Monthly Archives: March 2011

On TV

Why Cable TV needs a kick up the backside.

I recently found out that my Cable Company are offering me BBC America. Coming, as I do, from the other side of the pond, this would be a welcome addition to my household.

In order to get that channel, I have to get a full-function Cable Box. This will cost me something in the region of $8 per month to rent.

I will also have to subscribe to their “Digital Standard” Package (how can an optional extra be called “Standard”?), at a cost of $10/month.

Oh, and I have to upgrade my cable package to “Classic Plus”, at a cost of another $10/month.

That’s $28/month extra. For one channel

Now that, my friends, is truly annoying, and is the real reason why the cable companies in the US are resisting the “a-la-carte” pricing that they are offering in Canada (where you pay for the channels that you want).

They insist that the “packages” that they offer are better value, while stubbornly refusing to give us the opportunity to put that statement to the test.

I would also like to know why Cable-only channels have advertising. I have no problem with advertising-supported TV, but watching ads on a channel I am paying for means I am effectively paying for it twice.

Not impressed…

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Hold the phone

I recently stumbled across a marvelous screed: Why I Love My Dumbphone. In my comment I pointed out that the problem wasn’t one of smart vs dumb phones but one of rude or inconsiderate behavior. Here is an elaboration of my comment:

As I see it, the problem is not smartphones, the problem is bad manners – and that predates smartphones. It doesn’t matter whether you are inconsiderately talking on a dumbphone or inconsiderately updating your Stalkbook… sorry, Facebook page on a smartphone, the result is the same; instant classification as an inconsiderate idiot.

Another problem area is when employers send you requests to do work-related things outside of work hours that you are not paid for. Was 24/7 availability on the table when you were hired? If not, this is an employer/employee boundaries issue; In such situations “I’ll get to it first thing tomorrow” is the order of the day. Doubtless you will be castigated for it, and they will try to get you to give in “just this once”, but stick to your guns; once they get you to cave, it will be easier the second time. To quote Yoda “Once you start down that dark path, forever will it dominate your destiny

As I see it, the problem is not smartphones or technology; the problem is rudeness. So, what constites rudeness? Like obscenity, it is difficult to define, but easy to recognize.

  • People (mostly women) who get into a car, think “who can I call?” and are talking on the phone while they back out of their parking space, and then have the nerve to act surprised when a pedestrian “appears out of nowhere”.
  • People who talk loudly on the phone in a restaurant. If you have to take your work to the dinner table, you are not as important as you think you are.
  • People who drive with a phone clapped to their ear while driving. If you have to talk, use a hands-free device.

So where do we go from here? As Abraham Lincoln once said, “He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help”. In that spirit, here are some helpful hints:

  • Use specific ringtones for family, friends and work. Co-workers – including the boss – can leave a message. That’s what voicemail is for.
  • If you don’t have something to say, don’t make the call.
  • Texting while driving kills – and unlike drunk driving, it’s usually the driver who dies. Don’t do it.

I’m just sayin’…

Why your Craigslist ad got flagged

So your ad got flagged. Sorry to hear that. I’ve been there myself so I know how that feels.

When you signed up with CL, you agreed to “community flagging”. This means that anyone can flag your ad for any reason — or none at all. Here are some of the commonest reasons that people flag CL ads.

  • Business ads are not allowed. If you are selling for a business, you should not be advertising on CL. If your ad links to something that looks, feels or smells like a business (and that includes Flea Markets and Peddlars’ Malls), it will be flagged. That may sound unfair, but if every small business  advertised on CL, it would soon become useless — and no, you are not the “one special exception” to the rule.
  • Wrong Category: If you want something, post it in “Wanted”. If you want to trade, try “barter”. It’s not that hard.
  • Begging post: So you want a cheap laptop/iPod/iPad/iPhone. Me too. But if you had one, would you let it go for that? No? Bye then…
  • Clueless: If you obviously don’t know what you are talking about, you will get flagged.
  • Priceless: Some ads don’t have an asking price, hoping to take the best offer. This is not an eBay auction! Put in a price and work down from there.
  • Overpriced: If you are asking for more than retail — or even too close to it — you will get flagged. If I wanted to pay full retail price for a new item I will go to the store. Used item that are priced too high will probably get flagged as well.
  • Holding out for da sukka: An item that is repeatedly posted at the same price will get flagged. Here’s a hint: if it doesn’t get any interest, the price is probably too high.
  • Subject line abuse: If the subject line doesn’t tell doesn’t tell me *exactly* what is on sale (such as “You just gotta see this!“), or contains “attention-getting” character graphics, you will get flagged.
  • “No e-mails please”: If you don’t have time to for the web, you shouldn’t be posting ads here.
  • Overposting: Don’t repost an same item multiple times without deleting the old ones.
  • it just smells wrong: If the picture comes from the manufacturer’s website, it will probably be flagged. If your phone number is hidden from searches by “hookerizing” it (six-1-four-o’nine thr33-ate) or putting it on a graphic, it will be flagged. If you come across as a idiot it will probably get flagged. If it doesn’t pass the “sniff test” it will probably get flagged.

There. Now you know.

Microsoft Misses the Point

Trying to kill the monster that they created and fed.

10 years ago a browser was born… Its name was Internet Explorer 6. Now that we’re in 2011, in an era of modern web standards, it’s time to say goodbye.

So says Microsoft on this site.

A good start, but the trouble is that Microsoft created this problem in the first place. As long ago as 2004, IE6 was regarded as “unsafe at any speed”, but it took Microsoft another two  years to get IE7 out the door, during which Opera and Firefox grew into credible competition. When IE8 shipped they initially tried to make it Vista-only, but flipped when Vista flopped.

The site is “dedicated to watching Internet Explorer 6 usage drop to less than 1% worldwide

Ohhhh-kaaay. Let’s take a more detailed look at that, shall we? The site shows worldwide use of IE6. The worst offenders are China, South Korea, India, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia. These are, coincidentally, the worlds worst spots for piracy. When you consider that the latest version of IE is generally not available for pirated copies of Windows, a cause-and-effect relationship soon becomes evident.

The site continues; “…so more websites can choose to drop support for Internet Explorer 6, saving hours of work for web developers.“Web developers everywhere know that writing Javascript is difficult enough without Microsoft doing things differently in Internet Explorer, which has a reputation for being notoriously non-standards-compliant. Microsoft does not like standards that it doesn’t own, which explains the enthusiasm with which they foist .NET and SilverLight on the rest of us. For example, I recently installed a Windows Update Security Parch for .NET 2.0, 3.0 and 3.5 on a machine that had .NET 2.0 on it. The patch installed the other two versions — at a cost of over 200MB of disk space — even though I did not need it. Installing system-level software you don’t need and don’t use is the enemy of security, a fact that Microsoft seems to have overlooked.

Moving swiftly onwards, I fairly chortled when I read the statement: “Friends don’t let friends use Internet Explorer 6.

Close but no cigar: Friends don’t let Friends use Internet Explorer Anything. The most annoying thing about this website is that ignored all other browsers; typical Microsoft arrogance — assume that the competition does not exist. How sad.

And finally… the unkindest cut of all — the site contains a “Download Now” button that takes you to another page that, sadly, is not clever enough to figure out that IE9 does not work under XP, but is too stupid to figure out that you already have the latest version. Here’s a hint, if you are running IE8 under XP, no “Download” button is necessary… but perhaps that would have been too much to ask.

This would all be terribly offensive if it wasn’t typical Microsoft puffery.

The name’s Brown, James Brown

I am rather annoyed with James Brown.

No I’m not talking about the Godfather of soul (Jump Back! Get Down! Kiss Myself! Aaaaow!!). At least I hope not; not least because he’s dead.

No, I’m talking about some other James Brown who is apparently in dire financial straits. He is running up debt, and apparently is not paying his bills.

That is, of course, his affair, and wouldn’t be a problem… except that he has been giving out my cellphone number (which I have had for more than eight years) to his creditors.

Dude, you are seriously p!ssing me off. If you can’t pay your bills, that’s fine. But please leave me out of this. The calls are getting annoying.

Everyday Ripoff

Went to Lowes to buy a specialty bulb. I buy these quite often, and they coat $3.88 each.

Except now they are $5.88.

That wasn’t what annoyed me though. What really got on my wossname was that next to the price they had the nerve to print the words “Everyday Low Price“. I have spoken about the meaninglessness of that expression before.

I was going to buy two (one for now, one for later), but thanks to that little piece of trickery I bought only what I needed. Next time I need one I will be buying a bunch of them them from eBay or Amazon.

NEXT!!

Thanks for nothing

I went to pay my cellphone bill today, and was confronted by this:

Since I am thinking of upgrading to a new phone, I though it would be nice to get something back for my current phone. Since it is working just fine, I figured it has to be worth something…

So imagine my surprise, Dear Reader, when I was confronted with this:

Impressed? Me neither.

This just reeks of bait-and-switch.

God’s Will vs. Murphy’s Law

I always promised that I would never blog the minutiae of my life. And I won’t. Bear with me.

  • Last night, I put the clocks forward, and went to bed at 11PM.
  • Just as I was falling asleep, Her Ladyship asked me a question.
  • Some women feel that they need to have “the talk” just as he is falling asleep — a bad, if not dangerous practice.
  • Her Ladyship is not one of them – this was purely an accident of timing.
  • However the end result was the same – I was bounced hard out of sleep, and was unable to get back to sleep until 2AM.
  • Naturally I woke up late, feeling like crap.
  • I had no time to wet-shave, and the electric shaver ran out of juice while I was using it. OUCH!
  • I had no breakfast.
  • Her Ladyship was feeling unwell.
  • I went to church alone, feeling hung over.

Is it God’s will that I should experience this? What makes me feel that God’s will is there to guarantee my comfort?

There will be days like this. I am not entitled to special treatment. My saviour did not live a comfortable life. Neither did his twelve followers. Ten died violently and painfully for their faith. One hanged himself. Only one grew old and died in his bed — in exile.

Blessings do not mean that we will be rich, thin, healthy and pretty, yet some of us act as if we believe that it should.

Wisconsin Rules!

  • The cost of Wisconsin’s State employees exceeds its tax revenues
  • The average salary of a Milwaukee public school teacher is $56,500, but when you factor in the benefits packages, including health care and pensions, the annual cost to the taxpayer is over $100,000 per year.
  • Wisconsin spends more per pupil than any other Midwestern state
  • Two thirds of Wisconsin 8th graders cannot read at a proficient level, according to 2009 data from the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Twenty-two percent, or nearly one in four students, cannot even read at a “basic” level.
  • The Governor has two options: Raise Taxes or cut services. Since he was elected to balance the budget, without raising taxes, that’s not really an option. So, he decided to face down the unions.
  • He is not cutting pay, he is trying to break the unions’ perceived right to give guaranteed salary raises to incompetent or ineffective employees.

What would you do?

The Gender of God

I woke up this morning with thoughts about God’s gender filling my head.

Many of the established and old religions, such as Judaism and Islam, portray God — or the Chief God, in the Roman, Greek and Norse pantheons — as a remote father-figure, ready to deal out judgement and punishment to those who offend him. These characters are almost impossible to please.

Many of the new-age-goddess type religions tend to the other extreme; a god — or goddess — who is a force of love, forgiveness and fluffy pink bunnies. This theology calls to mind visions of raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, but I digress. This God is easy to please — too easy, in my opinion — and he sounds, well… weak.

I find the truth, as is so often the case, lies somewhere in between. The God I claim to worship is a heavenly father who desires that I serve him, but will not force me. He does not need me, my worship, my service or my allegiance, but they please him. Yes, there is punishment — he allows me to be disciplined to break the rebelliousness of spirit with which my species has been plagued since the days of Adam — but only because he does not want me to have to face his ultimate judgement.

And so I follow in the footsteps of a man who claimed to be God in a day where such a claim was a capital crime unless you could back it up. A man who referred to the almighty, vengeful God of judgment as “Daddy” — a term of endearment that must have scandalized the religious folks of the day. A man who gave up his life so that I can do the same.

Amen.