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Archive for January, 2007

just accept the money!

January 31, 2007 Leave a comment

i just called cingular to dispute $170 worth of roaming charges on my bill. i definitely accrued some roaming charges – from the bahamas on my bachelor party weekend, but definitely not that much! it turns out that if you keep your phone on while you’re in a roaming area, cingular will charge you 1 minute each for all incoming calls AND 1 minute each for each call forwarded to voicemail. what?! i specifically called to find out about my phone and roaming before going on the trip, and was never told this. that’s why i specifically never picked up the phone and let it go to voicemail! i kept the phone on in case anyone called with an emergency.

so anyway, i called cingular to dispute the charge, and the person i spoke w/ was going to refund me about $54 for each call that i didn’t pick up and that went straight to voicemail – basically half the cost for all of the calls that went to VM. i said i was not happy w/ that and wanted more, but that’s all she could do. as i didn’t have patience to continue arguing today (on other days, maybe) i said that was fine. here’s where i should have kept my mouth shut:

cingular rep: please observe a moment of silence as i enter the data and refund into the system.

me: ok.

a moment later…

cingular rep: i’ve entered in the amount and you have a credit of $113 on your next billing cycle. do you have any questions?

me: yes – how did it go from a refund of $54 to $113?

cingular rep: …(silence)…

me: oh. no, i have no questions, thanks.

cingular rep: thank you for calling the new at&t.

i hope i didn’t get her reprimanded.

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Categories: misc.

cursing in the forums

January 27, 2007 Leave a comment

i don’t like policing forums or deleting comments, it kind of goes against the open nature of blogs. but i won’t keep comments that curse in an obnoxious manner or use racial epithets. so if anyone posts a comment and sees it gone, it’s most likely for that reason.

Categories: misc.

Ruby’s BBQ – delicious and organic!

January 11, 2007 Leave a comment

i’ve been in austin for several years, and though i still have not made it out to Salt Lick (i know, i know, i’ll get around to it soon), i’ve been eating a lot of bbq. and i love me some good bbq. nothing like a good briscuit sandwich. mmm… and so i realized yesterday when i got a sandwich at Ruby’s bbq, that i’ve never written about them. here’s the review: Ruby’s rocks.

the first time i went to Ruby’s, i wasn’t expecting anything in particular, just some bbq. i’d ridden by it on numerous occassions, but had never gone in. obviously at a certain point, you feel obligated to try something you see so often – plus the sign w/ the giant skull out front is awesome. so i went inside one day, looked at the menu, and was deciding on what to eat when i saw an info packet next to the register. Ruby’s serves B3R all-natural organic beef. end of story, i’m hooked. this is austin, so organic is expected in many places, but i never really expected to find organic bbq. i had the B3R bricuit sandwich (B3R has since been bought by Coleman Meats, who continues to raise all-natural beef), and it was fantastic. so good, in fact, that i rarely get anything else when i go to Ruby’s. i’m kind of like that – w/ a particular type of food or place, i stick to one dish. for instance, if i go to a standard Chinese restaurant – not one that i know is really good – i’ll always get chicken lo-mein. same w/ italian – unless this a good place, i’ll get chicken parmigiana. i love these dishes, and generally i’m pretty experimental w/ the types of foods i order. it’s really just chinese and italian – and now Ruby’s.

the decor is just how you expect a bbq joint to be. it’s an old house that’s slightly run down. outside painted all yellow, big steer skull on the roof, interior is all wood paneling, pictures of local blues and rock legeneds and signed notes cover the walls, random assortment of chairs and tables, beans cooking in a beat up pot behind the counter, and the best damn match books you’ve ever seen. i pick up a book of matches every time i’m in there, but i don’t smoke. i just like the way they look. there’s also a covered outdoor seating area where the wall is littered w/ ads for local shows. there’s a stage in the back, but i’m not sure it’s used. the smokehouse is also out back – everytime i drive or bike down guadalupe by 30th, i can smell Ruby’s and i start to salivate.

the sandwich comes on a seedless bun, brimming w/ cut briscuit, a paper cup filled w/ bbq sauce (enough to drench the sandwich), and a side of pickles and onions to add to the sandwich, all on a tray covered in a sheet of wax paper. i usually leave the onions out. you can order side dishes as well, but to me, it detracts from the delicious experience of that sandwich. the one thing i DO get, is a bottomless glass of RC Cola. now, to me, bbq doesn’t go w/ Coke. it goes w/ RC Cola. RC is sweeter, and somehow has that down-home feel that you just can’t get w/ one of the largest corporations in the world. call me crazy. anyway, that’s pretty much all i eat at Ruby’s, and i would do well to try out some other dishes one of these days, but until then, know that Ruby’s serves all-natural grass fed beef and they do it well. also check out the press page on Ruby’s website to see their numerous favorable reviews in the likes of NYTimes Style Magazine, Texas Monthly, Esquire, and others

Categories: Austin, food

obligatory iPhone worship

January 11, 2007 Leave a comment

so…everyone’s already written their lust-filled posts, and enough time has passed for people to even begin shredding the iPhone for things it doesn’t have. this thing comes so close to being everything to everyone, but ultimately doesn’t take the cake. for me it does – i would pick one of these things up in a heartbeat, but the price point is what kills me. $499 for a 4GB or $599 for an 8GB? no dice for me. my 40GB iPod is just about filled, so this replacement would have to at least come close to my current capacity before i’d think of switching. i completely understand the pricing, mind you – you’re getting a crapload of product for the price, and it really is justifiable. plus, 8GB is pretty much the limit that they could fit using the current flash memory – this is essentially an iPod nano plus. a year or two in the future, when v.2 iPhone (or Apple Phone?) comes out, w/ better battery, more storage, some upgrades (see my predictions below), and a few bugs worked out – then i’ll pick up my new toy.

people have also been crying about being locked into cingular. i’m a cingular customer already, so that’s not an issue for me. locking into one provider makes the most sense at launch – it’s easier to make a product for one standard (GSM+EDGE) rather than multiple networks, it makes the provider a lot more willing to hawk your product b/c they’ll get guaranteed revenue. (though i would jump networks just to get an iPhone – read techcrunch’s review of cellswapper, a service that allows you to trade your cell phone plan instead of paying cancellation fees).

ok, here are my questions on some of the features on iPhone and predictions on what future versions will incorporate:

  • TACTILE KEYBOARD FEEDBACK: a lot of people have complained that the touch screen keyboard will be difficult to get accustomed to, despite the apparently wonderful correction software built in for spelling mistakes. it would rock if future iPhones get some sort of force feedback built into the screen beneath the keys, so that you have some idea that you’re actually hitting a virtual key. this is my qualm w/ any touch screen device no matter it’s purpose – no tactile feedback. i’m sure that at some point this will be incorporated, it’s kind of a no-brainer when you think about the benefit it could have to a user interface.
  • iChat or Skype VOICE CALLS: will Apple create an upgrade to iChat so that it becomes more like Skype and allow voice calling across networks or out to regular mobile phone / land lines? will the iPhone eventually support Skype? we don’t know yet what type of software you’ll be able to load on the iPhone, so we’ll have to wait and see. my money would be against something like this, at least for the next 2 years while they’re locked into a deal w/ Cingular. why? any voice over wifi would detract from Cingular’s revenue, which is the only reason they’re supporting this in the first place. sure, you could Skype over Cingular’s data network, but that’s just stupid considering how slow it currently is, and how much money it would cost to use that over making calls on Cingular’s voice network. maybe once the iPhone is supported for all US networks they’ll support a feature like this, since they won’t feel the need to push business toward the provider.
  • NOTE-TAKING AND VOICE-RECORDING: the new version of Apple Mail in Leopard has some nice note-taking features built in. if you’re carrying around a device like the iPhone, you’d expect to be able to take notes on it. every PDA in existence has a feature like this. will the final release of iPhone have a note-taking feature that will sync to the new version of Apple Mail? it would make sense. it could also sync to Outlook notes. or even export it a text file, though that would be very un-Apple-like. there’s a keyboard on the device, and you carry it everywhere. notes are inevitable. on the flip-side of written notes, what about voice-notes? this is a phone, and many phones allow you to take voice notes. there’s a microphone – that’s all that’s necessary. surely it will be there, if not in the first release then in some software upgrade in the future (that’s the nice thing about the iPhone – you don’t necessarily need to upgrade to a new phone, you can just upgrade the software – automatically – when you sync the phone to your computer).
  • BATTERY: w/ the current iPhone providing 5 hrs of talk/video time and 16 hrs of audio, we’re going to need a better battery. i’m sure this is the best they could do w/ current technology, and it will only get better w/ future releases, but think about it: this is your phone we’re talking about here. it is totally unacceptable if your phone dies on you. if you listen to your iPod for a bit, your battery will be drained. then you talk for a bit, more drained juice. pretty soon, you’re going to have to recharge, and w/ all the features packed into the iPhone and the inevitable use of nearly all of these features w/in one day, you’d be lucky to make it one full work day w/o having to recharge. PLUS, what happens when the battery starts to degrade? this is a non-replaceable battery, just like in the iPods. surely 3rd party battery replacements w/ better battery life will sprout up, but that will kill the warranty. Apple will inevitably have a battery replacement service in place w/in a year, or there’ll be hell to pay. people will not pony up $499-599 for a device that lasts only one year. this is a high-end device, and it should last at least 2 yrs. 😉 seriously, i would require several chargers – one at work/school and one at home for this to be conceivable; my current iPod (granted it’s a 3G iPod) doesn’t last that long – maybe 5 hrs – so i keep a charger at school and at home. also, we haven’t heard what the battery life is when the phone is in standby. many phones get multiple days of battery w/o a charge when they’re in standby – how will the iPhone compare?

so there we are. my issues w/ and predictions for the iPhone. don’t listen to me, i’m not a tech-pundit – just a techie and Mac-fanboy. these are fairly legit, though. can’t wait to get my hands on one of these bad-boys, b/c it’ll stop me from talking about it to everyone i know. i went to a friend’s birthday party the night the iPhone was announced, just itching for somebody to share my enthusiasm. Cindy had listened to me covet this new gadget as much she could stand, but wouldn’t watch the movies depicting its awesomeness on the Apple website. my dad sounded interested, but was too sick w/ a virus to go watch it. my sister was too worried about breaking the touchscreen (but is willing to take a chance on the Treo touchscreen). my mom just flat out doesn’t understand this product at all and why it’s so great. she poo-pooed it, saying something else will come out 6 months later to grab attention away from the iPhone. i felt personally attacked by that remark. i tried to explain its benefits and its Apple ease-of-use, but it’s no use trying to get a non-techie excited about tech. especially one that has trouble using an iPod and a Mac (sorry Mom, but you were asking for that).

that leads me to a tangent on which i’ll end this post: older people and technology. granted there are a lot of older people (i’ll define older people as those, say, 45 and above) who have no problem w/ tech. hell – they’re the ones that invented all of it! and also, i have to accept that those of us that i must define as younger (based on the previous arbitrary definition of older) have generally grown up w/ tech, so it’s easy for us to be introduced to a new product on a frequent basis and learn how to use it. but as a general rule, if you accept that you are going to use a tool, you better learn how to use it. you don’t take a hammer and try to pound nails w/ the pointy nail-remover side. no – you learn that one side if for inserting nails and the other is for removing them. obviously that over-simplifies things, but the point remains. don’t get a computer to use email and type up word documents and spreadsheets if you aren’t going to learn to understand the machine (what a horrible waste of a machine if that’s all you use it for, but that’s beside the point). learn how to attach files to email! learn how to move files! keep your files organized just like you would in real life! understand the dangers of not running virus software if you’re on a PC. defrag your PC hard-drive on a regular basis when you are told that it will prolong the life of your drive and keep your machine speedy! know what a freakin pdf is! learn how to look through your emails for things someone sent you 2 weeks ago! don’t complain about spam, currently an evil that you can’t completely expunge, if you are willing to use email – but aren’t willing to accept advice on how to deal w/ it (say, for instance, switching to an email provider like Gmail that has such good spam filters that i only get a few a week, or installing a spam filter to your mail program)!

Categories: media, tech

best of craigslist: austin

January 4, 2007 Leave a comment

i wasted probably about 25 minutes today reading through some ‘best of’ austin craigslist posts.  here are some i’d like to share:

fuck you cell phone, fuck you lamppost.

pooping at work

why does this piss me off so much?  GET IT RIGHT… (i particularly liked this one)

7 out of 8 ain’t bad… 

Categories: Austin, haha, WTF?

funny (sometimes) short stories

January 4, 2007 Leave a comment

apparently this site was started by its author as a method of character development, and since evolved into a series of short stories (1000 words or less). i like it. the site layout and colors are nice, too.  and it seems to be a general rule throughout the internets that commenters are morons.  except those who post on my site.  only some of them are morons.

http://thethingswethink.wordpress.com/

Categories: creative, haha, web

Munich

January 4, 2007 Leave a comment

Munichlast night we decided to watch Munich, which i must have downloaded several months ago but have been waiting to watch since i didn’t have time for a movie. put it in my movie folder, fired up Front Row w/ my lovely Macbook remote (that’s got to be one of the best recent innovations in home computing) and sat back to enjoy the show. the first scene showed what appeared to be 2 sets of athletes trying to sneak in or out of the Olympic Village in Munich, who’s really to know. one group spoke Italian, the other group just kind of shrugged indicating that they didn’t understand the first group. the second group, though, was really a terrorist group who proceeded to kidnap and murder the Israeli athletes. we finally caught on to the fact that something wasn’t quite right with this movie when the scene jumped to people in Israel watching the events unfold on live TV – in Italian. there were no subtitles, but there is no way that it should have been Italian at this point. perhaps it was the Jewish community in Milan? fast forward a bit – still Italian. damn it! how long had i spent downloading an Italian version of Munich?! there definitely wasn’t any notification on the file that it was going to be Italian.

at that point I hopped in the car and drove to I Luv Video, the best video store in Austin, picked up a copy of Munich, and drove home. total time = 20 minutes. pop it in the dvd player (when was the last time i actually used that thing?) and get started. about 35 minutes into the movie, it seems to get stuck on one frame for a few seconds, and then jumps back to the beginning of the movie. we were just not meant to watch Munich, it seemed. i jumped back to the proper location and then scanned through the jumpy frames to get us back up and running. things are fine for about another 20 minutes, until this happens again and it goes back to a scene 10 minutes into the movie. damn it again! i pop out the dvd and see that it is completely smudged w/ fingerprints. bad I Luv Video! clean your discs! i clean the disc, pop it back in, and everything plays normally from that point to the end, though there were still points when video got all pixelated and discolored. the disc is most definitely not in good condition.

soooo, ultimately i saw the whole movie, which i found to be pretty good. i know there was uproar in the jewish community about this movie for the way it seemed to portray Israeli politically and military machinery as killers, and showed sympathy for the Palestinian killers and their cause. i had an argument with a family friend about it last summer – neither or us had watched the movie, but argued about the topic. it’s touchy – i agree that israel needs to generally be militarily aggressive in defending its borders as it is pretty much surrounded by hostile neighbors (though there may be uneasy truces with surrounding countries, there are terrorist organizations working within those countries that generally work uninhibited in their attacks against israel).

i think the lebanon war last summer was completely botched and too trigger happy – surely more behind the scenes negotiation could have occurred first. on the other hand, this is a terrorist organization backed by Syria that Lebanon has done nothing about. also, Hama continues to instigate violence against Israel when political cooperation would result in a Palestinian state. it’s a constant tit-for-tat struggle, but if Israel sat back and did not assert itself, then nobody would help them. political condemnation from the world community is rhetoric w/o any concrete actions to back it up (generally). how long did it take an international consortium to take over the southern border of Lebanon after the Israeli incursion? months. when we’re talking about securing a border that would otherwise continue to result in dead civilians and military, that is ridiculous.

what i think this movie helped to show was that both sides have legitimate claims, the issues are emotional, and that it is always imperative to question your actions. i think my favorite line in the movie was when the bomb-maker broke down and argues against continuing the assassinations: ‘We are supposed to be righteous. That’s a beautiful thing. And we’re losing it. If I lose that, that’s everything. That’s my soul.’

Categories: movies