Friday, July 22, 2011

It's Going to Get Hot in Philly

Here's a look at the hourly forecast for today, July 22, 2011 provided by

Is it strange that I'm actually excited about this? See, thanks to the overwhelming humidity, the heat index accompanying today's heat is supposed to reach 115 degrees, which would be the hottest outside temperature I will ever have encountered.

As a young lad in Boise, Idaho I once experienced the mercury rise to 111 degrees, tying the all-time Boise record set in 1960. But that was a typical Great Basin dry heat, with humidity in the 10-15% range. It was toasty, for sure, but bearable and also relieved nightly by the crisp interlude of the high desert night.

Philly's humidity today will range from 55 - 69% and temperatures will peak around 101-102 around the 4 o'clock hour for an insane heat index of 115. There will be no relief with darkness either. I plan to be outside for some or all of this phenomenon to get the most savage taste of suffocating heat seen this side of Libya.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Watch Out When Porting Service From T-Mobile (Evil Bastards)!

On June 15th I signed on with AT&T and joined the iPhone revolution. I had been with T-Mobile for over 2 years so I was now month-to-month and figured there would be no issues with letting AT&T do the dirty work of ending my relationship with T-Mobile (which in the end isn't really ending the relationship, since AT&T is buying T-Mobile).

So I was surprised today to receive a 'final' bill from T-Mobile for $85.14, which was about what I had been paying for a full month to cover the vestigial 6 days in June before I canceled by account. In the bill I found the following line item Monthly Recurring Charges explaining my debt to T-Mobile:

Partial monthly charge for G1 UNLDATA 400MSGS from 6/09/11 to 6/14/11 $5.00
Partial monthly charge for G1 UNLDATA 400MSGS from 6/15/11 to 6/15/11 $19.99
Partial monthly charge for myFaves 600 from 6/09/11 to 6/14/11 $10.00
Partial monthly charge for myFaves 600 from 6/15/11 to 6/15/11 $39.99

In plain English, T-Mobile recognizes the 6-days pro-rata usage in the billing cycle up to termination but is charging me the full monthly usage anyway as an 'F you' to send me out the door. Cue outrage!

I called the Customer Service Number immediately and was stonewalled by a powerless(?) peon named Meredith with vague allusions to the dreaded 'Ts and Cs' (terms and conditions) to which she asserted I'd agreed and that seemingly bound me to this full charge for monthly services upon termination of my account if I didn't call them myself to inform them of my intent to leave. She was certainly powerful enough to handle me.

Here's a look at the language (relevant bit highlighted in blue) I could find in the Terms and Conditions:

Somehow between when I signed up with T-Mobile in 2008 to now, the Ts & Cs changed from what I had originally agreed to: You will remain responsible for all fees and charges for your Service and usage through termination (T-Mobile Ts & Cs, 2008). Was the world a better a place in 2008? Because this seems fair to me. It honors 'termination' as the point ending usage and debt for said usage and just generally makes sense in the universally fair, pay for what you use doctrine. Apparently between then and now all that changed was T-Mobile found an avaricious lawyer to comb their Ts & Cs for loose language that could be keeping them from squeezing every last penny from their customers victims.

While the new clause is patently unfair, it doesn't exactly seem ironclad. The 'may' seems pretty squishy and 'may' be the loophole I use to fight back here if I hear back as promised from Meredith's manager 'Shannon.' Whom Meredith was quick to point out  was equally powerless and couldn't override charges I'd agreed to in the Ts & Cs. Otherwise, in the pretty standard lawerly-way that corporate Ts & Cs screw consumers, I'm limited to arbitration rather than court to settle disputes with T-Mobile.

In the end, all of this is a long-winded, ventilating way to say that I'm probably getting fucked out of $60 by T-Mobile. Not the end of the world, but it still really pisses me off. Imagine how much bad profit T-Mobile is making through this little clause change in aggregate. And what a backhanded and cowardly way for lawyer-driven companies to squeeze the common man out of a few more bucks. It really is outrageous.

I have faith that awareness helps, if I keep shining lights where the Man doesn't want people looking maybe I can keep the next guy from losing his $60. Then, maybe I can count that $60 as good karma in the bank and hope that companies reverse course on cloaking themselves in legal protection from their customers and don't do what's wrong just because they can and it earns them a few bucks in the short term. Hopefully this costs T-Mobile more customers than just this guy.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Ayn Rand - Atlas Shrugged

“[W]hen you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing; when you see that money is flowing to those who deal not in goods, but in favors; when you see that men get rich more easily by graft than by work, and your laws no longer protect you against them, but protect them against you . . you may know that your society is doomed.”

Monday, July 11, 2011

Skunks Redux

Man, a while ago I complained about never seeing a living skunk and I think in the cosmic view of things that was the wrong move. Karma and whatnot, 3 months go by and Saturday night I'm driving home from dinner out on the Eastern Shore and notice a flash of white and black scuttling through the grass in my peripheral view. Could have been a kitty right? I didn't think about it again as I let the 3 dogs out and settled onto the couch for a viewing of True Grit.

Eddy lets the dogs back in 5 minutes later and Brownie, the adopted Australian Shepherd we found cowering under the boxwoods in the summer of 2005, rolls in smelling like jet fuel. Only at a distance was the smell remotely skunkish in the familiar way of whizzing by roadkill on the freeway. Up close, it takes on a different character and the only adjectives that came to mind were powerful - nuclear, chemical, burning in the nostrils. It is truly overwhelming in the intimate encounter -- enough to reset the inner narrative and induce short-term amnesia.

Brownie was acting frantic too. Imagine an animal whose primary means of navigation in the world is the sense of small and the scale of the sensation for her must be something else. The only human parallel I could imagine would be the daze brought on by a flash bang grenade. Brownie was out of it, eyes rolling in her head and desperate whining for relief.

Smart phone technology brought up the usual list of treatments, including tomato juice bath, vinegar, dish detergent, and hydrogen peroxide. Having no tomato juice, we whipped up a bath of the former and shooed the dog outside where a garden hose was also brought to bear.

Not wanting to ruin my clothes I stripped down to my undies and we held and washed the dog outside with several good scrubbings with the mixture, interspersed with rinsing blasts from the hose. It worked quite well except for what skunk scent Brownie had already brought into the house lingered through the night.

Though maybe it was more us acclimating to the odor, as those from paper mill or refinery towns. This morning, Monday, Jill called me from the office to report that the first young patient in whose mouth she put her hands this morning initially recoiled with a gasp, choking out the question what's that smell? And that after about a dozen good latherings with various skunk-scent solvents.