Thursday, November 20, 2014

Research Frenzy Subscription Box November French Box

I have to say, French Box is a bit better than your average subscription box.  It comes in a nice pink box with the Eiffel Tower on it, with a smaller white and pink inner box with an Eiffle tower pattern.  This box is the absolute cutest of any of the boxes I've seen.  It costs $24 a month, which is above average, but I got a deal on my first month at just $14.

Before I go into the items in this box with a monetary value, let me go ahead and tell you about some of the stuff that's hard to put a price on.  There's a great recipe for Croque-Monsieur in here that might be fun to try.  There's a post card that says, "Paris is always a good idea," which is an Audrey Hepburn quote.  There's an Amazon coupon for 40% off Pier Auge French cosmetics.  There's a packet sized foundation sample by Guerlain.  There's a lovely white ribbon that says French Box on it.  Lastly, there's a very cute French Box drawstring bag, which would be perfect for transporting cosmetics or jewelry.  All very, very cute, and all visible in the youtube video I made of the box opening.

Now, let's get down to brass tacks, the items that make up the value of this box, which you'll remember I paid $14 for.

The spoiler card has this to say about this product, "Wonderfully gentle, this treatment smooths the skin.  Beautified skin regains all its natural radiance and is better protected against the signs of aging, stress and pollution."  The retail price on this is $43.50 for 1.7 oz, which I believe is this size rounded up slightly, because the packaging here says 1.68 fluid oz.  This seems like a pretty good item to receive, certainly it's a high sticker price.  I won't personally use this, I might use it as a gift.  It's an excellent value, to be sure.

I can't find this product online, but it's 8.81 oz of French coffee.  L'original French Authenticity Cafe de Paris C'est La Vie 100% Arabica Ground Coffee.  The spoiler card calls it Segafredo.  It says, "Cafe de Paris <<The Original>> is irreplaceable.  Its rich, aromatic flavors will leave you craving for a little bit more French throughout the entire day..."  The full size costs $6.00, and I believe this is the full size.  It's well in date as well, good until March of 2016.  This will make an excellent gift.

A perfume sample is included from Leonard.  It smells lovely, and at .05 oz, there's enough in this spray applicator for several uses.  I enjoyed this one a lot, it's just a really nice scent.

The spoiler sheet lists the "exclusive item from the Lido collection" at a retail price of $12, which seems kind of steep if it is either the magnet or the cell phone charm from this box.  Even if it's both, it seems kind of high, but then I don't really use magnets and cell phone charms are cool but my pone doesn't have a slot for them anymore.

I thought the Missiu Eiffle Tower bracelet was pretty cool, but it slipped off and got lost the first time I wore it, so that was less cool.  It had a retail price of $12, and I can't find another one like it to show you what it looked like.

Overall, it was an interesting box, and a great value.  Again, I paid $14, and I think ti was a pretty good deal at that price.  I'm tempted to keep my subscription for next month, but I haven't decided for certain yet.  This will probably be the last subscription box I'll try until the end of the year, and then I might start again in January.  Christmas is a stressful time to try to do anything extra.

Would you keep this subscription, or do you think I should try something else?  Should I go back and try loot crate again?  Do you know of something else?  Let me know what you think in the comments.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Research Frenzy: Subscription box SuperKawaiiPop's Kawaii Box

Today I received my SuperKawaiiPop Kawaii Box.  I ordered the product on October 5th, and received it on November 17th.

Here is the description of the product I ordered:

The reality of the product was that I did not receive a rement or a popin cookin kit.  I got an Aluminum lunch bag by Daiso.  I got an unmarked, unwrapped pair of chopsticks. I got some "funny" dessert erasers.  I got a bunny bento box that says "Let's Play Together!  Hey!  I want to be a friend of you." I got a set of teddy bear bento wrapers.  I got a memo set.  I got five individual sauce packets.  

No popin cookin set.  No rement.

Let's look at the individual items:

This is the bento box I received, as sold through another vendor.  It has a seal on the inside and yellow flaps that lock the lid in place.  The words printed on it in English are rather ridiculous.  "LET'S PLAY TOGETHER!" the Bunny entices, "Hey!  I want to be a friend of you."  The bunny himself is rather cute, with his plaid ears over a polkadot background.

The sauce bottles came in two sizes, three were 6ml and two were 13.5ml.  I'm pretty sure they came out of these packages.

I couldn't find similar aluminum bags, paper bento cups with teddy bears on them, or the chopsticks, so here are the items I received, minus the letter set, which I immediately gave to my niece.

My favorite item included in this selection is the aluminum lined lavender bag.  Here's what it looks like with all the items inside:

Do I think this service was a good value?  Not really.  I mean, yeah, this stuff can be expensive to import, but almost all of it was Daiso.  It did not include a rement or a popin cookin set as it said it would in the description.

The big issue I had with this stuff is that it wasn't all that cute.  Here's a much cuter bento set with a rabbit on it, available on Amazon right now for less than $17:

If you're willing to pay more than I did for your lunchbox, here's a very cute My Neighbor Totoro set:

The other issue I had with SuperKawaiiPop is that the customer service wasn't very good, and the product took a long time to get here.

Some months are probably better than others, but I would not recommend this service after my experience.

Edit:  Here's someone else's unboxing of the same month, her items were somewhat different from mine.


She got two bags of erasers to my one, a piece of candy, and a more varied set of bottles.  I think her bento box is cuter than mine, but I like the bag I got better than the one she got.  Mine has a draw string, hers has a zipper.  There's not much difference there, but there is a little variation.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Research Frenzy: Subscription Box Reveal Loot Crate Galactic Box

Yesterday I showed you all what was in my Walmart Beauty box.  Today I'm going to show you the contents of my Loot Crate.  Loot Crate costs $13.37 plus shipping from California.  With Loot Crate, it's safe to assume you'll receive a commemorative button and a booklet showing you the products inside, so I won't bother to mention them.

This month's candy:  A single packet of Pop Rocks.  Delicious.  I ate the entire packet of these immediately.

One Tribble.  This item is selling on E-bay for about $5 shipped right now, but that may change.  These are pretty cute, I might keep it or I might regift it.  Who knows?

One Aliens Reaction figure.  I would definitely have never bought this of my own accord, as I have never seen this movie, and I have mixed feelings about these simple vintage style action figures.  They're kind of cool, but I do not collect them.  I will either sell this or regift it.  These are selling for around $10 shipped on E-bay right now.

One Han Solo in carbonite mini poster, selling on E-bay for $4 shipped right now.  I gave it to my niece right away.

One Funko Mystery Mini of Malcolm Reynolds.  These are pretty cute.  Selling on E-bay right now for about $10 shipped.

This is one of the coolest items in the box, Firefly bank heist money.  These are pretty cool for cosplay.  Median e-bay cost is around $6.00 shipped.

Also included was a code for a Halo comic, and a Star Wars magnet.

Is this the $40 value advertised?  At e-bay value, you'd be pretty close to that trying to buy all this stuff, but I almost certainly wouldn't do it.  I would probably buy the Tribble at that E-bay price, because it's cute and it'd make a good Christmas gift for someone, or I could cosplay a classic Trek character in the future.  The firefly money is neat, I definitely would pay about $6 to have that in my cosplay closet.  And in this box, that's about it for me on value.  I liked the pop rocks, and it was really fun to get this in the mail.

I enjoyed subscribing to this box, but I think I'm going to cancel for next month, the theme for which is "Fear."  I've already sent them an e-mail concerning my cancellation.  They're saying next month there will be a T-shirt, but that will do me no good if I don't like the theme.  Sometimes I like horror movies, but that theme isn't as exciting for me as a science fiction, TV, or comic book theme.  I may come back to them later if they release some convincing advertising for a future theme.  Instead, I'm going to subscribe to the SuperKawaiiPop Kawaii box next month, which promises a bento box, chopsticks, and either a Rement or a Popin' Cookin' set plus more cute stuff for $20 shipped.  I've been thinking about buying a bento box and some other random Japanese stuff lately,  so it'll be interesting to see if what they ship me is to my taste.  I've enjoyed watching other people's unboxing videos from this company, so hopefully I'll get some cool stuff.  After I try that one, I may try another box.  Who knows?

Mystery boxes are fun, but I think this month's Loot Crate really illustrates the point that when you buy a subscription box, you're betting against your own ability to shop for items you want at a low price.  Sure, the stuff I got is worth more than $20, but I would only actually buy about $10 worth of this stuff of my own accord, and the rest of it will have to go.  The Wal-Mart Beauty Box kind of surprised me, because they actually sent me stuff that (for the most part) I will use.  So far, i'm still enjoying this experiment, and I hope you're enjoying it with me.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Research Frenzy: Subscription box reveal Walmart Beauty Box

I decided to order a couple of subscription boxes as part of my ongoing investigation.  The first of which is the Walmart Beauty Box.  It costs $5 (shipped) per box, and is shipped out three times a year.  This is a new service, I think I got in on the first box.

Here is what came in mine:

This was my favorite item that came in my box.  This is Covergirl Glowing Nights in #Afterdark  The color on this is very aqua.  It came in a 3.5ml bottle, which is full size.  These retail for $2.95 at Walmart, and it came in a color I've been thinking about buying anyway, so that's more than half the cost of the box.   Here's a link to the product on the Walmart website in case you want to confirm prices or you want to order some for yourself.  I have to say, I'd buy this product again.  The color is fabulous, and it dries really fast for a product that doesn't mention it drying fast on the packaging.  Love it.

This item comes in pretty large packaging and takes up kind of a lot of box space, but I can't say I was disappointed to get some deodorant in here.  This is a 1.6 oz container of Secret "Clincal Strength" as an invisible solid in completely clean.  Obviously, this is a useful product, I've often said I wish people would hand out free deodorant samples at Dragon Con.  Just put a basket full of them out, no suggestions made, no questions asked.  Just sponsoring the con and putting the brand name out there.  It smells pretty good.  I'm kind of shocked at how much this deodorant retails for at $7.92.  Here's the Walmart link.  This deodorant would cost as much as the whole box of stuff.

They sent me a travel sized sample of each of these.  One fluid ounce each of Dove Advanced Hair Series Oxygen Moisture Conditioner and Shampoo.  I haven't tried these products yet, but they smell really good.  Since these are the small, I can't say for sure how much they would cost to purchase, but the full size products retail for less than $5 each at Walmart.

The Dove Pure Care Dry Oil Nourishing Hair Treatment they sent me came in a .4 oz container, which is tiny.  I've never used a product like this before, so I'm at a loss to tell you what it's suppose to do or whether the "dry oil" is meant to mean you put it on your hair when it's dry.  My hair is so oily to start with I'm hesitant to add more.  It says it's made with African Macadamia nuts.  Full size (12 fl oz) at Walmart costs just under $12.

I've enjoyed trying this L'Oreal Glossy Lip Balm, but I probably wouldn't have purchased it in "Ginger Candy."  I've just never been a pastel lip color girl.  The package they sent me is 2.7 g.  This is a full size product that retails at Walmart for $6.97.  It feels pretty nice on my lips, but like I said, the color's not me.

The next item the sent me was a Neutrogena Nourishing Long Wear Makeup with Tone Correcting Complex "Find your Perfect Match" sample card.  There were eight tones to choose from.  Surprise surprise, my best blend is "Classic Ivory."  There's no real sample to speak of here, and oddly enough it's not readily available on Walmart's website, but most Walmart Neutrogena products sell for around $12.  There's a coupon on the back of mine for $2 off.

The next sample is a packet of L'Oreal Youth Code Pore Vanisher.  I have no clue how this product is suppose to work, allegedly it instantly vanishes the appearance of pores and over the course of a month can actually physically make ones pores smaller.  That sounds like snake oil to me, but when I tried this sample it actually did make my pores less visible.  This is just a packet sample, so I'd say it has no value, but a full size costs around $18 at Walmart.

Lastly, they sent me a sample sized vial (.04 fl oz) of Nicki Minaj's perfume, Pink Friday.  It smells pretty nice, and it's an interesting product to try.  I don't know yet if I'd buy this product if I just saw it on a shelf, especially since it goes for $40.18 for 3.4 fl oz at Walmart.  I'd definitely go for the Amazon price on this one ($25.42 at the time this was written).

Overall, I feel like Walmart's beauty box is a pretty amazing value.  The big dud here is the lip gloss, because I honestly would never wear that color out.  The winner is the nail polish.  Everything else is somewhere in between, and there are products here I haven't tried yet.  There were three full size products in here for $5, with a value of just under $18.  Eleven dollars of that are in products I will actually use.  Overall, I'd give this service four stars, holding only one back because it doesn't have any customization at all.  I will continue to subscribe to this service for at least the next box.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Research Frenzy: Mystery Appeal Beauty Subscriptions

Folks my age will remember Quindon Tarver's hit song, "Everybody's Free (to Wear Sunscreen)."  One of many pieces of advice given is the gem, "Don't read beauty magazines, they will only make you feel ugly."  Though the lion's share of the blame there lies in photoshop and single body type model selection, I've noticed that the more I research makeup, the more I feel like I need to wear more of it.  Makeup can become a compulsive, recurring expense.  It's an incredible drain to keep up an inventory of trendy, fresh makeup in the colors and styles that reflect my personality and compliment my natural coloring.

It's only logical that people would turn to low cost monthly subscription boxes to try to take some of that pressure off and try products that might otherwise be beyond reach.  I wanted to know which of these boxes would be the best deal, and whether I should be subscribing to these kinds of services, and I think I got some very solid answers out of this analysis.  I looked at boxes that cost between $10-$21 before any coupon prices or longterm subscription benefits.  I watched a lot of unboxing videos.  Like, ridiculous numbers of unboxing videos.  I'll include a video for each company to show you what an actual unboxing looks like for each of these boxes, but you should rest assured I didn't come to any hasty conclusions by just watching one video of any one company's box.  I'll show the price for a month's subscription to each box as well as the number of Facebook likes each company has.

1.)  Luna For You
Cost:  $10
This is one of the lesser known companies.  I've noticed compared to other companies, the samples I've seen are more likely to be full sized products.  Most of the products in the box tend to be cheap, easily obtainable drugstore cosmetics, so the value of this box is not all that great.  The items in here are not likely to be high end department store or specialty cosmetics.  Personally, I feel like you'd be getting a better deal by going to your favorite low end retail store and picking out some low cost nail color, lip color, and/or eye shadow in colors you picked out.  Sure, you get a higher ticket value (this youtuber estimates a value of $39 for $10) by buying this box, but what if you don't like those colors?  I'm not convinced that that eyeshadow is worth $23, not because I think that brand might be available for less somewhere else but because I wouldn't pay that.  I will say that the color and product choices on this box are more in line with how I wear makeup and which colors and styles I would pick for myself than some of the others.

2.)  Boxycharm
Cost:  $21
This box is the best value.  It shouldn't be at all surprising that you get more valuable stuff in a box that costs $21 than in a box that costs $10.  Allegedly, you can get over $100 worth of products in there, and that would be a really good deal if it were consistent and generally items you'd use.  The problem here is that I would not pick any of these products out for myself.  One of the obvious issues with purchasing subscription boxes is that the contents are a surprise picked out for you by whoever curates the box.  This person does not know you, and is making a selection for thousands of people, so a lot of the choices they're going to make are going to be very generic (not in terms of brand, but in terms of style).  You'll see a lot of black eyeliners, black mascaras, common lip colors, neutral eye products, and seasonally appropriate nail polishes.  Some people would rather have these items, but you won't see a lot of edgy personal statement products in Boxy Charm boxes.  You're not going to get a lot of Urban Decay or MAC cosmetics in this one.  The boxes tend to be themed each month, and they have box themes like wedding and mother's day.  While those themed boxes have items that are appropriate for everyone, there's certainly a tendency in this box towards a more mature, conservative look, which is something I tend to resist.

3.)  Birchbox
Cost:  $10
This company is extremely popular.  The boxes I looked at were all pretty generic.  I mean, the brand names are good, but I haven't seen any products that I just went to myself, wowza, I need that.  Supposedly, there's a degree of personalization with these where you can rate past products and they'll sort of send boxes you'll be more likely to like.  I don't know how successful that effort is or how exactly they correct for products you hate.  I did see a few different versions of the August box.  This service allows you to accumulate points by reviewing makeup or buying through them.  The samples seem.

4.)  Beautybox
Cost:  $12
This box seems to be mostly facial and skin care products.  It just seems like a great big box of regret to me, but then again I've never bought dry shampoo before, so maybe I'm not the target audience here.  I can't imagine spending $12 on this stuff intentionally, if somebody were to offer the box to me and show me the contents.  I love this Youtuber, though, she's hilarious and honest.  I have a lot of respect for her series "Does this Thing Really Work?" in which she buys things like As Seen on TV items and tests them on camera so her viewers can see whether they really do what the company says they do.

5.)  Ipsy Glam Bag
Cost:  $10
This box of products comes with a cosmetic bag.  I can't tell you how many cosmetic bags I've given to thrift stores over the years.  The samples in this bag tend to be fun, trendy brands, but the sample sizes are generally very small.  Sometimes the stuff in these is pretty intriguing, but I don't feel like I'd pay $10 for what I'm seeing in these videos.  I'd rather just pay a little extra and buy the full size Urban Decay Mascara.  One advantage to this company is that it is more personalized.  I filled out their questionnaire, it asks questions about complexion, eye and hair color, and style preferences.

6.)  Beauty Army
Beauty Army is highly personalized.  You fill out a questionnaire and they select a dozen or so items from which you may select 6.  The samples you get are generally tiny.  This is probably the worst value out of all these services.  But they tell you exactly what you're going to get and in what sizes.
You're not getting a good deal, but you know that going into it.

7.)  Glossybox
Cost:  $21
This box costs as much as the Boxycharm box, but includes fewer full size products.  Maybe the brand names are trendier and better, but I don't see anything here I would use.  I thought I was apathetic to the Boxycharm box, but I have to say, this box makes them look really good.

 And there's certainly many, many more services like these.

Basically, you're buying a pig in a poke.  It might be a tiny little pig or it might be a big healthy pig, and the only way to find out is to open the box.

The most common complaint I've seen is that nobody wants to pay for packet samples that would from other sources be free.  Another common complaint is that the goods inside these boxes sometimes don't seem age appropriate for the users.  I've heard people say things like, "This would look good on my grandma."  Cruzan Rum said the nail polish she received in the February BeautyBox 5 would be more appropriate for a 5 year old.  Another common complaint with these subscription boxes is that sometimes liquids contained in the box come open during the shipping process and ruin the rest of the contents of the box.

The Verdict:  True confession, you guys.  I've never bought any shape or form of makeup primer.   I've also never bought any type of highlighter for my face.  Maybe this means I'm just not the target audience for curated makeup sample boxes.  But I feel like I could get a much better value for the same money picking out my own cosmetics.

Okay, let's say I have a subscription to Ipsy for 6 months.  That's $60.  I might have gotten a few full sized samples in that time, but for the most part, I probably would receive sample sized products, some of which I wouldn't even use.

Why wouldn't I have just taken my $60 to Macy's online and bought $35 worth of Este Lauder products?  If I were to buy $35 worth of Este Lauder right now, I would receive a free bag of additional products, most of which are full size and the remainder of which are a substantial size.  I could get two tubes of lipstick in colors I selected for myself that I would definitely actually use, and then I would also get a bunch more product.  Granted, you can't buy exactly $35 worth of product easily, but assuming I spent a total of $50, I'd still be getting more useable fullsize products in my style and color than I would out of 6 months of any one of the major $10 subscription boxes.  Except maybe Luna For You, but the value of the products in Luna for You isn't consistently comparable.  The Este Lauder thing is a temporary deal, but there's almost always some kind of sale like this going on.

And it's not even just Macy's or just Este Lauder, many major department stores and brands have special deals like this where if you buy a certain amount of makeup they'll give you full or substantial sized bonus items.

Or, I could just buy cheaper makeup.  Avon's online outlet store has some incredible deals sometimes on makeup colors that are out of season or discontinued.

Or, I could just go ahead and buy the brands and colors I need for full price, but only when I need them.  I could set a $60 makeup budget for 6 months with the same money I'd be spending on Birchbox for six months, and I could buy items I want to try and things I need to replace.  I could even wait for sales or look for coupons on products I know I want.  Then I could actually try to use the makeup I have before it goes bad and I have to throw it away.  All too often, I end up throwing away products I just patently never got around to using.  Imagine how much worse that would be if people kept sending me shades of lipstick I don't use every month.

I need to swear off buyers remorse, and part of that is not allowing other people to spend my money for me.

Makeup subscription boxes are probably a great deal for some people, or maybe they're worth the cost of admission in terms of entertainment value.  Maybe the surprise itself is worth $10.

I feel like a lot of people end up buying these things expecting more than what they end up with.  When I look at some of the professional quality Youtube videos available on these products, I see that many of these users seem excited about things in the box, and I wonder how much of that reaction is genuine.  There are certainly many more honest videos than dishonest ones, but I'm sure there are some videos out there that could be produced by paid spokespeople that pass for unsolicited product endorsements.  Also, many youtube users receive free products to review on their channels, and some users may feel they need to be grateful for the gifts.  Look for reviewers you trust before you purchase a product.

Bottom line, I won't be signing up for any makeup subscription boxes, but I sure was tempted by a couple of these, particularly Boxycharm and Ipsy.  If you're considering signing up for these boxes, do your research so you have a strong idea of what you might get.  Keep your expectations low, and let me know how it turns out.

Let me know in the comments if you feel like makeup subscription box services are a good deal, and which services you have experience with.

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Research Frenzy: Mystery Appeal

I remember a few years ago there was a big mystery box fad on E-bay.  People would bid up assorted boxes of junk.  In the Buffy the Vampire Slayer fandom*, there were several people who were known dealers of randomly assorted Buffy merch, including props, sideshow figures, and autographs.  I never ordered one of those for a number of reasons, but it was interesting to see how much they would go for.  Use to, you could search E-bay for mystery boxes and it would come up with hundreds of general ones as well as the four or five Buffy ones that were generally on there.  For the purpose of this post, I searched E-bay today to see how those are going now, and there are only 33 on the whole website.  Buying and selling random assortments of junk on E-bay is clearly not in vogue.

But that isn't to say that mystery boxes themselves are any less popular.  I just attended Dragon Con last weekend, and I can't tell you how commonly dealers there featured mystery boxes and grab bags on their tables.  Five dollar Chinese takeout boxes stuffed with rings, pins, earings, and hairbows.  Ten dollar boxes filled with old TV guides, pins, and refrigerator magnets.  Mystery boxes are a reality of cons.  Sometimes they're a good deal, and you can get some really neat stuff in there, and sometimes you get stuck with a box of old TV guides you have to either throw away or carry back to your room.  I'm clearly not bitter about that at all.

The reality of mystery boxes at cons is that they're generally filled with things that don't sell fast and that you probably wouldn't buy if they were sitting on the table.  Overstocked merchandise.  The dealer's buyers remorse package.  I've certainly purchased good mystery boxes from crafters, and I wouldn't doubt a box from a snack vendor might be enjoyable.  After my box of old TV guides, though, I'm very skeptical about the whole con mystery box experience.

Traditional mystery boxes have a cousin.  SUBSCRIPTION BOXES.  A plethora of companies offer to send an assortment of goods related to a topic.  The quality of these boxes are as diverse as their content.  Previously, I was a recurring customer of LOOTCRATE, which is a geek themed box of pop culture related items every month.  Sometimes I'd get a T-shirt, or some Funko toys, usually there'd be some candy in there and some stickers.  It's fun to get a box of random junk in the mail, everybody loves opening things.

I cancelled my subscription a while ago, because it occurred to me that I would rather pick out $20 worth of stuff that I actually wanted every month than have a randomly selected assortment of items with a retail value of $40.  I'm generally a better shopper than other people.

And then this happened.

Look at that little Groot funko figure (AND HOW MUCH IT'S GOING FOR ONLINE) and you'll see why I had some second thoughts.  I mean, back when I was getting LOOTCRATE regularly, I could E-Bay most of the stuff in the box and then I'd end up with a neat t-shirt or something and the box would mostly pay for itself.  Lots of the items they put in these things would make fine gifts for kids or friends, so the regifting possibilities are endless.  So, I'm going to give that a second shot, I'll post how that turns out this month later (or maybe I won't).  Regardless, I've renewed my subscription.

That got me thinking about whether there were other subscription services like Lootcrate.  

The video above will give you a pretty good idea of how the Loot Crate compares to other nerd subscription services.  There are also horror subscription boxes, like the Box of Dread.  The dude in these Box of Dread unboxing videos is pretty cool, I don't know what it is about him, whether it's his assortment of horror collectibles in the background or his enjoyment of mystery items, I don't know.  He's just very amusing to watch.  Maybe it's his inflection when he says phrases like "trophy heads."

Not all subscription box services are related to fandom at all.  There are mystery boxes for every lifestyle.  It could just be that I'm a huge nerd and I don't understand other people's mentalities on receiving random boxes of junk, but not all of these are created equally.  If you've read many of my past posts when I've gone way off topic, you'll know that when I start getting interested in a topic like this, I REALLY get interested and just research constantly.  I want to see people receiving awesome stuff they're very excited about.  I also want to see total trail wrecks.  AND THERE ARE SOME DOOZIES.  I'll post a playlist of those a little later.

That's what I've been researching this week.  Let me know in the comments if you're into subscription boxes and mystery boxes, and what your experience has been.  Maybe you have some favorites you'd like me to try, or some cautionary tales.

*A Fandom is like a fan kingdom, it includes all people who are fans of a property and all of its derivative works (like fan fiction, fan art, tumblr blogs, etc).

Monday, July 7, 2014

Journey to the land of Xanth: Ogre, Ogre

This is the first Xanth book I've ever attempted to read, so I was in for some surprises.  I should start by mentioning that I'm only about a third of the way through this book.  The back cover says that the main character, "Smash," is going to escort seven girls through Xanth, and so far he's only picked up three.  Tandy, the Siren, and John are interesting enough, each going along with the quest for their own particular reasons.  Smash is certainly the most well developed character so far, an Ogre with a difference.  Early in the book, I was inclined to compare this character to Shrek, and they are very similar.  Smash is half human, and even his father was sensitive by ogre standards.

Things I didn't really like about the book so far:
There's quite a bit of plot going on.  I'm tempted to say this novel is too busy for my standards, with so much plot and subplot and so much complication in a short period of time.

The opening scenes with the demon attempting to rape Tandy are pretty repulsive.

Also, as this is my first excursion into the mythical kingdom of Xanth, I should mention my initial reaction to it.  I think it's a ridiculously silly place.  Lime soda trees and pillow bushes are too far off the deep end even for me.  I was completely overwhelmed with the author's desire to explore various words with the word cat in them and embellish them into a location.  Catfish, catamount, caterpillar, catacombs, catbird...  I'm sure some of them have escaped me.  Every step further he took that, the more incredulous I was about it.  Xanth is bizarre.

Things I liked about this book so far:
The Nightmares are really interesting, especially as a method of transportation.  That was creative and interesting.

There are a lot of really cool female characters in this book so far doing interesting, active things.

I like Smash as a character.  It's interesting to see that this existed before the Shrek films.

More to come...

Sunday, May 11, 2014

How Jon Snow Never Met His Mother

The following post is of a speculative nature.  Spoilers are contained within.  Reader discretion is advised.  Some of these realizations I had on my own, and some of these I've read other people hash out in comments and wikipedia articles across the internet.  These are very commonly held theories.  If I get any facts wrong, please correct me in the comments.  Is everyone who worries about spoilers and theories gone now?  Nope?  Need to do a few more lines of text so that Google + doesn't put spoilers in the preview?  Okay, we can do that.

So, for my Mother's Day special, I thought I'd talk about the most elusive mother in the Game of Thrones franchise:  Jon Snow's mother.  Ned Stark, bless his heart, promised to tell Jon about his mother next time he saw him, and then promptly died in King's Landing, never seeing his alleged bastard again.

Jon Snow was conceived during Robert's Rebellion, and Ned brought him home afterward, never having told his wife who his mother was.  We assume he was brought home from Dorne, and that was likely where Jon was born, but that doesn't necessarily mean his mother was Dornish.

Wylla, the name Ned gives Robert Baratheon, would be too easy.  If that had been the truth, Ned could have just told Jon that name in that moment.  She was of no consequence.  There would have been nothing to stop him.  I don't think of Ned as a man who embarrasses easily.  He's a stoic silent type, sure, but I don't believe it's because he's so ashamed of his sins that he can't talk to his own son about them.

A more interesting theory is Ashara Dayne.  The reason I sat down to write this blog post today is that something Oberyn Martell said on the show a few weeks ago kind of set off some alarm bells in my head. "We don't despise them in Dorne," Prince Oberyn said.  His paramour Ellaria Sand is a bastard.  He has eight bastard daughters.  Ashara Dayne was from Dorne, and the Daynes were a family of consequence.  If Jon Snow were a Dornish bastard, Ned would never have taken him from Dorne, because Dornish customs would have given him some advantages he wouldn't have in the other six kingdoms.  Being a bastard is not considered a dishonor there, even though it's colored that way through Westerosi eyes.  Ashara allegedly had a stillborn girl at around this time, which would make the times match up with Jon's birth, but even this could have been completely made up, and even if it weren't, there were many other potential fathers for her child at Harrenhal.  Why would they make up a dead daughter to hide a relationship with Jon Snow?  Even with the circumstances of Ashara's death by suicide following the death of her brother and of Elia Martell, Jon would have been better off with the remaining Daynes, and Ned was pragmatic enough to see that.  And while we're on the topic of Elia Martell, here's an interesting thing to note:  Ashara was close to Princess Elia.  She was her handmaiden, they spent a lot of time together.  Ashara's brother was a member of the King's Guard, serving Rhaegar Targaryen to his last breath.  They were well connected to the royal family, and probably knew a lot more about what was going on than Ned did.

The most persuasive theory remains that Lyanna Stark is Jon Snow's mother.  The best evidence for me is Ned's continuous remembrances of his sister pleading with him to promise her something.  Ned doesn't even dare to think about what that something was, least the readers hear his thoughts and tell Robert Baratheon the truth.  Rhaegar Targaryen famously spirited away Ned Stark's sister, and that was King Robert's motive for Robert's Rebellion, as she was promised to Robert, and he was infatuated with her.  Rhaegar Targaryen's interest seemed to begin at the tournament at Harrenhal, where Lyanna is crowned the Queen of Love and Beauty, and she at the least was moved by his musical skill.  Later, she was taken away the the Tower of Joy, where she was inevitably found soaked in blood in bed, begging Ned for something.  Oh, what could it be?

Elia, Rhaegar Tagaryen's wife, had just been raped and murdered for her marriage to Rhaegar Targaryen.  Her children had been slaughtered like animals by the Mountain.  I agree with the general impression that the thing Lyanna Stark begged for was Jon's life.  If Robert Baratheon knew Jon Snow was Rhaegar Targaryen's son, he would be in danger, because he was a potential heir to the throne.  It would make sense that Eddard Stark wouldn't want to talk to Robert about Jon.  It would make sense that Ned would lie to Robert to protect Jon.  Wylla was an easy name to give, she was a lowborn woman of little consequence, much like the mothers of Robert's bastards.  Wylla may have even been Jon's wet nurse, it would make sense for Ned to name her.  It would even have made sense for Wylla to lie about Jon to others, because if she were his wet nurse she might have gotten attached to him and wanted him to live.  Wylla may have been present at the tower of Joy, she may have known the truth about him and been part of the conspiracy.

I also believe that Elia Martell was in on the conspiracy, partly because of Daenyrs Targaryen's visions in the house of the undying.  Elia could have no more than two children, and Rhaegar believed his children were part of a prophecy that he believed required one more child.  Metaphorically speaking, the dragon must have three heads.  I believe Elia was aware of his intention of having another child, and knowing the Dornish view on bastards and the behavior displayed by her brother, Oberyn Martell, I believe she supported Rhaegar's decision.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

My top ten favorite movies of all time.

I keep changing my list, so I may look at this later and think, 'How could I leave out ______?'

But for this particular moment, this is it.  The big list.  The top ten all time best films ever.  For favorite franchises, I'm going to give only one film a spot instead of having my top ten list be composed of (for example) nine Avengers movies and Jurassic Park.  There are no artsy superior films here, only ten movies I would happily watch again today.

 10.)  Airplane!  This is probably the funniest movie ever made, but then I'm a woman who likes puns and wordplay.  I laugh my head off every time I see this movie, and I've probably seen it a dozen times.

9.)  Labyrinth:  Every movie on this list is extremely nerdy.  I don't like chick flicks or historical dramas or most slapstick comedies.  I prefer fantasy and science fiction films.  Labyrinth is probably the nerdiest movie on this list.  It appeals to me on so many levels.  David Bowie was born to be a magical dancing goblin king, it was the most logical casting choice of all time.  Jim Henson really showed the strength of puppetry as an art with his work on this film.  The movie is full of memorable songs, distinct puppet characters, and unique writing.

8.)   The Lord of the Rings the Two Towers:  So far, this franchise has five drastically different movies.  Of those five, the Two Towers is my favorite.  These five films are all very visually compelling, exciting, humorous movies.  The Two Towers stands out with its darker tones, its critical character development for Aragorn and Gandalf, and its gorgeous soundtrack.

7.)  Star Trek:  The first film of the recent series really brought the appeal of this 60's franchise into focus.  I'm a diehard Star Wars fan raised by diehard Star Wars fans, and so I went into that experience with certain prejudices.  That first film really changed my perspective on Star Trek, and now I like Star Trek as a franchise more than Star Wars.

6.)  The Empire Strikes Back:  I have such a love hate relationship with Star Wars.  There are parts of this franchise that are just irredeemably terrible, and parts that I remember with fondness.  The things I love most about the series are all from the original trilogy.  The Empire Strikes back is the strongest film of the three, with its compelling love story, Luke's loss of innocence, and great new characters and locations.  It's hard to be a Star Wars fan and not also a fan of Boba Fett.

5.)  The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra:  This 50's horror movie spoof is hilarious and very quotable.  The endearing thing about this film is its ridiculousness.  It is intentionally campy and poorly written in the most clever way.  This film was available on Netflix last time I looked.

4.)  Captain America the Winter Soldier:  This was a close race, because I loved Thor the Dark World so much, with all its twists and turns and that superb Tom Hiddleston acting.  This film, though, was a game changer.  I won't spoil the film because it's still in theaters and I want everyone to enjoy it the same way I did, but it was a very impressive film.

3.)  Pirates of the Caribbean Dead Man's Chest:  The second installment of the Pirates franchise introduces Davy Jones and Tia Dalma, who play large roles in the mythology of the series. "What would any of you do? Would you sail to the ends of the earth and back to fetch back witty Jack, and him precious Pearl?"  This series is one of my favorites, although that is a controversial opinion.  I've heard many people express a general opinion that the films aren't any good, that they're too goofy, or even that they get progressively worse over time.  I like them, though, even if they are maybe a little campy or even sometimes bad.  I like the humor, the characters, and the strange mythology involved.  The movie industry doesn't make enough good pirate movies in my opinion.  I would pay serious dollar bills to see a good adaptation of the "Monkey Island" video game series.

2.)  Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2:  This film wrapped up the Harry Potter series with a bang.  The final installment revealed critical details about the life of double agent Severus Snape, who is my favorite character from the series.  I made it all the way through that whole film series without crying until I got to that horrible, devastated facial expression Alan Rickman made during the flashback sequence at the end of the movie.  After that there was no holding back that dam.  It's hard to pick a favorite out of a series with eight films, but this one really captured some of my favorite elements from the books.  One of my favorite scenes in the film is the one where Luna Lovegood told Harry off for failing to listen to her, because it was so unexpected.

1.)  Jurassic Park:  This is one of my favorite movies of all time, because it's a monster movie about people getting eaten and I still remember the names of all the major characters.  This film is very, very quotable.  "Nah-ah-ah, you didn't say the magic word!"  "I'm going to run you over on the way back down!"  "Clever girl."  "What do you call a blind dinosaur?"  "When you've got to go, you've got to go."  I could quote most of this movie verbatim, because I've seen it an enormous number of times.  This is the movie I watch to cheer myself up when I'm sick.  My favorite ride at Universal is the Jurassic Park ride.  I liked hanging out in the replica of the Jurassic Park main building more than I liked "The Wizarding World of Harry Potter."  I'm not as into the sequels, but I'm excited about the new upcoming film "Jurassic World."

That's my list.  Honorable mentions include "The Last Unicorn," "The Princess Bride," "Oz the Great and Powerful," "Batman Returns," and many others.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Why yes, I sass that hoopy frood, and he does indeed know where his towel is.

I'm rereading the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which was among my favorite books from my youth.  So far, it's been very worthwhile.  I'm relating to Arthur Dent much more as a neurotic adult than I did as a neurotic teenager.  I remembered the book as very humorous and rich, and I was not mistaken.  I've read about five chapters aloud to my nephew, and he seems to be enjoying it.

I didn't remember how much alcohol is in this book.  I was a little surprised.

Anyway, I haven't read quite enough to discuss it in more detail.  I will say that I love the clever tone of the book, and yes I do in fact sass that hoopy frood.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Day three... Why Pit Bulls?

Wikipedia says this image is public domain, if this is your image and you'd like me to take it down, I will happily do so for you.

I'm the sort of person that when I find a problem, I have to chew on it for a little while.  I'm still not over the idea that 58,000 people feel so strongly about a dog that mauled a little boy that they'd go like a Facebook page set up for the dog and not the child.  I can understand dog lovers wanting mercy for the 2.7 million animals put down every year due to overpopulation.  This dog would not be my priority to save when so many animals that have never caused anyone harm are destined to die.  When a story like this really catches my attention, I run down every lead I can find to get at the truth. 

In this case, I'm talking about the much maligned pit bulls. There are advocacy groups on both sides that make unbiased information virtually impossible to find by clogging up Google searches and setting up dozens of web pages that either sugar coat the situation or try to frighten the browser with anecdotes.

It's very difficult to find reasonable explanations as to why 5% of the US dog population is caught up in 78% of last year's dog bite fatalities, and why sometimes when bad things happen, people rally around dogs rather than pitying the families involved.

I'm not a strong believer in the Dog Whisperer, Cesar Millan, but I'm quickly becoming somewhat hard pressed for answers.  He defends pit bulls, and is quick to point out that the dogs that bite him the most frequently are chihuahuas.  That statement is inherently flawed, because the dog's temperament has very little to do with its fatality rates.

 The chihuahua is what Eddie Izzard would call a  "small yapper type dog."  I tried to find some actual evidence that a chihuahua has ever been involved in a dog bite fatality.  There is at least one Wikianswers post that says it happened one time, but then I couldn't find a credible news source or any real life statistics that show a chihuahua has ever killed a person.  There are plenty of news stories about a person being bitten or even viciously attacked by chihuahuas, but I think a dog that small has a very difficult time killing even a small person.  It'd be like someone coming after you trying to drown you with only a teaspoon of water.  It's allegedly possible, but it's probably pretty difficult.

I did find a couple of news stories about small dogs killing infants, including a Jack Russell terrier killing a baby, which is horrible.  It is possible for things like this to happen, especially to a newborn left unattended.  As I mentioned in another post, newborns are 370 times more likely to die of dog bite related injuries than adults.  Infants are very easy for an animal to kill.  In fact, I was able to find instances of babies being killed by ferrets.  Leaving a baby alone with any animal is not a good idea.  It's difficult to find statistics on things like how many babies have ever been killed by dogs weighing less than 20 pounds, or how many people have ever been killed by ferrets.  Those sorts of things don't happen often enough that people think to keep statistics on them.  Most of the headlines I found about ferrets or small dogs killing babies were a few years old.  Instances resulting in death are infrequent.

Going back to what Cesar Millan said about the number of times he was bitten by chihuahuas, that might be an indication of aggression.  Indeed, pit bulls perform well in tests that determine aggression.  But aggression is not necessarily an indicator of whether the dog will cause a fatality, as you will see in this case.  The family owned the dog for eight years without ever having a problem, and suddenly the dog killed their two year old son.  An aggression test was given to the dog after the incident, and the dog passed.  Here's another dog, this dog was adopted 24 hours before he attacked his owner.  This is a dog that passed temperament tests very soon before being involved in an incident.  That indicates to me that there's more to fatalities than simple aggression.  Notably though not damningly, both of these dogs were pit bulls.

In one of my previous posts, I mentioned that 78% of all dog bite fatalities last year were from pit bulls or pit bull mixes, but why?  Let's look at exactly what a pit bull is.  The Wikipedia says that pit bull is a generic term based on physical characteristics.  The wikipedia even goes on to say that the same pit bull can be registered in two different breed organizations as two different breeds of dog, the Pit Bull Terrier and the Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  When is a pit bull not a pit bull?  Apparently while it's also a pit bull.  There's also the breed called American Staffordshire Bull Terrier, which is apparently also a pit bull.  The wikipedia lumps in mixes of those three breeds as pit bulls.

But the Wikipedia goes on to say "visual identification of mixed breed dogs is not recommended by the scholarly community."  WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?  Pit bull is a generic term for a dog with a certain appearance, but you're not suppose to use that term to describe the dog's appearance if you don't already know by some other means that the animal is a pit bull?  This is the dumbest academic argument I've ever read.

I've seen a lot of youtube comments that claim many dogs involved in fatalities reported by the media are not real pit bulls.  But what even is a real pit bull if we're talking about three fast and loose breeds of dogs and all mixed breeds that spring from them?  It's hard for me to buy the "that's not a real pit bull" argument when there isn't really a solid definition of what a pit bull is.  If pit bull isn't a breed of dog, it's a way a dog looks, why are we debating whether or not the animal should be considered a pit bull if it looks like a pit bull?  Does every dog involved in a fatality have to be AKC registered before we can consider the statistics involved relevant?

It's becoming clear to me now that passions are high on both sides of the argument, between people who feel strongly about dog bite fatalities (and luckily in Kevin Vincente's case, only very severe injuries) and people who see mentioning the breed of the dog involved in the case as an accusation of all dogs of that general amorphous shape (as pit bull is not a breed of dog).  That is an exhausting sentence, which reflects an exhausting situation.

On one end of this debate (that really shouldn't be much of a debate) are people like Millan, who believe that any dog can be rehabilitated.  Millan is not, by the way, without his detractors.  On the other end, there are people who believe pit bulls are universally vicious.  And on both sides of this argument there are the families of the victims, some of which were pit bull owners themselves.

After days of study, I'm beginning to believe there is no understanding, and that the pit bull is a mythological creature.

Regardless of what the truth about pit bulls is, I disagree with Millan on one important point.  I believe that because dogs are animals and not automatons, they can snap suddenly even with intense training.  I think it just happens.  I think dogs have thoughts and feelings, and for whatever reason, whether it's the dog's temperament or a tooth ache or a fit of jealous rage, sometimes dogs just flip out.  Sometimes it's a dog that has a rocky past, sometimes it's a dog that has never been mistreated and has always been a member of the family.

I've seen so many families in past news reports over the last few days in shock over what their own dog did, to themselves, to their children, or to a passer by.  These are trusted family dogs that just suddenly lose it.

Another layer to this problem, as I see it, is the tendency in dog owners, breeders, and people writing about dogs to believe all dogs of a certain breed have certain personality traits.  Let me give you an example, this is from the Wikipedia page for the Bedlington Terrier:

Their courage has been compared to a bulldog's, and some dogs have extinguished candles at the request of their owner. They are also known for their intelligence and tenacity when it comes to taking on vermin. Bedlingtons are quite fond of fighting, and are prone to jealousy when around other dogs. One dog would become so jealous when around other dogs that he would grab them by the throat and attempt to kill them. One man stated that "this dog was about fit to kill any other dog of his weight" and compared him to the fighting dogs used in dog fighting. They have also been used in pit fighting.
However, both the AKC and the ASPCA call the breed "mild" and "gentle" and recommends it as being good with children. PetFinder says the breed is soft in temperament, companionable, demonstrative, loyal, and a quiet housedog. Although the breed may chase small animals outside, it is accepting of them inside. Playful and cheerful, the breed can be high-strung and excitable, and is prone to being headstrong. The New Zealand Kennel Club warns against keeping them with dogs that have dominate personalities, "as once challenged they are terrifying fighters, despite their gentle appearance", but otherwise the breed is good with other dogs.

That grouping of information has the same kind of nonsensical vagueness and lack of cohesion as astrology.  The dog is both good with other dogs and terribly jealous and aggressive with other dogs.  It's mild and gentle but it can kill practically any other dogs in the same weight.

What this all makes me think is that we have a tendency to assign personality traits to dogs based on anecdotal evidence, and those personality traits become a fixture of how the animal is perceived even when the combined traits don't make any sense taken together, and any one dog is prone to vary wildly from the standard. Whole breeds of dogs are stereotyped and then when the dog doesn't act the way it's suppose to, he's a special snowflake. That explains some of the fear and also some of the romanticism involved in the ownership of any breed.

The conclusion I've come to is that I am opposed to BSL (breed specific legislation) not because I think pit bulls are universally safe, but because I know fits of extreme violence against people are rare in comparison to the number of pit bulls there are living in this country.  The American Humane Society is against it.  I've come to feel that dogs are like people in the respect that you can't generalize that all dogs of a certain type or breed are any certain way in terms of personality.  If pit bulls didn't exist, I think some of the bad pet owners who cause at least a few of the horrifying situations I've been made aware of over the last few days would go buy another big scary looking dog.  If it wasn't the pit bull, it might be the rottweiler, the doberman, or the boxer that would become the most common assailant.

Pit bulls are certainly more dangerous than chihuahuas, and I'm not in a hurry to rush out and buy one for a child under seven.  Regardless of whether you own a pit bull, you should know that chained dogs are involved in 25% of all dog bite incidents.  In fatal instances, 24% of the time the dogs were unrestrained and off their property.  These are things we know, if you have a fence that will hold your dog in and hold children out, your dog will be less likely to kill someone else's child.  Of fatal attacks, 92% are done by male dogs, 96% of which are not neutered.  If you neuter your dog it lowers the odds it will be involved in a fatality.  Where dogs are concerned, this is where the focus should be.

Most of the focus, however, should be on survivors like little Kevin Vincente, victims who've lost their lives, and families who pick up the pieces.

If you need to be reminded why people love dogs after all that, and if you've made it this far, I'm sure you will, here's a Youtube playlist.  These are videos of real life heroes who happen to be dogs, a few of which are pit bulls.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Update on Kevin, the victim in the dog bite incident.

Reports are saying the boy lost most of his teeth and is unable to open one of his eyes.  58,000 people have joined the Save Mickey group to support the dog.  Only 134 people have joined Unbiased Support for Kevin Vincente.  It's just so wrong to me that this dog has more people pulling for it than this great kid who is shown here hiding his face from the camera.  It breaks my heart.  No child should ever have to feel like that.

I don't care about the dog.  Put the dog in a rescue where he won't be exposed to children, and I won't care what you do with him.  Or euthanize him, it won't hurt my feelings. 

Whatever is done with the dog, somebody should do something for this kid.  Show this kid you love him, that the dog isn't more important than he is.  Show him he can go on like this, and that people will still love him no matter what he looks like.  He has no one here but his mother and his big brother, who is only a year older than him.  His grandma is in Guatemala, she can't come hug him and make him feel good. 

It's just so wrong that this kid has so much surgery ahead of him, and he'll have scars and damage the rest of his life, and people aren't showing him the same support they're showing the dog that disfigured him.  Ugh.  I just don't understand that.  I don't understand that people can raise thousands of dollars to defend a dog in court, and they're not doing as much as they could be doing to help this family pay its medical bills.  This kid is four, and people are resorting to name calling and trying to rally against the baby sitter who is at this point irrelevant.  The concern here should be about helping this kid and his mom.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Dog Bite Fever: Pit Bulls in the Media. The Animals. The owners. The Children.

I know I post all kinds of crazy things on here.  Today is no exception.  Apparently I like controversy, so I'm opening up a conversation with you about pit bulls.

Clearly this is a tragic situation.  The kid was very badly injured.

Some people think that the child is responsible for what happened, but the poor little guy is four.  Four year olds are not rational.  They're barely more than babies.  They learn a lot at that age, but they're also stubborn, willful little people who know a tiny amount of what they need to know to get by in life.  Bad things obviously happen to unattended four year olds.  But it's extremely easy to get distracted while preparing a snack, or the toddler could sneak off while you're in the bathroom.  And, let's face it, doggies are interesting for little people.  One minute, their just standing around, both of them minding their own business, the next the child's head is in the dog's mouth, and he's being shaken violently.  And this is a good kid, my kind of kid.  The kid that likes super heroes, especially Iron Man.  And now he's going to need surgery.

On the other side of this discussion are 50,000 people who have rallied to save the dog through a facebook page called "Save Mickey."  I looked for a Facebook group for people supporting the kid through his recovery and the series of plastic surgeries he will have to have, the one I found has only 130 supporters.  The dog was on a chain in its own yard.  Pit bulls are not an inherently bad breed of dog, though they are frequently mentioned in the media related to dog bite statistics and deaths.  They're big working class dogs, common in North America, and known for their stocky, muscular build.  I've known many pit bull owners over the years, none of whom has ever mentioned any incidents to me.  Anecdotally, one particular comrade of mine is a pit bull owner, and I know that animal to be a sweet creature.

But here are the facts:  Large breed dogs can do more damage than smaller dogs.  Don't believe me?  Look at lists of "dangerous dog breeds."  I'm not saying this particular list of breeds provides an accurate description of a dog's inherent temperament, but just looking at the dogs, what do they all have in common?  They're not small lap dogs.  The Chihuahua bites.  It can be mean spirited and rotten, right?  But it's not on this list, because it's a tiny little dog with a tiny little mouth that can't reach very far to bite you, and an adult human being can easily overpower it.  The dogs on this list, they're all big dogs.  It stands to reason that big dogs can do more damage to a person in a small amount of time even with a person resisting the damage than little dogs can do.  It's not because little dogs are better, or sweeter, or don't need to be socialized.

Pit bulls, along with other large breed dogs, have a lot of qualities that make an attack from them more dangerous.  They're muscular.  They have a lot of bite pressure.  They have a heavy body that can be used to knock people down, which is dangerous enough by itself when you're talking about an elderly person who can easily break a hip.  When a healthy person is prone, it's easier for an animal to get at the head and neck, which can lead to fatal attacks. 

Last year, there were 32 fatal dog attacks in the US.  By the same source, 78% of the animals involved were pit bulls or pit bull mixes.  Possible reasons for this:  they're large dogs that can do a lot of damage quickly, pit bulls are popular dogs in the US (with this source siting 5% or less of the US dog population), and it's not a breed so much as a fuzzy group of breeds, so it takes less genetic similarity to be considered a pit bull than it does for a dog to be considered (for example) a German Shepherd.  This source sites 56% of the fatalities last year as children under 7.  Sixty-one percent of these kids were four or younger, like Kevin.  Ninety-two percent of children who died in dog attacks last year were killed by pit bulls.

Here's a link to another dog bite fact sheet, but I'll go ahead and tell you what I found interesting from the statistics they've gathered as well.  92% of the animals involved (this list includes non lethal bites) are male dogs, 94% of which had not been neutered.  25% of the animals were chained.  Chains are not a good preventative measure against having your dog attack a child.  The insurance industry pays out over a billion dollars in damages because of this problem every  year.  Unattended newborns are 370 times more likely to be killed by a dog than an adult.  That is some really, really awful information there, and if you want to read the whole list, I encourage you to do it.

This source lists a resource for parents to teach their kids about safe dog handling, which is for kids from age 4-7.  We can't be sure that this would have prevented Kevin from having this problem, after all, he's four.  Kids at that age are very dangerous, not because they're bad or foolish, but because they're inexperienced and curious.

The dog fact sheet linked above has some suggestions for responsible pet ownership, and if you're a dog owner, I urge you to follow these directions.  Statistically, neutering your dog greatly reduces the risk of it biting a child.  Training and socialization are crucial elements of dog ownership.  Get your dog use to other dogs and people, and the world will be safer for it.  Good fences make good neighbors, keep your dog behind a fence.  Don't leave your dog on a chain.  Don't leave a baby alone with a dog.  Those are all really good suggestions.

I'd like to add, make yourself aware of animals living in your neighborhood, and assess yourself as a dog owner.  If you have a dog that shows aggression, please, take whatever steps are necessary to protect your neighbors.  Seriously.  Things are going to happen.  Knoxville has a map of places where dangerous dogs live, and it's because there are incidents.  I urge you to love the children who live in your neighborhood more than you love yourself or your dog.  There is absolutely no shame in doing the responsible thing in this situation, even if it is painful.

The point of all of this is not to disparage pit bulls or their owners (many of which are fine dogs owned by fine people), it is merely to provide relevant dog bite and fatality statistics and address the overwhelming majority of respondents to this case who rush to the aid of the dog to the exclusion of the child.  I've seen people expressing the concern that it's wrong to punish the dog for what it has done because it doesn't understand and isn't responsible for its actions.  Putting the dog down would not be a measure to punish the dog, it would be a measure to protect children who will eventually be exposed to the dog.  There is no malice or justice involved in this process, only a cautionary measure taken to prevent potential further incidents.  This is a dog that has killed another dog and injured a child severely.  I've heard people say there's no such thing as a bad dog, and maybe that's true, but I think there is such thing as a dangerous dog, and I think it's reasonable to say this particular dog has proven dangerous.  It should never be allowed near a child again.  If they can safely keep it penned at an animal sanctuary, good.  The safety of children should be the primary concern.

If you take nothing else away from having read this blog entry, remember that statistically, neutering your dog and keeping it behind a fence that will hold it rather than on a chain where children can walk up to it seems to dramatically decrease the odds that the dog will bite a child.  If everyone who keeps an unsupervised outdoor dog were to do these two things (neuter the dog and keep it behind a fence), I think dog related deaths would become much rarer.

If Kevin's story has touched you the way it touched me, or if you just feel like helping a kid in need, here are some ways you can help Kevin.  You can donate to his medical care fundraiser.   You can buy him some supplies for his hospital stay (things like Batman pajamas and tasty snacks to cheer him up) using his Amazon wish list.  Or, you could show support to the family by liking a Facebook page set up to support the child.  I chose to send the kid some oreos, some books, and a Superman cape, because he really is a super kid.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Happiness is a cold book.

Post by Game of Thrones.

The new trailer for A Game of Thrones series 4 looks amazing, I'm really looking forward to April.

In the meanwhile, I've just purchased Terry Pratchett's new book Raising Steam!  I'll let you know what I think of it soon.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Finally, A Worthwhile DC Title

Here's some background for people who don't know me personally.  I'm a pretty hardcore Marvel comics fan.  I don't do DC.  I use too, before the New 52 was a thing.  I was a pretty regular reader of Gotham City Sirens.  I loved that cast.  Catwoman, Harley, and Ivy.  All of them awesome, well developed female characters with flaws and interests.
And then the New 52 happened.  It completely reset that world I liked so much.  It infuriated me with new, more skimpy costumes for women.  Catwoman's actions didn't make any sense anymore, she just became this thrill seeking character with ridiculous scenes of Catwoman and Batman having rooftop liaisons and pouring diamonds over her breasts.  It just completely lost me.  I didn't want to read that even a little bit.  The friendships that won me over to GCS were gone overnight.
Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the characters I liked were saintly in the first place.  Harley allows herself to be continuously abused.  Ivy drugs people with her plants.  Catwoman steals from rich people.  All three of them are criminally insane.  But they're awesome female villains, or they were before the New 52.
 I swore off DC.  After Harleygate,  I was so deeply disillusioned with DC comics as a company, I was pretty sure they were never getting my money again.
 Enter Injustice: Gods Among Us.  It's just a video game novelization, right?  I mean, it's not even canon.  It's a little pocket universe created for the purpose of making an interesting video game.  Maybe that's what DC needs to do.  Their characters and plots are so warped and twisted from the way they started, maybe they should just go ahead and throw any notion of canon out the window and just write a series of what if books.  Who would think that's a viable strategy to revitalize a project like this?
The thing Injustice Gods Among Us is most similar to so far, I think, is the Marvel Civil War arc.  Some people hate Civil War, but I love it.  It's high drama.  It tests relationships.  It forces characters to confront some of their issues.  It's fast paced and unafraid of applying preasure to the main characters by killing off major characters and fan favorites.  This series really condenses a lot of action and drama to each issue.
I love the way this series treats characters like Aquaman as and the Flash as the major players they were designed to be instead of demoting them to the back seat their characters frequently take.
I found myself riveted by interactions between characters who have never come across each other before.  Oddly enough, I came out of volume 1 shipping the Green Arrow with Harley Quinn.  OTP.
DC is still doing an awful job at the character design level when it comes to female costumes.  In this particular book, however, the actions of all my favorite characters are in line with who those characters are.
One of my favorite scenes, one that I think was very daring, was an accusation by Superman that Batman loved the Joker, that he kept him alive because he enjoyed their games.  The writing in that scene was so spot on, so true to the anger those characters felt towards one another.
I ate it up, and now I want to read some more.