Free Markets, Free People


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Why won’t they fix it?

About a year and a half ago, I bought a Citizen Skyhawk A-T EcoDrive watch. It’s the really nice one, made of titanium, solar-powered, and calibrated to the Naval Observatory’s atomic clock every day. It pretty much has all the bells and whistles a watch can have.

At least, it used to. The outer bezel fell off less than a year after I purchased it. Now, when you pay for an $850 dollar watch that you sort of hope will be the last watch you’ll ever buy, you don’t expect bits to just…fall off. Then the inner bezel fell off.


“OK,” I thought. “I’ll take it to a watch shop to have it fixed.” But I can’t. No one is allowed to fix the Skyhawk A-T except the Citizen Service Center in Torrance, CA. “Well,” I thought again, “This is becoming…inconvenient.”

But I really wanted it fixed, so I submitted to the process, which first requires you to go to the Citizen web site and fill out a form to create a work order. Then I packed it all up, took it to the post office, and sent it off to Torrance, insured, via Certified Mail, in December.

Anxiously I awaited. As the dark, cold winter passed, I prepared to greet the warmth of spring with a freshly restored Chronometer. Then, in late March, I received a text message from UPS telling me my watch had been delivered.

Oh, frabjous day!

I raced home from work, ran into the house, and there was the package from Citizen. I opened it to find my watch…in exactly the same poor shape it was in when I sent it. There was an invoice as well, saying that I’d need to buy a new bezel for $60, but they were returning my watch untouched because I’d never responded to their service messages.

Um, what service messages? I hadn’t heard a single thing from them since I’d sent the watch off. No phone calls. No emails. No letters. I was a bit…upset about this.

So, I lovingly re-packed it, but this time, I sent along a $60 money order, along with the repair invoice, and a little note, informing them that I did wish them to fix it, and here was the $60 the had requested.

Two days and $25 in postage later, the watch was off to Torrance again. “This, time,” I thought, “I’ll get my beautiful watch back again, whole!”

Weeks passed. Spring Training came and went. The baseball season started. The Astros worked assiduously to become, once again, the worst team in baseball. I checked the mail regularly, in case Citizen sent me a note about the watch, but, sadly, received nothing. Once again, it was as if I’d sent my watch into a black hole.

Then, today, May 23rd, I received another text message from UPS, telling me my watch was back from its second sojourn to Torrance. I was hopeful, but apprehensive. In what state would my watch be now?

When I got home, there was the package from Citizen. I picked it up and went into the kitchen, where The Lovely Christine was making dinner.

“I love you,” I told her, pulling out my pocketknife in preparation for slitting the packing tape open. “I’m telling you this now, while I’m in a good mood.” I kissed her on the back of the neck, then continued, “Because if I open this package and my watch isn’t fixed, I’m going to be incandescently angry.”

Thirty seconds later, I was incandescently angry.

Once again, my watch was unfixed. Once again, there was a little note saying that I hadn’t responded to their inquiries, which, once again, I had never received. But, my $60 money order had been returned, so I’ve got that going for me.

So, now, instead of wanting to send it back for a third time, I’m wondering how easy it would be to take a hammer and pound a titanium watch perfectly flat.

I honestly don’t know what they want from me. Since they sent my $60 back, it clearly isn’t money. Perhaps I missed some fine print about sacrificing a small animal, or selling my soul to Satan.

I’m at a loss.

UPDATE – 24 May

I got a couple of calls and emails from Citizen today. They say they are sending me a pre-paid UPS packing label, and that they will fix my watch and send it back to me. Free of charge.

So, we’ll see how that works.

UPDATE – 5 Jun

My watch is back from Citizen. Shipped and fixed free of charge. I finally have my Eco-Drive back on my wrist again!

More Quickscript Stuff

If you are interested in some more geeky constructed language/font stuff, I have a new article up at Medium on a revision I made to the Quickscript alphabet. Frankly, the Quickscript alphabet is a bit of a mess, despite Kingsley read working on it for years. In just a few short weeks, however, I have created a revision of it that is vastly superior to the alphabet that Kingsley Read made his life’s work.

Because I am a genius in things that don’t matter.

Anyway, read it if you like, and please don’t forget to hit the "recommend" button at the bottom.

Dale Franks
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Personal stuff

A couple of years ago my wife was told she needed a hip replacement.  To say it shocked her would be an understatement.  After finally accepting it, she got on Google.  And she did research.  She found there were two types of hip replacement surgeries – a posterior approach and an anterior approach.  She also found out the difference was like night and day in terms of recovery.

The anterior approach is by far the superior.  But, since it is a fairly new approach and requires a very expensive table, most doctors who do hip replacement surgery use the posterior approach.  Unfortunately, in the Atlanta area there were only two groups who do the anterior approach and neither of them take our insurance.   So she had a dilemma.  She could get the hip replaced but she was stuck with the posterior approach which required the cutting through a number of muscles in the hip area.

However, we’re talking my wife, Ms. “Never say never”.  She got on the phone with our insurance carrier and started pitching the anterior approach, telling them how superior it was to the other approach and how it would save them money, etc.  Finally, the insurance provider told her to widen her search to a 100 mile radius and she found a doctor in Gainsville, GA, about 40 minutes from where we live who does the anterior approach.  After consultation with him, she made her decision and surgery was today.

I’m amazed.  She went into surgery at 7:30am, was out at 9, in her room at 12, and here’s the amazing part, walking down the hallway of the patient floor at 1pm.  She made an entire circuit.  Not only that, they took her by the physical therapy room and she went up and down stairs.  With her new hip.

Phenomenal.  She leaves tomorrow to go home.  Had she had the other approach she’d be facing 2 weeks in a rehab hospital and months of rehab afterward.

Well, maybe not her, but you get the picture.  She’s a trooper, but her experience isn’t at all uncommon with this approach.  Hip surgery was a huge and painful ordeal that took you out of circulation for a while.  With the anterior approach, it doesn’t have to be anymore.  I don’t know if you or a loved one may have that in their future but if so, insist on finding a doctor that uses the anterior approach.

It is well worth the search.


The obvious question

I find something really interesting. In my previous post on creating the 2 Quickscript fonts, no one asked what I’d think was an obvious question, which is, "Wait. You made fonts? How the hell do you make a font?"

I find it fascinating that, especially today, when we have daily access to electronic typography, there’s so little interest in what fonts are, or how to make make them. Especially when literally anyone with a computer can make their own fonts. There’s even a free, online bitmap font creation program called Fonstruct. We spend our lives surrounded by typography and almost no one cares about it at all.

Which brings me to a trilogy of fantastic documentaries about design by a film-maker named Gary Hustwit: Helvetica, Objectified, and Urbanized. All three of them are enormously interesting, and one of them is about a font, Helvetica, which every single person in the Western world sees every single day of their lives. You should watch all three of them.

Also you should go read my latest auto review at Medium: Doctor Hoon: 2013 Mini John Cooper Works GP. And you should "recommend" it after reading, to make my Medium stats shoot up really high.

Dale Franks
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I made some Quickscript fonts. Yay!

One of my personal little personality quirks is a deep sense of privacy, bordering on misanthropy*. I mean, I’m civil enough, I suppose, but deep down, I don’t really trust people very much, and I don’t what them to know much about what I’m thinking or doing. For instance, because I have to attend meetings and take lots of notes, I don’t want people to see what I’m writing. But, I also don’t want to be the wierdo whose obviously guarding his notes from the prying eyes of the other meeting attendees.

So, I taught myself the Cyrillic alphabet, and for years I was able to take all my meeting notes in it. Sadly, last year, our team was joined by a perfectly nice Polish woman who is highly educated and speaks several languages, one of which is Russian. So, she can read everything I write in Cyrillic.

I thought about learning something like Teeline shorthand, which no one anywhere in the world uses but British journalists, who were taught it in journalism school. But shorthand is hard to learn, and I am lazy. Oh, and you have to transcribe it into English pretty quickly or you’ll forget what it actually says. Which seems like a lot of work that I wouldn’t want to do being, as I said, lazy.

Then I learned about Quickscript.  Quickscript, also called the Read Alphabet, was invented several decades ago by a Brit named Kingsley Read. He was really into English-language spelling and writing reform. Over the course of several years, he created the Quickscript phonetic alphabet which uses 40 letters that correspond to the 40 phonemes of spoken English. You can learn all about it here, because I am, if you’ll remember, too lazy to take the time to explain it in any more detail. Anyway, I learned it, and now I use it all the time, and no one has clue what I’m writing about them at meetings.

But, because I also like to play around with techy things, I’ve also created two OpenType fonts for Quickscript. Quickscript Regular is a sans-serif font that more or less is a tidier version of the handwritten alphabet they have at the Wikipedia page I linked above. But I thought there should be a classier, formal version of it, so I deconstructed the universal screen font known as Georgia, and made a type ready book font called Quickscript Georgian. I’ve uploaded them to QandO in a zip file here.

Some Quickscript letters are very similar, like the letters for "f" and "b", but they are placed differently on the baseline, like the English letters w and y. Also, English phonemes like "TH" or "OW" that are represented by two letters in English are represented by a single letter in Quickscript. And there’s a different letter for the "TH" in "thick" and the "TH" in "that", or the "OO" sound in "book" and "boot". So, most of the time, you write significantly less text in Quickscript than you do in English, a boon for the lazy.

Here are some English/Quickscript samples of words that have a letter-to-letter correspondence with English. Note the b and f letter placements in Quickscript:


Here’s a longer piece of text, showing a phrase in English, Quickscript Regular and Quickscript Georgian. After that are the keys I had to type to write in the Quickscript fonts.


The "As Typed" bit is weird, I know. Because Quickscript uses 40 letters instead of 26, and some English letters like c and q aren’t used at all, the keyboard mapping is a bit odd. The numbers and punctuation and everything are the same, except for the Tilde (~), which I have replaced with the little dot that signifies proper nouns in Quickscript, in lieu of capital letters, of which, Quickscript has none.

Also, notice what I did with the word "the" in the sample above? We pronounce it two different ways, "thuh" and "thee", and we do it in the same sentence. SO, the same word can be spelled two different ways in Quickscript, because it’s phonetic, and pronunciation, not spelling, rules. Unlike English, when you try to "sound it out" in Quickscript, the way grammar school teachers used to tell us, you really do sound it out.

Here is the keyboard mapping, which is the same for both fonts:


Basically, I’ve used the lower case for all the regular letters, and capitals for the odd phonemes or long vowel sounds. I’ve tried to make the mappings as logical as possible. For instance, the two TH phonemes are mapped to the T and t keys, SH is mapped to S, and so on. Though, admittedly, I just couldn’t figure out what to do with the OO as in "book".

There are actually Quickscript users other than me, so I thought I’d contribute the fonts to the Quickscript community by making them publicly available here.


* "Bordering on"? Who am I kidding? I’ve invaded misanthropy, sacked the capitol, and set myself up as President For Life.

Dale Franks
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Ever have one of those days?

Well I’m having one of those days.  Nothing horrific.  Nothing tragic.  Nothing to worry about.  Just one of those days.

So, other than this, I’ll likely not be saying much more today.

Well, except a reminder to join us on Facebook for QandO plus (which I also haven’t had time for today).



Twitter: McQandO

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Be Prepared

It’s no secret that I’m a pessimist about the economy, as we travel along our current path, and the danger of a collapse of the currency and financial system, and the possibility of civil disturbance that might follow. Because I occasionally make snarky comments on Twitter and elsewhere about being prepared for 20 days of combat operations, I am occasionally asked about what that actually entails.

Of course, the still-remote possibility of civil unrest isn’t the only reason to be prepared to rough it for a while. There are plenty of earthquakes, floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other natural disasters that might require up to several days of living in the pre-industrial era.

So, since I have a couple of hours free this afternoon as I wait for my flight to Albuquerque, I thought I’d jot down a few thoughts.

First off, there’s all sorts of survival lists on the Internet. This is a good one. There’s about 1,000 others available if you simply Google "survival checklist". That’s just a list of items, which is a good start, but here are some other things you might want to think about.

Map out a route away from urban areas, using roads that are off of the main routes of travel. Highways, freeways, etc., may be jammed with traffic, and you’ll be going nowhere fast. Find the little-used back roads. It’ll require a more circuitous route, but your chances of getting caught in traffic while escaping the city are much smaller. Go sooner rather than later, however, or you still might not get out. If you live in, say, Manhattan, and you wait too long, you’re screwed as far as escaping goes.

If you have a diesel vehicle with a towing package, you’ve got a 12-volt generator. If you don’t have a towing package, but have a cigarette lighter or 12-volt vehicle outlet, you’ve still got a generator, but you’ll need a couple of AC converters, like these.

If your vehicle is not diesel-powered, it should be. You should also have a portable generator, of course. It should also be a diesel. Dependence on gasoline is, in general, not good. If you have a diesel, you can, in an emergency, run it on heating oil, kerosene & vegetable oil, lamp oil, or almost any other low-volatility flammable fuel. You can even make your own bio-diesel fuel. Leveraging your future to gasoline is a Bad Thing if civilization collapses.

Get a small travel trailer, and keep it stocked with your survival supplies. One nice thing about travel trailers is that they already have a 30 or 50 gallon water tank. Drain and fill it every couple of months at minimum, and if you have to leave, you can hook up and go in minutes, and you’re already stocked with food and water for several days. Small used travel trailers are cheap, and easily turned into mobile, pre-stocked, survival shelters.

Have lots of honey on hand. Honey doesn’t spoil, so it keeps for ever. Bacteria cannot live in honey. Archeologists once found a huge pot of honey that was a couple of thousand years old. They ate it, found it very yummy, and suffered no ill effects from it. (They later discovered a body preserved in the bottom of the pot.) In a pinch, honey can be used as an antibiotic covering for wounds, though it does raise the chance of further injuries from bears trying to lick the wound.

Also, if you have honey and salt, you can mix them in water to drink when you get diarrhea, which you almost certainly will in the wilderness, and they will keep you hydrated and supplied with electrolytes so you won’t crap yourself to death, which, prior to 1900, was not an uncommon way to die. So, have salt, too.

Speaking of wounds, if things are really bad, and civilization is actually collapsing, you need to head over to CVS or Walgreens and raid the pharmacy. First, take any drug that ends with "cillin". That’ll be an antibiotic. Also, take anything that ends with "codone" or has "codein" in the name. Those’ll be painkillers. Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, Oxycontin…you know what I’m talking about. If you have antibiotics and painkillers, you’ve got a far better chance of surviving an open wound than if you do not. Like, 1000 times better. Use the painkillers sparingly. Don’t get hooked.

Get a copy of the US Army Field Manual 21-76. It’s easy to find. Here it is. Print it out. Read it. Know it. Live it.

Guns. In general, pistols are useless. Sorry, but there’s nothing you can hit with them with any reliability beyond 25 meters, and in combat, beyond 10 feet. At the OK Corral gunfight, 10 guys were jammed into an enclosure about 20 feet square, and two of them walked away without a scratch, after about 50 rounds being fired. You need rifles, and you need more than one. Two guns is one gun, and one gun is no gun. You need at least two rifles per person in the same caliber.

What caliber? Personally, I prefer the 7.62×39 over the 5.56mm/.223 caliber. It’s a harder-hitting round, punches through brush or obstructions more reliably, and is widely available cheaply, as are the weapons which fire it. It’s a better all-round caliber, in my opinion, for hunting or combat, though hopefully you’ll need it for the former, rather than the latter. You cannot go wrong with an SKS rifle in good condition, and you can find a surplus SKS for cheap as dirt. You can also get 1,000 round cases of 7.62×39 cheaply as well. If you want to spend real money on something more modern than the SKS—though, I stress again, the SKS is as fine, accurate, and dependable rifle as you can buy—then spring for a Czech SA Vz58, and you can add all the cool dongles to it. Do not buy an AK-47. For survival purposes, the SKS or Vz58 are superior in every conceivable way. You should assume a combat day will require 100 rounds of ammunition with a semi-automatic rifle (The combat load for the M1 Garand, for example, was 96 rounds per day in WWII). You should have enough ammunition for at least 20 combat days. If you are in, or going to, a big-game area, a surplus Springfield rifle or a Garand are perfect for elk, moose, bear, or other big game. 30-06 ammo is really expensive, however.

Finally, you have to think about your attitude. There’s no easy way to say this, but if things get really bad, like an asteroid wipes out civilization, then you need to be determined and ruthless to survive. Many ethical concepts that are useful in civilized society will be…how does one put this…counter-productive to survival in the state of nature. Many of the survivors you may encounter will be really bad people. Everyone you encounter will be desperate and/or terrified, which will make them extraordinarily dangerous. You will have to keep this uppermost in your mind at all times, and make the appropriate decisions in your dealings with others to ensure your own survival. And that’s all I have to say about that.

In less extreme circumstances, attitude is still everything. Remain calm. Think before you act. Remain positive.

Happily, we do not, for the most part, have to worry about the complete collapse of civilization as a high-order probability.  But there is a chance of some natural disaster in which you may need to be ready to go for two weeks or so living roughly. Ensuring you have adequate food, water, and shelter for those two weeks is not survivalist extremism. It’s just good planning, and good planning may save your life, and will certainly make those two weeks more comfortable.

On the other hand, if you’re also prepared for the asteroid’s arrival…well, you’re prepared for that, too.

Dale Franks
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On a personal note …

One of the things I’ve been eternally grateful for is the family I was lucky enough to marry into.  For over 3 decades, I’ve been a part of a family that I both admire and respect.  They are, to me, the salt of the earth and they represent the type of people who’ve made this nation great. 

I’m out here to celebrate the birthday of the matriarch of that clan, my mother-in-law, Mrs. Ruby James Weaver’s 100th birthday.

Here in the Cookson Hills of eastern Oklahoma, the Weavers are well known and loved.  I’ve always joked about visiting my “outlaws” instead of in-laws.  My mother in law’s maiden name is James and I have two brothers-in-law named Younger.  But, as a mentioned, a more all-American family can’t be found.  Farmers, ranchers, you name it, they are part of the generation that has helped make this nation the richest and most powerful on earth.  And, as you might imagine, some of the last of what was once a very common thing – rugged individualists.

Mrs. Weaver raised 10 kids on, well, not much and did a magnificent job.  She has 23 grandchildren, and as she admitted last night, has lost count of the great and great-great grandchildren.  

I married the baby of the family.  Like I’ve said, I got lucky.

So, to the best mother-in-law in the world and matriarch of one of the finest families I know, happy 100th birthday, Mrs. Weaver.


Twitter: @McQandO

No Podcast, Again

For the second Sunday in a row, our boxer, Apollo, got loose and attacked Lucius. This time, he got life-threatening injuries from Lucius, who is twice his size, and Apollo had to go into emergency surgery. We had been keeping them separated since last week, but Apollo got loose and went straight for Lucius again.

So, not only do we have to pay about $1600 in vet bills today, we now have to find a new home for Apollo. We can’t have a dog-aggressive dog in the house, no matter how much we love him. And we love him to death.

The vet was a nightmare as well. It was our 1st time there, but we went because they had emergency care on Sundays, and they are much, much closer than the other animal hospital. All I’ll say about that is that we hate them and will never go back to them. The only reason Apollo is still there is because his injuries were so bad, we couldn’t take him to the other animal hospital without endangering his life. We will be going to our regular vet for the post-op checkups.

This is one of the worst days ever.

UPDATE: We changed our mind. Rather than try to get rid of Apollo, we’ve decided to change the other side of the equation and find a new home for Lucius. I suspect it’ll be a lot easier selling an intact, pure-bred, registered Cane Corso male than it will be to find someone who wants an older boxer with impulse control issues. Lucius will be better off as the king of his own castle anyway.

Dale Franks
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