Thursday’s New York Times had an article about scanning people to produce a database of sizes and measurements for clothing manufacturers. I hadn’t thought about sizes much until starting tortfeasor. People are always emailing me asking what size shirt they should buy. Isn’t the buyer in a better position to figure this out?
People come in all different shapes, and I’ve never understood why women’s clothes use arbitrary “size” measurements instead of actual inches or centimeters.
I think t-shirts are fairly standard across brands in terms of sizes though. I always ask for a large shirt, but an XL suits me just fine too. When setting up tortfeasor, I assumed that “large” was the average size and I printed an approximate bell curve of sizes. The first two orders (to a couple friends) were for a small and XXL shirt. Luckily, purchases did converge on large, but the extremities (small and XXL) do sell better than I thought they would.
I noticed an interesting phenomenon lately about the XXL shirts (currently sold out, but a new run should be printed very soon). I used to charge more for XXL because they cost more to make (more material), but it got somewhat complicated. In the process of raising all the prices a little and reducing shipping prices, I set all sizes to the same (increased) price. XXL sales immediately surged despite being more expensive than before. Another interesting fact: people tend to buy more than one XXL shirt at a time. Most of the recent XXL sales have been for two (sometimes more) shirts.


A friend of mine recently got written up in the New York Times for being a spy for the Dean campaign. Check out the article here. If the New York Times interviews you in your capacity as a spy, you’re not doing a very good job.
I was going to do a whole interview / exposé with the spy, but he refused to cooperate. I present you instead with something equally as dark and mysterious: smoked salmon packaging. Check out the mysterious figure in the bottom right corner. I don’t think I’d trust a product with that image on it.

Neighborhood Profiling

I recently discovered that I am the victim of neighborhood profiling. Claritas has thought up all sorts of categories of people based on their consumer habits, and they’ve applied these to neighborhoods (as defined by zip codes).
Those living in my neighborhood are likely to be “College Town Singles” or “Bohemian Singles & Couples”. MSN’s syndication of Claritas seems to have slightly different results, but MSN shows percentages. Apparently “Towns & Gowns” are likely to buy an electric blanket and join a health club. Bohemian’s are likely to buy $100+ jeans and “do painting, drawing”. I don’t think I fit clearly in either category, though I do use an ATM card, which is a characteristic of both groups. (Who doesn’t use an ATM card?)
As fun as it is to see how a marking company defines one’s zip code, I think it would be more interesting if there were quiz that would show which category actually fits me best. Does the marketers’ vision of me correlate to my self-image? Does my TiVo think I’m gay?
My favorite Claritas category has to be “Shotguns and Pickups”. (It’s #51. Claritas doesn’t like the direct link.) They’re careful to justify the title so as not to offend anyone. “The segment known as Shotguns & Pickups came by its moniker honestly: it scores near the top of all lifestyles for owning hunting rifles and pickup trucks.”

The Rise and Fall of

Last week CNET announced that it is buying “certain assets” of It seems to me that has never really been sure of (1) its purpose or (2) how to make money. If memory serves me, was originally going to be a service for people to “store” mp3s online. You could set up an account where you proved that you owned a copy of a certain cd and then listen to songs from that cd from’s central server. The whole thing was controversial and changed their focus after getting sued for copyright violations.
Next started relying on promoting unsigned artists. They offered a place for artists to host their music and sought revenue from licensing that music. At first, they actually paid the artists for this, inducing people like me to sign up. I never had enough clicks to get any money, and I always wondered why such bad songs always seemed to come out on top. (The website was very much chart-based. I suppose the thinking is that the charts make the site easy to maintain (fresh content) while at the same time promoting the most popular (thus best) music. I don’t think that worked at all. I think the charts were a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those near the top just stayed there because it was the first place people could click. The charts I looked at remained stagnate for years.)
I doubt that paying unsigned artists while distributing their music for free (usually) was a profitable strategy. That would explain why’s next move was to charge artists for the ability to get paid. That sounded rather pyramidal to me. Since I didn’t want to be the one paying those bad artists at the top of the charts, I stuck to the free service.
I really like the idea of a music community where unsigned artists can exhibit their work, but I think failed when they started looking at the artists as potential consumers rather than providers. Hopefully CNET will do a better job.

Class Registration Woes

I just got an unsolicited email from “A group of highly motivated BU students.” Informing me that, for the low price of just $3.99 I can have RegAssist notify me of open seats in overbooked classes.
Shouldn’t the University be the ones helping students to get the classes they need?
I’ve been unimpressed with the registration system at BU. I don’t know if things are different for the undergrad classes (I suspect not), but the law school requires that students sign up for their desired classes in advance of any actual registration. There’s some sort of electronic system that then assigns classes (fairly, I presume) to each student based on those desired.
Such a system sounds great to me… if students were allowed to pick alternative classes for the event that they do not get into their first choices. Instead, we’re forced to sign up for the maximum number of credits and then drop those classes that we don’t need. The biggest problem with that is that the period in which students can drop classes does not begin until after the tuition costs are calculated and charged. If you’re “lucky” enough to get all the classes you signed up for, you have extra fees for those extra units, which you can’t recoup until much later. Of course, this always happens at the beginning of a semester, right as rent is due.
Regarding ResAssist, I don’t know whether I should be happy that students have taken it upon themselves to create a more efficient registration system (or at least a component of one) or bothered to see another for-profit enterprise stepping into an educational institution to fill a void that shouldn’t be there in the first place. I think I’m leaning towards the latter.
There is one thing I like about the BU registration system: it shows you pictures of all your professors. There’s a trade off for that though: your professors all get pictures of you.

Lego Factory

I never get tired of lego-related websites. In addition to various lego scenes floating around out there (including the amazing and newly discovered Escher scenes) and tools to make your own lego characters, there is now an animated tour of a lego factory.
You can also check out photos of a real lego factory. If you’re more interested in the manufacturing than the legos, you can tour all sorts of factories at Stanford’s Alliance for Innovative Manufacturing.

Plaid / Vibert Show

I checked out the Plaid / Luke Vibert show last night. It’s been a long time since I’ve been to an “electronic” show, and I think this was the first show I’ve been to where the laptop computer was the primary instrument.
Chris Clark started things off (when I got there at least) by running around between an laptop, an MPC, a fancy CD player, a mixer, and some other unidentified piece of gear (another sampler perhaps – or maybe a rack mounted synth). The music was good, and I was satisfied that he was busy pressing buttons and twiddling knobs to hit the audience with room thumping beats and electronic squeals.
Vibert, on the other hand, uses only a laptop to perform. (Look at this picture to see his entire performance.) I’m sure he was working hard back there on the other side of the screen, but how do we know he wasn’t just playing solitaire back there? Well, actually, I know this because I could see his computer screen reflected in a mirror behind the stage. Still, I don’t think it’s much of a performance to stand behind a laptop. Plaid did the same thing, but with visuals. I can appreciate that.
I suppose live electronic music performances have changed quite a bit since I saw Orbital around 1994 or 1995. At that time they were bringing their entire studio on tour with them and adding all kinds of lights and visuals. Laptops have lightened the load, but they’re even less interesting to watch than a bunch of knobs and buttons.
Overall though, I’m still really happy to see studio-based artists performing live. Sometimes you just need to hear loud music in the company of other fans, put a face to the sound, and applaud the artist.