Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Are You Tired of Voice Mail Hell?

Have you become convinced that endless automated phone systems are one of Dante's Nine Circles of Hell and that actual customer service provided by a human being died sometime in the 1990s?

Yesterday, I discovered a website designed around the radical premise of connecting people with people when calling for customer service.

Now I haven't actually tried any of the phone numbers listed on the site, but I've spent some time searching the site and am pleasantly surprised at how much information is available, complete with reviews, average wait times, and other short cuts.

The next time I have to call a company to hook up cable, turn on electricity, handle a mobile phone problem, or even put a vacation stop on my newspaper, I'll be visiting GetHuman.com.

Try it and let me know what you think.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Runners Get "Runners High," But What Do Swimmers Get?

Whatever the swimming equivalent is to "Runner's High," I experienced for the very first time today in the pool.

It was kind of strange really. You'd think I might have experienced it last week when I was at Watervale and swimming across Lower Herring Lake. You remember the saga from last year. Last year, I struggled physically and in my head to swim from the dock to BooHoo. It took me an hour just to get there and then I had to kayak back. Last year, I couldn't swim a straight line to save my life. Rather than swim from Points A to B, I swam it via points Q, R, and S. That is to say, I swam completely out of my way...multiple times. Although Dave didn't have to pull me in the kayak, I did have to stop a lot and hold onto the kayak while I caught my breath and tread water.

This year, I swam to BooHoo like a champ. Rather than taking an hour to get there, I swam round trip in an hour. Round. Trip. In other words, I swam each way in 30 minutes or half the time it took last year! Swimming round trip to BooHoo in under an hour was a goal I'd set last year and I did it. And then I did it again two days later. On the first swim to BooHoo, I did have to stop and hang onto the kayak twice, but those times were only to de-fog my goggles. Thank goodness for my Watervale swimmer friend Craig who clued me in about licking the inside of my goggles to prevent fog. That man is brilliant. How no one else told me that previously is beyond me, but I digress. I didn't have to hold onto the kayak on the way home or on the second trip two days later.

Back to tonight. I hopped into the pool, licked my goggles, which, as it turned out, were full of Watervale sand and headed out. Let me just say that swimming in a lap pool no deeper than 5 feet, where I can see the bottom of the crystal clear, chlorinated water, and with stripes on the bottom and lane markers on either side felt like I was swimming with training wheels in comparison to the treacherous waters of Lower Herring Lake.

In the wild open waters of Lower Herring Lake, I bravely fought off speed boats, survived strong currents, huge waves, 50+ foot depths, an internal GPS that worked sometimes and was on the fritz the other times, the voices inside my head (and a rather unpleasant conversation with Dave once when I needed a break), the Lower Herring Lake Monster, and very uneven water temps. I even got cramps once. But I swam it. Round trip. Twice.

Tonight I powered through my swim with a new-found vigor. I swam with power and strength I didn't know I had. I even had speed that I've never had before. I cut 30% off my best time. The voices telling me I couldn't do it, that I'm weak and slow were gone. Instead, they were replaced with "How much faster/further can I go?" and "I'm done? Oh crap. I could go another 15 minutes or so. Too bad there's a bunch of people waiting." I ran into the wall a couple of times not because I wasn't paying attention, but because I thought the length of the pool was a whole lot longer than it actually is. In short, I felt exhilarated.

I can't wait to get in the pool tomorrow. And next year? I'm gonna swim round-trip to BooHoo each day in less than 45 minutes.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Beloit Mindset List or What Makes Me Feel Old Today

A few days ago, my college friend Worth published the Beloit Mindset List on his Facebook wall just like he does each year. And each year, right on cue, it makes me feel just a little bit older.

In case you're not familiar with it, the Beloit Mindset List was created in 1998 to point out the "cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students entering college" each fall.

Now while I don't normally post things produced by institutions other than Lake Forest College because, from my entirely unbiased opinion, the highest quality thought comes from LFC, I do enjoy this list and believe you will too. Of course, you'll also cry when you realize that if you graduated from college in 1993, the Class of 2015 was born just as you were accepting your diploma. Also #2 made me scream just a little. And don't get me started about #56, which should have been #23, by the way. (If a Chicagoan had made the list, #56 would have been #23, out of respect. I'm just saying.) Oh, and get the hell off my lawn!

The Mindset List for the Class of 2015

Andre the Giant, River Phoenix, Frank Zappa, Arthur Ashe and the Commodore 64 have always been dead.

Their classmates could include Taylor Momsen, Angus Jones, Howard Stern's daughter Ashley, and the Dilley Sextuplets.

  1. There has always been an Internet ramp onto the information highway.
  2. Ferris Bueller and Sloane Peterson could be their parents.
  3. States and Velcro parents have always been requiring that they wear their bike helmets.
  4. The only significant labor disputes in their lifetimes have been in major league sports.
  5. There have nearly always been at least two women on the Supreme Court, and women have always commanded U.S. Navy ships.
  6. They “swipe” cards, not merchandise.
  7. As they’ve grown up on websites and cell phones, adult experts have constantly fretted about their alleged deficits of empathy and concentration.
  8. Their school’s “blackboards” have always been getting smarter.
  9. “Don’t touch that dial!”….what dial?
  10. American tax forms have always been available in Spanish.
  11. More Americans have always traveled to Latin America than to Europe.
  12. Amazon has never been just a river in South America.
  13. Refer to LBJ, and they might assume you're talking about LeBron James.
  14. All their lives, Whitney Houston has always been declaring “I Will Always Love You.”
  15. O.J. Simpson has always been looking for the killers of Nicole Simpson and Ronald Goldman.
  16. Women have never been too old to have children.
  17. Japan has always been importing rice.
  18. Jim Carrey has always been bigger than a pet detective.
  19. We have never asked, and they have never had to tell.
  20. Life has always been like a box of chocolates.
  21. They’ve always gone to school with Mohammed and Jesus.
  22. John Wayne Bobbitt has always slept with one eye open.
  23. The Communist Party has never been the official political party in Russia.
  24. “Yadda, yadda, yadda” has always come in handy to make long stories short.
  25. Video games have always had ratings.
  26. Chicken soup has always been soul food.
  27. The Rocky Horror Picture Show has always been available on TV.
  28. Jimmy Carter has always been a smiling elderly man who shows up on TV to promote fair elections and disaster relief.
  29. Arnold Palmer has always been a drink.
  30. Dial-up is soooooooooo last century!
  31. Women have always been kissing women on television.
  32. Their older siblings have told them about the days when Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera were Mouseketeers.
  33. Faux Christmas trees have always outsold real ones.
  34. They’ve always been able to dismiss boring old ideas with “been there, done that, gotten the T-shirt.”
  35. The bloody conflict between the government and a religious cult has always made Waco sound a little whacko.
  36. Unlike their older siblings, they spent bedtime on their backs until they learned to roll over.
  37. Music has always been available via free downloads.
  38. Grown-ups have always been arguing about health care policy.
  39. Moderate amounts of red wine and baby aspirin have always been thought good for the heart.
  40. Sears has never sold anything out of a Big Book that could also serve as a doorstop.
  41. The United States has always been shedding fur.
  42. Electric cars have always been humming in relative silence on the road.
  43. No longer known for just gambling and quickie divorces, Nevada has always been one of the fastest growing states in the Union.
  44. They’re the first generation to grow up hearing about the dangerous overuse of antibiotics.
  45. They pressured their parents to take them to Taco Bell or Burger King to get free pogs.
  46. Russian courts have always had juries.
  47. No state has ever failed to observe Martin Luther King Day.
  48. While they’ve been playing outside, their parents have always worried about nasty new bugs borne by birds and mosquitoes.
  49. Public schools have always made space available for advertising.
  50. Some of them have been inspired to actually cook by watching the Food Channel.
  51. Fidel Castro’s daughter and granddaughter have always lived in the United States.
  52. Their parents have always been able to create a will and other legal documents online.
  53. Charter schools have always been an alternative.
  54. They’ve grown up with George Stephanopoulos as the Dick Clark of political analysts.
  55. New Kids have always been known as NKOTB.
  56. They’ve always wanted to be like Shaq or Kobe: Michael Who?
  57. They’ve often broken up with their significant others via texting, Facebook, or MySpace.
  58. Their parents sort of remember Woolworths as this store that used to be downtown.
  59. Kim Jong-il has always been bluffing, but the West has always had to take him seriously.
  60. Frasier, Sam, Woody and Rebecca have never Cheerfully frequented a bar in Boston during primetime.
  61. Major League Baseball has never had fewer than three divisions and never lacked a wild card entry in the playoffs.
  62. Nurses have always been in short supply.
  63. They won’t go near a retailer that lacks a website.
  64. Altar girls have never been a big deal.
  65. When they were 3, their parents may have battled other parents in toy stores to buy them a Tickle Me Elmo while they lasted.
  66. It seems the United States has always been looking for an acceptable means of capital execution.
  67. Folks in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have always been able to energize with Pepsi Cola.
  68. Andy Warhol is a museum in Pittsburgh.
  69. They’ve grown up hearing about suspiciously vanishing frogs.
  70. They’ve always had the privilege of talking with a chatterbot.
  71. Refugees and prisoners have always been housed by the U.S. government at Guantanamo.
  72. Women have always been Venusians; men, Martians.
  73. McDonalds coffee has always been just a little too hot to handle.
  74. “PC” has come to mean Personal Computer, not Political Correctness.
  75. The New York Times and the Boston Globe have never been rival newspapers.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Laughter is an Instant Vacation

I'm just back from Watervale and too exhausted to put the week into words, although I can assure you I've got some good stories for you.

In the meantime, take three minutes out of your day and take a little vacation of your own. As one of my favorite inspiration websites, Simple Truths, points out, Laughter is an Instant Vacation.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cuddling Tips from Uncle Jesse

My blogger buddy Lisa posted this video on Facebook last week and I immediately knew I had to share it with you.

If you're anything like me, you love to cuddle. But you may not know exactly how to cuddle. You'd like to cuddle more, but you don't feel confident in your cuddling skills.

Not to worry because Uncle Jesse (aka John Stamos) has your back. Ha ha ha. Did you get my cute pun?

Just watch the video below and you'll be all set. Ready for your next snuggle-fest.

Trust me, there will be a quiz. Just as soon as I'm home from Watervale.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Watervale Man

Watervale guests are known for their creativity and devotion to Watervale, so it was truly a matter of time before someone wrote a song. A friend of mine posted this video to Facebook a few weeks ago and I thought I'd wait to post it to LMS until I was at Watervale.

This song and video really do give you a good idea of what Watervale is all about and why I love it so much, so make sure you watch the video. Honestly, if you're reading this via email and the video didn't come through, visit LMS to watch it.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

If You Need Me Next Week . . .

I'll be....

Savoring the last little bits of Summertime

while I'm (Sittin' on) the Dock of the Bay,

With my Toes in the water, ass in the sand,

Having my own Barefoot Blue Jean Nights,

and keeping watch for the Southern Cross.

I'll also be wishing this slice of heaven lasted All Summer Long.

So leave me a note and I'll get back to you when I return from Watervale.

Monday, August 8, 2011

It's Buc Wheats...I Don't Care What They Call It Now

When I was a kid, we were forbidden to have any cereals that might possibly be sugary cereals. It didn't matter how much we begged, our parents were not cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. Not only weren't Trix for kids in our house, no one ate them. We were stuck taking Tony the Tiger's word for it that Frosted Flakes were grrrrrr-eat. We never enjoyed the health benefits of the pink hearts, yellow moons, orange stars and green clovers in Lucky Charms.

In our house, we were Cheerios kids all the way, with some Kix (which some kid allegedly tested and his mom approved, but I'm guessing that kid had no taste buds) tossed in for variety.

And then one morning we woke up at Nana's house and found a new cereal on the table. Nana had left for work at Ellis National Bank, but as was her morning routine, she'd cut up fresh grapefruit for me and filled our bowls with cereal so all we had to do was pour the milk when we woke up.

This new and mysterious cereal was flaky with a maple flavor. The flakes were crispy and a little nutty and Dave and I devoured it in record time. It made us feel like a million bucks. And because it was a high nutrition cereal, Mom and Dad were fans too.

After that morning, a new cereal was welcome in our house. Buc Wheats.

And Buc Wheats was a staple until probably the early 1980s when it suddenly disappeared from store shelves. No explanation. It was just gone.

Since that day, Dave and I have mourned the loss of Buc Wheats. I'm honestly not sure that either of us has really moved on. I eat cereal so rarely that it will go stale in my cabinet before I finish it.

And then a week ago my world got brighter. I was walking through Jewel when a woman asked if I'd like a sample of a new cereal. I looked at the box that said Fiber Plus and I was unmoved. But then I looked at the little sample cup and had an inkling. My taste buds confirmed it: Buc Wheats was back. Sure, it's got a new name, Fiber Plus Caramel Pecan Crunch, but it's still the same cereal. Same flavor. Same crunch. Same nuttiness.

I grabbed a box and a few coupons and called Dave as soon as I was out of the store. All I had to say was "guess what cereal I found at Jewel today?" and he immediately guessed "Buc Wheats." See, he's never forgotten. I walked in the door, gave my mom a blind taste test and asked her what she was tasting. I just got a one-word answer: Buc Wheats.

Yep, my family has found their favorite cereal after a 30 year search. I don't want to lose my favorite cereal again, so go stock up on Fiber Plus Caramel Pecan Crunch*.

*And if the good people at Kellogg's saw fit to send me a boat load of Fiber Plus Caramel Pecan Crunch for free as a way to thank me for this free advertising, I'd happily accept it.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Ron Santo Will Be Part of Wrigley Field Forever

If you bleed Cubbie Blue, then this story from the Daily Herald tonight will make your heart swell. You may know that the Cubs don't typically allow people to have their ashes spread at Wrigley Field, although Steve Goodman's ashes are in the outfield.

That changes Thursday when Ron Santo's ashes take their rightful place in the stadium Ron so loved. Now when the Cubs finally win the World Series, Ron will be there.

For the record, Ron Santo more than deserves to be in the Hall of Fame and it's my Christmas Wish that the Golden Era Committee makes up for this egregious error.

Santo will forever be part of Cubs, Wrigley
By Barry Rozner, Daily Herald, August 7, 2011

No member of the family would discuss the private aspect of their tribute, but a Cubs source said it would occur Thursday. His son Jeff would say only that he’s looking forward to concluding another chapter in what has been a long and public mourning process.

“I think this is going to be the last hard thing, finally saying goodbye,” Jeff Santo said Sunday. “I didn’t feel like I really said goodbye at the funeral, and I’m going to make sure I do it now.

“Everything that happened last December was so fast. It was a whirlwind and it’s all so hazy when I look back on it. But I think now with the statue and the end of the season coming, the patch on the jerseys almost done, I think this is finally the end of it.

“I’m not looking forward to the emotional part of it, but I’m looking forward to some closure.”

Jeff was then reminded that his late father will face yet another Hall of Fame vote this fall, with the announcement coming within days of the anniversary of Ron Santo’s passing.

“That’s unbelievable,” Jeff Santo said with a laugh. “There you go, so I guess it doesn’t end right there this week. I’ll be on pins and needles again.”

The new Golden Era Committee, comprised of members of the Hall of Fame, executives and veteran media members, will consider managers, umpires, executives and long-retired players whose best years in the game took place from 1947-1972.

The announcement will be made during the winter meetings in Dallas, only a day or two after the anniversary of Ron Santo’s death on Dec. 3.

If there were to be one final irony in the amazing journey that was No. 10’s, it would be that he is elected posthumously after suffering through so many election disappointments the final decade of his life.

But to bet on it now would be foolish when Santo didn’t come close in the past.

“Well,” Jeff Santo chuckled, “at least this time he won’t have to sit by the phone and be disappointed again. That’s one thing we can feel good about.”

It hasn’t been an easy year for Ron’s wife, Vicki, or the kids — Jeff, Ron Jr. and Linda — celebrating Ron’s life in full view and getting little chance to reflect in private.

But such is the process when a man is as beloved as Ron Santo.

“It’s been really tough for Vicki and for Linda because she’s lived next door to him for a long time in Arizona and my dad was always with her and the grandkids,” Jeff said. “He always came back to Arizona in the fall after the season and it’s not going to happen this year, and that’s going to hit hard.

“Linda’s son Sam is throwing out the first pitch Wednesday. He made Little League all-stars this year. My dad would have loved that. Sam’s playing his best baseball now and my dad’s not here for it. He would have loved going to those games.”

Jeff still finds himself wanting to dial his dad’s cellphone, frequently locating the speed dial number before catching himself.

“I did it the other day after watching that Curt Flood special on HBO,” Jeff Santo said. “That was my dad’s era and I wanted to talk to him about it.

“I just want to call him and hear him say, ‘How’s it going, son?’ I miss him a lot. As crazy as it sounds, he was really doing great. He had survived so much. I just didn’t expect that to be the end.”

It was tough on Ron’s birthday in February, and it was tough again when Jeff got his wedding photos, seeing how good his dad looked on 10-10-10.

“Father’s Day I was a wreck,” Jeff said. “I went to a Diamondbacks game and thought that would be perfect. Turns out it wasn’t the best idea. I spent more time at the pub thinking about my dad.”

So the Santo family seeks an emotional resolution, and they should receive that this week when a statue of Ron is placed outside Wrigley Field. An appropriate spot would be at Addison and Sheffield, near teammate and pal Billy Williams.

“The great thing is this will be so cool for the fans. My dad really loved this team and these fans,” Jeff Santo said. “And he would have been truly overwhelmed by getting a statue. It’s forever. He would have considered that as great as the Hall of Fame.”

In a very public ceremony Wednesday, the Cubs will celebrate the life and career of Ron Santo, sharing with his fans the unveiling of a statue and a flood of memories.

And in a very private ceremony the next day, Santo’s family will spread his ashes about Wrigley Field, presumably at third base, and perhaps around home plate — though one can still imagine Santo clicking his heels from third base, down the line and into the left-field corner.