“Daddy, what were Kindles?”

by Joey deVilla on April 12, 2016

daddy what were kindles

This photo was floating around the internet back in January, and I assume the sign in the photo was for a small independent book store. I think that there will always be a place for paper-bound books, but for more ephemeral works, especially things like rapidly-outdated technical manuals, I’m grateful for the electronic versions.


Dating, then and now

by Joey deVilla on April 11, 2016

dating then and now

Geez, Dad, way to ruin the family dinner mood.

Comic panel taken from Deadpool, issue 45.


popping bubble wrap

Back in my university days, I once freaked out some scientifically illiterate hippie friends by telling them that bubble wrap was a way for the military-industrial complex to cheaply dispose of nerve gas from the Gulf War (this was the early ’90s, so I was referring to the first one). “It’s diluted, but it’s still poisoned enough that each pop of a bubble takes away a second of your life,” I’d say, and then I’d start popping bubbles. Hilarity ensued.

The prank worked because it had the right elements: it fed into my friends’ science illiteracy, fit into their world view and conspiracy theories, and I started popping those bubbles well before they had any time to think a little more critically about what I’d just said.

boarded burger king

A similar but harmful prank was played on a Burger King in Coon Rapids, Minnesota to more costly effect. They received a call from someone claiming to be the local fire department, telling them that a gas leak had “pressurized” the restaurant and the only way to prevent the explosion was to release the gas by smashing all the windows in the restaurant.

The manager, who’d been made “frantic” by the call (that’s the word used by the police), evacuated the restaurant and followed the instructions given to him, as the video below shows:

What helped make the con work was the supposed urgency of the situation. It didn’t give the manager time to think things through and come up with questions like:

  • Why didn’t the fire department just tell them to evacuate the building?
  • Do emergency services ever tell you to take some kind of drastic action instead of doing it themselves?
  • Wouldn’t the act of simply opening the doors release the gas?

What also helped is the nature of the job. At fast food places, it’s drilled into you that you’re not paid to think, but to follow procedures and orders.

If you think this kind of prank will work only once, think again. It happened previously at Shawnee, Oklahoma

…as well as Morro Bay, California, where an overzealous manager drove a car into the drive-thru window in order to release the “dangerous gas”:


Jedi training sucks

by Joey deVilla on April 11, 2016

daisy ridley carrying mark hamill

Photo from Mark Hamill’s Instagram. Click to see the source.

“I’m sure Master Yoda was a lot easier to piggyback than you are, Master Luke.”


Florida of the day: “Diabetes here I come”

by Joey deVilla on April 11, 2016

diabetes here i come

You don’t have to be the Governor of Florida to have an uncomfortable Starbucks moment, as an unidentified customer in St. Augustine discovered. He ordered a grande white chocolate mocha as part of a larger office order, which was picked up by a co-worker. In the space where Starbucks employees add the (often misspelled) name of the person who ordered the drink or some kind message was the line “Diabetes here I come”. The cup in question is pictured above.

Considering how many times Starbucks baristas mangle common names, I’m sort of impressed that this one spelled “diabetes” correctly.

In an interview with Action News Jax, who kept his identity secret, the customer said that “That first word just automatically brought the picture of both sisters in my head, and I was taken aback. Just the struggles they went through and all the doctor appointments they had.”

The customer sent the cup back with this message:

not funny

I’ll admit that I would’ve laughed had I received such a message on my cup, and my dad died from diabetes-related complications. Mind you, that was ten years ago; I can’t say with certainty that I would’ve laughed had it been ten days ago. My guess is that I would have, but I’m just “armchair quarterbacking” at this point.

In case you were wondering, here’s the nutritional information on a grande white chocolate mocha:

white chocolate mocha nutritional info

It has 58 grams of sugar, which is 4 grams more sugar than in two Snickers bars. Without the whipped cream, it has 400 calories; with the whipped cream, that number gets boosted to 470. It is, as Cookie Monster would put it, a “sometime food”.

happy customer

That being said, the Starbucks employee behind the message, if s/he’s still with the company, should follow the same customer service policy as the one observed at “adult stores” everywhere: help the customer, and don’t judge. Whether it’s drinks or dildos, it doesn’t matter if the customer likes them big, brown, and over-accessorized — just make the sale and keep your comments to yourself.

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rick scott - vengeance is mine

Yup, that’s an actual, undoctored photo of Florida Governor Rick Scott.

On Tuesday, April 5th, Florida Governor Rick Scott stepped into a Starbucks in Gainesville, where he ran into unhappy constituent Cara Jennings. She launched into a tirade against the governor, which including calling him “an asshole” and “an embarrassment to our state”, which was captured by a quick-witted Starbucks patron (who, for bonus points, also shot the video in the proper horizontal format) who posted it onto YouTube where it went viral. At the time of this writing, it has over 2.1 million views. It’s the first of the two clips in my video below:

Scott left the Starbucks in a hurry without getting the coffee he came for. His response came on Friday on his official YouTube channel in the form of an attack ad against Ms. Jennings. It’s the second clip in the video above, and it’s the first time I can recall where a government official has made an attack ad against a private citizen.

Politifact’s analysis of Jennings’ rant

Politifact looked at the three big claims in the exchange in the first video; here’s what they wrote:

  • Cutting medicaid (Jennings): half true. Scott didn’t cut medicaid, but he refused to accept the provision of the Affordable Care Act (often called “Obamacare”) that would expand Medicaid to cover almost an additional million Floridians (according to the Kaiser Family Foundation). While Floridians who make 1 to 4 times the amount of money defined as the poverty level can get subsidies to buy private insurance, those who are worse off but not the worst off — these people make somewhere between 44% of the poverty level and just below the poverty level — can’t these subsidies. An estimated 567,000 people fall into this “coverage gap”.
  • Creating 1 million jobs (Scott): mostly true. Politifact reports that “between December 2010 and February 2016, total nonfarm employment in Florida rose by 1,041,400.” They’re also quick to point out that “It’s a stretch for the governor to claim credit for such gains. Governors can have an impact on their state’s economy, but there are other things they don’t control that can have impacts that are at least as big if not bigger, such as fluctuations in the national and world economy, population changes, and natural disasters.”
  • Women’s health cuts (Jennings): half true. Politifact: “Scott signed a law this year that cuts off state funding for any clinic that provides abortions, including Planned Parenthood… The cut targets abortion clinics, so it isn’t a cut for health care offices that don’t provide the procedure, such as county health departments. There is some truth to the statement, but it’s too soon to tell exactly how the law will curtail women’s access to publicly supported health care.”

The attack ad

calls herself an anarchist

An actual still from the attack ad.

It would’ve been fine for Scott to simply release an ad that simply countered Jennings’ assertions, but that’s not the way U.S. politics works anymore. There’s no longer any room for compromise or finding solutions that most people can live with; it’s a zero-sum game where the philosophy seems to be “I cannot truly win unless you lose as well”.

That seems to be the approach that Scott (and Let’s Get to Work, Scott’s political action committee, who sponsored the ad) are taking. In addition to citing offenses such as a refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance (horrors!) and calling herself an anarchist (the Republicans are about small government and anarchists are about no government; you’d think they’d have lots of common ground), the video ends by suggesting that the only people who in Florida who don’t have jobs are those who “sit around in coffee shops, demand public assistance, surf the internet and curse at customers”. Not everyone who’s at Starbucks in the middle of the day is loafing — I work out of a cafe once a week, and I’m a systems analyst; Jennings was there on her computer doing freelance work.

The points in the response video are fine. The ad hominem attacks that come with it are a petty, unnecessary addition to the video, and all it does is worsen an already toxic political climate.

Bonus reading material: How to respond to angry people on blogs, YouTube, and other social media

The U.S. Air Force has had a set of publicly-available rules of engagement for this sort of thing since 2008. It might be a good idea to emulate them, especially the part about tone: “Respond in a tone that reflects highly on the rich heritage of the Air Force”.


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T-shirt of the day

by Joey deVilla on April 8, 2016

mossack fonseca t-shirt

Photo by Violet Blue, found via Joi Ito.

Last week, Mossack Fonseca was a name unknown to most people who don’t need to squirrel money away in shell corporations. With the release of the Panama Papers, they’re now a household name, and not in the good way. Now you can buy the completely unauthorized T-shirt for $25 at RedBubble.