August 30, 2009

Not unlike a car wreck for enjoyability

I just happened to look back at my very first blog post. It occurred August 14, 2004. That means that I completely missed my own five-year anniversary. Blogiversary, which is a word I detest. But detest is a word I like. So props to "blogiversary" for enabling me to use a good word.

But what I really wanted to write about is the Apple store. It stinks. Really. I mean, I love our MacBook and am very happy we switched. So happy, I planned on buying a Mac mini to replace our dead desktop as the homework and web and games computer for the boys.

So two weeks ago I tried to go to the Apple store, but they were in the middle of a three week closure for remodeling. The store used to have four tables, some glass partitions, some alcoves, and a theater area near the back. So I waited, and on Saturday the whole family braved the 104 degree afternoon and arrived to find absolute mobs of people crowded inside the newly remodeled Apple store.

Which now had SIX tables, some glass partitions, some alcoves, and instead of a theater in the back they had a single check-out line and three "Genius Bar" stations. With the mobs, it was impossible to find any employee to talk to. So we waited in the checkout line. We knew what we wanted, were ready to buy. After 25 minutes while the four people ahead of us were helped, we got to the front. "We want to buy a Mac mini." The skinny, long-haired kid holding the repurposed Newton gives us a funny look. "Have you already spoken to someone a
bout your computer needs?" "Uh... no." At this point I felt like we were in a timeshare presentation. He swept us out of line and... to the front door, where the only person in an orange shirt (all the others wore blue) was hiding out of the way, behind the door, where it would be impossible to see him unless you were exiting the store.

"We want to buy a Mac mini. The one with bigger memory." "Well, all five of my people are busy now. You could wait... about 45 minutes, maybe. Or you could go online and make an appointment for tomorrow."

At this point I decided that people at Apple are really good at designing interfaces for one single person. But they desperately suck rocks when it comes to more than one person. I was so befuddled, it never occurred to me to punch him in the nose. I declined to wait, and I politely took his business card while thinking "I will only use this to point out a name in my complaint letter." We piled in the car and went home. At least our trip to Target to get reading glasses and boxer shorts was successful.

I got home and went to Within six minutes I'd bought a Mac mini, complete with educational discount (my wife is a teacher) and free shipping. Why, Apple Store, do you make it so hard to give you money? Why do you insist on making me feel foolish by presenting me with an unintelligible store while simultaneously pointing out that all of your employees are geniuses, and I can sit and worship at their Genius Bar if I can work out the perplexing puzzle of your store layout?

The Apple Store was, in summary, an exercise in truly awful customer experience. But I guess it wasn't awful enough before, so they had to shut down for three weeks to remodel. Mission accomplished.

August 27, 2009

Listen to the author... no, really.

Intro in the podbean. This is a poem. I was going to read some fiction, but I couldn't pull it together in time.

This is part of the Robin's Readings series. All the coolest people on the web are doing it, so I thought I'd tag along. Visit Robin's blog for other links to those playing along.

August 26, 2009

haiku wednesday - August 26, 2009

This week's words are

So busy today that I wrote my three haiku on the train to work... then forgot to post them. D'oh! Well, I hope I can make the rounds before the end of the week.

noise suddenly stopped
where did the kids vanish to?
hair fracture in vase

lightning fractures night
thunderous noise, whiskey rain
she'll vanish by dawn

blank radio noise
blips fracture reality
stars wink, fade, vanish...

August 19, 2009

haiku wednesday - August 19, 2009

This week's words are

Tough morning after a very very long work night. I may skip the gym, but I won't skip my 3WW! Today I had to break from my purist tradition and use a derivative of one of the words. Today's haiku pay homage to Town Hall Meetings, the roaches that host certain "fair and balanced" "news" programs, and codgers who chaperon high school mixers. My only regret is that I was unable to use "truth decay" in a more extended dental metaphor.

shout ungraceful lies
truth decay results in riot
revolution, now

graceful webs decay
when spiders don't maintain them
bugs, freed, run riot

decay in morals
turns dance to lewd riot
no graceful waltzes

August 12, 2009

haiku wednesday - August 12, 2009

This week's words are

@%^*(V&^#(&*( Mexico and all their cheap-shot cheating hack soccer players, and the referees they paid off. Um... no, I really don't feel better now. But thanks for asking. Barely time to breathe this week. No need for false praise; these pretty much suck as bad as the US midfield defense did today.

witch competition
bad jinx... capture moose, not mouse!
failed to qualify

capture attention;
qualify, equivocate;
jinx the election

the Twit Olympics:
Jinx, the cat, could qualify
and capture the gold

The new anthology is here! The new anthology is here!

The day after our old PC died a painful and horrible death after a short bout of dementia, I received my contributor copy of the San Francisco Writers Conference Anthology with my story in it. Yay me! I haven't read it yet. I think I shall before the summer is out. My very good friend and writing buddy Julaina, who first turned me on to the prospect of volunteering at SFWC in early 2008, also has a piece in the anthology.

Looking forward to CONCACAF qualifying

Spoiler alert--if you are planning on watching a recorded version of the USA @ Mexico game from today, don't read further because you'll see the result, which was of course a predictable travesty. And if you choose to read on, be prepared for a good old-fashioned rant. Insert two profanities between every pair of words, and you'll understand what my house sounded like during the second half of this game.

With the regularity of hurricanes destroying trailer parks in Florida, the US lost yet another soccer game on Mexican soil. On the field were 11 good American soccer players, 6 good Mexican soccer players, 5 cheating hacks, two officials on the take, and one official who apparently missed the payoff meeting. The game followed the CONCACAF prescribed script: Have the US show promise, then have the referees take away their win, then hope the Americans get so befuddled that the Mexicans score a late goal to send the 90,000 fans into a fit.

Sour grapes? Sure, I admit utter bias, and bitterness whenever my teams lose. But once again, Mexico proved they are classless cheap-shot artists (for the most part). The US players showed they are not yet ready to win a World Cup. And CONCACAF proved that they do not want to see a World Cup that excludes Mexico.

In the opening minutes, a clear penalty for the US was
not called. Time and again, particularly in the final 30 minutes, the referee appeared not to see blatant fouls and cheap shots by the Mexican players. At one point, three Mexican players surrounded and bullied an injured American lying on the ground; another time, one player ran 20 yards to push an American without reason... the ref did nothing when shortly before he'd given a yellow card to one of the Americans for a basic foul. Ultimately, the US missed out on a goal because the linesman called an offside which clearly wasn't. In replays it was clear; at full speed it was clear.

Mexico deserved their two goals. The first was a blistering shot amid truly abysmal defending. The second came again from sketchy defending that allowed too many green jerseys to be open in the box. But the US deserved three goals, not just the one they got. I guess Donovan could have missed the penalty. And perhaps Davies might have failed to score on his breakaway that was called offside. But I'll bet any amount that at least one of those is scored, resulting in a draw instead of a loss for the US.

I hear you: Stop whining, bad calls are part of the game, the referee was bad both ways, yadda yadda. Here's the thing: The ref was not bad both ways. He let some pretty bad behavior go by the kids in the green shirts while handing out yellow cards to the Americans like he got them on a special sale.

And I hear you again: The US should have played better, worked their way through this adversity. Definitely the US should have defended better; their midfield was porous at best and absent at times. Steve Cherundolo was left in deep two-on-one situations about half the game. Mexico had an open range up to about 20 yards from the American goal. That was Bradley's game plan, and it would have worked for a tie or a win if not for the refereeing crew. The officials exist to keep the game fair, to stop cheating. That's not what they did tonight.

Finally, here's why I think the rest of CONCACAF qualifying will be fun for American fans: As much as CONCACAF does not want a World Cup draw that excludes Mexico, they can't imagine a 2010 World Cup that excludes the United States. Can you imagine the money lost if the USA does not participate? The long term damage done to the sport in this most lucrative of countries? Yes, I feel bad for Trinidad & Tobago, Honduras, El Salvador. Barring a complete meltdown that referees can't fix, the US will qualify. So will Mexico. CONCACAF can't afford otherwise.

It's too bad, really, but quit your whining, smaller Central American and Caribbean countries. That's the way the game goes. The refs are bad both ways. When qualifying is over, you'll just be left to contemplate the sour grapes.

August 7, 2009

Hiking to Ellis Peak

Last weekend, we camped in the Tahoe area. On Monday we hiked a gorgeous trail to a mountaintop called Ellis Peak in the Tahoe National Forest. The hike was about six miles total, over an easy and well maintained trail with a pretty steep climb over the beginning quarter mile. Some of the most spectacular views of both Desolation Wilderness and Lake Tahoe can be seen along this trail. As you'll see in the photos below, we were graced with unparalleled, perfect weather.

The hike started poorly when Sam t
ried to climb and then jump off the gate where we parked (which Ethan is sitting on here). It looked like he took a header right to the pavement, but fortunately his leg got stuck enough that he never hit his head; he only got a charlie horse in his thigh. But he was OK, and we charged onward.

The first quarter mile consists of dusty switchbacks up the side of the mountain, a few hundred feet vertical. At the top is the first of a long line of spectacular views, and a series of alpine meadows with various types of plants. At the top, the trees look weather beaten and sparse, clearly battered by years of wind. This is a ridge that rises well above Desolation Wilderness and then falls off into the Tahoe basin, so it's essentially the top of the wall.

Peter standing in front of Desolation Wilderness

Maria in one of the alpine meadows, sort of.

Peter and Sam on top of the rocky ridge

The trail meanders across the top of the ridge for a quarter mile before dropping onto the back side of the mountain, into a long and quite pleasant stroll through redwoods and white pines. We met a few other day hikers along the way, but largely the trail was quiet. A mile or so farther on, the trail splits--one path to Ellis Lake, and the other to Ellis Peak. We chose the peak as our destination.

Peter, Ethan, and Sam overlooking the valley leading up to the trailhead

A view of the valley; the road to the trailhead winds through it, and Lake Tahoe is at the other end of the road.

Ethan waiting for his old man to catch up, sitting among redwoods and white pines.

The last half mile is again very vertical, rising back to the highest point on the ridge, a pinnacle that towers over Lake Tahoe on its western side. On the western side of the ridge, the wind whipped across and cooled us nicely; on the leeward side, the sun beat down and shade was difficult to find. We ate our lunch on the leeward side at 8,700 feet, admired the view, then began the trek back along the trail.

Maria in front of the valley.

Maria from Ellis Peak with Lake Tahoe in the background. You can see nearly the entire south end of the lake, including Heavenly, from this point.

On the way back, the views were equally spectacular. Some were even more dramatic because of the angle looking at the sheer rock faces along the ridge. The whole affair took us about four hours. The five of us (us four plus my brother) went through five gatorades and about three liters of water, and we could have used a little more.

Peter trying not to fall off the peak or look to knackered in the elevation.

All the boys, from front to back: Sam, Ethan, Mark, Peter

When we got back to our Meeks Bay campground, we jumped in Lake Tahoe (brrr) and played some touch football on the beach.

This weekend: More camping, but at lower altitude. We will be going to our usual Lake Sonoma campsite with dear friends. For me: three weekends of camping in a row! See you on the other side.

August 5, 2009

haiku wednesday - August 5, 2009

This week's words are

Just back from four gorgeous days in Tahoe. Great fun camping with my boys and my big brother. Nice to get a few days away from crazy work, but it means all the crazy work piled up in my inbox. Egads. This week's haikus pay homage to politics, pop tarts, and college softball players. Not necessarily all at once.

When you make your pitch,
accentuate the glamour
and downplay the slime.

those who love glamour
accentuate little things
and pitch righteous fits

diamond's glamour babe--
accentuate smile, strikeouts
mascara fast-pitch