I am not trying to be funny. This is my life.

Master and Commander from The Folio Society

October 15th, 2012

A few weeks ago, I tweeted my interest in reading the Aubrey–Maturin series by Patrick O’Brian. After watching Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World a number of times and hearing from my friends about the books, I decided it was time to give it a shot.

The Folio Society (@foliosociety) saw my tweet and generously sent an illustrated copy of the first book in the series. It came in a wax sealed package with a letter from the publisher. This book is a high quality piece with a beautifully embossed cover, heavy weight text pages, and a matching slide box to keep it safe and clean. It will easily endure hundreds of readings and will probably outlast me.

Opening the package from Folio Society containing my copy of Master and Commander

Thanks to my wife, Ann Torockio (@annrockio) for taking photos.

You can buy your own copy of the book here.

Skull Candy for Minors?

January 10th, 2012

Having made it through high school without a fake ID, I fully appreciate Skull Candy’s attempt to be inclusive of the up and coming party people. This time however, I think they missed the boat. There is something a little creepy about the phrase “Skull Candy: Minors are Welcome.” The model with the stubbly chin doesn’t help either.

Skull Candy: Minors are Welcome

Better luck next time, dudes.

You Better Watch Out …

December 21st, 2011

Don’t act like a dick around Christmastime, or you may get a visit from Scary Santa. He is not as nice as Regular Santa.

Dear Apple, Please lower my expectations

December 14th, 2011

I visited the Apple Genius Bar yesterday between 6:10 and 6:30pm to see about a rattle sound in my new iPhone 4s. Thankfully, it turned out to be nothing. Most of the new ones rattle due to the positioning of the vibrating motor. I would sooner have the damn thing removed and not have to hear the rattle at all, but that is besides the point.

Today Apple sent an email asking me about my visit. I felt this was an opportunity to let them know how to improve. They did ask, after all. What follows is an excerpt from the survey.

Is there anything else you would like to share with Apple about this visit or the Genius Bar in general?

I always have a good experience in dealing with the Apple employees. My only issue with the visit is that I had to wait 20 minutes to speak with someone, after having to choose such a precise time slot as 6:10 pm a day in advance.

Forcing customers to choose such a precise time creates the expectation that they will be seen at precisely that time, and not a minute later. I would be less annoyed if I was given time ranges to choose from to make my appointment or some other less specific method of choosing. The online scheduling system promised what the store could not deliver. If my expectations for the timeliness of my visit were lower in the first place there would be no issue.

I would not bother to mention this if it seemed to be an isolated incident, but this has been a consistent issue with the appointments I have tried to make with the Genius Bar. It seems as though there is a great disconnect between the scheduling demands you put on your customers – and the promises you make on your website – and the syncopated rhythm that the Genius Bar actually operates. It sends a message that the time of your employees is more important than the time of your customers and this is unacceptable. Please lower my expectations or live up to the illusion of clock work created by 10 minute intervals of customer service.

Thanks for reading,
Roger Estes

The Origin of a Catch Phrase

July 28th, 2011

A true story, free of embellishment.

“Is this the Ladies’ Room?” he shouted as he came bursting in. I was washing my hands in the Men’s Room sink at my office, in a daze from staring at a computer monitor for the last six hours. Turning away from the sink, I shook my head no. “What was that other bathroom I walked past?” he asked, seeming to not believe me.

“That is the handicapped bathroom” I told him. He was wearing a shirt and a tie, and appeared somewhat intellectual, looking at me through black rimmed glasses with a mane of wavy brown hair. He could have been Bill Nye the Science Guy’s younger brother.

“So this isn’t the Lady’s Room?” he asked again standing next to a urinal, seconds after walking through a door labeled Men. Being asked twice caused me to question my own manliness. If seeing me in the bathroom didn’t make it obvious this was indeed the Men’s Room, I must have gone wrong somewhere.

“The Lady’s Room is on the other side of the building” I assured him, trying to put an end to this ridiculous volley.

“Okay good, because it’s going to get stinky in here.” He shut the door to the first toilet stall. I left, drying my hands on my pants to hasten my departure.

There are a number of issues that I am left thinking about after this curious exchange. Why did he assume that he was in the Ladies’ Room, when there were so many signs that he wasn’t? Am I not manly enough to convince someone they are in the Men’s Room by my presence alone? What did this man eat earlier in the day to provoke this evacuation emergency? In an attempt to bring closure, I have decided to coin a catch phrase based on the time I spent with Bill Nye’s doppelganger: “It’s going to get stinky in here.”

I have to credit John Cassidy of South Philadelphia, the first person who heard this story, with helping me to develop this catch phrase. It should be used when you know something bad is just around the corner. As in, your friend has been telling his wife that he has been working overtime, but instead hanging out at your house playing beer pong with a bunch of younger women. Then, you are drinking beers at his place on a Saturday afternoon, and she finds a strange pair of panties while cleaning the family minivan. This is when you make a quick exit. But before you do, please exclaim “It’s going to get stinky in here!”

Best Beer Commercial Ever?

February 7th, 2011

This spot aired on Superbowl Sunday in 1998. It set a standard that no other television commercial has lived up to before or since.

The U.N. is Going To Pay Up, Finally

January 10th, 2011

I got this email over the weekend. I have been working on this deal with U.N. for six months now and they are finally giving me the $500,000 I deserve. It seems a little risky, but if I don’t go for this, I am going to want to kick my own ass later, I just know it.

UNITED NATIONS OFFICE FOR THE COORDINATION OF HUMANITARIAN AFFAIR.  Good Day.  In line with the United Nations millennium development goal to eradicate poverty and hunger by the year 2015. I am directed to inform you that your payment verification and confirmations has been completed, therefore we are happy to inform you that arrangements have been concluded to effect a payment to you as soon as possible.  It is my pleasure to inform you that ATM Card Number: XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX have been approved in your favor, the ATM Card Value is $500,000.00 USD (FIVE HUNDRED THOUSAND UNITED STATE DOLLARS). You are advised that a maximum withdrawal value of $5,000.00 USD is permitted on withdrawal per day and are duly Inter Switch so you can make withdrawal at any location and ATM Center of your choice, and we have concluded delivery arrangement with the FedEx Express courier services.  Kindly be informed that you are to provide a delivery fee of $95.00 USD for the effective delivery of your package to you, as the delivery will be made to your address in 48 hours (2 days) after the confirmation of your payment for delivery. Also, the delivery fee receipt will be attached to your payment delivery documents to avoid any delays from the customs service.  Kindly provide the details below for delivery, and please do confirm that you will take responsibility for the cost of delivery ($95).  1. Valid delivery address: 2. Country: 3. Name: 4. Phone Number: 5. Occupation:  Treat urgently and note that your ATM Card is ready and available for dispatch to you.   Regards, Mr. Harris Conklin HEAD OF INTERNATIONAL REMITTANCE DEPARTMENT FOR UNITED NATIONS

Blast Off!

September 21st, 2010

This is the first of my experiments with the animated GIF, the most underrated file format known to man. Once my series of studies is complete I will begin work on my feature length animated GIF, which will be screened in Philadelphia with live musical accompaniment. More details to come.

Blame Ralph Nader for Bad Drivers

February 19th, 2010

That’s right. Remember “Unsafe at Any Speed”? It’s his fault we have all these free wheeling jack-asses driving around thinking cars should drive themselves and keep everyone of out danger, all the while simultaneously smoking a cigarette, making a playlist on their iPod, talking on the phone, and trying to drive. Driving is a job that should be taken seriously. Ralph Nader, although he had many good points, was the person who made it acceptable to blame the machine and not the operator. It is nice to able to blame corporations for our problems, but a better solution is to blame the drivers. They are, after all, the ones behind the wheel.

This quality issue with Toyota is the latest example of blaming the machine. Safety is a choice people make. If people don’t know when the accelerator sticks they should jam the brakes and take the car out of gear, then maybe the brick wall they slammed into was a wake-up call.

Rule 1: If you don’t know how the machine works, don’t use it. By this rule, most people on the road today should not be there. Sure, Toyota fucked up, but so did the people driving these cars by not knowing what to do during system failure.

Rule 2: Never assume the machine is going to work the way you want it to. I learned how to drive when I was twelve years old, on vehicles that were far more dangerous than anything Toyota has ever made. I was lucky to have experienced drivers around to teach me how the vehicle worked and what to do when something went wrong. If these Toyota drivers had the training that most farmers have, none of these crashes would have happened.

Rule 3: If you crash, it is your fault. This was the level of accountability I was given when I was operating machines before I was in high school. Because of this, I became an expert in dealing with control problems. By making every problem with a vehicle the fault of the manufacturer and not the operator, the operator has little incentive to learn about how to deal with system failure. If we are going to use this system of blaming the manufacturer, the people making the machines should have some say over who uses their product, and require training before a potential buyer is allowed to drive the vehicle off the lot.

So be safe out there, and if you wrap your car around a pole don’t come crying to me or the person who made it. Go cry to yourself or maybe Ralph Nader.

My Suggestion for USPS.com

December 17th, 2009

In the Christmas Rush, there is a lot of shipping and receiving. Below is my email to the United States Postal Service about how they could easily improve their Track & Confirm system by using more consumer-friendly language instead of just shop talk:

This message pertains to the Track & Confirm system available on USPS.com.

The phrases “Arrival at Pick-Up-Point” and ” … ready for pickup” as used in your Track & Confirm system are confusing to consumers. This language makes it seem like we may be able to go to a post office location and pickup our package. Based on the information I could find online, this is not the case. With terms like this, that I am assuming are part of USPS shop talk, it would be helpful to have them defined on your site somewhere, or use consumer-friendly language instead. For example “ready for pickup”, could instead be represented as “waiting for carrier pickup”. With a few extra words, the reader knows that it will not be him doing the picking up, but a USPS employee.

The whole point of the Track & Confirm system is to build consumer confidence in your product. When information is incomplete or ambiguous it has the opposite effect. In my effort to find the definition of these terms, I found numerous threads online about this confusing language, but no clear answer. I also went to the FAQ section of the site to the Glossary, and was disappointed to find that these terms were not included. In any case, the Glossary of Terms pertaining to the Track & Confirm process should be available on the Track & Confirm page and not three clicks away.

I do appreciate the Track & Confirm system in general. Technically it seems to work great. The only problem is with the language being used to describe the process to consumers. It needs to be defined more clearly, as in a Glossary of Terms, or written more clearly in the first place. Thank you for your time and Happy Holidays!