Ohio State Football

Officiating in the OSU/Michigan game

11.23.06 | Permalink | 17 Comments

Here’s an example of a good call, late hit out of bounds that was helmet to helmet, with the defender leading with the helmet (also called spearing.) Not only was the call correct, under the spearing rules, Crable could have been ejected for that type of hit (which, for the record, I think would have been over reacting in this case – but calling the 15 yard penalty was spot on.)

Here’s an example of a bad no call, and it was happening all night. Notice right guard Alex Mitchell (#73) tackling the linebacker John Kerr (#52.) It’s not just a ticky-tack hold, it’s tackling the defender. Mike Hart may be a good back, but heck, I’d be a good back when the defensive line and linebackers are being held on each play.

Unfortunately, I can’t find video of the phantom pass interference or the comical roughing the center call (and subsequent non-calls when the OSU center was tackled with his head down.) Obviously, the outcome of the game was what I’d hoped for, but I can’t stand the continual whining that Michigan was robbed by the refs. It is simply not true.

46 days until OSU plays for the national championship
Ohio State’s 2006 record: 12-0 Next up: ??? 1/8/2007
Tune: The Tide is High by Blondie
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A Picture is Worth One Thousand Words

11.22.06 | Permalink | Comments Off on A Picture is Worth One Thousand Words

47 days until OSU plays for the national championship
Ohio State’s 2006 record: 12-0 Next up: ??? 1/8/2007
Tune: Cold Shot by Stevie Ray Vaughan
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Commentary, Innovation

Thanksgiving Thanks

11.22.06 | Permalink | Comments Off on Thanksgiving Thanks

Whenever I take a moment to reflect on life, I am overwhelmed by the good fortune I have enjoyed. I am truly thankful for my family, my friends, my colleagues, trusted advisors, and service providers. I am thankful for all of the people who’ve come before and have created, modified, improved, and protected our ability to experience such fortune and I truly hope that I am contributing to this body of work for future generations.

One particular and unique thing I’ll single out is opportunity. In this environment, if one has an idea, desire, and persistence, there is absolutely nothing standing in their way to achieve it. This is a luxury not everyone in the world has. I’m very thankful to live in a society where it is the normal standard and not the exception.

I wish you and your families a wonderful Thanksgiving.

47 days until OSU plays for the national championship
Ohio State’s 2006 record: 12-0 Next up: ??? 1/8/2007
Tune: Call Me the Breeze by J.J. Cale
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Business, Technology & Science

Investment Advice: Short Comcast (Part 2)

11.21.06 | Permalink | 2 Comments

Earlier this year I wrote about a dismal experience I had with Comcast, you know, the Comcastic bunch from TV. In that article, I wrote that they would soon be fired in my household due to unfriendly business practices (still true, only the timing has changed.) Since that entry there have been two interesting developments.

The first development is that Comcast has given me the “new subscriber rate” for my Internet access. So instead of paying $60/month for 4Mb service, I’ll pay $20/month for 4Mb service for six months. This has resulted in a reprieve for the time being, but I’ll likely still switch to DSL at the end of the promotion period.

The second thing that happened was an outage last Thursday morning. It’s not that uncommon, especially out here on the coast. I was sitting in my office early morning typing away and one minute all was good, the next, the link dropped on my modem. Since I know periodically this happens and a cold modem restart will fix it, I proceeded to do this. When that didn’t work, I deduced that the problem was outside my home since nothing had changed on my end.

I called Comcast customer support to ask if there was a larger problem in the area, no was the response. Then a relatively untrained support engineer proceeded to lead me through 20 minutes of unrelated diagnostics, cold starting the modem, removing my router, connecting a computer directly to the cable modem. He attempted to remotely communicate with the modem (I’d already informed him there was no link light, he wasn’t going to get there.) I more or less patiently proceeded through this because I needed him to check his boxes in the CRM system to be able to dispatch the help I needed, someone to reset the box on the pole serving this neighborhood. This happens all the time out here when it rains.

Turns out Comcast support can’t dispatch crews to anything other than replace cable modems. So I have to schedule an appointment for the next day to replace my modem (even though there’s nothing wrong with it!) I informed the Comcast support guy that this was a waste of his time and mine, he didn’t care. Appointment scheduled, I hung up feeling rather frustrated.

Since there is a local Comcast office here with actual people and I needed to go into town anyway, I thought I’d stop off to see what the issue was. Turns out a piece of equipment failed the night before on the headend and when they replaced it, they took everyone down. I asked if they’d informed the home office, yes was the response. I proceeded to tell them the support story above and they couldn’t believe it, apologized, asked for my address to cancel the appointment for the next day, and told me service should be restored (it was.)

Low and behold on Friday at 3pm a Comcast service guy shows up at my front door step to replace my modem (mind you the appointment was for 10am…) Apparently, either the local office didn’t cancel the service appointment or did, but the dispatch system didn’t get the word. Who knows, but I sent the guy on his way. Monday of this week, I get a call from Comcast support asking me if I still had problems, no I say. Didn’t the service guy you sent out Friday mark this node down as good? Apparently not.

This morning was priceless. I get an email from Comcast support suggesting the next time my modem is down to visit their self-service support system! Here’s the text from the e-mail:

Valued Comcast Customer,

We see that you recently contacted us concerning your Comcast High-Speed Internet service. Because we know that your time is valuable, we do want to inform you of some additional options for resolving future issues with your service that are as simple as 1…2…3 and are an added benefit of subscribing to Comcast.

1. Desktop Doctor
2. Ask Comcast
3. Live Chat

Right! My service is down, I can’t get to the network, of course I’m going to use the same network that’s broken to serve myself. And, the Desktop Doctor software doesn’t run on Macs or on Linux (do people still use Windows?) And, they know my name, they can’t even say “Hey Mike?” Insulting and stupid.

Since I’m sensitive to this type of situation (seen it 1,000 times at my prior employer) I write a response to the mail this morning detailing that case avoidance and case management were broken throughout my experience and offering suggestions to fix it. Response? It came from an autoresponder saying that the reply-to mail address wasn’t monitored and that I should feel free to contact them through their webform. Not bloody likely.

Not only is Comcast turning away long-time, high paying subscribers, they are also hopelessly wrapped around the axle on things as simple as support. By my count, there were 8 opportunities in this interaction to make it a positive one, for them and for me. Starting with the support staff knowing there was a general outage in my area. Followed closely by treating a technical user like a regular dunder-headed end-user, followed by misdiagnosis resulting in a service call, followed by not cancelling the service call, followed by not communicating to the home office that all was well at this node, followed by an inane check in call, followed by an illogical plea for case avoidance, and topped by an inappropriate response to customer input. This is a textbook example of customer support mismanagement. I’m not quite sure how much this series of miscues cost Comcast, but I’m going to guess more than the $120 they are likely to get from me during the cable modem promotion period.

Meanwhile, I’m completely underwhelmed to see Comcast spend big bucks on TV advertisement to get new subscribers. They ought to invest that money to take care of their existing subscribers first. Guess no one has done the math, it’s an order of magnitude more expensive to gain a new subscriber than to simply take care of and retain and existing subscriber. Comcast is executing a going out of business strategy the likes of which is rarely seen. If my experience is in any way common, they’re in real trouble. I think Comcast is a wonderful short opportunity for investors.

48 days until OSU plays for the national championship
Ohio State’s 2006 record: 12-0 Next up: ??? 1/8/2007
Tune: Running on Empty by Jackson Browne
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Business, Energy

100MW Solar Plant planned in China

11.21.06 | Permalink | Comments Off on 100MW Solar Plant planned in China

A follow-up story from yesterday’s entry, there is a report out today that China intends to build the world’s largest solar electricity generation plant, 100MW. To put that in perspective, it’s about 1/2 the size of a traditional coal fired generation plant and about 10x the largest solar installations on the planet. If you’ve ever wondered why we don’t see more solar plants, the clues are in the report.

A year has 8,760 hours in it. In this report the selected site has an outstanding 3,362 hours of sunlight. That would yield a capacity factor of a little over 38% (good compared to the 25% normally achieved by solar.) To translate that into something more tangible, the system is rated at 100MW x the 38% capacity factor means that around 38MW output can be expected from the installation. Each MW provides enough electricity for about 600 households per year (US – I’m sure China is substantially different due to lower electricity demand per capita.)

The announced cost for this installation is $766M, or $7.6M per nameplate MW, or $20.1M per capacity factor constrained MW. Even amortized over decades, it’s difficult to see the economic payback from such an installation. To put solar cost in perspective, one would expect to pay $1M/MW for wind, $750k/MW for natural gas, and $3M/MW for geothermal. My sense is we’re still a technology generation or two away from economically viable solar electric generation at utility scale.

I think solar energy generation is great and I laud China for stepping up with an audacious plan, but I do believe there are more economically viable ways to achieve the same result. I’ll watch this project with interest as it unfolds.

48 days until OSU plays for the national championship
Ohio State’s 2006 record: 12-0 Next up: ??? 1/8/2007
Tune: Move It On Over by Hank Williams
Technorati Tags: | | | Mike Harding Blog

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