If you have a passion for the automobile...

read this:

He gets it. A very tiny sample of why:

Do you even understand how you’re allowed to move forward in a car? We, as a species, have learned how to control explosions. We control explosions to move you forward.
Looks to be new at the blogging gig. I sincerely hope he keeps up with it.


A short note about Windstream, the ISP I use.

At one point in time, the service where I am was, if not awe inspiring, at least acceptable for everything I do. While the network is my connection to the world (I haven't connected anything but the XBox to the TV), I don't do too much out of the ordinary off of the connection here; web browsing, netflix, online gaming, and the occasional remote session for work when one of my coworkers or customers had something blow up after hours. I'd have to reboot the modem once a week or so, which, while annoying, I could easily chalk up to the house wiring or something weird on the circuit. I do live a few miles from the nearest town, and over 30 miles from anything remotely classified a city. The bandwidth wasn't always what I was promised, but it was often enough and reliable enough that I didn't worry about it. I was a happy customer.

The past roughly two months have not been that way. I get frequent dropouts, massive lag spikes, and it doesn't matter where I measure my bandwidth from, if I get 1Mbps, it's a GOOD measurement. I wouldn't complain about the bandwidth if I'm paying for wasn't 6 times that, but the lag and dropouts are very problematic for gaming, streaming video, and the occasional work I have to do.

Online chat support hasn't been the greatest either. I get the feeling that it's run by people with a script, their wits, and not much other support.

Of the 3 (maybe more... it's been quite a while) support agents I've chatted online with, none of them have asked me to use the Windstream internal speed test at http://speedtest.windstream.net, or asked me for test results from said site. In fact, I've been referred to http://speedtest.net and http://speakeasy.net/speedtest.

One tech (Kenyatta N.) did escalate my request to "an engineer", who apparently did call as promised on 2012-08-27 during the day, and was short to the Mrs. while informing her "it's fixed". Which it really wasn't. The former I can almost forgive, because often engineers are busy. I don't appreciate it at all, but I can understand. The latter is a real problem.

One tech requested remote access to my machine via http://join.me, which I found to be very disconcerting. He poked around a bit like he might have been looking for something specific, but it could just as easily be construed as being nosy on the machine. I allowed it because I keep no sensitive information on the machine, but really? You have to remote in? You can't just look at the stats that the connection has from both the modem (which I know you have some access to) or the DSLAM (which I hope you have some access to) and see "oh hey, there may be some issues here". The speed test from Windstream's network even appears to have numbers for each test run from there that I could give you so you can (or at least should be able to) pull results from that site.

If you're going to allow remote connections from tech support, at least pay for a branded service. Join.me (no offense intended to the people who operate that service) just comes off as a skeezy, "I'm doing this from my bedroom" fly by night operation. I know Windstream isn't the biggest player in the space, but it's certainly more than a single room office in a warehouse.

The last agent (Keith W., who also happened to be the one who asked to remote connect to me) was fairly condescending, and after nearly 90 minutes of "work", said "Let me cycle your connection", which then disconnected me from him, with no hope of actually talking to him again. Not fixing the issue.

I'm not the only one out here who has this problem. There is at least one more who also works in tech, lives in the area, and would like to work from home, but can't because the connectivity out here is so lousy. I've quit bringing my laptop home because it's worthless to even try and get anything done: 90% of my work is on the network.

I'm not asking for the moon, and I certainly don't think I'm whingeing. I'm asking for a fix. Hell, I'd consider forgoing compensation if it can be made right permanently. I'd consider a "business class" connection as well, but currently I'm not convinced that it would change anything except to make my bill larger. I am told by support that all support requests are logged. If that's the case, and you're from Windstream, please look up incident number 13173128 and you should have enough information to find the rest. I assume the tech was honest when I asked them for that information, and it actually exists. The call that landed me that number was made on 2012-08-29, around 2000 Eastern time. The tech (whose name I didn't document, bad customer) had excellent soft skills, but I'm unconvinced that he has the tools to actually fix any problem beyond "Lemme cycle the modem". Which I can do myself.

This could end up being an awesome customer service story. I'd love to write that half, if you'll let me.


Music of the moment, May 28 2012

I've been saving this one for Memorial day for reasons that will be obvious shortly.

Before that: Thank you to all of our Vets, past and present. You walk the wall many of us would or can not so that we can have our comfortable lives and myriad opportunities. Thank you.

The War was in Color by Carbon Leaf

This is a poignant tune; the lyrics that tug at heartstrings of any who have considered the sacrifices of the military of whatever nation that they come from. They tell a story of a grandfather who actually was in a hot zone (lyrics suggest WWII, Pacific theater), who recounts his time there when his grandson finds a box of photos from that time.
Well written, evocative lyrics can tell stories that can make simple music powerfully emotional. This is one excellent example.

Carbon Leaf's website: http://carbonleaf.com/


Music of the moment, Feb 8 2012

The internet has opened up venues for what would only otherwise be local cult acts.

Needing/Getting by OK Go

OK Go has, in the particular piece above, combined the art of logistics with the art of music and developed something rarely heard outside of acts like the Blue Man Group. The trademark wild and quirky sound that has dominated their catalog is still there, albeit in a completely different format than their older stuff, due to the nature of the "instruments" "played".

While less musical genius and more creative genius is involved with this tune, it still amuses me in a fashion that I can't quite put a finger on. Perhaps with the visuals and the idea of all the work that has been put into just getting this to the table gives me pause.

OK Go's website: http://www.okgo.net


Music of the moment, Jan 23 2012

A bit of older music this week:

The Impression that I get by The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones.

The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones came into the pop rock scene in the early to mid 90s with the ska and swing "resurgence". This tune, arguably, is one of the defining tunes of the time.

Sonically all ska (and ska-punk, which is closer to what the Bosstones really fit) is incredibly interesting: You have a mid-range brass/woodwind section, an electric guitar that primarily stays on the top three strings, and lots of high tom/snare/hat work by the drummer. This leaves a HUGE hole for the bass (and sometimes baritone saxophone) to fill. Many of the bassists in this genre do their best to slam a ton of notes into the music to fill that void. The Bosstones often follow that recipe, this tune being no exception, and it works well.

I have a special place for this tune in my heart, evidenced by the fact that I've written about it before.

The Mighty, Mighty Bosstones website: http://www.bosstonesmusic.com


Music of the moment, Jan 16 2012

A classic tune this week: Lukey, a traditional folk song from the tiny island of Newfoundland.

This particular arrangement is performed by two great bands in the genre, The Chieftans and Great Big Sea. It has the feel of an old sea shanty, and sonically is an acoustic assault on the ear. There is so much going on in the music it's hard to track sometimes, but it comes out as a coherent piece of fun due to the talent that both of these groups bring to the table.

I've found myself drawn to Canadian/Irish folk music over the past few years. The instrumentation is completely fresh to my ear, having followed a gamut of preferred genres through the years from prog rock and metal, to jazz, to pop-rock. Accordion, tin whistle, violin, mandolin, dulcimer... While none unique to the genre, very unique to hear in something that has appeal to those outside of those who grew up with this kind of music.

The Chieftans: http://www.thechieftains.com/
Great Big Sea: http://www.greatbigsea.com


Music of the moment, Jan 9 2012

This is something I found last year, again, via Pandora.

Thinking Loudly by El Ten Eleven.

This reminds me very much of something that Michael Manring (one of my personal bass playing heroes) would have put on his solo album Thonk. The bassist is working hard to put a lot of well placed notes onto the plate and succeeds well. The music starts small and simply with keyboard pads which progressively grows into a wall of sound. It sets you back down gently, like a falling leaf brushes the ground in a light breeze before it comes to a standstill.

El Ten Eleven's official website: http://www.elteneleven.com.


Music of the moment, Jan 2 2012

I find that I have found lots of interesting stuff via Pandora and have decided to share some of it.

For this week, the music that caught my attention was this: Go Do by Jonsi (This Vimeo link has the audio encoded a bit louder)

I love how the huge floppy kick drum, which usually doesn't work anywhere, dovetails with the rest of the music sonically. Woodwinds and strings dance and spin around keyboard pads, percussion, and Jonsi's somewhat haunting sounding tenor voice, weaving something that is simultaneously acoustically dense and yet still maintains a considerable amount of air within it.

Jonsi's official website: http://jonsi.com/