Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Gift Registry Heaven and Hell

Here are my priorities for gift giving for our wedding:
1. Give a gift to your favorite charity in the wedding couple's names.
2. Cash
3. A dozen crock pots.

In the Midwest, giving cash is like telling someone you don't care enough to really shop for them. Out east, it's much more common to get cash as a wedding gift.

So, to prevent number three from happening, we've created two gift registries, one at Target, and the other at Bed Bath and Beyond.

Let's start with the good. With Target, I created the registry online, added a couple of items, and later, when we were at a store, added more stuff. It's a simple process. You go to a terminal, log in, print a welcome sheet, get it scanned, and you get your scanner, in full color, loaded up with all of the items in your registry. You can go forward and back to modify quantities and delete items, right from the scanner. At Target, we were never asked once if we "worked there." We wandered the isles, picking some things we'd like. When we were done, we had about 40 things chosen, some expensive, others were pretty cheap, but all things we could use.

Then, we went to Bed Bath and Beyond. This store was nearly dead, and the only people we saw, aside from a handful of wanderers, were people either creating a registry, or buying things from a registry. It's as if the whole focus of the store is registries. They do have a price guarantee, but still, everything seemed over priced. This is the first time we had been to Bed Bath and Beyond since they redid their store. What did they change? They created a special gift registry section located in fine china. When you create a registry, you're assisted through the registration process. You're offered a bottle of water or candy, which is nice considering that you'll be bringing in a ton of business for them.

How do you bring in all of their business? Well, we have most of everything we need, even if we are moving into a larger place. We'll add bit and pieces here and there. Without qualifying us at all, by asking questions, like, do you two live together now? Are you living in an apartment? Do you do any entertaining? We're told we need to purchase place settings for twelve people. Then we're walked around, told that "casual dinner ware" is crap, because there are more bubbles in the clay, and that "this" stuff in fine china, even if it isn't china, is much better, and will last much longer. Which may be true, but styles change all the time, and place settings change. It's not going to break my heart if I'm not eating off the same plate for 20 years. We don't have any interest in fine china. even if we're entertaining, I would much rather use one everyday set, rather then keeping some special dishes locked away to be used once or twice a year. I just don't dig it. Maybe I'm still worried about cabinet space, and don't want to tie up the extra space with dishes.

Next, we were shown the flatware, again, which changes styles, but the expensive stuff was just so fancy it'd last forever. With the flatware in fine china, they come in the huge sets, with every fork, spoon, clam cleaver, etc. you could ever need to dismantle any food on your plate. We're not picky about forks and knives. Even if we're entertaining, I don't think the character of our guests is such that we would be scoffed for our flatware.

In order to "get rid of" 2/3rds of the options in cookware, a manager is called over to sell us pots and pans. I have a really nice pasta pot, a sauce pot, and a skillet, which is all I can ask for for making pretty nice Italian dishes. He never asked what kind of food we usually cook, or how often, or what pieces we currently had together. The only pieces I could ask for would be a nicer wok, and a larger skillet with a top. I don't care if all of the pieces look alike, come from the same manufacturer, or are all stainless steel or all nonstick. Calphalon is a brand I've never paid any attention to. They have worked their way into being a required gift set for any wedding. An 8 set will run $299, 10 set $399, 12 set $499. Oh, but don't worry, your guests can buy pieces at a time, then you can come in and finish your set, and you get a special one day 10% completion discount.

One thing sticks out about these three areas we are shown personally by staff. They are all high markup items. The whole store is filled with items which have high profit margins. From bedding and towels, tooth brush holders, and cutting boards, I can imagine at least a 50% markup on most items. Sure, they have guaranteed prices, but much of what they sell is unique to their store. Their return policy sucks as well. Oh, let's say you bought a pot, and needed to return it. You'd get a credit back on your card. At Bed Bath and Beyond, if you receive a gift, you get a store credit. While this makes sense to protect the liability of the store, and maintain a high volume of sales, it stinks for the couple returning gifts. Why would you ever have to return something on a registry? Well, if you register at different places, your gifts will overlap, because no everyone has a Bed Bath and Beyond near them. There are only 100 stores nationwide. So, you put the same things on the Target registry, which means you may get two of what you wanted. You can get a check sent back, but the requirements are so high that it's much easier to just get a gift credit.

Now, that isn't to say that Target doesn't sell nearly exactly the same stuff, and have similar margins on cookware, and Dyson vacuums, but we felt better that we weren't pushed into adding fancy stuff we really didn't want or need.

We're still keeping the registry at both places. Knock yourself out and buy something from there if you feel like it, but our top two priorities are still donations to charities, followed by cash.

Bed Bath and Beyond registry number: 4576120
Target registry: http://www.target.com/gp/registry/registry.html/ref=cm_cw_sr_1/602-2049229-9524606?ie=UTF8&type=wedding&id=2J57N6TEOKYQU&jsebd=1

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The shot, the lawsuit, and the mitochondria

We really take for granted our little powerhouses. However, mitochondria could be responsible for a million dollar lawsuit. The lawsuit however, was over vaccinations and autism. The controversy over thermisol was just starting to die down. The fear of vaccinations were dimming. Measles rates in England and the United States were receding. It seemed as if people were actually listening to scientific research and peer reviewed studies. Then, in March 2008, the U.S. government awarded the family of a nine year old girl compensation for the autism they claimed was caused by common child hood vaccinations. This was pure fuel for the anti-vaccination blogs. They had won victory. The government proved that they were right. They are finally admitting vaccinations cause autism.
Actually, it appears as if the vaccination didn't actually cause the autism. It merely aggravated an already existing mitochondrial disorder. This leads researchers to believe that autism could be a mitochondrial disorder. Which actually makes a lot of sense. Mitochondria are the body's energy source. So if something is wrong with them, autistic like symptoms are bound present themselves, such as lack of communication, and interest in social interaction.
However, mitochondrial disorders are rare, and little research has been done on the matter. It's very possible that the symptoms would have pervaded with or without the vaccinations. One possible explanation that has been given, is that it wasn't the vaccination at all, but the stress associated with getting a shot, that aggravated the disorder.
With so little research, nothing conclusive can be said. Maybe in the end it was the vaccinations all the long. One million dollars is a lot of money. You'd think the government would have to be pretty sure they were right, before they shelled out that chunk of cash. Or maybe there are other motives. Take for instance the fact that there are more than 5,000 cases of parents asking for compensation in the U.S. Is it possible that one huge win was their way of consolidating all the small cases? Its a bit suspicious that the reasons are being kept hush. Only time, and hopefully a lot more research on mitochondria will tell.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

I wonder if......

For someone who has a blog on scienceblogs.com PZ Meyers spends a great deal of time bad mouthing the religious. Unless you can consider ridicule a scientific art. I was scrolling through his archive ( I tried reading the actual posts, but I've learned I just can't stomach them), and the majority of his "science" posts consist of talking about this whole "Expelled" affair and bad mouthing creationists. There were a couple of titles that I thought would be promising, but were filed under the "kooks" category, which is completely unnecessary. Granted there were a couple of good posts about his damn cephelpods, some about animals,a few more about reproductive rights, but everyone that I read was laced with negativity and cynicism. The comments don't provide anything promising either. It's his followers sitting around circle jerking about how great and wonderful they are for being such scientific atheists. Nothing new or worthwhile is ever added. The man's only name to fame is his snarky outlook on religion. PZ stated on friendlyatheist.com that his last words would probably be "I wonder if"..... Is he going to be reflecting about whether or not his blog would be half as popular if he stuck to science?

Update: I realize that this post seems incoherent. I did it in a rush during my lunch break. I will probably vent in post later on precisely why I don't like PZ Meyers, since by atheist friends seem so incredulous whenever I mention it.