Recording My Own Phone Conversations

Friday, October 20th, 2006

Lately I’ve noticed an increasing number of companies recording my conversation “for quality assurance.” In some cases like calls to my broker this is reasonable, but turnabout’s fair play; and perhaps a really good idea in the face of company’s like Verizon that refuse to honor their agreements without a court order. So here are my questions:

Losing Trust in Dell

Tuesday, October 10th, 2006

I’ve been a regular Dell customer for years. I’m not a big customer, but I buy something from them every year or two on average: a PC, a laptop, a TV, a replacement part, a monitor, something. Mostly I’ve been satisfied with my purchases, but the more stories like this one I hear, the more I think I’m not going to buy from them again. I’ve been lucky so far, but I don’t want to take any more chances.

How to Dissect a Brain

Sunday, July 2nd, 2006

I’m looking for a reference to a story I vaguely remember reading sometime in the last ten years or so. To my recollection, a pair of doctors had dissected a human skull in a new way; i.e. with a new pattern of cuts. In the process they found a completely new organ that had been missed for hundreds of years because the standard pattern of cuts destroyed that organ. Does anyone remember this story, and can point me to a citation for it?

Cheap Space Pens

Saturday, June 24th, 2006

For a long time, I’ve been a fan of the Fisher Space Pen, mostly because it will write upside down. That’s especially useful for writing in bed in front of the TV. However, the official space pens are quite expensive and relatively hard to find. The cheapest model is about $12, but very few places sell that. Some small office supply stores stock Fisher pens, but usually only the more expensive models. The big box stores like Staples, OfficeMax, and Office Depot don’t stock Fisher pens at all.

At the ABA convention this week I found an excellent, cheaper alternative. Rite in the Rain makes a line of All-Weather Pens that not only write in the rain. They also write upside down. #37 retails for about $7. It doesn’t look quite as cool as the Fisher bullets or come in a fancy case, but it does write upside down and it costs half as much. I bought one at the ABA store here at the convention; and it’s working just fine (including upside down in the rain).

Net Neutrality? Does this really matter?

Friday, June 9th, 2006

I’m having a hard time getting worked up over the defeat of the net neutrality bill in Congress. Yes, I think that net neutrality is a good idea; but I find it hard to see why the market won’t provide this. I assume consumers will holler bloody blue murder if their ISPs start throttling their YouTube bandwidth or their World of Warcraft games.

Verizon’s Getting Desperate

Thursday, May 25th, 2006

A few months ago I switched my phone service to Vonage from Verizon, which promptly cut my phone bill by about two thirds. Yesterday I got snail mail from Verizon offering me unlimited local and long distance for $29.99 (plus the usual unadvertised fees, which would probably raise the price to about $40. Vonage lies like this too. Their $24.99 plan is really a $30 plan.) The real kicker is that Verizon offered to send me a $25 check if I switched back to them. I haven’t gotten an offer like that since MCI, Sprint, and AT&T were duking it out in the early 90’s.

If Verizon had offered me this deal six months ago, even without the check, I probably would have stayed with them. As is, Verizon is still more expensive than Vonage (though it does offer somewhat better service) and switching back would be way too much hassle. Moral of the story: it’s cheaper to keep your existing customers happy than to reacquire new ones later.