Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Toughskins for Girls and An Apology to My Mother

I just sent Kyra to school with a small rip in the right knee of her jeans. Just as we were preparing to walk out the door, she giggled, "Look at me, Daddy, I can walk on my knees!" Rip. I didn't have time to change her, so off we went. At least it's still somewhat fashionable to wear holey jeans (a bit of a stretch for a six year-old, I know), but I still feel bad about it. The kid is going through her jeans faster than we can buy them for her. It reminds me of someone...hmmmm...perhaps ME when I was her age.

My brother and I both worked destroying jeans to an art form. I can even remember one occasion where I put two holes in the knees of a brand spanking new pair of jeans by performing a double knee slide on the asphalt of the playground at school. My mom was not happy, so she eventually struck back. She bought us Toughskins.

Toughskins were a Sears brand of jeans for boys that were virtually indestructible. They basically sewed large squares of what seemed to be cardboard into the knees of their jeans, thus making it impossible to rip a hole in them. However, it also made it impossible to bend your legs, so running, sliding, jumping, and wrestling were completely out of the question. Basically Toughskins produced a playground full of robot-mimicking boys. They took the reinforced knees out of the equation because boys simply couldn't play in them. We hated Toughskins.

But my mom hated holey jeans more, so we wore Toughskins. Money was tight, and we simply couldn't afford to buy new jeans every time I did a double knee slide. I hated that as a kid. As a Dad, I get it. I'm living it. Stop laughing at me, Mom.

I went to the Sears website to see if they still sold Toughskins, and, amazingly enough, they do; but only for boys. I guess that's OK. I'll spare the girls the emotional trauma of walking straight-legged for the month or so that it takes to wear those suckers in. Truth be known, if they made Toughskins for girls I'd at least take a look at them. We have to stop the jean-hole hemorrhaging somehow. For now, I guess we'll just keep buying them.

Oh, and sorry Mom. Your craziness then now makes sense. A little.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Accessories Can't Come Zune Enough

I'm enjoying my Zune, but there's no way this thing is going to be an iPod killer anytime soon (I'm done with the puns, I promise).

Two weekends ago I finally updated my computer's Operating System and got my Zune up and running. I then spent the next few days loading it up and reviewing potential accessories online. I do most of my music-listening in the car, so I was specifically interested in a car adaptor. I went back to the Zune website and quickly found what I was looking for: a Zune car pack with an FM transmitter. Price: $80. Basically you tune your car radio to an unused channel, then tune the FM transmitter that's plugged into your Zune to the same frequency, and vua...vou...vwall...ta-daa, you're in business.

In theory. I had questions about how well the thing worked, so I didn't order it right away. I also had a couple of Best Buy gift cards, so I ventured into their local store to check it out. After all, Best Buy had the Zune accessories on their website. Why wouldn't they have them in their stores?

Well, they didn't. Nada. Zippo. Zilch. Not a good way to kill the iPod. I don't know why Best Buy wouldn't stock Zune accessories and their associates didn't seem to know either. Shocker. They simply didn't have them and were surprised when I told them their website did. However, what they did have in excess were iPod accessories...rows and rows of iPod stuff. Death is in the pot! Not!

I decided to check out an iPod, since I had never really looked at one, and compare it to the Zune. As soon as I picked up the iPod I questioned my decision to keep the Zune. The iPod is thinner, lighter, and sleeker than the Zune. And the flywheel on the iPod is simply amazing, making navigation through the music library a breeze. I nearly turned around and went right home to pack up the Zune. Unfortunately I have too much vested in it already.

The three things the Zune has going for it are the larger screen (great picture, but possibly contributing to its bulkiness), a sexier looking interface, and a built-in FM tuner. The feature that Microsoft is touting the most is its wireless file-sharing capabilities, which may prove to be significant in the future, but for now seems to be fairly lame. I haven't used the feature yet, but apparently there are only a limited amount of songs that can be shared, and shared songs can only be listened to a limited amount of times. So overall it seems

But after spending $100 on a system upgrade and ripping at least 100 CD's, I decided to keep my Zune. I flagged down an associate and asked him how well the FM transmitters performed in general. He told me that he had one and it worked great. Good enough. I thanked him and returned home to order the transmitter through Best Buy's website, using my Best Buy gift cards. That was last Tuesday. Last time I checked the UPS tracking info (ummm, roughly 2 seconds ago), my transmitter was still in Denver. It's been in Denver for three days, which is not a Microsoft issue, but still! Dude, I just want to listen to my Zune in the car!

I do like my Zune. It's much cooler than any player I've ever owned and it puts my other mp3 players to shame. But, come on Microsoft. An iPod killer? Get real. It's not designed as well as an iPod, you can't buy songs as easily as you can with an iPod (I didn't even touch on that one), and I can't even buy a Zune accessory at a major national retailer. And when I do order it online, it takes over a week to get here? These people need to get their shact together. An iPod killer? So far, the Zune doesn't even leave a scratch.

Perhaps We Won't Celebrate Chicago-Style

My beloved Chicago Bears are playing in the Super Bowl next Sunday, in case you just crawled out from under a rock. I grew up in central Illinois where I was doomed to become a long-suffering Bears (and Cubs) fan. That is until the 1985-86 Super Bowl Shuffle team destroyed everyone in their path (exept for the lowly Dolphins). We enjoyed one year of celebration before the Bears (just like the Cubs) settled back into mediocrity at best, if not downright ineptitude.

Until this year. I hoped, but honestly did not believe, that this year the Bears would have a chance to play for the title. They have given me glimmers of hope in the past, only to smash it to smithereens and then stomp and grind it into a fine dust. They haven't won the title yet, and could very well perform their perfected smash, stomp, and grind during the Super Bowl, but at least they've got a shot.

So we will be watching the Super Bowl with vested interest this year and wanted to do something special for the occasion. Diane came home from work last night and told me of a co-worker, a home-grown Illinoisan, who was ordering Chicago-style pizza from Gino's East in Chicago and having it delivered for the game. Apparently, they partially cook it, freeze it, pack it in dry ice, and then ship it. Pretty frickin' cool. We like Gino's East, but our Chicago-style, deep-dish pizza of choice is Giordano's. We decided to check it out.

Diane jumped online first and found the Giordano's website. For some reason, their website took forever to load and navigate even though we have high-speed DSL. She grew frustrated and asked for me to take over. So I did. I ordered a 12" Cheese and a 12" Spinach pizza for around $34. I figured shipping would be around $10-$15. I went to check-out when my eyes bounced off of the monitor at about the same time that my jaw slammed onto the desk. The total, for TWO (2) 12" deep-dish pizzas was just under $83!

What the crap!!

A closer look revealed a shipping charge of $45 and change. No frickin' way!! I went to Gino's East to see if they were any better. They were, but not much. Shipping was only $18, but two 11" pizzas were $54!! I can't say for sure, but I wonder if these places are sticking it to potential Super Bowl customers. In any case, we were bummed to say the least, which seems to be happening a lot lately (stupid American Airlines). We so hoped to have Chicago-style pizza while rooting for our Chicago-style Bears, but I just couldn't pull the trigger. Is $83 too steep for two pizzas? For now, it is. But I still have another day to change my mind.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

American Airlines...Doing What They Do Best...Irritate Customers

It's official. There's just no way around it...American Airlines continues to frustrate me, and I am at my wit's end. I received their latest response to my THIRD letter of complaint last week. It took me a whole week to stir up the energy to compose letter FOUR. This response came from a customer relations supervisor and she's moving in the right direction, but in my opinion, it's too little, too late.

We've received your most recent communication and I understand that a resolution was not accomplished. Because we, too, remain dissatisfied when we can't reach an agreement with a customer, we follow a practice of turning such matters over to a supervisor -- in this case, me -- to see if an exception can be made. I've reviewed the entire situation in great detail and it gives me no pleasure to inform you that this fresh look has confirmed the original decision to deny your request for a $250 transportation voucher. I am sorry. However, I am happy to address your additional concerns.

Our seats are standard in size and are designed to comfortably accommodate our customers. Of course, our customers do come in all shapes and sizes. If we are aware that customers are too large to sit in a coach seat, we do what we can to avoid an awkward and uncomfortable situation -- for everyone concerned. Additionally, our seats widths are listed on If a customer feels they would be more comfortable with two seats, we do offer this option to them. Unfortunately, we aren't always successful in preventing the kind of inconvenience you described and I am genuinely sorry that the comfort of your flight was diminished as a result.

I can understand your decision not to say anything. However, this is not a situation which would warrant a transportation voucher in the amount your requested. Nevertheless, I can understand how you must have felt while aboard and again, I am sorry you were uncomfortable. Therefore, I am willing to exchange the bonus miles you received for a $100 transportation voucher instead. Just let me know if you would prefer this option. Like AAdvantage miles, a transportation voucher may be used toward the purchase of a ticket on American or American Eagle. However, the voucher is valid for 12 months only.

Also, you may locate information regarding what you should expect when traveling with American Airlines and our related responsibilities on

- Visit to view our home page
- From the menu listing on the left, place your cursor over 'About Us'
- From the sub-menu, select Customer Commitment and click on the Conditions of Carriage link

Also, you may write to Mr. Arpey at the address below. However, he has delegated the responsibility of responding to customer concerns to our Customer Relations personnel. In turn, we keep him well-informed about customer issues. This designation allows Mr. Arpey and other senior management to devote their energies and attention the daily operation of our airline.

Gerard J. Arpey, President and CEO
American Airlines
PO Box 619616
DFW Airport, TX 75261-9616

Please feel free to drop Mr. Arpey a line on my behalf. They won't even let me keep the miles; I have to exchange them for the voucher. And just what situation would have warranted a reasonable voucher? Did I need to be smothered before they take appropriate action? It's utterly ridiculous. Here is my response:

You people are not experts in customer service. You are experts in wearing people out. WHAT IS SO HARD TO UNDERSTAND ABOUT THIS SITUATION? I PAID $700 FOR A TICKET ONLY TO BE SAT UPON BY A MORBIDLY OBESE MAN FOR 3.5 HOURS. THE INTENSITY OF YOUR SORROW DOES ABSOLUTELY NOTHING FOR ME. The fact remains that your people DID NOT DO THEIR JOB! Your “fresh look” into this situation seems to have “overlooked” this. You say that your policy is such that “if we are aware that customers are too large to sit in a coach seat, we do what we can to avoid an awkward and uncomfortable situation -- for everyone concerned.” Well, guess what. The ticket agents and the flight crew of flight 1002 did NOTHING to avoid an awkward and uncomfortable situation. Did your “fresh look” reveal the fact that a ticketing agent took one (1) ticket from a morbidly obese man? Did you discover in your “fresh look” that the flight attendant had to provide this man with a seatbelt extender, which should have clued her in to a potential problem? The fact of the matter is that your employees WERE aware of the situation and THEY DID NOTHING. They did nothing for him and they did nothing for me. And YOU continue to ignore and cover for their incompetence.

I’ve now had to write FOUR LETTERS TO YOU PEOPLE CONCERNING THIS SITUATION AND YOU STILL DON’T GET IT. My time and my money is precious to me and I’ve wasted both on American Airlines with your pathetic offers to make amends. You keep saying how sorry you are, but then refuse to compensate me in a reasonable manner. Actions speak louder than words, and your actions in rectifying this situation are insulting. THE BOTTOM LINE IS THAT YOU SCREWED UP. HOW CAN YOU NOT AGREE WITH THAT? HOW CAN YOU NOT AGREE WITH THE FACT THAT YOU LET A MAN WEIGHING AT LEAST 400 LBS. ON A PLANE WITHOUT MAKING THE PROPER ARRANGEMENTS TO ENSURE THAT ALL PASSENGERS WERE SEATED COMFORTABLY. THAT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY, NOT MINE.

I do not believe a $250 voucher is an unreasonable request (by the way, your “great detail” of research failed to uncover my original request for a $292 voucher, the minimal cost of a round-trip ticket to Chicago as advertised on your website). I could have gotten off the plane that day to receive a $300 voucher, which you offered to three passengers that morning due to overbooking. I would have gladly given up my seat and taken a $300 voucher had I not been on my way to my grandfather’s funeral. How is it that you can give me a $300 voucher on the day that I fly, but can only give me $100 now? You intentionally overbook flights and compensate passengers who are inconvenienced by having to take a later flight. I did not have the luxury of waiting for a later flight, but I WAS NO LESS INCONVENIENCED.

Your website currently advertises one-way tickets from Tucson to Chicago departing on Feb. 20, March 20, or April 20 starting at $129. Your offer of $100 doesn’t even cover a one-way flight. I am not trying to take advantage of the situation; I just want to be compensated in a reasonable manner. A $100 voucher or 5000 frequent flier miles IS NOT reasonable. It’s insulting and my patience with you is gone. You have given me absolutely no reason to ever use your airline again. And I will go to great lengths to share about your mishandling of the situation to everyone and anyone who will listen.

I have compiled a detailed account of my experience and am sending a copy of it to Mr. Arpey. I’m not in the practice of running major corporations, but it seems to me that providing great customer service should be the most important factor in the daily operation of your airline. In your handling of this situation, you have failed miserably. If you have no passengers, you have no business. I think your CEO and senior management would do well to refocus some of their attention on the customer.

I'm really getting tired of all of this back and forth, but the only thing they excel at is in pissing me off. I should get a response from them again sometime next week where they'll piss me off again, and I'll tell them to go to hell and never fly American again. We'll see.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Daddy/Daughter Work Day

This morning I was in the den checking e-mail and paying some bills when I heard Diane call me from the family room, "Hey Hon?" We've been together for 20 years. I know this call. This is the "I-have-a-big-favor-to-ask-you" call.

"Yeah?" I moaned.

"I have a haircut appointment at six o'clock..."


"...and mom wasn't feeling very well last night..."


"He sounds kinda mean," Kyra chimed in.

"Yeah, he does," Diane agreed. "Could I drop one of the girls off with you at work while I get my hair cut? I can handle one, but I'm not so sure about two."

Hmmmm. Daddy/Daughter work day? That didn't sound too bad. "Sure."

I work at a television station where I'm responsible for airing local news as well as syndicated and network programming. There are a lot of buttons. Rows and rows of buttons. Buttons for switchers, and buttons for satellite dishes, and buttons for tape decks, and buttons for servers, and buttons for tuners, and buttons for cameras, and buttons for scopes, and buttons for routers. I am, in short, a "button-pusher". The girls have visited me at work several times in the past, and they know they are not allowed to touch ANYTHING. And they have shown me that they are able to behave while at the station. So I was excited about having one of them with me at work.

It turned out to be Kailey. My cell phone rang after the 5:00 PM newscast. I went to the back door and there she was, holding a duffle bag of stuff that seemed to weigh as much as she did. I opened the door and she shuffled in. She had a grin that ran the width of her face. So did I. I took the bag and we headed back to the control room.

We had a great time. I took her into the news studio and introduced her to the camera operators and the chief meteorologist. We returned to the control room and I showed her how to check the levels on the studio cameras, letting her adjust the picture and change it from dark to light. She thought that was pretty cool.

During the 6:00 newscast, she settled in with a comic book and had an interesting conversation with one of our engineers. I couldn't help but laugh as she explained to him in vivid detail the very specific procedures for tomorrow's spelling test. She seemed WAY too grown up.

After the newscast I put her to work and made her earn her keep. I had her roll a couple of commercial breaks, superimpose the time and temperature graphic over local programming, and roll the backup video for our primetime programming. I let her push A LOT of buttons, and she was loving it. So was I. Kailey and I don't get to have much one-on-one time, so I think this was a special time for both of us.

Once we got into primetime, I pulled out her spelling words and helped her study for her spelling test. She was working on "information" (is it me, or is that crazy for a 2nd grader?) when I noticed something. "Are you wearing makeup?"

She looked up at me and smiled. Her face looked a little darker than normal, but I thought it was just because we were in the darkened control room. Now that I had positioned her under a light, I clearly saw the makeup. She had foundation caked all over her face. "Did you do this, or did Mommy?"

"I did it," she said proudly. Apparently she wanted to look pretty for Daddy/Daughter work day. "Mommy wiped some of it off with a kleenex, though." Not enough. I laughed and grabbed a tissue to work off a little more of the makeup, and we went back to work on the spelling words. Kailey had a little trouble with "information" but eventually got it down. She's a good speller.

Diane arrived a few minutes later, and Daddy/Daughter Work Day came to an end. It was late, but I was sad to see them go. Times like this make me so proud as a dad that I can literally feel my heart swell. I am proud of how well Kailey behaved and composed herself at the station. I am proud of the way she interacted with my coworkers. And, most of all, I am proud of the way she beamed with pride each time she completed an assigned task. Every parent loves to see their children try new things and succeed. Scratch that...most of the time parents are (or should be) content just to see their kids try new things. The bonus is to see them succeed. Tonight was a bonus night.

As they were leaving, Kyra had the distinct feeling that she had gotten the short end of the stick, so she offered a suggestion, "Maybe next time Kailey can go with Mommy and I can stay with Daddy." That'd be OK by me.

Monday, January 22, 2007

End of the Snow Stories, I Promise

I grew up in the Midwest, so you'd think I'd be used to seeing snow. But this is pretty cool, getting snow in the desert, so please indulge my school-girl giddiness. Kyra and I dropped Kailey off at school at about 9:30 and then took about a 20 minute drive to admire the desert winter wonderland. It was beautiful, but the snow is clearly wreaking havoc on the plant life. We saw so many mesquite trees split down the middle or with fallen limbs; they aren't used to the weight of wet snow.

The sun came out around the time Kailey went to school, and the meltdown commenced. Kyra wanted to make a snowman before the snow melted, so we headed out to the backyard to get it done. This guy's been aptly named Frosty the Snowman Jack Frost. Kind of a long name, I know, but I had absolutely NO input on the matter. Hopefully we'll be able to enjoy him for another day or two.

The Day After...

This morning was the easiest I've ever been able to get Kailey out of bed. "Is there still snow?" she asked with a wild look in her eyes as she popped out of bed. There was. Her school is on a two-hour delay, whatever that means. I'm still not sure if they are shortening the school day or pushing the whole thing back. If it's a "delay", then I'm guessing the latter.

Here are some shots of the backyard. It's absolutely crazy!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

It's Snowing...In Tucson

Late afternoon rain turned to early evening snow, with big, fat, fluffy, silver dollar-sized snowflakes tonight. It was pretty cool. So far I would say at least an inch has accumulated, transforming our desert backyard into a winter wonderland. Global warming?

The girls are LOVING it. They frolicked out into the backyard in their tennis shoes and "winter" coats, which are basically fleece-lined windbreakers. They had a snowball fight and pelted me several times as I attempted to document the event on video (cowards). Kailey even attempted a snow angel until she realized that snow is a frozen form of H2O and arose with a wet butt.

The frolicking lasted a whole fifteen minutes which is about all we thin-skinned desert dwellers can handle in the cold. The girls are now in bed, snow is still falling, the temperature is 32 degrees, and I don't think Tucson has the resources to clear snow. So I'm thinking tomorrow will likely be a snow day. Oh joy.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Worth It? Too ZUNE to Tell

My wife bought me a Zune media player for Christmas and I have yet to use the cockamamie thing. It's not out of lack of desire, mind you, just one of those "Murphy's Law" things that seems to have a death grip on my life.

I didn't ask for a Zune, wasn't expecting a Zune, was completely surprised when I opened my present and found a Zune, and was totally stoked that I was now a Zune owner. It was a great gift. I spent the rest of Christmas morning fulfilling my fatherly duties by freeing and assembling the girls' toys.

By late morning I had completed my duties, so I retired to my computer to set up my new toy. To say I was excited is an understatement. I couldn't wait to discover the capabilities of the Zune. I loaded the software CD into my computer and waited for it to download and install. A moment later, however, a message appeared on the screen, something to the effect of "Incompatible with operating system". WHAT? There must be something wrong. I reloaded the disc and received the same message.

My computer is less than two years old. It's a MEDIA CENTER EDITION running Windows XP. How could a Microsoft MEDIA PLAYER not be compatible with Windows XP Media Center Edition?

I soon found out. A quick trip to the Zune website showed me that it was only compatible with the 2005 version of XP MCE. I bought my computer in 2005. What's the deal?

Further investigation showed that I was running Windows XP MCE 2002. Why is the computer that I bought in '05 running an '02 version of XP? explode.

The only thing not confusing to me at this point was the fact that I would not be using my new Zune any time soon. I can't handle those wide emotion swings. I went from the highest of highs to the lowest of lows. OK, maybe I'm being a little dramatic, but not much. Now I had a decision to make: I could return the Zune and get some other electronic device, I could exchange the Zune for an Ipod which most certainly should work with my computer, or I could keep the Zune and upgrade my operating system.

The easy money, the easy solution, was on options A or B. What did I choose? Option C. What can I say, I'm a glutton for punishment. I don't know why, but I wasn't thrilled with the first two options. I developed an infatuation with my new Zune, and I wanted to see it work. But I sat on it for a couple of weeks just to be sure.

Last week, after much research on upgrading operating systems and deciding that it was something I could do, I ordered the upgrade software, all the while thinking that even though it sounded fairly simple, that something very very bad was going to happen. Murphy's Law, remember? It rules my life.

The software arrived on Wednesday, and Thursday morning around 8:30 I began the upgrade. Reviews of the product indicated that a full system upgrade would take around two hours. I followed the directions carefully, but my computer had other ideas, as computers often do. Four hours later, as I left for work, the update was still downloading. Something was obviously wrong, but I wasn't prepared to deal with it. I phoned home a couple of times that night to see if the download had progressed, but it hadn't. I am sooooo screwed.

I returned home that night to find the download exactly where I left it...not good. I did the only thing left to do...I held my breath and unplugged the computer. The screen went blank. Now, for the moment of truth. I plugged it back in and turned on the computer to see just how hosed I was. The monitor blinked to life and I was surprised to find that it had returned to the previous screen. A prompt then appeared asking for the first installation disc. Well, this can't be bad. I returned the disc to the tray, and lo and behold, the installation continued. A message popped up indicating that installation would be complete in 22 minutes. WHOO HOO! IT'S ALIVE!

I jumped up, grabbed a beer, and returned to supervise the rest of the installation. It finished without incident as I, in turn, finished the beer...without incident. I rebooted the computer just to see if everything was OK, then turned it off and went to bed. I still had a bunch of updates to install, but decided that I'd had enough excitement for one day.

Friday morning I continued where I left off by installing the updates from the Microsoft website. All was going well until my computer froze right in the middle of one of the installations. Ohhhh...Crap.

I hit Ctrl+Alt+Del.


I hit Esc.


I hit random keys all over the keyboard...I panicked, OK? Nothing I did woke up the computer. This is really, really not good. I unplugged the computer, then tried to restart it.

Disc-read error. Restart. Disc-read error. Restart. Disc-read error. Restart.

I couldn't even get it to the Windows XP startup screen. So I tried System Recovery.

Disc-read error. Restart. Disc-read error. Restart. Disc-read error. Restart.

Totally exasperated, I unplugged the computer and flung the plug against the wall. I was going to have to do a total system reboot requiring me to reformat the hard worst nightmare. I decided to give it one more try. I returned to the stupid frickin' computer and plugged it back in. I turned it on. It worked. Glory Hallelujah. System Recovery ran and restored my computer without deleting any files or programs. Whew! I left well-enough alone and went to work.

This morning I returned to the task at hand: finishing those pesky web updates. They completed without a hitch. My operating system upgrade took three days to complete. I was tired. Why am I doing this again? THE ZUNE, oh, yeah, right. Now for the REAL test and the moment of truth. Will the Zune software load?

It did. No kidding. And it is cool. Unfortunately, I don't know exactly how cool it is yet. I had to go to work while it fully charged. So was it worth all the trouble? I hope so. But for now, it's too zune to tell.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Pearly, Pearly Whites

Do you remember the old 70's commercials for Pearl Drops Tooth Polish? It was basically a head shot of a seductive young woman who slowly massaged her upper teeth with her tongue while moaning, "Nnnnnnnnnnn". Actually, I was only about ten years old and knew absolutely nothing about the ways of seduction; I just thought she was really into her teeth. I found an 80's version of the commercial, but it's nowhere as good as the 70's version I remember:

Diane tells a story of how she actually badgered her mom into buying Pearl Drops just so she could do the tongue thing. Whatever works, I guess, as long as you can get your kids to brush their teeth.

Anyway, lately I've felt like a very lame 21st century version of the Pearl Drops commercial. No, I'm not a seductive temptress hawking tooth polish. But I am trying to get the girls to brush their teeth appropriately. And in order to help that along, I've been brushing my teeth an average of four times daily, basically because Kyra asks me to.

It all started innocently enough. Diane or I would tell the girls to brush their teeth, they'd brush for appoximately 10 seconds, spit, rinse, wipe the remainder of the toothpaste off on MY TOWEL, and move on to the next event, usually school or bed. Since they have practically no concept of time, I decided to show them how long two minutes was (get your minds out of the gutter RIGHT NOW...besides I'm AT LEAST a three-minute man). I decided to BRUSH MY TEETH WITH THEM. So we loaded up our toothbrushes and went after the plaque. It was fun to see them mimic everything I did: I'd start high and right, and they'd follow. I'd slide over to the top front with a circular motion, and so would they. I'd spit, and they gladly obliged, usually all over the mirror. After a few times, they became pretty good brushers in their own right.

Recently, though, Kyra's become soft; a backslidden brusher. Her excuse: "I foagot how to bwush." She can be a little dramatic sometimes.

"But you used to be such a good brusher," we'd say. "What happened?"

"I don't know." Standard kid answer.

So for awhile I did the standard dad thing: threaten her, which rarely ever works, but it's our default setting, so we start there. Fortunately for me, I've slowly been learning (sloooooooowly) to take a step back and look at the situation to decide how best to handle it. That usually takes place after I blow my top and am utterly ashamed of my behavior. So I asked her what she wanted.

"Daddy, could you bwush with me?"

What can I say? She's still my baby. How could I say no. So I've been brushing my standard two times a day along with her two times a day. Hopefully as a result, my aging, slightly coffee-stained cuspids will be on their way to becoming blinding, pearly whites. Does anyone know where I can get some Pearl Drops?

Saturday, January 13, 2007

A REALLY Unhappy Camper

My saga with AMERICAN AIRLINES continues. In my last entry concerning this situation, I hesitated revealing the identity of this incompetent airline in order to give them one more opportunity to make things right. They failed miserably. Rather, they succeeded in pissing me off even more. Their response:

We received your most recent email, and I'm sorry you are upset with my response. The AAdvantage® miles were meant as a gesture of goodwill, and I regret we were unable to do more to prevent an uncomfortable flight. In the future, please know that you need to speak with one of our flight crew before travel begins, and give them a chance to correct the situation at that time.

Please allow me to take this additional opportunity to apologize, once again, for what happened. While we regret your continued dissatisfaction with our offer to make amends, we believe it is reasonable and appropriate. I'm not eager to disappoint you again but we don't agree that additional compensation is warranted.

You are a valued customer and we do appreciate your business. I hope you will try our service again soon.

Wow. They're all but guaranteeing that I NEVER try their service again. My rebuttal:

Allow me to make myself perfectly clear: I am not interested in your “gesture of goodwill”. I am interested in you rectifying a wrongful situation. You were NOT “unable…to prevent an uncomfortable flight”. You did NOTHING to prevent an uncomfortable flight. And to place the blame on me is incomprehensible. I could have spoken to the flight crew, but I CHOSE NOT TO INCONVENIENCE AN ENTIRE PLANELOAD OF PEOPLE. Your ticketing agent took exactly one (1) ticket from a man who was easily 400 lbs. It was blatantly obvious that there was no way he would be able to fit into a single seat AND SHE LET HIM ON AN ALREADY OVERBOOKED PLANE.

Surely your ticketing agents and flight crew are trained to identify situations that may slow the boarding process and to take action to help things move more smoothly. They provide elderly people with wheelchairs. They offer to check strollers for families with small children. Why then, is it not possible for your ticketing agent to take one look at a 400-pound man with a single ticket to think, “We may have a problem here”? Instead, you are telling me that because I didn’t complain about my situation, a situation that YOU should have dealt with before I even got on the plane, that you “can not” do anything to compensate me. That’s ridiculous.

I’m nearly done dealing with you…you’ve been less than helpful with your condescending and insulting responses that have not at all addressed the problem. Instead, you try to unilaterally pacify and dismiss me with your pathetic frequent flier miles. You will not dismiss me so easily. I want, IN WRITING, American Airlines’ policy on accommodating overweight passengers. I also want a name and e-mail address or phone number of one of your superiors. If you are unwilling to provide this information, I’m sure one of the news producers from [call letters of my television station], my employer, will be able to obtain it.

It really upsets me (an understatement) that they placed the blame on me for not raising a fuss on the plane. Believe me, I thought about it. But the plane was full and it was already late. I was seated in the back of the plane and I carried on my luggage. If I complained, the plane would have been delayed further while one of us got off the plane. I decided, as I stated earlier, not to inconvenience everyone on the plane, as well as not to further embarrass the large gentleman sitting next to me.

Thinking about this reminded me of an incident we witnessed the last time we flew on American back in October. The whole family was going to Disney World in Orlando, and I purchased our plane tickets and selected our seats online. We were in rows 14 and 15. When we went to travel, American changed the type of airplane, which disrupted several seating assignments. There was no row 7, and row 15, where Diane and Kyra ended up sitting, was the emergency exit row, which Kyra couldn't sit in.

The flight attendants' solution? Move the occupants of row 7 to row 15 and the occupants of row 15 to an empty row in the back of the plane. Diane was thrilled, as were the rest of the people of displaced row 15. One guy decided to voice his displeasure. "Why do we have to be the ones to move to the back of the plane? I booked my seats 6 months ago."

"Because this is the way we are doing it," the flight attendant quickly countered. "And if you continue to make a fuss about it, you will be escorted off the plane." The man and everyone around him were dumbfounded. Apparently the incompetance of American Airlines' customer service skills knows no bounds.

Now I can't say for sure, but I believe they would have treated any objection I may have raised about my seating arrangement in the same manner. They probably would have tossed me off the plane.

At this point I'm probably beating a dead horse and nothing I communicate to American Airlines will change their "squeaky wheel gets the grease" customer service policy. But if a squeaky wheel is what they want, a squeaky wheel is what they'll get.

Friday, January 12, 2007

Breakfast in Bed

This morning as I was frantically composing my third complaint letter to AMERICAN AIRLINES (more on that later), Kyra approached me with a piece of paper. "Can I take your order, please?" I looked at the paper where my wife listed several breakfast-y options. Apparently, they were going to prepare me a birthday breakfast. Sweet! "When you know what you want, just circle, no, UNDERLINE them. Then I'll come back and take your order." She then ran off to play. I don't know only took me two seconds to complete my order: French toast, scrambled eggs, orange juice, and coffee.

She returned a short while later, then disappeared with my order. I turned my attention back to my scathing letter to AMERICAN AIRLINES, sons of b..."Oh, hi Sweetie!" Kyra reappeared at my side with a twinkle in her eye.

"Awww, Daddy, you look exhausted." Kyra doesn't pronounce her "R's" very well, so she sounds a little like Tweety Bird. "You should go back to bed and get some west." I smiled as this was a much-welcomed distraction from the daunting task of dealing with AMERICAN AIRLINES. I grabbed her hand and allowed her to lead me back in to the bedroom where she tucked me into bed. "Alwite, you just west and get some sleep." No argument here.

She and Diane tiptoed into the bedroom with, SURPRISE, my breakfast, complete with a birthday candle. Diane lit the candle and they sang to me, and I blew out the candle and made my wish (that AMERICAN AIRLINES would go out of business...darn, I guess now it won't come true).

Kyra joined me a short while later because to her, breakfast in bed is pretty cool. She told me that she didn't get to have breakfast in bed on her birthday, so she was going to have it on mine. Fair enough. So we sat there next to each other chowing down on French toast, dropping powdered sugar down our shirts, and watching Regis & Kelly. Not a bad way to start the day. Now bring on the presents!

Sunday, January 07, 2007

I'm An Idiot...And Lovin' Every Minute of It

One of the great things about being a parent is the opportunity to be an influence in the lives of your children. Notice I did not say "positive" influence. Whether I am a "positive" influence on the girls is open to interpretation. If you ask me if I think I'm a positive influence, then it's a big "hell, yeah!" My wife, on the other hand, may not be so quick to jump on that bandwagon.

One of the areas in which we are not so equally yoked is our taste in movies. I need to be diplomatic here because Diane reads my blog. Diane tends to be a little more selective in her cinematic tastes while I like to dine at the smorgasbord. If we're channel surfing and I see a black and white movie with a ridiculous-looking creature, or a dude in a cowboy hat, in uniform, or holding a samurai sword, or gunfire/explosions of any sort, I'll shout, "OOooh, what was that!" Diane just rolls her eyes, groans, and keeps on surfing. I'm particularly proud of my ability to identify a movie in the brief second or so it takes to surf by it: "That was Platoon...Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid...My Bloody Valentine...Meatballs II...Police Academy V..." More groaning and eye rolling.

Fortunately for us, we identified this difference relatively early in our relationship. I can remember one night we decided to have a movie night over at her place and she asked me what I'd like to see. "Have you ever seen Young Frankenstine? Oh it's hilarious...we have to get that one." Diane AND HER MOM went to about four different video stores to find the movie. They finally found it and we watched it together with Diane's parents and her sister. I busted a gut for an hour-and-a-half while they all sat there stone-faced wondering what the hell was wrong with me. Now that I think about it, it's a wonder they allowed me to marry their daughter.

Anyway, that was a long tangent simply to say that I'd like to have more of an influence on the girls by giving them a wider appreciation of the cinema. And I've had some success in this area. They are already big fans of The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, and super hero movies, much to Diane's chagrin. This morning I pulled off a huge coup d'etat, although it may backfire and bite me in the butt. This morning I introduced the girls to a classic cinematic art form...the creature feature.

I was surfing through channels, and because Diane was at work, I stopped at all of those channels that looked promising because I was in control for a change. I came across AMC (that's American Movie Classics) and saw a black and white movie with two men sneaking around in the dark dressed in 50's style swimsuits. Who wouldn't stop channel-surfing for that! Then I saw it. The rubber, fakey-looking body suit; the fins; the gaping was The Creature From the Black Lagoon! Score!! Of course, the girls came in at this time and wanted to watch it. I mean they REALLY wanted to watch it. I protested at first, but they BEGGED me to watch it. I was so proud. What else could I do? So I made cinnamon rolls and we snuggled up and watched one of the dumbest movies ever made. It was great!

What's also great is that I'm an incredibly sound sleeper. So I won't have to deal with the girls when they are awakened by nightmares in the middle of the night. Sorry, hon.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

I Am Not a Happy Camper

Two weeks ago, I traveled back to Illinois to attend my grandpa's funeral. I had to buy my plane ticket at the last minute and I paid nearly $700 for it. As I boarded the plane I found a man sitting in my seat. Normally this isn't too unusual. You simply point out the error and the person moves. This wasn't your normal case. In this case, the man was sitting in his seat AS WELL AS my seat. My heart dropped (I think my jaw might have as well). He was a very large fellow.

I indicated that the middle seat was mine and he let me into the row. I sat down, scootched as far to the right as I possibly could and braced myself. He slid in and scootched as far as he could to his left, and he still took up half of my seat. He was pressed up against me and practically sitting on me. It was more than a little awkward.

In a vain attempt to break the ice, he says, "Why do these flights always have to be full!" Like he's being inconvenienced.

A host of answers fill my mind. Well, first of all, this is a business, nimrod. They WANT their flights to be full. That's how they make their money. That's what I wanted to say, but I didn't. Instead, I merely countered, "It's Christmas." We didn't talk the rest of the flight.

The window seat was occupied by a ten year-old boy traveling alone. This was somewhat of a life-saver except for the fact that he was sick and spent the entire flight hacking up a lung. I could envision all of the spit particles infecting the entire plane with every cough and sneeze. I was the only filter. Just thinking about it makes me want to take a shower.

I should have gotten off the plane and filed a complaint, but I was on a schedule with the funeral and I didn't want to cause a ruckus on the plane. Instead, I decided to suck it up, make my trip to Illinois, and file a complaint with the airline upon my return, which I did. The airline will remain anonymous for now, depending on how this situation is resolved.

I filed the complaint where I explained that I shouldn't have to pay for a seat that I had to share and that the very least they could do is reimburse me or provide a voucher covering the leg of the flight to Chicago. This morning I received their reply:

Thanks for contacting Customer Relations. Our aim is not simply to provide transportation but to help our customers enjoy a pleasant and satisfying journey along the way. We are very sorry that your experience was disappointing, and I can appreciate how uncomfortable you were as a result of the situation you described.

As more tangible evidence of our concern, we've credited your [frequent flier] account with 5,000 bonus miles. This adjustment should be reflected in your account very soon. You can use the mileage in your account to claim travel awards. We are eager to have another chance to serve you.

In addition to our apology, please be assured that we have conscientiously followed through on your comments in an effort to share your feedback and, where possible, to improve our service. We are working hard to earn your satisfaction.

Wow. 5,000 whole bonus miles. That's worth, what, about $40? That's if you can actually ever use them. I have nearly 50,000 bonus miles, and I've never been able to redeem them on a flight. Needless to say, I was not happy. So I penned a response:

I am incredibly disappointed that you feel 5,000 bonus miles is “more tangible evidence of our concern”. My experience was not merely disappointing, it was unacceptable. I spent a 3 ½ flight with an armrest jammed into my right side and nearly the entire left side of my body pressed up against a complete stranger. I spent nearly $700 of my hard earned money for this experience. What you are offering me in return is roughly $40 in compensation that is extremely difficult to redeem in terms of airfare.

What is at issue here is [your] policy on accommodating overweight passengers. I can understand if your policy is not to discriminate against obese passengers by requiring them to purchase multiple tickets in order to accommodate their size. The question is who is going to offset that cost? If you as a company are not going to charge overweight people for an extra seat, then you should be willing to offset the cost for that extra seat. Instead, it seems that you as a company are content to allow me (or other passengers) to offset the cost by sharing my (our) seat. This is not right and I do not feel like I should have to pay for it.

I am not a nasty person, nor am I an opportunist looking for a chance to get ahead at your expense. But I do believe that I should not be responsible for a seat that I had to share with another passenger. You had an opportunity to make things right, and you missed the mark. Please try again.

I've got one more letter brewing if I don't get my way. It's the one where I DO get nasty and inform them that I work for a television station. Stay tuned.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Rainbow's Revenge

I think Rainbow is out to get us.

As you may recall, Rainbow was the girls' pet Beta fish that bought the farm back in November. We "cleverly" replaced him with a new fish, Rainbow II, in order to spare our precious daughters the grief of losing a beloved pet. Our plan is backfiring and I'm beginning to get more than a little freaked by an animal that is smaller than my thumb.

There are two possibilities here: either Rainbow II is merely a psycho fish from hell, or he is posessed by the spirit of Rainbow I, who is out for revenge. I'm becoming increasingly convinced toward the latter.

At first it was cute. I would open the lid to his bowl and he would swim to the surface in anticipation of the rock-hard pellet they call Beta food that was about to be dropped into the water. I put my fingers just above the surface and Rainbow II swam right up to them. Then one day, he jumped. Right out of the water. Right off my fingertips. Scared the hell out of me. I think I screamed. On second thought, I'm sure I didn't scream. Now Rainbow II's mouth is roughly half the size of a BB, and I'm fairly certain that it couldn't inflict THAT much damage, but I really think he was trying to eat me.

I know, I think I'm crazy. But it's not just me he's trying to eat. Last week I heard a scream and I ran into the kitchen. Kailey stood next to Rainbow II's bowl holding her hand, a frantic look on her face. "Rainbow bit me," she breathed. That's not all. A couple of days ago, Diane opened the bowl to feed him and as she reached down, he jumped out of the bowl! Yes, you heard me...the little sucker got a running, er, swimming head start and launched himself right out of that frickin' bowl! Diane stood there stunned as she watched him flop around on the counter top. She should have stabbed him through his cold, evil demon-heart with a toothpick, but instead returned him to the comfort of his lair.

I don't know what to do. My logic tells me that he is too small to harm any of us, but anyone who has ever seen any of the Child's Play movies also knows that a little doll shouldn't have been able to go on a murderous rampage either. I'm thinking about flushing him, but then I'd never be able to take a crap in peace again.

I honestly don't think he can be killed. I mean anything that I can think of doing to him is accompanied by a thought of how he can get out of it. I could bury him, but then like Carrie, he would him dig himself out, grabbing me by the ankle with his little flipper as I visit his gravesite. I could drown him...oh, wait, he's a fish. I could step on him, shoot him, blow him up, throw him off a cliff, decapitate him, feed him to birds, any number of things, but no matter what I do to him, I am certain that one day I'd find him in a sink or toilet bowl waiting to get his revenge.

So for now I think I'll lay low, keep an ear open for squishy noises in the hallway, and feed him ALOT. I knew we should have bought a new bowl.

Why Do I Even Bother?

They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions. I'm building a super-freeway. It's really of now it has ten lanes, all one-way, of course, so there's room for everyone. As I get older, I'll just keep adding lanes so there will be no traffic jams, just free-flowing traffic straight to hell.

I recently read my list of "resolutions" for 2006. They were truly inspiring and not overly-ambitious. I categorized several of areas in my life in which I desired improvement, things like family, work, finances, etc, and I listed one or two goals under each category. It was awesome. 2006 was going to be the best year ever. Except I accomplished exactly none of my goals. Oops.

So this year I am again tempted to resurrect the list. But why? Why should I torture myself again? Why should I waste my time? Because, dear reader, that's what I do best. So here I go again, putting together my list of resolutions and goals for 2007. I'll keep you posted on the progress. Like you care.


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