Another entry into our catalog of clues that decline of civilization is at hand.
No, wait, come back! I promise it’s got nothing to do with politics.
In addition to being one of the half-dozen people who still reads a printed newspaper, I’m also one of the three who still reads Usenet. (I know you all remember newspapers; please tell me you remember Usenet. Oh, all right: TFoAHK–or you can just think of it as a blog without posts, just comments.)
So, of course, in bringing my Windows tablet up to speed, I had to find a newsreader. Amazingly enough, there is is one in the Microsoft App Store. Yes, there are plenty of pre-Windows 8/10 programs out there, but about half of them are intended for downloading dirty pictures and pirated TV shows, and two-thirds of them have user interfaces that work fine with a mouse, but suck with a finger. So I wanted a UWP app if there was one.
I started reading the reviews, as I do, and then I found this gem:
Oh, FFS‽ A lousy two bucks for something that you literally can’t get any other way, and you think so strongly that the developer should just give it to you that you give it a one star rating?
The level of entitlement this showed had me so flabbergasted that I bought the app without even taking the time to see if it suits my needs. And I’m going to abuse my lofty position as the Guardian of Civilization to encourage every one of you who has a Windows 8 or newer computer to click that link above and buy NewsgroupsRT. I don’t care if you have no idea what Usenet is all about, just give $1.99 to Mr. Schaffernak. Think of it as a contribution to staving off the Decline of Civilization.
And another item for the collection.
Last weekend, I went to Sizzler for dinner. (Yeah, I have some low tastes. Wanna make something of it?) It is possible to eat healthily at Sizzler, but that’s not really the point. And I wasn’t planning to be particularly healthy on this visit. I had been thinking about a hunk of cow, but then I saw this on the menu:
It took a couple of seconds to sink in. (A hint for my readers in the UK: what you call “chips,” we call “fries”.)
My first reaction was that this was an item for the WQTS file. Obviously, the copy had been written by someone unfamiliar with fish and chips, and somehow bypassed the copy editor.
But no. This is by design. I know this because when I placed my order, the young woman at the register asked–completely straight-faced–“Would you like fries with that?”
I confess that my brain crashed. She took in the vacant look on my face as I struggled to reboot, and in a slightly defensive tone said “Some people want to substitute a baked potato or rice.”
I rigidly suppressed the fifteen minute rant about how, without fries, it’s not “fish and chips” and managed to mutter “Fries, please.”
But the more I think about this mess, the more it bothers both my QA and writer sides. Declaring “fish without chips” to be “fish and chips” is an orwellian devaluation of the language. Can we assume that their 8oz sirloin is actually eight ounces? How sure are we that it’s actually sirloin?
Bottom line: If Sizzler is going to put rice and baked potato on the same level as fries/chips, then they shouldn’t call the dish “fish & chips”. “Beer Battered Fish with choice of sides” is perfectly serviceable and accurately descriptive, and it doesn’t actively increase the public’s levels of doubt and uncertainty.
Civilization as we know it: doomed.
This might be a bit a bit of bread and circuses, but I’d prefer to think of it as a sign that there might be a little hope for civilization.
Remember when you could get toys and other prizes in your cereal box? That hasn’t been the case for quite a while*, but the mail-in prize hung around rather longer.
* I blame AOL. After finding a shrink-wrapped AOL disc in your shredded wheat, would you really want to risk eating that cereal again?
For those of you who are too young to remember, the idea was that you would collect a certain number of box tops, proving that you had bought (I won’t say “eaten”) enough of a particular cereal to justify a reward. You then mailed the box tops along with a couple of bucks for “shipping and handling” to the cereal manufacturer, and six-to-eight weeks later, a Postal Packin’ Person would bring your prize.
Of course, the prizes cost the manufacturers a tiny fraction of the profit they made on your cereal purchase, and the offer always included those dreaded words “While Supplies Last”.
But you know what?
Modern technology has made it so darn simple and inexpensive to produce cheap gimcracks that it’s completely revolutionized the concept of the mail-in cereal prize.
Consider: In August, I saw that Kellogg’s was offering a “Free Lantern” in a promotional tie-in with Disney’s release of Finding Dory. Actually, the offer started running in March, but I didn’t notice it until August.
Since I’m a sucker for “free” if it doesn’t inconvenience me too much, and since the necessary purchase involved cereals that I eat anyway, I decided to get me one.
So, four boxes of cereal later, on September 23, I went to Kellogg’s website and typed in four sixteen character codes. Nothing to clip, nothing to mail, and no “shipping and handling”.
The site informed me that “The promotion has been extremely popular and we’re currently awaiting stock of additional lanterns”. Right. It’s gotten so cheap to make toys, that they made more instead of invoking “while supplies last”. Imagine!
Apparently they were seriously backlogged. The site said to allow 12 weeks for delivery. This past Tuesday, guess what showed up on my doorstep? Yup. It took more than 17 weeks–really backlogged–but I got my cheap prize.
And you know what? It’s not nearly as cheap as I expected. It’s plastic, yes, but it feels solid. And it came with batteries installed. All I had to do was–well, let Kellogg’s show you:
So, yeah. A large company promised me something, and they actually exceeded my expectations in fulfilling that promise.
If that’s not a sign of civilization, I don’t know what is.