“Ooooh, waffles!”

I don’t have much time right now as I hack away at Rolling Doughnut’s code (dirty business, it is), so now might be the best time to give a glimpse into my less serious opinions. I miss Alias in a bad, bad way. It’s my all-time favorite show, and I can’t imagine something overtaking it. Ever. Which makes me kind of sad because I suspect I’ve already seen the best television show I’ll ever see. At 33, that sucks since I love TV so much. Of course, many are saying that traditional television shows are done anyway. I don’t buy it, but maybe. Either way, I miss Alias.

Just in time to save the day, though, came the best new show on television, and quite likely the best show currently on, ahead of even How I Met Your Mother. I’m referring to Heroes. If you’re already watching, congratulations, you’re in the club. If you’re not, you’re missing out and I’m here to implore you to catch up before the show returns in late January.

I’m a fan of Hiro, as most people are. The joy he takes in discovering his powers is wonderful. But I’m also loving the Peter Petrelli story line for its growth potential. The other Heroes rock, as well. (Greg Grunberg: Felicity, Alias, and Heroes. That’s a body of work!) Every week I look forward to the show and wonder where the story line will go. What’s best is that it’s everything Lost used to be, with a bunch of new, cool stuff included. There are questions, but there are also answers. That’s cool. And I think the show happily answers the question of whether or not a serial can still work on television again. (Yes, Fox, that’s directed at you and Reunion.)

Like I said, if you’re not watching, you’re missing out. Catch up on NBC’s website, where the episodes are free, or on iTunes, where the episodes are portable. Either way, you have until January 22. Get to it.

My sides hurt from laughing.

I’m thrilled with my Xbox 360, even given the supposed fun factor of the Nintendo Wii. I imagine the Wii is fun, but it seems like more exercise than I want. Yet, I’m glad the Wii exists because without it, Wii Have A Problem wouldn’t exist. If you need a laugh, browse through all the stories of people who’ve broken their televisions, cut themselves, or thrown their remote against the wall when the safety strap broke. Consider this today’s lesson in unintended consequences.

New Temporary Look

If you come to the main site here, you’ll see that I’ve updated the template. This is temporary, until I can develop something I like. There are still glitches, but I’ll figure those out. I hope that this change to a default template will fix some of the code issues I’ve been having. (Other sites haven’t been able to read the link to Rolling Doughnut correctly.)

I’ll probably be busy tinkering with code for the next few days (please let it be only days), so I may be away from regular blogging. Thanks for your patience.

Thank you, Jesus, for being born.

The commentary writes itself, unfortunately:

A mother convinced Rock Hill police to arrest her 12-year-old son after he unwrapped a Christmas present early.

The boy’s great-grandmother had specifically told him not to open his Nintendo Game Boy Advance, which she had wrapped and placed beneath the Christmas tree, according to a police report.

But on Sunday morning, she found the box of the popular handheld game console unwrapped and opened. When the boy’s 27-year-old mother heard about the opened gift, she called police.

She hoped the arrest would be a wake-up call for him. She dreads getting a phone call someday reporting he’s been killed.

The great-grandmother is 63. That doesn’t automatically lead to the conclusion that essential parenting skills are missing, but I’m willing to offer an educated guess. Of course, one must wonder how much of a wake-up call the arrest will be.

Two Rock Hill police officers responded to the home and charged the boy with petty larceny. He was charged as a juvenile and released the same day, said police spokesman Lt. Jerry Waldrop, who added the boy was never held at the jail.

“We wouldn’t hold a 12-year-old,” he said.

What’s the lesson, other than do something you’re told not to do and you get a slap on the wrist? Brilliant. Police should not parent your children. If you’ve reached that point, you’ve failed. Maybe your kid is truly a bad kid, but you’ve still failed. Regardless, the biggest lesson is don’t put the presents under the tree until Christmas.


“We are already above that.”

Nothing in this article about raising the minimum wage is in any way support for the move. It doesn’t counter it either, unless you want to make logical inferences into the facts. It’s mostly a “this won’t do much” fluff piece, with a little bit of touchy-feely goodness masquerading as business sense. As such, it’s important to ask, if raising the minimum wage is so irrelevant, why bother? To feel good about ourselves? That’s not wise business.

A couple of morsels:

“When you let the minimum wage fall as low as it’s fallen, it becomes almost irrelevant,” said Harry J. Holzer, professor of public policy at Georgetown University and a former chief economist for the Labor Department. “This is an attempt to make it somewhat more meaningful, but not so meaningful that it destroys a lot of jobs.”

Wait, it becomes almost irrelevant? So the greedy capitalists don’t sit around trying to screw their employees out of wages, instead paying market wages above the minimum required by law? Who would this benefit? The answer, of course, is new, unskilled entrants into the job force (teens) and older workers, presumably staying active with employment. They need more why?

Also note that this attempt would not be so meaningful that it destroys a lot of jobs. A few jobs is acceptable, as long as we’re doing something that feels good. I bet the unemployment line won’t feel good to those (few?) who lose their jobs or don’t get jobs because they’re not created.

Carlos Castro is another area employer who said he won’t cut workers if the minimum wage goes up. As the owner of Todos Supermarkets in Alexandria and Woodbridge, he pays a starting wage of $7 an hour for cashiers, stockers, meat cutters and cooks — well above the $5.15 minimum in Virginia.

“You just can’t get by on minimum wage these days, and I don’t want to force my employees to have to get a second job to support themselves,” Castro said.

Castro said that if Congress increases the federal minimum wage, he will probably raise his pay to keep it above that — precisely what the EPI anticipates happening around the country.

This is the perfect way to see that increasing the minimum wage cause arbitrary, artificial gains for employees. It’s central planning at its ugliest. Who is going to pay for that increase in wages to stay a specific dollar amount above minimum wage? Rather than understand that the market already takes care of the problem in setting wages, the busybodies want to make sure that those few who are near the current, allegedly outdated minimum will no longer be harmed. Except they will be harmed, as prices increase to offset the new expenses. This is not a hard concept.

Rather than tie up business in endless regulation, government needs to get out of the way and let the market, powered by human creativity, solve whatever problems exist that harm the working poor the government so dangerously cares about.

Persistence wins.

An update is necessary to Friday’s post about my Xbox Live Gamertag, for sharing the details of my sixty minute call (calls, actually) with customer support is instructive in how to run and not run a business.

As I mentioned Friday, I chose a Gamertag I didn’t like when I signed up for Xbox Live. I had the expectation that I could change it at will, with no financial repercussions. Nothing during the sign-up process, including an actual reading of the Terms of Service, indicated that changing my Gamertag would cost me 800 Microsoft Points $10. So I chose something for expediency rather than permanence so that I could play online. Silly me.

I called Saturday night before redeeming my 12-month subscription card to leave myself the option of abandoning my achievements. But considering the bulk of them came from playing through the entire campaign in Call of Duty 3, I didn’t want to lose them. I’m going to play through that campaign again, but on a harder setting. Not that I fully care about my points, but I earned them and the basic idea that I should lose them because Microsoft wants to swipe $10 bucks discourage Gamertag changes is ridiculous.

That’s how I phrased my approach with Xbox Live customer service, asking for nothing more in the beginning than a “Why” for the policy. The first person I spoke to informed me that the Gamertag is a privilege. Huh? He also said something about copyrights, which I didn’t understand or care to understand. I told him as much and made it clear that I expected to change my Gamertag this time for free. He couldn’t do that, so he transferred me to a supervisor. She let me know that the policy is stated very clearly on the Microsoft website. I made the obvious point that that information might be available, but what is presented is all that matters. At this point, we were disconnected.

I called back, agitated. In a small personal victory, I responded calmly when the new representative answered. He hadn’t done anything, so no reason to take it out on him. Assuming the disconnect occurred accidentally would save my sanity and might help me achieve my goal. Anyway, I explained the situation again and asked to speak to a supervisor, since that was where I’d left it before. He obliged and the fun began.

To say that I encountered the rudest person ever would do no justice to the truly demented satisfaction this woman took in telling me that I was out of luck. She didn’t care that Microsoft didn’t present the information. She said I could ask my question on the Xbox Live forums and someone would answer me. I asked for a name, which she refused to offer. Anonymity rules, apparently. She finally obliged my request to speak to another supervisor.

This person, the fifth, explained that they could only change it if the Gamertag included first and last name, telephone number, or full birth date. Essentially, they were going for personally revealing. Gotcha. So what. I explained that I can’t run my business the way Microsoft runs Gamertag changes. If I tried to charge for something in which the original contract ignored a charge, I’d be broke and homeless. The customer experience is more than just how fun it is to play online. This should be obvious.

In the end, the last supervisor miraculously found a way to change my Gamertag for free. I don’t know if it was my cold logic or my statement that I would pay the $10 in the future if I wanted a new Gamertag because I now know the policy. Regardless, chalk up the score as Tony 1, Microsoft 0. Or maybe Tony 1, Microsoft 0.5, since I redeemed my Gold pre-paid membership card after hanging up.

Addendum: Regarding Microsoft Points, if you ever need a good time, speak to Microsoft customer service representatives and refuse to engage in the myth of Microsoft Points as currency. We can argue that the US Dollar is a fiat currency, no more legitimate than Microsoft Points. That’d be wrong, but we could discuss. But Microsoft can’t comprehend that anyone would bother to decipher the conversion rate (80 MP per dollar) and talk in real currency without believing in Fantasy Land. The first person I spoke to tried to challenge me by demanding where the Xbox Live service said $10 for a Gamertag change. Just tell them it doesn’t say that but you don’t want to talk about imaginary currencies. They don’t like that. Good times.

Will an “Ooops” suffice?

For those who say accidents and complications never occur:

The tip of a 10-year-old boy’s penis was accidentally severed during a circumcision at a Malaysian clinic, a newspaper reported Sunday.

Doctors tried to reattach the severed portion in a five-hour operation, but it was not known if the surgery was successful, the New Sunday Times newspaper reported.

Story here. Malaysia and the United States are not the same, but this happened at a clinic, with medical supervision. Nor do I propose that this is common. But is it worth it if it’s your son who becomes the statistic? If nothing else, learn that denying reality does not change reality.

I should be shooting Nazis, not dealing with this.

Just because I love my Xbox 360 doesn’t mean I have to love Microsoft. I decided that I want to change my Xbox Live Gamertag because the one I foolishly chose during my giddy excitement while getting my 360 up and running is too cumbersome. This should be simple enough, right? Microsoft is involved, so the answer is “no”. Instead of letting me make the change without difficulty, Microsoft expects me to spend 800 Microsoft Points, or $10, to make the change. That is not going to happen.

The most common theory I’ve read is that Microsoft wants to discourage frequent name changes, which could clog the network. I accept that people would change their ID, but from working in IT, I find it hard to believe that this would hose the network. It takes a lot to stress a well-built system. Even if that is the justification, why not institute a policy of one free name change every 6 months, for example. That reduces any hypothetical traffic spike and maintains goodwill. Is $10 really worth losing that? Microsoft will make far more than $10 from me in the coming years, if it will only stay out of its own way.

I could just create a new Gamertag, of course, but that involves setting up another Microsoft Live ID before attaching the new Gamertag. I’m not interested. I only signed up for a Microsoft account when I bought the 360, having shunned Hotmail and Passport for years because of Microsoft’s poorly thought out policies. I’d also lose my game achievements, which I don’t particularly care about, but I earned them all the same.

I plan to call them tomorrow to complain, though I don’t expect to get very far. Microsoft can ramble all it wants about the customer experience and how it aims to please, but it’s full of crap. It seems to care only about the Take My Money experience.

For more on the lunacy of Microsoft Points, read Kip’s adventure with purchasing Doom.