My Conversation with Fake Neville

I went to high school with a nice fellow named Neville Aga who is part of the fonder memories of my youth. He introduced me to The Simpsons and his mother introduced me to mango ice cream. A year or so ago, he and I reconnected via Facebook. Then, just today, I got a friend request from him, alerting me to the fact that at some point he must have unfriended me—or something. I re-friended him, if that is even a word, and almost immediately Neville started up a chat, the transcription of which is as follows.

"Neville":

Hello

Me:

Weren't we already Facebook friends? Did you unfriend me and then regret it?

"Neville":

So sorry friend i had to

How are you doing ?

Me:

Doing fine, thanks. You? So wait, it says you have just three Facebook friends? This sounds like the worst witness relocation project ever.

"Neville":

My facebook account was hacked

Me:

Ahhhh...

"Neville":

I was so happy though cause on Tuesday seems to be the most happiest day of my life

Me:

Wait a minute, are you Neville or the hacker? That statement makes no sense.

"Neville":

I'm Neville

Me:

Well, sure, but wouldn't the hacker say that, too?

"Neville":

I got $150,000,00 in cash from facebook in on-going seasonal facebook freedom award promo

That was why my account was hacked , I should have called you but i switched of my phone because of families and friend calling and asking for money

Me:

Is this where you ask for my credit card? I shouldn't give you any assistance, but in case you are trying this on other friends of Neville, I'll give you this tip: Neville is fully literate.

"Neville":

Have heard about Agent Mitch Niccum who works for the Power Ball Empowerment ?

I am serious Spraul ,You know how i hate Hoax and Scam

Me:

Yes, I do remember that about you. No one could question your hatred for hoax and scam.

"Neville":

Just trust me Spraul This is real and i was hoping if you have gotten yours ?

Me:

I did get mine, but it was damaged in transit. I had to return it.

"Neville":

I mean if you have received your own winning from the on-going power ball empowerment cause i saw Your name on the winners list when the Claim Agent And the Delivery Man came to deliver my Cash

Me:

Are the claim agent and delivery man the same person? Or is this a two-man team? Do they really deliver cash? Seems like they ought to be more careful. Lots of criminals out there these days!

At this point "Neville" ended the chat and unfriended me (again?). Soon thereafter, I received another friend request: from "Agent" Mitch Niccum.

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Must You Ask My Name?

More and more, restaurants that have you order at a counter are asking for your name. I'd like to start the official pushback against this practice here and now. This position has been arrived at after due thought; in general, I prefer the personal to the impersonal. I almost never do any business in a drive-through if I can help it. I'd much rather park and go inside and talk with another human being face to face. On the whole, I concur with Patrick McGoohan that we shouldn't be referred to by numbers.

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"I'm not a number! I'm a free man!"

But you know what? When I've just given you my order, please, just give me a number and let me go on my way. Don't ask for my name.

Perhaps I would feel differently if my name was Steve or Bob. But it's not. I don't know what people on the other side of the counter think I am saying when I say my name, but clearly, it's not "Anton." So I've gotten in the habit of always spelling the name afterwards: "My name is Anton. A-N-T-O-N." Strangely, that never works. Sometimes they type those letters, but in a random order, so that later I must hold up my hand when someone calls out "Natno" or "Anont." In other cases, they ignore my proscribed spelling altogether and assign me a similar name more to their liking. Most often this is "Antoine," but occasionally I'll be "Antonio." And while those are fine names shared by fine people, they aren't my name.

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Poker pro Antonio Esfandiari hugging $18 million

It's gotten to the point where I try to scope out when my order is ready so I can cut off the name-calling before it happens: "Is that a chicken parmesan? That's me."

The alternative is to come up with a fake identity for use when ordering food. But what name to use? At first thought, the best choice would be a simple name like John, but then you open up the possibility of standing next to other people actually named John, and then the moment of delivering the chicken parmesan to its rightful owner turns into the scene where everyone claims to be Spartacus.

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"No, I'm Spartacus!"

So then maybe the right idea is an unusual name but one people can spell, like Mars or Pony. But then I think, if the whole point is that I don't want to be called by someone else's name, isn't this just surrendering before the battle starts? The ultimate solution is for restaurants to ditch this cheap attempt to conjure up instant familiarity and go back to the time-honored system of giving each customer a number. Is it impersonal? Yes. Does it work? Yes.

So look: I'm all for treating people as people, as individuals with intrinsic worth in the eyes of their fellow men and their Maker. That said, sometimes in life you just have to stand up and proclaim that you're a number.

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"Who am I? 24601!"

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Think Like a Programmer: In (Simplified) Chinese!

Although this news has probably already been widely disseminated through Chinese media outlets, I need to tell the rest of the world that Think Like a Programmer is now also available in Chinese.

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"Chinese," in this case, means Simplified Chinese, which is how books are generally printed in mainland China. Traditional Chinese, which has more characters, is still dominant in Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao. (Why yes, I did just return from a trip to Wikipedia, thanks for asking.) Chinese must be the most textually dense language this book has been printed in, because it's  the most slender of all editions. The cover price is a mere 49 yuan, which at today's exchange rate is $7.71 US. At that price, there's really no reason why every programmer in China shouldn't pick up a copy, right?

In all seriousness, I love to hear from readers so if you do pick up a copy of this edition, let me know what you think.

Now, if you were really hoping for a Traditional Chinese edition of one of my books, stay tuned; I may have some news shortly.

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The Letter I'd Like to Receive

At this point in my life, I'm not big on complaining when something's not up to par at some restaurant or store I'm at. I'm more inclined to chalk it up to someone having a bad day and move on. But sometimes you feel something needs to be said, so I've decided that instead of actually making a formal complaint, I'd pretend that I did, then craft the response I'd like to see in return. So below, I present the letter I did not just get from the Embassy Suites.

Embassy Suites Page 1

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Sling TV: Not Bad.

Sling TV logo

A review of Sling TV. Executive summary: not bad at all, hope the 2.0 version of this idea is better.

In case you haven't heard of Sling TV before, let me explain. The service is a product of Dish TV, but it comes over the Internet, not through a dish. For $20 a month, you get a little over twenty channels—not nearly as many as a dish or cable subscription, but many of the most popular channels are there, including ESPN. Note that it does not include major networks, which is not a problem for me because I can get local channels over the air. Also, there are specialized add-on packages of extra channels for $5 extra each. For example, there are sports and children's packages.

Sling TV can be watched on PCs, Macs, iPhones and Android phones, most television stream hardware, and the XBox One (but not any other gaming consoles). The quality of the images is nice most of the time but there are definite quality hiccups. It's a little disappointing that live streaming, in general, still has these problems when I rarely have any problems with Netflix streaming.

I've watched Sling TV on my PC and through an Amazon Fire TV stick. The PC app, unfortunately, is useless. In many video playback applications, when you are playing fullscreen and move the mouse or otherwise interact with the device you are using, video controls come up on the bottom, like we see here:

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The problem is that on the Sling TV app on the PC, these controls keep reappearing, every ten seconds or so, even though you aren't doing anything to cause that. It's very distracting and annoying. Although this doesn't happen to every Sling TV customer, it is, apparently, a widespread problem withthe PC app, a problem that that has been happening since the service was introduced.

The Sling TV app on the Amazon Fire Stick works much better.

But let me back up. The reason I got rid of cable television was that between Netflix discs & rentals, we just weren't watching that much. I've been happy with this decision, but I have really missed one thing: live TV. And by live TV, I mean sports. Actually, I mean football. Really, I just mean college football. In prior seasons, to watch college football I would take whatever ESPN would offer to non-ESPN subscribers on their WatchESPN app. For most games, the best I could do was watch the game the next day, which wasn't great. In other cases, WatchESPN would have the live game, but only the Skycam view available, with no commentary, just crowd noise, which was kind of fun. Sometimes, for bigger games, they would have the regular game footage but with Spanish commentary.

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The best part of Sling TV for me, then, is full access to ESPN content on the WatchESPN app, which is available on even more platforms than Sling TV itself. The ESPN app runs great on my XBox 360 and has some nice features like split screen watching. For anything on ESPN channels, I would recommend the WatchESPN app and not Sling TV. I should point out that you need the Sling TV "sports" tier to get channels like ESPNU and the SEC network, which includes access to that content on the WatchESPN app. All this suggests that I am paying $25 a month mainly for access to sports content, which seems a bit much when I put it to myself that way. However, Sling TV has no contracts, which means that in theory I can drop it after football season and pick up again next fall.

So that's Sling TV for me. Some additional info that may be helpful for others: you can only play one stream at a time. If two people in your family want to be able to watch two different streams on two devices at once, you'd need two subscriptions. Also, I should mention that HBO is also available as a $15 surcharge. Since I am apparently the last holdout in the nation not following Game of Thrones in any way, I don't care about HBO, but it does suggest that perhaps we are finally moving away from the old cable mega-bundle-plus-premium model of television, which I think is a good thing.

In short, Sling TV is not great, but for many customers in situations like mine, I think it provides a useful and fairly-priced service. If you sign up thinking you are getting cable, but cheaper, and no contract, you'll be disappointed, but if you go in knowing you are getting a weaker product, you may find it covers almost all everything you would really want.

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