RANT: Pleasure by Jerome Dickey

This is going to be a rant, so feel free to skip it.

I rarely get really really mad over books. After all, there are so many good ones, that I find it hard to waste my time on mediocre ones, and even less time still thinking about what makes them mediocre.

So why Pleasure? A friend recommended I read it.

Now, I am a big fan of Henry Miller, and Anais Nin, and William Burroughs, and whoever else comes to mind whose writings were considered obscene in their day (and possibly to date by some). You can't shock me with that. So please don't misconstrue my rant as a reaction to candid and lengthy and plentiful erotic passages in this book.

This book got me foaming at the mouth because of how superficial and phoney it came across.

This book is written by a man, in first person, from a female protagonist's perspective. Sadly, all it is, is a thinly disguised male fantasy, full of shallow assumptions and stereotypes that made me feel patronized as a woman.

Yes, the famed "influence" of Anais Nin is quite obvious. As a matter of fact it's hardly more than crudely lifted phrases and superficial style imitation.

The atrocious language! What women use stilted language like that talking about themselves? Calling their vaginas "my sex" or "yoni" like they're ashamed of them.

Main character--a woman who can't come without a vibrator? One who likes a pink one because it's such a "feminine color for such a manly instrument"? One who sucks on her own breasts? I mean, it sure looks great for the boys, but I doubt many women do this porn-type stuff "just for themselves" when they're alone and sure that nobody's watching.

The point where I snapped the book shut though was where the protagonist was describing how she "grinded into" some other chick. Purportedly the protagonist is herself a writer!

Now I could forgive bad style and barely disguised male gaze throughout the book, but grammatical errors? That's just too much.

Even overpriced and overhyped soft-porn books should be proof-read by someone with an English degree.


2009: DSL Odyssey begins

I suspected it wouldn't be too easy to switch internet providers. Who am I kidding, thinking I can be done in one measly evening?

So... I got home after stopping by a bookstore today mad like a fox (we'll get to that in a separate post) and thought what better use for my ire than calling up TWC to cancel my overpriced cable internet service?

AT&T promised they will set me up in two days after the order comes in, so I figured Thursday would be fine as a cancellation date.

So far, so good. I call their 800 number, and tell to the polite robot that I am calling to cancel my account. It immediately transferred me to the "retentions" department, where a mumbling agent who introduced himself as "Kevin" took my call.

I again stated the reason for my call, and after a number of identity verification questions Kevin asked me why I wanted to cancel. I said I felt that the service was overpriced, and instead of offering a discounted rate, like they usually do, Kevin asked me whether I considered a slower, cheaper service instead. I repeated that I wanted to please cancel the service.

Kevin then did some magic and said that he has canceled my account effective Thursday, and that I'll be getting a couple dollars refund. Cool!

I hang up and go to check in my online TWC account what the status is. I discover that IS HAZ NO INTERNETS!!!

Woe is me!

Okay, I figure, I got GT I can play and there'll be a movie in my mailbox tomorrow, I will survive 48 hours somehow.

I call AT&T to order the DSL service.

This is the point where our hero discovers that online pricing and pricing you get on the phone are two different animals and differ by $5 not in our hero's favor.

No pleas and social engineering techniques known to me work, and since I am determined not to overpay for my intartubes access, I thank the nice CS rep and hang up.

Calling TWC again, now to complain about the abrupt cancellation of service and to ask to restore it until Thursday.

After a few minutes that is done. Was not too bad. The phone rep was polite and competent, and did not try to convince me I was an idiot. It probably helped that I had the name and ID of the first rep written down.

I kept the second rep on the phone until I could verify that the service was indeed restored, thanked him profusely, and rushed to order DSL from AT&T online.

First, their ordering web site told me to go to hell and not come back until I installed MSIE 5 or newer. For a second, I contemplated downloading the unspeakable, but then opted for a client ID spoofing plug-in for Firefox instead.

Equipped with spoofed shining armor of MSIE 7 on Vista (heheh) I plunged head-first into the ordering, again.

Again, to be defeated. This time, the site tried to match my address to what it already knows from the customer database. Since nobody had a land-line phone in my unit in years, the system only showed the addresses of my neighbours, units L1 through 2D, skipping mine!

When I insisted on using my address with the correct unit number, it told me to go to hell and to call another 800 number that's only staffed until 6pm. A look at the clock told me I was 15 minutes late!

So tomorrow I'll call that other number and see if I can get the online pricing. Probably not.

Wish me luck anyway.


Anyone surprised?

I am kinda ambiguous on the issue of Apple.

On one hand, they dropped DRM from iTunes, built a great computer I am using, and helped me out for free when it stopped working. On the other hand, they want to make reverse-engineering of their iPhone a criminal offense punishable by up to $2500 US per instance and up to five years in jail.

Not nice, Apple. Not nice.

EFF has set up a site about this issue, called Free Your Phone. Go check it out.

Via Consumerist

Close enough?

I have googled a bit, and on one of many forums I might have found a link to a font that is close enough to the original logo, plus fulfills an important requirement that the letters and numbers be wide enough for optimal adhesion of the magnets to the car.

Behold the original Honda S2000 logo.

Now behold a free font "Sofachrome" which is available on 1001 Fonts.

This is how the class and number will look in this font. I think I could live with that.

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? And now?

Just finished preparing the new class letters and numbers for the Honda. The number will remain the same: 23, but the class will be different. If you remember, I ran my Miata in CSP (C Street Prepared). The S2000 will run in TIR (Street Tire). Just in case I will need to run the car in AS (A Stock), I made these letters too. Sprayed them all black, so they're better visible on the yellow car.

Later in the year I might make a new set, in a more stylish font, something resembling the one Honda designers used to set "S 2 0 0 0" on the side of the car. So far, I could not find anything that would match it.


It's not you, it's me...

Yesterday I discovered that the FCC has finally forced telephone companies to un-bundle DSL from land-line phone service, and now you can simply order the so-called "dry-loop" DSL from your local provider, where available.

So I am contemplating switching from RoadRunner that TimeWarner offers for $49.99 to a less expensive DSL service by AT&T, since all I use my internet connection for is emailing, blogging, some Skyping, and very few music downloads.

The RoadRunner package that I pay for boasts "up to" 7 MBps, but frankly, I don't always seem to get that. Plus, TimeWarner made it a habit to drop my connection every once in a while, requiring me to physically restart their dumb router that's not smart enough to request a new IP once it loses the old one.

Anyways, will have to think this through over the next days.

Any of you my gentle readers, have experience with AT&T DSL service?

Learning about VTEC

My brain mostly got over the double time zone change in ten days' time, and I was able to sleep until eight today.

Got up, had a light breakfast, worked out for about 45 minutes. Called my parents in Berlin. Had lunch, reading up on how exactly the VTEC technology works in a Honda.

It seems, that the VTEC mode is triggered by a combination of RPMs, oil pressure, engine load, and who knows what else. I was not able to find that part yet.

Instead, I found a nice animated demo of what happens when VTEC kicks in.

Plus, my co-driver found a page on a Honda site explaining the basic principles of VTEC. I liked that one too.

In the afternoon, I finally broke down and went to buy a new battery for the Miata. I was getting increasingly annoyed by the old battery's inability to hold charge over more than a few hours' time. Now I have two perfectly predictable cars, which will both start and run when needed.

When I got home, I procrastinated for a while before swapping the Honda into its competition tires for next Sunday. Yes, I know it's more than a week away, but I might not get a chance to do this before that time, so I thought better safe than sorry.

Now that the Miata has no trouble starting, I can drive it whenever it rains this week, and take the S out in the dry.

Oh yeah, next Sunday is the first event of the season for me and my yellow beast, but it's still not clear which we'll be going to: The test-and-tune that my club is running doesn't yet have a critical mass of pre-registrations, and there are two other events happening on the same day, but most likely, I'll be going to the Triad one, if Tarheels cancel.


Who ordered this?

You're kidding, right? Minus freakin' two?! This cold weather doesn't make me a happy camper.

Just yesterday I was driving with the top down to and from Sports and Compacts where the little happy Honda got its oil, diff, tranny, and clutch fluids changed, and now this.

If you're a Fahrenheit fan, -2C is 29F. Way, way too cold for my taste.


Lost my cell

So, I lost my cell phone in Berlin. Pretty sure I know where--must have been in the taxi on the way home from a restaurant where I had a few cocktails with my friends.

I could not reach the cab company by phone, and gave up after a bit. That was actually a strategic decision.

I only had eight full days in Berlin, and every hour was precious. I chose not to waste any of these hours hunting after a phone that may or may not have been found by the cabbie, and could have well been picked up by his next fare.

I locked that SIM instead and made an insurance claim. My new phone and SIM were waiting for me at the office when I got back to NC.

So, the moral of this story is: If you believe I should have your phone number, please email it to me, or text me with your name.


Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin

So how was Berlin?

Felt like coming home, immediately knew my way around.
Lots changed. Still, Berlin bleibt Berlin.
Public transit authority, the BVG, rocks even more than I remember. Many more routes and more frequent service.
Saw friends. Drank a few too many cocktails. Lost cell in taxi on the way home.
Saw some more friends and their young children, all born since my last visit.
Bought a few clothes.
Packed a couple of my old things stored at my parents' place.
Left for the airport at 6am. Cab driver a talkative Hamburg native. Asked me what I did for a living in the US. "Communications." "You got courage, going to the States with a job like that." LOL
Ich hab noch einen Koffer in Berlin. Der bleibt auch dort und das hat seinen Sinn. Auf diese Weise lohnt sich die Reise, und wenn ich Sehnsucht habe fahr ich wieder hin.


EU Parliament deliberates copyright extension

Watch the video for a video explanation of who will really benefit from the copyright extension to 90 years. Spoiler: It's the music industry! Anyone surprised?

Via Jamendo blog


Women will gladly slave away in the kitchen, provided you bring them flowers

Flower industry is promoting their product by celebrating stereotypical gender roles. I am seeing this and the other two variations of the ad everywhere in Berlin, this one being the most offensive. They usually have names filled in on the dotted lines. I copied this graphic from the official campaign web site.

Translation of the copy:

Dear .......
I will no longer wash the dishes. Should you need a glass tonight, take the flower vase, not like we're using it around here anyway.
Yours, ..........

The seal with the thumbs-up on it says "Recht auf blumen" -- "Right to get flowers."

Yepp. Want those wenches doing chores without complaint, go buy some flowers, dude!

Freie Fahrt für freie Bürger

I feel I owe it to myself to rent something like this nice little Z4 and explore the speed-limitless magic of the autobahn.

Not yet really sure I will actually do it, but the temptation is strong.

Also, lost my cell someplace, and AT&T, my wireless service provider, were actually quite competent and friendly while helping me disable the lost phone and ordering a replacement under my insurance policy.

Supposedly when I get back to the office the new phone will be waiting for me there.


Ferrari for 20 quid

Flew to Berlin today and saw two gorgeous cars on display at Heathrow while changing planes: a Ferrari F430 and an Audi R8.

Both rear-engined with a beautiful view of the powerplant through the rear window.

I spent some time drooling over the cars, and had there been no security guys present, would have tried to take a peek underneath them as well.

The cars were there to advertise for some lottery, costing 20 pounds per ticket. Hazed as my mind was after a 7.5 hour red-eye flight, I figured I should not waste the money.

I spent as much time as I could without risking to miss my flight drooling over the two. The F430's brakes looked unused. Looking at the massive brakes and grippy tires, I could not help but wonder what a test drive in one of these would be like.

For cars as striking as these, I found they looked remarkably similar.

Had I to pick between the two, I probably would have gone with the Audi.


Желтая штука: Yellow thing

Despite what you might think, it's not about my high-revving litte yellow roadster. And despite the "official" title translation on Jamendo, it's not "Yellow Stuff" either.

Anyways, my quest for free music has yielded some astonishing results, and this album, or rather EP, is so far my favourite. It's in Russian, but who cares. The melodies are great and the vocals even better.

The sound is jazzy, and all tracks but number three are about sun and happiness, and all that good and yellow stuff.

Reminds me that I need some sort of auxiliary audio input for the yellow car stereo so I can enjoy all the new tracks collected over the past few months from the comfort of my wind-blown seat.

Who's laughing now?

Yesterday was a warm sunny day, and what better place to go on such a day than the local pick-and-pull junkyard?