12/28/2005

My Mini-Review Of The Motorola E815

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:37 pm

Y’all may recall me talking about needing a new cell phone recently. Well, December 21st came ’round, at which point I qualified for a discounted phone under Verizon’s “New Every Two” program, so off to the Interweb I went to choose my reviews and review my choices.

As it turns out, that new LG wet-dream all-in-one phone just wasn’t in the cards. First of all, it would have cost me about a hundred bucks more than I felt like spending. And that’s before you factor in the almost insurmountable temptation to use its built-in halfway-decent screen to surf the Web, at a premium price. Secondly, the unique form factor almost completely rules out the idea of a protective case-cum-belt-clip, something I simply cannot live without. So scratch the Snickers-bar-sized portable workstation….for now.

After some research I came away with the Motorola E815.

Motorola E815

I’ve been using this phone for about a week now, and overall I think it’s great. It has just about everything I wanted in a new phone—a camera, voice-activated dialing and Bluetooth—and a whole holy crapload more.

At the Verizon store I was trying to decide between the E815 and the new Verizon-badged RAZR V3c, which is undeniably the sexier of the two with its brushed aluminum, Deep Space Nine-style streamlined look. By comparison the E815 is a bit of a portly country-cousin, an effect made conspicuously worse by the addition of a protective leather-and-plastic sleeve. The thing looks nice enough nude, but dress it up in its fetish ensemble and it begins to look decidedly clumsier. This is heightened by the fact that, once donned, the sleeve prevents the earpiece side of the flip phone from closing snugly. It doesn’t actually make it any more likely that the thing will be accidentally dragged or flipped open, but it kind of looks like it would.

I chose the E815 over the RAZR because of its longer battery life and memory expansion slot (more on this later). The difference in size and “cool factor” were not major criteria for me, probably because I myself am neither petite nor cool.

Reception and call quality on my phone is great, as good as or better than my previous pieceashit free-with-my-plan LG candy bar. I don’t know about elsewhere in the country, but here in the Great Northwest Verizon is the King of Beers of cell phone reception. That poindexter in the ads ain’t just blowing smoke; I get signal where my friends on Sprint, Cingular and Nextel fear to tread.

The phone is well put together, with a bright LCD screen, sensibly arranged menus and large buttons—considerably larger than those on my old phone, which like most of the short single-piece phones has cramped buttons in order to accommodate the screen. I’ve read a few posts online complaining about the buttons being “slippery”. I’m not quite sure whose digits these people were using to dial their phone, but I have experienced no such problem. The buttons are “bead blast” textured plastic instead of rubber, but it’s not like my thumb was ever in any danger of careening off of the “hang up” button and jabbing me in the eye or something.

Like all flip phones, the action of cradling the unit between head and shoulder (the original “hands free” communication kit) feels dangerous compared to a candy-bar phone. The inevitable flex of the hinge makes me feel like the thing’s going to cleave in two at any moment, though I’m sure it has been designed with such treatment in mind. I shouldn’t be using my phone that way anyway; that’s what I wanted the Bluetooth for.

The kit that came with my new phone included a Jabra BT350v Bluetooth Headset, an eighty dollar value….assuming you can grind the thing up, snort it and get a killer buzz. As a phone accessory it’s pretty much a complete loss; buzzy and fuzzy and more than a little scuzzy. Google the phrase “Jabra BT350v” and the majority of hits are from people selling the things on Ebay. I immediately went out and bought a Logitech Mobile Freedom headset, which is fantastic. A little tricky to get on your ear the first few times, but once you get the hand of it it’s a snap. It has the added advantage over the Jabra of looking less like a silver cockroach humping your ear.

(Tech note: Bluetooth headsets do not seem to enjoy operating in a storm of EMR. Neither headset performed well in my office, which is beset on all sides by cordless phones, 802.11 devices, IR remotes, CRT monitors, FM radios and probably a dilithium crystal or two. So if you think you’ll be using this thing in a tech-heavy space, you might want to invest in a corded headset, or else use the speakerphone. Or just hold the damn phone to your ear, if you’re feeling churlishly atavistic.)

My Cat
Resized, un-retouched photo shot with my phone

The camera is nice, though I really don’t have much to compare it to. It takes 640 x 480 pictures and includes a 4x digital (read: “useless”) zoom. It would also have been nice if the folks at Motorola had seen fit to provide a sliding lens cover for the camera. Whether that will turn out to be a problem still remains to be seen.

I never really thought much about camera phones one way or another, and truth be told, if the other features I wanted didn’t come pretty much exclusively on camera phones I probably would have continued to not think much about them. But the feature does have some advantages. I can imagine being glad I have one at the scene of a traffic accident or something. That being said, I always resented the hell out of the idea that I might have to pay Verizon to email the pictures to myself via their “Get It Now” feature. With the E815, you have the option of storing photos, video and sound files on a removable TransFlash card.

TransFlash Card

These cards are tiny, about the size of a fingernail. They are currently available in capacities up to 512 megabytes, which totally freaks me out. I paid 40 bucks for a 256 meg card at Circuit City. I wish I had anything like 256 megabytes of stuff I wanted to store on my phone. The removable card is both PC and Mac compatible using the included TransFlash-to-SD card adapter, and is an essential feature due to Motorola’s inexplicable decision to disable Bluetooth file-transfer capabilities on this phone. (Bluetooth file transfer is enabled on the RAZR; go figure. Perhaps Motorola will add this feature to future rev’s of the E815 as well.)

My very favorite single feature on this phone is Voice Dialing. Being able to press a button on my headset, say, “Call home” and be talking to my wife (or just as likely our answering machine) without taking my eyes off the road is an almost religious experience.

There are zillions of other features on this phone—contact manager, web browser, an MP3 player, and Verizon’s newest telecommunciations gewgaw VCAST, which allows you to watch television on your phone—but everything after “Voice Dialing” is of little interest to me. I’m sure I’ll get around to making myself dependent on many more features of this technological marvel eventually (I hear the speakerphone is the bee’s meow). In the meantime, based on my experience to date, I give it seven thumbs up. Or thumbs-ups. Whatever.

12/25/2005

No Better Way To Say It

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 1:55 am

A Merry Christmas to you all, and a heartfelt wish for peace on earth.

—Andrew

12/21/2005

Testing (Tweet)….One, Two (Tweet, Tweet)….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 12:29 am

For anyone who actually gives a tin turd, the Birdie Cam is up and running again. I fell prey to one of the classic blunders (no, I didn’t start a land war in Asia): I took a system that was working fine and tried to improve it, unwittingly administrering a colossal cluster-type fuck in the process. I was tired of watching my main wifi access point laboring to handle both my regular LAN traffic (both Shawn and Margaret’s computers access the Interweb wirelessly) and the traffic from my security cameras, so I decided to add another access point and split the work between camera-related traffic and computer-related traffic.

Problem was, I could never get the two APs to work and play well with each other, and one or another wireless device (laptops, wireless-to-Ethernet bridges, even our garage remotes) was always getting foozled. Finally I just gave up (at eleven o’ clock at night; why do these things always take until eleven o’clock at night to come to a head?) and went back to a single access point. Everything seems to be both hunky and dory now, knock on phenolic resin.

So, what else has been going on….hmmmm….

Oh yeah, Intelligent Design failed the smell test in Pennsylvania.

Look, I’m not going to re-hash old arguments as to why ID is not fit for teaching in a science class. I think that this most recent case re-hashed these arguments quite nicely, thank you. (I especially enjoyed the fact that the plaintiff’s attorney was able to get one of the school board’s expert witnesses to admit that, under his revision of the definition of science, astrology would have to be granted equal footing with Intelligent Design. Bet that equivocation honked a few noses.)

The people I know who believe that the Universe and everything in it is a creation of God….believe that the Universe and everything in it is a creation of God. They may theorize that He set the wheels of evolution in motion, or they may think that the fossil record is actually a little joke He is playing on all of us, particularly the gullible paleontologists. But they believe the Creator made it all happen. They don’t see the need to dress their beliefs up as a pseudo-science in order to feel good about them.

Hey, Christians (And for that matter, anyone else whose religious beliefs include the concept of a divine Creator)! I’d like you to say something, aloud, right now, as you read this. Say, “God created the heavens and the Earth.”

Go ahead, say it. “God created the heavens and the Earth.”

Wasn’t that simple? Didn’t it feel good? And well it should! You know it to be the truth, why shouldn’t it feel good to say it out loud, for anyone to hear? I bet God is happy to hear you say it as well. He already knew you knew it, but it probably cheers Him up a little to hear some of His children speak sooth, bold as brass, in the presence of others. Particularly us skeptics.

Isn’t that enough? To know that the Creator is on His throne, looking out over (and for) His creation, and that no sparrow shall fall without Him knowing about it? Must you tart up your deeply-held convictions with the lexicon of the anti-faithful, the empiricists? Doesn’t that, in fact, actually cheapen your faith?

It is my opinion that, in a truly enlightened society, those who question the existence of God would not be so quick to look down their nose at those who do not. Conversely, those who have faith would exhibit the maturity to acknowledge that their convictions stem from just that—faith—and would stop trying to cobble together rational or scientific explanations for the things they know to be true. I have no problem with creation myths, and the desire of people to believe that they are true; I certainly have no proof to the contrary. My only problem is with those who seek to legitimize their convictions within another paradigm entirely, such as Science.

To do so is an insult to God. It implies that you are such a megalomaniac as to think you will ever get within a thousand light-years of beginning to figure His shit out.

12/17/2005

Well, I’ll Be Jiggered!

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 1:25 pm

Guess what I just got back from someone at Radio Shack! I almost tossed the note because of the name of the sender, “Anna Lopez”. No insult intended to Ms/Mrs. Lopez, but that’s exactly the kind of name you expect to find on an email containing offers of low-cost Cialis.

Here’s what she had to say:

———————————————————————–

Hello Mr. Lenzer:

Thank you for taking the time to email us and express your concerns.
Please accept our apologies that the employees of the Burien RadioShack
store did not fully understand the type of product you were searching
for as well as for any lack of assistance you received. Your email was
forwarded to the attention of Dave Swanson, the District Manager
directly responsible for this store so that he can be aware of your
experience. If you would like to discuss this matter further with the
District Manager, you can contact Mr. Swanson at the district office at
(425)820-7744 or you may email him at Dave.Swanson@radioshack.com

Sincerely,
Anna Lopez
RadioShack Customer Care

———————————————————————–

Frankly, their response delighted me. Nice to know that someone on the upstream end of this corporate giant actually reads these things. You go, Anna! I’m still never setting foot in the Burien Radio Shack again, but your prompt and helpful reply has earned my respect.

Here’s my reply:

———————————————————————–

Anna,

Thanks so much for your email. I am, to be frank, delighted by your reply, first and foremost because you chose to reply at all to what must have seemed like a pretty snarky letter. While everything I relayed in my email is accurate, writing it was more an act of cathartic creative prose than anything, and the fact that a representative of Radio Shack Corporation would take the time to respond to it was more than I expected. Thank you.

As for taking this matter any further on my end, if anyone from Radio Shack would like to discuss my experience in greater detail, they should feel free to contact me. However, unless someone in your corporation feels this would be to their benefit, it is hardly necessary and I am not expecting it. As I said in my original message, this experience has not soured me on Radio Shack as an overall retail establishment. Everyone has branches of their local business franchises that they find more or less to their liking, and I can’t see why your company would be any exception to that rule.

Again, thanks for your response to my email. I really do appreciate you taking the time to do so.

Regards,

Andrew Lenzer

12/16/2005

Oh….Oh, My Goodness….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:06 pm

Stumbled across this little beauty pretty much completely by accident:

http://www.fuckchristmas.org

Need I mention, there’s some strong language involved?

Another Bumper Sticker Idea

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:14 am

You all may or may not recall this, but I sometimes come up with concepts for bumper stickers that I’m saving up for a press run one of these days. I’m particularly fond of concepts that parody another, already popular bumper sticker. My very favorite of these is a black bumper sticker with big white block letters reading, “KISS YOUR TELEVISION”.

Now I’ve got another one brewing. A smallish (say 4 x 5 inches) dark blue window sticker with two white silhouettes in the upper two-thirds and white words in the lower third. The words? “PROTEST HUMAN LIFE”.

The only thing I haven’t quite worked out is whose silhouettes to use. Hitler and Pol Pot? Middle-aged mouth breather and his kids? Tom DeLay and Bill O’Reilly? Sam Kinison and Andrew “Dice” Clay? Help me out here, folks.

12/12/2005

Dear Radio Shack….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 8:30 pm

This is from an email I sent out today.

Hey Folks,

I thought I would relay my experiences at two Radio Shack stores in my area on Sunday, December 11. I think they are illustrative of both the strengths and weaknesses of Radio Shack’s current policies and (perceived) corporate strategy.

I was in need of what I knew as a “pin puller”, a tool used to retrieve conductive pins from the Molex connectors used in much of modern electrical/electronic devices and systems. I had mis-wired a component of my hot tub’s filtration system and needed to reconfigure the connector. No amount of jigging with a tiny screwdriver would wrest the pins from their housing. So off to Radio Shack I went.

I first visited the Radio Shack on 148th Street in Burien, Washington. The store was fairly busy, as you can imagine for this time of year. There were perhaps five to ten shoppers crammed into the arterioscelrotic aisles, making their holiday purchases. There were also four salespeople in attendance, which I must say is an admirable employee-to-customer ratio. Kudos to you.

A young woman approached me and asked me if I needed any help. “Yes, thanks,” I said, “I’m looking for a, well, I’m not sure what you call it, but I’ve always known it as a ‘pin puller’. It’s a tool for removing pins from electrical connectors.”

The look on her face said it all. Hmm, that look said, that doesn’t sound like a battery, a cellular phone or a radio-controlled car. What the heck do I do now?

“I don’t think we have any of those,” she replied. Let me check the computer, okay?” She made for the counter.

“Okay, thank you,” I said. I began to wander the aisles.

As I did I noticed what has become a recurring and increasingly pervasive theme at Radio Shack; the ever-dwindling quantity of actual electronic components, versus finished products. Time was that Radio Shack was the place you went for all your hard-core electronics-nerd needs; a slightly dusty hole-in-the-wall joint, staffed by pocket-protectored engineering majors and AV-club wonks. If you didn’t know what you needed, they could probably figure it out for you.

The Radio Shack of today is quite different, and I really can’t fault you for it. I imagine the decision was reached somewhere in your corporosphere that, if your company was to maintain growth, you would have to spiff up both your image and your product line.

That would be about the time your line of in-house products was rebadged, migrating from the brand name “Realistic” over to to the edgier, more Transformer-like “Optimus”.

In addition, you started selling a bunch of stuff heretofore unknown to your display windows. The low-cost audio mixers and LED readouts were replaced by cordless phones and Casio-clone electronic keyboards. A veritable fleet of RC cars moved in, knocking the resistors and EPROMs from their shelves. Finally, cellular phones and satellite TV forced the final dregs of your original stock into a holding action, cowering on a lone shelf, betwixt the multimeters and the wire strippers.

Like I said, I don’t blame you for changing on me, though I wish it hadn’t come to this. Fortunately for myself, I live within the boundaries of a large, technologically-oriented community; the Puget Sound region. There are a half-dozen companies that have picked up your forsaken ball and run with it.

Unfortunately, none of them are open on Sunday.

Eventually the girl helping me came back and told me that they don’t carry a “pin puller”. I knew Radio Shack had to carry the thing, but I had been unable to find it on any of the aisles.

A second employee overheard her and said, “What’s he looking for?”

“I think it’s called a pin puller,” I replied. “You use it to extract pins from electrical connectors. I’m pretty sure you sell them.”

The young man came around the counter and approached me, his short black hair gelled into a billion glistening spikes. “Nah, we don’t sell those”, he said dismissively. “If we did they’d be over there.” He gestured to the tool aisle, home of the wire strippers and multimeters and the last of the (softly whimpering) electronic components.

I wanted to say “Well, which is it; you don’t sell them, or they’re over there?” But I didn’t. I’d pretty much had my fill of this particular Radio Shack, staffed as it was seemingly exclusively by uninspired and/or surly teenagers. They’d probably be just the people to help me if I wanted a new cell phone, but since I actually needed them to step outside the boundaries of their immediate worldview and apply themselves to answering a question that wasn’t intuitively obvious to them, all hope was lost. I might as well have asked the carpet. I headed home.

Of course, Radio Shack does indeed sell such a device; Product SKU#274-233. It’s known in your product literature as a “pin extractor“, not a pin puller. That neither your staff nor your software was capable of looking for a synonym of “pull” I take as an ominous sign.

Fortunately, after consulting your Web site (why I did not do this in the first place is beyond me. I suppose I was thinking that the store would either stock the product and sell it to me, or it wouldn’t, and it wouldn’t. I hadn’t really planned for a situation in which the item I sought would be withheld from me, despite being both an item you sell and in stock at that particular store), I was able to call another local Radio Shack store (23227 Pacific Highway South in Kent) and confirm that a) the pin extractor was in stock, and b) they were willing to actually find the thing for me so I could buy it.

The folks at the Kent store were top-notch, both much older on average than those at the Burien store and much more knowledgeable and service-oriented. Whether these two facts are related to each other is not my place to say.

Perhaps this odd employee dichotomy is also part of your corporate strategy. I can imagine a plane of reality in which it is to Radio Shack’s advantage to staff their stores according to local customer demographics, perhaps corralling the text-messaging teenage hardbodies in the store that serves a younger, less nuts-and-bolts clientele, and reserving the more modest, out-of-the-way stores for those salespeople who know their capacitors from their elbows. If so, I salute your efforts, but you might dedicate some thought to figuring out a way to clue your customers in. Radio Shack versus Radio Shack Lite, perhaps? A color-coding scheme? Forehead tattoos?

All of this is not to say that I now loathe Radio Shack or would never shop there again. I don’t quite know what to make of my experience. I certainly know I’ll never enter the Burien store again, and perhaps this is best for all involved. It may be, as I hypothesized above, that the Burien store is simply—and intentionally—not designed for customers like myself. If this is the case, then all is proceeding exactly as planned. There is demographically-driven retail stratification under the heavens, and the situation is excellent.

If, on the other hand, it is not Radio Shack Corporation’s intention to drive certain types of customers away from specific stores and towards others—or towards your competitors—then you might want to give your general retail-space staffing methodology a little going-over.

Respectfully,

Andrew Lenzer

12/6/2005

Food Fright, Part 9

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 9:29 pm
Food Fright Part 9

This photo was sent to me by my good friend Gavin. Where he managed to find a 55-gallon drum of Yamasa Soy Sauce to photograph I can only imagine. On second thought, no, I can’t. And so far he hasn’t told me.

The obvious anomaly here (made even obviouser by my Photoshopping) is the Servings Per Container. Whoah, Doggies!

Now, if only I could find a twenty-seven-thousand-pound plate lunch to put it on. Two scoops mac salad, yeah? And one thirty-five-hundred-gallon fruit punch.

12/3/2005

Icky Sticky Refer Madness

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 6:01 pm

At eleven this morning, someone in the United Arab Emirates followed the MSN search engine to my blog.

The search phrase they used?

“Jism the film”

To which I say, “No indeed, Sir; if that is what you are looking for, you jism the film!”

And please wash your hands before returning to my site.

12/2/2005

Things That Make Me Feel All Sunny Inside….

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 10:02 pm

Around quarter of five yesterday afternoon, someone on a Verizon Broadband IP address reached an older portion of my Web site, which I haven’t bothered to take down. I’m so glad I didn’t.

The person in question hit an entry I did called The “Rad Brad” Story, a piece that describes my experience with fraternities and sororities while working in a sandwich shop in Pullman, Washington, as a way of explaining the genesis of my (extremely limited press run of) “Rad Brad” cartoons. As will surprise nobody, they were not particularly charitable in their portrayal of the “Greek” system, particularly the fraternities.

Anyway, this particular Netizen came to this online article via the Googe search engine. He stopped to read the article, and both Rad Brad cartoons, before moving on.

The search term he entered?

“pullman, wa keggers”.

Oh, I am sorry, good Sir! Were you trawling for a comprehensive directory of current and prospective marination stations in the greater Pullman/Moscow area? How very unfortunate that you instead stumbled across my humble wares!

Hee hee hee….


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