Monday, March 24, 2008


Set-up: What do you get when you hire marketers straight out of law school?

Punchline: The following tagline seen today on a bottle of antibacterial hand soap:
Kills 99.9% of most of the germs that may make you sick.

Think about it for a second.

Here's what the tagline really means: "We are almost (but not quite) certain that the germs this soap manages to kill almost all of will outnumber the germs it has no effect on whatsoever, though the germs it does kill may or may not be the ones you were worried about in the first place."


Saturday, March 22, 2008

Recommended Usage Level: Moderate (3-5 hours daily)

I bought a new chair today. For some of you that will come as a terrible but not unwelcome shock; the rest of you will have no idea what the big deal is. To the latter, let me explain what distinguishes you from the former: you have never at any point in your life found yourself clinging for dear life to the desk in my apartment while trying to figure out how to disentangle yourself in a dignified manner from a chair that was apparently strongly disinclined to be sat upon. To the former, let me offer you this comfort, such as it is: you weren't the only one it happened to.

For myself, I would just like to say that it wasn't entirely my fault. The three wheels broke entirely of their own accord (one completely off, two only partially), and I am so used to it by now that I completely forget to warn guests. The fact that the chair broke in June, 2005 is completely irrelevant. I tried twice in those two and a half years to replace the chair, and I blame OfficeMax, Office Depot and Target for my failure to find a suitable replacement.

Today, however, I drove past the new Office Depot by my apartment, saw that they had finally opened for business, and decided to give them one last chance. As I looked at each of the chairs I noticed that each of them had in their attached list of features a line for "Recommended Usage Level." The majority were marked "Moderate (3-5 hours daily)", and all of the chairs over $500 were marked "Intensive (6+ hours daily)". Thinking that surely the rating couldn't be based on price alone, but on some determination of ergonomic comfort, I became increasingly curious to see what sort of chair would rate below "Moderate." I understood when finally I found it, the lone example, a poor pathetic thing diplomatically rated "Casual (0-3 hours daily)". I did not actually sit in it (a usage level that apparently falls within the manufacturer's recommended range), but I will describe it for you: it was copper. Half copper vinyl, half glittery copper-colored nylon mesh, with copper-colored metal accents and supports. I tried not to stare.

Much like shopping for baby toys, it didn't take me long after that to narrow down the set of chairs to the two (both rated "Moderate") that had any hope at all of being purchased, and I knew I had a winner when I sat in the second and apparently sat for so long without realizing it that a salesperson came and offered his help. I am pleased to say that twice tonight I have sat in this chair without unconsciously searching with my foot to rotate the missing wheel to the front. I definitely should have thought of this sooner.


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Confessions of the Lame Uncle

Barely more than six months, and already I have made myself a liar. I have already broken the commitment I set forth in this previous post: I bought an electronic toy that says "I love you." Can I consider it a mitigating factor that I at least bought the abomination for someone else's child, not my own? Or is that worse? Please, put away the millstones; I'll try not to let it happen again. That's what I get for not playing with the toy enough in the store.

Here comes the "Lame Uncle" part: I buy educational toys as gifts. Worse, I have an established methodology for doing so. I go to the toy section and find the educational toys; the ones that teach the most stuff (no, I'm not kidding) get a 5 second auditon. If I can turn on the toy and listen to it for more than 5 seconds without experiencing feelings of emptiness and despair or a desire to flee or wash my hands repeatedly, the toy goes on the "Toys I Might Consider Buying for a Child of Someone I Like" list. That's usually a pretty short list; in case I ever end up with two items on that list, I'm sure eenie-meenie-minie-moe will suffice. (Thus my as yet not entirely proven Forest's First Law of Inanimate Objects: "No two electronic baby toys are not abominations.")

What helps out a lot however, is that apparently education is such a big thing now that nearly every toy attempts to market itself as educational and has a list on its package of things it can teach your child. Some of my favorite examples of toys that just plain try too hard to be educational (the names of the brands and toys have been indecipherably altered to protect innocent children from receiving these toys as gifts):
  • The Tadpole Laugh'n'Learn Electronic Telephone: it teaches your child letters, numbers and "Wacky Sounds". (Really, what child do you know of who needs to be taught to make or recognize wacky sounds?)

  • The Tiny Tots Farmer Brown Farm Set: it teaches your child "Imagination". (I actually have nothing against molded plastic livestock as long as Bessie isn't programmed to express undying affection for me, but a plain brown cardboard box rates higher in the "Teaches Imagination" category. Cue the "When I was young, all we had were rocks with the word 'cow' written on them in chalk..." speech.)

  • The B-Tech Abomination Puppy: this plush atrocity teaches your child "friendship by asking for hugs and expressing affection". And it says "I love you."
I think I now know what I'm getting my nephew this year: a rock, a piece of chalk, a cardboard box, a raspberry, and "I love you."

On a side note, here is proof, taken from a letter accompanying an application to be a Student Athletic Trainer, that two wrongs do make a right (almost):
"To be apart of the ______ High School Athletic Program is to be apart of something greater!"