Thursday, February 25, 2010

Possible Use for Twitter

They say that Twitter is very good for complaining. We’ll soon see. I’m unleashing the power of Twitter on Comcast, who have so far been unresponsive to every form of direct communication I can think of short of semaphore. Perhaps a little public shame can get them to call me back.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

I’ve been meaning for a while now to mention a pretty cool website called It’s a way to self-publish books, and to sell them as well. If I wanted to, I could technically claim to have had a book published, because I used the site to create a book about my trip to Australia last year that is officially for sale on the Blurb site.

Had I really intended to sell any of these books, I would have done a lot of things differently, including making the book shorter and smaller in size. The format I picked is the most expensive. This choice drove the price of the book up so far that I don’t realistically expect anyone to purchase it.

Still, the idea is great. It’s possible to create and sell very affordable books without putting any money down. Posting your book file on the site is free, meaning you avoid all of the costs usually associated with vanity publishing.

The way it works is that whenever anyone orders a copy of the book, the site prints one up and sends it directly to that person, meaning an author also avoids a lot of the logistical problems associated with self-publishing, like basements and car trunks full of inventory.

In my particular case, I also expect to avoid typical author hassles like keeping track of earnings, because I don’t think there are going to be any. If anyone should order the book, though, the site would send me my profit directly. Best of all, I get to determine how big that profit is. The site sets a base price, and I, as the author, get to say how many dollars extra I want them to tack on—I get to keep that.

Believe it or not, I actually set a very modest profit margin for myself. I just made the mistake of picking an expensive layout with a high base price. But I don’t really regret it, because I’m very happy with the coffee-table quality scrapbook I now have of my adventure.

Monday, February 22, 2010

City of Thieves

Coincidentally, I am not just snacking my way through Russian memories at the moment. I’m also currently reading an excellent book about the country: City of Thieves, by David Benioff.

This novel takes place in St. Petersburg during WWII, when the Germans were laying siege to the city. It’s a dramatic story, but the book is also very funny in a deeply dark sort of way. I’m really enjoying it, all the more because the author is a college classmate of mine. (I don’t think we ever even met. I just feel possessive of classmates who’ve done well for themselves and I feel the need to give them a shout-out.)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Dining-Room Chair Travel

It’s well documented that you can travel vicariously through travel literature, but who else is with me on virtually traveling the world by snacking?

Pipi and I recently found a great place for this. It’s a strange little store called the Euromix Deli on Piedmont Avenue in Oakland. Although there are some western European products, most of the inventory is eastern European, and most of that is Russian. Recently Pipi picked up a mix of chocolate candies that reminded me of what a weird, wonderful place Russia is. They’re not great chocolates—Russians apparently like hazelnut (and wax) a lot more than I do, but I’m really enjoying the eccentric wrappers.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Twit, Maybe?

What do you call one who uses Twitter? Someone who doesn’t know the answer to that question probably doesn’t have any business using the service, but I’m not letting that stop me. I have belatedly entered the Twitterverse, and you can follow me at (You don’t need to be a Twitter member yourself; you can always just go that URL on any computer for updates.)

I don’t post very often—to be honest, I haven’t really taken to Twitter yet, and at my age, Tweetspeak will probably always be a second language. But I invite you to follow my fledgling efforts anyway. I promise, no tweets about what I had for lunch, no deliberate misspellings, and, if I should ever owe anyone an apology for anything, you won’t see it there.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Last Warning

Comcast has one more day to get back to me, and then I’m going all Twitter on them.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dawning Realization

I just don’t think Comcast is that into me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Also Spotted

On the same walk where I spotted the demolished building, I also saw a sign in someone’s yard next to a beautiful lemon tree in full fruit. The sign said:

“To the lady up the street who helped herself to a whole bag of lemons, they weren’t yours to take.”

“We’re still waiting for our lemon bars.”

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

I’ll Take the Stairs, Thanks

I took this picture today while walking past a construction site (actually a de-construction site) at the corner of Piedmont and MacArthur Boulevard in Oakland. I find the elevator sign perversely amusing.

Monday, February 08, 2010

Your Call is Important to You

I spoke to Comcast on February 3. When I did, they strongly implied that someone would get back to me within 48 hours. That didn’t happen, so for fun, I didn’t call them for a few days, either, just so they’d know how that felt.

Oddly, when I did call to check on my trouble ticket, they almost acted like they were hoping I wouldn’t call at all. Some companies play hard to get, I guess. The person I talked to promised to spend the next 72 hours thinking about my problem so hard that he will almost certainly not find the time to catch up with me before Thursday.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

The Oxymoron That is Comcast Customer Service

I’m starting to think I’m the only person on earth who uses the personal web page feature on Comcast. I don’t get the feeling any developer has looked at this function in years, and no one in tech support has any idea how to help me.

I chatted online with three different support personnel. Two of them had me call phone numbers that they swore were lines dedicated to helping people with their personal web pages. (The third person’s only suggestion was to restart my computer.) Each time the phone number I was given turned out to be the Comcast main switchboard--the same number I’d call if I had trouble with my cable TV. Nobody could help me. In fact, in both cases, the people I reached on the phone told me web page issues could only be handled via online chat. Of course, the chat people wanted me to use the phone. Needless to say, my problem did not get resolved today.

So I’m pretty mad at Comcast right now, and I still can’t get my web page updated, which seems like it shouldn’t be a very difficult thing to do. (The page is live online, but I can’t edit it anymore--and I think we can all agree that it needs help.) I guess it’s time to look into another web host, although I have only the barest idea how to go about that.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Utility Futility

Has anyone ever tried using Comcast’s personal web page feature? And did you find it to be the single most frustrating thing you’d done in months?