Thursday, January 01, 2015

#BestBuy #DNGAF

This is a story about how Best Buy harbors fraudulent sellers, expects the customer to absorb the hassle, cost and inconvenience, and even when the fraud is flat-out admitted by the seller, does not give a quarter f*ck.

Still, what Best Buy has cost me in effort and aggravation is compensated for, at least somewhat, by the humor value.

I purchased a WiFi cam on Best Buy's online store.  The title of the product, in its entirety, is:

AGPtek - TENVIS Wireless Audio Video WIFI Webcam IP Security Camera OSD IR support iPhone Android - White

Before you continue, ask yourself; does this product do "wireless audio?"  Feel free to check out the listing and read all the technical specifications to see if anything clarifies the matter.

Got your answer?  Awesome...

If you answered "yes," you'd be wrong.

On November 12th, I sent Best Buy an email asking if perhaps I was "somehow sent the wrong product" and if so, "how was this listed as having audio capabilities," and if they would be "willing to replace it with a similar camera with audio capabilities?"

Best Buy told me to contact the seller.

I contacted the seller (Mambate) with the same basic query and the reply was, "Here we attached a picture, please plug the audio cable to the port, then it will have audio for the device."

P-p-p-plug in?

I might be a bit old but the "Wi" in WiFi, I'm fairly certain, isn't short for "drill a bunch of holes in your walls to run a cable."

Indeed, the only thing the specifications mention about a cable is:

Connectivity Technology: Cable, Wireless

Indeed, the camera has a WiFi antenna and an ethernet port.  If the audio was wired-only, shouldn't the description read:

Connectivity Technology: Video (Cable, Wireless), Audio (Cable only)

...or perhaps...

Connectivity Technology (Audio): Cable
Connectivity Technology (Video): Cable, Wireless

I replied back to Mambate.

"There's nothing in [the product] description, or the technical specifications, about the audio being capable only with a wired connection.  Therefore, what anyone would reasonably expect to receive is a camera with "wireless audio" capability.  This product does not do what the description claims it does.  Are you willing to replace the camera, without charge, for a model which does provide wireless audio and IR video capability?"

Camille, the Mambate rep, replied:

"This item is wireless ip camera, not wireless audio, as it doesn't come with handsfree speaker itself, the audio cable is needed if you want to get the audio output. Most ip camera needs the audio cable if customer needs audio output, therefore, we don't have correct item you need. Will you keep it or not?"

Now I feel stupid.  I should have known that "Wireless Audio" meant precisely the opposite because "most" wireless cameras need a cable for audio, the description in the listing be damned.  If only two of my friends didn't have WiFi cameras that sent audio wirelessly, I would probably have known that most of them don't do this.

But OK, it's my fault.  Mambate continues:

"If not, here we offer you RMA#, please send the item back to us."

Let's step back for a moment to consider this offer...

I spend an hour or two researching the best camera for my needs, pay for it, have it shipped, unbox it, mount it only to find it doesn't do what Mambate says it does, it's my fault, I should have known and now Mambate thinks the equitable solution is for me unmount it, repack it and ship the camera back at my expense?

I tell the Camille she's delusional for, on top of everything, expecting me to pay for the shipping.

Camille sends me a prepaid mailing label.

I replied back to Best Buy, informing them the seller has admitted, outright, the product doesn't do what the listing says it does and ask two questions:

  1. Can you tell me what standards exist within Best Buy to prevent sellers from using Best Buy's reputation to scam Best Buy's customers?
  2. Is it incumbent upon the buyers to waste their time to discover the scams, or do you have some kind of mechanism for insuring sellers make honest listings and punish ones that don't?
Ram replies.

"I understand that you want this thing will never happen again to any Best Buy customer" and "We are definitely here to help you with any problems you may experience with your Marketplace order. With this, I've documented your concern, and I'm sure they will also make sure that this particular thing will not take place again."

For a reason I just can't put my finger on, Ram's assurances that "they will also make sure that this particular thing will not take place again" doesn't fill me with confidence.

And my questions remain unaddressed.  Not glossed over, just ...ignored.  So I ask again.

Maydel replies, saying Best Buy is there to help and the sellers operating under their name have been approved based upon their reputation.  Apparently, admittedly ads they've placed are not accurate, and not correcting them when told, and blaming me for not knowing better, none of this qualifies as a bearing upon Mambate's "reputation."

What would?  Trafficking in human organs maybe?

But fair enough.  They've answered the question.  The answer doesn't actually match reality but at this point, we'll take what we can get, right?

Maydel does not attempt to answer the second question about what mechanism exists for forcing sellers to correct fraudulent listings or discipline fraudulent sellers for making them.  But we've got Ram's assurances that he's sure this particular thing will not take place again which is nice.

Maydel offers a 800 number if I've been unable to resolve the issue with my order.  But Mambate has offered to take the item back which (a) Best Buy will clearly consider a resolution and (b) my problem is no longer with Mambate, my problem is with Best Buy.

I replied back to Best Buy asking how they intend to deal with the fraudulent listing which still exists on Best Buy's page.

Jadra replied with instructions on how to get in touch with the seller.


Conclusion: If you're considering purchasing from Best Buy's website, realize that you could very well pay for it, receive it and drill holes in your wall before you realize it doesn't do what the listing said it did and Best Buy will tell you to cast your eyes upon the field in which they grow all the f*cks they give.

And it is barren.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Wittlebee CEO Cancels Accounts Of Critics and Allegedly Threatens Them, Too

An Open Letter to the CEO of Wittlebee, a subscription clothing club for kids.


Dear Sean,

As the stay-at-home father of a newborn, I find myself suddenly interested in what you do.

Unfortunately, the spectacle you've made of yourself in attempting to quash complains about your company and service (which appears to have suffered catastrophically as of late) guarantee my money will not be spent with your company.

Congratulations on managing to alienate customers before you've had any contact with them whatsoever.

Also, I noticed that you promised to cancel the account of *anyone* associated with that group. In doing so you've managed to prevent critics from buying from you, who wouldn't buy from you in any case, as well as your supporters, which is an impressive method of turning supporters into critics.

Well played, sir! Telling people who have already quit that they are fired requires a lack of business accumen I didn't realize was possible.

Welcome to social media.

Jason Desjardins

PS: I completely forgot to mention that I'm an infant-through-pre-K photographer with a really, really large national chain.  I talk to thousands of parents, teachers and directors every year and when the subject of clothes comes up (and it always does), I'll be bringing up Wittlebee, cherrypicked review pages and alleged 12am phone calls threatening to "destroy" critics.

I realize, of course, that it's easy to claim I conveniently have this kind of access to Wittlebee's demographic so here's proof.

You'll notice that I do not list pre-K photography on my site, my contract forbids competing with my employer.

If there is still doubt that I photograph this age professionally:

Sean, your attempt to threaten honest criticism of your business just cost you a ton of money.  You, *personally*, and that's before one even considers what the people I talk to tell their friends.  I really hope someday you look at your actions and think, "boy, THAT was a good idea!"

But somehow I doubt it.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Basic Math, the Fiscal Cliff and Entitlement Reform

Was just listening to Matt Miller, moderator of KCRW's Left, Right and Center podcast (and a guy I normally agree with).  In addressing the fiscal cliff, and the perceived insanity of not reforming the so-called "entitlement programs," he complains:

"It's not widely understood that people get back many many many more dollars in benefits than they actually paid into the system, so the typical -- I'm working on a column on this now -- typical medical beneficiaries maybe paid in $120-$140k into the program during their lifetime get back $350k." if the government shoves your money under a mattress and it does nothing for the 47 years you pay into the system.

The math of this isn't complex.

Let's use $130k for the amount paid into the system, that's right in the middle of his quoted range.  Divide that into the forty seven years that beneficiary pays into that system, that's $2,765 per year the average individual pays into the system.

The Dow Jones average has gone from 880 in 1965 to 13,025 in 2012.  That's an increase of 1,400%, or 14x.  In other words, if you'd invested $1 into the DJIA index itself -- which is not an individual company but a stock which reflects the market as a whole -- today you'd have $14, which puts the rate of increase around 5.65% per year.

Keep in mind that this 1,400% return spans 1966 through 1984 where the DJIA literally didn't move, the Savings and Loan collapse of 1988 and the the Bush presidency where the market opened 2000 at 13,113 and closed out Bush's term at 12,800.  Some years were better, some were worse, but if you simply started with $1 in 1965, you'd have $14 in 2012.

So now we take that $2,765, put it in the bank at 5.65% per year (I won't even compound it monthly, this is simple interest) and repeat for 47 years, here's the year-end balances:

1975: $42,938.25
1985: $112,271.22
1995: $232,396.62
2005: $440,524.30
2012: $671,486.69

So Miller is complaining that people pay $130k into the system, the government pays out $350k then pockets the remaining $321k?

Somehow this is a system that needs REFORM by way of LESS benefits for citizens?

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Where You're At

Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, surrogate for the Romney campaign, fiercely shot back at Mitt Romney’s claim Wednesday that President Barack Obama outmatched the 2012 Republican presidential nominee by offering "gifts" to African-Americans, Hispanics and young voters.

"I absolutely reject that notion. ... I don't think that represents where we are as a party and where we're going as a party. ... That has got to be one of the most fundamental takeaways from this election."

Actually, Bobby, if there's any takeaway to be had, this view of the 47% is PRECISELY where you are today as a party.

That's why you lost.

I know there's a lot of navel gazing going on but isn't that a given? Isn't that your jumping-off point, not what remains to be discerned?

As for where you're heading, you're right, but what it implies for your party is disastrous. It's spectacular irony that party of global warming deniers, and whose electorate deeply rejects the mechanics of evolution, faces certain destruction by being unwilling and unable to adopt systemic changes because you fear those corrections will kill your party just as assuredly.

The problem your party faces comes from a built-in inerrancy doctrine, all truths obtained by way of God or Reagan and not necessarily in that order. It's truth and, as such, it's set in stone and not open for interpretation or debate. It's the opposite of "big tent" which, until now, has been your bedrock. You have employed a single, comforting, cogent message to great effect for decades while Democrats, seeking to be a voice for many different views, have largely been unable to offer a coherent counter message.

Now this bedrock, this unyielding lump of divinely-inspired conservative principle, stands to be your undoing. What substantive platform modifications can you make that will not cause your base to exodus? Immigration reform? Reproductive rights? Progressive taxation?

If you replace a Mercedes Benz, part-by-part, with a Jeep, at what point does it become a Jeep?

If you replace the GOP policy with Democratic policy, at what point does the GOP become the Democratic party?

Evangelical leader Gary Bauer argues that the election loss was due to a party too focused on appealing to moderate voters.

"I think it's due, at least in part, to folks in our party that seem intent on attacking the fact that we're the conservative party in the United States. ... There's no yearning by the American people for a second pro-abortion party. I mean, we've already got one of those."

The Republican party has two options; do what they've been doing and enjoying the same results, or internecine civil war.

Bobby, I can give you two guesses as two which path the GOP leadership takes but you're only going to need one.


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Oh, That's Just My Day Job

"Power to the people Marty."
"Power to the people, Coz."

- Sneakers

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Back Yonder

Brings whole new meaning to "Big Gulp," dunnit?

What It Said vs. What It Means

Accuser of Elmo Puppeteer Recants

I nearly had a haht attahk when I saw the accusation, beyond glad to see Clash has been vindicated.

Opposite Day

"I have been ambivalent about the immigration issue for many years. But the vote this week was extremely racially polarized, and deliberately so. Sixty-two percent of whites voted for Romney. Ninety percent of black voters and 71% of Hispanic voters went for Obama. That’s how the race groups working for the Democrat Party want it. They are very very effective at keeping the races politically polarized."

     - J. Christian Adams, writer for PJMedia and election lawyer who served in the Voting Rights Section at the U.S. Department of Justice

That's rich.

Despite an election that should have taught conservatives that the electorate does not share their views, nor does it reject Obama in apocalyptic terms like they do, the wingnuts continue to perceive their universe not how it actually exists but how they'd like for it to be.

"Racially polarized" means ethnic groups were either sharply for or against a candidate and yet Obama was popular among whites, blacks, hispanics and asians.

56% of Obama's support came from whites, 25% from Black, 14% from Latino and 4% from Asian.

On the other hand, 42.5% of Romney's 48.1% of the vote count was from white voters, so a stunning 88% of Romney's support was white. In fact, Romney had less support from all non-white voters combined than Obama had from Latinos alone.

Only in right-win la-la land can a candidate with virtually non-existant cross-ethnic appeal NOT be the polarizing figure.

Only in right-wing la-la land is the party that appealed broadly across the ethnic spectrum the one engaging in race polarization politics.

Monday, November 12, 2012


I love it when a plan comes together.

Obama Kuti

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Saturday, November 10, 2012

A 'lil Ole Fashioned Public Humiliation for the Plebes

Is it fair?

I don't recall Bernie Maddoff having to wear a sandwich board in front of anyone or anything. In fact I don't EVER recall seeing anyone making more than $50k/yr ever being sentenced to public humiliation in the United States, have you?

Money doesn't talk, it f*cking yodels, kids, and a lack of money is a target painted on your backside.

Justice might be blind but it can tell the difference between a nickel and a benjamin with its eyes shut, that's for sure.


There's been a lot of shit going around about a number of employers either attempting to "educate" their employees as to the disastrous policies of the Obama administration and now, upon his re-election, firing them, or simply targeting specific employees for their vote.

I was surprised to learn that this is not illegal. Sorta.

Setting aside class protections which may exists in a few scattered states, Federal Law 18 USC § 594 reads:

"Whoever intimidates, threatens, coerces, or attempts to intimidate, threaten, or coerce, any other person for the purpose of interfering with the right of such other person to vote or to vote as he may choose, or of causing such other person to vote for, or not to vote for, any candidate for the office of President, Vice President, Presidential elector, Member of the Senate, Member of the House of Representatives, Delegate from the District of Columbia, or Resident Commissioner, at any election held solely or in part for the purpose of electing such candidate, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than one year, or both."

Since the law makes it illegal to influence a vote, which necessarily must happen before the voting date occurs, my reading of the law is that firing a person for voting a particular way, or failing to vote a particular way, would not be illegal.

Intimating one would or might fire an employee for voting for a particular candidate, or failing to vote for a particular candidate, regardless of whether or not the threat was consummated, would be illegal.

This is important because the burden of proof is not upon the employee to prove whether the firing was related to the vote, which is obviously difficult to prove. Rather, it hinges upon the threat before the fact, which might be difficult to prove but is an action on the part of the employer as opposed to a state of mind of that employer.

Whether or not a statement like "If Obama is elected I will have to let some people go" is vague enough to get away with, I don't know, but the sheer number of conservatives who are full-on giddy at the attempt to tamper with democracy is disturbing. This is not a handfull of wingnuts, there are literally thousands of Republicans in ONE thread on ONE facebook page not only defending the tactic but encouraging more of it.

I find it difficult to imagine something more central to the American ethos than the right to vote, unmolested, nor would I be engaging in demagoguery by suggesting those who would champion such a tactic be summarily rounded up and deposited just past the border.

Having found ours lacking, perhaps they can coerce each other into a more perfect union.

Thursday, November 08, 2012


"You know your party is in trouble when people ask did the rape guy win, and you have to ask which one?"

     - Alec Baldwin

Red Pill

I've been so jacked into the post-election right wingnut media stream that today I got into my car, picked up the headphone end of my cassette adapter and tried to plug it into my ear. The 1/8" PLUG FFS. I haven't heard Elia laugh that hard in weeks.

Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Somebody Get The Hose

Et Tu, Romney?

The Romney camp has knives out for Chris Christie. What did he do, exactly? Oh, right, he treated Obama like his party didn't matter, like a guy trying to protect his constituents would act toward another guy who helped him do it.

What's that called again? It's on the tip of my tongue ...

Oh, right, BIPARTISANSHIP. Something the Romney camp swore they'd be FOR.

I do not think that word means what they think it means.

Remember all that gushing adoration for the people on the streets post-Sandy, about how they didn't ask each other if they were Republican or Democrat, they just pitched in to help their fellow man and were grateful for whatever help they got?

Now we eviscerate our politicians for thinking about nothing but what the country needs and we have the chutzpah to wonder why they never f*cking do it?

We wonder what's wrong with the country.

What's wrong with it is US.


An all-but-one sweep of the swing states. Once Florida is tabulated, 332 to 206. A 126-vote lead in the electoral college is not a mere blowout, it's a veritable beating.

The popular vote was within 2.5m but let's not forget why we have the electoral college; it prevents a candidate with lopsided regional popularity -- for example, massively popular in the north and the opposite in the south -- from being elected, thereby failing to represent a full half of the country.

It forces candidates to have broad appeal. It forces a candidate to represent the centrist interests and values of the country at large.

This leads us to the obvious question, "What are these interests and values?"

Same sex marriage amendments pass in Maine and Maryland, the first states to do so by vote and not legislation or court order. Minnesota voters shoot down a same-sex constitutional amendment.

Marijuana flat-out legalized in Washington and Colorado.

And Obama elected in a landslide.

Yet somehow conservative talk radio is awash with two interpretations of the election results; Obama doesn't have a mandate and the electorate wants more conservatism.

Let them keep thinking it. When you do not see something clearly, what you perceive as a solution is often just digging the hole deeper. Samsara.

This election was brought to you by the words "Tea" and "Party" and the conservative fetishization of party purity.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Goodnight, Farewell auf Wiedersehen Goodbye Pt 2

Goodnight, Farewell auf Wiedersehen Goodbye Pt 1

Well CNN and Fox can take their slow-ass time calling this one, I have less obvious things that need attending-to.

Romney's hold on Florida looks like an ICBM and I'm talking about the "ballistic" part, no so much on the "intercontinental." Seriously. Looks just like of one of those cherub statues peeing in a koi pond, which is just ripe with metaphor, all things considered.

Ohio is 10% which means the transaction fee to sell is more than the worth of the stock.

Colorado is down to 36%.

Wisconsin is 11% after a brief rally.

Stick a fork in it kids, this party is done. If you still want moar, tune into the wingnut talk radio circular firing squad, I predict some full-bore freakouts in 3, 2, 1...

The Ohio Lynchpin

Jumping Jehosophat.

Florida bricked 12%, now a full-blown toss-up at 50% for Romney. If Obama takes Florida there is literally no path for Romney. Game over.

Romney picked up 11% in Ohio, now 30%, so not terribly disconcerting.

Virginia picked up 20% in Virginia, flipping what WAS 40% into 60%. Virginia has 13 votes.

Iowa dropped 7%, now 26%. Romney is probably dead in the water.

New Hampshire dropped 10%, now 22%, also probably DOA to the Republican column.

So here's the breakdown and I'm going to try to make this as simple as possible, which is not exactly easy...

If we make one simple set of assumptions -- that Obama takes Wisconsin (10 votes), Iowa (6), Nevada (6) and New Hampshire (4), Mitt Romney MUST win Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia and Colorado.

Romney's numbers in each of these states:

Florida: 50%
Ohio: 30%
North Carolina: 80%
Virginia: 60%
Colorado: 46%

Since I took the last numbers and wrote all this, Romney has cratered to 17% in Ohio (ie, not reflected in the graph below). I could rewrite it all with new numbers but then they'd be wrong by the time I was done and f*ck that.

From "Unlikely" to "GFY"

Jesus. Big moves.

Bad for Romney:

Florida: -8%
Ohio: -13%
Wisconsin: -11%
Iowa: -14%

Good for Romney:

New Hampshire: +7%

This puts Florida MAYBE back in play and pushes Virginia and Iowa from "maybe" into "gfy" territory.

It's not impossible this could shift to Romney's favor but the big EC states (Pennsylvania, Ohio) aren't anywhere close and not trending and the smaller EC states need to break in clusters that seem to be even less likely.

The numbers.

Options Narrowing for Romney

Romney is making some threatening inroads but it doesn't look to be enough, even if we give him a lot of benefit of the doubt, as it were.

I think it's a foregone conclusion that Florida and North Carolina go to Romney.

If we also concede Virginia (46%), Colorado (46%) AND Iowa (47%), that still puts him at 263 electoral votes.

At 263, neither Nevada nor New Hampshire can put him over the top (only 6 and 4 electoral college votes, respectively) and the remaining states in play are all but confirmed for Obama; Pennsylvania (14%), Ohio (32%), Michigan (10%), Wisconsin (24%), Minnesota (9%).

Here's the latest numbers.

Betfair Tanks

The odds Betfair is laying for Romney just dropped off a cliff, -6% in the couse of a few minutes.

Markets Beginning to Pivot

Looks like some change is showing up in the numbers, albeit minor so far. All of these numbers are from Romney's perspective.

Specifically, Pennsylvania is -4% but that's not terribly significant, we're talking 19.6 => 15.8. Tho Ryan is on the phone right now telling Hannity that Pennsylvania is "in play."

Colorado is -4.8%, 44.9% => 40.1%.

Wisconsin is +4.2%, 20.2% => 24.4%.

Numbers Update

Decided to change things up a wee bit for my 3pm update. Nothing dramatic, I've just now got states with more electoral votes being a darker shade of blue.

This is from Romney's perspective.

Free Markets Hate the GOP, Apparently

Not much has changed since this morning.

InTrade has Obama with 305 EV's, Romney with 235.

Romney still looks likely to take Florida (68.3%) and North Carolina (80.0%) but Romney is down 19.1% in Colorado and down 14.3% in Virginia. Everywhere else there's a 20% gap or greater.

Romney is down a jaw-dropping 39.8% in Ohio.

But every year I make the mistake of following election day from the moment I get up and I should know by now to not look at anything until about 3pm at the earliest. =)

Here's the Election Markets on the swing states updated every 60 seconds.

Pinnacle Drops Out, Geraldo Verbally Pats Woman on the Ass

Pinnacle just dropped off the map, no longer accepting wagers and so they will not be included in future graphs.

On a humorous note, I just heard Geraldo Rivera say goodbye to a guest on his show and added "...and you're easy on the eyes."

What year is this again?

Election Markets: Gap Between Candidates Now Exceeds 50%

We're seeing the overseas books keeping on with their steady, less-volatile march toward Obama.

The domestic books are breaking hard to catch up over the last two days; IEM moved sharply yesterday and is evening out, InTrade's move is less sharp but prolonged.

The difference between the two candidates passed 50% yesterday with the current span at 53.7%.

As far as EC goes, Mitt looks very strong in Florida and a lock in North Carolina but the only other swing state where Romney is within 20% of Obama in Virginia (40.1% vs. 60.0%).

If we assume Romney takes NC and VA and the rest go to Obama, that's 235, leaving Romney 35 short. That's going to be a challenge.

All graphics today will be the same data for 11/5 and earlier with 11/6 data changing.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Markets > Polls

The free markets have not been kind to the free marketer today.

The gap between Romney and Obama widened 3-10% depending on who you're looking at.

As for the Electoral College and Romney's path to 270, he's looking strong in Florida and North Carolina, an underdog within striking distance in Colorado (-5%) and Virginia (-12%) but literally, that's it.

Everywhere else he's a 2:1 dog.

If the markets are accurate, and they are notoriously difficult to beat, then this race is over. I'm not counting anything until know, whenever the Supreme Court picks a winner, but I'll take markets over polls any day of the week.

Fluid Like Dogsh*t on a Vermont Doorstep in December


Where We Started

As of 2pm, slight edge toward Romney, current numbers are about the same when I started @ 8am.

Rush Limbaugh: Cannot Bring Himself to Admit Obama Killed bin Laden

Maybe it's all the Oxycontin.

Rush Limbaugh freaks out about Obama's job approval ratings in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and how Obama's ratings haven't been this high since ...since ...lord, Rush just can't remember when they were this high...

Rush Limbuagh: Politicians That Come Out Of Ohio Are/Have "Dry Balls?"

Rush Limbaugh is losing his mind, it's pretty awesome.

For example, just now he said politicians that come out of Ohio have "dry balls." I have no idea what that means but it's funny.

Non Update Update

The numbers have shifted by a whopping 0.5%. Not much to report.

Imus: Dick Morris Has Been in the Back of the Hotel with a Dog Collar On With a Hooker

Don Imus upon hearing that Dick Morris has predicted Romney by a landslide:

"That boy's been back in the hotel with a dog collar on. By the hooker. C'mon dude. That boy's lost his mind."

It's gonna be a fun day...

Election Markets Overnight

I'll be tracking the election markets hourly and probably posting every 3-4 hours.

Overnight there were some changes, most dramatic, one mild, all benefitting Obama.

Changes in terms of gap between the candidates:

InTrade: +7.2%
IEM: +1.1%
Betfair: +10.4%
Pinnacle: 9.9%

And overnight, Art Garfunkel turned 71.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

GOP Acts to Disenfranchise Voters in Ohio

To all those who naively believe -- or intentionally pretend -- that the GOP push for Voter ID laws isn't about disenfranchising voters (that'd be you, @), we have more obvious and patently anti-democratic tactics from the GOP in Ohio.

A few weeks ago, Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted successfully reduced early-voting weekends from one to five. Why? Because early voting on the weekends helps blue collar workers who might otherwise not be able to vote. A last-minute decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals forced Husted to reinstate the last weekend.


Last Friday, at 6pm -- the last possible moment such an order could have been executed -- Husted issued a directive contrary to his own standard in how ballots are accepted.

In short, the standard Husted endorsed, and the process Ohio agreed to in a consent decree, declares that if a ballot is missing the type of ID used to verify the identity of the voter, the poll worker fills in this information.


Ohio Rev. Code § 3505.181(B)(6) provides that, once a voter casting a provisional ballot proffers identification, "the appropriate local election official shall record the type of identification provided, the social security number information, the fact that the affirmation was executed, or the fact that the individual declined to execute such an affirmation and include that information with the transmission of the ballot . . . ."

The directive Husted entered at the last minute was to require that the voter enter this information themselves. Now, if the ballot is information is missing, the ballot worker fills in nothing, the poll worker does nothing, the information is missing and the ballot is not counted

But, you know, Republicans ONLY concern is that no voter fraud transpires.


Election Market Numbers for November 4, 2012

Your 2012 Election Market numbers for the Sunday, November 4th, 2012.

We're beginning to see a bit of a rift between the US-based markets; Intrade moved 2% in Romney's direction, IEM did just the opposite.

The pro sports books have remained stable for the last two days.

The graph doesn't reflect this but Intrade has had the Electoral College at 281 for Obama, 235 for Romney every day except one (10/27). In the last three days, Obama's count has bumped to 290 thanks to Colorado occasionally moving from "tossup" to "leaning democrat."

Obama is averaging 72%, Romney is averaging 28%, a 46% spread with a little over two days left until the polling stations close.


Saturday, November 03, 2012

Election Market Numbers for November 3, 2012

Your 2012 Election Market numbers for the day.

The pro books edged slightly toward Romney, the academic markets didn't move much.

Obama is averaging 72.1%, Romney is averaging 28.1, a 44% spread.

Friday, November 02, 2012

Buckyballs Banned


For F*ck's Sake, Postpone the NYC Marathon


The decision to divert critical resources (generators, police) from the rescue effort to the NYC Marathon is unconscionable.

What the hell is Bloomberg thinking?

I'm going to roll that back a little, Ed Koch just got on the air and defended the continuation of the marathon, apparently there is no shortage of generators, they're readily available.

I'm not unsympathetic to the argument that the marathon acts as a morale boost.

I'm still skeptical the police can't be used, however, I just got a dispatch from a fb friend saying they need people to monitor emergency work sites, direct traffic, etc.

Post Despondency

Today's Election Market numbers.

I've changed the colors up a bit to make differentiating between them easier.

IEM has joined the professional books in tanking Romney, only InTrade is holding the line, three of the four markets dropping the GOP challenger 2.5-3% over night.

The wingnuts have skipped from denial right to depression, completely skipping anger and bargaining in the K├╝bler-Ross Stages of Grief.  I think they're going to slip back to anger in the final 48 hours.

High-Speed Photography Turns Water Droplets Into Liquid Sculptures

Seems ham-handed to mention Harold Edgerton but it also seems inappropriate to not.

Unemployment Steady, Conservatives Weep

Remember when the September jobs report came out, 114,000 jobs added, unemployment at 7.8%, the lowest in Obama's presidency, and conservatives had themselves a temper tantrum, claiming "these Chicago guys" (Obama & surrogates) had pressured the Bureau of Labor Statistics to put out bunk numbers?

October numbers out today, conservatives were certain those numbers would expose the lie.  Unemployment is at 7.9%, 171,000 jobs added.  This is nothing to cheer about to be sure but I'm listening to Don Imus and he sounds so deflated.

Haven't heard a single one even mention the September accusations much less hear the party of personal responsibility acknowledge the accusation was bullshit.

Christie Destroys Fox's Doocy, Samantha Bee Air Jerks on Jon Stewart

One of the best Daily Show clips in recent memory.

Steve Doocy of Fox News hopefully and impolitically suggests to Chris Christie -- governor of New Jersey, 2012 GOP Convention Keynote Speaker and Romney surrogate -- that Romney might "do some storm-related events" with Christie.

Christie destroys him on the spot and tells Doocy precisely what he thinks of political grandstanding when 2.4m of his constituents are suffering.

In boxing terms, Doocy would have been out cold before his head hit the canvas.

Plus we get the bonus visual of Samantha Bee performing an extended air jerk ASL-style which is itself a reason to watch.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Training for a Mini Triathlon (or How I Learned to Love DJ Bukem)

So I've been training for a mini-triathlon: 400m swim, 20 km bike, 5 km run.

I didn't say anything about it for the first month because you all know I'm Captain StartAProject. But as it stands, for the last month I've been getting up at like 7AM, driving Elia to work, stopping at the athletic center and getting in the pool.

At first it was kind of just show up and do what I felt like doing but it's now settled into a swim+run or swim+bike every day, never missing more than one day (when I can help it, they were closed for two days in a row this weekend).

The jagged appearance of the charts is on purpose. Sure, I could just make entries for the days I work out but by making entries even for days when I don't, I can visually track how different schedules (2-on-1-off-2-on vs. alternating days) affect my trend. And even with the dips, the trend is still obvious.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Scam Alert: R W Towing, Lee, Massachusetts

This is an open letter to AAA detailing my experience with R W Towing (RW's, RW Inc.) out of Lee, Massachusetts.  And by "experience," I mean a rather weak attempt by their douchebag employee to scam me out of a few hundred bucks.

I would definitely avoid doing business with this company.  Can't say I've ever seen anything this shady in my life.

Keep in mind that this is not a swipe at AAA, they were awesome, though they may want to reconsider doing business with these clowns.


Dear AAA,

Your company has been with my family for as long as I can remember.  I'm getting old, so this is a significant portion of time.

We almost never need you.  I can't remember the last time we did.  And I can't remember any time where we had any complaints of any kind, so today came as kind of a shock.

My daughter's church group planned a get-together shopping event to Lee Outlet Malls in Lee, Massachusetts.  Upon finishing our shopping at the outlet, we discovered our car would not start.  I attempted a jump from my daughter's car, no luck, would not even turn over.

I realized I had AAA but I was unsure if this covered myself or my car I was travelling in.

I called my wife, she said she thought it covered *me* but was not sure, so I called AAA and the first thing out of my mouth was "Does my AAA membership cover myself or the car I'm in?"  The AAA representative said my membership covered me.

I requested a tow, and a local company ("R W Towing") was dispatched.

After a few minutes I receive a call from the towing company.  The woman on the other end sounded instantly and profoundly irritated.  I informed her of the situation, specifically told her that one car would be towed to Springfield while I went toward Albany; it is Father's Day, I'm a father, wife was waiting in Troy, NY, unfortunately the original plan to visit extended family in Chicopee would have to be scrapped due to the car difficulties.

A truck was dispatched.  It arrived in a reasonable amount of time.

The driver got out, walked to the front of the car, took one look at the Hispanic family in our group, and starts shaking his head.  I'm standing to his left.  He's not even looking at me while I'm speaking to him, he's just looking at the family, still shaking his head "no."

I don't know what he's saying "no" to.  I'm confused.  So I address the driver.

"We need to have this car towed to Springfield.  Do you need my AAA info?"

He's still shaking his head no, not saying anything.

"You don't need my membership info?"

I was told he would need it so now I'm even more confused.

"OK.  There are six people, I know you can only take two, so two are going to ride with you, the other four are getting a ride back separately."

Tow driver is still shaking his head "no."

"I can't take six people."
"You don't have to, two are going to ride with you, four are getting a ride back."

Tow driver is back to shaking his head.

"Who has the money?"  I point out the gentleman who is handling the payment, at which point the driver starts rattling off what this is going to cost.

"It's three dollars per mile, plus toll fees, plus a gas surcharge, plus a sixty dollar hookup fee..."

At his point I interrupt the guy.  This sounds wrong.

"We were told about the $3/mile after the first three miles, plus the tolls charge, nothing about a gas surcharge or a hookup fee."

"Well, that's what it'll cost."
"I'm going to call AAA."
"You can do whatever you want, it's going to be at least $250-$300."
"What's your name?"
"David Redstone."

At this point I walk away and start dialing.  The driver keeps talking to me in a pretty rude manner, telling me, in different ways, "that's what it costs and calling won't change that."

I ask him to stop talking to me.  Twice.  Three times.  By this time I'm definitely irritated and my voice is definitely louder.  This is as irate as I got with the driver and I certainly did not use anything approaching foul language.  I think I asked the driver to "chill out."

He's still talking, I walk away.

I get an AAA rep on the phone and start explaining the problem.

"You mean he wants to charge you more money than the mileage and tolls?"
"It sounds to me like he's trying to scam you."

The driver, meanwhile, has an epiphany, no doubt entirely unrelated to my being on the phone with AAA, and now he's quoting "$160-$170."  Remarkable.

I relate this to the AAA representative and tell him that the tow driver is attempting to jump the car, the AAA rep tells me, EMPHATICALLY, to NOT let the driver do anything to the car.  I put the phone down and tell the driver, "The AAA representative is telling me to tell you that you should not do anything with the car."

The driver replies, "OK," gets into his truck and drives off.

All of our jaws are on the ground.  The sun has been out all day so the ground is hot.  We pick up our jaws.

At this point I feel horrible because there is a very young child, it's *really* hot, and by following the AAA rep's advice, combined with the driver's beligerence, I've just set back our efforts to get back home by two hours, minimum.

I relate this information to the AAA rep.  He asks if he can put me on hold, no problem.

The rep who helped me was quite nice, I should mention.

While I am on hold I get a phonecall, it's the towing company, specifically the perpetually annoyed woman who I spoke to initially.  She sounds roughly as annoyed as she did during our first conversation.

"You have a problem with my driver?"
"I'll let AAA deal with that issue."

The woman pauses.

"It's not even *your* car."  She says this with an oddly smug "gotcha" tone.

I know this is not my car.  AAA knows this is not my car.  The fact that this was not my car was the very first thing I said to AAA when I called them to arrange the tow.

So either:

(a) The dispatcher is unaware of what services their agreement with AAA covers or;
(b) her mind was completely blown by the possibility of a caucasian riding with a hispanic family.

I ask her if there's anything else I can help her with.  She proceeds to berate me for being rude to the driver.  I hang up.

I'd like to understand a few things better.  Specifically:

  • Why was the towing service demanding money in excess of their agreement with AAA and, by extension, me?

  • What, exactly, convinced the driver that his quote was incorrect since he was not in contact with AAA, his garage or me during his sudden change of heart?

  • Why did the towing service feel that the car not being owned by myself was germane to providing service?

  • Why did the tow driver abandon us?

  • Why did the towing service feel it was appropriate to call and berate me after the driver left?

AAA, we love you guys.  You've got a sterling reputation and this event won't result in my membership being cancelled.  But it IS important for me to trust that when I call AAA for service, I will recieve reasonably courteous service and, more importantly, actual service for the vehicle, without being scammed or abandoned.

I would suggest that your service agreement with this independent towing companies be reviwed so everyone is on the same page.

I would also suggest that this complaint be attached to "R W Towing" and reviewed when future business with this company is considered.

I complain about service just about never.  Almost every call I ever make to customer service, while rare, is to compliment good service because I've been in customer service most of my life, I know it's a difficult and (often) thankless job.

Thanks for your attention, I look forward to hearing back from you.

Jason Desjardins
Member ID# [redacted]

Friday, April 27, 2012

Since got hacked, I figured I would share my password generation method.  By memorizing one very short number, such as 5724, plus some simple rules, you can create a strong, secure password that is unique for any site you use, without having to remember the password or use any kind of USB fob or password management software.

I'll just jump in with an example.

First, come up with your four numbers.  Doesn't matter what they are, I'll use the 5724 mentioned above.  What each of these numbers mean is some kind of rule (offset or addition) to our password.  My rules might look like this.

5 (go up five letters from the first letter of the domain)
7 (multiply the number of letters in the domain by 7)
2 (go up two letters from the last letter of the domain)
4 (capitalize the fourth letter)

After you've remembered your numbers and what they mean, there's no more remembering, the rest is just generating the password.

Suppose we wish to create a password for

Rule #1 says to go up five letters from the first letter in the domain, so "C" => "H".
Rule #2 says to multiply the number by the letters in the domain, 7x3 = 21.
Rule #3 says to go up two letters from the last letter of the domain, so "N" => "P".

So with our two letters we use the first three letters of a name.  Perhaps for this example, we turn H and P into "Harry" and "Peter," which would truncate to "har" and "pet."

Or if you're a fan of the phonetic alphabet, "Hot" and "Pap" (Hotel, Papa).

Combine these with the number and you wind up with har21pet.

Lastly, our final rule says to capitalize the fourth letter, so our password is now har21Pet.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

If a site you use gets hacked, it's very unlikely that they'll have your password to any site.  Further, by looking at the password, they'll have no idea how the domain name relates to your password -- cnn bears no resemblance to har21Pet -- and it's extremely unlikely that your password is har21Pet anywhere else.

Heck, add one more rule and it becomes extremely unlikely to have a dupe.  ie, your additional rule is to simply add the number of letters in the domain to the end, har21Pet becomes har21Pet3 in the case of CNN.

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Thorough Lambasting of "The Hunger Games"

I was crazy excited about this movie and when my wife agreed to the matinee, I thought today was my lucky day.

Well I was wrong.

Imagine going to a five star restaurant and getting a decent TV dinner. That's pretty much "The Hunger Games." Two hours and twenty two minutes of mediocrity.

The shaky-cam, something that normally doesn't phase me in the slightest, was pretty amped up for the first twenty minutes. Thankfully it didn't span the entire move.

The fight choreography was truly the bottom of the barrel, all shaky closeups, pans and cuts. How does a blockbuster screw up fight scenes in 2012?

The love-interest chemistry was so bad I couldn't quite tell if it was supposed to be there in the first place.

The villains were thin. The sardonic stablemaster was thin. The sympathetic figures were thin. The tragic figures were thin.

The elephant in the room, the implications for the human condition in having such a contest, isn't even winked at much less developed.

And with 142 minutes to work with, you'd think the ending would be something other than forced, rushed, boilerplate and almost laughable. If I had a nickel for every movie with this ending I'd ...well, I'd have a well-deserved refund.

In retrospect, the best part of the entire movie was realizing Donald Sutherlund was in it.

Even calling it mediocre is a bit of a compliment. There is literally nothing redeeming about this movie.

How they managed to get 80% of IMDB'ers to drink the coolaid is beyond me.