Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Flower Thieves

Lycoris squamigera
Lycoris squamigera
On a Thursday afternoon of last year, August 19, 2010, I walked outside and noticed that the pretty light-pink flowers in the pictures above had been removed without my permission and were now conspicuously absent. I have these plants growing in my front yard, and somebody had taken the blooms while they were still flower buds, before they had a chance to open up and blossom. Where the flower buds had been, I saw only the headless portion of remaining stalk, the flower bud and long stem missing. I suspected then that someone may have come onto the property, possibly in the dark of night or early morning, and stolen the budding flowers from the bulbous plants growing on the property, and that's why my flower buds were no longer there. Upon further examination, I saw that the top ends of some of the headless stalks had uneven edges, whereas some had clean cut edges, indicating that whoever stole the flower buds from the property used two different methods to remove the desired items, perhaps knife, scissors, or other sharp-bladed object on some, and snapping off a few of the others. The person(s) who did this left one stalk already in bloom, possibly because the buds are of greatest value when they have not bloomed yet. Flower thief? Flower poacher? Blossom bandit? Bloom burglar? I'm not sure, but in researching why someone would take my flowers, I ascertained that the scientific name for the plant in question is Lycoris squamigera, otherwise known as surprise lily, resurrection lily, or naked lady, and the ones pictured are the short-stamen variety. I tried to take a photo of what happened to my plants, but at the time my digital camera was not working correctly. Even though the perpetrator would unlikely ever be caught (I mean, how do you trace stolen flowers when I didn't do anything to mark them in any way) and it would probably be a waste of time, I went online and filed an Oakland police report. Then I stewed in my own righteous anger, mad at whoever would do such a dastardly thing as steal someone else's flowers from their front yard. I counted 11 of my flower buds taken from me.

Upon further investigation, I discovered I am not the only one this has happened to. Many parties, besides me, from people in homes with flowers in their gardens to destinations like the San Francisco Golden Gate Park, have reported flower theft, or flower poaching, or bloom snipping, or blossom burglary. Apparently, flowers can bring you $1 to $5 each, and the unscrupulous florists who buy the ill-gotten goods may not want to ask a lot of questions. Whoever thought your friendly neighborhood floral arrangement specialist and bouquet shopkeeper might be some shady criminal dealing in stolen goods? The police are onto the thefts, though. Thieves and the florists who buy from them have gotten caught with covertly-marked stems, and some plants worth as much as $1000 per have microchips embedded inside to indicate that they belong to someone else.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Canon is awesome

I want to let you all know about some pleasantly surprising, then, rather amazing, customer service I received, from the consumer and business technology company Canon. Back in October 10, 2003, I purchased a Canon Powershot S400 digital camera with $300 my parents had given me for my birthday. I really liked the camera, and got to use it a lot, but then last year, I started noticing some problems. The problem I was having was, whenever I tried to take a picture, I saw something like this (thanks, Deepak Prakash, for the photo):

The image on the LCD monitor on the camera, and in subsequent photographs I took, was smeared, blurred, washed-out, and tinted pinkish-red. Other times, I noted a warped, noisy, false-color image, then the LCD monitor would go dark on me.

I was ready to toss the camera and buy a new one, but in a last bid attempt to save money and salvage what I had, on Friday, August 20, 2010, I called Canon, and from a conversation I had with Canon representative Mike, in Chesapeake, Virginia, he told me the following (and I paraphrase):
This particular camera has a service notice, for an issue with an image sensor, a CCD, charge-coupled device. That sensor can fail. What I need to do is send the camera to Canon, and they will repair it for free. I need to give Mike my information, and get a case created for me. Before I send the camera in, remove the battery, memory card, and strap from the device. Wrap camera in bubble wrap, and put in a cardboard box. Mike will send 2 emails to you, the first has instructions on what to do and where to send it to, along with an evaluation form that I print out and put inside the box, and the 2nd email will come from UPS, with a free shipping label, prepaid and insured. Once the camera is received, it will take 2 to 3 days for the Canon technicians to check in the camera and evaluate it; they will send me an email with a repair order and status, and then 5 to 7 days to repair and return to you. Return shipping is via Fedex, and I will need to sign for it. The advisory for this service notice went out in 2007, but you weren't registered, so you didn't receive the notice
Lo and behold, on Thursday, September 9, 2010, I received a repaired Canon S400 camera, which has been working for me just fine since then. I thought it was worth mentioning that, other than the inconvenience of my not having the camera during the time it was in transit, being repaired, and shipped back to me, the whole repair process cost me nothing, and even the shipping was completely paid for by Canon. I've come to find that the problem I encountered was common to many digital cameras from many brands that contained a particular Sony-made part:


I've also come to find out that Canon is slowly phasing out the cameras they will repair, according to a timeline. So if you have a Canon Powershot S400, it looks like you may be out of luck: