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United Parcel Service: Going Halfway Is OK By Us

10 Mar

March 10, 2014

mail innovations logo

The United Parcel Service (UPS) has a brilliant new delivery plan that is guaranteed to save them a fortune. It is ridiculously simple. They take your package and do not deliver it. Genius! They call it Mail Innovations and despite the name, it is not innovative. What other service does that? Why, the United States Post Office, that’s who!

And that’s the problem.

I ordered a book from Barnes and Noble on February 20th. As a member, I get free 1-3 day shipping. Great! So far, so good. This was a Thursday and on Friday the 21st I was informed by email that UPS had picked up my package and the estimated delivery was Monday, February 24th. When it did not arrive on Tuesday I followed the link they sent me and tracked it. Or to be more accurate, I tried to track it. The trail led to a dead end.

On Friday the 21st, the UPS not only picked up but delivered my book… to a US Post Office sorting facility in Staten Island, and not, as you would expect, my home in Brooklyn.  It turns out that UPS has a shipping service called Mail Innovations in which they pick up your package, zoom it across country, and deliver it not to you, but to your local post office, and they make the final delivery.

Sound stupid, right? I live in a large apartment building and UPS trucks stop here at a set time every day, sometimes twice a day. We are actually part of the UPS’ regular route.

And also, you may have realized that my local post office is not in Staten Island, another borough on the other side of Gravesend Bay, across the Verrazano Bridge, and most definitely not 8 blocks away.

Mail Innovations is an unholy alliance. UPS has generally been reliable, and the post office has been as dependable as your average election year promise. I always have trouble getting deliveries from them and usually go to the post office to complain. No good can come of Mail Innovations.

So when the book did not arrive on Tuesday I knew I had to go to the post office. I tracked the package on the post office site and they had the package arriving in Staten Island and, for the next three days, nothing. No movement. And on Wednesday, still no movement. This was four days of limbo, and so far I had been waiting five days for my guaranteed 1-3 day shipping. (I did not count Sunday.)

Average US Post Office facility.

Average US Post Office facility.

I went to the post office with a printout of the tracking, such as it was, and what did I learn? Nothing. They looked all over the post office and it was not there. They then sent me to the automated machine to track it and it spit out the same information- nothing for three days. This was, I must tell you, the same information they found when they looked it up themselves.  They then told me to call an 800 number and I could more information.

No I could not. The 800 number was automated and even less help then the post office tools. I then wrote a complaint on the website, sent an email to my local post office to complain, and lo and behold, the next day all kinds of shipping info became available. None of it good. After it finally left Staten Island, it arrived in Brooklyn, bounced around three different zip codes and two sorting facilities, and twice was in a nearby (but not my zip code) post office before bouncing away to the edges of the borough.

And then, on Saturday, March 1st, over a week after it left UPS and was handed over to the post office, my guaranteed 1-3 day delivery package was delivered to me.

Mail Innovations, like a chain, is only as strong as its weakest link. And as usual, the US Post Office is the weakest link.

Thanks a lot UPS.

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Sorry, But There’s ANOTHER New Hipster Trend

7 Mar

March 7, 2014

I really don’t intend this to be hipster central (“Hipsters! Can’t stand them!”) but this was sent in by an alert reader whose sole comment to me was Murderous rage prevents me from typing any more at the moment.

This is excerpted from the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/06/fashion/the-monocle-returns-as-a-fashion-accessory.html?_r=2

One Part Mr. Peanut, One Part Hipster Chic

The Monocle Returns as a Fashion Accessory

By ALLEN SALKIN MARCH 5, 2014

From the trendy enclaves of Berlin cafes and Manhattan restaurants to gin ads and fashion magazines, the monocle is taking its turn alongside key 21st-century accouterments like sharply tucked plaid shirts and certificates in swine butchering.

Martin Raymond, a British trend forecaster, credits the rise to what he calls “the new gents,” a hipster subspecies who have been adding monocles to their bespoke tweed and distressed-boot outfits. On a recent trip to Cape Town, Mr. Raymond said, he saw such a group carrying monocles along with tiny brass telescopes kept in satchels.

“All of this is part of a sense of irony and a way of discovering and displaying old artisanal and craft-based technology,” Mr. Raymond said. “You see the monocle appearing in Berlin, parts of South Dublin.”

Toby Miller, a cultural historian, said: “Monocles have always marked people out as beyond the crowd, slightly different. On one hand you have the Prussian officer, on the other you have the effete English lord, and then you also have the New York and London lesbian in the 1920′s.”

There is more, a lot more, but the author obviously buys into that nonsense. Seriously, who wouldn’t want to look like a Prussian officer or, better yet, a  1920′s lesbian? Yeah, that’s a desirable look. It goes perfectly while butchering a pig, which hipsters can do, according to this article, because they all have swine butchering certificates.

I can go on and on, but we’ll move on to this picture from the same NY Times article.

Let's be honest: He looks like a squinting idiot.

Let’s be honest: He looks like a squinting idiot.

The man with the half-glasses above is Jose Vega, who is quoted in the article:

“I got it just to have my own style, bring something new to the table,” said Jose Vega, 23, an aspiring Miami rap musician who can be seen sporting a monocle on his SoundCloud page. “Also, I’m nearsighted.”

# 1: He is actively hurting his eyesight by only wearing a half of a pair of glasses.

#2: He is “bringing something new to the table” by wearing an accessory that thousands of other people are now wearing, and has “his own style” by wearing something that all the other hipsters are wearing.

All this guy and every other monocle-wearing doofus is doing is joining the crowd, not starting a trend, but jumping on a trendy bandwagon. Give Pharrell credit. His hat may make him look like a ranger at Jellystone Park, but at least it is unique. No one else is wearing it, at least for now.

No way, Jose. Your may think your monocle screams “look at me! I’m different!” but all I hear is a small pathetic whine of “I just want to be part of the crowd.”

atwill hipster

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Lego Time!

22 Feb

February 22, 2014

A little over a week ago, I introduced you to The Palace Cinema, the Lego set which I would build during my recovery. (Don’t worry, the operation went well. The doctor tells me I didn’t need all of those parts anyway, and my insurance company recently went out of business so there was no need to worry about things like sponges or anesthesia. Those just drive up the cost anyway, and take it from me- doctors who work out of their attics are very cost conscious.)

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I never built anything out of Lego, even when I was a kid. (I was more of a tea party and scones GI Joe kind of kid.) And this set has almost 2200 pieces. Big pieces, small, pieces, and lots and lots of tiny prices that get lost in the rug. This was going to be a challenge. If I’ve learned anything in my nearly two days of building, it is this: It takes forever to sort those pieces out, and even longer find the one you want when there are only two of them in a set of thousands. Sure, there are 987 long grey girders, but there were only 2 tiny brown “L” shapes. This would not be the case if I were building a life-size movie theater.

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100_0093100_0094Of course, this is all hampered by the fact that I had a four-hour operation, a debilitating operation, and my movements tend to be stiff and I have to get up and move every so often or I just get sore and achy and Legos all over the place.

But all is going well so far. I don’t want to go on too much or post too many pictures (Captain Pigheart may sue me for stealing his gimmick- one of them, anyway) but I’ll let you know how this turns out, and also, if you care, how my recovery is going. I still can’t sleep through the night, but at least I have something to do at 3 am. 100_0117

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