier Truman I became.

Do any of y’all have a difficult to pronounce name? My last name sometimes gets goofed up and my wife’s name gets goofed up regularly. Some people consider it sad that people shorted or anglicized their name when they came over, but I admire their willingness to do so. I don’t know if I would be willing to do the same, but then I’m not the sort to migrate to a new country permanently. Slate had an interesting article a while back on the trend in China to come up with English names. If I were to move to a foreign country, I would at least consider adopting a local first name. Particularly if it were difficult for the locals to pronounce correctly.

* – As most of you know, “Will Truman” is a pseudonym, but in real like my common name actually is Will or contains an “L” in it. The story is essentually true.

-{Note: This is a post about pronunciations of names. It is not a post about Sotomayer’s qualifications for the bench, her ideology, nor the president that nominated her. This marginally involves the conduct and moral turpitude of her supporters and detractors, but I do not want the comment section to veer in the direction of suggesting that people whose opinions on her nomination (or the underlying worldview behind those opinions) differ from your own are morally or intellectually lacking. Please contribute, but contribute with care.}-