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Marketing is not always a dirty word

Marketing is one of those things gets a terrible rap. The only marketing that most of us like is the kind that is more entertainment than anything else. The kind where when asked to state what they were selling we can only answer, "I think it was a beer commercial...". The second it starts to influence us in anyway the same people who made us laugh are now the devil incarnate. We love it when marketing people pay for things we want. Most of the web is free because of marketing. Over the air television is paid for with marketing. Huge numbers of other things from sports to community events are also paid for in large part by marketing people. Again, we want it on our terms, if any of the marketing people's needs and desires start to become noticeable we flip out and complain. Marketing is there to buy us things with never any hope of reward or thanks.

I find this all terribly funny because to be honest when I look at marketing all I really see is fashion. Why do people shop at Target over K-Mart? Target is more fashionable. All the best people shop at Target. K-mart is for poor people. Nevermind, whether quality or pricing. We know that Target is better. If for some reason Target is to expensive we can always run to Walmart. After all, everybody knows that Walmart is the cheapest store. It makes it okay to shop there because now you are getting a bargain. Walmart is a fashionable place to buy stuff because you tell people you got a deal. Fashion once again rears its ugly head.

In the end though, this post has to have to a point. Marketing is about fashion which is about making people comfortable doing what you want them to do. After all, as elections have taught us for years. People usually just want to fit in with the crowd and not be on the losing side. This brings us to one of the great moments in marketing history. Nobody likes prunes, they're just fiber for old people. Nobody wants to be associated with that. Folks would much rather have a dried plum.

Big Hero 6

We went to see Disney's Big Hero 6 over the weekend. I was not planning on seeing it opening weekend but we had family visiting so we were looking for fun things to do together. The movie itself was pretty straight forward. The world was an off the shelf modern Asian city and required little in the way of explanation. The villain was pretty obvious but the story did not really care so there is no loss there. The characters were straight from central casting archetypes that you have seen in a dozen other movies. Again though, this matters little since they are clearly bit players in the story. The action was even set in "San Fransokyo" so clearly we were looking for broad appeal.

The animation did nothing to distract from the movie but it didn't add anything either. It was that now so common CGI look that just tries to get out of the way. In many ways it was computer animation trying to be live action. Maybe it is a case where you do not notice the special effects when the entire movie is one giant special effect. To get on my soapbox for a second, this really is a mistake, the best part of animation is that you can use the art to help set the mood and tell your story. At least give me a different color palette once in a while! You can do more with animation than we're doing right now and without resorting to expensive hand drawn art. Once you you make the decision to go animated, you need to take advantage of it.

Overall, Big Hero 6 was also very well done. The downsides do little to distract from the story. The lesson of the movie was felt by the kids without any of us feeling like we were getting hit over the head with it. The action did not get boring. Baymax had enough light-hearted moments to balance out the more serious points. If you have kids it is worth seeing this movie with them. However, you may find there's not enough there if you aren't aiming for a good kids movie experience.

I should mention this movie has a new short at the beginning called "Feast". This is where you get something with more broad spectrum appeal. The kids loved it and the adults were really into it as well. The dog was expressive and told a story that we do not normally see. Although it is still the generic computer animation look, it felt like the there was a bit more effort put into using colors, time of day and perspective. Hopefully, they will keep exploring with their shorts. Disney has better movies in them than we're seeing right. If we are lucky, they will break out of their comfort zone in the future.


I finally visited the Ponderosaagain. Wait, no a Ponderosa Steakhouse. Those are not the same thing. Either way, I have not been in one since I was a kid. We were on our way from Milwaukee to the Twin Cities for a short vacation and needed food. The only real option that did not require exploring random small towns was when we were passing the Wisconsin Dells. There was a bunch of restaurants there and some water parks our kids desperately hoped were the destination. However, the second I saw a sign for Ponderosa the decision was made.

The salad/buffet line was not as massive as I remember from being a kid but that is the way it normally works. It still had plenty of variety though. I also got a steak since it cost almost nothing to add to the buffet. The steak was definitely worth it. Did I mention it was only a few dollars more? It may not compete with Louis Benton or similar places but it was good and it had been a long time since I had a steak. The Ponderosa locations around here closed a while ago and there was definitely some nostalgia at work through our meal. However, the food was good and everybody made a few trips to enjoy the different things they liked. The entire restaurant from the restrooms on up looked and felt extremely clean. I mention this because most restaurants don't give off this vibe. This is especially true of any restaurant that builds its menu around a buffet line. I almost wonder if it was a newly built place.

Overall, I liked the food and the variety seemed though out. I did not spent time wandering around the buffet because the taco ingredients were in three different places. (I am looking at your Golden Corral). I appreciate not having to stick to the salad bar because of a buffet that only consists of cheap poorly made food. Ponderosa was worth the stop and not just because of nostalgia.

Eataly's Pizza

We tried a new pizza place called Eataly's Pizzeria. I knew this place was going to be good when I had to wait another five minutes for my pizza because they had to cut up more peppers. The second clue that this place was good was when my son ate three quarters of a pizza. The third was that it took all of my will power not to eat the other pizza all myself. The cheese was great and we will definitely be going to the place again. Did I mention the cheese was good? Seriously, it is worth the trip just to taste the cheese. Keep in mind that their seating is very minimal but it looked like they did pizza by the slice for lunch if not more times of the day.

I think you're doing it wrong.

Tourism is tacky by its very nature. I am not sure it can really exist in any other form. If you are building something deliberately for tourists than tacky is going to happen. However, I think there are lines that folks need to be aware of when you are planning and building such a destination. The first thing you need to understand is that it really isn't that important that your tourist trap represent reality. It is a fine line between ye olde tourist trappe and weirding people out. In the end, just embrace the tacky and let people revel in it.

Cleanup and a bit of a change

I've made a variety of changes to my presence on the internet over the years. The most recent around consisted of consolidating a few different websites into one. I've done this before but websites seem to appear as if by magic so it was required again. This particular time I have consolidated into I have also finally removed the stuff. I cannot believe I still have it since that domain lapsed years ago. The net result of all this is I have cut the size of the junk by half due to the elimination of duplication. The real point to this post though was, if you see this instead of what you expected, now you know why. Although, I still have to ask... Why are you here? :-)

Breyers and Edys no longer make ice cream

Breyers and Edys no longer make ice cream. It is now a "frozen dairy desert". What does this mean for you? It means it no longer tastes like ice cream nor has any sort of ice cream mouth feel. We had some at my daughter's birthday party recently. It was so bad that over half the ice cream was thrown away. (Remember when ice cream came in half gallons?) This is apparently enough of a thing that Breyers had to put something on their about page. I hope someone figures out that this kind of thing is really bad for business over the long term.

If you going to buy ice cream, please do us all a favor and look for the words ice cream. I am willing to bet your local grocery store has some in the store brand line even. Frozen Dairy desert is just a bunch of cheap sugar and a number of things that I had to look up.

Random acts of stupidity

I don't have much to say on the following. It is just a case of what the heck are some people thinking?

If you are going to try and hoover all information everywhere... you shouldn't say this. Although this probably isn't any better.

If you want people to give you their money to keep safe... robbing you shouldn't be this easy.

If you want people to take border control seriously... this, this, this are not going to help. Also, work on avoiding anything that smacks of trust us.

If you are working with radiation... certain things should be donefirst so you can avoid thesethis and this.

Just ask Ford what a little stupidity can do.

Cut and Paste are simple, right?

In another entry in our occasional series, "Cleaning out the bookmarks file", we have an entry on Cut and Paste. Cut and Paste are things that should be ridiculously simple. However, the existence of various clipboard enhancers shows that it is not. Another example of how complicated it can be is this classic. I never thought learning the fine details of clipboard theory would be interesting but the bookmark has been with me for longer than I care to think about.

Another part of it that I enjoy is that it reminds me of my youth when things like Wikipedia and even did not exist. If you had something to say you put it on your own webpage. The times I found fascinating information maintained by someone who cared made the internet a far more interesting place. It seems nowadays it is easier to find what you are looking for if it is popular with the right people but far more difficult in other respects.

At least they'll have a story to tell

There is really no way to say it. We're the worst parents ever. We have officially crossed the line from ordinary failure to the truly terrible. What is it that we could do that was so horrid? We opened Christmas presents in the evening.... of Christmas Day. I weep just thinking about it. How could we reach such a low point?

Well, my wife had to work. I'd like to say there was something more to it but that is really it. She had to work and no one in this family outside of myself was willing to get up at 6am to open presents. I suppose we could have opened them without her but I am not sure we despise mommy enough for that.

My poor daughter suffered most of all. If you hear her tell it the progress of time that day slowed to a crawl that would impress even the torpid of Sloths. (Yes, I managed to work torpid into a sentence. I am going to consider that a victory of some sort or another. ) If she didn't ask every half hour for the entire day than I would be surprised.

My son was a bit more tolerant. I suspect he asked when mommy was going to be home no more than a dozen times or so. A relative trifle compared to the despondent form that was my daughter.

In the end everyone enjoyed opening presents and the related a great deal. Hopefully, that enjoyment will be enough to keep child services at bay.

Getting there

I read a lot of news. I subscribe to the local newspaper, watch television news, tons of stuff off the internet. In general, I have to be honest most of it is pretty depressing. In the end though, a lot of is not the kind of depressing that ruins your day. Violence for better or worse is something we can point to and say fairly clearly that this is bad regardless of the circumstances. Even a just war is something a rational person is not going to be interested in except under duress.

The things that affect me are the ones that fall under the category of "We'd never go that far." A few months ago there was a story that made the rounds about a new patent that was approved. It seems someone found an easier way to do genetic testing on those still inside the womb. They'd never go so far as to use it of course. It was left unasked why they'd bother researching and patenting something they'd never do.

Than there are our schools. The same halls hold some of the great educators we have ever had, some of the most truly worthless and examples of reasonable policies taken to the extreme. Fighting a problem? We just won't let students touch each other. This should fix all of our problems, why did we not think of this sooner? Gun violence is a problem too, so better safe than sorry. Free speech can also be a problem when you realize not everybody agrees with you. The articles are of course just picked at random from a little internet searching. If you worked you might be able to come up with a reasonable defense of the actions. However, you still have to explaining how charging a six year old with sexual harassment is going to do the child any good. In the end we need to remember that schools have children in them, not short adults.

I have spent a while trying to come up with something coherent to say about the federal government. I guess the best I can come up with is that pointing out that the NSA now has its own section at the Electronic Frontier Foundation and much of what they do is illegal to mention. Don't worry. I am sure they are not abusing their power and would never lie to us. After all, they can barely search their own email.

We've heard the phrase "Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely." Hopefully, we'll understand what it means before it is too late.