Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Original Sin and Wendy's: aka (Fear and Loathing at Wendy's)

In Christianity, there is a sense that we are created in God's image, endowed with great powers of thought and reason, capable of such love and such tenderness.  Yet we fall from this ideal, committing sin.  In fact, translated from Hebrew, sin essentially means "missing the mark."  The best analogy we have in today's world is that of Wendy's fast food restaurants.  On every billboard, on every commercial, we see a large, juicy hamburger perfectly arranged.  The bun appears crispy and fresh, the lettuce crisp, the fries golden brown, and of course, we need never ask "where's the beef"--it is always there smiling back at us.

Nothing could be further from the truth.  As a fast food gourmand, I take my fast food seriously.  In a world filled with sickness, disease, war, and poverty, one of the few pleasures we get is fast food.  After the occasional  long day of dealing with extreme hardship, the only thing that gets me through is hope, hope that I can have fresh fries and a tasty cheeseburger to drown away my sorrows in carbs and grease.

I have had Wendy's all over the country.  I have tried it in rural locations, in city locations, and in suburban locations.  It doesn't matter where I go--all of them are shitty.  Whether it be rude service or ice-cold french fries, Wendy's never fails to disappoint.  If you are on the brink of despair, just travel to Wendy's to pitch your last loaf of hope.  In this way, Wendy's should be served as a last meal to those on Death Row as one last, final punishment.  This is never going to happen, though, because the Constitution provides against the serving of cruel and unusual punishment.  We can put someone to death, yes, but never make someone eat Wendy's.

In fact, there should be a banner above the door, similar to above that in Dante's Hell, which says "Abandon All Hope All Ye Who Enter Here".  One time I went through the drive through and clearly said I wanted a cheeseburger with "everything except tomato and lettuce."  Knowing they were likely to fuck it up, I said this twice and very clearly.  Ten minutes later, as I am driving home and opening the wrapper to my cheeseburger, they left off everything except tomato and lettuce.  There was no ketchup, no mustard, nothing.  Why didn't they just stone me?  Those fucks.

Giving them the benefit of the doubt another time, I decided to "dine" in the restaurant.  I hesitate to refer to "dining" as what happens at chez Wendy's, but nevertheless I am feeling generous, what with it being Christmas and all.  Anyway, I approached Zeke, the human surprise, working the counter.  He looked at me suspiciously.

 "Yes, I would like a Wendy's single combo meal, please".

Zeke rang up the order.  Less than one minute later, my order was ready.  Zeke and associates, all five of them, were chatting.  Apparently people aren't breaking down the doors to eat at the place.  Looking at the limp, pathetic entities below me, I took a bite.

 "These fries are ice cold, can you please make me new ones?"  I asked.  Zeke came me a the ole' one tooth scowl.

 "Ya," he replied.  "Just a minute".  I sat down and had my cheeseburger, sans the fries.

Ten minutes later, still no fries.  I went up to the counter.  Zeke and Bo were chatting with another associate. They looked at me and kept talking.  No response.  Three minutes later, they were still talking.  I looked over at the hopper and there sat my fries, now cold.  I gave them a look and the best shit eating grin I could bear.  Still no response.

I literally had to leave because they absolutely wouldn't bring me my fries.

Several months passed.  I decided to try another Wendy's, this one far removed from the banner Wendy's of my prior acquaintance.  This time, there was no one standing behind me in the line (surprise, surprise).  I ordered a large french fry.  As part of the order was up, I grabbed a fry and ate it, as I was filled with joy that I was actually getting fresh fries for once.  Wrong move.

"That's not your fry"  the girl barked at me.

"Who's are they?" I asked, as there was no one else around.

"That was a reorder".  "You don't just grab someone's fries without knowing they are yours!" the girl said.

"I'm sorry, I didn't realize they weren't mine.  No one else is around".

"Well, that's not the point.  You don't just grab someone else's fries!"  the girl grew more vehement.

I couldn't believe I was being bitch slapped by a Wendy's associate, and this girl meant business.  My wife was going to defend me given the girl's rudeness.  However, having read the Dante banner above the door, I knew better.  I was being punished for my sins, and this little devil was there to deliver evil justice to me.

Almost a year passed.  Either hopelessly naive or incredibly stupid, I decided to give it another college try.  This time, I embarked upon yet another Wendy's adventure.  "There's no way this is going to get fucked up again", I thought to myself.  Wrong again.  This time, the cheeseburger was half baked.  Or perhaps it was the worker who was half baked, I don't know. Either way, the cheese on my burger wasn't melted.  This only helped to highlight the pathetic state of the burger itself, which was made lopsided and the bread day old and Auschwitz-biscuit hard.  Not wanting to loose a filling, I gave up.  My days of Wendy's were over.  I accepted my fate and knew that no matter how hard the day, no matter which Wendy's I went to, I was going to be tortured.

Not that it is better for the employees, mind you.  I know a woman who worked at Wendy's for over 25 years.  Given the turnover of fast food establishments, this is a marvelous feat in itself.  You would think Dave Thomas would have flown in himself to congratulate the woman upon retirement (this was when Dave was still alive).  Did Dave show up to congratulate and thank her for her many years of service?  Fuck no.  Zeke Jr. practically kicked the woman in the ass, sending her away with stone cold fries and a cheeseburger with nothing but tomato and lettuce, no ketchup or even mustard.

Just the sound of the name "Wendy's" makes my skin crawl.  Tea Partiers are always going on and on about the efficiencies of business over government.  Wendy's is a perfect example of how capitalism can go wrong.  No doubt Marx got the idea for Das Kapital after eating at Wendy's. The post office can deliver my mail for .44 cents to the continental United States and lose money.  Yet Wendy's can fuck up my food any day of the week and make gobs of money doing it.  It's enough to make you join an Occupy Wall Street event.  Seriously, I doubt the top 1% are eating at Wendy's.  If they are, they must also be into other masochistic activities, like getting their Kindle Touches to actually work or using the Mac operating system.

I don't know where Dave Thomas is now.  God rest his soul.  But if he were to be revived after being cryogenically frozen after 200 years, lord knows he would be awakened to a world of new wonders.  Robots that look and act like people with human intelligence, flying cars, and holographic movies.  The only thing he would recognize of his former world would be on the corner--a fucking Wendy's tended by the great great grandchildren of Zeke, chatting while his fries were getting cold.

Some things never change.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

"Merry Christmas", and Other Offensive Remarks

I'm not sure when it started, but within the last ten years or so it has become fashionably unpopular to say
"Merry Christmas" to strangers.  Even though Christmas has become totally commercialized and essentially de-Christianized in popular culture, we dare not speak the horrific phrase "Merry Christmas".  Bah humbug to that.

Good or bad, most people in this nation identify themselves as Christian.  The vast majority of people, religious or not, celebrate the secular version of Christmas.  This being the case, it shouldn't be such a fucking big deal if we say "Merry Christmas" to strangers.   If I were a Jew, Hindu or Muslim, I wouldn't be so sensitive that I would have a heart attack if someone said this phrase to me.  The notion that most people celebrate a holiday I may not celebrate doesn't and shouldn't offend me.  If it does, than piss on me.  I deserve to be offended.

In this country, sports has become a sort of secularized religion.  I often have store clerks ask me "How about them Browns?" In my mind, I am thinking "Hell if I know.  I didn't realize they were still in Cleveland".  But I don't take offense because these things matter greatly to many people, even though they don't to me.  "Well, sports isn't religion", you may be thinking.  Obviously you haven't met any Cleveland Browns fans.

There is one exception to this, however.  If you know that someone is a practicing member of something other than Christianity, such as an observant Jew or Muslim, don't be a dickhead and say "Merry Christmas" to them anyway.  If you do, then you are most likely an asshole with no social IQ whatsoever.  In that case, the person deserves to be offended.

Another group of turds are atheists who have a conniption whenever there are prayers at school graduations or when religious songs are performed at Christmas concerts.  If you are an atheist, you know full well that these prayers mean something to the people there.  If prayer isn't for you, then bow your head and just be quiet.  No one is forcing you to do anything.  The entire thing is innocuous.  Don't be a wet blanket and ruin the fun for those who get something out of it.  It isn't that big of a deal.

The thing that really bothers me is that business is behind all this "Happy Holidays" bullshit.  Afraid of offending advertisers and commercial sponsors, Christmas has become a "holiday".  Yet "Happy Holidays" is such a sanitized phrase it doesn't mean anything.  In the name of preserving the almighty dollar, Christmas has become neutered into an amorphous "holiday".  It's like saying "I support the troops."  WTF does this mean?  Who doesn't support the troops?  Maybe a few Nazis or two.  But this phrase has nothing to do with questioning legitimate concerns about the war in Afghanistan and the former war in Iraq.  It is an empty phrase that means everything and thus means nothing.  It is designed to shut down conversation and end rational discussion.  As soon as you question anything, you are poo pooed because you are not "supporting the troops".  Nonsense.  There is a difference between supporting the soldiers themselves and questioning government policy, doublespeak notwithstanding.

I'm not super religious.  And it isn't my interest in converting anyone through the phrase "Merry Christmas".  It is about not being so sensitive that you are annoying.    This is the problem.  So go ahead, say "Merry Christmas"  If someone gets offended and tells you, tell them "Merry fucking Christmas" instead. Whatever you do, don't be offensive and insult their intelligence by saying "Happy Holidays".

We are all too smart for that.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kindle Touch vs. Nook Simple Touch: Battle of the E-Readers

After much consideration, I decided to get a dedicated e-reader.  Some of this had to do with cost--I didn't exactly have $500 to spend on an iPad just to use for reading.  Plus I like the look of the new Pearl e-ink and the non backlit nature of the dedicated e- readers.  The final consideration was weight--I needed something light which would be easy to hold for a long period of time.  

Figuring that Amazon would ultimately prevail in the long run given its recent sales of the Kindle Fire and its aggressive marketing strategies, I decided to get the Kindle Touch.  The design of the device is gorgeous.  It feels well made, the angles on it are nice, and holding it is comfortable.  The e-ink screen had nice, clear text.  Plus it can refresh the page every six pages, unlike the older generation Kindle Keyboard, which refreshes after every page, causing a flash which can be distracting.  

I used the Kindle for a few weeks.  I found myself enjoying the experience.  It was great to have dozens of books on file, and I could borrow books from the library already in the Kindle format.  Unfortunately, the Kindle has one major,  fatal flaw--the firmware is terrible.  So terrible, in fact, that I had to return my Kindle after researching the problems further.  When you attempt to search for a book, sometimes the Kindle will lock up and give an error message that says "Unable to Start Application."  Once this happens, nothing can fix your Kindle.  You can't hit escape, you can't reboot, nothing.  The only thing that works is deleting all your books and starting over.  It is terribly frustrating.  Apparently Amazon must have been in a rush to get this device out, because the firmware is so dreadful the thing should not be sold as is.  Hoping to keep my Kindle, I looked online for a firmware update from Amazon.  As of now, none is to be found.  

This wasn't the only problem with the firmware, however.  Another problem is that sometimes the Kindle Touch will simply delete the contents of your books.  You can see the titles and go into the books, but nothing is there.  It is bad.  The last time this happened to me, I could not restore my library.  My Kindle Touch was bricked.  I had to return it.

Deciding to fight another day, I bought a Nook Simple Touch.  After having some time to review it, I can say that this device is much, much better than the Kindle Touch.  First, it has expandable memory, so it can hold up to 32 gb of storage.  This means about 64,000 books.  So theoretically you could have your own public library with you, and portable, too!

Second, the firmware is solid.  The device has yet to lock up or give me a device error message.  Having been out longer, there was even a firmware upgrade that I downloaded that made the text even more clear and dark, and sped up the Nook by quite a bit.  In fact, I could flip pages and navigate through the menus at least twice as fast as the Kindle Touch.  This was great.  I also liked the graphical user interface of the Nook a little more.  You have the option of viewing your books both as a list and as titles, which is like looking at a real bookshelf.  To flip pages, the Nook offers the ability to tap, swipe, or press physical buttons on the side of the device, which is an improvement over the Kindle's touch only method.  

The design of the Nook isn't as beautiful as that of the Kindle Touch.  It has sharper edges and while all the pieces and parts are okay, it isn't like the Kindle, which feels like it is crafted out of a block of pure metal.

Having a reader that gets out of the way and lets you read instead of bricking itself is refreshing, however.  For this reason, I recommend the Nook Simple Touch and don't recommend the Kindle Touch until a firmware upgrade that solves its problems is released.

Winner:  Nook Simple Touch

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Those Damn Automatic Flushing Things

Before the fall of the Roman Empire, no doubt one of the prevailing signs of decay and utter decadence was the surrender of the average person to flushing their own waste.  As we know from Pompeii, the Romans had plumbing, but before they did, they also had lots of slaves.  While the barbarians were at the gate, no doubt Lazius Maximus was busy having his slave wipe his bottom for him.

In America, we have finally reached that level of decadence.  Go to any diner, truck stop, rest stop or big box retailer, and you will find the "automatic" flushing toilets and sinks.  You know how it goes--you sit down on the Great White and do your business as quickly as possible.  Lord knows if you have to even be here, you aren't happy about it--this was naturally an emergency.  Hoping to make a clean getaway without being detected, you wipe and expect the toilet to automatically flush--wrong.  It never flushes.  The damn sensor won't work for anything.  You can beg, you can pray, you can wave your hand in front of it, but it doesn't matter one bit--it's never going to flush.  Yes, we can send a man to the moon.  We can design phones that have attitude and talk like people, but we can't make a toilet that flushes for shit, or flushes shit, rather.  Someone else walks in the bathroom.  Now you are caught, someone knows your in there, and they see your feet through the bottom of the stall door.  The smell indicates what happened, and you aren't flushing.  They are judging you, "Dirty bastard", they must be thinking.  You look for the button to press to manually flush the toilet.  No go.  This is an iToilet, meaning in the name of simplicity of design it doesn't have one.

You are forced to make the walk of shame to the sink without flushing.  Once again, you find yourself defeated--it's one of those automatic faucets.  You move your hand across the sensor.  Of course it doesn't work.  After you pull your hand away, the water turns on, but not long enough for you to reach it and get your hands wet.  Waving your hands up, down, side to side, it doesn't matter.  You aren't going to be getting your hand clean.  And even if you did, forget about properly drying them.  They have one of those damn air drying hand dryers.  You know, the kind that take four hours to dry your hands and don't actually remove the filth?  The kind that are installed because the establishment is too cheap to buy hand towels or too lazy to change the trash when they are discarded?  The end result of all of this technological progress is millions of toilets cluttered with shit, millions of unwashed hands, and lots of dryer towels being saved.

At least the trees are happy.