25 Jan

How many cups of coffee do you drink?


 

Commercials. Charities. Heck, charity infomercials. Newspapers. Car companies. They all do it. Persuading you to fork over your money by breaking things down to the lowest common denominator. You've seen/heard it, I'm sure:

For the price of a cup of coffee, you can get the piece of mind knowing your home is protected 24/7 by the good friends at You-Really-Think-We-Sit-In-Front-Of-Our-Computer-And-Watch-YOUR-House Corporation.

Or how about your favorite credit card company saying you can get identity theft protection for a price of a cup of coffee a day?

Those who help people manage money must be cringing right about now.

Listen, this is not a campaign against home security or identity theft protection. It's a simple blog highlighting another commercialism game that's being played: Do whatever is possible to make your product seem basically free.

Ever notice that most car commercials state the price in "per month" instead of the actual price? (e.g. $299/month) Sure, because in the fine print, the loan is over a greater period, many now being 6 or 7 years. But to the average person watching the commercial, they think "Wow, yeah I can afford $299/mo!" ignoring the fact that they'll be paying that a lot longer than they did before. And then that same person will go around moaning and cussing becuase their $1 double cheeseburger went to $1.20.

Ever watch the commercial about sponsoring a child? For the price of a newspaper a day...

Even some politically-correct (i.e. not being honest) person at work who was perfectly satisfied paying the Obamacare Reinsurance Tax, because she said (and I'm not making it up) that it only meant she had to give up her coffee habit to pay for it and she was happy with that.

I can't help but wonder: If I rationalize every decision and every expense based on giving up coffee, how many freaking cups of coffee must I possibly drink a day?

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Do I want identity theft protection? It's juuuust the price of a cup of coffee! Sure... there goes one cup of coffee.

Newspaper? Why not. Oops, there goes another cup of coffee?

Donate to ASPCA to help animal cruelty? It's just the price of a newspaper, just $0.60/day. Oh wait, but I just ordered a subscription above! Ohhh mannnn... well, bye bye newspaper.

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I mean, where does it end? It's fine to rationalize that way... once. After that, are you really making two trips to Caribou? Maybe so, ok, fine. Three? Ok, now the term "addict" is entering my hea.. FOUR?! Come on, now you're just toying with me, I mean can you possibly function throu... FIVE?! Are you kidding me? Are you twitching when you wake up? I'd hate to see...... TEN?! Whatever.

But I get it... it's easier for a person to digest a smaller number. Moreover, it's easier to put into perspective knowing that you can do something simple like giving up your coffee for an entire year, to help/protect someone/something else.

If someone was trying to sell you home security for a cup of coffee a day or $39.99/mo, which sounds better?

But the question remains... how many cups of coffee do YOU drink a day, and how many do you have left?

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14 Nov

How will this affect you?


One of my favorite politician's quotes is courtesy of Nancy Pelosi:

“But we have to pass the [health care] bill so that you can find out what’s in it....”

And we're finding out exactly what's in it. Full disclosure: There are some good parts of the bill, and some not so good ones, and unfortunately, for me, the negatives outweigh the positives.

And one of the lines I get from people: "What do you care? You have group coverage! How will this affect you?"

"How will this affect you?"

I can't think of another more ignorant argument that people just blindly throw out there sometimes just to act all smart, regardless of the topic being argued.

Well, let's take this for starters -- here's how it affects "me" (everyone).

If you haven't heard by now, there's a number of fees that are going to take place in the health insurance arena, starting in 2014, as outlined in the Affordable Care Act (ACA -- which some people dub "Obamacare"). I'm going to choose one of those fees: The Transitional Reinsurance Fee.

For those with commercial insurance, this 3-year-in-duration fee will be assessed to each individual with medical insurance coverage at a rate of $5.25/mo. for the first year, with reduced amounts for the 2 years after that. The fee itself (whether you agree with the fee is a separate issue) has good intentions -- it's to protect the insurance companies against the higher-risk individuals entering the insurance market that cannot be denied coverage.

But to say "How does this affect you?" is naive.

For my employer-sponsored family coverage, I will be paying $250 extra per year out of my paycheck, with nothing to show for it. Of course, employers (mine included) could always choose to eat the cost of this fee when determining what premium to charge their employees, but in most cases, this will not be the case, and I can most assure you will not be the case with my employer. Individuals getting insurance from the newly-created health care exchanges will be paying this fee, which is embedded within the premiums charged.

"How will this affect me?"

Ask the number of people with specialized insurance products or even a plan which includes a network of doctors you have seen your entire life, who are getting cancellation letters because the product they enjoy from the insurance company does not conform to the minimum benefit standards of the ACA.

(I'm going to stop here, because this isn't a bashing of the ACA... it's just that the ACA was the subject of a conversation I had recently, where "the phrase" was used)

"How will this affect me?"

It's a snotty, smug, Mr.-Know-It-All type argument that does indeed work in some cases (where diligence was performed), but generally will highlight peoples' ignorance.

It's a combative-type response you get when you challenge any issue that a person fully embraces. The phrase puts the burden of proof on you somehow, and then when you debunk their statement, they're quick to defend the reason for it, completely getting away from the orignial question at hand which was:

"How does this affect you?"

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26 Sep

Leave the Freestyle to swimming


 

Yeah, I'm back... now that my new server is up and running (and I've been lazy once I did get the server back up and running)

So you've probably seen these by now, infesting some of your local restaurant chains. The sleeky, new, touch-screen pop dispensers from Coke, called the Freestyle machine.

For those not in the know, these machines dispense all flavors of pop out of one place. Moreover, there are a number of flavorings you can add to your favorite drink to give it that extra kick. So if you're wanting a Caffeine Free Diet Vanilla Coke with Grape, by all means, if you able to spit it out, you can probably request it.

Yes, that sound is all the old-time soda jerks rolling over in their grave.

Now before I start highlighting why these things are worse than the devil (and they just might be too -- they are red afterall), let me get into the positives:

  1. Guaranteed to have your drink - How many times have you gone into a restaurant, hoping to get your Cherry Coke fix, only to find out that your options are: Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite? Wow, thanks for the selection. With this machine, the same flavors are available at every location.
  2. Variety is the spice of life - Ever get bored of Sprite? Now you can delay the inevitable by adding a shot of purple flavoring that the machine calls grape.
  3. Space-saver - Typically if a restaurant wanted more flavors, it would have to add (widen) the dispenser. 10 flavors? Ha! You'd need a space so wide, it would become analogous to the hole width found in the Vikings run defense.

But that's where the positives end. At least for now.

  1. As R.E.M. said, "There's something going on that's not quite right". My favorite flavor of pop -- Cherry Coke -- tastes dreadful. To the point where I literally dumped it out after two sips. Thinking it was just a bad machine, I went to a different restaurant -- same result. Instead of dispensing pure (already-mixed) Cherry Coke, the machine takes Coke and adds a cherry flavoring to it. It's not the same cherry flavoring/ratio as the original, that's for sure, and it's NOT even close. Even Mello Yello doesn't quite taste right.
  2. Carbon dating - For some reason, the carbonation seems to be lacking. It doesn't have the crispness it should. It seems dated... flat... pick your adjective.
  3. Cross-contamination - When I got my sample of Mello Yello, I could taste a hint of the grape flavoring requested from the previous user.
  4. Sticky wicket - The syrup water tends to splash, sticking to the stainless steel. What a sight that is after a day's work.
  5. Limitations - Only combinations entered into the system can be dispensed. So if you were hankerin' for a Coke with Orange and Grape, you might be out of luck. In other words, it's not quite "if you were thinking it, the machine can make it".
  6. Expensive - the machines run tens of thousands of dollars, but supposedly are touted "worth the cost" to keep consumers happy. It hasn't kept this consumer happy.
  7. Waiting for little Jhonny or some elderly person who can't even operate a computer navigating through all the choices trying to figure out which one to choose. It's a multi-step process where it doesn't need to be. And in many locations, there's only one machine. Better have the restaurant re-nuke my dinner, because it will be cold by the time I return from getting my pop!

Obviously, the biggest issues are #1 and #2. As a consumer, if I'm going to be pouring money into a product that provides me zero nutritional value, I better damn well enjoy it. Problem is, they managed to screw up my favorite drink. It's to the point now where if I go into one of these restaurants that have this machine, I order water now and tell them why I'm doing so. (it's better for me anyway)

I have written to Coke about this issue, and they provided a nice response to me (via letter), giving the standard response stating that the machine went thru a large number of tests to ensure product quality. They did also mention that Cherry Coke should taste the same whether it comes from a plastic bottle, can, old-style fountain machine or the new Freestyle machine.

I'm sorry Coke, but if you meant to include Freestyle machine in there, either your taste-testers were on vacation, or their taste buds/tolerance levels are wayyyyyyy out of bounds. Cherry Coke ISN'T EVEN CLOSE. And so say my friends who are also fans of Cherry Coke.

Coke did mention they were going to follow up with the local distributor.

When you can't even get your base flavors to taste right, that's a problem. With Mello Yello, there's nothing to mix except your base Mello Yello syrup and water -- forget about the orange/grape/vanilla flavor add-ins!

So just a fair warning to you. I'm not saying you'll hate the machine too, but be prepared.

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12 Mar

Commercial Frugality


The woman walks past the jewelry store and notices the gorgeous pair of earrings in the window display.

The hook.

Sure the customer may not buy those pair of earrings... who knows, maybe they will. The point is that they want you to enter their store in hopes you'll find something that you WILL like. After all, it's hard to even get people to enter the store, with all the pressure from salespeople, or the knowledge that things will be too expensive. Why even bother. You need the hook.

You're at an amusement park with your date. You pass by the games of chance with predefined ignorance when suddenly you hear "10 rings for $1."

You look.

And at that moment, in what seems like pure timing perfection, the employee gives that little nod of his head, holds out 10 rings and says "You've got this... make the lady happy."

Then when you glance her way, she's got that little well-now-you've-got-to-do-it-show-me-you-got-it-and-that-you-love-me obligatory smile on her face.

The employee just hooked you.

You just went from not giving the employee the time of day to being at least partially, if not fully, engaged in the game.

So what's my point in all this?

You've probably figured it out. It's all about the hook. Maybe it's a product just isn't that exciting to discuss -- life insurance, mattresses, or books. Maybe it's a product where the market is so floode...

BLENDERS! I was watching the March Madness Selection Show, and between commercials I was flipping between channels. I saw infomercials for blenders (the one with Montel Williams), juicers, another blender of compact size, and the magic bullet (an even more compact blender). How am I to choose a blender? Oh yeah, The Hook. The super-fast-talking, excited guy and the lady sidekick who plays the color commentator, performing in front of what seems like endless people, but is really just the camera panning over the same people over and over again, trying to explain to me what this blender does that all other blenders don't do and that I'm a fascist if I don't get it.

And so I saw a commercial. A minute or so in duration. It was that damn SunSetter Awning commercial. The one they've been playing since 19...War II. The one with the guy in the too-tight 80's style polo shirt drinking the tall glass of tea with a lemon.

And as I sat there laughing at the fact that they haven't updated this cheesy commercial in forever, I heard it. That famous line where you can receive the $200 certificate. And then the line about the net cost of the awning after the certificate is applied. It went something like this:

"...means you can get your SunSetter awning for less than $499."

Wait, did I hear that right? It sounded a bit funny. Either I need to get my hearing checked, or that guy's voice just got about 1-2 octaves lower. A la the voicemail where it goes "I'm sorry (deep voice) John Doe (/deep voice) is not available."

Ok, so first off, the old commercial used to have a price tag of "... for less than $398." But I understand inflation. I get that the price can't stay the same during the 700 years you've been playing that commercial. But I also understand cheesiness when I see it. Your hook is being held hostage by your frugality. You had to do a voice-over to an outdated commercial. Don't think it's outdated? DURING THE FIRST COUPLE SECONDS OF THE COMMERCIAL, THE GUY FIXES HIS POLO BECAUSE IT'S TOO SNUG.

So you cheapened your Hook. Amazing. Heaven knows it would be too much to ask to reshoot the commercial -- you know, because you would have actually had to hire two no-namers and reprint the $200 Certificate prop and all. Hell, you can still use your footage of the old lady smiling during all 60-seconds that it takes to open the awning. So really, you only have to retape... oh, about 30-60 seconds of the whole commercial. Edit in the rest.

But no, let's just dub in the new price over the old one. With a voice that sounds NOTHING like the original. Yeah, that'll get me "in the store."

I'm sure they'll say they would rather avoid those [retaping] expenses and keep the awnings low. Yeah, d'ok!!!

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01 Mar

To plow or not to plow, that is the question


Yup, I got stuck just outside my driveway. Thankfully I got free in relatively short order.

As most of the locals know, we got a ton of rain, which then started to fall as ice, which then started to fall as snow. In the end, we had a fairly thick layer of ice sitting on top of the roads, followed by about 5-6" of snow. All this fell by about 4am.

So when some of my neighbors headed off to work, they got stuck. Stuck because their front-wheel-drive vehicles didn't have enough to overcome the slick road AND push through the nearly half foot of resistance.

Where were you, City of Ramsey plows? I know where Anoka County was.

A little background on how the plowing works up here. During a "snow event," there are two types of plows that clean the streets. One is a smaller plow which does the side streets, so that the residents have a path on which to drive. Then big-guns comes by to clear everything off the road (and lay down salt if necessary). The plows generally wait until after the snow is done falling before plowing (budget reasons).

But let's take a trip back in time. Allllll the way back to.... well, just this winter season. The plows have been out a whopping two times. Yes, two.......... in Minnesota........... surreal. It's been a quiet year to say the least. And now we're in March. Winter season is almost over.

There must be a bleep-load of money left in the budget for plowing. Combined with the terrorism that the meteorologists were projecting, would it really have been too much to think the following:

Gee, roads are going to be glazed, then snow covered. It's possible we could get 10 inches of snow, AND it's going to be a wet snow. We've got enough money in the budget to choke a camel, and we're almost done with winter anyway. Perhaps we can plow slightly earlier than the end of the snowfall, and if we happen to get a few more inches, oh well. Big guns will get it. And if we get significantly more (upper end of projections), then maybe we do a 2nd round of plowing.

I mean, everyone seems to complain about plowing at one time or another, but really, would it really have killed you to start the plowing a little earlier than normal for the sake of everyone's sanity?

And because of a lack of local plowing, there was a mound of snow to get through at the major highway (going slightly uphill, naturally) That was a real treat too. Thankfully I didn't get stuck, but you can't get any momentum going from 0mph (waiting for the traffic light to turn green OR waiting for a break in traffic, which never happens) and having to bash through a mound of snow on top of a slick road.

City of Ramsey plow grade: D-

(it would have been an F if we had received 12-18 inches of snow, as originally forecast, and there was no pre-plowing done)

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21 Feb

Something cheesy about this


The other day, I was lazy and decided to cook up some good ol' Mac & Cheese for lunch.

But not just ordinary Kraft Mac & Cheese... Spirals! And one thing I know from my childhood is that it's easier to down the entire box of Spirals than the standard box of Mac & Cheese.

And in examining the box, I now know why. The box of traditional Kraft macaroni is 7.25 oz.while the Spirals contain only 5.5 oz.

But what's amazing is that the cost of Spirals is nearly double that of regular Mac & Cheese!

Same noodle, just different shape.

Same cheese-flavored powder (and actually less of it)

Nothing else is different! Nothing else has the ABILITY to be different. It's freakin' Mac & Cheese!

Now I get that certain Kraft Mac & Cheese types cost more. Spongebob-shaped macaroni costs more because they have to pay for the rights to use the Spongebob character.

But does someone own the rights to the Spiral?

And it's not double the price at just one place -- nearly all our supermarkets! Are enough parents/college students/single people buying it to support it costing much more? Is this really dictated by supply and demand?

I could understand the initial costs associated introducing a new noodle-type, and thus the higher price, but these noodles have been around for at least 10 years, and probably more.

So perhaps it costs more to make the noodle? But it's not a matter of selling it in a smaller box and charging the same... they're selling it in a smaller box and charging a lot more for it to boot.

Who would have thought a shape would have so much power? :)

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09 Feb

Putting the "Voice" in Medical Invoice


So when you get a medical bill, do you just blindly pay it?

Errors happen... trust me, I understand. In the medical field, you sometimes hear of procedures going wrong, misdiagnoses, etc. Folks, our bodies are fairly complicated things! But my Gripe doesn't involve the treatment side; rather, the ever-so-fun medical bill.

And no, this doesn't have to do with the rising cost of health care. That is a Gripe in itself. This has to do with the bill itself.

(and to preface... this next section isn't a bash on Park Nicollet. They have professionally handled my question both times... eh, just read on -- you'll understand!)

In recent bills, Park Nicollet has included a piece of paper which touts the new easier-to-read bill. It highlights things like "Here is the patient name", "Here is the location where services were performed", "Here is the total balance" and "Here is the final payment amount."

(Ok, start the sarcasm right here)

"OOOOH!!!! How pretty! Very nice of them to include that information! So very helpful, and the font is so clean looking!"

(ending sarcasm)

I don't know about you, but I'm not really caring that the new bill looks prettier, because sacrificed is reporting important information regarding the visit. Two things have now vanished:

  1. Procedure/Revenue Codes - A [typically] 5-digit code that providers use to describe what procedure was performed. Now I understand that most Americans don't even know what a procedure code is, not to mention what each code means. The point is that information is taken away that helps identify what it is exactly that they are paying for. Without the information, one can't google the code to ensure the procedure description matches what was done. (see my first example below)
  2. Detailed description of the service that was performed. Now it's a more high-level description. (see 2nd example below)

I'll try to keep my stories short here.

First story: So we took our son in to have a hearing test performed. Simply the one where you put on headphones and raise your hand. In and out of there in 5 minutes. We get the bill -- in the $300 range. "My goodness, we've gone to urgent care for less than this and it took way more of the physician's time than the hearing test. Surely the hearing test equipment can't be THAT expensive!"

No procedure code on the claim to assist me. Vague description of the procedure done. In analyzing the few common codes and prices that Park Nicollet posts on their website, I quickly realized that the amount we were billed matched exactly to the amount of a Level-5 Office Visit. Level-5 basically means that a comprehensive patient history must be done, in addition to a comprehensive exam and a high complexity medical decision.

For a 5-minute hearing test?

Bringing this up to billing, they were initially hesitant to tell me what procedure code was billed, but finally did. I asked an audit be performed on the bill, and sure enough, 1 week later, I found out there was an error in the coding. The Level-5 service should really have been a Level-3. This slashed the bill over half, from over $300 to $130.

Second story: Wife went to the ER. Subsequent to that, she went in for her biometric screening. We got the bill... everything was rolled up under "OP Charges." No idea what I'm paying for, other than an OP stay. In addition to the OP Charges, there are two lab charges from her biometric screening visit (which are covered 100% by our plan).

I requested an itemized bill of the OP Charges and questioned the lab charges. Turns out the lab charges were billed under "General Illness" and not "Preventive Services". Park Nicollet had followed up with a letter:

Thank you for bringing to our attention your concern related to your lab charges dated xx/xx/xxxx.

Effective January 1, 2012, for patients with commercial insurance products like yours, laboratory draw fees and laboratory processing fees will be billed from the location in which the laboratory services were performed. You now have a zero balance for lab services dated xx/xx/xxxx."

Look, when you go to a grocery store, you get a receipt with every item you purchased along with its price. Same goes for a restaurant bill, utility bill, ANY other invoice you get. Medical bills shouldn't be any different. Yes patient privacy concerns could play a part in why bills are so high-level now, but a prudent patient would request an itemized bill anyway which is sent to the very same house the original, high-level bill was sent. You have a right to know what you are paying for.

I argue that by not automatically sending out an itemized bill, you are increasing the amount of customer support needed (like me calling) and the amount of administrative work done (checking bill, investigating, sending new bill, postage).

But no, instead, I'm supposed to be thrilled with the nicer, cleaner-looking bill, and to just suck it up and trust that they have the billing correct.

Request an itemized bill with procedure codes, plain and simple.

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31 Jan

Electrical Signage Issues


An oldie, but a goodie. Would you walk into this place?

 

I might think twice... but still walk in, just to understand the true definition of "nasty."

On my way to work, I would pass by the Regal Cinema. Here is the picture of the building:

But seemingly every time I passed the building, the "G" at the top was burned out. In the early mornings, as well as at night on my way home, it would look like the "Real Cinema." Perhaps there is no faux pas and they are simply highlighting/setting the gold-standard of their building with all the neon and stuff.

Even the Target Greatland by us was "Target eatland," perhaps indicating to the public that they now have a full grocery store inside (which they do).

And lastly, I passed by the Broadway Bar & Pizza the other day to have it say "road Bar." Simple, and to the point -- as effectively as the Rogers liquor store sign that says simply "BEER."

I realize the last three aren't as good as the first one. I also realize that light bulbs do burn out. But in the first case above, by choosing the name "Dynasty Buffet," if you're the manager/owner, I don't think I'm going out on a limb by saying it's good business practice to keep a watchful eye on the signage. It's the price you pay for the name. That, or have the bulbs linked to each other, so when one letter goes out, they all go out.

Choose your names carefully, if you're going to have lighted signage with each letter powered independently. After all, we saw what happened in Revenge of the Nerds...

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18 Jan

No butts about it


You've all likely seen it while sitting in your car. I saw it happen three times on my ride home tonight.

Cigarette butts: Flicked out of a moving car (or in some cases, sitting in a pile beside the left-turn lane)

Let's forget about biases when it comes to the smoking laws in this state/country. What I want to know is... why is it ok to fling a cigarette butt out the window?

I personally claim it's ignorance in most cases, or simply a lack of caring. Let's view some arguments on why some smokers feel it's ok:

I don't want my car to smell like old cigarettes

Then when you get to your destination, wherever it is, dump it in a garbage! It's really that simple. And if you don't have an ashtray that's removable from its housing, bring an empty tin can and place it in your drink holder in your car. Just like you don't want the smell of old cigarettes in your car, I don't want the smell of old cigarettes on a hot summer day just after it rains, sitting in that left turn lane waiting for the light to turn green.

I don't want the mess in my car

Oh yeah? We don't want the mess on our roads! It's sad that we need Adopt-A-Highway programs to clean up the trash on the road. And now on top of the trash, we have these annoying little butts that are damn near impossible to pick up without a vacuum. Didn't you listen to those movies in grade school about not littering? Oh yeah, that's right, I forgot the doctor diagnosed you with A.D.D. and so you've got an excuse.

It's not littering. All smokers do it.

I'm not kidding, someone actually told me that one day. That's the mentality of these people (obviously not all of them). Those two thoughts aren't even related! Many people excessively speed on the highway -- that doesn't make it right. Littering is littering, whether it be a cigarette butt or your sack of garbage. Minnesota Statutes define it, and the penalty as:

609.68 UNLAWFUL DEPOSIT OF GARBAGE, LITTER, OR LIKE.

Whoever unlawfully deposits garbage, rubbish, cigarette filters, debris from fireworks, offal, or the body of a dead animal, or other litter in or upon any public highway, public waters or the ice thereon, shoreland areas adjacent to rivers or streams as defined by section 103F.205, public lands, or, without the consent of the owner, private lands or water or ice thereon, is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.

Do you really want to argue your point now? They specifically state cigarette filters and highway in the statute.

It biodegrades anyway, what's the big deal?

True, it does biodegrade, after many decades. So you're right, it is better than dumping your old CFC light bulbs out on the freeway, from a toxicity standpoint. However, it does take a while, and in the meantime is very unsightly. It's nearly the same reason why you can't just ignore cutting your lawn, or keeping your old broken-down jalopy out in the public eye -- it's an eyesore.

It's not like trash, it's much smaller.

Absurd. So that'd be like saying it's ok to steal, just as long as it's in small quantities. Or, tell that to those that have Evergreen or similar lawn care company come out to spray the lawn. The chemicals they use on the lawn can get into your drinking water. Oh sure it's small, but over time, it builds up.

Look people, littering is littering, there's no way around that argument. I'm not the world's biggest critic of smoking, but I am a critic of public behavior. Just as you wouldn't flick your cigarette on the floor of your living room, quit flicking them out your car. Stop taking the coward's way out, have some decency, help create SOME positive image for smokers (i.e. decency not to litter), and give a little effort... it's not much... to take responsibility for the freedom that you still have (the right to smoke). By continuing to litter, you're just fueling additional hatred that non-smokers have for smokers.

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10 Jan

Creative Company Names


Sorry folks, I realize I took a breather here in posting Gripes. Trust me though, it's me being lazy recently and NOT due to a lack of things to talk about.

So I heard a commercial lately for tax-related services. It's yet another company wanting to help people get out of owing taxes to the government. Put the politics of such action aside for a moment and let's focus on the name.

The name of the company: Tax Monkey. They help relieve you of the debt burden you have with the IRS.

Now, I realize today you need a catchy name. Something that stands out... something that will grab people's attention, but yet isn't too long. After all, Google didn't choose the name worldsbestsearchengine.com -- it's too long. Such a company name wouldn't be easily used as a verb. Take a hypothetical, real-life example:

"I Googled your name and it returned 1,000 results."

Translation: I went to www.google.com and put your name in the search box and it came back with 1,000 websites.

It wouldn't be realistic to expect people to say "I worldsbestsearchengine'd your name..."; however in thinking about it, today's generation would probably shorten it to "I WBSE'd (wibzee'd) your name..."

Anyway, getting back to Tax Monkey, let's examine the name a little more and highlight where things, to me anyway, get awkward:

  1. The use of "monkey." I don't know about you, but when it comes to something as serious as taxes, I guess I just don't want a monkey messing around with my situation. Of anything, I would want the IRS monkey OFF my back, not ON my back
  2. What does a monkey have to do with taxes anyway? Just like those infomercials for The General auto insurance -- call on the General and save some dime. A General? Oh yeah, I know when it comes to matters of automobile accident remuneration and getting a good deal, I can rest assured that because the General's got my back.
  3. Are you really going with the cute angle on this one? Ohhh, it's a cute little monkey! I think I'm going with them! Ohhh, what a funny talking gecko... I'm going with them! A pair of hands for a symbol? No way! If I'm searching the yellow pages, looking for the ad with the cutest mascot just isn't the defining factor.
  4. Sound effects. Oh yeah, the monkey sounds in the background make me take your commercial VERRRRY seriously.

So honestly, I know you're trying for the distinction from other tax debt companies out there, but seriously, take an extra day before you come up with the name. I'm going to hunt down every other company before ever thinking of seeking the assistance of yours.

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21 Dec

"Make the switch" (oh, but we'll need you to sign this little contract here)


You've heard/seen their ads on TV/Radio/Mail: (I won't limit to certain companies, but you'll be able to tell who they are)

Make the switch to better service (...24 month agreement required)

Tired of your old service? (... 24 month agreement required)

Doesn't matter the product: Cell Phones, Cable/Satellite companies, Garbage Collection, DSL...you name it. The progression toward signing contracts for services is continuing. At one time, Americans shunned the idea. However, as time went on, more and more companies tried it out, and now people have become more tolerant of it.

I'm not saying that contracts are necessarily a bad thing, but let's think this through a little bit. Let's take the first example above -- "Make the switch to better service". Along with the "better service", I would have to sign a 24-month contract.

But what is "better service"? How can I be sure it's better without personally trying it out? Let's take a hypothetical example for a cellular plan: Let's say I'm a naive person who gets all their knowledge/facts from commercials and political ads. Let's say I saw a commercial for T-Mobile. In the commercial they state something to the effect of "we're better than Verizon and we're cheaper". I do my limited diligence with coverage maps and all and decide to switch [24 month agreement needed]. After 3 months, I become disgusted because more of my calls are dropping or the actual service isn't as great in certain areas, despite what the maps told me. I'm now forced to stick with them for 21 more months.

Now keep in mind, I understand the whole contract thing with cell phones... you get a free phone, and locking in a person for 24 months is a way for the company to get their money back from giving you a phone for free. The same argument used to be made with satellite companies.

But for garbage companies, satellite companies, or other services that don't require equipment? Really?

Look, most, if not all, satellite companies require you to return the free receivers when you cancel their service. If you don't, they'll charge you the actual cost for the receivers.

So then why do you need to lock a customer up for 24 months? Well, in the early days, a customer didn't have to return the equipment when they cancelled (we still have one of the old satellite receivers). A contract was used to ensure that the customer didn't cancel after 1 month. Now the satellite company is out the cost of the receivers. However, now, you are forced to return the equipment. But since you already had the contracts embedded into your business practice, coupled with the fact that you now force the customer to return the old equipment, you can now use contracts to limit the effect of dropped customers on your "Current # of subscribers" figure you give shareholders each quarter.

When I do my diligence work, what I really want to see with companies is a Customer Retention Rate. That will tell me if a service really is any good.

"Oh, but Schoms, they have many expenses with running the business!"

Oh, you must be talking about the type of expenses such as the every-three-week piece of junk mail I get, telling me they miss me. This stupid piece of mail costs them a little under $10/year. This doesn't even include the regular advertisements in the mail (every week, we get 2 ads for the same satellite company). Oh yeah, they're reallllllllly scraping by. They're making plenty of money, trust me. They don't need to be dealing with contracts.

Contracts are becoming the norm because companies are getting away with using them. People are becoming numb to the idea that they'll have to sign one. It's to the point now where one company (Comcast) can use the "we don't require contracts" as a BENEFIT... a perk! (and good for them for not requiring a contract)

Why would I want to take the risk of locking myself up with your company via a contract on something I haven't even yet tried? Do you walk into a clothing store and buy a pair of pants without trying them on? I mean, after all, you can return the pants and get all your money back! But no, of course you still try them on, because not all 33x32 pant fits everyone the same. And that's just it... not all TV channels are the same. Some people in Seattle or Minneapolis may be less tolerant than others that in rain/snow, their signal may be choppy or even non-existant for periods of time. At least with your pants, you can return them for a refund.

... but not with a contract. Not only are you inconvenienced with having to cancel [return] the service, but you can't leave, unless you want to get slapped with a hefty early-termination fee.

The only way to get rid of these stupid contracts is to voice our disgust with them. But just about the only way to do so is by letting companies know when you try signing on with them after they try to lock you into a contract.

Contracts can be effective for existing customers looking to upgrade. For example, say a person wanted to upgrade from a base phone to an iPhone. The customer might be dissatisfied at the cost of a new iPhone, but the company can give them a discount on the phone (which they'll recoup the cost with their overpriced data plan) if they sign a 12/24-month agreement.

(Full disclosure: We had a contract with Verizon to cover the cost of our base phone. However, we have been satisfied with their service so far, so the idea of a signing a contract to get some additional benefit might appeal to us. We have declined offers to Dish Network, Qwest, and whatever the internet company that's affiliated with DirecTV was called (they've undergone multiple name changes) telling them that we will not start service on anything that requires a contract. We have told Comcast that we liked the fact that they do not require a contract for their services)

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04 Dec

Buying a lottery ticket can increase your chance of winning the lottery


What's the deal with these non-definitive claims?

No way, really?!

Eating Honey Nut Cheerios can lower cholesterol

Can? What do you mean "can"? Experts say that eating a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet is the best way to reduce your cholesterol. Last I checked, Cheerios, or any other cereal for that matter, could also lower your cholesterol... IT'S CEREAL! IT DOESN'T HAVE JACK FOR CHOLESTEROL IN IT.

Special K... a cereal I like eating once in a while, as a picture of a woman in her workout clothes, measuring her waistline with a sewing tape measure. Next to it is a claim stating that eating Special K twice a day, along with a reasonable dinner may help a person lose weight.

First off, stop dicking around with the word "may". Understand this... if I give my KIDS, yes KIDS, this type of diet, I'm going to get them taken away by Child Protective Services on grounds of malnourishment...... NO KIDDING YOU'LL LOSE WEIGHT. If kids would lose weight, adults (who require more calories in a day) are surely going to lose weight. You're eating cereal for your meals! Even if your "reasonable dinner" was a Triple Bypass burger along with lard fries at the Heart Attack Grill, you still wouldn't meet your daily recommended caloric intake.

Look, anyone who doesn't lose weight after eating (daily) Special K for breakfast and lunch and is honest about eating a reasonable meal... I'll eat my words. But until then, you can take the "may" out of your claim and replace it with "will".

But, sadly, I guess we need to use these non-definitive "can"/"may"/"could" because otherwise, people may think that a reasonable dinner is piggin' out at the local Hungry Heffer (Old Country Buffet) or the big 96'er at Ponderosa.

But seriously, who buys Honey Nut Cheerios because it supposedly helps them fight high cholesterol? You don't, so it's an absurd claim to put right on the front of the box. You lose weight (lower cholesterol) because you're likely reducing the amount of calories (cholesterol) you take in on a given day. It's just a convenient mind trick to get people thinking that somehow, Honey Nut Cheerios is special in that it's only one of a few cereals that has the ability to lower cholesterol. You're argument is based on the non-presence of something.

It'd be just as absurd to say "You reduce your chance of a ticket if you don't flee a police officer." No kidding. There's a 100% chance of a ticket (and then some) if you flee, so even though there still may be a good chance you'll get a ticket if you stop, there still might be a chance you get off with a warning. But the argument doesn't hold... he didn't NOT give you a ticket because you stopped. He didn't give you a ticket because either was in a good mood, or felt you were sincere about what you did wrong. It has NOTHING to do with the fact that you stopped. But, since it's technically correct, it must be ok to use.

And just that something is technically possible doesn't mean you can put it on the package.

"Eating a bowl of Froot Loops can lead to higher test scores in children" -- No way, really? You mean a child who actually has a readily-available form of energy in their body can focus better in class because their body doesn't have to make energy from stored fat in their body? Wow.

And maybe it does, I dunno, but imagine if Cookie Crisp, or some Mountain Dew socially-unacceptable equivalent for cereal, touted the same claim that Froot Loops did:

Jowsuff: What cereal do your kids eat?
Bahrbie: Total Choco Roos with Marshmallows
Jowsuff: Wow, you let your kids eat that?
Bahrbie: Yeah, it says right on the package that "One bowl of Total Choco Roos can help improve kids' performance in school", so I figure why not?

Just stop with these stupid claims. Tout what your cereal has or is made of, and nothing else. OR, if you insist on putting them on there, at least have the honesty to say "Kids who eat one bowl of CEREAL do better in school" (note no brand name cereal listed)

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26 Nov

Rinse, Repeat


No I'm not the Grinch.

Our radio dial is practically glued to Christmas music after Thanksgiving. The kids enjoy it, and it's a nice break from the normal stuff we listen to. I listened to it growing up, and I still do. However, Christmas music shares one major characteristic with your favorite "top hits" radio station -- a lack of variety. And I don't mean that they play the same exact song by the same exact artist. Confused?

I mean, how many times do I have to hear Jingle Bell Rock? Not just by Bobby Helms, but also Hall & Oates, Amy Grant, et al. I think there's like 500 versions out there (ok, Wikipedia says around 60) and a number of them are played on the radio.

Here's what seems like the playlist I've heard recently (slight exaggeration to illustrate a point):

We Wish You A Merry Christmas
Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms)
The Christmas Song (Choose your favorite artist's rendition)
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (Traditional, I forget who originally sang it)
Jingle Bell Rock (Hall & Oates)
The Christmas Song (Choose an artist you dispise, they probably sing this one too)
I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus (horrible version by Mellencamp)
(and then for "variety", let's throw in a...)
You're a Mean One Mr. Grinch

It's common for people to get tired of Christmas music by the time Christmas actually arrives, because they start playing the music around Halloween. For me, it's almost to the point where I have to stream the music online because every year, I'm reminded of how little variety there is over the local airwaves. I argue that part of the reason people get sick of it is for the type of playlist illustrated above. It's not really variety if you're hearing the same lyrics every hour, even though it's sung by someone else.

It's fine to throw in new version of songs every year, but where are the original songs? Where are the "I Want a Hippopotamus For Christmas"? The "Christmas In Your Eyes" (Gloria Estefan)? The "All I Want For Christmas Is You" (Mariah Carey)? No, we're stuck listening to yet another version of "O Holy Night", this time by Josh Gropin' (sorry, Groban)

To me, you might as well just play the same version of the song that you played before, because it's all the same. (and yes, those stupid versions recorded by American Idol contests where it's more about throwing your voice around trying to hit every note possible in 10 seconds than actually singing the song)

Have we lost all ability to write our own songs?

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19 Nov

Where have all the good shows gone?


Our definition of "entertained" has certainly changed over time, hasn't it? Especially for the kids when it comes to broadcast TV. And I argue it's for the worse (with PBS being the exception)

As you probably know, kids love cartoons. Saturday morning was, and still is, magic time when it comes to cartoon watching. I remember watching shows on all the major non-cable networks. It seemed like many of them were "sittoons" (a word I just made up) -- a real-life situation with a minor lesson to be learned, all while being delivered in cartoon format. Because I have a feeling this blog entry is going to get long, I'll list two of the main ones I can think of.

GI Joe's Public Service Announcements at the end of each episode always taught me never to go anywhere near power lines; told me what to do if my arm caught on fire; taught me to be cautious when coming near a stray dog.

Care Bears dealing with all types of real-life feelings: Getting braces, being ridiculed for wearing glasses, what to do when you feel like running away from home, and being bullied. Instead, we have the Simpsons, who indirectly teach us that to counter being bullied, we should bring our own band of punks.

And it doesn't have to be limited to cartoons.

Remember the older sitcoms? Leave It To Beaver and ooooooh, The Cosby Show! -- prime time TV shows that in my opinion balanced humor and morals within each episode (and yes, I know there were more sitcoms doing such things). You didn't dare go out without telling Mr. Huxtable where you were going. Or mouth off. Or not do your chores. There was grounding... and then a fair amount of time explaining why it happened and what to do about it.

Heck, even Family Matters, Step By Step, and Full House ON DURING PRIME TIME FRIDAY NIGHT, seemed to have a "sit back and analyze what just happened" scene at the end of each show (accompanied by the slow, sorrowful music)

I'm not saying that these shows' sole purpose was to teach us the rights and wrongs of life, but I AM saying that they constantly reminded us of those things, all while being entertained.

But now what's happened to these shows?

Let's start with the Saturday morning time slot. Well, the FCC helped ruin that with the introduction of the Childrens Television Act of 1990, which forces a minimum of three hours per week of Educational or Informative (E/I) content. Now while this isn't a bad thing, it did have adverse results. Broadcast networks don't want to touch any precious time from M-F for ratings purposes, so from 7am - 10am (or some portion thereof) on Saturdays, the three major networks show a special edition of Weekend News, as a way to fill the E/I quota.

Well, let me tell you, I know MY kids will wake up extra early on Saturday morning for THAT!

Then, when the quota is filled, they are free to show non E/I content -- but what's out there?

Pokemon, Yu-Gi-Oh, That's So Raven, Hannah Montana, Sonic X, The Emperor's New School, The Doodlebops, Dinosaur King, Spongebob Squarepants.. ugh.

The shows are seemingly limited to battling, good vs evil, music-based or what it takes to be more socially hip. Where are those "little reminders"? Ok, so my kids are taught everything they wanted to know about the duck-billed platypus and how paper is made, but seemingly nothing regarding life-lessons. So Saturday morning is out.

So what have we got in the weekday after school slot? Psshhh... (insert laughter here)... D'ok. Next?

What about the weekday prime-time slot? Well, a talent show (Idol), another talent show (X-factor), ANOTHER talent show (America's Got Talent), a music show (Glee), 9,000 crime-scene shows, 34,220 law shows, reality shows (Survivor and the like), sports, old movies, and for the time slots that remain, comedies that sure don't teach a life lesson, and SURELY are not even close to being suited for children (constant use of arse, bizzniche, and the underworld).

But they're what get the ratings, and sadly, that's all that matters.

And the good shows that do exist survive on life-support via a smaller cable channel (Noggin, Boomerang, Nick At Nite, et al)

But nobody notices. It's like a game of telephone -- the first person gets the story close to perfect, the next person gets most of the details, and so on and so on. Everybody thinks they have remembered most of the key details they heard, until you examine the story at the end and compare it to the beginning. It's these small omissions from life... little gradual steps... to do something for the better of the whole.

The next time you're exiting the parking lot and seemingly nobody is applying the zipper method...

The next time a youngster doesn't hold the door open even though you were only 3 steps behind...

When your kids wander off without telling the parents where they are...

When it seems like nobody does anything without being paid for it...

When you see Johnny sitting alone at the lunch table at school and nobody does anything about it...

So it's up to the parents to constantly remind their children of important lessons (which is fine, but I can hear the telephone ringing). For crying out loud, we have some parents who don't spend quality time assisting their children with their homework questions (and if you don't believe me, read the studies). There exist reasons for this, some which are not by choice, but that's not the point. (telephone rings)

Little by little. One person at a time.

But don't worry, at least we've got people with good voices, good dancing ability and can play sports...

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04 Nov

Store this!


They just don't make them like they used to has never been so true, when you're talking about computer storage.

It's bad enough that I've been studying for my exam the last 2... decades (at least it seems like), but then a few weeks ago, I lost my fourth... yes, fourth external drive.

Meanwhile, I have only lost one internal drive in my life, and that was because of a bolt of lightning that blew out more than just the drive itself. I'm still working off internal drives that are from the early 2000s.

So why don't external drives last anymore, while their internal counterparts seem to last forever. It's basically the same drive, just placed in a different housing. The power hook-up is different I guess inside a computer than in the external drive (plugs into a computer power pack instead of the outlet), but that would seem about it.

Does an external drive draw electricity differently? Does it write to the drive differently (constant pulses of stop/start/stop/start) that basically work it over?

I mean, I'm at a point where I'm about ready to buy a computer tower that's fills my entire den and attach 3 different 1TB drives to it and see if they last. Screw external drives.

The biggest Gripe I've had is when I had all my information backed up from one drive onto the EXACT SAME DRIVE (brand/model/etc) which was stored in my computer drawer. I loaned it to my in-laws for storage for a brief period. Well, I lost the one drive, so I had to go to the in-laws to get it back. Theirs konked out as well. WTF?!

I repeat, my drive from 2001 is still fine and working. Even my server, which is being constantly used, is working from 2005, with no issues.

Meanwhile, I'm on my third external drive in 4 years.

I guess it's me.

(sorry, not much funny in this one. The Gripe was more for bad timing of both my drives going down at the same time I was studying. Oh, and the fact that I really REALLY want to know if there's something to the external drive failure rates, compared to storing it internally)

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27 Oct

Wrap, wrap, wrap, wrap it up!


Ugh, yeah those Subway commercials were damn annoying -- "Wrap it up!" And then at the end "That's a wrap." Oooh, creative!

But it seems like plenty of fast food chains took their advice.

We live in a world where the $1 menu was created so select people would still be interested in their stores. We have coupons, gimmicky promotions, new inventions... restaurants want you in their store. Investors want growth in companies. So what can companies do to increase their profit margins in this economy?

Wrap up their sandwiches and charge a premium for it. That's crazy whack funky.

Seemingly the first to do it was the McDonald's Angus Burger. It came in a box, and inside the box the burger came half wrapped. I guess the mentality is if you're paying $4 for a burger, we don't want your little fingers getting any grease on them! Plus, since we really can't change the flavor of the burger anymore, we can give it the extra sense of "hugeness" by having it stick out of the wrapper. ANYTHING looks bigger if it protrudes out of its home!

Then, of course, BK had to follow suit with their Chef's Burger... almost identical to McD's Angus Burger, only without the box. Instead, an individual wrapper around, yes, half the burger.

Wendy's has "Dave's Burger" sandwich, which is inserted into a box about 3/4 the size of the burger. You never box any of your sandwiches, Wendy's... why do you feel the need to do so with this one? Oh, because it's a step up from a Double Stack, but somehow charge 4x the amt.

I mean, does a person really sit at the dirty booth that hasn't been wiped in 3 days, and even when it's wiped, the rag used to clean it has been sitting in a soapy water bucket filled with a collection of who-knows-what from way earlier in the day, and think to himself '... look at everyone else, just eating that lame burger. MINE's got class. It SCREAMS classy because it has an extra wrapper! Everyone else's burger just comes in that thin glossy wrapper. HA!'

I think I just threw up in my mouth...

If you need an extra wrapper, you probably should remove the grease from your burger before you serve it! Just a thought.

Now I'm no environmentalist, but I am conscious. As Ethan and Erin would say, I'm an Eco Ranger! Just that you slap an extra wrapper around a sandwich, or put it in a glossy box doesn't mean you can charge a premium. I mean, didn't McD's learn a little something from their classy McD.L.T. invention? Remember this beast? It took up the whole tray! And trying to fit it into the garbage container was equivalent to a complete workout at Lifetime Fitness.

oooh baby... mega styrofoam!

But I guess it does mean you can charge more. I'm in the wrong... after all, it's still on the menu (full disclosure, I do order the Angus Burger about a couple times a year) And yes, I do know that I quoted Digital Underground above, unintentionally.

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17 Oct

A Marketing Gimmick Not So Sweet


So October 15th has come and gone. Big deal, so has October 14th and 16th and every other day of the year. So what's the significance? Well, I intentionally held off writing this as to not give any mention to Sweetest Day, the dumbest, most overrated non-holiday that ever was.

Let's see... how can we bilk millions more from the public? Hey, I got it... let's invent another love holiday! Yeah, and if we do it right, it will be another holiday where we can convince the public of the importance of receiving something from their significant other. And if they don't, the massive guilt trip that would result.

Brie-aenne: What did your hubby get you?

Gorgeous: Nothing.

Brie-aenne: (gasp)

And Rainbow Foods... I'm looking at you on this one. No other company advertising locally even comes close to touting this POS non-holiday than you do. Guess how much has been spent by me on this "day"? That's right... $0. Valentine's Day isn't far behind either.

Look, if you're a chocolate maker, card company, florist, etc, you're most likely in favor of this day. More dirty money in your pocket -- you couldn't make real sales by, oh, coming out with a commercial like "Our flowers are awesome, check em out!" or "Buy flowers today, just because" or "Surprise your wife with some flowers tonight".

And I argue that your wife will love flowers even more on the element of surprise instead of some cheap "holiday" telling you to buy them. It'll truly tell her you were thinking of HER when she sees them.

Imagine Microsoft or some computer company inventing a holiday called Robo Day. "Tell your computer/robot that you appreciate all the billions of calculations it has done for you in your lifetime by giving the gift of RAM." "Show your car that you love it with a fresh oil change."

Marketing morons... haven't you pulled enough from our pockets? Birthday, Mother's Day, Christmas, Maternity, New Years ("Celebrate the new year with a gift of..."), Anniversary, Valentine's Day, Boss' Day, Admins Day, and now Sweetest Day. Every day is a day! There's more I left out, but you get the picture.

Sweetest Day... pshhh. No thanks. I'll continue to really celebrate my relationship on the day that matters most -- my anniversary.

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05 Oct

I Feel Like I'm Being Nagged By That Overprotective Mother...


Especially in this era of parenting, you all know of the stereotypical overprotective parent. It starts off with the basic warnings, but then morphs:

Don't touch the hot oven, or you'll burn your fingers!

Don't sit too close to the TV, you'll hurt your eyes!

Don't ride your bike without a helmet!

Don't drink from the garden hose!

Make sure you're wearing your shin guards before you mow!

Be careful, I don't want you injuring yourself on those monkey bars!

I really don't want you ever driving the car, because it's dangerous out there.

The world is full of germs. Here, stay inside our home forever where the air is cleaned by the Dust-o-matic P218XP Series II 2GSX.

And nobody seems more overprotective than weather forecasters. I'm just going to list a few:

Tornado Watch & Warning
Severe Thunderstorm Watch & Warning
Winter Weather Advisory
Winter Weather Warning
Wind Advisory
Wind Chill Advisory & Warning
Heat Advisory
Extreme heat warning
Dense Fog Advisory
Severe Drought
Flash Flood Watch & Warning
... etc.

And as you may/may not know, last year, the National Weather Service was even testing out a new warning called the Extreme Cold Warning, which somehow differs from the already well-known Wind Chill Warning in a way I'll probably never understand.

I mean, even when they shout Tornado Warning, that doesn't even mean that a Tornado has been spotted anymore. All it has to do now to qualify as a Tornado is have the radar indicate rotation which could likely spawn a tornado!

And it doesn't seem to matter what type of weather we get -- unless it's 70 and mostly sunny with a dew point of 50, there's some warning or watch to be had. And now we get to add one more to the list:

************************************************

348 AM CDT WED OCT 5 2011

THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN THE TWIN CITIES/CHANHASSEN HAS ISSUED A RED FLAG WARNING FOR WIND AND LOW RELATIVE HUMIDITY...WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM NOON TODAY TO 7 PM CDT THURSDAY.

* AFFECTED AREA...CENTRAL AND SOUTH CENTRAL MINNESOTA.

************************************************

So let me understand... if there's too much humidity, we either get a flood warning, or, if no precip is falling, we get a dense fog advisory. But heaven forbid, if there's a lack of humidity in the air... well, we can't have that! We need to issue another warning... to the general public. Be careful where you step, because there's just not a lot of moisture out there! You might get a bloody nose or something, so remember to pack an extra box of tissues just in case. Just stay indoors, curl up and pray that you make it through this.

The earth spins on its axis! Weather changes. There are spots of high and low pressure that help move air around. These things happen! NOT EVERY DAY IS 70 and partly sunny with a dew point of 50! We get varying weather, that's what some love about this state! WE HAVE A SEASON CALLED WINTER. WE KNOW THIS. WE PREPARE OURSELVES FOR THIS. WE DON'T NEED A WARNING FOR EVERY EVENT THAT VARIES FROM 70 DEGREES!

I can't wait until we get a warning "Ominous Cloud Advisory."

... and we're trying to figure out how, with all the modern conveniences (Dishwasher, automobile, oven, etc.) which make our lives easier, we have more stress in our lives. Hmmmmm.....

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28 Sep

Meter purposes


If you drive on the freeways in Minnesota, you've seen them.

Ramp Meter signals on the acceleration ramps.

Dumb

I'm not totally against them, but some things really annoy me about them:

1. They're so far down the acceleration lane that you have no chance of accelerating up to speed with the rest of the traffic already on the freeway, defeating the purpose of the lights (which is to limit impeding the flow of traffic)

2. They only function during the morning and afternoon rush hours. In off-peak hours, they blink yellow. Why not conserve energy and turn them off?

The next point is the real reason for the Gripe...

3. At 7:45am... near the peak of the rush hour, the ramp meter at 77th and 169 (doesn't receive a huge amount of traffic) was cycling extremely quickly. Ok, what do I mean by this...

For those not in the know, the meters operate just like a traffic light. It turns green, waits 1 second and then cycles to yellow and then immediately red (hence the 1 car per green sign). The path of going from green to yellow to red is called a cycle. Typically, there are lights on both sides of the acceleration ramp, where cars are supposed to make two lines -- one on the left and one on the right. When the light on one side cycles, the light on the other side has its turn to cycle. Usually there's a pause of anywhere from a few seconds to close to 15 seconds, depending on the location in the Twin Cities. This helps restrict the amount of cars entering the freeway at one time, which otherwise, would slow traffic.

So back to the story. The lights at this location cycle quickly. Once the light on one side cycles, the other side immediately cycles with no waiting time in-between. This is always the case with the lights at this location.

WHAT'S THE POINT OF EVEN HAVING THEM ON THEN? They're not even doing anything. THERE'S NOT EVEN ENOUGH TRAFFIC ENTERING THE FREEWAY AT THIS LOCATION. And even if there was, how would they be able to keep up with the unbelievable cycle speed? That's right, they couldn't.

Even with traffic at a standstill (on the freeway), these lights still function that way. Take them out! They are a true waste of energy. If you're not going to control them properly, do yourselves and mother nature a favor. They cause more confusion than anything. I watched as some dufus, getting closer to the lights, actually moved over to the other side to time the green. EVEN MORE REASON TO TURN THEM OFF (hell, just have them blink yellow)... you're going to be driving thru a red light anyway, and now you're causing that dufus to slow down unnecessarily. There were no cars there to begin with, so there would have been no impact to the flow of traffic anyway.

Come on MN-DOT.. sheesh

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16 Sep

Rain rain come this way


Rain already!

We need it.

After a wetter-than-normal summer, our meteorologists are chomping at the bit to tell us how dry it is out there. You got Mr. Douglas LEADING OFF the weather with how wet it was... 32nd wettest on record since 1891.

Goof  

So if you're trying to contract how dry we've been with how wet it was in the summer.... Ok, first off, we've got oh, let's see... (2011 - 1891) = 120 years that have passed since 1891, and of that, we experienced... the 32nd greatest..... amount of rain............... which isn't even in the top 25% of all time? And we're supposed to care about this? Get back to me if we're in the top 10 or something.

Look, if you're writing the weather almanac or something, fine. But that's not what's going on.

A lack of rain makes things all brown, which sucks. It's already dreary enough being between seasons. And I'll bet it'll start raining when I'm about ready to rake up the leaves. Never fails.

Just don't rain when it's 30 degrees out. I hate it when it snows then melts, then snows, then melts. Pick a weather type and go with it.

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10 Sep

Alright cops, listen up!


"To Protect, To Serve"

B, with a capital S

Eden Prairie, this is for you.

Last night, I'm coming home from being at work late. It's dark out. Waiting at a stop light. Light turns green, so I proceed to enter the intersection and realize there's a car coming that isn't stopping. I hit the brake and watch him go right through the intersection.

Then, couldn't have been much more than 3 minutes later, I watched a pedestrian almost get hit crossing IN THE CROSSWALK with the right-of-way (even though they always have the right of way, technically).

I get on the freeway (494) and what do I see up ahead? Two cop cars just sitting there waiting for some sucker to be caught speeding.

Of course I get mad at excessive speeders, but cops' slogan shouldn't be about Protecting and Serving, but rather "Being in the wrong place at the wrong time."

No I didn't get pulled over (for the record, I was doing 58 in a 60)... I'm talking about the fact that it always seems that when something legit is worth catching, the police are never there. Why is that? Well, that is until it involves you... then it always seems like they're in the right place (for them).

Catch the people running massively-red lights and causing head-on collisions or sideswiping accidents. THERE, you're protecting.

And I know that we can't have a cop sitting at every intersection... that's not what I'm saying. But it's certainly better than two cop cars just sitting on a freeway road doing virtually nothing. I'm not condoning speeding, but it causes less accidents than running red lights. Why do you think 169/81 in Brooklyn Park was among the top 10 worst intersections in America in terms of accidents? Why do you think they acted so quickly to get an overpass over that intersection?

Be in the right place at the right time for once, that's all I ask!

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02 Sep

See Titanic for a 5th time!


You have to be the first in line for the Star Wars movie on release night.

On Black Friday, show that you're a die-hard and camp outside the Target store the night before (to save $0.30 on shampoo)

Be the first to ride the Wild Thing at Valleyfair.

We are surrounded by stupid challenges, whether the challenges are directly stated or not. I heard the most recent one on the radio, regarding our Minnesota State Fair ("August 25th through Labor Day, State Fairgrounds... BE THERE!"). We were given a challenge. The challenge was a very basic one: How many times are you going to the fair this year? That's not a question, that's a challenge!

You got it buddy! I'm up for it! </sarc>

He's right! I can't be the only one on my block to go just one time!

Those people around the water cooler will be jealous I went twice!

Nobody's going to touch my going 5 times -- I'm the champion! ::self-gratification::

Yup, you win buddy... good job! Dropping $60 for your five visits (not including parking, food or drinks) just to have the privilege of standing with 100,000 others waiting 20 minutes for your damn salad-on-a-stick which is $5 overpriced to begin with.

Look, I'm not saying you can't go to the State Fair. I go about every 4th year. I'm just trying to understand why you would go multiple times within a year. Certainly if you go with your friends one time, and then your family the other time, that at least makes some sense. But for those not included in the previous example, you certainly didn't go back to see the giant pig once again, nor did you go back to get more free rulers from the Education tent. Did you not see everything the first time? It's not really that big of an area. Maybe it's the pork-chop-on-a-stick that you just can't find anywhere else.

But would you really fork down another $12 for that? Mr. Announcer, tell me... why on earth would Joe Blow challenge himself to go back more times? To stuff his face with Deep-fried-butter-on-a-stick again? No, it's stupid commercialism that causes people to stop thinking. Imagine:

Neighbor 1, holding a can of Schell beer: Goin' to the State Fair, 'ya know?

Neighbor 2, drinking cucumber water: Yup, already went twice, now going with the wife and kids

[the sky opens and the sun shines down on Neighbor 2]

Neighbor 1: [in awe] Woooowwwwwww!

IT ISN'T GOING TO HAPPEN PEOPLE! NOBODY CARES THAT YOU WENT TWICE, THREE TIMES, WHATEVER!

But go ahead... go 10 times. Be that person on your block! You can do it! And while you're at it, make sure you take a thorough shower after each visit, or the stench from the garbage will linger with you until next State Fair!

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24 Aug

Made With "The Best Stuff On Earth"


Yeah, that's right, it's Snapple. What was "the best stuff on earth" anyway? What's there to hide? Why not say "We use the purest water" or "We use 100% cherry juice to flavor it..."

Ever have your parents tell you what it was like to have a real strawberry fountain drink? Yeah, I wish I could have experienced it too. And it's these type of things that made the phrase "they don't make things like they used to" possible. So we're left trying to figure out just what they do put in foods nowadays.

So a new trend now is for products to start touting particular ingredients on the front of the packaging. It's like they want us to do cartwheels and get all excited when we recognize a particular ingredient within a food product.

What the hell type of cheese was it before? Thank goodness, no High Fructose Corn Syrup

I mean, Pepsi's move from high fructose corn syrup back to sugar is awesome. I do like the flavor better. And I know what sugar is, so that's a lot better sounding than high fructose corn syrup.

And Ritz Bits... now made with REAL cheese. Um, at least this mystery ingredient is now solved, but if it's real cheese, why doesn't it have to be kept in a refrigerator? I mean, I know parmesean cheese doesn't need to be kept chilled, but they don't use parmesean cheese in Ritz. Anyway, I'm getting off track...

Pop Tarts, Juice Boxes and Fruit Snacks made with real fruit. Even Egg Beaters saying they're made with real eggs... they're all touting "now with real" ingredients that are everyday items.

So I ran into a sample pack of Dentyne Pure -- gum that freshens your breath. On the front of the packet is "With NeutraFRESH" (see picture below)

NeutraFRESH?  

Forget about knowing what the hell this is/means, has anyone not involved with the Cadbury company or the Trademark Office even heard of the word NeutraFRESH?

I mean, it's like I'm walking down the aisles in the grocery store going "Let's see... Juicy Fruit.. nope, sorry, no NeutraFRESH. Big Red.. nope. Wrigley's... nope. Big League Chew.. nope. AHA! Dentyne Pure's got it! Nice." [throw package of gum in cart].

Do you know ANY other products made with NeutraFRESH? Why are you featuring it on the front of the package when everyone's going to be scratching their head at what it means? I mean, why don't you put "Now made with Phenylalanine!" And to further play into the joke, phenylalanine is C6H5CH2CH(NH2)COOH.

NeutraFRESH is probably just another man-made chemical that causes cancer. We keep making great progress finding cures for specific types of cancer, but keep raising the bar effectively inventing new ones to keep the labs busy.

So it's nice we are putting ingredients we can recognize, or heck, MENTION in things we eat. It's even better that it's put on the front of packaging. But these unknown ingredients that are touted on the front of the package keeps me asking "Why?"

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17 Aug

"I get de-lirious...." - Prince


Most of us have experienced this -- either it has happened to you, or you've seen this happen to others. A celebrity or event comes along which gets someone excited and then they lose all sense of sanity that they become delirious.

Oh my goodness, you're my favorite baseball player!

AHHHH.. It's a Glee movie... and it's 3D... I totally have to see it because it's GLEE!

So my employer is hosting a Career Development week, currently planned for September. The announcement was made via our intranet site. Under the announcement is a comment box, where anyone can leave a comment. I've posted a snapshot of the announcement, and the first 5 comments. Trust me, you'll be glad I stopped at 5 -- you'll have a hard time keeping down your breakfast/lunch, and I thought a good balance between this and getting my point across was 5. (I removed the last names from the picture)

*bleh*  

Honestly, these people must have got ahold of a pure batch of crops from Columbia and smoked it right before posting. I mean, seriously, these posts have to be planted (sorry about the pun there). [The employer] HASN'T EVEN DONE ANYTHING YET, other than posting a date! You don't know how involved it's going to be, as there's no information about the event. You're purely speculating how good it's going to be.

"Wow, cool!"

THERE'S. NO. CONTENT. THERE.

"... model behavior... plan for ongoing skill & knowledge development"

Please stop with the buzzwords. You must already be an executive.

"refreshing and encouraging...executive team outwardly encourages their employees to grow in stature"

Who were you working for before? Give me one company that insists that their employees remain life-long cashiers. Even McDonalds encourages moving up the corporate ladder! It's how you create the next generation of leaders!

I'm going to be looking up these people in our employee database to see if they're even employees. If they are, I'll bet you that every one of them (except the buzzword person) was hired in the last month. In other words, they're still on the honeymoon period of their hiring. That, or every company has its nodders and cheerleaders. RAH RAH!!!

"Lose all self-control, baby just can't steer... I get delirious!"

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12 Aug

Surely IHOP will eventually come out with better syrup!


Only been to IHOP one time. 5 years ago. Gave IHOP one more chance, to see what's changed in the 5 years. Outside of their prices, and some dish with chicken fingers on top of pancakes, not much else.

Food is good (slightly more expensive than I would have thought for breakfast-type food, but that's not the point). Of course, I had to get something that came with a stack of pancakes -- after all, it's IHOP.

But there's one thing that unfortunately hasn't changed... their syrup.

If you've ever wanted to find something thinner than water, you've found it.

If you've ever wondered what water with a touch of sugar and food coloring tasted like, you've found it.

If you've ever sought 4 different syrups that all somehow tasted the same, you've found it.

And I learned my lesson last time... try the syrup before you smother your pancakes with it. And upon sitting down for this visit, I noticed a new flavor -- boysenberry! (My favorite -- from Perkins). Hey, we might have a chance here! IHOP can totally redeem themselves!

So I poured a small sample on an empty plate. Visually, nothing has changed from 5 years ago -- runny as hell. Maybe I can deal with it though, if it tastes good. The verdict: The syrup was so horrible, I decided to forego all syrup and just eat my pancakes... with only butter :(

What a crock. I guess if I ever visit again, I'm going to have to bring my own bottle of syrup. That, or siphon a couple of bottles of Perkins' boysenberry syrup in my black trenchcoat, a la the Chi Chi's guy with the salsa.

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02 Aug

Village Idiot III


First off, I think I should lablel this Village Idiots...

Stock up on your school supplies quickly! That's right, Walgreens is having a 9 folders for 1 cent sale right now! Need proof?

Wow, what a deal.  I'll take 5.  Here's a penny, keep the change!

Wow, what a deal! I'll take 5. Here's a penny, keep the change!

This isn't the first time this has happened either. It just happens to be the first time I got a photo of it. Last year, they had Coke 2-liters for a penny (.99¢) and candy bars for a penny (.50¢).

Why do you feel the need to add the decimal point when you already have the cents sign?

And to think I trust them for my prescriptions!

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29 Jul

Advertising Euphoria


It used to be your normal sources: mail, newspaper, radio and TV. Even one's own body has succumbed to it, via tattoos. Advertising is everywhere. The newest way to get their message across? The vehicle.

Disgusting

Yes indeed, nothing tarnishes one's self-image more than flaunting around with your hands at 10-and-2 with a daisy following you.

And I'm sure that hot date will really be impressed as they're entering the Pringlemobile. After all, to a date, nothing says "I'm worth it" more than that feeling of security, knowing they're safe inside a box of Cheerios.

And for a hundred dollars of revenue a month, you too can sell out and achieve this level of superiority. That's right, in a country where dares are the norm, you have shows such as Fear Factor and bets such as "Would you drink a gallon of milk for $50?" Everything seems to have a price tag -- it's just a matter of what the price is. Think of it...

Pull into the parking lot for Sunday morning mass touting "Hell's Kitchen on FOX 8pm".

Hold your head up high as you drive around the city flanking a photo of Trojan Man.

Feel self-confident, pulling up to your cashier job at Wal-Mart in a vehicle displaying Amazon.com or Target.

Suit yourself... I'm making an extra $100-$200/month!

Here's a cookie, I'll keep my pride. If you're a man and relying on the $200, you're probably the same person who, when asking a woman out on a dinner date, would go halvsies. Then, after dinner, go balls-to-the-wall and take her to a $1 movie theater ON YOU!

But if you're a NASCAR fan, you're probably stoked at the idea of driving around with a bunch of ads on your car. Now you can REALLY feel like Dale Jr! All you're missing now is a matching racing suit! Though I'm sure if you're envisioning having a NASCAR-like car, you probably already have the racing suit in your closet.

I mean, advertisements are everywhere now. The bus has always had advertising on the sides, now they managed to use every square inch of the bus and have started covering all the windows! Advertising is now in schools too to offset budget cuts. Anything to keep from raising my property tax, I guess!

You won't catch me dead driving around with these types of ads plastered to my vehicle. I'll keep my dignity and do the Smith Barney thing and make money the old-fashioned way.

Categories: Amusement , Gripe Read More

20 Jul

No Soup For You!


Hear that? It's the sound of emptiness coming from the eastern-most area of our building -- the cafeteria.

The once bustling cafeteria, serving a variety of flavorites that seemed to nearly please everyone, and at a reasonable price, is now being held hostage by corporate threats. Healthier options or else...

I remember having to wait in line, sometimes as much as 10-20 people long, simply to pay for the food. Food served piping hot was practically ice-cold by the time you got the chance to sit down. Favorites in our office such as Chicken Parmesean, Country Fried Steak, Pasta Bar, etc have all either been removed, or are only served once a year. And when they ARE served, they've been severely modified.

All this, to tout the "healthier lifestyle".

When I go down there now (to get my afternoon milk), I can almost walk up to the cashier and immediately get helped.

More examples of changes fascist in nature:

  1. A once edible pizza with limited flavor is now being made with a whole-wheat crust and now NO flavor. On top of that, the crust is extremely hard.
  2. Virtually all foods requiring frying have been practically eliminated from the "home" section of the cafe.
  3. Thinking about getting a hamburger? Not only have they made it smaller, but don't expect a white bun... only 900 grain wheat bread -- enough fiber content to wean the entire United States off Metamucil.
  4. Heaven forbid we ever serve red meat -- instead, we'll have at least one fish option every day, and sometimes (during the summer months) we'll have 2 -- salmon and tilapia! I thought we were supposed to eat fish in moderation? And how long before people will be tired of the fish option?

And if you think this Soup Nazi (Seinfeld reference) type "here's how we're serving it, and you'll like it" attitude is being taken lightly by the employees in our office, you've got another thing coming. Here's a few comments from colleagues:

I used to go down to the cafe every day. Now, I just bring my own lunch.

I don't even bother looking at the menu anymore, it's sad.

There's nobody down there anymore, so I don't go down there [to the cafeteria].

And what effect has this had on Aramark? Well, with the reduced revenue, they've had to increase prices everywhere. Baked potato bar for $5.95? Seriously? For a freakin' potato... one I can get at my local store for $.59? That's with no drink or any side item! No sanctuary for the healthy salad bar option either... increases there too! So now there's no variety and everything is as expensive as hell.

Want more examples of variety? There's little inventive skills at play here -- we've had/have taco bars on Monday and Friday weekly. We had outside vendors come in to serve their own food instead of our own. Where variety once stood, fish is served continuously. Now, the main portion of our cafe is closed on Fridays and some Thursdays because of a lack of demand!

Some are even now going out of the office for lunch, because it's cheaper! And it makes sense too. Convenience is being sacrificed because of price and a lack of variety!

For example, let's say you and a few others are in a pizza mood. You each can either get a slice of tasteless pizza, having to force yourself to eat a dried-up whole wheat crust (which doesn't sound like something that would satisfy one's mood) for $3.00 something (no drink or sides) or you can walk across the highway with your friends to the Little Caesar's (I'm not saying that's a choice establishment... but it's decent), get 2 slices of edible pizza, breadsticks and a drink, and still have it be LESS THAN $3.00/person.

Look, I get what the corporate directives are trying to do -- promote a healthy lifestyle. I will still maintain my stance on this point -- it's not solely about the foods we eat, but how much of it we eat. I will agree that things such as trans fat should be eliminated (actually, it's hard to argue that point with the slew of data out there regarding it). But what's the harm with bringing the variety back in lunchtime portions instead of full servings?

My stance toward lunch has always been "Tide me over until dinner". For example, when I was just at 5 Guys restaurant for lunch, I ordered a burger with no sides and a water. The cashier looked at me in near disbelief when my response to his "do you want a soda or fries with that" was "no".

It reminded me of the Super Troopers scene:
Dimpus Worker: Want me to dimpa-size your meal for 25 cents?
Farva: Want me to punch-a-size your face, for free?
Dimpus Worker: It's only 25 cents, and look how much more you get!

I DON'T NEED TO BE FILLED UP AT LUNCH. GIVE ME ENOUGH ENERGY TO MAKE IT THRU THE WORK DAY! It's not about the deals... it's about moderation!

As a colleague of mine said, the healthy options being served in the cafeteria are driving people toward eating fast food. How is that promoting a healthy lifestyle in the end? As analogous as the comparison can be made, it's like the Republicans touting "We did it without raising income taxes!" when in the end, property taxes, sales taxes, etc are increased because of the pledge. (unintended consequences) It's like the healthy option mindset is: We don't care if everyone complains... we just don't want "unhealthy" options on our property.

Really? Well then why do you still sell pop, cookies, deep-fried french fries, etc? Go ahead and get rid of those options too so that I can completely be independent of the cafeteria (full disclosure: I make a morning fountian pop run nearly every morning)

All this politically-correct crap can suck it, and I'm not just talking about the subject in this blog entry. I'm talking about ALL politically-correct garbage. We're becoming so sensitive that if one disagrees with the politically-correct view, they're labeled a bigot.

Categories: Gripe Read More

15 Jul

Could we not add ONE little sentence to it?


So my iPod Touch 4G went dead earlier in the week. Plug it in... nothing. Try hitting the power button... doesn't even give you the lightning bolt "feed me" indicator. So I checked out the only instruction booklet that came in the iPod Touch packaging -- the Finger Tips.

What a worthless sheet of paper, and I do mean "sheet" of paper. It's basically a 4" x 8" sheet of paper folded up, with random things that even a newborn could have figured out on their own. Here's the home button. Here's the volume button. Here's how you touch the screen with your finger. Good grief, there's only 4 buttons on the damn thing, how hard could it be to figure out?

So heaven forbid they put anything useful in it.

Like for example, if anything should go wrong. I mean, with only 4 buttons and no screws to get inside of the machine, there's only so much you can do, right?

No instructions regarding troubleshooting, so I just started hitting every combination of buttons. Nothing worked. Left it plugged in for 1 whole day to see if that helped. Nothing. Held down combinations of buttons for 10 seconds at a time (online site mentions holding for 10 seconds or something like that). Nothing, so I brought it into the Apple Store.

To avoid having some elitist, nose-up-in-the-air, I'm better than you brainiac male look at it, fix it and then hand it back to me without telling me what happened or what they did, I ensured that I went to a woman inside the store.

Found a very nice and helpful lady. I told her the story, and after testing some basic things, she said "I think you'll have to do this..." Ploop... the Apple logo appeared. All is well.

"How did you do that?" I asked. Her response: If there's ever a power surge or some other issue causing the iPod to shut down, you just have to hold the two main buttons down.

"Oh, but I did that!"

"How long did you hold it down?"

"At least 10 seconds... that's what it said online."

"Oh, you need to do it a lot longer than that! Usually it's at least 30 seconds, but can be up to a minute!"

Some information that would have been HELPFUL to add in your little Finger Tips thingy, Apple. Let's go further than that... why not say something that's important in your online manual? Heaven knows that would have been asking too much. Damn though... I should have known to modify (ignore) the online advice and hold it for much longer than 10 seconds. I skipped the entire first semester of Psychic Ability 101 in college and now I'm regretting it.

They must have left this important information out of their documentation because nothing ever goes wrong with Apple products, so why should we bother with including troubleshooting tips? Maybe it's because they're a green company and try to limit the amount of paper they use for packaging? Oh really? Well then why are those dumb Apple logo stickers in there? 'The hell are we supposed to use them for?

And like I said earlier, the Finger Tips didn't help me at all. I didn't have one ounce of knowledge of how an iPod worked, yet when I walked around in the store and used one, I didn't need any assistance. I figured out how to use the camera, I knew what the volume buttons did, and I knew how to power down ALL BY MYSELF. IT'S NOT THAT HARD!

Put something useful in your instruction manual. One simple sentence -- maybe two at most, is all I ask. Perhaps leaving out useful information is another way to get you back into the store?

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08 Jul

All trailer, but no park


Apologize for the delay this week. This is going to be a short one today, and I just experienced it not a half-hour ago TWICE (two separate occasions)

1. Travelling behind a truck pulling a trailer. Trailer was very wide, so you couldn't see the truck's taillights. (only reason I knew it was a truck is that it eventually made a turn, so I could see it). I was travelling at a fairly high rate of speed (legal though!) about 4-5 carlengths behind -- plenty of room. Suddenly, I find myself catching up to them fairly quickly. I'm not sure why though, because I don't see any brakelights light up on the trailer. Very quickly realized that it must be because he's stopping/slowing down and his lights don't work. I hit the brakes with plenty of room to spare, but nonetheless...

2. Travelling behind a car (yes, a car) pulling a trailer with an off-road vehicle on it. Car is making a right turn and I can see that the car's right turn signal is on. However, the left turn signal is illuminated on the trailer, with no brakes lighting up [on the right side]

What the hell people?! Rule #1 (and don't make me look up the MN Statute number on this one): If you're towing something... in this case, a trailer, MAKE SURE THE LIGHTS WORK. IT'S THE LAW!

Oh, they work... they just did yesterday

Specious reasoning. Sure it might have, but you aren't towing something yesterday, you're towing something now. My incadescent light bulb worked one day and the next day it burned out. These things happen to light bulbs.

Eh, I attached the wires already, and they always work

What a stupid way of thinking. What if the contacts aren't just right... they won't light up. It's happened to me once. They're finicky sometimes. Simply reattaching the wires solved the problem.

There's nobody there to tell me if they work, while I press the brake pedal/turn signal/etc.

Blah! No excuse... I use a 2x4 to hold down the brake pedal while I go and check the lights before every use. You can use any household item -- a broomstick/whatever -- instead of a 2x4. No excuses!

You ignorant drivers, visit your proctologist if you're searching for your head. Use your brains please. This is yet another reason why accidents happen!

Oh, and that stupid car pulling the trailer whose opposite blinker came on when making a right turn... cars were really not mean to haul trailers -- especially your dinky Escort-sized vehicle. Invest in something decent instead of that POS wiring job that you had on that trailer.

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30 Jun

No wonder there's such a thing as the "DO" campaign


Perhaps you've seen the commercials for Blue Cross Blue Shield's "DO" campaign -- featuring what would be classified as a slightly-overweight male constantly doing The Hustle, churning butter, doing the sprinkler to a background tune which sounds like a combination of Jamaican instrumentalists and 69 Boyz ("Woof Woof").

The point of the commercial is to promote activity -- to keep yourself moving instead of sitting around. For example, the next time Joe Mauer goes 0-5 with every at bat resulting in a ground ball to 2nd, instead of cussing and yelling at the TV from on your couch, be standing up and give a nice boxing punch to your TV.

So no better activity seems to violate this "DO" campaign than... your elevator rider.

I work on the 10th floor of my building. I make sure that at least once a day, I make a trip UP the 10 flights of stairs. It's good for me.

But recently, I was on the elevator, going to lunch (which is on Floor 1). Doors close. Start going down. Elevator stops on 9. Woman gets in, quickly... and I kid you not, pushes the 8 button. Doors open on 8 and she races out of the elevator.

Yes, that sound you heard was my jaw dropping.

Then, that very same day, one of the people that got on the elevator with me on the first floor pushed the "2" button. Earlier in the week, another person got on the elevator on the 6th floor and went to 5.

What the hell people?! I mean, I get that there are people with bad knees and all, but the way these people were booking around with their Smartphones, there's no way this was the case.

Let me give you a little details on the building layout. There's a set of elevators in the middle of the building, with an nice open stairwell adjacent. Also, on both sides of the building, there are secure stairs. As I mentioned above, I take the stairs regularly. It takes about 10-15 seconds to go down one flight.

So my question to you one-flighters -- do you think elevators are quicker? Sure seemed like you were in a hurry. How much time is wasted waiting for an elevator?

And as one of my colleague's mentioned -- you've got gravity going with you!

Must be because you're in your fancy attire... if you're sweating going DOWN one flight of stairs, you've got more problems than just getting your clothes soiled with perspiration.

10-15 seconds.

Come on people... really, come on!

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23 Jun

Don't spend it all in one place


So I got a piece of mail this week -- not surprising, as I usually get some mail each week. One in particular was from my bank, Wells Fargo (WF).

Now, I'm used to getting mail from WF on a regular (weekly) basis. Such mail ranges from:

Pre-approved for a WF Plutonium Credit Card

You're qualified for a Home Equity Line of Credit

Open a savings account today, with a competitive rate of 0.0005%

Competitive rate?! They must mean a rate that keeps THEM competitive.

Sorry about the mini-rant there. Anyway, this specific piece of mail I received looked different than anything else I have received from them before. After opening the up, I quickly realize it was a check!

Upon reading the letter accompanying the check, it mentioned that it was an escrow refund check. Odd, as we haven't had an escrow account in 10 years, and it was not with WF. But we did refinance our home a couple of months ago, so a temporary escrow was probably set up.

Excited to see how much the check was worth, I quickly went to the bottom of the letter, which contained the check:

Holy hell, where to spend this amount of money!?

$0.63? 63 freakin' cents?! I understand that WF technically can't keep it, but seriously, did you need to send a check out for this? Why not just deposit it in my checking account? You probably spent more to process the check than it's worth.

And it's a good thing you require an "Authorized Signature" on the bottom. Normally, corporate checks require signatures for amounts greater than $25,000 or $100,000 or something. Surely the person processing this check had to have been laughing.

And how am I supposed to cash this? We have direct deposit for our paychecks, so we really never visit the teller anymore. Do I deposit this check or take it as cash? Which is less embarrassing? Either way, I can imagine the scene:

Schoms: Yes, I'd like to make a deposit (hands deposit slip and check)

Teller: Certainly, (looks at check)... whoa, you're certainly doing well Schoms! Do you want to deposit the whole thing?

Schoms: [already embarrassed, but now disgruntled] No, please deposit $0.50 and I'll take the other $0.13 in cash.

Teller: [equally a prick] Ok, with cash back, I'm going to need to see a photo I.D.

63 cents... pshhh... Anyone got any good ideas what to do with this?

Categories: Amusement , Gripe Read More

17 Jun

Are they real or fake?


I was super-eager to try the new McDonalds Strawberry Lemonade. I love strawberry lemonade drinks after all.

I'd like to include myself in the list of those who are super-disappointed...

The frozen lemonade part was good, but it was the strawberry "additive" that ruined it. And the thing that irritates me is that their commercial says "with strawberries".

Uh, no. No STRAWBERRIES. Not strawberries.

Not chopped up strawberries.

Not pureed strawberries.

Not anything strawberries.

It's a faux-strawberry slime that doesn't taste anything like natural strawberry. As a matter of fact, if my life was dependent on guessing what it actually was, I would bet it's the packets of strawberry jam that they give out with breakfast. They've got to blow through the unused inventory before they finally hit their 8-year shelf life.

I should have been cautious when I saw the abundance of liquid swirl at the bottom.

Stop marketing it as "with strawberries" -- it doesn't help. It raised the bar, when in all actuality, I couldn't have jumped over this bar if it was sitting on the ground.

Super-tangy lemonade with a blah strawberry mix. It just didn't work for me. Major Corvette Bummer. I have a coupon for a free small strawberry lemonade (no purchase necessary) which will just sit and expire.

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11 Jun

Don't Know How You Talk-O Mr. Roboto


Calling Customer Service is never a painless task. In most cases, I'd rather take on scrubbing the Metrodome concourse floor with a toothbrush before having to call the 1-800 number.

I remember not too long ago, when you'd call and a Customer Service Representative (CSR) would answer the phone. Then, companies started to "outsource" the CSR position to a collective group of ... robots. You know the drill, "Press 1 for X, Press 2 for Y..."

And then the classic "Please listen carefully, as our options have changed recently." Ha, yeah right. You're not gonna get me! I'm just gonna hit the 0 key, which almost universally will send you to a live representative skilled with [not only dealing with people like me] taking down your information, asking you what your issue is, and then redirecting your call, where the dedirected CSR will ask you what your information and issue is again.

So the concept of "Press 1 for..." wouldn't be that bad if it wasn't abused. I mean, do you really need to go through 9 options (10 including the CSR option)? Yes, that is the truth with one company at least. We want you to sit through 90 seconds of explaining what the options are. Press 1 to hear about the new products and services we are offering to existing customers. Press 2 if you can hear the minutes ticking away on your cellular phone plan... Press 8 if you'd like to swing a driver in the face of our CEO for making you wait until option 9, which is what you wanted. Press 9 if you have a technical support issue.

Why don't they put the most commonly used options first?

It's no wonder we hate this automated telephone service. We're already pissed off becuase X-service doesn't work/some fraudulent charge was made to your account/etc. that the last thing we want to do is wait and wait and wait. We just want the damn fire out!

And then there's the "Your call is important to us" line. Yeah, your call is so important to us that we're going to staff a bare-minimum amount of CSRs and make you wait and wait.

Companies have decided to make some changes to this approach... for the worse. Have you met the new "smarter" robot? Yup, the one that at one time understood touch-tone, now tries to understand human speak.

Nothing irritates me more than being forced to SPEAK to the robot. "Please say your account number." Then, after 3 attempts, because the damn robot kept missing a number, the robot finally got it. How do I know this? Here was the response:

Ok, I believe I understood your account number. Your account number is [suddenly in a deep voice] 6-0-3-4..."

Ok? Ok? You're incapable of expressing emotion, why are you using the word "Ok"? Insulting. Believe? Um, you recognize things as 0's and 1's...either right or wrong, not "believe".

So now I'm on the part where the lady robot voice said Ok, so tell me the problem you are experiencing. Not expecting this question from the robot at least, I panicked a little bit and gave too specific of an answer.

I'm sorry, I didn't understand.

That's funny, because if I was talking to a real person, THEY would have understood. So now I'm past the point where I want to deal with this, so I said

"I'm trying to fly a kite outside, as my daughter really wanted to fly a kite, but there isn't enough wind to keep the kite up in the air, so could you go fly" (interrupted by the computer) I'm sorry, I didn't understand, please hold for a CSR.

THAT'S WHAT I WANTED IN THE FIRST PLACE! Even though you gave no menu option for it, I could have hit 0 immediately!!! ugh.

Damn I hate talking to a robot. I don't want to play guessing games trying to balance describing my issue with hitting those keywords that the robot will understand. I don't want to be embarrassed because every once in a while, I shout keyword "sentences" together into a phone and everyone around me will hear it.

Automated telephone services have got so irritating, that people have created web pages which list the direct CSR number(s) for hundreds of companies.

I will continue to praise business with immediate live CSRs.

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02 Jun

Coupon editors must have skipped their morning coffee


So I'm prepared to accept defeat with this Gripe, provided someone can explain the reason why. Until then...

There was a coupon in our local newspaper which provided a discount for purchase of gasoline. I clipped it out for use on Double Coupon Tuesdays at SuperAmerica (they accept any competitor's coupon as well). Here it is:

Confusing, I know

I must have skipped Rational Thinking 101 in college, because to me, it would seem like this coupon essentially penalizes you for paying with cash.

Sure that damn Visa commercial from a number of years ago shows everyone paying with a Visa card and being happy because the total transaction time with the cashier is almost nil. Then, they show some doofus guy (again, a guy -- always a guy) that wants to pay for his purchase with... gah.... cash! (insert blood-curdling scream). The cashier gives him a goofy look. The horror!

Anyway, with gas stations, it's slightly different. They work with such slim margins that paying with cash is encouraged. Transaction fees from credit card companies start to eat away at profits. Couple that with the fact that the use of credit cards for paying-at-the-pump eliminates the need for the consumer to enter the store itself, further diminishing the success of the store. Stations make most of their profit not on the gas, but on purchases inside the store.

So how do they attract you into the store all while getting you to pay with cash? They invent a special discount (coupon or not) for paying with cash. Since you can't pay with cash at the pump, you pay inside. Bills Superette is one example where you don't need a coupon -- they tout it on their sign outside. "Pay with cash, save $0.05/gallon"

So with that said, when you break down the coupon above, it doesn't make any sense:

  1. You can save $0.10/gallon period, as long as you use the coupon and pay inside or
  2. You can save $0.03/gallon, but you must use cash

To me, point #1 says that you can save 10 cents while still using your favorite credit card to pay for it. The only restriction is that you are limited to 15 gallons. I think the vast majority of people will find that 15 gallons will fill up their tank, or nearly all of it.

It would seem the only benefit out of #2 is if you are a trucker, and want to put in 100 gallons or something. Then option #2 looks better. But are you really going to pay the tab with $400 in cash? Probably not, or risk getting mugged on your walk back to the semi.

So with this coupon, there is no real incentive to use cash. And now on top of the 10 cents off you are offering the consumer, the credit card fees are going to further eat into your profits.

And yes, the gas station did take 10 cents off per gallon (20 after doubling) despite paying with a credit card. As a matter of fact, the cashier had to do a double-take, trying to figure out themselves why the coupon was worded in the way that it was.

Dumber... slowly but surely, they are trying to mold us...

Categories: Amusement , Gripe Read More

23 May

Move over Charmin, here comes something leaner


Just when you thought it was safe to come out of the den, little Charmin bear. Oh sure you had the problem with toilet paper sticking to your rear-end, but you haven't seen the worst of it.

I didn't think bears used TP?  

Come to my work in EP, where we enjoy the finest in potty-time hygiene. Introducing, the 1/3-ply toilet paper!

Yes indeed, because toilet paper is so expensive, we'll stock the restrooms full of this ultra-thin rolled-up paper product. Man, if you thought Papa bear got a bit ticked having to sweep the "crumbs" off Baby bear's rear, he'd be bustin' a cap with management on this one fo' sho'.

Oh, and don't call it "toilet tissue" -- the image of nose and toilet paper for me just don't go hand-in-hand -- save it for those elite Britons.

I mean, you can't really call this toilet paper, can you? The fact that I can clearly see my hand through it certainly can't be good.

So why move to this onion-skin type product? I'd imagine it's a couple of reasons for sure. First off, it's probably cheaper, ok we got that out of the way. Second, it's probably because we're likely to use less overall. I personally couldn't disagree more -- based solely on psychology.

If I'm sitting there after a tough minut... two min......ok 5 minute ordeal, the LAST thing I want to be worrying about is whether my hand is going to move through the paper as I'm cleaning. So what do you do to compensate for that? Well, I'm not accustomed to using 1/3-ply paper, so I do what all the muscular show-offs do during the Big Wheel on The Price Is Right... I give a big tug on the toilet paper and grab as many sheets as I can.

Does it look like this will do the job? It better not dissolve once I try wiping. Oh golly, such anxiety. I think it's enough, continue. ::: hesitating:::

It shouldn't be that complex -- with my normal 2-ply, I know that 3 sheets, folded over, will do the job. I'm not willing to risk any "if it's 1-ply, just use twice the normal amount!" type argument. If your suggestion is to use twice as much, why not just stock the usual 2-ply? On top of that, this ultra-thin-ply crap is like sandpaper. To make it "soft", you have to use more!

I'm sure there's countless times where you're sitting at the bar watching a bar fight and it makes its way over to your table and one of the guys knocks over your vodka-Red Bull. Could you imagine trying to wipe up the spill with this 1/3-ply garbage? It would be like cleaning it up with sandpaper -- you'd just be smearing it all over the table.

So anyway, to hell with this TP. Get some real stuff and leave the TP that's trying to rival Listerine Pocket Breath Strips for thinness for the birds.

Categories: Gripe Read More

20 May

Stop, it's hammer time... for you drivers


A short Gripe this week, but one to which many can relate. I'm sure you've all experienced this at one time. I did.

You come to a 4-way stop, along with two others -- one to your left and one to your right. All parties are going straight (i.e. nobody is making a left/right turn). Minnesota Statute 169.20 (b) states that in this situation, the driver on the right is given the right-of-way:

(b) When two vehicles enter an intersection controlled by stop signs or by blinking red traffic signals requiring drivers or vehicles from any direction to stop before proceeding, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right.

Ok, fine, this happened. The driver on the right did go first. Good job! Someone read the drivers manual. But what happens next would even get the Mona Lisa to blink.

The driver on the left actually (barely) came to a stop before any of us. Upon seeing that indeed the car opposite him (the car on the "right" in this case) did assume the right-of-way and proceeded to enter the intersection, the car on the left waited until the car on the right was almost 2/3 of the way through the intersection before entering the intersection themselves.

What the hell were you waiting for? Especially since you were the first to the intersection, technically, you should know that when the guy across from you goes, you go. You screwed the whole cycle up. Damn it, what chaos! Unnecessary.

And then yesterday as well, this car beats me to a 4-way stop sign by at least a second. They are to the right of me, making a right-hand turn. I'm going straight. They waited.... and waited... and I'm watching them just look at me. Finally, I proceeded to go and shook my head at them.

I totally get "Minnesota Nice", but man, that just doesn't apply here. There are rules. It's the reason we go to driver's school... it's the reason you have to take a "written" test and a road test. GO BACK TO DRIVING SCHOOL. I swear, once people pass the driver's course, they purge their brain of all information learned and make up their own rules when behind the wheel.

Categories: Gripe Read More

11 May

Meteorologists trying to sound all impressive


With the latest round of severe weather last night came non-stop severe weather coverage on all the major TV networks.

And it's during these severe weather events that meteorologists are tested -- they have a lot of time to fill. Thus, you can count on at least two things happening:

  1. Trying to act overly smart by using catchy phrases
  2. Show off their new meteorological tools

And nobody demonstrates this better....... than your boy, Fox9's own Ian Leonard.

That's right, bringin' Alberta's finest Canadian-English vernacular, lit-tra-lly, this freeloading Canadian is apparently trying to oust the "Goof on the Roof" in terms of household names.

The latest gaffe came while talking about outdoor events and being "sky aware." He went on to say that if people see lightning, they should heed this rule of thumb (and no, I'm not making this up):

"When lightning roars, head indoors"

Honest to God, I don't know where to start with this one. Lightning roaring? Take some advice from ol' Garth... Thunder rolls, and the lightning strikes. Get it? Thunder rolls/booms/roars/crashes... Lightning doesn't do that.

And later on, he tries to sound even more impressive. He showed us a picture of the radar and how everything was "quiet" after the storms went by. "We call this -- Severe Clear."

Really? Funny, is that why the NWS, when updating their tornado watch area, still has us included in the tornado watch. NWS sure doesn't consider us "in the clear." Nobody calls it severe clear... YOU do. And why does everything have to be alliterative or rhyming (or near-rhyming)?

And I swear meteorologists get their hard-on during severe weather outbreaks. Why? Because they get to show-off all the fancy new tools: Smartboards, swirly-arrows that they can draw using their finger on the board to show where there is likely air inflow, unreadable 3-D graphics trying to show cloud tops, and touting their Storm Tracker Technology, which is not technology at all. Rather, it's simply a "click-a-spot-on-the-map-and-drag-out-the-direction-the-storm-is-heading-and-indicate-how-fast-the-storm-is-travelling" feature. The human does nearly all of the work -- the computer simply highlights the cities that are in the way and the approximate time it will be there BASED ON THE HUMAN'S INPUT. There's no technology involved!

Pffff... Storm Tracker Technology, ugh. Sounds as dumb as Domino's Pizza touting their new cardboard pizza box as "Corru-Skeletal Technology." Whatever. It's a freakin' cardboard box. My TV set came in a box with the same "technology" so shut up. Ooooh, I bet you thought you sounded so impressive because you used the word "technology" -- why not just say something to the effect of "We now use sturdier pizza boxes"?

I'm a boot to end this blog entry litraly. But before I do, eeeeeeeeehhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhIIIIIIIIIII better repeat the phrase I have been saying the entire time I got here... be Sky Aware!

Categories: Gripe Read More

06 May

We're truly a wasteful, throw-away society


You've seen those National Geograhic (Nat Geo for you haughty peeps that need a shortened version of every word) episodes where they go to third-world countries and show just how poor they are. You know, when a million-dollar, high-tech, High-Definition camera, which costs about as much as all the huts in the city cost to build, goes around and films the daily life of city dwellers.

If only we could hand those poor residents a laptop and show them videos of the Vikings stadium debates.

As many of you know, the Metrodome roof collapsed last year. The Metropolitan Sports Facilities Commission (MSFC), who owns and operates that nearly 30-year-old structure, had an insurance policy out on the fiberglass roof. The replacement cost? BirdAir Inc. is going to replace the roof at a cost of $17,973,245. Cost to MN? Only a very modest deductible.

So everything is just fine, right? We've got a new roof... Vikings are happy because they can play at home again... those that use the Metrodome can now resume their activities... no real substantial cost to MN to fix the roof. All is good!

But wait...

What happens in another year?

To answer this question, let's imagine we're a pick-a-path book. Damn I loved those books. I remember reading The Great Baseball Championship.

Ah, yes, The Great Baseball Championship

You could be on the last page of the book, and then your answer to the question could lead you a completely different direction (and back near the front of the book). What a country!

Anyway, pick a scenario. There will be three of them. We'll see how it plays out. Keep in mind, there's nearly $18M worth of new tiles put up to repair the current Metrodome. Also keep in mind, the Vikings lease in the Metrodome will end after the 2011 football season.

Vikings get their new stadium on the Metrodome site

Vikings have already admitted the current Metrodome will not work. Renovating the dome will not work either. Thus, we'd have to move the Vikes to TCF Field for a few seasons while they destroy the Metrodome and rebuild. Destroy the Metrodome. Destroy. That means, the ceiling tiles go bye-bye.

Vikings get their new stadium NOT on the Metrodome site

Vikings will play out the 2011 season in the dome. That means the $11-$12 million dollar budget  would need to be supported by all the other activities that occur in the Metrodome during the year... revenue which currently totals about $2 million. MSFC says they will not be able to operate the Metrodome with that revenue and would have to close it down. No more use for the ceiling tiles. Bye-bye ceiling tiles.

Vikings do not get their new stadium and leave

(see previous answer)

So maybe you see an issue here. The multi-million dollars that were spent replacing the ceiling tiles are going to get torn down regardless of the outcome of the stadium issue (unless some subsidized payments to keep the dome operating come from the state..... yeah, d'okay!)

What a f-d up slap in the face to the third world countries, courtesy of the United States. Hey, look at us... we can throw away money like it doesn't matter!!! Meanwhile, you're living in huts made with straw and wood just trying to make it!

We should be ashamed of ourselves.

Oh, and I get it. Technically, we had insurance and insurance is holding its end of the bargain... I get it. Really, I do. Also, I get the fact that the Vikings are under a lease agreement for the dome for this last year, so you have to have the Metrodome in playable condition. I get that too.

But we're supposed to then completely ignore all sense of wastefulness?

The Vikings have really wanted nothing more than to be out of the lease. MSFC doesn't want that any sooner than necessary. But if it's ultimate doom for the dome, why bother replacing it? MSFC should have accepted some sort of settlement w/ the insurance company in lieu of replacement -- you know, just like you do when you file a claim w/ your auto insurer. Do you really take that $500 check and bring your car to the repair shop so they can get a couple of tiny hail dings out of your hood? Naw, I didn't think so. You pocket that shizzle, head on over to the Big Wheel Rossi and get your chrome on... or your spinnin' rims, either one.

Oh, here's an option... allow the Vikings to be out of the lease and do as they please!

Now of course this sounds absurd. Few Minnesotans would really want that to happen. The state doesn't want that to happen. And really, the Vikes probably don't either, because with such short notice, they'd have to play at TCF Field, where they would lose about $13 million for the year (heard that fact on the radio, so sorry, I don't have the link)

So what MSFC did makes sense.... from a financial perspective.

But I wish we would have at least taken a step back and thought, "Gee, aren't we being a little wasteful?" Ceiling tiles for one year?

As the old saying goes, there's a starving kid who'd love to eat what you're throwing away.

Categories: Gripe Read More

05 May

Posts more irritating than Farmville


You're seeing it all the time today, if you're a Facebook user.

  1. No, not the Farmville requests that you think your friend personally sent you, but instead were sent to everyone on their friend list
  2. No, not the seemingly weekly changes they make to your profile page
  3. No, it's not even the "Hey, I checked in here!" posts

Rather, it's those posts, political in nature, that some people think are cool to post. You've probably seen them in one form or another:

Leftists: "Tell Republicans: Keep your hands off Medicare" (article follows when one clicks the link)

Rightists: "No New Taxes Democrats, Cut Spending!" (article follows when one clicks the link)

Activists: "blah blah ID checks blah blah Domestic Partner blah blah Illegal Aliens blah blah"

SHUT UP! SHUT UP... SHUT...........UP! SHUT UP!

First off, when someone posts something cool on Facebook, you can click the little "Like" button, and then everyone that reads the person's post knows that you were fond of the message. However, when people post things so blindedly, like the examples above, there's no "Unlike" button. Actually, I didn't say that right -- I wouldn't be reaching for the "Unlike" button, I'm reaching for the "Ignorant" button. (for those not privy to Facebook, there is neither an "unlike" nor a "ignorant" button)

Second, over time, you know which posts come from whom. Uncle George posts the absurd "The hell they're going to tax me!" and Aunt Gertrude posts the "I earned those benefits, don't you cut them!" Both sides are either hard-core Republican or hard-core Democrat. They wouldn't dare vote for anything that the other party believes is true.

Me? I'm neither party. For voting, I sit down with a list of candidates and their viewpoints on each issue. I select the candidate who I agree with most, regardless of party, weighting the issues of course (because some things like guns just don't mean much to me). I've voted Democrat, Republican, Constitution, and Independent (but not those absurd, evil Socialists) Yes, I voted for Clinton... and others.

So when I see posts about not touching Medicare, and then see people commenting "No kidding, they're clueless" or "Yes! I hear ya!" or "I earned these benefits!", I cringe.

Yes, you're right. You did earn Medicare benefits. And you still WILL be getting Medicare benefits. They just won't be the exact benefits as they have been in the past. Just like Social Security! And before you start posting mudslinging comments on Facebook trying to bash the other side, you should stop, investigate and point at the real crux of the issue -- the pay-as-you-go (PAYG) approach.

Medicare Part A is considered PAYG, meaning that the system is not funded in advance. It is the future generations that fund previous generations' benefits. For example, the Medicare taxes collected from my paycheck do not get put in the government's savings account and saved for when I reach 65. Rather, they are going toward funding grandfather's hip surgery.

Without going into too much detail, our population growth isn't what it once was, which would have been enough to support your current Medicare benefits. Thus, without modifications to benefits, you're forced to either raise the Medicare tax or do what is done with Social Security -- raise the age which you can receive Medicare. If either of those two are options are your "solution", compound that solution every time there is a shortfall and see where that gets you.

Relying on future generations to fund the cost might have been the way to go back then, but isn't anymore. A CHANGE IS NEEDED.

And for all you extreme righties who say no new taxes of any sort -- go shove it. I understand your point on no new Federal increases, with how much money we give away to other countries and funding wars and all, but State money doesn't really get spent overseas. Roads need to be maintained. Kids need to be educated. Ziggy needs to feed his family (ha, sorry about that one).

Granted, yes, there are projects where the State doesn't make the best choices. However, we need to fund, at a minimum, the basic services provided by the State. If a State looks me in the eye and tells me a tax is required to do so, then so be it. But then if the economy recovers (which would be a revenue windfall to the State), reduce the tax back to where it was. (I know, stop your chuckling... someone would be honest enough to do that). Relying on the current tax rates to fund our necessary programs is not enough. A CHANGE IS NEEDED.

It's no wonder things don't get done at the capitol. You only have two parties, which have been molded to disagree on nearly every major topic. The only time things get resolved is at the deadline, where both sides cave in. But then, are the best choices ever made in those circumstances? (in my opinion, A CHANGE IS NEEDED here too)

But back to Facebook... it wouldn't be as much fun to post meaningful arguments... it's much more fun to throw mud, especially on Facebook where everyone is going to see it. And you'll get that self-satisfaction tingle when one of your friends chimes in, in support of your post, even though 500 of your other friends ignored it.

I've rolled my eyes and ignored these posts... always have... always will. Argue about these at the water cooler with your friends -- just keep it off Facebook.

Categories: Gripe Read More

28 Apr

Would you like some fries with that?


When it comes to restaurants, apparently you have to bug the living piss out of the employees before you start implying anything. The latest comes in a recent visit to Sbarro.

First off, I knew that something was gonna go down, because my view of them has been: Expensive and Average. (oh, and the fact that they are in bankruptcy protection) What do I mean by that?

As I approached the counter to check out the selection of pizza, the employee behind the counter was giving out samples of their breadsticks and their garlic dipping sauce. I proceeded to try it. Yum, not bad. The man told me, you can get a slice of pizza, two breadsticks and a drink.

After selecting the pizza, he put two breadsticks on the tray, started some small talk, and asked me, and I quote:

"And would you like marinara or garlic dipping sauce with the breadsticks?"

Naturally, after having just sampled the garlic sauce, I chose that.

More fast small talk, and after having selected Pepsi as my drink, he rang up the total.

"That'll be $8.98"

My thoughts at that time were: $8.98? Holy crap. One piece of pizza and some breadsticks and pop? Seemed expensive. Really, $8.98? Hmm, wow, ok, well... uh, all right, I guess. Geez (adding up rounded estimates of all components in my head). How do you get to almost 9 bucks?

The receipt didn't print. He asked me if I needed the receipt. Too coincidental in this situation? Who knows, and who the hell cares -- I'm stymied. I requested the receipt be reprinted. I quickly found out the cause -- they charged me for the garlic dipping sauce!

Ok, back that ship up... now I think I see why you're the fast-talking used car salesman type... if you come across as all nice and whatnot, you can get almost anything by any customer.

What you can't tell in this blog is exactly how the individual asked me about the sauce. It wasn't the "Would you like to buy?" type of voice, where the pitch of the voice goes from softer to louder. Rather, it went from higher to lower... you know, the implied tone of voice... the "You get either, which one would you like?" type of voice.

And what sucks is that by the time I saw that they charged me for the sauce, I had already paid the bill. I wasn't going to be "that guy" to have a fit with the other couple of people that were in line with their food getting cold. So I bit the bullet.

This type of behavior of implying something is included when really we'll charge you for it, really pisses me off. A couple of other places it has happened:

  1. Jimmy Johns, when asked if you want cheese, watch how gleefully they put that extra charge on your bill. Oh, Mr. Employee, you think that's funny? See how funny it is when I tell you to remove it and then I mock you for charging me for it. (yes, that has happened) Then, watch me put on my "schizo face" when I correct myself and say I want cheese, and then when you recharge me for it, I tell you that I change my mind.
  2. Champps, when they ask you if you want seasoned sour cream with the waffle fries, they really mean "Would you like me to charge you $9.99 for it?" (ok, it's really not that expensive, but for what you get, it is)

It seems like this is specifically a restaurant thing. I mean, it's to the point where I have to basically put the brakes on every restaurant conversation and request clarification on every question. Ultimately, I blame myself for thinking Sbarro would give you ANYTHING without charging you for it. If I do go back and they pull that stunt again, you can rest assured I will respond with a "Hell no, you charged me for it last time I was here, even though you worded and sounded like the sauce came with it already" in about the loudest voice possible.

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21 Apr

Journalists cannot think for themselves


So I'm reading about McDonalds' National Hiring Day on Yahoo.   Now keep in mind, this is an Associated Press (AP) story -- Yahoo is merely displaying it on their site.

So they have a number of informative statistics and whatnot, and then I run across this:

 

"... according to government formulas"? What, are you trying to sound all sophisticated or something? Do you really think there's some secret governmental formula to calculate the $15,000 figure? I mean, let me take one crack at it:

Hmmm... <grab calculator>... $7.25 (hourly rate) x 40 hours (since full-time) x 52 weeks a year (converting to annual figure, since that's what they gave) = $15,080. WOW, I got it! On the first try!!!

(ding dong)

Hold on readers, someone's at my door.

Guys in Black Clothes: Are you Schoms?

Schoms: Yes, can I help you?

Guys in Black Clothes: You're under arrest for exchanging confidential proprietary information. You have the right to remain silent......

I mean, seriously, the editor had to be laughing before submitting this one. Did the journalist really have to ask the government how much a $7.25/hr wage converted to on an annual basis for a full-time worker?

Why not just say "for a standard, 40-hour work week" or something like that?

Formula. Pshhhh.

And I get that it is a formula. Rate x Hours x Weeks, I get that -- we all do.

<whiny voice>Oh, but Schoms, full-time doesn't always mean 40 hours. I mean, some people have employers that view 32 hours a week as full-time. That woudn't add up to $15,000</whiny voice>

No kidding! If you're hourly and work more than 40 hours, it's called overtime. If McDonalds viewed 32 hours as full-time, then that's a relevant piece of info, so PUT IT IN THE STORY! But they don't... and that's the point!

YOU DON'T NEED SOME STUPID GOVERNMENTAL FORMULA. STANDARD FULL-TIME IS 40 HOURS! IT'S NO SECRET.

If it's different than 40 hours, then state it. Otherwise, stick with the standard!

So quit trying to sound all sophisticated. If you want sophistication, grab your favorite hoity toity flavor of Taster's Choice with your soy-based cream and watch reruns of Masterpiece Theater.

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13 Apr

Relationships and Symbols (last I checked, I'm a math major!)


So I went to the University of Minnesota -- that's right, I'm a Gopher. No doubt, I'm still bitter about my experience there, with having to go back for one semester for one class because of a mix-up by my advisor. But that's a story for a different Gripe. The point is, I did graduate with a math degree. But still to this date, people have been trying to convince me, as well as many others, of one particular expression: I < 3

Now I understand that not everybody is good at math, but if you take any individual who is at least in kindergarten, they will be able to confirm that indeed, 1 is less than 3. Why does everyone insist on driving that fact home in their conversation? Here are some examples where I have seen this, mostly on Facebook and internet pages:

  1. I <3 Jimmy!!!
  2. ooohhh!! I <3 chocolate ice cream
  3. 5 years today! I <3 Tim!!!!! :)

What the hell... make the connection for me in that last one! They're clearly talking about their anniversary, but then they have to go and insert some obscure math fact. It's like a passive form of Tourette's Syndrome:

"Ooooh, it's such a happy day... 5 years ago today, my husband and I got.... HUBBY, LEARN YOUR LESS THANs AND YOUR GREATER THANs, IDIOT!"

But no, I'm not an moron... I know what the "expression" means. But why not just say it? Is it too much to type? I argue it takes longer to type it that way than to just type the word l-o-v-e. I mean, how often do you use the less-than key? How many of you actually knew it was on the comma key? Not only that, but now you have to hold the shift key down! Oh golly, what an inconvenience!

And this is the most hypocritical thing ever -- you're in the relationship. Men will relate to this. Your woman comes up to you, right out of the blue, and says:

"I love you."

You look at her just sitting there, waiting for verbal reciprocation. You can't wait too long or it'll piss her off. You can't say it too soon or it'll feel forced. Ahhhh, so confusing! In all the panic, you've got a great idea -- let's get cute. So you give your response in that cute baby-talk voice:

"No, I L-O-V-E you more"

Suddenly, the demoument shifts from one of happiness and rainbows and trumpeter swans and $1 Caramel Fundraiser Bars to her storming away, displeased. The proverbial air has been let out of the balloon. And why? Cause you didn't say the magic word. You didn't say the magic word. Nope, no magic word. Instead............you spelled it. You thought you'd get cute, only to have it bite you in the behind! Ya forgot the magic word!

Moral of the story: Don't get cute, just say it.

So why is it ok for women to use it? Oh sure you could argue that she initiated the conversation in the examples above, but if you brought home flowers and on the little card you wrote "I<3 [insert name]", you KNOW that the flowers just took a backseat. Hell, you might as well not even have bought them, because the focus will be on the "meaning" of the card. "Why didn't they just say it instead of sort-of writing it?" Even in times of good deed, you fail.

Relationships and symbols -- unless specifically a marriage symbol, a deadly combination.

Categories: Amusement , Gripe Read More

07 Apr

Even better than your cable TV technician's 3-hour delivery window


Americans love it when things turn out better than expected, especially when it comes to waiting time estimates. But man, if the actual waiting time is longer than the estimate, all hell breaks loose. The customer goes into "bust-a-cap-in-someone's-ass" mode.

So businesses err on the side of caution and quote very conservative waiting times. There has been no better example of this than my latest purchase on Amazon:

We shipped the items in your order placed on April 06, 2011.
Delivery Estimate: April 13, 2011 - April 28, 2011
This shipment will be delivered by USPS.

You have got to be kidding. Not only is that not an accurate delivery window, but it's a direct rip on the U.S. Postal Service. I'll bet you anything I get that package BEFORE April 13th. That, or the company sent the package 17th class, where it will be delivered by children working for the USPS riding their tricycles.

But seriously, let's pretend that they SENT it on the 12th, and we're not talking about priority mail either... just first class. There are some addresses that would possibly receive it the next day, but give me an address ANYWHERE in the U.S. where the USPS would take 16 days to deliver the package! That's right, there IS none. Moreover, since they sent it on the 6th, that would mean it would take them 22 days to deliver the package. I don't think so Tim.

Then the package arrives... earlier than expected. We're all supposed to jump around and cheer because it came earlier than expected. "Yippee!!!!! Wooooo-hooooo!!! That Amazon did it again... they always exceed expectations." Amazon gets a good reputation because of it and if something happens to occur, causing a delay, they have their butts covered courtesy of the absurd delivery estimate. What a crock.

Liberal delivery estimates have occurred in every other Amazon purchase I've made at least within the last 3 years. And some people (me included) have even become immune to the delivery estimate. "Oh, it'll never take that long. We always get it within a few days." The concept of delivery quote times is almost ignored.

But Amazon is not the only one to give absurd estimates:

  1. Ever order a pizza and get it before the 30-45 minute window?
  2. Ever go out to your favorite sit-down restaurant and get seated within 20 minutes, even though they said it would be an hour wait?
  3. What about your spouse, who says they'll only go shopping for their $50 pair of pants only to come home with $600 worth of miscellaneous clothes?
  4. Ever wonder how, even though all flights seem to be delayed, airlines still have an 80-90% on-time record?

Look, everyone likes getting things before expected, but if you're going to quote a expected arrival time (especially after you have officially sent the package), be accurate with the estimate. UPS/FedEx can get the estimated time down to the day. We're just asking to get the right week, Amazon.

Categories: Gripe Read More

29 Mar

Nick Punto is CLEARLY underrated


When it comes to getting rid of individuals who end up landing on a different team and then winning a championship, there is no better example of this "success" than your Minnesota professional sports teams.

Tony Dungy

Kevin Garnett

Mike Tomlin

A.J. Pierzynski

Brian Billick

et al...

And the latest one to add to the list, clearly, will be.............. Nick Punto. Yes, I said it. Ol' Nicky is the hidden gem, well, at least that's what one website says. Check out the following from athlete.com

Nick Punto?  

That's right... under status it says "Very Good." Don't think about it for longer than 3 seconds, or your head will burst. Fight the urge -- don't let your brain TRY and figure this one out, or you'll go crazy.

They said "Very Good."

Um, I understand Gardy (nickname for Twins manager Ron Gardenhire) loved this guy for whatever reason and was basically a Punto apologist, so that must have been where this particular website got its official status label. That, or the fact that Punto hasn't been sent down to the minors for any length of time to try and fix that .237 batting average over the last 4 years. Or perhaps it's because he was included with 3 others as "The Piranhas" and heaven knows you can't easily get rid of anyone with a nickname... you've got to pay them!!!

I mean, the athlete.com website must be run by Nick Punto or something. I mean, give me a reason how you can call someone "Very Good" when they sign a contract with a contending team (St. Louis Cardinals) for a mere $700,000. (Athlete.com must not have updated their records yet, as he no longer plays for the Minnesota Twins -- as if that's the only thing that needs updating!) When was he EVER very good?

So that's what this gripe is about. Just the fact that you find something on the web, and give reference to it, doesn't mean it's right. There's a thing about "credible source"... clearly, this one isn't it. Any slap-happy can create their own website and tout anything they want. But this goes beyond anything that is believable. Vegetarian Piranha Blog... eat your heart out with this one!

"Oh Schoms, you're just jealous that you aren't a professional." - Yeah, you're right. :::rolling eyes:::

"He wouldn't be on a professional baseball team if he wasn't good" - Damn are you naive! Be objective for the first time in your life! There's guys waiting in the minors batting close to .300 with nearly as good defensive skills just wanting a chance to breathe major-league baseball air making jack-squat while this hunyuik steals over $10,000,000 over the last 3 years from the Twins. (and I know that's the fault of the Twins). Remember, even on a team of professionals, there's still one "worst player." Ol' Nicky would that that player, though his past salary would say otherwise.

So clearly, because he was paid so much, and because athlete.com says he's very good, chalk this up as another mistake of a Minnesota professional sports organization. Add Nick Punto to the list of major impactful players that will likely go on winning a championship after we let him go. We'll look back at this and shake our heads, sulking "Why, oh why did we let him go?"

Categories: Gripe Read More

06 Mar

A punny commercial that quickly wears thin


It's sometimes important and beneficial to put humor in commercials. Done correctly, it gives a reason to remember a commercial -- even on a product for which you have no interest. After all, Bud Light's "Real Men of Genius" commercials have withstood the test of time and are talked about at family Thanksgiving get-togethers and water-coolers!

Puns within commercials is one way to do insert some humor into commericals, but it's hard to pull off without someone rolling their eyes, because puns are usually lame. And nothing tries pulling this off more than U.S. Bank's latest commercial on their Rate Reduction Loan. Have you heard it on the radio yet? It touts a declining interest rate for good payment history:

Idiot Lady 1: "... you look great, did you lose rate?"

Ok, cute so far. Kinda fun, quick pun: rate = weight. It would be kinda funny if they just left it here and touted the benefits of the Rate Reduction Loan. But no, U.S. Bank is clearly a risk-taker:

Idiot Lady 2: "... come to think of it, my husband could stand to lose 10-15%"

Oh for the love... why does it have to be the husband that has to lose weight? Oh yeah, that's right, because if it was the wife that had to lose weight, we'd have every women's radical group up in arms about "female weight stereotypes in today's society." Therefore, let's just say the guy needs to lose weight... yeah, they won't care. Plus, why do they need to make a joke about weight? In this sensitive society we live in, I'm surprised that NAAFA (National Association for the Advancement of Fat Acceptance) hasn't raised bloody hell yet.

But it goes on...

Idiot Lady 1: "Look at you! You've lost rate!"

Alright, that does it. You've already used that one before... twice! I just haven't typed out all the damn puns in this blog. Damn, even David Letterman doesn't beat his jokes into the ground this badly! Just stop the damn commercial now... but oh, no... we could only wish. U.S. Bank clearly thinks it's cute to abuse the pun:

Idiot Lady 2: "Yup, I'm a lean, mean, rate-loss machine!"

That's it. Not only is it not even remotely funny anymore, but now you've got a 0% chance of me ever thinking about getting OR referring your product. You've pushed all my buttons to a point where I'm now officially going to turn the channel when I hear it again.

Hey U.S. Bank, I've got a rate pun for you: How about I kick you in the nuts, you can fly a kite, and take your commercial [under]writers with you. It only took one time hearing your commercial, and now I'm already sick of it.

I know I already said I would turn the channel if I heard it again. But because I can't remember EVERY pun line they use in there exactly, I only listed the ones I remembered. Therefore, I might try and record it if I can, JUST so I can make sure I put every stupid quote in this blog. Plus, for those that haven't heard it yet, you will be able to hear how terrible it is. We'll see if I can get a copy of it...

Categories: Gripe Read More

26 Feb

Your Village Idiot (Episode II)


Let me introduce you to my employer's parking ramp. Pretty neat, huh? Let's play a game. You remember the back page of the Highlights magazine.. yeah... that's right... find all the silly things wrong with the picture. So let me set up the situation:

The time: Monday, February 21st, 2011 at 6:15am

The place: Covered parking ramp

The happenings: 19" of snow fell the night before

Here's your Highlights picture -- a car that was parked next to me. Spot all the things wrong! Spoiler alert... the answers are below, so don't scroll down if you don't want to see the answers (but I think you won't need the answers on this one)

Too much to clean off, I guess

Now keep in mind that it's 6:15 IN THE MORNING!!!

No, one of the silly things is NOT the burned-out lightbulb in the background of the picture.

It's not that you're late for work...

It's not like it's dark outside or anything... (sarcasm, if you couldn't catch it)

Being able to see outside your car is overrated...

CLEAN OFF YOUR CAR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Not only can't you see outside your passenger windows, but what you can't see is that the back window is just as bad as the passenger window!!!

Really? Is it too much to clean off your car? Endanger yourself AND possibly others while driving. And to think that it's against the law to drive around with the dice hanging from the rear-view mirror -- somehow the police don't stop this kind of behavior. I thought stuff like this was saved for the inner city.

Snow on the window, snow on the headlights, snow covering the license plates... it's too much work to clean off the car after the biggest snowfall of the year in that city. And you can see the fresh tire tracks (as they were pulling in).

For this, you get the highly-coveted Schoms' Village Idiot Seal-of-Approval!

Congrats. You're in good company with the green Chevy truck driver.

Categories: Gripe , Village Idiot Read More

24 Feb

Even when your best, just isn't good enough


This one clearly is categorized as Amusement Gripe.

So little Ethan hasn't been feeling well lately. So when I got home last night, I immediately asked him if he wanted me to read to him. He said, "Sure! Can we read this book?" It was a Star Wars 3rd Level Reading book.

Now, upon reading it, I quickly realized that it was about Yoda.

Hey, I've tried doing Yoda impersonations before... maybe I can do the voice of Yoda. That'll put a smile on his face and maybe help him feel better!

So as I started to do the Yoda part, Ethan stops me and says:

"Dad, you're not supposed to do Grover, you're supposed to do Yoda!"

<sigh>

Even with nothing but the best of intentions, I still get a "fail" from the audience. Now I feel like Rodney Dangerfield "Man, I don't get no respect!"

I guess I'll stick with my Mitch Hedberg impersonations...

Categories: Amusement , Gripe Read More

19 Feb

We introduce... your Village Idiot (Episode I)


The people driving pickup trucks are generally good drivers. But of course, there's always the one moron that ruins it. You know, like when you were at recess, about ready to start the game of football. You've just about got the teams selected when out of the blue comes Derek Stuckinbooks. You know he can't cover worth a damn, catch worth a damn... heck, he can't even play! But you know if you don't include him, the recess supervisor is gonna ream you a la Coach Buzzcut

Coach Buzzcut  

So I was coming home from the library and the following happened -- picture it. 4-lane road (2 each direction) with 10-15 cars waiting at a traffic light. I'm in the right lane a few cars behind a green Chevy pickup truck. The light turns green and the truck accelerates normally. Then, after 1/8 of a mile or so, the truck suddenly puts on his blinker, apparently wanting to get into the left lane. And as he puts on the blinker....

... HE STOPS! In the right lane of a 50mph road. We're all stuck, because the cars in the left lane are already doing 40-50mph and this moron decides 'Duhhh, I gotta get over now because that's the road I want to take! Silly ol' me... I got a truck, I can do this'

Here's the picture of the scenario (actual overhead picture of the site)

I guess no other place to go but nowhere!

The Village Idiot wanted to make a left turn (blue arrow above)

For the love... IT'S OK TO MISS YOUR TURN!!!! YOU HAVE OPTIONS WITHOUT INTERRUPTING TRAFFIC AND YET STILL GET TO YOUR DESTINATION WITHOUT CAUSING AN ACCIDENT:

  1. Make a U-turn at the very next intersection (if you can get over to the left lane)
  2. If attempting option #1 and it fails, either go straight and make a U-turn further ahead or make a right turn at the major intersection (just off the top of the photo) and turn around

Why it is that people turn off their brains when driving. I'm sure you've seen the multitude of people that panic on the freeway when they're about to miss their exit... they do the same thing and practically (and some cases literally) stop on the freeway.

GO TO THE NEXT EXIT!!!!!! IT'S OK TO DO SO! JUST DON'T CAUSE AN ACCIDENT

And you wonder why there's road rage. Think, people, come on! This kind of crap is part of the reason why fender-benders happen.

(in case you were wondering, I'm the fourth purple car behind the Village Idiot) :)

Categories: Gripe , Village Idiot Read More

16 Feb

"Insureds nicknamed Schoms switching to Progressive have saved $500 on auto insurance"


We recently switched back to Progressive for our auto insurance (and now, home insurance as well) after being with MetLife for the past 3 years. We had been with Progressive for 10 straight years in the past. But enough with the history, that's not what this blog entry is about.

Over the past many months, I have been entertained at all the ads out there from various companies claiming that customers have saved money by switching to them:

--------------------------------------------------

E-surance: "Customers that have switched have saved $523 on auto insurance"

Progressive: "Save over $500 on car insurance"

Allstate: "Safe Drivers Save 45% or More"

And the ever popular GEICO: "Save 15% or more on car insurance"

--------------------------------------------------

Seems like every company has their own statistic trying to convince you that you should switch insurers. You might be thinking, 'How on earth can each company claim to be cheaper than the other?'

THEY AREN'T!!! IN THE RADIO/TV ADS, LISTEN TO THE DISCLAIMER -- ON MAIL, READ THE ASTERISKED COMMENT!

"Customers who switched saved $xxx..."

AOL Keyword: SWITCHED

Generally, who in their right mind would switch insurers knowing they would pay more than they previously were? Imagine if someone offered you two $5 bills in exchange for a $20 bill. Would you do it?

... and ARRRRRGHHHHhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!! OF COURSE the statistic is going to be hundreds. Who on earth would raise bloody hell and be all up in arms thinking that they pay $10 too much. Nobody switches to save $10... I know I wouldn't.

Now, granted, I'll give the public a little benefit of the doubt on the intention of the statistic. The intent is to get the consumer a personalized quote. How do you do that? Abusing the informative nature of advertising by slipping in a little catch-word. For instance, it's not as attractive -- as sexy -- to say

"Well, on average, our rates are not as good as Allstate, but try anyway, you never know!"

Americans don't have time to potentially save money, we need results. We need a Slap Chop because we just don't have enough time to chop with a knife. I now have enough time to play with my kids because I use a device that effectively brushes my teeth while in my sleep. We know how much time was lost brushing!

We need the sticker shock. We need big-time scoring, damn it. We need to get those iPod/Facebook-obsessed teenagers with the earphones in 24-7 listening to crappy music to pay attention. We need the 36-triple D's:

"You could save hundreds. Thousands that switched did!"

The magic catch-word "switched" -- what other word makes nearly all potential future legal issues disappear (claiming false advertising), allows such a meaningless statistic to be used publicly (limited correlation to my likelihood of seeing such savings), and yet often gets ignored in the ad by consumers because it's surrounded by nothing but good news ("customers", "save", "$$$$$$$$$$$$") The consumer leaves the commercial with the perception that Allstate (or whatever company is advertising) will automatically save them money.

So in a recent mailing, I received a seemingly-personalized letter from Travelers Insurance:

Travelers: Dan, in reviewing your driving history, we feel you may be paying too much. Drivers in your class have saved an average of $453 on your auto insurance. Call or visit our website with the quick quote ID# to see how much you'll save.

So I decided to give them a try. Heck, they seem to know I have a good driving history, which I do. They seemed to do at least a small amount of diligence. And, I like saving money too, so why not... let's do it. Same coverage amounts as my current policy. A couple more questions asked than any quote I've done before. The result? $30 short of DOUBLE... yes, DOUBLE what we are paying now.

So does this get reported within the statistic they give in the ads? Nope.

And to top it off, I can tell why McDonalds had to plaster all those "Caution: Contents may be hot" labels all over their coffee cups. Because we're getting absurdly dumber by the minute. You mean the coffee is hot? You're kidding! Because I know if the coffee was cold, I would have complained! But I didn't know it was going to be hot! (sigh) By that idiotic woman winning that case, the verdict is in -- the trend says we clearly can't think for ourselves. Need proof?

In the GEICO case, they weren't cheaper than Progressive (yet again) by a few hundred dollars. Upon hearing the final quote from the agent, I told him what I was currently paying (again, for all you with horrible short-term memory/selective readers, it was a few hundred dollars). He then said, "So... what date should we start this policy?"

"YOU'RE MORE EXPENSIVE! WHY would I want to switch?"

There are some reasons why insurance companies can be more expensive/cheaper. Some include:

  1. Underwriting - #/types of questions asked. For instance, some ask distance driven/day, others don't.
  2. Incident Forgiveness - Some go back x-years and others have incident severity tiers.
  3. Pre-pay advantages - Progressive has a discount if you pay in full
  4. Multi-insurance discount - If you have auto & home coverage, your auto rates are generally less than with only auto
  5. Area experience - Every insurance company breaks down their rates by location. One company's definition of a rate zone may be drastically different than others. Additionally, the experience for that zone could differ substantially.
  6. Loyalty discounts for staying with the insurer year over year.

So what's the gripe? The gripe is all the insurance companies wanting to grab your attention by revealing statistics that initially, without thinking, can be interpreted as nothing but good. It's just as offensive as mortgage lenders quoting an absurdly-low interest rate to get your interest, but upon inspecting the APR, finding out that there are a lot of hidden costs. Where will the honest company be, which gives the average savings amount for all quotes, not just select ones. To me, that holds more weight and will help tell me which companies to consider. Don't give me a misleading statisitc involving only certain quotes. I'll bet the savings amounts include people like Joe Blow, who has had 5 accidents in the last number of years and saved $1800 by switching (where the disparity is probably due to his old insurer jacking up the rates to get rid of him)

And to you Travelers, quit your personalized crap about good driving history, coupled with a statistic on how much "my types" have saved by switching. You've wasted my time... 15 minutes or so... and then kicking me in the nuts by giving me a quote of double what I currently pay. To me, you've actually done more damage with this approach. I'll know never to go back to you for a simple quote. But you win...you got me to open your letter. I'm the sucker. I'm the idiot...I fell for it. The consolation is that I'm more informed about which companies to consider when quote-seeking in the future.

Categories: Gripe Read More

09 Feb

Eee-mail Funn


So who hasn't received spam e-mail before?

It's a fact now that as commercial spam filters are becoming the norm, idiot spammers are having to come up with creative ways to get their message seen. These spam filters are as hard to penetrate as those 3M Filtrete furnace air filters that do more damage to your furnace than good. So how do these spammers get their message through?

**************************

Subject: Gett your MmmeDds heere! Viaagrrra, sUper lowWww price$

chandler0017,, click here: $Low Cost$

[link omitted for safety]

**************************

I mean, when it comes to medication, nothing says 'I trust you' more than a business that sends out messages with:

  1. Repetitive letters (to avoid spam)
  2. Combination of unneeded capital letters and excessive and unnecessary comma usage
  3. No business name listed in the body of the e-mail
  4. Use of chandler0017 as my name... I mean, nothing says "personalized" more than calling someone by the e-mail prefix
  5. A link that uses a tinyurl address. Good, reputable companies always try to hide their own name. I mean, what business wants publicity?!
  6. I'll give them some credit, the usage of $ in "price$" is creative.

I mean, anyone clicking on these truly must also fall for those same e-mail messages where Bank of America wants to validate your account information, and to do so, you must install a program which is conveniently zipped up in an attachment. We know businesses do this ALL the time. And I know that businesses also send these messages to people that don't even have a Bank of America account.

Another creative spam idea is to piggyback off of the success of a popular social networking site.

I was flabbergasted to find out that over the course of 3 days, I had received 5 e-mail messages from Sarah, Jill, Cherry (how cute), Debra and Tanya. All of them had the "From" listed as Facebook, with the subject line "_(name)_ has sent you a message".

Oh wow. It must be legit, because it says it's from Facebook... and the subject line is in the same style as that which Facebook sends, so I think I'll open it up!

And, funny, all wrote nearly the same thing (two of them were the same). I'll summarize:

"hey you, i saw your fb pic and i think it's hot. we have lots in common. perhaps we could hook up sometime. check out my pics at [link omitted for safety]"

I know Miss Manners always tells you to greet a stranger with a "hey you!" That always works. Plus, I can now sleep at night knowing that someone wants to hook up with me because I look hot. AND, since we have so much in common (since she only "saw my pic"), that MUST mean she's hot too.

Sadly though, I don't know how I can find her, 'cause she didn't give a last name. I can't add her as a friend on Facebook, because there are a ton of Sarah names out there.

The link she gave sends me to a weird pornish site at: www.bustybombshells.com. And then I find out she wants $9.99/mo just to enter. Man, we just met (and in a way, we haven't) and already she wants my money!

And finally, what gives it the uber-personalized feel is knowing that I can see 8 other e-mail addresses in the "To:" section. But I thought she was talking to me? Why did she copy in the others?

(sob)

Ugh. Come on people, get a little more creative with the e-mail. Spammers and virus-senders are now the lowest of the low.

Categories: Amusement , Gripe Read More

29 Jan

Coke -- An inventory nightmare


So I'm crawling through the local Coborns store yesterday and guess what caught my eye? Of course you guessed it, after all, it's the title of this particular blog entry. Yes indeed, making Coke's (and grocery store managers) inventory lives a living hell -- we introduce, the Coke 20-pack!!!

 

Because the 24-pack was just too big to fit into your fridge, we had to come out with something that... well, still doesn't fit in your fridge. But it has a better chance now!

Marketing to the consumer: "We've made your favorite Coke container easier to carry and charged you for it." No, that's not it. Hey, since we're in a world of crappy politically-correct speak, how about "Ergonomically-correct packaging"? Nope, it's still the same look and wrist-straining feel of the 24-pack.

Now don't get me wrong, I know that it's all about sticker shock when one shops for food. Since everything costs more today (value of the dollar keeps decreasing, and corn prices keep rising), companies would rather leave prices the same and slightly shrink the package. For example (and these are only a few):

  1. Peanut Butter (check the "bubble" at the bottom of the container)
  2. Chips (slightly smaller bag)
  3. Milk (Kemps introduced the 3/4 gallon, because the gallon must have been bad for those with arthritis)
  4. Ice cream

Consumers have memorized prices of their favorite products by each package size, that companies are now forced to change the size of the packages.

Now, let's see... you're a Coke fan. Let's see how many different ways you can buy your addiction. There's the 12-pack, 20-pack, and 24-pack of 12oz cans. You can get a 20oz bottle, 6-pack of bottles, 6-pack of mini (8oz, I believe) cans, a 6-pack of cans with the irritating plastic ring holding the cans together, a 1-liter, 2-liter, and because choice just wasn't apparent at your local grocer... a 1.5 liter bottle. I'm sure there's more too, but that's beside the point. Also, it appears as though Coke has now introduced the 30-liter bottle.  

Anyway, the part that really bothers me is that grocery stores (and I'm not singling out Coborns... Cub, you're just as guilty) are charging the same price as a 24-pack used to be. Again, I understand inflation and all that, but I have a hard time justifying this kind of maneuver on something that provides nearly zero nutritional value.

So what do I do? I follow the Schoms pop-purchasing rule: If I can buy a 24-pack of cans for roughly 20 cents/can (another way of saying it... $5.00), I buy it. If not, I do without it. Sure I enjoy drinking it just like the rest of avid drinkers, but that doesn't mean I'm not price-conscious. I mean, just that you put that stupid yellow SALE sticker in front of the product doesn't mean that it's a good price. Hell, I thought those tactics were saved for places like:

  1. Kohl's (home of the "Every-Weekend-Is-A-Different-Sale" sale)
  2. Wally McCarthy's Auto Mart (where the SALE signs were up LITERALLY 100% of the time)
  3. Becker Furniture World (where normal prices are jacked up 100% and then they advertise a 40% off sale)

(mathematicians will have a good laugh at that last one)

So here are some tips I go by:

  1. Buy only with a coupon. While I don't exactly spend my time with a pair of scissors and a Sunday paper, when I do spot a decent pop coupon, I'll clip it out and purchase then, taking full-advantage of buying as much as I can. After all, pop has a shelf-life that rivals Twinkies (5,000 years).
  2. If you must pay full-price, do NOT buy a 12-pack. 12-packs ADVERTISED have been averaging nearly $4.00. You can get twice as much for roughly $2 more (regular price) by buying a 24-pack. It's like getting 6 cans free.
  3. Pop companies, for a long time, have had one of their best deals around late May/early June. Why? Easy. Graduation parties. This is nearly equivalent to "Black Friday" for them.
  4. Combine coupons. Occasionally, Coke gives coupons for "Save $1.00 on a 24-pack." Combine this with the store coupon (e.g. $4.99 for a 24-pack) to reduce the cost further.

Oh, and don't get me started with 20oz bottle pricing. The other day at the store, I heard someone mention "Cool, $1.39!" :::grinding teeth::: Keep in MIND, he was STANDING two steps from the 2-liter BOTTLES. The 2-liter bottles................... were only $1.29. :::/grinding teeth:::

I'll likely have a Gripe entry dealing with pop prices at your favorite restaurant in the very near future. In the meantime, I'll sit back and wait for the next pop sale while drinking my large cup of fair-trade Ethiopian Dark Roast coffee with a little soy milk and two natural-cane sugar packets, making sure the lid is tight.

Categories: Gripe Read More

23 Jan

"I Want My MTV..."


We've all been there, I'm sure. You're at a gathering among friends when suddenly you realize someone just changed the radio station. You had been enjoying what was on, but now you hear the awful sound of:

  1. Fiddles and honkeytonk
  2. "A little ditty, about Jack and Diane..."
  3. "Never let me slip, cause if I slip, then I'm slippin." (your boy, Dr. Dre)

Inspiring lyrics in that last one for sure. Plus, with sentences like "Compton and Long Beach together, now you know you in trouble," I learned not all sentences need a verb. It's no wonder we're getting dumber by the minute. I feel for the teachers who are already behind the 8-ball, but I digress...

So yes, you can probably see where this gripe entry is going -- it's about music. When MTV first came out in 1981, they played videos. Then, they started playing non-music-related shows, so they stopped playing videos. There was some negative feedback on that, so they introduced MTV2 -- a station dedicated to videos (both rock and alternative). Then, because the more recent generations of Americans are losing their grip on what it means to appreciate musicians that actually play their own instruments, they quit playing videos on MTV2 as well! (in favor of more of the same crappy programming that has nothing to do with music)

"Oh Schoms, you're being hypocritical You liked Beavis and Butthead!" Uh, yeah, but B&B actually played song videos within each episode, unlike "Road Rules" or that stupid Flava Flav show (or anything else on that channel for that matter), so it was at least relevant. But of course you wouldn't know that, since your only exposure to B&B was streaming them over the internet where they edited the videos out of the episodes.

We've all had our squabbles about which music is better and all, but recently, a group of friends and I have chosen to put together a top 100 songs from the 80's -- not the best-selling, not the most popular, not "encompassing all the emotions of that time" no no no.

There's thousands of "top 80's songs of all time" lists out there from expert wannabees. And of course, there's endless complaining from readers behind their computer screen stating "How could you not have ______ in there? This list sucks!" or "How could you have _____ in front of ______? You're clueless!"

Ugh

No, we've each put together a top 100 "Songs you personally loved listening to from the 80's." Hard to argue this approach... unless your friends come up to you and remind you of a song that you truly did like, but forgot about it when you were putting your list together. I personally like to view these lists instead, because it's fun to get to know people's tastes without radio dictating which songs are represented (for example, simply tuning into KQ92 tells you they like classic rock, but KQ may not necessarily play the artists the person truly enjoys). The songs have to be released in the 1980's, which makes a few songs that were on the border ineligible.

So anyway, I have put a video version of my top 100 together. It's a fairly-short 30 minute video of all 100 songs. Think of it as my way of bringing MTV back! Fun to watch/listen to at work for the following reasons:

  1. Unlike MTV, you can actually see videos (yes, I know MTV owns VH1 which does play videos, I get it, I get it)
  2. 30 minutes of commercial-free music (except for the visual at the end)
  3. Better variety than 101.3's 10-song mix list

But despite the fact that this is my personal list, there will nonetheless be some complaining. That's ok, I'm willing to take it. So enjoy, and let the griping begin!

Be patient with the links below. I'm trying to figure out why they don't work for some people. If you can't view Flash content, try the video link which uses Windows Media Player.

Video: Schoms Personal Top 100 80's (requires Windows Media Player, I believe)
Excel List: Schoms Personal Top 100 80's
Categories: Amusement , Gripe Read More

15 Jan

Seriously, DirecTV... shut the f.....ront door!


I'm not saying Comcast is immune to rate hikes either, but ever since we've been getting DirecTV service (since the beginning of 2002), we've seen seemingly endless commercials from DirecTV stating something to the effect of:

"Are you tired of Cable raising your rates over and over again. Switch to DirecTV."

Uh... *knock knock*... DirecTV... uh, you're being HYPOCRITICAL! Here's our rates since 2002. The amounts start off with the teaser rate of $29.99, so I'm fine with the first increase, but watch what happens AFTER the first increase:

  • 2/2002: $29.99 (regular rate at the time: $37.99)
  • 3/2003: $38.99
  • 3/2004: $39.99
  • 3/2005: $41.99
  • 3/2006: $44.99
  • 3/2007: $47.99
  • 2/2008: $50.99
  • 2/2009: $53.99
  • 1/2010: $57.49
  • 2/2011: $60.49 (PLUS, an extra $1 for each receiver PLUS $1 extra for local channels)

* prices above are for the legacy Total Choice package with one receiver and no local channels.

A spokesperson for DirecTV (talking about the latest increase) stated "...unfortunately, the increasing costs we pay to carry the channels you see sometimes force us to adjust our prices." 

Are you kidding me?!?! Sometimes? It's a regular occurrence! EVERY YEAR! Sick of cable hiking your rate? What a bunch of crap. You do worse than cable.

Or, to twist words, perhaps when the spokesperson said "... the channels you see sometimes," he was really talking about the fact that DirecTV occasionally loses its picture (because of rain, snow, etc). People might have been calling in and complaining because of the lost service, and to keep the customer happy, they gave a partial refund.

But this blog entry isn't about completely badmouthing DirecTV. Obviously we've had them since 2002, so they couldn't have been THAT bad. But I'm sick of the increases. Plus, we really didn't watch that much TV, so it wasn't worth throwing $70/month away.

Upon calling DirecTV to cancel our service, the Customer Account Retention Specialist wondered why we were pulling the plug after so long. I said "We don't want the service anymore... we barely watch cable TV channels" (I wasn't giving the reasons). He offered to give me a $10 credit to which I said "Hmmm.. so you think I'm cancelling because I felt we only got $60 out of our monthly $70 service?! Please cancel"

As of this last Tuesday, we terminated DirecTV. I doubt we will ever go back. We're going to enjoy the airwaves for a while. I'm sick of them getting rid of channels I watched and replacing them with more Home Shopping channels. Again, it's not that DirecTV is bad... their service was good when it wasn't raining/snowing, but I just thought I'd alert you to their pricing history and a couple other items they don't tell you about on the commercials/website.

Categories: Gripe Read More

11 Jan

This coming from a college?!?!


On a piece of mail I received from Liberty Insurance, sponsored by the University of Minnesota, it said:

"... save up to $256.78 a year, OR MORE! [switching to our insurance]"

Really? REALLY?!? Um, if you can save UP TO $256.78, how could you possibly save more? Isn't "up to" an upper-bound? Can you imagine if parents took this approach?

Mother: "Billy, I'm going to count up to 10, and if you don't come down, you're going to be on a timeout... I'm serious! 10, 9, 8, 7...2, 1... ok, I'm giving you another 10 seconds!" (ugh)

Sad and pitiful piece of mail, especially with the U of M's sponsorship on it. It's no wonder we're getting dumber by the minute!

Categories: Amusement , Gripe Read More

08 Jan

I've warned you Big 10...


Well, it was a good run. Yes, yours truly is a Golden Gopher, but that doesn't stop me from griping about what the Big 10 has done with the conference.... again!

Most know that the Big 10 is anything but -- having 11 teams in it. Because of that, the logo was modified in 1990 to reflect the addition of Penn State, adding the 11th team. The current logo contains a somewhat-hidden "11" in the middle of the logo. (see below)

The current Big 10 logo with the

Starting next year, they are adding Nebraska. Yup, now the Big 10 has 12 teams in it. 12. Yes, 12. Every conference in the NCAA seems screwed up now, because most of the big-name teams from the legacy Big 12 are now moving to other conferences. Here's the new Big 10 logo. Who the hell came up with this?!?! What's the point with having a 1 as an "I" if you're not going to follow it with a 2 somewhere?

New Big 10 logo, whose design was pulled out of the trashcan.

I warned the Big 10 back in 1990 that if they screwed around with the Big 10 again, I'm not going to take it anymore. Hey, it's the traditionalist in me! I don't like most forms of change. I still call Dayton's, Dayton's. I will always call the MSP Airport, the Lindbergh terminal (Don't get me started with Terminals A & B). Century Courts will always be called Century Courts, even though they changed to Huntington Place/Point to try and clean up the image (and now, they took a bulldozer to the entire complex!). Somehow, Wells Fargo got me to stop referring to them as Norwest Bank!

Of course I know the Big 10 isn't going to listen to me, and I know they don't really care either. So, soon, I'll take the passive-aggressive approach and cancel DirecTV so that I'm not paying for the Big 10 Network.

Hey, I've got a great idea... let's start our own network so that cable/satellite channels will be forced to pay for our games, 'cause revolt will happen if they don't!

What a concept. See what's happening? With all these specialized networks, customers now have to pay for Big 10 (Gophers), NFL Network (select football games), Versus (select NHL games)... I could go on and on. The games which are now carried on these specialized networks have been on Fox Sports Net/ESPN for years! You think cable/satellite companies are going to absorb the costs these networks are charging? D'ok...

So that's it... I'm not watching any Big 10 anything anymore. Will I go to a Gopher event again? Yeah, if it's either a Gopher hockey game OR I somehow get a free ticket to a Big 10 event. See ya Big 10! No stupid network for me!

Categories: Gripe Read More

 
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