The Space City Pinball League Pizza Disaster of 2016: Two Guys lays an egg

Okay, so in the pinball league I play in, and blog about over on, we have a deal where we order pizza every week. Everyone chips in $5, and one person (usually the league president, Phil) takes care of the ordering and cash handling. It is usually an efficient process: everyone who paid takes a break between games when the pizza arrives, and can focus on playing pinball instead of dealing with the logistics of pizza delivery.

When I throw in the word “usually” like that, you probably can guess something is up. It didn’t happen that way this week. League play started at roughly 7:30pm, and I think the order was placed sometime before 8pm (I remember paying just before the second game of the night, but I could be off). Phil called in the order to Two Guys Pizza, which I had given a positive recommendation to because I knew they supplied pizza for another group I am part of and it was good.

Okay, so I would expect sometime around the third or fourth game, we’d have our pizza and be ready to take a break. 9pm rolls around, then 10pm. I, and others, are wondering where in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks our pizza is. The story I get is so bad, I’d swear it was straight out of a comedy movie unless I knew the people telling me.

Turns out the delivery driver finally showed up after an hour and a half when the quoted delivery time was 45 minutes. Phil mentioned this to the driver (someone said he used a profane word followed by “ridiculous” when describing the situation to the driver), and apparently not only did the driver clearly just not give a damn, he wound up refusing service and leaving with the pizza.

Phil tried again, ordering from the nearest Domino’s, and the driver arrived in 15 minutes, and I would assume was friendly. This was long after some people who had paid for pizza had to leave, but at least the few of us who were left didn’t have to go home hungry. We had players coming from all parts of town, some even from over an hour’s drive away. Many of these people I consider at least relatively acquaintances if not friends, and it really pisses me off that this happened to them.

Needless to say, I’m retracting any past recommendation I made of Two Guys, and I now recommend you trust just about anybody else to make and deliver your pizza. Product quality is completely irrelevant when the customer service is this piss-poor; there is simply no excuse for either the long delay or the attitude from the delivery driver.

I will admit I’m not the biggest fan of Domino’s, but at least they can actually deliver a decent pizza within a reasonable time frame and it has been at least 20 years since I have had Domino’s screw up an order. That’s actually quite an accomplishment given that the average pizza kitchen or pizza restaurant probably does not even stay in business anywhere close to 20 years. Just about every other pizza kitchen offering delivery that I have tried has been accurate and punctual (before or within 10 minutes of their quoted delivery time), even if the quality of the product has varied greatly. Of course, I also have a certain quality point below where I don’t care how fast the delivery driver is, but after this experience I’m willing to lower that point just a notch to “slightly below average.” As a certain candy bar advertises in their ads, I’m not me when I’m hungry, to say the least.

(I use the term “pizza kitchen” to refer to establishments without a dining room, i.e., delivery and carryout only. Some establishments are “on the edge” in that they offer very limited dining space, but clearly focus on those eating off-premises.)

So, the morals of the story:

  1. Doing your due diligence is important. Even when you are just ordering pizza. This probably could have been avoided had I looked at some of the Yelp reviews first.
  2. As much as I prefer buying local, sometimes it is better to choose the national chain in some cases.

Dupe detection run amok and other blunders: A cautionary tale of Apple Music’s bugs

I had been aware of the hype surrounding Apple Music over the past few months. Most of it had been things like how much the artists were going to get paid, and all that. And now it’s here, and according to Jim Dalrymple of The Loop in his article entitled Apple Music is a nightmare and I’m done with it… well, I think the title pretty much says it all.

To make a long story short, Jim quickly found out that Apple Music has duplicate detection. Technically this can be a good thing, but the way Apple implemented it? It turns out it’s a First Class Foul-Up. Jim added albums, noticed not all the songs were added, then noticed the songs had an “Add” button beside them after clicking “Show Complete Album.” This, alone, is a UX/UI fail. But it gets worse:

From what I can tell in my tests, Apple Music is deciding itself, based on your library, that it will not add duplicate songs. For instance, I purchased a lot of Black Sabbath albums over the years, but not all of the compilations. I went into Apple Music and added a compilation album, but it didn’t all get added to my library. When I looked at all of the songs that didn’t get added, they were ones that I already had in my library.

In another example, I added Bob Dylan’s “Blonde On Blonde” and his “Greatest Hits” albums. The “Greatest Hits” was short three songs—the same three songs that are on “Blonde On Blonde,” so Apple Music chose not to add them to the “Greatest Hits” album. It’s not unreasonable to want to listen to an album in the context the artist wrote it, and then other times, just listen to their greatest hits. It’s my choice to make.

That last sentence is key here. It’s a recurring theme in the Apple-verse: Make it nearly impossible (extremely difficult and potentially hazardous to the warranty) to run apps not in the App Store, to the point most people won’t dare try. Don’t approve apps with porn in them. Don’t approve apps that replace part of the phone’s functionality and/or allow one to sidestep carrier restrictions (Skype and other VOIP apps, replacements for the phone dialer, other web browsers besides Apple’s own Safari). And the list goes on.

Apple has never been about allowing users choice. Now that Apple Music is here, I would not surprised to see many of the other music apps not approved for new versions. If they don’t already, Apple will likely come up with their own watered-down Spotify/Pandora clone, and kick those apps to the curb.

I’m going to shift gears a bit. Right now, my music collection lives on an external hard drive (or two). The vast majority of it is in FLAC format. (FLAC, for those who don’t know what it is, is sort of like gzip or PKZIP, except tuned to compress audio better than anything else. Apple has, or at least had, something similar called ALAC.) I have a lot of duplicate songs. I have intentionally left them intact for exactly this reason; not all of them are the exact same version and I want to be able to listen to both the original album and compilation albums where the same songs appear. So yes, I have things like five nearly-identical copies of The Power of Love by Huey Lewis and the News, two copies each of two different mixes of Never Ending Story by Creamy, two copies of I Will Remember You by Amy Grant, two copies of both Love is a Battlefield and We Belong by Pat Benatar, etc. I could go on and on, but the point is that duplicates will happen in any music collection of an appreciable size.

And I would be pissed off if my music software decided to go behind my back and randomly remove the “duplicate” songs from my collection. For one, some are not really duplicates; at one time I had Bon Jovi’s album This Left Feels Right in my collection, which had acoustic versions of many of their previous hits. I moved this album back out of my on-disk collection because I got tired of it. Imagine having the original versions of those tracks deleted by a “helpful” music library software, and one can easily see how big of a disaster this could be.

And yes, these tracks were deleted from Jim’s collection, as he found himself some 4,700 songs short when he decided to dump Apple Music for something that didn’t suck. Worse, Jim says “[M]any of the songs were added from CDs years ago that I no longer have access to.”

Moral of the story: Backup early and backup often. Don’t trust the only copy of your music library to any new software. And be especially leery of Apple products.

The Predator pinball disaster

This is the first post related to pinball that I’ve made to this blog. Given what I usually post here, I’m kind of hoping it’s the last.

Pinball News, among others, broke the story of a company called Skit-B Pinball and their flagship title, Predator, based on the movie of the same name. Skit-B has been developing this game since 2011 July. I, personally, didn’t know about it until sometime in 2014, just because I wasn’t following the pinball scene. I didn’t even know there was much of a pinball scene to follow anymore; I knew Stern Pinball was somehow still in business, even after Premier Technologies (the last company to make games under the Gottlieb brand name) bit the dust, and later WMS Industries (owners of the Williams and Bally pinball labels as well as the Midway and Atari Games video game labels) exited the pinball business after releasing a grand total of two titles on the much-heralded Pinball 2000 platform. This was back in the late 1990s, and I had just happened to be on a pinball-related IRC channel when news broke of WMS leaving the industry.

Anyhow, so it was with great interest that I began following the companies trying to keep pinball alive, one of them being Skit-B of course. I had expected, any day now, to read news that this great game was going to ship. And then the above story broke, and it’s obvious now that the game in its present form is unlikely to be made commercially available at all. I’m going to keep the quotes to a working minimum, because the story is very long and convoluted.

The important crux of the story is that Kevin Kulek, one of the founders of Skit-B, did something incredibly foolish: instead of approaching Twentieth Century Fox Licensing (hereinafter Fox for brevity) and getting the proper licensing in place, he decided he would just make the games unlicensed, in a low quantity, before Fox and their lawyers found out. That’s sort of like taking a trip of some distance in a car with no license plates, and hoping nobody notices. Even if a cop doesn’t notice, someone will probably call it in.

It turns out Fox found out about it. At first nothing nasty happens, but sometime in 2013 they got their first cease and desist letter from Fox’s attorneys. As the story says:

it now appears Fox had sent Skit-B a ‘cease & desist’ notification, requiring them to remove all Predator-related materials and stop promoting or producing the game.

This was the defining moment where whatever notion of implied consent Skit-B may have thought they had was shattered. If they ever thought they had an agreement, this cease & desist proved they did not. And without an agreement from the [copyright] holder, the game could never go into production.

This was in mid-2013. As the story rolls on, things start happening, like a group of potential Predator buyers approaching Pinball News. By the time someone representing the buyers write this anonymous letter to Pinball News, Skit-B had already announced a second game, Experts of Dangerous featuring the likenesses of Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman (of the TV show Mythbusters). The buyers became suspicious, and many had paid deposits already; they requested refunds as they suspected Mr. Kulek and Skit-B had no license to make the game. This hunch would be confirmed a short time later.

The anonymous contact would make Pinball News privy to a phone call in 2015 January between himself and the senior copyright lawyer at Fox Entertainment Group. That lawyer said not only was no license in place between Fox and Skit-B, but that Mr. Kulek had been told several times to stop work on the game and that Fox was “looking to escalate matters” regarding the game, which could only refer to a lawsuit of some type (certainly injunctive relief, and quite possibly monetary damages as well).

It’s disappointing to read the story of the demise of what could have been a great pinball game, which appeared to be made in the style of the classic Williams/Bally dot matrix games of the 1990s to boot. I would hope Fox comes around, and Skit-B passes the work they have done to a reputable pinball manufacturer who can secure the licensing and finish the project. I’m not holding my breath, though, as it is entirely possible this episode has made the pinball community look like a bunch of lawbreakers, and we may not see a Fox movie licensed as a pinball theme for many years now. It’s quite likely Fox will at least refuse to license Predator for any pinball, whether the one that Skit-B started or a brand new one. I hope they don’t do this. The law-abiding pinball players and hobbyists, such as myself, don’t deserve to suffer for one rogue manufacturer’s First Class Foul-Up.

Moral of the story: when planning a licensed work, get the licenses first. Don’t expect the copyright holders to grant licenses later.