Whatʼs going on?



Thanks to Gwen Hernandezʼs helpful comment, I got my blog to actually shut down* yesterday** instead of merely identifying the open blog as blacked out.

Actual screen capture from 4:40 PM CST, Wednesday, 18 January 2012, searching for “blackout square,” returned this blog as result #1

And we still got well over 100 hits***. Blacked out. With no blog available. Astonishing. Amazing (in a strange and twisted kind of way).

Admittedly, when one googled “blackout square,” the name I had given my home-made blackout image from Tuesdayʼs post about yesterdayʼs blackout, the first item Google returned was my square (at least for me; I really donʼt know if being me makes Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog show up higher in the search results than for other folks****). Iʼm serious. Just look at the image to the right (and go on, click it to make it big, so you can actually see). That first black square on the search for “blackout square” is my image (the one I put my cursor under, marked “22 hours ago” when I searched yesterday afternoon and then took the screen capture).

Yeah, itʼs pretty (pointlessly) ego-boosting (“Vanity of vanities, sayeth the Preacher. All is vanity”) to be the top result on Google — even if it is just for a picture, and one I created by pouring black into a new GraphicConverter image and saving in somewhat under forty seconds, just so I had an image to use Tuesday (it also became my Facebook display pic yesterday, too*****). However, itʼs fairly confusing also to realize that searchers got nothing for clicking on that image (or any of the other searched links that led hereabouts) yesterday.

WordPress.com Stats on Wakdjunkagaʼs Blog about 4:40 PM yesterday — and people who cliked search links got the generic WordPress blackout page, no matter what

Of course, people searched plenty of other things (the usual suspects around here, according to WordPress Stats — check the stats capture to the left, the one that in the top graph reveals those 100+ hits at just 4:40 PM). But internet pic trollers didnʼt get anywhere with any of those searches yesterday. How do I know? Because I tried a couple of those terms myself, using Safari and Chrome (as I already had the WordPress post-composition page open here in Firefox, writing some of these words******). And when I clicked on the links, I got the standard this-blog-is-blacked-out-in-protest-of-SOPA/PIPA*******. It must have been kind of frustrating for those image-seeking internet users.

Of course, once I changed from the total blackout setting to the just-a-protest-banner setting, those anonymous image-thieving pirates could get what they wanted again (and they probably are doing so right now). Gosh, does that bit of online behavior indicate we really do need an internet piracy law? (No.)

(One last thing — at least before you get to the plethora of footnotes below — yesterday was one of the worst days since last summer for CenturyLink******** screwing with my internet linkage: at least a dozen interruptions, half of those, at least, within less than five minutes of each other — meaning no actual getting online at all for a big part of yesterday morning. Talk about your internet blackouts. — At least I got this little item written, illustrated, annotated, linked and repeatedly saved without interruption.)

* Thatʼs a split infinitive there: “to actually fail.” Traditional stylistics dictate that one should never split infitinitives. I do it all the time. For instance, in the case above (which I did think about; viz. this footnote), placing “actually” in the position it occupies seems (at least to me) to emphasize the reality of the shutting down.  — Agree? Disagree? Comment, then.

** (WordPress.com added both the current banner and a Wednesday, 18 January 2012 SOPA/PIPA blog-blackout item sometime after I wrote and posted Tuesdayʼs little essay)

*** The final count, observed just as I posted this shortly after 9:00 AM Thursday, 19 January 2012, was 136 pointless hits.

**** Your input is welcome. Do your results parallel mine? (We can communicate and run the same search about the same time, just to be most objectively accurate.)

***** I hope I remembered to change it before posting this today…

****** Thatʼs a Chrome window with the Google search result on “blackout square” above and to the right.

******* That standard this-blog-is-blacked-out-today is also what turned up when I tried to preview this post for proofreading, too! Not quite so amusing to me somehow.

******** Itʼs mighty interesting to google “CenturyLink sucks” and find all the nearly endless number of folks who have shared my frustration with this worthless big-corporate excuse for an Internet “Service” Provider.

My alternative title for todayʼs post was “SOPA/PIPA Blackout Fail.” I thought that bit of verbiage might be arresting and rivetingly seize attention. But after my testing discussed above, I know the blackout didnʼt fail. Folks just kept clicking here anyway (some of them over and over — I do really love those WordPress statistics).  

— And, yeah, I was having a good time footnoting again.

And, yes, I do have Sunday, October 23, 2012, our third day in Budapest, coming your way really, really soon. Just not today.

©2012 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Toys (and Problems)

The 8½-by-11 inch notebook that I have not yet opened, preferring to fill the starter, I think, first (see starter directly below). The special notebooks provide on each page — actually each spread — controls which one accesses by tapping the pen on the printed control items, visible also in the starter notebook image below. I saved the images fairly large so that you may, by clicking on them, observe details.

I could have gone into more detail about our Christmas celebration yesterday.* I thought about it, briefly, as I was editing (and slightly expanding) what I had originally written. But then CenturyLink kept cutting out my internet connection (predictably — no surprise, there, because my Internet Disservice Provider** leaves me high and dry, disconnected, offline at least a half dozen times each day), and I realized I hadnʼt actually asked my family for their permission to “appear” on the blog. Finally, I sympathetically realized that you, Gentle and Imposed-upon Readers, had probably somewhat more than you really ever wanted on my Christmas holiday.

But I could have detailed the entire twenty minutes (and somewhat more) that the family actually took exchanging gifts. Why? Because I had recorded the events, using a new toy that had finally arrived just after December began — my Livescribe Echo smartpen, designed to record audio and digitally remember what I write for later computer use. (It was my splurge purchase out of my summer salary this year, although I really shouldnʼt have splurge purchases of any kind.)

The Echo smartpen (in the middle, I hope obviously) with a standard Zebra or two for size comparison. A plastic tip covers the sensitive ink cartridge that serves to activate the penʼs smart functions, and if you click for the enlarged image, you can almost see the speakers/microphone built into the pen for recording audio. There is also a screen which indicates by LED the time and date and other functions.

And unlike my CenturyLink internet connection, the pen works fine. A bit larger (wider/fatter) than a normal pen, it forces me, I find, to write almost legibly*** (and legibly enough that the  associated handwriting-to-digital-text software**** actually can transcribe what I write into editable digital text at about 90-95% accuracy — which is better than my apparent mumbling has accomplished yet with speech-to-text using Dragon Dictate). Even just experimenting so far, I have done really well turning my script into digital text pretty easily (perhaps today I will attempt to do that for the blog).

The recording aspect is intended mostly to capture lectures and meetings (with notes — the audio being linked to the text or doodles one writes down in the special notebooks). I thought my smartpen might help me when my thoughts are running widely and rapidly ahead of my fingers and pen, writing. So far, that situation hasnʼt arisen, although I fell asleep last night imagining myself capturing the conversations all around me in, say, a Barnes & Noble Starbucks coffee area as I sat sipping a decaf-skim quad latte and composing the next adventures of Søren and Judah.

The starter notebook (roughly A4 size?) and protective cover (protective both for the notebook and most importantly, for the pen) included in my purchase. This is the one that I have been using so far. Inside the notebook cover are further controls, including a calculator and access buttons for status items and other settings — plus the NavPlus cross (also visible to the far bottom left above), which one could draw for oneself anywhere any time, used to get to uploaded smartpen software and menu items.

Except for the additional and continuous expense of buying the special notebooks necessary for the audio records and script transcriptions to operate correctly, I think the pen is pretty nice. (Oh, yes, you also have to buy the special ink cartridges that fit the pen. But I thought ahead, slightly, and bought some notebooks and refills when I bought the pen.) And I used it to write down my annual record of what Christmas gifts The Lovely One and I receive, so this year I also have an audio record of what was going on as I wrote (a rather self-conscious one on my part, admittedly).

The only problem I have is that my pen wonʼt register itself online (using the Livescribe Desktop and Connect software***** that automatically starts up when I attach the pen via USB for a charge and uploading of my most recent documents). Unlike some software and hardware companies (and ISPs**), the Livescribe technical support team has been industrious in trying to help me with the problem. Unfortunately, although I have reset my pen and downloaded and reinstalled the software again (and downloaded and installed two other bits of software not generally provided to the public), the pen still wonʼt register. I fill in my personal information (which by now the program and Livescribe know), but when I click the Continue button, nothing happens. Ever.

So far no cure (which means as of yesterday when I tried the latest fix). Very puzzling (and really only frustrating because I canʼt acquire my “free” full subscription to Evernote that came with the pen unless I register the pen). But kudos to Livescribe for actually trying.

Maybe tomorrowʼs post (when I should explain why I am seeking to post daily by yearʼs end, except, if you read on to the end, through the endnotes, I have another plan in mind by the time I finished editing this post) will be created by handwriting…

* I know: youʼre glad I didnʼt.

The picture is from my Chronories logs for last Thursday. Although it was a very bad day overall, the CenturyLink performance was just about average. And CenturyLink kicked me offline again (#4 for 12/27/2011) as I tried to upload this picture today for this post.

** CenturyLink, of course. (I grow more and more certain that our problems here in Our Town result from the ancient [copper] telephone wires that contemporary telecommunications companies want to use for far more data than such wires could ever serve, not to mention the switching and relay posts and such that really, really are antiquated and inappropriate. And yet, we pay here in the rural Midwest the same rates, pretty much, as optical fibre cable subscribers in the big urban centers… Not exactly appropriate. Or fair. When they were still Qwest, the company did assign technicians to install a house-wide filter to help my service; however, it never made much difference, really, and in recent months, the whole situation has just gotten worse. …But probably all this is another blog entirely.)

The picture to the right indicates just one day (and for CenturyLink a pretty average day) of my (tastefully edited-by-blurring) frustration at having an internet connection.

*** I had to revise that sentence from A bit larger (wider/fatter) than a normal pen, I find it forces me to write almost legibly.” Do you realize why?  — As I havenʼt written a post on grammar and usage in a very long time, Iʼll tell you tomorrow (even, or especially, if you did know why).

**** MyScript 

***** Both of which, contrary to some online reviews, donʼt seem buggy on a Mac (except probably for my registration issue).

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Friday Fuming?*

…and another long span of time has passed without a post. This time, the excuses are few. Our production of One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest in Dubuque is over (has been for two weeks now), and I have been ensconced at home, online, at the computer, so I should have written something. I havenʼt, however (clearly). Neither for the blog or for any of my ongoing stories.

I have posted quite a bit on Facebook, sometimes even with lengthy comments. I have found myself stirred by the Occupy Wall Street movement (just now reaching an apparent crisis, along with Occupy Iowaʼs encampment in Des Moines, even as tomorrow the movement goes global). I know that initially the protest was pretty amorphous (still is in population) and vague (I know because FoxNoise tells me so), but it feels like a sign of spring as this years fades into the sere, the yellow leaf (and I know that because I have been raking and removing piles and piles of leaves over five days just lately).

Laughably, the Dextreme has undertaken splattergunning all kinds of falsehood in various flailing attempts to smear this nascent movement. My personal favorite is from The Fat Clownʼs Blaze website (which is chock-a-block full of more nonsensical propagandistic drivel). Attempting to view the video which supposedly supported a very lame “theyʼre all commie-socialists” regurgitation, I get this:

Hereʼs the link for that Blaze story. Maybe youʼll have better luck than I did. (I notice that nothing says what the source for this video, presuming an objective source actually exists, is. How can anyone tell it wasnʼt staged/faked? Is this the kind of nonevidentiary ranting that the average dextremist stooge accepts without thought, without verification? Considering the utterly unsupported [and semiliterate] raving on this site, also encountered today, probably so.)

My issue with the connection was probably not The Blaze itself (I hope), but rather CenturyLink continuing its worse-than-awful DSL nonconnection-to-the-internet disservice. As I was trying to find The Blaze page again, I lost my connection for the tenth time today!

I have been noting the interruptions by time every day for months now, building up to my next big phone call to CenturyLink customer service…

And before I close today, another favorite dextreme effort against the Occupiers is The 53% page (as I pay taxes and therefore belong to their false “majority,” I feel like posting my thoughts there), begun in a foolhardy effort to “counter” We Are the 99 Percent. Why “foolhardy,” you might ask. Because the 53 are merely one subbset of the 99 (a manipulated subset, but they exist). Also, just scroll to the bottom of each of the two sites current page and notice the total page counts respectively…

* Did you catch the link that explains todayʼs title?

What do you know? Letʼs now add 5:45 to that list of times CenturyLink has cut me from my internet connection today.

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.

Corporate Con Games

As our play, One Flew over the Cuckooʼs Nest* at The Grand Opera House in Dubuque, draws very close indeed — opening night is this coming Friday —, my life headed in a very distracting direction, for no good reason except corporate greed and intentional defrauding of customers (like me).

First about ten days back, FedEx delivered an empty box. Really, a box containing nothing but air, two shock-absorbent layers and a sheet of paper (oh, yes, and a strip of packing tape that could not be separated from the backing paper). The sheet of paper instructed us on how to package our DVR receiver(s) to return them to DirecTV.

What?!! No explanations, no cover letter, no nothing but the formulaic instruction sheet (which also mentioned how to include the remote controls in the separate plastic bag — we had no plastic bag enclosed).

Besides being typical of DirecTV (I would call them by the name by which I have come to address these sordid corporate evildoers, but it isnʼt sufficiently sanitary for these confines), this latest affront only caps a miserable summer of incorrect and devious misbilling, followed by lengthy and angry phone calls to DirecTV customer service centers (an ultimate misnomer) around the globe — all precipitated by a mandatory “upgrade” of our receivers in order to maintain reception of our local channels. Each and every month since June, I have been forced to find (not an easy task on the DirecTV website) and call the customer service number to complain, forcibly and sometimes very angrily, about what they have done to our bill following the receiver-replacement incident.

Among the bookkeeping wrongs inflicted upon us (all of which I am sure some elevated corporate coward believed we would, accidentally in our busy lives, ignore and thereby considerably overpay), was a third receiver we did not have, request nor use. Month after month.

And now an empty box to return one or more receivers. Unexplained in any way whatsoever — no cover letter, no other communication by mail, no phone call. Utterly mysterious…

Until Janet, cleaning thoroughly around the house, discovered an otherwise equally mysterious object secreted away behind our basement TV stand — a DirecTV receiver, probably the old one from down there that the installer replaced with the required new device and then forgot to take away with him.

And one little mystery was clarified (maybe, two). I concluded that… we were to return the old receiver that the negligent (but very nice and otherwise capable) installer had accidentally left behind, unbeknownst to us.

So I am doing. The receiver is boxed up according to instructions and ready to go into the mail. However, unlike the wickedly lazy and self-indulgent corporate doo-dahs who sent the box out to us, I am enclosing a cover letter. It appears below.

Dear DirecTV,

When this mystery package arrived, without benefit of explanation of anything, I was bemused, to say the very least. However, I figured out over the period of a week, that what your corporation must have in mind was sending back one of our receivers (for some unknown reason). Just about the time I was preparing to make yet another annoyed, angry phone call to your poor customer-support personnel (couldnʼt the rampant and criminal greed of the company just be reduced enough to bill accurately and honestly? Please), to demand (with difficulty, as always) some kind of coherent explanation about this terrible injustice, my wife, cleaning thoroughly by moving our television cabinet out of its accustomed place for the first time since June, discovered that your technician, when installing the company-required “upgrade,” that has caused so much grief for us and so many irate calls to your customer service centers around the globe, had left the original receiver sitting behind the cabinet, unknown to us.

In an instant of realization, I figured out the mystery of the incorrect “third receiver” charges we may still be owed money for, as well as the conundrum of this unexplained package to return a receiver (which a letter of explanation on your part, not done, could have clarified easily — how typical of DirecTV not to do the necessary and obvious step to attempt to keep customers marginally satisfied).

Next time, try explaining whatʼs going on. And I continue to figure that our records with your scheming corporation reflect our belief that DirecTV operates illegitimately and in violation of state and federal laws regulating commercial deception, dissimulation and corporate swindles of all kinds.

Enclosed is the receiver your technician unaccountably (and obviously, incorrectly) left without notification to us in our home. Thank you, DirecTV, for pretty much nothing.

Sincerely and with immense, continuing dissatisfaction,

John Randolph Burrow 

Although I am positive that I will be on the phone yet again in October, attempting yet again to correct the companyʼs deliberate mismanagement of our bill, perhaps the letter might do some good. Unless the flunky at the receiver storage facility who opens our package merely pitches my missive in the nearest garbage can, which is quite likely, I guess.**

…Now on to CenturyLink, the new antagonist on phone service and internet nonprovision. Having bought out Qwest a while back, they have deliberately used the opportunity of this corporate shuffling to pretend a “mistake” as they shucked us twice for the past monthʼs bill, once as CenturyLink and once as Qwest, even though we only recived a single bill from CenturyLink.

Furthermore, the connection failures of that worthless ISP (whether you call it Qwest or CenturyLink) remain unchanged since whenever I last complained on that issue. (I have been keeping a daily record of the repeated and dire interruptions of service, too.)

And some daft fools (and corporate shills in Congress) wonder if corporations in America need regulation. Absolutely and thoroughly! These companies are proving with every swindling, fraudulent move they make the truth of my thesis that capitalism is merely organized crime writ large…

* You have to wonder why the only link about the show is still under “Auditions” and nowhere else…

** Thus my “publication” of the letter here. (And I finally take the time to present a post again.)

©2011 John Randolph Burrow, Magickal Monkey Enterprises, Ltd, S.A.