September 7th, 2005


Dreams and technology do not mix.

Those of you who have known me for a while are aware that I am prone to "bad" dreams or flat-out nightmares. Over the last two years it has become a regular occurance for me to startle awake at some ridiculously early hour in the morning, often by flailing or jerking upright. This usually leads to me slamming my skull into the bookshelf that is built into my headboard, which has already left one scar and will probably lead to more if I don't put in a more "traditional" headboard soon.

Sometimes these rude awakenings happen two or even three times over the course of a night. For the majority of these terrors, I have no idea what causes them or serves as fuel for them. Am I too stressed out? Am I worried about someone or something? Do I have too much caffeine in my diet? Is Ra sleeping on my face? I really don't know It could be any one of those things, a combination thereof, or something totally different.

The set of nightmares I woke up from today at 3:48 were particularly vivid and (for personal reasons) unsettling, but at least I have an explanation for them: there is little doubt that watching the high-definition, widescreen 2003 remake of the 1974 horror cult classic, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre did not help things even one iota.

Over the line
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BLOWFEST: Comcast can blow me. DirecTV can blow me. NTB can blow me.

My local Comcast branch office recently shuffled the Sci-Fi channel from channel 44 to channel 160. This is both bad and good. The good news is that it was all-digital from that point on, which allowed them to include happy digital surround sound. The bad news is that you have to have their minimal digital cable package ("Digital Classic," I believe they call it) in order to receive it. Fortunately, this wasn't supposed to be an issue for me because I already had the "Digital Starter" package along with Starz. I pay somewhere around $62.99 per month for that, along with another $9.99 per month for the dual-channel HDTV tuner/DVR box. Grand total is around $75 a month after taxes.

Today I discovered I can't get the Sci-Fi channel. What the... that's not supposed to be! Every time I open the channel on the box I get "Not Authorized." So I call up Comcast and after 20 minutes of listening to hold music as they fought with their system (hell of a time for an upgrade) I got an answer: the "Digital Starter" package has been discontinued and it doesn't qualify as the basic package (that makes it... sub-basic?) in the digital lineup. So I asked what could be done about it. "Oh, we could move you to the Digital Classic package... then you'll get the SciFi channel. Of course, you'll be paying more.... and you won't get the Starz channel anymore... was this a promotion?" Yes, it was a promotion, I ordered it back in January of 2004. "Well, I'm sorry, but we can't honor that. You'll have to upgrade if you want the SciFi channel." Well, by my reckoning, that's not an upgrade... that's a downgrade because I'll be paying more and losing my premium channel in order to get something that, as near as I can tell, I'm supposed to have already by the simple virtue of having a digital package. I politely declined this "offer."

While I was on the phone I also asked about this five-dollar-a-month charge they have for their "High Def" package. The rep begins to list all the channels that are included with it... several of which I can access just fine already. Why would I need to add $5 more to my monthly fees just to get something I'm already receiving (apparently my ability to tune the Discovery HD channel was a technical fluke this weekend, what a pisser of a deal that is). Again I declined and I thought to myself, Comcast can blow me. After thanking the rep for their help, I hung up and pulled up DirecTV's site to start comparing prices.

DirecTV is just as expensive and actually charges more to turn on HD content. Additionally, it appears that I will have to get an HDTV antenna if I want to receive the HD broadcasts of the local network affiliates (NBC/ABC/CBS/FOX/PBS). I'd be trading up to a Tivo for a DVR, which would be good... but then I'd have to mount not one but two antennas outside, which is not an attractive option in the least. As near as I can figure from their web page, it's $10.99 per month for HD content and I have to get the package that starts at $41.99, so there alone I'm at $53 before tax. I'll have to pay even more money than that (or at least I think it will be more money because they won't let me see how much it costs a month) to have the HD Tivo service. Ugh! If they won't put your pricing up front where I can find it after 30 minutes of prodding at your site then you fail at marketing. So let's run the math here: $53 + unknown cost for the DVR + unknown taxes = ??? Yeah, sign me up for that deal! Thus, DirecTV can also blow me.

Guh. When did television become such a wonderful world of suck?

Construction on what I have lovingly dubbed the "Great Wall" continues apace behind my property line. As autumn looms over our valiant construction crew for the new NTB, the foreman has apparently realized that their delayed start is threatening the completion date of the project. Because of that they're now working 12 straight hours a day. That's right, they start at about 7 AM and finish at around 7 PM now. I get to wake up to the sound of grinders, skidloaders and hammers and then I get to come home to it as well. Congratulations, NTB, you've annoyed the living hell out of me after stepping all over my toes to get into that lot to begin with. NTB can achieve a trifecta with Comcast and DirecTV when they blow me as well.

action bills

Grandfather update.

I talked to my parents, finally. More accurately, I got a voicemail from my mother. Due to my manager's vacation these last two weeks I haven't had the chance to talk to them much. It always seemed like my work schedule was overlapping with that of my parents and causing one party or the other to be unreachable.

From the all-too-brief message I got all the information that I could. Grampa Schep got his pacemaker put in about a day after my last entry on him, so I put it at around the 27th or the 28th of August. Since then his recovery has not been satisfactory and he had to be transferred to a nursing home. Right now it takes two people to help him from his bed to the bathroom and back. My mother can't do this alone at the farm and there's no way this would be feasible at his apartment, so the nursing home was the only option. My mother must be going out of her mind. I know it bothered her to have to move him away from his home in Florida so that she could "keep an eye on him," and now she's had to put him into a nursing home. My father, while fiscally well off, probably is worried about the new drain on his finances -- especially since he is eligible for retirement now. I can't begin to imagine what this must be like for my grandfather.

I'm going to send him a card tomorrow since he's not able to take calls right now. He needs to know I'm thinking about him and am worried sick.

Broken ice still melts in the sun