Poem of the Week



by Roald Dahl

The most important thing we’ve learned,
So far as children are concerned,
Is never, NEVER, NEVER let
Them near your television set —
Or better still, just don’t install
The idiotic thing at all.
In almost every house we’ve been,
We’ve watched them gaping at the screen.
They loll and slop and lounge about,
And stare until their eyes pop out.
(Last week in someone’s place we saw
A dozen eyeballs on the floor.)
They sit and stare and stare and sit
Until they’re hypnotised by it,
Until they’re absolutely drunk
With all that shocking ghastly junk.
Oh yes, we know it keeps them still,
They don’t climb out the window sill,
They never fight or kick or punch,
They leave you free to cook the lunch
And wash the dishes in the sink —
But did you ever stop to think,
To wonder just exactly what
This does to your beloved tot?
‘All right!’ you’ll cry. ‘All right!’ you’ll say,
‘But if we take the set away,
What shall we do to entertain
Our darling children? Please explain!’

We’ll answer this by asking you,
‘What used the darling ones to do?
‘How used they keep themselves contented
Before this monster was invented?’
Have you forgotten? Don’t you know?
We’ll say it very loud and slow:
THEY … USED … TO … READ! They’d READ and READ,
AND READ and READ, and then proceed
To READ some more. Great Scott! Gadzooks!
One half their lives was reading books!
The nursery shelves held books galore!
Books cluttered up the nursery floor!
And in the bedroom, by the bed,
More books were waiting to be read!
Such wondrous, fine, fantastic tales
Of dragons, gypsies, queens, and whales
And treasure isles, and distant shores
Where smugglers rowed with muffled oars,
And pirates wearing purple pants,
And sailing ships and elephants,
And cannibals crouching ’round the pot,
Stirring away at something hot.
(It smells so good, what can it be?
Good gracious, it’s Penelope.)
The younger ones had Beatrix Potter
With Mr. Tod, the dirty rotter,
And Squirrel Nutkin, Pigling Bland,
And Mrs. Tiggy-Winkle and-
Just How The Camel Got His Hump,
And How the Monkey Lost His Rump,
And Mr. Toad, and bless my soul,
There’s Mr. Rat and Mr. Mole-
Oh, books, what books they used to know,
Those children living long ago!
So please, oh please, we beg, we pray,
Go throw your TV set away,
And in its place you can install
A lovely bookshelf on the wall.
Then fill the shelves with lots of books,
Ignoring all the dirty looks,
The screams and yells, the bites and kicks,
And children hitting you with sticks-
Fear not, because we promise you
That, in about a week or two
Of having nothing else to do,
They’ll now begin to feel the need
Of having something to read.
And once they start — oh boy, oh boy!
You watch the slowly growing joy
That fills their hearts. They’ll grow so keen
They’ll wonder what they’d ever seen
In that ridiculous machine,
That nauseating, foul, unclean,
Repulsive television screen!
And later, each and every kid
Will love you more for what you did.

My Letter to the CEO of AT&T

Randall L. Stephenson
175 E. Houston
San Antonio, TX 78705

Dear Mr. Stephenson,

I have just finished the sixth call to your customer “service” department. We have not had reliable TV service since Tuesday, August 28th. The earliest this will be fixed is September 8th, which is unacceptable. Because the pictures become pixelated and freeze, there’s no point in beginning to watch a program because before the hour’s up, it’s sure to freeze so you miss the end of it.

We have wasted hours waiting to talk with your representatives. That’s unacceptable given the high prices you charge. (As you should know in France people pay €40/month for landline, two cell phones, TV and internet. Why on earth do Americans pay $175 or more?) Today, I checked on the service call. I thought we’d get our TV service fixed by Tuesday. No, we must wait until the 8th. After talking to a customer “service” clerk I was transferred to a technician and given the hope that she could get someone to come out sooner. It seems reasonable because why should consumers in the First World wait more than those in the Third. (I never had such a long wait for cable set up in Indonesia when I lived there.)

After having to repeat all my information to yet another person, this woman whose name I believe was Rosie (whomever I spoke with from my phone 847-412-1066 at approximately 6:30pm on Sept. 1) told me that I’d have to wait till next Saturday. Why on earth did I have to waste 15 minutes with her? I controlled my temper and while I used a direct, serious tone, I did not swear or yell when I asked her why anyone should remain an AT&T customer and not switch to a competitor. Then Rosie had the audacity to hang up on me.

I’ve had to work in customer service and I know that sometimes a clerk’s hands are tied, but that does not give a clerk a reason to hang up on a paying customer. It’s her job to help people with problems.

  • Why should we continue to pay you for slow and unreliable service?
  • Why don’t you hire more technicians so your customers don’t have to wait 10 days to get service restored?
  • Why don’t you train your customer service staff to communicate professionally and solve problems?
  • Why don’t you authorize overtime during times of great need?
  • Are you satisfied with this level of service? Would you stick with a company that’s treated you with disrespect?

I look forward to your response.



I hope I get a response. I’ll let you know. I feel like the telecommunications companies have no incentive to provide good service. They know the other company isn’t much better so you might switch back and forth but when you’re fed up with the other company and have forgotten how dreadful the first was, you’ll be back.

I realize TV isn’t a necessity, but when you pay for service, you should get it.

I Wouldn’t Go to the Trouble

Last week I was in Beijing and when I went shopping I wanted to get a couple watches I’d bought fixed. One needed to be sized, one ran slowly and the other, the most expensive ($50) had died two months after I got it. The first two I bought in March and the third I got at the Pearl Market and the third at the market behind it in the sub-basement.

While I don’t expect these watches to last forever, I do expect a $50 watch to last at least 4 months.

Getting the first two watches fixed was no problem. The shop owner was pleasant and obliging. So I wound up buying a couple gift watches to boot.

Then I went to get the third watch fixed. I would have been happy if the shop owners:

  1. fixed the watch
  2. gave me a new watch
  3. returned my money

I first looked at the watches that were just like mine and asked about the price to make sure it was worth $50. That was confirmed. Then I explained my problem. Rather than saying how they could make the situation better, the dour sales clerk asserted that I hadn’t bought the watch there. “You must have gotten the watch somewhere else.”

You’ve got to be kidding. I certainly don’t have the time or inclination to come to this shop to fix a problem with a watch i’d bought somewhere else. I told her I certainly bought it there. She kept insisting I’d gotten it somewhere else. I held my ground and eventually told her her claim was a lie. A tourist was browsing her wares as we went back and forth. He smiled knowingly and soon left.

Then this dour, unpleasant liar relented and her husband repaired the watch. It was easy for him. He just replaced the battery and now I’ve got a working watch. I’ll never go back there. If they had promptly fixed the watch I would have. I realize batteries die, but a new watch should come with a battery that’ll last a few months at least.

I later went to look at shoes before leaving. As I walked by the bad watch shop, I saw a group of six or so tourists heading towards the bad watch shop. I shared my story and told them about the good watch shop in the Pearl Market. I hope they went there. I did convince them not to shop with the bad watch shop.

Why Would Someone Do This?

Today I couldn’t post to Twitter via my iPad. Later I tried to tweet on my computer and found out the account’s been disabled because someone hacked in and posted numerous tweets automatically.


To regain my account I need to verify it’s mine with a cell phone. For most people that’s simple, but I’ll have to dig out my Chinese cell, recharge it, see if it still works and then verify.

Ugh, ugh, ugh!

Never Again

Today’s project seemed simple: Upload the $#@ job interview video and email a link to the university in Japan that wants this by Monday. Of course, my VPN isn’t working so I can’t upload to SkyDrive (now OpenDrive), Google, YouTube or Dropbox. I’m sure they’d accept a link to Youku.com, though. After all, all they have to do is click the link and then click the play button.

What I hadn’t expected was that this video would take 13 hours to upload onto Youku. It’s only 9 minutes long! I started uploading at 4:30 pm and still have hours to go. I’d hoped that the 11 hour estimate was way off base and that it would be done in a couple hours. Oh, no.

Remind me to NEVER bother applying to a job that requires a video.

Poor Cable Service: Why? How?

After receiving a Comcast bill for $50 higher than usual, we called Comcast, who’d not only raised our rates, but forgot to apply a discount they promised due to our lack of phone service for 4 days last month.

The customer service reps couldn’t do anything to help. In fact they could only talk with the person who’s name was on the account so when I tried to mediate since my father was furious the rep wouldn’t talk with me. Okay.

I tweeted about the problem, which often gets a response from the company. AT&T responded to me right away. It took Comcast a few days. They just aren’t on the ball.

Long story short: we now are hooked up with AT&T, which probably has its flaws, but we’re saving $600 a year. Comcast lost over $1800 a year. I guess they can afford to.

Here’s the part that really irked me. I recounted this story to a friend who’s visiting from France. Want to know how much cable/internet/phone is in France per month?


Why are Americans paying so much more?

Going Crazy

I’m almost finished with my last set of reference questions. One question, which is a bonus question, is driving me nuts. I have to find out how many recycling centers there are in the U.S. It’s taken hours to find that there’s probably 12,098 businesses that are primarily in the recycling business. Now to find out how many are industrial and how many are residential. I bet there’s some crossover, just to add complexity. I’ve spent the better part of today just on this.

We only have to answer 4 out of 7 questions, but each time, I’ve been able to find answers for all 7 given.

Time to stop. It’s not due till Saturday, but it’s driving me crazy.