May 14th, 2009


My credit card was too awesome to live

Earlier this week, I tried to use a picture I took of the Ost-West Kontaktzentrum at the old Leipzig trade fair as a background image for my credit card:

Yesterday, I received E-mail informing me that my submission was rejected. Why? Well, that wasn't clear: the provided reasons included a long list of things that seemed wrong (lewd or sexual content, celebrity images, images of money or flags, etc.).

This morning, I called 'em up and spoke with a friendly, helpful woman named Charise who explained that the image I submitted was obviously copyrighted material. Taking that as a compliment - wow, my photography skills are SO AWESOME that someone is mistaking them for professional quality - I laughed and asked if I could prove it. She acquiesced, I've sent off a long legal disclaimer form to Capital One, and hopefully I'll get a different decision after an internal review next week.

I do have to wonder, though: what's the point of custom credit card images if it's this difficult to get one? I probably should've stuck with one of the default cards...

Seriously, though, I wish we lived in a world where copyright was so damn tenacious, pernicious, whatever. From DMCA takedowns of innocuous vacation videos on YouTube that incorporate music from commercial sources to over-the-top worries about whether or not a picture of a frickin' building violates copyright, it's just tedious. I wish we lived in a world where copyright basically meant "you can't duplicate and sell this thing as-is, but you're free to incorporate it into something else." Of course, that's probably too laissez-faire, but what the heck, I'd rather let a thousand flowers bloom...

That was surprising

A few minutes ago, both my office phone and my mobile phone starting ringing; both of them featured disembodied voices that didn't make any sense. Why? It took me a few minutes, but then I remember I'd signed up for a Google Voice phone number. If you call that number, it asks you to say your name, then rings my phones. When I pick up, it's supposed to tell me who's calling, but if you don't say your name, then it's just a bunch of dead air. If you leave voice mail, it then sends me a transcription; this morning, all I got was creepy, empty phone calls and empty transcriptions, so I'm guessing someone hit a wrong number.

One of these days, who knows? Someone might actually call me on that number and it might be useful. But in the meantime, it's just a cool technology demo that's trying to solve a problem I didn't know I had. :)


Dear LAN

Dan and I are headed to Chile for vacation this December. I discovered something, um, fascinating today: LAN, the national airline, charges you different prices depending on whether or not you are Chilean physically located in Chile when you buy your tickets.

Here's the demo:

Let's start by going to by entering the following URL:

Now, let's search for flights from Santiago (the capital) to Calama (the airport nearest to the Atacama desert).

Wow, US $48.25 for a one-way flight? Dude! I am so totally there! But wait a second, the site won't actually let me buy the tickets... it just says Estimado cliente, los vuelos escogidos no permiten ningún pago a través de, which I gather is Chilean Spanish for "Sorry, dude."

So, let's try changing the URL to specify that we're in the USA:

And now let's try searching for the same flights:

Holy balls. The same flight now costs US $312? Amazing! That's a price premium of only 647%. Hell, you could fly to Calama and back three times for the same amount of money you'd pay if you bought the ticket outside of Chile.

Seriously: WTF?