Tag Archives: rants

Sony Super-Audio CD

quite a number of years ago, i bought a CD of “The Antiphonal Music Of Gabrieli” subtitled “The Glorious Sound of Brass” by the Philidelphia Brass Ensemble, The Cleveland Brass Ensemble and the Chicago Brass Ensemble. it was, i believe, one of the first purchases i ever made on a, then, brand new service called “amazon”, but the current iteration of that service has no record of my purchasing anything like that, so it might have been some other online service.

i have been playing music by giovanni gabrieli for a long time, and he is one of my favourite brass composers, so i figured that this would be an excellent addition to my music collection. however, when i received the disk in the mail, i put it into my CD player and…

nothing happened.

this was before computers had CD players on a regular basis, and the dedicated audio CD player that i had was a sony “diskman” that someone had been throwing away, so i searched around and found another dedicated audio CD player that didn’t have such a sordid background and put the disk in that and…

nothing happened.

then i took a closer look at the CD itself. what i found was this TINY inscription that said this disc is designed for use in super audio cd players only on the back of the box.

no problem, i figured. i’ll just put it into my (at the time) “state of the art” work computer (which did have a CD-ROM drive) and it’ll play there… no, i didn’t think i’d copy it into MP3 files, because this was before MP3 files existed.

but i was mistaken. it didn’t play there, either…

but it is gabrieli, and i’m sure the music is SUPERB, so i didn’t send the disk back. i held on to it, on the off chance that, at some point i would run into someone who had a “super audio CD” player.

which brings us to today… close to 15 years later, and i have tried it on every single computer i have owned, and a bunch of other peoples’ equipment, and i have STILL never heard this CD.

i have, since, learned that sony introduced the super audio CD in 1999, and by 2007 it was considered a failure, and not significantly better quality than standard CDs, but that didn’t make the fact that i have this one disk of music that i really like any easier to listen to… or copy into a format that i can listen to — which, i suppose, is what all this copyright/piracy gibberish that i hear bandied about in the news, is all about to begin with…

but, come on… this is all music that was recorded previously — the SACD is a combination of three other 12″ LP records, released between 1955 and 1980 — and i paid for the music… NOT the incomprehensible file format, or whatever it is that makes this particular disk NOT PLAY in the audio equipment that i HAVE. 😐 furthermore, i’m NOT going to buy a SACD player, which are now “audiophile” equipment, and cost anywhere up to three times what they did originally, so that i can play this ONE disk.

bottom line: does somebody out there have a SACD player that i can hook up to my computer, so i can make FLAC copies of the music? i have a digital pre-amp that plugs into my computer and has RCA inputs, and i have RCA cables, so all i need is the player, and you’d be able to get it back after i’m finished… i’d really appreciate it…

skript-kiddie stupidity

i have been getting a lot of comment-spam recently, that is along the lines of this:

{
{I have|I’ve} been {surfing|browsing} online more than {three|3|2|4}
hours today, yet I never found any interesting article like yours.
{It’s|It is} pretty worth enough for me. {In my opinion|Personally|In my view},
if all {webmasters|site owners|website owners|web owners} and bloggers made good
content as you did, the {internet|net|web} will bee {much more|a
lot more} useful than ever before.|...

i don’t really understand the purpose behind such things… moreso than i don’t understand why people send spam at all, i mean probably 85% to 90% of ALL internet traffic is spam, and, as far as i have been able to tell, only a very minute fraction of a percentage of internet users actually think spam is a good thing, but… this is a new low: a person who uses a faulty, undoubtedly third-party script to drop faulty comment spam into a blog that WILL NOT publish it the way it was received…

it makes me understand a lot more how people like ken at popehat have policies like pasting. although i’m sure that, in this case, what they’re most interested in is a hyperlink, and i’m not going to do that for ’em, because their comment is obviously spam… and low quality spam (if there could be such a thing).

put this into a perspective that we can relate to…

Don’t panic: Earth has at least 1.75 billion years to go, scientists say — saying it like that makes it seem like there’s something that we, as living individuals, could do about it. putting it into a little more realistic perspective, i.e. 100 years is 3 to 4 generations, that is 52,500,000 to 70,000,000 GENERATIONS they think we will last until the sun gets too hot…

i’m pretty sure they will have completely forgotten about me, and my son, and his offspring, and their offspring, and their offspring, before we even have to think about worrying that we’re approaching the end of the world. we have a better chance of ending the world ourselves before then than we do actually lasting that long.

get over it. the sun is eventually going to get too hot for humans to live on earth, but, unless we act a lot more sensibly than we have been the past 2000 years, we’re very likely to drive ourselves into extinction a long time before that will happen.

OY!

a while back — a year and a half ago, or thereabouts — i decided that i was going to make a separate directory, on an external hard disk, that contained all of my essential data, data that i had created, so that when i upgraded my system, i wouldn’t face the potential of losing everything when a system upgrade didn’t go the way it was supposed to… and, the last time i did a major upgrade of my system, it worked exactly the way i expected it to work, and i was very happy.

basically, instead of my “home” directory being at /home/salamandir on the primary hard disk of the computer, i had a home directory at /media/home/salamandir and everything was fine, i just had to remember to change directories when i was downloading something, because i knew (from first-hand experience) that if i forgot, and downloaded to /home/salamandir/Downloads i would have difficulty finding the data afterwards.

so i did the intermediary system upgrades on my linux box, yesterday. it wasn’t a full upgrade, but there were some more things than normal, and it “hung up” when it got to the point where it asked me if i wanted to keep the configuration file that “i” had “modified”, or if i wanted to download a new configuration file, but when i answered that i wanted to keep the configuration file that “i” had “modified”, the installation procedure proceded as normal.

then i rebooted my computer, because i like to do that, to make sure there aren’t any delayed configurations, or things that don’t get installed at reboot that aren’t working the way they’re supposed to, and that’s where the problems started.

i rebooted, and the first thing i noticed was that the external disks, including the 3TB disk that i have partitioned into a “home” and a “backup” partition, weren’t mounting the way they were supposed to. i didn’t notice this until later, but the reason why the “home” and “backup” partitions weren’t mounting correctly was because, for some (as yet unknown) reason, they had been converted from /media/home and /media/backup to /media/salamandir/home and /media/salamandir/backup

what this meant in the short run is that it couldn’t find the directory that contains my wallpaper graphics, and my “dropbox” folder was “moved” from where it was supposed to be.

this would have been an entirely different problem if i had noticed that immediately, but as it is, i tried to re-establish my directories where they should be, and succeeded only in overwriting (or something, i still don’t know what) the directory in /media/salamandir/home/salamandir — which is where ALL my data from the LAST time this happened, now lives… because i was under the impression that if i kept my data on an external hard drive, that it would be safe from random deletion and/or disasters… like this one is turning out to be.

/media/salamandir/backup (which contains backups of my “real” home directory: i.e. configuration files and nothing else) is still intact, /media/salamandir/home/salamandir-new (a directory i created when i was still trying to deal with the loss of data the last time) is still intact, but /media/salamandir/home/salamandir is NOT intact… which includes all of the printing clients that i have worked for in the past year-and-a-half, ALL of my genealogy data, a huge pile of my (irreplaceable) music files, and who knows what else.

the only good part about this whole thing is that i BELIEVE all of the data is still there: usually it takes a while for the computer to actually delete a couple of gigabytes of information (which /media/salamandir/home/salamandir certainly is), and it didn’t actually do anything that seems like actual deleting, so what i suspect is that i just overwrote the file that tells the computer where everything is, and if i could just replace that, everything would be cool…

but, so far, i haven’t been able to figure out how to do that. 😐

the last time this happened, my computer was down for 5 days, and it was only because of the fact that i was willing to let go of a whole bunch of my data that things eventually made their way back to “normal” again. i’m pretty sure i DON’T want to go through that again. 😐

i think it’s time for me to take a break from my computer for a few weeks… possibly longer… 😐

grmf! 8/

that was exciting…

for about 2 seconds… then it was irritating, frustrating and downright evil. EVIL i tell you… 😡

i woke up this morning and turned on my computer, only to discover that all of my web sites had been cracked by some adolescent script-kiddies from borneo who want the world to think that they’re dangerous terrorists.

i’m here to tell you that they’re not. they’re punk kids who use other peoples’ code to spray their graffiti and then “lulz” when people scramble to make it all right again.

Mati pucuk dan lemah, anda anjing dalam pakaian kanak-kanak.

Adolescent Script-Kiddie Ass-ociation

this guy is a real hacker… and he is so good that you punk kids aren’t even worthy to lick his shoes… 😡

oh… by the way… i’m back up and running with my web sites intact, inside 12 hours, so regardless of how big a mess you made, I WIN!! 😐

OY!

i thought i was fairly clear about my disapproval of “K2” and suchlike stuff, but this makes me wonder how muddied my explanation might be, without my knowing it… 😐

i got an email (for a change, most people call me with questions of this nature, which may be a sign that i overlooked) which said “Do you sell anything like K2?”. i responded with a link to the page mentioned above — http://www.hybridelephant.com/K2.php — and figured that would be the last i would hear from that particular potential customer…

which is fine with me, as far as i’m concerned. if someone wants to go out and poison themselves, instead of taking a substance that has never killed ANYBODY in recorded history*, i’m certainly not going to stand in their way, but i’m also certainly NOT going to sell them the poison, and i’m going to do my best to inform them that the substance they want to take, is, in fact poisonous, but if they’re still dead set, i’m not going to stand in their way…

but this is where it gets weird. i logged in this morning and found a response. the guy had written me back, and said “I checked the link but I didn’t see K2 for sale. Can you advise?”

… 😮

so i responded, yet again:

the reason you didn’t see it is because it is not available from Hybrid Elephant. i do not sell things that are deadly poisonous if you ingest them.

if you want cannabis, go out and buy cannabis, don’t buy some erzatz knock-off
that might kill you. you’ll get ripped off, at the very least.

that’s my advice.

i hope that’s clear enough for him…

because if he writes me again, i’m going to LMAO at him…

ETA: he wrote back… LMAO! 😀 apparently he “can’t find cannabis” where he lives… it’s my guess that he’s too young to know where to look to begin with. either that or he simply hasn’t looked hard enough.


* i know there are spurrious reports of people who were using cannabis and died in a car crash, or that sort of thing, but, technically, those people didn’t die as a result of using cannabis, they died because of a car crash. the LD50 for THC is 1,270 mg/kg, which works out to over 115 grams of THC (not “of cannabis”) for a 200 pound person, in a limited period of time… which is not possible in this universe… seriously, more than 10 grams of cannabis in a limited period of time, and the 200 pound person that i am familiar with would most likely be asleep, and unable to ingest any more… 😉

in reality, there have been no deaths that come about as a direct result of using cannabis by a human being, in recorded history.

HA HA!!

HAH HAH!when i was in training to be a tech support drone for microsoft, they told us that “in 10 years, the default format for all web documents will be the microsoft word .doc format”…

WRONG!!

it is now more than 10 years later (actually, it is almost 20 years later), and Google kills support for old MS file formats in Google Apps…

i knew when i heard it that micro-slop was having a pipe-dream, believing that their proprietary document format was going to become a public standard…

a "smart" spammer??

i may have worked out why the mailing lists that i administer have been not delivering messages to all of the registered members of those lists recently. it was because of a “smart” spammer.

if you recall, Rule #3 of The Rules of Spam states that Spammers are stooOOpid, so how could a “smart” spammer even exist in the first place?

in this case, it’s a matter of degrees. you can be smarter than the ordinary spammer, but if you’re a spammer yourself, you’re still pretty stooOOpid compared to those of us who aren’t spammers.

the “smart” spammer shared my IP address, and was very definitely sending out spam, but he was not flooding the net with spam, like most spammers do, he was trickling spam out at a rate that was just below the point at which my host providers’ spam alarms would indicate. thus, while other, more brash spammers got the mallet immediately, this “smart” spammer continued to share my IP address for several months before he got the mallet.

of course, this was also complicated by the fact that, for several weeks, my host providers’ answer to all of these problems i was having, was to delist my IP address from the CBL without actually attempting to discover why that address was listed at the CBL to begin with. which is where persistence comes into play. instead of accepting that “the host provider knows best” and closing the work ticket the first time they requested delisting, i actually checked CBL myself, to determine whether or not what the host provider had told me was true, and when it turned out that my IP address had been relisted, i called them on it… and then, i called them on it again, when they told me that everything was the way it should be… and then, i called them on it again… and again… and AGAIN! 😐

i think they finally got the idea, because as of 10:00 this morning, my IP address had not been listed at the CBL for 24 hours, which is the longest time it has not been listed in 2 months.

let’s keep it that way, okay?

grump

who?
i’m hoping that this will be the only political post for a while, because the political news that has been coming across my RSS agregator has been universally driving me crazy. sometimes (well, more times than not, actually) i think it would be better for everyone if we eliminated all laws, as well as all national borders, and be done with the whole thing. 😐

we’re in trouble…

In Artificial Intelligence Breakthrough, Google Computers Teach Themselves To Spot Cats on YouTube and Janken (rock-paper-scissors) Robot with 100% winning rate – people gave computers these skills because they thought it would be "amusing" to see a computer doing them, but what they don’t realise is that, once the computer realises it has these skills, my guess is that it won’t be too long before we’re their slaves, providing raw materials for their batteries… 😛

today is the first day…

today is the first day that Snake Suspenderz is performing(!) at the moisture festival(!!). the fact is, i’ve been trying to get Snake Suspenderz into the moisture festival for four years… pretty much ever since i started playing with them… and since i’ve been a part of the moisture festival for nine years (i.e. ever since the beginning), i figured that it wouldn’t be much of a problem to incorporate my cronies into the huge mass of crony-ism that is the moisture festival… but it took my “losing my temper” and sending a ranting email to a couple of people who, presumably, don’t have any more control over who gets into the moisture festival than i do…

it’s another one of those instances that i rant about from time to time, where something that i want to do turns out to be an “old-boys club” and if you’re not associated with one of the “old boys” you CAN NOT get in… i know for a fact that i have ranted at least once in this blog about the oregon country fair, and burning man, both being events that are purposely designed to get people to stay away except under very specific circumstances… which usually involve large quantities of money, or sex (and not the pleasant kind) with the right people, and sometimes both. 😐

nevertheless, apparently my ranting to my peers was enough, and we got scheduled for two “inside” gigs, the first one of which is today, where we appear on stage and play our three-song, 10-minute “mini-set”, and then hang around until the end of the show so we can take a bow with the rest of the performers, and two “fluffer” gigs, where we play for 45 minutes(!) outside the palladium, for the crowds waiting to get in (in other words, “fluffing the crowd”, which is why they’re “fluffer” gigs)…

in other words, we’ve gone from playing no shows, to playing four shows, and two of them are basically us, and a captive audience of people who are already ready for a good time…

i don’t know exactly what i said, or exactly how i said it, that made the difference, but whatever it was, i guess it had the proper effect, because we went from having no appearances to having more appearances than most of the other moisture festival performers, including two 45-minute shows where it’s nothing but us, which is more than most moisture festival performers…

don’t get me wrong, i’m still extremely suspicious of “old-boy clubs” and refuse to get involved with them for the most part, because i dislike nepotism and crony-ism to the extreme, but apparently ranting and losing one’s temper is one of the ways to get things done when one is dealing with such things.

<gong>SPAMMMMMMMMM!</gong> (and not the fine potted meat food product)

so i got this fine potted meat food product spam message today, which read:

Hello,

We are in the process of promoting a website about drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Would you be open to the idea of placing a text link ad on this page: http://www.hybridelephant.com/K2.php?

We hope to hear from you soon, so we can discuss rates and other pertinent details.

Thanks.

Stephanie Harper

first of all, categorically, NO!!! i AM NOT interested in doing business with anyone who uses spam as a marketing tool, regardless how appropriate it seems on the surface…

but then i looked at the message a little more closely… you see that part about “promoting a website about drug and alcohol rehabilitation”?

did they even READ the page at http://www.hybridelephant.com/K2.php, or were they just trolling for pages whose titles seemed appropriate… ’cause if they actually read the page, they would quickly realise that i am not suggesting that people who use alcohol or drugs go into rehabilitation, but the opposite… i am proposing that ALL “drugs” be legalised, which is an entirely different ball o’ wax…

the message also had a toll-free phone number and a web site link (which i have removed, because i don’t want anyone to get the idea that i support what they’re doing), so i called “Stephanie Harper” and got a computerised-voice answering service that said there was “NOBODY AVAILABLE. TRANSFERRING TO VOICE MAIL.” but i didn’t leave a message because there’s a very strong probability that they’ll ignore it anyway, and i don’t want to waste my breath. i then went to the console, and did some arcane and mystical things to discover that the domain is “owned” by a company called “Domains By Proxy” whose motto is “Your identity is nobody’s business but ours.®“… in other words, they don’t want to tell you who they are…

if i were running a company that marketed web sites by “directed mail”, i would want people to be able to find out about my business. sure, there’s the web site link, but that’s what i say about who i am, not what other people say about me… and, if i were a legitimate business (which, because they market using spam, it isn’t to begin with), i would give a way to get in touch with me that doesn’t involve a WHOIS privacy company. i did a more conventional google search and discovered that “Stephanie Harper” is, sometimes, “Valerie Elden”, or “Ella Easton” or “Derek Holden”, and they’re searching for all kinds of pages on which to put their filthy dreck, using the form

We are in the process of promoting a website about (X). Would you be open to the idea of placing a text link ad on this page: (Y)?

We hope to hear from you soon, so we can discuss rates and other pertinent details.

and they make a habit of randomly spamming, because i found a number of pages, from a number of different web sites (both legitimate and less-than-legitimate) saying, essentially, the same thing this one does, i.e. WTF, spammers? i also discovered that, despite their fancy looking front page, their “web site” has only two pages and is powered by wordpress… not the way to make me believe that they’re a legitimate company doing legitimate business with anyone… 😐

SAAS

i had my first, tentative experiences with SAAS over the past couple of days, and i can say, without hesitation, that if this is the direction computing is headed, i’ll get off the train here, because SAAS SUCKS!!

i was using the RVSiteBuilder that comes with my cPanel-powered web-hosting package. while cPanel does a very good job of making sense of the arcane unix commands i would have to be using instead, rvsitebuilder makes the job of creating valid html templates for web sites almost impossible.

for example:

i wanted to put in my own header, so i uploaded the graphic, which automatically got placed in the template i was working on… however, i come to find out that the SAAS has automatically converted it, resized it, and buried it under three html layers, so that when i “right-click” and choose “view graphic”, instead of getting the graphic i want, i get a thing called “headergraphic.gif” that’s one of those transparent, 1×1 pixel monstrosities, that gets resized to whatever you need. when i finally gave up on the thing, and dug my graphic out from underneath all that other crap, i found out it was resized in the html, which causes it to load more slowly, because the browser has to load the whole thing, and then figure the dimensions and resize it on the fly.

i told it that i wanted a template that is 1000 pixels wide, but because of the fact that the header graphic was resized, i had to narrow the template to 800 pixels. then, when i tried to add sidebars, they were the wrong size…

the css was so confused… there were five different css files, three of which weren’t being used at all, but, because of the fact that the index had linked to them, they had to be loaded with the rest of the template. the remaining two were full of selectors that had transparent, 1×1 pixel graphics as background colours… not just one or two, but ten or twelve different selectors and classes. there were a fuck-TON of javascripts (read “security vulnerabilities that advertise a site willing to be exploited”) that weren’t being used, as well as a huge pile of “stock” graphics which weren’t being used at all.

to make matters worse, it was just assumed that one (in my case, me) simply knows how the software works… that is, when it works… 😐 i actually had to start my “project” three times because the SAAS “froze up” and i had to quit the browser and re-start in order to go forward… if you have an application running on one server, that’s sending instructions to a machine that’s connected to another server over open internet, you’re GOING to run into problems when the server on which the application is running QUITS RESPONDING… 😛

and when the software was working, it gave cryptic and/or ungrammatical clues about what needed to be done next… several of the workspaces that i worked through had “Save” buttons that were different sizes and colours, and were located in inconsistent places.

if i were testing this SAAS, i would not give it a passing grade, however, unfortunately, i get the very strong impression that this isn’t going to go away. that impression is only accentuated by the fact that, when i was working as a tester of network-enabled software, i logged many, many, MANY bugs against such SAAS, and, for the most part, those bugs WERE NOT FIXED and the software was released to a population of users who didn’t care that the email software didn’t work because they were too busy playing angry birds (which does work).

by the way, i “rolled my own” template for the new neighborhood acupuncture clinic in ballard/fremont, and it works and validates (thank you very much), and it took me half as long as doing sort of, but not exactly the same thing with an application that is supposed to make it easier

completely random rant

i subscribe to a lot of news sources by RSS. usually, most feed-generators give the author one of three choices for their feed: post the entire article (which i do), post the first few sentences of the article and provide a link to the rest, or provide only the title and a link.

i really don’t understand why people would do anything other than the first option, although it likely has to do with cookies and hit counters and google-ratings and suchlike things, but what really irritates me is when i get a link – like this one – which links to an article which i find interesting, but it’s not the whole article… 😐 it’s only the first of three pages, and you don’t find that out until you’ve read to the bottom of page one, only to find that annoying little “1 | 2 | 3 | Next page »” link and the even-more-annoying “View as a single page” link, which usually results in the entire article re-loading from the beginning, which means that i have to figure out where i have read to already before i can continue reading. some places don’t even bother with the “View as a single page” link, which means that, in order to read the entire article, i have to search for the “Print” link, which, frequently, isn’t there… it gets REALLY annoying when (as in articles by The New York Times) where they don’t include the “view as a single page” or “print” links, and the article is 7 pages or more… and the most annoying thing of all is when the “print” link only prints the first of a multi-page article, and not the entire article… at that point, i generally give up and move on to less annoying material.

my impression is that the reason why they break articles into pages is to make them more like printed magazines, but they’re NOT PRINTED, and breaking them into smaller bites only adds extra “clicking” and encourages loss of interest (which is why i choose the “post the entire article” option). i’m sure that they think there is a logical reason for this, but it’s annoying and they shouldn’t do it.

that was “interesting”…

if, by “interesting” you mean “screaming in mind-wreaking terror”… 😐

i got cracked* this morning.

about 2:00 in the morning, someone compromised a “soft” password on one of my wordpress sites and defaced every PHP index page that they could find…111110 web site hack

when i started up my computer this morning, i was confronted by this, rather than the expected page on hybridelephant.com, przxqgl.hybridelephant.com and several other web sites that i host. it was a shock, let me tell you.

FORTUNATELY i have a backup… 🙂 and a backup of a backup… 8) and i was able to put everything right within a few minutes of discovering that it was wrong, but finding out how was a little more tricky.

i logged into the administration sides of the web sites i manage, to determine if anything other than PHP pages had been tampered with, and i discovered that i couldn’t log in to one of them… so i clicked the “lost password” link and discovered that it didn’t know who i am… so i decided to get a bit more forceful: i logged into the database with MyPHPAdmin and discovered that the administrator account (which had a “soft” password that “could be remembered easily” by someone who has never had to do DBA stuff before) had been changed, and then deleted…😐

once i regained control of the database (and DELETED the admin account with the soft password) and removed the file that he sneakily uploaded to a plugin directory that i had deleted (which is why i knew it was there), i went to work to discover as much as i can about the cracker as possible. i learned that he uploaded files from 66.23.237.186, which is located in new york, but he also has close associations with 46.38.130.10, which is located outside of louisville, kentucky, but he’s apparently all for iran and down on saudis, so it could be that he’s using those IP addresses as proxys, at which point he could be anywhere… i also have a “DecodedBase64.bin” file i retrieved from the file he encrypted and uploaded to the deleted plugin directory, which potentially has a little more accurate indications of who he might be, but executing it on any of my computers is totally out of the question. that’s probably as close as i’m ever going to come to actually knowing who he is, but that’s a fair amount more than i could have expected.

and the client gets a STERN talking-to about the value of very strong passwords… i’m fairly sure that she won’t do it again.

Continue reading that was “interesting”…

this is why paypal SUCKS!

so – naturally – i haven’t heard anything about whether or not the email that i received from "[email protected]" really was from paypal or not, and the person i talked to last week said that i would hear from the fraud department in two to three days, so i decided to call and see if they knew anything…

why do i always decide to torture myself early in the week… 😐

i talked to one person who had a very strong accent of some kind or another (to the point where i had to ask them to repeat their greeting, because i didn’t understand what they had said AT ALL). when i had confirmed that i had, indeed, called paypal, and not some place in madagascar, i explained my problem, and was promptly put on hold to wait for the fraud department.

half an hour later, i was greeted by an american girl who couldn’t have been much older than 20, who assured me that if i hadn’t heard anything, that my email was probably fraudulent. i then explained that the email had two parts, one of which matched the guidelines for a “real” email, and the other of which matched the guidelines for a fraudulent email, whereupon she changed her tune, and said that the email was real. i proceded to tell her about the fact that i traced it to a uu.net account, whereupon she changed her tune again and said that it was clearly fraudulent, which, she said, was made obvious by the fact that i hadn’t heard anything…

at that point, i politely ended the conversation, and proceded to hit myself in the face with my keyboard, because it is more comfortable… 😛

THAT is why i don’t keep a balance in my paypal accounts… it’s just not worth the risk. 😐

this is definitely NOT the way to start the week…

hybrid elephant had $0.00 in its paypal account (which is normal, i HATE paypal, and you’ll see why in a minute).

on 10th february, 2011, after someone made a $22.00 payment for something that they decided they didn’t want, i refunded $22.00 to that person, and had a $0.00 balance when i was finished. i consider this to be normal.

on 4th september, 2011 (the last time i had to refund any money), i had $0.00 balance, a person made a payment of $33.00, i refunded $33.00, and had a $0.00 balance when i finished. it was a nice, normal transaction.

today, i had a $0.00 balance, a person ordered $7.00 but didn’t include the extra $30.00 for shipping (they’re located outside the US), and so i refunded their $7.00 order… but now i have a -$0.30 balance: NOT a “nice, normal” transaction at all… but that’s not the part that makes it really bizarre.

i called them up, to find out what’s their problem. after 45 minutes of wangling around with an automated anti-service drone that wouldn’t let me talk to a real person and only wanted to give me my account details, i finally got a real person, who put me on hold for another 15 minutes while he got a “specialist” to help me.

the “specialist” told me that when a person’s money is refunded, there is a transaction fee of $0.30, and if i had never had to pay it in the past, that i was “lucky”. she said if she put my account on hold while they “investigated” it, that there is a good possibility that i will owe substantially more than $0.30, for previous refunded transactions that haven’t been charged the $0.30 transaction fee.

the only options i have are NOT paying the fee, and having my account put on hold, cancelling the account all together, or biting the bullet and paying the $0.30 transaction fee (which i have NEVER had to pay in the past).

if she had said that they didn’t charge a transaction fee for refunded transactions in the past, but that, as of some recent date, they decided to add a transaction fee for refunded transactions, i would very likely sigh and pay the $0.30, but because of the fact that she said they had ALWAYS charged a transaction fee for refunded transactions, i am livid.

i have been a paypal member for 7 years, and 7 years worth of $0.30 “forgotten” transaction fees, regardless of how few of them there have been, could potentially add up to substantially more than i am willing to pay, and my only other option is to close down the hybrid elephant paypal account and move to a “cash only” plan which wouldn’t be anything close to satisfactory for anyone.

at this point, i might as well just shut down the entire business. 😛

not so random rant about the shit box

the other day i was “confronted” by a customer (it’s sort of difficult to say that it was a “confrontation” in the normal sense of the word, because the entire interaction took place over email, but bear with me, because it was a confrontation) concerning the fact that, along with the religious items and incense i carry, “there is a product called a ‘shit box‘”. he was concerned that i am causing my customers offense, and he demanded that it be renamed or removed at once. when i told this customer that i didn’t have the power to rename the “shit box” he accused me of “writing an essay” about it, when, actually, i wrote three or four very terse statements. this is the “essay” that he accused me of writing.

thanks for the advice, buddy, but i don’t do business that way, and here’s the reason why.

St. Francis of Assisi said “when the devil says to you again, ‘You are damned,’ you answer him confidently, ‘Open your mouth and I will shit in it!'” and Yunmen Wenyan said, basically, “The Buddha is a dried shit-stick.” if such illuminated personages as St. Francis and Ummon used the word “shit”, then it’s apparently okay for me to use the word. not only that, but jesus said “that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man” and if saying the word “shit” defiled a person, then St. Francis would not have said it.

at the same time, i am quite familiar with people who are pretty well defiled, despite the fact that nothing but bible scripture spews out of their mouths: people like jerry falwell and james dobson and robert schuller and harold camping and creflo dollar and benny hinn and jim bakker and peter popoff and bob larson and…

on the other hand, if it is automatically assumed that anything with the exact combination of letters “S”, “H”, “I”, “T” defiles a person, then, automatically, that makes referring to shittim wood (a common feature of the old testament book of exodus) something that a “christian” would not want to recite, for fear of “the word”…

and that doesn’t even take into account those people for whom english is a foreign language, and to whom the letters “S”, “H”, “I”, “T” are meaningless and something else is used in its place… which includes, by the way, both St. Francis and Ummon…

further, if people are going to be offended by the “shit box” what would they have me call it? Eco-Friendly, Portable Toilet is an accurate description, but it doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue the way “shit box” does, and calling it an “eco-friendly, portable toilet” won’t really help you when you need to go, and you’re in a tent, asking for it in the pitch darkness of the middle of the night…

not only that, but i didn’t actually name it myself, anyway. that honour goes to the people at The Brown Corporation and i wouldn’t presume to rename something simply because a person like one of these tells me to to do so… even if i did have the power to do so…

WHICH I DON’T!!

finally, i am a weird duck. i don’t do things for the same reasons that most other people do them, and that includes being in business. i am in business PRIMARILY to give thanks to Ganesha, and then to provide quality products and servies to my customers… and i do that in spite the fact that i use language differently than most people, and that i am not offended when someone says “shit”. if a person is offended by the fact that i carry the “shit box“, there’s nothing i can do about it, and if they’re so offended that they choose to buy their incense or devotional statues somewhere else, there’s nothing i can do about that, either… and, to be honest, i would rather that they go somewhere else anyway, because their uptight, holier-than-thou attitude is just going to piss me off.

The language and concepts contained herein are guaranteed not to cause eternal torment in the place where the guy with the horns and pointed stick conducts his business.
     — Frank Zappa

hybrid elephant rant

i’ve been getting A LOT of international orders over the past couple of weeks (i.e. 4, in the past two weeks). this is unusual for a couple of reasons: one is that i very rarely get four orders – period – in that amount of time, and the other is that it’s unheard of for me to get four international orders from different countries (germany, switzerland, great britain and france) in that short a period of time… it’s even more unheard of that i’ve also received orders from the netherlands and from russia(!) within the past month…

i’m guessing — maybe — a european blogger bought incense from me and then blogged about it, or something like that…

however, as much as i appreciate the business, the big problem with all of these international orders, at this point, is that i don’t have any reliable way of determining how much shipping is going to cost, because the orders are anywhere from less than half a pound (i.e. 2 or 3 boxes of incense) to several pounds, and the shipping rates, taxes and tarriffs, and so forth are different for every country that i send to, and the USPS makes figuring out what the shipping rates are as difficult as possible. i’ve found the USPS International Mail Manual, but every time i use that, the price they give me at the post office is different: anywhere from $15 lower to $25 higher depending on who waits on me… and the people at the post office don’t understand where i’m getting the prices i’m getting, and why i’m not getting “the real” prices online, despite the fact that i’ve given them the URL for the manual and had them look it up themselves a number of times.

and, the fact is, i know that it’s possible to set up international shipping with zones in OSCommerce, because Arbroath Fisheries uses OSC and they figured out my – international – shipping without a problem… 😐

and, once again, not that i don’t appreciate the opportunity to communicate with my customers, but i think it would be really nice if i didn’t have to communicate with them because of the fact that, indirectly, i didn’t get their order right and they are going to have to pay me more money before i send it out. 😐