Friday, January 19, 2018

Now That's A Pretty Song

Through the Roof, and Underground by Gogol Bordello, as performed on the soundtrack album from Wristcutters: A Love Story.

Mrs Stevie pronounced loudly upon hearing it that in her opinion the song sounded like it something you'd hear coming out of a garage after the high-school teens had found dad's beer stash, and I agree. It has that outraged tone of first-time revelation to it.

She also found the movie perplexing and disturbing, which I didn't, and I urge you to watch it at your soonest opportunity if you find the idea of suicides living in a really bland, chrome-plated and rusting purgatory intriguing. It's got Tom Waits in it so you know you are in for a treat, oddball movie-wise.

The soundtrack is an odd mix too, with short-short interstitial music separating longer works by all sorts of people from Del Shannon to Joy Division. Lovely stuff.

The idea of a car having a black hole under the seat where stuff is lost forever is surely resonant with everyone.

Film and soundtrack recommended to all, especially the drunkenly manic Through the Roof, and Underground.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Why My Rage Is My Master, Part Four

So I leap out of bed, shower, dress, and drive to the station singing a pean to the new working day, in full expectation of meeting my 8:17 train in good time.

I arrive at Wyandanch and park in the reconstruction of the Lunar Surface at Tranquility Base thoughtfully provided for the commuters in place of a proper car park, and walk to the station, at which point I'm greeted by a stampede of commuters coming the other way.

A voice from the PA system wafts overhead informing everyone that all service on the Ronkonkoma line is suspended indefinitely because someone parked a truck on the tracks and against all reason a train hit it.

I limp back the the fabulous Steviemobile, now repaired and working like it was before Xmas, and drive to Babylon through horrendous traffic slowed to 20 mph because of the school speed zones all along the route. Once there I race to my usual car park to find that there are spaces, but each has about three cubic yards of highly-compacted snow in them, pushed there by a bulldozer.

Reasoning that moving that using my collapsible snow shovel would be an invitation to more back agony, I decided to call it a day and get an egg sandwich instead. I am by now a half hour late anyway.

I attempt to drive back home, but the traffic on Deer Park Avenue is inexplicably at a standstill. Roadworks level of non-movement. I pull off as soon as I can, some ten minutes later, and drive around the jam to a gas station to fill up, where I can see the jam from where it starts, but no actual reason for it.

I drive out of the gas station and attempt to re-join Deer Park Avenue, but a new traffic jam has formed in the side-street I'm trying to use. I pull a U-Turn and use a different light to enter the bewilderingly empty Deer Park Avenue. Not a car in sight.

In the egg sandwich shop I am just about to be served when I see a message on the TV that the Ronkonkoma line is back in play (but that Atlantic Terminal is closed down due to a fire), so I bolt sandwichless back to Wyandanch, where I board a train a few minutes later. I am now about an hour late.

The train goes local, making all stops to pick up people stranded by the earlier outage. This gives the firemen enough time to put out the blaze at Atlantic Terminal so it can open for business again. Not to worry though; by the time we get to Jamaica1 we have missed the connecting train to Atlantic Terminal and will have a half hour wait in the freezing cold for the next one - assuming it deigns to appear at all. I elect to stay on the Penn Station bound train and use the subway. I am now an hour and a half late.

The Penn Station bound train gets as far as Woodside, when it stops and a message blares from the PA that there is "a power condition" ahead and the train will be delayed at Woodside indefinitely. There is talk of taking the subway instead, and doors open so people can do that. I refuse.

No sooner are all the other commuters off the train than the same voice announces we are clear to proceed west, so they open all the doors again and the conductors yell at everyone to get back on the train.

At Penn Station I catch an "A" train to Brooklyn almost immediately. It gets roughly halfway between the station I want and the previous one, then stops. By the time it starts again I am two hours late.

Another day in paradise is finally underway.

  1. Not the good one

Friday, January 05, 2018

Why My Rage Is My Master, Part Three

I mentioned about the car, right?

Mrs Stevie ended up picking up the keys and paying for it on Wednesday, and running me down there later that very cold night so I'd have the car for Friday.

I got in, I turned the key, I fired up the engine.

Same misfire, same burning oil smell, and - bestest of all - the check engine light was glowing festively. So nothing that I complained about had been fixed at all.

I broke out some Class Three Words of Power, having suspected that it would be too much to expect a proper mechanic's job of fixing in this computer codes for everything day and age and so reserved the use of Class Fours for when this "repair" proved ineffective.

Yesterday it snowed. They were calling it a "bomb blizzard", a term so monumentally stupid one weatherman exploded on camera, snapping "That isn't a real weather term by the way1", and it combined snow, not that heavy by the look of it at any one moment in time, with gale force winds gusting up around 60mph in my neck of the suburbs2, which amounted to about two feet of snow in the drive, four feet drifting up the side of the car and the back-door (that last courtesy of my next-door neighbor's bleepwit handyman who threw all their snow onto my back porch instead of their own back garden. May he break a shear-pin on the next job.).

So this morning I drove back to Huntignton Hyundai and dropped the car off for round two, pausing only to state unequivocally that I found it bewildering that the car could be pronounced fit for purpose with all three symptoms I complained about still front and center, including Mr Check Engine Light being brightly lit.

The local mechanic who had suggested returning the car to the dealer had performed an oil change before returning the car back to me a week before. Huntington Hyundai called me while I was still attempting to get to work to say that "the" problem was that there was too much oil in the car, and that it would take an hour's labor to fix the issue, which had, naturally, escalated beyond “too much oil”.

This wasn't caught before because "there is no computer code for the problem". I clutched my head with one hand and my smoking wallet with the other and authorized the work, before fighting my way onto a subway train to Brooklyn3.

So now I have to pay for someone to repair the oil change done by someone else, someone I have yet to pay because I haven't had a car with which to drive round to his shop and pay him. I wouldn't bother, but he is a friend who has done us a number of mechanic-type favors in the past. I have to figure out how to tell him he may have a problem staff member though, and I hate being put in that position.

It is all so very annoying.

  1. The "bomb" part is a climate science term though, derived from the term for a 24 millibar pressure drop over 24 hours, an event that makes hurricanes in the summer and bloody foul weather in winter
  2. That's just under 4 kilopascals per square hogshead-newton in metric if I have my sums right
  3. The Bloody Long Island Railroad was in such disarray that I wasn't getting off the train to Penn Station for any amount of money. Jamaica is very much the antithesis of the good one on a day as cold as this was, and is at the time of writing

Why My Rage Is My Master, Part Two

I buy a lot of stuff from Amazon.

When I buy stuff from Amazon, they ask me to review the seller, packing and item itself. I always review the seller, always review the packing and usually review the item.

Since 2008 I've reviewed over a thousand items, and garnered over four thousand "this was useful to my interests" votes. Not huge, but the reviews represent a substantial investment of time on my part. I like to think I do a good job. People have commented to that effect. Some have reacted badly to what I've said. I try and explain and remain polite.

In all that time I've had two reviews pulled by Amazon; One for a book by Al Franken, which I assume trod on someone's toes when I said that Rush Libaugh was an easy target and I let stand, and one for an album which I contested and had the review re-instated.

I used to have access to a useful Amazon-provided page that listed the reviews formatted for the laptop screen, and could order them by most recent comments. This was phenomenally useful in curating the reviews because if someone commented on a four-year-old review that I had something wrong or had worded something confusingly, I could a) know it had happened and 2) quickly go to the review, respond to the commentor and reword the review if required (always with credit to the commentor that triggered the edit and leaving the original text in unless doing so would cause confusion, so as to indicate that I acknowledge I am not infallible and am not above rethinking and redrafting if someone calls me out with cause).

Amazon recently, as in about two weeks ago, replaced that page with an almost useless one formatted for the smartphone I don't use to do such stuff and removing all the useful "fast-forward" mechanisms the old page had. The new page had all sorts of new "social media" widgets encouraging me to socialize with like-minded groups of on-line "friends", presumably to whip up business.

I wrote to Amazon, using the feedback link provided in the new page, and explained that all the new "community-geared" features they'd added were of no real use to me, that if I wanted Facebook-like functionality I would use Facebook and that I would very much like access to the old page please so I could continue to curate the reviews I write.

Three days ago all my reviews were summarily removed from Amazon listings.

When I queried this I got back a form letter reading:

We have reviewed this situation and have restored your reviewing privilege to our site. We are investigating your reviews. We will take the appropriate action, but it may take several days before we resolve your issue. We are sorry for any inconvenience this has caused.

No word of what sparked the deletions. I suspect I.T. uckfup but it could be vengeance for my questioning the new profile format or other-customer complaint-related. No way to know.

I was and am pissed about this. In the larger scheme of things it doesn't matter of course. I don't define myself by the number of upvotes1 I get on Amazon reviews. But, like I said, these reviews represent a considerable time investment on my part, one that should merit a bit more than a form letter with no useful informational content.

But I should like to say that in the event my reviews are deemed unfit for viewing, I would really, really like Amazon to fade into the background position of transparent vendor being paid for a service and to stop nagging me to review sellers, packing and things I've bought.

And in the event Amazon decides to keep my solicited but unpaid-for reviews in the trash bucket, you can shove your "reviewing privileges" where the sun most assuredly doesn't shine Mr Bezos and crew.

  1. So many people responding to Amazon reviews think that “Useful” means “Like”. I reviewed one textbook on computers by a well-loved author saying that I found the style of this particular book grating and counter-productive compared to another of his I had found excellent and used regularly. I got four “unhelpful” votes only as of the last time I looked, and it was clear from the comments that these were likely all from current owners of the book who simply disliked what I said. I stand by my assessment of the book, though that is moot because it has been removed from the Amazon listing for it

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

Why My Rage Is My Master

People are always telling me to calm down and stop shouting and/or insulting them.

They never consider why they get treated that way.

Consider the following:

Yesterday marked the first commuting day of 2018, and the Bloody Long Island Railroad managed to stuff it up by having the connecting Brooklyn train arrive at Jamaica1 so late that two more train loads of would-be commuters were waiting to cram themselves on than normal, and the next Brooklyn-bound train was sitting on a track behind it. I took the second train so as to avoid the kicking and biting needed to board the first one, and arrived at work a mere 45 minutes late as a result. This was time I had to make up.

Today the Bloody Long Island Railroad suspended service in its entirety from Jamaica2 but didn't announce that until those of us wanting to go to Brooklyn had gotten off the train and that train had filled with the previous stranded passengers. Such was the crowding the Bloody Long Island Railroad had to send out men and women in orange jackets to pull people off trains, in the reverse of the Japanese practice. I joined the next crowd of kicking, biting, enraged commuters who surged on the train as the uninformed would-be Brooklyn-bound commuters got off.

And they wonder why they have to put up signs explaining that punching Bloody Long Island Railroad staff is a serious felony. One more brain cell gifted to the collective staff would be lonely.

On Christmas Eve my car's "check engine" light came on, so I ran round to a local mechanic. He announced that the problem was a camshaft sensor or the timing belt. These had both been changed at Huntington Hyundai in March and were under warranty, so I had to pick up the car, now coughing and smoking like a son of a bleep, and drive it round to the dealer. They diagnosed a camshaft sensor failure, but not the warrantied replaced sensor. Another one. There are two. Honest.

And they couldn't get the part until the New Year.

None of this was volunteered of course. I had to call them. Which I did at about 3pm, having dropped the car off at an empty shop at 7:30am. It was apparent that at 3pm they were just now looking at the car. I asked why they couldn't have told me this in the morning, and got some waffle about the chief mechanic needing to look at it all before they could comment3.

All of which has meant that during this, the coldest weather on record for the area, I have been forced to ask Mrs Stevie to give me lifts to and from the station and can ill-afford to be dumped off a train at a freezing and refuge-free Wyandanch because I had to work stupidly late to make up time the Bloody Long Island Railroad spent on my behalf.

I just got a call to say the part is now fitted and I can pick up my car today before 7pm. I explained I cannot pick up my car today because the laws of physics are in force and the Bloody Long Island Railroad will be dumping me at the station 10-15 minutes after the beautifully inconvenient closing time at Huntington Hyundai has elapsed4 and that I can come around tomorrow.

Mr Huntigton Hyundai ummed and ahed and finally said: "Well all right but we can't guarantee to be open tomorrow because of the blizzard expected overnight and <*twelve minutes of excuses deleted for brevity*>. Long story short, If I don't pick up my car tonight, I probably won't have it tomorrow either.

Which leaves me looking at Friday. I'd rather not be doing my car-picking-up on Friday because after I do that I'm going to have to drive down to Babylon Town Hall and apply in person for a Wyandanch parking pass.

"But Stevie" I hear you say, "why on earth didn't you apply for it at the Wyandanch Community Center on the 30th of November when you had the day off for Operation Visit Doctor Clueless And His Staff Of Incompetence?"5

I have a distinct memory of doing so, but neither the pass nor the phone calls I made trying to find out what happened to the pass were sent back to me, so even if I have my car I cannot use the bloody thing to go to the train station because I cannot park it there because some incompetent bleep lost the bleeping paperwork I carefully arranged to lodge a bleeping month ahead of time. And I just know in my bones that Friday will be the day that all the rich git doctors and lawyers, back from their three weeks of skiing in Colorado or scuba diving in the Bahamas and working three day weeks anyway, dispatch someone to do the same application-in-person thing, making for lines from hell.

So yes; I'm mad as hell and it's all a bunch of incompetent idiots' fault.

  1. Not the good one
  2. Still not the good one
  3. The "Chief Mechanic" is a fictional device used by all dealer service departments, wheeled out when a reasonable customer request is not readily answerable to the dealer's credit using only the truth. It doesn't stand up to any sort of scrutiny, of course, and is dealer service department shorthand for "we can't be bothered to explain ourselves to you"
  4. assuming no leaves are on the track or another signal problem doesn't manifest or another rail doesn't break or the number of fish in the atmosphere doesn't exceed some pre-determined mandated stuff-up level
  5. That reminds me; I have an appointment with him on Thursday I won't be keeping because he is clueless, his staff incompetent and annoying and I don't have a bleeping car bleep damn it!

Christmas 2017

Is there anything sadder than Christmas in a house when the children are grown and gone?

'Nuff said.