Monday, April 20, 2009

Lotus Focus: Cat and Moth

This morning I unlocked a new balance game in Wii Fit: Lotus Focus. This is an exercise in sitting perfectly still. The screen is dark except for a single candle burning in the middle. If you move, the candle goes out. The game tries to distract you with various sound effects, which are easy to ignore, and then by having a moth come and flutter around the flame.

It wasn't the moth that got me, but my cat Luna. As soon as that moth fluttered across the screen, he ran up to the TV, absolutely rapt. I've never seen him interested in anything on the TV screen before. He tracked the moth back and forth, pacing as he tried to figure out how to get through the "window" that separated him from his prey. I broke my stillness trying to repress my laugh.

Anyway, I plan to keep at Wii Fit every day. I make myself endure all the yoga exercises, then allow myself to have some fun with the balance and aerobic games. The balance games are all very fun (except for Lotus Focus, which really seems more like yoga). Even though I'm terrible at them, they're cute and they make me laugh, so I enjoy them even as I fail. Under aerobics, I really enjoy the step games. However, I'm apparently incapable of doing the hula hoop ones. I just can't get the movement right, so I've never actually last more than a few seconds. I'm trying to psych myself up to revisit the strength exercises, which are as un-fun as the yoga ones, and twice as painful.

And if you have Wii Fit and you think the strength exercises are all easy and you're wondering what my problem is, have you ever seen Kung-Fu Panda? On his first day of training, he does so poorly that his master declares, "There is now a Level Zero." That's where I am. Level Zero.

But overall, I'm thinking the Wii Fit was a worthwhile acquisition. I haven't noticed any improvement in my fitness yet, but it's only the fifth day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wii Fit, Second Wind

Tonight I tried the aerobics and balance exercises on the Wii Fit. Unlike the torturous yoga and strength exercises I did last night, the aerobics and balance exercises are actually rather fun. Mind you, I'm still completely terrible at them, failing every single one. However, they are at least enjoyable. Especially the step exercise, which is sort of like Dance Dance Revolution for people who are not physically capable of playing DDR. Maybe I can work myself up to the point where I might be able to handle actual DDR. Now that would be fun.

And these exercises did make me sweat. My calves are now sore from the workout. I take that as a good sign.

Maybe if I keep at the aerobics and balance exercises long enough, I'll get to the point where I can handle the yoga and strength ones. But for now, I'm glad I found some exercises I enjoy.

I logged 21 minutes. I would have kept going, except I have plans for this evening.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Wii Pfft

Well, I got Wii Fit today. I logged 19 minutes tonight, which does not include load time, demos, etc. I was actually at it for well over an hour.

I feel as though I've paid a bucket of money for a torture device. I might as well go out and buy a rack and thumbscrews to go with it. It is definitely not a game. It is not fun. It is exercise, pure and painful.

I selected my Mii, entered my height and date of birth, and then the system weighed me. It was quite depressing to see my little digital avatar inflate like a balloon. I know I'm obese and horribly out of shape. I have a lot of chronic aches and pains that I use as excuses not to exercise. Blah blah blah, whine whine whine. It's still disheartening.

Still, at least the trainer guides my pace and posture. So this might work better than my long-since-abandoned efforts to exercise solo with the inflatable balance ball. We'll see how it goes over the next few weeks.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Amazon - Resolution?

I am somewhat mollified. Amazon has apologized for their "embarrassing and ham-fisted cataloging error."

It's not necessarily the most satisfying apology, since it didn't actually contain any of the words apology, apologize, sorry, or even we regret any inconvenience. However, since big businesses rarely apologize for anything, getting something that can be summarized as "we admit we screwed up, and we're fixing it" is probably as good as it gets, and maybe a little better than I hoped for.

I do hope they issue a separate and sincere apology to the authors of the books that were de-listed. Even if it was only for a couple of days, that still represents a loss of income for the writers.

A hacker claimed credit for the fiasco, but he may well be lying. There's also a rumor that it was a mistake made by one employee in France, but that's hearsay from one former Amazon employee who claims to have heard it from a friend who still works there. ("I heard it from a friend of a friend" is the stock urban legends, and should always be regarded with a bit of suspicion.) However, that story does fit with Amazon's description of a "cataloging error."

As someone who works in a library and occasionally has to globally edit subject headings, I can see how this could happen. I once had an automated system flip the tags on biographies of boxers (the athletes) to Boxer Rebellion (an incident in Chinese history). At least that one was easy to fix. It was quite obvious which books had nothing to do with China.

However, tagging all gay and lesbian books as "adult" (Amazon's code for pornography) does not seem like an accident. The particular subject matter is too politically charged. I can see how it might have been the malicious act of one employee, unknown to and unsanctioned by management. Or the company may have picked a scapegoat. If the person who made the change did it maliciously, I hope they are fired. If they did it because their boss told them to, I hope their boss is fired. But the truth of who, how, and why may never be known with certainty.

At any rate, Amazon seems to be fixing the problem swiftly. Behold, the power of public outcry. Some people may point to the quick fix and say that the criers were all worked up over nothing, however, one wonders if the fix would have been forthcoming without ragestorm of negative publicity.

Thank you, Amazon, for fixing the problem and sort-of apologizing. And thank you, Twitterati and bloggers far and wide, for blowing the lid off and letting the air in.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Boycotting Amazon

I am so angry at right now that I can barely write about it. If you're not aware of the situation, here are a few links.

Amazon stripping sales ranking from gay & lesbian books

Amazon Follies

Amazon Censorship de-gays search results, sales rankings

Open Letter to Amazon Regarding Recent Policy Changes

Amazonfail: A Call to Boycott Amazon

You will find a whole lot more if you search for #amazonfail on Twitter or Google. Googling Amazon rank brings up still more articles.

It's disgusting that gay-themed children's books, young adult novels, history books, and other books with little or no sexual content were labeled "adult," stripped of their rankings, and made invisible to searches, but a compilation of Playboy centerfolds and other straight books with explicit content were not likewise censored. A double standard has clearly been applied.

I am finding some gay and lesbian content when I'm searching now, but I have no evidence (and no confidence) that all of the de-ranked books have been restored. I think Amazon realized there was a massive backlash against them, and they are quietly restoring the rankings and hoping people will forget they were ever gone.

There is NOTHING about this on Amazon's site, neither on their homepage nor on on their blog. And all they've said to the media is that it was due to a "glitch." (Which is not at all what they told the first few concerned authors who discovered that their books had been de-listed.)

I have bought a lot of things from over the years, but unless they not only correct this situation but also issue a sincere apology instead of a lame "glitch" excuse, I will be taking my business elsewhere.

C'mon, Amazon. Own up to this mess. Fix it and tell the truth about what really happened.

UPDATE - 4-14-2009