Sunday, February 20, 2011

How People Work

I just finished listening to the February 10th broadcast of Speaking of Faith Krista Tippett on Being, an interview with anthropologist Scott Atran. It's a phenomenal show! Here's the blurb:

We make deeper sense of the human dynamics unfolding in the Middle East and North Africa. Anthropologist Scott Atran offers bracing context on the promise of this moment and the response it asks from the watching world.

Atran's understanding of the Middle East, and human nature in general, is just astounding. I urge you to give it a listen. It's worth listening to the unedited version of the show; there's a lot of very interesting background on how Atran became an anthropologist that didn't make it into the edited, broadcast version.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Chapters from a Broken Novel

Last night RuthAnne and I went to see Doug Varone and Dancers at the nifty performance space at the Institute of Contemporary Art. The performance of Chapters from a Broken Novel was so moving that I asked Katy to go see it with me tonight, so I got to experience it twice. What a show!

Excerpts from the show, with commentary, such as this one, are available on the company's web site. Enjoy!

The Evolution of "Tile Riot" from Doug Varone on Vimeo.

Stop the self-check-out madness!

This morning I walked into my local CVS to buy tissues. As I approached the check-out area, my heart sank; there was one register open (with 4 people already in line), and a nice young woman was directing customers to use the shiny new self-service check-out machines instead.

An older woman in front of me was convinced to try the machines, and then got more and more frustrated as the machine clearly had trouble dealing with her cash purchase. She eventually asked the attendant, "Isn't there something you can do about this?" When the response came -- "No, I'm sorry, ma'am, there isn't." -- I loudly observed, "Yes there is. You can hire more cashiers."

It was like lancing a boil -- the whole check-out area erupted in cheers! I continued, stating that these machines take away entry-level jobs and essentially outsource the company's labor costs to its customers. The people around me were nodding and muttering support, and eventually the store supervisor opened another register, to another round of cheers.

Note to retailers making customers take over cashier positions: We don't like it!

If you don't like it, take action:

  • Refuse to use self-service check-out machines.
  • If you have to wait in line because there aren't enough cashiers, complain! Doing it loudly, in the store as I did, is good (because it lets other people vent along with you), but you should also complain to the highest management person on-site (typically a shift supervisor) and lodge a complaint at the company's web site. Be specific: be prepared to provide the time of day, a rough idea of line length (a number, not just "long"), and the store location.
Here are links to customer feedback pages for some of the stores aggressively pushing self-checkout:
  • Shaws
  • CVS - This astonished me, but CVS doesn't seem to have any sort of web-based feedback page. You have to call or write a letter:

    CVS Corporation
    One CVS Drive
    Woonsocket, RI 02895
  • Publix
  • Kroger
I'm not the only person unhappy about this:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Another time waster from Microsoft

I'm trying to get a new laptop at work up and running, using Windows 7 (gulp). After the initial system install, Windows Update downloaded over 60 updates; I told it to go ahead and install them. Everything seemed to be cooking along fine; the updates installed, the system rebooted - and then I got a screen saying "Step 3 of 3 - Preparing To Configure Windows. Please Do Not Turn Off Your Computer". And waited. And waited.

Over an hour later, with no evident disk activity or anything else, I decided something was actually wrong, and started Googling. I found this thread at Microsoft with many users complaining of the same thing. Microsoft never provided a useful response.

Luckily, though, some valiant soul tried Ye Olde three finger salute - Ctrl-Alt-Del - and, voile! The system put up a login prompt and everything was fine. This worked for me,too.

Wake up, Microsoft! Things like this really upset people! Would it be so hard to at least put a sticky comment at the top of the forum providing the workaround, so we don't have to wade through thousands of lines of rants to get to the solution?