Saturday, June 28, 2008

virgin on the ridiculous

Mobile phone plans seem to be designed to drive people to despair or at least confuse one enough to defer switching to another day. Even economists like Joshua Gans and Nic Gruen , who no doubt have hundreds of research assistants slaving away, have trouble figuring stuff like this out.
I‘ve had a reliable Siemens phone now for a few years and seeing I mainly only text and talk and don’t need a camera or an MP3 player in my phone I have seen little need to enter into a contract involving a “free” phone. Much of the last 5 or 6 years I’ve been out of contract. Occasionally I have gone into contract and got a cash rebate of around $150 per phone from a local independent phone agent.

I have avoided Capped Plans because my usage varies a lot from month to month, and being an old fashioned kind of guy, I tend to not yap for long on mobiles if I’m paying. Capped plans come with super offers of $200 for $49 or so but the trouble is most capped plans aren’t really capped at all and the charges are at two or three times the normal fee.

Firstly I set about to find out exactly what plan I’m on and the item charges. No luck. As far as I can see my provider's
site has not been operational for the last two weeks. I tried to complain to them but got nowhere. Talking on the phone to Optus owned M8, in the Philippines I think, is hopeless. All they seem to do is spout scripted sales blurbs.

Anyway I sniffed around and somehow got to
Slimtel a small Vodafone reseller. They have a nice bring your own phone, no contract, no minimum monthly, no flagfall, 1 Second billing, 11c per 30 seconds to any landline any time, 11c per 30 seconds to Vodafone Mobile any time, 17c per 30 seconds to Non-Vodafone Mobile at any time, 18c per SMS, Voicemail d 7.5c per 30 seconds and only $11 exit/porting fee. Seems pretty good to me.

Old geeky habits die hard so I thought I’d have a squiz at
Whirlpool to see what the sadly obsessed had to say. There a person aptly called G WiZZ has taken the effort to set up a spreadsheet with what seem to be all the possible current plans and providers available. G Wizz has also placed a nice little usage calculator in the top right had corner of the spreadsheet so that you can adjust for your usage needs. Download the spreadsheet here.

The very strange thing about all this is that the Virgin Pre paid no contract, no monthly minimum, no cap, el cheapo, for the kids Bean Counter plan seems to outperform almost any other plan or be in the top 5, no matter what figures I punch into it. I’m about to buy myself into the Virgin Bean Counter and give it a go. After all with no contract and no monthly minimum I don’t think I can lose. The weird thing is Virgin Mobile, at least in Oz, is owned by Optus.

I’d be keen to hear what others think.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

mark steyn

No doubt most readers will have caught up with the legal, liberal, libertarian and left blogging on Mark Steyn’s right to turn a phrase as he pleases about what pleases him not.

I don't much read Steyn’s current writings on politics. He’s not to my taste and I reckon his writing has gone downhill. I should add the usual disclaimer; as much as I disagree with what he says at times, I would defend his right to say it. At least until I was placed under a mild degree of discomfort. Say threatened with a paper cut or having to drink instant coffee.

However I’d like to praise Steyn a bit not bury him. I still enjoy re-reading
Broadway Babies Say Goodnight one of the must have books if you enjoy musicals.

Some of the time Steyn misses the mark and doesn’t run a good argument but mostly this lament on the decline of a great art is a delight to read. There’s enough insight and ideas to force the reader over to the radiogram to spin a platter or two in order to check up on him, disagree or just to enjoy the music. If, like me, you have no time for the crop of Lloyd-Webbers, Cats and Phantoms you’ll enjoy his deft ranting, feel his love of musicals and not be irritated by squinting through his ideological prism.

If you can’t get the book try this for a taster:
The Death of the Show Tune, A rant on Rent.

Mark also does a nice line in grumpy old men type writing about popular culture. Granted a lot of the content is a predictable but the occasional flowing paragraph makes it worthwhile. A bit like finding a tasty black olive in an otherwise flaccid 70’s cold platter.

Twenty years ago today:
And most of us of Sir Mick Jagger’s age and younger don’t want to hear, either. To be sure, this or that gangsta rapper is a bit much, and Britney’s a sad old slapper, and Madonna’s a clapped-out provocateur, but what’s wrong with a bit of rock and roll? Nothing. Except that, when it’s ubiquitous, it’s stunting. Paul Simon and I once had a longish conversation about this and eventually he conceded that even the best rockers had nevertheless been unable to develop beyond a very basic harmonic language: There isn’t enough there to teach in a “music” course. But what else is left? The old middle-brow middle-class couples who subscribed to the symphony every season and dutifully sat there through Beethoven, Bartók, Brahms, and Bernstein are all but extinct, and pitied for their inability to cut loose and boogie in the same way we feel sorry for those trapped in a loveless marriage. What a difference it would make if grade-schoolers could know just enough of a smattering of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony to recognize the excellent joke “The Simpsons” makes of it. What an achievement it would be if every high-school could acquire a classical catalogue as rich as that used in Looney Tunes when Elmer Fudd goes hunting Daffy Duck or Bugs Bunny. Carl Stalling, who scored those cartoons, often fell back on formula: If someone was in a cave, the orchestra would play “Fingal’s Cave.” But you can’t even do that any more, because no-one gets the joke.