Friday, August 25, 2006

Demotivational Friday: Astronomy

So as you probably know, Pluto is no longer a planet. This is going to screw up test scores and lesson plans everywhere. I actually think it would be best for teachers to come up with a new acronym to memorize the planets. That way, it this important change will stick in the minds of kids better. I suggest:

My Vasectomy Effects Many Japanese Singles Until November.

Just try forgetting that.

I have to say, I think I’ll miss Pluto. Now that its no longer a planet, who knows what we'll think of whenever someone mentions it?

I love astronomy, but it’s always been more elemental to me then scientific. Knowing the planets is like knowing about the 27th Amendment to the Constitution. They could remove the 27th for not being important enough, and really, it would have almost no impact on any of us. But hey, you shouldn’t mess with the Constitution. I imagine that if I had lived during the time of Copernicus, I would have thought something similar. “Hey Nicolaus, your heliocentric theory of the solar system is amazing. I read De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium cover to cover, and I have to say that your logic is inescapable. By the way, dedicating it Pope Paul III was a brilliantly shrewd move. But seriously, I think we all sort of enjoy thinking of the Earth as the center of the universe, and I don’t think we’re actually going to go to space for another 400 years. So try not to discover anything else for a while so that we can all catch up. Now, I’m off to the barber to get some leeches. Later.”


Monday, August 21, 2006

Distraction: Monks Brawl at Peace Protest

Sadly, I couldn't find anything on Youtube for this article.

COLOMBO (Reuters) - Protesters calling for an end to recent violence in Sri Lanka found themselves brawling with hardline Buddhist monks Thursday, after a rally dubbed a "peace protest" turned unexpectedly violent.

Organizers said there were around 1,000 people in a park in the capital, Colombo, listening to a range of speakers when hardline saffron-robed monks opposed to concessions to Tamil Tiger rebels mounted the stage and erected banners.

Some more moderate Buddhist monks, protesting for peace, were already on the stage when punches were thrown. Soon, monks' robes and fists were flying.

Hat tip to ChuBlogga.


Sunday, August 20, 2006

Customer Service is Dead

As some people close to me may know, I just recently started a new job. And, to help me understand the philosophy on customer service at this new company, I was given a copy of a book called "Raving Fans." Basically, it espouses a customer-oriented philosophy to service (i.e. give them what they want, not what you think they want, or what you want them to have) and the idea of "plus one", which is to say that you deliver what you promise, and then a little more.

Also, y'all know my feelings on "The Devil Wears Prada" and how ultimately I empathized more with the Evil Bosslady than with the protagonist of the story... And one of the lessons I took away from the book/movie was that, when "no" as an answer is not an option, you must find a way to make it (whatever "it" is) happen.

As Some Guy will tell you, women tend to earn less than men, in part because when we are offered a job and given the salary, we don't ask for or negotiate for more. It's interesting, though, that when people do ask for more, often times they get it.

So, taking all of that into consideration, my new approach to getting what I want is first to tell the person exactly what I want to see happen, then to not take no for an answer. Because, I've learned that there is very little you would ask for that cannot be accomplished so long as you speak to the correct person (that is, the person with the authority and power to bend or break the rule).

I've given up trying to negotiate with customer service people, or get angry or frustrated with them. They don't have the power or authority to override policy. So, I explain to them what I want, wait for them to tell me no, tell them again but with different words, have them tell me no again, and then ask to speak with a higher-up. I rinse-lather-repeat until I get my yes. It is frustrating, yes, and time consuming, but this is what They count on - that you'll give up. Because for every one person who pushes through and annoys up the ladder until they get a yes, there are hundreds of people who give up along the line. It's like insurance... paying out to the one or two people who persevere in relation to the hundreds of people paying in but never getting the payout. Most times, there are ways to bend the rules if you ask nicely and continue to ask...

Needless to say, the point of all of this is that when I was trying to buy my beautiful niece a "tricul" (or, a tricycle for those not fluent in "toddler"), I went to Toys R Us to buy it. Now, I'm a good Auntie but not the best Auntie, and I was a little late ordering the present. The party was Saturday, and this was Tuesday, which should have been enough time to buy the present and get it by Friday, provided I paid for overnight shipping. So, I order the tricycle, and then find that it will take three to five days just to process the order, let alone ship it, and that the expected delivery date, even with expedited shipping, is the Monday after the party. So I call customer service, politely explain the problem, and ask if there is something I can do to ensure the bike will ship on Wednesday or Thursday. The woman tells me that she can't guarantee anything, even though the bike is in stock. We go back and forth, and I even speak to a manager, but to no avail. And I can't go into a store and buy it, because this tricycle is an online-only toy... I try to cancel the order, but they can't do that, either. The only thing I can do is to return the toy to a Toys R Us when it comes, but I'm still out the shipping... So they can't guarantee I'll get the toy on time (even though I'm paying to ensure that, and the toy IS in stock) and they can't cancel the order...

This ticks me off, because the toy is in stock! There is no logical reason that it should take so long to process the order.

So I find an even better tricycle at an online toy store called, and I call them directly before placing the order. I speak with one of their service reps, and even though it is past the deadline that they can guarantee delivery, he personally places the order and within an hour, I've already received confirmation that the tricycle has shipped.

The kicker? The Toys R Us tricycle ships the next day, and comes in time for the party...

Anyway, the point of the story is that rocks, and they were so very polite and went out of their way to "break the rules" so I could get the toy on time. So buy your toys from

Friday, August 18, 2006

Demotivational Friday: Politics

This bizarreness of this story surprises even me:

A "presidential bust" of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton was unveiled Wednesday at New York's Museum of Sex, where sculptor Daniel Edwards hopes it will spark discussion about sex, politics and celebrity.

Edwards, the artist who also created a life-size nude of Britney Spears giving birth on a bear-skin rug, said he wanted to capture Clinton's age and femininity in the sculpture.

Clinton's office had no immediate comment.

Here's the discussion I think this will spark - Daniel Edwards is a media whore. Talk amongst yourselves.

As an aside, for some reason, NPR went with an even more provocative picture of the same bust:

I guess there really is a liberal media.

The quote from the Demotivator, in case you're wondering, is from Herodotus.


Thursday, August 17, 2006

Politics: Bush reads Camus?

Saw this last night on the Daily Show last night and then saw it again online this morning, and it was just too funny to believe:

President Bush, just finishing up a small vacation in Crawford Texas, did what many Americans do on vacation, he took the time to read a book. He dedicated a brief portion of his vacation ito reading a work by one of France's most celebrated authors, Albert Camus, "The Stranger". The President stated that the book made a real impression upon him...

As we all know, the main plot of The Stranger is about an alienated man who kills an Arab without remore. The last paragraph of the book reads:

"As if that blind rage had washed me clean, rid me of hope; for the first time, in that night alive with signs and stars, I opened myself to the gentle indifference of the world. Finding it so much like myself - so like a brother, really - I felt that I had been happy and that I was happy again. For everything to be consummated, for me to feel less alone, I had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate."

Gee, I wonder if empathizes with the main character, who killed for no good reason and then feels isolated and abandoned by God.

Also, Camus is one of my favorite authors, but shouldn't Bush have gotten around to reading him and a few other works on French Algeria at some point before launching a war on an Arab country? Just saying.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

I'm back

After almost a month of figuring out who is going to get a giant pile of government grant money, I’ve come to a very important realization about myself. I’m opposed to handing out government money. I’ve also decided that government isn’t really that great of an idea. If everyone could spontaneously live in perfect anarchistic harmony with each other, or pick a single overlord which we follow unquestionably, that would be really keen.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Please note: I am not making a political commentary here, but a coworker pointed out how much they look alike and I just needed to see them side by side.