I guess it serves me right for buying a soda

I got a Cherry Coke out of the machine down the hall to drink with my lunch. I don’t drink nearly as much soda as I used to, but every now and then I can’t help it. This time, I should have been more careful in my selection. It wasn’t actually a Cherry Coke – it was a Cherry Coke Zero. That means they’ve taken out all the delicious high fructose corn syrup and replaced it with carcinogens that fool your tongue into thinking you’re consuming something sweet. I know my view on this is a little extreme, but I’d like to see Coke and anyone else who wants to use aspartame and sucralose and all those other non-food products have to put a big disclaimer on the package, like a cigarette warning.

WARNING – this product contains a chemical substance posing as food that is not, in fact, digestible by humans. It tricks your taste buds into thinking it’s sweet, but it is all a lie. Also, there is non-trivial evidence suggesting it causes cancer. If you still think it’s better than high-fructose corn syrup, go ahead and enjoy.

Hey, all you Catholics

DSC_8698So the Pope is in town. Since I work almost right next door to the White House, which is where he was hanging out this morning, some coworkers and I went up to the roof of the building to watch as he hopped into the PopeMobile and drove off down Pennsylvania Avenue and past the adoring throngs. Anyway, there are more pictures here. The view from the roof is pretty good. And there are electrical outlets and benches up there. With the weather getting nice, I might just have to take a laptop up there now and then.

Dell again

Wow. Another email from Dell. The best part are these consecutive passages:

. . . I will provide you the information.

As a Customer Care I am unable to provide you the information . . .

Please don’t think that my anger here is because Dell has outsourced their customer service. I truly don’t care if the CSR is in the United States or India or the moon or anywhere else. I don’t care what his or her first language is. The only thing that’s important to me in a CSR is being able to fix my problem, preferably in a minimal amount of time. That’s it. Hence the anger. None of the people who emailed me could fix my problem. What’s even more exasperating is that each of them has chastised me for asking my question to the wrong person. It’s a little frustrating to be directed to talk to a person who tells me that he or she is not the person who can help me. Anyway, I’ll get a computer eventually. And I still hate Dell.

Dell is fired

I’m trying to purchase a computer from Dell. Well, that’s not exactly true. My new employer (Started the new job today, went very well) buys from Dell. The process is that each employee builds a computer at Dell.com, then emails the boss with the specs, and he buys the computer through the corporate account. Sounds simple, right? Well, first of all, Dell doesn’t let you just email specs. I can’t imagine why not – surely they’d be happy to let kids email specs to their parents, or perhaps they’d even be prescient enough to foresee my situation. But no. They let you save, and they even let you tag to del.icio.us and all sorts of other social sites, but apparently that’s just to the initial start page for the computer, not the customized version. So, I thought I’d just get one of their online chat CSRs to help me. Again I failed. Or, rather, Dell failed. They had no chat representatives available. Do they let me get in line and wait for the next one? No, they force me to resubmit my request. I tried about five times and gave up. So I was directed to email them. This steaming pile of crap is what I got in return. Their response was much longer, but that’s the only part that wasn’t boilerplate gobbledygook. Next I tried calling. I hate calling companies. If I’m calling you on the phone, it’s because your website failed. Anyway, I was greeted by loud music and an unhelpful robot voice that refused to give me a person. I tried a different customer service number, because I think I might have gotten the wrong one the first time (I don’t remember why I thought that, but it made sense at the time). This time I got another unhelpful robot, but this one gave me a person. Hooray! Until I asked her my question. Turns out she was tech support. I have no idea how the robot got me to tech support when all I wanted was customer support, but that’s neither here nor there. She transferred me to the correct CSR, who said a great many things, none of them helpful. So I gave up. I’m going to ask someone at work tomorrow. And I’m going to continue to tell everyone I speak to about computers to avoid Dell.

Dell 1, Me 0

Dell Says:

Dear Valueless Customer, Because you selected “Pre-Sales/Sales Question” as your Issue Category when you submitted your inquiry, Dell’s automated response system is sending you the following information on how to obtain product specific information. Dell does not currently offer e-mail support for pre-sales questions. However, there is a lot of information available on our web site and other contact alternatives. This document provides information on the subjects listed below in the table of contents.

My reply:

This is one of the least helpful emails I’ve ever received. It’s really a shame that a company that built itself on fantastic customer support has stooped to automated messages such as this. If you don’t offer email support for pre-sales questions, why in the world would your website direct me to email you? I hope you appreciate the absurdity of your position here. I don’t need anyone to respond to me on this issue. I have resolved it myself. The only reason I’m at your site at all is because my employer uses Dell products, so my work computer will be a Dell. I have owned two Dell computers, but will never purchase another one for my own personal use due to your woefully inadequate customer service.

And Dell again:

Thank you for contacting Dell. I apologize for the inconvenience caused to you and I understand that you wish to place an orderunder the existed account. I will provide you the information. As a Customer Care I am unable to provide you the information and I request you to contact our Sales department at 800-284-3355 and place an order. I once again apologize that I could not assist you. The case number for this interaction is [unimportant]. Please email me for any additional support and I would be happy to assist you further. Thank you for choosing Dell.

Another race, my personal best

DSC_8606The fifth annual Race to Stop the Silence took place yesterday. I ran it last year, too, finishing in 55:04. This year, I reached my personal goal of a sub-50-minute finish, coming in at 49:38. There are more pictures here, thanks to the wife. She and the mother-in-law and Phil came to watch on a brisk early morning, and I was glad to put on a good show. The course was moved from West Potomac Park to Anacostia this year, and I wasn’t expecting much. But the course wasn’t bad. It was a 5K course, two laps, which wasn’t ideal. And I was afraid it would get crowded. But with only 428 runners (I finished 166th overall), it didn’t get too bad. I don’t have any more races scheduled for this year. I’d like to get a pace time under eight minutes (This one was 8:01) as my next goal. Maybe I’ll find another one before it gets too hot.


Just announced today, Flickr now does video. I don’t really care at the moment, because I don’t ever make videos of anything (Maybe that will change when the baby comes, but I doubt it). But just yesterday I was writing in my novel-in-progress, which takes place in the not terribly distant future, about Flickr and video. I had been thinking about what Flickr (Or whatever takes its place) might be like in, say, 30 years. Once you start thinking about that, you have to go back and try and define what Flickr is now. On the surface, it’s a photo sharing site with a community surrounding it. But the ways people use it mean that it really goes well beyond just sharing photos. Some people use it as a cheap and reliable image hosting service for their blog. Some people use it to track changes over time in something. You see this a lot with babies and pregnancy. Some people use it almost instead of a blog or public journal – “See what I did yesterday, here’s a picture”. The Library of Congress is using it to crowdsource the categorization of their photo library. Barack Obama is using it to connect with supporters and advertise himself. So I was thinking, as technology advances, will we still take photos? In thirty years, you could be wearing contact lenses that can record hours of HD video. Maybe you’ll even have a hard drive installed in your head that can store video recorded by your eyes. Do we only take lots of photos now because that’s the convenient technology? There may always be a demand for still images as art, but we may get away from using them to say, “Hey, look at my cat!”. Or maybe not. Anyway, just thought it was cool that Flickr is doing what I thought they’d do, thirty years early.

Now I’ll get some good search hits

I was just looking through my Gmail spam folder, which I do from time to time to see if it caught anything it shouldn’t have. I’m mostly curious – anything that gets caught in there is probably not worth reading anyway. But one email jumped out at me – someone named Zane Gay (Not the author, that’s Grey) sent me an email entitled, “Fondle all her internal nerve endings”. Maybe this guy should be an author, because he’s got a way with the English language, I’ll tell you. Maybe he should be a poet, instead. The rigid constraints of prose could never hold Zane Gay back. I hope someone out there was sitting on his couch, thinking to himself, “Gosh, Jane sure is a great girl. I really want to fondle all her internal nerve endings, but HOW?”. And then he happens to look in his inbox and see this gift from Zane Gay. That’s the way the world should work.