Zapped eyes (LASIK)

As a birthday present to myself, I got LASIK. My eyeglasses prescription had stabilized quite awhile back. The changes had been minor and often just to justify new glasses for insurance purposes. After talking to some friends at work who had done it, I decided to go ahead and take the plunge. I ended up getting it done at Sharpe Vision in Bellevue. I’ve had quite a few folks ask for details about how it went and what was involved, while other friends (and notably, DH) are particularly squigged by any discussion of something happening to an eye. I’m writing this blog post to describe the procedure in detail for those who want to know.

When I went in for the consult, they spent a ton of time trying to measure my cornea thickness. My eyes were not cooperating with the machine-based measurement, and it took several tries for that to work out. They also numbed my eyes right then and used a manual device to measure the thickness and also to check on my tear production and eye dryness. My eyes had some dryness, not uncommon for computer users. My thickness was pretty normal, though, so normal LASIK was an option for me. (versus PRK which is used for certain circumstances, or some people opt for it based on what they want) The doctor explained what the procedure would be like, showed me what range of results I could expect (target, a little worse, a little better), what the “halos” would look like, etc. I felt very informed by the time I left the consult.

The doctor had recommended I use eye drops a few times a day in the week preceding the appointment as well as several times a day following, so I stocked up on eye drops from Amazon before going in. There’s also a set of prescription eye drops that you get for preventing infection and helping your eyes heal, which Sharpe Vision offers as a combo drop. The combo drop gets used 4 times a day for a week following the exam.

On the evening before the surgery, I was getting nervous. DH reassured me by saying that in the worst case scenario, at least I’d get a puppy. I ended up taking Duffy with me to the surgery so I’d have something to hold onto during. (You can bring a small stuffed animal into the room with you.)

DH drove me over to the office. Seattle was scheduled to get a typhoon during the weekend. It had been raining for 2 days straight, and that morning, the wind had kicked up so Lake Washington was in a tizzy as we crossed. (We were really glad for the new bridge!) We went into the office and hung out in the waiting room. I got a nametag that identified me and noted that I was having LASIK in both eyes (L.O.U.). I arranged my “post-op” supplies: combo drop prescription, other drops, and sunglasses. While we were waiting, we saw one person finish up and leave. Then, they opened the blinds for the procedure room, and I was able to watch someone else going through the procedure. (DH opted to head down the hall and look at other things instead.) I also had some chamomile tea and honey to calm my nerves while I waited. Then, they took me back to the pre-exam room. They went over the post-op care I needed to do and did some quick exams. I signed a few forms for consent to care, and I opted to have the blinds closed during my procedure (mainly to spare DH).

Sharpe Vision also gives you some valium by default (you can opt out) to help relax you before the procedure, so they gave me my dose, and I sat in the exam room hugging Duffy and relaxing with my tea. Dr. Sharpe (the surgeon) came in and talked me through what to expect (which I’ll describe as it happened in this narrative, but just know that I knew what was coming at every point). He also did a quick eye exam on me (the good ol’ “this one or this one? 1 or 2?”) to make sure that the target prescription we were using was correct and accurate. After that was done, they gave me a bunch of numbing drops. The first numbing drops stung (she warned me), but then they kicked in and it didn’t sting. There were two more sets of drops that went in, also for numbing and moisture.

A few minutes later, I went into the surgery room. They had closed the blinds before I went in, so I didn’t get to see or wave to DH (the only thing I regret about deciding to close the blinds). And I laid down on the table, which was very comfy and padded.

What follows are the specific details of the surgery, so only expand if knowing those details won’t bother you.


Once I was laying on the table, the first thing was that the doc put more drops in my eyes and covered one eye to work on the other one. This first part was the most painful part, and it was over in less than a minute, probably less than 30 seconds. Basically, they put a big ring tube thing on your face and it both presses on your face around your eye and creates suction to hold your eye in place. This is for the part where the laser (my LASIK was all laser, so no blades were used) cuts the flap in your cornea (which is why they need to measure your corneal thickness in the pre-exam). As the doc had warned me, it was a bit painful and then things kind of went black. (Or, in my case, a dark field of brightly colored tiny stars…really quite beautiful). The doc had warned me about this in particular, because he said it’s the scariest part, that it might feel like I’ve lost my sight, but it’s just temporary. Then, the suction machine was removed, and I could see from that eye again, albeit blurrily. The doctor added a bunch more drops and then the suction machine was placed on the other eye and that eye was covered up. The process was repeated. I did have a little more trouble on that side, mainly because my eye was kind of fighting the suction and trying to look away, so the doctor had to tell me to relax and try to just let myself look at nothing. That finished up just like the other one, with more drops, and then the next step was the shaping.

So for the shaping, there’s a few things. The flap is pushed back, and then the laser starts shaping your cornea based on what your prescription requires. Dr. Sharpe described this as hearing something that sounds like a bug zapper over and over again and possibly smelling something like light smoke. For me, I’d had a laser filling done before (at Lakeside Dental in IL), and the smell was pretty much the same. I mean, it’s a laser, and it’s using heat to remove something, so there’s a little smell. It’s not bad…just like when you just blew out a match or something, or if you’ve ever used a match to burn up a ball of hair from your hairbrush, it’s like that. While it’s happening, there’s a light you look at, and sometimes the light moves. When the light moves, you move your eye to follow the light. The laser is checking on your eye’s position something like 4000 times a minute to make sure that it’s getting the right spot. Technology! Woo! And then once the laser finishes (really fast), the doc adds a ton more eye drops, flips the flap back down, and then you do the next eye…same thing all over again.

And the doc and the optical assistant are right there throughout, and they kind of keep contact with you and talk to you, so it’s very comforting. Honestly, getting a filling is way more unpleasant (okay, maybe not a laser filling, but the normal kind). Even just a normal dental cleaning is way more unpleasant. You don’t feel any pain at any point, *except* that suction part that I mentioned…and then it’s kind of like someone is very slowly pushing your skull back, so it’s a lot of pressure. But, even that is over so fast that it’s not bad.

After the second eye is done, they helped me get up and off the table. I could already see better than I typically could without my glasses (better than I saw things when I walked into the room). They guided me over to the typical optometrist looks as your eyes machine, and the doctor checked to make sure things looked good in terms of the flap being placed correctly.

The whole thing takes about 15 minutes, maybe a little less. I was back out in the lobby and ready to go, and DH was startled by how quickly I was done. And, aside from everything seeming overly bright, I was already seeing pretty well at that point. The light sensitivity feels to me a bit like when you get your pupils dilated and everything just feels overly bright and a little out of focus, but you can still see.

heading home after LASIK
heading home after LASIK

I put on my rockstar sunglasses, and we headed home, by way of the Chick-Fil-A for my reward lunch. (Nuggets!)

The worst part of recovery that day was that I wasn’t supposed to look at screens (no phone, no TV, no tablet) and I wasn’t supposed to read. That left very little to entertain me. The doctor had given me one cold compress patch and I had prepared another, and they had told me that the cold compress as soon as you get home does wonders for making things feel better.

cold compresses
cold compresses

So, I covered up my eyes with cold compresses and a sleepy mask and curled up in bed. DH hung out with me. We listened to Michelle Obama’s amazing speech (that I’d saved for this time period), and then I had saved up a bunch of podcasts to listen to, so we set up one of those while I rested. Eventually, I drifted off to sleep, and DH went upstairs. A couple of hours later, I woke up feeling bleary-eyed. My eyes also felt swollen and sore. The doctor’s office had given me drops called “comfort drops” (basically numbing drops) to put in, so I added some of those (with DH’s help, because I kept missing), and a few seconds later, the soreness went away.


Aside from the swelling and soreness (which is normal…in fact, some people can’t even open their eyes because of the swelling), the feeling that you have is best described as feeling like you have a giant eyelash stuck in your eye. That’s basically the cut and where it’s healing. And, it’s worse if your eyes get dry, so you end up wanting to put drops in your eyes all the time (which is good for them). The cut is also why you get halos and some light sensitivity for awhile afterward. That eyelash feeling is still bugging me but less and less every day and mostly just if my eyes get dry.

rocking my sunglasses the evening after LASIK
rocking my sunglasses the evening after LASIK

I got up, put my sunglasses on, and wandered upstairs. I put my compresses in the freezer to get cool and grabbed an ice pack to wrap in a washcloth and lay on my eyes. I relaxed on the couch for a bit, and then I went back downstairs and set up my phone with a headset so I could voice call people and chat on the phone for awhile. And by around 8pm, I was actually feeling fine. The optical assistant who had prepped me had said that was normal, that around 7-8 hours after surgery, you’ll suddenly feel fine, like magic, and that’s exactly what happened. It was like my eyes just waited for a timer to go off before deciding they were fine.

We invited some friends over for board games, since that was something I could do. The next day, I went to a checkup in the morning. They tested my vision, and I was 20/20 in one eye and almost 20/20 in the other eye, and they said I was at 95% of target. I was cleared to drive, and I’ll have another follow-up in 30 days to see how things have settled and if I need any adjustments. We decided to go play Bridge in the afternoon. I wore sunglasses a lot for most of the weekend, and I’m still putting them on around the office or elsewhere if things are bright or I just want some extra protection. Dust and other things are still a particular hazard for the first week, so I’m not using any moisturizers or soaps around my eyes right now.

morning after LASIK, first glasses-free selfie
morning after LASIK, first glasses-free selfie

And, of course, I’m putting drops in all the time. That’s pretty much it. I can see most things pretty well. Things that are backlit (computer screens, phone, etc.) are a bit tougher and fuzzier, but that’s getting better already and will probably clear up entirely in a week or so. From my office window, I can see tiny houses across the sound, and I can see the antennas on top of Queen Anne clearly.

To help me remember to take breaks and use my drops at work, I installed this app on my work laptop called Eyeleo, which has a cute lion tell me to take a break and do an eye exercise or look away from my monitor for awhile. It also forces me to periodically take a long break to stretch and look at other things. That wasn’t recommended by the doc or anything…I just wanted an app to help me remember to take breaks.

work selfie
work selfie

I’ll update this post again at the 30 day exam with any details or news, but generally, at this point, I’m mainly wishing I’d done this sooner. I never had a pressing need to get LASIK. I don’t do sports or anything that makes glasses annoying. But there’s just a thousand tiny conveniences that you have when you’re not wearing glasses. At the same time, I feel a bit unprotected without something on my face right now (sunglasses help), and I still find myself panicking because I can’t find my glasses.

I can do this.

It’s that time again, time for the most amazing commercials you’ve ever seen to show up on YouTube and elsewhere. While I intend to do my usual run-down and review of the offerings when the time comes, an early favorite has crossed my feeds:

I love this so much. I love it because it puts video gaming on par with Chess and Football. I love the subtle call-outs to the anime and to the game mythology in the lead-in. I love that there’s diversity. And OMG, I teared up a little at the end. Yes, we can do this.

Part of me is like, how has it been 20 years? Part of me is like, how has it ONLY been 20 years? Just 20 years ago, this screen was state of the art on a handheld gaming device:
Pokemon original

Now, we’re just a few cycles away from having a location based real world Pokemon game on our phones…on our wrists!

Jurassic World as a Theme Park

WARNING: It is impossible to discuss this topic without giving away key plot points and developments in the movie. Do not proceed if you’re concerned about spoilers.

Following our viewing of Jurassic World, DH and I both desperately wanted to hear our favorite theme park logistics/planning enthusiasts’ take on it. I tweeted to @lentesta and @jimhillmedia posthaste to request a podcast. But, while they’re considering that request, I wanted to give my own thoughts about Jurassic World as a theme park, as depicted in Jurassic World the movie. Also, I should note that I’m writing largely based on what I saw in the movie, but I did reference the spectacular website for Jurassic World for some details and data points. I also want to note that I use a lot of promo photos from the movie (ones that were part of the press park made freely available on their website) in this review. Those are all owned/created by the movie, not by me, and I’m using them here for criticism purposes only.

Who Would Go?

Jurassic World is located on an island, the fictional Isla Nublar, west of Costa Rica (how far west varies by movie, and Jurassic World does make clear that this is supposed to be the same island as the ones from previous Jurassic Park movies). Travel to that destination is going to require a passport and a fairly expensive flight for most of the world population. (It always bothered me how the prior JP movies, when panicking about escape, would talk about dinosaurs wandering around San Diego, when the closest region would be Costa Rica. Do we only care if they make it to the US? Seems like just about any of the flying species could end up at Costa Rica with little trouble, much less the many nearby islands in that region. But, I digress…) Additionally, there’s a ferry and/or separate flight to get to Isla Nublar (depending on the movie). In Jurassic World, it’s a park-sponsored ferry from Costa Rica.

I don’t think they explicitly mention a park admission ticket price in the movie (though I could be wrong), but I think it’s reasonable to guess that a park that offers a ferry ride to its off-coast site and is the only park in the world to have live dinosaurs would garner an admission ticket in the $2-300 range for adults. Add in what is probably a $800 flight, plus staying at what seems to be the only on-site hotel ($600+ a night I’m sure), and this a trip out of the range of most families. Thus, we can make some assumptions that the guests at JW are well-off world travelers.

Park Size

Jurassic World explicitly mentions 20,000 guests being present on the day the movie takes place. We’re also told that this is a time when kids are out of school, and it seems to be summer. That means Jurassic World should be seeing peak or near peak attendance, though the implication is that this is a Thursday, so maybe low peak. So, let’s figure that 20K is perhaps 60% of capacity, making the actual capacity around 35K.

Disneyland (not all of DLR, just Disneyland) hits capacity at 40K, roughly. Disneyland Resort has an 85K capacity. Magic Kingdom caps at roughly 100K. But, if we look at more zoo-like parks, SeaWorld Orlando is around 40K. Animal Kingdom is around 50K (though it can be argued that the attractions can’t support its functional capacity). So, this is in the ballpark, but it seems like Jurassic World is under-sized, particularly since it was built in the present with the movie taking place in the comparable “near future”. (There are plenty of technologies having nothing to do with dinosaurs shown in the movie that are not currently achievable as shown, but they’re likely achievable in the near future.) Then again, it may be that with the prohibitive cost they need to charge to meet their needs and the cost of travel, they anticipate a smaller available audience.

But…putting that aside, we see crowds shown in the movie that seem to indicate a) that Jurassic World is actually operating at or near peak on this day and b) that the attendance is higher than 20K. The one that stands out the most is the arena that we see for the water dinosaur demonstration (with the awesome stands that descend below the water level for a different view during the show):

Jurassic World: Mosasaur Arena

That arena in and of itself is shown holding nearly 20K of people. To give a proportion, 20K is less than half a Sounders game’s average attendance. Unless the entire park empties and that’s a once a day show, the number of people we see in the movie is far past the number quoted as attendance. So, it’s also possible that Jurassic World is much larger, and the 20K number is bogus.

(The interesting part is that it almost seems like 20K was a reasonable number to give, but the set/CGI designers then showed us stuff that didn’t fit that model, which is perhaps not surprising.)

Note: After doing all of this ballparking, I found the website for Jurassic World which has a handy park capacity graph right on it that let me back into the actual park capacity, which is approximately 31K. So…ha. 🙂 They were at 64% capacity, so my guess of a 60%ish capacity is spot on. Go me!

The Guests

The guests we see are mostly American, and communication throughout the park seems to be in English. While you can make a case that I can’t judge that easily, there’s one scene where a line of attendees gets ticked off that an attraction is closed where their American-ness is very apparent. Given the park’s location, their primary attendance will be from Brazil, which has plenty of affluent park enthusiasts. There should be signage in a few languages. Even EuroDisney has signage in both English and French.

That we didn’t see a single Brazilian tour group (nor any tour groups) is patently unrealistic, as any WDW frequent attendee will confirm. It, like the San Diego references I mentioned earlier, is a reflection of how US-centric this movie is rather than any reality of what you’d see in a true Jurassic World theme park. (The website actually further reinforces this observation.)

Some realism though was in the guests’ reactions when a ride went down (ready to mob the worker there) and the guests watching the Mosasaurus feeding who insisted on standing up for no good goddamn reason and blocking everyone’s view.

What they did not include that they should have: kids crying out of exhaustion and frustration (rather than because a pterodactyl ate their mom), selfie sticks (maybe they’re banned?), people holding up their phones/iPads/whatever during every single freaking attraction/show to video it for later perusal.


They nailed this one. Every theme park these days is flooded with sponsored attractions and brand name shops. The ones I noticed on the “main street” of Jurassic World were Brookstone, Pandora, and Margaritaville. (There’s also a fake restaurant called Winston’s Steakhouse. You can view the fake restaurant menu on the website.) The research hall being sponsored by Samsung felt familiar as well, and we hear that Verizon Wireless might be sponsoring the Indominus Rex (ha! Figures!). What’s fun here is that it serves two purposes: realism and actual paid placement in the movie. I also wonder how much of the store presence was influenced by shops that have deals with Universal Studios theme parks.


Per the website, there are 20 attractions. (Oddly, a “water park” is a single attraction, and the golf course is counted as an attraction. The monorail is relegated to a utility, like restrooms.) In the movie, we see a few, but most notably, we see the Gyrosphere:

Jurassic World: Gyrosphere

I have a major nitpick with the Gyrosphere. A key plot point of the movie is that the Gyrosphere is closed because of the escaping Indominus Rex while the 2 kids are out exploring. The kids get a notice that the ride is closed and that they should return. And then they proceed to keep exploring in the gyrosphere anyways, even rolling right outside the walls of the attraction. No. Just no. This makes no sense at all. For this Gyrosphere ride to have any sort of realistic throughput, it must have a time limit on exploration. There is no such thing as a “stay as long as you like” attraction in a major theme park that isn’t walk-through. Thus, by design, the Gyrosphere must have some kind of “bring vehicle home” control/command, or else that ride would be screwed. Not to mention that, according to the website, the Gyrosphere notices when you’re close to dinosaurs and moves you back to a safe distance, but in the movie, we see it clearly not doing that. That feature also implies that the kids would not have been able to drive it out of the fenced area. Most likely, the vehicle would be set to either auto-home if driven outside the area or turn off entirely within some short distance of the ride area. This one thing totally bothered me while watching. Thankfully, while it’s a key plot point, it also doesn’t last very long. They seriously could have fixed it just by having the ride person or even the Jimmy Fallon ride video note their “VIP bracelets” when they got on and say, “Oh, you’re VIPs. I’ve set your gyro for unlimited exploration. Stay as long as you like.”

Speaking of the Fallon ride video, while it was a bit over the top, it did hit home in terms of the inevitably corny videos telling you the safety information for a ride or touting the ride’s features.

I also wanted to call out the Mosasaurus feeding arena feature of the stands moving up and down. That is very cool, and I hope it’s in a concept list for some park somewhere, though I’m not sure of the right attraction in a post-Blackfish world.

On-Site Hotel/Day Visiting

The movie showed only one hotel, but the website says there’s two on-site hotels at different tiers. What isn’t clear from the movie or the website is how often the ferry runs. If the ferry is running with enough frequency (and enough boats for “rope drop” capacity) for day trippers from the mainland, evacuating the island shouldn’t have been nearly the problem it was shown to be. OTOH, if the expectation (and perhaps the ticket price) assumes you’ll stay at an on-site hotel for 1+ nights, the ferry may only run a few times a day. The ferry we saw looked like a 1500 capacity ferry. Just based on that, I’m guessing they have a fleet of perhaps 10 ferries and they typically operate 3 or so (1 loading at each port, one or two in transit), with the full 10 being used for the most common transportation times in one direction only.


The implication is that this is the only dinosaur park…still…even though it’s been running long enough that people are bored by dinosaurs (that they can only see at this one park in the whole damn world). For the record, I don’t buy for a second that people are bored by dinosaurs and thus attendance is dropping. People aren’t bored by freaking Space Mountain yet, and it’s been around for many decades and isn’t a giant-ass dinosaur. Jurassic World needs to learn about making tiny changes from Disney. They could just add a new track to the monorail and bump attendance rather than creating a whole new dinosaur.

Anyways, back to the topic…competition. I further don’t buy that not a single competitor park has opened somewhere else in the world. Wouldn’t it have been more believable that Jurassic World was creating Indominus Rex because “Dinosaur Land” was going to open off the coast of Taipei that fall with more space and more dinos and they needed to give a reason for people to keep coming to their smaller park?

Evacuation/Emergency Handling

This theme park has been operating for years. You cannot tell me that they have not needed to evacuate before now. It’s an island off the coast of Costa Rica. Have they never had a major storm coming in? No earthquakes? Heck, a super-cell thunderstorm would be enough to shut down their ferry service and thus a reason that they’d want to get guests off the island in advance of its occurrence. Among the many things I don’t buy, I don’t buy that they would have had so much trouble evacuating or handling a shutdown. As mentioned up above, they probably need a 10-ferry fleet to handle park open and close traffic. 10 ferries could have gotten most of that 20K of people off the island in a matter of hours. We’re fed that the COO (or director of Ops or whatever she was) doesn’t want to evacuate because of a fear that people won’t come back. Bullshit. Cruise ships have people going in droves, despite all the problems they’ve had. Disneyland had a measles outbreak. The big thing that COO would have to worry about is someone dying, not people being forced to leave due to a temporary and unexplained closure. Besides, as mentioned, given their location and mostly outdoors attractions, they would have to shut down due to weather periodically. They could have just messaged the park guests that a storm was coming in and they were advising everyone to a) return to their hotel room or b) get on the ferry. Then, start shutting down attractions, and believe me, people will leave. Guests do not hang around a park when everything is shut down. They do not sit down all over main street (as was shown). They queue up for the transportation (ferries) or go to their on-site hotel. Some of them might have flooded the restaurants.

It bums me out that the COO, who was shown as incredibly competent throughout, ended up seeming incompetent in service to the plot in two ways, this being one of them. That’s a separate post for another time, though, should I get around to it.

In Closing…

Well, this has been quite an essay. I look forward to Touring Plans‘ Jurassic World edition. In the meantime, if you have any other theme park nitpicks I missed, feel free to post them in the comments. 🙂

My location history is NOT off, Maps.

tl;dr – the fix for this problem is to go to your Google Apps admin console (, sign in if needed. Then, at the bottom of your dashboard, click More Controls > Apps > Additional Google Services. Then, remove the “featured” filter by clicking the X on the grey filter bar. Scroll down to Web History (yes, even though it’s prompting you about location history, it’s actually web history that’s to blame.) and turn that on for your domain.

I recently (in the past week) started having an issue with my Android phone wherein GMaps was convinced that my location history was off. It prompted me to turn it on and would not do any navigation until I turned it on, despite being able to find both me and the spots I was looking for without it. I could not figure out what was causing this issue, but Bing Maps navigation managed to work without it, so I just switched to that at the time.

If you clicked the message that said location history was off, it tried to open a webview that would fail to load. Since I couldn’t get that to load, I puttered over to my Android phone’s settings to look at location history settings. Sure enough, I found them and my phone said they were on both for Maps and generally. So, wtf.

The culprit, I figured, could have been a Google Maps update or a recent Android update on my Moto X to 4.4.4. Yet, searching for location history issues associated with all of those things came up fruitless. I did eventually find some old issues (2013 or earlier) that others using Google Apps For Your Domain (GAFYD) aka Google Apps for Business aka Google Apps for Work were encountering. I’m a GAFYD user, grandfathered in for free from long ago. So, easy peasy, I should be able to switch to my non-GAFYD account in Maps and resolve, right? No dice. Because my primary Android login is my GAFYD account, it wouldn’t let me switch permanently, so I didn’t consider that a real fix.

Yesterday, I finally got the link to load. Turns out it was taking you to Google’s History settings webpage, which I only peripherally knew existed. That page showed a web history setting to share my Chrome web history to improve my device. Sure, go for it. (I don’t use Chrome on desktop or mobile. Firefox all the way, baby!) On that page, it wouldn’t let me change it because “Based on your organization’s current settings, this feature is disabled. If your administrator changes this in the future, your choice here will be honored.” ::sigh:: But at least this gave me a specific error to search. Searching for that error was fruitless, though. Since the page talked about web history, though, it gave me the idea to search for that along with GAFYD and all its names through history, which eventually led me to this page and a solution. The instructions on that page are actually out of date, though, so scroll back up to the tl;dr at the top of this page for updated instructions on how to resolve this pesky and poorly explained error in Google Maps for Android.

Then, once you’re done, contemplate why Google has decided to block you from using navigation (which doesn’t need your web history) until you turn on web history. From reading some other things, I suspect that it’s because Google is trying to use your web history to make its location searches more accurate and enable voice searching features, which is a good thing to do. However, cutting off access to an unrelated service to force customers into allowing that setting is a major dick move. My guess is that the business case for the searching features (which is probably based on selling advertising targeted by location) demanded that they get high compliance, and so they held navigation hostage in order to do so.

Mind Games 2015 Recap

Background:  The Mind Games convention is where/how American Mensa awards games the Mensa Select seal.  The seal is awarded to 5-6 games each year. It’s an event with ~300 Mensans in attendance, specifically a self-selected subset of Mensans that are gamers. As a judge/attendee, you are assigned around ~30 games to play during the play period (Friday 11am until Sunday 9am). Between 50-60 are submitted in total each year by various manufacturers in lots of genres, though Euro games are sadly almost always under-represented and under-ranked. Each judge gets to vote on 7 (in a ranked order) from the list of ones they were assigned. To vote, judges must play the 25-30 they are assigned, but that is on the honor system. The remaining submissions are optional, but I try to get through all of them each year. Other people have different mandatory/optional lists versus yours, such that the number of people who judge each game are balanced. At the end of the judging/play period, the ballots are tallied and the winning games are announced on Sunday. A press release generally follows on Monday.  You can look up the winners for past years at

Mensa Mind Games 2015 was held in San Diego, CA from April 30 through May 3. 60 total games were played over the weekend. Unlike prior Mind Games events, 2015 included an extra day (Thursday-Sunday instead of Friday-Sunday). The extra day allowed everyone to have a more relaxed pace and to check out San Diego’s terrific attractions. (Yes, I went to the zoo.) There truly was no excuse for not finishing your assigned games this year. I did all 60, per usual, and I didn’t even have to rush that much. I had time to swim and relax on Saturday evening.

Per Chief Judge Greg Webster, 210 ballots were cast, but 11 of those were deemed invalid due to mis-votes. (Yes, even among Mensans, some folks make voting mistakes.) The game submissions this year were remarkably good; all games except two got at least one vote. I have attended Mind Games where it was tough to come up with 7 games that I was willing to give a vote. That was not an issue this year at all. In fact, I have enough “honorable mentions” this year that I will cover them in a separate post and only talk about the winners in this post. I suspect that Kickstarter and other indie game publishing houses are the result of the shift.

Before I recap the winners, I wanted to note that Chicago Area Mensa will be hosting in 2016. It will be back to a 3-day format (which I actually prefer), and you can count on a gaming-centric group like CAM to put on an awesome event. You can already book hotel reservations, and there’s a Facebook event for those of you who use FB. Spreadsheet services for MG 2016 will be provided by yours truly. 🙂

Without further ado, the winners of Mensa Mind Games 2015 (in alphabetical order) along with my scoring and notes:

Castles of Mad King Ludwig

Play Appeal9
Value for Price6
Weighted Score77.5
Rank (of 60)1

Publisher: Bezier Games
Category: Euro/Economic/Tile

I had heard of this one and even nearly played it at AGOG before coming. However, my first play of it was at Mind Games. It, unfortunately, wasn’t on my ballot, but it was on DH’s. Folks who have played Suburbia (another game from the same publisher and designer) will immediately recognize some of the component design, but the game itself has little in common with Suburbia. Players construct their castles using rooms that are arranged on a market for purchase by the current round’s “master builder”. Thus, the cost of a building may change from one round to another based on whether the current “master” feels it is likely to be desired or not (or whether they want to try to reserve it for themselves). Also, unlike Suburbia, most building purchases are paid to other players rather than the bank. Like Suburbia, each building has qualities that score victory points for the building itself, potentially adjacent buildings, or all buildings on your board. There’s also a Vegas Showdown type element where the construction of your castle matters. An entrance from the outside is required, and the shapes of the buildings or the placement of doorways can end up constraining your construction. All in all, it has a lot of strategic elements, and while the gameplay is relatively straightforward, it at least feels like different skill sets could be used to win. Besides, even if you don’t win, you get to build a fun castle. Aesthetically, there are some very minor issues of clarity on pieces (it’s hard to remember the symbol for adjacent vs. all on board, for example, and the art can make the size symbol/number hard to read), but the instructions and player aids are very clear and make it easy to get going.


Play Appeal4
Value for Price8
Weighted Score48.6
Rank (of 60)16

Publisher: Gamewright
Category: Card/Set Collecting

Dragonwood is a card game with a quest/RPG type theme. Players draw and collect “hero” cards in sets, straights, flushes, and straight flushes to defeat “creature” cards that are drawn from a separate deck. Most enemies award victory points but some enemies award powers that help you with future defeats. The size of the collection of cards you play determines how many dice you get to roll, and the sum of the dice versus the corresponding strength vs. the type of cards played (set, straight, or flush) determines if you defeated the creature. The game ends either when you go through the hero deck twice or when you defeat both the red and yellow dragons, which are shuffled into the bottom third of the creature deck. At game end, the player with the most victory points wins.

I admit that seeing so many variants on the “collect gin-style sets of cards and play them to do X” card games at prior Mind Games has probably soured me on the genre. But, beyond that, the game frustrated us in that we easily got through the hero deck twice before being even close to seeing either dragon come up. We had four players. Also, collecting the sets took longer and felt more frustrating that it should have due to how slow drawing is. I think they had a good concept with the merge of fantasy quest theming with a basic card game, but the execution needed work to tune the decks correctly. Aesthetically, I was also disappointed by the artwork. It is cartoony and reminiscent of Dragon’s Lair (and parodies of that genre). I would have preferred more realistic or compelling art given how dull the gameplay is.

Lanterns: The Harvest Festival

Play Appeal6
Value for Price4
Weighted Score56
Rank (of 60)11

Publisher: Renegade Game Studios and Foxtrot Games
Category: Euro/Tile

In past years, this one could have topped my list, but it had the unfortunate luck to be competing with so many other solid entrants. This is a tile laying game where each tile earns you and your opponent chips in various colors, and the orientation of the tile placement determines what your opponents get vs. what you get. Once you collect the chips, you can claim scrolls for endgame victory points by having sets of single colors or an assortment of colors. As each person claims a set scroll, the value of the subsequent scrolls goes down (i.e., first person gets a 7 point scroll, second person gets a 5 point scroll, and so on). So, it isn’t just what you collect but whether what you collect gets you the most points at any given moment. It’s very easy to play. DH has concerns that the strategy is minimal. When I was playing, I noticed that the chips are piece limited and so worked on denying my right hand opponents chips in colors that put them in competition with what I was planning to claim. However, your ability to do that is constrained by the tiles and the way your opponents play. I’d put it on a similar strategy level as Splendor (and similar complexity). Beyond that, though, the landscape you create with the tiles is very pretty, and the components are nice looking overall. Thus, even if you aren’t enjoying the strategy, you get to enjoy the aesthetic aspect.

Letter Tycoon

Play Appeal5
Value for Price7
Weighted Score58.6
Rank (of 60)9

Publisher: Ad Magic/Breaking Games
Category: Word

There’s an inevitable spate of word games at Mind Games, but this one managed to add something unique. Like many other word games, you draw cards with letters on them and then use those cards to lay down words in order to score (money in this case). The unique aspect of this word game vs. others is that after playing a word (and earning cash accordingly), you can pay to patent one of the letters you used. Once you patent a letter, you get money from the bank any time another player uses the letter in one of their words. Different letters have different costs based on frequency, but you always get paid the same royalty for the patent. The goal is to collect the most money by the end of the game. The patent cards also incorporate interesting factory art. One quibble I had with the game is that the payoff of stock rather than money (which occurs only on big words) seemed to be a pointless complexity, given that stock and money are equivalent with the exception that you can’t use stock to buy anything. If anything, it seems like the stock makes the larger words less valuable. If stock had some dividend mechanism or if it was worth more in the end game, it’d make more sense. I also nitpick that players should have to pay royalties to each other rather than royalties coming from the bank. As is, there’s not enough pain to playing a word when other players hold the patents, but that is likely by design and probably helps keep the game balanced among players of differing skill levels.

Trekking the National Parks

Play Appeal7
Value for Price6
Weighted Score68.5
Rank (of 60)3

Publisher: Bink Ink, LLC
Category: Euro/Routes/Set Collection

Trekking is a TTR-like board game played on a map of the US with locations based on the National Park System. In addition to a rules booklet, the game includes a guidebook of the included parks (each of which features a photo of the Kickstarter backer that sponsored that park’s inclusion). There are multiple ways to win. One is to complete the public contracts (not the game’s lingo) for sets of cards that you play once at the noted park to get the contract. One is to gather colored stones by being the first visitor to each park, getting a majority of each to score points at the end of the game. One is to complete private contracts (called postcards). All of these things get you victory points, and most victory points at game end wins. Like TTR, there’s contract decks and then the main deck where you collect colored symbol cards to be able to claim contracts. Unlike TTR, you don’t buy legs of travel. Instead, you’re completing the park contract cards that are publicly available with the specific card types noted on the contract. The game designer/publisher has a terrific website that includes very well done “how to play” videos. If videos aren’t your thing, the rule book is extremely well done, too. It is also fun to travel the parks, and I have to love any game that highlights the awesomeness of the NPS, as it’s truly one of our national treasures. I placed my order for this one while at the airport to head home from Mind Games.

You can view the official Mind Games press release here: Also, if you want to see my massive spreadsheet of scores and notes, it’s posted here:!2232&authkey=!AFauXyK6LerQMAE&ithint=file%2Cxlsx. Finally, you can view my photos from the event here:

American Mensa Elections – 2015

(Skip down to a summary of my intended votes and recommended ballot if you prefer a tl;dr approach.)

Today is tax day, but it’s also the day that members of American Mensa will receive their ballots. (If you haven’t already, set a filter in your inbox so that mail from “” pops to the top and is not sent to spam. That is the address that your ballot will come from if sent via email.)

American Mensa has been a wild ride for me over the past 12 months or so. I’m pretty much at a point where I feel done with the organization as anything but a member getting the most she can out of her life membership so it’s not an entirely wasted investment. I’m at that point not because American Mensa contains a few assholes; I’m at that point because the current board majority prefers to encourage and support those assholes at the expense of members and volunteers that actually add (or added) value to the organization. I’ve met some wonderful people via the org, and I still believe strongly in the power and value of those wonderful people. They give me hope. Ultimately, it is because of that belief that I feel this election is important and worth discussing here; that’s why I’m bothering to take the time both to vote and to write about voting.

I want the organization of American Mensa to be worthy of its wonderful members and volunteers. I want it to be an organization I once again feel proud to support with my money, time, and energy. If you are a candidate who gets elected, whether I supported you or not, I ask that you consider how important it is that a social organization not feel hostile to its members, that it not be a place where people hesitate to lead or volunteer in any capacity because of the near-inevitable harassment they will suffer online and in person. I ask that you put measures in place to protect the privacy of leaders and volunteers as well as take action against those who misuse Mensa resources (including but not limited to mailing lists, directories, gatherings, and online forums and groups) to harass and bully members in ways both internal and external to the organization. I ask you to gather and review data about the membership, take ownership of it, and be transparent both internally and externally about what it indicates about the health and diversity of the organization both at a point in time and over time. Of course, there’s more than this, but this is my main/top voting issue for the election, because I think it’s the most important issue we’re facing.

In making out my ballot, I considered a lot of information. I considered candidate sites. In some cases, I asked candidates for their opinions directly, where their site or prior actions or posts didn’t make it clear. I considered the recommendations posted here; I trust Robin’s opinions strongly, and I think that post is worth a read. I considered recommendations posted by others on Facebook and elsewhere. And finally, I considered the statements posted by candidates and the content of the amendments under consideration.

How Mensa Elections Work

For offices where more than two candidates are running, you will rank the candidates. You are not obligated to vote for more than one candidate for each office. Your second (and third or fourth, if applicable) choice will be used in the case of a run-off. Robin explains this better than I can, so I’m quoting her post here (with permission):

There is a rule that you must vote in the first “conceptual” election of the preferential election. There is no rule that you must cast a vote in all three or four. Effectively, you’re opting not to vote in the second and third elections if it came down to a run-off.

So say I really want Alice to win, and Bob is a decent second choice. I’d shoot myself if Charlie wins, so I vote 1 for Alice, 2 for Bob, and not at all for Charlie. Turns out Alice came in third in the first round… now what?

If Alice came in third, then it’s between Bob and Charlie in a second round of counting, and Bob gets my second preference choice/vote in that round of counting, in that “run-off” election. ?In this instance, my lack of a preference for Charlie would not come into play until a third round of voting if they couldn’t achieve 50%+ in the second round.

If I only see value in Alice (and not the other two candidates) and Alice doesn’t make it to a second round of voting, then neither Bob nor Charlie gets my vote in that counting. Voting only for Alice might inadvertently help Charlie simply by not boosting Bob’s votes higher.

My votes, as you will see below, consider this voting schema. You will notice that I am intentionally only voting for a subset of candidates in some cases, and I’m providing my preferred ranking where applicable. Explanations of my votes follow. (You can skip down to a summary if you prefer a tl;dr approach.)

Chair – 1. Nick Sanford, 2. Deb Stone (No third selection.)

First, don’t vote for Dan Burg. Just don’t. Not even as a second or third choice. There are many, many reasons that I don’t support him, but at the very least, he’s the leader that has gotten us where we are now. There is no reason to keep him in office. Between Nick and Deb, I support Nick. I considered not even putting Deb as a second choice. Why? I’ve heard many great things about Deb, but she has stated clearly that she thinks bullying and harassment is the problem of the victim, not the perpetrator. She seems to be voicing the “have a thicker skin” approach, which is quite honestly both naive and reductive. It’s also basically the system we’ve had in place for years now, and it isn’t working. On data alone, it should be dismissed. The only reason she is getting my second rank vote is that I don’t want Dan back in office.

I’m not going to say or claim that Nick has a proven track record on this issue; he doesn’t. But, I don’t fault him for not acting on it as Treasurer. That’s not part of the Treasurer’s duties. What he did as treasurer was increase transparency and consider issues based on data, and if he does similar behavior regarding this issue, I’m convinced he’ll do well for the organization. When asked about plans, Nick said honestly that he didn’t know what the right approach might be but that he agreed it was a key problem and issue. He has a code of conduct and enforcement of such in his “unvetted ideas”, and I think that’s exactly the right place for it for an unelected chair.

Nick Sanford has my absolute and firm support. My vote for Deb in second place is a vote against Dan, should there be a run-off.

1VC – Mary Lee Kemper

One of the concerns about Nick as chair is financial; some members have concerns that he will be too spendy or too willing to spend on outside vendors vs. using Mensa volunteers. (I am actually in favor of using trained staff and vendors where they have more expertise or can be more efficient. I think Mensa financially undervalues the cost of volunteers.) If you have that concern about Nick but share my concerns about Deb, vote for Nick and vote for Mary Lee as 1VC to both keep finances in check and strongly represent the view of using volunteers.

Re: Heather, among hearing things from others, I also saw several cases where she supported AMC actions I disagree with and has written statements in support of amendments I oppose.

2VC – John Neemidge

Honestly, this is more of a vote against “status quo” than anything else, because both are good candidates. LaRae represents the status quo, but I do think under a different chair and with a supportive board, she’d make good decisions. I have met John briefly, and I’ve heard terrific things about him. I worry that he may rely too much on volunteers (see my notes under 1VC), but I think he comes in with the right experience set and a good outside perspective. He has held leadership in a strong and well-functioning local group. I think that’s the equivalent when it comes to pros and cons of a governor running for office vs. a senator. I will also say that, like Mary Lee for 1VC, if you have those financial concerns about Nick, John will balance those out.

Secretary – 1. Lori Norris, 2. Nancy Farrar (no third vote)

This is another toss-up, at least between the two I’m selecting. Both are excellent candidates. I’m leaning for Lori because of her firm reliance on data-based decision-making. Regarding Andrew, he has supported decisions within the board and signed his name to statements from the board that I disagree with, when others chose not to. It’s another case where, with a better chair, he might be great, but he also represents the status quo. Nothing I read from him made me suspect that he would do anything more than keep the same thing going.

Treasurer – 1. Rob Salkin, 2. Ken Silver (no third or fourth vote)

There are four candidates in this election. I’m voting for two. If neither of them win, I honestly don’t care between the other two. I support Rob as a candidate because I know him personally, and I know he’ll bring a desire for data-driven decisions, frugality, and membership focus to the job. I support Ken because his statement is spot-on; he’s a bean counter who will be good at diving into the details of the task. I support Rob over Ken because it’s a voting position, and I think Rob’s POV more closely aligns with my own.

As for the other two candidates, one has no experience (not even local group office) and the other is reportedly a bit too “shoot from the hip” for this particular role.


I’m voting for SueAnn Gilmore in my region, because I think she’s best for the job. She has certainly taken a more active approach to the election than her opponent, and everything she has said convinces me that she will act in the best interests of the organization. She was also the target of online harassment as a result of her nomination and thus has first-hand experience with how prevalent and damaging it can be.

As for other regions, even though I have no vote, I do have opinions. I would vote Tasha “Taz” Criss for Region 6, as she and I agree on many issues. I would vote Thomas G. Thomas in Region 10, mostly as a vote against his opponent. His opponent tacitly, if not explicitly, supports and endorses harassment in the AMF/AMH groups and is firmly in the “suck it up and deal with it” mindset. Thomas’ opponent also advocates separating Mensa into subgroups (separate but equal?) as a strategy to deal with what he views as differing opinions but which most reasonable people view as harassment and bullying. I think that’s a band-aid that fractures the membership rather than bringing us together as a community.

Holy crap, there’s a lot of this. 🙂 I did read through all of them, and it’s amusing to read through the statements for each if nothing else. I’m going to voice a few opinions here on what are the key issues for all of these amendments and check the summary for votes associated with these opinions.

  • Role of Ombudsman/Powers of Ombudsman – Wow, the board really screwed up with this. Again, Robin summed it up pretty well. All I really have to add is that if I were in any way inclined to disempower the Ombudsman, this would not be the year or time I’d do it. The board does not have my trust right now, and they need to earn it back before removing power from a role designated to be a balance on the system. Further, in a group where personal behavior causes issues, the role of the Ombudsman has never been more important. Ultimately, the membership is seeing a lot of dirty laundry in this election because of a personal spat between some members of the board and this one particular ombudsman. Reacting to that by making large changes to the role is the wrong reaction.
  • Trust in the board – Your vote on a lot of these amendments will come down to whether you trust the current board or not. I don’t. If you do, I suggest you do your own research here rather than relying on mine, because we may differ. But, nowhere is the shadiness of the current board more apparent than in the Amendment 1 “omnibus” where they try to bury substantive changes along with functional ones. I’m sure our by-laws need updating. I’m willing to wait for a different board to do it for the minor stuff. It is telling that breaking up the omnibus was requested, and Dan Burg shot it down. Dan Burg has relied for years on the apathy of the membership. He knows a lot of members will blindly accept something that seems clerical. Prove him wrong.
  • Whether appointed officers should vote – This is a tough one. I agree with points made on both sides. However, ultimately, I don’t agree with the chair’s nominations having voting power in this way. Imagine if the secretaries of state, defense, etc. voted in the Senate. Now, imagine that they carried 1/5 of the vote. On one hand, I completely agree that they’re experts on critical issues and should have a voice. I don’t think that voice should be a vote. I believe their role is to contribute their expertise vocally, and it’s the role of the board to listen to them and act on that considering multiple factors.
  • Past Chairs as AMC members – This practice of Mensa’s–the continued “office” of past chairs–is a terrible one. It stagnates the organization, and it’s not worth our money.
  • Election procedures – I think reform is needed here, but I think removing the NomComm entirely is an overstep. It has value for finding candidates, but I do agree that once a candidate is put up, the value is done. It should not be called out or matter further who came from NomComm vs. petition. I’m mixed on the change for number of signatures, but honestly, I think name recognition and statements will balance out “any old Joe Schmoe” running for office. As for reducing the time between NomComm and election time, heck no. There is absolutely no reason to do that except to cut off the time for petition candidates and to reduce the time for the membership to hear views and meet the candidates (virtually or in person). As for requiring 1VC and 2VC to have AMC experience, the point of the 1VC and 2VC positions largely is to let them get experience in preparation for being chair. Oh, and if this board has taught us anything, it’s that we need a recall procedure. As for increasing the petition signatures, I’m not sure it’s necessary, and even if it is, there’s too many other things that interweave with this for it to be something I vote in favor of right now.
  • AV Recording of Meetings – Knowing what is happening at an AMC meeting shouldn’t be a privilege left to the few who can afford the time and/or money to attend. It again speaks to the failings of past leadership that this isn’t already happening programmatically. The event should be streamed and available for review on YouTube or similar.
  • Notice of dues changes – to quote Rob Salkin’s Pro statement, “This is an amendment that shouldn’t be required, but it is.” Mainly, it’s required because the current board has abused the vague wording.

Ballot/Voting Summary

AMC Positions:
Where preferential voting is permitted and no rank is given, I am not voting for the person (even as last ranked choice).

  • Chair – 1. Nick Sanford, 2. Deb Stone
  • 1VC – Mary Lee Kemper
  • 2VC – John Neemidge
  • Secretary – 1. Lori Norris, 2. Nancy Farrar
  • Treasurer – 1. Rob Salkin, 2. Ken Silver
  • RVC6 – Tasha “Taz” Criss
  • RVC8 (MWW/Seattle, i.e., the one I vote in) – SueAnn Gilmore
  • RVC10 – Thomas G. Thomas
  • Other RVCs – No clear preference from me


  1. The “Omnibus” replacement of by-laws in entirety – NO (too broad, needs to be broken up)
  2. Non-Voting Membership of AMC (appointees can’t vote) – YES (but I’m torn on this)
  3. Voting Membership of AMC (removal of past chairs from AMC) – YES
  4. Recall elections – YES
  5. Eliminate NomComm – NO (good thought, too broad)
  6. Election Signatures (increase to 250) – NO (not the right time, insufficient support data)
  7. Candidate Selection Timing (reduction) – NO
  8. Nominees for 1VC, etc. (must have AMC experience) – NO (perpetuates old guard/stagnation)
  9. AMC meetings (communication of) – NO (good intention, not good practice
  10. AV Recordings (of AMC meetings) – YES
  11. Duties and Responsibilities of Ombudsman (AMC’s amendment) – NO
  12. Restore Powers of Ombudsman (increase ombudsman power) – YES (but I’m torn on this)
  13. Annual Dues (notice of changes) – YES

American Mensa Age Demographics: An Exercise in Data Analysis

Responsible reporting and use of data is one of my favorite topics (and the lack of it is one of my pet peeves). As I was writing about another topic and researching accordingly, I had reason to go look up the (externally available) demographics of American Mensa. The page is very interesting, and I wanted to share some of my observations about the age section, its data, and the implications of the way it is reported.

First, for the page overall, there’s no source or date for the data. At the bottom, a source of March 2011 data is cited for the list of the largest local groups, and the “American Mensan facts” section cites a survey of 53K members. I have no idea how recently any of this was updated, nor does anyone who looks at this page. That’s a problem, and I’ll explain why it’s a problem as we go on. For now, just consider that basic data reporting guidelines dictate that the date and source of the data should be provided.

Now, look at the section titled, “Mensa members by age” (quoted with line numbers added for easy reference later on):

Mensa members by age
(1) The youngest Mensan is 2 years old; the oldest is 102 years old.
(2) Approximately 38 percent are Baby Boomers between the ages of 51 and 68.
(3) Thirty-one percent are Gen-Xers between the ages of 27 and 48.
(4) More than 2,600 members are under the age of 18.

Line (1): While near meaningless in terms of data, this sort of trivia is what reporters like to have when writing interest pieces about Mensa, so I’m fine with it. I’ll also use it a bit later on, so just keep it in mind for now.

Lines (2)-(4): Most of the rest of this will talk about these lines. The membership is segmented by age, with percent make-up given for each segment. The first segment is “Baby Boomers” ages 51-68, spanning 17 years. The second mentioned is “Gen-Xers” 27-48, spanning 21 years. The third is “under the age of 18”, spanning 17 years if you use a strict reading where that is not inclusive of 18-year-olds. Let’s first try to use this data to figure out the freshness of the data they’re using.

Backing into data freshness using generations

Gen X is most often cited as being defined by a birthdate in the range 1961-1981. That’s the date range given by both Wikipedia and Mensa’s own Gen-X SIG. That’s a 20 year span, but the Mensa representation given is 21 years (ages 27-48). Let’s suppose, though, that in giving ages they fudged a year because birthdate could come into play based on the date the data was created. If a person was born in 1981, they’d be 33 or 34 now in 2015 depending on exact birthday. So, the data isn’t from now. Instead, let’s take the youngest age given and add it to the youngest birth year (27 + 1981), which yields 2008 as the likely date of the data. Wow. A bit out of date, don’t you think?

However, I ran the same comparison for Baby Boomers, who are defined by Wikipedia as being born between 1946 and 1964. (The Baby Boomer generation is defined much more strictly than Gen X or Gen Y, for what it’s worth.) Mensa is only showing 17 years, and the generation spans 18. (Note that here they’ve shaved off a year, whereas in the other data, they added a year. Tuck that away for later consideration.) If we use the same method here, let’s figure the data is from 2008 and subtract the youngest age in the segment (51): 1957. Well, that’s in the range, but it’s far from the youngest that should be included. In fact, if I had started with the Baby Boomer age ranges, the ages given would suggest that the data was from 2014-2015. So, either Mensa has used a very different date range to calculate or the data shown here is from two different data sets.

Or, more likely, the ascription to generational titles (GenX and Baby Boomer) is arbitrary and in no way aligns to the actual generations. For now, note the inconsistency we’re seeing, because it’s a piece to the puzzle I’ll be working through as we go.

Apples to oranges?

At this point in history, it’s reasonable to assume that if you’re reading this, you’ve probably taken a survey or two at some point in your life. That survey has probably requested demographic data like your age (or year of birth which they then used to calculate your age). Have you ever seen a survey ask for your data in the specific segments used on this page? Let’s imagine that for a moment:
Imaginary Survey Picture

Doesn’t that seem like a weirdly tiny gap? And don’t those ranges overall seem arbitrary? You’re probably far more used to seeing something that breaks the ages into around 9-10 year segments, or into more general segments that roughly correspond to “child”, “college or grad student or recent graduate”, “young adult”, “middle age”, “retired or close”, etc.

So, I think it’s reasonable to assume that they didn’t use these segments when gathering the data. (As a matter of fact, I know they didn’t, because I know, as a member, that they know the ages of every member, but I wanted to approach this as if I didn’t have that information, since it’s not presented as part of the page. In fact, let me just take this opportunity to note that I’m fully aware that the real data is available to membership officers and leaders in Mensa. It’s the decision of how to present it on this externally visible page that I’m discussing, not whether the data exists.) Thus, they chose these segments specifically.

Let’s consider some reasons they might have chosen these bands and why they may have excluded ages 49-50 from the group. As I already demonstrated when trying to figure out the age of the data based on the generational segments, it certainly wasn’t out of alignment to the generations as they’re commonly defined. Maybe these were the most prominent groups? Perhaps membership clusters in these regions? But, even if that were the case, it seems unlikely that you’d throw out age 49-50, especially since that’s not likely to be a zero (far from it).

Let’s also consider that they chose to line these up as if it’s a fair comparison of three groups, when, in fact, they’re not accurate to compare at all. For the “under 18” group, by providing a number rather than the percentile, it implies that the group is of a significant size. The total membership count is on a separate page, so you don’t have a ready way to see that the count given implies less than 5% of the membership total.

Apples to apples comparison
So…being an overachiever, I decided to infer out and add data to make this a more fair comparison of age segments in American Mensa.

Mensa Demographics (Apples to Apples Comparison)

Number of MembersPercent of MembershipAge Range (inclusive)Years Included in RangeAverage Members Per Year of Age Segment Ratio vs. Mensa Age Deciles (values >1 indicate over-representation)Ratio vs. US Population (using % of pop. in age range, values >1 indicate over-representation)
57500100% (obvs.)2-102100575
I used a membership total of 57500 for the calculation based on this page, , so there's certainly a margin of error as "over 57000" might be used for any number 57001-57999. I chose 57500 so as to avoid a number that biased the results in any given direction. Otherwise, I used the data available on the demographics' age section *only*, meaning anything else is inferred or calculated. Based on wording, I assumed the ranges were inclusive, except for "under 18" which as written sounds exclusive of those age 18. I used the 2010 US Census Data for the last column. Finally, I rounded using Excel rounding rules to keep the numbers at the same precision, but please do not infer actual precision or lack thereof since much of the data is estimated.

Before you leave this section, go back up and look at how the Mensa demographics page presented this data and compare against this table. Does it seem like they presented a fair accounting of the composition of American Mensa?

What does this tell us?

To paraphrase Joan Calamezzo, it’s time to speculate wildly!

What we can see here is that the “baby boomer” generation is over-represented in Mensa, both relative to the US population and relative to the average population you’d expect for a segment made of up that many years of age. However, Mensa went to a lot of trouble to hide that or make that harder to figure out. For example, they added a year to Gen-X and they took away a year from Baby Boomer (I told you to remember that for later). Consider that they skipped two years that, most likely, should have been included in Baby Boomers (ages 49-50). Were I a betting woman, I’d put my bet on that including ages 49-50 meant that the percentages would have gapped much farther, probably pushing the upper segment above 40% and thus making it stand out as being over-represented even in the minimal data presented, whereas the ages they used makes the original text look far more balanced. Even as is, once you normalize vs. the US population or average Mensa age deciles, the older “baby boomer” band is significantly more prominent than the “Gen X” band. But…they didn’t normalize it. They tried to cast this as parallel data, when in fact, it is not.

This is a sales pitch, so, of course they’re going to present the data in a way that sends a message. I’m not faulting them for that, per se. This is an exercise in examining data critically. This is also an exercise in reading between the lines when data is presented.

American Mensa, or, at least, the author(s) of this page, clearly wanted to give the message that the membership of Mensa was much more balanced in age than it actually is. That’s interesting, not because it’s necessarily unusual. A lot of commmunity/social organizations skew to older/retired folks, unless they’re explicitly defined by age or life stage (e.g., Girl Scouts). It’s just a matter of nature for people to be more likely to seek out that kind of organization as they are out of school, have moved to different regions or have reached a point where work-based socialization is less feasible…and all of those things become more common with age.

Consider who is likely to consult this page:

  • Press contacts writing a story about American Mensa
  • Prospective members wanting to understand the group before they test and/or join

In both these cases, why would American Mensa want to be deceptive about their composition? In the former (members of the press), perhaps it’s to seem more relevant or representational. American Mensa wants to be perceived as an organization where the only unifying factor is intelligence, when, in reality, it’s more likely to represent a specific subgroup of the population of intelligent Americans (specifically older, white males, but that’s really a digression…if people are interested, I’ll do a similar deep dive on the other data presented here to spell that point out, but if you’d rather not see how the sausagefest is made, just trust me that the data on the Demographics page backs it up). In the latter (and to some extent the former), it’s probably because they think people are more likely to join if the group seems younger or more balanced.

However, I’d argue that actually does American Mensa a disservice and probably increases member churn. If I’m considering membership and one of the things I care about is whether my generation (or any other demographic quality) is represented, it is not going to take me long to figure out that this page was deceptive. At best, maybe I come away with a perception that it’s just my local group that is out of whack vs. the whole org, but more likely, I come away disappointed and possibly upset that I wasted money on a group that wasn’t what I wanted.

In short, selling a product by lying about it is never a good idea.

What should be done?

It’s popular these days for companies and orgs to release their demographic data and own up to their disparities. American Mensa should follow that trend. American Mensa should use comparative data expressed in the same units of measurement and show more common segments or complete segments. If the concern about the org being “boomer-heavy” is real, it’d be reasonable to link to programs for younger members, to illustrate that the org offers value despite under-representation. It’d be even better to have a statement written by the current chair that is linked, iterating current actions and plans in place to address disparities. Consider how Google is presenting its workforce demographic data as a model to follow. Wouldn’t it be great to see that level of transparency and ownership coming from American Mensa?

Pokemon Art Academy

I’ve been playing Pokemon Art Academy, which turns out to be a nicely relaxing game for me. It’s also teaching me some art skills, building on some of the things I’ve learned at Disneyland/WDW Animation Academy. I’m learning better shading and layering techniques. The game starts you out tracing outlines and coloring them in. It builds up to having you draw using pre-defined construction shapes. Finally, you are sketching entirely from a blank canvas but with guided steps to build up construction shapes and finally coloring and shading.

I’ve finished the main game, though there’s still 6-8 “graduate” lessons on advanced topics that I’m working through. The bad part is that it’s making me want a drawing tablet for my laptop so I can do similar work in Photoshop!

The Benefit of Big Data and Ad Targeting

I needed socks, so I ended up browsing at my local Fred Meyer’s clothing section. While browsing, I decided to take a shot at what their plus size area might be. Lo and behold, it was 2-3 times the size of Target’s. There were lots of cute things, including summer wear, swimsuits, and outerwear. They even had bras in my size. I got a bra that I’m rocking today. It’s soft and supportive, with a subtle leopard print. It wasn’t any cheaper than my usual LB bras, but it was hella convenient to pick up bras along with a roasted chicken and veggies!

A friend was talking about the Marvel themed collection Her Universe is doing for Hot Topic, and I lamented that it will likely not be in my size. At which point, she linked me that Her Universe does plus sizes and Hot Topic even does plus sizes now.*

I realized that I’ve put myself into some ruts, and I’ve gotten in the habit of not bothering to check for places to have my size. What’s more, I’ve accepted that many stores (Target and Old Navy, for example) have so-called “normal sizes” that actually will fit me, which is annoying and crazy. Buzzfeed did a video of women trying on pants in the same numeric size from a few different retailers to illustrate how useless sizing is these days for women, and it’s getting that way for men, too. Pants in DH’s numeric size end up fitting wildly differently from various brands, which is frustrating to both of us, since I frequently shop for him. But, this is a tangent. 🙂

All of us in the fatosphere have heard the tired trope of retailers claiming their plus size offerings got no interest, hence relegating them to online or reducing their in-store offerings (Target and Old Navy, again, for example). When asked why they didn’t advertise the sections or availability, they claim that doing so would turn off their non-plus customer base. As much as we fat women hate this claim, there is data to support it, and it’s an unfortunate consequence of the anti-fat bias that is out there.

But, here is the rub. That excuse doesn’t hold water now. I shop at Fred Meyer regularly. I have shopped at Hot Topic. I was a former customer of Torrid. All of these brands should be marketing to me, as an identified fat woman, to tell me that they offer my size, that they have a solid plus size collection. How do they know I’m a fat woman? Well, here’s the thing. Facebook knows. I’m pretty sure Google knows. I know Amazon knows. They know based on what I read, what I search for, and what I buy.

This is “big data”.

I love it when you call me "Big Data".
I love it when you call me “Big Data”.
The more that advertisers are able to gather and understand each of us, the more they can tell us about products we want. Consequently, the less that they end up telling us about products we don’t want. Ultimately, advertising becomes more efficient, which reduces the budget needed for it, which may help prices stay flatter over time. That’s all thanks to the collection of data by companies like Facebook, Google, and Amazon, and yet that very same data collection is something we inherently abhor, to the point of demanding “privacy theater” that is ultimately meaningless as well as ultimately not beneficial to any of us.

So, then, where does a line actually get crossed? That is debated constantly. Some people would rather that advertisers know nothing; in fact, that seems to be the prevailing view.

There are hundreds of thousands of people that visit casinos every year and never get a player’s card, or, if they have one, they don’t put it into machines. Why? Paranoia, ultimately. Fear. And by doing this, those customers miss out on offers from casino marketing that are often incredibly valuable. Even if you go to Vegas once for fun and blow a small amount while there, having a card inserted may mean you get discounted “casino rates” on rooms in the future. It may get you a free drink or two.

To me, the question is what is the motivation. Just like in Survivor, you can always (and only) trust those whose interests align with your own. But, if you’re hiding behind the illusion of privacy, first, be aware that it’s an illusion, and second, recognize what you’re giving up by doing so. If you don’t like seeing ads that annoy you, consider the main way that those ads could be better. Be cautious about the data you release, certainly, but release the data that ultimately benefits you.

More than normal, my disclaimer applies here. My views are mine. They don’t represent any past, present, or future employer.

* For a long time, Hot Topic had a plus size line at Torrid shops. I believe they sold off Torrid to another line, which may be why they expanded their own line. I was initially a fan of Torrid, but it got to a point (before the sale) where things were cheaply made and way overpriced. That may not be true anymore; I haven’t been back inside one of their stores in over 5 years. I do know they’re probably the only place that frequently offers sexy and on-trend Halloween costumes for fat women that they can try on and confirm fit before buying. (And yes, lots of places offer costumes in sizes they say are plus but the reality of the fit is that plus ends up being a size 12-14, maybe a 16-18.)

Super Bowl Ads (and Pageantry)

Trends noticed in the commercials

  • Dads – I’m sure I won’t be the only one to mention that Dads played a prominent role in this year’s commercials.  From Nissan to Dove to Toyota, the message seemed to be that guys should be Dads.  While I don’t like the idea that men have to have children to somehow become well-adjusted (or non-abusive), I suppose this is a step up from prior years’ messages that men should be sexist, crude, and wholly materialistic.
  • Going above a bar that was set artificially low – Speaking of slightly better messaging, Weight Watchers and GoDaddy both came out with ads that were actually decent.  GoDaddy’s celebrated the small business owner working instead of going out with friends (with his “zero layer dip”), and Weight Watchers pointed out all of the messaging that we should eat more food (and less healthy food).  I particularly liked their message about how you can just stop, except you can’t, because it’s food.  That’s way closer to a HAES message than their usual “you can’t succeed at anything until you’re thin” campaigns.  As for GoDaddy, they had some pre-bowl coverage because of their ad featuring a puppy mill site.  Given that the ad they were parodying (the “Best Buds” ad from last year) also featured a puppy mill, I thought the furor was overwrought.  Still, either with that ad or the one that aired, it’s way above their normal sexist garbage, so good on them.
  • Apps are buying super bowl ads – Not only were a number of “free” apps featured in ads, two of them had celebrities.  The best was the Liam Neeson ad for Clash of Clans, but let’s definitely consider what it means for apps as a media/entertainment source that a) there’s enough awareness/usage to warrant a Super Bowl ad and b) that they can *afford* a Super Bowl ad.
  • Touching voiceovers or music to elevate an ad – This has been happening for a few years, and I’m tired of it. Advertisers: Stop relying on other people’s words to sell your product, particularly when the words/lyrics are very anti-product.  And for crap’s sake, if you’re going to use someone’s speech, credit them, somewhere in the ad.
  • Not being that amazing – Maybe advertising has just gotten so over-the-top normally that Super Bowl ads aren’t that amazing.  You used to see giant budget fiestas.  This year’s selections, while good, don’t really raise the bar for the medium.  This has become more like a trade show for advertising, where they roll out their newest and sparkliest stuff, rather than a show-stopping event.

Other thoughts:

  • Puppy Bowl, Kitten Bowl, and Fish Bowl – They were wonderful.  Fish Bowl, in particular, is a treat to have on.  I’ve got it going while I write this.  There needs to be more “screensaver television”.  I liked that Puppy bowl spent time on the puppies’ history and their adoptive futures.  I also am okay with them blowing off the kitten halftime show, especially since Kitten Bowl exists and does it better.  Also, there were some fun ads in Puppy Bowl, most notably the Super Bowl themed Dear Kitten from Friskies.
  • Katy Perry is a show goddess. – Seriously, she puts on a show like no one else.  I loved every bit of it.
  • The Seahawks lost. – It was fun being in the winning city, but I’m also okay with the fever dying down a bit.  Let’s go, Sounders!  FIGHT AND WIN!

Live Comments (with timestamps): 

  • 4:09pm – Random super bowl commercial/pageantry comment thread here (note that I’m watching on delay to start, I’m sure I’ll catch up soon as I FF past the game)
  • 4:09pm – Yay for Idina Menzel doing the anthem!
  • 4:09pm – Not so happy about the boo-ing of the coach. Yeah, I know about the controversy, but that just seems uncool.
  • 4:13pm – would never have picked John Legend out of a crowd before this. I knew he existed but had no idea what he looked like.
  • 4:14pm – The ASL interpretation of music is pretty awesome.
  • 4:14pm – Aww…it is a sea to sea event! Yay Seattle! Yay Boston!
  • 4:15pm – (yeah things were out of order there b/c I rewound to see the team entrances, having realized I missed them)
  • 4:17pm – Chevy truck ad – Hmm. This is still making women the prize, which I’m not cool with, even though they tried to hide it by having women choose which guy was better.
  • 4:17pm – McDonald’s – I bet the new form of payment is singing. Or dancing. Or proclaiming your love
  • 4:19pm – Jurassic World – OMG, you can put Chris Pratt in anything and I’ll watch, but this seems amazing either way. I miss Jeff Goldblum though.
  • 4:19pm – Chevy Colorado has LTE and Wi-Fi – Nice. On message, and it stood out.
  • 4:20pm – eSurance Lohan – Meh.
  • 4:22pm – Camry – Inspirational Meh.
  • 4:23pm – TurboTax – cute but bugs me that they’re like “free to file”…it’s always free to file. Makes no sense as a value prop.
  • 4:25pm – Game of War – So I’ve been getting bombarded with this on Tumblr. What is the deal with app ads that have live action commercials that are way better than the app is?
  • 4:25pm – Tomorrowland – I have high hopes for this, in part because it’s an area of Disney parks that needs some revitalization, but the commercials/trailers don’t do much for me.
  • 4:26pm – BMW i3 – also meh. But the car looks cool.
  • 4:28pm – Minions – I had already seen this one as YouTube previewed it for me. As a trailer, meh.
  • 4:28pm – Brady Bunch Snickers – Ha. Buscemi as Jan got me.
  • 4:29pm – The Voice, Blacklist = commercials we’re only seeing because the network doesn’t have to pay for the time (except in opportunity cost)
  • 4:31pm – Carnival – Okay, I’m getting tired of these “inspiring voiceover” commercials where they don’t credit who is talking or where the words originally came from.
  • 4:32pm – Skittles arm wrestling – hee. Took a double-take on this one but it was cute. “The usual way!”
  • 4:33pm – T-Mobile Kardashian – Nice. I like how they really made her look artificial and airbrushed. Oh wait…
  • 4:35pm – Budweiser BestBuds – I’d seen this one in advance. Still hits me hardcore. The love between a puppy and a horse shall not be infringed!
  • 4:37pm – Nationwide Mindy Kaling – Oh, Mindy. You amuse me greatly. I wish your show and book didn’t have so many tinges of conservatism and body negativity.
  • 4:37pm – Also…love Mindy’s outfit with the bright green and the skirt.
  • 4:38pm – Terminator Genisys – Seriously? With Arnold?
  • 4:40pm – Coca cola server spill – Aww. Wish it were that simple. Can I throw Coca-cola all over AMF and AMH and make them happy?
  • 4:40pm – Avocados are gross. All I need to say.
  • 4:41pm – Furious 7 – Shouldn’t this just be a video game at this point?
  • 4:42pm – Dove men care “Daddy” – got me a little, I have to admit.
  • 4:44pm – Doritos airplane – eh…alright. Feels like it could have been better. But I do totally see people doing that on SW flights.
  • 4:45pm – Nissan cat’s in the cradle – Honey toast crunchies? Really? And is the theme this year “dads”?
  • 4:46pm – Nationwide “I never” – WTF Nationwide? That wasn’t very nice. Most depressing commercial ever.
  • 4:47pm – Weight Watchers – wow…that may be one of the first commercials I’ve seen them do that wasn’t disparaging to fat people. Good on them, I guess. I mean, they’re still hawking a product that is in no way effective, but so is everyone.
  • 5:41pm – McDonald’s – how do they decide what relative you have to love? Ha! Dancing! I called it!
  • 4:51pm – Esurance Walter White – eh. I mean, I’m glad to see him again, but I don’t think the brand alignment is very good.
  • 4:53pm – Fiat – ugh. Disgusting.  It started out cute with the blue pill and then got a little too on-the-nose.
  • 4:54pm – GoDaddy – “0 layer dip”…aww…again, a respectable showing from a company I’m not used to seeing decency from. I guess the key is to lower your bar over many years so that then a modicum of hitting the bar makes me like it more now?
  • 4:56pm – Microsoft – Okay, I guess there are two themes this year. One is Dads, and the other is artificial legs.
  • 4:57pm – Re: Jeff Bridges. You paid this much for an ad and then want me to go look your thing up? No.
  • 4:57pm – And…I’m caught up to live.
  • 4:59pm – I’m confused that I can’t just pause the game to see the score.
  • 4:59pm – Oh, the Hawks just got a touchdown. yay!
  • 4:59pm – So, 28 points have been scored, but I’ve gotten .37 masterpoints. So there.
  • 5:02pm – 911 pizza call – nice. I thought it was going to be funny but it did the twist. Nicely done.
  • 5:02pm – Scientology gets a commercial?
  • 5:04pm – American Family insurance – so, were all the actors people who needed help? I’m confused.
  • 5:06pm – Don Cheadle! (not to be confused with Tim Meadows)
  • 5:10pm – Camry – Another Dad commercial. And yeah I’m a sucker for it.
  • 5:11pm – I mean, damn, Toyota put Dad stuff *and* military stuff in theirs. “We want to make you cry, and oh btw, here’s a car.”
  • 5:12pm – “From the producers of the Bible” – Really? Lol. I’m pretty sure the producers of the Bible aren’t around any more.
  • 5:14pm – Say what you will about Katy Perry from a talent perspective…gal knows how to put on a show.
  • 5:15pm – I like the 3D projection. That’s what they use on the castle show at Magic Kingdom.
  • 5:16pm – Lenny Kravitz can only perform next to girls on fire.
  • 5:17pm – Beach ball bra!
  • 5:21pm – Costume changes are Katy’s specialty.
  • 5:22pm – {ed note: And the internet has a giant GMTA moment with…} Is that the “more you know” star?
  • 5:23pm – I think she’s riding the drone cam’s wires?
  • 5:24pm – Oh yay, they put the “run like a girl” ad on here! I’d watched it on YouTube when it went viral, but glad it’s on here, too.  And here come the waterworks… aww….
  • 5:37pm – Comcast K9 – Amazon did voice feature better.  (I may be a bit biased.)
  • 5:39pm – Clash of Clans – OMG, okay, this app ad actually cracked me up. This is all Liam Neeson gets to do anymore. LOL
  • 5:40pm – Oh, and btw, let’s contemplate what it means that “Free” apps can afford Super Bowl commercials…
  • 5:41pm – Lexus – no one gets to drift in real life. I don’t know why they bother showing it like a feature.
  • 6:00pm – Kia – another star poking fun at themselves…was okay right up until they ended with the young woman as “fireworks”. Bleh.
  • 6:00pm – Ah…I hate foot fungus commercials!
  • 6:00pm – I hope they can do Heroes well again. It was a good show for like one season.
  • 6:01pm – (catching up again, stopped to cook dinner, penne with meat sauce!)
  • 6:02pm – TMo – Nice.  They’re hitting on the thing that people complain about most with them, and it was in an amusing way. Plus, “Sorry, it’s a boy.”
  • 6:03pm – Budweiser – also kind of cool. Poking fun at hipster beer is right in their target.
  • 6:06pm – Okay, I have no interest in watching Blacklist, but James Spader is utterly delicious. Chain him up for my amusement anytime.
  • 6:08pm – Awww, it’s so cute that SNL is trying to stay relevant.
  • 6:13pm – Jack in the Box – Ha! That could have been me. I’m not a fan of theirs, either.
  • 6:20pm – Mophie – well, I’d never heard of it before this, and battery life the number one thing that people complain about with smartphones, so this is probably a good message. I also find it kind of awesome that God is pictured as a guy low on coffee controlling things from his phone.
  • 6:21pm – Loctite – Hmm…not sure what I think of this. It’s clearly playing off of Turn Down For What, which I loved, but I’m not sure it’s on the side of celebration vs. making fun.
  • 6:30pm – Budweiser PacMan – I’ve seen this and other variants of it before. All these commercials do is make me mad that I’m not that person. And it doesn’t make me want to drink that beer on the off chance I’ll be that person. So…
  • 6:32pm – Mercedes – NO. The turtle does not win by cheating with a car. Lame.
  • 6:33pm – A whole show because someone went off and slapped someone else’s kid? Um, okay.
  • 6:37pm – 50 Shades – I will leave it at wondering whether a glider is now the universal symbol of ridiculous wealth?
  • 6:52pm – Wix – Hee…Favre and Carve.  If nothing else, it’s fun to remind people how to pronounce it. And to see the guy doing line dancing.
  • 6:52pm – Victoria’s Secret – boring.
  • 6:52pm – Heroes Charge – another app ad? Wow.
  • 6:53pm – Allegiance – Are they just outright copying the non-network channels? (i.e., The Americans)
  • 7:10pm – Nick Offerman – always a winner, but this feels a bit like an endorsement from Stephen Colbert (in character).
  • 7:14pm – Remember to buy stuff, America. Congrats to the winners. Congrats to us all. Peace out.

Review: Nova 3-Drawer Nightstand

Originally submitted at


Who knew squares could be so sophisticated? With an eye-catching geometric pattern, the Nova 3-Drawer Nightstand has all the right angles. It’s made of wood with walnut veneers in a chestnut finish for a fresh, urban look. Plus, it includes a special concealed outlet. Plug in your favorite lamp, then just touch the nightstand to switch it on or off.

Solid but with some minor issues

By JC C. from Seattle, WA on 1/27/2015
4out of 5

Pros: Adds Electric Outlets, Attractive Design, Easy To Assemble, Sturdy, Extra Storage Space, Good Surface Space, Smooth Drawer Slide, Good Height

Cons: Drawers Are Shallow, Drawers Shallowsmall, Touch Outlet Not Good

Best Uses: Storage, Bedside Surface, Decorative

Describe Yourself: Midrange Shopper

What I love about this piece:
* The style – it’s a very pretty piece
* The smooth sliding of the drawers
* The size – wide and tall, with three drawers, and raised above the ground (great if you have floor vents you’re trying to avoid)
* The ease of assembly (none!)
* That it expands a wall outlet to three outlets (one switched by the touch function)

* The “touch” control – You have to touch the back of the nightstand; there’s a metal contact bar to toggle the switch on/off. I’d have preferred a touch location on the sides or perhaps to skip this feature entirely. Also, the touch outlet caused my lamp to whine audibly. I ended up unplugging the lamp from the touch outlet and plugging it back into the wall. I use the other two outlets on the nightstand for charging my phone and tablet. I wish I could set the switched outlet to “always on” since I’m not using the touch function.
* The drawer design – The drawers are shallower than I would have expected given the dimensions. We had a narrower and taller unit before this that had much deeper drawers. The frame of the unit takes up a lot of the space. Also, the fronts of the drawers aren’t squared off. They follow the curves you see on the exterior. That’s not inherently bad or unexpected, but it means that if you want to use drawer dividers, they won’t fit.

The style and construction more than outweighs the two issues described above, but it’s worth being aware before purchase.


Conflicts of Interest

The Oatmeal is raising money for the Tesla museum, and I won’t be giving any.  While I really like the Tesla museum concept as well as its groundswell of support, The Oatmeal frequently uses fatness as a signifier of disgustingness or slobbiness, most famously in his “reasons I choose to run” comic but also in most of his other comics that feature “bad people”.

A friend frequently raises money for Komen doing 5K’s or walks.  I don’t contribute.  While I’m happy for my friends who do this and glad they enjoy it, the Komen foundation primarily funds branding that helps the foundation under the guise of “awareness” campaigns.  They also went against Planned Parenthood, though they at least verbally recanted that position after they got criticised for it.

I love Chick-Fil-A chicken, and I recognize that their franchise owners may not 100% agree with the corporate mission, goals, or contribution patterns.  But, the fact is that CFA is a conservative Christian company, and money they get is used to promote those ideals both internal and external to the company itself.

Jimmy John’s is near my work, and they do something wonderful that no other sandwich eatery does:  they offer a sandwich with no cheese or toppings and charge less for it.  I used to love them for that.  Then, their owner had a hissyfit over ObamaCare, effectively reducing his employees to bargaining chips that he was willing to throw away to make a point.

Sometimes, I can find a middle ground with this sort of stuff.  I can compartmentalize it.  For CFA, I do my “hate neutral” contribution to a pro-gay or pro-abortion charity when I eat there.  Heck, to make up for eating inhumane meat, I donate to an organization that works with farmers to help them adopt humane farming practices and to create and promote humane certifications.  These things work for my conscience, even though they might not work for everyone.

Sometimes, I have trouble.  The Tesla effort is one of them.  I credit The Oatmeal with raising awareness of Tesla as a scientific contributor.  I do think he started that trend, though I also saw it in other media.  I think having a Tesla museum that was largely funded by the internet is a great thing.  But…I can’t bring myself to support it because of The Oatmeal’s other views.  I feel like if I raise his profile, I’m raising it across the board, not just for this one thing.  And it sucks to feel like doing good things would raise the profile of bad things.  If I don’t eat at Jimmy John’s, they don’t make money, and they lay off employees anyways.  Is that really better?  Maybe…maybe they work somewhere that doesn’t have an asshole as an owner.  But maybe they don’t, and maybe store managers and owners who invested in the business without knowing or caring about the owner’s views get screwed.

I’d like to say that vocally criticising things is enough, but I see over and over again that (at least in the US, can’t speak for elsewhere) we’re told to “vote with our dollar” if we don’t like something.  I also think that if you “vote with your dollar” and you never would have shopped there anyways, it’s not that meaningful.  So, if it doesn’t suck every now and then, it doesn’t mean much not to do it.

Movies of 2014

I’m a bit behind the times, but I wanted to review the things I did in 2014, particularly since I was lax in the past couple of years about posting to my blog (instead tending to post to Twitter for tiny things that used to drive my blog posts).  I did see a good number of movies last year, so that’s my first 2014 recap post.  Thanks to a friend having an interest in oddball movies, I have quite a few unusual entries on the list.  I’m also sure I’ve missed a few, particularly if they were 2013 end-of-year movies that I saw at the beginning of 2014.

I noticed recently that the reason I see a movie in the theater vs. at home is because the movie benefits from the big screen format (i.e., big scale action movies or rich animation) or because there’s some groundswell of discussion about it that I want to participate in currently.  If you look at the list of ones I saw in the theater, they fall into those two groups distinctly.  Much of my movie-viewing has clearly shifted to on-demand services, like Amazon Instant Video or Netflix.  That Harrah’s offers free PPV movies to Seven Stars members in many of their hotels didn’t hurt, either.

Of the movies I saw last year, I think The Wolf of Wall Street is probably my favorite, though I have no interest in ever watching it again.  It was the most impactful, but it also just made me feel icky.  Of the 2014 movies, I enjoyed Guardians of the Galaxy the most, but Big Hero 6 and Mockingjay Part 1 are very close in the running.

Movies released in 2014 that I saw in 2014 (* indicates I saw it via on-demand services, not in a theater):

  • The Lego Movie
  • 300: Rise of an Empire
  • Divergent*
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • X-Men: Days of Future Past
  • The Fault in Our Stars
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Big Hero 6
  • Mockingjay Part 1

Movies released earlier that I saw for the first time in 2014:

  • Only Lovers Left Alive
  • Tampopo
  • Rubber
  • Wrong
  • Castle in the Sky
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • X-Men: First Class
  • The Raid
  • The Raid 2: Redemption
  • The Wolf of Wall Street
  • American Hustle

Movies released in 2014 that I still want to see:

  • Her (technically released at end of 2013 but didn’t go wide until 2014)
  • The Monuments Men
  • Muppets Most Wanted
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Maleficent
  • A Million Ways to Die in the West
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Into the Woods
  • Tammy
  • Unbroken
  • Wild
  • Big Eyes