Thursday, June 28, 2012

Hey, Voyager 1, LEAVE ALREADY

As much as I admire the work the Voyage 1 space probe has done, I think it’s about time it got out of the house. Or at least about time NASA stopped sending out press releases or answering questions about the probe’s imminent departure from the solar system until it actually departs.

For the past three years, we’ve been treated to stories like this, stories that, I’m sure, are 98 percent boiler plate because the details are the same and the news really isn’t all that new.

In Space.com’s latest installation, we don’t get to the meat of the update until the seventh paragraph, aside from a typically breathless quote from a California Institute of Technology scientist in Paragraph Two.

I’m thrilled Voyager 1 is still capable of sending information – sciencey stuff – since its launch in 1977, and I’m gobsmacked that scientists on Earth can still pick up its infinitely weak signal from more than 11 billion miles away. But it’s time for Voyager to leave the solar system so we can stop getting these breathless updates. Even NASA’s own reporting on the event buries the most important news (and proves that Voyager has another reason to leave the solar system – that terrible lens flare from the sun).




I guess what grouses my cookies is the reporting here, which wastes too much time reminding readers what this is all about – what Voyager is and such – rather than getting to the real news. And the eager scientists don’t help, either – they’ve been saying we’re near the edge of the solar system since 2009. I know we’re talking cosmic distances here, but I think they should be a little less eager to get the news out and more patient for the event to actually happen.

So, how would I report it?

Like this:

Steep increases in the number of cosmic rays hitting the 35-year-old Voyager 1 space probe indicate this wanderer from Earth may be at the edge of the solar system.

Scientists at the California Institute of Technology have noted the number of cosmic rays --- high speed atomic and subatomic particles shot out of black holes and exploding stars at nearly the speed of light – have been hitting the probe in increasing numbers since January 2009. Spikes in the number of rays hitting the probe starting on May 7, 2012, however, indicate to scientists the probe may be at the edge of the heliosphere, the bubble of magnetism that surrounds the Sun.

Then you move on to the breathless blah-blah and the exposition that people who don't know or don't remember what Voyager 1 is need to fill in the blanks. This is called inverted pyramid writing, something they evidently don't teach or practice much at Space.com any more.

I guess I resent the blah blah since I already know this stuff. but even for folks who don't, they ought to have a quick reason to get interested in the story aside from the headline. Giving them the meat, then the boilerplate, is a lot better in my book.

Buses and Health Care

Two topics of discussion today:

First, I wish more people where I work rode the bus.

Yes, you have to get up earlier if you take the bus. Yes, it takes longer to get home if you take the bus.

But the bus is cheaper. By leaps and bounds cheaper. Or was, until people stopped riding the bus for whatever reason. And prices are going up. But still, they'll be cheaper than driving out to work unless we hit the time when gasoline once again drops to 69.9 cents a gallon.

Second, the individual healthcare mandate has been upheld as constitutional. (although CNN.com, in their commitment to solid journalism, briefly had the courts nullifying that portion of the law.)

(And, for the curious, when I decided to check in at Newsbusters to see the state of general conservative wharrrgarbl over the Supreme Court's ruling on healthcare, I got this. An amusing sign.)


It is meant, of course, to get everyone on the bus. To make health insurance more affordable because more people -- and more money -- are in the pot. We'll see if that happens. So far, the prices I'm paying for health insurance have gone in one direction only, and it ain't down.

But no one forces me to ride the bus. It is a decision I make based on the fact that the truck I drive would suck down two tanks of gasoline a week to get me to and from work, far more expensive than what I pay to ride the bus. There are also safety considerations. I like the fact that I don't have to drive. I can sleep. I don't sweat road conditions or fatigue. That's the bus driver's job. And our bus drivers are good at what they do.

But no one forces everyone to ride the bus. I'm not sure that forcing everyone to ride the bus is a good idea. Those who drive make their own decisions, maybe based on economics, maybe on other factors, such as sleeping in a bit later and getting home sooner. The cost of gasoline, obviously in their eyes, is less of a factor than whatever factor it is that persuades them to drive to work. Forcing them to ride the bus would make me happier because -- perhaps -- bus pass prices would go down, but they, in turn, would give up other tangible benefits they see in driving themselves to work or carpooling, rather than riding the bus.

If all things were equal -- if everyone were like me -- the buses would be so crowded they'd be less expensive and probably less comfortable and more likely to inspire Weird Al Yankovic parody songs.



But not everyone sees things like I do, which is too bad for me and my situation. But I don't see things like them, which maybe causes them some hardship along the way. Recently our company polled employees to see if they'd rather have a $50 a week carpooling incentive rather than bus access -- which, in addition to what we pay as employees for the bus passes, costs the company $450,000 a month. The poll I heard -- unofficially -- came out about even among people who adamantly want to continue having bus privileges, those interested in the $50 carpooling incentive and those who didn't give a fig either way.

Do I think health insurance prices will go down as more people are "forced" to buy health insurance? Not a chance. More people buying houses at the peak of the housing bubble -- which led to more houses being built and more people working in construction -- forced prices through the roof, not down. Those who look at increased demand -- whether through popular desire or governmental fiat -- to make prices go down are living in a fool's paradise. Only when the profit equation is taken out of healthcare might we see prices decrease. But that would be only a temporary dip, as costs outside of profits will still continue to rise. But that's socialism, which we will not see in this country any time soon.

PSST: CNN, you might want to remember that getting things right is far more important than getting things first.


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Equal-Opportunity Asshattery

Because I think equal opportunity ought to apply to asshattery as well as getting jobs and scholarships, I anxiously awaited Slate.com’s trashing of Nora Ephron, the 71-year-old writer/director who passed away of pneumonia brought on by leukemia over the weekend.

I hold no animosity towards Ephron. I’ve watched some of her movies, and enjoyed some of her movies. But with Slate.com’s trashing of individuals such as John Christopher and Stan and Jan Berenstain, I figured that the site would have someone on staff ready to pour out some vitriol on the maker of the modern rom-com.

So far, I got nothin’.

And there’s lots of rich fodder in the Ephron canon, if I put on hats typically worn by Slate’s they’re-dead-so-let’s-trash-them crowd.

Michael, the Ephron film I probably enjoy the most, is at the foundation of it all, sexist. Every woman who falls within the circle of influence of Michael the angel – played by John Travolta – is in thrall to him, from the idiots who think he smells like cookies to the bar wenches who dance with him merely because he exudes some angelic quality that only they (and that weenie who has the dog) can determine.





Any male who tried to foist such a storyline upon the cynical feminist public would have his harbls handed to him in a jar. But not a whisper of condemnation for Ephron’s mawkishness on Slate. Maybe they’ve learned their lesson. Then again, probably not.

And that’s not the end of it. You’ve Got Mail brings us not only dated product placement with AOL’s signature line but also a tale of a successful businesswoman – played by Meg Ryan – who falls head over heels for her competitor even after all the disgust in knowing that he’s mercilessly putting her out of business – leaving the fate of her business unresolved at the end, concentrating more on the relationship. I don’t see either caving in, but I do see one caving in to the realities of business – and a relationship borne of anonymous email snogging falling to pieces as the male business model triumphs once again over that of the inept, weepy female.

Probably there are feminists who could put this in better light at Slate.com, but since this was a woman writing it all, perhaps my faith in their cynicism is misplaced. Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned, etc., etc.

Then there’s Sleepless in Seattle. Here we have the weepy, inept female basically unable to run her life because she’s lost in this magical, puffy world of finding her soul mate and traveling all the way to Seattle so she can find this one guy whose ten=-year-old son called in to a national weep-fest radio show about.

Okay, so the male character, played by Tom Hanks, is just as emasculated and weepy as Ryan’s character is (if a female can be emasculated; I suppose I should say efeminated), so I guess Ephron can get a bye on this one.





Then there’s this scene (my favorite) from the film, in which Ephron basically says it’s okay for men to run roughshod over female feelings as long as it’s done in a comical way:


From a man, this kind of thing would be sniffed at by Slate.com’s feminists. But there’s nothing but praise for Ephron there.

Maybe they’ve learned their Jan Berenstain lesson: Detreat as you might, but there are those in the internet universe who will come to the defense of their cherished idols. Or they could just be saying, “Hey, everyone loves Nora Ephron, despite what we have to gloss over when it comes to how she portrays women as weepy and men-dependent. Besides, she wrote about New York City! The Big Wahoonie! We have to give her a pass.”

Given these are hard-bitten journalists (well, as hard-bitten as you can be writing feminism online) I guess I know which direction they were heading.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

DOG!


A photo our oldest took of our dog. I imagine it's the last view that stink bug on the porch had of the world before the dog got to it earlier today.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Moron Information Literacy


So, you may remember this post from last week. Boy, I sure do. Just one of the many examples where doing the pre-reading helped me avoid making a complete ass of myself.

But a thought struck me this morning -- why not do what Barr and Tagg pseudo-recommend in "From Teaching to Learning" -- that is, offer an interdisciplinary course on information literacy in which students get minimal lecture but lots of time to practice what ails them?

Let me go back to what they say, then see if my idea passes muster or just squirts more mustard into the diaper of my ignorance.

They say:

We now see that our mission is not instruction but rather that of producing learning with every student by whatever means works best.

And this:

For example, if students are not learning to solve problems or think critically, the old logic says we must teach a class in thinking -- and make it a general education requirement. Thie logic is all to circular: What students are learning in the classroom doesn'ta ddrss their needs or ours; therefore, we must bring them back into another clasroom and instruct them some more. The result is never what we hope for because, as Richard Paul, director of the Center for Critical Thinking observes glumly, "critical thinking is taught in the same way that other courses have traditionally been taught, with an excess of lecture and insufficient time for practice.

And this:

Students, the co-producers of learning, can and must, of course, take responsibility for their own learning. Hence, responsibility is a win-win game wherein two agents take responsibility for the same outcome even through neither is in complete control of all the variables. When two agents take such responsibility, the resulting synergy produces powerful results.

And this:

In the Learning Paradigm, on the other hand, a college's purpose is not to transfer knowledge but to create environments and experiences that bring students to discover and construct knowledge for themselves, to make students member of communities of learners that make discoveries and solve problems.

So far, so good. But, before I introduce my idea, I'll give a little more background.

The classes I enjoyed the most from my masters work at Utah State were those taught by David Hailey and Ron Shook, who took on two different perspectives.

Hailey's classes were open-ended. We did not have a text but rather were reading a text he was in the process of writing. We didn't have a set syllabus but instead took voyages through knowledge meant to help us first see the problems with, say, writing for the web, the divine ways to fix the problems. His classes were frustrating in that we didn't know from week to week what we were going to do. But they were fun for the same reason.

Shook's classes were more structured, but he prefaced every class with the following, liberating sentence: If you've got a project or paper you're working on for your full-time job that you think will work as an assignment in this class, let me know. Hailey also used this approach -- and I found as a student that taking this approahc allowed me to work on something I knew I had to work on "for real," rather than just inside the classroom -- so what I was learning in the classroom had immediate real-world application.

So I got to wondering this morning as I sat on the bus, unable to sleep. And I pounded the following out on my Kindle:

Cross-curriculum information literacy

Concern by Barr et al that glasses on informational literacy aren't across the curriculum and that students aren't able to apply what they learn in an information literacy course to other subjects. So we bring other subjects into the curriculum. We look at projects they may fe working on in, say, other English ir communication or nursing of automotive or botany or whatever and we let them use assignments they're working on in other clases in this information literacy course. Tjod leaves the curriculum for the info lit course wide open.

How

Students have to submit a significant assignment from other course to he taken seriously. Will want it to be assignment due in other course far later in semester so they ave time yo work on it in both courses.

would have to work with profs on other course to fill in teacher's info gap

Call it an experiment in cross-curricular information literacy

Yes, typos included. I was more tired than I think. But too tired to see where Barr and Tagg might be okay with this? Let me check.

Learning by whatever means work best? Maybe. This might be the means to help some students, but not all students.

Excess of lecture with little time for practice? Maybe not. Keep the lecture light and encourage them, week to week, to check in with questions, bounce ideas off instructor and peers, who might suggest through converastion rather than lecture ways to improve upon the writing and research and such.

Responsibility with neither fully in control of variables? Yes. Responsibility on students to find appropriate assignments. Responsibility on instructor to expand horizons and guide and communicate outside of one field of expertise. Lots of variables with no one person in complete control.

Community where students become learners and problem-solvers? I'd like to think so.

More from Barr and Tagg:

[Fixing the learning] reward skilled and advanced students with speedy progress while enabling less-prepared students the time they needed to actually master the material. By "testing out," students could also avoid wasting their time being "taught" what they already know. Students would be given credit for degree-relevant knowledge and skills regardless of how or where or when they learned them.

Maybe portions of this course -- but certainly BYU-Idaho should consider letting some students "test out" of FDENG 101 and ENG 201 so they're not bored in the classes and weary of jumping through the hoops.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Failure of Petrichor


A woman wrote me from San Bernardino, California – how she found me I’ll never fathom; it was before the profiles of me in the popular press – and asked what I missed, “isolated as you are, millions of miles from Earth,” she said. To extend her letter, she included long lists of what she imagined I missed, from the sound of the breeze blowing through the leafy treetops to the weight of lose change in my pockets.

I banished her letter to the BLARGO BLOO where the scarecrow stands.

But long I pondered the question, even before it arrived.

What did I miss, marooned and alone on a dusty, walnut-shaped hunk of rock and ice circling the ringed planet in the solar system’s middle nethers?

Not the crowds, the cawing of crows, the rush of water either in stream or toilet; nor birdsong at dawn. Nor dawn itself.

Finally, I went back out to BLARGO BLOO, retrieved her letter, and responded:

C12H22O

She wrote back, said she would send me some beets.

No, I said, in response. Not beets.

Simple geosmin, C12H22O, mixed with the oils released by Artemisia tridentata.

The smell of rain blown in over the sagebrush steppe not far from the town where I was born.
Australains coined a name for it: petrichor, Greek for the stone and blood of the gods. Writers use the word, smugly, sending their readers to their dictionaries to say, “indeed, this writer is more clever than I.”

The word is wrong.

There are many smells after a rain, and I have catalogued many of them: That of cold concrete wet by summer rain and that of hot concrete wet by summer rain might both be called petrichor, but to the discerning nose, they are utterly different. Different still, the smell of rain bearing with it the resin of the sagebrush.

The smell of wet, warm concrete enters the nose as soft round balls, gently bouncing off the olfactory nerves, conveying the blackness of the sand grains in the concrete, they grey of the cement, the solidness of artificial stone to step on.

The smell of distant sagebrush wet by the rain bears with it the jagged lightning of summer, the wind-blown dust though the air is clear, the black tear of clouds on the horizon that never arrive yet push the odor eastward like a pleasant plague of Egypt. With it the nose is stripped of the mundane smells of the roses and the violets and is varnished and cleansed, like the palate of a Frenchman eating a delicate sorbet between courses. After the petrichor of the desert, that of sagebrush and lava rock and lichen and prickly pear and coyote scat and marmot holes and the cawing of crows that imitate ducks when they see humans about, you see the need for yet another word to describe the smell in the air after a rain.

I tried artesmichor.

But it cannot conjure the smell smelled sitting on that front porch with Dad there in his wooden shoes, staring out at the black clouds in the desert as the sun set behind them, the whirr of traffic on the highway, the hum from the overhead electrical wires, the bark of a dog, the scent of a cat marking its territory and that certain whiff of methane from the vent pipe on the septic tank.

Marcel Proust would fail to name it, fiddling as he does with his madelines.

Lewis Carroll would fail to name it, outgrabed mome raths notwithstanding.

I cannot name it. But in a letter far longer than the original from the woman from San Bernardino, I described it.

She wrote back. She did not know the smell.

But her father-in-law, who grew up on the sagebrush steppe of Sicily, knows it. And he knows no effort to bottle its essence should ever be undertaken.

“I smell it, once and a while, when I am out past Bakersfield, wandering,” he wrote in a shaky post-script to her last letter. “It makes me weep for home. I weep like a small baby. You are a cruel man to remind me of what it is I miss the most.”

Thursday, June 21, 2012

PLEASE Buy Last Week's News!

TIME, what is this malarkey?

Specifically, this malarkey. And in case you miss it, it's this:
When the Queen imports three unsuitable suitors as prospective husbands, Merida causes havoc in the realm by declaring she’ll marry no one but herself. “I hope you die!” she screams at the woman who gave her life. In a rage, Merida visits a witch (Julie Walters), hoping for a magic spell that will change her mother. It does. Reviewers’ etiquette requires that we speak no more of it. If you want to know what happens in the movie’s Act Two, buy a subscription to TIME and read the review in last week’s issue.
The part in italics I can buy. Richard Corliss, from whose review of Pixar's Brave this paragraph comes from, doesn't want to spoil  the show by, well, spoiling the show. but given that it blends in so well with the bit of anti-Internet malarkey in bold, I have to wonder if Corliss' wording is more a plea from a dead-tree magazine to keep it alive than movie reviewer ettiquette.

I'm willing to give Corliss the benefit of the latter, but TIME is guilty of the former.

Yes, yes, I know the media is struggling trying to find a balance of free offerings for the internet versus offerings we have to pay for. Corliss, as the other writers at TIME and at, say, your local newspaper deserve to be paid. But the inserted plea for a subscription or single-issue sale comes at a poor time, rhetorically, in this instance.

And really, TIME, you think telling me I have to buy last week's issue -- old news even by dead tree standards -- to get the rest of the review is going to make me rush out and do so? I trust Richard Corliss for film reviews, but given that there are plenty of other reviewers on the internet who won't make me go out and buy a copy of last week's stuff to read what they have to say, the trust in Corliss is outweighed by the sheer inconvenience of finding that old news dead tree edition in the first place. Good thing my local library subscribes to TIME, so I can go read it for free.

But here's the deal -- I'd almost rather have a paywall to deal with here, because at least that way I'd have a reasonable chance of finding what I wanted to read, even if I only paid to read that article and not the whole of the magazine. I don't happen to have a local branch of Last Week's News around where I can buy a copy of last week's TIME magazine. The library is my only option.

Pffff. This is Lame




I'm in a rut.

But I'm getting out of it.

This summer:
  1. Putting in a sprinkler system. Started work on it last Saturday, and should have the rest of the system in this weekend. Then I have to dig all the trenches and bury the system before winter comes. That'll stink.
  2. Editing, illustrating (not sure how I'm going to do either) YERSHI THE MILD, then publishing it as an ebook. There's a good chance my first novel is going to suck. But then again there's a good chance my first novel is going to suck anyway, so on with it, and trichinosis be damned.
  3. Biking or walking every evening. Probably going to be walking, since the dog will need her exercise as well. Must also stock up on post-walk chewies. For the dog.
  4. Finishing the first draft of THE HERMIT OF IAPETUS. Before that, however, actually going to figure out what the novel is all about. What I've written thus far, however, I like, and that's after putting it away for six months.
  5. Coming up with another novel idea to write during NaNoWriMo 2012. Not going to "cheat" this year by going into it with 8,000 words already written, though I did do a lot of organization with that written chunk during the NaNoWriMo window.
  6. Pleased as punch to have this entry done so the automatic Mr. Trololo video is off the main page. I won't have to hit pause any more. I hope with that video I've passed on some knowledge on why auto-starting any kind of video or music on your site is bad. Unless that is what you do. Which I do not.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Exoplanets


I need a reminder like this from time to time. This is an exciting time.

Just Keep Swimming. And Learnding

Yesterday I humbled myself when, after writing the opening to what I thought was going to be a bold push to inaugurate an information literacy course at BYU-Idaho, I read an article that’s being pushed by our online education betters at BYU-Idaho insisting in part – and rather bluntly – that classes on information literacy aren’t really a great idea.

(Why not? Because, authors and scholars Robert Barr and John Tagg insist in their piece From Teaching to Learning that such courses become an end unto themselves, going only to satisfy some sage on the stage’s desire to fill in a whiny complaint (These students are information illiterates!) without really helping the students to apply what they might learn in such a course to real-life situations.)


I may be able to re-use part of what I wrote, and that’s because it wasn’t my own idea but something I quoted from Elder David A. Bednar, who agree with Barr and Tagg to the nth degree:
Academic assignments, test scores, and a cumulative GPA do not produce a final and polished product. Rather, students have only started to put in place a foundation of learning upon which they can build forever . . . The particular topics investigated and learned are not nearly as important as what has been learned about learning. As we press forward in life – spiritually, interpersonally, and professionally – no book of answers is readily available with guidelines and solutions to the great challenges of life. All we have is our capacity to learn and our love of and for learning.
So I basically have taken what I wrote and put it in the trash bin, realizing (yet again) that I am not a genius. I’m okay with that. I’ve known for a long time that I am not a genius. But sometimes I get a flash of what might be something, only to find out it’s really not all that nifty.

So this humility thing is a good teacher.

Where do I go from here?

Well, I don’t go where I went last night: Into a funk in which I lamented not knowing what I don’t know and cursing the darkness for not suddenly shooting rays of what I don’t know into my brain so I could know it.

I do go this way: I’ll read Barr and Tagg’s article again. I’ll remember what they said and take in a little comfort that as I learn to be a better teacher, the changes I’d like to see in myself and in my students will come. But slowly, because I’ve got a lot to learn. They start off their article by quoting Albert Einstein, who said “The significant problems we face cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.”

I’m reading now a biography on Einstein (again trying to fill in the vast gaps of knowledge I do not possess) in which the author, Ronald W. Clark, emphasizes that Einstein came up with his brilliant ideas by focusing on the tiny inconsistencies in theory that other scientists either ignored or allowed to exist because they appeared minor or solved certain problems extant in the theory. Einstein didn’t like the little inconsistencies, and thus tried to fix them, to great effect. That effort took a lot of time and a lot of reflection – something I need to find time to accomplish so that my blinding flashes of the obvious don’t come so frequently.

This reminds me of another Einstein quote: “I want to know God’s thoughts. The rest are details.” And finding God’s thoughts, I know, isn’t going to come to me in an afternoon pounding out a useless paper on an idea that’s already been tossed to the gutter. Doesn’t mean I’m not going to be bitter about the whole thing, but at least for the moment I’ve achieved that bit of clarity that says to keep on swimming.



And at least I read that touted article before I blundered into something and made a public ass of myself. That's a bit of knowledge and experience gained right there. Right?

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Hokey Smoke!

They called Mel Blanc the Man of a Thousand Voices, and he made his characters his own.

Maybe June Foray doesn’t have as many voices as he did. But she certainly does some memorable ones who will always be identified with her.



We used to chase each other around the house, imitating Granny doing her little death screech on the violin. I felt so sorry for Sylvester in this one, and really wanted him to catch and eat that bird – until Granny did her death screech. Yikes. And her Nell Fenwick, so innocent, so pure, so able in that goofy hat and with those ruby lips to get Dudley Do-Right into so much trouble.

Now at age 94, she’s won her first Emmy. Seems to me it’s a long time coming.

Personally, I would have given her an Emmy for her Warner Brothers work. Foray’s Granny was at the same time innocent and terrifying, as was her Witch Hazel. It’s these characters – not the bland, boring, yeah he’ll win at the end Bugs Bunny that made these cartoons work. You’ve got to have a good villain. And Granny was villainous, whether it was with her threats or with her broom. And Witch Hazel, well, anyone who can cackle like that has got to be a bad ‘un.



I like what Chuck Jones said of June Foray: "People say she is the female Mel Blanc. Mel Blanc is the male June Foray."

Monday, June 18, 2012

Where He Goes On and On about Wooden Spoons . . .

NOTE: Here's a challenge I launch to my BYU-Idaho students this week. I've given them about the first half of this post, and will give them the rest later this week.

I’ve harped on a few of you to be careful with your research. To be careful citing sources. To be careful finding sources which are credible to begin with. I hope I’ve done it gently.

Why do I do this?

Credibility is a writer’s bread and butter. If a writer makes an argument that can’t be backed up by credible sources or credible evidence, that writer has failed at making a successful argument.

Don’t feel bad if you’re one of those I’m gently harping on. Finding credibility is something writers struggle with. Even the professional ones.

Here’s a wonderful example I stumbled across while perusing Slate.com this week. See if you can tell me why I might doubt this writer’s research chops and her choice of credible sources.

Here’s a hint. My quibble comes in this paragraph:
And yet take a quick look around a cooking-supply store (or most home kitchens), and it’s easy to see how outnumbered wooden spoons are by non-wooden ones. A Williams-Sonoma’s customer-service representative, who said she sells more stainless-steel spoons than anything else, told me that the company’s wooden spoons are just not as popular as their flashier cousins. A Sur La Table representative I spoke with told me the spoons she sells the most of are silicone. I browsed Amazon's list of best-selling kitchen utensils and gadgets, which is updated hourly, on multiple occasions over the course of several weeks, and I never once saw a wooden spoon in the top 10 or even in the top 100.
Here’s another hint: There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the credibility of her sources – I’m sure what the folks at Williams-Sonoma, Sur La Table, and the autobots at Amazon.com are telling her is absolute truth, completely verifiable, and 100 percent accurate.

Here’s another hint: It has to do with credible sources and critical information that the author omits from her argument.

Here’s another hint: Search for “wooden spoons” at Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table’s web sites. Do the same at Amazon. Then go to a local Wal Mart, Target, or a dollar store and see what you can find by way of wooden spoons.

It’s price.

Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table sell expensive wooden spoons. Now I’m sure there are advantages to, say, Williams-Sonoma’s olive wood slotted spoon, or its olive wood blunt-end spoon, which sell, respectively, for $21 and $15. I’m glad to see Sur La Table offer similar olive-wood accessories at less expense, with prices ranging from $19.95 to $14.95.

Amazon’s a better bag of prices for spoons. Though you can still find some expensive varieties there. Amazon sells, for example, an OXO large wooden spoon for $8.14. You can get the same, however, at Target for $5.99.

For cheapie basic wooden spoons, neither Target or Wal Mart’s websites will give a price, they just say “prices vary by location.” Translation: They’re so cheap, it’s not worth putting a price tag up on the website.

I can buy a package of three wooden spoons at Dollar Tree for one dollar. It’s the same at Wal Mart.

So what’s the problem with this writer’s argument?

She laments that no one uses wooden spoons any more by pointing out that expensive wooden spoons at boutique kitchen gadget sellers and Amazon.com aren’t among the top sellers. She didn’t ask the folks at, say, The Wooden Spoon Company (with its screaming website) about the popularity of spoons.

This company not only sells wooden spoons – at less than a dollar a pop – but is also doing a brisk business selling character wooden spoon toppers.

She didn’t talk to any discount retailers – where many people may be going to buy wooden spoons since they’re happier to pay $1 for three rather than drop $5 to $20 on a boutique spoon.

There may indeed be a passing of the wooden spoon in the world, as chefs migrate to silicone spoons as she argues, but she hasn’t convinced me because of the additional credible evidence she could have included.

Maybe I’m picking nits. But it should be clear if you’re arguing that wooden spoons aren’t popular, you should really look at why they’re not popular at certain retail outlets and then consider where they might be popular. The prices at Williams-Sonoma and Sur La Table should have set off her writer’s alarm bells – these are expensive spoons. Maybe people prefer less-expensive wooden spoons, and figure if they’re doing to drop $20 or more on a spoon from a boutique seller, they’re “better off” buying something else, since their wooden spoon dollar can be stretched elsewhere.

One more note: She says to look at most home kitchens to see wooden spoons outnumbered. She claims it’s due to the wooden spoons’ unpopularity. I counter, seeing all the gadgets we have in our kitchen, that the reason wooden spoons aren’t outnumbered is because they work, whereas the other spoons, ladles, and such we have in our kitchen outnumber wooden spoons because of their imperfections – we hold onto tools that are imperfect hoping someday to find the perfect tool, but we rarely do. Since wooden spoons we regard as universally useful, we don’t collect as many because we don’t hold on to imperfect wooden specimens.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Facebook is Turning Into my Brain

Hit upon something profound (maybe) and a little disturbing (definitely) today while I was farting around on the computer:

Facebook is turning into my brain.

Example: A few days ago, I heard Edvard Greig's "Dance of the Dwarves" on the radio. I dig Greig and, frankly, recall hearing this music used in some kind of cartoon I watched as a kid. So I wanted to remember this piece. So rather than hammering the memory I have of the tune (at least the opening and closing; I have no memories of the bridge) with the names of Greig and the Dance of the Dwarves, I turned first to YouTube and then to Facebook, because I knew going back to YouTube with a search for "that piece I was listening to and dancing to on the radio while doing dishes when my daughter came into the room and was embarrassed by my white man dancing" wasn't going to pull up anything on YouTube. (Well, it came up with this, but it's not quite exactly what I was hoping for.)


Nicholas Carr, of course, would be appalled. Carr is of course the author of the infamous "Is Google Making Us Stupid," in which he said this:
Where does it end? Sergey Brin and Larry Page, the gifted young men who founded Google while pursuing doctoral degrees in computer science at Stanford, speak frequently of their desire to turn their search engine into an artificial intelligence, a HAL-like machine that might be connected directly to our brains. “The ultimate search engine is something as smart as people—or smarter,” Page said in a speech a few years back. “For us, working on search is a way to work on artificial intelligence.” In a 2004 interview with Newsweek, Brin said, “Certainly if you had all the world’s information directly attached to your brain, or an artificial brain that was smarter than your brain, you’d be better off.” Last year, Page told a convention of scientists that Google is “really trying to build artificial intelligence and to do it on a large scale.”

Such an ambition is a natural one, even an admirable one, for a pair of math whizzes with vast quantities of cash at their disposal and a small army of computer scientists in their employ. A fundamentally scientific enterprise, Google is motivated by a desire to use technology, in Eric Schmidt’s words, “to solve problems that have never been solved before,” and artificial intelligence is the hardest problem out there. Why wouldn’t Brin and Page want to be the ones to crack it?

Still, their easy assumption that we’d all “be better off” if our brains were supplemented, or even replaced, by an artificial intelligence is unsettling. It suggests a belief that intelligence is the output of a mechanical process, a series of discrete steps that can be isolated, measured, and optimized. In Google’s world, the world we enter when we go online, there’s little place for the fuzziness of contemplation. Ambiguity is not an opening for insight but a bug to be fixed. The human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive.
I'm not as much as a worrywart as Carr is (something he admits, though he never met me personally). I may used Facebook and such to supplement my memory, but it's hardly replacing it. And I'm making new connections to new stuff thanks to the Internet all the time. In fact, if it weren't for this blog entry, I'd never have switched my doing-dishes song from Dance of the Dwarves to "Washing Dishes With My Sweetie."

Monday, June 11, 2012

Speed Connect Update

Time to give credit where credit is due.

After I posted a rather impatient post on Speed Connect's Facebook page about the poor quality of our Internet service as of late, we got some action.

First of all, we got a call from their local representative a little nonplussed about the Facebook posting -- evidently, she'd gotten a call about it and was told to act on it immediately. She said she'd send a tech out, but at tht time the Internet was working adequately. Later on in the day, howwever, it wasn't so my wife called her back. That got us a week's refund and a promise that a technician would come out Monday to see what was going on.

The tech did arrive Monday and discovered that our antenna, in seeking a strong signal from Speed Connect, was connecting to a tower much further away than the closest one to us, thus giving us a weaker signal. He talked ot hte antenna and now has it connecting to the proper tower. I suspect all of this was due to the company's work on "upgrading" things locally, leaving the closwer tower out of commission long enough for our antenna to lock onto the more distant one.

Jake -- BridgeMaxx' sole technician -- fixed us up right, so kudos to Speed Connect on getting things fixed quickly. Jake tells us the company is investing a lot more in the sytem's backbone, meaning outages and poor signals should be a thing of the past. Hoping all that work doesn't translate into higher costs for us. We've been promised that our current contract will be grandfathered in, but all bets are off for when that contract is up and, well, business happens.

Still, five of five stars for Speed Connect getting things working again, lest ye think I only post about them to complain.

We Interrupt This Huffington Post to Bring You . . .

What was old is now new, I suppose.

I've stopped clicking on any links that take me to The Huffington Post because of their sudden habit of having videos launch upon me landing on the page.

I'm not talking about me clicking to a page that's sole purpose is to present me with a video link. I'm talking about random videos that suddenly just start playing because I happen to be on a page.

Just now, I clicked to a page about a poor woman in New Zealand involved in a dental lab mix-up that led to a misdiagnosis of cancer and some rather invasive jaw surgery. As I was reading, suddenly I heard -- from somewhere; I was never able to identify the noise's location -- some campy, local TV station-like music along with a voice saying "Hi, I'm Whar Garble, and I'm a dentist . . ."

I shut the page down immediately.

I don't know if the video was related to the story at all or just a throwback to the early days of the Internet in which we had sound files that automatically launched once a page loaded or one of those stupid shadow cursor things that make navigating pages so very annoying. Yea, animated cursors and auto-play video are an abomination in my sight, and shall not be duplicated.

But am I alone in thinking such things are an abomination? I certainly can't find anyone else online complaining about the Huffington Post auto-launching video bombs into our laps. I can find this site which demonstrates how to do such an awful thing. But little about the etiquette about doing so.

The Web Design Library (ironically, in my opinion, a poorly designed site) recommends against the animated cursors and at least auto-played music, so that's something. Similar advice here (along with bad navigation. Go there; you'll see). Aaaaand the inevitable Jakob Nielsen site where the king of bad web design deigns to preach to the masses on what ought and ought not to be done. So I feel awkward offering design advice from three sites that have their own unique design problems. But it's a start. Perhaps y'all out there in Blogland can point me to better resources, eh?


(An example of how autoplay is, in the words of Al Gore, "Baaaad, Baaaaad, Reeeeeealllll Baaaaaaad!")

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Rhubarb Gone to Pies

And the mole walked in the garden
Trailing rake and spade
Stumbling root and snuffing candle
As his homeward path he made.
"I was worried; I was waifish,"
The mud-caked mole replied.
"That the carrots had all gone to seed
And the rhubarb gone to pies."

And the mole walked in the gloaming
Passing trees with shade so long
Sniffing at the radish scent
Whistling with the meadowlark song.
"I wax weary; I feel homish,"
Mole muttered with heavy breath.
"The crows come daily, cawing, greedy,
I would stone them all to death."

And the mole, at well a-drinking,
Patting the sweaty brow
Snorting dirt from the nostrils
Is fair placated now.
"Oh the crows, the crows a-coming,"
Mole said, a smile bewitched
"They too have young ones, hungry,
Fed on corn that they have snitched."

"And the squirrels," the mole said, warming,
"Chitter and scold with ease
As my raspberries they plunder
Without an 'If you please.'"
"But as the thunder cometh,"
Mole said as breath is short,
"The food they steal is taken to
Their numerous, young cohorts."

And the mole abed a-snoring
Thinks of the rain and sun
That come as their need arises
To fall on everyone.
"The sun, not mine to shift,"
Mole said in a slumb'ring sigh
"And rain not mine to gather,
But belong to them on high."

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Mr. Rogers. Still Brilliant.

Hating the Trees

Saturn may be in one quadrant of the sky when I emerge from my refuge in the Carcassonne Montes, or in another when I march across the region with the music of Brahms echoing among the stars. But from wherever I stand, Saturn does not grow smaller or larger. Nor, if I stood still in one place for a year, would it ever wander the sky.

Because of the sun, Saturn waxes and wanes. It enlarges from the sliver of God’s thumbnail with its ring illuminated as a jabbing spear to an oblate spheroid, visibly flattened at the poles, as the sunshine reflects off its cloudtops to its moon Iapetus, locked in synchronous rotation, always showing one face, and one face only, to the planet it hates.

Yes, Iapetus hates Saturn, just as the moon hates the usurper Earth, forever locked with its man in the moon staring down on the blue-white planet, always doomed to dance as the junior partner.

Yes, Iapetus hates Saturn, thus turns its back on the ringed wonder and stares alternately into the heart of the solar system with its warm, rocky worlds, or into the void past the empty bubbles of Neptune and Uranus to the spiky, rubble-filled chasm beyond the shattering cluster that is Pluto.

It is a place perfect for a hermit, always turning his back to the world, to the universe, to God and Mammon. Betimes I stare towards the sun – one of the few allowed to stare at our own sun and not be blinded or suffer the indignity of staring at it through a pinhole lens. Betimes I stare into the void and wonder at the emptiness of Pluto, and how, a thousand years into the future, I might get there when Iapetus becomes too crowded.

That is my fear. That is why I hate Saturn with a passion that would stun Iapetus with its vehemence and violence.

Saturn draws them, it draws them out from the heart of the warm solar system to the cold fringes where the glory of the ringed one hangs in the sky, beckoning them with fantasies only the likes of Bradbury or Clarke could create for them. And because the other moons, in their boredom, cling to the gravitational plane of the planet, thus denying a view of those rings, those damned rings, that damned set of rings that make Tolkein’s rings of power mere playthings in the hearts of man’s imagination, they will come to Iapetus.

And I cannot stop them.

Some may go to Titan. The engineers, the terraformers, the financiers and businessmen. They will see the raw materials lying before them, shrouded in clouds, fit to feed the commerce of the universe, and there they will go.

But the artists and dreamers, the geologists and explorers, those nitwits who wander the earth in the exact paths of Lewis and Clark and say “It does not matter that others have gone on before, I care only that my feet trod here for I, too, am an explorer,” they will come. And though I turn my back on them, though I rotate synchronously with my desire to be alone, my desire to hide my face so as not to stare clown-like down at the planet of my birth like the piteous moon, they will come to see my face. My face. And what will they see? They will see a reflection of the stars. A reflection of Saturn in its ringed glory, if we stand just so. And in the darkness, if, perchance we are in the shadow of a mountain or an outcropping, they may stare into my face and see a reflection of their own and be satisfied that they, too, are hermits of Iapetus.

Hermits. Hermits.

One word that deserves the company of no plural.

So I begin to hate the letter S and the company it promises to bring.

I walked some of the paths of Lewis and Clark. At Astoria, Oregon, I wandered among the sitka spruce and imagined following the explorers as they walked the paths in the forest, knowing they had seen the great ocean, knowing that when winter ended they had a choice.

I saw their fort – the replica built years later. The bunks, the chairs, the cramped spaces and the palisade wall spoke to the hermit within.

They said, quietly, with sadness, knowing they would not be obeyed. They said: Go away.

The trees, pointing toward heaven, roots entangling the undergrowth and dirt and rocks and each other, clinging as if the force of gravity were weak, pointed toward the sky and told me to leave. At night the treetops clawed at the moon and stars like ragged teeth, like the seeking arms of sea stars hunting for clams to devour with their extruding stomachs. If you flee, they said, pointing towards the stars, you will not be devoured. You will survive.

So I begin to hate the trees that willed me to leave.

Hating the trees, turning my back on the color green, letting the green paint I had foolishly painted on the walls of some of my refuges flake away until Iapetus’ natural, beautiful, greys and blues and reds came out in striations, soothed my soul. Turning my back on the color green once and for all severed my unbilical to the warm heart of the system, the tie to that cold blue-green planet until I could turn my back on it and not feel pangs of remorse or regret.

That is when I truly became a hermit, when the touch of earth or grass on my bare feet caused me to break out in hives. I had to go or die.

Still, fools send me green. They hear of the Hermit of Iapetus, stranded a billion miles away on that black-and-white world of frozen swirls of dust and ice and ash, and insist I must miss the green green grass of home.
The crueler ones, when they realize they will not trap me with thoughts of green and trees and color and the useless prancing of fawns and baby rabbits through the forests of a billion miles from where they stand to where I stand and stare not at them but at the stars, send me songs.

Deep in December, the damnable man sings, it’s nice to remember the fire of September that made us mellow. Deep in December, our hearts should remember.

And follow.

Follow.

Follow.

When I am dead, a skeleton whose empty eyes stare through the glass of my helmet – I will not die indoors, but only basking in the eternal darkness of the star-spangled skies of Iapetus – when the dust of ages obscures my view of the view of stars and, perhaps, micrometeors pock the glass and scratch it and my flesh lies as dust in my boots, I still will hear that song, its rhymes and meters.

So I hate the senders of songs more than I hate the letter S. More than I hate the color green.

It is Bradbury’s Warning, and Bradbury’s Curse.

He writes of hermits. All in the guise of explorers or astronauts or children cruel in their wish to see mommy and daddy eaten by the lions or mesmerized by the invading aliens. They are his hermits. But he warns his hermits: Danger lies not on the planets or moons or times you visit, but with what you bring in your head. Mars was heaven because the astronaut-hermits wished it so, and thus went to their doom and lie now, buried under the dry martian sands by ancient machinery built and dedicated aeons before they were born to defend the soil against the intrusion of memory.

Songs are the subtle traps that bring memory out of the black holes where it has been thrust, damaging the brain with massive bolts of furious radiation that cripples even the staunchest of hermits. It is no wonder we turn our backs on the world and keep turning as the world tries to capture once again the surprised clown-faces we possess.

Weenie Man Away!


When you’re reading a book called “The Radio Planet” and it features on the cover a Buck Rogers-type guy shielding a buxom woman in a skin-tight outfit from a pair of giant menacing ants, you know a guy wrote it.

But as you read further, you get these little tells that take you beyond the machismo of the cover and into the reality that, yeah, a guy really did write this.

Take this passage:
The ant-man assented. It seemed logical. And yet I wonder if this logic would not have done credit to Jud the Excuse-Maker. I wonder if Cabot was not subconsciously influenced by a scientific desire to complete his radio set in this land of people who used only wood and flint. I wonder.
I don’t wonder. A guy wrote this. Here we have Myles Cabot, radio engineer, Big McLargeHuge disciple, radio engineer, husband to a queen with antennae growing out of her head and, above all, radio engineer, presented with exactly what he needs to flee a battle-torn land to ruse to the aid of queen and young son in another battle-torn land without having to go through the trouble of building a radio set from raw elements preferring (subconsciously!) to putter around in the brush, waving swords at the baddies, fending off the attractions of two furry maidens, in order to build a radio set out of nothing but rocks and trees.

Here’s another bit:
He hated to leave her, a smile on her face and a tear in his eye. He hated to deceive Quivven, who had been a good little pal, in spite of her occasional flare-ups of temper. He looked back and waved to her where she stood like a golden statue upon the city wall; it would be his last glimpse of a true friend. Then he set his face resolutely to the eastward.

Not only did he feel a pang at leaving Quivven, but he felt even more of a pang at leaving his radio-set half-finished. The scientist always predominated his makeup; and besides, like the good workman that he was, he hated an unfinished job.
He almost had it there. Until his mind drifted back to his radio-set. What a weenie.

But we see here the genesis for Douglas Adams’ turning Arthur Dent into the only thing Arthur Dent could be: a sandwish-maker. For Arthur Dent, just like I, have no technological skill with which to make a radio or computer or, for that matter, a device much simpler such as a bicycle. Maybe I could manage a cart; I’ve read enough BC comic books that I could probably make a wheel. But the tools to make the wheel. No, I’m stuck. I can’t even get to the Stone Age on my own.

All this speculation is fun. I’m enjoying this book, even if only for the weepy female characters who, thusfar, have served to fall in love with the hero, get all weepy and have to be carried about, get dirty and fuss about having to clean up, get mad, slap faces, get captured and rescued and then admonished, admonished! not to get captured again. The only thing missing is the crinoline dresses. All so some guy can tinker about, building a radio when a perfectly-serviceable radio – and plane – awaits in the underbrush, ready to be flown by said ant-man to the rescue of Cabot’s queen.

No matter. He’d probably get lost on the way and refuse to stop for directions.

And, yeah, the hidden plane got swiped. So it’s back to the RADIO SET! Whee!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

WHAT THE HELL IS THAT?

I admit to being quite the Ur-writer.

I don’t like to plan things out, even in the most rudimentary sense. I have to start at the beginning and get to the end before I can do any serious editing. Especially that starting part. Starting in the middle does nothing for me.

Sometimes it shows. But since the ur-writer in me will eventually get to the editing and revising portion of any bit of writing, things usually work out for me. The method we're teaching in one of the BYU-Idaho classes I'm teaching this semester is to demonstrate that planning things out by outlining introductions, background, lines of argument, opposing views, conclusions, and references, is that sometimes some of the editing can be skipped if the organization beforehand is taken seriously.

But I do sympathize with a student who shared a bit of frustration with me today when he wrote of an assignment in which they’ve been asked to plan out their research essay in minute detail:

As such I will not proceed to write my entire (probably 12 page) paper here. You’ll just have to wait.

And

The climax will be a surprise. Again, I refuse to write this paper 6 thousand times in 18 different formats a piece. I will be content if this gets me a lower score.

And

I did not cite any of my sources here, except I got the Balfour Declaration info off of Wikipedia. Once again, I’m not writing my paper here in this format.

I have to admit he made me laugh out loud. I feel his pain. Though the “6 thousand” thing is a bit of an exaggeration. This is, in fact, the first time they’ve been asked to think out their paper on paper, aside from little assignments that don’t amount to much more than 150 or 300 words or so, so I’m not quite sure why he’s on such a freak-out.

Just hope this doesn’t turn out like Homer’s BBQ pit.


But it’s a good thing he’ll be content with a lower score. Writers, the good ones – and this student is pretty damn good – earn the right to write however the hell it pleases them. But students have to jump through the hoops.

But there are a lot of hoops in this class I’m teaching (the curriculum is pre-set and I can’t touch it). It’s geared toward the less-skilled writer, the kind of writer who has to meticulously plan things out in advance, probably on a stack of 3 x 5 cards, before the writing may commence. Can’t do anything about that. I know it’s not my style. But my student style – as opposed to my writing style – says that you will jump through the hoops.

Oh Yeah. Humility.


Once in a while -- and these whiles are narrow windows, so it's more like pretty much every day -- I get a reminder that I, a highly trained technical writer, am not infallible. I am reminded that even though collaboration can sometimes be a messy process, it is through collaboration that we typically get the best results.

You Don't Stay for Nothing

There must be something in books, things we can’t imagine, to make a woman stay in a burning house; there must be something there. You don’t stay for nothing.

--Guy Montag, Fahrenheit 451

Ray Bradbury stayed as long as he could.

He went from writing crappy short stories for the pulp science fiction magazines to writing Fahrenheit 451 which stands alongside Orwell’s 1984 and Huxley’s Brave New World as books that scream out against the tyranny of stupidity.

I can call some of his first stories crappy and he probably would not disagree with me. I’ve read them. I think I’ve read them all; Bradbury is one of my favorite authors, one I’ll always remember as “that special freak, the man with the child inside who remembers all,” as he once described himself.

Bradbury poured himself into his writing. If he had a fear, a notion, an anxiety, a solution, a rant, he wrote it down.

He told us things. Like this:



And this:



A magician’s toy shop indeed.


I remember watching this one as a kid. What a creepy tale – mankind finding what he wanted on a distant planet, mankind bringing with him the ghosts of the past even as he yearned to touch the future. That is the essence of Bradbury for me. Always running but never escaping.

And that rooster calling. That rooster, the first sign of a Mars the astronauts did not expect. The birds chirping and flitting in the trees. The little details sucked out of the mind of a man and poured onto the page, flowing from the mind of a man who never left behind the childlike attributes of childhood and brought the past of Waukegan, Illinois, into the future. It is the tyranny of the small town writ large and then destroyed as tyranny.

I don’t hear a rooster calling without thinking of this story and of those doomed astronauts, wandering the backwaters of their minds as they went to their deaths.

Website I09 has a nice tribute to him here.

Where was Mr. Bradbury’s mind wandering in the hours before his death, I wonder.

He wrote every day. Even after a stroke, he wrote every day. He wrote, he said years ago, to get the bad stuff out so the good stuff could come along. That’s something I tell my English students all the time. Want to be a better writer? Write every blessed day.

I don’t follow my own advice. But I should. I should follow the advice he gives in the introduction of The Illustrated Man (thanks, I09):
My tunes and numbers are here. They have filled my years, the years when I refused to die. And in order to do that I wrote, I wrote, I wrote, at noon or 3:00 A.M.

So as not to be dead.
Mr. Bradbury reached immortality a bit before the rest of us. I hope he finds heaven to his liking. If not, I’m sure he’ll write himself a new one.

UPDATE: A fitting, snarky tribute from Slate, which rarely disappoints unless it's one of their feminist writers dumping on the authors of The Berenstain Bears.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Speed Connect Just Generally Bodes


UPDATE: Speed Connect listens to whiny customer and Facebook poster, fixes poor Internet signal in record time. Kudos to them.

So, anybody out there in Blogland familiar with Michigan’s SpeedConnect? Or is it Speed Connect? I blame Apple and marketeers in general for the degradation of capitalization and spacing in today’s society, so I’m not going to fret long about their name.

Why am I worried about a Michigan company? They bought our Idaho ISP, lock, stock, and Dolores.

Their web site is full of marketing-speak but pretty light on information. They have yet to announce their acquisition of BridgeMaxx, our similarly spacing-challenged ISP. But that’s not what’s worrying me.

It’s money.

Speed Connect charges more for their basic services, to the tune of an additional $10 per month, than does our current ISP. That does not bode well. I cannot fathom for a second that this company will come in, look at the overall pay structure, and think, “You know, there’s nothing the matter here. Full speed ahead at current pricing!” No. That won’t happen. So our internet is going to get more expensive.

BridgeMaxx isn’t helping either. We got a very excited letter from them letting us know of the change. They spent nearly a page explaining how the billing cycle will change as we transition over to Speed Connect, but nary a word on prices – and nothing on the fact that the lowest-tier plan, which is most comparable to what we already have – will charge us an extra $2 per gig after 5 gigs a month. I have no idea how close I ever get to five gigs, but at this point I don’t want to know.

Speed Connect, in direct answer to my question, sent this reply. (I’ll reproduce the entire email below so you can read my question to them as well.)
Hi Brian,

Thank you for contacting SpeedConnect!  First and foremost, welcome to SpeedConnect!  We are very happy to have you as a customer and have some exciting upgrades coming your way soon in regards to speeds.  We would like to upgrade everyone's speed up to 8Mbps and this process is already underway.  Our leaders are working extremely hard to wrap their arms around the business in this transition and you would be informed of any changes to you (sic) account in advance.

Again, we welcome you to SpeedConnect and we appreciate your business!

All the best,

Joe

On 5/30/2012 7:13 PM, Davidson, Brian J wrote:
I've got a quick question for you on Speed Connect's recent purchase of Bridgemaxx: Is the price I pay for internet service going to go up? I note that Speed Connect charges $10 more per month for what appears to be the basic plan than what Bridgemaxx charges, and that's without the $2 per gig charge over five gigs.

Thanks,

Brian
Note the complete lack of an answer to the pricing question. So perhaps they don’t know yet. Perhaps also I will grow an udder and get milked. We’ll see what happens, but I’m not optimistic. And the speed upgrade thing? I like that. But they’ll probably couch that in a price increase as well. May as well glue some gears to it and call it steampunk.

Really, TIME?


I'm just about ready to start up an ING fund for TIME.

It's slaying, folks. Slaying. Slay is not a noun. Slay is a verb.

I do like your rhyme, though.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Collaboration


Yeah, I've been in collaborations like this. Luckily, most of the time we come out with a far better document than we started with. But there are those times when working with someone only encruddens the end product.

Power of Words


If ever you doubt the power of words, or the power of a clever writer in finding just the right things to say, please watch this video and have your mind changed.