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January 2016
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March 2016

Tallia Orange size discrepancy at Macy's

I stand 6' 6" tall, so it's often a challenge to find clothing that fits. The recently renovated DXL in downtown Chicago is my go-to place, and it was there that I discovered the Tallia Orange line of menswear. In short (pun intended), I love the quality and style.

But Tallia is expensive. So I try to catch things when DXL puts them on sale. But I'm not there all that often, so it's really a matter of being lucky. The other day, in circumstances I've forgotten, I noticed that Macy's carries the Tallia line in big-and-tall sizes. And for about half the price of DXL

Setting my loyalties aside, I ordered two sport jackets from Macy's. I got the exact same size I buy from DXL. I was very careful about this, even checking the labels in the Tallia coats that I already own.

When they Macy's order arrived, I was vey disappointed to find that the coats didn't fit at all. They were noticeably smaller, and surprisingly, of lesser quality. What the hell‽

I know that women's clothing plays games with sizes, which is easy to do because they don't use actual measurements. One company's size 4 might be another company's size 6. I feel sorry for women who have to put up with this, and as a man, I've never experienced it before. In men's clothing, where our sizes are measured in inches, it has always worked out fine. Until it hasn't, which is now.

So who is to blame here? I tend to think it's Macy's. One of the coats had a Macy's label added, and it was the poorer quality of the two. Does Macy's have Tallia manufacture a mis-sized line for them? Or, is DXL starting to play sizing games in a misguided effort to make us big guys feel better? I don't think so, as I've mail-ordered Tallia from them and it has always fit perfectly, but it's hard to determine why this discrepancy exists in the same style clothing from the same manufacturer.

I tend to blame Macy's. The private label is tip off, but also their poor judgement in handling the downtown Chicago Marshall Fields store stains their reputation. One thing is for sure, big-and-tall customers should not trust Macy's sizing and should avoid the mail-order department, unless they like to be disappointed.

Update: Holy crap. Macy's did not issue a refund to my credit card, they sent me a damn gift card with the refund amount. I had to spend 20 minutes with customer service asking for a refund to my credit card instead. The operative confirmed that I did not accidentally make this choice, it's just their policy. In other words, once you buy something at Macy's and return it, they lock up your money instead of returning it. This seems like it should be illegal, and it definitely means I will never order from Macy's again.

NeverCurl for that p.i.t.a rug that you keep tripping over

I have an Ikea rug in my home office that I have been tripping over the last few years. One of its corners has a slight upward curl that is a magnet for tripping over. I spotted NeverCurl in a store, then ordered from Amazon. I was skeptical, but desperate. Well, I'll be damned if it didn't work. Quite well, in fact. I wouldn't say perfectly because it does make that corner slightly thick, which feels weird if you step directly on it, but it did solve the trip hazard. Recommended if you need such a thing.

Moving from Bento to another database

Is anyone still using Bento, the excellent database app that FileMaker ruthlessly abandoned a couple of years ago? It still runs on the latest OS X, but clearly if you're using it, the clock is ticking.

I've switched to TapForms because it has both OS X and iOS versions. Honestly, I'm not that happy with it. The UI is clunky , and syncing is flakey as all hell. (I've never lost any data, but it is constantly having me reset the sync.)

I wish there were a better alternative. Air Table has been getting some buzz, but I refuse to use it because you can't even look at it until you surrender your email address. That's a ridiculous requirement that I won't support. Also, while they have a free tier, as soon as you exceed it, the price rises to $144 per year. Ouch.

Here's a tip about moving out of Bento. I wasn't able to find anything that could import my records intact; which meant I stood to lose nearly 600 images that were used in Bento. (It was a book collection database.) To access the images you had in Bento, find the .bentotemplate file for your db, then Command-Click on it, in the Finder. Choose "Show Package Contents", then in the window that opens, keep drilling down until you find the "media" folder. Inside of there there are a bunch of gibberish folders that contain your images. I had to individually re-import each one into TapForms, a task I hope to never repeat, and I shed a tear for Bento with each and every one.

The Guardian's "I Hate Vegas" article fails fact checking

I have to call bullshit on this article from The Guardian titled "Why I hate Las Vegas."

The reporter writes:

When I checked into my hotel on that four miles of monstrosity known as the Strip, I was handed a key card adorned with a photograph of a pouting bikini-clad woman, with a telephone number underneath, urging me to call if I wanted to “party”. In my room I found several leaflets telling me I could order a “girl” to my room to keep me company.

I find it extremely hard to believe that any hotel in Las Vegas, especially a hotel on the Strip, has escort ads on their room keycards, let alone flyers in their rooms. But maybe the reporter stayed at one of those sketchy motels down by the Stratosphere. They're still "on the Strip," but not in the way most people use that phrase.

Later, however, the reporter also offers this observation:

There was an actual McDonald’s in the actual hotel, and the queue for it was massive. I did not have to eat there, of course, as I had other choices. There were three Starbucks, one Fatburger and a Dunkin’ Donuts.

Aha! A hotel with a McDonald's! That certainly narrows down the field as to where the reporter stayed. According to the McDonald's website, there are only two locations inside casinos: Circus-Circus, and the Stratosphere.

We can reasonably rule that Circus-Circus does not have escort ads on their room keys. Not only is it a famously "family-friendly" place, it's owned by mega corporation MGM Resorts International, who's legions of attorneys, at the very least, would never allow that to happen.

That leaves The Stratosphere as the only candidate. However, notice that the reporter said the hotel also had Starbucks, Fatburger, and Dunkin Donuts.

I don't have all day, so I'm going to ignore the Starbucks. Hell, three locations in one hotel seems like it might be an under exaggeration if anything. But Fatburger is a small chain so it's easy to fact check. Guess what? According to the restaurant's website, there are no Fatburger locations inside a hotel or casino in Las Vegas. There is one on the Strip, but it is a standalone location, miles away from the Stratosphere.

Additionally, there are only three Dunkin' Donut locations in Las Vegas. None of which are in hotels or casinos.

So, while the author is certainly welcome to dislike Las Vegas (which I consider a personality flaw), her hit piece trashing it should not be taken literally as it's clearly confabulated. Unless someone can show me a room key from the Stratosphere with a picture of a hooker on it, of course.

Fix for Withings Home that drops offline

I have a Withings Home camera, and while I love the design and functionality, it has been a very frustrating piece of technology. When it works, it's great. But I quickly found that it has trouble staying connected to Wi-Fi. It would drop off the network 2 or 3 times a week. Eventually because of the frequency of the problem I'd ignore it, which means I was getting zero value and use from it.

I knew I'd have to get in touch with tech support eventually about the problem, but I was dreading it. I envisioned wasted time with silly troubleshooting and them pointing a finger at my network, instead of their product. (This was my experience with being an early adopter of WeMo, after all.)

So a couple of weeks ago I girded my loins and emailed Withings tech support. The reply was quite surprising:

"What's your mailing address? We'll send you a new power supply"

And they did. And it solved the problem. My guess is that there's a known issue with early units. If you have the same issue, now you know.

Insteon exposes Alexa's weaknesses

The Amazon Echo is one of the best tech products I've bought lately. It's the perfect kitchen companion and it gets used several times a day as a timer, weatherman, news reader, radio, and music player. The voice recognition has been smooth, fast, and impressive. The Echo's array of microphones really do a nice job of hearing what's said, even from far across the room.

As a home automator, I was eager to try out the recently introduced support of the INSTEON Hub. (Sadly, the old version, not the HomeKit version.) And that's when Alexa's limitations became apparent. Up until I turned on Insteon support, it was a rare occasion when the Echo didn't understand what I'm saying. But when it comes to Insteon, I'm actually surprised when it does work, which is rather sad.

I think the issue is that opening up to Insteon means that the device has to recognize a much larger list of words, but it cannot. When I say "Turn on the white globe lamp," its response is sometimes "OK," but more often, it's "I don't understand while job camp" or some other misinterpretation. Other examples that the Echo doesn't understand include: "Turn off the left bedside light" and "Is the garage light on?".

The add-on game Jeopardy, which Amazon recently introduced, exposes the same problem. Here you're expected to answer Alexa's question. But again, 80% of the time she doesn't understand what you said. It makes the game little more than a novelty, and a frustrating one at that.

I hope that Amazon recognizes this problem and slows down on the "gee whiz" features that don't actually work very well. Otherwise they run the risk of making the Echo a frustrating toy.