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davew's picture

Quietude

Something like the following conversation actually happened, although because the person had trouble understanding me the real conversion was considerably more repetitious:

Comcast: "This is Melinda for Comcast. How may I help you?"

Me: "I am paying $48 a month for three channels."

Comcast: "Our records indicate that you are paying $39.95 a month for the basic cable package which includes 75 channels."

Me: "Yes, but with mysterious taxes and fees the total is actually $48 a month, and I don't watch 75 channels, I watch three. I watch Comedy Central, Food Network, and USA."

Comcast: "But you could watch 75 channels..."

Me: "But I don't. I only watch three. Why can't I only pay for three? Ever heard of a-la-carte pricing?"

Comcast: "Our pricing doesn't work that way, sir."

Me: "I bet if you weren't a monopoly it would."

Comcast: "We have basic-basic cable for $11 a month."

Me: "Yes, but basic-basic doesn't have any channels I want to watch. It's not worth $11. It's worth $0 to me."

Comcast: "I know you only watch three channels, but you could watch the rest therefore we have to charge all of them."

Me: "Suppose you go into a doughnut shop and order a 50 cent doughnut. They give you a doughnut and a steak and charge you $11.50. You didn't order a steak why should they charge you for it? What value is something that you didn't ask for and don't want?"

Comcast: "But..."

Me: "And given that most of the channels I don't watch are home shopping, sports, and 24-hour news the more apt analogy would be a doughnut, a piece of chalk, a lump of coal, and various nasty things that the cat coughed up."

Comcast: "I see."

Me: "And you know what is especially galling? Just a few years ago I watched those same channels and it only cost me $21 a month."

Comcast: "But we have more channels now..."

Me: "I think we've been around this tree before."

Comcast: "What can I help you with today sir?"

Me: "I'd like to cancel my service."

Comcast: "Really?"

Me: "Yup."

Comcast: "Why?"

Me: "Because $600 a year is too much to pay for three channels. I can buy 15 seasons worth of TV on DVD for the same price and watch them whenever I want sans commercials. Heck, I can rent them from Netflix for a lot cheaper than that."

Comcast: "Let's see. We have a special right now. You get 8 more channels for only a $1 more a month."

Me: "Your solution is to provide me with even more channels I won't watch and increase the fee?"

Comcast: "..."

Me: "Do they have any listening classes at Comcast?"

Comcast: "So when would you like to cancel your service?"

Me: "Immediately."

Comcast: "I need a date, sir."

Me: "What's the date today?"

Comcast: "The 17th."

Me: "I'd like to cancel my service on the 17th."

Comcast: "Very good, sir. You have a nice day."

Me: "Same to you."

--

So we really did it and it really feels great. Except for the Replay we really didn't watch much television anyway. Occasionally I would flip it on during an otherwise dull moment, but the usual result of this would be that it would take 15 minutes to put on my shoes rather than 20 seconds. Most of what we do watch is either bought or rented from Netflix. I just had to buy a DVD player to replace the Replay in the exercise room. This cost exactly the same as one month service from Comcast. With any luck at all I have watched my last commercial.

davew's picture

Short, Shameful Confession

Today I said "I emailed you my fax number." While I admit there is a perfectly rational explanation for saying it, would explaining really make it less geeky pathetic? I emailed you my fax number. Follow that up with a text message and a cell call and maybe an picture of me holding up a sign asking, "Did you get my email?" and the scene would be complete. Put me on American Idol and I'm sure they'd conclude that I can't sing, I can't play, and I really I have no particular value to the planet. "Off to the compost pile with you!" And this really isn't the worst part of it. The worst part is... I said it to my wife.

davew's picture

Shouting in a Vacuum

The recent protest in support of undocumented workers is one of the more quixotic quests I have seen in recent memory. (Second only to the Bush administration sending a white, English-only-speaking female with no diplomatic training to improve our image in the Middle East. You go, Ms. Hughes!) Quixotic is one word. Empty, futile, and doomed are others. Why so negative? Here is just one example: it took three days before a local leader pointed out that, if you want to impress people with what good Americans you will be, waving foreign flags and shouting in Spanish may not be the best way to go about it. What really changes hearts and minds in Washington is votes, but undocumented workers aren't exactly a demographic worth cultivating. I keep expecting to see a sign "I'm Illegal and I Vote!" Then again, maybe not. The protests might convince law makers that enough citizens support these workers that it is worth courting their vote, but this is a much harder row to hoe.

The moment I really knew the movement was doomed was when the focus of the demonstrations moved away from protesting current crop of bills circulating in Washington (and other places) to improved wages and benefits. The reason more Draconian laws haven't passed so far is that some businesses depend on undocumented workers precisely because they can be paid very low wages and few if any benefits. If agriculture and food service industries were forced to pay decent wages and benefits, they might just as well hire current citizens. Lobbying in support of undocumented workers would dry up faster than a solar tax credit.

Lastly, all the sound and fury cannot make up for a staggering political naivete. Amnesty has been tried before under Reagan. The problem was it was all carrot and no stick. Gosh I hate this metaphor. It's not the carrot OR the stick it's the carrot AND the stick. See, the stick is used to suspend the carrot in front of the donkey. You never hit the donkey with the stick. Come to think of it, this may work better than I thought. If the goal is getting the donkey to move, it won't work without the stick. Which exactly what happened under Reagan. The goal was to change the balance of legal to illegal immigration by lowering the barriers to legal immigration. What we got was more of both. At least the donkey was happy. There is no way Washington is going to provide any more carrots without a decently long stick while others are going to try to amend the stick into a toothpick. Either way some powerful interest is going to be dead set against the final bill. We'll more likely to see McCain, Kennedy and Chenney doing the Hokey Pokey on the Senate floor. It's just not going to happen.

davew's picture

Daffodils

Another sure sign of spring is made evident as daffodils emerge from their long winter nap to spruce up my trip home from work. Their colorful petals paint the roadside in bright bunches. I'm not speaking of the flowers, of course, although they are up too. I speak of the road bicyclists. The evening exercisers. The pot-bellied warriors. Not blooms, per se, although they have a lot in common with their botanical namesakes. One emerges newly formed from bulbs on the first warm days of the year. The other emerges fully formed from SUVs on the first warm days of the year. Both will shrivel right away at the first sign of frost. One clogs flower beds in tight bunches. The other can do the same for bike lanes. The function of each is primarily decorative. There are differences as well. Flowers like rain. Roadies go back into dormancy. Flowers lack a brain and hence the ability to decide to put their efforts to better use like using the bicycle instead of a car for routine transportation. At least I'm pretty sure this is a difference.

davew's picture

Hardcore Geek Puzzle

I first learned this one in college, but the concept predates that by a few decades. Take the binary representation for a number and do an exclusive-or of adjacent bits to form a new number. If you like formulas:

new bit0 = bit0 xor bit1
new bit1 = bit1 xor bit2
... and so on.

An interesting pattern emerges. The first few numbers of the new series are represented below in hexadecimal. (I did say this was hardcore geek). The first thing the casual observer indicates is that all integers are still represented just in a different order. (I attest that this pattern holds all the way to infinity.) The pattern that you see repeating in the one's column will also repeat in the 10's column (16's, actually), and later in the other columns. This means you know enough to extend the series if you like, but it probably won't help much.

Do you have to be a computer science type to get his puzzle? Nope. You don't even have to even know what XOR is. You just have to be comfortable with binary/hex notation and have a knack for spotting patterns.

The puzzle is: What is the distinctive and useful feature of the new pattern?

This pattern has a name which I have deliberately omitted so this puzzle will not fall easily to Google. Indeed I avoided all terms which made the answer easily googleable. (If you think this is a hint go ahead a run a search on every word I didn't use.) If you happen to know the name of the pattern, fine, but it doesn't get you any extra points. You still have to come up with the distinctive and useful feature of the pattern.

Here is a hint: If you are a puzzler like me you have probably encountered this pattern before. Indeed I ran into it several times before I ever knew what it was. I remember this one round plastic puzzle with several levers that could slide from near the center to near the edge. Moving one lever would cause others to not be moveable. The pattern needed to slide all the levers to the edge of the puzzle is the same as the one we are talking about here.

The prize, as usual, will be something nice of my choosing for the winner. The winner will be the first email that I receive that has the essence of the right answer. I'm not going to set a deadline this time. If you are working on the problem and want more time just shoot me an email. I'll close the contest when I think most of the regular readers have all taken a shot at it.

input 0x0000, output 0x0000
input 0x0001, output 0x0001
input 0x0002, output 0x0003
input 0x0003, output 0x0002
input 0x0004, output 0x0006
input 0x0005, output 0x0007
input 0x0006, output 0x0005
input 0x0007, output 0x0004
input 0x0008, output 0x000c
input 0x0009, output 0x000d
input 0x000a, output 0x000f
input 0x000b, output 0x000e
input 0x000c, output 0x000a
input 0x000d, output 0x000b
input 0x000e, output 0x0009
input 0x000f, output 0x0008
input 0x0010, output 0x0018
input 0x0011, output 0x0019
input 0x0012, output 0x001b
input 0x0013, output 0x001a
input 0x0014, output 0x001e
input 0x0015, output 0x001f
input 0x0016, output 0x001d
input 0x0017, output 0x001c
input 0x0018, output 0x0014
input 0x0019, output 0x0015
input 0x001a, output 0x0017
input 0x001b, output 0x0016
input 0x001c, output 0x0012
input 0x001d, output 0x0013
input 0x001e, output 0x0011
input 0x001f, output 0x0010
input 0x0020, output 0x0030
input 0x0021, output 0x0031
input 0x0022, output 0x0033
input 0x0023, output 0x0032
input 0x0024, output 0x0036
input 0x0025, output 0x0037
input 0x0026, output 0x0035
input 0x0027, output 0x0034
input 0x0028, output 0x003c
input 0x0029, output 0x003d
input 0x002a, output 0x003f
input 0x002b, output 0x003e
input 0x002c, output 0x003a
input 0x002d, output 0x003b
input 0x002e, output 0x0039
input 0x002f, output 0x0038

Ellen's picture

The Gifts of the gods

I did something very naughty this Christmas. I bought my husband a
mystery box from Archie Mcphee.
A mystery box is full of unknown gift items for a nominal fee. The idea
is that you don

davew's picture

Pithy Retort du Jour

My standard response to "It's good for you. It's all natural..."

is

"Yeah? So are hemlock and arsenic."

davew's picture

Riding a Straight Line

As many of you news hounds may have guessed, particularly those of you living in South Dakota, this is indeed the reason for my conversion to two-wheeled transportation. You can't get arrested for drunk driving if you're not driving. It also leads to the first honest answer I've ever given to "What do you like on your oatmeal?" The answer is ouzo.

(I'm just kidding, mom. I still like butter on my oatmeal. The ouzo goes in the coffee.)

Ellen's picture

New Year Greetings, January 2006

[Note: All pics taken with the Canon 10D.]
Another year has come and gone so quickly I can hardly believe it

davew's picture

Intelligent Design

You might think from other posts here like the Gravity is Just a Theory that I am an official scoffer. I admit that I was, but I was suffering from a hopelessly closed mind. Once I started looking for evidence I found it everywhere. For example, scissors. There is no way a scis, or half a pair of scissors, could have evolved by itself. Right? It's just a fairly dull knife with a useless loopy handle. The primeval scis would have been out competed by swords, knives, and even box cutters as a cutting implement. It must have taken divine intervention to bring about the irreducible complexity that is a pair of scissors. Right? Well, no. Scissors were clearly invented by man with no other intervention necessary. I have a little fun.

This brings me to the real point. A biological feature so amazingly unique so mind bogglingly useful that it could not have occurred by chance. I give you eye goobers. Those crusty little concretions that develop in the corners of your eyes at night. I lived for years before recognizing the spark divine in what would otherwise be a mildly curious annoyance. Most of us casually swipe them away or wash them out in the shower never contemplating their true function. Anyone who has lived with long-haired cats should know better. These blessed nodules bind together all the little bits of fluff that collect in our eyes while Fluffly creates havoc in other parts of the house. In the morning the eye goobers are removed along with the cat detritus. If it weren't for this cat owners could easily be recognized by their squinty, blinky appearance, and I right now would be retired in Barbados heir to a fortune built on homeopathic eye douches. (Hmm. What would be in a homeopathic eye douche? Bits of raw onion? Microscopic amounts of ground glass? But I digress.)

How long has man associated with cats? A few thousand years? Way too short a period of time for even those perpetually deluded evolutionists to claim that this feature "evolved." Not only does this offer conclusive and irrefutable evidence for Intelligent Design, but also marks cats as God's chosen pet. This came as no surprise what so ever to our Cocoa and Eva.

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