Sunday, September 25, 2011

ratings

The other day I was looking for prices on an appliance and ran across one of those web sites that compares prices across online stores. One store was a lot lower than the others and had very high ratings so I looked both at the store and at the reviews that contributed to the high ratings.

These reviews were on ResellerRatings.com, a site that I have often used in the past when trying to find out if an online store was dependable or not.

After reading several reviews of this online store, BrandsmartUSA, things started to smell. Nearly all of the positive reviews were written with the same style and nearly all mentioned employees by name, which to me was quite suspicious since most reviews never mention names. And the same names were mentioned over and over. Many of the positive reviews had nothing to do with the store but were about the in-home service they received on a major appliance. Also I noticed that this was the only review posted by all these supposedly different persons.

Take a look for yourself: Click here.

There's a link on the ResellerRatings site that you can click to report issues like this, and that's what I did. I said that a lot of the reviews seem to be written by the same person and look phony. I got an e-mail from them today saying they would investigate.

It made me wonder just how many reviews out there are planted? I know a lot of the ones on Amazon are, especially for books. For example, many business books seem to be reviewed by the same old good 'ol boy network that goes around patting each other on the back, same as politicians do.

Pretty pathetic, if you ask me! At least if you are going to make up reviews like that, mix it up a little bit in terms of style.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

still awesome

This afternoon I took the cellophane off of the Star Wars Blu Ray set and pulled out episode 4 (the original movie) and watched it. I think if you did a graph of which episode from the set was watched first, #4 would be way out in front.

If you're wondering if it is worth doing the upgrade from DVD to Blu Ray, the answer is an unqualified Yes. It's an even bigger upgrade than from VHS to DVD. The picture is so much more detailed, the colors sharper, and the audio portion is much improved, as well.

That said (hmm.. I thought I said "unqualified"), I know George Lucas loves to tinker with his movies so I am not sure if some parts looked and sounded so much better because of his tinkering, rather than it being a restoration of the original. Whatever, the Blu Ray is fantastic.

He did add a few things on top of what he added to the DVD version but none of it is objectionable. I don't think it made the film any better, but at least it didn't make it worse. Of course, this is not the episode with the "noooooooooo!!!" added to it. I might have to set the system on mute when that happens.

Star Wars is simply an amazing, marvelous work of art. I've seen it many times at the theater, then was overjoyed when finally it was broadcast on pay television (was it Select TV back then? Can't remember) although watching it on a 19" television made it lose something in the translation. Then I bought all the various VHS packages, upgraded to the DVD's (and am happy to have the release that includes the original, untampered version) and now here it is on Blu Ray.

I have seen this movie so many times that I find myself actually thinking it is non-fiction.

If you are a Star Wars fan, then like I said above, don't hesitate to get the Blu Ray. It's a no-brainer decision.

Finally - for those of you who like a challenge to do something weird.. here is your challenge for a day. The entire day you have to talk like the Sand People. So when you go to a restaurant or talk to someone on the phone or go to the bank or whatever, you have to sound like the Sand People. Maybe start out practicing at the Jack in the Box drive through window.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

dumpy

I found out today that the back of my workplace building is going to be used in an upcoming television episode. The person who told me wasn't exactly sure of the show; he thought it was CSI. Since I hardly watch television, I had no clue what the choices might be. Anyway, it's one of those crime investigation shows. They will be filming next Tuesday.

The reason for using our building: they had a scene that needed a run-down, abandoned warehouse. I guess their location scouts were proud of themselves because they found our place and it fit the bill exactly without requiring any work. Well actually, they're going to put some boards on the windows and spray paint some graffiti on the boards to heighten the effect, although if you ask me they really don't need to do anything at all and it will still be convincing. At least we get a few hundred bucks from the studio for being their perfect, run-down, abandoned warehouse crime scene.

And that's the kind of dump I work in. Haha.. I kid you not.

Friday, September 16, 2011

telephone

I was trading messages with an online buddy from an audio forum and we were reminiscing about the good old days of dial phones.

Do young people these days even know what a dial phone is? I guess so.. they may have seen one in a retro store or seen one selling for hundreds of dollars as a novelty at Brookstone or something like that. Or maybe their grandparents have one.

I told him something really stupid I did when I was little - instead of putting my finger in the dial at the number that I wanted (for example, to dial "5" put your finger in the hole in the dial where the "5" is - young people, if you are confused then ask your parents or grandparents to explain), I put my finger where the "0" was and then moved the dial up to the number I wanted.

After I did this, I was amazed that a call actually went through and I could hear it ringing on the other end! Like, I had discovered a new way to dial! Yeah I know, pretty stupid.

Remember how you could dial by clicking the buttons on top of the phone? Like to dial a "5" you clicked the button real fast 5 times? I used to call my friends that way.

And I remember when all of L.A. County was in the 213 area code.. and telephone prefixes were letters, not numbers. Like REpublic 4-0227.

We used to have a party line. Does anyone remember those? That's where you shared the phone with someone else. Not the same phone number, but if you were on the phone that meant that the other party to the line couldn't use it until you got off. And if someone tried calling the other party while you were on, they got a busy signal. No call-waiting back in those days!

We shared a line with a family across the street, the Kasakawa's. I recall a few times when my folks were irritated because they needed to use the phone and kept picking it up every few minutes but they were still on it. I remember being over their house, because the son, Edwin, was one of my friends. One day we wanted to make a call and I picked up the phone and heard someone talking. Being on the other side of the party line, it didn't occur to me that this was my dad. I just thought someone somehow got on the phone line so I kept clicking the phone and dialing and making noise and finally he hung up the phone, haha.. Later on after thinking about it, I realized hey, when I was home then the Kasakawa's were the other people on the phone line so if I was at their house, then my own family must be the other people on the phone line. Yeah, I know, pretty stupid.

A couple of other things I discovered from playing with the phone: it used to be that if you dialed three digits then "1" then the same three digits (such as 296-1296), you would get a beeping tone that would beep a certain number of times and then hang up. I guess this must have been some sort of test line?

Another thing was that if you dialed a number and the last four digits were "1118" (for example, 296-1118) and someone else dialed the same prefix plus "1119", the two lines would connect and you could talk to them.

Now if you ask me how I happened to find out these things, I have no idea. I guess I must have had nothing better to do than to play around with the phone.

Our phone had no detachable cord, either. Not like phones today where the cord plugs into a jack and you can remove it. These were wired into a box. No unplugging allowed!

I guess back in those days, had we imagined a cellular phone one might have scoffed at the idea - so where are they going to get cords that long, huh???

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

up and coming

Did you preorder your set of Star Wars on Blu Ray? I did, and I'm looking forward to receiving them from Amazon on Friday, the official release date.

Despite George tinkering with them when he should leave well enough alone, and despite the prequels being pretty lame overall, I still opted to get the entire set - all six movies. For sure I wanted the original trilogy - that's a no brainer - but I figured if I didn't also get the prequel I'd regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but some day. I'm no good at being noble but it doesn't take much to realize that deciding between just the original trilogy and the full set doesn't amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world.

I've also developed an addiction for watching Breaking Bad. Based on high praise from a couple of people I know, even though the premise didn't sound at all interesting to me, I purchased season one. Then season two, then this week season three arrived and I watched the first episode of that season the other night.

And.. in this post of random stuff, here's a fun little site whose link I stole off of someone's Facebook page: Translation Telephone. Check it out - enter a phrase and see how it gets altered in translation around the world. Click here. I typed "keep on trucking" in the original box and after it went through the various translations and then back into English, it read, "number."

Monday, September 12, 2011

foundations

I am writing this on September 11 (Sunday). Of course we all know the significance of this date as it relates to the terrible events ten years prior. There were lots of memorial services and recollections by people as to what they were doing that day when they heard the news.

Many comments had to do with how our nation did not give in to the terrorists; that we came together and remained strong during this troubling time. Tributes were given, and deservedly so, to those who performed heroic acts that prevented the tragedy from being even worse. Many comments had a defiant nature about them - don't mess with America because we'll pay you back for your evil deeds.

That's all great and good but my question is, what exactly have we learned from this? Is our nation getting better or is it getting worse?

A few years ago our company had a couple of consultants come in, and they asked what goals and objectives we would like to set. One goal wound up being that we would achieve $X of revenue in three years. It was quite an ambitious goal because achieving it would mean our revenues would have to double in three years. That didn't seem to phase anyone; everyone was jumping up and down, all happy and excited, talking about how we were going to have $X in revenues and wasn't that wonderful, etc.

They talked like it had already been achieved. My question was, how were we going to get there? What was our plan?

That's the same way it is with all this talk I hear in defiance of the terrorists - stuff like, don't mess with the USA because we're still the greatest country in the world, mess with us and you'll be sorry, etc. Trash talk like what you hear in school about we'll see who wins in the parking lot.

My question is, we talk about it but what are we doing about it? Take a look around you - do you think things are that much better, if at all, than 10 years ago? Don't get me wrong - I love my country and I am thankful to be a citizen. But because I love my country, I have to also care about where we are headed and not fall prey to a bunch of empty talk that has nothing to back it up. Just like if you are at a sporting event and you start chanting, "USA, USA" as if somehow that is the magic formula to make the team win. Yes, it will get the adrenaline flowing but if the team has no plan, it's not going to turn things around.

I always like to compare the service I get at McDonalds versus the service I get at In-N-Out Burger. There is just no comparison. When I go to a McD, I expect the mediocre and that is usually what I get. When I go to an In-N-Out, I expect excellent service and that is usually what I get.

Why is that?

It's in the foundation. The employees at an In-N-Out are trained better and expected to perform to higher standards. They are better managed. They operate according to a plan and that plan has proven successful. McD's, on the other hand, seem like a hodgepodge of people stumbling over each other.

You can't just give a pep talk to a bunch of employees, telling them, "we're the best! We're the best!" without showing them HOW to be the best. Part of that is instilling the proper corporate culture - inculcating the proper foundation for how they are to conduct themselves and manage their operations. Without the foundation and the culture, they can't succeed.

That is how I view the United States. We are losing the foundation that our founding fathers fought so hard to establish. The culture in this country has in large part become one of "me first" and focusing on entitlements, rather than on how to work together to achieve greatness. It's all about me, and what's in it for me. It's like everyone is auditioning for American Idol.

The Ten Commandments and other lessons in ethics and morals are sorely lacking from our schools, as though somehow that is inappropriate and even evil. Parents are not giving their children the moral foundation that is needed, or even if they are, it is being subverted by peers at school who lack this foundation. Morals and ethics are certainly not coming from our teachers either, since they run the risk of losing their jobs if they dare broach the subject instead of focusing on artificially raising test scores.

Without this foundation, we are lost. The moral fiber and backbone of a country are all-important. That is what everything else is built upon. You can't just talk about doing something without having the right foundation in place.

Take a look around you and you will see what I mean. We can talk all we want about America being the greatest country in the world but we're headed in the wrong direction because it is all talk. Without that foundation - the moral fiber and backbone - getting rid of that "me first" attitude - it's not going to get any better.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

insult?

Am I the only one who thinks those Metro PCS commercials with the Indian actors is stupid, or do any of you feel the same?

I don't find them to be funny or even mildly amusing in the least - that has nothing to do with how they portray the Indian actors to be idiots, but it just simply is not funny. It's insulting. If they did this same thing with Asians, I would feel insulted. if they did this with Blacks or Hispanics, the commercial would already have been quickly taken down if even allowed to air at all. Yet these commercials seem to keep going so someone likes them?? I find that hard to believe.

Even if they did this commercial with white people it wouldn't be funny. Whoever wrote it is going after the lowest of the lowest common denominators and they even went below that. It is something a six year old might write and then perform for his or her fellow classmates. A stupid six year old, I might add.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Apple is more evil than Microsoft

Yesterday Katie brought over her Mac Pro so I could upgrade the memory and hard drive. I had gotten the replacement items from my favorite computer store, Newegg, and was all set to open up the laptop case and do the replacing.

I turned over the laptop and did a double take. Were those the screws??? I never saw anything so tiny. Just these really little chrome circles with and "x" carved out in the middle. My smallest screwdrivers, even the jewelers ones and the ones for repairing eyeglasses, were too big.

Grrr... why do they have to make this so difficult? When I changed the memory and hard drive in my own PC-based laptop I didn't need any special tools. So we drove over to Home Depot and bought a screwdriver set containing 000 and 00 blades.

We came back and I opened the case. When I removed the bottom the first thing that came to mind is how cheap and flimsy the plastic was. It looks like it is a fancy metal case but that's about it - it just looks that way. In reality, it's just cheap plastic.

I replaced the memory, which was pretty easy. Now it was the hard drive's turn. I unscrewed the mounting bracket, no problem. Then I removed the drive and noticed that the screws set in the side of the drive, which had to be removed to put into the new drive, were not your regular kind of screws. These were torx screws, and I had no torx screwdriver and no allen wrench small enough to fit.

Grrr... so back we went to Home Depot to get a torx screwdriver set. All just for four stupid little screws. We got back and it was very easy to remove the screws, using the right equipment.

The point is, what is the point of making this so difficult? Just so you have to do what they recommend in the manual, which is take it to an Apple store and have one of their technicians, who probably "graduated" to that job from being a member of the Best Buy Geek Squad, do the same thing and charge you a pretty penny for it? It is not rocket science.. it is very easy to do this IF you have the right tools, which I would say nearly everyone doesn't. The same operations on a PC-based laptop could be easily accomplished as well, and I'd say nearly everyone already has the necessary phillips screwdriver needed for the task.

But I realize that doesn't make Apple evil. So why the title of this blog post?

Because Apple tries to make it seem like they are the "good guys." Like they are against the grain and are not a big, evil corporation but believe me, they are one of the biggest and they have an excellent marketing plan that reeks of greedy capitalist big evil corporationism. What makes an Apple laptop worth more than twice as much as any other laptop with similar specs? It certainly isn't the construction or materials. Sure, they look nice and perform well but not to the tune of being 2x more expensive. Their stuff is made in China just like pretty much everything else. Same holds true for any other Apple product.

When it comes to being sneaky, Apple has Microsoft beat hands down. If you think you are being "different" by buying Apple, you are truly buying into exactly what their marketing team wants you to do, and for that I must congratulate them. But in reality, Apple is no different from any other huge corporation that wants their hands on your wallet as much as possible.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

nooooooooooo

First of all, welcome to the long weekend. I hope to be posting some stuff over the next few days. Today is pretty short and to the point. Here is the MOST STUPID THING OF THE DAY, MAYBE THE YEAR, MAYBE EVEN LONGER:



Why does George Lucas feel he has to keep ruining things by adding nonsense like what a 5 year old would do to try and be funny by dubbing a voice into a scene? I guess it isn't only our government that meddles too much to the detriment of everyone. Sigh...

George, you shoulda asked us first.. then we would have told you:

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!