Laptops, Ads, & Being Controlled by Two Dudes With a Podcast

I didn’t post last Wednesday. Did you notice?

Okay, tell the truth. Do you even know I post on Wednesdays?

Yeah. That’s what I thought.

Well, I do. Usually. This time I didn’t on account of computer problems. Don’t get me wrong, I have access to working computers.

My problems were… okay, here’s the thing: We have two desktops in our home office. They’re old, but they work. The problem is our home office. It’s a mess. And the thing is, it’s not my mess. If I clean it, I hear things like, “Hey! Where’s that vitally important document I need?! It’s supposed to be right here in this pile of dirty dishes!”

Which brings me to my next problem: they eat while they’re on the computers. Sometimes the mouse is sticky.

I don’t do sticky.

So our desktops are out, but I could have used a laptop. Every member of the family (except me) owns one. I’m certain that had I asked someone would have loaned me theirs, but I never asked. To me, laptops and cellphones are personal items. I’m not comfortable borrowing one.

Plus, you know, sticky.

And while I know I can post from my cell phone, and have done so, I’d just as soon not. That leaves my work laptop and up until this last week, it served me fine.

But then it happened, my friends. Darkness descended upon the workplace. Terror seized our hearts. It was IT!

The social misfits also known as “tech support” arrived on campus. They seized our MacBooks, threatened to erase all files if we didn’t upload them to the mysterious “cloud.” And then… and then… They re-imaged every one of them!

What did this mean, this re-imaging? None of us knew. Not truly.

What I do know is that when my laptop was returned and I logged on to my work email, this was the message it gave me:

You are signing in with a managed account and giving its administrator control over your google Chrome profile. Your Chrome data, such as your apps, bookmarks, history, passwords, and other settings will become permanently tied to (my work email address). You will be able to delete this data via the Google Accounts Dashboard, but you will not be able to associate this data with another account.

It was the “managed” and “control” parts that made me uneasy. I felt like I worked for the government!

Oh wait… I do.

It wasn’t that I had anything to hide, and I rather doubt our district office is too concerned about a secretary blogging from her home. Writing about a trip to Target, going to the theater, or showing pictures of her cat.

Merricat

Even if her cat is better than their cat.

And yet: “a managed account” … “administrator control” …

I’d been saving up for a laptop. This seemed like a good excuse to buy one. Trouble was, I had my eyes on this baby:

Spectre

Was it what I needed? It was way more than I needed. It was also waaaaay more than I wanted to spend.

But just look at it! Ain’t it gorgeous?!

As I was discussing my computer woes with Husband, Daughter walked into the room. “You mean the family member who knows the least about technology is talking about technology?”

(Daughter has a snarky side. I have no idea where she gets it.)

She added,  “All Mom needs is a laptop that’s pretty and has a nice keyboard.”

I should have been insulted. But, um, yeah. She gets me.

After a lot of searching, Husband found a laptop in my price range at Costco. It had a full-sized keyboard and… oh! It comes in blue!

I ordered it online and had it within two days. For the more tech-savvy among you, I’ll include the specs:

Not gold trimmed like the other, but for almost 1,000 bucks less? I’ll take it.

You may have noticed that both laptops are HPs. There’s a reason for that. Apparently, I’m a sucker for ads made by dudes with a podcast.

The podcast to which I refer is Reply All, with hosts PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman. It’s funny, it’s informative, it’s highly entertaining. It also has one or two ads placed midway through, also done by PJ and Alex, also funny and informative. You find yourself listening just to hear what goofy things they’re going to say.

I first started listening to Reply All about a year or so ago, and I spent a lot of time listening to past episodes as I refinished our kitchen cabinets. Meaning I listened to a lot of ads about HP products, over and over again. All while inhaling toxic fumes. And when the time came to buy a laptop, HP was the only brand I wanted.

This is difficult for me to admit, I want you to know that. I’ve always thought of myself as someone who’s impervious to advertising. I’m far too smart to be snookered into buying something I don’t want or need. And from what I hear, most everyone thinks they’re immune to ads.

(Kinda makes you wonder why they bother spending so much money on them, doesn’t it?)

To some extent we are immune to ads, at least the first time we’re exposed to them. It’s seeing them repeatedly over a period of time that makes them stick. Especially when they’re for products we know little about, or feel intimidated buying. Or when the ads use people we know, or at least feel like we know. We trust them. We trust what they tell us. And we do it without thinking.

Or at least, most of the time we do it without thinking. This time, I thought about it.

When Husband was doing his laptop search, he showed me many different brands – Asus, Dell, Lenovo. All ones he owned at one time or another, all ones he liked.

“But aren’t HPs better?”

He shrugged. “Depends on what you want. Why are you so stuck on HP?”

“Um…”

I couldn’t exactly tell him it was on account of these two guys:

PJ and Alex
PJ Vogt and Alex Goldman, hosts of Reply All and HP pushers.

Admitting you can be manipulated by ads is a hard pill to swallow. A bit of an ego buster. But no worries, I can rationalize it! The ads I heard were smart, informative and amusing. The ads did not, repeat, did NOT prey upon my emotions or feelings of inadequacy in any way. No way, no how. I am soooo above that sort of thing.

Or am I?

It’s my work laptop that is being managed and controlled. Not me.

Right?

The lesson I want to leave with you is this: Stay aware! Know what ads are selling and how they are influencing you. You are not immune to them, any more than I am. (Otherwise, why would it be a 70 billion dollar industry?)

Oh, and one more thing: After a full week of using this laptop, I can report that it is all I hoped for, needed, and is super sweeeet!

That’s the main thing. The fact that HP owners are smarter than everyone else? That’s just bonus.

Cash, Credit, or… Does Anyone Still Write Checks?

The other day I was in Costco buying dog food.

Heck of a deal, 24 cans for $19.99. That’s less than a dollar a can — 83¢ to be exact — for good quality dog food. This is smart shopping in action, folks.

Since it was just the one item, I didn’t bother with a cart. Lines move fast at Costco.

Or at least, they usually move fast. When you’re holding a case of dog food, a case growing heavier by the second, it slows to a grinding halt.

I look ahead to see what the issue is: a woman writing a check. (Seriously? Who writes checks anymore?!)

I stare at her in disbelief. Surprised Costco even takes the things. (Several places don’t.) Also, I’m willing to bet the woman’s handwriting is immaculate. She takes such inordinate care with it.

I shift the now 300-pound crate in my arms. Finally she’s done. Her check noted in her register and the subtraction completed (good Lord!). The woman ahead of me checks out quickly. She uses her debit card. Zip, zip, she’s done.

My turn.

The clerk thanks me for my patience. I ask her how often she gets checks.

“Not often. Maybe two or three a month.”

She scans the case, tells me the total. I hand her a couple bills. “Oh, I might have change.”

She waits as I search for coins.

Only later did it occur to me how I slowed down the line nearly as much as the check woman.

It was about 17 years ago, almost to the day, that Husband and I switched to using cash for almost all of our daily transactions. We had recently moved to Phoenix, a local radio station played the Dave Ramsey show — maybe you’ve heard of it? — we decided to give his envelope system a try and was surprised how well it worked for us. We’ve been doing it ever since.

allef-vinicius-468838

However — lest you fear this is turning into a Dave Ramsey infomercial — I’m not saying it’s for everyone or even that it’s the smartest way to handle your money. I’ve heard many with different opinions.

Ryan, my cashier at Target, said he never uses cash. Not even for a candy bar. He said this after I declined his offer for a Target Red Card (5% off all purchases!).

“I never have to worry about cash getting stolen, ya know?” he said, as he took my money. “If you don’t carry it, they can’t take it.”

I could have pointed out that if someone takes my cash, they only have my cash. If someone takes his credit or debit card, theoretically, they could empty his account or at least make his life hellish for a little while.

Even so, Ryan the Target Cashier is not the only advocate for a cash-free society. There are many saying we’re headed there, it’s only a matter of time. Some countries, most notably Sweden, are nearly cashless now. Safety is the biggest advantage cited, as well as convenience and, yes, speed. But not everyone is convinced it’s the way to go, and since Americans do love their privacy, it’s unlikely I’ll have to switch to digital currency terribly soon.

Though there is that Bitcoin thing. (Does anyone understand how that works? Truly?)

The thing is, I like cash. I like putting all the bills in my wallet, in order, heads up of course. I like adding up purchases in my head as I’m shopping and taking a guess at the total before the clerk hits the button — I love it when I’m super close, like within a few cents, and am already handing the amount to the cashier.

Oh, the power of Math.

Even so, I will say that while using cash has been instrumental in helping us stick to a budget, for increasing our savings nothing has worked better than depositing everything into a savings account first, and moving only what we need for monthly expenses into a checking account. Also, money is moved automatically into a long-term savings account. All deposits and transfers done electronically, most without us doing a thing. Works like a charm.

So I understand people’s love of digital transactions. I expect they might feel a little less tied to their money, maybe a little more secure with their purchases. And if Ryan the Target Cashier thinks he does a fine job staying on budget, who am I to say otherwise? Nevertheless, for groceries and what-have-you, I’m sticking to cash only, please.

I will say this however: From here on out, I’ll knock it off with making exact change. That is my pledge to you, impatient Costco customer behind me.

Photo of billfold by Allef Vinicius on Unsplash
Featured photo my own (Yes, that’s my money)
(No, you can’t have it)

Thoughts from a Noble Woman: On Clothing and Fashion Mishaps

We have an interesting development in our mysterious M.A.’s diary (first discussed here): it looks like she gave considerable thought into how she presented herself, clothing-wise.

How many philosophers can you name spent time thinking of such things?

Yeah, same here.

And yet, it can be argued, it is hardly a trivial pursuit. How you dress makes a difference in how people see you, and perhaps in how you perform.

But as M.A. points out, there is a dark side to taking such matters seriously, that being, feeling yourself superior as a result.

And personally? I love how she struggles with it!

Just see for yourself:

MA 2

Do not think that because you choose your attire with care that you are somehow better than she who does not.
Such as the woman you saw at the store this morning.
What was she thinking? For goodness sake, what would her mother say?
What would my mother say?
No! Stop it!
All women are your sisters – remember this. No matter how they are dressed, they are your equals.
Do not judge them because their slip is showing; you’ve been there too.
Never laugh at their fashion choices; you’ve taken questionable paths as well.
However scandalous the hemlines – oh dear, they are scandalous…
No! Don’t think it! Instead, repeat to yourself:

Clothing is not Morality
Clothing is not Intelligence
Clothing is not Kindness

And if in finding a woman who thinks as you do, who shares your fashion sense, if together you show contempt for a younger woman’s clothing, what does that accomplish except cause division among your sex? Will it cause the younger woman to change her attire? Of course not! She will see you and your friend as obnoxious prudes. For that is what you are.
So stop it!
Nay, keep your thoughts to yourself. Instead, let your own mode of dress speak for you and be kind.
In all things, be kind.

From M.A.’s Recipe Drawer

All Dressed Up with No Place to Go Egg Salad

  • Servings: 6
  • Difficulty: easy breezy
  • Print

An egg salad elegant enough for company, whether elegantly attired or not.

Egg salad with smoked salmon

Ingredients

  • 6 hard boiled eggs, chopped
  • 4 ounces smoked salmon, finely chopped
  • 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/2 Tablespoon finely snipped, fresh dill
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Mayonnaise

Directions

Mix first ingredients together in a medium sized bowl, add enough mayonnaise to bind together.

Use as a sandwich filling or to serve with crackers.
Another option: Make deviled eggs! Slice hardboiled eggs in half and remove yolks, chop and mix with other ingredients. Spoon a generous mound of salmon-yolk filling into each egg half. Place a bit of dill or chives on each for serving.

That’s Art?! And Why That’s a Stupid Thing to Say

I planned on giving you a tour of the museums we visited while in New York, but then I got distracted by this news story in the Daily Mail:

“A student who left a pineapple in the middle of an art exhibition as a prank was left shocked after curators put the fruit inside a glass case.”

Screen Shot 2017-05-09 at 8.18.13 PM

Funny, right?

About a year ago, Twitter lit up with an account of a teenage boy who left his dirty sneakers in an art museum and watched as patrons took pictures of them.

That was funny too.

But there are a few things I want to point out:

Continue reading “That’s Art?! And Why That’s a Stupid Thing to Say”

FYI: Technology and Snot Don’t Mix

The following is a true account of what happens when snot meets technology. Despite our most incredible advances, it is crucial for technology to remain snot-free.

Consider this a Public Service Announcement…

Continue reading “FYI: Technology and Snot Don’t Mix”

In Which I Question the Motives of a Blogger Who Recently Followed Me and Politely Suggest He Stop Using Super Long Blog Post Titles

writingDear Blogger Who Recently Followed Me,

Please accept my heartiest welcome to our Feeding on Folly neighborhood!

Take a seat anywhere you like… well, not there… that’s where Brian of Bonnywood always sits… no, not that one either, that’s Patricia’s spot. She needs the side table for her tea…

Oh, geez, just take the one next to the sofa, will ya?

Okay, feeling settled in now? Good.

You can’t imagine my surprise last Saturday morning when I learned you were following FoF. Not that it’s unusual having new followers, but normally there’s a process involved. Such as they read a few posts, like one or two of them, then decide to follow.

You, on the hand, first followed, then liked 17 posts in a row! My goodness!

What’s more, you’re obviously a speed reader, as all 17 of those likes were accomplished in only one minute. Most impressive!

But then I went to my stats page and saw this: Continue reading “In Which I Question the Motives of a Blogger Who Recently Followed Me and Politely Suggest He Stop Using Super Long Blog Post Titles”

IT Support: I Bow Before You

White dog next to person with laptopSo I’ve been doing some cleaning around the ol’ blog – not sure if you noticed? New theme, upgraded account, no ads (you’re welcome), clearing out some dead links. Just kind of sprucing things up a bit.

Not to brag – well, maybe I’m bragging a little – but I  wasn’t at all worried about making these said changes. It’s not that I’m a computer whiz, exactly.

Oh heck, let’s be honest: I’m more whizzy than your average suburban housewife.

All this is to say that on my second day of working on the blog, the new theme and upgraded no-ad account in place, I started my first post of the new year and wound up with a problem I couldn’t fix.

And I wound up calling support. *sob*

Here’s what happened…  Continue reading “IT Support: I Bow Before You”

Do You Keep Christmas Well?

charles_dickens-a_christmas_carol-cloth-first_edition_1843I reread A Christmas Carol recently, because it’s a thing I do every year and it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t.

(Not to be pushy, but if you’ve never read it, DO SO NOW! Here’s an online version if you don’t own a copy. I recommend you read it slowly, to get all of that great Dickens’ humor.)

Anyway, yesterday as I was listening to the radio, I heard the DJ call his brother a Scrooge because he was complaining about the nonstop Christmas music. The DJ was wrong on two counts: Continue reading “Do You Keep Christmas Well?”