Archive for the ‘irritation’ Category

Tele2: so cheap it hurts

June 30th, 2010

In English the word "cheap" has two meanings (probably more than two, but let's not get into that right now). Thus, when someone describes a thing as cheap you should hesitate to assign to it the more laudable of the two meanings, that of being good value for money. Because it may also be that the opposite meaning is sought, namely little value for little money.

I imagine this being the reasoning which compelled Tele2 to choose their slogan so carefully: "born to be cheap", which they apparently use untranslated in every country where they operate.

The fact is that if all you want is an internet connection at home then there is no cheaper option than Tele2 on the Dutch market, at least to my knowledge.  Wherever you may go you will end up forking over 20 bucks per month, plus the 5 bucks ransom paid to would-be roadside bandits KPN for their generous permission to use your phone line. What you get in return for the 25 may vary, but noone will give you a better price. At least there is no sign-up fee, or installation fee, or additional surcharge on the precharge etc.

The 15th of May contact is made, Tele2's website affirms they are able to connect me at my new address. I immediately dispatch the order form. A week or so later, not having heard so much as a dolphin sqeak from Tele2, I call their support department. They've never seen my order. What's more, they're saying there's another customer at my address (previous tenant probably) whose personal information must be wiped from the record before they can take my order. This could take as long as a week.

A few days later, just as a sanity check, I try to re-make my order on their website. The order number printed on the screen is 0. Their system is hosed. It was probably like that the first time, but I failed to notice amid all the other output. So I call again. This time they have to do some deep digging to ascertain the fitness of my phone line vis a vis the yadayadayada. But at least they have my order now, per phone. Unless they lose it we're one step ahead.

A week rolls by. I finally get the letter in the mail, I'm proud to call myself Tele2's newest customer. The order is in, the letter has been sent out, surely it's imminent now. I have a tentative activation date on June 15.

Another week and a half and the modem arrives. Albeit in many small pieces and totally banged up. The package is rejected and Tele2 is tasked to send a modem that has the plastic shell intact. A week before the end of June it arrives, all is set now.

To my great satisfaction, DSL service has come such a long way that you don't need a technician to come to your house anymore, they send you printed instructions instead. You pay less and you get it sooner. So I set it up as per the instructions, only to realize that they've sent me all the pieces except the actual plug that plugs into the telephone socket. Oh, it's in the picture, but it's not in the box, why would it be? Don't you like when they get you involved with the problem solving too? I bet you can figure out where to buy a plug like that, you clever devil you.

Alas, the plug fits, but the modem works not. 20 minutes on the line with the support guy leads me to the illuminating realization that just because there are telephone sockets in the apartment doesn't imply they are connected to anything. So now they have to send an engineer anyway, albeit Tele2 is paying for it.

The guy termed the engineer is precisely what I expect him to be, a guy from KPN, the overlords of the telephone networks. He goes to work downstairs in the entrance hall. Says the phone line reaching as far as the apartment building works just fine, to which I ask him about the phone sockets in my apartment. "No no, that's not up to KPN, that's up to you or your provider, Tele2. We only check that it works up to this point." How terribly helpful of you. What they call the "ISRA punt" is a thick blue wire, the master phone line into the building. This goes into a gray connection box, which provides a connection point for every apartment in the building. Some of the wires going up to the various apartments are plainly disconnected from the box entirely, including mine. It might just be a matter of trying all the disconnected wires into my socket, one by one, and see if that makes it work. If I could borrow the guy's tools for 10 minutes I could try that. But he left.

So I'm back on the phone with Tele2. It turns out they don't give a rat's ass if the phone line in your apartment works (even though, I should mention, they're also a telephone provider), just as long as it works in the basement of your building where you may plug in at your convenience. So now I have to get their technician to come afterall, paying the 69.95 installation cost. This on top of probably 30 bucks I've already spent calling their not-at-all-cheap support line a dozen times.

It's six weeks since I made my order and I still have nothing. This isn't a phone line in rural Afghanistan, it's in The Hague. I have *several* Tele2 wireless networks in range of my laptop. I just can't get mine.

la bici che non c'è più

March 4th, 2010

Di nuovo mi hanno fregato la bici. So che è stato presuntuoso da parte mia pensare di poterla tenere per almeno sei mesi prima di quest'inevitabile avvenimento. Ma speravo, speravo di nuovo. Speravo, malgrado sapessi come funziona. C'è chi dice che le biciclette non sono veramente proprietà di nessuno. Ce le scambiamo continuamente, basta che tu ne possa trovare una quando ti serve.

No no, ti sento. "Ma che mi dici del lucchetto?" Sai, questo, non mi era venuto in mente. Non so come lo facciano, ma so soltanto che lo sanno fare abbastanza bene. Non esiste una serratura insuperabile. Né nessuna strategia, a quanto pare, per salvare la mia bici. Quest'ultima era davvero una bici sgangherata, le cui ruote giravano appena, comunque non è bastato.

i nuotatori socievoli

December 2nd, 2009

Ero in piscina un bel giorno. Stavo nuotando quando mi sono accorto del fatto che a qualche persona piace nuotare insieme. Sono in due, addirittura in tre qualche volta. Nuotano insieme, uno accanto all’altro. Vogliono chiacchierare quando sono in piscina, il nuoto è diventato un momento sociale. Sì, sì, perché non ci incontriamo in piscina. Sicuramente questo non disturba nessuno. A parte le altre persone che in piscina vogliono semplicemente nuotare. Non avete mai visto un bar?? Ci si siede, si chiacchiera quanto si vuole. Non lo fate in piscina, dove state bloccando gli altri! Avere due persone in corsia è come avere una persona molto più grande. Non vogliono dare spazio quando devi superarli ma allo stesso tempo stanno nuotando troppo lentamente per poter stare loro dietro. Allora fai bene ad evitare completamente quel lato della piscina.

Ma non finisce qui. Visto che nuotare insieme è una bella occasione per vedersi, non basta solo nuotare. Quando raggiungono la fine vogliono prendersi una pausa. Naturalmente, stanno sempre insieme, dunque ora bloccano il muro, che serve a tutti per spingersi quando si nuota. Una volta c’erano due gruppi che facevano una pausa: uno di due persone, l’altro di tre. Volevo gridare a loro: “Questo non è un parcheggio! Via! Via!”

writing "she" just to be on the safe side

June 6th, 2008

I won't state this is common and therefore some kind of major concern. But I have been seeing this with increased regularity. Some people who write about an abstract and gender neutral person (eg. "the salesman") will write "she" when referring to this person, apparently just to be on the safe side vis a vis sexism. This is yet another case of being concerned with the wrong issues and expending energy on things that don't matter.1

If you are a reader who actually finds fault with use of the male pronoun to describe a non-specific gender neutral person, stop victimizing yourself (if you're a woman) or stop sympathy-victimizing (if you're a man). (See how I neatly handled both cases, I'm so politically correct.)

Guy Steele said it best, on a completely different subject, in his talk "Growing a language":

To keep things short, when I say "he" I mean "he or she", and when I say "his" I mean "his or her".

But it really shouldn't be necessary to make this qualification to anyone who can understand that use of a pronoun in a context where it appears incidentally is not a covert plot to put you down. Monty Python also had an elegant and hilarious contribution to this discussion in Life of Brian.

  1. Of course, this whole blog entry is just an example of that too, but I can still argue that I'm the only person arguing this issue while there's many more wasting their energies on the issue at hand. :P

you don't get points for being different

August 28th, 2007

Creativity is a paramount quality of art, and the quest for creativity never subsides. People are constantly looking for new angles, exploring new ideas. However, creativity is something of a manufactured term that we like to use selectively, it has positive connotations. If someone is doing something different and you like it, you'll call it creative.

However, there is nothing inherently positive or good about doing something different. Different isn't good, there's good different and bad different. This should be fairly self evident. If a theater group decides they need a new angle and they perform their play facing the back of the scene rather than the audience, they are indeed doing something different. Different? Yes. Better? No.

And so it is very odd when people use different as a justification. Ideas are not worth anything solely on the premise of being new or different. For an idea to be successful you have to follow through with it, work it out in detail, and still show that it's worthwhile on its own merit. There is no shortage of ideas that would compel us to accept each new idea as gospel.

And yet it is uncanny how often this notion passes for an argument. People are able to excuse any bad idea on the basis of being different. If you have a friend who's a movie buff, ask him about Quentin Tarantino movies. Most buffs love Tarantino. So he's gonna say Tarantino is brilliant because of blahblah and you say I disagree. Then you keep talking and you find out that you don't agree with any of his arguments. "But he's so original". Ah, the clinching argument.

There is a lot of stuff that can best be described as different. Like Bjørk. Different? Unquestionably. And horrible. Then again, I think music is probably more abstract and subjective than just about anything else. But look at tv. Shows like Curb your enthusiasm, Arrested development and The Office. These shows have little going for them except for being different. The writing sucks, the acting is bad, the stories are stupid, and yet it is different, isn't it. Their success is predicated upon not being the same.

But the critics...

So if these productions are so bad, why do the critics love them, huh? Think about it. If you were watching movies 10 hours a day (or whatever it is they do), day in and day out, what kind of movies do you think would capture your imagination? If you were buried in tv shows, what shows would get your attention? The ones that stand out, most likely.

We are not like critics. We have the luxury of enjoying one work per day. Or per week or month, whatever you want. And no one is going to expect from me to rank every book I read in context of all the other books of this kind. I read books for artistic content, not discernibility.

If I were a critic I'm sure I would agree with them, and I bet they praise the titles that are most likely to be loved by other critics. But the difference in perspective is notable.

But different isn't normal

The whole idea of being different doesn't really go that far anyway. There's only so much different people can take before they get freaked out. And then they run back to normal.

And normal isn't terribly convincing either. Unlike different, it is a plethora of ideas that *have* gained traction, but not necessarily for the right reasons. People have all sorts of stupid ways of doing things because it's normal to them, but it doesn't make them clever. And yet normal is very reassuring. Think about when you're trying to introduce something different to a person who isn't ready for change.

- Oh I can't stand this modern classical music, it's all different. [modern classical? please excuse the contradiction -ed]
- No no, it's just like normal, just with a little twist.