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Category: opinion

01/18/12 12:20 - ID#55933

Stop American Censorship!

You can make a personal effort to stop this greed-driven insular bill from passing! You can stop your primary information source from looking like this!

Visit this to generate an automatic letter to the congress protesting the asinine SOPA and PIPA acts!

You can also send a letter to the congress via this website:

Do it, NOW!

The future of the internet lies in your hands!

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Last Modified: 01/18/12 12:48

Category: opinion

10/07/11 09:16 - ID#55259

Why I don't like Amazon anymore.

I got an email from (e:enknot) today morning. He is getting Amazon prime membership. He wants 5 more folks to join so that costs could be lower for everyone for the same kind of benefits. Sounds pretty good, but I am unfortunately passing on this very generous offer.

I had Amazon Prime for the whole of last year. It made me buy all sorts of irrational things, really. There was an element of thrill in getting something delivered in 2 days flat.

Then the wok drama happened (e:tinypliny,54693) I know this is probably going to sound petty. But the wok was in my shopping cart and I was definitely going to buy it that day. The price suddenly spiked up more than 2x the original cost just as I was taking the preliminary steps to go through the checkout process (And no, I don't have the one click magic phrase because I think it's such nonsense)!

I sent a nasty letter of complaint to Amazon and heard back from the customer service team. According to them the prices on Amazon are fair market prices (or something to that effect) and it's not under their control. I was annoyed and deleted the wok from the shopping cart. Needless to say the wok magically sprang back to its original lower price when I did.

If this had happened once or even twice I would have overlooked it but this kind of price jumping has happened quite a few times for me in the past. They definitely monitor the shopping carts of people in general (because I receive target email that explicitly says that it is for things related to the ones in my shopping cart). I think that when a critical mass of people have some item in their shopping cart, they try and increase profits with some atrocious price change. Of course, this is only a theory and a bitter one at that. I have no evidence but that is what the whole thing feels like to me.

I think most people research to at least some level before they buy things (unless it's a hasty impulse buy). ALL of my "big" purchase (above $80 for me) are well considered. Unless it's for necessary travel or something related to my immediate family I don't make impulse buys, on principle. I am morbidly scared of the "accumulation tax" that follows me around if I accumulate ridiculous junk with little purpose. So I know exactly what I am going to be spending on anything ages before I actually buy it. If I am not careful and just spend willy-nilly (I have in the past), the consequences are sometimes quite embarrassing (for e.g., rent cheque bouncing or some such stupid financial faux pas).

Given this level of thought that goes into what I buy, I appreciate it if the prices are stable. If Amazon or any other merchant thinks they should charge something for an item, they should just go ahead and tag it with that price instead of changing prices all the time. Unfavourable price changes makes customers who research annoyed and gives them an unsettling sense of not buying well. Favourable price changes makes them feel like they got a bargain - a kind of shifty emotional maneuvering to make them buy more impulsively. I know Amazon is not the only one that engages in all the price jumping but I just wanted to blow off some steam about the wok incident. ;-)

I ended up buying the wok from Overstock and not renewing my membership with Amazon. Thus far, I have bought 2 other beautiful fry pans and a sewing machine from Overstock. Each time the customer service has been exemplary and flawless. Sure, the deliveries take longer than 2 days but seriously, my kitchen is not going to implode if a frying pan (or really anything) that I have wanted for 3 or more months takes a few more days to arrive.

I have a massive paleolithic joke of an internet speed to even consider video on demand. Plus I don't like watching anything passively for more than 15 minutes anyway. I have some kind of an attention deficit when it comes to television. It's too impersonal and I am too guilt-ridden.
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Last Modified: 10/07/11 09:28

Category: opinion

06/24/11 10:15 - ID#54556

Ear Bleeds?

Have any of you had non-trauma-related ear bleeds before?

I had some minor bleeding yesterday from my right ear. I am a bit concerned. It did happen immediately after I turned up the volume on my headphones to drown out some annoying noise in my office. So that gives me a clue that my tympanic membrane might have ruptured a bit.

However, apart from a ruptured eardrum, the second most common cause of ear bleeds is malignancy... I need a consult soon. (e:Paul) suggested the Buffalo otolaryngology group on Delaware. I wonder if they take Aetna.

PS: I now absolutely hate Rochester accents. :/
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Category: opinion

06/05/11 12:10 - ID#54426

Neutral Samaritan?

If you hear a massive sound of possibly an automobile accident a few blocks away from your home, do you

a) ignore it and hope no one is injured
b) go out with phone in hand ready to call 911.
c) ignore if it is in the small hours of the night/morning but go out and investigate if it is earlier.

What do you do? I often hear terrible sounds from my flat. Sometimes I have gone out with phone in hand and found nothing and sometimes I have ignored them and felt terribly guilt-wracked when I have heard fire-trucks a whole 15 minutes after.

What do you all do?
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Last Modified: 06/05/11 12:10

Category: opinion

09/12/10 04:16 - ID#52723

Question for e:lilho

I have *really* thick hair that outgrows a cut in less than 2 weeks but I am not ready for that salon pilgrimage just yet.

Do you have any recommendations for the type of thinning shears I should get? There seem to many types around but I just want one that would take all the bulk away. Thoughts?

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Last Modified: 09/12/10 04:18

Category: opinion

09/09/10 11:07 - ID#52690

Bethesda - Safe at 11:00 PM?

I will be visiting the NIH/NCI campus in Bethesda in some days. But the trouble is I will be getting into the Washington, IAD airport around 10:00. I hate taxis. They freak me out. So I plan to take the metro to the campus from the airport. I am guessing it will be close to midnight when I make it to the Bethesda campus.

Do any of you have any ideas about how safe this area might be - say compared with Buffalo downtown at night? I really don't want to get into trouble. The conference is quite important and I want to get there and back without broken noses, blown head etc. Any information would be awesome! Thanks!

PS: According to Neighbourhood Scout
- Bethesda is safer than 62% of the cities in the US.
- Annual Crimes
Violent 42
Property 800    
842 annual crimes per 1,000 residents

Chances of becoming a victim
in Bethesda 1 in 1305
in Maryland 1 in 134

PPS: Oh well. I went ahead and looked up Buffalo as well.
Buffalo is safer than 6% of the cities in the US.
- Annual Crimes
Violent 3,804    
Property 16,555    
20,359 annual crimes per 1,000 residents

Chances of becoming a victim
in Buffalo 1 in 77
in New York 1 in 221

Man. It isn't THAT unsafe here, is it?! Do you believe this??
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Last Modified: 09/09/10 11:28

Category: opinion

08/03/10 10:57 - ID#52360

Avoid Verizon in Buffalo

Okay, so you are thinking of moving to Buffalo, or are in Buffalo and looking for a high speed internet service? Well, let me make your decision a little easier with simple and easy-to-remember points.
1. Verizon has the WORST dsl service in Buffalo and Western New York.
2. Their technical help is non-existent and they put you on hold for an average of 1/2 hour.
3. After 1/2 hour or more of holding, they transfer you to an outsourced call center where people speak with strange made-up imitation American accents - that are even more difficult to understand than what their regular accents might have been.
4. Most of Verizon's technical support personnel have a flowchart in front of them that automatically assumes that the customer is an idiot and needs to be told to check their wall sockets a zillion times over.
5. Verizon's technical service representatives are masters at evading the real issue and waste as much of your time as they possibly can.
6. And as for Verizon's DSL service, you seldom get more than 1/4th of the speed you paid for and they couldn't care less about your concerns - as amply demonstrated by their mind-numbingly inept technical "support".

Avoid Verizon. Ditch them if you have them. I am not sure if Time Warner is good but I am pretty sure that no one can be worse than Verizon in Buffalo and the whole of WNY.

Update on RoadRunner: I just phoned them and in spite of what their web page here: says about their rates, they outright denied that the Road Runner Lite and Basic packages even exist and tried their surly best to sign me on to their TV-Phone-Internet bundle. The fact that I don't have a TV and don't plan to get one just to put their service on seemed incomprehensible to the bloke I spoke to. Seems to me that both Verizon and Time Warner run their shoddy off-peak time technical/sales support services through the same herd of insolent and rude technical representatives. This has been one totally frustrating evening. Maybe I need to start making plans to poison entire call centers of both Verizon and Time Warner. Both of you, I hope all your employees are cut off internet services when they really need it.

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Last Modified: 08/03/10 11:42

Category: opinion

07/10/10 10:03 - ID#52144

Tourism is overrated...

when there is a bucketload of work hanging on your head.

I recently visited with my brother in NYC (he is a brand new New Yorker). In the past, whenever my brother and/or I have been to the city, there was never enough time to do all the things we wanted to do. But now that one of us actually lives there, suddenly, there seems to be a dearth of things to do.

We hardly went out and cooked non-stop at home (a hidden sign of stress and general worry). We made some awesome complicated meals - but that is hardly touristy. The desire to do touristy things seemed to have vanished. I thought it was just me, but apparently my brother who has been in NYC for a month now hardly veers out of his home-office-gym-home route.

A tiny voice in my head keeps saying that I am not working hard enough and that my commitment to effectively fast-track academic milestones needs to quadruple. I think I agree with the tiny voice. But, all the same, it makes me sad that the romance of NYC seems to have suffered from a work-related paralytic stroke.
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Last Modified: 07/10/10 10:03

Category: opinion

05/09/10 08:19 - ID#51526

UB 2020 Plan?

I just read about someone called Silver blocking the Bill that would make the UB 2020 plan a "success".

An editorial and opinion column in today's Buffalo News supports Assemblyman Mark Schroeder's criticism of Speaker Sheldon Silver for blocking a bill that would free up restrictions and allow UB and other SUNY campuses to become stronger economic engines in their regions. The editorial notes Silver "seems devoted to nothing greater than maintaining the disastrous status quo" and calls the bill "good for upstate." A related column in The Buffalo News and a story on WNED-AM also look at the issue.

I didn't quite get what exactly these restrictions were. So I read the three PDFs linked out from that page.

The only sentence about the content of the bill was:

Reports are that downstate members oppose letting campuses set their own tuition rates, a key part of the bill, because it could jeopardize the ability of poor New Yorkers to go to college.

Was the bill all about tuition? Does anyone know? Why can't these news items be clear instead of a mass of run-around-in-accusatory-sentence-cycles paragraphs? If writing about politics is this confusing, it's no wonder that people don't get whatever politicians are doing in their offices or if they are doing anything at all..
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Category: opinion

04/12/10 08:28 - ID#51389

We really don't have an excuse.

My advisor sent out the latest CDC statistics on obesity to our group today. This is not just true for the US. It's true for countries around the planet. In India, children who are 13 years old have myocardial infarctions and plaque-induced coronary artery disease. By 2015, India will surpass US in the number of people with Type II Diabetes and atherosclerotic diseases.

How did this happen? I can't, for a moment, believe the excuse that greater than 30% of the population is genetically prone to obesity or have comorbid conditions making us obese. Our genes have not changed that much in the past 25 years. A good proportion of us just want to believe that we are helpless because it's easier to blame genetics than take personal responsibility for the environmental inputs that we have consciously selected.

Why can't we stop this epidemic?! Is it SO hard to cultivate and maintain healthy habits? Do we always have to blame advertising and prices? Why are we waiting for a magic pill or that "one weird trick" to make it go away?!

Can't we just take one small step at a time and just say no to constant splurging on carbohydrates, snacks and processed foods? Can't we avoid buying whatever processed crap that is on display and use our discretion and good sense for once? Can't we walk a bit more and faster rather than always fire up our cars and whatnots to get anywhere and everywhere?

The one thing that we are always ready to do is spend a fortune on every new weight-loss fad that comes along. And of course, make excuses about how costly healthful food is - which it is NOT. You only have to take a stroll in the produce section of pricerite to get a general idea of how much a meal without processed food would cost.

I fall almost in the lowest earning income group in this country and I still manage to eat ALL the healthy food I want and still save. You could argue that I don't have kids and other expenses and that would be true. However, even factoring in kids and expenses, fresh food costs less than processed because processing is an overhead cost. And don't even tell me that eating fast food is cheaper - because that is another flawed perception. One "combo meal" on an average costs around $4 with taxes. For that price, you could get 1lb of carrots, 4lbs of apples, a serving of oatmeal/bulghur AND a serving of lentils. $4 can go a LOOONG way if you really want to eat healthier.

Yes. I think smoking and overeating are pretty much the same. We know the risks. We know the costs. Yet, we don't care. We are addicted AND we won't take any steps to cure the addiction. We have become a bunch of weak-minded people who comfortably get everything we want. We just can't make any resolve and stick to it.

We love food and smoking too much. We constantly feel the need to justify our addictions and assert that life isn't worth living without "little indulgences". The cost our "little indulgences" are incurring are conveniently ignored. There is no such thing as a free lunch. What it really means today is that free or not, that super-serving lunch is going to zoom right into our adipose stores, because we didn't need so much to start with and additionally, we haven't really done anything to burn it.

I am ranting because this makes me sadder than anything else. Our conceit and excuses are leading us to a catastrophe in terms of health. How can we change if we don't want to face this problem and examine our lifestyles??
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