Sunday, August 28, 2005


Our munkarp futon mattress, $145 from ikea, developed a hole after only a few months of use. The futon frame has poorly designed cast-iron legs that poked right through it. We tried nylon tape, and of course duct tape, but neither stopped the hole from growing to a gash.

We’re always finding foam chunks from the mattress around the apartment, making it seem like the whole stupid sofa/bed/futon was kaput after less than a year. I know ikea furniture is disposable, but come on, this is nuts.

As I proposed actually sewing a patch over the cut (which would have been a sitcom-worthy disaster) Mrlittlepants had the bright idea of using an iron-on patch. Of course! And K-mart would have that, if they have anything.

K-mart employees don’t think the store stocks iron-on patches — in fact they’re amused by the idea of it. Well they do have them, among other sewing merchandise oddly placed at check-out aisle 12 (go get ’em!). If it holds, feel free to call me Patches. (If it doesn’t hold, you’d best shut your mouth.)

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Apple makes nice. I make mean.

Our quirky iMac G5 had a little smoking problem back in April. It took weeks to fix, and I did my best to pressure the company into some kind of compensation but was briskly rebuffed.

Thousands of smoking iMacs later, Apple has come to their senses and is offering a partially extended warranty (it only covers the most poorly designed components). I’m thrilled about the protection, but even more exciting is the opportunity to get my revenge on a certain pencil pusher:

August 20, 2005

Patrick Ekstrand
Corporate Executive Relations
1 Infinite Loop
Cupertino, CA 95014

Dear Mr. Ekstrand,

I am delighted to learn of the “iMac G5 Repair Extension Program for Video and Power Issues.” As my own iMac G5 had an overheating and smoking problem in March — a “power issue” you could say — I am relieved to see that repairs will be covered if the problem returns in the next year and two months.

Such a repair extension is exactly what I was asking for when I contacted you via the Better Business Bureau last April. In my opinion (though I am only a software programmer), a computer that has overheated to the point of visible smoke has a greater future risk of failure from partially damaged components. Furthermore, it is exceedingly rare for desktop computers to overheat. Such a serious malfunction suggests that multiple components were poorly designed and may prove faulty later.

(Please see attached copy of your response.)

Following your refusal of any compensation, I was particularly troubled by your last remark, “Apple considers this matter closed.” What callous arrogance! I suppose you can consider any matter you want closed, but if you sell enough people smoking computers, those matters have a way of opening themselves up again.

Thanks for the repair extension, and good luck closing other matters that cross your desk.

The Smug Doctor Barnett

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

S.F. : Safe for homophobes

Waiting for Song 2022, I was lucky to overhear this snippet from the gentleman pictured, on the left:

I was expecting to see a lot of gay shit, you know, the gay boys, but it wasn’t too bad.

From the jumble of announcements I understood the next flight to be destined for Salt Lake. (The people had just arrived, and, well, plainly weren’t from New York.)

Great, a bunch of fat mormons literally talking shit about gays on their way out of San Francisco of all places. Why come? Why leave the trailer? Why come to tour a city when you hate city life? I should have given them a last-minute drag performance, but instead I snapped this photo and plotted weblog vengeance.

As I boarded the plane later I noticed the next flight was in fact for Atlanta, in my home state. Ahh, Georgie, you’re often on my mind. Each time I thank gay god I live so far from your borders.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005


I think that Song is the future of air travel, at least for common people. We flew them to s.f. last weekend. Somehow we ended up with $200 (tax included) round-trip tickets. That’s not typical even for Song — thanks though!

I’ve never flown JetBlue. They’re one of those “cheap” airlines that always seems to be underpriced by a traditional airline. Every time I fly one of their routes I can find a ticket on Delta or American conspicuously priced $20 less. For this trip, at least I was able to try out the JetBlue-inspired Delta division.

Song is the happy ending, the barely missed catastrophe in deregulated air travel’s long degradation in service. Over the past few decades, and particularly after September 2001, we’ve watched as tickets became cheaper, meals sparser, and flight attendants bitchier. (Can you believe it? At some point it becomes theater.)

Nobody’s been very happy in coach class for at least a decade. The consolation is a cheap ticket, the fact that you’re taking a trip you wouldn’t have been able to afford in the old days. Air travel had become a painful but necessary stress-test on wings. Mentally, you had to shut down for the duration and think about Buddha (or your deity of choice).

Coach class used to feel like welfare. You’d sit around, trying to be patient, waiting for First Class’s proper service to terminate so airline employees could toss some pretzels at you. The handout wasn’t much, but dammit, you were entitled to it!

Song is proof that, in the sky too, capitalism is better than its alternatives. Nobody’s entitled to nuthin’ except television, a quiz game, and beverages. (They say this, in similarly careless language, as you’re preparing for takeoff.) Flight Attendants, for the first time in years, are forced to be convincingly cheerful beyond row 10 in order to sell snacks and meals. They hand out menus, hawk “food items” as they walk by, and you start to hate them a little less just because they’re trying. Up front, there isn’t even a first class section to resent. Suddenly, the plane just feels lighter.

Beyond à la carte food (quelle idée), it’s nice to see some useless old customs rightfully abandoned. Much of the language you hear over Song’s loud (no, really, LOUD) speakers has been updated for the 21st century. They’re still reading from a script, but the script is so cheeky and unprofessional that it’s obvious to everyone — yes, even flight attendants — that a little improvisation will not bring the plane down in flames. Tray tables in your “upright and locked position,” may you rest in peace.

I didn’t buy anything in either direction on the trip. We took p.b. sandwiches with us on the way out, and coming home I had eaten a big french toast breakfast to sustain me. Most people on the plane didn’t buy anything. The nice thing is, it’s up to you. If you think airline food is lousy (or, Buddha help us, you have a special diet) you can silently meditate the $7 you saved instead of complaining to everyone about it.

Mrlittlepants, incidentally, has different ideas about Song. (He returned one day prior and suffered weather delays.) He’s right about what happened to him, but mark my words: all hoi polloi air travel is going to look more and more like Song, and this polloi is glad for it.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Face it, tipping sucks

Thanks to A. K. Brown (a.k.a. Pragmatist) for drawing my attention to this story. Pragmatist doesn’t support my anti-tipping jihad but was kind enough to send it anyway. I hate to be a francosnob, but consider the alternative to tipping:
The best service in the Western world is at the Michelin three-star restaurants of Europe, where a service charge replaces tipping. As a customer, it’s certainly pleasant to dine in France, where the menu prices are “service compris,” representing actual totals, including the price of food, taxes and service.
You're damn right it's pleasant. Well, ok, I can’t really afford three-star, but all restaurants in the hex operate that way. This is one thing they do right and we do wrong. (Unlike, say, personal finance.)

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Coming soon: extreme cheap living

Mrlittlepants has left his fancy PR job for something quite a bit more interesting on Broadway between Broome and Grand. Welcome to the neighborhood! Of course this will mean diving even further into moins cher living, if that’s possible. What’s early married life though, without being able to bore everyone a decade later with endless references to “pancakes for dinner?”

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Skype is ready for normal people

News flash: It’s become slightly easier to make phone calls with Skype and an iMac than it was for E.T. to beam a Speak ’n’ Spell message to outer space. This is a good thing, since I moved my cellphone to prepay and we don’t have a landline. (Come on Verizon, $35 a month minimum for a dumb phone line? $50 install? Who are you kidding?)

I’ve been trying to use Skype on the Mac for a year now and I remember the thankless reception early versions had for not making use of OS X’s built-in Bluetooth. (Or so we thought... turns plenty of bugs were built in to OS X Bluetooth as well.) At some point bt support was added to Skype, but it didn’t work consistently. After a few more months of updates to both Skype and OS X, thinks work pretty smoothly.

Mrlittlepants has a Motorola Bluetooth headset that he uses with his V600. Some time ago we paired it with the iMac and told Skype to use it, back in the day when nothing worked. But now, when we want to make a call, we disable the V600’s Bluetooth, make sure the headset is on, and dial. It works every time. 2 cents a minute! Pretty damn cool, if you ask me. Call quality is better than a cell phone but with a worse delay; all in all, it’s good enough.

Funny that now that the Skype and Bluetoooth hype has died down, the technologies are actually useful.