Crosswalk Audio Warning Announces Risks of Crossing the Street — Duh

Sometimes things don’t work out they way they should. And now children in Salem, MA are learning that lesson every time they come and go from school.

Right near the Carlton School, the state installed a new light with an Enhanced Pedestrian Warning System in the crosswalk. According to the Salem News, when pedestrians press the button to cross the street, they hear this audio recording:

“Cross street with caution. Vehicles may not stop.”
So forget everything the Sesame Street gang told you. Even if you cross in the crosswalk, hold hands, and look both ways–you can still get run over by a truck.

Photo left by Photo right Flickr photo by LoopZilla.

If stating the obvious turns out to be an effective use of taxpayer money, perhaps we should install audio warnings on other things:

  • Condom Packages –“Copulate with caution. STDs and semen may penetrate prophylactic.”
  • Church Altars–“Say ‘I Do’ with caution. Marriage may not last.”
  • Sushi Bars–“Eat with caution. Consuming raw or undercooked foods may cause you to poop or vomit.”
  • Amusement Rides–“Ride with caution. Restraints may not function properly.”
  • Super Bowl Halftime Show–“View with caution. Television network may not block out obscenities and nudity.”

Readers– do you have any ideas for useful Enhanced Warning Systems?

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A “Proactiv” Last Minute Christmas Gift


When you’re shopping 48 hours or less before Christmas, you’ve already put yourself in the “it’s the thought that counts” category. Last minute shopping (LMS) is more about getting yourself in and out of stores without losing your sanity than it is about finding the perfect gift.

So here’s the best way to cross people off your list as fast as possible. You won’t need to stand uncomfortably close to others in line, battle over department store remnants, or deal with overwhelmed sales people. Buying these final gifts will be as easy as getting a bag of chips from a vending machine.

That’ because this gift actually comes from a vending machine, and it’s not an expired food product. It’s Proactiv. You know, the acne treatment that recruits babes like Katy Perry, Avril Lavigne, and Julianne Hough to show the world that even they get blemishes, and only Proactiv works.

Photos by

The company has expanded from selling their products on TV to selling them in gigantic boxes in the middle of malls. They’re big, they’re bright, and they’re fitted with flat screens playing continuous commercials. It’s like a tricked out Redbox, but for zits.

That’s where I met Christian, a last minute shopper at the Square One Mall in Saugus. He was looking through the glass at the 3-Piece System 30 Day Trial as a potential gift for his sister. Although he’s been a happy Proactiv user in the past, he didn’t buy it for his sibling.


“It’s kind of a shitty gift, huh?” he said.

Christian is right. But who cares? You’ve got a deadline and a really far walk back to the parking lot. Just do what these people did and buy pimple cream for your mail carrier, your great uncle Joe, and your niece.


The catch? Make sure all teenagers open you gift away from friends or significant others. Your present may reduce redness and acne, but it can also cause tears.

Like I said, LMS is not about them, it’s about you. And since Proactiv comes with a 60 day money back guarantee, your recipient can return your lousy gift. It will be a reminder that next year you should be more proactive about your holiday shopping.

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Why I’m Not Buying my Husband Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 for Christmas (and you better not either)

When my husband made his Christmas list, I checked it twice to make sure Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 wasn’t on it. He’s not on the naughty list. But if he gets MW3 he will be, because it will cause WWIII in our house.

Unfortunately, besides the requisite new pair of slippers, it’s the only thing he wants. So I’ve been on damage control since Black Friday by telling his friends and family not to buy him that game. I think my mother in law is on board, since she blames the older version for her lack of grandchildren.

I know I’m not the only female praying Santa doesn’t leave the season’s most popular video game under the tree. As many other women have discovered, if a man gets Call of Duty, he’ll neglect all his other duties for months. That first generation of little boys who played Super Mario Brothers might have grown up, but they’ll never grow out of gaming. Now instead of their mothers telling them to quit playing and come down for dinner, their wives and girlfriends have to do it.

We exist between checkpoints and matches. While they’re planning attacks and scoping out the best sniper hideouts, we’re preparing dinner, paying bills, and walking the dog– with the unnerving sound of explosions and gunshots booming from the next room. But unless you construct a physical barrier between a man and his television, limiting playtime is impossible. After he beats the game, he can play infinate matches on Xbox Live with strangers from down south or little boys from England.

Even tried-and true-ways to his heart like these won’t get him to remove his headset:

Me: We’d better go. The movie starts in an hour.
Hubby: I’m in the middle of a match.

Me: We’re supposed to be at your parents house for dinner now.
Hubby: Let me get to the next checkpoint first.

Me: It’s late, I’m going to bed.
Hubby: Uh alright. I’ll be there in a few minutes.

As annoying as his gaming is, the worst part is that there’s nothing I can do that compares. There’s no amount of People Magazine discussion groups I can host or Teen Mom marathons I can watch that even come close.

And after he reads this, I’ll probably have to buy him the game after all.

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Hanukkah Decorations: Where to find the best and worst end caps

Decking the halls for Christmas is easy—just walk into to any gas station or department store and you can purchase enough red and green flair to compete with the North Pole. Decorating for Hanukkah, however, is a challenge. In order to burn candles for eight nights, you’ll have to burn a lot of gas first just to find them.

But now you don’t have to schlep all over town to get ready for the Festival of Lights because I did it for you. I scoured the back corners of stores everywhere to bring you The Best and Worst Hanukkah End Caps of 2011.

Each store below is rated from zero to eight lights– with eight lights meaning it has the best Hanukkah selection. (Note: The candle in the middle of the menorah is always lit, and it isn’t counted in the rating.)

T.J. Maxx, Marshalls & Home Goods – 0 Lights

TJX stores don’t get a single light on the menorah because they didn’t even try to get in the Hanukkah spirit–or at least not all of their stores did. When I asked an employee at a huge T.J. Maxx/Home Goods where the Hanukkah decorations were, he looked terrified!Surrounded by Santas and reindeer, he explained that only select stores carry holiday cheer for Jewish people, and they weren’t one of them. TJX consolidated their Hanukkah decor, he said, because last year each store only stocked a few items.

It’s so hit or miss that I wouldn’t bother. I missed at a Marshalls, but I did find a small selection at another Home Goods. Some items included blue nutcrackers and Star of David pasta. They also threw in Hebrew letter cookie cutters that aren’t even the same letters found on the dreidle.

Walmart – 1 Light

Although the Walmart I visited had an entire wing called the Christmas Shop, their Hanukkah section was a pitiful mess located in the craft aisle. Sandwiched between surplus Christmas goods and leftover turkey tablecloths, their Hanukkah selection didn’t even take up a full end cap. They had the basics like an electric menorah, candles, and some gelt hidden under an artificial flower, but I had to dig through a disaster to find it.

Check out the Hefty brand Snowman napkins that were in the Hanukkah section, compared to the full snowman set available in their Christmas Shop.

Pier 1 Imports – 1 Light

Pier 1 gets one light for effort. Instead of an end cap, they had an end table topped with an overpriced menorah, candles, and some Hanukkah confetti.

CVS – Two Lights

CVS sure has an idea of who makes up their Jewish demographic. I couldn’t find their Hanukkah section until an employee directed me to the end cap directly across from the pharmacy.

While you browse the pain relievers and canes, you can also pick up CVS brand chocolate coins for $1.19 each, or the Hanukkah gelt for $1.49.

The Paper Store – 4 Lights

After an employee thought very hard about where the Hanukkah merchandise was located, she led me to an end cap at the rear of the store. Their selection was small but thoughtful, including pretty gift wrap, craft projects for kids, and a box of Hanukkah cards that were actually designed after 1970.

iParty – 6 Lights

It wasn’t all menorahs and dreidles at iParty. Although they had a full mini aisle of Hanukkah stuff, they pulled the old blue and silver trick to pad their selection.

In between some cute finds like a “My First Chanukah” bib, they strategically stocked anything that was blue, white, silver or gold.

Christmas Tree Shops – 7 Lights

Welcome to tchotchke central. If you’re looking for fake gem encrusted dreidles, Hanukkah hot chocolate kits, and Star of David teddy bears, you’ve come to the right place. And it’s all for the dirt cheap prices you’ve come to love from the Christmas Tree Shops, like paper goods for just $1. The only downfall is the quality is what you’d expect from them too. Good thing whatever you buy only needs to last eight nights.

Target – 8 Lights

It’s a miracle! Target is on target with Hanukkah this year. They actually had their Hanukkah decorations in the holiday section side by side with the Christmas wares.

Although they were a bit pricier than the Christmas Tree Shops, Target’s selection was modern, unique, and better quality. They’ve got the best one-stop-Hanukkah-shop I found (but I’d still buy the paper goods at the Christmas Tree Shops, you can’t beat a buck)!

Photos by Jonathan Barbato

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How to Stop Occupy Boston: The antidote

Turkey by Mark A. Hicks, illustrator

For the Wicked Witch of the West, it was water. Finding the antidote for Occupy Boston has been more difficult. Very little will keep the 24/7 protestors from their tent city– not rain, not cold, not snow, not violence, not illness. But there is one thing that will lure Occupiers out of their Colemans and away from the Rose Kennedy Greenway, and his name is Tom. I don’t mean Mayor Thomas Menino. I’m talking about Tom the Turkey.

According to the Boston Herald, many Occupiers will be going home for Thanksgiving. Others will head to Franklin Park for a donated meal.  This means that tomorrow the Greenway will be largely unoccupied.

As the Herald reports, Menino would have the opportunity to move in on the movement. But so far he hasn’t indicated he’s about to show Occupiers the door (flap, rather). So poultry can do what the law can’t. And all it takes is moms home cookin’ for the die-hard protestors to leave in droves.

It’s all so ridiculous that it sounds less like reality and more like an episode of South Park. But a cartoon version could remedy the issue faster than Boston officials. Cartman and company would liquefy turkey, load it into Super Soakers, and infiltrate the camp. While the Tryptophan in the turkey put the Occupiers to sleep, South Park townies would take back their land. Simple as that.

But we’re not talking about a fictional town; we’re talking about the Hub. You know, the city that can’t legally reclaim Dewey Square because a judge ruled Occupiers can’t be evicted.

And let’s be realistic, even if we could hear crickets chirping in Camp Occupy we wouldn’t take it back– not when it could interfere with plans to camp out for Black Friday shopping. So there’s a more sensible solution, and bird’s the word. Families of occupiers should just cook more turkey.

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Blue Laws Hurting Retailers or Saving Thanksgiving in Mass?

Thanksgiving is on the endangered holiday list. It’s been steamrolled by Halloween, and now it’s merely a day of carbo-loading for a glitzier American affair—Black Friday. But leftover Puritan era laws might save the fading Puritan era holiday.

Yesterday the Boston Globe reported that a 17th century Blue Law in Massachusetts, which states that stores can’t open before midnight on Thanksgiving without a permit, are disrupting retailer’s plans. Stores that already announced midnight openings like Target, Walmart and Macy’s have had to adjust their hours. But the real story isn’t about Blue Laws interfering with holiday shopping, it’s about shopping interfering with the holidays.

Instead of families sitting around the Thanksgiving Day table sharing what they’re thankful for, they’re plotting a Black Friday plan of attack:
VIP mall parking? Check.
Coach bus tickets to the outlets? Check.
Team assembled to storm Best Buy for a $299 laptop? Check.

High on manufactured cheer and credit card debt, we’ve let retailers transform the national day of thanks into a prelude for something that’s quite the opposite:
Thanksgiving: Giving thanks for what you have
Black Friday: Buying things you don’t need

And what about the people who work on Black Friday—the modern day Bob Cratchits of the United States? Everyone who stocks, scans, and bags Black Friday goods before the sun comes up has their Thanksgiving cut short.

It’s especially lousy for moms who work retail. On Thanksgiving morning they’re the first to get up to put the turkey in the oven, cook all day, serve a meal, clean up, and then run to work for the craziest shopping day of the year. (And because Black Friday isn’t a real holiday, they probably won’t be paid time and a half.) Mommy will work like a dog for two days straight so that Americans can fight over limited quantity door busters, and retail big wigs can squeeze out as much profit as possible.

Instead of repealing the Blue Laws we should make them stricter. Who really needs to start holiday shopping before five am? It’s not worth sacrificing the little family time we have left to help push retailers into the black. What a conscience that our forefathers gave Massachusetts, the state that founded Thanksgiving, a little blue reminder about the true meaning of the holiday.

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Smartphone App Helps Drivers Find Parking: Fear for your lives

Make way for more Boston drivers looking at their cell phones instead of the road. According to the Boston Herald, Beantown is piloting a new app to help drivers find parking spaces—a commodity even harder to find since Mass Ave is losing 71 spots to build a bike lane. The app, called Parker, uses sensors in the ground to lead drivers to open spaces. It will probably lead to more accidents too.

Using Parker is like putting a game as consuming as Angry Birds in the hands of drivers, but with a real prize: be the first to reach the green circle and you’ll win a parking space. Seems like a step in the wrong direction since the state is trying to get motorists to put down the phone with texting while driving laws.

Massachusetts: Let’s ban texting, emailing, and reading messages while driving.
Boston: Let’s make an app especially for drivers!

Normally when Boston drivers are hunting down a spot, it’s a total body experience—eyes on the road, mouths forming curse words, one hand on the wheel while the other flips off cyclists. But with Parker, motorists have an incentive to pay less attention to the street and more attention to their mobile devices. They won’t be swearing at bicyclists who cut them off– they’ll run them over instead.

Lets say a driver using Parker actually arrives at an open space without killing anyone; it’s not over yet.  That’s because everyone else is hightailing it to the same available spaces. And because Parker lets people reserve and pay for some spots in advance, being the first to put on your directional next to an open spot doesn’t mean it’s yours. Imagine the friendly conversations drivers will have trying to sort that one out.

So if you’re on foot, on a bike, or on the road–watch out. Boston’s streets are about to get crazier than mall parking lots during the holidays.

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