The Twee Traveler Calls The Front Desk

IMG_6116

  1. My pillows need to be encoldened.
  2. Your sofa makes my bottom itch.
  3. I need a large bag for my hair.
  4. Every hotel I have been in on this trip has had bed bugs!
  5. What is the number for your MILF channel?
  6. My comfort animal needs a platter of long cut bamboo with the leaves left on.
  7. I need more lotion.
  8. Can you send up some hay?
  9. I will need bleach, a box of gloves, and a mop in the morning.
  10. How much air is in your room safe?
  11. Can you send up some more sheets? My sores are leaking.
  12. Can you send up someone who can keep their mouth shut?
  13. Kindling.
  14. More Kleenex please.
  15. I need help removing something.
  16. The goat’s milk isn’t for me…
  17. I can’t imagine how it happened but something very important to me just ran into the vents.
  18. Of course I have a permit.
  19. I need a newspaper with today’s date on it.
  20. This is not my first rodeo.
  21. Well, it’s allowed where I’m from…
  22. I am a professional taxidermist…
  23. Are you sure there is no MILF channel?
  24. If an angry man comes asking for me, I’m not here.
  25. I make those things for a living. No, I don’t need a license…
  26. I am an artist!
  27. Soup. Just soup.
  28. I may have left something down in the lobby -no, I’ll come down and get it. No, no,..NO DON”T TOUCH IT!
  29. No, I hear no chickens.
  30. I am a very important talent agent and those people are my clients.
  31. If someone claiming to be my wife comes asking for me, I’m not here.
  32. Your business center’s printer is out of red ink.
  33. That lady boy is my personal assistant and needs to sauna before she shaves.
  34. This is so embarassing…
  35. I need more furniture.
  36. I have a skin condition and it is very important that I put that on before I swim.
  37. I have a doctor’s note, so that’s okay.
  38. Your gym gave me a terrible rash.
  39. That family that checked in next door -they’re a bunch of liars.
  40. I would like to talk to your lawyer.
  41. I may have left something in the hot tub.
  42. Where else am I going to dispose of my bags?
  43. Can you send up some duct tape?
  44. My courtesy bar was empty when I checked in!
  45. Are those people still down there waiting for me?
  46. Technically, they are contractors and not my employees per se.
  47. I have no sense of smell. I was born that way.
  48. I run a petting zoo.
  49. Your night clerk is very hostile.
  50. I’m allergic to some kinds of gluten.

Updated: Top 12 Things to Get Your Surgeon mid 2015

Not on the list, but really handy, the Dell Venue 8-7000 Android Tablet with OLED screen in its Dell keyboard case

Not on the list, but really handy, the Dell Venue 8-7000 Android Tablet with OLED screen in its Dell keyboard case

1. De Tommaso Shoes -these are handmade Italian shoes. They are like Maserati for your feet. They are so comfortable and stylish, yet surprisingly affordable with the weak Euro. Ideally, you go to Italy and have cast of your feet made so that they can make any shoe out of the current catalogue for you and ship them. If you are so lucky to be in a store near the end of the season, spring through summer, you can pick up clearance items ready to wear which will exceed any shoe you might conceive of getting. Wearing them, you are ruined for any other shoe like a dog fed hand raised and massaged steaks.
2. Quart of Legal Seafood Fish Chowder. They will ship it to you on dry ice, suitable for hoarding for yourself or sharing with honored guests like the Dalai Lama, if he eats fish. He doesn’t! TOO BAD!!!
3. Watch wardrobe with automatic watches in round v. square, gold v. silver, black v. tan v. metal bands. Given the flood of cheap Chinese watches made in factories that were moved brick by brick from Switzerland (hence “Swiss” movements), the only thing is replacing the cheap bands with decent ones that may cost more than the watch. The whole choice matrix ends up being 12 watches for about $50 each, cheaper than a single actual Swiss automatic watch or an Apple Watch.
4. Calfskin iPad and iPhone cases from Piel Frama. They make luxurious, buttery soft cases for electronics that are distinctive. Sure you can find a black synthetic leather one from China, but nothing beats these supreme cases from Spain.
5. Old Potrero Rye Whiskey -From Anchor Distilling in San Francisco, this is a tough bottle to find, but a tastier quaff you will never find.
6. Scotty Cameron putters are magic when your putting stroke is on -it telegraphs the transfer of momentum to a ball in ways other putters dream of. A vintage Ping putter comes in a close second if you can find it in good condition. These are like treasured family swords -the classically Karsten Eye shaped ones which I prefer. Billy Baroo!
7. MacBook 12 inch, 2015 edition, maxed out, in gold. The specs might not be as fast as some PC’s, but it will run Windows better than most PC’s and the inimitable MacOS. For blogging on transcontinental flights and writing the great American novel.
8. Zerolemon 20,000mAH Solar powered battery. It charges every gadget from iOS to Android and even the MacBook 12, and will recharge itself from sunlight. Great for blogging the post Apocalypse with all your gadgets running, although all the good real estate will still be occupied by the un-Raptured. Also good for keeping charged on the beaches at Sibari.
9. Human Siri -a personal assistant that arranges your work and personal schedules and does short notice baby sitting. Text human Siri, “I need to fly to Prague via Milan from Minneapolis but returning to New York via Barcelona, with two day layovers on both legs at the place with the bald concierge in Milan and the Latvian one in Barcelona. And pick up a bag of Arugula and pine nuts; leave it on my front seat.”
10. Sous-vide control system -this is to food geeks today what microwave ovens were to upper middle class people back in the 70’s. The basic premise is that a recirculating heating system brings a volume of water to 140-170 degrees, below boiling, but above the denaturization point for proteins. By placing vacuum sealed seasoned meats into these baths, they reach a fool proof medium rare to medium well, with carmelization being done with a finishing heat under a torch or under broil in the oven. This is the key to foolproof non-rubbery chicken without burning off all the spices. This is how tenderloin roast is managed in restaurants. This is how I want to cook in the future.
11. 3D Printer -These have come down in price to the point where they are almost the price of high end paper printers -about $500 will give you a 3D printer that will keep you in infinite supply of Lego pieces, iPhone cases, plastic zip guns, and prosthetic hands. I want.
12. A year of private piano lessons to be administered twice weekly in the evenings in the home to play just a single piece -Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue in the expanded piano arrangement from beginning to end by heart. I figure, if I can only play one piece, this will be it and should satisfy me for a lifetime, because it reminds me of how it feels to be young in New York City. May take 5 years.

Things to Get an Incoming Harvard Freshman

IMG_0602

Sheep shear belt from J. Press of Harvard Square, Cambridge, MA

As I was headed to my 25th college reunion at Harvard, I got a text from one of my partners. One of her friend’s sons was graduating from high school and headed to Harvard this fall and she wanted gift suggestions. As I was waiting for my hopper to O’Hare, I opined in no particular order:

1. Personalized stationary with initials embossed on paper and envelopes

2. Fountain pen -nifty basic Mont Blanc or fancy Cross with name engraved

3. Box of name cards

4. Custom laptop bag from Timbuk2 with an iPad Air inside encased in a Zagg backlit keyboard case

5. Album of fun selfies, depending on how cozy she was with the boy

6. Tie wardrobe from jpressonline.com -looking under neckwear. About five would do

7. Tasting flight of single barrel Kentucky whiskeys

8. Watch wardrobe featuring cheap but fun watches by Stuhrling, Stauer, Casio, Timex

9. Sony RX100m3 camera

10. Custom blazer buttons with his initials embroidered on them

11. Warm, lined hunting vests from Orvis

12. Gentleman’s knife with a 3 inch blade and corkscrew, other stuff optional

13. Rice cooker -old fashioned kind that lets you cook ramen, stews, osso bucco

14. Shaving subscription

15. Squash racquet and bag of balls, eyewear -even if he doesn’t play now, he will

16. Collapsible bike

17. BMW i28 convertible in silver

18. Bose bluetooth speakers -the big ones, Bang and Olufsen if particularly favored

19. Waterbed

20. 3 pack of 10,000 mAH battery packs, solar charger

21. 4 years of Dropbox subscriptions

22. Lava lamp

23. Annual summer retreats in the Hamptons, Calabria, Florianopolis, and Catalina.

24. Foul weather wardrobe -waxed cotton jacket in green by Barbour, anorak by LL Bean, ski jacket system by North Face

25. Beef jerky

Spooky

 

CartoonCamera_1355105921023

I have to confess that I like to scare little kids. That feeling of spookiness is one of those childhood sensations that you lose with innocence. The toddler’s wide eyes, the pursed lips, the knitted eyebrows, the scooching over to your side –these are fleeting moments that are quickly lost to school, electronics, and television. The stories I tell are more life lessons than actual tales –mostly of sad ghosts who regret telling lies, spirits who never let go of their anger, and being trapped by your own foibles. I have a feeling that I got this from my grandmother who would tell me folk tales and parables about boys who got eaten by tigers and had their faces erased by angry spirits who appeared alternately as beautiful women and sly foxes. The day the magic ends is when the kids figure out that Santa Claus doesn’t slide down the chimney and the Easter Bunny is some poor flub sweating in a smelly outfit.

Are you in?

20130411-060633.jpg

The generations since World War II have been separated into marketing niches of Greatest and Boomer, then X,Y, and Z, but I suspect that no set of people since Homo erectus figured out fire, speech, and monogamy, have faced as much rapid technological and cultural change as have the people born since 1950. This unmooring of cultural institutions, socioeconomic niches, and family structures is remarkable and deeply unsettling to many.
Modernity has atomized the family, but we are still the Pleistocene mammal subject to possessiveness, territoriality, and stranger anxiety. We are just a handful of base pairs removed from our mutual ancestor with the chimpanzee who kill and eat intruders. And so we naturally flock with our kind in our hominid fashion, and wish to destroy the other if they get in the way. What stops us?

Strong ideas keep us from burning witches. Ideas of justice, equality of human worth, and an appreciation of value of freedom and liberty bind us together in a common identity. These ideas are shared across borders instantaneously, usually in English, on the internet via smart phones and social media. These are rather old American ideals and should not be new to those wary of change. Instead, it is the broadening of the definition of *American* that jars people. It is an America that people are still looking towards as they overturn dictatorships and established tyrannies. We see it in the Arab Spring, in the continue march of the huddled masses to the gates, and in gay Americans fighting to achieve equal status. We witness it as a force that China is trying to subvert with overt fascism, with likely failure in the long term.

This neo-Americanism is the lingua franca of business and diplomacy. It is the common operating system that everyone demands. At home, to succeed in this new America, you have to learn how to pass for a new kind of American. It is a fact that if you make yourself smile, your brain will register positive in its happiness centers, and you will transition to happiness (try it!). If you carry a smart phone, participate in social media, and read at above elementary school level, the centers of the brain that are stimulated will drive change. Corporate HR policies, public school codes of conduct, and public social mores are aligning around and driving this change, even for older Americans who one would assume would be all for not changing. It used to be said that you are basically set in your ways by the time you are forty, but I think even that generalization is done because I increasingly see retired people with smartphones and tablets watching the latest Youtube videos and family photos on Facebook. This at least informs them about the tectonic shifts in society, and at best changes deep seated notions.

Public perceptions of gun ownership, healthcare, education, equal rights, and our relationship to the world are being debated because the minds of the people are changing. And contrary to what even the history books say, it was not the federal government and federal troops that desegregated the schools, it was We the People. The shibboleth of these times, our times, are the smart phone, social media accounts, and the networks connected by these. Are you in?

Printstagram Flipbook Calendar BOOM

Just received from Printstagram, this Flipbook calendar features 356 square pictures I took last year and can now keep. It comes with a handy box to preserve your calendar sheets. One of the problems with digital media is its impermanence, but this desire to archive is a kind of narcissism. I should be okay when these pictures disappear into the ether like memories but there is a selfish corner of my kind that wants to keep these in a box.

20130108-133851.jpg

The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for iPad 2, iPad 3, iPad 4 Trumps the Microsoft Surface

20121223-062514.jpg

After sitting on the fence about purchasing a MacBook Air or an Ultrabook, I finally decided to pass on those items (no Retina display!) and equipped my current iPad 3 with a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Case. I had handed over my Macbook Air 2010 over to my son for school use (and Minecraft play), and was in need of some keyboarded mobile input device. This category used to be all about laptops and netbooks, but this past month Microsoft Surface was released and I did the due diligence of checking it out and rejecting it despite the fact I could have expensed it.

20121223-062739.jpg

Finding a Microsoft Surface to try out is a bit like trying to find authentic takeout Thai food or a Porsche dealership -it’s only available in a handful of places in the US. In the Cleveland area, it means going to the Microsoft kiosk at the Beechwood Mall next to the kiosks selling iPhone covers and fluffy slippers. I thought it was a bust because someone had messed up the Surfaces which were all rebooting. More recently, I got to try the Surface at the local Best Buy. Microsoft in their marketing wisdom decided to widen the release of the Surface in the few weeks before Christmas.

Despite the bad marketing, I was impressed by the beauty and speed of the Surface. The keyboard cover was nice and far more responsive than expected. Unfortunately, without the tactile feedback of keypresses it was only a little bit better than a virtual keyboard. I grew weary of it in the first few lines of typing.

It gets worse. The Metro interface seems like a tacked on after thought. Launching Office apps caused the screen to jump back into the old Windows desktop screen which doesn’t work all that well with touch, but it keeps lurking in the background waiting to show its big fat corporate OS face whenever it gets the chance. Instead of the Start menu, you jump back into Metro, but how or when you did so was mysterious. I am sure that with use, I would be able to figure out how to turn off the Metro or stay out of the classic Windows desktop. As a casual shopper seeing Windows 8 for the first time, there is mystery involved, and that is not good.

I get why Microsoft put out the Surface RT. What Microsoft is battling is the constraints imposed by the demands of the consumer and corporate markets. It has designed Surface RT to the perceived needs of the consumer market. It is making the bet that Office is 90% of what people want on their computers. This is true of laptops and desktops, but not so much for tablets and smartphones.

For 90 percent of my work, content creation means translating ideas into text. Who really needs Word to record text? For example, I’m wrote this piece over a week at various intervals on my iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, and MacBook Pro using Ia Writer, a text processing app that stores the file in the cloud. I never have to press SAVE because there is no such button. When I am ready to make a formatted document, I can do so in any number of apps like Word, Pages, or Google Docs. The fact is, I am using Word less and less because it is unavailable on iOS devices and smartphones, and I think Microsoft is uncomfortable with this trend.

Surface is basically recapitulating the most useful configuration for a tablet that you can also do work on -something that the iPad has had since launch which is variations on the keyboard case. The Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover greatly enhances the iPad as a productivity tool. It latches on like the original magnetic cover and when in laptop mode will prop the tablet with magnets in landscape orientation. The keyboard works perfectly and has many enhancements for iOS oriented shortcuts.

20121223-062626.jpg

When closed, it looks like a MacBook Air, being clad in aluminum all around, but of course it is thicker. It does offer laptop functionality with a 10 inch Retina display. The keyboard charges via a mini-USB port, and claims a 6 month battery life with two hours of use. It has been seamless and tenacious in gaining and holding a bluetooth link, something that is not always possible with other keyboards. I have been typing on it, and I like it. I can type at full speed. My only gripe is the half height number row which also has a truncated delete key. I still rip off the cover to use it as a tablet and find that the keyboard is on and prevents me from using the virtual keyboard -just remember to turn off the keyboard when not in use.

The Surface is a beautiful product but is an evolutionary dead end because its OS, Windows RT, has no past and an arguably a shaky future. Despite creating a product that integrates Office, and makes it basically the only compelling reason to buy a Surface, it does so by making you work in Office in a way that is no different from the 10 pound laptop that IT will give you for business trips. The moment Microsoft releases rumored Office for iOS with full implementation of touch interface, it will have killed any argument for Windows RT. We will see Office for iOS in the App Store one day, but we will have to see Surface die the same way as RIM’s Playbook -in about 8 months before we get to buy it for $129 for the Student and Home Edition.

RIP RIM

20121113-063937.jpg

The day has arrived when I get to swap out my Blackberry 9930 for an iPhone 5. I had given up using the Blackberry as anything but a text/phone device because getting on the Internet was tricky at best. The 9930 is a device conceived by a committee of people who don’t understand how people use technology. I used my iPod Touch as a daily communicator and Internet surfer over the BB 9930. Fact is I had high hopes over its beautiful screen and okay keyboard but these could not overwhelm sheer misery in the browser, email (yes email) and paucity of apps to get things done. Goodbye.

The Metro Municipal -Highland Park GC

Image

One of the things about the USGA and GHIN is that you have to be part of a club to register your golf scores. I could join the several Northeast Ohio based golf associations, but it would be nice to just join a club. The problem is that a private club is a considerable commitment of time and money.Image So it was with some joy that I found Highland GC, which is a large 36 hole municipal course. The Red Course is two traditional nine holes that go out and back into the clubhouse, while the Blue Course is an 18 hole track that does not come back for a breather between nines. They are about ten minutes from my driveway, and there is hardly ever a line.

That kind of convenience comes with some compromises. There is no pro shop. There is no driving range. And finally, there is no club for affiliation and registering of scores. It is a municipal golf course and there is a golf egalitarianism that is lost in the rarefied districts of private club golf. In the parking lot, there is an eclectic mix of luxury sedans, beaters, and even a loaded pickup truck. At one time in America, all the different classes mixed in the public sphere, at school, work, and play. This has eroded and you can see it in the economic gerrymandering of neighborhoods and suburbs reflected in their anchor malls and grocery stores. The municipal golf course is the last preserve of the public commons. On the first tee this morning, I saw three groups lined up, Asians, African-Americans, and whites.

Image

Sadly, they were segregated and rather prickly, being all men of a certain age. If you are in the late fifties and are playing golf on a municipal course with swings that could be good for tree chopping, you worked hard all your life, never got handed anything, and have generally skeptical view of the world. On line, the reviews complain of lack of services, poor conditions, and discrimination (both forward and reverse). Yet even with the apparent race relations of a prison yard, and stiff necked, flinty eyed glare of blue collar pride, golf etiquette prevailed and all the groups let me play through with courtesy and even a little banter about the good weather. And that is the lesson for us all. In golf there is hope.

The African American twosome were the first to let me through. Both had the mien of philosopher kings, ancient wise men, spiritual healers. They clearly enjoyed each other’s company and were in no hurray, and shooed me onwards. The Caucasian twosome were clearly betting on everything that could be bet upon during a round of golf, and seemed to be making bets about me as I played through. They were congenial and courteous. The foursome of Koreans were the most fearsome. They didn’t smile at me when I asked to play through, and I held off speaking in Korean because I thought it might trigger some kind of outburst that could only come from 4 Korean dads, but I overheard them their captain say, let him through in Korean. They watched me tee off in silence and I bid them adieu.

Image

On the fairway!

The course had its problems -I suspect from lean budgets and a very hot and dry summer. There were dead patches on the greens and fairways, and uneven mowing on both. That said, from the tips, the course was a lot more fun than I could usually expect to get for 35 bucks.

Addendum: found out they mow on Monday. Once mowed, the fairways and greens are very nice. This place is growing on me. Plus, the starter asked me if I was a golf pro or golf writer, which really made my day.