April 28th, 2009


Signs of crankiness #74

Noticed this one yesterday: when I'm a bit cranky (as I am currently, several days into Sick), I have a lot less tolerance of poor customer service. This manifested twice in quick succession.

First was when I went to exchange our cable box at Comcast: the lady behind the counter tried to refuse to let me do it, on the grounds that I wasn't an "authorized user of the account". I managed to keep my temper, but I could hear how icy my tone got as that conversation went along. (She eventually accepted that yes, I did have a driver's license for the same address and had the same last name as the one on the account, so it was probably okay -- but continued to give me a hard time about not being "authorized".)

Then was buying tires at Costco. The guy behind the counter was reasonably competent and friendly, but trying *way* too damned hard to upsell me. No, I don't want the tires with the 60k mile warranty -- I don't really expect to keep the car that long. No, I don't need V-grade tires, and please stop trying to convince me that my car clearly must require them -- I don't drive 100 MPH, and all they are going to do is degrade my mileage. (As is, I'm not 100% sure that the car really needs H-grade, but it's what the manual calls for.) Please just sell me *these* tires, which you carry, which are much higher-rated in Consumer Reports than the ones you're trying to upsell me to. (And cheaper.) I managed to stay entirely polite that time, but was definitely getting rather exasperated at what I would normally brush off as conventional salesmanship...

As always, xkcd is the source of all wisdom

Yesterday's xkcd strip was about searching in Twitter for "swine flu". In fact, it's proving to be a fine entertainment, and perhaps the first good reason for Twitter's existence that I've found. If you go to twitter.com and type that in as your search term, you'll get a page worth of results, just from the past 20 seconds, and includes tidbits like these:
  • rycepeake if pigs with swine flu mate with birds with bird flu, do we have flying pig flu?

  • Yasminuca Non-pork eating politician wants to call flu "Mexican" to avoid hving constituents SAY swine. http://tinyurl.com/damr7c

  • redfender RT @Moltz BREAKING: "swine flu pandemic" just a ruse to drive hits to CDC web site. Memo tells CDC marketing staff: "Always be porking."
And so on, including lots of tweets that aren't quite so cynical. All in all, Twitter is proving to be an interesting way to probe the collective psyche, and see what people are thinking about...

A politician who recognizes reality -- how unusual

The big news of the hour is that Arlen Spector has declared that he is switching parties. Which on the one hand is remarkable, and on the other is just plain smart -- he's always been something of a centrist, and his chances of survival look higher as a Democrat than as a Republican. It'll be interesting to see if anything changes meaningfully as a result: I suspect he'll be as much of a pain in the Democrats' butt as he's been to the Republicans...

Health update

Since there was some interest in other journals, a quick review:

At the end of the Camelot shindig on Saturday, I came down with A Thing. It hasn't gone away, so I just did a quick visit to the doctor -- that told me pretty much what I already expected, but I figured it would be a good idea to get a sanity-check from someone who knows what she's talking about.

Short version: it appears to be a virus, fairly mild but not entirely trivial. Slight fever, sore throat, some coughing, pretty bad fatigue, mild chills. May still be contagious until the fever completely breaks. She expects that to be well before the weekend, which is good, since that is full of things I'd be really annoyed to miss.

In the meantime, I've asked bess to run dance practice this week -- while I might be able to do so, I suspect that I'm too foggy to do a good job, and I don't want to chance passing this on to folks attending practice. (In exchange, she asked me to take a dozen eggs off her hands, a payment I'm happy to provide.)

So that's pretty much the story. Don't know whether I caught this at Camelot, or had it before then and it just didn't manifest until Saturday night. My apologies to everyone if it turns out that I had it then...

How to have a productive discussion

(Yes, I'm posting a lot today. This is because I don't have enough brain or energy for real work.)

So I was chatting with serakit a while ago, and remarked, as I often do, that my SCA apprenticeship was essentially in productive debate. baron_steffan and I spent a lot of years refining that particular art, of taking a question and working, somewhat together and somewhat in opposition, to explore it thoroughly. We'd always start with each of us arguing a particular viewpoint, but part of the game is keeping yourself open to change. (The platonic ideal of Silverwinging is when we discover that we've entirely switched sides somewhere in the course of the discussion.)

Anyway, her comment to me was, "Somebody really ought to teach a class about that." And after pausing to think about it, I found that it's an interesting idea.

I mean, heaven knows SCAdians like to argue -- we do it all the time, both online and in person. Yet I can't think of ever coming across a single class in *practical* rhetoric: how to argue in ways that actually get things done. I suspect it would be useful.

Of course, it's an enormous topic -- one class couldn't do more than scratch the surface. (Indeed, it's a substantial subset of the topic of my on-again off-again Art of Conversation blog.) But even scratching the surface might well be helpful, if it inspired a few more people with the idea that debate is about more than just winning and losing: that it's about working together to find the best answers.

This is nothing but an ill-formed idea at this point. But I welcome thoughts on it: it sounds like it might be fun and useful to some folks...