June 01, 2002

Point Reyes, Day 2

This was a lazy day (well, for me), which is just what I needed. Meredith's day started early, as she had to drive into Berkeley for her 9 AM Bay Area Writing Project orientation meeting. I slept in, then spent the morning and early afternoon reading (finishing the History of Video Games). Meredith got back mid-afternoon, and we walked into town (Point Reyes Station) for a bit before returning for more reading. I'm now on A History of the Wife, by Marilyn Yalom.

Dinner was at the Olema Inn. Yummy food.

Posted by Mike at 11:00 PM | Comments (1)

June 02, 2002

Point Reyes, Day 3 (the end)

This was less of a lazy day.

After the breakfast provided by One Mesa (the brie-filled croissants were delicious), we headed into town to watch the parade. It seems that we had arrived on Western Day, which essentially sounds like a homecoming. The parade lasted an hour, largely showing off horses and the dairy industry. Makes sense somehow... Meredith's favorite part was that the Library drove the bookmobile in the parade with volunteers running up and down the route handing out books to kids that were watching.

After grabbing a sandwich to eat, it was off to go hiking. Meredith had decided on the hike from the Bear Valley Visitor Center to Arch Rock. Round trip: 8.2 miles. It took us just over three hours to make it. In retrospect, this was probably about two miles longer than we should have tried — we are both quite sore. And I seem to have a slight sunburn on my face (despite using suntan lotion). The hike ends on a rock over the ocean, which was really pretty. It was also the only cold part of the hike, with the wind blowing right over the rock. The rest of the trail is largely sheltered from wind and the sun by the forest around it. Surprisingly, there were quite a few people on the trail, even at the end, in contrast with what we normally find where the number of people drop off dramatically after about 500 feet from the parking lot.

We thought that we'd drive into Stinson Beach on our way home to get some food to eat. By the time we got there, though, everything looked packed, so we kept on. It had been long enough since we drove on that stretch of Highway 1 that we had both forgotten quite how bad it is for Meredith. Her stomach was feeling queasy for some time afterwards.

Finally, close to 8 PM, we arrived home.

Posted by Mike at 10:00 PM

June 07, 2002

fun (?) with gadgets

After calling Apple on May 24 to report our broken AirPort Base Station, and being assured that a box was coming to collect it, we waited ... and nothing. Never showed up. So, this week Meredith took the Base Station in to the Apple Store in Palo Alto. It took about an hour, but she did finally manage to get them to exchange it for a replacement model that seems to actually work. Score +1.

And our new Nikon Coolpix 995 showed up from Amazon yesterday. It's great. Meredith loves it. There's only one tiny little problem: the flash is dead. OK, not completely dead — you can see the faintest little blue glow for an instant if you stare directly into it. It's not really all that effective, really. Well, there's a first time for everything, and this will be the first time I've used Amazon's returns service. Score -1.

Posted by Mike at 08:53 AM

June 08, 2002

Customers also bought...

Today I ordered the United Methodist Book of Discipline from Amazon.com. That book is essentially the copy of church law for the United Methodist Church. I care because of being on the Staff-Parish Relations Committee (fancy way of saying 'committee that deals with personnel issues'). After making the purchase, I got to Amazon's 'Customers who bought The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church 2000 also bought:' page. Number two on the list?

'The Silmarillion by J. R. R. Tolkien'

Posted by Mike at 07:56 PM

June 12, 2002

a positive customer service experience

After receiving our dead Nikon digital camera last week, I was worried that we wouldn't get the replacement from Amazon.com before we leave next week for Peter & Laura's wedding. I shouldn't have worried. I filled out the online form indicating that I needed to return the camera because it was defective. Amazon emailed me a link to print out a pre-paid UPS shipping label. A few hours after that, I got a second email from Amazon apologizing for the problem and promising to ship a replacement ASAP via UPS 2nd Day Air. Sure enough, the new camera went out that same day, and arrived here yesterday. And it works.


Posted by Mike at 09:14 AM

June 14, 2002


This has been a long week. By Tuesday, I was convinced that surely it was Thursday, or maybe even Friday. Tuesday, I spent all morning running around San Jose. Most of the week at work was spent trying to get a build working. All in all: bleah.

It hasn't been all bad, though. We got the new camera from Amazon. Today, my new laptop (through work) showed up. I'm typing this on it now. The nice thing about ordering through work is that Dell preloads it with a bunch of software that MS's IT group specifies, so I don't have to spend a bunch of time installing things like Microsoft Office. So far, it seems really nice. I'm mostly excited about the fact that the battery lasts longer than ten minutes, which is, on average, what my Sony Vaio has been getting lately. And I can play DVDs on my laptop now — perfect for these upcoming long flights.

But now it's the weekend. Erin is coming over tonight for dinner, then the three of us are going out to see The Bourne Identity.

Finally, some rest...

Posted by Mike at 07:06 PM

June 16, 2002

With this ring...

When Meredith and I got married, the pastor, Bob, explained how the ring, with its unbroken circle of precious metal, represented the love we would share in our marriage. Pretty much every wedding I've been to has included language similar to that. My ring was beautiful, I thought, and I looked forward to wearing it every day. Even though it was weird getting used to having something on my finger all the time.

So what does it represent when you don't wear it? Hopefully nothing bad. The sad fact is, not quite three years after our wedding, I rarely wear it. Over the last year and a half, I've been developing a allergic reaction to the ring that seems to get steadily worse with time. I'm at the point now where I can wear it for a day succesfully before the skin under my ring starts breaking out in a weird rash that lasts several days after removing the ring. I was initially skeptical that it could be an allergy, since it didn't start right away, but my doctor tells me that it's not at all unusual to develop an allergy even years after wearing the offending piece of jewelry.

Both the doctor and the jeweler I visited tell me that it's almost certainly the nickel that's used to make the gold alloy that I'm allergic to. If the ring had more gold, it's less likely that I would be allergic. Or I can get some kind of plating put on the ring — every two months. Even that is supposed to 'help', but not completely alleviate, the symptoms. What joy.

So: either I don't wear it except on special occasions, I get it plated every couple of months and hope that works, or I get another ring. All these choices suck.


Posted by Mike at 03:46 PM | Comments (112)

June 17, 2002

The wonders of ATM cards

Shortly before our trip to Point Reyes, I noticed that my ATM card, which I had had for something like six years, was starting to fall apart. It had had little cracks in it for sometime, but those cracks were now threating to rip all the way through. Every time I put the card into an ATM machine, I wondered if it would be able to get back out again. Finally, I called our bank, AEA Credit Union, and asked for a replacement card.

We got to Point Reyes, low on cash, and discovered that my ATM card didn't work anymore. Fortunately, most places take plastic, and we had enough cash to get us through, so we got home without any problem, where we discovered my replacement ATM card. Ah, I thought, they must have turned off my old ATM card when they mailed this one. Well, everything is fine now.

Monday, while I'm in the office, Meredith called me. "My ATM card isn't working." Then she noticed that her ATM card had expired. Well, it expired in January, and was working just a week before, but, it seems, they decided that June was as good a time as any to shut down all those January cards. Odd, we thought, that we didn't get a replacement card. Well, no worries, I'll get some cash for both of us with my shiny new card.

Only my card doesn't work. "Your secret code is incorrect." When I ordered the ATM card, they asked if I wanted to keep the same code. I said yes. Well, so much for that plan. At least the machine gave me my card back.

The next day, Meredith drives to the nearest (i.e., only) local branch of the credit union, in Sunnyvale, where she reprograms the PIN code on my ATM card to the one we both know, and orders a new one for her. All is right with the world.

Last Friday, we received in the mail two envelopes from our bank. Two? Both of them had ATM/Visa Check Cards in them. Now, we had specifically requested that we NOT get Visa Check Cards. Check Cards are like credit cards in many ways. They are accepted as credit cards. You do not need a PIN code to use them, like credit cards. But unlike credit cards, the financial burden in the event of theft is all on you, the customer. With a credit card, if someone places unauthorized transactions on the card, you have the legal right to have the charges frozen while the credit card company investigates your dispute. While they're looking, you don't have to pay. With a check card, though, you've already paid. The money is gone, and will stay gone until your bank gets around to determining that maybe you didn't really make the charge after all. One might imagine that their incentive to do a speedy investigation might be a bit less than the incentive for the credit card company. Further, the legal liability you face in the event of theft is greater for debit cards than for check cards. (For more on the problems with check cards, click here.)

So: we didn't want the check cards. They are evil, and we didn't ask for them. So today, I spent twenty minutes on the phone (half of it on hold waiting for a human being) with AEA Credit Union, explaining this. "But don't you want the check cards?" No. "Well, it looks like one ATM card was recently ordered." Yes, mine. This was all very complex, it seems, but at the end of it, they agreed to cancel the check cards and mail Meredith a new ATM card "within seven to ten business days."

All's well that ends well, right?

Well, then I came home, got the mail — and found a new ATM card.

So much for ending...

Posted by Mike at 06:43 PM

June 20, 2002

New plans

I was all set to go to Detroit this weekend and come home Monday. Meredith and I are leaving tomorrow for Peter & Laura's wedding on Sunday, and we were going to return EARLY Monday morning. This has been planned for weeks.

Yesterday, my boss's boss greeted me with, "I volunteered you to go to Denver next week." Ah, OK. We had talked about the idea of me going out there before, so it wasn't a total shock, but still a little sudden.

So now the new plan is: Monday morning, Meredith will indeed leave to come back home from Detroit as planned. I, however, will hop on a plane from Detroit to Denver. Spend a couple of days there, then fly back to San Jose on Tuesday afternoon.

Did I mention that Denver is on fire? OK, not Denver, but all the forests south of Denver. Sounds like fun to me.

The irony is that I will spend a little less total time on an airplane this way, as our planned Monday return flight from Detroit to San Jose changes planes in Dallas, which is more out of the way than Denver.

Anyway. San Francisco - Detroit - Denver - San Jose, here I come...

Posted by Mike at 09:34 AM | Comments (3)