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Archive for October, 2011

Edited to add that they did get here by 2:30 and had it up and running by 4:30. They stayed until they were sure that it was working, and went the extra mile to check connections outside the house and on the pole. Not that the pole is a mile from my house. I’m speaking figuratively. So this is why I’m never tempted to leave them. As much as we bicker, they usually work out any problems we have along the way. Funnily enough one of the installers was a trainee and when I brought up the bandwidth cap he said that they talked about it a lot in training class. It’s pretty much understood that most homes will exceed it in 5 years once they step up to the tech level we’re using and have more than 3 devices connected to the modem. The other, seasoned, installer said that when they first launched the cap there were no problems but now that more and more people use netflix and smart tv services like YouTube and Pandora they’ve had a lot of customers regularly exceeding. So they know it’s a problem.

I’ve been pretty happy with Comcast for, oh, like 15 years now. I’ve never been one of those who wants to switch to AT&T or Dish Network or whoever the trendy Other Woman is.

Until recently, that is.

See, Comcast is my Internet provider. About a year ago they announced a new “service” whereby they would monitor all their customer’s web usage, and kindly let us all know if we were approaching the cap they installed. When I spoke to a chatty dude in their sales department last year he told me that this was just something they were doing to crack down on pirates who downloaded illegal movies and music over torrents. Good, fine upstanding people like me didn’t have anything to worry about.

Except…not quite. Fine upstanding people like me watch a lot of Netflix, hang out on Facebook, have husbands who use VPN to access the home computer remotely, rent a lot of movies through Amazon On Demand and Cinema Now and iTunes, download a ton of podcasts and ebooks through Amazon and have a fairly forward-looking digital lifestyle. We are the customer of the 21st Century. And we are constantly hovering around the upper limit.

The thing is, unlike your cell phone company or your water company or gas or electric or any other utility, Comcast does not give you the option to pay more for using more. Instead they have a “three strikes and you’re out” policy. If you go over the cap more than three times in a one year period, they will terminate your service. So every month we hold our breath, checking the usage rate every day. I’ve watched tv shows and movies that we have on DVD about a million times, since we’re locked out of Netflix, and I’ve curtailed FB, blogging and any other thing that involves using Comcast’s bandwidth.

It’s sort of like saving for years to buy a speedboat and then having to row it everywhere because gas is rationed. Except that gas is actually NOT an unlimited, renewable, expandable resourse–unlike bandwidth. So I can more readily understand gas rationing. Arbitrary bandwidth rations are designed to keep customers from using Comcast’s facilities for competitors like Netflix and Amazon UnBox and iTunes. It’s a huge conflict of interest–they sell the bandwidth and they sell content. They’d rather not sell you extra bandwidth, and instead sell you OnDemand programming, which is a higher-profile, higher draw for them. Unfortunately, their shortsightedness means that OnDemand is nowhere near as reliable as those other service providers. We had to stop using Comcast for our video rentals when EVERY movie froze at some random point midway through. The “rent video, watch video, have video freeze, sit on hold with Comcast for 12 minutes until they ultimately tell you they can’t fix it and will refund the charge” cycle ruined more Saturday nights than a nine o’clock curfew.

So what’s a person to do? After a year of sending complaining letters, we finally got a call from Comcast saying that we could upgrade to Business Internet, which has a higher (no?) cap.* And so we paid for some dude to come out and switch the modem. That was a week ago. And we haven’t had decent internet service since, because the business modems have a built-in router that doesn’t allow for new ports to be opened because they disrupt the firewall. So our internet access works in spurts. And you can only have one thing connected at a time. So some guy is coming “between 8am and 7pm today” to give us our old modem back. We’ll still have the business account, though, so hopefully I can go back to watching Upstairs Downstairs via Netflix.** Until then I’m hanging around on a very thin thread, holding off on my meds so that I can be available whenever dude decides to come by.

*We found this out after a series of phone calls. During one phone call the Customer Service Rep said she’d have someone from business sales email my husband the information. She then asked for his email address. Yes. You read that right. Our internet service provider asked for our email address. When she was calling us in response to an email. From the email address on our Comcast account.

** If OnDemand REALLY wants to compete against Netflix, they’ve got to majorly expand their offerings. Right now, OnDemand is super big on showing the most recent four or six episodes of a show. But Netflix will offer every episode up to the current season so if there’s something you want to catch up with (Sons of Anarchy, Downton Abbey, Gossip Girl, Parenthood, Parks and Recreation, The IT Crowd) you have to do it on Netflix Streaming. Content-wise, I’d say that OnDemand has about 30% of what I’m looking for, whereas Netflix wavers between 60 and 85%. OnDemand seems mostly geared to those folks whose DVR didn’t record last week’s Ghost Hunters.

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Sunday was a “take meds and curl up with the colouring book” day. Thanks to the pain and the pain meds it was also a day where I wanted to have something without much substance to watch. Thankfully the entire Sister Wives reality show was available through Netflix and OnDemand.

Because of events in my own personal history I’m always fascinated with polygamy (More specifically: polygyny) as a social construct. How does sharing romantic, familial, financial and sexual attachments to one man affect the relationship between the women? Thankfully these fundamentalist Mormons* decided to celebrate the new American Dream and live their lives on television for my edification and their pocketbook.

I will warn you right now, however, that this is going to be a long post with a lot of opinions. It’ll go a bit past the 500 words and I’m putting in a jump. (more…)

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I had it all worked out. I’d go to Disney World on the big Anniversary Trip and then by the time I made it back home it’d be almost October. Then I’d be able to go online and for the first time ever, download the Harry Potter e-books.

Then I could spend October (and most likely November as well) re-reading Harry just like I used to. Without my ingenious Propping Up System, which looks like this from the side:

=/88

The “=” are the magazines I put in front to hold the pages, the “/”is the book leaning against the “88″ pillows. It’s sort of a lot of work for the gratification and is very prone to subsidance.

But then the people at Pottermore announced that the ebooks–which were my main concern–wouldn’t be ready until 2012. Which I suppose is what happens when you’re beta-testing not only the ebooks but an entire Second-Life style world. I have to be honest, though. I don’t care to play the Pottermore games at this point. I’ve had it up to here ::points to the middle of my stomach:: with paying real money to customise my avatar in whatever world and to stock my store or build my farm or my vineyard. All of those games are great and really okay for relieving stress but then they reach this tipping point where each one goes from a sandbox game to a “nag your friends for gifts” game. I’m not one to pester my friends for barn parts or wine bottling parts or whatever. I can just see Pottermore going down that same road. And I think to myself “you’re about 18 months late to capitalise on Social Gaming.” But whatever. To each her own. If that’s what some folks want to do, then great for them.

I just want the books.

I don’t want to wait for them to be perfecting the economics of Potion Class in Pottermore.

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Faceplant

I’m forcing myself to move in some new directions, seeing as how the old directions were leaving me mired in routine that went nowhere. As part of that I’m writing things I don’t normally write–flash fiction–and submitting to magazines. I sent my first project out for beta reads last night and so far the reactions have been both good and helpful. Which is the best scenario a person could ask for from beta readers. All that remains is to implement suggestions and clean the thing up before submitting. The absolute worst thing that could happen is that the piece doesn’t get published. And since it wasn’t getting published anyway by just sitting in my head or on my computer, I suppose that outcome isn’t going to kill me.

The funny thing is that this particular short story was meant as a one-off written as a favour to my mother. I get mired in writing novels and figured short stories were a good tool for honing certain skills. (hat tip to nm who suggested that in the first place.) But now a few of the beta readers have mentioned that they’d like more stories about the character and that world. So there may be a longer work after all. Heh.

Oh, yeah. My point (and I do have one) is that here I am, all proud of myself for getting it together and accomplishing goals right and left in spite of myself. I mean, I’ve cleaned my bathroom and my cluttered closet shelf and actually cooked a meal. In my new, edited, lifestyle these are all HUGE accomplishments equal in measure to a healthy person running a half marathon. And so of course I’ve gotten sick again with the turn of the weather and the coming of the rain.

It’s my thorn to deal with, a la Paul, and I guess I should just deal with it. But it’s so frustrating to be moving along and have your body say “not so fast, chief!” Argh. In fact I’m only writing this entry as an exercise in staying focused in spite of the thorn. That would be why this entry is sooooo whingingly awful but is written anyway.

I had better ideas for topics of conversation but my mind isn’t working at that level right now. I’d tell you what those ideas were, but then it’d be like one of my big annoyances with Oprah and Rush Limbaugh and Dave Ramsey. Years ago when I watched/listened to these programs they’d always promise to come back from commercial break with some really tantalising topic. And then they’d come back and forget to deliver on the promise. So I sat through irritating commercials for pawn shops and razor blades waiting to hear the husband’s reaction to the wife’s disclosure or Rush’s takedown of Clinton’s policy or Dave’s tips on the best mortgage. And they never happened. So I try not to say “later in the week I’ll be writing about why Christians shouldn’t celebrate Thanksgiving” because chances are by the time later in the week rolls around I won’t care anymore.

…and that’s 516 words and I made it and I’m done. 34q∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞∞q89erl;f gporti]403958 ::wake me up for meals::

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Yesterday I got this friendly, helpful letter from my Trusted Neighbourhood Pharmacists. They just wanted to let me know that there is a group running an RA drug trial in which I might be interested.

Now, I’m very open on here about having RA/Inflammatory Arthritis. But I can state with relative certainty that the staff at my Walgreens Pharmacy aren’t reading my blog. And I’ve filled thousands of prescriptions in my life. Not one of them has ever said “I, Dr. Suchandanother, am giving this patient this medication because she has Blank Illness.”

The only conclusion I can draw is that Walgreens has looked at my medications–all of which are generic and prescribed for multiple ailments–and decided that the odds are high that I have RA. And that I might, therefore, be interested in drug trials.

To be honest, I’m not quite sure how I feel about this development. After all, it’s not the end of the world if the pharmacist knows for which disease she is filling scrips. But at the same time, I feel squicky about this as a demonstration of the use of computers for data-mining and backending into conclusions about things that are personal.

We have HIPAA regulations to protect privacy. That’s why doctors DON’T write diagnoses on prescriptions. And this nifty trick seems like a fine way for a mega-corporation like Walgreens to circumvent the letter of the HIPAA regs and violate the spirit of them.

It may not seem like a big deal now, but in my mind it sets a grim precedent. Imagine a few years down the line when Amazon uses their algorithims on your book-buying history to determine that you are into some sort of fetish, and that information is pooled with your credit card company (the credit card you used to buy the books) and is available on your credit report and keeps you from getting a job as a school teacher because the background check red flags you as a person who likes Japanese Tentacle Porn. Or, better yet, instead of being into Japanese Tentacle Porn the book history reveals that you are most likely a Christian and you are denied the teaching job in the public school system because they won’t hire Christians.

Or whatever. The bottom line is that databases destroy privacy when cross-checked. And sometimes your privacy is all that stands between you and your greatest vulnerability.*

—-
*For the record, this is exactly why I strive to be as open as possible. By keeping things private you create tools that can be used against you. It’s also part of why I strive to live a life that doesn’t require any sort of hiding. If you’ve got nothing to hide, you are much more difficult to destroy. Nevertheless, I don’t like outsiders forcing personal transparancy on the public.

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With the earlier-today discussions of Jane Austen burning holes in my brain, and little to nothing available on the TiVo* for solo viewing, I decided to watch Mansfield Park on OnDemand. I figure if Janet Szabo digs on them, then maybe I will too. After all, I DO like the Pride & Prejudice movie. Then again, maybe I just like Colin Firth.

Oh. Right… So I’m watching Mansfield Park and there’s this Figger O’ Fun in the form of the Matriarch of the family. She’s “always suffering from some fatigue brought on by embroidering something ugly” and downing draughts of laudanum. The screenwriter–playing off Austen, I assume–portrays Mama as a bit of comic relief. “Look at the lazy druggie who’s checked out of everything except her dogs!”

That business with the laudanum made me flash forward to a movie I’ve seen approximately 1,000 times. Even though most of those viewings were down to my Doc Holliday fascination and my awe at Val Kilmer’s interpretation of the deadly dentist, I remember well the second Mrs. Earp, the erstwhile prostitute thrown over for Dana Delaney. Maddie Earp was another laudanum-swiller who in real life complained of headaches, body pains and fatigue. And she’s yet another woman conscripted by popular culture to the role of Useless Drug Addict.

There are other stories from the annals of history–both fictional and factual–that depict such women. More often than not they are either jokes or footnotes. Just another hophead addicted to opium. Oh, those wretched souls.

For years I went along with the party line, and every time I came across these dames in my reading it was always with the assumption that yes, they were probably just addicts and malingerers. And then, ha ha. Here I am. In constant pain, suffering some fatigue brought on by writing something useless or knitting something ugly. Here I am, taking opiod pain relievers on a daily basis to enable baseline functioning. Here I am with several demonstrable diseases, viewable on X-rays, under microscopes and through the lens of a surgeon’s fibre-optics. I’ve got a valid, legitimate illness no less real than cowboys’ bullet wounds or whatever ailments struck the Ton in the early 1800s.

How many of these women known to Austen, to Dickens, to Collins and others were less malingerers and more truly ill? How often did these women suffer the loneliness and despair of living the ghost life of chronic pain? I have the internet to keep me in daily contact with other sufferers around the world. We bolster one another. In drawing rooms of English Manors and hovels and saloon hotels there was no such luck. There was only laudanum and liquor and, if you were lucky, a dog.

So how far back does invisible disability stretch? And how far forward does the prejudice (“they’re just lazy junkies!”) extend?

I’m curious about the first answer. I dread the second.


*For Jason especially….finally fixing my hanging asterisk with regard to TiVo. Yes, we still have the original TiVo. With any luck we’ll never switch to an off-brand DVR. I’ve seen the ones that come with cable packages and satellite dishes and they’re all one version of yuck or another. The programming software is Betamax-clunky and there is ALWAYS a split-second delay noticeable to any real TiVo user that comes from the viewer accessing data housed remotely. I hate it. So when I say TiVo, I MEAN TiVo. The actual, totally real thing.

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I have long harboured a raging contempt for Jane Austen novels. While I appreciate that they have a certain humour and plot structure to recommend them I just cannot get past the fact that they are peopled with folks who have no concerns other than finding the socially and economically “right” marriage. Oh, sure, there’s the occasional parson or schoolmaster who serves as a figure of fun and/or a match for one of the secondary characters. But the bulk of folks in what I have now discovered is called “Regency Romance” are members of the upper classes to whom jobs are an anathema.*

I blame my upbringing, really. And it’s ironic because both my sister and mother enjoy Austen immensely. But I just find the whole “I have to find a rich husband” thing kind of off-putting.

So imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying a Regency Romance this weekend.

I came upon Georgette Heyer accidentally. She was an author who had been published in the mainstream, her books were inexpensive ($1.99) on the Kindle and highly-rated. Since they were written in the 1940s I assumed they’d be about the Edwardian era, kind of like Downton Abbey. Ooops. Apparently Heyer is a queen of Regency Romances and her books, although written well after Austen are direct descendents of dear Jane’s style and themes. I decided to stick with Grand Sophy, in part because I like stories about iconoclastic females who shake up society and in part to see if my antipathy for Regencies was an Austen thing or a Genre thing.

I now think that it’s probably a bit of both. I enjoyed Heyer far more than Austen. The story I read seemed more designed for pure entertainment and less about making statements. Austen was cranking her stuff out at the height of the Victorian empire, when class distinctions were very rigid and England was the ruler on which the sun never set. Heyer, on the other hand, was sending her stories into the Blitz.** She said in one interview that her books were meant as an escape for people to read in bomb shelters–and read them they did.

I don’t think Heyer will turn me into an unabashed fan of Regency Romances. I may read the other book (Cotillion) of hers that I bought in my ignorance, but I’m in no hurry. But I do appreciate that she’s cemented in me the knowledge that I don’t like Austen for Austen’s sake. If YOU do, that’s fine. You’re not any sort of bad person. I mean, I don’t like peas either. Or meatloaf. It’s just a personal taste thing.


*This isn’t strictly part of today’s post as far as themes go, but it’s stuck in my brain so I think I’d do better to get it out there now. I have a theory that the growing popularity of YA novels is based on the same need in readers as the Regency Romance. Because today’s teenagers are in many ways our version of the idle rich. Sure there YA novels that address “real” issues like getting into college, being in love with the “wrong” person, having cancer at a young age, etc. But many of the more popular ones feature kids with a credit card bestowed on them by their Disappearing Parent and a lot of beach parties, cookouts, proms and other amusements. People whose method of reading-escape entails focusing on a whirl of gaiety are drawn to such stories.

**I read several reviews of The Postmistress last year when it was one of the Hyped Books of the summer. I was floored by how many grown women mentioned that until reading that book they had no idea about The Battle of Britain. I could understand if it were a WWII event more removed from our cultural consciousness–a lot of the South Pacific battles and social upheavals don’t register–but this is the freakin’ Battle of Britain. For crying out loud, it even figures in the Chronicles of Narnia. It comes up in high school history class. Or it damn well ought to. I’m stymied at the level of ignorance.

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Real Women…

Jill left a comment on my blog last week that I’ve been thinking a lot about since then. She’s a person who describes herself as “skinny” and who feels as much irritation from things like “Real Women Have Curves” as I feel about the whole pressure against the overweight.

She’s not wrong.

It does bother me that in trying to reclaim some ground of confidence for ourselves that Rubenesque women have turned around and disenfranchised anyone else not like them. It stunned me to realise that the Fat Acceptance* movement has become a carbon copy of the mainstream feminist movement.

I left mainstream feminism when I realised there was no place for anyone who thought anything different than the Main Ideology. If, like me, you don’t mind if some women choose to stay home with their children, choose to wear makeup, etc., Feminism as an organised movement wasn’t behind you. As much as the party line is about Pro-Choice it often seems to mean “Pro the Choices we have pre-approved.”

And now, it seems, those of us who work for Fat Acceptance* are adopting the same attitude. We are railroading over any woman who doesn’t “have curves”.

Truth be told, I think I’m too much of an individualist for any of these group models. I would personally prefer that we treat every person with kindness and respect, irregardless of their weight, gender, job choice or use of horrible grammatical lapses like the nonword “irregardless”.

(*I hate this term. I would prefer “Human” or “Self” acceptance because our whole thing is about seeing fat people as worthy human beings who are more than just “fat.” And then we turn around and call our movement “fat acceptance” like all we expect people to accept is the Fat. Dumb.)

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So my smallish, newish dog likes to lay around with his junk hanging out. And since he’s on his back, if his unnaturally long legs are relaxed at all, it always looks kinda like he’s pointing at his penis. After looking at this sight for about 4 hours on a really long car trip I made up a song* about it.

I am Gobie
This is my ween!
We say “Hello!
How have you been?”

Of course, you kind of have to fudge on “been” to make it sort of rhyme with “ween”, but it works insofar as you’d expect a singsongy chant about your dog’s Johnthomas to work.

One of the negative side effects of this song is that now whenever someone politely asks either my husband or I “How have [we] been?” it makes us crack up.

But now there is another negative side. Because there is apparently a new holiday where we Christians try to “take back” a holiday that’s basically ours in the first place. That new holiday?

Jesus Ween.

You can imagine why I have trouble with not cracking up at this. And when I’m not cracking up I’m busy rolling my eyes because the actual word SHOULD BE JESUSEEN. The “w” in Halloween comes from the word Hallow. Since Jesus is not spelled Jesusw, this whole Jesus Ween is ridiculous on yet ANOTHER level.

Oh well.

(Hat tip on this goes to Aunt B., who saw it first and thought the same thing I did.)

*(I make up songs about a lot of things. I’m told by many who are close to me that the character Zooey Deschanel plays on New Girl reminds them of me. Is this a good thing? Hmmmm.)

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I’m sitting in front of my iMac. The ringer on my iPhone is turned to Vibrate so that the theme from How The West Was Won doesn’t distract me while I’m writing. Or Elvis’ “Burning Love”–which is what would ring if my husband called from his job. He works for a company that makes iPhone and iPad accessories. He gets to and from that job in a car with an Apple sticker on it. (That’s the only bumper sticker he’ll allow on our car–ever.)

There isn’t a corner of my life that Steve Jobs hasn’t touched in some roundabout way.

Sometimes I wondered if he wasn’t an alien or someone who came through the Stargate because he impacted the world in a cuckoobananas crazybig way. I smile at people in the grocery store hoping that a bit of kindness will blunt the edges of their world. That’s my version of “impact”, and it makes me feel like a pinch of fines next to the meteor that was Steve Jobs.

And so here I am, writing a sort of eulogy for a person I never met. A person whom I’ll nevertheless miss terribly. I suppose, though, that as long as I listen to music on my iPod and write novels on my iMac and watch movies on the Mac Mini hooked up to my TV some small part of Jobs lives on.

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