Foursquare Four Squares Back.

One of the cool things about being active in the various social media platforms is that one is usually able to go back and see what they’ve done over the years. I often use this blog as a memory repository of sorts; just yesterday I asked Earl if he remembered an event that we had enjoyed together back in 2008. When I mentioned this his face lit up with the recollection of the memory, as if he hadn’t thought about that happy occasion since. It was a moment of joy.

One of the social media platforms that I have been very involved with since nearly it’s beginning is Foursquare. If you’re unfamiliar with the app/network, up until recently Foursquare allowed you to check in at a location, for example, “I’m at Dunkin’ Donuts at 123 Main Street in Anytown, USA”. You would see whom from Foursquare was also currently at the location and you could read tips and such from other users that had checked in at the same location. I was big on leaving tips and suggestions for others. If you were a frequent visitor of a location, you became “Mayor”. Some establishments would give you a little goody or discount for being the mayor. It was a loyal customer perk.

Foursquare recently announced that they were going to take the country into a new, exciting direction and focus more on location discovery. Check ins would still be part of the experience, but the whole check in process would be moved to a new app called “Swarm”. Swarm allowed you to check in and it would allow you the opportunity to see whom was at the same location, but only if that person was on your friends list. There’s no longer an opportunity to meet strangers or vie for the title of mayor with a person you don’t know. The whole mayor thing was put on hold, instead you earn stickers.

When you check into a location on Swarm and you decide to leave a tip, you get moved over to the “new and improved” Foursquare, which gives you the details of the location and the opportunity to leave a suggestion. The experience of having to move between two applications, especially when everything used to be a cohesive experience, leaves a lot to be desired. It’s clunky, it’s slow and more importantly, two apps take twice as much room on your iPhone and they seem to drain your battery faster. (Location monitoring is now done by two applications instead of one).

Users have been complaining about it like crazy on Facebook and Twitter, but Foursquare has been nearly silent on the issue. The CEO, Dennis Crowley, simply tweeted that “change is hard”, which pretty much meant that users are SOL. The user experience and input, which has been an integral part of the crowd sourcing and data mining that powers Foursquare in the first place, has been pushed aside because the company “knows better”. The fact that both applications are now averaging a satisfaction rating of 1 out of 5 stars on both the iOS App Store and Google Play apparently means little to Foursquare, they know best.

Now, it’s stuff like this that makes me absolutely insane. As a fairly rational human being, this stuff shouldn’t bother me at all; I simply delete both apps and wipe my hands clean of this social network. That has been my intent and that’s what I did. The issue is, I used to get a kick out of seeing when the last time I had been to, say, Culver’s in Michigan City, Indiana. It would spark a conversation with Earl about the last time we had been there. I liked trying to spot the mayor at Pat’s Steaks in Philly. I didn’t have the nerve to say anything to him, but seeing him there was kind of cool.

I know I’m not alone in this assessment of the “new” Foursquare. There’s been plenty of complaints on Twitter and the like. The one thing that I wonder about is why Foursquare decided to shun the input of their users and go forward with some nebulous vision that few seem to have a handle on.

Granted, there are plenty of bigger issues in the world today, but it’s kind of weird to see a company commit what appears to be commercial suicide. I had higher hopes for the 21st century.

News.

As I write this, my Twitter feed is scrolling at a rapid pace with news about Malaysian Flight #17, en route from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, which crashed somewhere near the Ukraine-Russian border this morning. As of this writing, unconfirmed reports say that it was shot down. Photos of wreckage are already starting to appear.

My Facebook feed is scrolling by with a selection of surveys I should be doing, including which character of “AbFab” I am, which season of “The Love Boat” I would be sailing on and what kind of car I should buy.

Guess which social network I’m focusing on today?

While I mourn the loss of human life, I find it oddly comforting that my Twitter feed is showing some actual news stories, instead of drivel such as the Breaking News that the former Miss Delaware was suing her state because she didn’t realize she was too old to compete for Miss America and was subsequently dethroned by someone in Delaware that does that sort of dethroning thing. I don’t know if there’s some sort of maniacal cackling when they rip the crown off the head held up with Aqua-Net, but nevertheless, this was national headline fodder up until just a little while ago. And honestly, I found the fact that a beauty pageant contestant crying on the “Today” show about how awful her life is to be quite insulting to my intelligence. This put my on a rampage to clean up my Twitter feed and remove such superficial drivel. I was following Debra Messing, but her tweet announcing the arrival of her “glam team” sent me over the edge and I had to unfollow her. I’m sure she’s lovely and all but I don’t really need to know that she has a glam team, I don’t want to meet her glam team and I don’t want to know what the glam team is doing to her.

I guess I’m feeling all serious today.

There are so many distractions, courtesy of technology, in our world today and over the past couple of days I’ve been starting to feel quite rebellious towards these distractions. Glam teams, crying beauty queens and technological commentators that barrage me with ads and self promotion have no spot in my agenda today.

My thoughts and prayers are with the families of the passengers and crew of flight MH17 today.

As for the former Miss Delaware, read a book, get a clue, get a life.

That Was Easy?

I am just back from Staples, where I picked up some shipping supplies. It was your standard trip to Staples, the store that touts itself with the slogan “That Was Easy”.

It is 2014. Technology is bounding ahead in enormous leaps. Everything is connected to everything else and everyone wants to know your business. Like every other retailer in the U.S., Staples wants you to be part of their rewards program so they track your spending habits and give you a carrot once in a while for buying three tons of paper clips.

When it was my turn at the checkout I was asked the question, “Are you a rewards club member?”. I can never remember if I am or not, because after all, Staples wants you to carry a card and quite frankly I’m not that invested in the program. But then some sort of ding happened in my head and I decided to rejoin the rewards program. Maybe I can use a carrot after all.

“I’m not a member, but I’ll sign up.”

The cashier pulled out a pamphlet the resembled something you fill out to sign up for a credit card, pulled off a flimsy piece of paper that was glued to the pamphlet and scanned the number.

“If you could please take a moment to fill this form out, I’ll enter it into the system and you’ll be all set.”

This is where I took pause. There was a considerable line of people behind me. After all, it’s 2014 and retailers are cutting back wherever possible. Theoretically they could probably save a chunk of change by not buying expensive point of sale computer systems that they are never going to use, but I digress. One checkout, long line.

The cashier started fumbling around for a pen. Or a pencil. Or a crayon. He couldn’t find a pen but if I’d wait for a few moments he could probably grab one off the display, because after all, I am at Staples. That Was Easy.

“Can I just register online later?”, I ask.

“No, we have to enter the information into the system”, was his response.

It’s 2014. This should be simple. There shouldn’t even be a card. Sign up online, get an app for your iPhone or Android device and they scan it. It works for Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and lots and lots of other retailers. But Staples, where they say “That Was Easy”, can’t get with the program. They’re still thinking along old-school lines, where customers like paper-based engagement and carrying lots of cards that feel like coupons.

“That Was Easy” couldn’t be further from the truth.

I finally convinced the cashier that I would take the paper home, complete the exam at my leisure and bring it back when I ship the items that I was buying the shipping supplies for. He approved my taking the exam out of the store.

It’s sitting here on the dining room table. It’ll probably be burned for warmth.

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Same Old.

With the arrival of the New Year I decided to ramp back my listening habits when it came to politics radio. This has not been an easy task, what with my selected satellite music stations playing the same handful of 70s and 80s songs over and over again. Sometimes I’m not in the mood for music and I feel like I need some intelligent discussion so I find myself back on POTUS channel 124.

I was trying to get away from politics radio because honestly, I find it disheartening to hear politicians in D.C. congratulate themselves for some of the worst representatives of the population in the history of the nation. Plummeting job approval records are for a reason, and that reason isn’t to find an excuse for a raise. Citizens are so polarized these days. It’s either very black or very white with no room for the grayness of compromise along the way.

I like to think that things are going to change for the better with the New Year, but then we hear stories like this: Christie on Bridge Scandal: ‘I Knew Nothing About This’.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story, back in September, Bridget Anne Kelly, one of NJ governor Chris Christie’s Deputy Chief of Staff, worked with an inside at the NY-NJ Port Authority and purposely orchestrated a traffic jam inbound on the George Washington Bridge at Ft. Lee, N.J. For several days. Because Fort Lee mayor Mark Sokolich did not support Christie for the governor’s race.

Mayor Sokolich won his race by a landslide.

Motorists were held up for hours. Kids couldn’t get to school. Emergency Medical Services were delayed, including the ambulance that carried a 91-year old woman in cardiac arrest to the hopsital. The woman later died.

This delay was orchestrated out of spite. It sounds like a page from a script of “The Sopranos”. There’s more detail here.

This is exhibit A as to why I’m ramping back from politics radio. Stupid people are electing stupid people to power and then the stupid people in power are doing really stupid things. Stupid is winning. I seriously believe that we are in the opening moments of the movie “Idiocracy”.

Then we have the fine folks in Utah who are basically playing whiplash with the emotions of some of its citizens. You couldn’t get married if you were gay, then you could, now you can’t and if you did, you’re not married anymore, the state won’t recognize it.

Sorry, but that’s bullshit. That’s the Utah state government going out of its way to make things as awful as possible for same-sex couples.

Do we see the theme? Governmental officials making things awful, all based on personal agendas. Where’s the good? What happened to our elected officials representing the people that elected them?

Blargh.

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Photo from The Wall Street Journal.

Season.

I am working at the office today for the first time in two weeks. It’s a little weird for me because of all the changes that have been taking place over the past couple of months but I’m adjusting to it. Working from the office is not a habit I wish to build upon though, I like my workspace at home. No offense to my co-workers.

Since it’s the lunch hour I made the trek to the local Dunkin’ Donuts for an unsweetened iced tea. When I placed my order the cashier looked at me as if I had just said “J09mnadf u;wjj asdfk7nna”. I then figured out that she didn’t know what I was asking for because I had not said, “Maybe I have an unsweetened iced tea, please, fa la la la la la la”. I then looked around the restaurant and realized that the entire place is decked out for the Christmas Holiday Season.

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This angers me. I glanced at my watch to confirm that it is indeed the 6th of November and then I realized that it not only angers me to see Christmas decorations up so early but in fact, it really angers me. A lot. I don’t know why it doesn’t seem to bother the general public. I know others feel the way I do, but all in all folks just keep getting on with these early Christmas season celebrations and in a decade or so we’ll be celebrating Christmas 2026 in June 2025.

What the heck is up with this? I actually know the answer to this: GREED.

I read this morning that the fine folks at Toys R Us are opening earlier than before on Thanksgiving evening and have moved their opening time from 8:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. Macy’s, Kohls, Kmart and a host of other stores are opening on Thanksgiving as well, claiming that customers want the stores open on Thanksgiving Day so that they can get a jump on their holiday shopping because, after all, the season is shorter this year by six days due to the way Thanksgiving falls on the calendar.

Friggin’ Pilgrims messing up the whole gifting season with their silly dinner. Who wants to give thanks, anyway? We. Must. Buy. More. Stuff. Isn’t that the credo? Buy more because it means more?

Now, I’m an indulgent person. I do things because I can. Lord knows I have traveled all over the country over the past couple of months simply because I could. Well, just for the record, on Thanksgiving Day when I am seated around our dining room table with family and holding hands in prayer, I am going to say thanks for having the health, the opportunity and the privilege of living this life and for those that are part of my life. I’m going to say thanks for the guidance I have received from near and afar. I’m going to give thanks for everything I have because I am truly thankful and I believe that Thanksgiving is a time when we should slow down, contemplate and spend time with our families and friends.

I’d like to think that I am surrounded by people that feel the same way. Honestly, my heart would be crushed if someone bolted from a Thanksgiving dinner so they could get to the mall and buy the latest gadget or some other trinket at 65% off but only if they’re the first one in line and have successfully knocked two men, a cashier and a blue-haired woman out cold on their way to their intended target.

I am fully celebrating Thanksgiving this year and I will not step foot into any establishment that opts to not respect Thanksgiving (in the United States). If that means I’ll be shopping online, so be it.

But no matter what, I’ll be doing my shopping after I give thanks on Thanksgiving and not a moment before. I hope others will do the same.

This.

I don’t know why this video is making the rounds today, as it’s date stamped over a year ago, but here’s a grown woman at a ballpark ripping a discarded baseball out of the hands of a youngster and then high-fiving her fans for her courageous act.

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I had a paragraph here that totally attributed the woman’s behavior to stereotypical behavior, but that type of language would have been a wild generalization that probably was unfair on my behalf. I’ll share three keywords though: Hummer, sunglasses, McMansion.

It’d be a hoot of someone really identified the selfish woman.

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The Pasterasti, or whatever the head of Barilla Pasta is called, made some unkind remarks about gays and how they would never be featured in marketing of Barilla Pasta, because they don’t fit the Barilla sense of family and a woman’s central role. Reuters has a news article here, Huffington Post has an article here. There has been a call by some LGBT groups to boycott Barilla and I fully support this boycott. (I believe my husband will support it as well, I just can’t speak on his behalf at the moment). I just checked the cupboards and we have no Barilla products at The Manor, nor will we in the future. Since the Pasterasti urged gays to get their pasta elsewhere, we’ll do just that. Thanks for the heads up, asshat!

Do Not Call.

Since I have the luxury of working from home, I am able to keep track of how many phone calls our home phone number receives on a typical day. Today, the daily number has reached a double digit for the first time.

I am not amused.

I just checked the National Do Not Call Registry and confirmed that our number has been registered for quite some time. Since we are well beyond the 31 day “grace period”, theoretically I should not be receiving any telemarketing calls, never mind upwards near a dozen a day.

If the United States Government can’t manage a database that theoretically contains one table with three columns (serialid, phone number, effective date), it is beyond my comprehension to think that any sort of data can be effectively managed by them. This makes me very nervous, because if they’re aggregating all sorts of data on its citizens and tell us not to worry because we won’t be tagged in error, how on earth am I suppose to believe this when they can’t even reliably list my phone number in a list of forbidden-to-telemarketers phone numbers?

In all reality, the Do Not Call Registry appears to be a complete waste of time and quite frankly, I feel the need to double up the foil on my tin foil hat.

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Logistics.


Before I dive into this blog entry, I must confess that it is not populated with all of the photos I had originally planned on including with this narrative. Just as I was taking photos, a very large woman with a very large baby carriage parallel parked in front of the beverage station that I am about to talk about and I didn’t have room to wedge my iPhone 5 in for a proper photo. Please bear with me.

Earl and I are at the local Panera for a little wind down soft drink and treat. This location was renovated a few months ago and part of the sprucing up of the place involved relocating the self-serve drink station to the rear of the restaurant.

It wasn’t the most efficient of moves.

To keep matters interesting, the drink dispensers are located to the right of the utensils and condiment station as shown above in the second photo. So, one gets an empty cup at the front register, follows handwritten signs to the back of the store, fills their drink amongst others that are trying to figure out how to fill their drink and then to get a cover for their cup of free water (or purchased pop, iced tea, etc.), they must move to the aforementioned condiment/utensils station to the left of the beverage dispensers.

However! The dispensers and the condiment/utensils station are separated by …

… a hallway! And it’s not just any hallway, but it’s a hallway to the seating that was recently added to the location AND the rest rooms. So people whipping their baby buggy around Panera can slam into the patron who is trying to move from the filling station to the covering station.

As seen in the first photo, there is plenty of room to the right of the beverage station to house the utensils, or at the very least, the covers for the beverage cups.

This is not efficient. This isn’t even smart. The hallway is often slippery due to spilled drinks. I would think that a chain as large as Panera would have already figured this scenario out to peak efficiency.

Apparently I was wrong.

TP.

So Earl and I went out on a little date night to the Armory Square area of Syracuse. We had a few cocktails, we enjoyed a nice meal together at the Empire Brewing Company and we had some great conversation. After our little adventure at the brewery, we decided to go for a walk before returning to the Jeep.

That’s when I discovered that I needed to find a restroom. Beer has that effect on me.

I quickly navigated us to a nearby Starbucks, where I hastily ordered an unsweetened green iced tea and asked for the code to gain access to the men’s room. Armed with the code and with Earl installed to pick up my tea, I made my way to the restroom and did what I had to do.

A sigh of relief.

As I started to get myself back together and presentable to the public, I was disheartened to discovered that the one-seat restroom was completely out of toilet paper.

Oh noes!

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I looked around and found no place anywhere in the small room where extra toilet paper could be hiding. There was no cabinet under the sink. The public restroom certainly has no need for a medicine cabinet. I guessed I would have to settle for paper towels.

Except I was in Starbucks.

Where every thing is “green” and “environmentally friendly.” (Plastic cups notwithstanding).

No paper towels.

No extra toilet paper.

No tissues.

There wasn’t even a well-read copy of Reader’s Digest.

The only thing available was a hand dryer and I had no idea what I was going to do with that in this situation.

I improvised. How I improvised shall be left to the gentle reader’s imagination, but I will say this, from this day forward I shall always grab a napkin or two before entering a Starbucks restroom. Just in case.