Yesterday was V-day for me. The long-awaited day in planning since around August or September of last year. What happened around that time you ask? That’s the day I realized that I could get a lot better service at another company for over $20 less than what I was paying at Verizon, and so after my contact ran out on 3/27/10, I switched. Here’s the long and short of it. My Verizon plan used to cost me $55.48 a month, after taxes. With this plan I got 400 minutes of voice calls and 500 text messages, and no data usage at all. Needless to say this was a very bare bones plan I was using. Cut over to Page Plus Cellular. Page Plus has a Talk ‘n Text 1200 plan which gives you 1200 voice call minutes, 1200 text messages, and 50 MB of data usage per month for $29.99, after taxes. All this without a monthly contract. This is because Page Plus is a prepaid wireless company. The plan itself is a “card” you buy each month that puts you on this plan, and you can set it up to buy this “card” automatically each month. One nice side benefit is if you should manage to use up your 1200 of whatever, you can buy a refill card and avoid paying the fee for per minute usage fees. What makes this entire story even stranger is the fact that Page Plus uses Verizon’s towers for their service. Yes, that’s right, their coverage map is the same as Verizon’s, and your Verizon handsets are already setup to work on their service. The only thing that’s required for you to switch is to get the ESN on your phone and give them your account number and pin with Verizon and they can easily port over number and a simple command moves your phone over to their service.

What’s really funny about this whole deal is that Verizon kept calling me to tempt me into buying new phones so I would renew my contract. They would call me and say they could give me a phone free, only the phone they were offering was worse than my current phone. Really? That’s like trying to tempt you out of your Honda Accord with a Geo Metro. One service agent said, “Your phone is more of a full tool, this thing’s more of a toy.” I would then tell them that once my contract ran out I would be switching, told them what Page Plus would give me, and ask them if they could beat it. Generally I was treated to long pauses and a lot of stuttering followed by ended calls. I had one of them actually promise me that they would look into it and call me back, but of course they never did. How typical. So, goodbye Verizon. I won’t miss you and your overpriced service ever again. V-day has come and cellular liberation is here!


Goodbye Miss Ruby

Ruby: 1996 - 2010

Ruby has been in my family for the past 14 years of my life. Right before my freshman year in high school my family and I went looking for a dog. We ended up picking a 6-month old pointer mix from the SPCA. I remember exactly how Ruby was when we first had her in the visiting room in the SPCA with us, how she was wildly wagging her tail, sniffing at us and so excited to be meeting people. We couldn’t not take her home with us after that. Her excitement and friendly nature would define her for the rest of her life, and our first big task in training her would be to get her to stop jumping up on people to smell them, followed by not pulling on her leash in an effort to meet each new person or dog, the latter we never could stop her from doing.

Ruby’s was very similar to a dalmatian, being slightly smaller with her weight being around 45 lbs, with small brown freckled spots covering her white coat in addition to the two large spots she had on one side. Like many other hounds of her type she was very vocal, more likely to make high-pitched yelps and other “talking” sounds instead of barks, the first greeting into my home that visitors had for years, at least until Bailey got her to bark “properly.” Her favorite thing of all was to meet people and to have them pay attention to her. Her tail would soon become the bane of visitors as she would whip it back and forth whenever she was happy, to the detriment of any unlucky shins nearby. And training her to sit and stay was always a struggle when she would sit down and whip that tail of hers like she was cleaning the floor while she sat up so prim and proper, her head held up while her front paws would dance up and down alternating as she would get anxious for her treat. We never did get her to shake hands properly as frustrated plus “give paw” turns into, “flail one paw out wildly until the treat appears.” Her white hairs have also permeated every single piece of fabric in my home. The hairs are short and white and she always seemed to be shedding them, the shape of them almost needle-like, threading themselves into everything and becoming almost impossible to remove.

Ruby was always energetic and playful, and I spent many hours wrestling over ropes and working on that whole fetch concept with her. When it came to walks Ruby always wanted to go ahead of you, and would pull at her leash just a little bit to get where she wanted to be despite all attempts to get her to heel nice and ladylike. She was always good about staying in our yard, except when she wasn’t, and then she would adventure off wherever she pleased. Once she slipped out and when we found her she had walked half of the subdivision away to a nearby church, Bailey following her lead, the pair of them like two misbehaving kids sneaking out.

It seemed like Ruby was destined to stay young forever, strangers mistaking her for a puppy or 1 year old dog until she was past ten years old. But time slowly began to catch up with Ruby. It started with small things, not greeting me or anyone else coming in the house in favor of staying put, no longer wanting to go for walks, and certainly not pulling on the leash. Her arthritis become worse and worse, and in this last year I’ve spent much of that time lifting Ruby up onto high beds and wrapping her in blankets so she can be in her favorite places and stay in the same room as wherever her mama was, her favorite place to be.

Earlier this month we took her to the vet because she had lost a lot of weight. Were informed she had a mass on her spleen. The vet said the mass was most likely cancer but didn’t appear to be spreading, and they couldn’t confirm what it was without an ultrasound, and all that would do would tell us if she had an condition where the only treatment is surgery, something that you shouldn’t put a 14-year-old dog through. So we took her home and were given antibiotics, in case it wasn’t cancer, and were advised to give her a little extra pain medication if she needed it. We tried switching her to wet Beneful meals instead of the dry dog food she’d lived her life on and that seemed to convince her to eat more, and she ate up her new food with gusto, and put on 5 pounds in a few weeks, and with her added weight seemed to be doing better and getting along fine and comfortably.

But last night on Valentine’s Day she suddenly showed signs for the worst. She had extreme difficulty walking and going outside to use the bathroom. Instead of going on the couch or following her mama to bed she instead went to her little dog bed in our living room, and even then she stumbled to get over the little trim of the bed. The whole family ended up spending that night in the living room to be with and comfort Ruby. The next morning we thought maybe she was feeling better as she got up to go outside, but once she got out she once again had such difficulty walking, and looked like she was “crumpling” from the strain. I was about to go outside and carry her inside when she finally mustered up the will and made it back into the house. After some more time with her and getting her to eat a few fistfuls of liver treats and some small nibbles of food hand fed we took her to the vet. She’d always liked being in the waiting room of the vet, and she insisted on standing and smelling what she could while we were there, but once we got into the examination room she was totally exhausted and went to lay right down on the blankets that had been laid out there and didn’t even budge when the vet examined her. So after much discussion we decided it was best to put her to sleep, and so at 10:15AM eastern time today, Ruby passed away laying next to me on those same blankets while I pet her.

She was the first dog I’ve ever had. When we got her Clinton was running against Bob Dole to clinch his second term in office, Duke Nukem 3D had just come out, WordPress and Livejournal didn’t exist yet, and America Online hadn’t yet unveiled their $19.99/month unlimited access plan which ushered the majority of America onto the internet. It’s still hard to believe she’s gone. I’d almost do anything else other than be writing this now, but I don’t want to forget today, and immortalizing this on my blog is the best way I know how to make sure I remember how I feel right now. Goodbye Miss Ruby. I’ll miss you.

<More pictures will be added here later>


Two Eye Slicings and a Mugging

Ello. My name's Horatio, Horatio Harpell, and I've been stolen by bloody wankers.

Monday turned out to be one of the busiest days in recent memory for me, a day that started out with great and exciting events and ended with a bit of a nasty blow to the rickety jury-rigged thing I call a life. It started out with me around noon going down to get LASIK surgery for my eyes. I’ve been horribly nearsighted for a very long time with -6.5 prescription. Having to spend a couple hundred dollars a year every year for new lenses and exams and sometimes contacts seemed like a horrible waste after my father had the procedure done and it worked great. So I spent my afternoon drinking a coke and a baby Valium, signing the last of forms, and finally getting wheeled under the most terrifying looking machine, and getting a little flap cut in my cornea followed by a laser flashing a few times, smelling burnt ozone and thinking, “So this is what the lemon feels like when it’s being zested,” all while trying to remain totally still and calm. I make it sound worse than it is. The whole procedure is almost entirely painless. The only pain I felt was when the suction cup with the microkeratome cut the flap in my eye, like a needle prick, and before you even realize you’ve felt anything it’s over. Honestly I’ve had cavities drilled out and filled which were more traumatic than the LASIK procedure, and this procedure is really only so stressful because it’s unfamiliar. But even though it’s not so bad, it still leaves you a bundle of nerves, because you are getting your eye cut and your lower brain functions are spending the whole procedure screaming “We’re getting cut, dammit! Abort! Abort!” at your higher brain functions. You know, kind of like getting a cavity drilled.

So after the surgery I was supposed to be spending the day resting, which I did for the most part, but not entirely as around dinner time I got a call from a friend telling me they had found my two of my D&D books and my gaming supplies in a pile beneath his car. As it turns out someone coveted the backpack where I keep my gaming supplies and on the 29th of January had broken out the driver’s side rear vent window to get into my car and steal my red swiss gear backpack and then they decided to open it up and dump the contents of the main compartment beneath my friend’s car, allowing both books to be destroyed by the snow and making off with my pencils, dry erase markers, calculator, rubber bands, miniature box and miniatures, dice, dice cup, and the custom Horatio Harpell miniature which I took a picture of on the right. So instead of getting to take a nap after dinner I ended up having to call the police and file a police report about the whole event. While we’d noticed the window was broken on the 30th we had thought the cold had somehow caused the window the to break. After covering up the window we all returned inside, as it was still snowing, and no one realized anything was missing from the car until my books turned up at a friend’s house, alerting us to the fact that my possessions were missing. All in all the missing items totaled around $300+ at retail, $250 of which the thief is probably going to throw away because it’s all gaming supplies, and he already trashed the PHB and Forgotten Realms Players Guide right after stealing the bags. So yeah, all that damage just because some neighborhood kid wanted a book bag. According to the police officer handling the case, if you have to put bags like that in your car, put them in the trunk where thieves can’t see them, as they’re not likely to break into a car if they don’t know if anything worth taking will be inside.

Goodbye NBC and WAVY-TV

Well tonight is Conan O’Brien’s last night on the airwaves as host of the Tonight Show. And so I’ve decided that tonight will be the last night I watch NBC, and by extension my local NBC affiliate, WAVY-TV 10. As of now I’ve deleted all episodes of Heroes I had planned to watch, and yesterday’s Community is the last of that show I’ll be seeing. It’s unfortunate I have to stop supporting a good, new show that deserves the ratings, but there you have it. I can’t sit by and help fun the network that’s destroying what I consider to be the greatest thing on modern television. Uncharacteristically of me I actually took the time to send a professional snail mail letter to my local NBC affiliate’s, WAVY-TV, president and manager, explaining why I would be switching off his station forever, a station that I’ve watched since 1993. Here’s a copy.

January 22, 2010

Doug Davis of WAVY-TV 10
300 Wavy St.
Portsmouth, VA 23704

Dear Doug:

I’ve been a viewer of your station ever since moving to the area in 1993. My household has enjoyed your station and your newscast for years and has even contributed to your “10 on your side” segment in the past, as well as enjoying programming provided over the air for years by your network. However by the time you read this letter we will have turned off your station forever. In light of NBC’s deplorable treatment of Conan O’Brien I’ve decided it’s best to turn off NBC entirely, and by extension your station. I know this isn’t actually your station’s fault, but I refuse to support a network that has ruined one of the few remaining good things on television, and by extension that means I cannot support anyone affiliated with NBC either. I will also be posting this letter online for public viewing and encouraging everyone I know to switch off NBC and your station as well. Goodbye WAVY, it was nice knowing you.

Don Scherig

Included with the letter was the image you see attached to this post, printed on an index card, in case the letter wasn’t clear enough.


Time Extended!

Anyone who’s ever played outrun or any of Sega’s other similar racers in an arcade can probably hear that over-excited digitized voice in their head now at the mere mention of these words. Imagine my surprise when browsing for some soda in Wal-mart I came upon these two packages of Mountain Dew Throwback and Pepsi Throwback. For those of you who don’t know, the superb Pepsi Throwback and Mountain Dew Throwback are back again for a limited time. According to Pepsi the production run for these is going to be 8 weeks long and it started on December 28th. These two sodas are identical to the previous run, though the packaging is much more in theme, I’m really glad to see the old Pepsi logo, and the Mountain Dew has orange juice concentrate and more caffeine in it like regular Mountain Dew.

I really like soda. A lot. And I like soda made with real sugar even better. Well, at least I think I do. Who knows, if I took a blind taste test, maybe I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I’m not about to discount the fact that this whole, “Made with real sugar thing” could be a gigantic placebo effect on my taste buds. But if that’s the case, placebo tastes mighty good. It just seems to me the sodas made with real sugar “pop” a bit more and have a “brighter” taste to them. So I’m happy to see these products back on shelves. How happy am I to see them? I normally drink cherry coke. Yeah, that’s right, this whole real sugar thing is enough to get me to drink Pepsi instead of coke. I sure hope Pepsi gets smart and stops teasing us all with these limited runs, because I really want to keep on enjoying this stuff. Of course, without it I’ll just switch back over to Jones Soda and their excellent Pure Cane Cola, which is also excellent, and they have many other great flavors of cane cola as well. Berry Lemonade being a real favorite.
If you like soda too, check out for Galco’s. They’re in California and they were featured on History Channel’s Modern Marvels, Soda. (I did say I loved Soda, right?) They’re a veritable Mecca of soda. I mean they have nigh unto everything there, and their site is like an encyclopedia of Soda in the United States and nearby countries. Check it out.


Ringo Star Lives in Bailey’s Nightmares

If I hide under this desk the John Lennon can't get me

If I hide under this desk the John Lennon can't get me

Although I’m sure some people will think this is just a picture of a little dog laying down, those of you who have dogs might be able to recognize the signs of a dog freaked out of his little gourd. This is a picture of Bailey hiding under my desk, curled up into a little ball with his tail tucked in and shivering. What catastrophic event caused Mr. Bailey’s distress? Lightning storm? Hurricane? A nationwide Carrot Top comedy tour? No! It’s “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band” being played on The Beatles Rockband. Incidentally Bailey started reacting to the game shortly after I read the trivia about how an ultrasonic sound, like a dog whistle, was added into the song Inner Grove on the album, though that song isn’t present in The Beatles Rockband. It wasn’t just Sgt. Pepper that scared Bailey though, he showed equal fear to “Here Comes the Sun”, “Octupus Garden”, “Get Back”, and every song in between. I guess something about the Beatles’ later years really frightens the poor little dog. After playing the game I ended up having to spend the next hour consoling the poor little dog that the big bad Paul McCartney wasn’t going to get him.

Well, at least the game was loads of fun. Guess it’s a good thing for Bailey it was only a rental.