Tuesday, July 29, 2008

French Class

So I thought I should learn some French, or at least attempt. Not that I'm going to France anytime soon, if ever. More like because second-language skills are good to have, and besides, I'll be stopping over in Quebec next week and I want to be ready for Frenchness. My mom says there'll be people at the airport who speak English, but I'm not taking any chances! Unfortunately, even after completing several lessons in my new, spiffy learn-to-speak-French software, I haven't learned much that would help me in an airport situation. I can say "the man is swimming," but I have yet to learn "Where's the restroom, yo?" And here I thought "restroom" (or the equivalent of) was supposed to be one of the first things they teach you. In high school Spanish class, we knew el baño well, and a decade later, I still remember el baño, and
if I ever find myself in a Spanish-speaking country, I'll be prepared.

I took two years of Spanish in high school. Took three terms of American Sign Language in college. Then I went through a phase when I decided learning Gaelic would be the thing to do. That one never went anywhere, big surprise. Maybe I needed some learn-to-speak Gaelic software. Throw in German, Italian, and maybe some Ancient Greek, and I could be the most well-rounded person ever.

I think I'll take my time though. Small steps. Next goal: learn to say restroom en Français!

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Whine, Whine, Vine

A year ago, I got asked to join Amazon Vine. It's this program where Amazon.com's vendors offer up free stuff, we snag it, then we write reviews. Everything from books to electronic devices. It's usually a mad cattle call at noon on the third Thursday of the month, when the available stuff is posted, and it seems many people get irked when all the "good" stuff is snatched from under their noses and all they're left with is books. There seems to be an entirely separate set of people who are just ticked they didn't get a Vine invite in the first place. Yeah, it's invitation only, and nobody knows what the criteria for being invited really is. Many of us who got the invitation have written a lot of reviews for Amazon, but that is not the case for everyone. There's an air of mystery to the whole thing, but hey... free stuff. Can't go wrong.

Well, I suppose you can if you had your heart set on an Internet radio and all you got was a lousy book about the romantic liaisons of shepherds. Then there's some complaining to do. Or when you request an item, and you never receive it (but you're still bound to write a review.) Or when you request an item, get told it's coming, and then have it canceled on you. But despite all the things that can go wrong, there's always an upside. Like the time I got free jelly beans. That was a sweet deal.

None of us knows for sure how many Viners there are, but I think there are probably a lot, because I know two others in real life. (Well, sort of. One is a friend on LiveJournal, and another is my cousin's fiance.) Recently, Amazon started mixing things up. Some Vine members were booted out for no apparent reason, and a bunch of new members came aboard. How do I know all this? There's a Vine message board. Where Viners go to discuss... and so much more.

The last few days have been crazy over there. See, there's this... thing... within the Amazon Vine message board system where you can rate people's posts. Below each post and reply, there's the question: "Does this post add to the discussion? Yes or no?" You can click on one or the other. The stats are posted below the message, ie "5 out of 8 people think this post adds to the discussion, how 'bout you?" If a post gets too many "nos," it doesn't automatically show up, but you can still see it if you click a special link. It's just like the thumbs-up/thumbs-down thing on YouTube.

Anyway, some of the folks over there have been taking this SO SERIOUSLY. They take it as a personal insult if someone gives them a "no." Not only that, but they've started making these wild theories about who could possibly be giving them the "nos." Could it be lurkers? Pathetic low-lifes? Could it be a conspiracy? (Yes, that theory has been floating around.) Hmmm, maybe that one girl who's opinion we didn't like, maybe she gathered all her Amazon friends to come to the message boards and click "no" on every post! YES, I'M SURE IT WAS HER! THAT... THAT EVIL WENCH!

All this drama makes me think of the kids at the elementary school where I work. They get so upset if someone cuts in front of them in line. And it's rarely a line for anything. It's not like Black Friday, where the first 10 people in line get the privilege of buying an X-Box or a Furby. It's just a line for, say, walking back to the classroom and sitting at their desks. But cutting, the worst of all crimes, is taken very seriously. I hear "TEACHER, HE CUTTED!" at least 8,000 times a week. The only one that I hate worse than that is "TEACHER, THOSE GIRLS AT THE OTHER END OF THE CAFETERIA TABLE ARE LOOKING AT ME!"

Oh no. Anything but that!