Sunday, March 30, 2014

Volume 9, Number 3: An Open Letter to Dean Foods

To: Dean Foods Customer Service Dept.
From: Mark Rabinowitz
Subject: Melody Farms
Date: March 30, 2014

To whom it may concern:

What, exactly, did you do to Melody Farms?

Melody Farms was a Michigan-owned company for 60 years before Dean Foods bought it four years ago.  I remember them from my childhood and thus considered it to be a brand I trusted for dairy products, especially milk and ice cream.

Yesterday, I came across a special at a local grocery store for Melody Farms’ “frozen dairy dessert” for $1.25 for a 1.75-quart container.  I decided that even though “frozen dairy dessert” is not the same as “ice cream,” I’ve bought products from other companies that had to be called “frozen dairy desserts” because they did not qualify as “ice cream,” and didn’t have any serious issues with them.  Furthermore, Melody Farms, as I’ve said, is a brand I remember favorably from my childhood, so I felt that I couldn’t go wrong.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  What I had was almost tasteless with no creamy texture.  As a matter of fact, the “cookies & cream” variety had much more of a gritty texture.

I wondered just what I had bought, at which point I did something I should have done way back at the store, which was read the ingredients.

First ingredient: Not milk. WATER.

I was shocked.  Last time I checked, water was never a dairy product, and never will be.

I realize that Dean Foods owns a number of different ice cream brands here in Michigan—Dean’s, Country Fresh, Stroh’s, and Sanders as well as Melody Farms.  Having worked in market research in the past, I imagine that after acquiring Stroh’s, Sanders and Melody Farms, your marketing executives wanted to position each brand differently, and perhaps those executives decided that Melody Farms should be the brand for cheaper “frozen dairy desserts”.  Even if my suppositions are wrong, at least they make sense.

What I don’t get is what I had for dessert earlier today.  A “frozen dairy dessert” whose first ingredient is not a dairy product—that doesn’t make sense.  I would call that disappointing.

In closing, I want you to re-evaluate the recipes you are using for all Melody Farms “frozen dairy desserts”.  I would prefer that my last memory of Melody Farms be something better.  I understand that there will be a market for people who wish to save money by buying a “frozen dairy dessert” instead of a more expensive ice cream.  That does not give Dean Foods the right to serve anything that is extremely disrespectful to older Michigan consumers’ memories of—and trust in—Melody Farms products, and definitely not worthy of being called “frozen dairy desserts”.

Thank you in advance for your time and due consideration.

Sincerely,

Mark Rabinowitz

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Volume 9, Number 2: Cold Car Crazy, Revisited

A few weeks ago, my 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix was driving me up the wall. With the problems listed below, which I did not mention in my previous blog entry, I was seriously considering buying a newer car. However, it turned out these problems were easy or cheap to fix (and three of them were more my fault than the car's).

  1. The windows kept getting frosted on the inside--turns out that the problem was never the weatherstripping; it was me tracking snow and other moisture into the car; that moisture would ultimately evaporate, only to be trapped inside the car. Removing the driver's side front floor mat and bringing it into the house to dry seems to have helped.
  2. The driver's side window wasn't rolling down--that was related to the moisture problem (#2 above). The same moisture that was frosting up my windows on the inside, was also freezing the windows to the weatherstripping on the door. Using a blow dryer on the window worked, and I rubbed some de-icer on the edges of the window and on the weatherstripping in an effort to help prevent this problem from ever happening again.
  3. On Super Bowl Sunday, I had trouble removing a burned-out bulb from one of my tail lights because--get this--tons of moisture had gotten into the tail light and turned to ice, so I had to resort to using a blow dryer to melt enough ice to get the bulb out. The cause is that the seal on that tail light had been compromised (it's a common problem with this car, from what I've read).
  4. The washer fluid wasn't coming out when I needed it--that problem was also my fault. I had some cheap Slug-A-Bug washer fluid that froze up in 32° Fahrenheit or lower. Siphoning out that fluid (something that I could not do until temperatures got above 32°) and replacing it with a better fluid (the kind that works down to -30° F) seems to have done the trick.
  5. On top of all that, my car was having trouble starting, but that was due to a battery that was four years old and was no longer holding a charge; replacing that was inexpensive and effective (not to mention a no-brainer).

Now that I've conquered these issues, I am no longer debating buying another car. On the contrary, I've re-dedicated myself to keeping my Grand Prix going as long as possible. I've already lined up a few repair projects that I'll tackle when the weather gets warmer:

  1. The fuel filler door is being a real pain in the neck to open and close (this is another common problem with the 1997-2003 Grand Prix; I'd like to either fix the hinge on it, which is faulty, maybe because the hinge pins are rusted, or replace the door if it comes down to that)
  2. The driver's side molding rail needs to be replaced (that's a piece of metal that supports the plastic molding that goes over the rocker panel; without it, the molding sags like a clothesline, and that's just what happens when the rail turns to rust).  I've already had experience with this repair because I replaced the same rail on the passenger side four years ago.
  3. I'm going to see if I can use some silicone adhesive to restore the seal on the right tail light so water doesn't get into it again.  The way I see it, I've got nothing to lose in trying this--if it works, it'll save me from having to buy a replacement tail light on eBay or from a junkyard, and if it doesn't, at least I'll still have eBay and junkyards to fall back on.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Volume 9, Number 1: Cold Car Crazy

I'm having a bit of a debate with myself right now. I wonder if it is a good idea to buy a newer car when I hardly drive my current car at all (I work out of my home 80% of the time these days, so I only drive about 5,000 miles a year)--it's not quite as extreme as buying a luxury car or a sports car just for trips to the supermarket, but it's as close as it gets to that extreme. At the same time, however, I am not sure if it is a good idea to spend good money to fix all of the problems I'm contending with in my current car (the same 2002 Pontiac Grand Prix I bought in 2008), only to be met with other problems down the road. The main problem right now is that the weatherstripping is apparently not able to keep out moisture, so I occasionally have windows frosting up on the inside (and the windows aren't rolling down, either--moisture must have gotten between the windows and the seals, causing them to stick together).

I'm always looking for new ways to save money. I know I already mentioned this on my Facebook timeline, but I have a portable jump-starter that I've had for 12 years (it's a Car Start 1000, similar to the one shown here). However, when jump-start a dead battery with it last month, it didn't work because it wasn't holding a charge. I figured it was time to start looking for a new portable jump-starter. But then I realized... before I buy a new one, I've got nothing to lose by taking the old one apart to see if it's got an internal battery that I can replace myself. And lo and behold, I found out that it did (see the picture below--that dark gray block that the booster cables are bolted to is a 12-volt sealed lead acid battery).


I managed to find a replacement battery (on eBay, your friend and mine). Last Wednesday, I successfully put in the new battery, giving my 12-year-old Car Start 1000 a few more years of useful life. I ended up spending $29 on that battery (by comparison, a brand new Car Start 1000 goes for $60 on Amazon.com). But I should let you know, replacing the battery in a portable jump-starter is not easy. In addition to the usual hazards associated with sealed lead acid batteries, putting the Car Start 1000 back together was not as easy as taking it apart was. In retrospect, maybe I should have looked into this project a few years ago... that kind of battery usually doesn't last much longer than a few years, let alone 12.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Volume 8, Number 5: Uni Culpa

When I last wrote on this blog a week ago, I was ticked off about a blooper Paul Lukas had committed when he published the results of last month's Uni-Watch Redesign the Dolphins contest.  He had said, "As everyone knows, the dolphin should be wearing a helmet with a dolphin wearing a helmet with a dolphin wearing a helmet with a dolphin, and so on. This is known as an infinite regression... it seemed reasonable to assume that at least a few people would find a way to solve this longstanding problem by incorporating an infinite regression into their design concepts. Incredibly, though, not a single reader did so."*

My entry did, and to the best of my knowledge, I was the only one who did put a dolphin on the helmet that the leaping dolphin is wearing (instead of the "M" that you've seen on the Dolphins' logo since their inception in 1966).

The good news is that, once Paul realized that he had goofed, he promised that he would "set the record straight", and today, he kept that promise. I would have been happy with one paragraph with links to my graphics, but in my opinion, Paul exceeded my expectations. He also showed readers the entry I had submitted, and on top of that, he even quoted one of my e-mails on the subject, both of which went beyond what I had expected.

One more footnote about my contest entry: Daniel Gold, who also submitted an entry to the Dolphins contest (and whose modernized take on the Cleveland Browns' elf logo earned him an honorable mention in the Redesign the Browns contest results), noted that I made a blooper myself. He said that by stretching and skewing the sunburst, I had changed it into an impossible form, since the sun is, and always will be, a sphere. In short, what I had done with that sunburst was no better than the one in the leaked Dolphins' logo from last December, the one that implied that a sunburst could be underwater.

So, on his advice, I went about making a modified version of my logo, one with the sunburst restored to its usual round form. And son of a gun, it works. For the sake of comparison, in the image below, I have the logo from my submission on the left, and the modified version on the right. The graphic below that shows what the unis would look like with the modified logo.



My only issue with the modified logo is that it looks even more unoriginal and derivative than it already did, as I can now say there are only three differences between that and the logo the Dolphins used from 1997 to 2012:
  • The colors in the logo (changed the aqua and orange to the hues of aqua and orange the Dolphins used in the 1970s; replaced the navy blue parts in the logo with the deeper, bluer aqua the Dolphins used in 1997-2012)
  • I rotated the leaping dolphin by 15 degrees
  • The aforementioned "infinite regression"
That's OK with me, though. I've always liked the 1997-2012 logo, especially with the facial expression on the dolphin. The 1997-2012 logo and unis are fine as they are, really; I just can't stand the orange jerseys, and I also hate when the Dolphins wear aqua pants with aqua jerseys.  But above all, I can't stand the leaked logo from December, which another Uni-Watch blog reader said looks like something Sea World would have commissioned.
* Here is last week's Uni-Watch column announcing the results of the Redesign the Dolphins contest.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Volume 8, Number 4: No, This Is NOT a Fish Tale

A funny thing happened this morning.

Paul Lukas published the results of last month's Redesign The Dolphins contest.  But no, that wasn't the funny thing.

He opened with two paragraphs about how he didn't find any entries that had anything like an infinite regression*--which, in this case, is putting a logo on the helmet on the dolphin in the logo (rather than an "M" like in all the helmet logos the Dolphins have been using since their inception).

Thing is, I did do that, as I explained in my entry last month.  Maybe it was because the logo on the helmet in my submission was kind of small and hard to tell that it was a smaller version of the same logo, and not some messed-up-looking "M".  In any case, supposing that I had made the logo too small, then gosh, I missed out on the "Best Infinite Regression" award.  I brought the oversight to Paul's attention, and he both apologized for it and said he would mention my entry in his column next week.  I'll keep you posted on that.

Anyway, I went and made a much larger version of my Dolphins logo today.  When you click on it to enlarge it, you should see that it has a logo on the helmet on the dolphin on the logo on the helmet of the dolphin (that's going one step further than in my February 22 submission).


* As an aside: My introduction to infinite regression came when I was very young--6 or 7 years old at the time.  I was reading through my older brother's copy of Dynamite magazine--remember that, late '70s/early '80s kids?--and there was this comic strip depicting TV star Farrah Fawcett holding a copy of Dynamite with her on the cover, which featured her holding a copy of Dynamite with her on the cover, which featured her holding a copy of Dynamite with her on the cover, which featured her holding... you got the picture.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Volume 8, Number 3: WhatIwouldadone: The 2002 Buffalo Bills

As I write this, Uni-Watch honcho Paul Lukas is unwinding from his Daytona 500 trip, so I figure he'll need a couple more days to evaluate the several dozen entries he's received for the Redesign the Dolphins contest.  In the meantime, I've been working on a series of concepts.  These concepts represent what I would have done if certain logo/uniform tweaks were left to me (hence the name, WhatIwouldadone).  (Technically, you've already seen one example in the form of the Astros concept I did last year; last November, the Astros went with uniforms that look like something a high school team could replicate from the Eastbay catalog.)

The year: 2002.
The place: Buffalo, New York.

Situation: After 18 seasons with the uniforms they had been using, the Buffalo Bills decided it was time for a change.  Never mind that they won four AFC championships in the middle of that 18-season run.

Problem: The unis they went with (and proceeded to use for nine long years) were utter disasters that looked like rejects from the Canadian Football League.  Adding navy blue to the color scheme was bad enough.  Cluttering the uniform with all sorts of bad design elements--royal blue piping on the jerseys, colored shoulders on the road jerseys, stripes on the sides of the jerseys that didn't match the stripes on the sides of the pants, and adding two stripes to an already stripe-laden helmet--made things far worse.  The Bills, to their credit, ditched these duds in 2011, although they went back to using white helmets (which means back to QBs throwing INTs against other teams wearing white helmets--two of which are AFC East division rivals, the Jets and Dolphins).

Solution: I would have made tweaks to the 1984-2001 unis to correct issues I saw with that set.  When the Bills switched to red helmets in 1984, they did little more than peel the helmet logo decals off the old white helmets and stick them on red helmets.  If they were going to switch the helmet shells from white to red, they should have swapped the red and white elements on the helmet decals as well.  That's what I did in my concept (below).  The red streak on the charging buffalo didn't stand out much against the red background, so I made it white; I also got rid of the white outline.  Another problem was that the Bills now had helmets that were a different color than the jerseys and the pants.  It smacks of "cobbled together from garage sale leftovers."  So I made the blue jerseys on the home unis red, and made the blue pants on the road unis red as well.  (Consequently, I changed all red outlining to blue.)  I figure that going from blue jerseys to red would have a possible added bonus: more appeal to Buffalo's Canadian fans (Canada's flag, after all, is red and white).  As it happens, the Bills play a game in Toronto every now and then.


The only misgiving anyone might have is that this concept looks more like what the Kansas City Chiefs have been using for nearly five decades, but hey, anytime the Bills and Chiefs play each other, they could always use 1960s "throwback" unis to skirt that issue.

And there you have it... a "WhatIwouldadone" concept.  Other concepts I have in mind that you might be interested in: the Cincinnati Bengals, the New York Knicks, the Washington Wizards, the Houston Rockets, the Toronto Blue Jays, the Washington Nationals, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Nashville Predators, and the Phoenix Coyotes.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Volume 8, Number 2: Applying My Talents to South Beach: My Concept for the Miami Dolphins' Logo and Uniforms

A few weeks ago, I submitted an entry to Uni-Watch's Redesign the Browns contest. My entry into that contest didn't get published on ESPN.com, but hey, you can't win them all.

Last week, they announced another contest, this time to create a logo and uniform for the Miami Dolphins. The owner of that team, Stephen Ross, had announced that they would unveil a new logo before this year's NFL Draft.*

Anyway, what you see before you is my entry into the Redesign the Dolphins contest.  (Click on the graphic below to see a larger version of it.)


And now, please let me indulge in a detailed explanation of what I did and why I did it:

The logo: I made a number of tweaks to the current (1997-2012) logo, making it look fresh, yet still recognizable and consistent with previous Dolphins logos.
  • I took the sunburst and stretched and skewed it (not to mention that I changed the colors to be consistent with the color scheme the Dolphins used in the 1970s).
  • I also rotated the leaping dolphin to make it look like it's at the height of its leap (and as a bonus, it now looks like it's charging like a speeding sports car).
  • I also tweaked a very small detail: Take a closer look at the helmet on my leaping dolphin. It has a repeat of the logo on it, not an "M". I've always thought the reason they went with that "M" in the 1960s was that, at that time, it was too darn difficult to draw a dolphin inside the helmet on the dolphin. I don't know of any Miami-based football teams that used an "M" on their helmets; otherwise, a historical context like that would have made a valid excuse. But with today's computer technology, there's no excuse for that cheesy "M". Bottom line, for the sake of solidarity, I want that dolphin wearing the same helmet that the players themselves wear.
Below is a graphic showing the current logo side by side with the one I ended up with.


The color scheme: I used the '70s aqua/orange color scheme (the hue of aqua in my design was also used in '91-96 when Jimmy Johnson was the Dolphins' head coach). Why?  It goes back to the time of the team's greatest successes to date.  In the 1970s, the Dolphins went to the playoffs seven times, including both of their Super Bowl victories. The 'Fins have not won a Super Bowl since 1973, and have not even been in the AFC Championship since 1992, so they might as well use the aqua they used at both those times. Also, navy blue is out. It should have been excised from the Dolphins' unis after their atrocious 2007 season--the one where they were a hashmark away from 0-16**. (I even took it out of the leaping dolphin--in its place is the darker aqua the Dolphins have been using in recent years, because I however much I wanted to ditch the navy blue, I still didn't want to lose any of the shading or the facial expression we have on the 1997-2012 leaping dolphin.)

The wordmark/numerals: Miami and Art Deco are so strongly associated with each other (especially in Miami Beach and South Beach), and yet no Miami-based major sports team uses Art Deco anywhere in their uniforms. I decided it was time to end that with this concept.  The wordmark, numerals and NOBs have their roots in this Art Deco-inspired font that I found on myfonts.com. Besides, cursive wordmarks like the one the 'Fins*** have used since 1997 are better suited for baseball anyway. Heck, the one they used in the '80s looks like something from the Lingerie Football League.

Other uniform changes: The '70s aqua hue also returns to the pants (but the aqua pants are only part of an alternate set, and only then with white jerseys--I hate "unitards") and the facemasks. Both were last seen in 1991-96 (the final five years of the Don Shula era and the very first year under Jimmy Johnson).  The striping on the helmets and pants is different in that there are three solid stripes with no gaps between the stripes.  I took out the aqua "neck roll" that debuted on the Dolphins' 2012 white jerseys (because the Dolphins of the '70s didn't have different-colored collars).  Finally, all uniform sets have orange belts.  Why? Because the 1973 Dolphins--the last Miami team to win the Super Bowl--only wore orange belts.

And now to go over things I didn't mess with:

The helmet is still white. After the AFL-NFL merger in 1970, all of the AFC East's teams at that time (Colts, Dolphins, Bills, Jets, Patriots) used white helmets, leading to lots of intradivisional games where quarterbacks threw passes to the wrong receiver. The Jets switched to green helmets in 1978, the Bills to red in 1985, and the Patriots to silver in 1991. The Colts moved to the AFC South in the 2002 divisional realignment, leaving Miami as the only AFC East team that has never used colored helmets. In fact, out of the ten AFL teams that merged into the NFL in 1970, only the Dolphins have used white helmets throughout their entire history. I was not about to mess with that.****

The jersey design is not radical, like the design the Seattle Seahawks started using last year, or the one the Patriots used in the '90s that looked like something that belonged in the World League of American Football. The Dolphins had very conservative jersey designs in the days of Don Shula and Jimmy Johnson, and I wanted to stick to that.

No unusual striping on the helmets or the pants. I'll confess, I briefly considered doing some Art Deco-styled striping (to go with the Art Deco numerals/wordmark/names on the back), or perhaps sunbursts down the side of the pants and the middle of the helmet, but in the end, I felt that stripes like those would stand out too much and detract from the overall design. No orange jerseys, either. The Dolphins never wore orange jerseys under Shula or Johnson.

* A possible new logo was leaked two months ago, and Uni-Watch founder Paul Lukas found one major fault with it: The dolphin appears to be swimming underwater, which by itself isn't a problem... until you consider that it's superimposed on the sunburst.  And as Paul says, "You can't have a sunburst underwater, guys!" On top of that, the person who leaked the logo in the first place thought the dolphin looked too much like a whale (just take the fin off its back, and it really looks like a whale). Also, there's no facial expression or helmet on this dolphin logo.
** The Dolphins beat the Ravens in overtime in 2007.  The Ravens could have won that game if they had their kicker, Matt Stover, kick from the right hashmark instead of from the left (because Stover is right-footed and kicking soccer-style right-footed from the left hashmark is more likely to result in a missed field goal, just like Gary Anderson with the Vikings in the '98 NFC Championship game).  Curiously, Brian Billick, the Ravens' head coach, was the offensive coordinator with the '98 Vikes--you'd think he would have known better, and directed the Ravens' offense to stay away from the left side of the field when they got into field goal range.
** I never call the Miami Dolphins "the Fish". As you know, dolphins aren't fish, they’re mammals!
*** As an aside, I think the Bills should go back to using red helmets, and the Jets should go back to green helmets. That way, each AFC East team would have a different-colored helmet.

I want to add that as with ESPN.com/Uni-Watch's previous "Redesign the..." contests, this is not sponsored by any sports team or sports apparel maker; it's just for fun. From what I read, Dolphins chief executive officer Mike Dee has already shown a new logo to three ex-Dolphin legends, although it is not known if that logo is the one that was leaked or if it is one that nobody else will see until the Draft. Nevertheless, Paul Lukas has said that in addition to publishing his five best entries on ESPN.com, he will also send them to the Dolphins for their consideration (he didn't specify whether it would be the ownership, front office, marketing, or the equipment manager, just "the Dolphins").

Which is all the more reason I look forward to finding out how my submission fares in the eyes of the Uni-Watch universe.