Wednesday, September 28, 2011

@AnnArborcom, the enforcer of Fight Club


Within the digital pages of our town's online "newspaper," called, comment threads are policed by "comment moderators," aka staff. If a comment is deemed off topic, antagonistic towards others, inappropriate, etc., it is removed. In the comment's former place, you see a post from the moderators saying, "A comment that violated's conversation guidelines was removed."
Yesterday my comment was removed because, you guessed it, I broke the first rule of Fight Club.
As you may (and should!) know, the first rule of Fight Club is: you do not talk about Fight Club. The second rule of Fight Club is: you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.
I thought I had a real zinger of a comment for a news story yesterday. The story was about finding places to park downtown for less money. The writer explained how to find cheaper parking by pointing out which meters are available at half price. My knee jerk reaction to such a story was similar to the final shot of Darth Vader in Revenge of the Sith.
Why would they DO THAT?! Why would they tell everyone where all the juicy parking meters are??!!?
The first rule of Parking in Downtown Ann Arbor is: you DO NOT tell people the good places to park in downtown Ann Arbor.
So, naturally, I decided to make my sentiment known by posting the first rule of Fight Club as my comment on the story.
My comment did not make it to the page, which got me to thinking...
Do the staff of have a secret Fight Club ring? Is sparring with one another their go-to activity on slow news days? Either the moderators DID get my joke, and removed my comment as a return zinger because I had, in fact, also just broken the first rule of Fight Club... OR, the moderators didn't get my joke and thought I was being off topic or argumentative with someone. I hope it wasn't the latter, because it was a VERY on topic comment: stop writing stories that will take my best parking spaces away.
Hats off to you,, if you actually meant to school me and/or if you operate a secret ring of fighting bandits.
If it's neither of those things, then...

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Monday, September 26, 2011

Welcome to my soup, bacteria: Culinary Fail


Have you ever made yourself an ice cream sundae, and then dropped it on the ground before you could eat it? "BOLLOCKS!" Have you ever popped some cookies back in the oven for "a few minutes" to finish up, and then forgot they were in there so as to ruin the entire batch? "SON OF A NUTCRACKER!"
Those two things both suck.
Know what is worse than that? Spending two hours making a huge pot of soup, enjoying a few bites of it, and then leaving it at room temperature for so long you have to throw it all away.
This is the tale of my weekend. I got all excited about fall... so I cleaned, did laundry, went for a run, etc. And then I thought, 'I know! I'll bake pies! Make soup! Braise meats! I'll be Martha Effing Stewart.'
Martha Stewart probably doesn't forget to put her masterpiece in the fridge.
I went to work on a "quick" minestrone recipe that afternoon, which took me two hours to make because of my poor knife skills and the necessity to have uniform dices. It was delicious. Chris and I had two small pre-dinner samples before jetting off to see Moneyball at the theater.
We got home and there was the Dutch oven... still resting sadly on the stove. "CHEESE AND RICE!"
I was so mad that I literally ran (on my legs, not metaphorically in a vehicle) to the grocery store, stocked up on the same ingredients I purchased earlier that day, and made the soup all over again... at 9PM. I was going to feast on leftover soup this week if it killed me...
I did manage to cut the prep time in half, so it only took me one hour this time to recreate my soup. That means either my knife skills improved, or I had more close calls with my digits than I'd care to admit.
Some people have tried to make me feel worse by offering comments like, "Well it might not have ACTUALLY been bad. Soup is hardy; it was probably still safe to eat."
But you know what sucks even worse than recooking a huge batch of soup? Spending all night puking it back up.
Put your leftovers away, people.

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Thursday, September 22, 2011

Snape... Snape... Severus Snape.... DUMBLEDORE: HP Puppet Pass

This is an old video that most HP fans have seen at this point... but it's been stuck in my head the last few days. And every time I hear "DUMBLEDORE," I giggle uncontrollably--not a good thing to do when you sit in a lobby with lots of strangers passing by.
---jana is not laughing at you. (or is she?)

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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Yes, lady, I broke the pasta sauce bottle: Dexterity Fail


Sometimes I break things. I try not to, but sometimes it can't be helped. My wee midget hands are not equipped with the necessary phalanges to transport Object A to Location B without dropping it onto Floor C.
Case in point: I splattered a glass jar of EXPENSIVE pasta sauce all over the floor yesterday while unloading my groceries in the Busch's checkout aisle. I must have been trying to move too quickly.... the little moving tarp thing was moving on without me and I must.... fill... the space.... So I fumbled and dropped the bottle. It smelled nice, but there was glass and a large mess.
It really wasn't a big deal. The cashier was cool about it and was nice enough to not charge me, even though I offered to pay.
Alas, the woman behind me was less than accommodating. She kept scooting closer, then backing away, then rolling her cart closer, then backing away again. It's like she needed a running start to approach the checkout. She was visibly battling with herself... do I stay in this aisle?... do I switch aisles?... do I stay for a little while and THEN switch aisle?? And between each try, she would glare at me. There was *plenty* of room for her to unload after me, by the way... somehow I managed to break it off to the side by the magazine rack rather than in the middle of the aisle's walkway. But eventually she just reversed it out of my aisle and tried someone else. Then the little grocery helper came with his box of baking soda and his cleaner kit and roped off the area.
The rope really made me feel bad... causing someone to rope off an area because of how HAZARDOUS and DISTRACTING it has become.
I'm sorry I broke the sauce! I'M SORRY!
Don't hate me. Hate Muir Glen Organics for making their bottles so girthy.

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Monday, September 19, 2011

Dear Netflix (aka Qwikster?), Stupid is as stupid does... Rebrand Fail


By now my fellow Netflix members are aware of the added kink to the "Netflix" system since the 60% price hike announcement a few months ago. Netflix CEO Reed Hastings wrote a blog post and emailed an abbreviated version to subscribers this morning about the recent changes. He said the company (and him personally) behaved arrogantly and without consideration for the paying customers. He said he owed us an explanation as to why there are now two packages... not that it would have any affect on the price increase, he said.
He seems to think it's the separation of services that bothered us, rather than the money. He also assures us that this is actually a more cost effective model, and it certainly is... for Netflix.
But in his attempt to rectify that mistake, Hastings and his team decided to separate the company even further. In other words, he made the non-issue of "separate packages" equally as troubling as the increase in price. He says this solution will lead customers to be less confused. This implies that Hastings is operating under the assumption that Netflix lost 600,000 subscribers and $2.5 billion in market value because customers were confused by the changes. This is not the case. We understood very well: you took a service that was affordable and convenient, split it into two service packages that are both less convenient than my original singular package, and then charged me more overall. But that was all fine and well for those of us still willing to pay, because it didn't actually impact our service. Our accounts still operated the same way, our DVD and instant queues worked together, and life went on. But this changes things entirely. This means Netflix is taking away part of the convenience AND charging me more for the privilege of still using both.
I think Linda Holmes summarizes the situation best over at the NPR Monkey See blog:

"Hastings seems to be operating under the premise that customers don't really understand what's going on; that they are angry because they think that a single business has increased its price when in fact it has merely split into two businesses that charge separately. Presumably, the idea is that making the split more definitive will make people slap their foreheads and say, "Oh, now I see. Netflix actually lowered its prices, as long as I don't buy Qwikster! And new Qwikster is cheaper than old Netflix! I'm coming out ahead, sort of, if I don't want all the services I used to get!"

The only problems with this approach are that its underlying assumptions are almost certainly wrong, and that it ignores major inefficiencies that will be introduced for customers who do, indeed, want to continue to use both streaming and DVDs. Now, if you want both, you have to go to two different sites with two different queues, you have to pay two different charges to two different entities, and in general, you have to have two different memberships. That's not psychologically better for consumers. That's buying two things which are both less helpful than the single thing you could get before.

It's like a shoe company deciding to sell right shoes and left shoes for 12 dollars each where pairs of shoes used to be 20 dollars and thinking that consumers will notice the lower 12-dollar price but not the fact that it buys only one shoe."

No, Hastings, I'm not confused. I'm pissed. This means you not only support sudden (and large) price increases, you also think I'm stupid enough to believe you when you tell me it's not actually a price increase. 

Now it is no longer easy to track which DVD titles are currently available on streaming, a feature I *loved* because my DVD queue is soooo long. Sometimes titles would pop up that were available instantly. I would see that on my DVD queue, watch it instantly, and remove it from the DVD delivery list. Now I will have to manage two separate lists and check both sites before I have a DVD mailed to me.

On top of that, if we have to have two separate lists, how will the company's separate websites handle movie recommendations? Do my ratings for instant movies only help create recommendations for other instant options? Will my previous ratings of streaming and DVD titles be separated into two distinct profiles for recommendations?

It's ridiculous. I get that Netflix needs to market and plan differently for streaming versus DVDs, but they could have done that and kept the Netflix name for all their services. I was on board with the price increase, because I was willing to pay more to keep the same service (which I loved). I am not willing to pay more so I can play the shell game with DVDs. The only explanation I can come up with for this type of behavior is that Netflix actually wants everyone to drop their DVD memberships and solely support streaming.... and then down the road when enough people have eliminated the mail-order package, Netflix will drop DVDs entirely and jack up the streaming prices. I'm sure they see their DVD capital as a drag on their company's potential long-term growth... and since the red envelope is what the Netflix brand is famous for, they think renaming that part 'Qwikster' and rebranding 'Netflix' as streaming will help them down the road. The only problem with that logic, however, is that their movie choices on streaming suck. So, if anything, I'll keep the DVD package and stop subscribing to the streaming. There are WAY more choices out there when it comes to streaming, but far fewer options when it comes to cheap and easy DVDs.

RedBox and HuluPlus just got their biggest breaks ever.

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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Christmas Carols Anger Diaper Bomber: EPIC PASS


Get this...
So remember the diaper/underwear bomber incident on Christmas in 2009? Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab of Nigeria boarded a plane (Northwest Flight 253) in Amsterdam headed for Detroit, Michigan. He is accused of attempting to detonate an explosive device that he had hidden in his underwear, which didn't work and ended up burning his body in several places. After the plane landed and he was taken into custody, he was treated at the University of Michigan Hospital in Ann Arbor, MI.
Writers for are reporting that Abdulmutallab objected to the Christmas music that was playing in the hospital while he was being treated. The article claims Abdulmutallab was being treated for his burn injuries when he asked the staff to turn off the Christmas music. The nurses were disinclined to acquiesce his request....
I'd have turned the volume up.
Jesus/Santa/Frosty/Rudolf: 1
Abdulmutallab/Terrorists: 0
Happy (early) holidays, everyone!

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Eye Doctor's Assistant: Fail

Eye puff machines scare me. They are designed to make little children cry and run to their mommy....

... and well into adulthood, I am still terrified of having to deal with them. But you know what is worse than the eye puff machine? Employees who can't properly administer the eye puff test, resulting in having to UNSUCCESSFULLY PUFF YOU SEVEN TIMES!

I'll give you a moment to let that number sink in...

.... seven ....

.... times ....

.... in the ....

.... eye ....

Ok, look. In general, I'm a pretty relaxed individual. Sure, I might give someone a judgy look if they embarass themselves, but I'm extremely calm in most situations and I almost NEVER get road rage.

The eye doctor's assistant wanted to test my reaction level in stressful situations, clearly. And for once, her actions absolutely elicited a response from me. She is either an evil sadist, incompetent at her job, or stupid for pushing my buttons when I was there to treat my ALREADY IRRITATED EYE.
Readers, meet the eye puff machine: 

This evil contraction does not touch the eye, but approaches you slowly (ever so slowly) until it shoots a jet of pressurized air at you. All the while, you stare at this menacing little green light that flashes, flashes, flashes... until WHAMO! POW! You've just been PUFFED! You blink and tear and attempt to recover from the experience.

It normally takes 2-3 attempts total for me to get both eyes right. Once my body feels that first jet in the successful eye, it just doesn't seem to want to let me open the other one all the way. So I get all squinty. But, alas, here is my tale of the septuplet eye puffs:

Seemingly Nice But Mean Assistant (SNBMA): Ok, Miss, follow me and we'll get started...

Woman leads me into the assistant living quarters, where they administer the pain.

SNBMA: So, what seems to be the problem?

Me: I woke up on Friday morning with what appears to be pink eye, but doesn't behave like pink eye. My right eye is teary rather than gooey, and it was painful and extremely light sensitive. I may need stronger eye drops, or perhaps I have a corneal abrasion? (Yes, I used the term 'corneal abrasion' because I did my homework on WebMD beforehand like any other hypochondriac.)

SNBMA: Ok, why don't you pull up to the machine on your right.

Me: You mean the eye puff machine?

Woman chuckles and is clearly familiar with how little people enjoy this procedure.

SNBMA: Yes, please. It won't take long. (In movies, this would be the line that works as foreshadowing for the main character who is about to suffer.)

Me: Ok, no problem.

SNBMA: Ok, just stare at the flashing green dot.

I stare at the light like a good patient, but already I can feel my palms sweating and my eyes drying as if to make it impossible to NOT blink five times per second.

SNBMA: Please, open your eye wider.

Me: Ok...

***PUFF!*** (#1)

SNBMA: We'll have to try that again. The machine caught your eyelashes.

I sigh to myself, because my eyelashes are extremely long... like the size of the fake ones, but twice as thick. So I'm pretty much screwed.

SNBMA: Ok, just stare at that green blinking light....


SNBMA: Open your eye wider....


SNBMA: Wider...

*Squints, then makes 'WOW' face to trick body into opening eye.*

***PUFF!*** (#2)

SNBMA: Nope, we'll have to do it again. Didn't take.

Me: Ugh... I hate this. Ok, let's do it.

SNBMA: Why don't you lean back and blink as much as you like for a few minutes and then tell me when you're ready.

Me: Ok, that sounds good.

I spend a few minutes blinking at epic speed and do one of my psych-me-up exercises I used to use before tennis matches. I can do it, I can DO IT!

Me: Ok, let's do this.

SNBMA: Great, here I come. Just keep watching the green light.... open just a little more...

***PUFF!*** (#3)

SNBMA: I'm sorry about this, but we'll have to do that again.

Me: OMG, really? I mean this is the eye that's irritated... the already dried out one. It's getting harder to keep from blinking.

SNBMA: I know, but just one more and then we'll be done with this eye.

Woman readjusts machine. I watch the ever-blinking green demonic light. The machine continues to get closer. The machine moves closer than normal. Suddenly machine is in between my long eyelashes. Machine is still approaching. Machine traces inside of eyelid.

Me: Um, dude, you're in my eye! Not cool.

Woman sighs, retracts, and starts over.

Me: You know what? It would help me if you just told me when you were going to puff me so I'm not waiting in fear. Then I'll know when to really open it wide.

SNBMA: Ok, I can do that, absolutely.

Me: Great.

SNBMA: Ok, focus on the green light. Here I come with the machine... I'm adjusting... I'm getting closer... I'm getting closer. Ok, now open your eye wide. Here it comes...

... and I'll be damned if my eye just does NOT want to open on command. Somehow, I manage to trick myself with another 'WOW' face.

***PUFF!*** (#4)

SNBMA: Great, we got it. Now, the other eye....


SNBMA: Ok, I'm adjusting the machine... here I come. Now I'm ready to puff. Open wide.

***PUFF!*** (#5)

SNBMA: Ok, we have to do it again, but don't worry, I'll talk you through it again. I'm really very sorry about this. Sometimes the machine just has trouble.

Me: Okay.


SNBMA: Here I come, ready? Wider.

***PUFF!*** (#6)

SNBMA: Nope, we have to do that again.

Lip quivers.... eye squints uncontrollably...

SNBMA: Here I come, closer, closer. Just focus on that green light. Open your eye wider.

Eye quivers.

SNBMA: Wider, please.

Eye does opposite of body's commands and nearly shuts.


Me: I'm trying. This is stressful.

SNBMA: Ok, just take a break again. Lean back and blink as much as you need to. You just tell me when you're ready.

Psych yourself up. Come on. We can do this, eyeball. It's just air. It won't hurt you. We can do it. YES WE CAN! YES WE CAN!

Me: Ok, I'm ready.

SNBMA: Great. Here we go. Machine is adjusting, still adjusting. Ok, all set. Ready for the puff? Open wider. Wider. WIDER.


Eye thinks it opens. Eye felt like it opened, at least.

***PUFF!*** (#7)

SNBMA: Sigh, alright.

I get the feeling eye did not open. But woman says nothing. No excited celebratory 'we did it.' No, 'ok, we're all done.' She just rolls back in her stool, sits there for a few minutes, and stands.

SNBMA: Follow me. I'll take you to the exam room.

Me: Oh. Ok.


And thus, my experience with the eye puff machine reached a new low. I should make a note that I adore my optometrist. She is lovely and warm and has known me for years. And she's GREAT at her job. So this is not a critique of her, or of her practice. But I am not a fan of that machine, nor am I a fan of the young woman who was operating it that day, as she was visibly frustrated with my physical inabilities. Although I am thankful that she avoided blaming me for the debacle. Blaming the machine is always safe.

... even though it's her fault.

Eye patients, beware.

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