Tuesday, August 26, 2008

US Election: Is it just a big stand-up comedy marathon?

In the last couple of days I've been watching CNN quite a bit, and the impression I get is that all these rallies held by the candidates are just stand-up comedy performances held to mock the opponents, whomever they might be at any given moment:
  • Obama mocking H. Clinton (but not any more, as they are now United for Change)
  • Joe Biden mocking Obama (later switching to McCain as the punchbag)
  • McCain mocking Obama using clips of Biden mocking Obama... and so on.
Based on this one could think the race is about finding the new host for The Daily Show, and not a president who would have to fill some big shoes.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Wikipedia manifesto

The National Library of Australia has digitised and made publicly available the newspapers published in Australia that are in the public domain. In of the first issue of The Sydney Gazette and New South Wales Advertiser, could serve as a slogan or manifesto of what Wikipedia is all about. I reproduce it here (please change any reference to the colonial newspaper to a free encyclopaedia or similar, as appropriate):
Innumerable as the Obstacles were which
threatened to oppose our Undertaking, yet
we are happy to affirm that they were not
insurmountable, however difficult the task
before us.
The utility of a PAPER in the COLONY,
as it must open a source of solid information,
will, we hope, be universally felt and ac-
knowledged. We have courted the assistance
We open no channel to Political Discussion, or
Personal Animadversion :--Information is
our only Purpose ; that accomplished, we
shall consider that we have done our duty, in
an exertion to merit the Approbation of the
PUBLIC, and to secure a liberal Patronage to

Monday, August 11, 2008

Stupid frustrations over The Economist

A couple of weeks back I subscribed to a 12-week trial of the Economist. So far it has been nothing but trouble. Originally I planned to subscribe for the option that I get twelve issues for 24 euros and an other 12 for 36 and a USB stick for free. Then a popup came up advertising the 12-week trial, so I ended up with the trial subscription.

I contacted them to check if I still get the free USB stick (I am kind of an impulse buyer, but I also hate when I am cheated out of a better offer). Apart from the fact that they first dressed me down for not providing a "customer reference number" that one gets after the first issue is delivered (~21 days after he has subscribed) and wanting to check my location to confirm my identity. At this point I'd like to add that the Economist sends you an automated reply for every e-mail you send them that they will answer in two business days, which is getting annoying, and moreover frustrating, as they literally wait two days to reply every time. So after waiting another two days, they issued me a reference number and said that they are sorry but can't answer me.

This turned out to be the least of my problems, as my copies are not arriving. On their website they count down my remaining issues, but I'm not receiving any. So far I have managed to extend my subscription with one week, for not having received my copy, but I'm still waiting for the two days to pass so they do something about me not receiving this weeks' issue neither (and as I have just hinted at this, in total I will have to wait an extra two days on them). I'm not confident that I would receive the next issue as well.

An other issue I raised with them is that the student rates they offer are far better than this trial offer, and me already knowing that I like the articles in the Economist, so I wanted to just switch to a student subscription by cancelling my not-yet-started trial in September and paying the student rate (with three weeks for a subscription to register in their system, this would have been an easy change; but after waiting a couple of two-days it turns out their staff is not so helpful in cases of these kind of manoeuvres).

Judging by the length of this post, I'm sure you can guess that I'm totally fed up with them. If I don't receive my copy this week, I'll just cancel the whole thing and apply for a refund of as much as is salvageable from my initial subscription fees (given their full refund policy, and their 48-hour reply cycle I am not sure its worth my money to ask for a full refund arguing that I haven't received any benefits from this subscription...).