Thursday, November 29, 2007


I will do almost anything in this world to avoid going to CompUSA, including and perhaps even beyond sacrificing a virgin to Ba'al. For a store that should be cutting edge they certainly don't act like it. I had to go there to get a Tungsten E2 and even though they use a commission system to compensate their floor reps it took 10 minutes of me standing there and trying to look perplexedly at the locked cabinet and at all the people who didn't want an easy sale. Finally someone came over, asked if I needed help. I said that I'd like to buy an E2. He didn't have the keys for the cabinet, so he had to go get them from somewhere. I won't fault the guy for that. He comes back, unlocks the cabinet, and gets the Palm. He then escorts me to the cash registers, none of which look like they're open, and asks if someone can help me. They come to the registers, and that's where the fun starts. Before she even can scan my device she needs some information. I'm not talking about a zip code. She asks me what the phone number is. I give our company phone number. She asks what name I want it under. I give our company name. Apparently that's not enough. She asks for my name. She then asks for my address and my phone number (again). After I give her a blood and stool sample to actually buy something, she has to scan the E2 about 5 times in order for it to come up on the register. I really think this might have been her first day. She manages to get that part of the transaction taken care of when the real fun begins. They have a promotion in their circular where you get a $10 gift card for every $100 spent in a single transaction. This is certainly the most perplexing promotion in the history of the world to these rocket scientists. They don't know how to apply the promo. The circular for CompUSA came out over the past weekend (it's now Thursday), it's on the front page and there isn't anybody in the store who knows how to do it. My cashier goes and asks her manager. The manager doesn't know, so they go up the food chain. She asks her supervisor and there's a whole conference going on up front. Every single person, except for the person in charge of business services...the only person in the whole store whos job it is to make checking out even more difficult than regular checkout (after all, nothing says service like a half hour checkout!), is conferring with each other. They finally decide they can't do much about it, so they go into the general manager's office. Unlike a typical day at CompUSA, there's actually 4 people in line behind me waiting. They've been sitting there for at least 5 minutes at the only open cash register. Finally one of the salespeople decides that they should probably help the other people because chances are they will all be checked out by the time my conundrum is figured out. My saleswoman comes back and it looks like we might have some success. My Palm is $199.99, so I ask if that counts for one $10 gift card or two. This throws her for a loop and she looks at me as though I had just landed from Mars. I ask again...I'm not speaking Chinese here. She says "just one" so I look right around the register for the cheap crap that can add a penny to my price. She again gives me that "now...waaaa?" look. I don't think anybody's tried to add an extra penny to their order to get a cool Hamilton. She backs away from the register and runs back to the GM. Meanwhile I look for something as close to $.01 as possible. She comes back after I scour the front of the store and tells me the first good news of this trip: I can get me another $10 without padding my reciept by a penny. She pulls out over 100 gift cards and asks me "which ones do you want?" I point at 2 random ones that are the same design. "Are you sure you want those? They're the same design." I say yes. Now comes another difficult part: applying those to the reciept. She only has to ask for help twice and get the regular manager to come back over to the register once. She gets them taken care of and I swipe my credit card. CompUSA finally has stopped needing an imprint of your credit card (thank heaven for small miracles), but instead of that she had to go over to a copy machine and (no joke) make a copy of my reciept. They have a copy machine set up in front of the store for occasions just like this where people buy something instead of looking and leaving. She copies my reciept, brings it back over and gives it to me. She then asks if I want a holder for my cards. I said no and finally left the store, a little under an hour after I got there.
They've been in serious financial trouble for a while now and it's not hard to see why. They've managed to turn one of the most simple concepts in retailing into a song and dance that is like nothing I have ever seen. While it's been bad before, it's never quite been like this. We'll see if I decide to make them dead for me because it's not worth an hour of my time to shop at an overpriced retailer when I can go to and get good service and better prices.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Building a Thicker Skin

Maybe those in the Muslim world should chill out for just half a minute. Now they're all up in arms because a teacher allowed a class to name a teddy bear Mohammed. Heaven forbid somebody names something after someone. I understand respect for deity and all, but Mohammed isn't deity. It's like the Jews getting mad someone named a bear Abraham or the Catholics that someone named a stuffed elephant Pope or us Mormons getting mad that someone named an alligator Joseph Smith. Whoop-de-doo. Chill out and then wonder why everyone thinks you're a little too fatwah crazy...maybe it's because every time someone even remotely thinks about doing something related to your religion that might not go with what you like then you call for one. Of course, it's generally the Wahabbi Muslims who give them all a bad name...I shouldn't generalize like that because there are moderates out there, and a lot of them. They just don't have the same voice that the extremists do.

Not A Fan

This is perhaps more of a set of posts in one (that's value creation), but here are some things that are on notice that I've never explained here that I will explain now.

Bill Walton

I'm not quite sure why I dislike him as much as I do. I know some of it is because he's a meatball. He might have been a great college center, and he might have even been a good NBA center. Nevertheless, he's not a great commentator and his voice just bugs me to death. He has his biases that completely cloud his judgment. I remember several games during the 1998 playoffs between the Utah Jazz and Portland Trail Blazers where he would talk about how bad the Jazz were or how poorly Karl Malone was playing, even though he was doing good. I wish that examples were on YouTube, and here's at least a sample of his announcing. I loved it when Steve "Snapper" Jones would totally bring the hammer down on him and Walton would just stammer and then list off his "5 Greatest Players who did X." The list would inevitably be the following:
1. Shaq
2. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
3. Bill Russell
4. Oscar Robinson
5. and Me (i.e. old Bill Walton himself)
Those lists were always the same guys and they always involved how darn great Shaq was. He could have put the same group in the "5 Greatest Free Throw Shooters of All Time" and it wouldn't have changed things despite Shaq's penchant for shooting south of 50% at the line.

Orem City Traffic Lights

If I was elected to any position in Orem City, this would be my first thing I would do. Seriously, the guys in their traffic management office are the worst in the world. When I start from a red light I always hit every single light unless I'm blazing along at 65-70 MPH. This ensures that we have maximum gridlock, minimum MPG, and maximum pollution. Call me crazy, but I think that what would be better for the whole city would be to let the traffic flow. Granted, if they were sensor lights, I could see things being that way due to the other streets. The issue is that they are on timers and they still can't get them timed right. Maybe those traffic engineers should drive along the streets themselves and see what they have caused?

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

What Kind of Traveler Are You?

I came across an interesting website this morning (you might have trouble accessing it - the WSJ did a piece on it today and it's getting hammered) that uses a variety of questions to let you know what kind of traveler you are. I think it has me pegged pretty good. It calls me a "Mid-venturer" - someone who "[likes] to travel, especially to foreign destinations and you seek new experiences and new destinations for almost all trips you take. You are also physically active at home and on trips. But, unlike your pure venturer friends, you don't want to take such extreme vacations and are more likely to plan your trips-set an itinerary of places you want to visit and schedules when you will be there."
That sounds like me - I love me some foreign travel and want to see a bunch of stuff while I'm gone. It's why I'm not a huge fan of beaches, because there's just not a lot to do on them. They're fine for a few hours, but I'd much rather walk through the British Museum, hike along the Na Pali coast, or explore some obscure part of Tokyo. The questions that peg your travel style aren't the typical ones "do you like to sit on a beach" or whatever, so it's pretty interesting how it uses your other interests to peg your travel. Take a look at the test and see your perfect travel type.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

That's Not What The Law Said

The Salt Lake Tribune had an interesting story today about a motorist out on US-40 by Vernal who had the misfortune to run into a Utah Highway Patrol cop with an inferiority complex and a very, very short fuse. Like all smart motorists who have been mistreated, he filed a Freedom of Information Act query and got the dashcam to put it up on YouTube to let the world decide. I'd love to see this officer fired for what he did.

Update: The Deseret News has a much better article on it. They're right - YouTube posters have universally vilified the cop. I hope the very public pressure will get UHP to act quickly and decisively and nail this guy to the wall, lest they get sued by the defendant.

Monday, November 19, 2007

I Might <3 Huckabee

I don't know if I should find this awesome or appalling. While I like humor in my politicians, the usage of Chuck Norris is a bit disconcerting in the sense that he's Chuck Norris. It'd be like Barak Obama using Sylvester Stallone to show that he's tough on crime.

Friday, November 16, 2007


One of the things that I hate more than just about anything is lame business jargon. I'll list a couple of my least favorite later on, but it's like kudzu. It's a weed that was introduced by somebody who thought he was clever or doing a good thing but that has long since destroyed creativity and direct speech. Instead of writing and/or saying what you mean, you run it into a translator that chops it up and adds a bunch of padding that destroys all semblance of a good idea. We're going over our Purpose/Vision/Mission here in our management meeting today and that's what got me thinking about it. A-Rod is the king of business jargon and to try to combat that, I did a google search for business jargon, which led me to here. Take a look, it's awesome. As for my least favorite terms:
Quick and Dirty: What would be a better term? Rough draft, something that's been around for ages. Instead, we end up with a deviant sex act in the boardroom.
Interface/Download/Upload: How about "let's talk?" Instead you make me rue the day computers were invented because you're talking like we're a machine and we're just sending data bits back and forth.
Benchmark: What the crap. How about you just say standard like a normal human being. Instead you have to try to adjectify a noun that has no business being adjectified. I know I just made up that word, but that's just too bad.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Signs You've Just Wasted $10 and 3 Hours of Your Life

There are few things worse than a bad movie. You spent the $10 to go see the movie (more than that if you took a date and/or bought concessions) and you are committing a chunk of your life to see something that you hope is good. Fortunately the movie trailer can be a good guide of how good or bad a movie is. Here is a handy guide on how you can tell if a movie sucks merely by watching the trailer.

The Too-Serious Comedy
You know these trailers. They use several tricks to make themselves appear to be far more earth-shattering than they actually are. The first is the big voice guy. You know him from every dramatic movie ever. Here's a good trailer for an interesting movie that features him in the only way he should be featured in a comedy:

The second is music. If a comedy is using anything dramatic for its trailer cues, you know you're in trouble. The most notable music, of course, is "O Fortuna" from Carmina Burana. It's a classic piece of music from a Carl Orff opera, but it has no place being in a comedy. Movies that have used it in their intros include such bombs as Jingle All The Way and Bushwhacked. Alas, most of these movies are too old for me to find a trailer online, but if you can find it, take a look.

The Terrible Action Movie
Here's one that's a bit harder. You can get away with "O Fortuna" and the big voice guy in an action movie. On the other hand there are a few tricks that they generally pull if the movie is junk. The most notable that is specific to action movies is the quick cut. They cut between scenes like a stuck remote control so you can't tell that the movie is terrible. Take the trailer for this Bruce Willis bomb The Jackal. Now that's a terrible movie and a classic example of an actor slumming it for a paycheck. It brings me to my general rules of thumb for any bad movie.

In General
Any movie that declares the pedigree of the actors has definite bad movie potential. I can't find a specific example because I don't go to the theatre as much as I used to but you've seen them before. Imagine each of the following lines as white letters on a dark background.
Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman
Academy Award winner Kate Winslet
Directed by Academy Award winner Ridley Scott
Pants on Fire
Unless it's a drama (the only exception to this rule) if it says how darn great the actors are then it's a piece of junk. The actors' names should stand for themselves instead of wanting a globe or a man to speak for them. If they don't and they have to lard it up with kudos, you're in trouble.
If the trailer for the movie itself isn't good, you know the movie won't redeem that. A trailer is the best 2 minutes of a movie and if it doesn't leave you saying that you want to watch it, the movie is best left unwatched.
Hopefully these tips will leave your pockets fuller and your lives less like my mom's DVD cabinet, where Blockbuster goes to get its rentals and you can't trust anything she has because there are no gems.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Children's Wasteland

Kids cartoons are absolutely pathetic these days. I remember the good old days when cartoons were epic…I would wake up early every Saturday morning to watch shows like Captain N The Game Master and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. As a matter of fact, I remember quite well when the Chinese government crushed the demonstration in Tiananmen Square for one reason: it interrupted my cartoons. I kept watching it to see if it would go back to cartoons, to no avail. I rued the day that the Chinese government decided to crush feeble Democracy. It ruined my TMNT episode that morning.
Anyway, in St Thomas there wasn’t much to do relatively speaking and one thing my daughter kept asking for whenever we were in the hotel room was TV. We’d turn it on in the background and the only kids channel was Cartoon Network. Now in my day cartoons were successful and then spawned action figures to sell, except for the aforementioned Captain N, which was a 30 minute Nintendo commercial, but it didn’t beat you over the head with it, in the sense that they didn’t stop the show to extol the virtues of Mario Paint. The cartoons I had the misfortune to see were completely different. There’s Pokemon where there is at least some kind of coherent plot, so it’s not as bad. It’s still a lousy cartoon, but it could be worse. It could be like the one cartoon that I forgot the name of where you had two characters fighting back and forth. This action though was in completely lame “let’s play cards” form. They pulled out the cards from whatever game the cartoon was based on and talked about all the different things that their cards did. They explained the rules of the game and everything. I’m just glad that I was a kid during the golden age of Saturday morning cartoons when we could watch Voltron, Transformers, Thundercats, and Ducktales and not have it turned into a boring card game.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Kicking You While You're Down

This insane bill right here is for the ambulance service for my wife when she was taken 4 miles to the hospital after her accident. If you can't read the tiny type, that's over $1000 for an hour of work. For the record, that's more than what the hospital charged by a few hundred dollars. That included an ER stay and a few hours up at labor and delivery. For the ambulance to be that much (over $800 for the base fee and $30+/mile) is ridiculous. I can see it being a few hundred dollars, but with fees like this I wonder if Orem is subsidizing the fire department with these costs because there is no way an ambulance should cost this much.

Friday, November 09, 2007

24 in '94

Here's a hilarious (to me anyway as I am the perfect combination of tech lover/24 fan for this kind of humor) parody of what 24 would have been like had they started it back in the mid-90s. Enjoy!

Jon Huntsman is a Colossal Wuss

Why do I say this? Because our state's Governor decided that the definitive issue of his governorship back in 2004 was getting school vouchers passed. He was elected and vouchers did get looked at by the Utah State Legislature. They were passed, he signed them to much fanfare, and then people started opposing it. By people I mean of course teachers and teachers' unions. Anything that would inject some sort of competition into an archaic, Soviet-style school system and force some change is just wrong. I am over-generalizing, I know, but the fact does remain that the legislature passed it. The people spoke in favor of a referendum, as is our right to do so. I'm not angry at that. What does annoy me, however, is the Governor suddenly kicking back and saying "well, whatever." After pushing them and using that as a lever to get him elected, he decided that it didn't matter anymore. He became a man without principles because it was politically expedient to do so. I don't know if he cared about vouchers and was afraid of what the UEA would do to him in 2008 or if he didn't care about vouchers and was afraid of what the Republicans would do to him in 2004. Either way, I'm about yea close to voting for whoever runs against him next year. That includes Matheson, Jr. He has acres of political capital and he chose not to use it at all even though this was supposedly his top priority. That's like President Bush saying that prosecuting the war in Iraq is his top priority, followed by withdrawing all the troops from the country. He's a lot of things, but he actually does stand by his beliefs, for better or worse. What really made it bad was that Huntsman voted for the vouchers. He showed he still backed them, but chose not to use his influence to get something that he cared about passed. He makes other politicians look like ametures because he is just that skilled and practiced at being entirely inoffensive.

Again, I'm not mad at the voucher opponents. I think they're wrong, but they won fair and square. I didn't see nearly as many ads from voucher proponents, nor did I see as much mail from them. I think that some of that is because there were more national groups pumping money into the anti-voucher side instead of the one man wrecking crew that was the pro-voucher group. The other reason is because the most influential man in Utah politics decided to sit this one out because it was just too hot to handle.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Handicapping 2008

I'm going to go ahead and start my Election 2008 coverage early as a result of me wanting to talk about it and The Wall Street Journal listing Hillary and Rudy in a dead heat, even though voters would prefer an unnamed Democrat to an unnamed Republican for president.
Who would you vote for? Comment below.
In this hypothetical matchup, I'd have to vote Rudy. There simply is no other choice. Hillary is so diametrically opposed to my beliefs (and I have a story about that too!) that it leaves me with no other option. While I'm not decided on any candidate yet, I am decided on the candidate(s) that I don't want to win, and Hillary is at the top of that list. I wish the Democrats would pick Obama and give me an actual choice. I really like him, despite Oprah's endorsement and the love of Oprah Nation for him. He's one of the few Democrats that I would consider voting for, despite our differences of opinion, in large part because I believe he is a genuine thoughtful human being who cares about the issues and about the opposition.

St.Thomas: The Island Review

Here are the good things and bad things that I've experienced here on my trip. One thing to keep in mind is that I am, by nature, an explorer, not a knock-abouter. I want to see things that I haven't seen before, not lounge on a beach.

Why I don't like beaches:

I used to, I really did. I remember them being a highlight of my family's frequent trips to Southern California, even though SoCal beaches are the equivalent of a meal at Chili's. You could do worse, but you could do a lot better too. St. Thomas' beaches are definitely like a trip to Gordon Ramsey's restaurants. They are incredible, no question about it. At the same time, I am not a fan of salt water. It's just plain nasty tasting, and you taste too much of it at the ocean. I think that's my biggest problem with it, is the salt. Give me some chlorine and a pool instead. That's the great thing about where we are - the pool is right by the ocean.

Back to St Thomas:
The Good - Warm weather, friendly people, no hurricanes, amazing scenery
The Bad - Driving on the wrong side of the road, nobody obeys traffic laws, mosquitos that have made me a buffet line, high prices.

Overall it's been a ton of fun. I'm going to begin on an election thoughts post here and we'll see if I can make it through before my daughter wakes up and we're back out in the sun

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Working Vacation

This is the view off my balcony. I'm currently at a conference in St. Thomas that is really more play than work. It's only half days so you can hang out and do whatever you want. For all the griping I've done, this really is one of the very nice perks.

Friday, November 02, 2007

IT Pet Peeve O' The Day

I've gotten this enough that it's now an official pet peeve: people think I'm their password manager. I've gotten this from three or four people over the past two weeks on our color copier. We've set up password protection on color copies because of the penchant for abuse inherent in a color copying machine. Because of the numerical keypad, it's a number based system and so people's user names are things like 10, 11, etc. The password is always some variant on what an idiot would have on their luggage, but the user name is something I would expect people to remember. I certainly haven't. Nevertheless, they don't remember their user name and they expect me to. I then have to set them up with a new user name and the same idiot password. Maybe I shouldn't be annoyed by this, but is it really too much to ask someone to know their own user names and passwords?

The All-Americans

Take a look at The American Spectator's cover story this's an incredible story of a battle the 82nd Airborne had in Iraq a few months ago:
According to the available evidence, nearly 40 al Qaeda were directly involved in the assault on Reaper's position (they believed the team on the roof comprised nearly a dozen American soldiers [there were actually only 4] - ed]). During the firefight, which lasted less than ten total minutes, Corriveau and Moser had killed at least ten enemy fighters -- possibly as many as fifteen -- and had not only kept themselves alive, but, against all odds, had prevented al Qaeda from succeeding in their real goal: to kidnap the soldiers on the rooftop, and to make a public spectacle of their imprisonment and murder, just two weeks before General Petraeus's internationally viewed testimony on Iraq before the U.S. Congress.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Online Karaoke

Here's an idea who's idea is long overdue: singing terribly in front of the whole world. If you don't think this is the best version of Whitney Houston's syllable-elongating "classic" (by which I mean "lousy song that I don't like"), you've got some sort of problem.