I Detest T-Mobile.

Detestation is justifiable if you’ve been driven to apoplectic rage by a company’s totally uncaring customer service responses. I’ll try to be as brief as possible. Many years ago, our family started using T-Mobile as they had the best deal for mobile-to-mobile calls and loads of minutes. Sure, cell reception was a bit spotty, and customer service was nothing to write home about, but I was anti-Verizon because they had acted a bit domineering in their role as a local land-line provider. Lots of odd charges and service that (while ok) did not warrant such a high cost. So, T-mobile was the brand of choice and all was fine.

Fast forward… I took a job in Princeton and found that my cell service was so bad I could not get a signal of worth at work or on my lengthy commute home. I would occasionally get two bars, but would lose them fairly quickly. I complained and blogged and eventually switched phones and ultimately improved my situation. The phone I had been using was one of those first gen PDA types, and when I switched to a cheaper no-frills Nokia, I was mollified to a great extent as the signal strength seemed a bit more robust.

Fast forward even further… Time to trade in the crappy old phone for a newer one and ended up getting a RAZR. Sure, the consumer groups thought they were shite, but I still liked the look and feel and with a rebate to boot, it seemed like a good deal. The rebate, which played an integral part in getting the phone, was only mentioned at the point of purchase and on their website but was never actually sent. After realizing that the rebate was somewhere in limbo, we contacted the customer service department to find out what the deal was. They said “Talk to the rebate center.”

The rebate center said, “No, no… call T-Mobile back.”

The T-Mobile customer service department said “I don’t know what they are talking about. Call the rebate center back.”

After numerous back-and-forth calls, I asked T-Mobile to either take care of the situation (since the never-received rebate had by this time expired) or I would leave their ranks at the conclusion of my contract. They did not seem to care one way or another and did not sound in any way interested in keeping our patronage stating that “When you are going to get a rebate for merchandise that you purchase, it is up to the customer to apply for the rebate.” WTF? I’ve sent in rebates before, but I’ve never had to “apply” for one.

Nowadays, I count down the months until our contract is up and in the mean time tell anyone who asks “What cell service do you use?” that I am disgusted with T-Mobile and can’t wait until they are no longer my carrier. I’ll use two tin cans and string before I recommend T-Mobile to anyone.

This is the last thing they sent me in a follow-up email following my extremely unsatifying experience:

“It has been my pleasure providing you, Thomas a loyal, valued customer since December, 2002, with T-Mobile’s World Class service. Thank you for being a valued T-Mobile customer, we appreciate your business.”

The clock is ticking T-Mobile.

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Never Mind the Bollocks… Here’s Alek

I deliberated for only a fraction of a second before bringing home a Sex Pistols tee-shirt for Alek.  He already has  a couple Kraftwerk and Supergrass shirts, so I really thought it would be cool to get him a Pistols tee, figuring he would probably be the only six-year-old in 1st grade with an “Anarchy in the UK” shirt.

He certainly has the seeds of the punk rock mentality already as he is very independent.  With his devilock and Chuck Taylors, he’ll stand out in the crowd before even lighting up the room with his interesting (if sometimes unfathomable) dialogs.

I can’t wait until he fits in the Doc Martens from Uncle Chris, but at the same time I wish he could stay this age for a few more years…

In front of the Triumph

Roger Joseph Manning Jr. – Solid State Warrior or Land of Pure Imagination

In a musical landscape that is currently as bleak as the surface of the moon, it is a great pleasure to find something as thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining as Roger Joseph Manning Jr.’s “Solid State Warrior” or “Land of Pure Imagination”.  To say that it is the best artist release of 2006 is an understatement, though the field lacked any real competitors.  Still, I purchased the original “Solid State…” Weed files when they were first released and then recently bought “Land of Pure…” off the Not Lame site and have enjoyed every masterfully crafted song in the catalog.

Not too long ago I worked a bit with the folks in Eric Dover’s Sextus camp after I had heard a few MP3s of his on mp3.com.  I loved the songs “Need a Push” and “Crazy For You” and contacted the webmaster/webmistress to see if I could help contribute to their efforts.  Long story short, I created a logo which was used for some t-shirts and other merchandise and enjoyed creating some image treatments and the like.  Sextus, like RJM Jr. released initially via Weed and it was at this point that I first felt the tingle of unease.  This is where some of the luster left the relationship with Sextus.  Firstly, “Need a Push” was cut from the release which bothered me to a great extent.  Then I heard the new version of “Crazy…” which was softened considerably from the much better demo version.  These issues were followed by mishaps in CD production as well as a seriously botched website that to this day still has an “under construction” GIF gracing it’s real estate.

With Eric Dover’s efforts languishing and Andy Sturmer still off in La La Land with Puffi Ami Yumi, it fell to arguably the most talented of the bunch to craft a collection of songs to eclipse anything since Imperial Drag (with the exception of anything from Supergrass) in 1996.

“Solid State Warrior” has elements to satisfy any Jellyfish/Imperial Drag fan.  From the epic Land of Pure Imagination, with it’s sweeping chorus to the closing Till We Meet Again, everything in between is superbly arranged and implemented.  My personal favorites are Creeple People (great Drag-like groove), The Loser (upbeat and clever), Sandman (the harmonies are freaking AMAZING!!!) and Too Late For Us Now (magnificent both musically and lyrically).  The new release (retitled “Land of Pure Imagination”) replaces three SSW songs with three newer efforts that, while not as appealing to me as the removed songs, are lovely in their own right.

Suffice it to say, Roger Joseph Manning Jr. has released a spectacular collection of original songs that I cannot recommend to a higher degree.  In 2005 the CD of the year was Road to Rouen from Supergrass, and with RJM Jr.’s releases we are averaging one (maybe two) worthwhile CDs a year.  Considering the hundreds/thousands of artist CDs released per year, the record/music industry is in worse shape now than it was during the few years preceding the Beatles. 

Thank you Roger, for making 2006 a musically noteworthy year. 

National teacher shortage? I wonder why…

I recently heard/saw a story on NBC that exposed a serious threat to America’s future:  A shortage of classroom teachers.  I was once an aspiring teacher, but have long since abandoned the public school teaching profession for a number of reasons, many of which have thinned the teaching community to dangerously low numbers.

Nepotism – Several districts in the area will hire from a small pool of under-qualified would-be teachers who are either related to or friends with a school board member or administrator.  I actually overheard a conversation in a school in southern Ocean County where the office workers commented on the two hundred applicants trying for a teaching position who were “wasting their time” because the niece of the superintendent was getting the job.  Toms River, Berkely Township, Lacey Township, and many other districts have common knowledge (though not advertised) policies where it is isn’t what you know as much as who you know.

De-clawed/Neutered/Powerless Teachers – Between the “Winter Recess” vs. “Holiday Vacation” stupidity and students getting away with murder because they are “Clinically Over Agressive” or suffering from “Chronic Social Regression Syndrome”, teachers have had their ability to discipline stripped from them by overzealous parents and weak, cowardly school administrators.

Low Pay  – No big shock there…  Our country pays teachers fairly poorly overall (except in incredibly wealthy districts) and as a result they set the bar for incoming teachers firmly in the “Mediocre” range.  If they used merit pay increases with reachable objectives, things might be different, but as it stands even the worst teacher (often a school board member’s unqualified son or daughter) will get steady pay increases and even get tenure in three years.

Incentives aside, it is going to take a major shift in our nation’s thinking to get our country back on track.  Keep the parents out of the schools (unless it is absolutely justified) and keep potential teachers from teaching in districts where they have relatives or friends on school boards since it is a blatant conflict of interest.  If you give good teachers more power, the low pay will seem less of an issue than it is now.

Example:  I was actually threatened by a parent in front of a superintendent who did nothing to support me.  I disciplined his daughter, and another girl for calling another student a “dirtbag” and he requested a meeting with myself and the ranking administrator where he told me he would take care of me personally if I ever did something like that again.  He said that his daughter was right and that the other student WAS a dirtbag and I’d better not try to discipline her again.  Yes, Superintendent Fogg was a poor administrator indeed.

I could continue discussing my opinions regarding the sorry state of our nation’s school system, but it is just making me more and more disgusted.

Bush-whacked or “the Choices and Decisions of the Bush Republican”

I can support education and the arts or cut funding to higher education.

I can support any loving union between human beings or promote hatred and bigotry.

I can support the middle class worker and small business or support cheaper labor and higher corporate returns in an effort to keep the poor eternally ignorant and thankful for the cheap prices they pay on imported goods made in sweat-shops and on chicken farms.

I can support religious freedom or enforce narrow-minded secular seclusionism in order to make heaven a less unpleasant place for me and mine.

I can look to our nation’s security or grandstand and bully though force while stripping resources from our northeastern ports, storm ravaged Gulf states and crime-ridden inner cities to help defray the cost of a war begun and extended in the name of a lie.

I can work to address our country’s issues or divert attention by keeping the spotlight on problems abroad in an effort to scare people into thinking that they shouldn’t think about how many symptoms are starting to point to a nation in trouble.

I can help to revitalize our economy or provide tax cuts to the wealthiest citizens in the nation who will invest their money on interests outside of the United States.

I can work to integrate immigrants into our nation so that they are more productive and less likely to circumvent the established system or I can persecute any foreigners with the exception of wealthy oil tycoons from questionable lineages.

 As a republican who voted for Bush, I am a bigot who chooses to support ignorance while saving a few dollars by shopping at Wal-Mart where unions are forbidden and women are second-class citizens.  I believe in a white heaven free from homosexuals and most minorities and I watched the Giants and Yankees kick ass while men, women and children were shot and raped in Iraq.  I look at the national debt as a badge of honor that justifies high oil prices while keeping it fashionable to buy and fuel behemoth SUVs and eight-cylinder sports cars.  I am padding my retirement fund while anchoring the majority of america to a debt of staggering proportions in order to help pay for my second apartment in Manhattan.  I choose to harass and exclude foreigners while complaining about how slow they are to clear my plates or bring me fresh water.

 The world hates americans, because Republicans pretend to be americans and end up giving us a bad name while most Democrats don’t have the guts to do more than shrug their shoulders or whine a bit before watching American Idol or Project Runway.

Beating About the “Bush” or “By George I’m on to Something!”

According to recent polls, President Bush’s approval ratings are at an all time high.  The war in Iraq is going so well we are reducing the age for the draft to 16, and we have an extended tour of the Middle East all lined up for the next five years.  Mandatory tickets for the tour go on sale at your local gas stations, and if you are lucky enough to be in the military you may get front row seats!

Yes, the war on drugs, literacy, freedom of speech, gay marriages, pro-choice, terrorism, anti-capitalism and democracy-hating-heathens continues to trip the light fantastic overseas.  Who can forget hearing our latest boy-band, the Patriots, singing the lyrics “We’ve got an armored convoy, rockin’ through the n-BOOOOOOOM!”  to the accompaniment of One-Armed Johnee and the Screaming Shiites playing their steel drums fashioned out of empty, upended oil drums.

I am supporting the efforts here at home by getting a second tax-exempt H2 for my driveway so that I can expand my collection of humorous “Support our Troops/Find a Cure/God Bless America” ribbon magnets.  And for the record, my ribbons are put together in Chile and only the magnet shapes and colored laminates are made in China.

Yessiree, the true patriot doesn’t need to affect change.  We just need to wave flags and tell leftist pacifistic pansy communists to “Love it or Leave it!” since America can now claim the title of “The Worlds Largest Supplier of Scrap Metal” thanks to President (and Most Exalted Potentate of Wisdom) Bush.  Money is meant to be spent right?  I actually saw  a bumper sticker on Air Force One that read “I’m Spending my Country’s  Inheritance!” 

I’d love to stay and chat some more, but I am donating my collection of Chinese assault rifles to the border patrol in Texas.  I heard someone in Washington talking about the Beaners taking all of our best dishwashing, crop-picking and roofing jobs and figured I’d do my part to keep them from rising above their station as third-class citizens in our third-world country.

 Good night and God Bless!

Musical Creations and Garage Band Tomfoolery

In one of my earlier posts I mentioned that my company had bought me a new MacBook Pro for my design work.  What I did not realize was how much fun awaited me with the Garage Band interface.

For the last month or two I have been writing songs on Garage Band and have uploaded several to a Switchpod hosting account. 

My Switchpod Podcasting Page

At one point I was averaging a song a day, but am now too busy at work, at home doing home repairs and keeping up with my external clients.  I am looking forward to getting back to writing more entertaining melodies when things calm down a bit.  The names of the songs and the descriptions might not make sense unless you are either inside my head or are a member of my immediate family.

Here to There

It seems that when I am travelling from one place to another, I am forced to share my existence and presence on Earth with a multitude of poorly schooled, semi-conscious drivers who are barely able to navigate the complex arrangement of gas, brake, and steering wheel needed to operate their motor vehicles.  Often, it is during my commute that I focus on some aspect of the curse of the “every other driver is a moron” syndrome that affects me behind the wheel.

I cannot shake the sneaking suspicion that starting my car broadcasts a signal that can be picked up by only the most unskilled and annoying drivers in a relative area that surrounds and follows me as I drive like a personal tractor beam.  When I say annoying, I really mean displaying traits and behaviors that depending on my mood and frame of mind cause me to narrow my eyes in extreme displeasure and utter my current favorite obscenity under my breath.

Oddly, there are certain vehicles that annoy me on sight.  Modified Coups that have huge mufflers and nuttly looking spoilers are near the top of the list.  Monte Carlos of any age seem to grate on my nerves as well, though there is a story behind that one…  Any large, luxury SUV also seems to bother me quite a bit since it falls into that oil dependency/gas price/Iraqi War/current (and despised) US president umbrella.  I have a strange dislike for Harley Davidson motorcycles ever since one struck and killed Peggy Sue.

 I have to admit that it is nice being as perfect as I am on the road.  I should be the envy of other drivers, except they are all too busy talking on their non-hands-free cell phones and trying to look stylish or cool to notice my close proximity.  Philistines.

High Spirited – A Previous Life Revisited

SCENE I:  THE SUN RISES BUT REFUSES TO SHINE
 
 For some the harsh light of truth resembles the molar rattling impact of a sharp blow to the head.  Sometimes this can be viewed as a merciful assault on one’s sense of being.  Unfortunately, for some, the icy waters of reality lap gently at the decaying structures in which we have housed our existence, with only the occasional swell of realistic insight breaking upon our shores.  While grounding ones life in self-serving moralizations and skewed logic makes for a never-ending kaleidoscope of invigorating, if momentary, bouts with self-actualization, it inevitably leads to chronic depressive behavior and often near imperturbable gloominess.  It is only during the fleeting moments when there exists an unshakeable belief in a better life, whether wholly fabricated out of rough canvas or grounded in a solid foundation of illusion, that the time spent living a ghostly ephemeral life is as close as one can come to happiness.  But then again who’s to know the truth when reality is individual in every respect.

 When you have examined the time as it appears on three different clocks under one roof for a few unremarkable years, and still you have trouble ascertaining which is correct, you may concede that you have worn out your welcome.  Is it really almost nine a.m., just past nine, or closer to ten after?  Daily these questions plague you, if only momentarily, only to recede into the erratic tides of your memory to slowly circumnavigate your brain for another twenty-four hours.  Through the haze of lingering apprehension you slowly make your way to the front of the establishment in which you work in order to look upon the fair kingdom which you are a part of, not as a member of the elite nobility, but rather as an inconsequential servant who sometimes fancies himself a king but more often than not lives as best as he can day to day within his many limitations as a part-time court jester.

 “Are you open yet?”  comes the plaintive wail from the other side of the doors as you are confronted by a russet faced shambling apparition.  Your well-trained manners, cultivated after years of dealing with similar situations, are immediately on hand.  But only for a brief moment…  Then without pause you come to the conclusion that the first clock was the correct one and that you now have the chance to flex the few muscles remaining in your tired frame.  Taking perverse joy in a situation such as this may seem unwarranted to the uninitiated, but liquor store clerks are a breed apart from the rest of humanity for often they lack anything remotely resembling sympathy or good will toward all people.

 “It’s not nine yet.  We’ll be open in five minutes.”

 This is not what the individual on the other side of the locked doors wants to hear and he makes it evident by launching into an argument that is either well rehearsed and carefully planned or fueled by the ravaging effects alcohol deprivation.

 “Fer Christ’s sake, I only want a pint!  Come on, it’s after nine, look at my watch, it says it’s after nine!  I’m in a hurry!”  He obviously fails to notice that you have already turned your back to the glass and are ignoring his pleas, which initially gain in volume before winding down to a low pitched muttering.  He seats himself outside on a bench, returning to peer into the window every fifteen seconds either in an effort to speed up the opening of the doors through his conspicuous presence, or in earnest hope of finding the gates to his liquor induced brief forays into some kind of eighty-proof heaven opened to him.  You eventually tire of the game, turning on the lights and opening the door in a manner suggestive of magnanimous condescension slightly tinged with feigned guilt.

 Thus begins this day, like many days long past and prophetically akin to many future days yet to come, but nevertheless vainly and fervently hoped against.  Unconsciously you often wonder, as you do now, what brought you to such a low state.  The answers are as simple to divine as the meaning of life itself, and although the questions pile up with each passing experience heaped upon your overflowing plate by the uncompromising whims of fickle fate, the drive to derive some meaning in all of this remains attached to your shoulders like some spindly spider monkey clinging to the highest boughs of the tallest tree deep in some remote jungle wilderness of your psyche.

The Newest Addition to our Family

JessieWe would like to welcome Jessie to our home.  A three-year-old White German Shepherd who stopped getting along with her previous owner’s cat after two years has come to stay with us as a permanent family member.  Gretchen, who has been out of sorts and occasionally mopey since the untimely death of her sister Peggy Sue, is thrilled at having Jessie here with us.

GretchenWe agree with Gretchen and feel that Jessie is quite special.  Join us in welcoming Jessie to Twelve Oaks.

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