Archives for category: Inside my head

I don’t normally pay magazine advertisements much mind. Actually, I don’t really read hard-copy magazines too often anymore – in M-D’s world, they’ve pretty much been demoted from ‘weekly distraction’ to ‘something to read while waiting for an airplane to take off”. (I almost exclusively fly out of Newark Airport, so yes, you CAN finish a magazine, cover to cover, between push-back and take off.)

For the last 6 months or so, I’ve been getting BusinessWeek, mostly because I had to burn off some airline mileage (and I was already getting the now-defunct Conde Nast Portfolio). Leafing through today’s issue, I couldn’t figure out why my brain wouldn’t let me move past this advert:

Looks normal enough, right?

Looks normal enough, right?

It’s a Verizon Wireless ad for the Blackberry Tour. Looks innocent enough, but something just seemed off, and I couldn’t put my finger on it. I tried moving past it and reading the rest of the issue, but I kept flipping back to the ad. I reread the ad copy – seemed like the normal VZW sales pitch. Then I looked closer at the simulated screen image.

Things come into focus.  (-ish.)

Things come into focus. (-ish.)

The simulated user appears to be using GPS to find his way around Rome, Italy. On “America’s Largest and Most Reliable 3G Network”. That seems…odd. Rome, GA? Sure. Rome, Italy? Not so much. Still, it’s possible that a VZW user could be navigating abroad – in fact, a look at the Blackberry Tour’s product page reveals that it is, in fact, a “world phone” – meaning that it uses a CDMA 1X EVDO radio for 3G in North America, but switches to a GSM or UMTS radio when outside North America, where VZW doesn’t exist except as a line-item on Vodafone’s balance sheet. Still, something seemed wrong. So I looked even closer.



And there it was. Itty-bitty white-on-green type, barely visible. Surely the average BusinessWeek reader would miss it. It’s the sort of thing that only a self-confessed geek who spends too much time reading gadget blogs (and used to be an regular at would spot.

“1XEV”. Or, in technical terms, CDMA 1X EVDO Rev. A. In essence, the phone is saying “I’m on a mobile phone network that has never existed in the part of Europe for which I’m currently displaying navigation data.” Because there are no CDMA networks in Italy, EVDO or otherwise. Running a CDMA phone in an all-GSM/UMTS country is like trying to fit an American plug into a British socket – it just won’t go.

So, in essence, Verizon Wireless is suggesting that this phone:

  • can pull in a wireless signal from thousands of miles away to allow use of data services on other continents (at great expense to the user, no doubt), or
  • is bollocks, can’t navigate for crap, and might try to route you past the Colosseum on your way to work.

Either way, it’s a FAIL, albeit one almost nobody will notice.

Go get yours.

Meaningful posts soon, I promise…

To: The World at Large
From: M-D
Subject: NO, I don’t work here.

Many years ago, I left the glamorous, go-go world of retail sales for a life more normal – one that affords me better pay, normal hours (supposedly), and a modicum of piece during the work day. Finally, I could just be a normal consumer, like the millions of others out there. Sure, I’d know a little more about the workings of retail sales (books, in particular) than most, but otherwise, I’d just blend in with the crowd. At least, that was the goal.

And yet, it seems that about every third time I’m in a retail store, I end up getting asked if I work there. (Or, in the extreme case, someone will just walk up to me and either ask a product question or start complaining about the service.) Sometimes, it’s due to the color of the shirt I’m wearing, and I suppose I should know better than to wear, for instance, a plain, button-down red shirt in either Staples or CompUSA. Sometimes, it’s just due to idiocy – I’ll be standing in an aisle in Borders, looking for a book on SQL, and someone will just walk up and start asking me questions, like I own the place. Yes, I worked at Borders once, and yes, I shelved the computer section, but I don’t work there anymore. I try to be as polite as I can, but sometimes it just gets under my skin.

The all-time oddest ‘do you work here?’ came about two weeks ago – following a luncheon with a client in Manhattan, I went over to 30Rock to have a drink with Margaret, one of my best friends from college. Now, bear in mind, I’m dressed in a suit and tie, with an ETS logo lapel pin on my jacket. I’m standing outside the visitors’ check-in center, waiting for Margaret to come down in the elevator, fanning myself with the program from the luncheon (because there’s no friggin’ airflow in the lobby of 30Rock), watching Rockefeller Center security harass the tour groups as they pass through the metal detectors, and occasionally checking my e-mail on my Treo. No fewer than 5 people walk straight up to me, get right in my face, and start asking me questions – “where’s the bathroom?”, and so forth. Like I’m a frakking NBC Page or something. Now, bear in mind, I’m standing outside the visitors’ center, and there’s an information booth about 10 steps to my left. So these people had to walk straight past the people who actually DO work there in order to get all up in my business.

Look, world, I’ll put this simply. No. No, I don’t work here. I don’t work at Best Buy, I don’t work at Circuit City, I don’t work at CompUSA, I don’t work at Borders or Barnes & Noble (any more, anyway). Unless you happen to catch me on the campus of ETS, or I’m offsite managing a scholarship review committee, the answer is always going to be no. Just because I’m wearing a shirt that’s marginally the same color or style as the employees’ uniforms doesn’t mean I work in that store; ditto for the fact that I might happen to have a decent knowledge of the products I’m shopping for – in fact, in most cases, that’s a dead giveaway that someone DOESN’T work in retail. And hey, you know what else is a dead giveaway? The lack of a nametag, or any other paraphernalia that would identify me as an employee.

I’m sorry if I seem a little bitter about this whole thing, but look at it from my perspective. When it happens once, it’s an honest mistake. When it happens over and over again, it just becomes annoying, like a wasp flying around your head or something. So this is your one warning. Next time I get asked “do you work here?” in, say, Best Buy, I’m still going to be polite, but I’m going to make sure that you buy the most overrated, overpriced TV on the market. (“1080p? Nah, that’s a terrible television. You want a lower number. The lower, the better. Here’s one that does 480i – that means the pixels are bigger and more powerful. And the ‘i’ stands for ‘incredible picture’.”) Because a little knowledge can be a very dangerous thing.


Pro: Knowing that you can run the dishwasher whenever you like, not just when it’s full.

Con: Knowing that there’s no one else around to empty the dishwasher.

I got home from work at about 6:45 and sat down on the sofa to watch Jeopardy. The next thing I know, it’s 10 minutes of 9, I’ve got a drool spot on my shirt (yes, you read that right), and I feel as though all the energy has been sapped from my body.

This is why I hate unintentional naps.

I realize that I haven’t quite provided closure on my SXSW experience, and that I’ve been slow to update my blogroll to include people from said geekfest…I’ll get to it, I promise…right after…I…*snore*

Behold – the MacBook Pro. My new reason for being.

I. Want. It.

I’ve been staring at the “Create New Entry” screen for a couple of hours now, trying to come up with some kind of pithy holiday/New Year’s message. (I also realize that I never resolved the hanging threads from the SFO trip – I had a post started while I was waiting for my 11:45PM flight, but lost it when I forgot to save my work and shut down my computer for boarding.) I know this – I’m not doing the ‘year in review’ thing. It’s been done to death already. I’ll come up with something. Perhaps the words will come easier following some liquid inspiration (read: liquor) tonight at Darren & Ali’s shindig.

In the meantime, have a happy and safe New Year’s. See you in ‘aught-six’.

Rebuffering brain…38% complete. Please standby.

Quick catch up: belated Happy Birthdays to Darren and Denise, and best wishes for a speedy recovery to Michael Larsen.

I’m 30 years old today. Three decades. Three hundred and sixty months. (I’d go into weeks, days, and so forth, but I’m too lazy.) Everyone keeps asking me “How does it feel to be 30?”, as though I was supposed to wake up this morning and have some sort of grand revelation. Well, unless “Where are my glasses?” is a revelation of some sort, I’m sorry to disappoint. Maybe it’s too soon to say, but 30 feels about the same as 29, except that I can’t say I’m “twenty-something” anymore. I’ll have to get back to you on that one.

I’ve been taking it easy this…well, ‘weekend’ isn’t exactly right, but I haven’t been to work yet this week, so it FEELS like a weekend. Saw a movie, played some poker, ate out a bunch, put up some new blinds in my apartment…and generally just trying to follow the advise my boss, James, gave me about enjoying your time off. To wit, I’ve intentionally been keeping away from my computer, which is why I haven’t posted anything in while. In fact, I’ve found that the best relief for stress may be spending the afternoon with Darren’s daughter, Cindi (you know…the cutest baby ever?) – somehow, when you’re helping an 18-month old to learn the difference between ‘up’ and ‘down’, the rest of the world doesn’t seem so important.

The capper on the ‘weekend’ was dinner tonight with Stacey, Spike, Darren and what’s-her-face at Winberries, followed by ice cream at Halo Pub. Thanks, guys! (Special thanks to Stacey for taking charge of the thing and putting up with my chronic indecisiveness.)

Unfortunately, it’s back to reality tomorrow – no avoiding it, no matter how much vacation time I still have left. And as much faith as I have in my co-workers, I’m just hoping I don’t have too much mopping-up to do tomorrow.

(Rejected titles for this post: “XXX (the number, not the other kind)”, “Only 4 more years in the ‘choice’ demographic”)

To: The guy who designs the pictogram directions for IKEA.
From: M-D November
Directions for “Olsvik” table.

OK, look. I’ve been an IKEA customer for longer than I care to admit. My parents redid my room entirely in IKEA furniture when I was 8 years old, away at camp for the first time. When I got my own apartment, and needed lots of furniture really quick (and really cheap), did I just buy some random particle board crap from Lowes? No. I bought your particle board crap. But you’ve always done OK by me – I’ve still got the set of shelves that my parents put in my bedroom over 20 years ago, and to the credit of the design masterminds at your company, they do their job today as well as they ever have. Ah, IKEA, you magnificant Swedish bastards, I read your catalog!

So, that said, I’m hardly a novice at assembling your stuff. I’ve been through beds, dressers, chairs, entertainment centers…no problem. Sure, the pictograph instructions are a little confusing at times, but I’ve always worked it out in the end.

But THIS? This is bullshit.

I’m sure you recognize your handiwork. Step number nine from the assembly instructions for the Olsvik table. In which you instruct the new owner of the table to defy the laws of gravity in order to secure the two lower tiers of the table.I took high school physics, like most educated people. And aside from learning that the solution to most life problems is ‘more torque’, I know that the law of gravity cannot be circumvented. If NASA hasn’t been able to figure it out, I’m sure as hell not going to be able to do it to put together a $40 endtable. I found myself staring at this diagram for a good 10 minutes trying to get a handle on what you were asking me to do, and how I was going to accomplish it – especially with the space shuttle fleet in its current state.

Listen, I understand that you’re under a lot of pressure to create instructions that can be understood (for the most part) in countries all over the world, but you could have at least showed Mr. IKEA Demonstration Man using a thick book, like a dictionary or one of the Harry Potter novels, to hold the table surfaces in place while he screws them down from the underside. Don’t assume that your end users have a Q-like knowledge of the space/time continuum, or that they’d squander that knowledge for the sake of affordable Swedish furniture.


(Oh, and if you could send some of those kick-ass cinnamon buns my way, that’d be great.)