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r_ness August 26 2014, 21:10

The utility slammers have come around again.

To be fair, these guys were from a different outfit, Spark Energy. Yelp shows many bad reviews.

"No, I don't want to show you my bill."

"Take us off your list. We're not interested."

I'm just wondering if we're going to have to deal with unwelcome visits from each and every random utility provider who enters the market. This is irritating.
digitalemur August 25 2014, 14:37

He Will My Shield and Portion Be is up!

Episode 50 is up! Theme this month is "The Soldiering Life."

Here's my story, He Will My Shield And Portion Be.

Here are author's notes and summary for my story. I'm really really excited to talk about this story, folks, so if you're interested, well, please do read.

Please be warned that as always, S2B2 involves menfolk getting it on in explicit detail. I was so proud of my two when they finally got down to it. Good job, airmen!

I found this story on Slate last night, and no, while there are resemblances, I did not know about this when I was writing. (Or if I did, I had forgotten.) I bawled. And now I want to write about that road trip.

There's also a one-year-later update about the couple from the Slate article. Progress is slow, in families and societies.
r_ness August 21 2014, 21:22

"Two hundred years ago today..."

I've noticed these last couple of years that coverage of the War of 1812 has been almost nonexistent south of the US-Canada border. Ontario in particular and Canada in general have paid a lot more attention to the anniversary, which makes lots of sense given how important the war was for Canada.

Until today, I only noticed two commemorations in the States: one in Maryland, which is celebrating the bicentennial of the bombardment of Fort McHenry and the composition of the national anthem; and the other in Alexandria, which is celebrating the landing and withdrawal of British troops.

However, this afternoon NPR came through. They did a segment on the burning of Washington, complete with a reporter embedded with the British forces, and analysis by E. J. Dionne and David Brooks. Still nothing like what the CBC's done to commemorate the war, but cute.

ETA: For some reason the CBC content isn't available outside Canada, but using the Hola proxy might work.
digitalemur August 20 2014, 21:36

1998 - Fade to Grey

This song was my spring of 1998.

Earlier today, ladysisyphus quipped on twitter that her Jars of Clay cover band would be called Markan Supremacy and the Two-Source Hypothesis.

I guffawed at the biblical studies joke, and then got to thinking about Jars of Clay. By the time I'd responded, I really, REALLY needed to listen to the song linked above.

I'd gotten into Jars of Clay as a high schooler a little bit, because a friend from camp, who was also my prom date, was into them. I want to point out that he was an agnostic child of fairly hippie parents, which was unusual at the time even in Kent, Ohio, and he and his best friend were really into "Flood" when it came out. They had the eponymous album and had us all listening to it when we got together on school breaks. Which we did, because we didn't have the internet so much yet, and geek camp kids like us got their parents to drive them up for slumber parties over the holidays. Man, we had such patient parents. Then again, I think my parents felt that a herd of smart kids taking over their living room and jamming on the piano was a fairly awesome thing. One kid would play laying under it, and he could play improvised variations on Mary had a Little Lamb that were amazing and funny, WHILE playing from the floor.

Anyway. So fast forward to 1998, when I was a struggling junior in college, with a horrible crush on a young man whose spiritual crises were entirely different from mine, but dovetailed into this horrible emo dramatic mess that spiraled out of control as the summer and fall wore on. The album Much Afraid actually came out in 1997, but by spring 1998, this was on my CD player all the damn time. This song, "Fade to Grey," caught me immediately: that opening loop with the fuzzy phaser circuit effect on it still gets me immediately. I listened to it over and over and over, an hour or more at a time. I listened while I studied for finals, liked my library job better than biochemistry, worried about how badly I was doing in my major, considered taking some religious studies classes, and got ready for my first summer research job. We were all struggling with sexuality and faith, but I was so defensive I had trouble explaining a lot of things to anyone else, or even giving them the opportunity to listen. (Even though I never shut up.)

All the details of the hookup drama we were having came out over Dead Week (between finals and graduation). I remember finding out, being angry and sad and confused as hell, and joining friends from band for the season finale of some show about a girl who slayed vampires, and how she ended up--spoilers!--turning her vampire boyfriend good again but having to kill him. I bawled at this show I had never seen before. Later that week I remember me and junior crush and one of the other girls he'd been messing about with, whom I sorta-kinda had a bit of a crush on myself, moving his couch from his senior dorm room to her new apartment and taking a break on it right there on the sidewalk between Branford and JE. We were working together and giving each other shit like friends, even though we were all wrapped up in so much pain. I remember that the other girl junior crush had been messing around with had just started dating another woman in our crowd, and how terrifically adorable they were. I remember another friend, an ex-boyfriend in fact, crying on my shoulder over a horrible breakup at a crazy birthday-party-cum-band-party. Then I went home for a week or two, to see my high school prom date get married, very young, to his college sweetheart, while his best bud from high school looked on with _his_ young wife and child. I still don't understand how we packed that much angst in: I do remember sleeping, though it seems like we wouldn't have had the time.

Today, I remembered this song and had to hear it again. One listen turned into two, three, four, five, listening to other tracks from the album on YouTube, coming back to listen to this one, over, and over, and over. We're in such different places. Prom date split up with his college sweetheart and remarried to a very nice lady (from what I can tell on Facebook) and is still in Ohio. Junior year crush has an amazing wife and two gorgeous little boys in London and we've worried about him over the years as his work took him to some dangerous places. Of the other two women in the drama, one is now a religious studies prof in the Carolinas with a marvelous girlfriend who joins us to dance like maniacs and throw back the bourbon at reunions. I ended up being my kinda-sorta-crush-friend's maid of honor when she ended up marrying my ex-boyfriend who had been crying on my shoulder at that party (and yes, junior year crush was his best man), and they have two beautiful kids and live in Alabama. That couch had its legs sawed off when kinda-sorta-crush-friend and I moved to a sublet together the following summer and had trouble fitting it in the door, it was the couch from which we binge-watched more Buffy on the hottest days of the year, and it was later abandoned on Old Campus with a sign saying "COUCH, HOUSE TRAINED, FREE TO GOOD HOME." We've gone through fallings-out and reconnections, we've all changed how we describe our beliefs, religious and otherwise, and we've taken up professions we only had faint inklings of at the time.

What a difference 16 years makes, but what little difference it makes at all.
r_ness August 16 2014, 10:39

No subject

One issue I have with the proliferation of services payable via mobile phone is that I'm never sure if they'll work with my provider. This is a particular problem when I'm outside the country where my postpaid provider lives.

If I'm standing in front of a parking sign that says I can pay by mobile, is that still true if my phone doesn't have service from any local provider? Or is it still true if my phone has prepaid service from a local provider? How do I know? Who do I ask?

That last question is the hardest part, because the customer service lines provided generally don't know what to do with foreign phones. Often they tell you to go ask someone else, like your phone provider, who is likely to know even less about some random local service in a country they don't even operate in.

None of this is what you want to deal with when all you want to do is board a bus, make sure you don't get a parking ticket, or even just get a can of drink from a vending machine. So far I've just given up and used cash or some other form of payment, but this may not work forever as many of these services find payment by mobile phone a cheaper alternative to other payment methods.

I wait for this to become seamless, but I expect I'll have a long wait.
r_ness August 13 2014, 06:50

No subject

Not long ago, some wit remarked that the difference between a nuclear reactor and a bomb was the presence of an effective moderator, and that the same thing applied to comment threads.

I wish I could find it because it was said more elegantly than I just have.
r_ness August 13 2014, 05:53

This looks to be a problem for any new casinos in the Northeast.

A NYTimes story "Albany Doubling Down as Casino Boom Fades", Sunday, August 10th:
New York State is charging headlong into the casino business, with four full-service gambling resorts expected to be approved this fall and opened as early as next year, and talk of a torrent of new revenue, thousands of new jobs and a powerful economic jump-start for long-depressed upstate communities.

Supporters of the expansion — most notably Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo — hope it will reverse the fortunes of economically stagnating regions like the Catskills, where little has filled the void left by the demise of the borscht belt.

But analysts, economists and casino operators warn that the industry is already suffering the effects of fierce competition, if not saturation, even in the Northeast, once a rich, untapped market. Winnings are flat or shrinking in many places. Casinos in Atlantic City are closing; Foxwoods, in Connecticut, is cutting costs. The longstanding image of gambling as a no-doubt winner for state governments has quietly gone the way of a bettor’s bankroll after too many hours at the tables.

None of which bodes well for the long-term goals of Mr. Cuomo’s plan.

“He’s 15 years too late to the party,” said Harold L. Vogel, a longtime gambling industry analyst.

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And some neighboring states are having second thoughts about the whole business. In Massachusetts, voters will decide in November whether to repeal a 2011 law that legalized casinos there.

...

In June, regulators in Massachusetts approved an $800 million casino in Springfield, a battered city where tourist traffic until now has mainly been headed for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Barring a repeal of the gambling law, the first slot parlor in the state, south of Boston, is expected to open by next summer.
I keep saying that there's a big first-mover advantage in opening a casino. But Massachusetts and New York seem really intent on finding this out the hard way.

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