Categories
Consumer Experiences Food

Todd’s World of Coffee

We’ve now been living in Capitol Hill in Denver for three months. One of the things I realized when we moved here is that there are a lot of coffee shops within easy walking distance. With the help of Yelp, I made a list of all seven that are within a half mile, which I posted here.

That’s when I gave myself a little challenge – to visit each and every one of these. I guess I chose 0.5 miles as the cutoff because that’s what I think of as “an easy walk” – anything farther and it would feel more like a walk for a walk’s sake, instead of just “I’ll bop down to the corner and get a cappuccino.”

But a new place cropped up since I started my list, and that’s when I decided I better update this. And in the process, I organized it all a bit better and expanded it significantly.

Coffee Shops Within 1/2 Mile

  1. Pablo’s Coffee 0.1 mi – This is the easiest one to get to, by far. It’s a nice place with really good cappuccino and no WiFi. Nice staff, roast their own beans. My Yelp review.
  2. Buzz Cafe 0.4 mi – I just went here for the first time last week on a weekday morning. Their homemade breakfast sandwich is the best around – the tastiest coffee shop breakfast in the area. The cappuccino was good, but not outstanding. My Yelp review.
  3. Drip Denver 0.4 mi – This is my favorite of all the ones on this list. The service is great, the people really know their coffee, and they have a wide selection. The interior is also very comfortable, and they have good WiFi. They get their beans from Pablo’s and Kaladi Brothers. My Yelp review.
  4. Dazbog Coffee 0.5 mi – This is convenient for me when I’m driving to Broomfield in the morning. But the service is spotty. Sometimes they forget to make things I order. And I haven’t had any coffee drink that’s really impressed me. I rank this like Starbucks, but slightly more local.
  5. Roostercat Coffee House 0.5 mi – Nice small place downstairs on Lincoln between 10th and 11th. They use Coda coffee. Not very crowded or noisy, at least on a weekday morning. They make unusual waffle sandwiches for breakfast and lunch. But I’ve gotten turned off by my last two visits and stopped going. One time there were coffee grounds in my cappuccino. How does that even happen?

Starbucks Within 1/2 Mile

Yeah, I’m giving these a separate category. Four Starbucks within 0.5 miles of me? Talk about overkill. The bold ones are the ones I’ve personally visited, for what little that’s worth.

  1. Starbucks Coffee 0.2 mi – 300 E 6th Ave – This is the Starbucks on 6th near Moe’s Bagels. I don’t have much to say about Starbucks. When I went to this one, the service was good.
  2. Starbucks Coffee 0.3 mi – 575 Lincoln Street – This one is between Lincoln and Broadway on the south side of Speer, by Bombay Bowl. I went there once when we lived in Baker.
  3. Starbucks Coffee 0.4 mi – 560 Corona St – This is the one inside Safeway at 6th and Corona. Oh boy, supermarket Starbucks.
  4. Starbucks Coffee 0.4 mi – 931 Corona St – This is the Starbucks inside the King Soopers that people often call “Queen Soopers”. It’s a typical supermarket Starbucks.

Other Coffee-serving Businesses Within 1/2 Mile

Again, bold means “been there, done that”.

  1. Dunkin Donuts 0.5 mi – 366 N Broadway – I went there but didn’t get coffee. For some reason, people rave about the quality of the coffee at Dunkin.
  2. DJ’s 9th Avenue Cafe 0.4 mi – 865 Lincoln St – This is a great place for both breakfast and lunch. They have good service and good food, which they make with as many local ingredients as possible. I’ve never seen it very crowded, so I wonder how they can stay in business given the size of the place.
  3. City Bakery Cafe 0.3 mi – 726 Lincoln St – Pretty new. Mainly baked good, but they also have drip coffee and espresso drinks, as well a breakfast sandwiches.
  4. Racine’s Restaurant 0.2 mi – 650 Sherman St – We’ve been there a couple times. One time was for supper and it was great. One time was for breakfast and it was mediocre. The coffee was Starbucks brand. Enough said.
  5. Moe’s Broadway Bagel 0.2 mi – 550 Grant St – I love Moe’s “everything” bagel with cream cheese, and often get one to go with an iced coffee, which Moe’s makes pretty well.
  6. Martine’s Muffins 0.3 mi – 726 Lincoln St – Frankly, I’m not sure how Martine is going to stay in business now that City Bakery Cafe has opened up, not just nearby but in the same building! I just went there once for a breakfast burrito, and didn’t try her coffee. The burrito was just so-so.
  7. Einstein Bros. Bagels 0.4 mi – 1025 E 9th Ave – Why bother? There’s Moe’s nearby.
  8. Tony’s Market 0.5 mi – 950 Broadway – I’ve been to Tony’s for food, but never to get coffee. They do have a lot of interesting high end foodstuffs, at high end prices.
  9. Lé Bakery Sensual 0.2 mi – 300 E 6th Ave – They have coffee, but that’s not what they’re famous for. What they’re famous for is cupcakes shapes like penises. I bought a cake there once, but never the coffee.

So there’s my list. 18 places to get coffee within 1/2 mile. Got anything to add? Leave a comment.

Categories
Consumer Experiences

how I recovered my own damn data when my LaCie Little Big Disk took a crap

Oh what a terrible tale! This is one of those lessons that was so painful and expensive to learn that I feel compelled to share it. It all has to do with an external hard drive called a LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 1 TB. Mine died, then I had frustrating tech support from LaCie, then I got a replacement, then that one died too, and then I took matters into my own hands and started fixing the problem.

Chapter 1: My Little Big Disk Failure

The Little Big Disk model I own has since been discontinued because there are bigger, faster ones on the market now. But when I bought it, this was probably the fastest external hard drive around. It is one external drive case that contains a pair of 2.5″ (laptop type) hard drives. These connect to a computer using a Thunderbolt cable, which is almost exclusively seen on Macs. You can configure the pair or drives in a few ways, but the way I chose was the factory default, which is RAID 0. In short, this is a means of pairing two hard drives so that data access is faster than it would be from either one alone. Think of it like two hard drives that each have half a file on them, so when you ask for a file they can both send it to you in parallel at the same time. This is perfect for video editing, so I bought this drive to be my main project drive for Final Cut Pro.

The downside of RAID 0 is that because there are two drives, if either one fails you lose all your data. So as a unit, it’s twice as likely to fail in a given amount of time. Because of this, it’s a good idea to back up the hard drive often. However, Beth and I moved recently, and the hard drives that I back up my LaCie onto were in a box. So I went nearly two months without doing a backup. Oops. Of course, during that time the hard drive went tits up.

Mac OS’ Disk Utility could see both the drives that make up the array, but reported that one of them had failed. I submitted a tech support ticket with LaCie, and they had me try a bunch of stuff that didn’t solve the problem – reverse the direction of the Thunderbolt cable, try a different cable, try it on a different Mac, try a different power cable. (“Try a different power cable?” Like the cable could provide enough power to spin up both drives but only pull data off one of them? I thought that was the stupidest suggestion, but the tech support guy insisted that there’s a failure mode for these that results in the symptoms I saw.)

I eventually convinced LaCie that the drive was bad. Fortunately, it was still under warranty. The options, as they explained, were:

  1. mail them back the drive and they’d mail a replacement
  2. pay for shipping of the replacement drive and they would send it first, then I mail the origin later
  3. hire their data recovery arm to take the drive apart in a clean room and try to get the data off – at a cost of $600 to $3000

I went for the second option. The data I had on the drive since my last backup was important, but not $600 important.

They sent me a replacement, and I found the two-month-old backup I’d made of this drive before we moved. When the replacement arrived, I restored my data onto it and went about my business.

But then three days later, the “new” drive failed in exactly the same way! I couldn’t believe it. Once again, I swapped out the cable, tried a different Thunderbolt port, tried a different power supply, etc. Nothing.

Chapter 2: Taking Matters Into My Own Hands

Now with two dead drives on my hands, I did some deep thinking and online research. LaCie doesn’t have a great reputation for reliability, so there are lots of articles I found through Google about this. One guy who had a similar paired drive from them (different model but the same design approach) took his apart, pulled out the two drives, and found that they actually both still worked. In his case, the problem was that the controller board failed. The drives were fine.

I have a Dyconn Dubbler Dock, which is a double SATA hard drive dock. Each of the two slots can take either a 3.5″ SATA drive or a 2.5″ SATA drive. So I figured what the hell. I opened up the case, took out the drives, and popped them in the Dubbler. Mac OS detected they were part of a RAID pair, and showed the one as being failed in the same way as when the drives were in the Little Big Disk case.

Then I downloaded some software called R-Studio for Mac, which is a data recovery tool. It can do a lot of different things, and I assume most people use it to undelete files they accidentally deleted. But it also fixes RAID problems like this. The main approach is that you can mount two (or more) drives that were members of a RAID array, and then build a new virtual software RAID out of them. That done, you can then restore files from the virtual array onto another drive. R-Tools Technology, makers of R-Studio (and a bunch of other stuff) lets you try a demo version of the product to see if it can recovery any data from your drive. In demo mode, you can only restore files less than 64 KB. That’s pretty small these days. In fact, I had a hard time finding any files that small on my drive later, but I did. If it works OK in demo mode, then you pay $80 and get an unlock key to restore the whole drive.

With a little trial-and-error and reading various posts on their user forum, I found the set of parameters that worked. I was able to see the contents of my RAID array, and restore a file correctly. So I paid for the full version, and set it to work.

One gotcha I should point out: Choosing the correct block size is important. If you don’t get the right number, you’ll be able to see the file system on the failed drive, but when you restore files they will be corrupt. In my case, when I did that, I got off a text file, but the contents were all binary gobbledygook. And I restored a PNG image, but no image viewer could read it. But once I found the right block size to use, the restored file worked like a charm.

Categories
Consumer Experiences

my review of The Walk

The Walk is an iPhone app that tries to do for walking what Zombies, Run! did for running. When I heard about it, The Walk sounded right up my alley. I like to walk. In fact, due to some recent medical issues, walking is one of the few forms of exercise my doctor is happy with me doing at the moment. Anything that encourages me to walk farther and more often is a good thing, because I’m haven’t been allowed to lift weight for the past two months.

So I was pretty excited to learn that The Walk went on sale a while back, and I bought a copy, right about the same time I was getting my new iPhone 5s working. I’ve tried to adopt it, but as of today I decided to just give up. It’s not working out, and I blame the game designers.

The basic concept is that the app can use your phone’s internal sensors to track when and where you’re walking. So you leave the app running all the time, and it does two things. First, it simply records how much time you spent walking each day. You can see a map of where you walked so far today, if you’re interested, but that information seems to be lost at midnight. Second, you can play the “game” part of the app, which is supposed to be the main draw.

It’s not really a game, though. It’s more like a story, told in small tidbits. The story starts with you surviving a terrorist bombing attack, but somehow the cops think you are the terrorist. The bomb knocked out trains and cars and people started rioting. You have to cautiously but steadily walk from Inverness toward London, as you meet other people along the way.

There are different levels, which are sort of like chapters of the story. Each level is basically a make-believe map that shows where you’re walking (in the game). Every few minutes, you unlock the ability to listen to a new audio clip, which reveals the next little bit of the plot. Also, while you’re walking along, you can tap on little dots on the map on your phone to “collect” treasures along the way.

All this works fine. The app has never crashed on me, the voice acting is good, the visuals of the app are OK. But the problem is that the design of the “game” is just bad. It’s like the software developers were following a spec written by someone who couldn’t really imagine how the game would be used in the real world, and they did no beta testing. The “workflow” is all wrong, if that word applies to an app like this.

There are two basic use models you could use with this game. First, you could just let the thing run in your pocket or purse, and it’ll track how far you walked. This is how the app’s instructions encourage you to use it. The other way is to hold the phone in your hand; as you approach treasures to collect, click on them, and as you unlock audio clips, click on those, too.

But the problem is that the game design assumes you use it somewhere in between these two models. If your phone is in your purse, you can’t trigger the audio clips, and there’s no way to configure the game to play them automatically. Likewise, you can’t collect the treasures. And if the phone is in your hand, you have to look at it every minute or two to tap on the screen, which means you’re not watching where you’re walking in the real world. This is really awkward if you’re walking to and from the bus stop on the way to work, for example.

What the game needs is a use model somewhere in-between. You should be able to put in your earbuds and start a new level, and then put the phone in your pocket or purse. As you walk far enough to trigger the next audio clip, the app should quiet the music you’re listening to and play the clip, without any need for manual intervention. And they should just eliminate the whole business about clicking on the dots to collect treasures, because it’s not really interesting anyhow.

In my use model, the app would still track your minutes and miles walked, and if you had your earbuds in you’d get to be immersed in the story. But it wouldn’t take active attention and clicking. Do you have any idea how cold your hands get in the Colorado winter if you have your gloves off so you can click on a stupid iPhone game every few minutes while walking taking a 40 minute walk? The app designers apparently didn’t, but now I do.

My advice: Steer clear of The Walk. If anyone has a suggestion for a better designed app to encourage me to walk more, I’m all ears.

Categories
Consumer Experiences Politics

is the US government tapping our Googles?

This started as a Facebook post I made a couple days ago. But on reflection, I think this topic is going to be with us a while. So I’m moving it over here, where it may be a little more permanent.

Late last week – on Thursday June 6, 2013 – the Washington Post and UK newspaper The Guardian simultaneously broke stories about the leak of information about the US government’s PRISM program. Among other things, the leaked PowerPoint document says PRISM allows the NSA the ability of “Collection directly from the servers of these U.S. Service Providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple.”

Here’s a link to that Washington Post article: http://www.washingtonpost.com/investigations/us-intelligence-mining-data-from-nine-us-internet-companies-in-broad-secret-program/2013/06/06/3a0c0da8-cebf-11e2-8845-d970ccb04497_story.html

And here’s a link to the PowerPoint slides (presented in a single HTML page): http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/special/politics/prism-collection-documents/

Later, the tech companies all came out and made statements that were all essentially variations of “we have no idea what you’re talking about and the NSA doesn’t have such a thing.” Here’s what Google said (from http://googleblog.blogspot.com/2013/06/what.html):

First, we have not joined any program that would give the U.S. government—or any other government—direct access to our servers. Indeed, the U.S. government does not have direct access or a “back door” to the information stored in our data centers. We had not heard of a program called PRISM until yesterday.

Second, we provide user data to governments only in accordance with the law. Our legal team reviews each and every request, and frequently pushes back when requests are overly broad or don’t follow the correct process. Press reports that suggest that Google is providing open-ended access to our users’ data are false, period. Until this week’s reports, we had never heard of the broad type of order that Verizon received—an order that appears to have required them to hand over millions of users’ call records. We were very surprised to learn that such broad orders exist. Any suggestion that Google is disclosing information about our users’ Internet activity on such a scale is completely false.

And so here’s what I wrote on Facebook on Saturday June 8:

Given the Washington Post’s PRISM news, Beth and I are debating which of the following possibilities is most likely:

1) The government is lying. There is no PRISM. The media has been fooled. Some counter-intelligence officer in Washington is giggling to himself right now. And Google et al are telling the truth.

2) Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook are all lying. There is PRISM, and it’s active in their network, and they know it. But they can’t – or won’t – admit it.

3) There is a PRISM and somehow the feds got it integrated into the server infrastructure of all these internet companies without their knowledge. So Google’s telling the truth that it didn’t know, and the feds are telling the truth that it does exist. But if Google didn’t notice an NSA tech sneaking into the server room and tampering with their network gear, how are we supposed to trust that the Chinese or Al Qaeda haven’t done the same? This scenario invalidates everything Google has ever said about “your data is safe with us”.

4) The Washington Post made the whole thing up. It’s just a story fabricated out of thin air that the Obama administration refuses to debunk.

Since then, the federal government has already declassified and released some information about PRISM, apparently to correct the misperceptions that the media had. First, I’ve never heard of the feds declassifying anything this fast. It took less than 24 hours. Amazing how fast the process works when you’re an insider, when Freedom of Information Act requests take months or years to get processed. But more importantly, the Obama and his administration have admitted, “Yup, PRISM exists, it’s totally legal, your elected officials have known about it for years, and – trust us! – we won’t use it for anything evil.” So that eliminates possibilities 1 and 4 from my list.

Now we’re down to only two possibilities, and I’m really interested to see how this plays out. One possibility is that the tech companies did know about this all along, and are all (except Twitter) lying to their customers about it. The other possibility is that the feds did all this without the knowledge of the tech companies.

In the first case, could I ever trust Google (and again if I know they’re willing to lie about something so big? In the second case, could I ever trust Google again if I know they’re so incompetent that the NSA snuck in some system to gather data from their network without their knowledge?

That’s the question I posed on Google’s blog article about this: https://apis.google.com/105675675947442118947/posts/CzoVVJb8Kgz

What do you think is going to happen next?

Categories
Consumer Experiences

is my bank’s privacy policy stupid, or am I being too pedantic?

I got an email this week from one of my banks. It is the annual reminder of their privacy policy, and is meant to make me feel good that the bank is taking my privacy and security seriously. But it does just the opposite. I realize, though, that given my personal nature, my background in quality assurance, and my lifelong hobby of playing games with complex rules, I may interpret their statement a lot more literally than they expect. Am I being a rules lawyer, or is this really as bad as it sounds? Read on…

For Your Security

TODD BRADLEY

Thank you for choosing First National Bank for your financial service needs. We appreciate the trust and confidence you have placed in us and understand the importance of protecting your personal information.

As part of our commitment to our customers, First National Bank annually notifies customers of the policy we have in place to protect private information. We would like to take a moment to assure you of the following:

  • First National Bank has always been and will remain committed to protecting our customers’ privacy.
  • We do not share your personal information except where required to complete a transaction on your behalf or where permitted by law.
  • There is no need for you to opt-out in order to prevent information sharing. First National Bank already limits the circumstances in which your personal information is disclosed.

The part I have a problem with is in the line in bold above. It’s the second part of that sentence that bothers me. Their statement isn’t “…or where required by law” it is “…or where permitted by law.” It seems like they’re saying that they may share my personal information in any way that isn’t illegal. They can do anything with it right up to the point of the law, but not past that. Isn’t that strange?

Given that, the rest of this could just be simplified to say, “We may do anything that isn’t illegal with your data.” It’s good to know they don’t intend to break the law, but this doesn’t give me any warm fuzzy feeling that they’re going above and beyond the minimum required by banking laws.

What do you think?

 

Categories
Consumer Experiences

how not to tip correctly

This has happened to me often enough over the years that I think there ought to be a name for it. Let’s say Person A and Person B go out for drinks together. A buys enough more stuff that they both feel splitting the check down the middle isn’t fair. Let’s say Person A drank $60 worth of stuff and Person B’s drank $40, for a nice round total of $100.

Person A wants to pay with a credit card and Person B wants to pay with cash. They got good service, and both want to tip 20%. B pitches in $48 in cash ($40 + $8 tip). Now the waitress takes B’s cash and A’s card back to the register and does the math. Since there’s $48 in cash, and the total bill is $100, the remainder for A’s card is $52.

Person A gets a credit card receipt for $52, and then adds on a roughly 20% tip – $10. He signs the credit card slip for $62.

Now the bar got $48 in cash and $62 on credit, for a total of $110. But that’s only a $10 tip on a $100 tab! What the hell happened? Both parties tipped about 20%, but now the waitress is only getting 10%!

Is there a name for this? How would you keep it from happening? (other than changing the premise that the two people don’t want to split the check down the middle)

Categories
Consumer Experiences

my MacBook Pro battery life is terrible – is it defective?

My MacBook Pro is 18 months old, and the battery life has degraded terribly. I originally got three to three-and-a-half hours out of it. That wasn’t anywhere near the seven hours Apple advertised for the new built-in batteries. But it was way better than the two hours I got from my previous MacBook Pro, so I was reasonably happy. However, now it burns through the battery from 100% down to 5% (when it goes to sleep) in about an hour.

I downloaded the latest version of coconutBattery (2.8) to peek into what’s up with my battery. I’m sad to say that it’s reporting the current capacity to be 2977 mAh out of a design capacity of 6900 mAh. No wonder it seems like my battery lasts less than half as long as it used it. In the 18 months since the Mac (MacBookPro8,2) was manufactured, it has had 297 battery load cycles.

Looking at Apple’s published information about the battery, I found this:

Your new Apple notebook features advanced battery chemistry that greatly extends the battery’s lifespan. The built-in battery of your MacBook Pro or MacBook Air is designed to deliver up to 1000 full charge and discharge cycles before it reaches 80 percent of its original capacity. In addition, Adaptive Charging reduces the wear and tear on the battery giving it a lifespan of up to 5 years.

So Apple says the battery should degrade to no less than 80% of original capacity until 1000 cycles. But I’m down to 43% capacity after only 297 cycles. Do you have any suggestions how I should handle this? The one year warranty has obviously expired.

Categories
Consumer Experiences

I think Dotster.com has jumped the shark

Open letter from Todd Bradley to Dotster.com, submitted by their customer support ticket  tracking system (since I couldn’t find any other way to send them feedback):

—-

Hi, while I was at work today, I got an email from my wife. We share a website for our home business, and the domain name is registered at Dotster. I’ve been a customer of Dotster for a decade, and was originally very happy with your service. But my wife said she was so frustrated by the experience of simply renewing her domain registration that now she wants to move it to another service that actually costs less money.

At first I thought maybe she was over-reacting, so I walked through the process myself, and it’s a seemingly-endless stream of sales screens pitching services we don’t need or want! Now I can understand why she’s so frustrated. Why in the world have you decided to irritate your existing customers by forcing us through no less than 3 “upsell” screens? When I’m trying to pay you money, you should make that process as simple, quick, and smooth as absolutely possible. It’s basic business 101 – make it easy for me to do business with you.

I’ve recommended Dotster to probably 25 friends and coworkers over the years, thanks to the awesome way you once did business. If this is the new face of Dotster, I’ve got to tell you I’ll be recommending people stay away.

I know this isn’t a normal “support” issue, so please pass this feedback on to the manager responsible for your company’s web marketing.

Thank you,
Todd Bradley

Categories
Consumer Experiences Politics Travel

I got the porno scanner and the grope down both in one day

Beth and I went to South Padre Island for Thanksgiving this year, and I got subjected to not one – but both – of the controversial new security protocols.  I got the “porno scanner” and then got the “grope down” both while passing through the same security checkpoint.  Here’s my story.

I’m writing this at the end of Thanksgiving Weekend 2010.  One of the big topics in the news and on people’s minds right now is a new security program that the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) recently implemented.  The primary “safeguard” is a new set of scanners called “Advanced Imaging Technology”.  There’s a bit of an uproar right now because the radiation from the scanners may be unsafe, and also because the pictures they take of what you look like under your clothes are quite realistic.  The backup plan for someone who “opts out” of the new scanner is what they’re calling an “enhanced pat down” which entails a TSA agent touching the traveler in a rather intimate way (which is why many call it the “grope down” – I guarantee if I touched a stranger that same way, I’d be arrested for sexual assault).

Well, I got both of these, and learned first-hand about the process.  For some reason, the special scanner (occasionally called the “porno scanner” since it essentially makes your clothing invisible to the guy reviewing the photos) was not in use when we flew from Denver to Texas.  It was turned off, and had a big orange cone inside where the people would go.  So they were just using the old fashioned metal detector.  But on the way back, the airport in Harlingen had a working porno scanner, so that was my first direct exposure.

As we were passing through security at Harlingen, I did the usual stuff air travelers have been doing since the increased paranoia that started with the 9/11 terrorist attacks.  I took my shoes off, took my coat off, took my belt off, took my laptop out of its bag, etc.  While my stuff went on the conveyor through the x-ray machine, I stepped into the scanner.  There are marks on the floor to show you where to put your feet, and then you’re supposed to stand there with your hands up in a submission pose (like “don’t tase me, bro”) while they scan you.  A few seconds later, they said I can continue, and so I stepped out of the booth.

Then a TSA agent (a male) came to talk to me.  He asked if I was wearing a necklace or something around my neck.  I wasn’t, and showed him.  Then he told me he was going to pat me down around the buttocks.  He made a big point to emphasize that he would be using only the backs of his hands – not the palms. I guess you can’t really grope someone with the backs of your hands.  Again, I stood with the feet on the special footprint markers on the floor.  He said to put my arms straight out at my sides.  Then he started to pat me down, and quickly came to my wallet.  He asked me to take the wallet out and hold it in my hand with my ticket at arm’s length.

He patted around my sides, on both butt cheeks, and then between my legs.  When I say he patted between my legs, it wasn’t like he put his hands right on my junk.  Instead, he put each hand on an inner thigh, and then slid them up with medium force until they ran into my scrotum.  And then, like that, it was over.

He told me that next time I should take my wallet out of my pocket and send it through the conveyor belt with the rest of my stuff.  When it’s in your pocket, he said, it stops the scanner from being able to see through to your butt cheek, and that triggers a pat down.

The whole time, the guy was nice about it, helpful, and professional.  He was a middle-aged white male, and he was pretty laid back considering he pats nervous strangers’ scrotums all day for a living.  Thinking back on the situation, I remember feeling pretty dehumanized, like a cog in a machine.  But I’ve felt that way about airport security for the past decade.  I also felt that I had absolutely no control of the situation.  Nobody ever asked anything like, “Would you like us to do this in a private room?” or “Do you have any questions?”  Everything they said were very matter-of-fact commands: “Now I’m going to do this, and now you must do that.”

So that’s how my first experience went with both the porno scanner and the enhanced pat down.  And remember the question about the necklace?  I later figured out what must have triggered that comment.  The short sleeved shirt I was wearing had metal snaps, and the very top ones were unbuttoned (or unsnapped, more correctly).  So looking in the mirror, I realized that meant there would have been two halves of the top snap on either side of the next lower snap.  On the porno scanner, I guess that could look like a necklace.

My advice: don’t leave your wallet in your pants pocket when you pass through the porno scanner and don’t wear a shirt with metal snaps.  Or, alternatively, avoid air travel in the USA.

Categories
Consumer Experiences

I won’t buy a Kindle until there’s a used ebook market

I visited Barnes & Noble this afternoon, for the first time in a while.  I got a gift card, and decided it’s time to use it.

I found an interesting book and paid full retail price for it ($21.95).  Then later, I saw that on Amazon.com, the same book sells for about $14.  And buying it online would mean no sales tax and no shipping costs and none of my own travel costs to and from the bookstore.  Seems like maybe I should have bought it online.  But I had the gift certificate.

That’s not what I wanted to write about, though.  At a big display at the entrance to Barnes & Noble, they were promoting the Nook.  That’s Barnes & Noble’s ebook reader.  Same idea as the more famous Kindle, and comparably priced.  As I played around with it, I thought about ebooks some.  In the past, I’ve never been interested in an ebook reader because I just don’t read enough books.  I wish I had time to read more books, but I don’t.  Or put a different way, other things in life take a higher priority (reading news articles, writing screenplays, watching movies, making movies, etc.).  I have some friends who read dozens of books every year.  Lately, I’ve averaged about 3 or 4, I think.  In fact, one of the things I like most about going on vacation is that I have time to just read a book.

But I realized today, there’s another reason why an ebook reader just doesn’t fit my lifestyle.  And that is that there’s no used ebook market.  In the case of physical books, I can buy used books online, I can trade used books with other people via PaperbackSwap.com, I can sell used books on eBay or Amazon, and so on.  I can also check out used books from the library, loan a used book to a friend, or borrow a used book.

But with ebooks, I can do none of those things.  It’s the perfect money-maker for publishers, I guess.  Basically, with an ebook – as opposed to a physical book – publishing and distribution companies have a business model where everyone who ever reads the book is forced to pay full price for the book.  And with zero printing costs, all you gotta do is copy some free electrons in a computer and take people’s money.  That’s great for them, and terrible for me as a consumer.

So Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and the rest of you: When you have a business model that allows me to treat an ebook more like a real book, let me know.