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Archive for the ‘Rants’ Category

Kiddie Credit*

While sitting in Mom’s easy chair during a recent vacation, I was enjoying my remote control cruise through the Tampa area offerings when a glitzy commercial for a new Barbie doll jumped out and slapped me rudely upside the head. For the first time in a long while I was rendered — speechless.

Although it is difficult to believe, Credit Card Barbie comes complete with a bar-code-reader, check out stand and a toy credit card processing center wherein curious new Barbie doll owners are actually trained how to use a credit card. I suppose the youngsters wait in make-believe lines while play-friends electronically scan in their (optional) make-believe purchases and swiping their make-believe platinum Barbie cards. If I’m not mistaken, a receipt is printed out at the end of the shopping extravaganza, after which the children waltz off to dream about their new acquisitions, clueless  about the importance of cash flow and the accrual of debt — just like Mommy and Daddy.

The Shopping Boutique Playset comes with three outfits, including shoes and sunglasses, and the rotating pole can hold up to 20 clothing and accessory pieces. Also included is a display stand that doubles as the cashier counter where you “buy” your clothes. Swipe the Fashion Fever credit card to “pay” and find out the remaining balance on your account. But don’t fret. Once the balance hits zero, it will reset so you can continue to shop. Barbie dolls not included.”

Training young children to equate the acquisition of material goods by using toy credit cards does not strike me as being a particularly good thing. Learning how to handle real money in real life is difficult enough for adults without the toy industry injecting their single-minded marketing ethics — like some kind of evil, brain-washing drug — directly into the minds of children. I’d like to think that the introduction of sound financial principles taught to our children should be a function of good parenting rather than corporate marketing.

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* (Credit Card Barbie, as promised from the RDJ archives, circa 2007)

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I bet I’m not the only one noticing how television programming has recently begun messing with us big time. Probably in retaliation for our recording more and more programs and later fast-forwarding through the commercials. Yeah. I’m talking about those start and end times that mysteriously add or subtract a minute or three to a television show’s runtime for no other reason than disrupting our viewing habits by snipping off a recorded program’s last couple of scenes.

Now, THAT’S some serious messing with us.

In my mind, there is absolutely nothing worse than losing the last 45 seconds of a “Longmire” or “Elementary” or “Castle” or “Da Vinci’s Demons” or a “Vikings” episode just before the whodunnit is revealed or some inconceivable secret is about to be disclosed or unspeakable act committed or a weapon is pointed directly at a major character’s heart.

Which is why I have begun a grass roots and strategic first-level counterattack campaign using my provider’s recording/Timer options to extend an end time by tagging on an extra 2 or 3 minutes of recording time to the scheduled end of a favorite program. Unfortunately, my counter attack has been short lived and I gotta tell you that television networks have already begun counter-counterattacking my devious counterattack, and satellite providers absolutely love it: by increasing the number of late-ending programming, standard satellite receivers can’t always record more than one popular program at the same time if program start and end times overlap by those silly 2 or 3 minutes.

Most cable/satellite companies don’t give a hoot how television programming messes with us or how frustrated we get trying to record our programming choices in their entirety. That’s because most of these satellite providers have come up with an expensive solution:

“ATTENTION VIEWERS: if your older receivers allow you to only record 2 programs at the same time, simply purchase our new “super-dooper” receiver package. Sure, it costs WAY more than your current obsolete receiver box, but it allows you to arbitrarily record up to SEVEN shows simultaneously — and, with over TWO THOUSAND hours of recording time!”

There are additional tricks lurking in the television programming arsenal of weaponry which affect us viewers, too. Here are only a few of them:

  • Miniaturized unreadable credits from the previous show running half-screen at a ka-zillion miles per hour and parallel to the new and current program’s miniaturized opening half-screen scene, making both the credits and the new opening scenes impossibly too small to see. What the hell is the point in having credits if we can’t read them — isn’t that the point of having credits?
  • Extremely large, cutesy and obnoxious animated teases that interrupt the program we are watching and inform us what shows will be airing later on in the evening. What — we are smart enough to reprogram DishNetwork or Direct TV’s start and end times but we’re too stupid to know which programs we want to watch?
  • The quickie flashback synopses at the beginning of new episodes that begin, “previously on…” yet rarely, EVER show us the closing scenes from the previous week’s show. You know the ones I mean — the same scenes that were clipped the first time because television programming was “messing with us”.
  • Inane informational pop-ups, TV station logos, and screen-crawlers that completely cover up CC Closed Captioning but only during critical scenes.

GOOD NEWS:

Thankfully, I have come up with a 100% sure-fire and fail-proof solution to resolve all start and end time recording issues. All you have to do is take out a small wire snip, carefully open your receiver’s hidden contro

“ATTENTION READERS: this blog post has been clipped due to arbitrary word-count programming changes.”

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Baby Bear returns from bathroom after using Charmin. Momma Bear has just finished cleaning Baby Bear’s bedroom.

I have never trusted bears who use toilet paper. Bears are no different than all wild animals: they prefer doing their business out of sight. In private. As in a “deep inside the proverbial woods” kind of way.

While Little Bear bends over to examine a toy, Momma Bear examines Little Bear's butt.

While Baby Bear bends over to remove lint from his bedspread, Momma Bear approvingly examines Baby Bear’s butt.

The makers of Charmin toilet paper think using bears to sell toilet paper is both clever and cute. Unfortunately, it seems TV viewing audiences agree. Success has finally relocated The Bear Family from the wilderness, where they belong, to upscale suburbia where bear cubs have their own private bathrooms.

Too much information. I happen to know all self-respecting bears would NEVER think about crapping on TV. For that matter, neither would Mr. Whipple.

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How can we help (ourselves)?

 

I recently received an email from Lowe’s informing me they have changed their “Privacy Policy”. These are the same folks who — every time I purchase something and try to check out — matter-of-factually ask me for my telephone number. I always refuse. Why do they need my telephone number? I mean, chances are good (since I normally use a debit card for my purchases) they already have access to WAY more than just my telephone number.

The Lowe’s Privacy Policy Change email contained a link to their new Policy Page, no more or less frightening than other such policy pages, I’m sure. I spent some time reading through all the gobbledegook, finally taking a breather at their “Your Choices” section, wherein they pacified me a bit into believing I could remove myself from the insanity of online shopping data sharing, because everyone is in cahoots nowadays; Google, Amazon, Facebook — all of the biggies — wantonly swapping, sharing and receiving personal information and shopping habits as if it belonged to them, not you. How many times have I purchased something at Amazon and a day later the item I just bought is plastered on every browser page I visit? Depending on the item, that can be rather embarrassing if you have a visitor who asks to use your computer.

“Hey, Tim, how do you like that hemorrhoids cushion?”

I suspect the Lowe’s Privacy Policies are no different than most, but I gotta tell you, when I got to the part that said: “To be removed from all of Lowe’s official email, telephone and postal mail marketing, choose one of the following options: email customercare@lowes.com and type “REMOVE FROM ALL MARKETING” in the subject line…” I felt a shimmy of hope wiggle through me like a bolt from that first shot of tequila.

I opened my email program and began to reply. That’s when I read a couple more sentences and got down to the: “For any of these options, please include your name, address, phone number and email address in the request, and let us know how you provided us with the information.” part.

You have GOT to be kidding me. Let me get this right. They want MORE private information about me so they can remove my “old” private information  from their “Lowe’s official email, telephone and postal mail marketing”? How crazy is THAT!  Damn, they also want me to tell them HOW I provided them with “the information” they already have about me. Give me a break.

Little did we know — years back when we rushed like children toward the Google Candy Store and all the other personal information black- holes-from-Hell-blood-sucking-vampire-ish-mega-sites — the can of worms we were uncapping. Did I just say children and can of worms? Silly me. My bad. I really meant lemmings and Pandora’s Box.

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I’ve said “DON’T DO IT!” to myself a zillion times. And yet I still DO IT in moments of weakness. I’m talking about buying those cheap, store-brand Ziploc-types of zipper freezer bags with prices so low they’re hard to pass up. And, every time I falter in order to save a few bucks, I wind up cursing myself for being so stupid. Either the zippers work one time only and then derail, or the bag itself splits open upon trying to seal it up. And every time it happens I say “NEVER AGAIN!” out loud one more time.

Yeah, right.

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I really hate the new kind of plastic packaging, the indestructible type that is heat-vacuum-shrunk around the purchased item; the type whose packaging design offers no means of opening it short of using a hacksaw. The plastic itself is so thick it is impossible to tear or pry apart. And I know that even if I am somehow able to slip a finger in-between the plastic joins, I run a very real risk of severing a digit or two on the wickedly sharp edges.  Every time I cautiously approach one of these packages, I wonder how many finger-related law suits have been filed.

Since kitchen shears are no help at all, I decided to purchase an inexpensive pair of tin snips. But when I found the pair of industrial-grade snips I wanted at my local Lowes Home Center — you guessed it — they were tightly cocooned in an impenetrable spent-plutonium plastic diaper.

“Would you please open this package for me?” I asked the checkout person after purchasing the snips. “My fingers aren’t what they used to be and I’d like to keep them that way.”

The cashier slipped her own pair of tin snips from under the counter. Snip, snip. A couple of dangerous daring finger maneuvers, and the metal snips separated from the packaging. She made it look so easy. “There you go sir. Works like a champ.”

They must. She still had all of her fingers.

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FRIDAY FOOD THING

It began many years ago when I realized taking pictures from a TV screen was easy if you had a digital camera. Just for fun, I began taking snapshots of outrageous television advertisements. Outrageous from the viewpoint of product reality: what they advertise vs. what we get.

I want one! Burger King Whopper TV ad screenie.

My first experience was a Burger King “Whopper” sandwich ad. I mean, have you EVER bought a “PERFECT WHOPPER” that looks like this one? Sesame seeds placed just so; exquisitely deposited dollops of ketchup and mayonnaise; thick onion slices to die for; perfectly arranged serrated pickles; Ginsu-sliced tomatoes and leafy lettuce straight from Martha Stewart’s garden?

Hell, I don’t want to EAT this burger — I want to frame it and hang it on my wall!

Which got me to thinking.

I printed the picture and carried it into my local BK. When my Whopper was delivered I opened the wrapper on the counter and asked for the manager. Yeah. I was a butt-head. I placed the ad picture I had taken next to the pathetic burger-thingy. “I want one that looks like THIS one!” I said, pointing to my picture.

Needless to say, I was not very popular with that particular BK establishment for a long time to come. Like — forever. Of course, I realized the burger-thingy’s shortcoming was not the manager’s fault, false advertising or not. And even though I received an extra burger or two, I went home to the internet and did a little “false advertising” research, where I discovered it is nearly impossible to get a “false advertising” conviction because of  little known legalese gobbledegook often referred to as “reasonable expectation”.

In the above link, the following excerpt pretty much sums it up: “An advertiser cannot be charged with liability with respect to every conceivable misconception, however outlandish, to which his representations might be subject among the foolish or feeble-minded.”

At least the bureaucrats who concocted the document did not exclude themselves from the folks they are trying to confuse.

Today’s FFT is not about the Whopper, however.  It is about “Mrs. Paul’s frozen, 100% WHOLE FILLETS — Beer Batter Fillets”. Man, does that picture on the box look terrific — or does it? When I got the package home, I noticed a tiny, unobtrusive bit of text on the bottom right corner of the box: “ENLARGED TO SHOW QUALITY”.

“Enlarged to Show Quality” Perception vs. Reality: the REAL fillet is to the right.

Do those advertising folks know how to gobbledegook us foolish and feeble minded folks or what?

BTW, the 4-inch long fillets tasted “okay”.

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