Monthly Archives: April 2012

The other day, I actually came to the defense of cell phone companies. Sort of. I basically argued that we are better off with the national consolidations we have than we were in a more competitive market with more local and regional carriers. So I guess I had it coming when later that day my carrier, Verizon, pissed me off. So much so that I am considering returning the phones we have on order and going off-contract.

Our contract ends two days from now. I looked around and determined that yes, we are to be with Verizon for at least two more years. It also turns out that we are due for some cell phone upgrades to finally leave Windows Mobile Island. Android is finally ready for me, or ready enough (more on this later, if anyone cares). So it all works out.

The truth is, I hate being under contract. I avoided it for years and years by buying my own cell phones. But two years ago, Verizon basically made an offer I couldn’t refuse. And then, as now except even moreso, I was sure that I was in for at least a two-year haul. I’m less sure that’s the case now, but still pretty sure. AT&T has raised prices to the point that they’ve lost their price advantage and I don’t like their cell phone selection as much. Sprint and T-Mobile are not options.

So I sign up to extend the contract and lo-and-behold, Verizon has joined the other carriers in offering an “upgrade fee.” It’s $30 a line. Truthfully, I’m paying $200 less than I had budgeted for on the subsidized phones, so the $60 doesn’t bother me in the slightest. But on principle, I am really angry about this. It reminds me why I hate cell phone companies and why I don’t like being tied to any single one of them.

So why does this irritate me? Because they’ve made it abundantly clear they want me under contract. They provide all of the incentives to get me to reluctantly agree to sign on for a period of time in exchange for a cheaper phone. So why are they charging me for something they want me to do? Like it’s a convenience for me to not be able to change carriers or downgrade service for two years? If they’re not making enough money on the subsidized phones plus contract, then charge more for the dang phones. Rationally, this is a distinction without a difference. Except that this way they get to tack on the $30 only after your mouth is watering at the new toy.

I struggle, however, to come up with a rational basis not to move forward. As long as we’re with Verizon on our current data plans for another year, which is a given, we end up ahead. There is the possibility of downgrading Dr. Wife’s plan since she doesn’t use data all that much, but I remain eternally hopeful that she will someday use the phone to its capability. There are various companies I boycott or avoid due to what I consider dishonest, antagonistic, or otherwise bad business practices (Best Buy, HP for a while, and one other one whose name escapes me). This is a reminder that there are no cell phone companies for which this is not the case.

Category: Market

I got what was the most baffling friending on Facebook to date: Jennifer “Porky” Gadsden (Greeley). The names are a story unto themselves. I’ve mentioned, but not named Porky before. She was the very conventionally beautiful (the nickname is not a reference to her weight) woman I was briefly with that warned me off conventionally beautiful women forever. Without going into too much detail (maybe I’ll make a Ghostland post out of it), in the words of Death Cab for Cutie, it was vile and it was cheap.

I’d say that things ended poorly, but save for a brief window at the start they went poorly throughout with each of us asking what the hell is wrong with the other person as time progressed. After the split (if we had anything to split from), the only contact we had was a “hello” at the university’s convenience store and once when she texted me to ask if I could help move her furniture. That was fine with me (not moving the furniture – I was helpfully out of town – but the no-contact thing).

So what the hell was she making a friend request on Facebook for? My first thought was maybe she sent out a lot of such requests – though that wouldn’t be like her – but after I accepted (I’ve never denied a request from anyone that I know to be a legitimate person) I saw that she had only a few more Friends than I do. I did see that she was still single, though with a cute little kid. She’s still thin, which I was sure she wouldn’t be.

Anyhow, those of you who read me know that I have a tendency to get hung up on the past. Yet, despite this, if there was one book I don’t mind being shut (even to the point of being so indifferent as to not care to know if things are turning out miserably) it’s her. And she was always far more indifferent to me than I was to her. I know what I got out of what we had, but hell if I can figure out why she would even remember my name.

Maybe she didn’t, or confused me with someone else. All I know is that when I woke up the next morning, I had been unfriended.

Category: Server Room

As the header image, I primarily smoke three different brands of cigarettes: USA Gold, Maverick, and Liggett. When I am out of pocket, I will sometimes go with Winston or Camel. When I first started smoking, I went with the gold standard: Marlboro. Eventually I found suitable cheaper replacement brands in Doral and Pall Mall. Over time, both either watered down their product or they stopped doing the same thing for me. The above three are both inexpensive and either reasonably or very strong tasting.

USA Gold is the cheapest of the set. The problem with USA Gold is that it has the word Gold in the title. This means two things: First, they are similar in name to Old Golds, which are more popular, more expensive and less worthy. Second, as with other brands they come in various strengths. They can’t call the lighter variations lights or ultra-lights anymore, so they go by color. Almost universally, light cigarettes have gold color. I prefer red-color. So I have to specify that I want USA Gold 100s RED. If I leave off the red, the gold is in their minds and if I’m not looking, I just bought a weaker cigarette than I intended to. This happened recently. Very frustrating.

Mavericks and Liggetts do not have the weakness problem. In fact, I think their limited popularity is due to their rough taste. Mavericks used to be Harley Davidson cigarettes and for a while (even after they became Maverick) had an awesome black-and-gold box with an eagle on it that would be different in color depending on what you were getting. Now they’re colored similarly to all of the others. My wife hates Mavericks and can smell them from two miles away. Liggetts fall in between the two. They’re the most expensive of the three. Both Maverick and Liggett take a toll on the lungs more quickly than USA Gold.

Living in a small town as I do, I have an internal catalog of what is offered where. What’s rather frustrating is that all of them seem to lack good inventory control. Which is to say, when they run out of boxes, they don’t get more until they’ve run out of softpacks. The fact that they always have left over soft packs suggests to me that that they ought to stock more of those than the boxes. The same goes for regular size versus 100s. I go to the Supply Store a lot, and would get all of my cigarettes from there, but they go months with only the short packs and soft packs, and so they lose my business for weeks at a time.

Way back in the day, when Mom smoked and I didn’t, I did not understand why the hell cigarette brand mattered. They didn’t offer Kent in our home state, and so whenever we were the next state over she would buy a bunch of them. How different can something you’re lighting on fire and consuming the smoke taste? Pretty different, it turns out.

On a sidenote, I don’t think the main reason for my preference for strong flavor is that I have particularly strong lungs (I don’t) or even my diminished tastebuds, but rather because I don’t inhale. Never have. Didn’t even realize I was supposed to, when I first tried them. Which is not the same thing as saying that they don’t get into my lungs. But not through breaking it in from the cigarette itself. The other big reason is my preference for longer-lasting 100s, which tend to have longer filters.

Category: Market

I have an assignment at Redstone High on Monday. Last time I was there, I took a walk and some pictures of the area surrounding the high school. Here they are… (more…)

Category: School

Today there was an assignment on the exploration of the Americas for the special ed class I had today. It involved my reading to them a page with four paragraphs and answering a series of questions. When they asked for help, I would tell them what paragraph the answer is in. Sometimes, I’d have to get more specific.

The final paragraph read:

Ponce de Leon returned to Spain in 1514. The king of Spain was pleased with his discovery. He appointed Ponce de Leon governor of Florida and gave him a royal grant to colonize it. In 1521, he again landed in Florida with two ships and 200 men. The Indians there fought with the colonists. Ponce de Leon was badly wounded in battle. He died soon afterwards at the age of 61.

The question was: What title did the king give Ponce de Leon?

Student complained that she couldn’t find the answer.

I told her that it was in the couple of sentences of the paragraph.

Ponce de Leon returned to Spain in 1514. The king of Spain was pleased with his discovery. He appointed Ponce de Leon governor of Florida and gave him a royal grant to colonize it.

Still no luck. I rephrased the question. “What job did the king appoint Ponce de Leon to?”


No, it was a job in Florida.

Royal grant?


It says royal grant.

That’s not the answer, though.

But I can’t find the answer.

Keep looking.

Five minutes later… King of Spain?

No, the King of Spain appointed de Leon for a job. What job?

I don’t understand.

If I am the teacher of the classroom, what is Ponce de Leon to Florida?

The teacher?

Keep looking.

It’s in {points} this sentence:

He appointed Ponce de Leon governor of Florida and gave him a royal grant to colonize it.

Five minutes pass.

Is it colonize?

Read it again.

I can’t find it.

This process was repeated with “Who did the colonists fight that were already here when they arrived?” Also, “What did the King of Spain want Ponce de Leon to do to Florida.” I can’t recall that she answered a single question without a significant amount of guidance (though none perplexed her as much as that one).


I figure there are four possibilities:

(1) She can’t read. At all. I’ve had her before and I would think that I might have noticed something like this. But maybe not.

(2) She can read, but doesn’t understand these particular words. The thing about this one is that she speaks at about a 4th or 5th grade level. I never have trouble understanding her. She seems to understand what words mean. Otherwise, I’d just assume this.

(3) She can read, but doesn’t understand the point of reading. That the answer is in the content of the question rather than simply finding the right word. She’s impatient and trying to find a short cut. Though, as with four, it took her longer to hash this out with me than it would have for her to read it.

(4) She can read, but has learned that expressing frustration will get someone to give you the answer. Though, as with three, the whining was more effort than the reading would be.

I’m not sure what the least depressing answer of the four is.

Category: School

HalfSigma has a post tying together money, class, and race(ism). Obviously, I am going to be focusing on the first two (I may be lightening up as far as this goes, but not that much). As is often the case, he mixes insights with false assumptions. On the latter score, he says:

I think the people who are most opposed to an increase in the minimum wage are those making slightly more than the minimum wage. For the guy making $12/hour, an increase in the minimum wage from $7 to $10 would be a mighty blow to his feelings of success. But people making six figures are so far insulated from making $7/hour that they just don’t suffer the least bit of worry that increasing the minimum wage would lower their own status.

This is, by my experience and observation, entirely wrong. First, because non-minimum low wages tend to go up with the minimum wage in order to differentiate themselves from those making minimum wage. If you’re paying someone 50c above minimum wage, you’re likely going to continue to do so in order to attract the better candidates among those making minimum wage. I was working at near-minimum when it went up from $4.25 an hour. It went up in two increments, I switched jobs between the increments, and both empoyers raise our wages a 45c at a time. Unions, it’s worthy of noting, are generally supportive of minimum wage increases even though their guys (and gals) are not directly affected by them.

The paragraph before and after that one aren’t entirely wrong, but I believe them to be incomplete:

One (but certainly not the only) important differentiator is money. Having more money makes you feel superior to those who have less money. But money just sitting in a bank account doesn’t demonstrate this very well. Thus did Thorstein Veblen coined the phrase “conspicuous consumption.” But you should also be aware that people who spend money seldom think about conspicuous consumption, because a lot of this behavior works on the subconscious level. Driving around in a ten-year-old Hyundai just causes people to have feelings of inferiority when they see other people drive by in more expensive cars. We are less likely to feel envy of people’s bank accounts because they are invisible and there’s a social taboo for people to speak about them.

This paragraph overlooks a different tendency: to roll one’s eyes at those who buy needlessly expensive cars and other conspicuous items. When I see someone driving a Range Rover, I don’t think “I wish I could afford a Range Rover.” I think “Sucker.” As much as I would like to say that this is a result of my being completely oblivious to conspicuous value, it’s not. At least, it’s not entirely so. I bought the Subaru Forester new because it was the best value for what we needed. However, I am extremely self-conscious about it. The appearance of it actually bothers me, just a little. I’m one of those guys who buys new cars. It’s indicative of a reverse snobbery. I thought more of myself because I drove a lesser car. At the time, I attributed it to my practicality. But here I am self-conscious about a car that I bought primarily because it made sense.

Which brings me to another paragraph…

There are other ways to feel superior to other people besides having more money than them. This is what Class X is about. If you voluntarily (or involuntarily) choose a career that doesn’t offer the greatest monetary rewards, then you look to other ways to feel superior. This is what the whole SWPL movement is about, participating in a culture that makes you feel superior to proles making the same money as you.

I am not sure this is about the proles, actually. To the extent that we’re going to psychoanalyze, I think it’s about other non-proles. If you can’t sing good, sing loud. Let’s say that you are someone who was raised in a solidly middle class household. Let’s say that you are not temperamentally or intellectually suited for the rat race. Well gosh, if you forgo the rat-race altogether, then by-golly you are better than all those other sheeple. You may have less money, but it isn’t because you would have fared poorly in the money-making world if you had tried, but rather it’s because you chose not to race. When you can’t compete in set of criteria, choose a different one. Then, per that other paragraph, look down on the consumption habits of those who lack the insight that you have.

Category: Market

While I was ordering a couple of replacement hard drives, I went ahead and ordered a new keyboard. The existing keyboard, purchased in 2003 or so, was still doing its job. But it had, at some point, picked up an odor that even I could smell. Plus, and I will grant that this reason is more frivolous, it was beige and all of my computers have since switched to black.

You never realize how much you’ve gotten used to a keyboard until it’s gone. All of the little things you never noticed. Oddly, this is true even when you regularly switch between keyboards. I have no problem going from laptop to desktop, despite the very different computer configurations. But I guess when I am sitting at the desk, my mind has incorporated one keyboard over another.

So what are the differences? This keyboard has shorter keys. This is a shame. It’s one of the things I prefer about desktops over laptops. The tall keys. I was about to say that it makes typing easier – and it does – though I have gotten so used to the laptop I think I can switch back and forth between modes. But when I in desktop mode, I am expecting taller keys. This has resulted in an unusual number of typos. The biggest ongoing issue is for some reason my failing to correctly tap the letter “L.” The L key works fine, but for some reason I seem to suddenly be missing.

This new keyboard is also much, much quieter. I am not sure if the old keyboard simply got louder over time or if it was just a louder keyboard (this may be related to the whole height thing). I have been told, by a large number of people, that I am the loudest typist that they have ever met. My musician friend Clint actually says I am also the most rhythmic typist he has ever met. I think that’s a good thing. I seem to have gotten used to it. The only key that makes any notable noise is the spacebar, which means that the noise comes in a non-rhythmic fashion.

The biggest issue, however, is the fact that the new keyboard has a sightly different layout. They almost always do, and I consider it frustrating. This has a problem that is more severe, however. Where I am used to the Scroll Lock key being, now resides a “sleep” key. I don’t like sleep keys to begin with, but definitely not where the Scroll Lock is supposed to be. Now, some of you may not even know what the Scroll Lock is. It’s one of the least-used keys on the keyboard. Which is why KVM switches (which allow you to use a single keyboard/monitor/mouse for multiple computers) use it to switch machines. So, without thinking, I tap what I think is the Scroll Lock key in order to switch machines, and the next thing I know the computer I am on is going to sleep.

This will pass with time, no doubt. Maybe I’ll even be able to remap the key. But even if not, I’ll get used to it soon enough. I remember back in the old days how much I absolutely hated, hated, hated the double-decker Enter key. I still don’t prefer them, but it didn’t even occur to me to look for a keyboard without it.

The last thing is that my wrist hurts typing this. I am really hoping that’s temporary.

Category: Server Room

I was at that media/coffee place in Redstone that I have discussed before, when there was a bit of downtime and the woman behind the counter started talking to a customer that she apparently knew.

The baristess apparently greeted with the news that every mother wants to hear from her twenty year old son: My girlfriend is pregnant! And we just eloped! She had a way with words, it turned out, and said “Something gained and something lost. I gained a daughter-in-law and maybe a grandkid, but lost hope in my son’s future.”

She will no doubt love the grandchild, but she’s not particularly fond of the daughter-in-law. She secretly suspected that this was how things were going to turn out.

Anyhow, her lack of enthusiasm did not go over well with her son. She told him that he had just thrown his life away… just as she had twenty years before. Insert stuff about “Not that I don’t love my children…” here, which she quickly added.

Anyhow, the son apparently had designs on being a police officer. He won’t be able to do that now. So what, pray tell, was he going to do? That’s what she asked him. He replied that maybe he would become a security guard.

This next part (like the “something gained and something lost” quote above) is a direct quote, in part because I had to keep myself from laughing out loud:

“A security guard? Son, we live in Redstone. There’s nothing here worth paying someone to protect!”

If that isn’t the perfect encapsulation of Redstone stereotype, I don’t know what is.

Category: Downtown

Category: Theater

In the scene of the second episode of Fringe, a woman is opening a Kia Sedona. I guess Kia isn’t paying them for it, because they replaced the Kia logo with a generic one, but I guess it was too much trouble to replace the Sedona decal?

I don’t know why, but knowing which cars the characters are driving is a subject of interest to me. Particularly since there is so little consistency. One week, FringeDiv drives Ford, the next Lincoln. Those are both Ford products, but I’ve even seen it switch the Chevy, even though all of the vehicles look about the same. But the entire fleet changes from one week to the next.

This isn’t as bad as Chase was, though. On Chase, in three straight episodes, the main character had three separate smartphones. One week, she was specifically given an iPhone as a gift. But the next week, she was using what was conspicuously a Windows Phone 7 phone, and the next week a generic Androidy phone.

I don’t know why I am as fixated on some of this stuff as I am, but it’s something I’ve been keeping an eye out on for a while now. It used to seem that every laptop someone used was an Apple. At some point, I guess, Microsoft started paying up because you would get a black laptop with a generic Windows logo on the back of it. When it’s not one of these things, it’s as often as not going to be some generic-ish logo like on the pseudo-Kia. Usually a globe.

One of the interesting things I’ve noticed is how frequently I am seeing a non-standard OS. Maybe this has always been the case and I just never noticed it until recently. We all remember the Mac/PC hybrid in Office Space, right? It seems like a Mac right up until you get to the C-prompt as Peter is shutting down. Anyhow, on Person of Interest, Burke is using a non-standard OS that looks just a little Linuxy. I suppose if you want a generic-looking OS, Linux is a pretty good place to start from. I’ve never seen a brand, though (Ubuntu, SUSE, etc), so I guess the Linux makers aren’t paying up.

Now, if it were me, I would show it anyway. It’s the sort of thing that can get a segment of a show’s viewership talking (“Burke uses SUSE!”). Not a large segment, but a passionate one. Is there a ban on that? I mean, if I was making a movie, would I have to get Microsoft’s permission to show Windows? Lenovo’s to use my Thinkpad (without obscuring the logo)? I am thinking not, provided that you’re not relying on the product. Any Linux distro worth its grain of salt would likely have no problem with it. Nor would Microsoft, though presumably they’re at the point where they would want Microsoft to pony up. I actually wonder if that’s the reason for the shift away from Windows: “We’re not going to use your product in our product unless you pay us to.”

Or something like that.

Speaking of Fringe and endorsements, one of the things I wonder is the usage of Harvard in that show. Now, they’re using Harvard University when it’s actually Harvard College, but I’m not sure that distinction matters. And, in any event, they use college brand names all the time in a way that does actually lean on the product. By which I mean, if they want a super-intelligent (or snooty, for that matter) individual, they’ll say “He went to Harvard.” Which is actually different than happening to use a Thinkpad. You’re relying on the brand to give information about the character. I assume Harvard does not object, but can it? You rarely see the logo, which might be crossing a line, though Chuck’s title character flashed off a degree that looked very much like a Stanford degree. And, additionally, did not call it Stanford University or Stanford College, which might be the dodge that they may be using for Harvard, but rather “Leland Stanford Junior University” which is apparently Stanford’s full name (I did not know until I saw it on TV).

I do wonder how the rules on these things go.

Category: Theater