All posts by Mark Alexander

Scenes from an Auto Show

My grandfather had one of these. He sold it the year before I was able to drive.

A MINI convertible is not in my future.

While he’s fine as a passenger, Ben still can’t drive a MINI.

SO tempting! The new MINI is gorgeous, but I’m still enjoying not having car payments too much. And I’m way too attached to my Anderson to trade him in.

Why Can’t it Just be Simple?

Once upon a time I got my internet, cable, and seldom-used land line telephone from one provider. Life was good. Things were simple.

Then we moved to Denver.  My previous provider didn’t have a presence in Colorado, so we went with Comcast for everything. (We actually dumped the land line shortly after getting it because all we were getting were collection calls for whomever had the number before we did and haven’t regretted that decision one bit.)

Service with Comcast is okay—as long as you don’t want to make any sort of change once you’re set up. Then it becomes a trip through the seven levels of customer service hell; something we discovered about a year ago when we  switched from our reliable cable card-Tivo setup to Xfinity’s native DVR and—having realized what a horrific mistake that was— switched back.

Ben’s mom, a newly minted Comcast employee nine months ago, took over our account in order to get basically free service. It was a nice perk, but we thought that when she moved out we’d just take her off the account and everything would go back the way it was before.

Not so fast, Buckaroo! Comcast informed us that we would have to set up a new account since Julie was now the account holder. In addition, they would have to send a technician out to  put a new cable card in the Tivo (a $70 charge, and no we couldn’t simply go to a Comcast store and pick one up ourselves) because the existing card couldn’t be switched over.

Not wholly unexpected, especially since that woman has destroyed so many other things since her arrival here. But still…

Fuck that.

The one thing I feared the most was losing my Comcast email address because it was tied to pretty much everything, but I bit the bullet last week and moved it all over to my iCloud address. Yes, it was a major pain in the ass, but since it was obvious I was going to lose the Comcast addy, it had to be done. (And now I know why so many people have addresses not tied to a specific service provider.)

I balked at the thought of having to go back to DSL speeds, but with Comcast out of the picture we had no other option. We signed up with Century Link for the 40 Mbps tier. I’m not holding my breath…

Even though I’m now working for one of the “other” content providers and am eligible for basically free television service, I haven’t rushed to get signed up because I was reasonably certain that our west-facing apartment wouldn’t afford the proper line-of-sight needed to the satellite. Our only other choice was my company’s competitor, but after having horrific experience with that company in Phoenix, Ben swore he’d never go back to them.

So I signed up for my free service. The biggest problem we initially faced was that our building was pre-wired for the competitor’s system, and the landlord told us in no uncertain terms we could not use other. Well fuck that too! As it turns out, the FCC has certain rules in place that allow us to do exactly that—as long as it’s not specifically spelled out otherwise in our lease (it isn’t), and we don’t physically attach anything, drill holes, or make changes to the premises. In other words, a dish on a tripod on our balcony running a flat wire under the door to the inside is fine.

Well, the installer came out today and confirmed what I’d suspected. We don’t have a clear line of sight to the satellite without mounting the dish on an extension arm on the balcony railing. That we can’t do.

So that leaves getting our service from my employer’s competitor that has central dishes already mounted on the building. We have no other choice at this point. Hopefully our experience with them will be better than what Ben went through on his own in Phoenix.

And of course we can’t schedule a time when both companies can be here on the same day so that there’s minimal time off work and loss of service. That would be too easy!  We supposedly won’t be without television since that’s getting moved over the day before Julie switches her service on at her new place, but we’ll be without decent internet for the better part of the week, having to rely on cellular LTE tethering.

I know, I know. It’s all first world problems, but fuck! Why can’t this shit be simple?

On a Path of Self-Destruction

As I write this, Ben’s mom is in the process of finally moving out of our apartment. This day has been a long time coming, and not unsurprisingly it is not the happy, positive event that we envisioned over a year ago.

Yesterday, when Ben picked her up from the psych facility, one of her first comments was that she wasn’t going to go to the intensive outpatient therapy that her doctor had prescribed; therapy that her caseworker pushed for in  lieu of the actual rehab facility in Florida that we’d found for her and which she had initially agreed to go to just a few days earlier.

So in other words, nothing has changed. “Doctors don’t know anything.” Just like when we moved her up from Phoenix over a year ago with promises that once here she would be making positive changes in her life and seeking therapy, she’s simply moving her addiction from one location to another. At least it will no longer be in our home.

She’s been off the worst of her meds—the lorazepam—for over a week now and has no more readily available to her, but there is little doubt in my mind that first thing Monday morning she’ll run back to her dealer doctor to get loaded back up and the cycle will begin anew. The difference is that when she attempts to kill herself again—and Ben and I are in agreement that unless her behavior changes and she actually admits that it’s not just the physical pain that’s causing her to pop the pills but also the myriad of emotional demons haunting her and seeks appropriate therapy—there will be an again. The difference is this time there will be no one there to call 911.

I don’t want to see that happen, but honestly, we’ve done everything in our power to get her well, and each attempt has been rebuffed. Because there’s nothing wrong. Having played this addiction game with several other people over the course of my life, I know that until she admits there’s a problem, her path of self-destruction will continue unabated until she finally admits it or succeeds in ending her life.

Quote of the Day

Poking creationists with a sharp stick:

“The Crab Nebula is about 6,500 light years from Earth. According to some beliefs, that’s the age of the whole universe, but if the universe were only 6,500 years old, how could we see light from anything more distant than the Crab Nebula? We couldn’t. To believe in a universe as young as 6,000 or 7,000 years old is to extinguish the light from most of the galaxy, not to mention the light from all the other hundred billion galaxies in the observable universe.” ~ Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, in last Sunday’s episode of Cosmos, which focused on the speed of light.

Via.

Once Upon a Time…

…back in the mid 90s when I got into this PC Support thing full time, I often fantasized that as personal computers became more and more entrenched in the business world, the technicians who supported and maintained those systems would come to be viewed as the Emergency Room doctors of the 21st century and afforded the same level of respect—not to mention remuneration—worthy of that skill set.

Ha!

Fourteen years into the new millennium, it’s obvious that we aren’t viewed as professionals doing the cybernetic equivalent of saving lives, but rather as janitors cleaning up everyone else’s messes—and in the case of my current place of employment, being required to wear uniforms as if to drive that point home.

But does being viewed as modern day toilet-bowl cleaners explain why the other members of my team—composed of men in their 30s and 40s who have incredible expertise—together seem to have the collective emotional maturity of a twelve year old?

I’d seen glimpses of this during the time I was contracting, but since I was sequestered away in another work area during that period I was only really exposed to juvenile email strings that would belch forth on occasion. Easily ignored, and almost all of the personal interaction I’d had with these guys was respectful and professional.

Then I got hired and moved into the main work area.

Apparently 2014 Didn’t Get The Memo…

…that it was supposed to be better than 2013.

Two weeks ago the mother-in-law finally put money down on an apartment, for a scheduled move out today. She and Ben even went out and bought a bed and sofa (since she has no furniture of her own at this point).

But of course—like always happens when she’s on the verge of finally getting her act together and out of our house—she blew it.

I’ll spare you all the ugly details, but suffice to say she’s back in the psych ward again after another failed suicide attempt yesterday afternoon.

While the future is anything but certain at this point, on Monday Ben is going to court to get custody, and once she’s out of lockup, she’s going into rehab. The one thing that is certain is that she’s not coming back here. We’re both done with this bullshit.

It’s Only a Matter of Time

The rumor mill has been abuzz about the expected iPhone 6 supposedly coming out sometime this later year. Personally I don’t care about these rumors one way or another because I learned long ago that the majority of them are complete bullshit—as exciting and inspiring as they may be. I only need to look back a couple years before the introduction of the iPhone 5 to see images of “radical” redesign. My favorite was a wedge-shaped phone similar in design to the MacBook Air:

 I was sorely disappointed when that did not come to pass. So I have no faith in any of the admittedly beautifully rendered speculations on what the next phone will look like. It is what it is, and we’ll all see it when the time comes.

One thing I am hoping for is a 128GB capacity option—and that’s for one reason only: music.

My iTunes library is currently hovering around 100GB and I would love to have any of it available on a whim, instead of having to manually shuffle songs in and out of my current phone. Apple hasn’t updated the iPod classic (160GB) in years, so a device of any kind with this capacity is overdue.

Of course with their current focus on the cloud, I’m sure they’re simply hoping that those of us with huge music collections will just subscribe to iTunes Match and have all our music stream.

All well and good, except I (and I suppose many others) have hundreds of songs that aren’t available in iTunes; songs lovingly ripped and edited from the original vinyl. Plus, why should I have to pay again for access to things I already own?

Anyhow, that’s not really the thrust of this post. “It’s only a matter of time” refers to the eventual day that Apple puts out a much-rumored “iPad Pro,” a device that will finally be able to replace the average person’s laptop in its entirety. 256GB flash storage? Why stop there? Let’s go for 512GB or 1TB. I know it’s not economically (or physically practical) to create this kind of device today that will be as thin and light as the current iPad, but a few years out? We’ll all be laughing at the ancient relics with “only” 128GB of internal flash storage.

It’s said that the majority of people—even those of us who own an iPad in addition to a laptop—have not given up on our laptops completely is that while consuming content from a tablet is its primary attraction, it’s still much easier to create content on a laptop (or full-blown desktop) than it is on an iPad…although, again, I’m sure it’s just going to be a matter of time until the available software tools and hassle-free connections to multiple external monitors also make that a moot point.

Obviously, this won’t happen overnight. Nor do I expect laptops to be abandoned in 2, 3, or even 5 years down the road. But a decade from now? I fully expect the dominant platform will be tablets in one form or another.