Sunday, November 8, 2015

Something Worth a Couple of Minutes to Read

Food for Thought:
An article on censorship by Roger Scruton, a writer and philosopher (according to BBC; me, I've never heard of him, but found this article to be of interest)

Friday, October 23, 2015

The Huntsman Trip

Fresh from my trip to Wisconsin in September, after a week of decompression (and laundry), the wife and I took off for Utah, where she was registered to play soccer in the annual Huntsman Games, a seniors' sports tournament with any number of different competitions. She has found herself a team out of Dallas (with a few stray members from Oregon --- don't ask me how that happened), and this is her second time in the competition. As we tend to do, we combined the trip with other, theoretically less strenuous, things.

We prepared for the trip by getting our new dog Carly medications to deal with motion sickness: she pukes when we drive. We had the same problem with our dog Homer, of beloved memory, but he grew out of it fairly quickly, and we hope Carly will, too. In fact, after two days of medication (during which she was somewhat listless, though not as drugged-out as Homer had been), we decided she didn't really need it all that much, at least on the highway; and indeed, after that she only threw up once, in city traffic. So I guess it's not the motion so much as the unanticipated stops, starts and turns that upset her.

Study in Black and White

We spent the first night in Alamogordo, at a barely-acceptable motel in the run-down part of town, then went out early to White Sands. I had been there a couple of years ago, both in the afternoon and the morning, and am still amazed at the differences in the light there. But this time, sadly, the sky was heavily overcast, so the pictures aren't as eyepopping as they were back then. But doesn't Carly look good in that landscape!


From there, we drove up toward Farmington, in the northwest corner of the state, stopping at Bisti (or De-Na-Zin) Wilderness. (Not sure why the two names.) Not an easy place to find: county roads, some unpaved, and almost no signage. The wilderness area stretches some miles across an Indian reservation, and photos I've seen of it make it look like a spectacular landscape. We, however, were (it appears) at the other end of the wilderness area, which was nowhere near as eerie. Pretty, but not up to expectations. In any case, storms were coming in from the west, so we spent only a short time hiking in the stark desert valley.

the other end of the Wilderness
(photo from

and there's a rainbow, too!

Next morning we were off early again, and happened to be at Shiprock, New Mexico, just as the sun was hitting the eponymous rock. 

Sherry waving from the promontory
Natural Bridges NP
From there, we went up to Natural Bridges National Park, one of the older parks in Utah. There are three main natural bridge formations in the rock --- rock that is far, far older than at Arches, and not as colourful, but still impressive. We found a trail to one that didn't look too strenuous, but there were ladders along the way that we couldn't traverse with Carly. So we took turns: I waited with the dog while Sherry hiked out to the viewpoint, about twenty minutes' trek each way, then I went while she waited. (There was another trail that led down to the actual bridge, but that was much, much longer and about a 600' drop.) By the time we got to the last bridge site, those storms were about to hit again, so we went for the car and headed off to Torrey, Utah, the other side of Capitol Reef, for the night. I had planned originally to spend time at Cap Reef, but we decided that it was better to spend more time exploring Natural Bridges instead. We'll have to go back to Cap Reef (again) some day --- after all, that was what prompted me to buy an off-road-capable vehicle in the first place --- but other than a drive through it on the flooded highway, we didn't see any of it.

I had, of course, no intention of spending 3 days watching old women play soccer again --- after Escondido, I probably never will --- so I had arranged for my friend Curtis to come up from Las Vegas, and he and I went up to Bryce Canyon for a little hiking. We got to the park in the afternoon, checked into our hotel, and after a really, really bad lunch at a really crappy local fast-food joint -- the only place we could find -- we went into the park and hiked the Queen's Garden trail, so called because there's a rock that looks like a well-known statue of Queen Victoria. And it really does. 

Next morning we drove over to the optimistically named town of Tropic, Utah, and hiked into the canyon on the trail from there, a good morning's travel, during which I was confirmed in my opinion that Carly is not a good hiker's companion. Yet. Maybe when she's older.

That night, Curtis having returned to his digs in the Sin Capital of America and I to my hotel in Hurricane, Utah, we went to a team dinner at a really nice restaurant on a cliff overlooking the small city of St. George, where the Huntsman Games are held. Wish I could remember the name of it. On Saturday, Sherry's team won the Silver Medal in the women's over-60 soccer tournament, and we headed down the road to Havasu for a week's visit with her dad Ben and his wife Lana. 

When they bought the house out there, they brought the boat out from Phoenix, and bought a pair of waverunners and a rail (sort of a dune-buggy), so I was looking forward to some novel and exciting activities. But one of the waverunners had been sold, as junk apparently, and the rail had a flat tire and no clutch, which left one waverunner and the
London Bridge
boat. And of course the first few days were spent just visiting, though Sherry got her exercise by digging a trench in the back yard for electric lines going out to the gazebo her dad had put in. (I helped a little, just to have something to do besides walk and go take pictures of London Bridge.) Finally came the day when we took the surviving waverunner down to the lake and put it in. I took a couple of rides on it. It's fun, but would be more fun if somebody else could have come along. It's like a motorcycle, but with a soft landing when you fall off. (I didn't.) I'd do it again, but living where I live I don't see much point in owning one (or two). That part of Lake Havasu, slightly south of the bridge, isn't very crowded, at least on weekdays, but there were enough kids on loud machines churning doughnuts in the no-wake zone to keep me irritated.
Fritz and Carly

Carly had the best time of her short life in Havasu, since Ben & Lana have a puppy -- a giant puppy -- about her age, named Fritz. They kept each other entertained the entire tie we were there.

We were going to take the boat out the next day, but the weather called for thunderstorms, so that was out; and the day after that, when we actually got some lightning (though not much else). And after that, we headed home.

To find a giant crack in our bedroom ceiling. It collapsed today. Ain't life grand.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Apple and the Art of Business Communication

I bought my fancy new MacBook Air a while back, and a great big new Thunderbolt display screen to go with it. The little computer is perfect for travelling, and the big screen is perfect for when I'm at home.

I had some trouble with the display, though, pretty soon after buying it. I took the computer in while it was under warranty, and the Genius at the Apple Store diddled with the port on the side where the display plugs in. He said he would order the part anyway, in case his diddling didn't fix the problem; that way they'd have the part in stock if I had to bring it back.

The diddle did work, for a while at least. I thought the problem was solved. I got an email from the guy a couple of days after the service visit, with a subject line like "your recent visit"; the first paragraph of the message was along the lines of "So glad to be able to work with you recently." The second paragraph started out in the same vein, so after a sentence and a half of such sincere gratefulness, I hit the delete button and went on with my life.

Then, last month, the Thunderbolt display started blacking out. I went back to Apple (after a very frustrating attempt to schedule an appointment, during which Apple's online misdirect system seemed determined to avoid any customer's presence at their store, prompting me to give up on the web site and just call the store -- also not an easy thing to do) to get a fix.

I found out then that (a) the port is attached to something called a Main Logic Board, and that the entire board has to be replaced, which costs nearly $500; and (b) the unctuous email from the service Genius last year contained, at its end, the information that the part was in stock and I could bring my computer in to have it replaced under warranty.

Needless to say, it is no longer under warranty. And a $500 repair to a computer worth only about that much is a silly waste of money, leaving me with a useless Thunderbolt display: a very expensive, though stylish, piece of junk.

So, a note to Apple: when writing a business email, the important information you wish to convey is appropriately in the subject line, and a single expression of gratitude (or similar emotive expression) is all that is needed by way of introductory smalltalk before you get to the point of the communication. Your customers, appreciative though they may be of your sentiments, have better things to do that read through repetitive utterances of that sort. If they are busy or, like me, impatient, they will conclude on the evidence you provide that the entire message is just so much PR, and never get to the meat of it.