Saturday, August 30, 2008

A little magic

I've put up a video of an original routine I'm rather proud of on you tube. I have to acknowledge and thank Gary Cutbill for helping me with the early development of it.

You can play it small here or go to YouTube and play it full-screen.

The Elvi (Magic Bar 1)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

So now I'm an animal trainer.....

Yes, i have too many hobbies.

But getting back into magic made me start to consider using Pickles, my millitary Macaw in the act.

I bought a set of 3 training DVDs from the Womach brothers who are pretty much the acknowledged experts in magical use of birds these days. The are *great* videos that I highly recommend. They shot them starting from scratch with new birds so you can see all the steps and progress for real.

I'm going to start Blogging pickles progress. For fun, I think I'll do it from his point of view, as best I can figure it out.

You can read the first entry at Pickles' Blog.

Monday, August 25, 2008

My first flash app

I just got my first little Flash app working.

There is a lot more going on beneath the surface here as this is more then a cute little toy. It in fact is backed by a flash game engine I've been evolving similar in concept to the Slick engine for Java. This app tests all the basics of a game in that it has a menu, an update loop that does time-controlled animation and raw keyboard input.

I'll be writing more about my unnamed little engine soon and showing some code form it, but for now, here's the little demo:


Friday, August 22, 2008

Miracles of modern technology?

Miracles of Modern Technology?
A short essay in modern magical ethics.

Many, many years ago, the art of magic faced a fundamental threat. That threat was the birth of Television. Magic as an art exists to do one thing-- to help people believe the impossible is possible. That awe and wonder is the joy which we as magicians delight in bringing to our audience's lives. While we are on stage performing, the audience gets to take their minds back a more innocent place and time in their lives when magic was all around them and anything was possible-- at least in their heads.

Television was a real and credible threat to that because Television innately made people believe the impossible. As soon as they turned on their set, in fact, their minds started telling they were watching people that didn't exist do things in places that didn't exist. About two minutes after the first TV show was broadcast, the first “camera trick” was discovered, though in point of fact the principles were already known from the film industry. How then could a magician preserve a sense of wonder when the wonderful had become easy and common place with the flick of a switch??

This conundrum was solved by a brilliant magician by the name of Mark Wilson. Wilson made many contributions to our art but I would argue that the most important one was devising the cardinal ethics of TV magic:
1.TV magic must be performed live, without editing and in front of uncoached cameramen. This is summed up in the phrase “No camera tricks.”
2.TV magic must be performed before a live studio audience. This is a “proover” that it is really happening.

These two rules saved Magic from the threat of television and turned TV into a valuable allay instead of an adversary to the art. (Recently, some very big name magicians have broken these rules and IMHO have caused the sub-art of televised magic serious damage in the process.)

Putting aside the idea of TV magic now, I'd like you to entertain a hypothetical situation with me. Something I had to consider not long ago in some fiction I was writing. Imagine, for a moment, that your are a stage magician in the world of the comic books. This is a world where it is clearly and obviously possible for certain special people to do seemingly impossible things like fly or read minds. The average person sees demonstrations of such abilities on the news every-day. How do you preserve the wonder of an art that is based in making the impossible seem possible when anything already IS possible?

The conclusion I came to was that the fraternity of magicians would have to agree to rules similar to those that Mark Wilson created. To whit, that any magical performance may not call itself a magical performance unless it uses no super-powers. That a magician, by definition, is going to show you apparent miracles done by someone just like you. Much like the answer to TV, this returns the wonder and maybe even magnifies it as it allows the audience to imagine that they could do the things the super heroes do.

Now not all super-heroes fly because they are from Krypton or read minds because they are a mutant. As seen in the recent movie Iron Man, thre are super-heroes who employ nothing more then “super-technology.” Geniuses capable of building devices based on scientific principles unknown to, and much more powerful then, those available to the every day man. Such technology is called “super-tech” or “weird science” in the parlance of comic book lovers and has the same problem in the end as a bases for magic that direct super-powers do. Super-tech, I would argue, would need to be excluded as effectively a “super-power” from any magical performance.

As much fun as it may be to play with the ideas of what would happen if the world of comic books was real, you're probably wondering what this has to do with magic ethics. And here I come to my final point.

Today we DO live in a world of super-technology. Not as flashy or impressive as iron man's repulsors perhaps, but we live with things that were miraculous a generation before. Imagine I was a magician in the 1800s. I sent my assistant 200 miles away to talk to your best friend. You tell me a question that only he and you would know. I turn my back, concentrate for 2 minutes “mentally communing” with my assistant and tell you the answer. That would be extraordinary magic. Today though, thats called a cell phone and its hardly mystifying at all.

We live in a world of technological miracles that most common people don't understand. I've recently seen a number of illusions pop up that are based completely and solely in that fact. I'm not going to name names or give away methods, but I'm sure some of you can think of some. I will use an example I just came up with to illustrate.

I recently read about an illusion someone is producing that allows a magician to get whatever someone writes on a piece of unprepared paper instantly as soon as they write it and without touching the paper or clip board it is on. Being a computer software engineer and curious, I did a bit of googgle searching and, on paper, designed my own version where, for about $300 worth of off th shelf components, a small bit of code and a computer, I could get anything a spectator wrote SMS messaged to me without my ever having to touch anything the spectator used to write it.

I thought about building this system but it occurs to me that this might cheapen mentalism to the point of being truly uninteresting. Where is the art in the magic if it is just based on the fact that you don't know that there is a pen sold by Iomega that tracks handwriting and sends it to the computer? One might say “in the presentation” but if all magic is about is presentation then all we are is actors. Its about more, I think. Its about the cleverness of the technique. Its about making use of the psychology of the audience to help them convince themselves that they are seeing the impossible. Its about misdirection, suggestion, and what the mind does with fragmentary information. Its about how the sense works and that common people don't ever think to question them.

But my pen? Its just a gadget. It may be a “super-gadget' at the moment because its technology most people don't realize exists, but is it magic? I don't really think so.

And this then comes to my point. In a world of technological everyday miracles we face the same threat that our forefathers did in Televsion. That we can cheapen the performance to the point where it is no longer interesting.

I think we need to think long and hard about a set of rules for computer and electronic technology like Mark Wilson came up for Television to prevent these modern miracles of technology from destroying the wonder of the art we magicians love.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Magical Websites

Well good Monday everyone.

One of my many passions reader's of this blog may not know about is magic. I've been performing on and off since my pre-teens and was a semi-pro street magician in high school.

I've recently gotten more seriously back into 'the art' as we magicians call it and have found some wonderful web resources.

First up is The Magic Cafe. This is an online forum that is chock full of serious professional magicians, amatures, and even the folks who invent the illusions we perform. A *great* resource

The second is an amazing performance of The Zombie that was captured and placed on YouTube. If you perform The Zombie, this will amaze you even more at what Niel Foster does with it. I promise. Its an old black and white telecine, but I've never seen this illusion done with such art and grace in my life.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Initial release of the DarkMMO source code

Its still not commented and its far from complete, but as many people wanted to peak at it Ive released most of the DarkMMO source code.

Its at

The one thing I have not released yet are the Netbeans plugins. These are coming but as they are a fairly complex multi-level Netbeans project I need to do some hacking to get them properly into the new repository structure.

MUTT now online

Just a quick note.

I decided to take my on and off RPG rules project of the past 6 years and make it a wiki licensed under Creative Commons "share-alike" rules.

You can find it all here. Its still, and probably always will be to some degree, a work in progress.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Much ado about ALMOST nothing

So, the big MMO news this week is that an Age of Conan GM got fired as the result of engaging in cybersex on duty and having that publicly exposed.

For anyone who hasn't heard of it before "cybersex" also called "Erotic Role Play" or ERP for short, is basically engaging in "talk dirty to me" over the internet. ( ERP for pay is the number one way people have made Linden dollars in Second Life and approaches basically the same market as "phone sex" but that's another story.)

If you strip away our society's juvenile combination of fascination and horror over anything sexual (something I put down to our origins as a Puritan colony-- a group so obnoxious and screwed up that the *Brittish* kicked them out) there really isn't a lot here.

Two chatters talked dirty to each other and one published it. Big hairy whoop. Its also hardly new. Luring someone into an exchange that could be publicly embaressing and then making it public is one of the most basic tricks in the griefer's handbook.

I do think the GM needed to be canned, but not because of anything inherently wrong with erotic role play. The GM needed to be canned because ( a ) he should have known better then to engage in personal hobbies while wearing the mantle of authority (as meager as the authority of a GM is) and ( b ) he was just incredibly gullible and stupid to be so easily lured by one of the oldest tricks in the industry.

Now the story is being reported as "AoC GM fired over Cybersex." I'm not sure that's really right. To my mind you cannot really fire someone who isn't technically an employee and most if not all of the AoC GMs are volunteers. This *does* point otu the fatal flaw with the whole comncept of volunteer sysops though. When you have unpaid volunteers doing an admin job, they are inevitably doing it for only one real reason-- some sense of power or authority. But a feeling of power or authority is only fun if others reaspond to it. Its a social game. And its inevitable that players will suck up to those volunteers to try to get favors from them, and that the same personalities that are drawn to volunteer for such a position will be apt to abuse their power in response to this sucking up.

I've seen it many, many times. Its dangerous to take your game and put it in the hands of people with-out the same financial incentives as you. They will not pursue your goals, but their own. Such is the nature of humanity.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A few of my favorite things...

I'm a pretty big fan of indy musician Jonathan Coulton.  These days, most people know him for having written and produced the end song for Portal.  But I liked Coultan before he was cool...

No scratch that, he was ALWAYS cool!

Here are three of my favorite Coulton tunes.  For more, much more, go to his website

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Scrum: process that makes empirical sense

Well, enough of the irascible old programmer rants. Today I'm going to turn the eye back to
the technical.

Some managers just *love* processes. They jump on the next new one like a dog on the last steak in a butcher shop. I've always been rather critical of this. Its always seemed to me that most software processes are either ( a ) more interested in the process then the result or ( b) are thinly veiled efforts to couch the inventors personal preferences and prejudices in something that sounds scientific.

To date, most of the attempts at software "process" have come out of the legacy of the assembly line given us by Henry Ford. This works pretty well for producing craft, but does not work well for producing art.

When I say craft v. art what do I mean? A craft is a well known application of a well known skill. The hallmark of a good craftsman is consistency. He or she can do the same job over and over again and produce exactly the same results. Its a case where, given known inputs, in this case the quality of material and tools and the skill of the craftsman, one can exactly know the resulting output. There is actually an entire highly rigorous and mathematical discipline called Process Control. Process control engineers call this kind of process a defined process. Most highly advocated software processes to date have attempted to use defined process control

In an art, however, every output is unique. The artist approaches new ideas and new problems with every job they take on. their tools can vary widely as can their techniques and their results. very often all the inputs are not known at the start of the process. Process control engineers call such a process an empirical process and there is a wide body of research on empirical process control.

Myself, I believe that good software engineering is more like an art then a craft. It is, by its nature, an empirical process and that requires empirical process control. Empirical process control is experimental and iterative. It does not start out by saying "this is the right way to get this done" but provides a structured and measurable framework in which to discover the right way over time.

I learned about process control myself by reading up on a new software development process, Scrum. The thing about Scrum is that, although it has a scientific base, as working engineer when you look at it, it just makes sense in a way no other process I've ever tried to use has.

Basically, Scrum says "we don't know all the details." Product requirements can and do change. new software always involves discovering new ways of doing things. No where is this more obvious then the game industry, where every product must be different from what came before and the ultimate goal of "fun" is not really even definable in an engineering apriori manner. On the one hand, a software process must be flexible enough to handle changing inputs. This means that the software development team must be able to handle these changes and factor them in. On the other hand, it must be structured enough so the engineering team does not thrash and can get real work done. This is what Scrum attempts to do.

Scrum has value for both the engineers and the management, but in order to have this value, it needs to be implemented completely. If one side or the other tries to "improve" it, they are likely to unintentionally remove the value for the other side.

For management Scrum has two very attractive results. First, it allows the management to review and modify the project requirements as the project progresses. Secondly, it provides monthly check points of demonstrable functionality. This gives non technical managers the comfort of seeing how the work is progressing. An equally or more important advantage is that it allows the engineers to work in a highly productive manner. This is an advantage though that most management won't understand until they see it in retrospect.

For software engineers, its recognizes the realities of their work. Work is divided up into 30 day "sprints" to the next demonstrable point. During that period no outsider is allowed to change their goals. (There is an exception, but I'll get to that.) It also provides them immediate feedback to management on a daily basis of anything that is getting in their way.

It allows the team to "self-organize" into a structure and style that works best for them to get the job done. This is very important. Artists by nature all have different styles. No externally imposed structure is going to fit well. Give a motivated and dedicated team the space to do it, however, and they will figure out themselves how to organize their work most effectively.

Scrum is a low-load process. It recognizes that process and management is the job of management, not your engineers. A good process should leave your engineers mostly free to do uninterrupted engineering. After all, that is what you hired them to do. It expects that everyone on the team is a mature adult who wants to do the right thing (I have seldom run into anything else in the field) and leaves them free to do it.

Scrum puts a lot of responsibility on the shoulders of the engineering team. This can be frightening at first. But it also provides protections so the team is free to wield that responsibility in the way they need to to get the job done. It has always been my experience that engineers are diligent, hardworking and responsible people by nature. Management should trust their engineers. After all, they hired them. If the engineering team is non-functional, then that is indicative of a management lack and they should get help in straightening their hiring out.

Importantly, Scrum recognizes that not all progress is linear. Finding out a job is harder then you thought is still progress towards the goal. Finding out an approach won't work is also progress. Although the team has a functional and demonstrable goal to hit, they are free to make modifications to the plan to get there, modify the definition of the details of the goal, or even to fail to get thereat all. Even a failure is progress as you have learned what *not* to do.

I mentioned there is a way for management to change priorities mid sprint. It is possible, it is not advisable. The action management has to take to do this is to cancel a sprint. If a sprint is canceled
then the team is no longer responsible to show any progress resulting from the work to date on that sprint. A team can also cancel a sprint early if they find that even modified, the sprint goal is unattainable. This puts them immediately back into the planning phase of a new sprint. Canceling a sprint is embarrassing. No one likes to do it, which is good because it is costly. But on a rare occasion you do need to cancel to avoid wasting the entire sprint period on a goal that is either unnecessary or unattainable.

As I said at the beginning, I am not a process hound. In general I've always found that they diverge seriously from the realities of engineering in their assumptions and expectations. I also don't believe that Scrum is a substitute for good high level planning. We are building a system that needs to be highly scalable. Scalability doesn't just happen. In the large it must be designed in to your architecture. But where most failed projects fail is not in their design, but in the incredibly complex details of their implementations. (What management sometimes calls 'execution.") And here, i think Scrum will be very valuable to us.

I mentioned that its an iterative process. It assumes nothing starts out perfect, even the process itseklf. This is my first Scrum project as a Scrum leader, and only the second time I've run into Scrum at all. We will all be learning how to do this, even me.

But I have high hopes. It makes sense to me.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

What AT&T can learn from K-Mart

I've taken enough blogspace already with this AT&T fiasco so I promise this is my last post unless something really interesting changes (like AT&T come back to me with their tail between their legs.) But this contrast was so strong, I just had to comment on it.

AT&T lost me as a customer because they refused to follow through with a promised $200 credit on a $2,040 contract ($85/mo times a two year commitment.) That's a 9.8% difference in total money received.

Today, I went shopping for some shop towels at K-Mart. They had bundles of two towels with a sign over them that said $2.99. I grabbed 3. When I got to the check out, the bundles rang up as $5.99 a piece. I went to customer service. The customer service person looked at the display, came back, rang out the difference and handed it to me. My wife asked "did they not enter the right price in the computer?" The customer service person replied, "No, I think the sign should have said '$2.99 and up' but it didn't." And that was the end of it. No one even suggested I might think about paying the proper price. It was their error and they ate it. The only reason they even mentioned that it should have been a different price was because my wife asked.

Now, your probably thinking that $9 or so is a lot less then $200. And it is, BUT retail runs on percentages and the percentages are what matter. And K-Mart took a nearly 50% loss on those towels because they made a mistake and they were willing to take the consequences of their mistake.

THAT creates customer loyalty. If AT&T had that attitude, I'd still be an AT&T customer.

On another note, I posted a note on the IPhone boards pointing to my blog about the AT&T experience hoping someone from Apple would read it and reconsider their partnership.

Well, after about 60 people clicked through and read my story someone from Apple DID read it... and deleted it. So much for thinking Apple might care how AT&T treats it customers.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

New Samsung Instinct

Well, I went ahead and got the instinct from Sprint.

Is it really as good as the iphone? No, not really. Its not a bad little phone but it certainly hasn't "solved" the small screen web interface problems the way the Iphone has. The on screen keyboard is a bit easier to use, that's about its only plus. I also miss being able to do wifi, that really made the iphone not just a phone but a good pocket terminal tool.

BUT I will use it, and smile evrey time I get abill from Sprint knowing thats one more payment AT&T lost from me because of the arrogant apathy of their customer disservice agents.

Rumors are Apple may release an unlocked iphone 3G in a year. If so, I might just say screw it and buy one. It will be worth paying $200 - $400 more for it JUST so I am not a prisoner of any phone company-- especially AT&T.

You know...

I am now canceled with AT&T... and the Samsung instinct looks pretty cool and cheaper.

It doesn''t support WiFii which is unfortunate... but if Sprints 3G plan is reasonable for unlimited data then it doesnt mater that kuch.

And it is much more open, which is a good thing. Plus it supports Java which is handy.

Friday, August 1, 2008

AT&T: American Theives and Total-incompetants

What is it about the name AT&T?

A few years ago, Southern Bell (SBC) bought the remenents of AT&T and changed their name to AT&T. More recently, the new AT&T merged with Cingular and became AT&T Wireless.

Its like the name is a curse. Call yourself AT&T and instantly, like magic, all care about the customer vanishes. People as old as me might remember the old joke about the old AT&T monopoly: "We're the phone company. We don't care. We don't have to." Well , that attitude is alive and well in the new AT&T. Here's my story, I'd be curious about similar stories others might have:

Last month, the Iphone 3G was released. Its really the Iphone I've been waiting for. The price is right ($200) and the 3G service with an all you can eat data plan for $30 is just what I need. So I went to the store, only to discover that I could not "upgrade" my current contract "til August." This seemed odd as Sprint, my previous phone company, was always willing to write me a new contract whenever I wanted a new phone understanding that getting me recommitted for another two years was *always* of value to them no matter where I was in the old commitment. Alright, the Iphone maybe is more expensive to them. It was annoying but I could accept that.

Just to double check I went to another AT&T store a few weeks ago and confirmed that I would have to wait "until August." Well, waiting 2 weeks was tough but I wasn't going to spend $100 a week ($200 being the upgrade discount, $399 list, $199 if you were a new customer or upgrade. Remember that new customer clause, we'll come back to that) to have it early. It wrankled that
as an existing customer I was less important then a new customer, but I could wait.

So today, August the first, i go bright and early into the Apple store praying they have some. Hurrah! They are in stock and the line isn't *too* deep. I wait and then go through the whole buying procedure.... and the palm computer my friendly and helpful Apple sales rep has in her had comes up "Not eligible for upgrade".

WTF??? She suggests I call AT&T and lends me an Iphone to do so. I get AT&T customer service on the phone and they tell me. "Oh, your not eligible til the thirty first of August." Nice of them to not tell me that the two times I was in the AT&T store in July. The 31st??? Why the hell didn't they just tell me "September?"

I start full time as the Rebel Monkey CTO Monday and I *really* wanted to start in style and with all my tools in place. I go back to the office and I'm pretty pissed. I IM my buddy Chris who does a lot of business with the cell phone companies in his role as Sun's "Chief Gaming Officer." "They only care about your account," he tells me, "threaten to quit and buy a Samsung Instinct on Sprint instead." Well, I'm not sure how serious I am about quitting but decide I can at least find out what it'll cost me to quit. I call AT&T custoemr service and ask them. They tell me there is a $175 early cancelation fee.

Now, I'm a cheapskate. I probably would have waited the 4 weeks and gotten my phone then rather then spend $175 to cancel my account (though that still cheaper then the $200 extra I would pay if I kept my account and tried to upgrade.) However, since I said the magic word "cancel" they connect me to the "Customer Loyalty" department. A very nice lady there looks at my account and says, "Oh, I have access to information they don't in the stores and I can see your eligible now. Here is what you have to do. Go to the Apple store and buy the phone at retail. Then call us back and we will give you the $200 as a credit towards your phone charges."

This seems perfectly reasonable to me and I get off the phone a happy man, close up what I am doing, and run to the Apple store. It takes me about 90 minutes and a reset of the Iphone but I get my phone bought and connected and I leave a happy man. On the way out of the Apple store I start playing with my gmail on it and Im pretty much in instant love. On the way back to the office I sync my bluetooth hand free car system and call my office phone just to try it out. Its all real cool and it *works* in a way that none of the previous "smart phones I've owned have.

I get back to the office, catch up on some mail,and then call AT&T back to get my credit. And here is where the trouble starts.

I get a rep on the phone and I tell her exactly what the previous rep told me to tell them about the refund. She says "I need to *request* this of the supervisor" and puts my on hold.

WTF??? Request?? I was told this was a done deal and the deal was I buy the phone and sign up for the plan and they do the credit. That was an oral contract and I'm starting to get an uneasy feeling that someone is going to try to weasel out. Sure enough, the supervisor gets on the phone and says "Oh no. We cannot do that. You will have to return the phone."

I explode. I just spent 90 minutes in the middle of my last day at Sun to do what THEY told me to do and now they decide they don't want to after all? He insists that the rep never should have told me that. That it was a mistake and that the rep will be reported.

The rep wasn't the problem. Mistakes happen. The problem was THIS supervisory jackass who refuses to stand behind his people's promises.

I point out to him that they made a deal with me, he says it'll be his job to go through with it. I say then let me speak with YOUR manager and he says thre sin't one. (Obvious nonsense, there is always a boss unless your the bloody CEO and this bozo wasn't it.)

He gets smarmy and says "I see here in the record you were told twice by reps in our stores that you had to wait til August 31." I tell him "NO. Your reps told me I had to wait 'til August' NOT 'til August 31." He compounds the smariness by saying "August 31 is in August." "So is August first," I reply, and he finally drops the point.

He tells me that he can't do the credit because "Apple is involved." I call him on it and tell him to his face thats nonsense. That I work in this business and I know that Apple doesn't give a rats rear what they charge me or don't charge me for service. That they made their money on the retail-priced phone. He doesn't respond to that but just repeats that he can't do anything "because its an Iphone."

He offers to credit me minutes. I point out to him that he has been LOOKING at my account and right in front of him is the fact that I have 2500 rolled over minutes already and that extra minutes aren't worth anything to me.

I point out to him that I am NOW ready to close my account and take the $175 hit because I am livid that he's been feeding me garbage and won't stand behind what his people say. How, I ask him, can I do business with a company that doesn't stand behind what its people tell its customers?? He offers to waive my $175 cancellation fee.

I ask him if hes really willing to lose a $2400 contract over $200. He gives me a non answer and I finally say "Okay I will go waste more of my time returning this thing and canceling my AT&T account" and mean it.

So, although he has done *nothing* to keep my business, he has now both ticked me off to the point that I want to quit and removed the only impediment to my quitting. Good job "customer loyalty" manager. Since the only consideration they seem to be willing to give me is if I leave, I accept and go back to the Apple store to return the Iphone and cancel my account with AT&T.

I return the Iphone and call AT&T customer disservice from the handy loaner Iphone again. I tell them I am canceling my account. They say I can't because I have an Iphone. I tell them I just RETURNED the Iphone. They say they don't show it. I tell them I am standing in the Apple store and ask if they would like to talk to the man who just processed the return, or maybe the Apple store manager?

We go around in customer service script circles for a few minuets with him telling me that they need to receive a particular piece of paper from Apple before they can believe I have returned the phone. Funny, when they knew INSTANTLY when I bought it just a few hours before. I finally tell him that I want him to talk to the Apple person directly about this form.

The Apple rep nicely gets on the phone and confirms that I have returned the phone. that doesn't seem to mean anything to the AT&T person. He and the AT&T customer disservice agent go around in circles on the process. That the Apple rep sees confirmation on his screen, that the AT&T rep does not. Finally, it comes out that, if it fails to process on a return, I'm supposed to go to the AT&T store. It *might* still process in 72 hours but the Apple rep suggest I just go right away. I thank him and go down to the AT&T store to cancel my account.

The AT&T retail rep asks me why I'm canceling. i give him the whole story and he says, "let me try." He calls customer service... and we both wait 20 minutes on hold. Well, I suppose its nice to see they don't treat their customers any worse then their own staff.

Finally we get through and he explains the situation. That it was their screw up. That he understands why I'm pissed, and that he's trying to save the account. He goes around in circles with them. He even suggest that they just move up my "eligibility" date by 4 weeks. I nod and say, "Thats fine. If you can do that I'll even buy it here." No go. he gets the same stubborn "go to hell and take your business with you" attitude I got.

He finally hangs up thoroughly disgusted and says "Alright. lets cancel you. Customer service are idiots." I nod, tell him that its like talking to the state home for the mentally challenged, and that I've been doing that all day. I tell him AT&T doesn't deserve him. And I mean that too.

Final insult to injury, because it involved an Iphone he discovers he can't process the cancel in the store. I have to call customer disservice again. He can put a note in the file though that he has seen the return receipt and that the phone has been returned, and he does so, very apologetically and looking clearly disgusted by the whole thing. I thank him, tell him he really did all he could and that I appreciate it.

SO. Bright and early tomorrow, I will call and cancel with AT&T.

Here's the irony... remember that clause I told you to remember? Once I am canceled, I will no longer be a customer and Apple will be able to sell me the Iphone I wanted at the price I wanted.

I have to ask myself though, at that point, do I really want to get back into bed with a company that shows SO little respect for its customers? The Iphone is way cool... but now that I will no longer be beholden to AT&T, maybe I'll go look at a Sprint Instinct after all, before I decide what I want.

Good job, AT&T "customer loyalty" group.

Some interesting news from the field

The FCC has ruled that Comcast cannot discriminate against P2P (Bit torrent) users:

Also, the University of Washington has developed a free and handy way to track your laptop if it is stolen: