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Pure For Men Is Not a Scam, but It IS a Rip-off—Save Your Money!

If you have opened Grindr or spent much time looking at the gay press lately, you have probably seen some ads pop up for a new product called “Pure for Men”. It is a product that promises to “Keep your runway clear for landing” (a clever tag line—these guys are great at marketing—which is good, since the success of their product is mostly due to that marketing). Pure for Men is basically a bulking laxative that promises to make your bowel movements more easily and completely eliminated from your body, leaving your lower colon “clean”—and ready for bottoming. No more enemas or shower wands—several customers have said they just shower and they are good to go without any additional preparation.

Psyllium, Ground Flaxseed, and Ground Chia

Psyllium, Ground Flaxseed, and Ground Chia

Does Pure for Men work? Yes. It’s as simple as that. It is made from three natural and readily available products, Psyllium Husk (the main ingredient in many popular constipation remedies—Metamucil, for example), Chia Powder, and Flaxseed Powder. The product’s recommended dosage is 2 or 3 capsules, TWICE a day. The product has glowing reviews on Amazon, as well as on their own website.

So, I believe the product is effective, and I know that many people are happy with it (I can also personally attest that it has been effective for me), so it is definitely NOT a scam. But at the prices they are charging, I would say that it definitely qualifies as a rip-off, and I’m going to explain why, as well as explain how you can save yourself some money.

The amount of the “proprietary blend” of psyllium, chia, and flaxseed in each of the capsules is 750 mg. This makes the total amount of the product taken at one time 1500 or 2250 mg, depending on whether the customer chooses to take two or three capsules (and remember, you have to take these capsules twice each day). As of the date I am writing this, and for at least the last month or so, the price on Amazon has been $24.99 for 120 capsules, and $14.99 for 60 capsules. Taken at the rate of two capsules twice a day, the bottle of 120 would last for 30 days, and would cost 83 cents per day. If you opt for the 6 capsules per day route, that goes down to 20 days, or $1.25 per day. The smaller bottle has an even higher daily average cost ($1.00 per day at 4 capsules, $1.50 per day at 6 capsules). Given the amount of product in these capsules, and the actual cost of those readily-available products, this price is outrageous, and you can save yourself a ton of money and get the same results by simply mixing your own batch at home!

As mentioned previously, the main component of Pure for Men is plain old psyllium husk. I was able to purchase a very affordable 1.5 pound bag of ORGANIC psyllium husk on Amazon for $13.99. You can find it here (prices on Amazon update regularly in order for them to stay competitive, so the pricing may differ).  I also purchased a 3 pound bag of ground flaxseed for $13.65, and 10 ounces of organic ground chia seed for $7.84 (again, current pricing may differ).

At this point, I had to make some assumptions about the nature of Pure for Men’s “proprietary blend”. We know the three products they use, but we can use some educated guesses about their proportions. Because psyllium husk is the product most commonly used for this type of laxative/constipation product, and because it is listed first on the ingredients, it is safe to assume that the bulk of the blend is made up of psyllium husk. I assumed 60% psyllium husk, and 20% each for the other two items. If you are wondering what the reason is for including chia and flaxseed powders, we can actually look to the “questions and answers” section of the reviews on Amazon to see the answers that were posted directly by the makers of Pure for Men. They say, “Pure for Men also contains Chia and Flaxseed which are great sources of insoluble fiber – very important for the physical scrubbing-like cleaning that occurs as the supplement passes through your digestive tract.” In any case, both chia and flaxseed are known to be good for your body, with high levels of Omega-3s, so their inclusion here can only benefit you. I can also tell you that I have tried my formulation (instructions at the end) and that of Pure for Men, and the results seem identical to me.

Here comes the math! At my chosen 60/20/20 ratio, I mixed 1.5 pounds of psyllium husk ($13.99), .5 pounds of ground flaxseed ($2.28), and .5 pounds of ground chia seed ($6.27). The total cost of my batch of Pure for Men knockoff? $22.54. So, I now have 2.5 pounds of blended psyllium/chia/flaxseed. What do I do with it, and how does the cost compare to Pure for Men? Two point five pounds is equivalent to 1,134,980 milligrams. We know the dosage is two or three 750 mg capsules, so if we assume two capsules (1500 mg), the cost of the

1/4 teaspoon on the micro-scale

1/4 teaspoon on the micro-scale

same dose when you blend your own batch is 3 cents per dose or a total of 6 cents per day! At three capsules (2250 mg), the cost is 4.5 cents per dose, or 9 cents per day. That means the Pure for Men is charging you 14 or 15 TIMES what you would pay by mixing these ingredients yourself! For less than the cost of a single month of Pure for Men, you can mix up a batch of your own that will last you LONGER THAN A YEAR!

If you want to save yourself some money, here is how you can do it. Go to Amazon and buy the three products linked above (or smaller sizes, if you wish—there are plenty of options on amazon). I measured the ingredients two different ways, using sophisticated and accurate scales: by VOLUME and by WEIGHT, and I found that the density is practically negligible in this case—meaning you do not need a fancy scale, you can simply measure by volume. The easiest way to do this is to use an identical scoop for each of the items in the blend, and put three scoops of the psyllium, one scoop of the chia powder, and one scoop of the flaxseed powder, to achieve our desired 60/20/20 ratio. Once you have put the ingredients together, blend them thoroughly! I would stir them with a whisk for at least a minute to insure even distribution of all ingredients. I would freeze any leftover chia or flaxseed in an airproof container (they both have fats that will go rancid over time, especially if exposed to high temperatures or air or light). Once mixed, I put my blend into an airtight container, and I store it in the fridge.

3/4 teaspoon in the bottom of a pint glass

3/4 teaspoon in the bottom of a pint glass

The final hurdle is deciding how much to take. I have a very accurate scale that measures in 1 mg increments. However, we know that we do not have to be precise in this instance—it is not like this is actual medicine, where a tiny difference in dosage can have disastrous consequences. The makers themselves recommend anywhere between 1500 mg and 2250 mg per dose—quite a wide range! I used my scale to weigh the ingredients many different ways, and I came up with measurements that were very close by using the following method: for each capsule, assume that 750 mg is equal to a level ¼ teaspoon. I measured this multiple times, and every single time the weight of ¼ teaspoon fell between 717 mg and 789 mg. This is a 4.4% to 5 % margin of error, and in the case of psyllium (which in the case of Metamucil, for example, is dosed as “rounded teaspoons”—a completely, wildly inaccurate type of measurement!), this margin of error is entirely negligible. For the chia seed and flaxseed, which are often used as supplements in smoothies, and which make up only 20% of the total mixture, the variation is also completely negligible.

My blend mixed with small amount of water

My blend mixed with small amount of water

So: How to take this, since it is not in the admittedly handy capsules? I prefer to measure the mixture into a pint glass, add a small amount of water, stir quickly, and then down it like a shot. I then fill the glass with water, stir again to dislodge any leftover ingredients, and drink the remaining water (psyllium works by absorbing water and swelling up, so you should drink plenty of water after taking the supplement). Note: DO NOT LET THE MIXTURE SIT IN WATER! Psyllium absorbs the water quickly, and it turns into a thick, pasty, gooey, gel, and nobody wants to try to choke that down! Seriously, add the water, stir, and then down it within a few seconds! You can always avoid the gel effect by adding more water, but it will still be somewhat slimy in texture if you let it sit for long—I prefer to get it down quickly! Then follow up right after with more water to rinse it down.

Slimy Psyllium after sitting for two minutes--nobody wants this!

Slimy Psyllium after sitting for two minutes–nobody wants this! Please note–this should NEVER HAPPEN. This is why I say you should drink it QUICKLY, like a shot!

To measure the proper amount of the powder, you have several options you could use a ¼ teaspoon measuring spoon and measure two or three scoops, depending on your preference (remembering that one scoop is equivalent to one capsule). To make it easier, though, you can use a single ½ teaspoon measuring spoon to estimate two capsules, or you can buy a special measuring spoon set that includes a ¾ teaspoon measuring spoon (a rather uncommon size), and use a single scoop of that as an equivalent to 3 capsules (I use the ¾ teaspoon measurement myself, before breakfast and again before dinner.

I hope I have helped to save you some money, as well as helped to keep your runway clear 😉





Gay Guys on Dating Apps are So Sensitive

Guys on dating apps are so sensitive. They don’t seem to understand that it can’t always be a match. When I have to turn someone down, I always do it politely by saying “Sorry”, and then I go the extra step of following up with an “I statement” that makes clear that it is about me and not them. They never seem to appreciate my polite gesture. For whatever reason, “Sorry, I am not desperate” always sends them over the edge.

On Fat-Shaming Wentworth Miller and Taylor Lautner in the Gay Community

I was inspired by a post I read by out gay actor Wentworth Miller last month, in which he broke down the things that were going on in his personal life at the time a photo was snapped of him that showed some weight gain. The photo was later turned into a cruel meme. He revealed in his powerful letter that he had been suicidal at the time the photo was taken. It is a visceral, emotionally raw piece of writing, and it is well worth a read.

A few weeks later, I saw another fat-shaming meme, but this time aimed specifically at the gay community. It featured young heartthrob Taylor Lautner from the Twilight Series. It shows a young and very fit Taylor on one side under the heading “Single Gay”, then the post-weight-gain Taylor on the right under the heading “Taken Gay”. The implication, of course, is that people take care of themselves and look “good” when they are looking for a mate, but once they pair off, they let themselves go.

Taylor Lautner Fat Shaming Meme Single vs Taken Gay

I reacted negatively to this meme, but I dismissed it as silly, and I saw it only in passing–none of my friends had posted it or shared it. Today, however, I ran into an updated version that an actual friend had shared on Facebook. The “Single Vs Taken” heading was gone, this time replaced by “When Twilight is finally over and so is your career”. In addition to the change in heading, an additional visual pun was added in the form of a fierce looking CGI wolf, compared to a very fat dog.

Taylor Lautner Fat Shaming Twilight Meme

This led to an exchange where I expressed surprise that my friend was stooping to fat-shaming, and a discussion that led me to understand that my friend thought my objection was because I didn’t know that the guy in the pic was Taylor Lautner from Twilight. I had actually been sort of puzzling this over in my mind, but the discussion clarified it for me: Is it possible that some people understand why fat-shaming someone like Wentworth Miller is wrong (because he is a well-respected actor and writer/director, and a valued member of the gay community), but they dismiss it when it is someone like Taylor Lautner because he is less respected, due to his stature as an actor and/or his association with the much-scorned Twilight series? Perhaps because he is young? Twink-ish?

In the case of Wentworth Miller, he spoke up for himself. The Lad Bible, the website that actually produced the cruel meme, took it down and issued a formal apology to Mr. Miller. I was not able to find any reaction from Mr. Lautner regarding the meme in which he is featured. The second meme, which hinges on his career being “over”, is also inaccurate: Mr. Lautner reportedly gained the extra weight that is revealed in his recent photos for a role in a movie. Extreme weight gain and loss in the service of a role is the province of serious actors (see Robert DeNiro in Raging Bull, Tom Hanks in Castaway, or Christian Bale in The Machinist). Perhaps the weight gained by Mr. Lautner is his stab at being considered a serious actor. Yet, due to his association with something frivolous and even girly like Twilight, many of his fans (and detractors), assume that the fact that he has gained some weight means that he must now be unemployable.

My take on the whole thing is this: It is not OK to fat-shame someone, no matter who they are. Whether they are young or old, serious or goofy, Well-respected or maligned, fat-shaming is wrong. In every case.

Time for an Update…I Lost Over 40 Pounds in the Last Year!

That’s right. I really should update this thing more regularly! I began about a year ago, and my plan was to be in good enough shape that I would feel comfortable walking around shirtless at Southern Decadence this weekend. Did I reach my goal? Not exactly, but that has more to do with my body image issues than my size. I weighed myself shortly after starting on this journey, and I have lost 43 pounds so far. I still have another 15 or 20 to go before I’m totally happy.

So how did I do it? Well, I did not follow the Primal Method precisely. I walked more than before, but not every day and not consistently. Many of my walks were only one or two mile walks. I did not lift weights more than about a dozen times last year. The biggest change I made was cutting out the grains and sugar, and it is THAT change to which I attribute my weight loss. I am much thinner than last August. I will take some pictures and put them up soon. But first things first. This weekend is Southern Decadence! I will be there from Friday until Monday, and I hope to see a whole bunch of people there! I love New Orleans, and I am so excited that the bad weather hit a few days before the festivities this year. I will write more when I get back, and I hope to have some photos to share of my weekend at Southern Decadence!

The Most Obvious News Story of the Year: American Idol Looking to Replace Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler, Who Have Rightly Abandoned the Ship They Helped to Sink

I saw a news story today under the headline “American Idol Seeks Replacements for Departing Judges Jennifer Lopez and Steven Tyler,” and I immediately thought: duh.  The most popular show in America, which has always had three or four judges (remember that ill-advised Ellen Degeneres season?), announces the departure of two of its judges, so of course they are going to ‘seek to replace’ them. Nobody wants to watch Randy Jackson as the solo judge of any competition.

The next news stories will be feelers for different potential judges. They will be leaked carefully to the press in order to judge public opinion. Two years ago, Jennifer Lopez was their apparent dream candidate, and Steven Tyler was a sort of surprise contender. They both have large fan bases that they couldn’t afford to alienate, so neither of them was able to fill the shoes of Simon Cowell, who has always been the sole voice of reason on the show.

Simon’s disappointing results with the first season of his own show, which I’m pretty sure is called ‘The X Factor’ (and really, I couldn’t watch more than a few episodes, even though I thought that British host was kind of cute), should make the way forward clear: one more season of “The X Factor,” followed by a period of unrest and rampant speculation, immediately followed by the announcement of Simon Cowell’s return to American Idol, for which he will be (and should be) paid something like $80-100 million dollars per season (while this seems INSANELY high, to put this in perspective, Dolly Parton was paid $40 million per season for starring in a show that lasted only a single season during the 1987/88 TV season—TWENTY years ago!). Is Simon worth it? If he can turn this foundering ship around, then HELL, YES, he’s worth it.  I tuned out when Simon left, because, really, who wants to watch Jennifer Lopez and Sleazy Gramps (Steven Tyler) try to tell somebody they suck without hurting their feelings?

So hire Mayim Bialik or Soleil Moon Frye for all I care, because the next season is just filler anyway.

If you want to know who I’d REALLY love to see judging the show, then:

  1. Not Randy Jackson
  2. Velma from ‘Scooby Doo’ (voiced by Mindy Cohn, who was Natalie on ‘Facts of Life’)
  3. Tony Danza (because he’s still so easy to look at).
  4. Robert Rey, ‘Doctor 90210’
  5. H.R. Pufnstuf
  6. Charles Nelson Reilly (even though I know he’s dead—hell, hire the ghost of Paul Lynde while you’re at it).
  7. Roddy McDowall (as Cornelius from The Planet of the Apes)
  8. John Waters
  9. Kevin Smith (I actually think this would be fun/funny to watch).
  10. Pat Smear

Washington State Voters Pass a Law that Ends State-Run Liquor Stores, Allows for Private Liquor Shops

I used to manage a tavern in Washington state.  A tavern is a specific designation that means a bar that serves only beer and wine—no hard alcohol.  In order to serve the hard stuff, you had to be a restaurant, meaning that all real bars served food, although you might never know it.  They were required to keep stock and a menu of about 10 entrees on hand at all times, and offer food during most of the hours they were open.  The laws in Washington were old and antiquated, and I think it’s a good thing for the state’s residents that this law was passed.

The state liquor control board had moved in recent years to modify some of the laws.  One change was the nightclub license that allowed bars to serve alcohol without serving food.  But it was too little, too late, in this case.

People in other states don’t really understand what it means to have to buy alcohol from the state.  It meant that all liquor stores were the same, with the same prices, and they had pretty much the same stock.  The employees were state employees, and the stores were run like a clean, brightly lit cafeteria.  To say they were uninviting would be an understatement.  In California, people are used to walking into Safeway or Walgreens and buying their vodka and whiskey.  In Texas, you can’t buy liquor at a regular grocery store, but there are plenty of private retailers with a wide variety of styles, from fancy boutique shops, to neighborhood liquor stores, to giant wal-mart-like mega stores (Spec’s Liquors).

The way the initiative came to pass is an interesting story, and it could certainly be unsettling, except for the fact that I am in total agreement with the need to get rid of the old laws.  Costco, which is based in Washington, simply bought the election.  They spent $20 million dollars of their own money (meaning they spent something like $4 for each and every likely voter in the state) to get this law passed.  Similar laws had been defeated because of the specters of teenage drinking and increased drunk driving.  This time, with Costco’s strong financial backing, the retailers won.

By June 1st, Washington will close all of its state-run liquor stores, and the citizens of Washington will be able to go to Costco or Safeway to buy their liquor.  They are likely to see much cheaper prices, because part of the law allows retailers to deal directly with the distilleries, whereas before, all alcohol had to go through a liquor distributorship, which added one more level of profit that needed to be passed along.  Costco has enough power that it can get great deals, so I imagine that many people will be seeing a 35-to-40% decrease in prices.

Is it OK for a corporation to buy an election? No.  I don’t think it is, really.  In this case, however, I applaud the result.

Sous Vide Cooking at Home with the SousVide Supreme Waterbath Oven

Sous Vide cooking has become all the rage in the foodie world for one simple reason: it works! Using the sous-vide method, you can cook your food to a very specific temperature, so you know it will never overcook.

Most people think sous vide means to cook in a waterbath, but the literal translation is “under vacuum.” This is because you can’t simply throw a nice Porterhouse steak into a vat of warm water—you have to seal it first. This is usually done by using one of those vacuum sealers that are meant for sealing food for long term storage (they work by sucking all the air out and then heat sealing the plastic bag). After the food has been sealed this way, you can slide it into the water without worry (I use and recommend the FoodSaver Sealer–their bags are BPA free).

So how does it work? It’s basic science, plus a piece of sophisticated equipment. You need a machine that will heat water to a very specific temperature and then hold it at that temperature without fluctuating. Prior to the release of the SousVide Supreme, there was no home-friendly device that could do this. People resorted to buying huge vats and then attaching giant water bath heaters and circulators (to make sure the water in the entire vat was held at the same temperature, and not only the water near the heater). It could cost well over a thousand dollars for this setup, not to mention it took up a lot of space and was unattractive, so this type of cooking used to be pretty much limited to molecular gastronomy restaurants like El Bulli or Chicago’s Alinea.SousVide Supreme Water Oven

The SousVide Supreme Oven, however, is an attractive appliance that sits on your kitchen countertop. It is designed to hold your water at a very precise temperature, without fluctuating more than one degree Fahrenheit higher or lower. What this means is that, if you know you like your steaks medium rare, and the perfect temperature for a medium rare steak is around 135 internal temperature, you set the bath to that temp, let it heat up, seal your steaks in a vacuum sealer bag, and then slip them into the water. Then, you just have to let them come up to that temperature all the way through. The time required depends on the thickness of the steak, but the beauty of this setup is that after the steak is done, you can let it just keep sitting there—it will never get any hotter! Your Sous Vide Supreme will hold your steak at a perfect degree of doneness for as long as you want it to! The temperature is high enough that it will prevent any bacterial growth, so there’s no need to worry about food safety—your steak has basically been Pasteurized after it’s held at that temperature for several hours (this is the same way they Pasteurize raw eggs for sale at the grocery store). When you get home, you simply need to slice the bag open, take out your steak, dry it off with paper towels, and sear it.

The searing step is an important one. While the steak is technically fully cooked and could be eaten as-is, it will LOOK unappetizing, since we are used to seeing meats that have been browned in an oven or by being seared in a pan or over a grill. So we just need to cook the outside of this steak to match our expectations of what a steak should look like. There are several ways you could do the sear. Many people prefer a butane cooking torch like the ones chefs use to melt sugar on top of crème brulees (or is that crèmes brulee? I never took French)!  My preference, though, is to simply heat up a cast iron skillet, add some clarified butter, and drop the steak in and sear it completely on both sides. This only takes about a minute or less per side—you aren’t trying to cook the steak, remember—it’s already cooked inside. Just sear it long enough to cook the outside and give it some nice browning. This not only makes the steak look the way we want it to, the Maillard reaction (which is basically browning due to caramelization) also adds the flavor of the sear that we expect when we get a delicious steak.
I tried both the torch method and the cast iron skillet method, and I have to say that I prefer the skillet. When I used the torch, I could taste the flavor of the fuel on the steak. Most people say they can’t taste it at all, but I definitely tasted it. Which is fine with me—now I have a great skillet that can be used for other things, and I don’t have to worry about buying refills for the culinary torch.

So, is the SousVide waterbath worth it? In my opinion, definitely yes. It does take some getting used to (and it took my boyfriend even longer to get over his skepticism), but sous vide cooking really is a useful tool to have in your culinary repertoire. It’s not that I cook this way every night—chicken is a staple at my house, and it would be hard to make an appealing chicken dish in the sous vide cooker—at least I haven’t found any recipes that appeal to me (if you have, please let me know below, because I’d be interested to try some). But for beef, the Sous Vide is now my favorite method. Especially since I don’t have an unlimited budget, and we often go for what’s on sale; the sous vide method can work wonders on cheap or tough cuts of meat—one of our favorites is 48 hour spare ribs. You read that right—we cook spare ribs for 48 hours. When meats are held at that temperature, enzymatic action speeds up, and after two days of being held at the perfect temperature, a tough cut of meat is turned into a delicious, tender, shockingly good dish.

Whether you are interested in this appliance for yourself, or whether you’re looking for a great gift for a foodie, this oven just might turn out to be not only a useful tool, but a fun plaything.  Like a Kenner Easy-Bake Oven for adults!

Additonal notes:

Please realize that this method requires a high-quality vacuum sealer that seals by heat; it won’t work with one of those cheaper Ziploc type pump bags–they are almost guaranteed to leak if left in a water bath for several hours.

I Just Pre-Ordered My Nest Thermostat—A Thermostat that Programs Itself and Allows Remote Control via iPhone!

I saw this pop up in the news yesterday, and I new I had to have one. I was happy to find that my old (non-programmable) thermostat could be replaced by this new “iPod” of thermostats.
nest thermostat
Nest is the brainchild of Tony Fadell, who is credited as the original developer of the iPod for Apple. Tony took a year’s sabbatical to live in Paris with his wife and kids, and near the end of the year, after thinking about what he wanted to do next, he announced his new project to his wife: a thermostat. She was baffled.  But she soon became a believer.

The Nest Learning Thermostat

Turns out, the thermostat that most people have in their house is essentially the same thermostat that people have been using for 30 years or more. Some have touchscreens or other innovations, but they are still stand-alone boxes that pretty much do one thing. Even programmable thermostats aren’t an improvement, because studies have shown that most people don’t ever learn the complicated steps to program the thermostat, or they are unhappy with its performance, so they simply place it in permanent “hold” setting—which means they are essentially using it as an analog, non-programmable thermostat.

Realizing that most of a household’s wasted energy is controlled by the thermostat, Tony Fadell thought that he could cut down on energy waste (and its concurrent pollution) by developing a thermostat that trains itself. The Nest is the outgrowth of that project. It is a thermostat that learns from you each time you turn the thermostat up or down. It recalls the time of day and the temperature setting, and it eventually learns your routine and begins to adjust itself automatically. It contains a motion sensor, so if it senses no motion for several hours, it assumes you are away from home and changes its settings to “away” mode, which means it adjusts itself to a more energy-efficient temperature—higher in the summer, lower in the winter.  It also senses when you are approaching at night and lights up for you.

But what if you don’t want your thermostat to adjust itself? What if you have a dog or cat that might prevent your thermostat from going into “away” mode? Well, the beauty of Nest is that it comes with an online account that allows you to set very specific temperature minimums and maximums, as well as setting specific times for any adjustments (these minimums and maximums will also make sure Nest keeps your pets comfortable while you’re away). It also allows you to set your account to permanent “away” mode if you go on vacation. And it does this by interacting with your computer wirelessly. As long as you have wireless internet access, the Nest can be controlled from your computer, or even via your iPhone. If you are coming home early in the middle of winter, you can pull up the app and tell it to start heating the house up before you arrive. If your family has a cabin in upstate Wisconsin and you are heading up for the weekend, you can tell Nest to make the cabin warm before you get there. So, not only is the thing energy efficient, it is also incredibly user friendly. It also trains you…when you make an adjustment that is going to save you energy, a little green leaf pops up as a sort of reward—like getting a gold star!  I can’t wait to get mine installed and try it out. It really does seem like this is something—one of the first real things—from “the house of the future.”

If you want to learn more, you can see their very nicely designed website at Nest.com.

The Most Perplexing Amazon Review Ever

It’s funny how things pop up sometimes.  I just stumbled across one of the most perplexing Amazon reviews I’ve ever seen.  It’s not laugh-out-loud hilarious or amazing, but it gives just enough of a hint of a situation that you’re left with nothing but questions.  It’s not like the Three Wolf Moon tee-shirt, where customers actually compete to write the funniest, most outlandish reviews ever.  It seems to be a real review.  Before I share it, a bit about how I came across it.

I have a hearing problem.  I grew up with some degree of hearing loss and then spent years working in a very loud nightclub, which damaged my hearing even more, particularly in the high frequencies.  I normally get by OK, but today my hearing loss was a pain.  I was doing laundry today.  Shirts, specifically, which require that you take them out of the dryer immediately and lay them out or hang them up, or they become wrinkled, after which you would have to “refresh” them by running the dryer for ten more minutes or so to de-wrinkle them (my dryer actually has a “Refresh” setting).  My problem is that I can’t hear the dryer buzzer, so I normally set a kitchen timer to remind me to take out the shirts.  Today, I kept missing the timer because I didn’t hear it.  I tried moving it with me into the other room, but things worked out so that I happened to be out of ear-shot every time the thing went off.  I “refreshed” my shirts four times before I finally remembered to remove them before they got wrinkled.

I realized that I needed a loud timer.  I went to Amazon and searched for “loud timer” and came across one made by ThermoWorks, the people who make my favorite instant-read thermometer, the Thermapen, which are the same ones they use on America’s Test Kitchen.  Looking at the reviews for this timer (it has a four star average, which is pretty good), there are four one-star reviews: three people who complain that it just wasn’t loud enough…and then there is my reviewer.  It’s another one star review, and her complaint is that it’s not waterproof (to be fair, it is only described as “water resistant”, not waterproof).  Here’s her review.  I’ll let you take a minute to go read it.

OK.  So the timer isn’t waterproof.  Whatever.  That’s not the good part.  Her son “loses track of time” in the shower?  How old is he?  If he’s around 13 to 18, I can tell you–he’s not losing track of time–he’s just not spending all his time in the shower actually “showering”, if you know what I mean.  He’s got something else going on.  And how long are we talking?  Is he spending 30 minutes in the shower?  45?  How much time does she allot for a shower?  5 minutes?  How does she determine exactly how long is too long?  I mean, I was raised in a poor family and I was never griped at for taking too long in the shower (well, maybe once or twice, but only in passing–my mother would certainly never have set a timer on me).  But beyond the timing issue…did her son really need to take a 90 decibel timer with him into the actual shower stall?  90 decibels is equivalent to a motorcycle or a police whistle.  Could he not have heard it if he left it on the bathroom counter or the back of the toilet?  Where did he put it?  Did he have to hold it in his hand while he was showering?  So many questions.

It may just be me, but I find this review fascinatingly odd.  Buying a kitchen timer and then taking it with you into the shower is the mark of somebody who just doesn’t function on all cylinders.  It’s like this one barista who used to work at Walton’s, Sandra Bullock’s cafe/florist/bakery in downtown Austin.  I bought a cup of coffee from him one day.  It was freshly brewed and piping hot.  There was plenty of room for cream, and I only add a little, so there was still 3/4 of an inch of room at the top.  I took it back and asked if he could give me two or three cubes of ice to cool it down (I don’t like to sip coffee–I just drink it).  He looked at it skeptically and said, “I’ll have to dump some of it out”.  I told him there was no reason, that I just wanted to cool it down a little bit–I still wanted it warm, just not hot (I also knew they have small ice cubes).  He gave me a look like he couldn’t believe I was forcing him to do this, said, “Okay,” and then took his ice scoop, scooped up a massive mound of cubes, and began shaking it about 8 inches over my cup.  Of course, 10 cubes dislodged and tumbled off his mountain of ice and landed in the cup, causing the coffee to splash out on all sides and all over everything nearby.  He threw the remaining ice and scoop back into the icebin and then picked up my coffee (spilling more in the process, since it was now full to the brim)  and gingerly tried to hand the wet cup back to me, dripping all the way.  I looked at him and asked him to set it down on the counter–I had no intention of trying to reenact a Keystone Cops routine with him as he tried to transfer the overflowing, dripping cup to my hand without spilling any on me.

I’ve worked in coffee a long time.  You don’t hand a dripping cup to a customer.  You don’t hand a wet cup to a customer.  In fact, in my view, you never hand a cup to a customer at all–the hand-off is when accidents happen, and people end up spilling coffee on each other and getting burned.  Even with a lid, I’ve seen the lid pop off when the barista or customer misjudged and managed to squeeze the cup between their two hands as they tried to transfer it.  It is much better to put the cup down and allow the customer to pick it up–especially if it has no lid!  If you spill something down the side of a cup, you either double cup by sliding a fresh cup over the spill, or you transfer the drink to a fresh cup and dispose of the old one if it’s too soggy.  And, for goodness sake, if you want to add three ice cubes to an almost-full cup, pick up three ice cubes!  Your scoop works just as well to pick up a few cubes as to pick up a whole scoopful.

It’s funny the direction this post took.  Maybe I should have called it “people who don’t have a clue.”

That boy no longer works at Walton’s.

Apple’s iOS 5 Update Has Broken the Stanza Ereader App; Amazon Apparently Intends to Kill It

My favorite and most-used app, the Stanza Ereader, was broken by Apple’s latest update, the iOS 5 operating system. I can’t tell you how much this disappoints me. By reading online message boards, it’s clear that thousands of other people are just as upset as I am.

Amazon bought the Stanza application from its developer several years ago and stopped updating the app. I suppose Amazon might argue that they wanted the code or the technology or a patent or something, but it feels an awful lot like they just purchased a popular competitor (to their proprietary Kindle App) to put it out of business. To understand the significance of this, you need to understand that Amazon’s Kindle only allows you to read books that are in Amazon’s own, proprietary format. Most ebooks come in ePub format, but you can’t read an ePub book on Kindle. Stanza was the most elegant ereading app out there. It allowed for one-touch brightness adjustment while you were reading, by simply swiping your finger up or down the screen. It also offered easy font size adjustment and many other customization options.

The Kindle app is simply not an acceptable replacement for Stanza. I have tested dozens of free ereader apps over the last two days, and the only ones that come close to Stanza’s functionality are the Kobo e-reader and Bluefire Reader. Both of these apps offer landscape locking, night mode (white text on a black background so you can read in bed without producing a lot of ambient light, so you don’t disturb anybody else who is in bed with you), a progress bar, font and margin adjustments, and many other nice features. I slightly prefer the Bluefire Reader, although it has an odd and complicated way of managing bookmarks—I prefer the simple, one-touch tap in the upper right corner, but Bluefire Reader makes you go through several steps to create a bookmark, and even then, it does not provide a visual clue on the page to identify the page as having been bookmarked.

Really, what I hope happens is that enough people get upset with the death of Stanza that Amazon decides to respond, and update the app so that its legions of fans can continue using it. I used it every single day, and, although I am normally a big fan of Amazon, at the moment I’m holding a grudge against them. You can bet they made sure the Kindle App was ready for iOS 5! If you want to tweet to @Amazon and ask them to fix the @stanza_reader, please feel free to do so! In fact, here’s an easy way to do it: copy the following text, then hit the Tweet button at the top of this article, paste it in, and send!

Please @Amazon do the right thing and fix the @stanza_reader ! #Stanza #AmazonKilledStanza #RIP