31 October 2011

Wherein I offer McDonald's some free advice

There are many things to consider when running a business, and everyone knows that McDonalds has a corporate secret sauce that rivals the creamy goodness on a big Mac. Unfortunately it doesn't always trickle down to their front line store staff.
There is one store in Hagerstown that has consistently failed to get right my coffee order since they began offering their mcCafe espresso-based drinks. I suppose most are buying the sugar and calorie laden mocha drinks, but all I want is some espresso in a cup. 2 shots of the stuff. Asking for this at a McDonald's in the “drive-thru” will have you met with dead air and blank stares, never mind the mystery-cup that awaits you when you get to the pickup window. Why is this so, when it's obvious that McDonald's is after Starbucks' business?
You can order a ridiculous number of variations on the old beef and bread combination that is the hamburger, but don't ask for two shots of espresso in a single cup. It's inconceivable to this staff that you might want more than one of a thing in the same cup. How can they handle so many quarter-pound permutations without breaking a sweat but fail to comprehend the words “I'd like two shots of espresso in one cup”? Maybe I should call it “expresso” (that’s the one thing this morning's window worker got right).
Maybe they are confused by the simplicity of it? Is the failure one of comprehension or is it a more corporate failure? Did someone at the corporate level, whomever is responsible for deciding what goes into the computer system, fail to realize that someone might want to drink more than one shot at a time? Did the person making the training video for espresso drinks (they had a video for EVERYTHING when I worked there in the 90’s - thank you, please drive through), or are the people working there simply too obtuse to work it out?
My hypothesis is that it has much more to do with a leadership failure rather than some deficiency in the employees themselves. The folks working at a McDonald's may or may not be tomorrow's trauma docs (I know someone like that) or fabulous Internet essayists (ahem), but they know how to get stuff done when it comes to McThings, which is why this is always so frustrating when I try to place my order. My first time through, years back, I made the mistake off trying to order an Americano. I'll not soon make that mistake again.
McDonald's, if you’re going to sell high end coffee drinks to people, if you want to eat Starbuck’s roasted lunch, then you need to get it right at all levels of offering. It can't be single shots or 10 ingredient drinkzillas; you need to cover the in-between, even if it's two shots of espresso with some hot water added for good measure. Because the thing is, your espresso is really tasty and I like it - and I'm a Starbucks gold card member, so I have a basis for comparison.

27 October 2011

Soon... a poem for All Hallow's Eve

I was visited by the Angel of Death this morning,
I almost ran him over in the rain.
He was crossing the street, I was turning left into the gas station.
As I stopped to refuel he approached me;

You have a tail light out, he said.
I know, I need to get that fixed, I promised.

Then he said something I think was about the weather I didn't, I couldn't understand,
and that he drives a truck.

I'm sorry, I replied, because how often can you ask Death to repeat himself?
He tried again, and this time I stayed quiet; I still couldn't understand,
but perhaps that is better,
for those who know, understand,
those who comprehend Death
must be those who join him.

I filled my tank in silence shared with Death;
I avoided his gaze,
he checked his notes: even Death has a smart phone.
He made no more effort toward me either verbal or mortal,
so I bid good day to Death and drove into the east.
He stood there casually framed against the pumps in western shadow,
clothed in the purples and orange of sunset.
It was not my time.
But I need to get that tail light fixed.

18 October 2011

Gifts for my nephew

     My nephew is a huge fan of all things Mario, and had a nice collection of plush figures started.  For his birthday a month or two ago I was told he'd like to add to his collection.  Ever the obliging uncle I took to Amazon and acquired his desires.  What follows are the reviews for each of the items that I purchased, all of which he was beside himself with joy to receive:


How long one searches for that perfect steed that will eat your bad guys like so many dried out leftovers and render them into eggs to aid in your quest. How one longs for that perfect blend of dinosaur, horse, and well, it's Yoshi!

Yoshi seems fairly well put together, and my nephew certainly did enjoy receiving him as a birthday gift. I kept the doll in plastic to keep it clean, but did handle it through the clear plastic bag in which it was contained. He appears to be sturdily constructed and there doesn't appear to be much of a choking hazard, but caution is always indicated with such toys.

He was a welcome addition to the collection, and will likely be a welcome addition to yours.

Nintendo Yoshi on Amazon.com

Luigi, eternally in the shadow of his brother's fame

Ma and pop weren't planning to have me at first, but my brother Mario needed someone to share his playtime with, a second player if you will. And so I was born to the green, tall and thin, ever the juxtaposition to my brother and his own crimson garb. We share a love for mustaches, overalls, plumbing, and beating the snot out of mythical creatures who somehow always manage to capture our Princess. You think bein' the hero is hard? Try bein' the hero's second banana. Lemme tell ya, Plungers to pasta, it seems like everything I ever had was a hand-me-down from Mario. But I love my brother. He's always good for a few gold coins when you need them, capisce?

Luigi will be good in an older kid's collection, or as a display piece for the grown-up Mario afficionado. The younger child (or adult, you know who you are) who has to put everything into his mouth would not be a good recipient of Luigi, since one could easily aspirate or ingest that fine felt mustache he sports. If you get or receive it for a younger kid, maybe put it on the question-box shelf you know you have in the kid's room. When he's old enough to knock Luigi down, then he's old enough to have him.

Nintendo Luigi on Amazon.com

The Right Castle

We searched low, we searched high. We found Toadstool along the way, my brother and I did. We gained and lost super powers at the hands of blocks and Goombas more time than I care to recount; but we were on a mission. No brick would go unsmashed, no flag unlowered until we found Princess Peach. We would tear down every last stone of the evil Koopa's empire in search of Our Fair Monarch. The King Koopa, Bowser himself, would be made to pay for this offront.
And so we found Peach not in a Koopa castle, but on Amazon. For sale. Thus was her liberty purchased, and she was delivered back to us.
We gave her to our nephew for his 11th birthday, secreting her under Luigi and Yoshi (purchased elsewhere, look for my reviews). He was thrilled to receive her as a gift, the prefect compliment to his growing collection of Mario-themed toys.
We'd recommend her for a mature 4 year old, or an immature 6 year old. There are bits and pieces of her that we can see coming off if tugged by little hands and easily ingested / aspirated. 

Super Mario Plush - 8" Princess Peach on Amazon.com

13 October 2011

You always hurt the one you love: My 2 years with an iPhone 3Gs

Note: I wrote this in the Summer of 2011, awaiting the release of the newest iPhone model that will succeed, but never replace, my iPhone 3Gs and well before Steve Jobs left us.

     As a young child I argued with my Commodore acolyte friend that Apples were superior to his beloved brand, even though I had my own Commodore at home.  Decades passed, and eventually I acquired a second-hand iPod.  And then another.  And then I bought my own iPod.  Along the way I dabbled with the occasional old Apple hardware, had a G3 Blue & White tower as my second machine, and ultimately made The Switch on 2004 when I bought one of the original Mac Minis.  As of this writing, I still own that Mac Mini.  This is a testament to the staying-power of Apple Hardware, which becomes relevant later.

     We're an all-Apple household, my wife and I: a (self-)refurb Macbook Pro, 2 iPad2s (iPads 2?), iPhones in the pocket, and an Airport Express Base Station gets us to the Internet.  When the iPhone was first announced, I carried a Verizon Motorola phone.  I pondered an iPhone when I switched back to AT&T in 2008 but the feature set I wanted wasn't there so I used other not-iPhone handsets.  A Blackberry for a short time, and then a good year or so with a used RAZR that was a trusty and reliable call-maker.  The iPhone models went by: iPhone, iPhone 3G, iPhone 3Gs.

     The iPhone 3Gs: it shoots video, it has 32GB storage space, all on top of all the amazing magic that was already in previous iPhone iterations.  And, it's apparently made from whatever Superman's underwear are made from.

     I have a confession to make:  My name is Rob, and I dropped my iPhone 3Gs into a pond not 2 weeks after buying it.  In my defense, it was my first time in Hawai'i and the volcanic mountain pool into which I dropped my new treasure was in dire need of being photographed, what with the stream that ran through it.  The pictures are on my Picasa page, and for the first time, I can come clean about this photo with the world:

     My iPhone mere minutes after going for a swim.  Some quick thinking and an hour with a hair dryer on no-heat saved my bacon (and my wallet), and I still smile every time I run my finger over the small rough spot on the chrome bezel, the love bite Pele left in my phone.  I never submerged it again, but in the following two years I've lost track of the number of times I've bounced the thing off concrete, tile, concrete tile, poorly carpeted floors, and my own foot.  I can be clumsy is what I'm trying to say, and my iPhone has survived it all.

     There is a small scratch on and some dust under the touch screen, The plastic has worn out and fallen out around the power button, which itself has failed. I recently tore-down my 3Gs after an ill-fated attempt to repair the power button made it stop working altogether. It works now thanks to some aluminun foil, and by works I mean you push on the top of the back case and it functions. The two halves have separated slightly and some dust was inside it (which I blew out during my tear down and rebuild), but this machine still has a lot of fight left in it, and it will soon see its second life as my mother's new iPod Touch 3Gs.

     It's been my second brain, my reference and recording companion; Entertainment, informer, awkward situation avoidance mechanism, communicator, and soon to be put out to pasture, munching on WiFi and playing mom's music and whichever apps she decides to load on it.  I'll have moved on to my new shiny iPhone 4S, running iOS 5 at a snappy pace, taking 8mp pictures with a flash, recording HD video, but always remembering my first iPhone, baptized in Pacific rain water 6,000 miles from home, my constant companion.

     Thanks iPhone, thanks Apple. More than any marketing campaign full of emotional appeal, more than any social status from a logo, I'm a customer because I know that the product I buy is going to last for a long time, come hall (floor) or Hawai'ian water.

11 October 2011

September's Rent - a poem

It is Autumn and the year grows weary;
even the Sun wakes later.
He rises robed in luminescent clouds,
braced against the chill morning air.

Likewise Mother Earth feels it in her bones
as she settles back and draws her resplendent cloak about her:
Gold, brown, orange, crimson
Soon she'll pull on her white winter blanket,
a little better for slumber.

Yet first she turns her leaves and contemplates her ledger,
for September's rent is paid in October:
the Summer's accounts settled in
Gold, brown, orange, crimson.
Green transmuted by the cold, hard air into currency ephemeral
given value only in how it thrills us to behold.

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