Saturday, November 29, 2003

The Early Worm...

Click here to read what the Spirit of Christmas has come to.

By my count, we still have somewhere around 26 shopping days left until Christmas. That should be plenty of time to get all of your shopping done. There is no need to trample your fellow shoppers into unconsciousness. Whatever you are going after, it is just a gift. Christmas will not be ruined forever without it. Yes, the Great Tickle Me Elmo Famine of 1572 nearly ended all celebrations of Christmas forever due to a shortage of AA batteries, but we've grown beyond that now.

This Monday at 8 p.m., the Cartoon Network is showing "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (the animated Chuck Jones/Boris Karloff version, not the live action Jim Carrey version). It really ought to be shown in the wee hours of the day after Thanksgiving, as that should be required viewing for anyone embarking on the holiday shopping season. Set your TiVo if you've got it; it's one of the few holiday specials that doesn't seem cornier every year.

Also, a side note to Wal-Mart: although it certainly was nice to put the DVD player on hold for the woman until she gets out of the hospital, perhaps she has already paid the price for her $29 home theater equipment by landing in the hospital bruised and unconscious. A freebie might be called for at this point.

All Part of the Food Chain...

Here's some light reading for those of you who have wondered what would happen if one endangered species depended on eating another endangered species to live.

Click here for the Reuters article.

Friday, November 28, 2003

Happy Day After Thanksgiving...

I do not often agree with what the president does, but it sure was nice of him to visit troops in Baghdad for Thanksgiving.

It'll be even nicer if footage of his 10 minutes dishing up mashed potatoes for military personnel does not show up in a campaign ad.

Thursday, November 27, 2003


The classic definition of chutzpah is killing your parents, then asking the court for mercy because you're an orphan. Though no one actually died, this woman (click here for the full story) comes close.

For those too impatient to read the article, in sum:
Melissa French, 27, was convicted yesterday of first-degree kidnapping and sentenced to at least 18 years in the slammer, for her role in planning the kidnapping of her ex-boyfriend. During the course of the ordeal--for which she was not present, but the jury determined she had a role in, nonetheless--the man in question sustained stab wounds, and several broken bones, in addition to having an assault rifle shoved in his mouth then fired between his legs, and having the word "narc" carved into his forehead with a pocketknife.

According to the article:
"French's attorney, Stephen Aarons, said he was shocked by the verdict. He said French's daughter, who suffers from cancer, will be dead and her 10-year-old son will be grown by the time French is released."

Now, that's something she really should have thought about before sending four of her friends out to castrate her ex the hard way.

Elie's comment on this item: "If trying the do-it-yourself home neutering kit is not a reason to have your kids taken away from you..."

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

About Freakin' Time...

It's not a cure for cancer, but someone has invented a color-changing sticker for fruit, to indicate when it is ripe so we don't have to squeeze, sniff, prod, heft, or thump.

Click here for the story.

Note: It is being test-marketed in the Portland area on pears. Those of you out that way, and you know who you are, please keep me advised if you find it, and how you like it.

Hope it works better than those pop-up doneness indicators on turkeys.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

The Fantasy Politics League...

I know I'm a few days behind the times, just now talking about the MSNBC debate, but TiVo means never having to watch things when they're broadcast. After watching two hours of debate--and not realizing until afterward that Lieberman wasn't there--I think I have come up with my ideal Democratic administration. I'd like to see the party nominee bring many of the others into high places in the administration.

President: Howard Dean
Vice-President: Al Sharpton. Hey, the guy has some great ideas. I'd put him forth as President if I thought America was ready for him.
Secretary of State: Carol Mosley-Braun
Secretary of Defense: Wesley Clark. He'd also work well as Sec. of State, but I think his talents and experience would be better in the DoD.
Attorney General: John Edwards.

John Kerry and Dick Gephardt would remain as allies in the legislature, partially because they do not seem to play well enough with others and I'm not sure they'd be able to put the internal attacks behind them to work in concert with the team. Dennis Kucinich would also remain in the legislature, because he really seems more of a local politician. I'm not sure where Lieberman would fit in, but I'm working on that.

More Bush Ad Notes...

The official presidential website has a video feed of the 2003 State of the Union address. The "one vial" flub-lette is left as it was originally spoken, and not cleaned up as it was for the campaign advertisement.

Click here for the White House webcast archive of the State of the Union Address. The sentence in question is very near the end.

I don't think the issue here is the size of the correction the Audio/Video people made to the tape, since all they did was remove a split-second pause and a minor mispronunciation. As argued in the New York Times piece, this is the type of thing that is "cleaned up" by reporters in print media as a matter of course when transcribing quotations. However, they cleaned up a quotation for use in a voiceover (if you haven't seen the ad, the visual cuts to the president immediately after the tidied-up audio). We are accustomed to looped audio in our movies and to airbrushed cover models, but we expect our politicians to be un-retouched. Spin is one thing. Doctored audio tracks are another.

In short, no matter how small the fix, that was not how it really happened. We have a right to have things presented to us how they really are, not how they would be in a perfect world.

Found it...

For the video of the RNC ad, click here.

More Commercial Break...

I haven't seen the new Bush ad, but after reading this morning's New York Times, I think I will make a point to try to find it somewhere.

Apparently, the ad-makers digitally enhanced part of Bush's State of the Union address when they used it in the spot, removing a place where the president tripped over his own tongue mid-soundbyte.

This particular instance is rather minute, but it is disturbing that political campaigns begin using cinematic special effects--a la Star Wars prequels--to make their candidates look like something they are not, or that they have done something they have not, or that they did not do something they did.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Commercial Break...

Just caught a new commercial on TV. AOL is now making fun of all the free AOL discs they send out.

Their joke about the fish sculpture made of free AOL discs is not far off the idea I once had for wallpapering my bathroom with the reflective side of the CDs.

About That Last Item...

From Elie:

"Doesn't Burger King have signs at the entrances to their restaurants that say 'no shoes, no shirt, no service'?"

Want Fries With That Breast Milk?...

New and expectant mothers, take note: Burger King now has an official policy permitting breast feeding in their restaurants. The policy also instructs BK employees to tell people to move to another table if they find the sight of blatant nursing less than appetizing. BK says the timing of the policy has nothing to do with a threatened "nurse-in."

Click here for the AP story

Wasn't this an episode of "Married...With Children"?

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Party Favors...

Do you want to see the difference between Republicans and Democrats? Check out their respective gift shops.

Click here for the Democrats
Click here for the Republicans

The Democrats seem to have better prices on comparable items (about $4 cheaper on a baseball cap, for instance), but the Republicans seem to go in for a higher class of merchandise (e.g. the Swarovski crystal elephant). Also, the Republicans seem to be your only choice for golf equipment and sculptures to accent the top of your door hinges, but the Democrats have scented candles and an entire section called "fun stuff."

I may have mentioned here before that I think that political parties are the worst thing that happened to American government. Nonetheless, you can learn a lot about the parties by taking a peek at the tawdry wares the hawk.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

This Should Scare You...

Now, when your company blacks out most of the Northeast US and parts of Southeast Canada, that can be considered a fluke. But when you do it while the NRC is investigating you because no one noticed acid eating through the reactor cap on your nuclear power plant until part of the reactor cap was no thicker than a pencil eraser, that may indicate a larger maintenance issue.

Read it here.

In Other News...

The papers are full of the annual Kennedy coverage, but click here to see what other anniversaries we should celebrate today.

Warning: the link points you to the current date, so if you are not reading this on November 22, it will make little sense.

Frankly, it would suck to have been Aldous Huxley or C.S. Lewis, both of whom died today in 1963, when the obit pages had a bigger headliner.

Friday, November 21, 2003

Have Some Respect for the Turkey that Gave Its Life For You...

On the way home today, I passed no fewer than 10 homes decorated for Christmas. Now, I do not mean "get the lights up before it starts to freeze" decorations. I'm talking full-out Santa-on-the-lawn decorations.

By my count, this means that celebrating one day now takes fully 10% of our calendar.

Thursday, November 20, 2003


Over the next several days, I'll be making some changes to how this page looks. If something is amiss when you read this--for instance, you can't read it--please email me at the address at the right.

Holy Matrimony, Batman!

Whatever we all think of allowing same-sex marriages, can we not all agree that the current, dismal, state of marriage can be attributed largely to how easy it is for heterosexual couples to get married? Honestly, if you can get married without leaving your car, is the institution of marriage really in that great shape? While I did get out of my car to exchange vows, I spent longer in the Social Security Administration office changing my name on my social security card than I spent getting my marriage license and getting married, combined. Come to think of it, I have spent longer on hold with the student loan people than I spent in the entire matrimonial process, and the student loan people want money from me.

For a more eloquent look on why marriage was in trouble even before same-sex couples wanting in on it, click here.

Back to current events...

Now, I am not up on my California law enforcement procedures, so maybe I'm wrong here. Nonetheless, it does not seem that the police would usually just wait for someone charged with multiple counts of child molestation to surrender when it fits into his or her schedule. Facing sex offense charges is darned inconvenient for anyone, but we seem to give people with publicists and spokespeople time to get their ducks in a row before they get cuffed.

Thanksgiving Dinner, Final Installment...

The secret of the perfect pumpkin pie: Buy it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

Speaking of Flightless Birds...

The terminally dim Dodo bird managed to hang on 30 years longer than previously thought. Bad news is, they're still extinct.

Click here for the full article.

Flushed with Pride...

Happy World Toilet Day.

Really. If you don't believe me, click here.

Building a better mousetrap...

A German company has invented a cell phone that you cannot eavesdrop on.

Click here for the story

Now, if they could only invent cell phone users who don't broadcast their end of the conversation to everyone within 50 feet.

Thanksgiving Dinner, Part III

Now, for the mashed sweet potatoes.

Peel, cube, and boil sweet potatoes like you did for the mashed potatoes. Mash and add butter and brown sugar. Spread in a baking dish, cover with a layer of mini marshmallows, and bake until the marshmallows are melty and golden brown on top.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Be Kind to Animals

Now, for merely 8 times the cost of a turkey at my local grocery store, I can get a turkey that has been humanely treated and allowed to roam free before it was beheaded, stuffed with breadcrumbs and roasted.

According to the story:
"Some consumers prefer to know that their turkey had the ability to roam free," said Sherrie Rosenblatt, the National Turkey Federation's public relations director.

Is it cruel of me to not care where whether or not my dinner had a full and happy poultry life? In the immortal words of Monty Phython, "A sheep's life consists of standing around for a few months and then being eaten." Same can be said of turkeys.

Click here for the full turkey story

Monday, November 17, 2003

Thanksgiving Dinner, Part II

It's Tater Time!

Estimate 1 1/2 to 2 potatoes per person, depending on potato size and how many leftovers you want. You want Idaho Russets. A good bowl of mashed potatoes starts with the ideal potato.

Peel potatoes and cut them into vaguely cubelike chunks. Bonus point are awarded for tetrahedrons.

Put the potatoes in a saucepan and cover with water. Boil until you can stab one of the chunks with a fork and not feel anything crunchy. Drain potatoes and return to the pot.

Mash potatoes. This brings to mind my secret for a happy marriage, but that is a post for another time. Check back in the morning.

Mash in enough milk, salt, and butter to make the potatoes smooth and yummy. Frequent tasting is the best way to decide if the potatoes are done.

For a tasty variation, mash in some cheddar cheese, sour cream, and garlic powder.

Coming tomorrow: Yam, wonderful Yam!

It's about Time...

The FDA has approved a spearmint flavored chewable birth control pill. It appears to be something along the lines of a Necco wafer spiked with estrogen.

Click here for the article.

Now, if we can just get them to put estrogen and progesterone in those little strips that dissolve on your tongue, we would have a truly useful item: oral contraceptives and breath mints in one.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Thanksgiving Dinner, Part I

I have just discovered that some people are paying upwards of $75 to learn how to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Click here for the full article. In the spirit of public service, I offer instructions for free, based on my many years of turkey apprenticeship under my grandpa, Turkey Master David Mills.

1. Buy a turkey, a couple packages of seasoned stuffing mix (the kind that looks like croutons, not Stove Top), and a meat thermometer that has a marking on it that says "poultry."

2. Defrost turkey. This is best started a week or so ahead of Thanksgiving, so clean out your refrigerator now.

3. Rinse turkey off and remove the packet of giblets from inside the bird. If you can't find it, check the hole at the other end of the bird.

4. Boil the giblets. The neck is good eating, and if you do not wish to put the remainder in the stuffing, you can feed them to relatives and/or the dog.

5. Moisten seasoned stuffing mix with the liquid you used to boil the giblets and add any or all of the following: sauteed onion, celery, apple, walnuts, chopped giblets.

6. Shove the damp bread mixture up the bottom end turkey, packing lightly. Cover the opening with a slice of bread or foil.

7. Shove more stuffing down the neck part and tuck the skin over it.

8. Put the rest of the stuffing in a baking dish, drizzle with extra water and melted butter, and bake alongside the turkey.

9. Stick the meat thermometer into one of the turkey's thighs (the meaty part connected to the drumstick), being careful not to hit anything hard.

10. Bake turkey at 350 degrees until the thermometer get to the "poultry" line. Do not, under any circumstances, trust that little pop-up timer.

Look for the instructions for turkey accessories, including mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes with marshmallows on top, in the next few days.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Team Players...

I've managed to catch a few hours of this fillibuster, and it is rather engrossing. Nonetheless, I am disturbed by the pervasiveness of "us" vs. "them" in the debate. I made this point before and I will say it again: this is government, not a skins and shirts football game. We need to ask them to stop worrying about who is on whose team, and worry about the business of the nation.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Just a Chuckle...

As I was spellchecking the last post, the computer wanted to change "Colin Powell" to "Colon Bowel."

What Happened to Our Coalition?

So far, Japan and South Korea have decided against sending troops to Iraq, at least until the people keeping the peace stop getting killed on a daily basis. In an impressive display of self-governance, the Iraqi people have decided that they don't want Turkish troops in--a move which we probably could have seen coming since Turkey used to own Iraq.

Just 240 days ago, we had a coalition of 30 countries (Colin Powell's words, not mine). We'll overlook whether or not that actually existed and just consider how Bush's "Up Yours" attitude toward international diplomacy, plus the general lack of a plan for keeping peacekeepers alive, has managed to scare off everyone.

Call to Action...

Do we have a government or a gaggle of whining infants?

Click here for details on quite possibly the most childish thing our government has done all week.

Everyone who is supposed to be running this great country of ours seems to be saying, "If I do not get my way, I'm going to hold my breath until I turn blue!" This goes for everyone, regardless of party. The only exception would be the president, who seems to be saying, "Because I'm the President. That's why."

What do you say we all write our legislative representatives and president and ask them to get their heads out of their hindquarters and start running the country?

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Happy Exploding Whale Day!

If you don't know the story, follow the link below for everything you need to know about why an 8-ton whale carcass and 1/2 ton of dynamite and the Highway Department are a bad mix.

Click here for the definitive website

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The Beagle Has Landed...

Well, not quite yet. Beagle 2 is scheduled to land on Mars on Christmas.

Click here for the full story.

Stupid Attempted Criminals...

While we were dining tonight at our local Lone Star Steakhouse, a group of four would-be criminals apparently forgot that an integral part of the "dine and dash" is to, well, dash.

Four alleged women (the waiter had his doubts) ran up a $100+ tab. Three of the four then stepped out "for a smoke," leaving the fourth one at the table, presumably to slip out unnoticed shortly thereafter. This is where the plan fell apart. The fourth person forgot to leave. This is why the criminals in movies always review their plan one last time before the heist.

When it became apparent that the fourth person had forgotten the "dash" element of the plan, the other three came stomping back in, shouting at least one of the seven words you cannot say on television, and probably should not yell at top volume in a family restaurant. This, of course, attracted the attention of the entire staff and made a subtle, unnoticed getaway much more difficult. However, having fetched all of the diners, these women (?) made a run for the doors, pursued across the street by several members of the waitstaff.

No word on how the situation played out after they ran out. The remaining waitstaff was more concerned with placating diners who suddenly found their dinner out was rated R for language.

Monday, November 10, 2003

'57 T-Bird

Does anyone out there have any ideas how a guy in Van Nuys can get rid of a nearly-perfect, impeccably restored 1957 Thunderbird that may have appeared in several movies? ME is looking to get rid of his. Click here for the details on the car, and for ME's email address to send ideas for how he might sell it.

While you're at it, read the rest of ME is always a fun read.

Scary Thought for the Day...

Heard from at least two people in a room full of college juniors and seniors:

"Patriot Act? What's that?"

The rise of the Machines...

Printers just know, don't they? With all the fuss my printer has been making trying to print out the paper due in an hour, I think it might be faster just to break out the old Remington manual typewriter and retype all 6 pages.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Picture Imperfect...

I know this is not new by a few days, and I am far from the first person to point it out. Nonetheless, Penguin Perspectives exists in part to point out the ironies of life, so I had to give you a link to this picture. (Click Here).

The irony in this does not depend on whether you agree with the legislation Bush is signing in the picture. When it came to advocating tax cuts, Bush's team managed to find several average families to use as examples of the benefits of the tax cuts, but when he banned a medical procedure that can only be performed on a woman, the people who stage-manage his photo ops to rival Broadway productions couldn't dig up one woman to stand behind him.

Kind of makes you wonder.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Good Health News!

Hot cocoa is good for you. Yup. You read right. Swiss Miss is now health food. Now all we need is for someone to find some sort of nutritional benefit in mini marshmallows.

For the details, click here.

For other food-related, time-wasting fun, click here. You can't actually read the articles on the site without subscribing to The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, but reading the titles of the studies is fun enough if you have some time to kill.

For Example:
-Characterization of the Pyrazines Formed during the Processing of Maple Syrup.
-An Assay To Estimate Tannins Added to Postmortem Turkey Meat
-Reversible and Irreversible Emission of Methanethiol and Dimethyl Disulfide from Anaerobically Stored Broccoli (note: I'm always careful to anaerobically store my broccoli. Aren't you?)

Research like this keeps people out of the unemployment lines.

The inevitable march of progress...

You'd think that with all the advances human beings have made in so many other areas, we would have improved on toothpick technology since prehistoric times.

Click Here for the Full Article

While I'm on the subject, why is it that, in science fiction TV shows, every bit of technology has advanced except the handheld fire extinguisher?

Who Says Politics and Carnival Games Don't Mix?

For the most fun you can have picking a presidential candidate, Click here

Friday, November 07, 2003


Seen on a billboard for rent, painted solid Crayola green:
"This Green Span Generates Interest."

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Party Time...

Finally, someone else who is saying what I have believed ever since the first time I registered to vote and had to choose a political party: parties hurt the democratic process. Democrats and Republicans spend far too much time being Democrats and Republicans and not enough time attending to the business of our country.

Click here for the full article

Wednesday, November 05, 2003


This is a direct cut-and-paste from an article in the New York Times this morning:

"Intel has had a small team working on the problem of a replacement for silicon in its Hillsborough, Ore., research laboratories for five years in an effort to continue to advance chip making technology "

Now, I know a lot has changed in my old hometown since I left 5 years ago, and I don't often keep up with the goings-on out there. Nonetheless, I think my local contacts (and you know who you are) would have apprised me of any changes in the spelling of the city's name. At least when I lived there, the name did not have an "ugh" in it.

To Clarify...

I am not a Luddite. I find progress to be good and in many situations, long overdue. The dropping of a ballot into the ballot box is a ceremonial gesture, the final stage in the ritual of voting.

A new ceremonial ending to our participation will replace the casting of a paper ballot. We'll have to wait to see what that is.

Think of all the news photos of a candidate dropping a ballot into a ballot box. The tableau doesn't work without a ballot box. But the world will go on.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I Voted Today. Did You?

Our local precinct gave us a choice of voting medium: touch-screen machine or optical scan ballots. When I say touch screen machine, I mean "machine," as in "ten people in line for one machine, no curtains, no cubicle, nothing." I went with the optical scan ballot. Also, the process just feels more official when you physically cast your ballot, rather than just tapping "cast ballot." This was probably the last time in my life I will be able to actually drop my ballot into a ballot box, even if the ballot box was an optical scanner.

While I was pondering my ballot tonight, I watched a mother congratulate her daughter on her first vote--using a touch-screen computer. In 20 years, we could have people running for president who have never dropped a ballot in a ballot box in their lives.

Yes, I'm waxing nostalgic. I cast my first vote by mail, punching my little numbered squares off on my friend's dorm-room floor. Back then, I lived in Oregon just as that state was considering going to the current system of all vote-by-mail. People lamented the demise of the polling place, which has since gone extinct in Oregon. Now, we are seeing the death of the ballot as something you can actually touch. That is the price of progress, and progress is necessary. However, it will mean our last tactile connection with the democratic process is gone.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Want to be Scared out of Your Wits?

Read this entry from Talking Points Memo, more specifically the links he points to.

Does Anyone Else Feel A Draft In Here?

The Department of Defense is bent on keeping this item quiet, particularly given that we are just a year before the next presidential election. They have put out a call to fill out local draft boards. (Click here for the official statement)

That in itself could be dismissed, but there are also bills in both houses of congress to reinstate the draft, mercifully going nowhere since no one wants to have to vote for the draft right before an election.
Click here for the Senate Version
Click here for the House Version
Women, pay special attention to Section 10 of both bills if you think that being female is going to keep you out of the selective service.

As might be expected, no one in the administration is bringing this subject up voluntarily, but let's not let them sneak the draft back in behind our backs.

This is particularly important if you or someone you love was born between 1979 and 1987 (those dates assume Bush wants to keep his job more than he wants to deploy an adequate number of soldiers, hence would not dare sign the draft back in before the beginning of his next term).

In marginally better conscription news, a competing bill is languishing in committee, after receiving "unfavorable executive comment from the Selective Service Comm." that would eliminate the selective service entirely (click here to read the bill).

Sunday, November 02, 2003

The Lighter Side of People Fixing Things

Our Ford dealership is much more effective at repairs than the cable modem technicians. Friday, facing steep obstacles, they removed an inch-long nail from the right rear tire of Elie's Mustang and patched it up good as new in less time than it took our cable modem people to figure out how to fix what they did wrong.

The steep obstacle in question is a chunk of metal the size of a gumball that is used on Mustang tires instead of one of the lugnuts, to prevent theft of the aluminum wheels. This piece of metal cannot be removed with a standard lug wrench, which is why the Mustang came with a tool to remove it. Unfortunately, one of the previous--and more cablemodemlike--service centers neglected to return our tool after rotating the tires, so our current service techs have to rely on their "universal" set, which of course does not include anything that will remove our particular wheel lock. So they improvised.

Picture this: 3 Ford service technicians, one angry Ford Blue-Oval Certified Service Department manager, and one dealership owner standing around a fourth service technician who is banging on the aluminum wheel of a newly-detailed 2001 Mustang with a ball peen hammer.

As entertaining as this was to watch, the group might have done better to move the car into one of the service bays first, rather than bal-peening the aluminum wheels right in front of the picture window to the customer waiting area, where horrified Ford owners were mentally considering just what these service technicians were doing to their fancy new cars.

By the way, because of this wheel lock technology, anyone looking to illegally acquire a set of aluminum wheels will find it easier to steal the whole car than to try to get the wheels off. This is not what I would call a material improvement in overall automobile security.

Back In Action

I won't bore you with the insipid details of my saga with the broadband tech support--after all, everyone has a tech support horror story. Suffice it to say, somewhere between calls 7 and 9 to the customer support center, I managed to get myself bumped up in the in-home tech support schedule by a few days, by impressing upon them that this whole situation came about because I followed their instructions and I am not about to go half a week without internet service because of their mistakes.

So we now have a new modem and network card, which as far as I can tell have nothing to do with anything they did to cause the problem. Nonetheless, we're back in action, so I can't complain. Moral of the story: the more times you call customer support, the faster they get someone out to get you to stop calling.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

What Tech Support?

I'll probably not be posting much until Wednesday. The cable company, who supplies our supposedly solid internet connection, has managed to somehow completely remove internet access from our PC instead of just making the cable modem stop bumping us off the internet. I am stuck on the backup computer with the backup dialup internet access until a technician can come out to see what exactly happened while I was diligently following the click-by-click instructions of the tech support people, which most likely will be Wednesday. At least they kindly decided not to charge me to have a guy come out to fix what they did.

However, until I can get back on and post the long, painful saga of my encounter with the Customer Service technicians, let me leave you with this actual exchange that happened with the first of four (so far) people I have talked to at the cable company. Let me set up for you that our PC is right next to the kitchen, and Elie was boiling a pot of water while I was on the phone with tech support.

ME: (turning to see foot-tall flames eminating from under a frying pan on the stove, unrelated to the computer problems): Whoops. Wait just a second. My kitchen is on fire.

TECH SUPPORT: (silence)

(Elie throws a cup of water on the flames.)

ME: Okay. Fire's out.

TECH SUPPORT: Now go to your Start menu and click on your control panel...