pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
People say placebo effect like they mean "it didn't work" or "they made it up"; It puts me in mind of Bill's comment in True Blood: "No offense Sookie, but humans are shockingly susceptible to just about every form of thought manipulation."

The thing is, the placebo effect isn't in our heads. It's chemically measurable- through an increase in dopamine levels when told you were going to get an an analgesic, through an increase in basophil leves when injected with homeopathic (i.e. nonexistent) levels of histamine*, and through a changes in ghrelin levels when given different expectations about the calorie content of a shake**. The original placebo effect- a decrease in pain when told a sugar pill was a pain medication- doesn't work if you introduce an opiate blocker. My psych 101 professor said women could gain about half a cup size over six months through hypnosis. And there's crazy doctor, who has drastically improved my life with the diagnosis and treatment of adrenal fatigue but recently disappointed me with her belief in homeopathy.

Which leads me to conclude that human brain is just an astonishingly powerful device that hasn't yet figured out how to properly harness itself. Yet.

*Extra interesting because most allergy tests use a saline injection as a negative control. Last time I had it done they told me which one was the control. I wonder what happens if they don't.

**Hat tip: [livejournal.com profile] stolen_tea
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
My chase credit card has three options for redeeming points: cash (1 point = 1 cent), merchandise, or gift certificates. I didn't do an exhaustive search of the merchandise, in part because the interface was so damn slow, but at first glance, the merchandise costs more than identical items (not equivalent, identical) at Amazon. Gift certificates start out at 1.5 points = 1 cents and most stores don't go above 1 point = 1 cent, although again, search was nonexhaustive because I had to click four or five times, waiting between each, to get the exchange rate for each store. Only the movie theater dipped below the 1:1 line, and that was only if you felt you needed $100 worth of movie.

So who is doing anything other than redeeming for cash? The target audience seems to be: people who have never shop online, but are motivated enough to go through their extremely awful interface to choose products, and never notice that they could get a check and use it at the retailer of their choice. Or, you know, pay their credit card bill with it. It is important to my faith in democracy that the number of people this describes be small, but I suspect it is not.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
7:30 verify gaming PC is dead
8:15 Attempt to install The Movies on work laptop. System hangs
8:30 attempt to install Sim City on work laptop. Discover I'm missing second disc
8:45 Successfully install System Shock 2 on work laptop. Discover it won't run on XP.
9:00 Download Dwarf Fortress. Discover the game start protocol makes early open source DB software look intuitive and easy.
9:05 decide I maybe want to read a book instead
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
I just did my second round of having an broken small appliance that was nice enough that it was worth repairing, rather than tossing it out and buying another one (first one was an industrial mixer, latest one is a friend's sewing machine I broke). Both times I did the usual round of calls to several shops to get estimates before I brought the machine in. Both times, I saw exactly the same pattern:

half the places immediately quote you the flat fee they charge for all repairs
the remaining half are shocked and appalled you would think of asking them how much something costs before bringing the machine in. Attempts to do things like "explain the problem as you see it" or "find out how fees are determined" will be met with moral outrage so strong you will wonder if you accidentally asked the proprietor to perform something out of The Aristocrats. I actually hung up on one guy because I didn't feel like spending another 5 minutes listening to how stupid I was for expecting an estimate over the phone.

What leads to this bifurcation?

First, I think we can assume that creating an issue-based estimate over the phone is a non-starter. If it was possible, someone would be doing it (although the sample size is only 4 or 5. There aren't a lot of things worth repairing any more). My guess is that this is because people aren't good at diagnosing problems or reporting symptoms, and if there's one thing that makes people angrier than finding out something is more expensive than they were told it would be, it's being told that the discrepancy is due to their own stupidity.

So if you can't give an issue-based estimate over the phone, your only choices are "not listing a price" or "flat fee", and there's reasonable arguments for either. But there's also a lot of wiggle room. For example, you could describe how you will arrive at the final charges. "$N per hour, plus parts, plus 10%" is perfectly reasonable. The only reasons I see for not doing that are pretty uncharitable: you plan on varying the charges based on a guess of how much the person is willing/able to pay, and you want better info for that decision, or you're trying to avoid price competition by refusing to give a price over the phone, and forcing the consumer to invest a lot just to get the machine to you.


And even if you can't/won't give an estimate, why be an asshole about it? The number one thing they tell you in small business school is Never Make a Potential Customer Feel They Just Suggested You Perform An Obscene Act With Your Mother, Infant Child, and a Dying Goat. Were I them, I might try things like "I'm sorry, there's just no way for us to diagnose the problem over the phone, and we don't want to risk giving you a bad estimate. If you take it in, we're happy to examine the machine and give you an estimate for free." I have two possible explanations: 1. they're attempting to make phone calls so traumatic for you you're unwilling to risk another, and thus use their shop by default. 2. The proprietors are old and bad with people. Given how niche small expensive appliance repair is, and how stochastic small business failures are, it seems plausible that some bad seeds escaped the initial winnowing, and now survive by dint of having very little competition.

I'm pretty sure low initial investment isn't the only reason we switched to buying cheap replaceable crap from China. Not having to deal with repairs is a pretty sweet benefit too.
pktechgirlbackup: (Default)
Why are bands expected to bring their own speakers to venues? Speakers are heavy, and hard to place, and a huge capital expense for people who aren't really known for having lots of spare cash. It seems like the venue could save everyone a lot of trouble by leaving their own speakers in place.

Last night I learned why the band-speaker equilibrium persists. It turns out speakers are incredibly easy to damage through normal use- one idiot gets up and wooos into the microphone and unless your sound guy is psychic enough to see the problem coming and attenuate the sound in advance, the speaker is permanently damaged. Last night I was at a venue that did have its own speakers- it was a hotel, it would have to- and they must have a lot of drunken convention goers decide they suddenly need to care loudly. The sound was fuzziest in exactly the ranges loud human speech hits.

Most interestingly, it hadn't hit all the speakers the same, probably because it was four conference rooms pushed together. You could wander around the floor, and it would sound similar enough that you'd know it was the same song, you'd swear they were changing the instruments as you walked.

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