Friday, August 17, 2007

Netflix is even awesomer than I thought...

In addition to being a great service that mails you movies that you want to watch and lets you keep them as long as you want for a flat fee, Netflix has gone and made customer service a person-to-person experience by eliminating e-mail service. If you want something done, you have to call.

In a world where customer service is becoming a bit of an oxymoron and it takes days to reach a human being to resolve a problem that can't be fixed by dialing "3" when prompted, it's refreshing to see a company making the effort.

At Netflix, Victory for Voices Over Keystrokes

However, the part about how sometimes people are lonely actually made me tear up a bit. Yes, I'm a wimp, but I hope I never become one of those people who calls the Netflix call center to have someone to talk to.

Monday, August 13, 2007

You can't climb a mountain...

With a sinus infection. Or the remnants of one. It f*cking hurts your head until you feel your eyes are going to be crushed by the pressure mounting in your forehead and cheekbones and finally you have to admit that yes, the mountain has defeated me.

And so it goes.

This past weekend I traveled to Mt. Moosilauke near lovely Warren, New Hampshire. (Hey! I know Warren!) Some friends and I rented Great Bear Cabin, a cabin owned and maintained by the Dartmouth Outing Club, of which I am a lifetime member in spite of my decided lack of sportiness. My sportiness comes in the form of yoga and tennis (because I think it helps to have a dress code), neither of which involves dirt. Camping and hiking involve lots and lots of dirt, so this was my first mountain trek in quite some time.

I arrived after midnight from New York City, where two lovely friends had rented an SUV to whisk us northward. It worked. We got to the cabin in a reasonable amount of time, and were informed, after a dark, dark hike up 1/3 mile of trail, that there were no pork tacos.

It's the kind of statement you think will not affect you, until it happens. You didn't even know pork tacos were a possibility, but upon hearing you can't have one, sadness sets in. (Don't think of a white elephant).

I jest. There were no pork tacos, but it didn't crush my spirits. The team assembled in its entirety sometime near 2 a.m. and we turned in for the night to get adequately rested for some hiking.

After a breakfast of: scrambled eggs with fresh herbs, johnny cakes, which are pancakes with corn, not flour, and lots and lots of Schaller and Webber bacon, we set out on our varied hikes. Five folks went up the more difficult trail to the summit of Mt. Moosilauke. Three of us drove to the Ravine Lodge at the base. One decided it was a good day to chill at said lodge, and I should have stayed with him. Up up up I went, only to wind up with crushing head pain, no tissues and a trip back down, down, down without having seen the expansive vistas that should have awaited me.

C'est domage.

Back at the cabin that evening we drank ourselves out of wine, played a game with dice called Mentirosa which I think is my new favorite thing (it involves lying. it's awesome.) and then trundled in my bunk after eating delicious sausages.

Mad props to my chef for the weekend, and kudos to my companions for providing me with a fine woodland retreat that wasn't too dirty. Although next time I might lobby for canoing.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

Arnie, the Darling Starling and the Great American Road Trip

As I have mentioned, I'm going on vacation very soon and I am most excited to have the opportunity to lounge in the Mediterranean sunshine with an Effes and a book or three. So, I'm having a hard time focusing on the three articles I have due tomorrow, and in an effort to get the writerly juices flowing, I'm going to chronicle my last thirty minutes for you. A winding, information-filled trip down memory lane thanks to that wonderful thing we call The Interwebs.

I'm writing a story about healthcare. So, it's hard to focus. So, in between takes I start reading the Frugal Traveler's latest update on NYTimes.com. How this had gotten past me for the last three months is another matter, but I clicked through to read the initial story - the departure from New York, and writer Matt Gross talked about the great American road-trip authors: Kerouak, Steinbeck, William Least-Heat Moon. Who? Who's that last one?

William Least-Heat Moon wrote a book called "Blue Highways" that tells of his cross-country odyssey in his van along the back roads of America.

It had been assigned to my 11th grade honors English class "back in the day", and I remember everyone bitching and moaning about reading this old man's book about driving around in a big van. My teacher seemed to think it was the greatest thing ever. Brilliant! Authentically American! A Tour-de-Force!

To be honest, I had little appreciation for the thing. I read it because I had to, and recall thinking it was "stupid" and "lame," but for some reason, it's been popping up in my life in various places lately.

Thinking about "Blue Highways" got me thinking about high school English, which made me wonder if it would be hard to find the email address of my AP English teacher using Google. So, I Google her name and our high school, and what comes up? A chart on a web site promoting open information flow in government pops up with the salaries of every teach and administrator in the school district! Weird! I felt oddly compelled to read the whole thing, feeling somehow shameful and dirty knowing how much our teachers made. Granted, that was more than 12 years ago, so they're doing pretty well across the board. But it felt like an odd intrusion into the privacy of people who I'd known.

Which got me to thinking about teachers and reading, as I had google-stalked an English teacher. In first grade, a student teacher read "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" out loud to the class. I can still remember her mousy brown hair and the look of the small book in her hand as we sat around her feet.

In fifth grade, we had another reading-aloud, but that time, it was a book called "Arnie, the Darling Starling," a memoir about raising a tiny bird that had fallen from its nest, and the life-long journey they took together. I don't remember much about that book, except that during that year the Keds that had comics that you colored in yourself were all the rage. (Like Crocs, according to the gap company's shoe outlet Piperlime.com. When an e-tailer tells you something is "all the rage", run.)

Arnie is out of print these days, but I do think I'm going to pick up a copy of "Blue Highways" this evening on my way home from work and give it another go. Perhaps with grown-up eyes, I'll finally learn to see what my teacher saw.

Monday, August 06, 2007

The High Tech Dental Experience

This morning as I was laying in bed in my new apartment, waking there alone for the first time and I heard a report on NPR about how some dentists are using technology to make their patients relax during treatment. They show them movies on special goggles that are linked to a mini DVD player. Amazing, right?

"Wow," I thought laying there. "That sounds pretty cool."

So, fast forward one subway ride to midtown (my dentist is across the street from Bloomingdales!) and I'm sitting there, chatting with a lovely dentist named Julie who seems younger than I am.

She's taken a slew of digital xrays of my teeth using a device that's slightly larger than the traditional film of yore. The new device produces computer images instantly, but it cuts your mouth somethin' awful. I hate it. And I have cavities. Six, to be precise. I have cavities UNDER MY FILLINGS. This is alarming to me. I also have a chipped tooth, near an old filling, that may require a crown. So in addition to learning about the joys of interior painting on 90 degree days (don't do it!), you'll get to hear about the latest and greatest in Manhattan dental technology.

Post-picture-taking, the dentist hands me a list of movies. On this list is the Mel Gibson movie "Apocalypto." Yes, a movie in Mayan. At my dentist's office. I couldn't resist and asked if people actually picked that one, and she said yes. To her dismay they sometimes did. It's just not soothing.

I picked the first disk of Season 3 of Sex in the City. I put on the goggles, plugged the tiny ear buds into my ears, and lay back. Scraping and some kind of drilling with water, or scraping with water, ensued. Vaseline was smeared on my lips to keep them moist as a metal tool was dragged between my teeth. I promised to floss more. I have to go back three times. Three! And one is rather urgent as my tooth has chipped near the filling that has a cavity under it. Awesome. That wasn't even the one that hurt!

It was a bit random that I heard a report this morning on TV at the dentist and la voila, my digital dentist whips out TV goggles so that I can watch that instead of my reflection in her glasses. Which I still watched from time to time. How often do you get to watch someone else poking around your teeth with a sharp metal device, scraping away at the remnants of meals past? It's oddly riveting. Kind of like "Apocalypto."

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

A Shout-Out to SoJo...

Well, it's not so much a shout out as a blisteringly funny yet somehow soul crushing blog post from an old friend from high school mocking what was, until I was in middle school, our local "mall." It's just that depressing.

Check it out.

I'm not usually a post-thief, but he does capture the essence of the Shore Mall in ways I think need no further elaboration.