Archive for October, 2008

Half-Muslim and Other Odd Identities

Friday, October 31st, 2008

I had a chat over the weekend with a guy here in Tucson, AZ. He was a young, gay guy, and he was planning to vote for McCain. Well, I was surprised… don't you want gay rights? He said he didn't care if gays got the right to get married. I said OK, what about benefits! Not sure he thought about that.

Why McCain? He told me McCain deserved it. OK, why? He told me McCain deserved to be President because he had run SO many times that we should just give it to him. He's tried so hard, and according to this guy, he had never heard of Barack Obama before he was running for President. I thought this was like giving the Miss America crown to the girl who's been doing pageants the longest, whether or not she had won any. :)

The guy I was talking to goes on to say that Obama is half-muslim, and he seemed to think that was a bad thing. I said that Obama was a Christian, and that you kinda can't be half-Muslim. If your mother is Christian and your father is Catholic, you are not half-Catholic. You are whatever religion you were raised, or whichever one you choose to follow. If you chose to follow Christianity, the Catholic church may not see you as half-Catholic.

And this got me thinking about people's ethnic identities. If your mother is from Spain and your father is from France, you might say you're half Spanish and half French. Well, if you were born and raised in the USA, I'd probably say you are just American.

My evil grandma was born here, but her parents were born in Poland. So with two Polish parents, does that make her Polish? Well, she'd be of Polish descent, but she wouldn't be half-Polish or full-Polish. If your grandparents came from Ireland, but you were born and raised in the USA, you are American. I wouldn't call you Irish-American unless you had spend enough time in both countries to culturally identify with both countries. Most of the Americans who will tell you they're "Irish" have never been to Ireland, don't speak the language, and wouldn't know anything about Ireland. My great-grandparents mostly came from Poland, but I don't say I'm Polish!

I have a friend who used to tell me that he hated the term African-American. Evidently, to be politically correct, people would use that term for him (he's black), but he said all of his family traces back to the Caribbean. So wouldn't he be Caribbean-American? No family he can trace came from Africa, but people will look at him and call him African-American.

I think we should be looking at the labels we put on ourselves and each other. I think a lot of these don't make sense, especially to call someone half-Muslim. Either are you are a follower of Islam or you're not! I don't think there's a halfway here. :)


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Lenovo Gets Another Chance…

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

Remember my Lenovo fiasco? Well, it only took 25 months of fighting them, but they've finally agreed to replace my faulty laptop.

Next time I have a lemon, I will dispute the credit card charge good and early so that I'm within the appropriate dispute time frame.

Any company can make a lemon. It's usually an accident. Lenovo has a decent reputation. The real problem was the company not being able to admit this laptop was faulty. By keeping me from a working computer and proper replacement, it was super bad for customer satisfaction and marketing. They did the wrong thing.

I'm glad Lenovo came around, and I hope the replacement computer will impress me. I'm willing to change my impression if the replacement can really impress me. I'll never be happy with how they treated me over the lemon, but hopefully someone there will review my case, and want to change. I know that's a long shot, but I believe in change. :)

I've ordered the Lenovo ThinkPad X200 Tablet version. CNET seemed to really love the X200, but didn't like that it didn't come with a trackpad. I love trackpads, so by getting the tablet version, the entire screen is touch screen. I've never tried a tablet computer, and I hope that I love it.

The question is will it replace the HP 6985SE I bought in August to replace the non-working Lenovo? Which will be my day-to-day work horse? The battle begins in about 10 days when I should be getting the Lenovo, and I'll start to put it through its paces. :)


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Tax Cuts?

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I am hoping someone can explain something to me.

We have borrowed billions from other countries. The USA is in super debt. Taxpayer money we don't even have is going to bail out private banks. And we have a deficit, meaning the government is spending more than it's collecting.

Sounds like the government is some sort of bad college kids who just got a credit card or something. :)

Here is what I don't understand. McCain keeps saying, "Read my lips. No new taxes." He's talking about tax cuts for just about everybody. Cuts in how your cell phone is taxed. Cut corporate tax rates. He makes it sound like everybody's everything tax will go down if McCain is the President.

Question 1: Remember the last time we heard "no new taxes"? How do we know that a campaign promise will be kept? Many campaign promises aren't kept.

Question 2: If McCain wants to decrease everybody's taxes, and the government is already taking in less in taxes than it's spending, how will we get rid of the deficit and our debt?

I would think some taxes would HAVE to be raised. How else are we going to get back to having no deficit or debt, and hey, I'd like a surplus! I'd like our government and country to be strong, have heaps of money, take care of its own, and not need other countries to bail us out. China basically owns us right now… but we're afraid that people in Congress might be un-American? We're owned by China, and what China doesn't own, we pretty much buy from them anyway.

So can somebody who knows more about politics and economics please explain to me how our country is going to clear the deficit, pay off our debts, and have money in the bank :) if the plan is to tax most people and businesses less in most ways. Thanks.


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Spelling UK in the USA

Monday, October 27th, 2008

I have been spelling the British way for a couple of decades now. Weird habit I got into from watching so much British TV growing up. My father thought I was a jerk, but once I was living in the internet world in the early 1990s, I had to explain to him that we're the only country that spells English this way. Pretty much the whole rest of the English-speaking world spells British… "colour," "optimise," and "mobile phones." :)

When I try to mark UK English, I get myself into a heap of trouble you wouldn't believe. Evidently, despite the number of British, Irish, Canadian, Australian, New Zealand, and other people who are in the USA, computers seem to expect them to not keep spelling how they have been spelling.

I get the UK MSN site. I am defaulted to UK Windows Live searches. I had problems getting the Windows Live cash back promos because my browser decided I was in the UK because I am set to UK English. I think I might be set to Canadian English right now, to see if that helped. Nope, I see "ca" and "cdn" added to lots of URLs when I try to visit sites. Shopping.com defaulted me to UK shops. When IE was defaulting to AOL for some weird reason, I was getting AOL Canada.

Weirdest was an apartment hunting site that showed me the rates I know local apartments go for, but threw a £ where the $ should have been. So where I know rent was $865 locally, it said £865, and it's certainly NOT £865.

Facebook won't charge my credit card for the ads I have been running. Evidently, it's really scary that I might be marked UK English in Facebook while trying to charge a card with an Arizona billing address. The best was when Facebook asked me if I speak UK English, and would I help translate their site. Huh? Translate?

This is all because of my LANGUAGE. So if I live in the USA but would like to mark things as Chilean Spanish, I can expect to be defaulted to all sorts of non-USA sites. How about the ultra religious Jews who may be writing in Hebrew but are in New York… where do websites dump them?

I'd like my computer to recognise that where I am and/or where I might want to have purchases shipped is where things should default. Language or spelling choice shouldn't completely affect my entire web surfing and web shopping experience in IE and Firefox!


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Awesome Electric Hybrid Bike

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

Go green! You want this! :)

I love this Ultramotor A2B hybrid electric bike. Pedal or scoot for up to 20 miles on one battery charge. You don't need a license, registration, or insurance since this is legally a bicycle.

I'm totally getting one.

Oh this one is SILVER despite the pictures I took of other ones in the shop.


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Red Light Camera Scam

Thursday, October 23rd, 2008

Take a good look. This is my car at River & Oracle here in Tucson. I’m making a left from Oracle heading south to River heading east. The red light camera got me, and most of yesterday was spent in defensive driving school.

Image_108
(click to enlarge)

Why? What was wrong here? Why didn’t someone look at this and say hey, you’re in the intersection on a yellow light, you HAD to complete your turn, and that’s not illegal!

The answer is what an officer explained to me as "prolongation of the curb." The lines you see in the photo are the crosswalk, but are somehow NOT considered the line that designates if you are in the intersection. That line is about 10 feet in front of my car. I hadn’t crossed that line yet, which means legally, I wasn’t in the intersection yet. Which means I "ran a red light" by driving into the intersection on a red light.

The officer told me that if I had stopped behind the line 10 feet in front of me, that would have been totally legal. I would not have run the red light. Yeah, it’s weird.

How do they get away with that? It has to do with where they painted the crosswalk compared to where the lanes of traffic running east and west in front of me actually are. You’d think that the cars driving left to right in front of me would come RIGHT by that crosswalk, and if I pull out further, I’ll get creamed. But not at this intersection. I can pull out further and nothing happens because there is a turning lane that doesn’t continue. But the space for it is still there. So the cars driving left and right are not passing right near the crosswalk.

Look out for intersections like these if your town has them! They are setting up red light cameras to catch people who do NOT know about this law. And you can’t win in traffic court because legally speaking, you ran a red light, and not knowing about the law doesn’t excuse it. I heard people give lots of good excuses as to why they made the left, and the judge rejected all of them. So I decided to not have my case heard, and just go to defensive driving.

You pay for the class, and they wipe the ticket off your record. So it’s a scam to bring in revenue. Don’t fall for it! Know about this weird law!


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eBay CEO? OK, I’m Available :)

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2008

I recently saw that AuctionBytes was asking readers who they would want as eBay CEO if what’s been going on this year at eBay meant a change of the guard.

Well, I just want to put everybody’s minds at ease, and let you know that should this position open at any time, I would make myself available to take this job. As we’re knee-deep in Presidential campaigning, here would be my promises (except unlike Pres campaigns, I’d keep them :) ).

If the Electoral College chooses me as your next eBay CEO…

  • We’ll get to work on an As Was eBay listing template for everybody who wants one. Considering that our average client sees their eBay sales go up 15%, DSRs up, stupid questions down, more Store traffic, higher prices, and faster sales within days of using our work, every eBay seller should have this available to him or her for free. As CEO of eBay, I need to make sure that every serious seller has ALL the tools he or she needs to be long-term successful.
  • I promise to not become Amazon Junior or more of Half.com. I will make sure that eBay innovates, as it always has, and stays a true eCommerce leader.
  • I would reduce FVFs, as you already know, to make eBay more attractive than other platforms charging similar percentages.
  • I will run national TV ads aimed at buyers, and I will run GOOD ads… not ads that make eBay shoppers look like insane, obsessed clock collectors. Shoppers are regular people getting necessities and fun things, and I want to remind them that in this economy, eBay is probably THE best place on the planet to do your shopping.
  • I will make a DSR of 4 a good rating. Nobody should be punished for getting a mark buyers are told is a good mark. You probably never grounded your kid for getting an 80 on a test.
  • I will make sure that my selling population understands what’s going on. Nobody should be surprised by being hidden in search or getting suspended. People need better communication to know what is going on, when, and how eBay expects you to react.
  • I will re-hire the Community department because eBay needs a great public face of people we like and trust. If fat has to be cut, I’ll look at middle management and Vice Presidents.
  • You’re going to get something fresh. I’ve never worked in the corporate world. I spend my life innovating and making people happy. I do a lot of eBay and online shopping, so I understand the shopper. And with my company, As Was, we have made sellers better, stronger, happier, and more profitable, even in bad times. I’ve run my own company since I’m 23, so I understand what the eBay entrepreneur lives through, 7 days a week.
  • I can pick up where Meg forgot she was going. Meg moved things forward, and then got really nostalgic about how far she moved things forward, and didn’t change enough or fix problems. That left John a HUGE pile of things to fix, and we’ve ended up with a year that reflects that.
  • I will do things that make sense. I won’t fire people, buy a company, and take out a loan in the same week because hey, that can look a little weird. That can chip away at confidence, and eBay needs that confidence from buyers and sellers.
  • I will make sure that new ideas are multidimensionally tested before you see these ideas. For example, I won’t just test "current way" vs. "new idea." I would test "current way" vs. "new idea" vs. 3 variations of the new idea. Sometimes, the new idea isn’t the best way, and just because it may test better than the old way doesn’t mean the idea can’t be improved!
  • I will connect better with third-party companies. So many of you rely on Vendio, ChannelAdvisor, and others for small tools or major enterprise systems. I’ll make sure the companies you rely on are strong, staying up to date, and helping us make the marketplace stronger and easier.
  • eBay will save lots of money. I’m happy to take a salary of $350,000 per year plus incentive-based bonuses. And please cover moving costs. :)

And there you go. I know that eBay can get past this tough year. I’m happy to steer the ship if anybody wants the Deb version. :) Did I mention that Pierre and I went to the same uni around the same time? He graduated in 1988; I started there in 1989. I double-majored in pre-med and music, but then dropped pre-med. He has a degree in computer science. See? You don’t need an MBA or fancy corporate experience to enact great ideas. :)


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Second Life for Business?

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

In the scheme of all the Web 2.0 discussions, I decided for the first time ever to look at Second Life. After all, there are a few people who consult or give seminars, and their advice has been hey, you have to be there. So let’s imagine that you are an eBay seller, and you’re thinking about Web 2.0 stuff. Blogging? Sure. Twitter? Definitely! Facebook? Yes. MySpace? Maybe… I think it’s very teen and not business oriented. Second Life? Well here is what I found.

I spent about a total of 4 hours over 2 days in Second Life. Met some nice people. I’d shout out to them, but you get fake names on Second Life (SL), so that would only go so far! For those who are as new as I am, it’s a 3D virtual world where you are in the moment interacting in a whole SIM game… think Roller Coaster Tycoon or The SIMs, but it just keeps going, and other real people are involved.

Money changes hands. Lots of it. I read a stat that something like $1M USD per year changes hands through SL. So you may think hey, I sell on eBay, I have to get in on that. Well, wait. Did I mention that SL has its own currency, the Linden, abbreviated as L$? The currency fluctuates, but tends to be around 250 L$ to one US$. People are selling things around SL, and just about all of those things are for use in SL. For example, you might buy an outfit your avatar can wear. It might be L$400, so that would come out to under $2. It’s like dressing Barbie. :) You can spend money on it, but it doesn’t really translate into a real world life.

But people buy and sell these things! There are always news stories about people making great money being an architect in SL, designing buildings. Land is for sale… create your own place in SL. eBay allows SL things to be sold, so you can get land, L$, and other stuff. I haven’t bought anything yet because I’d like to spend zero on this whole thing! Luckily, SL is free to join, and as long as you keep finding free things to wear or do, you don’t have to pay anybody.

What else to people do there? Hang out. Meet people. Text and voice chat. Buy stuff. Fly around. Build their land. Have virtual sex (can’t speak personally on that one). Pretend they’re someone they’re not. Maybe if you are in a wheelchair, it’s a place where you’re not in a wheelchair. So it’s an escape. But is real life business going on there? Here are my conclusions.

1) No, not really. I wandered into a lot of cool shops that only sold things for my avatar. I would have considered purchasing them to wear in real life. I could only buy them for my avatar. Ads around the shops pointed me to more SL stuff… more SL clothing, even a magazine within SL that claims 25,000 readers. They wanted to know if I wanted to advertise. Not sure about that! :) But even when people in shops had my attention, they didn’t send me to a website where I could buy those boots, those pants, those earrings. It was all stuff for my character, and THAT is the impression I get from SL. Everything is for your character.

2) I think most people are in SL for fun, socialising, and escape. So they may not be thinking about on what to spend real money. They may be into their escape, and may not want to follow a link outside SL to see your cookie jars or cell phone cases. I guess I equate it to walking up to someone who is just getting off a ride at a carnival or fair, and asking them if they would like to buy a spare cell phone battery. They are TOTALLY not "in that space," and may just keep walking past you.

So to speakers and bloggers telling eBay sellers to have a presence in Second Life to promote their eBay Store, I just don’t see it. I DO think SL has business potential, and I’m still investigating. But I don’t think it has a lot of relevance to an eBay or online seller looking for more and new buyers.


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Down With Twibler

Monday, October 20th, 2008

Twibler. Pretty much the most awful thing I’ve seen relating to Twitter yet. Twibler so far is on the short list of things that will get me to follow you on Twitter, and then UNFOLLOW you.

What is Twibler? It’s a tool that automatically posts everything you list on eBay to your Twitter account. This means that for eBay sellers who list a fair deal, especially those with third-party tools that make listing and relisting much easier, the rest of US have to get an ongoing feed of everything you’ve put on eBay. It might look something like this screen shot, taken from the an eBay seller’s twitter feed…

Twibler

If you were following this person, you would have received all of these tweets. Now, if you REALLY love this seller SO much that you want to know everything they’ve listed the second they listed it, then this tool is GREAT. But for everybody else who thought that Twitter was more about networking than spamming people with every item you have, then Twibler is the devil.

By the way, all the tinyurls are long eBay links that are shortened. And guess what. They are actually eBay Partner Network links. So as you are spamming people who thought they liked you, Twibler is making commission off your sales. You could be making that commission by dropping around your own coded links!

Note to the above seller… try keywords like NEW, pocketbook (not everybody thinks of these things as handbags or purses), and get out the dollar amount. Nobody searches for "fossil handbag $168." Do people still search for NR? You could be using better keywords, IMO.

Twibler has another tool called pricetweet. Evidently, you find an eBay item, and it will let you know when the bidding gets to a certain number. I absolutely cannot find the importance of that! Let’s say you land on an MP3 player you want. Bidding is up to $50. Maybe you have bid and maybe you have not. Pricetweet lets you enter a price at which you get a tweet telling you the item hit that price. Why would I want to know if that MP3 player is now at $80? If I’m bidding on it, eBay will tell me if I’m outbid. If I’m not bidding on it, why would I care if something I’m not bidding on reaches a certain price?

Sorry, Twibler, but I think both of your ideas stink! I don’t see the advantage to the seller or buyer here. I’m for you making affiliate revenue if you can, but am just not impressed with the tool. Twitter can do so much, and I’d like to see something really innovative that solves problems, not creates them! I have unfollowed a bunch of people using Twibler, which means now they have a much lower chance of marketing to me.


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Sun-Times Reports “Grumpy” Weather

Thursday, October 16th, 2008

8 October 2008 – Chicago Sun Times website. This was part of their top masthead.

Grumpy

Weather: Grumpy. Really? I’ve been to places where the people seemed overwhelmingly grumpy, but never seen weather I called grumpy.

Maybe tomorrow’s weather will say "economically challenged."


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