Tuesday, June 26, 2007


I've always been a big fan of ordering things online even at times when such things seemed awkward to order online, like a big-screen TV. The problem with ordering online is you get a list of 30 or so merchants who beat the Best Buys and Circuit Citys by a few hundred bucks, and the only way to know if they are the real deal or not is to slog through the hundreds of customer reviews on pricegrabber - which is exactly what my brohaus Jeff did for my (and his) HDTV purchases.

However, as more people order online with less research the door is widening for scammers.

Here's one such found before (thankfully) some co-workers ordered online:

A camera site like bestpricecameras advertises on Google for hundreds below the lowest price on pricegrabber (therefore halving Best Buy and Circuit City). The User orders the bare-boned version of the camera. The camera store calls the User the next day and adds-on accessories pushing the price back to retail. If the User does not agree to the accessories, they don't ship the camera.

Here's the forum review that broke it all down and saved my co-workers a sh*tload of toil.
Photography Review.

Pass it on.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Scattered thoughts from Vegas:

  1. Crowds of people unaware they are in a crowd of people. Hundreds walking in each direction, but yet people will stop on a dime as if they are the only one walking the boulevard - causing a people-jam behind. This is owed to Vegas' ability to make each person feel as if they are in their own world, by catering to each inidividual's vice (gambling, food, shows, clubs, shopping, etc...) The result is a populace of complete introverts, blissfully unaware of the fact they are one in a mass of millions. Also - Casinos have mastered the art of making each patron feel as if they are a high-roller. Not that there is anything wrong with any of this.
  2. The $300 default ATM withdrawal limit was created by God at the beginning of time.
  3. For the first time in five years there are lots of empty tables. Are they over-building? Or are people less interested in gambling as Indian casinos sprawl?
  4. Breakfast no longer served all day.
  5. The "cash advance from credit card without PIN" created by Devil recently.
  6. The Deuce rocks.
  7. Business idea - create casino around gaming. Think XBOX Live for real money and comps, with the atmosphere of Jillians or Dave & Busters.

Monday, June 11, 2007


One of the perks missing from a free blogger account is an audience, one of perks always available however, is a forum to vent righteous indignation. The two are probably in an inverse relationship, but what the hell:

Walk into any Coffee Bean and order a regular coffee. The clerk will ask three questions:
  1. Would you like room? (for cream)
  2. What's your name?
  3. Is that for here or to go?
This last question is utterly ridiculous - for what's the difference between sipping coffee in the establishment or taking one step outside? It gets more absurd when one is ordering multiple drinks for co-workers back at the office. "For here please, I plan to drink a mild drip, an iced soy latte, a Japanese-cherry iced tea, and a hot chocolate right here, right now, then piss all over myself."

One time, a cashier conceded, "We have to ask that" she said. "Um, why?" "Because... if a mystery customer comes in and we don't ask that they fine us." Mystery customers, or auditors, are hired by corporate to make sure clerks and managers are following corporate code.

So here's my rant to The Coffee Bean V.P. of Customer Relations. Or since this is Corporate America, more likely the Senior V.P. of the Organic Experience and People-Centered Relations, or some other bullsh*t. Stop this nonsense. You're making your employees look like idiots by forcing them to ask a stupid question because your red-tape quality-control managers make an extra buck every time they write somebody up. The auditors have to work on commission, right? It's the only way this non-sense makes sense.

Let me put it this way, if the only reason your employees do something is because they have to, it's a waste of time. Your people should explain your practices clearly. They should, in essence, possess the ability to sell your company. And you should give them the ideas to do it. After all, they are face of your company. They are ones taking the cash.

I know this seems like I'm making a big thing out of nothing, but this is my rant god dammit! And what good is a rant if I don't take cheap shots at the establishment? I mean, what auditor hears this asinine question and thinks, "Good job there young lady, you're well-trained."

The only possible explanation regards the few who order pastries. "For here" would then require a plate. OK, fine if you order a pastry it would be nice if you were given a plate. But this shouldn't be a law requiring stiff enforcement. And further, people who go to coffee shops to eat baked goods should not define the rules for those who go to coffee shops to get coffee!*

*(These are most likely the same folk who like mayo.)

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Why gossip?

I've been thinking about gossip lately, with Paris, Britney, Lindsay, Katie, whoever-ie incessantly blanketing flat-screens in every dentist's waiting room and grocery store. It seems to me that this celebrity gossip thing has gotten worse over the years. Of course the Internet and gossip sites have much to do with it. Or, to be honest, I'm thinking maybe Iraq plays a role as well. Here we are living our normal day-to-day lives while the courageous approach checkpoints thinking, "Is it my day to get limbs blown off?"

No matter one's position on the war, it's surreal.

Maybe people gravitate to the escapism of gossip because, unlike this war, it doesn't require much processing-power to make sense of it?

There's an old idea from The Long Tail that keeps dangling in my head. It's about the end of the watercooler era. To quote:

The usual test is the "watercooler effect", the buzz in the office around a shared cultural event, be it the finale of The Apprentice or the opening of the last Star Wars. The number of such events has been shrinking for years, driven mostly by the fragmentation of the television audience.
Anderson goes on to cite examples in various media where the "hits" of today wouldn't make the radar of the ratings years ago. With DVRs and DVDs it's almost impossible to share a television show with co-workers. Even if people are watching the same season of the same show, it's unlikely they're watching the same night.

All that said, here it goes: Just because we no longer share cultural events around TV, music, and movies; doesn't mean we don't naturally crave a sharing of cultural events. Anderson's "End of the Watercooler" has created a vacuum to be filled by - livable media, or media that has value only if experienced at a specific time.

Take the Superbowl, you could TiVo and watch it later but good luck avoiding the score. American Idol fits as well.

Gossip works in particular, I think, because it demands to be relayed in the moment. A person can bring up Britney's bald head tomorrow in work conversation, but that's old news. It's all Lindsay and Paris now.

Gossip also transcends the political polarization of our time. Political debates are difficult in the office, but it's so easy to gap. Paris going to jail? It's something we can all agree on.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Podcast Pick of the Day - Diggnation

Diggnation – May 31, 2007 (the 100th episode)
RunTime: 1:02:35

Hosted by Kevin Rose and Alex Albrecht, Diggnation is a weekly podcast covering some of the more popular stories featured on digg.com. This episode was the 100tth in the series and Kevin and Alex pontificated on the 100th episode cake, the new version of iTunes (7.2), Microsoft Surface, which yielded probably the best discussion/argument in diggnation history, Google Maps’ new feature Street View, the latest AACS key crack, CBS purchases LAST.FM for $280 million, a discussion of MySpace and Facebook, and highlights from the best moments of the previous 99 diggnations. Truly a classic episode. Enjoy.

The podcast can be found on iTunes and here.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

A solid 8.7*

Adam Carolla was at Zocalo last night, and it was by far the most entertaining Zocalo I've attended. Hearing this, however, you should consider my previous Zocalo events featured Francis Fukuyama, Dick Riordan, and Eli Broad - not exactly entertainers, so take the praise for what it's worth.

The question going in was: How would Howard Stern's replacement treat the literate audience of, as Zocalo puts it, LA's "non partisan and multi ethnic forum where participants can enjoy a rare opportunity for intellectual fellowship."

The answer: By putting on a show, or put another way, by being himself. Carolla had the crowd roaring for about an hour straight and applauding after one particular rant on an airline Skymall product, the Life Hammer.

One of the outbursts forced moderator Meghan Daum to warn (paraphrased), "don't encourage him or we'll never get thru this." Grant it many in attendance were fans, but I can't help but think the Zocalo regulars were joining in.

For my part, Carolla gets credit for delivering in an industry where too many celebrities get too much credit for just showing up. We pay good money for the mediocre trash Hollywood sells, Carolla brought his A-game for free. Go figure.

Daum, an LA Times columnist, tried earnestly to uncover what makes him tick. Her struggle for substance interrupted by Carolla's rants made her, as a friend observed, the perfect straight woman in a comedy team.

I'm not familiar with Daum's work, but she reminds me of Camille Paglia - a lifetime member of the literati who can't resist the temptation to deconstruct and find meaning in popular culture.

Smart popular culture was the more interesting theme of the night. How does one keep it on the air? As Corolla noted, many people want to see "jingly, shiny stuff" and these are the people with Arbitron books. Surely the Zocalo audience and readers of this blog crave a more intelligent streak in popular entertainment - but it's the silent majority that carries the ratings. Some have described this as the Lennon / McCartney complex - on the one hand let Lennon go and you have Revolution #9, let McCartney go and you get Obla-di, Obla-da. Together you get Hey Jude, the perfect pop culture mix. The problem arises when The Suits see sluggish ratings and prescribe too much McCartney, leaving us without I Am the Walrus.

Back to Carolla. Daum ultimately proves her thesis - that beneath Carolla's "girls-jumping-on-trampolines" reputation lies an acute eye for social critique and substantive commentary. Carolla's career arc from carpet-cleaner to hosting the flagship morning radio show in NY and LA deserves a spotlight. He's a self-made man, and therefore has earned the street-cred necessary to offer jewels of wisdom, and perhaps for some, inspiration.

Late in the hour they come out - "Find out what you're good at and be realistic." The "be realistic" addendum is especially interesting, try finding a Hollywood star who encourages people to "be realistic." One wonders if Carolla's rough upbringing in North Hollywood with a "hippy mother" forced him to be weary of unabashed idealism.

But here we go again, deconstructing and adding pretentious meaning when there probably is none. In her introduction, Daum focused on trying to convince the Zocalo regulars - who are used to hearing from former Mayors, Governors, and authors from all around the world - that Carolla is relevant. And at the end of the evening, I think most in attendance would agree with her.

* Listen to the Podcast. (link not live yet).