Prime Day Shmime Day! (I say)

Pretty much every tech site yesterday and today is filled with “stories” about deals for Amazon’s Prime Day, which is actually two days. Why do I not like this? Let me list the ways:

  • The sheer amount of space devoted to the “deals”. Engadget, not exactly a hardcore tech site admittedly, is almost nothing but a feed of Amazon deals today (check the image below). Want to read actual tech news? It’s there, you just have to find it sandwiched between Amazon deals now.
  • Every single one of these sites is posting deals that are exclusively for (the U.S. site), so the deals aren’t even relevant to most of the planet. America is not the world, but you’d never know it by checking Ars Technica, say.
  • It all feels a bit unseemly, this two-day mini-orgy of tech consumerism, with nothing to counter-balance it, and really, a lot of the deals are not even that good (as expected).
  • Motivated self-interest (see the second screenshot below) means this ain’t gonna get better any time soon.

Unedited list of stories from today’s Engadget main page, with the Prime Day deals highlighted. This is just what I could easily capture without scrolling:

Why this is unlikely to go away at any point in the immediate, near or long term future:

I will give Ars Technica’s Jeff Dunn credit here–he’s compiled a single story for most of the deals, which is a) convenient for readers b) makes the rest of the site much more readable until this nonsense is over and c) the second paragraph links to 15 (!) previous stories Ars Technica have run that cast a critical eye at Amazon and its practices.

“This Amazing Productivty Hack”

Good ol’ clickbait! Here’s how the above headline was presented in my Medium Weekly Digest newsletter:

Want to know what the amazing productivity hack is?

“Send everything to the trash first, then pull out from the trash what’s important.”

Yes, the author literally advocates deleting all your email from the inbox, then going to the trash/deleted items folder and pulling out what you really want to keep.

Or, you know, don’t subscribe to a bunch of crap you never read in the first place? Then there’s no need for any kind of multistep process, because all the junk email you don’t want or need never arrives! That’s my amazing productivity hack.

The author alleges that “By the end of the day, there were more than 50 emails chillaxing in my new digital Zen space. How dare they! And they were nearly early all spam — including stuff I thought I’d unsubscribed from, blocked, or banned.” This sounds rather fishy. First, she uses the huge caveat of “I thought I’d…” which probably means “I never did”, or she has catastrophically bad filtering on her email account. Or both. Also, how do you “ban” email?

Here’s another amazing productivity hack: Don’t waste your time reading stories like this, or even blog posts like this one deconstructing them. Go play with a puppy or kitten instead. Hug a tree. Talk to a plant. East a cookie. Or one of the other billion trillion quadrillion things that would be a better use of your time.

In conclusion, this cat:

On why venting doesn’t work

air conditioner unit near wall of modern building on street
This type of venting does work! Photo by ready made on

A few months ago, I stopped reading and posting at Broken Forum, after being a member there since its inception in January 2012. The main reason was pretty simple: I got tired of most threads and discussions being complaints about everything. The forum is dominated by a few voices, and these people are largely given to complain about things. I am certainly not complaint-free myself–though I’ve tried! The last couple of posts I’ve made here have been more negative than usual. Who knew monitor stands could rile me up so much? The general state of humanity is perhaps a bit more understandable.

I came across this article on Slate via Pocket: Venting doesn’t work

Here’s a quote from the end of the article, with some techniques on how to counter the urge to vent. I especially like the imagery of the macarena-inspired technique:

There are lots of other things you can do when overwhelmed by negative emotion. Try “square breathing,” four breaths in and four breaths out, in order to take your body out of fight-or-flight mode. If that doesn’t work, there’s another schoolteacher trick: Cross your arms in front of you like steps five and six of the macarena; make fists, pretending one holds a bouquet and the other a candle; breathe in the roses; and blow out the flame. Psychologists call techniques like this “psychological distancing,” and studies show that they’re an effective way to defuse upsetting emotions like anger. When a modicum of calm descends, try to identify the root of your frustration by asking yourself: “Why am I so upset about this?” Ultimately, anger is like smoke. You have to get at what’s feeding the fire. After sitting with your emotions, move forward by problem-solving, scheduling a future time to discuss underlying issues, or using any number of other healthy coping mechanisms.

I like the excellent timing of this article showing up just after I lapsed into a bit of venty behavior. It’s helped me step back and calm back down. I am not committing to the macarena, though. Not yet, anyway.

Apple watch colors and the need for collective guilt

This always happens because people are people.

MacRumors has a story today focusing on the selection of colors available for the cases on the new Apple Watch Series 7 (pre-orders start today): Some Customers Unhappy With Apple Watch Series 7 Color Options

A few observations:

  • It is somewhat odd that Apple dropped the two “standard” neutral tones of silver and space gray (their answer to black)
  • The new colors that are closest are Starlight, a sort of silver/gold mix, and Midnight, which looks black but on close inspection is actually a very dark blue. Neither of these really match the dropped tones.
  • In the grand scheme of things this is not a huge deal because “eh, close enough” and with enough negative feedback Apple might bring the other two tones back–possibly even before the Series 8 that will no doubt launch a year from now
  • The discussion on MacRumors has several people complaining about people complaining about the colors. I am now going to complain about the people complaining about the complainers below.

Here’s one quote from early in the discussion:

Meanwhile some hungry people in Brazil are searching for food on cities landfills.

Author of “You are bad and should feel bad”

Yes, good ol’ moral outrage. How dare you complain about something when hungry people in Brazil are searching landfills for food! Only when all of these people are well-fed will it be deemed okay to offer contrary opinions on mundane things in your life (especially if those opinions are shared on the internet). Wait. No, actually, it won’t be okay, because other people are starving around the world, too, not to mention all the other horrible things happening on this planet:

  • hunger (as mentioned)
  • poverty
  • political oppression and violence
  • war
  • global warming
  • let’s throw in cancer, too

So really, it will never be okay to complain about mundane things, because context doesn’t matter, everything is terrible and be happy with your Starlight Apple Watch, you ungrateful, spoiled consumer!

I mean, yes, it is genuinely bad that people are starving, but reading and posting to a discussion on MacRumors is already self-selecting to a very high degree, and doing so specifically to upbraid people for complaining about anything when there are Serious Issues out there basically makes you look like a self-important asshole who probably doesn’t provide more than lip service to the horrible things you use as examples of things actually worthy of complaint.

This kind of self-righteous stuff has always rankled me, and now I’ve ranted about it, so it shall never be discussed again.

(I’d go for the Midnight, it’s close to enough to black for me.)

Pumpkin spice: Why?

Why is it that for two months of the year we get bombarded with pumpkin spice everything? It’s bad enough that eggnog starts showing up in September.

Pumpkins aren’t spicy. Pumpkin pie is gross. Yes, even if you like it, it’s gross. When you carve a pumpkin, what do you do with everything inside it? You compost it, as nature intended. I may grant an exception for pumpkin seeds if enough salt is involved.

Is that perhaps what pumpkin spice is? Just adding lots of salt to anything vaguely pumpkin-y? I could possibly get on board with this.

Pumpkin spice is inescapable. It’s everywhere. Someone is probably selling Pumpkin Spice Socks.

Anyway, down with pumpkin spice. Up with hot cocoa.

And only 256 days until next summer, WHERE THERE IS NO PUMPKIN SPICE.


How to make me feel old (Lenovo edition)

I like my Thinkpad X1 Carbon. The finish has this weirdly soothing texture, the keyboard is like everything Apple would never do (a good thing) and it generally runs well.

I am always keeping my eye on laptops because I am in the market for a new one this year, so I am subscribed to Lenovo’s newsletter.

It is a total coincidence that I am writing about newsletters two days in a row, I assure you.

Today I get this:

Basically, Lenovo is telling me I am old. A senior.


This day

Today was not a good day.

That’s all I’ve got to say about that.

Also, here’s a quote from someone on Broken Forum:

On another topic, people have been stealing toilet paper out of the hospital bathrooms, because apparently humanity is beyond redemption, and also desperate enough to steal the single-ply industrial sandpaper they use there.

Blah-ck Friday

The incessant promotions for Black Friday leave me weary. I know it’s hardly novel to complain about rampant consumerism, but it’s just so relentless, with a big, odious emphasis (say that three times fast) on FOMO (fear of missing out).

I subscribe to a number of newsletters to keep up on occasional deals and to see if stuff I normally buy is on sale, and also to sometimes find interesting new things. Black Friday basically turns my inbox into BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY BLACK FRIDAY.

I now just automatically delete every newsletter until Black Friday/Cyber Monday/Black Week/Month/Year is over.

At least we have less than a month left of Christmas music being piped into every public space 24/7.

Achingly stupid

I am nearly convinced that after our current civilization crumbles away and is (maybe) rebuilt some time in the far future, those far future historians will look back at the unfettered commentary made on the internet by the “every person” and their ability to reach an audience of millions of like-minded people, will be cited as one of the key factors in our downfall.

Go to the CBC News website and find any story on politics, then read the comments and you will marvel at how achingly stupid, how willfully ignorant, how blindly loyal, how in love with their own malformed thoughts the general public is. People who know so little, yet are so confident in sharing their ignorance with as wide an audience as possible. People who fundamentally lack the understanding of how the world works. It’s a complex thing–there’s no way one person can know everything. And that’s okay. Educate yourself, make informed decisions, take the time to learn what you need to know.

But it feels like so few people do this. We live in an age that celebrates ignorance and stupidity, abetted by mass media that regularly turns away from thoughtful reporting in favor of not just the sensational–which has always been the case–but in perpetuating “both sides” nonsense and has helped to normalize the aberrant politics we endure, that give platforms without consequence to those who deny climate change, to anti-vaxxers, to people who still honestly seem to believe the world is flat, for the love of Pete.

It’s all depressing and it makes me angry in a low-level, simmering sort of way. It’s 2019 and the world should be better than this, but instead it feels like we are regressing. Maybe we are meant to be doomed and another species will take over when we’ve eradicated ourselves.

Bonus material: People who answer questions about products on sites like Amazon with “I don’t know.” WHY DO YOU DO THAT?

This rant brought to you by the flu.

Angry on glass: A SkyTrain station message by Author Unknown

A few days ago during The Rains I trod to the Sapperton SkyTrain station to begin my morning commute and I discovered this message finger-painted onto the glass near where I usually stand on the platform.

“fuck you ya you fuck head” – a possibly aggrieved passenger or urban poet

One might quibble about the lack of proper punctuation but the message is nonetheless unambiguous. What I find most intriguing is what would prompt someone to:

  1. Feel this angry while standing on the platform of a commuter train very early in the morning (before 6:30 a.m.)
  2. Be moved to transfer the anger into a message written via finger on a rain-slicked sheet of glass

This leads to other questions, such as:

  1. What did the person feel later, when they were presumably on the train. Remorse? Regret? Catharsis? Ongoing anger?
  2. Would I be able to pick this person out if I suddenly found myself on the car on which the angry scribe was riding?
  3. Has this person written similar messages before?
  4. Is this act usually a one-off or just one in a series?
  5. Is the person–almost certainly a guy (sorry, guys, you know we’re mostly jerks) an otherwise nice fellow, entirely reasonable, and just found himself in a foul mood due perhaps to an unexpected and unpleasant event?

I am slightly sad I will never know the answers to these questions, though I’m not sure what I would do with the answers, anyway. Maybe one day I’ll make the answers up and turn it into a story called “The Messenger.”

(Probably not, though.)

Black Friday now starts on Wednesday

It should come as no surprise in a world where Christmas ads start showing up in October (or September) that Black Friday, officially the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday (this year that would be Friday, November 24) now starts on Wednesday or just whenever. Every sale right now (and ads for such are overflowing at the moment) is either a Black Friday Already Sale or a Pre-Black Friday Sale. It is now and shall continue to be Black Friday. Which actually sounds a little ominous when you think about it.

I mean, I like sales. I want to buy that new fry pan that promises to never ever let food stick to it for real, and I’m glad that I’ll have a chance to get it at a really good price. But is it worth the relentless barrage of ads and yet another lengthening of the time frame in which we need to endure the things? I even had an obnoxious banner ad show up in the WordPress dashboard of this blog for one of the plugins I had installed.

Had, because I’ve since uninstalled it and sent the company behind it a brief note explaining how I don’t care for obnoxious banner ads on my WordPress dashboard. Perhaps they didn’t know. Now they do!

Anyway, I should try to focus on the positive rather than just carp and be negative, so let me conclude by saying that I’m really looking forward to getting that magic fry pan. If they haven’t sold out of it before I can get to the store.