Be The Book Mensch You Can Be

(This was originally written as a comment on John Scalzi's Whatever blog, to a post regarding his serial-in-progress novel, The Human Division.)

If readers are impatient and upset over having to wait for a book (or serialized sections, in this case) or pay a (small, so long as you don’t live in Sweden, apparently) premium for first look privileges, pray spare a moment for the feelings of books waiting to be read.

Are there actually people who don’t have a To-Be-Read pile of books standing by? Think about those poor books, waiting, and waiting, and waiting, to be put to their ordained purpose, only to have newer, fresher books placed on top of the pile, burying them like the unexcavated older layers of an ancient city.

If 99 cents is too much to bear for each section, wait for the consolidated e-book. Or buy the hardcover when it comes out; Scalzi’s a popular writer, so Amazon and B&N will probably offer hefty discounts when it first comes out. Or, since Scalzi’s popular, there’ll probably be a cheaper Science Fiction Book Club edition out a few months after the regular hardcover. Or you could even wait for the paperback. Or, if you’re really cheap, or just strapped for cash (I’ve been there), check with your local library to see if they’re planning to provide copies; if not, suggest they include it in their list of forthcoming purchases. (A lot of libraries now provide access to e-books as well; a lot of my lunchtime reading at work the last several years has been on my smartphone.)

In the meantime, let me propose a challenge: While waiting for the next Scalzi, or GRRM, or whoever, book, go to your TBR pile, dig out the oldest book in that pile, and make -that- the next book you read.

The book will be so grateful, and you will be an official Book Mensch, upholding the symbiotic relationship we should properly have with our books.

(Should I mention that my own oldest To-Be-Read book has been waiting since, ummm, 1972?)

The Arm: Latest Update

The latest report on progress with my broken arm is *sigh* no progress.

I had expected to report Friday that I'd finally gotten in to see my orthopedic doctor at Mayo Clinic's Phoenix branch.  This is the same doctor who did rotator cuff surgery on my other shoulder back in 2010, so I didn't expect any problems.

Got there Friday afternoon, to find there was a big problem:  There was no appointment.  It had been cancelled a week previously.  I called the number to contact the doctor's secretary, and got told the doctor had refused to approve the appointment.  When I asked why, I was told it was Mayo policy to not see patients who'd been previously operated on by non-Mayo surgeons.

Say what?

This was a bit upsetting, because I'd made clear when I set the appointment that I'd been taken to John C. Lincoln Hospital following the accident, and operated on there, because it was the closest place with a trauma unit, not because it was my provider of choice.  (Hilde and I have been getting most of our care at Mayo for years.)

Because the accident happened at work, it was being covered under Workman's Comp instead of my private insurance.  Because of that, I had to get permission to change doctors, from the surgeon who'd operated on me at JCLto my doctor at Mayo.  Since the Mayo appointment had been set weeks before last Friday with no caveats raised, I'd gone and gotten that approval pushed thru.  But that meant I was no longer a patient of the JCL surgeon.

So, for a few hours, it looked like I was suddenly in limbo, without any doctor at all to oversee my post-op care and treatment.  That was particularly important because one of the things I expected to come away with from that cancelled Friday appointment was permission to begin the more active phase of my physical therapy. 

(So far, I've only had passive exercises for the shoulder, where the therapist provides all the support and movement.  It's the active -- painful --therapy where the real strength and mobility comes back.  But the therapy place needed a doctor's permission and protocols before they could start that.)

Fortunately, things weren't quite that dire.  It turned out what I'd been told was wrong.  The actual problem had to do with that approval to change doctors.  Mayo had never received a copy of the paper from Workman's Comp's granting permission for the changeover.  After that was realized and I faxed Mayo a copy of the approval, a new appointment got set in fairly quick order.  Unfortunately, the first available date isn't until February 4th, which means more than another week's delay in moving to the next phase of physical therapy.

One important thing to note about this foofara is that the initial misinformation I was given by that secretary -- not my actual doctor's secretary, only the one who was available to answer that phone at the time I called -- only got corrected because I didn't stop at talking with that secretary.  After that disturbing phone conversation, I went to Mayo's PAL office -- Patient Administrative Liason -- and described my situation to the lady there.  It was only after she started making phone calls that it became clear the problem was a correctable one, and I wasn't really up Shit Creek without a doctor.

I'm still a bit perturbed, though, that the secretary I first talked to gave me information that was so seriously wrong.  Was she just misinformed, or talking out her hat, or off the cuff, or just Making Shit Up to get a bothersome patient off the line?  If I'd taken her words as a definitive answer, I'd... y'know, I'm not sure what my next step would have been; I certainly felt at a loss at the time.

So one lesson is: Keep asking questions, keep bugging people, keep pushing forward.

The other lesson is: Get a goddamn better answering machine for the home phone.  When the appointment was removed from Mayo's calendar a week prior, Mayo attempted to contact me.  After I got home Friday, I found the message on the answering machine.  This isn't the first time I've missed hearing messages for days.  The message indicator on the machine is so small and unobtrusive that unless you're right on top of it, it's easy to not notice it.  I had Mayo change my contact number to my cellphone; the little tiny icon that indicates voice mail messages on that is actually more noticeable than the landline's answering machine's tiny red light.  So I might have gotten things straightened out a week earlier if I'd gotten that message within a reasonable time.

This whole thing started with a stumble that turned into a fall that turned into a major injury.  I could do without any more stumbling blocks, thanks.


The AR-15: What You Should Know, by David Belk

Over on Talking Points Memo, a gentleman named David Belk, who's worked in hospital trauma departments, shared in comments there what he's learned about bullet damage in general and specifically the AR-15's capacity for damage.  He's granted permission for reposting elsewhere.  I think it's a damn good little essay on the subject, so I present it here:

The AR-15: What You Should Know

How is the AR-15 different from most hunting and sports rifles as well as a hand gun? There has been a lot of confusion and misinformation about this, so let’s first start with some facts about guns, bullets and what they can really do to you.

First: The most important thing to consider in assessing the damage caused by any projectile (like a bullet) is velocity. One of the first things I learned when I rotated through trauma surgery at Los Angeles County Hospital is the difference in the wounds caused by high velocity (greater than the speed of sound) versus low velocity (e.g. most hand gun) bullets. Low velocity bullets only damage the tissue they directly penetrate. For a low velocity (hand gun) shot to kill a person, it usually has to pierce a major artery or the heart. Often, when a person comes into an ER with a gunshot wound from such a gun, the protocol would be to check for bleeding or other signs of organ damage and, if none were found, send them home in about two days without any surgical intervention. Most people who are alive when they arrive in ER with such a wound would go home in under two weeks even if they needed surgery.

A high velocity bullet (usually from a high power rifle, high power hand gun at close range or a shot gun) damages tissue in three ways: direct penetration, shock wave damage to distant tissue and a brief, several centimeter wide, cavitary lesion that opens around the path of the bullet. This causes wide spread damage to organs and other tissue several centimeters in all directions from the path of the bullet. If a person is hit with a high velocity bullet anywhere in the head, neck or torso, he usually dies. If he lives, he’s almost guaranteed months of recovery in the ICU, usually on a ventilator, and then years of rehabilitation after (if he’s lucky). I’ve seen what just about any type of gun can do to a person so I know this from experience.

The AR-15 has a muzzle velocity of 975 meters/second- almost three times the speed of sound. That means that each bullet fired from an AR-15 has an extremely high kill potential. How is this different from a standard hunting rifle (like a 30-06), a shot gun or a high powered hand gun (a glock or .357 magnum)? After all, a 30-06 can kill a grizzly bear so imagine what it can do to you.

One of the main differences between the AR-15 and other high power guns is recoil (kick). Because it fires a small caliber (.223) bullet, the AR-15 delivers a very small (4-5 ft.lb.) kick with each shot. A nine year old child could easily handle the kick of an AR-15. A 30-06 or a 12 gauge shot gun has four to five times as much kick per shot. It could knock over an adult who is inexperienced with shooting guns. This is why it’s very hard to find magazines of more than about four rounds for semi-automatic hunting rifles or shot guns. They are very impractical. The same is true for most high power hand guns. You need a very strong wrist and a lot of experience to wield one effectively.

Guns like the AR-15 also generate a lot less heat per bullet fired (again because of the small caliber). These two factors (weak kick and less heat per bullet) greatly increase the number of bullets that can be safely and easily fired in under a minute. All of these factors together make the AR-15 a gun that was brilliantly designed to do exactly what it was intended to do: Kill large numbers of people in a small amount of time. A teenager with very little training can easily fire 20-30 extremely lethal shots in under a minute with an AR-15 equipped with a high capacity magazine.


Scraps & Fragments: When The Heck Did I Write This?

Over the years, I've written down notes and portions of unfinished stories on various notepads and scraps of paper.  And a lot of those notepads and scraps have gotten misplaced or buried over the years.

Looking for a pad to jot a grocery list down, I came across one of those old notepads, and the fragment of a story on one of the pages.  It's in my handwriting, and I have no memory at all of writing it.  From things written on some of the other pages, it's at least several years old, possibly a lot longer.

But I think the fragment is a pretty cool start to something, and I'll make sure it gets into the "Story Notes" file on my computer for possible further work.  In the meantime, I present it here:

     "The entire month?"
     "Yes.  Missing.  Removed from the Chronostream."
     "Where the hell would he put it?"
     "I don't know.  But if it's not back in place before midnight on the last day of September, the past's momentum will crash it into the last second of that last day."
     "Everything will happen at once."
     "Sounds. . . hectic."
     "Worse than that.  The reason time exists is to spread out the energy of the Big Bang and allow matter to exist.  If time stops at the end of September, all the past's energy will be squeezed into that last second."
     "Essentially the universe will implode.  It would be like the Big Bang in reverse."


In The Kingdom Of One-Armed Men, There Are No Fitted Sheets

I had my first physical therapy appointment yesterday.  I am feeling less optimistic about my rate of recovery from the broken arm than I was the day before.

I knew the arm's strength and range of motion have been strongly compromised since the accident.  Before going to bed, I've been doing some passive exercises each night.  I take the arm out of the sling and let it hang loose at my side, then rock my body back and forth to give the shoulder some mild range-of-motion exercise and keep it from freezing up entirely.  Not painless, but not sharply or intensely painful either.

At the PT place, my current range was measured.  I can only lift the right arm about 45 degrees to the front, and about 35 degrees to the side.  That was about what I expected.  But they also measured my grip strength for both arms.  The left (uninjured) arm was able to squeeze about 13 pounds on the gadget's dial.  Then I tried the right hand.

The needle barely moved.  Didn't even rise to the one pound mark.

That was unexpected.

In the accident, when I tried to break my fall with an outstretched arm, a shock wave basically travelled through my entire arm, from hand to wrist to forearm to elbow to upper arm until finally blowing apart the upper humerus.  The broken shoulder was agonizing (obligatory SF reference: "Your agonizer, please."), but the rest of the arm had been used in an overenthusiastic game of Crack The Whip and felt tender, bruised and painful to touch or try to use for weeks.

That slowly got better, and the lower arm, wrist and hand feel pretty much back to normal now.  So I've been using the hand and wrist for very light tasks, while trying to not move or stress the upper arm or shoulder.  But I was surprised to find out just how little strength I can exert with the lower arm and hand before accompanying muscle tension starts making the shoulder ache or stab.

But wait, there's more!

The head therapist told me there was a possibility that I won't recover the full range of motion I had before the accident, that I might only be able to get back to 85%, or even 75%.  (I've used this same PT place several previous times over the past decade, for back and knee problems; they're very good, so I trust what they tell me.)

That was not what I wanted to hear.   One of my main motivations for trying to stay fit and healthy thru the years is that, as Hilde's primary caregiver, I need to stay able to do what needs to be done for her, and to be able to do the things she's no longer able to do herself.  "Partially disabled" is not a label I want to wear.

It will probably also take longer than I'd hoped to get back to work.  Not so much because the job's so wonderful (doing graveyard-shift security is a lot of repetition and boredom), but because to get back to work, I'll have to be able to drive and I'll have to be able to write (to fill out daily logs and other reports) more than a few words or sentences without hurting.  (Locking and unlocking doors and other duties are things I can cope with left-handed, but driving one-handed is frowned upon and the security department's paperwork is all still done by hand.)

And both of those abilities are ones I want back for their own sake.  The writing goes without saying.  I could drive my own vehicle one-handed despite safety concerns, but the ignition switch is on the right side of the steering column, and when you can't even turn the friggin' key, the idea of driving oneself becomes pretty moot.  I'm getting a real appreciation for people who don't have cars or are unable to drive, and who have to depend on public transport or the convenience of others, because not having that ready and available transport on hand is a [ language! ][ such language! ][ oh, such language! ] hassle.

In the meantime, I'm still plodding along with life as a primarily one-armed man.  There are things I can't do.  And the things I can do usually take longer and use more energy.  (When changing bedlinens, working with flat sheets isn't that big a problem.  Putting a fresh fitted sheet on a mattress... that takes a while.)


More Thoughts About Guns

image from the Uncyclopedia, by Handleyite

President Obama announced he'll be authorizing executive orders addressing the issue of gun violence.  A lot of sensible ideas, some a bit troubling.

Rather than buying into the "mental illness may lead to violence" line, which is fraught with potential for abuse, stigmatization and overreach, how about trying a "violence may lead to violence" policy.

Suppose "acceptable" violence -- non-lethal, non-weaponed violence like getting into school fights or bar fights, physical bullying (shoving, etc.), domestic-violence-lite like slapping (please note the airquotes I placed around "acceptable") -- was given gun-ownership penalties?  Get in a fight as a teenager, you can't buy a gun until you're 25.  Get in a fight, etc, as an adult who already owns a gun, you have to turn in that gun, even if it was locked in a gun safe at home, for a set period of years and can't buy another during that same period.  Second offense, much longer period.  Third offense, lifetime ban on gun ownership.  Violence involving any type of weapon (brass knuckles, baseball bat, knife) also invokes a lifetime ban.

Instead of "You have mental and emotional problems, so you might become a homicidal killer someday," how about "You have an actual past history of violence towards other people, so society is restricting your ability to purchase the tools to commit more extreme violence."

(Convicted felons are already banned from purchasing or possessing guns, though I think in many instances this ends when they finish probation.   Why does it have to be a felony?  Why can't a ban be lifetime for repeat offenders?)

Shorter version: "No Guns For Assholes."

Another thought, to address the "stockpilers" who buy dozens or hundreds of guns: A gun-purchase tax or fee with an escalating scale.  Your first gun purchase, a $100 tax.  You want a second gun, you have to pay a $500 fee.  Third gun, $2,500.  Fourth gun, $10,000.  And so on.  (This ties into my earlier post, positing that four guns is the maximum reasonable number for anyone to own.)

Mandatory liability insurance, suggested by numerous others, also sounds reasonable.

And, on the alternate-Earth where I serve as Semi-Benevolent World Dictator, a complete and utter ban on concealed weapons.  Nobody should have a "right to ambush".


Cheap Thrills


posted from Bloggeroid


Hands and Handguns

I thought I'd add a few of my own thoughts to the ongoing national debate over guns.  Also, I like to spit in the ocean occasionally, because that thing is just too damn salty.

That's The Shadow, famous old pulp-fiction crime fighter.  One of the baddest badasses to ever blast bad guys with bullets.  Now, how many guns does the Shadow use?

Two.  Why?  Because he only has two hands!

Bearing that example in mind, shouldn't the reasonable maximum number of guns any individual owns be... two?

I'll shoot down that conclusion myself.  Because handguns and pistols have their uses, but they're pretty much crap for hunting purposes.  (Yes, there are people who hunt using handguns.  There are also people who like to be tied up while having sex.)

For hunting, you need a rifle.  You need both hands to use a rifle.   So you only need one rifle.  That means the maximum reasonable number of firearms any individual needs is three, right?

Ehh, not quite.   There are some types of game (ducks and doves, for example) where you're trying to hit a small, fast-moving target at a considerable distance.  For that, you need either very good aim and a lot of time and a lot of rifle ammo, or you need... a shotgun.

So now the count stands at two handguns, one rifle, and one shotgun.

And I think that pretty much covers all the reasonable bases for owning firearms.  More than four seems excessive to me.

But, Bruce, what about collectors who buy guns for their aesthetic and artistic value?

Sure, as long as they only keep enough ammunition on hand for two handguns, one rifle, and one shotgun.  Have you considered collecting hood ornaments, or Snowflake Babies, instead?

But, Bruce, government tyranny, anarchy, Scary Brown People...!!!

There are medications to help you cope with those thoughts.  Anyone who feels a need to stockpile huge numbers of firearms, ammunition, etc., doesn't meet my definition of "reasonable".

So, in short, you only have two hands.  You can only use one rifle, or one shotgun, or in rare instances two handguns, at a time.  Is there really a good reason to own more than that?

Well, I suppose with modern technology and some engineering skills, you could rig something up to let you use other bodily appendages to fire weapons.  But the you run the risk of turning yourself into this guy:

On the list of Lamest Super-Villains Ever, this guy is near the top.


The Arm: Update and Progress

It's been nearly four weeks since my fall and breaking my right arm.  The arm still aches and throbs just about constantly, but to a lesser degree.  I make do with Tylenol and Aleve during the day, and take extra meds at night to try and sleep.  (The surgeon only prescribed about a week's worth of oxycontin when I was discharged from the hospital, but I had some old leftover T-2's -- Tylenol with a bit of codeine -- that have helped me get to sleep since those ran out.)

Sleeping has been a problem.  Reading some other people's experiences online, a common complaint seems to be trying to find a comfortable position to sleep in.  Short answer: There is no comfortable position to sleep in.  I've also found that when (finally) starting to drift into sleep, I suddenly have a feeling like I'm being buried alive that jerks me back awake, plus nightmares when I do finally get to sleep.  So I've added an Ativan to the night pills to reduce anxiety; it seems to help.  I still generally only get 3-4 hours of sleep that way, but I usually take some naps of 1-2 hours in the afternoons and evenings as well.

Still wearing the sling almost 24-7, removing it for a brief period at night to do passive exercises (letting the arm hang loose and moving the body around), then apply lotion before putting the sling back on for bed.    The wound dressing got taken off a few days ago, so I managed to take a shower for the first time since the accident; having clean hair again feels pretty damn good.

I'll have a fairly spectacular scar from the surgery.  A long incision line from the shoulder down into the upper arm, bordered by lines of dots where the surgical staples were used; it looks a lot like a crude centipede tattoo.

(I actually Googled "centipede tattoo" to see if anyone with a similar scar might have had a better tattoo placed over their scar.  I didn't really find many centipede tattoos I liked.  I did, however, find out that some actual breathing, living people have had tattoos of "The Human Centipede" permanently placed on their bodies.  If you don't know what "The Human Centipede" refers to, count your blessings; I'm not going to provide a link.  It's one of those things for which the phrase "That which has been seen cannot be unseen" is far too appropriate.)

Physical therapy should hopefully be scheduled and started in a few days.  Judging from my PT experience after rotator cuff surgery a few years ago, getting strength and range of motion back into my arm this time is going to be harder and more painful.  The right arm's lost a lot of strength and range of motion, more than following the rotator cuff surgery.  I think it will probably be at least the beginning of February before I get released back to work.  My job isn't particulary strenuous, but there are some tasks that require the use of both hands, I'm sure they wouldn't want me driving the golf cart one-handed, and writing (for reports and logs, etc) is still pretty damn painful after even just a few words.  (Typing left-handed is awkward and tiring, but do-able.)

Ukelele Therapy, And More

While I'm recovering from my broken arm and waiting for physical therapy to be scheduled, I've been browsing the internet for other people's experiences with their own broken arms.

An especially interesting way to cope come from this comment on a forum for guitar players:
When I did my left shoulder in (broken fingers and thumbs and wrist/forearm too in past, and legs/ankles), I regained full use in about half the normal time, by learning to play the ukulele - it requires very little effort and no arm movement but the finger wiggling is apparently the best physio exercise you can do. Probably manage a ukulele whilst in plaster, did they they tell you to wiggle your fingers?
Yes, the ukulele.  The fellow quoted had a left arm injury, rather than right-sided like mine.  But I think it might still be do-able if, after consulting with a PT professional, I decide to try it.

(One of the more constant things on my unwritten Things To Do Before I Die list has been "Learn to play a musical instrument."  That list also includes "Learn to read & write music" and dozens of other tasks and aspirations.)

I've found there are lots of pre-made ukuleles available, ranging from very basic models around $70 up to more deluxe and/or electrified versions costing hundreds.  For those willing to invest a little sweat-&-glue equity, there are DIY kits available, or instructions for making your own from a variety of materials, such as the legendary cigar-box uke, and even a ukulele made from cardboard.

There are a number of websites devoted to ukuleles, like the Tumblr blog Fuck Yeah Ukuleles (some images may be NSFW; a small substratum of ukulele players apparently prefer to play naked).

Besides being used as a musical instrument, some people use the surface of the ukulele as an art surface, handpainting the bodies in a multitude of styles and themes.  Here's one for a fan of the ADVENTURE TIME cartoon:

painted by Jenny7332 on deviantart.net

Some custom ukuleles have variant shapes.  There's actually an Autobot theme ukulele:

made by Celentano Woodworks

I gotta admit, tho', I'm not a big fan of Transformers, so that Autobot ukelele doesn't really excite me.  But with a bit more Googling, I found a ukulele that actually transforms.  Behold, the Folding Ukulele!:

The folding ukulele was designed by a guy named Brian Chan, who unsurprisingly is also an expert origamist.  It comes as a DIY kit made from laser-cut bamboo and additional hardware.  Reviews give it lower marks for sound quality, but the coolness factor is sky-high.

The weirdest ukulele, though, is probably a South American variant called a charango.  The charango's body is traditionally made from the shell of an armadillo:

Does all this mean you'll see me with a ukulele of some sort in the future?  Mmmmmm. . . maybe.  I would be a lot more likely to take it up in private, rather than public.  I'm not an extrovert, unlike some people:

That's John Scalzi, author of Old Man's War and other books, head honcho of the popular Whatever blog, and public ukuleleist.  I like John's writing, but I gotta admit I think I admire him most for his ongoing efforts to make being a goofball more socially acceptable.  Still-closeted goofballs everywhere thank you, John.


Notes From The WTFiverse: An American Doctor Who

I was musing a while back about an alternate universe where DOCTOR WHO has been an American TV series, rather than British.  I came up with a number of American actors who I think would have been suitable to portray various Doctors through the years.

(I'm most familiar with the modern Doctors, Nine thru Eleven.  Saw some of the Fourth Doctor episodes back when they were showing on PBS in America, although I don't think I ever managed to catch a complete story arc.  And snippets of most of the other Doctors over the years.  So the following suggestions are more in the general line of attitude, charisma and the actor in question showing a previous capability for playing odd or eccentric characters, rather than matching a particular actor with a particular Doctor.)

For some of the earlier Doctors:


BOB KEESHAN -- aka Captain Kangaroo.  He wouldn't even have to change his wardrobe.  (He was also the original Clarabelle the Clown on THE HOWDY-DOODY SHOW. )

DICK VAN DYKE -- When he played Rob Petrie on THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW, he sometimes gave the impression that he had come late to living on Planet Earth and that the people around him were frequently a puzzle.  And he sometimes moved his body as if it weren't quite jointed like humans were jointed.  And, on one episode of TDVDS, he actually dealt with an alien invasion!

JOHN ASTIN -- If had to choose only one person to play an American Doctor, this is the guy.  As Gomez Addams on THE ADDAMS FAMILY, he overrode the normal world through sheer force of personality and charm.  And didn't it seem like the Addams family mansion was bigger on the inside?  And as an extra added bonus, maybe Morticia (Carolyn Jones) as the Doctor's Companion?  (I actually first noticed Astin on an earlier sitcom, I'M DICKENS, HE'S FENSTER.  A notable later project was the tv-movie/unsold-pilot EVIL ROY SLADE.)

Now some suggestions for the more modern era:

JON DELANCIE -- Best known for "Q" on the various STAR TREK incarnations.  Played an alien with highly advanced powers and resources.  Frequently squabbled with his own civilization.  Enjoyed dicking around with people's heads, but also seemed to have a need for occasional human company.  Seems like a shoe-in.

MICHAEL J. FOX -- Already an experienced time traveller.

PEE-WEE HERMAN -- Do I really need to say anything more? (Note:  In DW comics continuity -- 2009's Silver Scream -- the Doctor used "Pee Wee Herman" as an alias while visitng 1920's Hollywood.)

Feel free to add your own suggestions in comments.


In Which I Wrestle With Tigers

I recently ordered several small items from online companyTigerDirect. This is the email I sent while waiting (and waiting) for TigerDirect's customer service department to answer my phone call:

At this moment, 11:20 AM, 1/3/13, I am going into my third hour of waiting for your customer service phone # to connect me to a representative.  If this is your idea of "service", it's a good way to keep first-time customers from ever being second-time customers.  Over two hours waiting so far, with no end in sight?  Would you tolerate that from any company YOU were trying to contact?

The problem I'm trying to contact you about is almost as absurd.  I made a recent order for two small items.  For some reason you decided to send these items separately.

I received a package today.  The package had not one but TWO shipping labels attached.  One label, UPS tracking # 1Z 9E1 248 03 5684 3664, was addressed to me.  The second label was not only addressed to someone completely different on the other side of the state, but the return address for that second label was NOT for TigerDirect; the return address was for an Office Depot about ten miles from where I live.

Both labels appeared to have been applied carefully and smoothed flat.

Can you explain how two different companies, thousands of miles apart, can put two different shipping labels on the same package?  Because I sure can't think how that could happen.

When I checked the package's contents, it turned out to be for the customer shown on the second label, the one from Office Depot to Sacaton, AZ.  No items from my order with you were included.

Since the package was delivered to me regardless, I assume UPS scanned the tracking # on the label addressed to me.  This would mean that whatever merchandise was SUPPOSED to be sent to me with that label is now classified as "Delivered."

So let me make it clear: NONE of my order has been delivered.  At this point, I'm not feeling too optimistic that ANY of my order will EVER be delivered.

And I'm especially not optimistic that your customer service reps for customers trying to phone in are EVER actually going to answer my phone call.  It's now close to THREE HOURS since I first called, and I'm still getting the recorded message asking me to wait. At this point, it's a question whether or not my call gets an answer or the phone's battery dies.

Could you do me a favor?  Can you show me that TigerDirect actually has even a tiny smidgen of care about its customers?  Then stand up from where you're reading this email, go over to wherever the phone reps are supposed to be working and WAKE THEM THE HELL UP, or tell them to call a stop to the hot craps game, or to stop photocopying their butts on the Xerox machine.  Because whatever it is they've been doing for at least the past three hours, it's NOT providing service to customers.

If I sound furious and disgusted, it's because I am.  How have you managed to stay in business so many years?

Bruce Arthurs

Yes, I get grumpy sometimes.

If You Haven't Already Bookmarked It...

Bookshelf Porn is a pretty well-known site, but it's worth reminding people about from time to time.  Pics of books, bookcases, libraries, bookstores, bookstacks, etc.  It's always good to know other people share your particular brand of the crazy.


Seeing the Unseen

More from behance.net.  Minneapolis artist Brock Davis used just his iPhone camera and a lot of creativity to create a series of clever and striking images.  Part of being creative involves being able to look at an image of something and seeing something completely different from what the camera sees.  (You might have seen "The Gingershred Man", part of this series, on bOING bOING.)

this fell from the cheeseburger tree


Retrospective, Prospective, Perspective

2012, the Good: Changed jobs, ended up with more pay, shorter commute, a lot less stress.  Financially more comfortable.  Completed several short stories near the end of the year; it's been... awhile... since I've managed that.  Hilde continued a several-years long streak of NOT having major health issues or surgery.

2012, the Bad:  Had serious health issues of my own for the first time in several years.  A heart attack scare in October  had me in hospital for several days.  Then a bad fall at work on December 10th left me with a badly broken arm, resulting in the head and upper shaft of the humerus being replaced with metal and plastic.  (I figure I'm about 2% Cyberman at this point.)  Also had some old emotional baggage come back around and bite me in the ass about mid-year.  And health problems, and deaths, among friends and relatives.

The specific resolutions I made last year were 1) to try and write more, and 2) to get the backyard garden re-established after several years of neglect.  Succeeded with the first, tho' not as much as 'd hoped.  The garden never got worked on; if I hadn't broken my arm, I'd have had an entire week off work over Christmas/New Year's holidays, and I'd hoped to do a lot of the heavy cleanup work on the garden and the rest of the backyard then.  It'll probably be be another month, and a lot of PT, before I can start using that arm again in a fairly normal manner.  I'll try for a spring garden if I can.  (I find gardening a good stress-relief activity.)

The general resolution last year was to try and get more stuff done, more quickly.  As noted, only partially successful.

This coming year, besides the garden, I want to continue writing, and writing more regularly.  So I'm going to try a modified version of Nanowrimo; instead of trying to write 50,000 words in one month, I'm going to try and write at least 365 words every day for the entire year; that's only about a page-and-a-half per day, but at the end of a year it adds up to more than 133,000 words.

I also want -- actually, I need -- to work on my general health.  I gained back about 15-20 pounds during 2012, enough that I notice that extra weight I'm carrying around (mostly around my waist).  So I need to both watch what I eat more carefully, and exercise more and more often.

And that old emotional baggage needs work.  I've been avoiding it, because it's not going to be painless, or pretty.  It needs to be addressed, but how it should be addressed has been a stumbling block for months.  I'll almost certainly end up saying some unpleasant but true things about myself; I may end up saying some unpleasant but true things about other people as well.

SINFEST, one of the best webcomics around,
has an annual tradition of Death hunting down Father Time.
It's one of those death-and-resurrection thingies, y'know?
Check it out:  www.sinfest.net