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Long Story Short: We're making a list!


Illustration by Bruce Adams


Christmas Eve naughty and nice edition


Naughty! Spectrum email hell

Regular LSS readers will recall that a year ago we published Cable BS: a tragedy in five rants, an account of my time in Spectrum Cable hell. Now, here’s another lump of coal in my Spectrum stocking, this one involving email.


The details (a brief summary):

Some time ago I realized I wasn’t receiving certain mass-emails that I signed up for, using my roadrunner.com email account. You have to be mentally fit and ready to test your endurance to take on the cable company. Weeks went by. Finally, I took a deep breath and called Spectrum. Here’s how it went:


I make it past the reception-droid and get to Level One of the Spectrum Support Maze. After the customary scripted Q&A, the woman apologizes for the problem and says I will hear back within 72 hours. I don’t.


I call again. Level One receptionist #2 apologizes for the Level One receptionist #1, and resolutely swears she will call back the next day. She doesn’t.


Level Two: the delivery team

On the third call I am escalated to Level Two, an encouraging development. I explain again that I am not getting specific mass-emails. How do I know for sure? Because one of them is mine—Long Story Short. I tell Level Two guy that I had been getting the blog by email every Monday, then it suddenly stopped. He apologizes and tells me I will hear back within 72 hours. I don’t.


The next time I get to Level Two quickly by refusing to talk to Level One. The support ticket number that Level Two guy #1 gave me doesn’t exist in their system. I start over. I explain that my email isn’t bouncing back to Buffalo Spree Publishing (this turns out to be an error on my part, but Spectrum insists I do the confirming, rather than them).   


Level Two is now calling me daily. Eventually, they tell me about something called the “white list,” a setting where you itemize specific emails you want delivered. It’s the opposite of a block list. To access the white list, you log-in online and go to settings. I type in the address of the two mass-emails I know I’m not getting.




Level Three

Five, six, seven times Level Two calls back, and then I am escalated to Level Three, the boss of Level Two. Finally, someone with authority! Level Three informs me that there is nothing more they can do. To which I say, not true; they can call Constant Contact (CC), the company that mails the emails for BSP (Buffalo Spree Publishing), and find out what’s going on. They “can’t” do that they say. Don’t close the service ticket I say.


I call CC—which is tricky, since I don’t have a password or client phone number. After some adroit droid dialog, I get through, and learn that all email providers have something called rate limits, which regulate the number of mass emails individuals get. This helps prevent spam. But Spectrum is known for having severe limits, so emails you want may not get through. CC guy used to work for Charter (the parent company of Spectrum), and he tells me the company wasn’t keen on digging very deep to solve problems, and, when he worked there, it was customary to tell people there is nothing more they can do. He also says the emails CC sent to my address were actually bouncing back, and after a while I was taken off their send list. I told him to start sending them again.


Back to Spectrum Level Two (who is now speaking on behalf of Level Three): I tell him I was mistaken about the emails bouncing back—but they would have known that if they had called CC or BSP at the start. We talk about rate limits, and he says they are trying to find the right levels, but that’s why they have the white list. I point out that no one knows about the white list. People don’t even know emails are being bounced! We agree to see what happens Monday. I was already getting the other email that had been blocked.


I get Long Story Short!

I confirm that I got the email on Monday. I mention to Level Two that this could have been a lot simpler for all of us if they hadn’t insisted I act as the middle man, between CC, BSP, and Spectrum. Then I ask about everyone else who should be getting my blog. Sorry, he says, they won’t get it unless they call Constant Contact or BSP and tell them to start sending it again, and then put it on their white lists. I point out that this process sucks. Level Two guy more or less agrees, but not unequivocally, since we are being recorded for quality control purposes.



Nice! Spectrum pays for its evil deeds

In a settlement announced Tuesday by New York Attorney General Barbara Underwood, Charter Spectrum has agreed to pay $174 million for defrauding internet subscribers. It’s the largest consumer payout ever by an internet provider in the US, and Underwood is calling it a wakeup call to companies serving New York consumers. The settlement ends a lawsuit accusing Spectrum of failing to provide the reliable and fast internet service it promised—and knew it couldn’t deliver—going back to 2012, when Time Warner owned the company.


Eligible customers will receive either $75 or $150 and will get extra streaming services or premium channels at no charge for a limited time. Plus, the agreement also requires them to tell the truth about what they’re providing. And they have to test internet speeds regularly.


Qualifying Spectrum customers will be notified about the refunds and free services in the mail.



Last August, New York’s Public Service Commission told Charter Spectrum that it must get out of New York altogether within six months and find someone better to take its place. This was for some of the same reasons addressed in this settlement. Charter is negotiating with the state now, and few really believe they will actually be booted out.


But we can hope.



Naughty! Narcotic news

Have you ever actually seen a sea cucumber? Humans eat some pretty strange things, but these sea slugs would certainly rank among the top gag generators of ocean life. The worm-like invertebrates—sold smoked and dried—are packed with nutrition and prized for their health benefits. They’re popular in Asia, and if you tried hard enough, you might locate some in Buffalo. But they haven’t exactly caught on. What is popular in Buffalo is a whole lot less healthy.


The details:

Federal Agents of the Drug Enforcement Administration were in court last week to prosecute Herman Aguirre and Troy Gillon. The men have business records indicating they imported $19 million worth of sea cucumbers to Buffalo. Not likely, say the Feds. They are accused, along with fifteen others, of operating a massive cocaine ring, with ties to a Mexican cartel.


According to testimony, they transported the white powder in plastic buckets, surrounded by insulation, inside shipping boxes, hidden in a moving truck among used furniture. These were very large shipments. In one instance, 100 kilograms was delivered to a house in Tonawanda.


Take a moment to consider how much that is. In American terms, it’s 220 pounds, or what Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson would look like if he was made out of blow. It’s enough powder to provide every man, woman, and child in Erie and Niagara Counties with a line. And that’s just one shipment! Buffalo may not have a taste for sea cucumbers, but does seem fond of other imports.


The trial ended Friday in convictions for both men.



Nice! Narcotic news

If everything goes as Governor Andrew Cuomo plans, next year at this time, instead of toasting the New Year, you could be lawfully toking the New Year. The Governor has made legalizing recreational cannabis in New York State a priority for 2019. And the buzz (no pun intended) is that he may introduce legislation as soon as January.


Just a year ago Cuomo was calling cannabis a “gateway drug,” but a State Department of Health report concluded that cannabis criminalization “has not curbed marijuana use despite the commitment of significant law enforcement resources.” Duh. What’s more, Canada legalized it, New Jersey is on track to do the same, and each will realize significant tax revenue from sales. So, Cuomo is ready to act. Now that’s a New Year’s resolution!


Prohibition didn’t work

They tried banning alcohol from 1920 to 1933. The result was mob violence, bootleg booze, government corruption, gangster-run speakeasys, and overcrowded prisons. But people kept drinking.


Although it did result in some classic movies:

Little Caesar
Scarface: The Shame of a Nation]
The Roaring Twenties
Some Like It Hot
The Public Enemy


Unfortunately, the government didn’t learn

Four years after prohibition ended, they outlawed cannabis. That resulted in smuggling, drug cartels, gang violence, and overcrowded prisons. But people kept smoking. While cannabis is still federally prohibited, twenty states have now legalized it, and regulate its sale.


Although it did result in some classic movies: 

Up in Smoke
Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
Pineapple Express
The Big Lebowski​
Dazed and Confused



Nice! A politician, a hot dog, and a chopper

The Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, D.C. is so widely admired that two three-fifths scale copies were built years ago, to travel around the country. Now, one of those copies will be moving to a permanent home at Knox Farm State Park in East Aurora. And it’s going to take a lot of hot dogs and one hot chopper to make it happen.


The details:

New York State Assembly member David DiPietro announced the plan Tuesday at a news conference in Consumer Pub at Sahlen Field. Why there? Because Joe Sahlen and Sahlen Packing Company is helping to foot the cost of installation and site design for the memorial. DiPietro secured $100,000 from a State Parks grant to cover the cost of infrastructural improvements, but it will cost an estimated $475,000 for the wall and related amenities.


What about the chopper?

DiPietro happens to be friends with the owner of Orange County Choppers, where the TV show American Choppers is shot. To raise money for the wall in East Aurora, he got the motorcycle maestros to build a special Vietnam Memorial Wall chopper, which will be featured in an upcoming show. Sahlen’s is celebrating 150 years in business, and Joe Sahlen has been looking for ways to express the company’s gratitude by giving back to the community. So, the meat packing company is sponsoring construction of the vehicle, which will be sold or raffled to raise money for the Knox Farm State Park memorial. American Legion Post 632 in East Aurora will purchase the wall. The motorcycle will be unveiled on a future episode of American Choppers, and then go on display locally on Memorial Day. Only the chopper-builders know what it will look like.  The goal is to have the wall in place for a dedication in spring, 2020, or earlier.



Naughty and nice! Tom Flynn works Christmas

Tom Flynn is proud of his reputation as a Scrooge. He celebrates it every year around this time. Each Christmas, the editor of the secular humanist magazine, Free Inquiry, delights in going to his Center for Inquiry (CFI) office in Amherst to work.


This year, you can join Tom as he edits the magazine via a livestream 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., from the CFI website. Flynn will answer viewer questions about Christmas (he is an expert on the subject), which he refers to as the "helladay." This year he will also be entertaining a special guest—yes, Virginia, it’s Santa Claus—who will no doubt be exhausted from working the night shift, but has agreed to be grilled by Flynn.


It’s all for a cause. Flynn is raising money for CFI's Secular Rescue program, which aids threatened atheist and secular bloggers in repressive countries around the world. “The webpage provides two giving buttons,” explains Flynn in an email, “one for the "Spirit" fund (pro-holiday) and one for the "Lump of Coal" fund (wise and right-thinking, natch).” Both funds benefit Secular Rescue, but if the Spirit fund raises more, Flynn will don a Santa suit at the end of the livecast. If the Lump of Coal fund raises more, he’ll take a festive club to a Santa piñata.


The "Spirit" fund is currently ahead about 3-to-1.  Must be all those secular Christmas devotees.   



Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.


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