Through the Cracks

Ikea phone guy: The “RATIONELLE” replacement shelves you ordered have arrived. You have five days to pick them up.

[We were on vacation, missed the deadline.]

Me: I’m here to pick up my shelves. Here’s the receipt.

Ikea young buck: Your five days have passed. The shelves have been returned to stock. I can charge you a restocking fee, sell you a new set (the same set, but now taken from the freshly replenished stock), and you can go to Customer Service to request a refund for the “old” ones you paid for but never received.

Me: That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard of.

Ikea young buck: I’m sorry sir.

[I go downstairs, pay for the “new” shelves, wait 15 minutes for them to be retrieved from stock. Go to Customer Service, take a number, let the ceiling-mounted hanging TVs squirt toxic CNN juice all over me. Notice how the wall-mounted buckets meant to hold free replacement dowels, pins, and Ikea-original smart fasteners are all empty. Kill time with a corn dog and box of lingonberry juice. One hour passes, no lie. Now I’m officially late to meet a client, but don’t dare give up my place in line. I’ve worked too hard for this, and a whole $25 is at stake. My number comes up.]

Ikea helpful lady: He said what? Let me check. No, your shelves haven’t been returned to stock. They’re ready and waiting for you. We’re sorry for the inconvenience. Here’s your refund.

And that’s how a 10-minute Ikea visit melts into 90 minutes. This is how we wade through phone trees trying to find clueful employees, whittle away the time we don’t have to whittle at the hands of incompetent high-school students, pay out of pocket to return defective items, tear out hair because of insane policies, slip through cracks not accounted for by automated systems.

Our lives as a series of frustrating encounters, connected by a fabric of retardation.

Music: Led Zeppelin :: What Is And What Should Never Be

Mac Browser Smackdown

Ars Technica has an excellent side-by-side comparison of the nine (yup, nine) browsers currently available for OS X. Interesting to see that Safari is no longer fastest browser available (though it’s a heck of a lot faster than IE). Mozilla edges Safari on speed, by a hair. But Safari still came out on the top of the stack for a host of other reasons.

There was a thread here on birdhouse a while ago in which a few people said they were finding sites that didn’t render properly in Safari. I countered that I was having trouble finding any and hadn’t launched IE in a long time. The next day I did have some trouble using a complex multi-part form in Safari and had to switch to IE to get the job done, but haven’t had trouble since then. The Ars reviewer says virtually the same thing:

The current version [of IE] feels like a quick and dirty port to OS X and has some problems with more complex web pages. It’s a shame that this is still the default browser in OS X installations. … Thankfully, those days are over. I cannot remember the last time I had to launch it to access a web site. There is really no good reason to use this anymore.

My thoughts exactly (I also agree with the reviewer that the Mozilla-based browsers are crash-y and inelegant compared to Safari). After some disagreement at work (my colleagues are unconcerned with speed issues, more concerned that students would be confused by the transition to another browser … whatever) we decided to install both IE and Safari in the Dock and let students choose. So far they seem to be using about 70% Safari, informally measured.

Eyewitness I

A photo prof wanted to host an online photo auction, Eyewitness I, to raise funds to compensate for this year’s massive budget cuts. There’s open source auction software out there, and plenty of open source image gallery software, but how to combine them? (keeping in mind that I work on zero budget and even less time).

Ended up using Gallery, which allows people to leave comments on images. Altered the default templates (which is way harder than it should be) and then hacked the comments feature to function like an impromptu bidding system. It doesn’t do any fancy auction transactions, just lets the prof and other bidders see what the current high bid is. Everybody’s happy.

Music: Sun Ra :: Images

Codified Homophobia

A recent poll of 1,028 adults shows more than half favoring a possible law banning gay marriage. What “land of the free” were we talking about again?

I consider our codified, institutionalized intolerance of gay marriage to be an abuse of human rights. Not in the same league as torture or imprisonment for political beliefs perhaps, but we as a nation do punish people for loving whom they wish to love. Imposed morality for its own sake is imposed abuse. We rob others of their pursuit of happiness. Opposition to gay marriage is un-American.

Often in political or religious disputes, I can see the other side of the issue while defending my own, but try as I might, I cannot understand why anyone would oppose gay marriage. It’s just baffling to me. I also have trouble understanding how people can embrace religions that oppose homosexuality. It’s so plainly inhumane. If I ever choose to believe in a god, you can bet it won’t be such a blatantly inhumane god.

The AP had their poll. Here’s my own.

Is opposition to gay marriage an abuse of basic human rights?

View Results

Music: Ernest and Hattie Stoneman :: The Mountaineer’s Courtship

Hurtling Semi

Behind our house, the hills rise steeply. Moeser is virtually unbike-able, rising quickly into the heavens. This afternoon a semi truck lost its brakes at the top of the hill and hit huge speeds on the way down (I heard 100 mph being thrown around at the accident site). Slammed through multiple vehicles, then overturned in someone’s house just one block away from ours, and burst into flames. The house burned down. Cars it hit on the way down reduced to hideous smooshes. Eight people injured, some critically. One young boy apparently hanging by a thread, though no one died. Strangely, the resulting power outage (power pole taken clear out, live wires hurt some teenagers) reached all the way to Berkeley, some 20,000 people without power, but one block away, our power unaffected.

Music: Dust Brothers :: Chemical Burn


Old hat, but thought I’d throw a monkeywrench into the spammer’s game with a local dose of wpoison. Back in ’97, a spammer told Wired that this stuff didn’t work – that his Extractor bot could add 4,000 – 5,000 bounces an hour to a rejects list. But this script is infinitely recursive — unless the spambots are sufficiently clever, they should get caught in it indefinitely. And if enough people ran similar pages, surely it would make some difference. Yeah, I know, wishful thinking. Ah well, it’s free and can’t hurt.

Music: Holger Czukay :: Full Circle R.P.S. (No. 7)

iPhoto’s Lame-Oh Randomizer


Shot over 300 images over the Minnesota vacation, then whittled down to 120. The Achilles’ heel of digital photography is that there’s no risk/no expense, which encourages you to shoot five variants of everything, rather than one well-conceived shot. Nobody has any time, so the collections never get edited properly and you end up with mountains of superfluous bits to surf through in the future. With analog, each shot costs (financially, environmentally), so the image is conceived in the mind before being committed to film. Analog images are somehow less disposable.

It’s kind of like the difference between composing at the typewriter vs. the word processor (I wrote most of my college papers with a typewriter, only started using the UCSC mainframe during my senior year). When typing, mistakes are costly. So you roll your eyes, lick your lip, scratch your head, and conceive an entire paragraph mentally before committing to paper. Work from an outline so the pages come out in the right order. With word processing, you enter the process of infinite revision, spray your thoughts all over the page and let god sort ’em out (or do it yourself). Thoughts are more malleable with a word processor.

Anyway. Discovered last night that if you set iPhoto‘s slide show feature to randomize the images in an album, you’ll start seeing the same images over again very quickly.

– Displayed images are not dropped from the random queue
– The algorithm clearly favors some images, skipping others

Above: Miles at 11 months on the shores of Gull Lake, MN. Cousin Roya with famous goofy elastic mug.

Music: Etta James :: A Sunday Kind of Love

American Splendor

Amy and Miles staying on in MN for another week, leaving me rare chance to see movies etc. Went with Chris to American Splendor — the movie interpretation of the underground comic of the same name. Paul Giametti as Harvey Pekar the perfect brilliant sadsack. Movie oscillates b/w dramatic recreation of the comic and conversation with Pekar himself. Layered, just like American Splendor itself was drawn by alternating artists.

As much as the movie deals with depression sans Hollywood, it’s also very funny, and in a peculiar way, delightful. A string of strange, simple poignancies. Pekar looks at self in mirror, mutters “Now there’s a reliable disappointment.” Also loved the scene of his neurotic wife in the bathroom mistaking WD-40 for air freshener (am I alone in thinking that WD-40 smells great?)

Music: Allen Toussaint :: Night People

Airplane Reading

Spiels of Minuteman — Notes by Mike Watt on the early days of The Minutemen, lyrics, essays by Richard Meltzer (Blue Oyster Cult, rock critic), Joe Carducci (who ran SST from ’82 to ’86), Thurston Moore (Sonic Youth). Art by Raymond Pettibone. It’s hard to convey what Watt and the Minutemen mean to me. Some music from one’s formative years seems corny two decades later, other stuff just keeps sinking in deeper. Minutemen, and to a lesser extent, Firehose and other Watt side projects, are under my skin like benevolent chiggers.

fake contest

i'm making my case against a stack of comics
here comes the line...
"i'm loaded with rocket fuel!"

industry, industry we're tools for
the industry -- your clothes in
their laundry bleached of identity

you lie there naked
i lie here naked
both on the pavement why
are we different?

Also: Feeling rusty on philosophy roots from college, brought along Richard Osborne’s Philosophy for Beginners. Very succinct, palatable but dense rerun of any college history of philosophy class. Got through the Greeks and Romans, heading into the Arabs. Brother-in-law Steve pointed out that this book casts contributions of Christianity to philosophy in a fairly negative light. True, it’s fairly harsh on Christianity’s harsh history, but I’m not so sure it’s not just being accurate (Steve getting a PhD at the Talbot School of Theology).

Saturday Morning — the compilation of Saturday morning cartoon music covered by contemp. bands, e.g. Sublime’s cover of “Hong Kong Phooey” and Liz Phair’s version of the banana split’s Tra La La song — is a total disappointing bore and I’m sorry I bought it. Should have known better. Not a single track on the disc is as good as the original.

Music: Face To Face :: I’m Popeye The Sailor Man