Review: Five Four Club

I like a new set of threads as much as the next guy and with all of the subscription services that have popped up recently, I thought I’d give it a try.  There are many to choose from, but I decided on Five Four Club based on the value to cost proposition.  Their business model is that you receive 2-3 items each month for a flat cost of $60 but an expected minimum value of $120.

Well, I must not be in the target demographic.  Despite completing my profile and choosing classic as my style profile (as opposed to casual or forward), what I received left me speechless.

I received 2 button up shirts.  On the surface, I thought they looked alright.  But on closer inspection, here’s what I discovered.

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A navy blue button-down?  Cool!  That’s classic right?  WRONG.

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Same shirt.  Banded sleeves?  Slash pockets?  On a button-down shirt?  WTH?  Is this an oxford?  A rugby? A jacket?  Who knows?  You gotta be kidding me.

Second shirt.

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Better.  Again, a classic look that I could wear to work or casual.

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Unfortunately, both shirts have this bizarre logo on the front pocket.  I can’t decide if this is a Harry Potter lightning bolt or an unfortunate acronym.  Either way, me no likey.

Now here’s the really bad part of this service.  You can exchange for a different size (and they do pay the shipping both ways), but you cannot return the items or ask for something different.  You get what you get.

Suffice to say that I cancelled my subscription the very day that I received the first shipment.  As I said, I guess I’m not in their target demographic.  Although, I can’t imagine any demographic wearing the button-down, rugby sleeved, slash pocketed, Harry Potter lightning bolt logo’d abberation that I received.  In fact, the customer service rep that I spoke with (who had chosen “forward” on his style profile) received the same item and shared my opinion.

In summary, Five Four Club = EPIC FAIL.

I’m off to Macy’s to do a little shopping.

Cheers,
Jay

Top Tech for 2011

Every year at this time, I compose a blog post that lists the top few technologies that I’ve personally experienced for the first time during the year.  It never seems like I’ve acquired that many gadgets until I sit down and reflect on things.  This year is no different.  But on reflection, here’s my top 5.

iPhone 4S – I’ve been an iPhone user for a couple of years and now the entire family totes one of the revered side-arms from the folks in Cupertino.  This year, both Carie & I were “upgrade eligible” at the launch of the new 4S so we both availed ourselves of the opportunity to upgrade.  I, because I’m a gadget junky, and she because she’d been using a 3 generation old iPhone 3G and it was painfully slow.  The new camera and processor have been a nice upgrade and I don’t think either of us regret the upgrade.

Siri – Technically, Siri is the voice recognition that comes with the iPhone 4S.  But it’s worthy of a call out on its own.  I don’t think Carie is using it much if at all.  But I’ve begun to use it to not only impress folks with conversational voice interaction with my phone, I’ve also begun to use it to dictate text messages and emails.  This is especially handy when you need to respond to a message when you’re otherwise occupied….like while you’re driving. Now I don’t advocate texting and driving but if you have to do it, at least use Siri.
iOS 5 – Yeah, technically this is another upgrade that came along with the new iPhone but it’s also applicable to the kids’ iPhones & the iPad.  The features that come along with iOS 5 that are worth mentioning include iCloud for iTunes, Photostream, and the new notification system.  iCloud makes my entire music library accessible from anywhere and that’s pretty cool considering that it’s way too big to fit on my iPhone all at once.  Photostream makes getting my photos from my phone to my iMac a seamless experience.  By the time I get home, my photos are already there and waiting on me.  And the notifcation system is just plain better than it was previously.

Ghost Armor – For the first time in nearly a decade, I’m not toting my phone on my hip.  That’s because I had Ghost Armor applied to my iPhone and now I don’t worry about it getting scuffed up if ends up in my pants pocket with loose change or heaven forbid, my car keys.  $39 covers all 6 surfaces and has a lifetime guarantee.  I’ve had it on the phone since the second day and so far, I’m pretty happy with the protection that it provides and the fact that I don’t have that wart hanging off my belt.

MacBook Air – This is the hands down the best piece of technology that I’ve acquired since I switched to the Mac 5 years ago.  This little laptop is light, compact, and smokin’ fast due to the solid state drive or SSD.  Rather than a spinning disk to store the data on, the internal storage is solid state memory with access speeds that put the fastest hard disks to shame.  In short, I love this little machine.  It’s become my daily/primary computer, and displaced my MacBook Pro & iPad.  These days, this is the only computer that I leave home with.

Well, there you have it.  These are the technologies that I’ve acquired this year that make my top 5.  There are a few others that are worthy of honorable mention, but maybe I’ll save those for a follow up blog post.

Cheers,
Braddog

Mudd Slinging

I’ve never been a fan before, but the past two seasons my kids have coerced me into watching American Idol with them.  Well last night, I took great offense to how a particular contestant was treated.  Oddly, I shared this some of my friends at lunch today and one of them sent me a link to this story.  Since it captures my feelings so well, I thought I’d repost it here.

Mark MuddGuess what, American Idol. There are people all over this great country and there are all kinds of colloquialisms out there. Some might call it local flavor, but it’s all America so you’d do well to do a little bit of homework before you smear a guy’s name across national television. For those who were inclined to tune into the trainwreck portion of the newest season of American Idol, you might have caught poor Mark Mudd getting harassed by Paula and Simon after they rejected him from the show. As Mr. Mudd was leaving he said to the judges “Take care and be careful.”

At this Paula freaked out, accusing Mudd of threatening them. He tried to explain that it was just a general statement of farewell but she was having none of it and Simon was right there with her. Even more offensive was the Idol hype machine jumping all over this as well. We got teasers on Tuesday’s show and all the way up to Mudd’s performance about how he “threatened” the judges and was all crazy and dangerous. Horseshit!

See, I live in a small town in the Midwest and went to college in the Ozarks. I can’t count how many times I’ve been advised to “be careful” when I was leaving someplace, or someone was leaving mine. It’s used interchangeably with such phrases as “See you later,” and “Take care.” Oh wait, Mark did say “take care,” too. Guess what guys, he was being friendly. In fact, “Be careful” is often reserved for people you care about, because you don’t want anything bad to happen to them.

But of course American Idol should know all about that, right? After all, they truly represent all of America! As long as all of America talks like people on the West Coast. I guess it’s a shame that Mark Mudd was raised in a Midwestern rural community where he learned such values as caring for his fellow human beings and respect for others. Certainly the judges showed him very little respect during his audition as they do so many of the contestants.

Then they made a mockery of Mark Mudd, putting him on television because he has a certain look of danger (which he does, but so did Scott Savol and you let him through … oh wait, that’s more of an urban dangerous; I get it now!) and he said something that they didn’t understand. Hell, they were in Louisville. Couldn’t they have maybe asked a few locals what that expression was if truly none of them had ever heard of it? Or check it out on the Internet. Maybe folks were laughing at Mark on the coasts and maybe they think this poor guy was actually threatening the judges, but those of us in the Midwest know better.

Despite how his admittedly bad singing and his image was received by the judges, Mark Mudd was being a nice guy. He was wishing the judges well. And they were dicks about it. And then American Idol was an even bigger dick about the whole thing, trying to sully Mudd’s name over the span of at least a week. I say shame on you American Idol, and I say Mark Mudd deserves an on-air apology. Maybe something like this: “We would like to apologize to Mark Mudd for making him look like a crazy serial killer in our promos and hype for the show American Idol. As it turns out, he’s just a really, really nice guy. And we’re assholes.”

Y’all take care and be careful,

Braddog

Rant: Charter Cable & Belo Communications

If you live in the St. Louis area and subscribe to cable TV, you likely receive the service from Charter Communications.  Like other providers, Charter has been increasing their High Definition content over the past couple of years.  Imagine how frustating it is to have one of the major network affiliates refuse to allow Charter to carry their HD signal.  That’s been the situation until now as the local CBS affiliate, BEL-O station KMOV-TV, has demanded more money for the HD signal.

For the past two years, I (and others) have been unable to watch many sporting events in HD.  Half of the NFL broadcasts every week, NCAA Final Four basketball, the Super Bowl, etc. etc.  Additionally, a lot of the CBS primetime lineup is broadcasting in HD.  This year even Survivor was in HD.  This has been extremely frustrating.

Now comes news that due to their inability to reach an agreement, Charter will cease to carry KMOV’s signal at all on December 31st.  That means that if you are one of the half million Charter Cable subscribers in the area, you will not be able to watch the local CBS affiliate at all. 

Isn’t it incumbent on these providers to act in the public interest?  How can this be acting in the public interest?  I’ve sent messages to both Charter & KMOV expressing my frustration and I encourge you to do the same.  You can bet that I’ll be rectifying this by switching providers for television services.  Additionally, I will no longer watch the local content from KMOV and I will consume any CBS programming via on-line services.

In this market, when there are so many options for consumers, this seems extremely short sighted on the part of both of these companies.  Charter & KMOV, you blew it!

PO’d,
Braddog

Cashless Monolopy??

For at least a couple of generations we’ve played that classic game from Parker Brothers, Monopoly.  I mean there are parts of this game that creep into everyday conversation.  Many times I’ve heard someone say “Do not pass GO” or “Go directly to jail”.  Everyone knows that Boardwalk & Park Place are the most expensive properties on the board.  And I always wanted to be the banker and use the race car pawn.

I’m grateful that the game is still on the market and that the next generation is enjoying it.  However, I’m not sure that I’m all that crazy about it going “cashless”.  Each player now apparently has a credit card that is inserted in an electronic bank that keeps track of their income and expenses.

If we ever expect our society to live within their means and get rid of the nearly $1 Trillion dollars in credit card debt, we should start by ensuring that our kids don’t start learning to “live by the card” too early in life.  With all that’s going on with our financial institutions and the economy, I’m disappointed in Parker Bros. for the timing of the introduction of this new toy.

But hey, I didn’t mean to go on a rant!  🙂

Cheers,
Braddog