On Prinicple, I Will Not Make A “Have It Your Way” Pun

Yet another reason to avoid fast-food restaurants, particularly Burger King:

In 2005, Florida tomato pickers gained their first significant pay raise since the late 1970s when Taco Bell ended a consumer boycott by agreeing to pay an extra penny per pound for its tomatoes, with the extra cent going directly to the farm workers. Last April, McDonald’s agreed to a similar arrangement, increasing the wages of its tomato pickers to about 77 cents per bucket. But Burger King, whose headquarters are in Florida, has adamantly refused to pay the extra penny — and its refusal has encouraged tomato growers to cancel the deals already struck with Taco Bell and McDonald’s.

This month the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, representing 90 percent of the state’s growers, announced that it will not allow any of its members to collect the extra penny for farm workers. Reggie Brown, the executive vice president of the group, described the surcharge for poor migrants as “pretty much near un-American.”

Now the Florida Tomato Growers Exchange has threatened a fine of $100,000 for any grower who accepts an extra penny per pound for migrant wages. The organization claims that such a surcharge would violate “federal and state laws related to antitrust, labor and racketeering.” It has not explained how that extra penny would break those laws; nor has it explained why other surcharges routinely imposed by the growers (for things like higher fuel costs) are perfectly legal.

What’s ironic is that while Burger King refuses to take a stand in support of farm workers, it been relatively vocal on better treatment for chickens and pigs. Until they change their mind, Burger King is off my list, as are Florida tomatoes.

On Prinicple, I Will Not Make A “Have It Your Way” Pun

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

The Echo Maker, a National Book Award finalist, featured stretches of good and interesting writing laboring to advance a story that eventually settles (collapses would be too strong a word) clumsily under the weight of a too cute story. A book about a devastating neurological disorder shouldn’t feature flat, unsympathetic characters, but this one does. Maybe I didn’t get it.

The Echo Maker by Richard Powers

I Shake My Fist at the Apple Store

(Welcome, visitors from ifoAppleStore! Glad you could come visit. I encourage you to take a look around, and read the comments before posting one of your own. Thanks!)

I like Apple. I really do. Rachel and I have matching 15″ Powerbook G4s, we each have an iPod, our house has two Airport Expresses, and I badly covet an iPhone. So it pains me to be filled with such boiling rage at a company that I admire.

My laptop died: these things happen. The hard drive croaked about six weeks ago, but I was able to resurrect it with the help of DiskWarrior, which totally rocks, and is much better than the useless crap the Apple guys tried. So I’m back up and running, and feeling pretty good about myself, until last night when I remembered that I’d turned off Spotlight indexing a while back for performance reasons, but then was irritated that I couldn’t search my mail, and so turned it back on. Forty-five minutes later, blam-o. Hard drive dead again. This time, not even DiskWarrior could save it. (Edited to add: although DiskWarrior couldn’t repair the drive this time, it was still able to access the files on the disk, and I was able to retrieve the few things that had changed since my last backup.)

So, I reluctantly schlepped my laptop into the Apple Store to have the hard drive replaced. What I was nervous about is Apple’s repair policy: they take my computer, take out the broken hard drive, put a new one in, and give me back the laptop. It takes about five days, and that’s cool with me, since it’s covered under Apple Care. But! They keep the old drive. I understand why they keep the old drive from an inventory perspective, but I wasn’t crazy about the idea. I’ve got stuff on there! Personal stuff! Six years of email, not to mention 40 GB of photos, and all of my bank account numbers.

I asked the “genius” at the Apple Store what my options were. (And let me just say, if you’re going to refer to your employees as “geniuses,” you should expect some sarcastic quotation marks.) Could he, for instance, format the drive while I was there so I could have at least some confidence that my personal data wasn’t going to be easy for someone else to get? Sorry, no such luck, as the drive wouldn’t mount, and see above re: their crappy software. I was disappointed, but more or less resigned to the situation until I saw the release I had to sign before they’d replace the hard drive:

I acknowledge that service may be subject to a $100 USD diagnostic fee as described in the attached Repair Terms and Conditions, and agree that either I have made a backup copy of my data and removed any confidential, proprietary, or personal information and removable media such as floppy disks, CDs, or PC cards, or I have assumed the risk that such information or media may be lost, corrupted, or compromised during service and repair. I further acknowledge and agree that Apple cannot guarantee the safety, security or integrity of any data that remains on my computer while undergoing service or repair and that Apple shall not be liable for any loss, corruption or breach of such data, including any confidential, proprietary or personal information or removable data.

Emphasis added. Lack of serial commas: sic.

I understand why Apple doesn’t want to guarantee the security of my data, but there’s something really offensive about requiring me to sign a release that pretty much explicitly gives them permission to sell my credit card numbers to Ukranian mobsters.

But, if I didn’t initial the box and sign the form, they wouldn’t fix my computer. I asked how much it would cost for me to buy a replacement hard drive myself, and “genius” Brandon pretty much admitted that Apple jacks up the prices for parts they sell to the general public to encourage us to pay for the labor instead. But besides, I’d paid for Apple Care already. I was entitled to the free parts and labor, and I wanted it. So, being a chump and kinda broke, I signed the damn form.

This policy sucks even if, as Brandon from the Apple Store claims, it’s industry standard. The industry standard is stupid. I don’t expect the Apple Store to be able to do anything about a terrible corporate policy, but I would have liked a little more sympathy. I would have left feeling much better if Brandon had said, “For legal reasons, we can’t make any guarantees, but we’ve never had any complaints about data being misused, and here are the privacy and security policies we have in place to prevent anything like that from happening.” He didn’t say anything like that, and I’d like to know if that’s because he found me irritating, or because Apple has no such policies.

(I’m praying that just because I made a fuss over this policy, Brandon and his buddies don’t “accidentally” step on my poor defenseless laptop, or check the “please ruin this guy’s life” box on the work order. Please don’t ruin my life just because I hate your policy!)

I’ll get my computer back in 5 days with a brand new hard drive, and that’s great, but some of my love for this friendly corporate behemoth has been lost. Apple: try not to suck so hard in the future.

I Shake My Fist at the Apple Store


Why? Simply for the challenge.

You can buy marshmallows at the store. You can even buy pretty good marshmallows at the store. But there are some things a man has to do, and sometimes a man has to make homemade marshmallows. Michael Chu provided the recipe, and I have nothing much to add to it except the following notes.

First, this will give your standing mixer a workout. It took me way less than 8 minutes to fluff the marshmallows, and I stopped once could hear the mixer straining. It’s possible that our marshmallows didn’t fluff as much as possible, or that I somehow screwed something else up.

The marshmallow fluff, before it sets in the pan, is crazy delicious.
Lickin' the spatula

The thing you should know about the marshmallow fluff is that it is the stickiest substance in the known universe. Getting it out of the bowl and into the pan was a Herculean labor. By the end, our faces and hands were generously coated in a the sticky yet delicious goo. Rachel, actually, was wearing a pretty nice sweater and I could see the marshmallow’s insidious tentacles starting to creep towards it, so I sounded the alarm: “Quick, take off your sweater!” I expected nothing more than that she’d go change into a different shirt, but she was focused, laser-like, on subduing the marshmallow beast, so she simply whipped that thing off and dove right back into the bowl. That, my dear friends, is dedication. Now, if I were to share with you the uncensored picture that resulted, I have a feeling she’d drown me in a vat of marshmallow fluff, so I’ll simply link over to the tastefully obscured picture at her place.

We let the marshmallows chill out overnight in their pan, and then dropped the onto a cutting board that was liberally dusted with powdered sugar. I cut them into, more or less, squares with a pizza cutter, and then we dredged each piece in more powdered sugar. The kitchen looked like [insert name of celebrity rumored to be a coke head] had been through there.
Pizza cutter

How did they taste? Like marshmallows. They really tasted no different than marshmallows you might buy at the store, so I don’t know if that means that I succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, or that I wasted a weekend and a lot of sugar. Upon repeated tastings, however, I determined that the taste was a little sweeter and less artificial than, say, your generic Fluffy Puff marshmallows, and the texture was vastly superior. Can I refer to the texture of a marshmallow as silky? Who’s going to stop me?

Never ones to leave well enough alone, and scoffing at the idea that less is more, we dipped half of them in chocolate. Some got a full dousing, others got an artistic striping, and some got an additional squirt of white chocolate. Admit it, you wish you had this plate of marshmallows right now.