I got an e-mail from Delta with the text “In response to your feedback and as part of our ongoing efforts to improve your travel experience on Delta” … As I’m reading I’m thinking “that’s BS so whatever comes next is going to be bad”. And it was. Now instead of being rewarded for miles you travel, you earn “miles” by spending money. Obviously, that rewards those who travel on the full-fare, book last minute, and are reimbursed by well-monied companies. It does not reward the travelers who plan in advance, get non-refundable fares, and are the bulk of the passengers. In other words, Delta is no longer rewarding you for the discomfort endured by sitting in the too-small seat. Instead it will reward those who don’t actually need the free travel because they can clearly pay as much as they want already. At least Delta isn’t pretending that there will be any trickle-down benefits for the flying middle class.  If Delta really wanted to listen to the general public’s feedback, they’d remove a few rows of seats, increase the seat pitch, and include checked bags in the cost of the airfare.

To add insult to injury, when I was traveling a few weeks ago on Delta, the connection had me in Detroit for 3 hours.  Oh well, I figured, what are you going to do.  But when I landed, I found that there was an earlier flight that was going to leave in 40 minutes.  I hoofed it all the way across that huge yardstick of an airport and nicely asked the gate agent if there was room on the earlier flight.  There was.  But since I wasn’t a “medallion” member, it would mean a $50 change fee.  That’s just about exactly the amount that was too much for me.  (I could have saved 2 hours but I would have been in a middle seat on a nearly full plane and wouldn’t have the time to go get the food I was looking forward to.)  And all I could think was “no, I’m not a medallion member and unlikely I am going to be given the new program and Delta’s general dislike of *people*!”.

Another unwelcome change is Amazon increasing Prime from $79 to $99.  Do I want to pay $100 for free 2-day shipping?  I don’t know.  I feel pretty good that the $79 has been worth it.  Especially with the volume of stuff we’ve been getting for the house projects.  But I’m not sure that we’ll have the same volume of stuff as the house projects dwindle down and $20 more may be too much even if the volume was the same.  The only good thing for me here is that my Prime membership expires in January so I have 10 months for Amazon to change their mind.  (Though Amazon doesn’t seem like the kind of company that would pull a Netflix by announcing a change of plans and then change their mind.)

Fly The Friendly Skies

| by Ken | in Soapbox 1 Comment »

United Airlines sent an e-mail saying this:

“Friendly” now means more than it ever did. It means being user-friendly. In other words, flyer-friendly℠. We’re giving you an unmatched global network with more onboard product features, better technology and, of course, great customer service.

Also, this great quote:

From take off to landing, putting you first.

I know their marketing department didn’t mean it this way, but here’s how I translate their message:

Once you are in your seat, you’ll be able to pay to access more things than you could before.  And we’re going to send a memo out to all flight attendants reminding them to smile, regardless of whether United is treating them well or if they are people that belong in a service industry.

The seats themselves will only be friendly if you pay for them to be.  If you choose regular Economy (or your company chooses it for you), those seats will remain unfriendly to your knees, back, and derriere unless you are a child.

As for getting in your seat, that’s still going to be a full-on crap-fest.  We are going to charge you for anything that you might find to be helpful to your flight.  We are going to continue charging for checked bags so that we make you carry the maximum amount of luggage through the airport which also makes things slower at security.  And it also makes it worse for people who get on the plane last and discover that their bag still needs to be checked.  We will continue to board by groups of rows so that we can get all of the congestion into the same part of the plane as quickly as possible giving us the greatest opportunity to be late pushing back from the gate and wasting as much of your time as we can.

In other words, the same as most other airlines. The only thing to differentiate United from the others is their new look which is only superficial – perhaps therefore truly representative of the level of change they are enacting.

Gun Control is part of the solution

| by Ken | in Soapbox 1 Comment »

I was listening to the news yesterday. I haven’t done that much recently between work, house, and vacation, but I had a minute in the car. The news reports went something like the following: “People are still trying to figure out why somebody killed 6 people at a Mosque yesterday”… “the man who shot up a theater full of people in Aurora Colorado is being held”… “the man who shot congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and supporters is likely to plea guilty”… I knew about all of these events but to hear them one after the other as headline #1, #2, and #3 was truly sobering.  And frankly it’s getting to me – the sadness of the tragedies of the past and the wariness of protecting my family in public places.

Perhaps in a post 9/11 world, crazy people are more inclined to violence.  Maybe violence in movies and videogames has desensitized the nation somewhat and crazy people feel more emboldened.  Maybe crazy people want to act out more now because of the spectacle that they can create through today’s media.

But there’s no denying the fact that in all of these cases, crazy people had inappropriate access to firearms.  What the actual fuck is wrong with this country that we can’t prioritize the safety of the general population over the rights to bear arms?  If there were federal laws about gun ownership and registration that included psych evaluations, waiting periods, etc., the people who like guns could still own guns and most of the crazies would be prevented from having firearms.  Gun control needs to be managed at the federal level because if somebody can get a gun easily in one state by just driving around the country, then the whole country is as exposed as the state with the weakest laws.

Regardless the specifics about certain rights afforded by the Constitution and it’s Amendments, one thing is constant throughout: those rights are provided so long as they do not interfere with other people’s rights.  And I have to say that the right for me to draw breath definitely trumps anyone’s right to get a gun without first being checked to see if they are crazy.  If you disagree with this statement, then, well, you are crazy.

I understand that no check is going to be foolproof.  A check for crazy people isn’t going to catch 100% of crazy people.  I also understand that crazy people might shift to fertilizer bombs instead of firearms.  Increased gun control will not prevent public shootings from happening ever again.  But considering the three most recent cases and the three that topped the news yesterday morning, all 3 of those would have been prevented by keeping crazy people from having guns.

You could even roll the shooting of Florida teen Trayvon Martin in here too.  No question Zimmerman is not in a sound state of mind.  And a screening to check to see if he was all there before he could buy a gun would have been a good thing.

As for some more prominent opinions in the news, there was former Arizona state senator Russell Pearce who doubled down on gun ownership by saying the problem was not that the shooter had a gun but that the rest of the audience didn’t.  Well, it’s true that if everyone else was armed, the shooter probably would have gotten fewer shots off and the body count would have been lower.  But I’m solidly in the camp that dialing the violence down to zero is better than turning the theater into battlefield.  You can also look at the Martin/Zimmerman case and realize that if the theater was armed and if a kid stood up in the middle of a theater with a batman toy gun, he could be mistaken for a copycat and somebody who is armed could think that they are doing what former senator Pearce suggested and “defend” the rest of the theater by killing a kid who got overcome with his imagination.

I prefer the opinion of Scott Ian who wrote the following on Twitter:  “To those asking, I am a gun enthusiast that has a big problem with how easy it is for people that have no business owning a gun to get one. The old argument of ‘if guns are outlawed, then only outlaws will have guns’ means nothing. The ‘outlaws’ get their guns illegally and use them to perpetrate crimes that get them paid, they don’t go shooting innocent people in movie theaters.”  In other words, yes, people would still get their guns illegally but the people that are the most worrisome to the general population today?  They wouldn’t have the same access they do today.  And that’s gotta be a good thing.

I’m not a Boxee user and in truth I don’t really know what Boxee does. But I do know that Boxee is some sort of TV device that uses a signal feed of either over-the-air antenna (OTA) or unencrypted cable-TV (clear QAM). And Boxee as well as many other high-tech and some low-tech setups would be significantly marginalized if the FCC has their way. That’s right, the FCC whose purpose is to serve the people of the United States has somehow been co-opted by the cable companies (Big Cable) and is pushing for a measure to force you to have a cable box at every outlet. (Yes, technically, you could use a CableCard at an outlet instead of a full cable box but to be realistic, cable cards are not going to be mainstream devices. Besides, it is still a device you need to get from Big Cable, so there’s not much difference for this discussion from a full cable box.) Ars Technica has a good write up that summarizes the issues.

In their proposal, near the top of page 3, the FCC states that “77 percent of cable subscribers have at least one digital cable set-top box or retail CableCARD device in their home”. That may be true but ignores the fact that there are likely other outlets in the house that do not have a cable box. It also ignores the fact that it’s very likely that a good portion of that 77 percent isn’t very happy about even having that one cable box in the house. So what’s the percentage of all outlets where a cable box is desired? And even if you assume for a minute that there are no other outlets in those 77 percent of households and that all 77 percent of those households are happy having a cable box, what about the other 23 percent? That’s not a trivial amount of households!!! We aren’t talking about a small isolated group of Americans. Even in the most favorable view of that statistic, the FCC is saying they propose that a nearly quarter of all American cable subscribing households will be mandated to add special equipment rented from the cable company!!!

It was only two and a half years ago that Big Cable started this attack by moving all the channels that they were allowed to off of the “cable ready” channels and onto the digital broadcast spectrum. So as I feared then, it was the opening salvo in the war to fully control every television tuner with a Big Cable provided device. The cable provider makes more money on rental and the cable hardware manufacturer makes money on the sale of the device to the cable provider. So everyone is happy. Except for the consumer. That the FCC is supposed to be watching out for.

I think it’s amazing that the FCC thinks it’s important to protect me from a 30 millisecond view of MIA’s middle finger but doesn’t think it’s important to protect the country from an onslaught of corporate takeover of our television equipment.

War On Christmas

| by Ken | in Soapbox No Comments »

Christmas has now passed and the “War on Christmas” will go into hibernation for the next 11 months. But we are in a cycle now where we annually need to choose between being overly politically correct or religiously insensitive. Does it have to be this way? Of course not. I say we should say “Merry Christmas”, but perhaps not for the reasons you might think. Like another political hot-button issue, it’s about terminology… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Continue reading »

Netflix Debacle

| by Ken | in Soapbox, Technology No Comments »

It’s old news by now, but I still wanted to weigh in with some opinion on the whole Netflix thing. (I was a little more timely with my Facebook comments which I’ll reiterate here to start.)

When I first got an e-mail from Reed Hastings, my initial thought was: “This is nuts. The slight a number of people felt about the previous change didn’t really bother me. And while the change in pricing made it more expensive to keep doing what I had, I changed my service to something cheaper based on my current needs. But the split of the services is truly crazy. One of the great things about Netflix has been my ability to manage my queue in one place. Splitting it up is going to make it harder to keep track of.” And I concluded with: “I look forward to another e-mail shortly that starts off “I messed up again”.”

Within days as the world turned against Netflix, it turned out that not only was the name chosen for the separat service stupid sounding but Netflix didn’t even have rights to the Twitter account with that name. It was instead owned by a stoner with a weed smoking Elmo as his avatar. I suspect that Netflix could have wrestled the Twitter account away from him by plying him with some cash, despite the Twitter TOS. But still, is that really the first impression you want for your new service?

Hot on the heels of Netflix’s stupid decision, Facebook decided to change their site and led to many comparisons. I didn’t see it though. The Netflix change would be like if FB decided one day that they were going to split off all games into a separate web site that was called Facebook and if you wanted to play games, you’d need to go there and manage your friends list for games separately; the original Facebook would be renamed Turdswallow…. That’s a big change. Conversely, if Netflix changed their site the same way FB has, it would be like Netflix deciding to combine your queue with both streaming and by-mail entries – which they had already done a while ago. That’s not a big change. The degree to which FB is part of one’s life is clearly playing a factor in one’s distaste for the changes. But everyone needs to remember that FB is free! (The inability to control your own destiny is a big part of why I kept my own blog running rather than shutting that down and shifting to FB entirely.) Netflix, on the other hand, is a paid service and fearing that I would lose what I had been paying for was a legit concern.

Of course, as everyone knows, Netflix reversed course and will keep the services together with no Qwikster at all. But in the interim, they got a lot of formerly content customers pretty well riled up. Their stock took a hit. And at the same time, Amazon started pushing their video rental service. Netflix may have had some potential competition from the likes of Blockbuster and Walmart through the last couple years but the way Amazon does business, Netflix should be worried. And what did they do? They pushed people away.

For me, though, the most important point is that I fundamentally disagree with the original thesis of separation. Netflix figured that the future of the video business would eventually be all on-demand with no physical media – I doubt anyone will dispute that. However, their immediate conclusion was to push people there ASAP. But if I think about the people I know who are comfortable using Netflix, there’s a large percentage of them who do not have devices capable of streaming a movie to a TV. But even if that were the case, the content isn’t there! I currently have a Netflix Queue of128 movies.  Of those 128, only 28 are available for instant viewing with streaming.  So on a recent weekend, when I decided I would try streaming something just to say that I use it sometimes, none of the stuff I really wanted to watch right then was available.  I settled for something a little offbeat and different which turned out fine but still not what I was hoping for.  So is the world ready to be pushed into streaming only?  Of course not and how could Netflix be so stupid.  Boggles the mind.

Gaga vs. Ace Of Base?

| by Ken | in Soapbox No Comments »

Speaking of Lady Gaga, there’s a track on her latest release named “Alejandro” which reminds me of Ace Of Base’s “The Sign”. It’s not that I hear the same exact notes or words but just the overall sound of the song seems very much like “The Sign”. Give them both listens and tell me what you think.

Music Videos gone over-the-top

| by Ken | in Soapbox 1 Comment »

Not that I spend a lot of time watching music videos these days, but I have seen a few. The “Telephone” video with Lady Gaga gets points for reusing the, umm, vehicle from Kill Bill but other than that you’d need to be out of your mind for any of it to make sense. Even Gaga’s own Paparazzi video was much better and less wacked-out.

But the winner for over-the-top clearly goes to M.I.A.’s “Born Free”. Really more of a mood music piece than a pop song, you never see M.I.A. in the video. The nearly 9 minute “video” is actually a mini-film that shows redheads being brutally rounded up and then all mass-killed in varying graphic ways. Hard to believe YouTube isn’t censoring any of it. And no, I’m not going to link to it from here so I don’t encourage clicks and so I’m not blamed for putting images in your head which I’m wishing I could get out of mine.

I suppose the irony here is that music videos aren’t seen much at all these days and that the only way to have them seen is to turn them into spectacles that encourage discussion such as this blog post – sort of a “any publicity is good publicity” notion. But it won’t take many more gonzo videos before I stop clicking and searching for the next event music video since I’ve been let down by so many before.

Brief Oscars 2010 comment

| by Ken | in Soapbox 2 Comments »

Since it was requested by a regular blog reader, here’s my brief comment on this year’s Oscars broadcast. I remain dissatisfied with the content of the show: It’s a show about movies and people who watch the show like watching movies, so show clips of movies! How wrong is it to give somebody an award for best acting and not show any clips? Instead, they wasted time with obsequious drivel about each of the 5 actors and 5 actresses. The show ran long by over 30 minutes and they still needed to cut some speeches short while others were able to natter on and on. (I’m thinking of you, Jeff Bridges.) Also, forgetting to include Farrah Fawcett in the farewell montage was a big gaffe. The Oscars could learn a few things from the Grammys – keep things tight with minimal hosting (if Martin’s and Baldwin’s jokes were reduced by 50%, they would have been 50% funnier) and focus on the core content: movies.

MetroPCS adverts racist?

| by Ken | in Soapbox No Comments »

Am I alone in thinking that the MetroPCS TV advertisements are somewhat racist? Two guys of Indian decent ostensibly working at a tech support desk ridicule people who don’t have MetroPCS phone service. And while they don’t necessarily do anything overtly negative, the guys are not portrayed in a very flattering way. Regardless, isn’t it racist when somebody or something reinforces a stereotype based solely on somebody’s appearance? I’m not trying to be politically correct here just for the sake of being PC but I think the burgeoning stereotype that all people of Indian decent work in tech support can be harmful and I believe MetroPCS is exploiting it for their own gain.

All content Copyright © Katharsys LLC Created with Wordpress, Theme "Synergy" by Pagelines modified by Katharsys LLC