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!

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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…

The ideal society

It’s Japan. Okay, no. But Japan is close. I’m just discussing freedom in this post: public and private freedom. The ideal society has a high degree of private freedom and a low degree of public freedom. Here’s what I mean.

Public freedom

Places with a large degree of public freedom don’t have restrictive laws or social rules about what you can do in public. You can be loud. You can rub yourself against a willing participant. You can spit, smoke, eat, play music, block the street, shout, sing, drink, chew gum. You can go in public without showering first. Hell, in San Francisco you can even inject drugs, piss, masturbate and lay in the street moaning and screaming with few, if any repercussions. I don’t mind if you want to do these things: but do it in privacy. Find a refrigerator box, at least. No one else needs to see it.

Private freedom

In places with a large degree of private freedom, you can do whatever you want in your private life without legal intervention from the state or much in the way of social censure. In Japan, you can have your penis surgically removed, cook it, and feed it to a crowd, and it’s perfectly legal. In privately free places, you can have abortions, get married to someone of the same gender, have sex with a dead chicken and then eat it for dinner*. Whatever you want, as long as it doesn’t involve unwilling victims.

The ideal society

Now, you might think that it’s better to have a society that is free in both public and private spheres. But you’d be wrong. While I agree that government intervention isn’t effective for maintaining a pleasant public experience, places with less public freedom are more pleasant to live in. Think Singapore or Japan. In the latter, I get the feeling that the average person would rather cut off their own arm than get in someone’s way or annoy them in public. This is fantastic. It keeps us from living like lower animals. Imagine if no one was ever in your way. And no one ever made a scene in public unless they were actually dying. No one forces you to listen to their crap music on even worse phone speakers (because they’re doing it on public transit). No one tolerates whiny children. No sexual harassment in the streets. Everyone treats you as if you don’t exist and minimizes their own impact on everyone else.

Generally, people should care less about things that don’t affect them at all. Like what others do in private. In the United States, we care too much about what others do in private. Abortions, gay marriage, laws about what who we can feed our penis meat to…

The ideal is that no one draws anyone’s attention in a negative way. Everyone should live by this principle. It’s easy. In public:

  • Do not make any more noise than necessary
  • Be aware of others, and stay out of their way
  • Do not take up more space than necessary
  • Never be in public with children you cannot control
  • Never be in public smelling strongly of anything
  • Don’t smoke
  • Do not talk to strangers, especially not to sexually harass them

Even in places which are more publicly free, like San Francisco, you’ll find that those of a higher socio-economic status already tend to restrict themselves by the rules above. Maybe we can get someone who appeals to the masses to spread this ideal? Maybe the Kardashians can do a tutorial on how to behave in public?

* This was a real example given in one of my classes.

Everyone’s getting married

My most recent ex got married over the weekend and I found out through Instagram. (That came out more stalkerishly than I intended). Is it time for an ex story? I think it’s time for an ex story.

We dated for years and found ourselves in the predictable rut of ignoring each other in favor of our computer screens, having the same arguments about household chores (groceries, cleaning, sex). After a year or two of this, I found the stamina to follow through with a breakup. He didn’t want to, but only because it’d be a hassle to find a replacement and not be lonely. Not because he was happy. Neither of us was.

I assured him he wouldn’t be too lonely because we could still be friends. All of the things we argued about would be non-issues in a friendship. For a while, we did that, and we discovered we were better as friends. Then he got serious about replacing me and we didn’t see each other again once he found his next girlfriend. He married her recently.

Don’t be concerned. This post isn’t about me wishing that was me. We had a relationship that we ran into the ground. There was nothing left in it that could be called romance. All that remained was fear of the unknown and habit (and depression, resentment, indifference, but let’s not get into that).

The part I am sad about is the loss of friendship. I was never the one who thought “I can’t be without this person.” I wanted to cleanly excise the bad aspects of our relationship and keep what remained: an intelligent conversationalist, a kind heart, a board game and bridge player. Someone who would laugh at my bad jokes.

Maybe it’s a part of growing up to realize that things don’t work that way. Or maybe the lesson here is that there is a set of people that is too interesting to risk losing after dating ends. The sex isn’t worth the eventual loss.

Not so perfect

Ever heard a song and wish it were written in a different language so you could enjoy the melody in perfect ignorance of the lyrics? I feel that way about this song. Current goal: fix the lyrics. I’ll make it a song dedicated to an imaginary friend.

What’s wrong with the lyrics? They’re perfect for their intended purpose: appeal to the masses as a wedding song and make Ed Sheeran tons of money. I’m going to over-analyze them now though. For fun.

“‘Cause we were just kids when we fell in love / Not knowing what it was”

The latter clause is how I like to describe finding plastic detritus in my ramen. Or something that has been in my backpack for the entire school year and was edible once upon a time.

“your heart is all I own”

I was unaware that hearts could be owned. And I’m sure you own something. Like the pair of underpants you’re currently wearing. Makes that heart sound pretty worthless. “This pair of underpants is all I own. Please do not sue me.”

“And in your eyes you’re holding mine”

Holding my what? My heart? My eyes? Mon pantalon? Eyes have hands and hold things? Disturbing visual.

“Baby, I’m dancing in the dark with you between my arms”

Isn’t the phrase “dancing in the dark” a reference to depression? “Between my arms” makes me picture a hopping zombie with arms outstretched stiff and straight. Swaying back and forth with someone wedged between them. I guess I’d be depressed if my arms were stuck like that.

“listening to our favorite song”

Two distinct people have one favorite song? Or is it that both parties have well-ordered the set of all songs they know and identified the first song that appears on both lists? If so, that could be pretty bad. Like Pomp and Circumstance, or something.

“I found a love, to carry more than just my secrets
To carry love, to carry children of our own”

Thanks to this song, I learned that even men considered the epitome of gentleness and romance think of women as receptacles. In this case, for secrets, love and children. Also note the interesting characterization of both secrets and love as a burden, or something heavy that must be carried.

“Be my girl, I’ll be your man”

Is she Lolita? This line is bad enough without the lack of symmetry. A girl with a man is still illegal in most states.

“I don’t deserve this, darling, you look perfect tonight”

A few issues. “I don’t deserve this” is commonly used to mean “This is terrible, why me.” As in, “I have always looked both ways when crossing the street. I was hit by a truck out of nowhere. I don’t deserve this.” In the context of romance, it’s also commonly used as a “nice” letdown. “I am just a grub. All of this attention, it’s extreme. I don’t deserve this — I’m sure you’ll find someone who does deserve your love.”

I’d also like to know who does deserve someone who looks perfect? And once you’ve fulfilled the requirements do you apply for your perfect-looking partner at the DMV? It’s a weird concept. Like martyrs getting 72 virgins.

Both “look” and “tonight” are interesting choices. The implication being that the rest of the time, the object looks… who knows. Probably homeless. Not so perfect.

Goodbye Christopher Robin vs The Florida Project

Both of these movies are about how childhood can be both wonderful and dark. But the point of this post isn’t to review or contrast and compare. I’m just using this pair of movies as an example of why you shouldn’t let critics decide what you’ll enjoy.

As of the time of writing, Goodbye Christopher Robin has a 63% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.2 on IMDB. The Florida Project has a 95% on Rotten Tomatoes and an 8.1 on IMDB. I watched both movies in theaters anyway. I liked Goodbye Christopher Robin better.

So, what does it all mean? Don’t trust critics? No, not exactly. If you read the reviews, pay attention to what the critics liked and dislike, and figure out whether you value the same things. Most of the reviews for The Florida Project rave about the actress who plays Moonee — how mesmerizing and authentic a performance she gave. Sure, I was convinced that she was an average 6 year old girl, but “authenticity” isn’t that important to me in a movie. If I want to see regular 6 year olds just be themselves, I can watch real children. I prefer my movies to have an interesting narrative or story arc, which The Florida Project lacked. It painted a bleak picture and did so the long way, leaving me wondering if the director was trying to show how bored the kids were by making the audience bored too.

On the other hand, critics who disliked Goodbye Christopher Robin mentioned how unlikable his parents were, or how the movie was a stiff period piece. But those things are the point: his parents aren’t sympathetic characters, and the historical context was important to the story. I love a good period piece. I like being transported somewhere that’s far removed from my everyday life. Somewhere with interesting characters who have complex motivations, not just “authenticity.”

In general, I think film critics are overly fond of the French style of movie making: so many pointless scenes of walking down the street, sleeping, eating spaghetti, shaving and staring off into space that it feels like your own real life. And then a sudden ending when the funding has run out — not at any natural stopping point in the story. Knowing this about critics, and understanding that these aren’t my own preferences, it makes sense for me to ignore ratings and just give movies a chance based on the trailer or summary. I’m guessing this is true for most people: that your tastes don’t line up with what the critics say. It almost makes me wonder why we even have them? I guess it made more sense for a time before Moviepass. Well, you don’t have to listen to them now — you can make up your own mind: it’s the same monthly price whether you watch one or both!

Drop and Giftagram

Aka, let’s burn some investor money! Don’t you want $60 worth of hipster gift things for only $10* out of pocket? Things like macarons, pour over coffee kits, or a meat of the month box? Then let’s begin.

First, download Drop. It’s a cash back shopping app where you link credit or debit cards, activate offers that interest you, then click through Drop to complete the offers to get cash back. Link the credit or debit card you want to use.

Then, look for the Giftagram offer in the Drop app and load it. It should look like the following screenshot. 30,000 Drop points can be converted to $30 in Amazon gift cards. So the offer is spend $40, get $30 back.

Now, download Giftagram and input my referral code for $20: Dy248638.

That’s it! You can buy something on Giftagram that would’ve cost you $60+, but with the $20 referral credit from Giftagram and the $30 back in gift cards through Drop, you’re spending just $10 out of pocket. Be sure you link the card you want to use for the purchase through Drop first. Also make sure your total at checkout is at least $40 so that you get the points with Drop. This can include shipping and tax charges: all that Drop sees is the final $ amount.

* Plus tax, and assuming you value Amazon gift cards at face value