Wednesday, December 17, 2014

"Almost" Dropping Out of the Internet

Last month I went through my 5 Gigabyte allowance with Verizon for the first time. In fairness to the great oligopolist of the aether, they did notify me at the 5 GB limit, three days before the monthly clock was to be reset.

This motivated me to go on a complete fast. The month ended with a usage of 5.010 Gigabytes, or something ridiculously close to 5.000. Would the jerks charge me $10 for going over the limit? I assumed that they would, despite the fact that I go under the limit by 1.3 Gigabytes on most months. (And because this is conventional, nobody gets angry about it.)

The three day internet fast felt so morally redeeming! (It's not for nothing that fasting has been a big part of the religious tradition for millennia.) It fired up my ambition to "cut the (ethereal) cord," and save $53 per month. But this is probably just an empty bluff. 

But what if they really did charge extra for the microscopic bit of overage? Wouldn't anger make me carry through with terminating the service? Anger is a "negative" emotion according to Valium Capsule Nation [*]. They fancy themselves positive thinkers, but they are unwilling to see a positive value in anger: it can be a tool that helps you take on something really difficult.

But they didn't bill me for the microscopic overage! Ah well, maybe decisions based on anger are not good, in general. But this one would have been.

Thus I continue to live in sin. No matter how techno-narcissistic our culture becomes, how many gadget ads you see, how many more Gigabytes move around at how many more Gigahertz, there is still no better assessment of the Information Age than that made by Henry David Thoreau, in "Walden":
"...so with a hundred "modern improvements"; there is an illusion about them; there is not always a positive advance...
Our inventions are wont to be pretty toys, which distract our attention from serious things. They are but improved means to an unimproved end, an end which it was already but too easy to arrive at; as railroads lead to Boston or New York. We are in great haste to construct a magnetic telegraph from Maine to Texas; but Maine and Texas, it may be, have nothing important to communicate."
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[*] My term for that motley collection of nambie-pambies, nervous nellies and worry-worts, effeminate New Agers, pop psychology magazine readers, brainwashees of motivational gurus, and people dependent on any kind of religious crutch.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A RetroGrouch Has a Good Day and a Bad Day

It has been quite a few years since I went over to Algodones, Baja California Norte, Mexico to get my teeth cleaned. Thus it was time for a little bit of nostalgia -- I hadn't been to Mexico since the early Aughts.

As I walked into the lobby of the oficina dentista, my heart sank. It had been gringa-ized! Pretty decorations, glossy magazines, nice furniture, and a marble floor. One of the attractions of going to Mexico used to be that it helped you to realize how much of what you pay for in the USA is just worthless overhead.

Ideally you should walk into the dentist's office and find a dirt floor. Then you would sit down on a bale of hay. In front, a burro or two would be snoozing. To kill time during your wait, the customers could throw snacks down on the ground for chickens and roosters.

Then you would go into the dentista's room, and find it full of state-of-the-art dental equipment from Siemens. It used to be somewhat like this idealized picture.
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Back in the USA I went to a Ford dealer to ogle some pickup trucks. Much to my surprise I found a white F150, rear wheel drive, regular cab, low-trim-level pickup that had been recently sold to one of Yuma's agricultural firms. I wanted to swoon like a lady of the Victorian era. The truck had roll-up windows and non-motorized seat adjustment levers.

It wasn't a base model: it had the V8 engine, the tow package (for only $400 or so), and an eLocker differential ($450 option).  In other words it had low-cost options that made it more useful as a pickup truck -- a working tool -- for a real guy.

No power mirrors, leather seats, eight speaker stereo, or premium cup holders. I'm still waiting for the hot new trend in the $60,000 pickup truck market to be a telescoping thermometer probe that RAMS up your wazoo, takes your rectal temperature, and then adjusts the power to the heated leather seats. In contrast this pickup truck oozed integrity, one of the rarest qualities in modern America.

So I was smitten. Now I must find the right way to add an aftermarket locking differential to a used pickup truck. (It will probably be too difficult to find a used truck already equipped with one.) People in four-wheel-drive (Jeep) clubs are good for advice. One recommended a local shop that had installed an economical "True Lock" locking differential in his Jeep. Even though his Jeep was four wheel drive, the locking differential made all the difference. Imagine what it would do for an economical, rear wheel drive pickup truck, pulling a little trailer, on muddy roads during the monsoon season!

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Complaining About Torture is Anti-American

I haven't read everything that there is to read about the Torture Report, the big news story of the day. So at the risk of making a mistake, based on pure laziness, I would still like to point out what isn't being said: everybody is ignoring the fact that the American CIA didn't practice beheading.

Beheading is shocking and barbaric. Only medieval Muslims would practice that. America is the sort of country that aims at higher ideals. We are a civilized and Christian nation. We restrict ourselves to torture.