Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Pawns Up and Pawns Down

  With the one year anniversary of film critic Roger Ebert’s death coming up I was planning on a tribute by writing a post featuring Ebert’s (and long time partner Gene Siskel) trademark phrases ‘Two Thumbs Up’ and ‘Two Thumbs Down’ like I did last year (you can read it here). At least I was until I discovered that the phrase ‘Two Thumbs Up’ is a trademark of the Ebert and Siskel estates. So in keeping with the desire to pay homage to Ebert by reducing hundreds of words to a simple catch phrase while not wanting to violate any copyright laws in the process I will break down recent current events in the ‘Ebertian’ fashion by substituting pawns for thumbs.

“The Return of Anand” – Two Pawns Up
  Former World Chess Champion Viswanathan Anand won last month’s Candidates Tournament in impressive fashion. Anand clinched first place with a round to spare and was the only player to not suffer a loss in the 14 round 8 player double round robin tournament. In fact, every player except Anand lost at least two games. At the halfway point Anand was tied with the top seed Levon Aronian and I thought the 32 year old Armenian would overtake the 44 year old Anand in the second half but Anand took a one point lead in the 9th round and was able to coast to victory with five draws to close out the tournament.

  With the victory Anand reminded the chess playing world that he is still the best chess player on Earth not named Magnus Carlsen and has earned a rematch with World Champion Carlsen later this year. Carlsen soundly defeated Anand in their championship match last year by the score of 3-0 with 9 draws. Can Anand defeat Carlsen in the rematch? I picked Anand to beat Carlsen last year but now that Carlsen has world championship match experience I don’t think anyone can beat Carlsen except Carlsen. If the World Champion takes Anand lightly or becomes preoccupied with his business ventures (his YouTube channel and Play Magnus app, for example) there is a possibility he could be upset. It’s a very slim chance but if Carlsen does lose his title this year, the only player who will take it from him will be Anand.

“Enter the Bladder” – Two Pawns Down
  I enjoy pharmaceutical commercials. One of the things I like is the detailed listing of the potential side effects. Who wouldn’t get a kick out of hearing “If you can’t breathe, see your doctor immediately” or “side effects include suicidal tendencies and bouts of insane rage”? But this commercial for Myrbetriq (the overactive bladder medicine) costarring ‘Bladdy’ the overactive bladder is way over the top. ‘Bladdy’ hangs out with his owner and constantly harrasses her to be emptied and even sits in on the consultation with her doctor about taking Myrbetriq. The end of the commercial shows the lady and ‘Bladdy’ spending some time with her friend in the park. Even though ‘Bladdy’ is presumably no longer overactive, it still is hanging around outside the lady instead of hanging out with the rest of her internal organs like all the other (unseen) bladders in the commercial.

The overactive bladder stars in this Myrbetriq commercial but even when the lady is cured 'Bladdy' is still hanging around...

  I appreciate the creativity involved in having the first body part to have a starring role in a pharmaceutical commercial but I can’t help wondering – If this commercial becomes popular what body part will costar in the next Viagra commercial?

“You Can’t Fight City Hall, but You CAN Fight Old Wisconsin!” – Two Pawns Up
  Last month Daisy and Baxter (my beagles) blogged about Casey’s General Store raising the price of their Old Wisconsin beef sticks from 2 for $1.00 to 2 for $1.08 (they remained 59 cents each) with a sign on the dispenser proclaiming a savings of 10 cents on the purchase of two beef sticks. No one likes bad publicity and the convenience stores of Marshalltown, Iowa are no exception. In the three short weeks since my beagles' expose, the Jiffy convenience store has removed their Old Wisconsin beef stick dispenser and replaced it with a Tillamook ‘Hunter‘s Sausage’ beef stick dispenser. While the Tillamook beef sticks are thinner and drier than the Jack Links and Old Wisconsin beef sticks, they are very meaty and cost 59 cents each and 2 for $1. When artist Lee Gordon Seebach came to Marshalltown last Sunday to visit, he joined us in taking Daisy and Baxter for a walk to the Jiffy to taste test the Tilamook beef sticks and they passed with flying colors.

Tillamook beef sticks are thinner than the Jack Links brand but there were no complaints from Daisy and Baxter. Meanwhile, at the Casey's trickery is still afoot.

  Unfortunately, Casey’s General Store is still relying on trickery instead of superior beef stick customer service. They have removed the ‘save 10 cents’ sign from their Old Wisconsin beef stick dispenser but the price of the beef sticks remains 2 for $1.08. But don’t fear – while our intrepid beagle bloggers Daisy and Baxter are happy with their gains they know their work is not complete and have vowed to keep the pressure on Casey’s until they roll back their beef stick prices.

“Ask and Ye Shall Receive” – One Pawn Up - One Pawn Down
  Last Thanksgiving I wrote about how I allowed the FiltroPur company to demonstrate their air filtration products to me with the understanding that I was to receive a $100 gas card for my time BUT what I really received was a card offering 10 mail-in $10 gas vouchers with 19 rules and regulations. I received the first two vouchers via email and dutifully filled out the forms, attached the receipts, affixed the postage, dropped the envelopes in the mailbox, and waited the 8 to 10 weeks for my $10 check. In late February I hadn’t received my monthly voucher email and called International Rebates. The clerk told me one would be on its way shortly so I decided to press my luck and ask when I could expect my first rebate check and was told it was being mailed next week.

At long last!

  I received the voucher email the next day but after a month I still hadn’t received a check so two weeks ago when I received my March voucher email I decided to call International Rebates again to see why I hadn’t received my check. I talked to a different clerk and asked why I hadn’t received my rebate check. The clerk looked me up in the computer and told me that my first check was a month overdue and my second check was a week overdue. She then told me she would send an email to the company in charge of the rebates and if there was nothing else I needed then I could hang up. My training as a telephone prankster (I wrote about it here) let me know that when I was invited to hang up that likely meant that the clerk wasn’t allowed to hang up on me so I kept asking when I was going to get my next rebate check (she didn’t know), why I hadn’t received a rebate check (she didn’t know), and when she expected to receive a response to her email to the company (she didn’t know). I repeated these three questions for the next half hour and the clerk repeated her answers for the next half hour interspersed with pleading invitations for me to hang up since she had no additional information for me. Eventually I had to hang up (I called during my lunch hour), but three days later I was greeted by a $20 check from International Rebates when I got home from work. I suppose it’s possible that I would have received my $20 even if I hadn’t made a pain of myself on the phone but if that were the case I probably would have received two $10 checks when I was supposed to and then I could have given International Rebates two pawns up.

“Don't we all want to be Rich?” – Two Pawns Up
  Almost every Saturday, Kathy and I get lunch at the local Taco John's. Kathy gets a Taco Salad and I get the Saturday Special of Soft Shell Tacos for 99 cents each along with a soda. Sometimes we head there on a Sunday but almost every time we go there for lunch there is this guy sitting in a 4 seat table in the middle of the restaurant eating a burrito and drinking his soda.

  Normally a steady customer eating a burrito and drinking a soda wouldn’t be any big deal but this guy is no customer – he’s wearing a Taco John’s shirt. When I first saw this guy I figured he must be a manager since I don’t know any fast food restaurant (and I’ve worked at a few) that let the employees eat anywhere except in the back or in a table off to the side if there is no area for the employees to eat in the back. But then one day I saw him carrying buckets of ice to the soda machine before resuming his seat in the middle of the restaurant so I knew he was a worker.

  I found out the worker’s name is Rich because one time somebody called him Rich and this information was confirmed when I saw the name ‘Rich’ written on his soda cup. Sometimes Rich has a newspaper. I assume it is the newspaper that is put in the reading rack along with some other magazines for the customers to look at because when Rich has the newspaper there is never one in the rack.

People come and go like the wind, but Rich is a force of nature in his permanency of seatedness!

  I’ve never talked to Rich but I look forward to seeing him doing his ‘Rich’ thing at the Taco John’s and I’m disappointed when I miss him. I managed to grab a table next to him last month and surreptitiously take a ten minute ‘Rich’ video so you can see him ‘in action’ (or inaction). One of these days I’m going to find a Taco John's shirt at the Goodwill or Salvation Army Thrift store and when I do I’m going to buy it, put it on, head over to the Taco John's, sit down at Rich’s table, and say “Hi, I’m the new guy.”