Saturday, October 20, 2007

1515 Flippin' ClearTel!

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Back in the desktop days, I had a dialup connection. I had a second phone line from Frontier, and the server was ClearTel. I paid once a year for the ClearTel connection, for the year ahead, and every month for the Frontier line.

Then I got the laptop and the wireless connection. Shortly after that the annual bill from ClearTel arrived. Naturally, I called ClearTel and cancelled the account. Don't need it any more. I got a cancellation number, and the guy said that since we were a few days into the next contract period, I would have to pay one months' prorated cost. Ok, no problem. As soon as I got off the phone, I followed up with a formal snailmail letter closing the account, with the rep's name, and the cancellation number, and enclosed a check for the prorated amount.

The next month, I got another bill for the year's contract, with the prorated amount deducted from the total. I wrote them another letter, reminding them that the contract was cancelled, and the balance owed should now be zero. I asked that they contact me after verifying this, and let me know what their disposition was.

No response. The next month, I get a notice that the account has been turned over to a collection agency.

I exploded!

I wrote letters this evening to ClearTel and to the collection agency. The tone of the letter to the collection agency was businesslike. I know they can't do much without direction from ClearTel. The letter to ClearTel was mostly businesslike, except for the first paragraph, which is: "Please forward this letter to someone with enough intelligence to read it, enough experience to understand it, and enough courtesy to answer it. My experience with ClearTel so far is that these are rare qualities."

Frontier is next, but I'll try a phone call to them first.

Friday, October 19, 2007

1514 Density

Friday, October 19, 2007

We've all heard that Hong Kong has a high population density. I didn't fully realize what that meant until I saw the photographs from Michael Wolf. Go to, and click on "Architecture of Density" (I had to click on it twice). As you scroll through from first to last, it begins to look less and less human, and more and more machine.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

1513 Ashes to Ashes

Wednesday, October 18, 2007

I don't trust animal crematoriums at all, even the regulated and inspected ones. You send a 90 lb. dog, and you get back a cup of ashes. You send a 30 lb. dog, and you get back a cup of ashes. You send a 10 lb. cat, and you get back a half a cup of ashes. You send a 30 lb. big-boned Maine Coon cat, and you get back a half a cup of ashes.

Seems like there's a formula: dog = 1 cup, cat = 1/2 cup. I half suspect they cremate several animals at once, and then just apportion out the mixed ashes.

Not that it really matters that much. When you disperse the ashes in a loved place, it's really the idea that counts.

Speaking of cremation, there's something that has been bothering me for years. Humans don't burn down to powder. No matter what the temperature or time, there will be very brittle pieces of bone that kind of hold together and continue to look like bone. So the crematorium crushes the remains before they return them. When I scattered Jay's ashes on my mountain, there were many hard bits of obvious bone, the size of the pink part of my pinky fingernail.

Now here's what bothers me: there were no bits of metal. The man was full of metal. He had a Greenfield filter, and lots of clips and plates holding his skull together, and some other stuff. I expected to see melted pellets of metal. I didn't. Why not?


Joke I heard recently:

A scientist goes to God, and says, "Lord, we don't need you anymore. Scientific advances have allowed us to now make the shape of a man from dirt, treat the dirt, and breathe life into the form. Now that we can do everything you can do, you can retire."

God answers, "You can create life? Show me."

So the scientist kneels down and starts scraping dirt into a pile.

God stops him, wagging His finger. "Uh uh. Use your own dirt."

1512 A Way

Thursday, October 18, 2007

I have copied the following text whole hog from, because the link he included to the full story requires a subscription which I don't have. Given the topic, I doubt he'd mind. (Plus I suspect his text came from the original story in the Los Angeles Times, anyway.) The link to Kiva, however, does work, and that site includes a link to a New York Times story/video.

Through Kiva, anyone with $25 and an e-mail address can make a loan to a small entrepreneur in a developing country. Gabriela Villegas scrolled through the online profiles, searching for a photo and description that appealed to her.

She wasn't surfing for a date or networking for new friends. She was on the Kiva website, reading through stories of impoverished entrepreneurs in developing countries, trying to decide to which venture she would extend a $25 business loan.

"Twenty-five dollars -- that's probably how much I spend on just one meal," said Villegas, 25, of Manchester, Conn. "But with that same money, I was able to change someone's life."

Kiva, at, is a nonprofit based in San Francisco. It has not yet celebrated its two-year anniversary but is already attracting international attention for its unique mission -- blending the principles of micro-financing with the power of online social networking to deliver business loans to the world's working poor.

Named after the Swahili word for "unity," Kiva is getting big-name nods from the likes of Oprah Winfrey and former President Clinton. And with more than $13 million lent to 1,800 ventures, it's being held as an example of a savvy brand of online activism.

"People are by nature generous and want to help others, but they want to do it in a way . . . where they can really see how they're making an impact on somebody's life," said Kiva spokeswoman Fiona Ramsey. "We all see [the philanthropic work that] Bill Gates and Oprah do, and we'd all love to do that ourselves. But few of us can afford to."

Enter Kiva, making a micro-lender of anyone with $25 and an e-mail address.

Here's how it works. The organization partners with 66 nonprofit micro-finance institutions that vet loan applicants in 38 countries. Once they get clearance, the borrowers post their pictures and needs on the Kiva website, where would-be lenders can pore through the 70-or-so listings posted at any given time -- a motor-taxi service in Asia, a goat farmer in Africa, a seamstress in Iraq. An average loan request is $650, and lenders can choose how much to fund.

As borrowers repay their loans, they send online progress reports so lenders can see how their money is working. Once the loan is repaid -- and most are, with a default rate of just 0.3% -- lenders can collect their money or lend it to another entrepreneur. Most lenders choose the latter, Ramsey said.

1511 Cool Trick

Six minutes and 12 seconds.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

1510 Kitty Update

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Jasper went to the vet today, and had some minor surgery. (I suppose most males would not consider it minor.) He's still staggering a little from the anesthesia, but otherwise doesn't seem too inconvenienced.

When I picked him up at the vet's office, he was extremely inconvenienced, and let me know. He actually hissed at me, even after he knew it was me. I don't know what he was so ticked off about. I may have a serious problem getting him into the carrier again.

I'll be going to Chicago soon, leaving on a Thursday and returning the following Monday. That's three days I won't be home, and I've never had any problem leaving Miss Thunderfoot alone for that long. I just put out three days worth of dry food, and she apportions it properly.

I've concluded that I can't do that with Jasper. If I put out three days worth of food, he'll eat it all immediately, throw it up, and have nothing left to eat. And if I don't shut him away, he will also eat all of Thunder's food, so she won't have anything, either. I'm going to have to board him.

The schedule is too tight for me to take him to Pussyfoot Lodge, my first choice, so he'll be staying at the vet's (which isn't too terrible - they let board animals out to wander the office and socialize with the office staff). But after today's experience, Jasper may not be too happy to find himself back there so soon.

1509 The Moving Table

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A few years ago I had to pull together a list of all the places I had lived. I forget what for. I was cleaning out a desk drawer last night, and found my notes. I tried to put the list in a table, but even though it looked fine in Works Word, I couldn't get it to work here. I kept it simple, and I'm sure I did it right. I finally gave up. Here's the list, as a list, and I'm annoyed because Blogger doesn't recognize tabbing, and even removes extra spaces. Snort.

Scranton, PA
Birth & infancy


Fayetteville, NC

Scranton, PA

Mississippi City, MS
Summer before 1st grade

Biloxi, MS
1st grade

Scranton, PA
1st Grade

Hershey, PA
1st Grade

Benton, PA, River St
1st Grade

Benton, PA, 2½ St
2nd Grade

Benton, PA, Appleman’s house
3rd Grade

Benton, PA, Rooster house
4th Grade

Ottawa, Canada, Bank Street
5th Grade

Ottawa, Canada, Fairbanks Ave.
5th-7th Grades

Benton, PA, BSA House
8th-9th Grades

Red Rock, PA, USAF Base
9th-12th Grades

Bloomsburg, BSC Dorms

Benton, PA, Parsonage House

Bloomsburg, PA, BSC Dorms

Bloomsburg, PA, town housing

Berwick, PA
College, Student Teaching

Bristol, PA
College, Student Teaching

Summer Session & Graduation

Gettysburg, PA, Mrs. K.’s House
Teaching H.S.

Gettysburg, PA, In-town Apartment
Teaching H.S.

Gettysburg, PA, Trailer
Teaching H.S.

Schwenksville, PA
Teaching H.S.</

Ruby, NY
The Company

Ballwin, MO
The Company

Germantown, MD
Stay at Home Mother

Highland, NY
The Company

Current Address, NY

Monday, October 15, 2007

1508 Total Loss of Anonymity

Monday, October 15, 2007

It happened for the first time today. It don't know how it could happen. I don't know how they found out, how they got the information, and it's freaking me out!

I got political campaign email spam on one of my ids!

It was for a Dutchess County judge running for reelection.

How did "they" know the person who owns that email id lives in Dutchess County? As far as I know, there is NO street address connected with that id through the email provider - it's a free email account. It's possible I have provided an email address sometime on some form somewhere to which a political committee may have access, but it wouldn't have been THIS id! I have other ids for that kind of distribution. This one is jealously guarded.

Ack! This is scary!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

1507 The Weekend

Sunday, October 14, 2007

According to the PBS program on child brides mentioned in the previous entry, parents in India will marry off very young daughters "to have one fewer mouth to feed". But that doesn't make any sense at all, because the child brides don't go to the husband's house until puberty. So the parents still have to feed her, AND they have to come up with a dowry to marry her off.

Maybe the real reason is that the dowry is lower if she's very young?


On the new math mentioned in the previous entry, what I didn't say, and don't want to say, is that the new methods are very close to how some math whizzes think when they do multiplication and division "in their heads". I didn't point it out because it comes too close to a defense. The difference is that the whizzes come up with it themselves out of a complete understanding.
I went to Rakkasah, and was met by my friend. I had a very good time. I am trying very hard not to fall in love. It's good that we've held off on any great declarations. Truths are being slowly revealed, and are being accepted. Trust is getting built. If this goes anywhere, it will be solid. If it goes nowhere, there will be no terrible disillusionment, no unbearable pain. This is good. I'm learning.