November 30, 2006
I am just a little dismayed at the hype surrounding the latest “Game Consoles du jour” – the Sony PS3 and the Nintendo Wii.
- Not because I want one – I don’t do consoles. With five computers, I have neither the need nor the time.
- Not because I refuse to do business with Sony.
- Not because Nintendo’s latest offering sounds like someone is taking a leak.
- Not because game consoles are now, for the first time, more expensive than a computer (albeit a basic one).
Part of this “grave disturbance in the Force” is the number of people who are buying these items and then reselling them at massive profits – just this morning on Craigslist I saw someone asking for $900 for a PS3. Nine hundred bucks for a game console? Sheesh!
The worst thing is how much effort parents are willing to expend, and who they are willing to kick down and knock over, to get these gadgets for their kids before Christmas. People, you love your kids, but it’s time to put an end to this playground one-upmanship, combat “spoiled-brat” syndrome and, most importantly, show a little of the backbone and character that Parenting and Christmas are all about.
In other words, just say “No“.
Or at least “Wait” – every year there is a hot new console – last year it was the Xbox360, the year before it was the PSP (remember the Dreamcast?). This year’s “$500 toy will be $400 by next summer and $300 by next Christmas. Look at Xbox 360 and PSP prices if you don’t believe me.
It will do them good. Really. Not getting everything on their list will not traumatize the little darlings. Think about the Christmases of your childhood. What do you remember most fondly? I will bet that it wasn’t the presents; it was the time spent with family and the experiences you shared. Give them time and attention – those things will be remembered long after the toys and games are gone and forgotten.
If you want to see what children can do, you must stop giving them things” – Norman Douglas, British Novelist
November 22, 2006
Now reading: C.S. Lewis: Mere Christianity
November 15, 2006
A Wunch of Bankers, You're losing me...
Many years ago, when I was looking for my first Credit Card I applied to Bank of America (BofA). They turned me down flat. I swore that day I would never carry any card with the Bank of America logo on it. MBNA took a chance on me. End of story. Or so I thought.
Fast-forward to 2006. For many years I was a happy MBNA customer – with not one but two cards. BofA acquired MBNA, and one of their first acts was to invalidate one of those cards (which still had about a year before expiration) and replace it with a brand new “Bank of America” card, which they did without my knowledge or permission.
Naturally, I cancelled it.
I still had the second (MBNA) card. When I went to MBNA’s website to pay off my balance, I was redirected to BofA’s website. Once there, I had to register and set up my account all over again.
Why was this? BofA had all the information necessary to avoid making me jump through all those hoops (registration, setting up my CC account, inputting my checking account info).
The payment that I sent “bounced” (probably because I confused the sorting and routing numbers) and they “bounced” the payment and then hit me for $54.34 in charges on on a $21 balance!
I phoned them and enquired about this. “Lisa” agreed to drop the $39 “return fee”, but insisted that I had to pay a $15 late fee and a 34c finance charge. I did so. They she asked “Is there anything else I can do for you?” and I replied “Yes – close the account”.
Sad that it should end this way – a nine-year business relationship ended over fifteen dollars and change. It is also mystifying that after spending millions of dollars on marketing and advertising you are willing to lose a long-standing customer over such a trifling sum.
The point is not that BofA did not have the right to make those charges, but that they would not waive them even once in the interest of keeping their customers happy.
This could have been the beginning of a beautiful friendship… but BofA have shown their true colors, and I will have nothing further to do with them as long as I have a choice.
November 6, 2006
The neighborhood where I grew up has changed.
Gone are the little shops down the road where we bought our groceries, fruits and vegetables.
Gone is the bakery where the smell of fresh-baked bread tantalized us every morning.
Gone is the Fish ‘n’ Chip shop that was so crowded on Friday evening that the queue went out of the door and down the street.
They have been replaced by cookie-cutter Internet Cafes and “Cheap shops” selling international phonecards. Most of the proprietors appear to be of Indian or Pakistani origin.
The only businesses that have not changed hands are the Off-license (Liquor store) the Betting Shop and, of course, the Pub.
The nearest food stores are Wal-Martesque supermarkets about a mile away.
Walking down the High Street is a depressing experience; all the greenery is gone, the people are rude, gloomy and depressed – as I would be if I still lived here – and most of their conversations are in languages other than English.
It could be worse. I could be stuck here. Instead, I’m just passing through. I grew up here, but it’s not home anymore.
I’m glad I left.
November 1, 2006
You're losing me...
After an eight-hour transatlantic flight we’re sitting in a plane on the tarmac in the dawn clag, cooling our heels. Why? Because there are no gates available, which means that so we have to be bussed to the terminal. Problem is that there are no buses in evidence, and nobody is answering the phone to dispatch the buses. The co-pilot who made the announcement could not keep the irritation out of his voice.
Twenty impatient minutes later we deplane via the stairs – last time I did this was in Trinidad in 1985. Back then the plane stopped a few yards from the terminal in bright warm tropical sunshine. In the here-and-now it is cold and damp, and we have to be crammed into the buses that have just trundled up. No wonder some consider Britain to be a third world country that does not know it yet.
Once into the Terminal, things are no better. Too many escalators and travelators are out of commission or are simply not switched on. The part of the airport through which we were herded resembles an ageing Mid-West Wal-Mart; dirty, tatty and dingy. The phrase that comes to mind is “will the last one out please turn out the lights?“
Credit where credit is due: The one ray of sunshine is the people – the flight crew, immigration and customs folks were a delight to deal with, and the lines were mercifully short. When the passport-control fellow said “welcome back“, he sounded like he actually meant it.
I was led to believe that Heathrow was the jewel in the crown of British Airports Authority (BAA). Terminal 4 is the newest of the terminals at Heathrow, and deals exclusively with International travellers. Are you seriously trying to tell me that this is the welcome you give your foreign visitors?