Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I might just be an internet geek...

So I just watched the video by Weezer of their newest single: Pork and Beans. (I would embed the video but embedding is disabled, so you will have to click the link to watch it.

Watching the video, I was literally laughing the entire time. And then I realized that if you aren't an internet meme geek... that video is probably the most random and confusing video you have ever seen.

I think I got 99.9% of the references that were cued in the movie from Chocolate Rain to Mentos and Coke to Chris Cocker to Miss Teen South Carolina to K-Fed's PopoZao to Evolution of Dance and everythin else in between (PB Jelly Time, Afro ninja backflip, Guiness Record for T-Shirts, All Your Base, need I go on?).

And I realized, this may be THE MUSIC VIDEO of the YouTube generation. Seriously folks, this is it, regular people from all over the world, just being people, capturing it on video/television/whatever and the next thing you know, not only are they an internet meme, but now they are staring in a music video from a major rock band.

The world, it is a changin.

(Also, if you don't "get" this music video, and you think it is possibly the dumbest thing in the world, find the closest 13-17 year old you know, show it to him or her, and then have them explain to you just how awesome this video is).

Friday, May 23, 2008

Starting a Co-op

Ever since I read the Sourdough Monkey Wrangler's post on "muffin money", it's been intriguing to me to see if I could try that. But be as I am not much of a haggler, I don't know if I could work it up to take my goods down to the Shelton Farmer's market and see what they might give me for my works of art. However, it has got us to thinking about starting a co-op.

The easiest way we see this could work, is any and all jobs, products, services you can/want provide are listed under your name. You need help on your deck, you call so-and-so and they tell you what they can do for you in trade for your products/services. You have a birthday party coming up and you need 10 pies, you call so-and-so to see what they can do for you in trade. I feel it's too hard to try and make a value on certain things. Some people who might do carpentry for a living might find it easier as that's what they are paid for...but other's who may do crafts or baking have a harder time with this.

So...the easiest way to start this off is get a list. We can either keep a list posted online somewhere and/or send out a hard copy of the list. Here are our products and services:

Baked goods-all varieties
Computer/Tech Services
Home construction projects
Photography and editing services
Cards (Invites etc)
Truck Hauling/Dumping

So, who's in?

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Someone finally asked...

I re-did our blog format a few weeks ago, and in doing so I changed the subtitle to the blog. I have been DYING for someone to ask me about it, just so I could make this post. Someone (ht: Brian Dickman) made a comment this morning on it and I got to tell my story. I now share it with the rest of you:

So on Monday, May 5th (yes, Cinco de Mayo) .justin and I played basketball at the local middle school (I try and play every Monday). I was giving .justin a ride home and he requested that we stop so he could bring ice cream home to his wife. I didn't have a problem with this and so afterwards we headed down to Dairy Queen to pick up some frozen treats. Here is a (as best as I can remember it) transcript of our encounter:

DQLady: Weclome to Dairy Queen I can take your Order whenever you are ready.

Ryan to Justin in the car: Do you know what you want?

Justin: I want a Triple Chocolate Extreme and a Strawberry Cheese Quake both double stuff, I also want a burger but I am not sure which one. Go ahead and order while I think.

Ryan to DQ Lady: Alrighty, I would like to order a Triple Chocolate Extreme double stuff, Strawberry Cheese Quake double stuff, and a regular Cookie Dough, all medium. I also will order some food, one second.

Justin to Ryan: I'll take the Flamethrower Burger meal

Ryan to DQ Lady: Alrighty, and a Flamethrower burger meal

DQ Lady: I'm sorry, the burger machine is broken.

[a good 5 seconds of stunned silence]

Ryan to DQ Lady: Uhhhh... you mean you turned off the grill?

DQ Lady: We can't make any burgers because the machine is broken.

[another good 5 seconds of stunned silence]

DQ Lady: We can make fries and chicken, if there is anything else you would like.

Ryan to DQ Lady: Just one second, thinking about what we want

[justin debates what he wants, finally decides on a chicken sandwich]

Ryan to DQ Lady: I will have a Flamethrower Chicken Burger meal

DQ Lady: I'm sorry, but we can't make that, the machine is broken.

Ryan to DQ Lady: It's chicken, I thought you could make chicken....

DQ Lady: Oh, I guess we can make that, your total is (I don't remember) please pull forward.

At this point Justin and I pulled forward (in to what turned out to be the slowest line ever, took a good 30 minutes to finally get our food, definitely not FAST food) and the entire time we just kept cracking jokes about "the burger machine." I have a feeling that phrase "the burger machine is broken" will go down in my personal history as one of the funniest things I have ever heard. Maybe you had to be there, but for Justin and I, it was a healthy dose of laughter that evening...

Hence the new subtitle to TheSmithHome: "The burger machine is broken"

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Perfect Scam

So I had a co-worker come talk to me yesterday about an Amway...err, Quixtar new product that is for sale: Perfect Water. They wanted my input on the "science" behind the claims that perfect water was making. Now I am no scientist, nor microbiologist nor chemistry major... but I do have half a brain (maybe a only a 1/4, I did hit my head a lot when I was younger)... but that seems to be more than the jokers who are trying to market this. So lets take a look at some of the claims they make.

First of all, it claims to be Purified (15 times!), Remineralized, Ionized, Microstructed and Oxygen Rich with MBO technology (whatever that means). Lets tackle each of these claims one at a time.

Purification is just the process of removing impurities from the water, pretty straightforward. The problem is, most purification systems are based on a size factor, not a "how many times did you run it through" factor. Think of it this way, would you rather drink water out of a river that was run through your kitchen strainer 15 times, or a charcoal filter that filters out down to .1 micron impurities but it was only ran through that filter 1 time? They both are technically "purifying" the water, the kitchen strainer will surely catch any fish, rocks, and most of the mud that is in the water... but sadly no matter how many times you run it through the kitchen strainer you aren't going to be removing micro-organisms that exist in the water. Sadly, Perfect Water doesn't feel inclined to tell us what sort of filtration and purification system they use, just that they use it 15 times. They could use it a bazillion times, but until they tell us what size filter they are running the water through we have no way of juding how "pure" the water is.

From their FAQ:

There’s a lot of hype going around about the source of bottled waters with companies claiming their water is better because it is from a spring, a deep well, an aquifer, a glacier, distilled water, artesian water, or other sources. Regardless of the source and individual preferences, none of it is good enough for our high quality standards. We start with safe water sources tested to be suitable for drinking water and then give it a clean slate with our proprietary 15-step purification process and other technologies so that the water that goes into the bottle is nothing less than “perfect.”

Let me translate the key line there: "We start with safe water sources tested to be suitable for drinking water." Translation: "We use a municipal water supply from whatever city we are bottling in." Their water won't "harm" you, but I would be skeptical of any claims that it is MORE pure than your local tap water. As Perfect Water is a bottled water, it falls under the juristiction of the Food and Drug Administration. Your local water supply is governed by the Environmental Protection Agency. The FDA requires one test per week on bottled water and it's safety, the EPA requires HUNDREDS of tests per week on your tap water... and on top of that the FDA estimates it is only able to regulate about 40% of the bottled water in the US (I don't know where Perfect Water's standing is on the list) while the EPA conducts it's tests on 100% of the water systems in America.

From their FAQ:

Are there Vitamins in Perfect Empowered Drinking Water™? We developed Perfect Empowered Drinking Water™ to be a pure, clean, and natural tasting drinking water.

Why is there Sodium in Perfect Empowered Drinking Water™? The Sodium in Perfect Empowered Drinking Water™ is to help enhance smoothness and flavor.

Anyone see anything contradictory about those 2 statements? If it's developed to have a clean natural taste then why do you need sodium (which we as American's consume WAYYYY too much of, and is NOT condusive to healthy living) to improve the flavor? They claim they infuse their water with trace amounts (which means it is such a small amount that they aren't required to list it on the nutritional information label) of Magnesium, Potassium, Calcium, and Electrolytes. While all of these MAY be contained in the water, it is in such a small amount your body won't notice a difference. Besides, most American's consume upwards of 200% of their daily recommended doses of vitamins and minerals. All of our food from our cereal to our milk to our bread is "fortified" nowadays. Americans are the most vitamined people group in the world, "trace" amounts of common minerals isn't going to tip your body over in to magical happy land any time soon.

Ionizing the actual water molecules themselves makes no sense. Water molecules do spontaneously break down into ions such as H+, OH-, H3O+, and OH- every now and then, but it’s only something like one or two out of every billion molecules that do that, and it doesn’t really last long as it’s a reversible process that tends to remain at equilibrium.

What is very common is an ionized solution with water. Basically, that’s what all the water we ever deal with is. All the tap water, rain water, bottled water, ocean water, and all those other waters we ever come in contact with have ions of other chemicals dissolved into them. Pure water doesn’t have those, but then pure water (de-ionized water) is generally only found in some laboratories and large industrial plants (I worked with it at Intel making computer chips). So really, having water being “ionized” can be said to be the normal condition of water. It’s not anything special.

So saying “ionized” is basically this company saying again that they’ve added electrolytes and other minerals to the water. They’re just saying the same thing twice, with different words.

I have to admit, this was the hardest section to write. The reason: this makes no sense at all to me. Here is their “explanation” of the process:

Some call it science, others call it pseudo-science. The only thing really certain is that there is no certainty among the scientific community on microstructuring. . . .While we have and will continue to engage in scientific research because we believe in it, we know what our customers tell us which is that they can feel the difference with our water.”

So in other words, even they say that they have no idea what it is. Reassuring. Above the molecular level, liquid water has no fixed structure. And if you re-structure the molecules, then you get something other than water. The only logical means I can think of to “structure” water is to freeze it. So they’re saying that they’ll sell you ice cubes?

Oxygen Rich (With proprietary MBO technology)
Okay. . .water does, of course, already contain oxygen. Pure water would have one-third of its composite atoms being oxygen, although as I’ve already said we’re not likely to see pure water anywhere but in labs or at Intel. Ordinary water with the usual solution of H2O and a scattering of other odd chemicals mixed together could very well have some more oxygen atoms bound up in those extra chemicals. All of these oxygen atoms are going to be bonded, though, since oxygen is very reactive and you basically never find individual oxygen atoms floating around alone in nature (even if you had a tank filled with nothing but oxygen atoms, they’d combine with each other into molecules of paired atoms).

They also claim that heating or cooling the water won’t have any effect on its ability to contain this extra oxygen, which is rather strange seeing as how raising the temperature of a water solution reduces the amount of gases that can be dissolved in it.

So there’s really no way to have free oxygen mixed into water long enough to have it bottled, shipped, and sold, especially seeing as how they claim a shelf life of two years. You have to bind it to other molecules. And bonding oxygen to water molecules gives you hydrogen peroxide, which is not something you want to go around drinking lots of.

And to top it all off, I don't know how many of you have gills, but I sure don't. I think I get plenty of oxygen from breathing. What is the point of having extra oxygen in your water? We aren’t fish.

A few other dandy's from their FAQ page:

Perfect Water will flush out Fat

Any fat that is already a part of your body is not going to be in any position to be “flushed out” by water you drink. Besides, fat isn’t water soluble.

Many of our customers do report that drinking Perfect Empowered Drinking Water™ seems to provide them with more energy than other waters they have tried.

As most of you know, I am currently dieting. The "science" behind dieting is quite simple: reduce the energy you intake and increase the energy you output, your body needs extra energy to make up the difference and so it consumes fat (idealy, sadly your body will also consume muscle, hence why when dieting you have to workout to retain your muscle, but thats a story for another time). But the point is that in our advanced scientific age, we have a way to measure that energy. It's called "calories." Perfect water claims to have no calories. Sorry, but you can't have it both ways. Granted, they don’t actually come right out and plainly state that their water gives you energy. . .but they subtly make the suggestion that it can. Which seems to me like a rather sneaky way to try to give people the idea that their water has extra properties without actually facing the risk of legal action if it’s found that the water doesn’t do what they hinted.

Please note that Perfect Empowered Drinking Water has not been designed, nor tested, for treating, diagnosing, mitigating, curing, or preventing any disease or medical condition, nor for specific performance enhancement in any category, and no claims are made. Nor are any such claims authorized regarding the use of the water for any purpose other than as a drinking water.

So after all the claims of what Perfect Empowered Drinking Water will do for you, if you read far enough down the page (and it's a LOOOONG page), they make sure to cover their bases and tell you: it won't actually do anything for you.

It seems like Perfect Empowered Drinking Water is sadly neither Perfect, nor Empowered. But it does live up to it's claim to be drinking water, so I supposed it at least got one thing right. Most American's don't drink enough water and are underhydrated (we consume diaretics like caffiene left and right, coupled with our large intake of sodium the typical American is definitely underhydrated, and borderline dehydrated) so drinking more water is never a bad thing. But as many have heard me rant before (I will save the long winded post for another time) our municipal water systems are under stricter controls and better purity requirements than bottled water, so paying $2 for a bottle of water that is AT BEST as good as your local tap water seems... silly. The container for Perfect Water is kinda cool, so I suppose if you need a nice container to carry around with you at work to keep hydrated (which would be a good thing) I suppose there is some value in that. But if you feel the "magical" effects of Perfect Empowered Drinking Water, sadly that has more to do with the much studied and proven "placebo effect" than any actual properties of the water.

Monday, May 05, 2008

I just want to wish everyone

A happy Mexican St. Patrick's day, or as it's better known: Cinco de Drinko!

Be safe, try and stay off the roads tonight (seriously) and find an excuse to shout Ole! at least once tonight.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Squeeky wheel gets the grease

So I don't really like complainers, in fact I don't know anyone that really likes complainers. But at the same time, I realize that complaining sometimes has a purpose (this was pointed out to me oh so wonderfully by one House M.D. last night). After having Dr. House teach me the value of complaining, I decided to try it out.

I called up the big N this morning, and I told the guy:
"Here is the deal. I purchased a Nintendo Wii on launch day, I was an early adopter and an avid fan of Nintendo, but this warranty issue with my Wii is not making me very happy. I purchased an Apple Macbook as a launch day item as well. So far I have had not 1, not 2, but 3 'issues' with my Macbook. Of these three issues, only 1 of them was during the 1 year warranty, the other 2 have been out of warranty issues. Both times, Apple has agreed that it was their product/manufacturing/quality control at fault, has stepped up to the plate and has fixed my Macbook free of charge. So even tho I have had numerous issues with my Macbook, I can guarantee that my next computer purchase will be an Apple computer, because they have taken care of and treated me as their customer with respect. On the flipside, I have owned an NES, SNES, N64, Gameboy, Gameboy Advanced, Gameboy DS, Gamecube and a Wii... up to this point I have been a satisfied customer. But my coworker had to send her Wii back to get it repaired because of the SSBB double layer disc issue (it's a common problem with the Wii, google it if you need more info) and now here I am, 3 months out of warranty, and my Wii is dead. I didn't drop it, bang it with a hammer, stick peanutbutter in the drive, it just sat in my cabinet and died and now you are charging me $81.75 to get it fixed. My other alternative is to spend $250 to get a new one. I will spend the $81.75 to fix it, but understand that this will most likely be the last money that Nintendo ever gets from me, there are Microsoft Consoles, Sony Consoles, and plenty of other option via the PC to play games, and if Nintendo isn't willing to treat their customers right then I am not sure I want to remain a loyal customer of Nintendo."

After my diatribe he told me he understood, he felt me pain, etc, and that he would go talk to his supervisor and see what he could do for me.

After sitting on hold for about 5 minutes, he comes back and says "Well I talked to my supervisor, and we do see you have been a loyal customer and blah blah blah, how would you feel if we reduced the charge in half."

My response: "I would be half satisfied" (ht: Mr. Dickman)

He doesn't talk to his supervisor, he doesn't miss a beat, "Well how about if we just waive the charge all together as a one time service to you as a loyal customer." (Which makes me believe this was sort of a car salesman type deal, see if we can sell him on the 1/2, but if not we are willing to go to 0 type deal).

I reply that that would "Reassure me that Nintendo is dedicated to their customers."

A few clicks here, some more wait time there, and presto, my repair is now free of charge.

I am still a little upset that I had to call in and complain to Nintendo to have them fix it for free, in my mind a good company shouldn't have to hear "complaining" before they step up and take care of their customer, but at the same time I do have to tip my hat to Nintendo, and they truly have retained me as a customer. They heard my complaint, they realized I was not satisfied with the service I was receiving, and they took the appropriate steps to rectify the situation, so kudos to them.

In many cases I find myself willing to spend a little extra or accept a slightly inferior product if the company selling the product goes the extra mile and takes care of their customer. A perfect example is my current cell phone provide T-mobile. They are the smallest carrier in the US, they don't have THE BEST coverage (although to be fair, they do have very good and comparable coverage to the other carriers) but their customer service far and away blows their competition out of the water. I was a Verizon customer for over 5 years, but through repeated incidents, long periods of waiting on hold, and running around in circles trying to get this bill straightened out or this service added or that service canceled I finally threw my hands up and switched to T-mobile (who was recommended to me by Joel, because of their customer service). I couldn't be happier and I continue to prostelytize to others about how good they are.

So if you own your own company, or even if you just provide customer service to people for the company you work for, realize that many people value good customer service and it can be the difference between a long time loyal customer and a lost sale.

In this case, Nintendo has retained a long time loyal customer. I am not happy that my Wii is broken, but I am happy that Nintendo is now taking the steps to fix it properly.