Friday, January 22, 2010


Place: Qdoba
Lunch: 3 tacos, Chicken Mexican Gumbo, Dr. Pepper

Three days in Texas and NOT ONE FREAKING TACO. OR bowl of Chili, now that I think about it.

I flew to Austin on Tuesday on business and returned last night. After three days of walking downtown in warm non-coat weather, returning to see my car completely encased in a thick layer of ice (we're talking a good quarter inch) was sort of ironic.

Austin was a bit of a surprise to me. I realize "Austin City Limits" is shot there, but didn't fully comprehend just how music rooted that town is. Downtown (which is all I saw) is a very lively scene even late into the night. It's probably harder to find a restaurant without a stage than one with. And most of the downtown restaurants are very nice non-chain establishments with absurd menus some might think are written in a second language. If they have anything in common, it's the liberal use of goat cheese. I don't think I saw a menu without it. It's like Panera Bread bought all of downtown and speckled it with future concepts.

And just TRY to find a street corner where somebody isn't mumbling "Any spare change?" at you. Nobody carries signs, and they leave you alone immediately after asking, which is nice, but I guess a liberal city in a warm climate just attracts panhandlers. Somebody even publishes a homeless newsletter, which homeless people buy for $.25 and sell to the general public for the $1 face value.

The city is very self-aware of its unique status. There's some sort of group called "Keep Austin Weird" that's dedicated to the city's uniqueness.

I reserve the right to further explore this city in the future.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Price of Convenience

Place: Taco Time
Lunch: 2 crispy beef tacos (no tomato), crispy chicken burrito, Coke

If your local Taco Time has a salsa bar with sour cream ranch dressing, put 1 part dressing in a cup and add 4 parts Taco Time hot sauce. Mix. BEST MEX DIPPING SAUCE EVER.

So I was going to pay my ever-increasing phone/DSL bill online today...which had mysteriously gone up $2.59 (it's amazing how often that 'price for life' guarantee increases in price)...when an additional click button never before there had appeared in the process, demanding me to agree to pay a $1 "convenience fee" for having the audacity to pay my bill online. Next to it is an option to avoid the fee by signing up for auto-pay.

I instead opted to find the address to mail the payment to. I did this specifically because check processing costs far more than online pay. I also intend to change my account settings so they have to mail me a bill every month going forward. In other words, I'm punishing them.

I don't even know why I have a phone. Only two people ever call me, and one of those is a bill collector looking for the person who used to have this number. Neither call me more than once a month or so, and I almost never make any outgoing calls.

This got me thinking about that and wondering if I could get DSL without phone service. I found in a FAQ on the phone company website that you can, and clicked the link. It took me to a page that laid out two options for DSL service...both WITH phone service. It was only when I noticed a small link on that page that I clicked on that I finally got the entire layout of options. I also found out that the "2-year contract" price I took when I set up service would have actually cost me LESS if I HADN'T taken the promotional price.

Mind boggling.

I also decided to check out a local competitor (yes, we actually have one...and it's not the cable company). Their website is equally vague and full of marketing crap designed to point you in the direction they want you to go and hide the more minimal options. But the thing that really capped this experience for me was under their features for DSL...

Free self-installation

They're so gosh-darn nice, they're not going to charge you for plugging the equipment in for yourself.