Sunday, February 22, 2009

Forms drive me crazy

Seems like everything I want to do on the internet requires me to “register.” I know that all they really want is my email address so they can send me spam and try to get me to buy something. Of course I delete their spam without a glance. Getting registered has turned into a big pain in the ass. The problems are caused by the programmers who create the electronic forms.

This morning I got an email from a guy who makes cartoons and writes songs. He contacted all the serious music critics he knew and wanted us to listen to his new song, compare it with other songs entered in a competition and vote for his song. The title of his composition is “Doo Doo Man.” It was just as good as the other entries, so I attempted to give him my vote.

This afternoon I attempted to register my new GPS receiver with Garmin. Like the song competition, the registration turned into more of an ordeal than I was prepared to endure.

Step one is to enter a user name, make up a password and re-type it to confirm it. Then it wants my email address, my zip code, the year I was born and my sex. Then it wants me to type in the characters in a box. After all that, I click on Enter and it sits there for a while. Finally it gives me a list of errors I have committed. User name must be longer than four characters. My password doesn’t agree with the confirmation. It clears the entry boxes and I have to do it all over again. After re-entering all the data it says that my username is already in use. It shouldn’t matter so long as the user name and the password are correct. All I can think of for a unique password is something akin to screwyoucharlie with a password just as rude, but by then I’m completely fed up with the whole exercise. So I cuss the computer and click the X to leave that website. I’d send them an email pointing out my displeasure but that would probably require that I register first. There ought to be some sort of rules for friendly electronic form design that doesn’t drive the user up the wall.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ingrate survivors sue USAir

Two weeks ago everyone was talking about the USAir ditching into the Hudson River, which was caused when a gaggle of Canadian geese were ingested into the aircraft’s two engines. There were no fatalities and only one passenger was seriously injured. The pilot’s skill and a lot of luck have been credited with the survival of the passengers and crew.

As a gesture of goodwill, USAir also gave the passengers $5000 to compensate them for their inconvenience, loss of luggage and personal items as well as giving them “Chairman’s Preferred” status, which usually requires earning 100,000 qualifying miles—for a year. This entitles customers to a number of perks, including priority check-in and boarding, priority security lanes, and the head of the line on standby seats. They also refunded the passengers ticket price for the ill-fated flight and their insurance carrier promised to cover any property losses exceeding $5000. This sounds more than fair to me. They could have been fish food, but instead they got an invigorating bath, a free scenic boat ride and something to tell their grandkids.
But as one might expect, a few passengers weren’t satisfied and decided to sue the airline. One of them told a reporter, “I just want to be made whole.” Apparently his idea of being made whole is being made rich. While most people would be grateful just for getting out alive and in fact, whole; there are a few like this guy who see the accident as an opportunity to win the litigation lotto.

As seems to be part of American culture these days, everything that happens is seen as someone else’s fault and a chance, with the help of the right scumbag lawyer, for a big pay off—greed pure and simple. The concept of ordinary bad luck has gone out of fashion. This is no shortage of law firms that specialize in suing railroads, cruise ships and airlines.

I don’t have anything against lawyers. I have several friends who are attorneys and my daddy practiced law for 64 years. I know for a fact that my old man wouldn’t have taken a case like this. The lawyers I know aren’t greedy or sorry enough for this kind of litigation-most of them anyway.

It isn’t as if this particular accident was the airline’s fault. Nothing vital fell off the airplane, there was no apparent pilot error nor has the incident been tied to any terrorist activity. It’s clear that USAir did everything right and the survivors should be kissing the pilot’s shoes, not trying to shake down the airline. I suppose the geese could be sued—or maybe Canada, since they were Canadian Geese. It’s plain to me that the airline is blameless. That doesn’t mean they will win though. If a judge doesn’t toss the case out of court and warn the lawyer against frivolous litigation; if it gets to a jury the verdict might well go to the plaintiff. Juries are unpredictable and all too many of them these days are only too happy to give away copious amounts of other people’s money no matter what the evidence. Whatever happened to gratitude?