Saturday, December 18, 2010
Tweeter. I joined a ways back. It was the cool thing to do in tech nerd circles everywhere. I used it maybe half a dozen times - maybe more. A few people followed me, not sure why. I didn't have anything useful to say. Then it started going mainstream. All the news outlets and celebrities had a Tweeter account. And I was like, what the hell for? Who would follow CNN? What does that even do for you? Just check out their homepage or use an RSS reader. They publish their important stuff anyway. But at the end of every damn marketing message, you now see, "Follow us on Tweeter". Um. Why again? No, I'm serious. Why would I follow your company unless I'm so devoted that I hang on every breath some company breathes. I just checked out United Airlines, my least favorite airline in the entire universe. And here is one of their recent tweets that provides endless value to every consumer:
"Arrive at the airport at least 60 min in advance for domestic flts or 2 hrs for intl or large airports. #UAL12daysoftravel"
Then the Iran reform movement/crackdown gained steam. And Tweeter was supposedly what allowed information to get out. OK. I'll say that it helped with that. It gave an audience to the little people. And it's fairly difficult to clamp down on that. Unless you shut off the Tweeter stream. And I'm still not sure why Ama-whatever-his-name-is-dina-jad didn't just shutoff the internet machine?
I'm revisiting my discontent with Tweeter because of their recent $3.7B valuation. They're going to have to figure out how to monetize the heck outta their site. Please tell me how that's going to work without pissing off their users?
Then I read a sweet little article today, which got me fired up about where Tweeter is headed. And now I feel whole again.
"Because Twitter is, more and more, becoming a gaming platform -- for various games of wit. So up-from-nowhere hashtag trends that inspire a global call-and-response are now, increasingly, crowding out real trends tied to breaking news (celebrity or otherwise)." (here)
I'm rooting for you guys you little up-form-nowhere hashtag writers.
This is a short story, but one I felt obliged to write. I used Tweeter, my derogatory name for a service I still don't fashion, to write an update about Comcast screwing people over by making it nearly impossible to get deals they openly advertise. Well, I was contacted by a Comcast rep who worked tirelessly to get the deal for me. So with that, I was content. But what still chapped me, was the fact that this rep couldn't even find the deal in the system and took several weeks of back and forth phone calls and emails to finally get the deal in place. And for the record, it was a modified deal with shorter terms. But the effort was certainly appreciated.
So what's up companies offering deals and then making it impossible to find? I'll tell you what's up with that. It's an insincere form of customer appreciation. If they were really looking to offer their customers a deal - they'd do it outright. And it wouldn't be a shit show trying to get the deal in place. I guess the closest corollary is the rebate model, where companies know that rebate redemption rates are extremely low. For low ticket items, they can hover in the single digits, while moving upwards to around 50% for higher priced items (here).
It makes me wonder how this electronic rebate processing stuff works. I guess just bumping up rebate redemption rates. So I'm sure their actuaries take care of all of that.
Sunday, November 28, 2010
When WikiLeaks first appeared, I was a fan of their mission, "in exposing oppressive regimes in Asia, the former Soviet bloc, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, but we also expect to be of assistance to people of all regions who wish to reveal unethical behavior in their governments and corporations."
Of course, exposing oppressive regimes is wonderful. And even exposing non-oppressive regimes, like the United States, when they step far outside their bounds is fair game too. But recently it seems WikiLeaks is making it their mission to damage the United States, and consequently, other non-oppressive governments, in any way it can. And for what?
This next batch of documents is intended to expose the US's line of communication between it's own embassies and it's allies. It is revealing how deals are done and how world leaders interact behind the scenes, and what they think about currently sensitive political issues, such as Pakistan's nuclear arsenal and North Korea. It's pretty damn revealing.
What's the point of this exposure? How is this tied to the mission of WikiLeaks? This just seems like Julian Assange's massive ego at work. What could possibly become of this besides making people more suspect of the US or forcing governments to rethink how they conduct business with each other and how they approach oppressive regimes - which seems counter to WikiLeaks mission now doesn't it?
The only result of this dump is to
Sunday, October 31, 2010
It was a cool Halloween night last night and I felt like sleeping with the windows open, letting the breeze blow through the apartment. Seemed innocent enough, until my sleep was shattered early this morning. It was such a loud jarring noise that I sat up in bed wondering what the hell was going on? Apparently 20-30 obnoxiously loud motorcycles had owners who thought it would be a good idea to ride through a residential neighborhood early this morning. And ride they did. Either they rode around the block six or seven times or there were packs of more motorcyclists with the same idea.
What the f^&k is with those things and why are they legal? Why do they need to make those engines so damn loud. What the hell is the point? I can't imagine the utility of those things besides to annoy every damn person who's nearby.
I mean seriously - a super loud, gurgling... oh man, another few just rode by. The windows are shut now. I gotta get the hell outta my neighborhood today. F those things.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I write blog postings that often seemingly have nothing to do with starting or running a company. But in reality, they all have lessons that can be applied to whatever it is you're doing.
There was more news today that made me think about approaches we take to doing business outside the United States. The title of this wonderful piece of news, "Karzai says his office gets cash from Iran, US" (here). It tells the story of Karzai accepting wads of cash from Iran. He's the president of Afghanistan. And he's been supported by the United States in the effort to cleanse his country of the Taliban. He was basically put in place by the United States. And we've been spending billions to keep his country safe. But he feels no allegiance to the US. And conversely, he's happy taking money from a country known for destabilizing the region. Let's be clear - what he's doing isn't illegal. Not in the least. But it speaks volumes about our successes, or lack thereof in Afghanistan.
The first thought is that we don't know what the hell we're doing there. We're obviously not even doing enough to win over those we've put in power. We seemingly have zero strategy. Or at least no ongoing or apparent strategy. I think we once had a "surge". But that was an obvious short term strategy that hasn't done much to improve the situation for the long term. As with Iraq - we have no idea what the hell we're doing over there. Which gets to my second point.
That point is that we really should know when to hold 'em and know when to fold 'em. When I was at year 2 in my startup - I began to realize the inevitable. Without cash flow and with mounting debt, I had to be pragmatic. I had two options. Double down on the company and spend all of my resources towards a goal. Or shudder it. Doubling down wasn't much of an option since I was flat broke - 25k in the whole with mounting business school debt. So I did the smart thing and hung it up.
I'm advocating that stance for Afghanistan. Not because I'm opposed to the war. In fact, I felt we should have booted the Taliban when we did. But it's become clear that we have very little upside in continuing. We've lost the leadership which is integral in winning the hearts and minds of the people. We also aren't redoubling our efforts. We seem to be enjoying the status quo and chugging along, wasting resources and life. That's not the right approach for achieving our goals.
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
If there's one thing that Google has taught me (and trust me, there are more), it's that putting the user first, really truly does pay dividends. Not only is it the right thing to do, but it's the right business move. Apple has done it within a specific component of their products - their user experience. Google does it with transparency and simplistic UI's. Now where has Verizon done it? Practically nowhere.
I switched to the Verizon network a few months ago, happily trading in my iPhone for a Droid X. Among other things, the network was to blame. I dropped way too many calls, especially during important meetings. It was unacceptable. I don't care what Apple/AT&T say - it was a mix of both of them. The iPhone is an app container first. Phone is a distant second.
I had naively assumed that any phone running Android would be free and open. Even with faint memories of vCast dancing in my head. I signed into Picasa last week to have my pictures downloaded to my Droid. And for some reason, it wouldn't let me. After furiously searching the internet for a reason why - I learned that Verizon had limited access to Picasa from the gallery. The reason - so that we couldn't stream our photos to the HDMI output on our phone. Yea, Verizon apparently thinks that's going to ruin them. I'll tell you what will ruin them - acting like they control the air. Isn't that their slogan nowadays anyway. Rule the Air? Well - gimme control of my phone so I can.
Fortunately there are plenty of geeks on the interwebs these days and you can download the old version of the gallery app to solve all of your problems. You can download it here.
Monday, October 11, 2010
I was in Knoxville, TN this past weekend for a wedding. Saturday night after pre-wedding festivities (wedding was on Sunday), a group of us decided to venture out into the Knoxville night. We landed at what I'll kindly refer to as a more local establishment. Meaning, we were the only out of towners there and probably the only ones they'd entertained in a while.
We attracted a few locals who were intrigued by our crew and we got to talking. They really were incredibly friendly. What surprised me about their kindness is that if I saw them in a dark alley, I would have been nervous. Some of them were tatted up - all over. I mean, skull tattoos, and facial piercing in places I didn't know could be pierced.
But what seemed like really genuine kindness, quickly changed when they began talking about African Americans. It was not in a friendly manner. But it was like second nature to them. They didn't know us from a whole in the wall - but they had no problem spouting racial epithets left and right. This was not the first time I had experienced this in the South. I had experienced anti-Semitism in a bar in the middle of Louisiana in much the same way. Again, it was like second nature. They told me they had never met a Jewish person before when I, probably naively, challenged their views.
Damn. It's 2010. And racism is obviously still rampant in America. I always think our country is better than that and then I experience something like this.
Friday, October 8, 2010
Sometimes I read headlines of articles and I instantly react. I don't even need to read the article to know that it's absolutely BS. That dude who wrote Blink, what was his name? Gladwell. Malcom Gladwell. Yea, I don't really like his books because they're written for 3rd graders. But he does make a point. People react based on instinct. And instinct is built on years of experience - so generally, instinct works better than thinking. Why? Because thinking adds emotion to the mix. And that's never good. Just think about your last argument. I'm sure emotion played a great big factor.
Back to my point. This is the headline: JPMorgan: There's no housing bubble in China (here). After my BS thought, I decided to read the article. Now emotion was involved, because I knew I wasn't going to believe what was written for 2 very important reasons.
1) Did we learn nothing about the economic ruin we're mired in? Big banks have way too much at stake to be honest, straightforward, and the least bit pragmatic. Imagine the reality of a housing crisis in China? What would that do to JP Morgan?
2) Just a few months ago, I read article after article about ghost cities in China. And the boom that was occurring there. Lest I remind you - these were ghost cities. (here, here)
Thursday, October 7, 2010
UPDATE: I decided to include a snapshot of my inbox. Honestly? Some of the subject lines actually have the word PORN in them. And most are such gibberish I can't imagine Yahoo can't tell they're spam. But I guess they really can't. They should just give up the fight since it seems they aren't even in the ring. Or maybe this is their ploy to get you to cough up $20/yr to get their extra special spam filter. Note: while this is a screen cap of my spam folder, these were moved to my spam folder AFTER I selected these messages as spam.
With increased frequency as of late, I've been receiving spam in my Yahoo! inbox. Yahoo! you say? Yea, it's my junk account. Not that I expect to get inundated with junk email, but I use it to sign up for sites that require email addresses, or for ordering goods, etc. I try to keep my gmail account free and clear of any non-contacty type of email. That's changing though. I've noticed myself using my gmail account for most things lately. That's going to change quickly though.
I literally have tens of emails a day that slip through Yahoo!'s spam filter. And it boggles my mind. I could write a regex parse to get those emails right into the spam folder myself. But for some reason, Yahoo! engineers still can't. What the hell is the deal?
Today was the end of it though. I deleted ALL of my contacts in Yahoo! All of them. Because the "preview" mode of Yahoo! mail obviously granted access for one of these emails to spam my contacts. And now I have to sit through today embarrassingly answering emails from my friends who are ridiculing me for allowing this to happen.
Why is this not really all that surprising? Because Yahoo! has been in the toilet for a while now. Thanks for ruining my day Yahoo! Now go fix your email. Stop proving to the world that you're completely inept at everything you do.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
UPDATE: Timely, I just received my weekly e-newsletter from John Mauldin this morning. He includes an essay from Charles Gave and Arthur Kroeber of GaveKal on "The Morality of Chinese Growth." Not only is it a good read, it speaks to China's continue progression towards freedom (with the exception of political freedom) and America's (the West's) perception of those not subscribing to their own political, social, and economic expectations.
"We Americans have a strange utopian tendency to assume that among all possible social bargains there is one perfect bargain out there (probably ours) and that it is our job to judge how well other people are keeping on the path to that bargain, any straying from which necessitates perdition for them and gnashing of teeth for us. But maybe we should just stop worrying about it. China will become what it will become and hopefully whatever it becomes will produce good results both materially and spiritually for most Chinese. As long as our society continues to do the same for us, it does not much matter whether the two societies wind up looking a lot or a little like each other. Chacun son gout!"
Read more here.
As most people who know me know, I'm a fan of China and Asia in general. China is the engine of the new world order - and I don't think that's changing anytime soon. We've all heard the reasons for this - people, resources, leadership, Communism, religion (or lack thereof), strategy... or whatever else it may be. But what I've admired most is China's unwillingness to engage in policies or action that takes the government's focus away from itself. Or to succumb to external pressures regarding their actions. They are precise and purpose driven. And Western counterparts, including the US, rarely question or challenge their actions with anything more than words. To be clear, I'm not saying I support Chinese policy - what I'm saying is, I admire the fact that they can act as they do with very few repercussions.
China's UN voting record supports China's non engagement strategy. They are known for abstaining on politically sensitive issues external to them. And they've only used their veto power 6 times throughout their UN membership (US - 82 vetoes, Russia - 123 vetoes).
China also invests heavily in development projects in Africa - not with the aim of helping the African people, but to sate their continued push for resources to power their engine. They currently import 25% of their oil from Africa.
They have an awful human rights record. While I commend Google's attempt to stop censorship, they underestimated China's willingness or need to modify their stance.
China supports N. Korea, not because they believe in N. Korea, but to keep the Korean peninsula less stable and to keep US at bay.
China's controls their people - they control gatherings, internet access, politics, resources, money, etc.
While they continue to open up their economy, the real question on the success of China will be answered only when they are forced to confront their social/political issue, which is many years away. For now, their economic dominance will march on.
China has no motivation to change. And a mix of their unique political system, their historical relationship with the outside world, and their economic success, ensures that change will not come all that soon.
Tuesday, September 21, 2010
So I waltzed into the Apple store last night for my appointment at the Genius bar. I was so sick of the phone in my pocket that I had to do something about it. The "genius" picked it up and tried to open my txt messages. Tick, tick, tick... even he had trouble hiding the surprise at what a piece of crap my phone was. Well it didn't have the latest OS on it... because, well, we all know what happened when 3G owners upgraded to the iOS4. Ain't no way I was upgrading unless I had damn good reason. Now, just for the record, I removed all of the apps I had on my phone. I re-imaged the thing from scratch. It had nothing on it but the OS and whatever the hell Apple puts on it. I removed the Searchlight or whatever that pre fetch crap is. Disabled everything. It was a bare bones phone... and it still didn't work. Maps hung. Internet hung. Text messages barely loaded. It turned what was a shitty phone and a good device into a shitty phone and a shitty device. And remember, the iOS 4 came out in June.
Anyway - he says he can't do much until I upgrade. I upgraded. Low and behold...the device works again. At least a little better for now. And I'll now realize what a shitty phone it is again. But screw the iPhone. I got myself an Android in the mail. June - September... that's how long it took for them to get a fix out.
Yes, the iPhone was a great device. They figured out how to solve the smartphone issue and get it in everyone's hands. But they treat their customers like such crap that people like me are more than excited for an excuse to leave them. See ya iPhone. And when the new phone comes in, yes, I'm going to throw this piece of junk against the ground, smash it up real nice, and feel good about myself.
Sunday, September 12, 2010
I woke up a little while ago - and flipped on the tube, because I just wanted to lie in bed. It was overcast.
I heard this guy talking on NBC classroom or some show like that about California potentially changing the age for kindergartner's in the state (here). It would hold some young kindergartner's back for a variety of reasons (maturity, etc.).
It wasn't this mere fact that really made me think people are idiots. It was the fact that the biggest push for getting this bill through is a $700 million dollar per year savings that people are touting ($9.1B in 13 years). With the extra money, they are planning to have pre-kindergarten classes for those children held back, along with other programs (at a price of over $350 million). Why is this so stupid? Because you're not saving $700 million. These kids are going to kindergarten the next year. And then guess what? When those kids would have been out of the public school system, they're now hanging around for another year. Add inflation and you're definitely paying more than $700 million a year for those same kids. Plus the $350+ million per year they're spending for pre kindergarten kids. Plus the burden on the parents who now have to figure out what to do with their children for another year. Another brilliant idea by a politician.
If it's about parental choice, then leave it up to the parents. Every kid is different and matures at a different age. If it's about saving money - save money, don't just push costs on to another generation or add to them.
Here's the quote from our fearless state senator:
"State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, said the proposal would boost kindergarten readiness and save the state an estimated $700 million a year by reducing the student population. He estimates the savings to be $9.1 billion over a 13-year period. The savings come from fewer students in class and that ripple, according Simitian, would continue for thirteen years." (source)
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
I doubt the people I met with last week will read this, considering I never heard back from them, but I wish they would.
When people ask me to meet with them regarding their startup or some ideas they're working on, I'm generally more than happy to do so, for two important reasons. 1) I really like helping people and progressing ideas. And 2) when I was doing my own startup, it was a pain in the ass to get people to sit down with me. It was frustrating. So I'd like to do my part to help other entrepreneurs.
With that said, if someone does decide to meet with you, here is a simple lesson - extend some common courtesy. I don't mean to act like a parent here, but maybe you just weren't taught this growing up. My inclination, and yours should be too, is to at the very least send a thank you email. What's that take - a minute? I guess it was my mom who I can thank for my insistence on gratitude - but a thank you goes a helluva long way. Like if some dude cuts me off on the road, a hand wave can save me laying on the horn.
You should also operate like an entrepreneur. I was tipped off to something amiss when they selected a pricey lunch spot. They're doing a damn startup! Then one half of the duo was at least 10 minutes late - and she was the one who wasn't working. Don't be late! Again, not when you're taking time out of someone else's day. And third, when the bill came there was no movement to grab the bill. Even when I was doing my startup, I always paid for lunch or at least offered. It was the least I could do for an hour of this person's time. But it wasn't an hour this time. It was two. And they ordered dessert when I told them I wasn't having any. What the...?
Monday, September 6, 2010
First of all, I'm really impressed that I didn't have to write a blog post declaring that Coinstar sucks hard! Now this would have been in addition to their rates that I find to be outrageous. They take 9.5% of your deposit as their service fee (at my location). I don't know - maybe that's fair if you think about what they have to do (have some college kid pick up a few bags of pennies and bring them to the bank)? So let's say each machine gets filled up with $5k in coins. That's 500 bucks per machine per fill to walk them to a bank. Let's say each machine is filled once/month - that's $6,000/year. Give the store 20% and they have $4,800 per machine (minus 12 trips to the bank). That's a good gig. You get a couple of these machines and you're in business.
I finally moved back to San Francisco from the burbs after 3 years. Man I hated the burbs. I thought it would be cool not worrying about parking, having space to relax, and having the outdoors out of my back door. But man was it boring.
So I cleaned out my bedside table where I throw all my lint covered change and I marched down to my local Coinstar machine. Apparently there was too much lint or too much change stuffed into the machine and it broke. Now I had selected the payout as an Amazon Gift Card so I wouldn't be charged a service fee, but the damn machine, after it was fixed, spit out a cashout. I was pissed because I had to now pay 10 bucks to Coinstar for their machine breaking.
I emailed them Friday and fully expected either not to hear from them or to be told there was nothing they could do. I was dead wrong. They asked a few questions and sent me a check already. Now that's how it should be done. We've suffered too long with crappy customer service in this world.
Saturday, September 4, 2010
Steven Hawking is arguably one of the greatest theoretical physicists of our time (post Einstein of course). And yesterday he said something that I've believed since I was at most 8 or 9 years old. He said that "the universe can and will create itself from nothing".
To most people I know - not all that astounding. I just love that it's getting publicity, and from such a reputable source. Now we're gonna have to take a second like at Darwin and his theory.
The best part? Religious zealots, er, I mean leaders, are already coming out of the woodwork to refute Hawking's claims (here). And so are incredulous readers/commenters. Some of their quotes are awesome!
"Love is reason to believe in God. I love my wife so much that I would die for her. When I play her Billy Joel songs on my piano and sing to her, it makes me believe that God exists." -perk2289
Sorry dude, god told me he hates Billy Joel.
Here's a nice tweet from an idiot, I mean DaOneMulatto: "If u really belive what Stephen Hawking says...then do us all a favor n go drink bleach!!"
Hey DaOneMulatto - do you think that's a very godly thing to say?
Thursday, September 2, 2010
So I generally try to eat healthy food. I don't always, but I think I do pretty damn well. One of my mainstays when I'm going to a sandwich shop is to eat tuna. Ham or Tuna - because I tend to think they're healthy options. I know Turkey is too, but the only time I really like Turkey is during Thanksgiving dinner or when I want to have a tasteless sandwich after a mean night of drinking. It just doesn't do it for me unless it's lathered up with gravy, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Mmm....
Let me explain a bit more why I think tuna is healthy. Because when I eat it at home, I usually put a can or maybe a can and a half on my sandwich. A can of the solid white albacore, has maybe 70 calories and a gram of fat. Toss in some light mayo and you got yourself a healthy sandwich - and it tastes great too (especially with some pickles, lettuce, and tomato). Forget the mercury - I figure it's not going to kill me... especially because nobody can decide if it's really that bad for you (here).
So with my endless amounts of wisdom, I made the determination that there's no way a restaurant, even a valueless amoral fast food restaurant (which apparently Quizno's is), could damage tuna's reputation so much as to make it unhealthy. I totally get that making burgers is unhealthy - I mean, look at the base: grade D ground beef. But tuna?
So imagine my shock when my world came crashing down last week. A Men's Health article listed the worst meals in the country. Worst sandwich? My beloved tuna, server up by Quiznos - with a healthy side of Cheetohs (shown here). Leave out the Cheetos and it's still got 101 grams of fat. ONE HUNDRED AND ONE! Are you kidding me? And 1500 calories. That explains my strangely high cholesterol. And that also explains why Quizno's is now out of my life. I feel like smackin' that damn talking toaster upside the head!
Monday, August 30, 2010
How Comcast wasted my last few hours...
So, I moved into a new apartment today. And I tried to setup my high speed internet through Comcast, because we already have Comcast cable (it's required by the building - and automatically included in rent).
I called Comcast to get high speed internet but they informed me that I can only get the $19.99 deal online (it's $24.99 on the phone). Yea, that makes sense. Or maybe it would if the process wasn't so bad and required me to call/chat with a human anyway. So I ordered it online and at the end of the process I went through a required chat process to validate something - who knows what? It seems like this should be automated. But...since it's Comcast, and they strive to make lives miserable, it's not. Next they notified me that I couldn't get this deal, because I had to have service already. But I do have service, it's just not in my name - it's under a bulk account with my building. They told me to call the sales department because for some reason they couldn't activate it. I squawked about having already spoken to them. And when I finally agreed to call, they said the same thing.
So here I sit at Starbucks - since I don't have internet. Annoyed that I can't get this special deal. Wondering what happened to their "We care" customer service campaign or whatever the hell it is.
And... I'm thinking if this is what the morons at Comcast were thinking...so we're going to announce this $19.99 deal...but it's only for existing customers. How does that even begin to make sense? You know, since these people are already customers. Then I read the terms of the deal - which said you had to be a new customer. So which is it? If it's a new customer - then why can't this be done for me?
While I'm trying to be a better person these days, I just can't help exposing poor ex[periences
Sunday, August 22, 2010
I'm always upgrading things before I should. When a new OS comes out or a new version of Firefox is released, I'm always on it. It usually works out - in fact, I can't remember the last time there was a failure as colossal as the iOS4? It is such a flaming piece of crap on my iPhone (3G I should note) that I am itching to start a new job so I can rid myself of this damn phone.
It's been written about plenty by now, but I can't use the map, use apps, read email, or surf the internet without freezing the phone. And it freezes for about a minute, or so it feels, until control is ceded back. It happens when I try to make calls, when I add contacts, and even when I receive calls. I can't believe they a) haven't fixed this, and more importantly b) release this utter piece of junk.
If Apple had to release this sh*t, then why didn't they ensure that it didn't get loaded on the iPhone 3G? Now we know it's not available for the 3. And we know they disabled features for the 3G (multi-tasking), so what's the reason?
Many people have speculated that it's so users switch to the 4, because of frustration. Man that's a real sh*tty reason. So did they not test it well enough? Just like they didn't test that antennae issue? There are people like me all over, looking for reasons to dislike Apple. Besides the hordes of mindless, lemming-like fanboys, I now have a real reason.
Jobs in his usual smug way, says there's an iOS4 3G fix on the way (here). It can't come soon enough.
Friday, August 13, 2010
I'm sure everyone heard the report by now, that aid workers who were providing eye care to the poor in Afghanistan were ambushed and killed by the Taliban last week (here). It's already been buried amidst the latest Justin Bieber Kim Kardashian photo shoot (here). And I struggle to understand how our world processes information? People always say the media controls how we think and what's important to us. But that's not really true. It's our reaction to the media that dictates what they continue to show. If there was justified outrage at this unprovoked disgusting show of humanity - then the story would continue to live on. Instead, it's buried. Yet American or British troops who unintentionally hit civilians are essentially tried and hung in the court of public opinion. Or attacking suspected insurgents who, for the most part, probably are insurgents, is condemned and Allied rules of engagement are questioned.
It brings me back to the American Revolution. Because it struck a chord or possibly because it was played so many times in our history classes, I'll never forget the American revolutionaries hiding in the bushes and ambushing British troops. They continued to march in line as they had been trained to do. The Americans were victorious, in large part because they didn't follow the traditional rules of engagement. And it seems that the Americans now find themselves in that same unfortunate position.
Why does one side have to follow rules while the other doesn't? My intuition tells me that it's the underdog story. The David vs. Goliath. Humanity has the propensity to root for the underdog - or at the very least, to cut them some more slack. Beheadings? Ambushes? Hiding in schools, religious houses, or hospitals? Where's the decency? Come on - this isn't about rooting for the underdog. This shouldn't be allowed to happen. We should be calling these aid workers heroes and erecting statues in their honor. We should let the Taliban know that the world won't stand for this. But we don't. We just ignore it and wait for it to happen again.
Saturday, January 16, 2010
I can't understand how I can be charged as much as I'm charged for a service that is so underwhelming in every respect? I was a Verizon customer for years, but when the iPhone came out, I jumped ship. While I do like most aspects of the iPhone, the actual telephone itself is a piece of crap. I'd like to give AT&T an out in terms of blaming part of the service issues on the iPhone itself, but I just can't seem to find a big enough argument for that. AT&T was known to always have connection issues in the Bay Area. But this is getting absurd.
As is customary, I call AT&T about once a month after I've had it with their service. I drop an average of 2 to 3 calls PER DAY! It may not seem like much, but imagine conducting a business phone call and losing connectivity - often more than once per session. Or how about coming to rely on the internet or their maps only to find out you can't get 3G (or even EDGE) access?
So I was on the phone with AT&T yesterday, hoping that they'd add my comments to their never-ending list of complaints which would finally jolt them into action. They gave me the same story they always give. "We have updated carrier settings - this should clear up your issues". So I complained that this would do nothing, since it never does. Well, upon restarting my phone after applying the settings, the very first call I made dropped. I'm not even kidding. And then, while in San Francisco, my phone refused to pick up 3G or even EDGE for a full 15 minutes. Are they really going to tell me that San Francisco has parts, large parts (because I was driving), that don't have any internet coverage for their phones? Probably not - it's just that their towers or technology or something else, is an absolute joke.
I got a letter from AT&T last week that they had just added another tower near my home. A lot of good that did. My phone now drops even more calls at home - which I'm assuming is because my phone keeps switching between the towers near me (my bars change constantly while sitting in one location in my house), even though they claim the phone is supposed to "lock" onto a tower.
There are times I cannot even activate the cellular network.
So what do I want done about this? I want them to upgrade their damn network. This is San Francisco. Home of the iPhone. Home of technology. And they can't service the damn area. I would like AT&T to actually do two tangible things:
1) Take responsibility for their shitty service once and for all and admit to their problems. Well, I guess they have. AT&T Ceo admits their service sucks! (here)
2) Stop signing up iPhone/smartphone customers in problem areas until this issue can be resolved.
I seriously can't believe they continue to advertise when they can't service their existing clients. Stop spending those millions on advertising and build us some new towers or technology.
Screw you AT&T. I can't wait until the NexusOne or the iPhone get on Verizon. I'll happily switch back. Yes, Verizon has problems. Like their closed garden. But I've found out that the quality of the network is of utmost importance!
I can't believe there's even an app to tell AT&T they suck in NYC (here)
Sunday, January 10, 2010
It's now been about 5 months since we started hearing about those green shoots that indicated our economy was on the rebound. It seemed like most people agreed at the time. I didn't. I wondered how the economy could be on a rebound when all signs pointed to the contrary. So job losses weren't as bad one month, less people were on unemployment, and the market was up. That was all it took for a rebound?
It seems almost elementary when I think about how ridiculous those statements are and how easily the green shoots theory can be turned right around? Let's think about this. What is one possible reason for there to be fewer people collecting unemployment? Well, how about the fact that there is a certain segment of the population who have been on unemployment so long that their benefits are beginning to run out. Come on - is it that hard to realize that? Or maybe since job losses fell last month, there are fewer first time unemployment filings.
And since when does the following statement make sense to so many people? "Well it wasn't as bad now as it was last month, so that must mean it's getting better". Less bad and getting better are by definition quite different. Sure, the economy may not be sucking at a rate as fast as it was last month - but that's a far cry from getting better.
Now I know John McCain was espousing how the fundamentals of our economy were sound a few years back. I still chuckle at this. And I still say the fundamentals of our economy suck. Forget about the increase in spending this administration is going through. Don't get me started. How about the continuous bailouts, the secret AIG deal, increasing military spending, states running out of money at a ridiculous rate, lack of oversight on Wall Street as, which I assure you only makes sense to those who manipulate the market, it continues to rise.
Or how about Medicare and Medicaid running out of money, social security debt looming, and... wait for it... our uncontrollable debt which doesn't seem to be an issue to anyone.
I've been reading quite a bit of John Mauldin recently. He's an interesting investment adviser and analyst and I think he's spot on with his comments. He's one of the few people I've read who isn't all that optimistic about markets and the economy and it's a breath of fresh air - because IT MAKES SENSE! You can subscribe to his newsletters for free here: John Mauldin - at the bottom of the page. It'd be good for you, I assure you. Open up that mind.