An internet company with customer service?

This story has popped up on at least a half dozen sites I read more or less regularly over the last few days, and it’s pretty interesting. Zappos, who are as far as I know the ONLY place to buy shoes online (I mean, the only place it’s worth your time to buy shoes), hire new employees, train them for four weeks, then offer them $1000 to quit. This means that they only get employees who actually want to be there. I’ve said over and over how Dell was so much cooler when they still cared about customer service, but it’s a little more surprising to see this coming from an industry where there’s a lot more room to play with the prices. I would expect Zappos to be able to better compete on price because there’s so much markup on shoes (One of the few things I learned about the money side of the business while working at Boater’s World in high school – the store makes tons more profit on shoes and clothes than on electronics). Dell, meanwhile, has a much smaller profit margin on their computers, so it seems logical that they’d have to compete with HP and the others on something else. I’ve never bought from Zappos, in part because I have weird feet and it’s often hard for me to find comfortable shoes. But if their customer service is as great as people make it out to be, maybe I should try.

Jim “One Inning” Johnson and the Orioles

The other day I wrote about how Orioles reliever Jim Johnson picked up a nice hold, then gave up a run before getting lifted. Well, he did it again. The first inning he closed out wasn’t dramatic – he got Jeter to line out with a runner on to end the inning in a tie game in the bottom of the eighth. But his second inning was sure dramatic. Single, strikeout, strikeout, walk, and then Robinson Cano singles to win the game. It seems pretty clear from these two games (which is too small a sample size but I don’t care) that Johnson should not be allowed to pitch a second inning. Looking at his gamelogs on Baseball Reference, this isn’t true. It’s just the two games that I’ve noticed where he closed out an inning nicely, then pitched badly when he came out to start the following inning. Anyway, tough loss. Wastes a nice start by Brian Burres. But we’re still third, and they’re still last. So that’s cool.

Birthing classes and onesies

We’ve gone through two pretty big baby milestones in the last few days. The most recent was our Bradley Method class that we just got back from. It was kind of long (Two hours, and she ran over about 15 minutes Two hours and fifteen minutes), but it sounds like it will be good stuff to know. There are 8 other couples in the class. Two of the mothers didn’t make it to the first class, which seems pretty weird, but I’m sure they had their reasons. But birthing class doesn’t really make this seem real to me. I mean, obviously it’s real – the wife is showing, and I’ve felt the baby kicking, I’ve seen it hopping around on the sonogram. But it still seems like something that’s forever in the future. But the other milestone really brings home the reality of the baby. The wife has started buying some baby clothes (She’s getting a little addicted to Ebay and Freecycle, I think), and seeing these little onesies make the baby seem much more real to me than anything else. So, if you’re a dad-to-be, and you’re having a hard time getting your head around this, I recommend getting some baby clothes and just imagine putting them on your own kid. It’s definitely working for me.

No wine snobbery here

Some may not know the 2005 Selbach Riesling Dry, but this guy does.

Riesling is one of the noblest of all grapes, capable of creating wines of the highest quality and in the widest range of styles.

I’d have to agree. I’ve always found them to be quite noble.

The 2005 Selbach Riesling is a straightforward, virtually dry version with bright and fresh fruit flavors reminiscent of apples and melons.

I’m not sure why, in a 300 word review, he only dedicates two sentences to the wine he’s making his Pick of the Week. But whatever. Then we have this guy, who says of the 2004 vintage:

This pale, straw yellow wine is wonderfully refreshing, crisp, and clean. Aromas of apple and citrus are mellow, but the tart flavors of green, Granny Smith-type apples and lemon, explode in your mouth.

And some say the wine is “weak and violently acidic”. Saying it in comic strip form gives it that je ne sais quoi so often lacking in snarky wine reviews. But what happens, you might ask, when you crack a bottle of the 2005 Selbach Riesling Dry, drink a little bit, and then leave it in the fridge, the cork shoved back in, for an entire month? I’m here to answer that question. I have to say that it holds up all right. I’m not a really knowledgeable wine guy. I love my 2004 Gibson Wilfreda, and if I see a Rosemount Shiraz for under $10 at the grocery store, I’m all over it. But I don’t drink a lot of white wine. This month-old Riesling is still quite pleasant, though. I think it might not be as crisp as it once was, but it pairs well with Mexican veggie burgers and Law and Order reruns. So, if you’re like me, and you have an old bottle of this, half open in the fridge, and it’s just bugging you every time you open the fridge, don’t pour it out. Have a glass. You won’t regret it.

THAT’S how you pitch

Orioles thump Yankees, 12-2 What is going on with Daniel Cabrera? Seven innings, 86 pitches (52 for strikes), no walks, and the only runs he allowed were on a two run home run by the guy who’s going to break Bonds’ record. His season WHIP is 1.23, down from over 1.5 for his career. It sounds like he’s actually listening to me when I say, “Hey, Cabrera, you have a hell of an arm – THROW STRIKES”. Apparently there was a little bit of an uproar after LaTroy Hawkins retaliated for Cabrera hitting Jeter in the hand by throwing one behind Luke Scott. As is my usual disclaimer, I didn’t see the game. But if Daniel Cabrera hits your guy in the hand, you can pretty much assume it was accidental. Yes, he’s been throwing more strikes recently. But he still has a 7 walk game this year. He walked 9 in his first 10 innings pitched. The guy has control issues. I mean, if Greg Maddux hits your guy, then absolutely retaliate. It was totally on purpose. But Cabrera? Give him a break. The best part about this is it keeps the Orioles three games back, keeps the Yankees in last place, and was a rare “good hitting performance and good pitching performance in the same game” for the Orioles.

Study to be taken with a grain of salt

Via Gizmodo, a new study suggests that cellphone use while pregnant will cause behavioral problems in children. I don’t buy this. Partly it’s because the article is pretty light on facts. But it doesn’t even address the possibility that maybe mothers who spend their lives glued to the cellphone are not giving their kids enough attention, which leads to the behavioral problems. Cellphone use may be the symptom of the cause, but not the cause itself. Maybe the study addresses this point and refutes it, but the article doesn’t get into that. And I’m inclined not to believe any of the “OMG excessive use of X leads to horrible result Y!” studies that always focus on some technology that’s become common in the last five to ten years and seem to explain away some horrible plague upon our society. Every generation has new technologies, and every generation has new problems. There isn’t necessarily a cause and effect relationship here. Anyway, maybe the study gets into all that, but we’ll never know. Unless you’re one of those weird people who actually research this sort of thing instead of just bitching about it.

What’s wrong with New Orleans basketball fans?

Is there some reason I’m not aware of for New Orleans fans booing the Spurs every time they touch the ball? I mean, I’m all for supporting your team. And I’m fine with some booing here and there. When an opposing player insults your town or your team, boo him. That’s part of being a fan. But when you boo the Spurs every time they touch the ball, when you boo Tim friggin’ Duncan, who helps opponents up off the floor, you are bad fans. I had been on the fence on this series because I frankly don’t care about either team, but Chris Paul is pretty amazing, and Duncan has been very good for a good while. But now I’m rooting for the Spurs. I know New Orleans has been through a lot as a city in the last few years, and I have no idea what that’s like, but it’s no excuse for being just awful fans. I’ve never heard so much booing.

Mount Pleasant misplaced a banner

Many of you in the DC area have probably seen the street light banners advertising various neighborhoods around the city. I think it’s a cool idea. It can help you identify a neighborhood, and I think they try to contain a little bit of the unique elements of each neighborhood. But Mount Pleasant, an otherwise lovely neighborhood, is infringing on our turf. The eastern edge of Mount Pleasant is 16th Street. This makes it a little surprising to see one of their banners proudly displayed on the 1400 block of Harvard Street. I’m not sure if I should really be so annoyed about this. The wife tells me that, back when Columbia Heights was getting its Metro stop, they wanted to call it Columbia Heights/Mount Pleasant. At the time, Mount Pleasant was a much nicer neighborhood, and wanted nothing to do with Columbia Heights. Now that Columbia Heights has a new infusion of shopping and restaurants, apparently we’re not so distasteful anymore. I emailed Mount Pleasant Mainstreet, the organization that sponsors the banners, to see what the big idea was. I’ll let you know what they tell me. Edit to add: I got a reply from them already.

If that’s true then it’s a huge mistake from the contractor. Thanks for pointing that out. I’ll bike over and take a look and have them correct this. We’re missing several on Mt Pleasant St. Thanks, [Mount Pleasant Mainstreet guy]


Beautiful day for Preakness yesterday. We had a huge group this year. It’s a family tradition for my wife, ever since her dad started going years ago. This is my fourth year going. We sit in the stands with the civilized people, rather than in the infield with the drunken idiots. We arrived yesterday just before the 6th race of the day. I like to do a little betting, probably two $2 bets per race, more or less. Usually a little more on the actual Preakness race. This year, we brought a friend, Heather, whose father is a pretty serious horse race enthusiast. He sent her some tips on the races. On his advice, I bet a $2 exacta on the sixth race, on #3 Roshani and #4 Lady Digby. Imagine my surprise as they came around to finish in just that order, just ahead of #1 Valbenny, the pre-race favorite. I won $21.40 on that bet, which was a pretty nice way to start the day. We didn’t have any tips for race 7, so I had to make my own decisions. I liked #1, Roman Emperor, one of the favorites, and the wife liked #5, Da’ Tara. I was even more surprised to win that exacta, too, paying off $12. The word on the 8th race was #8, True to Tradition. I put down a $2 bet for a friend on him to place, and one for myself. I made my (so far) only mistake on the betting machine and accidentally bet him to show, but figured I’d keep the ticket anyway. When he finished second, both tickets paid, $5.20 and $4.20. I didn’t win anything else on the night, but I did get to see an impressive win in the Preakness by Big Brown. It sure looks like he has a good shot at the Triple Crown. Last time we had one of those was the year I was born. I didn’t see the race. And I ended the day up $10 (Well, not including what I spent on things other than betting). Any day of betting where you end up with more than you came with is a good day of betting. After the race, we went to Chiapparelli’s in Little Italy in Baltimore for dinner. It was good. They did a nice job serving our huge party, although they were a little late seating us. When you arrive 15 minutes early for a reservation, and get seated 10 minutes late, that’s kind of annoying. But it didn’t spoil our evening.