Sunday, September 13, 2009


This past week our little family hit a major milestone. Our elder offspring turned nine years old this week, and the big gift this year was mom's old iPod Nano. Yes, we got away with a used gift. Okay, so we spiced it up a bit with a shiny pink case, some new headphones, and all the greatest hits of Hanna, Selena, and the Brothers Jonas that we could round up (all through legal means, of course...). Natalie was thrilled, and frankly so were we. Why?


You see, at last we finally have something of real value that can be taken away at a moment's notice. In fact, just two short days after receiving it, she got it taken away from her for a day after pulling her usual non-listening antics at bedtime. Yes, finally, after nine years of a ridiculously smart and sometimes devious little squirt managing to get away with just about everything short of murder around here, finally we have a reason for her to listen to daddy telling her the FIRST time to go brush her teeth, as opposed finally acknowledging him yelling it the FIFTH time in frustration and calling him the "mean daddy". We should have given her an iPod YEARS ago.

I noticed another major benefit to our daughter's new possession. Anyone who knows our daughter knows that a)she's got some lungs and b)she ain't shy about using them. Sure, she can sing, but Jeezuz does it have to be that same Miley Cyrus song over and over and over again? I don't care if our daughter could out-sing Celine Dion herself....there's only so many times I can hear the same verse before I want to stab myself in the eardrum with the nearest kitchen utensil. Well, now that she's got an ipod, she gets to listen to that same song, and many others in her repertoire, to her heart's content. And when she listens to them, she tends to sing softly to herself. Ah...peace.

And conveniently, the next day she brought home her shiny new violin for school practice. Maybe that Miley song ain't so bad after all.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A Sabbath Feature?

We've done something many homeowners only do once in a lifetime. We bought a new oven. And yes, my lovely wife already asked if we could go out to dinner and celebrate.

So here's something I never knew. Many ovens come with a Sabbath Feature. A Sabbath Feature you ask? Yes, indeed. It's designed so that Jews who observe the rules of the Sabbath that proclaim that no "work" is to be done on the Sabbath can still have a hot meal. Essentially it's a glorified "delay start" feature.

But what really blew my mind was that a)this feature is actually CALLED the "Sabbath Feature" in the instructions, and b)it's something that's actually CERTIFIED KOSHER, by the proper Kosher certification authorities. Don't believe me? Check out page 21 of the instruction manual here. Or, for more info, check out the Star-K online site.

I wonder what happens if I that feature on ribs night?

A fun visit to the Genius Bar

I love the Genius Bar at the local Apple Store. Not because of the Geniuses. With the right training and gumption, anyone can fix a Mac. But instead, what I LOVE is the process Apple has put into place to make you feel welcome at the Genius Bar, as well as the interesting characters you come across while there.

Today was a great example. Last night, my iphone decided to stop talking to me. I use the Voice Control feature quite often to call people, and when you tell your phone "Call Joe at Work" it's supposed to respond with what it thought you said ("Calling Jose Plurk"). However, my phone decided to just clam up and make the call, without telling me what it was doing. Real annoying when using the headphones and not looking directly at the phone's screen. So here was the process I went through:

1. Looked through Apple's discussion boards for a while. Closest thing I found was someone who managed to sweat all over his headphones and short them out.

2. Logged into Apple Support and requested a support call.

3. Five seconds after hitting Send My request, my telephone rang, and a dude from support was calling to help.

4. After trying a few things we found we couldn't fix the problem, so the dude was swell enough to check the hours of my local Apple Store and make me a convenient appointment for 12:10pm today to go meet a genius.

5. I got to the store around noon to discover that on a rainy Labor Day, EVERYONE hangs out at the Genius Bar. I checked in with the Concierge, walked back to the bar, and there was my name, third on the list.

6. After ten minutes, Genius Alex called my name. We discussed the problem. I told him how I'd tried a restore of the phone last night, to no avail. We tried a different set of headphones. We tried my headphones on a different phone. Then, he asked me if I restored the phone from a backup. I said yes, and he suggested perhaps I do a restore without doing it from a backup, thinking the backup might contain the obvious software error that was present. After reassuring me I'd lose nothing by doing this, he restored my phone from a computer within the store, and voila, the problem was fixed.

There's a reason for the alleged Apple Tax. And I'm happy to pay it. All computers have problems, Apple included. But I'm willing to pay a little extra to know that the problem will get fixed without wasting my time.

While I was hanging out the bar, I witnessed just the cutest thing I'd ever seen in a computer store. A little old lady, perhaps 70 years old, dragged a large canvas bag into the store and straight to the Genius Bar. The bag contained a 20" iMac. When she reached the bar, she made eye contact with Genius Alex and said, "Young man, can you help me? I've lost my Safari and I can't get it back."

Genius Alex and I looked at each other with knowing eyes, completely understanding that the poor old lady had mishandled her mouse ever so slightly, dragging the Safari icon off the dock so that it had disappeared, and somehow she felt her only solution was to lug the entire computer back into the store for some sort of warranty repair. How sad, and adorable. I nodded to Genius Alex with an "I can wait" gesture, and he took the little old lady aside to show her the error of her ways. Two minutes later, the little old lady gave Genius Alex a thankful pinch on the cheek, and he was back to wrap up his session with me.

Apple's retail setup is just superb. Despite crowds, they are able to handle traffic flow while making it appear effortless. They have an entire section of the store devoted to repairs, with nary a stray USB cable lying around in disarray, unlike your typical IT department or PC repair shop that usually looks like a grenade went off in the store. They have even done away with registers, instead employing several "light-blue-shirts" who roam around with handheld devices that scan your items for purchase as well as your credit card wherever you might be standing in the store (although I did notice that these handhelds were PocketPC based, and made sure to point that out to the store employee who sheepishly acknowledged it). In the days on big box stores closing and a vast amount of shopping being done online, other retail companies could learn a thing or two from Apple here.

I did notice one negative aspect of Apple's layout in the store, however, while this handheld process of checking people out was very slick, it also made it very confusing for customers to know where to go to actually buy something. I wanted to purchase a replacement keyboard today and, after pulling it from the shelf, I looked around and noticed there were no registers. I then looked around for an available employee but, given the crowds, every one of them was deep in conversation with a customer at the time. After wandering aimlessly for five minutes I finally was able to make eye contact with an employee who directed me to an available light-blue-shirt person at the back of the store dedicated to checking out people's purchases. They need a sign.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Morning in The Canine Kingdom

It's 6:15am on what was supposed to be a sleepy Labor Day Saturday morning. Instead, I've been up for an hour trying to get the smell of Lysol out of my lungs after having cleaned up this morning's disaster.

Lately, mornings have hit their stride in terms of routine. Typically I'd wake up around this time and grab a shower while Daisy relaxed patiently, locked away in her crate in the corner of our bedroom. After my shower, I would let her out, she'd grunt a few times, stretch, and then crawl into bed with my wife and stay there for another half hour or so til someone brings her outside.

Today was a little different though. At around 5:30 I woke up to the distinct sound of an excited dog waiting for a certain child of ours to "quietly" unlock the crate without waking her parents up. "Natalie, just open the crate and let her out already" I mumbled. But it turns out I was off base. Instead, it was my wife trying to get the crate open in the dark. She told me Daisy was making some odd noises. A second later, Daisy was released and leaped onto the bed, but rather than snuggle in she continued to act a little crazy. In an instant, I knew the problem.

Anyone who knows me is aware I've got a nose the size of Maryland. And with all that real estate comes a sense of smell not unlike that of a bloodhound. Alright, maybe a bloodhound with a sinus infection. In any case, despite the fact that my head was buried in the pillow, I noticed an oh-too-familiar scent wafting through the air.

"She pooped in her crate...get her off the bed!"

"What how do you...?"

"Trust me! Get her outside"

I immediately got up while my wife delivered the dog to the outdoors. With the lights on low, I began to search the crate and the blanket within it for the offending material. Unfortunately, I found it with my hands and my knee rather than with my eyes.


So here I am, done scrubbing the crate and carpet, wide awake and blogging. I can only blame myself for this instant, being too lazy late last night to spend more than 38 seconds on the final dog walk before bed. Daisy looked embarrassed, and I couldn't blame her.

But here we are, the American Family, two-point-four kids and a dog.

Life with Daisy has generally been enjoyable. She's an endless source of playtime for the kids, she's generally low maintenance as far as dogs go, and when we take her to the dog park we get comments about her speed and agility like "Holy crap that mutt can corner better than my BMW" and "I thank you for bringing your dog here and tiring mine out for the day." Yeah, she's pretty freaking fast. I'd like to get a radar gun on her.

Daisy's got her issues like any dog, but none of them are insurmountable. Her razor-sharp teeth have helped her chew through two leashes, a Gentle Leader harness, a couple of our kids' necklaces, and a leg of the kitchen table. But overall she's not destructive, unless she's left alone. When we're in the house, she's mellow and happy, but when we put her in the crate and leave she completely freaks out as if we were slowly lowering her crate, with her in it, into a molten volcano for a canine sacrifice. One time she managed to break out of the crate and, though I missed the cleanup, I understand it looked like we'd taken a direct hit from Katrina. When we take Daisy for walks, she goes on immediate alert status, attempting to bolt after anything that moves, be it a human, another dog, a leaf, or an airplane. We're working on these, even enlisting the aid of actual dog trainers.

Okay, an hour has passed, and Daisy's decided to wake up and start her day for real this time. Gotta go for a walk now.

Wait a minute...wasn't this supposed to be the KIDS' dog?