Author Archive for Eli Senter


On Suicide, Obligation, Family…

I’m flying out of Baltimore in a few hours to travel to icebound NH.  Taking the whole family, booked the flight a few days ago, but I can’t say I’m really excited.  See,  I’m going north to attend the memorial service for my cousin Russell O’Brien.  Sad in and of it self but made sadder still, or maybe just compounded by a greater sense of grief and guilt, because Russell took his own life.

Now Camus convinced me that a man has the right to take his life.  I believe it.  Know that that escape is available eases the burden of the absurd.  If the inherent purposelessness of life (in the cosmic and metaphysical sense) becomes unbearable, if the million slings and arrows that flesh is heir to becomes to painful and too much there is always that final and solitary escape.  Knowledge that the pain can always be ended can be the thing that makes pain bearable, especially when there is so much purpose (earthly, tangible, physical) written write into life, down to the smallest measure.

I can’t blame Russell.  He left us.  He wasn’t beholden to those left behind.  He didn’t owe us, his family, friends, colleagues anything.  Certainly not his life.  Not his suffering.  Don’t discount that.  One can never know the contents of another’s heart, the depths of his solitude and pain.  He didn’t owe us any debt so great that he was required to carry on.  He didn’t have to stay.  In the end he didn’t.  We had no hold on him.

He didn’t owe us, but I wish he hadn’t gone.  I feel we owed him.  We owed it to him to let him know that we wanted him around.  To let him know how much his continued presence was worth.  To let him know that he had folks to turn to.  Kith and kin and home and hope.  We owed it to him to let him know that he always, always had a place to turn.  That no situation was so desolate that there wasn’t hope.  That was what we owed Russell if we wanted him to stay.  That was the price.  Now we pay a different price.

I’m not trying to assign or accept blame here.  That’s not the point.  What we owe each other, always, everyday.  If we want to ensure the continued presence of those we love, of those we hold dear.  If we want to be assured of seeing that familiar face at the next wedding, the next christmas.  Our obligation, if we want that, is to make sure that no one we love, no one we’ll miss, becomes so lonely, so hopeless, so desolate,  that the deprive us of their company forever.

Russ didn’t owe us his life.  We owed him.  We owed him every expression of caring and reassurance that might have saved his life, given it sufficient meaning, sufficient value that he fought down the hoplessness, the absurdity, and the desolation, and stuck around to embrace one more time, then another, until things weren’t so desolate anymore and he could go on.

Russ is gone now.  We don’t owe him anymore, and even if we did we could never repay.  But we can pay that debt forward with everyone else.  That was why I rushed to buy a ticket to the tundra.  We can come together and settle that obligation to each other.  Every day, leave no one you love, no one you value in doubt as to their importance in the scheme of things.  Fix their value in your heart.  Fix their value in their heart.  Don’t wait until tomorrow.  Our tomorrows may be shockingly limited.  Tell them now. Embrace them now.


Further adventures in corporate indifference and stupidity.

Transcript of  my chat with an AT&T ‘sales’ rep below.  I tried to by a Refurbed Smartphone today to cut into the cost of having to upgrade without the benefit of the rebate.  They really don’t want to take the extra $30 a month.  Brilliant.

Chat InformationThank you for your patience! An AT&T sales representative will be with you shortly.

Chat InformationYou are now chatting with Keiera, an AT&T sales representative.

Keiera: Welcome to AT&T online Sales support.  How may I assist you with placing your order today?

Keiera: Hello, I am happy to help you today.

Eli: Hi Kiera.  I just bought a quickfire from a Portables store and updated my contract with them, then work decided they wanted me to upgrade to a dataphone.  I was thinking I wanted to pick up a palm or a refurbed blackberry and upgrade to data service… can you help out with that?

Eli: Sorry I dropped that e in your name.

Keiera: Is this plan under a business account?

Eli: nope. personal account 443-621-0527

Keiera: Have you already upgraded this account?

Eli: To data/smartphone?  No

Eli: We did add unlimited text to my phone and my wife’s

Keiera: To upgrade (replace) your phone, please log into your account using the “My Account” button and choose “Check Upgrade Options”.  When a new phone is available for your account, an “Upgrade phone“ link will display in the list below.  Follow the directions to complete your upgrade online.


Eli: I’m fairly sure I won’t be eligible…

Keiera: If you are not eligible, you can go into the AT&T retail store and purchase the phone there.

Eli: What about this “No commitment pricing” I’m seeing on the website?

Keiera: This is the price you will pay in the AT&T retail store.

Eli: OK. Do they sell refurbs at the store?

Keiera: I do not have information on the stores inventory.

Eli: Well can I buy a refurb phone online?

Keiera: We do not sell the Phones, PDA’s or PC Cards online without a rate plan.  The online promotions and discounts are only for brand new activations (new accounts, or additional lines on an existing account), or customers eligible for an Upgrade (replacement) and willing to renew their contract.  To buy the device-only, you will want to visit one of our stores to do so at their retail price.

Eli: So you can’t pay the phones at the no commitment price as displayed on your site?

Keiera: Unfortunately no, you will need to do this at the retail store.

Eli: But you don’t know if they sell refurbed phones in the local stores.

Keiera: As far as I know there are no refurb phones sold in most retail stores but I do not have information on their inventory.

Eli: So the website that shows refurb phones with not commitment pricing is pretty misleading isn’t it.

Keiera: It will be the same as the new phones price.

Eli: Wow. That was a total waste of my time.

Eli: Not your fault mind you, but frustrating none the less.

Keiera: I understand your frustration, is there anything else I can help you with today?

Eli: I don’t reckon so.

Keiera: Thank you for choosing AT&T.  Have a great day


Further adventures in dealing with corporate ‘customer service’

I recently purchased a quickfire from Portables in Marley Station Mall, Glen Burnie MD.  Not only does the phone suck (touch screen you have to positively pound on, zero functionality in the Calls list, and crummy transitions between the keyboard and screen only modes) but work recently offered to cover a data plan, so I wanted to upgrade to a blackberry bold.  Swell, right?  You’d think these geniuses would want the upsell, but no, not really.  The jerk at the counter when I came in to talk about an exchange was…how can I say this nicely… not customer service oriented.  First he told me that if I didn’t have the box (which had to be cut apart to send the damn UPC for the rebate) he would have to charge me $25.  And If I didn’t have the charger he’d have to charge me $25.  If I didn’t have the manual her’d have to charge me $25.  Brilliant.  $25 for a cutup cardboard box with no remaining function.

And the charming counterboy had the audacity to reprimand my two year old for touching the paper christmas owner on the counter.  Actually snatched it from her hand. If he’d touched her it might have cost him a hand and a few teeth.

I’d like to contact management, but the only number available is for the store. And these charming affiliates of ATT don’t seem to have a website.  Or a grownup working in the store.  And AT&T doesn’t seem to have an actual customer service POC.  Looks like I’ll be finding a way to contact AT&T Vice Presidents.

P.S.  The ATT customer forums ban the words jerk and damn.   Really?


Awakening from a long nightmare I’m afraid to go back to sleep.

Eight years ago I was in Mexico watching CNN.  They announced that Al Gore was president.  I went to sleep knowing that the candidate I preferred (yes even though libertarians may claim otherwise they do have preferences) would be president for at least four years.  When I woke the next morning George W had been crowned king.  Eight nightmarish years followed.

Today I voted as Richard Pryor suggested, “None of the above.”  But I did have a preference.  When it comes right down to it, when CNN announced that Obama was president-elect, I was relieved.  A long nightmare is ending.  A new one may begin tomorrow.  But for the moment I’m afraid to sleep, for fear that the results will change overnight.

Congratulations, Senator Obama.  Good luck America.  Hopefully in the morning the results will remain the same.


SoundExchange and the Copywrong crowd open Pandora’s box and kill the goose laying golden eggs…

So, as a geek, I’m almost ashamed to admit that I just discovered Pandora.  I’m picky about music.  I rarely buy albums,  I just don’t like much music.  Lyrics have to have a story, the politics have to resonate, the music has to be simple and elegant but catchy. Or it has to be fun and silly. Mostly I’d rather listen to NPR, or a book I don’t have time to read. Before Pandora I probably bought on album in the last four years.  It was “A Date with John Waters.”  In the same period my wife bought the Juno soundtrack. Because my 2 year old heard the theme on NPR and said “Again mommy!”

We don’t buy music.  We don’t steal it either.  I really don’t even understand who has the spare time for that.

But, (are you listening Recording Barons?)  I’ve purchased 5 albums in the a month and a half of listening to Pandora.  Are you listening recording artists?  Pandora did what web tech does best. It linked me up with shit I like.

Wake up recording industry.  You couldn’t pay for the kind of advertising Pandora paid you for.

Wake up recording artists.  SoundExchange and the copyright board are not your side.  They are parasites.  They are interested in their profits, not yours.  They are interested in their power, not your careers.

Morons.  The lot of you.

Go ahead kill the goose.


The Slightly Less Offensive Fascist Party, FKA The Party of Principal

I got an email from the LP today talking about the results of this year’s convention.  I’m saddened by the presidential ticket, disgusted by the gutted platform, and dismayed at what having a party has done to the movement.

Self identified libertarians are becoming less libertarian.  I believe this is, in no small part, caused by the political compromises vocal party members have tried to make over the years in failed attempts to win politically.

I’m convinced that liberty must be won culturally, socially, and personally.  It’s one thing to support Ron Paul as a liberty opposition candidate in a fascist party.  It is another thing entirely to associate the Party formerly known as “The Party of Principle”  with Fascist candidates.  The first is a successful tactic in  a cultural battle for the zeitgeist.  The second if a doomed-to-failure, ass-backword technique at best, and a terrible betrayal at best.  This year I won’t be voting for a president.  It’ll only encourage them.    I will mourn the passing of the Libertarian Party.  And hope these goobs choose a more accurate name, like SLOF, or the Tennis shoe on your neck Party.

I sent them this email in response to their Plea for Cash:

Take me off your list.  I'm no longer interested in
associating with a party willing to select non
libertarians as candidates.  Libertarianism is about
liberty, it has a guiding moral Principal in ZAP. 
Since you've chosen to stray from the principal I'll
stray from the party.  Hopfully you'll choose a new
name soon, like the Slightly Less Offensive Facists.

In short:


I am Paint.

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