Sunday, October 19, 2008

Urban Camoflauge

So here's a random tip for city dwellers who want to *dramatically* change the way that people react to them on the street: On the morning you are planning to be walking down said street, forget to shave, then spend your day ferrying things back and forth between your old apt and your new apt by stuffing them into a 50L+ camping/climbing/travelling style backpack. (Note: I only did this because I had to return my rental car yesterday). I'll admit that these circumstances may not be easy to reproduce for everyone. And for some of you, you'd have to forget to shave for a lot longer than one morning. For the women among you, this may never work at all.

I used the same pack as from my Eurovoyage, and it worked well. I dropped a receipt with a $5 bill crumpled in it and a random guy picked it up and handed it back because apparently I looked like I needed it (really I was more worried about the receipt). In Subway just now, it was nearing 10pm and these 4 guys sitting at a table stopped me as I left and were wondering about train stations and hostels... I didn't know, and they said "oh, we thought you were like us -- had to spend the night on the street; because of your pack" ... :p

Also some of the looks you get from random people are fun too. As they peer into the cloth bag you are holding in each hand, to see what sort of things destitute people carry around. That probably only confirmed their suspicion of my homelessness, as at that moment I had a box of cheerios and some peanut butter in that bag, clearly visible :p

"No video games for you!"
On a somewhat disappointing, note: I have nearly everything unpacked at my new place except for media boxes (books,movies,music,games). So at the end of today, I wire up my amp and surround speakers, the xbox 360, and hook it all up to the component video input on my computer monitor (I have no t.v. yet). Then, in a round of crushing disappointment, discovered that since I had last used my xbox 360 with a dashboard resolution of 1080p, it was stuck on it, and my monitor won't accept that signal format over component video cables :( So no way to change it until my t.v. arrives in a week or so. Shame! One might have thought that since the freakin' monitor does 1920x1200 from a DVI input, it'd work just fine to take 1920x1080 from another input... le sigh!

Unpacking is a lot like Christmas
.. at least, like the Christmases I remember from childhood ;) except now there's way more boxes to open.

Each box has a hint on the outside. 2 or 3 words that summarized the contents as notated by the guy who packed it [who, incidentally, was generally not me, since the moving company's insurance policy only covers stuff they pack themselves]. Once the box is opened, the contents are revealed as being very many wads of paper in varying sizes and shapes, for lo, all thy items shall be individually wrapped, say the packing masters. So you grab out a big wad of paper (big!) and start ripping and unwinding it. After four or five seconds the big item is revealed! A shot glass! ... hm, that leaves a lot of space in the cupboard. No wonder 5 giant boxes of stuff managed to disappear into my kitchen!

Also, those hints outside the box aren't always correct. Sometimes the packer just didn't know what something was, or was fooled because I had cleverly stowed things in boxes from other products, and then he mistook even those.

For example, if I had only one chance to pick a box to find my toilet paper before someone pressed a Big Red Button of Doom For the Whole World (hey, it's a family blog, I don't always need to stoop to "before someone killed someone"... besides, the double 'someone' sounds weird!), we would all be Doomed now. The toilet paper, as it turns out, was in a box marked "computer games". Other contents of this box included my bathroom scale, and a few boxes of miscellaneous PC hardware (screws, clamps, cables of varying sorts...).

There were actually a lot of boxes marked "computer games," due in part to the fact that I have a lot of games (and game related paperphernalia), but due in large part to the fact that after a few boxes of games, I figure the packer's eyes glazed over and he just started writing "computer games" as a default if he couldn't think of anything else.

Anyway, back to the Christmas-y bit...
The best part is that some of these things I haven't seen in nearly two years, since I packed them up in January 2007. I had actually forgotten what most of my cutlery and dishes looked like, so it really added to the opening-a-present feeling... you know, you rattle the box, weigh it, look for clues as you rip into it, and still you get surprised by the final thing! I mean, sure you knew this paper ball was probably yet another coffee cup since the last 3 were, but I bet you forgot that you had a "Class of '97" mug in there, right? Right? Okay fine, so you didn't. I did, and it's my story, so sod off.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

The secret sauce is anger...

I want to like Apple. I really, really do. Much like Agent Mulder and his "I want to believe." Or was that Scully? I think Mulder believed anyway. Whatever. Apple makes nice shiny products. I wanted to like them. Really.

So. Been looking for a phone for quite some time. Mostly I was waiting until I had my new apartment so I could make sure to get one that had good reception there. Discovered my Rogers phone, which roams on the AT&T network, had good signal, so after much deliberation, today I went and bought an iPhone (for you Canadians in the audience, Apple and AT&T have an exclusive contract in the USA, therefore no other carriers have the iPhone available). Alas, the story does not end there, and I won't be giving anyone a new phone number to call just yet.

Here's about how my night went:

1740h. Downtown, Seattle. [Isn't it ominous when you see the city on the first entry? It's like you're watching a spy thriller!]
Entered the AT&T store at 6th & Pine. Spent a pleasant while talking to the sales guy, ending up with:

1811h. Downtown, Seattle.
My receipt is printed. I am happy. I spend a bit more time as the sales guy shows me some features of the phone, then I leave the store and start walking to my new apt, intending to get some more boxes unpacked before walking home to sleep.

1846h. First Hill, Seattle.
I'm in my apt. I carefully apply the screen protector to my new phone (it's so shiny!). I place the first call to my friend Ken:
Ken: Hello?
Me: Hi Ken, it's Logan.
ominous silence
Me: I just got that new phone! and you're the lucky recipient of the first call!
Ken: Hello?
Me: Hello..? Hello.. is this thing on?
Ken: Hello..? Hello?
Me: crap, this isn't working at all [messes with volume buttons]. Hello? Hello? Arg. [Hangs up]

I spend a bit more time calling my Canadian cell phone with it, and end up discovering that the microphone is actually broken, although if I plug in the headphones+mic that came with it, I can at least get crackly bad sound. So no setting of the voice mail greeting yet, at least. Oh and the protective rubber case shredded itself when I took it off to apply the screen protector. Woo.

1917h. Downtown, Seattle.
I've walked back to the AT&T store. The guy who sold me the phone is no longer there, but I talk to another guy who is very friendly and helpful. By about 1930h, he's given me a free replacement of the rubber case, verified the broken microphone on the phone, and been thwarted on replacing my phone by the corporate agreement with Apple: AT&T is apparently not allowed to handle any customer service issues, Apple wants them all.

So he looks up the nearest Apple store, which is in the U-district. It's a few miles away and I'm on foot, but it doesn't even matter because it is closed for renovations. The next nearest one is in Bellevue Square, twelve miles away. He checks their website and lets me know that they're open till 2130h. By this time it's past 1930h, but hey, I figure it's worth it to drive over there just to get this resolved tonight. I still haven't eaten and my blood sugar level is aggravating me but I am determined. Oh, and the guy added a free +100 minutes a month to my phone plan just for enduring the hassle. So AT&T has done okay by my books, at this point.

2000h, Belltown, Seattle.
I've arrived back at my corporate housing. Up to the 21st floor to fetch the car keys, down to the parking garage, and I'm on my way to Bellevue. I'm formulating the best way to politely relate the story to the Apple store customer service chaps, and ask them to put a happy ending on three hours of crushing disappointment.

2020h, Bel Square Mall, Bellevue.
I arrive in the store. It is jam packed. Seriously there must have been 20-25 customers in there. Wow. Still, within 10 seconds of entering, an employee asks me "How's it going?". I say "Not so good, but I'm hoping you can help with that". So far, so good. I bring out the iPhone box.

She says "oh, iPhone problem? You need to deal with Tech Support".

I say "You are not going to tell me that I have to mail this in to get it fixed...".

She says "No, but I don't think we have any tech support appointments left today so I can't help you."

I briefly relate the agonies of the night. She goes back and checks with the mystical "They" who live behind the closed doors of every store in the universe. She comes back and says nope, sorry, nothing they can do, she can't replace my phone, the tech support guys have to analyze it and find out what's wrong, and they can't do that until tomorrow.

Ok, major frakking aside here: WHAT THE FRELL IS WRONG WITH THESE COMPANIES? It's a BRAND NEW GORRAM PHONE. If you had found the defective microphone a second before I swiped my credit card, you would have just gone and grabbed another box from the back. WHAT IS SO SMEGGING HARD ABOUT SWAPPING IT? This isn't something I bought months ago and then developed a problem with. But no, sorry, once you've paid your money, now you have to go through "channels" to get any kind of smurfing customer service whatsoever.

Did I cover all the tv pseudo-curses? No? Good.

So my options are 0810h, and deal with rush hour traffic, or tomorrow evening (or later), which would mean stewing in all this anger even longer. I opt for the 0810h deal, and I don't think they realize what a huge favour I am doing them by giving them the opportunity to fix this problem before I have a full 24 hours to build up a nice head of rage at Apple and their so-far-so-shitty customer service. Seriously, why stipulate in their contract with AT&T that AT&T is not allowed to replace defective phones? This is bordering on retarded.

2035h, Bellevue.
I use my iPhone to browse to Apple's website (hey, at least the 3G network and the web browser work) and find the phone number for the Lynnwood store. I figure I can call them on my other cell, see if they have appointments left tonight, and still have a shot at letting Apple fix their mess before I sleep. 5 minutes of recorded messages later, I finally find the option on their menu that lets me talk to a real person, the recording says "transferring call...." and then I listen to it ring for about 2 minutes straight.

Then I give up.

I have a burger and a shake (first time I've eaten since lunch).

I drive home.

2130h, Belltown, Seattle.
I need to vent. Rather than relate this story verbally to everyone, I'm writing this down and will just let people read it. If everyone in the world was to read my blog, today would be the day, because frankly I think it should cost Apple dearly to have such absolutely terrible customer service policies.

Nonetheless, tomorrow when I get there I am going to still be very calm and just ask them to please resolve the situation in such a way that lets me know that Apple might actually care about their customers.

Here's a tip: simply swapping my phone won't do it. Swapping the phone only gets them up to "barely acceptable" customer service. At this point, by the time this is over, I'll have driven two round trips to Bellevue, once through rush hour traffic, in a car that gets 22 mpg. Combined with a good 5+ hours of my time taken on this above and beyond the initial purchase, I figure the invoice should look something like this:

Gas: $10
Time: $200
Mental Anguish: $100

That should basically mean the phone should be free :p No, I don't seriously expect them to see it that way. But if they don't at least try to come up with something beyond a basic fix I am going to be very disappointed. Even a measly $20 gift cert to the Apple store would be something. Hell, they'd make a profit, since that'd mean I'd probably end up buying some accessories and spending $50-60 there, not to mention that they might actually come out of this with a repaired reputation in the eyes of me and my little world (which basically amounts to just me, so they probably don't care) if they at least try to show some good customer service.

Will they? I doubt it. But I hope to be pleasantly surprised.

I will, of course, post an update if/when this is resolved. Meanwhile now that I've vented, I think I need to fire up a violent video game and shoot something ;)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

How To Tell

So, after getting my stuff delivered today, and then realizing that the first thing I needed to unpack was all my cleaning supplies in order to make the rest of the apartment safe to unpack things into, I now present "To The Last Person Who (Theoretically) Cleaned My New Apartment", in the style of Jeff Foxworthy...

  • If you leave not only all the dust and crud but also 3 blue tupperware lids on the top shelf of the kitchen cupboards... you may not be cleaning thoroughly enough.

  • If you leave a bottle of Aleve in the cabinet... you may not be cleaning thoroughly enough.

  • If there is still a picture of your grandparents and their dog in one of your drawers... you may not be cleaning thoroughly enough.

  • If the plug for the bath tub, along with the associated plug chain, has fused to the corner of said bath tub because it has not moved in such a very long time... you may not be cleaning thoroughly enough!!!11!1!one!!1!

That is all.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I'm starting to like the cut of this man's gibberish...

Just a couple links to share:

First, Fantastic Contraption. A neat physics based toybox, and a great way to kill some time :) Come up with creative solutions to the puzzles! Here's a couple that I made:

Duck the Gap
The One-Vehicle Solution

That's just to give you an idea :) I'd hate to ruin all the puzzles before you go try it yourself...

Also, for a few years now I've been hearing about "The Tick" and how it was such a great comic and TV show. As one person commented on IMDB, think of this show as "Seinfeld with superheroes". Well, now has the entire live-action show (there was an earlier animated one too). It was a short run, at 9 episodes of ~22 minutes each, but you can watch them all here when you've got some spare time :) I'm working my way through slowly but surely...

Oh, I applied for and put a deposit on an apartment in Seattle. Hopefully should be signing the lease by Wednesday. Woo!

Finally: the quote of the Day, for yesterday (received over IM from Radu):
[11:58] Raduuuuuu: imm on my phoone etc driving to get pants