my life

Starwood workshops with Tom Swiss

Hello friends! Festival season is upon us. I'm about to head off to the Free Spirit Gathering, where I will be hosting the Bardic Circle and leading a "money washing" prosperity ritual. The latter is based around something I saw at a Shinto shrine the last time I was in Japan.

In July I'll be headed for the Starwood festival, where I'll be presenting the following workshops:

Feeling Good with Acupressure and Shiatsu

Shiatsu (Japanese for "finger pressure") and acupressure are forms of Asian Bodywork Therapy, which use pressure and stretching to relieve pain and stress. According to the theories of Chinese medicine, these techniques help balance the flow of qi, or vital energy, in the body. We will discuss and practice the use of acupressure points for physical, emotional, and spiritual balancing, and also learn a simple self-shiatsu routine. If time permits we will also do some partner work. Please bring a mat or towel to lie on for stretching.

Poets and Pagans

top posting

For many years, I've been railing against "top posting" -- creating e-mail (or similar) messages with quoted material from the previous messages (usually, the entire message, unabridged) in the thread at the bottom, and the added content at the top of the message. I just stumbled across this perfect little illustration of why it's a horrid practice:

A: Yes.
> Q: Are you sure?
>> A: Because it reverses the logical flow of conversation
>>> Q: Why is top posting annoying in email?

Dan's Mail Format Site has more on the evils of top posting -- and, more importantly, how to do it right with interleaving and bottom-posting.

Washington Gas Energy Services (WGES): shady door-to-door marketing

So a little while ago, I heard about Clean Currents, where BGE customers can switch over to wind power at competitive rates -- indeed, right now they claim a lower rate than BGE.

(Now, this is all accounting BS anyway -- the actual amps that come to your house still pushed there by coal and nuke plants. But some credit goes to wind power providers in other parts of the country, so in theory you're offsetting the dirty power you consume with clean power somewhere else.)

Sounds nifty, and it was on my list of things to check out more fully in my copious free time. I was talking about it this weekend with my friend Carl, who's always up on this stuff, and he mentioned that Clean Currents had partnered with Washington Gas Energy Services as the wholesale electricity supplier. (Which you can verify on their website.)

By coincidence, WGES had salespeople in my neighborhood yesterday. I’m normally a bit reluctant to do business with any company that disturbs me with telemarketers or door-knockers -- but these guys were such grade-A assholes that there’s no way I would do business with the company they were representing.

Here’s a hint, guys: when I say “thank you, no soliciting”, that means you go away immediately. You don’t stick around in desperate attempts to tell me how you’re not selling anything, you’re there to save me money. And then telling me that you need me to sign a waiver showing that I declined the “savings” you were offering? That just shows me that you're shady.

Let me point out that I had to deal with two of these guys in about a quarter-hour, so it wasn't just a single bad apple.

(Though the first guy was merely annoying. The second one, though...I have to admit that the second had me thinking of grabbing up the camp ax -- did I mention I was doing yardwork when these bozos harassed me? -- and doing some crude exploratory surgery to see what was wrong with his brain. But I kept those thoughts to myself.)

I’m not surprised to see that this company rates an “F” from the BBB.

I'll keep my eye open for other clean power options. But for now, I have to recommend staying away from anything involving WGES.

Update Nov 2011: According to Clean Currents' website, "As of July 15, 2011 Clean Currents is NO LONGER AFFILIATED WITH WGES and is now a full-fledged, independent electricity supplier. This means that for anyone who enrolled AFTER July 15, 2011, Clean Currents will serve as your sole electricity supplier."

It's also worth nothing that "Clean Currents was one of the first companies in the state of Maryland to complete the B Corp assessment and adopt the B Corp legal framework into its operating structure and was the first company in the state of Maryland and the United States to file to become a Benefit LLC." (Benefit corporations, or "B Corps", are a new legal structure in Maryland and few other states which are certified to provide a public benefit in addition to a financial return to investors.)

tales of *good* customer service

It's such a rarity to encounter good customer service. We ought to mention it more often.

I had two good experiences in the past few weeks.

The weekend before last I rented a wood chipper at the Catonsville ABC Rental Center. The delivery charge had gone up a lot since I last did this a few years ago, but the woman behind the counter halved the charge since I live close by. Then, when I had an issue -- couldn't get the motor started after shutting it down for a break -- they gave me the choice of another session with it, or just charging me for a half-day instead of a whole one. I was pleased.

And I recently ordered a fan from Mouser Electronics, to repair my bug zapper. It apparently got broken in transit. No problem at all, they're sending me a replacement, not asking me to return the old one, and not charging shipping on the replacement.

I also want to mention that I've mostly had good luck with Dish Network customer service -- I've been able to speak to knowledgeable people whose native language seems to be English, a combination becoming more and more rare on help lines for tech products and services.

the Tilt-a-Whirl

The things you learn on the Internet: there is a 1927 Tilt-A-Whirl still in operation today.

When we went to amusement parks, my dad wasn't much for the rides. My mom was up for them, except the roller coasters. (After seeing the movie Rollercoaster about a terrorist blowing them up, she never rode one.) So her, my brother, and I would hit the flat rides. The Tilt-A-Whirl was a favorite, a classic, and I salute it.

man killed in Catonsville bar fight

I don't know if the recession is making violent crime more common, but this was sobering:

Sunday, a man was beaten to death in a bar on Catonsville's main street. This wasn't in a bad neighborhood or anything -- I walked by this place just a few days ago and had noted that they featured live music and were looking for people to play.

And Monday night, while I was at Leadbetter's in Fells Point, a fellow came in trying to find witnesses to the beating he had suffered in front of the bar the night before. I've seen a few scuffles there over the years (and jumped in to break them up) but it's rare that things go beyond the pushing match, or the one punch, stage.

xkcd on rude parking

Once again, xkcd is made of win:

I loathe people who think they are so much more important than the rest of us that they're entitled to two spaces. When I come across a diagonally parked sports car, I park my dirty beat-up old car next to it as close as I can. I did that for a week solid at the office at my job about a dozen years ago; after a few days we had a whole line of cars parked diagonally.

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