Monday, April 30, 2007

I Am Not Stalking John Scalzi

So what if I happened to attend his talk at Google last Friday, and also wandered into his panel at the Festival of Books on Sunday? You can't prove nothin'.

While we were down in Los Angeles, D and I also saw Sleeping Beauty Wakes, the new musical co-written and performed by members of GrooveLily along with speaking and deaf actors. It's a fantastic show, and if you happen to be in that neighborhood in the next couple of weeks, you should definitely go.


Friday, April 27, 2007

Wikipedia Blows My Mind

Okay, I admit I'm not a hardware guy, and I got a B in the only EE class I took in college. Maybe I should have known this tidbit already, and maybe Wikipedia is lying to me (perish the thought!), but this was my mind-expanding moment for the day:
"The magnetic force is actually due to the finite speed (the speed of light) of a disturbance of the electric field which gives rise to forces that appear to be acting along a line at right angles to the charges. In effect, the magnetic force is the portion of the electric force directed to where the charge used to be. For this reason magnetism can be considered to be basically an electric force that is a direct consequence of relativity."

- Magnetism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Knights Take Bishop

The Associated Press today published some excerpts from threatening letters sent by the now-arrested, would-be pipe bomber calling himself "the Bishop." And even if he hadn't chosen an incredibly lame supervillain name, his diabolical scheme was straight out of Austin Powers: he wanted investment firms to pump up the share price of two companies so his stock options would be worth more. Stock options. I mean, seriously, doesn't anyone just ask for small, unmarked bills any more?


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

I Hate All Phone Companies

AT&T and Cingular are only slightly evil. On the other hand, Legacy, which has hijacked several pay phones in Redwood City, should burn in hell. BEWARE.

On April 12th, while traveling north to meet D and then go to a Hookslide concert, I ended up spending over $27 to make two local calls via pay phone. Admittedly, this was an avoidable error on my part, but it doesn't excuse the deceptive and predatory practices of the pay phone operator.

D works in Redwood Shores, so she was going to meet me near the RWC Caltrain station. I tried calling her from the train, but the call wouldn't connect. I tried from two different phones, both unfortunately on the same network (Cingular). I thought it might be a problem with the local switchboard at her office, so I tried routing the call through Tellme's voice dialer service, but that call wouldn't connect either. I figured it was a problem somewhere in Cingular's network, and decided to call her from a pay phone once I arrived.

The pay phone at Sequoia Station wouldn't let me call Tellme's toll-free number, so then I tried to use my AT&T calling card. The pay phone actually interrupted that call in an attempt to force me to use Legacy's long distance service instead of my preferred carrier; by the time I navigated that IVR menu, my call to AT&T had disconnected, and I had to redial. ANNOYING.

At that point, I discovered that my AT&T calling card number didn't work anymore. Because I was pressed for time, I just used my credit card to pay for the call. I figured they might charge me something like $5 for a call, which I could live with--I didn't have a lot of options at that point. (In retrospect, I should have gone into one of the shops and gotten some change, but I just didn't have the patience at that point to deal with retail droids.)

I ended up having to make two calls, because D didn't recognize the pay phone number on her Caller ID screen and didn't pick up the first time. When I got my credit card bill, I saw that Legacy had charged me $13.70 for each call. Not even long distance calls--these were calls terminating within the same damn city, and each call was less than a minute.

There's a word for this: EXORBITANT.

I want to point out that this isn't really about the money, although that is the straw that broke the camel's back. Hell, I was willing to pay $5 for a minute-long local phone call, which is already ridiculous. But not only did Legacy charge me a completely unreasonable rate, they also tried to prevent me from using my own calling card and did not disclose their prices up front.

This is a bad way to do business. They may get my money once, but they'll never get it again; and I hope they won't get any of yours, either.

I did some research on the company, and I'm not alone: I found two separate Rip Off Reports, from May 2006 and September 2006, and a story in the North Texas Star-Telegram about how a man who ran out of gas was charged over $100 for five short calls from a Legacy pay phone. The FCC and local PUCs regularly receive complaints about this company, but deregulation means there's not much they can do besides issuing toothless warnings.

As it turns out, Legacy also does inmate communications--telephone services for prisons. Because what better people to cheat than those who can't complain about the services they get?


Monday, April 16, 2007

Things My Wife Has Said in the Past Two Days

"I wonder how hard it would be to kill a nun."
- while watching The Magdalene Sisters

"Come on in! We have ants and a spider."
- to friends visiting tonight, one of whom helped us research whether the spider in question was a black widow (we're not sure, but he took it far, far away); the other suggested we surround our toilet with ground cinnamon to keep the invading ants at bay (it worked very well).


Monday, April 02, 2007