I've also been told I have little tact, so if this offends you simply ride on.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Macy's murders the parade for money

Happy Thanksgiving, I guess.  Not being much of a holiday person, I am not anticipating the celebratory joys of eating turkey with as many relatives as my brother and his wife can cram into their home.  I like cycling, not football, so I'm not going to be sitting their rah rah, cheering on my favorite team.  I could care less, and this has always been the case.  In fact, what I remember with most fondness about the holidays was the parades on TV.  Boy, did I love to watch those parades: Macy's with its giant balloons and the Tournament of Roses.  Of course back when I was a child things were different, American Capitalism hadn't yet reared its ugly head to devour the wonder of watching a parade.  Over the years this has changed and as a result today you don't sit back and watch a parade, you watch commercials, lots and lots of commercials. 

There's more then balloons in this parade

You see at some point in the past, I don't know exactly when, some American Capitalist realized that most people were watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade for the balloons, not the marching bands, or the drum majorettes, or the clowns, or, in fact, all of the things which actually made it a parade.  Since people are only tuning in for the balloons, this means you can sell much more advertising time to sponsors.  Who cares if you miss a marching band if you can plant the seed of buying a new appliance, or car in some viewers mind.  This is the directions towards which America's values have turned: making a buck.  The Tournament of Roses Parade is even worse then Macy's.  I haven't watched that one in at least 25 years.  Back when I was a kid you got to see horseback riders, and Native Americans, and lots of marching bands from all over the country.  They applied and if they were accepted, those bands did everything they could to raise money to fly out to Pasadena to be in the parade.  They may still do the same thing, which is sad when you realize no one in their home town will every see them perform because some moron decided it was more important to show an ad for a Chevy truck.  And it case you're wondering, it wasn't just Macy's which murdered the parade, it's anybody and everybody whose only priority is pounding away the buckos in the bank.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

DiGiornio - Cardboard Convenience

When I'm feeling in the mood for pizza, or Stromboli I usually place an order with my local pizzeria, Al's; the cost is reasonable and I can do it online.  Occasionally  I'll buy a Dr. Oeteker flat pizza from my local Giant supermarket since they have a lot of taste and don't bloat you up.  Last night, for some reason I can only blame on mass marketing, I bought a DiGiorno pizza.  We've all seen the ads: Tastes like delivery but it's not, it's Digiorno."  Those ads LIE! (notice the caps).  Now I'm not a great cook, will never be a Chef, or appear on a cooking show, but I do know my way around a kitchen well enough to follow package directions.  The first thing I noticed looking for the directions was a little blurb noting the "wings" included with the pizza "contained no wing meat."  Translation: processed chicken meat from any where, and every where else on the bird except the wings.  I don't eat processed meats because they include a lot of things I don't normally eat, like gristle, and ground bone.  Still I followed the directions and baked them discovered - they had no chicken taste.  This is how I discovered the true reason for the barbecue sauce that was included: it was not supposed to be used as a condiment but rather as a substitute for flavor.

Tastes like cardboard, but it's not
As for the pizza, while you could taste the toppings the crust, itself, was far more similar to cardboard than anything else I've eaten in some time.  When I pick up a pizza from Al's it's not stiff, and by stiff I mean that when holding the edge of the crust between my thumb and forefinger, the crust remains horizontal to the table top.  Good pizza crust, unless it's a thin crust, should be supple.  There should be some folding, bendiness about it which lets you chew it in your mouth.  Believe me when I tell you eating the DiGirono Pizza Supreme was like gnawing on cardboard, not that I've ever gnawed on cardboard but believe me as I worked my teeth to the max, that is exactly what I kept thinking.  Of course, when I bought it I knew it was going to end up being nothing more then a frozen pizza, just like every other frozen pizza out there in grocery land.  Sadly they don't even provide much sustenance for the poor since, at least as far as my wallet is concerned, they're fairly pricey.  Just think, for $2 more I could have had a large, hand made Stromboli from Al's or a pizza of the same size.  Face it, the real reason DiGiorno pizzas are popular is not because they taste like delivery pizza, it's because they're convenient as hell.  You can pull them from the freezer, pop them in the oven, and eat 20 minutes later.  That's a sacrifice a lot of people chose to make: cardboard convenience over quality.  I will probably never, ever purchase a DiGirono pizza again.  Thank God for local piaaerias! 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Black Friday - fade to gray

For those of you who don't know it, and few there are, next week is Thanksgiving, at least here in the US.  Traditionally everybody eats turkey and watches football.  Traditionally, the next day, being a Friday, and marking the first day of the holiday shopping season, became known as Black Friday.  This is the day when retailers moved from the red side of their balance sheets to the black side.  This is the day when sales galore brought out shoppers by the millions.  This is the day which a number of companies started giving their associates as the 2nd part of their Thanksgiving Holiday.  Sad to say, but every year Black Friday becomes a little more gray.  One financial analyst blamed this on the growing popularity of Cyber Monday, that day when Internet sales trump those of brick and mortar stores.   That may be a portion of the graying, but not a major one, not yet at least.  No, the biggest reason for the changes in shade from dark to light has more to do with American Greed.

First it was Walmart opening late Thanksgiving day, and then Sears / Kmart jumped on the bandwagon.  The rational being "shit, if they're going to make money, we might as well too," and "hell, why should they rake in all the dough!"  Screw the holiday, they all wanted to get a jump on the competition.  Every year more retailers jump on board simply because if those customers spend all of their money at Target, and Walmart, and Toys-R-Us, they're not going to have any left to spend in your store.  Or, if they do keep a little aside it's most likely going to be for stocking stuffer bullshit, that inferior nickel and dime crap retailers put out simply because it's a dirt cheap deal.  Thanks to Sears Brand Central, if you're a brick and mortar store which sells appliances you're a day late and a dollar short, either that or you take a big hit on those $2000 dollar refrigerator and stoves.

There are a lot of people out there who really hate this commercialization of Thanksgiving.  As someone who work in retail, let me tell you a secret.  If you're open, people will shop.  Every year I hear a lot of moaning groaning because the Christmas stuff is up right after Labor Day and every year I see customers walking out the door with their newly purchased Christmas crap.  If it's for sale, people will buy it.  For those who don't understand it, this is American Capitalism.  Remember, it's all about making money - holidays be damned. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

HBO - bargain basement deals

Right now I have FIOS - and my subscription ran out on 11/5.  One of the first things I noticed was that I now have HBO until 1/31 - for free.  Of course, being the money conscious individual that I am, I called to see if there was some sort of deal for renewing my contract.  What I got was a $5 discount guaranteed for 2 years.  Oh, and I get HBO for one year.  Personally, I think they're being a little skimpy with the discount.  I am, according to them, a loyal FIOS customer.  So I did what everybody out there should do when their contract expires, call the competitor.  Surely, I thought, Comcast would at least be able to match their deal.  First of all, it took a bit of convincing for their service rep to understand what I meant when I said, I only need TV and Internet (my phone is through T-Mobile).  Then there was the issue that two of the channels I watch were in 2 different packages and the best they could offer me was $2 higher then what I'm now paying for FIOS.  Oh, but I get HBO with the package.  In fact both customer service reps kept bringing up HBO, over and over again, as though that one pay channel was going to be the deal breaker.  Perhaps I've missed something but it seems to me Showtime is the channel most people are talking about, not HBO.  Sure, when The Sopranos were on, and if you were one of those people who couldn't live with out them, HBO was the channel to have, but that is no longer the case.  Nothing with value is ever free.  So for right now what I'll probably do is wait a bit and see if I can get a better discount from FIOS.  There's nothing wrong with the service, they just need to offer a wider variety of packages.  The same goes with Comcast.  Not everybody wants a sports package.  The only sport I watch on TV is cycling and now, thanks to the Internet, I can watch it on my laptop.  In fact, if I want to, I can hook my laptop up to my big, flat screen TV and watch Hulu.  What these cable giants need to realize is that HBO is not going to put money in their bank.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Veterinarians - Pet Vampires

If you've ever owned a puppy you will understand when I say they are a number of things.  They bounce around like little springs, have sharp little teeth that hurt when they bite, and, of course, snugly little things that love attention.  They also need to go to the Vet, usually several times, for shots.  Two weeks ago I brought home an 11 week old Boxer pup, something my four year old Boxer is still getting used to having around.  Of course I did the right thing and called up my Vet and made an appointment.  With this puppy I'm not so naive as I was the first time around.  Naive?  Damn right.  Four years ago, being new to puppy ownership, I said yes to my Vet's every suggestion.  Not once did I suspect she might be taking advantage of me.  As a result, my first time around with a puppy was very expensive, more so then it needed to be.  Take Kennel Cough as an example, a nice name for Canine Bronchitis.  Some kennels require it if you're planning on boarding your dog, but not all.  This is because, should your dog get it, you'll find out that it is not the "serious" illness you might believe.  Most dogs get over it in 5 - 10 days.  My Vet wanted me to vaccinate my dog every year which is odd because there are so many things out there which can cause Kennel Cough, against most of which the vaccination is ineffective.  After two years, and a little research, I realized she was just putting money in her pocket.  You know what I mean, guilt you into paying for something you don't really need. 

She also wanted me to buy Frontline Plus from her practice as well as have my dogs vaccinated against Lyme Disease.  Read the Frontline box and you'll see it prevents the ticks which carry Lyme Disease.  But the guilt thing, mostly because when we think of Lyme Disease we think of the devastating effects it has on humans.  My Vet did not explain to me that while dogs only have 2 stages, humans have a third and debilitating stage.  Nor did she say that 90% to 95% of infected dogs never show any symptoms. This means the vast majority of dogs which do become infected never develop symptoms which can be treated with antibiotics.  Humans can't get it from dogs.  If I hadn't done the research I'd have been paying for a Lyme disease test every year as well as the inoculation.  You see we love our pets, our puppies and dogs and so do not want them to suffer.  Unfortunately there are Vets out there who unscrupulously take advantage of that softest of emotions.  It makes me wonder of the V in their caduceus might actually stand for vampire, except these don't suck your blood, they suck the money out of your wallet.