Archive for August, 2010|Monthly archive page
When I graduated from college I lived for about a year and a half in an apartment in Rockville, Maryland that was serviced by Pepco. Their prices were wildly extravagant, sometimes above $200, for a 900 square foot apartment that had natural gas cooking and heat.
I almost took them to court when, 6 months after I moved out, they were still sending me bills for a vacant apartment. They attempted to claim that, since I never informed them that my lease had expired and I had moved out, I was still somehow liable for latent electricity used there while I had no longer any contractual involvement in that property. I had proof of lease termination and, in my defense, I had never actually signed up with them in any way to receive bills. They merely began appearing in my mailbox with my name on them. If I never notified them to start billing me, why on earth would I need to notify them to stop?
Ultimately I never bothered suing them because it was $120 and in the amount of time that would have been required to collect evidence and appear in court I would have earned more than ten times that amount at least, so it didn’t seem worth it. When they threatened to take me to collections and drag my credit through the mud I acquiesced and paid them, although not before the one and only time I actually got into a screaming match with a customer service representative. Seriously. This woman on the phone was as angry and beligerent about squeezing me for $120 for Big Brother Pepco as I was about not getting squeezed. It’s pretty rare that you call up a corporation and get yelled at by the representative, but that’s what happened. Her only response to justify how I owed them money was, “that’s our policy.” I don’t care what your policy is. You’re trying to charge me for a service that I can legally prove that I never received. I reminded her that my self-proclaimed policy is to collect $1,000,000 from Pepco annually and I’m still waiting on five years of back checks. Needless to say I demanded to speak to her boss, who of course was “not available.” I got her name and employee ID but I never bothered to follow up on it. I’m sure life will punish her enough without my help.
PEPCO has been providing inferior service to a highly populated area filled with wealthy DC commuters. There are probably more lawyers per capita in this area than anywhere else in the world. Pepco’s prices are high and yet their service still sucks. Literally, every time there’s a stiff wind or even a mild rainstorm, there’s pretty good odds that traffic lights will fail all over the county. Considering we also have one of the worst traffic problems in the nation here, you can imagine the mayhem this causes. The Montgomery county policy are, of course, nowhere to be seen at busy intersections with delayed greens in all directions. It’s total chaos.
When I lived in my apartment serviced by these assholes, on multiple occasions I lost power for hours or once days. Even though I had gas heating the blowers that draw the hot air in are electric and when the power is out the heat barely functions. I had a gas fireplace which requires electric ignition which does not function without electricity. I actually had to leave my apartment once when Pepco decided to fail to power my entire street for 12 hours in the middle of January.
I subsequently moved to an extremely rural area near West Virginia in the mountains, the kind of place where you’d expect the infrastructure to be awful and the kind of place you’d expect to experience problems like power outages. In the 3 years I’ve lived out there, I’ve only lost power once and it was at 11:00pm and lasted until about 1:00am. Even during the massive blizzard that hit us in 2010 we didn’t lose power at all. I am now serviced by Alleghany Power, which is based on Pennsylvania coal, I believe. My in-laws who are serviced by Pepco lost power for 2 days during the Blizzard. I bet that was fun for them.
Today, our facilities management sent a message to our office that reads:
The PEPCO Energy Services rating for today is RED which means that based on current conditions with anticipated high temperatures and high humidity, we should make every effort to cutback on our energy usage especially during the peak hours of 2:00PM – 7:00PM. Curtailing our usage will help PEPCO avoid having to employ rolling “brownouts” or voltage reductions in order to meet customer demand. Voltage reductions can impact on all electrical equipment in the building.
We ask that you partner with us by asking your employees to take a few easy steps to help reduce our energy use:
- Keep window blinds lowered or closed to reduce the heat load in individual offices as well as on the building.
- Turn off non-essential lighting especially in unoccupied offices, conference rooms and in storage areas.
- Remember to turn off office lights when leaving for 30 minutes or longer.
- Turn off office equipment where possible.
We thank you for your continued cooperation and for helping us keep our energy use down.
Absolutely ridiculous. God forbid we expect to actually receive a business-critical service for which I’m certain we pay through the nose.
Pepco is a total piece of shit company. If you own stock or a mutual fund that owns stock, sell it. If you are serviced by Pepco, move. One of my coworkers is so fedup with Pepco that he runs his Prius in his driveway to avoid paying them more than he has to. This is an electricity company for christ’s sake. We have a right to expect and demand better.
My father-in-law works in the radio business and spends a lot of time setting up high-end recording and audio systems in professional environments. He comes into contact rather frequently with a rare breed of douchebag known as the “audiophile.”
The audiophile is a dweeb who likes to believe that his ears are superior to yours, and therefore, much like an expert wine taster or one of those people in the movie Hannibal who can smell a piece of stationary and identify every constituent of the hand cream used by the guy who wrote it, his heightened ability to sense makes his taste in that which he senses patently better than yours. When an audiophile says something sounds good, you’d better take his word for it! He’s an audiophile, after all!
The qualification for being an audiophile is, despite what you may believe, not that your ears are better than everyone else’s. No, rather the qualification is that you’re an arrogant twatwaffle who doesn’t have anything else substantial or objective with which you could prove your superiority over the common man so you arbitrarily decided to invent a heightened sense that is difficult to disprove.
Except that it isn’t all that hard.
One of the telltale signs that you’re dealing with a moronic audiophile is when he extolls the virtues of gold cables. You see, for the audiophile, mere copper simply will not dowhen it comes to transmitting sound data from a source to a speaker. The audiophile’s ears are so much better than yours that they can tell the difference between gold cables and copper cables.
Of course, the statistics have shown that in blind tests, these so-called audiophiles consistently and unilaterally fail to identify which cables are copper and which are gold with a greater success rate than you’d get by always saying gold or always saying copper (i.e., randomly guessing).
In case I forgot to mention, naturally, all audiophiles hate CDs and love LPs, because clearly LPs sound better. Right.
LPs aren’t quite as trendy as they used to be. Don’t get me wrong, they’re still super trendy. If you’re a douche who listens to LPs, don’t worry, your position as a trendy douche is not in jeopardy. Now that digital music is ubiquitous and MP3 players reign supreme, audiophiles too have caught up. As if the gold/copper idiocy wasn’t idiotic enough, recently, this dickweed, Malcom Stewart, managed to take self-inflicted embarassment to an entirely new plateau of fail.
This guy actually wants us to believe that a cable that links your hard drive to your motherboard impacts the sound quality of an MP3. Seriously.
This story was linked by Slashdot which was no less harsh than I’m about to be. Upon being Slashdotted, he immediately disabled comments on his post, most likely because a hoard of people jumped on him for being a total imbecile who does not understand how technology works in the slightest bit and has essentially proven that his magical audiophile ears are a figment of his imagination. Yes, his credibility is shot indeed.
Every logical thought was telling me that the wires that transmit the raw digital data between a hard disk and the motherboard in a NAS simply could not influence the sound that emerged from the player – after the music has already subsequently passed through metres of CAT5.But they do.
If this short piece of writing isn’t indicative of why human beings can end up so spectacularly and consistently wrong about everything, I don’t know what is.
Another way of phrasing this sentiment might be like this:
Despite every objective truth that I know to be true about how technology works, and despite the fact that I know quite provably that I am completely wrong, I am going to continue to believe that when the data moves through these expensive cables, I am capable of telling the difference in sound quality.
Or, in brief:
I don’t believe even what I know to be true.
There you have it, folks. Delusion, the human condition.
I listened to the cables in my NAS feeding my Naim HDX/DAC/XPS and clearly identified easily perceptible improvements through my highly revealing active Naim DBL system. Quite what it is that wrought these improvements I do not know. My only guess is that the Super SATAs reject interference significantly better than the standard cables and in so doing lower the noise floor revealing greater low-level musical detail and presentational improvements in the soundstage and the ‘air’ around instruments.
You sad fool.
One of my father in law’s greatest arguments against the audiophile’s gold-cables-are-better myth is the fact that unless you were to transmit the sound through only gold through every single stage of the process from the time the signal came from the device (e.g., the record or CD), then it’s not really gold. As Mr. Stewart himself admits when he talks about how his music already came through miles of CAT5 cable, which is certainly not as immune to “interference” as he puts it as his expensive SATA cables, the quality of the signal is only as good as the weakest link in the transmission. In the gold vs. copper debate, no amplifiers use gold internally, no record players use gold internally, no CD players use gold internally, so from the minute they leave the source the signal has already gone through a length of copper.
Now, of course, one might argue – and many do – that the very short lengths of copper that the signal passes through is not an issue, and that it’s only when a great length of copper is used that it matters – fidelity is a function of time spent on the medium. Fair enough.
But in this debate, we’re not talking about an analog signal. We’re talking about a digital format. That means 1′s and 0′s in a fixed sequence.
When, pray tell, was the last time you experienced data corruption on your PC and the culrpit could be identified as a somehow faulty SATA cable?!
If one single bit gets flipped in something like explorer.exe (your Windows shell), or iexplore.exe (your web browser) when it is copied from your hard disk to your motherboard via the SATA cable, you have a very high chance that your system will crash. A single bit in an integer is the difference between a value of 4 billion and 2 billion.
SATA cables have an essentially 100% success rate when it comes to transferring bits from your hard disk to your mother board. Therefore, it is patently impossible for one SATA cable to produce an inferior sound quality than another one.
It’s been a while since I studied electromagnetism so I may have some facts mixed here, but the only way it is even remotely possible – and we’re talking extremely remotely here – is if the magnetic induction produced by the current through your SATA cable somehow produced a current in the cable exiting your soundcard to your speakers and that current altered the analog audio signal. Even if that were possible – and given the amperage passing through a typical SATA cable I believe the field of induction would be extremely tiny – it is highly unlikely that a person would be able to notice it. And it is also equally unlikely that such induction could possibly affect only an analog audio signal exiting your soundcard while also not interfering with the normal function of every other electronic component in your PC system.
But these aren’t facts unknown to Mr. Stewart. He knows that his assertion cannot possibly be true, yet he worked up the energy to not only ignore the facts but also write a blog post in which he publicly denies the facts and at the same time recommends that you go buy expensive shielded SATA cables so that, according to him, the same sequence of 0′s and 1′s representing your MP3 file on your hard disk can be made somehow better by spending more money on a product that functions in exactly the same way.
Mr. Malcom doesn’t welcome your commentary on this issue or mine. His words:
I have disabled Comments on this post so that respectable visitors do not have to read the remarks made by a small number of extremely ignorant, rude, malicious and disingenuous individuals who cannot tolerate people expressing opinions that do not concur with their own.
It should come as no great surprise that Pelosi has, in what could very well be her twilight months as a congresswoman, decided to make a hail mary play to get reelected: convince the representatives of 49 other states to vote their constituents’ tax dollars into California’s coffers.
If this bill passes… well, it can’t pass. It’s grossly unconstitutional. Grossly. For anyone to even suggest that federal tax dollars be redirected directly into California’s coffers demonstrates that person’s – in this case Nancy Pelosi’s - complete ignorance or, more likely disregard, for the very concept of a federation of independent states – or in other words, the structure of our nation.
If I’m going to be financing California’s state programs, then I must be allowed to vote for them.
I doubt this bill will ever go anywhere. In early 2008, Pelosi might have been able to gain some traction. That was when her house democrats still followed her every command. But can you imagine a representative of any one of a number of states with a budget surplus being asked why he voted for residents of his state to bailout the state government of a different state over which they, the voters, have no control?
This vote is as toxic as it comes. If your house representative even thinks too hard about voting yes for a bill like the one Pelosi’s trying to push, it is your duty as an American citizen to reject it at face. Even if you agree with Pelosi’s proclaimed motives – “Think about the children! We’ll have to fire teachers!!” – this is not the way to accomplish those goals. States – and their residents – must be held accountable for their own voting policies. Otherwise, why wouldn’t a state like California feel free to spend, spend, spend to make their state a shining paragon of socialistic nonsense with such attractive services as free public transportation, free community college, free universities, free everything, knowing full well that as soon as their coffers run dry they can just pass more federal legislation to rob the coffers of states like Nevada and Utah and Wyoming and Montana? Whose coffers are still full because they exercise fiscal restraint?
This is ridiculous. I can’t believe anyone is dumb enough to elect someone like Nancy Pelosi but then again, look at California. They’re bankrupt. Goes to figure.
California’s budget crisis didn’t just happen. It happened because the people in charge of the money made egregious judgments in error and now they must pay for them, and so must the people – the voters – who enabled these morons to spend their money unwisely on their behalf.
I’m not going to bail California out. I’m not bold enough to rebel by not paying taxes. That will just end me in jail. I’ll rebel using the only civic authority I have – the right to vote for someone who won’t vote my money into other states. I strongly suggest everyone else does the same. Otherwise you’re as un-American as Nancy Pelosi.