Engage Indignant Fury

Dialed 800-528-4800 for American Express and spoke to Ash (ID#: 52899) about our account because I noticed finance charges in the hundreds.

Apparently, missing the payment deadline in January jumped our interest up from a 0% APR to _29.24%_.

Oh noes!

moar humorous pics

Engage indignant fury. Asked Ash to reverse it.

Hold music. Was told that he could submit a request to review the situation. Asked why we didn’t pay the bill on time last month.

Because your friggin’ website doesn’t have automatic bill pay.

Actually, we do offer electronic funds transfer by phone and online.

Yeah, I know: the EFT by phone costs $30, and the website is still not an automatic bill pay, right?


It’s not _scheduled_ bill payment, right?

Oh, yes, you’re right; will note on the account. Should hear back about the resolution and reversal of charges (if approved) in one to two billing cycles.

Can also note that we set up bill payment through our _own_ bank and you’ll receive payment in-full, on-time going forward.

Okay, sure.


Didn’t ask if it’s the 21st century and maybe have you heard of this thing called the internet?

Didn’t explain that every other bank we’ve had in the last five years has auto billpay, because at the end of the day, all I really want to do is just send you my money, will you please just let me send you my money?

Didn’t imply that an institution founded in 1850 might have the dignity of notifying customers of such a drastic account change and will you maybe consider the impact this might have on your brand?

Nope, saving that material for another round in four to eight weeks.

Garrison Keillor on Quitting

Worth sharing:

They voted ten to four not to do the senior class play, which went against everything they’ve been brought up with: never to quit, never to quit. Never, ever give up.

And they found out then, the reason you should never quit or give up is because when you do, it won’t make that big a difference to people. *They won’t notice.* You think it’s going to be a scandal, and it’s not.

You’ll come home early from school for three or four days before your parents say, “weren’t you in a play?” And you say, “oh well, it was canceled.” And they’ll say, “oh.” That’s all.

That’s all the world says when you quit, when you give it up: “oh.” That’s all you get.

Hear it around minute 14 here:


Good Coffee, Strong Coffee

Sometimes, it’s like this:

People in this town drink too much
coffee. They’re jumpy all the time. You
see them drinking out of their big plastic
mugs while they’re driving. They cut in
front of you, they steal your parking places.
Teenagers in the cemeteries knocking over
tombstones are slurping café au lait.
Recycling men hanging onto their trucks are
sipping espresso. Dogcatchers running down
the street with their nets are savoring
their cups of mocha java. The holdup man
entering a convenience store first pours
himself a nice warm cup of coffee. Down
the funeral parlor driveway a boy on a
skateboard is spilling his. They’re so
serious about their coffee, it’s all they
can think about, nothing else matters.
Everyone’s wide awake but looks incredibly

— “A New Lifestyle” by ??James Tate??

Hear ??Garrison Keillor?? “read it here”:http://writersalmanac.publicradio.org/programs/2007/02/26/. Reprinted in anticipation of a cease & desist from the publisher.

Podcast Beta

Okay, it might not be called Ironworks Gang when it’s done (even if it would be a nice nod to Steve Gillmor), but here it is, the inaugural podcast. In this week’s episode I was joined by ??Tom Wilkinson??, the soon-to-be-famous movie writer/director, and ??Darin Pesnell??, soon-to-be-famous pastor. The model is this: get a bunch of smart people that I like to talk to on a “free conference call”:http://freeconferencecall.com/, gab about stuff that’s interesting to us for an hour, and call it a podcast. Here’s this week’s topics:

* “Open Secrets”:http://www.newyorker.com/printables/fact/070108fa_fact by ??Malcolm Gladwell??
* the “iPhone”:http://www.apple.com/iphone
* the upcoming “IAM conference”:http://iamny.org/
* “Wal-Mart Puts Some Muscle Behind Power-Sipping Bulbs”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/02/business/02bulb.html?ex=1325394000&en=7cdfdd70524b7590&ei=5088&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss (if that doesn’t work you can “read it here”:http://www.wkkf.org/default.aspx?tabid=94&CID=294&ItemID=5000466&NID=85&LanguageID=0)

Enjoy, let us know what you think, and leave a comment if you want to be on the next one! Oh, and special thanks to “Vessel”:http://brinkofski.com/vessel/ for use of their music.

On the Radar: Giving the blog some love again

* ??Mark Glaser?? for ??PBS??: “Should Community-Edited News Sites Pay Top Editors?”:http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2006/07/digging_deepershould_community.html (via “Digg”:http://digg.com/tech_news/Kevin_Rose_Responds_to_Jason_Calacanis_Rant_from_Netscape → “Kevin”:http://krose.typepad.com/kevinrose/2006/07/calacanis.html → “Jason”:http://www.calacanis.com/2006/07/25/kevin-rose-cracks-or-how-to-know-when-youve-won-the-debate/). Aside from the Digg vs. Netscape drama that’s been erupting over the past couple of weeks, Calacanis raises some interesting questions about how people in the *attention economy* are compensated for their time and hard work. The next 18 months as these two players in community-driven news hash it out should be really interesting.
* ??John Gruber??: “Magic 8-Ball Answers Your Questions Regarding Microsoft’s ‘Zune’”:http://daringfireball.net/2006/07/magic_8ball_zune. That 8-ball. He sure knows a lot about the *digital music* industry.
* ??NPR??: “Avoiding the Housing Market ‘Dead Zone'”:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5565128 and “Location, Location: What to Buy, and Where”:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5565119. The nesting instinct kicks in: these interviews were pretty insightful about the state of the housing market right now. Of course, there are derivations for where you are, but the overall buyer’s recommendation is to wait until some of the *already-present market pressures* (housing surplus, higher interest rates, and exotic mortgages held by peers) bring prices down — perhaps even way down.
* ??Everything Newark??: “‘Newark is an Emerging Market””:http://blog.newarker.info/2006/07/19/newark-is-an-emerging-market/. The ??New York Post??, of all places, has a practically beaming article about Newark’s comeback. Booker’s enthusiasm, that Newark is a place of *untapped potential*, hangs on the very critical results of his stopping crime in the city.
* ??Washington Post??: “Religious Left Gears Up to Face Right Counterpart”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/25/AR2006072500437.html (“via Digg”:http://digg.com/politics/Religious_Left_Gears_Up_To_Face_Right_Counterpart). Favorite quote: ‘I’m an evangelical Christian who thinks that justice is a biblical imperative,’ said Wallis. ‘The *monologue of the religious right* is finally over and a new dialogue has just begun.’ I really hope Wallis is right.
* ??The Motley Fool??: “Opportunity Knocking for Citigroup”:http://www.fool.com/news/commentary/2006/commentary06072514.htm. Citigroup may (or may not) be on the rise if the Fed stops raising interest rates to counteract inflation, which would be nice for shareholders given the “latest anxiety”:http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601103&sid=aWJ3CLLNPUp4&refer=us over rising costs. A thought for Mr. Prince: consumer banking is sucking wind because *the customer experience is just awful*. The ATMs are nice, and the marketing is fun, but customer service just pales in comparison to banks like Wachovia.
* ??37signals??: “Writing Words vs. Writing Software”:http://37signals.com/svn/archives2/writing_words_vs_writing_software.php. I love these guys: Everyone and his cousin is working on a web app. But how many are actually finishing? That’s why we argue for biting off less. Write a short story/small app instead of a novel/massive app. *Shrinking scope means you actually finish*. And finishing is huge. When you finish something, you show up. And, like Woody Allen said, ‘Eighty percent of success is showing up.’
* ??Rosecrans Baldwin?? for ??The Morning News??: “The Maine Attraction”:http://www.themorningnews.org/archives/the_nonexpert/the_maine_attraction.php. Never been, but this sure was funny: Crystal Meth is easier to obtain in rural Maine than it is back home. So are crystals, and posters of *wolves kissing dolphins* in outer space.
* ??Paul Ford?? for ??43folders??: “Are there ‘good’ distractions?”:http://www.43folders.com/2005/10/24/paul-ford-distractions/ Paul’s struggle between accomplishing something with his life vs. “swimming in a sea of data” really touched a chord. I’ll have more thoughts on this later, but, if you read only one of these linky-things, make it this one. When I’m not getting enough done I get unhappy and depressed and think about the billions of years I’ll be dead before the heat death of the universe erases everything. I want to feel like *I did something during my brief life* besides check my email.
* LAUNCHED: Sarah goes independent with “Side by Side Dog Training”:http://sidebysidetraining.com/. The quick-and-not-so-dirty site brought to you by the wonders of “WordPress”:http://wordpress.org, “Quilm”:http://oriol.f2o.org/qwilm-a-wordpress-theme/ theme, and the “DreamHost”:http://www.dreamhost.com/r.cgi?63570 “1-click install”:http://wiki.dreamhost.com/index.php/Goodies_Control_Panel#One-Click_Installs. Feel free to pass the site along to your friends with dogs — especially the ones that accessorize their dogs with *Louis Vuitton dog carriers and DKNY collars*.
* ??Jon Katz?? for ??Slate??: “The Loneliness of Rose”:http://www.slate.com/id/2146000/. Rose is not cute. She is a working dog, a farm dog. She herds sheep, keeps the donkeys apart from the other animals during graining, alerts me when lambs are born, watches my back when the ram is around. *She battles the donkeys*, the ewes who protect their lambs, and stray dogs who approach the farm. She and I take the sheep out to graze two or three times a day. On Sundays, we sometimes march the flock down to the Presbyterian Church to hear the organ music and present ourselves through the big windows. ‘Hey, Rose,’ the kids sometimes shout after the service is over. With Rose, we don’t need fences. As my friend Peter Hanks said, Rose is the fence.
* ??Washington Post??: “US waives sanctions on Saudi over religious rights”:http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/07/19/AR2006071901178.html (“via Angela”:http://hereisangela.com/2006/07/25/galatians-221-turbans-teaching-and-temperance/) The United States has extended a waiver that avoids imposing sanctions on Saudi Arabia because it has made efforts to *improve religious tolerance* in the kingdom, U.S. officials said on Wednesday. The US ignores the religious freedoms of millions to suck up to one of its few allies in the Middle East.
* ??New York Times??: “What Shamu Taught Me About a Happy Marriage”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/25/fashion/25love.html (via Angela over IM). If you read _two_ of these linky-things, make this the other one. 🙂 It was only a matter of time before he was again tearing around the house searching for his keys, at which point I said nothing and kept at what I was doing. It took a lot of discipline to maintain my calm, but results were immediate and stunning. His temper fell far shy of its usual pitch and then waned like a fast-moving storm. I felt as if *I should throw him a mackerel*. Incidentally, this is how Sarah trains Dina (and maybe me).

On the Radar: Linux, Chicago, Space Quest

* ??Overheard in New York??: “That Really Gets My Goat”:http://www.overheardinnewyork.com/archives/005665.html (“via Angela”:http://hereisangela.blogspot.com/2006/06/common-knowledge.html). That has got to be one of the funniest Overheard moments I’ve ever read.
* Google Maps “Send to Phone”:http://local.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=32461 and the “Firefox Extension”:http://www.google.com/tools/firefox/sendtophone/index.html. Send information (“even from maps”:http://www.flickr.com/photos/acmelab/120622272) to your phone directly from Google. This is freaking awesome.
* ??Mark Pilgrim??’s “recent declaration”:http://diveintomark.org/archives/2006/06/02/when-the-bough-breaks to switch to Linux has got me looking at playing with Linux again. I decided to skip the “Powerbook installation from hell”:http://joh.deworks.net/powerbook/ and just create a partition on my Thinkpad from work. Impressions coming soon, but, overall, “linux gives us the power we need to crush those who oppose us”:http://ubergeek.tv/article.php?pid=54.
* ??Dean Allen??: “Things That Happened”:http://www.cardigan.com/2001/03-18/. Dean Allen’s old Cardigan Industries blog, dead since 2001, still has a lot great entries, many of which are too dirty to highlight here. 😉
* ??Killing the Buddha??: “Jesus and I Broke Up”:http://www.killingthebuddha.com/confession/jesusandi.htm. I’m frighteningly single. At least once a week I hit the religion section of the local bookstore, pick up the first title that catches my eye and take it home. Rumi one night. Buddha the next. I know it sounds cheap, but each time I hope it’s love. It never is.
* Wikipedia: “Space Quest”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Space_Quest. My favorite video game growing up! Rumors are circulating that Sierra will be releasing a new compliation of these games come December, which is good because their 15^th^ anniversary game is now going for over $100 on eBay (it retailed at $40 a few years ago).
* ??Corissa Poley??: “Identity issues…continued”:http://cori.sojourn-of-grace.net/?p=90. Cori doesn’t exist — coulda fooled me.
* ??NPR??: “Life After Foster Care: A Tale of Two Boys”:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5443614http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5443614. These two kids — both 13 years old in 1994, both separated from their families, troubled and already acting up — told me with astonishing innocence and optimism about their lives in the group home and what their lives were like before they got there. I wondered what happened to them after that and what they made of their years in foster care.
* ??Eric Blair??: “Google Calendar and PHPiCalendar”:http://www.raoli.com/archives/2006/04/000561.php. The Village Church “calendar”:http://villagechurchnyc.com drama continues. My “brilliant idea”:http://kennsarah.net/2006/05/22/rethinking-the-tvc-calendar/ to use Google calendar has been working. I set up a cron job to pull in a file from Gcal, got the template to look right, uploaded the files, created a Gmail account, and created the events. All that, only to find that Gcal exports all events as “Private” even though they’re tagged as public. Here’s the part where I create a wonky “regular expression”:http://www.regular-expressions.info/ solution!
* ??Luckymonk??: “About the Luckymonk”:http://luckymonk.com/pages/contact. Best description of Chicago, ever. The second best was when I asked “Graeme”:http://www.myspace.com/graemehinde why he left Chicago to move to New York. He said, “You know, after three years of dating a girl, that you’ve either got to marry her or break up? Well, I wasn’t ready to marry Chicago.”
* ??Angela Wu??: ” A religious exemption for same sex marriage”:http://hereisangela.blogspot.com/2006/06/religious-exemption-for-same-sex.html. Sarah and I have wondered at the whole “legislating morality” issue before, and there seem to be two prevailing conservative schools of thought. Sam recently “touched on”:http://www.villagechurchnyc.com/worship/sermons/series/mark/2006/06/the-end-of-the-world-is-near/ this in passing: let the civic leaders stave off the inevitable decline of society. Angela’s approach — let the country do what it wants but let the church preserve its identity (and, perhaps, clean up the mess) — is much more laissez faire. Which creates a more just society, and is that the point?

On the Radar: Apple Retail, Vendetta vs. Da Vinci, and WordPress Tweaks

* ??NorthJersey??: “Citigroup pulling plug on its AT&T Cash Rewards Card”:http://www.northjersey.com/page.php?qstr=eXJpcnk3ZjczN2Y3dnFlZUVFeXkyOSZmZ2JlbDdmN3ZxZWVFRXl5NjkzODY4NyZ5cmlyeTdmNzE3Zjd2cWVlRUV5eTI. Wow, directly relevant to a “brief conversation”:http://kennsarah.net/2006/05/20/on-the-radar-2/#comments about finances on this site, it looks like the AT&T card is now, officially, too good to be true.
* ??The New Yorker??: “Heaven Can Wait”:http://www.newyorker.com/critics/cinema/?060529crci_cinema (“via Alissa”:http://www.alissaclark.com/?p=324). Awesome, snarky review of the sucky Da Vinci code. It’s amazing that this movie has garnered such vilification. Is it because it’s ratio of quality to marketing dollars is so low?
* ??Wired Magazine??: “The Resurrection of Al Gore”:http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/14.05/gore.html. Funny, I just read an article in another magazine that said Al lost the election largely because his handlers told him to marginalize the environment — the one true issue that Gore is passionate about — in his platform against Bush. Yeah, I think if he sounded less like a robot, he would have scored some extra votes, but I don’t think Bush won the election on the basis of his personality. *Bonus*: out today, NPR takes a look at the art and science of Al Gore’s documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth”:http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5428154.
* ??Fortune Magazine??: “Real Estate Survival Guide”:http://money.cnn.com/2006/05/03/news/economy/realestateguide_fortune/index.htm. Fascinating series of articles from Fortune about the impending market correction. A lot of people got in over their heads with the real estate bubble, taking on massive debts in exotic mortgages on property that isn’t worth what they paid for it. The crisis will occur when those mortgages (such as interest-only loans) turn into “real” mortgages and double the monthly payment for a lot of people. It won’t be pretty.
* YouTube: “CNBC Interviews Steve Jobs”:http://youtube.com/watch?v=y6BFhRkUJEI&search=apple,%205th%20avenue (“via John”:http://daringfireball.net/linked/2006/may#tue-23-cnbc). CNBC grills Jobs on Apple’s retail strategy, growth, and even the rumored iPhone. A bit weird to see Steve not totally in control of a media situation. 🙂
* ??New York Times??: “Apple, a Success at Stores, Bets Big on Fifth Avenue”:http://www.nytimes.com/2006/05/19/technology/19apple.html. In retrospect, success has a way of looking inevitable. But there was considerable skepticism at the outset about what Apple was doing. And others have failed; Gateway closed its retail stores two years ago.
* ??Signal vs. Noise??: “Is Don Norman right about Google?”:http://37signals.com/svn/archives2/is_don_norman_right_about_google.php. Matt writes up some interesting thoughts on organizations, innovation, and what the intersection of those two things looks like for Google.
* ??Joe Tan??: “WordPress Flickr Post Bar”:http://tantannoodles.com/toolkit/wp-flickr-post-bar/. Joe provides a WordPress plugin that lets you post your Flickr photos into blog entries with a helpful upload bar. I used it for “this entry”:http://kennsarah.net/2006/05/20/how-sarah-topped-the-philharmonic/, and it saved a bit of time flipping back and forth from our Flickr acocunt.
* ??WordPress Widgets??: “Drop Down Archives”:http://widgets.wordpress.com/2006/05/23/drop-down-archives/. The XHTML is not quite valid, but a nice little widget that gives you a drop-down of that growing list of archive months. I used it to tidy up this site a bit: our sidebar was becoming a monster, and I didn’t want to devote so much real-estate to links that weren’t getting many clicks. I also shortened the number of blogs we’re displaying on the homepage — less is more.
* ??Metaphilm??: “V for Vindictive”:http://metaphilm.com/philm.php?id=475_0_2_0. ??Jim Rovira?? takes an incisive look at V for Vendetta against the backdrop of the Wachowski’s previous power vs. freedom dialectic in the Matrices. Interesting reading — I think maybe I’ll go see the movie now. 🙂
* ??Tyler Hall??: “How To Backup Your Mac Intelligently”:http://www.sitening.com/blog/2006/05/23/how-to-backup-your-mac-intelligently/ (“via Lifehacker”:http://www.lifehacker.com/software/backup/backup-your-mac-the-smart-way-176314.php). We don’t have a good backup solution right now. I just spent an hour pulling data off of Sarah’s old IBM 570 laptop (which is now officially retired) and onto the Powerbook. I do have a backup of our music and documents on an external hard drive that’s at least a month old, but, beyond that, we don’t have a good incremental solution.
* ??John Gruber??: “Confidence Game”:http://daringfireball.net/2006/05/confidence_game. Gruber analyzes Apple’s hitting on all cylinders in the context of Microsoft’s lackluster performance — at least in terms of products. It’s a great article, but if Microsoft were really coming unglued, how is it that they’re returning profits at a growing rate?

The Long Emergency

The Long Emergency. Thanks to Russ for the link, and to Alan Farhi for the lunch conversation about this very article two weeks ago. Kunstler tells a plausible doomsday scenario by asking the simple question: what happens if the world’s petroleum infrastructure ceases to exist? Every excess we know today in America — from Starbucks to air travel to the Internet — depends on the vast electric product of petrol reserves which, by many counts, may continue to follow this trend:

The fundamental shift is not a bubble generated by speculation, but that of a systematic upward shift in the long-term price of oil.

The source? Why, that crazy, left-wing propaganda machine known as…er, Goldman Sachs (via CNN). Wired had a feature last month about China’s growing thirst for oil. I wonder if Kunstler hasn’t hit the nail on the head with this article. If nothing else, he’s certainly riding the wave of media madness over energy prices with his latest book. My only question is: is this really a bad thing?

I mean, sure, the collapse of everything we know and hold dear relative to suburban values and multinational corporations would be a drastic transformation of our culture. And, it breaks my heart to think about the decay of our largest cities (which are unsustainable without huge energy reserves). I’m just wondering if a return to simpler lifestyles would at all be a bad thing.

For more reading: I thought Tom G.’s comments were interesting, Fortune seems to be approaching the subject with a level head, and can we get an XML feed for these numbers? Oh, and Newark, NJ has the cheapest gas prices in the nation these days, though public transportation to my new job is pretty decent.

I, Robot; You, Robot

Just saw this. I dug it, though I have to admit that it didn’t meet my expectations. Worth seeing again–the special effects and cinematography were fun–but the characters were so two-dimensional:

Will Smith
“Hi, I’m the caricature of a cop that is angry, but cares. Let me say something smug and hip.”
Scientist Chick
“All scientists are devoid of emotion, and, being a scientist, I therefore have ice water flowing through my veins. However, I did see Will Smith’s cute butt at the start of the film, so I will inevitably succumb to his wiley charms.”
“I’m the Man, with little time for idle chit-chat and a plan to make boatloads of cash with my capitalist agenda for world domination.”
“I…I’m alive! I’m a real boy! The hiiiiiiiills are aliiiiiiiive with the sound of muuuuuuusiiiiiiiiic.”
Doubting Police Chief
“Will Smith, I don’t believe you–all robots are always clearly incapable of doing any wrongdoing, ever–so I am taking your badge. However, you may continue to run amok through the city with your firearm.”
Will Smith
“Argh! I’m a lose cannon! I will wave my gun around and disdain authority!”
Scientist Chick
“You’re completely irresistabl–er, irrational. I find the cold logic of the machines better company than your manaical ramblings. Yet, I will entertain your absurd consipiracy theories until the special effects action sequences carry this movie to the final credits.”
*knocked unconscious*
“Why do humans cry?”
Scientist Chick
“I will openly imply that your personal growth through this drama seriously increases your chances of a second date.”
Will Smith
*uses street-smarts and Luddite values to save the day*
*recites original poetry*
Isaac Asimov
*spins in grave*