When AT&T was forced to break up back in the 80s, I wasn't a big proponent of it. I'm still not.
Saturday we had occasion to call Australia. My mother's phone service, both local and LD, is through MCI. Apparently, because of the kind of plan she has, she's unable to call internationally. We made numerous attempts, but we kept getting the charming "Code 48" message. On Mom's phone line we couldn't even reach the international operator. Time for Plan B.
I brought my phone out to the family room and we tried it. My local phone service is with the local phone company, and my LD is through MCI. But, and here's the big difference, I have the international savings plan with MCI. It costs me $4.95/month plus taxes, but when I got it I was making calls to England nearly every other night and needed a base plan like it.
Lo and behold, it worked. Hurray!
So today I think "I wonder how many minutes I got billed for and how much that cost." I went to the MCI website looking for current transactions since the last statement (7/24). Nowhere on the website is there a place to look that information up. So I found the "contact us" section and sent them a note, thinking, "every credit card I have shows me current charges since my last bill, why wouldn't MCI?" Ha. I got a note back which reads in part as follows:
Unfortunately, due to the manner in which long distance calls are billed, we are unable to view long distance usage until your MCI billing cycle ends.
All phone calls made from your home telephone go through your local phone company. If the call is long distance, the local company automatically sends it through the MCI network. Every 3 to 4 weeks, your long distance calling records are compiled to calculate your bill and discounts.
I apologize for any inconvenience this has caused, but at this time MCI can only provide you with a monthly statement. This ensures that you are charged correctly for your long distance calls and receive all discounts for which you are eligible.
So for all I know I'm going to be hit with a large charge for a ten-minute call to Australia, and I have no way of knowing what it might be until the bill turns up. And, because it's automatically deducted from my checking account (which I have them do because if I get a paper bill they charge me an extra $1 per month), I'm going to have to remember to look closely at the next bill.
I want AT&T back.
From the AP:
Chief Justice John Roberts was taken by ambulance to a hospital on Monday after a fall at his home in Maine, Supreme Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said.
Been there, done that, didn't like it. I hope he can pay the bills for the CAT scans and MRIs. It cost me $2K at Kaiser (and I had health insurance!) and those charges sat on my VISA bill accruing interest charges for two years.
I'm doing my usual Sunday washing, and I went looking within my iTunes library for songs with titles including "wash" or "clothes." Couldn't find any. The only one I can think of offhand is "I'm Gonna Wash That Man Right Out of my Hair" from South Pacific.
As mentioned below, I saw "Order of the Phoenix" yesterday. It was the first movie I'd seen in a theater since "Goblet of Fire," which I saw on Dec. 26, 2005. I didn't record the ticket price in that entry, but I suspect it was at or close to the same amount I paid for my ticket yesterday, which was $6.50 for a matinee ($9 for Friday-Saturday nights). The place where I saw it is a stadium-seating theater. It's quite comfortable. I bought the largest bag of popcorn they sold for $5.50 (to take some home for Mom) and a medium soda for $4.25.
That's $16.25 for one person's entertainment. How the hell does a family of four afford it?
What's a night at the movies cost in your neighborhood?
Apparently I haven't had enough of Harry Potter this week; I'm off to see "Order of the Phoenix."
Update: I liked it fine, but I'm in the "too short!" category. It needed another ten minutes to fill in details, I thought. And I never thought I'd say this, but I think it needed a little more CGI to show the statuary in the Ministry's Hall exploding during the final battle.
From the AP:
SAN FRANCISCO -Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
"The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.
The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
If the man was murdered by his own men, that would seem to be why the Bushies refused to give Congress documents about his death. It's a little hard to peddle a heroic story about a brave NFL player dying for his country if he was actually fragged by fellow soldiers.
Impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney. Impeach them now.
I'm not currently in this position, but if I were, I'd have a dilemma. Suppose you were given a $25 iTunes gift card for one reason or another: would you hunt for 25 individual songs or buy a couple of albums by your favorite artist(s)?
Our ice machine has been visited by technicians on Saturday and again on Tuesday, and it still doesn't work properly. So I'm waiting for the third visit today (between 8 & 5! Sears is following the cable television model!).
Here's what I'm listening to while waiting:
In case you wondered.
Jul 23, 2007
I'm not a fan of pro basketball, so I don't know whether Bill Simmons is right here when he argues that:
Whether it's because of bad luck, poor training, measly pay or the thanklessness of the profession itself -- maybe it's all of those things -- the NBA employs a handful of good referees and an astonishing number of bad ones. In the playoffs, there never seems to be enough quality officials to go around.
Or when he argues:
And that's before factoring in the public's perception (well-earned, by the way) that superstars receive more favorable calls than nonsuperstars. It's like Chris Rock's bit about dad getting the biggest chicken leg at the dinner table -- once you reach a certain level in the NBA, the whistles will come. This perpetual leeway allows gifted athletes like Wade, Gilbert Arenas and LeBron James to drive recklessly into traffic in crunch time, knowing they can either score or draw a foul.
Well, actually, I do think he's right about that second item. Even during highlights on SportsCenter I've seen fouls made in the paint that were called on the defense rather than the (star) offensive player.
But when he says this:
Imagine being a Suns fan right now. You just spent the past two months believing that your team got screwed by the Stoudemire/Diaw suspensions, that you would have won Game 1 if Nash didn't get hurt, that you would have taken Game 3 if you hadn't been screwed by the officials, that you would have cruised in Game 5 if two of your best guys weren't suspended for running toward their best player as he lay in a crumpled heap. Now it looks like an allegedly compromised referee worked Game 3.
I can completely agree. If you can't trust the officiating, what's the point? And if you paid big dollars to see the game in person (according to the NBA, the Suns' $65 regular season ticket quoted here is at the league average), you're undoubtedly angry.
A referee is in a far better position to shave points than a player is, since he controls fouls which send players to the free throw line. He also, more subtly, can control a player's floor time by calling fouls which send the player to the bench. How often have you seen huge discrepancies in numbers of foul shots per team? I think there was a playoff game this spring in which one team had 39 free throw attempts, while its opponent had 8. That just looks fishy.
The NBA has a serious problem here, and I don't envy Commissioner David Stern.
Which of the long-term actors in the movies has now read the final book and begun salivating the most at the opportunity to play his or her part when the saga ends?
I'd say Alan Rickman as Snape, but unless there are a lot of flashbacks, I'm not sure he'll get a lot of screen time. Snape has the most pivotal role of the book, I think.
Daniel Radcliffe as Harry? Rupert Grint as Ron? Emma Watson as Hermione?
Discuss in the comments (Caution! There may be spoilers revealed in there!)
I read from 7:00pm till 2:30am, when I finished it. I'm tired but pleased. I'll probably re-read pretty soon, as I'm sure I missed nuances.
If you want to read an ongoing discussion of the book WITH SPOILERS!, go over to Making Light. IT HAS SPOILERS!
I just got the Potter book at Borders.
I've never had this happen before: I went to the ATM to get cash to buy it, and I received 20 $1 bills rather than the usual single $20 bill. That was weird.
Fitzgerald submitted to a quiz on scooters _ such as the Segway.
I went to the local bookstore to pick up my copy of Half-Blood Prince back in July 2005 at midnight; I am not going to do that tonight. I'll be there tomorrow to get my reserved copy of Deathly Hallows.
But. I have gotten thoroughly enmeshed in Guy Gavriel Kay's The Fionavar Tapestry. I've read the first two books in the trilogy, and I have to read the final book before I begin Book Seven of the Potter books. I can't bear not to know what's going to happen to all these characters!
If you've never read or even heard of this author and these books, I exhort you to find them and read them. I suspect all hard-core fantasy fans already know all about Kay and his work, but you certainly don't have to be in that group to enjoy the heck out of them.
What's astonishing to me is how well-formed they are, considering that they were Kay's first published works. He's since gone on to write seven more, and once done with Potter #7 I'll be seeking them out.
First it was the television. Then yesterday I took my camera in to Canon because the LCD monitor refused to display in record mode. (That appears to be a sensor problem.) Now, for the third time in a year, the ice dispenser on our Kenmore fridge has failed.
Sometimes all these electronics make me wonder if we're really all that better off.
And that's why those who ascribe the popularity of the Potter books to nothing more than the bad taste of the masses are so off the mark. The most prominent of those naysayers, that drooping defender of the canon, Harold Bloom, has, in his attacks on Rowling, provided us with fine examples of another reason for the Potter books' popularity: the insularity of a literary culture that willfully ignores what it is that makes people readers in the first place.
In a July 2000 article in the Wall Street Journal, and in comments made in these pages three years later when the National Book Foundation announced it was awarding a prize to Stephen King, Bloom revealed a vision of literary culture in which only some people belong, where class is destiny and where the idiot rabble needs guidance by those elites who are better suited to making the decisions that will affect that rabble.
In Bloom's world, it's his way or nothing. He claims to have the divine foresight to know that no child who ever reads Harry Potter will ever go on to "The Wind in the Willows" or Lewis Carroll. Just as, he insists, no one who ever enjoys a Stephen King book will ever go on to read Edgar Allan Poe. (This, by the way, seems to be the new anti-Potter tack; a Page 1 story in the New York Times last week revealed breathlessly that not every Potter reader will go on to other books — as if the series had billed itself as a cure-all for falling readership.)
The author of this piece is himself a literary critic, published at such tony addresses as the NYT and Newsday.
Rowling, of course, is laughing her way to the bank multiple times over. I wonder how much of Bloom's antipathy can be traced to jealousy. When I look at his bibliography I see a lot of books with value limited primarily to literary students and professors. I'm sure that studies of the poetry of Shelley, Blake and Yeats are worthwhile endeavors, but nobody I know is waiting breathlessly at midnight for their release.
Give it a rest, critics; Harry Potter's adventures are good fun. I won't be at Borders at midnight Friday, but I'll be there Saturday to pick up my reserved copy.
How to have your entire day's plans disrupted:
Turn on the television and discover that it only stays on for 15-30 seconds.
Update: Two voltage regulators on the motherboard later, it's a working machine again. Anybody on Oahu looking for a good honest TV repair guy, call United TV. He came in slightly under the estimate, the service call price was reasonable ($25!), and even his labor was cheaper than most car mechanics are these days.
I just got back from a pleasant morning and early afternoon meeting with someone I met via comments at Making Light. We were to meet at Gymboree (she has a daughter and we thought that would entertain her), but it turns out that the place isn't an indoor gym or play place, but a retail store. I wonder how I got that wrong.
Anyway, we went downstairs to the Food Court at Ala Moana Shopping Center and drank coffee and tea for a while, chattering a mile a minute.
One of my new acquaintance's desires while on Oahu was to go to Aloha Hula Supply to pick up an ipu or gourd, used to accompany the dance. She had planned on a taxi, but that seemed silly to me so I offered to take the two of them there.
It's an interesting place, about a block north of the main prison on Oahu. It's got a tiny display office and a warehouse/manufacturing area off to the right of the office. There were lots of ipu hanging on wires suspended between the walls of the warehouse, and several people carving away at the raw material for more.
Fun stuff. I got to meet somebody new and I got to see something I'd never seen before. How much more can one ask of a Monday?
Browsing through my iTunes library, here are songs beginning with "It" or "It's":
Squeeze one in if you've got one.
From the WaPo:
The White House has refused to give Congress documents about the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman, with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding saying that certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting "implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests."
Can one assume that there was some sort of communication between the White House and the Department of the Army saying something like "we really want to hype the heroic death of Pat Tillman because it'll get the public behind our war more?"
Every time I think this Administration can sink no further into a morass of stupidity and venality, it finds new depths to plumb.
Here's one for the books: under the "Sights and Sounds" section of this page at the Atlanta Braves' MLB.com website is Vin Scully's call of Hank Aaron's 715th home run. You'll remember that Aaron hit it off the Dodgers' Al Downing, which is why Scully broadcast it; he was and remains the Dodgers' broadcasting genius. Why did I think of this? Because of Barry Bonds' assault on Aaron's record, of course. Several of the broadcasters who may be called upon to describe that event gave their thoughts about doing so here.
Anyway, it's 6+ minutes of Vinnie at his best. Have a listen.
Links via the comments at Dodger Thoughts.
Yesterday was a red-letter day: I got the first text message I've ever received.
Ok, it was a verification note from Facebook. Sue me (and be my friend!).
For the first time in history, as far as anyone knows so far, a Hindu cleric gave the morning invocation as the Senate opened today. Yay, diversity, right?
Not so much. Christian (?) activists disrupted the ceremony. Watch the video.
So is the leader of the group these clowns belong to repentant?
Well, Election Central has just gotten off the phone with the group's chief, Rev. Flip Benham. And he's hailing the move by the three activists -- while slamming the Hindu's appearance as "gross idolatry."
In the interview, Benham praised the three activists, Ante and Katherine Pavkovic and their daughter Kristen. And he scorned the idea of the Hindu invocation.
"What we have here is just a wonderful example of Christian theology becoming biography in the sacred chamber of the United States Senate, as a Hindu was offering up a prayer to open up the session this morning. And the folks that were there [the Pavkovics] ... waited for the Senate, or a Senator with a backbone, to remind the Hindu that there is one God who made this country great, and his name is Jesus."
I guess Reverend Benham has forgotten these lines from that Bible he claims to know and love so well:
Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God;
and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God.
He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.
He also doesn't seem to understand the First Amendment's Establishment Clause:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof
Where in there does it indicate that a Hindu shall not offer an invocation, and where in there does it indicate that Jesus was one of the Founding Fathers?
Is it any wonder many of us think so little of organized religion?
Dear Senator Reid,
If the Republicans in the Senate keep obstructing legislation, please call it the filibuster it is. You're losing the public relations war (and it is a war; did you learn nothing from the "nuclear option" phrase so happily sold to the media?).
In this case it was legislation that would ensure that soldiers get adequate time at home before redeployment. Since we all know that many of these men and women are on their second and even third tours in Iraq and/or Afghanistan (for reference, the standard tour in Vietnam was one year; you had to volunteer to go back for a second one), this is an easy sell to the American public. If the Republicans can't be made to look like the follow-Bush-to-hell-no-matter-what idiots they are on this issue, they probably can't be painted as fools on anything.
Stand up and shout "Obstruction!", Senator.
Well. Since I was a college freshman that summer, how could I help but go buy the thing?
In an article about the dual-track histories of 1967 (free love and hippies over here, while over there Reagan was elected governor of California and 47 other conservatives were elected to the US House, including Bush Sr.), a familiar person is quoted:
"If you look back on the Sixties and on balance you think there was more good than harm in it, you're probably a Democrat," Clinton observed. "If you think that there was more harm than good, then you're probably a Republican."
It's got some exceptional articles, both critical and admiring, but more than that, it's got gorgeous photographs from the period. If you've got a spare $6.95, and you either remember those days or would like to, go buy it.
So who's already seen Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix?
Who's planning to go this week?
I notice that if I wanted to go to a matinee on Friday I could see it as early as 9:00am; man. Buttered popcorn and a 24-oz. soda at that hour?
Imagine this: you've got the All Star Game on the tube as you're talking to a credit card company about adding a name to an account. You're puzzling with various identification numbers and fumbling with papers. As you're doing this, you happen to look out the door, and there, smiling gloriously, is your fourteen-year-old bird dog with a pigeon in her mouth. What do you do?
As far as we can remember this is the first bird she's ever caught and killed; she's gotten a few rats and, dreadfully, a couple of kittens, but no birds. And she's a pointer.
She was quite pleased with herself. Me, not so much. I had to persuade her to drop it outside, find a plastic glove and bag, and gather up the remains to be tossed into the trash bin.
Ah well. It's hard to begrudge a dog this old some lingering tastes of glory.
Brent Budowsky concludes:
War was treated by George W. Bush not as a mean to unite the nation, to win the war, but as a means to divide the nation, to win his quest for unlimited power.
George Bush was never the president of the whole American people. He was never the president of Democrats or independents. He was never even the president of Republicans in the Senate, whose advice he repeatedly ignored, whose counsel he treated with total contempt.
The great sin of the Senate Republicans, the legacy of carnage and national division that they bear primary responsibility for, is that they enabled and empowered this reckless abuse of power and this fanatical and obsessive hunger for unwise war.
When the Republicans had power and control of the Senate, they gloated in their supreme status and preened with their committee chairmanships while they tolerated their endless humiliation, by the president of their party, when his action expressed his contempt for their judgment.
They cheered when Bush attacked Democrats with the lie that they did not support the troops — and all while those very same Democrats were advocating publicly what Republicans were urging the President to do, privately.
I think Budowsky ascribes too much credit to Senate Republicans. I don't buy his idea that they kowtowed to Bush in public while privately disavowing his actions.
I think they too were in pursuit of permanent power just as Karl Rove was, and the good of the country was a distant second in that race.
In fact, I felt compelled to look up his bio at that site, because it sure felt like he was damn near apologizing for Senate Republicans' behavior. I think they knew full well what they were doing, and only when it started to turn badly in Iraq did they conveniently recover their senses.
Link via Avedon.
Our Cro-Magnon ancestors ate plenty of raw meat and lived a full life-span; why must we cook ours to a 160-degree internal temperature?
David Halberstam, in what may have been his last article before his death, pretty much proves that Bush is channeling Peter Noone of Herman's Hermits rather than David McCullough when he claims he's like Harry Truman.
... it was Truman's decision to meet MacArthur's challenge, even though he surely knew he would be the short-term loser, that has elevated his presidential stock.
George W. Bush's relationship with his military commander was precisely the opposite. He dealt with the ever so malleable General Tommy Franks, a man, Presidential Medal of Freedom or no, who is still having a difficult time explaining to his peers in the military how Iraq happened, and how he agreed to so large a military undertaking with so small a force. It was the president, not the military or the public, who wanted the Iraq war, and Bush used the extra leverage granted him by 9/11 to get it. His people skillfully manipulated the intelligence in order to make the war seem necessary, and they snookered the military on force levels and the American public on the cost of it all. The key operative in all this was clearly Vice President Cheney, supremely arrogant, the most skilled of bureaucrats, seemingly the toughest tough guy of them all, but eventually revealed as a man who knew nothing of the country he wanted to invade and what that invasion might provoke.
I crawled out to the kitchen this morning, turned on the coffeemaker, and heard unusual music coming from the family room. I poked my head around the corner, and there was Mom watching Live Earth. It's all over my cable system, from HD Universal to Bravo to various NBC outposts like MSNBC and CNBC.
I was impressed with Nunatak, the scientists-rockers who played a (surprisingly-good) song in an outdoor setting in Antarctica. It's a five-piece band: guitar, bass, sax, fiddle and drums. I kept thinking that it had to be awfully cold, since they were all bundled up except for their fingers. And how do you play a saxophone when your lips want to stick to the mouthpiece?
Michael Bérubé used to write a wonderful blog, and he still pens the odd piece at Crooked Timber. His latest entry points (almost incidentally) to an essay (.pdf) he wrote for Common Review, titled "Harry Potter and the Power of Narrative." In it he describes his son's introduction to and affection for J.K. Rowling's books. One of the central aspects of the essay is that his son lives with Down's Syndrome, so Michael and his wife Janet have always been told that Jamie just wouldn't get reading very well. Michael differs, and offers Jamie as an example.
It's a wonderful essay, and it's written from the perspective of both a parent and a Professor of Literature, which is Michael's day job at Penn State. If you're a Potter fan panting and chomping at bits waiting for July 21, read this essay.
If you missed Keith Olbermann's Special Comment Tuesday, here's a link to the transcript as well as the video. It's an impassioned call for Bush and Cheney to do what Richard Nixon ultimately realized he had to do: resign.
Regrettably, the modern Republican party has no principled Senators like Barry Goldwater, who had the courage to walk into the Oval Office and tell RMN it was time to go.
A government that spies upon its citizens, evades the courts and feels no compulsion to explain itself beyond vague warnings of security threats must be brought into check. The damage caused by terrorists on 9/11 begins to pale against the havoc wreaked upon America by America itself.
Jeepers! Where did such a seditious opinion appear? The Nation? The Guardian? Mother Jones?
Nope. The Baltimore Sun, in a 4th of July editorial yesterday. It's well worth a few minutes.
via Christy Hardin-Smith at Firedoglake. There are extensive quotes there, along with additional commentary.
When FDR took office he said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." When 9/11 occurred, GWB and his Administration implicitly said "Be afraid."
Which do you prefer?
I noticed the title of David Brooks's column praising the Libby commutation is "Ending the Farce." (See a wonderful take-down of all its factual errors here.) It would be instructive to search the archives of the Weekly Standard and any other place his columns were published during the Clinton presidency to see if he'd expressed a similar sentiment about the investigations which took place during those years, from Whitewater to Travelgate to impeachment.
I suspect not.
From the Declaration of Independence, written July 2, 1776, published July 4, 1776:
—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,
—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it
Messrs. Bush and Cheney seem to have forgotten those clauses.
Listen to NPR's broadcasters read the full document here.
Unlike many of us who weep for the rule of law, I suspect Scooter and his supporters are walking around singing this song today.
I've seen this sentiment several other places, and it both amuses and depresses me.
Paris Hilton did more time than Scooter Libby.
How soon do you think it'll be before Scooter Libby has a new job at The Heritage Foundation or the American Enterprise Institute or one of the other right-wing think tanks as a "visiting fellow?" And how soon after that will he be the recipient of a "loan" for the $250K fine that he's supposed to pay?
Update: Oh, silly me. Al Kamen of the WaPo reported in January of 2006 that Scooter had become a fellow at The Hudson Institute.
We're told that his salary is on par with the going rate for the deep thinkers -- presumably at least as much as his $160,000 White House gig -- and that, if he wants, he'll probably still have time to do some consulting or work on a second novel.
So the question now is, how's that novel coming, Scooter?
Emperor Bush has commuted Libby's sentence.
''I respect the jury's verdict,'' Bush said in a statement. ''But I have concluded that the prison sentence given to Mr. Libby is excessive. Therefore, I am commuting the portion of Mr. Libby's sentence that required him to spend thirty months in prison.''
Respect the jury's verdict? Like hell you do.
Impeach George Bush and Dick Cheney. Now.
Harpers Magazine has a series of essays in its June issue entitled "Undoing Bush: how to repair eight years of sabotage, bungling, and neglect."
Here are the areas addressed with the authors' names; there are links to each essay at the main page cited above:
I think I want this in paper form.
via Susie Madrak
I blame the Americans; self-ignorance is moving north.
I'm sorry, Canada.