Thursday, January 31, 2008

My grandchild is cuter than yours!

I may have some bias in this, but my granddaughter is just about the cutest thing ever.

For those of you lacking grandchildren, I strongly recommend acquiring some. The tricky part is to do this without raising children of your own. :-) The "terrible twos" are a problem for parents, perhaps, but my granddaughter is always happy to see her grandparents, and we always have a good time.

Topic? Uh...I forgot.

I had something really witty to add to this today, but the topic has entirely slipped my mind. I would make some sort of joke about early onset of memory loss, but that's just not funny!

Well, for today, y'all are going to have to put up with an entirely content-free update. (That's for both of you that read this.) I was thinking of adding a link to something fun or interesting, but that would be counter to my current (lack of) purpose.

Perhaps I'll update again tomorrow, depending on my ability to recall anything. Then again, I may forget.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

That election thing

So, some of you may have noticed that there's a presidential campaign in progress. More to the point, it's getting exceedingly hard to ignore. That's an annoyance, and I often wish for something more on the British model of "hey, guys? let's have an election next month." Perhaps they should move the first primaries back to August, rather than January. It would certainly make the campaigns cheaper and much less annoying. I'm not helping by writing about it, but, well, I'll pretend that I'm doing so because of the First Amendment.

But that's not what I wanted to write about. I've got two other election related topics.

The first is an interesting online flash app I stumbled upon that analyzes your real political standing. Take a look Electoral Compass's a pretty reasonable set of questions, and the results worked for me. Your answers are analyzed on two axes - your economic leanings, and your social leanings. The horizontal axis represents left or right economic tendencies, while the vertical axis has traditional or conservative values at the bottom, up to liberal or progressive tendencies at the top. To no real surprise, the centroid it produced for me was a bit above center, but generally pretty much in the middle. Within the uncertainty radius that their analysis provides, there are precisely zero candidates.

Somehow that doesn't surprise me. I suspect that's true for a large fraction of the electorate. That's really quite sad.

The other thing I wanted to discuss is candidate selection criteria. Even though it's now one week to the California primary, I don't have any idea who, if anyone, I'll vote for. I do know who I won't vote for, which annoys me a bit. I'd really like to find a candidate I can vote for, rather than a set of candidates to vote against. My selection criteria are, thus far, pretty simple. I'd like to find a candidate that actually believes in science. I don't mean some sort of faith-based belief - they are free to practice whatever faith they like as long as it's not the driving force in their decision making. Please, no goat entrails in the Oval Office. What I do mean is that I'd like to find a candidate that understands how science works. Pushing "intelligent design" in addition or as a substitute for evolution education is a guaranteed way to not get my vote.

Thus far, that means Huckabee is a definitive "no", given his direct expression that he doesn't believe in evolution. (Wasn't real impressed with him anyway, but that seals it. Oh, and I guess all of those scientists that actually use science to find ever-increasing evidence of evolution are all just horribly confused. Better send them to some re-education camps.) None of the remaining likely candidates (Obama, Clinton, Edwards, McCain, and Romney, as of this writing) have any sort of reasonable statement on the topic...just a bunch of platitude-laced sound bites. If one of them were to where this shirt (sorry, original link unavailable), I think they'd get my vote.

Obviously, other criteria will be necessary to identify a useful candidate. I'll have to think about that at some point. Can I avoid that until late October? Sigh.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Really stupid business practices

Okay, so it's been a while since I posted. I've been a wee bit busy with the real world.

Why am I bothering to post today? What motivated me out of a non-posting funk? Dumb business practices. Today's target of wrath is SBC AT&T Wireless Cingular AT&T Wireless. Sorry, they keep changing the name. (That's a separate rant.) For the record, I've had an account with them since they were named SBC. It's not so much a matter of customer loyalty as laziness, actually.

Back to today's troubles: my wife needs a new phone. Her Motorola no longer has any video at all, which makes it a less than useful device. She's had the phone quite a while, so it's not really unexpected for a semi-disposable consumer device to simply die. This seems easy enough to remedy - just go to your local AT&T store and get a replacement. Piece of cake, right? After all, companies pretty much always take a loss on the hardware, so it should be pretty cheap.

Yeah, right.

AT&T has a semi-reasonable policy of not giving "replacement pricing" too early in a contract period. They do something like no discount for the first 18 months, and then offer a substantial discount (to match their new account pricing) if you need a replacement phone. For the company, this seems pretty wise, as it keeps Joe Consumer from coming in every month and getting a very highly subsidized phone.

There's a few problems with this, however. The dates reset whenever you mess with the contract. My wife's phone is actually several years old, but the current contract started more recently when we added a line for one of the kids. So, we don't qualify for the discount, even though the phone is, in phone years, decrepit.

I can replace her phone with an equivalent newer model for the grand sum of $330. Yup, you read that right. It would literally be cheaper to cancel the contract, go to a competitor, get a new phone and contract, and use number portability to keep the number.

When I noted this fact to the happy customer rep who pounced on me as I came in the door to the place...well, let's just say he looked really unhappy. So much for corporate loyalty to customers. It's actually a penalty for loyalty, which strikes me as really really broken.

I think there's certainly a better way for this to work. Some sort of pro rated system, for example.... In any case, I'm going to call their happy customer support folks and see if they can find a way to avoid losing a customer.