Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Romantic Nook

We’re on fire over here at Casa de Smidge this week. Two days ago my wife called me, very excited, saying, “Good news! I won four tickets to Six Flags!”
My immediate thought was, “There’s five of us.” I kept it to myself for the moment.

Then she said, “The kids are out of school at the end of this week. You should take a day off work!”
“A day off? What’s wrong with the weekend?” I inquired.
“Do you have any idea how crowded it will be on the weekend?”
Well, yes, things are usually more crowded on the weekends, because people like me have jobs.

“How did you win tickets to Six Flags, anyway?”
“A radio contest online.”
A radio contest online? Is that what you do all day while I’m at work? I kept that one to myself as well.

“Anyway,” she said, “we’ll talk and figure out when we can go. I’m excited we get to go for free!”

Hmm… free. Funny you mentioned free, because from the moment this conversation began, all I could hear was money being sucked out of my wallet.

For starters, we need another ticket. I looked up prices online, and a general admission cost $59.99. Then there is a $25 parking fee, gas to get there and back, $17 hamburgers and $9 sodas, and $20 pictures of us screaming – some joyfully, some in abject terror -- as we drop off the precipice of death on the roller coaster du jour.

All that, plus I need to miss a day of work and burn one of my precious vacation days that I like to use to avoid meetings? Free is starting to sound like it’s going to cost me just under $650. While I was on the Six Flags website looking up ticket prices, I noticed there was a “jobs” section. Maybe I can work there for the day while my family goes on the rides to try and defray some of the expenses that are coming with all this free stuff. Oh well.

Then, today at elementary school, our winning streak continued. Son Number One was the lucky second grade super reader to win a grand prize in the super reader grand prize giveaway. This is their last week of school, and apparently they have abandoned math and English in favor of talent shows, costume contests, and prize giveaways. It was announced to the entire school over the PA system that he had won a Nook e-reader. He called to tell me all about it.

“Dad, I won a Nook at school with my golden ticket!”
My immediate thought, besides a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory tangent, was, “A Nook. OK, that shouldn’t cost too much to own. E-books are cheap.”
“Great, buddy! That’s really cool. You are one lucky dude. Is it color or black and white?”
“Huh? It’s real you know.”
“Yes, I figured it was a real one. I was asking about the screen… Never mind. I’ll see it when I get home. Congratulations, that’s really neat!”

When I got home, the new Nook was out of the box and charging up. I already had a Nook account, so I connected to our WiFi and logged in. When his new Nook synced up with my account, my son already had two books in his library; The Tree of Death, and Other Hilarious Stories, by yours truly, and Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austen.

Hmm… I don’t remember downloading Pride and Prejudice. It must have been free. My book is written in family-friendly language and will be just fine for him if he decides he needs a laugh, but I’m not entirely sure about Pride and Prejudice. Let’s face facts, though. He may be a super reader, but he’s eight years old. I doubt he’d get past Jane Austen’s first page.

It was when I went to the Nook’s home screen that I noticed the obvious problem; namely the fact that this device is connected to the internet. There, on the bottom of the screen, was the “What to read next” section, showing us four helpful choices from the Barnes & Noble Top 100, complete with vibrant pictures of the book covers.

Silver Linings Playbook – OK. No big deal there.

The 1st Victim – No graphic cover art, but I’m not in love with the title. (Said the guy whose humor book is called The Tree of Death…)

Possession – This is what stopped me in my tracks. My eight-year-old’s new Nook has a picture of a topless woman with her back turned to us, holding a cluster of grapes, and showing a lot of side boob. Not good.

Beauty From Pain – Another topless women, this time lying in bed, partially covered by a sheet, holding a glass of wine, and showing a lot of leg. Not much better than side boob and grapes.

Hmm… This is not optimal. This reminds me of when I got my wife her first Kindle. As a joke, while I was setting it up, I downloaded a free “adult western novella,” called In the Marshall’s Arms, complete with the sweaty, shirtless cowboy on the cover, so it would be the first thing she saw. She said, “Very funny,” and erased it. The only problem with my little joke was, from then on, the only thing that pops up on my Amazon suggestions list are questionable books featuring sweaty, shirtless cowboys.

Now, I can’t imagine that Amazon has shared my supposed love of western-themed erotica with Barnes & Noble. That seems unlikely, given their competitive relationship. So I have to conclude that either the B&N 100 is mostly smut, or somehow, Pride and Prejudice triggers “romance novels” to show up in your feed.

I guess it doesn’t matter too much why it is happening. Since it is happening, I need to figure out a way to keep the Nook from delivering topless women to my eight-year-old, or he’ll never get to even see, let alone use, the cool prize he won.

There doesn’t seem to be any parental control features on the Nook, so I may have to simply download a bunch of children’s books and then disconnect the WiFi. The only problem is, I already logged in once. These things have a tendency to remember stuff like that and do it on their own. If I can’t get it figured out, I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to tell him.

“Sorry, son. Unfortunately, the e-reader from school is a porn machine, so I bought you a Kobo instead.”

Hopefully it won’t come to that. Maybe I can distract him by telling him there was a mix up, and he really won a trip to Six Flags.

Then I could sell the Nook to pay for the fifth ticket.

That might just work.

See you soon,


Copyright © 2013 Marc Schmatjen

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