Brillante y fresco

Mmmmm. Xtra Sparkling Fresh liquid laundry detergent with color-safe bleach alternative smells just like SweeTarts.

[Interesting: Xtra is made by Church & Dwight, the company that makes Arm & Hammer. Their website (which is atrocious) doesn't list Xtra -- or many of the other products they make that are "off brands."]

Maybe she thinks they serve champagne

I’m watching “Airline” right now. Man, is there anything more fun than watching classless people whine, complain, and bitch at customer service personnel when their travel plans are messed up — especially when they themselves are at fault?
I just saw a scene where a woman named Bianca is complaining about her flight being cancelled. At first, she was making perfect sense:

You work for a full year, you work your ass off, and you’re missing one extra day of vacation. That’s a big deal.

Then she ruined it by saying:

Thank God I’m not middle class, but, you know, I can’t imagine if I was.

Honey, get over yourself. Upper class people do not fly on cheapo Southwest Airlines, mkay?
Later in the show, she’s back again, this time using BLEEP language and yelling at the BLEEP employees. She says:

I really don’t care at this point. Thank God I own my own [business], therefore I can take holiday whenever I want, I just can’t imagine for a middle class worker, what they would do.

I couldn’t quite tell what the bracketed word was, she was slurring a bit. Anyway, what is this bitches’ problem with the “middle class”? She’s pretty full of herself, this self-employed “upper class” harpy who’s flying the $99 airline. Maybe she should fork out a few more of those upper class bucks, stop complaining, and go down to another airline to get a flight.

Speak well of Speakeasy

It’s very rare — almost never, in fact — that I praise a company. It’s just that so many companies seem to treat their customers as if they’re simply an annoyance rather than their reason for existence.
By way of preface, here’s a bit of an article by Cory Doctorow talking a bit about how companies hobble their products:

I love the Internet because I can plug anything I want into it. No ISP tells me what computer I can use or what software it can run. Contrast that with the phone networks. Until 1968, it was illegal to even attach a non-Bell phone. Even today, phone companies charge for services like Caller ID. Imagine if your ISP charged you for seeing the “From” line in your e-mail.

Mobile-phone companies have inherited this arrogance, building their business models around nickel-and-diming customers. They sell you phones that can play musical ringtones and then force you to buy the song snippets you want to use, even if you already own the CD. They give you color screens for better gaming but charge you $7 for Tetris. They give you data but lock you into their Web browsers and charge you by the second to use them. Unlike my PC, there’s no freeware and no choice.

I have to differ with Cory on one important point: every ISP I have ever used was heavy-handed about what computer I could use (they always say they don’t support Macs) or what software I could use. The big broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon make it quite clear: you can’t use any server software on their networks, you can’t run a mail server or web server — in fact, they often block the ports. The terms of service from these companies are horrifying reading — almost anything you might want to do on the internet is a violation.
Anyway, the good news.
My soon-to-be-installed broadband connection comes from Speakeasy, whose terms of service quite sensibly (thank goodness) say:

Speakeasy believes in the right of the individual to publish information they feel is important to the world via the Internet. Unlike many ISP’s, Speakeasy allows customers to run servers (web, mail, etc.) over their Internet connections, use hubs, and share networks in multiple locations. Any service that causes a disruption in the network integrity of Speakeasy or its vendors, whether directly or indirectly, is strictly prohibited and could result in termination of service.

In other words, it’s a simple “do what you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else” admonition, something I wholeheartedly endorse.
In addition, Speakeasy not only allows you to share your broadband connection with your neighbors, they actually have a system that allows you to bill them!
Lastly, their website is fantastic. From the moment I ordered my new line, the website was set up with all the information I need: from my IP address to step-by-step updates on my order. It gives me complete up-to-date information on the status of my order in plain English, options to add or change features, real-time network status, and — get this — Mac-centric instructions and tips. These people not only support Macintosh, they put it first in their menus.
Here’s an example of the kind of information they give you. It’s what is on my order page today:

2005-01-31 09:00 AM
Your Speakeasy hardware has been shipped! To view shipment status, please visit www.ups.com/content/us/en/index.jsx and enter the following tracking number: [XXXXXXXXXXXXXX]

 2005-01-29 03:15 PM
COVAD: Telco Date set: 07-FEB-05 for order XXXXXXX

 2005-01-29 02:58 PM
FOC Received
We received a firm order commitment on 2005-01-29 14:58:41.0 from our vendor for the delivery of a new data line.

 2005-01-29 02:17 PM
Verify Address
The installation address for your order was verified on January 29, 2005 02:17:39 PM.

 2005-01-29 02:15 PM
COVAD: Order accepted for order XXXXXXX

Can you imagine getting that level of detail from, say, Verizon? Hell, you’d be on the phone for 3 hours before they’d even acknowledge you had an order.
And all this before my loop is even installed. I hope this bodes well — a company that puts the customer first. Amazing!
(Speakeasy has a customer referral program — if you should sign up for Speakeasy internet, please consider using me as a referral! Use the email address speakeasy at genecowan.com. Thanks!)

Still, no respect

Yup, CNN is right on top of the latest news:

EVEN in death, Rodney Dangerfield gets no respect. The late comedy legend’s longtime publicist, Kevin Sasaki, got a call from a booker at CNN last week asking him if “Rodney would be available to share his comments on the passing and legacy of Johnny Carson.” Sasaki replied that unless CNN had a new way of linking up to the afterlife via satellite, that would be impossible. Dangerfield, of course, passed away last October. Ironically, his new DVD set, “Rodney Dangerfield — The Ultimate No Respect Collection,” was posthumously released last month, and includes clips culled from his more than 70 appearances on “The Tonight Show.”

Roll your own

If you live in the DC metro area, you probably shout “amen” to my missives about motorcades, which have become an order of magnitude worse in the current administration.
Here’s another example of the unique relationship Republicans have to the law — you know, the way they think that they are above it?
This morning, in heavy traffic on a Potomac river bridge, I passed yet another SUV with a Bush bumper sticker. (They’re always SUVs, it seems.) Then suddenly, I heard a strange siren somewhere behind me. It sounded odd, not quite… “official.” I didn’t see anything, so I kept moving forward bit by bit with the traffic — and then a junky SUV pushed his way past the car beside me, followed by a banged up, nondescript beige sedan — looked like a Camry or Corolla — and then that Bush-boosting SUV. The lead SUV had one of those faux siren and light rigs in his front window, the kind you buy from specialty catalogs with the intent of impressing or intimidating other drivers.
I didn’t move over. My attitude to the whole thing was, “You have no power here! Be gone! Before someone drops a house on you.”
The lead guy turned off the lights and siren pretty quickly, he just used them to intimidate people into yielding to him on the bridge, but he didn’t get very far.
Around the corner, he and his two followers decided that they were in the wrong lane, and without the siren, they all crossed three lanes of traffic — at speed — and cut off all the other drivers to make it to the left lane… where they then stopped.
I went around them and continued on my way, alternately fuming and wondering why they were such idiots.
I often see large cars around here where the drivers have placed fake lights in the rear window — sometimes nothing more than red and blue cutouts that they think look like lights. I assume that they are either trying to intimidate other drivers, or convince police that they are comrades, thereby evading tickets. But this is the first time I’ve seen someone create their own motorcade.

Slob

One hour in my office, and I’ve already spilled coffee on my shirt.
A shirt, by the way, that used to be white with brown stripes; but this weekend I forgot and put it in the laundry with the whites, and now it’s white with red stripes.

This is why some people won’t believe that I am gay.

Straight Bashing

Couldn’t resist two more entries from this week’s Top Ten Conservative Idiots list:

The Family Research Council
So last week we noted James Dobson’s beef with SpongeBob SquarePants, and this week Margaret Spelling has joined the crusade against cartoon characters with loose morals. But Spelling and Dobson aren’t the only ones kicking up a stink – they’ve been joined by perennial conservative idiots the Family Research Council. And a tidbit in New Zealand’s National Business Review last week revealed just how far the FRC are willing to go to root out the gay agenda wherever it may be hiding. According to the Review, the FRC employs a “homosexuality detection expert.” That’s right – a homosexuality detection expert. And apparently this homosexuality detection expert told the New York Times that words such as “tolerance” and “diversity” are part of a “coded language that is regularly used by the homosexual community.” Wow. It appears that the FRC’s homosexuality detection expert is set to ultra-high sensitivity. Just out of interest, how does one get a job as a homosexuality detection expert? I mean, obviously you’re going to need two years experience and a degree from homosexuality detection college, but it’s not the kind of thing you see advertised every week in the jobs section.

UCO College
Here’s one more from the “Dumbass Gestures of the Silent Majority” files… the College Republicans of the University of Central Oklahoma have announced that they intend to hold “Straight Pride Week” on campus, which should be reassuring to all those poor, oppressed straight folks out there in Central Oklahoma who are feeling threatened by the heartland’s rising tide of gayness. “The general gist is that if you are a straight student on campus be proud, be loud, this is your time to shine,” said college Republican Kyle Houts. Uh, right. I think straight students probably do that every day of the week at UCO, don’t they? Or are they all hiding in their dorms, fearful of getting the shit kicked out of them by roving bands of hard-partying drunk-assed homosexuals?

Controlling the message

One thing the Bush administration has done quite well is controlling information — not only information going out to the public, but information going in to the president. After all, Bush doesn’t read newspapers or watch news broadcasts, he instead relies on his advisors to tell him that everything is sunny in America. And Iraq.
Anyway, it was only a matter of time before people started uncovering White House propaganda plans. First it was payola to reporters, and now:

Apparently the Bush administration isn’t just paying journalists to spout White House propaganda – they’re also planting journalists in press conferences to ask helpful questions. At a press conference last week, George W. Bush was happy to take a question from Jeff Gannon of “Talon News.” Gannon asked, “Senate Democratic leaders have painted a very bleak picture of the U.S. economy. Harry Reid was talking about soup lines. And Hillary Clinton was talking about the economy being on the verge of collapse. Yet in the same breath they say that Social Security is rock solid and there’s no crisis there. How are you going to work – you’ve said you are going to reach out to these people – how are you going to work with people who seem to have divorced themselves from reality?” Gee.. that sounds… fair and balanced. Rush Limbaugh was delighted to hear the question, saying on his radio show, “I said earlier today in the program, shortly after we began, that somebody in the White House press corps listens to this program. It is Jeff Gannon from Talon News.” No doubt Jeff Gannon does listen to Rush Limbaugh, since Gannon is a poster at Free Republic. As for “Talon News,” well, it consists of approximately two people – Gannon and Bobby Eberle, who is also the CEO of GOPUSA, a “conservative news, information, and design company dedicated to promoting conservative ideals.” Nice to know they have such easy access to White House press conferences, isn’t it?

The end of the minority

An example of how the Republicans have changed the rules to create their permanent majority, this one outlining the process of confirming judges. As we know, Democrats have been filibustering to keep certain extreme ideologues from taking the bench; the Republicans wring their hands and complain, even though the right did the same thing to Bill Clinton. Let’s see how they’ve changed the rules over time:

Originally, after Republicans gained control of the Senate in the 1994 elections and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch assumed control of the Judiciary Committee, the rule regarding judicial nominees was this: If a single senator from a nominee’s home state objected to (or “blue-slipped”) a nomination, it was dead. This rule made it easy for Republicans to obstruct Clinton’s nominees.

But in 2001, when a Republican became president, Hatch suddenly reversed course and decided that it should take objections from both home-state senators to block a nominee. That made it harder for Democrats to obstruct George W. Bush’s nominees.

In early 2003 Hatch went even further: Senatorial objections were merely advisory, he said. Even if both senators objected to a nomination, it could still go to the floor for a vote.

Finally, a few weeks later, yet another barrier was torn down: Hatch did away with “Rule IV,” which states that at least one member of the minority has to agree in order to end discussion about a nomination and move it out of committee.

These rule changes aren’t a direct explanation for every Democratic filibuster. In fact, some of the filibustered judges have been approved by both of their home-state senators, so they wouldn’t have been blue-slipped in any case.

But Democratic frustration is still understandable. For better or worse, the Senate has long been dominated by rules that give minorities considerable power over the legislative and appointment process. The usual justification for this is that it forces compromise and curbs extremism.

When Democrats were in the majority, Republicans defended these traditional Senate rules and used them freely to block judges they had strong objections to. But when they became the majority party themselves, they gradually decided the rules should no longer be allowed to get in the way of unbridled majority power. It was only after Democrats were left with no other way to object to activist judges that they resorted to their last remaining option: the filibuster.

Now, the Republicans are preparing to remove the ancient Senate rule allowing the filibuster, once and for all removing any protection for the minority. The beauty of our system is that the minority is always protected to some extent and has a voice, both in Congress and the citizenry at large. That aspect of our nation will soon disappear under Republican rule.

Given this history, fair-minded Republicans would be better advised to restore some of the rules they themselves once defended so fervently than to attempt to tear down the last one remaining. After all, no majority lasts forever. Legislators should keep in mind the question posed by Thomas More in “A Man for All Seasons” when his daughter’s suitor says he would cut down every last law to get at the Devil. “And when the last law was down,” More asks, “and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide?”

The gas stove treatment

So, last month I told you about weirdness with my clock radio — it had been set ahead by some mysterious force.
I decided that the culprit had a power outage at a specific time of day which would have resulted in the appearance of having been set ahead.
Well.
Tonight I climbed into bed at 9:30pm to discover that my clock thought it was 6:30am on March 3.
This begs explanation. First off, the minutes are right on time, but the hour has jumped 9 hours. I was home all day, and the power never went off — and no other electronics in the house have reset themselves.
This is bewildering and not a little disturbing.

Phun with Phones

The only way to learn is to do, right? That’s why I spend a decent chunk of my free time playing with my G5 and trying to learn new web stuff. The equivalent of the old days when I would take things apart to see how they worked, and try to put them together in a different way to make something new.
Today, I’ve been playing around with WAP and mobile phones, with the hope that eventually I’ll be able to have some ringtones for you guys to download. It turns out to be far more complicated than I had expected.
Nevertheless, I’ve created a few ringtones that you can download from your phone — I think. First off, you need an internet-enabled mobile phone. Second, it must support AMR ringtones — those are the kind that are sampled sounds, not the beep-beep-bloop type.
If you’re not faint of heart and want to try it, point your phone’s WAP browser to: wap.genecowan.com. Once you’re there, choose “ringtones” and try one.
They don’t sound all that great. For some reason, I can’t seem to create AMR files on the Mac, even though QuickTime exports AMR and they sound good… it just doesn’t get the file format right. I had to do them in Windows, and frankly, they sound crappy.
That’s what I’ve been wasting my Sunday on. You?

Maybe the cue cards were fuzzy

Meanwhile, the figurehead at the top of the conservative agenda continues to show that he’s the Oaf of Office:

President Bush tucked a rather startling revelation into the middle of his news conference Wednesday. Discussing the upcoming release of a budget for 2006, he vowed: “I’ll promote a package that will show the budget being cut in half over the next five years.”

One suspects that the president means he will be cutting the budget deficit in half over five years, and not that he will be halving everything from military spending to agriculture subsidies. But he made the mistake four times in the news conference, saying last year’s “projected budget” was $527 billion, that the actual “budget was $412 billion” and that this year’s “budget is projected to be at $427 billion.” In fact, the fiscal 2005 budget is forecast to be about $2.43 trillion — and nobody’s thinking about cutting that in half.

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: this guy ran every business he ever had into the ground. How the hell did he become president? He gives every appearance of being a person who doesn’t even know what a budget is, much less how your revenues should come at least close to paying for your expenditures.