Feb
17
2012
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Targeted Advertising

Some people freak out about targeted advertising, but I’m usually not one of those people. I think it’s funny when I get little recipes for spam casserole every time I empty my spam folder in Gmail.

Recently I experienced excessive targeted advertising after I spent 5 minutes browsing dresses on Mod Cloth. For the next several weeks, every place on the internet showed me the exact same advertisement. It showed a peach dress and a yellow dress from Mod Cloth and said something like, “Hello! Is it me you’re looking for?” After seeing it once I thought, “Those are cute dresses. Why didn’t I see them when I was at Mod Cloth the other day?” I almost clicked, but I was in a hurry.

After my 5th or 6th time seeing the ad, I realized. “Oh, I’m seeing this ad because I visited Mod Cloth the other day.”

After my hundredth time seeing the ad, I was annoyed. I refused to click on the ad or visit Mod Cloth because I didn’t want to teach the system that showing me something a hundred times works.

If you want to learn more about targeted advertising, and the disturbing amount of effort Target has spent trying to figure out how to manipulate pregnant women, check out this article from Charles Duhigg. It’s fascinating. And disturbing.

Why does targeted advertising bother me more when it’s targeted at pregnant women? I think I feel like they’re preying on our vulnerabilities. Maybe that’s because they are.

Mar
05
2011
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On strawberries, and God’s goodness

Strawberries are on sale at Aldi this week for 99¢. I HAD to have some.

I went grocery shopping last weekend, before this sale started, so I couldn’t justify another trip to Aldi.

Fortunately, I had an appointment on Wade Hampton yesterday, close enough to the Aldi that I could justify stopping in for the 99¢ strawberries. And the $1.49 pineapples. And the $1.69 bags of grapefruit. After the appointment, I headed over to Aldi in eager anticipation.

I’ve never seen the Aldi parking lot so full. I had to park in the third row of parking spaces, far away from the door and the cart-return area.

“This isn’t going to be pretty,” I thought.

It wasn’t.

You know how Aldi is set up so that everyone has to go down that first row? I think it took me 10 minutes to get down that row. I kept getting stuck behind people who couldn’t decide which cereal to buy, and seemed totally oblivious to the fact that they were causing a massive traffic jam on aisle 1.

It was gridlock.

I don’t know why I was so impatient about getting to the produce section, because  I knew they would be out of strawberries.

They were. They were out of grapefruit, too.

The worst part is that I had seen a truck parked at their loading dock. I knew they were getting a shipment. There was probably a whole pallet of yummy strawberries sitting on that truck or even in the stock room at this very moment. I briefly considered staging a sit-in by the produce section until they brought out my fruit. Then I called my husband (who was at an appointment in Simpsonville), and asked him to look for an Aldi out there.

Then I went to check-out. I figured I should get out of the madhouse before someone took my pineapple.

Since there were more people in the Aldi than I’ve ever seen before, the lines were long. Aldi cashiers are something akin to Olympic athletes, but even they were having trouble keeping up. When I finally got my turn, I discovered that my wallet was missing.

Really? The shopping-cart gridlock and no strawberries wasn’t enough. I had to lose my wallet, too?

The kind cashier pulled my card aside and started helping the next customer while I trudged out to the car to search for my wallet. I was pretty sure that I would find it, because I’d had it just 10 minutes ago. And I remembered hearing a small thud while I was driving. My wallet probably fell out of my purse.

I found my wallet. On my way back through the store, I grabbed a couple of other things that I had forgotten earlier in my frustration with the shopping cart gridlock. That took a while because I had to wait for approximately 3 minutes behind a lady at the yogurt case who apparently couldn’t find the flavor she wanted. Then I grabbed my yogurt and power-walked back up to the front.

And waited in an even longer line.

I tried to distract myself by chatting with the nice lady in front of me (who offered to let me go first because she saw that I was only holding 2 things). Instead I explained what had happened with my wallet, and tried to make myself feel thankful about the fact that my wallet wasn’t lost.

We waited, waited, and finally it was my turn again.

Just as the cashier started my transaction the second time, I turned around, and saw that the person behind me had strawberries. The stocker had just put them out.

Something inside me hit the “despair” button as I envisioned standing in line again (because obviously I had to go back and get some).

The cashier heard me asking the other customer about the berries. “Oh, do you want some? I can add them to your bill and you can just walk back and get them.”

So I did. I walked back and got three beautiful containers of strawberries. I love that cashier.

And I love the God who took the time to remind me that He is in control of everything and has a plan for everything. As I pushed my cart out to my car and back to the cart return, I thanked Him for letting my wallet fall out of my purse so that I would stay at Aldi long enough to get my strawberries.

I’m writing this, because I want to publicly thank God for His loving patience and generous provision for me. God isn’t obligated to show me why things happen, but hopefully this little incident will help me remember to trust Him all of the time.

Jan
11
2011
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Snowy day project–bathroom wall art

Sunday night Greenville received 5+ inches of snow, more than we’ve had in years. Today we enjoyed snow day #2, and I finally tackled my bathroom wall art project.

washcloths and frames

the supplies cost approximately $4

I bought these dishcloths at Target after Christmas 09 (or was it 08?) and a three pack of the white frames from the Target dollar section. Ever since, I’ve been dreaming of cutting out the trees and putting them in the frames. Not a hard project, but I procrastinated.

Actually, I thought I would want to sew around the edges after I cut out the trees, and that’s the reason I tackled it today. My sewing machine was still out (from making rice “socks” and Christmas garlands). I wanted to put it away, so I decided that I should take care of this project first.

After we measured and cut, I decided that hemming the edges wasn’t necessary. The pieces are stuck tight in the frames, and won’t have much opportunity to unravel, I hope.

I chickened out when it came time to cut. I loved those little dishcloths (way too much to use them for their intended purpose), and I didn’t know what I would do if I messed them up and then couldn’t use them in the frames. So I got Tim to cut them. Tim also hung them on the wall. Before you get the idea that Tim really did this project, please remember that I’m the one who found the adorable dishcloths and had the vision for putting them on the wall. I also traced around the glass and made the cutting marks. And took pictures. Anyway, here they are on my wall. Aren’t they cute?

bathroom wall art

here are the trees on my bathroom wall!

bathroom wall art close up

here's a close up of the trees on the wall

Aug
26
2010
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AT&T CEO Fail

Wow. I’m really in trouble.

Turns out AT&T’s basic customer service people are better than the CEO. Why? At least they’re friendly.

The CEO won’t help you, and he’ll threaten you with legal action.

That’s right. The story is all over the internet. (How did I miss it?) It happened about the time I first started having trouble with my phone dropping calls (almost 3 months ago!).

So: Juan, Adrianna, Jeremy, and all of the rest of my AT&T friends, I apologize for being upset because you couldn’t fix my problem. At least you were nice. That’s more than we can say about your CEO, Randall Stephenson.

For the full AT&T fiasco history, click below. Or don’t. It’s long.

Part 1

Part 2

Aug
26
2010
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Update: AT&T fiasco is just getting worse

After my last post about AT&T, I gave up on getting help in the store, and went back to calling.(Anyone who knows me knows this was a huge step, because I hate calling strangers. Hate it. Seriously, AT&T should have to pay me money for pain and suffering.)

I called them on August 9, talked to Arianna, and got nowhere.

Got busy, and didn’t have time to call back again until 8/18. Plus, Arianna had said they were doing some work in my area so I hoped things might get better. They didn’t.

On 8/18, I talked to Juan, who finally admitted that he couldn’t help me, and put me through to technical support. I was pretty excited. After over 2 months, I was finally getting to talk to someone who could help me.

The tech guy wasn’t very friendly, but I didn’t care. I did say on this blog that I would love a rude person if he could help me.

This guy was a bit gruff, sounded like a Yankee, and was hard to understand. I never could catch his name, though I asked him twice. But he asked me lots of intelligent questions, and even took down information about actual times when I had dropped calls.

He promised that someone from tech support would call me back.

I spent 31 minutes on the phone with AT&T that day.

On 8/23, Jeremy called back from Tech Support. I didn’t take the call, because it said “unknown.” Wish I had.

Anyway, Jeremy left a message saying their technicians had done something and he thought it was working then. As soon as I got the message, I called my husband to test it out.

The call dropped.

So I called back, and left a message for Jeremy.

On 8/24, some other guy called to check on me. He wasn’t from Tech Support. I don’t know who he was. He was nice. I told him that I had left a message for Jeremy, and he assured me that Jeremy (or his coworker) would call back.

Which brings me to today. 8/26.

Charles called back, at 8:45 pm tonight.

I was at pottery class, up to my elbows in clay. Needless to say, I couldn’t take the call.

I had to call my voice mail 4 times to listen to his message. The first 3 times, my phone dropped the call before I could hear the whole message.

The message? Charles said that the tech people discovered that they’re doing work in my area, “upgrading the 3G.” He said that I drop calls during the day because their work interrupts the network.

That totally explains why my voice mail call got dropped 3 times, after 9 pm. Oh, and I had 5 bars at the time.

The best part? They won’t be done working in this area until October 12.

So AT&T’s solution to my problem is for me to wait another six weeks.

Until that stupid voice mail, I had hope. I kept hoping that someone would help me. That they would solve the problem.

Now I’m just angry.

Aug
02
2010
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AT&T fiasco: nice people who can’t solve my problem

In May 2009, Tim and I switched to AT&T. He got a fancy new iphone that he could use on our mission trip to Europe, and I got a shiny new red phone. It’s a Samsung a777, I think. Or maybe it’s a737. Anyway, it’s red.

I wanted an orange one, but they were out of orange ones. So I decided that I would take a green one, but they were out of those too. So I was stuck with red.

Anyway, my red phone worked beautifully, for approximately 1 year 2 weeks. Just after the warranty expired, my phone started dropping calls. Like crazy. Sometimes, it would drop the call before it even had a chance to go through.

Since Tim’s phone was still working fine, we assumed something was wrong with my phone. I called AT&T on June 16, and talked to Harley. Harley was very nice and friendly and he “re-registered my phone with the local tower.”

That did nothing.

So on June 17, I called AT&T and talked to Nikki. Nikki was very nice and friendly, too. She tested my SIM card, reset my SIM card, and offered to send me a new (free) SIM card.

That was a good thing, because nothing else helped.

When my new SIM card arrived, it didn’t help either.

Finally I decided that perhaps it would help if I talked to someone in person. So I went to the AT&T store on Haywood Road, where I talked to a nice sales guy, and a manager.

They decided that there must be something wrong with my phone. Since it was out of warranty, I was out of luck. They also offered to sell me some device that would use my internet connection to improve the signal in my house.

I explained that my phone had started having problems right around the time that the warranty would have run out, and that I hadn’t even used my phone for the first 10 weeks that I owned it because I was in Europe. I also explained that I didn’t understand why I should buy a device to improve the signal when the signal was fine a few weeks ago, and apparently was still fine enough for Tim’s iphone to work.

They decided to replace my phone.

Very nice people. Really, I was extremely appreciative. I thought about asking if I could have an orange phone instead of a red one, but didn’t want to push my luck. Especially since they were so nice.

Too bad it didn’t work.

My phone continued dropping calls. I had to use Skype any time I wanted to call someone. It was really embarrassing when someone would try to have a 5 minute conversation with me and we would get cut off 4 times. Very embarrassing. I can’t even order a pizza without getting cut off. It wouldn’t be so bad, except that my cell phone is my only phone. I don’t have a home phone, and I work from home, so I don’t have a work phone either. I had to open a Skype account.

After a few more weeks of hoping the problems would go away, I was out running errands on Wade Hampton, and decided to visit the AT&T store there. After waiting a long time, I talked to a very nice, but very overworked sales lady. She assured me that I had just gotten 2 bad SIM cards in a row. Surely a 3rd one would fix the problem.

It didn’t.

So I went back. I talked to a very nice manager named Rick. Once again, the idea of purchasing a device for my house came up. I explained that my husband got great reception in our house, and so did I. Until this summer.

I still don’t understand why AT&T thinks I should purchase something to fix their problem.

Rick submitted a ticket to an engineer. He said that if I was still having problems, I should come back, and he would call the engineer, and things would happen.

In the mean time, my phone continued to masquerade as a brick. It’s even appropriate, because bricks are red.

The next time I was out on Wade Hampton, I went back and asked for Rick. He wasn’t there.

So I talked to another nice sales guy, who was very sympathetic to my problem. Not sympathetic enough to call the engineer, though.

He was sympathetic enough to offer to sell me another phone. It would be a great deal, and they would even give me an early upgrade, which means that I have to extend my contract another 2 years to get an affordable price on the phone.

I explained again that I didn’t understand why I needed to spend more money to fix AT&T’s problem. Also, after trying 2 phones and 3 SIM cards, how would I know that a new phone would fix things? Finally, there was no way I wanted to extend my contract when I didn’t know if I would ever be able to talk on my cell phone for 10 minutes in a row again.

He was very sympathetic. He took my name and number and told me that Rick would call me.

Rick has not called me.

Meanwhile, I totally don’t understand what’s happening.

I really don’t think my phone is messed up. It works fine when I’m driving on Wade Hampton. Actually, it works fine almost anywhere except my house, and the 385 / Haywood exit.

If there are any AT&T engineers out there reading this, please message me! I would tell you to call, but my phone will almost certainly drop your call. If you send me a number, I’ll call you on Skype.

P.S. Engineer? I don’t care if you’re nice to me, as long as you solve my problem. Thanks.

Jul
27
2010
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The Golden Mean applied to Reese’s

I like chocolate, and I eat peanut butter with a spoon. But together? My favorite. I can’t imagine life without chocolate and peanut butter.

Actually, I can. I spent two summers in Europe, devoid of chocolate with peanut butter. There was plenty of chocolate, yes. But no Reese’s cups, or any other chocolate-peanut butter delicacies.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved Reese’s cups. I like the full-size cups better than the miniatures, but what I really love are the Easter Eggs (and the Valentine Hearts, Halloween Pumpkins and Christmas trees). You see, these special, festive treats have more peanut butter than the regular cups. Some people don’t like them as well, because they want more chocolate in their Reese’s. Those people can eat miniatures any day of the year.

I have to wait until holidays for my optimum Reese’s experience. It’s not fair! Sometimes I wonder how I’ll make it to the next Reese’s holiday. It’s a long time from Easter to Halloween, and they don’t make patriotic Reese’s treats. I don’t know why.

After my penny-pinching Easter egg fiasco last year, my friends intervened to make sure another crisis would be averted.

It started in February. I was visiting my family in Alabama, and Easter wasn’t even on my radar yet. After church on Sunday, Mrs. Rockwell approached, clutching a plastic bag. Mrs. Rockwell has known me since I was about 8, so she’s used to my quirks.

She thrust out the bag. “I don’t want you to be disappointed this year,” she said.

It took me a minute to figure out what she was talking about. The bag contained Reese’s eggs.

I was so touched by her care and concern that I immediately resolved not to touch those eggs until Easter. I would put them in a place of honor, daily remember her kindness, and consume them only after I had been thankful for a good long time.

Those eggs didn’t make it a week. However, I was very thankful, and I thought about Mrs. Rockwell when I later ate the additional two dozen eggs that I purchased after Easter. [Note: I did not consume the eggs all at once. It took me at least two weeks. I think. And I only paid half price. And I bought a box for my sister, and gave it to her unopened.]

Now to the real point of this post. A week or so after Easter, my friend Amy was shopping at Publix, and she happened across a SUPER Reese’s egg. It was huge.

Amy knows all about my peanut butter egg obsession. In fact, Amy found one for me after my crisis last year. I’m forever indebted to Amy.

Anyway, when Amy saw this massive Reese’s egg, she immediately thought of me. Her other thought, according to her was “Ratio!” Amy’s a science teacher. She knows all about ratios.

If a regular egg is better than a regular cup (which is better than a miniature), then surely this super egg would have an even better peanut-butter to chocolate ratio. This would be the golden egg.

This is not the golden ratio. Go for the regular egg instead.

This is not the golden ratio. Go for the regular egg instead.

The picture on the front indicated that this egg did, indeed have a very favorable ratio.

So Amy bought it, tied it up with a bow, and gave it to me. I squealed.

Sadly, I must report that Reese’s is guilty grossly deceptive advertising. As you can see from the picture below, there’s way more chocolate in that egg than the picture showed.

I ate it anyway. And every time I see Reese’s anything, I think about Amy and Mrs. Rockwell. They’re some of the best friends I’ve ever had.

I probably shouldn’t end this without pointing out that my parents put Reese’s eggs in my basket probably every year of my childhood, and fed me more chocolate-peanut butter ice cream than I care to think about. They’re the best parents I’ve ever had.

Now, I’m hoping Reese’s will come out with a dark chocolate holiday treat. Heavy on the peanut butter, of course.

Jun
29
2010
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You might be a redneck . . . even if you live in Illinois

My sister Erika just got married and moved to Illinois.

This is particularly notable because Erika and I grew up in Alabama. Lower Alabama, also known as L.A. We eat boiled peanuts in L.A.

I think she is experiencing a little bit of culture shock. There aren’t any boiled peanuts in northern Illinois.

There is corn. Miles of corn. Corn as far as you can see. And very few trees.

Anyway, back to the culture shock. She’s currently living in a very rural area of Illinois. We didn’t grow up in a big city, but it was a city. The city was surrounded by cotton and peanut fields, but we didn’t get out to see them much. In northern Illinois, you can’t miss the corn fields.

So, Erika’s experiencing north-south culture shock and suburban-rural culture shock at the same time.

The other day, while visiting the nearest town, she observed this unusual combination.

You might be a redneck if you transport your mower in a trailer behind your ambulance.

You might be a redneck if you transport your mower in a trailer behind your ambulance.

We can just imagine the scene. Man is dying.

Paramedic: “I’m sorry you’re having a heart attack. Just breathe deeply and think calm thoughts while I unhook this trailer and move my lawn mower.”

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