Thursday, May 30, 2013

The Girlfriend Zone

1. I don't have this problem as I have lots of male friends who don't put me in the girlfriend zone. But this is similar to the response I provide people when they tell me any of my friends are interested in me - are you trying to tell me that I don't have anything to offer as a friend?
2. This is a satire of men's complaints of "Why do girls always put me in the friends zone?" but I'd also like to think it's mocking women with this problem..

Why Do Men Keep Putting Me in the Girlfriend-Zone?

You know how it is, right, ladies? You know a guy for a while. You hang out with him. You do fun things with him—play video games, watch movies, go hiking, go to concerts. You invite him to your parties. You listen to his problems. You do all this because you think he wants to be your friend.
But then, then comes the fateful moment where you find out that all this time, he’s only seen you as a potential girlfriend. And then if you turn him down, he may never speak to you again. This has happened to me time after time: I hit it off with a guy, and, for all that I’ve been burned in the past, I start to think that this one might actually care about me as a person. And then he asks me on a date. 
I tell him how much I enjoy his company, how much I value his friendship. I tell him that I really want to be his friend and to continue hanging out with him and talking about our favorite books or exploring new restaurants or making fun of avant-garde theatre productions. But he rejects me. He doesn’t answer my calls or e-mails; if we’d been making plans to do something before this fateful incident, these plans mysteriously fail to materialize. (This is why I never did get around to seeing the Hunger Gamesmovie. Not to name any names, but thanks a lot, Tom.) Later, when I run into him at social events, our conversations are awkward and lukewarm. This is because the moment we met, he put me in the girlfriend-zone, and now he can’t see me as friend material. 
I must say that I find this really unfair. I mean, I’m a nice girl. I have a lot to offer as a friend, like not being a douchebag and stuff. But males just don’t want to be friends with nice girls like me. They can’t help it, I guess; it’s just how they’re wired, biologically. Evolution conditioned our male hominid ancestors to seek nice girls as mates and form friendship bonds only with the other dudes that they hunted mammoths with. It’s true—I know this because I studied hominids in my fifth-grade science class. 
So what’s the answer? Should I take up mammoth-hunting in an attempt to appeal to the friendship centers of men’s primal lizardbrains? Should I keep making guy “friends” and then prevent them from making a move on me by subtly undermining their self-confidence? Should I just give up on those manipulative, game-playing, two-faced bastards once and for all? I don’t know. I mean, I’d really like to have a true friendship with a guy someday, but it’s so hard to trust and respect them when they never say what they mean—and you never know when you might be relegated to the girlfriend-zone.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Primark in London

Over the last 3-4 years, I've been to London countless number of times. However, it wasn't until the last time I was here, in November 2012, that I finally discovered what Primark really is. Every time I come to London, I stroll along Oxford Street at least once, and everyone is carrying bags that say Primark on them. At first, I thought it must be some some department store like Selfridges but the more bags I see, the more I started to think that there must be something more to it than a department store.

When Westfield Stratford City Mall finally opened before the summer olympics and I saw all these people carrying the bags, I decided I really needed to see what this place is about. I mentioned to Caleb right before Christmas that I wanted to check out Primark and he winced, and then shivered, and then shook his head violently. "No," he said, "there's no way you would like the place! It's crowded and full of cheap crap." But alas, how can he argue against my whining? We ended up heading there one fateful evening and being the brilliant guy he is, he actually stood in the line for 20 minutes to buy me a £5 scarf. Looking back though, I'm pretty sure it was actually his way of saving himself from the chaos while I waded through the mobs of people with their suitcases shopping for gifts.

This scarf would be our first purchase at Primark

Funny enough, if going to Primark right before Christmas didn't deter me from going back, then you know nothing will stop me from going again. After my first 20 minute experience in the store, I was hooked and I really needed to check out what the Oxford Store was about. So when I got back to London in late January, I went to Primark at Oxford THREE times, spending 4+ hours in there every time. And when my coworkers decided it would be funny to torture Caleb, they informed us of the NEW store at Tottenham Court! So after an early evening of hanging out, we ended the night at there. Yup, you count right, I must have gone to Primark at least 4 times that trip and ended up with 2 pairs of boots, a skirt, numerous tops, 2 pairs of thick comfy tights, 3 hats, ear muffs, some mitts, some scarves, and even a coat (£10!).

Coat and boots

Ear muffs, mitts, skirt and boots

Now that it's May, the summer season is about to begin, and I'm back in London - well it's time for another trip to Primark right? This time I was good. I only went to each of the three stores once (a total of 3 trips only :P) and ended up with three pairs of pants, a pair of shorts three pairs of flats (less than £6 each!),  two dresses, and two tops. Oh and a luscious bath mat for £3.  I think i'm quite well behaved.

At any rate, now that I'm super experienced with shopping in 2 central locations in London and one in the east end (there are more in various parts of London), I thought i'd provide some tips for budget shopping at Primark.

Eight Tips for shopping at Primark

The Tottenham court one opens at 8am and the Oxford St one opens at 8:30am everyday. They actually open their doors more than promptly, so arriving on time doesn't make you look like a douche standing outside waiting for the doors to open. I needed to make some exchanges and got there at 8:32am and the store was already filled with a good number of people on every floor. By 9am, I was standing in the Customer Service line after trying on all the clothes I needed to exchange for. The wait was about 8 minutes, a lot faster than going during the day.

2. Don't spend all your time in one store.
Honestly, this might make some people cringe, but I have found that the best way to do this is to, I repeate, go early, spend an hour or two browsing for items you like and try it on, and if they dont have the perfect colour in the perfect size, then look for it in another location, the next morning.

The issue is that more often than not, only really big sizes are left (14-20). Their smallest size is UK 6,  EUR 32 (otherwise known as an XS) and it fits me perfectly (although more recently I've some 8s that are okay...). At any rate, 6 is a really difficult size to find, so I often end up buying an 8 or a secondary colour, and then exchanging it at a different store that has the right colour in my size. Stratford City, I have found, has been the best in terms of size, but does not have all the styles.

3. Wear a fitted tank top, leggings, easy to slip off shoes, cross-body bag.
The lines at al the Primark for the fitting room can be really really long. The good thing is that they have a good system figured out. Only 8 items per person and you can't swap. If you want to try more, you need to get back into line and re-queue. If you wear a fitted tank top, you can try on most things without having to queue, and leave your quota for the harder to try things (e.g., dresses, skinny jeans). The Tottenham Court one, I have found, is the fastest for fitting room queues. They even have a system where your baskets are numbered so although the line is long, the wait is short. Unfortunately, they also have the least sizes...

Also it's HOT in there. Mobs and mobs of people in there means you will be sweating so if it's cold outside, wear a sweater over your tank top so you can stuff the sweater in your bag when you need it.

The bag should be big and hands-free, so you can use your hands to rummage, carry, try things, or push people out of the way.

4. Try it at home.
29 days return policy. Enough said. If you follow 1-3, you won't have to do this. But I've seen people bring back bags and bags of clothing. Not classy? I know. But if you're shopping at Primark, trust me, class is your last concern (see #5). You can't do returns or exchanges at their regular cash. The best place to return/exchange? Oxford Street. They have 10 registers in a corner of their top floor just for this. BUT, I can't say this enough times, GO EARLY. If you don't, 10 registers still isn't going to make the line faster. (Disclaimer: I've only exchanged 2 items before for good reasons because i didn't do #7). Also, they allow exchanges at current price without receipt.

5. Buy for trendy not for classy.
People often say that clothing at Primark is cheap and the quality is crap. To a large extent, it's true. But if all your clothes comes from Primark, then you have a bigger problem. Primark is good for FUN clothing for a wardrobe with a high turnover rate. Primark itself is big and fun, filled with every style imaginable with average price of £8 per item. But when it comes to class, material matters. Looking classy sometimes isn't just about style, but it's also about fabric and cut. You can tell these things. Think before you purchase.

Dress i did not buy

6. Buy Kids
No, not actual kids, but buy in kid sizes. Their kid sizes are huge. For shirts, dress sizes, their Large is about Women's UK6. Shoe sizes, I'm generally a 35/US 5, which is about a UK Kids 2. If you can't find your size, they might have a style similar in kids in your size. All three pairs of flats are from the kids section and Caleb actually likes them. Their selections are smaller, but worth a try. I was trying on these kids shoes when to women working at Primark were next to me discussing how many kids shoes they've bought for themselves.

7. Check the quality.
Buttons fall off, seams rips, style goes awry. My last trip there, I bought this super cute dress. When I got home and put it on, Caleb was like, omg what's that nasty thing in the back? Apparently the giant gold zipper is sewn on the outside of the lace dress and went all the way from my neck to the middle of my butt. The devil is in the detail, as my grand-boss loves to say.

Caleb loves to look for flaws in my Primark buys and he usually finds them (at this point, you might have realized he hates that store). So before you buy it, make sure to do a quick check to make sure everything is in tact.

8. Don't go if....
  • You don't like shopping
  • You are carrying a boyfriend/SO who hates shopping
  • You don't have enough time
  • You don't have patience
  • You don't like tripping over clothing, shoes, or children
  • You hate rummaging
  • You hate trying things on
  • You hate crowds
  • You hate crying babies
  • You hate americans
  • You hate the french
Hey, Primark isn't for everyone. Sucks for you!!

Now that I've spent this much time declaring how much I like shopping at Primark, I shall leave you with this: Primark bans attractive people.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Oral-b Smartseries 5000 vs Healthy Clean Precision 5000

Like I said, it's been more than 3 years since I bought my Oral-b ProfessionalCare Smartseries 5000 electronic toothbrush.

The toothbrush, though rechargeable, does not have a battery replacement methods and you will need to really hack it to change the battery:

As my toothbrush sits with the battery life only lasting 2-3 days, I considered changing the battery myself, only to realize I have no tools, and decided I will just buy a new one.
At the time when I bought my first one in December 2009, not very many people had been using expensive electric toothbrushes, so there were not that many reviews on Amazon. At the time all reviews were glowing - including the one i provided:

At this point, in May 2013, there are a ton more reviews about the toothbrush now. So while I researched the prices, I started reading negative reviews on the toothbrush - things like the battery life sucks or the charger breaks easily. I got a bit worried and after digging into the issue more deeply by reading various consumer reviews on different sites (, and all their international counterparts), I discovered that there appears to be a voltage problem. The new Smartseries toothbrush no longer carried dual voltage adapters.  People would basically blow their toothbrush, or not have it charged properly when they bring it to other countries. Nevertheless I thought to myself, that's okay, I can just buy the new toothbrush and use my old adapter....boy was I wrong.

So I bought my *new* toothbrush here:
Note that this seller posted a box that's in Spanish (which i didnt notice at the time i bought it), still calling the new model toothbrush Smartseries 5000. However, when I received it, the box looked like this:

The thing is, you have to give credit to the seller, who actually did sell the latest North American Model of the the toothbrush: Oral-B Healthy Clean + Floss Action Precision 5000. Basically, Oral-B is doing away with the old Smartseries 5000 and replacing it with the new Precision 5000.
However, I soon discovered that I wish she had just sold me the old one, because after "making some business decisions" they decided to really cut back on the quality of the product.
Old Oral-B Smartseries 5000

New Oral-B Healthy Clean Precision 5000

Charger and Voltage - Buyers Beware!

First off you might notice the adapter has changed.:
  • The old Smartseries charger has an adapter and the model is 3731
  • The new Healthy Clean Precision charger does not have an adapter and the model is 3757
Secondly, note that 
  • the old 3731 adapter is dual voltage from 100-240v
  • the new charger 3757 is single voltage
    • either 110v-130v with American plug
    • or 220v-240v with British 2-pin plug (looks like european but smaller in diameter)
Thirdly, you cannot use the old charger 3731 for the new toothbrush 3757. Some websites claim you can, but I have tested this and you cannot.
So, as you might already know, I live in Paris. The voltage output in paris is 220v. I currently have an American charger who can only take input of up to 130v. To use this would blow up my adapter and likely my toothbrush.
Easy, so buy a 220v British charger and use an adapter right? Well, to buy one will cost me about 30 GBP (like another $40) but it's not even about the price. The British 2-pin plug is not very universal at all. Even a lot of British homes don't have a 2-pin shaver socket in their bathrooms and must buy adapters for them, let alone homes in France. My only other option really is to buy a voltage converter, just so I can use my toothbrush.
So for the charging problem, the new toothbrush is:
  • unfit for international travel (which is ironic because they give you a travel case)
  • unfit for europeans in general (they only have british 2-pin)
At this point, I'm running out of steam so I'm not going to go into the smaller differences on the two toothbrush (there are some and negative ones for the new ones) but they are not detrimental to purchasing decision (I think). I did hear that it takes much longer to charge the new toothbrush than the old one and there are often battery and charging issues. Since it hasn't happened to me yet, I can't comment about that. 

Let's just say that after a few uses, I prefer the old one much better than the new ones.

Oral-B 5000 - Naming Confusion

I felt the need to do the dental care world a little favour and write about the issues of the new Oral-b Professional 5000 that i just received. I wish I had really known this before I got it.

Towards the end of 2009, after going to get my teeth cleaned and suffered sensitive gum bleeding for the billionth time, I began researching about electric toothbrushes. After looking through the different types and reading about them and discussing this with Mike Z, we decided to go with the best recommended toothbrush at the time, the Oral-b ProfessionalCare Smartseries 5000. It was likely the most expensive toothbrush at the time too, selling for close to $200 in Canada before tax. But i think one of the exciting thing was that I was now living in the US and it was about $110 with no tax and a $20 rebate (which I had completely forgotten about after we got it).  The price wasn't that much more after rebate than other leading brands at the time and this one was #1 on all the sites so we went with it.

I was really happy with my toothbrush after receiving it. At first i'd still use a manual toothbrush when i got lazy, but after a while I only used the electric one. There are a couple of modes on the toothbrush but i never bothered figuring out how to use them and stuck with daily clean and floss action brush head in all the 3+ years i've owned this. With daily flossing, my dentist visits were a lot less agonizing. There were still some bleeding because my gum is built that way, but significantly reduced. 
Recently, my toothbrush battery life has been dwindling. At full charge, the toothbrush can only last about 2-3 days before it completely dies so I started to worry about it completely dying on me soon. I checked the prices of the toothbrush in Europe, as I now have moved to France, and they were all significantly more expensive than the US (though not as expensive as canada for some reason -.-). 
I bought the toothbrush off of Amazon again and I was led to believe I was buying this:

I had it delivered to NYC. When my friend Elliott went to see his gf there, he brought it back to London for me. Brand new in a sealed box - fantastic. And then I took a closer look at the box:

The box said it was Oral-b Professional Healthy Clean + Floss Action - Precision 5000 (how's that for a mouthful), and not Smartseries. At this point I started to panic. I went online and frantically searched for the differences between Precision 5k and Smartseries 5k. I mean, it's a $100 toothbrush...did I get ripped off? Although I never found confirming evidence that the two branding was the same, I noticed that a lot of sellers and mom and dad reviewers were calling the toothbrush one name, while the box says another. Some have reviews for smartseries but show box for precision, some have review titles for precision but the box say precision. 
P&G Red Flag #1: Note that most of the "reviews" I found online were all stay-at-home mom and pops who were given the toothbrush for free and then asked to write a review for them on their blog. If you were to google "Smartseries 5000 reviews" You will get a TON of advertisements masked as reviews. They were not real reviews, but basically copied and pasted the features so they can get a free toothbrush. This made finding real reviews really difficult.
I also noticed at this point that these toothbrush all have different names depending on the country in which they were being marketed. For example, in the UK, the toothbrush is named Triumph 5000. Interestingly, the toothbrush, being made in Germany, also has the name Triumph 5000 across the side of the handle for both my old one and my new one. I tweeted to Oral-B and they were very quick to respond and it was confirmed that they are the same type:

After some more digging (Caleb wants to know why I spend so much time on something so insignificant.....and decided that I was too curious for my own good), it looks like they have been rebranding for the last two years and all the sites are as confusing as their own site. 

As far as I can tell at this point, they were doing away with the name Smartseries 5000, and there's a really good reason for this. If you are considering buying the 5000 series, I would advise you to CHECK to see if you are getting the Smartseries or the Precision, as there are DIFFERENCES.  But no websites ever tell you about them nor do sellers differentiate them so when you purchase it, you can be buying one or the other. See my next post: Oral-b Smartseries 5000 vs. Healthy Clean + Floss Action Precision 5000