29 Nov. 2008
SETI League
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On and on Coeurl prowled. The black, moonless, almost starless night yielded reluctantly before a grim reddish dawn that crept up from his left. It was a vague light that gave no sense of approaching warmth. It slowly revealed a nightmare landscape.

It turns out that the first few sentences of "Black Destroyer" by A. E. Van Vogt, the late Canadian science fiction author, are famous.  I remembered the first from reading it many years ago; it was one of my favorite sections from the fix-up novel "Voyage of the Space Beagle."  How appropriate that my science fiction book club should pick "Black Friday" to discuss it.  I don't often attend these discussions, but yesterday was an exception and a coincidence.

I pooh-pooh "shopping" in these phosphors all the time.  Yesterday, against odds and nature, I embraced it, albeit in my own special way.  The book club meeting is often held at a shopping mall, and yesterday's meeting was at one near my place of striving.  This mall is on a road notorious for its heavy traffic on major shopping days.  Black Friday, the notionally heaviest of them all, promised major delays, so I left myself an extra half-hour for what would normally be a 13-minute drive.  I arrived at the mall 30 minutes early and had no trouble parking close to the entrance.

Expecting to be delayed, jostled, and possibly trampled, I entered the mall with trepidation.  I told trepidation to go back to the car, since the "crowds" looked like those of a normal day.  I walked from end to end, and tried to glance into each place of purveyance.  There were candidate customers in all of them, but none in what appeared to be remarkable quantities.  The salestrons in the Lindt store were especially pleasant; I was offered and accepted a free truffle.  I walked into the Verizon store and before walking out had a babble with a not-busy fellow who delivered some bad news, which I shall relate momentarily.  But first, this summary:  I understand that merchants depend on the last selling month of the year to be profitable.  Perhaps earlier in the day they did have the trampling crowds, but in the evening all seemed mall-normal.  What does this portend for "the economy"?  I don't know, and you probably don't, either.  Let's keep our pseudopodia crossed that we remain our goods-grabbing, consumeristic selves, for the good of the United States and probably the rest of the world.

Waiting for the Storm

I ordered a BlackBerry Storm cellphone from Verizon.  It seems they wanted to pay me to have it, even though it sells for $250.  I couldn't refuse.  Removing the ordering saga itself:

  • My "plan" costs the same, but provides an additional 50 "minutes."  I use fewer than that, total, but it's the cheapest I could get.

  • The Storm costs $250.  There's a $50 rebate, which makes it $200.

  • But there's also a $50 credit for renewing my contract, which makes it $150.

  • I found a coupon on the web for "two free months of service" which they define as $100, which makes it $50.

  • The Storm data plan is $15/month cheaper than my old plan.  So after three months, the total cost of the phone is $5.

  • And, of course, after that they are paying me to use it.

How much of that do I believe?  Tragically, almost all of it.  Scary, huh?

In my shopping expedition yesterday, one of the first stores I saw was Verizon.  I accosted the salestron:  "May I see a Storm?"  He told me they didn't have any.  There was a "problem."

Whoops.  "I have one on order!  What's wrong?  When will I get it?"  Some shrugging of the shoulders, an "I don't know, but it's 'software'," and a further "I don't know." 

So you'll just have to wait a bit longer for that RIKL Review.


A thoughtful comment from the pointy-haired boss:

"It's always the darkest before the undead feast on your flesh."

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NP:  "Rubber Boy" - Isis

Richard Factor

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