Stunning note on power usage

Wow, I had no idea about this:

Raise your hand if you knew that streetlamps accounted for 38 percent of all energy used on lighting in the USA.

That’s amazing.

(Side note: I’ve been mysteriously absent from the blog (and responding to a few emails that are hanging in the back of my inbox) the last few weeks.  More on that later, but for now, you’ll have to accept this).

Update: Wow, I forgot to link back to the source article from this with more information about it, and a possible solution.  Bad Marius.

Paging Om Malik: Please, get a Tufte book

I was reading Om Malik’s blog GigaOm today, in particular his post titled "Why is Google Afraid of Facebook?"

About halfway through the post, up comes the worst infographic I’ve ever seen:

oldvsnewweb[1]

Now, don’t get me wrong – I’m not one to hate on Om.  His stuff is typically great (though, I will say, I’m not a big fan of GigaOM TV, but that’s because I just don’t like that format in general).  He’s always full of great insight and analysis.  But, seriously, that is one ugly and hard to read chart.  It looks as though someone ate a box of Crayons, vomited it, and turned it askew so you have no sense of orientation.  Full disclosure: the image may not have been created by him, but even if not, he used it on his own blog post.

Om, please, I’ve read Tufte’s books, and apparently you should as well!  I’ll be happy to USPS you my Tufte books as loaners (yeah, they’re spendy, and I’d want them back).

Comcast – I fought ’em so you don’t have to

I’ve been spending the better part of the last half-hour trying to figure out Comcast’s digital cable packages and pricing.  Their website allows you to get a channel lineup so you can see which channels each package has, but doesn’t let you easily compare.  I decided to put them into an Excel spreadsheet to do side-by-side comparisons.

Then, I couldn’t find pricing on some of their plans.  I had to call them and get pricing.  What they don’t tell you is that their Digital Classic and Digital Preferred ($14.99 and $15.99 per month, respectively) are costs in addition to normal basic cable fees of $49.25/month.  So, to really compare Digital Starter to Digital Class to Digital Preferred, I’ve put together the following Excel spreadsheet that shows price and channel selections.  It’s probably only valid for their Bellevue/greater Seattle service area, since the pricing and channel offerings vary by region.

A tale of two customer service scenarios

Since Diann & I are moving soon, I needed to call up all our utility companies and get services transferred.  My phone at work can report on who I recently called and the time that I spent on each call (to answer your question: I don’t think big brother is watching).  I noticed what I thought was an interesting trend, and dug up the phone logs to prove it.

I had to call 5 companies in total: 3 of them local (Puget Sound Energy, City of Bellevue Utilities, and Allied Waste) and 2 national (Comcast and Verizon).  Since we’re moving within the same city and service areas of these companies, most of the calls would be to transfer service from our current residence to our new residence.  Some of the calls would be to disconnect service altogether (Verizon doesn’t offer FiOS at our new place), and some would be to transfer and modify service (had to move cable from Comcast and add internet to our service).

The local companies use local call centers, the national companies use national call centers.  Comcast’s national call center is local (up in Lynnwood, if I recall correctly), but it answers calls for their nationwide customer base.

Here are my results:

Local/National Company Notes Time
Local Puget Sound Energy Transfer service from old to new address 3m44s
Local Allied Waste Transfer service from old to new address
Inquire about new service (trash day, etc.)
6m27s
Local City of Bellevue Utilities Transfer service from old to new address 6m27s
National Comcast Transfer service from old to new address
Add new service
9m36s
National Verizon FiOS Disconnect existing service 11m15s

Verizon was the worst – as I expected – to do the least amount of work: just disconnecting service.  Didn’t have to schedule time for someone to come out and do work, didn’t have to ask about how the service would work at the new address.  Just disconnecting.  My Verizon timeline in detail?  3m03s to get an actual human, the human transferred me to another department at the 4m46s mark, whereupon I had hold music until 6m35s, and I was finally completed at 11m15s.

My sample size is small, but I’m theorizing that as your call center becomes more national, it takes longer to do stuff. 

Selling out?

I don’t know if it’s selling out or not, but for a half-pound of vanilla beans, I’m not beyond selling myself out a bit.

Jaden (who I won saffron from) is now hosting a contest to win a half-pound of vanilla beans.  My favorite recipe suggestion?  Definitely Alton Brown’s Creme Brulee.  Although, I really want to try out some of the panna cotta recipes that people have submitted.