Emotional Drafting


A little bit before we got our stay-at-home orders I bought some pencil leads. You know, for mechanical pencils. I don’t say this to make you all envious. I know there are people out there who don’t use mechanical pencils. I prefer mechanical pencils and I won’t be apologizing for that. Yes, I have tried your fully pneumatic pencils. I don’t like the flow. Electronic pencils would be great, but they’re monitoring everything you do. And they’re sending mean notes to Facebook about your bad handwriting and how it’s ruining your wrists.

So mechanical pencils it is for me, and that means sometimes buying new leads. This is because putting in a new lead is two percent less bad than buying a whole new pen and throwing the old away. It should be a bigger gap. There’s mechanical pencils where you put the new lead in by pressing down the little cap thingy on the end and dropping a new lead in. I don’t have that. The pencils I have these days require me to take the end cap off, then remember that’s not how to reload these pencils. Then I have to unscrew the … I’m going to call it nib … from the center of the pencil. Then press down on the cap until I remember that’s not how to open it up to take a new lead either. Then I have to look up on YouTube how to put lead into my pencil, and follow that video. I might be better off throwing the old pencils away and getting a new one, but again, there’s that two percent margin. It’s a tiny bit less bad to buy a new lead.

Except. I bought this at an Office Depot. Or Office Max. I forget what it was before they merged (it was Kinko’s) and moved from one end of the strip mall to the other. The problem is, this got them e-mailing me to give my opinions about the transaction.

This is a heck of a thing to ask for in any case. What is there to rate? I go in to a store that sells pencil leads, pick up a pack of pencil leads, and pay for it, and leave. How can I rate that? Plato himself would volunteer that there is no such thing as an Ideal Form of the pencil-lead-buying experience. There is no way to perceive the difference between a mediocre pencil-lead-buying experience and the greatest pencil-lead-buying experience of your life. I guess this does mean we can treat every chance to buy pencil lead as a new chance to have a best-possible experience, so far as we know.

I concede there can be a terrible pencil-lead-buying experience. But that’s because something interferes with the pencil-lead-buying. Like, while you’re there a ceiling tile drops on you. Or you can’t remember which phone number you gave for their loyalty program and then someone insists you are too John “Ten Eyck” Lansing Jr, the indirect namesake for the capital of Michigan (Ten Eyck), who went missing in 1829. That would ruin the pencil-lead-buying. That’s the result of the other experience getting in the way, though.

Anyway I figured to ignore Max Depot’s e-mails until they gave up asking. The way Best Buy has finally accepted that I have no opinions to share about a four-USB-plug power brick. Except that they would not give up. They e-mailed me daily, asking me to please tell them about the pencil-lead-buying experience.

They sent me more e-mails than Joe Biden’s campaign has, if you can imagine, now that Biden bought whatever cursed mailing list Amy Klobuchar had. And this as the pandemic kept on panning. So I gave in and answered them. No, I would not recommend buying pencil lead at Depot to the Max, because they keep asking me to have an opinion about it, and I keep remembering how if everything starts going well, the pandemic might only kill as many Americans as combat did in the Civil War, and I have to go to the basement and yell at cinder blocks.

They e-mailed back.

And apologized that my experience was so bad and they will work to make it better in the future.

So now management dinks are going to punish people who actually work, because I said the buying was fine but the follow-up sucked. And I have to deal with knowing I’m to blame for that.

So now I can’t ever buy pencil lead at Max Office, Max Depot ever again. It’s going to hurt too much. I have, finally, found what a bad pencil-lead-buying experience is.

What’s Wrong With The Silent Disco News


I appreciate a good bit of oddball news as much as anyone. Sometimes I even appreciate it up to twelve percent more. But this one from the BBC, “Swiss city bans `noisy’ silent discos”? I’m sorry, that’s just trying too hard. As is the photo caption that notes “City authorities say that silent discos are not necessarily silent”.

Silent discos, by the way, are a thing that exists in both the real world and in Jonathan Lethem novels. Instead of having music anyone can listen to, they give out headphones and everybody listens to a broadcast of the music they’d play. Fine enough. I’ve seen one, without headphones. This didn’t hurt my ability to find the beat at all, because I could not find the beat with my love patiently explaining, “NOW! No, not now, wait for it … NOW! No! Just … do what I do. No, when I do it. NOW! No, stop.” I’m not good with rhythm.

The problem in the underlying news was some applications for outdoor silent discos. So the neighbors would hear all the noise of a disco except the music. I’ve never lived next to a disco, but I have been places where things happen. I can imagine how it’s worse to get just the ambient noise without the music. For one, you’d hear all the coughing, and never know whether it was on the beat. Also, the article says, “participants can’t help singing along to the music”.

So let’s get this sucker rated. The underlying news item, tolerably amusing but not odd at all once you think about it. This is where so much oddball news fails us. I give that a two out of five. The reporting has that nice quote about singing along to the music being the issue. That’s a four out of five. The headline blows it, though. It should’ve been “Silent Disco Banned On Noise Concerns”. Two out of five. This averages out to a 2.67. Needs work.

Statistics Saturday: Is There Such A Thing As Excellance?


For the convenience of the people who compose surveys of my customer experience, I offer this list of some activities and whether or not I can imagine having a truly excellent experience doing it, and so they can save time trying to get me to figure out my emotional response to having done a thing.

Activity Have I Got A Conceptual Theory Of What An Excellent Experience In This Activity Would Require?
Buying a DVD box set from Best Buy No
Flying Economy Class between Detroit and Newark No
Visiting a Bar on Karaoke Night Yes
Renting a Kia Soul for Five Days No
Buying a 10-Pack of British-Made Kit-Kat Bars No
Visiting a Bar on Competitive Spelling Night Yes
Registering a Domain Name No
Searching Microsoft’s Online Help System for Ways in C# to Convert an XML file to a DataSet Data Structure, then Use the Output as part of an Inner Join operation in a LINQ Query Dear Lord No
Getting a Bag of Rat Chow from the Pet Store No
Joining a Roller Coaster Tycoon Online Forum No
Getting a Grilled Vegetable Hoagie from a Penn Station Sandwich Shop, Eating It (The Hoagie) Yes
Flying Economy Class between Detroit and Trenton, New Jersey No
Tire Rotation at the Dealers No
Sailing Around The World With LeVar Burton Yes
Adding Money To My Prepaid Cell Phone No
Visiting Battery World (Store) No
Visiting Battery World (Theme Park) Yes
Having a Service that Calls Me About the Time of Day I Feel Most Sluggish and Plays the Theme From Shaft Could This Ever Not Be Excellent?

September 2013 In These Numbers


Last month’s bunch of number-reporting came out successfully, in that it was a thing that existed and I didn’t get in any trouble over it, so I’ll try it again. For September I had a total of 397 pages viewed — my second-highest on record, not all that far below June’s 441, and an improvement viewing-wise from August’s 349 — and 162 viewers — fourth-highest, but up from August’s 141 — which means my pages-per-viewer ratio has gotten to 2.45, pretty trivially behind August’s high of 2.48.

The most popular articles of the past thirty days were:

  1. Pythagoras and the Golden Middle-Ish, inspired by an odd quote about Pythagoras and which got a bit of help because I know it captured the fancy of a philosopher and passed on to at least one class;
  2. My Dimmed Stars, about the oddity of someone going around giving mediocre ratings to a lot of articles;
  3. The Mystery Of My Power Cord, which I actually forgot I wrote, about something odd happening with the computer’s power;
  4. Missing International Rabbit Day, which was destined for success because our rabbit is more popular than I am;
  5. Getting To Yes, about an oddity in the download from a quite nice album by the band Steven’s Salute.
  6. The countries sending me the most readers this month are, again, the United States (343, which you surely recognize as the cube of seven), the United Kingdom (7 … really, that few? But you surely recognize that as the cube root of 343), and Canada (6 … I had thought there were more Canadians out there, somewhere, like in Maine or something). Sending me just a single reader each were Argentina, Finland, France, Indonesia, the Philippines, Serbia, South Africa, and South Korea. Indonesia and France carry on their streak of just barely liking me.

    I realize all that, while numbers, isn’t particularly humorous, so please consider these: 46, 8 1/4, 2^{3^{4^{5}}}\div 6 , the cosine of -7, and the largest number smaller than the square root of two. Thank you.

My Dimmed Stars


So had you noticed there’s these star ratings you can give my entries, in a little box just beside the “Leave a Comment” link? No, I didn’t think so, because nobody notices them and nobody bothers with them. But my Dearly Beloved pointed out, someone has noticed and gone and given a bunch of articles two and three star ratings. This puts out a good question: who’s taking the time to seek out and disapprove of something they don’t have to bother with? Based on this M O, my suspects right now are everybody on the entire Internet, ever.