AIG: Too Important to Fail

At some point, you've probably heard some version of the axiom that it's better to fail quickly and often, because then you learn a lot - about what not to do, and about what does work.  One thing I appreciate about working in the world of technology is that there are lots of opportunities to fail, and there's very little room culturally to keep failing in the same way multiple times.  You either learn your lesson and find ways to do it better the next time, or you're left behind.

I can't help but contrast this to today's news that AIG (American International Group), a for-profit corporation that is not doing well, will be given $30 billion in taxpayer dollars, after the $150 billion in taxpayer dollars they got last year apparently didn't do the trick.

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The Contractor Experience

(Some of my blog posts are constructive, this one is pure rant.)

There's a new amusement park ride opening up in town!  It'll take you on a thrilling journey through ups and downs of successful projects, communication failures, happy long-term partnerships, and total failures in competence.  It's called THE CONTRACTOR EXPERIENCE and you can hop on it today by opening up the phone book and calling pretty much any contractor you want to try to get some work done on your home or business!

Okay, I know that it might be a little pretentious or worse for me to sit on my high blogging horse and tell the folks who are willing to do some pretty hard, dirty work how to do their jobs when I'm not able or willing to do them myself.  But at the same time, I can't help but see it from the perspective of how poorly some of these folks are running their small local businesses, and how their customer service values take a total back seat to their own preferred ways of doing things.  Some war stories:

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The one where the plane failed to depart, twice

Chris and Mark arriving at SFOSometimes you see those weather stories on the evening news where they show a few seconds of airline passengers stranded in some airport looking like hell as they try to figure out how to cope with canceled or delayed flights, and usually you just feel a little bad for them and then move on. At the moment I'm feeling some appreciation for the misery that's displayed in those brief clips, having had a bit of a travel adventure myself:

It started with Mark and I barreling through the snow on I-70 toward the Dayton airport, wondering if planes would even be taking off at all today. But, my handy dandy text message updates from declared the flight was on time, so we pressed on.

I should have known we were in for a special time when the guy at the ticket check-in counter (which has largely been replaced by self check-in kiosks) was delighted to point out how much cost cutting Delta has done. Me: "Do you have one of those little folders for these boarding passes?" Him: "No, they did away with those some time ago. Heck, all we've got left now are the airplanes! MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA!" Right.

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More credit card offers...from Miami University?

Sound the rant alert. I've written here before about how much I don't like getting credit card offers in the mail, but I've learned to deal with it. Or, I thought I had. Then came the onslaught of offers from the Miami University Alumni Association for a card branded by Miami - "support us and save with our low introductory rate!" Groan. One of those mailings I could have dealt with...but I've gotten four identical offers in the last two months alone - and I didn't even attend Miami. So, that means that not only does Miami (and JPMorgan Chase & Co., the organization they're working with to make this offer) not observe the national "do not contact" lists I've subscribed to, but that unless they are *trying* to tick people off, their mailing list management also stinks. Apparently they have some data privacy issues to work through, too.
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"Apprentice" Season Two Checklist

Mark Burnett's checklist for Season Two of "The Apprentice" (yes, I watch that crap, leave me alone):

  • Elevate Donald Trump to the status of demigod through not-so-subtle use of regal music and flattering camera angles. Check.
  • Exploit women for profit while using Carolyn's "strong character" to take the moral high ground. Check.
  • Breaking the stated rules of the game, fire someone who isn't technically allowed to be fired that week. Check.
  • Breaking the stated rules of the game, prematurely fire someone outside of the boardroom session set aside for firing. Check.
  • Breaking the stated rules of the game, fire multiple people at one time. Check.

Still to come (we'll definitely be Jumping the Shark this season folks):

  • Task where teams have 2 days to end poverty, oppression, and war with $25K seed money.
  • Special episode featuring Stacy J. on how to slander people you don't like and ruin their lives on national television. Subtitled: "Diagnosing mental illness for MBAs"
  • Fire Carolyn.
  • As the fired candidate is walking out to the taxi, shoot him or her in the kneecap with a sniper rifle.

Just wait, I'm tellin' ya. We ain't seen nothin' yet.

Sprint PCS needs to run cron jobs more often

Fair warning: this post is pure rant.

I have a Sprint PCS phone that I use as my primary, and only, home phone line. There are tons of reasons why I like this arrangement, which I won't go into here, but I've been a loyal, pay-on-time Sprint customer for several years now. Which is why it was maddeningly frustrating to go to make a call today and get a note that my account had been shut off because I was over my spending limit.
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Gas Pump Buffer Overflow

Random rant: In 1970, Intel produced a memory chip, the first, capable of storing 1 kilobyte of data - a couple of paragraphs of text or so. Today, one can obtain memory chips that store many gigabytes of data - enough to hold entire movies, encyclopedias, and more - for mere hundreds of dollars. So, why is it that when I finish pumping gas at a gas station and hit the "RECEIPT YES" button, the piece of crap machine can't store that one simple keystroke in its input buffer long enough that it doesn't have to ask me 5 seconds later, "RECEIPT? (YES/NO)". It can remember a credit card number, do complex fuel tax calculations, and even tell me about the latest sugar-coated crap I can buy inside, but not that I pressed that button a few seconds ago. It's a scary, scary world we live in, folks. Bah!