Now accepting bitcoins.

Friday, December 29, 2006


I went to the Citibank credit card site today to check my balance. It said that they are upgrading my security, so I just need to answer a few questions. Great! Sounds like fun. (By the way, "if you do not answer the security questions now, you will need to do so in the next week to continue using this website".)

They listed three sets of questions and I had to select one question from each list to answer. The section was labeled "a short walk down memory lane". Sounds wonderful!

Here are the choices they gave me for the first security question:

And the second:

Are you kidding me? What happened to "Mother's Maiden Name"? Are there really criminals out there with a database of mother's maiden names? I don't remember the name of my KINDERGARTEN TEACHER. Nor do I have a FAVORITE FLOWER.

I couldn't even bear to look at the choices for the third question.

I give up, the terrorists have won.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Winkflash is Unreliable

For the first time ever, we decided to skip our usual elaborate creation and order holiday photos from Winkflash. We ordered them in November, and they never arrived, so please tell anyone you know not to ever order anything from Winkflash.

Anyhow, below is our 2006 holiday card. We figured at least someone should get to see it.

Update: They did finally arrive on December 21, and we are supposedly going to get a refund (but hasn't gone through yet). Hopefully our friends and family will enjoy their New Year's cards. At least we said "Season's Greetings" on it, since we had heard that there were some reliability issues with Winkflash.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Rave: Sweet Sounds of Irony

Update #2:
Sony BMG has settled the lawsuits in 39 states for $4.25 Million plus additional damages to consumers who had problems after the BMG rootkit was secretly installed on their computer. I hope this serves as a strong warning to companies about this kind of shenanigans. (Read More...)

Update (May 25, 2006):
Sony BMG has agreed to a settlement of the lawsuit regarding their hidden copy-protection software. The settlement entitles consumers to a replacement of the infected CD's, $7.50, and one album download. They weren't punished strongly enough for their nefarious actions.

Original post (Nov 18, 2005)
Sony BMG has recently come under fire for putting hidden copy-protection software on their music CD's that embeds itself deep inside your computer without your knowledge and prevents you from copying music CD's. Things turned even more sour for Sony BMG when it was discovered that this embedded program is vulnerable to security threats and could allow viruses to attack your computer.

Here comes the ironic part...It has been noticed that this copy-protection software was developed using open source code in a way that violates the open source license.

Too much techno-babble for you? Let me summarize... In order to protect their musical copyrights, Sony BMG violated software copyrights.

I love it.

That really crashes my hard drive!

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Parking Idiots

It's about time that somebody provided a fantastic way for you to vent your frustration at moronic parkers. The URL say it all:

Friday, December 08, 2006

Rave: 'Tis the Season to Make Excuses

This website makes life easier for you when you need to get out of that holiday party...

Friday, November 24, 2006

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Every year on the day before Thanksgiving, I see a commercial for the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade which features the following:

- Exciting balloons
- Marching bands
- Clowns
- Jugglers
- Rockettes
- Santa Claus

Then the next day I watch the parade, at which time I realize the 3 hour telecast breaks down as follows:

- 87 minutes: Commericals for Zales, in which an average-looking guy gives a diamond ring to a supermodel and then they walk into the bedroom

- 39 minutes: Lip-synching to recorded songs from Broadway shows that I have never heard of with homosexual themes

- 16 minutes: Interviews of D-list celebrities with movies or shows coming out for Christmas

- 13 minutes: Commentary about the weather

- 11 minutes: Balloons from cartoons that were popular 5-25 years ago

- 9 minutes: Marching bands

- 4 minutes: clowns/jugglers/Rockettes

- 1 minute: Santa Claus

That realls bursts my balloon.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Gift Cards

Gift cards are pure evil. I was reminded of this when I read this new bulletin on the reliable Snopes website about the latest scam where theives are jotting down the numbers from gift cards, calling to see if they have been activated, and then using the numbers to make online purchases.

But despite this latest example of gift card fraud (and there are many others, as well), gift cards were evil even before they were used to fraudulently steal money from the everyday consumer.

1. It is estimated that 15-20% of gift cards are never fully redeemed, and 5% are never used at all. Any one who has ever had a gift card will not be surprised by this, except maybe because they expected the figures to be even higher. This is the beauty of the gift card from the store's perspective - it is free money for the company any time it is not fully redeemed.

2. Nothing says "I couldn't bother to get you a real gift that I thought you might like" quite like a gift card.

3. Many gift cards gradually lose their value over time until they have no value. You can probably look up the obscure rules for how they are draining your card on some website somewhere, but what does it matter when you can't find the gift card anyway? Imagine the convenience of a $20 bill, but it is sitting in a bucket of acid and can only be used in one store. This is the equivalent of a gift card.

4. Stores are complaining that expiration dates are necessary for gift cards because they can't properly account for debts that may or may not be redeemed in the future. This is absurd. Just take the gift card money that you received up front, invest it in a special account until the card is redeemed, and do whatever you like with the investment returns which are FREE MONEY for your company.

5. When you get a gift card to a restaurant, you must select which way you want to lose money:
(a) Order extra drinks you don't want so you don't end up with money left on the card.
(b) End up with money left on the card, so now you have to go back to the restaurant again.
(c) End up with a small amount on the card, then watch it expire, toss it in the trash, or find it 4 years later when you're cleaning out the drawers in the kitchen.

I am encouraged by sites like Plastic Jungle that allow you to buy and sell gift cards. Maybe this will give us a chance to get back at these corporations who have been tricking us into giving them free money for too long.

Update 1/8/07: I guess some famous people are reading this blog. Click here to see a New York Times Magazine article by the guys who wrote Freakonomics, validating most of what we discuss above.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Evil Acrobatic Tricks

Dear Adobe PDF toolbar
sitting atop my Outlook window,
I hate you.

Dear toolbar, I am going to delete you now.

Dear toolbar, You come back when I
reopen Outlook. How do you do that?
I really hate you.

That really makes me flip.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Pop Tarts and

I couldn't decide whether to bother downloading the "Free Song" advertised on my box of cinnamon Pop Tarts. But they had the cute little pop tart guy wearing little headphones so I decided what the heck, I like free songs, and set off to download a cool new tune.

I started to realize something was wrong when I went to the website and realized that this is not a free i-tunes download as one might expect. Rather, I would have to give them all of my personal information and download a new player. But when I heard about some of the features of the player, I decided to expand my horizons and check it out. I've already gone this far, I might as well download the player to get my free song.

So I did the following:

1. Downloaded and installed the 27 MB player and associated programs (OpenMG Jukebox? Personal Audio Driver? SonicStage?)

2. Re-started my computer (Required)

3. Tried to download my free song (must configure the player first)

4. Configured the player. (Note, it takes 15 minutes to detect and categorize my music)

5. Provided all of my personal information to Register for music purchasing (and exciting e-mail offers)

6. Re-configured the player to not be default player for all mp3 and wma files

7. Tried to download my free song (must open the player first)

8. Opened the player

9. Searched for my song

10. Entered barely-legible 16-digit alphanumeric code from inside of Pop Tarts box

11. Got the following error message "DMF_ERROR_OCCURRED":

12. Tried to downlolad song again. It said I have already downloaded it.

13. Tried to locate song in my library. My library, as configured by the player, is a complete mess. It didn't use my nice folder structure. It looked in the metadata for each song and tried to intelligently categorize them. So I have about 130 playlists, most of which are a single song. I finally found a menu to sort the library by date. There is nothing in the library with today's date.

14. I finally found the song under a "Purchased Music" screen. But no play button. If I click on the song, it takes me back to the store to purchase the song again.

15. Closed and uninstalled the player.

Update: See below, of course now they are sending me spam:

That really pops my tart.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Merge of Doom

I am usually a good driver, but there is one situation I often find dangerous, the lane merge. I hate when you are driving along, and suddenly the line between lanes disappears and two lanes merge quickly into one. They never give enough notice (sometimes none) and you have to make quick action to avoid merging into another car.

I have a simple solution. Why don't they use a special lane marker paint pattern that indicates the lanes are about to merge. Like this:

Friday, November 03, 2006

Too Many Receipts

I went to the grocery store last week. I bought exactly 4 items - milk, orange juice, and two bags of chicken. I then received the following receipts (from three different machines):

I included the $20 bill in the picture to give you a sense of scale.

So when I got home, I think my remaining activities for the evening were: put away groceries, have dinner, read some receipts, take a break, read the rest of my receipts, and then go to bed.

Each receipt has it's own endearing characteristics. As much as I disliked the one that had a bunch of Kraft recipes on it, by far the worst (see lower right) was the sheet that said precisely one thing, which was "Buy 6 cups of Starbucks, get the 7th cup free". (Incidentally, I need to make all 7 of these purchases in the next 2 months. Not likely, unless I reduce the contributions to my retirement plan.).

So my choices for all of these little slips of paper were (a) throw them in the trash and be racked with "I didn't recycle" guilt, or (b) have them flittering about my recycle bin for the rest of the week as a cruel reminder of my brief trip to Giant.

Here's an idea. Since they have all of my credit card numbers, and they obviously know all the things I like (from my profile), maybe they should just buy a bunch of Kraft stuff, cook it, ship it to my house, and then bill my credit card. This would eliminate the paper entrirely.

That really tickers my tape.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Most Annoying Pre-Recorded Phone Message Ever

Ever get this:

"We're sorry, it is not necessary to dial a 1 or zero when calling this number. Please hang up and try your call again."

WTF? The phone company is just rubbing it in that I didn't follow their rules? They know what number I wanted to call, they just want to make me dial it over again without a 1. Bastards!

That reals pushes my buttons.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Click To Enlarge

I wasn't sure if the bulb I was evaluating had the proper connection interface. Fortunately, the page offered a "Click to Enlarge" option so I could get a better look. Here is the original and enlarged picture:

That really enlarges my bulb.


Update: I guess we're not the only people to notice this type of issue.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Thanks... for Nothing

I was chatting with a friend in MSN Messenger. He was trying to send me a file, and for some reason it was taking a rather long time to transfer.

But lo and behold, Microsoft was there to help! I saw a link at the top of the chat window that said "If you are experiencing a slow transfer rate, click here to find out why". The wonderful geniuses at Microsoft somehow detected just what I was thinking, and were there to offer a solution. I clicked the link to find out why.

A page loaded which said "A problem occurred. Please try again".

Thanks Microsoft... for nothing.

That really slows my transfer.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Killer Sale

A few weeks ago I received two coupons for $10 off your entire purchase from a local Safeway grocery store. It was for one specific location because they had recently remodelled and wanted to attract new business. The store was only slightly out of my way travelling from work to home, so I decided to stop in and use the coupons.

This past Saturday there was a shoot-out in front of the Safeway and three people were killed. It happened late in the evening (10:45PM), but Safeway was still open and this is the time I often grocery shop. There is some irony to being killed in front of a "Safe"-way.

I'll tell you what, it's gonna take at least $20 coupons to get me to ever go back to that supermarket.

That really expires my coupon.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Rave: Online Photo Sharing

Lately I've been spending a lot of time browsing photos on Flickr. I started with the idea that you can easily find photos of rare things by using simple search tags (try green flash, for example). But over time I have come to realize what an amazing thing it really is to be able to peruse other people's personal photo albums. It almost feels like you are sharing EVERYBODY's experiences.

For example...

Last weekend I went hiking at Whiteoak Canyon in Shenandoah National Park with Hallie and Theresa. The waterfalls were so beautiful.

Then, I had dinner with the girls at Jalelo's in downtown DC.

Then I just hung out and watched TV with the regular gang.

OK, I don't really know any of those people.

But I've even been able to find pictures that hit closer to home.
Search for pics from your high school, favorite diner, whatever. You may be surprised.

That really clicks with me.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Spilled Milk

The other day I discovered a gallon of milk in my refrigerator in a funky package, different than what we usually get from the grocery store. I was pleased to see that I was about to experience the latest in milk storage technology. It was Kirkland Farms milk from Costco. Given that they now have syrup bottles that somehow do not get covered in sticky syrup, I was giddy with anticipation to experience this new milk distribution unit.

Now, the one thing about choosing milk is that milk is milk. It all tastes pretty much the same. In a way, it's like when you choose where to get gasoline. As long as the gas doesn't spill all over the side of my car and my shoes, I am happy with the gas.

So here are my three requirements for milk:
1. It does not give me mad cow disease
2. I can quickly open the safety seal without special tools
3. I can pour it without it dripping all over the container and counter.

Here is my report card for Kirkland Farms gallon milk from Costco:
No Mad Cow: A
Safety Seal: D-
No Drips: F

The safety seal on this container has the approximate removal time of the plastic wrapper on a CD (yes, including that sticker on the edge). Note, this time can be reduced if you have handy an eyeglass repair kit and some whittling tools.

It is somehow impossible to dispense milk from this container without having milk go down the side and drip on the counter. The one exception might be if you were pouring the entire contents of the container into a very large pot. This might be a good idea anyhow - then just store the pot in the refrigerator and toss the milk container in the trash. When the milk in the pot goes sour, now you can go buy a gallon of milk from another store.

Note to milk distributors - please discontinue the use of this container immediately, or I will have to start sending people to this site.

This really bovines my spongiform encephalopathy!


I received a nice e-mail (below) from Costco customer service.

I guess it is pretty cool that the cartons are stackable. If you don't mind drips, and want something you can stack, then I heartily endorse Kirkland Farms milk from Costco.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Easy Share My Ass

I recently decided to "upgrade" my Kodak "Easyshare" software from ver. 5.0 to ver. 6.1. It was anything BUT easy. Calling it "Easyshare" is like calling quantum physics "Easylearn". Here are a few of the worst things that happened:

1) The software failed to install, giving the extremely useful error response "Error 20x101x12029x." When I went to the Kodak support website, they had a list of troubleshooting instructions where you had to match up your error code. "Click here if you are experiencing 451x238x12951x error." There was no rhyme or reason to the error codes. I had to read the entire list, matching up those codes until I found a match. I did not find a match.

2) I finally found some generic instructions suggesting that I do the following before trying to install ver. 6.1.
  • Remove ver. 5.0

  • Reboot computer

  • Download ClearV64N.exe from Kodak website and run

  • Reboot computer

  • Try installation again

I had to run a special application to remove their software? WTF? Upgrades should be able to install over older versions or coexist, not require manual remove of previous versions, special software, and 2 fracking reboots! Even after that, during additional phone support from Kodak, they had me search my hard drive and manually delete additional remnants of their weed-like software.

3) Now that I completely removed Kodak "Easyshare" from my computer, I could no longer access my CD-ROM drive (the removal corrupted my drivers). I also could no longer access my Kodak "Easyshare" camera, which requires the software to download pictures. Warning: Never buy a digital camera that requires special software to download the pictures! A lot of GOOD cameras give you immediate access to the photos the same way you get access to files from a flash drive when you plug it in.

4) The final solution was for me to turn off my firewall while installing the software. Listen here, Kodak, I don't want to turn my firewall off to install your crappy software. The whole point of a firewall it to protect myself from malicious, or in your case poorly designed, software. "Oh you can trust us, we are a big friendly company." Like Sony BMG?

If I didn't absolutely need this software for my camera, I would have never continued with the installation. I also don't plan to buy any more cameras from Kodak. Mea culpa.

That really makes me 45x607x2091x.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Preying on Human Nature

I am getting tired of people taking advantage of us. They study our human nature, and then they use it against us to get our money. Here are some examples:

1. Gas pumps that have the most expensive (high octane) gas on the left. You are thinking about something else, click on the left choice that you expect to be the cheapest, and you end up spending an extra $.20 per gallon.
2. Pop-ups in a web browser that start installing something if you click "OK" instead of the red X.
3. Telemarketers who record you saying "yes" to confirm your name, then it turns out you're actually saying yes to agree to sign up for something.
4. "Free" services that automatically start billing you if you do not take the initiative and figure out how to cancel them.
5. TV shows that tell you to stay tuned for scenes from next week's episode. Then they get you twice - first they show you a bunch of commercials and then they roll right into the next show to get you hooked.
6. Restaurants that include the gratuity in the bill and don't tell you. There is no incentive for the server to tell you that the gratuity is included because they can stay quiet and hope for a double tip. I can recall several times that we almost didn't notice this (and I'm sure there were times we never caught it at all).

We can all be absent-minded at times and not pay attention to details. So shame on us, but also shame on companies who take advantage of our weaknesses.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Pluto Gets a Kick in the Nuts

Last week, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided on new rules classifying planets. Alas, poor Pluto has been demoted to a "dwarf planet". Pluto does not qualify under the new definition of (classical) planet because it does not "clear the neighborhood around its orbit". What the IAU failed to consider, is that Pluto has heart. Maybe Pluto isn't the tidiest planet, leaving junk in it's orbit (actually, the overlap with Neptune's orbit is the main issue), but EVERYBODY loves Pluto. I think our admiration for Pluto has something to do with it being the smallest and most distant planet. People love to root for underdogs. Maybe the IAU members never saw Rocky? I am still hoping that Pluto will get up off the mat and kick Apollo Creed's butt.

That really burns my orbit.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Red Hot Chili Peppers

What is the deal with the Red Hot Chili Peppers and their obsession with naming states in their songs?

"Born in the north And sworn to entertain ya ’Cause I’m down for The state of Pennsylvania..."
"Bonafide ride Step aside my Johnson Yes I could In the woods of Wisconsin"
"Me Oh My O Me and Guy O Freer than a bird ’Cause we’re rockin’ Ohio"
from All Around the World.

"Gettin' born in the state of Mississippi..."
"In Alabama she was swinging hammer..."
"Black bandana, sweet Louisiana..."
"Robbin'on a bank in the state of Indiana..."
from Dani California.

And, of course, let's not forget the lovely song Californication.

Enough already, put down the US map and write some songs about something else!

That really burns my Idaho patatoes.

Monday, July 31, 2006

BK Stacker

You have to love Burger King's new promotional item, the BKTM Stacker, "The burger with more of what you love...meat, cheese and bacon." They know what we don't want... any of that pesky lettuce, tomato, or onions that only gets in the way. In fact, I think some stores are offering free hypodermic needles so that you can inject the grease directly into your arteries without expending all that effort chewing. They offer the Triple Stacker, which consists of 3 beef patties, 3 slices of cheese and 4 slices of bacon. I know what you are thinking, "Are they CRAZY? Is that the largest I can get? I want more!" Calm down. For the more endeavorous meat enthusiasts there is also the Quad Stacker.

I received a coupon for the BK Stacker offering a FREE 6 pieck BK chicken fries with the purchase of a BKTM Stacker value meal. After eating a double stacker with a large coke and large fries, the LAST thing you need is some chicken fries. In fact, I was only able to eat three of them before I felt sharp pains in my abdomen. Sigh.

That really clogs my arteries!

DVD Menu Clips are Tedious

Who is the idiot who designs the menu interface for DVDs? On very few occasions, the animated content in the menu is entertaining, or in the very least, unobtrusive. I recommend, for example, watching the menu on An Evening with Kevin Smith. It's very amusing. But more often, these menus contain short sound bites or action clips from the movie that become repetitive and downright unbearable if you happen to leave the movie in the menu mode for more than a few minutes. Recently I rented The Aristocrats and left it in menu mode as I finished some other activity before watching the movie. The menu consisted of two or three "jokes" from the movie. After listening to these clips 20 times, I almost ripped the DVD player out of my entertainment center and drop kicked it down the hall.

That really slips my disc. That really slips my disc. That really slips my disc.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Jewelry Marketing

I heard a radio commercial this morning for a jewelry store. Some big sale they are having with historic discounts. I especially enjoyed the meaningless phrase "everything in the store up to 50% off".

I guess maybe you have to sympathize a little bit with jewelry marketers. After all, they are trying to sell a product that has the highest mark-up of any retail item, has a completely arbitrary price, is always on sale everywhere, is almost impossible for most people to correctly evaluate, and has almost no practical value.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The World Cup Sucks

I can't believe that the world cup final was decided by a single missed penalty shot (it hit the crossbar) after a boring 1-1 tie through overtime. The two goals were scored in the first half of the game and none of the penalty shots were blocked by the goalies.

And they wonder why Americans don't watch soccer.

The highlight of the game was when France's Zidane headbutted Italy's Materazzi and was ejected from the game.

Monday, July 10, 2006


Just a quick rave about It is basically a website for exchanging CDs with other people. Each CD you get costs you a total of $1.75, including shipping. I have already received 3 relatively obscure CDs that I had wanted for several years. As a contrast, buying a particular used CD on eBay typically takes months to get the item I want for around $5.

The best thing about LaLa is the website. It is a great user interface where everything works exactly the way it should, even though it is a Beta product that has only been out for about a month. Lala is not perfect, but it is a strong example of how to make positive use of the web.

Friday, June 30, 2006

Ruin-scape: When Video Games Approach Reality

When most people comment that video games are getting more and more realistic, they mean that the graphics are stunning. This is not what I am going to rant about here.

I play this game called "Runescape", a MMORPG, as a way to ESCAPE reality for a while and relax. After dealing with annoying people in real life, the last thing I want is to deal with annoying people in a game.

But this is what happened in the game... I needed some information and I got a tip that this old lady living alone in the woods might have what I need. So I pay her a visit. Unfortunately, she is having trouble remembering the details of what I need to know, but she thinks that a nice cup of tea might help her remember. OK, so she wants a bribe. This is SOP for NPC's in most games. But she doesn't want regular tea, oh no, she wants nettle tea. So I go off and pick some nettles (hurting my hands until I purchased some gloves). I take the nettles to town (no stoves in the woods) and brew her some nice nettle tea. I go back into the woods and give her the tea.

Old Lady: "I only drink tea in my special cup."
Me: "Where do I find that?"
Old Lady: "Here it is."

She gives me the cup, I pour the tea into her cup. I give it to her.

Old Lady: "Oh, I only drink my tea with milk."


I had to go back to town, get a bucket, find a cow, milk the cow (it's strange that I can't buy milk at the store), put the milk in the tea and bring it back to her.

That really sours my milk.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Rave: Enjoy the Buffet

I just got the phone call, Warren Buffet has decided to give me $10 million dollars. I think it was a clerical error on his part, but I won't argue. Somehow this happened while he was donating $37 billion to Bill Gate's charitable foundation. He doesn't want to give the money to his children because he believes that too much money is a burden, not a gift. Warren, I am willing to take on that burden.

To put this in perspective, it is a mere pittance (0.02%) compared to the $37 billion he has set aside for the foundation. And combined with Bill Gate's wealth, the foundation will have over $60 billion at it's disposal. If this doesn't make your head spin, consider that the ENTIRE budget of the Red Cross is only $3.4 billion.

Bill...Warren, I'm so glad that we will be feeding starving children around the world. Um, is it selfish of me to ask that the next version of Windows be built solidly enough that I don't have to download a critical patch every week?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Digital Cameras

The problem my friends and family seem to have with their digital camera is they treat it like a magical picture box that has nothing to do with taking useful pictures.

This is what happens. I go out with a friend, we each take some pictures, then we say "hey, let's exchange pictures when we get home". "ok, great". I later realize that I am dealing with one or more of these people:

1. Hi-res Man

Hi-res man buys the latest camera, takes it out of the box, and sets it permanently to the highest 12.8 megapixel setting. When I get his pictures, they are 5 MB each. He says "you can throttle it back on your end if my camera is too good for you". I say "Did you see the picture in Sports Illustrated last week of the humming bird getting passed at the Indy 500? That was only 8.2 megapixels."

2. Snap-Happy Skippy

Snap-Happy Skippy buys a few 4 GB SD memory cards "in case one day I find myself unexpectedly on safari". He sends me 231 pictures from our trip to the mall. He says "Somewhere in there is an award-winning shot". I say "Did you really need 6 pictures of the guy behind the counter at Sbarro?"

3. Eddie E-mail

Eddie e-mail attaches all 231 of his 5 MB pictures individually to an e-mail and sends it to me. He sends it a few times, because he "got a weird message" when he sent it. I say "you can't send 2.2 gig of attachments. Can you put them on an FTP server?" He says "I'm not ordering flowers, I'm trying to send you my pictures.

That really bugs my shutter.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Bumper Stickers

What is it about bumper stickers that will lead a person to put something on their car that they would never say to another person?

I am fine with free speech, and many bumper stickers are amusing and/or make an interesting statement about the individual driving the car. But at least try to follow some general guidelines.

Here are a few examples of bumper stickers I have seen lately that I could do without:

1. The misanthrope
These are the bumper stickers that just seem to express hatred toward others. Many of these seem to have some basis in jealousy. One I saw last week was "My Maltese is smarter than your honor student". First of all, your main point is just to disparage parents who have the "my child is an honor student" stickers. Yes, those "honor student" stickers are probably a bit snooty but at least they are factual. Second, are you sure you want to brag about having a Maltese? Aren't they the little white show dogs with the high-pitched squeal? Third, you are advertising that your most cherished possession is your dog. We don't need to read that far between the lines to interpret that you are also probably saying "I am physically unable to have human children".

2. The political activist
Actually, I have no problem with these political bumper stickers. However, a few things should be noted. First, try to keep these up to date. For about $1, you can get a Kerry 04 sticker to put over your Gore 2000. (Yes, if Gore runs again in 2008 you need to spend another dollar) Also, a tip for you folks who are driving the Volvo or Prius with the Grateful Dead sticker. Don't bother with the anti-Bush sticker, because we already figured that out.

3. The bizarre
I saw a bumper sticker on Ashburn Village Boulevard last week that said "The sex was so good, the neighbor smoked a cigarette". I don't even know where to begin with this one, but let me just say I'm glad my kids were not with me in the car at the time.

4. The Creationist / Evolutionist
Please stop already with the fish and Darwin stickers. If you have one of these, you are saying one of two things. (1) I am a complete idiot who believes that God created all of the animals at the same time, or (2) I think it is fun to sarcastically ridicule the religious beliefs of others.

I'm not sure which of these is worse.

This really sticks my bumper.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Internet Quickies

No, I am not talking about what you do with your webcam in the privacy of your own home. I am talking about short little rants related to annoying website habits...

1) Websites that use your email address as your username. It is so annoying to have to type in a whole email address to access a webpage.

2) Printing a web page in IE. What a crappy interface.

3) Sites that have music that automatically plays when the page is loaded. I especially hate when the sound is for an advertisement.

4) Web sites that appear to only ask you for a little personal information before showing you results, like just your email address, perhaps. But after entering your email address, the site jumps to a new page (or several) asking for more information that you didn't expect them to ask for.

5) Web sites with tight entry form validation before it lets you continue. I once had a website reject my input because my street address was "invalid". I didn't even give a fake one! Apparently their checker couldn't find it in its database.

6) Web sites with animation mayhem. This is usually only found on amateur websites like Myspace profiles, etc. EVERY graphic is an animated graphic. I think I'm going to have a seizure.

7) Frames. Don't use them.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Dumb Dialog Boxes

And what, exactly, are my other choices?

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Fading Receipts

The purpose of a receipt is to provide a customer with a record of purchase. It used to be that you could throw your receipts in a shoe box and look at them later when you needed to. However, many stores think that this record only needs to last a few weeks. They use crappy (cheap?) thermal paper receipts, which are quite useless. They fade and become unreadable very quickly.

Shouldn't it be fraud if a store requires a receipt for a return, but knowlingly provides a receipt that doesn't last the entire warranty period? I purchased a new battery for my car recently at Advance Auto Parts. It has a five year warranty. The sales representative actually suggested that I make a photocopy of the receipt because, "the receipt sure isn't going to last that long".

My favorite (*wink*) store, Best Buy, also has ridiculously pathetic receipts.

While I am at it, I am also getting fed up with receipt-checking at the exit and those long receipts filled with survey solicitations, coupons and other such nonesense.

Best Buy Sucks #2

I have found an interesting way to determine which companies are the worst. Look for Google hit counts for "xxxx sucks". Here are some results for several companies that I would rant about and several I would rave about. Can you tell which is which?

Microsoft (86,100 hits)
Cingular (17,700 hits)
Best Buy (13,300 hits)
Ticketmaster (696 hits)
Vonage (656 hits)
CompUSA (418 hits)
Taco Bell (281 hits)
Costco (234 hits)
Chipotle (48 hits)
Pixar (26 hits)
Wegmans (22 hits)

That really hits where it hurts.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Merchandise Pricing and the Surprise Discount

I recently purchased shoes that had a $65 price sticker. But, when I got to the cashier, they rung-up for $45. I went back to the display to see if I missed a sales sign, but I had not.

We all feel good when we end up paying less than we expected, but is this really a smart strategy for the stores? I had already made the decision to buy the shoes at $65, so they lost $20 in extra profit. What about the pair at the other store that I didn't buy because they were marked at $80, maybe they were really only $60?

Stores need to do a better job of providing accurate pricing for their products. It is also very annoying when no price is displayed. Many times I walk away without buying something because there is no price marked and I don't want to bother with waiting in line to find out the price.

That really doesn't add up right.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Unlucky Number 7

Names have been changed to protect the innocent...and the guilty...

The other day my girlfriend, Charlize, shocked me when she revealed that I was, in fact, number 7 in her cell phone speed-dial. My head was spinning as I soon discovered that I was in a situation far worse than what Jerry went through in that Seinfield episode.

What were the 6 phone numbers ahead of me?

1) 911 - Oh yes, she had 911 as her #1 speed dial. She defended this vehemently, "What if you were dying in the street and you only had enough energy to press one button?" I had a terrible vision of myself trying to get help after a car crash.... 9...... I die before I can type 1 1.

2) Voicemail - OK, I'm cool with that. Voice mail is a high priority.

3) Work Phone - Now, Charlize is not the kind of woman who gets after-hours phone calls on her work number, but fine, I'll let that slide.

4) Parents - Yeah sure, you gotta respect your parents. It's a rule of thumb - person who passed you through her uterus gets priority over boyfriend, anytime.

5) Bob - Oh no! Good friend and ex-boyfriend gets higher spot. This is not a good sign. "It's for historical reasons," she explains. Well, I guess it would be hard to remember that the person who used to be #5 is now #8. Guys, can you imagine a girlfriend letting you keep a female friend higher on the list than her?

I don't know if I can take any more of this. But I still have to deal with one more spot.

#6) Empty - WTF? WTF! There is an empty spot before me! I suppose this is just in case somebody more important comes along. Otherwise, if she had to demote me later from #6 to #7, it would be difficult to remember (see #5 for example).

#7) Me - There I am at #7, below the empty spot. I feel empty. I feel crushed. I feel my heart race. I can't stop it. I think I am having a heart attack. I need help! 9....1....ugh.

Note: She was #2 and #3 in my phone, but I think that I will be making some changes.

Monday, May 15, 2006


I noticed a funny phone# on a public phone in the airport the other day...


But, that has 8 letters in it?!?! Yup, the Z is ignored. They are hoping that you start typing in the number, and then before you have time to be confused by the Z, you will already be on your way to making a collect call.

That really doesn't connect with me.

ABC Liquor

Over the weekend I went to pick up some liquor at the local ABC store. In Virginia, you have to purchase hard alcohol from the state run store. I asked the guy at the counter if they happened to sell bartender's spoons (I was thinking about making some layered shots). He leaned back, gave a loud hoot, and proclaimed, "Ha Ha Ha, no bartender tools, only liquor, Ha Ha Ha, no lemons or limes either, Ha Ha Ha..."

Screw you, Mr. ABC counter guy!

That really gives me a hangover.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Best Buy Sucks

A recent bad experience at Best Buy has pushed me over the edge, and I refuse to shop there any more. My girlfriend purchased a television and after we lugged it to her home (27" CRT - heavy and bulky) we found that it would shut off for no apparent reason. We lugged the TV back to Best Buy for an exchange. The new TV seemed to work, until it started to do the same thing after about 30 days. The problem is that the warranty was only good for 30 days. After arguing with the Best Buy folks that the TV was clearly defective when purchased, they agreed to send a technician to repair the TV. The technician who came knew exactly what the problem was. "It's the flyback transformer. This TV has a problem with that. We get this all the time." Well, the problem did not go away after the technician's "repair", so we went back to Best Buy to return the TV. They did not want to take it. Even though they were knowingly selling a defective TV, they hid behind their warranty limitations and did not want to take it back. Finally the agreed to an exchange for another TV. We said "Hell no" since we don't trust Best Buy for TV's anymore. Ultimately the best we could do was get them to allow an exchange for other merchandise. They would not give us store credit (we had to do the exchange THAT day) and they would not refund our money.

The worst part of the story was the Store Manager said that it was not possible for him to give us store credit or a refund. That the "system" would not allow him to issue a credit/refund. If he was lying, shame on him. And that is reason enough to never shop at Best Buy again. If he was telling the truth, then nobody should ever buy anything at Best Buy. Any store that does not empower the store manager to deal with customers is not fit to be in business.

That really blows my fuse.

Rave: Opus Dei

With the impending release of the Da Vinci Code movie (based on the bestselling novel), it is not surprising that there would be some stir over the controversial religious themes in the (fictitious) story. The conservative religious group Opus Dei, who is depicted as the villain in the novel, has asked Sony Pictures for a disclaimer to accompany the movie . It is a rare thing for me to praise a religious group for their response to a controversial situation, but in this case I am inclined to praise Opus Dei for their stance. They are not shouting outrage or asking people not to see the movie. They simply want to be treated with respect and not judged by a work of fiction. I, for one, tip my hat to them for not going off the deep end, as many religious groups seem inclined to do.

That really makes my (Opus) Dei!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Class Action Lawsuits

There might be no bigger farce at the moment in our society than class action lawsuits. The concept is a reasonable one - have a company suffer punitive damages for a situation where they were negligent and caused injury or financial loss to their customers. But the system is a joke, and the upshot of these affairs seems to be millions paid to lawyers, nothing to the injured party, and a slap on the wrist to the corporation.

Here is how these typically work:
1. A company imposes a fraudulent fee of $4.95 to 12 million customers over a 5 year period.

2. A class action lawsuit is filed.

3. The way you happen to find out about this is when you see an advertisement in small print on page 55 of TV Guide that says "If you stayed at a Sheraton hotel between August 1993 and May 1998, paid an "Administrative" fee, and have all of your receipts, you might be entitled to participate in a settlement."

4. You spend 3 hours going to a website and/or calling a phone number to find out that no information is available, but you can mail a bunch of documents to 666 Avenue of the Americas New York, NY.

5. The final settlement is reached. Sheraton agrees to send coupons for 5% off a future stay to the 11 people who sent in the proper paperwork, and to pay the $1.6 million legal fees (leaving them a profit of $58 million on the fraudulent fees).

By the way, lest you think this is a hypothetical example, as part of one of these settlements I received a voucher last week from Starwood Hotels for $8 off of the rack rate at any of 12 named Starwood hotels in Florida and Texas, provided I call a special 800 number when making the advance reservation. You can now insert your own joke at my expense.

This action has no class.

My E-mail Friends

Here are nicknames for my 10 friends who haven't figured out yet in 2006 how to send e-mail.
  1. Old Subject Guy - Either doesn't know how or is too lazy to paste my address into a new e-mail, so he replies to something I sent him 6 months ago without changing the subject line
  2. Bottom Feeder - Replies to my e-mail and inexplicably adds his comments all the way at the bottom of the e-mail
  3. Thoughtful Idiot - Sends me the latest fake virus warning, but shows me how smart he is by adding "I know some of these are hoaxes, but better safe than sorry"
  4. Dr. Pepper - Peppers his responses to my e-mail throughout the original, so I can enjoy hunting around for his insightful comments
  5. Confucious - This person has a wonderfully thoughtful witticism in his signature. It grows more and more wonderful as I read the same quotation dozens of times in e-mail after e-mail.
  6. Mystery Attachment Guy - Nothing says he cares like the mystery attachment he sends with every e-mail entitled att00001.txt, along with his .vcf data file.
  7. Multimedia Dude - That e-mail he sends with the cute music and animation is not only hilarious for me, it was enjoyable to all of those around me.
  8. Mr. No AIM - He is never logged on to AIM, so conducts "old school" chat by sending me an e-mail that says "hey, what's up". 3 days and 10 e-mails later I find out that he wanted to go out for lunch.
  9. Important Dude - Flags every e-mail as "Important". Not sure why, seems like it is usually women who do this.
  10. The Space Saver - Deletes out my original message in his reply, so I get a response to something I sent a week ago that just says "sounds good". The Space Saver sleeps well knowing that he saved a tree in cyberspace.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Why Didn't I Think of That?

A man was arrested in Miami for going door-to-door pretending to be a doctor and giving women free breast exams. It wasn't until one woman was asked to remove all her clothes and was given a purported genital exam (without rubber gloves) that she became suspicious. What is wrong with people? A doctor that makes house calls would make me immediately suspicious.

What a boob!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Atheism vs. Intelligent Design

I stumbled across an interesting website devoted to the defense of intelligent design (or more specifically Christianity) over atheism. This site is well developed in a sense that it includes a comprehensive list of questions/doubts an atheist might have about religion. The website attempts to use logical arguments for its cause, which is a refreshing change from arguments that use emotion or bible quotes. Unfortunately, I found many of the answers to the questions to be unsatisfactory and flawed.

I found this statement on "Absolute Proof of God's Existence" amusing...
No, God has not left His name etched onto the surface of planets. However, according to the Bible, you can get absolute proof of God's existence. One way to get proof is to die (which we will eventually all do). I do not recommend this method if you have not accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
Take a look at this website and let me know what you think. I'd enjoy some comments!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Strong Security

They have now gone so far with the security verification that no human can decipher the letters either...

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Reason #46 Debit Cards Stink

I will use a credit card over a debit card any day. The concept of shelling out money from my bank account directly and immediately is disturbing.

Read this article for Reason #46 to dislike debit cards:

Man Is Charged $4,300 for Four Burgers

That really charges me up!

Friday, March 17, 2006

The Blind Spot Moron

It is impossible to pass another car without passing through its blind spot. However, if you happen to find yourself in somebody's blind spot, DON'T STAY THERE! If you maintain speed with another car but stay in the blind spot, you are a complete moron. If you see the person put on their blinker, suggesting that they might possibly be heading into your lane, and you still stay there, you are asking for trouble.

That really cranks my engine.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

The Dangers of Truthiness

The word "truthiness" has recently been used by Stephen Colbert to define the "quality by which a person purports to know something emotionally or instinctively, without regard to evidence or to what the person might conclude from intellectual examination."

On his show, The Colbert Report, he uses this word to mock the current government administration...

"Consider Harriet Miers. If you 'think' about Harriet Miers, of course her nomination's absurd. But the president didn't say he 'thought' about his selection. He said this:

Bush: 'I know her heart.'

"Notice he didn't say anything about her brain? He didn't have to. He 'feels' the truth about Harriet Miers.

"And what about Iraq? If you 'think' about it, maybe there are a few missing pieces to the rationale for war. But doesn't taking Saddam out 'feel' like the right thing?..."

I believe that Stephen Colbert has hit the nail on the head. We are in some serious trouble. Not only are we tolerant of this government of truthiness, we are seeing it in other places.

Take, for example, Yahoo! Answers. On this website, users can answer questions posted by other users. Then, the person who posted the question gets to select the best answer! Who cares about the credibility of the source? Often the answer that "feels right" is selected.

That just doesn't feel right.

Monday, February 27, 2006

That Busy Guy

You go to pick up your office mail from the mail kiosk. You casually glance at your coworkers' mailboxes. There is always at least one box that is completely overstuffed. It looks like the person has not bothered to pick up their mail since 1986. You would think that this is the mailbox of the Sales Director for Asia who only comes into the office every six months. But it's not. It's the mailbox of somebody who comes in every day. You even see him walk by the mailbox every now and then, but he NEVER stops to pick up his mail.

What is up with that? Was this guy actually layed-off in 1993 but is still working because he never picked up his pink slip? Does this guy know that the dental plan changed last year? How does he function without ever reading his mail?

That really stuffs my envelope.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Why Bother

You are on the phone with a salesperson or a customer service agent and they are going to send you something by email, or perhaps snail email. They ask you to spell your name. You spell it for them very slowly and carefully. You get your email or package and there is your name, spelled incorrectly.

Why Bother?

Friday, February 17, 2006


We are giving away all of our money in dribs and drabs called monthly fees. There is the cell phone, satellite radio, magazine subscriptions, TiVo, and the champion of all -- Onstar.

As bad as it is to pay a monthly fee for something that you will probably never need and is mostly redundant with a cell phone, the real rant here is Onstar's fear-based marketing. Even before 9/11, companies were acutely aware of the concept that fear sells. Onstar has taken this to a new level. I think we have all heard these commercials on radio and TV:

Onstar: This is Onstar.
Desperate Woman: I locked my keys in the car with my baby, and it is sinking in a lake and on fire! Also, I have a headache.
Onstar: OK, calm down and give me your VIN number.
DW: T36882402895458216829
Onstar: OK, you're all set. The doors are unlocked and I put some aspirin in the glove compartment.
DW: Thank you, OnStar!

So now I am a bad parent and can't sleep at night because I am not protected by Onstar. I think the commercials should really go more like this:

Onstar: This is Onstar
Desperate Woman: Help! My kids are driving me nuts, and we really need a vacation.
Onstar: OK, let me connect you with Travel Services. How much money do you have?
DW: Uh, none. We're actually in debt.
Onstar: You know, if you didn't sign up for Onstar 12 years ago you'd have enough for a Mediterranean Cruise.
DW: Oh.
Onstar: I went ahead and unlocked your car. You should go trade it in for a Hyundai.

That really pushes my button.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Cell-Phone Rave!

I suppose that I can't call this a rant and RAVE blog unless I actually rave about something (I prefer to rant).

For many months, I have been suggesting that it would be wonderful if your cell phone could connect to the internet through a Wi-Fi connection. There are so many Wi-Fi hot spots, why bother using the cell towers when you are in an urban area? You will get better reception and reduce your phone bill, especially if you have a VOIP account like Vonage.

Many of my friends thought I was nuts. "There is no way the cell phone providers would provide that capability, it cuts into their business." If that were true, I should have gone into business making Wi-Fi phones. However, I would have been trumped by the big boys. All the major carriers are about to provide Wi-Fi capable phones (see link). So there, nay-sayers.

That really vibrates my handset!

Monday, February 13, 2006

Mall Depression

I only had two goals for my trip to the mall this weekend; eat lunch and buy sneakers.

Walking along, I passed Lady Foot Locker and Kids Foot Locker until I arrived at Foot Locker, my sneaker-purchasing destination. Yes, there were three Foot Locker stores in a row. The first pair of sneakers I looked at in Foot Locker appeared feminine. I glanced up and saw that I was in the Ladys section. Ladys section? They have a whole store of ladys sneakers next door. I glanced over and saw a kids section as well. Sigh. I walked over to the mens sneakers. I found a pair I liked. They were in the "Classics" section. I felt old. At least I wasn't wearing black socks.

I went to the food court to get a burger. The menu was a picture menu of 4 different mouth watering burgers I could select from. All of them were topped with yummy seasame seed buns... at least, in the pictures they were. My burger was delivered in a plain, seedless bun. In fact, everybodys's burger was seedless. Fraud! I thought about complaining to the manager. It may only be a few seeds, but how dare they swell my hopes with false visions? I felt a little better after eating the burger (it was good) and decided to just rant on the blog and then move on with my life.

That really burns my buns.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I Want McFries, Please

Have you ever gone to McDonald's and been told that they are out of fries? Or to KFC and been told it will be 20 minutes for extra crispy chicken? There was this one KFC/Taco Bell I used to go to that would occassionaly be "out of Taco Bell". Out of Taco Bell? OUT OF TACO BELL? Savages!

How poorly managed do you have to be to run out of the stuff you sell every day? Why wouldn't every McDonald's keep at least a week's worth of fries stored in the freezer at all times? Don't these people realize that the only reason I ever walk into their establishment is because I have some undeniable craving for some specific junk food?

That really fries my potato.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Perils of Stock Ownership

When you buy a stock or mutual fund, you get a fancy prospectus with all sorts of exciting information. But no where in there do they warn you about any of these annoying things that are about to start happening after you purchase shares:

- You will be getting letters about once a month to announce to you the important fact that "We are happy to announce the following change to our Board of Directors: Replaced H. Whitworth Shipley with Woodruff Alabaster Bigglesby"

- You will be getting letters about once a year to announce "Widget Co. is happy to announce the spinoff of Widget Inc. and the merger of Widget Trust. you will receive 0.018 shares of common stock for each share of Widget Co. unless you inform us otherwise before March 1. Otherwise, your holdings will be converted to dividend shares. For additional information, please consult your tax attorney." (My tax attorney?)

- You will be getting letters about once every three years to announce "A class action lawsuit has been filed for all stockholders who purchased shares between July 9, 1994 and April 6, 1997. Please send all paperwork from that period to the above address. At the completion of the litigation, you may receive an amount between $0.04 and $0.07 per share unless you opt out of the settlement."

- You will get a thick envelope once per quarter with a quarterly report explaining that the reason the fund lost 4% while the benchmark went up 6% is that there were instabilities in the Middle East that affected the price of oil.

That really licks my envelope.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Why Does My Computer Lie To Me, Mr. Gates?

I am sure that this happens to you as well. I am sitting at my computer, I click an icon or try to move a window on the screen, and nothing happens. Or, at least, nothing happens quickly. My computer is "busy" thinking about something. I check the task manager and it says "System Idle Process" is using 99% of the CPU time. LIAR! Mr. Gates, why does Windows tell me nothing is going on when clearly my computer is extremely busy thinking about something? I believe that Windows arbitrarily decides which processes to display in the task manager and some remain hidden. What do you think about that Mr. Gates? How am I supposed to be a power user when you won't let me see what's going on. You are so lucky you run a monopoly.

P.S. My lawyer advises me to mention that everybody should disregard this rant. Windows is great, Windows is GREAT!

Friday, January 13, 2006

Enough with the Smokers' Protests

Currently, smokers in NJ are upset about a new proposed ban on smoking in bars and restaurants. I've had enough of the lame arguments against smoking bans. The smokers really have no reasonable arguments to support their cause.

"We have a right to smoke" - Since smoking is legal (assuming you are over 18), you sure do have a right to smoke. But you do not have a right to smoke in a bar or restaurant. You have a right to not wear a shirt, or shoes, but not in a restaurant. You have a right to masturbate, but not in a restaurant. This may be a crude point, but look at the facts...

Smoking Masturbation
Legal? Yes Yes
Enjoyable? Yes Yes
Vulgar? To some To some
Harms others? YES usually not

So, I believe it would be more appropriate to allow masturbation in public before smoking in public.

"Next, they will be taking away our right to smoke in our homes" - I don't allow people to smoke in my home. But I will stand in a protest line with you if they try to impose a ban on smoking in your private home. That is a completely different thing.

"I am addicted to smoking, it is a hardship to not smoke in public" - Hmm, if they told me I couldn't have coffee at work, I'd be very grumpy. However, you can chew nicotine gum or chew tobacco instead. You don't like that idea? Too bad. The harm you do to others by smoking is far worse than the inconvenience you suffer by having to seek alternative fixes.

That really burns my butt.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

We Care...

The United States Postal Service was nice enough to let me know that they had problems deliving one of my holiday cards this season. The only piece they were able to salvage was the return address, which doesn't really do me a bit of good. I wonder who was supposed to receive this one? I guess the $50 Starbucks gift card is just gone. I suppose I could reuse the stamp, only now I need to cough up another 2 cents.

That really tears me to shreds...just my two cents.