Archive for January, 2013

Social Shopping

Friday, January 25th, 2013

Amazon is so close to being a “social network” that God tells me it seems like they must be deliberately holding back.

Millions of people have Amazon accounts. We go on to their site and spend time looking at things. We don’t post status updates, but we post product reviews. We even tell them about things we already own, when they recommend that we buy them. We establish connections by connecting the wish lists of friends and family to our own accounts. We tell them other places we like to hang out by buying gift cards and by adding things from other sites to our Amazon wish lists. And don’t even get started talking to a privacy nut about the things Amazon can tell about us by what things we buy, by what book titles we look at, and by what things we tell them don’t interest us.

So what’s stopping them from going the rest of the way, what’s stopping them from becoming a true social network? God says they could do it if they wanted, but that they just don’t feel like it yet. He says they could go from recommendations by collaborative filtering to recommendations by direct collaboration.

One of the big activities of teen girls is hanging out at the mall, going from store to store, and goading each other into buying things they don’t really need. Imagine that in a web browser. You have multiple panes open in your Amazon tab, in one pane is the trendy pair of jeans that your best friend just recommended, which Amazon has helpfully translated from their size to yours, in another is the latest CD by Matchbox Twenty, which you just noticed is on sale, you drag it over to your friend’s icon and you both preview the songs together, bitching and giggling all the way.

Okay. Taking the mall experience online? Maybe God is right and Amazon just isn’t ready, but even if they were, I’m pretty sure I’m not.

Run Ways

Friday, January 18th, 2013

Outside of track meets, adults in America don’t run. We jog, we power-walk, we trot. We don’t run.

When I asked her about it, God told me that it’s because we recognize that life is a marathon and we need to hold something in reserve. I suppose then that that’s one of the markers of having grown up. Of course, I don’t think many teens run either, so maybe it’s the first marker of growing up.

Those of you that have kids, watch for it. Do your kids still gallop down the stairs on Christmas morning after they stop believing in Santa Claus, or before? How old are they when they stop running from the car to the ice cream store and then back again because you’re not moving fast enough? When do they stop chasing the dog and start walking the dog?

We say that childhood goes by so fast, and it does, but maybe part of why it does is because it just can’t stand to stand still.

A Tale of Two Bags

Friday, January 11th, 2013

I never really thought much about it until God pointed it out to me this week, but there are different styles of passive aggressive. And noticing this actually gets me closer to believing that corporations are people.

Please note that “closer” is still “a long way off.”

Not only are there different styles of passive aggressive, but the two stores where I do most of my grocery shopping, Costco and Trader Joe’s, both engage in such tactics. They both try to encourage us shoppers to behave a little more ecologically responsibly, in that neither of them wants us to get new grocery bags every time we shop. Sure it helps them in that they get to spend less on bags, but in these two cases I’m willing to believe that ecology is a real part of their motivation, not just a convenient excuse. I’m less willing to believe that about hotels that want me to reuse towels. But I reuse the towels anyway, because even if I suspect their motivations, they are right, reusing is the right thing to do. But I digress; back to bags.

Trader Joe’s approach is to put up a little signage, and to make sure that they have strong, reusable, bags, not just for sale but prominently displayed both when you come in the door and at many of the checkout stations. If you don’t use them they don’t scold you, they don’t even mention it, they just cheerfully bag up your purchases in handy brown paper bags. With handles.

Costco is a little more direct and a little less convenient. They don’t generally have reusable bags available for purchase. They also don’t have throw-away bags. They’ll let you use empty boxes that they would otherwise recycle. They’ll let you use your own reusable bags that you bought somewhere else, like, say, Trader Joe’s. Or they’ll happily put all your stuff back in your cart and let you figure out what to do with it from there.

So Trader Joe’s is the friendlier place, but they make me feel a little co-dependent. See, Costco actually gets me to be more eco-friendly, Trader Joe’s doesn’t. Trader Joe’s just gets me to feel a little guilty. I don’t have nice reusable bags, but I do have a sturdy plastic crate (not a stolen milk crate, but a similar thing that I actually bought). When I go to Costco, I put all my stuff into the back of my car and then when I get home I go inside and get my crate. A few trips back and forth and all my stuff is neatly stowed away. When I go to Trader Joe’s, I let them put my stuff in bags. I later use the bags to haul out my recycling, but still, I feel a little guilty for having them. After all, I could use my plastic crate to haul out my empty bottles and cans and it would be almost as convenient as the bags.

Oh well. God says at least my heart is in the right place. Come to think of it, I think that’s God being a little passive aggressive too.


Friday, January 4th, 2013

Another year bites the dust and a new one begins. It’s 2013. For those with triskaidekaphobia an ominous year indeed.

So is the thirteenth year of a century inherently unlucky? Does having the number thirteen on nearly everything in sight really push the bad luck, or does it wear it out? That is, does all the bad luck get used up early in the year leaving the poor number thirteen spent and trying to catch it’s breath?

God tells me that he doesn’t believe in luck, except for that which we make for ourselves. But then he also told me that the Mayans ended their calendar when they did because they knew this year was coming. I don’t really get that though, because, well, it’s not a thirteen on their calendar.