Problems with Microsoft’s Live Search cashback

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November 28 was Black Friday, and I was one of many people looking for great deals online.  I found out about a discount at HP the day before and wanted to take advantage of it.  Microsoft, in an attempt to convince people to use their Live search engine over competitors like Yahoo! and Google have developed what they call Live Search cashback.  By using it and setting up an account, a person can get cashback from participating online retailers.  One of these deals was 40% off at HP, and I just happened to be in the market for a laptop.  Awesome… or so I thought.

The deal was only running on Black Friday from 9am to 9pm Central.  I tried literally for hours to take advantage of this deal but was denied.  I wasn’t the only one.  It was down for most people.  Michael Arrington posted about it on TechCrunch.   I even posted about my problems on Twitter, as did many others.  I’m glad I did.

I was contacted through Twitter by Todd Bishop, co-founder and managing editor of TechFlash, a technology news site in Seattle.  Todd spends a lot of his time covering Microsoft and other big tech companies and was interested in what I had gone through.

To make a long story short, I had sent e-mails to Microsoft and HP, and then I forwarded those e-mails and the responses I received to Todd, who posted them on TechFlash today, to show a glimpse at what people like myself have put up with because of this situation.

I would like to thank Todd Bishop for posting my correspondence and continuing to follow the story for as long as he has.  I have e-mailed his post to Microsoft and HP.  I don’t know if all of this will do any good in terms of getting me a laptop, but at least the story is out there and it’s quite obvious that Microsoft is the bad guy, especially after saying they would run the discount again and then doing a complete 180° and saying they wouldn’t.

In short, use Google.


The Great Smoky Mountains

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It has been a long time since I blogged, so I figured I’d give it a shot.  I’m typing this quickly while washing some clothes and getting ready for bed, so the descriptions of the events and sites below will be short and poorly described considering the amazing weekend I just had.  Sorry for that, but deal with it.

I went backpacking over Labor Day weekend with Jessie, my friend Eric and his wife Dana.  It was an awesome time, even though the blisters on the bottom of my feet still hurt a little and my calves are sore.  Apparently I love pain.

Eric and Dana took a lot of pictures with his awesome DSLR, and Jessie and I took a few with some disposables we brought along, as I was afraid to bring my digital camera (I should’ve brought it).  Hopefully I’ll be able to post many of these pictures soon to my MySpace, Facebook, Picasa Web Albums, Flickr, etc.  Wow, I have a lot of ways to share pictures only a handful of people will actually look at.

I bought a ton of gear to bring along on this trip since this is the first backpacking trip I’ve ever been on.  I’ve been on quite a few float trips in my time, but never anything like this.  I needed much lighter equipment, so I got a new tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, backpack, dry bags, etc.  Tallin the Super Consumer, here to save the economy!  But I can say without a doubt I won’t be one of those one-time backpackers who buys all of the equipment only to turn around and sell it on eBay or craigslist as “like new — only used once!”  I can’t wait until I get to use it all again.  Hopefully I’ll get my chance sometime in the fall so I won’t have to wait until the spring or summer.

We hiked about eight miles without backpacks around the Cades Cove area of the Smokies on Saturday morning, where we saw eight bears and a number of deer and other wildlife, as well as some buildings such as churches and homes that had local historical significance.  In the afternoon started our actual backpacking journey at the Twentymile Ranger Station with our sites set to make it to Gregory’s Bald, near the border of Tennessee and North Carolina.  We stopped multiple times to see and take pictures of some cascades and other spots on the trail, finally setting up camp after about four and a half miles.

Sunday was a grueling uphill hike to the top of Gregory’s Bald.  It was roughly another four and a half miles, but it was much steeper than anything we had done on Saturday.  I think it took us over five hours to go that far, which I chalk up to the fact that we were all carrying 20+ pounds on our backs.  My backpack weighed in closer to 35 pounds, partially because I was carrying a tent and a lot of food, not to mention 100 ounces of water when my Camelbak bladder was full.  I actually drink all 100 ounces before making it to the top that day.  A natural spring and Eric’s Katadyn Hiker water filter were lifesavers after that day’s hike had ended.

Monday we woke up early and made it all the way down another trail that took us back the Twentymile Ranger Station in a little over two hours.  Considering that it was around 7 miles, we were happy with the time we did it in.  Unfortunately, I ended up with two huge blisters on my feet during the downhill because of the way the bottoms of my feet near the heel rubbed against my socks and the bottom of the shoe.  I duct taped them before they really became a nuisance, so things could be a lot worse, although I did limp a bit for several miles.  I was almost giddy when the terrain leveled out the last few miles and I could almost walk without pain again.

All in all, this was one of the best vacations I’ve ever been on, and am looking forward to planning another trip, possibly to Yellowstone, Yosemite, Grand Canyon, etc.  I really don’t care where, I just want to be outside and reasonably far away from society.

Considering the chunk of money I spent recently, I should probably put this next trip off for awhile, although I don’t want to.  I’ll think about it more a month or so from now and play it by ear.

Not that James Taylor… James Arnold Taylor

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One of the world’s premier voice actors, James Arnold Taylor recently updated his website and started his own blog, a mix of text and audio. Since I’ve had a long-running love for voice-over work and its technical side, I sent him an e-mail asking about all of the equipment that he uses. Not only did he take the time to send me a reply, he recorded an incredibly detailed audio blog. The MP3 file is 10 minutes long, but it’s great for equipment and VO geeks like me. He even name checks me at the end of the blog (the second time’s a charm).

To get an idea of this guy’s vocal talents, check out his demo page.

Check out this link for his impressive resume, which includes promos for Fox, Leonardo in the recent TMNT movie, Fred Flintstone, and even voice doubling for all kinds of A-list actors. This guy is just awesome.

Finally! A paying radio job!

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Even though it is only part-time, I can now say I have a paying radio job.  I was officially hired at KMOX this afternoon, and my first day is Tuesday.

It’s a board operator job with some added responsibility, like screening calls and other associate producer-type duties.  The hours should be pretty good for part-time, and I’ll have my schedule 3 – 4 weeks in advance.  The only downer will be the occasional overnight shift on Saturdays (into early Sunday morning), but I know I can handle that.  And it’s not like I didn’t expect it.  I am on the bottom, after all.  But, on the bright side, I do hear some of the most interesting callers are on late at night.

Now I need to figure out where to park.  When I was there for my interview, I parked in a lot that cost me $9.  Hopefully I can find something at least a little cheaper, or else I’ll be taking the Metrolink and walking a few blocks to KMOX.

Recent opportunities and a rant against radio stations

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Today was my last day of going to the chiropractor. The treatments lasted about a month, which is just what I expected. I’m glad to be done with it. The chiropractor recommended I come back every 2 or 3 months for preventive care, but he didn’t push it. He said it was completely up to me. I’m sure the preventive care wouldn’t hurt, but I think I can do without as long as I do the exercises he showed me several times a week.

I’ve got an interview at KMOX for a board operator job this Thursday. Hopefully I’ll get it. I would love for it to be full-time, although I won’t be surprised to hear it’s a part-time position. Either way, I’m taking the job if they officially offer it to me. It’s been 6 months since I graduated, and I need to start gaining industry experience now.

I may have another part-time job next week. About 5 months ago, I applied for a part-time copywriting position with They are a division of that focuses on search engine marketing and other various things. Apparently they just got around to looking at my resume and thought I would be a fit, so I moved on to part II of the interview process.

To make a long story short, if I get this part-time job, I can do every bit of it from home and on my own time, and make $10 a page. Considering the two sample pages took me a total time of 30 minutes, this could be a decent way to make some easy money. Since the company is affiliated with and Network Solutions, I’m not worried about getting screwed out of money by some fly-by-night outfit.

A couple of books have recently renewed my faith in the future of radio. One is “Have Mercy,” the autobiography of Wolfman Jack. The second is “No Static: A Guide to Creative Radio Programming” by Quincy McCoy.

Wolfman Jack’s book was simply a lot of fun to read, but he also made some incredible points about the downfall of music radio. He could see it coming, like most creative people in radio, years ago. Hell, this book was written in 1995, shortly before Wolfman Jack died. Wolfman Jack’s stories made me want to be able to listen to some of the DJ’s he grew up listening to — DJ’s who really loved the music and were actually allowed to (GASP!) play their own songs. It may be hard to believe, but DJ’s once had quite a bit of creative freedom.

Quincy McCoy’s book was a bit more textbookish, but nothing horribly slow. It focused on ways McCoy believes can create the most incredible radio stations possible. Aside from his own perspective, McCoy interviews quite a few radio visionaries. The one person interviewed in the book that I am most interested in is Lee Abrams, who is currently a big shot over at XM Radio. In short, Abrams hopes that XM will do to FM what FM did to AM back in the late sixties and early seventies. And he’s got an incredible vision of how to make that happen.

While I have heard complaints of lazy music programming on some of XM’s stations (as well as Sirius), I’ve heard far more good than bad. I don’t have XM or Sirius myself, but if I can get a decent income sometime soon I will subscribe to one. It’s not that I want to see FM fail. Quite the contrary. But I don’t want to miss truly creative programming that can be found elsewhere, even if I do have to pay a monthly fee.

As some of you know, I recently purchased an HD Radio receiver for my car. As nice as it is to have these extra music channels available for free (especially KSHE2 – Klassic KSHE), the companies that run them are blowing a golden opportunity. I realize that the HD Radio Alliance made an agreement so that the HD2 stations will be commercial-free for at least a few more months, which means there is no money coming into these extra HD stations, but why can’t these companies use the HD2 stations to experiment and give the average consumer a reason to switch to HD Radio besides the slight improvement in sound quality? It might cost a little something, but not much. Especially if you give the programming jobs to young, creative people who are already making crappy salaries. Give them a chance to create the worthwhile listening experience that has been absent from FM for far too long. If it fails, these companies aren’t out much money. If it succeeds, they can move it to the FM band and start seeing stronger ratings books and more money.

These companies that own the stations broadcasting in HD2 have simply created extra music channels that are nothing but big playlists on shuffle. They are lifeless. According to Billy Joel, “It’s all about soul.” These HD2 stations have none.

If I want a big playlist on shuffle, I’ll listen to my MP3 player. At least that way I’m guaranteed to like all of the songs.

Still hunting

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I’m still doing my fair share of job hunting. It’s certainly no fun, but I’ve got two recent possibilities, and hopefully at least one of them will land me a position at a radio station. One is with Emmis, the other is KMOX. I’ve got personal recommendations from people on the inside of both places. If a job opportunity arises for which I’m qualified, I now have people who have enough confidence in my work ethic and abilities to recommend me to their bosses, or those in a position to hire me.

I’ll blog something about it later if anything happens, for good or bad.

In other news, I received a call from my doctor today. According to the results of yesterday’s 3-hour glucose tolerance test, I am officially a hypoglycemic. I figured that I was for the past 14 years or so, but I’ve never had a doctor look into it. Last week I went to a doctor because I don’t have a general practitioner and I thought it was time I had one. I mentioned my possible hypoglycemia and he had me do the 3-hour GTT at Quest Laboratories in Granite City yesterday. The results came in today. He said my bloodwork looked great as far as cholesterol and things like that were concerned, but the last blood sample they drew from my arm confirmed my hypoglycemia.  Luckily it’s mild, which means I don’t have to measure and be careful of what I eat.  I still have a “Recommended Hypoglycemic Diet” list that lets me know what foods not to get completely out of control with and overeat.  And that could happen.  Sometimes I just like to eat a lot of something at once.

I didn’t get the job

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I just found out that I didn’t get the part-time IT job.  The partners on the committee finally came to the conclusion that they did not want to open a nepotism floodgate.  Am I upset?  Yep.  Definitely.  But I’ll keep looking.  Something will come up eventually.  But the money from this IT job would have been really, really nice.  I’ll just keep sending out the resumes and hope somebody bites.

And for those of you in the know, I haven’t burned the Yellowstone bridge just yet.

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