Sync’d.

So, here in New York State we are back on Standard Time. At 2:00 a.m. this morning, Daylight Saving Time came to an end for the season and for approximately the next four months, the clocks will match what the sun is doing in that noon will be approximately when the sun is at the highest point in the sky for the day.

That’s the way it’s suppose to be.

I have wretched about Daylight Saving Time every year since the birth of this blog back in 2001. With the Energy Something Act of 2007, Daylight Saving Time was extended by three weeks, all in the name of “saving daylight” and “saving energy”. I really don’t know anyone that enjoys whipping the clocks around but in the circles I hang in I tend to be the most vocal about it.

No one really knows why we change the clocks twice a year but we still do it, much like the stoning of that pleasant woman in the short story, “The Lottery”. Something about the corn is high when the stones are thrown or something like that.

I’m just happy that things are back the way they should be for the next four months. I feel awake, I feel alive and I feel quite happy.

Seasonal.

On the drive to work this morning I heard a mention on the radio of the fact that the “holiday season” is getting ready to be in full swing next week. Retailers are very excited because there’s 4% more disposable income this year versus last year. Consumers are ready to spend, spend, spend all in the name of myrrh.

Since when does the holiday season start October 1? If I start hearing “Jingle Bells” or, even more horrifying, “My Favorite Things”, on tinny little PA speakers next week, I am going to be very, very hostile in any given retail environment.

I’m actually a little surprised that folks are thinking about the holiday season already, what with Halloween a little over a month away. Three abandoned stores within a five mile radius of our house have been converted to Halloween warehouses. These establishments have names like “Spirit of Halloween”, “Halloween City” and “Boo, You and A Buck”.

One of the stores have moved into an abandoned Circuit City, which is slated to become a Buffalo Wild Wings, but we have to wait until the Halloween store pilfers way too much money from the sheep before we can get Buffalo Wild Wings. Like an early Christmas, this makes me hostile.

Personally I think Halloween has become completely out of control. People spend hundreds of dollars decorating their house for the holiday. Ridiculously sized gatherings are assembled where people can run around in store-bought costumes and create chaos. Retailers are clamping down on the sale of shaving cream, requiring a license and a credit card dragged across your cheek to prove that you need the stuff. Pumpkins are being hurled from Thruway overpasses and honestly, people are now using Halloween as an excuse to lose their mind before going completely nuts for the holiday season in general.

It’s not that I don’t enjoy Halloween; quite the contrary, I relish the pass I get that for one day I get to go out in some outrageous getup, act all weird and claim that it’s all in the name of Halloween. I mean, when else could a 46 year old man go walking around the mall in a superhero costume? But the mass commercialism and intensity in which people wildly spend money for this holiday is getting a bit out of control. Gone are the days when someone tossed a Tootsie Roll and maybe a pack of Sweet Tarts in your decorated shopping bag. Children have $100 costumes, designer bags and a plan. Throw less than $10 worth of candy into that bag and you’re in big trouble. You’ve let down the Halloween gods.

Earl and I are quite lucky; we have had only one trick-or-treater come to our house in the 18 years that we have been married, and that was the kid of one of Earl’s employees who was afraid he’d be fired if he didn’t cozy up to the boss. Earl and I celebrate the most reasonable way we know how; we turn off the porch lights, lock down the house, throw on some ridiculous clothes and go out for dinner. We then circle around the house and see if there’s any hint of activity in our neighborhood. When we determine it’s all clear, we sneak in the back door and make ourselves at home. We then promptly eat the candy we knew we’d never give out.

That’s the way Halloween should be celebrated. It’s a shame that we can’t go to Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner that night, what with “Boo You and a Buck” taking up the store front and all.

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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