History of Halloween.

As a followup to my post a few years ago, here’s a rundown of all of my Halloween costumes, starting from 2002.

2002 – Sacred Heart Jesus

2003 – Warrior angel

2004 – Lego Minifig

2005 – Ghostbuster

2006 – Turn-of-the-century strongman

2007 – Fidel Castro

2008 – Classic devil

2009 – Chicken-pecked Colonal Sanders

2010 – Perverted chicken

2011 – Blue Man Group member

2012 – Jamie Hyneman of the Mythbusters
2013 – Walter White from Breaking Bad.
2014 – Magnum P.I. 
2015 – Lumberjack

How to fail at customer service, starring JVC (a continuing saga in timeline form)

January 5 (Day 0) – TV/Monitor dies. I can still see very bright images, but only dimly. The TV was purchased less than a year before from Costco, and is under both Costco and JVC’s warranties. 

January 6 (Day 1) – Call Costco concierge service, which files a support ticket with JVC. Told by JVC that there’s a wait time of 3-5 business days just to schedule an appointment, but also told that I’ll be called with an update by week’s end. No call ever comes. First Tweet at @JVC_USA, the only verified Twitter account I can find for the company. No response.

January 7 (Day 2) – I buy an RCA TV from Fry’s as a short-term replacement. Second tweet to @JVC_USA. No response.

January 12 (Day 7) – Third Tweet to @JVC_USA. No reply that day.

January 13 (Day 8) – I call Costco back to inquire about status. They contact JVC again, and I’m told that a part has been ordered and after it arrives, someone will call to schedule an appointment. 

January 13 (Day 8) – Reply comes a day later from @JVC_USA saying that unverified account @JVCHDTV is a separate organization (but connected), and who I need to deal with. Told that @JVCHDTV would get back to me if I DM case info to @JVC_USA. Have to remind @JVC_USA that I can’t DM them if they don’t follow me. Followed the next day, told @JVCHDTV will follow up. No reply comes. 

January 15 (Day 10) – Independent technician calls to schedule an appointment. He is otherwise totally unaffiliated with JVC. 

January 16 (Day 11) – Appointment. Technician replaces part but this doesn’t fix the television. Told it will be 3-5 business days before JVC contacts me again. 

January 16 (Day 11) – I call JVC, ask about status since repair failed. Told that the technician hasn’t reported in yet (understandable), but I would receive a call “within 24 hours” with an update. No call ever comes. 

January 16 (Day 11) – Tweet at @JVC_USA and @JVCHDTV expressing dismay. No replies. @JVCHDTV hasn’t tweeted anything, to anyone, since January 12.

January 19 (Day 14) – I call JVC and ask about status. Told again that the technician hasn’t reported in yet, but that the case is being escalated. Told I would receive a call “today” with a status update. No call ever comes. Told also that if the repair is impossible, I would receive a new television, but I must give my credit card number for a hold in case I don’t send back the broken one. 

January 19 (Day 14) – This timeline created. Both Twitter accounts mentioned in Tweet about this post. We’re up to three promised phone calls unreturned.

January 20 (Day 15) – @JVC_USA PMs me on Twitter to remind me that they’re not connected to @JVCHDTV. Further research shows that all JVC TVs are “manufactured, distributed, serviced and warranted by AmTRAN Video Corporation under brand license by JVC KENWOOD Corporation.” AmTRAN’s website doesn’t list any televisions in their products at all.

January 20 (Day 15) – Finally receive my first callback from customer service, confirming that my TV is unrepairable, and that they’ll be shipping me a new (refurbished) unit in 3-5 days (it’s always “3-5 days” with these guys). I had to provide a credit card number for them to place a hold against (I didn’t feel like fighting that, or asking what happens if I didn’t have a credit card), but hopefully it won’t cause any issues. Promised a call back with a tracking number when it’s available.

January 21 (Day 16) – The new TV arrived. No call with a tracking number ever came, but “luckily” the company forgot to put my condo unit number on the mailing information, so FedEx had to call me this morning to ask about it, tipping me off that it would be arriving today. The “new” refurb is larger than my last TV (a 39″ instead of a 37″), but I haven’t checked it for features yet.

January 21 (Day 16) – UPDATE: Upon setting up the new TV, I noticed a small crack in the glass part of the screen. Sucks, but I was willing to live with it. However, when I turned the TV on, I was presented with this:

Broken replacement television.

Broken replacement television.

I called customer service again, and proceeded to email them pictures of the TV and box (from all angles). I was promised a phone call today.

January 22 (Day 17) – I called JVC/AmTRAN’s customer service back again (not having received a phone call yesterday), and was told “we’ve received your email proof of damage, and are waiting to hear back from the manufacturer”. I assume this means that this is a outsourced tech support company. I’m told, once again, that someone will get back to me in “3-5 business days”. Called Costco’s concierge service again, but since AmTRAN is responding at all (albeit slowly), there’s nothing they can do on their end.

January 23 (Day 18) – Persistence pays off – communicating with @JVC_USA, they were able to push things through on their end, and I received a phone call this morning telling me to return the broken replacement, and that they’ll send out a box for the original broken TV, as well as a new replacement. No hard time frame, but it seems like there’s fire burning under them now.

January 26 (Day 21) – After 21 days, a working replacement television has arrived at my home.

The war for your mobile payments has begun

We’re in the midst of a format war for your mobile payments – get ready to hear a lot more about this in the next year. Pretty sure I know what format will win, though.

I used Apple Pay for the first time this weekend, and it’s almost stupidly easy – no cards to swipe, no pins, no signatures, no confirmation button presses – just a payment conformation that shows up on my phone when I held my phone (with the screen still off) next to the NFC reader (with my thumb on the phone’s fingerprint reader, of course). It will even work without a cell/wifi connection. Expect very similar behavior for NFC-enabled Android phones using Google Wallet in the coming weeks (right now most Android phones require the additional step of unlocking your phone and using a specific app).

Compare that to the proposed CurrentC standard – you enter your checking account info into the app, then at the store you unlock your phone, open the app, use the app to scan a QR code at the store (or the cashier scans a QR code on your phone). If you’ve used QR reader software before, you probably know that reading the codes can sometimes take a while, depending on cameras and light levels. Plus all signs point to you needing an active cell or data connection for the system to work – that’s spotty, at best, inside a lot of stores).

The bigger problem with CurrentC, though – the system bypasses credit cards and goes directly to your checking account, which passes almost all the fraud liability to you (credit cards have a bunch of additional federal protections). CurrentC will NOT work with credit cards, as it was designed by retailers to circumvent the fees that Visa, Mastercard and others charge. It’s also missing some of the onboard heavy-duty security that Apple Pay and Google Wallet use.

Customers won’t care that the retailers are getting around credit card fees if the savings are never passed on to them. And credit cards, while a little clunky, aren’t anywhere near as annoying as the CurrentC system seems (plus we’re all used to them). Apple’s got this one figured out, making the system both super easy and super secure. I know where I’ll be spending my money.

Old Entries Found! The Blog is Complete!

Friends! I know I don’t update here much, but today I discovered the Internet Archive (http://archive.org) had every post from the “missing era” of Insignifica – From July 2011 until October 2013 – and almost all of the comments, and I was able to reintegrate them into the site. It’s not a huge amount of content, but I’m very glad it wasn’t lost forever when my web host went belly up. If you’d like to check it out, just scroll back from here, or start at the first of the “lost” posts (Insignifica Redux) and read forward.

This makes Insignifica complete with working comments, going back all the way to January 2001 (when the blog started). Enjoy!

How to fail at the internet, staring eBay.

eBay’s hack is all over the news today, so I decide to be proactive and change my password. Here’s how it went.

Me: Go to eBay, expect to see standard “there was a problem, change your password” prompt.

eBay: eBay!

Me: No prompt. Maybe I have to log in.

eBay: eBay!

Me: Logged in. Find account settings. Then CTRL-F for “password”. Nothing.

eBay: eBay!

Me: Find “Personal Information” link. Click to find password change link buried in other settings. Click through.

eBay: Hey, you should probably change your password. You know, now that you’re four levels deep in our site and already found the well-hidden password change page.

Me: Okay, time to change password.

eBay: LOL gonna make you enter your old password again, then click on a button to send yourself an email with a link that’ll let me change your password. Instead of just letting you change your password.

Me: Annoying, but fine. I’ll click the link.

eBay: HAHA enter your old password again.

Me: [old password, then new password, twice, because no one’s figured out that maybe displaying a password on screen is okay sometimes]

eBay: Thanks! Here’s another login screen. Enter your new password.

Me: Christ, don’t most sites just have some secure cookie or something so that when I change my password, I don’t have to keep entering shit?

eBay: Please change your password!

Me: What? I just did that.

eBay: Please change your password! But enter your new “old” password first. You know, the one you changed it to two minutes ago. Oh, and your new new password can’t be the one you just changed it to. Also, there will be unclear instructions about ALSO entering a security question that’s below the “submit” button. You can’t move on until you figure it out!

Me: eBay, you’re fucking stupid.

eBay: eBay!

Goodbye, from a fan.

Remember when Angels baseball was on broadcast TV? No longer: Over-The-Air games have dwindled in number significantly over the last few years, especially after the team’s latest deal with Fox Sports. This year is the worst it’s ever been, though: of the 161 games slated for broadcast this season, 158 of them (98%) are cable-only. Only three are scheduled to be on Fox (all Saturday afternoon games), and none on KCOP.

Why is this? A 2011 deal between the team and Fox Sports, worth around $3 BILLION, means that if you want to watch games live, you better be willing to pay for cable. And don’t expect it to change – the deal is in place until the 2030s. Think of all the technological advances in the last 10 years (specifically mobile and streaming television), and realize that no matter what else happens with technology, we’re locked in having to pay for hundreds of other channels (to companies we all universally hate), all to watch live baseball.

The Angels, in all likelihood, probably don’t care (at least right now). They’re able to pay for big-name players with the money, and they honestly couldn’t care less if poor folks aren’t fans – poor folks can’t/don’t come to the stadium in the same numbers as the better off, more-likely-to-have-$80-to-$120-a-month-for-cable crowd.

I think the Angels (as well as the dozens of other teams that have signed similar contracts) will eventually come to regret the long-term nature of their choice. By then it may be too late, though, and a whole generation of potential fans, for whom cable TV was either too expensive or “something my parents used to have, before the internet”, will have moved on. This fan pretty much already has.

Who are you? Where did you see this?

Taking a very unscientific poll on who’s reading Insignifica, and how (i.e., directly from this page, RSS, some other aggregation, etc.).

Leave a comment if you see this!

An open letter to beer festivals

Dear Beer Festivals,

It’s not you, it’s me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love beer. And I love variety. And the social aspect is great, as is discovering new beers from breweries I’ve never bought a bottle from. I just don’t feel like I’m getting as much out of you as I could be.

Sometimes the venue is too small or too hot. Sometimes (like this summer), the whole event is so poorly run that it’s not worth waiting another hour in line for. And it’s always expensive, because even at a “no-limit” event, I can’t try anywhere near enough beers to justify the price. Some events are amazing, and they’re what has kept me going back. But honestly, I’ve had more fun lately at good brewpub restaurants – even some chains.

I know, it sounds like blasphemy. But they’re just really good at what they do.

By most measurements, this weekend’s LA Beer Fest was a Good Event. Lots of vendors with lots of choices. A mellow hipster crowd, and just a wee bit too crowded (midway through – there was plenty of space early). I had a pretty good time, and drank some amazing beers. But it also had a lot of problems I’m seeing across the board at these things. There was poor line/ticket management, and anyone who observed it for a few minutes could have snuck in, no problem. Promises were made about food that didn’t come to pass (this is a very common issue). The event, put together by big-names BevMo and Golden Road brewing, wasn’t mentioned on either’s website, and the ticketing agency (and its URLs) were so sketchy that I almost didn’t buy. And the “VIP” expereince, which is a common upsell at these things, was once again limited to getting in early, despite promises of special tastings and exclusive features and other fun things worth paying a 25% premium for.

In the end, I can’t get too mad at any leisure event. No one’s forcing me to attend, and as far as beer goes, I get what I expect. But even that’s not enough lately, so I think I’m breaking up with you. Maybe we’ll get together sometime in the future, but a dozen friends with a bottle each of something they like, or 4-6 of us at a 100-tap brewpub with a tasting menu is looking much, much better to me lately.


Sometimes you make good decisions when you’re young, and one of mine was to buy MichaelDoss.com before any of the other few hundred people with the name bought it.  Mostly it’s just forwarded here or had a generic landing page, but with some free time this afternoon I installed forum software and now have a working, useful place for all the other people named Michael Doss to come and chat.

This will either be a grand failure or a grand adventure. Oh, and the rest of you are welcome as well, though I have no idea what we’re all going to chat about.

What’s going on here?

Welcome back to Insignifica! You’ll notice some changes, mostly that the site I’ve had for the last couple years is gone – the victim of a hosting company that won’t/can’t give me my backups. But luckily for me my “classic” site (2001-2011) was backed up separately, so much of it was easy to import, and exists right below this post. Good work, me!

So what’s going to happen here? I’m not sure. I’m very, very happy having the old site (complete with comments!) available again, if for no reason other than I miss having the temporal references for life events. I’ll likely post here some more, and if I can get a hold of the 2011-2013 posts (which were a radically different format and much less regular), I’ll get them up. Otherwise, who knows. Let’s surprise each other and see what happens.