scott bradford off on a tangentskip to the menu bar

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Hello and welcome to 'off on a tangent', my entire life in the form of a website. I'm Scott Bradford and since 1995 I've had a personal web presence, growing through each iteration to eventually become the central information pool that you see here today. Pretty much everything there is to know about me is somewhere on this site, not to mention just about every artistic endeavor I've ever persued. So check it out, and hopefully you'll find something that you like. Whether you do or not, drop me a message and let me know what you thought :-)


life & news blog
posted August 28, 2003 at 6:45 PM
Cox doesn't show, AGAIN! school, etc. (life)

Well today was when Cox was supposed to show up to rig up the TV in my roomies' room with cable... Harish was here for the whole range of times, and AGAIN they didn't show up!

So I get another $20 credit, which is good, but I'm also really pissed that they haven't done what they were supposed to do.

So, screw 'em. The cable system up here is a lot more open than it used to be, they don't even require cable boxes anymore (unless you get pay per view and stuff) and you can have unlimited TV's hooked up (just paying for them to wire anything they need to wire and for any boxes for non-cable-ready TV's).

Well my TV is rigged with a box even though it doesn't need one, and the roomies' TV needs a box. So I'm going to move the box to their room and buy a splitter and a long enough cable. It'll save me the trouble, and since I've made a $40 profit from Cox's tardiness I can spend up to that amount (and not have to pay the $20 installation fee either).

Today was the 2nd day of school for me (I'm on a Tue/Thu schedule). Tonight is the only class I haven't been to yet. So far most everything seems okay, though I'm not impressed with the curriculum for Comm303 (Writing Across the Media). It's a crappy intro course, oddly enough.

My biggest gripe though is that they want me to write in according to AP style, and the AP style is a piece of crap. So now they're going to get all these wrong ideas about writing and grammar into my head and it'll screw me up when I'm writing fiction.

For example, the last comma is left out of a list in AP style. So in AP style, it would be, "Look at all those chickens, rabbits and cows."

I don't care what AP says, there should be a comma after rabbits. It's not required grammatically, but it is considered "preferred" and both "The Elements of Style" (aka The Writer's Bible) and Stephen King say I should put the durn comma there.

Furthermore, AP has all sorts of bizarre abbreviations for states and other strange rules. I don't like it one bit.

And once I get into the habit of writing something a certain way. Like all you AIM fools who made me combine "all right" into "alright", which is -- according to my dictionary -- "...a nonstandard variant of 'all right.'"

But I use it, improperly, all the time because it became habit! Grr!

Anyway, off to class.

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life & news blog
posted August 25, 2003 at 9:15 PM

back to he..... I mean school! and writing stuff (life)

Tomorrow is school.

I am tired of school.

Actually right now, I'm tired all around. I haven't gotten really sick yet, but I'm still not feeling particularly great.

Hopefully I'll be alright tomorrow. I'll be 'educated' on-and-off from 9:00am to 10:30pm. That's the downside of taking 18 credit hours in the semester, but I'm desperate to get done on time.

I'm dedicating most of my free time right now to writing research (and a little bit of actual writing too). I got the 2003 "Novel & Short Story Writer's Market" which lists places to get stuff published. I've worked out a list and will be submitting some of my material to a number of places.

I'll let you know if any of them print things :-)

I've also sent for a free 2-month subscription to Writer's Digest (which is only $20/year after that). Hopefully before too long I'll have a couple of short stories in print OTHER than on my website, haha, and in typical chicken-or-the-egg fashion, being published makes it easier to get published.

So we'll see what happens. Following Stephen King's advice, I'm going to try to get into the habit of writing fiction daily. I can't promise anything - it's hard enough to do front page rants occasionally with all this work and school stuff - but I will try. Also following his advice, once I get all this stuff in order I'm going to start relentlessly pushing to get my work published.

Anywho, enough for now. I need to get some sleep!

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life & news blog
posted August 24, 2003 at 3:12 PM

singing in church, and school-starting-sickness (life)

After all the Cox chaos yesterday, today was the big day for Melissa, Alicia, and me to perform "Turn! Turn! Turn!" at church. Things went pretty well I think.

Melissa was on piano, I was on bass and vocals, and Alicia was on vocals.

After church and lunch though, I started feeling a little under-the-weather. I'm starting to think that I'm either allergic to George Mason University, Corp., or that its teeming with bacteria and viruses.

Whichever the reason, when I start spending time at the place I start getting sick. It's very unpleasant, and all the more reason for me to be glad I'm almost done with it.

Here's to the hopefully-impending end!

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front page rant
posted August 16, 2003

There is little quite so annoying as not getting your money's worth, and for me this is most evident when I talk about the services I pay for monthly. For example, if you're paying for an internet service and their servers are screwed up for a few days. Or if you're paying for phone service but a wire to your complex were to get cut and take a day to fix. Etc., and so on.

Now if you buy a product - like, say a computer - and it doesn't work up to the standard advertised, it is typical that during a warranty period you can return it and get a functioning product or perhaps your money back. Standard company warranties are the length of time that the company is reasonably confident that their product should continue to function - you know this when you buy the product - so it's pretty fair that it's not their problem if your hard drive fails a day after the warranty runs out.

But when we talk about services, there is no warranty period because there is no physical product that you can hold in your hand and that could eventually fail. Instead, there is a monthly, quarterly, or yearly fee that you pay them in exchange for a reasonable guarantee that they'll provide whatever it is you're paying for. It's their job to make sure that whatever service they are providing makes it to you, the loyal and paying customer.

But what happens when a service provider fails to do their job? Well if you've ever experienced a power outage, a cable outage, or an internet access outage you know exactly what happens. Sooner or later they get around to fixing it, and your monthly bill comes as usual with the normal monthly rate.

What else could happen, right?

Cox High Speed Internet access is $54.95 per month. I have this service in my apartment, and the cost is split between the three people who live here. In exchange for a monthly check in the amount of $54.95, Cox Communications agrees to provide me and my roommates with high speed internet access. I see this as a contract - I give them something, they give me something in return. When they do not live up to their side of the deal, I don't see why I should have to live up to mine.

The approximate daily cost of Cox High Speed Internet is about $1.80, and if the Cox DNS servers are so screwed up that I can't so much as log into AOL Instant Messenger for two days straight, it seems that the cost of 2 days of internet should be deducted from my bill. Instead of $54.95, my bill for that month should only have been $51.35 - $3.60 less than usual, as I was not provided with service for two days at the daily cost mentioned earlier.

Now this isn't a legal requirement. Anybody who reads License Agreements with online services, subscriber agreements with cable companies, etc., is well aware that they are laden with legalese loopholes. "Prices subject to change," is a popular one, "We reserve the right to change the contents of this agreement at any time," is another. Since we consumers are supposed to have read these things, companies don't necessarily have to be fair with us.

That doesn't mean they shouldn't be.

What companies don't seem to realize is that it's in their best interest to be fair, no matter what legal mumbo-jumbo they've hoodwinked their subscribers into agreeing with. When I signed up with Hypermart web hosting, server-parsed HTML files that allowed server side includes were a part of the deal. I was told that I would have reliable, consistent hosting services. But they decided seemingly on a whim to move all their customers to a new server (screwing up CGI paths and stuff), and entirely disabling some of their services - server-parsed HTML and telnet access among others - that were a part of the deal that I was paying $100/year to get.

Forgive the techie gibberish, the point is that they didn't break any laws when they changed these things on me - they have the same agreements that any other service has. But they did break my trust, and they've lost a loyal, paying customer in return. Trust will help get you more business, and a lack of it will help you lose it.

Hypermart could have saved my trust even with having changed their servers. It would have been a huge hassle to get everything back in working condition on my website, but I would've done it rather than switch to a competitor if they had warned me that there were likely to be problems with the change, and more importantly refunded me a fair amount for the hassle. Maybe a free month of service, maybe $10 off the next bill, I don't care how they did it but the effort would have gone a long way.

This is what northeast power companies ought to be doing on their customers' next bill after subjecting them to the largest blackout in United States history. Yeah, I know, you get billed for electricity in the amount that you use and so people's bills are already going to be lower because they weren't using any electricity during the outage - duh. But still, even a token $5 refund would probably make people feel a lot better about the trouble that this recent incompetence has put them through.

But nothing can be a substitute for reliable, trustworthy service. The power companies in the United States know the electrical grid is a fickle load of 1960's technology, and yet they've put minimal to no effort into improving it. It's going to take more than a $5 refund (which people probably won't get anyway) to make people like the power companies now, it's going to take some time, money, and effort. But the return will probably benefit them in the long run.

I'm currently reading a book titled The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by my favorite author, Robert A. Heinlein. This science fiction novel deals with the 2076 revolution on the moon where the residents of our natural satellite - self described Loonies - created the Free Luna Republic. The reason I bring this up is that the fictional Loonies have a wonderful slogan, the essence of which is interwoven into Lunar culture (and into many of Heinlein's novels) - TANSTAAFL.

Much like the chat room jargon of today, TANSTAAFL stands for something - There Ain't No Such Thing As a Free Lunch.

In other words, you have to pay for what you get. Every benefit comes with a cost. For us consumers, this means that for every product or service we receive we have to pay for it somehow - whether it be in cash, credit, or in clicking some advertisements on a website. But the principle of TANSTAAFL applies just as much to companies in the opposite way. If they expect to get our hard earned money, they have to provide a product or service that is well worth that money. They have to earn it.

I believe that part of earning that money is an attitude of respect and fairness. I consider respect and fairness to be the paramount responsibilities of any company - not legal responsibilities, but surely ethical ones - just as it is my responsibility to pay for any product or service provided. It is a failure to live up to these paramount responsibilities that explains why this website isn't on Hypermart, why I'm considering changing my internet service provider, and that's why everybody in the northeast should be livid at their power companies.

TANSTAAFL - truly an acronym to live by.

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off on a tangent
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You know, you could spend an eternity trying to figure out the meaning of life. You could perform case studies, and run computer simulations, and examine the issue forever. But after all that effort, all that science and technology put toward that end, you'll just come up with a string of random numbers. That, my friends, proves the point. The meaning of life is that there is no rational meaning of life. Or, as Douglas Adams so ingeniously put it, 42.

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