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Tuesday, November 30

Like a Good Neighbor?
I got an email through the Stanford Alumni mailing list about one
alum's experiences with State Farm Insurance. I checked on the
Stanford online directory and she's a friend-of-a- friend and works
for Disney. Interesting:

-- beginning of email --
On the topic of auto insurance, i feel the need and responsibility to
get on my soapbox for the first and hopefully last time in front of the
stanford network audience.

For those of you not planning to read the text below, let me summarize.
My experience with State Farm was ridiculously painful. They wouldn't
return calls, would make me repeat all my information every time I
called, would give me inconsistent quotes on different days, and would
schedule me repeatedly in fictitious appointment slots. Finally, my
interactions ended when, after two months of trying on my end to make
it work, the agent got on the phone and basically rudely yelled at me.
Complaints to the supervisor yielded nothing either. So all I can do
is urge each of you to strongly consider whether it's worth the almost
unbearable aggravation of dealing with State Farm. It's not like their
quotes are that competitive anyway.

More details:
1. The first agent I tried to contact did not return my messages.

2. When I finally got ahold of a live voice, I managed to get an
insurance quote out of the receptionist and set up an appointment after
she insisted that their office wouldn't issue insurance without seeing
the car first (which many other companies don't require). I thought the
appointment time was a bit odd--it was for 9PM on a weekday--but she
insisted that was legit. I called day of to confirm, but no one picked
up all day and the office was very closed at 9PM.

3. I called a week later and the lady who answered that time assured me
that there was no way I could have gotten a 9PM appointment because
the office is closed at that time. plus, she didn't have any record of
my previous quote in the system. I asked to speak to the agent but was
told the agent was busy. messages went unanswered.

4. Only moderately deterred, I tried another agent. this agent's
receptionist was unhelpful and rude, but I was able to get the agent
herself on the line. she sounded competent so I figured I would finally
get this ordeal over with. the quote she gave me over the phone was a
LOT more expensive than the one that the first office gave, so she said
she would check with the first office to see why they differed. sounds
good. she said she would get back to me in the next couple of days.

5. a week goes by and no response so I call her. turns out I can't
even leave her a message because the answer machine's broken or full.

6. I finally got ahold of her the following week. her excuse: she went
on vacation last week and no one knew the codes to the office alarm so
no one could get into the office all week long. plus apparently no one
knew how to reach her on her vacation to get the codes so they just
took the week off and let the messages pile up on her machine. is this
even a business or a bunch of middle-schoolers running a bake sale?

7. more painful interactions ensue, fueled on my end solely by the
amount of sunk costs (energy, emotion, time) already invested. finally,
we settle on a Saturday apptmt. I stressed to her that I could only do
Saturdays because I work long weekdays, and she's more than

8. I call on the Friday before to confirm my appointment. the new
receptionist (she fired the old one a few days ago for negligence)
tells me that I'm not on the agent's calendar for Saturday. in fact,
the agent is busy on Saturday. okay, I tell her, then give me her
availability next Saturday. nope, the agent's busy next Saturday too.
fine, then let me know which is the first Saturday she does have a spot
free. keep in mind that after each exchange she puts me on hold to do
god knows what. finally, this last time she comes back with the
incredible answer of: the agent is never free on Saturdays; she is no
longer working on Saturdays. never mind the fact that her website
publicizes Saturday hours or that I HAD JUST SPOKEN TO THE
AGENT ABOUT SATURDAYS. at this point I am testy and she is
downright rude. downright rude. she finally gets sick of answering
my questions, sighs rudely, and puts me on hold again. lo and
behold the agent herself picks up and, without preamble, says,
"What is your problem?" I didn't know we had arrived at the day when
a business that should pride itself on customer service could accost
a potential customer with the question, "what is your problem?" at
this point I see no reason to make an appointment with her.

9. I'm understandably outraged. my officemate, who has had to
overhear all of my frustrated phone calls over the last two months to
State Farm, agrees that this is just ridiculous. We both thought it
would be a good idea to at least try to lodge a complaint to the agents'
supervisors, understanding that it wouldn't do me any good because
there was no way in hell I would do any business with State Farm
again, but it would at least help them run their operations better
with outside feedback. I spoke to the supervisor's receptionist who
assured me that that supervisor had jurisdiction over both of the
agents I had had bad experiences with and then left a message.
predictably, I was never shown the courtesy of a return call.

now you could dismiss this as isolated bad incidents, but I would argue
that two bad agents and a bad supervisor might be a little more than
'isolated'. If it was truly this hard for me to get a quote and sign
a policy, think about how painful it must be to make an accident claim
after they're no longer trying to 'court' me as a customer.

I'd be more than happy to provide anyone who's interested with the
names of the two agents so that hopefully everyone can stay clear of
them. I hope anyone who's gotten to the bottom of this email can at
least sympathize with the mind-numbing aggravation of having to deal
with truly idiotic and offensive customer service.
-- end of email --


Monday, November 29

Selected Posts:
Representing America (11/04)
Suppressing the Vote (10/04)
Gandhi Day (10/04)
Burnt Toast (10/04)
Braves Postseason (9/04)
Ba's Pictures (9/04)
</Bush> (8/04)
Sonia Gandhi (5/04)
India/US E-voting (5/04)
Gay marriage (5/04)
Drudge+Kerry (2/04)
Anish's India Pics (2/04)
India Trip (1/04)

I 've been delaying updating the layout of this blog for a
while, but I finally put in post pages, which also enables
easy permalink names (keywords in the permalink instead of
a post id). The post id permalinks will still work but since
they suck they should be updated.

I also added a "Selected posts" section to the links at right
and put conditional tags into my blogger template to limit
the number of links that show up if you're looking at a post
page. Basically, if you're looking at a post page only a link
to the home page and archive links show up.

You can check out a post page by clicking on the Permalink
keyword for any of the posts on this page or by selecting
one of the old posts in the table on the left.

Saturday, November 27

Allen Iverson or Terrell Owens?

Friday, November 26
This post is copied from Boing Boing:

Indian epic Ramayana as comic

Avi Solomon says, "Ramayana, the classic indian epic is online in 'graphic novel' form! (Link). This is part of the 'Amar Chitra Katha' series concieved by Anant Pai who was the pioneer in using comics to reintroduce India's mythological and historical treasures to it's alienated youth. More on Anant Pai (Link), and 'Amar Chitra Katha' website (Link)

BoingBoing reader Suresh Venkat says, "Many Indians of a certain age (myself included) grew up devouring Amar Chitra Katha (I had huge piles of them in my house, and in all probability still do at my parent's place in India). I didn't realize that they count as "graphic novels." I guess I was on the cutting edge even then. :) "

posted by Xeni Jardin at 09:55:42 AM | permalink | Other blogs commenting on this post

Thursday, November 25

Not Turkey

Email received Saturday, 3:30am:

"Thank you so much for the invitation. Alas, I am going to have to decline this year because, as can probably be inferred from the hour of my email, it is finals crunch time. This is a crunch like no other crunch I have ever felt before. :( So instead, I plan on spending my Thanksgiving basting my casebook and pouring highlighter fluid into my gravy."

Happy Thanksgiving, Jenny; no Tofurkey for you.

Wednesday, November 24

"If you feel you can predict what the irrational guys are doing, then it may be entirely rational to buy irrationally priced stocks."
--Stefan Nagel, assistant professor of finance at the Stanford Graduate School of Business

Tuesday, November 23

Who's to blame for the Pistons-Pacers brawl?
The fans or the players?

Video | Column

Monday, November 22

from The President's Blog

from electablog

Sunday, November 21


Paint By Numbers
Don't paint on the numbers. D'oh!

Friday, November 19

The Fastest Growing Industry in India?
Fortune telling

Thursday, November 18

Adam Crouch over at The Raw Prawn got
V.I.P. tickets to the Clinton Library opening
in Little Rock today. Slide over to his website
to find out what it was like on the ground.

Also visit:

Article | Pictures

Wednesday, November 17

Tuesday, November 16

Lot of cocaine; lot of squid

The legendary squid

I get Google News Alerts in my Inbox for a variety of subjects, including Peru. The emails have article title, source, and description. When I saw:

Google Alert for: peru

Peru drugs hidden in giant squid
BBC News - London,England,UK
Police in Peru have seized about 700kg of cocaine hidden in frozen giant squid bound for Mexico and the US. The drugs - worth about ...

in my Inbox this morning, I was amazed and hoping for a picture of a giant squid that was big enough to put 700kg of cocaine into. There was no picture of squid in the article (just the drug bust pic on the left), but there was this: "Police seized the drugs hidden in a container of 25 tons of giant squid about to leave Paita (Piura) for Mexico." My first thought was: How out of it would the police have to be to see a 25 ton giant squid and be like 'Yeah that seems about right, carry on'.

I was curious, so I did some searching and found The Search for the Giant Squid at Amazon. According to the book, giant squid are exceedingly rare and no man has ever seen a healthy one, but they can grow up to sixty feet in length and up to a ton in weight. They finally find some and they stuff them full of cocaine?

But then I found a book review of The Search for the Giant Squid, which says the giant squid in the book "is not the delicious Loligo opalescens that graces the tables of San Francisco restaurants as fried calamari. Nor is it the 'giant' (1-2 meters long) voracious Humboldt squid, Dosidicus giagas, that lives off Peru."

Disappointing - 1 to 2 meters long is big for a squid but hardly the stuff of legend. Maybe you can get lucky and find the real legendary squid in the virtual ocean; I don't really care that much.

Monday, November 15

The most popular Google News query in October
was "Camilo Mejia".

Camilo Mejia spent six months in combat in Iraq,
then returned for a 2-week furlough to the US.
Citing moral reasons, the legality of the war and
the conduct of US troops towards Iraqi civilians
and prisoners, he refused to return to Iraq as
. Mejia is currently serving a one-year
prison sentence for desertion.

The second most popular Google News query in
October was "Ashlee Simpson".

Saturday, November 13

51% Bush, 48% Kerry

Coin Toss Determines Winner in Florida City Council Race | article

Said loser Richard Flynn, who incorrectly called heads,
"I would just as soon shoot an eight-ball or shoot balls
from the foul line or have a game of hearts."

Friday, November 12

Iverson Answers the Call Against the Pacers | article

Iverson hit the first buzzer-beating shot of his career
today after going 4-for-22 in the rest of the game.

Said coach Jim O'Brien, "His shots didn't fall until the
last one, and who cares about the others?"

O'Brien took the Celtics to the playoffs in the 2000-2001,
2001-2002, and 2002-2003 seasons after Rick Pitino left
them for dead in January 2001 (the middle of the 2000-2001
season). The Celtics were crap in the couple of seasons
before O'Brien became head coach and have been crap since
he left, but he managed to coach some pretty sorry talent
(with the notable exception of Paul Pierce) to a couple of
winning seasons.

O'Brien's known for his star-friendly coaching ways
(Boston had Pierce and Walker) and I'm looking forward
to Iverson going off for a winning team this year.

Thursday, November 11

Winamp Kicks the (Llama's) Bucket | article | article2

AOL acquired Nullsoft in 1999 for around $100 million,
but the young team of Winamp developers never fully
assimilated into AOL's strict corporate culture. Now the
last members of the original Winamp team have said
goodbye to AOL and the door has all but shut on the
Nullsoft era.

Back in the day (1999 or so), when I was living in Terra,
I had 1000+ songs on my computer, all shared on the
dorm server and organized by Atlanta radio station - I
had 99X, 96 Rock, Hot 97.5, etc. And of course for dorm
parties you didn't need a stereo - just cheap beer and a
laptop; well I guess that's probably still true.

For me it was all about AllAdvantage , Napster, and
Winamp in 1999. At night, I used to sleep in my bed with
my then-gf Ana, listen to MP3s, and have my automatic
mouse mover make me some easy overnight cash.
Good times.

My favorite Winamp moments came a few years later,
though, when I made the "Weed and Coke" ATL mix
tape featuring such classics as My Baby Daddy,
Straight from the Dec, and some early Outkast. I also
mixed Allen Iverson's "Practice?!" tirade with a hip-hop
backbeat that I'll post here as soon as I get some online
space for it.

The article has another interesting tidbit that I didn't
know: the makers of Winamp also released Gnutella,
which was the first big peer-to-peer trading service after
Napster. Gnutella didn't use a central server so it wasn't
as easy to shut down as Napster.

Wednesday, November 10

Weird (Al) News: The Onion article inspires real change
An article from today's Onion, ostensibly from a die-hard
Weird Al fan who was banned from Wikipedia for flaming,
called for major changes in the Weird Al Wikipedia entry.
The Onion is known for fake news, taking the real news
a bit further - its Top Story this week quoted Karl Rove
as telling the working poor that voted for Bush "You
have acted beyond the call of duty—or, for that matter,
good sense."

But the changes prescribed for the Weird Al Wikipedia
really needed to be made, and they were. Within
hours of the Onion's article going online, the Wikipedia
entry was under heavy construction and discussion,
with users adding information about Weird Al's directorial
experience, his album's B-sides which have been traded
on the Internet, and the recurring characters on his
short-lived TV show.

btw, how nerdy am I for writing a completely serious blog
post about Wikipedia, The Onion, and Weird Al? I'm
actually listening to a chapter from Lawrence Lessig's
right now because it came up on random on my
playlist. OK, I'll stop now, I'm scaring the children.

Tuesday, November 9

Crime, Terror Solved!
According to Attorney General Ashcroft's resignation letter,
"The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime
and terror has been achieved." Sweet!

Speaking of leaving the fold, Hungary, Spain, Poland, the
Netherlands, Thailand, the Dominican Republic, Nicaragua,
Honduras, the Philippines, Norway, and New Zealand have
removed or are in the process of removing their troops from
. Sucks.

Friday, November 5
Which best represents American politics right now?



Or this:

courtesy Chris Nolff

Wednesday, November 3

Gen. Wesley Clark

Last Election-Related Political Post
With Bush's victory over John Kerry, who will be
the national face of the Democratic Party? Will
we continue to hang onto the '90s and the Clintons?
Will General Wesley Clark, a new member of the
Democratic Party, continue to play a role? Who's
left? Barack Obama, Harold Ford, John Edwards, and
Joe Trippi (yes, Joe Trippi).

It looks bleak, but liberal-minded people cannot be
happy with the way this is going and progressive
leaders will have to emerge.

Some likely themes/ideas of this
second Bush term:
* Neoconservatism
* Trickle-down economics
* Blurring line between church and state
* Abolishment of Roe v. Wade
* Stacking the court
* War on Terror
* Baghdad Burning
* Regime Change
* Outsoucing
* No-bid contracts
* Rising cost of education, health care
* Ballooning Debt, Cheapening Dollar
* Privatizing Social Security
* Eroding civil liberties
* Git-mo!

Tuesday, November 2
If you don't know where to vote, call: 1-866-OUR-VOTE and the
automated voice will hook you up with directions to your polling