When the Old Way Is Better

Every once in a while, I’m struck by how an old or older “technology” really is better than something newer and allegedly better.

Take, for example, a cast iron fry pan.

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Old, new, can’t tell with one of these.

I never owned one until very recently. Why? Well, because this new Teflon non-stick coating was so much better. Granted, I have to throw out a non-stick pan the moment the coating started to get scratched as its toxic to ingest, but it was still so much better, right?

Except, maybe it’s not.

I was feeling wasteful at having to toss out pans if the coating got scratched. I was also feeling a bit nervous about cooking on a toxic surface, so I tried the next greatest new thing. The ceramic pan. Except, that scratches, too. And yes, I use only plastic utensils on the pans, which, I’m not entirely sure if that’s  great choice either, as plastic does bad things at higher temps.

So, I was hanging out watching Netflix when an old cooking show came on and the host was talking about how amazing cast iron is. I ignored it, but the thought was percolating back there for some time. So, when I was looking at having to toss yet another scratched pan, I decided to try the cast iron.

Holy wow, this really is a weapon. And here, I thought Disney was just teasing with Rapunzel using it as a weapon. They weren’t. The basic cast iron 12 inch skillet I bought weighs over seventeen pounds. It was approximate seventeen dollars, which makes me wonder if these are sold by the pound. But I digress.

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Yes, these really can be used as a weapon.

There are some pros and also some cons to our new pan.

Pros

  1. This sucker is going to last a lifetime with proper care
  2. It does an amazing job browning food.
  3. It goes directly from stove top into the oven. This means no extra pans to clean when you need to say, brown steaks, then finish them in the oven.
  4. It cooks faster than other pans. I add this as a pro because it will be in the long run. Right now, I have to relearn all my cook times for things.
  5. It’s cast iron. Nothing toxic getting into my food.
  6. I don’t think you can scratch it. Time will tell on this.
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I always feel like this.

Cons

  1. Clean-up. You can’t pop this into the dishwasher. After it cools, you have to scrape all the particulate off of it, wash it, then completely dry it. Once that’s done, you have to rub a bit of cooking oil over it to protect it. Yeah, kind of a pain.
  2. It’s heavy. As in, two handed heavy when popping it into the stove. Not a con in and of itself, except for the fact that…
  3. It’s hot. There is nowhere on the pan you can touch without your oven mitts. Mine are silicon because this is one thing new technology has over the old: no spots on my silicone gloves where I can still get burned even while wearing them. It’s also easy to wash off anything that I might’ve spilled on them

 

For the moment, the pros are outweighing the cons. I’ll see if I’m still using it in a year.

How about you? Have you ever cooked with cast iron? Do you like it? What are your thoughts on non-stick pans? Any other kids of pans you can recommend?

When Hollywood Gets It Wrong

I recently read this post by Eric Goebelbecker, and he links to an article where Hollywood attacks the movie rating site Rotten Tomatoes.

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Too much truth here.

If you aren’t familiar with it, Rotten Tomatoes is an online site where they aggregate critic reviews and give a total rank. The NY Times article above goes into more detail as to how they choose who is and isn’t included in the reviews they aggregate, but it sounds to me like Rotten Tomatoes does a pretty good job. Especially as they try to include a more diverse group of reviews that the traditional middle-aged white male perspective.

Still, the whole things does reinforces the term “la la land” for Hollywood.

Because, rather than them taking a hard look at the movies they’re making and asking themselves why they’re flops, they’re blaming a rating agency for giving those who go to their site the truth as a wider array of critics, and eventually viewers themselves, sees it.

And this is what people want.

Rotten Tomatoes gets more than 13 million unique visitors every day.

If Hollywood were honest with themselves, they’d take a hard look at the competition. And I don’t mean just other movies.

They are competing with so many other forms of entertainment that they really have to bring their top game.

 

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Too much truth here, too.

Let’s face it, our choices are more expansive that ever:

  • Reading books
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Snapchat
  • Instagram
  • Video Games – whether phone, console or PC
  • On Demand TV – Netflix, Amazon, Hulu etc.
  • Whatever the heck it is millennials do on their phones

Many of these forms of entertainment are “free”. Once I pay for my Netflix subscription, I can watch what I want when I wish.

For my husband and I to go to the movies to see a single movie costs more than my monthly Netflix subscription. Add to that the cost of a babysitter, and the fact if I wait a few months, I can rent it or buy it for less than the cost of going to the theater, and we just don’t go. Especially as home theater systems and big screen TVs have become a whole lot more affordable.

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Way too much truth.

And while Hollywood is bemoaning their “plight” with Rotten Tomatoes, HBO was laughing all the way to the bank as they cashed in on Game of Thrones.

So yes, people are watching “TV”, although the seventy-plus minute final episode of season 7 bordered on movie-length.

Yet, people were lining up to watch it. Waiting in eager anticipation. Talking about it all week before and after the episode. Building enough anticipation that the show has only gotten more popular, despite the gap of a year or more between seasons.

Yes, Game of Thrones has Drogon, and that’s hard to beat.

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But there’s a lot more to the show than Drogon. There’s a list of characters pages long that viewers have come to care about. Come to love. That we tune in to see what happens to them even they aren’t fire-breathing reptiles.

And yes, HBO spent a lot of money of those special effects. But it wasn’t all about special effects. How many of us were right there with Tyrion as he cursed Jamie for being an idiot as he charges Dany?

Perhaps if Hollywood could distill that and give it to us, they could make movies we want to see.

All in, I hope places like Rotten Tomatoes stick around. They give us what we want. If Hollywood would do the same, they wouldn’t have such an issue.

 

How about you? Do you go to movies? Ever used Rotten Tomatoes guides?

 

 

Taking Time to Unplug

It’s Sunday night, and the family is getting ready to go back to our work schedule. I’m trying to get dinner ready while sneaking in a few more words, and DH and DD1 are trying to enjoy a game together.

Enter DD2.

She is angry and upset, crying for no apparent reason. We’re all testy with her. She cries harder.

One of our cats has had made a mess, and DH is irritated as he gets the vacuum to clean it up. Terror sparks in DD2’s eyes as she sees the dreaded vacuum. I put my iPad away, gather her up, and carry her to our bedroom.

Her tears instantly dry up as we lay on the bed together and play silly games of counting her toes, getting tickled (we took turns tickling each other), and just laying together with her head on my shoulder.

Her laughter and giggles made my night.

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Or trying to understand and bond with a toddler?

Holding that in my heart, I cuddled with DD1 before work Monday morning. She is getting so big, but she still likes snuggles. For now. We talked a little, but she mostly just wanted to be held.

I’m starting to feel like the whole family is too busy, but not busy with the right things. Time goes by so fast now. I was looking at pictures of DD1 when she was just a few days old. Hard to believe that was almost six years ago. It seems like only last year we were bringing her home and learning what it was really like to have an infant in the house.

I need to slow down. Make connections. Build a relationship with my girls, and strengthen the one I have with DH.

Writing is a part of the equation. I really shouldn’t have been trying to sneak in words. But there’s more to it. I feel like my family has all become too reliant on technology for entertainment. We need to unplug.

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Not this bad. Yet.

Bored? We turn on Netflix or Amazon, and we don’t even have to sit through commercials. Open the iPad or Kindle. Pull out your phone. A lot of this isn’t deeply entertaining, but the companies know how to lure us how. How to grab our attention and keep it. How many times has boredom had me checking my phone for a quick fix rather than getting up and actually doing something meaningful?

I got so consumed with these distractions that I got annoyed with my beautiful and amazing toddler rather than giving her the love and attention she both wants and needs.

A part of me wants to give away all of the electronics, but that’s just not reasonable.

Still, I need to find a way to unplug and disconnect more, help my family unplug more, so that we can really connect. So that we spend more time counting toes and less time staring at screens. I just don’t know how.

 

How about you? Ever tried to unplug? What did you do? How did it work? Ever try to unplug your whole family? What did you do? How did it work?

One-Way Love Affair

I have a one-way love affair with Amazon, and this worries me a little. Okay, maybe a lot.

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It started out small back in “the old days”. Amazon sold mostly books, and when I wanted an author’s back list and couldn’t get it at Barnes and Noble, this is where I’d go.

Then, they started selling more stuff. I was skeptical at first, but the free shipping for a $25 purchase at the time really helped me get over my skepticism. I was working full time, newly married, and going to grad school at night. Time was a premium.

Best thing was Amazon’s prices at the time weren’t any higher for the things I was buying at brick and mortar stores. Sometimes, they were even a lot lower.

Another few years rolled past, and we were expecting our first child. I’d been buying a lot from Amazon at that point, but they hadn’t lured me into their Prime club yet. I actually thought it was pretty ridiculous to give $89 a year to get stuff a few days sooner.

But, they knew exactly how to get me.

They gave a free one year subscription to Prime to all new moms who enrolled in their mom’s reward club (the club has since been discontinued). Along with the Prime membership came a sizable discount on diapers and wipes, things I was about to need a lot of, and they promised to deliver in two days. I figured it was free, so I had nothing to lose.

Yeah, they had me after the first few months.

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Like there’s any better transformer to be!

More years later, and I’m still a Prime member. A paying Prime member. Not only that, but we now get monthly Amazon shipments. We tune in to their Prime streaming service, and our kids have loved several Amazon-created children’s shows. Once Netflix lost Sesame Street, we turned to Prime.

I even got my kids a Kindle and was super impressed with the yearly subscription that lets them play a slew of the most popular kids apps, and with the subscription, all the in-app purchases are included. Want another life? Click the button, no fee required.

Amazon was luring me deeper and deeper into the Amazon morass.

Then, this year at Christmas, I was shocked at the deals Amazon was running on popular kid toys. They were running 20-40% toys that my kids wanted. Even if other stores had the items on sale, most of the toys were still cheaper at Amazon.

I look at all of the plastic stuff invading my house, and a lot of it came from Amazon.

I do my Christmas shopping early, so the two day shipping was nice but not necessary. Then Amazon started running specials where if you were willing to wait five days to get your packages, they’d give you $2 or more towards a digital purchase. Hello more Kindle books!

Now I’ve been reading about the struggles of so many bricks and mortar stores to stay open.

I squirmed a little.

That’s somewhat my fault, right? I would way rather pop onto Amazon and have something magically appear at my door two days (sometimes in less than twenty-four hours) later than actually drive to the store, wade through the merchandise, hopefully find what I want, then wait in line to pay for it. About the only thing we get at the store anymore is toilet paper and paper towels because Amazon can’t touch Target’s pricing.

Yet.

My first thought was that Amazon was servicing a time-strapped American population. Sure, a lot their products don’t go on sale like they do at Target, Aldi’s, or wherever you shop, but I don’t usually bother with sales. Sounds stupid, I know, but if I need paper towels, I’m not driving 20 minutes out of my way to get them a dollar cheaper. My lack of frugality on this drives my poor mother insane, but I’m willing to pay $1 to keep 40 minutes of my time.

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Or a good idea to drive two towns over to buy it.

 

I am careful on Amazon lately as there have been instances where Amazon (no, not a third party seller, but Amazon), is quite a bit more expensive than other stores. Last year, when DD1 wanted a pony castle for her birthday, Amazon was $20 more expensive than Target or Toys R Us. Yeah, $20. They came in line a few weeks later, but I’d already bought it from Target by then.

Once you start talking third party sellers, all bets are off. Might as well be eBay.

So, I always check an Amazon purchase with other stores’ online offerings.

But what happens if those stores go out of business? Does that mean Amazon can get away with charging me $20 more than I would’ve paid at Target or Toys R Us?

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I don’t know.

But it worries me.

I’d love to say anti-trust laws would come into play to prevent a monopoly like that, but I have no faith or trust in our government to enforce such rulings. Especially not recently.

Will this concern change my behavior? Yes. I have been regularly checking Target.com for things and ordering if I can wait the few extra days for them to arrive. I love Amazon, but I’m not sure I’m ready to pay the price of assimilation just yet.

 

How about you? Have you been lured into the Amazon morass? Are you a Prime member? Are you worried about them becoming a monopoly and crushing their competition to the point they can charge us whatever they wish?

Rise of Consumerism

In this post,  I discussed some of the key things that Americans spend their money on. A couple of readers brought up the concept of consumerism and how it’s made some people with a good income still live on the edge.

This resonated with me as I actually know some of these people. They have solid middle class earnings, yet, they still live paycheck to paycheck. The three categories I talked about before definitely come into play here. Buying more house than you can afford. Having new cars all the time. Eating out a lot.

This was definitely true for one person I knew who’d bought a massive four bedroom home, then his wife quit working when their first child was born. Suddenly, making the mortgage was really hard.

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I decided to do some investigating. Things usually happen for a reason, and I discovered that while the the drive to overspend is huge, it wasn’t always. Consumerism came into play at the same time the cosmetics industry has. I believe for the same reasons.

The rise in consumerism, whether buying a bigger house, new car, or just having stuff is a manufactured need. And it was manufactured on purpose. Consumerism has risen along with advertising and the ability for advertisers to reach large sections of the population. Advertising makes us want things. That’s what it’s designed to do, and it’s no coincidence that consumerism has grown along with increasingly sophisticated ads that target humans’ deepest needs.

 

A little history.

After WWI, corporations were making more stuff than people needed. Paul Mazur of Lehman Brothers (yes, that Lehman Brothers) wrote, “We must shift America from a needs, to a desires culture. People must be trained to desire, to want new things even before the old had been entirely consumed. We must shape a new mentality in America. Man’s desires must overshadow his needs.”

Rather than rejecting this premise, the US government openly supported it.

Advertising was key, and Mazur knew this, so he recruited Edward Bernays, the nephew of Sigmund Freud. Bernays began to figure out how to make people want things they didn’t need by linking mass-produced goods to unconscious desires.

  •  He was the first to work with car companies on selling cars as a symbol of masculine sexuality than as a means of getting from point A to point B.
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Seems to work to this day.
  • He helped break the taboo of women smoking so cigarettes companies could sell cigarettes to women. He persuaded a group of debutantes to smoke in public at a parade. He then told the media ahead of time that this was happening, and called the cigarettes “Torches Of Freedom” and linked women smoking with challenging male authority.
  • He pioneered product placement and celebrity endorsements

 

Bernays would continue his work, with future generations further refining their understanding of human desire and preying on/satisfying it. Presidents starting with Herbert Hoover embraced consumerism, and after WWII, the National Association of Manufacturers and other groups launched PR campaigns that linked consumerism with capitalism and glorified both.

Advertising got increasingly sophisticated, and with the advent of social media, people were no longer comparing themselves to the Joneses. They were now comparing themselves to the Kardashians.

It’s been a win all around for businesses, and in some ways, for the consumer as we’ve never had such choice.

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And, companies have had to cater to consumer demand and preferences, pushing froward innovation on computers, social media, and even cars. Remember when there weren’t SUVs or crossovers? Or the focus American car companies have had to put on quality or lose their consumers to Japanese companies.

 

Where Does It Leave Us

Does this mean consumerism is the new normal? That there is no escape from it?

I’m going to argue “no”.

For all the bad rap Millennials regularly get, they are driving some industries to worry. They are more focused on experiences than stuff, and this has the diamond industry very concerned. A Millennial is more likely to skimp on the ring and splash out on a huge honeymoon. They want memories, or as some cynics might say, lots of stuff to post on social media.

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Still, millennials are harder for advertisers to reach, and advertisers are fighting to find ways to get to them.

This inability to reach people is part of the reason why advertisers are terrified of “cord cutting” and consumers moving to Netflix or Amazon Prime for their viewing needs. Why? Because they can’t easily reach large numbers people. They can’t influence us to want their product by making us think it makes us sexier, more worthy of love, of whatever other needs they’re now trying to appeal to.

Advertisers are scrambling to find other ways to reach us. Many of us don’t want to be reached. Amazing how many people pay for an ad-blocking service.

In the advent of the internet, it also makes it more difficult for advertisers as there is no longer a mass market. The internet makes it much easier for niche markets to take hold, and for very personalized preferences to be met.

 

My Experience

I can say I’ve seen a significant change in my home when we “cut the cord” (got rid of all cable and even regular TV) in 2009. It was the Great Recession, and we had to trim expenses. Cable was an easy one for us. (So was our gym membership, but that’s another story!).

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We’ve never looked back. After seven years of being close to commercial free, you find yourself a little outside the “cutting edge” of pop culture, but we’ve learned to accept that, too. And if there’s a show you really want to watch, you can usually purchase the individual episodes or find them for free a few days later.

When we’ve gone to a friend’s house and they happened to have a football game on, we were astounded at how many commercials there were.

Afterward, we looked at the average kids’ show our daughters watch. They range between 20 and 22 minutes for a 30 minute time slot. That means a full 1/3 of a child’s show is advertising!

There’s a reason our kids’ Christmas lists are small (other than them being a little spoiled), and why we can walk down the cereal aisle and walk out with only Cheerios and no tears.

 

 

What do you think? Do you see the side-effects of consumerism? Maybe you’ve experienced them? Know someone who has? Do you think advertisers create desire? Do you think they’re part of consumerism?

The "Talk"

This is my daughter’s first year in public school. As part of their curriculum, they learn about Hanukkah and Kwanzaa as well as Christmas. So, I wasn’t entirely surprised when my daughter came home and told me she wanted to celebrate Hanukkah. I figured all the days of gifts would appeal to her, even though there is only one thing on her Christmas list. (One of the benefits of having Netflix and Amazon Prime rather than cable TV!)

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I explained to her that we aren’t Jewish, so we don’t celebrate Hanukkah. She’d have to wait for Christmas.

Then came the question. “What’s Jewish?”

I should’ve seen it coming, but I walked right into that trap.

I find myself trying to explain religion to a five-year-old, knowing she’s going to repeat everything back to her class and really not wanting a parent-teacher conference if it doesn’t come out of her mouth the same way it went into her ears.

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As I stumbled through, my husband came to my rescue and asked our daughter if she’d like to watch an episode of My Little Ponies before dinner. As she usually only gets TV after supper, she jumped at the chance and raced into the other room to watch Ponies.

He never said I owed him one, but I totally do. Just like he was the one that explained to her when our cat died. She wasn’t yet three, but he sat her down and explained that our kitty had gotten very sick and his body stopped working. He wouldn’t ever be coming home because he’d died.

There it was. Simple as that, and she accepted it. Sort of. She would repeat his words at what seemed like random times to me, but it helped her get through it. And she never asked to see him or for him to come home.

While he saved me on this conversation, my husband did remind me that we have daughters. There’d be another “talk” they’d need to get, and that was coming from me. Not sure that’s a fair trade…

 

 

Ever Just Stop?

Have you ever been reading a book, watching a movie, or checking out the latest TV craze on Netflix and you just turn it off and walk away?

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I have to confess, I just did this to a book recently. After a long spell of reading Regency Romance novels, I just couldn’t take another tired trope. There’s nothing wrong with the book per se, it’s just me.

The hero is a classist jerk who hates the poor. Until, of course, he meets the heroine. Lust has him changing his mind. No idea how he could actually fall in love with her in a day. But their “love” is thwarted by the gang she ran with before it was discovered she’s got an “in” with this earl. *eye roll*

I have no idea why this gang would risk an earl’s wrath over an expendable member, especially as it’s been established the gang leader has beaten members to death and has no use for females anyway.

But, whatever. The gang leader and some of his ruffians break into a duke’s ball, threaten the heroine, and smack her around to the point she has obvious bruises. *eye roll* No one notices? In the duke’s estate, in a posh part of London crawling with guests and footmen? Really?

If he’s this “sneaky,” why not rob the duke’s place rather than try to make her help him go after the earl?

The hero agrees to help her pull off some convoluted plot to take out said gang leader rather than just:

  1. Hire someone to do it. Or
  2. Retire out to his massive country estate that no poor Londoner, gang leader or not, could ever hope to reach. Much less reach without everyone in the tri-county area knowing about it.

I put the book down two weeks ago and still haven’t picked it back up. Maybe I will and skim my way to the end. Maybe I won’t.

This is new ground for me as usually I finish books no matter how horrible they are.

Funny thing on this is that there isn’t anything really wrong with the book. It’s your typical Regency fare. No better, no worse than most.

TV shows are a different thing. I’ve stopped watching almost every show I’ve ever followed before the show was done. But then American studios are known for making shows long after they should’ve ended them.

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I write Romance, but perhaps I need to change genres and read something else for a while. I like fantasy when I can find it with engaging female characters. Same with Space Opera. It’s just hard because I have so few authors I trust. You know, authors that are going to give me the happy ending I want.

And I don’t like scary stories.

I may be weird, but when it comes to violence I prefer PG over the standard R fare. When it comes to consensual steamy scenes, I’m a whole lot less reserved.  I wish I could take more scary things, but I can’t. And that’s unlikely to change.

 

How about you? Ever just walk away from a book, movie, or show? Why or why not?