Convincing Proof That Electronic Devices Have a Soul

Do you ever think some inanimate objects know it when you are about to replace them? I am currently experiencing “Xtreme” Paranoia about this, ever since I’ve had the inclination to ditch a Verizon MiFi Hotspot in order to return to the comforting arms of Time Warner and Roadrunner.

Roadrunner never did me wrong. It seldom went down and gave me perfectly acceptable internet access. So what did I do? Replaced it with the Hotspot. What a deal! Verizon is already my phone provider and this wonderful little thing is portable and I can take it with me wherever I go and I will live happily ever after in my state of blissful internet connectivity.

Not. The thing sometimes works, or doesn’t work, or works intermittently, or at a snail’s pace, or it might not work in my area. I don’t know what the problem is, all I know is that I’m tired of it and I intend to replace it with something from the past. Roadrunner is in, Verizon Hotspot – you’re out.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Of course, as soon as I decide this, the Hotspot begins to perform admirably and I forget about the tedium of switching, and having to install another wireless modem. Immediately I think, Verizon must have finally fixed the problem! But then it happens again and I have a Bad Internet Day. Oh, how we come to depend on it, those flashing screens, those back buttons which work in a nanosecond, those streaming videos that do not pause and show you the whirling “I’m trying to catch up” icon.

The problem is, when it does happen again, it takes minutes to go from screen to screen, or I am told I now have “no internet access” or this nice message appears: “Internet Explorer cannot display the webpage”. Then see, I can’t get online to Time Warner to order anything. It’s as if that Hotspot knows it’s about to get dumped so it stops working.

Why not call Time Warner, you may ask. Well, because. Frankly, I do not like using a phone. I am not a phone person, I don’t do phone well. Yesterday it took me four times longer to schedule a repair person to replace an icemaker via a chat session than it would have if I’d called. This is a quirkiness, a weirdness that I can’t explain. I’m an introvert, what can I say? I am much more extroverted in a chat session than I would be on the phone.

Here’s how a phone conversation would go:

Time Warner Representative (TWR): Good morning! How may I offer you excellent service today?

Me: I, um, want to have Roadrunner back, and also HBO.

TWR: I can certainly help you with that! We are offering a very special package of cable, internet and internet phone for $89.99 per month for one full year! Including Showtime!

Me: I don’t want the phone part. Or the Showtime. I want to add Roadrunner and HBO to my existing account.

TWR: Okay then, I can offer you the package plus $19.99 per month for HBO.

Me: Uh, I was hoping you might be able to switch the phone and Showtime for the HBO.

TWR: Look, lady. I see you had Roadrunner in the past but stopped it two years ago. I know what’s happened here. You’ve decided that Roadrunner wasn’t so bad after all, and now you want us back. Well, it doesn’t work that way, see. Take the deal. Take the phone. If you don’t want to use it, fine, don’t use it. It’s no skin off my left upper bicuspid. It’s $89.99 plus $19.99 for the HBO. Take it or leave it. Offer ends at 4:00 Eastern Standard Time.

Me: Oh, okay, then I’ll take it.

That’s how it would go, because for some odd reason, I tend to become a spineless W.I.M.P. (Weakly Interacting  Massive Particle) when confronted by a customer “satisfaction” representative who realizes I can be bullied. They teach them that in Customer Satisfaction School 101. Ten Ways to Determine if You Are Talking to Someone Who Can Be Smacked Down.

The point was to get to the Time Warner site and chat with a representative there and try to wheedle some sort of deal where I could ditch the phone they are offering in lieu of HBO and get my Roadrunner back. But I can’t do it right now because that little bugger is not providing internet access and that’s because it knows it’s getting sent to the electronics waste dump as soon as the contract runs out. It knows it! I’m sure of it!

If I could get to Time Warner’s site, here’s how the chat session would go:

TWR: Good morning, how may I assist you today?

Me: Hey, good morning. I know all about the deal you’re offering. The $89.99 and all that. Don’t even bother. Here’s what I want. Roadrunner and HBO. And I’d be a really happy camper if you’d give me the $89.99 per month deal for a year, at which time, I’m pretty sure you’ll jack it up to some ridiculous amount. I’ll deal with your sorry ass then. This is now. I want it now. Think you can do that?

TWR: I will be happy to assist you with your upgrade.

Me: Okay. Assist me then. Tell me you’ll give me the deal I’ve asked for here.

TWR: Well. just let me check. Sorry for the inconvenience. Please wait one moment.

Tap, tap, tap, tap. (my fingers on the keyboard, without pressing keys, just irritated by being told I have to wait).

TWR: Thank you for your patience! I apologize! We can make you the deal. No phone, no Showtime, just Roadrunner and HBO. $89.99 per month.

Me: Wonderful.

TWR: Is there anything else I can help you with?

Unfortunately, the above is utter bullshit. But still, I want to do it online and Mr. MiFi over there knows it and needs to act up now and quit working just so I can’t make arrangements to replace him. And then when he figures I’ve collected myself again, he’ll start working and I’ll wonder “Now why would I want to get rid of this cute little thing? Really, it’s so convenient.”

Update: Here’s how that chat session really went.

The above, of course, cannot be made up. It’s a screen shot of an actual conversation. I suspect “Jeff” could be an alias. And notice how I tell him what I want and then he asks me what I want. What the…? And then he gave me a phone number to call, so I called. I will leave it to you to guess how that went. There is a Roadrunner wireless modem in the mail. and now the Verizon MiFi Hotspot is working just fine. Sigh.

Why Would Anyone Do That? (Listen to 60’s Music)

The other day, whilst whipping up this bourgeois gastric delight from the last century, I thought why not dip further into nostalgia and listen to music of that same era? So I turned on the Old Fogey Station and as I chopped and sauted and opened cans, I happened to take a good listen to some of the crap with which we used to numb our brains.

Depending on which part of the country you hail from, you will refer to the plebian delight pictured here as either goulash (preferred), or Johnny Marzetti (Midwestern) or Chili Mac (Texas, maybe?). It’s has been around forever, a dish full of stuff, and was especially popular in the fifties and sixties. I am including one of six thousand recipes for it at the bottom of this post, in DIY casual instructions.

Back to the music, here are seven of my observations about some sexist and/or dumb lyrics I heard.

First up: Wives and Lovers, written by Burt Bacharach.

For wives should always be lovers too
Run to his arms the moment he comes home to you
I’m warning you…

Day after day
There are girls at the office
And men will always be men
Don’t send him off with your hair still in curlers
You may not see him again

Thanks, Burt, for this lovely chauvinistic message. I’m sure it inspired a lot of women to go out and buy more of your crappy music.

Sure I sent him off to the office still in curlers but at least I have good hair! What’s with that sausage-roll flippy thing you’re sportin’ there?

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Next! Under My Thumb, The Rolling Stones

It’s down to me, yes it is
The way she does just what she’s told
Down to me, the change has come
She’s under my thumb

Under my thumb
A siamese cat of a girl
Under my thumb
She’s the sweetest, hmmm, pet in the world

Mick Jagger was in favor of “The Rolling Misogynists” but was voted down 4 to 1.

Geez, Mick, what will the neighbors think?

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And here’s You’re Havin’ My Baby, by Paul Anka (and this is too bad, because I really like you Paul, but this rates an 8 on the Suck-O-Meter).

Havin’ my baby
What a lovely way of sayin’
How much you love me
Havin’ my baby
What a lovely way of sayin’
What you’re thinkin’ of me
I can see it, face is glowin’
I can see in your eyes
I’m happy you know it

Because, Paul, it’s all about you, isn’t it?

Yeah, Paul, it was fine when it was just a baby bump but now that I’m the size of a VW Beetle you’re sorta changin’ your mind now, aren’t ya?

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Next up, If You Wanna Be Happy by Jimmy Soul. You knew this one was coming, didn’t you?

If you wanna be happy for the rest of your life
Never make a pretty women your wife
Go for my personal point of view
Get an ugly girl to marry you

Don’t let your friends tell you you have no taste
go ahead and marry anyway
Her face is ugly her eyes don’t match
take it from me shes a better catch

Oh, Jimmy Soul. You didn’t make old bones but if you had, some woman would have killed you by now anyway. RIP, but Dude, what a nasty song.

Who’s ugly now, Jimmy, you two-hit wonder!

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Ah, sweet Donovan, how we loved ya’. That is until we listened, really listened, to what you were saying to us.

Superman or Green Lantern ain’t got a-nothin’ on me
I can make like a turtle and dive for your pearls in the sea, yeah!
A you-you-you can just sit there a-thinking on your velvet throne
’bout all the rainbows a-you can a-have for your own
When you’ve made your mind up forever to be mine
I’ll pick up your hand and slowly blow your little mind
When you’ve made your mind up forever to be mine

Slowly “blow your little mind”? Little mind? Um, I think, lovely Donovan, that perchance it’s you with the little mind, given your penchant for the cannabis.

Maybe I should have tried to find a two-syllable word other than “little”.

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Next is Cherish, by the Association.

Oh, I could say I need you, but then you’d realize
That I want you, just like a thousand other guys
Who’d say they loved you with all the rest of their lies
When all they wanted was to touch your face, your hands
And gaze into your eyes

Who wants to bet that they have more on their minds (these thousand other guys) than touching your face and your hands and gazing? Even back then, I don’t recall this scenario. Oh, you say, this is the third-grade? Oh, well then.

Funny, this look worked for the Beatles but we’re not getting anywhere with it.

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And now, Do You Love Me, by the Contours.

You broke my heart
‘Cause I couldn’t dance
You didn’t even want me around
And now I’m back, to let you know
I can really shake ’em down

Do you love me? (I can really move)
Do you love me? (I’m in the groove)
Ah do you love? (Do you love me)
Now that I can dance (dance)

Listen up. Any wench who dumps you because you can’t dance ain’t worth learning to do the shimmy-shimmy for.

Look, I can dance! You can’t see it but I’m doing the whirly thing with my hands. I’m the one with no partner!

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Last but CERTAINLY not least, Next Door to an Angel by the ever-annoying and always-slimy Neil Sedaka.

Do do do, doobie bop bop, oh do bop she don don
Doobie bop bop, oh do bop she don don
Doobie bop bop, oh do bop she don don
Doobie bop bop, oh do bop she don don

I took a look and oh what a shock
to find a little bit of heaven right on the block.
I’m living right next door to an angel
and I’m gonna make that angel mine.

I can’t believe that this is the girl next door,
her funny little face isn’t funny no more,
sixteen and oh what a dream, ain’t it strange
how she changed into such a lovely angel.

Do you know where your sixteen-year-old angels are?

Mmm, it’s a little bit of heaven living right next door to an angel. Did I say, mmm?

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And now for that recipe:

Goulash (aka Johnny Marzetti and Chili Mac) is a combination of pasta, meat, flavorings and tomato stuff. Makes one of those 9 X 13 baking dishes full of good eatin’.
Pasta: Elbow macaroni or whatever you have. Cook 1 pound, make sure it’s al dente since it will cook further.
Meat: Hamburger and/or sweet Italian sausage. Whatever amounts you want but not more than 1.5 lb total.
Flavorings: Any combination, of onions (one medium), green pepper (one medium) and mushrooms (8 oz.) depending upon personal preference. Mushrooms need to be sauteed first since they throw off so much water.
Tomato stuff: One can diced tomatoes, and jarred or canned spaghetti sauce. This dish isn’t worth using up homemade sauce for.

Cook up the meat with the onion and peppers and drain. Mix in tomatoes, optional sauteed mushrooms and jar/canned sauce till it looks like a big slug of chili. Mix in enough pasta that it looks right, being careful not to over-pasta-ize since it swells up as it cooks and can take over your kitchen. Don’t forget to salt and pepper to taste (whatever that means). Other cool stuff you can add: parmesan cheese and Italian seasoning. I guess that’s “to taste” also. Just dump some in. Slop this into a baking dish and cover with cheddar cheese. You know the little shards that come in a bag with the texture of cardboard? That stuff. I think it keeps the moisture in or something but really, it isn’t edible. Bake covered for a while, maybe while you drink your first martini, then uncover. Make a second martini and consume it. When done, so is dinner. Good luck because by now you might be too shitfaced to eat it. If so, stick it in the refrigerator and nuke it later, but beware that the stuff on the top does not improve with nuking.

I apologize for the length of this post, but I didn’t count the lyrics. So taking that reduction into account, I am well below the word limit.

Who Is This Person Anyway?

Today I updated my About page. Yesterday I updated my website. The more posts I write, the more I can’t stand the Goody-Goody in me to surface. That’s not me. It’s not who I am. Sarcastic, that’s who I am. So no more Ms. Nice Woman. WYSIWYG.

It’s an opportunity to get you to read the new About page. You know you want to do it and I’ll know how many of you actually clicked on it. My stats will show the counts. So go ahead. Make my day.

I started following a blogger this week, The Cheeky Diva. I don’t know how I ended up there, but it was from a link from a blog I already follow. Sometimes, I link to one, which links to another, and on and on it goes, until I can’t remember how I got there but it doesn’t matter because it’s a blog that I like and one from which I think I can learn something. Mostly, how to be yourself, how to get your voice onto the page.

It doesn’t work to deny your real voice. This is who I am. This is how I really feel. That’s what should come through. The Cheeky Diva does that. She really lets it all hang out there, from her extremely dysfunctional family when she was growing up to what’s happening to her today.

When the email announcing her new post came, I clicked on it. It was great. The first post that I got after becoming a follower of her blog, went Freshly Pressed. This is something I have talked about a lot in the past. It is probably boring to non-bloggers but interesting to the WordPress community because it is something everyone wants to achieve.  It’s just those WordPress Gods bestowing honors on posts they think are really, really good. Sometimes I can’t see why they are good, but that’s probably because I’m not always interested in the subject matter. But not the case with this particular FP choice.

Of course, it’s not for everyone. I admire her ability to be that honest, to be able to write candidly about her childhood. I’m not sure I could do it, but then I had a completely Goody-Goody type of childhood. I love the wit, the irony, the sarcasm and the comedy of some of the bloggers I follow. One of these days, I’m going to put up a blog roll which will list them all.

So, in keeping with my new quest for bloggery realism, I have been collecting pictures and data for a series of posts I will call “Why Would Anyone Do This?” I’ll be posting the first one next week. I am fascinated by certain things people do, that I find odd, or stupid, or uncomfortable, or really weird. I have several posts in mind.

While I was writing this, another blogger I follow received notification that she is being featured as one of the bloggers of the day on bloggers.com. Wow, that’s great too. Maybe it’s because all good things happen to bloggers I follow. That’s it. I am the catalyst for all the mighty achievements happening in the blog worlds of others. I need to remain calm here, squash my feelings of invidiousness.

Really. It’s okay. I’ll be all right.

(Note: It appears my last post was reposted this morning. All my followers will get an email about it. I was just adding tags. Honest! It’s WordPress’s fault.)

 

Image courtesy of Michal Marcol / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Three Deceptive Food Labels That I Found in Ten Minutes

Without much difficulty, make that without any difficulty, you can find examples of stupid food labels that are nothing more than deceptive advertising, euphemisms designed to make you think you are eating better, healthier foods, when clearly you’re not.

I do not eat two of these foods but do fancy a nut or two once in a while. Sometimes questionable items end up in one’s pantry though and one has no memory of how they came to be there. When there are children around, unhealthy stuff has a way of sneaking in. One would think the way we protect our kids nowadays, we’d protect them from eating junk but, alas, I guess the protection stops at the nearest Burger King.

Triscuit Rosemary & Olive Oil Crackers – Kids would never eat these. This is grownup junk food. These crackers are so flavorful with artificial ingredients that they completely disguise the taste of the cheese, which is the only way crackers should be eaten anyway. Everyone thinks Triscuits are good for you, and contain fiber, which they do, but they also are loaded with fat, carbs and sodium. But the fun part is the claim on the front of the box: NATURAL FLAVOR WITH OTHER NATURAL FLAVOR. What is the natural flavor and what is the “other” natural flavor? Sounds like a good letter to Nabisco, to ask that question.

Kirkland Extra Fancy Mixed Nuts – Nuts are good for you, a good source of protein, unless you have some digestional issues like diverticulitis. My question here is the application of the “extra fancy” description. Are nuts fancy? What exactly makes these nuts fancy? Is it their shape that makes them fancy? Their size? Their color? And once one has determined why these nuts are fancy, what exactly makes them “extra” fancy? This is a great puzzle to me.

Aunt Jemima Butter Rich Syrup – Note that the word “syrup” is in small letters and the “butter rich” is in big yellow letters. I would not eat this particular food but for those who would, there are a few issues here that need some discussion. This looks suspiciously like something that should not be consumed by anyone who is not a grizzly bear. It looks scary, even to the untrained eye, in its artificiality. But wait! Our fears are assuaged because in small letters it says “Natural Butter Flavor With Other Natural Flavors – Contains No Butter”. Yes, I know it’s hard to see that on the picture here, but it really says that. I am not making it up. This opens up a crapload of questions, so I needed to put them in a list.

  1. Are the letters yellow because that’s the color of butter?
  2. When people put syrup on pancakes, they usually also use butter, so is this extra butter?
  3. Should we not put real butter on our pancakes if we are using Aunt Jemima Butter Rich Syrup and would that be too much butter?
  4. What is Natural Butter Flavor?
  5. What are Other Natural Flavors?
  6. Is Natural Butter Flavor also an Other Natural Flavor?
  7. How can there be Natural Butter Flavor if there is No Butter?
  8. Do we really need butter in syrup anyway? Shouldn’t syrup just be, well, syrup?

These are three items I found with hardly any searching. There are others, probably even funnier than these. Yet it’s kind of sad to think consumers can be fooled by these kinds of phrases which are designed by experts in marketing and the English language (and probably psychology) to dupe the public.

Watch your labels, and better yet, try to buy things that don’t have labels. Things like fresh vegetables and fruit. And if they have labels, it’s a lot better if the ingredients are pronouncable. Stuff that ends in “acetate” or “oxide” or “phosphate” should probably be bypassed. Other questionable ingredients contain the word “gum” and anytime you see “natural flavorings” be concerned, be very concerned.

So, how about commenting about your favorite misleading food label? I’d like to hear about it.

  

5 Punctuation Tips for Writing Humor

I recently resurrected a basket to use for a small paper recycling bin, since I am an earth-lover (those who recycle) as opposed to an earth-hater (those who throw glass, paper and plastic in with their other waste products). It was a magazine rack kind of thing and had some items in it which I needed to clean out and/or discard, a couple of old magazines, a half-finished knitting project from a few years back, and at the bottom was a book which had been given to me years ago (nearly twenty) called Idiot Letters by Paul Rosa, which I had not read.

Mr. Rosa got the idea for the book when he received a letter from Pizza Hut which said it had been a long time since he had ordered from them. This “concerned” them, because Mr. Rosa was the “kind of customer they’d like to see more often”. Mr. Rosa wondered just what kind of customer wouldn’t they like to see more often? He decided to ask that question.

That started the whole project, the idea of chronicling the letters he wrote to companies regarding products he used regularly and the responses he got back. I found myself LOLing (which we all know means Laugh Out Loud and NOT Lots of Love, as some would have us believe). And it brought to mind a question. What was it about Mr. Rosa’s writing that made it funny? I noticed a few tricks he used which seemed very effective.

I have listed the 5 punctuation tips below, which brings me to one slight diversion before I progress. I recently attended a Webinar (do you “attend” a Webinar?) and incorporated knowledge received from it regarding writing eye-catching titles for blogs, which might cause people to click more often than if it were titled in some other (lame) way. The Webinar (The Copyblogger Headline Clinic) was very informative and said that one good template for a blog title which appears to work is a numbered list. Examples: 10 Reasons Why Your Mother-in-law Hates You, or 16 Ways to Retrieve a Cork that has Fallen Into a Bottle of Wine, or 21 Tips and Tricks For Removing a Squirrel from the Top of Your Dryer (this actually happened to me).

The following is what I noticed about Mr. Rosa’s book of letters:

  • Exclamation points! These little darlings of punctuation are frowned upon when writing serious literature, and should be used very sparingly, but for humorous writing they work really well to indicate a certain dorky enthusiasm. Take this example, from Idiot Letters, where Mr. Rosa writes to the Oil-Dri Corporation of America congratulating them on the effectiveness of Cat’s Pride Kitty Litter:

For the first ten years of my cat’s life, it was a living hell trying to get her to use her litter box!

  • Quotation marks. Quotation marks have been said (by serious editors) to be like Christmas tree lights, that they are mere decorations. I “respectfully disagree” when writing humor. Using quotes sets a phrase apart, draws attention to it, as if the writer is standing next to the reader, giving him a nudge and a knowing look. Just between you and me…  Mr. Rosa says the following after telling the letter reader that he began using Cat’s Pride on the advice of a friend:

Well, we were delighted, nay ecstatic, when Jesse — without hesitation — stepped in the litter box and “unloaded”.

  • Italics. This method of altering a font shows emphasis and stressing certain words is funny, because it portrays an ebullience that may be uncalled for. In the same letter, for instance, the idea that anyone can be so charged up about kitty litter is in itself, funny, but the italics make it more so. Mr. Rosa says the following after telling the letter reader that he wonders at the wisdom of the name “Cat’s Pride” for kitty litter:

When Jesse is heaving and straining in her box, I don’t think pride is one of her sentiments.

  • Ellipsis. Mr. Rosa used the ellipsis (…) in order to disguise an activity, in a way that the reader knows it was disguised and further, knows exactly what that activity is:

We were often woken from a sound slumber, or interrupted during … Matlock.

  • Parentheses. Whenever a thought is an aside, and could be separated from the text with commas, it is appropriate to surround that text with parens. This should probably not be done in serious literature in most cases, but is most effective when writing humor. He also names the cat, the friend, the wife and even his mother by putting the name of the person in parentheses. Here are examples:

Whenever she would get the call from nature (night or day), she would howl until someone would let her out.

We were actually tempted to give her away, but simply love her too much — she was a gift from my mother (Irene).

The excerpts from the letter, the random sentences probably don’t do the letter justice when taken out of context, so I am including it here in its entirety:

 

Disclaimer: This is not meant to be a review of Idiot Letters. I liked some of the the letter exchanges quite well, but some were a bit over the top for me. I will be using some of these tips in my next novel (which is supposed to be humorous in parts) because I think they work.