CD Baby Gets It

I just placed my first order with CD Baby, an independent web site that sells CDs that come direct from musicians. I have followed them for quite a while, as they offer artists an outlet to sell CDs without a lot of trouble. They even offer digital distribution services to artists to sell their music on iTunes and other digital outlets. In fact, they function as an online record label for smaller artists who want to do things on their own terms.

Well, after my first purchase I received the following email:
Thanks for your order with CD Baby!

This is just a happy automated email to let you know a real person
will email you as soon as your package is sent, and you will also
receive a paper receipt with your order in the mail.

Please save this email in case you have any questions about your

** NOTE: if any of the info below looks wrong, please hit REPLY now
to let us know!


CD Baby, the cutest little record store on the web.

Nothing about this email prepared me for the next email to come:

Your CD has been gently taken from our CD Baby shelves with
sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your CD and polished it to make sure
it was in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over
the crowd as he put your CD into the finest gold-lined box that money
can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party
marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of
Portland waved “Bon Voyage!” to your package, on its way to you, in
our private CD Baby jet on this day, Wednesday, June 27th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at CD Baby. We sure did.
Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year.” We’re all
exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to CDBABY.COM!!

Thank you, thank you, thank you!


Derek Sivers, president, CD Baby
the little store with the best new independent music (503)595-3000

This email made me smile. They understand the importance of the customer experience enough to poke fun at its importance. Very cool. Not to mention that my CD shipped in one business day after my order.

Birthday Party Express

Last night I took Grace to the mall to buy a birthday present for her friend’s party this morning. This morning I dropped Grace off at a local pool for a 10AM birthday party. I came home and got Peter so we could buy a present for his afternoon birthday party. I picked up Grace at Noon from her party. Peter and I are leaving in a few minutes to take him to his friend’s birthday party. They live about 30 minutes away, so I will wind up staying, rather than a drop and run. His friend’s family lives in a geodosic dome, so it is a cool place to hang out. They are also the only parents who offer the adult guests beer. Not a bad place to be for a couple of hours on a Saturday afternoon.

By the time I get home around 4:30-5:00, I will feel like I have spent the whole day on the Birthday Party Express.

Photo Essay: Souvenirs

This photo essay is by Michael Hughes. It’s a very simple idea, but the execution is where it flies. You need to match the right souvenir with the right perspective. It is also a great comment on travel that combines the capturing of the memory of travel with the kitsch of tourism.

The project began in 1999 on a cold, grey November day on assignment at the Loreley cliffs near Mainz, Germany. The postcard in my pocket for my daughter looked much better than the real place, so I held it up in place and shot. Little did I know I was beginning a series that would continue to this day.

The rules are simple: Only use souvenirs that you can actually buy at the place, and you must be able to hold it with one hand.

Search Powered by Humans, Hamsters or an Infinite Number of Monkeys

I recently heard about a new search engine,, which bills itself as the world’s first human-powered search engine. This made me think of 3 different things.

The first is to wonder how this is different from the original Yahoo. This was back when the site was created by editors who approved all submissions and assembled catagory-based searches. As the internet was growing by leaps and bounds, they felt it was their mission to provide results to users. It had not yet been determined that spider searches and search algorythms were the answer to internet search. There certainly have been many other category-based searches over the years, so I am not sure what the distinction is here.

The other thing it made me think of is what would the world’s first hamster-powered search engine look like. Would the hamsters power the servers, or would they actually process the search results? There seems to be a parody site here, but I don’t have the time to build it.

And finally, I also wondered about updating that old saying that an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of typewriters would create the works of Shakespeare. So, would an infinite number of monkeys on an infinite number of keyboards return accurate search results?

Wilco Album Soundtrack to VW Campaign


Volkswagen’s latest TV campaign is breaking new ground with the utilization of Chicago rock band Wilco’s new album Sky Blue Sky. In an advertising first, VW will use a number of songs in multiple spots from the band’s new release. This is the first time anyone has ever used one album as a soundtrack for an entire TV campaign. The first commercial features the Wilco song “The Thanks I Get” (an outtake from Sky Blue Sky available on or via iTunes). Additional commercials will air throughout the summer using different songs from the band’s new album.

The geometry of popcorn

Meg recently bought old school popcorn, the kind you cook in a pot with oil. The instructions say to pour in enough popcorn to cover the bottom of the pot with a layer that is one kernel thick. This turns out to the be perfect number of kernels to fill the pot with popcorn. There must be some mathematical relationship between the area of a circle (the bottom of the pot)(PI * radius squared) and volume of a cylinder (a pot) (PI * radius squared * height) and expanding volume of popcorn.

Still in GRR

With my work wrapped up yesterday, I headed to the airport. I made two wrong turns along the way, but still made it in plenty of time for the flight. At check in, the agent told me that the flight was delayed, and since they might be sending a smaller plane, I could volunteer to get bumped for a travel voucher. The best she could do for re-booking was to get me home at 3:30 in the afternoon. That was too late, so I declined the offer.

There was no hurry to get to the gate, since the flight had been delayed about 30 minutes. When I did get to the gate, there was already a long line at the counter. After some time, they announced that the plane was going to be even later, and everyone should get in line to check on connections and re-book if necessary. As the line snaked along slowly, our flight continued to be delayed further, and nearly everyone was going to miss their connections.

While waiting in line, I called the airline reservation number to see what was available. I was told that my connection was delayed a little bit, and I should chance making the flight. The only re-booking option was the same flight that got me in at 3:30. By the time I got to the desk, the arriving plane was nearly here and the agent was pretty harried. She had no paper to print boarding passes on, she had an arriving plane, and about 20 people who still needed to be re-booked. She re-booked me on a morning flight and gave me a voucher for a nearby hotel.

As I was waiting for the hotel shuttle, I was talking to the pilots of the arriving plane that was to return back to Detroit. When I asked about the delay, I heard what is probably a typical story these days about incompetent maintenance personnel, understaffed airline staff, and the domino effect of evening delays as they push back morning flights due pilot off time. I finally got to the hotel at 9:30, three and half hours after arriving at the airport. I went to the Old Chicago Pizza restaurant. I had a draft local brew, a Michigan Brewing Co. IPA to wash down a Chicago style pizza.

Here I am, back at the airport waiting for my morning flight to Detroit, with a connection home to Raleigh. At least this airport gets it, and offers free wireless.