Reviews

Directions You’re Gonna Regret

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Every had one of those moments where you decide to follow the directions and then instantly regret it?

The image above shows the directions I followed, which I instantly regretted. Why? They seem relatively straight forward, right?

Not exactly. If you were paying attention, the food is contained within a pouch. The problem is the pouch. The food literally does not need to be cooked in the pouch. But, you decide to follow the directions anyway. So, as a result, one wouldn’t think to cover the top of the pouch…I can see that lightbulb flickering…you are starting to get it…because while to food is in the pouch there is no convenient way to cover the top of the pouch with something that will keep the now heating food from exploding all over the inside of the microwave. POP! SNAP! CRACKLE, CRACKLE, BOOM!

So the written instructions on the back of the food product would more accurately read:

  1. Tear or cut open pouch.
  2. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) for 45-60 seconds. Microwave ovens vary; heating times may need to be adjusted.
  3. Wait for “fireworks” noises to be heard over the humming of the microwave.
  4. If you live dangerously, wait for the time on the microwave to expire and you hear the beep or ding. If you don’t like to live dangerously, curse loudly and pull open microwave door immediately.
  5. Remove pouch from microwave while surveying the messy damage. If you like burnt fingertips, grab anywhere and throw in a little squeeze for kicks; otherwise, carefully grab a small corner at the top edge of the pouch.
  6. Empty remaining content of pouch into a bowl or onto a plate. If the pouch is lighter than when you put it into the microwave, deposit pouch directly into the garbage.
  7. While cursing or muttering under your breath, grab cleaning supplies (we recommend all purpose cleaner and paper towels) and clean the entire inside of the microwave before the next co-worker needs to use it. Return cleaning supplies to proper location after use.
  8. If you are still hungry, ENJOY the small amount of remaining contents from the pouch. Remember, it may be hot (depending on how long it took you to clean the microwave) so use caution. If the remaining contents are not hot, please return them directly to the clean microwave and cover the dish with a paper towel.
  9. If you are not still hungry, return directly to work and try to be productive while your stomach growls all afternoon.

Here’s how it should read since the instructions are out of order or they left out a few steps:

  1. Tear or cut open pouch.
  2. Empty contents into a bowl or onto a plate.
  3. Microwave on HIGH (100% power) for 45-60 seconds. Microwave ovens vary; heating times may need to be adjusted.
  4. Enjoy.

There, now isn’t that better?

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Do you have an example of when you followed the directions and then regretted it? Share in the comments below!

Apple’s Apology Absent of Authenticity

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I know I am not the first to talk or write about this, but I still feel like I need to say something since I have been an iPhone user and supporter since the first iPhone came out. And, while I won’t be giving up my iPhone any time soon (I actually just upgraded to an 8+ just before this all was confirmed), my confidence in Apple has waned a little.

As you all are aware of, I’m sure, by now is that Apple finally admitted to and apologized for slowing down phones supposedly because of battery issues. Unfortunately, it lacked anything that came even close to authenticity, and maybe even the truth, and had me calling a great big loud BS. Apple, you did it, so how about owning it and not making excuses about “software” or “hardware.”

Let’s start with the apology first. To be really blunt, this is really the only paragraph in the whole letter that really matters, the rest is just fluff.

“First and foremost, we have never — and would never — do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product, or degrade the user experience to drive customer upgrades. Our goal has always been to create products that our customers love, and making iPhones last as long as possible is an important part of that.”

Did you see that? That part about “we have never and would never do anything to intentionally shorten the life of any Apple product…making [them] last as long as possible…” Considering the day and age we live in, I think we can all agree that isn’t really the case, or the truth.

We live in a consumer culture that has planned obsolescence built right into it. Nearly every product we buy has an “estimated life” – whether is in the actual hardware (the materials used to build it) or the software (the stuff on the inside that makes it work). Products aren’t built to last longer because that would keep people from buying newer (and perceived better) products. Sales for companies would tank if they actually built something that would last more than several years. So, companies change the models, designs, and features available which contributes to “planned obsolescence” – making the consumer feel as though what they have isn’t good enough, even if technically it still is or could be with minor upgrades.

Unfortunately, you can see it in every product Apple produces – iPhones, iPads, Macbooks, iMacs, etc. It only takes a short look back over the products and how long ago some of those older models were produced to see what is going on. We now know that Apple was slowing down phones on purpose, but how can we trust that they aren’t doing it with their other products as well? The truth is, we can’t.

Products that are only three, maybe four years old are no longer getting software updates and are no longer “supported”. If Apple was truly trying to keep those products going as long as possible, they wouldn’t be left out of software updates. We could have been told to get a battery replacement before doing the next software update and then the phone would run at its optimum capacity without threat of random shutdowns or freezes. But, no, Apple didn’t decide to do that which means Apple knowingly created (or supported) a system that would warrant buying a new phone instead of simply replacing the battery.

I understand that some of the older products may not run the newest features in the software. And, yes, I know that newer software may put a strain on the battery or processor(s). But, shouldn’t that be something we have a choice about rather than being led to believe our product is coming to the end of it’s life? Some have even argued that this doesn’t prove that Apple was using planned obsolescence, but that seems incredibly naive. Think of it this way, just because the tires, or battery, or engine, or muffler on my car are worn out doesn’t mean I need to go buy a new car. But Apple was certainly hoping that you would go buy a new phone.

Let’s be real here in the new year…that apology was more about CYA against class action lawsuits and a damaged reputation, not about being honest and truthful. Oh, and look at that Tim Cook got a huge bonus too – which was built on many our unnecessary upgrades.

If I upgraded at least twice, unnecessarily over the last four years, perhaps I am in for a bonus myself when these class action lawsuits find Apple was intentionally deceptive and harmed consumers. But then, I won’t hold my breath either…

 

Check Your Bias: Media Evaluation

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I used to tell my students there was no such thing as unbiased media – everyone has a slant – and I stand by that statement. However, there are media resources/outlets that do their best to remain “neutral”, as hard as that may be. One thing we know, even if an outlet tries to remain bias free the person/people contributing the media still have a bias.

I recently found a source I wish I had known about while I was in the classroom. It would have been incredibly valuable! The site is called AllSides.com. The cool thing is that you can get news from across the political spectrum – the Left, Center, and the Right. So, if you are a news hound like I am, you can get your news from all perspectives, not just the ones Google thinks you want to see (remember, Google logs your clicks and searches so it progressively narrows the results you get based on your selections).

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AllSides.com site banner

An interesting part of this website is the ability to check your own bias. It has you take their short bias survey, but you also have the ability to complete a bias survey from Pew Research as well as a political party quiz from Pew (for confirmation of where you fall, specifically, or seriously have no idea). All together those surveys give you a pretty complete picture of your social and political bias.

From there, you can rate the numerous media outlets based on your perception of their bias. Of course, your opinion is only a small part of the overall bias rating. They take all the submissions (a sort of crowd-sourcing) and then use statistical research and methodologies to develop on over-all rating for the media source. The methods they are using is really quite interesting. For me, I agreed with the bias rating on about 70% of the media outlets. I gave my input and added it to the aggregate results.

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An example of what you would see at AllSides.com

The important thing here is that you are contributing to bias awareness. Why is that important? Well, too many American’s get their information from too few sources. If more Americans took time to look at the same topic from different sources/perspectives, they might understand the topic in a more well-rounded way. Instead, many Americans fall into or use a confirmation bias. This is dangerous, especially in a technological, highly connected society that is hyper-sensitive and hyper-politicized.

We have to (no, really NEED to) stop using just one source to support our argument. Or, even better, we need to stop using sources that fit our point of view. We need to encourage more media sources to go back to what they used to do – report, without editorial and bias. We need to stop trying to argue our points over social media and instead demand truthful, unbiased reporting.

I know. Maybe I am too hopeful that we can “turn this ship around”. But, I believe that if we are more aware of our own bias we might have a chance. I think using websites like this is a good first step in the right direction.

**Disclaimer: This is not a paid endorsement for the website mentioned above and I am in no way affiliated with the organization. Just a satisfied new user.**

Gaffigan and Giggles

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That is one happy girl! Tickets to Jim Gaffigan’s “Noble Ape” tour.

She waited a long time for this night, since April in fact. We asked her what she would like for her birthday – something tangible or an experience – weeks in advance and she chose an experience. Before her birthday arrived, the chance to do something we knew she enjoyed came up on Groupon so we took the opportunity to get something she would enjoy. We knew she would enjoy it because she has enjoyed every one of the Jim Gaffigan’s specials on Netflix. So, now was her chance.

It was hard for her to wait, I mean, it was almost six months before she could enjoy her birthday present. She has watched him on Netflix over and over. She has listened to him on Spotify over and over. She has been patient, though it was hard. But the tour had finally arrived in Seattle and off we went! And as we went, she played DJ in the car and we listened to tunes the whole trip.

First Stop

Our first stop was for dinner. I asked her about where she wanted to stop but she didn’t have too many ideas. I mentioned a couple of places, but nothing sounded like it was a winner with her until I mentioned a place we have gone to several times for different trips to “the big city.” We didn’t want to battle too much downtown Seattle traffic so we decided to grab a favorite just north of town. It’s cheap, it’s greasy, but it is fairly tasty.

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It just so happened that this evening there was also a Washington Husky game in town, so there were lots of people in the parking lot and a wide variety of people to watch as we downed our food. It was certainly a happening place while we were there…but it was also dinner time too!

Seattle Center

After dinner we headed down to Seattle Center. We knew we would have time to kill so we found some parking and wandered around the iconic area, the place of the 1962 World’s Fair.

As it turns out, there was a festival going on with people wandering around with aromatic food and colorful clothing. There was music too! Again, there were lots of different people to watch and we found an art gallery that was open so we wandered that to start with.

We saw the sights, we took pictures, we “played tourist” as she said.

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Jim Gaffigan – The Noble Ape

We stood in line and did the now ever-present security check to get into the event. This process was a little different from what I was used to going through at a sporting event, but we made it through fairly quickly and made our way to our seats in Key Arena…our seats clear up in the “nose bleed” section (second row from the top, if you must know). I actually expected to have a little better seats than we got for the price I paid, but I guess that is for another discussion, another day.

We watched people come and go. We discussed the music the house was playing – all seeming favorites of hers, all very current. We talked about the other artist’s tours that were coming and which ones she would like to go to. We just had a nice time visiting. Laughing. Joking. Testing each other’s knowledge of the music.

Then came “the warning.” The warning about not filming or taking pictures during the performance (yeah, like that is going to be happening…I mean, not me of course…) so we took some pictures before it started. Really, there wasn’t much to see in the one I took. (I tried to scale it to what it actually looked like instead of blowing it up and making it look like something better than it was.)

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Inside Key Arena – view from our seats

The opening act (can’t remember his name) was pretty good and we laughed. I am not sure how much she totally got – I mean, he was talking about being a guy in his 50s and the aches and pains that go along with age so she couldn’t really relate, but I could. I think she enjoyed watching me laugh at the jokes. I could be wrong. I am, after all, her dad…

We both really enjoyed Gaffigan though. Even for as much as we have watched and listened to him prior to the performance, he really did have mostly new material. There was only a little bit that was a repeat from other shows and, as my daughter put it, “he expanded on the topic a little more tonight.”

What I loved was watching her. What I loved was watching her laugh uncontrollably with a smile as big as her face. She giggled. Her eyes sparkled. She was having a good time and memories were made, that was the goal.

It was over too fast. The performance, that is. It seemed like it had just gotten started and then it was over and time to file out of The Key like cattle. We walked back through Seattle Center and stopped to take a couple more pictures, specifically one that would kind of encapsulate the whole evening – an early and late picture of the Space Needle (almost three hours apart).

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Space Needle – 6pm & 9pm

We piled back into the car and made our way back north to home. We talked about what we liked best about the show. She can be rather insightful when she wants to be! The conversation didn’t last long though. She was ready to play DJ once again and we rocked out to a wide variety of music (even some old 80’s music “just for me,” but she likes it too).

As she gets older, and busier, I cherish these times. I know they will get fewer and farther between, but for tonight it was perfect. Just giggles, smiles, and laughter perfect.

Dollar Shave Club: Review

The old adage holds true: “You get what you pay for.”

Let’s face it, we all probably spend a lot of money each year on shaving supplies, from handles and razor blades to shaving cream and aftershave. There are all sorts of different choices out there and sometimes trying to decide can be rather difficult. Do I just go cheap and get the basic stuff or do I spend a little extra and hope it doesn’t tear my face to hell like the cheap stuff?

Not only do these things get used on our faces, but our wives often have similar needs to us. Only, they use the products on their legs and other parts…so they like to have their own tools too. If your wife is like mine, she probably goes through blades like crazy and it gets rather expensive when you are spending $20 (maybe more) a month on titanium blades (or some other advertised rendition).

So, we have seen the advertisements from and about DollarShaveClub.com. They were entertaining, somewhat irreverent, and a bit tongue-n-cheek catchy. We started to talk about a possible solution to our monthly hair removal expense. This seemed like a good idea so we went to their website. We looked at the different models and decided that we should not go for the cheapest one, but opt for the middle option because we didn’t want it to be TOO cheap.

As you can see, there are three options: “The Humble Twin,” “The 4X,” and “The Executive.” The $6 a month looks like it is fairly affordable. With an additional handle, another $4 at the start, we thought we were set to go. We were thinking for less than $80 a year we wouldn’t need to do anything else when it came to shaving equipment. Plus, it is delivered so no shopping needed!

So far that plan hasn’t worked yet. We have been subscribed to this service for less than a year and already we have spent more per month, on average, than anticipated. While it still might be less than we would be spending on more pricey razors, the product lives up to its cheap billing. Durability is an issue even with “The 4X” handle AND the razor heads too.

The Best Laid Plans

Once we received the initial shipment my wife was excited to try out the new razors right away. She had been waiting a few days for it to arrive. On the second use of the razor head the thing started to fall apart. It appears to be a problem with construction and materials. It’s plastic, so I guess that is to be somewhat expected. However, the piece that broke should be designed to be more durable than it is.

Within the first week after getting the newly delivered razor heads, two were broken. Both broken in the same manner and in the same place. This doesn’t seem to be a coincidence, rather poor construction and design. The razor handle is inserted and attached at this point. It slides in and “grips” the piece that is hanging out in the picture below. A weak piece of plastic at the point where the two main parts of shaving components come together. If this part is going to break on a regular basis, then there is a problem in design for sure. (Or is there? Maybe that is all part of their evil plan in this “disposable world.”)

A very thin, piece of plastic that takes a lot of pressure.

A very thin, plastic piece which breaks easily.

Needless to say, this was a rather disappointing start. The actual blades themselves seem to be fine but they don’t last through more than about 4 uses. The blades do clean out fairly well and don’t clog up much so that is nice. There are a few redeeming factors of the cheap(ish), middle group razors but that’s about it.

Unfortunately, the handle for this particular set of razor heads hasn’t fared much better and again falls victim to poor design and cheap material. In the case of the razor handle, on the surface it appears to be pretty “beefy.” It is made of solid metal and has a rubber coating/handle on it to make it feel substantial. But, the feel and appearance fall apart, quite literally, where the handle and the razor connect. The plastic that is supposed to contain the pivot point also happens to be its weakest point.

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LEFT: broken – RIGHT: not broken

Because this tiny little plastic piece is the only piece that keeps the razor head from over rotating, it has to take a lot of pressure from the razor as it slides across the surface of the skin. Seeing as how it is thin plastic and that it is just barely attached to the black plastic “belly” of the razor handle, there is no way that it can withstand long-term usage. As such, we have now had to purchase four of these handles and the third purchase has already suffered this similar fate as the first two. That doesn’t give us much hope for the fourth handle.

I am not involved in the production and assembly of these things but it seems like a fairly easy fix. The bottom part of the razor handle (as seen in the photo above) should be made of metal. This point in the functionality of the razor is vitally important because the pressure from the razor head is constantly on it. The little plastic piece is not the best way to keep the razor head from over-pivoting. Once it is broken out, the razor has to be used in a very awkward position to make it still functional. Obviously, this is not ideal and makes it very difficult to get an acceptable shave.

Final Analysis

The Dollar Shave Club, on the surface, offers an affordable and convenient approach to buying shaving equipment and accessories. The affordability is hard to pass up when you are constantly having to buy this stuff at even big box store prices. Not having to think about making a trip to the store on a regular basis to buy this stuff is rather convenient because you sign up for an automatic shipment each month and it comes straight to your mailbox.

While the product may still be more cost-effective in the long run (that still remains to be seen), the functionality and durability of the product can’t be overlooked. Both pieces that get used on a regular basis, the razor head and handle, have some rather obviously glaring weaknesses making the product only marginally worthwhile. Until these weak points are addressed and fixed to make the products more durable, the Dollar Shave Club can only be deemed moderately affordable. Unfortunately, affordability is what they are selling and it doesn’t hold up under real world usage.

FINAL GRADE:  C+