Friday, December 18, 2009

Checks Mix

The UK is phasing out paper checks:
After more than three centuries, the humble check is set to become a historic relic after British banks voted to phase it out in favor of more modern payment methods.

The board of the UK Payments Council, the body for setting payment strategy in Britain, agreed on Wednesday to set a target date of October 31, 2018 for winding up the check clearing system.
I'm sure the U.S. will be following suit; Bank of America just needs to figure out what fees to charge. But then again, it may be a moot point because I doubt anyone will have any money left by 2018 anyway.

Not March, Just Madness

The Washington Post is doing its own "bracketology" to come up with the most influential person of the 2000s. Man, what an incredibly wretched decade this has been. I think in about 10 or 20 years there will be a VH1 series called I Really Loathed the 2000s.

All White Now

This is quite possibly the least surprising thing I have ever read in my life; from the Syracuse Post-Standard:
If you’re dreaming of a white Christmas, odds are better than 2 to 1 that you’ll find one in Syracuse and Oswego in any given year.
White Christmases are nice, but it's the white Memorial Days that are the problem.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Where a Great Many People Have Gone Before

Over at Movie Mis-Treatments-- sacrilege!--the new Star Trek movie.
I really did like this movie. As a Trekker of long standing (35+ years), I thought the creators did an excellent job of capturing the spirit of the original series, casting believable young versions of the classic characters (with some exceptions), and at the same time reinvigorating the Trek universe in a way some of the later series and movies never really did. The effects work is incredible, and the writing, direction, and acting were generally excellent.

But I’m still going to make fun of it nonetheless.
Oh, and let's not forget a true holiday classic: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Eat Dreams

Hey, parents, want a great way to traumatize your children? Of course you do! Then why not have them sleep in a bed housed in a dinosaur's mouth. Purchase of this item does not include extended warranty, or years of therapy. (h/t Boing Boing)

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Airline passengers flying through storms might have more to worry about than a little turbulence. A new study suggests that if jets pass near lightning discharges or related phenomena known as terrestrial gamma-ray flashes, passengers and crew members could be exposed to harmful levels of radiation, a dose equal to that of 400 chest X-rays.
I can see where this is going. Soon airlines will start charging a fee to passengers to avoid being zapped with lethal levels of radiation.

The Pen is Mightier than the Pen

This is an interesting idea, the SmartPen:
The Pulse smartpen records and links audio to what you write, so you never miss a word.
High-speed infrared camera with Dot Positioning System (DPS) tracks everything you write, tap, or draw on Livescribe Dot Paper. The DPS not only enables printed controls for recording and playback on each page, but also interactive paper-based applications.
It took some digging, but there is apparently a third-party application that allows the handwriting captured by the SmartPen to be converted to an editable text file. If it works, it's very cool, though I think you would probably need to write very slowly and deliberately for it to function effectively--usually the opposite of what we're doing when we're taking notes. Plus, I think my handwriting would make it explode.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

The Customer is Always Right (Not)

You would think that antiquarian booksellers get a better-heeled clientele than your usual mall store, but perhaps not. The Book Mine, a used and rare book seller, has a blog on which it has compiled some actual stupid conversations with customers (or would-be customers). h/t Boing Boing
We are doomed! These are actual conversations with people, who in theory, should know better. Keep in mind, these people drive cars, vote and might even have jobs.

(phone call)
Do you buy books?

Yes. What do you have?

Reading books.

Reading books?

Yea. Books you read.

Ok. But I am not sure what it is you have.

I just said. Reading books. Do you buy them?

No. Thanks for calling.

Phone call:

I just received a book I ordered from you in the mail today and it's covered with syrup.

Hmm. When it left here it was in perfect condition.

Well it's covered in syrup now. I can send it back so you can see.

I'm thinking no. You might want to contact the post office.

I guess I could. Maybe I will just get a rag and wipe it off.

Good plan! Thanks for calling.


Older guy comes in...

I'm here for an appraisal.

I charge for appraisals.

No, I don't want to pay for nothing.

What do you have?

A book I wrote. It's about gambling.

Has it been published?

No, that's why I need a (sic) appraisal.

I only deal in old books.

Hey, gambling is old. It's been around a long time.

I don't think I can help you.

Yea I know, you're really wasting my time.


phone call...

I have a bunch of old books I want to sell on e-bay. Can you tell me what they are worth?

Why would I want to do that?

My friend said to call you and that you know a lot about books.

You are missing my point. Why should I waste my time helping you?

So I can know what reserve to put on my books.

I charge for appraisals.

Well this isn't an appraisal. I just want to know what they are worth.

Sorry, you will have to call someone else. Good luck!

Tuesday, December 01, 2009


Dear Blue Cross,

I want to say how much I utterly adore having you as my health insurance provider, and I especially thank you for the 17% increase in my premium for 2010. You can't know how appreciative I am of this, and how every day I thank the good Lord that I live in a country where I have the freedom to be gouged by you, all the while having the freedom of being limited to your network of quacks and horse doctors (this is Saratoga after all). I also sleep secure in the knowing that I have the freedom to be dropped like a bad habit if I ever actually file a claim for something.

I do hope this never changes.

Bank Shot

Dear Bank of America,

You would think that with all the billions of dollars of bailout money we have given you, your Web site wouldn't be virtually useless and would actually function when customers tried to use it. A tall order, I realize. Also, it would be helpful if it were, perhaps, an actual online banking site and not simply a medium for delivering ads.

Also, if, as a reward for 10 years of patronage, you are going to start abruptly charging a monthly "maintenance fee," you could actually try to not be less useful as a bank than you had been in the past.

Thank you.

--A Former Customer