Category Archives: Random Ramblings

Weather Dot Com – A Complaint

This is strictly a complaint and I am extremely frustrated at the moment.  Many frowns abound.

I used to use The Weather Channel as my go-to source for weather information, and because my husband and son work outside sometimes, knowing the weather is very important.

At some point over the past year or so, The Weather Channel has changed the format of the main page on their website.  This is in reference to the desktop version, not the mobile version.

I just spent FOURTEEN MINUTES waiting for the primary forecast page for my area to load before finally giving up in frustration.  The page did not complete loading, and I could not access the hour-by-hour data.  I tried reloading the page twice, waiting a few minutes for each attempt, and then gave up entirely.

I have 30Mbps internet, so it is NOT my connection speed.

There is so much garbage on The Weather Channel’s website that it’s impossible to find weather information.  I counted EIGHT advertisements – three of which were auto-play videos – on the last fully complete page-load I was able to accomplish (about three days ago).  If it isn’t advertisements, it is links to all their ridiculous weather-related videos (including a bunch that have nothing at all to do with the weather).

It’s like when MTV went from actually playing music videos to spamming people with reality television shows and other talky-talky trash.  I stopped watching MTV when the garbage began outnumbering the music videos.  I guess I’ll have to switch to the equally hideous Weather Bug or AccuWeather or something else, now that THE WEATHER CHANNEL has decided to become the spammy-garbage-video-advertisement channel.

Rant done.  My less-than-humble apologies (but not to The Weather Channel).

Armchair Explorer: Pripyat, Ukraine

Today I visited Pripyat, Ukraine, also known as one of the most interesting places on the planet – simply because it is largely off-limits to unrestricted exploration.  The reason for taboo travel in and around Pripyat is, of course, because it was located in the fallout zone near Chernobyl, the Ukranian nuclear power plant that experienced a meltdown (allegedly due to flawed reactor design and poorly trained staff) in 1986.

When I say I ‘visited’ Pripyat, I actually mean that I played the role of Armchair Explorer and traveled the streets and examined the sights courtesy of Google Street View I love abandoned places populated by the shells of society and devoid of humanity.  There is something both eerie and peaceful about being in a place once well-populated and now totally deserted.

While I was meandering through the streets of Pripyat, I noticed something unusual.  At latitude/longitude 51.4004125,30.0526197, there are some structures that are intentionally blacked out at street level.  See the image below:

If you move slightly to the right (when facing this blacked-out structure), the image comes back into view unobstructed and looks like this:

An aerial satellite image of the area reveal nothing unusual or seemingly secretive – just more abandoned buildings that look like every other abandoned building in the area.  What is covered by the black box and why?

    

    

There are several large apartment buildings in Pripyat, and most of the windows are either wide open or have been broken out.  Since the town was evacuated right after the Chernobyl accident and was not fully secured for some time afterward, it may be likely that vandals and looters opened or broke the windows while scavenging around the modern ruins.

    

Most people who explore Pripyat want to go straight to the amusement park and the Ferris wheel.  It has become the most photographed object within the city limits of Pripyat, leaving a large part of the city and surrounding area neglected and ignored in favor of popular media.

    

Along the outskirts of town, the rusted hulks of power line support structures jut up above the overgrown trees, grass, and other plant life.  With no human presence in the area for 30 years, the landscape is slowly taking over once more and creeping onto and over the concrete and metal buildings scattered here and there.  Time will continue its slow march onward and eventually these structures, no matter how sturdy, will succumb to decay unless they are manually demolished before being reclaimed by the land.

    

Pripyat has become a tourist attraction over the past several years, with visitors being allowed to explore with a guide.  Visits to the area are time-restricted due to the possibility of contamination from the radiation fallout of Chernobyl.  While the risk is minimal, government officials and designated tour guides elect not to take risks with the health and safety of visitors and tourists.

    

Studies of the area have shown that proximity to the fallout has had little long-term impact on the flora and fauna in the area; plant life is obviously abundant, and the wild and feral animals observed and studied have shown little to no signs of permanent damage from exposure to radiation.  Long-term effects on humans is another matter entirely, however.

    

Despite guards around the area and the fact that Pripyat is a forbidden zone, urban explorers still find their way – unescorted – to the city to wander through the silent ghost town.  The advantage they have over an Armchair Explorer using Google Street View is that urban explorers can wander in and out of the buildings and through areas that are not accessible to vehicles.

    

Google is, unfortunately, restricted to streets, trails, paths, and other vehicle tracks – at least until such time that they manage to install Google mapping cameras on wildlife or miniature, self-guided exploratory drones.  You can go where guides don’t usually take you, however, when you explore with Street View.  The Pripyat guided tours often visit the most popular destinations – Ferris wheel, amusement park, shopping mall, school, etc.

    

Even though I am unable to explore inside the buildings to see how life essentially stood still (at least what remains now after scavengers and looters have laid claim to quite a bit of it) when the people of Pripyat were told to drop what they were doing and leave – basically with little more than the clothes on their backs – it is still enjoyable to explore the streets via Street View.  It’s a place I may never get to explore in person, so Google Street View is certainly the next best thing (until they create a virtual reality street simulator!).

The image above is a roof-top view of the city of Pripyat.  The silver dome-shaped object on the horizon just to the left of center is the containment dome for the #4 reactor at Chernobyl, which is the reactor that experienced a malfunction.  While this image captures just one direction of view from a roof in Pripyat, it gives you a sense of just how big the city itself was.  Thousands of people lost their homes and livelihoods when the Chernobyl accident occurred.

    

There is so much more to see at Pripyat than the Ferris wheel and bumper cars….

    

…places you simply don’t get to see on a guided tour, not even from a distance.

And if you aren’t able to make the trip yourself, whether you plan on having a guide or guiding yourself, you can always explore via Google Street View.  It might not be the same as being there, but it’s better than never getting to ‘see’ it at all (or trying to see it by looking at someone else’s photographs while blocking out their ‘fascinating’ commentary for every picture).

    

If you visit Pripyat in person, you can also visit Chernobyl itself and view the power plant, reactors, and containment dome used to cover the failed reactor until the irradiated contaminants can be safely disposed of.

    

    

If you have an hour or two to kill and you’d like to see more of the world without spending a dime, check out Google Street View and visit those far-away destinations you have always wanted to go to.  You can also add your own photos to Google’s Street View ‘library’ – just check out the application information and help file to find out how.  That way, you can contribute to the experiences of other explorers and give them more than just a bird’s eye view of a destination they have only dreamed about!

Self-Inflicted Body Shaming

I was perusing the news around the internet this morning and came across an article that seems innocent enough.  Published on The Guardian, it is in their section of stories about ‘a moment that changed me’ – along with a large variety of other personal stories about pivotal moments in the lives of different people.

The article in question is written by a woman who used to weight 365 pounds and lost a significant amount of weight.  She claims in her article that she was ignored and basically viewed as a non-entity until her weight dropped to society’s version of ‘appealing’ or ‘normal.’

According to this woman’s article, men did not open doors for her, help her pick up dropped items, or do other ‘common courtesy’ gestures when she was obese.  When she lost a significant amount of weight, according to her, men started doing those things.  Also according to her, this change of attention was a direct result of her impression that she had now become a woman of appealing body size, rather than the fat and unattractive self she’d been before.

I have personally witnessed a great many men open doors for women of all sizes, ages, races, and appearances.  I’ve seen them let those same women take their spot in a checkout line.  I have seen them help those women pick up items dropped in a store or parking lot.  I have also seen them smile pleasantly when doing so and politely say ‘you’re welcome’ when the woman says ‘thank you.’

The only type of people I have seen intentionally disregard other people – men and women included – are those who appear to be under the age of 25 to 28.  The younger they get, the more disregard they have for others.  This is a tragic reflection of a parental disconnect in our society today, and mirrors back to us the deplorable condition of the society in which we live.

I don’t know where this article writer has been that she’s been so horribly and intentionally disregarded by other people (allegedly), but based on my experience, her experience is not the ‘norm.’  I am also aware that where you live does make a difference in the way you are treated by others.

Typically, in the southern parts of the United States and in many locations in the central and western parts of the country, people are much more easy-going, laid back, and respectful toward others.  Not so much in the northeastern part of the country – but New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians have a bad reputation as being aggressive, impatient, hateful jerks anyway.

Perhaps this woman’s experiences are a reflection of how she expects to be treated.  You expect kindness and exude it yourself, you will often get it back in return.  If you walk around with an obvious unhappy chip on your shoulder, other people will have a tendency to reflect your ‘attitude’ back toward you unconsciously.  Perhaps her ‘body shaming’ encounters are more of an outward result of her inner dialogue.

You reap what you sow, whether you are planting seeds of positive well-being or negative self-destruction.

The Ocean Belongs To Us

Fox News posted an article today (August 27, 2016) about a presidential action taken by Barack Obama to enlarge a protected marine area near Hawaii.  Normally, I could really care less about what Barack Obama or anyone else in the political realm decides to do, because single voices have no impact on national and global issues – like I once said to a police officer who was giving me a ticket for allegedly not wearing a seat belt, you can’t argue with a badge.  Or a politician.  Or a president.

The thing that sparked my ire, however, with this article is a comment attributed to former Hawaiian governor, George Ariyoshi.  In the Fox News article, the cite him as saying:

The ocean belongs to us.  We ought to be the ones to decide what kind of use to make of the ocean.

I beg to differ.  I strongly beg to differ. The ocean belongs to no one.  The ocean belongs to the planet.  The ocean belongs to the creatures and plants that call it ‘home.’  It most certainly does not belong to a bunch of small-minded, self-serving, destructive-in-the-name-of-progress homo sapiens who are so overwhelmed with hubris that we dare to think we hold dominion over anything on this planet other than our own future annihilation.

In my opinion, the entire width, breadth, and depth of all the oceans on the planet should be protected habitats.  You want fish?  Build a hatchery.  You want oil?  Tap into the northwestern part of North America; Alaska and western Canada are a veritable oil goldmine.  Something you might not know – Texas is actually the most oil-producing state in the U.S., with almost 5 times the production and reserves as Alaska.  Texas Pipeline, anyone?  The U.S. actually has the largest untapped oil reserve in the world.

But we can’t drill for oil on land, can we?  Have you ever stopped to wonder why that is?  Why we are so upset when someone wants to build an oil rig and run a thousand-mile long pipeline across the broad expanse of North America’s ‘untamed wilderness’?  It’s because we can see and feel the destruction when it’s sitting in our backyard.  Who cares about what happens in the depths of the sea, right, because we don’t see it happening.

The proof is in the numbers – roughly 13 percent of the Earth’s land surface is protected, while only 2 percent of the Earth’s oceans are.

Would you like to know what you are doing to the ocean?  How you are killing hundreds and thousands of marine species every year because of your selfish consumerism?  How the powers-that-be are destroying fragile oceanic ecosystems because we are addicted to technological advancement and industrialization?

The human impact on ocean life, where we rarely venture compared to how often we tread (and damage) the land-based parts of the planet, is accelerating to a point where a mass extinction is entirely possible, almost probable.  In another 20 years, it will undoubtedly be a foregone conclusion.

We have already destroyed almost half the natural coral reefs on the planet.  ALMOST HALF.  It takes years (and years and years) for reefs to build themselves up, and here we come – bent on having a nice cruise anchored above some pretty reef somewhere where we can get some great underwater selfies with a stingray or dolphin – and just like that, we destroy decades and centuries of ecological habitat in a year or two.

By the way, did you know that cruise ships dump their waste (trash, garbage, human waste, fuel waste, bilge water, etc.) directly into the ocean?  The Environmental Protection Agency conducted a study that discovered cruise ships dump 150,000 gallons of sewage into the ocean EVERY WEEK.  One ship dumped half that amount all by itself IN A SINGLE DAY.

Every year, more than one billion gallons of raw, untreated, contaminated, toxic, harmful sewage is being dumped directly into the ocean that you are so flushed with sun-bathed bliss to see from atop the upper decks of that luxurious cruise liner.  Why don’t you get a selfie of that.

Princess Cruises has an environmental responsibility statement on their website discussing how they ‘treat’ waste water before dumping it into the ocean.  It’s still waste.  It’s still harmful.  It still contaminates the ocean.  I’m sure if they have to dump it into their bathtub and then bathe in it, like marine wildlife are forced to do, perhaps they’d think differently about their high-and-mighty (and so-called) environmental conscientiousness.  No matter how they dress it up in pleasant wording, they are still engaged in a massive pollution campaign that dumps hundreds of thousands of gallons of toxic sludge into the ocean every year.

In the past sixteen years, contracts for seabed mining operations have laid claim to 460,000 square miles of ocean floor.  Sixteen years ago they had contracts for ZERO square miles of ocean floor.

The United States, all by itself, produces 32 millions tons of plastic waste each year, with only NINE PERCENT being recycled and a large percentage of the rest of it ending up, eventually, in the world’s oceans – where it is significantly contributing to the extinction or future extinction of hundreds of marine species.  In fact, there is an estimated 270,000 MILLION tons of plastic floating around at sea right now.  That’s 270,000,000,000 tons of plastic for those who are where-do-the-zeroes-go-in-a-million challenged.

The poetic justice about the entire situation is that we are now discovering that a lot of what we’re dumping in the ocean is ending up in the foods we eat that are harvested from the ocean, so our own “me-me generation” hubris is killing us.  A big ol’ belly laugh is appropriate here.

That plastic bottle or cell phone battery or Styrofoam cup you threw out on the side of the road five years ago is going to kill your grand-kids one day.

Just in the past 40 years, we have eliminated more than half of the planet’s wildlife.  Not just in the oceans, but on the entire planet.  More than half.  In just forty years.

We are wiping out between 100 and 1,000 species per million every single year.  The number is hard to pin down because some species live and die without us ever knowing they existed, while others whose numbers have become so human-depleted retreat to hard-to-reach habitats where we can’t continue killing them off (or finding them to know they still exist).

By comparison, before we evolved from hunter-and-gatherer grunting idiots (thousands of years ago), less than ONE species per million was eliminated annually, and usually not due to human intervention.

In a few more decades, we will have to create vertical forests and vegetable farms (like they are doing in China right now) just to have oxygen to breathe and organic foods to eat, because we are too consumed with consumerism right now to remember a simple little fact from middle school science class – trees and plants, among other things, create oxygen.  What do you think we are going to breathe when we’ve clear-cut all the forests on the planet just so we can have new houses and new parking lots and new shopping centers?

Going back to our headlong rush to poison our oceans – here’s a fun fact for you.  Phytoplankton, delicate and small marine creatures, create half of the world’s oxygen.  Some scientists believe they actually contribute up to 85% of the world’s oxygen.  So let’s keep dumping waste into the oceans while we enjoy that Princess or Carnival cruise, conducting underwater drilling and marine habitat destruction, and tossing out truckloads of non-biodegradable waste that ends up in the ocean because we are too lazy to find a trash can or recycling bin.

Why do these numbers and statistics not bother you?  You should be horrified at what you, personally, are doing to the planet and the plants and animals that are struggling to survive the reckless stupidity of humankind’s complete and total arrogance.

The bottom line is that, no, the oceans do not belong to us – and who the hell are we to think so?

The Big Deal About the Burkini

When I want to know what’s going on in the news, I usually just go to Google News and poke around for a bit.  In general, I find the news distasteful because it’s always about something controversial, horrible, or ridiculously asinine.  It really isn’t ‘news’ for the most part, at least not the news I grew up on (over three decades ago).

A small firestorm has been brewing lately over a clothing item that is causing a bit of a stir – the burkini. One would think that it is a bathing suit that leaves nothing to the imagination, since practical nudity remains more offensive than an inability to see any flesh at all.

First of all, what the heck is a burkini?

It is a bathing suit designed for women who wish to enjoy the beach but remain modestly covered while doing so.  According to Aheda Zanetti, the designer and person who trademarked the name ‘burkini’ – it’s a marriage between modest dress and an active (and beach-going) lifestyle.  Something like a cross between a burka and a bikini (but not really), it allows Muslim and Orthodox Jewish women, and other women who prefer not to engage in public displays of excessive flesh, the ability to remain true to their modesty, faith, or other personal, social, ethical, or religious mores – and still enjoy a day at the beach.

Apparently, some countries and people have a big problem with a woman wanting to enjoy a relaxing day at the beach while exercising the freedom of choice and staying modestly covered from (primarily) head to toe.  The ironic thing about this is that bathing suits were almost identical 150 years ago.

A quick primer on head-coverings for Muslim women, for the uninitiated (which included me): There are actually several different types and styles of head-covering that a Muslim woman can wear.  While it is considered ‘mandatory’ based on the principles of Islam, there is much debate about whether or not the Qur’an actually and specifically states that a woman is required to cover practically every inch of flesh when she is out in public.  We will get back to that shortly.

At the most basic level, Muslim female body-covering is done to essentially avoid any potential for sexual impropriety or attention based on desires of the flesh (aka: lust).  A woman’s body is reserved for her husband’s enjoyment, and Muslims (and some others) take that to the extreme.

Obviously.  I mean, look at how slutty many of the girls and women look in the United States, including pre-teens (and younger), running around in bootie shorts and sports bras, acting coquettish around men (and not even knowing what that word means), and worrying more about the opposite sex than about getting an education and becoming an adult worthy of respect.  Of course, they also end up pregnant at 14, infected with an STD by 16, and strung out on drugs by 18, with 3 more kids by 3 different guys, to boot, and living out their uninspired lives on government assistance and welfare at the taxpayers’ expense.  (I am stereotyping in the worst possible way, but the basic concept is there – a large percentage of younger American women dress and act like low-paid whores.)

Well, look who has a problem with female modesty and/or freedom of choice…

Apparently, the country of France hates modestly-attired females, especially when they are hanging out at the beach.  People living along the French Riviera don’t want to see clothing – they want flesh!  The Prime Minister of France, a 54-year old named Manuel Valls, feels the same way and supports the bans against burkinis on French beaches.  (He’s a Swiss Spaniard who supports Scandinavian-style socialism.  Say that five times fast.)

At least France’s high court is populated with a few intelligent people who support personal freedom. Germany is now looking into banning the burkini and the burka (actual spelling is ‘burqa’), but the German government has run into a bit of a snag with their knee-jerk phobic reaction – there really aren’t any people in Germany (or elsewhere in the entire world, actually) who wear a burka.

Something you need to know at this point – a burka is different from a Muslim head-covering.  A burka is actually a full body drape, like a giant tent, with a thin mesh screen for the wearer to see out of.  It truly is a complete and total flesh-covering piece of apparel.  However, not a lot of people wear them, tending instead to stick to more comfortable, conventional, or less restrictive coverings.

WWMD?  (What would Mohamed do?)

This section’s sub-heading is slightly tongue-in-cheek, but the information has been earnestly and diligently researched.  For those who don’t know, Mohamed is to Islam like Jesus is to Christianity.  Pretty much.

Is head-to-toe body covering mandated by the Qur’an?  Some say yes, some say no, others say it’s a matter of interpretation, and yet others say that the references to body covering are part of the Qur’an that is considered ‘weak’ (without an accessible narrator or source attribution) and therefore not mandatory.

Typically, a Muslim woman’s head covering is called a ‘hijab.’  Traditionally, it was not always part of their culture and faith to wear a hijab or cover their ‘ornaments’ (Qur’an reference) and/or allow their head covering to obscure their breasts.  In fact, Muslim women used to bare their breasts to departing husbands and lovers when the men were heading off to battle.  The only reference in the Qur’an (as revealed by an Internet search) that actually mentions the covering of a woman’s body specifically states that she is to utilize her head covering to keep her bosom covered.  It doesn’t mandate the head covering, however.

Numbers don’t lie…

According to burkini designer Aheda Zanetti, she has seen a surge in sales since the French ban, so the controversy is helping her business.  She has also stated that a whopping 40% of her customers are non-Muslim.  Kind of blows the traditional stereotyping out of the water, doesn’t it?

In the end, who really cares?

If a woman wants to wear a body-covering bathing suit to the beach, who cares?  Some proponents of the French ban argue in support of prohibiting burka-style clothing because it permits the face and other body parts to be obscured, thus possibly concealing a terroristic weapon of mass destruction AND preventing the identification of the potential perpetrator.  Really?  Good grief.

Motorcycle helmets, jackets, hats, babushkas, and hoodies ALL do the same thing.  If I go to the beach wearing footie pajamas, no one cares.  If I go to the beach wearing an oversized hoodie and sweat pants, no one cares.  If I go to the beach wearing a Santa Claus costume, no one cares.  So can we please NOT care if a woman wants to dress modestly on a damned beach in France, or anywhere else in the world?

A word to any Muslims or Islamic followers who have read this post:  If I have gotten any facts or other information about the Islamic faith incorrect within this text, I apologize.  My intention was not to offend or misinform.  Please send a message with properly-sourced corrections and I’ll be happy to make changes.

The Future of Bathroom Door Labels

Because it’s apparently too complex and confusing for some people to figure out which doorway to enter when they need to use the bathroom in a public place.

If you stand up to urinate, use the men’s room.  If you sit down, use the women’s.

Before you read much more, be aware that this post is somewhat inflammatory.  It does not cater to anyone’s special feelings nor does it subscribe to the currently accepted dogma that voluntary social pariahs or willing victims of cultural ostracizing should be treated like delicate and fragile snowflakes.   Despite their thoughts to the contrary, that they somehow ‘deserve’ to be singled out and showered with sycophantic ass-kissing just because they knowingly choose not to fit neatly into a category, label, class, or other distinctive and segregated division, they are no more or less ‘special’ than anyone else on the planet – whether you stand up or sit down to take a leak.

Even if the only thing these special snowflakes have done was declare confusion about gender identity or demonstrate gender expression in a particular way, it is still a choice.

Everything in our lives is measured by the choices we make, and even when we actively avoid making a choice, we are still making a passive one.  Good or bad, we are where we put ourselves.

Now, back to the subject at hand…

The gender on your birth certificate, your self-labeled gender identity, or your own personal feelings about what you think you are have absolutely nothing to do with the physical act of using the bathroom.  The status of your ‘plumbing’ should be the determining factor because no matter how much estrogen or testosterone you ingest, how large your man-boobs grow or how much facial hair you can develop, or whether you like to wear lacy thongs and lipstick or Timberlands and Huskies with a flannel button-up shirt – you still use the bathroom like a man or like a woman.

If you are a man transitioning into a woman (transsexual) and you get turned on or feel your inner pervert threatening to unleash itself when you visit the restroom associated with your self-labeled gender identity rather than the one associated with your native biological gender, then you need a therapist, not separate and ‘special’ bathroom facilities.  The same goes for women transitioning into men.

How has it become such a difficult decision, fraught with insecurity, social stigma, personal embarrassment, and all the other adjectives and catchphrases applied to those who seem to think they are so uniquely special that they deserve a ‘private’ public bathroom all to themselves, just to figure out whether or not to go in the restroom with condoms or Kotex being offered in the wall dispenser?

Do you whip it out or wipe it off when you go tinkle-tinkle?

Must we get even more blatant, blunt, and obvious about the issue?  Do you have a penis or a vagina?

Guess what – if you have a penis, you are a man, no matter how you feel about it.  You will be a woman when – and only when – your penis is removed and replaced with as functional and visually distasteful a vagina as it is medically possible to install on an anatomical specimen not originally designed for one.

If you have a vagina, you are a woman, no matter how you feel about it.  You will be a man when – and only when – your vagina is stitched up and replaced with as flaccid and aesthetically unappealing a penis as it is medically possible to install on an anatomical specimen not originally designed for one.

Getting way off track for a minute or two…

This brings to mind the separate issue of why most lesbians really aren’t.  While that’s another story for another day, it can basically be summed up like this – if you are a female claiming to be a lesbian but your significant other dresses, acts, talks, or otherwise mimics the characteristics of the opposite sex (such as using a strap-on during intercourse, scratching an imaginary scrotum, shaving non-existent facial hair, etc.), you really aren’t a lesbian.  You want a man, otherwise your ‘girlfriend’ wouldn’t be trying so hard to be your ‘boyfriend.’  And your ‘girlfriend’ wants to be a man (aka: gender identity), or at least wants to dress and act like one (aka: gender expression), which means she isn’t a lesbian, either.

Not surprisingly, GLAAD (Gay & Lesbian something-something-something) has a “media reference list” on transgender issues containing what they claim is the ‘correct terminology’ for identifying men becoming women, women becoming men, men dressing like women, and so on.  What is surprising about the list, however, is how extremely vague it is.  It really doesn’t give a thorough or detailed definition.

You’d think an organization that supports gays and lesbians would be significantly more expressive regarding how LGBT individuals would like to be referred to.  They also don’t inform the site visitor what GLAAD stands for (Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, thanks be to Google and Wikipedia), and their mission blurb at the bottom of their web pages uses meaningless and trendy buzzwords in an attempt to sound eloquent and forward-thinking.

As a dynamic media force, GLAAD tackles tough issues to shape the narrative and provoke dialogue that leads to cultural change.

Really?  They might want to shape their narrative to be a bit more specific and descriptive about what they do.  Could they be any more vague?  Dynamic media force.  Tackles tough issues.  Shape the narrative.  Provoke dialogue.  Leads to cultural change.  It’s like the standard boilerplate text for a generic business web page, not a meaningful statement describing who they are, what they do, or what they stand for.  And why is their logo a fancied-up  speaker sound or volume indicator icon?

Here’s my version of GLAAD’s mission blurb, off-the-cuff and thrown together in a minute or two of rooting around in an online thesaurus:

As a progressive topical auditor with perceptive awareness of the media pulse, GLAAD aspires to encourage provocative and meaningful engagement that leads to a functional shift in societal dynamics and cultural paradigms.

Pretty much says nothing at all, just like their original mission blurb, but it sounds more hefty and aggressively visionary, in my opinion.  (My version of the mission blurb is © 2016 SiouxSays and © 2017 Siouxology, all rights reserved, not to be used without express written consent, yadda-yadda-yadda.)

Getting back on track with the main subject again (finally)…

I get it.  Some people feel like they are a man trapped in a woman’s body and vice versa.  Honestly, no one cares except YOU, so stop dithering about it, decide what gender you want to be, get to the point where you are as anatomically correct as possible, and use the damn bathroom designed for your physical gender.  Not necessarily birth gender or dream gender or one-day-I-will-be gender.  You’re standing in front of the bathroom doors right now.  The one you choose should be totally and entirely and utterly based on the way you have to urinate because of your physical abilities and limitations right now.

This crap, and that’s exactly what it is – crap – about different public and private places, businesses, institutions, agencies, and other locations creating or segregating bathroom space especially for transgender individuals is utterly ridiculous.  Next thing you know, there will be a horde of black people demanding their own bathroom because, as they would put it, bathrooms that don’t specify ‘persons of color’ are viewed as primarily being for the privilege of ‘white’ people only and #blacklivesmatter (but no one else’s does) so they deserve their own bathroom because it’s the least that the American government can do after centuries of oppression, by god.

Call me insensitive, prejudicial, discriminatory, whatever.

What I am, as a matter of fact, is completely weary of all the crybaby political correctness that has infested every nook, cranny, and crevice of America.  It is well past time for people to put on their big girl panties, suck it up, and deal with life instead of crying and whining about every little thing under the sun that hurts their poor little feelings.  Wait, what?  Life’s not fair?  Who ever said it would be?

A large percentage of adults under the age of 30 should have their parents charged with child abandonment, abuse, and neglect – simply for raising such a horrid generation of Americans.  If you are an exception to the rule, hug your parents and thank them for giving you the freedom to screw your own life up all by yourself. (Well, I guess let’s hit the ‘publish’ button and start making some people angry…)

Angie’s (Waste of Time) List

A few years ago (2013) I published a post entitled Why I Hate Angie’s List. (I would provide a link to the original but my blog is currently undergoing reorganization; once I’ve got it sorted out, I will link to that first review.)

While the post was rather short, it did cover the foundation for my intense dislike of Angie Hicks and her online abomination, also known as Angie’s List.  I literally cringe when I hear this woman’s voice on the television, hawking her cash cow and pretending that the intention behind it is to offer a beneficial service to consumers.

My dislike was largely based on the fact that Angie’s List was supposed to be a consumer-oriented, consumer-driven, crowd-sourced ‘review’ site that offered meaningful and informative reviews of local businesses to aid a potential consumer’s decision-making process.  It is anything but consumer-focused, because the very people it claims to want to help are forced to pay for a membership to the site before they can even read reviews about various businesses, much less post comments regarding their own experiences.

  • If I want to provide a statement of my experiences with a particular business in order to assist and possibly educate a future consumer of that business, I shouldn’t have to pay to do so.
  • If I want to read what other consumers have experienced at the hands of a company I am thinking about patronizing, I shouldn’t have to pay to do so.

A truly consumer-focused organization would espouse the cause of freely shared information to provide better experiences for potential consumers, enabling those consumers to avoid negative business-to-consumer interactions or to enter into an arrangement with a company armed with foreknowledge about what they might encounter (positive and negative).

In recent months, Angie’s List has begun offering free memberships.  I guess she has made enough money from gullible consumers to comfortably retire, so she can now offer reviews for what they should have been all along – free of charge.

At a glance while poking around on the How It Works page of Angie’s List, I noticed something right away that doesn’t sit right with anyone who actually knows how to use a computer and log on to the Internet.  Angie’s abomination claims that their data is certified and goes on to say:

With a review collection process certified annually by BPA Worldwide, Angie’s List prevents companies from reporting on themselves or their competitors – which means you get authentic feedback from fellow consumers.

Angie’s List is the simple, trusted way to get things done.

Does anyone actually believe this?  Since I am most certainly not going to pay money to join a consumer review website just to see how the review process works, I am assuming that a person signs up for a membership using their name, email address, and possibly a telephone number.  If more information than that is required, I like the site even less than before.

At any rate, the newly signed up individual is then free (after paying, of course) to find the listing for the business they wish to provide a review for, and they then write up and submit their review.  What “certification” is performed on the reviewer or the review content?

Anyone with a computer and Internet access can create an online identity (via an email address), join Angie’s List, and submit a positive review for his or her own company or a negative review for his or her competitors.  It isn’t like the Certification Gestapo arrive on your doorstep and verify your authenticity before you are permitted to post a review.  The only way that kind of self-reviewing and competitor-slamming could be avoided is if ‘members’ still need to provide credit card information (and/or pay for membership) when they create an account.  The requirement of a payment method via credit card would prevent someone from creating multiple accounts under different aliases and email addresses, and littering the List with false reviews.

Angie’s List offers a “fair price and service quality guarantee” that is stated as being ‘member-exclusive.’  Since everyone is now allegedly able to become a member via the ‘free’ membership, there is no longer any such thing as a ‘member-exclusive’ guarantee because, in essence, everyone on the planet is now a member (or has the opportunity to become one with very little effort and, allegedly, no cost).

After further review of the Guarantee FAQs, it is stated that members with a Basic or Green Plan are not eligible for the fair price and service quality guarantee.  I am assuming that a Basic or Green Plan is the free option, while other mentioned plans (like Silver and Gold) are the upgraded and paid-for memberships.  Still ridiculous, to pay for the ability to READ consumer reviews.  What a greed-inspired Internet black hole that is, and how prejudicial – to exclude certain ‘members’ just because they didn’t pay enough to join her pocket-lining, consumer-fleecing digital enterprise.  Oh, I’m sorry, but you aren’t the ‘right kind’ of member, so you don’t get the benefit of our ‘members only’ guarantees.  But we still want to make sure you have the best access to the best reviews for the best companies!

We want eligible members to get the benefits of the offer they purchased.

Eligible members.  Paying members.  Not the vagrant members, cheap members, poor members, or the members who just want to know they are picking a business that won’t screw them over since they can’t afford to choose a more costly option or pay again to have the work done over if it isn’t done right the first time.

The Terms and Conditions document relating to service providers contains numerous typographical errors.  Interesting to note, the T&C document states that Angie’s List is “solely an advertiser of the Service Provider’s goods and services,” and goes on to disclaim any liability in connection with a member’s purchase from a service provider.  This is essentially the same disclaimer that torrent sites use, that they are merely an advertiser of the existence of a torrent somewhere on someone’s personal computer, but they remain liable for any criminal or potentially criminal acts relating to the downloading of torrents.  Apples and oranges, I know, but the basic concept remains the same.

NOR ANY OF THEIR RESPECTIVE EMPLOYEES, AGENTS, MERCHANTS, THIRD-PARTY ONTENT PROVIDERS OR LIECENSORS, OR ANY OF THEIR OFFICERS, DIRECTORS, EMPLOYEES OR AGENTS SHALL BE RESPONSIBILE OR LIABILE WITH RESPECT TO ANY OF THE OFFER SERVICES

The above excerpt is from the Terms and Conditions document and is part of a single sentence.  There are FOUR incorrectly spelled words, just in that portion of the sentence (highlighted in bold green).  Has anyone provided a certified review of the inability of Angie’s List to provide a professional, diligent, and conscientious impression to the members and other interested persons?  Likely not.

Another interesting thing to note on the Terms and Conditions document – one of the main (and highlighted) special features offered by Angie’s Abomination is spelled wrong.  It’s a proper name for a proprietary special feature, and the person who wrote the document couldn’t even spell that correctly.  I’m surprised they were able to properly spell and punctuate “Angie’s List” throughout the entire document.  (The feature is LeadFeed, which is spelled “LeedFeed” in the T&C document.)

The Membership Bill of Rights is an interesting piece of fiction.  The very first sentence states that ‘our members come first.’  They need to change that so it reads, ‘our paying members come first.’  Also, as with other pages on the web site, there are typographical errors.

Would you really trust a business review located on a business review web site that is rife with so many unprofessional and sloppy typos?

The page is also alternately referred to as the “Membership” and “Member” Bill of Rights, and they claim it has ‘clear and easy-to-understand language,’ if you can overlook the typographical mistakes, I suppose.

The About Us page states that members are only permitted to report on a service experience once every six months, to prevent ‘stack[ing] the deck’ in favor of a particular company.  Another thing to dislike.  What if I patronize the same establishment on a monthly basis, or I had a string of car problems and had the same mechanic shop fix my car several times (for different reasons) in the span of six months?  As a member, especially if I am stupid enough to pay for the membership, I would expect to be able to report on whatever I choose and how often I choose to do it.

Unfortunately, the Careers page doesn’t show any openings for a Web Content Editor.  It is clearly a position that is desperately needed.

I am not the only Internet mouthpiece with a bone to pick against Angie’s Abomination.

The New York Times published an interesting article (A Complaint Registered, Then Expunged) about the Abomination in December 2013.  The article primarily focuses on the fact that a consumer’s negative review of a business is removed by Abominable Agents after the company has addressed the consumer’s grievance to some level of satisfaction, however grudgingly accepted the company’s resolution may have been.  After that, the consumer may submit another review – but it can only reflect a rating of A or B for the company, nothing less, and negative review commentary is not permitted.

Talk about one-sided and in the name of the almighty dollar.

The negative reviews are removed because over 60% of Angie’s List revenue comes from advertising dollars spent by those same companies that consumers are complaining about.  Wouldn’t want to piss off the money machine, would we?

In 2015, Angie’s List was the topic of a Forbes magazine article (regarding the allegations of fraud and ‘pay-to-play’ on the List), and a representative told Forbes:

Angie’s List’s policy is to not modify, suppress, or alter service provider ratings or member reviews, positive or negative.

We already know, from the 2013 article, that Angie’s List DOES in fact make it their ‘policy’ to modify, suppress, or alter service provider ratings.

Cheryl Reed, who – judging from her statements in the article – is likely the same person that wrote much of the inaccurately spelled content on the Angie’s List website, claims that the bad review, resolution (however pitiful it may be), removal of bad review, permission to file good review process is because they ‘want everybody to have as much information as they can have.’  Uh, say what?  Did that make sense to anyone?  Especially considering what we now know about disappearing reviews all in the name of making a buck?

If they wanted everybody to have as much information as they can have, then every single review ever posted, good or bad, would be provided on a company’s page, no matter what was done by the company to right the wrongs perpetrated against the disgruntled consumers.

The problem with removal of negative reviews, regardless of whether or not the company eventually ‘made good’ with the consumer, is that the initial problem no longer exists on the ‘crowd-sourced’ review site.  This means that a company that has pissed off hundreds of consumers in the past year can still have an A-plus rating simply because they offered up a paltry appeasement that appealed to Angie’s List executives as being acceptable (and likely also offered to buy some more advertising).  So you can find an A-plus company that actually has a terrible, horrible, worse-than-the-worst track record, but the ‘honest and reliable’ reviews on Angie’s List won’t reveal the dark side of your future dealings with the company from hell.

After some discourse with the Times writer, the Abomination’s inelegant and significantly less-than-eloquent mouthpiece said that they are ‘always taking feedback, and it has an impact on operations.’  That’s funny, because on the Angie’s List website, a message from the Abomination’s founder herself stated that they do not accept suggestions, criticism, feedback, creative ideas, or other types of SOP-modifying commentary because they do not want it, won’t use it, and generally don’t solicit it.  You’d think they would at least get their ducks in the same pond, since they are obviously, oh so obviously, not in a row whatsoever.

Angie’s List advertises that they offer thousands of ‘unbiased ratings and reviews.’  That is clearly not the case, if they delete negative reviews FOR ANY REASON other than that the consumer submitting the review was providing factually inaccurate or vengefully spiteful falsehoods.  The reviews are very much biased, often in favor of the company, especially since many of the listed companies are paying the bills for the website through advertising dollars.

Here’s the settlement agreement from a class action lawsuit filed against Angie’s List because, among other things, Angie claims that ‘businesses can’t pay’ to be on Angie’s List yet many businesses that are on the list pay via advertising dollars, and that those businesses receive favorably weighted reviews (including the deletion of negative reviews) because they do, in fact, ‘pay’ to be on Angie’s List (via advertising).

Like rats jumping from a sinking ship…

In the past year alone, over 200 employees at Angie’s List have sought out jobs at the Abomination’s rival, former Colorado-based company HomeAdvisor.  HomeAdvisor’s parent company offered to buy Angie’s List in November 2015 for over half a billion dollars with plans to merge it with HomeAdvisor, but the List executives declined the offer.  The funny thing is – Angie’s List is supposedly a flat-broke company.  Why would anyone want to buy it?  (In October 2015, the company reported its first profitable quarter, of a measly $82,000, in the entire 20 year history of the company’s operation.)

Wouldn’t it be easier to just create a competing company, do a better job at things like allowing consumers to post negative reviews, not kissing the asses of the companies that are getting bad reviews just because they buy advertising space, and spelling words correctly on the web site and technical documents – and then just let the S.S. Abomination slowly sink to the bottom of Internet infamy, soon to be as forgotten as Badger, Badger, All Your Base Are Belong To Us, and The End of the World (“fire ze missiles!!!”).  Actually, those things are pretty cool and just as cool as they were two decades ago.  The List has never been cool.

One disgruntled consumer who had his negative review of a company removed after the company provided him with a refund (as they should have), had this to say about Angie’s List:

I don’t know about you, but not knowing how many negative reviews were deleted from a business’s overall rating or how many positive reviews were the result of solicitation doesn’t make me trust their reviews anymore.

Exactly so.  The problem is, Angie herself – advocate of crowd-sourced and freely shared consumer reviews – defends the company’s removal of negative reviews.  No wonder her company is in the financial gutter, if that’s her benchmark business model.  I agree with the consumer quote.  Even if a company provides a refund, the consumer was still unhappy and had every right to leave a negative review and bad rating.  Not according to Angie and her godawful list, however.

In another article, this quote was found:

Fortune Magazine says Angie’s List is doing this not out of the goodness of its heart, but to expand its customer base and get more people to hire a contractor directly through Angie’s List. The company now makes most of its money through contractor advertising and getting a small cut each time someone hires a preferred contractor by going through the site.

That article’s author advocates not wasting your money on Angie’s List.

I advocate not wasting your money or your time, since you won’t receive truly unbiased reviews of any of the companies listed on the site.

At any rate, I still hate Angie’s List.  Even more so now that I’ve actually done more research on it since the last time I posted an article about my dislike of the abominable online list.