Previous “Features” posts

One Star, Should Be Free

Goodness, gracious, bad balls of fire.

As an intelligent and fresh-smelling reader of this site, you’re surely wise enough to know that selling two different products with nearly identical packaging is a terrible business practice. Alas, the executives at the Sazerac Company are not so sagacious. As a result, the company is now facing a lawsuit for deceptive labeling. Here’s why:

Two distinct products, in virtually identical packaging
Left: “Fireball Whisky”; Right: “Fireball Cinnamon” malt beverage
[Composite image created using this source material]

Once you realize that two different products are shown above, it’s easy to understand why the company has been sued. Sazerac had a desire to garner sales from stores that aren’t permitted to sell whisky but can sell beer, malt beverages, and wine. That led them to create a knock-off beverage, which is understandable. Copying the existing product’s label so completely, however, is indefensible. Undoubtedly, they wanted to capitalize on existing brand familiarity, but this was a sure-fire(ball) way to confuse people.1

If your FAQ needs to include the following text, you should probably reconsider some things:

How Can I Tell the Difference Between Fireball Cinnamon and Fireball Whisky Products?

There are 2 key differences between the Fireball Cinnamon labels vs the Fireball Whisky label:

• Any package with Fireball ‘Cinnamon Whisky’ on the front label is our whisky-based product

• Any product with Fireball ‘Cinnamon’ on the front label, without ‘Whisky’, is either our malt-based or wine-based product

Also, that’s really just a single difference. The package includes the word “Whisky” or it does not. Everything else is virtually identical, and thus eminently confusing.

This feels like something the government might be interested in preventing. Heck, long-time readers may remember that labels on beer are heavily regulated. Is there no Battle Martin of booze bottles?

Apparently not, and thus a class-action filing with the court system is being used to try to right this wrong. Though I suspect it will lead Sazerac to change their packaging, the lawsuit in question is nonetheless difficult to take seriously. It includes several laughable claims from lead plaintiff Anne Marquez, who mistakingly purchased Fireball Cinnamon instead of Fireball Whisky. Purportedly, Marquez “expected the Product would contain distilled spirits in a non-de minimis or non-negligible amount”. I think when it comes down to it, she expected only that the product would taste like cinnamon and get her drunk. I’m certain both of the products shown above could manage that.2

The lawsuit also includes the ridiculous assertion that 99¢ is overpriced for the non-whisky “Fireball Cinnamon” product. It’s difficult to accept the notion that anything that costs less than a buck can be called “overpriced” in 2023, but they’re making that claim with an ostensibly straight face. As a result, the folks who brought this suit sound quite a bit like the misguided whiners complaining about prices on Apple’s App Store. The plaintiffs may want to reconsider some things as well.


Footnotes:

  1. I’m sorry about this dumb joke, but not so sorry that I removed it. ↩︎

  2. That said, it should be noted that the non-whisky versions are lower proof than the original. Malt-based Fireball Cinnamon is only 16.5% alcohol and another wine-based Fireball Cinnamon is 21% alcohol. The original Fireball is more powerful, with 33% alcohol. ↩︎

The Immense Stupidity of Groundhog Day

As my mother correctly notes each year, there are always approximately six more weeks of winter from Groundhog Day.

Is there a dumber American tradition than Groundhog Day? I submit to you that there is not. Readers of this site will know that I am a fan of all manner of nonsense, but I just can’t get into this. “Groundhog Day”, the movie? A fun flick. Groundhog Day, the “holiday”? Vacuous nonsense.

The problem, as I see it, is that there’s simply nothing there. They pull out poor Punxsutawney Phil, and then…a person announces whether the rodent saw his shadow or not. The groundhog doesn’t actually react in any visible way. The whole thing isn’t even as goofy as “Is the groundhog awake or not?”. No, the weather-predicting woodchuck is utterly unnecessary to the proceedings. They could just flip a coin. Or skip the whole thing entirely.

In the midst of confronting the vast and moronic reach that Groundhog Day has attained, I learned quite a lot from a CNN article detailing they day’s history. For instance, did you know that once upon a time, they ate Punxsutawney Phil after he made his guess?

Before he was a celebrity, though, he was lunch. In a terrible twist, the earliest Groundhog Days of the 19th century involved devouring poor Phil after he made his prediction. The year 1887 was the year of the “Groundhog Picnic,” Yoder said. Pennsylvania historian Christopher Davis wrote that locals cooked up groundhog as a “special local dish,” served at the Punxsutawney Elk Lodge, whose members would go on to create the town’s Groundhog Club. Diners were “pleased at how tender” the poor groundhog’s meat was, Davis said.

Cheese and crackers! Really though, I think I respect this more. Oh, sure, it’s awful. But it feels somehow more honest too. Devour your gods.

And yet, in defiance of both all logic as well as the preceding text, the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club claims there’s only been one Punxsutawney Phil in history:

How many “Phils” have there been over the years?
There has only been one Punxsutawney Phil. He has been making predictions since 1886! Punxsutawney Phil gets his longevity from drinking the “elixir of life,” a secret recipe. Phil takes one sip every summer at the Groundhog Picnic and it magically gives him seven more years of life.

Even if it only works on groundhogs, that “elixir of life” seems a lot more impressive than the flimsy record of forecasting. Also, how about sharing? If it adds seven years to his life, Phil doesn’t need a sip every year.

Does Phil have a wife?
Yes, her name is Phyliss. She doesn’t receive the Elixir of Life so she will not live forever like Phil.

What the hell? Why, pray tell, can’t Phyliss have some elixir too? Worse is the fact that Phil’s poor wife/wives have been saddled with a matching name. Just as I would never feel quite right dating someone named “Paula” or “Paulette”, Phil and Phyliss should just be friends, or even steer clear of one another completely.

Remarkably, Canada recently found a way to make things even dumber. Though I believe the world needs exactly zero groundhogs masquerading as meteorologists, it seems we must come to terms with a single such rodent. However, Punxsutawney Phil certainly needs no imitators, a fact it would behoove the Quebeckers to souviens. Their failure to do so led to a bizarre occurrence yesterday, when they turned to a group of schoolchildren to get a prediction about winter. Why? Well it seems that their knockoff prognosticator, “Fred La Marmotte”, showed up to his one-day-a-year job dead.

Automated Rudeness

Flakes are ruining it for the rest of us.

I’m a responsible adult who keeps a digital calendar. When I book a table for dinner, I also create an event, complete with reminders. Thanks to this system, I don’t believe I’ve ever missed a reservation in my life. That’s not boasting, it’s just how one should act in society.

Nevertheless, as the dates of my reservations approach, I am frequently assailed by demands that I confirm them. For many years, this took the form of dreaded phone calls. I generally don’t answer unexpected phone calls from strangers, but I will search the web for the number displayed on my caller ID. Sometimes I’d then pick up with a weary sigh, and confirm. Other times, I’d be too slow or unlucky in my searching. Then, I’d wind up with a voicemail that then seemed to require a call back, lest I lose my table. I found the whole process more than a little vexatious.

Lately, things have improved, as these reminders have mostly shifted to texts and emails. Though still annoying, I can live with this. It’s certainly better than forcing me to use my phone as a phone.

A text message request to confirm a reservation.

The restaurant business is a tough one. I sympathize with restaurants who want to maximize their throughput, only to find themselves stymied by flakes. Though I don’t believe I should have to do anything beyond making a reservation and showing up for it, I am willing to text “1” or click a link in an email to confirm that I’ll be where I said I’d be.

However, some places go too far. You see, in addition to reminders like the one above, I’ve received warning texts like this:

A text reading “You’re due at the restaurant in 30 minutes.”

Though it’s factual, this text just reads terribly to me. When I first saw it years ago, I was honestly taken aback. I thought the restaurant itself was being ungracious. However, after seeing it from different businesses, I realized the message was actually sent by online reservations system Resy. As far as I know, restaurants have no control over the message’s content. That’s a shame, because it’s making them look discourteous.

So, then, a plea to Resy: How about improving this language, to make it a little softer, a little more friendly? Perhaps something like “Motorino is looking forward to serving you in 30 minutes”. Anything would be better than this impolite nagging.

More Ways to Keep Up With One Foot Tsunami

Saturday housekeeping!

A Saturday post? It must be time for another round of weekend housekeeping.

Find One Foot Tsunami on Microblogging Services

Recently, I added some new options for following One Foot Tsunami. You can now find a link to each new OFT post on the following services:

These accounts are automatically updated with an easy link every time I publish to OFT. Follow them for an easy way to keep up with One Foot Tsunami.

While email is greatly preferred, most of these services can be also used to get in touch. No, not Facebook.

Suggested RSS Readers

I’ll also use this post to talk RSS readers, because RSS is still alive and great. Back at the end of 2017, I had to retract my 2013-era recommendation for NetNewsWire, as the app had been abandoned by its then-owners. Thankfully, my pal Brent Simmons has since regained ownership of his creation, and revived its development. NetNewsWire is now better than ever, and I heartily endorse it. Get it free for your Mac and/or iOS devices at netnewswire.com

I also still recommend NewsBlur as a great RSS reader and backend. I use it as a syncing service inside of NetNewsWire, to keep feeds in sync across multiple devices.

Thanks For Reading

As always, I appreciate you spending a bit of your day with this site. However you connect to One Foot Tsunami, I hope you enjoy it.

Email Marketers Live Very Different Lives

Or so I imagine, anyway.

I work to maintain a manageable email inbox. This includes frequently declining to provide my email address when asked, as well as unsubscribing from lists without hesitation. And yet? And yet, the nonsense never fully stops.

Of late, I’ve received a steady stream of emails informing me of modifications to various privacy policies. I imagine this is due to some law somewhere having been amended. Now the absurd nature of our society is laid bare each week, with multiple emails telling me that a document I’ve never read, and never will read, has changed.

Aside from providing a bleak laugh about our terrible future, however, privacy policy update emails aren’t really any fun. Better are those messages which at least provide some sort of amusement. For instance, in mid-December, I received the following:

An email with the subject line “Tis the season for earning AAdvantage miles.”

Ah, yes, the most wonderful time of year! With much mistletoeing, and hearts all a-glowing, when American Airlines miles are earned by dining out at random restaurants and paying with a specific credit card.

The next email sent by the same sender was more uplifting. In fact, it was perhaps the best news I’ve received in a long, long time. I’m sad for the rest of you, however, because 2023 is not your year. No, no, per the American Airlines AAdvantage Dining Program:

An email with the subject line “It’s the year of Paul.”

Sorry, non-Paul chumps and chumpettes.

Last up, I received an email from the home of the Whopper, Burger King. Though I haven’t eaten meat in more than two decades, I do find myself in a Burger King once every year or three, as they’ve long had a few vegetarian offerings. Still, I don’t recall ever signing up for…well, anything. I imagine I received this as the result of placing an online order at some point in the past:

This email informed me that a “Linked (Credit) Card” would now work for loyalty identification, to “earn Crowns not only for in-app and bk.com orders, but also for in-store purchases”. Now, that’s really news I can use, because a close look reveals the fact that I currently have a woeful 0 “Crowns”:

Yes, I believe even that “1+” dot should be empty for me. But my favorite part of this particular missive was the subject line, which badly misunderstand the meaning of its own very first word:

An email with the subject line “Important update to Terms and Conditions for Royal Perks

“Important” to whom, Burger King? “Important” to whom?

It Was Indeed Fun

I really cracked myself up with this one.

Recently, while RSVPing for a wedding, I was asked to share some marriage advice:

A form asks “What’s the best piece of marriage advice you’ve heard?” and the response reads “I only caught a snippet of a conversation, but I definitely heard ‘…go to bed angry…’

No, I’ve never been married. Why do you ask?

This Ladder’s Durability Is Immediately Called Into Question

Perhaps this is an epically shoddy ladder.

Recently, I was shopping online for a step ladder, as one does. I came across a product listing which featured an adult man playing at being a construction worker while point a drill at the sky is if intending to shoot off some celebratory gunfire:

A man cosplaying as a construction worker next to the ladder in question

This Delxo (Dell-Zoh? Dell-Ex-Oh?) step ladder has all the features you could want, from “anti-slip rubber feet” to a “comfy & safe handgrip”. But when you buy it on Amazon, you also get another great feature: the ability to subscribe and save!

A “subscribe & save” option for a freaking ladder.

Sure! You can never have too many ladders, right? “Every 2 months” is shown as the most common subscription option to receive a new ladder, and I’m more than a little skeptical of that claim. But in case that doesn’t seem frequent enough, you’ve got plenty of convenient options:

Delivery frequency options, as low as “Every two weeks” for a freaking ladder.

I am extremely doubtful that anyone is actually using a subscribtion to this ladder, whether twice a year, or a ludicrous 26 times a year. I’m sure some people have subscribed to get the easy 5% discount, and then immediately canceled their subscription, but that doesn’t count. On the incredible off chance that some One Foot Tsunami reader out there has an active subscription to a ladder, I would very much like to know why.

“Friend” Can Be the Singular of “Folks”

Life in 2022 can really be exhausting for everyone.

Earlier this week, I had a rather jarring conversation at the supermarket. I needed to flag an employee down to clear an alert on the damnable self-checkout machine. The man had just finished helping another customer, and he was walking away from me, so I said “Sir?”. When turned around to assist, he also muttered “Please don’t call me sir next time”. He seemed…annoyed? Offended? I did not understand, and I was a bit taken aback. It was not as if I had said “Hey, you!”, after all.

As he cleared the error on the machine, I asked what I should say next time. He curtly replied “Just wave your hand, I’ll see you”. This was obvioiusly not true, because unlike my mother, he did not have eyes in the back of his head. Now, I certainly could have just said “Excuse me?”, but that seems longer and also slightly less courteous than a respectful “Sir?”. Anyhow, he and I both moved on. Still, it stuck with me. I left the store, utterly flummoxed.

I found myself contemplating this very strange interaction for some time. I had been trying to be polite, and I felt the response had been a bit brusque, even bordering on rude. The man was a bit younger than I am, so it was perhaps a bit odd for me to call him “sir”, but there was no sarcasm or insincerity on my part. I was being gracious, and I was met with something else.

However, I found the whole thing turned completely upside down while discussing it with my friend Kim, who deserves tremendous credit. The scales fell from my eyes when she said four (mostly) simple words: “Maybe a non-binary person?”.

Well. Fuck.

The whole interaction now looked utterly different. This idea that this person might not identify as male (and thus a “sir”) had not even occurred to me. Now, I saw the possibility that my in-person subconscious assumption was incorrect, along with every instance of the words “he” and “man” written above. If that is indeed the case, then my simple effort to politely get someone’s attention instead turned me into an inadvertent misgendering ass.

We don’t really have a simple and generic word for directly addressing a specific person. There is no singular of “folks”. We rely on “sir” or “ma’am” or “miss” or “mister”, all of which are gendered. That’s a problem.

Fortunately, my favorite gal pal Amy had a wonderful solution. Her suggestion? Let’s just call everyone “hoss”, as in “Hey hoss, can you get this stupid machine to stop pitching a fit about the bag I’m just trying to load my scanned groceries in to?”. It’s pretty solid! If they mishear you, they’ll think you said “boss”, and who is that going to offend?1

However, while “hoss” is an absolutely hilarious way to refer to anyone, its roots are in the word “horse”. That seems unfortunate at best for a catch-all term. I also rejected Amy’s next idea, “dollface”, which was equally hilarious but even more problematic. Next, I spent some time considering “buddy”. I wish it could work, but it just sounds far too informal to my ear.

Thankfully, though, “buddy” led me to a superior option: “friend”. “Friend”! How great is that? It’s self-evidently friendly, it’s gender-neutral, and it’s even hopeful. A stranger is just a friend I haven’t met yet, and what faster way to turn them into a friend than to simply declare them one?

Sure, sure, it might come across as vaguely Amish, but then they’ll really take pity on me. I don’t even have electricity, so of course I can’t manage to check myself out at the supermarket! Or perhaps they’ll think I’m trying to recruit them to a cult. They may be wary, and think I might murder them, but at least they won’t think I’m a bigot.

So, I’ve settled on “friend” as the way I’m going to address people from now on.2 I’ll let you know how it goes, friends.


Footnotes:

  1. Oh, somebody, I’m sure. ↩︎

  2. Also probably dogs. ↩︎

I Still Can’t Believe This Worked

Happy birthday, Mom!

My mother is quite the puzzle whiz, and we sometimes do the same puzzles. I introduced her to Wordle, and she pointed me toward another New York Times puzzle, “Spelling Bee”. Now, we play them both each day, and often discuss them. Recently, this led to some amazing fun.

A fair amount of background is in order, but I promise it will be worth it. Even if you’re not a New York Times subscriber, you can sample Spelling Bee at the link above, but I’ll lay it out quickly. The game presents a grid of seven letters, and your task is to make as many 4+ letter words as possible, always including that highlighted central letter:

A honeycomb containg the letters W, A, N, B, E, J, and then O highlighted in the middle
The puzzle for December 7, 2022

For instance, this past Wednesday, you might have entered BANJO, or OBOE, or any other musical instrument containing an “O” that you could spell using the provided letters. You could also spell words that aren’t instruments at all, that’s allowed too. You certainly can’t play “Stairway to Heaven” on NONE, but you could enter it here. How did we even get on musical instruments?! BABOON, that’s a word that would totally count. So would BONOBO, but the words don’t have to be primates either, OK?

Spelling Bee offers several goals in the course of play. Each puzzle contains one or more pangrams, words which use all 7 letters at least once. In the above puzzle, JAWBONE was a pangram (more specifically, it was a “perfect pangram”, because it didn’t use any letter more than once). In addition to pangrams, there are also various point totals to shoot for, culminating in “Genius” level. Finally, one can become a “Queen Bee” by getting all the words on the word list for the day. While I don’t often manage this, my mother attains it frequently.

Beyond the standard gameplay, my mother and I also particularly enjoy an unofficial side quest: finding words that are absent from the day’s word list. For instance, back on November 28, the game failed to accept the word EXIGENCE:

The word “EXIGENCE” being rejected for not being in the word list.
The word dates back to the 15th century!

The word list for each day doesn’t actually consist of all possible words. Instead, editor Sam Ezersky intentionally narrows things down by eliminating obscure words, thus making Queen Bee status a bit more achievable. While we know this, my mom and I still enjoy the chance to grouse to one another about how ridiculous any oversight is. “A kindergarten baby ought to know that word.” Any crossword solver worth their salt has seen this word:

The word “EELING” being rejected for not being in the word list.
eeling (noun): the activity or business of catching eels (Yes, really.)

That should bring you up to speed on Spelling Bee. Now, let’s look at this past Tuesday’s puzzle. That puzzle included the letters D, L, E, P, O, C, and the must-use letter U. After working on it for some time, I sent my mother the following image, along with a message noting my incredulity that this word wasn’t included in the day’s list:

The word “UPDOC” being rejected for not being in the word list.

Please enjoy our ensuing conversation:

Paul says: How does it not have “Updoc”?!; Mom says: What is Updoc?; Paul says Not much, what’s up with you?

I wasn’t sure this would actually work, and I was absolutely tickled pink when it did.1 My mother was greatly amused as well.

Here’s to another trip around the sun, Mom. Many happy returns!


Footnotes:

  1. Hat tips for this joke are certainly due to Bugs Bunny, The Office, and most especially Scrubs. Zach Braff’s delivery of “It’s happening” slays me.2 ↩︎

  2. In the event that the linked Scrubs video has been, well, scrubbed from YouTube, I’ve archived it here. ↩︎

Meditations on an Inexpensive Laundry Basket

I’m down to a cost of 20¢ a year and falling.

Something people should know about me is that I’ve had one laundry basket for my entire adult life. If my obituary includes the line “He was the kind of guy who could use the same laundry basket for decades”, well, it will be an accurate reflection of who I am. Or was. Whatever. Just behold my basket, in all its graphite glory:

A simple (albeit holey) gray laundry basket

After I bring my clean laundry upstairs, I flip the basket upside to deposit my dry clothes on the bed for folding. Each and every time, the bottom of the basket catches my eye:

The bottom of a laundry basket

As the r/nostalgia sub-Reddit can tell you, “Yaffa Blocks” was a name brand for a particular kind of inexpensive storage solution. It seems the company also made laundry baskets. What I really notice, however, is the price tag:

A Linens n Things price tag, reading $3.99

$3.99 seems very inexpensive! My basket does date back to around the year 2001, but even an inflation-adjusted price would be just $6.71 today. Seems low!

Now sure, my humble basket is plenty scuffed, and it has one cracked corner:

A slightly cracked corner

But it’s a vessel for transporting toasty warm clothes approximately 50 feet. It does the job. It still works.

The price tag also lists the name of the store where this basket was purchased, and that’s a real throwback. “Linens ‘N Things” was a New Jersery-based big box retailer selling home goods, a competitor to “Bed Bath & Beyond”. You’ll notice I say “was”, because Linens ‘N Things went bankrupt in 2008. Less than a year later, all of their retail outlets were closed. Still, this price tag endures on the bottom of my basket.

In 2022, the Linens ‘N Things name lives on via an online-only store. Impressively, as the tag shows, the Linens ‘N Things website has been around for quite some time. Here’s a look at LNT.com from around the time when this basket was purchased. It seems the company even had a privacy policy very early on:


Circa 2001, captured via the always-helpful Internet Archive Wayback Machine

In addition to being purchased from a New Jersey-based retailer, this basket was also made by a New Jersey-based manufacturer:

The Basicline logo

It appears “Basicline” was the company that owned the Yaffa trademark, and also I guess that they made at least 11 products. You may notice that I am once again using the past tense. Alas, like Linens ‘N Things before it, Basicline is no more. In 2010, they filed for their own Chapter 11. Further, per Wikipedia, Linens ‘n’ Things’ current parent company Sequential Brands sought bankruptcy protection last fall.

Given all these bankruptcies, I’m beginning to think that even back in 2001, this product was underpriced. $3.99 was simply too low to charge for a product which would go on to serve me well and faithfully for 20+ years and counting. In life, you have to know your value, and charge accordingly.