Tuesday, January 31, 2006


It turns out the manual activation of the backlight not working with the new Ipod firmware is a known issue. Thanks Apple! That was an upgrade well worth a half hour install and a restart. Uh, not.

In other silliness news, I noticed that Mark Pilgrim's Butler script blocks Google ads. I wonder how often the ad to buy his book on Google has made him money. Come on, Mark, don't you think your script would be sufficiently useful without that?

Monday, January 30, 2006

I fall down less

The Google ski trip rundown from Dens is better than I could ever manage, especially because I was too lazy to tote my camera around. The parties raged, and the Mike's Way green run at Stratton let me feel all grown up, coming down from the top of the mountain while only occasionally losing my skis.

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Better Business Bureau came through!

While still admitting no fault, at least Orbitz responded when I complained via the BBB.

Dear Mr. Dave:

Better Business Bureau has forwarded your recent complaint to us for review and direct follow up with you. Thank you for your recent comments regarding your experience with Orbitz. On behalf of my colleagues at Orbitz, I sincerely apologize for the dissatisfaction you've expressed, and I appreciate the opportunity to respond.

We know that understanding the expectations of our premium customers is the key to maintaining their loyalty and support. We can understand when we don't that you may doubt our desire and ability to provide you with the quality of service you expect and deserve. Please be assured we are listening and that your comments have not gone unheard.

Although we fully sympathize with your situation, however, at the same time we do not want to come across as being insensitive to your concerns. After a thorough investigation about this matter, our record indicates that your hotel reservation was successfully transmitted to the hotel on January 12, 2006 at 17:29 GMT. Nevertheless, please understand that Hotels just like the airlines do overbook and on occasion will exceed overbooking ratios. This process is solely controlled by the individual hotels and or their representative companies. On occasion we find these hotels are unsuccessful in closing their inventory allowing customers the ability to still book rooms. Although we understand this does not excuse your experience, Orbitz fully holds the hotel responsible. By sharing your concerns we hope the property will take action in better managing their inventory in the future. We thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Furthermore, in the interest of goodwill, Orbitz has made a one time exception and would like to offer you a $200 rebate on your next Orbitz.com booking. This compensation is not intended to place a value on your experience. It is meant to emphasize our commitment to you as a customer and to encourage you to continue using Orbitz for your travel needs....

Note that they have no record of acknowledgement by the hotel. Good thing Orbitz doesn't write networking protocols for a living. Anyway, the lessons here are: Orbitz may be cheap, but you have to double-check their work, and if somebody tries to dick you around, let the BBB know.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Favorite band of the moment

What Made Milwaukee Famous (via Panda's Hideout 24). Weirdly, not for sale on Amazon, but available on ITunes. If JHymn would get updated, my LAN friends could listen in. :-(

Monday, January 23, 2006

Orbitz, how do I hate thee? Let me count the ways.

The, uh, nice people at Orbitz wrote back:

When booking with any online service you are acting as your own travel agent. It always a good idea, as well as your responsibility to verify all travel information before going. ... In this situation the hotel states the reservation did not go through even though Orbitz shows the electronic transfer of the reservation as successful. The hotels are responsible for managing their inventories and unfortunately this hotel did not.

Since Orbitz is not prepared to recover the cost of the screw-up from the hotel, what am I paying Orbitz for? A few guesses.

  1. For a terrible web site. One that forgets who am I even though I check "remember me." One that times out sessions after a few minutes. One that is slow. One that doesn't understand simultaneous sessions. One that can't learn when my default airport has changed. One where the price changes every time I try to buy something. In a fraction of the time, Yahoo has already made them look lime amateurs.
  2. For obnoxious customer service. Customer service that tells regular customers that they have to pay $50 change fees. Customer service that tells me I should double-check everything they do because they might screw up and leave me without a hotel at my destination. Customer service that tells me I should double-check everything even though the confirmation tells me not to contact the hotel directly. Customer service that thinks it's okay when they land me in Miami with no hotel and can only find me a dreary room at the same price but minus the excellent location, 4 stars, and ktichen of the original (possibly explaining why it was free at the last minute). Customer service that discourages me from speaking to a manager and tells me I should not expect compensation. Customer service that says I must continue my discussion by email and then cuts off the email thread and says I must continue by phone.
  3. For incurring additional risk. When I book a hotel directly, I can usually cancel without penalty. When I book airfare directly, I usually have 24 hours to cancel. When I book with Orbitz, I'm screwed. With an Orbitz travel package, I pay $50 to cancel the hotel and the airfare is nonrefundable.

At the end of the day, I am forced to use Orbitz because they have their special deal with the airlines that lets me search all of their cheapest airfares. Luckily, you can usually save $5 by booking straight with the airline and even get a few miles in the process. Next time, I'm going to start with Travelocity's supposedly pleasant customer service and work my way down.

Any tips on getting some finanically-meaningful apology out of Orbitz? Anybody have any luck with the Better Business Bureau or something?

Sunday, January 22, 2006


Catherine and I are back from South Beach, which was really fun, except for the part where Orbitz somehow didn't book our hotel and then tried to buy us off with a $50 travel voucher (we'll see how that all shakes out) and my bum foot, which made running a bit tough. We sat on the beach and read and played in the waves and ate Cuban food.

The art deco hotels are awesome. What is it about art deco that is so captivating?

NetFlix brought Harold and Kumar to our mailbox. Very entertaining.

more pics »

Wednesday, January 18, 2006


When I visited Mountain View last week, I decided to stay in San Francisco so I could go out and explore the city. It turns out SF is a dump. Who knew? Especially on the way to my only-thing-left-during-MacWorld hotel, the smell of human feces was overwhelming. The only people on the street were scary, aggressive drug addicts. Also, the last BART leaves SFO before midnight. Silliness! There were good coffee shops in the Mission, at least.

But the worst part about it was that I woke up at 8:11 for a 9 am meeting in Mountain View. The shuttle takes an hour, and the next one was at 8:40. Running to make sure I didn't miss it with a heavy backpack on, I appear to have mangled my foot, which has put a real damper on my running.

Damn you, San Francisco! Whoever says New York is dangerous should try walking anywhere in our sister to the West.

Wednesday, January 4, 2006

Delta whore, and other stories...

Is it wrong that I'm really excited about my new "medallion" status on Delta? On my trip home, I was upgraded to First Class for free on my trip home. Being a pliant consumer is rewarding.

Speaking of consuming, C and I signed up for Netflix. If you're a user, add me as your friend. I've also started adding friends on Amazon. That all started when I wanted to send Lisa a link to a book and there was a checkbox to make her my friend. I wonder if having ugly URLs was part of their strategy all along?

Although I worship at the altar of capitalism, I of course remain skeptical about religion. This ceremony I went to at home left me wondering about how Hinduism led to all this caste nonsense. Of course, Wikipedia had the answer. Now the question is, is there any religion that hasn't been used to cause harm to others? Maybe Buddhism? Unitarianism? In any case, I read about these interesting anti-religious children's books in the New Yorker - I think I might check 'em out.

Recent choice podcats:

KEXP 5 - who knew that sound engineers even have ouveres to sample?

AGDFA 21 - if you have to listen to Christmas music, it might as well be alternative and rock

If there's any doubt that podcasts help sell music (wait! didn't we already have this argument with radio?), I bought The Magic Numbers album after hearing them on KEXP Live Performances.