Louisiana has been called the Culinary Mecca of America. Folks in this part of the country can take just about anything edible and make it not just good, but quite exceptional. And when we say anything, we mean everything. There is virtually no limit to what a Cajun will put in a gumbo. Well, because of federal restrictions, there is one thing-horsemeat.
For years, Congress has banned the sale of horsemeat for consumption in the U.S. But that could well change under the proposed budget by the Trump Administration.
Now I’ll admit that most of us do not regularly run down to our local supermarket to check on whether a fresh shipment of horsemeat has arrived. But I’m not all that enamored by eating nutria, a large rat, that is regularly publicized as a tasty dish by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries. So, to each his own.
Is there a market for U.S. horsemeat? Yes, and it’s big time in a number of countries. “Carne di Cavallo,” can be bought in most butcher shops in Italy. In Sweden, horse meat is so popular that it outsells lamb and mutton combined. In every European country you will find horsemeat to be quite popular. In France, it’s the motherlode of food delicacies, they even have a horsemeat butcher’s organization called Federation de la Boucherie Hippophagique. It’s estimated that 700,000 tons of horsemeat are consumed annually worldwide. And for good reason.
As Gary Picariello writes in Yahoo News, “a typical filet of horsemeat is similar to that of beef. The meat is leaner, slightly sweeter in taste, with a flavor somewhat between that of beef and venison. Good horse meat is very tender, but it can also be slightly tougher than comparable cuts of beef. Horsemeat is higher in protein and lower in fat. The most popular cuts of horse meat come from the hindquarters: tenderloin, sirloin, filet steak, rump steak and rib. Less tender cuts are ground.”
Here’s what restaurateur Jonathan Birdsall told me about possible horse meat demand in the U.S. “I’ll bet I could name half a dozen American chefs chomping at the bit to do things to horse back fat or loins that’d show off a delicacy few of us probably never suspected Mr. Ed to be capable of. Braised on a nice bed of pasta, maybe, with a few roasted finger-length carrots.” Hmmm. Think it’s worth a try?
Like I said, we eat about anything down here in Bayou Country. I wrote a cookbook some years ago that includes such delicacies as my “world famous” squirrel stew, venison goulash, possum and chestnuts, rabbit in sour cream, and Louisiana Governor Jimmie Davis’s favorite, fried coon file’.
I was traveling through Cajun country a few years ago, and stopped at a rural general store for a cup of coffee. An old fellow was on the porch cooking up a pot of something that smelled good. “Whatcha’ cookin’?” I asked. “Got me a gumbo,” he replied. I inquired what kind of gumbo, and he told me, “an owl gumbo.” When I asked him what an owl gumbo tasted like, he smiled and said, “Oh, about like a hawk gumbo.”
Seeing that our locals regularly eat alligator sauce piquante, and add to a stew or gumbo just about anything else that flies or crawls, it’s hard for many of us to get too worked up over a little horsemeat. I know that many have a special affection for the majestic horse. But all horses eventually have to be disposed of. And the same horses that would be slaughtered in the U.S. under strict guidelines are now being shipped to other countries and both treated and killed in far more cruel ways.
It’s hard to figure why Congress has such a beef with letting someone chose to eat horse meat. Isn’t it really a freedom of choice issue? Our congressmen apparently have no problem with eating Porky Pig, Donald Duck, and Bambi. So what’s the big deal about eating Trigger and Mr. Ed?
Since we have a French background here in Louisiana, could the politicians in Washington be dangerously close to inciting another revolution by telling us what we can or cannot eat? Instead of a big fuss being made over, “let us eat cake,” the new battle cry could well be, “let us eat horse.”
Peace and Justice
Billy Cannon died this week. He was a Louisiana sports legend. There are some things you just don’t forget. Where you were on 9/11, or when President John Kennedy was shot. Down here in the Bayou State, add to those special dates Halloween night 59 years ago when Billy Cannon made football history with his 87 yard run to beat Ole Miss and keep the Tigers undefeated. His story is the rise and fall, then the rise again by LSU’s all-time great sports hero.
Even those who are not Tiger fans have to admit it was one heck of a run. Cannon either sidestepped or pushed away tackler after tackler as he weaved his way towards the end zone. I wish I had a dollar for every time the magical run has been replayed on television. You can imagine the crowd’s reaction on most Saturday football nights in Tiger Stadium as once again the fans in the stadium, and the millions on national television, see Ole’ Billy tear through the Rebel opposition.
This feat by Cannon allowed the Tigers to beat Ole’ Miss 7 to 3, and made him a celebrity for life. Paul Revere had his famous ride and Billy Cannon had his remarkable run.
Cannon went on to play professional football with the Houston Oilers and the Oakland Raiders. Then he went to dental school and built a successful dental practice in Baton Rouge. Because of his popularity, Cannon’s practice flourished to an estimated $300,000 a year – quite a sum in the 1960s! But then his celebrity world came crashing down, and I played a small role in his demise.
It was 1983, and I was in my first term as Louisiana Secretary of State. I was at my office one afternoon when my secretary said there were two Treasury agents to see me, and they demanded immediate attention. They pulled out a hundred dollar bill saying it was a fake, and that it had shown up in the Secretary of State’s bank account.
I had my staff go over all the various billing and deposit records, and we were able to determine that a local attorney used the hundred-dollar bill to pay for a corporate filing. We later learned that in was the first Cannon-made counterfeit bill to be discovered in the Baton Rouge area. Others quickly appeared, and a major money printing operation was broken open a few months later. The seventh-largest counterfeiting ring in American history was no more.
For years thereafter when I made speeches around the state, I relished in telling those in attendance how I knew the bill was counterfeit. “You know down at the bottom of the 100 dollar bill where it says ‘In God We Trust?’ Well on the Cannon 100 dollar bill, it said ‘Go to Hell Ole Miss.’”
Cannon quickly confessed and helped prosecutors crack the case wide-open. At the sentencing, Cannon told federal Judge Frank J. Polozola: “… what I did was wrong, terribly wrong. I have done everything within my power to correct my mistakes.”
To thousands of LSU fans, Cannon’s confession pierced the very heart of their allegiance and adulation of LSU’s greatest sports hero. Like the little boy who pleaded with Shoeless Joe Jackson of the Chicago White Sox on the courthouse steps in the famous “Black Sox” baseball scandal of 1919, all many LSU fans could think of was, “Say it ain’t so, Billy.”
As part of Cannon’s redemption, he took on the job of dentist up at Angola State Penitentiary, an hour’s drive north of Baton Rouge. The guards and inmates, alike, love him up there. Do fans still hold a grudging disappointment with Cannon? Well, when he was introduced a few years ago at Tiger Stadium just after being admitted to the College Football Hall of Fame, the cheering went on and on. Repeated efforts by the stadium announcer to quiet the fans down fell on deaf ears. Neither the President nor the Pope would have gotten such an avid ovation. Billy was back, and all had been forgiven.
Billy Cannon, like few others, has experienced the dramatic highs and lows of being a major sports hero in Louisiana. F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote that in life, there are no second acts. And Thomas Wolfe wrote that you can’t go home again. Billy Cannon proved them both wrong. And now, he will go home to meet his maker.
“People associate me with football regardless of where I go…except when their tooth hurts. They don’t care whether I played football or not. They just want the toothache to stop.”
Peace and Justice
"And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” –Deuteronomy 19:21
First off, the very reason Americans are an armed people is the very reasons the Communists conjure up propaganda in an attempt to disarm the American people, which is not negotiable (Article II of the Bill of Rights).
School shootings happen in “Gun Free” zones.
Furthermore, the criminality, irrationality and unreasonableness of these Communists within are not the reasons they are naming as to why they want Americans disarmed, and you know it. It is about them having absolute control!
They are magnifying the crimes against the law rather than magnifying the law against the crime (Isaiah 51:4). For if they were to magnify the law against the crime, we would not have these reoccurring school shootings or, for that matter, crimes, in general, would be minimized for they would fear the consequences (Isaiah 26:9; Deuteronomy 19:21).
Sante Fe Texas High School shooter Dimitrios Pagourtzis knew all the well that there was going to be no consequence for killing 10 innocent people in that high school when he shot and killed them.
He knew that the reprobates (Romans 1:28) in government would want to rehabilitate him, to financially feed their created bureaucracies ($64 billion a year correctional institutions), after his crimes committed against the innocent (and on taxpayers' monies) they will school him, feed him three square meals a day; and, at length, they will put him back into the populace to do it all over again.
Soft judges produce hardened criminals.
A society that shows more mercy to that of the criminal then that of the victim is in fact breeding criminals (Isaiah 59:14).
They are only being encouraged to commit the crimes through indoctrination and propaganda as an excuse to disarm the population after the crimes are committed.
Hollywood, television, radio, video-games you name it, all on standby to feed, and to assure the very results of the seeds that have been sown into the hearts of these young people (Galatians 6:7).
“Where there is darkness crimes will be committed. The guilty one is not merely he who commits the crimes but he who caused the darkness.”
You see, we can teach what we know, but we can only reproduce what we are. What we have taught the youth is really what the last four generations have acted out in their lifestyles. Sadly, the youth are emulating the older generation’s example in advocating crime.
Jesus said, “…wisdom is justified of all her children” (7:35). This is a truth no man can deny.
What is deterring the next kid from shooting up his school? I am about to tell you (Proverbs 16:6).
Can you imagine the people in this country agreeing to the Word of God and its judgments once again (Our Constitutional and enumerated Laws; Deuteronomy 4:6) would simply deter crimes and establish righteousness within our gates (Amos 5:15).
Simply televise it nationally and make a public example of the next criminal that wants to shoot up his or her school with “And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.” –Deuteronomy 19:21
Here is history lesson 101: America’s founding forefathers sent the message loud and clear that crimes (1 John 3:4) will not be tolerated, and justice deters crime.
There is a disturbing article in a recent issue of Atlantic Magazine by a prominent physician at the University of Pennsylvania. Ezekiel J. Emanuelis an oncologist, a bioethicist, and a vice provost of the University, and is the author or editor of 10 books, including Reinventing American Health Care. So he is a bright guy who knows a lot about health. His premise is that no one, in this day and age, should aspire to live longer than 75 years of age.
Now I would be skeptical of such an assertion no matter what my current age. I read the obituary section of several newspapers each day, and make note of a number of successful people who have lived a much longer lifespan. But the Atlantic article becomes more than a bit personal to me. You see, this week, I turned 78.
The premise of Dr. Emanuel’s article is that, for most people, the quality of life diminishes after 75. He writes that aging “robs us of our creativity and ability to contribute to work, society and the world. We are no longer remembered as vibrant and engaged but as feeble, ineffectual, even pathetic.” He concludes by assuming that those who continue to be productive long after 75 are “outliers,” and far from the norm.
But what great philosopher or scientist has concluded that one has to be productive in later years? And just what does Dr. Emanuel mean by being productive? Productivity does not particularly mean that someone who is getting a bit older and slowing down has to be creative. Isn’t the idea of retirement a pathway that allows seniors to absorb the world around them in any way they choose?
If being productive means that I’m hanging out with grandkids more, reading more, reintroducing myself to old friends who go back 60 years and beyond, taking an occasional music lesson, and even trying to be a more than passable cook, then yes, just like many of my current friends, I am being quite productive.
I gazed in the mirror this week, and told myself, look you are 78. Deal with it, and maybe even relish in all the experiences and fond memories. I think it was Lucille Ball who once said: “The secret of staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” I’d rather acknowledge that age is strictly a case of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter. Well I don’t mind. And as I get older, I’m quick to quote Mark Twain who told his readers that wrinkles should merely indicate where smiles have been.
I’d like to think that I still have a long life ahead because I watch what I eat, and I workout a lot. My old college roommate is quick to remind me that the big advantage of exercising and diet is that I will die a lot healthier.
Reaching a milestone of three quarters of a century should not be that big a deal. After all, 78 is really just a number, isn’t it? Like a bunch of other numbers in your life. Dates, addresses, sums, phone numbers, passwords, and then, in the mix, is age. But I hope it is more than that.I wrote a few years back, that my life has been, by any measure, full and hard living, with ups and downs too numerous to mention.
If there is a yin and a yang, the before and the after, what has happened and what is yet to be, then maybe seventy-eight is a special way-post for me. In fact, I really believe that I could be at the top of my game, and ready for the long and relaxing ride back down.
So to the good doctor who wants to shut his life down at 75, I say that’s your call; your freedom of choice. As for me, I still have a whole lot of living to do. And not just passive living.
Dylan Thomas said it best. “Do not go gentle into the night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”
Peace and Justice
“So it came to pass in the day of battle, that there was neither sword nor spear found in the hand of any of the people that were with Saul and Jonathan.” (1 Samuel 13:22)
Just recently, while taking care of business, I walked into a craft store where a woman was working. At first, I was not sure if I heard an English accent or not. She spoke again and then I was sure of it.
I asked, “Are you from England?” and she said that she was. I then asked her how disarmament was working out for the people there.
She told me that she has now lived here in America for 40 years and that her mother still lives there. She went on to say that her mother was so brainwashed that she has a wad of money rolled up in a secret compartment so when, not if but when, an intruder breaks in, she can tell them where the money is in hopes of them not bringing harm to her (Luke 11:21).
This all reminds me of Annie Hendrick and Sally Skidmore who are two women that live in England, as well. They are both in their 80’s and were beaten by intruders.
In fact, one woman was so tired of intruders breaking into her home, that she put chicken wire around her home. Once the local government found out what she did, they summoned her to court and told her that she must remove the chicken wire, lest it hurt one of the intruders.
The woman I was speaking with also told me that now with all of the Muslims coming into their country, knives have now been outlawed due to all of the stabbings and the police were disarmed in England, as well. I could not believe that a people could be so dumbed down to accept this in any country (Hosea 4:6).
I then asked her if she had seen the video of the 11 British police officers vs. one Muslim with a knife. I have never seen anything so ridiculous.
After viewing the video above, one must understand the reprobate and perverse minds of the system of injustice in England. The reason that they took the course that they did with this madman is because they said that they wanted to rehabilitate him. (Exodus 21:12) You cannot make this up friends.
On the other hand, in 1982, the town of Kennesaw, Georgia passed a law requiring all able adults, except convicts, to have a gun. They have only had one murder (From an out of state criminal with a gun) and have had no increase in crime or violence in 12 years! (Final Warning, Grant Jeffrey p. 205, 1995)
In the video below, they also interviewed local prisoners (3:12) as to why they never set Kennesaw, Georgia in their sights when committing crimes. They said, “Stay away from Kennesaw because they are an armed people.”
According to www.americagunfacts.com, 3/5 of Felons say they won’t mess with an armed victim. 200,000 times a year women use a gun to defend against sexual abuse and guns are used save thousands of lives every year. No wonder why the disarmed United Kingdom case study found them to be the most violent country in the EU.
The bottom line is,
“If a violent crime is to be curbed, it is only the intended victim who can do it. The felon does not fear the police, and he fears neither judge nor jury. Therefore what he must be taught to fear is his victim.” -Lt. Col Jeff Cooper
In ending, when you look at the Scripture found in 1 Samuel 13:22, you will notice that the children of Israel after many were killed, due to their disobedience to God’s moral law (1 Samuel 3:13), were enslaved and oppressed before the Philistines, and how did they do that? They were disarmed. See how this works?
Remember way back in 2011 when Netflix bungled their streaming/DVD unveiling and announced a 60 percent price increase? Social outrage resulted in an almost 80 percent drop in Netflix’s share price in four months, and cost them over 800,000 subscribers.
Well, Netflix is back at the bungling with its March announcement for plans to drop its five star rating system in favor of a “thumbs up/thumbs down” approach. Netflix has an adorable short video explaining the change. The “ratings makeover” was widely reported online but had little impact on social media, and, in turn, the internet released a collective, “meh.” But now that Netflix has actually gone through with the change, subscribers are not happy.
The fine folks over at the The Mary Sue covered the Reddit and Twitter hate with their “Backlash Against the New Netflix Rating System Shows That People Want and Miss Nuance.” Polygon, Variety and even the New York Post jumped on the bandwagon with “Thumbs Down” editorials. I found Indiewire’s “Netflix’s New Rating System is a Terrible Idea” to be the best read.
But Todd Yellin, Netflix's VP of Product, sticks to his guns. “Five stars feels very yesterday now. The five-star rating system really projects what you think you want to tell the world. But we want to move to a system where it’s really clear, when members rate, that it’s for them, and to keep on making the Netflix experience better and better.”
It will make my Netflix experience better, huh? What kind of malarkey is this? It’s actually making me kind of angry. Don’t make me angry, Netflix. You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.
Ugh. And maybe (depends on how angry I get).
My first and foremost thought about the change is the lack of nuance. Netflix’s five star rating broke it down like this:
1 star: Hated it
2 stars: Didn’t like it
3 stars: Liked it
4 stars: Really liked it
5 stars: Loved it
There are problems already. Do you know how many films I want to rate 3.5 stars? Or 2.5 stars? Lots! That’s how many! Lots! Netflix doesn't allow that! One to five stars is already a tad limiting and now they expect me to vote yes or no? Um, I don’t think so. In fact, I’m pretty sure I will just not rate movies on Netflix. It’s not improving my Netflix experience, yet.
I decided to post a righteous, whiny rant on my Facebook page and complain about Netflix. I sought solace from my English-y lit friends, and Pat Harrigan, part time editor for M.I.T. Press and author of the novel “Lost Clusters,” does not disappoint, “Dammit! 1-5 is perfect; it maps intuitively onto an A-F grading system, and avoids having to distinguish Jesuitically between things like “9 or 10 stars .. Godfather 1 vs. Godfather 2? No one has the time for that; give them both 5 stars and move on. But thumbs up vs. down is a commercial distinction (“buy vs. don’t buy"). Siskel and Ebert both hated it, and you’re right to hate it too.”
Yes. That! You win!
Actually, though, to be fair, Gene Siskel, the late Chicago Tribune film critic and co-host of At the Movies and The Siskel and Ebert Show, eventually warmed to the thumbs up/down system. Siskel writes, "What's the first thing people ask you? Should I see this movie? They don't want a speech on the director's career. Thumbs up--yes. Thumbs down--no."
Roger Ebert, the late Chicago Sun Times film critic and co-host of said shows, had problems with all the limiting systems. Ebert responds to Siskel: “That makes sense, but in a written review thumbs up/down has the effect of nudging a lot of films from 2.5 (a negative review) to three stars (a positive one). There is never any doubt about giving four stars, or one star. The problem comes with the movies in the middle.” Ebert goes on to wonder if instead of worrying about Yes/No or the amount of stars attached, perhaps one should just, “...consider actually reading the review?” Roger Ebert’s thoughts on star ratings for film reviews and on reviewing, in general: “You Give Out Too Many Stars.”
I tend to lean more towards Ebert’s thinking. Yes, a star rating has problems, especially with the muddy middle portions, but it’s still vastly superior to a thumbs up/down. Siskel’s, “Should I see this movie? Yes/No” could be answered, “I can’t just say yes or no to that. Let’s talk about it. What other movies do you like? What do you not like? Do you like seeing movies with strong female leads? Does excessive swearing bother you?” So on and so forth. I can’t just answer that question yes or no. I need nuance and information. I need more and more nuance and information!
They do. I found it. Let’s see how well it works. I watched a movie six years ago. I can’t remember if it was DVD or streaming, but I want to see what rating I gave it. I follow these steps:
Ugh. Who doesn’t love scrolling through pages and pages of information? I sure do!
It hasn’t even been two full weeks and I find all sorts of dubious recommendations with Netflix’s new system. Based on all our previous ratings their algorithm now creates a “percent” for everything on Netflix. The percent should communicate to you “the percentage chance one will like this particular movie/TV show/documentary.” So, if I see a movie with a 90 percent green marker there is a high chance I will like it. The opposite should be true as well. Seems easy enough. The more you thumb up/down, the more Netflix will be able to improve your experience!
Except, getting back to the “dubious recommendations,” I see many movies I rated two stars come back to me with a Netflix Approved 98 percent chance of “liking it.” I see many movies I rated four stars come back to me with a Netflix Approved 40 percent chance I will like it. Like I said, “dubious recommendations.” You know what? Maybe it’s time to jump ship for Amazon Prime.
Look, I know the deal. There are more important things going on, and besides, no one will get cancer from Netflix’s new system (at least not that Netflix would ever admit to!). All this does is affect my entertainment consumption. But as for something that affects my entertainment consumption, it’s an obnoxious, time-wasting change.
And obnoxious, time-wasting changes make me angry. And when I’m angry, I smash!
If you have cable internet service or television, you’ve probably had a bad customer service experience. Comcast customer service, though, is the worst I’ve ever experienced. This is the story of the worst transaction I have ever attempted to make and how it made me want to cut the cord and go off the grid.
I ordered Xfinity’s X2 Double Play through my iPhone on the night of March 27. It was so easy it was as if Comcast stole the money right out of my bank account, but I received a confirmation email that my order had been placed on March 28, and another the next day stating my DVR and installation materials were on their way. I set up an Xfinity account, which comes complete with a Comcast email address. Since I was installing the equipment myself, there was no need to stay home and await a technician – or so I thought. He or she was scheduled to arrive March 28 to turn on my cable.
On March 30 I received an email with the subject line stating, “Action required to complete your order.” I clicked the “Confirm Offer” button and confirmed my order. But when I saw that my monthly bill would be more than $120 instead of the $100 per month price that was advertised, I made my first call to Comcast. I actually had a pleasant chat with a young man who was a native English speaker and very helpful. I told him I couldn’t afford $120 per month and that $100 was basically my budget. He said there was a return label in the box of installation materials for reasons such as this. He said to just slap the return label on the box and drop it at any UPS location. The return shipping was free. I told him that I’d still need Xfinity’s 100 mbps internet service for $50 per month, and he said that’d be no problem. He put the order in.
Since I work for a living, I missed the UPS delivery of the DVR and installation materials, for which I had to sign. After calling UPS to find out which of their stations I needed to visit, I got my package, reviewed the materials to see if there would be anything I needed to setup internet. I was purchasing my own modem, so I didn’t require anything. I slapped the return sticker over the original and gave it right back to the UPS lady. So far so good, right?
On April 3 I received another email confirming my Xfinity term agreement for the new order. At the very least, Comcast was covering their bases. They want you to know what you’re getting into so you can’t get out too easily. It stated that my install date would be April 5 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., but since I had previously had an installation date to have the cable turned on March 28 (which it still states on my Xfinity account homepage to this day) it shouldn’t have been necessary.
Despite speaking with the friendly, native English speaker and telling him I still wanted internet, it must not have been relayed to the technician.
When I called again on April 4 after discovering my plugged-in, Xfinity-compatible modem was receiving no information, I spoke to a non-native English speaker who said she couldn’t issue me a refund for the week my connection had not been active. I demanded to speak to a manager. He told me my account had been closed and there was no charge on my account. In fact, there was a $50 credit, because apparently when I returned the DVR, my credit card was refunded for Xfinity’s X2 cable and internet bundle, but the $50 I put down for the 100 mbps internet was simply credited to my account. I told him I wanted my cable internet-ready the next day. He transferred me to the nicest customer service representative in the world.
Kiara is a fixer. She’s one of those customer service representatives brought in to fix problems. At first she had trouble accessing my account. This was the third time I had to present my account information during this 26-minute phone call, because of course none of these customer service representatives selling or servicing internet have a connection to each other.
Finally, she scheduled a technician to come out the very next day as I requested. She said the technician would be there sometime between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. I asked if I had to be present, and she said I did not. She said she would call me personally to make sure everything went alright.
It was 7 p.m. when I got home from work the next day. I hooked up my new, Xfinity-compatible modem – because of course the one I already owned wasn’t compatible – and proceeded to fail in activating my internet service three times. I called customer service simply to find out if an Xfinity technician did indeed make my cable internet-ready that day, but the non-native English speaker said they don’t have access to that information. Well, after he ran me through the activation process another three times, which took 39 minutes on the phone, he said he would schedule a technician to come out as soon as possible. I said, “Don’t bother. I’ll go with someone else.”
But I wasn’t exactly ready to sacrifice my live streaming yet. I do a live, uncensored podcast during select Minnesota Twins games that probably requires a bit more than 5 mbps. So I put in yet another call to customer service after 8 p.m. Why I don’t know. I didn’t see an Xfinity truck or van pull up to my building in the hour leading up to 8 p.m. like I did prior to the folks downstairs moving in, so I figured either the technician never came or the cable running through my walls was garbage. Despite reaching a native English speaker, I only made it 33 minutes on the phone.
I again asked if he could confirm if a technician had in fact turned on my cable, and he said a technician was there today. I thought, “Great. So this should eventually work.” It did not. We ran through the activation process another three times before I decided I needed to eat something. It was 9 p.m. and I hadn’t had any food in eight hours. After about 25 minutes I asked the guy if he could give me the name of the technician that was supposed to make my cable hot, just so I could use it in lieu of a curse word. He could not. I told him that would be a good recommendation to make to the big bosses at Comcast. Even if it’s a random name and no face, at least there’s someone for the customer to blame. I again asked if he was sure the technician came out to turn on my cable, but this time he said he didn’t have that information.
“But you told me the technician was out here today,” I said.
“It says here there was a scheduled visit for today,” he said.
“Are you telling me you have no way of knowing whether the cable sending your signal is turned on?”
“I guess so.”
“So the only way you know if the cable is turned on is if the device works?”
I was speechless. The only thing I could utter was a bellowing groan. How much time and money is Comcast wasting simply because of this bizarre business practice? Just think of all the extra customer service representatives they have to pay, regardless of location, because people are trying to activate devices with cable that isn’t internet-ready. How much lower could your monthly bill be if they just had a technician press one damn button in a smartphone app to confirm the cable is hot at each location they visit? I had had enough.
“You know what, transfer me to whoever can refund every penny I’ve given you because I want nothing to do with your company,” I said.
Another fixer tried to convince me to let them send out another technician, but I wasn’t going to let the third time be the charm. She assured me that they’d get it figured out, but I told her I wanted every penny back immediately, with a few curse words tossed in. She said there was no reason to curse, and I said she hadn’t had the customer service experience I had the last week. I told her this was the worst transaction I’d ever attempted to make. She told me my refund would be in the form of a check that would arrive in up to 10 business days. I didn’t care how long it took. I just never wanted to talk to any Comcast customer service representative ever again. And I might be forced to because my account balance shows a credit of $10 and some change. Comcast customer service representatives can’t even get a refund right.
All cable companies are the same because they’re all monopolies based in different areas of the world. It’s not unlike my Italian ancestors who “managed” territories in New York and Chicago and Vegas and California. There’s basically four companies that own everything – Time Warner/Charter, Comcast, Verizon and AT&T/DIRECTV. So far I’ve used all but Time Warner, and Comcast is easily the worst thus far. Time Warner doesn’t get much love online either, though.
The point of this story is to let you know what will continue to happen if we allow it. If we continue to make these corporations think we need their services, they will continue to provide terrible customer service and continue to fleece us. Take a stand and make a sacrifice.
In metropolitan areas there are tons of alternatives to cable internet. CenturyLink offers DSL internet service in my area, albeit at just 5 mbps, but it’s only $30 per month. There are faster speeds available in other areas, and all you need to stream Netflix, Hulu or live television is 5 mbps. Of course, the speed quoted is always a top speed and never an average speed, so keep that in mind. They also have a 30-day satisfaction guarantee, so if you don’t like the service you can cancel for no cancellation fee. While the customer service representative was unsure if I’d also be refunded the $20 activation fee, he was incredibly helpful and a native English speaker who was familiar with my area. He even called me back personally at my request.
If you want to go off the grid entirely (I assume you have a VPN), you can start by extending your Wifi range with a USB adapter and antenna. TP-Link offers a slew of options. If you’re less than 500 feet from the nearest public Wifi signal and don’t have a lot of buildings or walls interfering with your signal, I’d suggest a single-antenna option.
If that doesn’t work, go into your kitchen and grab a colander or Wok out of the cupboard and build a parabolic dish antenna out of the previously purchased wireless USB adapter. The Woktenna has been proven to increase gain as long as the bowl is not too deep. And if that doesn’t work, try a dual-antenna version of TP-Link’s wireless adapters. If that doesn’t work, move closer to public Wifi signals. Don’t give monopolies your money. The more of us that unite against cable companies, the less everyone will pay in their attempt to bring us back.
Editor’s Note: An update follows.
After waiting more than a week for Comcast to turn on my Xfinity internet, I finally caved after finding almost no internet alternatives in my area. While I really wanted to go with CenturyLink because of their superb customer service, 5 mbps download speeds just wasn’t going to cut it. So I called Comcast one more time and stayed on the line for over an hour.
I tried to stay calm and told the first customer service representative exactly what I wanted. I wanted a coupon for a free first month of internet services at download speeds of at least 25 mbps, and I never wanted to call Comcast customer service again. I told her I’d happily visit the Xfinity store a few miles from my house and speak to a living, breathing human being who is familiar with my community so I knew who I could blame when my internet didn’t work.
She said a coupon was impossible but if I wanted to go to the store and speak to someone that would be fine. I told her I wouldn’t continue as a Comcast customer if I wasn’t given a coupon for the week-long internet absence, specifically stating the amount of time I wasted on the phone over the course of that week, which worked out to be about the cost of a month of internet at 25 mbps download speeds given my wage.
She finally transferred me to someone who actually knew what he was talking about, and while he initially said a coupon would be impossible unless it’s given by a technician in the field, I kindly said that I knew he could issue a coupon. “You can do it,” I kept saying.
He kept saying he couldn’t give me a free month of internet, but he did find out why self-activating my modem didn’t work. He informed me that there hadn’t been an account at my address for nearly a decade and that self-activation likely wouldn’t work and a technician would be required to do some maintenance. I knew that meant I’d have to be present so the technician can access the cable, so I asked if he could send one the very next day. He could not.
The seventh customer service representative to whom I spoke that week, Jerome, I believe, put me on hold to negotiate the absolute fastest response he could get from a technician. He said Monday between 2 and 4 p.m. was the best he could do. I told him that might actually work for me, as I have no meetings on Monday and can take off work early.
Then Jerome said the magic words: “I’m going to waive your first monthly fee and your activation fee because of what you’ve been through.” I was elated.
“You should have led off with that,” I responded.
I asked Jerome why he was the only person I spoke to who knew what he was talking about. He said that he had spent time as a technical support representative and understood why things don’t work sometimes. Comcast had recently moved him to customer service for obvious reasons.
Three days later my technician arrived and got my internet up and running. My download speeds are up around 66 mbps, so not only did I get what I wanted, but apparently the $40-per-month package has download speeds of up to 75 mbps. The technician said Comcast is increasing them all the time. Upload speed is what means most to me, though, which was right around 7 mbps. That’s plenty for the live podcast I do occasionally, so I thanked Nick, the technician, and went and bought a new router. Mine was apparently too old for this new technology and only provided 5 mbps download speeds via Wifi.
In conclusion, I would recommend to anyone who has access to an internet alternative that provides download speeds higher than 5 mbps to take that alternative and avoid Comcast at all costs. I’d probably just lose my mind if my Xfinity internet suddenly stopped working and I was forced to call customer service again. Exhaust every alternative before committing to Comcast.
Editor’s Note: This is not news. It’s not even for-profit news. It’s an editorial, which is an editor’s opinion. News articles are nonfiction works that strive for objectivity, because that’s how you reach the widest variety of people. Only small, local newspapers do this well anymore, and there are fewer doing it well every minute.
The problem in American journalism today isn’t fabrication of the news or biased media organizations. It’s not even biased journalists or an undereducated audience. It’s capitalism. Profit motivates news content in this country, and controversy and sensationalism result in clicks, which result in cash. If I can either please you or enrage you with a headline to earn a click or share, the bottomline is black and the boss is happy. Informing you is unnecessary if I can appeal to your emotions. I probably did with that jab at capitalism, didn’t I? This idea of fake news is not new. I’ve been writing about it since 2012. I just called it Gonzo rhetoric back then.
American journalists have been writing fake news since Joseph Pulitzer sent Elizabeth Cochrane Seaman to make Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days a reality back in 1890. He had already adopted first-person narration in his newspaper articles; now what he needed was a hero.
American reporters want to be heroes involved in the story when they should be flies on the wall. But the readers want sensationalism, too, so that’s what they got and continue to get. This “Yellow journalism” snowballed into a pissing match quickly. The war for readers between Pulitzer’s New York World and William Randolph Hearst’s Journal got nasty when Hearst started selling newspapers for a penny. Karen Roggenkamp’s essay “The Evangelina Cisneros Romance, Medievalist Fiction, and the Journalism that Acts” explains Hearst’s intentions.
“Making no attempt to discern truth from falsehood, fact from fiction, the Journal published story after unauthenticated story of fierce battles, daring exploits, and – Hearst’s favorite – Spanish atrocities against innocent Cuban maidens” (27).
In 1897, Hearst sent Karl Decker, writing as Charles Duval, to Cuba to free Cisneros, an imprisoned Cuban maiden charged with attempted murder. Hearst’s readers weren’t concerned with her criminal record, though, and ate the story up.
“Hearst encouraged his writers to blend the apparent facts of the news with specific literary vocabularies, creating a meta-fiction that Journal readers consumed voraciously…Hearst created the meta-fiction because he wanted his readers and the government to act, just as his was ‘the journalism that acts'” (25).
Only vain, American assholes could take something as solemn as journalistic integrity and sacrifice it for fame and fortune. Nowadays “journalists” are so rushed to get clicks, fact-checking takes a backseat to headline writing. Nowadays journalists spend the same amount of time or more on writing a headline than writing the actual content of an article or editorial. That isn’t going to improve the quality of information readers receive.
If news organizations were never required to make a profit, the news would be less fake. It’d also be pretty boring but likely more effective in effecting change. So instead of calling it fake news, call it for-profit news. And if you’re looking for news organizations that don’t have this profit motive, look no further. The Institute for Nonprofit News can direct you to investigative reporting that has made a real difference for real people and not for profit.
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Doesn’t it always seem like your smartphone battery starts dying when you’re due for an upgrade? Same with your car, right? Once the warranty is up something goes wrong. Well, fear not. There’s a way to make your smartphone last longer than you will. A little website called iFixit.com that started as a mine for DIY tech tutorials has grown into the DIY tech preservation tool and parts shop. It’s the first shopping experience that’s nearly brought me tears of joy.
I’ve long been a user of iFixit but seldom had reason to pay them. All I needed was information. I once revived a long dead Apple iBook and managed to do some of my favorite writing on it thanks to the tutorials at iFixit. I used iFixit again to repair my dad’s theater projector. It just needed a good cleaning, and iFixit told me exactly what I needed to remove and in what order to thoroughly clean it.
Now iFixit is not only supplying DIY tech tutorials online but the tools necessary to preserve your technology. I have an Apple iPhone 6 and just blew off Verizon after a dozen years as a customer. I got a month’s worth of Straight Talk and figured I’d deal with it on a month-to-month basis for the first time. Verizon did its best to retain my loyalty by lowering my bill to $55 per month for 5 GB of 4G LTE data and unlimited talk and text. Straight Talk is $45 per month for 5 GB of 4G LTE data and includes unlimited talk, text, and data, albeit at slower speeds after 5 GB. Straight Talk also doesn’t allow tethering, which means you can’t get on the web with your laptop using your phone as a wifi hotspot. I did that a lot with Verizon, and apparently it does a number on your battery’s life. Now there’s no reason to worry.
I simply started by checking prices for iPhone 6 batteries on Ebay. Everything was under $10, so I was immediately excited. But then I Googled “does iFixit have tutorials for replacing an iPhone 6 battery,” and then I was nearly moved to tears and raised a fist in the air – just like the iFixit logo, minus the wrench.
It was the most beautiful catalog photo and product I had ever seen. Sears has nothing on iFixit. And the transaction was most enjoyable because the order form uses Doc Brown’s address in Back to the Future as an example. The only thing that could have been better about the transaction is if the billing address example was Marty McFly’s address in Hill Valley.
This little box with the big fist is delivered to your door and includes everything you need to replace your iPhone battery for $45 after shipping. You might remember I told you the cost of a replacement iPhone 6 battery was under $10, but the tools necessary to replace the battery are invaluable and most certainly worth $35. Then, when your battery goes bad again in two years, you can replace it for less than $10 rather than spend $750 for the trendiest phone that’s exactly like the last one, and the one before that.
iFixit is changing the game with this product offering. I suggest you take advantage of it. You can find parts, tools and tutorials for Android devices, Apple computers, iPads, iPods, Amazon Kindle, GoPro cameras and game consoles. Don’t let a corporation control your pocketbook. In fact, grab the nearest tool and put a fist in the air to let them know your dollars will be awarded to those who allow DIYers like us to take advantage of our willingness to do the work. Take back your right to repair.
Editor's Note: This article has not been sponsored by iFixit. An update follows.
My iPhone 6 battery replacement kit arrived in a reasonably-sized box with all the necessary tools to complete the battery replacement, but some scary information was also included. A card inside the box said my state (Minnesota) is considering "Right to Repair" legislation. I was scared because at first I figured corporate lobbyists had convinced crooked politicians to make sure we can't repair our devices. Then I wondered why we as consumers would need to pass legislation to protect our right to repair. We paid for the product. What we do with it after paying for it is our prerogative and ours alone. But, of course, corporations would love to force us consumers to buy one of their new devices every two years or so. I can understand a corporation voiding a warranty for opening a device. Apple is famous for this. There was a warning on my old Mac Pro about opening the case. I proceeded to open it anyways and add a 1 TB hard drive.
"STAND UP FOR YOUR RIGHT TO REPAIR," the card reads, asking me to visit repair.org/stand-up. Doing so disturbed me further, as eight states were listed as considering Right to Repair legislation, which again, I feel should be unnecessary. Nebraska, New York, Minnesota, Kansas, Massachusetts, Wyoming, Illinois and Tennessee were all listed as considering Right to Repair legislation. Some Right to Repair legislation has already passed in Massachusetts, and some legislation has had strong opposition from corporate lobbyists in New York. I urge you to visit this site regularly to easily tell your state's representatives why you support the right to repair your own stuff.
Now, back to the task at hand, which is replacing my iPhone 6 battery. I had to let my battery's charge get below 25 percent in order to start working on it because a fully charged battery is more likely to catch fire when punctured. The folks at iFixit made this very clear, and since there was no tutorial included in the box and I only had access to the iFixit website through my iPhone, I took screenshots of each step of the iPhone 6 battery replacement tutorial and uploaded them to my offline laptop.
Once the battery's charge was below 25 percent, I removed the two screws at the bottom of the iPhone near the Lightning power input. In no time at all I had access to the guts of my iPhone, and with the removal of just a few screws, which I was sure to keep in separate plastic bags labeled with their correct location. The whole task would have taken less than an hour if not for one of the adhesive strips under the battery ripping. I had to buy a $10 hair dryer at Walmart and heat the back side of the iPhone directly under the battery because I didn't have an iFixit iOpener. It worked wonderfully, and the battery gave way after just a few seconds of heating.
The hardest part was applying the new adhesive strips to the knew battery, but I managed to install the replacement battery with no trouble. I followed iFixit's instructions to calibrate my new battery by using it to lower its charge below 30 percent. I then plugged my iPhone in and let it charge uninterrupted until it was fully charged. Then I did a little research into how to preserve the life of my new battery.
Business Insider provided a great guide for battery preservation, revealing that leaving your battery plugged in after it's fully charged is really bad for your battery. I and most of you probably charge your battery at night and unplug it in the morning. Don't.
The story also warns of letting your battery's charge get too low because charging from 0 percent to 100 percent puts a lot of stress on the battery. In fact, you should never charge your phone's battery to 100 percent, with the initial charge being the exception.
The revelation that rocked my world the most was that it's not bad for your phone's battery to receive partial charges throughout the day. I was under the impression that lithium-ion batteries had a lifespan consisting of a certain number of charges. That is not the case. It's actually recommended that "charging your phone when it loses 10 percent of its charge would be the best-case scenario," according to Battery University.
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