Discontinued Amazon Dash buttons

Once upon a time, if you bought an Amazon dash button, you could get a $4.99 credit loaded to your account which could be used to purchase anything shipped from and sold by Amazon.com. Then, a few days before Christmas last year, that all ended.

Some folks had bought dozens, even hundreds of dash buttons and never got around to activating them to get the general $4.99 credit. Loophole closed, the credits now apply to only items you buy when pressing a dash button. What to do with all those?

Discontinued dash buttons

Until a few days ago, there was a list of all discontinued dash buttons. Now it appears to be a blank page, but maybe it’s being updated. Discontinued means that the dash button will no longer be associated with any products you can order. When setting up your dash button, you’ll know it’s discontinued if instead of products to choose from, you get the message “There are currently no products available. Please try again later.” If you never activated a dash button and it has been discontinued, you can contact Amazon support and request your $4.99 credit, saying that you were unable to get this credit upon first use of dash button because you are unable to associate the dash button with an item to purchase. Your credit will be granted as a courtesy credit which is good for anything shipped and sold by Amazon. This is even better than before because it isn’t added to your orders $4.99 at a time like dash button credits originally were. So you can use all of your credits on one order if you want!

Use the credits

For the buttons you have left over that still work for ordering products, you can get the credit and then use them on any item ordered via physical dash button. Meaning, if you have a Nerf dash button, you can add that credit to your account and then use it to buy Goldfish crackers if you want to. Here is a list of all items you can order via physical dash button, sorted by price. Ordering by dash button means you can also get around the add-on shipping minimum. So if you have 50 dash button credits you still need to use, you can get 50 boxes of chocolate chip cookie dough Lärabar (if you have the Lärabar dash button).

Good luck. Hope you didn’t procrastinate like me.

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“How can I help” is a stupid question

This post was inspired by the comic “You should have asked” which addresses division of labor in the household. The problem isn’t unwillingness to help: it’s not even noticing that things need to be done.

Now, saying “what can I do?” is is absolutely acceptable in the workplace when you’ve finished all your assignments. Or, it should be, because the person you pose that question to is your boss. And your boss gets paid more than you do to think about what you should be doing and when. Asking this of a spouse or significant other implies it’s their job to know all the household tasks and their priorities. Do they get paid more than you for housework? No. No one except the outside help gets paid for that. So it’s equally your responsibility to not only do the work, but to figure out what needs to be done, and when. Funny thing is, it seems that often, people who are blind to basic household details like “the compost needs to be taken out” are actually quite good about being proactive at work.

Anecdote time! I knew a guy who constantly checked his phone for alerts from work. He even did this when out at dinner with his girlfriend. His girlfriend asked him whether he would be constantly checking his phone for texts from her if he were out to dinner with his boss or CEO. He said “no.” She told him “Then don’t do that when you’re out with me.” His response? “Do you pay me?”

Maybe that’s the solution to this problem of “emotional labor” that often falls more on the woman’s shoulders. It seems that men are usually good about being proactive at work. Because they spend time thinking about what needs to be done. They spend time figuring out what is important to keep track of. They notice changes and they know what should be done in response to those changes. They should treat their home life as a job. No, not because their wives or girlfriends pay them, but because it is as much their responsibility as anyone else’s to clean the toilet or pack sunblock and swimsuits for a beach day.

Here’s an example: menu planning. It may seem that the spouse who says “I’m cool with whatever, I won’t complain about whatever you make, I’ll eat anything” is already great. However, think about the person who says that in a planning meeting at work. “I don’t care what I work on. I have no ideas. I’ll do whatever.” Is that acceptable? As I said, it should be more acceptable at work because there is someone at a higher pay grade whose job it is to think about tasks and delegation. But at home, that’s not the case. Most of those who shrug off this responsibility at home would say that you can’t go into a work meeting and give a response like that because it shows you don’t care about your job and you’re slacking. Or worse — that you are a weak team member who doesn’t even understand what your job entails.

The fundamental issue at play is that many men still do not consider their home life as being as critical or important as their work life. So they ignore it and dedicate very little time to thinking about what needs to be done to keep the home running smoothly. This may be fine, if the division of labor is agreed to and accepted by both parties. But if there’s tension or stress at home, a good starting point can be to think of domestic duties as a second job that’s just as important.

Urgency vs importance

A cruel fact of life is that our most urgent tasks are seldom the most important or meaningful. Some things that need to be done right away (or at least this week) are the dishes, the laundry, the grocery shopping, taking out the garbage, and you know, work.

But those things aren’t important in the final measure of someone’s life. They just have the clearest deadlines and the most obvious consequences when neglected.

On the other hand, suppose that someone aspires to be a writer. An average person with a day job and all the ordinary tasks of life to attend to. What consequence is there if they don’t get around to reading today? If they don’t write a single sentence this month? None. They can go on their entire lives going to work, coming home, cooking dinner, washing the dishes, zoning out on Candy Crush, going to bed, repeating the process.

There is more and more evidence that creativity is born of boredom. That we need time with zero obligations to cultivate our own ability to think and observe, rather than just absorb the internet and its cat memes.

The only way I can think of to mitigate the fallout of this inverse relationship between important and urgent tasks is the following:

  1. Figure out your most productive time of day
  2. Use at least an hour of that window every day for something important to you

This is how I passed my quals.

Now. If you have trouble even identifying things that are important, that’s a bigger issue. But still use that hour a day to be bored. Eventually it will point you in the right direction.

All my Amazon reviews, deleted

My reviews were all deleted yesterday. Here’s what that looks like on your profile:

When you try to review any product from your orders page you’ll see this:

The text reads:

Sorry, we are unable to accept your review of this product for either one or both of the following reasons: Your previous review of this product did not comply with our Customer Reviews Guidelines. Amazon does not permit reviews from customers whose relationship to the product or seller may be perceived as biased.

I had been reviewing items from Extreme Rebate. I thought this would be invisible to Amazon because the sellers on that platform do not give coupon codes or Amazon gift cards (reimbursements are done via Paypal), so there’s nothing on Amazon’s side that would link the buyer to the seller. I suspect my downfall was a combination of the following:

  1. Sparse review activity for years, then a deluge of long reviews, many with photos.
  2. New reviews mostly for obscure products with sellers from China.
  3. All reviews were positive, 4 or 5 stars.
  4. I did use Amazon gift cards sometimes (from other sources like portals).
  5. Once any new product has an unnaturally high rate of review (especially if it has predominately positive reviews), maybe Amazon deletes all those reviewer’s accounts.

After a cursory search I’ve concluded that once Amazon decides I’m done with reviewing, it’s hopeless to try to convince them otherwise. My small apartment was becoming rather full of things of questionable utility anyway. This hoarder always knew the gravy train would end, so now I’m passing the baton. With the warning that your reviews will probably be wiped one day for doing this. But maybe it’s worthwhile to you anyway. Good luck!

p.s. — note the category… “how to get your Amazon reviews deleted”? Hah!

How to escape Bali

Or, my time as a refugee from the volcanic eruptions of Mount Agung. If you’re visiting Bali and the local volcano gets agitated, spews ash, closes Denpasar (DPS) airport, then here’s what you should do:

Decide whether to stay put or run for Surabaya (SUB)

If you have more time (5-6 days) to wait for DPS to re-open, then you’ll have a better time just staying put. Past results are no indication of future performance, but the airport usually isn’t closed for more than 5 days. However, it doesn’t mean you can just relax. If you don’t want to be caught in the backlog of stranded travelers, do call your airline daily to ensure that you are issued a boarding pass for the next flight (in case of airport re-opening) every time your current flight gets canceled. The airline doesn’t necessarily do this automatically. If you decide to run for Surabaya, do so immediately after DPS is closed.

Hire a mini-bus to SUB

It’s more comfortable and usually cheaper to hire your own mini-bus to get to SUB, if you can find about 6 people to join you and split the cost. That will be 250,000-300,000 IDR per person, whereas the government subsidized mega buses are 300,000 IDR, slower and more cramped. The Indonesian government usually sends mega tour buses to DPS domestic terminal to evacuate stranded travelers to SUB. Don’t ask airport employees about it: they might not know anything. Check google, or just go to the domestic terminal and see if they’re available yet. For a mini-bus, talk to your hotel concierge or the manager of your villa to arrange transport. If you don’t do this right away, you’ll be stuck with the less comfortable big bus option because all the private vans will be booked.

Buy your plane ticket as soon as transport to SUB is booked

I made the mistake of fantasizing that I could talk to AirAsia upon arriving at SUB, and they would magically change everything for me and not charge change fees. Give up this fantasy. The line will take you 5 hours, and you’ll probably find that the best option is to take a refund and book your own tickets on a different airline anyway. So go ahead and do that when you’re sure you have a way to get to SUB. The drive takes 12 hours, but give yourself 16 just to be safe — then book your tickets out of SUB. I guarantee you things will sell out and only be more expensive the longer you wait. Request a refund for your original flights later. Get yourself out of Indonesia first.

In this situation, he who hesitates is lost. Though we fled for Surabaya, we waited one day in hopes that DPS would re-open and it didn’t. During that time, all flights out of Surabaya for the next 3 days were booked full. In the end, we were stuck in Surabaya for a few days rather than being stuck in Bali. Trust me, you will have more fun being stuck in Bali. Surabaya has a giant mosque and a giant mall. If you aren’t Muslim, you’re not allowed in the mosque. So that leaves…

How to make the best of the friendzone

Personally, I am a proponent of the friendzone. This isn’t because (as one rant in my inbox once claimed) the friendzone is a place girls never find themselves. I’ve written an entire post about its delights. But first, we need to give it a more dignified name. Because calling it the “friendzone” denigrates friendship. It implies that person you want to be in a relationship with isn’t worth being friends with. In that case, what you’re looking for is more like a craigslist casual sex encounter.

I prefer to call it unrequited love. So, preliminaries complete, how do we make the most of it?

Ask Dante. Renowned Florentine poet Dante Alighieri credits his life’s work to being inspired by the one great unrequited love of his life: Beatrice Portinari. He passed her in the street when he was 8. Then several years later, it happened again, and that time she greeted him. That was it. That was the sum total of their interaction. Sure, if she loved you back you might get to have sex and post pics of your shared Sunday brunch to Instagram, but would you have time (and the emotional angst) to be one of history’s greatest poets? I think not.

Friendships last longer. Perhaps the object of your affection claims it would never work out romantically between you. But is he interesting? Isn’t it so terribly hard to find interesting people in your life? If you remain friends with him, you will have an interesting friend for (let’s face it) longer than your relationship would’ve lasted anyway.

See it from the other point of view. Maybe she doesn’t love you back. Maybe she can’t love because the past damage was too much. She’ll find your feelings exhausting, so spare her. Remember what Oscar Wilde said: “There is always something ridiculous about the emotions of people whom one has ceased to love.” It’s that much worse if they never loved you in the first place. Confess one time, if you must. After, assume your words would be abhorrent.

Do not try to push it. Please don’t read stories about people who made it out of the friend zone by being flirty. This is obnoxious, desperate behavior that tells the other person “I don’t care what you’ve told me about your own (lack of) feelings, I’m pushing my agenda anyway because it’s what I want.” Doing this will probably make them a little ill. It’s offensive. Where will you be then? Down one interesting friend, and requiring that craigslist casual encounters section to satisfy your other needs anyway.

Don’t think of it as a transaction. This is a common refrain from those who complain about the friendzone. They say it’s a place of “wasted energies, unmet expectation and disappointment.” Feelings like these are a result of transactional thinking. “I listened to him go on about his bad day, now he owes me sex.” No! If he’s not interesting enough that you would gladly listen to him go on about lying on the floor and listening to The Smiths “Unloveable” because he had such a rough day, then just don’t talk to him. Problem solved. If it is transactional in your mind, then be clear about your terms. You don’t go into a business transaction giving the other side what they want and hoping that they reciprocate by giving you what you want, do you? You negotiate. You draw up a contract. The terms are clear to both sides. If you don’t want to negotiate, then only do those things that you would do with pleasure either way, with no promise of anything in return.

There. I hope that helps. Feel free to ask any questions, and I’ll do my best to answer.

The wrong way to blog

(hint: it’s how I blog)

I once read a helpful article by an established and successful blogger (I forget which one now) about how to blog. It was a list of advice for beginners. For whatever perverse reason, I didn’t take any of the advice. Whether from some misguided sense that I’m sui generis or just an inability to think of how to do some of it, I’ve pretty much failed.

This post will serve as a post-mortem of sorts. And maybe I’ll improve going forward. We’ll see. What did that article say? Here’s what I can remember:

Pick a theme. I don’t have a theme. Some people have cool DIY projects, or adorable kids, or some theme that attracts readers and keeps them. I honestly have nothing that I could write volumes about. Unless it’s trolling. But the internet needs an entire blog on trolling like I need an ass rash. (Which is not at all, in case that wasn’t clear.) If you’re a compelling writer or you have interesting random stories, it could work to have the theme be… your life. But then you have to be willing to share a lot about your life. Interesting stories, pictures, thoughts.

Update regularly. The blogs I like the most post 1-2 times a week. To be honest, my favorite blogs are Mormon family blogs. The regular updates make readers feel like they’re friends. A reader with an emotional attachment to your story is more likely to stay around. Plus, it’s more interesting if people comment, isn’t it? When I had a Livejournal, I remember looking at the world through a lens of “how can I tell this story on Livejournal?”

Know your audience. Me, I have no clue. I think my mom used to read. Now, it’s just people who find this through google searches on my more controversial posts. That’s fine, but I’ve had a hard time finding an appropriate voice or tone to use here. Which makes posts sporadic. If you can picture your audience (even if it’s just one person), you can pretend they’re sitting across from you and you’re telling them something. You can imagine them smiling as you tell them a story, or nodding along as you tell them something they didn’t know. It helps. Even if your audience is an imaginary person or a profile like “Older Englishmen who like to garden.”

The rest of the tips were about marketing and ways to boost viewership. Rest assured, I didn’t get involved with any of that. Monetizing a blog is a pipe dream unless you’re truly outstanding at something. Or unless you’re selling a pipe dream. Though I may be constantly judged for my lack of morality, even I have to draw the line somewhere. So I’m afraid I can’t tell you the 10 easy steps to replace your job with a blogging gig. Alas.