Now accepting bitcoins.

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.