Thursday, July 18, 2013

This is The End

Is it just a coincidence that the ONLY time This is The End is playing at our local theater is 4:20?


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Comcast is Deceitful, an Unfair Monopoly, and Does Not Deliver What They Advertise

[UPDATE]  As much as it pains me to say this (because I feel like an idiot): I was wrong in this post regarding the speeds.  I was using an outdated modem.  Comcast’s advertised “super speeds” utilize a new protocol that requires modems designated as DOCSIS 3.0 which enables faster transfer of data over the same lines (regular old coax cable).  DOCSIS 3.0 enables “channel bonding” of up to 8 downstream and 4 upstream channels.  This means the user could actually see speeds of 300Mbps down and 100 Mbps if the service provider was offering it.

After installing my new Motorola/Arris SB6141, I ran a check on and got this:


Wow.  That is fast. So my apologies to Comcast for making a post which stated they do not provide the speeds which they advertise.  Perhaps they should have made it clear that there were new protocols (DOCSIS 3.0) that could only be harnessed by new hardware (like the Moto SB6141), but it’s completely my fault for not thinking about/addressing this possibility before writing this post.

My opinions on the “unfair monopoly” and the fact that Comcast won’t post their pricing online (and instead provide only information on their “new customer” and “bundle” promotional prices) stand.  My opinion on the abysmal Streampix service stands.  My opinion on suddenly charging customers for equipment they’ve been using for years stands.

My “basic cable” requires a little box that causes clutter and requires me to use Comcast’s crappy remote.  Comcast charges me $1.99/month for equipment rental for this box even though I’d been using it free for years before “upgrading” my internet package.  I get only 4:3 SD picture (which means most programs are missing 25% of the picture which gets cut off on the edges).  It cracks me up that 4:3 SD is even an option anymore.  Also, I have to scroll through HUNDREDS of channels I do not receive.  In other words, when using the up/down buttons on my remote, I will see a “you don’t get this channel” many, many times when scrolling from one station to the next.

But again, my apologies to Comcast regarding the speeds.  I am achieving the advertised speeds, and the only reason I wasn’t is because I was using an outdated modem.


I’m sure there are millions of “this is why Comcast sucks” type posts out there (there certainly are millions of angry comments on any post with Comcast in the title).  I’m adding my voice to the throng.

As I research and type, I find there are more and more things to write about, so I want to just get this out up front:

I pay for 50Mbps internet.  I realize it’s “up to” 50Mbps, but when you NEVER receive anywhere near that, and in fact receive, on average, only the speeds advertised for TWO FULL TIERS BELOW THAT SERVICE, it is a blatant lie.  Comcast is selling me something they KNOW they absolutely cannot and will not deliver.  Here is a screen grab of my internet connection speeds (from over the last few months.  I’ve just been clicking “check now” at random times; I know it’s not very scientific, but it definitely illustrates the point.

Please click to enlarge and take a look at how incredibly abysmal my ACTUAL internet speeds are.  Feel free to make sure my testing times don’t target typically busy times (i.e., 3.5Mbps down speed at 11am on May 18?!).  Also, can you find the point where I “upgraded” to the 50Mbps service?  No.  You can’t.  The speeds consistently SUCK across the entire polling time.  But for the record, it was back in April.


Not once, not even ONCE, did I get close to 50Mbps.  The fastest my internet speed has EVER been is 35.41Mbps (I broke 30 only twice).  My average is 11.10 Mbps.  The speed is OFTEN below 5Mbps.

The first “explanation” Comcast would give is that their data is shared on neighborhood hubs and at any given time there are many households sharing the same connection so speeds will suffer.  First of all: what an incredibly frustrating way to set up your service –the times when you want internet most your speeds are slowest?!  Second: I am the ONLY household on our point of service.  I know this because I complained for THREE YEARS (and the neighbors for another five years before that) because the apartment complex behind my house receives Comcast, but we could not. Finally Comcast relented and put a hub waaaaay out in front of our house near the street (the hubs that serve the apartment complex are all behind our house, on the other side of the fence, about 20 feet from the house).  There are no other houses anywhere near that hub.  I had a long conversation with the service tech who installed the line.  He had nothing but wonderful things to say about Comcast. Ahem.

My connection is ideal. So why can’t I get anywhere close to Comcast’s advertised speeds?

Ignoring the fact that they are lying about what they can/will provide, my theory is that they don’t want to enable you to “cut the cable.” If you were really getting 50Mbps, then the dream of purely internet served media entertainment could be realized, and cable is where the vast majority of Comcast’s revenue comes from.

Conspiracy theories aside, it’s almost comical that it’s nearly impossible to watch Comcast’s new “Streampix” service when you have their fastest high-speed internet, because your internet connection isn’t fast enough and/or consistent enough to allow for streaming an online television show (we tried to watch an episode of The Newsroom at 9:30pm via Xfinity Online and had to turn it off after about 10 minutes of buffering, super-glitchy, garbled garbage).

Speaking of “cutting the cable,” I recently was going to cut cable entirely. I had the most basic cable package, which was pretty much 20 channels or so (less than my current ultra-basic cable package) about 1/4 of which were in Spanish, which unfortunately I don’t speak. They were/are also all 4:3 SD, which means (not including the language barrier) I’m missing around 25% of everything that is shown (a 4:3 screen only shows 75% of a 16:9 screen) and I see it in horrible resolution!

It took me a while to get up the gumption to actually make the call.  After all, the price of basic cable and internet “bundled” was only $5 more than the internet service alone.  It’s a pretty good scam they have going to nickel and dime the customer.  In fact, they got me with it again when I went to downgrade to internet only.

I was already paying nearly $80 a month for high speed internet bundled with ultra-basic cable, and I was planning on dropping the “bundle” to pay $61.95 a month plus additional fees (the price offered at the time for stand alone 25Mbps service) for an internet only plan.

This “bundle” I had included two services: 25Mbps high-speed internet for $48.95 and Economy Cable for $21.62. In addition to all the miscellaneous charges (network fee, franchise fee, etc.), they were also charging $3.99 a month for a service protection plan, since last time I had a major problem with my service, they wouldn’t even take my call because I didn’t have the “service protection package” –even though the problem was ABSOLUTELY outside my house at the service point near the street. The “service protection plan” is specifically for covering problems inside the house… hilariously, I have only ONE cable jack inside my home –and it’s immediately on the other side of the wall from where the cable physically touches the house.

When I called Comcast, they did their typical “we can offer you this” to keep you from cutting services.  They offered to upgrade me to a “special” existing-customer-only bundle they were running: their NEW AND IMPROVED 50Mbps “Blast!®” internet with basic cable bundle, with the addition of their streaming television/movie option called Streampix.

So now for $79.95 my bill clearly states, and I quote: “Blast Plus Includes Blast! Internet Service And Digital Economy With Digital Converter, Streampix”

When I got my first bill, I found they are now charging me $1.99/month for a digital adapter (DTA) which I’ve had in my possession for YEARS, even though my bill specifically states that Blast Plus “INCLUDES” my “Digital Converter.” What the eff is up with that?

My old bill was usually around $77.03 (the specific amount on an old bill I grabbed). My new bill is $85.57 (this month’s bill). My internet speeds are exactly the same (and only around what is offered via their bottom tier package).  The only thing that changed is that I now have to pay every month for my digital adapter… oh, and I have access to the world’s shittiest online streaming media selection via Streampix.

imagesStreampix’s content is horrible.  Just plain horrible. “It’s JUST like Netflix” said the salesperson when I upgraded to my new Comcast package back in April. I can assure you it’s NOTHING like Netflix. It’s honestly the worst selection of movies you’ve NEVER HEARD OF offered ANYWHERE. It’s not just bad movies; it’s movies you’ve seriously NEVER heard of.  Titles like Jack Hunter and The Lost Treasure of Ugarit or Daryl Hannah in Storm Seekers are the cream of the crop.  Even their PROMOTIONAL graphic (seen to the right) touts a bunch of shows YOU DON’T CARE ABOUT (and it’s definitely the BEST of what they have to offer).

Speaking of “upgrading” to new services… one of the many complaints you’ll see online about Comcast is this: try figuring out how much their service costs for an established customer (not a a promotional rate used to ensnare you into their web of lies).  Go ahead.  I’ll wait.

Couldn’t find it, could you?  That’s because there is NOWHERE ONLINE WHERE COMCAST LISTS THEIR REAL PRICES.  They litter the web with all kinds of promotional deals, and they tease you with “click here”’s promising to take you to “real” pricing, but they all re-direct to promotional pricing and bundled packages.  In fact, just click around the Comcast/Xfinity site for a while.  There are THOUSANDS of links that all go to the same damn page (which contains no valuable information).

There is NOWHERE you can find a clear listing of what Comcast’s services cost.

For the record, at the time of this posting, here are THE REAL stand alone high-speed internet service prices from Comcast:

The cheapest internet service Comcast offers is called “Performance Starter” and is $49.95 a month for up to 6Mbps down and 1Mbps up. The next tier is “Performance” which boasts 25Mbps down and 5 Mbps up for $51.95/month (that’s right, only $3 more, but good luck seeing those speeds!). Finally, the third tier is “Blast!®” which claims to offer up to 50Mbps download speeds and 10Mbps upload for $61.95 a month. However, I can GAURANTEE you will not see those speeds on a regular basis (if EVER).

Regarding my claims of “monopoly:” I have two choices for internet service, and two choices only.  I can have Comcast, or I can have Century Link.  The absolute fastest speed Century Link can give me on DSL is 10Mbps, and you almost NEVER hit that speed (I used to have it, and my neighbor still does).  Service from any “dish” provider is pretty much the exact same thing rebranded (definitely DSL) and still mind-bogglingly slow.  Comcast is the only provider who can even touch the cable running in my neighborhood.

So, there are two choices for “high speed” internet, and both suck.  Is there ANY room for competition?  No.  Can you imagine trying to “break in” to the high-speed internet market?  What an hilarious thought.  I’m pretty sure that’s the definition of a monopoly.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Dawes “Stories Don’t End”

imagesListening to these guys again today.

I liked 'em when I first heard them, but I didn't realize how much until today.  I am REALLY digging them.

The music. The progressions. The harmonies. The lyrics (“…but I wanna raise with you and watch our younglings hatch – fuckin’ make the first letters of their first names match” –from “Hey Lover” made me giggle today).

It's pretty 70's (rock not disco), but I love that about it.  There is no denying the Mark Knopfler in the tasty and subtle lead guitar snippets that pepper everything, and for me, that is a very good thing. And I'm pretty happy when I hear all that Jackson Browne in the vocals.

Gardening at Night (drink recipe)

This is a drink I invented last night.  We drank it while eating grilled jalapeno/lime jumbo diver sea scallops, grill-roasted yukon gold potatoes, and an organic kale salad with blueberry-cilantro-lime dressing.  There was a kick-ass lightning storm across the entire mountain range.

Freaking fantastic on all counts.


  • Jim Beam Green bourbon
  • St. Germain elderflower liqueur
  • fresh limes
  • cilantro
  • blueberries
  • jalapeno
  • basil
  • St. Pellegrino sparkling water

Muddle a couple sprigs of cilantro in a mortar/pestle. Squeeze in a quarter of a fresh lime.

Toss some blueberries and a couple slices of jalapeno into a shaker.

Pour 1 part St. Germain (we call it faery-teat juice) and 4 parts Jim Beam Green into shaker.

Pour a little of the liquor mixture into the mortar to extract everything, and then pour it all back into the shaker.

Shake vigorously with ice (I like to bruise the eff out of the ice so there are chips floating in your glass).

Place a small handful of blueberries in the bottom of a high ball glass then fill with ice.

Pour shaker over ice to around 3/4 full. Add St. Pellegrino to fill glass.

Garnish with basil and two slices of jalapeno on a thin slice of lime.

Watch the lightning and remember how awesome your life is.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

An Effective Cable Hanger

I’ve been looking for a solution to the millions of cables I have lying around the studio.

From USB to Sata to XLR to DVI to HDMI to extension cables/cords of all sorts I have a mess that makes Medusa look like Jean-Luc Picard.

imagesThe standard studio solution is a piece of metal, bent at a 90 degree angle, with lots of slits.  Most retailers want upwards of $20 for this $1 piece of flimsy steel.

One can easily enough craft one out of scrap wood (simply cut a bunch of 1/4” slits in a board), but I am hoping for something a little more interesting.

rack7-300x201Points to this guy for making one out of a spring stretched on a piece of molding.  Probably my favorite of the online solutions I found, if for nothing else than innovation and using scraps he found laying around (he actually scavenged the spring from inside an old scanner –looks kind of like the same sort of spring that would pull grandma’s screen door shut).

I actually bought a bunch of hose hangers from Harbor Freight a couple of months ago when they were on sale for $.99 a piece thinking I’d use them to hang cables, but even mounted in an “x” pattern I’ve decided they’re too bulky and take up too much wall real estate, so they’re going in the garage and shed (for their intended purpose: hoses and extensioncords).


So for now I may try the stretched spring approach or break down and just cut a bunch of slits in a board or three.  In the meantime, hopefully some kind, inventive soul will come along and post a glorious solution in the comments.

Will Side Scrolling Save MySpace?

MySpaceI’ve been getting like 10 annoying e-mails from MySpace every day. (“Check out _______'s new profile on Myspace”)

I’ve been treating them as spam, but finally today I did some Googling to figure out what the heck is going on.  One of the first things I found was this article on Forbes from back in January.

I vaguely remember some nonsense about Justin Timberlake (and Specific Media Group) purchasing MySpace for millions of dollars (turns out 35) back in 2011.  I guess they’ve finally put their ducks in a row and it’s time to show the neighbors.

So it’s no big secret that MySpace totally screwed the pooch on harnessing the advent of social media.  They could have ruled the world, and instead “Tom” stood with his dick in his hand watching Facebook cruise on by with billions of dollars whirling in the wake.

Perhaps MySpace will fall on its face again, unable to recover from a folly of such magnitude, but perhaps this is their chance at redemption.  We’ll see if the magic of JT can reach beyond SNL and revive another dying (dead?) media giant.

The new MySpace focuses almost entirely on music.  Not a bad idea, and definitely a great place for JT to test his powers.  There is a player at the bottom of the page that is always there.  If your looking at MySpace pages, you’re supposed to playing browser based music.  We’ll see.  It’s at least better than the abysmal service that is Sound Cloud (I know… maybe I’m just too out of touch to “get” Sound Cloud, but so far I haven’t been impressed; maybe I’m “doing it wrong”).

But here’s where it’s REALLY at [eye roll]: I have always like side scrolling, and it’s seemed to have been widely overlooked over the years by the vast majority of web design.  Not any more!  MySpace is all about the side scroll.  But will it be enough to resurrect the deadest thing still on the internet?

I guess time will tell.

Meanwhile, I took a few minutes to dust off a couple of my old MySpace pages (that I literally haven’t visited in YEARS!).

I still need to poke around a bit more to see if MySpace seems to be exciting/interesting enough to garner any of my precious internet time. So far it seems to be nothing like Facebook, so things look promising.