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Recipe for a successful web conference

1 pound retro glasses
1 teaspoon men in hats
3 packages of surprisingly apt metaphor
5 cups geek humor (dry)
1 tablespoon Star Wars references
3 cups suit jackets over t-shirts
8 cups collages that cover entire slides in PowerPoint
4 cups irrelevant, non-web related content in presentations
1 tablespoon foreign languages used to label types of processes
2 pounds MacBook Pro (fresh)

Stir together geek humor, metaphor, Star Wars references, collages, irrelevant content, and foreign languages in large bowl. Let chill overnight.

Spread MacBook Pro pieces across baking sheet. Sprinkle suit jackets, hats, and retro glasses, leaving some for later. Bake for 15 minutes at 375. Then top with mixture from bowl, sprinkling remaining jackets, hats and retro glasses on top of mixture. Bake another 15 minutes at 375 until golden brown.

Yields 250 servings. A real crowd pleaser!

I know you’re listening, Comcast

This week I finally broke free from cable TV. I bought a nice antenna, upgraded my Tivo, and decided to ditch cable since 90% of what I watch isn’t on it. I don’t care for reality TV and don’t get a kick out of watching other people make fools of themselves whilst drunk. At least not on TV I have to pay for.

I thought canceling cable with Comcast might be easy. I also thought it might interrupt my internet service, also purchased through Comcast. [After all, I had experience to back up this theory. My first cell phone was through Qwest. When I called to cancel my Qwest land line, the CS rep also canceled my cell phone. I had to call them back from a payphone in Perkins.]

The CS rep canceling my Comcast “video service”, as they like to call it, was very friendly and did not pressure me into anything. She warned me that my internet price would go up $15 since I was not bundling with another service any longer. Although the pricing is beyond unfair, I stuck to my guns.

A couple minutes after hanging up with Comcast, I went to my computer. My internet was down. I did all the things the reps have you do when you call in for help, but nothing worked. I knew it was something on their end. I wasn’t getting a signal from the wall jack. The nice lady fucked up my account.

So I called back. Unsurprisingly, the rep had me try all the stuff I’d already tried. I told her that everything worked until my video was canceled, but it fell on deaf ears. Instead, she had me turn off my antivirus. She insisted that she was sending signals to my modem. I told her that the correct lights were not on. Again, she ignored my information.

She continued to tell me that the last course of action will be to send someone out. I was fine with that because I figured at least that person might have a brain capable of listening and making intelligent decisions based on the information provided. I asked if I’d have to pay for the visit and she says that yes, there is a $24 fee. I insisted that I was not paying for a visit for a problem caused on their end. We went back and forth for a bit, then she graciously granted me a free month of the service plan so the tech visit would be free for me.

The next day, I tweeted about my issue to @comcastcares. Just a few minutes later, I received the following reply:

i apologize please emial we_can_help@cable.comcast.com your experience so we can not make this happen again.

Despite the horrible typos, I sent a message explaining everything I wrote above. I received a reply quite quickly. I emailed back and forth with Bonnie in her pink font and typos galore. She asked some good questions and pretty much admitted Comcast’s fault in the matter.

Little did I know that Bonnie escalated my ticket to Deb at the local Comcast office, who left me two voicemails in the afternoon. I don’t even remember what the first one said, but the second one said that she changed something on my account and can now get a signal to my modem. She asked that I call her back at a special number (not the number on the caller ID). I got home, futzed with the modem a bit, and miraculously got a signal. My internet was back up, as good as ever.

I called the special number (a line just for local escalations, from what I could tell) and got some dude. I said my name and explained why I was calling and the dude said, “Oh yes, Deb told me about you. I’m glad to hear everything works now.”

The moral of this story is clear. Actually, there are two morals.

1. Comcast needs smarter CS reps who actively listen and make smart decisions based on what the customer is saying instead of trying to fit everything into a troubleshooting tree. If they aren’t tech savvy, fire them. One size does not fit all when it comes to tech issue resolution.

2. To get Comcast’s attention, all you got to do is tweet about it. Set up a Twitter account now, Comcast customers, just in case you ever need to bitch about them. Comcast is obviously aware of their poor image enough to know that they can curb issues quickly via social networking sites. Now they just need to see the patterns in these issues, and turn them into information to improve their customer service.

Greats of 2008, Part 1

We’ve finally made it. The US has a swell new prez, there’s more cute cat videos online than ever before, and Britney Spears may actually come back to some state of normalcy. It’s a great time to post some best of lists!

I’m starting with my favorite shows of 2008 because what I witnessed was amazing time and time again. Some shows were little, some big, but nearly all exciting and memorable.

Favorite Shows

  1. Fleet Foxes – 7th Street Entry, July 20: Whenever I think about the great shows I saw this year, Fleet Foxes is the first one that comes to mind. The intimacy was overwhelming. Being that close to the band made me aware of how rare it is for voices so beautiful to come together and make such wonderful music. Some bands are built for greatness, and I think Fleet Foxes is one of them.
  2. The National & REM – Xcel Energy Center, June 5: Maybe it was my great seats, or maybe it was the singalong factor that is so rare for shows I normally see, but Michael Stipe, Mike Mills, etc. really know how to pack a punch. Stipe is a vain clown on stage, encouraging you to have a great time. The National doesn’t quite work the crowd the same way, but they proved to be a big hit for the over 40-set. I was proud of them, in a strange way. Like, “Yes, the indie kids won over the oldies!”
  3. Sigur Ros – Orpheum Theater, September 25: An absolutely stunning show that left the girls behind us crying and me with goose bumps. I have never seen a concert like Sigur Ros. I expected a small orchestra for some reason, instead it was just a rock band making orchestral-caliber music.
  4. Magnetic Fields – Madison WI, October 11: If I was making a list of funniest shows of 2008, Magnetic Fields would be at the top. The opening PowerPoint presentations by Liz Clayton and Paul Lukas created an LOL ambiance seldom felt at presentations or rock concerts. The band’s musicianship is amazing — turning the songs from Distortion into little folk ditties you’d swear were from 16th century Ireland if not for the modern references.
  5. St Vincent- Cedar Cultural Center, February 22: Continuing my fascination with this singer/songwriter, St Vincent proved once again that her songs are better live than recorded. This time, she had a band, which I thought would diminish her strong presence. Instead it augmented her sound without pushing her aside. Hopefully I can see her again in 2009 and make it three years in a row.

More lists to come!

P.S.

I Voted in 89.3 The Current's Top 89 Albums of 2006

My afternoon in Hopkins, MN

I had a couple errands to run in downtown Hopkins, Minnesota today.

I started by dropping off some CDs at the library. There, the female security guard tried to kick out an apparently drunk young man. I say “tried” because Even after waiting for her to finish up after five minutes, the dude was still hanging around the doorway. She’d tell him to leave, he’d say he did nothing wrong. She’d ask to see his ID to prove he’s 21 because she saw him with a can of beer, he’d mumble that he didn’t have anything. Drain, rinse, and repeat.

Pretty guitar

Next I walked along Main Street, noting all the old-fashioned window signs adding to the quaintness of the city. I wanted to stop at Bud’s Music Shop, but it was closed. So, I took a pic of a beautiful blue guitar in the window. Mmmmmm….

 I ended up going into the Hopkins Antique Mall — a huge place filled to the brim with some crap, but lots of goodies. Here’s a few of my favorites:

Gay toothbrushes

Gay toothbrushes

I didn’t know he was such a mama’s boy!

“What you don’t know about Liberace” – I didn’t know he was such a mama’s boy! Cute!

Nazi Psychadelia

Um, that is a Nazi symbol, right? I know that it’s also a Hindu symbol, but come on. Were Nazi’s “real disco”?

Nearly Lost in Translation

I was at Moscow on the Hill tonight for a birthday party. We were on the patio and I was facing the door that goes inside, so I looked at everyone coming in and out.

Once the door opened, and out came a very familiar face and didn’t think much of it. Then I realized that the face was entirely out of context because it was a famous face. It was Bill Murray! Then I thought, no, it’s just a guy who looks like Bill Murray. I kept staring. He stood there for almost a minute as a man with him told the waiter which table they wanted. He also had a sexy lady with him. He looked very normal, but also very handsome.

 famous.jpg

As his party started walking to their table, I tried to get my group’s attention, but they ignored me at first, excited about some conversation. “That guy looks just like Billy Murray. I think it’s Bill Murray!” I said probably way too loudly. Everyone at my table looked confused for a bit because Bill’s back was to them, but then finally everyone gasped. One reminded us that Bill owns or co-owns the St. Paul Saints, which would explain his presence in St.Paul on a summer evening. We all started texting and calling friends.

 

The accordionist serenaded them, and they clapped joyfully. They had the same waiter as us. When the waiter came to take our cards I said “Big guest over there, huh?” and he said “Yeah, I hope so” with a huge grin.

I don’t think anyone bothered him, but I saw a few people come out for a closer look. I saw a camera flash at one point, but it might have even been from Bill’s party. I’m not sure.

I wonder where Bill stays when he’s in town.

P.S. To be clear: I did not take that picture. I thought a snapshot would be more appropriate — didn’t mean to lead anybody on.

Voltage 2008, or, Minneapolis Pretentiousness

This year’s Voltage Fashion Amplified was bittersweet. It was my friend Nathan‘s (aka George Moskal to the rest of the city) second and final time showing at this prestigious event in Minneapolis. He’s moving to Portland, which I’m sad about but I cannot wait to go visit him all the time. I adore Portland.

We were hoping this year would be better than last year in a few ways. One was that the First Ave staff stupidly refused to let to let others go into the VIP Lounge after the show to help the designers (or anyone) get their shit packed up. Last year I whisked past the security dude somehow, but this year he stopped us cold and wouldn’t let us in. Tell me, First Ave, what is the point? Don’t you want those people out of there as quickly as possible, especially when you know there’s an afterparty everyone wants to go to? It’s not like you’re going to sell tons of drinks after the show. To top it off, and to show First Ave’s hypocrisy, a friend of a friend got into Voltage for free by simply holding up his hand and walking through the front doors. He didn’t have a stamp to show off, but he played it like he did, and got in.

We took all of Nathan’s stuff to their car in the Target Center ramp, then proceeded to Sound Bar for the afterparty. None of us had heard of it, and with good reason. Last year’s party was fairly lame, and again I barely got let in because the Voltage crew were only allowed one +1. This year though, anyone could get in with a $3 cover. Or at least that’s what we were told.

We got a little lost, and as we walked up we noticed a small crowd and a velvet rope. I was fumbling for my ID when I heard a little commotion. Greg (Nathan’s S.O.) was trying to hand over his ID for inspection to one of the two bouncers. Nathan was getting his Voltage tag out. He said that we’re here for the Voltage party. The bouncer was unresponsive. Greg noticed that he was starting at Nathan’s feet. The bouncer, noticeably Easter European, turned to his buddy and whispered something. Nathan waved his Designer tag in front of him again and the bouncer replied, “We don’t allow white shoes.”

I began to cackle. Greg huffed and Nathan simply said, “Seriously? Well fuck this!” with his best diva hand action. We walked off, me still cackling. The party was partly for Nathan, yet he’s not allowed inside this ridiculously pretentious Minneapolis bar because of his super cute, uber hip, off-white Keds. Ummm, yeah. Well, better him than me in my super cute retro Nike slip-ons.

We returned to the Target Center ramp where Greg and Nathan took off long before me because my car was a little farther away. It took me a bit to find my way off the top floor (there was a Timberwolves game), but when I finally reach the exit, Greg and Nathan were still at the toll booth thingy. I could see Nathan’s siloutte obviously shouting at the toll guy, and Greg trying to hand the toll guy money. The toll guy had a ticket in his hand, but got out and wrote down their plate number. Meanwhile, I’m thinking the toll guy must not be honoring the tickets we already paid for ($10, thank you very much) due to some stupid post-midnight rule or something.

Finally Greg and Nathan pulled away, after much more shouting from Nathan. I pull up to the booth and said to the guy, “So you’re not honoring these tickets?” The guy replied, “They lost their ticket. They had to pay for lost ticket charge.” The money and lost ticket ticket (yes, he generates a ticket for a lost ticket) is still in his hand. I get a little flustered and apologize. Pretending I didn’t know the trouble-makers, I offer the possibility that the men had a bad day. I talked with the toll booth guy for a good couple of minutes, trying to make him feel better. He was near tears, and appreciated my concern.

Nathan called after I pulled out and he said that they had no idea that they needed to take a ticket when they entered, which was obviously the toll guy’s fault. *Sigh*.

We’re all rude and pretentious sometimes, but Minneapolis was full of it last night.

An update

It’s time once again for a brief update on my time in our great Twin Cities. Have I ever mentioned how much I love bulleted lists?

  • TV: “Bill Moyers’ Journal” is still really high on my list. Although clearly a liberal program, Bill is great at playing the devil’s advocate in interviews. A new fave is “Pushing Daisies“, a surreal, comic-book-like serial reminiscent of the movie “Toys”. It really feels like Joan Cusak and Parker Posey should be playing the parts of Olive and Chuck. It’s like nothing else ever on TV, but I never watched “Buffy” or “Smallville”, either. (I just looked at the official site and there’s actually a comic book version of the tale. Damn I’m good.)
  • Books: I had been reading Miranda July‘s latest collection of short stories, No one Belongs Here More than You but the library took it away from me because it’s in such high demand. I only had like 50 pages left, but hopefully I’ll remember to pick it back up again. It wasn’t really what I expected. July’s writing is nearly always erotic, in a sick way you would only expect to find in the shadowy areas of the Internet. One story, “Making Love in 2003″, involved a fictional Madeline L’Engle and her fictional husband. Who has the nerve to write that, especially when L’Engle is a proud Christian woman? I feel like July is opening new doors in terms of what can be fictionalized, at least for me and my life. I don’t know a lot about July, but it seems like a lot of her stories are based on things that actually happened, but she blows them so out of proportion that they become unrecognizable as reality, yet still believable.
  • Film: So many good ones out right now. “Lars and the Real Girl”, Ang Lee’s new dirty one, “Lust, Caution”, the Cohen brothers new one, “No Country for Old Men”…and the one I can hardly wait to see–”I’m Not There”. The soundtrack is almost too good to be true and thinking of the film itself gives me chills. I’m probably building it all up too much, but I’ve got to hope for the best.
  • My NaNoWiMo: My words are not quite up to par, as it were, but I’ve decided not to care. My goal is to get into the habit of writing and to find out if I can still do it. Luckily, I feel I’ve discovered that I can still write creatively in a slightly above average manner. I haven’t forgotten all the rules though. I’m still not editing and I’m still trying to add as many words as possible, but starting this weekend I’m taking a new direction, following the pep talk we received from Sara Gruen. I’m going to jump ahead to the good parts to keep my motivation high. I’m excited about it once again. I saw John Waters speak last weekend and he happened to say that a novel is the hardest thing to write. I grinned to myself…”And I’m going to do it, sucka.”
  • Dreams: Last night I dreamed that Annie Lennox performed in a quarry for the company I work for. I even sat across from her during a pre-show dinner. She didn’t like me for some reason. After the show, I got her to sign an autographed black & white glossy for me. It said, “To Dorothea, best wishes, Annie Lennox.” I think it was Dorothea; it was not my name anyway. She thought my name was Dorothea. Then I looked through a file cabinet for more about Dorothea. I never found an answer.

What have you all been up to?

Twin Cities Happenings

A lot has been going on in and around Minneapolis since my last post, and I’ve been partaking in some of those events. The Twin Cities truly are a haven for artists and lovers of art. That gets forgotten a lot, especially nationally. I’m here to give you some examples of the cool culture offered by our fair cities.

Last Saturday, I saw the deservedly highly praised “Idigaragua” at Bedlam Theatre. Dubbed as an “indie rock musical”, this production was easy to love if you’ve been wondering “‘Tommy’ sucked, so why hasn’t a band tried to write a musical since?” The band is Fort Wilson Riot who, at only two years old, sound so tight you’d think otherwise. The production went something like this: band plays, actors mime along, puppets go in and out, a screen is assembled and a film is played, more puppets, more lip syncing, and lots of great indie rock. I bought the CD hoping it would clue me into the story, but it hasn’t. Still, the mix of their major talent and proud oddness could make them big (indie) stars someday.

Last Sunday was my first time dealing with the I-35W detour to Hwy 280. The first Msp Music Expo in a while was back at the Four Points Sheraton in “Minneapolis” (whatever, it’s totally Roseville). I ended up taking home a jazz compilation that once belonged to Gene Goldenfeld of Los Angeles, CA. I don’t know who that is either. I’m trying to familiarize myself with some jazz. I also purchased a first edition paperback of my buddy Tim Riley’s “Tell Me Why”. Just what I needed – another Beatles book.

This past week included a couple shows. The first was the band I “manage”, Formula Three (and by “manage” I mean suggesting they have a CD release party earlier this year) at the Uptown Bar. I’d never been to the Uptown before, and I can’t see myself going back just for kicks. Punks, blah blah blah. My favorite was a guy in a brand new hoodie and a huge NOFX patch safety pinned to the back. I shouldn’t tease, maybe he doesn’t consider himself punk. I guess all hoodies are new at some point. Codger opened, and I found them very annoying. I just can’t get into bands who think they are really really funny. That bores me to tears. If you’re going for the funny bone instead of the spirit with your music, at least be clever. An “I want jaundice” t-shirt is not even “funny weird”, it’s just dumb. And yelling out an inside joke repeatedly does not make me want to know more.

Even more culturally significant was seeing St. Vincent and The National at the stupid Fine Line. How does the Fine Line keep to fire codes? The two times I’ve been, there’s easily 200 extra people crowding up the place. It’s nearly impossible to walk anywhere. Luckily, we splurged for the golden table seating deal where you get food and drinks and a good place to sit. It’s the only way to do the Fine Line. They were even kind enough to provide a chair for an extra person we had.

Re: St. Vincent, I normally can’t stand her music. I saw her open for Midlake earlier this year, and it was just plain weird. She looked like a bag lady. Since then she’s gotten tons of buzz, washed her hair and has been here about 16 times so far this year, she says. But St. Vincent’s set was really brilliant this time. The songs on “Marry Me” shone when all stripped down to mainly her electric guitar and beautiful voice. But what really sold me was her quip, “And here’s a song I wrote back in 1969…” before delving into the semi-obscure “I Dig a Pony” from the Beatles’ “Let it Be” album. She is the LAST person I’d expect to do a Beatles cover. Loved it.

The National were everything I hoped they would be. As my new favorite band, I had high expectations. Matt Berninger puts on quite a show…he’s moody, kinda crazy, and extremely passionate. His voice sounds even better in person, which I didn’t think was possible.

An added feature was an incredible violinist/pianist, who clearly loves the songs as much as all the fans in the audience. The annoying girl quotient was pretty high (“You’re awesome Matt” repeated between every song), but luckily our table kept us fairly safe.

Tonight it’s “Strange Love“, a musical/performance art piece inspired “Dr. Strangelove”. God I love artists.

Photo courtesy jcbehm.

Trend Watch

It’s time once again for a trend update from your always a week behind the rest of the cool kids blogging buddy.

What I’m in To:

  • Cloverfield: This is what I speak of when I mean I’m always a week behind. I didn’t see “Transformers” and no one I know who did see it mentioned this pesky JJ Abrams trailer. I blame them. Granted, it took me a while to get in to “Lost”, and after nearly falling astray last season, I’ve regained all faith in those writers. This film, whatever it is actually called, will probably end up being less interesting than the buzz, but that’s more than you can say for most films these days.
  • The Redwalls: I saw them last Friday at the Triple Rock. One word—Britastic! These kids from Chicago are probably the biggest assholes in rock music, but their snottiness is perfectly forgivable due to their brilliant songwriting and performance talents. These kids (in their very early 20s) have got the British Invasion down pat. They have studied the formulas and carried them all out to the point where two of them (brothers) affect British accents. Then again, so does Robert Pollard.
  • Liz & Richard: I purchased a newish copy of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” on DVD recently, part of a box set of several Liz & Richard films. The extras for “Woolf” are spectacular, including not one but two commentaries. I was sort of surprised to hear Mike Nichols say that Liz Taylor is super nice to everyone. Anyway, they totally turn me on when they’re together. Um, I mean, I truly appreciate their fine acting.
  • Reading: Yes, I’m actually reading! It all started with Michael Tolliver Lives (a must-read for Maupin fans), and a really bad Paul McCartney bio, then a friend lent me the CD version of Sarah Vowell’s Assassination Vacation. With that I discovered that books on CD aren’t so bad, and I got another one from the library—Stephen King’s On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. Which leads me to my next trend…
  • Creativity: I’m announcing it now. I shall write a play. It may suck, it may not be finished or even started for a while, it may never be performed; but I shall write a play. I received an invitation to collaborate, and now I’ve told a few people so it has to happen. So, uh, anyone got any ideas for a play?

What I’m Sick of:

  • Democrats and their lack of a spine: Bill Moyers had a couple people on his “Journal” show last week about impeaching Bush and Cheney, something I’ve never really been for. It just about has me convinced the other way now. Still, the idea of trying them both for war crimes after their terms are up was never mentioned, and I’d like to know more about that. And P.S., Bill Moyers is coolest man over 60. Take that, aging rock stars.
  • Paying bills: I know I don’t have much to complain about, but I would love more spending money. Like for a Wii. Because, you know, I’m a greedy American consumerist.
  • Work: I’ve been at my current job for about two and a half years. That’s longer than I’ve been at any job straight through. Luckily I’m not doing the same old stuff, but still, I need a change in environment or something. Again, I’m really reaching for things here, aren’t I? I suppose life is pretty good these days. Not “Every thing’s coming up Milhouse” good, but still…good.
  • Firefox/Google: For some reason, although I have the “latest version” of each installed, my Google toolbar and some Firefox features are different between my work computer and my home computer. My new Google toolbar at home is awesome with tons of new buttons and shortcuts to other sites, including ask.com. My work Firefox copy has a nifty arrow at the far right side of the tab area that when clicked, lists all of the open tabs. Maybe it’s a settings issue, but I can’t figure it out.