amanda_lodden: (Default)
Earlier this week, I ordered a picture as a gift for a friend. Since I really liked the picture, I also ordered a copy for myself. The next day, I purchased two 5x7 frames, so that I would be ready to send out the framed picture as a gift when the print came in.

As it happened, Jo-Ann Etc was having a "buy one get one free" sale on their frames. In addition to the two frames I picked up for the photo ($24.99 and $19.99), I also noticed a collage frame that I liked for $9.99. Since it was buy one, get one free, I picked up two of the collage frames. And some other stuff that I wanted, which is why I was at JoAnn in the first place.

The total was enough that I didn't nitpick; one of the items I got was $60. Even so, I mentally ran through the numbers and asked the clerk "Wait, did the frames ring up as buy one get one free?" He assured me that they did, and I didn't think anything past that.

Today, the prints arrived. I opened up the frame that I intended to use for the gift photo, which was the only one of the four to come in a box. And then I swore at it, because along one side was a two-inch scar where paint had bubbled and then chipped off.

I'm leaving tomorrow morning for the better part of a week, and I really wanted to get this in the mail before I leave, so I took the damaged frame and the receipt back to JoAnn. It was at this point that I noticed that the receipt showed the two $9.99 frames as the free ones, rather than the $19.99 and the $9.99. I have a particular dislike of any "sale" that I can get a better deal by going through the line twice-- if I can do that, why not assume I will and stop wasting my time and the cashier's time? But then I got to JoAnn's, picked up a different frame (I didn't see any of the same kind, and at that point I don't think I would have wanted one that could be damaged so easily anyway) for the same $19.99 price, and headed to the cash register.

JoAnn's policy is to split the value of the free item and the purchased item between both for return purposes. This means that they lose (because I can return the two $9.99 frames that I got for free and get money for them), and also that I lose-- because they would only refund $13.50 of the $19.99 sale price. So even though I was charged full price for the first frame, I could not replace it with another frame that was exactly the same price. I argued with the head cashier over this before telling him "No, I am not going to pay for the new frame that's the same price as the damaged frame. Give me the refund, then, and I'll buy the replacement frame at Target." (In fairness, he did say they could do a straight swap if I got exactly the same frame as the one I was returning, and offered to special order one when I told him they didn't have any more.)

I would like to note that the "buy one get one free" sale is still going on. (I later realized that this meant I could have gone back, grabbed another frame identical to the one I was trying to get as an exchange, then immediately return the second one and end up getting more of a refund between the damaged frame and the "spare" frame than I paid. If I were not pressed for time tonight, I would be tempted to go back and do just that, to make a point.)

At Target, I got even more pissed at JoAnn, because I realized just how amazingly overcharged I really was. Target had nearly the exact same frame as the one I refused to purchase as the replacement for half the price. I ended up getting a nicer-looking, higher-quality frame for almost exactly what the refund from JoAnn was, including taxes.

When I get back, if I'm still pissed off (and I probably will be), I intend to return ALL of the frames I purchased at JoAnn, and buy new ones at Target. Even without the benefit of the buy-one-get-one sale, the price will be about the same, and I'll get nicer frames out of the deal. Also, I won't be supporting a company that makes me feel like they are actively trying to screw me.

Does anyone know of a good fabric store nearby that isn't Jo-Ann?
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Earlier this week, I ordered a picture as a gift for a friend. Since I really liked the picture, I also ordered a copy for myself. The next day, I purchased two 5x7 frames, so that I would be ready to send out the framed picture as a gift when the print came in.

As it happened, Jo-Ann Etc was having a "buy one get one free" sale on their frames. In addition to the two frames I picked up for the photo ($24.99 and $19.99), I also noticed a collage frame that I liked for $9.99. Since it was buy one, get one free, I picked up two of the collage frames. And some other stuff that I wanted, which is why I was at JoAnn in the first place.

The total was enough that I didn't nitpick; one of the items I got was $60. Even so, I mentally ran through the numbers and asked the clerk "Wait, did the frames ring up as buy one get one free?" He assured me that they did, and I didn't think anything past that.

Today, the prints arrived. I opened up the frame that I intended to use for the gift photo, which was the only one of the four to come in a box. And then I swore at it, because along one side was a two-inch scar where paint had bubbled and then chipped off.

I'm leaving tomorrow morning for the better part of a week, and I really wanted to get this in the mail before I leave, so I took the damaged frame and the receipt back to JoAnn. It was at this point that I noticed that the receipt showed the two $9.99 frames as the free ones, rather than the $19.99 and the $9.99. I have a particular dislike of any "sale" that I can get a better deal by going through the line twice-- if I can do that, why not assume I will and stop wasting my time and the cashier's time? But then I got to JoAnn's, picked up a different frame (I didn't see any of the same kind, and at that point I don't think I would have wanted one that could be damaged so easily anyway) for the same $19.99 price, and headed to the cash register.

JoAnn's policy is to split the value of the free item and the purchased item between both for return purposes. This means that they lose (because I can return the two $9.99 frames that I got for free and get money for them), and also that I lose-- because they would only refund $13.50 of the $19.99 sale price. So even though I was charged full price for the first frame, I could not replace it with another frame that was exactly the same price. I argued with the head cashier over this before telling him "No, I am not going to pay for the new frame that's the same price as the damaged frame. Give me the refund, then, and I'll buy the replacement frame at Target." (In fairness, he did say they could do a straight swap if I got exactly the same frame as the one I was returning, and offered to special order one when I told him they didn't have any more.)

I would like to note that the "buy one get one free" sale is still going on. (I later realized that this meant I could have gone back, grabbed another frame identical to the one I was trying to get as an exchange, then immediately return the second one and end up getting more of a refund between the damaged frame and the "spare" frame than I paid. If I were not pressed for time tonight, I would be tempted to go back and do just that, to make a point.)

At Target, I got even more pissed at JoAnn, because I realized just how amazingly overcharged I really was. Target had nearly the exact same frame as the one I refused to purchase as the replacement for half the price. I ended up getting a nicer-looking, higher-quality frame for almost exactly what the refund from JoAnn was, including taxes.

When I get back, if I'm still pissed off (and I probably will be), I intend to return ALL of the frames I purchased at JoAnn, and buy new ones at Target. Even without the benefit of the buy-one-get-one sale, the price will be about the same, and I'll get nicer frames out of the deal. Also, I won't be supporting a company that makes me feel like they are actively trying to screw me.

Does anyone know of a good fabric store nearby that isn't Jo-Ann?
amanda_lodden: (Default)
In the course of packing for GenCon, I discovered that the pens I keep in my laptop case/carryon have leaked. Rather a lot, in fact.

Of course, I discovered this the hard way. Is it possible to ever discover this sort of thing the easy way?

So, now my hand is blue. After a half-dozen Clorox wipes, I think I've got all the ink of out the bag itself, and as much as will come off of the headphones I also keep in that pocket. (Fortunately, the stupidly-expensive iPod that lives in that pocket has its own little sleeve within the pocket to live in, and escaped the mess. I would be decidedly put out if I had to replace it.) Neither the wipes nor scrubbing with lots of soap will take off the last remnants of blue from my skin, though.

On a related note, I'm missing an entire folder's worth of CDs, some of which I wanted to rip songs off of to put on the iPod for the trip. This has largely made me want to scream and start going through everything we own and cleaning it out/digitizing it/labeling it/etc. While that particular mood is often helpful in the long run, it really doesn't mix well with the "have to be ready to leave in a day and a half" mode that I ought to be in.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
In the course of packing for GenCon, I discovered that the pens I keep in my laptop case/carryon have leaked. Rather a lot, in fact.

Of course, I discovered this the hard way. Is it possible to ever discover this sort of thing the easy way?

So, now my hand is blue. After a half-dozen Clorox wipes, I think I've got all the ink of out the bag itself, and as much as will come off of the headphones I also keep in that pocket. (Fortunately, the stupidly-expensive iPod that lives in that pocket has its own little sleeve within the pocket to live in, and escaped the mess. I would be decidedly put out if I had to replace it.) Neither the wipes nor scrubbing with lots of soap will take off the last remnants of blue from my skin, though.

On a related note, I'm missing an entire folder's worth of CDs, some of which I wanted to rip songs off of to put on the iPod for the trip. This has largely made me want to scream and start going through everything we own and cleaning it out/digitizing it/labeling it/etc. While that particular mood is often helpful in the long run, it really doesn't mix well with the "have to be ready to leave in a day and a half" mode that I ought to be in.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Friday's note about assumptions was supposed to be a two-parter, but I got distracted by a massive backache and just didn't feel like writing anything at all (I still don't, but after a while I get bored with sitting around and whining).

An assumption is really just a conclusion we come to based on our prior experiences. We all do it, all the time. You have to, because there's no way you could process and research every piece of scant information that comes your way. Just imagine what it would take to drive to the grocery store-- you'd have to make well-informed decisions about every single car on the road, without proceeding until you know FOR CERTAIN what they're going to do. It's much easier to assume that the other cars do not want to pull into your driveway, that they'll continue going when they have the right of way, that they will stop at stop signs and red lights, and that they will signal if they intend to do something other than go straight.

Whoops. There's a problem in our assumptions right there, isn't there? How many times have you seen someone turn or merge without signaling? I'm guessing you've seen it a lot, a guess I make based on my own past experiences with people not signaling and with people complaining about people not signaling. So we make a complicated set of assumptions about people who are slowing down or who have moved into a right-turn-only lane, to cope with our past experiences teaching us that not everyone will continue to go forward.

Those past experiences don't even have to be our own. We tell our children stories about kids who were abducted by strangers, though we were never abducted ourselves. We read news stories and internalize them, subtly changing our behavior because of them. Have you ever had your house or car broken into? If you answered no: do you lock your doors anyway?

It's not a bad thing to learn from others. You can't possibly make every mistake there is to be made all by yourself, and some mistakes are fatal, so you'd have to choose only one of those mistakes to make. And then at the end of it, you'd still be dead. All in all, it's probably better to make some assumptions based on things that have happened to other people.

Let's turn our attention to a recent media debacle: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Gates is a Harvard professor who was arrested, either for breaking into his own home, for being obnoxious, or for being black, depending on who you ask. By now, you know how to use search engines[*] for yourself, and searching for "Henry Louis Gates Jr" will give you plenty of results. Plus, I don't really care about the facts of the case, as I plan to speculate wildly on it and then use my speculation to point out alternate possibilities and places where various people made assumptions that may or may not have been true. Thus, I'm only going to use the police report itself and my own opinions and speculations.

Should I point out one more time that these are my own speculations, about something I did not witness firsthand, or have I already said it enough to get the message that this is my wild guess, based on nothing but my own speculations, which are built on my own assumptions? Should I mention that I don't know a damned thing about Gates except what I've read on the web, and that I don't much care if my assumptions are right or wrong so much as I care whether or not I can make my point about assumptions?

Seriously. I don't want responses about Gates's case. I don't care.

Now then, about Gates.

He was arrested because someone called in a report of a possible break-in. Already, we're working on secondhand information, because the cop himself didn't see anything that made him suspicious of a break-in. Here's our first and second assumption: the cop had to assume that the caller really did see something. The caller had to assume that what she saw was suspicious.

Neither of these are bad things. By the accounts, what the witness saw was a man who took an inordinately long time fooling around with the door to a house, and then wedging his shoulder against the door as if to force entry. I know that if I saw the same thing, I'd call the police, and that if someone were to see a person doing that to my front door, I'd want them to call the police. I'd want the police to take them seriously, and to come out and investigate.

As it turns out, the witness's assumption was wrong. The man fooling with the lock and then pushing hard against the door was not breaking and entering, but was the homeowner having trouble with his key.

Incorrect assumptions CAN be sorted out civilly. The officer might have calmly asked to see Gate's ID. Gates might have calmly handed over his ID, and politely inquired why the officer wanted to see it. The officer might have calmly explained that a witness called in a report, and the police department is obligated to check the situation out when a witness calls in a report, even if the report is based on false assumptions. Gates might have tempered his annoyance over someone calling in a report with a realization that having to force your own door open does look a little suspicious.

That didn't happen. Exactly where it failed to happen is up for debate. According to the police report, Gates hit the roof as soon as the police officer identified himself. However, it's worth noting that the police report is written by the police officer, who has a vested interest in not writing reports that make him look like an asshole, and it was written after the incident was over rather than as it was happening, which means it is based in part on the officer's recollection of his behavior.

Based on what I know (from past experiences of my own, from past experiences of others, and from stories read/watched/forced down my throat-- never assume that fiction doesn't have a say in your opinions), police officers who are investigating a crime walk into the situation assuming that everyone is guilty. It's all well and good that we take an "innocent until proven guilty" stance, but that applies to punishment, not to suspicion. It's the police officer's job to figure out what's going on and whether anyone is committing a crime, and they can't do that if they walk in assuming everyone present is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Building on that assumption means that I assume that the police officer went in demanding to know who Gates was and what business he had in that house.

On the flip side, I assume that Gates wasn't having the best of days, based on the mere fact that he had to force his way into his own home. The door sticking might not be that big of a deal on the face of it, but I'm a homeowner, and I know that nearly every time I encounter something wrong with my house, my reaction is along the lines of "Damn it, another thing that needs to be fixed." I also know that my reaction gets stronger if it's something that has happened often, but intermittently (like a door sticking only on humid days)-- if it's not constant, it's got a lower chance of being fixed right away, so when it happens again it serves as a fresh reminder of YetAnotherThingThatMustBeDone(tm). So I can sympathize with Gates a little, snapping at a police officer who is accusing him of doing something wrong, when he's not actually doing anything wrong and is already having a bad day.

But here's the question: which one of them played the race card first? From the way this has escalated, it's easy to assume that the other followed suit at some point, but... was it as the police report claims, that Gates immediately assumed he was being targeted because of his race rather than his behavior? Or did the police officer react more strongly to the presence of a black man than he has in similar situations with white suspects? Has the police officer ever investigated a burglary before? Maybe he was recently taken off a desk job and was nervous over being a first-responder in a potentially hostile situation.

We don't know. We don't know if Gates has been targeted because of his race in the past (which would reinforce his assumptions that others will target him because of his race in the future). We don't know if the arresting officer is actually racist; there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he might not be.

We may not know, but that hasn't stopped bloggers from citing racism in Gates' arrest. It hasn't stopped Gates' colleagues from openly wondering if the same thing would have happened if Gates had been white. It hasn't stopped political officials from commenting on it, and it hasn't stopped bloggers from reacting to the comments from the political officials. It hasn't stopped friends of mine from condemning the arresting officer for arresting Gates for B&E-- even though what Gates was actually arrested for was disorderly conduct, after shouting at the police officer about how racist the officer was. Maybe Gates accused the officer unfairly. Maybe he didn't. Maybe Gates' accusations weren't meant for the officer at all, but rather for the witness. Could it have been that the witness was racist, and called in her report just because Gates was black?

What assumptions have you made about Gates, now that we're this far into the discussion? What assumptions have you made about me? What assumptions do you think I've made about Gates? What assumptions do you think I've made about you?

More importantly: what assumptions do you make, day in and day out, about the people you interact with? Do you assume that they're there to annoy and harass you, or do you assume that they're there to protect you? Do you assume they have your interests at heart, or do you assume that they care only for their own interests? No matter what you assume, you could be wrong.


* I'd have said "Google" here instead, but I know that a certain Microsoft employee could have pointed out that you could just as easily use "Bing". I don't really care one way or the other. I like Google, but I'm not going to push my opinion on others.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Friday's note about assumptions was supposed to be a two-parter, but I got distracted by a massive backache and just didn't feel like writing anything at all (I still don't, but after a while I get bored with sitting around and whining).

An assumption is really just a conclusion we come to based on our prior experiences. We all do it, all the time. You have to, because there's no way you could process and research every piece of scant information that comes your way. Just imagine what it would take to drive to the grocery store-- you'd have to make well-informed decisions about every single car on the road, without proceeding until you know FOR CERTAIN what they're going to do. It's much easier to assume that the other cars do not want to pull into your driveway, that they'll continue going when they have the right of way, that they will stop at stop signs and red lights, and that they will signal if they intend to do something other than go straight.

Whoops. There's a problem in our assumptions right there, isn't there? How many times have you seen someone turn or merge without signaling? I'm guessing you've seen it a lot, a guess I make based on my own past experiences with people not signaling and with people complaining about people not signaling. So we make a complicated set of assumptions about people who are slowing down or who have moved into a right-turn-only lane, to cope with our past experiences teaching us that not everyone will continue to go forward.

Those past experiences don't even have to be our own. We tell our children stories about kids who were abducted by strangers, though we were never abducted ourselves. We read news stories and internalize them, subtly changing our behavior because of them. Have you ever had your house or car broken into? If you answered no: do you lock your doors anyway?

It's not a bad thing to learn from others. You can't possibly make every mistake there is to be made all by yourself, and some mistakes are fatal, so you'd have to choose only one of those mistakes to make. And then at the end of it, you'd still be dead. All in all, it's probably better to make some assumptions based on things that have happened to other people.

Let's turn our attention to a recent media debacle: Henry Louis Gates, Jr. Gates is a Harvard professor who was arrested, either for breaking into his own home, for being obnoxious, or for being black, depending on who you ask. By now, you know how to use search engines[*] for yourself, and searching for "Henry Louis Gates Jr" will give you plenty of results. Plus, I don't really care about the facts of the case, as I plan to speculate wildly on it and then use my speculation to point out alternate possibilities and places where various people made assumptions that may or may not have been true. Thus, I'm only going to use the police report itself and my own opinions and speculations.

Should I point out one more time that these are my own speculations, about something I did not witness firsthand, or have I already said it enough to get the message that this is my wild guess, based on nothing but my own speculations, which are built on my own assumptions? Should I mention that I don't know a damned thing about Gates except what I've read on the web, and that I don't much care if my assumptions are right or wrong so much as I care whether or not I can make my point about assumptions?

Seriously. I don't want responses about Gates's case. I don't care.

Now then, about Gates.

He was arrested because someone called in a report of a possible break-in. Already, we're working on secondhand information, because the cop himself didn't see anything that made him suspicious of a break-in. Here's our first and second assumption: the cop had to assume that the caller really did see something. The caller had to assume that what she saw was suspicious.

Neither of these are bad things. By the accounts, what the witness saw was a man who took an inordinately long time fooling around with the door to a house, and then wedging his shoulder against the door as if to force entry. I know that if I saw the same thing, I'd call the police, and that if someone were to see a person doing that to my front door, I'd want them to call the police. I'd want the police to take them seriously, and to come out and investigate.

As it turns out, the witness's assumption was wrong. The man fooling with the lock and then pushing hard against the door was not breaking and entering, but was the homeowner having trouble with his key.

Incorrect assumptions CAN be sorted out civilly. The officer might have calmly asked to see Gate's ID. Gates might have calmly handed over his ID, and politely inquired why the officer wanted to see it. The officer might have calmly explained that a witness called in a report, and the police department is obligated to check the situation out when a witness calls in a report, even if the report is based on false assumptions. Gates might have tempered his annoyance over someone calling in a report with a realization that having to force your own door open does look a little suspicious.

That didn't happen. Exactly where it failed to happen is up for debate. According to the police report, Gates hit the roof as soon as the police officer identified himself. However, it's worth noting that the police report is written by the police officer, who has a vested interest in not writing reports that make him look like an asshole, and it was written after the incident was over rather than as it was happening, which means it is based in part on the officer's recollection of his behavior.

Based on what I know (from past experiences of my own, from past experiences of others, and from stories read/watched/forced down my throat-- never assume that fiction doesn't have a say in your opinions), police officers who are investigating a crime walk into the situation assuming that everyone is guilty. It's all well and good that we take an "innocent until proven guilty" stance, but that applies to punishment, not to suspicion. It's the police officer's job to figure out what's going on and whether anyone is committing a crime, and they can't do that if they walk in assuming everyone present is just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Building on that assumption means that I assume that the police officer went in demanding to know who Gates was and what business he had in that house.

On the flip side, I assume that Gates wasn't having the best of days, based on the mere fact that he had to force his way into his own home. The door sticking might not be that big of a deal on the face of it, but I'm a homeowner, and I know that nearly every time I encounter something wrong with my house, my reaction is along the lines of "Damn it, another thing that needs to be fixed." I also know that my reaction gets stronger if it's something that has happened often, but intermittently (like a door sticking only on humid days)-- if it's not constant, it's got a lower chance of being fixed right away, so when it happens again it serves as a fresh reminder of YetAnotherThingThatMustBeDone(tm). So I can sympathize with Gates a little, snapping at a police officer who is accusing him of doing something wrong, when he's not actually doing anything wrong and is already having a bad day.

But here's the question: which one of them played the race card first? From the way this has escalated, it's easy to assume that the other followed suit at some point, but... was it as the police report claims, that Gates immediately assumed he was being targeted because of his race rather than his behavior? Or did the police officer react more strongly to the presence of a black man than he has in similar situations with white suspects? Has the police officer ever investigated a burglary before? Maybe he was recently taken off a desk job and was nervous over being a first-responder in a potentially hostile situation.

We don't know. We don't know if Gates has been targeted because of his race in the past (which would reinforce his assumptions that others will target him because of his race in the future). We don't know if the arresting officer is actually racist; there's plenty of evidence to suggest that he might not be.

We may not know, but that hasn't stopped bloggers from citing racism in Gates' arrest. It hasn't stopped Gates' colleagues from openly wondering if the same thing would have happened if Gates had been white. It hasn't stopped political officials from commenting on it, and it hasn't stopped bloggers from reacting to the comments from the political officials. It hasn't stopped friends of mine from condemning the arresting officer for arresting Gates for B&E-- even though what Gates was actually arrested for was disorderly conduct, after shouting at the police officer about how racist the officer was. Maybe Gates accused the officer unfairly. Maybe he didn't. Maybe Gates' accusations weren't meant for the officer at all, but rather for the witness. Could it have been that the witness was racist, and called in her report just because Gates was black?

What assumptions have you made about Gates, now that we're this far into the discussion? What assumptions have you made about me? What assumptions do you think I've made about Gates? What assumptions do you think I've made about you?

More importantly: what assumptions do you make, day in and day out, about the people you interact with? Do you assume that they're there to annoy and harass you, or do you assume that they're there to protect you? Do you assume they have your interests at heart, or do you assume that they care only for their own interests? No matter what you assume, you could be wrong.


* I'd have said "Google" here instead, but I know that a certain Microsoft employee could have pointed out that you could just as easily use "Bing". I don't really care one way or the other. I like Google, but I'm not going to push my opinion on others.
amanda_lodden: (Hammer Time)
I bet you thought that entry about badges was a stand-alone one, didn't you?

In fact, I brought it up because it's a nice lead-in to the next thing I wanted to talk about. I feel obligated to warn potential readers that I have a stack of these sorts of posts queuing up, each one dependent upon a point made in the prior one. If you're going to run away, best to do it early and save yourself some rambling.

City of Heroes has badges. City of Heroes has a LOT of badges, in fact (688 at last count, not including the ones only available to villains). The problem is, some of those badges are for being logged in at the right time (notably, for each anniversary of the game's launch). It's physically impossible for me to ever get the first-anniversary badge, because I didn't start playing until a few months after that. My oldest character, and coincidentally my favorite, is a defender-- which makes it within the realm of possibility to get the healing badges, but very difficult to get a lot of the others. And for the sake of my sanity, I have made a firm rule that ONLY my main character will be going after badges. 688 is hard enough. 688 times roughly 12 characters is more than a lifetime.

So, I started looking for loopholes. John has an account on CoH as well, which he very rarely uses. To get those "kill a player-controlled villain" badges, I could either enter the player-vs-player areas with a character not terribly suited for PvP combat, controlled by a player not terribly suited for PvP combat (namely, me) and hope for the best... or I could create a villain on John's account, and then have it docilely stand around while my main character killed it with excruciating slowness.

Guess which I picked? I also have characters created for the express purpose of standing around getting hit while my main character heals them (usually left running overnight while I go to sleep), and for the express purpose of teaming with my main character and going off to run missions that she can't do solo.

I've done similar things with other games. I'm addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook, which has "collections". You can only play so much at a time... on one account. I started the second account not because of the collections but because the size of one's mafia makes a big difference in how long one survives in fights. The way most people get around it is to join groups of other Mafia Warsplayers, but adding people to your mafia requires adding them as a friend on FB, and I use FB to keep up with other, actual friends. So I started the second FB account with the intent of moving my Mafia Wars playing to that account, where I could add people as friends willy-nilly without having it affect my ability to keep up with people I care about. But then I discovered that two accounts playing means twice as much collecting! (You can gift items back and forth; if I had to worry about getting two sets of items I wouldn't bother). I ended up hacking into John's account and playing MW as him as well (seriously, sweetheart, better passwords are not your enemy). [This will become important in later posts, as one of the people John has as a FB friend is heavily involved in state politics, and often (by which I mean pretty much always) holds opinions opposite to my own. Saul's updates, and the comments from his supporters, scare me.]

Feel free to point and laugh at me, I'll wait. Feel free to arrange an intervention, I'll do my best to justify it. But here's the thing:

I'm not alone.

There is ALWAYS someone who looks at a system and finds ways around it. You know who they are:


It's the person who goes to the grocery store and stocks up on the "limit 2 per person" loss-leader items by purchasing up to the limit, taking that set out to the car, and then coming back to do it again with a different cashier.

It's the person who finagles disability payments out of a minor injury.

It's the person who obtains controlled substances by complaining of pain to multiple doctors.

It's the person who knows they've gone too far into debt to sustain their lifestyle, and opts to milk every dime they can out of their credit cards before declaring bankruptcy.

It's the major manufacturing company that bans writing down problems.


Wait, what's that last one?

My addiction to badges, achievements and virtual collectibles is laughable, in the grand scheme of things. But a friend of mine who works for that major manufacturing company told me of a new policy at work that has me downright frightened: since people can get hurt if there are flaws in their product, and hurt people can sue, there is to be no paper trail documenting ANY knowledge of flaws, suspected flaws, or potential problems. If you have a concern about a quality-control or engineering aspect, you are to go to your manager and tell them verbally. Putting it in writing is grounds for termination. (What your manager is supposed to do with it is unknown.)

So, the system that's in place to ensure culpability and responsibility is being gamed. "We're legally required to keep all documentation, including electronic documentation? Fine, then we'll make sure that there's nothing damning in the documentation. Then later, when we're sued, your auditors can pore over our documents all they like, but they won't find any evidence that we knew about the problem beforehand."

Every system is put into place for a reason. The difference in whether a loophole is benign or not is in whether you're subverting the intent behind putting the system into place. For badge-collecting in City of Heroes, the developers end up getting two subscription fees, so they don't really care. It's not a violation of their Terms of Service in the slightest. There is no downside to other players if I have more badges, nor does it make my character much more powerful (and thus unbalancing). For Mafia Wars, some of the limits are about resource management: each player takes a certain amount of bandwidth, a certain amount of CPU time, etc, and those resources cost the developers money that they don't recoup from the free game. You can increase your play-time by paying for "Godfather points", which I have done-- not out of desperation to play more but out of a desire to support a game that I enjoy. (And if I could pay for the collection items that I am missing, I would do so. Happily.) For the rest...

The question is always who you hurt with your actions, regardless of whether "the rules" allow for your actions or not.
amanda_lodden: (Hammer Time)
I bet you thought that entry about badges was a stand-alone one, didn't you?

In fact, I brought it up because it's a nice lead-in to the next thing I wanted to talk about. I feel obligated to warn potential readers that I have a stack of these sorts of posts queuing up, each one dependent upon a point made in the prior one. If you're going to run away, best to do it early and save yourself some rambling.

City of Heroes has badges. City of Heroes has a LOT of badges, in fact (688 at last count, not including the ones only available to villains). The problem is, some of those badges are for being logged in at the right time (notably, for each anniversary of the game's launch). It's physically impossible for me to ever get the first-anniversary badge, because I didn't start playing until a few months after that. My oldest character, and coincidentally my favorite, is a defender-- which makes it within the realm of possibility to get the healing badges, but very difficult to get a lot of the others. And for the sake of my sanity, I have made a firm rule that ONLY my main character will be going after badges. 688 is hard enough. 688 times roughly 12 characters is more than a lifetime.

So, I started looking for loopholes. John has an account on CoH as well, which he very rarely uses. To get those "kill a player-controlled villain" badges, I could either enter the player-vs-player areas with a character not terribly suited for PvP combat, controlled by a player not terribly suited for PvP combat (namely, me) and hope for the best... or I could create a villain on John's account, and then have it docilely stand around while my main character killed it with excruciating slowness.

Guess which I picked? I also have characters created for the express purpose of standing around getting hit while my main character heals them (usually left running overnight while I go to sleep), and for the express purpose of teaming with my main character and going off to run missions that she can't do solo.

I've done similar things with other games. I'm addicted to Mafia Wars on Facebook, which has "collections". You can only play so much at a time... on one account. I started the second account not because of the collections but because the size of one's mafia makes a big difference in how long one survives in fights. The way most people get around it is to join groups of other Mafia Warsplayers, but adding people to your mafia requires adding them as a friend on FB, and I use FB to keep up with other, actual friends. So I started the second FB account with the intent of moving my Mafia Wars playing to that account, where I could add people as friends willy-nilly without having it affect my ability to keep up with people I care about. But then I discovered that two accounts playing means twice as much collecting! (You can gift items back and forth; if I had to worry about getting two sets of items I wouldn't bother). I ended up hacking into John's account and playing MW as him as well (seriously, sweetheart, better passwords are not your enemy). [This will become important in later posts, as one of the people John has as a FB friend is heavily involved in state politics, and often (by which I mean pretty much always) holds opinions opposite to my own. Saul's updates, and the comments from his supporters, scare me.]

Feel free to point and laugh at me, I'll wait. Feel free to arrange an intervention, I'll do my best to justify it. But here's the thing:

I'm not alone.

There is ALWAYS someone who looks at a system and finds ways around it. You know who they are:


It's the person who goes to the grocery store and stocks up on the "limit 2 per person" loss-leader items by purchasing up to the limit, taking that set out to the car, and then coming back to do it again with a different cashier.

It's the person who finagles disability payments out of a minor injury.

It's the person who obtains controlled substances by complaining of pain to multiple doctors.

It's the person who knows they've gone too far into debt to sustain their lifestyle, and opts to milk every dime they can out of their credit cards before declaring bankruptcy.

It's the major manufacturing company that bans writing down problems.


Wait, what's that last one?

My addiction to badges, achievements and virtual collectibles is laughable, in the grand scheme of things. But a friend of mine who works for that major manufacturing company told me of a new policy at work that has me downright frightened: since people can get hurt if there are flaws in their product, and hurt people can sue, there is to be no paper trail documenting ANY knowledge of flaws, suspected flaws, or potential problems. If you have a concern about a quality-control or engineering aspect, you are to go to your manager and tell them verbally. Putting it in writing is grounds for termination. (What your manager is supposed to do with it is unknown.)

So, the system that's in place to ensure culpability and responsibility is being gamed. "We're legally required to keep all documentation, including electronic documentation? Fine, then we'll make sure that there's nothing damning in the documentation. Then later, when we're sued, your auditors can pore over our documents all they like, but they won't find any evidence that we knew about the problem beforehand."

Every system is put into place for a reason. The difference in whether a loophole is benign or not is in whether you're subverting the intent behind putting the system into place. For badge-collecting in City of Heroes, the developers end up getting two subscription fees, so they don't really care. It's not a violation of their Terms of Service in the slightest. There is no downside to other players if I have more badges, nor does it make my character much more powerful (and thus unbalancing). For Mafia Wars, some of the limits are about resource management: each player takes a certain amount of bandwidth, a certain amount of CPU time, etc, and those resources cost the developers money that they don't recoup from the free game. You can increase your play-time by paying for "Godfather points", which I have done-- not out of desperation to play more but out of a desire to support a game that I enjoy. (And if I could pay for the collection items that I am missing, I would do so. Happily.) For the rest...

The question is always who you hurt with your actions, regardless of whether "the rules" allow for your actions or not.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
After three weeks of fighting with them and failing to receive phone calls that I was told to expect and calling for updates only to be told that I have to fax over some other piece of documentation that no one could be bothered to ask for before, Bank of America and I have finally straightened out the problem with the mortgage on my mother's house, and both the bank and the attorney's office have confirmed that the property is no longer in foreclosure.

It took far more time and effort than it should have, but it is sorted out.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
After three weeks of fighting with them and failing to receive phone calls that I was told to expect and calling for updates only to be told that I have to fax over some other piece of documentation that no one could be bothered to ask for before, Bank of America and I have finally straightened out the problem with the mortgage on my mother's house, and both the bank and the attorney's office have confirmed that the property is no longer in foreclosure.

It took far more time and effort than it should have, but it is sorted out.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I have a longstanding rant about documentation; specifically that it should be done.

What is apparently not as obvious to everyone else as it is to me is what "documentation" entails, because after a two month absence I've come back to find everything a hodge-podge. None of it is "wrong", exactly, but it's clear that my habits of putting in "extra" information have not been picked up by... roughly anyone else.

A while back, [livejournal.com profile] allanh made a post about how when he was ill and had particularly bad memory problems, he used to treat everything he did as "leaving notes to his future self". I thought it was an excellent practice, and since then I've taken to putting not just "flight to California" in my calendar, but "American Flight 123 DTW to SJC via DFW lands at 9:55pm" in my calendar (with the start date being the takeoff time; if it's odd, I'll note that as well), and been happier for it, especially now that I own a Blackberry that syncs to the same calendar. It certainly makes it easier to tell someone when to pick me up, or when I'll be at Enterprise renting a car, or whether I'll be there in time for dinner.

What I hadn't fully realized was that I already did that to a lesser degree: when I pay commissions, I don't lump them all into one "Sales:Commissions Paid" entry in QuickBooks, but rather I split them off into one line per month (all of which are still "Sales:Commissions Paid") and note which month it is, which matches up with a spreadsheet, which cross-references the check number within it. For the salesperson it's still one check, and at the end of the year it's still one category in the P&L statement, but day-to-day if you want to go back and figure out what's been paid and what hasn't, it's simple. Similarly, when I pay a consultant, I don't just put "22 hours" in the memo field, I put "22 hours 4/10 - 4/25" so that I can match it up with an email containing the hours I'm paying for.

This did not happen while I was gone, and now I'm staring at a QuickBooks file that I have no idea how things got to where they are. I like it not.

While my first priority is to get it back to something I can deal with, I have determined that if this system is going to work at all, I'm going to need to document not just how I do things, but why I do them that way. Yay, more work.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I have a longstanding rant about documentation; specifically that it should be done.

What is apparently not as obvious to everyone else as it is to me is what "documentation" entails, because after a two month absence I've come back to find everything a hodge-podge. None of it is "wrong", exactly, but it's clear that my habits of putting in "extra" information have not been picked up by... roughly anyone else.

A while back, [livejournal.com profile] allanh made a post about how when he was ill and had particularly bad memory problems, he used to treat everything he did as "leaving notes to his future self". I thought it was an excellent practice, and since then I've taken to putting not just "flight to California" in my calendar, but "American Flight 123 DTW to SJC via DFW lands at 9:55pm" in my calendar (with the start date being the takeoff time; if it's odd, I'll note that as well), and been happier for it, especially now that I own a Blackberry that syncs to the same calendar. It certainly makes it easier to tell someone when to pick me up, or when I'll be at Enterprise renting a car, or whether I'll be there in time for dinner.

What I hadn't fully realized was that I already did that to a lesser degree: when I pay commissions, I don't lump them all into one "Sales:Commissions Paid" entry in QuickBooks, but rather I split them off into one line per month (all of which are still "Sales:Commissions Paid") and note which month it is, which matches up with a spreadsheet, which cross-references the check number within it. For the salesperson it's still one check, and at the end of the year it's still one category in the P&L statement, but day-to-day if you want to go back and figure out what's been paid and what hasn't, it's simple. Similarly, when I pay a consultant, I don't just put "22 hours" in the memo field, I put "22 hours 4/10 - 4/25" so that I can match it up with an email containing the hours I'm paying for.

This did not happen while I was gone, and now I'm staring at a QuickBooks file that I have no idea how things got to where they are. I like it not.

While my first priority is to get it back to something I can deal with, I have determined that if this system is going to work at all, I'm going to need to document not just how I do things, but why I do them that way. Yay, more work.
amanda_lodden: (done now)
Dear Frontier Airlines:

Your policy of overselling your flights and skimping on the things you can't charge extra for (seriously, will it really bankrupt you to let me have the whole can of ginger ale?) has already put your airline on my "avoid if possible" list, but your decision to spend all that pop-can savings on hiring people to accost me in the airport and try to get me to sign up for your credit card was what truly ensured that you won't be getting my business again.

Please stop. Or at least tell your hawkers to carry my bag and find my gate for me, so that they'll serve an actual purpose.
amanda_lodden: (done now)
Dear Frontier Airlines:

Your policy of overselling your flights and skimping on the things you can't charge extra for (seriously, will it really bankrupt you to let me have the whole can of ginger ale?) has already put your airline on my "avoid if possible" list, but your decision to spend all that pop-can savings on hiring people to accost me in the airport and try to get me to sign up for your credit card was what truly ensured that you won't be getting my business again.

Please stop. Or at least tell your hawkers to carry my bag and find my gate for me, so that they'll serve an actual purpose.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Me: "Are we aware that [Customer Name] included a number that ported to AT&T in January on their latest order?"

John: "It's a typo."

Me: "Huh?"

John: "They don't want it with us."

Me: "Did they say this? Where or when did they say this?"

John: "It's their fax line. They don't want it with us."

Me: .... *gritting my teeth* "I will ask them about it and let THEM decide."

This habit of guessing for our customers will get him beaten to death one of these days. It's bad enough that I have to hunt down information when I see something that does not jive with my version of reality, but to then be given information that is pulled out of someone's ass instead of actually confirmed with the customer... even if he's right, I want it in writing. I want something to show the customer later on when they say "Hey, AT&T is till billing us for this number" so I can say "But here on this date, you sent an email confirming that you wanted to leave that number on AT&T."

No. Just. No.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
Me: "Are we aware that [Customer Name] included a number that ported to AT&T in January on their latest order?"

John: "It's a typo."

Me: "Huh?"

John: "They don't want it with us."

Me: "Did they say this? Where or when did they say this?"

John: "It's their fax line. They don't want it with us."

Me: .... *gritting my teeth* "I will ask them about it and let THEM decide."

This habit of guessing for our customers will get him beaten to death one of these days. It's bad enough that I have to hunt down information when I see something that does not jive with my version of reality, but to then be given information that is pulled out of someone's ass instead of actually confirmed with the customer... even if he's right, I want it in writing. I want something to show the customer later on when they say "Hey, AT&T is till billing us for this number" so I can say "But here on this date, you sent an email confirming that you wanted to leave that number on AT&T."

No. Just. No.
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I spent two hours updating all of the files for the next live game, to reflect this year's setting.

In two milliseconds, a single typo in a rm command wiped all of it out. Of course, it's on a brand new server which does not yet automatically back websites up.

If you need me, I will be drinking heavily, with breaks for throwing things.

[Update: I did still have the really-old versions of the files, so I could've been more screwed. Editing them went slightly faster since I knew what needed to be changed, though I can't guarantee that I didn't skip something here or there. The site is back up and functioning, at least.]
amanda_lodden: (Default)
I spent two hours updating all of the files for the next live game, to reflect this year's setting.

In two milliseconds, a single typo in a rm command wiped all of it out. Of course, it's on a brand new server which does not yet automatically back websites up.

If you need me, I will be drinking heavily, with breaks for throwing things.

[Update: I did still have the really-old versions of the files, so I could've been more screwed. Editing them went slightly faster since I knew what needed to be changed, though I can't guarantee that I didn't skip something here or there. The site is back up and functioning, at least.]

I swear...

Mar. 1st, 2009 09:27 pm
amanda_lodden: (Default)
...if I hear one more alien in one more movie respond to the question "What is your name?" with "It's difficult to pronounce in your language" spoken in perfect English, I swear I will scream.

I swear...

Mar. 1st, 2009 09:27 pm
amanda_lodden: (Default)
...if I hear one more alien in one more movie respond to the question "What is your name?" with "It's difficult to pronounce in your language" spoken in perfect English, I swear I will scream.

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