Infernal Devices




As faithful followers of this blog know, I've adopted Mark Evanier's "ancient Internet tradition" of using a Campbell's Cream of Mushroom Soup can to symbolize a break in new content.

I don't always owe a hiatus in posts to lack of time, however, except insofar as technological glitches make blogging more time-intensive than it's supposed to be. Sure, I'm a bit of a control freak, and I have a harder time writing than I used to, but once something's written the essential selling point of various blogging platforms is ease and simplicity of virtual publishing — Blogger most of all, which is why I went with Blogger, yet Blogger couldn't be more successful at frustrating me and driving me away if it had tried (which looking at the evidence you would nearly swear it did).

The problems with my chosen platform are only exacerbated (and vice versa) by the fact that Comcast provides a substandard signal to our house, by its own admission. I have no other home-Internet options, and Comcast continues to fail to remedy the issue; my connection is thus at low power when it isn't out completely, which can happen with no notice, making uploading, downloading, and surfing a gamble. After considerable research I finally settled on a gizmo from Virgin Mobile that uses Sprint's 3G network to supply Internet access at $100 for the USB stick and either $10 for a very limited amount of data or $40 for unlimited usage over 30 days.

I'd been warned that getting set up could be a hassle, and it was, although not as big a one as I'd feared or anything worse than I'd been accustomed to through my recent dealings with Comcast, Blogger, Netflix, LaCie, and even (much to my surprise) Apple. The broadband service was steady, if considerably less powerful than cable Internet is when it's working properly, for about a week. I will caution that the software and/or hardware are incredibly touchy; I quickly got used to the device not being recognized and having to restart my computer, which particularly sucks because I'm accustomed to leaving open lots of browser windows, not so I won't forget the addresses (which is what bookmarking or just cut-and-pasting is for) but because I load content when I can to read later since I'm never sure when the Internet connection will be live. One week in, though, the device wasn't connecting me at all to anything other than Virgin Mobile's website, showing me my account and saying that I was indeed connected, leading to more frustrating interactions with customer service — who, albeit with presumably good intentions, added insult to injury by telling me that I was doing all the proper troubleshooting, both intuitively and based on the manual, except for the one thing that ended up working (at least while I was on the phone with them; it's been hit-or-miss since then). When I finally asked for some kind of credit on my 30-day, $40 plan for the days I was without service during this troubleshooting period, the representative literally didn't seem to understand why that was warranted, possibly because for most people this plan is supplemental to standard Internet service they get at home, in the office, at hotels, wherever. I'm going to be paying $40 a month until something better comes along, however, in addition to a monthly fee for a better blogging service than Blogger, and even if money weren't tight I'm not fond of paying something for nothing just on principle.

And so for the times when it's tech and not simply vicissitudes of life keeping me from posting, but possibly then too, I'm replacing the soup can with the above image of Devil Strength Tylenol from Hell that I whipped up for my friend Naomi — without benefit of Illustrator or Photoshop and the like, so it's nothing special — after a reference on one of her blogs; why she posted the image on her other blog, I don't know, but call it cross-promotion. Naomi is, as you'd know if you read about the Nik at Nite meetup in New York back in May, the sister of Rebecca, one of my original blogging buddies in the clique that grew out of our grand fun at the online home of Nikki Stafford, a group that also includes Ashlie, new mother of a lovely baby girl; Teebore, currently counting down to Christmas; and the singular Joan Crawford, who doesn't blog so much these days but still gadflies about the Internet trying to horn in on everyone else's action when she isn't attending Satan's own dinner parties.

Update: The Virgin Mobile doohicky failed completely a few days after this was written; our house has since switched from Comcast to Verizon FIOS (still not trouble-free, but mostly only problematic so far in the area of television and not Internet); my connectivity problems were conclusively traced to my laptop after all, although it took Apple quite a while to make good on rectifying that point going forward — albeit with no recompense in terms of my years of trouble or an apology for essentially blaming me all that time); and, finally, as evidenced by time taken and the headache brought on simply by the hassle of adding this one run-on sentence of a paragraph, Blogger is still a thing of sadistic beauty that only the Marquis himself could love.

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