From Outbursts

The Concord, NH BestBuy is a good example of why I usually shop online

[simage=146,288,y,left,]My wife and I went down to the Concord, NH BestBuy today (1/9/11) at around 6pm to exchange some Christmas gifts. There were about 15 employees working on the floor, but only one was at the checkout. About 12 others were ambling about, either talking on cell phones or in one case, congregating in a group around an employee riding an electric scooter around the store.

When it came time for us to check out, the line for the one clerk was about 10 people long, yet the other dozen employees continued to stand around talking. When I went over to customer service to ask if I could checkout there, we discovered a $10 price discrepancy on an item, which the clerk needed manager approval to correct. After the manager was paged twice, guess who finally showed up: the employee on the scooter!

Now, I have no problem with employees enjoying a little downtime, but the manager let his whole staff down and angered a lot of customers in line, because he felt it appropriate to to be driving a product around the store instead of listening to when he was paged by his staff. When I confronted the manager about the fact that we’d been waiting for 5 minutes while he rode around the store, he was rude and unapologetic, and told me the process of overriding was easy, and it was ‘no big deal’ that I’d had to wait for him to show up after his joyride. I really felt bad for the customer service rep, who was one of two people (along with the checkout cashier) really busting their butts to keep the store going while management goofed off in the back of the store.

One of the most positive things about BestBuy is its high-quality customer service, but this branch is a bad example for the chain. I’ll certainly never shop at this BestBuy again, and I’ll be looking elsewhere first for electronics from now on. More importantly, this is an example of why I usually shop online: because the prices are cheaper, and the service is better…which is sad, because its provided by a machine.

Proof there is no God

[simage=128,288,n,right,]Never mind the existence of evil or that evolution stuff, the most positive proof that there is no higher power can be found in the fact that a particular device has never come to market. That device, my friends, is the Wake ‘n’ Bacon. That’s right, it’s an alarm clock that wakes you up by cooking a delicious piece of bacon right by your bed. Sadly, despite being invented way back in 2005, it doesn’t seem that you can buy one of these heavenly devices anywhere, and I ask you, what self-respecting deity would allow such a crime against nature to occur within His or Her divine plan? Maybe Loki, but I’m pretty sure he’s on the outs right now. So there you have it, proof that there’s no God: I can’t be woken up by the smell of bacon cooking by my bedside, even though now I know, and will never be able to un-know, that it is possible.

Why Haverford College isn’t getting a dime of my money

In the course of applying to grad school, I need an official transcript from my mala mater (look it up, it’s Latin and it means what it says), Haverford College. Trying to get said transcript has reminded me why I felt that Haverford does not care about its students, unless there is money to be made from them.

Case in point is the registrar’s Web site for transcripts. In order to get a transcript, you can mail or fax a form (or visit in person, ain’t that modern), but you can’t even put a credit card on the form, so faxing the form is useless while you wait for your mailed check to get the registrar. Now, the fact that Haverford’s Registrar’s office is in the Stone Age might be forgivable given the size of the college, but then you check out the Alumni giving section of the Web site. There, you can throw money at Haverford using any and all manner of modern payment, with no qualms whatsoever.

Now, of course, the Registrar’s office is hiding behind the facade of FERPA compliance, but I work at a school that is capable of having students identify themselves and request (free) official transcripts without having to mail a check and a printed form (note, we are a public university in one of the worst-funded states for higher ed–i.e. we’re not wallowing in endowment here).

The response I got from the Alumni Director at Haverford only confirmed my feeling that money is the highest priority at the school. In it, she made up several excuses about how much more difficult it is to set up a payment system for the Registrar as compared to Alumni donations, and how there’s a plan in the works to improve the Registrar’s site. Seeing as I work as a Web developer, these untruths really galled me. It has been almost a year since the email, and unsurprisingly those promises are as vacuous as they were when they were made.

So here’s a promise from me, Haverford College, and one that I intend to keep: you’ll never see a dime of my money until your fundamentally greedy attitude changes.

I missed the commercials…

[simage=126,288,n,left,]My experience yesterday at the Super Bowl taught me two things:

1. You don’t get to watch the commercials on the Jumbotron.

2. Saints fans are douchebags.

The first fact doesn’t worry me all that much. After all, that’s why Youtube exists. The second tidbit of knowledge, however, was a bit surprising. Given New Orleans’ reputation as a friendly, Southern city, all that its citizenry did at the game was demonstrate how loud, obnoxious, rude, and backward they were. Inane cheers of ‘Who Dat’ (NB: I still don’t know who dat is) were never-ending, and the only pleasant quiet came when we left the stadium with the dejected Colts fans.

I was really looking forward to visiting New Orleans at some time in the future, but if Mardi Gras is anything like the Super Bowl, the people of that city have convinced me that I’m alright with never visiting their swamp.

I also learned how much people truly hate the Patriots. We were nearly assaulted by irate Saints fans who began berating us for our choice of attire, and ended up in a 20 minute conversation with an utterly wasted fan who just signed up for another tour of duty with the Marines, and blames Obama for not winning the war. It was an interesting window on life in the South, a world that is remarkably different from New England. It was also a reminder of why I’m glad I live in the industrial North, and why the South is nice because it’s warm, but that’s about it.

Oh yeah, the game was awesome. – Totally avoidable and useless, but somehow embedded in my YouTube is the new, recording company-owned music video site, and it’s horrible. Of course, this is what we have come to expect from the recording industry, as it follows its classic formula of self-destruction in the face of new media. Here’s how the process works:

  1. Refuse to acknowledge the pervasive nature of the Internet in terms of its ability to disseminate content.
  2. Notce item (1), above, is a huge mistake costing millions in revenue as people who want online content, get it, for free.
  3. Begin round of legal threats and costly lawsuits attempting to somehow eliminate or diminish the power of the Internet to achieve item (1).
  4. Realizing that litigation is costly and ineffective because of item (1), create a company-owned portal on the Internet for dissemination of content in a highly restrictive, buggy, and often unusable manner.
  5. Charge the same price as for tangible assets like CDs and DVDs, but don’t include things like cover art or bonus features, and ensure DRM makes the process of purchase merely a euphemism for ‘lease.’
  6. Repeat item (1) for next emerging P2P technology.

In this context, you can see that it’s really no surprise the is terrible, and as such, will probably be a failure of epic magnitude. After all, this pattern of litigation and inferior offerings has not exactly endeared the populace to the RIAA’s membership, who apparently deluged VEVO’s mailboxes with enough complaints that a blog post was written on the (almost completely hidden) VEVO blog acknowledging that the site had been “totally slammed” by pretty much everyone, although the blame is placed on the exceptional amount of visitors (a comment on the post correctly points out that embedding content in YouTube would probably drive visitors to VEVO, a move that should have been anticipated). However, that post is dated the 9th of December, and as of today I am still unable to use Firefox to watch videos (and worse yet, there’s no acknowledgment on the site of this seemingly widespread issue). This means I will not be using the service, and I’ll probably try to avoid YouTube more than usual.

Additionally, VEVO has asked the site Muziic to discontinue using the API provided by VEVO, as it turns out that the API does not deliver the ads it is supposed to. In other words, VEVO wrote bad code, someone is using it because it has been provided, and VEVO is demanding that they stop. Awesome.

Hopefully YouTube is seeing a pattern of people discontinuing their YouTube sessions upon finding VEVO content, and this will cause them to apply pressure on VEVO to get their act in gear. As it is now, the site is just shameful, and another sad failure in a line of such failures for the record companies. I am reminded of a line in the NOFX song ‘Dinosaurs Will Die,’ that applies here:

Prehistoric music industry
Three feet in La Brea tar
Extinction never felt so good


NB: VEVO logo not included because I don’t have the means to defend myself against the inevitable lawsuit.

Stop making me buy your over-priced hardware, Apple

A couple of Apple reps were by recently touting the new Podcast Producer 2 server product. If you’re not familiar with Podcast Producer 2, it basically lets you do audio and video capture, as well as camera control and some nifty workflow creation (for doing things like automatically stamping video with copyright info and a watermark). It’s not a bad product from a design standpoint, except that it has what I consider a critical weakness in most Apple server products–it’s designed to force you to buy a lot of over-priced Apple hardware. Here’s what Apple envisions for a typical classroom with A/V capture:

1 Mac Mini to drive the lecture station, show slide shows, etc ($700)
1 Mac Mini connected to a camera to control video/audio capture ($700)
1 video camera ($200)
1 microphone ($100)
1/6 of an Apple XServe ($1,000)

That’s $2,700 per classroom, based on my rough estimations, or about $2,000 more than it should cost. The extras are all in the Apple hardware–most of which is unnecessary. How can I be sure of this? For one thing, the second Mac Mini is superfluous, except that Podcast Producer 2 is incompatible with network video cameras. This isn’t a technology limitation–I’m currently running streams from network cams such as those made by Axis into QuickTime Streaming Server on Mac OS X Server. Why can’t I use those same cameras with Podcast Producer? Because Apple wants to sell me an extra Mac Mini to control the camera, that’s why.

It’s things like this that make me so opposed to encouraging Apple products in the enterprise. If Apple just made good products (they do) that worked well with whatever hardware you have (they don’t), then they would be a real player in the enterprise. But since they have taken the route of limited hardware (under the guise of interoperability concerns), I am less than enamored with Podcast Producer 2, for the same reason I dislike many Apple products.

Google AdSense now integrated with Google Analytics

When I signed in to my Google AdSense account today, I noticed a link up near the top of the page that invited me to integrate my AdSense with my Analytics account. I followed along through some simple steps to add the AdSense to existing sites, then chose one to be a primary. The primary site will automatically integrate with AdSense data. Any other sites you want to track require that a small snippet of JavaScript be inserted on any page you want to tie in between AdSense and Analytics.

Google says the service takes a few hours to set up and get running. I’m curious to see what I find tomorrow…

Dallas cop who detained Ryan Moats should’ve been fired 3 years ago

You’ve probably heard by now of the latest incident of law enforcement ‘gone wild’ down in Texas. Apparently abusing pets doesn’t go far enough towards ‘protecting and serving’ the citizens of the Lone Star State–now they’re doing it to people. The newswire is abuzz with the story of how Officer Robert Powell of the Dallas Police is shown on his own cruiser’s videotape detaining a man for almost 15 minutes while his mother-in-law dies in the hospital in whose parking lot the entire debacle took place. Powell acts pretty stupidly throughout, is verbally abusive, and can be seen touching his gun menacingly. He ignores hospital staff’s pleas to let the man go see his dying relative, and even brushes off another police officer who tries to intervene on the man’s behalf.

Now, unfortunately for Officer Powell, the man in question was NFL running back Ryan Moats, and this incident has quickly put Powell in the national spotlight and the Dallas PD in a very bad PR situation. Add to this that Moats is black, and the accusations of racism have begun.

Now, I will say I am normally very, very skeptical when I hear that racism is involved simply because someone of one ethnicity did something bad to someone of another. So I decided to investigate. Here’s the scary thing…it seems Officer Powell was smart enough to set up a blog on, and one of the entries that allegedly was pruned from his blog reads as follows:

Saturday, October 21, 2006

You drink, You drive, You rear end another car, You dont speak english, You smell like alcohol, You cant stand up straight, You cant walk a straight line, You go to jail!!!

Now, this scares the living crap out of me. Look at this list. All of the things are clear, definable crimes in our legal codes, except one. Not speaking English is NOT a crime in this country. Now, I will admit that Officer Powell seems to have taken down his xanga site as well as his MySpace page. I am going on the word of that the site rip of Officer Powell’s site is legitimate. However, a Google cached page that I found of Powell’s site does include this:

Monday, August 28, 2006
The count downs begin:
18 days of work then the real work starts and I can shoot people

Tuesday, September 26, 2006
So this is the day after my first day as police. First night was full of waiting for a wrecker, meeting a he/she, taking a guy to jail, known as Lew Sterrett, 911 hang up, and some BS security guys calls that people arnt going home. All in all it was fun, and I have to ask: they are paying me to do this?

Now, this cache is of March 27th, and Powell has clearly removed a bunch of the later content that might get him in trouble. However, the two statements above display what a disgusting human being Powell seems to be. He seems transvestites as sub-humans, is thrilled with the power of his gun, and shows a general lack of comprehension for the basic rules of English grammar, itself a crime according to the alleged statements on his blog.

What I want to know is: why didn’t the Dallas Police pay more attention to what Officer Powell was writing back in 2006? This man shows clear lack of respect for others, or any of the attitudes necessary for a police officer. He shouldn’t just be fired now for what he did to a celebrity, he should’ve been fired years ago for displaying his lack of moral fiber on the Internet for the world to see. It doesn’t help that now NFL linebacker Zach Thomas is saying his Latina wife Maritza was a victim of a Powell power-trip recently as well…

Nazi Pope confirms Catholic Church is pro-AIDS, anti-human

Pope Benedict XVI, proud ex-Nazi leader of one of the world’s most corrupt religions, arrived in Africa this week and confirmed that the Catholic Church still supports the misery and death associated with overpopulation and AIDS in that continent, and cares not at all for human beings.

The pontiff reiterated the Vatican’s policy on condom use as he flew from Rome to Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon, CNN Vatican analyst John Allen said.

Pope Benedict has always made it clear he intends to uphold the traditional Catholic teaching on artificial contraception — a “clear moral prohibition” — Allen said. But his remarks Tuesday were among the first times he stated the policy explicitly since he became pope nearly four years ago.

This is undoubtedly a proud moment for the Catholic faith, which has thankfully seen its numbers dwindle in the United States in the face of repeated instances of child abuse by priests and the systematic concealment of their crimes by the Church. After all, by keeping the population of Africa religious, diseased, starved, inaccessible to medical assistance or schooling, and therefore ignorant, the Catholic Church could actually gain some ground in the continent. It looks like their last hope: based on recent history, do we dare to dream that perhaps this ancient and terrible cult is finally outdated and obsolete?


Ignorant TV commercial advertises mortgage scam – badly

In these shaky economic times, there are many TV ads for different schemes and plans offered to homeowners who are at risk of losing their homes because they can’t afford their current mortgage payments. Today, I saw a commercial for a company called “Federal Loan Modification,” which purported to be some sort of solution for those stuck in a variable rate mortgage with a recent rate hike, etc. Now, I have no idea if this is a scam or not–I simply don’t have the time to care about it. However, what ticked me off about the ad was that at the end, there’s an eviction notice on the screen, which is stamped “PAID” as reassuring voices tell you how Federal Loan Modification can help you keep your home.

Ok, so maybe you’re desperate. Maybe you’re about to lose your house. But if you’re so stupid as to sign your home over to a company that doesn’t understand the difference between being evicted from a property you rent and being foreclosed on by a bank to which you owe money for a home you own, you deserve to lose everything.

The best part, though, is that we’ll be bailing these folks out in a few years.