Saturday, July 14, 2012

My iPhone Has Fallen and It Can't Get Up

My iPhone hasn’t worked for the better part of two weeks now. That single event has changed my life.
It’s quiet now. It’s peaceful. I don’t automatically reach for the phone, looking to check to see if I got an email or a text message. Looking at Twitter to see what’s trending now. The iPhone is the epitome of instant gratification for a neurotic. And the lack of it is very freeing. I have to sit still, maybe read that book I’ve been saving. Actually sit down and talk to people.
Yeah. I hate it.
I can’t believe how addicted I have become to this little instrument. You know, during my three months on EXODUS at SFO in 1989, this is the kind of technology I would have prevented the Russians from getting. Now, everybody’s got a smart phone. And, once you get one, you can’t let go.
I blame Customs for teaching me to want to be constantly busy. I was on the manifest desk at Satellite 2 at LAX, telling airlines where to put their baggage (there were only two possible carrousels in those days), receiving manifest documents, answering the phone and directing calls. And then I was the Adjudicator for one full year, constantly working to keep up with seizures and transfer of seized goods. I never sat still, even when the others had breaks. I liked the constant motion, the in-and-out of inspectors and airline employees telling me their stories on a daily basis. It was adrenaline. And, now that I’m retired, it’s as if the smart phone has replaced that activity. It’s my cocaine.
So, my friends, if I don’t answer your phone calls or your emails right away, it’s not that I don’t love you. It’s just that I’m off in a corner reading some book. I hate books.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Madame President

This will be a short post.

I'm now the President of the Oakland Athletics Booster Club. I definitely picked the wrong time to assume leadership of this club.

The club has been dying for several years now, due to many reasons, including: the ability of one of the owners, Lew Wolff, to piss off almost every A's fan, the fact that the team will almost surely leave the Oakland area, the fact that the A's haven't been in the playoffs since 2006, the fact that the A's aren't really willing to spend any real money -- you know, David Ortiz money -- to get A-List players for any length of time, ad infinitum.

But now, now that the Commissioner's committee will finally hand down its finding in a month or so, it looks like the A's aren't long for Oakland. And here I am, the president of an Oakland club.

I have two years to serve. Let's hope they're non-eventful years. I actually hope the A's go to Fremont because I want them to have a new stadium and I want them to stay in northern California. The alternatives are just too dire.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Two Games in Seattle

Yelp told me I wouldn't be able to sleep at the Silver Cloud Hotel because of the noise. I just didn't believe them.

Safeco Field is nestled between the railroad tracks in an industrial area of lower Seattle. Silver Cloud is literally right across the street for the field. I thought they meant across a parking lot, over a bridge. No, it's at most 100 feet away from my window. I'm on the 5th floor, and the behemoth of metal and brick towers above the window.

So, two trains at midnight. Five between 5am and 6:30am. Maybe four hours sleep, total.

I have another problem this morning: rain. I came somewhat prepared. I brought an umbrella, jacket, and plastic-covered blanket. I can see through a little patch of field from my hotel window. It's dark. I'm hoping that's because they closed the Safeco roof. That would be another thing to see. There's no tarp on the field, which is another large clue.

I really enjoyed myself yesterday. I had to talk to four different ushers to fins out where my seat was. It was marked as Section 129. The sections were split until you got down lower to the field, and then it was contiuous. So I would start in 129 and end up in 131. On the aisle, right behind home plate. Oh, yeah. Sure, I had to stand up to let this couple with their four children go in and out five times before the end of the 1st inning, but it was still worth it.

The game was an Oakland delight on Saturday. Trevor Cahill couldn't hit the strike zone in the first innings, but got better and better. After giving up one runs due to walks and a number of hits, he settled down and didn't give up another run. His relief did just as well. I was really impressed with Brad Ziegler, who must've found his release point.

Saturday night was Armed Forces Day - I believe every Saturday game is - so lots of activities with soldiers, sailors, coasties and airmen.m and, A's I knew we would, we got a commemorative coin as we exited the game.

When Coco didn't score from third, or when the radio broadcasters thought every pitch their guy threw was a strike, I tweeted. I tweeted a lot, and added a few more followers along the way. That was fun, a great way to stay in the game.

Brett Anderson goes for the A's today. Should be good.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Welcome to the Mobile Dog Groomer

We tried an experiment: We asked Thomas and his mobile dog groomer van to come by our house and clip our two toy poodles.

I got tired of driving to the groomer once a month, twice for each trip. All About the Dogue is a fabulous grooming service; their philosophy is that they'll take all day to do the grooming so that the dog isn't stressed out. However, they're on San Pablo Avenue in Emeryville, and at 5pm during heavy traffic, it takes me an hour to get home with two anxious but tired dogs in the back.

So we tried Thomas. We found him on Yelp. He was right on time, pulling up on the street in an old newspaper truck with a portable generator on the back. However, he apparently has never clipped toy poodles, so I had to give him blow-by-blow descriptions on how to clip each dog. And I probably didn't do a very good job. I did get to stand in his truck and watch, however.

You should also know that Princess and Gabi take two separate cuts. Princess is more just-shear-her, while Gabi resembles a very prized, high-priced poodle. (They were both rescue dogs.)

First he combed them out. Then he washed them. Poor little Princess looked like a drowned rat. She was looking for an escape hatch anywhere she could find one.

Then he dried them off with a high-intensity blow dryer (not on "hot"), and when they were mostly dry, he switched to a blow dryer that was quieter and less power. Then he combed them out. And after that, took the buzz saw to them and then the scissors.

Any time they got out of line and started to wander off (quite often for Princess), Thomas would shriek wordlessly. And once or twice thumped Princess with his hand, not hard at all, and she would stop what she was doing (i.e., trying to make a run for it), and stare at him.

It was an experiment that didn't go well. Thomas didn't clip parts of them very closely (like their feet), and clipped some parts of them irregularly and unevenly. And he's pricey at $75 per dog plus tip.

So we won't be doing that again. But it did teach us that Princess, who hates being groomed, can just be cut by a normal untrained person, and that got us off our duffs to buy a scissor set for her. Gabi will still need the elaborate poodle cut, but by somebody who knows what they're doing.

Friday, January 28, 2011

An Announcement!

Valerie, the long-suffering woman who is in charge of security at Creation conventions, told us a minute ago that E Entertainment TV will be following us around tomorrow for their broadcast. So Val encouraged us to dress up in "your battle gear." I don't have any metallic breastplates with me, so I guess I'll just wear my Spartacus t-shirt.

Xena con 2011 - Hudson, Hudson, Hudson!

Friday on a three-day convention is typically slow. The one-day price for a Friday is usually less than for any other day of any convention. Today was a slow day at the annuall Xena convention, except for one thing: Hudson Leick.

I've missed a few years, I must admit, of this annual event. But I'm grateful I was around for the first couple of years, where I saw a young woman change before my eyes. Her slow take on us as fans changed to a masterful manipulation where we all had outrageous fun.

Hudson - whose birth name was Heidi - started out as a young actress who wasn't sure why she was on stage. She seemed mystified by it all. She tried to answer the fans' questions about Callisto, her infamously evil character. She has told a story of flying to New Zealand and reading the script for one of the Callisto shows - perhaps the second one where she kills Gabrielle's new husband, Perdicus. When she reached the part where she is unfathomly cruel to Gabi in a game called Truth or Dare, Hudson starts laughing, right there on the plane. She was perfect for the part.

After a few years of appearing year after year to mostly the same fans at the convention, she dresses to the nines, entices us, engages us, in a totally unscripted conversation. And then she auctions off the dress for charity, usually to benefit the James Ellis Foundation, which allows kids with cancer or whose family members have cancer continue in college.

This year, the young woman from Russia bid $400 for the dress. A couple in the second row kicked in another $300 so that the Russian woman could have the dress. There have been no other bids, nor would there be. All of a sudden, other people kicked in $50 here, $20
there, so that she would get the dress and Anita could go back home to New York with $900. It was very touching.

By the way, I saw the young woman who won the dress in the restroom later. She said to anyone who would listen: "I have two dresses. But now I have three!"

I was touched by something else as well today, as slow as it was. Steven L. Sears is also at every convention. Steve was a producer and
writer on the original Xena. I always enjoy his talks very much because he talks about the writing process and storytelling.

This time someone asked him if he used real-life experiences when he wrote. He hearkened back to his memory of writing "The Price," a
particularly hard-hitting Xena episode where our 'hero' kills without mercy and the effect that ultimately has on her sidekick, Gabrielle.

Steve told us that he wrote that episode about his father. His father was a military man as a career. He was a sniper in the Korean War and a special forces member in VietNam. In short, "My father killed people for a living." Steve has spent a great deal of his life sorting through how that killing machine could be "the same man who tucked me in a night," and was a super father to him. So he wrote The Price to speak to that issue. Awesome.

I guess I'll have to go home and watch that one again.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Xena Once Again

I was all packed last night. And, as usual, as I lay in bed trying to go to sleep, I would remember things I forgot to pack. And then, it suddenly came to me: I didn't have my ticket to the convention.

I got up and went to my office. I went through all my paperwork for the convention. Nothing. So I went through all my visa bills for the first four months of the year, but couldn't find where I had paid Creation for the ticket.

This was an unusual circumstance. I signed up exactly one year ago, during the convention, in hopes of improving my seat. I rummaged through my big pile on my desk, and found last year's program where I had written in my new seat number: F26. So it wasn't just my imagination. I just had no proof. And when I stand in line at the LAX Marriott, I will have nothing to give them but an excuse.

So I found the email address to write to on the Creation Entertainment website -- knowing that would belong to Leticia -- and I simply told my story. The next morning I found that she had emailed a PDF of the ticket. By that time, however, I was just shy of the Grapevine, and moving rapidly south.

Fortunately, the motel I was staying at has a computer - and a printer! - in the lobby. After I checked in, I sat down and printed out my ticket. Good to go!

Creation's customer service has gotten better and better throughout the years. This is their 40th year. And I'm a loyal customer.