Thursday, December 21, 2006

Christmas Shopping!

Today was the big shopping day for me and Laura. We started and almost finished our Christmas buying, even for each other. We tend to have fun shopping together, and today was no exception. I've gotten Laura some fun gifts, some of which will be complete surprises. I can't tell you what any of them are; it's possible she'll read this. I'll fill you in later.

I keep forgetting that Laura hates Fry's Electronics. The store feels oppressive, and she's never had a good experience there. Today, for instance, we were window-shopping for a handheld computer for her. A staff guy who wasn't knowledgeable about the product attached himself to us like a lamprey. As soon as Laura touched one of the display models, the anti-theft alarm sounded. It took a few minutes for a manager to get over with a key to turn off the siren. The fact that you couldn't touch the display models without triggering an alarm didn't really affect the shopping experience, though; they had already stripped every removable part from the handhelds, so they were essentially as useful as the plastic no-working-parts demo cell phones they had on display a few aisles over. For a Fry's, the selection was pretty limited, too, and they didn't have anyone who knew anything about the products who could help us. And their selections on display were only the high-end models, starting at $300. The middle-range models were all in a glass case. Then we hopped a few aisles over to peek at a cheap ergonomic keyboard we had seen in last week's Fry's ad and couldn't find any for sale, just the demo model. We asked and found that the computer showed they had several dozen on shelf. It took three staff guys a few minutes to figure out that the particular shelf in question was two hundred feet from the keyboard aisle. I did see a nice toy while we were there, though: Sony's new e-text reader. The e-ink display was impressive. And it only uses power when you change pages. I didn't check the price; the display model was pretty effectively bolted to an end cap, so I didn't get to really play with it. You couldn't even reach most of the buttons. I think part of the problem with Fry's is that they have so many obvious anti-theft systems in place. The whole time you're there it's obvious that Fry's thinks you're a criminal. All retail establishments have to choose a balance between being secure and being customer-friendly. Fry's isn't balanced at all; you get the impression that if they could get away with it, they'd have all the merchandise behind shatterproof plastic. We bought a few gift cards for people, but we went to Best Buy for them; we didn't want to throw any extra business at Fry's.

In Target's toy aisle I saw a Star Wars action figure that tweaked me a little. they were selling a Star Wars Force Battler, a medium-sized Obi-Wan doll with kung-fu grip -- and authentic kung-fu weaponry. He was holding not a lightsaber, but a pair of nunchukau. I found the weapon selection a little surreal, not to mention that it's no part of the Star Wars universe I know of. I haven't read all of the books, of course; maybe I missed the novel wherein the jedi receive ninja training. It reminds me of the Superman action figure I saw a few years ago that came equipped with a Super Sword and Super Shield.

Laura and I stopped for lunch at McDonald's. We need to not do that again, ever. I spend too many meals eating healthy to dive into a Big Mac without paying the price. And if you actually pay attention to the experience of eating, McDonald's food isn't even that good. I feel heavier every time I eat fast food, and McDonald's might be the worst of the lot. It was convenient, but it's not worth the convenience.

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