There’s No Place Like Home

What a day! In some ways, this is the last day of the rest of the year. The calendar is quickly filling up and soon it will be new year’s. I hope to keep consistently blogging M-Th every week (at least), and hopefully the vacations, parties, hot wassail, and chocolate comas won’t keep me from doing so.

(Side Note: I always feel good when a month has 31 days. It makes me feel like I got the very most out of the month I possibly could. Those months with 30 (and the one with 28) really just under perform.)

Halloween is a great holiday. We theatre people often say that it’s the day when the rest of the world can see how fun it is to dress up and be someone else for a while. (welcome to our job :)) For the past two years, however, I have not really fully participated in this Halloween thing. I don’t know if it’s because I don’t really have any kids to get excited with, or if all the planned parties have been lame, or what. I haven’t decorated anything, dressed up as anything, or really done much. Someone hurry up and figure out why that is, ok?

Also, today marks an anniversary. Today is the first day my THIRD year here in Dallas. That’s right, on October 30, 2005 I rolled into Dallas, with a short gig in mind, not realizing or even dreaming that I might still be here 2 years later. All in all, though, I’m still very happy and grateful for the blessing of being here. I have a pretty great life, and even though I miss being in close proximity to my family and old friends, Texas is actually starting to feel like home.


On Friday, Condie Rice announced new sanctions against the Iranian military and Iranian financial institutions that are involved in Iran’s nuclear program and funneling arms and financial support into Middle Eastern terrorist networks. There is a great debate as to whether or not these new sanctions will have any real effect on Iran, and America begins to wonder if we are on a collision course with that country.

I, on the other hand, have come up with a totally new solution to the problem. What we need is a new, modern Iran, full of fresh new ideas and leadership.

First, I propose we rename “Iran” to “iRan.” We can create a NEW Iran just by lower casing the i on Iran and giving it a brand new industrial design. This will modernize, pluralize, and make iRan cool, hip, and “now”. Let’s face it, mp3 players and cell phones existed before the iPod and iPhone, but look what the new capitalization has done for them!!

map of iRan 1

Second, I propose we make Steve Jobs the new CEO of iRan. There, he can give long winded, disconnected Keynote presentations to his heart’s content. He will have a totally captive audience. Also, having Steve in iRan will open the way for a new “mecca” for Mac-Philes. The tourism industry of iRan will grown 800% in the first year, with people making their annual pilgrimage to the center of Apple-dom.

map of iRan

Third, (and most important of all) we have learned that the ‘hearts and minds’ campaign is the most difficult one to win, and to succeed in this, we will introduce a revolutionary new device called the iRan.

the iRan

This device will be based on the iPhone and iPod touch. Except it will come pre-loaded with all sorts of incredible content (cause as far as we know, the internet probably hasn’t been invented yet in Iran).

The iRan will include all the 60’s protest music we can find, the entire Beatles anthology (the rights to which will be taken from Michael Jackson as part of his current legal proceedings), videos of people getting smacked in the junk, and of course W’s last 6 “State of the Union” addresses.

We should also throw in lots of Hip Hop music, because I really feel like the suppression and objectification of women embodied therein will resonate in that culture. Also, it wouldn’t hurt them to learn the F word and repeat it at leisure every time they see an American, even if they don’t really understand how offensive it is.

We also need to put in every Tom Cruise film, for the pure capitalistic presentational melodramatic action packed nature of them. We should include the complete works of Meg Ryan as well, to show America’s cutesie, optimistic, love struck side.

I welcome your suggestions on other content you think might be appropriate for the iRan. It will be forwarded to the appropriate congressional subcommittee and is guaranteed to go absolutely nowhere.

This revolutionary device will change the way we fight wars and win hearts and minds the world over! A new era has begun.

State Department, are you listening???

On/Off Button.

Retirement: Here I come!

Recently I received a very interesting letter in the mail:


I am the first 26 year old to be admitted to the Association for the Advancement of Retired People!!!

At first I was a little insulted… I mean, how could they get my birthdate wrong by over 40 years! Then I realized, wait… maybe this isn’t so bad after all:

  1. I can notify the Social Security office of my new age, and start receiving benefits.
  2. I can sleep in late or go to bed early without anyone thinking I was lazy.
  3. I can get a discount on pretty much everything anywhere I go.
  4. I can get special benefits on special days of the week.
  5. I can compete in athletic events in the Senior division and smoke my competition.
  6. I can be ornery about cold french fries, complain about local politics and exacerbate neighborhood issues.
  7. I can play games like bridge, backgammon, shuffleboard, and bingo without having to look sporty or ultra competitive.
  8. I can skip children and go straight to grandchildren.
  9. I can get me a sweet part time job for some “mad money” I can use to cruise the ‘vard and pick up chicks.
  10. I can go on Letterman as the youngest old guy in America!

Yes. I could get used to this life! AARP will have no clue what hit ’em!

Outside yourself

When I was a kid I would read books and some authors would say something like “Andrea found herself standing in the store buying cookies.” When I would read this, I wondered how can you “find yourself” someplace. Weren’t you with yourself all the time?

But that happens to us I think. This week I was sitting at the kitchen table and my husband was sitting on the other side of it. We were having casual conversation. All of the sudden, I felt an in-body experience. Have you ever had one of those? All the sudden, I was aware of my true self being inside this body I inhabit and I felt this wonderment, WHY AM I ME? How did I get here, in this body, at this time, in this life, with these people around me, with these thoughts,feelings, habits, abilities, inadequacies. I felt my real self looking out these windows (eyes) to the outside world and feeling those weird words ring true “I found myself sitting at the kitchen table talking.”

Do we really know who we really are? I feel sometimes I may not know my real true self. I have had reactions or done things before that even surprise myself. Who am I? and why am I me? I wonder….

How was it back in the old days when people didn’t have mirrors? They could see everyone else but they couldn’t see themselves. How did they picture themselves? How did they perceive themselves? I am not talking about being vain or image-conscious, I mean how did people understand themselves when they didn’t have a visual image to associate with their view of self?

Maybe you’ve thought about that in a house of mirrors what is a true accurate reflection? What is truely who you are?

Yesterday I was on the internet browsing for a new swimsuit. (I am trying to lose weight for a trip to Puerto Rico in the spring and was motivating myself by telling myself if I did it I could buy a new swimsuit) My 2 year old (who wanted juice or spaghettios I am sure) came and climbed on my lap and said pointing at the 100-pound-stick-thin- swimsuit-models in string bikinis, “LOOK ITS MOMMY!” I of course had to laugh right out loud. I do not look like that, but she just saw a pretty, grown up woman and thought of mom. She doesn’t know or care about physical perfection. She just knows I am her representation of a real grown up woman. What responsibility I have! To be the standard of a woman to 4 young girls. I know I fall short so much and have been know to say in prayer “bless my children that they may be resiliant to my mistakes.”

People say that they wonder why we are here on this earth. There are many answers and many ways to look at it, but I think this is my current answer to this question….

We are hear to do our best with who we are — cause that’s all we came with and that’ s all we are going to leave with… that person inside.


Terrible (and Not) Retail Experiences

Last night I had another terrible retail experience which has solidified in my mind the reasons why retail stores might ultimately disappear from the face of the planet.

The Experience

I needed a printer. In today’s printer world there are a PLETHORA of options. You can get inkjet, laser, or solid ink technology printers in black only or full color. Each has their pros and cons. Then, to make the decision even more difficult, there are all these multifunction printers as well, which combine scanning, faxing, and copying in many different configurations. Then there is the question of connectivity. USB? Network? Memory card readers? Legacy parallel connections? The list goes on.

I have been putting off the new printer purchase for some time now. I’ve been waiting for the color laser multi-functions to come down in price and mature in quality. I could wait no longer, so I decided to go to Fry’s Electronics and get (at least for now) some simple black laser printer that would get me by for the short term, until I decided on a color-laser-network-scanner-copier-faxer-with-auto-document-feeder-and-network-connectivity-which-is-fully-mac-compatible bohemuth to spend my money on.

Now, I am all about having a premium retail experience. For example, I enjoy shopping at Target instead of Wal-Mart for one reason alone: in Target, they don’t come blaring over the loudspeaker every 2 minutes bellering for so-and-so to pick up the blue line. These small things make all the difference.

When I walk into Fry’s the place reeks of hierarchical struggles. There is a “Person in Charge” podium at the entrance, as well as “Person in Charge” podiums around the store. Usually someone dressed in a suit is standing behind the podium watching the many minions mill about.

Each of the employees at Fry’s acts as though they have some gun pointed at their head; like they might be fired at any minute for any reason. Even stockers and cashiers, who have very simple, limited jobs walk around with a cloud hanging over their heads. I’m not sure why this is, but it is a tense, uncomfortable energy that pervades throughout the store, which puts consumers on edge.

So after perusing the printers for a while, a salesman came over and asked if he could help, and after answering a simple question about where I can find the printers (they weren’t clearly sectioned off into Laser and Non-laser or clearly labeled on their tags as Laser, Inkjet, or other), he left me alone to peruse. After he showed up again, I started telling him what I was looking for in a printer. I only wanted to spend $3-400 if I could get a good multi-function package, otherwise I just wanted a cheap black and white. It was also very important that the printer be Mac compatible, as ALL my systems are Macs. I knew I was in trouble when he responded to my compatibility query by saying, “yeah, well they all should be [compatible].” I know for a fact that most printers are Mac compatible, but multi-functions are basically a coin toss. When I pointed this out to him, especially that scanning software wasn’t always compatible, he offered to get the boxes for the printers I was interested in so he could check specifically.

As I was about to give up and go back to researching online, just by chance I glanced underneath at the boxes that were in stock (rather than the display units), and saw a Color Laser with scanner and network connectivity for $500. It was the CM1017 by HP. “OK this will work,” I thought. When we still couldn’t tell if it was Mac compatible, he invited me to go to a nearby computer to look up the details on it.

When I looked up the printer on HP’s website, I found they were listing the same printer (CM1017) for $474. So I asked if they would match the price ($25 less… come on!), and he looked as though I had just called his mom a four letter word. “No we just can’t match websites… that doesn’t include shipping… we just can’t match websites.” I laughed a bit and was being understanding until he said, “Yeah… we can’t even match our OWN website.” Then I realize, Oh my crap… this corporation is totally backwards!

I showed him that with shipping and taxes from it still was only $508, as opposed to the $540 I would spend at the store. He held his no website matching ground though.

After thinking about it I thought, “you know, I can spend $30 extra, have it in my hand today, and this guy has been helpful to me despite having absolutely no knowledge about sales, mac compatibility, or finding the right product to fit my needs.” So I said I would take it.

The gentleman got a cart for me and loaded it up, then did a “ticket” (the way he gets his commission on the sale). I walk through the aisles toward the register weighing my choice… did I really want this printer? Was it worth the $30 savings to ditch the cart and go order it online? Somehow, I made it to the register with the cart still in hand.

The lady at the register scanned the “ticket” the guy gave me, then scanned the product itself. Then she muttered something to herself, then went to go call the salesman. I looked down on the box, the printed price label said $699. She had muttered that he had gotten the wrong box, and that he’d be back to replace it. I said, “No. This is the right model. This is the printer I want. The sales tag underneath it said $499, the HP website lists it for $474, and now you’re trying to sell it to me for $699??? This is crap. I’m just going to buy it off their website, you guys need to get your act together.” When the manager lady saw I was losing my grip, her reaction wasn’t to try to explain, she just said, “Okeey.. Dank you. Goo bie.”

I ran into the salesman on my way to the exit who was running back to fix whatever problem he had created. I said, “I don’t know what’s going on here, but all I know is I can get that same printer for $40 cheaper online, and you guys need to get your program together.” And I walked off.

It turns out, yes, the salesman HAD gotten the wrong printer. They were not going to let me out the door with the CM1017 without selling it to me for $699. It was the CM1015 that was $499 (the only difference being the network connectivity).

So I went home, and in less than 30 minutes of searching, I found the same printer (CM1015) for $280, and the CM1017 for $360. I bought the CM1015 online.

Why Retail Stores Suck

So… this retail store lost because:

  • Total lack of knowledge about the products you sell.
  • Lack of ability to match needs of customer with product you sell (this is what salesmanship is, BTW)
  • Lack of competitive pricing and website matching (even matching your own company’s website… hello!)
  • Relying on impulse buyers and people who don’t know better to buy their over priced products.
  • A generally uncomfortable atmosphere set by uncomfortable employees and supervisors.
  • Lack of good communication with the customer.

I don’t just want to end by picking on Fry’s. Here are my other big box retail store #1 complaint summaries:

  • Best Buy: Prices are not competitive, but sales staff are generally knowledgeable and less pushy than Fry’s.
  • Wal-Mart/Target: Stock is typically out of date.. as much as a year. And they still sell them for MSRP, when much newer better models are already available. Also, there is NO sales knowledge or customer service.
  • CompUSA, Staples, Office Supply Stores: High prices, but there is a better chance that sales staff are professional and knowledgeable.

So what do you do? What is the answer? Go to best buy if you want to play with the product, go to an office supply store to ask a question about it, then go home and buy it online.

The Exception (the Not)

Now, there is one exception to this rule. (And I swear I don’t work for these guys) But Apple has saved retail! They really have rethought it.

  • You will always pay the same in an Apple store as you will on Apple’s Online store
  • Apple’s employees are INCREDIBLY knowledgeable (about mac products), and if they can’t answer your questions, they will show you to the “genius bar” where the really smart guys are.
  • I can get my corporate discount at any Apple store or online at apple’s store.
  • I don’t have to wait for clearance sales, collect discount coupons, or find redemption codes. None of these exist for Apple. They do not discount merchandise until a replacement product comes out.
  • You can receive Apple support in the Apple stores. Rather than calling India for help, you make an appointment (they respect your time), and you take your Mac, iPod, or iPhone in and they fix it for you on the spot.
  • Apple’s stores are modern, well stocked, easy to visually parse (not too many products, aisles, or shelves), and accessible (if you’re in a major metro area)
  • The staff totally love their jobs, are encouraged to be individuals (not uncommon to see piercings or tats), and genuinely believe in what they’re pushing.

This is a store I can spend my money and time in.

Poetry of a Cold, Wet Monday

Yesterday’s high was 90 degrees.
Today’s high is 58 degrees.

I wore a sweater for the first time in many months today, and I was still cold while going between the front door of work and my car. I love sweaters.

I ran the heat in my car for the first time since April or May.

My feet are still cold from coming in from lunch. I must be related to my mother.

It’s days like this that make me wonder whether I like the chill of winter or the scalding summer.

I think the answer is: neither.

On/off button.

Beg… errr… Pledge Drives

This week has been pledge week on my local NPR (National Public Radio) affiliate. For those purist capitalists among you, NPR is the radio version of PBS which is Public Television/Radio. These don’t believe in advertising, instead they use government, corporate, and public funds to pay for their programming. What this equates to is LONG, BORING, FREQUENT pledge drives where talking heads yammer on about supporting your public station, etc, etc, etc.

I hate beg week.

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for public broadcasting and less advertising. I love watching a show on PBS and not having to suffer or fast forward through the commercials. That is BRILLIANT! But is interrupting every 15 minutes to beg for donations for 20 minutes. Isn’t there ANY better way to get money? What about the internet? What about bank robbery? Man… just stop begging me for money.

One of my favorite quotes about public television was on an episode of The West Wing. Toby is defending a spending bill on public television to some congress members visiting the White House in this spirited exchange:

“There’s one other thing: product licensing for Big Bird dolls and Fuzzy Bear toys?”

“That’s Fozzie Bear,” Toby notes.


“It’s Fozzie Bear, not Fuzzy Bear.”

Sidekick-Boy says that twenty million dollars a year in licensing fees are paid to the Children’s Television Workshop, and none goes to PBS. He adds, “This is a company whose chief executive earns high six figures in salary and benefits per year, yet Sesame Street is subsidized by taxpayer dollars.”

Toby says that this is perfectly reasonable complaint. Well, part of it is.

Toby continues, “And I don’t care. We’re going to see to all those things. In the meantime, at a time when the public is rightly concerned about the impact of sex and violence on TV, this administration is going to protect the Muppets, we’re gonna protect Wall Street Week, we’re gonna protect Live from Lincoln Center, and by God, we are gonna protect Julia Child.”

The West Wing (one of my favorite shows, btw) has quite the history with PBS and The Children’s Television Workshop. After all, this is the TV I was raised on, so you can imagine my delight when Big Bird (and that annoying next generation character Elmo) had a cameo appearance with CJ Cregg (played by Allison Janney, a notably TALL actor)

CJ and Big Bird

How can a true red blooded American not want to support Big Bird? I mean honestly! We all want to support public television. But few of us actually do. And why is that? Because they are just so freaking annoying about it.

So STOP the BEG DRIVES EVERY 3 MONTHS for public broadcasting!!! It is super annoying. Maybe if you’d back off, I would actually consider donating.