Thursday, October 22, 2009

The Gospel According to Jeffrey

You may have noticed that I’ve removed the overtly spiritual posts from my blog. This is intentional. From here on out, I’ve decided to make my own “Small Plates,” as it were—virtual though they may be.

These “Small Plates” are to be known as The Gospel According to Jeffrey, and are available to subscribers at If you’re interested in reading them, just let me know in the comments and I’ll send you an invite. Until then, L8Rs!

Monday, October 12, 2009


Douglas Adams wrote:

If one coincidence can occur… then another coincidence can occur. And if one coincidence happens to occur just after another coincidence, then that is just a coincidence. (The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, 172).

As if to prove his point, I just randomly flipped through the pages of the just-quoted book, hoping to find the right page so that I could properly cite it. My random flip stopped on page 172 exactly, where my eyes immediately fell upon the word “coincidence” about two thirds down the page. Is this too a coincidence?

Regardless, the reason I got to thinking about this is because about ten minutes ago, as I was reading Berke Breathed’s Bloom County Babylon, I came across this panel in a comic from 1985:

Given current events, I must ask again: is this just another coincidence? I can only assume so, since it was probably also just a coincidence that some guy tried to sell Dave a screenplay about a late-night talk-show host that was sleeping around with members of his staff. (I guess even Dave just couldn’t control all that raw sexual magnetism.)

On top of all this, Anna and I are constantly noticing coincidences in the shows we watch on a given night. For example, we might choose to watch last Wednesday’s Criminal Minds and the previous Friday’s Psych on the same night, and each show features an unsub that bludgeons his victims with frozen bologna. Coincidence? (This one, at least, is easily explained: there’s only so many ways you can kill someone with frozen bologna without being ridiculous and/or derivative.)

So if all these things are coincidences, that’s just another coincidence, which is comforting in a way. Otherwise, we’d have to assume that Berke Breathed has known about Dave’s affairs for 24 years and just never really said anything about them. I don’t know about you, but I’m just not ready for that kind of un-forthcomingness in my 24-year-old semi-political comics.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Secondhand Data

For the last two days, I’ve been bombarded with RSS feeds about a recent study from the NPD Group. According to the NPD Group’s report (and about a thousand blogs regurgitating the information), “Nearly 85 Percent of All Apple Households Also Own a Windows PC.” While this could certainly be possible, nobody seems to have seen the original report; they’ve just seen NPD’s resulting press release. it really makes me wonder how well the release reflects reality.

Let’s take my household, for example: I don’t think myself a Mac bigot, but at present, all of our functional computers happen to be Macs. Specifically, we currently own 11 computers: 10 Apple Macintoshes (ages 2-18), plus one partially assembled “white box” (read: generic) PC. The “white box” is one of my eternal projects and just sits in the closet; it doesn’t even have a motherboard or a hard drive at the moment, let alone an operating system. So that leaves us with the ten Macs. Here’s the OS breakdown, in numbers of installations:
  • Mac OS X v.10.6.1: one
  • Mac OS X v.10.5.8: one
  • Mac OS X v.10.4.11: one
  • Mac OS X Server v.10.3.9: one
  • Mac OS X v.10.3.9: one
  • Mac OS X v.10.2.8: three
  • Mac OS 9.2.2: five
  • Mac OS 8.6.1: one
  • Mac OS 8.1: one
  • Mac OS 7.5.5: one
  • Microsoft Windows XP: one
  • Microsoft Windows 98SE: one (although it doesn’t actually boot)
So let’s see: 18 OS installations, 10 Macs, 0 functional non-Macs. It sounds to me like we are not, at present, a “mixed” household. But what do the questions ask? If one of the questions were “Does your household contain a Windows-based PC,” I would have had to answer in the affirmative, despite the fact that I haven’t used Windows for anything in almost a year. Would my household thus be classified as “mixed”?

That brings me to a second, closely related question: what of households that do, technically, own a Microsoft-based, non-Apple computer, but they haven’t used it since God only knows when? My brother-in-law, for example, owns two Dells: a three-year-old laptop that died about a year ago, and a 7½-year-old desktop that gets turned on maybe twice a year. He also owns an iMac that gets daily use by all five members of his family. Does having two unused Windows-based PCs—one of which is completely inoperable—qualify his household as “mixed”?

I’ve emailed NPD with this question (and a link to this blog) and will be very interested to see the results.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Stupid Whippersnappers

I guess it’s probably just as well that I neglected to post this yesterday, since my customer support manifesto was long enough as it was. However, the subject of iTunes reminded me of a rather humorous scenario I ran into, a while back.

Perhaps two, maybe three years ago, I received my weekly e-mail from iTunes informing me of some of the new releases to hit the store that week. One of the new items was a five-track compilation of some of Paula Abdul’s greatest hits. Curious, I clicked the link to see which five they considered to be her “greatest.” What I didn’t expect was the hilarity of the comments.

While a few people that rated the compilation had some decent things to say—whether positive or negative—the great majority were along the lines of, “Paula Abdul is such a loser. She thinks that just because she’s a judge on American Idol, all she has to do is record her own material and she’ll become a pop star, too!”

I could not stop laughing—as evidenced by the fact that even years later, I still remember it.

Of course, remembering this anecdote in turn reminded me of a track I’d like to share with my readers. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Now That’s Customer Service!

A few months ago, I was horrified to discover that the RAID I use to store our family’s iLife—photos, movies, web sites, and music—had suffered severe header corruption. For those of you that don’t know what this means, the header is sort of like the index to the drive. Imagine a 10,000-page reference book that you use every single day. This book includes a 500-page index, so you can easily find what you need. Then one day, you notice that some of the page numbers are suddenly wrong: about 10% of the time, if you look up term A, it gives you the page number for term L, or Z, or W. That’s a pretty good description of header corruption, except that at least with a book, you can flip through until you find the right page. Without an accurate disk header, the computer can’t find the right data at all.

Now, all this shouldn’t be so bad, since I’m extremely conscientious about backing things up. Unfortunately, the backup software I was using at the time was so good that it dutifully backed up the header corruption, bit by bit, giving me an absolutely perfect backup of the original corruption. Niiiiiice.

Well, suffice to say that, through a combination of great recovery utilities and just dumb luck (a lot of the photos were also on one or more completely different hard drives), I’ve slowly but surely recovered just about everything and have taken some steps (regular consistency checks, different backup utility, etc.) to ensure that we don’t have a repeat performance. Unfortunately, there were still about fifty songs that I wasn’t able to recover, and that’s where the title of this entry comes in.

Of the fifty or so tracks that were missing, about a quarter were downloaded from eMusic and about half were downloaded from iTunes. I e-mailed both companies, informing them of the situation and asking if I could possibly receive replacement copies of the missing tracks (assuming, of course, that they were even still available). I received the following responses:

eMusic: oh wait…. eMusic didn’t respond at all.


Hi Jeff,

Leanne here, from iTunes Customer Support. I understand you're missing some of your purchases. I can appreciate how eager you may be to have this resolved and I'll be more than happy to help you with this today.

I have posted the missing items to your account. I do need to mention that I was unable to restore every item in your order. When an item is modified in the iTunes Store, or removed entirely, we no longer have access to the original one that you ordered. This is what I couldn't restore:

(names of four tracks that are no longer available)

For this inconvenience, I have issued 4 replacement song credits to your iTunes Store account. You can use these to buy the individual songs of your choice from the iTunes Store.

Did you see that? Not only did iTunes replace almost every track I lost, but I received store credit for those that couldn’t be replaced! Leanne then went on to give me instructions on how to go about downloading the tracks (in case I didn’t happen to know) and even included her work schedule, just in case I needed anything else. I wrote back thanking her—as I often do, when I receive good service. However, unlike virtually every other time I’ve done so, she actually wrote back to me again!

Dear Jeff,

Leanne here, from the iTunes Store. I'm glad to hear that I was able to help you.

You are a valued member of the Apple family and your experience with the iTunes Store is of the utmost importance to us. Nothing makes Apple happier than to hear that we have satisfied our customers. I wish you the best and hope that you continue to enjoy the iTunes Store.

Thank you for choosing Apple and I hope you have a fabulous day!

With Warm Regards,

iTunes Store Customer Support

Now, don’t get me wrong; I don’t think for a moment that part—perhaps even all—of her latter response wasn’t canned. Heck, I’m sure at least the instructions in the first e-mail were canned, too. However, I think this just goes to prove the old adage: “If we don’t take care of our customers, someone else will.” Which of these two companies do you think will be getting my business in the future?

Urban Dictionary Term of the Day

Once again, I love today’s Urban Dictionary term (@2008 Aaron Peckham) and just had to share:

Both dorky and adorable. A higher state of being all dorks strive toward.
That dork is so adorkable I could just hug him till I die.