Category Archives: Petty Bourgeois

Now that Mother’s Day is over…

I am perusing one of the finest selections of expensive, useless crap: The Hammacher Schlemmer Father’s Day catalog.

What I want: Human Bowling Ball
What I need: Hands-Free Hair Rejuvenator
What I will probably get, again: Nose Hair Trimmer

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More reasons to love Costco

[As if I needed them.]

  1. I ordered something from Costco.com.  Between when I ordered it and when it shipped, they dropped the price by $30.  I called their customer service line and they agreed to refund the difference, no questions asked.  OK, two questions:  They asked me the order number and they asked me to confirm the price difference.
  2. I purchased a three-pack of HP inkjet cartridges a while ago. I used up the first cartridge and installed the second cartridge and discovered shortly thereafter that the second cartridge was defective.  I went back to the warehouse with the packaging (including the third, unused cartridge) and the defective second cartridge but no receipt.  They said that because I’d used “less than half”, they would give me a full refund. Again, no questions asked.

The Cheapskate’s Dilemma

I want to buy a product that’s for sale online.  The exact product doesn’t really matter; what matters is that it’s a relatively new product that I’ve never used before, so I’m not sure if I’m going to like it and want to keep it.

Every place that sells this product charges the same price, so there’s no bargain hunting.  The dilemma is that I can buy it either directly from its maker (which I generally prefer to do) and get free shipping and handling and a 30-day money-back guarantee.  Or I can buy it from a high-end retailer, pay $20-25 S&H and get a lifetime money-back guarantee.  This means that I’m essentially paying an extra $20+ dollars (in this case, around 10-15% of the product’s price) for an extended insurance policy and I have to decide if it’s worth it.

How Not to Name a Restaurant

I recently learned about a restaurant named Watercress Asian Bistro.  While I have not eaten there, its name alone raises warning flags.

Let’s break it down:

Word in Name

What They Want It To Mean

What It Probably Means

Watercress

We serve light, healthy food, filled with fresh ingredients.

The food is bland because we don’t how to season it.  And don’t count on it being healthy because we cook everything in oil except the salads, which are made with iceberg lettuce.

Asian

We choose from the best of the cuisines of China, Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam.

We’re not really good at cooking any one cuisine, so we pick a few well-known dishes from each and Americanize them by loading them up with salt and sweeteners.

Bistro

A fun, casual place, suitable for a lunch with friends or a nice dinner date.

We hired our waitstaff from Applebee’s and we serve wine out of a box.

If this seems like idle speculation, check out what today’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer has to say about a similarly-named-but-probably-entirely-unrelated restaurant:

Cilantro Asian Cuisine, with the third-highest number of red violations this year, was closed in May after "cockroaches were found crawling on cooked vegetables that were stored on a shelf," according to the inspection report.

The inspector also found shrimp stored in used containers and stacked with the bottom of the containers on the shrimp in the container below, a non-functioning oven hood and a dishwasher that wasn’t sanitizing the dishes.

That was one of three inspections in which the health department found serious problems at Cilantro. Other problems included "raw fish on top of cans of soda," "dried blood on the floor" and a customer complaining of a cockroach in his or her takeout.

For contrast in both name and cuisine, consider the estimable Malay Salay Hut.

An Unfortunate New Trend in Restaurant Service

When did restaurant managers and waiters decide that it was a good idea to replace the question, "Is everything to your satisfaction?" with, "Is everything tasting wonderful?"

First of all, I don’t really want you asking me directly about how the food tastes.  That’s way too intimate a question for our relationship; you’re figuratively prying open my mouth and inspecting my tongue.  Secondly, it discounts the ten other things that affect my experience at your restaurant.  (Yes, my water  glass is empty again.)  Finally, in all likelihood "everything" doesn’t taste "wonderful."  Good, hopefully, excellent, possibly, but you set yourself up for failure when you set the bar at wonderful.  Unless you’re serving me at Canlis, the Herbfarm, or a handful of less well-known restaurants, everything isn’t tasting wonderful, and the waiters in those establishments are old-school enough to ask the question appropriately.

Possibly the best job ever?

Bombs, Tanks Shoot Down Roadside Avalanches

Getting paid to drive tanks and snowmobiles and set off explosives?  They could charge people to do that job.

Have a Heart… Rate Monitor

For Father’s Day this year I got a heart rate monitor, or to be precise, I was authorized to purchase myself a heart rate monitor.  Not having any experience with HRMs nor having done much research, I went to REI to pick one out.
 
I’d already decided that I didn’t want to spend much more than $100 on an HRM and that I didn’t need fancy features for what would mostly be treadmill use.  My initial first choice was the Highgear PulseWear Duo, mostly because I was nervous about using the chest strap and liked the idea of having a model that would sample the heart rate without it.  However, I was quickly talked out of it by the salesperson, who said that he’d seen a lot of returns for that model, that the fingertip-based measurement wasn’t highly accurate, and that the main benefit of the HRM comes from sustained measurement (i.e. the chest strap is the whole point).  He steered me toward Polar but in the end I opted for the Timex 30-Lap Ironman Triathlon, because the feature set seemed a little more useful and I figured the Timex would be more reliable.
 
Not so much.  I found that the HRM frequently lost contact with the chest strap, sometimes right after a workout, but sometimes in the middle of the workout.  Taking the strap off and readjusting it didn’t make a difference.  It wasn’t due to lack of moisture, and I tightened the chest strap and replaced its battery to no avail.  After a couple of weeks I called Timex Customer Service.  I was very impressed that within a minute of calling I was talking to a real tech support person, but after hearing my description of the situation his recommendation was to send the unit to them for repair.  At that point I decided to go back to REI and exchange it for a different model.  I’d since received two independent recommendations to "just get a Polar", so that’s what I did.
 
I’ve now had the Polar F6 for two days.  I don’t want to jinx myself, but so far I’ve had absoutely no problems with the HRM receiving its signals from the chest strap (which wasn’t true of the Timex at that point).  Furthermore, the Polar is simply a better HRM.  The Timex is more of a watch-HRM hybrid, whereas the Polar is clearly designed with the primary intent of being an HRM (and is a mediocre watch).  There are at least five little things in its design and implementation that make me like it better and even some of the frivolousfeatures now seem useful.
 
It’s also helped me have the "duh!" moment that my exercise program isn’t meeting my goals, but that’s a story for another day.