21 April 2019
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Break from Convention(s)

I Left Out the Unable

I wrote a cryptic note to myself, as I often do. (I also write the occasional illegible notes to myself, but as my handwriting gets worse I try to remember to type.) The cryptic note was about the word "unable" which was juxtaposed in the note with "piracy." I think my intention was to consider them together as inaccurate expressions or descriptions that have come into use as new "weasel words." But whatever my intention, it's partially too late, as I remembered that I mentioned "piracy" in a recent blog and have nothing to add. "Unable," though, remains.

I suddenly remembered that there was an unlamented "unable" in an earlier blog. A letter from Ford that I deconstructed mentioned that Ford was "unable to assist with the cost of any repairs." Although I no longer have the Ford vehicle in question and am unlikely to purchase one in the future, I thought I would take this opportunity to remind myself and my thousands of millireaders how ridiculous and weaselly their letter was. Even given the then-parlous condition of the auto business, I do believe that Ford would have been able to cough up a kilobuck or so. The canonical utterance of "unable" occurs when ATC tells you to cross a fix two miles ahead at 5000 feet when you are presently at 15,000 feet. Ford's hypothetical Dorothy Williams wasn't "unable," "she" was "unwilling."

Off to a Different Weasel: Verizon

It has been mostly my pleasure to be a Verizon cellular telephone subscriber for about three decades. Improbable as that sounds, my first cellphone in the late '80s was a Radio Shack monster-luggable with an actual telephone handset as a corded excrescence. It had to be "installed" in a vehicle and found a home in my first, blue, Subaru Legacy wagon. This was succeeded by a variety of more portable handhelds, then flip-phones, a Motorola Q of the tragic photographs, and, most recently, a series of Galaxy Notes or other Samsung "S" phones, currently a Galaxy S9+.* I'm largely content with it, although they still haven't removed the "feature" of being able to receive telephone calls. But I think Verizon, after all these years, is trying to break up with me.

As you've probably noticed, wireless vendors are weirdly attached to the notion of "plans." They have carefully calibrated offers for people with seemingly different communication or, as they call it now, "consumption" needs. Nobody "communicates" many gigabytes of data every month, but they sure do watch them videos! (Or so I'm told. As I've stolen many times, if God wanted pictures to fly through the air, He'd have given them tickets.) I, long time Verizon customer who, willy nilly, am on one of their "plans," am not a large "consumer" of video except by accident. I don't think Verizon wants me around any more. I'm inescapably** in an older "demo" and companies now seem to prefer much younger customers. Verizon, bless their corporate spleen, has figured it out.

The Scene: A Marketing Meeting at VZW.

Marketing Manager: We have a problem. Lots of young people are signing up for Verizon "unlimited data" plans, which is great. But our average revenue is being brought down because we've been in this business for so long that our older, long-term customers are still signed up for plans that have limited data. The stock market is always checking our average revenue per subscriber, and it's not looking good.

Assistant 1: Why is that a problem? Why not just discontinue the lower-data plans?

Assistant 2 (jockeying for attention): Even better, let's raise the price of the smaller plans so that the older customers will go somewhere else more slowly and hope the Market doesn't notice the drop.

MM: I don't like either one. In both cases we lose customers and revenue. Can't you come up with something better?

Ass 2: I've noticed that some of these customers occasionally exceed their data limit and just stop using our service for a few days or weeks per month rather than paying for more data. Then, they often drop us for a cheaper competitor. I gather we're against that, right?

MM: Yes, you silly person. More revenue, more customers. Say that a few times. Out loud if necessary.

Ass 1: I've got it! Let's lie to the customer, and tell him that even if he uses all the data he's paid for, he can get all he wants on what I call our "irritation plan." The way it works is this: As he gets low on paid data, he's sent an email reminding him he's running out and making it easy to send us money for more. Even better, when his data cap is actually exceeded, we'll slow down the data rate until he pays up. He'll get really annoyed with the slow data and send more money. Or, if he doesn't he'll drop Verizon and sign up with a less irritating vendor and bring their averages down! A Win-Win, as we say in biz.

MM: I kind of like that. What can we do to irritate the customer the most?

Ass 1: Even though the data costs us no more or less when sent quickly or slowly, let's slow it down a LOT! We could get Bell Labs*** to do a survey about just the right data rate for MCV—maximum customer vexation.

MM: I'm beginning to like this. Let's give it a try and see if we can get rid of some of the customer-slackers causing us all this trouble. But there is something bothering me about it. Not quite sure what it is...

Ass 2: I think it's the name of the plan. They taught us in class to put a favorable gloss on activities that will bother people. Instead of calling it the "irritation plan," let's call it the "Safety Plan!"

MM: I like the cut of your jib! Good plan you came up with.

Short Meeting!

I guess it doesn't take too long to come up with a plan. In a previous meeting I documented, this time involving the motor vehicle department, I remembered that the "supervisor," although he didn't actually exist, called all his subordinates "Fogerty." Oddly, the Marketing Manager in this scenario not only doesn't bother to name his assistants, he credits the wrong one with creating the plan. (And, if he weren't hypothetical, would probably take credit for it later.)

* So you're up-to-date, I have eschewed purchase of the S10+, which seems only marginally better, and do not covet the "Fold" since, even when unfolded, it seems to have worse screen resolution than the S9/S10. In case Samsung is listening, I would be interested in a "Fold" that was the same size as the S10 folded, and twice its size unfolded, with roughly twice the screen resolution. That would be a true tablet! Free advice to people who have a lot more money than I do.

** Yes, I know there's is one way to "escape" but that isn't my inclination.

*** If it still existed.

Richard Factor


"Eight Miles High"

The Byrds




I bought a ham radio from Gene, a local distributor, and he kindly gave me this personalized shirt. ICOM made the radio, and WA2IKL has been my call sign for the past six decades.

Although this shirt came up "next," it's especially appropriate because I, that is, WA2IKL, was just in the "Member Spotlight" of ARRL, the major ham organization.

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