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First experiences with Amazon Prime

So I'm off work for three weeks (this is my last week) due to what I did to my wrist, and mom isn't able to drive at the moment. This means it is rather difficult (read impossible) to go shopping. I'm getting to like white rice. A lot.

So, hang on. There's a possibility here. How about Amazon? Their Prime service offers a new thing called "Amazon Pantry" which is a service that you "fill" boxes up to a specific weight (20kg). It's €3,99 for the first box, then €0,99 for each additional box of the same command. So, then, powdered milk, tinned stuff, bottles of water, stuff to drink. I set up an Amazon Prime trial, placed my order, and chose the option for delivery the following working day.

I have just looked at the confirmation email. It anticipates delivery next Monday before 8pm. What the hell use is that? If mom still cannot drive, a friend from town will take me into work on Monday (his work hours are not so different to mine) so I can walk over to the supermarket afterwards. Now, I understand that this is the week in May with two holidays, but, you know, counting Saturday this leaves four working days between now and the anticipated delivery date.

I posed the question to Amazon and the reply was:

Suite à votre email, j'ai effectué une recherche sur votre compte , et je vous informe que suite à l’émail de confirmation qui vous a été envoyé au moment du passage de votre commande, c’était bien spécifié les dates de livraison comme suit :
Détails de la commande
Commande n° --order-number--
Effectuée le 6 mai 2018

Expédition 1 sur 2
    Livraison :
          Lundi 14 mai
[list of articles]
Et cela correspond aux dépôts qui font les expéditions des articles.
Dès le départ de votre colis de notre Centre de distribution, vous recevez un e-mail vous confirmant la date, le contenu et les modalités de cet envoi.

All of which simply stated what I had already read in the confirmation message, and failed to answer the extremely obvious question of why was a service promoted as special next day delivery taking a week?
I marked the reponse as not helpful (failed to answer original question) and posed it again, this time in French and English.

To put this into context, a book ordered at the same time has already been dispatched. Amazon estimated Friday, Chronopost (yes, they're sending it by courier) says it'll be here on Wednesday. Given tomorrow is a holiday, that's as close to next day as is possible.
So why is the food order going to take so long? As I write this at twenty past eight in the evening, my command placed yesterday is still "In course of preparation". I'm suspecting that's where the answer lies, how fast the orders are actually processed. Something that isn't mentioned when one chooses the delivery option.

Between you and me, Amazon could be on to a lucrative thing here. Our local supermarket has a buy online service (as do, I suspect, the other big players), and fairly often I see the girls whizz around to pick up stuff that people have ordered. I do not have specifics, but I can imagine the service is fairly attractive to busy people despite the limitations (€70 minimum, you must collect, and somebody else picks the stuff).
If Amazon expanded their range a little (UHT milk as well as powdered, for instance), their way of packing up stuff with home delivery could be popular with those with reduced mobility (think of all the elderly people, and there's practically zero bus service available outside of towns) and those who - for whatever reason - don't want to go shopping. Bad weather? Too hot? Feel like being a hikikomori? Avoiding a nosy annoying neighbour? No problem, just get the stuff you want off Amazon, just like with the books. But if that's going to work, they're going to have to pick up the pace. Next day means next day and don't try arguing the point with a French grannie...


Now for the good and the bad. The good is PrimeVideo, a video on demand service that is a part of Prime. I think it says a lot about the state of music royalties and copyright that there is a video on demand service but apparently no music on demand service. Still, no big, I get music from streaming radio or YouTube playlists…

Anyway, there are some movies of interest. Less than you might imagine because a fair few of them have English titles but audio only in French (and no English subs). Of the television series, there are a small number of Japanese series appearing thanks to tie-ins with Prime in Japan, original series made by Amazon. I watched an episode of "Businessmen vs Aliens" which was really corny. If you can think of Doctor Who in the eighties with all the special effects failures and latex, then add in some really hammy acting, you're halfway there. I will give it the three episode rule but don't hold out much hope beyond that.

(yes, it really was that bad)

On the other hand, I checked out "Tokyo Vampire Hotel" simply because of the ridiculous name. And was treated to a pretty girl running around at night, screaming, while another girl with a hint of Loli gave plenty of graphic boom-headshot action. There's some sort of story about rival vampire clans, but episode one basically boils down to screamy girl being chased by a bunch of Tarantino style vampires. Again, the three episode rule, but I feel somewhat more optimistic about this, if only because it is so utterly over the top it crosses the line twice.

(a composite image I put together)

My mother and I were going to watch "The Good Girls Revolt", set in America in the late sixties (a time mom knows well) beginning with the incident that took place during the "West Coast Woodstock". However we gave up because the filming was so damn dark that it was hard to see things. Now, I get that filming dark works for The X-Files so you don't realise that it's the same bit of woods they're running around in, and it works for Scandi-crime because it's the whole aesthetic (as anybody who has watched the beautifully shot Let The Right One In will appreciate), but a story set in a magazine newsroom where you can barely see anything? Fail.


Now for the bad. Amazon Pantry's layout is abysmal. It seems to be categorised into things like "organic" and "baby food" and "health stuff". Trying to find something that is none of this is much harder than it should be. For the life of me I don't understand why "plats préparés" and "plats cuisinées" returned different results - some subtlety of French? Really it needs to be laid out with a menu system that better reflects a traditional supermarket. Like "tinned food" leading to a submenu with with options for "fish", "fruit", "veg", "prepared meals" (like meat-and-beans-in-tins), and so on.
In the end, I simply threw a lot of searches at Amazon to see what came up. Hardly a customer-centric way of doing anything.
The range was also somewhat eccentric. I could find duck pieces and lentils in a tin, but not spaghetti in a tin - unless it was categorised so weirdly I didn't find it...

So, while I can appreciate the video stuff, the pantry hasn't yet impressed. I'll have to see how it plays out to decide how I feel about Prime as a whole.

Watch this space.

No, not that space, this one, just here ->  <- (keep watching!)


Flat Earth

I'm no Neil deGrasse Tyson, but still, come on...

Okay, so this appears to be an "in thing" right now, with what seems to be an increasing number of people willing to believe the Earth is, indeed, flat.
Yes. Flat. Like a pancake.
People apparently believe that.
In 2018.

Various different media sources have come up with various different explanations, the most prevalent being that a flat Earth is a (stubborn) rejection of science and a (blind) trust in religion because people do not wish to comprehend what science has taught us... That the universe is huge, that there are certain rules the govern it, and consequently even if it was created by a God, there's no need for God now. Think about it, a man can build a clock but once the clock has been wound it will run by itself. The man does not poke and prod and change obscure little details (for the benefit of select believers) because such poking and prodding is not only unnecessary, it also risks throwing the entire mechanism out of balance.
And, of course, the potentially horrific realisation that we are a dinky little planet orbiting a dinky unimportant star on the far end of an arm of an unimportant galaxy in a universe of scale that we simply cannot fathom. Add to that the celestial movement, and the fact that stars blow themselves up as their fuel starts to run out. Add to that the fact (this is actual science FACT) that the very planet that we call home has endured numerous catastrophic extinction events in the past (not just the one that "wiped out the dinosaurs" but several), and there's nothing to say that a flying lump of rock the size of a sleepy English country village won't destroy Texas in twenty seven days, and pretty much wipe out all land based life within a few hours thanks to the molten core of the planet being flung around the atmosphere following impact. Think I'm being melodramatic and making stuff up? It has already happened. Smaller scale versions have happened numerous times. I'm not talking about Nibiru (Planet X), I'm talking about good old fashioned collisions with big rocks.

The Earth is moving insanely quickly through space. The Earth itself is orbiting the Sun at about 66,000mph (107,000kph). But wait, the Sun itself is in an arm of the galaxy, so it itself is moving. At around 483,000mph (792,000kph). But... isn't the galaxy itself moving? Indeed it is. The speed is estimated at around 1,300,000mph (2,100,000kph) towards a gravitational anomaly known as The Great Attractor. So while you're lying completely still in bed, your passage through the universe is at silly speeds.
Unfortunately, rocks and debris in space are also travelling at similar speeds. Usually this stuff is about the size of a grain of sand, but is moving so quickly it can leave a streak of light across the sky as it burns up in the upper atmosphere, something we all know from watching pretty meteor showers. In order to reach the Earth, it would need to be about the size of a marble. And like the 20m wide meteor that caused chaos in Russia in 2013 (thankfully exploding in the air rather than a ground strike), they aren't always visible until far far too late.

So on one side we have science showing us that the Universe is a fascinating place, but cold and hard and scary at the same time. And on the other side? A lot of comforting blather about how "God loves us" (despite dumping us into a world where somebody like Trump is able to become President).

Enter Flat Earth. Because Daniel 4:11 says "The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth" (in context, this is recounting a dream; and the first Google suggestion when looking for that verse is "Daniel 4:11 flat earth"!). Likewise Matthew 4:8 says "Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them"; plus there are a bunch of other things that stretch credulity even further. Other phrases such as "the four corners of the Earth" and "to the ends of the Earth" crop up too. All of them supposedly indicating that the planet is, in fact, a big flat object.

It is fairly easy to tear down such inane logic. For instance does the four corners of the earth refer to the actual planet, or to a land mass? A country can have corners, a sphere clearly does not. Or if there was a great mountain or tree, then where is it? If the devil can show a person all of the kingdoms of earth from the top of a mountain, then certainly all the kingdoms of earth ought to be able to see this mountain.

And then we can enter science. The ancient Greeks knew the earth was spherical - a man named Eratosthenes not only worked out the Earth's circumference, but also its axial tilt. As our abilities grew and we came to be capable of looking up once again (there is a reason many many stars have Arabic names), we can see with ever greater clarity that......... the planets are round...the stars are round...the satellites are round...our own Moon being a pretty obvious example. There's a lot of weird in the nearby Solar System (anybody up for explaining Saturn's rings? or the theory that Jupiter is really a failed star? or that one where Pluto is a planet?) but one thing that they all have is a certain unmistakable three-dimensional roundness. Something that is easily evident to anybody who has travelled in a plane. Or, from the comfort of your own bedroom, just fire up a webcam app and watch the sun rise in Los Angeles as it sets in Kyoto. Because the idea of the planet being flat defies anything that even resembles common sense. In fact, I would go so far as to say that a person who actually believes the Earth is flat is functionally stupid.

My favourite is a YouTube video demonstrating reality vs CGI. It begins with footage of some planes flying. Look how fast the ground moves when it's close to the camera, while the distant scenery barely moves at all. Okay, fair enough. You see the same sort of effect looking out of a car window. Then the view switches to a view of the planet recorded from the ISS. Oh my, look how fast it is all moving, all at the same speed. CLEARLY FAKE!!!

No, not clearly fake. Clearly you are an idiot if you believe that. Yes, the whole Earth is moving quickly because you have changed your perspective. Notice how the rest of the universe is barely moving? Oh, no, that would upset the argument. Well, okay, let's try this: Find a large beach ball. Find a camera, like a phone or something, set it up to look down upon the beach ball in the same sort of way as the ISS camera looked down over Earth. Rotate the ball. Watch the video that is recorded by the camera. So you have proof of one of two things. Either the spherical beach ball you are holding is actually flat... or the Earth as seen from space is, yeah, you guessed it, a big round thing.

But, hey, if it's an overzealous interpretation of cherry picked religious tracts that is convincing you that the Earth is flat, then please take some time to consider that if this were true, what would be living on the other side? Here's a hint - try the book of Revelations.



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