Archive for March, 2010

What the Phone Company Should Do
March 16, 2010

The phone company ought to go to a new paradigm.

Each customer ought to have one person through whom they deal with the company.  One person, whom they’ve known for a long time, and whose phone number they have on their bill (and stored in their phone), who can handle everything.


(I worked for the biggest non-petroleum collection agency in the world. The gasoline companies issued their own credit cards then, and dominated the field. Each creditor had one agent with whom he communicated, and whose voice, name, business phone number, and business address was known to him. It made for efficient communications and great success. I discovered my English professor among the files. His file was about five inches thick, full of years of letters from him to us. He really knew how to game the system, to the benefit of Shell Oil, our agency, and himself!)


The Phone Company
March 15, 2010

No doubt about it.  The phone company used to be a lot better than it is now. You were billed for one month at a time; my last “monthy statement” was evidently a bill for two month, for some reason I couldn’t get them to explain.

On your monthly bill was a phone number you could call if you had any complaint, and it was usually a simple matter to clear up problems, and always in your own favor.  If the mistake were in your favor, they’d usually write it off. They wanted satisfied customers, and company policy was to assure it.

Today I tried calling the phone company about a discrepancy in my bill. I have DSL service with ATT. It took me ages to get through.

I was asked half a dozen times for my phone number and shuttled from one person to another.

It used to be rare to have to speak to more than one person, but now there are different people to handle different things, and they can never transfer a call from one to another without problems, usually making you go through the voice mail system, choose your language, announce your number, run through an ill-conceived menu of choices, listen to commercials, and wait on hold.

It’s dreadful.

The doctor says you’re a goner
March 15, 2010

On “The Eastenders” just now, the doctor said Jamie Mitchell’s liver is irreparable. He’s going to die.

Well, that’s what they said about me a year ago, and I lived. Hang on, Jamie. Prove them wrong.

The Headline Writer
March 13, 2010

When I was about 22, I lived near the headquarters of the New York Daily News and ran into reporters and news photographers all the time. One day, I met a man named Ted Noun, a remarkable name, I thought, considering his job, writing headlines for the paper.

He told me it was the verbs, not the nouns, that were hard. I told him I never read his paper because the headlines never made any sense to me, and he understood right away.  But I didn’t find the Times much better that way. For some reason, I let myself get upset by bad writing in the Times. I expected better of it.

So I’ve never been much of a newspaper reader, and when I found out that the World Press Review wasn’t too expensive, I dropped my $500/year Times subscription and thought, “Wow! Now I’ll get all the news in the world, brief, clear, and cheap!”

Alas, it wasn’t to be. After many years in business, they soon folded, keeping my money and telling me to visit a website:

If you ask me, it stinks. It’s loaded with ads, doesn’t do what it’s supposed to do: keep an eye on newspapers all over the world and summarize what people are saying.

I can’t complain about the headlines, but a reader needs more. Each article should have a section, a “blurb”, before its main text giving the gist of the story, followed by a somewhat larger section doing the same, but delivering the general story to readers who don’t care about the details.

That alone would make a newspaper worthwhile to me.

But my main bugaboo is always the same: I detest all advertising.  Bitterly.

If an ad told me a Honda Civic was the cheapest car in America to buy, run, and maintain, that would be a decent ad, assuming it were true; anything more is a waste of my time and paper.  Grr.

Floyd Mayweather
March 6, 2010

I heard Floyd Mayweather, a prizefighter, interviewed on “Weekend Edition Saturday” this morning and was very impressed.

I’ve met a few prizefighters in my life, including both Rocky Marciano and Rocky Graziano. I’ve also known quite a few boxers who didn’t make a career of it, but had attitudes favoring the sport, as well as quite a few fans who loved boxing and probably imagined or dreamed of being in the ring themselves. Recently, I met an older, retired prizefighter who said he’d get back into the ring.  He had fists like sledgehammers and an abdomen tough as a telephone pole.

But Mayweather said something you rarely hear from other fighters, which is that he intended never to get hurt, never to take a blow to the head. If he can block any punch, I suppose he can do it. And he insists on pre-fight drug testing. No drugs for him or anybody he meets.

It’s a refreshing attitude to hear in the sport, that it’s an athletic contest rather than the settling of a grudge, or a spectacle in which viewers can expect to see a lot of trauma being inflicted on mortals, some of it irreparable.

I get the impression that that’s the sort of brutality ice hockey fans, roller derby aficionados, and demolition derby viewers look forward to.

When pro football rules against unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct, that’s the sort of thing that makes them mad and makes me feel good.

I hope Mayweather wins in Las Vegas this May.

Dick Armey
March 5, 2010

Dick Armey, in an interview with Charlie Rose, proved his stupidity to me. He refused to see the error in saying that every important officeholder in Washington despises our American heritage, our Constitution, and our principles, and Charlie couldn’t explain it to him.

Gore Vidal
March 3, 2010

I don’t have much to say about Gore Vidal except that he and my Uncle George were best friends when they were both very small kids.  Gore lived just around the corner from Uncle George, who lived in a hotel on Connecticut Avenue with his mother (my grandmother) Elizabeth Mortenson Marshall and his sister (my mother) Catherine Alexandra Marshall. I think Grandfather (George Preston Marshall) had separated from them by the time Mom was eight, George, Jr., was four, and Gore was George’s age. The year I have in mind is 1929. Gore had a fabulous model train set, and Uncle George used to join him to play with it, the two of them hanging around in his room for hours. I get the impression that they, like me, felt somewhat neglected most of the time. Grandfather was known not to like kids, and Grandmother was rather stodgy and aloof. Mom and George’s best friends were the servants. The apartments Gore lived in were the largest apartment complex in the world at the time, owned by the queen of Holland. Mom told me the names of the two hotels on Connecticut Avenue in which she spent most of her early youth, but I forget what they were. I have a feeling both were near Dupont Circle. As I mentioned elsewhere, Mom, George, and a nursemaid frequently went for walks on Connecticut Avenue and encountered Howard Taft, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (and former President), who was happy to meet them and walked hand in hand with Mom, talking all the time. He called such walks his “morning constitutionals”. She remembered all her life some of the things they talked about, but I don’t. Much of it was about American history, which is how she first got interested. I understand that Gore Vidal has now put aside all other interests to focus on American history, and though he’s full of complaints about America, things that have gone wrong and will have to be addressed sooner or later (such as the Supreme Court decision in the election that put Dubya into the White House), he’s probably our greatest patriot.

I consider myself liberal, like him, but he knows what it’s all about; I don’t. I hope the Wikipedia article on him soon does him justice. I just read the article on Herod the Great and was quite disappointed, as I am with the one on Barbara Thiering. I know she has few friends and hordes of bitter, hyperactive opponents, but why should people attack Herod the Great, of all people? Gore is gay, and that, of course, is bound to upset some people, but he ought to have enough admirers to keep the Wikipedia vandals at bay. I’m disappointed that Wikipedia is so slow to improve, and have little hope for Wiktionary. Incidentally, on being gay, I’m of the opinion that there’s nothing in the Bible to suggest that there’s anything wrong with it, and that the decision never to have children is an admirable one. I also agree that virginity and poverty are virtuous. If you disagree, just write me off as a kook, or even better, read the Bible.