Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Comcast's Packaging Stupidity Goes To Xfinity and Beyond!

I've had Comcast cable Internet service since 1999. Love it other than that one time storms knocked out my service for over two weeks. That I did not love.

Running Speedtest.net shows I'm getting almost 24 Mbps down and 2.2 Mbsp up. I just downloaded an almost 200 MB video driver package in about 75 seconds. Compare that to the three hours it took to download the ~36 MB Half-Life demo on dial-up or the 12 hours the Kingpin demo took. (If it wasn't for a program called GetRight that allowed downloads to be resumed after hanging up and reconnecting, I could have never downloaded it.) Cable is hella fast. My girlfriend has 1.5 Mbsp DSL at her place and I cry whenever I need to download something there.

A couple of weeks ago I got a note from Comcast that they were upgrading the service and I'd need a new modem. I'm on my third modem in 12 years, I believe. They've done an upgrade once and I think one died or something. Regardless, I needed a new new modem for whatever reason. I called them up last week to send it out. The nice operator mentioned that a "return kit" would be sent to facilitate return of the old busted junk. I still have the OG modem I got in '99 someplace. I never dropped it back with them.

Tonight, I came home to find this box in my apartment hallway:

It's approximately 2' x 2' x 1'. (It wasn't opened; I went back to shoot this sequence when I really what sheer f*ckery was afoot.) I saw it was from Comcast and got confused. A modem is about the size of a small book. What's with this giant box?

I cut it open and this is what was inside:

Hmmm...that's a lot of air. The small white box was about 8" x 10-1/2". The note was to tell me that this was for my old modem to be sent back in.

Well then, what's in the....hold on, say it like Brad Pitt at the end of Se7en: "What's in the baaaaaahksss??"

A small glossy folder with various manuals and paperwork for the new modem. Instructions on the lid which basically say, "Plug stuff in. All done!" Let's take a look under that top cardboard layer, shall we?


Listen, I'm not a big enviro-whacko who harps on about recycling and whatnot, but my practical nature has always been peeved by needlessly large packaging. I used to wonder why Al Gore didn't crusade against the big boxes of air that the CD jewel case with the software on it came in instead of trying to scare us with fairy tales about the ManBearPig? This is nuts.

In this large box was (clockwise from upper-left):
  • The modem.
  • Ethernet cable and two lengths of coaxial cable - short for when your computer is close to the wall jack and long for if it's not. I suppose just leaving the long cable rolled up if you're close was less practical than providing a second, shorter, cable. (Note: Sarcasm.) 
  • Wall wart power adapter.
  • Cable splitter, in case you needed to feed a TV box as well as the modem.
  • A bag of cable tacks to secure a long run of cable to your baseboard strip.
Here's what everything in the small big box inside the big big box amounts to:

The white box is the return box. If you're thinking that everything they sent would fit inside that box, you're almost right. The size of the coil of coax means the box would need to be an inch deeper, but otherwise IT ALL FITS!

That's right, folks! Comcast could have sent everything I needed in a box 8" x 10-1/2" x 3-1/2" or 294 cubic inches. How large was that UPS shipping crate that greeted me in my hallway? Approximately 6,912 cubic inches or about TWENTY-FOUR (24) TIMES AS LARGE AS IT NEEDED TO BE!!! It weighs almost nothing, but UPS had to eat up four cubic feet of truck space to deliver about one-sixth a cubic foot of contents. Properly packaged, they could put 24 of these modem kits in the same space as my one jumbo box. Un. Real.

I don't know what Comcast's stock is worth or their market cap or anything like that and I don't care. But how fiscally sane can they be when they do such idiotic things such as this?!? Why couldn't they just send out the right-sized box and say, when you're done emptying this one, toss your old junk back in and slap on the mailing label over the old one? Madness!

Monday, May 23, 2011

All We Hear Is Amazon Blah-Blah (Not Lady Gaga)

As a sales gimmick, Amazon's MP3 store offered Lady Gaga's new album, Like a Monster, er, Born This Way for the princely sum of...wait for it...99 cents! That's right, for the price of a Value Menu item you could get the new album from the Mother Monster. (BTW, this "monster" stuff is stupid bordering on retarded.) What could go wrong?


As irate customers flooding the reviews area with one-star reviews testified, the problem wasn't the music, but the inability to get it in a timely manner. When I purchased it around 11:30 am, I saw people complaining, but figured it wouldn't take too long to show up in my Cloud Drive.


When I started drafting this post, it had been 10 hours and I had only the three tunes I had 10 minutes after buying. I posted this comment on the deal section:

Lady Gaga was able to do what hacker terrorists Anonymous couldn't: Bring Amazon's system to a screeching halt.

I bought it about 11:30 am EST and after 10 minutes, the booklet and tracks #6, #10, and #13 showed in my Cloud Drive. 10 hours later, nothing has improved. I don't even have the singles off the album yet.

Meanwhile, the pirate torrent sites have had it for days and available for complete download within minutes. Once again, the paying customers have an inferior experience. How the heck is legal music at any price supposed to compete with illegal files that don't make you wait on top of charging you. It doesn't matter if it costs 99 cents or 99 dollars if you can't deliver the product customers have paid for in a timely manner.

Way to snatch crushing defeat from the jaws of victory, Amazon.
After wandering off and editing and posting the photos from a show last weekend, I checked back and they're all present and accounted for, 12 hours later. I bought a Bad Brains album a couple of weeks ago - what, a guy can't listen to Bad Brains AND Lady Gaga? Pffft. - and it showed instantly.

Clearly this was an aberration, but I'll be interested in seeing how many monsters snapped on this bargain and sent Amazon's servers up the creek?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Dirk's Three Laws (and One Strong Suggestion) of Band Naming

Working in the music business you see tons of bands for whom the task of coming up with the first thing people will hear about them - the name - has apparently been given less thought than their hairstyles or the music. To assist those who aren't gifted in the dark arts of band naming, I've assembled the following list of guidelines that you ignore at your peril. (And yes, there are more than three if you want to be picky.)

Rule #1 - The name should be memorable. This should be self-explanatory, but too many bands don't seem to understand that if no one remembers your band's name, no one will remember the band. Pink Floyd, Van Halen, even The Arcade Fire have names that can be remembered; Above All, Malajube, Menomena, and Shad (all actual bands at SXSW 2011) don't. Punny names like Jehovah Waitresses or The Victorious Secrets help. (I've used Atomic Guam and Iron Oreo as Rock Band and Guitar Hero names.)

Rule #2 - The name should indicate what sort of music you play.
Iron Maiden implies one thing; Air Supply implies another. What does Sweet Jane sound like; a Velvet Underground tribute act? Atari Teenage Riot sounds like their name. Does your name sound like your band?

Rule #3 - It should be easy enough to spell so juvenile delinquents can grafitti it everywhere. I was considering naming my band The Bourgeoisie until I realized I had to think hard about how to spell it. Did I want "Teh Borzwahzee Rulez!" spray-painted on overpasses and alley walls? That's why I went with Red September.

The One Strong Suggestion - Try out the name in the sentence, "Hi, we're [band name]." Does it sound stupid or offensive or like something your mother would blush at or would it make J.D. Considine's work of writing a snarky one-sentence review twisting it for maximum damage easy? Then go back to the start and come up with something not terrible. There was once a band called Lame. Try that out in the sentence. Can J.D. reply, "Yes, you are."? Then it's a terrible name. Start over. Seriously.

For a time, these Laws did the job, but over time I recognized other factors to be dealt with, thus leading to the first extension to the Laws:

Rule #3.5 - The name should not have to be seen for the joke to be understood. I once saw a band called Raindance several times before learning it was spelled R-E-I-G-N-dance. Get it? Neither did I. Homophones are trouble and not because they sound like listening devices for gay people. If your name sounds like Laughing Carrots, do not spell it Laffing Carats.

Because too many bands ignore the One Strong Suggestion, I've had to add:

Rule #3.6 - If the name includes one of the "7 Dirty Words" than you don't want to be famous. No one is going to sign and promote or cover bands called Sh*t and Shine, Sh*t Horse, or Sh*t Robot. (More real SXSW bands.) There's a band around town called Sh*tf*cker and while they're commended for being able to gig without detectable brain activity, their name alone precludes interest from anyone who doesn't giggle at the word "poop" every time.

Rule #4 - Logos must be clear enough that the band name can be discerned in 1.7 seconds or less. This stems from seeing an ad for a death metal festival where about 30 bands were playing, but I could only tell the names of 80% of the acts. The rest had logos that tried so hard to look like lightning bolts, spiderwebs, Klingon bat'leths and whatnot, they were illegible. Hippie jam bands are also frequent offenders as they have psychedelic melted balloon typography. Hey, Trustafarians, the reason the Fillmore posters could get away with it was because the people back then were on acid and to them the words looked like they were in Helvetica.

CFE: Taking The Excuses of the Stupid Party to the Woodshed.

The Background: This post on The Corner explaining the convention "wisdom" being bandied about by the Stupid Party to excuse their fecklessness in getting anything they were sent to do done. What follows is my comment:

As Breaker of Horses noted, the Stupid Party under Dubya were Big Government Compassion Fascists who squandered what little remained of the Newt Revolution and setting up a situation where liberals were/are able to sneer, "Bill Clinton left a surplus* and Dubya blew it on war and tax cuts for the rich. Also, funny how you teabaggers are suddenly concerned about spending not that a proud Nubian brother is in the White House." Yeah, it's a lies and selective character assassination, but the Stupids under the non-leadership of Cryin' John Fakenbake have done NOTHING to counter it.

What's appalling about the Stupid's utter collapse since being returned to partial power is that they've gone from being the so-called "Party of No" that remained futilely unified against the Obama/Reid/Pelosi/Marx/Alinksy socialist juggernaut to spineless, mewling, Vichy collaborators as they seek to crush the very freshmen and Tea Partiers that gave Cryin' John the gavel. It should be noted that Newt offered a Contract while Cryin' John merely spoke a Pledge. The difference is that you can't sue for breach of pledge and that semantic distinction bespeaks the unseriousness of these jokers.

The Contract with America was followed through on as far as voting on its items. What's happened with the Pledge? Demurrals, backtracks, excuses, and failure. From the moment they won decisively in November, they have capitulated to every demand of the Democrats. The lame duck was filled with bad treaties and bad tax deals. It was as if the Stupids wanted to side up with Obama and the Dems to stave off the Tea Party rubes. Then the chairmanships went mostly to old dog spendthrifts indicating that, as many suspected, the problem for the Stupids wasn't that there was spending going on, but that they didn't get to direct it to their cronies.

It's maddening to see how the Stupids can't seem to understand the actual meaning of what happens to them electorally. They believe they lost in 2006 and 2008 because they we're moderate enough and Dem Lite enough for the grasping hands in the nation. While they almost appeared to get that they'd lost their way from the true path and conservative principles during the Porkulus and ObamaCare battles, they were so outnumbered it didn't matter. So the voters took them at their word that they'd learn their lesson and we looking to redeem themselves and here we are now, betrayed by the only forces available to stop the nation-destroying agenda of the Obama Regime and fellow travelers.

As the brilliant Mark Steyn aptly said a month ago, "“I think John Boehner has been an incredible disappointment. I think John Boehner has basically climbed into the Bob Dole suit, and I think they misunderstand the lessons of the 2010 election, which is that the tea party chose to work within the diseased husk of the Republican Party it loathes. And it still hasn’t forgiven for 2006 and 2008. So for the Republicans to demonstrate that ‘hey, we’re back to 2006 again,’ except on Obama-level spending, is not a good idea.

We need Republicans to at least take the lead in broadening public discourse. This country is broke. It’s the brokest country in the history of the planet. And the idea of arguing over itsy-bitsy, half a billion here and half a billion there, and continuing resolutions staggering forward every ten days, is preposterous. It’s inadequate to the task. It’s inadequate for the challenge facing America”

The Stupids under Cryin' John have offered nothing but excuses for their failure and lack of will. They insult the intelligence of their constituents by whining about how hard they have it without the Senate and White House and it reeks of not wanting to get sweaty if victory is unlikely. The Detroit Lions show more stones than the Stupid Party because at least they make an attempt to not lose before starting the "Wait until NEXT year!" happy talk.

Let's see how the Stupids have done:

• Lame duck session - "We can't do anything because it's still the Dem's show. Next month, we'll get 'em."

• Then the new Congress starts and a lunatic shoots up Tuscon and while the media blames them for the tragedy, they suspend operations for a week. This is understandable, but it halted any momentum they may have had left after the lame duck debacles.

• The in CR after CR after downward revision until ultimate failure, they couldn't find it possible to cut ANYTHING in a substantive way. They couldn't defund the CPB after a citizen catches NPR's management acting up. They couldn't defund taxpayer-funded baby slaughter at Planned Parenthood after another citizen catches them collaborating with supposed sex slavers. [It's "human traffickers" on site because the language filters prevent sex] It was low-hanging fruit that the public wanted picked and they couldn't do it. Meanwhile the Dems are going to the wall in order to protect the murder of babies on the taxpayers' dime. They are willing to stand up for their death-loving ideology. What does the Stupid Party believe in that they're willing to fight for?

• After they lied that they understood why they lost; lied that they want to prove themselves reformed; lied that they would force the issues and do the will of the People who sent them; we're supposed to believe that the next fights, the hard ones with real money at stake and the future of the Republic hanging in the balance, that THEN they will stand up to the Dems. Uh, right. That's like a morbidly obese person promising to start dieting and exercising while they're still at the table choking down another wafer-thin mint.

* Nevermind that it was the Newt Congress's surplus. The Stupid Party can't even be bothered to set that record straight

Sunday, January 09, 2011

System Restart Is Go.

I've neglected this blog for too long and the shooting of Rep. Giffords and the subsequent disgusting attempts by the liberals to smear conservatives like Moose Slayer for it require more discussion than can be done in other venues. So, buckle up, bitches...