Friday, September 14, 2007

The World Is Your Ash Tray

The main issues that impelled me to write this post has to do with dropping ash and cigarette butts anywhere one happens to be when driving. There are a few other behaviors that I think many people are oblivious to because it deals with smoking that otherwise would be considered inconsiderate and with some behaviors illegal if it was not related to smoking. I will mention a few of these as well.
  • Flicking cigarette butts out the car window.
    • I don't know why this always stuns me when I see it, but I just can't believe that people think this is acceptable.
    • At the stop light, piles of cigarette butts in the median. Littering is still illegal, right?
    • Driving down the road. Fire and gas tanks don't go well together. Always feels great to see a lit cigarette bounce out the window of the person in front of me and then see it bounce under my car.
  • Flicking ash out the window and onto the cars beside and behind.
  • Blowing smoke out the window that the person in the car behind gets to enjoy.
  • People having to walk through a gauntlet of smokers in order to get in and out of a building.
    • Everyone gets to breath, smell, and wear the smoke as they walk out the door.
    • Smoke gets trapped inside the entry way of buildings.
In this post I will not discuss that sitting somewhere smoking is really no different that sitting somewhere shooting heroine. I also will not discuss the "right" to smoke and that other's rights end where mine begin. The point I am trying to make in this post is the following.

I am not an ash tray. My vehicle is not an ash tray. The world in general is not an ash tray.

Prepay Gas Stations with No Pay at the Pump

I have hated these gas stations for a while and this morning I just had to blog about it. At first I tolerated them because they were generally a couple of cents cheaper than gas stations around them. But after a while that wasn't worth it, but I got suckered in because for the last week or so this one has been ten cents or more cheaper than those around it.

Before I could just go in and leave them my credit card and tell them I was going to fill up and then come back in. That right out of the gate was a bad idea. Leaving your credit card unattended bad idea. I consoled myself into doing it, because people do it all the time in restaurants and after all this is cheap gas we are talking about. This time I tried and the lady that appeared to be the trainer or supervisor told the lady at the counter they can't do that anymore. Then the lady tried to tell me to give her my ID. I actually felt better about that than the credit card, but the other lady said no. She then said leave me your car keys, which felt worse than leaving the credit card, since I have keys to both my vehicles, keys to the house, and a device to open the door at work on that key ring. Nonetheless I left them there.

So that was time consuming and a bad security situation. In addition, I had to wait behind people getting their smokes and lottery tickets, which made the process even slower. And I had to wait in line twice, because I had to come back in to pay and to get my car keys. At ten cents cheaper I know this will probably cost me a buck or two more, but if I am alone I am going to drive on by these little mom and pop stations with no pay at the pump. By the way, pay at the pump has got to be one of the best inventions.

I don't care if I have to drive a little further and pay a little more. I am not doing that again.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Carmel, Indiana License Branch

I have not had a good experience at a license in all the years that I have had my license. Today was the first.

It started with the web site. Each branch had listed its average time to get people in and out of the branch. It also had listed the average time for the entire state to get people in and out of all branches. Then you can compare the average time of the branch you are interested in as compared to the rest of the state and compared to others in your area.

The site also eluded to that I could go to any branch in the state to do what I needed to do. What I needed for renewing plates, which in the past was the one thing I think I had to do at a branch in my county. I called to try to get confirmation. The lady I talked to said that she was pretty sure that I could go anywhere. I have been burned by calling places and then the story not being the same when I got there in person. This time when I got there everything was fine.

License branches have always felt like K-Mart when I have gone into them. This one felt a lot more comfortable. Just like with the other things I am going to comment on here I'm not sure at this point if it was just this branch.

When I walked in they had the usual check in line to route you correctly. The line was five people deep, but the people that were doing the servicing were coming available. They immediately called people over before they checked in. That was good that the thing designed to make things more efficient did not become a bottle neck.

I was in and out in just a few minutes. If this is common across the entire state then I'm feeling a bit better about our state government. Although, this still does not make up for that Daylight Saving Time thing, but that is probably driven by a different department.

Farley's Gummy Bears

A friend bought a five pound bag of Farley's Gummy Bears. He brought them in to share partly because he is a generous guy and partly because he had to unload these travesties of gelatin candy.

I love gummy candy and I love to eat, but these things were very difficult for even me to stomach. It was not for the lack of trying. I ate many of these, trying to make them enjoyable, but they just made my stomach hurt.

Friday, May 18, 2007

CBS Innertube - Why do the ads have to be so LOUD?

I have being trying out some of the television network web sites that have reruns of their shows online. Most of the interfaces are clunky and the video sometimes stalls, but I can get to many of the shows I want to see without being locked into watching them on a certain day at a certain time.

One of the sites is what CBS calls Innertube. We go there to watch Numb3rs, extras from the Amazing Race, and sometimes other stuff. A lot of times we will watch after the kids are in bed. We settle in and get the volume set so we can hear it without waking the kids and it is a fairly enjoyable experience. Then the first commercial comes on. Even though the commercial is very short the volume is well above that of the show. Even if the noise wasn't waking my kids it really takes away from the relaxing experience.

I have had a similar complaint about movies for a long time. The action sequences and music have the volume cranked up on them. I understand that an explosion might need to be louder than dialog for the effect, but the way they do it is excessive. I get the volume set and I either can't hear the dialog or I get blasted out by special effects.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Car Talk Finally Opens Up Free Podcast

I ranted before about Car Talk using Real Audio as their only way to listen to their show free online. I found out today that they are now offering a way to download an mp3 or go through Itunes for free. This will be much more conveinent that having to install Real Player and all the adware and bloat that installs.

The link to the RSS feed that allows you to play or download the show is It looks like NPR is putting several of their shows online

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Daylight Savings Even Longer Now

More of me ranting about daylight saving time...

As I have lamented about daylight savings time, people who have lived in other time zones before have told me that you get use to it and it actually has its advantages. Now as daylight savings time gets started earlier, computer systems get confused by it, and we squander tax payer money on this rediculous practice even some of them are suggesting that perhaps we just split the difference and just roll forward a half hour and leave it alone. Obviously changing a half hour is just a jest, but the point is that leaving it alone is a great idea and others are starting to see it.

I don't have any idea why daylight savings time is such an important thing to our legislators. One of the theories I have heard recently is that businesses want it so people will be more active in the evenings so they will spend more money. If this is true, they are wasting tax payer money on Daylight Savings Time to do what businesses want and not what is best for the majority of tax payers.

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Substandard Quality for a Low Price

There seems to be a trend of businesses offering substandard product at a low price and then gradually ramping up the price and at times even lower the quality more. Two examples of this at Ci Ci's Pizza and Steve and Barry's clothing stores. I'm not sure how they intend to make this work. The value conscious people are going to walk away and most everyone else is going to expect quality.

Ci Ci's
They started out at like $2.99 for all you can eat pizza. At one point some locations even added WIFI. The pizza was not great, but it wasn't foul either. At that price I could deal with ok pizza on a regular basis. Then they raised it a dollar to $3.99. Still fairly cheap for a buffet, but in my opinion too much for substandard pizza. Considering you can get adequately filled elsewhere with decent food for the same price and for a buck more you can get a better buffet if you look around. Now price is somewhere between $4.50 and $5. When they jumped to $3.99 I would still go to CiCi's once in a while, but when they were at their cheapest I was there ever week. Now they they are creeping toward $5 I almost never go there.

Steve and Barry's
I believe in this area they started out at "everything in the store is 5.99 and under". Their merchandise was spotty for selection and the quality was hit and miss. Although I do have a few shirts from that era that are pretty durable. Then prices went to 7.99 and under for everything in the store. They were starting to bump into the area where I could go somewhere else and find something of same quality for about the same price without having to make a special trip to Steve and Barry's. I think they are now up to 10.99 and the quality has dropped even further. Buttons are falling off the shirts the first day I wear them and the fabric is thin. I will still buy stuff there, but not as frequently. I usually go look somewhere else first. Some of that is because of the quality and the less competitive price, but a good bit of it is also feeling a little betrayed. I found a good value and recommended it to my friends and shortly after that they changed everything about why I recommended them.

Monday, January 08, 2007

More Etrade

After charging me high maintenance fees ETrade went even farther. They sold all of my securities that they could to pay for their maintenance fees. They tried to sell the last one too, but it was a dead stock. They sold off my stocks without notice. Without asking me to reconcile the account by paying the fees.

In spite of the fact that I find this policy and several of their other policies a poor treatment of their customers, this gave me the motivation to end my relationship with Etrade. After the sale that they executed without my consent and filing for a disposal of the worthless security I was able to close the account.

I had a lot of worthless things in my portfolio, but the thing I am most happy to be rid of is my relationship with ETrade.

Ultra Memory Tech Support

I purchased a 2 gig SD flash memory card from Tiger Direct a couple of weeks ago. The brand is Ultra Products. I copied the data from my old 256 meg card onto my PC. I then put the new card in my PocketPC and copied the data from my PC to it. Seemed to go OK. Later I tried to add some more files and delete some I didn't need. Several of the existing files got scrambled. I stuck it in my USB card reader to see if I could format and start over. Windows kept telling me the card was read only. I check the lock tab on the side of the card and it was unlocked.

At this point I decided to go through the headache of contacting tech support. Most tech support is a headache, but sometimes useful in spite of it.

I looked on their web site and found an email address. I sent and email, since that was probably my least painful option. I never got a response back.

I then resorted to the phone. I found two numbers. One for tech support and one for memory tech support. The tech support had an 800 number. The memory tech support id not. I called the 800 number to see if they could maybe transfer me to the memory tech support number. They couldn't.

I then switch to the toll number. All I could get was an answering machine. I left a message and a day or so later they left a message. It was after I had left the office, so I missed their call. I called back when I got the message and got the answering machine again. I have now been waiting several days for that call to come back.

During this process I checked out their user forum. I saw several people with problems with memory and the tech that responded simple said to contact tech support to return it. Not looking like the forum is saving customers much time or hassle.

Related rant #1
I had to use a rebate to get the price I wanted on this card. If I have to send this thing back I can only imagine the hassle I will have with that since I sent in the UPC code for the rebate.

Related rant #1a
Rebates are terrible. Are companies not getting the hint yet that customers hate these things and will buy somewhere else if they can to avoid doing a rebate?

In this case the price was so cheap that I had no where else to go unless I wanted to pay a lot more. That may not be enough in the future to make me buy a product with a rebate after this experience.

Related rant #2
I have done some research while waiting for contact from Ultra Products. At this point I am guessing that part of the problem may be that the card is a higher capacity card. Apparently, even though the card is an SD card (i would've assumed that a standard like SD would be standard across brands and capacities) the higher capacities have trouble with certain devices.

The morals of the story
Watch out for Ultra Products. If you are not willing to throw the card away and go buy another one when it doesn't work correctly, because you aren't getting any technical support without a serious time investment. Hope the data on the card is not time critical.

Do a little extra research when buying flash memory in higher capacities. It looks like 2 gig is the problem point I am seeing as I search and talk with people.

UPDATE 1 - January 15, 2007:
I finally got a response via email a week after my email to them. They said that they thought the card was bad and wanted to know where I had purchased it. That was the extent of the email two sentences basically saying, "It's bad. Where'd you buy it."

I quickly responded back with the information.

Another week passed and this morning I get another email from them that says this, "
When and when did you get the sd card form?" No lie, that is a direct cut and paste from the email and that was all it said. No information on where to return the card just a single unintelligible sentence.

I again quickly emailed back, asking for clarification on what they were asking and pleading for them to speed this process up since I am sure they have a 30 day return policy and I have been
stuck with a partially functional card for a month.

Update 2 - January 19, 2007:
My previous theory about the SD card having problems because of its capacity being over what devices might support may have been wrong in this case. The PDA that was able to write to it before is now crashing when trying to write large files to the card.

I got another short, one sentence email from Ultra Products "support". This one contain a return authorization number. There were no instructions on where to send the return or what the process to do so was. I searched their site and found a brief mention of an RMA number that was needed to return things. The number I was given was called a
defective conformation code by the support person. The page that talked about the RMA did not have an address for the return. It did state that I was responsible for paying to return the defective part to them. I just helped a friend do a return with Dell. Even though we spent a ton of time on the phone with them, twice, they offered to exchange the faulty part. They are sending him the parts and a postage paid sticker to send the old ones back. He can continue to use his laptop until the parts come in and then he can return the defective parts on Dell's dime. He paid functional parts originally. When they were not functional Dell paid to get him functional parts. When they wanted the bad parts back they paid for that too, since it was not his fault they were bad. How does Ultra Products not get that I already paid for a functional card and that once I have paid the agreed price for a functional card it is their responsibility to get me a functional card and not have me pay extra things like shipping the nonfunctional card, which is not what I paid for, back to them?

I bought the card because it was an inexpensive card. It was only inexpensive after going through the hassle of a rebate. Now I find that the card is defective. I have spent a month fighting the card and having it only be partially functional. I have spent time trying to get Ultra Products' customer service to respond to me. I hassled with a rebate. I now have to spend time and money to return this defective card to them. I will then be without a card for however long it takes them to send me a new one. I have since gotten rid of the card that I was replacing this with, so I am unable to get back to the functional level I was at before buying this card. This inexpensive card has become very costly.

Update 3 - January 23, 2007
It has been five days since I asked for the address to ship this to and the procedure to do so. I sent a message this morning asking again. They just sent to me and said that I had to go through TigerDirect to return it. I guess I should've done that to start with, but the first email from their support line should've sent me back there. And what is this defect number they gave me? TigerDirect is sending me a new card and will reimburse me the shipping to ship the old one.

I'm a little concerned with just launching this back to them, but at least I got to talk to someone and it sounded like there was a procedure in place. I'm just fearful that they are going to tell me there is nothing wrong with the card. I also am fearful about sending a return back that has the packaging half missing, since I had to cut it up to send in the rebate. This mail order stuff may be more trouble than it is worth. We'll see how this all shakes out. Maybe I am just scared since they either wanted to take my card and then send me a new one or charge my credit card and send me a new one first.