26 February 2007

Bar Bri Proposed Settlement

For those of us who took Bar Bri, there is an article in Sunday's Times about a proposed settlement for the class action, which, according to the article, would be $125 for each member of the class. It also explains more details about how Bar Bri came to be so powerful, which I am not going to rehash here.

The Silence of the Priuses

Or is it Prii?
In any case, I heard a piece on NPR about how Priuses are very quiet, and this creates problems for blind people who try to cross the street by ear, because they cannot hear a Prius approaching.

21 February 2007

Flickr Email Notifications

You can now tell Flickr to email you when your contacts post photos.
See Flickr's blog entry.

George Washington and Hanukkah

A children's book was published about George Washington, Hanukkah, and Valley Forge. Although it is a nice story, it looks like there is insufficient historical documentation to prove that the events portrayed actually happened. Boston 1775 has a lot more information on it. The link is to the first post, although there are many more immediately afterwards.

Cingular and AT&T

Cingular -- after switching from AT & T -- is now switching back to AT&T. It's interesting how much weight the AT & T brand name has, although, by now, I think Cingular has its own reputation and weight. At the same time though, when I think of historic telephone companies, I think about AT & T (even though AT&T is not really what it used to be)
For awhile, I used to have a calling card that I used from them. For twenty-five cents a minute, I could place a call to anywhere in the United States, which, at the time, was a decent deal. I did not have a mobile at the time, so it was convenient. Unlike prepaid phone cards which made you wait through advertisements, it was really quick to place a call using AT&T. I dialed the 800 number, dialed 1 and the number i was calling, and then -- without waiting -- my calling card number and pin. After being thanked (quickly) for using AT&T, my call was placed. With a prepaid card, you have to wait for ads for the store where you bought the card and also wait for the computer to figure out how many minutes you have left. They got rid of the service about two years after I got it.
For people that do not have mobile phones, AT&T could do quite well for themselves if they offered a service with competitive rates that was fast like the AT&T calling card.

15 February 2007

Presidential Dollar Coins

As Jerry points out on Jerry and Tammy, the US Mint has just -- again -- come out with a new variety of dollar coins, this time featuring the US Presidents. I think that this experiment is going to fail, for the same reason most people don't use Susan B. Anthony dollar coins, and most people don't use the Sacajawea dollar coins. The dollar coins, whether they are gold or not, are too similar to the quarter in size and shape. They are not easily distinguishable, and that will make it difficult to catch on. Canadian dollar coins have caught on. First, they took the dollar bill out of circulation, second they are a different shape from other coins and don't look like a Canadian quarter (or any other Canadian coin for that matter)
The US coins are bad for another reason. Unless you are at the post office or traveling on the Long Island Railroad, most vending machines don't take them. I know someone, who will remain anonymous, who tells me he likes to watch people use the Long Island Railroad ticket vending machines with a twenty dollar bill buy an eight dollar ticket and receive twelve dollars worth of dollar coins back. That's why I always use a credit card with the Long Island Railroad and won't use a twenty dollar bill to buy stamps from a post office vending machine.
Update: My brother has de-anonymized himself. See the comments.
Ok, wow, I just put a bluebook style cite in a blog entry. Sigh.

06 February 2007

Steve Jobs on Apple's Copy-Protection

Steve Jobs posted an explanation of Apple's copy-protection scheme and his feelings on music that doesn't have copy-protection. It's worth reading as it explains why Apple doesn't want to licence their copy-protection scheme to other companies that sell other music players. If you believe Steve Jobs, it is not simply because Apple wants to sell more iPods.

05 February 2007

Funny Guardian Column on Macs

Here is a link to a funny Guardian column on Macs.

Testing AOL Instant Messenger Connectivity

If you want to test to see if you are really connected to AIM, just add the screen name AOL System Msg to your buddy list. If you add it, you can IM that screen name to test your connectivity. If you don't get a response back, then you don't have a connection to AIM. If you do, then you know that you are connected to both the Internet and AIM. You can also use it if you inadvertently leave yourself logged on, because, as you'll see, it gives you the option to sig nyourself off from your other AIM sessions.
I've sometimes found that it takes a little while for my instant messenger client to realize that it is disconnected.

04 February 2007

Jurors Asking Questions

Here is a link to the Wall Street Journal's law blog about jurors asking witnesses questions during trial. I'm not sure how I feel about it, but there are interesting comments to the blog entry.

Getting to Talk to a Human Being Instead of Voicejail

I do not like how some companies have made it really difficult to get through to a human being and how sometimes, to get to where I want to be, I have to wend my way through three or four layers of voicemail just to get the information I want. I don't mind using a teleresponse system to get an account balance or something like that. I especially like the teleresponse system when I don't know the answers to questions the agents ask for verification, it can be faster to use the tele-response system. I'm very good at my social security number, but not so good at the other information they ask for.
But, I don't like it when companies do not tell you how to speak to a human being, so you are left to guess -- usually zero works in those instances. Or, if zero doesn't work, often pressing the "wrong" key multiple times eventually fails me out and I get to an agent.
The one teleresponse system I like is Julie on Amtrak. She's very good, understands me when I speak, and I can often make a reservation with her over the phone quite easily. Plus, if I need to talk to a human being, I say agent, and she puts me right through, passing whatever I told her along, so I don't have to explain my travel plans all over.
While I don't like ING direct's tele-response system, I do like the fact that when I call the line they have that is specially set up for requesting to talk to a human being, they realize that I called the line because I really, truly, want to talk to a human being and place my call through without any voicejail at all.
The number that Commerce Bank has on the back of my ATM card is direct to a human. I think that's cool of them.
And, speaking of that, this is a neat website that has the phone numbers for lots of major corporations and how to get a human being, whether that is saying certain things to the automated response system, pressing buttons, or simply calling a special number.

01 February 2007

How many legislators does it take to change a lightbulb?

A member of the California Assembly, Leonard Levine is planning to introduce a bill which is called -- really -- how many the How Many Legislators Does It Take To Change A Lightbulb Act. Another bill (with a less interesting mame) is also being proposed. Apparently these Assembly members want to eventually require all light bulbs sold in California to be non-incandescent light-bulbs. I have not had much experience with non-incandescent bulbs, but from my family's experience, they do not last long enough to be worth buying instead of incandescent bulbs. In any case, here is a link to where I found this information.