Thursday, October 22, 2009

‘Pet blessing’ photo explained


About a week ago I posted the photo over to the left as part of the famed Wordless Wednesday event.

I meant to post something the next day for Tell Me Thursday, but – didn’t. So I’m getting around to that now.

Frankly, the above photo is one of the better ones that’s been sent to my email address in some time. What’s going on? That was a photo from last year’s pet blessing at Hendrix College in Conway, Ark. (my alma mater).

Now, Hendrix is a Methodist school and it turns out that a lot of churches subscribing to that denomination tend to hold pet blessings annually. The one at Hendrix was cancelled this year due to rain, but it’s great to see that the pup in the photo above appreciated the one last year and gave the college chaplain a little love. The chaplain appears to be a good sport about it all, so kudos to him.

We supposed to take our three-legged dog, Bella, to a Methodist church here in Benton we’ve been attending last week so she could get good and blessed. We missed that event, however, as it was on a Saturday and weekends here tend to get a bit nuts (this past weekend was busier than usual as my wife’s family was in town).

I asked my wife if a freshly-blessed Bella would suddenly have a functioning fourth leg like all the other dogs. I was told such a miraculous event was unlikely and my wife practically called me a heretic for suggesting such a thing.

I keep that wife of mine on her toes, see?

At any rate, I do believe the pet blessing is a nifty little practice and was pleased to hear that Catholics do it, too. It only makes sense that we Methodists would follow suit for what is the Methodist faith but Catholic Lite (most of the ceremony, none of the guilt)?

I’m sure we’ll take Bella to a pet blessing next year. Hopefully she’ll be as appreciative as the dog in the photo.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Hey, Pandora! What if I hate the entire band?


One of the coolest things out there on that Internet (the device all the kids are just wild about) is Pandora.

If you’re not familiar with Pandora, you need to click that link up above and sign up for it. Pandora, essentially, is an Internet radio station that is completely shaped by your tastes in music.

The service is free but you’ll have to pay for some useful upgrades like more hours and such. Here’s how it works – when you first sign up, Pandora will ask you what your favorite band is. From there you are played songs based on your initial preferences so that you can expand into other bands. For example, if you like the Beatles, Pandora might play a Rolling Stones song to see if you like that particular tune, too. If you like it, you can select the “thumbs up” button and it will find similar songs. If you don’t you can select “thumbs down” and it won’t play that song again (and will modify your profile accordingly).

Along the way you have the option of adding other bands and songs to the service to further build your profile. After I chose the Beatles, I went ahead and added some of my other favorites such as the Clash, KISS, Camper van Beethoven, the Pixies, Hank Williams Sr., Howlin’ Wolf, Black Flag, the Sex Pistols, Tom Petty, Carl Perkins, the Darling Buds, etc. While you are encouraged to build various stations for various genres, I kind of like having a Hank Williams Jr. song play immediately following something abrasive by the Pixies.

Hey, that’s what we call variety, right? It keeps things interesting and helps move the day along.

For the most part, Pandora works very well. Based on my initial selections it has picked songs from the Ramones, Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Blondie, Led Zeppelin, Motley Crue and a lot of other stuff that I do like. In fact, Pandora has directed me to some great bands that I’ve either forgotten about or haven’t heard of at all – that’s a great thing.

One thing that drives me nuts about the service is that it keeps dredging up bands that I absolutely hate. At this point, I think it’s cycled all the way through Nirvana’s Nevermind in spite of the fact that (I think) I’ve made it clear that I detest almost everything on that album (it is very gratifying to hit the “thumbs down” button when you truly hate something). Regardless, it keeps throwing Nirvana songs at me.

It’s rather like Pandora is saying, “Come on, The Hawg. You really do like Nirvana. I promise!” I’ve gotten the same kind of treatment with Green Day (I’ve always hated that pack of spoiled brats) and Simon & Garfunkel (an act that actually makes me angry when one of its sappy, pointless hits starts playing). The disturbing thing, of course, is that Pandora has played exactly two Beatles songs for me, no Black Flag and no Sex Pistols – those are bands I like, so why the hell do I keep hearing Nirvana instead of them?

I realize there are some folks out there who regard a strong dislike of Nirvana, Green Day or Simon and Garfunkel as heresy, but that’s not the point. To those folks I say this – just think of a band you really, really hate and imagine the fun you’d have if Pandora played them at you regularly.

Yeah. See what I mean? Sucks, doesn’t it?

Is there a point to all this? Sure there is. I think it would be great if Pandora offered an “I hate this band” button in addition to an “I don’t like this song” one. That would save a lot of trouble.

By the way, there is a very nifty device out there that has to do with Pandora. It’s a portable radio that streams Pandora wherever you have an Internet connection. It’s the Livio Pandora Internet Radio and you can read a review of it here.

This is not, by the way, a paid post. I just think that radio is pretty cool even though my wife declared it’s a “waste of money.” Thought it might make a nice Christmas present for her. I’m glad I asked her about it before I bought it.

At any rate, I would encourage everyone to rise up and demand from Pandora an “I hate this band” button. The world would be a better place, wouldn’t it?

Music Monday -- “She Cracked” by the Modern Lovers

From way on back in 1972!

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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Thanks for nothing, AT&T U-Verse


For the past year or so, AT&T U-verse has been calling my house and trying to get us to become customers.

For those unfamiliar with U-Verse, it’s pretty slick. I finally said “OK” to AT&T and arranged to drop my AT&T DSL, AT&T phone service and Dish Network satellite for a U-Verse bundle. We were all set to pick up phone, Internet access and TV service – complete with a DVR and 80 high definition channels – for about $130 a month (for the first year, anyhow).

That’s a heck of a deal, kids. Unfortunately, we’re not able to get U-Verse. Why? They sent some folks out here and told us we live too far from the U-Verse switch to activate the service.

In other words, I’ve been hounded on a weekly basis for something I can’t get. Didn’t it occur to them to check and see whether I could actually get U-Verse before they started their relentless calls? What the hell is going on over there? Have they heard of the public relations pitfalls of pulling such things?

The sad thing about this is that the U-Verse service looks very, very cool. Up to four televisions can utilize the receiver and happy U-Verse customers can record up to four shows while watching another one.

Sadly, I’m not a happy U-Verse customer. I’m not a U-Verse customer at all, in fact. Instead, I’m stuck paying $90 per month for a standard definition digital DVR (and two additional receivers) through Dish Network.

So now I’m mad at U-Verse (because I can’t get that service) and Dish Network (for offering an expensive service that isn’t that great).

AT&T should have left well enough alone. Ignorance is bliss, after all.