Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Presidential Election Blues

My sentiments exactly. 

Friday, September 23, 2016

My 3 Fictional Characters

I was challenged by a friend to post pictures of three fictional characters that describe me.  It was harder than I thought it would be, but here's what I came up with: 

Wonder Woman
Yes, I know, we're not exactly body doubles, but I loved
her resting bitch face in this picture. And, she represents
that part of me that tries to be everywhere at once, saving the world.

Ellen Ripley from Alien
She was smart, self-sufficient, resourceful...and if you 
mess with her kid, she will HURT you.

Rose Castorini from Moonstruck
For better of for worse, she says what people need to hear, 
even when it's not what they want to hear.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Ipsy "Glam Bags": Buyer Beware

Is there anything more fun than receiving a gift in the mail--the joy of opening your mailbox and finding a brightly wrapped package filled with surprises, just for you?

No, that's a pretty special feeling. And that's what "Subscription Box" companies are counting on. 

"Product of the Month" clubs are nothing new; they've been around for as long as I can remember.  When I was young, there was the Book of the Month Club, or the Columbia Record and Tape Club (oh, how sad we were when they discontinued 8-tracks!).  Over the years, it expanded to Wine of the Month Club, Cheese of the Month, Dessert of the Month, etc.  

Today, you can sign up for all kinds of goodies, such as gourmets foods, stylish athleticwear, and yes, cosmetics.  All 3 of my daughters currently subscribe to something called "Ipsy", a service that charges a monthly fee to send you a sampling of different beauty products, based on your preferences from a quiz you fill out at the time of purchase. 

My daughters love getting their Ipsy bags each month...the problem is, the shipment can take  FOREVER to arrive, and the customer service is the worst I've ever seen.  There is no phone number you can call if you have a problem. The only way to reach Ipsy Customer Service is through an email form on their website, or via social media (Twitter and Facebook).   

I recently tried contacting "Ipsy Care" because my youngest daughter's shipment appears to be delayed.  She received shipment notification--and was charged--back on September 7th, but here we are 10 days later, and her package still hasn't arrived. Her older sister received shipping notification a few days later, and her packaged arrived not long after.  The tracking info has not changed since September 9th: a label was generated, the package made it to a post office about 20 minutes from here, and that's where the trail goes cold.   

The response from Ipsy Care?  "Your Glam Bag IS on its way! Please allow 14 business days from the ship date. Thanks for being a loyal Ipster!!!!"   Um, excuse me? 14 business days? That's THREE WEEKS.  What the heck?  And to add insult to injury, they sent us a tracking link that showed the package en route to Alberta Canada....and we live in New Jersey. I followed up again, and they sent a corrected link, and claimed the package was still on its way, despite the lack of USPS updates. 

I've found numerous stories online from other customers of extended shipment delays and a lack of customer service.  Buyer beware!  

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Samsung Recall -- A close call?

My mother-in-law heard on TV tonight that a Samsung phone had been recalled due to being a fire hazard.  She wanted to make absolutely sure that the cell phone she's been using is not affected by the recall.

Boy, that was a close one. :)

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Freedom of Expression vs. Freedom of Non-Expression

More and more these days, I find myself biting my tongue on social media.  Whether it's about politics or social injustice or gender inequality or some other hot topic du jour, I find that some folks can't handle hearing another side of things, and all they're looking for is an argument.  I once read some advice that really stuck with me: "You don't have to attend every argument you're invited to."  Just because a friend posts about something provocative, and I happen to have an opinion on that topic, I'm realizing that jumping into the fray and stating that opinion just isn't worth it anymore. Not in the current climate of online animosity that invariably results, anyway.

These are the times when it's nice to have this blog, to be able scribble down a few thoughts on some things, without having to brace myself for an onslaught of , "yeah, but..." or "so, you're saying, [insert something I am most definitely NOT saying]..." etc.  It's my little corner of the world where I get to express myself, without any expectation (or desire, really) to launch into a full-on discussion or debate.  The words speak for themselves; take from them what you will--or, take nothing at all. That's fine, too.

So this morning, I was reading about the latest controversy surrounding the French publication Charlie Hebdo. They printed a "satirical" cartoon titled"Earthquakes, Italian-Style" depicting victims of the recent earthquake in Italy as different pasta dishes. There's a bloodied man captioned "Penne with Tomato Sauce," an injured woman covered in scrapes captioned "Penne Gratin", and just to the side, a layered stack of bodies and rubble and blood, dubbed "Lasagna."  

It's clearly a reference to the high death toll in Amatrice, and yes, it's in very poor taste.  What bothers me most is that it is utterly pointless, created solely to provoke, not make any sort of statement. That's not satire, that's just indefensible, purile behavior intended to provoke and inflame. What a total waste of time and resources. 

This reminded me of the time when everyone was supporting Charlie Hebdo, after the terrorist attacks in France on their offices.  The hashtag "je suis Charlie" was everywhere, and people railed against the "Islamic extremists" who were offended by the cartoons printed in the French publication.  Talk about the right to freely express oneself was a hotly-debated topic, as people tried to understand the differences between Free Speech and Hate Speech. 

One of the more interesting reactions at that time came from Pope Francis.  When he was asked about the attacks on Charlie Hebdo, he denounced the violence against the publication, but he also warned against provocation. "You cannot provoke," he said. "You cannot insult the faith of others."  He also famously took a playful swing at Dr. Gasparri, a friend who often travels with him, saying that if the man ever said a curse word against the Pope's mother, "he can expect a punch."  I thought the point was brilliant: you have the right to express yourself, but bear in mind, if you're saying something that you know is inflammatory, even a Holy man like the Pope is not immune to fighting back. 

I bring up these two Charlie Hebdo stories because this issue of the delicate balance between Free Speech and the Consequences of Provocation came to mind when I saw another post about the ongoing controversy about football player Colin Kapernick, who has been refusing to stand during the national anthem as a protest against oppression. Despite the intial backlash against him, he doubled down on his protest by not only sitting down again, but also wearing socks that depicted police officers as pigs.  

Now, media outlets are reporting that the policeman's union in Santa Clara, where Kapernick plays for the San Francisco 40ers, have said they may refuse to provide protection for him and the other players at the games, in protest of what they see as his anti-police protest. I've seen a variety of reactions to this latest development, ranging from "Good, it serves him right" to "It's wrong, he deserves protection, regardless of the socks he wears."  To be honest, I'm not sure who I agree with. Both? Neither? I believe that "two wrongs don't make a right": I don't think Kaperinick should be making his protests while acting in his professional capacity during a football game, and I don't think the police officers who have sworn an oath to protect and serve the public should be threatening to go back on that pledge, even if the person they have to protect is unlikable.  

I do not disagree with Kapernick's reason for protesting, but do disagree with how he chose to go about it.  

I absolutely believe in freedom of speech, and an American's right to protest and express anger at our government, but I don't agree that disrespecting the national anthem or, say, burning the U.S. flag, are the way to go about it. 

The symbols that represent this country are some of the only things that we can all universally stand behind, and these unifying symbols deserve a foundation of respect and loyalty, regardless of one's discontent with the current administration or the way certain issues are being handled. Exercising one's freedom to sit during the anthem or refuse to salute the flag isn't brave, and it isn't "what being an American is about"...it's petty and divisive, and only serves to inflame and provoke. Just because we live in a country where you can't get arrested for doing something disrespectful towards our government doesn't mean that's a good way to draw attention to your cause. 

Kapernick does have a right to speak out and protest, but in exercising that right to express himself, he needs to understand--as Pope Francis pointed out to Charlie Hebdo--that an act of provocation may elicit an undesirable response from those you are provoking. Violence is never the answer, but don't act surprised when you get a negative response to your protest, even if your point is valid. Kapernick exercised his right to express himself, and his former fans are exercising their right to boo him whenever he takes the field. 

Which brings me back to my struggles with when to weigh in on things, and when to step away.  When I share my opinion on something, whether here on the blog or on social media, it is not my intention to provoke, but merely to express my thoughts on a particular topic.  And I'm always open to hearing the opinions of others--in fact, I actively seek out other viewpoints by reading posts from a varied cross-section of media outlets: left-wing, right-wing, independent, and even international sites and messages boards.  But it comes to social media sites like Facebook, I think it's best to start exercising my Freedom of Non-Expression.

UPDATE ADDED, SEPTEMBER 5th, 9:20am : CNN just tweeted this statement from President Obama on Kapernick, and he echoed my sentiments about the weight carried specifically by the anthem and the U.S. flag.  I wish more of my liberal-leaning friends could understand this concept, that you can support the man's right to protest but still disagree with his choice to disrespect the national anthem--and that doesn't make you a racist, as others have been suggesting.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Nutella Oreos? Not So Fast!

By now, my friends all know that I love testing out "Limited Edition" flavors, especially Oreos and Lay's Potato Chips. It's gotten to the point where the minute a new or unusual flavor is announced (Swedish Fish Oreos, anyone?)  the notifications start pouring in on my social media account, with multiple friends tagging me in a photo of the new product.

So, when I saw a friend post a photo today of "Nutella Oreos" I knew it was only a matter of time before the image ended up on my own wall.  But several things immediately looked off to me about the photo.  For one, the Nutella product placement was very prominent--almost eclipsing the Nabisco logo. Secondly, I could not find ANY mention of the new flavor being announced through legitimate news sources, just the one Facebook post from the same source.  And finally, there was a website watermarked onto the photo in several places--so large it was obnoxious. I figured it was likely that this was merely a case of an enterprising blogger looking to get hits on his website.

But of course, the notifications DID start rolling in, so I ended up calling the Customer Service hotline for Mondolez International, the parent company that distributes Nabisco (and Swedish Fish, fyi) and they had absolutely no information on any new collaborations between Nabisco and Ferrero Food, the makers of Nutella.

Sorry folks, I'm calling this one BUSTED.  Here's a copy of the graphic that appeared, but with the watermark removed (and replaced with my own--because, this IS the internet, after all).

UPDATED SEPTEMBER 4th: And now I'm getting messages from friends who've seen a similar graphic depicting "Cannoli Oreos"...also with the same watermark from the same website that put out the Nutella one.   THESE AREN'T REAL!  I already contacted Snopes.com, in the hope that they'll get something up on their website. Until then, just assume these "new limited edition flavors" are a fake unless you see it posted directly from Nabisco.

UPDATED JANUARY 12, 2018: Well guess what?!  Chocolate Hazelnut Oreos are now a real thing! Check out my review HERE