A Challenge

Using only the information available to you on http://www.nationwidemercurys.com/, tell me when the prize is going to be awarded...

Breaking the silence

Hello. I'm back.

Let me first point out that Verizon are a bunch of irritating swine who know nothing about customer service and who have conspired to make what should have been a two day break in my service into nearly three weeks.

I call VZ up on 9/8/04 to tell them that I am moving within New Jersey, and to request (1) that they cut off service to my current place when I move, on 22nd August and (2) that they set up service (phone and DSL) to my new place in time for me to move in. I don't object to paying for an extra week of service to give things time to settle down.

Of course, obliging souls that they are, they decide to cut off my DSL on 10th August instead of the 22nd. And, as mentioned below, whilst cutting me off takes a mere flick of a switch, getting it back on for the remaining 12 days is beyond the abilities of any mortal.

Oh well, never mind, at least things will be working when I get to the new place.

The move goes as smoothly as can be expected, modulo meeting the neighbors via damage to their property. Unload everything, plug in a phone and... no dial tone.

So on 23rd August I call up Verizon, and get put on hold. And wait... and wait... and wait... I give up after 25 minutes. Using a cellphone to call is damn expensive. I'll use a payphone. So, later in the day, I use a payphone to call them. I finally reach a human after 35 minutes on hold. This is while standing at a payphone outside a 7-11 with traffic going past and the sun beating down. Fun. They do a "line test" and tell me that it looks OK to them, but they can send a technician over to look at it... only $100 for the privilege.

Since VZ have a virtual monopoly on local phone service, I relent after whining a bit that they promised to give me service, and it's not my fault that it's fucked. So they send a guy... scheduled in for a week later, "between 8am and 12 noon on 30th August".

Fast-forward to 1.20pm on 30/8/04. I've been on hold to VZ for about 20 minutes to ask them where the hell there tech is, when a van pulls up. After a lot of running up and down to the basement, a small amount of damage to the basement ceiling, and more running up and down, I finally have a dial tone, and with it DSL. Of course, VZ are still going to stick it to me, with $50 fee for moving my service, $100 for the technician, and, I don't know, about 2 hours of my life on hold that I'm not getting back any time soon.

I shall probably write them a letter. Or better still, see if they have a complaints form online.

Coming up: about a fortnights backlog of whinge posts, including the impossibility of getting a computer to talk to a TV. So don't go away now...


Ivor Biggun

I'm still constantly beseiged by searches for people looking for "George Formby - Wanker Song" and variants on this, so I think it's finally time for me to let you out of your misery.

What you are actually looking for is a song released in the UK in 1979 by "Ivor Biggun". The 'official' title of the song was "The Winker's Song (misprint)" [sic] ([sic]) {([sic]}) etc. There are various myths and stories around this release, most of which can be found by googling (eg, the title/cover art was obscured because workers at the record packing factory refused to touch it otherwise, etc.). "Ivor Biggun" is still apparently alive and well, if you look for his home page. He achieved some fame as 'Doc Cox' on "That's Life", but unfortunately you are far too young to remember that.

Now please, stop bothering me about it. And you'll have to find your own links to it to actually find the thing.

Private Eye publishes untrue story

Sadly, this story is completely bogus. A quick google around for "Arnie Stevens pink" pulls up this link to an obvious fake news website. Although, it did seem to confuse these people for an unreasonably long time. Whatever happened to research (ie, going on the internet for two minutes)?


Whoever wins, we lose

I visited my local cinematheque this friday. My companion attended to the demands of micturation micturition, so I approached the kiosk to purchase the tickets.

The attendant looked me up and down, as if to fully gauge my qualities, and uttered the immortal line, "One for Alien Vs. Predator?".

I acted swiftly to disabuse him of this notion by requesting two tickets for an entirely different film, but I ask you, dear reader, was that a truly fair conclusion for him to jump to?


Well, which is it?

I have no internet and I must whinge

Got home last night to discover my DSL modem winking at me balefully. Hmm, on Monday I call the company to tell them that I'm moving and ask them to transfer the service to the new place next week; today I call them to discover that they've hacked off my service prematurely. Because, of course, just before moving is exactly the time when I could use connectivity most, to change contact details, book removals, and a hundred and one other things.

Which leaves me stranded, because, again of course, although Verizon can terminate my DSL in an instant, it is completely impossible for them to switch it back on again. Useless fools. This leaves with the possibility of trying to somehow hack my BEFW11S4 into letting me leech my neighbour's wireless connection. This appears to be impossible. Grrr.



Those Porter Goss anagrams in full:

GOP Tosser (R)
Rogers post
Toss groper
Ogre sports
R. stops Gore
Press: Go rot!
G. Ross Perot

OK, that's enough lame anagrams.


Head aches

In a groggy mood, time for me to record those vital snippets of mundanity that colour our life.

I'm finally done with reviewing papers for a database conference. In the last few months, I've reviewed almost 30 papers (22 between two PCs, plus about half dozen or so for other conferences and journals). Various guides suggest that, based on a principal of amortization, one should review 2-3 papers for each one that you write. Funnily enough, though, I haven't written 10 papers in the last couple of months--I've been too busy reviewing.

Oh well, I'll be moving soon, and the general disruption that this will cause means that I plan to avoid doing any reviewing, travelling, or work in general, while this is in progress. And, because of visa restrictions, I plan to be effectively unemployed during September, even though I'll still be receiving a salary. This is the rough equivalent of spending a year dead for tax purposes.

The joys of moving

I can set up my new phone line by going online, but to move my DSL service, I need to call them.

Expect more of this excitement in the next four weeks or so...


What's up with the Guardian?

Yes, I know it's only reprinting a PA feed, but you have to wonder why the following is news -- or even english:


As the interview neared its end, Emma began winding up Victor ... The cameras stopped rolling - and the pair launched into a ferocious slanging match, with Victor hurling insults at his arch-enemy. Presenter Dave Berry stepped in to try to calm things down. But then Emma lost the plot and tried to attack Victor.

Shall we play count the cliches / gratuitous coloquialisms there:

"winding up"
"cameras stopped rolling"
"slanging matching"
"hurling insults"
"calm things down"
and, most egregiously of all: "lost the plot".

[the remainder of the story is also, um, packed to the gills, with cliches, but at least that has the, uh, good grace, to be in the form of a direct (although, most likely made-up) quote].

Is this journalism? No.

Edit: and while we're on the subject, a Guardian report on HP4 still contains a number of glaring errors:

French actress Clemence Posey, [...] beat over 3,000 girls for the role of Cho Chang, a schoolgirl who catches Harry's eye.

Um, that would be Clemence Poesy as Fleur Delacour. The clue is, they are both French whereas Cho Chang... oh, never mind...


Friends in high places

Sometimes we all need a little bit of help from our Martian Buddy.

But anyway... the main reason for distracting myself from "the most violent game in the whole of history" (c) The Daily Mail, or somesuch, is to point out a clip from the Daily Show. As we all know, the Daily Show does give more insightful political analysis then any so-called "mainstream media", but this is particularly good: a complete dissection of the way that "talking points" manage to distort and bias media discussion of politics by consistent repetition of the same stock phrases.

Take a look [requires evil Real One software, but you'll survive].

Why is it that I think I'd quite like to attend a liberal hatefest? Hmm, must kill some more zombies. Brains... brains...