Monday, October 31, 2011

Road trip fever

A pic I took driving out of the California Redwoods
I'm actually writing an essay about Korea more than two years after the fact.  I'll post more about that later.

However, right now, I want to write a quick update.

I've got road trip fever now.  Last month I moved back from NYC to the SF Bay area.  I did that via a cross-country drive.  I got lucky and was loaned a minivan from a couple that was doing the move a few days after me.  After spending a month in East Hampton with friends, I packed it up and on Labor Day, I headed west.

It was a great trip.  I stopped in Cleveland, Ohio for a couple of days.  I visited the Rock N' Roll Hall of Fame.  I then drove to Chicago and spent three days with some friends I'd not seen since my university days at UCLA.  En route, I also stopped at Notre Dame because how many times have I ever been to South Bend, Indiana?  From the Chicago area I moved west as quickly as I could.  I spent one evening in the Lake Tahoe area at another friend's and then drove from there back to the SF Bay area on September 14th!

However, the road trip bug is back. I did a few road trips with friends around California and Arizona after I graduated from college. However, times changed and that ended.

What inspired me to hit the road? Well, I went to Fleet Week in San Francisco to see the Blue Angels. I always went to see them fly when I lived in San Francisco. I went out on Sunday. The fog rolled in over the Golden Gate and they had to cancel. The announcer said that they were scheduled to fly that next weekend in the Central Valley at Lemoore NAS, and I decided why not? Initially, I wanted to drive an RV across the country but between the rental fees, mileage charges, one-way penalty, and gas, it was just too expensive to do. However, a weekend round trip? That I could do, and I did.

I drove from to Fresno and had my first experience in an RV park. It wasn't bad. I then drove to the base. Lucky me and the other RV types got special parking. It was so good that I didn't need to unlock the bike or walk to where the main entrance was. Instead, I moved the RV back to give myself a bit of shade, pulled out the lawn chair and watched the Blue Angels soar. From there, I skipped a meet the Blue Angels event because I'd made a reservation to tour the Hearst Castle the next day at 11am. I drove to San Simeon and camped near there. That wasn't as fun as it was a primitive camp and I had no idea what that meant until I got there. (If you expect it, no problem. If you don't, well, yeah.) The Hearst Castle was amazing. I'm so glad I went. From San Simeon, I drove up Highway 1 to Monterey and camped there for the evening. I'll NEVER drive on Highway 1 again with an RV. I had a very small one but I already don't like driving winding mountain roads in a car.

This week I'm driving an RV to Tacoma. It's a cheap one-way deal. It's great because I'm literally spending a week and a half on the road. This really is a crash course in RVing. The gas is killing me, but gas isn't cheap.  The scenery is absolutely beautiful.  I do regret that I ended up driving through part of the Redwoods at night, so I'll have to do that again.  The goal was to get myself up to a campsite before night.  What I should have done now that I'm in Oregon with way too much time on my hands was simply not been so keen on getting to that site.  I could have explored from there but, yeah, I ended up being just pooped from the intense drive and got bogged down with work.  Oregon's landscape is beautiful though.  I went up to Silver Falls and ended up driving through what seemed to be the Christmas tree capitol of the world!

Now I'm getting a crash course in boondocking (just Google it as there are so many links on what it is). It's exciting and a bit scary too.  There definitely are different types of RV campers. I'll take Amtrak back because it's easier to travel via Amtrak with my bike than by plane.

The trip is still in medias res, so more later.


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Sunday, September 11, 2011

September 11th: 10 Years Ago

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Here I am in Omaha, Nebraska unable to get back to sleep. I just read a really good 9/11 blog post by Patti Digh, "remember". She writes well about what it was like for her that day. She also talks about how polarized and hateful things are in the US right now. However, she brings it home to what matters: living your life now to the fullest.

I'll admit that I've been avoiding watching TV and the coverage on the 9/11 anniversary.

I wasn't in the USA when the attacks happened. I had just moved to a university near Daegu, South Korea for a new job as a visiting professor. I had my little Daewoo Tico, and I was driving around that evening while listening to military radio. I can't recall which US morning radio show it was, but it was fun to drive around a new place in a foreign country while listening to an American radio show.

Then they broke into their broadcast and said a plane had hit one of the World Trade towers in NYC. I was hoping it was some horrible accident, but the World Trade had been attacked before. Then a second plane hit the other tower. Like everyone following what was going on, I knew my country was under attack. I turned my car around and headed back to my apartment. At some point, I heard that the Pentagon had also been attacked and that there was another plane that went down somewhere in Pennsylvania.

I'd just moved, so I didn't have a TV. Good for me that South Korea is a well-wired country. I simply walked across the road to a PC-bang (Internet cafe), logged in and kept up with the news. Also, that Internet cafe also had a big screen TV and switched news covering what was happening. I was at this cafe when the towers collapsed. I stayed there until dawn just keeping up with the news. It really was just overwhelming, and I felt helpless. So many lives were lost. I cancelled my classes for that day.

Last week, on Labor Day I left the wonder that is NYC to move back to the SF Bay Area. I miss NYC already, but I know that I need to live somewhere that I not only love but where there are people that I love and have deep connections to.

Today, I'll be doing exactly what I did when I heard about the attacks: driving. It's a propos.

I still hurt and probably will always hurt for those who lost their lives in those attacks. I also hurt for the family and friends they left behind. Peace be with you all.


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Friday, June 24, 2011

Social Media 101 - A class for beginners (don't be a Weiner)

Next week I'm teaching a class called "Social Media 101 - A class for beginners (don't be a Weiner)."

(Yes, it's a silly title.  I was feeling playful when I was planning the class. Also, I realized I could do it now or not do it at all as the joke would be passé by the time I taught the class and, ta da, I was right.)

The class will be on June 29th from 7pm to 8:30pm at Hive @ 55 in Manhattan.

It's a class that is specifically for people who are new to the social web or who have a little experience but want to learn more.  Here is the class description:
This course will cover the basics of the social web. You'll learn about the big 4 social media sites: Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube. You'll learn the best ways to navigate these sites. You'll also learn what to watch out for regarding security and privacy.

The goal is for everyone to leave the class with a Twitter account. You'll follow a few people and send your first tweet. If we have time, we'll also send retweets and a direct message; even if you don't send them all during this class, you'll leave knowing what those terms mean. The price includes handouts.

This class is for people who simply haven't taken the plunge and want to know the basics of the social media landscape before diving in. What's required? Please bring a laptop or tablet (iPad or Android tablet) and be ready to learn. This class is a beginner level course. If you're already doing your thing on the big 4 social media sites (Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube), this is going to be boring to you.
The plan is I'll talk for about 30 to 40 minutes but the rest of the we'll work on getting you a real Twitter account, so you can jump in.  Honestly, even though the concept is basic, I find that people learn best when they're in it.

I'm really excited because I do miss teaching. I've had a chance to do a handful of presentations on the social web and have gotten great feedback.

If you're in the NYC area and would like to take it, you can sign up here:

Also, if you know someone in the NYC area who you think would be interested, I would love it if you shared it with them.

Thanks and have a great weekend!


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Monday, June 20, 2011

Social Media is NOT Magic

I might as well start cross posting. :)  I fired up a blog on what I do on Word Press over a year ago.  However, what I realized fast was it was more important to hustle and network to get clients than anything else.  I've fired it back up and here a post that I added yesterday.  I've turned comments off here, but you're welcome to leave me a note there.

Photo courtesy of Hryck on Flickr
I've just found a lot of people who seem to think that social media is some mysterious and magical thing. That sentiment has inspired me to fire this blog back up.
As someone who works in this very fun field, I get that a lot. I get this will current clients. I get this with possible clients. I also just see it a lot in passing.
The social web is not magic. It's something that humans have done forever: communicate. I just HATE seeing requests like this:
I am seeking someone who is an expert at this who can take my (whatever it is but redacted because this is a quote) and work your magic.
Look. It's NOT magic, and, honestly, as much as I love the thought-leaders in this space, we're all learning as we go. I'm not going to call any of them experts. This is all new and even the people who have expertise are learning and adapting to new tools and resources that are constantly being launched.
It takes knowledge of the tools. It takes knowing how to use them. It takes strategy. It takes trying, measuring, and adjusting, as needed. It takes reading case studies. It takes reading on what people are doing. I'll also admit it takes sharing what you're doing (and, yes, I've been neglecting that; building a business is HARD.)

However, most important is that a successful social media strategy takes also having GREAT products and/or GREAT content that helps people solve their problems or engages people on an emotional level.
(*Also, before someone wanders in to say people are just using "magic" and similar terms as a figure of speech or play on words and they understand that it takes knowledge and strategy, I'll agree that maybe that's the case, for some. However, a lot of people do seem to then there is some mysterious alchemy going on, and that's not true.)


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Friday, June 17, 2011

Comedy of Errors: Insulin pump failure (x2) and UPS failure

At least she's got a working doorbell.
This has been a crazy week for me. It started off very exciting as I took on a new client. However, on Monday, I got out of the shower and my lovely insulin pump started vibrating. I knew it was the pump's alarm telling me it was time to check my blood sugar. I went on with drying myself off and then I was going to do it. When I looked and there was an error in the display: BUTTON ERROR. Uh oh. Either a button broke or when the pump was vibrating a button was pressing on something. (The pump is not on me when I shower.)

I clear that error, check my blood sugar and get ready to have lunch. I start the sequence to tell the pump how many carbs I plan to eat. Then, uh oh, the numbers keep scrolling and I can't stop them!!! Problem! I take out the batteries hoping a reset can fix it. Nope. Then I call Medtronic. The rep I got was friendly and talked me through what was happening. Her answer was something I didn't want to hear. My pump was broken and needed to be replaced. Okay, bummer, but I have a vial of Lantus (long-acting insulin) just in case of a pump emergency.  One day of that will be fine.  Plus, I don't have a choice.

She takes my info. I tell her that the doorbell in my building isn't working right now. My landlord has to get it fixed and he's off somewhere on a trip. Therefore, they've got to make sure the delivery company calls me when they're at the door. She says I'll get a phone call the next morning when the truck is en route. As promised, I got a call around 8:45am the next morning. It wasn't a person though (and she'd not promised it would be.) It was a message basically telling me the same thing you hear when you set an appointment for a home repair or cable installation. However, the window for this delivery was between 9am and 5pm. That's ridiculous, but no worries. I had nothing on my schedule for Tuesday.

I called UPS and explained the situation. I was told there was no way he could call as UPS doesn't provide their drivers with phones. Okay, I'd heard that before. I stressed this was a medical device and that I'd be home all day, so how could I get someone to let me know he was there or en route? She suggested I leave a note. Okay. However, the street I live on is like a wind tunnel, so I opted for a bright green box that I had sitting around. Here is a shot of that box that I put outside.

The note I left for my UPS driver which was, clearly, ignored.

One pic I didn't upload because it has my phone number on it. However, I think that says how important it is if I'm writing my number on a box and leaving it outside. I mean anyone, in theory, can come by and pick it up. That's why I asked the driver to read the part the arrows pointed to.

It ends up the driver showed up around 9:45am or so when I checked the tracking info online.  I was concerned. Did someone take the box and am I about to get a crap-load of crank calls? Nope. The box was there AND the driver had put the delivery attempt notice ON the box. I was losing it on the phone when I saw that or I would have taken a picture of it. You'll have to trust me on what I saw because I flew through the roof. I have TWO stores next to me. I think the one on one side doesn't open until 10am or so, but there is a general store on the other side that is open in the mornings. He could have gone there as asked them to call me. The message was CLEAR. I was at home, and I was waiting for my medical device.

I flip out. However, I realize that, thank GOD, I'll be at a conference the next day. I also tried as hard as I could to get redelivery attempt on Tuesday. I contacted UPS customer service, again.  I explain the situation.  The UPS rep puts my message through to the UPS hub. The hub calls me. They then contact the driver who said there was no way he'd be able to double back. Um, okay. So the UPS hub can contact him about this package but they were just UNABLE to find a way to let me know the driver is downstairs? I'm calling b.s. I mean had they even said "he'll be there from 9am to 9:30". It would have sucked, but I would have gone downstairs with my computer or iPad, sat on the step and worked from there. That UPS driver, from what I can see, made NO EXTRA EFFORT.  When you're providing a service, like it or not, sometimes you HAVE to put in some extra effort.  Well, correction, when you're providing a service and don't deliver packages for UPS you have to put in some extra effort from time to time.

I was livid and I started ranting on Twitter about it. Someone manning the @UPS Twitter feed saw it and replied. Great!  They ask me to email with the details. Great! There is someone there who is going to help me!

I do this and I get a reply hours later with info I already know: 1) the driver showed up (I won't say the driver tried to make a delivery because that's b.s.), and the package had be rerouted. Um, duh! I was the person on the phone for over 30 minutes to Medtronic! I KNOW IT'S BEING REROUTED.

I'm pissed. So I start updating Twitter with my blood glucose readings and with a sarcastic "thanks" to @UPS. Most of my readings were high that day and were high the next morning. The package did make it to the conference like I knew it would. However, when I got it, I noticed this sticker on the box:

How is this NOT clear?!!!  This sticker is CLEAR this is important.  Factor in the box I left outside and you'd think the driver might have bothered to make an extra effort. Well, you'd think that.

This part isn't UPS' fault. The pump I got was defective. Oh, it's another FAIL.

I'd left the conference and gone home to set it up. Ooops. On that one I got the 'Motor Error' alert.  Even though I cleared it, it would just loop back to that error.  ...sigh...

I call Medtronic. This time I get a promise that they're going to send me a new "new" pump this time.  The one I'd received was a refurbished one.  

A good two and a half hours lost of conference time. But, honestly, I was so distracted the first day of the conference that I really didn't get into it and wasn't too receptive when someone told me to 'cheer up'.

I did get the new pump yesterday, as promised.  It was brand new.  I set it up with a very helpful Medtronic customer service rep.  It seems to be working just fine now.  I thank Medtronic for that.  I mean I can even understand them sending me a refurb.  That's standard for big companies and they save money that way.

I do realize that ultimate responsibility falls on my landlord to repair the damn doorbell.  After this mess?  I'm confident that will get done.  However, this can't be unheard of.

The lack of effort by the UPS driver and the bureaucratic "that's how it is, but we're sorry" tone from UPS service reps just put me in a sour mood for a couple of days.  Saying "sorry" when it's an issue of someone's health and well-being simply doesn't cut it. I'll definitely give UPS credit in being responsive, but if the people you talk to can't do anything about it, well, that's just a frustrating sort of therapy.  You're mad, they take it, they say "sorry" and you're still out of luck.

Oh, I found this pic that starts off this post and the one below on Flickr today.  Clearly, I'm not the only one this has happened to.  In all seriousness, I do hope that UPS understands that this is a hole in their service.  Sometimes buzzers and doorbells break.  Have a way to work around it! This is particularly true when you're taking responsibility for delivering medical equipment.

Photo courtesy of adamjackson 1984 on

What's funny? I put in an order at a day or so ago.  I checked the tracking this morning and, dammit, the package has been sent via UPS.  It's not as stressful, by far, but I know I'm going to have to go through the same series of b.s. bureaucracy AND pay a fee to have it rerouted to a UPS store.  I'm halfway tempted to just ask them to return it because I didn't pay for shipping on this. I wonder if I could have ship it to me via another vendor like FedEx? (I had a similar delivery issue with them, but they just rerouted the package, for free and with no bureaucratic static, to the FedEx office nearest me.)

Oh, I just got a call from someone at UPS (name: Patti/Patty?)  Anyway, I tell her the story and like everyone at UPS that's been in contact with me, she says there is nothing else they could do. I stress that I'm not the only one as the pictures above indicate.  If they're going to take responsibility for delivering medical equipment they need to fix this hole in their system.

Her reply? Pretty much that's how it is and she'll forward this on.

Okay: publish post.


 The same post at (a great site for diabetics for community and advice).


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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Now will y'all just STFU? Thanks: RT @johnhaydon: Obama Birth Certificate Released By White House (PHOTO)


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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Sedated = Excellent :)


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