Friday, January 19, 2018

Pillars of Creation

Pillars of Creation IMDB Page


This lovely short film has been released and accepted by the Internet Movie Database. (Bear narrated and is credited under his human nom de plume.)

Watch it at its website. It's worth it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Bear Makes Up His Own Prayer

The Bear stalked his prey from upwind. He moved without noise, a silent shadow through the false light of dawn. It was a magnificent Stag drinking at the Fish Stream. If the Stag sensed the presence of the Bear, not even the Bear could chase him down, for he was faster and more agile than a pony.

Under his breath, Bear prayed, God, you give every beast his meat. Deliver brother Stag to your Bear to his health and your glory. Amen.

“That wasn’t half bad,” the Bear said to himself, louder than he intended, but his luck held, for brother Stag had not heard.

“Oh, Heavenly Father of man and beast,” he whispered, “this is your Bear, of creatures least. He begs that you his belly fill, if it be… be Thy Holy Will.”

He thought that sounded very nice. Now that was a prayer!

“Thou dost ride the Sun on high and shed Thy Mercy from Thine eye. Thou dost give wisdom to the Bee and strength to catch the Stag to me. Oh, fulgent light, splendif’rous throne, from magmite feet to…” Oh, dear, he had quite gotten himself boxed in with ‘throne,’ but that did not matter. “From magmite feet to sapprhite chrone! Upon the leprous clouds Thou ridest, like a big bird I must confidest! Many stars, Thy counting stones… are… are… scattered just like pony bones.”

No, no. That did not sound holy at all.

The Bear noticed the Stag was gone.

“Thanks for nothing, God. Bear tried really hard to pray, too.”

Later, his stomach rumbling, he told the whole story to Father Corbinian. He insisted on reciting his spendif’rous prayer, on which he had continued working all day.

“Excuse- Excuse me, Bear,” Father Corbinian interrupted. “I’m sure that’s considered very fine epic verse among bears, but I’ve had quite enough. I’m sure God has, too.”

“But, Father, Bear has many stanzas left. We’re coming to the best part. With mighty strength, and fur just the right length, my jaws are strong and my teeth are long! I crush the mountains ‘neath my paws, and bless all creatures with my laws. The only greater than the Bear, are you, O God, but You're way up there! Together we-”

“Bear! Bear! Stop!” Father Corbinian had clapped his hands to his ears.

“What?”

“No wonder you did not catch that Stag. He probably fled in horror. Bear, what’s wrong with the few prayers I taught you?”

“Bear thought it would be better to pray from his own heart. It doesn’t seem… sponshus when Bear uses Father’s prayers.”

But Father Corbinian was not sympathetic.

“It sounds less like praying than some bear who enjoys the sound of his own voice! Pray like I taught you, or, if you feel like being sponshus, whatever that’s supposed to mean, pray to God simply, from the heart. Something like, ‘God, please help me catch breakfast. Amen.’ Then give thanks no matter what. Now, if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for Vespers. Really, Bear, sometimes you’re just too much… too much Bear!”

Guide to Lent for Bears (and Bearish Humans)

The Bear apologizes for neglecting his ephemeris, but here are a few ponies he's running down right now.

First is a little book with a working title of "Guide to Lent for Bears (and Bearish Humans)." If you remember the Bear's Lent stories, you'll know what it's like. Forty stories, one for each day, with planned illustrations. The Bear has a good feeling about it. According to his counting stones, he is only one-quarter of the way finished with a February 1 deadline.

For real.

Second, there is the current rewrite of Book Two of the Rubricatae Chronicles, Conspiracy of Crows. Travail in childbirth indeed; this one has been sideways for a year. Bear hopes he has solved all the problems and can get started again after the Lent book is finished. Right now, though, there are only three finished chapters. It is not quite as dire as that, since there's enough salvage material for ten novels and it's finally got some traction.

Then there was a bit of voice work. The Bear narrates a beautiful short film by Marcelle Abela that uses images from the Hubble space telescope set to a poem and music. This is one of those things that make you say, "Wow. I'm really glad I have an ultra high-resolution screen!"



Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Microsoft Tech Support Fraud

Microsoft: Committing Consumer Fraud 24/7


It's not funny because it's true.
The Bear spent his New Year's Day with Microsoft's so-called technical support. Seven hours. This is not the only all-day session. This is no accident. (A proposition whose importance you will see in a moment.) Poor service is a foreseeable result of a number of decisions Microsoft has made based on consciously trading a certain amount of customer ill will in return for maximizing profits.

However, Microsoft crosses the line from "poor technical support" to "no technical support," when the term "technical support" ceases to retain any reasonable meaning at all. In a word, Microsoft is committing consumer fraud. In a few more words, it is an on-going criminal operation. Back to a word: RICO.


How Microsoft Commits Consumer Fraud

Time for DOJ vs. Microsoft
Round 2: this time it's RICO
First, the Bear is not going to rant about shoddy products or unworkable operating systems. The Bear likes the Microsoft products he uses, which include a Surface 4 running on Windows 10, the Pen, the Dial and even Invoke. You might even say he's a bit of a fan. The Bear doesn't expect everything to be perfect all the time.

His complaint begins when something goes wrong and he must seek technical support.

The Bear has paid $149 for a "Complete" plan on his Surface 4 that covers technical support (as well as accidental damage). There is a similar "Assure" plan that covers technical support only, for about the same price. (By the way, do not expect technical support agents to know you have this, or even to know what "Complete" is.)

When the Bear has paid Microsoft for a technical support plan and the evidence is clear Microsoft never had any intention of holding up their end of the bargain, the Bear recognizes that as garden variety consumer fraud. This is not hard.


Home Improvement Fraud Example

Let's start with an easy-to-understand example. The Bear used to be Assistant Illinois Attorney General. Home repair scams were what we usually saw. Contractors would not do the work, or not finish the work, or finish the work to a criminally substandard degree. That's called consumer fraud.

Fraud requires an intent to take money from someone in return for a job you never intend to perform. A scam. What is clear is that Microsoft has decided to create a technical support program that it knows by its very nature is incapable of fulfilling the promises it makes consumers in return for their money.

Again, the Bear alleges that Microsoft has deliberately crossed the line from providing poor technical support to providing something that cannot be called technical support in any meaningful sense of the term. In a word: fraud.


"My name is Milo B,, and I can definitely help you resolve your
issue, no worries."

Bear Technical Support Illustration

For example, some Bears might be hired by Microsoft as "Technical support Bears for All Your Computer Needs." In return for $75 a year, you could reach him by chat or talk to him on the phone. He would be quite pleasant, and assure you that, "Bear can definitely take care of your problems, no worries."

He would go down a checklist, asking you to do various things to help him "troubleshoot" your computer. With a combination of relentless politeness and interruptions in service that require providing the same information time and time again, you eventually settle for an incomplete resolution of your issue, or perhaps just give up. Maybe next time will be better. You don't really need a calendar on your computer, or whatever.

However, the more you consult with Bear Technical Support, you notice certain things.


Suspicions About Bear Technical Support

Scripting. Most Bears don't speak English well and don't know much about computers. As your Bear Technical Support experiences accumulate, you notice they're speaking from a script. "How is your day, today? I hope it is great. I can definitely help you with your issue, no worries." Their "troubleshooting" also proceeds the same way every time.

You even try to tell them their remote assistance program won't work because of a Windows problem they refuse to fix, and recommend Quick Assist. But it's easier to deflect a Bear making a beeline for a female in heat than to separate a Tech Support Bear from his script.

Multitasking. There are long absences while the Bear "helps other customers." He has thousands, you know, and he's only one or two Bears. (Why in the world did anyone think that could ever work? you wonder.) Sometimes he must "talk to his supervisor." When he does get back to you, he has naturally forgotten what you called about and politely asks you to explain everything again from the very beginning.

At first, you figure you caught the Bear on a bad day. You like to give Bears the benefit of the doubt. He's just an overworked Bear, probably not getting paid very well.

Interruptions and Other Ways Your Time is Wasted. Of course, starting from square one over and over frustrates and wearies you. Hours pass - that's no exaggeration. Most of it is sheer wasted time that is not contributing to the resolution of your issue. Usually, your chat sessions get interrupted and phone calls get dropped. When you finally manage to get reconnected, it is with a different polite Bear. (Or the same Bear with a different improbable pseudonym.) He asks you to wait while he reviews the notes left by the previous Bear.

No Notes Kept on Your Issue. When he rejoins you, he starts the same questions all over again, because, apparently, Bears don't really keep notes about your case, and you don't want to know what the Bear is doing during that fifteen minutes he's supposedly reading notes.

No Way Out. You might ask to have your issue escalated. Your request is politely, but firmly deflected. The best you can hope for is a transfer to the other, equally incompetent Bear. You night ask for a trouble ticket number. However, that request will also be ignored until a time of the Bear's choosing, i.e. not before you are "accidentally" disconnected.

You notice that the system was apparently designed by Temple Grandin to send you like a steer through the chute to the slaughterhouse floor. Technical Support Bears control the whole process and there is no way out for you. No escalation, no diversion, no complaint department. One time you got to Customer Service, who was very polite, and promised to transfer you to 'Surface Next Level Support."

Instead you got a robot asking questions about your Xbox. The funny thing is, this always happens when someone says they're going to transfer you to Surface Support. You even tell them, "I know you're going to transfer me to Xbox support," but they always say, "Oh, no, sir, I would never do that. I can assure you most faithfully an expeditious progress to Surface Next Level Support."

And then they send you to Xbox support.

Bounce Pass between Bears. And speaking of Surface Support, a game the two Technical Support Bears enjoy playing is spending an hour with you then saying, "Oh, this isn't really a Surface problem. I need to send you to Windows Support." Eventually Windows support will say (you've guessed it), "This isn't a Windows problem. I need to send you to Surface support."

If you get Customer Support, she'll very politely send you back to Xbox support.

Bears Win. Eventually you give up. You're having angina and/or a psychotic break. It's just not worth it.


Suspicions Deepen about Bear Tech Support 

When you recover, you start to get suspicious. What the Hell do Bears know about computers, anyway? Their whole system is obviously run on a shoestring. They're spread over far too many customers at any one time, you can barely understand their grunts and snuffles, and, besides, they don't seem to know very much about computers in the first place.

For your $75 dollars a year, sure, you get to talk to a "Technical Support Bear," but it seldom does you any good. How could it? It isn't designed to deliver technical support at all. It's obviously designed to part you from $75 and give you the feeling of technical support without any substance.

Worse, the inherent inefficiencies seemed deliberately designed to discourage you and just make you go away. You feel like complaining, but the Bear Technical Support Telephone Number wisely gives you only a very limited automated menu that does not have a complaint department. (Phone menu by Temple Grandin.)


Microsoft Protection Money

But it does have one curious thing. There is, as it turns out, one real human being who is standing by, just waiting, eager to talk with you. No wait for this guy. You see, when you dialed Bear Technical Support, the robot told you that wait times were greater than 30 minutes. (They always are.) However, the robot slyly suggests there is another way.

That's when you remember how you got suckered into this whole Bear Technical Support scam to begin with. The robot asked you if you wanted to talk to someone about a for-pay option, implying you might not have to wait around for 30 minutes with the unwashed Microsoft-using masses.

Now give that a moment to sink in. 

The frustration of the consumer is created by Microsoft then leveraged to take another $149 from his pocket. The customer is immediately transferred to a salesman, who will try to sell him a support plan.

The joke is, it didn't do any good. You still got stuck with the same stupid Bears. But, at the time, it sounded like a pretty good deal.

The conclusion is inescapable. You've been scammed.

Sure, it's great for Microsoft, who owns Bear Technical Support. They throw their staff of three or four Bears a few spoiled salmon every week and pocket $74 profit per customer. They know Bears can't really help you. They know what they're selling isn't really technical support. It isn't meant to be. It's meant to simulate technical support, not provide it. Customer ill will is a price they're willing to pay, because, to put it simply, it doesn't affect their bottom line as much as setting up a real technical support system would.

And, you, my friend, are a victim of consumer fraud. It's not really the fault of the Bears. It's the fault of Microsoft, who exploit the poor Bears and are laughing all the way to the bank - at both you and the Bears.


The Bear is Serious: This Is Consumer Fraud

The Bear has no issue with anyone making money. He also realizes that bad Microsoft tech support is a unfunny joke: the hard-to-understand chap in Bangalore calling himself "Percy R." It's just something we all have to put up with if we use Microsoft products. The Bear would never call inefficient or even surly technical support consumer fraud.

He is, after all, a lawyer, although no longer practicing.

Where Microsoft crossed the line between being unconcerned about customer relations to criminal activity is when it decided to charge money for technical support it knows without doubt it cannot deliver in any meaningful sense of the word.

It would be like a home repair guy you hire to put on a new roof. He uses the cheapest child labor he can find, gives them the wrong tools, and every decision is driven by maximizing his profit. He knew going in that it would be impossible to provide you with a real roof given the tools, labor and corner-cutting he brought to your job. Three years later, the job is done, but it leaks. You try to complain, but you can never get hold of him.

Yeah, you get a new roof, sort of, with much delay and frustration, and it leaks.

You report it as a home repair scam and the repairman says, "Look, I was paid for a roof, and there's a roof. So what if it leaks? Life ain't perfect. Put some pans on the floor to catch the leaks."

Bear promises you neither the Attorney General nor the judge would be impressed. The only reason Microsoft gets away with it is the company is too big and the facts are a little fuzzier than shingles and nails.


RICO: It Wouldn't Be the First Time DOJ Took a Swipe at Microsoft

When an organization commits on-going criminal activity, it is subject to federal prosecution under RICO. Before you laugh, the Bear remembers when federal prosecutors all had to use Word Perfect because the Department of Justice was suing Microsoft for monopolistic practices. United States vs. Microsoft, 253 F.3d 34 (D.C. Circuit, 2001). So it's not like DOJ has not had to swat Microsoft down in the past.

Will DOJ prosecute Microsoft for their tech support scam? No. Will Microsoft ever be motivated to provide legitimate technical support? No. For nearly all of us, the only choices in operating systems are Microsoft's Windows or Apple's OS X. (Spare Bear the suggestion that everyone build their own computers out of toothpicks and use Linux.)

What can customers do to mitigate deliberately bad Microsoft Technical Support? Bear doesn't know. If you can persuade an incompetent tech support agent to give you a lateral hand-off to someone else, you might get lucky. (Sorry to say, but judicious use of profanity might accelerate that when other options are exhausted. It truly is the international language.) In general, know what games they're playing, as described above, and just keep churning through agents until you find someone who can help you. Unfortunately, that involves a huge waste of time.

The Bear doesn't know. He's not giving up, though.

But if you get Khryzz L. just ditch the session and draw the next card. He's the worst.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Nativity Set: Fixed!

Bear Waits for Baby Jesus
Again, Merry Christmas. Bear would like to take a moment to thank all who have showed their appreciation for his efforts through their PayPal donations. Some have been astonishingly generous, but they all make the Bear happy and cover the modest expenses of our ephemeris. Some have set up a $10 per month donation. Thank you, all who have kept him in salmon, have contributed comments, or just enjoyed some of the Bear's eclectic articles.

May the Good God bless you and yours.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Merry Christmas From the Bear

Advent

The Fontanini Kitten figure (Molly) seems a little out-of-scale, but is pretty cute.

Merry Christmas from the Bear, Red Death, Christopher, Michael, Arthur; Ragsy and her husband Austin, and all the goats and chickens.

Sorry for the sporadic and eclectic posting, but Bear must busy himself putting words elsewhere for now.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Montage of Pope Video Saxophone Man Scenes

h/t "Cyrillic" for this exhaustive collection of all of the Pope Video Saxophone Man scenes, the latest of which was in the December 2017 video titled: "Don't Hate Old People, Because They're a Lot Cooler Than You Think; Well, On Second Thought, Maybe You Can Hate the Ones Who Aren't Unexpectedly Cool."

Bear thinks Cyrillic has solved the mystery. It's all about authority.

If you watch long enough, you'll hear a debate between Saxophone Man and Policemen. They try to tell his friends that Saxophone Man "isn't above the law."

Saxophone Man's friends counter, "Oh, but he is above the law. Look. He's playing to a baby."





The Bear wants to be in a Pope Video. Here's his audition tape for the recurring role of "Saxophone Bear." Prepare to be impressed!





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