Thursday, August 26, 2010

Pawn Stars, iPhones, Roller Derbies and Cryptosporidium (and other random things)

Finally got me an iPhone.  Not that I needed one... truly, who actually needs an iPhone?  I mean, if you think about it, do we really need portable phones?  I got by for 28 years without one, and sure, its nice to be able to call someone and say, "Hey, I'm on the way" or send a text really quickly to say, "Remind me again what time the movie is" or "Can you pick up some milk?" but really, do we need one?

The answer?  We do now.  Its become an intregal part of life.  We'd survive without it, but why do we have to?  That's like saying, "Well, yeah, we'd get by if every Baha Burger or Chipotle closed its doors forever" but why would we want to do that?

iPhone 3gs 8gb
So, it stands to reason that naturally, I don't have a phone tonight.  Well, technically, I do have a phone.  I have two sitting in front of me, but neither have service. 

The Lovely Steph Leann's phone has been dying for a few days, dropping calls, not connecting and so on.  It was time for an upgrade, so I went with her to AT&T to do just that, for both of us.  Initially she tried to lead me left side of the store, to the "buy one get one free" phones for like, $10.  But, of course, I'm having none of that, and found myself wandering to the right side of the store where the "smartphones" were on display.

And then, I found myself standing in front of the iPhones.  I had resisted the iPhone for a while because when they first came out, they were just so doggone expensive, and the plans were reeeeeediculous.  But as time has gone by, the prices have dropped, as with just about everything.  The 4G came out earlier this summer, which meant the 3GS was down to about $100 or so.   The Lovely Steph Leann put up a slight resistance, but I think she kinda knew it was a lost cause... kinda like me putting up a slight resistance to expensive dining room chairs.  Its going to happen.  Just go with it.

As we got in the car, The Lovely Steph Leann turns to me and says, "Okay, so we've got you caught up on technology for a while.  We're done."

She got another Nokia, her being a Nokia kinda girl, and I got an iPhone ordered. They were out, so it was to be shipped to The Cabana and delivered some time this week. And being off yesterday, today and tomorrow (Thursday), I used Tuesday as my lazy as crap day, Thursday will be my get stuff done day, and today was my for errands.  And in my errands, I stopped at the Hoover Public Library, got some audiobooks and subsequently checked my email while there... and discovered that my iPhone had been delivered this afternoon.

Racing home, I found it sitting on the end table, as The Lovely Steph Leann was home for lunch while the FedEx guy stopped by.  I tore it open like a kid tearing into a Christmas gift, pulled out the box, opened it with my teeth and picked up my black 3GS iPhone... and plugged it in.

A few hours later, I pulled it off the charger, synced it with iTunes and called the number to get it activated.  It cut off service to my old Motorola Razr.  That's fine, don't need service on two phones.   Turned off my iPhone and waited the 5 to 10 minutes it asks you to wait, then turned it on.  No service.  Turned it off again, waited a few more minutes, turned it back on.  No service. 

Went to church, as we came back, turned it on, no service.  Figured we'd go by the AT&T store, get it solved.  Well, the store closed at 7pm.  And its 754pm.  Called AT&T, and was told that I had to go back to the store upon which I purchased the phone.  So, at 9am, I have to go.  Until then, no service.  No phone.

Is this something annoying, or should I enjoy my freedom from connection? 


Watched two movies yesterday just on a whim...

"College" stars Drake Bell (from Nickelodeon's "Drake & Josh") and Chicken Little from American Idol, Kevin Covais.  Anyway, Drake plays Kevin, and he and his buddies Morris (Covais) and Carter (Andrew Caldwell) go spend a high school senior-checking-out-the-school weekend at Friedmont University, fall for some sorority chicks, get in trouble with the bad boy fraternity on campus, and hilarity ensues.

Well, not really hilarity, just a lame attempt at such, with your expected booby jokes, chick jokes, and teen humor. I laughed one single time at about the hour fifteen mark.  Terrible film, not Emmy Turnbow approved. 

"Lower Learning" stars Jason Biggs, Eva Longoria Parker and Monica Potter.  Bottom line, Biggs plays an assistant principal who is trying to stop the mean, corrupt principal (Rob Corddry) from tanking the school and getting it shut down.  Eva plays a school inspector, and Monica Potter is a teacher and... you know what, it stunk.  Wasn't nearly as crude as "College", but didn't try nearly as hard.  At least "College" gets a B for effort.


I oftne make fun of Alabama Adventure, and mostly because it kinda deserves it, but sometimes the comedy just presents itself...

So sez Fox News dot com:


No evidence that this guy spread the parasite.  Its merely
a picture.
BESSEMER, ALABAMA-- The Alabama Department of Public Health is investigating reports of several people getting sick after visiting the water park at Alabama Adventure in Bessemer.

The state health department, in a statement Friday afternoon to FOX6 News, said it was investigating a, "cluster of ill persons" associated with the Alabama Adventure Water Park in Bessemer. The health department said these individuals tested positive for a parasite that causes an illness called cryptosporidiosis.

(full article is here)

"Cryptosporidiosis" is a frightening word.  So sez Wikipedia:  Cryptosporidiosis, also known as crypto,[1] is a parasitic disease caused by Cryptosporidium, a protozoan parasite in the phylum Apicomplexa. It affects the intestines of mammals and is typically an acute short-term infection. It is spread through the fecal-oral route, often through contaminated water;[1] the main symptom is self-limiting diarrhea in people with intact immune systems.

Not sure its the worst job in the whole world, but "PR Guy for Alabama Adventures" has to in the Top Ten, at least for now.


A good way to get a date is be a professional athlete.  All the rest of us had to work slightly harder... this guy made it happen, though...

OAKLAND -- Jacki Lynch walked into her first A's game Thursday night with no other itinerary than to take advantage of a free ticket and enjoy the company of some college friends.

Kevin Fennell, however, had a different plan for her, although both didn't know it at the start.

The 21-year-old A's ballboy, stationed near Oakland's bullpen throughout the game, spotted Lynch nearby in the stands and, after putting his glove on a foul ball, passed by a line of fans and handed it to her.

"He looked at me and pointed," Lynch recalled. "I said, 'Me?' and he came over and gave me the ball."

Later in the game, an eventual 4-3 Oakland win over Tampa Bay, Fennell did it again, at which point the A's television crew caught on to the act and shared it with its audience -- including those friendly with Lynch.

"People kept texting and calling me," Lynch told by phone on Friday. "I thought it was so funny. I can't believe how much attention this has all been getting."

Although video only shows Fennell handing off two balls, he admitted the count actually grew to four. Lynch, though, says she walked away with five balls, the last of which came via messenger from the bullpen, reading, "How about a phone number for our Ball Man, Kevin?"

Fennell not only received the digits, but he's also already communicated with Lynch via text message to set up a date.

"We're going to get drinks next week," he said.

(full article here)
Flipped channels just now to Jean-Claude Van Damme's 1997 epic "Double Team", co-starring Dennis Rodman.  I think I liked it when I was 22. Now?  The movie is horrendous.  First, how is Van Damme's thickly accented character even named Jack Quinn?  Shouldn't it be something slightly foriegn?  Secondly, its just a terribly acted movie.  I was actually surviving it until Dennis Rodman came onscreen, and it went from worse to catastrophic. 

I'm not sure which is worse--the acting in this trailer, or the narrator desperately sounding like he's trying not to laugh.
It was so bad that I flipped about four channels north to Steven Seagal's "Fire Down Below", also from 1997.  While a bad, bad film, its a good bad, craptastic if you will.  Kris Kristofferson as a villian, a strangely hot pre-CSI Marg Helgenberger, current in the 90s country stars Randy Travis and Mark Collie and Steven Seagal working as... an EPA agent?  Really? 
I told The Lovely Steph Leann earlier, "Over 300 channels right now.  And still... nothing on."
There's a tendancy that television has to copy.  When one show does successful, a ton more pop up just like it.  Its bad in scripted tv, with Friends being popular and "Coupling" coming the next year (and tanking).  Melrose Place was a hit, and "Central Park West" tanked.  When LOST blew everyone away, we had a ton of similiar shows like "The Nine", "Invasion" and "Threshold" that came on the next year.  And went away pretty quickly.
I love watching Rick (middle) talk about stuff
if only because he makes the same hand
motions every time, and it cracks me up.
This trend is especially bad in reality TV, with American Idol paving the way for America's Got Talent and The X-Factor.  Cake Boss and Ace of Cakes and a few other cake making shows are now on, and while midget shows tend to be a little short on character, the formula works enough to make several shows.
And Pawn Shops is no different.  Pawn Stars premiered on the History Channel... what its doing on the History Channel, I have no idea... and its one of the networks highest rated shows.  And I love it.  Last week, I had an afternoon at home and ended up watching three hours of it... everything from a star-studded autographed quilt to a airplane glider to a Lou Gerig signed jersey to vintage film of FDR, its so random and I think its great.  The guys that run the shop are hilarious, and even The Lovely Steph Leann finds herself watching and laughing, and to her caring nature, feeling terrible for those people who sell stuff cheap only for the pawn guys to find out the stuff is worth a ton of money.
And to catch the pawn craze, the channel truTV (formerly CourTV) has their own show called Hardcore Pawn.  For all the fun and entertainment that Pawn Stars provides, Hardcore Pawn is the opposite.  The guys are a little angry, they are rude to people, there are way to many bleeps in the language and the show is just not good. 
Why yes, I subscribe to this podcast.  Why do you ask?
In all the channels we get, Pawn Stars makes that short list of programs that, when I flip through and see them, I will check it out to see if I've seen the episode, and I can flip to it mid-show and its still enjoyable. That's a good list to be on.
Other shows that make that list are any Dateline NBC shows on Investigative Discovery, Mythbusters on Discovery Channel, Clean House on The Style Network, and anything with Samantha Brown in it on The Travel Channel. 
Let's be real, though.  I don't watch it often, but when I happen to catch "The Harry Reid Show", I laugh out loud every time.  Might be a guy thing.
Reason #5,499,901 of why the terrorists hate us.  Holly Madison.
Found myself watching "Holly's World" on E!, sort of like leathernecking on a freeway at a car wreck on the other side.  She just bought a house, but was careful to say that she didn't want to go too big, she wanted a house she could afford and not be a slave to her mortgage.
She then showed off her Disney kitchen.  I'm not sure how to feel about the fact that Holly Madison and d$ have the same scattered Mickey placemats.  I'm totally not kidding.
They are throwing Holly a housewarming party with cotton candy, a bouncey house and a petting zoo.  I'm sticking with it, mildly amused and then...  Carrot Top showed up.  I just lost 17 IQ points.  Gotta turn it.
Stumbled upon "Whip It" earlier. 
"Whip It" is Drew Barrymore's first shot at directing, and its all about Women's Roller Derby.  I remember watching Roller Derby when I was like, 9 or something on ESPN, back when ESPN was showing anything that possibly resembled sports in an effort to fill their airwaves.
There is actually a roller derby team locally... I keep meaning to go, if only for the blogging material
Anyway, the flick tells the story of Bliss Cavendar (I turned to The Lovely Steph Leann and suggested 'Bliss Dollar' as a girl name, but immediately dismissed it with 'nah, that sounds like a terrible stripper') who is played by Ellen Page.  She lives in Bodeen, Texas, with a well-intentioned but overbearing mom and a loving but bumbling dad, and looks for a little more out of life... and she stumbles upon the Hurl Scouts, a Roller Derby team in Austin.  She makes the team, and ends up having the time of her life.
Trouble's a brewing, though, as you'd expect her parents not to approve (they don't), her best friend to feel betrayed (she does), rivals to pop up (they do) and more. 
Overall, however, I thought this was a great film.  It was smart, it was funny, it was paced well and both The Lovely Steph Leann and I found ourselves laughing and enjoying it.  Its got a little bit of language, and a pool make out scene where nothing is shown and there's a bit of smooching, though what happens next is implied.  The Roller Derby chicks are in somewhat small outfits, but there aren't any wardrobe malfunctions to see and there's lots of skating and smashing into each other.  I recommend it.
Don't you hate it when you are driving, and you are cruising along, maybe got your cruise control set, and you are coming upon a car ahead of you that you'll easily be able to pass but there's a car coming up behind you in the left lane, traveling fast, and that's not a problem because by the time you get to the point where you'd have to move to the left lane or step on your brake and breaking your cruise control speed the car coming up behind you will be way past you because of his speed...
...but the car in the left lane slows down just enough where you can't safely get over in front of him, and the car ahead of you is driving at such a speed that you now have to break your cruise control speed so the car in the left lane will in fact pass you so you can get over in the left lane, and when you get over, to top it off, the car in the left lane speeds up again and goes really fast, leaving you to try and reset your cruise control.
Yeah, me too.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

DirecTV Is Just Not That Into You


DirecTV and I have been dating for about 2 years.  We met in February of 2008, and instantly had an attraction... I had a need for satellite, having been jilted, abused and mistreated by my former flame, Charter, and though I flirted with a few others, DTV and myself have been having the most wonderful time together.

Well, like any relationship, there is bound to be trouble when something majorly new is introduced into the relationship. 

We were watching "Rising Sun" with Wesley Snipes and
Sean Connery, but for a TV pic, I had to find something
better.  I did.
So, for anyone who has even slightly seen me on Facebook in the last two weeks, you'll recognize I done went and got myself a new television.  Well... that's only slightly true... The Lovely Steph Leann took me to HH Gregg the Saturday before my birthday, led me to the television wall and said, "Choose."  It felt a bit like Miyagi taking Danielsahn out to his driveway and waving his hand, saying, "Choose". 

Well, this is a big decision to make, and I certainly can't make it myself, because this is just too important... I mean, pixels and megahertz and LED and LCD and LG and Sony and Samsung and plasma and... well, that's alot.  I put in a text to Hurricane Rhett, who was immediately excited to come and help us spend a grand on something that we kinda already had, just in a smaller, boxier, non-HDier form. 

And spend it we did, though we did save some by negotiating down a little.  Ah, Dave Ramsey.  Anyway, we got it home, and a few days later I was pumped to finally get it hooked up, install the DirecTV DVR, the Wii and the Sony Blu-Ray.


After I got it working and installed, I put in a call to DirecTV.  They've got a special where you can get Free Hi-Def for life, and though its for new customers, typically I've been able to squeeze some sort of deal out of it.  I don't feel bad about it, I mean, they want to keep me as a customer, and they are willing to work with me on prices and so there it is.

When I call, my first question is about the premium channels (Encore, Starz, HBO, Showtime, The Movie Channel, Skinemax), because early in the spring, I had worked out a promotional price for them and knew it was ending.  Much to my surprise and happiness, the girl on the other end told me that the promotion didn't end until April of 2011.  Seriously, I asked, are you sure, I confirmed.  She confirmed.  Finally, I asked, "So, if I didn't make any changes whatsoever to my service plan between now and April 2011, then my bill doesn't change?"  She said no, it wouldn't.

From there, since I'm happy now, and asked to be transferred to the Hi-Def Upgrade department.  Spoke to a very (NFL Sunday Ticket) pleasant lady there who seemed, though I'm sure it was insincere because why wouldn't it be?, pretty happy for me and my new television, and was (NFL Sunday Ticket) excited to get me started on my journey to HDTV! 

I knew that it would be impossible for (NFL Sunday Ticket) me to get the "Free HD For Life" promotion (NFL Sunday Ticket), because that's for new subscribers.  However, I was able to work out (NFL Sunday Ticket) a package where I got HD free for 24 months, typically the life of a contract, and got a few other (NFL Sunday Ticket) promos and discounts and such, and heck, with the premium channels (NFL Sunday Ticket) not going up in price until April 2011, this sounds like a pretty sweet deal. 

And for the millionth time, they offer me NFL Sunday Ticket, and how I should get it to watch every NFL Game, ever, at the cost of three monthly payments of $70 or something.   Finally, I convince the woman that yes, this is a good program, and yes, I'd love to have it, but no, I'm not paying that much money for it, because no, I don't watch enough games to make it worth my money.  Now, this just begs (NFL Sunday Ticket) the question, when in the world can they be out here to set it up?

I rack my brain thinking of next week's schedule, trying to figure out what would be a good day to come get it all set up.  Seriously, all they are doing is taking my standard DVR receiver from my downstairs and moving it upstairs (on The Lovely Steph Leann's suggestion), then installing in its place an HD Reciever.  That's it.  That's all.  Probably take 'em, twenty minutes.  Thirty, maybe.  Five, maybe, who knows, but its not even close to complicated. 

She tells me that there will be someone to call me in the next 48 hours to set up a time for DirecTV to come out and make our upgrade happen. 

That night, I go to bed a happy camper.  I have my big television, I have Hi-Def coming.  I have a happy wife, I have a happy life, and all the world is wonderful (cue birds singing).

A few days later, I got a call from DirecTV while I stood in front of an espresso machine pouring up a tall, no water, no foam, 5 pump chai.  Obviously, I couldn't take it, so I let it go to voicemail, and on a break, I called them back.  Talked to another lady about my soon-to-be awesome Hi-Def TV set up and how soon they could come out and get it done (cue happy birds singing) and after sharing in my joy, reminding me of NFL Sunday Ticket, and checking the schedule, she came up with a date.

"Looks like the next available date to have someone come out is... September 18th..."

(you know that record-screeching sound that movies make, interrupting whatever party music is going on and leading to complete silence?  Yeah, cue that sound)

"September 18th?" I asked in disbelief.  Remember, this is like, August 11th or something.
"Yes, I"m sorry, but we are really busy right now."
"Okay, well, that's unacceptable.  September 18th?  The main reason we jumped on this TV purchase is to get it ready for college football season..."
"I understand, and I'm sorry, but September 18th is as soon as we can get out there to you, and I would say you should book it, because its filling up fast."
"Okay, so since this is a busy time, shouldn't you guys have more people on staff for this?  Really?"

A week or so later, I called back, trying again to find a quicker set-up date.  And to no avail.

Smachcut to this past week, August 19th, when I received the latest bill from DirecTV.  This is the bill that I was told would not go up in the slightest because not only did we not have our HD set up yet, but apparently our promo doesn't run out until April 2011... right?  Right?   And I open the bill... our bill went from $94 to $116.  It went up $18.  And I shook my head... yes, our premium package promo ended in July, and yes we now had to pay the difference.

This is a big deal, because yes, The Lovely Steph Leann and I go out to eat alot, and yes, we frequent the movies, and yes, we buy stuff that we don't need and stuff we do need and to the untrained eye, we seem like we are doing well, and ya know, we are... but we are, in fact, on a budget.  That $18 has to come from somewhere, out of another category in the budget.  And The Lovely Steph Leann, the usual keeper of the budget, doesn't want to be the one to figure it out.

So, I put in a call to DirecTV.  I told the guy that our bill went up after I was told it wasn't, and quite simply, I got a "Sorry."  That's it.  Not a "I'm sorry, what if we..." or a "I'm sorry, however...", just a "Sorry."  I sighed, and asked to be transferred to whatever department takes care of setting up service upgrades.  And right before he transferred me, he said, "I would like to tell you about NFL Sun..." I cut him off.  "Dude.  Don't.  Just transfer me."

I got a chick with an accent, so I explained to her in short form that I now have an HDTV, I wanted HD service, and I had been told the earliest available date was September 18th.  I wanted to know if anything closer was open.   She put me on hold, and I waited.  Finally, after several minutes, she came back and said, "I'm sorry, there's nothing open until September 18th.  We do have you down for the day from noon to five."

"Well, if that's the only date available, I had to miss it because you guys might not have another day open until, what, President's Day?"
(chuckling) "Yes sir, we are pretty busy."
(not chuckling) "Okay, so what do we do here?  First, I'm not upset at you (whatever your name is), you are just answering my questions, so please don't think I'm angry at you.  I'm just a little frustrated by the process of how we got here.  You are not able to help me, you are inconveniencing the heck out of me, my bill went up after I was told it wouldn't, and I'm a little disgruntled by this whole thing."  I promise you my tone is very pleasant, I've been nice enough to recognize that she's a go-between, not the decision maker
"Well, what do you want me to do?" she asks.  I can appreciate the fact that she's not able to make decisions, I don't appreciate her tone of "whatever, can't help ya, so why are you bothering me?"

I told her that I understood she couldn't help me, and I said goodbye quickly and let it go.


So, I sat stewing for a few minutes.  This was just anger inducing... I've been a loyal customer for years, and ya know, if we have to pay full price for premiums, that's fine, perhaps I misunderstood.  But September 18th?  And I think even if they had said, "Sir, we know this is a long time to wait for an upgrade, so here's what we are going to do for you..." but nothing.  Maybe its asking too much? 

On a whim, I typed up w w w dot dish network dot com.  It popped up and I started surfing around the site and found a deal on what I like to call "The EVERY FLIPPIN' THING They Have" Package.  Over 250 channels, including all the premiums, and free HD For Life and it was all less, much less, than what we are paying now. 

I dialed up 1-800-823-4929, pressed "1" and said "new service" at the prompts and got Steve, who said, "Hi!  I'm Steve!  How can I help you?"  I smiled and said, "Well, Steve, I'm a disgruntled DirecTV customer, and am willing to jump ship.  Now is your chance to woo me.  Go."

I won't bore you with too many details, like I've already done, but bottom line is, I've got a good deal.  No, I got a great deal.  And even when all the promos are done, even when all the "free" stuff is no longer free, we'll still have Free HD For Life, and it will still be cheaper than what we are paying DirecTV right now, without their HD fees in place. 

"Tell what else I'll do," Steve says, "For signing up with Auto Billpay, you'll be getting a coupon for two free pay-per-view movies.  And I'm going to also send you another coupon that will give you three more free coupons.  And we have a service package that costs $6 per month, and I'm going to give that to you for six months free, and you can cancel after that if you'd like."  This might all be stuff he gives to anyone and everyone, but I'll take it.

He scoffed when I told him that DirecTV wasn't able to upgrade my home until September 18th.  He said, "What about Wednesday?"  I said, "Deal."

And not one single time did Steve try to upgrade me to any sort of NFL, College Football, NBA, UFC, NHL or The Oprah Network package. 


I immediately call DirecTV back, and used the words "Cancel service".  Apparently, those are panic words, because I heard "One moment, while we direct your call to the next available representative", and the representative that was next available came very, very quickly. 

She asked me why I was canceling, I told her first that I was bothered by the fact I was told two different things about my bill, and secondly by the fact that a major business such as DirecTV couldn't anticipate such a busy time as the beginning of a major television viewing time such as the Fall, and why it would take (at the time of my first call) six weeks to get someone out to my home.

She apologized (again), and put me on hold.  She came back after about five minutes, then told me that there wasn't anything open between now and September 18th.  I said, "Okay, so you know I have something else in place with a rival company.  You are so booked up right now that you cannot have someone at my house in, a week?  Ten days?  You are still not open until September 18th?  And you are going to let me walk away?"
"I'm sorry sir, that's all we have."
"I'm not sorry.  I'm taken care of.  Thanks so much."

Thus, DirecTV just broke up with me.


In the two days that followed, DirecTV called me SEVEN times.  Five times I was actually working, so I was unable to answer the phone call, but three times I managed to talk to them, once after I called them back.  That didn't go well, as she told me that I was scheduled for cancellation next week, and she wanted to know why.  I told her, she put me on hold, and then came back saying, "I'm sorry... September 18th is the soonest we have available." 

You know what, I get it.  They are busy.  And truly, September 18th might actually be the earliest they are able to get out to my house.  But the inconvenience itself is ridiculous.  Might I remind you that September 18th is a stinkin' Saturday.  Troy and UAB play that day, and its a game that I'm going to try and attend.  The Lovely Steph Leann will be out of town.  The lady tells me that as long as I have an adult there, I don't have to be there... and then, she says, "Because you obviously like football, you might be interested in the NFL Sunday Ticket package." 

I snapped.  Seriously.  I said, calmly, "Okay, Aquanetta (or whatever her name was), listen... I'm not upset at you.  You are just doing your job at trying to up-sell me.  But NO!  I DO NOT want NFL Sunday Ticket!  Its too expensive, I won't watch enough football to make it worth it, and I'm cancelling my service.  Thank you."

The second phone call I fielded was from a guy who seemed like he might have had some sort of decision making power.  He called me and again asked me if I would answer a few questions about my service.  I said, "Absolutely".  At this point, I'm still willing to listen to DirecTV, and I can be swayed back to their side.  I'm ready be taken back.

I ask, "Do you want the highly detailed version of why I'm cancelling, or do you want the vague overview?"  He pauses, and says, "Maybe the overview?"

I tell him, "Two reasons.  First, I called in July to find out when our premium promotions end, and the girl tells me April 2011.  I ask her if she's sure, and she says yes.  Well, lo and behold, my bill comes in and its about $20 more than I was expecting.  Why?  Because our premium promotions ran out in July, not April 2011.  But you know what?  I understand.  Perhaps I misunderstood her.  Perhaps I asked the question the wrong way.  I swear I was right, but I admit, I could have misinterpreted it.  And you know what, our bill went up because those are the prices set forth by your company, and its up to me and my wife to choose to pay them, or to drop them.  Whether we think its too high or not, that's your prices, and its on us to make that decision.   So, while that's frustrating, that's not my main concern.

My problem is this.  Your company thrives on people paying for your services, and when you offer better services, people want to upgrade, much like us.  I finally get a Hi-Def television, I'm going to be able to watch my Gators beat Alabama in HD and its going to be awesome.  And so when I call you guys up, all excited about my upgrade, and your opportunity to get more money out of me, you tell me you can't be there until 6 weeks.  Six weeks is highly unacceptable.  When I worked in retail, we knew that Christmastime was the busiest time of the year, and we compensated for that by hiring not only permanent people, but also seasonal people to get us through.  Thusly (its always a good argument when I can use the word 'thusly'), its highly irresponsible for you, knowing that your busiest time of the year is the fall due to football, to not have the proper people in place to handle such a rush of business. 

I called a rival company, and they'll be here in four days.  They offered to do it this weekend, but I wanted to call you back and find out how you could help me first.  And your busy, I get it, but there are no concessions being made to me as a loyal customer for the inconvenience, and frankly, it's a little bothersome that each time I talk to your company, all I get is a 'Sorry.  Can't help you'." 

Silence for a minute.  Then he pipes up, "Well, I can tell you that I apologize for all of this.  Looking at your records, you have definitely been a loyal customer for almost three years, you've never missed a payment, never been late, and we'd hate to lose you to a competitor."

"Well Bob (or whatever his name is), let me stop you by saying this.  I've already got my deal with Dish Network in place.  They are coming out Monday (I moved my set up from Wednesday to Monday) to install everything, and I'm doing a 2 year contract.  I've already got a cancellation in the books with DirecTV.  So if you want to keep me, you are going to have to make it worth my while."

"Certainly, certainly," he replied.  "If we could get someone out there faster, maybe in the next week or so, and could work out some promotions for you and save you some money, would you be willing to stay with us?"

"Absolutely," I said.  "I've only agreed verbally with them, and haven't signed anything.  I made sure to find out if everything was reversible until instillation, and it is.  Make me an offer, and I'll definitely consider it."

"Alright, here's what I'm going to do.  I'm going to punch some numbers here, and figure some stuff out on your account.  I'm going to get you taken care of in the next 7 to 10 days, and get your bill lowered.  What I'll do is call you back later on today, if that's okay, and we'll see if we can keep you with us."

"Sounds like a plan.  Thanks."  I hung up, expecting a call later on in the evening.  And a phone call came.


The phone rang about four hours after I talked to the previous representative, and until this very phone call, I was hopeful for a reconciliation.  I was thinking that things might still work out.  I was wrong.

The girl was chipper when she greeted me as soon as I answered the phone.  "d$, I was calling to confirm your appointment for your HD upgrade here with DirecTV!"

(cue birds chirping, some party music and the sounds of a good time)

"Wonderful!"  I replied. "What do you have?"
"Well sir, to be honest, we won't be able to confirm anything until the end of September."

(cue that party music stopping screeching sound from earlier)

"Well Sheila (or whatever her name is), that won't be necessary.  I no longer need an appointment for an upgrade, because I've cancelled my account."

(silence for a few seconds) "I'm sorry, sir?  Your are planning on cancelling your account?"
"Yep. I've already talked to all of you guys numerous times, and you can't get to me before the end of September.  I've already got an appointment with Dish Network, who will be here on Monday to do the job you wouldn't get done."

"So... (another silence)... you... you need the cancellation department?"

"Nope. Already cancelled.  Its set up for next week.  Thanks, though"  And hung up.


They called me one more time, while I was at work, and I replied with a courtesy call.  I only had a few minutes, so I just said, "You called, so I'm returning the call."

"We noticed that you were cancelling your account, and we wanted to know why..."

"Seriously?  I really don't have time to go into it again.  Bottom line, we found a better deal for more services, and they'll be here to take care of our upgrades on Monday, and you had to wait until September 18th.  You didn't get it done, they will."

(silence).  "Well... what if we could contact a local serviceman in your area and perhaps get someone out there Monday or Tuesday for you, and credit your account $100?  Would that be sufficient enough for you?"

"Ya know, I gotta run.  Call me back after 4pm.  Can you do that?"


The other night, I flipped through DirecTV's channels, pulled up the "Everything Flippin' Thing We Have" package lineup on Dish and compared.  DirecTV has 22 or 23 channels devoted to nothing but sales and informercials.  They also have the Gospel Music Channel, which means that The Lovely Steph Leann will miss reruns of "Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman".   Other than that, there was nothing that stood out that we will miss.  Conversely, there isn't much on Dish Network that we will gain that I'm all excited about.

I then compared the DirecTV channels in HD to the Dish Channels in HD.   I will say DirecTV has ESPNews in HD, as well as ESPNU, The Disney Channel and ABC Family, and Dish doesn't.  But they claim that they have 166 channels in HD to Dish's 122, but I counted up, and 20 out of the 40 are Fox Sports and Cox Sports regional channels.  Dish also has G4, Turner Classic Movies, History International, E! and several HBO Channels in HD that DirecTV doesn't.

So, the deal is just about done.  Save an 11th hour save from DirecTV, we are making the leap to Dish, and really, I'm cool with it.

Let me be clear... I hate Charter.  I hate hate hate Charter.  The service itself was decent, but the internet was very unreliable, and the customer service was the worst I ever experienced.

DirecTV is not Charter.  I enjoyed DirecTV.  I think they give a quality product, and overall, their customer service has been satisfactory, and in some cases, great.  When you get them at a certain time, their prices are reasonable, and they've even given us some promotional deals when we didn't deserve them.  I have no bitterness, resentment or ill will to DirecTV and would recommend them to any new customer.

However, their handling of this entire "September 18th" issue has been... well, stupid.  Perhaps I ask too much to be "taken care of" when what they are trying to sell me, and I am trying to buy, isn't readily available, but as someone who has done customer service type jobs for a long, long time, I know that you do what you can to take care of your customers.  And they didn't take care of me, even when I came back to them and told them that I was ready to walk away.  They instead said, "Walk away." 

So I did. 

And man is The Lovely Steph Leann excited about getting The Hallmark Movie Channel.  Just sayin'.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Star Wars Episode IV: A Troy Hope... The 13th Anniversary Director's Cut

In 1997, I was watching Star Wars on television, sitting in the bedroom of My Best Mate Wookiee at our little apartment on Thomas Circle in Troy, Alabama.  My first class was already over, and I was at my apartment for lunch, or just to kill time or whatever... either way, my next class started in about two hours, so I was just wasting the day away.

And inspiration hit me.  Star Wars.  Troy.  Combine the two.  Toss in a few familiar names, poke some fun at some people in a harmless jest, and be very sarcastic with the university that we all love, but love to make jokes about--Troy State University.  And even though I was Greek (Faaaaaaarmhouse... we are one, after us its all been done, we're the best fraternity, brotherhood for eternity...) I still found myself laughing at those people who took the Greek system sooooo seriously.

I sat down in front of My Best Mate Wookiee's computer, with Word '97, and started typing.  And three hours later, after I had already missed my class (and the next one too), I was finished and was printing it out. 

Before you read, let me give you some back ground... Kevin Spivey was a good buddy of mine from Troy State, and he lived with a guy named Clif (with one F).  There was a girl named Donna who had a thing for Clif at the time--I must tell you that Donna was and is just the sweetest girl you could meet (and actually holds a spot in my memories on September 11th, 2001, but that's another story).  Anyway, if you ever read this, Donna, this was done in fun and high spirits. 

The girl I had interest in was named Chrissy (who ended up marrying a fraternity brother of mine, Drew).  Jim and Geno were also a couple of FH guys who were tight.  Uncle Bob was a big guy from the day with a fondness for tats.  And our villian was a Kappa Delta sister with a super short haircut that Spivey and I suspected... well, possibly played for the other team--hence the name Dike Vader.  Looking back, that probably wasn't true at all, but I never said Spivey and I were nice people.

I won't spend time going through all the other people and references, because we'd be here all night, but I wanted to point out some of the inspirations for the main characters.  Really, though, many of you won't get most of the jokes, unless you were there--if you were there, then you'll laugh when you read words like "Brundidge", "Ziggy's" and "The Front Porch".  Old school Farmhouse guys will know.  Several of the BCM'ers will know.  Many will not.  But... you can still read along, and perhaps find a few chuckles anyway.

Anyway, I re-read the entire thing when I pasted it into this post, then started making a few changes.  I mean, its the... 13th Anniversary Special Edition Director's Cut, right?   Nothing vital has been changed, all dialogue is the same, with few exceptions, and I even added a light or two for continuity. 

Finally... I would rate this anywhere from PG to PG-13.  Remember, I was in college.  98% of this would be Emmy Turnbow approved, but I did notice (and laugh heartily) a joke in the Princess Rescue scene that might make some go "Oy..." so reader beware slightly. 

Anyway... here's our feature presentation.

A Long Time Ago... At a University Not So Far, Far Away.....

Episode IV: A Troy Hope

It is a period of civil war.
Really cool good guys, striking
from their hangout at Center Park,
have won their first victory against
the evil TSU Greek System.

During the battle, spies managed to steal
secret plans to the Panhellinic Council's ultimate
weapon, the Kappa Death Star, an armored chapter
room with enough makeup and false friendships to prove
every myth about sororities stupidities to be true.

Pursued by the Panhellinic's sinister sisters, Princess Chrissy
races home aboard her Saturn, since she is the custodian of the
stolen plans that can save her people and rid the campus of fakeness

Princess Chrissy flew her ship as fast as she could, but the bigger Pan-hellinic Destroyer was right behind her. She knew she had to get these plans to back to the Rebel base on Center Street, but she knew she wouldn't make it. Besides, if she didn't hurry, she wouldn't have a parking space.

As lasers exchanged between the tiny Rebel cruiser and the much larger Panhellinic Destroyer, two droids scrambled about. Jim3PO and GenoD2 scurried from corridor to corridor trying to find an exit.

"This pisses me off!!" Jim3PO screamed.
"(*#%&*$*," GenoD2 replied.
"Oh, shut up.  Not everything pisses me off..." Jim3PO retorted.
"(@!)#*#)*" GenoD2 said again.
"Yeah, I guess you are right.  Everything does piss me off."

The doors became weak from the pounding suddenly upon them, and then were blown open completely. Although the Rebel troops were there to fire upon them, they were no match for the SAETroopers, who of course, were so stoned they couldn't feel it if they were shot anyway.

Princess Chrissy raced to find GenoD2 and inserted a CD.... the plans to the Kappa Death Star. She then reached around and inserted her DC Talk CD . "I love this CD.... I want to keep it safe," she thought. Suddenly, a force of SAETroopers came running around the corner.

"Hit her!!" one exclaimed.
"You say you have a hit?" the other asked. "Well share it, man."

They blasted her and knocked her out. When she awoke, she stood in front of a large, dark, skinny figure, with a dorky helmet and short hair.

"Dike Vader, only you can be so bold," Princess Chrissy snarled. "We are on a diplomatic mission..."
"Oh shut up," Dike Vader breathed heavily. "You have stolen secret plans, and you are part of a Rebel Alliance and a traitor. Take her away!"

Dike Vader turned away. One of her many sisters came up beside her.
"Holding her is dangerous." the sister spoke. "She so goshdarn nice to everybody, she might get sympathy from one of her friends."
"She knows too much..." Dike Vader snarled. "And she needs to wear more flannel."
"She'll watch Beavis and Butthead before she'll tell you anything."
"Leave that to me."
"Also, an escape pod was jettisoned to a nearby planet. Since the plans aren't anywhere on this ship, they must be in the pod."
"Send a search team to find those plans."

Jim3PO and GenoD2 landed with a thud on the planet Tattoo. As they began to walk across the rocky, sandy terrain, Jim3PO began to gripe and moan... as usual.

"This sucks." Jim3PO griped.
"#&$%^@" GenoD2 beeped.
"What makes you think there are settlements over there? What mission?"
"Yeah, I could use some vodka too. Maybe there is a Ziggy's Deli around here somewhere."

The two droids began to walk north. Right around nightfall, they came upon a little hut in a canyon.
"Kevin!!' they heard in the background
"I'll be there in a minute, Uncle Bob!" came a reply.
As they neared the top of the hill, they saw a yellow landspeeder Amigo, with a young man working under the hood. He looked up and saw the droids.

"Hello," he spoke. "You must be lost."
"#(&*@^" GenoD2 beeped.
"This is GenoD2, and I am Jim3PO. We have come from an escape pod from a Rebel ship that had fallen under attack."
"You are in the Alliance?"
"#(*&$@#$" GenoD2 beeped.
"What's he saying?" Kevin asked.
"He keeps babbling about some mission he must finish. Plus, we both need a drink."
"I am KevSpiveyWalker. Come on inside. I probably have a fifth of Jack somewhere. I'll clean you up."

They went inside and Kev grabbed a rag. He leaned over to wipe down GenoD2 and accidentally tripped a switch. A hologram shot to the floor of a young lady.
"Help me ObiClifKenobi, you're my only hope. Help me ObiClifKenobi, you're my only hope..." it repeated over and over.
"Who's this chick with the funky hairdo?" SpiveyWalker asked.  Then he obeserved her purple jacket. "That jacket looks cozy..."
"Sir, GenoD2 says it's a private message for ObiClifKenobi."
"I wonder if he means old Clif, who lives in the hills. He used to be a pretty cool guy, but then he got married, and lost touch with everybody."

Uncle Bob came in the hut. "Kev, I want you to go down to Brundidge and pick up some power converters. Harvest is coming up."
"I know, Uncle Bob.... I was thinking maybe if we have a good harvest this year, I can submit my application to the academy this year."
"Kev, you know we have to make enough to finance my new tattoo."
"But I wanted to go thiiisss yeeeaarrrr!" Kev whined.
"Oh, quit whining, you baby," Jim3PO replied.

Uncle Bob left, and Kev turned to the droids again.
"Well, to get to the bottom of this, we have to find ObiClifKenobi," Kev said. They went out, and loaded up the Amigo Landspeeder and took off. Of course, on the way, it started raining and they got behind a Wiley Sanders truck. Kev began to cuss it, and Jim3PO spoke, "Shut up,"
The three pulled up to the apartment where they thought Clif lived, and knocked on the door. Clif answered.
"Are you ObiClifKenobi?" Kev asked.
"I haven't gone by that named in a long time. Come in, young SpiveyWalker."

"Yes, I knew your mother," Clif answered. "The best pilot in the galaxy... before the KD's killed her.. I have something for you."

Clif walked over and pulled out a little bar. When he pressed a button, a beam of energy shot up.
"A lightsaber... the true weapon of a Jedi."
Kev began to play with the lightsaber while Clif began to ramble about some crap on how the Jedi used to rule the campus, before the IFC/Panhellinic Dark Times, blah blah blah.  Kev was only sort of listening.
"How did my mother die?" Kev asked.
"A young Jedi named Dike Vader, who was a pupil of mine until she joined the Lesbetarian Church, turned to the Dark Side. Dike betrayed and murdered your mother. Dike was seduced by the Dark Side of the Force."
"#*&^$$" GenoD2 beeped.
"Okay, I think it's time we heard this message."
GenoD2 beamed the hologram of the young lady with the funky hair.

"General Clif," the hologram spoke. "You were in a stage play with my father. Now he begs you to help him. I wish I could be there, but these stupid KDs have attacked me, and my mission to bring you to Gardner Hall has failed. I have placed information about the Kappa Death Star in this GenoD2 unit. You must see this droid safely delivered. Help me ObiClifKenobi, you are my only hope." The message disappeared.

"Kev, you must learn the ways of the Force if you are to come with me to Gardner."
"And destroy KD's? I am there."

The sorority sisters sat in a big circle in one of the chapter rooms, arguing over who was prettier, who had better hair, who's date to formal was hotter, and of course, about the rebellion.
"The rebellion is dangerous."
"Dangerous to your starfleet, Commandette, not to this chapter room."
"The rebellion will continue to gain sympathy from Chancellor Hawkins..."

The dispute was interrupted by the entrance of Dike Vader and Grand Moff Tucker.
"Hawkins is not a concern," Tucker smiled. "I have received word that I have faked and charmed my way into Hawkins giving us control of the regional SGA senates. Fear will keep the students in line. The last remnants of the old Greekless republic have been swept away."
"We are in search of the plans as we speak," Dike Vader smiled her lesbian smile. "We will crush the rebellion in one single blow."

"The Front Porch Cantina... a harbor for all the fraternity scum you would've ever wanted. We'll find a pilot here to take us to Gardner." Clif said as they entered the town.
Clif and Kev went inside while Jim3PO and GenoD2 waited.
"I know, Geno, I wanted some tequila too." Jim3PO sighed.
Kev walked up to the bar and ordered a drink, while Clif was talking to some hairy guy.
"Mmmhp Mhhme" the guy beside Kev grunted.
Another guy stepped in, "He likes you."
"I'm sorry," Kev smirked and turned to his drink.
"I like you too. You just watch yourself. We're wanting men."
"I'll be careful," Kev tried to turn away.
"You'll be gay!" the guy whirled Kevin around.
"This one is not worth it," Clif stepped in.

The two leaped at Clif and Kev, but in an instant Clif fired up his saber and chopped off the arm of one of the two.  The bar stopped to see the commotion, but then went back to their conversations.   The hairy guy from before went past Kev and Clif.

"Fulaytarbacca is the copilot of a ship that can get us to Gardner." Clif spoke as they followed the Wookiee.
"I'm Dave Solo, captain of the Millennium Supreme." the incredibly charming, attractive and humble guy in the cool jacket behind the table spoke. "Fulaytar here says you are looking for a way to Gardner Hall."
"Yes, if it's a fast ship." Clif said.
"You've never heard of the Supreme? It's the ship that made the Disney Store run in 27 minutes. I've outrun Troy State RentaCops. What's the cargo?"
"Myself, SpiveyWalker, and the two droids. And we want to avoid any imperial interruptions."
"Ah, secret cargo.... that's gonna cost you. I'm thinking ten thousand."
"What?" Kev shrieked. "We could buy our own ship for that."
"And who's gonna fly it, you?"
"Don't get smart with me, you dirty Mexican. I'll kick your teeth in."
Dave Solo thought it best not to arouse the temper of the young SpiveyWalker, so he turned back to old Clif. "When do you want to leave?"
"As soon as possible. We can pay you 2000 now, and 15 when we get to Gardner."
"Seventeen? You got yourself a ship. BCM parking lot, the last handicapped spot on the left."

Clif and Kev left the table, as Dave turned to Fulaytar. "Seventeen thousand!! This could really get me out of debt. Get to the ship and check all the fluids."
Fulaytar grunted and left to the parking lot. Dave started to go out the other direction, but was stopped by Burko. Phillip Burko, the bounty hunter.

"[Going somewhere, Solo?]" Burko asked in his Lambda Chi Alphese tongue.
"Yes, as a matter of fact, I was going to see your boss," Solo replied.
"[Too late]," Burko grinned. ""[Discover Card has put a bounty on your head so large every bounty collection agency hunter in the galaxy will be looking for you.]"
"But this time I have the money."
"[If you give it to me, I might forget I found you.]"
"I don't have it with me. Tell Discover Card..."
"[Discover is through with you]"
"Shut up..." Dave replied, shot him, and walked out.

Meanwhile, on the Kappa Death Star...
"The resistance to drinking is stronger than I thought," Dike Vader snarled.
"I told you trying to get her drunk so she would tell you the plans location was a futile effort. Let's try something else." Grand Moff Tucker smiled. "Captain, set your course for Gardner."

On Tattoo, the SAETroopers, stoned as they may be, found the Supreme just as they all were getting on.
"Fulyatar, fire her up!!" Dave yelled as he ran around the front to get in.
"This thing is a hunk of junk!!" Kev yelled as he dodged laser blasts.
"She'll go from zero to 60 in seven seconds. Now get on!" Dave jumped in. "Fulaytar, get us out of here!"
The Supreme blasted off, but they had DeltaChi Fighters on their tail.
"There is a Panhellinic Destroyer back there too," Dave said. "Fulaytar, hold them off until we can make the jump to OverDrive."

The Supreme flew in and out of the lasers from the Destroyer, and then suddenly, in a flash of light, the OverDrive jump was made and the ship flew into the darkness.

"Governor Tucker," Princess Chrissy grimaced as she walked in. "Come on, Donna, let me go."
"Sorry, dearie." Tucker sighed. "We've always been good friends, so you don't know how hard it was signing the orders to terminate your life. I would like you to be a witness to a demonstration that will make this Chapter Room Battle Station operational.... now where is the Rebel Base?"

"The more you tighten your Greek grip, the more independents will slip through your fingers."
"Not after we show everyone the power of this station.. Since you will not help us, we are going to test this station on your home planet of Gardner."
"No! Gardner is peaceful!! It's mostly just unknowing freshman!! You can't do that!!"
"Where is the base?"
Princess Chrissy bit her lip, closed her eyes, and muttered, "Clements. It's on Clements."
"Very well," Grand Moff Tucker said. "Captain, you may fire when ready."
"You are far too trusting, Princess Chrissy. Besides, Clements is all the way across the campus, but don't worry, we'll deal with them later."

From the Kappa Death Star, a huge cannon shot a laser across the sky, as Gardner was blown into a million pieces. 

Clif, who was watching SpiveyWalker do his Jedi exercises, went to sit down.
"Are you okay?" Kev asked.
"I felt a tremor.... I think I have a headache. I feel like millions of freshman have been yelling in confusion."
Dave Solo came in, "We should be coming upon Gardner anytime now."   Fulaytar and GenoD2 were in the corner playing Phase 10.

A guard came in to see Grand Moff Tucker in her conference room. "Ma'am, we searched Clements, and there is nothing. Well, actually, there is a lot of crap on the walls, and it smells pretty bad, but no Rebel Base."
"She lied to me!" Tucker yelled. "How could she lie to me!"
"I told you so," Dike Vader replied.

The Supreme began to rock to and fro.
"We have gotten to Gardner, but it's gone," Dave Solo looked on the monitor.
"Whaddya mean it's gone? You can't just make a dormatory planet disappear," Kev asked.
"It's been blown away, by the Panhellinic Council," Clif said. Fulaytar grunted to show the radar.
"There's another ship coming in... it's one of those small Teak Fighters." Dave Solo flipped some switches. "Must've been part of a convoy and gotten lost, but he won't be around much longer."
Fulaytar jammed the Teak signals as they got closer to it.
"It's heading for that moon over there," Kev said.
"That's no moon.... it's a Chapter Room." Clif replied.
"Fulaytar, put it in reverse!!" Dave yelled. Nothing happened.
"I know, we are caught in the tractor beam!" Dave turned to the panels. "I'm shutting her down."

Dike Vader came into Tucker's room. "An Oldsmobile Freighter has just been captured. It was entering the remains of Gardner.... they must have the plans. Princess Chrissy may be of use to us."
Dike Vader walked toward the ship, and then stopped. "I feel a presence in the force." Without a word, she turned and walked away.

The five heroes of our story hid in the trunk. Slowly, Dave lifted the top and looked out.
"I say we go kill all of them," SpiveyWalker said.
"Yeah, me too," Dave Solo agreed.

Two SAETroopers came around the corner. Stoned out of their minds, they saw Fulaytar. Thinking there were five Wookiees as opposed to one, they both fainted.  Kev and Dave put on their suits.

"Don't look at my butt, you perv," Kev said to the Wookiee.

They slipped their way to a control room. GenoD2 plugged in to a computer to download the Panhellinic System.

"Geno says the tractor beam controls are on the third level." Jim3PO said.
"I must go alone," ObiClifKenobi said.
"Okay," Kev said.
"See ya," Dave replied.
"You must see the droids to their destination. Follow your destiny, young SpiveyWalker." Clif said, and then disappeared.
"What's he saying?" Kev asked, pointing to GenoD2.
"He says he's found her, the princess is here." Jim3PO replied. "On the detention level 5, level AA."
"Princess?" Dave Solo exclaimed..
"I don't care, I am sitting my behind right here," Kev sat down.
"Geno says she is scheduled to be terminated," Jim3PO said.
"Hear that, Spivey! They are gonna kill her!" Dave Solo said.
"Better her than me."
"She's rich.... I know you have Discover bills too."
SpiveyWalker turned around, "How rich?"
"Pretty rich... you should see their house in Mobile."
"You better be right... "

In their SAETrooper garb, they walked a hairy FulaytarBacca, bound in cuffs, into an elevator.
"This helmet smells like pot," Kev commented.
The elevator stopped and the three walked out.
"Where are you taking this... thing?" asked the commander.
"Shut up," Kev just started shooting people. FulaytarBacca broke his cuffs, grabbed a gun, and began to shoot as well. In a matter of seconds, all the troopers were dead.
They shot all the cameras as well, but they heard a voice over the intercom, "What's going on? Report, report!!"

Kev looked on the control panel and found the Princess's cell, "Here it is, 2187... you go and get her, I will hold up here."
"Report, report!"
"Um... uh..." Kev took the mic, "Everything is fine here, normal."
"What happened?"
"Um, slight weapons malfunction... everything is fine though.... how are you?"
"Who is this?"
Kev just cussed it and shot it. "Dave, we are about to be real busy!"

Dave Solo (as the music plays in the background) found and opened the door to the Princess' cell.
"Aren't you a little sober to be a SAETrooper?"
"I'm Dave Solo, I'm here to rescue you!"
"Dave Solo... I'm here with Clif Kenobi."
"Um, don't know him either... oh yeah, the ObiClif... he was a PCO leader!"

As they dashed into the hall, Kev and FulaytarBacca came running their way.
SAETroopers flooded the hall as Kev, Fulaytar, and Dave fended them off. "This is some rescue," Princess Chrissy said sarcastically.
"Don't make me do a Beavis impersonation." Kev replied, firing away.
Princess Chrissy grabbed a gun and fired a hole in the floor. "It's the Alumni First Floor!!" She jumped into the hole.
"Get in there, you sasquatch!! I don't care what you smell!" Dave Solo yelled at FulaytarBacca, who finally jumped in the hole.
"Wonderful chick, Dave," Kev yelled. "I think I am going to have to kill her!"
Dave Solo leapt into the dark tunnel, followed by Kev.
All four where in the trash pile they call Alumni first floor.
"This place is funky!" Kev shrieked.
"Did you even think about how we were going to get out of here?" Princess Chrissy asked. Fulaytarbacca just banged on the door, which wasn't opening.
"He's the brains, sweetheart.... what kind of material is that on your coat?" Kev replied.
The walls shuddered and suddenly began to come together. Kev grabbed his comlink. "Jim! Jim! Where are you?"
"Right here, sir," Jim3PO replied from the little control room.
"Shut down everything on the Alumni first floor!!"
"Oh, okay... you leave us here to die, and now you want us to help you!"
"Stop being so pissed off and help!"
"You say we never do anything with y’all, and yet you leave us here! You didn't want us to come with you!"
"Shut up and do it, before I have to come kick your...”
"Okay, okay, jeez..."

The walls stopped when they were about three feet apart from one another.
"Let's get out of here," Kev commanded.
"Now listen to me," Princess Chrissy spoke. "I don't know who you are or where you came from, but from now on, you will take orders from me, I am in command."
"What are you, some kind of control freak?" SpiveyWalker's nostrils flared. "I take orders from one person... me, got that?"  He reached out to touch the velvety texture of her jacket, but she yanked her arm away.
"Dave, get your walking carpet roommate out of my way," Princess Chrissy walked past FulaytarBacca, who just grunted and scratched.

Clif snuck behind a column and tripped a few switches to shut down the tractor beam.
Meanwhile, the four came to a window to see the docking bay.
"You came in that teal thing?" Princess Chrissy asked.
"Yeah, you should've seen my Buick." Dave Solo replied.
They whirled around to see a legion of SAETroopers heading towards them.
"Split up!" Kev yelled, as Dave Solo and the Wookiee went one way, leaving Kev and the Princess.
"Can I feel your coat?" Kev asked.
"Come on, let's get out of here!" the Princess yelled.
They ran into a hallway that came to an extending bridge. Kev grabbed his rope and swung it to catch it on the rafters.
"Hurry, they are coming," Princess Chrissy shrieked.
"Heh heh, you said coming." Kev grinned.
As they started to go across, they looked at one another.
"Don't kiss me," Kev said.
"You wish, Captain Grey Hair." Chrissy replied, as they swung across.

Clif pulled out his saber as he walked the halls. He rounded a corner and ran into Dike Vader.
"The circle is now complete," Dike Vader said. "When I left you, I was but the simple pledge, now I am the Lesbian Sister."
Their sabers clashed as they exchanged useless banter.
"You can't win, Dike Vader." Clif smiled. "If you strike me down, Faith will become more angry than you can ever imagine."
Dave Solo and FulaytarBacca hid behind a corner, as Kev and Princess Chrissy came up behind them.

All the SAETroopers were watching the fight between Dike Vader and Clif... not the battle itself, but when you are that stoned, sabers put off some very interesting light.
"Let's go!" Kev yelled as they ran towards the ship. GenoD2 and Jim3PO came up, with Jim still ranting and raving about nothing.
As they dashed towards the ship, Clif lowered his saber and allowed the Dark Lesbian of the Sith to strike him down.
"Sorry Clif," Kev said amidst the gunfire, "but I ain't stopping."
The Millennium Supreme blasted off into space.
"We did it!" Princess Chrissy exclaimed, hugging Fulaytarbacca.
"Rowrr," was the reply, which in Wookieese is "You didn't do a crapping thing... what's this we stuff?"

"Are they away?" Grand Moff Tucker asked.
"Yes," Dike Vader said.
"Are you sure the homing device is on the ship?"
"Yes. We will follow them to their Rebel base, and destroy them. Soon, all the campus will be Greek and answering to the whim of superiors like Kappa Deltas and Alpha Gams!"

Princess Chrissy and Dave Solo sat in the cockpit, while Fulaytarbacca was repairing in the back.
"We've got to get GenoD2 to our Rebel base, so we can find a weakness to the Kappa Death Star," Princess Chrissy said. "It's not over yet."
"It is for me," Dave Solo said. "I've got bills to pay. I expect to be rewarded."
"And you will. If money is what you love, then that's what you'll get." Princess Chrissy got up and walked out, as Kev was coming in.
"She's cute," Dave Solo said.
"Trying not to think of her," Kev replied. "I think she likes you."
"You think she likes me? That'd be cool."
"No, nimrod.  I think she likes DREW"
"Who's Drew?"

The Supreme landed on the planet FarmHouse, and GenoD2 was plugged in to be analyzed.

Dave Solo, Fulaytarbacca, and Kev sat and listened to the administrators talk, while Princess Chrissy attempted to take her hair out of those buns it had been in for the last twenty pages.

"The Chapter Room is heavily shielded, and carries a snobbiness about it greater than half of Troy. Its defenses are designed around a large scale assault, but it doesn't consider a small one man ship to be a threat. If a shot can be made here, in the chapter rooms cosmetic and bow storage, the loss of these vital sorority items will cause a chain reaction of selfconciousness to go throughout the Panhellinic Council, which will lead to the self-destruction of all of them. You will have to maneuver straight around this quad to a target area, which is only about two meters wide."

"It's not impossible," Kev told Dave Solo," I used to bullseye third graders in my Amigo back home, they’re not much bigger than a meter or so."

Grand Moff Tucker viewed the screen to see the rebel base in sight.
"We should be able to fire upon the base in about thirty minutes," Dike Vader said.
"You know, you didn't have to kill Clif," Tucker whined. "He's so cute... he would've made a great prisoner."

Kev SpiveyWalker came out in his X-wing gear to see Dave Solo loading up his money.
"Why don't you stick around? It's getting fun," Kev said.
"I can't, I have Discover bills to pay off," Dave Solo replied.
Kev walked away, and came up to Princess Chrissy.
"Good luck, Spivey," the Princess said.
"You need to go talk to Dave," Kev said.
"Why, to see if I could get him to stick around, because he's a good pilot and he would be good for our cause?"
"I don't care about that, but I think he likes you. Go talk to him, or something."
"I'm not going to kiss you now either.... no offense."
"None taken."

The X-wings began to lift off and head towards the Kappa Death Star. The chants were heard, as all pilots sounded off.

"Gold leader standing by," Kev spoke.
"Red leader, standing by," Langer said.
"Blue leader standing by," Adam Ellis said.
"Orange leader standing by," Wilkes said.
"Black leader standing by," Terry Tucker said.
"Green leader standing by," Jazz said.
"Aqua Leader standing by," Drew said. 
"Rainbow leader, standing by," Jason Scott said.

The ships began to move into attack formation, as they neared the Kappa Death Star Chapter Room battle station.

"I'm going in," Kev said, as he steered his ship into the trench.
"I'm gonna follow," Forrest Miller said. He didn't get very far, because Kev blew him away.
"What did you do that for?:" Green Leader Jazz asked.
"Cause I got tired of him," Kev replied.

A guard came into the room where Dike Vader stood, in all her masculine femininity.
"Lezzy Vader, their ships are too small for our guns."
"We'll have to destroy them ship to ship," Dike Vader said. "Get the Delta Chi Fighters and the Sigma Chi Fighters ready.

Kev looked on as he saw an X-wing crash into the surface. "That was only Sloppy... I can do without him too." He knew it was Sloppy from the rebel flag flying from the ship's engine.

Kev... trust your feelings...

For a second, SpiveyWalker thought he was hearing things. Then he thought it was all that pot smoke inhaled from the SAETrooper helmet. Then suddenly in the background, GenoD2 started playing Jesus Freak.

Princess Chrissy, on Farmhouse, looked up, smacked her forehead with her palm and yelled, "That's where I left my CD!"
"Okay, here come the frat fighters!" Red Leader Langer yelled.
"I see them," Kev flew around and blasted a few. Ink, his good friend from back home who was never mentioned before in the story and probably won't be until the 20th anniversary special edition of this story comes out, flew in behind him.

"We are switching to targeting computers," Blue Leader Huck said. "I can't maneuver!"
"Stay on target!" Yellow Leader Szymendera said, taking a drag from his cigarette. "Can you fire, Mauve Leader?"
"I am on it," Mauve Leader Nathan responded.
"This is it," Periwinkle Leader Wyatt exclaimed, diving into the trench. "Let's prepare our attack run."

Huck, Szymendera, Nathan and Wyatt went into the trench with Kev and Aqua Leader Drew.  Rainbow Leader Jason Scott did his best to cover them from behind.

The Sigma Chi fighters followed them in.

"I am in range," Nathan said. "Hold them off for a few seconds... almost there... almost there..."
"I can't hold them!" Wyatt yelled as his ship exploded from a shot from behind.

Dike Vader and two KDs came into the trench, following the others.
"Almost there.... It's away!" Nathan yelled.
"Did you get it?" Kev asked.
"No good, didn't have enough fingers to fire it right."

Kev was getting set for his attack run, as he saw Huck and Nathan go down in flames.
"Okay, you want something done right, you've got to do it yourself, doggone it," Kev smirked. "Wilkes... and Pink Leader Ink... get set, we are going full throttle, top speed, I'm talking all the way."

The three ships flew faster.

"Will we be able to pull out in time?" Wilkes asked
"Just like Thrill Hill back home," Kev asked.
"We are taking a lot of shots from that tower ahead," Ink said.
"You take care of those Sigma Chi Fighters, I'll worry about that tower."

Faster and faster they went, down the trench, to certain doom. Dike Vader and her two KDs came right up behind.

"I'm hit.... " Ink said. "I've got to pull out... but I'll be back to be insignificant another story." His ship flew out.
"I'm hit too!" Wilkes shrieked, but he didn't have time to pull out. His ship exploded in a ball of flames.

As the doom music played in the background, Kev looked into his scope.

Use the force, SpiveyWalker.... came the thought,.

"Uh, no Clif.... I'll miss it."

No you won't, SpiveyWalker

"Would you shut up? I'm trying to concentrate."

No, turn off your scope... your eyes can deceive you

Kev cussed him.

It's so endearing when you cuss... fine, I'll shut up

"Thank you," Kev said.

"The force is strong with this one," Dike Vader said, behind him.

"Kev, is there a problem?" Princess Chrissy asked. "You are talking to yourself."
"Nah, I got it. Shut up."

Dike Vader got Kev in range, but suddenly, a shot came from nowhere. Dike Vader's ship veered to the left, and the other two crashed into each other, exploding.
"Okay, SpiveyWalker, blast this thing so we can go home. We've got study hall tonight!" came Dave Solo's voice on the comlink.
Kev fired the shots that went in, and a few seconds later, the night sky was filled with bows and Mary Kay as the Kappa Death Star exploded into a million sorority pieces.

The doors opened, and Kev SpiveyWalker, Fulaytarbacca and Dave Solo walked out to the large ceremony room. Each side was lined with troops standing in their best uniforms. The music played as the three heroes walked to the front. Princess Chrissy, hair in braids now, stood before them.

GenoD2 and Jim3PO stood polished, as Princess Chrissy leaned over and placed a medal of honor on Fulaytarbacca, and then gave him a leg of lamb. She placed a medal on Kev SpiveyWalker, and then gave him a replica of her jacket. She then put a medal on Dave Solo, and handed him her phone number.  He smiled, then smirked when he saw that she was pointing to the number, then to a guy standing in the front row.  It was Aqua Leader Drew.  "Can you give this to him?" she mouthed.  Dave Solo sighed and nodded.

They then faced the crowd in the moment of glory.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Mindset List

Its the "dog days" of summer.. and I've been taking a few days, or several days, off from writing.  Can't say I've been busy, and I can't say I don't have stuff to write about, I just enjoy take a week or two from it every now and again.  Its hard work, I tell ya!

But I know there are people who check this site every day, so I wanted to give you something... so here...


MILWAUKEE — For students entering college this fall, e-mail is too slow, phones have never had cords and the computers they played with as kids are now in museums.

The Class of 2014 thinks of Clint Eastwood more as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry urging punks to "go ahead, make my day." Few incoming freshmen know how to write in cursive or have ever worn a wristwatch.

These are among the 75 items on this year's Beloit College Mindset List. The compilation, released Tuesday, is assembled each year by two officials at this private school of about 1,400 students in Beloit, Wis.

The list is meant to remind teachers that cultural references familiar to them might draw blank stares from college freshmen born mostly in 1992.

Of course, it can also have the unintended consequence of making people feel old.

Ever worry about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.? During these students' lives, Russians and Americans have always been living together in outer space.

Being aware of the generation gap helps professors craft lesson plans that are more meaningful, said Ron Nief, a former public affairs director at Beloit College and one of the list's creators.  Nief and English professor Tom McBride have assembled the Mindset List for 13 years. They say it's given them an unusual perspective on cultural shifts.

Before we were married, The Lovely Steph
Leann gave me what, at the time, was the
ultimate gift of love.  The Beavis & Butthead
Collection on DVD.  She rules.
For example, as item No. 13 on the list says, "Parents and teachers feared that Beavis and Butt-head might be the voice of a lost generation."  With far edgier content available today, such as "South Park" or online videos that push the envelope, there's something quaint about recalling the hand-wringing that the MTV cartoon prompted, Nief said.

"I think we do that with every generation – we look back and say, what were we getting so upset about?" he said. "A, kids outgrow it and B, in retrospect we realize it really wasn't that bad."

Another Mindset List item reflects a possible shift in Hollywood attitudes. Item No. 12 notes: "Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry."   A number of incoming freshmen said they partially agreed with the item, noting they were familiar with Eastwood's work as an actor even if they hadn't seen his films.

"I know he directed movies but I also know he's supposed to be sort of bad-a**," said Aaron Ziontz, 18, from Seattle.

Jessica Peck, a 17-year-old from Portland, Ore., disagreed with two items on the list – one that says few students know how to write in cursive, and another that suggests this generation seldom if ever uses snail mail.

"Snail mail's kind of fun. When I have time I like writing letters to friends and family," she said. "It's just a bit more personal. And yes, I write in cursive."

Peck did agree with the item pointing out that most teens have never used telephones with cords.  "Yes, I've used them but only at my grandparents' house," she said.

That's the sort of comment that can make a person feel old. McBride jokes that he's not immune from feeling ancient just because he compiles the items. But the 65-year-old said the lists can also reveal a larger truth about tolerance.

The "Beavis and Butt-head" item suggests that maybe parents shouldn't overreact every time a controversy arises, he noted. For example, maybe it's no big deal if college freshmen misspell words when they text, and maybe their attention spans will be just fine even though they grew up in the Internet age, he said.

"There's something about the resilience of human nature that renders these gloom-and-doom prophesies moot after a while," he said. "I can't say for sure, but it looks like the track record of these very anxious prophets has not been impressive over the years."

Most students entering college for the first time this fall - members of the Class of 2014 - were born in 1992. For these students, Benny Hill, Sam Kinison, Sam Walton, Burt Parks and Tony Perkins have always been dead.  Remember when Dr. Jack Kevorkian, Dan Quayle or Rodney King were in the news? These kids don't.

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

2. E-mail is just too slow, and they seldom if ever use snail mail.

3. "Go west, young college grad," has always implied "and don't stop until you get to Asia and learn Chinese along the way."

4. Al Gore has always been animated.

5. Los Angelinos have always been trying to get along.

6. Buffy has always been meeting her obligations to hunt down Lothos and the other bloodsuckers at Hemery High.

7. "Caramel macchiato" and "venti half-cafvanilla latte" have always been street corner lingo.

8. With increasing numbers of ramps, Braille signs, and handicapped parking spaces, the world has always been trying harder to accommodate people with disabilities.

9. Had it remained operational, the villainous computer HAL could be their college classmate this fall, but they have a better chance of running into Miley Cyrus's folks on Parents' Weekend.

10. A quarter of the class has at least one immigrant parent, and the immigration debate is not a big priority unless it involves "real" aliens from another planet.

11. John McEnroe has never played professional tennis.

12. Clint Eastwood is better known as a sensitive director than as Dirty Harry.

13. Parents and teachers feared that Beavis and Butt-head might be the voice of a lost generation.

14. Doctor Kevorkian has never been licensed to practice medicine.

15. Colorful lapel ribbons have always been worn to indicate support for a cause.

16. Korean cars have always been a staple on American highways.

Perhaps she's not as hot as that other
Fergie, no doubt this one has a little
more class.  I actually spoke to her on
the phone once.  No joke.  She was
extremely pleasant.
17. Trading Chocolate the Moose for Patti the Platypus helped build their Beanie Baby collection.

18. Fergie is a pop singer, not a princess.

19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

20. DNA fingerprinting and maps of the human genome have always existed.

21. Woody Allen, whose heart has wanted what it wanted, has always been with Soon-Yi Previn.

22. Cross-burning has always been deemed protected speech.

23. Leasing has always allowed the folks to upgrade their tastes in cars.

24. "Cop Killer" by rapper Ice-T has never been available on a recording.

25. Jay Leno and David Letterman have always been trading insults on opposing networks.

26. Unless they found one in their grandparents' closet, they have never seen a carousel of Kodachrome slides.

27. Computers have never lacked a CD-ROM disk drive.

28. They've never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.

29. Reggie Jackson has always been enshrined in Cooperstown.

30. "Viewer Discretion" has always been an available warning on TV shows.

31. The first computer they probably touched was an Apple II; it is now in a museum.

32. Czechoslovakia has never existed.

33. Secondhand smoke has always been an official carcinogen.

34. "Assisted Living" has always been replacing nursing homes, while Hospice has always been an alternative to hospitals.

35. Once they got through security, going to the airport has always resembled going to the mall.

36. Adhesive strips have always been available in varying skin tones.

37. Whatever their parents may have thought about the year they were born, Queen Elizabeth declared it an "AnnusHorribilis."

38. Bud Selig has always been the Commissioner of Major League Baseball.

39. Pizza jockeys from Domino's have never killed themselves to get your pizza there in under 30 minutes.

40. There have always been HIV positive athletes in the Olympics.

41. American companies have always done business in Vietnam.

42. Potato has always ended in an "e" in New Jersey per vice presidential edict.

43. Russians and Americans have always been living together in space.

44. The dominance of television news by the three networks passed while they were still in their cribs.

45. They have always had a chance to do community service with local and federal programs to earn money for college.

Being a broke college student, I remember
buying "Nevermind", and selling it.  Then
re-buying it, then selling it again.  When
I finally got into the world and had a
little money, I bought it.  And kept it.
46. Nirvana is on the classic oldies station.

47. Children have always been trying to divorce their parents.

48. Someone has always gotten married in space.

49. While they were babbling in strollers, there was already a female Poet Laureate of the United States.

50. Toothpaste tubes have always stood up on their caps.

51. Food has always been irradiated.

52. There have always been women priests in the Anglican Church.

53. J.R. Ewing has always been dead and gone. Hasn't he?

54. The historic bridge at Mostar in Bosnia has always been a copy.

55. Rock bands have always played at presidential inaugural parties.

56. They may have assumed that parents' complaints about Black Monday had to do with punk rockers from L.A., not Wall Street.

57. A purple dinosaur has always supplanted Barney Google and Barney Fife.

58. Beethoven has always been a dog.

59. By the time their folks might have noticed Coca Cola's new Tab Clear, it was gone.

60. Wal-Mart has never sold handguns over the counter in the lower 48.

61. Presidential appointees have always been required to be more precise about paying their nannies' withholding tax, or else.

62. Having hundreds of cable channels but nothing to watch has always been routine.

63. Their parents' favorite TV sitcoms have always been showing up as movies.

64. The U.S, Canada, and Mexico have always agreed to trade freely.

65. They first met Michelangelo when he was just a computer virus.

66. Galileo is forgiven and welcome back into the Roman Catholic Church.

It's the capital S, oh yes, the fresh N double O P
D O double G Y D O double G ya' see

67. Ruth Bader Ginsburg has always sat on the Supreme Court.

68. They have never worried about a Russian missile strike on the U.S.

69. The Post Office has always been going broke.

70. The artist formerly known as Snoop Doggy Dogg has always been rapping.

71. The nation has never approved of the job Congress is doing.

72. One way or another, "It's the economy, stupid" and always has been.

73. Silicone-gel breast implants have always been regulated.

74. They've always been able to blast off with the Sci-Fi Channel.

75. Honda has always been a major competitor on Memorial Day at Indianapolis.
Here's the list in its original form