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Lord of LightLord of Light by Roger Zelazny

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Although he's best known for his Amber series, Lord of Light was unquestionably his greatest masterpiece - despite the fact that it's a remarkably slender book. Nonetheless, Zelazny managed to brilliantly combine science fiction, fantasy, and Hindu mythology in a truly...

Due to the acquisition of Goodreads by Amazon, the complete version of this review has been moved to two new homes:

If you, like me, object to what Amazon has done to the world of books, book lovers, and book shops, you can find many alternatives to GoodReads (for reviews) and to Amazon (for shopping) at the "Escaping Amazon" community []. Our free public resource listing and describing alternatives is at [

Readers and their love of books are not commodities to be bought and sold - unless we allow it.

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I haven't been pleased with Barnes & Noble's Nook Color. The book selection is relatively poor, and the prices are relatively high. Which is why I have been utterly delighted by Baen Books.

Not only do they offer a large selection of classic science fiction books for free, but they have a surprising number of books by classic and modern SF and fantasy authors for very reasonable prices. For example, they have quite a few of the Heinlein juveniles - which, I've been told, have often been out of print in recent years - for $5-$6 each. And they're well-formatted, have nice e-covers, and are available in many useful formats (including epub for the Nook and Kindle format too). What's more, they're not restricted by DRM, so you can download them to multiple devices.

I respect the hell out of a company that doesn't treat their customers as potential thieves. And so I've picked up a bunch of books from them for Sebastian, including most of the Heinlein juveniles as well as James H Schmitz's The Witches of Karres - a classic, and one of my favorites. Plus quite a few others! They can even be read online, on a computer, laptop, or tablet.

Most of their books are in the four to six-dollar range. I wish other ebook publishers had as much sense as Baen! But as it is, Baen has already gotten a lot more of my money than Barnes & Noble has. Or will, for that matter.
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Consumer Reports magazine wouldn't allow me to post this on their blog entry about Direct Buy. I won't be renewing my subscription.

Allow me to say what everyone with any sense already knows: the vast majority of pro-Direct Buy comments here and elsewhere online are made by paid employees of Direct Buy or their agents. They use the same sockpuppet language, the same stale old talking points. It's the old con: create a false controversy to keep suckers coming in. Swear that up is down and black is white, whatever it takes to separate the credulous from their cash.

The economy is in full-press Darwinian mode. The gullible have been selected for rendering. The truth is an impediment in this process, and must be countered with a plentiful helping of well-financed lies.

The sharks are telling us to come on in; the water is fine. Pay no attention to those shark-bite survivors screaming and frantically trying to warn you!
bobquasit: (Rorschach)
Inspired by yet another mailing from the Discover card people, I tried to opt out of "pre-screened" mailings from the credit-card industry today. They nearly bankrupted us seven years ago, so that was a no-brainer.

I went through a long, annoying phone call with an irritatingly pleasant robo-voice.

And then they demanded that I give them my full social security number.

"Hell no!" I said, and slammed the phone down.

Credit card industry = 1, Me = 0

Anyone have any suggestions?


May. 13th, 2010 05:39 pm
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Note to self: bought a pair of cheap Sony earphones at Best Buy today. Plus a two-year warranty.
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We got a new bill from Cox on Friday. It's about $65 less than the last one. No one has called us or explained this to us. We're really confused. Is someone at Cox just making up our bill every month?

"This month, let's charge them $200. Then next month $135. After that, in order, $179, $209, and then $196.93 to really confuse them. They'll never question their bill again!"

By coincidence (I presume) we also got a mailing the same day from Verizon. They're offering FIOS service in our area - we think. But it's a bit confusing, because their TV is apparently via DirecTV. They didn't quite spell out if it was FIOS or not (that's the implication I get, though), and there are various tiers of service which don't include a price. I don't like it when an offer isn't clear, and I don't care for low introductory prices that are followed by unspecified increases after the introductory period ends.


Oct. 27th, 2009 12:06 pm
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Lots to tell about.

My hand still hurts, so I'm taking a regular dose of ibuprofen twice a day. The bruising has faded somewhat.

I still can't put pressure on it in the direction I fell; it hurts too much. I called the urgentcare clinic where I had it x-rayed, and they confirmed that it's not broken. I may call my doctor if it doesn't feel a lot better soon.
Read more... )
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I give up. The DuPont faucet filter had the same problems that all the other ones did; roughly one out of four filters worked properly, and the rest lasted a week or less.

Our water is NOT hard or particularly bad. So my best guess is that hot water is occasionally feeding into the cold water, and thereby ruining the filters.

So this weekend we bought a Brita dispenser, one of the big ones with a tap in the front, and put it in the refrigerator. We'll see how it works out. I'm going to fill it by filling up a pitcher and then pouring that water into the dispenser; that way if there's a surge of hot water, it will never reach the filter (the heat being moderated by being mixed with all the water in the pitcher first). Also, the filter itself will be cooler because it's in the refrigerator!

Unfortunately the Brita filter apparently doesn't filter anywhere near as much stuff as the DuPont did, but we can't afford to buy new filters every week.
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"Have an HP printer set to greyscale to conserve the color cartridges. Color cartridges are still being depleted. Why?"

Because HP's printer software is designed to lie to you. This is pretty much an industry-wide problem; almost all printer companies sell their printers at or below cost, and make their profits by selling grossly overpriced ink cartridges. They deliberately design the printer software to tell you that you're out of ink long before you actually are. Some of them will actually stop the printer from printing, even if it has enough ink!

The printers also have sponges inside which are solely designed to soak up ink and waste it. Every time you clean the printer head(s) (as the software often recommends), it simply squirts a large amount of ink into those sponges.

I have an Epson printer. I hardly ever use it. Because when I do, it tells me that I'm critically low on ink, and tries to force me to buy new ink - from Epson. There's a box to turn off the low ink warning, but it's purely an exercise in frustration; it turns itself back on EVERY TIME! I hate Epson (which is ironic, since I used to be a fan).

Kodak recently started trying honesty with their customers ( Their printers are now more expensive, but the ink is reasonably priced - about $10 per cartridge, I believe. That makes a lot more sense to me. I hate not letting my son print out his pictures because I'm afraid of running out of ink. The whole point of having a printer is to USE it! So when the ink finally runs out of my Epson, I'll be buying a Kodak.

By the way, someone may suggest that you take out the ink cartridges and reinstall them. Unfortunately they have magnetic codes built in which your printer will recognize; it will not reset the cartridge life, and will probably refuse to print altogether!
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Petro left a voicemail for us yesterday. They want us to call them to discuss our account. I hope they're not going to try to hit us for a cancellation fee, because our contract expired.

Incidentally, when we cancelled Teri told me to ask them to send us a hard copy confirmation that our account had been cancelled. The operator got annoyed and said "Your account is cancelled. I just cancelled it."

I wonder what they're going to say? I'm not going to be calling them, of course. As far as I'm concerned, I'm done with them. If they want to talk to me, they can call when I'm in. But they're not going to get any more money out of me.

Petro screwed us once, and stole a thousand dollars from us. That's it, as far as I'm concerned.
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It turned out they didn't have either of the pastries that I wanted. So I got a muffin. That and my coffee was on the house, and they said the pastry would be free next time, too. I also got about fifty apologies, none of which were necessary.

That much cheerfullness is hard to cope with, particularly early in the morning when I'm as tired as this...
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It must be some sort of promotional thing. Wait, I'll back up.

Jeeze, I'm tired. I went to sleep on the late side, around 11:15 last night, but that doesn't explain it. Waking up this morning was like waking up dead. I slept on the train, and when I was walking through Ruggles, I suddenly discovered that my zipper was wide open. This was not a dream.

I mean, I'm so tired this morning that I can barely function. So I went downstairs to Fresh City to get some real coffee, non-decaf. Incidentally, the girl who implied that I was a thief doesn't seem to be there any more.

Anyway, I'm walking in a half-daze towards the pastries to see if there's anything I like. As I'm walking, one of the girls behind the counter (about fifteen feet away) smiles at me and calls out "How are you doing, sir?"

Startled, I answered "Good morning! How are you?" and continued to the pastries. There was nothing that really grabbed me, though. As I walked back to check a couple of small pastry platters by the cash register, a man in a red embroidered Fresh City jacket walked up to a customer in a business suit, said something like "Hello, sir, thanks for coming in today!" and shook his hand. I started to suspect that something was going on.

Jesus. I'm so tired that I'm actually saying these words as I type them. I probably sound insane!

Anyway, there were no pastries that interested me by the cash register. A man who was sitting nearby jumped up and asked "What are you looking for?".

"Oh...a cinnamon swirl, or an apple strudel, maybe," I said. He told the girl to bake me one, and she said it would be ready in ten minutes; then he told her that the pastry would be "on him". I thanked him, said I'd be back, and left. I'm feeling pretty freaked out, but I guess I should go back.

Weird, weird, weird. Corporate-enforced false bonhomie always makes me feel weird.
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Dunkin' Donuts emailed me and asked me to call them so they could get more information. I did, and also told them about the DD kiosk at Ruggles that gave me food poisoning twice.

They're going to contact the franchisees and pass my comments along. For what that's worth.

Now I'm going to go get some ice cream.


Apr. 29th, 2009 09:39 am
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I'm still pissed off. I made the mistake of getting a coffee Coolatta and bagel at the only Dunkin Donuts near my work.

As always, they simply tossed the bagel in the bag with some butter. If I wanted to butter a cold bagel myself, I would have bought one much cheaper at the Shaws next door. Is it that fucking hard to butter a goddamned bagel?!?

And the Coolatta was utterly undrinkable. It was mostly liquid, not frozen, and it must have been 98% cream. It was as white as snow! I looked at the guy and said "That's a Coolatta? It's SO WHITE!".

He ignored me. Like an idiot I took the bagel and Coolatta (I'd already paid for them) and left the store. When I got back to my desk, I tried buttering the bagel; it was cold. I tried the Coolatta and nearly puked; it really was pure cream. I tried microwaving the bagel a little to melt the butter, and ended up with melted butter everywhere. So I threw the whole fucking mess in the trash. Then I wrote to Dunkin Donuts and complained, and then I went to and posted a bad review. But because that DD is in an Exxon Tiger Mart, I had to review that instead.

I am really, really pissed off this morning.


Feb. 17th, 2009 09:53 pm
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Not too long ago we bought a medium-sized jar of local wildflower honey. As I think I've mentioned here before, I'd heard somewhere in the news that many nationally-distributed and supermarket brand honeys originate in China, and despite claiming to be pure honey they're actually heavily adulterated with high-fructose corn syrup and other nasty stuff.

As it happens, we have a teddy-bear container of Stop & Shop honey in the same cupboard where we put the local honey. They're literally next to each other. And for some reason, that cupboard is cold.

The local honey has turned solid. It has the consistency of a moist granulated apple butter; a little difficult to spoon out, but it can be done. It melts incredibly quickly in hot tea, and it tastes great.

The Stop & Shop honey is still liquid, golden, and clear. I'm not planning to have any more of it.
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As you might remember, at the height of the recent gas price surge there was a strange event. All sorts of products started shrinking. Ice cream in particular went from 2 quarts (the standard half-gallon) to 1.5 quarts; a 25% reduction in product with no corresponding reduction in price.

But a few days ago I bought ice cream, and was amazed to see that it somehow looked...bigger. Sure enough, it was 1.75 quarts. And what's more, all the brands are that size now - even the store brands.

It's odd how they all stay in sync. I have to wonder if there's some sort of conspiracy between the manufacturers to all stay at the same sizes!
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So I went down to get coffee and a cinnamon swirl from the Fresh City in the lobby this morning. I answered the trivia question (it was an easy one) so my coffee was free. As always when I get coffee, I also grabbed some of the free cinnamon pita chips that they have out.

Now, the containers they put out for the pitas are tiny. They're little things no bigger than the palm of my hand. They used to be larger, but that changed about a year ago.

They're so small that it's almost impossible to get a reasonable amount of chips in there. I usually pile them up a little, and then try to throw the container into my pastry bag before the pile topples.

It occurred to me that this was a stupid thing to do. I don't use the containers; I just eat the chips out of the bag. So this time, instead of using the container, I just put some of the pitas directly into the bag with the tongs.

I did not take a lot - really! It was totally a reasonable amount - two tongfuls, which is less than I could have put in a container. But the cashier rushed over and told me, insofar as I could understand her English, that I had to use the containers that were provided - that otherwise, I should pay for one of the pre-packaged bags.

This made me feel as if I'd been stuffing the bag full of chips, which was absolutely not true. It made me feel like a thief. And it really pissed me off and hurt my feelings.

I've always been friendly with that cashier. I always tip her generously, too - whatever change is left from my purchase I dump into her tip jar, and that's more than 20%. That just ended. And I don't think I'll be going back to Fresh City again. The coffee's not that good, and they really made me feel like shit. I can really hold a grudge, so I'd say that Fresh City is going to take a loss on this morning's little exchange.
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Someone posted a "question" Askville urging a boycott of as a protest of bad Askville policies. My comment wasn't particularly brilliant, but since there's a good chance that the question will be deleted (and I hate it when that happens) I'm saving a copy here:

more boycotting going on - heck, I'd like to see some general consumer strikes.

In this case, I see a problem. doesn't really have much competition left any more! I suppose Barnes & Noble might count, as would Borders and that west-coast store whose name I forget. But they're all corporate behemoths, as is itself. To really get the attention of management, you'd need a massive popular movement. To be honest, even if every single member of Askville were to boycott, I suspect that wouldn't notice or care much.

But Askville management would care, since it could potentially threaten their jobs. And what would get the attention of both Askville and management would be to get some national press; a few headlines like " users rebel against management" would do the job. Because then stockholders would get antsy, and everyone would pay attention.

Of course the problem is that you'd be shut down and banned long before things reached that stage. This DB would be deleted too. You'd need to start a stand-alone site to support the boycott, and you'd need to reach out to reporters from the national press and major industry websites. You'd really need to have a lot of people passionately involved in the issue, too.

I don't want to sound too negative. One person can definitely make a difference - I know. I've managed to irritate several large organizations over the years and got them to change a policy through online agitation, including Time-Warner and the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority.

But you have to be stubborn to the point of insanity. The corporation has to cooperate by being really egregiously bad. You need the complaints to come from more users. And you need to be lucky in finding one or more reporters who think that there might be a good story in your struggle.

A minor point: every "" reference turned into a link, in my comment over on Askville. I don't like that, so I de-linked them here.
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About six weeks ago I emailed Pur about some bad water filters we'd bought from them. It took them a while to respond, but when they did it was pretty annoying.

Basically, they told me that the problem must be my fault. Our water must be bad. This was pur bullshit, as far as I'm concerned; our water is fine. We've used other filter systems, and have never had an issue with water quality before.

The filters were supposed to be good for 2 months or 100 gallons, and they were becoming totally useless after a week or less, and in under 10 gallons. There's just no way that Pur could convince me that our water (which is city water) is that bad.

They sent us a couple of buy one get one free coupons for filters, but my plan was to change filtration systems as soon as practical.


I had a suspicion.

Somehow, somewhere in the back of my head there was a connection being made. I've been watering our lawn a lot lately, as I've mentioned before. And on some level I noticed that the filters died after I used them while the lawn sprinkler was going.

I don't know why that is. The outside faucet is located pretty much opposite the kitchen sink faucet, the one with the filter. So maybe (and I'm guessing here) there are surges of hot water through the kitchen faucet when the outdoor faucet is running? That would explain the destroyed filters.

I've been very careful not to use the filter while watering the lawn, and so far the filter has laster for several weeks - and it's still working well. I don't know what the connection is, but it does seem that there IS a the problem just might be solved.
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I noticed this a while ago. Apparently lots of people have missed it. But some time in the last several months, groceries started shrinking - a lot.

All sorts of groceries. But I guess it's not surprising that I first noticed that ice cream had shrunk. Maybe you remember: when you buy ice cream in the supermarket, the usual sizes are a half gallon or a pint. But when I routinely checked the label of a carton of Bryer's ice cream, I was amazed to see that it was only 1.5 quarts - it had been shrunk by a full 25%! And the price definitely hadn't gone down. I did a little research, and EVERY ice cream manufacturer has magically reduced their ice cream packages from 2 quarts to 1.5!

Incidentally, the package had been re-designed to make it look bigger than it was; it looked a lot like the old version, but the sides were sloping more. I think that difference caught my attention somehow, which is why I looked at the label. I've also noticed that whereas the cartons were almost always full of ice cream in the past, the ice cream is much looser now, if that makes any sense. There's consistently more air around the sides.

Lots of other products have silently started shrinking, too.The Consumerist calls it "the grocery shrink ray".

Apparently one typical tip-off is when the packaging is redesigned. They may claim that the new package is more environmentally friendly and easier to ship - but the odds are that it also contains 10% or so less product. In some cases, the price for the new package is actually higher than the old, more generous one! But usually it's just the same. Chips, juice, toilet paper...anything which isn't sold by a unit of weight or volume is subject to shrinkage. They can't pull this stunt with gallons of milk or with store-packaged meat, since that's sold by the pound. But in some cases, larger packages are being replaced with subtly smaller ones. For example, the Jimmy Dean sausage roll which was normally 16 oz. is now 12 oz.

Obviously manufacturers are counting on the vast majority of consumers being too stupid or apathetic to notice the change. That's a bet they'll probably win. The question is, how far can they push this particular technique before consumers notice and get angry? My guess is that they're studying this issue carefully, and that before they reduce packages to the point that people notice, they'll do a price hike - probably en masse, so they can all claim that it's a necessary response to the economy.

Incidentally, I don't dispute their right to pass on increased production costs to their customers (because I know that at least one person on my flist will make that very point). What I object to is this sleazy, underhanded repackaging scheme. A half-gallon of ice cream has been just that for decades. Tricking people into thinking they're buying a half-gallon when they're not is simply unethical.

Oh, it's also worth pointing out that these changes also screw up recipes. Many recipes call for a certain standard amount of an ingredient, such as a 6-oz. can of tomatoes (or something; I'm just making up the numbers, okay?). And now that no package exists in that size, the cook is faced with either buying TWO packages and wasting part of one, or trying to reduce the rest of the recipe - which can be difficult, since the amount of reduction isn't always easy to translate into other sizes (i.e. it may be 3 out of 14 oz., for example).

I also read over on the Consumerist that milk is often turning out to be sour as soon as it's bought, or very soon thereafter - this is apparently a lot more common than it used to be. That may be because manufacturers are selling milk that they would normally have thrown away. Or perhaps milk-truck drivers are turning off their refrigeration to save gas. Apparently this hasn't been a problem with organic milk, although much of this is anecdotal. I wouldn't have notice that particular problem anyway, since we always buy our milk straight from the nearby Wright's Dairy Farm. Their milk isn't trucked anywhere! :D


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