Logistics regressions

May 23rd, 2012  |  Tags: , , ,  |  Leave a comment

We were rear-ended at a stop light a couple of weeks ago. Thankfully, no one was hurt and our car appears to have escaped major damage, but our hitch-mounted bike rack was totaled in the impact. The other driver’s insurance company offered to reimburse us for the cost of a new rack as advertised on Since Amazon’s price was nontrivially cheaper than what we’d paid for the original rack at a local bike shop last year, we ordered the replacement instead of purchasing it locally.

When the new rack arrived, it had two shipping labels on it: the first was for shipment from Amazon’s warehouse in Plainfield, IN to my house in Madison, WI. The second indicated that it had previously shipped from Saris headquarters (where it was assembled) to Amazon’s warehouse in Plainfield, IN, perhaps on-demand. Readers based in Madison probably see where this is going, since they know that Saris headquarters is less than three miles from my house; in fact, we share a ZIP code.

It’s hard to imagine a better example of the perils of hub-based routing.

Inappropriate commuting gear

February 28th, 2012  |  Tags: ,  |  Leave a comment

Dear Amazon, you know I’m your pal. I still have that handwritten thank-you card you sent me on my fridge, although my motivation for keeping it is at least 60% ironic. So when you do something like this, it hurts me all the more:

Why are clip-on aero bars and bicycle commuting even in the same paragraph?

As someone who has been nearly maimed by clueless aero bar users in multiple mass-start road cycling events and who has had pleasant commutes sullied by weirdos who (1) are using aero bars on a bike path and while so doing (2) insist on attempting to draft someone who is riding a steel fixed-gear bicycle at sub-competitive speeds, I must plead with you to never again mention bicycle commuting and clip-on aero bars in such a way that someone might construe them as being somehow related to one another or (worse still) part of a desirable combination for shaving 15 seconds off of their Cap City Loop time. Thanks in advance.

(See also: the most appropriate inappropriate web ad ever.)

The first thing you bought from Amazon

May 4th, 2010  |  Tags: , , ,  |  4 Comments

Several writers I enjoy (e.g. Meghan McArdle and Joseph Bottum) have been posting about the first order that they ever placed at Since I’m on a first-name basis with my UPS guy, I thought it would be fun to do so myself.

Unfortunately, the first book I ever bought from Amazon is pretty embarrassing: on March 1, 1998, I bought a translation of Theodor Adorno’s Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy. I had hoped that Adorno’s interpretation of Mahler’s oeuvre would prove useful for some research I was doing at the time. It did not.

(The first audio recording I bought from Amazon was this Norman/Boulez recording of Bluebeard’s Castle.)

What’s the first thing you bought from Amazon?

The rumored Apple tablet and Amazon

July 27th, 2009  |  Tags: , , ,  |  3 Comments

According to the Financial Times, Apple will release a tablet computer this Fall and has been in talks with book publishers to provide content for the device. Jason Kottke glosses this report, speculating about the implications for Amazon:

[I]f it runs apps from the App Store (“yes” seems to be the general consensus), you’ll be able to read books in the Apple tablet format *and* in Amazon’s Kindle format (with the Kindle app), which can’t be happy news for Amazon, hardware-wise.

Kottke’s take assumes that Amazon is more interested in selling Kindles than they are in selling content for Kindles. I don’t believe that could possibly be the case.

Consider that Amazon makes far more money on Kindle content than it ever could on Kindle hardware. (Recall that “Kindle content” means “sets of DRM-enfeebled bits that are free to manufacture, cannot be resold, and list for roughly 80% of the purchase price of physical books that contain the same information.”) Nothing prevents Amazon from releasing a Kindle app optimized for any hypothetical future Apple device. If the Apple book-purchasing workflow is smooth enough to threaten Amazon’s dominance in the retail chain (and it may well be), Amazon need merely add a “search for and purchase books” option to their Kindle app.