January 30, 2009

The Apple Anti-Genius Bar

The Penny Arcade gents have a bone to pick with Apple's genius bar, and so do the Citizens of Earth. Check out the comic at http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2009/1/30/. How hot is your Macbook?
My laptop computer recently needed a minor repair, and since it's a Mac, I took it to the Genius Bar inside the Apple store in Emeryville, CA. My designated "genius" said that I would need to leave my computer for at least two weeks while they got around to fixing it. The conversation went something like this:

Me "Will it take two weeks to fix?"
Genius "No, but we have a backlog of repairs. The actual repair will only take about two hours."
Me "Oh, then why don't you call me when you can fix it, and I'll bring it in for two hours."
Genius "Um, we can't do that."
Me "Look, pal, I'm offering you money to fix my computer, but I can't leave it here for more than one day."
Genius "Um, we can't do that."

Lecturing the poor T-shirt-wearing keyboard-jockey would have been pointless because this is a systemic Apple customer service issue. But I'm not going to leave my computer to collect dust for 2+ weeks. My computer is essentially my office and Apple should understand that. After all, my mechanic has a system in place to get my car back quickly. Ironically, I don't use my car nearly as much as I use my computer! So much for Apple's half-baked repair service. Tom Smith agrees with me that "the Genius Bar is inefficient and unfriendly to the customer." Do you want to know what it takes to become a genius of the genius bar? Not much, according to the Gizmodo bloggers. So does anyone know of a GOOD and EFFICIENT Apple repair shop in the San Francisco Bay Area?
Related Links:
Barnes and Not-So-Noble
Beyond Bad Customer Service

January 27, 2009

Global Warming Irreversible, Study Says

According to Susan Solomon, one of the world's top climate scientists, we have waited too long to change our ways. As carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise, the world will experience more and more long-term environmental disruption. The damage will continue even if emissions are brought under control. Solomon and colleagues suggest in a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, that we have already pumped so much excess carbon dioxide into our air and water that it will stick around not for hundreds, but for thousands of years.

But don't despair just yet! Solomon says this is not time to declare the problem hopeless and give up. "I guess if it's irreversible, to me it seems all the more reason you might want to do something about it," she says.

January 21, 2009

Obama's First Day is a Big One

President Obama fulfilled his promise to "hit the ground running" on his first full day on the job as president of the United States. He was at work at 8:30 EST this morning. Here is what he has accomplished, less than 12 hours after taking office:
Met with the US ambassador to Iraq, the US military commander in Iraq, the commander for the region and top cabinet and national security officials and asked them to draw up plans needed for a "responsible" withdrawal of US troops from Iraq and deployment of needed forces in Afghanistan. "I asked the military leadership to engage in additional planning necessary to execute a responsible military draw-down from Iraq," Obama said in a statement.

Signed a string of political orders requiring ethical politics and open government from this and future administrations so that we don't see a repeat of Bush/Cheney. "Let me say it as simply as I can. Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency," he said, at a swearing-in ceremony for senior staff members.

Froze the salaries of White House staffers earning in excess of $100,000 per year. "During this period of economic emergency, families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington," Obama said.

January 16, 2009

Requiem for Washington Mutual


I used to be a Washington Mutual customer. When I was a student, they offered truly free checking and a branch nearby, thus meeting my needs. These days, however, I ask a bit more of my bank. I ask that it maintain a certain level of integrity, reliability, and wisdom when it invests my savings. I ask that it not make foolish high-risk investments such as junk bonds or sub-prime home loans. I ask that it not go bankrupt nor be seized by the FDIC.

When Wamu was seized and sold to Chase, Wamu locations suddenly became home to herds of yellow smiley-faced balloons. They bobbed and floated everywhere in a vain attempt to assure bank customers that nothing had gone horribly wrong. Tables laden with free cookies and coffee appeared. A cookie and a balloon might comfort a child after a set of booster shots, but it won't make me leave my money in a bank with a track record of risky investments.

January 1, 2009

The Traveling Patient, or What it's Like to Get Sick in Other Countries


The United States is the only first-world nation without a universal system of doctors and medical clinics. Many Americans currently have two options when it comes to good health:

1) Be wealthy.
2) Don't get sick.

Having lived in (and gotten sick in) a few different countries, I can provide first-hand accounts of how health care works in countries with national health systems in place. England, France, and Canada are often cited as prime examples of how nationalized health care systems can work. The Frontline show entitled, Sick Around the World explains how other countries manage the health of their citizenry very well. The DVD is listed at the end of this post and comes highly recommended. Meanwhile, based on some of my own travels, here are three different examples of what it is like to be a patient in Australia, Japan, and China.