Does that come with a samosa?

On Sunday, I finally decided that I needed a new toy. Being impatient when it comes to getting new toys, I logged onto to find out when I could expect it to arrive. Dell surprised me when my order number returned a status of “No order was found that met the search criteria”. My first reaction was amazement and I was all “Whaaaaaaaaat?” I retyped my order number and customer number, thinking I’d made an error, but I hadn’t. I got the same result.

I tried again on Tuesday and received the same error. I checked the status of the credit card transaction and Dell had definitely taken the money from my account. I was concerned, so I called Dell’s customer support. After navigating through the menu system, a woman’s voice told me that Dell had no record of my order number, but if I’d placed my order in the last 24-48 hours, it might appear online or in the automated service. I grumbled but accepted that because I fit (barely) into the 48 hour window. I waited.

Yesterday, I checked online again and received the same “No order was found that met the search criteria” message. I didn’t think Dell was just going to steal my money, so I called for an explanation. After navigating through the now tedious menu system (note to Dell: when I push the button for order status, I do NOT want to be rerouted to K-12 sales), a woman put me on hold while she directed me to the right destination.

Eight minutes later, I arrived in that destination, which turned out to be India. I have little problem with outsourcing jobs because I believe that, although there are economic swings to each extreme, capitalism works effectively to restore equilibrium. Outsourcing will not be the death of the free market. However, that telephone call sounded as though the customer service representative and I were holding tin cans with a thin thread stuck through the bottom of each can. I made that call on December 8, 2004. (It was December 9, 2004 in India, which means I called the future. Time machine!) No business call should sound like that. I intend to give that call a 1 on the 1 to 9 scale when Dell asks me to fill out a survey. Behold the corrective power of the free market.

P.S. She found my order and gave me the details, but she couldn’t resolve the reason why my order was non-existent on the web and the automated phone system. Alright, so that’s not entirely true, since she did offer a theory. I quote: “It was probably just some error on your part.” I smacked my head and said “why didn’t I think of that?”

Fifteen by February

Infinity Broadcasting’s Chief Operating Officer, Joel Hollander, made some interesting comments yesterday concerning Howard Stern’s impending (if 12 months away can be considered impending) move to Sirius Satellite Radio. Consider:

“If you give me a check for about $100 million, I’ll take him off tomorrow,” Hollander said. “I certainly don’t love the fact that he’s on the air talking about satellite radio. But it is overblown, in fairness to him.”

To an extent, I agree with him. Allowing Howard Stern to talk about the move isn’t great for Infinity, but people are listening and ratings translate to advertising dollars. I’ve read rumblings that Sirius and Infinity may strike a deal to release Howard Stern from his contract, but I doubt it. There’s too much money to make in the next year before he moves to Sirius, which means twelve more months of status quo.

That doesn’t mean the Mr. Hollander is smart. Aside from the fact that Infinity stations air commercials for XM during such high profile shows as The Don and Mike Show, which is like Coke allowing Pepsi to pay to have its logo displayed on every can of Coca-Cola, Mr. Hollander sounds a lot like cable television skeptics from the early 1980’s who questioned whether or not people would pay for television when they could get the networks for free. Five hundred channels later, the argument is ridiculous. Consider:

Brought in last year to turn the Viacom unit’s lagging revenue growth around, Hollander expressed respectful skepticism about Sirius, and satellite radio in general. He said the rise of both XM and Sirius shares is the result of “irrational exuberance.”

Satellite radio is a viable business, according to Hollander. “I just think it’s a boutique business; I don’t think it’s a mass appeal business.

“And that’s why I think people are going to come back to [traditional] radio. It’s survived every new technology advance of the last 50 years. It’s not going away. It’s still a $20 billion business. And the irrational exuberance is that there’s [sic] 290 million people that [sic] listen to radio every day in the United States, and [satellite radio has] 4 million subscribers.”

Terrestrial radio is free and abundant, but there’s a flaw in Mr. Hollander’s argument. Terrestrial radio sucks. Now that I have Sirius in my car, I never listen to regular radio (aside from Don and Mike and Howard Stern). Every radio station I hear has the same characteristic flaws: repetition, commercials, and annoying DJs. I want music or talk, not both at the same time. When I want music, I want to hear a variety of songs, including songs I’ve never heard. What terrestrial radio gives is the same rotation of Jessica Simpson and Usher. When I want talk, I want uncensored (though not “blue” for the sake of being “blue”) talk. What terrestrial radio gives is lame-ass family-friendly noise.

Terrestrial radio is virtually useless to me because it lives by the mentality of the target audience, the holy grail of free entertainment. But I don’t care about demographics. I’m a 31-year-old male with a girlfriend who isn’t inflatable and a real job that doesn’t require me to say “Thank you, drive thru“, yet I rationally worked out a plan to fly to England for a weekend to see Busted perform in London. (Which didn’t work out because of that stupid real job. Damn you, Responsibility!) The only way I’m a typical listener is that I’m not a typical person.

Sirius doesn’t focus its playlist based on my demographic because, rather than chasing me with what some poll tells them I want, they let me find the playlist I want on any of the dozens of music stations. In my unscientific survey, which means I asked everyone I know who subscribes to satellite radio, no one who tries satellite radio is willing to give it up. To every person I ask, not one of them can imagine going back to terrestrial radio. I pay my $12.95 every month and that’s all the proof they need that they’re doing something right. Terrestrial radio would play some Busted for me, but not before trying to sell me a black mini-skirt, a tube of glitter-filled body spray, and the latest Orlando Bloom movie. Where’s the mystery?

What’s next? Canceling Alias?

Dear ABC Sports:

Yes, I know that Miami is a good team, but when the Hokies can finish NO WORSE than ACC co-champions after this game, we do NOT have to go into Miami and “STEAL” the championship. That’s Miami’s task. Acknowledging that is unbiased journalism. You might consider practicing it.

Also, learn to pronounce the players’ names. And our university’s name is NOT pronounced as “Vah Tech”. It is shortened in writing as “Va Tech”, but it’s pronounced “VIRGINIA TECH”. When you spoke with the coaches and players, did anyone say Vah Tech? No. When you pronounce Va Tech as “Vah Tech” instead of “Virginia Tech”, you think you’re being witty but you’re just being ignorant. Stop being ignorant.

You can’t even keep the broadcast live because you’re experiencing technical difficulties. When was television invented? It’s 75 degrees and sunny in Miami today, so weather isn’t the issue. You should be ashamed.

At least I’m not having to listen to the stupid announcers.

Thank you Bite me,


Real men don’t read instructions

Walking back to my office this afternoon, I had to do a quadruple-take at a man stepping onto the curb from a Metro bus. Disembarking from a bus should be uneventful, but the man I saw attempted it with an unfolded walker in his arms. When he stepped down each step, he continued to hold the walker in front of him. His only effort was to balance it between the doors in front of him. He didn’t grab the exit handrail. No one held his arm to steady him. He just held his walker in front of him and took each step with determination.

I’d at least expected him to use it to steady himself once he stood on the bottom step. Alas, he didn’t; he continued to hold it in front of him as he stepped onto the pavement, as though the walker might be his shield against normal human beings. Once standing on the sidewalk, he walked away from the bus. I turned around to watch where I was walking since I didn’t want a cobblestone to jump out and attack my feet. (I hate it when that happens.)

After a few awkward steps down the sidewalk myself, I had to look back. I needed to see how fast he was shuffling down the street. He hadn’t seemed to need the walker since he’d balanced himself on the steps so well. I looked back to see him still walking, pushing the unfolded walker out in front of him. In an obvious effort to mock me, he used the walker correctly as he shuffled slowly towards the intersection – if “correctly” means holding the unfolded walker six inches above the sidewalk.

You stupid, stupid… silly little person

I read a column today by Bill Simmons in which he discussed his recent back injury-induced guilt-free TV weekend. He watched many, many episodes of bad television over the Thanksgiving weekend, including the most recent episode of The Apprentice. I loved The Apprentice when it started, but my interest is fading fast. The boardroom scenes are forced and painful to watch. My opinion about The Apprentice matches Bill Simmons’ comments about Desperate Housewives.

Whenever it comes on, I always end up leafing through a magazine or checking my e-mails — it just can’t keep my attention, kinda like this column for you right now.

Exactly, which confuses me when Mr. Simmons’ so absurdly imposes this opinion on me, the innocent connoisseur of fine television programming:

And like everyone else, I enjoy the boardroom challenges and wish they made them longer — maybe even a 90-minute show or something. What’s the downside of going to 90 minutes? “Joey” gets moved to another night? I think people would survive.

I could theoretically accept the idea of moving Joey to another night (may I suggest Wednesday nights, just before Alias), but I vehemently disagree with the notion that no one cares about Joey, or worse, that no one should. I laugh out loud during every episode. Some episodes, that means laughing at how funny the jokes are because they’re funny. The other episodes, that means laughing at how funny the jokes are because they’re not funny. In recent weeks, the former is happening in greater proportions than the latter. And we’re so grateful for that.

When the inevitable DVD release of Season 1 arrives, all the critics will watch and laugh and be all “Whaaaaaaaaat?” I’m telling you, this will happen.