26 August 2009

Waiting In Line At Toys 'R' Us

I go to Toys 'R' Us (or TRU for you cool people out there) a lot...you know, for research. There is usually one local on that I frequent, but when I see one on the road, I go in and see what is in stock. In the past three months, I have been to about ten different TRU's (like that?). One thing that they all have in common...very poor customer service.

As a kid, there is no better reward than getting a toy. Every kid, including me, that walks into a Target, Wal-Mart, Canadian Tire, K-Mart, etc. will run to the toy section to pick out a toy. Now, throw in a toy store such as Toys 'R' Us, that kid is in heaven.

Let me first say that bringing a kid along with you while you shop is pure torture for the kid. Kids have a short attention span...ALL KIDS have short attention spans. It is called being a kid, not that attention deficit/ADD crap! You need to purchase a little something to keep the kid quite and occupied on the way home. Hence the term "Shut-Me-Up-Toy", and industry term. It describes a toy that a guardian buys to shut the kid up, usually under five dollars. When you go to a Toys 'R' Us with a kid, expect to purchase an item at least within the fifteen dollar range. Taking a kid to a toy store and not buying anything for him/her is just cruel.

Back to my problem with TRU. Like many mass market stores, there are multiple check out lines. Your average TRU will have ten checkout stations, including at least one in electronics and at least one at customer service. Then why...WHY is there only one register open? I have seen lines with more than five people waiting, and there will be one register open with the slowest cashier on staff. (Oh, K-Mart sucks, too. But that is another post.) You have antsy kids in line with fed up parents...and there is only one line open? Meanwhile, there are other staff...wait, they like to be call "team members", just wandering about. How about you grab a register and get the next guest in line? There are a dozen registers NOT being used.

Seriously, how hard is it to work the register? I have done it, it is easy. The little bar code thingy makes it so damn easy these days. In fact, they make a toy register that you can buy at TRU, if you get to the register. Most of the time you do not even have to make change. Most transactions are made with a credit card. Even if there is cash involved, all you do is punch in some numbers and it does all the math for you. Heck, I bet the four year old in line can playing with the toy register can run the TRU one.

18 August 2009

Depeche Mode - Hollywood Bowl, 16 August 2009

After four years, Depeche Mode returns to Southern California to perform in front of another sold out crowd. This time, DM stops at the famous Hollywood Bowl. The show was almost canceled as lead singer Dave Gahan was ordered to rest his vocals by the band's doctor. The two previous shows in San Francisco and San Diego were unfortunately canceled with no rescheduling. Earlier in the tour, with only two shows in the books, the front man had a tumor removed from his gall bladder, resulting in the cancellation of ten shows in Europe. The band also had to cancel their last two European shows, when Dave pulled a muscle in his calf during a performance.

For those of you keeping score, that is fourteen shows canceled in so far. The guys are booked until February of 2010, and have been on tour since May of 2009. Hopefully, they can complete the tour without any other illnesses or injuries.

With a fresh start, Depeche Mode rocked the Hollywood Bowl! They waited until it was dark, then took the stage at around 8:20PM. As usual, the band had visuals, courtesy of Anton Corbijn (via a large LED screen with half-sphere), to accompany the performance. The crowd roared in anticipation, excitement, and relief that the show was not canceled.

DM performed songs from their new album, Sounds of the Universe, while sprinkling in hits from the past from albums such as Playing the Angel, Ultra, Songs of Faith and Devotion, Violator, Music For the Masses, Black Celebration, and Some Great Reward. To my surprise, the band did not play their latest single Peace, nor their up coming single Fragile Tension. Here is the list of songs played that night:

In Chains First song of their new album, only fitting to have it be their first song of the night.

Wrong First single off their new album.

Hole To Feed Song off of Sounds of the Universe, written by Dave Gahan (and Christian Eiger and Andrew Phillpott)

Walking In My Shoes They used the LED half-sphere as an eyeball. Kinda cool and creepy at the same time. This is one of my favourite live songs.
It's No Good The crowd went crazy when this 'oldie' was played.

A Question Of Time Dave got the crowd to sing most of this song...you know, to give his throat a rest.

Precious There was a poem by Hafez being 'typed' while the song was playing. *

Fly On The Windscreen Another great live song. Cameras were on all three band members and projected on the screen. Great use of stage.
Jezebel Martin's turn to do his bit, while Dave takes a break. Song of the new album.Home This is actually my least favourite DM song. But, it sounds better live.
Come Back Dave 'comes back' with another song he wrote for the new album. He was wearing a scarf around his neck. I assume to protect it from the cold and also to not over stress his vocal cords.
Policy Of Truth The visuals on this one was awesome! Think gumball machine. What does it mean? Beats me, it was just cool!
In Your Room The song started off as if it was acoustic, then the lyrics kicked in. After the first verse, the familiar beat kicked in. Again, awesome!
I Feel You See the four light fixtures? They were doing the snake throughout the whole song, quite impressive.

Enjoy The Silence My favourite song of all time. Video showed Dave, Martin, and Andy in astronaut suits. They would switch places, taking turns in having their heads projected on the big ball. Way cool!
Never Let Me Down Again This song ended the main set list. The highlight when the song is performed live it when Dave gets the crowd to wave their arms. The site of thousands of fans waving is just amazing.

Martin came out to sing the first song of the first encore. Crowd favourite, I like it, too.
Stripped You know when you hear the engine turning over, that it is time for Stripped. This is one of my favourites, even better live.
Strangelove Another great one from the 80's. The video was great, as well...HOT! So hot, in fact, they had to take another break.

Personal Jesus Second encore, probably Depeche Mode's most famous song. I believe it is still Warner Bros.' best selling 12" single.
Waiting for the Night Last song of the night was a duet with Dave and Martin.

Thanks guys, another great show. This was my sixth Depeche Mode concert, cannot wait for number seven. Dave, and the rest of the band, stay healthy...see you next time!

*This is the poem during Precious:
So much from God
That I can no longer
Myself A Christian, a Hindu, a Muslim
A Buddhist, a Jew.

The Truth has shared so much of Itself
With me
That I can no longer call myself
A man, a woman, and angel
Or even pure

Love has
Befriended Hafiz so completely
It has turned to ash
And freed

Of every concept and image
My mind has ever known.

13 August 2009

Shrimp Tails

I admit, I am a picky eater. I do not eat meat, expect seafood, not because of moral or health reasons...I just do not like the taste of it. If I see any meat in my food, I will most likely reject it. In restaurants, I have asked them to remake or take it back. If there is little meat chunks, sometimes I will sit there and pick out every-damn-piece of it.

Not sure why every sentence in that paragraph started with a word beginning with "I".

When I am at a restaurant, I try to be civil. I use the utensils, napkin, and exercise table manners. Now, I understand that at a decent eatery, there is an image they are trying to represent. They do not want people running around, wiping their hands/mouth on table cloth (I do that all the time), and they frown upon people using their hands. I am talking about regular restaurants...not those 'fancy' Renaissance places.

So why...why do they leave the tail on shrimp? Many times I have sat there and fish out (like that?) every shrimp in my dish and take out each tail. Yes, using my hands. There is no way to do it with the tools on the table. Believe me, I have tried. Now, my hands are dirty. I wipe my hands on the napkin...now the napkin is dirty. This is why I sometimes use the table cloth.

You may think that it shows that the cook is 'high class'...WRONG! It shows that the cook is lazy in his/her preparation and a food waster. Most people just bite the shrimp off at the tail. This leaves a good inch of shrimp that is wasted.

And, you have a piece of scrap that is on ones plate, like a bone, skin, shell. I like a clean plate at the end of the meal. It shows that you got what you paid for. If you order a pound of meat and you have a quarter pound of bone left...you only really got a three-quarter piece of meat. Scam!

Cooks, please. Take the time to remove the tail on the shrimp. I am paying for the food and service, do your job.

09 August 2009

What happened to "Part I", "Part II", Etc.?

Back to the Future is the best trilogy, ever! If you think otherwise, you are just WRONG!

The key to a successful film franchise is multiple sequels, usually two (hence trilogy). We all know that there are tons of film franchises out there that are awesome and not so awesome.

Now, here is the problem I have with a few recent sequels out there...the title of the film. For someone who wishes to the Batman films, how are they to know which one came first? For example. If I wanted to see the Toy Story films, I would see Toy Story, then Toy Story 2, then Toy Story 3 (when it comes out in June 2010). With Batman, there is Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin...then Batman Begins, The Dark Knight...oh and Batman (or Batman: The Movie) from 1966.

I love great movie titles like the Harry Potter series. But unless you read the books, you have no idea which book/movie follows which. I 'read' the first four books...on CD.

Then we have crazy franchises that mix numbers (Part 1, Part 2...) with 'creative' titles. Rambo, what is going on here? First Blood, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo III, John Rambo. Meh, what do you really expect?

Well, that is not the real 'problem'. I like the numbering system because it is clean and gets to the point...informative. I like the fancy names because it tries to be a little different (like the Matrix series). I am even okay with the Rambo example...really. The problem lies when they come up with titles the just add or omit the word "THE", and call it a sequel. Not only is this confusing...it is stupid!

Exhibit A: The Fast and The Furious (part 1), 2 Fast 2 Furious (clever use of '2' for part 2), The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (part 3, see, fancy name...but it works), Fast and Furious (part 4...but they just took out "the" in the title from part 1, WTF?).

Exhibit B: Final Destination, Final Destination 2, Final Destination 3D (because it was in 3D...most thirds in series take advantage of '3' and make it...the movie and title...3D), The Final Destination. What is it with the fourth film and crappy names?

Oh, and get this...I suggest to someone that we should see Fantastic Four. The response, "did I see the first three?" Wait, there is more...at the end of the second one, Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer, Silver Surfer is seen, leading one to believe there will be a sequel. The response to that, "is there going to be a Fantastic Five?"

05 August 2009

Going Dutch, Simple Math

This happens to me a lot. Since I usually do not go out to eat, I have not ranted about this in the past. But today, I went out and had lunch with five other people, a total of six of us. That is not the math part.

First of all, let me say that going out to eat is expensive. A sandwich (tuna melt) can set you back $8. Yet, a loaf of bread, pack of cheese, can of tuna, head of lettuce, and anything else you may need to make a tuna melt, will cost you the same $8. And, you still have food left over to make more sandwiches.

Here is a tip that will make paying the bill a lot easier. When you order...remember how much your food and drink is. Example: Tuna melt - $8, Drink $3. Total $11. When it comes time to play, remember that number (11). Then, add about 20% for tax and tip. For my example here, it comes to about $13-14. Hey, you are in a large group and (if) your server was half way decent, give them $15. Very simple.

So many times I have seen people think, "Hmm, I had a sandwich, drink...that is like $10. WRONG!

Now, this is were I get to the point of all this. This happened today. I usually order things that are relatively cheap (remember, I am too cheap to eat out most of the time), and I rarely drink soda...just plain ice water.

Okay, here is the math part. If you are the person doing the "math" for the table, you have to make sure that the total amount of money you collect is enough to cover the tip as well. Everyone else should remember the price of their items and pay accordingly.

The food I order is usually around $10 (including tax and tip). Most people average around $15 (including tax and tip). So, why is it that everyone at the table 'owes' $18? WRONG! I ordered the $10 (including tax and tip) sandwich with no drink. Meanwhile, everyone else orders the fillet mignon with lobster. Really? I have to chip in for that? You DO NOT split the bill evenly when members of the group order different things.