April 5th, 2011

#2648: TracFone follies

Well, "follies" isn't exactly right, because it's not a bad thing, but I don't really understand it.


I've had a TracFone continuously since November of 2002. I originally bought it because I was driving the Fiero long-distance for the first time, and I was worried about breakdowns. Armed with my then-girlfriend's AAA card (she'd put me on her account) and this cellphone, I was safe from being stranded somewhere on I-80, at least for longer than a couple of hours.

But it was (and still is) a really cheap way to have a cell phone, particularly for someone like me, who rarely calls anyone on the damn thing, and who only wants/needs a basic phone for making and taking calls. Instead of paying $200 for the phone and $YEECH! per month for service, I now own a $30 phone which costs me about $7 per month in airtime cards. You have to add an airtime card every so often for the phone to remain in service, so every 90 days I buy a 60-minute-90-day airtime card for $21 (with tax) and that takes care of it. Airtime rolls over every month (you've already paid for it, after all) and the minutes don't expire, so if you don't use your phone very often, they do add up.

...and because you can transfer minutes to a new phone when you upgrade, I've accumulated eighteen hours' worth of airtime.

The thing is, it's because TracFone keeps handing out free airtime like candy. I always wait until a few days before my current airtime card is set to expire, so I get two or three nag e-mails from them before I buy a new airtime card.

Like today: I finally decided I'd better do this before I forget it again and I hit their web site to add airtime to my phone. Log in, select the card I want, type in a few details, bing, and I get a message on my phone that approximates this: "90 days, 60 minutes, and 60 bonus minutes added!"

...I didn't enter a promo code or anything, so where did the bonus minutes come from? It's been like this the last several times I've added airtime, and it doesn't seem to matter if I buy an actual physical airtime card at a store, or just do the on-line way (which is, let's face it, a ton easier anyway).

This is how TracFone makes its money, after all: by selling airtime. 60 minutes for $20 works out to around $0.33 per minute; by the standards of most cell plans that's actually pretty expensive. But 120 minutes for $20 is $0.16 per minute (more or less) and they're basically cutting their income in half.

For the amount I use my phone, though, it'd be stupid of me to worry about the per-minute cost. I'd have to pay 2-3-4-5 times as much per month to reduce my per-minute cost, and I wouldn't be making any more calls on the thing than I am now.

And I have eighteen hours of talk time anyway.

...but why do they keep giving me bonus airtime? It's not like I'm complaining; I just like to know why the magic airtime fairy keeps visiting me.

It's really nice, though, the way they've got things set up. It used to be that you'd have to go to the web and enter the code from the card, and then press buttons on the phone; now you buy the airtime card on-line with your credit card and zam their system automatically programs the added airtime into the phone for you.

Though I do kind of miss the "code accepted" screen from the old way. You punch in this sequence of 16 or 20 numbers and get this nice little frisson of validation from the phone when you do it right. That's probably why I was so bad about adding airtime back then; when you run out of service days, you lose your number, and it takes more code-punching to program the new phone number in. More validation! Yay! ...and I got pretty good at predicting what my new number would be from reading the code, because the phone number was unencrypted. "Hey, my new number's going to be an 847 area code!"

Well--I got this job tryout thing in Rantoul, and I bet I'll be using the phone a bit while I'm down there. Maybe that'll give me a chance to whack back that accumulated airtime a bit.

#2649: I see where House is coming from

This may be a bit incoherent; I'm stoned on Vicodin.

It's 100% legal and I only took one tablet--well, let me explain.

A few years ago I had a tooth pulled. It was beyond help and all the way in back anyway, so I had it yanked rather than bother with it, and the dentist prescribed Vicodin for the pain afterwards. I never finished the prescription because having that tooth gone was a relief, and except for the first 24 hours I only needed Ibuprofen to deal with the pain.

This morning, I woke up with a stabbing pain in my stomach. It's a pain I'm familiar with; I first had this pain in 1980 and it has visited me on occasion ever since. It feels like someone is sticking a BBQ skewer or a rapier or something right through my solar plexus, directly under my rib cage on the left side.

I was able to make the pain go away for a few seconds at a time by rubbing that spot--that's how I know it wasn't my heart--but after a few times the pain did what it almost always does, and began coming from my back as well.

Drinking water sometimes helps; this time it didn't. I laid there and suffered for a while, thinking about painkillers. But if it was my stomach, Ibuprofen would only make things worse; what else did I have on hand?

Finally I remembered the dentist's RX for Vicodin. That seemed like a bit much--was I in that much pain?--but I realized that I was only a couple notches short of groaning and thrashing; what choice did I have? So I went and took one.

It seemed to take forever for the stuff to kick in; but when it did--

After I had noticed that the pain from my stomach was gone, then I noticed that all my pain was gone--both physical and emotional. The little aches and pains of life at 43 had been eradicated and even the general sensation of grinding fatigue had left me.

The scary bit, though, was how much better I felt emotionally. For the first time in months, I was not depressed. My emotional state had regained equilibrium, and I felt normal again! It was like magic; all the stress of my life had simply evaporated.

I fell asleep.

It's been about six hours since I took the tablet, and I'm not taking another because the stomach pain is gone. In fact, I'm tempted to throw the rest of it down the toilet solely because of the way it made my problems go away--that's the insidious lure of narcotics, there.

The only thing keeping me from doing that is the fact that there are perhaps four tablets left and I can't get more, so there's no real danger of my getting hooked on the crap even if I did start taking them regularly.

All of this, however, pretty much did for my plans for today. I had things I wanted to accomplish, and I can't do any of them now, not when I'm still feeling dizzy and loopy from the Vicodin. Having had a ham sandwich I feel less stoned than when I first woke up, but I still feel stoned, and I'm not willing to risk driving when "vertical" is more of an opinion than anything else. (You should see me typing this. I'm moving around like Ray Charles.)

Judgement is supposed to be the first thing to go, so how come I can realize that I'm in no shape to drive or anything?

* * *

Can we elect Paul Ryan President in 2012?

* * *

Great: Nazis on meth.

...before the 1960s, lots of drugs which are now illegal were commonly available, and people used them without a second thought. "Pep pills"--amphetamines--are one example.

Of course, there were people who abused them. There are always people who abuse drugs in whatever form. Alcohol is a drug, probably the first ever, and we have a special word for people who abuse it: alcoholic. (And others besides: lush, boozer, and other words my Vicodin-soaked cranium can't recall right now.)

There is a highly libertarian rant jammed up in my brain about addicts, drug bans, and Prohibition, but the Vicodin is barring the door. Oh well.

* * *

Ace of Spades:
It's hard to make a deal when you think you don't even need to negotiate -- and that's what the Democrats think. They think if they shut the government down, they win, and will extract from the Republicans almost everything they want in the next round of negotiations, so why negotiate?
That perfectly encapsulates the Democrat strategy, I think.

More smart words than that elude me at present.

* * *

Today's an election day, and I'm not voting because there's nothing on the ballot I care about.

It's a local election. I don't know anything about any of the candidates, except that one is the son of my neighbor. He's running for Village Trustee. I thought about going and voting for him, but then decided that voting for someone because he's your neighbor's kid is a dumb reason to elect anyone, particularly when you don't know their politics.

The little I do know is that the kid's a PoliSci graduate from SEIU, and PoliSci programs don't exactly turn out right-wingers, if you know what I mean.

Voting in a non-partisan election with no other information leaves you making random choices, which is just as bad as not voting, so why vote in the first place? I have nothing to base my vote on; I can't even fall back on the generic rule of "Republicans tend to represent my views better than Democrats" because no one identifies as being of either party, at least not where I can see.

Making an uninformed decision is worse than useless. I stayed home.

...especially since there were no ballot initiatives to worry about.

* * *

How the hell does House do it? He must have an IQ of 5,000 or something, to be brilliant around the fog of Vicodin. Shit.