11 June 2010
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Lining Up at the ГYM

Back in the bad old days of the communist Soviet Union, there was the GUM, or Gosudarstvennyi Universalnyi Magazin.  The State Department Store.  The CCCP/USSR, Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, has been characterized as "four words, four lies."  You can't do that with the GUM.  It was (true) run by the state.  It had (true) departments.  And even the "store" part was true, in the sense that a store may have or not have merchandise.  So it was half a lie at the most.  You could go to the GUM, wait for hours, and get anything you wanted as long as they had it, which they usually didn't.  Here in the United States of North America, to keep the usual slight exaggeration at bay, we have the opposite problem.  You can go anywhere and get anything.  Are we better off?

Hell Yes!

I hope you didn't think for an instant I was going soft on communism up there, did you?  Good.

But, we're not as well off as we could be.  If you subscribe to the "time is money" theory, and if you read my previous two-part blog about purchasing a camera, and if you don't believe (for possibly good reason) that I get at least some monetary equivalent of happiness from having pre-written my blog, and if you are still following this interminable sentence that somehow snuck its way into my blog without being taken out and shot, then you realize that with all my maneuvering around the retail byways to get a good deal on the camera (that may show up before I finish this sentence), I didn't save any money at all.

Photograph of American Express call center, Wall Street Journal 07 June 2010

Just as bad, I cost my partners-in-trade a lot of money as well.  By the oddest of coincidences, this picture of an WSJ Customer Service article excerpt, 07 June 2010:  "Rather than answering a call by saying "Thank you for calling," agents now say:  "How is your day going?"American Express call center appeared just a few days ago in the Wall Street Journal, in an article discussing how improved customer service would increase business.  Dear AmEx: Look at those people!  You have to pay all of them!

And yet, they are correct at least in the sense that the customer service agent to whom I spoke was helpful, understandable, and provided valuable information.  Of course it cost AmEx some bux in the sense that I have more points now than I otherwise would have. 

I threatened a bit of pontification for this blog in the one previous.  I'm not quite up to it yet.  I just can't get my cranial tentacles around what all this bizarre and possibly futile activity in pursuit of gadgetry portends.  On the one hand, I received (see below) a camera whose features include smile and blink detection!  On the other, I'm sure it cost the involved vendors in total more to sell it to me than it cost to buy it from its original manufacturer.  As rarely happens, an email poured in saying, in effect, "me too," so I'm not the only "good consumer" out there.  That's why American Express needs that enormous call center.  Can it be that the next consumer gadget will be the buying experience rather than the purchased product?  Or, another step removed, a narrative of the purchase, such as you are reading now?

I can't tell whether I should be distressed by this, as I am by the evil airline scum ignoring my suggestions for a reasonable business model only to perpetuate what they are doing now.  To be sure, our "service economy" needs to employ customer service agents, since it only takes so many machines and offshore fingers to make the products we buy.  But what does it all mean?  I'll let you know when I've figured it out.

The Camera Itself

The camera showed up entr'bloge.  It's amazing.  For example:  "When set to On, the shutter is released five times as the shutter-release button is fully pressed once; the camera chooses one image in which the subjects' eyes are open, and saves it."

It also has a "smile timer."

Most impressively, Nikon, a Japanese company, has managed to turn out a manual as good as the manual for the Motorola Q, a U.S. company, was embarrassing.   If I had the opportunity to take a few actual visual photographic pictures with the camera instead of reading the manual, playing with the setup, and occupying myself with other gadgets, I might offer a RIKL Review.   And, to follow up on the shipping question:  It looks like my guess was correct.  After a number of days waiting for the tracking info to appear, it finally showed as being shipped from PA, just next door, and the camera itself showed up the very next day after shipment. 

Tantalizing Hints

This has been gadget week, and not just the camera.  I may also have solved my EBook problem.

An Actual Visual Photographic Picture

Guess who, just after writing the above, passed a bear in the woods?  Guess who took advantage of the 26:1 camera zoom range to be almost certain of living through the experience?

Did it blink?  Did it smile?  Did it have a cub?  Maybe, maybe, and yes.

Moby Grape




A pristine exemplar of the very first Argus Moving Map Display T-shirt, ca. 1990

This one still glows in the dark.

And fits.


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