Sunday, February 11, 2018

Elly Welt

Elly Welt was Auburn University's Writer-In-Residence from the late 80's through the 90's. She retired around 2000 and moved to Seattle to be with her children. She died this last weekend, after struggling with heart failure for many years.

I had to talk my way into Elly's fiction writing class my junior year. She didn't want to accept anybody who wasn't an English major, and looked at me like I had two heads the first time I strolled into her corner office on the ninth floor of Haley asking for a seat. It took two quarters to convince her she ought to allow in this weird Engineering major who hung around the English department a lot.

Elly's classes were not for the faint of heart. We were required to write a short story a week, and pass out copies to the rest of the class (to say nothing of Elly herself) for criticism. If you were really unlucky she'd call on you to read it out loud, and then tell you in no uncertain terms what you'd done wrong--or right, on rare occasions. One poor girl started her first story with a long quote from a Tiffany song, and was never seen again.

She was tough. She was smart. She was one of the best writers I've ever encountered. You should go buy a copy of Elly's novel "Berlin Wild" right now, and you'll see what I mean. And she was very quickly enchanted by this odd Land Grant college where she'd landed a highly-coveted position. 

Elly had never spent any time in the Deep South before coming to Auburn. She was a Jewish mama from New York the Midwest, and a product of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, the gold standard of academic fiction training. With that background you'd have expected her to look down her nose at the motley pack of public school kids from Alabama and Georgia and the Florida Panhandle who'd bluffed their way into her classes.

Instead, she and her husband Peter, a retired M.D., embraced the students, the town and the college. By the end of Fall Quarter in 1989, she was bugging me with questions about how Pat Dye was going to keep from having an aneurism over the looming First Time Ever game against UAT. 

I wish Bruce Pearl could have met Elly. They'd have got on like a house on fire.

Elly set me on the path. I kept taking her classes anytime they were offered, including going to the dean of the graduate school to get permission to take her MA class as an undergrad (and an undergrad engineer at that). She recommended me for the first Auburn Birdsong Scholarship that sent me to Oxford in 1991, and after I graduated she helped Scott Brown and me bash the manuscript of "The Uncivil War" into something publishable. 

We always kept in touch, even after her retirement and Peter's death, along with a few other of her former students from Auburn. The last time I heard from her was an email last fall. She was tickled to tell me that the conversation at her (ritzy) retirement complex dining room in Seattle was buzzing about the Tigers' November surge, and as a former Auburn professor, she'd been quizzed by most of the male residents for "inside info."

Elly struggled with ill health for a long time, but she kept writing, even after tastes changed and the New York publishing houses lost their interest in literary fiction. She finished three or four more novels after leaving Auburn (I've read one of them; it is magnificent), and I believe her daughter will be publishing them with Amazon in the future. I hope so. She deserves to be read much more widely.

I miss Elly terribly already, but I was very lucky to have known her. I hope you did, too.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

GA06 2017: The Twitter Rant

The following was originally written as a post-election day Tweetstorm at my account, @willcollier, after Karen Handel defeated Jon Ossoff in the June 2017 congressional run-off. It got a lot of attention, more than anything I've written about politics since 2004 when Steve Green and I, writing at VodkaPundit, had our dust-up with the late Steve Lovelady. As several people have asked for a version that isn't 40 separate Tweets long, here it is, edited a bit for clarity and to remove Twitter-isms.

Thanks to everyone for reading.

* * *

So it’s time for some post-runoff Gaming Theory, from an actual resident of GA06.

If you lived in the 6th, you were bombarded by fliers, signs, ads, door-knockers, and most of all, phone calls. At least once a day (and usually more than once), the phone would ring from an out-of-state area code.

First it was robocalls, then the last couple of weeks, call centers. They weren’t targeted. They were calling everybody, every day. And they wouldn’t take “Go to Hell” for an answer—trust me on this one.

Now, imagine for a moment that the roles in the ’16 election were reversed, and Hillary had nominated a Bay Area Democrat for her cabinet. California would have called a special election.

Imagine millions of dollars and tons of vicious social media rhetoric flowing out of Georgia to the Republican candidate for that race. How do you think Californians would have reacted to that?

Self-awareness not being a notable Leftie trait at the best of times, the Left coast is already declaring GA06 a mass Klan meeting.

That’ll go over just as well here in 18 months, dudes. You should definitely keep that up.

One big factor that was missed by the national press: the sheer annoyance of the race. Not only did this special and the runoff extend the godawful 2016 election for another 8 months in a district where neither major nominee was remotely popular, the ridiculous amount of money that poured into the Ossoff campaign from out of state resulted in wall-to-wall ads.

You could not turn on the radio or TV without hearing/seeing a campaign commercial, and Ossoff’s fans seemed determined to cover every square inch of Georgia with “Jon Ossoff” signs. The state will probably have to dig a new landfill to get rid of them.

That strategy made sense in the jungle primary: put this nice-looking kid out there, use the money to flood the zone and slip him through the crowded ballot on name recognition.

That was a smart strategy. It very nearly worked—in April.

Back then, Ossoff never uttered the word “Democrat,” nor did it appear in his ads. But yesterday, there were only two names and two parties on the ballot.

Karen Handel might as well have her name next to “Generic Republican” in the dictionary. Ossoff, thanks to the media blitz on both sides, might as well have had “Nancy Pelosi” on his ballot.

Trump is not popular here, and I doubt he ever will be. Dan MacLaughlin, aka @baseballcrank does an admirable job of tallying that reality

But “unpopular” is not the same as “toxic.” Leftie media types started griping yesterday about the GOP putting Pelosi in anti-Ossoff ads. There’s good reason for that: she’s toxic everywhere except hard-Left enclaves.

GA06 is a lot of things, but hard Left isn’t one. Pelosi, her caucus and its nutball fan club are about as disliked as Notre Dame football around here.

When Ossoff couldn’t hide in the crowd of the primary, the crowd he really was hanging with—Hollywood and Pelosi—was instantly toxic in Cobb and north Fulton; somewhat less so in more Democratic Dekalb, but the damage was done.

I’ll add another factor that the national media wants to ignore: the post- election temper tantrums on the Left. Once again, Trump isn’t popular in this district. But you know what’s a lot less popular?

Riots. Morons in black masks with clubs. Kids who’ve never thought about paying a mortgage telling you you’re a terrible person because you wouldn’t vote for a corrupt old liar in a pantsuit. Those things are really, really unpopular. And the Left’s bratty insistence that it deserves a do-over after it lost an eminently winnable election Isn’t getting any traction in middle America.

Today’s run of the usual suspects saying Ossoff lost because he didn’t go full Bolshevik are right up the same alley. And they’ll result in similar reactions in later elections, especially those that aren’t bolstered by $30 million in now-wasted activist money that simply filled coffers of Democratic consultants and advertisers and broadcasters.

But all they really succeeded in doing was pissing off the people they needed to get votes from. Bad strategy, bad politics.

And so, Jon Ossoff, we who actually live in GA06 say to you, your loopy fans, and most of all your phone centers:

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Star Wars: The Airing of Grievances

Forget Life Day--in a galaxy far, far away, it's Festivus.

WARNING: The following column contains not just SPOILERS, but also COMPLAINTS about Star Wars: The Force Awakens. Proceed at your own risk.

* * *

The long, long awaited Star Wars: Episode VII finally arrived in theaters last week, well over a generation after Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Princess Leia and friends took their last bows on the big screen. And it’s pretty good.

The new movie unleashed a slew of new characters to take the baton—er, lightsaber—from the sixty- and seventy-something original cast, and almost all of them are well-written, and blessedly, well-acted. The movie has all the full-throttle momentum of the original films, and none of the deadly-dull-when-not-remarkably-silly aura of the failed prequels.

Again: The Force Awakens is a pretty good movie, and a far better Star Wars movie than anything we’ve seen since 1983. But it’s not great.

A great many Star Wars fans felt a disturbance in the Force when Hollywood journeyman J.J. Abrams was announced as the director of Episode VII. The most commonly-seen reaction online was, “I’ve got a bad feeling about this.” Abrams’ history with the frustrating TV series “Lost” and disappointing movies like “Super 8” and “Star Trek Into Darkness” gave good reason for the fan cautiousness.

But with The Force Awakens soaring to record-shattering box office in its first few days of release, we ought to give Abrams his due: his chops as a visual artist are first-rate, and while the same could be said about his predecessor George Lucas, Abrams by contrast knows a good line of dialogue from a bad one. Episode VII sparkles with (at least by Star Wars standards) clever repartee between heroes and villains old and new.

All of which is a long way of saying that what Abrams does well is characterization and action. What he does badly, here and elsewhere, is coherent plotting.

Like a lot of modern directors, Abrams is a sucker for, “Oh, that will look cool, let’s do it!” without regard for whether “that” makes any sense or not.

The most glaring example in The Force Awakens is the Starkiller Base. You can almost hear the story meeting: “So we kind of need a Death Star. But bigger. Hmm… what’s bigger than a machine that can blow up a planet? Hey—how about a planet that can blow up stars! Star Wars! Cool!”

The base is goofy on so many levels. Even stipulating that the laws of physics in the Star Wars galaxy are considerably more flexible than our own, the Sunsucker Base (c’mon, that’s what it is) makes no sense at all.

Start here: unless it can move around the galaxy--something the movie doesn’t hint at one way or the other--you’re only going to get one shot out of it. After it sucks in the nearest star (which, by the way, is depicted as being so close to the base that at a minimum, all that snow on the planet’s surface would have been vaporized), it’s useless. Not only will the weapon not have any fuel for another shot and be a sitting duck for enemy ships, the planet’s atmosphere is going to freeze solid around all those First Order troops because, whoops—no sun.

So the Sunsucker is epically dumb, even in a universe with near-instantaneous faster-than-light drives and solid laser swords and people with mumbo-jumbo mystical powers. It’s every bit as dumb as the doubletalk “red matter” and “nova that threatens the galaxy” in Abrams’ pretty but vapid first “Star Trek” movie.

Also in the “looks cool, makes no sense” category: the Adamantium Falcon. Han Solo’s marvelous old spaceship is continually crashing into buildings, trees, and the surfaces of various planets in this movie, but bounces off all of them without so much as dented fender. Meanwhile the First Order’s TIE Fighters, like their Imperial predecessors (or any self-respecting flying craft), crumble into fiery junk on contact with any solid surface.

While Solo himself is well-written with a nice final arc in The Force Awakens (anyone surprised at Solo’s death ought to have noticed Harrison Ford’s open, decades-long contempt for the movies that made him a superstar), the same can’t be said for the old smuggler’s estranged wife.

The now-General Leia Organa gets the closest to any character of reciting Prequel-level wooden dialogue. What’s worse, Leia gives such short shrift to the bereft Chewbacca at the movie’s end, one suspects that she never let the big guy sit on the couch when he was visiting Han.

I could go on, if I really wanted to: the Lost-worthy “I know but I’m not telling” bit regarding how Luke’s old lightsaber was retrieved from Cloud City (here’s a not-very wild guess: Abrams and Co. have no idea, and just threw it in there).

Then there’s the way characters are continually running into each other by absurd coincidence, or how people in different star systems can all look up and see the Sunsucker Base’s attack with the naked eye--again, a reminder of the bad writing in Abrams’ Star Trek movies.

This kind of script nonsense is why I recommended that Disney hand the keys for its new Empire to writer/director Brad Bird instead of Abrams (which they actually tried to do; Bird declined so he could finish “Tomorrowland”), and why I’m very happy to know that Episode VIII will be scripted and helmed by the much more grounded Rian Johnson.

There’s no denying (and I’m happy to not have to try) that The Force Awakens is a terrific ride. Given the compressed production time and ridiculous expectations, both positive (“Look at that trailer—this’ll be awesome!”) and negative (“Ugh, haven’t we suffered enough?”), it’s probably about as good a movie as we have any business getting.

But enough already with the flat-out nonsense, and with the retreading of old stories. That old galaxy has a whole lot of other interesting worlds and people and creatures to go play with for any more Episodes to be calling back to the original movies.

Disney, Rian: next time, go exploring, and please, don’t leave elementary logic in the airlock. We’ll all thank you for it.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Flaming Computer Follow-up

So, it's been a couple of months since the morning my computer caught fire. After all that drama I owed you guys/gals an explanation of how things played out. It's overdue, my apologies for not posting this sooner.

Short version: while the drive manufacturer did not admit fault on their part, they quite graciously replaced my hardware, and the store I bought the drive from covered my (minimal) other damage and cleanup costs. I was very happy with the way both companies handled the situation.

Longer version: a couple of days after the fire, I got a call from a Global Support Manager at HGST, who was at least as shocked by the incident as anybody else. We eventually agreed that I'd ship the remains of the computer out to California for analysis. The Microcenter store where I'd bought the drive (every single person I dealt with at that store was wonderful, you should shop there if you're ever in Marietta, Georgia) facilitated the shipping for me.

We had to ship the whole box because the drive was completely encased in melted plastic. HGST finally carved the mechanism out of the case and did their analysis. HGST did not admit any fault on the part of their drive, but they were also very careful to not point any fingers in any other directions.

After they'd sent me the analysis slides and we went through a couple of rounds of questions, HGST offered to replace the computer via the Microcenter store, and I was fine with that. Like I told their representative, if I'd wanted to sue my way to a "lottery ticket judgement," I never would have called them in the first place. I was happy to be made whole here and leave it at that. The Microcenter manager followed up by offering to pay the cleanup costs (which amounted to fixing two vacuum cleaners that had been wrecked cleaning up the fire extinguisher dust) and their techs even built up the box for me (which I'd have been happy to do myself).

Best of all, nobody involved ever asked me to sign an NDA, or so much as mentioned the subject. That would have been a deal-killer for me, and I was very pleased by the fact that it never even came up.

The new box works fine, and while the experience was one of the bigger scares I've ever had (as incredibly unlikely as a recurrence would be, I still make sure to power down every morning before I go to work now), I'm impressed with how both HGST and Microcenter stepped up their customer service in a very unusual and not-a-little-stressful situation. Both companies deserve a "thank you, and well done." I'm intentionally not identifying by name the two main people who helped me, but Mr. HGST and Ms. Microcenter, if you'd like for me to do so, please let me know, I'll be happy to make an edit.

Thanks to all of you as well, for all the kind words while I was freaking out in the immediate aftermath.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

The Day My Computer Caught Fire

I never intended for this blog to become "Will's Occasional Rants About Bad Customer Service." Honest. But in this case, I think the story is worth telling in detail. Tweeting it 140 characters at a time and/or a couple of technical message board posts aren't going to cover it.

Yesterday, my house nearly burned down. The fact that it didn't was due to nothing more than time. If two or three more hours had passed, our home would be a smoking cinder burying the remains of Maggie the bullmastiff.

Here's what happened. Around 4:30 on Tuesday morning, my wife and I both woke up to an acrid odor. It initially smelled like somebody had just struck several matches.

We got up and had a look around. There was no smoke in the air, and our first thought was that something was wrong with the furnace. We turned it off, and the odor seemed to fade (we realized later we'd just stopped it from being recirculated through the HVAC system after the fan was turned off).

I checked my office, across the hall from our bedroom, and noticed my computer had rebooted, which was odd, but nowhere near an indication of anything dangerous. It was stuck on the BIOS boot screen, which didn't surprise me; I'd never bothered to fix the boot drive settings, and it always did that on startup unless I held down the F12 key and told it which hard drive to boot from. Not noticing anything else unusual, I turned it off from the main switch on the front of the box and left the room.

By now it was too late to go back to sleep. My wife had started to get ready to go to work when, simultaneously, the smoke alarm and main house fire alarm both went off.

We still couldn't see any smoke yet, but the alarms were enough. My wife grabbed Maggie by her collar and hustled her out to one of our cars. I picked up the phone and dialed 911.

While I was waiting for the operator to pick up, I walked back into my office. Now the combustion smell was overwhelming, and I could see light coming from under my desk. When I walked around it, I saw flames shooting out of the case of my desktop computer, which was on the floor under the desk.

I dropped the phone and ran downstairs for a fire extinguisher. I'm pretty sure the only thing the operator ever heard me say was something unprintable. Fortunately our Ooma phone service had sent our address along with the call.

I grabbed the extinguisher from under the sink and pulled its safety tab out as I hurtled back up the stairs. Did you know the thing that looks like a trigger on some fire extinguishers is not actually a trigger? I didn't.

Turns out to make the thing work, you're supposed to mash on the lever on top top, not yank on what looks like a trigger. It felt like it took half an hour for me to figure that out, but it must have just been a few seconds. The extinguisher finally belched out its powder. A couple of blasts were enough to put out the fire. The room was now nearly filled with billowing smoke; maybe a minute or more of that and I wouldn't have been able to get back in to put out the fire. I opened a window and backed out the door.

The Cobb Fire Department arrived a few minutes later, checked out the scene, and confirmed the only damage was to the computer, the front of which was melted into plastic slag. They carried the computer out to the driveway, made another sweep of the house, declared all-clear and went back to the station.

Once the computer cooled off, I got my first good look at the damage.

From top to bottom, what you see there are the bay where the computer's data drive used to live (I pulled it out before this picture was taken; the bay was destroyed but I have some hopes the drive itself survived), two optical drives (both ruined), and below them, right at the point of the most intense destruction, the bay that had held a pair of sleds for 2.5" boot drives.

Now, here's what's unusual about that bottom bay: If you look closely, you can see the remains of a 2.5" hard drive, buried in the melted plastic just above the vestigial floppy drive. It's a Western Digital HGST Travelstar, model H2IK500852SP (HGST is the former Hitachi hard drive business that was bought out by Western Digital a few years ago). I bought that drive on Sunday, and installed it roughly twelve hours before the fire. On closer inspection of the sides and surrounding damage, it's clear that the fire started in that bottom bay, which at the time only held the new HGST drive. The motherboard and CPU (normally the hottest component in any computer) and power supply all appear to be undamaged.

How exactly the fire started, I couldn't tell you, not least because that hard drive is now solidly encased in post-fire slag. But based on the fact that the drive was installed on a removable sled similar to the one in the picture below, we know that the cable from the power supply was neither moved nor ever plugged directly into the hard drive itself.

That boot drive was, by far, the newest component in the computer. I hadn't opened the box up in months, and I feel safe in saying the power and data connectors to that drive bay hadn't been touched in years.

While manufacturers will tell you that it's impossible for a hard drive to start a fire (and indeed, the young guy I spoke to at HGST yesterday said just this) a quick search indicates that such fires, while certainly rare, are far from unheard-of. In a few minutes on Google, I found multiple user reports of fires starting from Western Digital drives: here, here, here and here.

Again, this kind of failure is extremely rare. Hundreds of millions of hard drives operate 24/7 for years on end without getting so much as overly hot to the touch, much less catching fire. Google's massive data centers, using thousands of drives at a time, operate day in and day out at well above 80 degrees Fahrenheit, and Google wouldn't do that if they were worried about hard drive fires. I've owned dozens of drives personally and probably handled thousands of them during my career as an engineer, and this was (lucky me) the first time I'd ever heard of--much less nearly been scorched by--a flaming hard drive.

But in this case, that's what appears to have happened.

I'm sorry (but not terribly surprised) to say that neither Western Digital nor their HGST subsidiary were quick to express concern when I contacted them yesterday. As noted above, a young HGST support rep (not meaning to be ageist here, but I'm pretty sure I have t-shirts older than the kid who answered my call) read off what I assume is the lawyer-crafted script that's to be used in case of any call reporting physical damage ("our drives are built to a specification to meet a requirement. The problem had to be in the environment"). I was reminded briefly of this guy from "Titanic":

I get it: no company is going to admit any kind of liability based on a phone call and/or a few Tweets. But honestly, I'm not all that concerned about my loss here, and least of all any warranty issues with that HGST drive. A $50 hard drive is close to the smallest of my worries, and the few hundred bucks worth of trashed hardware won't break me.

What concerns me is the thought of what would have happened if my wife and I hadn't woken up thanks to a bad smell. What worries me is what would have happened if I hadn't ambled into my office just in time to see the fire before the smoke became unbearable.

What kept me up for most of the last night was thinking about how lucky we were that this happened at 4:30 instead of a couple of hours later, when we'd have been on the road to work, and Maggie would have been locked inside an inferno.

That, my friends at Western Digital and HGST, is why I am not letting this drop, and why you ought to be taking this situation a lot more seriously today.

UPDATE (21 Feb, Thursday): Just got off the phone with a Global Service Operations Manager from HGST, who I'm happy to say was far more concerned about the incident than anybody else from either HGST or Western Digital proper that I've talked to so far. He'd seen the blog post and pictures, and seems to be at least as gobsmacked as anyone else at the level of the damage. They want to get the remains of the drive for analysis, and as that's exactly what I want to happen as well, I take this as a good sign.

He offered to replace the drive... I had to decline. "Don't take this personally, but at this point I really don't want another one of your hard drives in my house." Granted, not the most rational decision in the world given how unlikely it is this would happen once, much less twice, but at this point I think I'm going to stick with it.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Monopolies Suck: Comcast

The wife and I recently moved one 'burb over to Marietta (northwest metro Atlanta). Along the way, I made what turned out to be the colossally-bad decision to sign up for Comcast cable TV. Here's a rundown on what's happened since:

June 28: The initial install, including wiring an outlet for the basement (along the way, the installer refused to run a wire to the upstairs office where internet service was desired, as a result the cable modem is now in the wrong room). The installer’s drill battery ran out of juice halfway through the job. Instead of mounting cable for the basement outlet above ground, he dug out a shallow trench by the foundation and buried half of it, including a connector, with no insulation. He also tried to give me a DVR so old it didn’t even have an HDMI port. Made excuses about getting to work late that morning and being stuck with “whatever was left” on the shelf. I refused the ancient DVR, and rescheduled completion of the install for July 1. The installer left trash and parts all over the yard and basement, and incidentally showed up with one minute to spare in the "two-hour window."

July 1: The most pleasant experience of the entire fiasco. Two techs arrived on time and installed DVRs with no hassles. Unfortunately one of them left with one of my remotes in his pouch, and neither of them bothered to check the existing splitter, lines, or grounds. This would be significant later.

August 7: All service dropped out.

August 8: Service call, tech showed up fifteen minutes after expiration of the "two-hour window." He replaced a splitter, replaced the ground block, and ran new ground wire to electrical box (previous ground was wired to a plastic water pipe--nice). You would have thought all that would have been done during at least one of the prior installation visits. Tech replaced an old DVR in living room with a newer model (Motorola DCX3400), which worked for 24 hours. Unfortunately…

August 9: … all HDMI ports on my Pioneer VSX-921 receiver failed the next day. A little research revealed that the Motorola DCX3400 DVR has well-known deficiencies with implementation of the HDCP handshake, and has been known to “brick” customer hardware. After much thrashing with Comcast customer no-service (including a Comcast no-show for a service call that I left work to wait for--another fine example of the "two hour window"), the local service manager, offered a $400 service credit in lieu of filing an insurance claim to pay for the destroyed receiver. I reluctantly agreed.

But for future reference, if you do make the error of signing up for Comcast, UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES SHOULD YOU ALLOW A MOTOROLA DCX3400 DVR IN YOUR HOME. IT MAY WELL DESTROY YOUR PROPERTY. It is simply unconscionable for Comcast to be putting that kind of garbage gear out there, with not even a hint of a warning.

August 18: After that fiasco, I removed the Comcast DVR from the living room and bought a Tivo Premeire (not only are Comcast’s DVRs destructive, they appear to have been programmed in the mid-1990’s; it's a terrible device with lousy software). I called the local Comcast store twice to check on their stock of Cable Cards, and was assured they had “plenty.” Went to the store, after a 30-minute wait was issued a Cable Card and told it would be “the one you need” for a Tivo. Upon getting home, I found out the card I’d been given was a single stream card that does NOT work with a Tivo. By now the Comcast store had closed for the day.

August 19: Took the faulty card back to the Comcast store. Waited another half-hour, only to be told “we ain’t got that” in terms of an multiple-stream M-Card, which is required for a Tivo. Why I’d been given the wrong card in the first place, no one could answer. I was told an M-Card might be available by the end of the week.

August 23: Picked up an M-Card after another long wait.

August 29: This was when I discovered that multiple HD channels, including ESPN HD, are not available on the downstairs connection. This was not well-received on the first day of football season. Went through the usual “sending signals” script with customer no-service, to no avail. Research indicates the error message (S0a00) is due to inadequate wiring. That’s funny, I could have sworn my wiring had been (a) just installed for that outlet in June, and (b) just re-checked by another tech in July. Given that Comcast charges $60 for a service call (something I found out by checking my billing online--not one single Comcast employee has ever mentioned this charge at any point during my brief time as a customer), I refused the “offer” of yet another service call--which presumably I would have been charged another $60 for.

Enough is enough. Expensive service is NOT worth this level of hassle and incompetence. I absolutely refuse to wait around hours for a “service call” that may never arrive. Today their "executive customer service" rep couldn't even commit to a time certain for a repair stop.

That's it. "Service" that's expensive, unreliable, and even outright destructive is not worth this much hassle. Comcast, you're fired.

UPDATE: After I finally got some time this evening, I located the problem. There were two sets of splitters coming off the main line. One was needed; it feeds the cable modem and both TVs. The other, upstream of that splitter, fed a coax in the kitchen that we don't use. I bypassed that splitter with an inline adapter, and bang, everything works now.

Not one of the three sets of techs who've been to my house bothered to ask whether we were using the line coming out of the superfluous splitter. Not one of them bothered to check the signal level at the basement TV (the lack of signal, thanks to the double set of splitters, was the problem there). The last tech actually replaced the unneeded splitter, without ever asking whether we actually use the extra line it's in there for (we don't).

Pathetic. But at least I have ESPN back for the weekend. I think I'll still fire Comcast; the aggravation of another couple of months like this will take years off my life...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

John Pavlus Is Full Of It

Couldn't help shaking my head when I read this ludicrous post from John Pavlus (no, I've never heard of him, either) at MIT Technology Review after it was linked by Instapundit. As I told Glenn in an email, pretty much every single charge Pavlus makes here is factually incorrect:
Think Windows 8 is a usability nightmare? Two pilots of the infamously expensive F-22 fighter jet recently went on 60 Minutes to describe how this “phenomenal, phenomenal machine” poisons its pilots’ air supply in the course of normal flight.
Pavlus plays it sneaky here, hiding behind verbal statements on an old episode of "60 Minutes" (and we all know how dedicated to accuracy that show is) instead of informing his readers that the hypoxia incidents on F-22 were later found to have nothing to do with the aircraft (so much for 'poisoning its pilots'), but rather to a faulty valve on g-suit vests that aren't even unique to the Raptor (they were designed for the generation-older F-15 and F-16s).

But wait, there's more:
But the plane is also smart enough to land itself with no help from its passed-out pilot. This is UX design by way of Brazil: the human interface is so bad that it actively tries to kill you the entire time you’re using it, and so good that it can deliver your comatose body back to safety with no help from you at all.
I just spent twelve years working on F-22 (my last day on the job was last week; I've left the program to go to work on Army Aviation systems for a different company, and will be divesting the last remnants of my Lockheed Martin stock within the next few days), and I can state categorically that this is one hundred percent Bravo Sierra. There is no automatic landing system on the Raptor. Never has been. No F-22 can 'land itself.' That has never happened, and it's not even possible. That level of automatic pilot isn't in the system.

Facts like these are, of course, irrelevant to Pavlus, who lards up the rest of his post with anti-military and pro-gun-control rantings that he tenuously relates to the state of commercial operating systems. Apparently there wasn't a way to note that Windows 8 sucks without indulging your ideological prejudices... and certainly not if you happen to be a "journalist" like John Pavlus.