Almost there...

Thursday, December 28, 2000

Whew! Made it through Christmas. It's official that I did get my wishlist started late as there was only one item I received on it. Doh! Note to self: Get your act together next year!!!

Santa was clearly out there and listening since I did get what I most wanted: extra time! I was dreading what it was going to be like flying home from DFW on the busiest travel day of the year (tm), so I left early and headed out to the airport to make it all as painless as possible. I got to the rental car center and was helped more promptly than usual. Then I hopped the shuttle to the airport and found it much less crowded than normal as well. When I arrived at the terminal, I hopped off the shuttle and went inside looking for the OneStop terminals like they have in San Jose for self check-in. These terminals are SO cool by the way. No more waiting in line just to say "No I didn't let anyone stuff a bomb in my stuff!" and get a boarding pass. Anyway, the check in stations were MIA, so I went to the gate where no one else was, checked in, and then turned around to see a Seattle's Best Coffee. (mmmm..... good coffee...) After I grabbed a cup, I realized there was nowhere in the cafe to sit so I headed back out, glanced at the departures board, and realized the flight leaving in a few minutes, the flight leaving a full hour and a half before mine, hadn't left yet and was just two gates down. I wandered over there and off handedly asked if the flight had already boarded. "Yes, they're just refueling now." So says I, "Any chance of making it on this flight? Mine doesn't leave for another hour and a half you see." To my great shock, the agent said, "Oh sure! Which row would you like - 13 or 15?" I replied, "Just a window seat thanks." And the agent says, "Okay, I'll book you in 13F then. You'll have that whole row to yourself. Hurry up now - you're the last one before I close the door." With my new boarding pass in hand, I sputtered out a "Thank you very much!" and headed down the jetway. Once on the plane, I got the best ride I've ever had. The pilot was so gentle that I didn't even notice the takeoff. The landing was just as graceful. Granted, the food still sucked (how do they make marinara sauce oily?), but I arrived back in San Jose with two extra hours under my belt. Add that to the inexplicable lack of traffic in San Jose that night, and I managed to almost finish my Christmas shopping before bedtime!

Since then, I've seen Castaway and What Women Want. Both are good flicks depending on what you're in the mood for. If you're up for silly farcical romantic comedy, What Women Want isn't a great movie, but it definitely fits the bill. And how can you resist Mel Gibson. And Castaway is just what I expected it to be: another really good, really moving Tom Hanks flick. Oddly enough, I really wish Wilson had made it home too.

And as for Christmas... well, it was much like any other Christmas. It had its highs and lows, its joys and let downs. Whatever. Moving right along.

Friday, December 22, 2000

So I've been updating my wishlist all week. I don't know why I got the bug to do this one week before Christmas instead of a month before Christmas. Oh well. Too little, too late in all liklihood. But if you happen to be dying to get me something for Christmas and still have no idea, check it out.

Last night I went back to the Kroger's salad bar. The little ticket spitter on the scale was all out of stickers, so I couldn't get a sticker. Not thinking about this, I went to the self check stations because I REALLY wanted to try it out. I walked up, touched the screen to start, scanned my mini-pizza, and then laid my salad on the scale and pressed produce. It asked me to enter a code number. I didn't have the code number so I clicked "No Code Number." It said (and I do mean said - the thing even talks!), "Place the item on the scale and wait." In a moment (about five seconds), it came up and said "Sm. Salad - $3.99lb." and rang it up. I was completely dumbfounded. And amazed. I was trying to figure out if it had some special visual scanner or something. Anyway, I paid with my debit card, which you can get cash back from by the way, grabbed my receipt, and headed out. As I was heading out, I noticed the man sitting at the desk surrounded by the four self-check stations. I said, "This is so incredibly cool!" He agreed and asked me if I was wondering how the salad thing worked as if it were magic. I agreed that I had no idea. He said he entered it. That's why you have to stand back and wait. He gets a signal to look at a particular station and figure out the item. He enters it, the scale weighs it, and the self-check charges it. Also, you can pay with cash and get change like a normal register. The one drawback here is the same drawback we have with every Coke machine on the planet: your money has to be unfolded and relatively flat. It definitely won't work for kids with a wadded up dollar in their pocket trying to get a candy bar without anyone noticing.Other than that, I think that there's a distinct possibility that a lot of checkers may soon lose their cushy union wages and that others will be relegated to self-check station monitors. Now, admittedly, there's a lot of room for fraud here, especially with produce. If you want the organic broccoli at the regular price, just enter the right code and you get it cheaper. The same goes for other similar produce. Still, I'm not certain that will be enough to sink the concept, especially since store owners will be drooling at the reduced workforce cost. Additionally, it was so fast and easy, that it made me thrilled not to have to wait in line for the checker to check me out.

Contrast this with my experience at Wal-Mart just a little while later. I stood in the Express Line (6 items or less) behind 6 other people in the shortest line at the store at 11:00 at night. When the woman in front of me wanted to pay with a AMEX traveller's check, things completely fell apart. This clerk had never seen one of those before. So she ambled over to her manager (at such and extrodinarily slow pace that would make an eighty year old with a fractured hip look like she was hauling ass by comparison). The manager noticed that the check was unsigned. The clerk headed back over and said that it wasn't signed and she was supposed to sign it when she got it from the bank. The woman said it was a gift certificate from her office and that they didn't tell her to sign it. This confused the clerk so she went back to her supervisor. The supervisor apparently told her she'd come over in a minute. We all stood there and waited. After about six minutes, the supervisor arrived, made some protestations, then eventually said, "Well give me your name, address, and phone number and we'll call you if there's any problem (as if this would be any threat to an actual criminal!). Then the transaction proceeded. But the traveller's check was only part of the payment. She paid the rest with a credit card, which served only to confuse the lowly clerk further. After just over 20 minutes, it was my turn finally. The box I had was coming unsealed and I wanted some tape to fix it. She said, "Well, I don't have any tape." I asked if customer service might have tape. She said, "Well I don't know, but they're closed tonight." I eventually ended up going to customer service, pushing past the carts blocking the area, and finding a packing tape dispenser behind the counter. I retaped the box. By this point I was so exhausted that I no longer wanted the item I had put so much effort into purchasing, mostly because my purchasing experience (the checkout) was so miserable. I wonder how much business stores lose every day to people walking out due to long lines? I know I certainly have done it on more than one occasion, especially at Target.

Anyway, I'm looking forward to the future of electronic checkout. My first experience with it exceeded my expectations by leaps and bounds. Incidentally, Kroger is a huge corporation. For Californians, they also own Foods Co., Food 4 Less, Cala Foods/Bell Markets, and Ralph's.

Thursday, December 21, 2000

Okay, so I was goofing off. I was browsing and looking at their list of recommendations for me, which is surprisingly spot on. :
Anyway, this little piece of Star Trek trivia caught my eye:
"Volume 12 in the classic Star Trek series on DVD begins with "Space Seed," which introduced Khan Noonien Singh..."
Here's the weird part: the person who created Data in TNG is Dr. Noonien Singh! Are these two related? Are they the same person much older? Why wasn't this ever discussed in the series or in a movie? Suddenly I see a GREAT avenue for the next Next Gen movie to tread down. It brings up so many creepy possibilities.

So last night I decided I couldn't handle standard American fare anymore. This was after I pulled up to Jamba Juice and found them closed even though they were supposed to be open (bad sign?). So I went in search of Indian, Thai, a burrito shop, or something more interesting than McDonalds, Denny's or Barbeque. After about an hour's tour of the region, I discovered that while the strip malls seem to have replicated successfully with each one certain to include a McDonalds, a Chic-Fil-A, and a Starbucks, none of them seem to have much else. Being as close to the Mexican border as I am here, I figured there would at least be a decent Mexican restaurant. In this immediate area, that's just not a possibility. Next time I'm breaking out a map and trying to figure out where suburbia leaves off and a downtown area starts. Perhaps then I'll be able to find the meal I'm searching for. Of course, after Christmas I'm hopping back on the Weight Watchers bandwagon, so it will all be moot by then. Oh well.


Wednesday, December 20, 2000

So I went into a Kroger's Market for the first time last night. First, I was amazed to see the really cool self-check-out stations. Walk up, scan your groceries, pay by ATM or credit card, get a receipt and go! Very cool. I needed cash back from my visit though so I went through the regular checkout.But before that, as I wandered through the store, cursing the grocery stores of the bay area that just don't cut it, marveling at the salad bar, the full scale deli, the huge number of aisles, I also noticed some rather quirky things. First, there was the milk/dairy products case that moo-ed occasionally. Just a little too weird for this city girl! The one that made me stop and reverse course so that I could go back and stare was the cake you could have a photograph scanned onto. Their suggestions were photos of the happy couple on their wedding day for an anniversary cake or photos of a child for a birthday party. Apparently the cake was frosted in white frosting first, then the photo was scanned on and printed in an inkjet sort of method that used the white icing as paper and food coloring as ink. I just don't know what to say about that. It's just so odd.

So I put together a lovely salad, weighed it on the scale at the salad bar to see how much I was going to pay, and instantly I hear the little whir of a motor inside the scale. It weighed it and spit out a sticker with the price and a scannable barcode. This is SO COOL! Now if only Safeway (Slaveway?) and Albertsons (formerly the very yucky Lucky) could join the 21st century like this store in Texas. I have a prejudice that says we Californians, especially us in the Silicon Valley, should be seeing the best innovations before they hit places like suburban Texas. Unfortunately I've been proven wrong again.

Wednesday, December 13, 2000

First things first. I'm in Dallas. Well, Irving. Well, technically a little burb called Las Colinas. It's the nice new part of Irving. Undoubtedly this land was ranches or farms about ten years ago. Now it's a sea of oversized houses, office parks, and strip malls. My first revelation upon arrival was that going to a restaurant here is seriously inexpensive. Dinner at Cheddar's on Monday night (roughly equivalent to Spoons or Chile's in California, but with more meat), was a mere $5.99 a plate. You could get a burger and fries for just $3.99. Now this is in a nice sit down and be served restaurant. It makes McDonald's look expensive by comparison. The breakfast buffet at the hotel including bagels, muffins, eggs, potatoes, bacon, ham, sausage, biscuits, gravy, cereal, orange juice, coffee, tea, and so on, is just $3.00. The one catch is that if you are a vegetarian, you're fairly likely to starve to death here. As someone who doesn't eat beef, I've been hard pressed survive. There's steak available everywhere. And ribs. Not being one to enjoy large quantities of any meat, this California girl is looking forward to her weekends back home.

The other thing that I've noticed about Dallas is that every time I come here, there is some sort of bizzarre and extreme weather pattern. Today we're in the midst of an ice storm. Here's how my evening went last night:
I decided that since the antibiotics I was taking didn't seem to be doing any good, I should go back to the doctor. Through my window I could see Baylor Health Center. I figured I'd head over to their Urgent Care Center after I left the office. So I headed out yesterday about 4:30 and found my car entirely coated in ice. As I was leaving the airport on Monday, they made sure I had an ice scraper in the glove box. Now I got my big chance to use it!!! Oh boy! So I cracked open the door, turned on the engine and the defroster, waved the wipers a few times with no results, and then started chipping away at the ice with the scraper. Being sick already, this was no mean feat. At 4:55, I headed out to the clinic. I arrived at 5:01 to find a sign on the door that said, "Closed at 5:00 due to weather." After having chipped ice off the windshield to get to this point, this was a little more than I could handle just then. I banged on the door and got a clerk to scream at me, "We're closed!" I croaked, "But I have a question!" She ambled over to the door and without opening it said, "Yah." I asked, "So where do I go instead?" She pointed me to the ER down the street. Great. While I knew I didn't need an Emergency Room visit, I was definitely sick, and I'd lost my voice two and a half days ago with no signs of improvement since. Grudgingly, I trudged off to the ER, cursing stupid Dallas with it's stupid ice storm and stupid people all the way. At the ER they assured me I really was sick and it was okay to come in and they gave me new antibiotics and such and sent me on my way. When I headed back to my car, the previously chipped off ice had returned with a vengence. And it was raining. So I stood in the rain, chipping off ice for fifteen minutes, wondering what I could possibly find to eat this evening. I wanted either a burrito or pizza. Neither was to be had. There was the BBQ place, the Wendy's, the McDonalds, the Chick-a-fil-a (which seemed really scary), the Cheddar's (which I had already confirmed was way too meat intensive), the John Astor's Grill (for steak!), and several other places where I could get large chunks of meat. I kept driving around the area, thinking if I just went far enough, there would be a nice Una Mas, or maybe a Pizzaria Uno. Ha ha ha ha! You will have meat little girl! Okay, so I was getting punchy at this point. So I grabbed a Filet o' Fish from McDonalds and headed back to the hotel. My mission tonight is to try to get real food for dinner, and maybe to dye my hair. Wish me luck!

Well, after a rather substantial hiatus, I'm back on the horse. Kevin says that if I start writing in my weblog again, he'll take it as a good example and get Cameo pulled together. Goofy boy. There was a good reason why I quit writing. For some reason, I didn't tell Rick about writing a web log. It didn't seem important. I guess it didn't seem public either. Anyway, he ended up stumbling across it and was really angry that I didn't tell him. And he was even more angry that I had fun at the Plough without him and that I'd written that going to things without him was different than going to things with him and that people seemed to interact with me differently. I was really caught off guard by how angry he was. The truth is, people do interact with couples differently than they do with individuals. Arguments like that make me wonder if I really ought to be a full time individual. On the flip side, I do really enjoy the comfort and security of living with Rick.

So, the upshot of all this is that I didn't feel like writing anything down for quite a while. Now, back on the road again, I have a renewed sense of wanting to catalog the world I stumble across. And if folks don't like it, so be it.