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FedEx Ground SUCKS
Friday, August 29, 2003

Picture your local FedEx driver. If your driver is like mine, you'll probably imagine a nice, helpful person who delivers your package quickly and with a minimum of fuss. If you have a problem, you can always contact the local office and you can expect to get your problem fixed. The FedEx folks are the good guys.

Now take you local FedEx driver and put him into a malfunctioning Star Trek transporter. Two drivers will come out. See that one there, with the goatee? That's FedEx Ground, the dark, evil twin who will deliver nothing for you but chaos and regret.

FedEx Ground is not regular FexEx - it's an entirely different organization, apparently made of up contractors, retarded monkeys, and homeless people lured in off the street. They are a stunningly inept and downright callous organization, the sort of thing that simply should not exist in a functioning free market economy.

Think I'm kidding? Read on.

I recently had a computer shipped from somewhere in Middle America to my home in upstate New York. Whoever took charge of my package made mistake number one and routed it to the wrong city, nearly sixty miles away. Nonetheless, their driver kindly attempted to deliver it to my home, but declined to navigate my long driveway and took the package back.

Fair enough. One small mistake, and one good-faith effort to make it right. That's good service, and I'm happy so far. They call and ask me what to do, and I ask them to please send my package to my local FedEx office where I can pick it up. Wonderful, no problem. Thanks a lot.

That was Monday.

Late Tuesday afternoon I stop by the local office, and there's no package. The lady at the desk tells her supervisor she's got "another FedEx Ground problem" and starts making calls. She informs me that "the girl was out today" and that my package will surely be here tomorrow afternoon.

The girl was out? They didn't have a spare? OK, whatever.

On Wednesday my package is sent to Town Number Two, still sixty miles from my home and about a hundred miles from where it was the day before. The nice lady at the desk tells me that she'll have my package for me the following day, probably around one o'clock.

On Thursday afternoon I try again. My package is still in Town Number Two, and the tracking system has it flagged as 'delivered'. The local FedEx office has tried to contact them, but the manager (who personally signed for my package) does not answer the phone and does not return his calls. In frustration, the lady at the desk finally gives me his direct number in the hope that maybe I can get through to him. I leave three messages over the course of the day, each one polite and clear, each one including the tracking number, my phone number, and the exquisitely simple instructions necessary for proper delivery. "Please send MY package to MY town? Thank you."

No reply. That night I find the section of the Fed-Ex web site that allows you to file a complaint. I write yet another a polite, complete message, headlines with the title MY PACKAGE HAS NOT ARRIVED YET and concluding with a request for a refund. About a minute after I sent it, I got an automated confirmation message telling me that the'll be happy to get right back to me. OK.

Friday afternoon I stop by the local office again, and by some astonishing bit of luck the lady behind the counter just happens to be on the phone with the unreachable Dark Lord of Town Number Two, trying to sort out yet another "FedEx Ground problem" for yet another pissed-off customer. When she's done, she hands the phone to me.

I explain my situation and ask why my calls weren't returned. The manager flatly misunderstands my situation and ignores the part about not returning my calls. I repeat myself. He again ignores the part about the unreturned calls and eventually finds what he thinks is my package. He reads my phone number off the package, which is clearly labeled Hold In Town Number Two For Customer Pick Up. "We were wondering what to do with this one" he tells me.

Hang on, now... my phone number is on the package? WHY DIDN'T YOU CALL ME??! "It didn't say to call" he explains. Why didn't you return the three messages I left you? "I didn't get them" he says.

You lying cocksucker. I suggested that he deliver my fucking package right away before I personally came down there and stomped the rancid fat out of his head, but not in quite so many words. My package arrived on Monday, exactly one week after my adventure began. This whole problem could have been quickly wrapped up if this asshole manager had the common courtesy to return even a single message.

So, let's recap, shall we? The first mistake was made when they routed my package to the wrong place. The second and third mistakes were made by the receiving office, and the fourth and fifth mistakes were made by the following office a hundred miles away. Based on the comments overheard during my frequent visits to my local office, I was not the only customer having a hard time with these people.

This was not just a one-time thing, and it was not just the fault of low-level people. This entire outfit is really fucked.

And here's the best part: it's been over a week since I requested my refund and I have still not received a reply. Apparently, a message beginning with the phrase MY PACKAGE HAS NOT ARRIVED YET is not a high priority for these folks.


One Of Those Critical Distinctions
Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I don't want to make too much of this, but I do think there is something important here. I've collected a few bits and pieces from elsewhere on the web, and put them all together for you. Tell me if you can make better sense of this than I have.


The bomber was a father of two. A man who has children who walks down the aisle of the bus, looking at the children whose small short cheerful lives he is about to destroy, contenting himself with the knowledge that they are mere Jews - such a man has abdicated his humanity.

The Times (UK, via Free Republic):

THERE is no trace of evil in the beaming face of the proud father balancing his two young children in his arms.

I'll bet he was genuinely happy here

[...] The murder of 20 people, including five children - the youngest 11 months old - and the wounding of 120 others, 40 of them children, is being dubbed the Massacre of the Children. However, the bomber's relatives spoke of a family man respected in his community as an imam and scholar.

Misk's relatives [..] said that he would have been unconcerned about killing Israeli children. [...] "When he got on the bus and saw all the children, he would think of his own children," Ayad Misk, 32, a cousin, said. "But he would think, OK, today they are children but in 15 or 20 years they are going to be Israeli soldiers and they could be coming here to Hebron and killing his own son or daughter or other members of his family."

Just a Jew?

(Via LGF)

I realize that this man had his own motivations, and that they may well be beyond my understanding. I can appreciate how he would be willing to fight and die for a political cause he believed in, even if I do not believe in his cause myself.

But, certainly, there is some limit here which he has exceeded. Please, tell me I am not mistaken about this? Surely, there is something here that is not explained by the simple willingness to fight and die for one's beliefs.

Furthermore, I think we must admit that his family, and a great many of his countrymen have all crossed this same invisible line, haven't they?

These questions are not incidental; in fact, I believe that these questions address the central issue of the conflict, and that the historical grievances which lead to the conflict have become incidental instead. This isn't about an occupation anymore, or political self-determination, or redress.

It's people like us, against people like them. The details are no longer important.


Odds And Ends
Friday, August 15, 2003

For some reason, a series of six sequential reboots and a rather involved string of profanity caused my computer to finally admit that it does, in fact, contain a modem, and that I am authorized to actually use it. I'm back for now, but I might disappear again at any moment.

My "new" computer will probably arrive on Monday. I spent a total of $175 for it. If it's any good, I'll post a link to the shop I bought it from.

OK, first item: the goddamn French.

No, not politics or culture this time, but death: 3000 people have reportedly been killed by the current heatwave, 2000 of them in the Paris area alone! What the fuck? Our homeless people fare better than that.

CNN reports that few French households have air conditioning, and even mentioned that one large hospital in Paris has never had it installed. A major hospital without air conditioning in the capitol city? What, did I miss the memo? Paris is in Guatemala now?

Gimme a fucking break.

If any sweltering French-type people are reading this, I'll continue the American tradition of saving your sorry asses and point out that a bowl of ice water and a washcloth can do wonders for bringing your body temperature down. I realize that bathing is something you folks approach with the utmost caution, but this is an emergency, after all.

Three thousand people. Jesus christ.

Next item: Never mind...

You know, I was going to get all pissed off about this story, but now I'm happy to hear that I don't have to:

Pentagon officials met Thursday with reporters to "put to rest" a "burgeoning rumor" that the defense department is planning to reduce compensation for those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"That is not true. We are not going to reduce their compensation... the bottom line is we will at least maintain the compensation of those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan... We're not going to cut their pay or anything like that."

Next item: Arnold

I have only one thing to add - I'm happy that something has finally displaced Kobe and Lacy from the headlines. Jesus, I got tired hearing about that shit.

Last item: Generators.

After yesterday's little adventure, I'm sure several of you are giving the idea at least a little thought. As I've mentioned once before, a generator can be a wonderful thing but there are some downsides to consider.

I'm no expert, and this is complicated stuff. I'm going to oversimplify a bit and just touch the highlights:

1) You can spend 15 grand for a nice household system with automatic switching and a self-maintenance cycle and never worry about power again. (Onan has an excellent reputation).

2) You can spend $500 and have something that's pretty useful, but it requires maintenance and has some important limitations.

2.a) Consider your needs. If you have a well, do you want your water system to work? Do you want hot water? How about household heat if the power goes out in the wintertime, or air conditioning in the summer? Do you want to run your computer and watch TV? How long do you want to be able to run it? Do you want it to run overnight?

2.a.I) For things like well pumps, refrigerators, air conditioners and so on, you need to look at the peak power demand of these devices, which typically is the power required to start them up. It can be very high, much higher than normal operating demand. Furthermore, many of these devices can be damaged if you try to start them with insufficient power.

2.a.II) The circuitry of computers and TVs can get fried by the unconditioned, square-wave output from an inexpensive generator, and no, your surge protector or UPS will not help. You need something called a power conditioner, and they cost a few hundred bucks each.

2.a.III) If you heat your house with oil or gas, these systems will almost certainly shut down when power is lost; it may be possible to use a generator to run your heating system, but it's a non-trivial job for your electrician to deal with and it might cost a lot of money.

2.a.IV) Gasoline is often unavailable during a widespread outage (you need electricity to run the pumps) so you'll need to keep enough on hand to meet your needs. If you have the money and the utility access, natural gas/propane usually remains available when the power is out, and can be used instead of gasoline to run the pricier generators. If you are using gasoline, make sure the gas tank on the generator is large enough to run it through the night, if necessary.

2.b) Cheap generators might fail after several hours or days of continuous use, or might not start at all when you need them. There is no substitute for quality, and no substitute for maintenance.

2.c) A generator is a big machine full of gasoline and electricity that has to run unattended outdoors, even in the rain. You will need to put money and effort into finding a safe, reliable way of installing this thing and making the power available where you need it.

My generator is a 20amp model powered by a nice Honda gasoline engine. It cost about $500. That's not much, only enough to run a single portable heater. (20 amps * 110 Volts = about 2000 Watts.)

I got a ten-gallon auxiliary tank for it and built a little plywood house to keep it in, as far from my home as a heavy-duty 100' extension cord would allow. I keep a 5 watt bulb burning in there and it does wonders for keeping the moisture out.

I wipe the inside of the generator house with turpentine a few times a year to keep the mice away. Once a month or so I test-run the thing for an hour or so, and I change the oil every few months. I keep ten gallons of fresh gas available, use fuel stabilizer and change the gas over twice a year. It's a big pain in the ass.

In exchange, I can run my household heating system in the wintertime when the power fails, and I have enough juice left to run a couple of lamps to read by. If I unplug the heating system, I can just barely power up my refrigerator or run the drip coffeemaker. I cannot run my well pump, so we have bottled water on hand instead. I don't dare plug the computer or the TV into it, but we do have radios. Oil lamps, flashlights, paper plates (to save wash water) and a propane cookstove fill the rest of the gaps.


This arrived in my friend's email the other day:

Yep, it's a hoax

It's a scam, of course - some 14-year-old is trying to steal credit card numbers, and maybe score access to a few Ebay accounts as well.

Unfortunately, a lot of people will fall for this. Hell, I almost fell for a more primitive version of this scam myself, and I'm supposed to know better.

How should you protect yourself? Here's the short answer:

Never follow a link from an email that asks you to log in to any account!

How's it work? Here's the long answer:

Attacks like this are a form of URL misdirection. Normally, when you fire up your browser and type something like www.amazon.com, you can usually be pretty sure that you'll really get to Amazon's web page, and not the look-alike page of some scam artist. While it is possible to redirect you to another site (using techniques such as DNS poisoning or evil proxy servers) such attacks are difficult and uncommon.

However, when you get an html-formatted email, it can be from anybody. Since an html email looks exactly like a web page, most people will transfer their implicit trust of their browsers to their email. This is a big mistake.

The problem is made somewhat worse by the fact that html makes it is so easy to copy the distinctive formatting and graphics from a given site. We tend to trust familiar labels and brand names, and these emails are perfect replicas of the real thing.

A second common feature of these scams is the use of an obfuscated URL.

When I received this message from my friend, I opened it in Outlook Express and viewed it via File:Properties:Details:Message Source to see the raw html code. See that link you are supposed to click on, which claims it is taking you to cgi3.ebay.com? Here's the actual address you'd be directed to:

http://cgi3.ebay.com: aw-cgieBayISAPI.dllSignInRegisterEnterInfo& a=mp;siteid=8G6co_partnerid=9F1 @

Looks legit, right? It ain't. See that big red "@" sitting there in the middle? That basically means please ignore everything to the left of me!

The real address you'd be visiting looks like this:

That stuff is just another way of referring to an ordinary website. It might resolve to something like www.hacker_wannabe.com. Whatever it is, you do not want to go there and start typing in your passwords and credit card numbers.

(Click here for full details on how URLs can be obscured. I've oversimplified it a bit to keep the explanation short).

One final note - a real danger exists even with trivial accounts, like those free ones you use to read stuff like the NY Times.

Why? Most people reuse passwords. If I know the password on your free NYT account, there's a decent chance that same password will get me in to your Ebay or Amazon account, too. One famous scam (which was horrifyingly successful) involved offering free porn accounts to people who's email addresses were harvested from a popular newsgroup. Many of these folks used the same password for their free porn account as they did for their network ID and hilarity quickly ensued.

The easy way to avoid this one is to use two passwords; a simple one for stuff you don't care about (I prefer "zzzzzz") and a real one for accounts that have money in them.


Feces Flinging Monkey

Fucked Up Story Of The Week

Pizza Guy robs bank with bomb strapped on his chest; claims bad guys planted it on him to force him to do the robbery. Asks police for help, claims bomb will go off any second.

A few seconds later the bomb really goes off, killing him. The whole thing is caught on tape.

My call? He was telling the truth. The news report says he left three cats behind, so you gotta figure he was a decent guy.

Weird Site Of The Day

Visit the Internet Watergun Museum. No background check required.

The French Astonish Even Me

Three thousand deaths in France from a heat wave? Hard to believe. Well, don't worry, it wasn't true.

They are now reporting that TEN THOUSAND died.

But, of course, this does not reflect a failing of the French healthcare system, or of the government. No no!

[French President Chirac] called the heat wave "exceptional," echoing some government health officials who said little more could have been done to save lives in such extreme weather.

Well, there you have it. There was no way those people could have been saved. These sorts of things just happen in modern, industrial countries when the temperature goes a little over a hundred for a few weeks.

School Of Hard Knocks, Part II

UN Spokesman: "We were only trying to help".

Yeah, dumbass - that's why you were hit.

Here's some more free advice - don't use appeasement as your primary means of self-protection. Historically, its been a poor performer.

School Of Hard Knocks

As you probably know, the UN compound in Baghdad just got blown all to hell by a suicide truck bomb. The bomber targeted that portion of the building which held the highest-ranking UN personnel. Security was comparatively light there, as the UN did not want to act "like the Americans" and isolate themselves from the people they were trying to help.

The thing that strikes me most about this is how surprised the UN seem to be that they were targeted at all.

In the last several months we have seen the enemy in Iraq attack water lines, power lines, fuel lines, doing anything they can to disrupt those trying to provide for the basic humanitarian needs of the local people. Chaos would mean that the US occupation has failed; a happy, peaceful Iraq is the last thing the enemy wants to see. The UN, of course, is there to provide humanitarian assistance as well, but somehow they imagined themselves immune and dispensed with the sort of security that has so far protected our people from similar attack.

What were they thinking? Did they imagine they were safe because terrorists would not attack the innocent? Did they suppose their verbal opposition to the US would grant them some sort of insider status? Or are they just startlingly clueless and naive?

Well, they got taken to school this morning. I suspect little will change, outside of a vigorous verbal condemnation of the attack, fearsomely expressed in "the strongest possible terms". They are as impotent as they are inept, and I suspect that they are well past the point of being able to learn from their mistakes.

Interesting Read Of The Week

I love stuff like this - after a few well-chosen observations, the old conventional wisdom is soundly beaten and something interesting and new emerges in its place.

Go see for yourself: People Like Us.

Links Of The Day

Here's another of those weird-ass things you can do to your own body to make your nervous system short out. Cool, in a creepy sort of way.

And here's the world's first known photograph of a whale fart.

Pull My Fin...

Favorite quote:

"We got away from the bow of the ship very quickly ... it does stink"

(Via BB)

Hopeful Link Of The Day

Our lead correspondant in the California office discovered this brief, insightful look at the current state of the Middle East. It's refreshing because this guy gets it, and astonishing, too, because it comes to you from the CNN website via the New York Times!

I'd have never expected something like this, from them. Seriously, this is the most hopeful development I've seen in weeks. Once we all get on the same page we are going to be unstoppable.

Why I Read Jane Gault

My political views have always been pretty mixed; unlike most of the other people I know, I find myself equally estranged from both the Democrats and the Republicans. I agree occasionally with each of them, and I find some new reason to despise the both of them, in surprisingly equal measure.

My leftist friends often call me a conservative. My conservative friends consider me the one leftist they can talk to. They both laugh at me when I try to tell them that I'm not really what they think I am.

But Jane Gault understands. She seems to inhabit a similar middle ground, but of course she handles it with far more grace and poise than I ever will. Today, she offers the benefit of her point of view to all of our friends trapped at the edges of the spectrum.

Go go read it, and pay close attention. She's nailed it.

Just Keeping The Record Straight

A lot of people are pretty pissed off that President Bush has spoken in opposition to gay marriage. I'm certainly pissed off, and Democrats, of course, seem particularly outraged.

Well, just hold on a minute there, Donkey-boy.

Remember the Defense Of Marriage Act? That's the federal law that defines marriage as a relationship between one man and one woman, and a spouse as a husband or wife of the opposite sex. It also allows states to refuse to recognize same-sex marriages performed in another state.

Bill Clinton signed it into law 1996. The Democrats in the House and Senate thought it was a terrific idea: it passed 342 to 67 in the House, and 85 to 14 in the Senate. That's a landslide, kids.

Clinton didn't mince words, either:

I have long opposed governmental recognition of same-gender marriages and this legislation is consistent with that position.

Is Bush wrong on this? You bet, and some of his rivals even promise to help repeal it. But why should we think a repeal would ever make it past the legislature, even if the Democrats were in charge? Most of these same Democrats who supported the law in are still in office!

I support gay marrage, and right now, I'm blaming YOU GUYS. You went out of your way to screw us on this one, even after millions of gays voted for you.

Remember: If you let your fellow Democrats off the hook after they enthusiastically fucked you the last time around, you can bet you'll be getting more of the same. It's easy to screw people when you can count on them to put all of the blame on someone else.


So Days I Feel Really Old And Behind The Times

Please, somebody out there, tell me that you, too, are surprised to learn this...

They are now selling disposable, 2-megapixel digital cameras for eleven bucks each.

My real camera does not even have two megapixels!

Sniff... OK, I'm better now. Seriously, this'd be an excellent item to keep in the car. With no film, it'd probably be much more stable than the 'old style' disposable film cameras that sell for the same price...

None Shall Provoke Me With Impunity


Day By Day, by Chris Muir. Used with permission.

Day By Day, by Chris Muir

Cox And Forkum, Used with permission.

Achewood, by Chris Onstad. Used with permission.

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