Fairly Symmetrical

February 2003 Archives

09:48 AM by Eric: On-demand back catalog production Culture | Music | Tech

Stumbled across an interesting post at Blogcritics today: Blogcritics: How to Keep Inventory Down but Keep Rare Items in Stock? CD-R's, in which Eric Olsen notes a news story about the Smithsonian Institute's novel* method for keeping inventory down without allowing any items to go out of print:

When the Smithsonian Institution bought Folkways from the Asch estate in 1987, the museum agreed to keep every title in print. Initially, requests for rare, out-of-stock albums were fulfilled with dubbed cassettes.

Now, music fans hankering for "Burmese Folk and Traditional Music" from 1953 can pay $19.95 and receive a CD-R "burned" with the original album, along with a standard cardboard slipcase that includes a folded photocopy of the original liner notes.

This idea is very similar to something I posted about last October, in reference to the Internet Bookmobile. It's also quite similar to an idea I had for a revamp of music sales.

Our Barnes & Noble doesn't have a music section, which annoys me. Ordinarily, today I would stop by on the way home and buy Dar Williams' new CD there, but as they don't have a music section, in order to use our Reader's Advantage discount we had to preorder the disc from the website… which means waiting for it to ship. It seems to me that there's an easy way for B&N to set up a music section in a very small section of the store and yet have a complete inventory—by burning the CDs on demand. (I swear I've posted about this before, but I cannot find the post.)

I hate walking into a music store and finding that they don't have the CD I want; a just-in-time delivery model would make that a thing of the past.

* Okay, not really novel, if they've been doing this since 1996. But it's not mainstream or expected.

03:05 PM by Eric: Weekend update and random thoughts Personal

The snow this weekend reminded me what it must have been like for people in ages past in the winter—stuck inside all day with no way to go anywhere interesting. Of course, they didn't have the Internet (not even the sad, fitful remnants of the Internet that DirecTV DSL's decomposing network can bring us, one heroic packet at a time), or electric lighting, or cable TV, so it's not like we were suffering exorbitantly or anything.

Sunday we performed our monthly clean-the-apartment ritual. It always looks very nice for all of about two hours, and then inevitably someone makes food and it's all over but the crying.

On the plus side, the food that "someone" made turned out really well: homemade oven fries (a.k.a. potato wedges) and grilled veggie dogs. They were so good I had the rest of the oven fries as a late-night snack. :) I must remember that recipe. Maybe I'll even write it down. :-P

About that whole Internet thing: I want to lay this all out so that if some future potential exploiteecustomer of Charter happens to check Google, maybe they'll be forewarned. We called Charter perhaps a half-dozen times over the last two weeks (after being assured that someone would figure out what was going on and call us back, and failing to do that for ten days or so). Each time we were told a supervisor would call us back. A couple of times they even did, but they never had any new information. Finally we started "getting hostile". This is a fairly time-honored tradition in my family; we tend to be pretty mild over the phone, but at some point we start getting irritated. After being told three times in two days that a manager would call us back within 2 hours (this after being told no, of course we couldn't just call up and expect to get a supervisor on the line, what did we think we were, valued customers?) and having them call back not once, I got a little testy on the phone. (I don't like to do this, because I worked with tech support guys for a while, and they're just some poor fucker sitting in a chair reading from a set of scripts for $5 an hour. But Charter earned it. Having been directly lied to, in person and on the phone, multiple times annoys me.) So I asked to verify that we owed Charter no money (we did at some point manage to get them to admit that if some other assholecustomer on their network was currently using the modem we were alleged to have, we couldn't very well have it and ought not be charged for it), I asked (well, demanded) that our account be terminated. The tech told me the single most astonishing thing in this entire parade of astonishing idiocy: he told me our account had already been terminated. So instead of actually trying to figure out why one of their alleged $250 cable modems was not where they thought it was, and instead of just giving us another goddamn modem and making $35 a month off us, and rather than just calling us back the first time and telling us to kiss off, they made us call them a rough total of twenty times and spend hours on the phone and in person harassing them. Charter Pipeline has got to be the most incompetently, amorally run enterprise I've ever heard of—Enron at least was halfway clever about stealing from their customers! So the short end of the story is this: Charter Pipeline sucks, and we're getting Earthlink DSL instead.

I was reading Penny Arcade and something Tycho said made me laugh in appreciation:

She might vote pro-geek in an election, but she's not a member of the party. It is as though she's come to terms with some disease I have.

This pretty much describes Jen's stance on the matter as well. :)

10:04 AM by Eric: Online photo album Personal

The last few days I've been using gallery to put up our own online photo album. Without further ado, I present: Jenny and Eric's Photos. All of the photos have been taken with the Kodak EasyShare camera we got for Christmas.

10:49 PM by Eric: Comedy Gold Humor

This is comedy gold:

The Arabic for DUCK is BOTTAH
Imagine you cover a duck with butter.

The Arabic for FISH is SAMAKAH
Imagine you smack a fish.

The Arabic for DATE (the FRUIT) is TAMARAH
Imagine wanting a date tomorrow.

A bargain at any price, but it's only $8.75!

09:34 AM by Eric: Squirrel Fishing Current Fruit
12:13 AM by Eric: Adaptation Culture | Movies and TV | Reviews

Jenny notes that we saw Adaptation tonight:

At one point the deus ex machina character tells the fictional Kaufman to at all costs avoid a fucking deus ex machina, and the fur coat brigade hastily whispered to each other, "What's that?" Sigh.

She leaves out the best part, which is that the fellow sitting next to me knew the literal translation of the phrase—"god out of the machine"—and still didn't know what the phrase meant. Didn't these people ever take a high-school level English class, for crying out loud?

Anyway, the movie itself: Very complicated. Almost fractal in a way, in that the major structure of the movie is replicated several times on smaller and smaller scales. I thought it was clever, but I'm not sure if it had any real value aside from pure cleverness (structure-wise, anyway). The ending was very surprising. There were a number of what I felt were fairly profound statements in the movie, but I think the cleverness of its structure might actually have detracted from them—but then, that might have been intentional as well. Who can tell?

03:43 PM by Eric: Dreary Day Personal

Incredibly dreary day. Looking out the window is like sitting in the center of a large, upside down bowl; everything just turns into this white wall a couple hundred yards out. It's a very isolating feeling. On the other hand, sometimes—as when your coworkers have a million change requests for an application you didn't write and were only supposed to be peripherally involved in maintaining—sometimes isolation is a good thing. I know being isolated in our apartment with Jenny, the dogs, and a pot of coffee would be completely delightful, for instance.

10:33 AM by Eric: Programs vs. Data Tech

Ed Felton has an ongoing series of posts about the difference—if any—between "programs" and "data" in modern computing. The distinction, at least in current usage, can be very subtle and not at all intuitive.

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This page was last updated Sun 23 September 2007 at 08:46 AM CDT