The literal one and only Paul Kafasis, of Rogue Amoeba, One Foot Tsunami, and Just The Tip.
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CVS’s Handmade Flu Shot Signs

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A flu shot is a good way to avoid learning if pumpkin spice cough drops are as nauseating as they sound. On a recent visit to the CVS in Harvard Square1, I came upon the following sign advertising that very service:

Don't gamble on the flu / Let us vaccinate youCVS Store #240

I was struck by the non-corporate nature of this sign, and particularly amused by its arts and crafts style. My hunch was that someone had made it with supplies from the store itself. I could easily picture them grabbing a deck of cards2, a few markers, and a piece of poster board, then putting this all together. A close inspection shows the sign even has a border of Christmas lights on it, though they were not illuminated at the time. While the whole thing was probably assembled in a back office, I’d like to imagine its creator sprawled out in the middle of a less-visited aisle, looking exactly like a middle schooler working on a science fair project.

As I do so many times when something amuses me, I snapped a picture before moving on with both my shopping and my afternoon. The following day, however, I needed something from the CVS near my house (Store #1900). As I entered, I came face to face with another handmade sign:

Don't let the flu knock you out / See your pharmacist todayCVS Store #1900

Where’d the second letter “k” in “knock” go? Its absence gave the effort a delightfully homemade feel. Meanwhile, the boxing theme was likely inspired by a nearby statue of Boston welterweight Tony DeMarco, which sits just across the street from the CVS store in question. Here it is on Google Maps:

CVS and Tony DeMarco StatueLeft Circle: CVS Store #1900; Right Circle: Tony DeMarco Statue
[Photo credit: Google Maps Street View]

Finding two different handmade signs in two CVS stores multiple miles apart seemed like quite a coincidence. I began to suspect something was up, and immediately headed over to the other CVS near my house (Store #4666) to see if they had a similar sign. However, a quick look around that store turned up nothing. I left thinking that perhaps it was mere chance that the first two stores were advertising flu shots in similar fashion.

It took a few days, but that line of reasoning was eventually shot down at the Porter Square CVS (Store #717). While contemplating the rather alarming frequency with which I was finding myself inside CVS stores, I stumbled on a third handmade sign:

Don't get sidelined by the flu / Tackle it with a flu shot todayCVS Store #717

This sign was bizarrely hung at about hip level, and the legibility was not great, but it did contain an impressive amount of detail. Given the end zone markings, we can surmise that “The Flu” is squaring off in some sort of football bowl game against “CVS Pharmacy”. Zooming in on the center of that image enables us to see some rather crooked play.

Caped pharmacist with needle taking down a flu player
In the words of The Tick, that’s dirty pool!

That pharmacist appears to have used a massive needle to take down his opponent. That’s surely a flag for unsportsmanlike conduct, if not grounds for outright ejection. The pharmacist also appears to be wearing a cape, which is an extremely inadvisable choice of uniform for football.

Once I saw this third sign, I was certain I’d find more at other stores. That very day, I visited several additional locations to document more of these signs. I don’t have a lot going on in my life.

Don't get sick as a dog! Get a flu shot todayCVS Store #1022

This sign loses a few points for being hung way at the back of the store, but gets them back because it was in the pharmacy waiting area, where people are sure to have time to notice it. It also earns bonus points for the use of a cute dog.

Don't get caught! Get the shot!CVS Store #25

Speaking of cute, this little flu guy is adorable, and helpfully labeled to boot. I’m not entirely convinced I shouldn’t let him to catch me.

Spread the word, not the fluCVS Store #1012

This sign’s lack of any real art made it a little bland beyond its bright colors. However, the inclusion of the coupon in the bottom right is intriguing. Are there people out there who wouldn’t normally bother to get a flu shot, but will change their minds if offered a $5 off coupon for their CVS purchase of $25 or more? Probably!

Get your flu shot at your favorite spot with your local CVS crewCVS Store #260

CVS Store #260 was easily the smallest I visited, and they had a correspondingly tiny sign. Rather than a large sheet of poster board, this is a single 8.5″x11″ sheet of paper. Despite its cramped quarters, the store does offer a photo printing center which these smiling pharmacists no doubt used. This is a decent quick and dirty effort, but there’s a lot of text, and those hashtags are absolute trash.

As I headed home after a long day of visiting pharmacies, I passed by that second CVS near my house, Store #4666. Coming in through a different entrance, I saw this:

Spread the word, not the fluCVS Store #4666

I don’t know how I missed it the first time through. It’s possible they’d spent extra hours (or even days) working on the details of that needle, and hadn’t yet posted it when I came by on my earlier visit. Either way, it was now obvious that every nearby store had a sign touting flu shots, and that no two of them were alike.

Conclusions

After tracking down these eight signs, I’ve come to two conclusions. First, it seems certain that CVS issued a directive that their stores advertise the availability of flu shots, but chose not to provide any official signage to display. Did this memo suggest making the signs with materials on hand? Was there a budget which would be reimbursed? Or even a time challenge? If we’re lucky, some reader out there will clue us all in to the exact details.

My second conclusion is a bit more prosaic, but still worth noting: There are an absolute assload of CVS stores around Boston. The store numbering system hints at how common CVS locations must be, but many of them blended into the background until I sought them out. Now, it’s clear to me that you can barely go a block without passing a CVS. Each and every one of them is full of people eager to stab you in the arm with a needle. Most of them are even health care professionals who are paid to be there.


Footnotes:

  1. For many years, Harvard Square had two CVS stores within about a hundred yards of one another. There was the good two-story location at 1426 Massachusetts Avenue, and the drastically inferior single-story location at 29 JFK Street. The JFK store had a cramped interior with dingy carpeting, and was best avoided if possible. Of course, it was entirely possible to avoid it, because there was another CVS just up the street. I just said that!

    Yet two years ago, CVS announced plans for another location, at 6 JFK Street. For a brief few weeks in 2015, there were three CVS stores open within spitting distance of one another. The dumpy 29 JFK store closed soon after the 6 JFK location opened, and more recently, the 1426 Mass Ave store closed as well. Harvard Square is now down to a much more reasonable number of CVS stores.

    For more on the comings and goings of retail stores in the greater Boston area, see this post on Store 24. ↩︎

  2. I have a vivid memory of going to a CVS years ago to purchase playing cards and poker chips. I didn’t know quite where I’d find them, but I was certain that I’d seen them in every CVS I’d ever been in, on the end cap of a random aisle. Sure enough, that’s where I found them. ↩︎

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PBones
159 days ago
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This is one of the strangest things I’ve seen in a corporate chain. Keep an eye out next time you’re at CVS.
Boston, MA
MotherHydra
157 days ago
I'm walking over to mine later today to check this out.
toddmichaelryan
159 days ago
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Finally

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It appears that when Apple ships iOS 9.1, iPhone users will have access to a key symbol of human communication. In a beta posted yesterday, Apple greatly expanded the number of supported emoji, including multiple new hand gestures. Of course, there’s one gesture that all have been waiting for, and it looks like we’ll be getting it at long last.

Apple's Middle Finger Emoji
Finally, it will be possible to flip someone off via emoji.

This new middle finger emoji was approved almost 15 months ago, as part of Unicode 7. However, Apple was slow to add it to their devices. After many impatient months, I went so far as to file a bug report with Apple on the matter. A few weeks later, however, that bug report was closed with a disappointed statement of “no plans to address this”. Worse, it soon became clear that Microsoft was taking the lead when it came to expressing one’s self via emoji. When this summer’s iOS 9 betas failed to include this important new glyph, I stewed for hours on end.

Today, however, I can breath a sigh of relief.1 The bird is coming to our emoji. What a time to be alive! Have a look at a full gallery of the new emoji coming in iOS 9.1, which also include a taco, a burrito, an adorable little chipmunk, and much more. Then, sit through a few more weeks of anticipation until we finally get what we deserve!


Footnotes:

  1. As well as rejoice in the fact that I actually got a Radar (bug report) fixed, something fellow developers will know is all too rare. ↩︎

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mattymattmatt
956 days ago
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Congratulations sir!
PBones
957 days ago
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I've never been so happy!
Boston, MA
MotherHydra
956 days ago
Peace among worlds!
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As Little as One-Tenth as Much

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Mother’s Day is this Sunday in the US, and throughout much of the world.1 On the 10th, 11th, many an overpriced greeting card will be given, and many a brunch will be eaten. Most folks will plan to do something for their own mothers. You ought to do something for the mother of your own children as well. But if you’re married, what do you do about the ol’ ol‘ mother-in-law? This seems a thorny problem indeed.

Fortunately, GroupOn is there to help you show just how much you care:

Gifts for Mom-in-Low: $5; Gifts for Mom up to $50

Now we know: As long as you spend at least 10% as much on your mother-in-law as you do on your own mother, your gift-giving will be beyond reproach. You should also aim to spend $5, because that appears to be the magic number. In fact, according to the subject of this email, $5 gifts are “[p]erfect for Mothers-in-Law”.

And just what can you get for $5? Well, who wouldn’t love a five-dollar haircut?

$5 Haircut

And of course, in addition to jewelry and custom photo printed mugs, there’s crap like this:

Notepad; Magazine Subscription
Hey, at least this stuff runs out

This one cracked me up:

Photo on a trivet

It’s sort of awful to put a burning hot casserole dish on a picture of your baby’s face, isn’t it? But if your mother-in-law has only barely-concealed contempt for you, get her a trivet featuring your ugly mug. She’ll get to act out her most violent fantasies, while your own skin survives unscathed, and that’s a classic win-win scenario.

Perhaps the best offer, however, is this one:

Eyebrow Shaping and Waxing

Why tell your mother-in-law that her eyebrows are a goddamned disgusting travesty, and that you can barely stand to look at her? Instead give her a thoughtful deal that leaves the truth politely unspoken, while also allowing her to fix that heinous mess.

The best part?

Eyebrow Shaping and Waxing: Sold Out!

I guess people really do hate their mothers-in-law.


Footnotes:

  1. When I was visiting England back in March, I happened upon this sign:

    Mother's Day March 15th

    My momentary panic was quelled upon realizing those wacky Brits have their own date for Mother’s Day. ↩︎

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PBones
1083 days ago
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Why not buy some terrible gifts for your mother-in-law?
Boston, MA
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Instagram’s Raison D’etre

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Back in 2010, I discussed Twitter’s Raison D’Etre, determining that Twitter existed to provide things like a parody of the mind of the greatest basketball player of all time (which has migrated to a new account here). Facebook, as everyone knows, is a tool for being disgusted by the political whackjobery of people you vaguely know. But what exactly is Instagram for?

Recently, I worked out the answer. Instagram is a social network for talking to hotels about malfunctions in the area of signage. I realize that seems like an awfully specific reason to create a photo-sharing network with over 200 million users, but the evidence is overwhelming.

It all started with this photo, taken in 2012 while staying at the InterContinental on Howard Street in San Francisco:

Boarding Ass
Caption: “4 Star Hotel”

Allow me to publicly state that I was in no way involved in this juvenile bit of vandalism, nor do I know who the feckless, immature perpetrators were. I merely documented their destruction, because come on, that’s funny. The only way to top it would be to remove the “B“ as well and replace it with the “H” from “Telephone”.

To my great amusement/horror, however, shortly after I posted the image I received a Twitter reply from the hotel’s official account:

The InterContinental's reply, reading: 'Thanks for informing us, we’re working on getting this taken care. If there is anything you may need during your stay, tweet us.'
I believe my thought then was “Companies can do that?!”. It was a simpler time.

Following this unexpected success story, later that same week I documented a sign which had been busted for months, if not years:

Hot L Pickwick
Come stay at the Hot L Pickwick

Lamentably, I neglected to geo-tag this photo, and thus it’s likely that the Hot L Pickwick (as it has been known to all and sundry ever since) never saw the post. The sign had been burnt out for ages before I captured it, and it remained burnt out for many moons after.

Things then went quiet for a spell, until two years later. While staying in New York City at the Fairfield Inn, I captured a shot of the New Yorker Hotel. To get this picture, I had to stick my phone out of one of those tiny angled windows, ten stories up. I made sure to geo-tag the location where I almost smashed my phone:

The New Yorker Hotel

However, as there was no issue with the New Yorker’s sign, there was no response from either hotel. I’m pretty much just including this image because it’s a damned good photo. Hey, it’s my website, I’ll do what I want with it!

But back to the matter at hand: figuring out why Instagram was created. The next step on my path to enlightenment came with this shot of the sign for Boston’s famous Union Oyster House:

Union Oyster Hose
You see it’d be a hose, except instead of water, it sprays oysters.

This photo was properly tagged with the Union Oyster House’s location, and while they’re one of America’s oldest restaurants, they’re also hip enough to be on Instagram. Yet the sign has remained broken (and has in fact gotten worse — I believe we’re currently down to NION YSTER HOSE). There can be only one explanation for this, and that is that the Union Oyster House is not a hotel.

The final confirmation as to Instagram’s purpose came just a couple of weeks ago, when I snapped this nighttime pic:

DoubleTree Suits
Their selection of menswear was honestly just awful. It was scattered between hundreds of different rooms across dozens of floors, with no coherent organization.

Not long after I posted the image, I discovered this comment on it, from Doubletree Suites themselves:

A reply: Haha! Nice catch @pbones! We'll let engineering know. #caughtbysurprise

Jackpot! Another broken sign successfully reported to a hotel! It simply cannot be denied that Instagram is providing a platform for informing hotels about signage malfunctions. These results are irrefutable. Further, they indicate that this is a very functional service for the hospitality industry, touting a 67% success rate.

The comments on the last photo didn’t end there though, as my old pal John Moltz offered his congratulations:

WAY TO ENGAGE WITH BRANDS, PAUL

In the immortal words of Dr. Zoidberg, “Hooray! I’m helping!” Now if I could just get Doubletree to hand over some of those warm cookies.

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PBones
1173 days ago
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I figured out what Instagram is for, y'all.
Boston, MA
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1 public comment
MotherHydra
1173 days ago
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Ah, so THAT is what Instagram is for.
Space City, USA

Audio Hijack 3 Has Arrived!

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It’s been a long, long, long time coming, but the day is finally here.

Audio Hijack 3 has arrived!

Yes, we are absolutely thrilled to introduce Audio Hijack 3 to the world! It’s immediately available for Mac OS X 10.9 and up, and we think you’re going to love it. Here’s a look at the new Audio Hijack:

Audio Hijack in Action

We’ve prepared a 45-second video overview to get you acquainted. Let’s watch!

Read on for a run-down of some of the key improvements you’ll find in Audio Hijack 3.

Welcome the Next Generation

We’ve been developing products under the Audio Hijack name since 2002, when Mac OS X 10.1 was cutting-edge! Over the years, users have found incredible ways to adapt Audio Hijack for their needs, leading us to make many updates and improvements. Eventually, however, these changes caused Audio Hijack to outgrow our original designs. We’ve incorporated over a decade’s worth of experience and feedback into Audio Hijack 3 to improve the process of recording and enhancing audio. Every aspect of our previous Audio Hijack products has been thoughtfully examined and considered, with enhancements made across the board.

Start With a New Interface

Whether this is your first time using Audio Hijack or you’re a skilled veteran, you’ll find it’s a snap to get started. Audio Hijack 3’s intuitive audio grid provides a terrific pipeline-style view of exactly how your audio flows. Use our new Blocks to bring in audio from application and hardware sources, adjust it with audio effects, then record it and send it to your speakers.

An audio pipeline in action
A typical audio pipeline pulling in Safari’s audio, adjusting it with an equalizer, then recording it to MP3 and playing it locally

A pipeline can be as simple as one Source Block to pull audio from an audio source and one Output Block to send audio to speakers or a recording. Or, you can build a complex pipeline that captures audio from multiple sources, adjusts it with multiple effects, and saves it to multiple audio formats. Experimenting is fun and easy, allowing you to get the exact results you want.

Session Templates Speed Things Up

The Template Chooser

Of course, Audio Hijack is made to get things done. With that in mind, the new Session templates provide a quick way to complete common tasks. Whether it’s recording from a web browser or cranking up the volume on a quiet laptop, you’ll be able to get started faster than ever. Choose a template and Audio Hijack will open a new Session, pre-configured.

Everything in Its Right Place

The Home Window

Audio Hijack’s new Home window provides a central starting point for all your work. In the Sessions tab, you can create a new Session or use one of your previously-configured Sessions to capture audio. After you record, you’ll find your saved audio ready to preview right in the Recordings tab, sorted by Session. And if you need to schedule timed recordings or create a musical alarm clock, you can do so right from the Schedule tab.

And So Much More

There’s just so much to see in Audio Hijack 3 that a thorough review would take days. To save time, we’ll resort to our trusty old friend, the bullet-point list.

  • Multiple Recorders in One Session – Want to record to both the MP3 and AIFF formats at once, or record different sources in sync? Just add multiple Recorder Blocks to get multiple files!

  • Bulletproof Audio Recording – Every format in Audio Hijack is now bulletproof, so even if your computer crashes, you’ll never lose a recording again.

  • Denoise, Declick, Dehum – Clean up dirty audio with custom audio effects, powered by audio technology licensed from industry leader iZotope.

  • Simplified Audio Effects – Harness the power of audio effects without needing a degree in audio engineering.

  • Audio Block Presets – Saving presets for an Equalizer is obvious, but how about other settings? With Audio Hijack 3’s new presets, you can save configurations for almost every Block, then instantly use them in other Sessions.

  • Improved Instant On – Capture audio from already-running apps, as well as all System Audio. If you haven’t looked at Audio Hijack for a while, you’ll be thrilled to see that installation and updates to Instant On no longer require a restart.

  • Streamlined Recording Options – Audio Hijack offers a half-dozen sensible defaults for recording. Of course, if you’re looking for powerful recording options, they’re still available too.

  • FLAC Recording – Audiophiles will be thrilled to learn that Audio Hijack now supports recording directly in lossless FLAC format.

  • HE-AAC Recording Too – Audio Hijack can now record in the high-efficiency AAC (HE-AAC) format as well.

  • Full-Screen Mode – Whether configuring a tricky Session or focusing on a recording, going full-screen helps you focus.

  • Massively Improved Accessibility – We know many visually impaired users love Audio Hijack, and we’ve worked hard to make it fully accessible with Apple’s VoiceOver.

Go Forth and Download

Audio Hijack 3 offers so much for new and old users alike that you really just have to try it for yourself. Head over to the Audio Hijack page to get more information and to download the free trial. Once you’re ready to purchase the full version of Audio Hijack, visit our online store to purchase for just $49.

Audio Hijack icon Audio Hijack icon Get Audio Hijack Now!

Discounts for Previous Audio Hijack Owners

As always, we’ll be issuing free upgrades to recent purchasers of Audio Hijack Pro. In fact, anyone who purchased since our first public mention of this update all the way back on February 17th, 2014 will receive a free upgrade. Just watch your inbox.

It’s also fairly standard to provide discounted upgrade pricing for customers who purchased the previous version of a product. We wanted to take this one step further. Audio Hijack 3 is the official successor to all of our previous “Audio Hijack” products, so we’ve decided to offer upgrade pricing to all of our customers who have ever purchased a product with “Audio Hijack” in the name. If you bought Audio Hijack Pro 2, Audio Hijack Pro 1, Audio Hijack 2, and Audio Hijack 1, you’re eligible. It’s a small way of saying thanks for your support over the past decade-plus. Just click here for full details on discounted upgrade pricing.

Enjoy!

We’re incredibly pleased to finally release this upgrade and we hope you’ll be glad to have it. Download it, try it out, then let us know what you think!

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mattymattmatt
1189 days ago
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Sweet, congrats!!
PBones
1189 days ago
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This is probably Rogue Amoeba's biggest release ever. It's a big deal.
Boston, MA
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Episode #28: A Wicked Case of the Irish Sourballs

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In this very special episode, Amy and Paul want (to discuss) candy.

Direct MP3 Download

SHOW NOTES

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PBones
1240 days ago
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The last 8 minutes of this episode are perhaps my favorite JTT of all time. Of all time!
Boston, MA
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