Monday, February 22, 2010

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Been busy

The last few months have been crammed full of work and fun. Here are some of the highlights:

I defended my dissertation proposal in August and am about half-way through data collection (no thanks to the shameless nappers who mock me)

I got 16 internship applications out on October 31st and, more importantly, put together a fierce Amy Winehouse costume for Halloween.

Colin was lost, and found, over the course of a cold 24 hours in November. The experience had a profound effect on Mat and Colin's love for each other...

Despite the fact that conferences make me anxious, I had a great time at ABCT this year and enjoyed an awesome tour of NYC complements of Jason.

We went to Michigan for Thanksgiving and failed to take a single good picture.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

I'm supposed to be working on my dissertation, but The Onion is more entertaining...

Difficult To Tell If T.J. Maxx Hit Hard By Recession

CHICAGO—While a majority of the nation's top retailers have reported a decided slump in 2008, economists studying the declining consumer markets are still unable to determine if discount clothing store T.J. Maxx has been affected by widespread recession.

Financial analysts, observing more than 100 locations nationwide, cited large quantities of off-brand and wildly scattered merchandise as evidence that T.J. Maxx has either been devastated by the economic downturn, or is carrying on as usual in spite of it.

"The state of this store does not in any way correspond to our standard criteria for judging long-term viability," said economist Graham Stinson, referring to Chicago's Fullerton Avenue branch, where more than half of the fluorescent lights are burnt out. "For instance, the canvas bins heaped with broken stemware in aisle six may be a sign that T.J. Maxx is on the verge of complete bankruptcy. Either that, or it's doing perfectly fine. It's impossible to say which."

Further evidence of T.J. Maxx's imminent foreclosure or, possibly, its wholly unaffected condition, included reports of shoppers rummaging through barrels of lamps up to their shoulders, multiple sightings of bras stuffed into children's shoes, the impromptu sale of in-store display cases for cash, and an excess of golf-based giftware.

Although economists were able to make firsthand observations of customers rifling through overturned clothing racks, their requests to analyze the company's financial records were met with confusion. Stinson and his team were eventually provided with a water-stained folder of handwritten receipts, but failed to make use of most of the data due to its ripped, soiled, and often indecipherable state.

Compiled interviews with customers also provided little insight. Many reported seeing "Cash Only, No Refunds" signs posted in every store and recalled having to climb over sacks of winter coats to reach clearance bins of mix-and-match earrings, leading economists to believe that the discount chain may be suffering after all.

"They must be doing really badly if they're selling this crap really cheap," said Lake Forest, IL resident Brian Crowe, carrying an armful of L.A. Gear sneakers to his car. "You've got to take advantage before this place shuts its doors for good."

Others, however, see T.J. Maxx poised to have a very lucrative year in 2009.

"That place must be doing pretty well," frequent customer Mark Rankin said. "I just saw some guy walking around with an armful of L.A. Gear sneakers."

With only one checkout lane remaining in most stores, some financial experts speculate that the retailer can no longer afford to employ workers. A two-week study of a Cleveland-area location did, however, turn up some minor evidence of a workforce, including the sighting of three folded shirts and a number of individuals smoking and playing Uno in the break room.

"Our analysis of T.J. Maxx's workforce was inconclusive, as we were never totally sure anyone was actually employed there," economist Libby Archer said. "Although, I suppose the lack of a distinct uniform could be a sign that they're doing well enough to move to a more upscale, boutique-type image for the store. That woman I saw drop a load of 20 sweaters onto a table of hats might have been the lead salesgirl."

"She did tell me to get the fuck out of her way," Archer added.

Economists were, however, able to locate a single store manager after months of searching. James Boucher, who runs the domestic department of the Smyrna, GA location, was found weeping in the middle of a sock aisle and was unable to comment on the store's current financial status—a sign that may suggest the overall mood at T.J. Maxx is more dire than previously thought.

"Oh, Jim is crying all the time," said possible coworker Anita Rouse. "He's been breaking down in tears once a day since he started here nine years ago."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Nissan Thermos

I consider myself to be something of a water bottle connoisseur - I always have one on me and have at one time owned most of the greats including the classic and updated Nalgenes, Klean Kanteen, Kor, and the good old plastic Evians. Although I have made good use of the aforementioned bottles, I'd yet to find the bottle. As such, my ears perked up when, while on the cruise, Maggie claimed to have found the "perfect" water bottle - the Nissan thermos ( ). Though I was intrigued, I'd been down that road before: someone takes a casual sip from their newest sporty accessory then casually mentions how their life has been revolutionized by the bottle that is getting cooler and cooler the longer you look at it. Skip to two months later after you've invested in the bottle for yourself only to find that the lid doesn't stay on and the bottle doesn't stay upright. Suffice it to say I had my doubts. But Maggie made drinking out of that thing look like so much fun - I had to try it. I've had mine now for about a week. After much contemplation and experimentation, I feel I am in a decent position to review it. Here are my thoughts:

In my opinion, when evaluating the quality of a water bottle, one should consider how it compares to others bottles in terms of the following domains: 1. mobility, 2. topple potential, 3. spillage, 4. sippage, 5. content, 6. appearance, and 7. price on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 = comparable to the best, 1 = comparable to the worst).

1. Mobility: This term simply refers to how cumbersome or easy it is to travel with the bottle. Without any improvements, I'd say the Nissan scores about a 6. Mobility is the bottle's greatest weakness. There is no easy finger loop or strap for carrying it, which means you basically have to carry it by hand. The Klean Kanteens ran into the same problem and ultimately ended up selling an alternative top to address the issue, although the desirable cap must be purchased separately ( ). Unfortunately, Nissan offers nothing at the moment to facilitate mobility; as such, I fashioned a water bottle sling out of Velcro from Mat's drum kit and an extra strap I had lying around (see picture). With the sling in place, I'd say the Nissan earns about a 9 in mobility - darn near perfect (if I do say so myself)!

2. Topple potential: Simply put: how likely is it that your bottle will topple over? Unfortunately, the Nissan is a bit top heavy, which means it doesn't take much to knock it over. It fits in the cup holders in my car, but the cup holders aren't deep enough to keep it from falling over. The Nissan is definitely not as bad as the Kor bottle when it comes to topple potential (if you look at the Kor funny it goes flying), but it isn't nearly as sturdy as the Klean Kanteens. Unfortunately there is no easy fix for this problem:( As such, I give the Nissan a 7 when it comes to topple potential.

3. Spillage: Related to topple potential, spillage concerns the potential for leakage. In other words, will the bottle dump water all over you when you go to take a sip and/or if toppled over will it spill water? As this is one of the few factors that can result in public humiliation on account of the water bottle, I consider this a very important category. I'm happy to report that the Nissan is very sturdy and I've yet to experience much if any leakage upon drinking or spilling. It's probably equivalent to the Klean Kanteen on this front; I give it a 9.

4. Sippage: In other words, is it pleasurable to drink from this bottle? In many ways, I consider this the true test of a bottle's quality. If it has a sturdy top, that enables you to quench your thirst without choking from a cascade of water, you are in luck. Again, the Nissan provides excellent sippage. I'd go so far as to say that it is one of the most enjoyable bottles to drink from on the market today. I consider it superior to Klean Kanteen and Kor, and far better than the wide rim Nalgenes from back in the day. Final score: 10.

5. Content: Basically, the effect the bottle has on the water or other liquid you are using it to transport. This is where the Nissan blows all other bottles out of the water (pun intended) as it is a THERMOS. Water stays cool, while tea and coffee stay hot. You cannot gauge the temperature of the content by the outside (i.e. if you pour something hot into the bottle it will not scald your hand when you pick it up). I think any water bottle would be hard pressed to beat a thermos when it comes to insulation. As for the effect it has on the taste of your water, again, the Nissan is unmatched. I found that even Klean Kanteen sometimes imparted an alkaline after taste on my water. My final score for the Nissan is a 10 when it comes to content.

6. Appearance: This is pretty straight forward - how pretty is your bottle? Unfortunately, Nissan isn't the sexiest bottle on the market. Klean Kanteens are getting increasingly stylish and even Kor now has a range of colors to choose from. The Nissan looks like... well, it looks like a thermos. It now comes in espresso, in an addition to the standard silver, but it's definitely lagging behind the competition when it comes to appearance. Final score: 7.

7. Price: Can you afford it? The Nissan is pricey (about 30 dollars on Amazon). That said, it is a thermos and they are typically more expensive than standard water bottles. Given that Klean Kanteens run between 15 and 30 dollars, I actually think the Nissan is a pretty good deal. Also, they offer a lifetime warranty - which I've found in the past to be invaluable when dealing with water bottles as mechanical tops often break. The mouth piece is stellar and, as a thermos, it is already insulated, so you shouldn't need to purchase anything beyond the bottle (unless of course you decide to go for a sling). As such, I'd say it is well priced. Final score: 8

Final thoughts: The Nissan is a great bottle. Thermos is definitely the way to go. It would be much improved if it weren't so top heavy and if it came with a sling or strap, but, relative to the competition, this is a great bottle!

Final grade: A