Figuring Out How to Remove Deodorant Stains

Before and After (flash makes for weird shadows)
Before and After (flash makes for weird shadows, but the one on the right is pure white)

So, I know the immediate reaction is to say “how gross!” but let’s just get it out there that not wearing deodorant is significantly more gross, and, hey, being a human is gross.

I’m writing this review to address a few outcomes of a typical search for this issue:

  1. Most articles mention that it’s the aluminum in antiperspirant that causes the yellowing and/or blackening on white undershirts, and deodorant doesn’t have aluminum in it, so use that instead. Problem 1) this doesn’t address removing the stains on your clothes now, Problem 2) maybe some people prefer antiperspirant.
  2. Other articles say “switch to a natural alternative to antiperspirant which doesn’t contain aluminum.” Again, 1) this doesn’t address existing stains, 2) many comments in such articles talk about how they tried it (sometimes with some crazy “natural” oil or something), but the inefficacy was obvious (as in, they stunk), 3) this is what hippies do.
  3. Some articles provide a thorough analysis of the chemistry of the canonical deodorant + antiperspirant stain types (whether the yellow or black variety), then provide a list of home remedies (ground-up aspirin solution, pretreating with normal laundry detergent, vinegar, NEVER CHLORINE BLEACH – it makes the staining worse!, Borax, rubbing dryer sheets on it, using a dedicated anti-stain spray which says “great for protein stains!”, etc. These articles often end with a note that switching to something without aluminum is a great idea… As if that suggestion retroactively removes stains or provides the benefits of an antiperspirant.
  4. There are even some articles that say the solution (pun?!) is to use (much) less antiperspirant, and to let it dry (absorb?) before putting on that first layer of clothes. Girl, I wake up like this. I don’t have time for that.
  5. Articles say “use OxiClean!” Now we’re getting somewhere! But you’re still searching for “how to remove deodorant stains,” which means it probably didn’t work for you when you tried it. Hint: just adding it to your normal wash cycle won’t take care of stains. Maybe it’d take care of the issue if you had used it from day zero of wearing your bright white new shirt, but, at this point, you’re searching for how to remove stains, not avoid them.

This is what you need to do to get deodorant stains out of clothes (note that I’m referring to deodorant and antiperspirant as synonyms here):

I believe the normal OxiClean would've had the same results, but I got this because the shirts were white. I've since used this for all my laundry, and it's been 100% fine on all colors.
I believe the normal OxiClean would’ve had the same results, but I bought this because the shirts were white. I’ve since used this for all my laundry, and it’s been 100% fine on all colors. Note that despite the “White Revive” branding, the product is color safe.

You probably have a number of items which need to be “de-stained.” So, get a big bucket (I used a 5 gallon example). Fill that thing a bit less than half-way with hot water. Put two full scoops of OxiClean into your bucket of hot water (it comes with a scooper). Stir it around to make sure it dissolves. Put your deodorant-stained clothes in that bucket. Make sure you get them all the way drowned in there. You’ll find that some items will rise to the top, so have a stirrer handy (I used metal tongs every 30ish minutes… I’m not 100% sure on the chemistry, but metals + acids are bad news. OxiClean means metals + bases, but I kept the tongs out of the solution when not stirring, just in case).

5 gallon bucket with stirrer
5 gallon bucket with stirrer
BBOS (big bucket of soaking)
BBOS (big bucket of soaking)

The key part (and why you’re looking this up) is that it takes a while. Give it at least four hours in the bath. Immediately after the bath you’ll see the stains are almost gone, but the soaked fabric makes it tough to tell. After the soak, put your items directly in the washer, and do a cycle which matches the care instructions on the clothes label (specifically the water temperature). Use the normal amount of detergent but also an amount of additional OxiClean to match the instructions on the OxiClean container (note that the soak, detailed above, uses WAY more OxiClean than a normal wash cycle). Based on my OxiClean container, that was “line 2” which is the lowest mark on the included scoop.

After - with flash
After – with flash

Seriously, look at these results. We’re talking about “like-new” levels of whiteness… even in the most-stained areas. This is why I’m spending so much time writing this up. It’s an awesome result without much work.

After - no flash
After – no flash.  Any “questionable” areas are due to lighting only.

Some additional info: everything I put through this process was white and used as an undershirt. (OxiClean is color-safe for most fabrics, though just getting it out there…) All items were Banana Republic t-shirts, and most were 96% cotton, 4% spandex (gotta make the show muscles s-h-o-w), and three (of the eight in the bucket) were 100% cotton. Same (great) results for all. I didn’t have any unexpected fabrics which show up in undershirts in my testing … My Slix polyester + spandex undershirt doesn’t seem to have the staining issue, and I don’t have any shirts made from blends of modal or “bamboo” (for undershirts and underwear, “modal” = fancy Rayon, “bamboo” = fancy modal).

*****

Figuring out how to remove deodorant stains gets FIVE big stars because it makes clothes look like new, and it’s very inexpensive; the entire container of OxiClean was $8, and I used… um, at most, 5% of it(? two full scoops) to “fix” eight shirts. Also, the opportunity for rock solid SEO adds at least half a point.

TL;DR Get a big bucket. Fill it half-way with hot water. Put two full scoops of OxiClean in the bucket and stir it to make sure it dissolves. Put the stained clothes in that bucket for 4 hours, and stir every now and then. After the soak, wash as normal, but add OxiClean per the instructions on its container.

UniDiction 2011: Week 13 – Eagles vs. Seahawks and Week 12 Round-Up (new format!)

Week13_lead

follow me on twitter (@dancfuller)

Well, I was wrong for last week’s game, too. 3-8. Of course, there was nothing right about the Eagles on-field performance, either.

There’s an all-new format for the UniDiction section which I think you’ll like, so let me know what you think in the comments.

Week 12 Round-Up

The Chargers wore their very nice Powder Blue throwbacks. I think the color’s odd enough that it shouldn’t necessarily be their primary uniform (and the Titans use light Blue, though in a very different way), but the Chargers normal uniforms are among the least notable in the league (neither good nor bad…they just…are), helmet with electricity on the sides notwithstanding, so file the “should the powder blues be the Chargers’ normal uniforms” under “let me think about it.” I covered the Thanksgiving uniform happenings in last week’s article.

Eagles vs Seahawks UniDiction (new format!)

Week13
click to enlarge

No full write-up for the Eagles this week because of the new format, but they’re in White over Midnight Green, and that looks awful and needs to be removed from their locker room. BUT, the Seahawks uniforms are awful.

Seahawks – 12

Eagles – 13 

Some random Seahawks uniform info:

Seahawks helmet logo in image above from Chris Creamer’s SportsLogos.net.

*

An awful uniform match-up this week.

Half Inventing Stuff Part 3, or Other People Stealing Your Ideas Without Ever Having Met You or Knowing that They Stole Something Part 3

barbfume_thisone1
The Bar-B-Fume bottle design and logo from an infomercial I did as a class project in 2002. Graphics designed by Rob Edwards.

So back in 1998, I had an English oral presentation to do in which I’d be selling a made-up product. After racking my brain for hours, my thought process went as follows: “What do teenage girls want? Answer: Guys. Then what do teenage guys want? Answer: Meat. So the way for a girl to get a guy would be by smelling like meat.” The presentation went fantasticly. I had charts and prototypes (sort of… bottles of cologne and body-wash with crudely designed logos). For the women who didn’t want to have to smell the Bar-B-Fume, I invented the “Scent Remover 5000”, which was just a clothespin to put on your nose. I demonstrated how to use the body wash (which for my purposes was just barbecue sauce in a soap dispenser) by smearing it all over my face. And I finished with the tagline, “Ladies, truly the way to a man’s heart is now through his stomach.”

Two years later, the product was revived as an info-mercial for a TV studio production class I was taking, but this time with way better logo design and a killer intro. I can’t attest to the quality of the rest of it. I haven’t watched it in years. You see, I can’t find the tape with that semester’s projects on it. To make matters worse, I can’t even find the tape that has the original speech on it. I have most other semesters’ projects, and I have the other speech we had to give that year in high school, but as it stands, right now the only tangible evidence of Bar-B-Fume existing is the logo I saved.

What makes this important is that Burger King just started marketing a meat-scented fragrance called “Flame”. Here‘s the website. Granted, it smells like the Whopper and not like barbecue sauce, but it’s still enough to have me shouting “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO”. I guess I just need to follow through more.


I’m pretty angry.

Guest Review: Madden 2008 (XBox 360)

Guest Review! Kyle from notthegame.com weighs in on Madden 2008.

Madden 2008 is a bit of an enigma. In the last few years, on the new systems, Madden has been a sub par football game. This is typical for sports games on a new system as it takes game developers a few years to revamp the game engine, as well as improve graphics and features. The third year is typically the year when progress starts to be made. Take the PS2 versions, for example, in 2002 and 2003 the game redefined the way football games look but they didn’t play that well, in 2004 the game took on a life of its own, and by year four in 2005, Madden reached its pinnacle. That lines the 360 version up for 2009 as the pinnacle of its success on the new systems.

Madden 2008, however, is a serious step in the right direction. This year, Madden has perfected the game play, improved already stellar animations, and added the features and options we have come to expect from the Madden franchise. If by next year, EA Sports can improve the presentation, get rid of the god awful radio announcer, and add some innovation to franchise mode, the game will reach a level never before seen.

That being said, here is a break down of this years game.

Graphics:

Madden has never really been known for its graphics and animation, but this year that is starting to change. Animations are now much more natural, as players will reach for balls and drag their feet on the sideline. EA Sports uses what it calls a “branching” system. Essentially, this allows the movements to transfer from one to another seamlessly. In 60 frames per second, the game runs beautifully, but since everything is so smooth, the occasional jump in animation between say, standing and falling, seems very out of place. All in all the graphics are very good, next year EA Sports needs to add some more presentation elements.

Sound:

The radio announcer sucks. It sounded like a good idea, but really he is just annoying and makes the game feel outdated (think Joe Montana Sports Talk Football), there is no reason why the biggest selling sports game of all time shouldn’t have real announcers. The hits and the players yelling make the on field experience great, but the crowd is just “ok”.

Gameplay:

Extremely fun and fast. The game plays with a ferocity that Madden hasn’t seen in years. The hits, running, and catches are truly fun to accomplish, and the realism is outstanding. It is one of the few games where neither the defense or the offense dominates. Some games are commanded by defense, while others are controlled by electric offensive players.

The new superstar abilities is well implemented and really gives stars individuality on the field. If you try to tackle Lindell White high, forget about it. For big backs, you need to hit them low utilizing the new Hit-Stick 2.0. It is these little idiosyncrasies that really make the game shine. The gameplay is tight, but it does feel a little tired, as the plays have been the same for years now.

Features:

Franchise mode has some added options, most specifically the ability to relocate your team. Superstar mode has playable camera angles, but during the season there is not much to do other than play games, practice, and bitch to your agent. Its fun, but its not a fulfilling experience as you only get to play the plays with your player, so you don’t development an emotional connection to your team.

Overall:

Madden plays great, looks good, and sounds horrible. In all, it is a good game, but there are times where I feel like I’m left wanting more. This years game is shaping up to be the penultimate game, with a little tweaking, next years will reign supreme.

8 K’s out of 10. A Brett Myers.

KKKKKKKK

Dan: Uh, 8 “K’s” out of 10? A “Brett Myers?” These aren’t star ratings! How are we supposed to make sense of this? Let me do some math…

****

NES Games: BigNose The Caveman


Ah yes, taking advantage of all 8 bits of excitement. You wonder how the people from “Prehistoric Park” feel about the discovery of the mini-stegosaur.

The best way to make a video game accessible to lots of people is this: make the first few levels pretty simple, and then have them get exponentially harder. Sure, you say, most video games follow this pattern. Mario, Tetris. Sonic the Hedgehog” Ducktales is pretty easy throughout, but that’s mostly because the levels are built more as challenging mazes, and you can choose the order in which you want to play them. Don’t get me started on Legacy of the Wizard… I’ve already written 2000 words about that.

I can’t think of a better example of this than the little-known game, BigNose the caveman, which came as a gold-colored cartridge. The main focus of the game was to walk from left to right on the screen and beat up dinosaurs. I really can’t remember if there was a story or not, mostly because I never got very far. I mean, the first two levels are exceptionally easy, to lure you in. They were actually pretty similar to the Mario model, with bad guys coming at you that you had to hit as you walked on the horizon line and jumped over random cliffs. That was something I always wondered about in the Mario world. How can there be so many cliffs on a piece of developed land that don’t have bridges built over them? The Princess’ father must not have been doing a good job in the public works sector. As far as BigNose, well, they barely had the technology to build a wheel, so I’m going to assume that bridges are way out of their league. ( And for all you cavemen out there, I’m not trying to insult you” the last thing I need are commercials disparaging our fine little rarely-updated enterprise)

Strangely enough, though, most of the dinosaurs BigNose encounters are pygmy dinos, with stegosauruseses and triceratopseses no bigger than the eponymous caveman himself. Sure there are giant dinos that appear at the end of major levels, as bosses, but most of them, from as far as I got, were usually seen as just two legs or something. They were way too big. Someone obviously didn’t consult the AMNH before designing this stuff.
If you think about it even more, you realize that there’s no reason for a stegosaur to attack a caveman anyway, unless he was intruding on its nest. Maybe it’s different with mini-stegosaurs though.

The simple attack was using your club to hit the bad guy, and if you picked up some stones you could use them like the fireflower power in Mario, only lamer, cause the stones don’t bounce, and if you miss, they kinda just magically fell through the ground. The hard part is getting the timing right. If you swing too soon, you miss, and too late, you’re hit by the dinosaur, which is why stones are the best option, especially since there are some dinos that need to be hit twice. Jumping over them is always an option, but you can’t jump very high, so sometimes you’ll miss. There are also potions you can buy at some stores that you can use to regain life or kill everything in the frame, making it easy to beat a boss.

Really though, the biggest challenge to this game was actually getting it to work. Maybe it was my system, or just the cheapness of the people who made the cartridge, but it never worked right. I had to do the blowing on the game, then blowing in the Nintendo thing that every kid my age was quite accomplished at. You’d think we’d all be harmonica players. At some point, even that began to not work, and the game would only work if I used the game genie as a buffer.

The music was actually really catchy, even though I can’t remember any of it now.

Overall, the first few levels are moderately enjoyable. The next few are too frustrating. And there’s no continue or save option, so once you lose, you start all over again. I’d say the same thing about Mario, except there’s plenty of opportunity for extra lives and level-skipping in that game. That, and you had some sort of goal to achieve in Mario. If you really want to play a game about cavemen, I’d settle for a Turbo Graphx-16, or an emulator for its games, and Bonk’s Adventure.

*½

One and a half stars for making me feel like I was good at video games, and then tearing that dream away from me. Relatively good music, but a premise that was pretty much just a terrible rip-off of Bonk’s Adventure.

The Current Gas Prices

Lest The Bookshelf® return to its former rant-happy ways, here’s one with some general positivity.

What with gas prices getting higher than friend of The Bookshelf® and noted ginger ale enthusiast J Calloway at a ginger ale festival, it looks like we’re back to more reasonable numbers on the boards. The $2.399 low price in the good old 19063 is enough for me say, “hey, gas prices aren’t awful anymore.”

gas
The last time the Oil Industry Puts 14 Year Old Girls in Charge of Anything.

Um, there really isn’t much more to it than that. I’m just spreading the positive word. Well, actually, I guess that being that I’m able to remember the days (well, I think it was a couple of months) that gas actually less than $1 when I was 14 or so, but after dealing with it around $3, the current price seems A-ok. Me=Consumer Whore.

****

The Current Gas Prices receive four stars due to the fact that people are quick to complain about how much it costs when the price is high but forget to appreciate the moments when its back to more sane levels.

unniversary

Empty Bookshelf’s First 100 Reviews


Oh, those kids. Always at it. You guys really shouldn’t’ve.

So here we are at the first of what may be a few reviews of our first milestone, 100 reviews. Not only is this the first review of this milestone, but of what could be very many milestones. We here at the Bookshelf like the word “milestone“, and don’t believe in Thesauruses. So here we go, our first hundred in a nutshell.

The first actual review happened way back in October of 2005… remember that time before the Steelers won the superbowl, before “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” movie, before Dick Cheny accidentally shot his friend while hunting, and before Bristol, United Kingdom celebrated the 200th birthday of Isambard Kingdom Brunel (actually April 9) by relighting the Clifton Suspension Bridge?

Dan’s first review was aimed at complaining about post-game hype surrounding an extremely long baseball game. Of course our readers probably care about boring Astros-Braves baseball games as much as they seemed to care about my terrible review of the dictionary. Even though that picture was good, it was nowhere near the five star quality of this image. I too tried my hand at reviewing food, but it was an utter failure. On the plus side, my review of the letter to the editor is one of my favorites, and my first review actually got eight comments, including this link. The few following that grilled chese review focused mostly on music, my opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”, a particular episode of Trading Spouses, and Dan’s opinion of My opinion of “Good Night, and Good Luck”. Dan also said that the Colbert report wouldn’t last, which seems to have been proven false.

October seemed to be us finding our footing.
***

November saw Dan’s Cleveland Trifecta, a diatribe against horses, a road that he liked, an episode of “Coach“, and his complaints about how much he aches, now that he’s an old man. I started the month strong with the Beth review, but struggled through the rest of it, with lame reviews like Thursday, a type of tooth”paste” that doesn’t work for me, and an insightful, yet completely unnecessary complaint about my nosebleeds. My FAO Schwarz review kinda made up for them, but the highlight of the month involved Dan and I sparring about how Christmas is coming earlier every year, and something about me being a time-traveling sheep.

November didn’t see much improvement over October, but the Christmas stuff was entertaining.
***½

December got a bit better, even with a few less reviews. I busted out the old NES games, for a few reviews that I swear are not trying to copy off of XE, another personal favorite, Christmas Cards, Adam’s first review, Dan throwing the hate down on Pitchfork media, and a suprising amount of people commenting on Roger Ebert’s take on video games. The biggest advance in December was the pop-ins, that added added some clarity to our parentheses-obsessed-writing.

December was a highly engaging and entertaining month, even with only nine reviews.
****½

2006 rolled around, and January saw Dan get political, review half of a book, not like warm winters a lot. I only contributed three of ten reviews that month, but all three of them were relatively alright, mostly because “Where In Time is Carmen Sandiego“, and “The Simpsons” after season 9 is so easy to complain about.

January’s topics fell off a little.
***½

February, while being the shortest month, was also a monster for us, as far as number goes. A whopping twenty-one reviews. To be fair, 17 of them came in our envelope-pushing live superbowl reviews, the biggest stunt pulled in the history of reviewing anything and everything on a five star scale. The only other reviews of any substance were my Gauntlet Review of the Beatles albums, and Dan’s digging up of our one-issue underground high-school newspaper.

Despite the big stunt, and two good reviews, February was kinda lacking.
**½

March just plain sucked. Four reviews total. One by me. Three megareviews by Dan.

½

April was slightly better, with another of my top five of my reviews, Legacy of the Wizard. The other four I would give an average of 3 stars to, but since there were only four during the month, that’s going to cancel out the Legacy of the Wizard bonus and take it down a half star.

**½

For my money, May was our best month yet. Dan’s contribution was the lengthy three-part TV landscape review. I threw out quality stuff with my Songs for Silverman, and Degree Navigator reviews. The shorter American Dreamz and Davinci Code video game reviews were serviceable, but my immense LOST season 2 review tops everything.

*****

June fell off a bit. Four reviews total. Split two and two. Mine were based on a ridiculous news story, and anger at other people for coincidentally coming up with the same ideas as me. Dan tried to put everything into perspective by seeing how well the entire history of human ingenuity and artistry stacked up in the interstellar community, and complained a little about how the national geography of roadways isn’t designed to suit his needs.

**

July was filled with the (I gotta admit my ignorance as to the relevance of this phrase… and wikipedia does nothing to help) Navel Gazing set. I was had for a few minutes by a Jimmy Kimmel hoax, and I thought the critics were a little too harsh on Shayamalan. Despite the mediocre numbers for the month, I’d give it a 3.5

***½

This gives us a per-month average of 3 stars, which isn’t too shabby.

In my first ever review, I reviewed the concept of this website. I claimed that we wouldn’t be able to keep it fresh, that we’d run out of ideas, and that we wouldn’t be able to stay somewhat funny at least. I believe my exact quote was “It has the potential to provide hours of entertainment for readers, and shape their lives for years to come. However, the downside is that it could get old real soon, and provide us with nothing but an excuse not to get real jobs.”

Well, I think we’ve significantly proven wrong every single point that I just brought up. We have 29 categories, 19 subcategories, and even two sub-sub categories. We’re still writing about reasonably different things, and while we may have slacked on the funny in recent months, we still bring the ‘A’ game on occasion. As far as my quote goes, I’d be willing to bet that we’ve provided maybe a few hours of entertainment for a handful of people, which probably did nothing to shape their lives for even the near fututre. On the upside, it hasn’t gotten old, and we have gotten real-ish jobs.

For all of these reasons, I’m willing to up our star rating by half a star, over the average rating of 3. I’ve also realized that my method of calculating the rating might not be the best, so I’m gonna throw in another half star for a final rating of 4 stars out of five.

****

And for those of you playing along at home, yes, this technically is the 100th review and so therefore should be included. This review receives 3 stars for not having much to offer in the way of witty musings, and for having a faulty overall rating method, but for packing so many subjects and links into one review.

***

The Concept of The DaVinci Code The Video Game


I think the picture speaks for itself.

So as I was walking into the movie theatre yesterday, on my way to see what I think will be the summer’s biggest-selling movie (despite the terrible reviews), The DaVinci Code, and I was handed a coupon for Best Buy. SWEET! Except that it was only good for a video game… you guessed it, The Davinci Code, for Playstation and X-box.

I couldn’t help but laugh at how preposterous this was. I was reminded of the scene in Spaceballs where Mel Brooks was showing off all of the Spaceballs product tie-ins. I had the notion of Star-Wars-like fast food restaurants giving out cryptexes in happy meals, or “The DaVinci Coke” littering store shelves.

But the more I thought about it, I wondered what kind of video game this would be? I mean, video games have to be exciting and engaging, or else the player realizes he’s just sitting around doing nothing productive. That’s why most of the video games that are based on movies are made from action movies. Seriously, would you want to play a game based on Brokeback Mountain? Think of all of the things you and your player 2 can do together… like herding cattle!

What kind of format could this game take? Would it be like Grand Theft Auto, with Tom Hanks and the french chick driving around, stealing people’s cars by boring them to death with lectures about where the swastika came from? Or maybe he could choke people with his long, flowing locks of hair.

Could it be a fighting game where you play as Silas and try to get past the Priory members? You’d then advance to nuns (hint: hit them with stone slabs), and aging, crippled Grail scholars (watch out for the crutches!). Of course after every victory, the bonus round includes self-flagellation.

Personally, I’d love to see a whole line of games. The DaVinciKart, where the characters race around Paris, in small european cars, throwing out things like Silas’ spike strip, and the Madonna of the Rocks painting, to make other players swerve. There could be a soccer game, or a baseball game. There could even be a Mario-like game, where Tom Hanks has to save Sophie from the evil “Frogs” by jumping on them.

All joking aside, I really have no idea how they’d make a straightforward game out of this movie. I’m sure it would involve a ton of cut-scene videos of people talking and explaining all sorts of things about the holy grail and the Priory of Sion.
The only thing I can imagine it being, honestly, is in the style of a puzzle-adventure game like the old LucasArts games that were so beloved. Even that though, is a stretch, because anyone who’s seen the movie or read the book knows all the answers to the riddles, all the intense “history”, where the characters should go next, and ultimately, where the resting place of the Grail “is” anyway. There’s no point in going through the entire journey if you already know the answers, because the fun of adventure games is figuring out the solutions.

There is no possible way that this game could both fit into an existing video game model and be interesting. It’s interesting as a book and a movie because you’re engaged in following the characters along, passively. Once you’re actively controlling the characters, there’s nothing interesting about what they do, only what happens to them, and video games aren’t about being passive.

½

.5 stars, for allowing me to imagine all of the humorous possibilities.

Outsourcing Phone Support to India

This topic has been beaten to death by the old and curmudgeonly (namely my dad and others social commentators similar to him), so it’s under no pretenses of originality that I submit this review…

Today, I learned that my name is Dan Suller. I must’ve been underneath a rock the last however many years thinking my last name was Fuller. Beyond that, I apparently live at 281 Linden Street.

Because the price was right, I signed up for Vonage phone service. It’s a bit less than half as much as comparable traditional phone service with the bonus feature that there’s a chance that when you call 911 as you’re being brutally murdered or your house is burning down, 911 won’t be able to pull your address from their phone system and see it on their screen. A win-win proposition. Oh yeah, also if the power goes out while your being murdered or burning alive inside your house-sized oven, Vonage is of no use.

main_pic.jpg
She may be pretty but her phone service sure isn’t.

I had some questions about the phone service, so I decided to call to order instead of placing it online. Actually, the ordering process went fine, it took longer than the online signup would have, but online has the benefit of a keyboard and it being your own darn fault if you mis-enter your billing, etc. information. After going through the whole spelling words out with my own personal phonetic alphabet, “D – as in, uh, … Dan; A as in, hmm, ‘a bird'” and so on (needless to say, the fact that my last name begins with “F-U” makes phonetic spelling quite the undertaking. “F as in, uh….hmm….hold on…[silence on my end]… umm….fox!” Thank god there are no “P’s” in my name. Anyway, we (the customer service person and I) plowed through the “data entry” part, and I was good to go.

Well, not so much. Ten days after that order (which was 8 days after it showed up on my credit card statement), the “starter kit” never came. I realized I had specified a Vonage.com user name for checking my account, paying bills, upgrading, etc. so I thought I could dig up the tracking number for the package through there. I had used my Gmail account to set up the Vonage service, so I used “dancfuller” as my user name but it wouldn’t go through. There was a default password set, but it naturally didn’t work. I tried the “e-mail me my password,” and that’s when I learned that there was no account with the username “dancfuller,” the one that I had definitely signed up with and had been definitely billed for.

I called customer service, was on hold for only a minute or so and talked to a woman who kept asking if I was having “MAC address” issues (a computer network-related problem) to which I kept saying, “No, I have not and still have not received the startup kit from Vonage.” She tried pulling up my account, but again, no username “dancfuller” and no user “Dan (Or Daniel) Fuller” but a very real entry on my credit card statement. She realized it was out of her control and passed me on to “level two” tech support, probably some guy hiding behind a curtain. More likely, a guy that you’ll end up waiting on hold for 45 minutes then deciding against it and figuring you’ll just go through the painful process of exchanging one e-mail a day with their e-mail service department until it’s finally taken care of. During these 45 minutes, I was looking online and of course, found lots of people with horror stories about Vonage’s support, and going in, I knew it was supposed to be spotty, I just figured that as long as the whole phone over the internet thing got going, I could hopefully troubleshoot anything that’d come up without relying on Vonage’s “representatives,” but being that the “getting it going” part had been duffed by someone at Vonage, I had had enough of sort of being their customer. 45 minutes was too long, so I hung up the phone. Realizing that probably wasn’t going to get any help from their e-mail service (I somehow didn’t technically have an account with them and the first step in the customer service process is verifying that they’re spending their time on an actual customer, I’d be in a bad position. Of course I couldn’t cancel online (and I’m sure that it wouldn’t have worked if I could have), but they do make it look like you can (look through the support tree). That number goes to general Vonage technical support (in India) and once you get through the menus in that system trying to find the “cancel service” option, you’ll be on hold for a short time (a couple minutes), explain you want to cancel, then they’ll say you need to call a different number. That number is 1-800-681-4094. To make sure it shows up well in search results, here it is very obviously. The direct number to cancel Vonage is 1-800-681-4094. You’ll be on hold for a while (mine was 20ish minutes), but that’s the only way.

I talked to someone decidedly in the United States (not that someone in India couldn’t help me….oh wait) and of course he couldn’t access my account either, but he could look up my account via my credit card number. Let’s all note that this means that Vonage doesn’t do any name check against the credit card (I’m not sure this is standard procedure for online orders elsewhere or not). To a computer “Dan Suller” is just as much not equal to the name on my credit card as “Willem Smythe” would be.

So, that’s how I found out that my last name was Suller. Which means that the username associated with my account was dancsuller, and the e-mail address associated with it was “dancsuller@gmail.com.” (that explains why I never received a confirmation e-mail) So that’s three birds with one stone. But wait! There’s more! I needed the kit shipped to a different address than the billing address, but of course those were inverted and the billing address was just plain old wrong. There’s nothing like a phone company having problems with the audio clarity during the ordering process. Quality product, no doubt.

The person I talked to cancelled my account, and pre-refunded the various equipment return and cancellation fees (hey, Vonage doesn’t have contracts, they just charge you a fee if you cancel before an arbitrary amount time has passed….an arbitrary amount of time such as one year) that will show up on my credit card . I’m not sure what the solution is, but Vonage isn’t it. I guess it’s (finally) time I get my cell phone converted to a local number, as I never considered land line (or sort of land line, such as Vonage) phone service all that necessary. The guy’s recommendation was that I just sign up for all of it online to avoid the hearing/clarity/accent issues inherent with having the call center in India.

*

Outsourcing Phone Support to India receives 1 star due to problems with phone infrastructure, accents, and cheap American companies. Global Economy schlobal economy. I have nothing against people from India, the problems I had weren’t related to them “as a people,” but with Vonage’s reliance on it/them because the labor rate is so low. The accent issue isn’t really too bad, but the phone service (ironic in this case) at the call center is awful. I’d guess that someone decided to save money and limit the call bandwidth to a notch below “nominal” for the entire facility. I’ve had similar issues with Dell’s call center audio, and it’s like talking to someone in a third world country (hmm…). Dell’s was especially bad because the system is all about referencing “service tags” and easily muddled strings of letters and numbers. I’m not sure what the solution is. There are some industries where foreign workers can do just as good a job (or better) work than Americans and save the companies lots of money because of the insanely low labor rates, but being that the phone system (at a phone company) was so shoddy, in general American companies are probably more accurately “cheap” than “thrifty.” If the work involved speaking/conversation, I’d hope that companies think twice before committing to inevitable “accent issues.” They spent so little on the phone system that when the initial order representative phonetically spelled my name, it sounded fine to me. Of course, that doesn’t change the fact that she messed up the “bill to:/ship to:” section of the order. I’m sure that they could’ve found more technically proficient people in India to staff their support/ordering center. I’d make some sort of comment here about how in any case, Indian people are good at making bathrooms smell like a wolverine that has been dead for three weeks after an acute case of garlic poisoning, but that’d be culturally insensitive and not that funny. Really though, at college I shared a bathroom with a wolverine. It was awful.

NES GAMES – The Legacy of the Wizard

as a sort’ve addendum to this review, i’d like to point out that i found a walkthrough, and even knowing where to go, what character to use, and the type of objects needed, won’t help you beat this game. It is that difficult. There is no way any kid ever has gotten to the end by himself.


“Hey, look! A Dragon trapped in a bunch of blocks and doric columns. Let’s kill it!” “…Uhhh How?” “I don’t know… carbon monoxide poisoning?” “That sounds exciting!”

I think the best ending for this game would involve P.E.T.A. storming in and demanding the release of this animal into it’s natural habitat…. devistation.

Out of all the games I had for NES, I was very glad that I somehow managed to keep the instruction booklet for this one. Without it, you’re basically screwed. I read it recently and realized that the entire reason I could never figure this game out was that you actually had to read it before you played the game. What kind of idiot game-maker would make a kid read something in order to play his game? The whole reason kids play video games is so they don’t have to read. That’s like making someone go inside a Taco Bell to place an order to pick up at the drive-through window. Or course it goes without saying that I can’t seem to find the booklet right now (just my luck), after finding it was the original inspiration for this series of reviews. I didn’t write the review of this game just then because I figured I’d work my way up to this…. you know, use it when I ran out of ideas.

Of course, now I can’t find it, and wikipedia doesn’t have an entry for the game. I searched for it via google but it seems that its biggest contribution to mainstream society has been to fans of techno-remixed video game music.

BREAKTHROUGH! Just as I’m writing this, I found a site, on the fourth page of google results, with links to the sites that not only have maps of the “levels”, but the full text of the instruction booklet.

Apparently, according to the booklet, the goal is to destroy the dragon. You pick a character, and kind of wander around a giant maze… if you don’t believe me about the giant nature of the game, or it’s maze-like qualities, take a look at this map. Just to warn you though, my computer almost crashed attempting to load it. That’s how big the image is. It is insane to believe that any child would have any reasonable means of committing this map to memory, just by wandering around aimlessly…. in search of a dragon. And not just any dragon; a dragon that’s locked up in a cage deep within a giant underground maze of inescapable proportions. Of course according to the story, that you just have to read for yourself here, they decide to hunt him only after the dog, explain, aside from me saying that it’s a completely long-lasting game that involves lots of trial and error. In addition you have to save your game, which in this incarnation was achieved by going back to the surface where your grandmother would give you a code. The next time you played you could enter the code and start off where you ended. Of course, not reading the booklet, I again didn’t realize this.) you need to use certain people for certain situations. One member of the family can jump high, the other can move blocks, the dog doesn’t get attacked by the numerous mole-men, CHUD, and chupacabras or whatever, that live underground. Only the son can slay the dragon for some reason. The hassle in this is that you can’t just switch characters when you need them; you actually have to return to the surface. What a pain.

There’s also an overly-complicated system of special items that you take along with you, or can buy at shops which are conveniently located in the underground maze (along with inns where you can regain your health for 10 gold pieces. Not exactly sure how these inns stay in business, as it seems that their clientelle would consist mainly of the goblins and C.H.U.D. that wander around aimlessly underground, and I’m sure that they’re probably all broke). These special items are what you can use to beat the bad guys, who, in turn, leave things for you like bread, potion, keys, and gold… and of course, EVIL POISON, which looks exactly like all the other items, considering they’re just small blobs of pixels. These monsters really just don’t have it going on upstairs. If they all just carried poison on them, instead of bread and money, they’d win every time.

There are enormous amounts of treasure and items and “special items” that are so confusing, you’d need the booklet to tell you what you can do with each when you get them, and would have absolutely no clue how to use without it, or even with it. In the instructions, for example, notice the large section devoted to how to move blocks with the magic gloves.

Mostly, there just is too much to say about how overly-complex this game is on the whole. You have to navigate through this huge maze to find four crowns that will allow you to access the dragon, but you have to get the “Dragon Slayer” sword and then use the son, which means that you have to go back to the top, switch characters and then find the center of the maze to beat him somehow. Afterward, this is what happens… “After you defeat Keia the dragon, she catches on fire and burns and the rest of the family is waiting outside the dungeon and you come up out of the dungeon and you all walk home together then they stop near the door and wave bye bye at you.”

Doesn’t that sound like it’s worth spending at least 40 hours of your time to accomplish? They wave goodbye to you? At least Mario finally finds his princess, Scrooge McDuck finds all the gold in the world, Mario wakes up from his dream, historical landmarks stop getting stolen, Mario finds the Princess again… okay that one was a bit of a “been there” sort’ve thing, and kinda disappointing, but at least that game was fun, and easy to play. The only consolation here is the irony of a dragon burning to death, and I don’t know if irony is a good enough reason to spend that much time on a crappy video game.

This game sucks.

½

This game gets half a star for being way too complicated and horrendously over-designed. “Make a map” the instruction booklet says. Even with the actual map, I can’t figure my way around. You think my scribbles are gonna help me? Kids everywhere were probably so frustrated by this game that they threw it out their windows and hoped a 16-wheeler ran over it… ten times. There’s no reason to even be sympathetic towards the main character(s), because it’s not like the dragon is doing anything bad, he’s kinda just there, playing solitare or reading a book or something.

The half star goes to the designers for putting together something so ambitious, and so detailed that nobody had any clue what they were thinking. I have to give that kind of work something, for their good intentions. Unfortunately you need more than intentions to make a good video game. You need violence; the ability to trick people into thinking your game is easy, when three levels later it becomes really hard; and absolutely no brain power needed to play it…. and some cement.