Sunday, December 20, 2009

exacerbate vs. exasperate

I've heard something similar to this a few times recently:
His lack of skill really exasperated the problem.
Going into debt can exasperate your financial situation.
To quote a favorite movie: "You keep using that word. I don't think it means what you think it means." Compare:
  • exasperate: to excite the anger of : enrage; to cause irritation or annoyance to
  • exacerbate: to make more violent, bitter, or severe
So, in simple English, exacerbate = to make worse, and exasperate = to make angry. I always chuckle when I hear sentences like the ones above, because I conjure up a mental image of a problem becoming furious, or a financial situation throwing a temper tantrum in frustration.

Next time you're about to use an exa- word, take a second to make sure that it's the right one. You just might avoid making your friendly neighborhood word nerd become exasperated by not exacerbating his frustration with society's increasingly loose lexical license.

Note for word nerds: exacerbate and acerbic (=sour or bitter) both stem from the same Latin root word: acerbus (=harsh, bitter), which in turn stems from the Latin acer (=sharp), which is also the root word for the English acid.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Concerted effort

"I've been slacking off at exercising recently, but I decided to make a concerted effort to be more active."
"I'm making a concerted effort to be nicer to my roommate."
"I'm behind in my classes, but I'm making a concerted effort to catch up."
Concerted effort is a popular phrase to misuse these days. Concerted means "involving the joint activity of two or more", so the idea of a single person making a concerted effort doesn't really make sense.

  • concerted: coordinated, combined, joint (opposite of separate, uncoordinated)
  • concentrated: intense (opposite of mild, moderate)

The next time you're about to say concerted, think about whether concentrated might be a better choice.

(Although it's widely regarded as incorrect today, my guess is that in 20 or 30 years this use will become accepted, much like "I could care less" is becoming today.)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

The Man: 1, Mike: 0 (but maybe you can help)

(for how to help, skip to the end)

My friend Michael had a recent vendetta against The Man (Southwest Airlines, in this case). They bumped him from a flight and gave him a $350 travel voucher in return. He wrote down the number and threw away the paper, happily dreaming of trips to exotic locations.

There was just one small problem: he only wrote down one number—the voucher number. Turns out that you also need the security code, or your voucher number is useless. He contacted Southwest, and they said they couldn't help him. Rather than give up, though, he vowed to try all 9999 possible security codes at Southwest's web site until he found the right one. He estimated that after 25 days he'd have a 50% chance of finding the right one.

I saw Mike's blog entry about his fight, and as one who detests The Man as much as the next guy, I took pity on him. No, I didn't start spending my free time entering numbers at; instead, I wrote a computer program to enter them for me.

The robot

After a bit of work, I had created a robot that would go through the booking process on Southwest's web site all the way to the point where you enter the voucher number. Over the course of a few hours (while I slept last night), it tried all 9999 four-digit security codes.

Unfortunately, I discovered when I woke up this morning that none of the security codes had worked. None of them. (On the bright side, at least Mike didn't have to spend 50 days entering numbers manually, only to discover that none had worked.)

What went wrong?

There are a few possible reasons why it didn't work:
  1. Mike wrote down the wrong voucher number.
  2. The security code format isn't a 4-digit number.
  3. There's a bug in my program.
Reason #1 is a lost cause. If that's the real explanation, there's no hope.

Reason #2 seems possible, but Southwest's booking site, as well as pages found by Googling, lead me to believe that it is, in fact, a four-digit numeric code. (Anybody know for sure?)

How to help

So that leaves Reason #3: I messed up. However, you can help me debug my program. I need two things:
  1. If you're a programmer, you can take a look at my program and let me know if you find any bugs.
  2. If you have a Southwest voucher number and security code, you could let me test my program with them. (I promise I won't steal your flight...)
If you're a Python programmer, feel free to take a look at (Warning: really ugly quick-and-dirty code. Also, you'll need mechanize to run it.)

Because I don't have a working voucher number/security code combination, I can't be 100% sure that my program will recognize a correct combination. I'm pretty confident that it works, but I can't be sure unless I test it with a real voucher number/security code pair. If you too want to get back at The Man, and you're willing to let me try your voucher number (not to buy a ticket, just to validate my program), drop me a line. Thanks!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Note to self

Don't ever go to Costco on Saturday afternoon again. Ever.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

I started college this week


No, I didn't start grad school (although I'm still thinking about it...). Instead, I started a Mandarin class. A few of us at work who travel to China wanted to be able to communicate at least a little while we're over there, so we signed up for a class from DeAnza College. It's five days a week for an hour during lunch, and it goes until mid-December.

Conclusion so far: I'm really bad at Chinese.

Other conclusion: college students are really young these days.

I studied Spanish for long enough that I'm reasonably fluent now, but it's really hard to start again at square one with a new language. Doubly hard when the language includes a bunch of sounds you've never made with your mouth before. Triply hard when its writing system is completely foreign to you.

Wish me luck.

Health care

This is the best article on health care reform I've ever read:

How American Health Care Killed My Father, in The Atlantic.

It's big (six long pages), but it's very accessible, and spot on.

An excerpt:
I’m a Democrat, and have long been concerned about America’s lack of a health safety net. But based on my own work experience, I also believe that unless we fix the problems at the foundation of our health system—largely problems of incentives—our reforms won’t do much good, and may do harm. To achieve maximum coverage at acceptable cost with acceptable quality, health care will need to become subject to the same forces that have boosted efficiency and value throughout the economy. We will need to reduce, rather than expand, the role of insurance; focus the government’s role exclusively on things that only government can do (protect the poor, cover us against true catastrophe, enforce safety standards, and ensure provider competition); overcome our addiction to Ponzi-scheme financing, hidden subsidies, manipulated prices, and undisclosed results; and rely more on ourselves, the consumers, as the ultimate guarantors of good service, reasonable prices, and sensible trade-offs between health-care spending and spending on all the other good things money can buy.
Unfortunately, I don't think that our political system is capable of effecting the type of fundamental change that is necessary to really improve the situation. But if it were, this guy has the right idea.


I've noticed an interesting trend in email. Lately I've seen a lot of emails like this:
From: Somebody
To: a bunch of people
Subject: something important

Hi all,

blah blah blah
or this:
From: Some dude
To: more people than probably necessary
Subject: (something vague)


mumble mumble...
or maybe this:
From: Another person
To: a mailing list
Subject: Proposal

Dear All,

I'd like to propose...
The use of "all" to address a group seems to be increasing. I'm not sure if it's actually becoming more common, or if I just perceive it that way because I'm in a new environment (work). Either way, every time I see someone address an email to "all", it just looks weird. It seems like we (the English speaking world) have developed more natural, time-tested ways to address everyone—like, well, "everyone". Or "everybody". Or even "y'all" (which can become quite natural if you live in Texas for a while). But "all"? That's just awkward.

(On a slightly related note, someone at work yesterday sent an email to an internal mailing list addressed "To Whom It May Concern". Seriously?!? The 1700's ended a while ago.)

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Space shuttle launch

I went to Florida two weeks ago to see the launch of space shuttle Discovery as part of the STS-128 mission. I've had a goal to see a shuttle launch for a long time, so when I found some cheap(ish...) tickets, I took advantage of the opportunity.

View STS-128 in a larger map

STS-128 was the last ever scheduled night launch, although plans for future flights could change. There are only six more shuttle flights, and then the shuttle program will be shut down in 2010. After that, there will be no more US-launched manned space flights until the late 2010's when Project Constellation fires up. (Or should I say if it fires up. A report released last week by the Augustine Commission raises serious concerns about the project's financial viability.)

I discovered the tickets late Saturday night, emailed my boss to see if I could leave for a few days, and bought the tickets as soon as I heard back. I took a red eye flight late Sunday night and arrived in Orlando on Monday morning for a launch that night a little after 1 a.m.

The Monday night launch was scrubbed 10 minutes before liftoff due to bad weather, and rescheduled for Tuesday night. On Tuesday I arrived at Kennedy Space Center only to find out that the launch was scrubbed again, this time for mechanical problems (a valve in the fuel-filling system that indicated that it hadn't closed all the way). My flight back to California was early Wednesday morning, which would have been perfect if the shuttle had launched. It didn't launch, though, and after thinking for a while, I decided to stick it out and wait for the launch. After all, this was a once-in-a-lifetime event.

I blissfully slept through my flight back to California and decided not to book return travel until after the shuttle launched—whenever that might be. I would return by Monday at the latest, since the launch window extended only through Sunday night.

I stayed in Orlando and worked remotely for the rest of the week as the NASA teams worked through the mechanical problem. They announced on Wednesday night that they thought they understood the problem, and had developed a procedure to mitigate it if it happened again. However, they weren't going to attempt a launch until Friday night, in order to give everyone more time to get some sleep and put the finishing touches on plans.

Unfortunately, Kennedy Space Center decided for some unexplained reason that for the next launch attempt they would not honor my launch viewing ticket, which I had purchased from a tour company. They would, however, honor tickets purchased directly from NASA. I was pretty disheartened to learn that after all of the time and money I had spent on this, I might not be able to watch the launch from KSC.

I was determined to find a solution, though, so I hopped on craiglist and emailed the handful of people selling launch viewing tickets. I got a few responses, and none were positive. Then, at about 11 p.m. on Thursday night I got a phone call. It was a woman staying out by the space center, but she was flying out of Orlando the next day. I arranged to meet her at the Orlando airport to buy her ticket.

I arrived at the airport to buy the ticket, but an hour and a half after we were supposed to meet, she still hadn't shown up. I was starting to lose hope, but I knew there were only 30 minutes until her flight was scheduled to leave, so I decided to wait until then before giving up. Thankfully, a few minutes later she showed up! After she checked in, we exchanged money and tickets and then she ran off to the security checkpoint. Things were looking up! Since the tour company wasn't running from Orlando to KSC, I rented a car at the airport and then made the hour drive out there, stopping for a minute in Titusville to check out Space View Park—an alternate viewing site just in case the ticket I bought didn't work out for some reason.

When you pack for only two days, you don't bring a shaver. When two days turns into a week, this is what happens. Plus, you have to wear your souvenir shirt because you don't have any other clean clothes.

Feeling slightly like I was living Groundhog Day, I arrived at Kennedy Space Center later that day for the third time. I waited around for a while, monitoring the weather and mission updates on my iPhone. A thunderstorm moved in and rained for about 30 minutes earlier in the evening, then moved out. I just hoped that no thunderheads would pop up close to the launch site as the countdown neared zero.

Thunderstorm at KSC

...but then a rainbow! (Those are full-size models of the shuttle at the visitor center, not the real thing.)

The fueling of the shuttle's external tank proceeded flawlessly (in contrast to Tuesday night's troubles), and about three hours before the launch, I headed out to the causeway, which is the closest public viewing site. There were far fewer people there on Friday night, since the tour companies had been turned away, which meant I got a real chair near the speakers and countdown clock. It was a much better situation than Monday night.

Me in front of the countdown clock, about an hour before launch. That white speck over my left shoulder is the shuttle. (The clock doesn't read an hour because of built-in holds in the launch sequence.)

As the countdown clock neared T-30 minutes, I started to get nervous. Like, heart-pounding, adrenaline-pumping nervous. The launch had been scrubbed twice already, and my body was getting ready for another tense situation.

The key factor was weather. The evening's earlier storm had cleared out, but there were several storm cells that had appeared about 35 miles away. Anything within a 20-mile radius could cancel the launch, and 30 minutes was plenty of time for those storms to move in. The chief astronaut (who was not on the shuttle for this mission) was flying around in a trainer jet, monitoring the weather from the sky, and mission control in Houston was monitoring it remotely.

Thankfully, the weather held out as the clock continued to count down. Soon the launch controller was announcing over the PA system that the arms were retracting from the shuttle, the APUs were starting up, and and then a minute before midnight it was down to 5-4-3-2-1, IGNITION!

First 10 seconds (or so) of launch.

The small patch of light across the water suddenly became a giant ball of fire. It grew slowly over several seconds until it was as bright as the sun, illuminating everything for miles. The ball of light seemed to hover on the pad for a few seconds, and then it began to rise into the sky—slowly at first, but quickly gaining speed. The crowd cheered, and we all watched in amazement (which some of my neighbors expressed in colorful language) as the shuttle started on its way into space. There was a light cloud above the launch complex, which was beautifully illuminated by the rocket engines' plumes. It was an incredible sight.

66 seconds after launch

Since we were six miles away, the sound didn't reach us for about 30 seconds. When the sound did come, it was amazingly visceral. It wasn't just a loud noise that you heard, it was a deep, powerful rumble that you could feel. It stirred up small waves on the water, it shook the air, and it shook us. The sound is something you can't record. You just have to be there.

We watched for several minutes as the shuttle arced higher and higher into the sky, heading out over the Atlantic. The launch controller continued to announce the shuttle's location, and by the time the light of its engines faded into the deep night sky, it was almost 500 miles downrange. It's amazing that we could see something that far away—and amazing that something could move that far away that quickly.

Just minutes after the shuttle was out of sight, I bought a ticket back to California on my iPhone. Thankfully, my last-minute ticket cost only $150. After spending much more (a few times more...) than I had planned on this trip, I was glad that the return flight wasn't too expensive.

Traffic back to Orlando was horrible, which wasn't a welcome event at 2 a.m. However, I made it back, got a bit of sleep, and then headed back out to KSC again. (Yes, I'm crazy.) My flight didn't leave until 5 p.m., and I hadn't seen the shuttle launch complex, Vehicle Assembly Building, or Saturn V (Apollo moon rocket), since they didn't offer tours on launch days.

Vehicle Assembly Building, where they put the shuttle together. At 525 feet tall and covering 8 acres, it's the largest one story building in the world. It has its own weather in the top. In the foreground is the Crawler-transporter, which transports the shuttle from the VAB to the pad at at a max speed of 1 MPH. You might have seen it on Dirty Jobs on the Discovery Channel.

Saturn V: the amazingly huge Wernher von Braun-designed rocket that took Apollo astronauts to the moon. The thrust chamber of each engine is over 12 feet in diameter. You could stack up two of me across any of those openings.

I did a quick tour, drove back to Orlando, turned in my rental car (10 minutes before the 24 hours was up!), and then headed to the airport. I arrived back in San Francisco a bit before midnight, and made it back to my apartment around 1 a.m. It had been a long trip, but the launch was amazing, and I had checked off a life goal. Mission accomplished!

More pictures in the gallery.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

How to batch adjust photo timestamps on a Mac without iPhoto

  • If you use iPhoto, just use Photos -> Adjust Date and Time (as pointed out by Silus Grok).
  • If you use Aperture, follow these instructions.
  • If you have neither, you can use PhotoInfo.
More details:

I take a lot of pictures, and often when I get home I discover that my camera's clock wasn't set correctly—because of a timezone change while traveling, daylight saving time, dead batteries (and thus a reset clock), or just simple clock skew due to inaccuracy in the quartz crystal and the circuit that drives the clock ticks.

Why timestamps matter: Incorrect timestamps aren't just annoying: they can cause inaccuracy with automatic geotagging (e.g. with GPSPhotoLinker), and they can cause your photos to be in the wrong order when you combine yours with a friend's and sort by time. To combat incorrect timestamps, I usually take a picture of an accurate time source with my camera—either my GPS, or a cell phone. Then, when I get home, I can change the timestamps of all of the pictures on my computer.

No good free tools: Well, that's the theory, at least. I've been looking for years for a free, easy to use tool that will let me change timestamps, but with little success. A Better Finder Attributes will do the trick, but it costs money. I'm cheap, so instead I have used exiv2 for quite a while. It gets the job done, but it's an unfriendly command line tool.

PhotoInfo to the rescue: Happily, today I discovered PhotoInfo by Jim Merkel, which is a Mac OS X application that does almost exactly what I want. It lets you select several pictures (or a folder), enter a time offset in hours:minutes:seconds, preview the changes, and then adjust all of the pictures with one click. It can adjust both EXIF and filesystem timestamps, and it works with JPEG, TIFF, and raw files. Thanks Jim!

The only other feature I'd like to see is for it to automatically calculate the time offset, like iPhoto. I'd like to be able to enter the correct time for one photo, and then adjust all of the other photos by the same amount.

Screenshots of PhotoInfo 2.0.1:

The main window, after opening a folder

Preview window (pops up after clicking Show Changes)


Monday, July 13, 2009

Gummy bears

Note to self: don't leave an open package of gummy bears on the seat of your car on a hot day. It turns out that's not such a good idea.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Mt. Shasta

I'm on a roll with the Cascade volcanoes these days, it seems. I climbed Bachelor and the South Sister as a teenager. Last month I climbed Mt. Hood, and I followed it up last weekend with a climb of Mt. Shasta. (I actually got an invitation this week to climb Mt. Rainier next month, but I had to very reluctantly turn it down because of work. :( )

Mt. Shasta lies in Northern California about 50 miles from the Oregon border. Among peaks in the lower 48 states, it's the third most prominent mountain, and the second highest volcano, at 14,162 feet. You've probably seen it to the east if you've ever driven between California and Oregon on I-5.

I led a group up the Avalanche Gulch route last Friday and Saturday. Dave, Steve, and Margie, all from my church, joined me for the climb. Having a group of great people that was just the right size made the trip a lot of fun.

I became a little worried as I monitored the weather during the week before the climb, since it looked like there would be storms in the area the weekend that we were there. Besides making our trip cold and wet, storms could increase the chance of lightning strikes and avalanches. However, we had already taken work off, and it would be difficult to reschedule, so we decided to go as far as we could, and turn around if conditions were bad. I estimated our chances of summitting at below 40%, but figured we'd still have a good time and might get lucky and make it to the top.

We made the five-hour drive to Weed (a few miles north of the town of Mount Shasta, but with much cheaper rates) on Thursday night and stayed at Motel 6. We awoke on Friday morning to a beautiful view of the mountain from our motel balcony and headed to The Fifth Season (recommended!) in Mount Shasta to rent boots, ice axes, and crampons. After breakfast at a local cafe, we made the short drive to the trailhead, which is at 6,900 feet.

When we arrived, a glance at parking lot made it apparent that we weren't going to be the only ones on the mountain. After filling out our wilderness permits and getting our gear together, we hit the trail a bit before noon. We made a quick stop at the spring at Horse Camp (a Sierra Club-built cabin low on the mountain) to refill our water bottles and then got down to the business of mountain climbing.

Our goal on Friday was Helen Lake, a flat, protected area at 10,400 feet where we would camp for the night. The route past Horse Camp was almost entirely on snow, but the snow was firm, which made our ascent relatively pleasant. We followed the climber's gully up to the main Avalanche Gulch drainage, and from there continued the additional 1000 vertical feet to Helen Lake. The weather changed every 10 or 15 minutes along the way, alternating between rain, clouds, whiteout (fog), graupel, and an occasional sunbreak.

The clouds cleared right as we reached Helen Lake in the late afternoon, giving us a great view of the route that we would be climbing the next morning. So far, so good with the weather! We shoveled out our tent platforms, set up our tents, boiled water for our freeze dried meals, set out our gear for the climb the next morning, and were in bed by 8 p.m.—the earliest I've gone to bed in months!

Avalanche Gulch, from Helen Lake

I set my alarm for 1 a.m. before going to bed, and 1 a.m. came pretty quickly. I crawled out of my warm sleeping bag, pulled on a coat, and poked my head out of the tent: whiteout! Since none of us had been up the route before, I didn't want to start with zero visibility, so I decided to wait an hour.

When my alarm went off again at 2 a.m., I awoke to the sharp sound of graupel hitting my tent. I poked my head outside again, and my headlamp could only pierce a few feet into the whiteout. Back to sleep for a bit, but I was worried because we couldn't wait much longer to start hiking.

Thankfully, when I woke up at 2:30, it was perfectly clear outside. I could see the stars, and the moon was beautifully illuminating our route up the mountain. Time to climb! I woke up the others, ate my Mountain House granola with berries (mmmm!), put on my boots, and crawled out of the tent. It took everyone else a while to get ready, so we didn't leave until 4 a.m.

Climbing a mountain early in the morning is one of my favorite things in the world. I love the quiet solitude, the serene beauty, the simplicity. I love the bright sparkling stars and the moon that's almost within reach. I love the ominous silhouette of the massif ahead, and the knowledge that I'll soon be above it. I love the faint, deep blue glow of the sky an hour before sunrise, turning to a creeping orange and then endless shadows as the sun rises.

Our climb was pretty straightforward. We pulled out the crampons and ice ax a little way up the mountain as the snow became steeper and icier, making slow but consistent progress. As we climbed, I taught the group about the rest step, crampon technique, and ice ax belay and self arrest. The Avalanche Gulch route is a good one for beginners, since it's not too steep, and the runout is pretty tame if it's not super icy. It's a good place to learn.

Below the Red Banks

As the sun rose, so did the clouds, and we passed in and out of a whiteout. However, there was a pretty good boot track, so we just followed our unseen predecessors as we continued upward. The route follows Avalanche Gulch for a few thousand feet, and and eventually meets a set of loose, red rocky cliffs known as the Red Banks. A few moderately steep chutes cut through the cliffs, and we followed one of these up to the ridge just above the Konwokiton glacier.

From there the route was a little less steep, and we pressed on to the false summit above Misery Hill, passed the steaming volcanic fumaroles, and from there to the true summit. We arrived around 10:30 a.m.

Summit (on right), from above Misery Hill

The sky was clear above the summit as we stepped onto it, but the clouds that were building below limited our view. They were billowing up pretty quickly, so we snapped a few quick pictures and then headed down to avoid getting caught on top in a possible thunderstorm.

Dave on top of the world

We did a little self arrest practice when we reached the ridge above the Red Banks, and then Dave and I headed down. We were going to descend quickly and start taking down the tents while Steve and Margie brought up the rear. After climbing down the rocky Red Banks, we glissaded a lot of the rest of the way down, using our axes as brakes. The snow was perfect for glissading on the upper mountain, and there was already a nice track packed down by other climbers, so we made really good time. The snow was too soft and the slope too moderate to glissade for the last 500-1000 feet, so we had to walk. We reached the tents around 12:15 p.m.

Practically a bobsled track! :)

It had started to precipitate by the time we arrived at the tents. At first it was graupel, but it soon turned to wet snow, and then sleet. It started coming down really hard for a while, so Dave and I holed up in the tents, packing up gear inside. It stopped after perhaps 30 minutes, and then the sun came out. The temperature rose from around 40 degrees to what must have been around 80, with 100% humidity from the sleet that had just fallen and the lingering cloud. It felt like a sauna!

After packing up everything, we headed down to the car. It rained on us partway down, but we were already soaked from sweat and humidity, so a little more moisture didn't hurt. The warm temperatures had softened up the snow a lot, which made for a great plunge-stepping descent, but we felt really sorry for the people trying to slog up the sloppy wet snowfield. We were really glad we had come a day earlier!

I think Dave's pack could be in the Guiness Book of World Records

After dropping off our rental gear, we stopped at Mount Shasta's only pizza place for every child's dream meal: pizza and ice cream. :) The drive back was long, but uneventful, and we made it home a bit before midnight.

I'm really starting to like these Cascade volcanoes. I'd love to climb Hood and Shasta again, but I'd also like to hit the other big peaks: Rainier, Adams, Baker, St. Helens, and maybe Jefferson.

More pictures in the gallery.

Friday, June 19, 2009


Microsoft is getting very creative... or at least its marketing droids are.

They just started a "Get the Facts" (mis)information campaign about Internet Explorer, claiming that IE has security, privacy, ease of use, developer tools, reliability, and compatibility, while Firefox and Chrome don't. They also claim that IE supports web standards.

Every single one of those assertions is false. Laughably so.

I don't know a single computer-savvy person who would agree with those statements. Not one—and I know a lot of computer-savvy people. Every web developer I know uses Firefox because it offers far superior development tools to IE. Every web developer I know despises IE's lack of standards support. Many of my friends love customizing Firefox with extensions. Many security experts recommend not using IE.

Seems like Microsoft is trying to deliberately mislead the uninformed masses. Just because you say it doesn't make it true. Not cool.

(Incidentally, I really liked working at Microsoft. I had great coworkers, and worked on a really cool project. However, part of the reason I didn't go back there was that I wasn't a fan of the company's business culture. This is a good example.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I had BBQ eel for lunch today.

That's all.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Bug report

My roommate went to an Apple Store a few days ago to have them fix his Mac laptop, and he received poor service. In response, I submitted this bug report to Apple's internal bug tracking system:
Title: Customer was turned away for being eight minutes late
Component: Apple Store

03-Jun-2009 10:30 PM Bruce Christensen :
My roommate Brian was turned away from his Genius Bar appointment for being eight minutes late. Count them: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7... 8!

0. Have a MacBook whose optical drive makes funny noises, like it has indigestion or something.
1. In an effort to fix your optical drive, set up an appointment with the friendly neighborhood Apple Store Genius Bar.
2. Arrive for your appointment eight minutes late.

Apple Genius stated that there is a five minute grace period for appointments. Since the grace period had been exceeded by approximately 180 seconds (which is less time than some [admittedly very dentally hygenic] people spend brushing their teeth), he offered several options:
1. Wait an hour for the next appointment.
2. Ship the system to AppleCare for service.
3. Schedule an appointment for a different time.

Expected results:
An Apple Genius provides service as soon as possible, or at least apologizes.

Occurred in a largely-empty store, when Apple Genius appeared to have no other customers to serve. He was already booked for the hour, after all.

Scope of this defect is unknown. It was observed only at Stanford Shopping Center location, but may be more widespread.

It is unknown if the root cause of this defect is policy or autonomous Apple Genius action.

None of the Apple Genius-suggested options was acceptable.

Brian's generally favorable impression of Apple has been degraded by 20%.

The optical drive of the MacBook in question still makes interesting noises.

This retail experience exhibits several indications of suckiness:
1. Service was refused despite apparent ability to provide service.
2. Apple representative turned away customer for being three minutes later than protocol dictated. What are we, robots?
3. No apology was offered. Can't we at least be nice jerks if we're going to be jerks?

(For an example of how to be a nice jerk, see item 9 at "Sorry to be so mean about it, but you’ll have to pay for shipping your donation off to us.")
Whoever got the bug report apparently didn't have a sense of humor, because she just sent the ticket back to me with a note saying to contact someone else for help.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Picture voting results

A while back I wrote a post asking people to vote on pictures to help me decorate my office and apartment. The results are in. Without further ado, here is the winner:

The full results include the ranks of all 121 pictures and show the winners and losers of all votes.

Top ten chosen by all voters:


There were 4147 total votes from 55 different people, for an average of 75 votes per person. One person voted 510 times. Preferences differed significantly between males and females.

Top ten chosen by male voters:


Top ten chosen by female voters:


Technical details and more statistics are available on my web site.

I'll be ordering prints soon. Thanks to everyone who voted!