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Hospitals Suck

Sorry about the total lack of further updates.

Please Welcome MacGyver Obama Narwhal Propst!

(this is our birth announcement email, reposted here for spreading on the intarwebs)

Nah, we’re just screwing with ya... we just like to make the grandparents gasp... ; )

His actual name is Gram Propst (we’re still working on middle names)
He’s 8lbs 4oz. and 20 inches long He was born at 6:53pm yesterday.

20 minutes of excercise a day, year 3

Well, I officially hit year 3 5 days ago, and forgot all about it. Not because I'm not exercising any more, but because it's just a habitual thing I think about every day.

I hit a year at CSU in February (yeah.. I now know lots about .NET) and have ridden my bike to work every day except day one. So most of my exercise has been biking around town. On days when I can't find some distant errand to run, I take the long way home to stretch out the time it takes.

Flattery will get you google rank

So every couple days or so I get a new comment on the blarg (most of them on this one article) that sounds like this:

You are really great
Submitted by Essay Help (not verified) on Tue, 02/17/2009 - 11:15pm.

You are really great dude.that's a really cool idea. i may use that in my own filing system.

Man v. Corporation

So for the past two months, Celeste and I have incurred massive phone bills with At&t. After the first big one, I accepted that oops, yup, we talk more than our rate plan will allow. I called At&t up, and the nice man there happily sold me a larger rate plan for more money. I asked him, "So, when does this go into effect? this month? (it was january 19th) Like, we'll have more minutes now?" He said "Yes sir."

So, it's February 6th, and I've got another bill from At&t for $360 bucks. I called them up hoping this was a billing mistake, but of course... Corporations never make billing mistakes. When the computer's all you've got, what the computer says is the word of god.

I tried to explain my conversation with At&t call center Monkey1 to At&t Monkey2 and then Monkey2's supervisor. Both of them checked with 'the word of god', and there was no record of Monkey1's words.
(in their defense, they were willing to halve the overage charges.)

Here's the thing.. (sorry it took me so long to get here) Throughout this entire conversation, I felt completely powerless. At&t holds all the cards. I signed their contract, so I can't take my business elsewhere, if they wrong me, I've got more or less no recourse. This power imbalance translated all the way down to Monkey2, who acted like I should feel lucky that she was willing to work with me as much as they have, and that she CAN transfer me to her manager, but then the huge favor she's doing for me could be taken away because I'm making waves.

Yes, it's my own damned fault. I sold my soul to Apple and by extension to At&t. I sold what little power I would have had over their actions for a cheaper iPhone. Really though, how much power are we talking about here? Enough to change the motivations of Monkey2? Probably not.

(batty will hate this but:)

1 year of bike commuting

Well, I rolled around to a whole year of the bike commute and forgot all about it. Like most things if you do it long enough it's a habit.

Here are the numbers:

Those are pretty averaged.. I think my mileage is quite a bit more than that.

Are you an Artist or Author? Give us a tip jar.

I bought an e-book yesterday. I don't have a microsoft reader compatible device, but I bought it in reader format.

I paid $17 dollars to Neal Stephenson, because I generally like his books. I paid, finished checkout, then spent the next 45 minutes or so installing microsoft reader, so I could download the file, and rip the drm off of it in order to get it to plain html (to read on the iphone). I did all this because I felt I should pay Neal for his work, but I didn't want a dead tree copy of it.

Had I not had this fuzzy motivation, I could have gone to IRC and had a drm free copy at no cost in probably.. 30 seconds, but Neal wouldn't have seen a dime.

So, here's the problem you face as artists. You no longer control the distribution of your work. It's got legs baby. If you charge too much, people will steal it. If you don't distribute it in a format people can use, people will convert it for you to the platform of their choice (after stealing it).

I know it seems like it sucks, but I truly believe you'll do alright! The business now is about fairness and an actual relationship with your audience. If we like your work and want to see more of it we'll support you. It's direct patronage.

Why you need a tip jar

At this point very few people are doing digital distribution that is palatable. I know that sometimes with agents and publishers and lawyers in the mix that all gets muddied. The thing to remember is that none of those people can control your audience or the distribution method any more. We choose it. Sorry, but we're in control again, it's the nature of the net.

So go with the flow. Put up a simple app on your website that says: "like what I do? leave me a tip!" and take donations. Outwardly, you don't need to be any clearer than that. Inwardly, count every cent of that money as a vote against closed formats and DRM. (by buying the microsoft reader format, I in effect voted FOR DRM.. which I'd prefer to avoid.)

Your publisher, rather predictably will then say something like "Your tips are taking money from us!". Tell them that in fact, they're not. People that want a printed book will still buy a printed book. People that want to put up with their ham handed attempts at ebook publishing with draconian DRM, will still put up with it. The ones that wouldn't have, were never their customers. We're yours, artist.. and we're damned loyal to you, if you let us be. ; )

No, a foam hat won't save you.

I've been following the story of Rebecca Allen's death in Fort Collins last Tuesday, and I went to her funeral Friday, (cyclists city wide showed up to show support).

I've been reading the local press about it, and this is as good an example as any:
http://www.coloradoan.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080730/UPDATES01/...

In every article I've seen, this, or some variation of this concept has been uttered:

Allen was taken to the hospital where she died from her injuries. Garvey suffered serious injuries, but was released from the hospital the same day. Both were wearing bike helmets.

A helmet? She was hit by a CAR! In the equation of bike v. car, a helmet is little more than a luck bonus. Yeah, there are lots of tales of people getting their heads run over and the helmet miraculously takes the hit and squirts their noggins out onto the street. But seriously, day to day, what do you think that inch of foam is going to do for you?

So, why do they bring it up? Because people assume a cyclist without a foam hat is an irresponsible idiot who somehow deserves to die. Because people don't want to talk about how CARS KILL PEOPLE. Being on the bike didn't kill Rebecca. A car killed Rebecca. (yes, the dumbass kid behind the wheel killed Rebecca, but tell me, would that have happened if he were out riding a bike drunk instead?)

Consider this:

4,749 pedestrians were reported to have been killed in motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2003. These deaths accounted for 11 percent of the 42,643 motor vehicle deaths nationwide that year. An estimated 70,000 pedestrians were injured or killed in motor vehicle collisions, which represents 2 percent of the 2.9 million total persons injured in traffic crashes
(http://www.walkinginfo.org/pedsafe/crashstats.cfm: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Traffic Safety Facts 2003, Washington, DC, 2004)

We're worried about deaths in Iraq? We lost more people in one year just walking down the street than the entire war so far!

We've built our entire society around the automobile; around the idea that accelerating 2 tons of steel to human killing speeds through the places we live and work is acceptable. It's quite literally killing us.

For a better article about Allen (yup, mentions helmets..) read this one:
http://media.www.collegian.com/media/storage/paper864/news/2008/07/30/Ne...

Get out on your bike this week. Take the lane. Let a car or two know you're there.

A 500 mile commute

So I made it my goal to ride to work every day ever since I started my job in February. It's been interesting. The winter was practically easier than summer heat. (and it's only gotten to about 85 around here) Business casual dress + 5 miles a day on a bike make for a not totally nasty, but funkier than average Aaron sometimes.

Anyway, the other reason I really wanted to post this is to test out google's spreadsheet embedding in html. Here are my calculations about the commute:

Cellular Neutrality

My friends and I were recently chatting about cellular service providers. AT&T seems like it's going to be in control of the next generation of iPhone and we were comparing their plans. The scary thing we find is the nasty tendency to nickel and dime you for all kinds of services that, when you boil them down, are nothing but bits over a wire.

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