Sunday, December 31, 2006

State Farm

"And like a good neighbor, State Farm is there."

I don't know about you, but if I had neighbors who made me pay them "insurance" money every month, I'd probably move.

Gas prices: the year in review

So remember when gas prices were falling all summer, and some of us cynics were saying that it was a cheap ploy by Bush's friends in the oil industry to increase satisfaction with the Republicans leading up to the election in November? And how we said that the price would start going up after November 7? How oh how could we ever be that cynical? You know, if you're going to pull shit like this, don't make it so transparent that the price starts to go up steadily ON THE VERY DAY OF THE ELECTION. Seriously, look at this national price chart from

Women: Do more housework or DIE

It was a scientific study, so it must be true! Sorry, ladies!

Women who keep their homes clean and tidy are less likely to develop breast cancer than those who let the dust and dishes pile up, according to a new report.

Researchers found regular moderate exercise such as housework provides greater protection from the disease than more strenuous but less frequent sporting activity.

Being active in the home cut the likelihood of pre-menopausal women developing breast cancer by 29 per cent compared with being inactive, and reduced the risk for post-menopausal women by 19 per cent.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Photo contests

OK, here's a question. Why is it that every photo contest grand prize winner is either a) a b/w photo of a newborn near his mother's exposed nipple, or b) an ancient African man sitting on a stool in front of a shack?

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Bluetooth: It sucks

Allow me, for a moment, to complain about Bluetooth.

Who the HELL designed this flaming bag of waste? Has anyone ever gotten ANY Bluetooth device to work correctly and consistently? Don't think too hard, I'll answer it for you. No.

My first experience with Bluetooth was when I wanted to sync my Pocket PC with my laptop, using Bluetooth, a couple of years ago. It was easy! I just bought the crappy little Bluetooth dongle thing, attached it to my laptop, got the ActiveSync connection going, and...nothing. After spending what seemed like forever configuring this miracle of technology, I discovered that you could only sync certain things over Bluetooth. Why? For no goddamn reason, since everything works just fine over a serial connection.

A few months ago, the keyboard crapped out on my Tablet. I got this cool little fold-up Bluetooth keyboard. It didn't work right. For some reason, the driver needed a security code each time I tried to use the keyboard. I had to choose it each time, because Bluetooth would forget everything I had taught it.

I got a new Tablet. I also got a Treo. They both support Bluetooth, so connecting them should be the easiest thing on earth. This time, ActiveSync wasn't half-crippled like previous versions were. It's easy now. You just make sure both devices are broadcasting and allowing discovery, select "Sync via Bluetooth," and wonder why the hell it worked yesterday but doesn't work now. Why the partnership just disappears from time to time. Why I have to go in and discover ActiveSync services through the Bluetooth dialogs over and over again.

Then I got a Bluetooth earpiece to go along with the phone. Everything would be different. In order to securely partner the earpiece to the phone, I had to type in the top-secret security code. Which was 0000. It would always be 0000. It was hard-wired. For security, every Motorola H500 headset on earth has the same security code.

Not that the security code matters anyway, because I've had to re-enter the partnership three times now. It works great for a couple of days, and then disappears as if it's never been there in the first place.

At least the headset works sometimes. When I want to use the earpiece, the phone call goes through the phone. When I want to turn the earpiece off, the call goes through the earpiece. When I try to switch them, the call disconnects.

I have never had a Bluetooth device that works reliably. Ever. And it's not just one piece that's giving me trouble. It's every damn device that relies upon Bluetooth. Bluetooth is a broken, shitty technology that should be taken out back and shot.

Friday, December 8, 2006

Verizon Redux

They restored my wireless data plan, but "only the $44.99 a month version is available now." That's good. I do love a good mobile plan slamming.

I called our corporate account rep to complain that I'd been slammed, and requested my $20/month rate back. He said he'd have it switched back.

Well, he did something. My EVDO stopped working altogether on Wednesday around noon. "The remote modem has disconnected." I tried everything, and none of the options worked.

After a day of this, I called Verizon on Thursday and we walked through soft resets, hard resets, degaussing, drop-kicking, the whole scripted routine. Nothing worked, so they actually looked at my account.

"Oh, when you changed your data plan the other day, they never turned your Internet back on." They flipped a switch, and everything worked OK.

Verizon Wireless has only fumbled my billing three times in the past month. "Can We Slam You Now?"

Reasons to hate the LIRR

The train ride started out OK. I read a little bit, dozed a little bit. At about 5:15 I undozed. The train was crawling into the station - Hicksville, to be exact. The conductor announced that a train had hit a car outside Sayville and we were probably going to terminate at Babylon. We were stopping at Hicksville so that people could get off and take the train to Ronkonkoma if they wanted.

We sat at Hicksville for 10 minutes or so, helpfully waiting for people to figure out whether they wanted to get off or not. One or two people did. Then we continued the long slog to Babylon.

The woman across the aisle from me was headed for East Hampton, but after the train left Hicksville she called her aunt and decided to go to Huntington instead. "The announcement said you could catch the train from Babylon to Huntington, didn't it?" Well, not exactly.

As we approached Babylon, they announced that the westbound train had hit a tractor-trailer. The train pulled into Babylon and disgorged its load of weary commuters. The station was packed with people trying to figure out how to get to Speonk. They announced that buses would be available within an hour. Some of us dashed over to the taxi stand.

We were all going to Bay Shore, so as a public service the Lindy's dispatcher would only charge us $10 a person. Four of us crowded into a cab and took off. Not that bad, we'd only be 20 or 30 minutes late.

Halfway down Union Blvd, our driver started to swerve around like he'd had too much Robitussin. Then, suddenly, THUMP thump-thump-thump. Thump. We pulled over with a flat tire. I announced that I was going to walk the rest of the way. The driver urged me to sit with him for half an hour or so until help came. I asked him how much it was for the drive to where we were. "Nine dollars." I tossed him two fives and got out. The other passengers decided to come with me.

Union Blvd at night is pretty dark. We took turns looking for cougars and wolves. We were only about 20 minutes by foot from the station, so we didn't have to take turns sleeping.

Finally, the station was within sight. Like a shining gem, sparkling in Bay Shore's famed convenience store district, the station beckoned one and all. It was gaily festooned with Christmas wreaths and vagrants. And the sound of an eastbound train providing restored service. MOTHERF______________________________

FRIDAY UPDATE: The cab is still sitting, untouched, on Union. It hung out there overnight.

Wednesday, December 6, 2006

New stomach remedy

Last week I had a little problem that involved lunch at a pasta bar on 51st St, followed by a night and morning of heaving. While I was on my deathbed, I made a startling discovery. If you take a peppermint oil caplet like Pepogest about 45 minutes before everything rockets its way back up, when it does return it will all taste minty instead of vomity. Saves you a terrible taste memory! I am thinking of marketing this as a product now - SweetHeave.

Tuesday, December 5, 2006


According to, the #1 song half my life ago was "Walk Like An Egyptian." That little turdfest has been around for half of my consciousness now.

Saturday, December 2, 2006

By any other name

Here's something that's been on my nerves for a while. For years, the Meadowbrook has underlooked the gorgeous American Ref-Fuel plant in Uniondale. Day and night, the bright gray exhaust billowing out of the plant has reminded us all of the wonderful day when everyone will burn their own refuse to keep warm.

But a few months ago, everything changed. Ref-Fuel was no more, replaced with a big Covanta sign. It used to be an axiom of marketing that if people don't know what your product is, you haven't sold it well. Now the rule is that you should take away names with any basis in reality and change them to invented words. Covanta is, of course, a company that turns refuse into fuel. Royal Mail used to deliver the mail in the UK. Now they're Cosignia.

When is it going to go the other direction? When will Covanta change its name to reflect its mission, and rebrand itself as Mr. Trashburn's? They could do the typical trick of inventing corporate mythology, too. Just explain that the company was actually founded by General J.P. Burntrash in 1867 but was now called Mr. Trashburn's.

Friday, December 1, 2006

Is that your cell bill in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

I got my monthly paperless bill from Verizon Wireless today. Same as always, since I'm on a "ton of minutes and unlimited data" account. On 12/17, their auto-pay will take...$1423.13 OUT OF MY CHECKING ACCOUNT? WHAT THE NEVER-STOP-WORKING-FOR-YOU HELL IS GOING ON HERE?

Something's going on with the data plan. I just know it. So I open up the monthly billing PDF. They sent me a replacement phone on 11/8. My data plan is listed as:

PDA Unl National Access $20
10/29 - 11/8
$20.00 monthly access charge
Unlimited monthly kilobyte

PDA/Smartphone 10mb $24.99
11/9 - 11/28
$24.99 monthly access charge
10240 monthly kilobyte allowance
$.0050 per KB after allowance

So when they activated my new phone, they conveniently switched me from the $20 unlimited plan to the $25 plan where you get 10 MB and then get charged just $5/MB thereafter. To the tune of $1300 in November. Without telling me.

I called VZW. The woman opened up my bill and her first word was "Wow." She then continued, "I haven't seen a bill like THAT since we first did data charges and nobody knew the correct code to enter." I'm awaiting resolution, which will absolutely not involve a transfer of $1400 to Verizon Wireless a week before Christmas.

New NHL uniforms coming next season!

The NHL has announced "new, streamlined uniforms" for next season.
Commissioner Gary Bettman said yesterday that the NHL will introduce a new, streamlined uniform next season that will blend fashion with function.

Bettman said the new-look uniforms, designed over the past 2 years, will be unveiled at the All-Star Game in January.

In an interview with Reuters at the NHL's headquarters in New York, Bettman said the players who have tested it so far "have been thrilled."

While the new tapered uniforms are fashionable, Bettman said they were designed with players in mind.

Here's some footage of the new uniform design in action.