Sunday, February 12, 2006

The Random Rundown


Nothing of substance today, since it's one week till the Ultimate Bar Smackdown, but I will use this space to introduce a new type of post. So far, there's the "What's Law Gotta Do With It?" (get it? Tina Turner?) posting; the "Let's Get Political" (c'mon people, Olivia Newton John) type post; the random-in-a-different-way "Bloggenpfeffer" post that culls its material from other blogs on my blogroll (goodness, "blog" is an ugly word); the "Chronic-what?!-cles of Academia" type post, and now, "The Random Rundown." Not that clever a title, but I can't think of anything else, and it's at least alliterative. I am really racking my brain for a pop song that I can put "random" into the title of, and I can't. I am open to suggestions!

So, randomly:

Cheney Accidentally Shoots A Fellow Hunter

Nothing left to say--this headline says it all. (and I did not make that headline up!)

Netflix May Be Lying To You, Violating FTC Laws, or Just Treating You Like Crap

Netflix typically sends about 13 movies per month to Villanueva's home in Warren, Mich. — down from the 18 to 22 DVDs he once received before the company's automated system identified him as a heavy renter and began delaying his shipments to protect its profits.The same Netflix formula also shoves Villanueva to the back of the line for the most-wanted DVDs, so the service can send those popular flicks to new subscribers and infrequent renters.The little-known practice, called "throttling" by critics, means Netflix customers who pay the same price for the same service are often treated differently, depending on their rental patterns.

Netflix could just come clean and say on its "How It Works" page: "The more videos you order in a month, the harder we'll make it for you to order more." Perhaps it could even be more blunt: "Order as many videos as you want, but if you order a lot, we'll treat you like crap." But if it said that, the marketing department would be up in arms. After all, to hook in the customers, it's better to promise that the "sky's the limit." Most customers won't reach for the sky, but they'll like feeling that they could if they wanted to. For those that try, treat them like crap, try to get rid of them . . . they're not profitable.

Also, What is Better, Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com or a Bricks-and-Mortar? And why do EBayers factor shipping costs into the price of the product but not other general online shoppers?

My take: because there are no independent bookstores anymore, and because I'm too poor/cheap to shop at them even if I could find them (even to support a moral stance), I say: give this fight up. It's apples v. apples. So to just compare the services/pricing/shipping costs of various online services, I have to say I'm coming out on Amazon's side. While I hate the "recommended for you" and "the page you made" cookie tracking that they use as an invasion of privacy, it's a cost I have factored into my steep 30-40% discounts. Because I shop there (and because I use my various "club cards," I am electing into that system of electronic monitoring. Therefore, unless Amazon sells my information without my permission to another third party, or uses it for some other nefarious purpose other than making me product recommendations, I really can't complain.

If you don't want to be tracked, buy everything with cash at bricks and mortars and do not use any card or let them swipe your driver's license when ringing up your purchase. But it's hard to live completely free from monitoring. Plus, I've found that you just can't find a lot of academic texts at your local bookstore (and I'm talking the mega ones, I can't imagine how hard it would have been to find "Law's Empire" at some independent. College bookstores are amazing, but they're quite pricey. I'm consistently surprised at how many academic texts I can find at discount on Amazon, where the prices are consistently cheaper than at the online versions of Powells, or Barnes and Noble. (Borders.com is merged with Amazon.com)

The Rundown:

Amazon: Good for most texts popular or academic, CDs, DVDs

Barnes and Noble.com: Not so great for academic texts, but everything else is there--but not as cheap

Powells: Great selection of academic texts, including a wonderful used selection sold directly from Powells (unlike BN's or Amazon's third party system). I would go there for the used books, and to feel like I'm supporting an "independent" bookstore (although they are a small chain in Oregon with a "sister" store in Chicago, IL--you know that, right?)

Bricks and Mortar: Chiefly for the macchiato sipping, book browsing, spine sniffing, people watching bibliophile type. I admit, I am one. I love hanging out at bookstores. I go there to study, preview (read) for free, and then I go home and buy them online. When you take the price + tax (something the internet sellers aren't doing), it's not worth it unless I need it right away. And I have been incredibly frustrated at not being able to find Paolo Frere's Pedagogy of the Oppressed or "The Miner's Canary," so I don't tend to go there if I really need it anyway. I either plan in advance or go to my university library. Which also requires planning, because apparently someone's always reading Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

Work and Family, Complicated by Race

Almost a "duh" headline, but it's an interesting counter-article to all those stupid "opt-out" revolution fake trend articles the NY Times has been publishing. (and I like the NY Times)

I've already talked my friends' ears off ad nauseum about how much I hate "trend" articles reporting how "many" women are opting out of work (um, is there a statistic anywhere? What was the sample size? Did you self-select respondents?) with poorly framed questions "When (not if) you have children, will you stay home with them?) or interviewing dumb, naive 19 year old ivy leaguers about what they want to do be doing with their life 15 years from now (true: "I want to work at a law firm for a while, then I want to quit and be with my children) before they've even graduated, gone to grad school, or met their future partners. I've railed against the supposed "death of feminism" these articles serve as the obituary for. Feminism isn't dead. Young girls (and boys) are (no surprise) naive, inexperienced, stupid and unable to predict what they'll do with their future. The women "opting out" are making personal, not political choices, and don't judge them either way for a choice they are making for themselves and their families. These "choices" aren't available to all women--minority women are less able to make the choice between going to work or staying at home and relying on one salary. The costs for doing so are great no matter what age or race--you're still giving up on something you've spent years on, and you're relying a lot on a man who may or may not be there (whether by death, divorce, job layoff). The underlying reasons for this zero-sum game have less to do with whatever personal politics these women's choices articulate than the gross inequality of the system writ large. Because of maternity/paternity leave policies, the failure of the ERA and comparable worth, the current system of employer provided health care, unequal wages, unequal retention/promotion policies, the even greater wage disparity between women of color and every other kind of worker--this is an issue that won't go away for a long while. It's just sad that after two years of shoddy reporting, the NY Times is making it up too late with this article.

Minority perspectives are always missing in mainstream media (who cared about that Aruba girl?), so when it comes at all, it comes too little, too late.

That's it for The Random!

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