POD sleaze

Dec. 27th, 2015 06:16 pm
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
A different version of print-on-demand publication sleaze: Ronald Cohn and Jesse Russel are listed as authors of more than 200,000 books in the Amazon and Indigo catalogues.  What these "books" actually consist of is print-on-demand trade paperbacks of Wikipedia articles.  You order a book, they print off the W'pedia article and bind it, and it only costs around C$25.  But many of the catalogue entries don't include things like the number of pages, which in most cases will be very small, and none of them actually say in the listing that they're derived from W'pedia.  If you look at one of the covers, carefully, you can see an emblem which reads: "High Quality Content by WIKIPEDIA articles!"  The covers are auto-generated from the article titles, and even that process is sloppy -- they don't "sanitize" the text for HTML, so you get burps like the cover of Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time, missing the ampersand.

This is probably all legal, per Wikipedia's terms of use.  Wikipedia even makes it easy to generate a book from an article; they've got a system set up to do the printing, binding, and shipping... at a much lower cost than what these bozos are charging.  But it's grossly unfair to the buyer to sell such "books" to people without making it clear what they're getting.

Most print-on-demand books cannot be returned after purchase.  In most cases, that's a fair limitation.  When the product is as misleading as this... well, I don't know if the no-returns policy applies to these books, but I'd be surprised if it didn't.
 
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
A couple of months ago, Steven McNulty from Edward Jones financial advisors stopped by our house.  [livejournal.com profile] mentisiterinvit gave him our phone number.  (I don't know why, but that's up to her.)  Since then he has been calling every few weeks.  This afternoon he called again, while I was busy and unable to pick up the phone, and left no message.  I called him back.

"You've been calling us, well, semi-regularly, and I'd like you to stop, please."

"But you gave me your number."

"My girlfriend did.  At any rate, we'd like you to stop calling."

"Then why did she give my your number?  That's pretty immature."

"She was interested.  She isn't any more.  Please stop calling."

"Fine.  I wouldn't want to deal with you anyways."

I called him a twit and hung up.

So.  If you're looking for a financial advisor who isn't, well, an ass, I'd suggest looking elsewhere.

I was very careful with my tone of voice to not be rude, condescending, or otherwise offensive, right up until the final word "twit".  He was given our number; he had the legal right to call us -- until I asked him to stop, with my first sentence.

I cannot fathom why he, and other salescritters, try to argue with such requests to stop calling.  It's not like they're going to change my mind.
 
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I find it disturbing that the upcoming Hunger Games movie is being heavily promoted by a tie-in campaign by Subway.

There's a new chocolate cereal product called "Krave".  The name (and its spelling) make me twitch from the start.  Then there's the advertising.

A small brown square-ish thing wanders around, calling for its "mommy".  It finds a foil-wrapped chocolate bar lying down.  The foil opens, revealing the bar's squares; the little one screams in horror.  Then the bar squares leap on the little one and devour it to the last crumb, like the little blue goblin monsters in Galaxy Quest.  Then one of the bar squares starts "looking" around, calling for "baby?  baby?"

I am unable to fathom what message this is intended to convey.  The cereal is undead and rises from the foil crypt? The cereal is not only cannibalistic, but eats its own children?  At any rate, it doesn't inspire me to eat the stuff.  Quite the opposite.
 
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
I'm trying to install a new bathroom fan.  The spinning part of the old unit gets loose on its axle and develops loud and complex beat patterns.  ("RA-ta-ta-TA-ta... RA-ta-ta-TA-ta... RA-ta-ta-ta-TA-ta-ta-ta-RA-ta-ta-ta-TA-ta-ta-ta...")  The new unit is much more sturdy and appears to be better constructed, with a more solid motor.

But the installation isn't going according to the manual.  This is because the instructions appear to be impossible to follow.  Since the joists are 16" apart (center to center), I'm apparently supposed to use wood screws to attach the fan to two of them... but the screw holes in the fan are only 11" apart.  I'm also supposed to slide a support strut into the body of the fan, but the instructions don't tell me to attach it to anything.  It also appears to be physically impossible to either insert the fan body through the hole in the ceiling with the strut already in place, or to slide the strut into its place after the fan has been pushed through the hole.  The strut would have to pass through either the ceiling or the joist.

I'm currently leaning towards cutting a couple of short lengths of 2-by-4, and screwing them to the joists so I've got solid wood on either side of the fan to screw it into.  And forgetting about that strut.

Is this another case of a company providing impossible-to-follow instructions so that if there's a problem, it's not their fault?
 
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Rogers One Number is a service provided by Rogers which allows one to make phone calls from a computer or other similar device with a microphone, sending data over broadband.  It's essentially a VoIP system that can be associated with a Rogers phone number, to make calls as though they were coming from that number.  One can regard it as a way of using a computer as an alternate mobile phone.

Because Rogers doesn't have calling cards and doesn't necessarily support third-party long-distance cards, I was trying to find a way to keep in touch with [livejournal.com profile] mentisiterinvit while I'm away.  One of the Rogers service-critters that I spoke to suggested that I could use Rogers One Number.  Set it up for her cell phone, take a laptop with me, use the laptop to call her phone.  I was careful to confirm with that service-critter that that would work: leave the phone here, call it from the computer elsewhere.  Okay, I thought, that sounded like a plan.

Any plan where you deal with a telco is a bad plan )

So: Don't do Rogers One Number.  I'll also point out that though you can activate it on their website, there's no way to deactivate it except to ask one of the Rogers support people to do it for you.  And dealing with them is likely to be very aggravating.
 
bunsen_h: (Popperi)
Don't make long-distance calls from a pay telephone using a credit card. Seriously.

A month ago, I needed to make a couple of phone calls from my hotel in Mississauga to Ottawa. Since the hotel tacks on a surcharge to make such calls from its rooms, I figured I'd save myself a couple of dollars by using the Bell pay phones in the lobby.

The charges appeared on this month's credit card statement. The charges were applied by a company I'd never heard of, WiMac Tel, in Calgary. A 2-minute call on Friday evening was billed at $12.72; a 1-minute call on Sunday afternoon billed at $11.49 .  Mississauga-to-Ottawa, off-peak hours; the charges should probably have been more like $0.72 and $0.49 .

Apparently Bell outsources long-distance pay-phone calls on credit cards to this other outfit, which tacks on ludicrous surcharges, with no warning. My research on the net indicates that WiMac claims that callers are given notice of the charges in advance, in a message on the phone. This was certainly not true for the calls I made.  I'm obsessive about such things; I would have listened to such a message and checked for details.

BMO MasterCard would not allow me to dispute the charges.  Since I gave Bell my credit card number and they provided the service (or, to be more precise, the service was provided), it was out of BMO's hands, even though the service was provided in a way I had not authorized via an expensive third party.  BMO told me that I needed to take the matter up with Bell.

I spent some time wandering through the maze on Bell's website, trying to find some way of contacting them about pay-phone service.  There isn't one.  I gave up and called the contact number for home-phone service.  I think I was lucky that I reached a Bell customer-service rep who was on my side.  He will be applying a refund for the credit-card charges towards my next bill from Bell, for internet service.

But... sheesh.  I'm not impressed by BMO.  Nor, in general, by Bell, though that's nothing new.
 

Food prep

Sep. 29th, 2012 05:24 pm
bunsen_h: (Beaker)
I've noticed that a lot of the ready-to-cook food items now carry warnings about how well-cooked the food has to be to be safe.

But how do I measure the internal temperature of, say, ravioli immersed in boiling water, to make sure that it's at least 74°C?  (Just 73° wouldn't be safe.  Or just waiting until it floats and has a reasonable texture for eating.)  Or the internal temperature of a pizza in the oven?  These would be tricky to measure even with the resources of a well-equipped lab.
 
bunsen_h: (Tuxbert)
Doofes.  Rhymes with "roofies" and "Goofy's".

We had the 8 a.m.-to-noon "morning window" with Sympatico.  This required me to set my alarm for 8 a.m., which is much earlier than I tend to wake up these days.  (Yeah, I know, whine whine.  Regardless, I'm sleep-deprived and on lots of medication.)  The Sympatico doofes arrived at 8:35, which was quite reasonable under the circumstances.

Bell, booklet, and candles )

I'm not holding my breath on this; I think it's likely that I'll have to complain to Sympatico and have either them or Rogers back.

If all he'd left screwed up was the disconnected phone jack in the bedroom, I'd have taken care of it myself instead of dealing with the hassle of getting him back.  But there are several phone jacks not working upstairs, and that's stuff that is much easier to trace with the equipment that he's got and I don't have.

At least we do have internet back, and the phone jacks we use most often are working.

Bless me, what do they teach them at these schools?
 
bunsen_h: (Tuxbert)
For the past week, the house has been without internet service, and largely without phone service.

It started when we tried to have the phone service switched from Bell to Rogers, leaving behind the internet service.  I don't want to switch the internet stuff yet because I have my personal webspace hosted by Sympatico (Rogers doesn't offer that at all), and the E-mail address that I've used for a long time for more important purposes is also on Sympatico.  I need to get a domain that will be independent of the service provider, and transition to that.  But Rogers has some phone service features that we want, which are significantly less expensive than we'd have to pay than with Bell.  We were assured that the switch-over, retaining my old phone number, would be simple.  No trouble.

Rogers Rogers Rog-AAAarrghhh... )

There is sometimes the question: Which is worse, Bell or Rogers?  And I think that the only good answer is "Whichever of the two you had to deal with most recently."
 
bunsen_h: (Default)
ACME Special

Got a few extra body parts?

ACME Special

They seemed to be doing moderately good business earlier in the day.
 
bunsen_h: (Default)
Loblaws and its affiliated stores have been selling "no name" products for quite some time now.  They're generally cheaper than their brand-name equivalents, and the quality is variable — sometimes it's pretty much the same product as the brand-name stuff but in plainer packaging.  Sometimes, not so much.

Lately, it's seemed to me that many of the "no name" products I've bought have been of much lower quality than they used to be.  For some things I'm fussy about quality — for durable items, I will almost invariably buy something that will last and work trouble-free, and I'm willing to pay extra for something that won't have to be repaired or replaced for a long time.  Other things, not so much.  I don't have much taste for really cheap crappy chocolate any more, but I don't have the palate to appreciate the finest-quality chocolate: I like it, but I'm happy with cheaper decent-quality chocolate.  But a lot of the "no name" items don't meet even fairly low standards.

More grumbling lies beneath... )
bunsen_h: (Default)
I've been comparison shopping for a heating pad. Almost every local store I've checked sells essentially the same items made by Sunbeam, in some cases house brands labelled as "made by Sunbeam". There are a few other models around. Canadian Tire's website seems to show that they've switched to units made by a different company but haven't properly updated the site to reflect the changes.

Every model I've seen has instructions which specify that one should not sit on or against the heating pad, and that one should place the pad on and not under the "affected body part".

This is bizarre. It seems to be very close to "any plausible use of this device will void its warranty", since most of the pads are definitely not designed to be wrapped around the body nor conveniently attached to it. I've got back pain -- am I supposed to lie on my stomach and try to keep the pad positioned on my back? I've been to physiotherapy sessions and massage sessions in which I was lying on a heating pad -- were those "professional" units?
bunsen_h: (Default)
Roof vents should be screened with a metal mesh.

The purpose for doing this, O Roofer, is not merely to be able to mark off an item in a checklist, nor merely to be able to add some billable time and a marked-up charge for materials to an invoice.  The purpose is to prevent the passage of birds, small animals, and large insects into and out of the attic space.  This will not work effectively if the metal mesh is crumpled or askew, or otherwise not filling the open area.

Due attention and care during the installation of said vents will prevent the homeowner — that's me, by the way — from having to execute damnfool stunts like parallel-bars gymnastics to ascend the roof rafters and straighten the metal mesh.  In both vents.

Again, "millennium" has two 'L's and two 'N's, and companies whose names are misspelled should be avoided because their owners are thereby demonstrating that they are too sloppy to be competent.

Salesbeings

Jul. 6th, 2008 09:11 pm
bunsen_h: (Default)
Over the years, I've tended to categorize salesbeings into three categories. As the man says, “Just a useful distinction, to clarify thought.” The categories aren’t hard and fast; poor business ethics, for example, tend to make me downgrade a salesbeing to a lower category.

Salespeople understand what their organization can produce, and what prospective customers need. They help to put the two together. Everybody wins. Sales people can be extremely important for a commercial organization.

Salescritters don’t understand what their organization can produce, or what prospective customers need. Or they just don’t care very much. The important thing is to make a sale and get a commission, or at least to remain employed and collect a salary. They may commit their organization to something that it simply doesn’t have the resources to do in the available time (or at all), or the customer to purchasing something they don’t need and can ill afford. They may claim that a product has features that the customer is specifically looking for, when it really doesn't.  They can cause trouble for an organization.

Salesthings don’t understand what is physically possible, and may attempt to sell something that not only has nothing to do with their organization’s business, and doesn’t exist, but violates the laws of physics. For example, a salesthing for a software company who tries to sell a mining-exploration company on a potential new product that they can just pour on the rock to make the rock go away, on the principle that “one of our guys is a chemist, I’m sure he can figure out how to do it.” They tend to cause a different kind of trouble than the salescritters, primarily by being so obviously incompetent and insane that they scare away clients who might actually be interested in what the organization can do.
bunsen_h: (Guinea pig)
I saw "portable air conditioners" advertised on a sign in front of the neighborhood "Best Buy" store a couple of weeks ago. My first reaction was "How's that supposed to work?" If it doesn't have a connection to outside, where's the heat supposed to go? And the pictures sure didn't show anything other than the central unit, standing in the middle of a room.

My second thought was that it would be amusing to ask one of the salescritters, just to see what he'd say. Since the usual (though not invariable) hiring criteria for employees at "Best Buy" and "Future Shop" seem to be a combination of utter cluelessness and glib dishonesty. As in "I have no idea what the answer to your question is, but I'll make up something which I hope sounds good."

So I went in and asked a salescritter standing near the pile of boxed units. "I was just wondering... how do these work? Where does the heat go?"

He looked at me and proudly announced, "The air conditioner makes the heat go away. It cools the room. They work great! We had one running here a couple of weeks ago, it was awesome!"

"Yes," I said, "but where does the heat go?"

"The air conditioner sucks it in and gets rid of it."

"It can't," I said. "You can create heat, from electrical energy or whatever. You can move heat around. But you can't just make heat go away."

"Um." He paused. "There's a pan of water in the bottom."

"You mean it evaporates water to cool the air? Yes, that would cool things down, but you'd end up with a lot of humidity. It'd feel terrible."

"No, no, it sucks water out of the air. It dehumidifies."

"But that creates heat, the heat that went into evaporating the water in the first place. Is this just a dehumidifier?"

"No, it's an air conditioner. Which also dehumidifies. It, uh, well, we had one working, and it was really good."

"Is there a set of instructions or documents or something, which tells how it's supposed to work?"

"Uh, no... well, maybe, um..." He floundered a bit more, then spotted a colleague. "Wait a minute, let me ask this guy." He walked over and had a brief low-voiced conversation, with gestures, then brought the other guy back.

The other guy explained that the unit had a blower, and a venting hose which ran out the back of the unit. Its other end was to be stuck outside, through a window or door. The system pushed hot air out that way. Salescritter #1 had forgotten about the venting hose, and it's carefully omitted from all the pictures (though it's mentioned in the fine print on the boxes as being "included"). I suppose that it would be something of a sales disincentive to show prospective customers that moving this portable air conditioner around involves somewhat more than just lugging the main module.

Okay, yeah, this thing would work. Sort of. But it would be grotesquely inefficient, even if the internal heat-transfer system worked well. In the first place, heat would be radiating from the venting hose back into the room. In the second place, any hot air that is blown outside would, of course, be replaced by warm outside air drawn back into the room/home. A normal air conditioner tries to avoid exchanging air; one wants only to move the heat outside.

Advice to the consumer: Avoid.

My impression of the standards of "Best Buy" salescritters hasn't changed, either.

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