Sprint Misplaced A Decimal Point

sprintlogoMy father had an interesting story about what happened to him this past weekend after making an electronic payment of $49.99 USD to Sprint for his cellphone bill. When he checked his checking account, he owed the bank $23,000 USD for covering a $49,990 USD overdraft by Sprint. He jawbones Sprint to get his money back. Now he’s arguing with the bank over a $30 USD overdraft charge for the regular phone bill that came in while his checking account was in the red. Bad enough that Sprint misplaced a decimal point, but why did the bank accept such an outrageous amount in the first place?

Updated 29 February 2007: Sprint still wants $49,990 USD from my father’s checking account by charging him for a second time. After another jawboning phone call where he got put on hold for a short 47 minutes before getting his money back, the bank was kind enough to let my father put a stop payment on the electronic payment without charging him for it. No wonder The New York Times is reporting that Sprint posted a $29.5 billion lost for the quarter. Senior citizens like my father won’t let them keep the extra change. The only reason why I don’t have problems with my Sprint account is that I still write paper checks for the utilities.

The Horror of Video Cam Movies

The newest trend in monster movies is where the handheld video camera (or, “cam”) plays a larger role than the no-name stars or even the monsters. Two recent movies, “Cloverfield” and “George A. Romero’s Diary of The Dead,” illustrate this trend. Home amateurs, college students at film schools, and professional filmmakers will imitate both movies, looking to ride the newest trend. The horror comes not from the current movies but from the new movies that will appear in the future to exploit this troubling trend.

CLOVERFIELD

Cloverfield“Cloverfield” is a retelling of the classic monster-trashing-the-big-city formula from the perspective of a single video cam that recorded a dating relationship getting hot from a month earlier before it gets recorded over during a going away party where the dating relationship has gone cold. If the sound system at the theater wasn’t set to extra loud, I might have snooze through this soap opera. No one cared about the poor smuck getting ditched and then rescuing the girl who ditched him. When the monster and baby monsters are finally shown, we don’t see them for long. This movie is about the horrors of lost love, not a monster destroying a city.

The highlights includes the head of the Statue of Liberty rolling down the street like a bowling ball, where the harden citizens of New York City whipped out their cellphone to take pictures; a collapsed building that sends a 9/11-inspired wall of dust down the concrete canyons; and a subway station being shaken by the monster fighting the military on the streets above.  Since only one video cam recorded everything, the ending lacks the context to tie the story into the real world and the viewers are left struggling to find meaning in what they saw. If that wasn’t bad enough, an excellent sound track played during the credits was the best part of this movie.

DIARY OF THE DEAD

Diary of Dead Movie Poster“George A. Romero’s Diary of The Dead” will become a cult classic for flawlessly executing the making of an internet movie called “The Death of Death” that documents the zombie outbreak as recorded by a group of film making students with two video cams, and edited to include video from other video cams, wireless surveillance cameras, cell phone cameras, and stuff downloaded the from the Internet to provide a larger context to the real world (i.e., some of the video was stock footage taken during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans).

The highlights includes an actress questioning the conventional horror movie formula of a scream queen running in her high heels in the middle of nowhere to have the monster grab her nightgown and show off her breasts (which does happen to her later on when the cameraman forgets he’s making a documentary); exploding eyeballs when a pair of defibrillator paddles gets applied to a zombie’s head in a hospital; and an old Amish man who commits suicide by ramming his scythe into his head and the head of the zombie behind him. Romero is holding a contest for the best three-minute short video to win an appearance on the DVD release.

And the horror begins.

The Plant

The Plant Shopping CenterMy father’s first construction job after moving my mother and brother from Idaho in the early 1950’s was at the General Electric Motor Plant on Curtner Avenue and Monterey Road in San Jose. When the company he worked for kept him standing around doing nothing, he quit his job after two weeks because he wanted to work. (That didn’t please my mother since she wanted to spend his paycheck whether he worked or not.) General Electric eventually shut down the plant some years ago and a real estate developer turned it into a new shopping called The Plant (which reminds me of a Stephen King story by the same name). I went there to check out the new stores and marvel at a piece of family history.

I got a ten-dollar gift card from OfficeMax to use at their new store at The Plant. Much of the shopping center is still under construction. Only the big box stores—OfficeMax, Target, Toy “R” Us, Best Buy and Pet Smart—were opened. From the distinctive orange paint on the largest building, I suspect Home Depot will open soon. I keep wondering how many Home Depots one area can support with the real estate market tanking from the sub-prime mess.

Or, if you want a real brain teaser, why does every shopping center has a nail saloon?

I guess people still have money to burn in Silicon Valley. I certainly don’t. I stayed out of Target as I usually spend a hundred bucks whenever I go in, I didn’t need another DVD from Best Buy, and I’m sure I would have gotten something for my tropical fishes if I went into Pet Smart. The OfficeMax store was nice, clean and better organized than their typical store. I got a box of envelopes and a few other items that came to twenty bucks after I used the gift card. I may come here in the future, as this particular store is a short freeway hop from my home.

The Blog Is Dead, Long Live the Blog!

I started my website ten years ago on Geocities as a showcase for my crazy talents as a video game designer while working as a video game tester at Accolade/Infogrames/Atari (same company, different owners, multiple identity crises) for six years. Alas, that didn’t happen. Working in the video game industry sucked the life out of me, my ambition at being a video game designer went nowhere, and the Quake 2 deathmatch map I worked on for years became a sprawling mess.

After I got a UNIX account at an Internet provider in 1999, I moved my website over, started honing my skills in HTML and CSS to build better web pages, and started posting personal observations on a irregular basis.  I later moved the website to its own domain five years ago, creating a new website from scratch using LAMP (Linux/Apache/MySQL/PHP), added pictures, reviews and other content, and eventually renamed the website to Once Upon An Albatross… after a Wildcat! BBS I ran back in 1995 before something called the Internet became popular.

What I’ve been doing with the website in recent years is known as blogging. I never accepted the term or embraced the technology. My website has always been a reflection of whatever was going on in my life. With my new long-term focus of becoming a writer, I’m embracing blogging to expand my writing skills and focus less on maintaining a rickety website that I programmed.

I started looking into content management systems (CMS) that I could use as a replacement for my website.  Most of my coworkers mentioned Joomla! as a good CMS to try. After playing around with it for a few days, I picked up “Joomla! A User’s Guide: Building A Successful Joomla! Powered Website” by Barrie M. North from the bookstore, and spent an afternoon creating a bare bone website with recent content.

Converting ten years of content will take a while. I’m hoping to wrap that up in several months. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to blog away and make changes where necessary to improve the new website. A commenting system for the postings will be available soon. (This was a feature that I wanted to program into the old website but never had the time to implement.) I might create a custom template design to replace the template I’m using now later this year.