Lord Yupa

The BEST player in College Football in 2009: Ndamukong Suh

A lot of people have trouble understanding how good Ndamukong Suh, the Defensive Tackle for the Nebraska Cornhuskers really is. There aren't many frames of reference for the statistics a DT generates, so people don't know how to compare him. It just doesn't get talked about like a running back who breaks 2000 yards, or a quarterback that passes for 3000 yards.

Here's some numbers for comparison to help out.

2009 Season Statistics
TeamTacklesTackles for LossSacksQB HurriesPass Broken UpInt.Forced FumblesBlocked Kicks
Alabama DL9823.59.5205023
Florida DL1123314485010
Texas DL11625.515.5107020
Ndamukong Suh8223122410113

So. . . here's how Suh compares to the entire defensive lines of Alabama, Florida, and Texas. Not a single player, not even a pair of players, but the entire D-Line. And that's despite the fact that every team the Huskers played went out of their way to take him out of the play, including double teaming and even triple teaming him almost every play.

It'd be insane to not give him the Heisman.

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Lord Yupa

Customer Service done wrong.

So, after having finally purchased a house, I went to get cable and Internet setup. Like most of the country, I live in an unfortunate area where there is nearly a monopoly on cable and high speed Internet, so my choices were severely limited. Eventually I ended up going with Cox. The installation came with a worthless $19.95 "fast connect kit", but I was told that there was a certificate in the box for a $19.95 credit towards your bill, so I agreed to take it anyway.

I got my Internet connection setup, and as directed on the credit certificate, I went to www.cox.com/coupon, and got the following message: "We're sorry. This online feature is currently unavailable. Please call us to complete this transaction."


So, of course I call Cox. I then end up in automated voice system hell. No matter what options I choose, it seems impossible to get to someone live. Worse yet, when I go to an option like "billing", it automatically reads off a bunch of information about my account, such as current amount due and last payment details, that I couldn't care less about. Don't waste my time and make me listen to crap I didn't ask for. When I do finally get the right option to talk to a customer service rep, it spends another minute telling me they're going to charge me a $6 service charge if I talk to someone to pay my bill instead of using the automated stuff. I've now spent almost 5 minutes trying to navigate this crappy system and my opinion of Cox is not increasing.

When I finally get a get through the automated system, I get to wait another 10 minutes on hold. Eventually, I finally get to talk to someone, so I explain why I'm calling, and they ask me to hold for a moment while they look into it. A few seconds later, I hear it ringing, then I'm getting a message about all reps being busy right now, and that my call will be answered in the order it was received. Another 5 minutes on hold and when I get someone again, and explain the situation again, they tell me I need to talk to the billing department, and transfer me again. Another 5+ minutes on hold and I finally get to someone who says he thinks he can help me. . . but he has never heard of the self-install credit certificate I'm talking about, so he needs almost 10 minutes of research before he's able to verify it.

Finally, after all that hassle, I get my account credited. What a pain in the ass. Cox, you should really get your act together, because this is the kind of thing that makes me want to investigate alternatives, and if someone else comparable comes along, I'm done with you.
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Lord Yupa

Levenger: Customer Service Done Right

About a week ago, I purchased a handful of items from Levenger's outlet store, which is handled via eBay. Among the items purchased were 3 fountain pens, 2 dip pens, and a small picture frame. All of the items were new (they also sell refurbished items via their Outlet branch on eBay). They arrived in the mail Saturday.

Two of the fountain pens were perfect, as was the picture frame. However, the third fountain pen had been inked. it had a dried out ink cartridge in it (meaning it had sat for some time since it was inked). Additionally, both of the dip pens had fairly significantly bent nibs, to the point where they were well beyond being usable. The nibs on dip pens are usually fairly resilient, and the pens are still strapped into their packaging, so I don't think it was shipping damage. I think it was from handling before being packaged, and poor Quality Control somewhere that missed it.

Needless to say, this left me somewhat disappointed with half of my order. I've ordered from Levenger a couple of times in the past, and always had excellent experiences, which made this even more of a surprise. So, last night (Sunday) I sent them an e-mail explaining the situation, and detailing the issues I found with the pens. I was hoping they'd offer some sort of solution, but you never know for sure how a company will respond.

I have to admit, I was unprepared for their response. This morning at 10am, I received an e-mail from their customer service apologizing for "this mess". They also said that they would have new pens shipped out, and would e-mail me a return shipping label so I could send the damaged/used items back. At 4:30pm this afternoon, I got a second e-mail from Levenger customer service telling me that the replacement pens had been shipped, and giving me the tracking numbers for the shipments. At 5pm, an e-mail from FedEx arrived for printing out the pre-paid return shipping label.

As I mentioned, I was hoping they'd fix things, but I never expected such a swift and thorough response. This is an example of how customer service should be done. It's easily one of the best experiences I've had after an order problem. It reminds me of Newegg, who has a reputation for going above and beyond what's required. They've built up a very loyal customer base as much for their customer service as their prices (in fact, I've ordered things from Newegg that I could have gotten slightly cheaper elsewhere, just because I knew they'd take care of me if there was a problem).

And the strategy looks to be working for Levenger, too. I was contemplating ordering some things from Levenger's website directly, but after receiving my order (with it's problems) I was a little hesitant. It was the first time I'd had a problem with an order from them, but it only takes getting burned once to make you wary. Regardless, I'm so impressed with their response that I'm placing the order now, and will remember this in the future when I need other things they carry.
Lord Yupa

Duffy the "singer"

So, I was watching an episode of Saturday Night Live last night, it's one I Tivo'ed back a month or so ago, and the featured musical guest was a singer named Duffy. I'd heard the name, but knew nothing about her.

So, she came out, and my first thought (being a guy) was that she was rather hot, in an odd sort of way. Then she started singing. My second thought was, Oh, my God, she's one of the worst singers I've ever heard in my life. Seriously, her voice and singing style are like fingernails on a chalkboard. I was cringing after 30 seconds, and literally had to fast forward through it because I couldn't stand to listen to it any longer. I had to check my ears to make sure they weren't bleeding.

Then they mentioned something about her being Grammy nominated and a multiplatinum selling artist. I think that's even scarier. How does someone who's so horrible sell that many albums? I thought maybe it was just that specific song that was so bad it made me want to tear my ears off, but no, she sang another one later, and it was just as bad!
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    Peaceful silence
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Lord Yupa

Guns n Roses releases new album. . . who cares?

So, Guns n Roses has finally released their new album, Chinese Democracy, after being "in the works" for almost 15 years. Slash, who I would consider a vital and necessary part of GnR, has been gone for years.

Maybe it's just me, but at this point, considering that Axl is the only original member still around, does anyone even care? I listened to a few tracks, just out of curiosity, and really felt no reason to listen to any more, or to listen to them again. They didn't really sound like GnR songs to me.

Oh, well.
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    Velvet Revolver - Slither
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Lord Yupa

Politics, and voting for who's left after ruling out the crap.

I was discussing politics online with a friend of mine (always a good time!), and he suggested I should post it here. So, I spent a few minutes tidying it up a bit, and am throwing it up here.

Originally, I thought this was going to be a difficult choice. Luckily, events have unfolded in such a way that I can simply rule out those candidates that are completely unsuitable and unacceptable as reasonable candidates, and then vote for whoever remains (even if they aren't a great option).

Now, let me precede my thoughts with the note that I am a registered Libertarian, so I hate both the Republicans and the Democrats, generally equally. I would lean towards voting Libertarian (as I have in the past), but unfortunately, I think Bob Barr is an idiot. He was a complete moron when he was a Republican, and even though he's improved a little bit, he's still so far from reasonable that he's not worth wasting any more thought on. (Although it still annoys me that he was selected as the Libertarian candidate.)

A few months ago, I was very undecided on who I liked better, Obama or McCain. Then a few things happened that pushed me to one side.

The first was McCain's appointment of Sarah Palin. Sarah Palin is an idiot. Every time she opens her mouth, she further confirms that she should never speak publicly again. Worse, John McCain is 72 years old, and the average life expectancy in the US for men is approximately 75 years. That means that statistically, McCain will most likely die before he finishes his term as president, if elected[0]. And I think Sarah Palin is so woefully underqualified for the Vice President position, let alone the president, that this possibility seriously scares me. As far as I'm concerned, she was a horrible selection, and the simple fact that she was chosen puts McCain's judgement in serious question to me.

The second was the negative campaigning. There were a few pot shots here and there from both sides, but the first time I saw it really escalated was when Sarah Palin was announced. She came out and was immediately on the attack. . . and I'm so completely sick of that. Since then, as McCain started slipping in the polls, his campaign actually *announced* that their new campaign strategy was to be more focused on attacking Obama and they ramped up the negative campaigning to a new high for this election. They announced that. In a press release. What the hell?!?!

And this was after McCain pledged to run a clean campaign. Heck, early on he *did* do a great job with that. I had a lot of respect for him during the primaries, and early on when someone outside of his campaign initially started some negative campaigning, and McCain jumped in and shot them down, saying that there was no place for that kind of negativity and attacking in his campaign. That was integrity. That was impressive. Unfortunately, that was then.

Another issue that pushed me away from McCain was his proposal of $300 Billion in direct-to-house-buyers bad mortgage buyouts/bailouts. Basically, he wants to spend $300 Billion to buy up mortgages for people who are financial idiots[1] and got in over their head, didn't plan properly, didn't save properly, etc. Then he wants to give them a new mortgage based on their house's current value. Because it's my responsibility (as a taxpayer) to help someone else pay for their house?!? What the hell?!?

I'm sorry, but if you bought a variable rate mortgage when the interest rates were low, and didn't have a plan in mind for what you were going to do when they (inevitably) went up, and you're now screwed, that's your problem, not mine. If you make $35k a year, and your bank approved you for a $250k house loan, and you bought a $250k house (without taking two minutes and the back of a napkin to figure out that you can't afford your monthly mortgage payment on $35k/year), that's your problem, not mine. If you bought your house for $250k a few years ago, and it's now only worth $150k, I sure as hell don't want to pay for the difference, and I'm amazed and horrified that John McCain would suggest that we should. That's your problem, not mine.

Now, for anyone thinking this is a McCain bashing, that's not my intent. I may not be able to Sarah Palin, but I don't hate McCain. In fact, there's a lot of things I dislike about Obama, too, and if there was a decent Libertarian candidate, they'd almost certainly get my vote. But John McCain has thrown away any and all chance he had of my support. Due to his extremely poor choice of Sarah Palin, his flip-flop choice to take the (relatively) civil campaigning to a new low for negativity, etc, he's no longer a viable candidate to me. Bob Barr was never a serious option. That means that even though I have a few concerns about Barack Obama, he'll get my vote because he's only remaining candidate that I'd be willing to consider voting for.

I also find it rather interesting that Colin Powell has endorsed (and strongly so) Barack Obama. He makes a pretty compelling case, too. I mention his endorsement just because I think he's a man of some integrity, even though I've frequently disagreed with his policy opinions. If you haven't seen/read it, it's worth a look. Another well written statement comes from Tim O'Reilly, of O'Reilly books (well known among most techies and geeks as some of the best technical books available).

[0] No, I'm not an actuary. Yes, I'm aware that my statement about McCain's likelihood of dying in office is a gross oversimplification that doesn't take into account the many positive aspects (rich, relatively active, excellent medical care) and the many negative aspects (four bouts with cancer, including high risk melanoma, advanced age, rough times in his life) of his health. I don't care. I have to go on the information I have available, to the best of my ability.

[1] Yes, I realize that there's a small percentage of people who are getting hit with bad luck, bad economy, downsizing, etc. And that's unfortunate. But there's way too many people who dug their own hole. Hell, I even have a friend or two that are in a really bad spot regarding their mortgage. And I feel really bad for them, and I truly hope they come through it okay. But in both cases, they consciously made the decisions that have put them where they are, and it was entirely their own choices. One of them bought a house that was, from the beginning, more than he could afford. I've never understood what he was thinking, and never really thought he'd find a way to make it work. The other gambled on housing prices continuing to increase, and lost. Never gamble with more than you're prepared to lose.

[Note: Observations and comments are welcome, but please don't try to turn this into a political debate. At this point, I've made up my mind, and I don't plan on changing it due to an online argument. ;-) ]
Lord Yupa

Two roads diverged in a wood. . .

I turned in my resignation at work on Friday afternoon. Official notice was delivered to my department today, and I then went around and personally notified the people I like and respect. Amusingly, that didn't take me very long.

Our story begins two weeks ago today, on Monday, September 8th. I got a call from a friend of mine who works at West Corporation. He said they had a job opening that he thought I'd be perfect for, and wondered if we could get together to talk about it. So, the next day we got together for lunch, along with another guy he works with. He told me about the job, and I found it very interesting, to say the least.

That evening, my friend called me and said I should consider lunch an informal interview, and that he wanted to talk to HR about making me an offer. This surprised the heck out of me, as I hadn't even gotten to the point of seriously considering the job yet. I thought we were just talking about it as a maybe, possibly, potential thing. I asked him to give me a day to think seriously on it, and that I'd talk to him in the morning.

The next morning I decided I was definitely interested in the job, and was leaning towards taking it. That afternoon, I talked to my manager, Dave. I told him that I'd received an unexpected job offer, and would likely accept it.[1] He spent an hour and a half or so asking me some questions about the job, and trying to convince me that I should stay at Solutionary. He asked that I at least keep an open mind, and said he would talk to Mike, our CTO, about it, knowing that Mike would want to talk to me.

That night I got a call from our CEO/President/Founder, Steve (this isn't quite as impressive as it sounds; remember that Solutionary is a relatively small company with less than 150 people, and Steve's office is just down the hall from mine). He called about some problems he was having with e-mail. And in fairness, he really was having e-mail problems. I spent an hour or two that morning working with him on them. However, of the 25 minutes we were on the phone, we only discussed his e-mail problems for maybe 5 minutes.

The next afternoon I had a meeting with manager Dave, and CTO Mike. We discussed the situation, and they talked to me about some possible options and potential changes to my role at Solutionary, to see if that would interest me. Some good stuff, really. It was very flattering. They'd obviously put a good bit of time and discussion in to this before talking to me, and I was amazed at the high regard they held for me. At the end of the meeting, I promised that I would think very seriously about

I had asked my friend at West to hold up on submitting the paperwork until I'd had a chance to talk to manager Dave and CTO Mike, just in case something happened there that would help me definitively make up my mind. That didn't happen, and Thursday my friend called me to provide an update, and let me know that the paperwork had been submitted to HR. He was going to try to push things as quick as possible, and hoped I might get the official offer on Friday.

I didn't hear anything from HR on Friday, which was good. I had a lot of thinking to do, and having the weekend to mull things over sounded like a really good idea.

On Monday, I found out that notice had gone out at West about a hiring freeze. My friend there was very confident that my hire would go through, as the position was already budgeted and approved, but it had been submitted right at the time of the freeze, so there were no guarantees. Additionally, a few of the people who needed to sign of on it were apparently very busy for a few days, so that slowed things up a little more.

On Wednesday afternoon, I got the call from HR and was made the official offer. I also learned a few new things that made the decision even harder, so I asked if I could have another day or so to make sure I was confident about my decision. The HR person was very friendly, and perfectly okay with that. We agreed that I'd provide her with an answer before the end of the week.

I took that evening and Thursday to talk to some friends and family, including a couple of the people that I knew that worked at West, in an attempt to know as much as possible about what I was getting into. A couple of them were people who I'd worked with at Solutionary and were now working at West, which gave them the ability to offer a particularly valuable opinion about the situation.

In the end, we come full circle. As I mentioned at the top of this post, I turned in my resignation to Solutionary on Friday. My last day there will be October 24th, giving them 5 weeks of official notice (although I'll be absent for one of them), and over 6 weeks of notice since I first informed them that I might be leaving. It is my intention to leave on good terms, and make my leaving as painless as possible.

[Update: I've been asked what made this such a hard decision. I'll expand on that in a new entry later tonight.]

[1] Yes, I told my manager about the job offer before I actually had an offer. In hindsight, that probably wasn't the best choice I could have made, but I knew my current employer would want strongly to keep me, and I wanted to be as honest and up-front as possible with Dave. My leaving would be a pretty big hit on the company, and those hit hardest would be the people in my department. I wanted to give them as much notice as possible.

Lord Yupa

Tomorrow the sky comes crashing down. . .

It seems my life is going to experience a bit of an unanticipated twist. In the morning I will begin a transition towards a new path.

Hopefully I made the right choice. Time will tell.

I'll write up the full story tomorrow evening.
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Amazon, Audible.com, and DRM.

I recently came across a news article discussing Amazon's purchase of Audible.com, and a statement from Amazon about removing the DRM from Audible.com audio books if customers request it.

As such, I've submitted the following to Audible.com's customer service. I don't really anticipate much in the way of a positive response, but what the hell.
I've been an Audible.com customer for well over 3 years now. The DRM has always caused me a lot of grief (as *none* of my four personal media players support it). For years I put up with it because there were no viable alternatives, and I'm a big fan of audio books. However, now there are. eMusic and others are offering audio books in unencumbered mp3 format, often with the same titles that Audible.com has, and at coparable prices.

Considering that the Audible DRM adds a huge incvoncenience and a major limitation to my use and enjoyment of audio books I purchase from Audible.com, I can't help but question why in the world I would want to pay the same price for the same thing, but with extra restrictions that prevent me from easily listening to my own purchase! Sure, Audible.com can claim to support hundreds of media players and other devices, but the very simple fact is that *mine* are *not* supported. Not one of them. That's including devices from 4 different manufacturers. And that means that I couldn't care less about any of the devices that are supported. Unless the ones I own today are able to directly and easily play Audible.com audio books, then I feel I'm getting a partially defective product.

The article, and the hope that Audible.com might listen to their customers and stop placing artificial restrictions on our ability to enjoy our purchases inspired me to make my opinion known. I will try to wait a little longer, in the hope that change will happen, and happen soon. I don't see myself remaining an Audible customer if the DRM stays. It's just not worth it when it's so much more difficult for me to use the products I paid for. Additionally, I've already stopped recommending Audible.com to my friends, in favor of the unencumbered alternatives. If nothing changes, and I end up cancelling my membership, I'll have to take the next step and actually start recommending *against* it.

Thank you for your time.
If I get a non-automated response, I'll post it.
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