Some Qwikster Alternatives for Netflix to Consider

In its latest marketing / branding / PR gaffe, Netflix announced it was splitting into two entities and launching Qwikster.

No, it’s not a convenience store, quick-lube franchise or concrete alternative.

It’s the new name for Netflix’s DVD-by-mail service (its core business, but one that will likely be diminishing as video streaming becomes more prevalent).

Unfortunately, those wacky folks neglected to verify that the @qwikster twitter handle was available, and turns out it already belongs to a pot-smoking, Elmo-loving chap named Jason Castillo.

Adding to the confusion are the numerous other similar-sounding monikers in the marketplace.

In the true spirit of collaboration and collective goodwill, I have taken it upon myself to concoct a few suitable name alternatives for Netflix to consider:

– Qwakster

– Huckster

– Soon-to-be-Obsolete-ster

– Red-Enveloped Stepchild

– Crash-and-Burnster

– Not-Qwite-As-Qwik-As-Streaming(ster)

– PostalFlix

– Dupe-the-Public-ster

– Snail-Mail Ciné

– Cut Us Some Slackster

– Spinster

– Disc in Da Mailster

– Flick 2 Ur Box  

– Special DVDelivery

– U-Scratcha, U-Buya

Any others you’d like to suggest?

Who Else is Tired of Playing Password Roulette?

As a security measure, it used to work like a charm: utter a secret code word and gain VIP access to my neighbor’s tree fort.

It was simple, efficient, kept out the riff-raff.

At some point, however, the concept of a password shifted into some sick, sadistic game whose rules keep changing to increasingly favor the house.

Now, nothing conjures up anxiety and dread quite like a vacant box beckoning for me to enter my unique string of letters/numbers/characters.

Such a seemingly straightforward request, yet it demands some masterful sleuthing skills on my end.

You see, my password history is long and rocky and littered with debris.

My original password was simple and memorable: something along the lines of “mike” (though not quite that obvious).

Soon I was asked to complicate it by adding a number, so “mike55” (also bogus) became the norm.

Next, I had to add a special character to the mix, and “mike55$” was the ticket.

And the latest – and most grueling – demand is that I create an entirely new, unique password every 30/60/90 days.

Given that I have active passwords created during each phase of this evolution, I think you get a sense of my frustration. I’m guessing you may relate.

It’s sometimes helpful when the empty password box is accompanied by an offer to retrieve a lost password — that is, of course, unless I can’t recall the answer I provided to a security question posed months or years earlier (as if I can remember which “childhood best friend” or “favorite teacher” I cited…)

My work BlackBerry is arguably my least merciful opponent, granting me just eight attempts to hit the jackpot before it wipes itself clean (and I know first-hand that it means business). This ticking time bomb loves to threaten its self-destruction while I try to recreate the convoluted logic my mind used to concoct the latest password. Maddening.

I’ve heard about those apps that serve as a master repository for all your passwords. Seems like a good idea, but guess what’s required to access it…that’s right, even my passwords need passwords.

Oh how I pine for the day when a simple retinal scan or iris scan is my ticket to ride. Heck, I’d even submit to a urine test if that’s what it took.

Unfortunately, all of this really just proves one point: that I’m too old and crotchety to play in tree forts anymore.

Got any password tales of your own to share?


Those Glory Days of Mood Rings and Pet Rocks

You can tell a lot about an era by the gadgets it spawns.

In the mid-’70s, two must-have items were the mood ring and the pet rock (both of which I owned, courtesy of my fad-sustaining mom).

Although both of these product niches flared out in fairly short order, I think they reflected some common values of the time – at least in America.

Both embodied the “Me Decade” mantra that Novelist Tom Wolfe coined to describe the passive individualism that took root in the 1970s (contrasting the communal lifestyle associated with the ‘60s). The mood ring, in particular, empowered each of us through its ability to measure – and share – a wearer’s unique state of mind at any given time.

Another intriguing characteristic of both gadgets is how they supported – even celebrated – a sedentary lifestyle. You didn’t actually have to ‘do’ anything to enjoy their benefits. Body temperature regulated the color that purportedly evaluated your mood, and the pet rock was, well, a ROCK.

(Of course, this elevation of inactivity would be dethroned in the early ‘80s by the Jane Fonda-inspired workout video craze).

In retrospect, probably the most amusing part of our ‘70s baubles is the fact that they were total farces – and we all knew it. Neither product actually delivered what it was supposed to, but we all played along with the gag as if for the sake of a clueless bystander (a role, oddly, also played by us).

I kind of understand the appeal of the mood ring. It was fun, gimmicky, gaudy-stylish. And from what I remember, comparing moods with others could be a hoot (stop snickering, I had a men’s version).

But the pet rock? It was an inanimate object devoid of any meaningful characteristic of owning a real pet. It was nothing more than a corny joke.

That didn’t matter – at least not to my mom, who thought it was hilarious. I think I played along for a while, until I got bored and decided to paint a monster face on the stupid stone.

We demand so much more from our gadgets these days.

Unlike kitschy jewelry or faux pets, our smartphone devices can’t be one-trick ponies. They need to connect us, direct us, inform us, entertain us, awaken us, and on and on.

So what will they ultimately tell future generations about what we valued during this era?

Certainly that we craved technology. Couldn’t get enough of it.

We liked to explore and were easily distracted by bright, shiny objects/apps.

We had short attention spans.

And probably most telling of all: that we were all too willing to increasingly devote our lives to a tiny device that promised so much (yet, like the ring and rock, didn’t necessarily deliver the satisfaction we hoped it would).

I wonder what gadgets will define us in 10, 20, 50, 100+ years? 

Life Before Running Water


It was really tough growing up in a house with no running water. Each day, one of us would have to rise before dawn, walk for miles to the community well, and fetch the day’s supply of water. Those few gallons had to accommodate our family’s daily routine of drinking, bathing, washing and cooking. The next morning, the whole process would begin again.

OK, that scenario is a total fabrication. I actually grew up in a comfortable suburban home with numerous working spigots and sinks. Water was plentiful and pure and completely taken for granted.

What we didn’t have was Internet access – or even a single onsite computer.

That’s because my ‘80s youth preceded the digital age.

To anyone born in the last 20 years, my Internet isolation probably seems as primitive to you as a life without running water seems to me.

Yet we managed just fine, as we were completely oblivious to the technological advancements awaiting the next generation.

I sometimes wonder what my grandpa (who died when I was a little boy) would think if he were suddenly transported into our 21st century world. Undoubtedly, he would be amazed and overwhelmed by our “modern” lifestyle, clothing, food, music, recreation, and especially our technology. To someone who truly lived a large chunk of his childhood without access to running water, our world would seem positively opulent.

Yet I have to believe he’d also be disappointed by what’s been stripped away from modern life and culture.

Grandpa might yearn for the social interaction that was so common in his day. A true sense of close-knit neighbors and face-to-face community that defined daily life.

He also might crave a return to the more physical demands and expectations of his era. When exercise was strongly embedded in daily life, and it served as both a physical and mental workout. When sweat was valued.

I think the facet of life Grandpa might miss most is a slower, simpler pace. A time when time was savored instead of raced. When the concept of multi-tasking would’ve been considered an absurd notion. When life wasn’t hurried along.

Though few of us would opt to return to the days of no Internet (or running water), there are definite trade-offs to the “advances” we now enjoy.

Think it’s time to go take a leisurely walk. Minus the iPod or water bottle.

iPad 2, You Complete Me.


After last Saturday’s crushing denial of Apple’s newest coveted device, I debated whether I would subject myself to the same barbaric ritual two weeks in a row.

Honestly, it wasn’t much of a debate. The stubborn, competitive side of me beat the rational, level-headed side hands-down.

This time, however, I was wise enough to understand the table stakes before going into battle. I arrived at the mall at about 5:30 a.m. (beating my previous time by more than an hour). My reward for this lunacy was to earn spot #5 in line, which quickly slipped to #7 when two “friends” of those ahead of me arrived.

My position was a definite improvement from last week’s placement (#25), but it would be a few hours until I found out whether I would be walking out a champion or a stooge.

Thankfully, I walked out a champ. As did most of the roughly 100 co-fanatics standing alongside me. Not only had the store received a healthy shipment of iPad devices the afternoon before, but they apparently were welcoming a second shipment as we were standing in line. It was a good morning to be a lemming.

After several rounds of handing out vouchers to match individuals with their chosen model(s), the doors to the store officially opened. I must say the process was quite well-organized, and the Apple team could not have been more accommodating and friendly. One of them even high-fived and congratulated me as I left the store.

So what did I do when I arrived home? Did I tear open the box, fire that puppy up and begin savoring all of its innovative goodness?

Nope, I laid down and took a nice long nap. It had been a long morning.

And when I awoke, did I scurry to begin exploring the device I had worked so hard to secure? No chance. I had errands to do.  

Looks like it might take awhile for us to become acquainted. 


Some of my peeps.