Target Aims for Tolerance

As a small business owner, I know the dangers of one’s company taking public, political stances on firey topics. So when Minnesota based retail mega-chain Target came out in full support of gay marriage via new fund raiser this past week, I knew it was a courageous decision. Like my home state of North Carolina, this November MN voters will decide whether to put a gay marriage ban into the books. Not content to sit ideally by and let discrimination be written into their home-state’s constitution, Target has decided to take a stand and sell T-shirts to raise money for a group working to defeat the gay marriage ban in Minnesota.

Predictably, anti-gay marriage supporters are none-too-happy. Chuck Darrell, spokesman for Minnesota for Marriage said of Target’s decision – “Target is attacking traditional marriage, which is an incredibly misguided thing for them to have done. It’s an insult to the overwhelming majority of their customers.”

I never quite understand how traditional marriage supporters believe that by extending marriage rights to gays and lesbians, their own beliefs are “under attack”. How does it affect heterosexual’s rights to marry simply by allowing homosexuals to do the same? It makes no sense to me and demonstrates the “our way or the highway” mentality of the anti-gay marriage mentality.

Standing up against hate is always tough especially when traditional marriage proponents are sure to call for a sweeping boycott, potentially costing Target millions in revenue. Just ask North Carolina’s own Replacements Ltd., one of the country’s largest suppliers of replacement silver, china and glassware what happened when they took a stand against NC’s Amendment 1. Hostile letters poured in, customers cancelled their business and the owner’s personal safety was in doubt. Unlike Bank of America, Duke Energy or any of the other NC Fortune 500 companies that stayed conspicuously silent during the run-up to A1, Replacements Ltd. took a stand and in so doing, earned the respect of those of us who support gay marriage like myself.

I’ve always enjoyed shopping at Target brand stores and now I have a new reason to frequent their chain over their competitors, which I fully intend to do. It takes guts and wherewithal to do what Target has done and they seem to have both in abundant supply. Such companies deserve both our praise and our business.

NC’s Silver Lining

I have to say that when I went to bed last night I was feeling pretty darned depressed about what transpired here in North Carolina with Amendment 1. I just don’t understand how people can treat their fellow Americans with contempt just because of whom they love. I firmly believe the state has no business interfering in our lives in this way, and the passing of A1 with such an overwhelming majority (even if they were confused about its implications) was quite heartbreaking.

But then today the President finally finishes “evolving” his position and comes out in favor of gay marriage. Suddenly things just don’t seem as bad. I know his stated position doesn’t change anything for the thousands of lgbt couples in NC and around the country, but what Barack did today is symbolic and it does indeed matter.

I was very proud of the President when he was elected. He’s strayed on some important issues, bent his promises on others, but in his heart, I believe him to be an honest and good man. Today he re-affirmed my faith in him, for that, and for lifting the specter of Amendment 1′s passing, I thank him.

Thinking Critically Pt 2

Back in March I wrote about a helpful series of TechNYou videos that outlined how to think critically when making arguments. I recently came across another resource in that same vein that outlines all the various types of logical fallacies in one handy and convenient place. YourLogicalFallacyis.com is great because it lets you refer to the various types of fallacies quickly and easily. You can even download a poster of the site’s content as a PDF, print it and hang it on your wall as an ode to logic.

These resources have been invaluable to me as I try to wade my way through discriminatory arguments filled with logical fallacies concerning North Carolina’s upcoming vote on Amendment 1. Next Tuesday, May 8th, NC voters will decide if the state has the ability to seriously curtail the civil rights of same-sex couples in what is unfortunately promising to be a close decision. If approved, the constitutional provision would read:

“Marriage between one man and one woman is the only domestic legal union that shall be valid or recognized in this State.”

The proposed Amendment is unnecessary since NC law already doesn’t recognize same-sex marriage as such, but right-wing Christian conservatives felt it wasn’t enough and proposed stronger wording in the form of Amendment 1. If passed, these couples would be barred from the same legal rights that heterosexual couples currently enjoy like health care benefits, end of life decisions and more. The President opposes the measure, and so do I.

Local writer and blogger, Ed Cone has been a strong opponent of Amendment 1 since it first came on the scene and his blog has been a great place for NC natives to discuss and debate the issues at hand. It’s also been the political equivalent of a petri dish for logical fallacies like straw man arguments, slippery slopes and unfortunately ad hominem attacks. As I transition from a young man to a more seasoned one, I find resources like YourLogicalFallacyis.com invaluable to help me keep my cool and make calm, rational arguments. Check it out and always remember to fight the good fight.

Even Faster Food

Blame the ailing economy if you like, but in recent years businesses have become more and more willing to experiment in order to get a leg up on the competition. Seeking to capitalize on the increasingly tech-savvy public, the acclaimed burger chain Five Guys, has introduced a new iPhone and Android application that aims to make your dining experience quick and effortless.

Five Guys joins the ranks of restaurant chains like Chipolte Mexican Grill and Outback Steakhouse that let customers not only browse their menus but also place a to-go order right from their smart phones. I take food out from local Greensboro eateries a lot and I usually try to call ahead so I can get in and out as quickly as possible. The breakdown in efficency usually occurs at the time of payment and so I end up waiting in line to fork over my debit card while I hope and pray my food is even ready.

When ordering with Five Guys’ or Chipolte’s apps, you specify what time you want to pick up your food, pay for it via secure ordering and even save your favorite selections for future reference. I tried the Five Guys app today and it was a dream. I entered the store, went directly to the pickup counter and simply gave my name. The order was ready to go and I was enjoying my lunch all within minutes of walking in the door.

I can envision a time in the not-too-distant future when customers won’t even need to pull out a wallet when eating at their favorite restaurant. The advent of smart phone payment apps like Square and iOS 5′s geo-fencing technology have already started to revolutionize the way people shop, and soon dining experiences like the one I had today at Five Guys will be the rule, not the exception. Now if we could only design an app to get us through TSA lines as quick and “painlessly”.

[Dan Frakes and David Lanham contributed to this post]

Exceeding Expectations

Local lawyer and conservative blogger, Sam Spagnola is running for county commissioner. Sam and I have had dust ups over on Ed Cone’s blog and it’s no secret that I disagree with the vast majority of positions he’s taken on national politics. So when I spotted (what I assumed must be) his truck at the Quaker Village shopping plaza, I had to snap a few pictures.

Even though I’ve never met Sam in person, I have to say that the messages conveyed on his vehicle fit the man to a tee. Typically politicians seeking office take the moderate route so Sam’s slogan of “Elect a REAL conservative!” could be considered a bold, fresh marketing move. Unfortunately for voters like myself, seeing his mocking of our president on his bumper sticker and license plate turned me off. Then again, I guess local constituents and business owners like myself are not his target audience. Best of luck, Sam!

UPDATE: Turns out I assumed wrong (bad me!) and the truck isn’t Sam’s after all but one of his bigger supporters. The good news for Sam seems to be that his identity as a true conservative politician appears to be hitting the mark with his voters. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, major props to someone who takes action and runs for office instead of just standing on the sidelines grumbling to the crowd. Local government could use more of this, no matter what side of the aisle you’re on.

Teabagistan is Born

The Tea Party took decisive, measured steps today toward becoming a full-fledged domestic terrorist group. Some of its members faxed death threats to congressmen, other vandalized offices. An investigation was launched into the cutting of a gas line of the brother of another congressman and meanwhile, Greensboro’s conservative bloggers were all deadly silent on the topic. I wonder why that is.

The Tea Party has been filled with extremists from the day it was born, but now, egged on by Sarah Palin, and suffering a devastating loss at the hands of Obama for health care reform, they’ve decided to “double down on the crazy”. What’s worse, members of the U.S. Senate like John McCain and North Carolina’s very own Richard Burr are encouraging them with their infantile obstructionism to prevent the business of government. Are these representatives men or children? Are they so obsessed with exacting retribution for the health care loss that they are willing to put national security at risk? Seriously?

This is what the right-wing in this country has become. A gang of unprincipled, dishonorable thugs. They are starting down the path of violence and domestic terror, and are being supported by the actions of some of this country’s most (previously) distinguished elected officials. This must end now before it’s too late. A storm is on the horizon, and unless cooler heads prevail and the course is corrected, we’ll all go down with the ship. Call Senator Burr’s office and tell him to grow the hell up. Send him a tweet and demand that he get back to work and stop throwing a temper tantrum.

Time Warner’s Predatory Pricing

Like many communities across the country, Greensboro is attempting to lure internet giant Google to the area to lay the foundation for their super-fast broadband service. City officials have begun to mobilize and there is even a Facebook group that has cropped up where citizens can show their support for the project. I missed the following video when it first was posted, but thanks to a comment posting by Jim Caserta at Ed Cone’s blog, it was brought to my attention.

The town of Wilson, NC has become famous in these parts for launching their own, privately held high-speed fiber network. They did this despite enormous pressure from Time Warner Cable. The network in Wilson is also noteworthy because it has demonstrated what Time Warner is willing to do in order to put such locally owned high-speed networks out of business. Catharine Rice gave a presentation recently that outlines the kinds of price slashing TWC is willing endure in order to hold onto business, even while customers in nearby Raleigh have seen their rates rise from 5-50%. We can’t see the data she’s presenting in this clip, but it’s not necessary, the facts speak for themselves.

Time Warner cable has had a monopoly in North Carolina for far too long and I firmly believe that Google’s entry into the region would serve all of us well. I wasn’t able to make it to the initial community meeting to discuss ideas on how to lure Google to the Triad, but I damn will make the next one. I’m tired of paying ever-increasing cable rates for inferior broadband service. I can’t record HD shows in my Time Warner DVR because half the time they’re not available when I tune them in. The price breaks the people of Wilson are getting are almost obscene compared to what we pay here in Greensboro and it’s high time we let them know. I’ve had enough.

It’s All About the Twitter

News Channel 12′s Bill O’Neil gave the Iconfactory a ring this past Friday to get our input into a story he was putting together on the power and appeal of Twitter. Our schedules didn’t jibe, but fortunately Bill was able to hook up with some of Greeensboro’s best known bloggers and Twitter users for a piece called Bringing Business Through Twitter.

In the piece Bill interviews two new friends I met up with for the Tastecasting of Table 16 a few weeks back – Ryan Robbins and Danielle Hatfield. They’re joined by local blogger and internet strategist Sue Polinksy as they each discuss how Twitter is changing the face of communication in the Triad. I’m really happy I’ve gotten to meet so many of the local online community lately, mostly thanks to Twitter. If you want to learn more about how the power of Twitter is being harnessed in the Greensboro area, head on over to the WXII.com website and check the piece out.

Police Begin Probe Into Brad Miller (D-NC) Death Threats

The recent strong-arm tactics of the GOP and their insurance run corporate backers turned ugly last Monday when a caller to North Caroina Congressman Brad Miller’s office turned into what police call a “threat” situation. The caller was trying to provoke Miller into holding a town hall meeting. These forums have been disrupted lately by conservatives and Republican operatives to make their, sometimes violent, displeasure known about insurance industry reform. Well, now the police are involved and are starting to investigate threats to Miller’s life:

“The threatening caller, when told by a staffer that Miller was not planning a meeting, claimed the congressman didn’t want to meet with people face to face because he knew it would cost him his life, according to Canipe. The staffer then asked if the caller was making a threat. The caller, said Canipe, replied that there are a lot of angry people out there.”

As the incidents of inflammatory rhetoric such as Congressmen being hung in effigy and right-wing talk show hosts joking about poisoning the Speaker of the House increase, so does the likelihood that some angry citizen will go too far. During his inauguration speech, President Obama professed his belief that “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” The caller who threatened Brad Miller and the thuggish behavior of conservatives the past few weeks proves those the right never heard a word the President said that day.

Wishful Dining

I’m going to apologize right up front to the scores of local folks who will read this post and complain that I’m poo-pooing the Triad’s dining scene. This post isn’t about the lack of dining quality in the Triad, it’s about the lack of establishments that meet the criteria to be on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. Several weeks ago, a producer from Triple D emailed local bloggers to ask for suggestions about places in the Triad that might be right for the show. Ed Cone put up a post to ask for input and many people chimed in. The trouble is, none of these people actually seem to watch the show.

If they did they’d know that there are very few, if any restaurants in the area that Guy Fieri should be visiting. That’s not to say the diners, drive-ins and dives in Greensboro, High Point and Winston aren’t good, many of them are. Take one of my favorite sandwich places, Jams Deli, which is just up the road from my office on Friendly Avenue. I love Jams very much and I and the guys at work enjoy eating there at least once a week for lunch. Yesterday I noticed a sign on Jam’s window asking for people to email Guy and suggest Jams to be on the show. As much as I love Jams, they too, seemingly have never watched Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives. If they did they’d know Jams isn’t Triple D material.

The eateries that are featured on the Food Network show have at least three things that make them TV worthy. First, they make all their food from scratch. Last time I checked, Jam’s doesn’t make their french fries, hot chips, onion rings, buns or rolls from scratch. Second, they usually have waiting lines out the door at all times of day. The closest place Triple D has featured, The Penguin Drive-In in Charlotte, NC typically has a 20-45 minute wait to get a table any day of the week. Third, they serve interesting food. Over at Cone’s, Liv Jones suggested Johnson’s in Siler City for their yummie burgers. While I respect Liv’s opinion, Siler City isn’t the Triad, and Johnson’s burgers have nothing on burgers featured on Triple D. The places the producers are looking for have notable items no one else has. Like homemade fried pickle chips or a giant hot dog affectionately called “The Homewrecker”.

Same goes for almost all of the other places I saw suggested at Cone’s blog: Country BBQ (it’s good, but it’s also standard NC fair) Beef Burger (ate there 2 weeks ago, absolutely over rated, not all food made from scratch), Texas Tavern (in Virginia, not the Triad, no interesting food items). About the closest I think would meet the show’s criteria is Yum Yum. Because it’s a college hangout, it’s always busy and people rave about the place, but I don’t know if the food is made from scratch or what.

At this point I can sense you really are upset with me. Upset because I’m not begging the producers of Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives to come to Greensboro and film their show. Trust me, I’ve watched every episode and no one would love for them to come here more than me. I would just love to be able to point them at a place like Henrietta NY’s Dibella’s Old Fashion Subs and say “This is the place you’ve been looking for!” But I can’t. If there was a place in the Triad that deserved to be on the show, I’d be eating there every single day. Of course there are plenty of places in Greensboro I’ve never been, so go watch a few Triple D clips and get a sense for the kind of food they showcase. If you still think you know a place that can measure up, suggest it in the comments. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong, wrong, wrong on this one. In the meantime, I’m heading to Charlotte to check out Penguin. Who’s with me?

Unpretentious World Cuisine at Greensboro’s Table 16

If you met me on the street it wouldn’t be difficult to deduce that I enjoy eating. My mother loves to say that I’m “big boned”, but the truth is I love food. I consider myself a fairly skilled cook and I find that as I grow older, my appreciation for well prepared meals has increased. So when I was invited to join a group of local bloggers to “tastecast” Table 16 here in Greensboro, I was only too eager to jump at the chance. I was not disappointed.

Located at 600 South Elm St. here in Greensboro, Table 16 offers up a fine dining experience unlike many others you have probably encountered. Chef Graham Heaton prides himself on crafting appetizers, entrees and deserts that are as varied in approach as they are filled with love. If you’ve never had the privilege of enjoying an 8 course menu the head chef has prepared especially for you, Table 16 is the place to start. Although only in his early 30′s, Heaton’s approach to the tasting menu he created combined thoughtful preparation and exceptional skill. This is the kind of dining you often see on television or read in very thick novels, but wouldn’t think to experience here in Greensboro. Now you can.

Our wonderful dinner began with a light vichyssoise served with yukon gold potatoes, georgia onion and crab salsa and progressed through items such as pan seared halibut with creamed corn & pernod to NY strip steak w/ tasso ham & fried green tomatoes. Each delightful dish that was brought to our table was proceeded by a special wine pairing that heightened each of the courses. I don’t drink myself, but judging from the reactions of my fellow diners, the wine choices were spot on each and every time.

Of all the dishes we enjoyed during our time at Table 16, my favorite had to be the second course. Ahi tuna and hot sausage poke (tartar) served on a wonton cracker with wasabi and fava bean pureé. This little heavenly delight had all the elements that make a dish great – varied textures and deep, rich flavors which were all cleverly combined in a way that, at first glance, seems simple. However, after just one bite you realize you’re in for something special. I gave the Chef several “thumbs ups” as he gazed from the kitchen to make sure we were enjoying our dinner. He smiled back and knew I was happy.

As incredible as the food was, the other great thing that struck me about Table 16 was how comfortable I was while we ate. It’s fair to say that five-star dining is a once-in-a-blue-moon experience for me and my wife. The cost, attire and locations one must endure to enjoy such an evening are usually prohibitive. While the expense of Table 16 is what you would expect to pay for such a wonderful and varied menu, the decor and atmosphere of the restaurant is just perfect for those usually intimidated by “fancy places”. It is true that the dining room offers a lovely view of Sound Elm and gives the hustle and bustle feeling of big city dining. This is offset by the warm and friendly staff who go out of their way to make you feel at home. From their friendly banter to the modest decor, Table 16 forgoes the usual stuffy nods to put all its attention into the food, where it belongs.

All too often I’ve wondered what it would be like to dine at a certain fine restaurant only to be turned back by the need to turn myself into someone I’m not. I don’t own fine suits, I don’t have all the money in the world and I certainly don’t need to be handled with kid gloves. While we ate, I saw other customers wearing much less formal attire than I (t-shirt & jeans) and having the meal of their lives. Thankfully the owners realize that customers come in all shapes, sizes and means and they are better for it.

Table 16 is a proverbial diamond in the rough. The menu is delectable and the kitchen is run by a Chef that obviously loves what he does and cares about his customers. The owners reached out to the local blogging community and generously offered to host our evening in the hopes that word could spread about this unassuming little eatery in the heart of downtown Greensboro. I thank both Table 16, as well as Scott Brewster, Adam Marney and all the other wonderful people I had the pleasure of meeting and dining with that evening. I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Table 16 to anyone looking for a night of culinary discovery in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Don’t miss it.

Red Flagged

Local blogger Dave Ribar reports on a story originally from the Greensboro News & Record. It seems as though some of the tea party participants in North Carolina and around the nation sent their state and federal tax returns in with tea bags attached to them. Responding to these sour grape antics, Dave hits the nail squarely on the head:

“…the net result of the “tea-baggers” childish behavior is to increase the costs of government and to make it more difficult to discern genuine security threats. Last November, the voters weren’t buying what these selfish, spoiled children were selling. Now, these same brats are going to show their true colors by throwing an expensive tantrum.”

Add to their waste the cost of the unused tea bags themselves and you have the ultimate example of hypocrisy this country’s seen in a long time. If I worked at the IRS and received a return that included anything but the standard paperwork, it’d be audited faster than you can say “Nestea Plunge”.

Of Tea and Time Warner

So much has happened this week that I wanted to get some random thoughts jotted down before I forgot them. So here’s a straight brain dump of what’s been running through my head these last few days. They include:

• I appreciate people’s right to organize and protest against their government. It’s extra special that the Tea Party crowd wasn’t forced into “free speech zones” like so many who protested the Iraq war just a few years ago.

• No matter how bad things got during W’s presidency, I can’t remember any Democratic governor calling for his/her state to secede from the union. Can you?

• If Texas wants to become it’s own country let them. It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes them to rejoin the union once hurricane season starts. (hat tip to Dave for this one)

• When major corporations like Time Warner say they have “no choice” but to hike internet rates by a factor of 10, what they really mean is “until legal action is threatened”.

• Newspapers could go bust at any moment, talk radio stations are dangling by mere threads and local TV stations are all but doomed.

• I’m thinking of organizing an anti-tea, “coffee day” grass roots campaign for those of us who support our President and our government. Honk if you’re with me.

• Note to tea-baggers: our President is doing precisely what he campaigned on which is one reason why the majority of the country elected him. Deal with it.

• I pay less taxes now than I did during the last administration.

• Companies like Time Warner are the reason why the phrase “by hook or by crook” exists. Don’t let your guard up for one single moment. Call for regulation and increased competition.

• President Obama is less than 1/24th of the way through his first term. If the tea-baggers don’t pace themselves, it’s going to be a very looooong 4 years.

• To protest wasteful spending, conservatives and libertarians bought over a million tea bags this past week, most of which will ultimately be discarded.

• I need to find and buy stock in tea companies. (hat tip to Brad Krantz)

When Will Brad & Britt Stand Up?

The momentum behind exposing Time Warner’s recent rate hike and bandwidth cap here in Greensboro is growing. Bloggers have been writing and setting courses of action. Local news crews have weighed in and the News & Record’s own Joe Killian has reported on the subject several times. Even our local officials, like Greensboro’s mayor Yvonne Johnson has spoken up and said she’ll do whatever she can to help bring Internet competition into the area. Everyone’s talking, with two notable exceptions: FM Talk’s own morning team Brad Krantz & Britt Whitmire.

Brad & Britt have always done a great job of bringing issues, especially local ones to the forefront here in the Triad. Although they have critics on both the left and the right, they always speak from the gut and give it to the listener straight up. Until Now. In an ironic twist of fate, Brad & Britt remain silent regarding an issue that has people in Greensboro upset and dying to vent on air. You see, Time Warner Cable is one of FM Talk’s biggest advertisers.

Britt Whitmire is extremely tech savvy and has dragged his older partner, Brad Krantz, kicking and grumbling into the world of Facebook and Twitter. Britt’s even joined the fake Twitterer’s club and created for-fun accounts for Fake Dan Rather and Little Rush so we can enjoy his musings at any time of the day or night. But even Britt seems powerless to rock the boat when it comes to corporate sponsorship.

When the news about Time Warner’s preposterous rate changes first broke in Greensboro, I sent an @reply to Britt to see if they could raise the topic on their morning show. Britt’s response disappointed me, but deep down, I understood it. I often must resist writing blog posts critical of services or companies for which I do design work for at the Iconfactory. But unlike Britt, my job isn’t to get people talking about national and local news & events. FM Talk’s management have no doubt cut the duo out of the loop on this important issue, which is unsettling.

At WOAI-AM in San Antonio, Texas, conservative talker Joe “Pags” Pagliarulo is taking the opposite approach and getting his callers to talk up a storm on the subject. He hasn’t bought Time Warner’s excuses for fleecing his listeners and is fighting the good fight against corporate greed. It pains me that folks in Texas can speak their mind, but thanks to FM Talk’s sponsorship from Time Warner, the Triad is left out in the radio cold. If it bothers you too, then head over to FM Talk 101.1′s contact us page and petition management to allow discussion of Time Warner on Brad & Britt. Be professional but firm and let the suits know the Triad needs to talk about this issue on air.

I often hear Britt plug Time Warner on my morning drive to work. I used to get a smile from hearing him promote Apple TV to download the latest movies and TV shows via his Roadrunner broadband service. Now, when I hear him talk about this latest internet gadgets I feel sorry. One day Britt’s going to go download a movie, find out he’s over his bandwidth limit and pay an extra $1 per GB just like the rest of us. We can only hope he and Brad will eventually wake up and do their part as Triad citizens to raise awareness of Time Warner’s greed. If it helps ease the sting of upsetting a sponsor, I’m willing to bet talking about Time Warner’s rate hikes would be a ratings bonanza.

UPDATE: Britt has responded in the comments below and states that it was in no way the management at WZTK that kept them from talking about the Time Warner situation in Greensboro, it was Brad & Britt’s decision alone. Since that’s the case, readers should direct their pleas to discuss the topic on air to the hosts themselves and not the station. Thanks.

Telling Time Warner What It Can Go Do with Itself

I received a call at the office yesterday from a Time Warner rep offering info on digital phone service and how Time Warner could “save me tons of money” on our phone bills. I told the woman to email me about the pricing structure, all the while resisting the urge to lash out in anger about Time Warner’s proposed bandwidth cap and rate hike.

Reports today that Time Warner is “revising” its plans and, as expected, increasing the limit on bandwidth to try and satisfy upset customers regarding the ridiculously low limits initially proposed. As a stop gap measure the company is now saying that for a mere $150 a month, users will have “virtually unlimited” bandwidth available to them.

So let me get this straight. I’m supposed to be happy that my current cable bill is going to go from $39 a month for a true unlimited connection to $150 a month for something that can’t even be guaranteed? That’s in addition to my cable TV bill. To top it all off, TW now says these new plans will start in August instead of the “fall”.

What planet does Time Warner thinks it lives on?!

As Time Warner continues to lose more and more respect in the eyes of consumers, events are starting to whirl and people are starting to take notice. Ed Cone points to an article at Wired that calls into question Time Warner’s excuses of higher expenses. Turns out bandwidth costs have been decreasing not increasing as they’ve insisted. More proof that this change isn’t about costs, as I said before it’s about control.

Our local leaders are starting to wake up too, which is a good thing because until the Triad gets some serious internet competition, Time Warner’s pretty much got us over a barrel. Don’t stop writing people and don’t stop calling to complain. The worst thing you can do as a consumer is to become complacent and think it’ll all just work itself out. And if you happen to work in the Time Warner sales force and made a call to me last Thursday, get ready for an earful when I call you back on Monday. Then go play my call to your managers so they understand they’re about to lose a valuable business customer thanks to your company blatantly screwing over its consumer division.

Time Warner Rate Hike Isn’t About Bandwidth. It’s About Control.

When my friend and co-worker, Louie Mantia, moved to Greensboro, NC in November of 2008, one of his first orders of business was to sign up for Roadrunner high speed internet with Time Warner. A few days later Louie had everything he needed. He could surf to his favorite websites, perform online banking, watch videos, rent movies online, download software updates and even work from home.

What Louie didn’t need however, was cable TV service.

Thanks to the recent rise in entertainment websites like Hulu, online movie rental services like iTunes, Netflix & Amazon and easy to use desktop software like Boxee, many computer users are deciding to forgo traditional TV. This small, but certain fact lies at the root of why Time Warner Cable recently announced it was adding Greensboro to a set of test-bed cities for a planned bandwidth cap and rate hike. Time Warner knows the sand is shifting beneath their feet and they are willing to do anything, including angering entire cities, to help stem the tide.

Local blogger Roch Smith has been out in front of this issue as has the Greensboro News & Record’s own Joe Killian. Both have outlined the potential problems as well as the frustration for typical computer users and word is starting to spread. Unfortunately, my attempts to get local talk radio personalties Brad & Britt to discuss the subject on air met with predictable, if disappointing results.

Bascially, Time Warner’s proposed bandwidth caps of 5, 10, 20 and 40GB per month are preposterous. To help put it in perspective, 5GB of bandwidth a month (the lowest plan) equals just 170Mb a day. Anyone who’s surfed to YouTube or listened to more than a few podcasts knows that 170Mb of bandwidth gets eaten up in the blink of an eye.

Time Warner’s highest proposed plan of 40GB doesn’t even come close to what modern internet goers use in an average month. Simply downloading 2 or 3 HD movies from iTunes will put you over this limit and into paying $1.00 for every additional GB. Over your limit and want to rent an HD movie from Netflix? That’ll cost you an extra $8.00 over and above the price of the movie itself. It’s nothing short of obscene.

Over at Ed Cone’s blog, noted Internet founder Vint Cerf puts forth the idea that bandwidth is constricted at the edges of the net, which could make it difficult for providers to keep up with demand. I’ve heard that this could be one reason companies such as Time Warner feel that rate hikes of 1000% (like the one Time Warner is proposing) are unavoidable. If this were true, digital movie downloads from Time Warner itself would also count against your total bandwidth usage, but they don’t. No, Time Warner’s move is an obvious ploy to keep control of what and how you watch. The cable that brings Time Warner On-Demand movies to your living room TV is the same cable that provides you with your favorite episode of Battlestar Galactica from iTunes. Since TW fears losing more and more television subscribers to free sites such as Hulu, they’ve decided split the difference and soak those of us who have changed our viewing habits from the TV to the computer.

I won’t stand for it, and neither should you.

If you think this cap and rate hike doesn’t effect you because you don’t live in Greensboro, Rochester NY or San Antonio TX, then think again. Once outrage dies down in these markets, Time Warner will begin to spread the same plans to other parts of the country. Other internet providers will adopt similar capping plans and your days of unlimited bandwidth will be numbered. To be clear: I do not support bandwidth caps of any kind. If you want to charge me extra for unlimited access, then do so to a reasonable degree. I don’t mind paying extra for premium services like unlimited bandwidth and faster speeds, but at the prices Time Warner is proposing, my next bill could be $400-800 and that simply is out of the question. That said, Time Warner’s own data proves the rates are just a smoke screen.

In the meantime, if you’re as upset about this as I am, then you should make your voice heard. Contact Time Warner and let them know you won’t stand for limits on your internet surfing. Contact Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, Apple and others and let them know that Time Warner’s proposed rate hikes are about to force you to drop them as paying customers. Then call, write and email your local representatives and have them stand up to corporate greed. Like many places around this country, Greensboro’s unemployment rate is sky high. People are hurting, and yet a large corporation like Time Warner thinks it can impose outlandish rate hikes on average internet users with impunity. Roch Smith promises to have a list of contacts of local reps soon. Keep an eye on his blog for more info.

Lastly, don’t settle for bandwidth caps. Petition for unlimited access. Internet usage is only increasing and caps make absolutely no sense. Do you want to be tied to a bandwidth monitor while you surf? Do you like to be told that you can’t download what you want, when you want it? If not, I suggest you get off your butt and get moving. There’s very little time left.

UPDATE: Roch has posted an excellent bit about who to contact in Greensboro about this matter and how to approach the topic with them. I urge you to head there, check it out and follow up asap.

Signs of Recovery

Five & 1/2 weeks. That’s how long Barack Obama has been President of the United States. The new American Recovery and Reinvestment Act is just starting to ramp up but apparently for some, 5.5 weeks should be more than enough time to completely fix the broken U.S. economy. How do I know that Obama’s strategy that was literally signed into law last week isn’t working? Because the media told me so.

It started with local radio talk show host Brad Krantz who ripped on the President during Tuesday morning’s Brad and Britt show. His open letter to the President derided him for the “timing” of his policies and his inability to fly to Wall Street and personally shake some sense into the traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. Next up was the Wall St. Journal who apparently feels that a crisis 8 years in the making can be completely turned around in under 40 days. Then, let’s not forget Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity who are popping out of the media woodwork to predict the utter ruin of Obama and the nation, much to the glee of the ditto-heads from coast to coast.

All the while, the President goes about the business of getting our nation back on the right track and doing it with the support of the majority of the American people. Obama campaigned on this promise to cut taxes for 95% of Americans and last week he made that promise a reality. An overwhelming majority of the country told John McCain to go home and that we really didn’t want more tax cuts for the rich. Now the media, led by people like Limbaugh, and sadly even my man Krantz, seems ready to jump ship even as the first jobs are being created by Obama’s stimulus program. Here’s a hint to nay-sayers: there are a shit-load more jobs about to be created, just watch.

You media mavens said you wanted a President that shot straight with the public. But you were lying. Turns out you just wanted another President like Bush that blew rose-colored smoke up your collective asses. For 8 years Bush lied and obfuscated and you whined and shouted “If only!” at the top of your lungs. But when push came to shove and Obama laid it all out for you like adults, you decide to bail on him. He’s been in office less than a single financial quarter! What you really want is a President that caters to the whims of Wall Street instead of investing in our future with green energy or cheaper health care for all of us. Shame on you!

Well guess what, we don’t want another President like Bush. We elected the man and polls say we’re not ready to give up on him just yet. Not after just 5 & 1/2 weeks, Brad. Not after 35 days, Wall Street. Help is coming, and the signs will be literally everywhere soon enough so do us all a favor, stop taking cues from Jim Cramer, un-wad your panties, take a chill pill and relax. You owe Obama, and the rest of us at least that much.

Greensboro Joins the Cult of Mac

After several false starts, months (even years) of waiting, and disputes with their retail neighbors, the new Greensboro Apple Store finally opened this past weekend. Although I’ve done my fair share of waiting in line for openings, this time things were a bit different. The level of excitement and enthusiasm as we stood in line Saturday morning was surreal. We arrived a little after 7am and were about 20 people from the front of the line. We came prepared and dressed in layers to keep warm.

The morning was spent swapping Mac stories and meeting new people. The day before a group of my friends and I from the Iconfactory stopped by the unopened store and happened to run into a WXII News crew. They had asked us why we were looking forward to having our own Apple Store and we even managed to get in a plug for Twitterrific.

When the moment of truth arrived and the doors finally opened, we were greeted like rock stars courtesy of the whoops and cheers from the store employees. After running down the line and high-fiving over 20 people, I can start to understand why some think Mac users are part of a geeky “cult”. We browsed the hardware, and Talos even ended up becoming the 1st official paying customer in Greensboro. After about 30 minutes we made our way to the exit, went outside and was greeted with our first real glimpse of the true size of the line waiting to get in. Checking out the photo essay from the News & Record it’s easy to see just how many people had come for the opening. Absolutely incredible.

While the store opening itself was a wonderful and throughly geeky experience, I’m more gratified to finally have a place locally where I’ll be able to go and purchase new Apple hardware, learn new software and have repairs made. The staff at the Apple store are always on call to help users with any need and I plan to avail myself of their hospitality every chance I get. From all of us, to all of you, welcome to Greensboro, Apple!

Greensboro Apple Store Opening Set

According to an unofficial announcement in the News & Record, the date for the opening of the Greensboro Apple Store has been set as Sat., February 21st. The new Apple store at the Shops at Friendly Center is reported to be North Carolina’s largest and promises to be a Mecca for Apple fans across the triad. All this is conjecture of course since there has been no official word from the Apple retail website.

Center hours are from 10am – 6pm on Saturdays, so I think it’s safe to assume the new store will open at 10am that day. I and a bunch of the guys from work will definitely be attending the opening so perhaps we’ll see you there. Just watch for the gaggle of geeks wearing the Iconfactory t-shirts. Just one more week folks!

Greensboro Apple Store Update

Yep, it’s still there and it’s still being worked on. The only visible difference on the facade of the future home of the Greensboro Apple Store is the corporate logo and URL that’s been added in the past week. My friends Anthony, Louie and David managed to sneak a peek inside when nobody was looking and reported that the Genius Bar logo is on the wall, and the interior is coming along. They said it seemed “big”, but I’m dubious since there’s no displays, shelves, etc yet.

At any rate, if the word on the street is true, hopefully sometime in February we’ll have a new place to go and buy shiny new Apple hardware in Greensboro. All of us at the Iconfactory can hardly wait. You can be sure we’ll be right there in the front of the line when the store opens. If you want to see the latest pictures of the store, head over to my Flickr page for some pictures that no one but Apple junkies would find thrilling.

UPDATE: A little bird, no not that one, told me that the Greensboro Apple store should be done and open by Valentine’s Day. Keeping my finger’s crossed!