Census fortune cookies continue to creep people out

Posted by & filed under Misc, Oddities.

Back in February Seattle Times wrote about fortune cookie promotion that US Census ordered. Overall 2 million fortune cookies got dull and somewhat creepy messages that prod people, who decided to dine out at chinese food place, to drop their chopsticks and get down to census.

Well, apparently those cookies are still around, even though the census forms are out already (heck, that April deadline is just around the corner). The Consumerist just published a short reference to one freaked out customer.

Just a reminder: weirdo cookies from Tsue Chong Co. were shipped into restaurants and groceries in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Montana. You are forewarned.

It’s almost time for public radio’s begging season

Posted by & filed under Misc.

Today’s rant is dedicated to KUT, Austin Public Radio station. And I bet it applies pretty much verbatim to other public radio stations around the country.

While driving to work I usually flip between several stations non-stop (news on one, talk show on the other, attempt to find something to listen, then back to news/traffic). And I am always amazed at the volume of commercials that public radio plays. Boring, uninteresting one to two-liners with company name repeated over and over again.

How is it possible? Isn’t the whole idea of the public radio station that it’s run by volunteers and doesn’t do this whole “profit” thing? How come every 5-7 minutes or even more frequently you hear “… is brought to you by such-and-such company, insert company slogan here”. And then on top of that public station goes into this frenzy of begging listeners for more money, every year, over and over.

Have you ever heard music station beg for money? Be it rock or pop or any other genre? Commercials every 5 minutes? Not really. Then what’s wrong with KUT? How come they spent so much money, or get so little money from the commercials? I may never know.

I know their traffic reports are about as laggy as they can be, with huge delays in updates. I even tried to email them about it a couple years ago, and got back that they use third party data provider, and there’s nothing they can do except wait until company gets better at tracking traffic issues. Yet talk radio 590 KLBJ doesn’t seem to have any problems like that, and doesn’t beg for money either. And the amount of commercials is same if not less, and amount of news is more.

Of course I suppose Public Radio here plays the role of, say, BBC radio channel. In content, not in financing, meaning playing more of a fringe music programs. But then, I wonder how many people stop listening to KUT while it goes into money-begging month and how that kills of their ability to attract sponsors. I’d love to see that statistics…

In the meantime 97.7 ROCK and 93.7 KLBJ will kinda help me. Well, mostly 97.7 ROCK — for some unimaginable reason 93.7 has DJs blabbing all morning long. Hello, where’s the rock music?

Fiesta step two – Retail Order Reservation done

Posted by & filed under Misc.

It’s Monday, which means it was time to get a call back from the Ford dealership about my pre-order. I was getting anxious a bit when phone finally rang and it was the internet sales manager I dealt with on Saturday — they did figure everything out, and he was about to send me a scan of the final order.

I received the “buyer’s order” scan, reviewed it, signed, sent it back with a copy of my DL. Then called Matthew back to double-check if he remembered to mark “cruise control” option on the order screen (well, not him, but the fleet manager who was doing the actual ordering).

An hour later I got another email, this time with apologies, and note that they did forget to add that, as the ordering system is new, and that this time everything is in order. And it was, short of couple typos in my name and street address, which I corrected afterwards.

So far the strangest fact was that cruise control is a part of “sports appearance” package. I guess “appearances” can be deceiving, as I always thought of people who prefer “sports” cars as someone who’d hate cruise control and probably always chooses a stick-shift over an automatic transmission. Of course I understand that packages are probably driven by marketing, with thorough evaluation of how features could be combined to entice as many people to get them as possible (in this case some people will get sporty look, some will get cruise control), and overall it’s a good value, pls car would look even more awesome.

Also the beige cloth was still only available in darker exterior models (I hoped that would have changed from Ford online pre-order site, to the actual dealership retail order system). It’s Texas. When I choose the color of my car, I worry not just about gamut but practicality — lighter shades are better when it’s 105F outside, and no amount of tinting helps when the seats are dark (that’s also a strike against leather — shorts + black leather seats = uncomfortable bacon-like sizzle and grouchy “ouch-ouch-grrr” until it cools down). So… I wish I could get silver metallic exterior with beige cloth. But grey one should work too.

Overall I ended up with 5 emails and a couple phone calls to finish this step. I now have a retail price layout for my order, including taxes, title, license and a “documentation fee” (hey, who’s writing the documentation about this experience?!). Given how much attention vehicle gathered, Ford Fiesta will probably never dip below the retail price, which is understandable. Free SYNC/Premium Audio upgrade got marked as “Cash on Delivery (Rebate).” Sections for trade-in were understandably marked N/A for now. Funny, but the official Ford SYNC site still shows arrows on that navigation robot pointing all over the place — head says go forward down, gut says back and to the right, little green tick points at the moon. But I digress…

Matthew reassured me again, that signing the order is just to get the order into the system, and that he will make sure all of the corrections in address and name will have made it into the computer, and I should wait for official Ford call to re-confirm everything within couple days. So, I’m waiting for the next step now, still excited…

Sony Ericsson Xperia X10 – outdated out the gate

Posted by & filed under Technology.

Sony Ericsson used to have great products. Yes, the cell phones were almost always quirky a bit, and sometimes even kinda buggy, but they were fresh, interesting, pretty and stylish overall.
But I guess company got complacent. HTC stole their thunder, making really progressive products, and Sony now just tries to stay afloat by promising-promising-promising. And then finally delivering something that was cool, perhaps, half a year or a year ago, when it was just announced.

Looks like this fate awaits new Xperia X10 — first Android device from SE. One would think that with SE’s experience they would be able to whip up a cool phone with latest features, innovative design, and then just put a stock Android on it, but no. Their official blog confirmed that there will be no multitouch in Xperia X10.

Worse, it’s not capable of multitouch due to both “hardware and software problems”. Read “we put the cheapest crappiest touch-screen we could find”. I suppose it was ok back then, when the first word got out. But now it just looks like an outdated toy from the past. The one you find 10 years later and think “what exactly seemed so cool about it in the past”.

Anyways, strike one is multitouch. What’s left?
Design? Not that pretty, sorry. Not enough buttons, plus horizontal narrow buttons are kinda old now, after Nokia X6 and Nokia 5800.
Physical keyboard to appease those, who hate touch screens? No, not having any of that.
Pure Android experience? No way, this is Sony Ericsson, which means software will be bad for about half a year after the release, until all bugs are worked out (and even version of the Android OS is still not specified with 100% certainty — will it be 2.0? 1.6? Will they push their shell onto 2.1?). On top of it, they managed to re-implement photo gallery and all the other “Android 2.0/2.1” fancy things, which makes Sony’s add-on pretty much useless.

Price? Yeah, if it was $100, perhaps. But given rumors it’s supposed to cost $800+.

In the end, it’s just another pompous “not-so-super” phone. I have better faith in Kyocera doing okay with cheaper handset than Xperia.

Sony-Ericsson, wake up. Release basic phone with nice hardware for cheap, and then take your time thinking how to add “sony touch” to the Android.

One step closer to Ford Fiesta

Posted by & filed under Misc.

Well, I am now one step closer to owning the new Ford Fiesta. The journey was fun, interesting and unlike my previous car buying experience (I’ll write about it in another article).

I actually was thinking about new Ford Fusion (not the green version, the regular one), but I have a rare talent of procrastinating up to the point where everyone pretty much rushed in and bought up all the inventory. “Oh, I will just clunk along in my old car for a while then”, — I thought. But… then I ran into Ford Fiesta story on Jalopnik.com (I think it was this test-drive… the important moments usually never seem important when they happen, only later you will have realized how important that very moment was)

So I change my stance from “I’ll get another Japanese car” to “This looks pretty cool, I should try Ford”.

Given my line of work, I know how important reviews are. And everything I read about the car seemed quite nice. People loved it, professional car guys loved it too. Style is great, colors are nice, and interior, while makes me think of transformers, also seems to be quite nifty.

I waited and waited, and finally the official site started accepting reservations, which I promptly filled out. I choose Ignot Silver Metallic instead of green, and off I went.

It took me a while to straighten out everything via email as I managed to submit two preorders, instead of one (thank you for help, Megan Russo!) and a while to figure out which dealership to go to. I’ve only dealt with local Ford dealership once, but for some reason only San Antonio dealership supports online reviews. Yelp is pretty much useless these days, as looking for information about actual purchasing experiences doesn’t yield many results. Given that unhappy people are way more likely to trumpet about experience failures, I decided to take a chance and use Maxwell Ford.
And they also sent me “Please finish your order” post card, so I knew they were involved in the process.

First attempt at communication was not very promising — I tried to talk to someone from sales to see what I should do next, but getting through the phone system was difficult. Polite lady transferred me five times (first to service, then I got bumped back to receptions, then somewhere else, which wasn’t sales, then back to receptionist, then again to receptionist) and I gave up trying the 6th time.

This Saturday I just went to the dealership in person. There was a bit of confusion, as I was passed along to one of the internet sales guys, who never dealt with Fiesta pre-sales before. After about 5 minutes he did find the right guy, who actually processed several pre-orders already and handed me off to him.

Another somewhat confusing moment was that I had to re-choose everything again. I thought that Ford online would forward all my pre-order details directly to the dealership, but as they told me, they only get the name and the address (which is why they sent me the post card). So I had to try to remember which packages exactly did I choose online when doing pre-order. Plus pre-order qualified me for free sound system and SYNC.

After that I was told that the right guy to do inventory management won’t be in until Monday. So on Monday he will try to configure the car with options I asked (hatchback, automatic transmission, cruise control, so I can drive around Texas with ease) enter it into retail ordering system, and then send me the resulting order sheet, with price and all options marked up. Then I sign it, send it back to them with a copy of my DL. After which I should get a call from Ford to double-check that I ordered what I ordered, and only then the actual car will be built.

Once the car is ready, dealership will contact me again, I will go there, check out the actual car, make sure it is exactly what I want, and then finish financing/trade-in steps (guys did tell me that given amount of interest in new Fiesta, even in unlikely event I were to change my mind, they’d be able to sell the car easily, so no harm done). And soon I will join small but growing army of people who own Fiesta.

Phew… quite a number of steps. And I will write about what will have happened next too.

I have to mention, that Sam De La Garza helped me out via Twitter, as well as several Ford dealership representatives, from different states, yet quite supportive and helpful. When car company embraces social media, only good things can happen, because I firmly believe in usefulness of interaction with customers. Be it praise or critique, it’s always better to know what people think about your product.

While on Fiesta note, check out Fiesta Movement for other interesting stuff (not that new Fiesta needs any more publicity than it already received, but 10 best Hidden Gems in Dallas is an interesting list).